Friday, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump and His Alt-Right Army of Execrables

Well, here's how I spent my summer and early fall this year:
But Trump did not become the object of white nationalist affection simply because his positions reflect their core concerns. Extremists made him their chosen candidate and now hail him as "Emperor Trump" because he has amplified their message on social media—and, perhaps most importantly, has gone to great lengths to avoid distancing himself from the racist right. With the exception of Duke, Trump has not disavowed a single endorsement from the dozens of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, and militia supporters who have backed him. The GOP nominee, along with his family members, staffers, and surrogates, has instead provided an unprecedented platform for the ideas and rhetoric of far-right extremists, extending their reach. And when challenged on it by the press, Trump has stalled, feigned ignorance, or deflected—but has never specifically rejected any of these other extremists or their ideas.

This stance has thrilled and emboldened hate groups far more than has been generally understood during the 2016 race for the White House. Moreover, Trump's tacit welcoming of these hate groups into mainstream American politics will have long-lasting consequences, according to these groups' own leaders, regardless of the election outcome.

In putting this piece together, Sarah Posner and I, along with Esther Kaplan and her team at the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund (Jaime Longoria, Kalen Goodluck, and Evan Malmgren) compiled a database to track all of Trump's many connections to the extremist right -- and it turned out to be massive. I was fortunate to have such gifted partners in Sarah and Esther, who were able to help shape it into what I think is a powerfully compelling narrative.

Some of the data I collected included memes from various alt-right websites and forums/chatrooms. It's some of the most vile material I've ever gathered in doing this work over many years.

Here's a collection of some of them. The most vicious ones are also near-pornographic, so I won't be posting those.

But the next time one of your Trump-loving friends complains about Hillary's comments regarding that "basket of deplorables," show them these and ask them if they consider the description wrong for these people.

Myself, I think they're even worse than that. I call them "the Execrables." And Trump has raised an army of them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Montana Republicans Warmly Embrace a White Nationalist's Legislative Candidacy

Taylor Rose, with a 'Montana Sovereign' banner behind him

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Taylor Rose likes to project a fresh-scrubbed, wholesome image to his fellow Montanans while campaigning for a seat in the state’s House of Representatives. It’s easy for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed and clean-shaven 28-year-old from the rural Columbia Falls area to do, flashing a toothy grin and ranting about the need to get the federal government out of workers’ hair and open up the state’s timberlands to lumber operations.

The image, combined with a pleasing message (Rose likes to label himself a “pro-labor Republican”) and a slick campaign, have all raised the prospects that Rose might be able to pull off an upset win over incumbent Rep. Zac Perry, a Democrat, in the race for the House seat in District 3, which historically leans Republican.

Taylor Rose
What many voters may not realize, however, is Taylor’s long history of deep involvement with the white nationalist movement, and the dangerously bigoted worldview he has promoted since his teenage years –– a history well documented by the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League in the years leading up to his campaign.

But Taylor has now carefully whitewashed his image with the help of the Montana Republican Party. GOP candidates have employed Rose for state campaigns and as a legislative aide. A number of mainstream Republican candidates, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, have contributed to Rose’s campaign. And one leading Montana Republican dismissed concerns about his background, saying “the rest of us think of him as a good conservative.”

Rachel Carroll Rivas, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said the GOP’s embrace of Rose is taking place in the broader context of a national Republican party that has nominated Donald Trump, whose own alliances with the radical right have radically altered the nation’s political landscape.

"In the current climate it's hard to pick out the most concerning things we see playing out on the ground, but Rose's candidacy makes the list easily,” she said. “The political environment has clearly shifted when there is mainstream party acceptance and grooming of someone with well-documented white supremacist activity in recent years.”

Rose first came to enter the movement in 2011 when his activities on behalf of the white nationalist Youth for Western Civilization were reported by the Center for New Community. Rose, then a recent graduate of Liberty University (the college founded by religious-right leader Jerry Falwell), appeared at a YWC-sponsored “March for Freedom” in Cologne, Germany. He also met with members of Vlaams Belang, the far-right Belgian political party, and members of German organizations designated by authorities there as “right-wing extremist.”

Rose also authored a book in 2012 titled Return of the Right: How the Political Right Is Taking Back Western Civilization, which argued that Western humanists are attempting to impose a “vision to destroy the nation-state, eliminate religion, break down all defined barriers in society (such as family) and eliminate western civilization from the face of the earth in the attempt to institute a radical, multicultural, New World Order agenda.” In the book, Rose argued that this nefarious plot is failing because “the Western world is coming to realize the complete emptiness and harm of belief systems that are at their core, nihilistic.”

The neo-Confederate hate group the League of the South interviewed Rose about the book when it came out. During the interview, Rose continued to warn of the evil nature of “the Left” and predicted that a white nationalist Right would soon rise to the fore in global politics. “You will first see the Right-Wing act as a great power of political influence, mainly upon the center-right, by reorienting the ideas of the center-right to reform immigration policy and take a more hard-line anti-Socialist stance,” he said.

Since returning to Montana, Rose has cultivated political ties with an eye toward running for office –– mostly through the auspices of the state’s GOP, which has made no effort to renounce or distance itself from Rose. Indeed, in the years since Rose's radical beliefs surfaced, the Montana GOP has warmly embraced him:
  • Rose worked as the Northwest Montana campaign coordinator for then-GOP candidate Steven Daines in his 2014 U.S. Senate race, which Daines won. Sen. Daines’ office did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment or explanation.
  • In 2015, Rose was hired by Montana Senate Republicans as a legislative bill title reader and as a majority aide, a staff position that enabled Rose to network widely with party officials and senators. According to Carroll Rivas, Rose used that position not only to make political connections but to actively tamper with the political process: “He was so bad and out of line that there were times in committee that he would actually say a vote in the back of the room – they would be voting in committee, and he would say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ in the back of the room.”
  • When asked about Rose’s candidacy during a roundtable political talk show in June, Rep. Matthew Monforton of Bozeman, a leading House Republican, dismissed concerns about Rose’s white nationalist background, saying “the rest of us think of him as a good conservative.”

  • On his campaign Facebook page, Rose has boasted of his broad engagement with the local Republican Party, including posing for photos with local leaders at the Flathead County Fair.
  • Several mainstream Republican candidates have donated to Rose’s campaign, notably GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, who gave a $170 donation to Rose that was matched by his wife. Rose also received donations from Republican Sen. Mark Blasdel of Kalispell and Rep. Greg Hertz of Polson.
Hatewatch attempted to reach a number of Montana GOP officials, including Monforton and Daines.

