Sebastian Gorka is forced out as White House adviser, officials say

The New York Times reports: Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken adviser to President Trump and lightning rod for controversy, has been forced out of his position at the White House, two administration officials said on Friday.

One of the officials said that the president’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, had telegraphed his lack of interest in keeping Mr. Gorka during internal discussions over the last week.

Mr. Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, had been on vacation for at least the last two weeks, that official said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about personnel issues.

The Federalist, a conservative website, published portions of what it called a resignation letter written by Mr. Gorka. It quoted him as saying that given which “forces” were on the rise in the White House, the best way for him to support the president was from outside it.

The White House, seeking to blunt Mr. Gorka’s claim that he had resigned, put out an unattributed statement saying that he no longer works in the administration, but that he did not resign. [Continue reading…]

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Trump confronts unprecedented public rebuke by Gary Cohn after Charlottesville

The Washington Post reports: An unprecedented rebuke of President Trump by National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn reverberated through Washington on Friday, forcing the White House to respond to harsh, public criticism from one of the president’s top advisers.

Cohn lashed Trump’s comments earlier this month blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “both sides,” saying in an interview with the Financial Times that “citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.” The adviser, who is Jewish and has long given to Jewish causes, said that the administration “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups.”

The criticism was the first serious public condemnation of Trump’s behavior by a member of his inner circle since the beginning of his presidency and raised the question of how a president who puts a heavy premium on loyalty would react.

Privately, a White House official said, Trump was furious about Cohn’s public airing, though publicly, White House officials, while defending the president’s response to the events in Charlottesville, acknowledged that the White House can always do more. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: In the days after the Charlottesville rally, when Mr. Trump defended white nationalist protesters, Jewish members of the administration were mostly silent. Mr. Cohn is so far one of the few in the administration to publicly condemn the president’s remarks. Military leaders posted messages on social media denouncing neo-Nazis and racism, but did not specifically mention the commander in chief. Public deviation from the president by the military is unusual.

Mr. Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides,” as Mr. Cohn stood nearby in the lobby of Trump Tower where the president made his remarks to reporters. After Mr. Trump left, Mr. Cohn stood uncomfortably fielding questions about the president’s statements, and he repeatedly declined to comment. At the time, people close to Mr. Cohn said he was disgusted and deeply upset by Mr. Trump’s comments. [Continue reading…]

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A black man went undercover online as a white supremacist. This is what he learned

The Washington Post reports: As soon as Theo Wilson started making YouTube videos about culture and race, trolls using racial slurs started flocking to his page.

After engaging in endless sparring matches in the comments section, Wilson began to notice something curious: His trolls seemed to speak a language unto themselves, one replete with the same twisted facts and false history. It was as if they had all passed through some “dimensional doorway,” arriving from an alternative universe where history, politics and commonly accepted facts had been turned inside out.

There was the idea that slavery was a form of charity that benefited enslaved Africans; that freed blacks owned more slaves than whites before the Civil War; that people of color make up the majority of those receiving aid from America’s safety-net programs; and that investor and philanthropist George Soros is funding protest movements like Black Lives Matter.

Curious about where his trolls were getting their revisionist history lessons, Wilson, 36, — an award-winning poet and actor from Denver — decided to go undercover in their world. In 2015, he started by creating a ghost profile named “Lucious25,” a digital white supremacist who appeared to be an indigenous member of the alt-right’s online echo chamber, he said. [Continue reading…]

 

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Trump is fueling a rising terror threat from white supremacists and neo-Nazis

Mother Jones reports: When President Donald Trump remarked that “some very fine people” were among the white supremacists who provoked chaos and violence in Charlottesville the second weekend of August, he set off outrage across the political spectrum. According to multiple law enforcement leaders and security experts I’ve spoken with, Trump’s response to a neo-Nazi’s lethal car attack on a crowd of protesters in the Virginia college town also poured fuel on a long-simmering threat of far-right violence in America.

“He said he loves us all,” Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer, wrote after Trump initially blamed “many sides” for the carnage. Anglin specifically hailed Trump for ignoring media questions about his white nationalist supporters: “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

The white supremacist Richard Spencer, who participated in the Charlottesville rally, said he was “really proud” of Trump’s equivocating response. He mocked the president’s more canned condemnation of far-right hate groups the next day as “‘kumbaya’ nonsense,” declaring that “only a dumb person would take those lines seriously.” Within 24 hours, Trump reverted to pointing a finger at the “alt-left.

Then, in an acid campaign-style speech in Phoenix on Tuesday night, Trump launched into a half-hour-long tirade aimed at rewriting the story of how he handled the Charlottesville crisis. In his recounting, he lashed out at the “sick” news media and excised all of his previous remarks blaming the political left. He mocked “anarchists” and “antifa,” and he warned a fervent, predominantly white audience that “they are trying to take away our history and our heritage.”

