Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gaffney’s ‘Summit’ in Nevada a Nonstop Procession of Extremism, Conspiracism — and Candidates

Sen. Ted Cruz addresses the 'National Security Action Summit'
 [Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

President Obama is a secret Muslim conspiring to destroy the United States and is using the Justice Department to squelch anti-Muslim speech. Liberals are covertly working with radical Islamists to transform the country into a radical socialist state while Muslims are pouring over our borders. Hillary Clinton is not only a liar and criminal, she is likely blackmailing the FBI director and other authorities to keep out of prison.

All these theories and many more were featured Monday at the Nevada version of the Center for Security Policy’s “National Security Action Summit” at the International Peace Education Center in Las Vegas, a meeting hall owned by the Unification Church. It was everything its chief organizer, noted anti-Muslim extremist Frank Gaffney, could have hoped for.

Gaffney’s CSP has been riding high on the tidal wave of Islamophobia he and similar anti-Muslim organizations have created, with the help of right-wing political candidates who have legitimized their dubious and often outrageous claims. CSP made headlines this past week when Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, cited dubious statistics generated by Gaffney’s group in defending his proposal for a ban on all immigration by Muslims into the United States.

Indeed, Monday’s gathering was timed and located to coincide with Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate at the Las Vegas Hilton, the better to attract the participation of the candidates. Gaffney’s hopes were largely realized: Four candidates participated in the gathering, three of them (Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson) via videotaped messages, and one – Rick Santorum – in person. The procession underscored the extent to which CSP’s extremism has been embraced by ostensibly mainstream conservatives.

That extremism was on full, if not constant, display Monday. By the end of the eight-hour conference, attendees had been treated to a nonstop cavalcade of extremism and conspiracy.

Leading off the parade was a retired Navy admiral, James “Ace” Lyons, who claimed that not only had President Obama “embraced” the Muslim Brotherhood, but that its radical Islamists had infiltrated the nation’s security agencies and the administration itself (a claim he has made previously). Lyons frequently seized the microphone to ramble about various topics, including gays in the military and women in combat, even at the end of other speakers’ appearances during question-and-answer sessions.

His official speech was mostly an extended rant about Obama’s supposed Muslim affinities:
You understand that we have not only a constitutional crisis, because our Congressional leadership fails to understand why they were given that leadership role. It was to stop the fundamental transformation of America – not to facilitate it.

But it was [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, who said it best: “Islam is Islam. There are no modifiers. Democracy is the train we ride to our ultimate objective, which is imposing Sharia law throughout the world, and replacing our Constitution with Sharia law.” [Note: While Erdogan did say “There is no moderate or immoderate Islam -- Islam is Islam and that's it,” the remark was widely interpreted as arguing against the legitimacy of radical Islamists. Erdogan also is credited, somewhat dubiously, with saying that “Democracy is the train we get off once we reach our destination,” he has never said anything regarding the imposition of Sharia law.] What else needs to be said? So here we go. I’ve gotta say: We cannot let this stand. We have to take up and challenge everything by this administration.

… You know, for those of you who say the Obama administration has no policy, well let me tell you, you’re all wrong. They have a policy, and they’ve been executing it brilliantly – with the complicity of our Congressional leadership, and the mainstream media. And let me tell you – any thinking American can grasp it. It’s anti-American, anti-Western, but pro-Islam, pro-Iranian and pro-Muslim Brotherhood.

I have to ask you: Why would an American president embrace the Muslim Brotherhood when their creed is to destroy America from within by our own miserable hands and replace our constitution with Sharia law? It makes absolutely no sense.

And here is a group that has been able to penetrate all our national-security agencies, our intelligence agencies, and have had a massive impact on our rules of engagement, our foreign policy. This has got to stop.
Lyons also turned his venom toward Clinton, calling her “the pathological liar” and castigating her for her role in the so-called Benghazi scandal, which Republicans and right-wing media generated by claiming that Clinton had ordered American forces to “stand down” rather than rescue the American ambassador to Libya who was killed in the incident. Lyons claimed that “we switched sides in the war on terror, we facilitated the Al Qaeda militia and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Lyons also claimed that administration officials had committed crimes by lying to Congress:
“What more do you need? All of our senior leadership – [CIA directors Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, and Michael Hayden, as well as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] – all lied before a congressional committee. They must be held responsible. Those are felonies. You go to jail for 15 years.”

Lyons was followed by Mark Krikorian of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, which specializes in manufacturing dubious statistics and pseudo-academic “studies” purporting to support various smear-driven claims against immigrants, and which has a history of dalliances with white nationalists.

Krikorian, whose remarks were delivered via videotape, focused on Trump’s proposed Muslim immigration, which he dismissed as a “crude, sledgehammer approach.” However, he also defended its legitimacy, saying the matter was “not a constitutional issue” since “there is no right for foreigners to come to the United States.”

He went on to explain his own proposal for dealing with Muslim immigrants:
This is purely a question of ‘is it good policy to simply keep all Muslims out of the United States, or not?' The way it’s formulated by Mr. Trump is not good policy, certainly not in my opinion. Because the issue is not keeping out anyone who identifies as a Muslim, or is identified as a Muslim. Rather, the issue is to keep out people who adhere to the political aspects of Islam. If someone prays five times a day and fasts during Ramadan, that’s none of anybody’s business. But, someone who supports killing homosexuals, killing adulterers, using the law to punish blasphemers, that sort of thing – the Sharia aspect of Islam, rather than the strictly religious parts of it. That, we can and should exclude people for.

And there are a number of ways we can do it. The simplest, first thing to do is to use ideological exclusion – that’s a provision, a concept that’s been in the law, or was in the law for a long time, that a person who wasn’t actually a member of a totalitarian party, isn’t actually a terrorist or using violence but still expresses support for essentially overthrowing the Constitution or replacing the Constitution can be kept out, should be kept out.

We changed the law after the Cold War, thinking history had ended. We need to reinstitute that idea so that on visa applications and what have you, we ask some very basic, lowest-common-denominator types of questions: Do you support freedom of speech for people, even if it insults religious sensibilities? Do you support freedom of religion, or changing religions? And you know, some people will lie, but we will be setting a marker, you know – these are things that are not permitted, that Islamic supremacism has no place in the American constitutional order or American society.  
Krikorian is referring to laws passed in the 1950s during the height of anti-Communist hysteria, notably the 1950 Internal Security Act (which excluded communists, totalitarians, and fascists from immigrating) and the 1952 Walter-McCarran Act, which further codified those exclusions. Those exclusions were largely overturned in the Immigration Act of 1990, which limited the exclusion of aliens to those whose "entry or proposed activities within the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences."

However, the kind of exclusion that Krikorian favors is actually present in current immigration law, which requires that applicants be "attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same.” There also remain several ideological bars, including “advocates of assassination, government overthrow by force, destruction of property, and sabotage.”

Krikorian’s comparatively reasonable remarks shortly gave way to a presentation by James Simpson, introduced by Gaffney as an “investigative journalist” and the author of The Red-Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration, and the Agenda to Erase America, a book available for free online at CSP’s website. Simpson has previously promoted similar conspiracy theories, including one claiming that communists were behind major Latino-rights organizations.

Simpson’s latest bĂȘte noire is the U.S.’s refugee-resettlement program, which he claimed is providing “extreme leftists” all the pretext they need to “fundamentally transform America.” According to Gaffney, Simpson travels the country providing training sessions for anti-Muslim activists in communities dealing with an influx of refugees under these programs, which are all overseen by a nefarious United Nations and its cabal of conspirators who want to “erase America.”

He opened his presentation by claiming a quote from a supposed 1960s left-wing radical (actually sourced as an unnamed “SDS radical” ostensibly quoted by right-wing pundit David Horowitz) that he claimed showed their true nature: “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.”
What he meant was that issues for them – and it doesn’t matter. You can pick immigration, gay rights, welfare, civil rights, it doesn’t matter. The issue for them is only relevant insofar as it can be used as a vehicle to advance them into positions of power so that they can move forward with the fundamental transformation of this country into a leftist – God knows what. Yes, thank you – socialism.

