A Dagger At The Heart Of Our Democracy

I recall as a late teenager, in a conversation with a relative, stating there were certain foundations of knowledge that all Americans needed to attain so to be solid citizens. I also recall the odd reply.

“We can’t all sit around reading.”

That memory came back to me this week as the debt ceiling mess grew larger and we heard still more outrage from some parents regarding safety measures at public schools so as to ward off the virus causing a pandemic. If we took the view at 30,000 feet over our nation there is only one thing that would be uttered.

‘What has happened to the people?’

Throughout life many of us have had political opinions, some of them strongly held. As history proves repeatedly such varying views and perspectives are what democracy requires to grow and strengthen. But what has been added in a larger dose to the mix is out-and-out liers and demagogues both in our elected offices and others adding such voices in our national dialogue through social media.

In the past on this blog, I weighed in on results, such as from the Annenberg Public Policy Center where it was found that only 26% of Americans could name all three branches of the federal government. Stunningly, 33% could not think of one! To add to the sad data 37% could not name a single right protected by the Bill of Rights.

That type of polling is telling regarding our educational failures as a nation. What has resulted from such a disregard for holding students accountable with a foundation of information before they graduate is now playing out. A wanton disregard for facts has been unleashed, as evidenced by the election-outcome deniers in 2020 and the anti-vaccinator crowd, underscoring the toxic nature of what is eating away at the very fabric of democracy.

Especially since 2008, we have witnessed the use of our poorly informed citizenry by partisan interests, who have the skills of messaging through social media, to place a dagger at the heart of our democracy. From Sarah Palin and the Tea Party to Donald Trump’s overt messaging of continued lies and twisted meanings, a direct line can be traced across the body politic. From disregarding the need for any wisdom to be elected, to the undermining of national institutions a theme emerged from conservatives.

That threat was presented in real-time to a nation on January 6th where it was clear the rule of law, our political institutions, and the election processes of our nation were no longer understood, or cared for.

I have never had a personal conversation with anyone who thought dinosaurs and people lived at the same time. But I have had online discussions with people who feel that the pandemic is a hoax with inflated case numbers and that five ultra-rich families control the world’s finances. I wish I was joking.

So how do we reverse course and head towards sanity and a stronger foundation as a nation? Well, let’s begin where this post started.

It is clear every person has a very busy life. We start out with different abilities and sets of interests. No one should be expected to master the Federalist Papers. But in allowing for that we can not, must not, accept the almost complete lack of knowledge that runs shamelessly through a wide swath of the electorate. The impact from that under-educated class is having a dreadful impact on both the political health of the nation and physical health of our populace.

Because of too few strict standards in our education system and the broad acceptance of ‘any view is valid’ even from the most outlandish right-winger, we now must ponder the survivability of our democracy.

It is simply imperative that the rest of us stand up and speak out for the needs of the nation.

And so it goes.

White Right-Wing American Extremists Primary Threat To Nation

What took place on January 6th when terrorists stormed the United States Capitol and postponed the process of counting the Electoral College votes, as mandated in the Constitution, was the latest and most chilling example of the greatest threat our nation faces. The threat did not come from outside the nation, or from a faith not predominant in the land. Rather the act of violence, death, and terror came from white Americans who can not seem to understand the nation in which they reside.

As I watched the hours of coverage as the hordes marched, shouted, and committed all sorts of crimes my mind flashed to the long-ago Phil Donahue shows that would feature a right-wing extremist or group as to demonstrate the shocking ignorance that still existed in the nation.  I recall as a teenager, and young adult, watching such guests and wondering how they could be so uneducated. So to see the crisis unfold at the Capitol at the age of 58 was a reminder of how much remains the same. If anything, the vileness seems to be on the increase.

Over time I have written about my concern that since 9/11, as anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric increased in volume, and in turn policies such as the Donald Trump administration’s horrible travel-ban became the focus, the areas that truly needed law-enforcement’s attention were being side-lined. The threat which required utmost attention was the far-right lunatics amassing weapons and hate-filled ideology. The foreign threats were of real concern–do not get me wrong–and needed to be assessed by our homeland security officials, but so did the white Americans who were fostering their hate in small groups and connecting via social media. Jihadism was the sparkling object too many wanted to pay attention to when it was the racism of the Tea Party that should have been a focal point.

For too long there was a continual stoking of resentments by conservative agitators to rile up the white men about alleged grievances in the nation and to get them to believe they were being treated unfairly. Ann Coulter, as a prime example, described her version of the Democratic Party on Fox News.

I mean you have the Muslims and the Jews and the various exotic sexual groups and the black church ladies with the college queers … you must hate white men. It’s the one thing they have in common.

This was the vile racism being openly promoted on a major network and aimed at the easily-led demographics. A large segment of that viewer base was soon lulled into Tea Party politics. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation fully understood that white males in America had lived on a rainbow in this nation.  Always have. The entire power and governing structure were designed, from the drafting of the Constitution, to accommodate white males.

