Thursday, December 04, 2014

Conspiracy Theories Fan Fears of Race War, With Alex Jones Leading the Parade

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

In the wake of last week’s black riots in Ferguson, Mo., conspiracy theorists from the far-right antigovernment movement have whipped themselves into a frenzy over the prospect of a nationwide “race war,” though it is difficult to tell whether they fear such a prospect or are actively hoping for it.

In truth, the notion that President Obama is inciting a race war in America has been floating around the extremist right almost since the beginning Obama’s presidency. Right-wing pundit Wayne Allyn Root theorized along similar lines when the situation in Ferguson first erupted this summer. Gun-rights extremist Larry Pratt has argued for some time that Obama’s immigration policies are intended to provoke a race war. Some anti-immigration extremists accused Obama of intending to spark such a conflict with his executive order on immigration.

But leading the parade has been Alex Jones, whose radio broadcasts for the past week have focused on the civic unrest erupting nationally after a grand jury ruled not to indict a white police officer for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson this summer.

Jones’ theory is that President Obama and the media are combining forces to stir up so much racial unrest that it will give them a pretext to declare martial law and impose a dictatorship. Joining Jones in this theory have been right-wing pundits such as Austin Miles at Renew America; radio host Rick Wiles; onetime presidential candidate Alan Keyes; and Glenn Beck, who has been pitching a version of the theory for over a year now.

Jones laid out his version of the theory for listeners on Monday, noting that he had been issuing warnings about this possibility for some time:
They [globalists] want to cause a civil war in order to go confiscate the guns, and then we are forced to defend ourselves and then it kicks off, and the police and military get taken out, along with the Patriots, in a civil war against each other. … This is the grand game. This is divide and conquer. This is what I have warned you about thousands of times, no exaggeration.
Jones, citing a Time magazine op-ed piece justifying riots as an expression of civic anger, explained that the media has been complicit in this conspiracy, using race to attack Obama’s critics while whipping up anger in the black community:
 That’s what’s going on: Media nationwide is pushing race war. That’s all they’ve got. Don’t like Obamacare, you’re a racist. Don’t want to turn your guns in, you’re a racist. Michael Moore – ‘if you own guns and you’re white, it’s because you’re scared of black people.’ That’s a quote from CNN. This is all they’ve got, while these big foreign banks that own the country loot the treasury with bailout money, Obamacare scamming everybody, Obama opening the borders up, giving free welfare to tens of millions of people, all these unconstitutional scams happening. And all they’ve got is getting us to fight with each other.
Jones-PopularJones has frequently attacked law enforcement around the nation for their supposed attacks on American civil liberties, typically in cases involving gun owners and right-wing extremists. At the same time, most of his reporting about Ferguson has focused on the supposed violent depravity of the demonstrators and the need for police intervention.

Indeed, the most popular stories at Jones’ InfoWars website so far this week have featured such headlines as “Blacks Screamed ‘Kill the White People’ Before Brutal Murder of Zemir Bergic” and “Rap Star ‘Jokes’ About ‘Killing Crackers’ in Their Sleep.” The effect of this barrage of dubious information is to whip up fear of an imminent civil war featuring hordes of rampaging black people.

And there are others with variations of the idea.

  • Miles’ theory includes the idea – also promoted by would-be presidential candidate Ben Carson – that Obama intends to cancel the 2016 election: “If all works according to plan, there will be no further presidential elections. Obama will declare a crisis (he can pick from a large number of those) so he can use Executive Privilege to declare himself President for Life, which he fully intends to do.” Miles contends that Obama is the product of a long-running Communist conspiracy (indicated by his “lack” of a birth certificate) to control America. “The Communists are scheming for the Ferguson, Missouri incident to be the fuse that explodes into a national race riot,” he said. “That is what Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are hoping to accomplish since this would put citizens at war with themselves in a new civil war while at the same time sapping the strength out of America, making her easier to control.”
  • Wiles used one of Alex Jones’ pet concepts—the “false flag” operation in which a violent incident is actually a government-fabricated media event—to explain the situation in Ferguson: “I was thinking how easily something like this could get out of control and there’s gunfire in the cities, if they go into the suburban neighborhoods and begin burning buildings and upsetting cars, homeowners are going to come out with their firearms and begin defending their property,” he said. “And that sets the stage for Emperor Obama to say, ‘We have to get guns off the streets and this Congress has refused to implement my gun control legislation, therefore by executive order I am doing this, this and this.’ ”
  • Keyes, meanwhile, has accused Obama of “exploiting this situation by way of threatening the Republicans, saying that there will be massive unrest if they don’t knuckle under to his will and trying to prove that he’s got the power to turn our cities into powder kegs that will explode in the face of anybody who opposes him.” He went on to describe it as “a Hitlerian situation.”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

New Washington Gun-Control Law Spurs ‘We Will Not Comply’ Rally Led by Youthful ‘Patriot’

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Gavin Seim believes that it’s self-evident that Washington state’s recently approved gun-control initiative is unconstitutional, which in turn means that the state’s citizens don’t have to obey its requirement of a background check for most gun sales. And he is organizing a rally – “We Will Not Comply” – at the state capitol in Olympia in mid-December to make their defiance manifest in a massive act of civil disobedience.

There’s one problem, however: None of the activities that Seim and his anti-gun-control cohorts say they will be engaging in on the Capitol steps is illegal on its face, even if people openly sell guns to each other there. And so, state police say, they wouldn’t be likely to arrest anyone for failing to comply with the new law – at least not right away.

Seim is a youthful “constitutionalist” from the central Washington town of Ephrata whose former career as a photographer has been overtaken by his new occupation as a “liberty speaker” – lecturing fellow “Patriots” about the Constitution and organizing events such as the Dec. 13 “We Will Not Comply” rally.

“Will you bow down and lick the boots of tyrants, or will you stand for the liberty of your children?” Seim asks readers at the rally website.

Seim’s new career appears to have been inspired by his brief run for Congress this year in Washington 4th congressional district at the age of 29. His candidacy gained no traction – Seim attracted only 1,462 votes, good for seventh place out of primary firled of 12.

He did, however, gain some publicity by provoking a confrontation at the Grant County Courthouse with sheriff’s deputies over the presence of a lockbox for gun users to store their firearms while conducting business at the courthouse. The county briefly considered filing criminal charges against Seim, though it did also obtain a lockbox.

Since then, Seim has embarked on a one-man crusade against supposed police oppression in rural Washington. This fall, a video that Seim made of himself chastising a police officer for conducting a patrol in an unmarked car went viral, making Seim something of a brief celebrity on the right. In the video, Seim can be seen pulling the officer over and threatening him with a citizens arrest.

Seim holds a relatively radical view of the meaning of the Second Amendment – shared broadly among his fellow “Patriots” – as providing citizens the absolute right to own any weapon they choose. He explained this to KIRO-AM radio host Jason Rantz during a Nov. 12 interview promoting the Olympia rally:

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution says that the right of the people, as you know, to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. That means – and we can go to the historical context, we probably don’t have time for that today, but you can trace this all the way back to the discussions when they were writing this – it means the government has no authority whatsoever to restrict our guns in any fashion whatsoever. Any gun law, except our Constitution’s, is void, it’s lawless.

Rantz pointed out the failure of Seim’s logic, noting that his interpretation would allow anyone to own any kind of weapon, including bazookas or missile launchers – and Seim essentially agreed, arguing that in fact Americans should able to own bazookas if they so choose. And he brushed away the objection that it would allow felons to continue to own guns.

Seim explained that the Olympia rally’s main purpose “is to send a very clear message to our representatives, to our legislators, to our judges, to our law enforcement, that I-594, because it violates the both the United States and the Washington state constitutions, it violates our rights, it is not law, it is void, it will not be followed. And we’re letting them know that if they cross this line, if they try to enforce this lawless law, that we’re not going to let it happen.”

He contends that gun rights are so deeply embedded that it’s OK to ignore the results of a democratic election and refuse to acknowledge the new law. “When the Framers wrote they said that all law that violates the Constitution is void,” he told Rantz. “So when it comes to our rights that are granted by the Constitution, those are inherent, those are natural, God-given rights. Those are our rights, those are our birthright, they belong to us, and no government or individual has the right or authority to
take those away.”

