It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.

His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.

It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own.

–Ta-Nahisi Coates, The First White President

Neofascists In Contemporary Garb (Updated)

Hundreds of far-right demonstrators wielded torches as they marched on to the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Friday night and reportedly attacked a much smaller group of counter-protesters who had linked arms around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Starting at a municipal park less than a mile away, “alt-right” protesters who have gathered for the weekend Unite the Right rally marched in a long column over the short distance to the campus, chanting slogans like “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil”.

When the marchers reached and surrounded the counter-protesters there was a short verbal confrontation. Counter-protesters claimed they were then attacked with swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid.

Emily Gorcenski, who shared several live videos of the event, was among the protesters who said they were hit with the mace spray. “[They] completely surrounded us and wouldn’t let us out.”

She said police did not intervene until long after the rightwing marchers had struck out at protesters. “I saw hundreds of people chanting Nazi slogans and police do nothing.”

The Washington Post reported that at least one counter-demonstrator used a chemical spray, affecting a number of protesters.

Charlottesville police did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Two male protesters who said they were also maced, and did not wish to be named, described far-right protesters moving from verbal abuse, to pushing and shoving protesters, to the noxious spray.

“Someone from the alt right maced me right in the face – unprovoked,” said one. “After they maced people they started punching people and hitting them with torches.” Several protesters said a woman using a wheelchair was among those sprayed.

Just up the street from the fracas, a community prayer meeting was held in St Paul’s memorial church, addressed by several preachers including prominent civil rights leader Dr Cornel West. The end of the service overlapped with the torch parade and many people waited for long periods before leaving citing safety concerns.

In an interview, West said: “The crypto-fascists, the neofascists, the neo-Nazis now feel so empowered, not just by Trump but by the whole shift in the nation towards scapegoats.

“I don’t like this talk about ‘alt-right’, that’s an unnecessary abstraction. These are neofascists in contemporary garb.”

–Jason Wilson, Charlottesville: far right crowd with torches encircles counter-protest group

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A planned protest in Virginia by white nationalists was abandoned on Saturday after a spate of violence prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency and law enforcement officers to clear the area.

The demonstration, which both organizers and critics had said was the largest gathering of white nationalists in recent years, turned violent almost immediately and left several people injured.

The turmoil began with a march Friday night and escalated Saturday morning as hundreds of white nationalists gathered. Waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans, wearing helmets and carrying shields, they converged on a statue of Robert E. Lee in the city’s Emancipation Park and began chanting phrases like “You will not replace us,” and “Jew will not replace us.”

Hundreds of counterprotesters quickly surrounded the crowd, chanting and carrying their own signs.

By 11 a.m., the scene had exploded into taunting, shoving and outright brawling. Barricades encircling the park and separating the two sides began to come down, and police temporarily retreated. People were seen clubbing one another in the streets, and pepper spray filled the air.

Police cleared the area before noon, and the Virginia National Guard arrived as officers began arresting some who remained for unlawful assembly. But fears lingered that the altercation would start again nearby, even as politicians, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a Republican, condemned the violence.

A couple hours later, a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, and city officials said there were multiple injuries after a three-car crash.

Emergency medical personnel treated eight people after the earlier clashes, the Charlottesville Police Department said. It was not immediately clear how severely they were hurt. Several area hospitals did not return telephone calls seeking information.

The fight was the latest in a series of tense dramas unfolding across the United States over plans to remove statues and other historic markers of the Confederacy. The battles have been intensified by the election of President Trump, who enjoys fervent support from white nationalists.

–Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Brian M. Rosenthal, State of Emergency Declared in Charlottesville After Protests Turn Violent

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump is rarely reluctant to express his opinion, but he is often seized by caution when addressing the violence and vitriol of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists, some of whom are his supporters.

After days of genially bombastic interactions with the news media on North Korea and the shortcomings of congressional Republicans, Mr. Trump on Saturday condemned the bloody protests in Charlottesville, Va., in what critics in both parties saw as muted, equivocal terms.

