Organizer of Charlottesville protest says Heather Heyer’s killing was ‘payback’

ThinkProgress reports: The man who organized the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last Saturday tweeted that Heather Heyer, the woman who was murdered at the event, a “fat, disgusting communist” and described her death as “payback.”

The organizer, Jason Kessler, deleted the tweet and initially claimed he was hacked. He later deleted that tweet and blamed his online attack on Heyer on a drug cocktail of Xanax, Ambien, and alcohol. [Continue reading…]

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The test of Nazism that Trump failed

Timothy Snyder writes: “No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.” So the president said at a news conference in February. These words left me uneasy. A moment ago, as I was looking at photographs of young men in Charlottesville, Va., who were from my home state, Ohio, and thinking about the message “Heil Hitler” on the T-shirt that one wore, it dawned on me why.

I spent years studying the testimonies of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and the recollections of their rescuers. When the rescuers were asked why they did what they did, they usually avoided the question. If they ventured a reply, it was simply to say that they did what anyone would have done. Historians who read sources develop intuitions about the material. The intuition I developed was that people who bragged about rescuing Jews had generally not done so; they were, in fact, more likely to be anti-Semites and racists. Rescuers almost never boast.

I write these lines in Poland, where the Holocaust is present in every absence, in a house where the Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz spent his summers when he was the same age as the young men I see in those photographs. In 1943 in Warsaw, he watched as the wind that blew the ash over the wall of the burning ghetto caught the skirts of girls riding a carousel. He noticed how people reached out to catch bits of ash floating through the air like “dark kites.”

I found myself thinking also of another Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet, Wislawa Szymborska. She memorably described a seemingly normal woman who was caught up in her daily cares but, when the moment arrived, ran headlong into a burning building to save children who were not her own.

“We know ourselves,” Ms. Szymborska wrote, “only insofar as we have been tested.”

Until we have been tested, there is no sense in boasting of our goodness; afterward, there is no need. After Charlottesville, President Trump faced an easy test, and failed. When presented with an obvious opportunity to condemn the evil that was and is Nazism, he first waited, then equivocated, then read from a teleprompter, then relativized. He spoke of “very fine people on both sides.” [Continue reading…]

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Boston: Small speechless rally disperses in face of massive counter protest

The Washington Post reports: Tens of thousands of counterprotesters crammed Boston Common and marched through city streets Saturday morning in efforts to drown out the planned “free speech” rally that many feared would be attended by white-supremacist groups.

By 1 p.m., the handful of rally attendees had left the Boston Common pavillion, concluding their event without planned speeches. A victorious cheer went up among the counterprotesters, as many began to leave. Hundreds of others danced in circles and sang, “Hey hey, ho ho. White supremacy has got to go.”

City officials said that at least 40,000 people participated in the counter protest, 20,000 of whom participated in the march across town. Tensions flared as police escorted some rally attendees out of the Common, prompting several physical altercations between police and counterprotesters. [Continue reading…]

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The dark minds of the ‘alt-right’

Olga Khazan writes: Some of the protesters who marched through Charlottesville last weekend were described as “alt-right,” a newish term that has been used for everyone from white supremacists to economic populists. But what does it actually mean? The Associated Press recently issued guidelines discouraging journalists from using the term “generically and without definition” since “the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience.” Meanwhile, President Trump recently told reporters that some of the protesters in Charlottesville who waved Nazi insignia and chanted anti-Jewish slogans weren’t all nefarious—some “were very fine people.”

A psychology paper put out just last week by Patrick Forscher of the University of Arkansas and Nour Kteily of Northwestern University seeks to answer the question of just what, exactly, it is that the alt-right believes. What differentiates them from the average American?

For the paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, Forscher and Kteily recruited 447 self-proclaimed members of the alt-right online and gave them a series of surveys. How did they know these people were really “alt-right?” The individuals responded to questions like, “What are your thoughts when people claim the alt-right is racist?” with statements like:

“If it were not for Europeans, there would be nothing but the third world. Racist really needs defined. Is it racist to not want your community flooded with 3,000 low IQ blacks from the Congo? I would suggest almost everyone would not. It is not racist to want to live among your own … Through media [the Jews] lie about the Holohoax, and the slave trade. Jews were the slave traders, not Europeans … many people don’t even understand these simple things.”