In addition to coverage by the SPLC, Rose’s white nationalist background has been detailed at Montana Cowgirl, Raw Story, and Wonkette. However, most Montana media coverage of his race and his candidacy (such as Rose’s profile at the Missoulian) has omitted any mention of his history of radicalism.

Rose has never renounced or apologized for his radical past, which is extensive. Indeed, he has continued to embrace it, even appearing last fall on a young-conservative website's podcast discussing his candidacy with a “Montana Sovereign” banner proudly displayed behind him – referencing his apparent involvement in the far-right sovereign citizens movement as well. In a recent interview in the Flathead Beacon, Rose denied that he was a racial supremacist and focused on defending the traditional cultural values of Western Civilization.

“I am not affiliated with white supremacist groups or leaders,” Rose told the newspaper. “To say otherwise is slanderous. YWC was a cultural group, not a racist group. We defined Western civilization by the classic definition of ancient Greeks and Romans, and we were pro-Christian. We did not say it was exclusively white. We were also very critical of Islam, but that is an ideological issue, not a racial issue. I can promise you that Liberty University would not have tolerated a white power group on its campus.”

In reality, YWC was an overt white nationalist organization with multiple connections to white supremacists, though it often used code words such as “cultural identity” and “racial chauvinists” to disguise its racism, arguing that white people face rampant discrimination at the hands of multiculturalism. Some of its better-known members and associates –– Matthew Heimbach and Kyle Bristow –– have gone on to found their own white nationalist groups.

In the meantime, Rose has been busily voicing racially and ethnically incendiary sentiments on social media over the past year. He expressed revulsion at the prospect of a white couple giving birth to two black babies via artificial insemination. He also bitterly complained when it was announced that Harriet Tubman, the black woman who helped lead the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In one of his Facebook posts, he compared the action to the removal of Confederate monuments around the nation in the wake of the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C., by a white-supremacist Confederacy admirer.

One of his commenters chimed in: “It’d be a lot quieter if they were all hanging from nooses.”
On Rose’s campaign Facebook page, he has openly indulged in Islamophobic attacks on Muslim immigrants and Syrian refugees. In one post published in March, he wrote, “Terrorism in Europe during the Cold War was mostly conducted by homegrown, native European Leftist terrorist groups. Now it is committed by Islamic immigrants or the decedents of Islamic immigrants. If we stop the importation of the jihadies, we won't have these attacks.”

Rose also posted a racially incendiary rant about “domestic terrorism by the black supremacist group ‘Black Power Political Organization,'” and called for legislation making it a hate crime to assault a police officer. The BPPO is an obscure group that claimed responsibility for the shootings of seven police officers in Dallas earlier this summer, but which subsequent investigations showed had no known connection to the shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, though Johnson in fact was apparently enamored of several other black nationalist groups (the BPPO was not among his Facebook “likes”).

Rose also wrote an article that appeared in the Citizens Informer, the official newspaper of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist group that is the heir of the white citizens' councils during the 1960s. Materials on the CCC website helped Dylann Roof, the alleged killer of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, radicalize in his white nationalist beliefs.

The article, which was published in the Jan.-June 2013 issue of the paper, sings the praises of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), headed by Nigel Farage, who, according to a former classmate, once sang a song with the lyrics "gas 'em all, gas 'em all" and liked that his initials were the same as the neo-Nazi National Front.

Rose wrote that UKIP "provides the best model on how Anglosphere right-wing parties should run," and then noted that "we must tactically concede that conservative libertarians offer us the best hope for delaying the destruction of our people." "If American nationalists, Rose wrote, "decided to show up at Tea Party rallies and meetings and push for white working class advocacy, the debate and structure would change in favor of the American right” and, according to Rose, the national debate “could change from amnesty to deportation and from multiculturalism to nationalism.”

Taylor Rose, Citizens Informer

"UKIP: The Model Right Movement," written by Taylor Rose and published in the Citizens Informer, the publication of the Council of Conservative Citizens.
And while he’s running for a legislative seat, Rose nonetheless appears not to be a fan of democratic republics. He’s a member of a Facebook public group called Monarchists, which “exists for the purpose of civil discussion between monarchists and those interested in monarchy as the ideal form of human governance.”

Rose also conducted an interview in April with the “Patriot” movement website NorthWest Liberty News’ weekly podcast (though the link for that interview appears to be broken).

In an interview for a podcast with Ryan Girdusky of the young-conservative website Red Alert Politics, Rose lightly brushed over his radicalism and focused mostly on his status as a “young millennial” running for office. However, behind Rose for the duration of the interview was a banner declaring “Montana Sovereign – Don’t Tread On Me,” clearly indicating that Rose considers himself an antigovernment “sovereign citizen,” a movement that has been part of the Montana scene since the 1990s, in the heyday of the Montana Freemen and the Militia of Montana.

Rose’s description of his warm welcome by the Montana GOP in that interview made for a stark contrast with the banner behind him.

ROSE: Local Republican leadership in the county, and I’ve spoken with a lot of the Republican leadership across the state, is very, very excited. They really have been very nice to young people rising up. In the current Legislature, we already have several millennials sitting in House seats across the state, and so when I decided to throw my hat in the ring and started talking to people about this, the leadership was very excited. They’ve been very helpful, they’ve been very excited at the idea that there are more young people that want to get involved, and they don’t want to get in our way. There’s definitely – they’re not being restrictive. The old guard of the party is being very helpful and very nice to us young people in helping us rise up and have a voice and speak for millennials.
In his interview with the Beacon, Rose touted his broad acceptance by the local and state GOP as proof that accusations about his radicalism “don’t add up.”

“I was open about my past involvement with YWC, and I was vetted by the Republican Party,” he told the newspaper. “I wouldn’t say that I am a mainstream candidate, but I’m not on the fringe either. The minute you reject multiculturalism, you become a target for the left, and that is what’s happened

Rivas said that Rose’s embrace by the GOP represents an unfortunate evolutionary shift in the state’s politics, in which such extremists, always present in the background, had typically been relegated to the fringe.

“In previous years, the Montana Republican Party distanced themselves from candidates like Rose who had ties groups like the Klan and National Socialist Movement,” she said. “The times have changed. The efforts by the Alt-Right to put a nice suit on their racism may be viewed as effective in this case. And, while Rose’s views seems aligned with the Richard Spencers of the world, his vision isn’t so different than April Gaede’s Pioneer Little Europe.

“This is the reality of what the people of the Flathead Valley are facing right now –– a  triangulation between two white supremacists on the national stage and a candidate for state house that just might win. I fear to imagine what’s next.”

Monday, October 03, 2016

Angry Idaho 'Patriots' Leave 3% Group En Masse Over Leader's Alleged Mishandling of Funds

Brandon Curtiss leads a counter-protest against refugees in Idaho.