Seim has written warmly about the prospect of “revolution”, saying: “We have the God given right to revolution. Why? Because we have a right to defend life. With it we have an obligation to prudence and principle. Honorable revolt is simply a defense from the lawless.” He later added: “We have the right and duty to use any force necessary against a lawless agency who has declared war on us.”

Seim told Rantz, though, that he sees the Olympia rally as a way to stave off civil war. “If we stand up now and assert that, if we let them know that we are here, we will not comply with this law, that’s how we void lawless legislation. And that’s how we do so peacefully, because we don’t want to get to a point where they’re coming to the door to take our guns, and let’s make no mistake, that’s where they’re going with this.”

The most immediate problem with Seim’s plan, however, is that nothing anyone will do on Dec. 13 will immediately break the law. The way the initiative was written, violations – which are misdemeanors on the first offense, and become felonies on succeeding offenses – only occur when a person selling a gun fails to complete the requisite paperwork within the allotted time.

Seim says
that his fellow rally-goers will violate the law flagrantly at the rally: “It’s not hard since the law is so ridiculous. Hand a gun to a friend, buy a gun, sell a gun. You are welcome to do all of these things as you please.”

However, Washington State Patrol officials made clear that nothing planned for the event would be in itself illegal or provoke an arrest. “We don’t see handing a weapon to someone else as a violation of the law,” a spokesman said. “We don’t see that as a transfer.”

Seim has another problem with his rally: He didn’t obtain a permit for it, and another pro-gun group is planning a rally for the same day. The state official in charge of issuing the permits wrote back to Seim and explained that the conflict precluded his plans: “The place that you have indicated in the below map is taken by another group on this particular day and during the time you are interested in holding a rally. The group that reserved the space submitted a completed application with a specific location request.”

Seim responded defiantly: “First let’s be clear. We are not asking for your ‘authorization’ and we’re not ‘applying’ to the State. We are allowing them the opportunity to work with us. I did in fact clearly inform you we would be gathering on the main lawn right from the start and there was no doubt about where I meant. What I have outlined is what we ARE doing. … We informed you of the plan out of courtesy. You can work with us, or you can play games.”

In the meantime, Seim has continued planning his event by rallying his troops with stirring appeals. “We stand for peace,” he wrote in a recent post. “But we will tear down this tyranny and if I must die for liberty, I will do it with principle and pride, counting myself among the lucky few who were there to see liberty finally stand.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Small-Town Montana Residents Organize to Oppose Presence of White Nationalists

An image from a National Policy Institute promotional video.

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A collection of citizens in the small resort town of Whitefish, Mont., banded together earlier this week to demand that their local town council take action to deal with the effects of the presence of a nationally prominent white-nationalist organization in their midst.

Calling themselves Love Lives Here, the group packed the Whitefish City Council chambers on Monday night to demand the council pass an anti-hate ordinance that would bar such groups from assembling in the city.

The object of their ire was Richard Spencer and his National Policy Institute, a hate group that is one of the leading exemplars of academic racism. Spencer moved his national headquarters to Whitefish from Washington, D.C., several years ago.

Spencer’s activities in Whitefish recently surfaced in the public eye due to an article in The Daily Beast describing an encounter between Spencer and former John McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann on the ski lift at Big Mountain, the resort that dominates Whitefish. According to the article, Spencer “berated” Scheunemann for “being a neocon and for believing in this whole democracy BS.”

Over 100 Whitefish residents on Monday night voiced concern that the presence of Spencer and his organization would lead to their town being identified with his brand of hatemongering.

“We are committed to co-creating a caring, open, accepting, and diverse community, free from discrimination, and dedicated to the equal treatment of all citizens,” Ina Albert, one of the Love Lives Here co-founders, said, according to a report from KPAX-TV. “The idea of hate and discrimination has no place in Whitefish, and I hope you can figure out a way to say, ‘we will not accept it in our town.’”

