Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


What That Scary Undercurrent At Every Trump Rally Really Means

Reprinted with permission from Alternet/ Daily Kos.

Many observers, with good cause, have decried Donald Trump’s vicious attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar and her fellow progressive congresswomen of color and the frightening chants—“Send her home!”—his fanatical followers in North Carolina started up all on their own, responding to Trump’s vituperation about Omar, as nakedly racist, not to mention dangerous. Many have remarked on the fascism dripping from every word, and suggested that what we saw Wednesday in Greenville was a new Nuremberg, Trump’s feeble denials notwithstanding.

If anyone needed further evidence that Trump is now America’s eliminationist-in-chief, the frenzied crowd delivered it in spades.

But listen carefully to the language being used by Trump and his defenders to rationalize their words. It is language with a very familiar ring: The language of community defense and purification, driving from the body politic any foreign—and therefore innately toxic—presence or influence. The language of heroic willingness to sever the Gordian knot and do “what needs to be done” to protect the community, or in this case the nation, or indeed Western civilization itself.

It is the language of hate crimes, used by their perpetrators to rationalize their deeds.

Even before the chant, it was fascinating to watch Trump’s defenders in the wake of the nakedly eliminationist “go back where they came from” tweets that inspired the chant. There was Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), justifying the tweets to the hosts on Fox & Friends by suggesting that people like these members of Congress deserve to be ejected from the country: “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists … they’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

And then there was Sen. Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, who tweeted on Monday along similar lines: “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals.” (Special hypocrisy note: Daines employed a noted white nationalist named Taylor Rose as a campaign field organizer in Montana in his 2014 Senate campaign.)

Listen to the words Trump used in Greenville to attack Rep. Omar just before the chant broke out:

I mean think of that one, and she looks down with contempt on the hardworking American, saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country. And obviously and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious antisemitic screeds.

After the chant, he continued with similar language in attacking Omar’s colleague, Rep. Rita Tlaib:

And Tlaib also used the F word to describe the presidency and your president. That’s not nice, even for me. She was describing the President of the United States and the presidency with the big fat vicious, the way she said it, vicious F-word. That’s not somebody that loves our country.

This is how violence against both nonwhites and political dissenters has been justified by the mainstream American Right for centuries: If you disagree, you hate the country, and thus deserve ejection or elimination. This is why “go back where you came from” is a favorite phrase both of hate-crimes perpetrators and violent right-wing thugs like the Proud Boys.

Yet this was presented as a rational explanation by Trump’s defenders: “The president clarified in there what he was talking about: a love of the country. And if you don’t love the country, leave the country,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the press.

New York Post columnist Sohrab Ahmari hated the chants but then embraced the underlying sentiments:

Needless to say, the “send-her-back” chants are gross. But again, with remarks like these, and many other of the kind, she has signaled radical hostility to her adopted homeland and the West — i.e., a total departure from the political community.

Beneath the pseudo-logical veneer, there is a frightening undercurrent running through all of this talk.

The problem is much deeper than the naked discrimination and intolerance on display: This is language that will be used to justify violence. It will almost certainly inspire a fresh wave of racial sectarian violence in the form of hate crimes and right-wing extremist domestic terrorism, because it is the very same language that is used by the perpetrators of these crimes to justify their acts.

The criminologists and social scientists who study hate crimes have parsed the motivations behind such acts into four different but related kinds: thrill-seeking, “defensive,” retributive (or revenge crimes), and “mission” crimes (perpetrated by committed ideologues intent on striking a blow on behalf of their cause).

By far the largest of these categories is the “defensive” kind of motive, in which perpetrators see themselves as heroes who are out to save their communities and the nation as well. One study found that this category of motive had become dominant in hate crimes after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—and that hate crimes were likely to spike when “when a particular group is regarded as representing a danger to the dominant group’s prestige, wealth, or power.”

“Dylann Roof [who murdered nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston, S.C, in June 2015] thought he was saving the world,” said Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They’ve come to believe they’re saviors of the white race. … I’m doing this to protect my race.”