… This is what we are up against. And the resettlement immigration open-borders agenda is a perfect vehicle for the Left to complete its agenda. And let’s just be clear about it. This is not a new agenda. It’s been going on since the dawn of time. These are simply unscrupulous people, corrupt people who are willing to use any and every tactic to insinuate themselves into positions of power. That’s all it is.

Socialism puts a pretty face on it – ‘We’re here to help the little guy.’ No we’re not. We’re here to insinuate ourselves into power, suck all resources into the federal government, so we can redistribute to our friends and people who are gonna support us. That’s what it’s about.

The resettlement immigration issue is perfect for that. We’re all seeing it. It dilutes American culture by bringing in people from all over the world of disparate cultures who have no understanding of our Constitution, no understanding of the rule of law, no interest in any of that, but only what American society can provide in benefits to them. 

They will not support the notion of a constitutional Republican government. That is what is critical and essential, that’s what has made us special, that’s what’s made us the most prosperous nation in the world, and that’s what the Left wants to destroy, because it’s standing in the way.
Simpson explained that the United Nations is the center of this leftist conspiracy, working in cahoots with Islamist radicals to allow in more extremists. Their main vehicle, he claimed, is refugee resettlement.

As evidence of the danger, he claimed that “at least two Paris attackers entered as refugees” (in reality, the only supposed refugee passports found near the bodies carried of two of the ISIS terrorists who killed 140 people in Paris in mid-November are now considered fakes).

And he touted the growing “pockets of resistance” in communities, particularly smaller rural towns such as Twin Falls, Idaho, and Duncan, S.C., where there is growing resistance (some of it led by extremist militiamen) to the possibility that refugees from Syria might be relocated in their midst.

Simpson claimed that these communities face demonization at the hands of “leftist” organizations such as the SPLC:
The resettlement agencies and their various supporters actually went forward and created this campaign designed specifically to oppose these pockets of resistance. And it’s an organized nationwide campaign of vilification. Guess what? Can you just fill in the blanks? What is anybody who opposes the out-of-control, insane refugee resettlement program? You wanna fill in the blank? “Racist! Bigot! Xenophobe! You’re all bad people!”

And it’s an organized effort using the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations funded by George Soros and other radical leftist organizations. They’re trying to change the culture by changing the narrative. And it’s a massive, massive operation.

But people are fighting back all over the country. And we call ourselves pockets of resistance. That’s what we’re doing. We’re resisting them.

Simpson was shortly followed by a video presentation from right-wing stalwart Phyllis Schlafly, who has made a career out of leading a number of arch-conservative political battles, beginning with women’s rights and continuing with battles over gay rights and education. But it was immigration and refugee resettlement that were her main focus Monday.

She opened with praise for Gaffney and the CPS:
The American people need someone to alert them to the dangers to our sovereignty. … Illegal immigration is a tremendous attack on our sovereignty. Because the people coming in don’t necessarily want to be Americans, they don’t want to speak English, they don’t want to adopt our ways. They want to help Obama engage in his transformation of the United States of America. But we think we have a perfectly wonderful country, and we want to make it great again.

Obama seems to want to bring into our country anybody who shows up at the border, but we need to be careful about who we let into our country. We want people to come who love us, who want to be Americans.

A few months ago, I wrote about the Syrian immigrants, and they are a real danger. And it’s not only the people who might be vetted – and I don’t think they are vetted when they come in – but even if they were, we find that the next generation of people can be easily radicalized. And they are a danger right in the midst of our country. 
Just before lunch, Gaffney introduced Connie Foust, the self-proclaimed “Border Granny” who has made a career as a nativist border watcher based in Arizona.

Foust had a long and colorful career, beginning in 2005, as one of the leaders of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, where, as she described for the audience she eventually became “national border operations director for Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.”

The MCDC, however, has been defunct since 2010, and its onetime leader, Chris Simcox, is currently awaiting trial in Phoenix on two counts of child molestation. Nowadays, as Foust explained, she is primarily involved with another Arizona border-watch operation called Project Bluelight.

Project Bluelight is run by a resident of Arizona’s Altar Valley, south of Tuscon in the desert borderlands, named Joe Adams. Adams is something of a shadowy figure himself, with a background as a CIA operative and drug smuggler. He was indicted in 1988 for violations of the Neutrality Act as a result of his work helping to fund (often through drug smuggling) and organize the right-wing Contra death squads in Nicaragua in the 1980s, and he later became a private investigator with ties to the Jimmy Hoffa family.

He told a reporter he was naturally attracted to the Minutemen and first joined Chris Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps in 2006, but he then left (saying MCDC was “a bunch of people who want to do a good job but don’t know what they’re doing”) to eventually form his own offshoot, which he called Project Bluelight, suggesting that it operates with the tacit cooperation of law enforcement (“blue light” being law enforcement lingo for proceeding with the blessing of police).

Adams also had a yearlong, frequently contentious association with onetime Minuteman border-watch leader Shawna Forde, whom he met when she showed up to promote her own border-watch outfit at a Bluelight border-watch operation. Forde was later charged and convicted in the murders of an Arivaca, Arizona, marijuana smuggler and his nine-year-old daughter in their home in the early morning hours of May 30, 2009, and now sits on Arizona’s Death Row. Adams sent Forde an email breaking off their association the same day the murders took place.

During her speech, Foust described Project Bluelight  as “some pretty cool guys” and added: “These are American patriots like no other.” Then she went on to claim that the border watchers had “assisted over the course of these years the Department of Homeland Security, ICE and Border Patrol in the apprehension of 10,000 persons plus. They have seized over 200 loads of narcotics, they have rescued over 100 persons in distress.”

“We have no interest in the worker coming over for a better life. We have an interest in securing our border so we can all have life.”

She then went on to describe in detail how she and other border watchers had observed Muslims coming over the border with “full beards” and “prayer rugs,” and claimed she had the video to prove it.

The extremism and conspiracism reached a real fever pitch, however, when right-wing pundit Wayne Allyn Root – who nowadays styles himself as “the poor man’s Donald Trump” – took to the stage.

Root covered a range of topics. He opened up by ranting against Obamacare, claiming that President Obama nakedly lied in his claims while selling it to the American public. “Now, if I do that, I’m in prison for life like Bernie Madoff,” he said. “It’s called fraud. Someone needs to hold them accountable. Someone needs to put people in jail.”

He called Obama the “worst gambler, degenerate gambler in history” because he is someone who “makes bets he cannot win” and he is “betting with your money and your children’s lives.”
Root also joined in castigating plans to bring in Syrian refugees, and also claimed that he had eyewitness accounts of Muslims coming over the Mexico border.

“No one gives a damn in the media, they don’t care,” he said.
Because their agenda is helping Obama, supporting Obama, defending Obama, championing Obama, and soon it will be helping, championing, and supporting Hillary Clinton, even though we all know in this room that if it was a Republican guilty of everything Hillary’s guilty of, he’d be in prison for the next 20 years. Everyone knows that."

The crimes that Hillary Clinton has committed, no Republican on Earth could get away with – and I’m not talking about Benghazi, I’m not talking about the emails, I’m not talking about the secret surveillance emails.
All I’m talking about is: Can you imagine a Republican Secretary of State working for a Republican president starting a foundation for charity that collects money from foreign governments by the hundreds of millions and billions and then takes the money and hands out government contracts to the same country that made the contribution from the State Department? That’s not a criminal offense, that’s a hanging, treasonous offense.
During the question-and-answer session, a member of the audience asked Root “when we are going to nail Hillary. Is she gonna go to jail?” Root replied that he wasn’t sure: “I don’t know if Comey, the FBI director, is totally on the straight-and-narrow.”

“I believe we’ve got massive blackmail going on in the United States government,” he said. “The NSA, the IRS, their goal is to find out everything about Republicans — not everybody. Republicans.”
“They want to know everything about us, especially Republican politicians in Washington, D.C., and then they blackmail them,” he explained. “Is Comey susceptible to that? I have no idea, but I certainly have my suspicions about the Supreme Court justice of the United States voting twice for Obamacare.”

The day wrapped up with a series of appearances from GOP presidential candidates, who themselves managed to pile on with more extremism.

That was especially the case with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, whose 15-minute video message ran earlier in the day. Cruz also had praise for Gaffney, who he described as a “patriot” who “has been attacked over and over again for having the courage to stand up and speak the name ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ of the enemy that is waging jihad against us.”