“This isn’t about one individual, it is about a way of thinking that is despicable,” said Brian Muldoon, a Whitefish attorney. “This community I believe is standing up strongly against the kinds of ideas that Richard Spencer and his ilk promotes … and it is time to deconstruct the ideas that are so insidious. It is time to take a very clear stance. An unambiguous one.”

The council was sympathetic and promised to take action. Councilor Richard Hildner, choked with emotion, told the audience that “hate, racism, bigotry are not community values in Whitefish.”

“I promise you I will do everything I possibly can to see that we protect the citizens of Whitefish. I want you to know you have my pledge,” Hildner added, to a round of applause.

Spencer was defiant. “I’ve been coming to Whitefish for more than 10 years now,” he told the Whitefish Pilot. “At no point have I published an opinion on local politics, held meetings with local or state politicians, or engaged in civic activism of any kind.”

“Whitefish is a place where I go to get away from it all. I have no desire to do anything that changes the community that I love, nor has my organization ever considered establishing a permanent facility or residence in Montana.”

However, according to Whitefish residents interviewed by Hatewatch, there is concern that Spencer in fact is planning to construct a large new center for his organization in the town, and part of their action on Monday was aimed at forestalling that possibility. According to the Pilot, he already is a partner in the development of a mixed-use building in the city’s Railway District, not far from Montana’s only Amtrak terminal.

Spencer denied adamantly in a friendly article in the nearby Kalispell newspaper, the Daily Inter Lake, that he was engaged in hatemongering.

“When people call you a hate group, it means they hate you,” he said. “They’re looking at a mirror reflection … They clearly think more about me than I think about them. I don’t harm anyone; I haven’t challenged or provoked them.”

He then went on to explain to the interviewer the virtues of eugenics and a white ethno-state.
Spencer has spoken frequently about creating a “white homeland” in North America, and like his Flathead Valley neighbor Chuck Baldwin, has at times suggested that racist white people retreat to wide-open spaces such as those in Montana, where relatively few minorities reside, to create it.

Last year Spencer spoke at a gathering of academic racists about his hopes for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” that would clear parts of North America for Caucasians, meanwhile suggesting that the new state welcome white refugees from Europe. Spencer advocated a “sort of white Zionism” that would infuse whites with the dream of such a homeland just as Zionism helped spur the creation of Israel. “It is perfectly feasible for a white state to be established on the North American continent. Action is the easy part,” Spencer opined, adding, “I have a dream.”

The Flathead Valley has had several brushes with right-wing extremists over the years. Love Lives Here was founded in 2010 when a group of neo-Nazis showed Holocaust-denial films at a Kalispell theater.

Several years before that, local residents organized resistance to a campaign of violent harassment of local environmentalists that was being organized in part through a right-wing radio station. The campaign came on the heels of the arrest of a local extremist named David Burgert for his plot to assassinate local police and political leaders.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Judge Tells Simcox He Can’t Rely on ‘Grand Conspiracy’ Defense in Molestation Trial

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Chris Simcox, the erstwhile border vigilante Minuteman movement leader, has been sitting in the Maricopa County Jail for over a year as he awaits trial on two counts of child molestation, one involving his own preteen daughter. But, judging from a recent court appearance, he is confident that he will win his freedom.

How? Apparently Simcox has some secret evidence.

According to a report from Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times, Simcox indicated during a recent court hearing on a possible plea agreement that there is previously unknown reasons for his arrest.

Documents filed by Simcox’s attorneys suggest he will attempt a defense based on claims that he was targeted for prosecution because of his high political profile, and that the charges against him are built on evidence from two daughters who were subject to “parental alienation” because of a “contentious divorce.”

However, Judge Joseph Welty of Maricopa County Superior Court apparently was not buying. Saying that Simcox was suggesting “some grand conspiracy at play,” he reminded Simcox, 53, that the evidence against him also involved victims who were not his daughters, and that the charges he faced were not political crimes.

The purpose of the hearing last week was to review the plea bargain that prosecutors had offered to Simcox earlier this year that would limit his prison time to seven years in exchange for a guilty plea. However, Simcox adamantly continued to refuse the deal, saying he intended to prove his innocence in court.