In “defensive” hate crimes, perpetrators see themselves as heroic protectors of their communities: their neighborhoods, their workplace, their religion, their country, their race. These “defenders’ often target specific victims, justifying their crimes as necessary to fend off perceived threats. Particular events such as the arrival or a Muslim or a black family in a previously all-white neighborhood can act as the spark for such crimes.

Both while in the act and afterward, especially when caught and charged with bias crimes, these perpetrators defend themselves by using the language of community defense. They show little to no remorse for their crimes, and usually insist that they are acting on the unspoken wishes of the majority of people in the community, which is too afraid to act. Even non-defender types of perpetrators—particularly “mission” and retributive criminals—employ this kind of rhetoric to explain their actions.

“They honestly believe that what they’re doing has some sort of communal assent,” says Brian Levin, who leads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

This is where the role played by Donald Trump becomes crucial: Rather than acting as a lever to discourage such acts, Trump clearly has encouraged them with both his rhetoric and his actions. This has led to what has been called the “Trump Effect,” in which outbreaks of bigoted crimes and incidents are directly linked to the president’s outbursts in speeches and on Twitter.

This effect was first marked in the month immediately following Trump’s election in November 2016. Levin’s team as CSUSB assembled hate-crimes data from 38 jurisdictions and found the effect was unmistakable: “racial hate crime according to FBI data surged during November 2016, and in particular on the day after the election, rising from 10 to 27. Our analysis of the same FBI data set further revealed November was the worst month—with 735 hate crimes—since 2007 and the worst November going back to 1992, when systemic national record keeping began. Further, we found that hate crimes more than doubled, from 17 to 42, the day after the election and that a 72 percent average daily spike occurred in the two weeks following the election compared to before.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded a similar phenomenon:

To the contrary, in the first 34 days after the election, the SPLC documented 1,094 bias-related incidents and found that 37 percent of them directly referenced Trump, his campaign slogans or his notorious comments about sexual assault. Not every incident met the definition of a hate crime, but many did. The FBI later confirmed the sharp uptick in reported hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2016. Researchers have shown that reported hate crimes following Trump’s election made up the second largest surge since the FBI began collecting data in 1992 (trailing only the increase after the 9/11 terror attacks).

Another study found that not only is there a demonstrable “Trump Effect” arising from his rhetoric, the effect is substantially broadened and deepened by the fact of his winning the 2016 election:

Using time series analysis, we show that Donald Trump’s election in November of 2016 was associated with a statistically significant surge in reported hate crimes across the United States, even when controlling for alternative explanations. Further, by using panel regression techniques, we show that counties that voted for President Trump by the widest margins in the presidential election also experienced the largest increases in reported hate crimes. … We hypothesize that it was not just Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric throughout the political campaign that caused hate crimes to increase. Rather, we argue that it was Trump’s subsequent election as President of the United States that validated this rhetoric in the eyes of perpetrators and fueled the hate crime surge.

More pointedly, there has been a sharp spike in hate crimes (226 percent) in counties where Trump has held his political rallies, which feature his frequently eliminationist and threatening speeches. As its authors note, “Recent research also shows that reading or hearing Trump’s statements of bias against particular groups makes people more likely to write offensive things about the groups he targets.”

All this bodes ill for the coming 2020 presidential campaign. If Trump continues to wage his culture war against nonwhites and the liberals who defend them, the Trump Effect is certain to surge along with it—and so will the hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism that ride in its wake.


Jussie Smollett’s Justice Restored No One

The act of dropping 16 felony charges against TV star Jussie Smollett didn’t need to be the injustice that it has become.

Even though they’re convinced he’s guilty, prosecutors in Chicago could have forgone prosecution in a different way — one that embraced the theory of restorative justice — and not passed up a perfect opportunity to model a new and more productive way of thinking about accountability.

Restorative justice’s roots lie in indigenous cultures and are older than our criminal legal system. Its practice became formalized in Canada 45 years ago in what’s called the “Kitchener experiment.” In lieu of going to jail, two teenagers who went on a vandalism spree met and made restitution arrangements with all 22 people whose property they damaged. Incarcerating the two wouldn’t have necessarily made everyone whole — financially or emotionally.

Restorative justice’s popularity is gaining now, most likely because it’s cheaper than locking people up, and it’s more satisfying to victims. According to Pew Charitable Trusts, 35 states have enacted legislation “encouraging the use of restorative justice” techniques.