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

As he has emerged over the past couple of years as the leading figure in Idaho’s antigovernment movement, Brandon Curtiss has cultivated a straight-talking, square-dealing public image with both the public and the followers of his 3% of Idaho organization.
Brandon Curtiss (second from left) and Eric 'EJ' Parker (right) in happier times, protesting the Bureau of Land Management in Medford, Ore., in April 2015.

That image, however, collapsed like this week when a large and prominent group of his followers – including his former vice president and longtime cohort in the organization, Eric “EJ” Parker – announced their resignations from 3% of Idaho. The group of 36 members were angered over his reported misappropriation of funds raised to help the defense of four Idahoans, notably Parker himself, by federal authorities over their respective roles in two federal lands standoffs led by Cliven Bundy and his two sons in Nevada and Oregon.

According to the Idaho Statesman, some of the members were able to gain access to the PayPal website page and bank accounts for the organization’s “Freedom Fest” concert, held as a fund-raiser for four “political prisoners” – Parker, 32, of Hailey, Steve Arthur Stewart, 36, of Hailey, O. Scott Drexler, 44, of Challis and Todd Engel, 48, of Boundary County – arrested on charges related to the Nevada standoff in April 2014 in Bunkerville, Nev. What they discovered was a steady outflow of funds from the account for Curtiss’ personal use, including:
  • “Rollin Smoke Diesel” parts for a pickup that allow owners to customize their trucks so they belch large amounts of black smoke, a popular fad with right-wing activists who oppose global-warming activism.
  • A camping reservation.
  • Gas and food at a truck stop in Nevada.
  • A car wash.
  • Payment for a storage unit.
  • Payment for online personal-investigation services.
  • A Walmart purchase.
  • An iTunes download.
Already before the $2,475 in funds from the concert were deposited, the account was overdrawn some $567, mostly from Curtiss’ personal use, which was immediately withdrawn. When one former member observed this and objected to Curtiss, according to the Statesman, she was dismissed from the organization.

“Many of us, in one way or another have worked toward, contributed to, donated for, and sacrificed our time, hope, energy, and resources to help these men in their hour of need,” wrote the departing members in an official statement. “It is with heavy hearts that we, the undersigned, do solemnly testify to you that we believe that substantial portions of these gifts have been grievously misused within the Idaho III% organization. We do not put forth this accusation lightly, or without due diligence and proper deliberation ad nauseum.”

3% of Idaho issued a statement Thursday calling the revelations a "smear campaign" and asserting that a promised audit of the group's finances would demonstrate that funds were not mishandled. It also claimed that the group had raised much more money for the prisoners than what had been raised at the concert, and that those funds had been spent on their defense.
Curtiss, left, and Parker, center, with Sugar Pine Mine co-owner Rick Barclay, expressing their view of the mainstream press.

Curtiss has been nothing if not imaginative in building 3% of Idaho into the state’s leading “Patriot” group, with a membership he claims has reached over 1,000. They joined arms with antigovernment Oath Keepers to participate in a protest and attempted armed standoff with federal authorities at the Sugar Pine Mine near Grants Pass, Ore., in the spring of 2015, and did similarly with another mine protest in Montana later that summer and fall. His “Threepers” also showed up with Oath Keepers to stand guard outside military recruiting offices in Idaho, and became heavily embroiled in the controversy in the Twin Falls area over Muslim refugee resettlement, leading a large protest against the refugees in November 2015. They then showed up to protest an even larger rally supporting the refugees later that month.
But Curtiss became an even more significant figure in January 2016 when he helped organize a protest in Burns, Ore., against the imminent incarceration of two local ranchers, which afterward morphed into the armed takeover of the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Ammon and Ryan Bundy and their cohort of several dozen militiamen. While his 3% group did not endorse the takeover or participate in it directly, Curtiss later led a contingent of armed militiamen back to Burns to briefly act as “a buffer” between the standoff participants and federal authorities, but returned to Idaho after less than a week.

When four of their fellow Patriots, including Parker, were arrested in federal sweeps after the Malheur standoff ended, Curtiss’ group organized a mass protest of the arrests on the Statehouse steps in Boise, which was later followed by concert fund-raising event in Twin Falls. Parker made a national name for himself by being photographed aiming a sniper rifle in the direction of the federal agents and other law enforcement officers who were attempting to execute a federal court order directing the Bureau of Land Management to round up Bundy’s cattle in Bunkerville, and has been charged in connection with that.

However, clouds of concern had already begun to hover over Curtiss for his dubious business dealings. After an interview in the Oregonian raised questions about his property management and real estate business in Meridian, the Statesman uncovered a long history of personal bankruptcies and questionable business dealings. Curtiss, it emerged, had already filed twice for bankruptcy, first in 2001 and then again in 2009. After returning from Burns, he filed for bankruptcy a third time, having racked up $235,000 in debt since 2009.

Then, earlier this month, the Statesman reported that Curtiss had been fined $7,200 by an Ada County judge for having failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance for his employees. The state police, it reported, also was opening an investigation into claims from 17 of Curtiss’ clients that he owed them money.

Curtiss, who had since moved from Meridian to Fruitland, told the Statesman in an email that he had shut down his business. “We are in the process of winding down and will make all efforts to fulfill any outstanding obligations,” he wrote.          

The latest financial eruption around Curtiss, however, has created a wave of disappointment among his former followers.

“What bothers everyone the most is seeing how much money was spent in such a reckless manner, when it was supposed to go to our political prisoners. These four families are fighting a battle against the government and have now been betrayed,” a former member told the Statesman.

However, at the Facebook page of Curtiss’ girlfriend, Brooke Agresta, there was a post warning that anyone disseminating the group’s bank information would face legal consequences, citing Idaho Code: “Anyone, and I mean anyone, in possession of or intentionally handing out bank statements, PayPal statements, or that has accessed any accounts of another person or organization in relation to the Idaho 3% will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Statesman noted, though, that the relevant portions of the law cited in the post do not support her claim.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Donald Trump's 12 Worst Moments in the First Debate

There was a moment in Monday's presidential debate that has been mostly overlooked in the postmortem commentary that, in my mind, really irrevocably defined the race. Once we saw it, we couldn't unsee it.

It came about two-thirds of the way through the affair, when Trump actually suggested on national TV that the United States threaten to abrogate its solemn mutual-defense treaties in order to maybe get a better deal or blackmail money out of them:

TRUMP: Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune. That’s why we’re losing — we’re losing — we lose on everything. I say, who makes these — we lose on everything. All I said, that it’s very possible that if they don’t pay a fair share, because this isn’t 40 years ago where we could do what we’re doing. We can’t defend Japan, a behemoth, selling us cars by the million...

