Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Onetime Antiwar, Environmental Protester Veers Into the Seamy World of Anti-Semitism

Ken O'Keefe

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

While most American-born activists who become involved in defending Palestinian rights avoid becoming overt anti-Semites even while steadfastly criticizing Israel, Kenneth O’Keefe is not one of them.

O’Keefe, a former Marine-turned-antiwar and anti-environmental activist who specializes in what he calls “direct action,” has morphed in recent years into a raving, David Duke-endorsing anti-Semite, particularly in the speeches he gives to well-known white-supremacist groups.

The most noteworthy of these was O’Keefe’s speech to the IONA London Forum, a gathering of academically oriented white supremacists and anti-Semites held last August. The speech was noteworthy for its crude ugliness: the 50-plus-minute-talk by O’Keefe revolved around the repeated phrase “fucking Jews.”

You know, I remember as a kid, the worst insult you could say to somebody — which I didn’t even know the origin of it, but we used to all use it — and it was no basis of any kind of discrimination, it was just this term — and it was Jew. In the worst way, fucking Jew. You know, you’re a fucking Jew, or something like that.

And you know, I never really thought about it. I didn’t have any Jewish friends as far as I knew, and yet I look back at it now and I realize it must be that there is some truth behind this, that it would be the ultimate insult, that’s somehow there’s this awareness without even being aware of the historical reality of Jewish impact on human history.”
That’s only the start of what was an epic emission of hate speech from O’Keefe at the forum. In the past, he has specialized in “straight talking” appearances before various groups, but now he has shaped them in the mold of a profane David Duke, the neo-Nazi and former Klan leader.

As his mainstream-seeming bio at Veterans Today explains, O’Keefe was a Gulf War veteran who first garnered attention in the 1990s by exposing the use of depleted uranium in that war.
O'Keefe (right) with Watson in 2000

O’Keefe also was involved for many years in fairly radical environmental causes, having hooked up in 1998 with Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where he eventually became the organization’s regional director in Hawaii and led the group as it rescued sea turtles and spoke out against Navy sonar activities.

A turn in O’Keefe’s career occurred in May 2001, when he was aboard the Turkish ship M.V. Mavi Marmara when it attempted to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and was subsequently boarded by Israeli commandos, resulting in the deaths of nine activists. Then, in 2003, he began leading delegations of peace activists who attempted to act as “human shields” to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In 2004, he burned his U.S. passport in an attempt to renounce his American citizenship — he was replacing his old documents with a “world passport,” he explained, and called himself a “Citizen of the World” with “ultimate allegiance to my entire human family and to planet Earth.” However, as O’Keefe’s Wikipedia page explains, the State Department has never recognized this renunciation, even though O’Keefe describes himself at his website now as the holder of “Irish, Hawaiian and Palestinian citizenship.”

O’Keefe became closely identified with the Palestinian cause, and even appeared as the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund in 2012.

As it happened, that was the same year that O’Keefe began forming a close association with David Duke. The first signs of this came in August 2012 when O’Keefe defended Duke on his Facebook page, saying: “I had a lovely 2 hour conversation with David yesterday and as per usual, the slander and lies made about anyone who is truth telling is obvious.” A little later, in the comments on his Facebook page, he claimed that Duke no longer was a white supremacist (a false claim that Duke himself is fond of making).

Then, O’Keefe appeared on Duke’s radio show in February 2013, where the pair discussed, according to Duke’s description, “the Hollywoodism Conference in Tehran, Iran. It exposes the Zio control of Hollywood which not only promotes lies about the enemies of Jewish extremism, but literally poisons the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people in West and all over the world.”

Later that year, Duke’s website featured an exchange between O’Keefe and anti-Semitic saxophonist/“scholar” Gilad Atzmon, a self-described “self-hating ex-Jew” whose writings and pronouncements are rich in conspiracy theories, Holocaust trivialization and distortion, and open support of anti-Israeli terrorist groups.

O’Keefe also made an appearance on a Russia Today interview program in October 2013, where he declared that President Obama should be tried for treason and added that “this man is a dictator who has assigned himself the right to execute anyone.”

When he was introduced at the London gathering in August 2014, his host boasted that O’Keefe was “a friend of David Duke.” But even that couldn’t have prepared the audience for the profanity-laced rant against “the fucking Jews” that followed.

Notably, O’Keefe savagely disavowed his onetime involvement in the peace movement:
The mantra that I’ve gone by for many years now is TJP: truth, justice, peace. It’s pissed me off, the peace movement – what do you mean, “peace”? Fuck peace in this world. Fuck that shit, I’d rather die. I’d rather kill some of these bastards that are trying to destroy this world and take control of everything. Fuck you. I’d rather die. Peace without justice is not worth having, bottom line. Peace at the barrel of a gun is not fucking peace.
And he predicted that eventually the scenario would play out in mob violence and retribution:
I really feel that as long as we know the truth, the truth, an honest truth about what these people have done, then justice will play itself out quite naturally. We won’t really need to even manipulate it or set it up. It’ll happen. But we need to know the truth. And a lot of people are going to be hanging from lampposts or worse, I’m sure. I don’t doubt that for a second. All these people — they’ve got hell to pay.
O’Keefe described former Rep. Ron Paul, a frequent candidate for the presidency with a penchant for attracting extremists to his cause, as “an incredible exception” to the corruption of American politics, which he described as “a servile, disgusting, treasonous body of assholes who actually have sold the American nation down the river.”

“The rest of ‘em, almost without exception, are a bunch of fucking puppets, and they’re a disgrace. And they should be rounded up and arrested for fucking treason — forthwith.”

For adopting such extremist beliefs and espousing such hateful nonsense, O’Keefe and Atzmon have been heavily marginalized within the larger Palestinian-rights and antiwar communities.

Even before O’Keefe made his presence known on the extremist scene, a group of pro-Palestinian activists and writers published a letter denouncing the kind of anti-Semitism being peddled by Atzmon and his cohorts:
We reaffirm that there is no room in this historic and foundational analysis of our struggle for any attacks on our Jewish allies, Jews, or Judaism; nor denying the Holocaust; nor allying in any way shape or form with any conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities. Challenging Zionism, including the illegitimate power of institutions that support the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegitimate use of Jewish identities to protect and legitimize oppression, must never become an attack on Jewish identities, nor the demeaning and denial of Jewish histories in all their diversity.

Indeed, we regard any attempt to link and adopt antisemitic or racist language, even if it is within a self-described anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist politics, as reaffirming and legitimizing Zionism. In addition to its immorality, this language obscures the fundamental role of imperialism and colonialism in destroying our homeland, expelling its people, and sustaining the systems and ideologies of oppression, apartheid and occupation. It leaves one squarely outside true solidarity with Palestine and its people.
A similar group of Palestinian intellectuals and activists co-signed a lengthy statement denouncing Atzmon and his supporters, concluding: “At this historic junction — when the need to struggle for the liberation of Palestine is more vital than ever and the fault lines of capitalist empire are becoming more widely exposed — no anti-oppressive revolution can be built with ultra-right allies or upon foundations friendly to creeping fascism.”

