THEIR VIEW: OPINIONS


What Did Dr. King Mean by Love?

By Jose-Antonio Orosco

As someone who regularly teaches about the political philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I often spend time discussing with students the ways in which King’s ideas are taken out of context and turned into sound bites in order to support positions he would not himself have taken. The most obvious example is how his most memorable line from the “I Have a Dream” speech about not judging people based on the color of their skin but the content of their character is used to justify attacks on affirmative action—a policy he definitely endorsed—or cited in a way to claim that the best path forward for racial justice is to somehow ignore race and become colorblind. The white supremacist violence in Charlottesville is proof that we cannot simply try to ignore the problems of racism now.

All across the country, marches and vigils are scheduled to honor the victims of racist violence and to stand against the surge of white nationalist groups in the United States. People are seeking guidance about how to think about the public and proud resurgence of this form of bigotry. Inevitably, the words and ideas of Dr. King are being invoked, especially his thoughts on the power of love in times of hate. One of his quotes, often bandied about, is this: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

But the hard question is what does it mean to love and not hate in the aftermath of Charlottesville? Does it mean it’s somehow wrong to feel angry or violated about people proudly brandishing neo-Nazi symbols on their weapons and shields? Does it mean the best response is to forgive the purveyors of violence like the young man who ran down protestors, killing Heather Heyer, in Charlottesville?

In the speeches in which King talked about love, he often spent time explaining what he meant; love has several meanings. In saying that supporters of racial justice had to have love in their hearts, he didn’t mean that they had to be continually positive and upbeat, or that they had to approach racists in friendship. That’s the kind of love we share with intimates or friends. King said the love that we ought to have in the struggle for justice is the kind that acknowledges all people, even the white supremacists, as human beings. And human beings are capable of making their own moral choices and being held responsible for their actions. We aren’t called upon to like or be friendly to those who are racist. It means we ought not to dehumanize or kill them as part of our fight for justice.

Someone asked me recently if, out of love, King wouldn’t have asked to sit down with a white supremacist and try to listen to their concerns and understand where they were coming from, in hopes of some kind of reconciliation and dialogue. I thought about this and realized that the answer was probably no. King never asked, for instance, to meet with Bull Connor, the rabidly racist police chief in Birmingham, Alabama who sent police dogs to attack protestors. He never called for public meetings with ordinary Black and white citizens to dialogue. Instead, he called for marches, boycotts, and urged legislation that would halt business as usual in that city, deplete the pocketbooks of segregationist business owners, and criminalize racist attacks and intimidation. He wrote in 1963: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is important also.”

This is not to say that fellowship and dialogue are not important, especially when friends approach one another to talk about their fears, hopes, and biases. But in thinking about responses to white supremacy in the country today, we ought to be clear that King’s emphasis on love did not mean only sticking to individual efforts and trying to change the implicit racism of our friends and relatives.

Toward the end of his life, he called for a revolution of values that would utterly transform the United States and its commitment to materialism, racism, and militarism at institutional levels. The fight against white supremacy must be tied to issues of poverty, jobs, reducing our military and nuclear weapons, curbing police brutality, and providing decent health care and education for everyone. These were all issues of concern for King; this is what he meant by love.

José-Antonio Orosco, Ph.D, writes for PeaceVoice and is Associate Professor of Philosophy: School of History, Philosophy, and Religion Director, Oregon State University Peace Studies Program. He is the author of Toppling the Melting Pot: Immigration and Multiculturalism in American Pragmatism (2016) and other scholarly works.

The fourth branch

By Kary Love

I am a lawyer. My pro bono clients are often those who offer nonviolent resistance to wrongs committed by our own government.

I read that, this week past, some nonviolent resisters entered a nuclear weapons storage facility in Germany.

Damn if it is not a list of many of my clients. These people are incorrigible. Next time at sentencing I will argue jail is a waste of time and public money for those sorts; you just cannot deter some people from a life of “crime.”

What a world, in which those acting peaceably for peace are criminals while those in power ordering the killing of people “for their own good” are not.

I still subscribe to law professor Francis Boyle’s view; nuclear weapons and related materiel are not property—property rights attach to legitimate things, not to criminal instruments that have no use but criminal annihilation.

I’ve argued all this a few times with success and many other times not. As to the juries in cases of nonviolent resistance to injustice or in defense of higher laws, I trust them if they are allowed to hear all germane facts.

In one case in which I argued that the nonviolent defendants—who had used hand tools to dismantle a portion of a US nuclear Navy command facility—did not interfere with the defense of the USA because technical experts—whose published work the defendants had read—those defendants were innocent of sabotage charges.

We won this case in great part because of Captain James Bush’s (Ret.) testimony; the members of that jury were fully informed. Bush told the jury of 12 that as he commanded a United States nuclear submarine loaded with ‘city-busting’ weapons that he was also earning a graduate degree in International Relations and that he came to understand that he was in violation of the law every day. Hearing that from a retired commander made quite an impression. The jury rose to the occasion and acquitted, even with a hostile judge.

But it’s degenerating. The recent Espionage Act prosecutions have prevented defendants such Kiriakou et al. from even saying the word “whistle-blower.” Reality Winner will be so shackled in her defense.

I have experienced this abuse of the law in nuke protest cases in US federal court—to the point I conclude such trials are Soviet Mock Potemkin Trials (back in the US, back in the US, back in the USSR).

In my judgment the jury is the 4th branch of government. The Founders knew power corrupts, and that sooner or later, the Congress, the President and the judges would abandon the Constitution for power and that only fully informed juries could stem the tide of corruption.

The Federal judges who issue orders in limine so jurors do not hear all the evidence (as to both the law and the facts) are complicit in destroying the check and balance the jury must be—as all others involved, i.e., Congress, President, judges, are beholden to the system.

In the case to which I referred above, the State Court Judge had some residual fidelity to the Constitution and we kind of boxed him in to allowing Bush to testify as he did—though I expect the Judge did not think a “military man” would have such a complicated mind, capable of rational thought and a moral code superior to his willingness to “just follow orders.”

Kinda tricky of me, I guess. But my oath is to the Constitution, not Congress, White House, or Judge—all of whom are creatures of the Constitution deserving of no respect nor obedience when they violate same (as is the ordinary course of all branches these days.)

Despite many disappointments, I still have faith in juries of ordinary people when fully informed to make “just” decisions even if necessitating deviation from the law. Thus, government fears the people so long as there is trial by jury.

This is as it should be. A government making unjust laws as ours does ought to fear its ability to convict when justice is not served by conviction. The three branches have become unmoored from being “bound down in the chains of the Constitution”—with the result it is a lawless beast.

Ultimately it will be up to the people: a nation of law, or a nation of beasts? Our “leaders” have no interest in curbing their own abuse of power. As victims of such abuse, the people are responsible, for the sake of their progeny and the future of liberty.

Kary Love is a Michigan attorney.

Peace Camp and War Games at Harvest Time

By John LaForge

BÜCHEL AIR BASE, Germany — The juxtaposition of nuclear weapons and ordinary farms is the same here as at home in the United States. Just outside this jet fighter base — where a peace camp focused on ridding the site of its 20 US nuclear bombs has been set since March 26 — farmers plant oats, corn and wheat right up to the fences. Likewise in “the states,” nuclear submarine bases, bomber bases, and land-based missiles are placed in farmland too, where the hard-scrabble struggle to produce food is mirrored against the gargantuan waste of limitless military spending — in this case maintaining an arsenal that can never be legally put to use.

This week, local farmers are harvesting oats, cutting swaths 4 to 6 meters wide with their groaning, screeching combines that look something like giant hammerhead sharks, or long-extinct dinosaurs. Just like at home, the combines are followed, if the weather holds, by heavy balers that bind up the straw; just like in the Midwest, jet fighters overhead practice war fighting in the same sky that warms and waters the crops. On the edge of camp, Guernsey cows meander near the paved bike path, ignoring the spray-painted warning: “Attention! Here Begins the Atomic War Zone.”

The noise of heavy farm machinery is a relief from the howling roar of the German Tornado jet fighter-bombers that scream off the runway most weekdays. The jets shriek like rockets all day long and well past dusk. They reportedly burn through €50,000 ($59,000) every hour they’re airborne. Farmers can rightfully cringe. How many of them can expect to make that much in a year — even though they work harder, longer hours and actually produce something?

The peace camp, with its theme “Büchel is Everywhere,” reflects and teaches these stark contrasts and lost chances every moment of every day. The modest camp has a large cook tent, a kitchen run on bottle gas, tables, chairs and cookware for 40, a makeshift shower, chemical toilets, and a wood fire for evening gatherings. This summer’s climate is just like Wisconsin’s or Minnesota’s — although the local weather includes the “heat” of 20 US Air Force B61 hydrogen bombs deployed in bunkers across right down road. The Bombs make for a sort of raised temperature that permeates the consciousness — unless you’re in denial. Farm machines chug across the fields at a mile-an-hour; the jets howl across the sky at 921 mph — 1,490 mph when up high.

Political, ethical, and practical opposition to US nuclear weapons in Germany goes back decades. In 1997, peace researchers discovered the deployment of 20 Cold War era B61s here and began raising hell. Legally, the bombs are a clear violation of the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) — which is binds both Germany and the United States. Article I prohibits nuclear weapons from being transferred to or the accepted by any other state. The NPT, and Germany’s post-war constitution, have been the legal foundation of anti-nuclear civil resistance actions at Büchel because German law is especially keen about the horrifying results of obeying unlawful orders.

Condemnation of the US H-bombs and Germany’s part in the Tornado’s “nuclear mission” — German pilots train to “deliver” the US Bombs — is nearly universal, crossing party lines and cultural divides. Even skin-head neo-Nazis offered (unsuccessfully) to be part of the “US Nukes Out!” campaign. So hot a potato is the status of illegal US nukes here that the base commander himself, “Oberstleutnant” Gregor Schlemmer, chose to leave his office and come out to an active blockade of his base’s main entrance July 18 to greet members of our US delegation. NATO ministers, former heads of state, and dozens of retired military officials have all called the US B61s “Cold War relics” that no longer serve any purpose. Almost 90 percent of German adults want them gone. Perhaps commander Schlemmer feels the weight too, and looks forward to retiring and maybe doing some farming.

Peace camp participants watch the grain being brought in under the harvest moon and recall the hundreds of activists, dozens of nonviolent actions, and scores of news reports that were brought together by the 20 weeks from March to August. Blockades, vigils, concerts, “go-in” actions, and marches have forced the reluctant media to take note of US nukes in Germany.

Of course nuclear weapons are the last thing people want to contemplate, especially in summer, so it takes some focused inventiveness to get the media to face the Bomb. A final blockade is planned for August 9, the anniversary of the US atomic attack on Nagasaki, Japan. Beyond that dreadful consideration, and the close of camp, German abolitionists plan to focus on pushing the ouster of US nukes as an issue in September’s national elections. And from both sides of the Atlantic, organizers are working to cancel US plans to deploy a new B61 in Europe, and to spend $1 trillion over 30 years making new Bombs, rather than retiring them all permanently and getting on with joining the new international treaty ban.

From inside and outside the air base gates, farmers and nuclear war gamers alike, oberstleutnants and agronomists, may agree that ploughshares are needed more today than illegal bombs.

John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

Nine Presidents

By Lee H. Hamilton

One reason I consider myself fortunate to have led a life in politics is that, over time, I’ve had a chance to work with nine presidents. From Lyndon Johnson through Barack Obama, I’ve talked policy, politics and, sometimes, the trivial details of daily life with them. I met JFK twice for brief conversations. I don’t know our current President, but I’ve gained valuable perspective from his predecessors.

Johnson was a deal-maker — always trying to figure out how to get your vote. He came into office with a clear vision of what he wanted to do, and on the domestic side notched accomplishments unmatched in recent decades. Yet he was brought down by the Vietnam War — a war he could neither win nor quit.