He then went on to claim that President Obama was using the Department of Justice to “attack the First Amendment” by threatening anyone critical of Muslims with prosecution:
It raises the specter that Americans will be labeled as bigots if they dare utter the word “Islam” in connection with a terrorist attack. Our president refuses to do so – in fact, he spent a significant portion of his Sunday address as an apologist for Islam.

… And the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, told a gathering the day after the attacks in San Bernardino, that her department would move to prosecute anyone whose, quote, “anti-Muslim rhetoric edged toward violence.” As has been the case all too often in the Obama administration, we may be facing the weaponization of one of our own government agencies, deployed not to protect Americans, but to try to force them to submit to the Obama administration’s code of what is and is not acceptable speech.
Cruz did not, however, acknowledge or address the wave of hate crimes and ugly attacks on Muslims that followed immediately in the wake of the San Bernadino murder spree.

The day's events ended with the Senator Rick Santorum and the videotaped messages from fellow GOP candidates Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, giving Gaffney and the CSP exactly what they wanted: a stamp of approval from mainstream political leaders of all the conspiracy and extremism that came before it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Candidates Who Criticized Trump's Muslim Ban Proposal Make Appearances at Anti-Muslim 'Summit'

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Last week, a number of Republican presidential candidates – including Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Rick Santorum – devoted time to criticizing fellow candidate Donald Trump for his proposal to ban all Muslim immigration into the United States.

But on Monday, all three of them made appearances (some of them videotaped) at a Nevada conference run by the same organization who gave Trump the idea for his ban.

The “National Security Action Summit” in Las Vegas was primarily devoted to exploring all the possible dark corners of the possibility of a terrorist attack committed by Muslim immigrants, a constant theme of the Center for Security Policy, the extremist anti-Muslim group run by Frank Gaffney.

This included discussions of the possibility that President Obama is secretly a Muslim, the fear that refugees from Syria will include large numbers of embedded terrorists and the notion that American communists and liberals are conspiring with Muslim radicals to end democracy in the United States. One speaker even claimed that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is blackmailing people in Washington, including the current director of the FBI, just to stay out of prison.

But the highlight of the conference was undoubtedly the guest appearances by four presidential candidates – Cruz, Fiorina, Santorum and Ben Carson. Santorum appeared in person, while Cruz, Fiorina and Carson all sent recorded messages that were played for conference attendees.

Cruz was especially effusive in his praise for Gaffney, saying he was “a patriot, he loves this country, and he is clear-eyed about the incredible threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

“Frank Gaffney has been attacked over and over again for having the courage to stand up and speak the name ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ of the enemy that is waging jihad against us,” Cruz said, claiming that Obama won’t use the term.

Last week, Cruz addressed Trump’s proposed ban, saying: “I disagree with that proposal. … I believe we need a plan that is focused on the direct threat."

Fiorina’s video appearance was relatively brief. She told the audience: “I apologize that I can’t be with you today,” and then launched into harsh criticism of Obama and Clinton, saying their response to terrorist attacks made her “angry."

“Our most pressing national security threat is radical Islamist terrorism around the world and here at home, both lone wolves and packs of wolves. ISIS is an evil that must be confronted, it must be destroyed. They are at war with us and all we represent. And so we must wage this war and we must win.”

But last week, Fiorina had told an audience: “Donald Trump, for example, has been saying we’re going to use a religious test and ban people from coming into this country. … It’s a violation of our Constitution, but it also undermines the character of our nation. We stand for religious liberty.”

Santorum, who had been more temperate in his criticism of Trump, appeared in person, and never addressed the issue of Muslim immigration. He devoted most of his remarks to attacking Iran and defending Israel. At the end of his question-and-answer session, he was asked by a black woman to compare ISIS to American police who killed black men in custody, and adamantly insisted that the comparison was invalid.

Gaffney praised Santorum afterward, saying he had “maintained a perfect record” when it came to attending the “National Security Summits” the CSP had organized in various locales around the country.

Last week, he said he disagreed with Trump’s proposed blanket ban on Muslim, but suggested he would favor something similar, focusing the ban on travel from nations where extremism is rampant.

“I think that there are countries where we should not be bringing in people. Obviously, we should not be bringing in Muslims from those countries. I am not worried about radicalized Christians from Yemen, but I am worried about radicalized Muslims from those countries,” Santorum told a Des Moines audience.

Carson, who declined to criticize Trump’s proposal, also sent in a video, saying, “I wish I could be there with you. It’s such an important topic, particularly with the things that happened in France lately. And obviously, we all need to be thinking about what kind of security can we have at home.”

He continued: “We must recognize that we are at war. That means we must throw all this political correctness out the window, because that does not work when it comes to the safety of the American people. We have to learn how to prioritize. Safety of the people should always be right on the top shelf when it comes to our decision making.”

All of the Republican candidates are in Las Vegas today to participate in the final GOP primary debate.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Firestorm of Vicious Behavior Toward Muslims Rages in the Wake of San Bernardino Rampage

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
The murderous rampage by two apparently radicalized Muslims in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2 has become the latest flashpoint in the massive bonfire of Islamophobia being whipped up by anti-Muslim extremists and their mainstream conservative enablers in the United States.

In the week since the massacre of 14 people by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, Muslims around the country have been confronted with a wildfire of retaliatory threats, vandalism, and attacks – even as politicians and pundits have stoked the flames of bigotry higher.

The ugliness began almost immediately after the shootings with a series of phoned-in and social-media threats, vandalizing attacks on mosques, and arsons of Muslim businesses, in locations all around the United States:
  • In St. Louis, Mo., a man phoned in a threat to the local offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, vowing to kill any Muslims who dared show up on his property. That man is unlikely to be charged with any crime.
  • In Manassas, Va., the local mosque was similarly threatened with a phoned-in threat from a man claiming to be a member of the extremist Jewish Defense League and vowing that his group “will do to your people what you did to them.” “We are checking now to see if one Jew has been shot or killed in California,” he said. “You all will be sorry. You all will be killed.”
  • In Palm Beach, Fla., a lone vandal attacked a local Islamic center, breaking windows and wreaking property damage inside. The man who was later arrested for the crime is the son of a well-known local educator.
  • In Philadelphia, Pa., someone in a red pickup truck rolled up next to a neighborhood mosque and hurled a severed pig’s head onto the steps of the building. Security cameras caught images of the perpetrators, but so far, investigators have had no luck tracking them down. The act was widely denounced, including by Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, who said: "We cannot allow hate to divide us now, in the face of unprecedented difficulties. I ask all Philadelphians to join me in rejecting this despicable act and supporting our Muslim neighbors.”
  • In Grand Forks, N.D., someone scrawled graffiti featuring a Nazi symbol and the words “Go home” on the walls of a Somali restaurant owned by a Muslim family. Two nights later, someone deliberately set an arson fire at the restaurant, causing an estimated $90,000 in damage.
  • In Twin Falls, Idaho, someone spray-painted boards that covered the windows of the local Islamic center with the words “Hunt Camp ?” The graffiti referred to the old Minidoka Relocation Center in nearby Hunt, the site of the massive Japanese American internment erected during World War II, apparently suggesting the same fate for Magic Valley Muslims. Local police were investigating the matter as a potential hate crime.
Graffiti at the Islamic Center in Twin Falls, ID
There has been a rash of other, mostly petty, ugliness as well: A sixth-grade Muslim schoolgirl in Brooklyn was attacked at the school – punched, her headscarf yanked, and called “ISIS” by classmates – but police declined to file a report in the matter. Two Muslim women were verbally assaulted by a fellow patron at an Austin, Texas, restaurant, and then told that “nobody” cared about them. A woman in Fort Worth, Texas, reported that an angry woman confronted her in her car, rolling down her window and shouting at her, before she spat on her.

The Twin Falls case provides a stark example of how extremist anti-Muslim rhetoric trickles down to create permission for violence in local communities. The local refugee resettlement center has in recent months become the focus of a virulent campaign stoked by national groups designated as anti-Muslim extremist and hate groups by the SPLC, even attracting the high-volume participation of armed militiamen from the antigovernment “III Percent” movement.

The spate of ugliness has wounded the Muslim community: “I think people are upset, people are humiliated,” observed Marwan Kreidie, director of the Arab American Development Corp., in an Associated Press interview following the incident with the pig’s head. “We’ve never had incidents like that – even after 9/11, we didn’t have anything like this.

“Unfortunately, some of the rhetoric – especially coming from the Republican candidates for president – has been atrocious. And words have consequences.”

Indeed, the GOP presidential field – led by Donald Trump – has already played a substantial role in whipping the embers of Islamophobia into flames in recent weeks, aided and abetted by both right-wing and mainstream media. Much of that focused on whether or not Muslim refugees from Syria should be welcomed, with Trump announcing that if he were elected, “They’re going back!”

The bonfire became a massive conflagration in the wake of the Nov. 13 ISIS-based terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and another 368 injured. A parade of mostly Republican governors promptly announced they intended to close their doors to Syrian refugees, even though that decision is not within their purview. And Muslims began seeing a marked increase in hate crimes and other attacks.

After last Wednesday’s massacre, the issue blew up altogether, with a number of politicians and pundits lining up to declare that their fears about admitting Muslim refugees had been proven right. At the same time, the floodgates of ugly behavior toward Muslims appeared to open wide all across the country.

On Monday, in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, Trump turned the issue into a national uproar by declaring that he wanted to see all Muslim immigration into the United States shut off altogether – temporarily, he claimed, “until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.”

"In a country that is already thick with hateful anti-Muslim ideologues, Donald Trump may well be the person who has done more than any other to demonize Muslims and, ultimately, to subject them to criminal hate violence,” observed Mark Potok, the SPLC’s Intelligence Report editor. “Words have consequences. Although the hateful comments of Trump — not to mention those of a number of the other Republican presidential candidates — are protected by the First Amendment, there is little doubt that they will ultimately lead to more violence directed at minorities. What Trump is saying is despicable, un-American and a shameful moment for our country.”

The Republican candidates’ fearmongering, however, is only the culmination of a long-running campaign by extremist organizations to whip up fears about Muslims. A number of these groups – in particular, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, whose misinformation was cited by Trump in his attempts to justify his call for a Muslim immigration ban – have been claiming for years that all Muslims are extremists in waiting. One of Gaffney’s acolytes, Ann Corcoran, has played a leading role in the effort to associate the refugee-resettlement programs with the ostensible threat of terrorism.

As a consequence of this rhetoric, hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed in recent years, even at a time when hate crimes against other minorities are declining. CAIR officials recently expressed concern about the recent escalation in bias crimes: “We don’t literally have time to issue a statement on every incident because they’re coming in so fast and furious,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. “When the leading Republican presidential candidate can say, ‘Bar all Muslims coming to America’ and know he can get more support for it — it is truly frightening.”

In the meantime, Pentagon officials explained Tuesday that this kind of bigotry was playing directly into the hands of the terrorists, whose whole intention is to attempt to create bigoted attacks on Muslims in America and Europe so that those Muslims will have an incentive to become radicalized.

“Anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told a news briefing.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Skinheads’ Empty Boasts for ‘Martyrs Day’ Event in Seattle Bring Out Large Crowd of Counter-Protesters

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Maybe it was the rain, which came down in buckets all day Sunday in Seattle.

Or maybe it was the massive crowd of over 500 people, a large number of them black-clad and masked anarchists, waiting to greet them up in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Or maybe, as the white supremacists who took part in this year’s “Martyrs [sic] Day” commemoration in western Washington tried to claim afterward, it was all just a hoax, a massive prank meant to tweak Seattle liberals.

Whatever the cause, the contingent of neo-Nazi skinheads who boasted beforehand that “we will be marching through Capitol Hill in Seattle to show these liberals, anarchists antifa and fags that we are here and here to stay” after a day of listening to white-power bands, in reality turned out to be complete no-shows Sunday as far as any kind of public appearance.

The same could not be said of their opponents, who significantly outnumbered them in any event. The anti-Nazi protesters blocked traffic and created a scene in the neighborhood; there were reports of minor vandalism attributed to the presence of anarchists. The black-clad and masked young men remained in clusters around the neighborhood well after the march, waiting for someone to show.

Organizers from the Northwest Hammerskins, a well-known racist skinhead outfit, had posted on the white-supremacist website Stormfront their plans for this year’s version of “Martyrs Day,” held annually on Dec. 6, usually on Whidbey Island, to commemorate the death of Robert Mathews, leader of the neo-Nazi criminal gang The Order, at the hands of the FBI in 1984. This year, they vowed in the posts, they planned to hold it in the form of a white-power rock concert in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, followed by a cross burning, and then a march up to Capitol Hill.

A woman (using the nom de plume “Hardcore Honey”) associated with Northwest skinheads posted that this year’s event would be “something you will NOT want to miss!” She also included a poster of the planned concert.

"Join us Sunday, Dec. 6th in Ballard,WA. We will be meeting up at an undisclosed location in Ballard …

"The event will present five white power bands including Ironwill and Beer Hall Putsch and a couple others making their NW debuts. Comrades and crews from across the country will be in attendance and about 300 people are to be expected for a day of comraderie, music, hailing our heroes and good ol' goosestepping. Food and drinks will also be provided.

"After the bands and a traditional cross burning we will be marching through Capitol Hill in Seattle to show these liberals, anarchists antifa and fags that we are here and here to stay.

"This will be the biggest event in NW history as of yet so let's put the beautiful Pacific Northwest back on the map and make Robert Mathews proud!"

That set off a flurry of activity by anti-fascists and socialists in the region, who organized a large rally Sunday in Capitol Hill intended to make the neo-Nazis feel unwelcome. By the time darkness had fallen on Seattle – along with the heavy rains – a crowd estimated at over 500 had collected at Cal Anderson Park, in the heart of the district.

Capitol Hill, as the city’s most prominent gay neighborhood, also has a long and unfortunate history of attracting anti-LGBT hate-crimes from outside the area. The problem dates back to at least 1990, when a group of neo-Nazis from northern Idaho came to Seattle intent on setting off a series of pipe bombs inside Neighbours, a popular gay nightclub in the area (those men were arrested before enacting their plot and wound up serving federal prison time).

Organizers of the rally included Rose City Antifa, a Portland, Ore.-based antifascist group, who spread the word about the skinheads’ intentions through social media, using the hashtag #DefendSeattle. Soon a number of socialist and feminist organizations, as well as some anarchist groups, had joined in, and on Sunday, they made their numbers known. As the evening darkened and the rain grew heavier, the crowd headed out from the park and marched down Broadway, the main avenue on Capitol Hill.

Many carried handmade signs: “Nazis Go Home” and “Skinhead Fascists Not Welcome Here,” were fairly typical. A big banner read: “Smash White Supremacy.” Some signs even had a sense of humor: “Thor Hates You,” read one.

Chanting various anti-Nazi slogans – “Nazis are not welcome here,” and “Nazis out, refugees in” were favorites – the crowd traveled down about five city blocks, then circled back around to the park where the march started, at which time police ordered them to disperse, and they did.

A news van for KIRO-TV was vandalized by some of the masked young men – several windows were broken in the van, and it had been tagged with graffiti. Other graffiti had been left behind: “Fags Against Nazis” read one tag that had been hastily painted across a stark white building wall. And some business owners reported having their windows broken as well.

On Monday morning, one of the skinheads boasted on the #DefendSeattle Facebook page that it had all been a prank:

Lol. Well I hope you nerds enjoyed the hoax played on you by us idiot boneheads. Our memorial went off with no problems yesterday. All you revolutionaries managed to do was to vandalize the city you say you where defending. You've also managed to expose yourselves and now we have lots of info on people who try desperately too hide their identities. Places of work, your residents, and places of leisure may no longer be a safe space. So much for outsmarting us idiotic boneheads. Playing Che can be a lot of fun, but it's time to realize that you really are a bunch of white nerds who live in all white neighborhoods from middle class white families. None of you are oppressed, unless you count your drug addiction and low iqs oppression. Funny how you guys where at the SPD earlier before your rally. Making sure they where there to keep you safe lol. Fight the system man. Well thanks for the laugh, in solidarity, antifa hahaha.

