Tucker Carlson

Right-Wing Media Blaming Trump's Ohio Railway Disaster On Biden (VIDEO)

Republicans have a long track record of creating real-world disastrous outcomes from misbegotten policies and politics and then blaming those outcomes on Democrats. The fiasco in Afghanistan after Donald Trump negotiated the U.S. withdrawal was only one of many recent examples. So when conservative policies specifically allowing corporations to neglect worker and public safety—such as Trump’s repeal of railroad safety regulations in 2017—result in a major public disaster like the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, you can predict like clockwork that their response will be: It’s Biden’s fault!

Of course, that’s now the story we’re hearing from Fox News, and in particular, the Tucker Carlson Zone, which is running with a narrative that the slow and questionable response at the scene was the fault of the Biden administration (and not Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who goes unmentioned), which doesn’t care about rural Ohioans because they’re Trump voters. And predictably, the white nationalist-adjacent bloc like Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk promptly took that ball and ran with it: Biden is waging war on white people!

Tucker Carlson smears Biden derailment response, wonders why power grid is being attackedyoutu.be

Carlson pumped the anti-Biden line all week, leading him to even pretend concern over environmental issues, as Judd Legum notes. He told his Fox News audience of millions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is "not too concerned" about the trail derailment and subsequent spill and toxic plume because there is no connection to climate change, so the administration is unable to use it "to sell solar panels." The real reason for the disinterest, he sneered, was that these rural whites were Trump voters:

[T]hose clouds of toxic smoke flew up and out and that toxic smoke almost immediately began killing animals. Dead fish washed up on shore. As one hazardous material specialist put it, we basically nuked the town with chemicals.

So, then representatives from the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, arrived to restore calm. Yes, an EPA spokesman explained chemicals from the derailed train did enter the local watershed and yes, they did kill fish, but the drinking water supply remains totally safe. The fish are dead, but go ahead and fill your thermos and brew some coffee. Everything’s fine.

Now, we don’t know if the locals in East Palestine are drinking water tonight, but we can tell you the Biden administration doesn’t seem too concerned about it either way. Donald Trump got over 71% of the vote in the county in the last presidential election. That’s not exactly the Democratic Party’s core demographic. Fentanyl, toxic waste spill, whatever. They’re not our voters.

Of course, Carlson seems to have amnesia regarding partisan responses by the White House to disasters, such as the time Trump tried to withhold disaster relief funds to California following the horrific 2020 wildfires because of what he called “mismanagement” of the forests that included a failure to sweep them (but then changed his mind under pressure), or how he would make governors from states run by Democrats or his few Republican critics beg and scrape and “ask nicely” in order to get federal relief funds. But then, Carlson has never seemed overly concerned about being confronted with his own hypocrisy.

Nonetheless, there were very real reasons related to Trump policy decisions that caused this derailment. As Laura Clawson reported, this train had derailed previously, and was just a disaster waiting to happen. But there were no regulations that would have made Norfolk Southern change its behavior even afterward.

Marisa Kabas explained at MSNBC how the rail line was able to transport these volatile chemicals without designating them hazardous materials because of a loophole in the law, and the derailment itself was caused by a braking failure that would not have occurred had Trump not deregulated the rail lines in 2017:

In 2014, following a series of derailments and explosions, the Obama administration weighed new rules for trains carrying hazardous materials. But after caving to mounting pressure from major railroads, “the final measure ended up narrowly focused on the transport of crude oil and exempting trains carrying many other combustible materials, including the chemical involved in this weekend’s disaster,” The Lever reports.

One of the new rules that made it through was the use of new brakes by 2021. Known as modern electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking systems, these brakes stop trains faster than the Civil War-era braking systems that the railroad industry currently uses. Specifically, ECP brakes “decrease the chances of a catastrophic pileup, reduce the number of punctured cars in an accident, [and] allow train operators to stop faster if there was an obstacle on the tracks.”

None of this reality, of course, has been mentioned at Fox News or any of the other right-wing media outlets that are piling all the blame on the Biden administration—which, as Kabas explains, does share some of the blame, but mostly for failing to have acted swiftly to repair the hole in rail regulations that Trump ripped open.

Instead, they have picked up on Carlson’s implication—not only are these Trump voters, but they’re white!—to weave a whole new conspiracist narrative. For both Carlson and the far right, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is used as their primary scapegoat, and their evidence, as with most scapegoating narratives, is dubious at best.

Charlie Kirk in particular has led this torchlight parade. On his podcast at Steve Bannon’s Real America’s Voice operation, Kirk claimed that it was all part of a war on white people:

CHARLIE KIRK (HOST): Not a single member of the Biden regime would dare to go to this portion of Ohio and breathe in the air because they know it's dangerous. They know that it is actively poisoning the citizens of eastern Ohio. So, why is it that they kind of shrug their shoulders and they say, yeah, okay, whatever? It's very simple. It's because the war on white people continues. Why would you care for the white working class voters in eastern Ohio? You haven't cared about them in other reasons or other portions.

And I will prove it to you. If this train derailment happened in downtown Atlanta in the densely populated Black neighborhoods, this would be the number one news story. It would be Flint water crisis 2.0. There would be clamoring and activism and talks for reparations. And Buttigieg, meanwhile, is out there saying, listen—while this derailment is happening, while the act of poisoning is happening, he's saying, look, the problem is that workers are too white.

The clip of Buttigieg he then plays, though, has nothing to do with train derailments or safety regulations: Buttigieg is shown answering a question about train-line construction hiring in urban areas, and how previous practices have unnecessarily created racially charged situations. Using his logic, in fact, one would assume changing the practice would benefit the local white working-class residents of East Palestine, too.

Kirk, however, spins all this to put words in Buttigieg’s mouth:

"Buttigieg is out talking about how workers are too white. For the last couple of years, I have been warning about this crusade against white people. And people shrug their shoulders, say, oh, Charlie, why does that matter? I could tell you why it matters—when there is a crisis now and the leaders hate working class whites, they're not going to scramble to save your life. They'll lie to you and tell you to go back home while you're poisoned."

Kirk continued with the same theme later in the week, claiming that East Palestine residents were being punished for voting Republican. He added:

"My recommendation to Trump and his campaign is they should go to East Palestine. Not do a rally, just visit. Do a press conference. Just bash on Buttigieg, bash on Biden. Say that if he was president, this would be a top priority. These are his voters. There is no political downside because, obviously, there's really nothing you could do. He could, you know, host a fundraiser, do relief."

Sure enough, in short order, Trump announced that he will be returning to the scene of his crime by holding a rally in East Palestine this week.

This is all part of a larger narrative of paranoid conspiracism being used by right-wing pundits to whip up the levels of fearfulness in their audiences about their personal and civic security—one that can then be exploited by the far-right extremists plotting in real life to attack the American infrastructure. Carlson inadvertently referred to this in his rant Monday, when he connected the Ohio derailment to other infrastructure crises:

There have also been many recent attacks on our power grid. Very few of those attacks have been widely reported. Last year, there were more than a hundred attacks of them, in the United States, attacks on our power grid. In North Carolina this winter, for example, nearly 50,000 people lost their power in freezing weather when somebody shot up two energy substations. And so on. Why is it not a big story? Oh, it’s not a story at all.

Ironically, while it may not have been a big story at Fox News—no surprise—the Moore County power outages were a major story for many journalists, including us. Those attacks—as well as the power grid attacks elsewhere around the nation, including the Pacific Northwest—have been of particular concern for journalists tracking the activities of far-right white supremacists, whose plans for attacking the power grid have been the radar for well over a year now. Recently, a neo-Nazi couple in Maryland was arrested for plotting to attack Baltimore’s power grid. Fox News’ website reported on it, but it evidently never made it into its broadcast reports.

Ah, but Carlson’s narrative has always claimed that far-right domestic terrorism doesn’t really exist, and that concerns about it are a “hoax.” So instead of acknowledging the factual reality behind the power grid attacks he weaves into his narratives, he instead connects them to one of his long-running conspiracy theories: namely, his suggestion that fires and other disabling events at food manufacturing plants are maybe part of a sinister conspiracy to attack ordinary Americans. This theory, it should be noted, is based on entirely explicable events that are neither extraordinary—they happen commonly—and not occurring at any increasing rates.

What drives such conspiracy theories beyond right-wingers’ eagerness to find any kind of stick with which to beat the Biden administration is the tendency among conspiracists to see patterns where they do not exist, particularly among random and otherwise perfectly explicable events and phenomena.

The same tendency is at work in conspiracy theories like the “chemtrails” mythology, which claims that nefarious government elements are spreading chemicals that sicken the population and affect the weather through the ordinary jet streams that appear behind airline traffic in the sky. When people begin making connections between otherwise random and unrelated phenomena, it helps them form a narrative to fit their preconceived view of the world as a hostile place out to harm and suppress them.

As Kabas says:

"There’s plenty of blame to go around, but right now the people of East Palestine should be at the heart of everyone’s concern as they battle what could be the early stages of lifelong illnesses and the destruction of their way of life. This is a moment that calls for political unity. It’s not an occasion to try to own the libs, but in absence of leadership or tangible wins, it’s all conservatives have."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Neofascist Failure: Ukraine Army Is Crushing Wagner Group Mercenaries

Neofascist Failure: Ukraine Army Is Crushing Wagner Group Mercenaries

Historians and other observers have often noted that, while fascists are very good at starting wars, they are inevitably incompetent when it comes to executing them. “Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy,” wrote Umberto Eco in his seminal essay on “Ur-Fascism.” This is essentially a cognitive flaw, caused by their fundamental insistence on trying to force reality to conform to their view of the world.

Which is why a neofascist armed force like Russia’s Wagner Group is being ground into hamburger—forming a sea of crosses in one rural cemetery, comprised mostly of the cannon fodder it has recruited out of Russian prisons—as its mercenaries wage war in Ukraine on behalf of Vladimir Putin. Wagner Group officials recently announced they were drawing back on their prison-recruitment program—in part because they were alienating potential recruits who might object to “serving with rapists and murderers,” but simultaneously have launched an effort to recruit American veterans.

As Mark Sumner has been reporting in Daily Kos, Russia’s latest offensive featuring Wagner troops has turned into a military fiasco. Captured Wagner fighters have described for CNN how their recruitment out of prison became a brutal nightmare of futile assaults in which waves of inexperienced recruits were slaughtered by Ukrainian defenses. Anyone who faltered, they said, was summarily executed by their own commanders.

“We couldn’t retreat without orders because if we don’t comply with the order, we will be killed,” one of the prisoners told CNN.

“One man stayed at a position, he was really scared, it was his first assault. We received an order to run forward. But the man hid under a tree and refused. This was reported to the command and that was it. He was taken 50 meters away from the base. He was digging his own grave and then was shot.”

It’s unclear how the release of recent videos from the Wagner Group showing deserters being executed with sledgehammers used to crush their skulls is affecting recruitment, but it’s unlikely to be a positive influence. Neither will the mounting death toll for Wagner fighters in Ukraine, including three notorious crime bosses who perished in combat.

Wagner founder Yevgheny Prighozin told an interviewer last week that his organization had stopped its prison recruitment program more than a month ago, though it is unclear why. Duke University’s Simon Miles told Insider that in addition to reflecting Prighozin’s desire to build a global fighting force, it's also possible that the well had run dry in those prisons. At least one Russian soldier taken prisoner told independent Russian media that the number of prisoners accepting Wagner’s offer of rehabilitation in exchange for war service had declined from more than 1,000 convicts in October to just 340 in December.

Russian officials long denied having any connection to the Wagner Group, which did not officially exist until recently. An incredibly secretive organization, its true ownership and funding sources remain unclear. But experts say it has served as a tactical tool for the Kremlin in hot spots where Russia has political and financial interests, and has deep ties to Putin—in fact, it is widely considered his private army.

Putin is reported to have ordered Wagner Group operatives into Kyiv to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has reportedly survived about a dozen such attempts. About 400 Wagner mercenaries were reported to have entered the Kyiv area from Belarus, and were offered “hefty bonuses” for killing key political and media figures, including the mayor of Kyiv, Zelensky, and his entire cabinet.

