Category Archives: Extremism

Fascists will Finish What Liberals Fail to do

 

As I said in my last post, when borders get overwhelmed, the locals get fearful. They want order on the border, not anarchy. Too often, liberals forget this and sometimes lose elections as a result.

As Fareed Zakaria said in his CNN special, “It’s a trend we’ve seen repeatedly all over the world.  Anger over immigration, leads to hard-right populist power.

In 2015 as a result of the Civil War in Syria, Europe took in the most refugees since World War II. European countries took in millions, often with deep reluctance. It took a lot of courage, from leaders such as Angela Merkel in Germany and it sparked a huge political backlash and a sharp rise in popularity of populist leaders. It led to the UK leaving the EU. Marie le Pen garnered many more votes in France than she ever had before. In 2022 a party that sprang from the fascists in Italy led by Mussolini then was led by Giorgia Meloni, its most extreme right wing party since that war. In Sweden a party with neo-Nazi roots won the second most votes for its parliament. And, of course. Donald Trump won a surprising election for president over Hillary Clinton and his anti-immigration policies were a big part of his appeal.

David Frum a wise conservative commentator in an interview with CNN,  stated the issue directly: “If liberals won’t defend the border, fascists will.”  And as Fareed Zakaria said, “Disturbingly, today America seems very open to an anti-immigrant message.”  Some go even farther, suggesting that America seems very open to an authoritarian government or even, a fascist one.

 As Zakaria, said in 2023, “54% of Americans believe there is an invasion at the border, including 40% of Democrats and while 3 in 4 once believed immigrants were important for America’s identity, just over half now think that is true.”

Immigration is such a red hot issue it can lead to very dangerous political consequences. We should all be careful.

Unite the Right with Hate

 

A transformational event for the far-right occurred on August 11 and August 12 2017 in the US.  This was during the presidency of Donald J. Trump and  It happened in a  college town called Charlottesville Virginia. As Professor Jacob Ware described this event to his listeners at Arizona State University, this was “where a group of outspoken, explicit, proud, white supremacists, and Neo-Nazis, and anti-government extremists gathered in what they called a ‘Unite the Right Rally.’

Before the event, one of the main organizers, Jason Kessler, had been publicizing the event for months by his protests against the proposed removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This helped to fire up white supremacists and other right-wing extremists around the country. Even right-wing Canadians wanted to attend this event.

The trigger for the event was a threat to dismantle a Confederate statute in that community. A young woman, Heather Heyer, was killed during a domestic terrorist attack led by white supremacists. The attack was led by James Alex Fields Jr. who deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people who were peacefully protesting the right-wing rally that was being held in Charlottesville. Only one person, Heather Heyer, was killed but 35 others were injured. As Wikipedia reported,

“Fields 20, had previously espoused neo-Nazi and white supremacist beliefs, and drove from Ohio to attend the rally. Fields’ attack was called an act of domestic terrorism by the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia’s public safety secretary, the U.S. attorney general, and the director of the FBI.”

 

Some witnesses reported that Fields’ vehicle sent protesters “flying through the air.” After the initial impact, Fields changed the car into reverse to target more people. He backed up at high speeds for several blocks with protesters chasing him.

Fields was subsequently convicted in a state court of the first-degree murder of Heyer, as well as 8 counts of malicious wounding and hit and run. He also pled guilty to 29  hate crime charges  presumably in order to avoid the death penalty. In typical America hyperbolic legal “justice,” Fields was sentenced to life in prison as well as 419 years for the state charges, with an additional life sentence for the federal charges.

As egregious an event as it was, it soon became an international sensation when President Trump entered the aftermath with his infamous tweets and statements. At first president Trump wavered about whether or not he should condemn the terrorists. Trump just could not bring himself to condemn outright the terrorism since the right-wing attackers did not look like terrorists to him. They looked like supporters, which many of them, of course were. How could be publicly criticize his base? That is not like him.

The marchers had been chanting repeatedly, “You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.” as they carried their patio torches. This of course is a direct allusion to the common white supremacist trope that members of the American left are trying to replace whites with more compliant people from other races.  It was also clearly antisemitic. The closest he could come to criticism of his adoring fans was to say “I think there’s blame on both sides. You also had people, on both sides, who were very fine people.”  What was so fine about whites who mowed down protesters while chanting those racist memes? Recall, he did exactly the same thing on January 6, 2021when his staff insisted he tell the rioters to leave he did ask them to leave but first told them he loved them.

Trump has demonstrated a pattern of praising violent people who support his causes. He is always willing to do his best to unite the right with hate.