For his part, O’Keefe dismisses these critics by labeling them “cultural Marxists” – a far-right concept regarding the sources of liberal politics that inspired Anders Behring Breivik to kill 77 people in Norway in July 2011.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Conspiracist Filmmaker, Family Found Dead In Murder-Suicide, Spurring Fresh Theories

David Crowley, taking target practice during filming for 'Gray State'
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A Minnesota man who had been making an independent feature film depicting the coming imposition of a “New World Order” dictatorship in America was found dead with his family over the weekend. Police investigating the scene told reporters that the case appeared to be a murder-suicide, but the man’s conspiracist supporters have been claiming instead that he was murdered by the government.

David T. Crowley, 29, was found dead, along with his wife Komel, 28, and daughter Rani, 5, in their suburban Apple Valley home south of Minneapolis by a neighbor checking on the home. Investigators said it appeared that the bodies had been there for several weeks – probably since before Christmas – and deemed it a probable murder-suicide, with Crowley the apparent perpetrator.

However, in the conspiracy-theory industry in which Crowley operated his home-based filmmaking business, the deaths were immediately assumed to be assassinations carried out by nefarious “New World Order” agents.

At Alex Jones’ InfoWars site, the news story reporting on the deaths described the “suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths,” namely, “the controversial nature of Crowley’s latest project, entitled Gray State, a highly-anticipated independent film envisioning a brutal police state, martial law crackdown, complete with biometric identification, a ubiquitous surveillance state and FEMA stormtroopers rounding dissidents up into camps.”

Indeed, a look at the trailer that Crowley had created for Gray State reveals it to be an attempt to mount on film nearly every fever-dream conspiracy theory about the New World Order of the past ten years:

Crowley successfully raised over $60,000 in 2012 in an Indiegogo campaign to make the film, and a number of scenes were filmed on sets with professional actors. These included scenes involving roundups and executions of American citizens, home surveillance, and forcing children to have chips implanted in their bodies.

Crowley’s project was enthusiastically supported by members of the antigovernment Patriot movement, where most of these conspiracy theories originate, and Crowley was interviewed by Alex Jones for his radio show. He also apparently was well connected to the far-right “Oath Keepers” movement, frequently posting their material on the film’s Facebook page.

In one Facebook photo posted in January 2014, Crowley can be seen conferring with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and far-right pastor Chuck Baldwin, among others. Another Facebook photo meme lionizes “III Percent” movement founder Mike Vanderboegh. Posted in late November, that was one of Crowley’s last posts.

His neighbors told KARE-TV that they had not seen Crowley for several weeks, and finally grew suspicious as packages began to pile up on the family’s doorstep.

The neighbor who found the bodies told reporters that he remembered awakening one night in December to what sounded like gunshots, but then they stopped and he thought nothing more of it until checking on the Crowleys’ home. He said a dog had been apparently inside with the bodies.

Crowley was an Army veteran who had served in Iraq. At his LinkedIn profile, he explained: “After five years I had enough and left to pursue filmmaking.”

Crowley’s wife was a dietitian who ran a business called Mind Body Dietitian. She and her daughter Rani can be seen in a video that Crowley shot to promote a “documentary” he also planned in support of his feature film, to be titled Gray State: The Rise. The video shows him at home devising lighting for specific shots he had planned.

At the Facebook page for Gray State: The Rise, the person overseeing the site posted a notice about the deaths, saying: “Gray State founder, director and screenwriter David Crowley and his family have passed away. Please pray for their families and friends of which they had many.

“We will try and keep you all posted, but this page will go dark for awhile as the future of Gray State is uncertain.”

Stewart Rhodes chimed in, saying: “I was honored to know David, to see him work, and to help, in a small way, with this project. This is a great and tragic loss, and comes as such a shock.”

Crowley directing 'Gray State' on the set
Elsewhere, he added: “As others have already said, Gray State the movie needs to be made. I hope Mitch and others involved will see it finished, as a tribute to David and his family, and to complete his mission. Such a movie would be immensely powerful, and a potential game changer, which is why we are all so suspicious that there was external foul play involved in this tragedy. If the project is carried on, I pledge all assistance possible from Oath Keepers to see it made.”

Rhodes’ notes of suspicion were among some of the more restrained comments coming from the ranks of Crowley’s conspiracist cohort. One site’s headline on the case asked: “Who really murdered them?”

Commenters at the Gray State Facebook page were far more certain that the family had been “suicided” – a term popular with conspiracy theorists who believe that nefarious New World Order assassins frequently kill the people who try to expose them by staging their deaths and making it appear to be suicide.

“The Creator of Gray State was killed by our Gov't... watch the Concept trailer,” wrote one. “This will shine some light on what this movie was about and will have you know why he was murdered by our Gov't. Everyone knows except those who haven't seen this yet.”

“Saddened to [hear] that making a film is what it takes for the feds to come and murder your whole family!” wrote another.

“DEMAND JUSTICE FOR DAVID CROWLEY! We must not allow his good name to be soiled. He did not kill anyone, this was an assassination!” wrote one poster who was especially persistent in pursuing this claim. In another post, he wrote: “DAVID CROWLEY WAS ASSASSINATED!! No doubts. He is not part of a psyop but a real person, one of the major players behind exposing the horror of the upcoming police state.”

He then apparently set up a Facebook page dedicated to the concept. “David Crowley and his family were murdered by those who want to shut down the Gray State project,” it says. “Help expose what really happened and demand justice.”

One of his admirers posted a video of Crowley speaking at a “Ron Paul Festival” held in Tampa, Fla., in 2012, while he was raising funds for the film:

“This man did NOT kill himself. He was SUICIDED,” wrote the post’s author.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why We Only Freak Out About Brown Terrorists -- And Why That Helps Terrorism Spread

I've been deeply struck this week by the extreme amount of attention being paid in the media to the horrific terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Struck mainly because there is something strangely, and profoundly, disproportionate about it all.

In most regards, the coverage is warranted. Terrorism is an important subject, and in an ideal world, the more information we have about such a thing, the better informed we will be. Presumably, we would then be better situated to work together to form a response that actually would effectively defeat the terrorists, both in their specific purposes as well as in the way they generically spread the use of violence in the world as a "solution."

However, that is not what has been happening.

Instead, the intensity of the 24/7 cable news cycle glare has produced almost all heat and very little light. We're being inundated with what Jeremy Scahill calls the "the terrorism expert industrial complex," a whole cottage industry of neo-conservative ideologues posing as "terrorism experts" who pretend to be warning the public about a dire threat they face, but really are primarily engaged in whipping up xenophobic fears about Muslims, Arabs, and scary brown people in general.

This means we have gotten halfwits like Steve Emerson -- yes, the same man who brought us the short-lived media meme that the Oklahoma City bombing was committed by Middle Eastern terrorists -- going on Fox News and warning that the city of Birmingham had become "totally Muslim." You've got CNN anchors like Don Lemon grilling a Muslim lawyer and asking if he supports ISIS. You've got Jeannine Pirro getting on Fox and ranting that we need to find all radical Muslims and wipe them off the face of the earth.

What this means is that the terrorists, truly, are winning.

Fox's Shannon Bream made clear what the criteria for calling people terrorists actually is, when she asked:

If we know they were speaking unaccented French and they had ski masks on, do we even know what color they were, what the tone of their skin was? I mean, what if they didn't look like typical bad guys? As we define them when we think about terror groups.

Naturally, Fox News has been the worst. They have a whole Murderer's Row of Islamophobic "experts" who literally do nothing but whip up people's fear and loathing of all things Muslim. Their owner, Rupert Murdoch, thinks that all Muslims need to be held responsible for the terrorism. And the network's hosts have been leading the torchlight parade. But CNN and MSNBC have not been a great deal better. All of them, as Vox's Max Fisher observes, are mainstreaming a very toxic brand of Islamophobia on our television sets.

What particularly struck me this week was the wildly different response we saw, both in the media (whose response then was reflected by the growing hysteria of the public) and by politicians -- particularly conservatives from both sectors -- to the terrorist rampage in Norway on July 22, 2011, by the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. 

Just to refresh your memories, Breivik's meticulously planned attacks killed 77 people and left 319 people injured, many of them quite seriously. The vast majority of his victims were children, murdered on an island camp that Breivik drove to after setting off bombs in downtown Oslo. The details, lest you have forgotten, were unbelievably horrifying:

When Breivik arrived on the island, he presented himself as a police officer who had come over for a routine check following the bombing in Oslo. He was met by Monica Bøsei, the camp leader and island hostess. Bøsei probably became suspicious and contacted Trond Berntsen, the security officer on the island, before Breivik killed them both. He then signalled and asked people to gather around him before pulling weapons and ammunition from a bag and indiscriminately firing his weapons, killing and wounding numerous people. He first shot people on the island and later started shooting at people who were trying to escape by swimming across the lake. Survivors on the island described a scene of terror. In one example, 21-year-old survivor Dana Barzingi described how several victims wounded by Breivik pretended to be dead to survive, but he later came back and shot them again. He did relent in his executions on some occasions: first, when an 11-year-old boy who had just lost his father (Trond Berntsen) during the shooting, stood up against him and said he was too young to die; and later, when a 22-year-old male begged for his life.

Some witnesses on the island were reported to have hidden in the undergrowth, and in lavatories, communicating by text message to avoid giving their positions away to the gunman. The mass shooting reportedly lasted for around an hour and a half, ending when a police special task force arrived and the gunman surrendered, despite having ammunition left, at 18:35. It is also reported that the shooter used hollow-point or frangible bullets which increase tissue damage. Breivik repeatedly shouted "You are going to die today, Marxists!"

That was perfectly in keeping with what we later learned about Breivik in the days immediately following the rampage. What motivated this terrorist act, in fact, was exactly the paranoid fear of radical Islamic takeover that now is gripping the American media: The thousand-page manifesto that he published before the rampage, in fact, called for a violent right wing revolution across Europe “before our major cities are completely demographically overwhelmed by Muslims.”

Chip Berlet wrote an incisive analysis of Breivik's manifesto, explaining:
Breivik thought Cultural Marxists=multiculturalists=Islamization of Europe. This racist right-wing conspiracy theory is tied to the Islamophobic "Demographic Winter" thesis. In his online posts, Breivik considered himself a cultural conservative and condemned "Cultural Marxism." The idea of "Cultural Marxism" on the political right is an antisemitic conspiracy theory claiming that a small group of Marxist Jews formed the Frankfurt School and set out to destroy Western Culture through a conspiracy to promote multiculturalism and collectivist economic theories.

As I noted at the time:
Breivik's work is largely a regurgitation of ideas and claims that have been circulating on the Right for a long time, including mainstream sources such as Fox News and Andrew Breitbart. There's nothing original here -- except that he, like Adkisson, simply takes the "logic" (as it were) of the cultural warriors he parrots and ratchets it up the next logical step into violent action.
Where could people like Breivik, and his American counterparts, learn about Cultural Marxism? Why, by watching Andrew Breitbart spew about it on Fox News with Sean Hannity, of course:

Indeed, one of the very people cited as an inspiration in his manifesto was none other than Steve Emerson -- along with a large raft of right-wing Islamaophobic pundits from the United States, notably Pam Geller and Richard Spencer, both of whom have leading the torchlight parade against Muslims after the Paris attacks.

That brings us back to the hours and days immediately after Breivik's rampage, when his identity was yet unknown. Sure enough, the leading lights of the "terrorism expert industrial complex" immediately pronounced the attacks the likely work of Islamic radicals.

One of the leading pundits in that charge was a right-wing "expert" named Will McCants, who posted online about it , after which the rest of the media (especially Fox) swung into action and declared the attacks the work of radical Islamists:

As I noted at the time:

It's also a sobering reminder that, while we've been obsessing nationally over the supposed threat of Islamist radicals -- embodied by Peter King's haplessly myopic hearings on domestic terrorism -- the reality remains that right-wing extremist terrorism remains the most potent domestic-terrorism threat in America as well. Indeed, the number of violent domestic-terrorism incidents has been steadily rising for the past two years, but the threat has gone largely ignored. Indeed, the Obama administration has kowtowed to right-wing complaints by gutting our own government's intelligence-gathering capacities in this area.

But of course, the media (and particularly right-wing pundits were having none of such talk. Here's Bill O'Reilly a few days after the attacks, denouncing anyone who might label Breivik a Christian:

Now, on Sunday, the "New York Times" headlined "As Horrors Emerged, Norway Charges Christian extremist". A number of other news organizations like the "LA Times" and Reuters also played up the Christian angle. But Breivik is not a Christian. That's impossible. No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith.
Of course, not only did Breivik describe himself throughout his manifesto as a Christian, but claiming that he was not one is simply dishonest.

O'Reilly's attack, however, was part of the broader media response to Breivik: Playing down the significance of his ideological motivations, and refusing to examine the implications of those beliefs on our understanding of what constitutes terrorism. Instead, we got the same response we heard during the attacks on the prophetic DHS memorandum about right-wing extremists: They aren't a serious threat, and that's not terrorism!

O'REILLY: Sometimes I think the world is going mad. This Breivik guy is a loon, a mass murderer who apparently acted out of rank hatred. No government supported him. No self-proclaimed terror group like al Qaeda paid his bills. Breivik is just another loser who caused tremendous horror by murdering innocent people. There is no equivalency to jihad. No worldwide Breivik movement. Just another violent pathetic legacy stemming back to Cain.
Of course, it's worth recalling that just a few months before the attack, O'Reilly was castigating anyone for even believing that right-wing domestic terrorism was even any kind of serious problem. This is part of the growing tradition in the American media, and particularly conservatives, to whitewash such terrorism out of all our news narratives. It is a tradition that continues to this day.

Let's also recall the overall media and political response at the time: Breivik and his rampage disappeared from the news cycles within the week, nor was the story the subject of wall-to-wall coverage beyond the first day or so of the attack. The most intense coverage occurred on the first day, while the media still was running with the Islamist-attack narrative.

There was a memorial service for the victims of the bombings afterward. Only a handful of European leaders showed up to show their solidarity with the Norwegians. Benjamin Netanyahu was not there. The United States did not send a delegation of top-flight officials. And the conservative media and politicians did not jump all over him for the omission for it, either.

