October 29, 2018
This has been a week like no other for the ascendant violence of right wing extremism. Not since the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 have we seen right wingers so fueled by a commitment to unleash their violent vision on America. And if that weren’t enough, Brazil just elected a neo-fascist who promises to out-Trump Trump. I hate it went I start thinking those Antifa kids might have been right all along. It suddenly feels like Trump has made America 1940 again, when the original America First Committee was founded in a wash of anti-Semitism. It suddenly feels like all rednecks who have told me that the “South will rise again!” might have a fighting chance. It feels like America is dying on the kudzu vine.
The week’s (this time legitimately-based) fear-driven headlines were propelled by a Trump fanatic and self-self-professed white supremacist (even though he is biracial) mailing over a dozen pipe bombs to the “enemies” of Trump, including CNN. Then on Wednesday, an armed white guy in Louisville, Kentucky tried to get into a black church, failed and killed two African-Americans in a Kroger parking lot. Finally, on Saturday morning, while I was preparing a talk on hate crimes for the convention of the Oregon Court Reporters Association, the news came down about Pittsburgh and the worst anti-Semitic hate crime in this nation’s dark history. I wanted to throw up.
We have a right to ask what the hell is happening to our country. There have been those on the (formerly) extreme right who have begun openly calling for an armed civil war, especially if their richy rich man-god Donald Trump is impeached or loses in 2020. I spend too much time lurking on deep web chat sites and have seen them echo his conspiracy theories about “deep state actors” who want to control the MAGA agenda. Their apocalyptic time bomb is ticking. To be fair, this talk of impending doom and the violent call to action far predates the daddy-made billionaire from Queens, but it’s been turned up to 11 of late.
There’s so many parts to this moving disaster, it’s hard to focus on just one threat matrix. What’s clear is that Donald Trump is far too stupid to understand what’s actually at stake and he’s willing to push us that much closer to collapse if it feeds his narcissistic psychosis. He can read some good copy when there has been a horrific massacre and mouth the word “unity” off the teleprompter, but then drops right back into masturbating in front of his adoring MAGA cult. Not only does he not have the intellect to understand the true magnitude of the cliff he has perched us on, he doesn’t care to know. His closest advisors hide paperwork from him in hopes he will forget that it exists and have referred to him as a “fucking moron.” Trump himself has said he doesn’t read his Presidential Daily Briefings. I doubt he has ever read an actual book. So how can this TV huckster have any clue how to lead us forward? He’s best served by his “imported workers” at Mar-a-Lago and leave governing to the adults.
So let me try to simplify it as much as possible. As someone who has over thirty-years of studying right-wing extremism, both historical and contemporary, let me try to explain this in a way that even the redcaps can understand. Saturday night I was live on CNN International trying to explain the context of the slaughter in Pittsburgh. They gave me four-and-a-half minutes. Give me at least that here.
Trolls of the alt right
The alt right subculture that spilled out from the internet in 2014 is a many splendored thing but generally feels the GOP is not “conservative” enough and mired in the swamp of mainstream politics. While building their trolling skills on line, they were characterized by random racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. Fragile white boys can be kind of dicks when anonymously posting from their mommy’s basements. Trump’s racist campaign rhetoric gave them permission to hit the streets and after the election alt right godfather Richard Spencer had them chanting “Heil Trump!” in our nation’s capital. Soon gangs of thugs, like the Proud Boys, were acting like Trump’s Brown Shirts, pledging to “clean the streets” of liberals and other “pansies.” Trump’s hyper-masculine calls to “knock the hell out of ‘em” was playing out in real time and the President never told them to stop.
But there is a split in this dark world of extremism and it’s scary as hell, so let me try to lay out the landscape of what’s being foisted on our increasingly less civil society.
Before I go any farther, let me explain something to the intellectually challenged who have a difficult time time with complexity: Not every Trump-supporter is white supremacist or member of the alt right. And not every white supremacist alt right Nazi is a Trump supporter. And I know that the KKK was founded by Democrats 150 years ago. Shit changes.
Camp #1 are the white supremacists who believe Trump is their guy. That this spray-tanned rich guy with dyed hair will advance the cause of white nationalism farther than any skinhead or Klansman ever could. This camp includes Spencer and former Klan Grand Dragon David Duke. Trump’s Muslim bans, opposition to civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter and kneeling NFL players, and hyperbole amount Mexican “murderers and rapists” and caravans of Central American “invaders” is music to their ears. Most white people are murdered by other white people but find a story of a white female killed by a brown male and Trump will used that as “proof” of the need to go medieval on the savages. As I said over three years ago, the Trump rhetoric perfectly parallels the rhetoric I heard at Klan rallies during my field research.
