Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
President Donald Trump openly defended the violence of his own supporters during a press briefing on Monday, diminishing the recent attacks in Portland and Kenosha while condemning what he called "this horrible left-wing ideology that seems to be permeating our country."
Asked about his caravan of supporters who drove the streets of Portland, at times shooting paintballs and pepper spray at counter-protesters, Trump refused to condemn the violence.
"Do you want to take this opportunity to condemn your supporters who were shooting paintball guns in Portland?" asked CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
"I understand they had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest," Trump said, showing his narcissistic need to boast about the supposed size of his support. The videos, on the other hand, showed that they were not at all peaceful:
Clashes. Trump people unload paintballs and pepper spray. They shot me too. https://t.co/PwU5pZMLnV— Mike Baker (@Mike Baker) 1598757304.0
Trump continued: "And paint, paint as a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets." He then went on to discuss the case of one of his supporters who was shot and killed in Portland, though a suspect has not yet been publicly identified. He claimed the shooter was a supporter of the media.
The video above shows, despite Trump's claim, little indication that the pepper spray and the paintballs were used "defensively." And while paintballs are certainly not bullets, they can be painful and cause injury; their use against other people can constitute criminal assault. Trump's comments were particularly ironic because he had already criticized Joe Biden and the media for supposedly labeling violent riots as "peaceful protests." While this idea has become a popular meme on the right, the truth is that the term "peaceful protests" has been used to distinguish the majority of nonviolent demonstrators from the smaller groups who have carried out violence.
And when the subject matter turned to another Trump supporter who did use bullets, the president once again defended his side.
"Are you going to condemn the actions of vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse?" another reporter asked, referring to the 17-year-old charged with murder after shooting three people and killing two in Kenosha.
Rittenhouse's lawyers have signaled that they will claim self-defense for his actions. And in his comments, Trump offered support for this theory.
"That was an interesting situation," Trump said. "He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it's something that we're looking at right now, and it's under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble — he probably would have been killed. But it's under investigation."
Trump didn't note that the video showing Rittenhouse falling and being attacked by a group came after he had already shot someone in the head, according to the official reports. The group was apparently trying to disarm Rittenhouse.
Pressed on whether people should be taking arms to act as vigilantes, Trump said he thinks law enforcement should be taking care of everything. But he didn't specifically condemn vigilantes, and his answer fit within a rightwing narrative that has defended Rittenhouse for supposedly filling gaps in law enforcement that Democratic officials have refused to address.
The president's remarks reflect an increasingly worrying trend on the right. Many conservative media commentators have defended and even heaped praise on Rittenhouse for his violence. They may well be encouraging others to follow in his footsteps to counter Black Lives Matter protests. It's easy to imagine how this kind of escalation can spiral out of control, and it's the president's responsibility to encourage calm and discourage violence Instead, his words could inspire more conflict.
Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
In the wake of the shooting death over the weekend of a supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon, The New York Times, USA Today, and MSNBC are papering over the intrinsically violent nature of the group, its ties to white nationalism, and its history of staging armed confrontations against anti-fascist activists. This lapse is part of a larger pattern of mainstream media coverage that shies away from calling out right-wing extremism.
Patriot Prayer's typical playbook, as the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, is to "assemble a ready-to-rumble crew with out-of-town violent extremists, then troll through the urban center in hopes of confronting left-wing protesters, ensuring violence eventually will break out." Patriot Prayer has repeatedly organized public events in Portland with the Proud Boys, which the FBI designates as an "extremist group with ties to white nationalism." An attendee at a 2017 "free speech" rally organized by Patriot Prayer went on to murder two people and injure another in a hate crime attack a month later — only for the group to still go ahead with a planned "Trump Free Speech Rally" a week after that — and was sentenced this year to life in prison. Another frequent Patriot Prayer rally attendee and a member of the Proud Boys has posted threats online against the mayor of Portland.
The fatal shooting this weekend in Portland occurred shortly after a pro-Trump caravan traveling through the city confronted counterprotesters downtown.
The New York Times' article about the shooting identified the victim in the subheadline as "a man affiliated with a right-wing group," but the connection was not explained until the 12th paragraph: "The man who was shot and killed was wearing a hat with the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in the Portland area that has clashed with protesters in the past. Joey Gibson, the head of the group, said Sunday he could not share many details but could confirm the man was a good friend and supporter of Patriot Prayer."
But then in the 22nd paragraph, the reader was presented with a description taken from the group itself: "Patriot Prayer, a local group that says it promotes Christianity and smaller government, has repeatedly clashed with activists in Portland." With that introduction in place, only then were further details provided of what Patriot Prayer's activities mean in practice: "The group has at times operated alongside militia groups, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that some Patriot Prayer events have drawn white supremacists. Last year, Mr. Gibson, the group's leader, was charged along with others with rioting after a brawl in the city."