According to German intelligence officials, Wagner Group operatives were primarily responsible for spearheading the butchery that has been reported and substantiated in Bucha. Der Spiegel reported comments from troops intercepted by German intelligence—including flippant remarks about shooting men on bicycles, and orders to first interrogate soldiers and then shoot them—that demonstrate the atrocities in Bucha "were neither random acts nor the product of individual soldiers who got out of hand."

As Sumner recently observed, reports indicate that Wagner is apparently fading from the scene in Bakhmut, where most of the latest combat has occurred. Ukrainian sources say Wagner’s role there is diminishing, and Prighozin himself has said his mercenaries cannot take the city, blaming Moscow bureaucrats.

"Advance is not going as fast as we would like. I think they [Wagner mercenaries] would have already taken Bakhmut before the New Year, if not for our monstrous military bureaucracy and not the roadblocks that are set every day. Today we have a certain number of structural changes. The admission of prisoners to our ranks has been stopped," Prigozhin said.

There are indications, in fact, that Wagner may have fallen into disfavor with Putin. The Russian Defense Ministry until January had refrained from mentioning Wagner in its briefings, leading to accusations by a senior Wagner commander that the ministry was stealing the group’s achievements. More recently, reports have emerged that Russian state media outlets received a directive to avoid excessively promoting either Wagner Group or Prigozhin.

The concern within the Kremlin appears to be that Prigozhin—who also recently acknowledged that Wagner Group owns several notorious Russian troll factories, including the Internet Research Agency—could be preparing to supplant Putin. Sergei Markov, a pro-Putin Russian TV pundit, told The New York Times: “They apparently don’t want to bring him into the political sphere because he’s so unpredictable—they fear him a little bit.”

Which might explain why Wagner Group published those sledgehammer-execution videos—namely, to underline the threat of violence against their opponents inherent in their use of the tool as a symbol for their neofascist ideology. Prigozhin recently hinted at an alliance with the fervidly nationalist (but Kremlin-approved) political party Fair Russia, which vociferously supports the war. Fair Russia leader Sergei Mironov, an elected lawmaker, posed recently with a sledgehammer engraved with a pile of skulls. “This is a useful tool,” said Mironov, who shared the photo online. “With its help, we will put a dent in the Nazi ideology that aims to destroy our country.”

This rhetoric reflects the up-is-down alternative universe of Putin’s propaganda. A 2022 article in RIA Novosti, the Russian state-owned domestic news agency, titled "What Russia Should Do with Ukraine," reveals its shallow ruse. Its author, Russian political consultant Timofey Sergeytsev, openly admits that "denazification” has nothing to do with eradicating any far-right ideology, but is simply a euphemism for "de-Ukrainization"—the annihilation of Ukraine as a nation-state and a cultural entity.

Putin has argued since at least last year that Ukraine’s very existence is “anti-Russia.” Sergeytsev follows the logic: Ukrainian national identity, he says, is "an artificial anti-Russian construct that has no civilizational content of its own"; it is a "subordinate element of a foreign and alien civilization." In a culture long accustomed to considering Nazism anti-Russian, Ukraine is easily translated into “Nazi.”

This same alternative-universe framework forms the core of Wagner’s recruitment pitch to American veterans. The narrator of its U.S. recruitment video says:

You were a hero to your country, giving your best years in the army. You dreamed of defeating evil. You dreamed of doing much to make America great again. But in reality, you served criminal orders, the destruction of nations, the death of civilians, and all for the will of a bunch of families who thought they were earthly gods, deciding who would live under their rule and who would be destroyed.
You began to realize that this is the side of evil. This is not the America the Founding Fathers dreamed of. It has become the focus of the evil that is destroying the whole world, and today, the only country fighting this evil is Russia.
If you are a true patriot of the future great America, join the ranks of the warriors of Russia. Help defeat evil, or it will be too late for everyone.

Deception, as the men in Bakhmut discovered, is central to both the Russian and the Wagner Group enterprise, especially as it fails to recognize that pitting an army of poorly trained convicts against a Ukrainian army comprised of people defending their families and their homeland is inevitably a recipe for military failure. The prisoners interviewed by CNN explained that their incapacity was the product in no small part of the propaganda about Ukraine that they had been fed for years.

“We thought we’d be fighting Poles and various mercenaries. Germans. We didn’t think anyone was left in the Ukrainian army there. We thought they’d left the country,” said one.

“So it became clear they were just spinning lies to get us to enter into battle with the Ukrainians. No one really thought that the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] would actually fight for their own country, for their loved ones. We only learned this after going in there.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

How Crowdfunding Finances Right-Wing Extremist And Hate Groups

How Crowdfunding Finances Right-Wing Extremist And Hate Groups

The American right is so awash in grifters weaseling every dollar they can out of their gullibly authoritarian followers’ bank accounts that what used to be a political orientation has just become a massive network of scam artists. Whether it’s Donald Trump ripping off his hordes of fans with bogus email appeals, the “MyPillow” guy and his MAGA cohorts pushing election denialism, Alex Jones and his Infowars operation reeling in the suckers with his health claims, Chris Rufo pitching “critical race theory” and “groomer” rhetoric to the eager media, or white nationalist Nick Fuentes setting up shop in a pricey Chicago suburb thanks to his eager donors, it’s just one big race to suck up those donor dollars.

Crowdfunding at platforms like GoFundMe has become an essential tool for right-wing grifters, notably people like the Jan. 6 insurrectionists who use pleas for legal assistance to suck up thousands of dollars in donations. The Anti-Defamation League this week released a report showing that extremist crowdfunders have generated at least $6,246,072 from 324 campaigns over the past six years—and that their preferred platform by far is GiveSendGo, the conservative “free speech” outfit with a high tolerance for extremism.

Examining the financial records of extremist groups, ADL researchers found that GiveSendGo hosted 230 campaigns “operated by or for extremists and their causes. These campaigns collected more than 86.5% of the funds tracked by the Center on Extremism.”

It also found that crowdfunding campaigns “played a significant role in the January 6 insurrection and Unite the Right rally, as well as other, smaller extremist events.”

As Will Carless at USA Todayexplained, the ADL report examined a broad range of extremist groups, but focused particularly on the insurrectionists like Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and extremist Black Hebrew Israelites, some of whom expound racist and antisemitic beliefs. Among those groups, the ADL found that $4.75 million has been raised for insurrection-related causes through crowdfunding over the past four years.

Although the majority of the crowdfunding campaigns tracked by the ADL raised relatively small amounts—hundreds or low thousands of dollars—a number have also raised much larger amounts, including hundreds of thousands. The money these groups made through crowdfunding provided for travel and supplies, as well as legal and medical expenses.

“White supremacists have used crowdfunding to enable a range of hateful activities, including harassing marginalized communities, covering legal expenses after violent actions, spreading hateful propaganda and purchasing property and supplies for white ‘ethnostates’ or compounds,” the report says.

Center for Extremism investigator Mark Dwyer told Carless that his team began to focus on crowdfunding after observing a significant increase in online fundraising following the January 6 insurrection.

"I would consider this to be the heyday of extremist funding," Dwyer said.

As Carless reports, the ADL also found a number of campaigns with more explicitly hateful and extremist causes, featuring names like "GoyFundMe" and "Hatreon." However, the ADL says these were relatively short-lived sites.

GiveSendGo, notably, took steps following the Jan. 6 insurrection to cut down on extremist fundraising, banning campaigns to raise funds for travel to political events that have a "risk for violence." This, however, simply meant that GiveSendGo became the go-to crowdfunding site—along with a handful of others—for extremists and their supporters.

The report explains:

GiveSendGo was founded in 2015 as a self-described Christian crowdfunding service, and the company has taken stances against “censorship,” providing a platform for campaigns that the “mainstream media had shut down.” Perhaps because of this laissez-faire moderation policy, GiveSendGo quickly became the platform of choice for extremists and conspiracy theorists seeking to raise funds. Since 2016, using Stripe as their payment processor, the platform has facilitated the donation of $5.4 million to extremist-related causes, 86.5% of the total cataloged in this report, and it has been a significant source of fundraising for January 6 defendants’ legal funds.

As an example of how GiveSendGo is providing financial support for extremists, the ADL points to the case of Whidbey Island, Washington, resident Tyler Dinsmoor, who was arrested in June 2022 for threatening his LGBTQ neighbors and issuing threats against an upcoming Pride event in the nearby town of Anacortes. It soon emerged that Dinsmoor’s radicalization was a product of an evangelical church he attends that preaches that homosexuality is a capital crime—namely, Sure Foundation Baptist Church in Vancouver, Washington, which is led by Pastor Aaron Thompson. Sure Foundation is part of the New Independent Fundamental Baptist (New IFB) network, a rabidly anti-LGBTQ Baptist offshoot founded by hate preacher Steven Anderson.

Dinsmoor’s bail was initially set at $1 million, which drew cries of outrage from anti-LGBTQ extremists. It was later reduced by a judge to $150,000, and Dinsmoor was released on bail. Nonetheless, two GiveSendGo campaigns were established to help cover his legal expenses: The first, set up by an associate of Dinsmoor’s, collected $30,650; the second was created by Dinsmoor himself when he discontinued the initial campaign. So far, it has collected $4,000.

As Talia Lavin explained in her expose of the site in The Nation, “on GiveSendGo, hate groups can prosper amid fundraising campaigns for homeless nuns, a church that provides tube socks for the unhoused, or infants with spinal cord injuries. Any backlash by payment companies risks raising the ire of a grievance-drunk right-wing media ecosystem primed to detect the traces of anti-Christian prejudice.”

“GiveSendGo seems to be one of the most significant spaces in which alt-right and Christian right converge,” researcher Chrissy Stroop told Lavin. “Of course, we know there is considerable overlap in ideology between right-wing Christians, white nationalists, the manosphere, 4chan types, etc. It can be difficult to trace the direct connections and networks, so I think the existence of GiveSendGo provides us with a sort of horrifying laboratory in that regard.”

"Crowdfunding is a financial lifeline for various extremists," Segal said. "Major servicers like GoFundMe and GiveSendGo have a responsibility to enforce their terms of service and stop the exploitation of their platforms by people and groups that traffic in bigotry and violence."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Survey Shows Steep Rise In 'Classical Fascist' Anti-Semitic Opinion Among Americans

Survey Shows Steep Rise In 'Classical Fascist' Anti-Semitic Opinion Among Americans

You may have gotten the uneasy sense in recent months that not only are we awash in a rising tide of antisemitism—from Kanye West’s diatribes to Donald Trump’s dinner date with both West and white nationalist Nick Fuentes to the return of neofascist hatemongers to Twitter—but that the tide is being amplified by a broader normalization of antisemitic tropes, judging from the gleeful hatefulness of the once-banned bigots who have come flooding back to Twitter under Elon Musk’s ownership.

You’re not mistaken. A new survey by the Anti-Defamation League has found that Americans’ beliefs in antisemitic tropes has increased dramatically since 2019, with 85 percent of the respondents saying they believe at least one anti-Jewish stereotype, compared with only 61 percent three years ago. They believe in more of them, too: Some 20 percent of Americans believe in at least six of the most common tropes, a sharp increase from 2019, when only 11 percent did.

Matt Williams, vice president of the ADL’s year-old Center for Antisemitism Research, told The Washington Postthat the survey shows “antisemitism in its classical fascist form is emerging again in American society, where Jews are too secretive and powerful, working against interests of others, not sharing values, exploiting — the classic conspiratorial tropes.”

He added: “One of the findings of this report is that antisemitism in that classic, conspiratorial sense is far more widespread than anti-Israel sentiment.”