These programs usually require victims and perpetrators to meet and discuss the harm that’s been done and ways to repair it. Studies in other countries have shown that people who’ve done harm are less likely to do it again once they learn the impact of their actions on other people — and when the lesson happens in a non-adversarial environment.

Restorative justice practices acknowledge two facts: one, that crime causes harm, and two, justice and accountability necessarily entail healing said harm. Healing requires that the system hear and acknowledge the people most affected by a crime and see that reparations are made.

Not embracing these principles is where prosecutors went wrong. The fact that Smollett wasn’t a victim doesn’t make this a victimless crime, yet that’s how they acted.

The victims in this case include the Chicago Police Department, whose time was wasted; Chicago taxpayers who footed a $130,000 bill for the investigation (far more than the $10,000 bond Smollett forfeited); and future victims of hate crimes whose trauma may be doubted. None of them were even consulted, much less given an opportunity to face Smollett and ask him why this happened.

Now those victims are dissatisfied, borderline rageful. And they want their justice the usual way: doling out convictions and terms of imprisonment.

One of the greatest modern American myths is that accountability must require punishment. On the contrary, accountability means accepting responsibility for one’s behavior and taking action to repair the harm. Every day, defendants in the same Cook County courthouse that released Smollett plead guilty and may never take responsibility for what they’ve done.

That accountability and punishment are inseparable is prosecutorial dogma that’s caused our prison populations to swell more than three times since Smollett was born.

The resolution of Smollett’s case moved away from that stance but in the wrong direction. A restorative justice model produces the same legal results — charges dismissed — but the feelings surrounding that disposition are much different because the community, in this case, Chicago, isn’t cheated of the reconciliation it deserves.

Foregoing restorative justice in this case didn’t do Smollett any favors, either. It’s true that he won’t go to prison or have a record, but he doesn’t know the harm he caused. He isn’t required to understand how his behavior affected other human beings or admit that his false report was a choice that could have been made differently.

If prosecutors would have embraced restorative justice principles, Smollett wouldn’t have dared to pose as the victim in this case, again, in a speech outside the courthouse like he did. He would have known better.

Restorative justice isn’t appropriate for every criminal case. Some victims don’t want it, and some defendants aren’t willing to participate. And we must admit that there are some corners of the human heart that restorative justice can’t reach: Certain harms can’t be healed through a mere meeting.

To find out more about Chandra Bozelko and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at

Report: Hate Crimes Spike Locally After Trump MAGA Rallies

Trump spews hate and inspires others to commit hate crimes. Now there’s clear evidence that wherever Trump holds one of his notoriously anti-immigrant, anti-media campaign rallies, he leaves an increase in hate crimes in his wake.

New research reported Friday by the Washington Post shows just how dangerous Trump’s rhetoric really is. The report found hate crimes increased 226 percent in counties where Trump held a 2016 campaign rally compared to counties that did not hold a rally.

The research backs up claims by politicians like Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who have called Trump out for inspiring violence and bigotry.

The new research is especially relevant after a string of terror attacks inspired by Trump dominated the headlines.

In New Zealand, a white supremacist terrorist who killed 50 Muslims at a mosque said that Trump was a “renewed symbol of white identity.” Trump’s campaign often demonized Muslims, going so far as to call for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. Trump also repeatedly attacked Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, the Gold Star parents of Humayun Khan, who died while serving in Iraq.

Anti-Muslim terrorists in Kansas even used Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric to plead for a shorter sentence. Attorneys for the terrorists said, “As long as the Executive Branch condemns Islam and commends and encourages violence against would-be enemies, then a sentence imposed by the Judicial Branch does little to deter people generally from engaging in such conduct if they believe they are protecting their countries from enemies identified by their own Commander-in-Chief.”

Trump’s repeated attacks on Democratic politicians and the media also seemed to inspire the so-called “MAGA Bomber,” who lived in a van plastered with pro-Trump paraphernalia and sent pipe bombs to high-profile Democratic politicians Trump regularly attacked, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and President Obama. He also mailed bombs to other Trump targets, including CNN, philanthropist George Soros, and political activist Tom Steyer, and recently pleaded guilty to 65 criminal charges.

