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When Will Congress Call Domestic Terrorism By Its True Name?

I can’t imagine how Garnell Whitfield Jr. did it, how he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to demand some sort of action from the country’s leaders on gun violence and on the domestic terrorism wrought by white supremacy. But as I was riveted by his testimony, I realized the strength and courage he must have drawn from the memory of the mother he will never stop grieving.

Ruth Whitfield, at 86, was the oldest victim in a shooting at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 people, all African Americans, dead. It was May 14, not even a month ago. Yet there have been so many shootings since, it sometimes seems as if the rest of the world has forgotten. An 18-year-old white man is accused of carrying out the racist attack, accused of driving hours to hunt and murder as many Black people as possible.

“I would ask every senator to imagine the faces of your mothers as you look at the face of my mother, Mrs. Ruth Whitfield,” Garnell Whitfield testified on Tuesday.

Would they be able to do that?

“Ask yourself,” he said, “is there nothing we can do?”

The track record isn’t great.

I’m not sure what Whitfield was expecting from lawmakers who have a hard time even naming what happened. How, then, could they put themselves in his shoes?

Garnell Whitfield is far ahead of our elected representatives, many of whom want, have always wanted, to distract and downplay, to accuse others of bad intentions, to look everywhere but into the eyes and the broken heart of a man whose life has been forever changed.

Whitfield’s plainspoken speech must have startled those reluctant to call out “domestic terrorism” and “white supremacy” for the dangers they are, despite the warnings from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s March 2021 testimony before the same committee about the connection between the January 6 attack on the Capitol and right-wing “domestic terrorism.”

They would rather, as Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have done and continue to do, point to acts of violence by those on the left and accuse Democrats of using any effort to counter domestic threats as an excuse to go after political opponents.

This is the same Cruz who walked back his comments earlier this year describing January 6 as a “terrorist attack,” a sign of how dishonestly hearings by the House Select Committee are going to be received in some partisan quarters.

In Buffalo, the intent was clear. Did the shooter want to terrorize more than the people he is charged with gunning down? Were Black people enjoying weekend shopping human beings in the shooter's eyes? Or were they merely players in his racist conspiracy theories about nonwhites in America usurping the white majority’s rightful place at the top? It is a hateful theory that is taking root, even in the rhetoric of some tasked with governing an increasingly diverse country.

“Be very afraid,” was the clear message in Buffalo to all African Americans. That’s the point of any hate crime, to target a group, especially when the hate is spelled out, chapter and verse.

It was the message of those who murdered Black Americans exercising the right to vote not that many years ago, or in the case of World War II veteran Medgar Evers in 1963, murdering an American hero just for daring to register fellow citizens, for insisting on being treated equally in the country he fought for.

Yet, despite a history with more cases of intimidation and violence than can fit in one or 1,000 columns — a history our leaders in Washington could view at the city’s museums open to all, if truth were the goal — Senate Republicans recently blocked a bill that would have the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI establish offices focused on domestic terrorism. This comes as five members of the far-right Proud Boys have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role on January 6, with televised hearings promising much more.

Just as any gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was prohibited for more than two long decades because of an amendment to a bill that prevented using federal funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” a 2009 effort by the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration to report on increasingly radicalized and violent right-wing groups was ended before it began.

Republican members of Congress and right-wing media outlets led the charge then and now to reframe any such attention as an attempt to smear police and the military and shift attention away from the perceived more urgent threat of foreign actors. Echoes of that could be heard in GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky’s recent remarks about the 2022 proposal. “It would be the Democrat plan to name our police as white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” he said. Former President Donald Trump, the man who found “fine people” on both sides in Charlottesville, Va., moved the government away from any investigation of white supremacist groups during his time in office.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical. How do you distinguish between hate speech and free speech? I understand the reluctance, and am reluctant myself, of too many investigations, too much surveillance, and how easily that can turn into the monitoring of “certain” groups. Past federal crackdowns to stop hate too often have been subverted to instead persecute and spy on those fighting for justice.

