Steve Bannon’s man in the Middle East

McClatchy reports: When Donald Trump named Steve Bannon his chief strategist, backlash from Jewish leaders was swift amid fears that the ex-Breitbart News boss would bring white nationalist sympathies to the White House.

So in one of his first interviews on the new job, Bannon tried to quiet those concerns by invoking something most people had never heard of: “Breitbart Jerusalem.”

“Breitbart is the most pro-Israel site in the United States of America,” Bannon told The Wall Street Journal. “I have Breitbart Jerusalem, which I have Aaron Klein run with about 10 reporters there.”

It’s a line that Bannon and his allies have used repeatedly since his appointment, turning to the fledgling media operation as a shield against suggestions that he, and the administration by extension, are tolerant of anti-Semitism. It’s an accusation rooted in Bannon’s praise for the so-called “alt-right,” a movement associated with white supremacists and neo-Nazis. [Continue reading…]

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The alt-right populists who collaborate with terrorists

John Harris writes: As proved by Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and now Westminster, it is increasingly as much a part of the awful theatre of terrorism as the acts themselves: inside an hour or two of the news starting to break, figureheads of the so-called alt-right either reaching for their smartphones or sprinting to the nearest TV studio, and dispensing messages that chime perfectly with the intentions of the killers. They want rage, uncontrollable tension and intimations of the apocalypse to begin to embed in the societies they seek to attack. And guess what? The people who brought us Brexit, Trump and a thousand verbose radio spots and newspaper columns are only too happy to oblige.

With grinding inevitability, Nigel Farage appeared on Fox News on Wednesday night, and made his case with all the manic insistence of a Dalek, assisted by a large helping of what we now know as Alternative Facts. So, from the top: “What these politicians have done in the space of just 15 years may well affect the way we live in this country over the next 100 years … We’ve made some terrible mistakes in this country, and it really started with the election of Tony Blair back in 1997, who said he wanted to build a multicultural Britain. His government even said they sent out search parties to find immigrants from all over the world to come into Britain … The problem with multiculturalism is that it leads to divided communities. It’s quite different to multiracialism … I’m sorry to say that we have now a fifth column living inside these European countries.”

The same network also included a quickfire contribution from one Walid Phares – “Fox News national security and foreign policy expert” – who reckoned that the attack had proved that “one man can stop a city”, before Katie Hopkins went even further. “Great Britain is absolutely divided, more than at any time than in its past,” she said. “We are in fact a nation of ghettoes. I think liberals think multiculturalism means we all die together.” Not long after, the Ukip donor (or ex-donor – it is never quite clear) Arron Banks weighed in on Twitter, first associating the acts of a terrorist who would soon turn out to be British-born with “illegals”, and then carrying on regardless: “We have a huge Islamic problem courtesy of mass immigration … It’s a failed policy of mass immigration without integration that has destroyed communities … we have communities who hate our country and way of life.” [Continue reading…]

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Being Indian in Trump’s America

Amitava Kumar writes: On a September evening in 1987, Navroze Mody, a thirty-year-old Indian man living in Jersey City, went for drinks at the Gold Coast Café, in Hoboken. Later that night, after he left the bar, he was accosted on the street by a group of about a dozen youths and severely beaten. Mody died from his injuries four days later. There had been other attacks on Indians in the area at that time, several of them brutal, many of them carried out by a group that called itself the Dotbusters—the name a reference to the bindi worn by Hindu women on their foreheads. Earlier that year, a local newspaper had published a handwritten letter from the Dotbusters: “We will go to any extreme to get Indians to move out of Jersey City. If I’m walking down the street and I see a Hindu and the setting is right, I will hit him or her.”

When I first read about the attack on Mody, I had only recently arrived in the United States. I was a young graduate student at Syracuse University then, and although the news alarmed me I wasn’t fearful. In those days, distances felt real: an event unfolding in a city more than two hundred miles away seemed remote, even in the imagination. I might have worried for my mother and sisters, who wore bindis, but they were safe, in India. Whatever was happening in Jersey City, in other words, couldn’t affect the sense that I and my expat friends had of our role in this country. The desire for advancement often breeds an apolitical attitude among immigrants, a desire not to rock the boat, to be allowed to pass unnoticed. Since 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act, abolishing the racist quotas of the nineteen-twenties, our compatriots had been bringing their professional skills to America. If we didn’t hope to be welcomed, we at least expected to be benignly ignored.