During a brief and uncomfortable address to reporters at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., he called for an end to the violence. But he was the only national political figure to spread blame for the “hatred, bigotry and violence” that resulted in the death of one person to “many sides.”

For the most part, Republican leaders and other allies have kept quiet over several months about Mr. Trump’s outbursts and angry Twitter posts. But recently they have stopped averting their gazes and on Saturday a handful criticized his reaction to Charlottesville as insufficient.

“Mr. President — we must call evil by its name,” tweeted Senator Cory Gardner, Republican from Colorado, who oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans.

“These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” he added, a description several of his colleagues used.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and the father of the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did not dispute Mr. Trump’s comments directly, but he called the behavior of white nationalists in Charlottesville “evil.”

Democrats have suggested that Mr. Trump is simply unwilling to alienate the segment of his white electoral base that embraces bigotry. The president has forcefully rejected any suggestion he harbors any racial or ethnic animosities, and points to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an observant Jew, and his daughter Ivanka, who converted to the faith, as proof of his inclusiveness.

In one Twitter post on Saturday, Mr. Trump nodded to that inclusiveness.

“We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” the president wrote, a statement that had echoes of his campaign slogan, America First.

But like several other statements Mr. Trump made on Saturday, the tweet made no mention that the violence in Charlottesville was initiated by white supremacists brandishing anti-Semitic placards, Confederate battle flags, torches and a few Trump campaign signs.

Mr. Trump, the product of a well-to-do, predominantly white Queens enclave who in 1989 paid for a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty for five black teenagers convicted but later exonerated of raping a white woman in Central Park, flirted with racial controversy during the 2016 campaign. He repeatedly expressed outrage that anyone could suggest he was prejudiced.

When he retweeted white supremacists’ accounts, he brushed aside questions about them. When he was asked about the support he had been given by David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, he chafed, insisting he didn’t know Mr. Duke.

Finally, at a news conference in South Carolina, Mr. Trump said “I disavow” when pressed on Mr. Duke. He later described Mr. Duke as a “bad person.”

When his social media director, Dan Scavino, posted an image on Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed with a Star of David near Hillary Clinton’s head, with money raining down, Mr. Trump rejected widespread criticism of the image as anti-Semitic.

In an interview that aired in September 2016, Mr. Trump said “I am the least racist person that you have ever met,’’ a statement he repeated at a White House news conference in February.

In Bedminster on Saturday, Mr. Trump said he and his team were “closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.,” then tried to portray the violence there as a chronic, bipartisan plague. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country,’’ he said. “It’s not Donald Trump, it’s not Barack Obama.”

Mr. Trump did not single out the marchers, who included the white supremacist Richard Spencer and Mr. Duke, for their ideology.

While Democrats and some Republicans faulted Mr. Trump for being too vague, Mr. Duke was among the few Trump critics who thought the president had gone too far.

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” he wrote on Twitter, shortly after the president spoke.

The president remained silent on the violence for most of the morning even as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, and dozens of other public figures condemned the march.

Mrs. Trump, using her official Twitter account, wrote, “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville.”

Mr. Ryan was even more explicit. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry,” he wrote on Twitter at noon, around the time that Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in the city.

–Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Trump’s Remarks On Charlottesville Violence Are Criticized As Insufficient

Recently at the state level, legislators have authored Bircher-esque bills that have made it further through the lawmaking process than many thought possible in Texas, even just a few years ago—though these are less the cause of the John Birch Society’s influence than an indication of the rise of its particular strain of politics. These include bills that would forbid any government entity from participating in “Agenda 21,” a UN sustainable development effort which JBS pamphlets describe as central to the “UN’s plan to establish control over all human activity”; prevent the theoretical sale of the Alamo to foreigners (since 1885 the state has owned the former mission, Texas’ most visited historic landmark, where the most famous battle of the Texas Revolution occurred); and repeal the Texas DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students who graduate from Texas high schools to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. And last month, Governor Greg Abbott signed the “American Laws for American Courts” Act into law, guarding against what the society has called “Sharia-creep” by prohibiting the use of Islamic Sharia law in Texas’ court system.

