Monday, May 11, 2009

Sheriff Joe Arpaio says hi to his neo-Nazi supporters, poses for pix

-- by Dave

I've been reporting for a long time on the many ways that the immigration debate has served as a critical nexus in the intersection between right-wing extremism and mainstream conservatism.

Last weekend, Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- the quasi-fascist chief law-enforcement officer of Arizona's Maricopa County, currently under DOJ investigation for his refusal to abide by court orders and his rampant racial profiling -- provided us with a crystalline example.

Because we got to see a classic case of someone in a position of real power lending the authority of his office to the empowerment of far-right radicals -- unintentionally, perhaps (though not likely), but with the same result regardless.

On Saturday, May 2, several thousand people came out to march in protest of Arpaio's increasingly thuggish tactics.

And as is often the case with such events, there was a little knot of neo-Nazis out there to counter-protest. This meant they were out there to support Arpaio.

The first part of the above video is taken from footage shot by one of these counter-protesters. A little ways in, you'll see a black Cadillac pull up containing none other than Sheriff Joe himself, who has decided to stop by and say hello to his supporters. He lets one of them pose for a picture.

As it happens, the young man posing for him is none other than Thomas Coletto, aka "Vito Lombardi" -- who, as Stephen Lemons reports, is not only the local leader of a neo-Nazi outfit, but was also busted for burglary in a supposed "Columbine"-type plot two years ago.

After posing with Arpaio, Coletto posted the shot on the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront.

And it's not as if Arpaio recoiled and hurried on when he figured out who he was talking to. You can see in the video he pulls over and shakes hands with someone in group standing with a Confederate flag.

The rest of the video is compiled from other footage available on YouTube, particularly the work of 287gGots2go, who let us see what this little clutch of white nationalists was like from the other side of the camera.

I think it tells everything we need to know about who Sheriff Arpaio counts on for his support. It also tells us everything we need to know about how these people feel empowered enough to come crawling out from under the rocks beneath which they usually hide.

Dan Weiss at Imagine 2050 has more.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

O'Reilly doesn't know the difference between hate speech and hateful speech

-- by Dave

There's an ambiguity in the rhetoric used by people who fight bigotry that people like Bill O'Reilly -- people who couldn't care less about fighting bigotry, and indeed do their best to undermine such efforts -- love to exploit. It involves the word "hate."

We use "hate" generically as a stand-in for "bigotry", in part because the word better conveys the sewer of hatefulness that is part and parcel of bigoted attitudes and behavior, and it wraps up the concepts of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and ethnic bigotry all into a neat bundle.

So what properly should be called "bias-motivated crimes" we call, more handily, "hate crimes". Deeply racist and/or bigoted organizations like the skinheads and neo-Nazis, we call "hate groups." What is more precisely labeled "violently bigoted speech" we call "hate speech."

However, "hate" is a much broader term that encompasses a great deal more than just violent bigotry. So what happens then is that people like Bill O'Reilly -- right-wingers who do their best to undermine the work of fighting such bigotry -- exploit the resulting ambiguity.

We've seen this regularly over the years as part of the debate over hate crimes. (One of right-wingers' favorite dumbass retorts: "I never heard of a love crime.") Andrew Sullivan once even devoted an entire, maundering 7,500-word piece in the New York Times Magazine devoted to the argument that we cannot hope to regulate hate.

And then there's Bill O'Reilly, who regularly calls the DailyKos, MoveOn and other liberal organizations that merely criticize him "hate groups" -- which, as I've pointed out, not only is a gross overestimation of what the liberal groups say and do, it even more grotesquely minimizes what real hate groups say and do.

So last night on The O'Reilly Factor, he was up to the same thing: Comparing the cases of the six Americans forbidden from entry in the U.K. because of their propensity for hate speech -- including Michael Savage. O'Reilly says that's fine -- but wonders why not the people who attacked Carrie Prejean, too?