Simcox’s refusal ensures that the two victims in the case—one of them his now-teenage daughter, the second being a friend of hers who Simcox was supposed to be babysitting at the time—will be required to testify on the stand. The trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 17, but Simcox’s decision on the plea bargain probably means it will be pushed forward to January.

According to Lemons, a previous judge in the case ensured that so-called “propensity evidence”—involving previous incidents that suggest the defendant’s crime is part of a behavior pattern—would also be admitted.

As the SPLC reported in 2005, Simcox was accused by his first wife of molesting another daughter when she was a teenager, though no complaint was ever made to police. His second wife also sought custody of their teenage son because, she said, Simcox had become violent and unpredictable. His third wife—the mother of his current accuser—took out a restraining order against Simcox in 2010 when she divorced him.

If convicted, Simcox could face up to life in prison.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Montana Klansman’s Idea for ‘Inclusive’ KKK Elicits Derision

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

John Abarr has an idea for the Ku Klux Klan that has attracted a lot of attention: He says he wants to reform the hate group to make a more “inclusive” KKK open to Jews, black people, and gays and lesbians—a “Rainbow Klan,” as it were.

here’s just one problem: While Abar has had no problem attracting media coverage, his Rocky Mountain Knights of the Ku Klux Klan doesn’t appear to have followers beyond a handful, and he has zero credibility within the national Klan organizations.

Word of Abarr’s idea appeared in a story in the Great Falls Tribune, which featured Abarr holding forth on the idea of a kinder, gentler Ku Klux Klan: “The KKK is for a strong America,” he told the paper. “White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan.” The story then appeared in USA Today, and inspired a round of stories in the Washington Post, the U.K.’s Daily Mailthe International Business Times, The Forward and Think Progress.

A recent ABC News piece, however, cast a skeptical note, quoting Rachel Carroll-Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, who has monitored Abarr’s various activities since he distributed racist flyers agitating for “white homeland” in the Northwest, and ran for Congress as a Klan candidate.

Carroll-Rivas told Hatewatch that, as far as her organization can tell, Abarr is pretty much just a one-man bandwagon.

“We’ve seen no evidence that he has a membership or following as far as any version of a KKK group, affiliated or not,” she said. “I think Abarr primarily is pretty much by himself.”

This is not Abarr’s first foray in grabbing headlines, however. In 1989, when he was the 19-year-old campaign spokesman for white-supremacist candidate William Daniel Johnson during a failed bid for the Wyoming congressional seat of Dick Cheney, Abarr told reporters then that the Klan was “basically a civil rights organization that stands up for the rights of white people.”

Twenty-two years later, Abarr ran for Congress in Montana, though he shuttered his campaign after only six months. More recently, Abarr again grabbed headlines by holding a meeting with members of the NAACP at a hotel in Wyoming, claiming he wanted to find a way to get along with blacks.

“They’re all media gimmicks,” Carroll-Rivas said. “Clearly it’s not real. He’s just trying to figure out a way to get in there between the lines.”

The “inclusive” Klan notion is risible, she added.

“I think he’s a farce in terms of what he’s saying right now,” she said. “What he’s doing is somewhat self-promotion, but I also think he’s happy to spread the word of hate, and find a way to bring it attention.”

Indeed, Abarr’s concept was largely met with roars of laughter and general disbelief at the white-supremacist website Stormfront, where a thread devoted to the Tribune story attracted a large number of comments:
What can I say? This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard of. What next? (Corn Feed White Boy)

This is crazy, you sure this is a real kkk ? (laidbackguy71)

Even looks like a fag. Kick him out in the black part of Denver…with his “robe” on, assuming they even retain that. (Buzz)

Sounds like some pervert joined a klan under false pretenses and got tired of wearing women’s clothing behind closed doors and going to gay bars with fake mustaches. (Paladin Steel)

One group doesn’t speak for all, this is nothing but anti-Klan propaganda and anyone falling for this is a fool. (Central Michigan)
One Stormfront commenter queried among his fellow white supremacists whether any from Montana even knew of Abarr or had heard of them. One, a “white nationalist” from Columbia Falls, replied: “Nope, he has nothing to do with anyone I know.”