So what gives with all the anger and nastiness that has permeated our politics for several election cycles and went into bizarro land since the general election in 2020? There is no doubt in uneasy economic times that all sorts of ugly fissures open in society and ooze stuff that in better times are kept in check. That, in and of itself, is not a new phenomenon. And yet, the volume of disgusting actions and words that have erupted in recent weeks make that simple attempt for an answer inadequate to what we all witness.

When we dig down into the extreme nastiness of those who shout and break into federal buildings we see and hear the fear that reaches beyond basic economics which is often seen as the fault line. Rather, at the heart of the anger of these white people, is the fact that when they looked at President Obama or now see soon-to-be Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris they are looking at the future.  And it gets them all unsettled. While there are other cultural issues or economic matters (such as large banks and bailouts) that stir the rage of these people, the heart of it is always about race.

After all, a white majority population in America is not the future.  The world is brown, and the trend lines have this country moving in the same direction.  And quickly.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Embracing what makes us diverse has always been the way for social progress, and it also allows for personal enrichment.  But it also allows for a certain segment to lash out and act in ways that society, or a democracy, can not abide.

There was no way not to laugh at the Tea Party types when they disparaged Obama because he was Black, or tried to paint him as a Muslim, or not recognize he was a constitutional scholar. If only they could tarnish him enough and bring this ‘uppity black man’ down a peg or two they then could feel so much better about their own lives.

I have no way to understand the fear and anger that consumes these types of people, but we all can agree that the way they were handled on January 6th, and in the days since underscores again how whites do get preferential treatment. Had it been Muslims who had conducted the terrorists attack on the Capitol they would have been shot on the spot. In the following days, mass arrests would have occurred and those who incited the riot and participated in it would not be out on bail or offered organic meals.

Toxic beliefs have been brewing in the minds of some white Americans for a long time, and have been stirred and fomented by Donald Trump and a large segment of the Republican Party. They must be combatted and it is imperative that just as we moved aggressively after 9/11 we now also act with new powers modeled on those crafted to fight Islamic terrorism. The reason is clear, The majority of deadly extremist incidents in our country are motivated and conducted by far-right ideologies, especially those with their primary allegiance to white supremacy. But, as I noted above, it is the threat of Islamic radicalism that commands a far greater share of government resources.

That must change.

January 6 taught that lesson in frighteningly tragic detail.

And so it goes.

Kyle Rittenhouse Proves His Low Character, Again

Sometimes the news is just so unsettling it almost makes one wish to turn away in disgust. When it comes to the latest news concerning Kyle Rittenhouse turning away might be due to being embarrassed for him. Clearly, he has no self-shame.

The killing of two people last year in Kenosha in a bizarre and vigilante-style move by Rittenhouse should have been the moment his family understood the highly troubled person was in need of help. It would appear such help was not forthcoming.

News this week is that his mother, upon Kyle turning 18, took him to a bar. That is where he was seen drinking beer while wearing a T-shirt reading “Free as (expletive).”

Classy, all the way around.

As a consequence, prosecutors are now asking a judge to order Kyle to stay out of bars, and away from violent white power groups like the Proud Boys. Five men at the bar serenaded Kyle to a song long associated with the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group. (I didn’t know men sernaded each other at straight bars.) Kyle was also seen, as reported in the prosecutors’ motion posing outside with two men as they all put their thumbs and forefingers together in what looks like an OK sign, which has become a symbol used by some white supremacists.

I fully understand we are not talking about a scholar here, or even one who seems able to finish high school. But it would seem to me, and I suspect the bulk of my readers, that the adults and guardians of Kyle should have the foresight and supervisory skills to make sure that he comes to grips with what he did when running like a crazed person last year.

Facing homicide charges and being free on a $2 million bail might be the time for someone in his life to counsel him that drinking three beers in 90 minutes in a bar while wearing a most offensive T-shirt, and acting in racist fashion is not acceptable in polite society. Given that he has clearly demonstrated no ability to constrain his actions to meet with the laws of the state it seems more than necessary for the judge to rule that he be prohibited from drinking alcohol in the future.

I have often posted about the need for parents, as well as guardians, to do their utmost with their young charges. Society should not not be burdened with the results of their failures. This is but one more example of what happens when society is left to pick up the pieces. Sadly, that is not possible for the families of the two people Kyle Rittenhouse killed.

And so it goes.

Absurd White Male Militia Group Planned Kidnapping Of Governor, Overthrow Of Michigan Government

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

It was only this week when I posted on this site’s Facebook page the latest federal report showing White Nationalists are the largest terrorist threat in this nation.

As we have known for years from federal reports, and just from the headlines of the day, White Nationalists and militia groups are terrorists and are a threat to our democracy. The dangers they pose to the nation are real and the story today from Michigan underscores that fact.

Six men were arrested and accused of plotting with a militia group to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. These angry white men, who clearly never passed a civics course, were filled with virulent anti-government views. The FBI states this group had talked about taking the Governor hostage since this summer. In addition, they have been charged with terrorism crimes for allegedly planning the Capitol building attack and attempting to “instigate a Civil War.” They clearly didn’t learn from our history that attacks on our nation are met with a response that does not leave one guessing as to the outcome.