Trump’s racism is nothing new and predates his call for the executions of the (exonerated) Central Park 5 in 1989. Camp #1 eats it all up. Calling Africa the land of “shithole countries” or dismissing claims of sexual assault as “locker room talk,” they know MAGA means MAWA – Make America White Again. When Trump told CNN that America was “last great” in the “late 1940s and early 1950s,” they heard of a mythical country before Brown v. Board of Education, feminism, Stonewall, and “multiculturalism.” They’ll even tolerate a minstrel show from Kanye West if it means preventing the “white genocide” they fear is coming. Any black guy with a MAGA cap, gets a close up. See? They’re not racists! (wink)
Camp #1 includes the hyper-violent Proud Boys and Identity Evropa, who has been heavily targeting white college students, claiming they are the victims of “political correctness” (aka, the long effort to create a more fair and equitable society) and need organized advocates for the white males, the “new minority,” on campuses. This camp can now claim bodybuilder, strip club DJ, and Number 1 Trump fan who lived in the Number 1 Trump van Cesar Sayoc. Sayoc’s mail bombs for Hillary Clinton, Cory Booker, and other Trump critics (it must have a rough week for Michael Moore) took Trump’s screed about “enemies” to its logical conclusion.
Camp #2 is even more frightening. Camp #2 sees Trump as a buffoon and an opportunist. Even though our president has now proclaimed himself to be a “nationalist” and is icky-chummy with white nationalist icon Vladimir Putin, he’s too deferential Israel for these neo-Nazis. Very early on they expressed revulsion that he would “let” his daughter marry a Jew. They are steeped in anti-Semitic conspiracies that see both Republican and Democratic parties controlled by a global Zionist cabal, beholden to the international money lenders and hellbent on destroying the white race though multiculturalism, abortion, and even circumcision.
The most notorious member of this camp was Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, who killed 168 Americans, including 19 children who were in a federal daycare facility. McVeigh was operating from a racist playbook called The Turner Diaries, and had hoped to inspire a wave attacks by fellow “patriots” to purge the Jewish control of the American government. The playbook ends with racist patriots infiltrating the military and launching nuclear missiles at Israel and New York City, as the two seats of global Jewish power. McVeigh failed and was executed in 2001, but in the process became a martyr to countless racists. This includes Jeremy Christian, the Portland Max Train Murderer, who posted an ode to McVeigh on Facebook in 2017, on the 22nd anniversary of the bombing. Every federal worker knows that the threat of another McVeigh is a daily concern. The recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents must only add to their anxiety.
Camp #2 includes neo-Nazi groups like the Aryan Strike Force and Atomwaffen, who have been linked to murderous violence across the country, including the murder of a gay Jewish teenager in California. Camp #2 now includes Robert Bowers, who screamed “All Jews must die” as he opened fire in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday morning, killing eleven worshipers. Bowers had a massive social media footprint, ranting about Jews and Trump’s Jewish connections, posting on the alt-right loved app Gab, “There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation.” I’m gonna guess they’ll find a copy of The Turner Diaries and pin-up of Timothy McVeigh in his footlocker. Camp #2 will ride on Trump’s coattails until it’s time to launch their second American revolution.
Where is the President?
Both camps merged last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, where young men in red MAGA hats chanted, “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” and ended in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. Her killer, James Fields, was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump because of what he perceived of as Trump’s racial views. Afterwards, Trump said that there were “fine people” on both sides of the conflict between neo-Nazis and protestors. I was live on CNN that afternoon and the anchor asked me if I was President Trump’s speechwriter what would I have him say. I laughed at the thought. I wanted to say that he was just not smart enough to understand the depth of the problem.
In the wake of this past week, it should be 100% clear there is a void in the leadership in this county. I remember in 2001, being so grateful to George W. Bush, a man who I thought was completely illegitimate as president and incapable of performing the task. After the 9/11 attacks he went to the National Mosque in Washington, DC and, on live TV, read from the Koran and said that this fight was not against Islam. Immediately hate crimes against our Muslim and Arab neighbors decreased. Trump is incapable of this type of humility, instead escaping his work in the Oval Office for the limelight of his adoring fans. He wants us to know that hate is a problem all over the world and was happening before he ever came to town. It has absolutely nothing to do with him. He reads a well-written prompt about unity and then goes right back to attacking the media (which neo-Nazis believe is controlled by the Jews) and his laundry list of the “enemies” of America.
