By Robert A. Vella
Yes, white supremacy has always existed in America; but, America has not always been a country of white supremacists. What I mean is that bigoted and racist sentiment has always been present in the population, as it is in all populations, but it has only periodically gained enough political power to project its vile image for the nation. The Antebellum South was one of those periods as was the Jim Crow era; however, in each case Americans rejected the overt empowerment of white supremacy and much blood was spilled as a result (i.e. the Civil War, and the Civil Rights era of the 1960s). The racists were defeated not because of emotional appeals to their better angels, but by raising the public’s awareness – most notably by violent abolitionist John Brown and legendary activist Martin Luther King Jr. – as a means to motivate the stubborn weight of government and other social institutions.
Sadly, the United States today is experiencing another resurgence of white supremacy empowered under the presidency of Donald Trump. No U.S. president has been as supportive of racist sentiment since Woodrow Wilson, and no U.S. president has been as blatantly racist in their political rhetoric since Andrew Jackson. In the aftermath of El Paso and other recent mass shootings, Trump’s public statements ostensibly condemning white supremacy were issued out of political necessity and not because he has experienced a change of heart. Through his actions as president, Trump is undeniably racist to the core regardless of his personal feelings and reasons for behaving as he does. In this post, we’ll explore some of those actions. But first, the best way for readers to understand racist mentality is to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth (i.e. from an authentic source).
It’s going to get worse.
That’s the warning of a former violent extremist, Christian Picciolini, who joined a neo-Nazi movement 30 years ago and now tries to get people out of them. White-supremacist terrorists—the ones who have left dozens dead in attacks in Pittsburgh, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, in recent months—aren’t just trying to outdo one another, he told us. They’re trying to outdo Timothy McVeigh, the anti-government terrorist who blew up an Oklahoma City federal building and killed more than 100 people in 1995—the worst terrorist attack in the United States before September 11, 2001.
Picciolini now runs a global network, the Free Radicals Project, where former extremists like him provide counseling to others trying to leave extremist movements. He spoke with us yesterday morning about the mainstreaming of white nationalism, what it takes to de-radicalize far-right extremists, and why the problem is metastasizing.
A condensed and edited transcript of the conversation follows.
The mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, has placed increased scrutiny on government agencies, and their role in preventing violence from the far-right. Last year, hate crimes rose in 30 of America’s largest cities, according to a recent study from California State University, San Bernardino.
The problem even prompted the FBI to release a rare statement, warning of “the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes.” Yet, the national response to threats from white supremacy pales in comparison to the U.S. response to Islamic terrorism after 9/11.
“No remotely comparable array of national power has been directed against the threat now emerging from the far right, a loose but lethal collection of ideologies whose adherents have killed roughly the same number of people in the United States, post-9/11, as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State combined,” writes Greg Miller, national security correspondent for The Washington Post.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lacks the necessary resources to fight rising white supremacy across the U.S., acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Tuesday.
McAleenan said on CBS “This Morning” that “we need [to] invest more, no question.”
“We do need a better effort to coordinate that at the headquarters level. And that’s what I’ve directed. I’d like to triple the staff we have available to address this and coordinate the intelligence side of it at the headquarters level, as well as investing in those grants and efforts that are going to help communities prepare for these kind of incidents,” he said.
A professional association representing more than 14,000 current and former FBI special agents is calling on Congress to reform the country’s terrorism laws, which currently do not provide for prosecutions under the specific umbrella of domestic terrorism.
“Domestic terrorism is a threat to the American people and our democracy. Acts of violence intended to intimidate civilian populations or to influence or affect government policy should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism regardless of the ideology behind them,” the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) wrote in a press release on Tuesday. “FBIAA continues to urge Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime. This would ensure that FBI Agents and prosecutors have the best tools to fight domestic terrorism.”
Since taking office, the Trump administration has made clear its intentions to focus specifically on Islamic extremism, versus all violent ideologies, with DHS quietly shifting resources away from programs aimed at combatting far-right and white supremacist groups. According to data from the Brennan Center for Justice, within the New York University School of Law, at least 85% of “Countering Violent Extremism” grants explicitly target minority groups, including Muslims, LGBTQ Americans, Black Lives Matter Activists, immigrants, and refugees.