There is even frequent violence at Trump rallies. During the campaign, Trump encouraged those at his rallies to physically assault protestors, even promising he would pay their legal bills. More recently, Trump’s repeated tirades about the free press being “the enemy of the people” inspired one supporter to attack a member of the media covering a Trump rally. The publisher of the New York Times called out Trump’s rhetoric for “encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad.”

FBI data also supports the theory that Trump is inspiring hate crimes, showing hate crimes continue to spike in the Trump era, increasing by 17 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.

Trump not only inspires terrorists, but he defends them as well. After neo-Nazis and white supremacists held a hate-fueled rally in Charlottesville and murdered a protestor, Trump defended  the white supremacists there as “very fine people.”

After years of decline, the Trump era has seen an increase in hate groups, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it — with both his rhetoric and his policies,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said.

No matter how much damage and violence he inspires, Trump adamantly refuses to stop spewing hate. Now, with the 2020 campaign around the corner, more counties will be forced to deal with the violent aftermath of Trump invading their community.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 as part of “USA Thank You Tour 2016”. REUTERS/William Philpott

In Smollett Case, False Claims Could Undermine Real Justice

If “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is guilty, as Chicago police have charged, of falsely claiming that he was the victim of a hate crime, he has done a grave disservice to the many Americans — black and brown, Muslim and Jew, gay and transgender — who have been or will be the actual victims of such attacks. If he faked an assault, he has provided skeptical police officers and unsympathetic right-wingers another excuse not to take such claims seriously.

Smollett — who turned himself in after he was accused of filing a false police report — deserves, like all criminal suspects, the presumption of innocence. His family and his attorneys continue to insist that the actor, who is openly gay, did nothing wrong.

But his story began to fall apart pretty quickly after he made the claim late last month about a vicious attack on a Chicago street as he walked alone late at night. Smollett told police that two masked men punched him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs. He also claimed one yelled, “This is MAGA country!” — invoking President Donald Trump’s signature phrase, “Make America Great Again.” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters last Thursday that Smollett paid two men to help him stage the attack.

As feminist writer Roxane Gay tweeted: “Why would he make it harder for people who actually suffer from hate crimes? It makes no sense. The lie is so damaging.”

On cue, Trump quickly jumped in on Twitter, feigning outrage on behalf of all of his supposedly defamed supporters. “@JussieSmollett — what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA,” Trump tweeted.

Conservative commentators, some of whom were already openly skeptical of Smollett’s claims, also raced to denounce the actor and his defenders. This case will likely get more attention on right-wing radio talk shows than all the actual cases of hate crimes taken together.

And there are plenty of real hate crimes to keep police busy. Just last week, federal authorities arrested an active-duty U.S. Coast Guard officer, Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, who called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland.” Investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition at his home, as well as a hit list that read like a who’s who of journalists and Democratic politicians. If notes confiscated from his computer are any guide, Hasson was becoming increasingly alarmed at the prospect that Trump might be impeached and was readying a strike. His Excel spreadsheet, according to published reports, included this chilling tidbit: “best place in dc to see congress people.”

As alarming as this development is, it’s no surprise. Trump has catered to bigots since he started his presidential campaign, and they have felt empowered since his election. He began his political career as the nation’s most famous birther, notoriously insisting that President Barack Obama was a usurper who wasn’t born in this country. He easily segued into a campaign that insulted Mexicans, denounced Muslims and placated white supremacists. His rallying cry, “Make America Great Again,” is clearly a call for a return to a time when black and brown Americans had little political or economic power and no cultural clout.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such things, the number of hate groups operating in the United States is now at an all-time high; it has identified 1,020 such groups. The Trump presidency has seen, among other assaults, the calamity at Charlottesville, where Heather Heyer was fatally struck by a car driven by a white terrorist looking to mow down peaceful protesters, and the atrocity last year at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 worshippers dead.

Smollett may have seen an opportunity in linking his allegedly fake claim to an actual perpetrator: a president who has continually engaged in hateful and divisive rhetoric that stirs up the lunatic element among his supporters. If Smollett lied, he has only assisted the hater in chief.