Richard Nixon, one of the more complex personalities to inhabit the office, often spoke to me about his mother and her home in Indiana. Highly intelligent, brimming with energy, extremely ambitious, he was also uneasy in social settings and could be vindictive. He focused intently on policy, especially foreign policy — and yet had a flawed moral compass.

Few people were nicer in politics than Gerald Ford. His great contribution was to help the country heal after Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. His was not an especially productive presidency, but that wasn’t what the country wanted. Instead, people wanted the stability and reassurance that Ford provided in turbulent times.

Jimmy Carter was a marvelous, down-to-earth campaigner, whose engineer’s mind led him to seek comprehensive solutions to the problems of the day. But his outsider approach led to difficulties, even with a Democratic Congress. Carter served in extraordinarily complex times — through the Iran hostage crisis and rampaging inflation. Yet no American soldier died in combat while he was in office, a remarkable achievement, and Carter has set the gold standard for the post-presidency.

Ronald Reagan’s sunny optimism contrasted sharply with Carter’s “malaise.” Reagan may be identified as the great conservative ideologue, but he was pragmatic. He talked about government being the problem — but signed the appropriations bills that came to his desk. He denounced Medicare — but made no effort to repeal it. He reduced some taxes — then supported a large tax hike. His chief interest was not so much policy, but how to use his acting skills to communicate to the American people.

George H.W. Bush came from the aristocracy, yet devoted his life to public service with decency, honor, and modesty. He deserves praise for his skill in handling the transition from the Cold War, yet he had modest legislative accomplishments. During Bush’s presidency, Newt Gingrich — who criticized Bush for his bipartisan attitude — ushered in the mean-spirited, confrontational political warfare that still bedevils us.

Bill Clinton arrived as President facing high expectations because of his mastery of policy detail and superb political skills. But he couldn’t get his major health care bill through, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment took a toll on the country. I often wonder how much more could have been accomplished had he not been distracted by personal problems.

George W. Bush was affable and likable. He was not a detail man, but right after the 9/11 attacks he effectively led the country in response. The course of his presidency, however, was downhill: he came into office with a strong budget surplus and the nation at peace; when he left we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, were running large budget deficits, and the economy was plunging into the Great Recession.

Barack Obama was deliberative, rational, smart, and took a conciliatory, compromise-ready approach. He learned quickly and mastered complex issues. He inherited a tough economy and got it moving again. But he changed in the face of implacable Republican opposition and his own reluctance to engage fully with Congress, arriving with great optimism and expansive goals and leaving with a far shorter, more incremental horizon.

These men were not demigods. Presidents are human, with qualities both fine and troubling. Each was different, and at least one tested our democracy. Yet our system of government showed considerable resilience — in part because Congress often played a crucial role as counterbalance, a role much needed with our current president.

Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; a Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

Why Does North Korea Hate Us?

By Robert C. Koehler

“The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless …”

And so we return to the Korean War, when North Korea was carpet-bombed to the edge of existence. The American media doesn’t have a memory that stretches quite so far back, at least not under present circumstances. One commentator at MSNBC recently explained, for instance, that the tiny pariah nation “has been preparing for war for 63 years!”

That would be since, uh, 1954, the year after the war ended. But the war wasn’t mentioned. It never is. Doing so would disrupt the consensus attitude that Kim Jong-Un is a nuclear-armed crazy and that North Korea’s hatred of the United States is just … hatred, dark and bitter, the kind of rancor you’d expect from a communist dictatorship and certified member of the Axis of Evil.

And now Donald Trump is taunting the crazy guy, disrupting the U.S.-maintained normalcy of global relations and putting this country at risk. And that’s almost always the focus: not the use of nuclear weapons per se, but the possibility that a North Korean nuke could reach the United States, as though American lives and “national security” mattered more than, or were separate from, the safety of the whole planet.

Indeed, the concept of national security justifies pretty much every action, however destructive and horrifically consequential in the long term. The concept justifies armed small-mindedness, which equals militarism. Apparently protecting national security also means forgetting the Korean War, or never facing the reality of what we did to North Korea from 1950 to 1953.

But as Trump plays war in his own special way, the time to explore this media memory void is now.

I return to my opening quote, which is from a two-year-old story in the Washington Post: “The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. ‘Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,’ Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed ‘everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.’ After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.”

Specifically, “the U.S. dropped 635,000 tons of explosives on North Korea, including 32,557 tons of napalm, an incendiary liquid that can clear forested areas and cause devastating burns to human skin,” Tom O’Connor wrote recently in Newsweek. This is more bomb tonnage than the U.S. dropped in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

He quoted historian Bruce Cumings: “Most Americans are completely unaware that we destroyed more cities in the North then we did in Japan or Germany during World War II.”

And so we start to open the wound of this war, in which possibly as many as 3 million North Koreans died, a number that would have been even higher had Gen. Douglas MacArthur gotten his way. He proposed nuclear holocaust in the name of national security, figuring he could end the war in ten days.

“Between 30 and 50 atomic bombs would have more than done the job,” he said in an interview shortly after the end of the war. “Dropped under cover of darkness, they would have destroyed the enemy’s air force on the ground, wiped out his maintenance and his airmen.”

“For the Americans, strategic bombing made perfect sense, giving advantage to American technological prowess against the enemy’s numerical superiority,” historian Charles K. Armstrong wrote for the Asia Pacific Journal. “… But for the North Koreans, living in fear of B-29 attacks for nearly three years, including the possibility of atomic bombs, the American air war left a deep and lasting impression. The (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) government never forgot the lesson of North Korea’s vulnerability to American air attack, and for half a century after the Armistice continued to strengthen anti-aircraft defenses, build underground installations, and eventually develop nuclear weapons to ensure that North Korea would not find itself in such a position again. The long-term psychological effect of the war on the whole of North Korean society cannot be overestimated.”

Why is this reality not part of the current news? In what way is American safety furthered by such willful ignorance?

Cumings, writing recently in The Nation, noted that he participated in a forum about North Korea in Seoul last fall with Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state in the Bill Clinton administration. At one point, Cumings brought up Robert McNamara’s comment in the documentary The Fog of War, regarding Vietnam, that “we never put ourselves in the shoes of the enemy and attempted to see the world as they did.” Shouldn’t this apply to our negotiations with North Korea?

“Talbott,” Cumings wrote, “then blurted, ‘It’s a grotesque regime!’ There you have it: It’s our number-one problem, but so grotesque that there’s no point trying to understand Pyongyang’s point of view (or even that it might have some valid concerns).”

And so we remain caged in military thinking and the need to win, rather than understand. But as long as we feel no need to understand North Korea, we don’t have to bother trying to understand ourselves. Or face what we have done.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

The Poison of White Supremacist Masculinity

By Rob Okun

Like our slave-holding first president—not our current one—I cannot tell a lie: we must chop down the poisonous tree of white supremacist masculinity.

I felt tears well up when I heard about the alt-right violence unleashed in Charlottesville, Va. August 12. Some of my tears, though, were in frustration. How is it possible after all the years colleagues and I have been writing and speaking about the gender of the killers—from Columbine to Orlando—that coverage of murder suspect James Fields. Jr. failed to point out the obvious: he was a disaffected, alienated 20 year-old male. Sound familiar? Recognize the profile?

If we were to speak to the 20- and 30-something men like Fields who chanted the Nazi “Blood and Soil” slogan while marching with lighted torches across the University of Virginia campus to make America hate again, we’d find many shared a similar profile. Outrageous that our “so called” president stands with them.

Of course we have to vigorously confront—in the strongest words and deeds—white supremacists’ vile attacks on African-Americans and other people of color, Muslims, Jews, the GBTQ community, immigrants—anyone targeted by neo-Nazis and white nationalists. And, we have to call out our “so called” leaders if they hesitate even for a moment (let alone days) before condemning toxic assaults on a free, inclusive society.

Hear me, please. While there are white women supremacists, the vast majority are white males. We ignore that fact at our peril. In our long-term strategy to address domestic terrorism we must make central raising emotionally literate boys, dismantling bullying masculinity, and demanding the CDC conduct a study of the mental health of boys and young men. Disconnected, rudderless young males are vulnerable prey for older, angry white men promoting ideologies of hate. We must prevent their recruitment or we will continue to experience violence like what happened in Charlottesville. Or worse.

The morning after the tainted 2016 presidential election, the KKK-inspired alt-right’s ragtag army had found its general; they’ve been emboldened ever since. Don’t believe me? Check the uptick nationally in hate crimes in the past six months.

The warning signs about James Fields were in plain sight long before he plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing activist and paralegal Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. His family and acquaintances, and his internet posts suggest he had mostly “gone unnoticed by the authorities and researchers, even as he trafficked in radical views and unnerving behavior long before the outbreak of violence,” wrote Alan Blinder in the New York Times. In his teenage years some who knew him said, “his demeanor and opinions had troubled them for years.”

Did his family reach out to his doctor or school guidance counselor? Engage a therapist? Was anyone paying attention when, as a young man in Kentucky, he touted Nazi ideology? “On many occasions… he would scream obscenities, whether it be about Hitler or racial slurs,” a former middle school classmate told the New York Times. He was “exceptionally odd and an outcast to be sure.”

Who among us doesn’t remember a boy in middle and high school who was “exceptionally odd” and an “outcast?” Such young men need to be helped, not hounded; supported, not shunned. I’m not suggesting hate-spewing bad actors aren’t totally responsible for their actions; they are. Rather, that we prevent them from becoming hatemongers in the first place.

In white America’s ongoing work to unflinchingly take responsibility for our country’s shameful slave-holding origins, we must also examine how we socialize boys to become men. The kissin’ cousin of a white supremacist history is our patriarchal legacy.

Since symbols of the Confederacy have begun to be removed—from lowering flags in Southern state capitols to toppling Civil War statues—in the national conversation about confronting white nationalism, we cannot forget the role toxic masculinity plays.

The George Washington cherry tree story reminds us, “I cannot tell a lie.” So, let’s not. Let’s acknowledge that we must chop down the tree of violent, hate-filled white masculinity to get at the root of our malaise. Then, together, we can plant seedlings for a new forest of American manhood deeply rooted in accountability, compassion, and self-reflection. We cannot afford to wait another moment.

Rob Okun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor of Voice Male and author of Voice Male – The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement.

How Can We Prepare For What Is Taking Place In Our Country?

The Amazing Kreskin believes we are not learning from history. The Amazing Kreskin stated, “No, I don’t think carrying a gun is going to protect us from such, I don’t think taking drugs is going to be the answer, but I do feel that we now have to act as an American culture who believes in our culture. The beginning has to start at home and in our immediate society. We need to listen to each other, no I don’t mean shout because when you shout we’re not hearing anything.”

About The Amazing Kreskin:

The Amazing Kreskin is the world renowned mentalist who has shown his showman’s flair, his comedic wit and his mind-reading skills. Over the past six decades, Kreskin has had twenty published books, a television series and his own board game. The Amazing Kreskin has become a part of pop culture and has even inspired a major motion picture.

Should I go that Neo-Nazi rally to fight back?

By Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler

When we hear that the Neo-Nazi movement is coming to our town, most of us naturally feel called—or pushed— to some kind of action. But not every action is going to be effective, especially if we are walking into a situation where the level of dehumanization is extreme—where people are prepared to harm or kill others. How then can we draw from the power of nonviolence in a situation of escalating violence?

First, we have to understand that nonviolence is strategic, principled, and revolutionary. It answers to the violence around us by offering, in a disciplined manner, its opposite. Nonviolence is by no means passivity. It is not inaction. And, we would include, it should not be shortsighted, reactive action. When using this power we should know what we are taking on and be prepared for encountering hatred without the fear of being overcome by it. Remember, the power of nonviolence comes from not opposing the real well being of anyone, even – or especially – when we have to oppose their actions.