They had stalked the Governor’s vacation home and plotted to take her hostage prior to the November elections. There is evidence they also planned to buy explosives. Had they simply applied themselves in school, and been smarter with career decisions, and not wasted money on weapons they too could have relaxed in a vacation home this summer. Instead, they could only plot a most sinister and despicable attack on our democracy.

There is even reporting that these criminals had talked about creating a society in which they could be “self-sufficient” and one said he wanted 200 men to storm the Statehouse in Lansing. Given that a few of the men are good-looking means they might get their desire to have men storming–towards them in the prison showers.

It would have been far more productive for their futures had they just smoked pot and listened to some angry songs from the Vietnam era. As it is now they are looking at decades–perhaps even life–behind bars.

And that is certainly where they will be placed.

But let us not forget the news story from only two days ago concerning these types of white males who just fail to fit into normal society.

The Department of Homeland Security warned on Tuesday that violent white supremacy was the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland” in an annual assessment that a former intelligence chief had accused the agency of withholding in deference to President Trump.

The intelligence chief-turned-whistle-blower last month accused the department of blocking the report to play down the threat of violent white racism as well as Russian election interference and align the agency’s message with the president’s. But the final report appeared to do no such thing.

The threat assessment highlighted white supremacists as the most deadly among domestic terrorists in recent years and Russia as the primary threat to spreading disinformation.

I am particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years,” Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, wrote in the forward to the assessment. The threat report also stated that “Russia is the likely primary covert influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation within the homeland.”

White Nationalism Smacked Down On Facebook

There is good news to report about how a major social media platform is responding to the uptick in White Nationalism.

In a major policy shift Facebook banned white nationalism and white separatism on its platform.  There is no room for these hate groups to have a platform from which to spew their vile horse-rot.  This move marks a major reversal for the social media platform, whose previous internal policies told content moderators that white nationalist and white separatist content should be treated differently than white supremacist content.  That shade of gray provoked outrage and forced the top brass of Facebook to rethink their actions.

As part of the policy update, Facebook will also direct users searching for content related to white supremacy on its platform to Life After Hate, a nonprofit organization that provides support and education to help people leave hate groups and movements.  As we know, the most important thing is education for those who use hate as a tool.

More specifically, the company is going to ban “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism” on both Facebook and Instagram.  Facebook said that it would start enforcing the new rules next week.   It can not come soon enough for this nation.   The long and short of it is that Facebook has now promised to weed out white supremacy from its site.

And so it goes.

Newspaper Front Pages From New Zealand And Australia After White Supremacist Massacre

Front pages of newspapers from New Zealand and Australia following White Nationalist attack on faithful Muslims.

Rise Of White Nationalism And Anti-Jewish Attacks

There is much to learn from the pages of history.  It often speaks to our times.

More than a decade before the Nazis seized power in Germany, Albert Einstein was on the run and already fearful for his country’s future, according to a newly revealed handwritten letter.

His longtime friend and fellow Jew, German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, had just been assassinated by right-wing extremists and police had warned the noted physicist that his life could be in danger too.

So Einstein fled Berlin and went into hiding in northern Germany. It was during this hiatus that he penned a handwritten letter to his beloved younger sister, Maja, warning of the dangers of growing nationalism and anti-Semitism years before the Nazis ultimately rose to power, forcing Einstein to flee his native Germany for good.

A truly unremarkable and unsettling account of how our federal government, law enforcement, and national intelligence agencies failed to recognize the alarming threat of white nationalism was pushing this month in The New York Times Magazine.

White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has reported that 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent. Data compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database shows that the number of terror-related incidents has more than tripled in the United States since 2013, and the number of those killed has quadrupled. In 2017, there were 65 incidents totaling 95 deaths. In a recent analysis of the data by the news site Quartz, roughly 60 percent of those incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, antigovernment or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, like radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks.

One of those coming to Gainesville was William Fears, a 31-year-old from Houston. Fears, who online went by variations of the handle Antagonizer, was one of the most dedicated foot soldiers of the alt-right. Countless YouTube videos had captured his progress over the past year as he made his way from protest to protest across several states, flinging Nazi salutes, setting off smoke bombs and, from time to time, attacking people. Fears was also a felon. He had spent six years in prison for aggravated kidnapping in a case involving his ex-girlfriend, and now he had an active warrant for his arrest, after his new girlfriend accused him of assault less than two weeks earlier. On Oct. 18, the night before the event, Fears and a few others from Houston’s white-nationalist scene got in Fears’s silver Jeep Patriot for the 14-hour drive. Fears’s friend Tyler TenBrink, who pleaded guilty to assault in 2014, posted video from their trip on his Facebook page. There were four men, two of them felons, and two nine-millimeter handguns. “Texans always carry,” Fears said later.

 

Front Pages Of Pennsylvania Newspapers Cover Jewish Synagogue Slaughter From AR-15 Used By White Nationalist

These newspapers convey the mood of a nation.