Titled “Antisemitic Attitudes in America: Topline Findings,” the survey found that, while there are still substantial rates of Israel-focused antisemitism, anti-Jewish sentiment revolving around longstanding bigoted stereotypes has notably surged. In particular, anti-Israel sentiments have apparently taken root among young people—who are nonetheless prone to embracing tropes. The two kinds of antisemitism “overlap significantly,” the study finds:

There is a nearly 40 percent correlation between belief in anti-Jewish tropes and anti-Israel belief, meaning that a substantial number of people who believe anti-Jewish tropes also have negative attitudes toward Israel.

It found that “young adults have more anti-Israel sentiment than older generations, and only marginally less belief in anti-Jewish tropes”:

While young adults (between the ages of 18 and 30) show less belief in anti-Jewish tropes (18 percent believe six or more tropes) than older adults (20 percent believe six or more tropes), the difference is substantially less than measured in previous studies. Additionally, young adults hold significantly more anti-Israel sentiment than older adults, with 21 percent and 11 percent agreeing with five or more anti-Israel statements, respectively.

The survey tested 4,000 respondents on whether they agreed with a list of sentiments that represent common antisemitic tropes:

  • Jews stick together more than other Americans.
  • Jews are not as honest as other businesspeople.
  • Jews are not warm and friendly.
  • Jews have a lot of irritating faults.
  • Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.
  • Jews have too much power in the United States today.
  • Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.
  • Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street.
  • Jews in business are so shrewd that others do not have a fair chance at competition.
  • Jews have too much power in the business world.
  • Jews do not share my values.
  • Jews always like to be at the head of things.
  • Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America.
  • Jews in business go out of their way to hire other Jews.

The ADL has conducted this survey periodically since 1964. The sharp increase in the number of people who believe at least six of these tropes between 2019 and 2022 (from 11 percent to 20 percent) puts those numbers at the highest they have been since 1992. As recently as 2014, that number was at nine percent.

“It used to be that older Americans harbored more antisemitic views. The hypothesis was that antisemitism declined in the 1990s, the 2000s, because there was this new generation of more tolerant people. It shows younger people are much closer now to what older people think. My hypothesis is there is a cultural shift, fed maybe by technology and social media. The gap is disappearing,” Tulane professor Ilana Horwitz, one of the survey’s reviewers, told The Washington Post.

“I like to tell my students: Kanye has more followers on Instagram than there are Jewish people in the world. So the extent to which Americans seem to believe these conspiratorial views about Jews is alarming,” she said. While Ye has more than 18 million followers on Instagram, he was recently booted from Twitter by Musk after tweeting blatantly antisemitic memes.

In spite of that singular act, Twitter nonetheless has been deluged with hateful content since Musk’s takeover—particularly as Musk has restored the accounts of notorious neofascist hatemongers like Andrew Anglin. At the same time, Musk has continued to wink and nudge in the direction of the QAnon conspiracism cult, which is riddled with antisemitic beliefs.

Social media, however, are not the only source of this antisemitic tide. These attitudes have been embraced by mainstream Republican politicians and pundits—often in the process of promoting COVID denialism—including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who has made a habit out of promoting white-nationalist propaganda under the guise of criticizing liberals, ranging from “replacement theory” to far-right “masculinity” cults.

Earlier data from 2021 collected by the Anti-Defamation League demonstrates that recorded antisemitic incidents reached a 40-year peak in 2021—and the uptick primarily began in 2015, with Trump’s arrival on the political scene.

“Historians have called the period between World War I and World War II the ‘high tide’ of American antisemitism. I think we may have to rename that: I think we are at the moment living in the high tide of American antisemitism,” Pamela Nadell, the director of the Jewish studies program at American University, told Zack Beauchamp at Vox.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

How GOP House Members Keep Covering Up For Neo-Nazi Violence

How GOP House Members Keep Covering Up For Neo-Nazi Violence

One of the unfortunate realities of the Republican assumption of control of the House in 2023 is that congressional committees’ power to investigate far-right terrorism and insurrection will functionally evaporate, because the GOP has zero interest in pursuing the matter. Rather the opposite: Republicans have demonstrated over the past two years at congressional hearings that they’re intent on turning them into clown shows, diverting attention away from the subject as a means to cover their own culpability, trotting out bogus witnesses like Candace Owens to waste everyone’s time with claims that Democrats are the real terrorists.

Rep. Jamie Raskin’s House Committee on Oversight and Reform gave it one last shot this week, though, with a final hearing on “Confronting White Supremacy.” True to form, Republicans offered as their only witness an activist from the Independent Women’s Network (IWN) who claimed that the truly grave threat to American democracy wasn’t white supremacy, it was “the Woke Army.” Republican congressmen, meanwhile, tried to claim that the white supremacist who shot up a Black neighborhood grocery store in Buffalo was actually a “leftist.”

The GOP’s witness, IWN’s Asra Nomani, titled her testimony, “Woke Army unleashes a new racism on kids” on Twitter. She opened by pooh-poohing the idea that white supremacy poses any kind of serious threat, claiming: “Every single person is opposed to the idea of white supremacy.”

No doubt this will come as a surprise to people like Donald Trump’s recent dinner guests, Nick Fuentes and Kanye West, not to mention all the white nationalists who rubbed shoulders with Donald Trump Jr. and Steve Bannon at that recent black-tie gala in New York—as well as the army of explicit neofascists who promote white supremacy under the banners of outfits like Patriot Front.

Nomani, who specializes recently in so-called “parental rights” (think “Don’t Say Gay”) activism continued: “But we cannot replace an old hierarchy of human value with a new hierarchy of human value that demonizes children,” holding up a children’s book she claimed made white children feel badly about being white.

“Why is this a threat to our democracy?” she asked rhetorically, holding up a pair of posters that had briefly appeared in a classroom display of student-created posters—and seemingly oblivious to those students’ own free-speech rights. “Because we then have posters like this one in the Los Angeles school district. What does it say? F America, with KKK replacing the C. Because the idea is that our nation has become a white supremacist nation, and that is not true. That is not the reality. And we can see exhibited here today this poster also, F the police.” She went on:

This is an ideology that I call the Woke Army. It is an ideology of activists who are going through America’s school districts and our communities. And what they are doing is a threat to democracy. What is the greatest threat that our children face today? It is the learning loss that has happened in our school districts.

Republican Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona—who remains deeply implicated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, particularly regarding his role in Donald Trump’s efforts to have “alternate” electors from key battleground send in bogus votes to the Electoral College—later tossed in his own dissent regarding the purpose of the hearing:

I wasn’t planning to do this, but since it’s been brought up, the Buffalo shooter—a heinous, evil being, absolutely there can be no excuse for it—but you know, we hear a lot about right-wing extremists, but this guy was an admitted socialist, who was thankful that the conservative movement was dead, he attacked Rupert Murdoch as a Christian Zionist, and he mentioned Ben Shapiro multiple times with rather pejorative terms because of his Jewish heritage. That’s evil. That guy is evil.

I raise that because I’m thinking, this was intoned today as well—the Pelosi attacking. Uh, David DePape. David DePape was a leftist himself, a radical leftist.

And the point is, there’s no exclusivity here. There’s evil in the world and we have to deal with that evil in the world. And it seems to me, statements like we heard in your written statement, Ms. McCord, actually provide inflammatory rhetoric that is dangerous as well.

Yes, in the MAGA alternative universe, it’s the people who call out the eliminationist rhetoric that targets vulnerable minorities—not the people who are wielding that rhetoric—who pose a real threat to the public.

Unfortunately for Biggs, DePape’s latest court hearing also occurred on Thursday, and it told a very different story: At one time, DePape was a generically left-leaning drifter, but in recent years had become a hardcore, red-pilled right-wing extremist. By the time he invaded the Pelosis’ San Francisco home and attacked the House speaker’s husband with a hammer, that had grown into a determination to act out on those beliefs violently: “They go from one crime to another crime to another crime to another crime,” DePape said in an interview played during the preliminary hearing, “and it’s just like the whole fucking four years until they were finally able to steal the election.”

DePape also told officials he planned to target California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Hunter Biden, and actor Tom Hanks: You know, your typical targets for a “left-wing radical.”

Republican Florida Congressman Byron Donalds chimed in to support Biggs’ similar up-is-down characterization of the Buffalo shooter:

Yeah, look, if you go back to the Buffalo shooter, which was awful, for all reasons considered. Did he cite replacement theory? Yes. Did he also cite socialist theories? He most definitely did. Did he target black people? A hundred percent he did. So if you combine all the issues with the Buffalo shooter, you have somebody who wanted to kill Black people—obviously that’s a white supremacist. But he also espoused ideas from the left wing of politics! Both things can occur at the same time! And they did in the Buffalo shooting.

And I think the thing that is the most frustrating in hearings like this is because the supposition from my colleagues is that if you are a white supremacist and at the same time you are on the right side of politics, the Buffalo shooter actually demonstrates that’s not true.

One of the other witnesses, Eric Ward of the Western States Center, explained carefully:

We should be clear that those targeted at the supermarket were targeted because they were Black. It was Black shoppers. Not all victims were Black, but the majority were. We should understand that the killer himself identified himself as an ethnonationalist, as an eco-fascist, and a national socialist, which is a reference to the Nazi party in Germany. When asked if folks could call him that, he said, in his own words, ‘I would not disagree with you.’ I think it’s important not to mislead in terms of the driving force of these killers, which was antisemitism. They were attacking a Black population because they saw African Americans as puppets of a Jewish cabal, of a Jewish conspiracy. And that’s why the killer acted in violence.

Raskin asked Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League, if he thought there were any indications that the Buffalo shooter was any kind of “leftist”: “The Buffalo shooter invoked the Great Replacement theory, engaged in other racist and antisemitic speech, he said he was inspired by the New Zealand mass murderer who killed more than 50 people and proclaimed his loyalty to antisemitism and racism and so on—if that person calls himself a national socialist, would you categorize him in your research on the left?” he asked.

Segal answered: “I think any sober look at the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto statements—and by the way, the symbols and names on his weapons: symbols of white supremacy, the names of white supremacist shooters before him—would recognize that as clearly a white-supremacist attack.”

Indeed, this was clear at the time of the attack, when the shooter’s manifesto made his right-wing orientation explicit: He was obsessed with nonwhite immigration, he despised liberals, and indeed explicitly stated that "fascism is one of the only political ideologies that will unite Whites against the replacers. Since that is what I seek, calling me a fascist would be accurate."

Raskin also inquired about Nomani’s “Woke Army” claims, asking Segal: “I just want to be clear about this, because we’ve been focused on violence today: Is there such a thing formally, literally, as a ‘Woke Army’ that has ever killed anyone in a synagogue like the Tree of Life synagogue, or a church like the Emmanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina, or a supermarket like the Tops supermarket, or a Wal-Mart? Does a ‘Woke Army’ exist as a violent threat to the American people?”

Segal readily answered: “I’m not aware of any Woke Army other than in a semantic argument type of way.”

Indeed, statistical studies of domestic terrorism and political violence have been unanimous on this point: Left-wing violence and terrorism, both in the United States and abroad, has been for decades relegated to a relative handful of incidents, while right-wing violence, in contrast, has been on a straight line rocketing upward in the past decade.

“I think the data suggests that we should be taking right wing domestic terrorism way more seriously than many have done,” University of Maryland criminal-justice professor Gary LaFree remarked about a recent study he conducted. “The ‘Fox News angle’ that antifa is just as dangerous as the Proud Boys just doesn't hold up right now.”

Well, that was an awesome way to finish out the 2022 election cycle! Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard revel in Raphael Warnock's runoff victory on this week's episode of The Downballot and take a deep dive into how it all came together. The Davids dig into the turnout shift between the first and second rounds of voting, what the demographic trends in the metro Atlanta area mean for Republicans, and why Democrats can trace their recent success in Georgia back to a race they lost: the famous Jon Ossoff special election in 2017.