A lot has happened in the long interregnum. Indian-Americans have the highest median income of any ethnic group in the United States. There is a greater visibility now of Indians on American streets, and also of Indian food and culture. I’ve seen the elephant-headed deity Ganesha displayed all over America, in art museums, restaurants, yoga centers, and shops, on T-shirts and tote bags. The bindi isn’t the bull’s-eye it once was. But the bigotry, as we have witnessed in 2017, has not gone away. [Continue reading…]

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Once in the shadows, Europe’s neo-fascists are re-emerging

The New York Times reports: Head bowed in reverence, Robert Svec gently placed a bouquet of blood-red flowers at the foot of the only known statue of Jozef Tiso, Slovakia’s wartime fascist leader, in a weedy monument park known as the Pantheon of Slovak Historical Figures.

For years, Mr. Svec’s neo-fascist cultural organization, the Slovak Revival Movement, was a tiny fringe group. But now his crowds are growing, as 200 people recently gathered with him to celebrate the country’s fascist past and call fascist-era greetings — “Na Straz!” or “On the guard!” Mr. Svec is so emboldened that he is transforming his movement into a political party, with plans to run for Parliament.

“You are ours, and we will forever be yours,” Mr. Svec said at the foot of the statue, having declared this as the Year of Jozef Tiso, dedicated to rehabilitating the image of the former priest and Nazi collaborator, who was hanged as a war criminal in 1947.

Once in the shadows, Europe’s neo-fascists are stepping back out, more than three-quarters of a century after Nazi boots stormed through Central Europe, and two decades since a neo-Nazi resurgence of skinheads and white supremacists unsettled the transition to democracy. In Slovakia, neo-fascists are winning regional offices and taking seats in the multiparty Parliament they hope to replace with strongman rule. [Continue reading…]

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Neil Gorsuch praised a leading Republican activist behind voter suppression efforts

The Nation reports:  Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote.

But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration.

When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!” [Continue reading…]

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Populist Wilders may have come up short, but Dutch intolerance is still real

By Annemarie Toebosch, University of Michigan

The Dutch elections on March 15 have received a lot of attention in the international media. The Conversation

The reason for the attention is clear: A Trump lookalike populist, Geert Wilders, was rumored to win big as part of a western populist movement that some call the “Patriotic Spring.”

His rise has the liberal West confused and concerned, because if the land of gay marriage and coffee shops falls, then where is their hope for western liberalism?

But, as results are coming in, two things are becoming clear: Election turnout was high and Wilders’ support relatively low. Projections show Wilder’s party winning 19 seats compared to 31 seats for the Dutch-right liberal conservatives of Prime Minister Mark Rutte. What does all this tell us about the populist movement? Is our bedrock of tolerance safe again?

To understand what happened in these Dutch elections, we need to look beyond Wilders and his place in western populism to the myth of Dutch tolerance.

Students in my race and ethnicity courses at the University of Michigan have been engaged in this very task as they examine current and historic diversity in the Netherlands. When they read University of Amsterdam sociologist Jan Willem Duyvendak or Free University of Amsterdam Holocaust historian Dienke Hondius, a more complicated picture of Dutch tolerance emerges.

Wilders doesn’t represent a sudden movement of the Netherlands away from tolerance. Dutch tolerance does not really exist in the way the stereotype dictates. Seventy years ago, the country saw a larger percentage of its Jewish population deported and killed than any other Western European nation. This fact does not lend itself to simple explanations but has at least in part been attributed to the lack of protection of Jews by non-Jews and to Dutch collaboration with the Nazi occupation.

Looking at modern times, CUNY political scientist John Mollenkopf reports poorer immigrant integration outcomes, such as employment rates and job retention, in Amsterdam than in New York City and Duyvendak finds explanations for these outcomes in white majority-culture dominance.

[Read more…]

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Steve King, the nativist who just comes right out and says it

Ed Kilgore writes: Nothing upsets conservative “nationalists” like Stephen Bannon more than the charge that bigotry is at the center of the movement that gave us President Trump. While Bannon admits there is racism and anti-Semitism at the fringes of the alt-right, with which his old journalistic perch at Breibart has associated, he insists on treating such influences as marginal.

It is worth remembering that this is a persistent claim among right-bent political activists who may or may not themselves be bigoted, but who are clearly trafficking in appeals to bigots. When George Wallace shifted his focus from defending segregation to attacking unpopular desegregation methods like school busing, he argued he was just favoring the color-blind posture of his old enemies in the civil-rights movement. But he — and we — knew better when it came to the visceral politics of race he espoused.

The effort to marginalize the role of racial or religious bigots in cultural conservatism works best when everybody’s got the memo and is refusing to say things that cross the line. But right there in Washington, within close proximity of the cameras, is at least one member of Congress who, to use a phrase sometimes said of Wallace in his heyday, just comes right out and says it: Iowa’s Steve King. No, King doesn’t admit to racially or religiously discriminatory sentiments, as much as he flirts with them. But for years he has been closely associated (along with his very close friend, former Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado) with a brand of nativism that views both illegal and legal immigration as threats to what can only be described as European-American “civilization,” and who is willing to trade in crude stereotypes of people of color. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon’s mission to destroy the European Union

Michael Crowley writes: It was the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, and the Western world was still absorbing the shock. With no clear plan for what would come next, the globe’s fifth-biggest economy had abruptly announced a divorce from the neighbors it had been trading with for nearly 45 years. Markets plunged. “A calamity,” declared the New York Times. “Global panic,” proclaimed one London headline.

Steve Bannon had a different reaction. He booked the calamity’s chief architect as a guest on his radio show to celebrate.

This was then still weeks before Bannon emerged into the national spotlight as CEO of Donald Trump’s struggling presidential campaign. Bannon was an executive at Breitbart News, an activist-editor-gadfly known mostly on the far right, and the “Brexit” campaign was something of a pet project. He hitched onto the Tea Party movement early in Barack Obama’s presidency and noticed a similar right-populist wave rising across the Atlantic, where fed-up rural, white Britons were anxious about immigration and resentful of EU bureaucrats. The cause touched on some of Bannon’s deepest beliefs, including nationalism, Judeo-Christian identity and the evils of Big Government. In early 2014, Bannon launched a London outpost of Breitbart, opening what he called a new front “in our current cultural and political war.” The site promptly began pointing its knives at the EU, with headlines like “The EU Is Dead, It Just Refuses to Lie Down”; “The European Union’s Response to Terrorism Is a Massive Privacy Power Grab”; “Pressure on Member States to Embrace Trans Ideology.” One 2014 article invited readers to vote in a poll among “the most annoying European Union rules.”

Bannon’s site quickly became tightly entangled with the United Kingdom Independence Party, a fringe movement with the then-outlandish goal of Britain’s exit from the EU. In October 2014, UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, poached a Breitbart London editor to work for him. That September, Bannon hosted a dinner for Farage at his Capitol Hill townhouse. Standing under a large oil painting by the fireplace, Farage delivered a speech that left the dozens of conservative leaders in attendance “blown away,” as Bannon later recalled. [Continue reading…]

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The Deep State is a figment of Steve Bannon’s imagination

Loren DeJonge Schulman writes: Here’s a handy rule for assessing the credibility of what you’re reading about national security in the Trump era: If somebody uses the term “Deep State,” you can be pretty sure they have no idea what they’re talking about.

The phrase’s appeal is undeniable. The notion of a shadowy network pulling the strings in Washington is an attractive one to an embattled White House and its political opponents, shorthand-employing commentators and conspiracy theorists alike. But uncritical use of this canard is lazy at best and counterproductive at worst. The term, which political scientists invented to refer to the networks of generals and spymasters that rule many authoritarian states around the world, has migrated from leftist critics of U.S. foreign policy to the alt-right advisers running the White House. As a card-carrying former member of America’s vast national security bureaucracy, I find it offensive. But I also find it offensive as an analyst, because it’s a deeply misleading way to understand how the U.S. government really works.

So what is — or isn’t — the Deep State?

Let’s start with standard insinuations of the phrase. There are more than 2 million civilian executive branch employees (not counting the U.S. military or portions of the intelligence community, which does not fully report employment numbers). At least half of that number work in an agency related to national security, broadly defined. When combined with the million-plus uniformed military and support system of contractors, this is an unwieldy group. A mix of hard-working patriots, clock-punchers, technocrats, veterans and scammers, these folks swear the same oath to defend the Constitution.