Carroll-Rivas observed that the reason Abarr is able to manipulate the press is that people are well aware what the Klan really stands for.

“It goes to show how strong that label still is, the KKK,” she told Hatewatch. “And I think he understands the power that that label has. And it should, because it instills fear in people, for real reasons.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Some Thoughts on the 2014 Election

I would be remiss in not pointing out one of the key dynamics that has been at play for some years, and really became a significant factor last night: Our failure to take right-wing extremism seriously.

The American right has been growing increas
ingly radicalized by the extremist rhetoric, nearly all of it originating with the racist/extremist right, that has become pervasive in mainstream discourse over the past generation. The Tea Party, frankly, is now indistinguishable from the militia movement of the 1990s. And the mainstream press continues to treat this radicalization as normative politics -- in large part because liberals do not make it an issue. When Joni Ernst can advocate Agenda 21 conspiracy theories and radical anti-abortion positions and still be treated like a normal politician, we share in that blame.

And the real result is that the center of gravity for our entire national discourse gets pulled farther rightward. Republicans become more and more rightist and radical because of this impetus, to the point that there are no real moderates in that party any longer. And what happens then is that the GOP keeps nominating far-right extremists who are so repulsive that liberals are happy to elect anyone -- even the most sellout corporate Democrat --- to keep them out of office. And so the Democratic Party has no incentive to listen to their progressive voters or even represent them; all they need to do is represent a safe corporate middle, and they can win election.

When progressives start making right-wing extremism a serious issue, to the extent that the mainstream press has no choice but to cover it, then we may begin making headway against this tide. But not until then.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Makings of Ammonium Nitrate Bomb Found in Border Militiaman’s Hotel Room

Kevin "K.C." Massey III

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

When ATF agents arrested Kevin “K.C.” Massey III at a Brownsville-area hotel last week on charges that he had been illegally carrying weapons while leading border-militia patrols in Texas, they found more in his hotel room than just guns and ammo. There was also a container of ammonium nitrate and fuel—a potent bomb in the making.

According to an inventory of items taken during Massey’s arrest, an “ammo box filled with ammonium nitrate (suspected) and fuel” was found in the room, which participants at Camp LoneStar—the border-militia operation at which Massey had been dubbed a “commander”—had described as a place rented out by the camp as “a place to take a shower and get a good night’s rest.”

As the San Antonio Express-News noted in a report on the arrest, ammonium nitrate, which can be purchased as a farm fertilizer, can make a potent explosion when mixed with diesel fuel and detonated. It was the explosive Timothy McVeigh used in his 1995 terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Massey was arrested as the result of an ATF investigation that followed an Aug. 31 incident at Camp LoneStar in which a Border Patrol officer fired four shots at a militiaman named John Foerster, who dropped his weapon at the scene. After Massey and a companion arrived at the scene to vouch for Foerster, agents kept his AK-47 rifle and a .45 caliber handgun as part of their investigation.

Both Massey and Foerster were arrested for being felons in possession of a firearm last week. Additionally, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan ordered Foerster to remain in detention while undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.

Massey’s arrest has inspired a fresh round of paranoia among the ranks of his fellow “Patriots” on the border, who appear to be claiming that laws precluding felons from owning weapons are “unconstitutional.” One of his supporters on Facebook, in the midst of a long rant supporting Massey, argued: “What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand? any law made to keep a person from owning a gun is UNLAWFUL,and invalid from its inception!”

Another posted a lengthy discursion on federal authority’s supposed overreach in Massey’s case, and concluded that the state of Texas needed to intervene: “If what the federal government implies to be true by their persecution of K. C. Massey is true, then there is no need for the three branches of the government of Texas to exist. On the other hand, the government of Texas should take a more aggressive role, as the Supreme Court did, in limiting the overbearing and abused authority of the federal law enforcement agencies.”

In the meantime, an avid Camp LoneStar supporter has begun hawking T-shirts with the camp’s logo on them. She promises that “a portion of the proceeds” will go toward Massey’s legal defense fund. Other supporters also recently organized a “Slam for the Rights of K.C. Massey” as a fundraiser.