The rioting charges as well as a civil lawsuit stem from a May 2019 incident in which Gibson and others allegedly planned a confrontation at a local bar, called Cider Riot, where left-wing activists were holding a May Day celebration.
The Portland Mercury reported on the lawsuit:
Videos posted to Twitter by bystanders show members of Patriot Prayer approaching Cider Riot's outside patio dressed in armor, wearing helmets, and wielding batons. After shouting insults and hateful language at the patrons, one man in a MAGA hat sprays the people sitting on the patio with mace, kicking off a violent melee.
According to the lawsuit, Gibson "facilitated and refereed a street fight" between two people on the street outside of Cider Riot. Not long after, the suit claims, another Patriot Prayer member named Ian Kramer, "used a baton to crack a Cider Riot patron on the head, knocking her unconscious." She allegedly suffered a "serious vertebrae fracture."
For a group that officially claims to champion free speech, Gibson had also been organizing another event to oppose the bar's screening of a documentary about LGBT activist Marsha P. Johnson. The lawsuit notes that "he introduced Cider Riot as 'Antifa central'" in a Facebook livestream of the incident, "then asked his followers to look into the business, its owners, and its landlord. He then told his audience that 'If they cared about Portland… take care of this establishment.'" Gibson responded to the lawsuit by saying that "maybe Cider Riot should stop co-hosting parties" for the local anti-fascist group.
Patriot Prayer's Facebook page has also been a center of hate speech, including violent threats against Muslim groups. In January 2019, Patriot Prayer gathered outside the Portland offices of the far-left Industrial Workers of the World labor union, with participants yelling such messages as, "Get them dirty Muslims out of our country." Another attendee told a counterdemonstrator, "We're gonna hurt you."
None of the above information made it into the Times reporting.
On its part, USA Today uncritically gave this description from the group's Facebook page in its article on the shooting:
Patriot Prayer is a right-wing group "about fighting corruption, big government, and tyranny using God for strength and the power of love," Gibson wrote on the group's Facebook page.
Based in Washington, the group has rallied Trump supporters for demonstrations in Portland since 2017.
A separate explainer piece in USA Today also conveyed Gibson's description of the group as "a loosely organized band with a distaste for big government but lots of love for the red, white and blue." The final sentence of the piece ended in a rather abrupt manner: "Counter-protesters confronting Patriot Prayer and other right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters is nothing new to the city" — obfuscating the clear association between Patriot Prayer and white nationalists such as the Proud Boys, and its instigation of violent altercations in the city.
Late on Monday afternoon, MSNBC featured a largely sympathetic interview by NBC News correspondent Erin McLaughlin in which Patriot Prayer founder Gibson described his late friend as "one of the nicest guys that you'll ever meet." Gibson continued: "Anyone that knows him, it doesn't matter if you're far-left, or whatever, you're conservative, no one would ever want to hurt this guy, he's one of the nicest guys I've seriously ever met in my entire life."
The segment did not include any questions to Gibson about Patriot Prayer's long record of violent activities in Portland.
Remember when gangs of armed thugs swarmed into the Michigan capitol last spring, carrying Confederate flags, swastika banners, and automatic weapons? Remember how they threatened to lynch Gov. Gretchen Whitmer because they hate her efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus?
We remember -- and so does Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who reminded Attorney General William Barr of that disturbing display when he testified yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee. She drew a sharp contrast between Barr's reaction to that outrage and his response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the nation's capital and across the country. And she did it in a way that Barr isn't likely to forget. (h/t Really American PAC).
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.
Following President Donald Trump’s false claim that the press purposefully fails to report on terror attacks, his team released a list of attacks that were supposedly “underreported.” The list supplied, however, was entirely devoid of attacks by right-wing extremists and those inspired by the “alt-right.”
During a February 6 speech at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the central military command based in MacDill Air Force base near Tampa, FL, Trump lied when he claimed that “the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report” on terror attacks. Trump added that the media “have their reasons” for not reporting on the events. Following the speech to military leaders, the White House released a list of 78 terror attacks that officials claim were “underreported” by the media. The list only furthered the lie. According to the audience engagement tool Chartbeat, four of the top 20 most “engaging news stories of 2015 (defined as those that held audiences’ attention for the longest) were events from the list. As CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out, none of the events listed “have less than 100 media hits.”