At the same time, organizations that had received grants under Obama to combat extremist ideology in their communities lost funding, and the Trump administration decided earlier this year that it would not be renewing programs to fight domestic terror.
President Donald Trump responded to the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings by insisting Monday that “mental illness pulls the trigger not the gun,” but shortly after taking office he quietly rolled back an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for people with mental illness to buy guns.
Trump did so without any fanfare. In fact, the news that Trump had signed the bill was at the bottom of a White House email that alerted the media to other legislation signed by the president.
And it came after the House and Senate, both of which were Republican-controlled at the time, passed a bill, H.J. Res 40, which revoked the Obama-era regulation. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who retired at the end of 2018.
The Nebraska Republican Party asked a lawmaker to leave the party on Monday after he accused the party of “enabling white supremacy.”
State Sen. John McCollister, who has represented part of Omaha since 2014, criticized his party in a series of tweets on Sunday, saying that the GOP had become “complicit to obvious racist and immoral activity inside our party.”
Following two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 31 people dead, McCollister wrote on Twitter, “The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth.”
McCollister continued his rant, taking aim at President Donald Trump.
“We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base,” McCollister explained. “He calls certain countries ‘sh–holes,’ tells women of color to ‘go back’ to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth.”
“When the history books are written,” he said, “I refuse to be someone who said nothing.”
(Bloomberg) — After two gruesome mass shootings in a 24-hour span, some Republicans are raising alarms that their opposition to new firearm limits is making the party toxic to the suburban women and college graduates who will shape the 2020 election.
“Republicans are headed for extinction in the suburbs if they don’t distance themselves from the NRA. The GOP needs to put forth solutions to help eradicate the gun violence epidemic,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and oil-and-gas executive who supports President Donald Trump.
Last year, Eberhart said, he was having lunch with Rick Scott when the then-Florida governor learned of the massacre unfolding in Parkland. It marked the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, as a gunman used an AR-15-style rifle to kill 17 people. Eighteen months later, as the country reels from killing sprees in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Eberhart said it’s time to join Democrats and majorities of Americans who want to ban those types of guns.
Two students who were adopted from Cambodia say they endured so much racist bullying at their Arkansas high school—including threats from an “angry mob” of students—that they were forced to withdraw and be homeschooled, according to a federal lawsuit.
The 22-page complaint filed last week by Kameron and Noah Evans alleges that the brothers were bullied at Cabot High School, which is 87.5 percent white, over their “appearance, race, ethnicity, perceived religious beliefs, and beliefs about the need for racial justice.”
During the 2017-2018 school year, the boys’ last in the Cabot School District, 98 percent of the teachers in the district were white, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Arkansas Times. The lawsuit names as defendants Cabot School District, its superintendent Tony Thurman, and the high-school principal, Henry Hawkins.
Today’s other news:
Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson tossed out a criminal charge against former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, a blow to the Justice Department’s efforts this year to prosecute foreign lobbying violations as criminal acts.
Jackson threw out a charge that accused Craig of making a criminal false statement by omitting information about his work for a foreign government on a letter sent to the Justice Department in 2013.
“A scheme offense must be based on active falsification or concealment, and not merely passivity or silence,” she added, citing previous court cases about false statements.
John Lambert, 23, from Knoxville, Tennessee, went by the name of Eric Pope in the swindle. He set up a fake law firm called Pope & Dunn between 2016 and 2018.
He claimed he was an NYU Law School graduate with a finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania with a decade and a half of corporate and patent law experience.
During the last presidential campaign, Lambert set up Students for Trump with his classmate Ryan Fournier in 2015. They made headlines with their frequent media appearances.
Their Twitter account featured images of them and bikini-clad women in MAGA hats at political events.
In October 2016 Lambert headlined a “Millennials for Trump” rally at Georgia State University alongside far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, Politico reported.