The reason this was such a pivotal event in the history of the rise of right-wing violent extremism is that those extremists realized they had a powerful friend and ally in very high places. In fact, they had an ally in the highest place in the land and this filled them with exuberance and confidence.

 

Racism provided the infrastructure for growth of the far right.

 

In their book and their talk to us at Arizona State University, Ware and Hoffman point out how much members of these domestic terrorist movements learned from each other. The Internet of course has made such self-education much easier than it had ever been before. And as they said, racism provided the infrastructure for the amplification of their ideas.

During the Obama presidency another major battlefield arose that would have profound effects on the United States, Canada, and in fact, the world. This was the establishment of social media that provided the fuel, the bombast, and the energy for profound political and social change. We still don’t know how this will end. We have no idea.

As Professor Ware said in his talk, “the Obama administration faced the rapid almost blitzkrieg emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”  This was very important for the development and normalization of the far right. It was supercharged by social media. ISIS showed how powerful social media can be. A small extremist group in a very short time grew into an organization that scared the entire western world. That could never have happened without social media. Social media was the powerful engine of modern far right terrorism.

The rise of ISIS led to an enormous increase of immigration into Europe which then was used by far-right extremists in Europe and around the world to amplify their movement. They latched onto the great replacement theory to enlist support virtually everywhere. They blamed the far left for trying to replace the white citizens with immigrants from countries around the world, but often with brown or black skinned people from places the whites had often not even heard of. No place in the world it seemed was immune to the invitations to hate the immigrants.

Immigration to many right-wing extremists, around the world was the key issue to justify their cause. Immigration was the issue that bonded Donald Trump and Steve Bannon into a dramatic force and is being used again in the start of the 2024 presidential election campaign. Immigration allows the right to pick scapegoats for every aspect as of the far-right agenda. It is impossible to imagine the far-right without immigration as a grievance.

Immigration at borders invariably is used to fire up domestic support for populist causes. It is usually the easiest cause to latch onto by populist leaders. Dissatisfaction with immigration is often the glue that holds together diverse unhappy actors into a powerful force for violent change.

Nowhere does it do that more than Arizona where we are currently living. Mention immigration and you are bound to obtain heated discussion.

 

Domestic Terrorism in America

 

When we visit Arizona each winter, we always connect with Arizona State University (‘ASU’) because they have so many programs to which they invite the public—like us. Not just scholars, but ordinary people like us. We have found many of them fascinating. This year the first one we watched we watched online as it was not offered live. It was called God, Guns, and Sedition. The title caught my eye.

Shocking acts of terrorism across the country have erupted from violent American far-right extremists in recent years, including, among many incidents, the 2015 mass murder at a historic Black church in Charleston and the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Sadly, however these incidents, however, are neither new nor unprecedented, but are common. Frankly, they happen all the time.

One of these events, a mass shooting, happened about an hour by car from where we are staying here in Arizona. On January 8, 2011, Gabrielle Dee Giffords  who at the time was serving as a member of the United States House of Representatives. She was a member of the Democratic Party representing the 8th congressional district. She was shot in the head outside a Safeway Grocery store in suburban area outside of Tucson, by a man who ran up to a crowd of people participating in a political event and fired his 99mm pistol with a 33-round magazine.  His bullets hit 19 people killing 6 of them.

The speakers at the ASU event were Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware who are leading experts on domestic terrorism in the US.  In their book God, Guns, and Sedition In that book they provide a brief synoptic history highlighting developments including the use of cutting-edge communications technology; the embrace of leaderless resistance or lone actor strategies; the emergence of characteristic tactics and targets; infiltration and recruitment in the military and law enforcement; and the far right’s intricate relationship with mainstream politics. The history of domestic terrorism is what interested me the most.

This is what these two extremely knowledgeable intellectuals talked about in the ASU program.  Bruce Hoffman professor emeritus of terrorism  at St Andrews University and has written  a number of books on terrorism. Jacob Ware is a research fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. The moderator was Peter Bergen another expert in the field and a professor at ASU. In addition to being a professor at ASU he is also the Co-Director of the Future Security Initiative, at ASU. The first question they answered was, ‘Why is a book on far-right terrorism at this time?”

Professor Bruce Hoffman, made it clear there also  many other terrorist threats facing America today. He insists it was not a partisan choice that they focused on the far-right out of all those choices.  Although there are left-wing terrorists in the US as well, they are greatly outnumbered by those on the far-right. He also acknowledged that one of the most significant terrorist events from recent years occurred in June of 2017 by someone on the far left who claimed to be a supporter of Bernie Sanders a well-known left wing politician and Senator in the United States. This was the event where he attacked several members of Congress who were practicing for an annual Congressional baseball tournament. He seriously wounded 5 members of Congress.