We're also joined by one of our very favorite people, Daily Kos Elections alum Matt Booker, who shares his thoughts on the midterms and tells us about his work these days as a pollster. Matt explains some of the key ways in which private polling differs from public data; how the client surveys he was privy to did not foretell a red wave; and the mechanics of how researchers put together focus groups. Matt also reminisces about his time at "DKE University" and how his experience with us prepared him for the broader world of politics.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Extreme Right Terrorists Appear To Be Targeting Power Substations

Extreme Right Terrorists Appear To Be Targeting Power Substations

The 40,000-plus North Carolinians who have been without power since Saturday because someone knocked out the power grid in Moore County have largely been restored to service now, thanks to workers at Duke Energy who scrambled to replace the equipment destroyed in what has all the earmarks of a domestic terrorist attack. The investigation into the attacks continues apace, with the FBI issuing search warrants both for individuals and for cell phone data.

But in the wake of the attacks, a larger national picture, much more disturbing in its implications, has emerged—one in which it’s now clear that Moore County was not an isolated incident. Utilities around the nation, ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Florida, are reporting a recent uptick in similar gunfire attacks on power substations—all of them in many ways embodying the spread of online extremist content promoting such terrorist attacks and explaining how to carry them out.

Back in January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned that American extremists have begun exhibiting an unhealthy interest in attacking the power grid—at first regionally, then nationally—as a means of disrupting the country. Far-right domestic extremists “have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020, identifying the electric grid as a particularly attractive target given its interdependency with other infrastructure sectors,” according to the DHS report.

There were indications that such an agenda may have been behind a series of incidents last month in Washington and Oregon, when at least six different attacks on power substations were reported to the FBI. Two unidentified substations operated by Puget Sound Energy, as well as two others operated by Cowlitz County Public Utility District in the Woodland area of southwestern Washington, were subjected to “vandalism,” the latter causing a brief power outage in the area. The attackers cut open a fence and then shot up transformers, apparently targeting specific pieces of equipment.

Another significant attack was reported by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) against one of its substations in Clackamas County, Oregon, which it described as a “deliberate physical attack” early on Thanksgiving morning. Oregon Public Broadcasting and KUOW report that a BPA security specialist described the attack in an email: “Two people cut through the fence surrounding a high-voltage substation, then ‘used firearms to shoot up and disable numerous pieces of equipment and cause significant damage.’”

Four days later in Clackamas County, there was another attack, this time on a Portland General Electric substation, though details of the attack were unavailable. (Most of the utilities, understandably, were tight-lipped about the incidents.) However, records indicate the attack managed to disrupt electricity in at least some areas of Clackamas County: The county’s computer systems were knocked offline.

The BPA specialist’s memo also referenced “several attacks on various substations,” recently in Western Washington, “including setting the control houses on fire, forced entry and sabotage of intricate electrical control systems, causing short circuits by tossing chains across the overhead buswork, and ballistic attack with small caliber firearms.”

Meanwhile, across the country in Florida, reporters found that there have been at least half a dozen “substation intrusion events” in recent months, though none of these involved vandalism by gunfire. Rather, these intrusions involved people who manually turned off the power substations by tripping switches. Most of these incidents resulted in brief outages that were quickly restored.

NewsNation obtained a memo indicating federal law enforcement suspects the people behind the Florida intrusions possess inside knowledge about how the grid operates, and are familiar with powering down equipment without causing damage.

“The fact that someone has potentially identified a critical substation and then has knowledge of those critical pieces of equipment inside that substation leads me to believe that they’re dealing with people who have inside knowledge,” the memo read.

While some of these incidents may turn out to have non-political (and thus non-terroristic) motivations, the DHS’s January memo warning of attacks like these as likely terrorism events was well-grounded. It indicated that conversations among far-right extremists online have increasingly focused on encouraging so-called “lone wolf” attacks involving only a single terrorist. Other online chatter includes efforts to inspire people with minimal training to also target electrical infrastructure, with weapons ranging from improvised incendiary devices, hammers, power saws, and guns.

Electrical infrastructure has become a key target for the most recent iterations of accelerationist neofascist groups like The Base and Atomwaffen SS. One such terrorist cell that targeted the January 2020 pro-gun protests in Richmond, Virginia, discussed targeting the power grid and cell towers in the area to debilitate any police response while disguised as both left-wing activists and as “3 Percent” militiamen, believing it would direct violence towards the groups blamed for the destruction.

A group of Marines who moved to Idaho from North Carolina tried to set up a terror cell that would conduct assassinations and other criminal acts targeting “leftists” and the government, using attacks on the Pacific Northwest power grid as their primary tool. In a propaganda video, the members of the neo-Nazi organization, which called itself “BSN,” could be seen practicing with firearms in the vicinity of high-power transmission lines.

The outages in North Carolina were widely celebrated by right-wing extremists, who drew a connection between the attacks and the drag-queen performance held that evening in Southern Pines. One neo-Nazi Telegram post laden with slurs against the LGBTQ community celebrated the "magnificent act of sabotage" as a "beautiful escalation" in a broader culture war.

SITE Intelligence Group, according to Newsweek, also identified a neo-Nazi publication warning that "these attacks will only continue" unless such drag shows cease altogether. At the far-right-friendly message board 4Chan, commenters described specific tactics that further harm the power grid. Others proposed focusing their attacks on taking down the electrical infrastructure in larger cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. since they "are not majority white."

Rita Katz, founder and executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, told Newsweek that the Moore County attack is consistent with recent online neo-Nazi messaging.

"The sabotage against the North Carolina substation aligns perfectly with directives and methods seen in accelerationist neo-Nazi communities," Katz said. "If this was indeed a far-right terrorist attack, my worry is that it will serve as a proof of concept for other far-right extremists.”

Katz also says they see plans to do the same against power stations near prominent news and media companies they consider enemies. Targeting infrastructure, she explained, is "a key objective for accelerationist neo-Nazis, who care less about any distinct outcome and far more about sowing any kind of chaos."

A widely shared post published this summer by a neo-Nazi publication included "a detailed manual" that called power grids "the main satiating tool the system uses to keep the masses from rioting" and advised on ways to inflict maximum damage, including what to target when shooting at substations.

With such material readily available to wannabe saboteurs, Domestic Terrorism Threat Monitor (DTTM) director Simon Purdue told Newsweek that "the threat posed by attacks on critical infrastructure cannot be underestimated."

"The situation in Moore County offers only a glimpse into the chaos that attacks such as this can cause, and larger scale assaults could bring disruption on a statewide or even national level," Purdue said. He pointed to "a steady slew of manifestos, social media posts, videos and even instruction manuals on this kind of attack being produced by extremists over the past few years."

"The Moore County case was small-scale when compared to some of the plans that we have seen," he added, "and infrastructure needs to be better protected against such attacks."

Election season overtime is finally winding down, so Democratic operative Joe Sudbay joins David Nir on The Downballot as a guest-host this week to recap some of the last results that have just trickled in. At the top of the list is the race for Arizona attorney general, where Democrat Kris Mayes has a 510-vote lead with all ballots counted (a mandatory recount is unlikely to change the outcome). Also on the agenda is Arizona's successful Proposition 308, which will allow students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.

Over in California, Democrats just took control of the boards of supervisors in two huge counties, Riverside and Orange—in the case of the latter, for the first time since 1976. Joe and David also discuss which Democratic candidates who fell just short this year they'd like to see try again in 2024, and what the GOP's very skinny House majority means for Kevin McCarthy's prospects as speaker.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

German Authorities Bust Dozens Of Right-Wing Extremists In Coup Plot

German Authorities Bust Dozens Of Right-Wing Extremists In Coup Plot

The rise of right-wing extremism isn’t just an American phenomenon, of course: It’s been a mounting global issue, especially in Europe in recent years as a reaction both to growing nonwhite immigration and to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, it was apparent at the time of the January 6 Capitol insurrection that neofascist elements in Europe were watching those events unfold carefully, and drawing lessons from them: “We were following it like a soccer match,” a German far-right publisher told The New York Times.

That reality struck home in startling fashion Wednesday when German authorities arrested at least 25 people in a carefully coordinated sweep, all of them alleged participants in a conspiracy to overthrow the democratically elected government. Among those arrested were a minor member of the German aristocracy, and a former member of the German parliamentary body. And it was clear they drew their inspiration from their American counterparts.

"Since this morning a large anti-terror operation is taking place. The Federal Public Prosecutor General is investigating a suspected terror network from the Reichsbürger scene," German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said in a statement. "The suspicion exists that an armed attack on constitutional organs was planned."

The suspects are all members of the so-called Reichsbürger movement, a German version of the far-right sovereign-citizens movement that claims the existing government is illegitimate and that ordinary people can declare themselves free of its jurisdiction. Authorities said that 25 people have been arrested so far, but there are warrants for at least 50 participants in 11 states in the conspiracy.

The far-right terrorists, according to authorities, planned to eliminate Germany's basic democratic order "using violence and military means," including plans to "forcefully invade the Bundestag," the German parliamentary building. A "council" comprised of Reichsbürger movement followers was to take over government business, while a "military arm" was to set up a "new German army" and "homeland security companies."

That echoes the far-right chatter around the time of the Jan. 6 insurrection: “The storming of a parliament by protesters as the initiation of a revolution can work,” Jürgen Elsässer, editor/publisher of the far-right magazine Compact, wrote the day after the Capitol siege. “But a revolution can only be successful if it is organized.”

He added: “When it’s crunchtime, when you want to overthrow the regime, you need a plan and a sort of general staff.”

Nancy Faeser, Germany’s interior minister, called the group arrested Wednesday the “enemies of democracy,” adding: “The investigations provide a glimpse into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbürger milieu.”

The group’s alleged ringleader is Heinrich XIII, Prince Reuß von Greiz, who claims descent from an aristocratic line that ruled Thuringia for 800 years before the German Empire was replaced in the early 20th century by the Weimar Republic after World War I. Prosecutors say Heinrich XIII had founded a “terrorist organization last year with the goal of overturning the existing state order in Germany.” Their plan was to replace it with a new kind of authoritarian monarchy.

Heinrich’s chief lieutenant was identified as Rüdiger von Pescatore, a 69-year-old former senior field officer at the German army’s paratrooper battalion who is also believed to have been a commander in Calw. Von Pescatore, who was among the arrestees, reportedly had been in charge of planning the military coup, while Heinrich XIII was charged with mapping out Germany’s future political order.

Those latter plans included ministers for a transitional post-coup government, one of whom was among the people arrested: Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, 58, a former member of the Bundestag elected under the banner of the far-right Alternativ Für Deutschland (AfD) party. Arrested at her home in the western Berlin district of Wannsee on Wednesday morning, Malsack-Winkemann reportedly was slated to be federal minister for justice.

“Those who have been arrested are supporters of conspiracy myths, from a conglomerate of narratives relating to the ideologies of the Reichsbürger and QAnon ideologies,” Peter Frank, Germany’s public prosecutor general, told reporters in Karlsruhe.

The group had been preparing for what they called “Day X”: At the appointed hour, about two dozen people were to storm the Reichstag building and handcuff and arrest both members of the Bundestag and their staff. The group envisioned subsequently renegotiating the treaties Germany signed after the end of World War II. “For now, the Russian Federation was exclusively to be the central contact for these negotiations,” prosecutors said.

Heinrich XIII reportedly had attempted to reach out to the Kremlin, but prosecutors said there was “no indication that the contacts reacted positively to his approach.”

The plotters were comprised of what one investigator described as a “motley crew,” ranging from a German airline pilot to an operatic tenor to a coronavirus-denying roofer to a gourmet cook, whose son-in-law is a professional footballer.

The Reichsbürger movement is closely affiliated with the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy cult, and many of its tenets are based on QAnon conspiracy theories. It also resembles the sovereign citizens' movement in its core beliefs, which are that the German constitution prior to World War II was never properly nullified, and thus the formation of the former West Germany in 1949 was never valid. Therefore, its adherents do not accept the legality of the Federal Republic of Germany.

According to Interior Minister Faeser, the authorities are still investigating possible contacts between the AfD and the terrorist group, embodied by Malsack-Winkemann’s role within the conspiracy. "Of course we're looking now: What connections are there?" Faeser said. “You have to look very carefully."