After the arrest of Cesar Sayok on Friday, I spent a few minutes listing to conservative radio, anxious to how they would spin the revelation that the mail bomber was one of their own (and not a false flag like Rush Limbaugh had hoped). I tuned into local host Lars Larson to hear the expected chat that the bomber was just a “nut” and not a true conservative. Larson tried to defend Trump’s language about “enemies.” “If someone hurts you, aren’t they your enemy?” he lectured a seemingly rational caller who cow-towed to Larson’s booming voice. I thought, no, of course not. If I give a student an F on their mid-term, I’ve hurt them but that does not make me their enemy. I could say government policies have hurt me in some way, but that doesn’t make those lawmakers my enemy. What is behind this hyper-masculine need for enemies to fight? It seems like the psychological profile of little boy soldiers not grown adults.
Added to this are the looney conspiracy theories that come from Alex Jones (who Trump has supported), QAnon digbats (who flock to Trump’s rallies), and Trump himself. Did you know there are secret Middle-Easterners in the Central American refugee caravan, which was organized by the Democratic party to smuggle illegal voters into this country for the midterm election? A stoned college freshman didn’t come up with this theory. It was the President of the United States of America. It’s only a hop, skip, and jump from that wack-a-doodle to “You know the Jews run the deep state.” The fact that GOP majority leader Kevin McCarthy recently tweeted, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA,” makes the anti-Jewish conspiracy theory all the more “legitimate.” (I won’t even get into Fox News’ obsession with George Soros that regularly smacks of anti-Semitism.)
To be clear, I don’t think the majority of Trump-supporters are Nazis. Neither were the majority of Germans in 1933. But there is a certain personality profile that falls for a strongman and his cult of personality, and you don’t need a numerical majority to drop a once great nation down the rabbit hole of fascism (Olá Brasil) or push it to the tipping point of violent civil war (Rais Rawanda). The US is not guaranteed eternal stability. Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale recently? Trump loves “his generals.” The complexity of political work, not so much. The man is just not smart enough for the job, but those who are equally moronic exalt his simplistic style (even if it is built on a house of post-factual cards). And those who are a bit smarter but deeply sociopathic will wait for that house of cards to collapse and then make their move and Saturday’s synagogue attack will pale in comparison. White supremacists call it Rahowa – Racial Holy War and they’ve been fantasizing about it for a long time.
The threat is real. The body count is already mounting from right-wing terrorism. Our nation needs leadership not a narcissistic man-child who constantly needs his ego fellated. William Safire once wrote a line for Richard Nixon’s 1968 speeches that referred to a sign held by a 13-yer-old girl that read, “Bring us together.” 2018 is 1968 with even more at stake. Trump is incapable of this demand. He is the product of this division, has magnified this division, and benefits from this division. We need a actual leader and we need one quick.
5 thoughts on “President Trump is not smart enough not to throw America into a civil war”
i am so sad at the directions our country is headed. yes, Trump is to blame for a lot of the violence. there are always people that listen to him say ” go get them.” he praises violence against the press. this was Hitler’s first rule, he calls them fake news. i don’t need to read it in the press or see it on CNN. i just listen to the crap that spews out of his own mouth. there will always be some idiot that will take it serious and act out in violence. he must be stopped. Impeach him sooner rather than later. our country is better than that, but the ones that abhor his hate talk, must call him out loud and clear.
Interesting piece, but there’s somethings I would like to rebut:
1) “If someone hurts you, aren’t they your enemy?”
Let me ask you this, if someone did something to your wife or daughter, would that make them your enemy (doesn’t matter what their political affiliation is), would that not make them your enemy? Thing is, America has two main sides which breaks down to different parts, Democrats and Republicans. ~Democrats:
You have top senior Democratic officials (Maxine Waters, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton) telling the people what to do. They are giving instructions of violence. For the Democrats to say they want what’s best for the people, is this really the best way possible? Encouraging to “Kick them while they are down,” “if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” “have power is an admission that the ends justify the means.” I haven’t included Spartacus I mean Cory Booker (who has had allegations that he is a groper, but ironically enough, that was swept under the rug).