In reality, the skinheads had indeed held their usual commemoration on Whidbey Island earlier in the day Sunday, but had in fact subsequently also gathered at a Seattle-area private residence at which a few dozen neo-Nazis were treated to a white-power rock show by a couple of white-power bands, according to information received by the SPLC. The show ended in the early evening and the participants did not, apparently, make the trek to Capitol Hill.

No doubt it was the rain.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Candidates Deny Their ‘Baby Parts’ Attacks on Planned Parenthood Helped Fuel Colorado Shooting

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
The Republican presidential candidates who spent much of the past four months roundly demonizing Planned Parenthood were scrambling over the weekend and beyond, busily trying to distance themselves and their rhetoric from last week's bloody shooting rampage  of a North Carolina transplant in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday.

Carly Fiorina – whose attacks on Planned Parenthood in the wake of the release of a series of deceptively edited smear videos purporting to show officials from the organization callously selling “aborted baby parts” were credited with fueling her rise as a candidate among a crowded GOP field – called any linkage of her rhetoric to the shooting just “typical left-wing tactics.”

“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing a messenger because they don’t agree with the message,” Fiorina told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday.

Reportedly, the shooter, Robert L. Dear, a 57-year-old transplant from Asheville, N.C., said to authorities in interviews after he was captured that the attack was about “no more baby parts,” along with oblique references to President Obama.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who also devoted a lot of campaign airtime to attacking Planned Parenthood – at one point telling a reporter that “I have encouraged every American to watch these videos” – complained to reporters on Sunday that "the media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that."

Reminded about Dear’s reported “baby parts” comment, Cruz retorted: "It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist. If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

He added: “We know that he was a man registered to vote as a woman.” [In reality, this claim – based on a clerical error made by county officials in Colorado – was completely untrue, though it was bandied about widely by right-wing blogs.]

Fiorina and Cruz led the charge against Planned Parenthood by Republican candidates this summer, based on the smear videos, that resulted in virtually every candidate calling for abolishing federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Cruz, in fact, promised to introduce legislation in the Senate to do just that.

At the Sept. 16 GOP presidential debate, Fiorina attacked the organization viciously:
As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.
In reality, no such video existed among those released as part of the smear campaign, and Fiorina was never able to produce evidence that it did. Her defenders later released a video purporting to show a fetus being treated as she described, but it shortly emerged that the video was of a miscarriage, at a hospital with no affiliation with Planned Parenthood.

Ted Cruz, for his part, went on Fox News and explained to Sean Hannity why, as he had previously told a debate audience, Planned Parenthood was a “criminal enterprise” and that its officials deserved prosecution:
Now, what should we be doing? Number one, in the course of these videos, it appears both of these officials are admitting to multiple felonies, both federal felonies and state and local felonies. If the Department of Justice wasn't a partisan arm of the DNC, it should open an investigation, prosecute these individuals and Planned Parenthood as an entity.

Thankfully, there are state and local attorneys general and DAs that are opening investigations. We need to prosecute Planned Parenthood, and also we need to cut off every penny of taxpayer funding. I'm leading the fight in the Senate to do exactly that and insure that we are not funding people who are buying and selling body parts of unborn children in violation of federal criminal law!
Cruz and Fiorina were hardly alone. Most of their fellow candidates joined the dogpile:
  • Ben Carson told an Iowa radio host that “the whole purpose” of Planned Parenthood is to “eliminate black people.”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told a TV interviewer that Planned Parenthood was in the business of “pushing people into abortions”: “If you go to one of these centers young women are provided very few options. In many places they’re not told anything about, for example, adoption services that might be available to them. In essence, you come in, and it’s already predetermined. This is the direction –– this is what this place does. It provides abortions, and we are going to channel you in that direction. And I just think you’ve created an industry now –– the situation where very much you’ve created an incentive not just for people to look forward to having more abortions, but being able to sell that fetal tissue for purposes of making profit off of it, as you’ve seen with some of these Planned Parenthood affiliates.” [This claim, like many others levied against the women’s health-care provider, is utterly false, a product of the claims of an extremist fringe group.]
  • Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky issued a statement: “I am more appalled than ever by Planned Parenthood's complete disregard for the sanctity of human life. The recent revelation that this taxpayer-funded organization is selling body parts of the unborn further proves that this agency deserves our scorn not our tax dollars.” He also told an interviewer: “I don’t know how they live with themselves.”
  • Donald Trump told interviewer Hugh Hewitt that he would be all for Cruz’s proposal to shut down the federal government in order to force President Obama to sign their plan to defund Planned Parenthood: “If the Republicans stuck together you could have done it with Obamacare also, but the Republicans decided not to stick together and they left a few people out there like Ted Cruz. If they had stuck together they would have won that battle. I think you have to in this case [on Planned Parenthood] also, yes.”
The candidates having already set the bar for acceptable mainstream attacks on Planned Parenthood, the already-extreme rhetoric turned even more so in the hands of lesser politicians, right-wing pundits, and far-right evangelical Christians. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, warned that if Planned Parenthood was not defunded, America itself would collapse, since Americans had become so “desensitized” to the “horror” of the “abortion industry,” to “a degree that I think threatens the survival or the necessity of the survival of America.

Evangelist/talk show host Gordon Klingenschmitt was even more extreme in his attack on Planned Parenthood:
I don’t believe these people for a moment, do you? In fact, we can discern upon them the spirit of lying, the spirit of death, the spirit of murder, the spirit of greed. I mean, whenever I look at a picture of those executives, if you look in the spirit, at the demons inside of them, you can see the blood dripping from their fangs. These people are just evil.
Online evangelist Joshua Feuerstein – who most recently gained notoriety in leading the right-wing uproar over Starbucks’ new Christmas-free holiday cups – chimed in on a video he originally posted July 29 (but which he recently removed from his Facebook and YouTube pages):
Planned Parenthood has hunted down millions and millions of little innocent babies, stuck a knife into the uterus, cut them, pulled them out, crushed their skull with forceps, ripped their body apart, sold their tissue, and threw them bleeding into a trash bin.

I say, tonight, we punish Planned Parenthood. I think it’s time that abortion doctors should have to run and hide and be afraid for their life.
The ultimate escalation of that rhetoric into action, apparently, came in Colorado Springs, along with the spate of four arsons over a 74-day span at Planned Parenthood clinics scattered around the nation.

And despite the denials of the candidates regarding the effects of their extreme rhetoric, extremists on the right couldn’t withhold their expressions of glee on social media even after Dear murdered three people and wounded nine others.

“No sympathy for any pregnant female who was injured in the Planned Parenthood shooting that was there to get an abortion. She deserved it,” tweeted one “pro-life” advocate.

“Planned Parenthood shooter has done more in one day to save black babies then #Black Lives Matter has done in last several months,” tweeted another.

The militant anti-abortion group Army of God issued a statement:
These murderous pigs at Planned Parenthood are babykillers and they reap what they sow. In this case, Planned Parenthood selling of aborted baby parts came back to bite them.
The New York Times on Tuesday published a story quoting anonymous sources who told their reporter that Dear had considered groups like Army of God to be “heroes.”

And at the ostensibly mainstream conservative blog sometime CNN pundit Erick Erickson, he wrote: “Given the public light shed on the atrocities committed by Planned Parenthood … it really should be surprising that Americans … have not taken the law into their own hands.”

In other words, Robert Dear’s act of domestic terrorism did not slow down the attacks on Planned Parenthood. If anything, it seems to have taken them to a new level of viciousness.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Donald Trump May Not Be a Fascist, But He is Leading Us Merrily Down That Path

People who have studied the extremist right as a historical and sociopolitical phenomenon in depth are acutely aware of a simple truth: America has been very, very lucky so far when it comes to fascistic political movements.

And now, with the arrival of the Donald Trump 2016 phenomenon, that luck may be about to run out.

Nor is this phenomenon just a flash in the pan. Trump is the logical end result of an endless series of assaults on not just American liberalism, but on democratic institutions themselves, by the American right for many years. It is the long-term creep of radicalization of the right come home to roost.

Fascistic elements and tendencies have always been part of America’s DNA. Indeed, it can be said that some of the worst traits of fascism in Europe were borrowed from their American exemplars – particularly the eliminationist tendencies, manifested first in the form of racial and ethnic segregation, and ultimately in genocidal violence.