And yet here we are, three and a half years later, and the media can't find enough time to talk about the Paris attacks and report on every detail regarding them. And of course, it has been a launching pad for attacks from the right on everything Muslim.

More than a few critics have similarly noted the disparity in coverage between the Paris attacks and the horrifying terrorist attacks simultaneously occurring in Africa, which have produced more than 2,000 dead. It is a truly horrifying tale; many of the victims have been burned alive.

These questions need to be asked. Clearly, the inability of journalists to reach the scene of the violence in Nigeria is a contributing factor. But it's also clear that the color of the victims -- all of them being black Africans -- is also a factor, perhaps the decisive one. White people in the USA and Europe don't care as much because they cannot identify with the victims.

However, that was not the case in the Breivik murders: All of the victims were white people, many of them young and blonde and pretty, the kinds of victims that Fox News normally dwells upon ad nauseam.What the contrast there reveals is that white people are even more likely to avoid confronting terrorism when they are able to identify with its perpetrators.

And the hard reality is that right-wing extremism has been our most potent domestic threat for more than the past 20 years, and it not only remains that way, but it has intensified dramatically in recent years. 

As CNN's Peter Bergen noted this summer, the numbers lean heavily when it comes to the sources of domestic terrorism in this country:

In fact, since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda's ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11. (The total includes the latest shootings in Kansas, which are being classified as a hate crime).

By contrast,
terrorists motivated by al Qaeda's ideology have killed 21 people in the United States since 9/11. 

Much of the reason most Americans are not only unaware of this fact, but remain in deep denial about it, is that the media have failed utterly in their duty to report on this accurately and responsibly. Most of the many terrorist incidents that occur in the United States either go unreported altogether, or are treated as "isolated incidents" that only warrant one or two days' coverage, and frequently are relegated to the back pages of our newspapers and the brief mention at the bottom of our newscasts.

Who knows why the media have failed so badly -- but much of the blame lies with their own cowardice. My experience in trying to report on domestic terrorism over the years has been that, since I won a National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Reporting for my work at MSNBC reporting on domestic terrorism back in 2000, every nearly media outlet that I have contacted about reporting on the subject since then has run away and hidden when it became clear that the stories would make this reality crystal clear. More than a few editors have suggested to me that even running such stories would bring them accusations of "liberal media bias" that they did not want to have to deal with.

And it has grossly distorted the shape and nature of our discourse about terrorism. Rather than including the understanding that radical white people also commit violent and fearful acts of terrorism in our discussion of the issue, the only form of terrorism that is seriously discussed is the kind involving brown people, preferably of Arab extraction. Those are the only people, in the public's mind, that qualify for the sobriquet of terrorist.

Yet if we understood terrorism not as a product of merely Islamic extremism, but more correctly of extremism itself -- and in recent years, right-wing extremism particularly -- we would have a better and firmer grip on how we go about defeating the phenomenon. For starters, we would be less likely to incorrectly identify terrorism with an ethnicity or a religion (brown Muslim people), and to correctly identify it with a toxic mindset (radical right-wing extremism).

Because, as anyone who has studied them understands, Islamic extremists are at their base far-right-wing fundamentalists. And they are very, very similar in their psychological orientation to white fundamentalists who join the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis who join the Aryan Nations or white "libertarians" who become "sovereign citizens." They are identical in their thinking to people like the Family Research Council's Bryan Fischer, who sounded like your basic radical imam the other day when he suggested that the attack on Charlie Hebdo was God's punishment for the magazine's "blasphemy."

If we were to realize that reality, we might have a constructive dialogue about tackling terrorism at its root -- namely, in coming to terms with the extreme alienation that leads to radicalization, and what drives it, both at home and abroad.

But no. Instead, we are having conversations in Europe and America about how to deal with Muslims.

Consider, if you will, the motives of the Paris terrorists. As Juan Cole has explained

This horrific murder was not a pious protest against the defamation of a religious icon. It was an attempt to provoke European society into pogroms against French Muslims, at which point al-Qaeda recruitment would suddenly exhibit some successes instead of faltering in the face of lively Beur youth culture (French Arabs playfully call themselves by this anagram term deriving from wordplay involving scrambling of letters). Ironically, there are reports that one of the two policemen they killed was a Muslim.

And so far, the discourse in both Europe and America (more so here) has played right into their hands. So far the European revulsion at the terrorism has become translated into vicious attacks on Muslims and their institutions, including arson attacks on their mosques and a variety of hate crimes. As Cole has subsequently noted, there is a real danger that far-right extremist parties will make real political gains in various European governments as a response to the Paris violence.

The media have played a key role in inflaming these sentiments, and they have been unapologetic about trotting out the "experts" who rail against Islam and send people's irrational fears into orbit. Will McCants, the "expert" who originally identified the Breivik attacks as being likely caused by Muslim radicals, has been back to work, weighing in on the Paris attacks and warning everyone that these were probably representative of a much larger plot (connected, apparently to both Al Qaeda and ISIS, even though they are rival organizations) to begin massive terrorist attacks on Europe and America.

As Karen Finney has explained at Media Matters, this is an incredibly backwards and self-destructive response that plays right into the hands of the terrorists:
Academic research into the causes of terrorism directly contradicts the idea that multiculturalism is part of the problem, pointing instead to the powerful tool inclusion and engagement can be in preventing radicalization, increasing integration into a set of values and broader counterterrorism strategies. One such study, authored in 2010 by the Center for European Reform's Rem Korteweg and colleagues, examined the radicalization process and found that factors like racism and bigotry as well as economic factors like high unemployment "reinforce the sensation of disenfranchisement and contribute to radicalization. Extremist Islamism offers these people new meaning."

Another study examined the correlation between feeling excluded and support for or a "sympathetic" view of extremist Islam. Among the findings: young Muslims ages 18-25 in Montreal were less likely than their counterparts in Berlin and Copenhagen to feel excluded from society, and they were much less likely to identify with Islamic extremism. Results like these are why engagement and inclusion are among the strategies America's National Counterterrorism Center utilizes in preventing radicalization.

Eventually, you would think, the American media will have to wake up. It may take the horror and tragedy of another Anders Breivik, acting out on American soil, for them to do so.

But even then, I won't be holding my breath.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Birth, Death, and the Fate of the Southern Residents

The new calf J-50 rides behind the wake of her presumed mother, J-16

A shudder went down the collective spines of the Pacific Northwest's orca watchers when the news came in, back in early December, that the much-beloved female numbered J32, otherwise known as Rhapsody, had washed up on shore on the western coast of Vancouver Island. And as the details came in, the shudder became a feeling of deep dread.

After all, Rhapsody was only 18 years old -- just beginning the prime of her reproductive years. (Yes, orca lives are indeed very similar to human lives in both longevity and their natural cycles.) For a population of killer whales that is officially listed as endangered, and with only a handful of breeding-age females remaining, the loss of even a single such orca is devastating.

The only silver lining in the situation was the fact that she washed ashore: Orcas typically just sink to the bottom of the ocean when they die, and so human scientists rarely ever get to examine them. This would at least give us a chance to try to figure out what is killing the endangered Southern Residents.