In attacking the media for allegedly having a selection bias when it comes to terror attacks, the administration neglected numerous cases of terror inspired by right-wing extremism. In many of these cases, the terrorists had direct ties to the white nationalist movement, a key component of what has been coined the “alt-right,” or were inspired by conservative media misinformation. Here are just a few of the examples that didn’t make Trump’s list:
“Alt-Right” Assassin Killed Six At Quebec Mosque
Alexandre Bissonnette killed six people at a Quebec City mosque on January 29. As the BBC reported, political science professor Pierre Martin “says that Bissonette may have been influenced by a mix of global nationalist trends, the so-called ‘alt-right’, and ‘currents within Quebec itself’.” Bissonette was reportedly known to many as a “right-wing ‘troll’ who had previously been combative” online “and also openly shared attacks on women’s rights” — another trademark of the “alt-right.”
Dylann Roof, “Face Of The Radicalized ‘Alt-Right’” Killed Nine At Historically Black Church
The University of Chicago’s Divinity School properly identified Dylann Roof, the man behind the June 17, 2015, shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, SC, as “the face of the radicalized ‘alt-right.’” In a confession video, Roof told an FBI agent that he committed the attack because “Blacks are raping and killing white people on the streets every day.”
According to The Daily Beast, “whole passages from Roof’s manifesto first appeared” on the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. The Daily Beast pointed out, “The parallels between Roof’s manifesto and the comments on The Daily Stormer … suggest that either Roof was the commenter or he visited the site often enough to have plagiarized from it for his manifesto.”
Wired reported that Roof “searched for ‘black on white crime’ and ended up on the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens’ website,” which The Atlantic said has its roots in an organization that “aimed to be a (somewhat) more respectable alternative” to the Ku Klux Klan.
British “White Fascist” Killed Labour MP Jo Cox
Thomas Mair, a British man “with extreme right wing views,” according to CNN, was convicted of murdering British Labour member of parliament Jo Cox in June 2016. According to The Independent, “Reports from the trial proceedings conjure up a profile of a committed right-wing terrorist extremist, with the court hearing details of Mair’s links to white supremacist groups and witness testimony to his exhortations to ‘put Britain First.’” The article went on to say the murder was “an act of political terrorism murder committed by a white fascist.” The Daily Mail reported that jurors in the case were shown the inside of Mair’s home, where he “plotted her murder amongst far-Right literature and a dossier on the MP.”
Man Angered By Debunked Sting Videos Killed Three At Colorado Planned Parenthood
In 2015, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood, killing three people. As Vox noted, when he was arrested Dear mentioned “baby parts,” which was “probably a reference” to the deceptively edited videos meant to slander Planned Parenthood put out by the Center for Medical Progress, which were laden with conservative misinformation. New Republic pointed out that “the narratives he learned from Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites” contributed to his radicalization and his murders.
White Supremacist Gave Nazi Salute After Targeting Jews In Missouri Shooting
Frazier Glenn Miller, a “Missouri man with a long resume of anti-Semitism and white supremacist activism,” according to CNN, killed three people on April 13, 2014, after opening fire on two Jewish centers in Kansas City, MO. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said that just after his arrest, “Miller shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ while handcuffed in the back seat of a police car.” The Kansas City Star also reported that Miller asked the officer, “How many f—— Jews did I kill?” After his arrest, Miller said he “wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, told CNN that Miller was “among the most-over-the-top, violent white supremacists” of the 1980s, adding that he “was one of the pioneers in the modern hate world.”
IMAGE: Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
The second big fall debate, featuring the vice-presidential candidates, may not change many voters’ minds because it was a strange affair. Democrat Tim Kaine seemed over-rehearsed but dominated on the substance of issues, while Republican Mike Pence was polished but lied repeatedly, and kept accusing Kaine of insulting Donald Trump, when he was in fact quoting him.
Pence’s biggest lie was declaring that Trump was no fan of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. He also denied Trump would try to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and their U.S.-born children, even ridiculing Kaine for bringing up that “Mexican thing again,” referring to Trump’s racist slurs. Pence also denied Trump was fine with more nations acquiring nuclear weapons, which again, is something Trump has said.
Kaine, who did not hit his stride until midway through the 90-minute debate, needled Pence to defend Trump’s indefensible stances, which Pence repeatedly evaded. Kaine reminded viewers that Trump’s sons say they have major investments in Russia, posing big conflicts of interest. He said Democrats want comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship, not a “deportation nation” like the Republicans want. And Kaine said Trump’s statements about having more nuclear-armed states are prescriptions for a far more dangerous world.
If you got past the interruptions, crosstalk, moderator’s inability to steer the discussion and spectacle of Pence saying that electing a strongman would solve the country’s problems, the debate was a striking reminder of how deeply Democrats and Republicans disagree, and how the GOP—as epitomized by the agenda laid out by Pence, a former member of the House Republican leadership—has become a party dominated by right-wing extremists.