HOLT: We need to move on.
TRUMP: Well, wait, but it’s very important. All I said was, they may have to defend themselves or they have to help us out. We’re a country that owes $20 trillion. They have to help us out.
When Clinton had her turn, she took a moment and looked directly into the camera and reassured those same allies Trump had just threatened:
CLINTON: Well, let me — let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.

It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.
In that moment, we saw a real President of the United States, standing clear and strong and steady. Clinton became, in that moment, more than the globe-trotting Secretary of State she has been, and became the President she was born to be, for all of us to see.

Trump, in contrast, stood revealed as the shambling clown he has never stopped being, the bizarre existential threat to democracy that Republicans have cooked up for American voters this year. For having done so, they deserve eternal banishment from our politics.

 Monday was a bad night overall for Trump. I came up with a video detailing the 12 worst moments that sent his dumpster fire of a campaign careering off into the abyss -- including his sneering assurance that avoiding paying any federal taxes "makes me smart" and his word-salad defense of the "birther" advocacy that set the foundation for his presidential run. Capped off, of course, with his bragadocious and bootylicious boast that of course he had the superior temperament to be president: "A winning temperament."

And all the rest of us saw was a loser.

Enjoy. I think you'll see a campaign going up in eternal flames here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Trump's Dance Around the Racism, Violence Drawn to His Campaign Appears to Encourage It

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

It’s a dance that Donald Trump does when the subject of the violence and racism bubble up around his run for the presidency as the 2016 Republican nominee. Call it the Deniability Tango: Trump dances around the problems that come with his supporters and their frequent ugliness, which he officially disavows in certain carefully worded statements, often accompanied by a wink and a nod.

It’s a three-step affair:
  • First, Trump appears to embrace the racism and/or violent acts committed by his followers and admirers, either by making excuses for the behavior or pretending not to know about their racist reputations, as he demurs, hems and haws.
  • Second, Trump either briefly disavows the act or issues a brief statement making an official disavowal of the person or behavior in question that briefly mentions why such things are unacceptable.
  • Third, he reflexively refers to this pro forma disavowal whenever the subject is raised by the press without ever explaining or describing the motives for it.
The sincerity of these disavowals is open to question, but their effectiveness is not: Rather than tamping down the raucous racism and violence at Trump rallies and at white nationalist events praising Trump, the frequency of these incidents has risen, along with the abiding enthusiasm of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and various far-right extremists for the GOP nominee.

Trump’s efforts to distance himself from the far right, such as they are, in real life appear to have the opposite effect.

The clearest case of this came when white supremacist icon David Duke initially embraced Trump in February, and Trump was asked about it in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Instead of answering forthrightly, Trump fumbled:
Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know. I don't know, did he endorse me or what's going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.
When Tapper explained that he just wanted him to unequivocally condemn groups like the Klan and people like Duke, Trump continued to demur:
Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about. You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.
The next day, with an uproar proceeding in the media, Trump quickly issued an official disavowal, saying that he had a “bad earpiece” in his interview with Tapper and so hadn’t understood the questions: “I’m sitting in a house in Florida, with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying. But what I heard was ‘various groups.’ And I don’t mind disavowing anybody and I disavowed David Duke. And I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference. ... I have no problem disavowing groups, but I’d at least like to know who they are. It would be very unfair to disavow a group if the group shouldn’t be disavowed. I have to know who the groups are. But I disavowed David Duke.”

The effectiveness of the disavowal became clear when Duke, several months later, announced that he was planning to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana, inspired largely by Trump’s run. “I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years,” he said in his announcement video.

“Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see the denunciations [of Duke] are not sincere,” observed SPLC Senior Fellow Mark Potok to the Huffington Post. “The sad reality is that David Duke and Donald Trump are appealing to precisely the same constituency.”

Trump has performed the same dance when it comes to racist violence committed by his supporters. When two Boston men were arrested last fall and charged with hate crimes for their brutal assault on a Hispanic man – which they explained by telling officers that “Donald Trump was right” and that “all these illegals need to be deported” – Trump explained to reporters: “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate, they love this country, they want this country to be great again, and they are very passionate.”

As the violence has spread to include his rallies, where a number of anti-Trump protesters have been violently assaulted (and eventually, at several rallies, where his supporters were assaulted), Trump has similarly danced around the issue by defending the perpetrators’ motives but then ultimately issuing a perfunctory disavowal.

Asked in the March 10 GOP presidential debate about escalating violence at his rallies, Trump explained:
I will say this. We have 25, 30,000 people -- you've seen it yourself. People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest -- in some cases -- you know, you're mentioning one case, which I haven't seen, I heard about it, which I don't like. But when they see what's going on in this country, they have anger that's unbelievable. They have anger.
They love this country. They don't like seeing bad trade deals, they don't like seeing higher taxes, they don't like seeing a loss of their jobs where our jobs have just been devastated. And I know -- I mean, I see it. There is some anger. There's also great love for the country. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all, Jake.
Pressed further, Trump blamed the violence on the people showing up to protest him. “We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people, not only the loudness, the loudness I don't mind. But doing serious damage. And if they've got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something.”

Most of the videos showing violence against protesters at Trump events, however, reveal ordinary people behaving peacefully while carrying anti-Trump signs who are then assaulted by angry Trump protesters. And while anti-Trump protests outside Trump rallies have generally quieted down since reaching a fever pitch in early June, conditions inside the rallies for anti-Trump protesters have, if anything, worsened, as a protester at an August event in Mechanicsburg, PA, discovered when he was beaten for carrying a sign that read “Refugees Welcome.”

But Trump’s denial that he was encouraging such behavior is particularly laughable, considering the extent to which he has openly told participants at his rally to “beat the hell out of” protesters, told them he’d like to “punch [a protester] in the face,” and has described for his rally-goers the violent fate that “back in the old days” was expected for such protesters.

Moreover, his rallies have also attracted outright white supremacists and nationalists, neo-Nazis and “Patriot” extremists and their likeminded supporters who have had no compunction about behaving in a threatening manner, such as the tattooed man who screamed at Latino protesters outside a Trump rally in Phoenix.

The most noteworthy incident involving this trend occurred March 1 in Louisville, Ky., when a black woman was forcefully ejected from a Trump rally by a number of people, including Matthew Heimbach, leader of the “alt right” Traditionalist Workers Party, who was recorded shoving the woman. Heimbach and several others now face criminal charges for their behavior.

Heimbach drew even greater national scrutiny when a California chapter of his organization held a rally in Sacramento in July that attracted an even larger crowd of counter-protesters, with multiple assaults and stabbings resulting from the ensuing melee.

A week later, Heimbach and his TWP followers were in Cleveland, Ohio, attending the Republican National Convention. They were there vowing to “defend” Trump from any protesters who might dare appear.

"We're essentially just going to show up and make sure that the Donald Trump supporters are defended from the leftist thugs," TWP spokesman Matt Parrott said.

Trump has continued to deflect any questions about the extremists drawn to his campaign. When asked about Duke’s plans to run for the Senate and his claims to have been inspired by Trump, the candidate quickly responded with another disavowal: "Because last time with another person in this position, I did it very quickly. And they said, 'He didn't do it fast enough,' " Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press. "Rebuked. Is that OK? Rebuked, done."

Even then, though, Trump couldn’t help qualifying the disavowal. Asked if he would support the Democrat running against Duke, he demurred: "I guess, depending on who the Democrat (is) -- but the answer would be yes."

As Potok observed, it was “about the weakest and most pathetic denunciation yet.”

Monday, August 01, 2016

Don't ‘Blue Lives Matter’ When White Sovereign Citizens Murder Police Officers?

Officer Brandon Paudert, killed by 'sovereign citizens' in  West Memphis, Ark.

In the wake of the shootings of police officers by black-nationalist radicals in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, La., two weeks ago, a number of right-wing pundits and political leaders have openly blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for the events.

“My message has been clear from day one two years ago. This anti-cop sentiment from this hateful ideology called Black Lives Matter has fueled this rage against the American police officer. I predicted this two years ago,” right-wing Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told a CNN interviewer.

"I do blame people on social media with their hatred towards police," Texas’s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, said on Fox News. "I saw Jesse Jackson — I think it was on Fox, the other night, calling police 'racists' without any facts. I do blame former Black Lives Matter protests.”

On Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump blamed Black Lives Matter as a “fuse lighter” for the killings, saying “they certainly have ignited people and you see that. You see that all over. And I think it's a very, very serious situation and we just can't let it happen.”

Some have even organized a counter-movement of sorts calling itself “Blue Lives Matter,” as a kind of retort to the black movement’s thesis that black people are disproportionately targeted by police. Indeed, the phrase was Sheriff Clarke’s battle cry in his speech at the GOP convention in Cleveland on July 18, leading the crowd to chant the phrase.

Rush Limbaugh called BLM “a terrorist group committing hate crimes,” demanding the FBI investigate them, and others have similarly demanded that the movement be designated a hate group. Yet, as SPLC President Richard Cohen has explained, BLM does not even come close to meeting the criteria required for its consideration as a hate group – unlike the black nationalists who actually inspired the shootings, which are in fact designated hate groups.

Moreover, despite the efforts of right-wing media to attempt to link BLM to attacks on police officers, there have been none yet recorded to which any BLM member could be concretely connected, though some assaults have seen the perpetrators use incendiary language similar to what can sometimes be heard at BLM rallies.

All of this stands in stark contrast to media and public response to the single greatest threat to the lives and well-being of police officers in the United States over the past decade and longer: the sovereign citizens movement.


The movement, built out of a peculiar web of white-supremacist beliefs and far-right “constitutionalist” legal theories, first gained traction in the 1990s through such antigovernment “Patriot” groups as the Montana Freemen and various “redemption” scams that generally left their adherents impoverished and imprisoned. In the succeeding years, it has not gone away – and indeed has been picking up strength in the past decade, particularly fueled by right-wing reaction to the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008.

In the eight years since, sovereign citizens have killed nine police officers and injured more than a dozen others in 16 separate incidents, many of them violent responses to ordinary police actions such as issuing traffic tickets or serving warrants. Other incidents involved plots to kidnap, torture and murder police officers, or armed standoffs in which law-enforcement officers were threatened.

Here is a complete list of those incidents:

June 10, 2009, Washington, D.C.: James Von Brunn, an 88-year-old sovereign citizen who had once attempted to make a “citizen’s arrest” of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, walks into the U.S. Holocaust Museum and opens fire, killing a guard. Von Brunn dies while awaiting trial on murder and hate crime charges.

March 25, 2010, Sumter County, Florida: Brody James Whitaker, a sovereign citizen, fires at two Florida state troopers when they pull him over in Sumter County, Florida, and then flees. He’s found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison.


May 20, 2010, West Memphis, Arkansas: Jerry and Joe Kane, two sovereign citizens, kill two police officers when pulled over in West Memphis, Arkansas, then die in a subsequent shootout with police in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart not far from the original shootings. The Kanes, father and son, had toured the country selling the sovereign-citizen scheme to paying audiences.


March 10, 2011, Fairbanks, Alaska: Francis Schaeffer, the leader of an Alaska militia and self-described “sovereign citizen,” is arrested with several co-conspirators after FBI and state agents infiltrate the militia, and accuse them of plotting to kill government employees and accumulate weapons.  They're charged with conspiracy to murder federal officials and weapons charged, and sentenced to 26, 26, and 5 years in prison.

December 18, 2011, Webster, Pennsylvania: Eli Franklin Myers, a self-described sovereign citizen, shoots two officers, killing one, at a traffic stop. He dies a day later in a gunfight with police at his Webster, Pennsylvania home.

Dec. 22, 2011, Seligman, Arizona: Shawn Rice, a sovereign citizen, engages police in armed standoff after being indicted for variety of federal charges, including money laundering. He’s found guilty and sentenced to 57 months in prison.

Dec. 16, 2012, Laplace, Louisiana: Terry Smith, Brian Smith, and Kyle Joekel, sovereign citizens with long criminal records, kill two deputies and wound two others in a shootout. All are charged with first degree murder and await trial.

March 8, 2013, Navarre, Florida: Jeffrey Allen Wright, a sovereign citizen, engages in an armed standoff with police in Navarre, Florida, telling negotiators they had no authority to arrest him. Wright is killed by officers during the standoff.

August 22, 2013, Las Vegas, Nevada: David Allen Brutsche and Devon Campbell Newman, sovereign citizens, are arrested for plotting to abduct, torture, murder a Las Vegas police officer. Brutsche pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping, Newman pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit false imprisonment, and both receive probation.

March 25, 2014, Middleburg Heights, Ohio: Israel Rondon, a Sovereign Citizen, shoots at deputies serving a warrant at his home, and is shot dead in return. Rondon had waged a five-year court battle attempting to prove the validity of his beliefs.

June 6, 2014, Cumming, Georgia: Dennis Marx, a sovereign citizen and former TSA employee, attempts to take hostages to a Forsyth, Georgia courthouse. He shoots and injures a sheriff's deputy before being shot and killed by police during the assault.

June 8, 2014, Las Vegas, Nevada: Jerad and Amanda Miller, a married couple and Patriot movement members who had spent weeks at the Cliven Bundy ranch, go on a shooting rampage that kills three people. The rampage begins with the couple killing two police officers in cold blood while they ate lunch in a pizza shop, declaring to witnesses that “the revolution begins now” and draping the men’s bodies with a Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. They cross the street and enter a Wal-Mart, where they kill a citizen who pulls a gun in an attempt to stop them. They’re killed by officers during a subsequent shootout inside the Wal-Mart.

June 17, 2014, Nevada City, California: Brent Douglas Cole, a 60-year-old sovereign citizen originally from Idaho, engages a Bureau of Land Management officer and a California state trooper ins gunfight when they confront him about his illegal campsite; all three men are wounded. Cole is charged with numerous federal and state felonies.

Aug. 12, 2014, Dallas, Texas: Dennis Lee Leguin, a man who called Dallas police to inform them he was part of the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement even as he was engaging officers in an armed standoff, was eventually arrested after taking shots at officers and locking down an upscale North Dallas neighborhood.

Nov. 22, 2014, Tallahassee, Florida: Curtis Wade Holley, a sovereign citizen with rabid antigovernment views, sets fire to his home, and then opens fire on sheriff’s deputies and firefighters when they arrive to assist. One deputy is killed and another wounded before Holley himself is shot and killed.

Sept. 24, 2015, Mineral Wells, West Virginia:  Thomas David Deegan, a heavily armed ‘Patriot,’ is charged with threatening to commit terrorist act after planning to overthrow West Virginia’s state government by targeting the State Capitol, State Police headquarters, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department and West Virginia National Guard facilities. Deegan is convicted of one count of making a terroristic threat and sentenced to between 2 and 8 years in prison.

All of these acts, since they are directed at police officers for their status as authority figures, are considered acts of domestic terrorism by FBI and other law-enforcement experts. This is part of why the FBI has singled out sovereign citizens for special attention as a threat to police officers in the United States, as well as a source of domestic terrorism.

Not all of the terrorism unleashed by sovereign citizens is directed at police officers, however. One of the most notorious such acts occurred on May 31, 2009, in Topeka Kansas, when a man named Scott Roeder, who had ties to sovereign citizens and the Montana Freemen, walked into a church and killed Dr. George Tiller, who ran an oft-targeted abortion clinic. Roeder was later found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The key to understanding the threat posed by sovereign citizens is the core of their ideology – namely, that the federal government is an illicit entity devoted to the enslavement of all mankind, and that ordinary people can declare themselves “sovereigns” who stand apart from such a system, free of its obligations or its laws and capable of operating separately from it. This means they often refuse to pay taxes (which result in warrants being served) or their driving or license fees (which results in being pulled over by police), and when confronted, believe they have the right to resort to deadly force to resist arrest.

That sometimes produces scenes such as this one, which occurred in 2015 when a police officer tried to ticket a sovereign citizen in Texas:

The situation ended harmlessly enough, as a number of such confrontations do. But even afterward, the extremism can carry over into the courtroom when the “sovereigns” attempt to enforce their interpretation of the laws – such as when “liberty speaker” and “constitutionalist” guru Gavin Seim attempted to defend one of his fellow “sovereigns” in a court proceeding over a traffic violation in East Wenatchee, Wash.:

In recent years, however, there has been a peculiar adaptation of the sovereign-citizen ideology by black nationalists, who – seemingly oblivious to its white-supremacist origins – have adopted a version of the ideology by similarly declaring themselves free of white men’s laws and obligations.

So it is almost certainly not a coincidence that the Baton Rouge police shooter, 29-year-old Gavin Long, who was a member of the black separatist hate group New Black Panthers People Party, also claimed to have been a sovereign citizen.

All of these factors have led law-enforcement experts from both academic and official backgrounds to conclude that by far the most lethal threat to police officers in the United States today from radical extremists actually arises from sovereign citizens and related far-right extremists – the vast majority of whom, though not all, are white people.

There’s no evidence that Sheriff Clarke or any of his fellow pundits eager to blame mainstream black activists for the murders of police officers in recent weeks have ever spoken out against white sovereign citizens and their ceaseless assaults on policemen and other first responders. But then again, Clarke himself is closely affiliated with a right-wing extremist “constitutionalist” sheriff’s group that believes, like sovereign citizens, that its members don’t have to obey federal laws.

That could explain the peculiar silence from Clarke, at least, about the threat posed by sovereign citizens. It doesn’t explain the silence from his “law and order” right-wing cohorts, however.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Radical Islamists and the American Far Right: Cousins of the Terrorist Kind

An investigator examines the scene of James Howell's arrest [Los Angeles Times]

The gay community in Los Angeles, seemingly, got very lucky last weekend. Especially compared to their counterparts in Orlando.

A 21-year-old Indiana man with a car full of guns and bomb-making chemicals was arrested by Santa Monica police Saturday. He told police he was going to the Los Angeles gay-pride parade later that day, but didn’t say what he had in mind.

James Wesley Howell
In the car was an astonishing arsenal: a loaded AR-15 assault rifle rigged to allow 60 shots to be fired without pausing, two other loaded rifles, a stun gun, a hunting knife, loads of ammunition, and a trunkful of chemicals mixed and ready to explode as a car bomb. It soon emerged that the man – James Wesley Howell of Charlestown – had a history of violent confrontations and gun-related criminal charges, and was fleeing charges of child molestation when he left Indiana.

The situation spoke ominously of an imminent domestic-terrorism attack – especially in light of the massacre that had occurred at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando late Saturday. However, since none of his arsenal was used and no violence committed, Howell was only charged with a variety of felonies related to bomb and gun possession. The parade went off without notable incident, though anti-gay protesters were present and visible.

The outcome stood in stark contrast to what occurred that same evening at Pulse, when a 29-year-old New York-born Floridian of Afghani descent named Omar Mateen walked in with a semiautomatic rifle and began blasting patrons at will, leaving 49 people dead and another 54 wounded before Mateen himself was killed by police. Mateen claimed to a 911 dispatcher that he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), though in fact he had had no previous affilitation with these radical Islamists.

The Orlando massacre sparked an Islamophobic backlash, with some radicals calling for the immediate deportation of all Muslims from the United States and arming U.S. citizens in response. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used the occasion to declare himself “right” for his earlier declarations about Muslims, and doubled down by reiterating his earlier call for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States. He also suggested that President Obama might be secretly conspiring on behalf of the terrorists.

In the meantime, reporting on the potential terrorist attack on the Los Angeles gay-pride event was subdued, since whatever Howell had been planning was diverted when police pulled him over in a traffic stop and found the arsenal. It was further complicated by the eventual discovery that Howell was himself bisexual, and his friends and family indicated he had no known animus toward gays and lesbians.