According to Hoffman it is just “that the numbers on the far right completely eclipse the threats from the far left as well as other actors. Cynthia Miller-Idriss Professor, School of Public Affairs and School of Education Department of Justice, Law and Criminology and a recognized expert on violent extremism in the United States “put the number of armed far-right extremists at an estimated 75,000 persons. Needless to say, that is a lot of violent extremists.

A few years ago, the New York Times put the number of armed members of militia movements at 20,000.  Many of the violent extremists come from that pool. Added to that if you read the FBI reports it is easy to see where the overwhelming majority of threats come from—i.e. the far-right not the far left or any other group including Jihadis, Antifa, eco-terrorists, indigenous groups, or any others. The far-right is the main reservoir for terrorism in America. Unfortunately, many on the less extreme right-wing in America are blind to this uncomfortable fact.

Hoffman reported,

“In 2019 for example the FBI had 850 active domestic terror investigations. That number doubled in 2020. It tripled in 2022…that includes 3 big buckets: racially motivated violent extremists, home grown violent extremists of both the left and the right, and others such as INCEL, eco-terrorists, animal rights people, militant anti-abortion. But even within those figures the overwhelming majority of the current over 2,000 investigations, are the violent far-right extremists.”

 

There is no domestic terrorism statute in the US just like there is none in Canada. As a result, scholars like Hoffman and Ware have to rely on non-governmental organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (‘ADL’) and Southern Poverty Law Center for figures. Although the numbers are not yet available for 2023 , according to the ADF, all 25 of the extremist related murders in about a dozen incidents in 2023 were linked to violent far right extremists and according to  Hoffman of that number , “of that number 95% were committed by white supremacists or white nationalists.” Hoffman also said, “this is part of a decades long trend that the ADL has followed. Since 2012 75% of the people who have been killed were killed by far-right extremists and of that number 73% were killed by white supremacists.

I am frequently bothered by right-winger complaining about extremists on the left without mentioning that there are vastly more extremists on the right. It is difficult to call out people who look like us as extremists. After all, we are the good guys.

 

Republican Response to January 6th riots

 

Very surprising is what many Republicans have said since January 6th 2021. Many Trump supporters have denied the obvious truth that the events that day were a riot and Trump supporters rioted. Ryan Reilly an NBC News reporter estimated that about 3,000 people unlawfully entered the Capitol, damaged property or assaulted police officers at the Capitol that day. So far only about 1,200 have been charged and more than 900 already convicted so far. Those events reminded me of what I have seen portrayed in films as the riots in Germany in the 1930s in support of Hitler and his rabid campaign of anti-semitism.

The reactions of many Republican elected leaders has been nothing short of astonishing.  For example, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), now the Speaker of the House said he would release images of the riot, but: “We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ.” He doesn’t want the rioters to be charged and in fact will actively work to ensure as few of them as possible are charged! And he said that with a broad smile.

In addition, Trump and many of the current GOP presidential primary candidates have promised to pardon Jan 6 rioters. That to me is astounding!

Many of Trump’s supporters don’t admit that the rioters did anything wrong. Having watched hours of  television of the riot that day, that astonishes me.

How about you?

Timothy McVeigh: Disciple of William Cooper

 

Timothy McVeigh, it turns out, was listening to William Cooper on his radio talk show  talking about Waco Texas and was struck by what he heard. He caught the sickness. He was inflamed like so many in the right-wing movement. He was lapped by the flames. He believed what he heard. It radicalized him.

Like to many other conservative Americans, Timothy McVeigh  always loved guns,. After High School though he became obsessed with guns. He read Soldier of Fortune magazine as if it was holy writ. He became a vocal proponent of gun rights. McVeigh was no dummy. He joined the army and graduated at the top of his class.

 

He was disciplined for buying a White Power shirt at a KKK rally. He was bathed in White Supremacist ideology. McVeigh was transformed by his role in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. Even though he won medals for his job as sniper, he was traumatized by the war.  His attitude underwent a sea change while he was there. He began to wonder what right he had to go to Iraq and tell Iraqis what to do in their own country but he was actually told to hurt them for not doing it his way!