Groups like the Reichsbürgers and similar European extremists—such as the Germasn-based group arrested in 2020 for making similar plans, which included an American soldier—are accelerationists, among the most dangerous domestic terrorists. Accelerationists, as SPLC analyst Cassie Miller explains, reject “political solutions” as inadequate for dealing with the threat of what they call “white genocide”—the hysterically fallacious belief that “white culture” faces an existential threat from multiculturalism and a demographic tide of nonwhite people: “the accelerationist set sees modern society as irredeemable and believe it should be pushed to collapse so a fascist society built on ethnonationalism can take its place.”

These far-right conspiracists all feed each other’s beliefs. The now-international QAnon movement spread conspiracy theories about how Trump—who the authoritarian cult sees as their ultimate savior—had been ostensibly cheated out of the election that played a role in the insurrection. German QAnon followers had eagerly promoted election disinformation claiming the vote had been manipulated from a server farm in Frankfurt secretly run by the CIA, which spread widely in American far-right circles and became one of the false claims about vote fraud touted by the insurrectionists.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

The Original Oath Keepers' 'Patriot' Celebrity Is Still In Jail For Child Rape

The Original Oath Keepers' 'Patriot' Celebrity Is Still In Jail For Child Rape

The first time I came across the Oath Keepers back in the summer of 2009, it was all because of a then-29-year-old ex-Marine wearing a skull mask and ranting about the need for “Patriot” militiamen to “rise up” in “a violent revolution.” It was a telling introduction.

The Marine’s name was Charles Dyer. He was an Iraq War combat veteran, and his videos began turning up in late 2008 and early 2009 on YouTube. I was monitoring the rapid increase in militia organizing that began occurring around the time Barack Obama began running for president, which then skyrocketed for the next four years. Dyer’s videos, which attracted hundreds of thousands of views, made me concerned—especially as I realized that he was a spokesman for this new organization that focused on recruiting military veterans into a far-right ideological army, and which was closely associated with the blossoming Tea Party movement.

Dyer’s videos, posted under his nom de guerre “July4Patriot,” comprised him ranting into a video camera about government “tyranny.” He wore his military uniforms—including his Marine dress uniform—but obscured his face with a skull mask (the first I had ever seen of them, well before they were adopted as the face covering of choice by alt-right neo-Nazis nearly a decade later).

He also had a fondness for “inspirational” anthemic music in the background, usually of the Celtic variety, and sometimes so loud it obscured what he was saying—but his incendiary, violent rhetoric was worrisome:

The enemies of the Constitution are not far away in some distant desert. They’re found right here on our own soil. We have become complacent. We have allowed the tyrants to take over this country, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The time is now. We must rise up together and resist while we still have the ability resist.

This was stock rhetoric of the Patriot movement that I had been hearing since the 1990s. But most of the people indulging in this seditionist talk back then were ordinary citizens with little or no military background. On the other hand, Dyer not only had such a background, but claimed that there was an active antigovernment “resistance” within the armed forces:

I know many of you are afraid of the government. You wonder how you will fight something as strong as the U.S. military. I ask you this question: Who is that’s behind those rifles you fear? They are your sons, your daughters, your mothers and your fathers. They are American citizens just like you. And let me assure you that there is a resistance within the military. We will not be silent, we will not obey, we will not allow the American people to have their rights taken away in any manner. We will not disarm the American people during martial law. Let me assure you, Patriots, that we will die fighting our brothers in arms if we must, but we will not fight our countrymen.

As he posted more videos, Dyer’s rhetoric began ratcheting up the violence. What particularly sent him over the edge was the wave of outrage whipped up by right-wing media and conservative pundits over a bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security in early 2009 warning that right-wing extremists planned to be recruiting military veterans like himself into their ranks.

The bulletin, as was clear back then to anyone looking at domestic terrorism seriously, was an appropriate warning due to longstanding concerns about far-right infiltration of the ranks of the military, as well as recruitment of veterans into extremist ideologies and organizations after they returned home. People like Charles Dyer.

But right-wing pundits like Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck began shrieking at the tops of their lungs that the bulletin was part of an Obama administration conspiracy to designate all conservatives far-right terrorists so they could begin rounding them up and imprisoning them. Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity joined in the bashing, as did a number of veterans groups like the American Legion, all of it handily whitewashing away the very real record of right-wing domestic terrorism in the United States.

All of this fueled and justified the anger of people like Dyer, who was furious about the bulletin:

They are already desperate to keep us from fighting back. The DHS has even issued a letter labeling Patriots as traitors, calling us right-wing extremists and domestic terrorists. Call me whatever name makes you feel justified in persecuting me. But should I care what men made of pure evil think, or label me as? Should I compromise my principles or make a whore of myself for these piece of filth? I think not.

But with the DHS blatantly calling Patriots, veterans, and constitutionalists a threat, all that I have to say is: You’re damn right we’re a threat. We’re a threat to anyone that endangers our rights and the Constitution of this republic.

“Patriots, we are not overpowered. If we united under one banner and fight for our children’s liberty and the constitution, our resolve is invincible to any standing army,” Dyer said in another video.

In one video showing him participating in paramilitary exercises, he answers someone who asks him whether he would advise signing up for the armed forces. “Join the military?” said Dyer. “Depends on what you want to do with it. Me? I'm going to use my training and become one of those domestic terrorists that you’re so afraid of from the DHS reports.”

Comments left behind on his YouTube channel were almost uniformly sympathetic and indicated that he had a significant audience for this rhetoric:

“This Marine is right on. Those now in power in Washington are hell-bent on destroying America and The Constitution. The Marine is right, America is a Republic, NOT a democracy, and what he says about laws that infringe on the 2nd Amendment is right. Any law that 'infringes' on the right to keep and bear arms is unconstitutional. This Marine is a patriot. Those that disagree with him, you know where the border is.”

“You only wish that's what he was. Everything he said in that video is true. And if you weren't so blind to what is going on right now, ie. the government wanting to nationalize the banking systems, wanting to increase gun laws ... not that there aren't over 20k already on the books, I could continue. The American people aren't free anymore, they just have a false sense of freedom, given to them to keep them complacent and happy as they go about their daily lives ... but soon that will end.”

“I believe there is a mountain of truth to this video. Everyone I know is stocking up on guns/ammo/food. I was in the military and I think most servicemembers feel the same as him. They took the oath to protect and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Most military members are very patriotic and attuned to what is going on. When I was in, most everyone hated Clinton. I can only imagine what they feel toward Obama and the Congress.”

In reality there were good reasons to be concerned about the radicalization of American veterans: In the 1990s, both Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph had manifested the danger when radicalized extremists also possess military training and capabilities. In 2008 the FBI had issued its own internal report exploring the problem. It concluded:

  • Although individuals with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, they frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups and their involvement has the potential to reinvigorate an extremist movement suffering from loss of leadership and in-fighting during the post-9/11 period.
  • … Military experience—ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces—is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.
  • ... The prestige which the extremist movement bestows upon members with military experience grants them the potential for influence beyond their numbers. Most extremist groups have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.
  • ... Military experience—often regardless of its length or type—distinguishes one within the extremist movement. While those with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, FBI investigations indicate they frequently have higher profiles within the movement, including recruitment and leadership roles.
  • ... New groups led or significantly populated by military veterans could very likely pursue more operationally minded agendas with greater tactical confidence. In addition, the military training veterans bring to the movement and their potential to pass this training on to others can increase the ability of lone offenders to carry out violence from the movement’s fringes.

However, the projection-fueled hysteria over the Homeland Security bulletin focused precisely on this problem became so overwhelming that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano was forced to issue an apology and retract the bulletin. The consequences went much deeper, of course: DHS’ domestic-terrorism-monitoring section was gutted, and the Obama administration fell into hunker-down/failure mode when it came to the radical right. Even more consequentially, these failures led to the ability of far-right extremists to keep festering and recruiting and growing. Especially groups like the Oath Keepers.

Dyer revealed his identity for the first time at a Tea Party event in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on July 4, 2009, where he gave a speech that promptly showed up online. It was advertised as an appearance by “July4Patriot,” but he told the audience his real name. He also told them the name of the organization for whom he was speaking and recruiting: the Oath Keepers.

In his speech, Dyer also described the “10 orders we will not obey”—the Oath Keepers’ original credo, a list of the kinds of actions used by authoritarian states—rounding up people, ordering the entire populace to be forcibly disarmed, imposing martial law, creating concentration camps—which mostly reflected the paranoid fears of black helicopters and FEMA common among movement Patriots.

The Oath Keepers, in fact, had only been founded that March 2009 by a former aide to Congressman Ron Paul of Texas—himself a well-established wellspring of far-right extremism with a mainstream patina—named Elmer Stewart Rhodes. A Yale Law graduate with a smooth media demeanor, Rhodes began showing up on TV, ranging from an appearance with Chris Mathews on his MSNBC Hardball program to an honored spot at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) annual convention.

Dyer kept posting videos, but without the skull mask. They mostly showed him engaging in paramilitary training exercises in rural areas, apparently in Oklahoma. He voiced extreme agitation and paranoia about the DHS bulletin, which he claimed targeted veterans as domestic terrorists. Dyer also made his own affiliation with the Patriot movement explicit, and made it similarly clear that the Oath Keepers were part of that movement:

The Patriot movement is basically just all different kinds of organizations across the United States. You’re looking at militias, or maybe the American resistance movement, the umbrella organization, and you may have the Ohio militia or the Michigan militia or whatever, militias all over the place. Citizens militias like in San Diego. They’re all under the Patriot movement. And we’re trying to take back this republic, and restore this republic like it's supposed, like it was intended by our Founding Fathers.

Dyer’s rhetoric became increasingly seditionist, especially the talk about “a violent revolution”:

I’m not gonna be hiding from my command anymore, I’m sure not gonna be hiding from the ATF or hiding from the FBI, I’m not hiding from any organization. If they wanna come take me, I’m not gonna be afraid. If I’m afraid at that point, we’re in a tyrannical government in the first place, and people need to rise up. At that point, there needs to be a violent revolution.

This was part of a larger trend we were seeing elsewhere across the country, including in the West and the South, of people forming militias and conducting paramilitary exercises, and wielding threatening seditionist rhetoric without restraint. The numbers of militias in the United States began spiking from their mid-2000s low of 131 to 512 in 2009, eventually hitting an all-time high in 2011 at 1,360.

Dyer’s speeches and activism, meanwhile, were being heavily promoted at the Oath Keepers’ website through 2009. Dyer shed his pseudonym altogether and began simply using his real name.

However, Dyer’s career as a spokesman for the Oath Keepers ended abruptly and in ugly fashion. He was arrested in January 2010 and charged with raping his young daughter. Investigators found a grenade launcher in his home.

Rhodes promptly disavowed him, claiming that Dyer had never been an actual dues-paying, card-signing member of the Oath Keepers.

In fact, however, Rhodes and Dyer were working closely together for much of that year leading up to his arrest, according to Rhodes’ ex-wife, Tasha Adams. In my interview with her earlier this year, she described how Rhodes—enamored of Dyer’s videos—had taken the budding radical under his wing.

Adams says Dyer was recruited by Rhodes into the organization early on, and Rhodes began putting him to use as a spokesman at events like the one in Broken Arrow. Adams said that Rhodes became “obsessed” with Dyer (“Stewart used to talk with his mother all the time”), and “almost immediately invited him to our home.”

After having Dyer sleeping on their couch for several days, Adams found out that Dyer was under investigation for having molested his own young daughter, but “he didn’t stay much longer after that.” Shortly after he departed, Dyer in fact was charged with the crime and eventually convicted; he’s currently still serving his 30-year sentence.

“He had sort of an eerie vibe about him. Just his demeanor,” Adams said.

At the same time, Oath Keepers by 2010 had become a fixture on the Tea Party scene, becoming listed cosponsors of Tea Party gatherings and making their presence felt, and welcomed, among that movement. This corroborated what I had been seeing elsewhere: The Tea Party, marketed on Fox News and CNN and everywhere else as a nominally mainstream movement, was rapidly becoming a massive conduit for a revival of the ‘90s Patriot “militia” movement.