Hitler acknowledged at various times his admiration for the American genocide against Native Americans, as well as the segregationist policies of the Jim Crow regime in the South (on which the Nuremberg Race Laws were modeled) and the threat of the lynch mob embodied in the Ku Klux Klan. According to Ernst Hanfstaengl, Hitler was “passionately interested in the Ku Klux Klan. ... He seemed to think it was a political movement similar to his own." And indeed it was.

Despite the long-running presence of these elements, though, America has never yet given way to fascism. No doubt some of this, in the past half-century at least, was primarily fueled by the natural human recoil that occurred when we got to witness the end result of these tendencies when given the chance to rule by someone like Hitler – namely, the Holocaust. We learned to be appalled by racial and ethnic hatred, by segregation and eliminationism, because we saw the pile of corpses that they produced, and fled in terror.

Those of us who study fascism not just as a historical phenomenon, but as a living and breathing phenomenon that has always previously maintained a kind of half-life on the fringes of the American right, have come to understand that it is both a complex and a simple phenomenon: in one sense, it resembles a dynamic human psychological pathology in that it’s comprised of a complex constellation of traits that are interconnected and whose presence and importance rise and fall according to the stages of development it goes through; and in another, it can in many ways be boiled down to the raw, almost feral imposition of the organized violent will of an angry and fear-ridden human id upon the rest of humankind.

That’s where Donald Trump comes in.

In many ways, Trump’s fascistic-seeming presidential campaign fills in many of the components of that complex constellation of traits that comprises real fascism. Perhaps the most significant of these is the one component that has been utterly missing previously in American forms of fascism: the charismatic leader around whom the fascist troops can rally, the one who voices their frustrations and garners followers like flies.

Scholars of fascist politics have remarked previously that America has been fortunate for most of its history not to have had such a figure rise out of the ranks of their fascist movements. And in the case of Donald Trump, that remains true – he has no background or history as a white supremacist or proto-fascist, nor does he actually express their ideologies.

Rather, what he is doing is mustering the latent fascist tendencies in American politics – some of it overtly white supremacist, while the majority of it is the structural racism and white privilege that springs from the nation’s extensive white-supremacist historical foundations – on his own behalf. He is merrily leading us down the path towards a fascist state even without being himself an overt fascist.

The reality that Trump is not a bona fide fascist himself does not make him any less dangerous. In some ways, it makes him more so, because it disguises the swastika looming in the shadow of the flamboyant orange hair. It camouflages the throng of ravening wolves he’s riding in upon.

There is little doubt that Trump is tapping into fascistic sentiments, which is why so many observers are now beginning to finally use the word in describing Trump’s campaign. From Rick Perlstein and Digby and Chauncey deVega (as well as a number of other writers at Salon) to Thom Hartmann at AlterNet to the typically staid Seattle Times, “fascism” is the word more and more people are using in relation to the campaign that Trump is running. Even some of his fellow conservatives are beginning to use the word.

And they have a valid point, because Trump fills out so many of the key components that collectively create genuine fascism. And while it’s true that, as Josh Marshall suggests, there really is no single, agreed-upon definition of fascism, there’s also no doubt that we can grasp the idea of fascism not just by studying its history, but also by examining the various attempts at understanding and defining just what comprises fascism. And in doing so, we can recognize exactly what it is that Trump is doing.

What it’s decidedly not, no matter what you might have read, is the simple-minded definition you’ll see in Internet memes attributed to Benito Mussolini: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” As Chip Berlet has explained ad nauseam, not only did Mussolini never say or write such a thing, neither did the fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile, to whom it is also often attributed.

For one thing, as Berlet explains: “When Mussolini wrote about corporatism, he was not writing about modern commercial corporations. He was writing about a form of vertical syndicalist corporatism based on early guilds.” The Skeptical Libertarian explains that the term “corporatism” and “corporate” meant an entirely different thing in 1920s Italy than it means today:

“Corporations” were not individual businesses. Under fascist corporatism, sectors of the economy were divided into corporate groups, whose activities and interactions were managed and coordinated by the government. The idea was to split the difference between socialism and laissez faire capitalism, letting the state control and direct the economy from the top-down without itself owning the means of production.

… The bottom line is that corporate groups meant classes of people in the economy, which were allegedly represented through appointments to the Council. The system was not about welfare for private companies, but rather about totalitarian central planning of the whole economy through legislation and regulation. Corporatism meant formally “incorporating” divergent interests under the state, which would resolve their differences through regulatory mechanisms.

Moreover, as Berlet explains, this fake definition of fascism directly contradicts many of the things that Mussolini himself did in fact write about the nature of fascism. If he or Gentile ever did actually say it, it’s likely it was a bit of propaganda intended to ease and mislead business-minded followers.

Another thing that fascism decidedly is NOT is the grotesque distortion made by Jonah Goldberg, to wit, that fascism is a kind of socialism and therefore “properly understood as a phenomenon of the left.” This claim, in fact, is such a travesty of the idea of fascism that it functionally negates its meaning, rendering it, as George Orwell might describe it, a form of Newspeak. Indeed, it was Orwell himself who wrote that “the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite.”

Fascism, in reality, is a much more complex phenomenon than either of these definitions. Let’s look, by way of example, at some of the more recent efforts at defining it:

Stanley Payne, in Fascism: Comparison and Definition (1980):
A. The Fascist Negations:
-- Antiliberalism
-- Anticommunism
-- Anticonservatism (though with the understanding that fascist groups were willing to undertake temporary alliances with groups from any other sector, most commonly with the right)

B. Ideology and Goals:
-- Creation of a new nationalist authoritarian state based not merely on traditional principles or models
-- Organization of some new kind of regulated, multiclass, integrated national economic structure, whether called national corporatist, national socialist, or national syndicalist
-- The goal of empire or a radical change in the nation’s relationship with other powers
-- Specific espousal of an idealist, voluntarist creed, normally involving the attempt to realize a new form of modern, self-determined, secular culture

C. Style and Organization:
-- Emphasis on esthetic structure of meetings, symbols, and political choreography, stressing romantic and mystical aspects
-- Attempted mass mobilization with militarization of political relationships and style and with the goal of a mass party militia
-- Positive evaluation and use of, or willingness to use, violence
-- Extreme stress on the masculine principle and male dominance, while espousing the organic view of society
-- Exaltation of youth above other phases of life, emphasizing the conflict of generations, at least in effecting the initial political transformation
-- Specific tendency toward an authoritarian, charismatic, personal style of command, whether or not the command is to some degree initially elective

Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, p. 218:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal constraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Paxton's nine "mobilizing passions" of fascism:

-- a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions;

-- the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether universal or individual, and the subordination of the individual to it;

-- the belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group's enemies, both internal and external;

-- dread of the group's decline under the corrosive effect of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences;

-- the need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary;

-- the need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group's destiny;

-- the superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason;

-- the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success;

-- the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group's prowess in a Darwinian struggle.

Fascism: modern political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity. Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy. Despite the idealistic goals of fascism, attempts to build fascist societies have led to wars and persecutions that caused millions of deaths. As a result, fascism is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence.

To these I would add one other important component, taken from Harald Oftstad’s Our Contempt for Weakness: Nazi Norms and Values – And Our Own (1989), namely, the logical extension of the Darwinian struggle against the “lesser” that pervades so much fascist literature: the deep-seated hatred and contempt in which all persons deemed “weaker” (be this ethnic, racial, medical, genetic, or otherwise) are held, and the desire to eliminate them entirely that it fuels.

In Hitler’s own words:

The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness. Only the born weakling can view this as cruel, but he after all is only a weak and limited man; for if this law did not prevail, any conceivable higher development of organic living beings would be unthinkable.

… [We will try to] “save” even the weakest and most sickly at any price, and this plants the seed of a future generation which must inevitably grow more and more deplorable the longer this mockery of Nature and her will continues. [Mein Kampf]

Taking a careful look at Trump’s campaign, the fascist traits immediately emerge:

  • 1.     Eliminationist rhetoric is the backbone of Trump’s appeal. His opening salvo in the campaign – the one that first skyrocketed him to the forefront in the race, poll-wise, and proved wildly popular with Republican voters – was his vow (and subsequent proposed program) to deport all 12 million of the United States’ undocumented immigrants (using, of course, the deprecatory term “illegal alien”) and to erect a gigantic wall on the nation’s southern border. Significantly, the language he used to justify such plans – labeling those immigrants “criminals,” “killers,” and “rapists,” contending that they bring crime and disease – is classic rhetoric designed to demonize an entire class of people by reducing them to objects fit only for elimination.