 

He was considered for Special Forces work but failed because of his physical condition.  This humiliated McVeigh. He began to blame the US military rather than the people of Iraq. He saw the army as part of the socialist takeover of America. And in 1993 he was at the Waco siege hawking bumper stickers. He was the young man radically affected by what he saw at Waco. After that he roamed the country attending gun shows wherever he could. He was also awash with theories by William Cooper. He bought a video on Waco made by Cooper.  As Justin Ling said on his CBC podcast series, “Flamethrowers”, he was listening to “the Big Lie.” That is an interesting expression in the history of extremism. It became even more interesting years later.

 Cooper in his tapes asked his listeners if they would stand up like a real man and a real woman? McVeigh heard Cooper say the time was near when everyone, including himself was going to have to make a decision. It was time to be counted and McVeigh was ready. Cooper asked, on the tape, “how  many more people are you going to allow to be jailed, persecuted, burned to death, murdered, because you are a coward.

Later evidence  makes it clear that McVeigh took this message to heart. He was brave enough for the task at hand that brought him to Oklahoma City.

Wacky Waco

 

One of the most important incidents in the history of the whacky right-wing movement in the US, occurred, appropriately near a city called Waco Texas. That incident ignited the right-wing  talk-radio hosts around the country.

On April 19, 1993 there was a tense standoff near the Mount Carmel in Waco Texas between a small Christian sect known as the Branch Davidians and nearly 900 federal agents including the FBI, Customs, the National Guard and the Texas Rangers. To many it appeared like an epic struggle between Christians and government. Of course, the   government agents brought massive amounts of fire power with them.  Nothing but overwhelming force would do against this small Christian sect. This included a dozen tanks. Inside the fortified building there are about 100 Branch Davidians that included 20 children. About half the adults were women. It didn’t look like a fair fight. But should it be a fair fight? If Antifa is rioting in the streets of Seattle or Portland should they be met with equal force?  What if the rioters are a motor cycle gang. Do the authorities have to fight them fairly? Or should we allow them to bring overwhelming force?

The Christian sect had a leader David Koresh, after whom the group was named. They were not lambs led to the slaughter.  As Justin Ling explained on his CBC podcast, “They’ve got a 50-caliber cannon, machine guns, and more than a million rounds of ammunition. They are prepared for a holy war.”        This was a very well-armed sect of Christians.

Modern Christians like to be well-armed. No lily-livered pacifism for them. They don’t turn the other cheek; they turn the other AR-15.

 One of the officers on the site said the agents had walked into “a hail-storm in reverse.” I don’t know what that means but it doesn’t sound good to me.

The initial fire fight led to the deaths of 4 officers and 5 Branch Davidians. Since then, there was a very tense stand-off. The line from the Clinton administration was about saving the children inside the compound.  But why did they need saving? There was a very different version of the events on short-wave radio.

One broadcaster from Arizona said “this was the beginning of the end for Christian America.”  The Christians believed that no one in the church was compelled to go there. Everyone was there as a result of exercising their own free will or their parents exercising their own free will. As a result, according to this view, the attack on the site was an extreme example of government over reach and tyranny—i.e. government interfering with the freedom of the people. One of those people upset with the government and who espoused this view was radio talk-show host William Cooper. Cooper said,

“The U.S government is training this massive military force on Americans who are just exercising their religious freedom. For Cooper this siege vindicated the dire predictions he had been making for years—that the socialist, liberal government is about to take away your freedom. And you might be next!”

The fears were being stoked. And once again, paranoia was bringing bad decision making in its wake.

As one right-wing pundit said,

“The siege continues in Waco Texas. A small group of men and women trapped under siege by government forces. They are fighting the second battle of the Second American Revolution. Make no mistake about it folks—we are at war.

 

Many Americans believed exactly that.  America was at war with its own government. As a result of Waco, the American survivalist and militia movement was born. This was the group that later included domestic terrorists such as Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and many others. The events of January 6th 2021 were a direct descendant of Waco.

 There was a young boy who came to see the action in Waco Texas. He was selling bumper sticker such as this: “Fear the government that fears your gun.” “Banning guns make the streets safe for a government takeover.” That young kid later made a lot of noise in the right-wing movement when he got a little older. His name was Timothy McVeigh.

Exposed as a Bully

 

Shortly after we arrived in Arizona,  the author E.J. Carroll won a big damage award from a jury as compensation for defamatory remarks made about her  by the former President Donald Trump. She actually successfully sued him twice! The second jury awarded her $83 million after the second trial. Immediately after the first trial, Trump defamed her again, eliciting a second trial, and second multi-million-dollar award for damages.

Shortly after the second trial was over, she was interviewed by Rachel Maddow on television together with her two female attorneys. This must have driven Trump nuts to be bested by 3 women!