This trend became cemented over the following year, and eventually the Tea Party movement became wholly consumed by Patriot ideology, rhetoric, and agendas. And the Oath Keepers were one of the leading purveyors of that transformation.

Yet they continued to be treated as mainstream by the media, particularly right-wing outlets. Fox News and particularly Bill O’Reilly—where Rhodes began popping up with regularity—were eager to indulge Rhodes’ claims that his group really wasn’t a militia (even if they were functionaries of the same Patriot movement) and similarly eager to deny that militias had taken over the Tea Party.

Of course, O’Reilly and his Fox cohorts had also been among the leading voices claiming that Obama’s DHS was trying to smear conservatives and the Tea Party with accusations of domestic terrorism. This line of attack became broadly used by Republicans across the board to hammer into the narrative their denial that right-wing domestic terrorism posed any kind of real threat to Americans.

The end result of that narrative, after more than a decade of denial, was the Jan. 6 insurrection, when a mob of Donald Trump-loving Patriots attacked the U.S. Capitol and attempted to prevent Trump’s loss becoming manifest in the peaceful transfer of power. And it surprises no one who has watched the Oath Keepers over the years that Rhodes is now on trial for seditionist conspiracy for having attempted to lead that coup.

Rhodes has always attempted to present Oath Keepers as a mainstream organization, but the façade was thoroughly exposed in 2009 by Justine Sharrock at Mother Jones,whose in-depth report revealed a cadre of armed and angry extremists with paranoid ideas and unstable dispositions behind the claims of normalcy and civic-mindedness, with the patina of authority that having military and law enforcement veterans on your membership rolls can provide.

Dyer, in fact, was not an anomaly. He was the embodiment of the kind of people the Oath Keepers were built to attract: Only borderline stable, simmering with anger and paranoia, and underscored with a constant thrum of menace and potential violence. The kind of people who to this day comprise Trump’s MAGA army.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Boise Officials Scramble After White Nationalist Police Captain Exposed

Boise Officials Scramble After White Nationalist Police Captain Exposed

We’ve known for some time now that the presence of far-right extremists within the ranks of our police forces is a serious problem, one that was amplified by the January 6 insurrection, where a number of officers were participants. Despite that, there’s been little effort among either police authorities themselves or their civic and federal overseers to confront the issue and begin rooting white supremacists out of our policing system.

Of course, when these bigots and their activities are publicly exposed, as with the neo-Nazi Massachusetts officer exposed by HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias last month, there’s an immediate uproar and the affected local authorities scramble to repair the damage. The same dynamic is occurring now in Idaho, where a now-retired Boise police captain was recently exposed as a contributor and speaker for this year’s white nationalist American Renaissance (AR) conference. And it’s going to keep happening.

The Boise cop, Matthew Bryngleson, was exposed by researcher Molly Conger this weekend in a thread that detailed the officer’s real identity leading up to the annual AR gathering in Burns, Tennessee. Using the pseudonym Daniel Vinyard (taken from a racist skinhead character in the film American History X), Bryngelson was a scheduled speaker described as “a retired, race-realist police officer.” The title of his speech: “The Vilification of the Police and What It Means for America.”

AR is one of the longest-running white nationalist operations, founded in the 1990s by Jared Taylor, who specializes in giving an academic veneer to old-fashioned racial bigotry, particularly of the eugenicist variety. One of Taylor’s most durable propaganda campaigns involves blaming Black people for crime in America; among the people influenced by his spurious smears was mass killer Dylann Roof.

That was the topic when Bryngelson and Taylor engaged in an interview that was posted to the AR website in September. Bryngelson told Taylor stories from his career and his interactions with Black people, whom he described as criminals whose crimes “the sound human mind can’t even comprehend … let alone carry them out.” At one point, Bryngelson used a transphobic slur to describe someone.

Taylor asked Bryngelson to describe his experience as a police officer in dealing with nonwhites, and he replied:

Whatever the worst crime of the day is, it’s usually a Black person or a nonwhite. Of course white people do DUIs, they do domestic violence, they steal, but when it’s something where you pause and go, “Holy cow, I can’t believe that happened in this town,” almost always it’s someone who is not from there, and it’s a Black person, almost always without fail.

It’s a script. It’s what happens every single time no matter what the case is. You can catch them just finishing beating someone and during the subsequent resisting of arrest, the fight, we’re called racists. We can catch them in the act and the mere fact that we are catching them is racist. It’s 100% of the time we’re accused of being racist. Especially in this town, obviously, there are so few Black people there, but when we do encounter them, of course it’s going to be white officers because that’s mostly what we have, and when they get arrested they’re going to scream racism every single time.

Under his pseudonym, Bryngelson also authored a couple of pieces for the American Renaissance website. One of them described how he reached a point in his police career when he “became aware of the violent tendencies of Blacks.” Another recounted “microaggressions” from nonwhite and liberal members of the Boise City Council.

He described growing up in southern California before moving to a predominantly white northwest city 22 years before—in fact, following the blueprint of multiple other right-wing officers who have moved to Idaho in the same time period, and becoming a leading component in the state’s far-right radicalization.

“I picked the location because it was mostly white,” he wrote, adding that “the overwhelming majority” of officers who relocated “came to escape Black violence and rear their children in an area where they won’t be subjected to ‘diversity’ in the schools and violence in their neighborhoods.”

Bryngelson had been sworn in as a captain in April 2021 and has been an officer on the force for nearly 24 years. He was one of several officers who filed allegations against former Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee, an Asian American who was recently forced to resign amid allegations of abusive behavior.

Bryngelson also hosted a heavy-metal program weekly on the community FM station, Radio Boise 89.9, early Sunday mornings from 1 AM to 3 AM from 2013 to 2018. He frankly discussed working as a cop during banter on the show.

Mayor Lauren McLean immediately launched an investigation into Bryngelson’s history with the department and whether his views affected the cases he handled, and particularly any convictions he may have been responsible for, as well as how widespread his malign influence was within the department and whether its culture tolerated him knowingly.

“This is no time to consider circling the wagons and I will not tolerate anyone who tries to impede this investigation in any way,” McLean’s statement read, and added a warning to serving officers:

And for those in BPD: if you cannot or will not cooperate fully and honestly, I suggest that now is the time to leave this department. And honestly, the profession. The people of Boise rely on you to protect and serve them. The people of Boise deserve better. Everyone should trust that they will be treated fairly. We can’t expect that one would be able to trust that someone who perpetuates such blatant racism, while serving as an officer, would be able to treat those he reviles so deeply in a fair way. In the way that members of our community—any community—deserve and expect.

Other law enforcement officials also condemned Bryngelson, including former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, the Treasure Valley Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and Boise’s Police Union.

“Bryngelson’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions are unbecoming of a law enforcement officer of any rank and they are devastating to our membership and our community relationships,” the FOP’s statement said.

In addition to reviewing Bryngelson’s cases, Ada County officials will also need to take a harder look at the circumstances of Lee’s ouster. As the Idaho Statesman editorial board says: “[N]ow because of what we know about Bryngelson’s deplorable views on people who are not white, we can’t help but wonder if the complaints against Lee were tinged by racial bias.”

The deeper problem, however, is that these revelations keep happening, and they will keep happening. That’s because this is a systemic problem related to police culture and training, and it’s a problem within every law enforcement body in the country. Responding to a scandal here and another one there won’t address how deeply this is embedded in law enforcement nationally, and how profound its ramifications are both for how policing is conducted in America and how it affects its relations with an increasingly angry public.

A powerful indicator of how deeply the infection runs within law enforcement culture is how police officials have responded to efforts in Minnesota—where a cop’s murder of a Black Minneapolis man in 2020 set off months of protests nationwide—to ban police officers from being involved in hate, extremist, or white supremacist groups. Police groups have come out in opposition to such bans, they say, because the wording is too vague and they might infringe on people’s First Amendment rights.

Fridley Police Chief Brian Weierke, president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said the rule banning applicants or officers from participating in or supporting white supremacist, hate or extremist groups needs to be more clearly defined so the rule isn’t “weaponized.”

Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud said the new rules would hurt recruitment efforts, even as law enforcement nationwide has struggled to recruit and retain officers the past couple of years due to “protests,” the pandemic, and “political rhetoric calling for defunding police.”

Until the nation’s civil authorities—from mayors to governors to senators and presidents—make it a top priority to weed out bigoted extremists from the ranks of our law enforcement bodies, Police Captain Matt Bryngelsons will keep happening. And so will George Floyds.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Midterms Held Off Election Deniers, But They're Still Coming For Democracy

Midterms Held Off Election Deniers, But They're Still Coming For Democracy

Everyone fighting to defend democracy in the just-finishing midterm elections breathed a sigh of relief this week when it became clear that the election denialists running to take over the election apparatuses in key battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan all lost in their races decisively, in a clean sweep. The concern revolved around the key secretary-of-state races, where the denialists could have wreaked havoc in presidential elections by altering the Electoral College count—which now will not happen in 2024, at least.

But the attack on democracy presented by election denialists has only been blunted. Outside of those battlegrounds, a significant number of them were, in fact, elected to office—including four secretaries of state. All of them were either elected in red states or in red districts within larger blue states where they are in the minority, which limits the amount of damage they can do. At the same time, it means that conspiracists who readily succumb to false information now hold significant and powerful offices—including U.S. senators and congressmen. It’s been normalized, and it could easily continue to spread.

The New York Times assembled a list of all the hundreds of election denialists of various stripes who ran for either federal or statewide elected offices this year, and found that more than 220 of them won last week. The majority of these were elected to House seats—where there was already no shortage of them—and more than a dozen of them now reside in the U.S. Senate.

“What happened with the election results moved us from the precipice,” UCLA law professor Rick Hasen told Camille Squire and Daniel Nichanian of Bolts. “We won’t have many election deniers running elections, and probably none or few in swing states.”

“Still, there are hundreds of Republican candidates who embraced election denialism and won their races,” he said. “Maybe it’s just cheap talk and it is less worrisome—but it is still antidemocratic and shows that denialism could easily surface again in 2024 or beyond.”

The Times found more than 180 Republican election denialists (a number of them incumbents) winning their elections to the House—meaning that more than a third of the members of Congress will have questioned or denied the 2020 election. This also means that a large majority of states will have at least one Republican representative who is an election denialist.

There will be at least 17 Republican denialists in the U.S. Senate (18, should Herschel Walker win his Georgia runoff in December). The most notable of the newly elected senators is Ohio’s J.D. Vance, who won handily against Democrat Tim Ryan, while Markwayne Mullin, the newly elected senator from Oklahoma, is also an ardent denialist. But their ranks include a number of incumbents, notably Kentucky’s Rand Paul.

There were also more than two dozen election denialists who won election to statewide offices—governors, secretary of states, and attorneys general—of Republican-dominated states, notably Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who won re-election.

More than two dozen Republicans who won state races for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general have questioned the 2020 election, including Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, who was re-elected to another term.

Four states now have election denialists as their secretaries of state: Indiana, South Dakota, Alabama, and Wyoming. Indiana’s outcome was especially disgraceful: The new secretary of state, Diego Morales, had been fired previously from the office he sought to lead, and had twice been accused of sexually harassing young campaign workers and staff members of the secretary of state’s office.

Morales, who also had worked as a staffer for Mike Pence when he was Indiana’s governor, said this year on the campaign trail that the 2020 election was a “scam” and that its outcome “is questionable.” He underperformed his fellow Republicans in the state by 5-7 percentage points, but still handily won the election, 60%-40%.

Alabama’s new secretary of state, Wes Allen, has already indicated how his belief that the 2020 election was fraudulent will affect his state. Earlier this year, he announced that, if elected, he would withdraw Alabama from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC)—an organization that helps states maintain their voter rolls. Allen claimed that ERIC—which has become a popular bogeyman among election denialists—was “started by former members of the Obama administration and groups funded by George Soros.”

Wyoming’s new secretary of state, Chuck Gray, ran unopposed in the general election after duking it out with other MAGA fanatics in the state’s primary election. Gray was endorsed by Trump, and called the 2020 election “clearly rigged.” He has focused on the use of ballot drop boxes, and has promoted the fraudulent 2000 Mules conspiracy claims that the “woke left” has been using drop boxes to steal elections.

Two election-denialist Republican governors—Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas—with the power to select their secretaries of state also won re-election handily last week. Both previously appointed overseers to those positions who either refused to affirm Biden’s election in 2020 or attempted to assist Trump’s efforts to overturn the outcome with fake electors.

And even in states and districts where they lost, the denialists are refusing to give up and go away. In Arizona, the forces behind Kari Lake and Mark Finchem are planning to file legal appeals, and appear to be preparing for a fresh round of “Stop the Steal” demonstrations. Similarly, professional denialists like Steve Bannon and Mike Lindell are still out there flagellating their audiences of millions.

As Elaine Godfrey observes at The Atlantic,it obviously would be foolish to declare the “Stop the Steal” movement finished. “The movement may have fizzled without Donald Trump, but if he runs again in 2024, we haven’t seen the last of it,” she writes. “Even if Trump isn’t on the ballot, an entire swath of the Republican Party is now open to the idea that any narrow loss can be blamed on fraud.”

The midterm elections provided powerful incentives for Republicans to run away from election denialism, because it badly cost Republicans in the midterms. “Some election deniers won,” TheWashington Post’s Aaron Blake reported, “but the hard-liners almost always ran behind their fellow Republicans and lost in places where the electorate was the most competitive.”

It was also manifest that election denialism is a losing game. “If you tell people that voting is hard, or voter fraud is rampant, or elections are rigged, it doesn’t make people more likely to participate,” David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, told The New York Times. “Why would you want to play a game you thought was rigged?”

Similarly, Lake’s strategy of encouraging voters to hang on to their ballots until Election Day as a way to prevent fraud backfired badly, since it meant she missed out on early voting. “We would have never, ever thought about telling people to hold onto their ballots,” said Wes Gullett, a Republican strategist. “The only reason to do that is to build this narrative about ‘foul play’ and keep that narrative going, but any time you encourage people not to vote immediately, you lose the opportunity to get that vote in the bank.”

But the fires that drive election denialism are not based on logic or reason, but rather their antithesis: the profoundly irrational appeal of authoritarianism. The repeated failures of their “forensic audits” and election-denialist lawsuits have not deterred them, and it’s unlikely that the disappointment over an illusory “red tsunami” in a midterm cycle will dissuade them.

Trump functionally destroyed Republicans’ trust in American elections in 2020. Pew Research Center found that in the two years since he lost in 2020, faith in voting outcomes among rank-and-file GOP voters remains low, and in some respects, has gotten worse.

“He’s broken the seal,” Sarah Longwell, the publisher of The Bulwark, told Godfrey. Election denial “is part of our politics now.”

Meanwhile, non-Republican voters in these red states will be forced to live with their profoundly anti-democratic election systems, which often operate in defiance of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. And in the ruby-red areas where denialists are in complete control—particularly local county authorities in places like Arizona and Nevada—voting rights might become a thing of the past. These districts are also likely to create islands in the states where both voters and officials no longer believe in the value of elections.

As Godfrey says:

The thing about trust is that it’s painstakingly hard to build and relatively easy to demolish. Election denial is now a chronic wound in America’s body politic, only partially healed, and ready to reopen—red and raw—whenever circumstances permit. Those circumstances may arise sooner rather than later if Trump is on the ballot again in 2024. Even if he isn’t, the former president has already broken the tradition of gracious presidential concessions and peaceful transfers of power. He’s encouraged a populist animus toward institutions that will likely remain a litmus test for future Republican candidates. And more than anything, Trump has created a blueprint for exploiting the messiness and complexity of America’s elections. An audience for this type of exploitation is still out there, if Republicans want to take advantage of it.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

MAGA Republicans Melting Down Over Lake Defeat In Arizona

MAGA Republicans Melting Down Over Lake Defeat In Arizona

MAGA fanatics are nothing if not predictable. Almost from the moment that Democrat Katie Hobbs was declared the winner of the Arizona governor’s race, the army of election denialists lined up behind loser Kari Lake—their last possible hope for taking control of the voting apparatus in a battleground state—donned their well-worn tinfoil hats, and howled an all-too-familiar cry: It was stolen! Voter fraud! Democrats are cheating.

Lake herself remained mostly mum about the outcome, other than tweeting her skepticism, doubtless to set up her looming lawsuit and ongoing denialist campaign: “Arizonans know BS when they see it.” Steve Bannon, the onetime Trump adviser who campaigned with Lake, claimed that elections were being manipulated by the Chinese communists in collusion with the Biden administration. And the “MyPillow” guy, Mike Lindell, ranted at length about “computer manipulation.” Another ex-Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, lamented that Lake’s opponents were “stealing this election from MAGA, stealing it from the American people.”

It's unclear how Lake will be able to claim that the election was stolen, considering that she and everyone else monitored the ballots closely. On Nov. 11, she had tweeted: “Rest assured that I have the brightest & best attorneys in the Nation, right here on the ground in Arizona. Every ballot has eyes on it.”

She also retweeted a post from notorious white-nationalist propagandist Jack Posobiec, who himself was retweeting a story from a dubious source—the far-right site Post Millennial—claiming that “Maricopa election officials launched PAC in 2021 to stop MAGA candidates.” Lake remarked: “Shouldn't Election Officials be impartial? The guys running the Election have made it their mission to defeat America First Republicans. Unbelievable.”

Bannon was particularly strident and conspiratorial, not to mention intent on revenge. He opened his “War Room” podcast on Monday with a recitation of the House investigations being planned by Republicans over the next two years, including a look into Hunter Biden’s laptop, which he claimed showed corruption of President Biden by China’s Communist Party.

He warned Attorney General Merrick Garland: “We’re coming for you.” And he claimed the House investigations are “gonna go after, hard, the infiltration—and that means traitors. Yes, let me be blunt, traitors. People that have betrayed this nation to an existential threat to the American people and an existential threat to the Chinese people.”

Bannon also hosted prominent election denialists Gregg Phillips and Catherine Engelbrecht—both freshly out of jail, where they had been held on contempt charges for refusing to identify a supposed “FBI informant” who plays a key role in a lawsuit against them—of True the Vote, the election-denialist outfit that forged an alliance with the far-right “constitutional sheriffs” movement to organize ballot-box watches in the election.

Speaking with Bannon, both of them agreed that Chinese communists were behind the “election theft.” Phillips said, “They are not only a threat, they are the threat—they’re the threat to freedom, the threat to everything we all stand for.” He and Engelbrecht spouted conspiracy theories about the Arizona election being stolen: “The fraud has been institutionalized,” she claimed.

At the end, Phillips asserted: “You have Katie Hobbs who—depending on where this thing goes, may be certifying her own stolen election.” Engelbrecht chimed in: “We have to stop the certification.” Bannon agreed: “Yes, we have to stop the certification. No doubt.”

Later in the episode, former Trump strategic adviser Boris Epshteyn asserted that “we do not have an election system in this country,” and said “we’re not gonna accept” the election outcome.

You better believe that if the Democrats were losing, you know, come out winning and then lose five days later, they wouldn’t be accepting it, and Republicans and MAGA cannot be accepting it. What is happening in Arizona is a complete and utter and total travesty. Kari Lake won that election. Hear me loud and hear me clear. Kari Lake won that election. I know Arizona like the back of my hand and there’s no way on God’s green earth that Katie Hobbs was elected to be governor of that gorgeous Grand Canyon state.

Kari Lake won. Democrats in cahoots with media, with establishment Republicans … you are the ones stealing this election from MAGA, stealing it from the American people.”

Epshteyn added, “We’ve got to be fighting, we cannot be accepting the rigging and stealing of American elections. We’ve been talking about it for two years.”

Another prominent leader in the election-denialist movement, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, melted down in an hour-long rant on his “Lindell Report” podcast Monday that followed most of the same lines of argument: The election was stolen through “computer manipulation,” all at the behest of Chinese communists who are secretly controlling our system with the collusion of Democrats.

“How did these all get taken?” Lindell demanded to know. “Why wasn’t there a red wave? You can only have one answer: computer manipulation.”

Claiming a Gateway Pundit story as evidence, he told his audience that “they’re trying to steal this from Kari Lake like they have all the other.races,” claiming that Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano actually won their elections in Pennsylvania as well. [Both Oz and Mastriano conceded defeat without protest.]

“Those are called deviations from norms, and they’re impossible,” Lindell claimed. “This is computers!” He later added: “If the machines and the computers aren’t gone, we lose our country forever. I don’t know how else to say it.

“And who is this that we lose it to? The Uni-Party! The Uni-Party, remember that. The CCP! China! The deep state and the globalists. … This was an attack by China. I don’t see how you can put it any other way.”

The ground has been laid for Lake to contest her electoral loss. Similarly, Republican candidate Joe Kent, who narrowly lost his election to Congress in Washington state’s 3rd District to Maria Gluesenkamp Perez, has been holding out hope that he can mount a comeback in his race. He refuses to concede.

Kent dismissed the multiple calls in his race by mainstream media, calling them “irrelevant” and “another narrative designed to stop voters from ballot curing & to force me to concede.” He also posted a video saying he would not concede “until every legal vote is counted.” He’s calling on his followers to check and cure their ballots if any of them were rejected.

While this kind of election denialism is deeply problematic—it is, after all, a direct attack on public confidence in the integrity of the democratic system in the United States—and its continuing spread is worrisome for obvious reasons, the Tuesday election outcome in fact was very encouraging for people fighting to defend democracy, even beyond the failures of the denialists to elect a single person to a key battleground-state position despite having a deep and formidable roster.

It was also manifest that election denialism is a losing game. “If you tell people that voting is hard, or voter fraud is rampant, or elections are rigged, it doesn’t make people more likely to participate,” David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, told The New York Times. “Why would you want to play a game you thought was rigged?”

Similarly, Lake’s strategy of encouraging voters to hang on to their ballots until Election Day as a way to prevent fraud backfired badly, since it meant she missed out on early voting. “We would have never, ever thought about telling people to hold onto their ballots,” said Wes Gullett, a Republican strategist. “The only reason to do that is to build this narrative about ‘foul play’ and keep that narrative going, but any time you encourage people not to vote immediately, you lose the opportunity to get that vote in the bank.”

This is why election denialism badly cost Republicans in the midterms. “Some election deniers won,” TheWashington Post’s Aaron Blake reported, “but the hard-liners almost always ran behind their fellow Republicans and lost in places where the electorate was the most competitive.”

Unfortunately, logic and reason have little effect in blunting the authoritarian fever that has seized the Republican Party. The hopes among centrists that it has broken are almost certainly futile. But the majority’s affirmation is cause for hope.

“This was a threat we’d never faced before in this country. We’d never faced a threat of secretaries of state refusing to certify a result that they didn’t like. We can now say with certainty that this movement was rejected by the American people in this election,” Trey Grayson III, a former Republican election official in Kentucky, told The Guardian.

“In every swing state those deniers lost elections, as well as in many other races across the country. This was a clear message that Americans believe in free and fair elections.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ohio Man Kills Neighbor For Being 'A Democrat,' Fulfilling Far-Right Rhetoric

Ohio Man Kills Neighbor For Being 'A Democrat,' Fulfilling Far-Right Rhetoric

There is a certain inevitability to eliminationist rhetoric: It may not happen right away, but at some point it will inexorably move from mere words into action—the violent kind, often the lethal kind. That’s how stochastic terrorism works—randomly, without any direct connection. Case in point: It was just a matter of time before the election-related hysterical demonization of Democrats by leading right-wing pundits like Tucker Carlson was picked up by one of the legions of “Patriots” eager for a “civil war”—and then acted on.