When we choose to go against our “fight or flight” response, we can find creative, nonviolent ways for responding to “Unite the Right” rallies that do not escalate violent tensions with more violence—whether defensive or offensive. The real answer to violence is not counter-violence, however strongly we’ve been conditioned to believe that, but the demonstration of a counter-force. Human nature is such that even though we may not see the effects of such a demonstration in the short term, it always works under the surface to change the hearts and minds of our opponents – even those deeply conditioned by hate (and feeling deeply inadequate, though they themselves may not be conscious of it).

Here, then, are some of the things we can do.

1. When a hate group is coming to town, instead of directly confronting them and falling into the trap of chaos they want to create, instead of providing them the publicity that blows their importance out of proportion, we can engage in other activities and get the media pointed at those, such as a pro-peace concert or dance contest at the same time as their meeting. Or failing such an alternative, just plain ignore them – the way the good people of Montgomery just ignored a normally terrifying Klan ride in 1958. It shows that we are reclaiming our spaces with humanity and safety while acting together as a mature, loving community.

2. Another creative solution that can deflate the vehemence of a hate rally is to gather the community to donate money to a group like the Southern Poverty Law Center for every square foot covered by the hate group. Turn their gatherings turn into nonviolent, anti-fascist, pro-peace fundraisers.

3. In all this, though, it’s important to not unthinkingly imitate past sensational nonviolent actions or tactics. Each situation is different, and we need to explore what is at stake and plan for a variety of possible outcomes. Maybe we’ll get arrested by the police, but what happens if we don’t? How will we take care of each other if we do? If someone is hurt? If we don’t ask these kinds of questions, we leave the door open to violence, which can only add fuel to the fire.

Make no mistake: nonviolent action takes courage, planning, and intelligence. It’s the best and quite possibly the only way to really counter these manifestations of hatred and ignorance that are disfiguring our society.

Stephanie Van Hook writes for PeaceVoice, is Executive Director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, co-host of Nonviolence Radio, and author of Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children.

Michael Nagler writes for PeaceVoice, is professor emeritus at UC Berkeley and co-founder of their Peace and Conflict Studies program, co-host of Nonviolence Radio, and author of The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action.

Fire the White Supremacists, Topple the Confederate Statues, Crack Down on the Violent Fascists

This is about more than Trump—this is about what America must do. Now.

By John Nichols

The Nation

August 13, 2017

This is a time to draw clear lines of distinction: You are either with the neo-Nazis, new-fascists, neo-Confederates, and Donald Trump’s alt-right circus, or you are against them.

Donald Trump is equivocating, suggesting that there is some kind of moral equivalence between racists and those who oppose racists. For this, the president should be impeached and removed from office.

But it is not enough to condemn Trump—nor even to call for an accountability moment.

Fire the white supremacists currently working in the White House: Bannon, Gorka, Miller.

The president has exposed and confirmed the crisis facing the United States. This country has, for too long, accepted the symbols of racism in our town squares, accepted the presence of racists in high office, accepted the spread of racism by extremist groups.

Now it is time for getting specific about what must be done. And the Congressional Progressive Caucus has begun the process—not just for its members, not just for the Democratic Party, but for all Americans who believe this country must, as Hubert Humphrey proposed 70 years ago, “get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

In a statement released as Trump was busy making excuses for the racists who have displayed so much enthusiasm for his presidency, CPC co-chairs Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, and Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, said following the violent attacks perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia:

Today, Americans of color and immigrant and religious minority communities are grappling with the fact that white supremacists—inspired by President Trump’s racially-charged words and policies—feel empowered to openly march and commit acts of violence in broad daylight,

Grijalva and Pocan called Trump out for his “appalling and shameful reluctance to name the groups involved in the attacks” until days after the murder of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer—declaring, “Mr. President, it shouldn’t take you two days to build up the courage to condemn violent neo-Nazis and the KKK.”

“This violent outburst is far from an isolated incident and is intricately connected to the President’s discriminatory agenda, which includes construction of the border wall, the Muslim Ban, mass deportations, and the open demonization of urban communities,” said the congressmen, who then took the debate to the next and necessary level.

They made demands not just on Trump but in the leaders of Trump’s party:

1. “President Trump must demonstrate his opposition to white supremacy by immediately firing the white supremacists currently working in the White House, including Stephen Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller.”

2. “Further, we call on Speaker Ryan and House Republicans to demonstrate their opposition to white supremacy by finally removing Confederate statues and imagery from the U.S. Capitol.”

3. “Finally, the Department of Homeland Security should reopen the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of the Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division and issue an updated report on the threat posed by domestic right-wing extremists.”

That’s an excellent point of beginning for a country that must finally “walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

John Nichols is The Nation’s national-affairs correspondent. He is the author of Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America, forthcoming from Nation Books this fall, and co-author, with Robert W. McChesney, of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.

Trump’s Message to the Country: #NotAllNazis

The press conference of August 15th will live in infamy.

By Dave Zirin

The Nation

August 15, 2017

I should probably be writing about the response by athletes to Donald Trump’s open defense of American Nazis on Tuesday. I could quote LeBron James’ tweet where he said, “Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again!”

I could point people to Megan Rapinoe’s entire twitter page, a running commentary on the nexus between the white supremacists in the streets and the ones inside the White House. I could speak about the decision of Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett and the Oakland Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch to not stand for the anthem. But I can’t. I can’t because I’m going to be sick.

I have no illusions about Presidents and their crimes. Republican or Democrat; Whig or Federalist; there is a great deal of blood at home and abroad that comes with being the CEO of the American empire. But I also—and I feel like a fool—thought that certain things were off the table, like a President of the United States defending torch-wielding, swastika-brandishing Nazis who were chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us”, and took someone’s life by ramming a car into chanting protestors.

I thought this was off the table because presidents have always lionized World War II veterans as the Greatest Generation for their sacrifice in fighting the Nazi/Axis powers. I thought the lives lost and the memory of their crimes had created a common reference point. I think of my grandparents and the whispered stories of the Holocaust so we would never forget the 6 million Jews who were killed by adherents of a nihilist ideology. I think of the Warsaw ghetto fighters who took part in a struggle that they knew they would lose but still pressed forward, rather than die like sheep. I think of the over 60 million people—3% of the world’s population—who were killed during World War II. I think about the documentaries, films and books, and the Holocaust museum in DC, all geared toward the simple but binding idea of “never again”: never again would Nazis be tolerated outside of the sewers where they gather to nurse their grievances.

But we have a President who believes otherwise. He sees defending monuments to Robert E. Lee as an act of patriotism. He thinks “good people” march alongside Klansmen with torches. He got emotional, his face spotted with red blotches, as he retreated from his “eat your vegetables” condemnation of racists the previous day, as he defended the presence of armed and violent white nationalists in the streets of Charlottesville. He believes that people who confront Nazis are as bad as Nazis. He used the term “alt-left,” a dreadfully stupid phrase that allows for false equivalency and justifies the violence visited upon the brave resistors in Charlottesville. Unlike Saturday, where he blamed “both sides,” this time he took a side for the world to see. We have a President who could watch Casablanca and root against Rick.

Yes, we shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve seen the tweets from open white supremacists that he and his sons like to retweet into higher prominence. We know he is advised by a troika of these white nationalists—Bannon, Miller and Gorka—and has resisted calls for their removal. We know that he has pulled funding from agencies that combat white nationalist violence. We know he set up a government agency just to report on the crimes of “immigrants.” We know that Jeff Sessions is in charge of the Justice Department. We know Trump’s legacy with housing discrimination and the Central Park 5. We know that his father was arrested at a Klan rally. We know that the American Nazis wear his hats and shirts, alongside their swastika armbands. So maybe shame on me for my shock and nausea.

But there is something about hearing Nazis defended just 72 hours after the killing of Heather Heyer that is so unsettling and so evil, no amount of snark, cynicism or jaded ironic distance can inure us from its implications. The comments by Donald Trump on Tuesday, August 15th, have created a new stain on the American flag. The old stains have never quite been washed out: the stains of Native American conquest and the enslavement of African people; the epidemic of lynching and the enduring reality of Jim Crow; the stains of Japanese “internment,” McCarthyism, Vietnam and the Iraq war. But this stain is new. It’s permanent. It’s scarlet red and it’s bloody as hell.

Dave Zirin is the sports editor of The Nation.

There’s 1 Country Practically Begging the World for Sanctions

Hint: it’s not North Korea, Russia, or Iran.

By Tom Engelhardt

TomDispatch.com

Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours.

We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyper-power, its designated global sheriff, the architect of our planetary future. After five centuries of great power rivalries, in the wake of a two-superpower world that, amid the threat of nuclear annihilation, seemed to last forever and a day (even if it didn’t quite make it 50 years), the United States was the ultimate survivor, the victor of victors, the last of the last. It stood triumphantly at the end of history. In a lottery that had lasted since Europe’s wooden ships first broke out of a periphery of Eurasia and began to colonize much of the planet, the United States was the chosen one, the country that would leave every imperial world-maker from the Romans to the British in its shadow.

Who could doubt that this was now our world in a coming American century beyond compare?

And then, of course, came the attacks of 9/11. A mere $400,000 and 19 suicidal hijackers (mostly Saudis) armed with box cutters and organized from Afghanistan, a country plunged into an Islamic version of the Middle Ages, had challenged the greatest power of all time. In the process, they would bring down iconic structures in what would soon be known to Americans as “the homeland,” while killing almost 3,000 innocent civilians, acts so shocking that they really did change the world.

Yet even then, a fervor for world-organizing triumphalism only took firmer hold in Washington. The top officials of President George W. Bush’s administration almost instantly saw the 9/11 attacks as their very own “Pearl Harbor,” the twenty-first-century equivalent of the moment that had launched the U.S. on the path to post-World War II superpowerdom. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld instantly told his aides in the rubble of the Pentagon, “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” And indeed they would do just that, seizing the moment with alacrity and promptly launching the “Global War on Terror” — aka, among the cognoscenti, World War IV (the third, in their minds, having been the Cold War).

No simple “police action” against the modest al-Qaeda organization and Osama bin Laden would do (and those who suggested something so pathetically humble were to be laughed out of the room). At that moment, their newly launched “war” was to be aimed at no less than 60 countries. The world was to be swept clean of “terror” and the tool for doing so and for imposing Washington’s version of a world order on much of the planet would be the U.S. military, a force like none ever seen before. It was, President Bush would claim, “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.” It was, as both he and Barack Obama affirmed, as became gospel on both sides of the aisle in Washington (until Donald Trump arrived in the presidential race of 2016), “the finest fighting force” in history. It was so unquestionably powerful that no enemy could conceivably stand in its path. It would “liberate” not just Afghanistan, but Iraq, a country in the Middle Eastern oil heartlands that had nothing to do with either al-Qaeda or Islamic terror but had a ruler despised in Washington.

And that, mind you, would only be the beginning. Syria and Iran would undoubtedly follow and soon enough the Greater Middle East would be brought under the aegis of a Pax Americana. Meanwhile, globally, no country or even bloc of countries would be capable of rising to challenge the United States into the imaginable future. As Bush put it in a speech at West Point in 2002, “America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.” In that year, the U.S. National Security Strategy similarly called for the country to “build and maintain” its military power “beyond challenge.”

What a soaring dream it all was! In response to the destruction of part of the Pentagon and those towers in New York City, a small group of top officials in Washington, long waiting for just such an opportunity, were determined to impose their version of order and democracy, military-first, on significant parts of the planet and no one would be capable of resisting. Not for long anyway.

Almost 16 years later, you know how that dream of domination turned out, but to Washington’s power players at the time it all seemed so obvious. Except for a few retrograde Muslim rebels, it was clearly no one else’s planet but ours to organize as we wished. The Soviet Union was already an instant historical memory, its empire scattered to the winds, and Russia itself largely immiserated. The Chinese had a capitalist economy of no small means (even if run by a Communist Party), but as a military force, as a great power, they were anything but impressive. And if you looked at the rest of the world, there were no other potential great powers, no less superpowers, on any imaginable horizon.