~Anitfa: This is a group that has caused more violence in Portland. Whenever Patriot Prayer comes to Portland for a peaceful demonstration, there’s Antifa causing violence, blocking roads (which is actually against the law to do in Portland), and being destructive in their communities. They claim they want what’s best for “the people,” but yet they can seem to act in a civil manner.
~By Any Mean Necessary (BAMN)
This is another far left organization. They helped organize the fiery riots that resulted in the cancellation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California at Berkeley.
You talk about how the far-right is violent, these are three of many groups that’s in alliance with the left/Democratic party.
2) There’s a name that you left out (not sure if it was deliberate or not). James T. Hodgkinson. You talk about Timothy McVeigh, Cesar Sayoc, and Robert Bowers, but why not mention James Hodgkinson? He was a known Bernie supporter and anti-Trump, and even said, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co., Republicans are the Taliban of the USA.” He went to the baseball field and had intentions to kill. Fortunately, he wasn’t able to kill anybody, but several people were hurt. Wouldn’t that be considered a domestic terrorist act/intention?
Truth is, there are people on both sides of the coin that have flaws. You’ve made a good case on the right and I hope I’ve made a good case on the left. Now the question is, what do we do about it? Do we keep degrading everyone until one side wins? If there’s one thing we can learn from history, that is we haven’t learned anything. Was there really a true “winner” during the civil war? Yes, we call ourselves the United States of America rather than the Confederate States of America, but look at the stain it’s left on us. People still fighting about slavery (ended in 1863). People are fighting which is better, the North or South. People are still fighting about racism and Confederate artifacts (statues, monuments, and yes even the flag).
As Democrats are busy criticizing Republicans, here’s something to think about:
Democrats didn’t care when Madonna said she had thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. Democrats didn’t care when Kathy Griffin posed with a mock severed head of President Trump. Democrats didn’t care when a Broadway Play depicted the assassination of President Trump. Democrats didn’t care when Johnny Depp said, “how long has been since an actor assassinated a President”. Democrats didn’t care when dozens of people were shot to death at a Jason Aldean concert. Democrats didn’t care when Congressman Steve Scalise was shot at a baseball game. Democrats didn’t care when Robert De Niro said “somebody needs to take out Trump”. Democrats didn’t care when Carole Cook said “Where’s John Wilkes Booth when you need him?” Democrats didn’t care when Republican candidate Rudy Peters was attacked by a man with a switchblade. Democrats didn’t care when a Republican Party Office was set on fire. Democrats didn’t care when Eric Holder said “When they go low, we kick ‘em”. Democrats didn’t care when Trump family members received suspicious packages in the mail. Democrats didn’t care when Secretary of Defense James Mattis received death threats. Democrats didn’t care when Maxine Waters said “you get up in their face at the mall, in restaurants, at gas stations and you tell them Republicans they’re not welcomed anywhere”. Democrats didn’t care when Sarah Sanders and her family were harassed at a restaurant, instructed to leave and chased down the street. Democrats didn’t care when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was harassed and chased out of a Mexican restaurant. Democrats didn’t care when Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s life was threatened and he was chased out of a restaurant. Democrats didn’t care when Attorney General Pam Bondi was harassed and chased out of a theatre. Democrats didn’t care when two Republican senators: Rob Portman of Ohio and John Boozman of Arkansas were harassed in their own yards and on their own doorsteps. Democrats didn’t care when a 71-year-old female staffer for California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher was knocked unconscious by an angry group of liberal protesters. Democrats didn’t care when a North Carolina GOP office was firebombed by an angry mob of liberals. Democrats didn’t care when Hillary Clinton said “we can’t be civil to Republican until Democrats return to power”.
For over two years Democrats have encouraged hate, harassment, vandalism, acts of violence and even threats of assassination.
To Brian: please google the De Niro quote. And when you can’t find it, google the Hillary quote. And when you can’t find that (yes she said something similar, but with far more nuance), look for proof that no Democrats said anything when Scalise was shot. And when you find plenty of quotes of support for him, then look for proof that no Democrats said anything about Maxine Waters’ comments, and when you find Democracts chastising her, then maybe it’s time for reflection. Words matter. Last week, somebody tried to *KILL* De Niro, Hillary and Waters. Do you who is spreading untruths bear some responsibility? I agree with your basic message: there are angry people on both sides who go too far. But this article is a perfect example. People will get hurt as a result of this lack of intellectual rigor.