But there is definitely both smoke and fire when so many law enforcement officers and military veterans were caught attacking the very government they were sworn to protect on January 6, when shooters bond online over lies and hate.

America has a white supremacy problem, despite the reluctance of members of Congress to admit it, with support across the political spectrum for “threatening or acting violently against perceived political opponents,” according to a recent poll from the Southern Poverty Law Center that spares no one.

In that context, Garnell Whitfield doesn’t seem to be asking too much when he tells the senators that his mother’s life mattered, and asks: “Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?”

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

GOP House Candidate Pushes Mass Shooting Conspiracy Theory

Carl Paladino, who announced that he’s running for Congress, previously shared a post on Facebook which pushed conspiracy theories about the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. The Facebook post portrayed the tragedies as false flag attacks meant to help Democrats “revoke the 2nd amendment and take away guns” and claimed “the Texas shooter was receiving hypnosis training” apparently under the direction of the CIA.

Media Matters and others have documented how social media, especially Facebook, helps facilitate the spread of conspiracy theories.

Paladino announced on June 3 that he is running as a Republican for New York’s 23th Congressional District (which includes part of the Buffalo suburbs) after Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs said that he would drop his reelection bid. Jacobs made the move after he lost party backing for saying he would support gun safety measures.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranked Republican member of Congress, announced that she is "proudly" supporting Paladino’s campaign. President Donald Trump also recently praised Paladino.

Paladino is a longtime Republican politician and businessman who has also appeared as a commentator on media outlets over the years and briefly hosted a podcast. He has a history of bigoted remarks, including stating that he wanted to see Michelle Obama “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla” and hoped that former President Obama catches “mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford.”

Shortly before he announced his candidacy, Paladino shared a post on June 1 to his Facebook page responding to the recent tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde by pushing conspiracy theories about shootings. The post, which was written by someone named Jeff Briggs, claimed that “gun control” is actually “population control” and “mass shootings tended to explode when there is a Democrat in the WH who would not hesitate to revoke the 2nd amendment and take away guns.”


Regarding the Buffalo and Uvalde tragedies, the post stated: “In almost every mass shooting including the most recent horrific Buffalo Tops Market & the Texas school shootings, there are strange occurrences that are never fully explained. How did an 18 yr old obtain $5000 in weapons and a $70k truck? Why were the officers told to stand down when their training just two months ago instructed them to rush in. The man who rushed in was a Border Patrol agent who defied the onsight officers’ instructions. The absence of crisis leaders reminds me of the broken cameras and napping guards when Epstein committed suicide.”

It also stated of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting: “Why did the media suddenly stop covering the Vegas Shooting and the government go silent after 55 were murdered by a lone shooting using bump stocks?”

The post rambled on, stating: “Multiple conspiracy theories that raise eyebrows, The CIA’s MK Ultra mind control program, the shooter of RFK claiming he didn’t remember doing it, The JFK assignation one shooter story, The murder of John Lennon who was writing songs about ending wars, The fact that the Texas shooter was receiving hypnosis training, Stories of multiple shooters in mass shootings that are never explained.”

Conspiracy theorists have frequently claimed that the government engineers “false flag” attacks as a justification to enact political measures, including after the recent shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde.


Paladino's Facebook post:

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

As America Mourns Gun Victims, Republicans Block Domestic T​​error Bill

Washington (AFP) - Republicans in the US Senate prevented action Thursday on a bill to address domestic terrorism in the wake of a racist massacre at a grocery store in upstate New York.

Democrats had been expecting defeat but were seeking to use the procedural vote to highlight Republican opposition to tougher gun control measures following a second massacre at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday.

There was no suggestion of any racial motive on the part of the gunman who shot dead 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

But the shock of the bloodshed, less than two weeks after the May 14 murders in Buffalo, New York, has catapulted America's gun violence crisis back to the top of the agenda in Washington.

"The bill is so important, because the mass shooting in Buffalo was an act of domestic terrorism. We need to call it what it is: domestic terrorism," Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would have created units inside the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to combat domestic terror threats, with a focus on white supremacy.

A task force that includes Pentagon officials would also have been launched "to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement."

Schumer had urged Republicans Wednesday to allow the chamber to start debate on the bill, offering to accommodate Republican provisions to "harden" schools in the wake of the Texas murders.

Just ahead of the vote, Schumer said he had wept while studying pictures of the young victims, calling the state's pro-gun governor, Greg Abbott, "an absolute fraud."

Abbott has made efforts to loosen gun restrictions in Texas, including signing into law a measure last year authorizing residents to carry handguns without licenses or training.

The domestic terrorism bill's 207 co-sponsors included three moderate Republicans in the House.

But there was not enough support in the evenly split 100-member Senate to overcome the Republican filibuster -- the 60-vote threshold required to allow debate to go forward.

Republicans say there are already laws on the books targeting white supremacists and other domestic terrorists, and have accused Democrats of politicizing the Buffalo massacre, in which 10 Black people died.

They have also argued that the legislation could be abused to go after political opponents of the party in power.

Democrats are looking for Republicans to support a separate gun control bill, and said Wednesday they would work over the coming days to see if they could find common ground with enough opposition senators to circumvent a filibuster.

"Make no mistake about it, if these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun safety legislation," Schumer said

When Worries Haunt Jim Clyburn, It's Time To Fear For  America

When I interviewed House Majority Whip James Clyburn in 2014 about his memoir Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, the South Carolina Democrat was confident in America’s ability to find its way, no matter how extreme the political swings might appear at any given time.

“The country from its inception is like the pendulum on a clock,” the congressman told me. “It goes back and forward. It tops out to the right and starts back to the left — it tops out to the left and starts back to the right.” And remember, he said, it “spends twice as much time in the center.”

I have always appreciated Clyburn’s wisdom, his passion, and his commitment to his constituents. But most of all, I have admired the optimism of this child of the South, who grew up hemmed in by Jim Crow’s separate and unequal grip, yet who believed in the innate goodness of America and its people. Clyburn put his own life on the line to drag the country — kicking and screaming — into a more just future.

He was convinced, I believe, that no matter how off balance America might become, the country would eventually right itself.

A lot has changed since that afternoon, when he sat at a long table, signing books and chatting in the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina, right beside his beloved wife. Emily Clyburn, a passionate civil rights activist, died in 2019, though Clyburn often references her wise words.That optimism, however, has lost its glow.

Clyburn’s worries drove our conversation in July 2021, the second of two times he was a guest on my CQ Roll Call “Equal Time” podcast. The topic was voting rights, and Clyburn had opinions about the Senate procedure that would eventually stall legislation to reform those rights and restore provisions invalidated by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.

“When it comes to the constitutional issues like voting, guaranteed to Blacks by the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, that should not be filibustered,” he said. And about restrictive laws being passed in states? “I want you to call it what it is. Use the word: nullification. It is voter nullification.”

“This isn’t about just voting; this is about whether or not we will have a democracy or an autocracy.”

With those remarks in the back of my mind, it was still startling to hear Clyburn last week on MSNBC, talking about his GOP House colleagues, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and their waffling about complying with subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack.

When asked if the government and Capitol Hill could “be fixed,” Clyburn, known for his philosophical “this too shall pass” mantra, instead replied, “I don’t know.” He talked about threats to undermine democracy and said the country is “teetering on the edge.”

And that was before the shooting in Buffalo that claimed the lives of ten beautiful Americans doing something as routine as Saturday supermarket shopping. African Americans were targeted by an 18-year-old who wore his “white supremacist” label like a badge of honor in a heavily plagiarized racist screed, a man whose stated goal was to “kill as many blacks as possible.”

Is it any wonder Clyburn’s optimism has been waning in these times?

Among Clyburn’s current House colleagues sits Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the number three House Republican, whose Facebook ads echoed the “replacement” conspiracy theory swallowed hook, line and sinker by the Buffalo shooter. “Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” was one message shared by the once moderate congresswoman, who replaced Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney in House leadership.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) has said many Americans believe “we’re replacing national-born American — native-born Americans — to permanently transform the political landscape of this very nation.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), someone you can always count on to say and do the very worst thing, has co-signed the near nightly rantings of a Fox News host, once tweeting, “Tucker Carlson is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America.”

While most Republican House members skirt the edges of the most incendiary claims, you don’t hear them loudly denouncing or disavowing them.

The accused Buffalo shooter was straightforward in his intentions as he found heroes in the racist and conspiracy-driven murderers who have cut a hateful swath through Norway, New Zealand, El Paso, Pittsburgh and Clyburn’s own home state of South Carolina, at places of worship, whether they be church, synagogue, or mosque.

The problem is much deeper than the availability of guns, and it didn’t surface in just the past few years, though the Obama family in the White House woke those uncomfortable with an evolving country and President Donald Trump cannily dug into a “Make America Great Again” slogan that looked back, not forward.

An accurate reading of history might have taught the shooter that scapegoating African Americans for his own emptiness and rot is not new, and that online conspiracies crumble when bombarded with truth. But many of the same people dismissing Saturday’s planned killing spree as the aberrant act of a disaffected and deranged “youth” would replace real history with rose-colored propaganda in the nation’s classrooms. Many Americans could use an education when polls show a third of them — and nearly half of Republicans — buy into the “replacement” lie.

It was the ugly truth, not fantasy, when President Joe Biden on Tuesday became counselor in chief, a role I’m sure he wishes he never had to play. When he and first lady Dr. Jill Biden traveled to Buffalo, the president blessedly took the time to note each individual — beloved wives and husbands, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters — emphasizing the humanity a shooter wanted to erase.

“In America, evil will not win, I promise you. Hate will not prevail. White supremacy will not have the last word,” he proclaimed.

But when it’s stoked by the rhetoric of fear and blame of the other, hate too often finds a way.

Maybe that is what’s haunting Clyburn, hero and longtime fighter, because he has seen so much. Now, when democracy is at stake, where will the pendulum stop?

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is currently a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Young White Supremacist Killers Live In A System Of Delusion

Chances are, deluded mass murderer Payton Gendron doesn’t actually know any Black people to speak of. According to the 2020 census, his home town of Conklin, New York, roughly 200 miles from the Buffalo supermarket where he acted out his deadly fantasies, has an African-American population smaller than one percent. Gendron needed to drive for hours to locate a Black neighborhood to shoot up.

No matter. The killer wasn’t shooting individual human beings. He was shooting symbols, imaginary projections in his own twisted mind.

Republican thinkers today call it “Replacement Theory,” the notion that Democrats are scheming to subvert American democracy by importing non-white immigrants to support leftist ideology. It’s the particular passion of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. The New York Times has documented more than 400 mentions on his program since 2016—keeping his audience of suspicious old coots sitting there anxiously clutching the TV remote.

There’s no sign Gendron was directly influenced by Carlson. This particular delusional system has a long history in the United States. Only the identity of the racial enemy changes. Back in the 1840s, it was my own Irish Catholic forbearers that threatened to contaminate the nation’s precious bodily fluids. According to the Know Nothing party, the Pope was conspiring to destroy America’s Protestant democracy by flooding the country with Irish and German immigrants.

Blacks, of course, were already here centuries earlier. Indeed, the Know Nothings died out as a political party partly because they could never agree about slavery. Abraham Lincoln once wrote a private letter to a friend explaining why he couldn’t join the movement: “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equals, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’”

Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was a Know-Nothing as well as a Confederate sympathizer.

The idea of subversive immigrants has never gone away. The Ku Klux Klan exploited many of the same impulses; so did George Wallace’s “American Independent Party” in 1968. More recently, Donald Trump’s “Birther” movement portrayed President Barack Obama as racially and religiously unfit. Indeed, Obama’s election caused millions of bigots to lose their collective minds.

What’s more, you don’t have to be an exponent of Critical Race Theory to notice that as other immigrants (such as the Irish) become honorary white people, Blacks remain permanently suspect to the kinds of losers and lone dementos who populate the fringes of the online, nativist far right.

Which brings us back to 18-year-old Payton Gendron with his soldier costume, his largely-plagiarized 180-page manifesto, and his arsenal of semi-automatic rifles. He’s too young to buy a six-pack, but Gendron had no difficulty arming himself like a one-man infantry platoon.

It’s entirely mad, yes, but it’s also the American Way: The Second Amendment as a constitutional death pact.

“White supremacy is a poison,” President Biden said in an impassioned speech in Buffalo, “and it’s been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes. No more.”

Well, it’s a nice thought.

Alas, I fear that for a substantial fraction of the population, race remains a key component of American identity. Gendron’s online manifesto shows that he avidly consumed what I call “race porn.” In his fractured mind, he saw himself as a heroic figure, linking himself with mass shooters worldwide: the 2019 Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter, who killed 51 Muslims in a mosque; the punk white supremacist who murdered nine Black parishioners in Charleston, S.C in 2015., the anti-Semite who slaughtered eleven Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, and the shooter who killed 23 people in 2019 an El Paso Walmart in an effort to defeat the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Saner minds, of course, recognize these deadly sad sacks for what they are: fearful weaklings whose only legacy is sorrow and destruction.

Meanwhile, what is there to say about cynical opportunists like Tucker Carlson and his Fox News colleagues who peddle this poison for fun and profit? Laura Ingraham, also a prime-time Fox News host, tells viewers that Democrats are conspiring to “replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants.”

Supposedly, it’s Hollywood celebrities and shadowy billionaires who are behind the unholy scheme.

Author Ann Coulter peddles the same line. One of her recent books was titled Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole. GOP politicians such as J.D. Vance, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene have gotten aboard as well.

One prominent Republican has dissented. “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism,” Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse.”

Painting imaginary targets on real people for self-intoxicated young men to shoot.

J’Accuse! Cheney Charges GOP Leadership ‘Enabled White Supremacy’

In the wake of the Buffalo, NY mass shooting that killed ten Black people, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Monday morning leveled strong charges against the leadership of the House GOP, accusing them of enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism.”




House GOP leadership includes Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and the chair of the House Republican Conference, Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Over the weekend, after the Buffalo mass shooting, Stefanik became the face of the Republican Party’s embrace of a white supremacist, white nationalist, far-right conspiracy theory known as the “Great Replacement Theory.” It promotes the false, baseless, and racist belief that people of color are “replacing” white Americans – often by being systematically brought into the country – to disenfranchise white voters, to take their jobs, in college admissions, and in other areas of society.

NPR reports that “Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old white male accused of killing 10 people and wounding another three in Buffalo, allegedly said in his screed that the decrease in white birth rates equates to a genocide.”

It is being investigated as “a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism.” Gendron’s 180-page “manifesto” references what he claims is the dwindling size of the white population, according to CNN.

The Washington Post reports that “Stefanik has not pushed the theory by name,” but “she and other conservatives have echoed the tenets of the far-right ideology as part of anti-immigrant rhetoric that has fired up the Republican base ahead of the midterm elections.”

A “series of Facebook ads published in September 2021 by Stefanik’s campaign committee … charged that Democrats were allowing undocumented immigrants into the United States as a ploy to outnumber, and eventually silence, Republican voters,” the Post adds, noting that Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) Sunday tweeted that Minority Leader McCarthy should be asked about it.

“Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” reads one of the ads, which shows a reflection of migrants in sunglasses Biden is wearing. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.