Tag Archives: Southern Poverty Law Center

The Trouble With Nazis, White Nationalists, and Other Assorted Extremists

11 May

Today’s Huff Post story about KKK Grand Wizard and Bonner County, Idaho sheriff candidate Shaun Winkler hosting a cross burning got me on a rant today. Clearly, we’ve got a problem with populism of the right wing variety in America.

According to a 2011 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the U.S. has been steadily climbing for the last 10 years. White nationalist Patriot groups, first organized in reaction to the violent government crackdown on dissident groups at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas in the early 90s, went from 149 groups in 2008 to 1274 groups in 2011.

Add to that the recent stories of Idaho State’s only black lawmaker receiving a hand addressed invitation to join the KKK, a couple of murder-suicide cases involving white supremacist leaders in Arizona and Pennsylvania, and the bust of 10 white supremacists in central Florida for stockpiling weapons and training for a “race war,” and the evidence starts to pile up.

The 2010s are starting to look like the 1980s all over again.

My t-shirt, circa 1989.

According to veteran right wing watcher (and a greatly admired friend) Chip Berlet,

“We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history. We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety.”

Those overlapping movements include a resurgent neo-Nazi faction, Tea Parties, anti-immigrant vigilantes, Christian jihadists, assorted white nationalists, and a big chunk of the Arizona State Legislature.

Back in the late 1980s and through the 90s, my activism was mainly pointed at exposing and countering vigilante white supremacists and the religious right wing. Grassroots groups representing both wings of the white right were on the rise back then. But toward the end of the 20th century, things changed. The white supremacist movement went underground, and the religious right had won so much, including taking over much of the grassroots infrastructure of the Republican Party and electing George W. Bush president, that they became the mainstream and lost momentum, even as their power and influence was greater than ever.

But the combination of the election of an African American president, the economic crisis, including a bail out of elites by the government, and the changing demographics of our country has the right surging again. Top that off with a heaping helping of post-9/11 Islamophobia and a side of anti-Chinese sentiment and that rebellion is beginning to look like a movement.

I know that to a lot of people, the litany of groups I listed looks pretty fringe-y. And I agree that it’s not as though anything as exotic as neo-Nazism is likely to amount to a major movement in the U.S., especially given our history with Nazi’s in WWII.

However, don’t discount the fringe. The violence they represent is a very real threat and they have a powerful impact on our political culture.

Remember the role the KKK played in the collapse of Reconstruction and enforcing Jim Crow? The chilling affect of vigilante groups is not to be underestimated. Border patrols are today’s Night Riders of the KKK. They don’t just scare the bejeezus out of undocumented immigrants, they also up the ante for immigrant rights activists who must face an opposing side that includes folks with guns who have designs on mining the border.

When extremist groups parade, protest, burn crosses, and distribute hate literature, they’re testing the public consensus on bigotry. They define “hate” as the most extreme and genocidal ranting, making more conservative expressions of bigotry appear mainstream and acceptable by comparison.

Here’s an example. my first entry in this blog was inspired by a marathon of TV news watching I undertook in order to see how people of color are portrayed in liberal media. What I discovered was that even on MSNBC, supposedly the liberal alternative to Fox News, Native Americans are rarely if ever mentioned. Asian Americans nearly received the same treatment, while Latinos and African Americans were almost exclusively represented by sports stars and entertainers. I’d call that racist, but then what do you call Fox?

You see how the presence of something far worse makes what is problematic appear mainstream and, by extension, pretty normal? Just think of the radical racist fringe as the Fox News to more conservative racism’s MSNBC and you’ll see why I say, we’ve got a major problem on our hands.

How To Recognize A Racist: A Note To The National Review

12 Apr

Surprise! The National Review is firing another writer for racism.

According to National Review editor Rich Lowry,

“Unbeknowst to us, occasional Phi Beta Cons contributor Robert Weissberg (whose book was published a few years ago by Transaction) participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism. He will no longer be posting here. Thanks to those who brought it to our attention.”

The speech happened last month, and Lowry needed someone to bring this to his attention?  Sounds like the National Review needs a little lesson in recognizing racism.

So, here’s one way you know someone is a racist.

First, do a Google search of his name.  The heading of the first hit?  “Racist Prof Who Gave Blacks Low Grades.” No real story is attached to that hit so who knows what that’s really all about. But in a racism hunt, a hit like that ought to get you looking further.

Next, I went to that obscure compendium of knowledge called Wikipedia and found that Weissberg is the author of a book called Pernicious Tolerance: How Teaching to “Accept Differences” Undermines Civil Society, published in 2008.

The book description on Amazon opens with the following:

“Recent decades have seen a consistent effort by the American educational establishment to instruct schoolchildren about the importance of “appreciating differences,” all in the name of “tolerance,” so as to quell burgeoning “hate.” In Pernicious Tolerance, Robert Weissberg argues that educators’ endless obsession with homophobia, sexism, racism, and other alleged hateful disorders is part of a much larger ongoing radical ideological quest to transform America, by first capturing education.”

Of course, I’m not wasting my time going to the library for that particular tome, so maybe that’s not substantive enough evidence.

Back to Google.  A quick scroll down the page of hits took me to an article by Mr. Weissberg published in 2010 in Alternative RightThe article featured this cute little graphic:

Truth in Advertising

What’s written suggests that government is obsessed with imposing “‘diversity’ on a reluctant public” and describes diversity education as a “liver-and-cauliflower diet.” Don’t want to eat it? Government power will play “daddy” and “jam it down your throat!

If nothing else, I’m glad I’m not this man’s son.

Anyway, so this search for clues isn’t so hard, right?  Did I just say “hard right?” Sorry, Freudian slip.

But, I admit, these are mostly covert expressions of bigotry, and that’s National Review’s speciality, so maybe a little hard to recognize.

But then, wait a sec, didn’t National Review figure out the guy is a racist because of a speech he made at an American Renaissance (AR) conference?

I figured, a look at the AR website might yield something.

It turns out that Mr. Weissberg gave a major speech at AR’s 2000 conference.

According to the AR website, he spoke about how Jews have supported Black causes in spite of privately harboring fear and dislike of Black people. Only Israel, he argued, receives more support than Black causes like the NAACP, and Jewish support for Israel has contributed to what AR paraphrases as “an increase in sometimes violent Black anti-Semitism, and unceasing attacks on Jews by Black leaders.” 

The site further paraphrases the speech, writing, “Jews fear Black crime and violence, and loathe Black ineptitude and sloth. Jewish academics resent the price they pay for affirmative action and are repelled by the Afrocentric “scholars” who are now their colleagues. Jews are the first to move away when a neighborhood changes, and do not socialize or intermarry with Blacks.”

So why, according to Weissberg, do they continue to support Black causes?  Because they fear the anti-Semitism of white Gentiles even more.

However, he is paraphrased as saying, “Jews are increasingly disenchanted with both liberalism and neutered conservatism, and are increasingly open to racial appeals so long as they are free of anti-Semitism.”

Okay, here is a ginormous 12-year-old clue that the guy is a racist. He’s speaking of the attitudes of Jews, and Jewish academics in particular are mentioned. What is Robert Weissberg? A Jewish academic.

I’m not saying, as he apparently did, that Jews are generally racist. Quite the contrary. I’m suggesting he’s talking about himself. And his 2000 speech? Essentially a guide to getting Jews to respond to racial appeals.

So, I thought, these American Renaissance guys are a**holes. Gotta look into that. And you know what I found?

American Renaissance is an openly racialist magazine published by the New Century Foundation, a group that receives significant funding from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group.”

That took me, a guy sitting at a laptop computer in a home office 25 minutes to find out. But I’m giving National Review a break. It’s gotta be tough for National Review, a publication founded by a man who in the 1950s went against civil rights because he believed that whites were the more advanced race, to hunt down a racist without trapping themselves.

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