The researchers compared the responses of the alt-right people to a sample of people who did not identify as alt-right. What they found paints a dark picture of a group that feels white people are disadvantaged. They are eager to take action to boost whites’ standing. What’s more, they appear to view other religious and ethnic groups as subhuman. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon, back on the outside, prepares his enemies list

The New York Times reports: Stephen K. Bannon has always been more comfortable when he was trying to tear down institutions — not work inside them.

With his return to Breitbart News, Mr. Bannon will be free to lead the kind of ferocious assault on the political establishment that he relishes, even if sometimes that means turning his wrath on the White House itself.

Hours after his ouster from the West Wing, he was named to his former position of executive chairman at the hard-charging right-wing website and led its evening editorial meeting. And Mr. Bannon appeared eager to move onto his next fight.

“In many ways, I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on,” he said Friday. “And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with.”

Among those already in Mr. Bannon’s sights: Speaker Paul D. Ryan; Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader; the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Gary D. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs who now directs the White House’s National Economic Council. [Continue reading…]

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Sebastian Gorka’s fate ‘extremely uncertain’ as his boss Bannon is ousted

The Daily Beast reports: The fate of Donald Trump’s pugnacious, controversial aide Sebastian Gorka is up in the air again after his top ally inside the White House, Steven Bannon, was shown the door, multiple White House officials tell The Daily Beast.

Early Friday afternoon, news broke that Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist, was leaving the administration before the week was out. With Bannon out and planning his next moves, that leaves Gorka without an immediate boss.
Gorka, whose official title is deputy assistant to the president but whose job responsibilities appear to be making Trump happy with his TV hits, had reported directly to Bannon. Bannon had also been his boss when the two worked at the conservative website, Breitbart.

Gorka is currently on vacation and wouldn’t comment on this story. But several of his West Wing colleagues have said that Trump’s newly installed chief of staff, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, was deeply “displeased” by some of Gorka’s recent TV performances, according to one senior official who has discussed this with Kelly.

Kelly had recently undertaken an internal review of West Wing staffers’ responsibilities and portfolios. And another White House adviser said that the chief of staff “doesn’t know what [Gorka] does except go on TV sometimes.” For these reason, Gorka’s long-term future with the White House is “extremely uncertain,” this source continued. [Continue reading…]

CNN reports: As a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, Sebastian Gorka is often the public face of the administration when it comes to one of the most critical items on the President’s agenda: Combating terrorism.

Gorka, a British-accented tough-talker who until Friday served under now-fired White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, considers himself an expert on the topic.

But that opinion is not shared by a dozen international security experts and scholars interviewed by CNN, including a professor who advised Gorka on his PhD dissertation and considers him a friend.

“I would not call him an expert on terrorism,” said Stephen Sloan, a retired professor of political science who spent much of his career at the University of Oklahoma. Though he said Gorka is “knowledgeable” about terrorism matters, “his level of expertise does not match the level where he stands in the White House.”

Sloan said Gorka “does a very good job being the bulldog, if you will, for the administration … but as an adviser, I have some discomfort.”

It’s Gorka’s ability to do battle with journalists, sources say, that has kept him in good standing with the President and out in front of the cameras. But beyond being a spokesman on national security matters, his duties at the White House remain unclear. [Continue reading…]

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Trump gets rid of Steve Bannon, a top proponent of his nationalist agenda

The Washington Post reports: President Trump on Friday dismissed his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory and the champion of his nationalist impulses, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest.

With his presidency floundering and his legislative agenda in shambles, administration officials said Trump’s empowered new chief of staff, John F. Kelly, moved to fire Bannon in an effort to tame warring factions and bring stability to a White House at risk of caving under its own self-destructive tendencies.

A combative populist on trade and immigration, Bannon has arguably been Trump’s ideological id on the issues that propelled his candidacy. He has served as a key liaison to the president’s conservative base and the custodian of his campaign promises.

Bannon has been a lightning rod for controversy since joining Trump’s campaign last summer, but attracted particular scorn in recent days for encouraging and amplifying the president’s divisive remarks in the wake of last week’s deadly white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Va. [Continue reading…]

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Bannon is ‘going nuclear’

The Atlantic reports: In firing Steve Bannon, President Trump has lost his chief ideologue, the man who channeled his base and advocated for the populist-nationalist policies that helped propel Trump to victory.

But he has gained an unpredictable and potentially troublesome outside ally who has long experience running a media organization, and an even longer list of enemies. “Steve is now unchained,” said a source close to Bannon. “Fully unchained.”