Let me stipulate: Some of the ugliness uttered by Prejean's critics was appalling, disgusting, and every bit beyond the pale as the horrified right-wingers shrieking about it since have made it out to be. (It's worth noting, however, that none of the people uttering this crap were identifiable liberals in any serious sense.) Some of it was very hateful indeed. (OTOH, while I thought Janeane Garofalo's teabagging remarks were unwise, there was nothing particularly hateful about them. Harsh criticism is not hate.)

In any event, that's not hate speech. Here's the dictionary definition:

Bigoted speech attacking or disparaging a social or ethnic group or a member of such a group.

That's why the British government is barring Savage and his far-right buddies: They routinely engage in the demonization of entire blocs of people, typically brown-skinned minorities, and ultimately argue for their suppression or elimination from society.

That's not what the hatefulness around Prejean was about. It was focused strictly on her and the words she spoke publicly. It wasn't about demonizing white people or Christians, it was about what a schmuck they thought Prejean was.

What O'Reilly's doing, of course, is intentionally muddying the waters -- twisting the meaning of the term "hate speech" to be used as a weapon against its opponents. There's a word for that, too: Newspeak.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

The face of naked eliminationism

-- by Dave

Remember that DHS bulletin on right-wing extremism that got all the righties' shorts in a bunch? Let's quickly recall the bottom line of its assessment:

DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.

It's not talking about ordinary conservatives here, despite their evident wish to martyr themselves in defense of their right-wing brethren. It's talking about people like Stephen L. Morgan:

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - A man suspected in the fatal shooting of a Wesleyan University student wrote in his journal that it's "okay to kill Jews and go on a killing spree," according to an arrest warrant released Friday.

... Police found Morgan's journal inside the bookstore, according to the warrant. Morgan's father identified his son as the man seen in bookstore surveillance photos and told investigators his son was a loner who kept a journal and was known to make anti-Semitic comments, according to the warrant.

The journal had an entry saying "I think it okay to kill Jews and go on a killing spree" and "Kill Johanna. She must Die," according to the arrest warrant.

And it's talking about people like Keith Luke. You remember him, don't you?

A man accused of a horrific rape and killing spree told investigators that he was "fighting extinction" of the white race and had stockpiled 200 rounds of ammunition to "kill 'nonwhite people' such as African Americans, Hispanics and Jewish people," according to a police report filed today in court.

After forcing his way into a home and raping a 22-year-old woman, the alleged assailant, Keith Luke, shot and killed the woman's younger sister, who tried to help her. Luke, 22, then allegedly turned his fury back on the rape victim, firing his gun through a white teddy bear that she clutched in terror, police said.

Well, when he appeared in court earlier this week, he had carved a swastika into his forehead and defiantly smirked at the family and friends of his victims:

Handcuffed, shackled and with a swastika cut into his forehead, Keith Luke stood before the judge and smirked as the clerk read the charges in Brockton Superior Court.

Two counts of murder. Four counts of aggravated rape. Armed kidnapping. Six counts of armed assault with intent to murder. Armed home invasion. A string of gun charges.

Luke, 22, of Brockton, made his first appearance in superior court Wednesday since a grand jury handed up indictments in what authorities have called a racially motivated attack that killed two people and critically wounded a third on Jan. 21.

It seems that not only is Luke proud of his act, he wanted to let his victims know it too:

In the 10 minutes it took to read the indictments in Brockton Superior Court Wednesday, Luke alternately smirked at the judge and craned his neck to glare at the victims’ families. The victims’ families silently stared back at the suspect.

“My heart was pounding,” said Deolinda Monteiro, aunt of Selma Goncalves, who was fatally shot in the January attack. “It was my first time seeing him.” Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said he was impressed with how the families reacted in court.

“I think the families showed a lot of control,” Cruz said. “I applaud their courage.” Before the arraignment, Selma’s father, Madueno Goncalves, said it was important to be in court. “I want justice,” he said. “I want to know what is going on.”

These are the kind of people that the DHS was trying to warn about. But of course, we couldn't have a rational conversation about it -- because evidently too many conservatives see themselves when we talk about right-wing extremists. And that may be our biggest problem of all.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.