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Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists Cheer Trump’s Feud With Black Leaders

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When President Donald Trump unleashes his racist attacks on public figures of color like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Al Sharpton, it provides direct comfort and support to the most repugnant and dangerous parts of the white supremacist movement.

But while unabashed racism has become ubiquitous in Trump’s rhetoric, a couple of remarks in his recent Twitter tirades jumped out at me as particularly strong dog whistles for darkest corners of the bigoted right-wing.

As part of his recent attacks, Trump said — without explanation — that Cummings is “racist.” Targeting Sharpton, he was even more specific about what he meant, saying the he “Hates Whites & Cops!

There is, of course, blatant hypocrisy in these remarks, because while the president and his defenders say it’s ridiculous to call him racist, Trump feels no compunction about lobbing such accusations at others without explanation. But aside from this obvious hypocrisy, it seemed to me there was something deeper and more nefarious going on in these accusations. It’s a step beyond his accusation that Omar and her allies in the “Squad” supposedly “hate America” — an accusation that is steeped in racism and bigotry but also reflects feeds off a long-running political argument in the United States about political divides over patriotism.

The accusation that Cummings and Sharpton actively hate “Whites” — not America generally, but only “Whites” — stood out. And white supremacist contributors to the hate site “Stormfront” picked up on the wording as well, taking it as a signal that the president is on their side.

“Is this the first time DJT has explicitly stood up for White folks?” one asked. “Or has he apologized yet? More of this, Donnie, and you might win next year!” (The president has not apologized.)

Others on the site agreed, echoing the sentiment that Sharpton hates white people, with some adding that all black people hate white people and that the feeling is “mutual.” One added a hopeful note about what Trump’s comments mean: “For an American President to call a black person racist will hopefully embolden thousands of Whites to do the same against other non-Whites.” Yet another said Trump got “bonus points” for his tweet capitalizing the word “Whites,” as is often a custom in these forums.

As has been repeatedly observed, many white supremacists who contributor to forums like Stormfront are skeptical and critical of the president because of his relationships with Jewish people. Anti-Semitism, Nazism, and Holocaust denial run deep in these circles, and while Trump has sometimes employed anti-Semitic rhetoric, he doesn’t go nearly as far as some of these bigots would like and he has Jewish family members. In the discussion of Trump’s remarks, some of the Stormfront contributors continued to express skepticism about the president for being “close to the jews,” but they welcomed his attack on Sharpton and “blacks in general.”

Jessie Daniels, a sociology professor at the City University of New York and expert on internet manifestations of racism, told me that the president’s comments were “egregious and obviously racist” and that she was “stunned” there was any debate about the question.

“If the white supremacists are giving you thumbs up, then that’s a good sign that what you’re doing is racist,” she said.

With these types of comments, she said, the president is clearly “emboldening” the far right.

“There’s this history and this consistency in this presidency of saying things that signal to white supremacists that he’s on their side,” Daniels said. She pointed to another moment during the 2016 campaign when Trump retweeted a user with the handle “WhiteGenocideTM.” Some white supremacists, she said, took this as a signal that he was on their side, even if they didn’t see him as an anti-Semitic ally.

By accusing prominent black figures of being racist toward white people, Trump feeds into the white supremacist myth that white people are the true victims of racism. This partisan nature of this belief is reflected in polling data, which shows that Republicans are significantly more likely to say whites are subject to “some” or “a lot of” discrimination.

Daniels said this has long been a part of the white supremacist narrative opposing civil rights and equality for African-Americans.

“Whites saw themselves as under attack because of the calls for equality,” she said.

“It goes through til today,” she continued.  “We’re living in a moment of white backlash against the Obama presidency.”

Most people who voted for Trump or plan to vote for him again likely don’t see themselves as allies of the people who contribute to sites like Stormfront. But Trump seems to think his best chance at re-election is by tapping into the fears at the core of the ideology that drives white supremacy, which may be shared by many people who would explicitly reject the label. And by echoing the type of rhetoric and beliefs favored in some of the most bigoted recesses of the far-right movement, Trump is doing his part to give these people a voice on the national stage.

‘Unite The Right’ Rally Had Nothing To Do With Statues

Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents’ basements carrying TIKI torches from Home Depot.