In a similar vein, it soon emerged that Mateen had actually frequented Pulse and had advertised on gay hookup forums, raising further doubts about the extent of his supposed Islamic radicalism. FBI director James Comey told reporters that he was “highly confident” that Mateen had been radicalized through the Internet, and was not acting on behalf of international terrorist organizations.

The ongoing questions about the motivations of both Mateen and Howell made murky at best any public understanding of the two incidents – which were seemingly unconnected, especially when it came to the specific motives and backgrounds of the actors involved. One seemed clearly inspired by Islamist anti-western rhetoric, while the other seemed at most fueled by the typical far-right-wing loathing of gays with an added twist of self-loathing.

Yet they were in fact deeply connected by the simple reality that both represented acts of domestic terrorism directed at LGBT targets, and both occurred on the same evening, separated only by a few hours. And coming to terms with these acts – both in a realistic sense and with the hope of taking action that actually prevents them from bubbling up in the first place – requires understanding them as closely related, two aspects of the same vicious and hateful coin: right-wing extremism.

The murders, and the near-miss, this weekend were not, of course, the first time that gay and lesbian establishments have been the targets of terrorist acts. Indeed, this sort of violence is hauntingly familiar to anyone who has tracked the history of hate crimes and other vicious acts that have been the horrifying reality for most members of the LGBT community for the past half-century and longer. Indeed, LGBT people are the minority group most likely to attract hate-crime violence in America, and have been for some time.

Until recent years, the violence has emanated primarily from two sources: hate groups, particularly neo-Nazi and skinhead groups as well as various Klan organizations, all of whom have placed the LGBT community as one of their most loathed targets; and far-right evangelical Christians, particularly those who claim that the Bible demands the death penalty for homosexuality, and the radicals who act on those beliefs.

Here’s a brief history of domestic terrorism directed at LGBT people in the United States:

May 12, 1990: Several members of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations organization from Hayden Lake in northern Idaho are arrested and charged with plotting to kill dozens, if not hundreds, of patrons at Neighbours, a Seattle gay bar. Their plan included a “kill zone” strategy in which the explosives would be placed inside the bar, with other bombs placed outside it; the plotters intended to call the bar, warn that a bomb was about to go off, and then set off the secondary charges as the disco cleared out, maximizing the number of fatalities. A trio of “Aryans” were arrested at their motel with a van stockpiled with pipe-bomb parts, a .12-gauge shotgun, a .38-caliber revolver, a stun gun, knives and a pile of hate literature. A fourth man was arrested in Idaho for the plot. Three of the men were convicted and sent to federal prison.
The ruins of the Otherside Lounge in Atlanta, bombed by Eric Rudolph

February 21, 1997: Still uncaught after having set off a backpack bomb at the venue for the Olympic Games the summer before that killed a spectator and injured 111 others, far-right evangelical terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph sets off a bomb containing nails at the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. Though the bomb was designed to cause maximum injury to the patrons, only five bar patrons were injured. After he was sentenced to five consecutive life terms for his several bombings, Rudolph issued a statement calling homosexuality an "aberrant lifestyle".

September 22, 2000: A self-described “Christian soldier working for my Lord” named Ronald Gay enters a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., and opens fire on the patrons. One of them, a 43-year-old named Danny Overstreet, was killed, and six others were severely injured. Gay later told his attorneys that he was angry over the change of meaning for his surname to include homosexuality, and he had been told by God to find and kill lesbians and gay men. Gay later testified in court that "he wished he could have killed more fags."

February 2, 2006: An 18-year-old named Jacob D. Robida, who had a fetish about neo-Nazism as well as the rap group Insane Clown Posse (known for its dark and violent lyrics) entered a bar in New Bedford, Mass., and upon confirming that it was a gay bar, began attacking patrons – first, with a hatchet that he swung at a man’s head, injuring him, and then with a handgun that he produced when other patrons tackled him and took away the hatchet; three more were injured in the ensuing gunfire. Robida fled the bar and was confronted three days later in Arkansas by police there, at which point he fatally shot himself.

Eric Rudolph
Prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most Americans readily thought of radicals like Rudolph and his far-right cohort, Timothy McVeigh, as the terrorists they clearly were. After 9/11, however, the picture became increasingly muddled, as public and law-enforcement officials, as well as the media, increasingly focused on the image of terrorism as emanating solely from turbaned, Arabic-speaking radicals inspired by extreme Islamic fundamentalism, or Islamism, as it’s popularly known.

It’s also worth recalling that the American far right – particularly the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who are among the most vicious homophobes most often associated with hate crimes and terrorist anti-LGBT violence – openly celebrated those Islamist attacks on Americans back in 2001, just as they recently celebrated the Orlando massacre. (Wrote Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer: “From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of all neo-Nazi White supremacists, I want to offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to Omar.")

That is because even though the nominal wellsprings of their ideology may differ widely – i.e., either white-supremacist/neo-Nazi ideology or far-right Christianist ideology, or extreme Islamic fundamentalism – the cores of their respective appeals, as well as the psychological profiles of the people they attract as followers, is remarkably similar in nature as well as outcomes. They have the same enemies, and the same targets, because they think and behave in remarkably similar ways.

As one of Rudolph’s victims recently told a reporter: “I always thought Rudolph was like ISIS,” McMahon said. “He comes from the same core.”

In the end, both a religious and cultural variations of right-wing extremism. And what they share in common is much more substantial than the differences of their nominal religions.

As Joshua Holland recently observed, in an ironic kind of twist, the absolutism associated with the most fanatical expressions of their respective religions, which in turn induces them to denounce “unbelievers” of other faiths, is something they all share: “The details differ, but the defining characteristic of all right-wing religionists is an abiding contempt for religious pluralism. They deny the legitimacy of other faiths. All conservative religious traditions are hostile toward gays and lesbians and those who reject traditional gender roles. Most embrace religious nationalism and reject multiculturalism.”

They also share a fundamentalist approach to their belief systems, insisting on the inerrancy whatever their founding scriptures might be – in the case of Islamists, the Koran; of extremist Christians, the Bible; of far-right “Patriot” militiamen, the Constitution of the United States; of neo-Nazis, Hitler’s Mein Kampf as well as a handful of other works that have scriptural import for them. It’s a reductive kind of thinking that, besides enforcing a lockstep mentality, puts all of the essentially authoritarian followers of these beliefs systems at the mercy of the frequently twisted interpretations of these scriptures by their authoritarian leaders – that is, the people who are deciding on the meanings of the words they slavishly adhere to. They all insist that only their interpretation is the correct one.