    Trump’s appeal in this regard ultimately is about forming a “purer” community, and it has been relentless and expansive: When an audience member asked him at a town-hall-style appearance when and how he was going to “get rid of all the Muslims,” he responded that “we’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.” He now also claims that if elected, he will send back all the refugees from Syria who have arrived in the United States: “If I win, they’re going back,” he told one of his approval-roaring campaign crowds. And shortly before he encouraged a crowd that “maybe should have roughed up” a Black Lives Matter protester, he told an interviewer that the movement is “looking for trouble.” Most recently, he tweeted out a graphic taken from a neo-Nazi website purporting to demonstrate (falsely) that black people commit most murders in America (though he later claimed that he hadn’t endorsed the graphic).
  • 2.     The palingenetic ultranationalism. After the race-baiting and the ethnic fearmongering, this is the most obviously fascistic component of Trump’s presidential election effort, embodied in those trucker hats proclaiming: “Make America Great Again.” (Trump himself puts it  this way: "The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back. We're going to make America great again."

    That’s almost the letter-perfect embodiment of palingenesis – that is, the myth of the phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes of an entire society in its “golden age.” In the meantime, Trump’s nationalism is evident not just in these statement but are the entire context of his rants against Latino immigrants and Syrian refugees.
  • 3.     Trump’s deep contempt not just for liberalism (which provides most of the fuel for his xenophobic rants, particularly against the media) but also for establishment conservatism. Trump’s biggest fan, Rush Limbaugh, boasts: “In parlaying this outsider status of his, he’s better at playing the insiders’ game than they are, and they are insiders. He’s running rings around all of these seasoned, lifelong, highly acclaimed professionals in both the consultant class, the adviser class, the strategist class, and the candidate class. And he’s doing it simply by being himself.”
  • 4.     Trump constantly proclaims America to be in a state of crisis that has made it “the laughingstock” of the rest of the world, and proclaims that this has occurred because of the failures of (primarily liberal) politicianss.

  • 5.     He himself embodies the fascist insistence upon male leadership by a man of destiny, and his refusal to acknowledge factual evidence of the falsity of many of his proclamations and comments embodies the fascistic notion that the leader’s instincts trump logic and reason in any event.
  • 6.     Trump’s contempt for weakness is manifested practically every day on the campaign trail, ranging from his dissing of former GOP presidential candidate John McCain (a former prisoner of war) as “not a hero” because “I like people who weren’t captured,” to his recent mockery of a New York Times reporter with a disability.
This list could probably go on all day. But eventually, as we consider the attributes of real fascism, we also can begin to discern the difference between that phenomenon and the Trump candidacy.

Fascists have, in the past, always relied upon an independent, movement-driven paramilitary force capable of enacting various forms of thuggery on their opponents (as in the Italian Blackshirts, aka the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, and the German Brownshirts, the Sturmabteilung). Trump, however, has no such force at his disposal.

What Trump does have is the avid support not only of various white-supremacist organizations, as well as that of very real paramilitary organizations in the form of the Oath Keepers and the “III Percent” movement, many of whose members are avid Trump backers, but neither of which have explicitly endorsed him. Moreover, Trump has never referenced any desire to form an alliance or to make use of such paramilitary forces.

What Trump has done is wink, nudge, and generally encouraged spontaneous violence as a response to his critics. This includes his winking and nudging at those “enthusiastic supporters” who committed anti-Latino hate crimes, his encouragement of the people at a campaign appearance who assaulted a Latino protester, and most recently, his endorsement of the people who “maybe should have roughed up” the “disgusting” Black Lives Matter protester who interrupted his speech.

That’s a clearly fascistic response. It also helps us understand why Trump is an extraordinarily dangerous right-wing populist demagogue, and not a genuine, in-the-flesh fascist.

A serious fascist would have called upon not just the crowd to respond with violence, but also his paramilitary allies to respond with retaliatory strikes. Trump didn’t do that.

That, in a tiny nutshell, is an example of the problem with Trump’s fascism: He is not really an ideologue, acting out of a rigid adherence to a consistent worldview, as all fascists are. Trump’s only real ideology is the Worship of the Donald, and he will do and say anything that appeals to the lowest common denominator of the American body politic in order to attract their support – the nation’s id, the near-feral segment that breathes and lives on fear and paranoia and hatred.

There’s no question these supporters bring a singular, visceral energy to the limited universe of the GOP primary, though I don’t know anyone who expects that such a campaign can survive the oxygen and exposure of a general election. Indeed, it is in many signs an indication of the doom that is descending upon a Republican Party in freefall, flailing about in a death spiral, that it is finally resorting to a campaign as nakedly fascistic as Trump’s in its attempts to secure the presidency.

This is why Trump has never called upon the shock troops of a paramilitary wing for support, and why he has always kept an arm’s-length distance from the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who have become some of his most enthusiastic backers. He isn’t really one of them.

What he is, as Berlet has explained elsewhere, is a classic right-wing nativist populist demagogue: “His ideology and rhetoric are much more comparable to the European populist radical right, akin to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, the Danish People’s Party or Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. All of them use the common radical right rhetoric of nativism, authoritarianism and populism.”

Of course, it’s also important to understand that fascism, in fact, is a subspecies of right-wing populism, very similar to the Klan in nature – that is, its malignant, metastasized version, crazed in its insatiable lust for power, fueled by fear and hatred, and fed by the blood of its vulnerable targets.

Trump is not fascist primarily because he lacks any kind of coherent, or even semi-coherent, ideology. What he represents instead is the kind of id-driven feral politics common to the radical right, a sort of gut-level reactionarism that lacks the rigor and absolutism, the demand for ideological purity, that are characteristic of full-bore fascism.

That does not, however, mean he is any less dangerous to American democracy. Indeed, he may be more dangerous than an outright fascist, who would in reality be far less appealing and far less likely to succeed in the current milieu. What Trump is doing, by exploiting the strands of right-wing populism in the country, is making the large and growing body of proto-fascists in America larger and even more vicious – that is, he is creating the conditions that could easily lead to a genuine and potentially irrevocable outbreak of fascism.

Recall, if you will, the lessons of Milton Mayer in his book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945 – namely, the way these changes happen not overnight, but incrementally, like the legendary slow boiling of frogs:

"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

… "But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.”

It is by small steps of incremental meanness and viciousness that we lose our humanity. The Nazis, in the end, embodied the ascension of utter demonic inhumanity, but they didn't get that way overnight. They got that way through, day after day, attacking and demonizing and urging the elimination of those they deemed their enemies.

And this is what has been happening to America – in particular, to the conservative movement and the Republican Party – for a very long time. Donald Trump represents the apotheosis of this, the culmination of a very long-growing trend that really began in the 1990s.

That was when we first saw the popular rise of eliminationist hate talk, wielded with thoughtless glee and great regularity by an increasingly rabid set of right-wing pundits led by Rush Limbaugh, and then deeply codified by the talking heads who have subsequently marched across the sound stages at Fox News. It rose to the surface with the vice-presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin in 2008, followed immediately, in reaction to the election of Barack Obama, by the birth of the Tea Party, which is perhaps the single most significant manifestation of right-wing populism in the nation’s history.

Trump aligned himself very early with the Tea Party elements, remarking in 2011 that “I represent a lot of the ingredients of the Tea Party.” And indeed he does – in particular, with its obeisance to the captains of industry and their untrammeled right to make profits at the expense of everyone else.

This is a phenomenon known as Producerism, and it is one of the hallmarks of right-wing populism. It's accurately defined in Wikipedia as:

a syncretic ideology of populist economic nationalism which holds that the productive forces of society - the ordinary worker, the small businessman, and the entrepreneur, are being held back by parasitical elements at both the top and bottom of the social structure.