The odor of citronella must have been overpowering. Was this an attack on the campus left or on mosquitoes?

“Blood and soil!” they chanted. “Jews will not replace us!”

Jews?

Had Jews somehow prevented these dorks from getting laid?

Deeply offensive, but also deeply ridiculous. The iconography of the torch-lit parade was straight out of Triumph of the Will, Leni Reifenstahl’s epic film glorifying Hitler. Deliberately so. These Stormfront geeks get off on trying to frighten normal people with Nazi imagery.

Hogan’s Heroes is more like it. I mean Confederate flags are one thing, but swastikas? Politically, nothing could be dumber. Why not just have “Besiegte” tattooed on your forehead? That’s German for “loser.”

Speaking for the overwhelming majority of Americans, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah tweeted: “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

Then things went from laughable to tragic overnight.

The University of Virginia has always been hallowed ground to me. When I first arrived, the sheer, serene beauty of Thomas Jefferson’s architecture affected me almost viscerally. Was the orderly life it implied even possible in this world? Well, certainly not in Jefferson’s own life, but art is art.

I was first introduced to my wife in a serpentine-walled garden maybe 50 yards from where the would-be Nazis assembled around Jefferson’s statue. If I close my eyes, I can still see her standing there in her little shirtwaist dress—an Arkansas girl more exotic to me than anybody I’d known. A coach’s daughter, she’d applied to study history at UVa entirely unaware that there were no women undergraduates back then.

The dean asked if I’d ever heard of Hendrix College, her Arkansas alma mater—a potentially embarrassing question.

“No Sir,” I said. “They must not play football.”

She laughed because I was right; also because it was a cheeky way to talk to the graduate school dean. I’ve done my best to keep her laughing ever since.

For that matter, I played several seasons worth of rugby games on Nameless Field, where the would-be SS-men lit their little torches. We got married in Charlottesville two years later. Indeed, we’ve sometimes regretted ever leaving. So, yes, it’s doubly distressing to see the university and city turned into a stage set for fascist street theater.

“Charlottesville,” wrote UVa professor Siva Vaidhyanathan “is an ideal stage for them to perform acts of terrorism. This was the home of Thomas Jefferson, the man who codified religious tolerance in colonial Virginia and who declared ‘all men are created equal.’ It’s also the home of Thomas Jefferson, the man who owned, sold, raped and had whipped people he considered racially inferior to him. It’s the site of the University of Virginia, an institution steeped in conservative traditions that echo the Old South. And it’s the site of the University of Virginia, an elite, global research university with a cosmopolitan faculty and student body.”

It’s definitely all that. Old South or not, Charlottesville is also a liberal college town that voted to remove an equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee from its courthouse square and relocate it to a park on its outskirts. Like many of the thousand or so Confederate monuments across the South, it was erected long after the Civil War, in 1924—hence more an expression of white supremacy than Virginian ancestor worship, precisely as Stormfront wants to use it today.

Lee himself steadfastly refused to be so memorialized in his lifetime. He would not contribute to the building of Confederate monuments and steadfastly advised white Southerners to leave it all behind. To an embittered Confederate widow, Lee once wrote “Madam, do not train up your children in hostility to the government of the United States. Remember, we are all one country now. … Bring them up to be Americans.”

Prof. Vaidhyanathan regrets that he and his wife stayed away on Saturday for fear of precisely what happened: a mad act of violence by a deranged young man. He vows to bear peaceful witness when the would-be Storm Troopers march again. Maybe he can help to calm campus hotheads as well. The last thing Americans need is anybody romanticizing violence.

Meanwhile, if Virginians need monuments, and they do, the state’s covered with Civil War battlefields. The Lawn at UVa remains; also Jefferson’s Monticello. For all the terrible ambiguity of his life, the man was the great genius of his age. The Washington and Lee campus in Lexington memorializes Robert E. Lee as he’d have preferred to be remembered.

For that matter, Appomattox Courthouse isn’t far away.

Header image: Wikimedia Commons.

Danziger: Echoes Of 1939

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings, syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group, are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He served in Vietnam as a linguist and intelligence officer, earning a Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Born in New York City, he now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here