Hollywood bears much of the blame in portraying this group as some combination of Rambo, the All-Seeing Eye of Mordor and the cast of Homeland — an omniscient guerilla force unaccountable to any authority. Reality is less made for the big screen; if, say, “Zero Dark Thirty” had been true to life, it likely would have been a single shot of 100 hours of lawyers’ meetings. The national security bureaucracy does wield awe-inspiring capabilities that could be disastrous if abused; months sitting through the Obama administration’s surveillance policy review made that clear. But while civil servants and military personnel do pledge to defend the Constitution, it is not only the goodness of their hearts but a complex web of legal, congressional, bureaucratic and political oversight that guards against such risks. These checks are met with both grumbles and keen awareness of how they set the U.S. rule of law apart from, say, Russia. These systems are not foolproof, and could undoubtedly be improved. The flaws of the administrative state — ranging from redundancy and waste to self-interested bloat to inability to innovate to scandalous incidents of corruption — have been well documented, its day-to-day successes far less so. But find me an alternative to the national security bureaucracy, or find me a functioning state without one. [Continue reading…]

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Everything you wanted to know about Deep State but were afraid to ask

Alexandra Petri writes: We have been hearing more about the Deep State lately. It is about time. I have cherished my admissions letter to DEEP STATE ever since it was flown down my chimney by an old bat with large leathery wings shortly after my 11th birthday. It is below.

Congratulations on your admission to DEEP STATE!

We’d love to learn more about you as you make up your mind about whether to attend this elite institution and join the many graduates who proudly proclaim our Latin motto, “status in statu.”

First, a question. There are only two ways that muggles Real Americans find out about American Deep State. How did you?
a) I read an article on Breitbart.com
b) I am the president of the United States, with access to the work of the world’s most vital intelligence apparatus, privy to all kinds of classified information that can get to the heart of things, and I read an article on Breitbart.com [Continue reading…]

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Breitbart declares ‘war’ on establishment wing of Trump White House

Business Insider reports: Breitbart, the website that has fervently supported President Donald Trump’s campaign and nascent presidency, signaled this week that its brief cease-fire with the establishment wing of the administration may have come to an end.

The reliably pro-Trump website has lately been reluctant to skewer former Republican National Committee members who now work inside the Trump administration, such as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer.

But that appeared to change on Tuesday, when Breitbart savaged House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal, which Trump supports, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The website deemed it “Obamacare 2.0” and told its readers the legislation “gives illegal aliens healthcare through identity fraud” and amounted to “GOP welfare entitlement.”

An additional story by Matthew Boyle, the website’s Washington editor, went after Spicer for “inaccurately” saying the bill “fully repeals Obamacare.”

“We are Breitbart,” Boyle wrote in a Slack conversation about his story, according to a screenshot obtained by Business Insider. “This is war.” [Continue reading…]

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This stunningly racist French novel is how Steve Bannon explains the world

Paul Blumenthal and JM Rieger write: Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist and the driving force behind the administration’s controversial ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, has a favorite metaphor he uses to describe the largest refugee crisis in human history.

“It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe,” he said in October 2015.

“The whole thing in Europe is all about immigration,” he said in January 2016. “It’s a global issue today — this kind of global Camp of the Saints.”

“It’s not a migration,” he said later that January. “It’s really an invasion. I call it the Camp of the Saints.”

“When we first started talking about this a year ago,” he said in April 2016, “we called it the Camp of the Saints. … I mean, this is Camp of the Saints, isn’t it?”

Bannon has agitated for a host of anti-immigrant measures. In his previous role as executive chairman of the right-wing news site Breitbart — which he called a “platform for the alt-right,” the online movement of white nationalists — he made anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim news a focus.

But the top Trump aide’s repeated references to The Camp of the Saints, an obscure 1973 novel by French author Jean Raspail, reveal even more about how he understands the world. The book is a cult favorite on the far right, yet it’s never found a wider audience. There’s a good reason for that: It’s breathtakingly racist. [Continue reading…]

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Immigrants, including the undocumented, make America a safer and more prosperous country

 

The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States, by Walter Ewing, Ph.D., Daniel E. Martínez, Ph.D. and Rubén G. Rumbaut, Ph.D.

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The green movement is talking about racism? It’s about time

Brentin Mock writes: Facing a new White House administration led by Donald Trump, environmental leaders recently signed an accord pledging their allegiance to civil rights and social justice. Among the signatories are several leaders of the Sierra Club, including its executive director, Michael Brune, who in recent years has steered the organization toward rather bold stances on a range of issues that aren’t traditionally recognized as “green.” In 2013, its board of directors voted that the organization should advocate for immigrant rights. The following year, the Sierra Club endorsed and defended the Black Lives Matter movement. Since President Trump came into office, the organization’s resolve has only strengthened, as Brune indicated in a November 18 blog post: “I’m proud of how the Sierra Club has begun to address the intersection of climate with inequality, race, class, and gender, and I guarantee that we’ll go even deeper.”

This shift toward racial justice matters has not been universally accepted among the Sierra Club’s ranks and may even have cost it a few members. Those who disapprove have often expressed sentiments amounting to “racism is not the environmental movement’s responsibility.” But Brune says the organization won’t be backing off anytime soon, a position he forcefully defended on the group’s blog. He will assure his members, he tells me, “that we are continuing to protect wildlife and wild places, and this is how we can best do that in the 21st century.”

What Brune is acknowledging is the darker legacy of the green movement. Some may believe that environmentalism has little to do with social justice issues, but the mission of the Sierra Club, and many conservation groups like it throughout the late-19th century and most of the 20th century, was anything but race neutral. In many ways, racial exclusivity actually shaped the environmental mission, which is what makes the Sierra Club’s leap toward civil rights advocacy such a radical move. It’s important not because a network like Black Lives Matter needs environmentalists, but because environmentalists need black lives. Given the history of conservationists elevating endangered plant life over endangered people of color, it is environmentalism’s soul that most needs saving. [Continue reading…]

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Geert Wilders, reclusive provocateur, rises before Dutch vote

The New York Times reports: He wants to end immigration from Muslim countries, tax head scarves and ban the Quran. He is partly of Indonesian heritage, and dyes his hair bright blond. He is omnipresent on social media but lives as a political phantom under police protection, rarely campaigning in person and reportedly sleeping in a different location every night.

He has structured his party so that he is the only official, giving him the liberty to remain, above all things, in complete control, and a provocateur and an uncompromising verbal bomb thrower.

Geert Wilders, far-right icon, is one of Europe’s unusual politicians, not least because he comes from the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, with a centuries-long tradition of promoting religious tolerance and welcoming immigrants.

How he and his party fare in the March 15 elections could well signal how the far right will do in pivotal elections in France, Germany and possibly Italy later this year, and ultimately determine the future of the European Union. Mr. Wilders (pronounced VIL-ders) has promised to demand a “Nexit” referendum on whether the Netherlands should follow Britain’s example and leave the union. [Continue reading…]

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The contagion of hatred Trump is spreading across America

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Stacy Silver prayed as she drove with her husband to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia’s Wissinoming section Sunday: Please don’t let my mother and great-grandmother be among the victims.

When Silver, 50, of Cherry Hill, N.J., heard about the vandalism at the Jewish cemetery that occurred overnight Saturday, she rushed to her loved ones’ graves.

What she saw when she arrived was worse than she imagined — tombstone after tombstone, story after story, was toppled to the ground — including those belonging to her mother and great-grandmother.

“Your stomach just drops,” Silver said. “I mean it’s just horrible.”

Detectives canvassing the cemetery Sunday afternoon estimated that 75 to 100 headstones had been knocked over.

“It’s criminal. This is beyond vandalism,” said Northeast Detectives Capt. Shawn Thrush, as he walked the cemetery grounds. “It’s beyond belief.”

The vandalism, coming a week after a similar incident in St. Louis, prompted the Anne Frank Center to call for President Trump to make a forceful denunciation of anti-Semitic hate crimes.

“Mr. President, it’s time for you to deliver a prime-time nationally televised speech, live from the Oval Office, on how you intend to combat not only #Antisemitism but also Islamophobia and other rising forms of hate,” the organization posted Sunday on Twitter. “Whether or not your intention, your Presidency has given the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,372 bias incidents between Trump’s inauguration and Feb. 7, the watchdog group reported. Among those, the group highlighted 57 incidents in 24 states of anonymous bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers. The organization has also recorded that the number of hate groups in the U.S. grew in 2016 for the second straight year, with a threefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups. [Continue reading…]

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