This is what the 21st-century John Birch Society looks like. Gone is the organization’s past obsession with ending the supposed communist plot to achieve mind-control through water fluoridation. What remains is a hodgepodge of isolationist, religious and right-wing goals that vary from concrete to abstract, from legitimate to conspiracy minded—goals that don’t look so different from the ideology coming out of the White House. It wants to pull the United States out of NAFTA (which it sees as the slippery slope that will lead us to a single-government North American Union), return America to what they call its Christian foundations, defund the UN, abolish the departments of education and energy, and slash the federal government drastically. The John Birch Society once fulminated on the idea of Soviet infiltration of the U.S. government; now, it wants to stop the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and possible collusion with the campaign of President Donald Trump.

The Society’s ideas, once on the fringe, are increasingly commonplace in today’s Republican Party. And where Birchers once looked upon national Republican leaders as mortal enemies, the ones I met in Texas see an ally in the president. “All of us here voted for Trump,” says Carter. “And we’re optimistic about what he will do.”

The John Birch Society formed on a frigid Monday morning in December 1958, when 11 of the nation’s richest businessmen braved single-digit temperatures to attend a mysterious meeting in suburban Indianapolis.

They had arrived at the behest of candy magnate Robert Welch, who had made a fortune with his caramel-on-a-stick confection known as the “Sugar Daddy,” and now intended to spend that money defeating the wide-slung Communist conspiracy he was certain had infiltrated the federal government. Welch had invited these men to Indianapolis without giving a reason, and asked them to stay for two days.

After exchanging firm handshakes in the breakfast room of a sprawling, Tudor-style house in the tony Meridian Park neighborhood, Welch explained why he had brought this group together: The United States faced an existential threat from an “international Communist conspiracy” hatched by an “amoral gang of sophisticated criminals.” The power-hungry, God-hating, government worshipers had infiltrated newsrooms, public schools, legislative chambers and houses of worship. They were frighteningly close to total victory—Welch felt it in his gut. “These cunning megalomaniacs seek to make themselves the absolute rulers of a human race of enslaved robots, in which every civilized trait has been destroyed,” Welch wrote in The Blue Book of the John Birch Society, the organization’s founding history.

The chosen few gathered here would form the vanguard of a new political movement, an army of brave American patriots dedicated to preserving the country’s Christian and constitutional foundations. Welch christened the group the John Birch Society—named in memory of a U.S. soldier-turned-Baptist missionary killed by Chinese Communists in 1945—and laid out its goal: Destroying the “Communist conspiracy … or at least breaking its grip on our government and shattering its power within the United States.”

Chip Berlet, former senior analyst at Political Research Associates in Somerville, Massachusetts, a left-leaning think tank, and co-author of “Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort,” has studied the John Birch Society for three decades.

Berlet tells me the resurgence of the John Birch Society taps into populism which surfaces periodically, especially during times of cultural and demographic upheaval. The nation’s demographic landscape has undergone dramatic shifts since the Birchers’ heyday. From 1955 to 2014, the percentage of U.S. citizens who identified as Protestant sunk from 70 percent to 46 percent, according to polls by Gallup. The percentage of citizens who identified as non-Hispanic white decreased from 89 percent to 63 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Such changes, mixed with man’s evolutionary tendency toward tribalism, means that many white Christian Americans are full of anxiety.

“The John Birch Society views white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethnocentrism as the true expression of America,” Berlet says. “They use constitutionalist arguments and conspiracist scapegoating to mask this.”

Placing blame on conspiracies is seductive to social conservatives because of the way their brains are hardwired, says Colin Holbrook, an evolutionary psychologist and research scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It’s not a pathology, nor because they’re less intelligent,” Holbrook tells me.