These days, it’s easy to overlook the Republicans in Congress when Trump has dominated the news for more than a year. But Pence’s stances are a potent reminder of what a Republican-majority Congress and White House would do if given the chance.
Pence said women’s reproductive rights, upheld by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, would fall. He did not deny he was a proponent of privatizing Social Security and cutting Medicare while in the House and still favors those policies. He promised to cut taxes for the wealthy, and did not deny opposing minimum wage increases. He promised to end the “war on coal,” which means denying and ignoring the climate crisis. He pledged to repeal Obamacare and all of President Obama’s executive orders—which include many workplace, environmental and LGBT protections. He said the military needs a major infusion of new weaponry and a commander in chief willing to use America’s might to dominate global adversaries.
Kaine, in contrast, gave one of the campaign’s most eloquent defenses of reproductive rights, saying what he believes as a religious person should not be imposed on the public. He said Social Security could be expanded by raising the cap on income taxes contributing to it. He said Clinton has targeted tax increases on wealthier Americans to pay for a major domestic stimulus, from rebuilding transportation, energy and broadband infrastructure to making public universities tuition-free for most households.
Their differences didn’t stop there. On criminal justice and police reform, Pence and Kaine both endorsed community policing, but Republican Pence said Democrats and civil rights activists should respect police and pledged a “law and order” strategy, including bringing back so-called stop-and-frisk, a tactic in which police racially profile citizens. Democrat Kaine, in contrast, said that institutional racism is real in arrests, prosecutions and sentencing, and that background checks for gun buyers are needed. He chided Pence for denying the reality of institutional racism, saying you cannot solve a hard problem if you cannot talk about it.
When the debate turned to immigration, Pence refused to explicitly say that Trump would build a wall along the Mexican border and arrest and deport upwards of 16 million migrants and their family members. Instead, he accused Kaine and the Democrats of stooping to a campaign of insults, when, as almost everybody paying attention knows, Trump’s insults and character assassinations have been the election’s most defining feature.
Kaine pointedly noted that the Democrats are calling for the same immigration reform policies that Republican President Ronald Reagan adopted in 1986, a statement Pence did not respond to.
That back and forth—more talking past each other than rebutting points—bled into the foreign policy arena, where, as Kaine pointed out, Trump’s solutions would ban entire creeds or nationalities from entering or visiting America, from Mexicans to Muslims to Syrians. Pence’s answer was it’s better to be safe than sorry, regardless of the country’s history as a nation of immigrants or the Constitution’s protection of individual rights.
Pence repeatedly said that the U.S. was weakened by the Obama administration, including Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and that is why there is more chaos in the Middle East, why Russia is expanding its military domination along its borders, and why China is doing the same in the Pacific. He said all that would change once the world faced a U.S. president who was tough and commanded respect. Kaine countered that the Obama administration has solved some big problems by killing Osama bin Laden, negotiating a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and making the recent nuclear deal with Iran. When asked why Russia was so difficult, Kaine responded that Putin was a dictator, but the U.S. had to work with him on some issues while opposing him on others. He said Clinton, not Trump, knows how to negotiate that line.
As the debate went on, the details flying back and forth became a blur. The moderator, CBS News’ Elaine Quijano, tried to corral the candidates but could not stop them from jumping to any point they wanted to pursue. In the end, the most poignant exchange might have come from her question seeking an example of where their private religious faith conflicted with their public stances on issues while holding elected office.
Kaine said he personally opposes the death penalty but was forced to carry out executions as Virginia’s governor, as he had pledged when running for that office. Pence, in contrast, spoke of becoming a born-again Christian in college and using any power at his disposal to protect the rights of unborn children, leading to a very aggressive record on opposing choice. If elected, Pence said he would work to repeal Roe v. Wade, prompting Kaine to interrupt and ask why Trump said women seeking abortions should be punished.
Pence surprisingly admitted Trump was “not a polished politician,” trying to dismiss the remark. Kaine quickly quoted a biblical verse saying you should believe what someone says when they speak from their heart: “When Trump says this, he is telling you who he is.”
“Why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves?” he asked Pence. “Why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?”
Pence replied that a country will be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, echoing an oft-repeated line from the anti-choice movement.
The debate ended as abruptly as it began, with both candidates painting very different pictures of America—one hopeful, one failing—as the presidential candidates do every day on the campaign trail. What was most striking was not just that the vice presidential nominees were actually delving into policy details and very different agendas, but how the Republican Party, devoid of Trump, remains a party dominated by right-wingers who would wreak havoc domestically and abroad.
Reprinted by permission from Alternet. Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting (AlterNet Books, 2008).
IMAGE: Governor Mike Pence of Indiana speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
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