The news became much worse still as examiners began performing the necropsy. Observers that summer had wondered if Rhapsody might be pregnant, since she sported a "bump" indicating a baby when she breached. Sure enough, she was bearing an infant that had died in utero.

The eventual details of the necropsy revealed that J32 had been dead for at least three days when her body washed up, and that the fetus inside her had been dead for even longer. The likely conclusion was that the fetus had died inside her, and that she had perished from infection after failing to successfully discharge it.

J32's death set off all kinds of alarms, both in the scientific community and in the general public in the Puget Sound region, which reveres the Southern Residents for being the awe-inspiring symbol of our environmental health that they are. It meant that the population had been reduced to 77 whales, very near the breaking point for long-term genetic viability. And a critical piece of the population's recovery had been lost.

As Ken Balcomb, the chief scientist at the Center for Whale Research, put it in a Seattle Times piece:

“The death of this particular whale for me shows that we’re at a point in history where we need to wake up to what we have to consider: ‘Do we want whales or not?’ ”

Balcomb explained further in the necropsy report: "I think we must restore abundant healthy prey resources ASAP if these whales are to have any chance of avoiding extinction. The critical point for their recovery may already have passed. I hope not, but it will soon pass if we do not take immediate action."

Balcomb noted that, with Rhapsody's passing, there are only about a dozen reproductively viable females remaining in this population, and "very little possible recruitment to this cohort within the next few years."

However, a few weeks later, news came that there had, indeed, been fresh potential "recruitment."

Just before New Year's Eve, a whale watching boat observed a new calf swimming with J16, aka Slick, and CWR researchers quickly confirmed the sighting. A few days later, it was confirmed that the new calf, now designated J50, in fact is a female.

All around, that is terrific news, and suggests once again that Nature is always able to bounce back if we give it a chance. But the fragility of the good news also underscores the generally tenuous state of the Southern Residents.

No one is sure whether any new calf will even survive its first year. Many orca young perish during their first few months because the entirety of their diet is their mother's milk. And orca females' milk is laden with all kinds of toxins -- heavy metals, PCBs, and other chemicals -- that they absorb through their frequently polluted diets. This is acutely true of female orcas' firstborn calves, because the milk they receive is often laden with years of toxic buildup. As a result, orca watchers will not even name a new calf beyond its numerical designation until its second year, when its chances for survival then rise dramatically.

Indeed, the most recent birth among the Southern Residents, a calf born in the L Pod designated L120, lived only seven weeks after its birth in the summer of 2014.

However, this is Slick's sixth calf (she is 43 years old now), and three of those calves have now survived and swim with her daily as part of her pod. So there is at least reasonable hope that this one will survive.

Still, there have been some ominous signs: Balcomb and his crew observed rake marks on the calf's dorsal fin, indicating that other orcas had been forced to pull her out of her mother's womb. There was even some concern that Slick might not be her real mother and had been "adopted" after the apparently difficult birth, possibly for one of Slick's daughters, J36.

However, Howard Garrett of the Orca Network tells me that those concerns have largely abated. "I'm pretty sure J16 is the mom," he said via email. "J50 has only been seen with J16, and never with J36 with J16 right there. All the behavior so far tells me it's J16."

The starkness of the situation involving the death of J32 while giving birth, and the fragile birth of J50, has brought the underlying issue front and center: The decline of the salmon runs upon which the orcas depend for their primary diet.

As a result, environmentalists in the region are gearing up to engage the fight for orca and salmon recovery on a broad series of fronts. One group, the Orca Recovery Citizens Alliance, wants to create a protected zone for the orcas that will require boats to go slowly in their vicinity, among other things.

But the key effort will entail restoring the Columbia River's runs of Chinook. As I've explained previously:

It's become increasingly obvious in recent years that one of the major obstacles facing the recovery of the Puget Sound's endangered killer whales has been the serious decline in their food supply -- primarily chinook salmon -- particularly in the winter months, when chinook are at their scarcest in these waters.

The orcas historically spend those months seeking prey primarily along the continental shelf of the Pacific Coast, ranging as far south as northern California and as far north as the Queen Charlotte Islands. And historically, their primary source of chinook along that range has been salmon from the Columbia River -- some 80-90 percent of salmon in that habitat used to originate from the Columbia.

However, those runs are now at about 1 percent of their historical levels. Of course, the bounty of salmon used to be so immense that there never was a food problem for the orcas before. Now, they're scraping to get by. And four dams on the Snake River (the largest and longest of the Columbia's tributaries) that have no fish ladders and turn the free-flowing river (an attribute necessary for fingerlings) into a long series of relatively stagnant reservoirs are probably the biggest single cause of the problem.

I was one of the first journalists to write about the connection between these dams and the orca recovery efforts, in a Seattle Weekly piece I wrote in 2006:

Historically, the largest single source of chinook in the Northwest's Pacific coastal waters during the winter and spring has been the Columbia River. The role that they could play in the orcas' health was underscored two years ago by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife report on killer whales that observed, "Perhaps the single greatest change in food availability for resident killer whales since the late 1800s has been the decline of salmon in the Columbia River basin."
Already, early recovery efforts for the Columbia salmon runs -- involving the collection and barging of young salmon smolt making their way downstream around the dams -- have proven spectacularly successful. Last year a million Chinook made their way up the river -- a new record since counts began in the 1960s. This year, there were 2 million.

Scientists and activists, however, say this is only a drop in the bucket for the actual potential for recovery. The real gains will come, they argue, when those four Snake River dams come down.

That's why they are currently organizing to force Washington state's politicians to show some real political courage by doing the right thing: Take up the mantle of the orcas' recovery and take those dams down.

A recent piece by David Kirby in The Dodo examined the larger picture of dam removal as a key component of salmon and orca recovery. It's not just the Columbia, either.

Dams recently came down on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula, and the speed with which salmon have been recovering their population there has been astonishing.

However, the Elwha is a relatively small river system with limited potential for salmon numbers once they recover. If Puget Sounders really wish to become serious about orca and salmon recovery, they need to examine the larger river systems pouring into Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, because that is where we will see real salmon abundance.

We're talking about rivers like the Skagit -- where dams that provide the city of Seattle with cheap power block one of the major tributaries, and where farmers occupy much of the key spawning grounds in the river delta -- and the Nisqually, where similar conditions conspire to keep salmon-recovery efforts still in the infant stages.

For now, activists are focusing their efforts on the Columbia, because that is the biggest fight with the greatest potential payoff for the salmon. But eventually, they will need to begin dealing with the fights in their own back yards as well.

If they do not, then the bad news for the fate of the Southern Residents will continue to roll in. And the good news will become scarce to the point of vanishing altogether.

P.S. One way you can help easily is to go sign this petition at Change.org:

Stand with us and support removing the four lower Snake River dams to save the Southern Resident Killer Whales from being dammed to extinction

David Duke Again Takes Advantage Of Media Airtime To Lie And Mislead

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The recent scandal that erupted over Rep. Steve Scalise’s speaking appearance before David Duke’s white-supremacist organization, the European-American Union and Rights Organization (EURO), inevitably meant that mainstream media would be turning to Duke himself for answers to their questions. And indeed, Duke was interviewed on several media outlets early this month, on CNN and on Fox News.