“He’s going nuclear,” said another friend. “You have no idea. This is gonna be really fucking bad.”

Bannon had in recent days mused about leaving, according to people who have spoken with him; he has expressed to friends that he feels the administration is failing and is a sinking ship. And last week, he told people in a meeting that he would have 10 times more influence outside the White House than inside it. [Continue reading…]

On the other hand, Bloomberg now reports: Stephen Bannon said in his first public remarks since his ouster from White House role as chief strategist that he will be “going to war” for President Donald Trump, warning that he will continue to press the populist cause against the political and corporate establishment.

“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,” Bannon said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg News hours after his departure was announced by the administration. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon detonates his Trump survival plan, worrying allies

BuzzFeed reports: Allies who spend too long in Donald Trump’s doghouse usually get sent away for good. Chief strategist Steve Bannon is trying to forestall that fate.

Bannon — the polarizing and enigmatic hero of the alt-right, who has become a flashpoint in the aftermath of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia — has for months drawn the president’s ire, with Trump feeling his strategist seeks too much credit for his election win.

“That fucking Steve Bannon taking credit for my election,” Trump recently told a confidant, referring to a new book focused on Bannon’s influence, Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.

People close to Bannon within and outside of the administration have long worried that Trump’s frustrations will result in Bannon being tossed from the White House. Rumors hit a fever pitch in recent weeks, with the elevation of new Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Bannon’s renewed open war with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

It briefly looked like Bannon’s efforts to survive were paying off, as he reemerged after spending weeks laying low and staying out of Trump’s field of vision.

But the latest development in the White House drama — a rare on-the-record Bannon interview with the left-wing American Prospect in which he detailed his preference for a hardline stance against China on trade, said North Korea “got us” because a military option makes no sense, and openly talked of his feud with Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn — energized but concerned allies who worry Kelly won’t look positively at undercutting Trump on North Korea and knifing senior officials publicly. [Continue reading…]

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James Murdoch, rebuking Trump, pledges $1 million to Anti-Defamation League

The New York Times reports: James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of a frequent ally of President Trump’s, condemned the president’s performance after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League.

In an email on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed as authentic by a spokesman for Mr. Murdoch’s company, the Fox scion gave an extraordinarily candid statement against the white supremacist sentiment that swept through Virginia last weekend. It was also the most outspoken that a member of the Murdoch family has been in response to the week’s events.

Mr. Murdoch’s father, Rupert Murdoch, is a conservative media mogul who has become an informal adviser to Mr. Trump, recently dining with the president in the White House residence. The younger Mr. Murdoch has been less outspoken about his political views, making the email even more surprising.

With a subject line reading, “Subject: Personal note from James Murdoch re: ADL,” Mr. Murdoch addressed the note to “friends.”

“I’m writing to you in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father. It has not been my habit to widely offer running commentary on current affairs, nor to presume to weigh in on the events of a given day save those that might be of particular or specific concern to 21CF and my colleagues,” he wrote. “But what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.”

He added: “These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals. The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.” [Continue reading…]

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The trials and tribulations facing an American neo-Nazi leader

 

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Steve Bannon’s reaction to Charlottesville: ‘Just give me more.’

Steve Bannon phoned Robert Kuttner, editor of The American Prospect to discuss what Bannon regards as their convergent views on China. Having neglected to request his remarks be kept off the record, Bannon was later apparently dismayed that he was quoted. Even though in the course of the interview, Bannon usurps Trump’s authority by repeatedly speaking as though he is the president, others in the White House say Trump is afraid of firing him. Jonathan Swan at Axios predicts that if Bannon gets fired, Breitbart will go “thermonuclear” in its attacks on Trump for dumping their champion of white nationalism.

Kuttner writes: Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.

There are a couple of things that are startling about this premise. First, to the extent that most of the opponents of Bannon’s China trade strategy are other Trump administration officials, it’s not clear how reaching out to the left helps him. If anything, it gives his adversaries ammunition to characterize Bannon as unreliable or disloyal.

More puzzling is the fact that Bannon would phone a writer and editor of a progressive publication (the cover lines on whose first two issues after Trump’s election were “Resisting Trump” and “Containing Trump”) and assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism.

The question of whether the phone call was on or off the record never came up. This is also puzzling, since Steve Bannon is not exactly Bambi when it comes to dealing with the press. He’s probably the most media-savvy person in America.