Given the history of the Global War on Terror and of the stunning inability of the U.S. military to impose Washington’s will, no less its planetary dreams, on more or less anyone, it took an awful long time for such thinking to begin to die. And before it did, the political class, in a fervor of defensive exaggeration, began insisting in a mantra-like way on the “indispensability” and “exceptionality” of… well, us. It was as if the sense of decline most Americans had started feeling in their bones wasn’t happening. Of course, the constant invocation of the country’s singular specialness should itself have signaled just how wrong things were, because when you’re truly indispensable and exceptional you don’t need to repeatedly say so (or even say it at all).

It took a reality TV star with a curious comb-over who had run a set of casinos into the ground to pick up a Reagan-era slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and body-surf it into the White House. He did so in part on the widespread sense in the American heartland that, a quarter-century after the Soviet Union imploded, the U.S. was indeed in decline, even heading for the exit at a creep, not a gallop. The “again” in that slogan was the telltale signal that the billionaire “businessman” (and classic American huckster) had an intuitive handle on an American world of failed war-making and raging inequality about which both his Republican opposition and his Democratic opponent in election 2016, all still priming the pump of indispensability and exceptionality, seemed clueless.

Who? Us?

Now, here we are on the planet the U.S. was to dominate and run for an eternity with an embattled president surrounded by generals whose skills were honed in America’s losing wars of the twenty-first century. If you want a personal gauge of American decline, consider this: barely half a year into office, Donald J. Trump is already threatening to launch a nuclear war and exploring whether he has the power not just to pardon aides, friends, and family, but himself in case of future convictions. With the previous decade and a half in mind, here’s a question for you: Pardon me, but even if he pardons himself, who’s going to pardon the rest of us?

I mean, am I wrong, or aren’t we living in the mess of a world the sole superpower had a major hand in creating and was, once upon a not-so-distant time, all too eager to take credit for? So I find it strange that no one who matters here seems to feel the slightest responsibility for the planet’s dismal state. All the politicians, power players, and pundits in Washington who wouldn’t have hesitated to take complete credit, had the U.S. achieved anything like its fantasy of a Pax Americana world, couldn’t be quicker these days to place the blame for what’s actually happened elsewhere.

You know the tale. When it comes to the world’s ills, it’s Vlad, the Ukrainian Impaler, or Vlad, the Hacker, who’s spoiled so much. Among other things, he had, we’re told, the temerity to mess with the sacrosanct electoral system of the most democratic country on the planet, a place so pure that its denizens had never heard of such a shocking act — except, of course, for the scores of times Washington did exactly that to other countries. (Who in the U.S. these days even remembers “the first 9/11”?) The Russian president now gets much of the blame in Washington for the sorry mess of our world, from Eastern Europe and the unsettled NATO alliance to Syria. As for where the rest of the blame lands: it’s the Chinese, of course, who’ve had the nerve to flex their potential great-power muscles by bulking uptheir military, building fake “islands” in the South China Sea, and claiming parts of that body of water as their own, while not pressuring the North Koreans harder to stand down. It’s the Iranians who somehow are responsible for much of the mess in the Middle East, along with various jihadi successors and spin-offs from the original al-Qaeda. They take the rest of the blame for the world of chaos that continues to spread across the Greater Middle East, parts of Africa, and now the Philippines (not to mention the refugees fleeing embattled and desperate lands who are, we are regularly assured, threatening the continental U.S. with disastrous harm).

I don’t mean to say that such a crew (refugees excepted) shouldn’t bear some of the blame for our disintegrating world, but just remind me: Wasn’t the Islamic State born in an American military prison in Iraq? Weren’t the Iranian theocrats, those Great-Satan haters, born in the grim crucible of the Shah’s rule (and that of his brutal secret police) after the CIA helped hatch a coup that overthrew the elected prime minister of that country in 1953? Didn’t Washington ignore promises made to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and others and do its damnedest to move NATO’s line of control into parts of the former Soviet empire and associated satellite states?

Didn’t the Bush administration lump North Korea with Iraq, a nation it was eager to invade, and Iran, another it planned to take down sooner or later, in the infamous “axis of evil,” even though the North Koreans had nothing to do with either of those countries? In the most public manner possible, in a State of the Union address to the nation, the American president linked all three of those countries to terrorism and evil in what was unmistakably a “regime change” package. (If you were eager to convince the North Korean leadership that possessing a nuclear arsenal was the only way to go, that certainly was a good start.) In the process, didn’t George W. Bush and his officials functionally shred the Clinton-negotiated agreement by which the North Koreans had indeed frozen their nuclear program, in part by listing that country in its 2002 Nuclear Posture Review “as one of the states that might become the target of a preventive strike”?

And that’s just to begin to explore what it meant to be in the world of the sole superpower from 2001 to 2017. Remind me, for example, which country only recently announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the crucial global architecture for protecting the planetary environment, and so humanity’s future, from a grim kind of dismemberment?

Who’s Going to Sanction Us?

So here’s my next question: If you’re parceling out blame on this planet of ours, why just dump it on the evil doers? What about us? What about the sole superpower, its changing leadership, and the finest fighting force in the history of the universe? Don’t we have any responsibility for the situation we now face globally, from North Korea to the Greater Middle East, Ukraine to Venezuela? Didn’t the actions of America’s leaders and its national security state have anything to do with the world that called forth the Trumpian wave, which could now swamp so many ships of state? Maybe President Trump can indeed pardon himself (an issue being debated at the moment by constitutional scholars), but who pardoned everyone else who lent a hand, large or small, to the creation of what increasingly looks like a failed world?

Are there no high crimes and misdemeanors for which we Americans are responsible on a planet of the otherwise guilty?

Here’s one thing I think about sometimes on bleak nights. I’m sure you remember the way the Bush administration used fraudulent claims about weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs, as an excuse to launch an invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and occupy his country. In fact, there was indeed a weapon of mass destruction in Iraq and no one needed to search for it. I’m talking about the U.S. military.

It was also a weapon of destructive creation. It cracked Iraq open, set Shia and Sunni at each others’ throats, loosed a grim process of religious “cleansing” there and across the region, and so provided fertile ground for the worst of the worst. Its “successful” invasion was the crucial factor in preparing the way for the birth of al-Qaeda in Iraq and then of the Islamic State in a country where no such organizations had previously existed.

In truth, in every land across the Greater Middle East and Africa where that military has gotten involved in hostilities, from Libya to Iraq, Yemen to Afghanistan, it has left in its wake shaken or failed states, untold numbers of desperate refugees, and spreading terror movements. It has been a major player in a decade and a half of disaster that has helped destabilize significant parts of the planet. And yet when it comes to apportioning blame, the main people tarred with the disaster that’s been the war on terror are those who have been made into refugees in its wake, those who, we are told, would be a mortal danger to us, were we to welcome them here.

And while we’re at it, it might be worth mentioning one other weapon of mass destruction in our world: the rise to glory of the 1% and the widening inequality chasm that’s accompanied their successes. From Ronald Reagan’s presidency on, a series of administrations, Republican and Democratic, have presided over a country and a world growing ever more disastrously unequal, as the rich make staggering gains in income and wealth while the poor and working classes labor ever harder for, relatively speaking, ever less. Consider that but another story of devastation on what reputedly was once an American planet.

In such a global context, our Congress has been eager indeed to sanction the Russians, the Iranians, and the North Koreans for their roles in spreading misery, but who’s going to sanction us? Honestly, don’t you wonder how we got off the hook so easily for the world we swore that we alone would create? Isn’t the U.S. responsible for anything? Doesn’t anyone even remember?

We now have a president with the strangest demeanor imaginable, a narcissistic bully spouting a kind of rhetoric that eerily echoes the bellicose threats of North Korea. However, like the spreading terror movements and failed states of the Greater Middle East, he should be seen as a spawn of the actions, programs, and dreams of the sole superpower in its self-proclaimed glory and of its plans for a military-enforced global Pax Americana. By the time he’s done, President Trump may be responsible for high crimes, including nuclear ones, of a sort that even impeachment wouldn’t cover and who, these days, could ever miss his demeanor?

Blame the evil doers for the devastation visiting this planet? Sure thing. But us? Not for a second.

And while you’re at it, welcome to the post-American world.

Tom Engelhardt created and runs Tomdispatch.com, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow.

Charlottesville: Is America Becoming the Middle East?

Our neo-imperial wars may be coming home to roost.

By Juan Cole

The Nation

Americans have been so entangled in the Middle East for the past few decades that they have begun interpreting their own politics in the terms of that region. Is driving a car into protesters an ISIL tactic? Is pulling down statues of Confederate generals like destroying ancient Assyrian antiquities? Is Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad a mass murderer or a bulwark against fundamentalist hordes? How helpful is this importation of symbols from a region the United States has done so much to roil?

Joyce Karam points out that the white-nationalist marchers in Charlottesville had a love affair with Assad. KKK figure David Duke has been flying off to give speeches in Damascus for years, attracted by the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Syria’s ruling Baath Party and its enmity for Israel (about which it mainly talks a good game). The white nationalists also admire the Russian Federation as a bastion of whiteness. Russian president Vladimir Putin has put his country’s air force at the service of Assad. Both Putin’s and America’s far right (and some elements of the American far left) see Assad as a bulwark against Muslim terrorists.

President Donald Trump struck Syria with cruise missiles last spring after allegations that the regime had used sarin gas on villagers. Breitbart, the webzine built up by current White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as a voice for the “alt-right” (white nationalists in business suits or khakis and polo shirts), suggested that the strike was the work of Ivanka Trump. Duke and a neo-Nazi site also attributed the strike to “Jewish extremism” and “manipulation” by Jews, respectively.

Anti-Semitic slurs have a long history in America, but connecting them to Israel and Middle East policy is a recent wrinkle.

The far-right gangs who invaded Charlottesville last weekend chanted, “You will not replace us,” but at some point changed the slogan to “Jews will not replace us.” This sentiment reflects conspiracy theories about globalization’s being the work of Jewish business interests, leading to the offshoring of American jobs or the importation of cheap labor from abroad. These slurs have a long history in America, going back at least to Father Charles Coughlin’s Christian Front in the 1930s, but connecting them to Israel and Middle East policy is a recent wrinkle.

The Daily Beast and many other commenters referred to the homicide by automobile, allegedly committed by James Fields Jr., which robbed 32-year-old Heather Heyer of her life and injured 19 others, as an “ISIS-style terrorist attack.”

The reference was to the use of vehicles by lone-wolf sympathizers of the declining Muslim extremist group ISIS (IS, ISIL, Daesh) to ram civilians. Although ISIS did not pioneer the technique, which has been used dozens of times by terrorists of various stripes for years, it has been wielded by the terrorist group’s acolytes with special lethality. In July 2016, a man of Tunisian background drove a heavy truck into crowds in Nice, France, killing more than 80. On June 3 of this year, two men of Moroccan heritage and one born in Pakistan launched a vehicular terrorism attack on London Bridge, killing eight, mostly tourists from abroad.

The alleged perpetrator in Charlottesville resembles some of the young ISIL terrorists in Europe.

The far right quickly took up the vehicle attack as a tactic. In an apparent revenge incident, a British man drove a van into congregants issuing from London’s Finsbury Park mosque on June 19, killing one and wounding 11.

The alleged perpetrator in Charlottesville, James Fields, ironically enough, resembles some of the young ISIL terrorists in Europe. He idolized Nazi Germany and immersed himself in the minutiae of its military history. He tried to join the Army, but was discharged after basic training for not meeting requirements. His wheelchair-bound mother’s 911 calls allege that he abused and terrorized her, at one point pulling a knife on her. He is said to have been prescribed medication for anger issues. The Nice attacker, Mohamed Bouhlel, was also accused of having anger issues and of abusing his family.

A predictable controversy also broke out about whether the alleged Charlottesville attacker could be termed a terrorist, as opposed to being a hothead who flew into a murderous rage. Some feared that tossing around the charge “terrorism” could encourage the government to attempt to widen its domestic-terrorism statutes at a time when the Justice Department is increasingly hostile to any dissent. Others, myself included, pointed out that if Fields had been a Muslim, there would have been no controversy about using the label.