As Karen Armstrong explored at length in her book The Battle for God, religious fundamentalism is a logical response to the modern demise of the spiritual life. The collapse of a piety rooted in myth and cult during the Renaissance, she argues, forced people of faith to grasp for new ways of being religious, giving rise to a fundamentalism that mimics traditionalism but is in reality an entirely modern phenomenon. Essentially, fundamentalism is natural byproduct of modern life, representing the needs of the people who are left behind by modernity – economically, culturally, socially, and spiritually. This applies equally to other kinds of fundamentalism, such as the bizarre interpretation of American law and the nature of government that arises in the worldview of right-wing American “constitutionalists.” The terrorists who are produced by these belief systems are all deeply alienated from modern society, and their violence is always directed at the goal of returning society to its “traditional” values.

Accordingly, all these fundamentalist belief systems – being “traditionalist” enterprises – share a deep rejection of multiculturalism, the 20th-century worldview that overthrew the longtime system of race-based social and cultural hierarchies known as white supremacy, and replaced it with an understanding that all human cultures connote a level of respect and legitimacy, and the notion of superiority among them is largely a conceit cultivated by those in a dominant position. To fundamentalists and other right-wing True Believers, multiculturalism is an abomination, since the notion of the legitimacy of other religions or belief systems is nonexistent for them. It’s their way or the highway – though only the most nakedly racist among them admit that their hostility to multiculturalism naturally defaults back to a race-based system of white supremacy.

In the end, this means that, for the radicals inclined to act out their beliefs violently, the targets of their hatred and violence often are the same. Right-wing extremists almost universally direct their terrorism at the representatives of modernism and multiculturalism in their own minds: democratic institutions and governments, liberals, LGBT folk, various racial and ethnic minorities (especially Jews).

Indeed, a Muslim extremist living in the U.S. had targeted gays once before: On New Year’s Eve 2013, a radical Islamist and Libyan native named Musab Mohammaed Masmari started an arson fire in the stairway of the very same Seattle gay nightclub, Neighbours, that had been targeted by neo-Nazis back in 1990. The fire was quickly extinguished by an alert patron, but with only one other exit and a large crowd estimated at about 900 people, the potential for catastrophe had been immense. After Masmari told a friend that "homosexuals should be exterminated," and an informer from the Muslim community told the FBI that he might have also been planning terrorist attacks, investigators began circling. Masmari was arrested attempting to depart to Turkey, and was eventually convicted and sentenced to 10 years’ prison time on federal arson charges.

Both of these attacks underscored the reality that radical Islam is a kind of right-wing extremism, and has much more in common with American Klansmen and “Patriots” than any of them are willing to acknowledge. Of course, because of their inherently xenophobic natures, their targets at times can also be each other: Violent attacks on Muslims and mosques by American extremists have skyrocketed in the past year, especially as Islamophobia whipped up by those same extremists takes effect, and the outrageously wrongheaded belief that radical Islamists are identical to mainstream Muslims spreads.

This is important to place in the larger context of domestic terrorism: As a study I have recently completed of American domestic terrorism between 2008 and the present (to be published later this summer through the Center for Investigative Reporting) demonstrates, American right-wing extremists committed acts of terrorism in the United States at more than twice the rate of domestic Islamist extremists in that time period, with more than double the casualties. Indeed, until the past year, the vast majority of Islamist domestic-terrorism cases involved people arrested pre-emptively by authorities using informants, often to create fake attacks that form the basis for their subsequent federal prosecution.

However, in the past year, that has shifted in one notable and dramatic respect, with four incidents of domestic terrorism committed by Islamists involving extreme violence – in Garland, Texas, where two Islamists attempted a gun attack on an event in which cartoonists made fun of the prophet Muhammad; in Chattanooga, Tenn., where a radical Islamist named Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on two military installations, killing five and wounding two before he himself was killed;  in San Bernadino, Calif., where a radicalized husband-and-wife couple shot the attendees at a county-employee holiday gathering, and now in Orlando – in just a little over a year. The last two were particularly horrendous, leaving 63 dead and 72 wounded between them. In the previous seven years, there had only been two such incidents.

These recent events have all underscored not just the importance of coming to terms with domestic terrorism of all kinds, but of recognizing that Islamist and American right-wing extremist terrorism are very closely related, and often target the very same vulnerable people – as well as understanding that, over those past eight years, American right-wing extremist terrorists (nearly all of whom are white) have been even more dramatically increasing the levels of lethal violence in the country.

To understand terrorism, we first have to shed our great national blind spot regarding who commits it – namely, the racial one. Ever since 9/11, media, public officials, and the public in general have become reluctant to identify right-wing extremist terrorist acts as fitting that description. When a 19-year-old named Dylann Roof walked into a historic black Charleston church last summer and killed nine congregants there in cold blood, only a handful of media observers identified him as a terrorist, even though the act was manifestly political and intended to inflict terror on the (black) public, which are the two main components in defining a violent act as terrorism. Yet even FBI director James Comey was reluctant to identify the act as terrorism.

That lack of clarity can be harmful, especially when it comes to the public’s ability to understand terrorism – which is an essential component of any kind of anti-terrorism strategy. Enabling the public to see not only that it is being manipulated by these violent extremists, but how this is happening, is the first step in defusing the very terror these acts are intended to spread.

Even more importantly, however, effectively blunting these terrorists requires deeper thinking into the root causes of the extremism that fuels them. Nearly all extremism is built on the bones of unaddressed real grievances, even if those underlying causes of their alienation are heaped with nonsensical conspiracy theories and crude racism. Getting to the root causes entails making an honest effort to address their real grievances without pandering to the ugliness.

In rural America, for instance – where so much of the modern “Patriot”/militia/constitutionalist extremism breeds today, as we saw this past January at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon – there are genuine grievances involving government management of public lands that metastasize and transform like into conspiracism and bizarre beliefs about the Constitution. Many white nationalists are white working-class people who have been left behind by the modern American technological economy. All of these reflect real issues that need to be addressed in concrete ways if we want to be serious about dealing with domestic terrorism and the deep cultural rot it represents.

Modernization can be a great thing for large masses of people, but it always leaves people behind, and when the numbers begin to mount, so does the inevitable violence and the cultural toxicity from which it springs – reflected not just in the current political divide, but also in the tide of mental illness to which so much of this terrorism is often attached (and dismissed, wrongly). In the end, we need to ameliorate the caustic effects of modernization upon those left behind, not just in the interests of protecting ourselves, but really, of simply doing the right thing.

Maybe then we can stop counting on just being lucky in evading much of the potential terrorist violence that has been lurking, largely ignored, in the American landscape, as we apparently did in Santa Monica. Because as Omar Mateem proved in Orlando, sometimes that luck runs out.