–John Savage, The John Birch Society Is Back

Magnitsky was the target of investigations, arrested by authorities and kept in jail without charges. He was beaten and later died under mysterious circumstances in jail just days before his possible release.

Independent investigators found “inhuman detention conditions, the isolation from his family, the lack of regular access to his lawyers and the intentional refusal to provide adequate medical assistance resulted in the deliberate infliction of severe pain and suffering, and ultimately his death.”

The Magnitsky Act was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2012 as a retaliation against the human rights abuses suffered by Magnitsky. The law at first blocked 18 Russian government officials and businessmen from entering the United States, froze any assets held by U.S. banks and banned their future use of U.S. banking systems. The act was expanded in 2016, and now sanctions apply to 44 suspected human rights abusers worldwide.

Its official title is a mouthful — the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. In most news stories and accounts, the shorthand is simply — the Magnitsky Act.

Bill Browder, an American hedge fund manager who hired Magnitsky for the corruption investigation that eventually led to his death, was a central figure in the bill’s passage.

When pressed on the details of his meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. appeared to downplay its significance by linking it to concerns over an issue that appears uncontroversial on its surface: adoption. But the barring of U.S. adoptions of Russian children is a flash point of tense diplomatic relations and tied directly to the Magnitsky Act.

Two weeks after Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill that blocked adoption of Russian children by parents in the United States. Russia then also imposed sanctions on Browder and found Magnitsky posthumously guilty of crimes.

Supporters of the bill at the time cited mistreatment of Russian children by adoptive U.S. parents as the reason for its passage. But it was widely viewed as a retaliatory act, and the issues have been linked since.

Trump Jr. said that despite assurances that Veselnitskaya would come bearing incriminating information about Hillary Clinton in their 2016 meeting, the topic quickly shifted to the Magnitsky Act and U.S. adoptions from Russia.

Browder described Veselnitskaya in an NPR interview as a longtime foil to him in her efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act. She represents a member of the Katsyv family, whose company is under investigation by the Justice Department in connection with the laundering of real estate money in New York. Denis Katsyv has lobbied to overturn Magnitsky and to end Russia’s American adoption ban.

–Alex Horton, The Magnitsky Act, Explained

 

We all have made serious mistakes and hurt other people, intentionally or not. We get a chance to learn from them when those around us respond with kindness and patience. Where is our humility when examining the mistakes of others? Why do we position ourselves as morally superior to the un-woke? Who of us came into the world fully awake?

There are also some online publications of dogmatic activism that could be considered sacred texts. For example, the intersectional site Everyday Feminism receives millions of views a month. It features more than 40 talented writers who pen essays on a wide range of anti-oppression topics, zeroing in on ones that haven’t yet broached larger activist conversations online. When Everyday Feminism articles are shared among my friends, I feel both grateful that the conversation is sparking and also very belittled. Nearly all of their articles follow a standard structure: an instructive title, list of problematic or suggested behaviors, and a final statement of hard opinion. The titles, the educational tone, and the prescriptive checklists contribute to creating the idea that there is only one way to think about and do activism. And it’s a swiftly moving target that is always just out of reach. In trying to liberate readers from the legitimately oppressive structures, I worry that sites like Everyday Feminism are replacing them with equally restrictive orthodoxy on the other end of the political spectrum.

At this year’s Allied Media Conference, BLM co-founder Alicia Garza gave an explosive speech to a theatre full of brilliant and passionate organizers. She urged us to set aside our distrust and critique of newer activists and accept that they will hurt and disappoint us. Don’t shut them out because their politics are outdated or they don’t wield the same language. If we are interested in building the mass movements needed to destroy mass oppression, our movements must include people not like us, people with whom we will never fully agree, and people with whom we have conflict. That’s a much higher calling than railing at people from a distance and labeling them as wrong. Ultimately, according to Garza, building a movement is about restoring humanity to all of us, even to those of us who have been inhumane. Movements are where people are called to be transformed in service of liberation of themselves and others.

–Frances Lee,  Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice