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We are in denial about domestic terrorism – posted 9/16/2019

September 17, 2019 1 comment

After the August Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas in which 22 people died, I had a strong feeling that I had seen this movie before. That is because we all have seen it many times: a gunman arguing that he was compelled to commit mass murder because of an immigrant invasion.

The murder is preceded by the release of a windy manifesto. The manifesto invariably states that a white genocide is going on. The shooter sees the immigrant invasion as an apocalyptic threat, calling for a state of emergency and unprecedented response. Right before the shooter goes on his rampage, he publishes online in far right sites, giving the supposed justification for his actions.

The shooters appear to be lone wolves. Typically they are young white men, radicalized on the internet. Responding to these shootings, mainstream politicians talk about mental illness and the need for gun control. The predominant perspective presented by the mass media is that these shooters are mentally ill loners with an axe to grind.

I would suggest that this view is fundamentally wrong. The common thread in so many of these shootings is the white power ideology of the shooter. It is an international phenomenon. Before El Paso, there was the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting, the Christ Church, New Zealand shootings, Dylann Roof in South Carolina and the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik. There have been many other less well known incidents following the same pattern.

In spite of the repetition of similar atrocities, the danger of the white power movement remains drastically underestimated. The historian, Kathleen Belew, author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, nails it:

“Too many people still think of these attacks as single events, rather than interconnected actions. We spend too much ink dividing them into anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Muslim or antisemitic attacks. True, they are those things. But they are also connected with one another through a broader white power ideology.”

The idea of replacement is central to the white power movement. The replacers are supposedly Jews, Latinos, Muslims and Blacks. Those in the white power movement believe white people are heading for the dustbin of history. I think of the neo-nazis and alt-right in Charlottesville chanting: “Jews will not replace us.”

White genocide theory holds that black people within the United States will inevitably rise up and start a race war which will result in the genocide of all white people in America. Dylann Roof explained his actions in shooting nine Black worshipers at a bible study in Charleston by saying he wanted to foment race war. In his actions, he followed the white power movement’s teachings.

It needs to be said that the idea of a white genocide going on now is nonsense and contrary to factual evidence. There is no proof white people are under attack or are going extinct. Nor is there evidence Black people intend a race war. Rich, white people control the levers of power in America, whether in the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court or the heights of the economy. This is not just true now – it has been true for virtually all of American history.

Certainly, there are significant demographic changes prompted by climate change, violence prompting asylum claims and immigrants coming to America seeking a better and safer life but that is a far cry from wild allegations of white genocide. Conflating the increasing population of non-white people in America with a white genocide is absurd.

Also, the idea that there is some shadowy group lurking behind the scenes promoting an immigrant invasion is pure paranoia and worse. Such fantasies fuel irrational hatred, especially antisemitism. Once again, Jews are being cast as the puppet masters , pulling minority strings.

Belew argues that the roots of the current alt-right and white power movement go back to the period after the Vietnam War. She says there was an ideologically diverse groundswell of people including Klansmen, neo-nazis, white separatists, racial skinheads and others who came together after the Vietnam War to create a white power movement.

Belew describes this project as an inherently anti-American effort that is trying to overthrow the federal government in order to create an Aryan Nation. That agenda includes eradication of people of color in America.

The white power movement has pursued cell-style organizing, a strategy called Leaderless Resistance. The emphasis has been on promoting the work of a highly dedicated cadre of totally committed activists. Part of the idea of Leaderless Resistance is to make infiltration by government informants much harder. It is also designed to hide and obscure the white power movement from public understanding.

For years now, social media has played a critical role in the evolution of this movement. The movement has been very effective at using the internet to radicalize and recruit young white men. Activists are very well known to each other as was demonstrated by Charlottesville. There is much shared communication inside the movement. The reality of a coherent social movement cuts against the lone wolf narrative.

The white power movement has been very successful in mainstreaming ideas about immigrant invasion. Just listen to Fox News or President Trump. They are using the talking points of this movement.

Trump has used terms like “invasion”, “alien”, “criminal”, and “animal” while discussing immigration hundreds of times at his rallies in the last year or two. In May at a rally of his, when Trump asked “How do you stop these people?” someone in the crowd shouted “Shoot them!” and Trump laughed.

I think the hidden quality of the white power movement has made it harder for the government and others to recognize how dangerous it is. Not surprisingly, last spring the Trump Administration through the Department of Homeland Security disbanded the group of intelligence analysts focused on domestic terror threats, including neo-nazis and the alt-right.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about the threat of white supremacist extremism online. They compared white supremacists’ use of the internet to how ISIS does it. Given how little the government has said about this threat, this was at least some recognition of the danger posed.

President Trump, on the other hand, has suggested he might designate Antifa, a collection of militant anti-fascists, a terror organization. Whatever the wisdom of its tactics, Antifa has zero body count. The same cannot be said about the white power movement. Their body count is extensive. Just as he did after Charlottesville, Trump is trying to draw equivalence  between the sides when there is none.

Denying the existence of a now emboldened white power movement is especially dangerous. Recent events suggest more and worse violence is coming.

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More Shady and Blue – posted 9/7/2019

September 7, 2019 1 comment
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American Gulag, 2019-style – posted 9/2/2019

September 2, 2019 1 comment

On August 21, the Trump Administration announced final regulations designed to allow the government to subject immigrant children and families to indefinite detention. The rules are intended to replace a long-standing, court-ordered 20-day time limit on keeping families in immigration jails.

Rather than being paroled into the community pending the hearing on their immigration cases, unaccompanied minors and children with their families would be detained in prison. The average wait time for an immigration case to be heard is about two years and nearly three years in some jurisdictions.

The new rules would replace the Flores settlement agreement, a 1997 federal court settlement that imposed detention standards and time limits. The Trump Administration wants to get outside Flores obligations. It blames the Flores settlement for the high number of immigrants arriving at our Southern border.

The core principle of Flores is that migrant children taken into detention should be released as expeditiously as possible.

A coalition of twenty states, led by California and Massachusetts, has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the Trump Administration from rescinding the Flores settlement agreement. If the new rules are not stopped by a judge, the rules would take effect in 60 days.

Maybe it should not seem necessary to explain but the health consequences of incarceration for children are extremely damaging. Clara Long from Human Rights Watch put it this way:

“The detention of children can lead to trauma, suicidal feelings and exposure to dangerously inadequate medical care. No amount of time in detention is safe for children and prolonged detention is particularly harmful.”

There is a wealth of public health studies that demonstrate the adverse health consequences of children being incarcerated. These include both negative physical and emotional symptoms. Depression, sleep problems, loss of appetite, headaches and abdominal pain are common symptoms. Trauma, regression in children’s behavior, suicidal thoughts, nightmares and feelings of hopelessness and despair are also part of the picture.

It must not be forgotten that many migrants are fleeing extreme violence and sexual assault and they need protection and services which address these complicated needs.

Under Flores, children could only be detained in facilities that are licensed by an appropriate state agency. The new regulations remove that requirement and replace it with a new self-licensing system. Department of Homeland Security would have no credible oversight and their performance has been anything but reassuring.

In the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Trump Administration lawyers have just been arguing that safe and sanitary conditions do not require access to soap, toothpaste or minimally adequate sleeping conditions. Children have been spending the night on concrete floors, covered by Mylar blankets, in cramped, frigid, brightly-lit cells.

There have been many anecdotal stories about rotten food, no access to showers, sexual assault and overcrowded standing room-only cells. Outbreaks of infectious diseases, particularly mumps, have been widespread. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just reported 898 confirmed mumps cases in 57 facilities housing ICE detainees. A large majority of the cases were at detention facilities in Texas.

Racism appears to be rampant in the Border Patrol and ICE. Witness the Border Patrol Facebook group that showed active-duty and retired officers viciously mocking lawmakers and dead migrants. Violent, white supremacist, and misogynistic posts were disturbingly common. According to ProPublica, this Facebook group had more than 9,500 members before it was exposed.

More generally, the Department of Homeland Security has a dismal track record on accountability and transparency with its immigration detention facilities. The public does not fully know what is going on with these detention facilities, how many people are being held, and in what conditions.

This is America’s own gulag, 2019-style. Department of Homeland Security is blocking investigators and congressional staffers from visiting migrant facilities near the U.S.- Mexico border since previous House Oversight staff inspections revealed ongoing problems. During this Administration, seven children have died in custody.

The Flores settlement agreement included detailed child protection obligations for children detained without adults. The agreement is the only established set of protections for immigrant children held in detention. Over the last twenty years, Flores counsel repeatedly went to court to seek enforcement of the obligations. The new regulations do not incorporate the detailed obligations of Flores.

A big part of the Trump Administration argument for the new regulations is the supposed deterrent effect of punishing migrants by imprisoning them pending their immigration hearing. The evidence for that assessment is lacking. Harsh measures have not been lessening illegal entries.

The high cost of child incarceration has also been thoroughly underestimated. An unnamed official at the Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News that housing costs $775 per child, per day. Incarceration costs significantly more than supervision in the community. The cost of private prisons for immigrant children and their families is its own scandal.

While it is impossible to predict with accuracy whether the Court will allow implementation of the new rules. the Flores settlement only terminates when the government issues regulations that are consistent with and implement the terms of the settlement. That is clearly not the case.

I know Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez took much heat when she described the immigration detention facilities as “concentration camps” but her description is accurate. We need a full investigation and expose. Nothing could be more un-American than holding children in atrocious conditions.

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