Carroll is an 80-year-old author who had been sexually abused by Donald Trump. That was determined by the jury in a private tort trial. It was not a criminal trial. The government’s Department of Justice did not start the claim. This was not a case of the “deep state” nor “started by Biden’s “corrupt Department of Justice” as Trump has so quick to claim as a result of other hearings. This was a case of 2 independent juries, and not biased Democrats, or liberal media,  deciding that Trump had sexually abused this woman and then told lies about what he had done.  And they were so disappointed with what he had done and said that they awarded her $83 million as compensation for his bad behaviour.

Carroll admitted she was terrified before the trial. She was so scared she lost her voice and could not speak.  But she had been sexually abused by Donald Trump and did not want to let him get away with it. This took tremendous courage because Trump is a significant foe. But as Carroll said triumphantly on the Rachel Maddow show “We’ve planted our flag.  We’ve stood up to the man…He is not there…He is like a rhino snorting.”

 

At the trial Carroll and everyone who watched it quickly realized Trump was a bully, and like so many bullies “he was nothing. We don’t need to be afraid of him.”  Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan said after the verdict had been rendered, “We can stand up to the US’s biggest bully. We are not afraid of him.” The other lawyer for Carroll, Shawn Crowley who gave the summation to the jury asked them to consider “How much does he have to pay in order to stop him.” The first verdict was $5 million in the first case.  That was not enough to stop him. But Trump could not keep quiet and defamed her a second time right after the first verdict. He just refused to follow the rules. Crowley said about the jury, “They just saw it with their own eyes.”

Roberta Kaplan, the other lawyer for Carroll, said,

“Our thesis in this case was that Donald Trump was a bully who is incapable of following the rules. Then during the trial he acted like a bully and showed that he was incapable of following the rules. We almost didn’t need to say anything. The jury just watched him.”

 

I wish the Trumpsters had seen him. The case exposed the former president as a weak bully!

I know some Americans like bullies. They want a bully as President. They want a strong man, but I really think a majority don’t like bullies. Let’s wait and see. The election will tell that story.

 

After 8 weeks of War

 

According to UNICEF, whose numbers should be reliable, unlike those emanating from the Hama  officials which I frankly have no reason to believe are true, 5300 civilians and children have died in the Israeli air strikes. 115 children have been dying every day. And things are getting worse! That is what Holy War in the Holy Land looks like, not lmited war!

 

I also heard more civilians have died than in the near 2-year- war in Ukraine so far.  And Ukraine has been dealing with a ruthless blood-thirsty tyrant. Some have said Russia is the world’s most brutal regime in the world.

Israel, is supported militarily by the western countries like Canada, the United States, and United Kingdom. Canada called for a pause in fighting but not a cease-fire. It got what it asked for. Maybe it should asked for more.

It seems to me Canada might be supporting a war without limits. If that is the case, as some say, Canada is supporting war crimes. That, I think would be a first for Canada. That would not be something to be proud of. That would a a stain on our reputation. When friends see other friends going too far, the good friend would warn the friend. Good friends give each other the truth, even when its hard.  Especially when its hard.

 

No Limits No Soul

 

A Statesperson, to warrant the title, must recognize, that even in war, there are limits and those limits must not be breached. In the heat of battle this is sometimes difficult. But whoever said the job of the Statesperson was easy? If it was easy we would have many statespersons.

According to John Rawls the American philosopher analyzing the decision the American president Truman made in Japan in World War II, this is what Truman said

 

“Truman once described the Japanese as beasts and to be treated as such; yet how foolish it sounds now to call the Germans or the Japanese barbarians and beasts! Of the Nazis and Tojo militarists, yes, but they are not the German and the Japanese people. Churchill later granted that he carried the bombing too far, led by passion and the intensity of the conflict. A duty of statesmanship is not to allow such feelings, natural and inevitable as they may be, to alter the course a democratic people should best follow in striving for peace. The statesman understands that relations with the present enemy have special importance: for as I have said, war must be openly and publicly conducted in ways that make a lasting and amicable peace possible with a defeated enemy, and prepares its people for how they may be expected to be treated. Their present fears of being subjected to acts of revenge and retaliation must be put to rest; present enemies must be seen as associates in a shared and just future peace “

These words are equally applicable to Netanyahu. The statesperson recognizes limits. Truman failed to do that. So has Netanyahu. I have not seem him recognize any limits. Hea will destroy Hama no matter what the costs.

Limits in war are more than just moral imperatives. As David French wrote to the Israeli’s in the New York Times, “Don’t lose your soul.”  No limits no soul.