I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

From his lips to Trump’s ear.

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.” [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: [Bannon] said in an interview that if Democrats want to fight over Confederate monuments and attack Mr. Trump as a bigot, that was a fight the president would win.

“President Trump, by asking, ‘Where does this all end’ — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln — connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions,” he said.

“The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist,” Mr. Bannon added. “Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.”

Much of the party’s political class, however, was in shock. Former Presidents George and George W. Bush issued a rare joint rebuke of Mr. Trump’s stance, saying hate should be rejected “in all forms.”

And among younger Republicans there was a sense that the damage would be profound and enduring.

“The last year and especially the last few days have basically erased 15 years of efforts by Republicans to diversify the party,” said David Holt, a 38-year-old Oklahoma state senator running for mayor of Oklahoma City. “If I tried to sell young people in general but specifically minority groups on the Republican Party today, I’d expect them to laugh me out of the room. How can you not be concerned when the country’s demographics are shifting away from where the Republican Party seems to be shifting now?” [Continue reading…]

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The road to radicalism in Charlottesville

Julia Ioffe writes: “Of course, it was terrorism,” said General H.R. McMaster on Sunday morning, the day after James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly plowed his gray 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-white supremacist protestors, then reversed and, bumper dangling by a thread, hit still more people on the way back. When he was done, one person, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was dead and 19 more were injured. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that the attack was an act of “domestic terrorism” and that the Department of Justice was investigating him. Fields is being held without bail on a second-degree murder charge.

In being an act of violence with an apparent political motive, Fields’s alleged actions clearly “count” as terrorism according to most definitions of the term. But there are also parallels between Fields and other terrorists in aspects of his route to Charlottesville.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Fields, but there is evidence that he was an adherent of a violent and extremist ideology. Just hours before he allegedly drove his car into that crowd, he was seen marching with and carrying a shield featuring the insignia of Vanguard America, a known white-supremacist group. According to Fields’s former high-school teacher Derek Weimer, Fields was also infatuated with the Nazis. “It was obvious that he had this fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler,” Weimer told The Washington Post. “He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff.” A paper Fields wrote in high school, according to the teacher, was a “big lovefest for the German military and the Waffen-SS.”

In American political discourse, terrorism is a label often reserved for followers of a violent interpretation of Islam, whereas people who commit violence in the name of extremist far-right ideology based on race are sometimes portrayed as troubled young men, or criminals. The actions of the Trump administration have only deepened that gap. As one of its first acts, the administration reoriented the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program away from combatting white-supremacist groups. Life After Hate, an organization which helps people leave such groups, says it never received a promised $400,000 grant, even as the Southern Poverty Law Center received increased reports of hate crimes and threats in the period immediately after the election. In the months after the election, Life After Hate reported getting a 20-fold uptick in calls from family members, begging for help to pull their loved ones out of violent white supremacist groups. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s isolation grows in the wake of Charlottesville

The Washington Post reports: President Trump now finds himself more isolated than ever from his own party, world leaders and the business community that once cautiously embraced him — a fissure that was growing for weeks but turned into a chasm following his response to the racist violence in Charlottesville this weekend.

Trump had to disband two corporate advisory councils after a slew of chief executives resigned from the panels while criticizing the president for a day earlier blaming both white supremacists and counterprotesters for the melees that led to the death of a 32-year-old woman. Republicans continue to distance themselves as they call on the president to more forcefully condemn the racist groups that gathered for the “Unite the Right” rally. And foreign officials lined up this week to make clear they strongly disagree with Trump’s view of the events in Charlottesville.

Trump had already stoked tensions in recent weeks as he repeatedly attacked congressional GOP leaders for his stalled legislative agenda and alarmed allies at home and abroad with threats of military force against North Korea and Venezuela.

But his reaction to this week’s violence, which roiled the nation at a time when a president is typically leaned on for comfort and guidance, has created deep uncertainty about whether he can effectively lead his party and focus on urgent tasks looming in the fall, including avoiding a government debt default and moving forward on the tax cuts he promised during the campaign. [Continue reading…]

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The United States was never immune to fascism. Not then, not now

 

David Motadel writes: America is currently experiencing a wave of increasingly aggressive far-right and neo-fascist activism. Observers have routinely considered fascism an ideology alien to American society. Yet it has deeper roots in American history than most of us have been willing to acknowledge.

Consider the interwar period. The crisis years of the 1920s and 1930s not only gave rise to fascist movements across Europe – a moment captured in Ernst Nolte’s classic The Three Faces of Fascism – but around the globe. The United States was no exception.

Charlottesville reveals an emboldened far right that can no longer be ignored
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Across the country, fascist and proto-fascist groups sprang up. The most prominent among them was the paramilitary Silver Shirts movement, founded by William Dudley Pelley, a radical journalist from Massachusetts, in 1933.

Obsessed with fantasies about a Jewish-Communist world conspiracy and fears about an African American corruption of American culture, its followers promoted racism, extreme nationalism, violence and the ideal of an aggressive masculinity. They competed against various other militant fringe groups, from the Khaki Shirt movement, which aimed to build a paramilitary force of army veterans to stage a coup, to the paramilitary Black Legion, feared for its assassinations, bombings and acts of arson. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s aides tried to conceal his crazy, racist beliefs from the country

Jonathan Chait writes: A legitimate public rationale can be made for serving the administration in certain roles. The federal government plays a vital role in domestic and global security, Trump is a dangerous and erratic figure, and somebody needs to try to steer him away from decisions that would provoke unalterable tragedy. That justification covers serving Trump as a foreign-policy adviser, or as homeland security and disaster-response officials.

But what justification can the domestic and political advisers offer? Any benefit they can get by helping produce what they regard as better policies is surely offset by the cover they (and their policy successes, should they produce any) provide him.

Suppose yesterday’s remarks had gone off as planned. Suppose Trump had pushed his message of infrastructure. Suppose further every subsequent step also worked as planned — Trump manages to build political support for the huge infrastructure build-out he campaigned upon, and created millions of jobs and the backdrops for several powerful reelection campaign ads. All they would have done is fulfill Steve Bannon’s dream of a worker’s party uniting economic populism with ethnonationalist grievance. “Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up,” he told Michael Wolff after the election, “We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

Trump certainly has revived certain aspects of the political excitement of the 1930s: Nazi torchlight parades, presidential attacks on the media as enemies of the people, and street battles between armed extremist factions. He has not yet revived the infrastructure build-up that supplied a great deal of the Nazi party’s political capital. The apparent objective Trump’s domestic advisers hope to achieve is to create a political constituency for a president they consider racist, while concealing his racism as best as they can.

A West Wing official tells the Times that Trump has “expressed sympathy with nonviolent protesters who he said were defending their ‘heritage.’” (This is a rally that began with chants like “Jews will not replace us.”) Preventing Trump from doing something damaging is a legitimate and even noble calling. But that admirable motivation can easily mutate into rationalization. Are Trump aides really working to protect the country from him? Or are they working to keep the country from seeing his real nature? [Continue reading…]

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What Trump gets wrong about antifa

Peter Beinart writes: Antifa activists are sincere. They genuinely believe that their actions protect vulnerable people from harm. Cornel West claims they did so in Charlottesville. But for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. It leads to what happened this April in Portland, Oregon, where antifa activists threatened to disrupt the city’s Rose Festival parade if people wearing “red maga hats” marched alongside the local Republican Party. Because of antifa, Republican officials in Portland claim they can’t even conduct voter registration in the city without being physically threatened or harassed.

So, yes, antifa is not a figment of the conservative imagination. It’s a moral problem that liberals need to confront.

But saying it’s a problem is vastly different than implying, as Trump did, that it’s a problem equal to white supremacism. Using the phrase “alt-left” suggests a moral equivalence that simply doesn’t exist.

For starters, while antifa perpetrates violence, it doesn’t perpetrate it on anything like the scale that white nationalists do. It’s no coincidence that it was a Nazi sympathizer—and not an antifa activist—who committed murder in Charlottesville. According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing extremists committed 74 percent of the 372 politically motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016. Left-wing extremists committed less than 2 percent. [Continue reading…]

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Charlottesville: Race and terror

 

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Trump gives white supremacists an unequivocal boost

The New York Times reports: President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and “Trump/Pence” signs.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke.

Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a Democrat, wasted little time in accusing the president of adding to the divisions that put an unwanted spotlight on the normally peaceful college town.

“Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight,” Mr. McAuliffe said. “One of them murdered a young woman in an act of domestic terrorism, and two of our finest officers were killed in a tragic accident while serving to protect this community. This was not ‘both sides.’” [Continue reading…]

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