Trump’s actions have only deepened concerns among US law enforcement and other security leaders I’ve spoken with since the car attack 10 days ago that left one person dead, as many as 30 others injured, and the nation’s politics in fresh turmoil. [Continue reading…]

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Seeds of right-wing terrorism

A new study on the psychological processes common to social conservatism and terrorism, by Lazar Stankov, identifies one trait in particular of rising concern. Tom Jacobs writes: He calls this “grudge,” which he defines as “a generalized belief in a vile world.” One obvious example: Radical Islamists view the world as having been polluted by immorality. “Without grudge,” Stankov writes, “the militant extremist mindset is incomplete.”

Thus it is hugely concerning that there are “suggestions in the political climate” that this mindset may be on the rise in Western nations. Stankov points to “the emergence of Donald Trump in the U.S.” and the success of right-wing populist parties in some European countries, including Hungary.

As the right becomes more radicalized, “Political correctness may be interpreted as the implementation of morally rotten policies in our social lives,” he warns. “As a consequence, social institutions—including universities, which are perceived to promote or tolerate such dissenting views—might become targets of terrorist attacks.”

Nastiness and religiosity are believed to be genetically influenced, and thus difficult to modify. But Stankov argues that the “grudge” mindset can potentially be reduced through “the engagement of media, community groups, and education.” Religious leaders, he writes, need to spend more time “debunking the proposition that the West is evil, and promoting the value of life.” [Continue reading…]

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The insidious libertarian-to-alt-right pipeline

Matt Lewis writes: Libertarianism has an alt-right problem. Many prominent leaders of the alt-right have, at some point, identified as libertarian. I am curious as to… why?

Milo Yiannopoulos has billed himself (and has been billed by others) as libertarian. About a year ago, he came clean about that. According to Business Insider, the alt-right troll Tim Gionet (aka “Baked Alaska”) formerly “identified as a carefree, easygoing libertarian” who “supported Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s bid for the White House, firmly opposed the war on drugs, and championed the cause of Black Lives Matter…”

Gavin McInnes bills himself as a libertarian, but he founded the Proud Boys―a men’s rights group that is considered part of the alt-right. Augustus Invictus, a Florida attorney who literally drank goat’s blood as part of an animal sacrifice, ran for senate in the 2016 Libertarian Party primary and spoke at Liberty Fest. Recently popular among college libertarians, Stefan Molyneux evolved into a pro-Trump alt-righter. And Richard Spencer was thrown out of the International Students for Liberty conference this year after crashing the event.

It is also true that many of today’s alt-righters are disaffected conservatives. However, there are many more conservatives in this country than there are libertarians, which suggests a disproportionate number of today’s prominent alt-righters began as libertarians. [Continue reading…]

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Nearly 2,600 advertisers have pulled advertising from Breitbart

The Independent reports: More than 2,500 advertisers have reportedly stopped advertising on right-wing news website Breitbart News in recent months, underscoring the swelling power of a grassroots campaign to boycott the platform, especially amid escalating political tensions in the US.

According to a tweet by Sleeping Giants, a campaign group aiming to pressure companies into cutting ties with media they deem to be racist or sexist, the number of advertisers that have ceased advertising is “climbing towards 2,600”. [Continue reading…]

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The war on Jared Kushner is about to go nuclear

Gabriel Sherman writes: On the morning he was being ousted as Donald Trump’s chief strategist last Friday, Steve Bannon had already turned the page. “Why do you sound unfazed?” a friend asked Bannon as news of his demise ricocheted across the web. “Because,” Bannon replied, “we’re going to war.” Hours later, Bannon was calling into the editorial meeting at Breitbart News, rallying his troops to continue the battles he waged inside the White House. “We have a duty to the country to be the vanguard of ‘The Movement,’” he told his staff, according to one person on the call. Bannon’s main targets are the West Wing’s coterie of New York Democrat “globalists”—Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn—as well as the “hawks,” comprised of National Security Adviser H.R McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell. “He wants to beat their ideas into submission,” Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow told me. “Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.”

The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there’s a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner’s political instincts highly questionable. “He said Jared is a dope,” one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost. But Bannon, who was the only West Wing advisor to publicly support the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, is especially galled at being scapegoated as an anti-Semite in its wake. “It’s one of the attacks he takes most personally because it’s not true,” a Breitbart staffer told me. Bannon’s allies lay out a more complicated backstory. Bannon, they say, lobbied Trump aggressively to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but was blocked by Kushner. And, according to three Bannon allies, Bannon pushed a tougher line against the Palestinians than Kushner did. In May, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the White House, Bannon stayed home. “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist,” Bannon texted a friend. [Continue reading…]

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Small wonder: The global fascist love affair with the Assad regime

Alex Rowell writes: When the neo-Nazi who smashed his Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia – killing a woman and injuring many others – was found to have posted a Facebook photo supportive of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, more than a few lay observers were left scratching their heads.

Adding to the confusion were videos from the scene showing fellow white supremacists in Charlottesville voicing sympathies for Assad (‘Assad’s the man, brother! Assad’s the man!’); one even wearing a t-shirt depicting a helicopter next to the words, ‘Bashar’s Barrel Delivery Co.’.

That the fascist mob should be enamoured of President Trump seemed comprehensible enough. But why should they be keen on a non-Aryan, non-Christian – indeed, Arab and Muslim, no less – leader with ties to such notorious Islamist entities as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Republic of Iran?

‘Syria’s Assad has become an unexpected icon of the far right in America’, declared a Washington Post headline, in a nod at the general puzzlement. This was a fine article but an unfortunate title, for it was only ‘unexpected’ for those unaware of Damascus’ open courtship of the global far-right stretching back many years now (the headline was later amended to remove the word ‘unexpected’). [Continue reading…]

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What really motivated the protests in Charlottesville?

 

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Extremism is surging. To beat it, we need young hearts and minds

Scott Atran writes: The last of the shellshocked were being evacuated as I headed back toward Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s famed tourist-filled walkway where another disgruntled “soldier of Islamic State” had ploughed a van into the crowd, killing at least 13 and injuring more than 120 from 34 nations. Minutes before the attack I had dropped my wife’s niece near where the rampage began. It was deja vu and dread again, as with the Paris massacre at the Bataclan theatre in 2015, next door to where my daughter lived.

At a seafront promenade south of Barcelona, a car of five knife-wielding kamikaze mowed down a woman before police killed them all. One teenage attacker had posted on the web two years before that “on my first day as king of the world” he would “kill the unbelievers and leave only Muslims who follow their religion”.

Mariano Rajoy, the president of Spain, declared that “our values and way of life will triumph” – just as Theresa May had proclaimed “our values will prevail” in March when yet another petty criminal “born again” into radical Islam drove his vehicle across Westminster Bridge to kill and wound pedestrians.

In Charlottesville the week before, the white supremacist attacker who killed civil rights activist Heather Heyer mimicked Isis-inspired killings using vehicles. “This was something that was growing in him,” the alleged attacker’s former history teacher told a newspaper. “He had this fascination with nazism [and] white supremacist views … I admit I failed. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”

The values of liberal and open democracy increasingly appear to be losing ground around the world to those of narrow, xenophobic ethno-nationalisms and radical Islam. This is not a “clash of civilisations”, but a collapse of communities, for ethno-nationalist violent extremism and transnational jihadi terrorism represent not the resurgence of traditional cultures, but their unravelling. [Continue reading…]

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The road to hate: For six young men, Charlottesville is only the beginning

The Washington Post reports: For all that he did in Charlottesville, chanting anti-Semitic slogans, carrying a torch through the college town, he wasn’t even aware that the alt-right existed one year ago. It wasn’t until Hillary Clinton condemned the movement in a campaign speech last August that he first learned of it, and from there, the radicalization of William Fears, 29, moved quickly.

He heard that one of its spokesmen, Richard Spencer, who coined the name “alt-right,” was speaking at Texas A&M University in December, so he drove the two hours to hear him speak. There, he met people who looked like him, people he never would have associated with white nationalism — men wearing suits, not swastikas — and it made him want to be a part of something. Then Fears was going to other rallies across Texas, and local websites were calling him one of “Houston’s most outspoken Neo-Nazis,” and he was seeing alt-right memes of Adolf Hitler that at first he thought foolish — “people are going to hate us” — but soon learned to enjoy.

“It’s probably been about a year,” he said, “but my evolution has been faster and faster.”

Last weekend’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which ended with dozens injured, a woman struck dead by a car, a president again engulfed in scandal and another national bout of soul-searching over race in America, was a collection of virtually every kind of white nationalist the country has ever known. There were members of the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis . But it was this group, the group of William Fears, that was not so familiar.

The torch-lit images of Friday night’s march revealed scores like him: clean-cut, unashamed and young — very young. They almost looked as though they were students of the university they marched through.

Who were they? What in their relatively short lives had so aggrieved them that they felt compelled to drive across the country for a rally? How does this happen? [Continue reading…]

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Mnuchin defends Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, rebuffs calls to resign

The Washington Post reports: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who faced calls from his Yale University classmates to resign in the wake of President Trump’s controversial comments about last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, defended the president Saturday and said he intends to stay in office.

“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president, I feel compelled to let you know that the president in no way, shape or form believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin, who is Jewish, said in a statement released by the Treasury Department. [Continue reading…]

Mnuchin’s classmates wrote:

President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings. President Trump made those declarations loudly, clearly, and unequivocally, and he said them as you stood next to him. We can be Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and a number of other things and still be friends, classmates, and patriots, but we cannot be Nazis and white supremacists. We can disagree on the means of promoting the general welfare of the country, on the size and role of government, on the nature of freedom and security, but we cannot take the side of what we know to be evil.

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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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