... Producerism sees society's strength being "drained from both ends"--from the top by the machinations of globalized financial capital and the large, politically connected corporations which together conspire to restrict free enterprise, avoid taxes and destroy the fortunes of the honest businessman, and from the bottom by members of the underclass and illegal immigrants whose reliance on welfare and government benefits drains the strength of the nation. Consequently, nativist rhetoric is central to modern Producerism. Illegal immigrants are viewed as a threat to the prosperity of the middle class, a drain on social services, and as a vanguard of globalization that threatens to destroy national identities and sovereignty. Some advocates of producerism go further, taking a similar position on legal immigration.

In the United States, Producerists are distrustful of both major political parties. The Republican Party is rejected for its support of corrupt Big Business and the Democratic Party for its advocacy of the unproductive lazy waiting for their entitlement handouts (Kazin, Stock, Berlet & Lyons).

Berlet has written extensively about the long historical association of producerism with oppressive right-wing movements and regimes:
Producerism begins in the U.S. with the Jacksonians, who wove together intra-elite factionalism and lower-class Whites’ double-edged resentments. Producerism became a staple of repressive populist ideology. Producerism sought to rally the middle strata together with certain sections of the elite. Specifically, it championed the so-called producing classes (including White farmers, laborers, artisans, slaveowning planters, and “productive” capitalists) against “unproductive” bankers, speculators, and monopolists above—and people of color below. After the Jacksonian era, producerism was a central tenet of the anti-Chinese crusade in the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s industrial philosophy of Henry Ford, and Father Coughlin’s fascist doctrine in the 1930s, producerism fused with antisemitic attacks against “parasitic” Jews.

The Producerist narrative is why Henry Ford – who, as the ostensible author of The International Jew, a 1920 conspiracist tome that inspired Hitler’s paranoia, and whose capital later helped build the Nazi war machine in the 1930s, was also (and not coincidentally) perhaps the ultimate American enabler of fascism – is such a seminal figure for American right-wing populists, both as a leader in the 1920s and ‘30s, as well as a figure of reverence today. (Glenn Beck, in fact, on several occasions on his old Fox News show referenced Ford as something of a holy figure for his efforts to resist FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s.) The same narrative is also why, in today’s context, Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged – a tendentious novel speculating on the disasters that would befall the world if its great industrial leaders suddenly chose to stop producing – are so important in their mythology.

Right-wing populism is essentially predicated on what today we might call the psychology of celebrity-worship: convincing working-class schlubs that they too can someday become rich and famous -- because when they do, would they want to be taxed heavily? It's all about dangling that lottery carrot out there for the poor stiffs who were never any good at math to begin with, and more than eager to delude themselves about their chances of hitting the jackpot.

The thing about right-wing populism is that it’s manifestly self-defeating: those who stand to primarily benefit from this ideology are the wealthy, which is why they so willingly underwrite it. It might, in fact, more accurately be called "sucker populism."

Nonetheless, right-wing populists have long been part of the larger conservative movement – though largely relegated to its fringes. Some of the more virulent expressions of this populism, including the Posse Comitatus movement, Willis Carto’s Populist Party, and the “Patriot”/militia movement of the 1990s, have been largely relegated to fringe status. However, there have been periods in America’s past when right-wing populism was not thoroughly mainstream but also politically ascendant. Probably the most exemplary of these was during the wave of Ku Klux Klan revival between 1915 and 1930.
This Klan crumbled in the late 1920s under the weight of internal political warfare and corruption; many of its field organizers later turned up in William Dudley Pelley’s overtly fascist Silver Shirts organization of the 1930s. After World War II, most of these groups – as well as the renowned anti-Semite radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin, and lingering American fascist groups like George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party – were fully relegated to fringe status. So, too, were subsequent attempts at reviving right-wing populism, embodied by Willis Carto and his Populist Party, as well as other forms of right-wing populism that cropped up in the latter half of the century, from Robert DePugh’s vigilante/domestic terrorist organization The Minutemen in the 1960s, to the Posse Comitatus and “constitutionalist” tax protesters in the 1970s and ‘80s, to the “militia”/Patriot movement of the 1990s. As it had been since at least the 1920s, this brand of populism was riddled with conspiracist paranoia, xenophobic white tribalism, and a propensity for extreme violence.

Yet beginning in the 1990s, as mainstream conservatives built more and more ideological bridges with this sector – reflected in the increasing adoption of far-right rhetoric within the mainstream – the strands of populism became more and more imbedded in mainstream-conservative dogma, particularly the deep, visceral, and often irrational hatred of the federal government. One of the more popular "mainstream" figures among this bloc in the 1990s was Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. And so when he created something of a sensation with his campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008, it meant that these ideas and agendas started receiving widespread circulation among the mainstream Right -- and with it, an increasing number of conservatives who called themselves "libertarians", when what they really meant was "populists."

But if Ron Paul opened the door for right-wing populism, though, he scarcely could have anticipated the overnight political star who would, in short order, come waltzing through it to great fanfare – namely, Sarah Palin. Hers is a somewhat different, more mainstream-friendly brand of right-wing populism – and as a result, it was embraced by a significantly greater portion of the American electorate.
Her populism emerged for national view shortly after John McCain announced her as his running mate. It was more than just the aggressive, McCarthyite attacks on Obama as a “radical” who “palled around with terrorists” and the paranoid bashing of “liberal elites” -- most of all, there was the incessant suggestion that she and McCain represented “real Americans” and were all about standing up for “the people.”

Populism, yes, but indisputably right-wing, too: socially and fiscally conservative, business-friendly, and hostile to progressive causes. The Producerist narrative was a constant current in Palin’s speeches, particularly when she would get the crowd chanting, “Drill, baby, drill!”
The populism whipped up by Palin’s candidacy became manifest as a national movement in short order with the rise of the Tea Party in 2009. Indeed, not only was the Tea Party overtly a right-wing populist movement, it soon became a major conduit for a revival of the 1990s version of this populism, the “Patriot”/militia movement. Many of these Tea Partiers are now the same Oath Keepers and “III Percenters” whose members widely support Trump’s candidacy.

Of course, most of these extremists are only one step removed, ideologically speaking, from the neo-Nazis and other white supremacists of the racist right, and both of those segments of the right lean heavily on nativist and authoritarian rhetoric. And there really is no other good word for Trump’s rhetoric, and the behavior of many of his followers, than “fascistic.” So it’s only somewhat natural that Trump’s right-wing populism would be mistaken for fascism – they are, after all, not just kissing cousins, but more akin to siblings. Not every right-wing populist is a fascist, but every fascist is a right-wing populist.

All of which underscores the central fact: Donald Trump may not be a fascist, but his vicious brand of right-wing populism is not just empowering the latent fascist elements in America, he is leading a whole nation of followers merrily down a path that leads directly to fascism.

Consider, if you will, what did occur in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s remarks about “roughing up” Black Lives Matter protesters: Two nights later, a trio of white supremacists in Minneapolis invaded a Black Lives Matter protest there and shot five people, in an act that had been carefully planned and networked through the Internet.

What this powerfully implies is that Trump has achieved that kind of twilight-zone level of influence where he can simply demonize a target with rhetoric suggestive of violent retribution and his admirers will act out that very suggestion. It’s only a step removed from the fascist leader who calls out his paramilitary thugs to engage in violence.

America, thanks to Trump, has now reached that fork in the road where it must choose down which path its future lies – with democracy and its often fumbling ministrations, or with the appealing rule of plutocratic authoritarianism, ushered in on a tide of fascistic populism. For myself, I remain confident that Americans will choose the former and demolish the latter – that Trump’s candidacy will founder, and the tide of right-wing populism will reach its high-water mark under him and then recede with him.

What is most troubling, though, is the momentum that Trump’s candidacy has given that tide. He may not himself lack any real ideological footing, but he has laid the groundwork for a fascist groundswell that could someday be ridden to power by a similarly charismatic successor who is himself more in the mold of an ideological fascist. And it doesn’t take a very long look down the roll of 2016 Republican candidates to find a couple of candidates who might fit that mold.

Trump may not be fascist, but he is empowering their existing elements in American society; even more dangerously, his Tea Party brand of right-wing populism is helping them grow their ranks, along with their potential to recruit, by leaps and bounds. Not only that, he is making all this thuggery and ugliness seem normal. And that IS a serious problem.