And as usually occurs when Duke gets airtime, he parlayed the interview into an opportunity to propagandize and sell both his twisted worldview and his books. Most of all, Duke performed his specialty, which is to sell outright falsehoods and self-serving distortions.

Duke appeared first on CNN with Michael Smerconish for his weekly news-interview program on Jan. 3, then on Jan. 5 for an appearance on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” with Bill O’Reilly. On both programs, Duke attempted to make the familiar claim that he isn’t a white supremacist or a racist.

“I have never supported white supremacism,” Duke told Smerconish.

“I was never a white supremacist,” he told O’Reilly. “I’m not a white supremacist at all. In fact the European American Unity and Rights Group was in fact a chartered civil rights organization and I in fact in Louisiana legislature sponsored a bill that forbid racial discrimination and these programs called Affirmative Action which are racial discriminations.”

Duke has attempted to make similar claims over the years, assuring interviewers and audiences that the ideology he promotes is not about “hate” of minorities and Jews, but “love” of Caucasian people. But of course, both his leadership of various Ku Klux Klan factions during the 1970s and ‘80s was littered with clear pronouncements of hatred of blacks and other minorities, and his work today remains viciously anti-Semitic as well.

Here is just a sampling of the hatemongering in which Duke has indulged during his many years as an activist:

“What we really want to do is to be left alone. We don’t want Negroes around. We don’t need Negroes around. We’re not asking ­­ you know, we don’t want to have them, you know, for our culture. We simply want our own country and our own society. That’s in no way exploitive at all. We want our own society, our own nation….” ­–Duke, March 1985.

"[A] black…gets a job with a white-owned company. He is the only black at the firm. He works hard, but he’s fighting a losing battle against his genes.”–Duke editorial, “The Black Plague,” NAAWP News, Issue 32, 1985.

“White people don’t need a law against rape, but if you fill this room up with your normal black bucks, you would, because niggers are basically primitive animals. It’s really the Jew Marxists who see the nigger as their instrument, as their bullets, by which to destroy our society.”– The Sun (Wichita, KS), April 23, 1975.

“Increasingly independent black economic, cultural and political power gave Blacks more freedom to do what came natural to them. Divorced from White influence and culture, they reverted quickly to their genotype — increasingly typical of black societies around the world. Males exhibited exaggerated sexual aggression and promiscuity that led to the dissolution of the Black nuclear family in America. Females reverted to the age-old African model of maternal provisioning of children.”– Duke, 1998

“Our clear goal must be the advancement of the white race and separation of the white and black races. This goal must include freeing of the American media and government from subservient Jewish interests. The Jews are trying to destroy all other cultures…as a survival mechanism…the only Nazi country in the world is Israel.”– Duke 1998

“We are fighting for the preservation of our heritage, freedom and way of life in the United States and much of the Western World. Ultimately, we are working to secure the most important civil right of all, the right to preserve our kind of life. Massive immigration and low European American birthrates coupled with integration and racial intermarriage threatens the continued existence of our very genotype. We assert that we, as do all expressions of life on this planet, have the right to live and to have our children and our children’s children reflect both genetically and culturally our heritage.”– Duke, 2000.

Duke also emphasized to both Smerconish and O’Reilly that he now possessed a Ph.D., and had written a doctoral dissertation-cum-book exposing Communism (copies of which he made sure viewers of both programs saw). In reality, Duke’s degree came from a Ukrainian “diploma mill,” and was not in fact a doctoral degree. Moreover, his thesis is a blatant rip-off of the dubious academic work of Kevin McDonald, a well-known anti-Semitic psychology professor.

Duke was also somewhat misleading about why he was hiding out in Russia in 2001. In truth, he was evading American authorities at the time, because there was a warrant out for his arrest on wire-fraud charges for which he was eventually convicted in 2003.

He also grossly distorted the nature of his EURO organization in claiming that it was “dedicated to true civil rights and stopping the discrimination against people.” In reality, the organization has always served as font of propaganda for the “struggle against people of other colors and Jews,” and its media organs regularly produced articles about the looming “white genocide” and the depravity of other races and ethnicities, particularly Jews.

CNN viewers, of course, were treated to Duke’s version of an alternative reality. “The fact is I believe that every people has a right to work for their interest, to preserve their heritage, to — in fact, I believe every people on earth have that right,” he told Smerconish. “I believe that every nation and every people has the right to be free and independent.”

He defended Scalise along similar lines: “Of course, if he would have gone to an African-American advocacy group, who is concerned about African-Americans like the NAACP, Republicans, Democrats go to that, no problem. If he had gone to a Jewish advocacy group, even advocacy for a foreign country, which is Israel, and the interests of the Jewish people, no problem. But he came to a European organization, big problem. And don’t forget, he was an elected official. So what is America all about? Don’t we — aren’t we supposed to believe that if you’re an elected official, when you serve in Congress, you are representing all the people of your district. Not the people just who voted for, not the people you agree with. Aren’t you supposed to listen to people?”

In reality, ethnic advocacy groups such as the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza (which Duke also mentioned in attempting a similar line of argument with O’Reilly) are genuinely about advancing the interests of the ethnic groups they represent, and are not even remotely hate groups because they do not engage in demonizing and promoting false smears about people of other ethnicities. Nor do they engage in political agendas aimed at attacking the interests of other racial groups.

All of these groups are thus understood to be working well within the mainstream of American politics. So a politician who engages with such groups is indeed listening to a range of his or her constituents and is acting well within the mainstream.

However, that is not the case with any kind of hate group, who typically represent only a tiny bandwidth of any constituency and whose beliefs represent a vicious kind of extremism that the vast majority of Americans repudiate. Any politician who engages with them is not only displaying questionable judgment by coddling frequently violent extremists, but is in the process helping to legitimize them by lending them the credibility of their public office.

In David Duke’s eyes, this is a profound injustice. But as always, he knew who to blame: Jews. While pretending to agree with O’Reilly “we’re all in this together,” Duke told him: “You know what, the people that run the media they’re inflaming the African-Americans against European-Americans and they’re inflaming a sector of European-Americans and African-Americans but the truth is the real people who are repressing and hurting all of us are the big bankers which are robbing us blind like the Goldman-Sachs of the world.”

At that point, O’Reilly shut him down. But in case there was any doubt who he meant, Duke finished: “They are putting us in these wars for Israel. That is hurting all of America.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Seahawks Schadenfreude

Because I have been a Seahawks fan since 1976 -- the guys in the group house where I had a home in Moscow watched every game that inaugural season when I was a junior at the U of I and Seattle was only a six-hour thumb away -- I have been reveling in the past five seasons, particularly last year's championship.

It was five years ago this week that the Seahawks hired Pete Carroll as their head coach. Sunday they will play for the NFC Championship and the shot at a second straight Super Bowl.

I take nothing for granted -- having rooted for them all these many long and often miserable years preceding the Carroll Era -- but I have good reason to be confident going in. The Packers will be a worthy test. If the Hawks win, they will be ready to win it all.

It's been a remarkable feat. And it's especially fun to remember all the people who have been giving the Seahawks and their fans unbelievably bad advice along the way -- advice we have had the good sense to ignore.

In honor of Sunday's NFC title game, here is a look back at some spectacularly bad sports analysis that has been written at various times about these Seahawks -- kind of a Hall of Shame of Idiot Sportswriting, all of it Pete Carroll-related:

Pete Carroll Will Lose Credibility if He Goes to Seattle

Ted Green, L.A. Times

Excerpt: "Seattle is the Bermuda Triangle.  Once you leave here, Pete, you effectively disappear off the face of the sporting earth."

Analysis: This one is particularly noteworthy for all the classic California-style bashing of the Northwest and Seattle, "on the way to Alaska," blah blah blah. Suck on it, Ted, writing in a city so dysfunctional it doesn't even have an NFL team.

Carroll, NFL Still A Lousy Fit 

Jeffri Chadiha, ESPN

Excerpt: "Now that he's back in the NFL, Carroll will eventually discover that plenty has changed since he left more than a decade ago. The players have gotten bigger, faster, stronger and, yes, smarter. They're probably better at recognizing a coach who isn't ready to deal with all the challenges that come with leading grown men who make tons of money. And what Carroll hasn't realized yet is that he's still the type of guy who falls into that category."
Analysis: Hahahahahahahahaha.

2012 NFL Draft Grades: Ranking Teams That Failed on Draft Day

Donald Wood, Bleacher Report

Excerpt: "No. 1: Seattle Seahawks

"After one of the worst picks in the first round I can ever remember, the Seattle Seahawks didn't draft any positions of need or draft for the future.

"Pete Carroll is proving why he didn’t make it in the NFL the first time. Not only was Bruce Irvin a reach at No. 15, the Seahawks proved they were oblivious to their madness by celebrating their selection.

"As if the day wasn’t bad enough, Seattle selecting Russell Wilson, a QB that doesn’t fit their offense at all, was by far the worst move of the draft. With the two worst moves of the draft, Seattle is the only team that received an F on draft day."

Analysis: Not quite as grotesquely, hilariously wrong as the last two, but pretty close. Not only has Wilson become a superstar, but even Irvin has become a major contributor to the team's league-leading defense.

Icy Issue: Pete Carroll's Mistake Starting Russell Over Flynn

Joseph Fell, Cold Hard Football Facts

Excerpt: "But here's one take on Carroll you can take to the bank: his decision to name rookie Russell Wilson the starting quarterback ahead of Matt Flynn will prove Carroll’s worst move during his tenure as Seattle's head coach."

Analysis: Oh yeah. Wilson has proven nothing but a headache. For opposing teams. Meanwhile, we get to worry about Matt Flynn as the backup to Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. As in not.

The fun part comes in realizing that these guys never apologize or acknowledge their utter boneheadedness, nor do they ever look in the mirror and wonder if they're just carnival barkers writing crap that grabs people's attention instead of the journalists they pretend to be. No wonder Marshawn Lynch refuses to even talk to these clowns.

I'm thankful, though. I'm thankful. Thankful to have this team to root for on Sunday.


Friday, January 09, 2015

As Extremist ‘Constitutional Sheriffs’ Meet With Senators, Their Supporters Call for Obama’s Lynching

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

In one of the spacious meeting rooms of the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C., last month, three conservative members of Congress had an unusual meeting with a small group of law-enforcement officers who ascribe to far-right “constitutionalist” theories.

U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and David Vitter, R-La., and Rep. Martha Blackburn, R-Tenn., all met with former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, the far-right former lawman from Graham County, Ariz., who now leads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a group of “constitutionalist” sheriffs who see themselves the last line of defense against those who would seek to infringe on the U.S. Constitution.

Originally billed in the National Review as a “massive gathering” of sheriffs from around the nation to protest immigration, the event was organized by two sheriffs who are active leaders in former Mack’s CSPOA and drew a much smaller crowd. And while CSPOA promoted the event and reported on it afterward, Mack told Hatewatch that it was not the chief organizer.

“I was invited to attend and we provided a little hors-d’orevers,” he told Hatewatch. Still, he said, “I was really proud of these sheriffs for trying to take care of something on their own.”

The focus of the event was to stand in protest of President Obama’s executive action, taken after years of congressional inaction, to offer temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and whose children were born here and are U.S. citizens, provided they pass a background check and pay taxes. But it wasn’t long before a group of extremists supporting Mack made itself known.

Just down the Capitol Mall that same day, a small group of protesters supporting the sheriffs gathered at the White House and began shouting slogans and demanding the removal of President Obama. Some in the crowd demanded the president be lynched–”Hang the lying Muslim traitor!” one of them shouted.

The same group of protesters then proceeded to the Senate building where the sheriffs were meeting, but were not permitted inside and instead lingered in the foyer. When the meeting ended, the demonstrators lustily greeted the emerging law enforcement officers and Congress members, some of them shaking hands and hugging the participants.

Mack told Hatewatch that he was unsure who organized the supporting protest. But he stressed, “That was not us.”

Obama’s executive action, taken after years of congressional inaction, offers temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and whose children were born here and are U.S. citizens, provided they pass a background check and pay taxes.

Obama’s executive action “is taking jobs and benefits directly from struggling American lawful immigrants and our native-born,” Sessions said. “A government must serve its own citizens.”

The sheriffs were largely on the same page. “When it comes to immigration, there is no law because there are no consequences, and that is something we in law enforcement have to deal with and have to fight,” Paul Babeu, sheriff of Arizona’s Pinal County, said. “Instead of putting illegals first and their rights, what about putting Americans and our rights and our security once, first?”

But what measure and reserve was on display inside the Senate Building was not apparent outside the White House.

That rally organized by an antigovernment group calling itself Operation American Freedom,” which had issued an “arrest warrant” to government officials in Washington earlier this year–was intended to support the sheriffs. An earlier video by Blaine Cooper, a “Patriot” who help organized a livestream of the event, announced that “we are gonna be at the White House at 10 o’clock tomorrow. The sheriffs are gonna be here doing their rally, and Operation American Freedom, or O.A.F., are gonna be there as well.”

Cooper’s livestream video also provided an unusual inside look at the protest.

There appear to have only been a couple dozen gathered to protest. Most of the noise at the demonstration was created by one man, wearing a tricorn hat and shouting into a bullhorn. One protester in particular—a bearded man toting an American flag—seemed especially intent on seeing Obama hung.

“Hang the lying Kenyan traitor terrorist piece of shit,” he shouted at one point. “He’s a traitor! Hang him!” The same man kept shouting variations of this throughout the protest.

When a large wood chipper drove past the scene, one of the protesters remarked: “Hey, a wood chipper! That gives me an idea” – suggesting he would like to run the president through the machine.

When the press conference had finished, the participants were swarmed by the sheriffs’ supporters in the foyer, who cheered loudly as they exited and swarmed Sessions to express their admiration.

“We love you, God bless you,” one said. “Thank you for all your work in the Senate, and thank you for all of this – fighting Obama tooth and nail.”

In the video, Mack could be seen embracing a man with the tricorn hat as he departed. However, he could not tell Hatewatch afterwards anything about the man or the group: “I didn’t know if they were pro or con,” he said via e-mail.

Afterward, Mack was less than optimistic about the outcome of the event.

“My overall feeling was that Washington D.C. wasn’t going to do anything to enforce the law or fix the problem,” he said. “I don’t believe the leadership will allow the problem to be fixed. … And it’s really a slap at the black community that so many millions are going to be competing with low income minority groups for jobs. I don’t think there is any way around that. The president has once again shown that he’ll do anything he wants, whether its lawless or not, no matter who it hurts.”

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Twelve Years Before the Blog

It was exactly twelve years ago today that -- encouraged by my friend Duncan Black -- I decided to give this blogging thing a try. I built the original version of Orcinus at what was then called Blogspot, wrote a couple of posts (one of them about the Tombstone Militia, which eventually morphed into the Minutemen) and figured that, if nothing else, it felt good to just be writing and publishing again, even if only a tiny handful of people read it.

Now -- all those years, more than 3,500 posts, and something like 1.2 million pageviews later -- it is all obviously quite a bit more than that.

I don't think of any of us who got into blogging early really expected it to become the phenomenon it did. I know that Duncan had spotted its potential early as a way to get around the informational bottleneck that had been created by the corporatization of the media, and that certainly was what attracted me to it.

After all, I had been finding it increasingly difficult to find editors interested in my work covering the extremist right and domestic terrorism -- editors then, as now, were terrified of being accused of a "liberal media bias" if they ran the material, though inevitably they proved eager to run it when someone blew up a building full of children -- and I had built up a large backlog of material related to it.And I was determined that, even if I received no money for the work, that the information be available to the general public. Then, as now, I believed it to be vital.

So that was what I set about doing. And the shocking thing was that suddenly, my site meter was showing that I was getting not just hundreds but thousands of readers. A lot of that had to do with Duncan, whose Eschaton remains a daily read for me, as well as another online friend from our days roaming the halls of Salon's Table Talk forum, Digby. Their blogs were drawing even larger numbers of readers, and they were kind enough to shuffle some of that traffic in my direction.

The one thing that distinguished Orcinus was that it specialized in long-form posts. I wrote plenty of quickie posts, but I also was publishing long disquisitions making use of the massive amounts of data I had collected over the years. The trend in blogging before then had been to keep things short and succinct (indeed, Duncan remains the master of this). I ran completely against the grain and ran long think pieces with lots of information.

Oddly enough, it worked reasonably well, at least for awhile. Orcinus never drew the levels of readers that the Big Dogs did, but on certain days it neared 50,000 readers, which was a mind-blowing thing for me at the time. And my most popular posts, by far, were my long ones, particularly the extended series such as "Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism" and "The Rise of Pseudo-Fascism".

But, driven largely by the arrival of all those readers, the blogging landscape quickly began to change, and with it the nature of blogging. Soon, large multi-contributor blogs such as Firedoglake were dominating the traffic flow of the blogosphere. Video-driven blogs like John Amato's Crooks and Liars were also drawing huge levels of traffic and distributing it to smaller blogs like mine.

Eventually, fatigue and reality set in: It became tougher and tougher to devote the energy to long-form writing, especially as I was working to write books at the same time. So, after five years of getting by with the relative pittance of funding that came in through fundraisers -- and still intent on remaining ad-free here -- I went for paying positions editing large blogs. I signed in the spring of 2008 as the editor of Firedoglake. I remained there for eight months and then switched to the team at Crooks and Liars, where I then remained as editor for the next four-plus years, and where I am still a senior editor. I now am able to collect a reasonable paycheck by blogging for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch, and the bulk of the posts you see here today are crossposts from there.

My style of blogging shifted accordingly, because at both FDL and C&L the emphasis was on hourly production of posts and a steady flow throughout the today. This meant writing a lot more posts that were much shorter. And as you can see from my archives here, some of my heaviest production came as the editor of C&L, when I was also creating videos to accompany most of my writing. It also meant that I wrote a lot more on daily politics, though what I tried to really specialize in during those years was a sustained media critique, along with my usual focus on the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism.

Unfortunately, I  also made the mistake during those years of letting Orcinus more or less wither and die. I started out trying to crosspost all my work from those blogs, but soon ran out of gas and began letting Orcinus go un-updated for weeks and months at a time. After all, it was by this time drawing only a few thousand readers daily, and I was editing blogs that were north of 150,000 daily readers. Pretty soon, all the readers went away.

In some ways, that actually makes Orcinus today much more comfortable for me, because there is no longer any pressure to produce material or to weigh in on given subjects. I'm able to post at a more considered pace, and the material I'm producing is a bit more substantive.

I revived the blog in the fall of 2013, and had a reasonably nice reception from some of the older quarters of my friends in the blogosphere. I did recently go back and crosspost, ipso facto, all the material I wrote for C&L and FDL over the years, making the archives here now a complete record of my blogging work since January 2003. I think if you spend some time going back and scrolling through some of it, you'll find it a pretty substantial body of work, some of it prophetic, and much of it still relevant even today. There's also a lot of pretty funny stuff thrown in for good measure -- that is, if exposing the mindless idiocy of right-wing talkers makes you laugh.

However, the readership of the blog has remained at only a trickle, largely because I haven't had the ability to come in and create original material for Orcinus itself.

That's going to change in the coming weeks and months. I will continue, of course, to crosspost my work from Hatewatch, as well as the occasional orca-related post I sometimes write for C&L and The Dodo. But I also have a specific long-form project in mind -- one that will rely on the participation of my readers.

The project I have in mind is to tackle the big challenge that progressives face: How do we create a sustained and viable movement, a real and substantive Left Wing that has real power in American and global politics?

I believe we need to reconceive not just the meaning of "the Left," but of movement politics themselves. We need to reconfigure not just the purpose and meaning of progressivism, but the underlying dynamic that feeds the increasingly intractable left-right divide currently in play.

The core idea is to create a "Human Movement" -- a mass movement predicated on enshrining the value of every individual human being, of ensuring the dignity and value of every life and every person. It will be fundamentally anti-corporate, anti-plutocratic, and anti-authoritarian, but moreover will positively embrace the advancement of the welfare of ordinary people, relying on the power of communities and networks to secure it. The essential value that it will embody will be empathy and its immanations.

I've had these ideas working around in my head for some time, and believe it or not, a lot of my thinking was refined while spending time in wild places, hanging out and observing killer whales, all for my next book, Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us, due out June 30 from The Overlook Press.

These essays will fundamentally bring together a lot of my thinking on the many subjects that have interested me over the years and about which I have written here: Toxic right-wing extremism, domestic terrorism, immigration, the media, and environmental issues. It's going to be fun and interesting. And I hope you join me.

Most of all, I hope you will join in the conversations here. As with some of my previous projects, the final shape of the work is often affected by the kind of input I get from readers. As many of you know, I frequently incorporate other people's ideas into my work, and also quite openly acknowledge that participation, since it's vital to this kind of work. It seems especially appropriate when exploring a movement devoted to encouraging a community built around empathy.

I'm also setting out my tin cup this month. If you feel like helping out by chipping in to this effort monetarily, you will know that the money will not be wasted. Twelve years later, I'm still here.