This debate is paralleled in the Middle East. Many who support the remaining rebels in Syria are justifiably angry that all are being tagged as Al Qaeda or ISIS, pointing out that many just wanted to escape the tyranny of the Baath one-party state. The Lebanese political elite does not agree with the United States and Israel that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization (it functions as a national guard for the Lebanese south, given the long history of Israeli attempts to annex that region). The unsettled character of the definition of terrorist groups in the Middle East led neophyte Donald Trump simply to assume that the Lebanese government is an ally of the United States against Hezbollah—which is actually a part of the Lebanese government and has been for many years.

The American right wing has for some time peddled a meme that removing or vandalizing Confederate monuments resembles ISIL’s attacks on historic sites.

In the wake of the Charlottesville atrocity, left-leaning crowds gathered to protest the agenda of the white nationalists. In Durham, North Carolina, a crowd pulled down a Confederate statue. The American right wing has for some time peddled a meme that removing or vandalizing Confederate monuments resembles ISIS’s attacks on historic sites. The latter, a puritan Muslim iconoclastic movement, sees ancient Assyrian and other pagan statues and monuments as works of Satan (rather as in 391 CE, when Roman patriarch Theophilus and his followers tore down a pagan temple, the Serapeum, in Alexandria, as a den of demons).

The statues of Confederate figures, however, are hardly works of long standing. Most were erected in the early or mid-20th century as a movement of official white nationalism in the South, celebrating Jim Crow, or implicitly rejecting the civil-rights movement. Many see them as celebrations of the region’s slave culture. As for history, the American right wing was positively ecstatic when Russians and other ex-Soviets tore down statues of Stalin, and in 2003, the Bush administration orchestrated the pulling down of the statue of Saddam Hussein in American-occupied Iraq. The issue does not appear to be the preservation of history (which could be addressed by putting Confederate statues in a museum, where they could be contextualized). It appears to be the preservation of the history of white nationalism.

That Americans are measuring themselves against the Middle East is no accident. The era of US neo-imperialism in that region, which changed in a big way with Ronald Reagan’s encouragement of the Muslim far right in its guerrilla insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and went on steroids with George W. Bush after 9/11, has helped affect how Americans see themselves at home. In a ratcheting movement, Reagan enabled the rise of Al Qaeda, and Bush the rise of ISIL, providing further justifications for the new militarism. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have cycled through the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Headlines continually blare about the foreign terrorist threat, taking the spotlight off the dangerous white nationalists at home. While most veterans are highly admirable people, the Bush administration, desperate for canon fodder, lowered military standards, and it is well known that some white nationalists sought to serve in his wars as part of their ideology. One such appears to be the leader of one of the hate groups that marched in Charlottesville. American wars abroad have fed into the new white supremacism, and our longest wars are warping domestic politics. The answer to the question in my title may be “yes.”

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

Not Rights but Justice: It’s Time to Make Nazis Afraid Again

The history of anti-fascism is not one of asking; it’s one of direct confrontation.

By Natasha Lennard

The Nation

The intolerable events in Charlottesville bring new urgency to an old debate: Should we allow neo-Nazis a public platform? Every aspect of the Unite the Right rally—not only its bloody denouement—stands as grounds for a resounding “no.” With torches, swastikas, metal poles crashing into a black man’s skull, and a Dodge Charger plowing into defenseless bodies, the far right has made undeniable what was already clear: They are enemies, not political interlocutors. This makes it all the more crucial to delineate what we do or do not mean when we demand an end to according space for speech and assembly to far-right racists.

In the last year of Trump-emboldened white nationalism, the debate, largely shaped by the far right, has rested on a fulcrum of First Amendment rights. The right of anyone to speak publicly, the neo-fascists say, is the very freedom that actual fascism would see decimated. And it is a line that has found a comfortable home with the liberal commentary. This view finds its best iteration in that old quote so regularly attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (It was actually written by British Voltaire biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall.)

And it was on these grounds that the ACLU defended the Unite the Right rally’s right to demonstrate at Emancipation Park on Saturday—work for which the liberal organization has received censure from anti-racist activists, especially in the wake of Saturday’s terror attack. In turn, liberal commentators have jumped to the defense of the civil-liberties group and the need to defend robust constitutional rights.

Much of the anger at the ACLU stems from an understandable desire that this champion of liberal and righteous causes not give time nor resources to hatemongers. Which is to misunderstand that defending neo-Nazi speech is profoundly liberal work, however unrighteous. In defending the civil liberties of neo-Nazi organizers, the ACLU was just doing what they say they do. The mistake is to conflate the defense of liberties with the struggle for social justice. They are not the same thing, and we stymie our efforts to crush the racist far right—which we must—if we remain confined to a rights discourse.

In The Intercept on Monday, Glenn Greenwald made a reasonable point in defense of the ACLU, that “the least effective tactic [in response to an event like Charlottesville] is to try to empower the state to suppress the expression of their views.” What Greenwald left conspicuously absent, however, is that most anti-fascist “no platformers” are asking for no such thing.

We could argue for a reconfiguration of constitutional rights such that they are denied to intolerable speech, beyond the already existing statutes against incitement. An expansion of hate-speech statutes aiming to render illegal events like Unite the Right would not entail an immediate spiral into authoritarian censorship—Germany, France, and Hungary, for example, all have laws against certain Nazistic displays; in Germany, swastikas are illegal. These countries are no less “free” than America by virtue of this. But all three countries also have flourishing neo-Nazi scenes who don’t struggle (much like the American alt-right) to operate with veiled symbolism and euphemism when traditional symbols and affiliations are banned. The curtailing of existing rights is unlikely to be an effective bulwark against neo-Nazi, fascist organizing.

This is more than a question of effectiveness, however. If we reduce the question of whether to give neo-Nazis a platform to the question of whether they should have a right to a platform, we invoke the state as giver or denier of this right. And I agree with Greenwald et al. here that this is a slippery slope to avoid, especially under Trump.

But the anti-fascist project is not one of asking for better statutes or a reconfiguration of rights. Nor is it a project of asking social-media leviathans to have further oversight over content. My allies who traveled to Charlottesville to confront the Unite the Right, who shut down Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley, and who punched Richard Spencer in DC are not asking Donald Trump, nor Jeff Sessions, nor any police department to take action against the white supremacy that undergirds their authority. Firstly, because such energy might as well be spent praying to gods that don’t exist. But above all because the history of anti-fascism (antifa) is not one of presuming the good faith of state power. It is not one of asking. It is a history of direct and confrontational intervention—the sort of which is itself often not protected by a rights framework. There is no right to punch Richard Spencer.

It is thus a profound misunderstanding of the antifa position (in which I include myself) to suggest we are in the business of seeing rights curtailed. We are, to take some liberties with the words of Inglourious Basterds’ inimitable Lt. Aldo Raine, in the fightin’-Nazis business. Antifa is a promise to neo-Nazis and their bedfellows that we will confront them in the streets; we will expose them online and inform their place of employ. We are not asking venues to deny space to far-right events; we are vowing that all far-right events will be bombarded and besieged.

This position has provoked paranoiac reactions from liberal centrists, citing low-level property damage and a few neo-Nazi black eyes as a rise in leftist terror. One of the major critiques of antifa is tactical, claiming that physical confrontation can backfire by alienating moderates and centrists and provoking only further violence from the right. The intra-left argument about radical counter-violence, which arises over protest tactics outside of the antifa debate, will not be resolved in these brief paragraphs. Suffice it to say that the neo-Nazi skinhead communities of the 1980s did not chase themselves out of the punk scene and into obscurity—they were fought.

As I have previously noted in this publication, the history of anti-fascism in 20th-century Europe is largely one of fighting squads, like the international militant brigades fighting Franco in Spain, the Red Front-Fighters’ League in Germany who were fighting Nazis since the party’s formation in the 1920s, the print workers who fought ultra-nationalists in Austria, and the 43 Group in England fighting Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. In every iteration these mobilizations entailed physical combat. The failure of early-20th-century fighters to keep fascist regimes at bay speaks more to the paucity of numbers than the problem of their tactics. That is a lesson we can learn: Gather in greater and greater numbers.

The status quo is not in the habit of shifting unless those who maintain it are under threat. The neo-Nazis of the now are not the disenfranchised and disaffected, they are not the outlying fringe—they are the tip of the iceberg of white supremacy that has been the American status quo long before Trump’s ascendancy. White supremacy has never receded, because it was asked politely. The onus is on centrists and liberals to examine their own values if they would rather decry the counter-violence of those willing to put their bodies on the line against neo-Nazis than embrace a diversity of tactics in the face of the intractable problem of racism in America.

One hopes that seeing Donald Trump deploy the same putrid two-sidesism after Charlottesville will give liberals pause for thought on the dangers of such false equivalence. After Charlottesville—and this does feel like a turning point about which we will say “before” and “after”—we can either wait for the right words from politicians and the right answers from institutions. Or we can take it upon ourselves to confront this hate where it lives, works, organizes, and assembles. This is not a question of rights, it’s a question of justice.

On Sunday, Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler attempted to give a press conference to “tell the story of what really happened.” He began by blaming “anti-white hate” for the atrocities of the previous day, but was soon forced off stage by a crowd of baying protesters, who ran after the white nationalist (who was duly protected by police). Panicked, he ran into a flower bed, eyes wide, head darting nervously. For anti-fascists, this was brief solace in an otherwise awful weekend. And, for our renewed vow after Charlottesville to Make Nazis Afraid Again, it was a promising start.

Natasha Lennard is a British-born, Brooklyn-based writer of news and political analysis, focusing on how power functions and how it is challenged. She writes regularly for The Intercept, Al Jazeera America, and Fusion.

In Charlottesville, It Felt Like the Confederacy Was Trying to Rise Again

But progressives, leftists, and people of conscience were determined not to let the hate warriors get their way.

By Jordan Green

The Nation

August 15, 2017

Charlottesville, Virginia—The scene at Emancipation Park on August 12 felt every bit like urban civil war: A phalanx of black-helmeted white supremacists—members of the Traditionalist Workers Party, Identity Evropa, American Vanguard, and other hate warriors—commanded the steps at the southeast corner of the park, repelling attempted incursions by Wobblies, communists, and a multiracial cast of irregulars eager to fight back. Water bottles and other projectiles flew in both directions, while police tear-gas canisters thudded into an adjacent parking lot, often times lobbed back into the park by plucky leftists. As the violence boiled over the green rim of the park, the intersection of Market and 2nd Streets became the contested arena, with combatants attacking each other with fists and sticks during brief, intense skirmishes. Leftist partisans frequently assisted comrades overcome by tear gas out of the combat zone and left them to the care of activist medics.

By 11 a.m., Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, and police ordered demonstrators to disperse, shutting down the Unite the Right rally before its official noontime start. But those who had driven miles to brandish Confederate flags and chant Nazi slogans—who had gathered to rage and brawl and intimidate—weren’t ready to quit. Some limited their aggression to verbal assaults, like the man wearing a Confederate flag headband and carrying a sign denouncing Charlottesville’s African-American vice mayor, Wes Bellamy, whom I witnessed arguing with a black man holding a framed photograph of Barack and Michelle Obama. Daniel Highberger, a patriot militiaman from Roanoke wearing a sidearm and body armor, insisted to a pair of masked leftists and a man wearing an Obama T-shirt that the Civil War could have been averted had President Lincoln respected Southern states’ rights.

But others were committed to more violent means. After they were ousted from Emancipation Park, white supremacists in helmets and body armor marched down Market Street, swinging sticks at leftists who tried to block their path. And a white supremacist named James Alex Fields weaponized his silver Dodge Challenger by ramming it into a peaceful crowd of anti-racist counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal from Charlottesville, and wounding 19 others. A few hours later, two Virginia State police, Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, who had been monitoring the scene from a helicopter, died after their craft fell from the sky.

Amid the soul-searching that has followed, a mix of shock and anguished hashtags, including the earnestly trending #ThisIsNotUs, have been pinging across Internet. Yet it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the escalating political violence in the United States materialized in Charlottesville, a progressive college town ranked as one of the “healthiest and happiest” cities in the country. The number of hate groups has surged in the last few years, their ranks sprinkled across all quadrants of the United States. And the same far-right actors who descended on the Charlottesville—their bigotry uncorked by a president who won the election with overt appeals to white nationalism—have mustered around the battle cry of “free speech” in left-friendly hotspots like Berkeley and Portland, Oregon. Indeed, if there is a lesson to be learned from the extreme right’s day of rage, it is that Charlottesville is America: The white-supremacist politics of Dixie long ago burst their borders and spread throughout the country.

Consider the principal far-right figures who appeared at Unite the Right, many of whom hail from outside the South. The former rapper and far-right troll Baked Alaska, aka Tim Gionet, is from, yes, Alaska. Nathan Damigo, founder of Identity Evropa, is a native of Silicon Valley. Richard Spencer, the affluent, fresh-scrubbed face of the “alt-right” faction of the white-supremacist movement, grew up in Dallas and attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and has lived in Montana. And Fields, the 20-year-old white supremacist who is charged with second-degree murder in the car-ramming attack, traveled from northwest Ohio to rally with American Vanguard at Emancipation Park.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the extreme right’s day of rage, it is that Charlottesville is America: The white-supremacist politics of Dixie long ago burst their borders and spread throughout the country.

Still, the South remains the touchstone for white supremacists, and the planned removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park gave them a potent rallying point. The false narrative of white victimization that undergirds today’s white-supremacist ideology resonates strongly with the self-pitying “Lost Cause” mythology surrounding the Confederacy. So does the vision of the South as a vanished Eden, a cradle of white American “culture” to be protected, even resurrected.

“The European people are facing genocide, not only on this continent, but in Europe and any place where we call home,” said Matthew Heimbach, a white separatist, head of the Indiana-based Traditionalist Worker Party, and one of the organizers of Unite the Right, in a promotional video for the event. “The international Jewish system, the capitalist system and the forces of globalization want to destroy our people. They’re doing this through mass immigration. They’re doing this through so-called hate-speech laws. They’re doing this through the prosecution of nationalist organizers. But they’re also doing it by erasing us.

“In the South they are tearing down our monuments to our Confederate heroes,” Heimbach continued. “The new South—the South the globalists want to create—is a South without Southern people. They are trying to not just demographically displace us, but to destroy our legacy, destroy our birthright, and to destroy our children’s inheritance of knowing who their ancestors were and who their ancestors were willing to die for, which is them.”

Despite the horrors of the day—or, just as likely, because of them—the organizers declared Unite the Right a raging success. In a post-showdown interview with The New York Times, Matthew Heimbach gloated, “We achieved all of our objectives. We showed that our movement is not just online, but growing physically. We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America. We had zero vehicles damaged, all our people accounted for, and moved a large amount of men and materials in and out of the area. I think we did an incredibly impressive job.”

Richard Spencer boasted to Rolling Stone that he and his “alt-right” disciples were all “in a really good mood.” “I think we’re going to have to come back to Charlottesville,” he said.

Yet, if the official line was jubilation, the reality is far murkier, and serious questions remain about the strength and cohesion of the many permutations of white supremacist, Neo-Nazi, Southern nationalist, Ku Klux Klanner, and patriot militiaman who showed up in Charlottesville. In the days leading up to the ingathering, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported “bickering galore” among the many factions, most notably among the patriot militia movement, which was riven by internal division over whether to stand with the white supremacists.

Patriot militias, whose members often call themselves “3 percenters” based on the premise that only 3 percent of the population during the colonial era was committed enough to take up arms against the British, are a particularly coveted target for recruitment by more overt white supremacists. The militias, which maintain a strong presence throughout Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee, are more numerically significant than hardcore white supremacists, tend to be more rooted in their communities, and are more likely to have military-service experience, making them a potentially valuable security force. But while they are staunchly of the right, they tend to define themselves above all by an antigovernment ideology.

In the end, quite a few of these groups showed. They were the hyper-militarized figures sporting assault rifles and flak jackets and looking like a troop of Blackwater contractors. Some positioned themselves on the periphery, framing their involvement as a simple matter of protecting free speech and public order; others stood right alongside the white supremacists at Emancipation Park.

Billy Sessions, a member of the patriot group the Hiwaymen who came to Charlottesville, represented the more gladiatorial end of the spectrum in a movement, in a Facebook Live video posted four days before the rally that he headlined “My philosophy on the war of liberal division.”

But as the carnage unspooled in Charlottesville, the threads on Facebook livestreams by patriot activists on the scene were rife with troll comments asking whether it was worth three people dead, why they weren’t expressing sympathy for Heather Heyer, whether they liked being associated with white supremacists, whether they would defend the free-speech rights of ISIS and the like.

As the battle over Confederate monuments shifts to new sites like Richmond, Virginia; and Lexington, Kentucky, and future agitation by Richard Spencer and his ilk promise continuing clashes, self-reflection by patriot activists may help determine whether Charlottesville was a turning point or the first shot in a new civil war.

People of conscience are determined not to let the latter happen. In the days since, thousands have rallied, mourned, held vigils, and vowed to defend vulnerable communities from the hate and brutality of white supremacy. Yet for those who were on the scene in Charlottesville, the scars are deep. The attack took a toll on the militant leftists who traveled to the city to confront the right, as well as many in the community.

Becca Aubrey, an Internationalist Socialist Organization member from Greensboro, was near the intersection of 4th Street and Water Street where James Alex Fields plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters marching there. In the moments before, the mood was jubilant. “I was feeling safe, and we were standing in solidarity together,” she said. “I didn’t think for a second we were in danger. We felt like we were doing what we came to do. We felt we weren’t going to—if not run them out of town, then at least show them we’re not okay with their racist hate.”

When the attack happened, Aubrey thought it was an explosion.

“I remember all of a sudden cars were coming towards me,” she said. “There were people on the ground and then coming back out from under them when it backed away.”

Tanesha Hudson, a local activist with Showing Up for Racial Justice, reflected on the trauma during a speak-out at McGuffey Park three hours after the attack.

“I really don’t know how to feel about today,” she said. “I know people didn’t come out here to lose their life. I know people came out here thinking that the police would at least protect us. We are citizens here in Charlottesville that pay our taxes, and our tax dollars didn’t work for us today; it worked for them. They were protecting them. They escorted them, they walked them out to make sure they were okay. They never once, never once even offered or lifted a finger. The only thing they lifted for us to do was shoot tear gas. They never once did anything to protect us—the people who are standing for peace and unity and love and togetherness.”

As she spoke, mourners laid flowers in a pile in the center of the park to honor those killed and injured in the attack. The mood in the stricken crowd modulated between defeat and resolve.

“This is like a replay of Jim Crow,” Hudson said. “I mean, I don’t know what other way to put it. I stand here as a young black lady, and I feel like I’m living through Jim Crow. I feel like today was a replay of 1960. Things I hear my grandmother and grandfather talk about, I witnessed today.”

Jordan Green is the senior editor of Triad City Beat in Greensboro, North Carolina.

What Happened to All Those Foreclosed Houses?

Wall Street bought them — and is now leasing them out and driving up rents.

By Jim Hightower

We know that millions of American families lost their homes after Wall Street’s 2007 financial crash. But where did all those houses go?

It turns out that Wall Streeters themselves formed profiteering investment groups that rushed out to scoop up tens of thousands of those foreclosed properties, usually grabbing them on the cheap at courthouse auctions in suburban metro areas that were hard-hit by the crash.

These moneyed syndicates have deep, deep pockets, so they easily outbid local buyers to take possession of the majority of the single-family homes being sold off in many distressed places.

Why are they buying? To turn the homes into rental properties and become the dominant suburban landlord, controlling the local market and constantly jacking up rents.

For example, the Wall Street Journal found that in Nashville’s suburb of Spring Hill, just four of these predatory giants own 700 houses — giving this oligopoly of absentee investors ownership of three-fourths of all rental houses in town.

One of these bulk buyers is an arm of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm. Another is an equity outfit that was spun out of the housing speculation department of Goldman Sachs. And still another is a billionaire whose investors include the Alaska state oil fund.

Not only do rents jump dramatically when such outfits seize a market, but Wall Street’s intention is to impose “a new way” on housing America: They’re pushing a cultural shift in which home ownership is no longer part of the American Dream, and tenants are taught to accept annual rent increases as the price of having a home.

So the banksters crash the economy, you lose income and your home, they buy your house at auction, then they rent it to you at an ever-increasing price. The “new way” is the same old story: The rich robbing the rest of us.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

It’s Not About ‘White Culture’

There’s no way to march with KKK members and Nazi flags in a non-hateful way.

By Jill Richardson

“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” a white nationalist protester in Charlottesville told Newsweek. But, he claimed, he’s “not an angry racist.”

White nationalists often use this messaging. They claim they aren’t racists; they just want to celebrate white European culture and heritage.

What’s unreasonable about that, they say? Shouldn’t every group of people be allowed to celebrate their own culture?

There are two problems here.

One is historical baggage. History doesn’t have many examples of people innocently “celebrating white European culture,” but it does have an awful lot of examples of ugly and sometimes violent racism perpetrated by white people of European descent. Slavery. Jim Crow. Lynchings. Hitler.

That isn’t to say that Americans of European heritage don’t have a culture to celebrate. Not at all.

They just generally celebrate it based on national traditions and not in a generic, pan-white-people sort of way. You might celebrate Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day, for example. Or you could celebrate French culture on Bastille Day with French wine and food.

In America, we celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and Thanksgiving with turkey. But these holidays are for all Americans, not just the white ones.

America has never been a white country. It was once entirely populated with Native Americans. Then the first Europeans arrived, and they soon brought the first enslaved Africans. All of those groups, as well as all of the people who followed later, contributed to making our country and our culture what it is today.

Second, the goal of “celebrating white European culture” is a thinly veiled lie.

It’s a lie because the marchers were carrying Nazi flags, flags associated with the genocide of 6 million Jews and countless others the Nazis wanted to remove from humanity’s gene pool.

It’s a lie because the marchers were carrying Confederate battle flags, the flag of a people willing to fight to the death for their right to enslave other human beings.

It’s a lie because the marchers were marching alongside KKK members, whose organization have terrorized and murdered people in the name of white supremacy for over a century.

And it’s a lie because the people who are supposedly simply celebrating their own lily white skin and its culture frequently and routinely make disgusting racist remarks about people of color.

And it doesn’t matter what the attendees or the organizers of the event claim they’re doing if the reality is an ugly outpouring of vile racism.

If your event looks like a Klan rally in which white pointy hoods were replaced with tiki torches, it’s no innocent cultural celebration. Period.

As a more general rule, if you have to work hard to tell others you aren’t a racist — you’re probably a racist. And if you’re marching behind the same flag as others who are spewing hate, your presence there is an endorsement of their hate, even if you aren’t saying those things yourself.

Don’t believe the lies of white nationalists who say they simply want to celebrate white culture. There’s no way to march with KKK members and Nazi flags in a non-hateful way.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Racists Look Emboldened. They’re Actually Terrified.

They act from the cowardly fear that valuing someone’s life devalues their own.

By Olivia Alperstein

The act of terrorism that killed one person and injured others in Charlottesville, Virginia was horrific. There will be more days like these.

Angry, cowardly, fear-mongering white supremacists have been emboldened by a president they see as the last great hope for the purity of the white race. They came for Charlottesville intent on hate and destruction. They were met instead with an outpouring of humanity from around the nation.

We stand united against hatred and bigotry, and we stand on the right side of history. They are taking to the street with Tiki torches against the tide of equality. They want to strike fear into our hearts, but it is they who are afraid of a better world.

I have bad news for these people, including the young man who intentionally plowed his vehicle into a crowd of innocent people. See, we’ve had dark moments in our history, when people were enslaved and dehumanized: Not to give away too much for those who aren’t familiar with our history, but the arc of the universe has bent towards justice.

We’ve had the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act, many marches on Washington. We’ve had boycotts, protests, rallies, and sit-ins. We’ve had Supreme Court cases and constitutional amendments. The symbols that white supremacists march with represent failed political movements like the Confederacy and Nazism.

White supremacists can run from the truth, by they can’t hide from it: Brick by brick, person by person, millions of people have created an unstoppable movement towards justice and equity. This movement will continue to rise and break down barriers.

These people fear a world in which we’ve made progress to end racism and bigotry. They fear people whose skin does not look like their own. They fear people with different colored skin falling in love, getting married, and creating a future together. They fear words like equality, justice, and equity; they fear words like peace, harmony, and reparations.

They fear that if other people’s lives matter equally to theirs, their lives will somehow lose value. It’s a silly, cowardly point of view that’s just… sad. As a popular T-shirt supporting Colin Kaepernick reads, “Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.”

Poor white supremacists. They don’t know what they’re missing.

It must take so much energy to spend every moment of your life hating people you’ve never met — including entire races of people. It must take so much energy to hate people like me, the product of immigration from several different nations. It must take so much energy to hate people like my family, the product of interracial and interreligious coupling.

It must take so much energy to hate people like my former neighbor, a grandchild of enslaved people who went on to become a lawyer and then a judge.

These people may burn crosses or Tiki torches, may hurl rocks or tear gas, may wear white sheets or carry Confederate flags. They can commit acts of violence or drive around threateningly with their MAGA bumper stickers. They will not stop people like us from overpowering their acts of hate with unwavering acts of love.

One day, hopefully, they will come to realize the error of their racist thinking and reject their white supremacist ideology. They will embrace their neighbors. They will give back to their communities and work toward a world free of fear and violence.

The right to be treated with humanity and dignity is a universal value. Our nation is stronger than hatred and bigotry.

Olivia Alperstein is the Deputy Director of Communications and Policy at Progressive Congress. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

White Supremacy Carries More Than a Tiki Torch

Republicans are condemning Trump’s coddling of white supremacists. Can they speak out against racist laws, too?

By Peter Certo

Our president has no trouble naming his enemies — CNN, Rosie O’Donnell, Nordstrom, immigrants, Muslims, the all-women version of Ghostbusters, etc. etc.

But when it comes to violent white supremacists, his passive streak is impossible to miss. When neo-Nazis and Klansmen incited a riot in Charlottesville, Trump famously blamed “many sides.”

Even after a belated statement finally condemning the racist perpetrators, Trump immediately backtracked. The very next day, he blamed the fictitious “alt-left” for the violence and insisted there were “many fine people” among the torch-bearing Confederates.

This was far too much even for many Republicans.

Senator Jeff Flake accused the president of “making excuses” for “acts of domestic terrorism.” John McCain insisted “there’s no moral equivalency between racists” and their opponents. Marco Rubio worried the president was resurrecting an “old evil,” while Texas Rep. Will Hurd called on Trump to apologize.

These Republicans (and many others) deserve credit for speaking out. But condemning Nazis is the lowest bar in the broader fight against white supremacy.

The fact is, the policy machinery of that supremacy — that is, the laws that systematically ensure negative outcomes for people of color — hums hot as ever. No hoods or flags required.

I wonder, for instance, whether these Republicans will also condemn their former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions. As Trump’s attorney general, Sessions is preparing an assault on affirmative action practices at universities as we speak.

Before that, Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek stiff mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, which is a major driver of the mass incarceration crisis that disproportionately locks up nonwhite Americans (“the new Jim Crow,” law professor Michelle Alexander calls it).

Sessions also looks likely to tear up federal reform plans for police departments with documented histories of brutality and racism.

What does his party have to say about that?

I wonder, too, whether they’ll call out Trump’s bogus panel on “voter fraud” led by Kris Kobach. Every study on the subject shows that “voter ID” laws and other restrictions do almost nothing to reduce in-person voter fraud. Makes sense: In-person fraud is virtually non-existent.

But these laws do have a proven effect in keeping African Americans, Latinos, and poor people away from the polls. That’s exactly why they’re still cropping up in GOP-controlled states all over the country.

And what will these Republicans say about the states — all 27 of them — who’ve passed laws preventing cities from raising their minimum wages? That directly lowers wages in jobs dominated by women and people of color, who lag far behind white men in both income and wealth.

Finally, will they speak out against the several states now considering laws that would let drivers run over protesters who block roadways?

Those roadway-blocking tactics were popularized by Black Lives Matter activists and supporters of indigenous pipeline resisters, so it’s little wonder who these lawmakers imagine being run over. Especially after a neo-Nazi rammed his car into the anti-racists gathered in Charlottesville.

I’m glad the Republicans now speaking out say they loathe white supremacy. Good.

But white supremacy is more than racist name-calling or flag-waving. Most days, it’s a mundane system that pits the law against our non-white neighbors — and laws don’t need anyone to “feel” racist for them to work. They can look perfectly colorblind on paper, but they’re not.

Republicans — and all of us — need to be every bit as ready to name the machinery of white supremacy as we are to condemn its nastiest supporters. Otherwise we’re just making excuses, too.

Peter Certo is the editorial manager of the Institute for Policy Studies and the editor of OtherWords.org.

No, Affirmative Action Isn’t Keeping White Students Down

Enrollment rates are still higher for whites than blacks or Latinos. Now is the worst time to roll back affirmative action.

By Jessicah Pierre

There’s a saying: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

I thought of that when I heard about the Trump administration’s recent moves against affirmative action.

According to The New York Times, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Session, is looking for lawyers to work on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

Well, that’s the point of affirmative action, right?

When President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order on affirmative action in 1961, the intent was to counteract discrimination that minorities faced in the job hiring process. Since then, many colleges and universities have instituted similar standards to make sure women and students of color are given a fair shot at receiving a higher education.

But the way Trump sees it, it’s white students who are discriminated against.

There have already been a number of cases where white students have challenged universities that implement affirmative action. But in 2016, the Supreme Court decided in Fisher v. University of Texas that affirmative action is in fact constitutional and doesn’t hurt white students.

End of discussion, right? Wrong.

After the 2016 presidential elections, a new poll was released by HuffPost/YouGov showing that more than half the nation thought that blacks and Muslims faced a lot of discrimination. Yet the same report revealed that most Trump supporters believed white people were the real victims of racial bias.

Now, Trump’s Justice Department is trying to rally that base by arguing that affirmative action hurts white students.

This argument assumes that students of color no longer face discriminatory barriers. But if you read the news, it’s obvious that this isn’t true. The horrifying white nationalist rally and domestic terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia is more than enough to prove that minorities are still a target.

But beyond that, African Americans still face economic strains due to racial bias. A 2011 study, for example, found that the median white household wealth remains about 16 times greater than average black wealth.

Receiving a college degree is often touted as a pathway to economic security. But last year, a study by the National Center for Educational Statistics showed that racial divides remain. While college enrollment is increasing across the board, it found that enrollment rates for college-aged white students (42 percent) remain higher than for both black and Hispanic students (34 percent.)

White students also graduate college at higher rates than black and Hispanic students, according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

While affirmative action has helped lower some barriers created by racial bias, black and Hispanic students still lag behind their white peers in enrollment. Overall, can anyone really say the practice is keeping whites down?

Racism permeates every aspect of our economy and society — whether it’s police brutality, the criminal justice system, housing discrimination, the racial wealth divide, or college admissions.

Stripping away affirmative action, one of the only race-based practices meant to counteract these issues, would send a direct message to racist whites that the administration has their back — at the expense of the livelihood America continues to take from people of color.

Jessicah Pierre is the Inequality Media Specialist at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org

Donald Trump’s Rise is Linked to a ‘War’ Most Don’t Realize We’re Still Fighting

By Allen Clifton

Let’s talk about a time in this country when groups of rural/southern white, ultra-religious voters vilified people of color; harbored a strong disdain for the federal government; hated immigrants; believed states’ rights gave them the ability to infringe on the Constitutional rights of others; felt their country was “being taken away from them”; used religion to justify a lot of their ignorance; and spoke openly about their belief that armed revolts against a government they felt was “tyrannical” were “patriotic.”

While that sounds an awful lot like I’m talking about the days of the Civil War, or even segregation, I’m actually talking about the modern day Republican party, Donald Trump, and most of the people who support them.

You see, we’re still fighting the Civil War.

Sure, while the military part of the war ended long ago, the “war” in this country between those who believe in a progressive, diverse society free of unconstitutional theocratical rule in our government where every American is given — not their God-given rights — but the rights given to them by our Constitution, is still very much being waged.

I was born, raised, and still live in the South — Texas, to be exact. While support for actual slavery is clearly not high (though there are still plenty of racists who wish it was legal), racism is still not remotely uncommon. Furthermore, the mindset at the heart of the ignorance that’s been the driving force behind the most shameful parts of American history is still there.

It’s a paranoid, distrusting mindset. A mindset of “me and my kin” are the only ones I trust — though that can also be taken as “me and people who look like me.” It’s the rural/country mindset that looks down upon people who live in “the big city.” It’s people who grow up in a bubble, heavily isolated from the rest of the world. Not that millions of these folks don’t get out and do things in other towns, cities, states, or even countries — they do — but a lot of them don’t.

I know people who view living in a town of 400 people as a symbol of pride. The thought of living in a city, or even a moderately-sized town, sounds like torture to them.

One of the last places I lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area before moving to Austin was a budding down of around 35,000 or so. The town itself was “booming,” becoming a popular place for people to move, with new businesses and restaurants springing up everywhere. A town that was once just a nothing place, 20 miles outside of the city limits of Dallas, was growing, evolving — progressing.

And the locals hated it. They couldn’t stand seeing more and more of the types of people who they felt didn’t belong there.

What people in more “liberal” areas, or who’ve never lived in smaller towns, need to realize is that new ideas aren’t readily introduced in more rural areas of the country. Sure, some people grow up and get the heck out of town, moving on to bigger and better things, but most don’t. In many of these towns the families living there today have been in and around that area for generations — many dating back to the days of the Civil War.

That’s what I mean by “isolation.” You have a small sample size of people who’ve mostly “isolated” themselves for generations in places where “outsiders” often don’t come. It’s not like going to a larger city, or even moderately sized town, where you meet people from all different walks of life. In many of these towns you have a “side” on which certain races/ethnicities live and it’s rare to see someone from the wrong race/ethnicity move into the “wrong side.”

While it’s true that each generation gets slightly more progressive (yes, it is happening), in these areas of the country progress happens at a much slower pace than areas of the country that are much more diverse, populated, and culturally mixed. Of course there’s still racism in cities or more populated areas, but as someone who’s lived in both, trust me, there are differences in racism between rural areas and larger cities.

My point is, what we’re seeing now is just a continuation of the “non-military” part of a Civil War that truly never ended. When slavery was abolished, they turned to segregation. When Democrats (who were once the party of racism) shed their shameful roots, embraced equality, and President Lyndon B. Johnson ended segregation, these rural/southern whites flocked to a GOP that was in the midst of the “southern strategy,” pandering to white resentment that no longer had a home among Democrats. This was the time when staunch racists such as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms abandoned the Democratic Party and became Republicans.

These were the transformative years. After holding on to segregation — which was really just an extension of slavery — these rural/southern conservatives had been defeated. For the next few decades the GOP re-branded itself as a more subtle version of the racist era the Democratic Party left behind. They built a foundation on subtle racism, religious manipulation, but kept with the tried and true tactics of vilifying the government, fear-mongering against minorities, pushing states’ rights, and perpetuating the idea that “their country was being taken away.” That their “values were under attack.”

For decades we watched the GOP become more and more radical. From the days of Ronald Reagan passing an amnesty bill for illegal immigrants to a man who launched his campaign by calling most Mexican immigrants “rapists and criminals.” We’ve gone from a party that once used Russia as the ultimate bogyman, now supporting a “president” who defends its ex-KGB dictator, while putting the values of the United States on par with Russia. We’ve gone from a party that once backed bans on assault weapons, to one that sees even the slightest mention of common-sense gun regulations as tantamount to a full-on gun confiscation. We’ve seen a party go from viewing a giant concrete wall as a sign of tyranny and oppression, to millions of people chanting “Build that wall!” at political rallies.

We’re seeing this, because Donald Trump built a campaign based upon being the first candidate who pandered to the fears, delusions, hate, racism, bigotry, and paranoia Republicans had only subtly alluded to for years, but never truly and openly embraced. It doesn’t matter that nearly everything he tells them isn’t true, as long as he’s telling them what they want to hear, they’ll never turn on him.

Donald Trump is the modern day equivalent of a George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, or Jesse Helms. He’s the guy standing on a stage, feeding crowds of angry people who, because they don’t want to evolve from their outdated ways of thinking, have felt like their voices aren’t being heard. Because they continue to fight many of the same fundamental battles at the root of the Civil War, denying women the right to vote, segregation, bans on interracial marriage, and even gay rights, Trump standing up and feeding their ignorance gave them the rebirth for which they’ve spent decades waiting.

It’s not a coincidence that vile people like David Duke, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists felt more empowered, and became more publicly political active, during the 2016 election than we’ve seen in decades. There’s a reason why Trump always just happens to “play dumb” when it comes to denouncing the endorsement of David Duke, his omission of any mention of the Jewish people on Holocaust Remembrance Day, or the fact his daughter publicly commented about a growing rise in anti-Semitic hate crime before he did. There’s a reason why you’ve never seen Trump go on a Twitter tantrum against his white nationalist support like he has so many other issues that truly bother him. There’s a reason why the KKK and neo-Nazi groups celebrated his “election.”

Donald Trump ascended to this level of popularity among the most conservative of conservatives because he became the voice rural/southern white resentment has been craving for decades. He became the crude, hateful, fear-mongering voice who targeted the “enemies” they oppose:

  • The government.
  • People of color.
  • Other religions.
  • Liberals.
  • The establishment.
  • The educated/elitists.
  • The media.
  • Science.
  • Anyone who tells a truth that debunks their lies.

He said and did what almost no other Republican had the “courage” to do, becoming the living-embodiment of exactly what conservatives have always been and what the GOP has represented for decades.

While the Civil War officially ended on May 9, 1865, make no mistake about it, we’re still fighting that war of ignorance and those who support it.

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

It’s Not Hysterical to Recognize the Threat Trump Poses

Democracy, such as it is, really is in danger.

By Katha Pollitt

The Nation

Talk about bad timing. Even as white supremacists and neo-Nazis massed in Charlottesville, complete with torches, shields, MAGA hats, sticks, and guns, even as one participant allegedly ran his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-demonstrators, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, and injuring some 19 others, The New York Times was publishing an op-ed warning against taking the whole Trump thing too seriously. “Trump Isn’t a Threat to Our Democracy. Hysteria Is,” write the historians Samuel Moyn and David Priestland. “Since Donald Trump’s election, the United States has been gripped by tyrannophobia. Conspiracies against democracy are everywhere; truth is under siege; totalitarianism is making a comeback; ‘resistance’ is the last refuge of citizens.”

Hysteria? Tyrannophobia? Those are fighting words. You’d think the Times would have learned its lesson with Michael Kinsley’s much-mocked and quickly ended op-ed series, “Say something nice about Donald Trump.” Still, I see what Moyn and Priestland are getting at. It’s easy to find posturing progressives and even a few Republicans, waving the Constitution as if the only problem was the mysterious takeover of government by a nuclear-wielding madman, and if we can just get rid of him we can go back to normal. We do need to think hard about how Trump happened and what it means for our nation and our future. It’s unfortunate, though, that the authors mention economic inequality as the only underlying issue that must be addressed and not the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and good old-fashioned anti-Semitism that were so vividly on display in Charlottesville. “Economic inequality” conceals as much as it explains. After all, the worst victims of economic inequality are people of color, but Trump got few of their votes. You didn’t see black and brown faces in the crowd chanting “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” If you spent time on the Daily Stormer website, you wouldn’t have found a lot of complaining about low wages and disappearing factory jobs. Mostly it was men complaining that white women are shirking their racial duty to lose weight and have babies.

It’s true that a lot of people are extremely upset about the possibility that the Kremlin meddled in our election on behalf of Donald Trump. I am one of them. Maybe some of us are getting carried away, although actually the craziest claims are on the other side; cf. Seth Rich Truthers. I’m always wary when people start trumpeting their patriotism—as Moyn and Priestland point out, that has an unfortunate history. But hyper-emotional venting about Trump is hardly the main problem we face right now. Granted, Trump can’t go full fascist: cancel elections, murder his rivals, round up opponents, and put them in concentration camps. But democracy, such as it is, really is under threat.

It is not hysterical to note that Trump is a racist of long standing: Even before he spent years promoting the ridiculous notion that President Obama was not born in the United States, he was calling for the death penalty for the five young black men accused of the rape of the Central Park Jogger—nor did he apologize when, years later, those men were exonerated by another man’s confession. He ran as a racist, he was elected as a racist, and his White House features racists and nativists in high positions: Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, Sebastian Gorka.

It is not hysterical to note that Trump is a racist of long standing. He ran as a racist, he was elected as a racist, and his White House features racists in high positions.

It’s not hysterical to fear that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, will use bogus claims of voter fraud to purge people of color and other Democratic–leaning voters from the electoral rolls. In what sense will America be a democracy if people of color can’t vote? The 2020 redistricting could cement Republican hegemony for decades.

Our professionally staffed federal agencies—that government bureaucracy people love to rail against—are a bulwark against demagoguery and corruption. It is not hysterical to note that Trump is intentionally undermining them. The Washington Post reports that he has installed a “shadow government of political appointees” in cabinet agencies to act as his “eyes and ears.” His administration has rolled back regulations and left crucial positions unfilled. Under the direction of Scott Pruitt—a climate-change denialist—the Environmental Protection Agency alone has taken down over 1,900 Web pages of public information (including its extensive page on climate change) and canceled the collection of data on the oil industry and air pollution. Even the Census is at risk. With some exceptions, Trump’s cabinet appointments are know-nothings who oppose the very purpose of their office, and who are busily reducing their departments to rubble. The last secretary of energy was a Nobel Prize–winning physicist; the current one is Rick Perry. Posts dealing with women’s health are now staffed by ideologues who oppose abortion and, in some cases, even contraception. The damage these people can do in four years is enormous. And I haven’t even mentioned the legions of reactionary federal judges Trump will place on the bench.

Moyn and Priestland take comfort that “Starting with the Trump administration’s original version of the travel ban, the president’s most outrageous policies have been successfully obstructed, leaving largely those that any Republican president would have implemented through executive order.” I’m not so sure that any Republican would propose cutting legal immigration in half, curbing family reunification, and limiting most newcomers to educated professionals and rich people, nor am I confident that any Republican would be threatening to nuke North Korea. You have to be gazing down from a very high and misty mountaintop not to notice the distinctive features of the Trump administration: the daily lies about mathematically undeniable facts (such as who got the most votes in the election), the shambolic White House staff, the vicious tweets, the family grifting, the shameless use of his businesses and properties to milk money from the government, the constant delegitimizing of the news media and mainstreaming of right-wing conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones, the egomania and general contempt for others. Just this week Trump proved unable to condemn a fascist mob without equivocation. From racism and pussy-grabbing to the cultivation of ignorance under the guise of populism, it is hard to think of a way in which Trump has not evoked and enabled our worst national demons.

If it’s true that Trump’s worst impulses have been foiled, one major reason is the massive resistance Moyn and Priestland mock.

But if it’s true that Trump’s worst impulses have so far been foiled, one major reason is precisely the massive resistance Moyn and Priestland mock. Would judges have over-ruled the travel ban without the howls of outrage in the media and the crowds converging on the airports? Would thousands of Democratic women be running for office to protect reproductive rights if not for the Women’s March? Would Mueller still have a job investigating Russiagate (and Trump’s finances) if large numbers of people were not keeping the story alive in the press, on TV, and on social media?

There’s a German proverb, “The food is never eaten as hot as it is cooked,” meaning, roughly, that things are never as bad as they look. Any German will tell you there are limits to that bit of folk wisdom. Sometimes it’s right to go on full alert. Sometimes a little panic is better than complacency. As Heather Heyer posted on her Facebook page, “If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.”

Katha Pollitt is a columnist for The Nation.

The Justice Department Goes Fishing in DreamHost Case

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

The New York Times

AUG. 18, 2017

Do you use the internet? Are you interested in politics? Do you value your privacy? If you answered yes, you should be alarmed by the shockingly broad search warrant sought by the Justice Department, and approved by a judge in Washington, D.C., last month, targeting DreamHost, an internet hosting company based in Los Angeles.

As DreamHost explained in a blog post on Monday, it hosts disruptj20.org, a website that helped organize anti-Trump protests on Inauguration Day, and posted pictures of those protests in the days after. There were large-scale protests across Washington on Jan. 20, most of which involved peaceful marches or sit-ins. But some people turned to violence, breaking store windows, setting fires, throwing rocks at police officers and, in one case, assaulting Richard Spencer, the white nationalist, during a television interview. More than 200 people have been charged with felony rioting.

As part of its continuing investigation, the Justice Department demanded that DreamHost turn over “all records or other information” relating to the site, which received more than 1.3 million requests to view its pages in six days after the inauguration. Those records include personal information like I.P. addresses, which identify a specific computer; data about which of the site’s pages a user viewed, and when; and the type of operating software on that person’s computer. Federal prosecutors are also seeking all emails, photos and other content sent to and from the site.

“That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment,” DreamHost wrote in its blog post.

It doesn’t matter whether the visitor is suspected of participating in a crime, or is even known to have attended the protests. If someone clicked anywhere on the site from anywhere in the world, the government wants to know.

Why are there logs of IP addresses? Perhaps simply because we can?Logs were originally used to make it easier to debug and maintain…

This has a strong aura of George Orwell’s “1984” about it. With Trump as President, we’ve descended down a dangerous slippery slope.

DreamHost has so far refused to turn over this information, and for good reason: The indiscriminate “digital dragnet,” as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has called it, may well violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

That amendment requires the government to be specific about what it wants to seize, but nowhere does the DreamHost warrant justify a need for the logs of all visitors to the site.

Prosecutors aim to vacuum up millions of points of data about people’s political associations, sift through it all and only then decide what they want — a process that has been used in other criminal investigations. But given that the investigation into the riots has been active for months, it shouldn’t be hard for prosecutors to narrow their search. DreamHost also objects that the warrant fails to provide any protocol for how investigators would examine the sprawling data, or explain what would happen to personal information that is found to be of no use in the case.

This is a dangerous way for any Justice Department to conduct an investigation, especially one involving political speech and association, activities that enjoy the First Amendment’s strongest protections. As the Supreme Court said in a 1958 case, the “inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.” Sweeps like this have the potential to be even more chilling to speech when conducted under a thin-skinned president like Donald Trump, who has already made his intolerance of protest clear.

By forcing the government to defend this data sweep, DreamHost is doing an important service not only to its users, but also to the public at large. Prosecutors know that most companies don’t have the resources to fight such warrants, so a common tactic is to overreach and then wait for pushback. If the site or service provider folds and turns over the requested data, any constitutional violation may not be revealed until years later, when a diligent defense lawyer is challenging a conviction in a single criminal case. That’s a bad recipe for protecting all Americans’ right to freely associate, and to be free of unreasonable government intrusion, in the digital age.

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