That scenario already seems to have played out last weekend in rural Okeana, in southwestern Ohio, where a 43-year-old man out mowing his lawn in the back yard of his home was gunned down by his next-door neighbor—a 26-year-old man who had verbally attacked the older man on at least four previous occasions for being a “Democrat.”

The victim, Anthony Lee King, died of multiple gunshot wounds after he was confronted while tending his yard by Austin Gene Combs, who lived next door. Combs casually walked away, and was arrested without incident soon after while nearby in a Jeep with his father.

Combs was booked on murder charges in the Butler County Jail, and bond was set at $950,000. (The community is located about 30 miles northwest of Cincinnati.) Police said Combs admitted he shot King “several times with a revolver.”

The Butler County Journal News obtained a recording of the family’s call to 911 after the shooting. It opens with King’s son informing the dispatcher: “My neighbor just shot my dad.”

The shooter, he told the dispatcher, “just walked back onto his property.” He said the man was their neighbor who “has come over multiple times making statements. He’s insane.” He said the confrontations were over his father’s perceived political affiliation as a Democrat.

King’s wife then got on the line and recounted what had happened: She and her husband were tending to their back yard, and she went inside the home to let the dog out—at which point she heard gunshots.

“I look in the backyard and that man is walking away from my husband, and my husband is on the ground,” the woman said. “He has come over like four times confronting my husband because he thought he was a Democrat. Why, why … Please, I don’t understand.”

None of us really understand acts like these, because they’re incomprehensible. But as someone who carefully monitors developing trends in domestic terrorism, I have become increasingly concerned about the ongoing demonization of mainstream liberals by high-powered Republicans, as well as the normalization of violence against them we saw in the aftermath of the assault on Paul Pelosi in San Francisco, particularly by Carlson and his Fox News colleagues.

This has been happening at a time when I and other people who monitor the online chat rooms in which far-right extremists radicalize and recruit have been seeing a significant increase in rhetoric about unleashing lethal violence on their neighbors, in the name of a “civil war”—all because they have been told that ordinary Democrats are an existential threat.

Remember the man in Idaho who asked TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk: “When do we get to use the guns? … How many elections are they gonna steal before we kill these people?”

Remember how Kirk replied with a nondenunciation denunciation, warning that such talk is “playing into their hands,” but then saying that the query was just “overly blunt” and agreeing that “we are living under fascism”?

The next day, an Idaho legislator tweeted that “the question was fair.” He also claimed: “Our Republic would not exist without this kind of rhetoric.”

Timothy Noah recently discussed this at The New Republic:

The GOP has become so extremist that a substantial portion of its leaders and more prominent sympathizers make light of or deny political violence committed against Democrats. There is no corresponding such behavior by leading Democrats when Republicans are threatened or attacked—and yes, there have been some horrific instances—because Democrats don’t count violent insurrectionists as a political constituency they dare not alienate.

Noah predicted that “the next wave of violent threats will be directed at volunteers and government officials involved in counting ballots for the 2022 midterms,” noting that “the threats have begun already.” And he’s correct, but judging from the content I’ve encountered in too many of the MAGA right’s fetid chat sewers, it’s equally likely that they’ll direct their visceral hatred at people in their communities and neighborhoods as well. Local community organizers often turn up in their wish lists of people to harm “when the signal comes.”

It doesn’t necessarily mean that this represents a trend in which armed MAGA fanatics begin gunning down neighbors on their lawns—though it seems to be a manifestation of the fantasies voiced by Kirk’s interlocutor. Most of all, we all need to be paying attention to the possibility that it might become one.

As Rachel Kleinfeld recently explained at Politico:

Many people who support violence would never actually commit it themselves. But when language that simultaneously depicts people as a threat and less than human becomes common, more aggressive and unbalanced individuals will act. Approximately 3 to 5 million Americans are willing to consider committing political violence, according to a poll conducted in the spring of 2022. Numbers like these mean that America is now at the point of what experts call stochastic terrorism—a situation in which one can’t predict who will commit violence, or exactly where or when, but it’s highly predictable that someone, somewhere, will take the bait and act against the target. While in the past, words directed at a long-standing punching bag such as Nancy Pelosi (or a new one like the FBI) remained rhetorical, now, the same ire can result in bloodshed.

While Alex Jones Mocks Billion-Dollar Verdict, Conspiracy Theorists Freak Out

While Alex Jones Mocks Billion-Dollar Verdict, Conspiracy Theorists Freak Out

Alex Jones, who long ago demonstrated his estrangement from reality, has been putting on a brave front in the wake of last week’s jury verdict in Connecticut awarding the parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre nearly $1 billion in damages for having smeared them relentlessly after the tragedy. Going on both his Infowars program as well as other talk shows, he’s been busily mocking the verdict: “Do these people actually think they’re getting any money?” he told his audience.

His fellow conspiracy theorists, however, have registered an apocalypse-level freakout over the news, certain that the verdict is a sign that “the regime” (that is, the “globalists” they all believe secretly run the world) is about to start rounding them all up—even though this was a civil verdict. None of any of these reactions, however, bear any relationship to the complicated legal realities that are about to unfold.

The judgement—totaling $965 million for the eight families of the victims who filed the lawsuit—reflects both the real outrage arising from the facts of the case and the abysmal failure of Jones and his legal team to even attempt to mount an effective legal defense. From the very first day of the tragedy—on December 14, 2012, when a young man named Adam Lanza embarked on a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six teachers and staff members—Jones had not only proclaimed the entire event a “false flag” operation by “globalists” intended to inspire a crackdown on gun ownership, but spent much of the following decade claiming the young victims and their parents were fake “crisis actors.”

The ensuing torrent of harassment and abuse against those families grew to such monumental proportions that Jones consequently ended up facing four lawsuits: the first two, decided in August by a Texas jury, ended with a $45.2 million judgement, which was dwarfed by the size of the judgement in the third lawsuit in Connecticut. The fourth lawsuit, filed in Texas by Sandy Hook parent Scarlett Lewis, is ongoing. Jones also faces a lawsuit filed by the families against Jones and his parent company, Free Speech Systems, claiming that he has been using shell companies to hide his assets in an effort to avoid paying the judgements against him.

As the verdict was being rendered, Jones went on his Infowars program live, mocking the huge dollar amounts as well as the families, who could be seen on live broadcasts weeping while the judgement was read aloud. He called the verdict a “joke,” saying he was only worth a few million. And then he pitched a fundraiser to help with his appeals, vowing that none of the money donated would wind up in the hands of the families.

“This is hilarious,” he said, as the separate awards were listed. “Do these people actually think they’re getting any money?”

“Ain’t gonna be happening, ain’t no money,” he told his audience as the dollar amounts were read aloud for the eight families. “Now remember, I’m in bankruptcy, we’ve got two years of appeals, the money you donate does not go to these people. It goes to fight this fraud, and it goes to stabilize the company. They want us shut down. That’s why the ambulance chasers did this, why they used these families.”

He added: “You want somebody to fight for you, I’m doing it, you see what they do. So you want to fight? That’s fine. It’s your decision. But that’s where we are, that’s the whacked-out system of the left.”

Jones told his audience the liberal Democratic establishment wanted to destroy him, and that “your pennies counter their millions.” He announced he would hold a 16-hour “emergency” broadcast to “save Infowars,” he said, and beckoned his viewers to “flood us with donations.”

“For hundreds of thousands of dollars, I can keep them in court for years. I can appeal this stuff,” he said.

Jones later talked about the verdict with Infowars host Owen Shroyer, dismissing the amounts in the judgement as unimportant. “Quite frankly, the way inflation is going, the way it accelerates towards the Weimar Republic and Zimbabwe—in 10 years, there’s such inflation a billion dollars will be like a thousand dollars.”

He added: “No, I’m not scared. I am disgusted. And I really feel proud of myself, because I’ve told the truth about this, I’ve said when I was wrong, they have created this whole synthetic identity for me, the straw man, and then they sat there and had to lie to a jury and suppress the truth and tell them I was guilty, and rid this kangaroo court. So I myself can hold my head tall.”

Jones was interviewed on the right-wing outlet Newsmax, and voiced confidence that he’d eventually prevail in court. “We are very, very sure, that this thing is such a joke, this is such a fiasco, such a kangaroo court, such a railroad job that these will be overturned, both the Texas rulings and the Connecticut rulings,” he said, indicating he would take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court if he had to. “But it doesn’t matter. I don’t have $10 million cash,” he added.

The legal realities of the verdict, however, are much more complicated—particularly when it comes to extracting anything resembling $965 million from Jones’ conspiracy-theory media empire. The biggest complication involves determining just how much money he really has.

Testimony at an earlier defamation trial showed that Infowars raked in $165 million between 2016 and 2018. Yet Jones claimed Wednesday that he has less than $2 million to his name. He has repeatedly refused to make his financial information public.

A forensic economist who testified in the Texas trial estimated Jones’ combined net worth with his business entities at somewhere between $135 million and $270 million. Some legal experts say this is why the size of Wednesday’s verdict was so immense as to render it largely symbolic.

According to TheNew York Times, the verdict’s fallout is likely to follow one of the three paths available for attorneys on both sides. In the first, the families could end up being entitled to Jones’ future earnings and obtain garnishments to pay off the judgment, although this would also permit Jones to remain in the business of smearing them and many others. The second option would involve the families selling their claims to hedge funds or other investors—giving them cash up front, though only at a fraction of the claims’ value—while the new owners would then attempt to make profits from them by investigating Jones’ assets. The third scenario would involve the liquidation of Jones’ businesses by the bankruptcy court, selling off their assets for cash.

Attorneys for the Connecticut families have vowed to pursue Jones. “We will be active down in Texas in an action we brought to track fraudulent transfers of assets he’s made, and in bankruptcy court where we are now very significant creditors of Alex Jones and Free Speech Systems,” said Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the families. “We are going to enforce this verdict as long as it takes, because that’s what justice requires.”

Meanwhile, Jones’ longtime cohorts and enablers on the right—particularly those who have built careers like his, peddling conspiracy theories and catering to the lowest common denominator of right-wing politics—were not so cheerily brazen as Jones. Many of them took to Twitter and other social media to indulge in a panic over the totalitarian crackdown they believe the ruling portends.

White nationalist conspiracy theorist Darren Beattie—best known for concocting the risible claim, amplified by Tucker Carlson, that the FBI secretly planned and coordinated the January 6 insurrection—penned a piece for his far-right outlet Revolver News headlined: “Love Him or Hate Him, the War Against Alex Jones is a War Against All of Us.”

“It’s all about the bullhorn—that is, all about making sure that the Regime is in exclusive possession of the megaphone, and any non-approved person who dares speak non-approved narratives to the public gets crushed,” he wrote, adding: “The aggressive use of defamation law is just the latest tool in the Regime’s arsenal to silence dissent.”

Beattie also posted a warning on Twitter to “never ever question the regimes official story or we’ll fine you a billion dollars.” He then stoked paranoia that the government will “kill you” if “you have video proof.”

Benny Johnson, a conspiracist host for Newsmax, whined on Twitter: “Just like deplatforming, this isn’t about Alex Jones, it’s about silencing political enemies,” he wrote. “The regime is setting a precedent that if you speak out, they will come after you & try to destroy you.”

Florida legislator Anthony Sabatini, a Republican conspiracy theorist who earlier demanded that his state kick out the Justice Department after Donald Trump’s mansion was searched by the FBI, complained that “Beltway libertarian cucks talk about LIBERTY! but only end up defending leftist debauchery.” He had a suggestion: “Alex Jones should be appointed as next president of the University of Florida—not Ben Sasse.”

Mike Cernovich, one of the main progenitors of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories and multiple other fraudulent claims and currently an Infowars host, posted on Twitter that Jones had “killed no one” and had “apologized for his erroneous reports, of which there weren’t many.” He added: “Stalin’s ghost has returned.”

Cernovich retweeted a post from a right-wing account that asked: “How much does CNN owe us for the weapons of mass destruction allegedly in Iraq?” He also retweeted a post from the publisher of the right-wing Post Millennial, Libby Emmons, proclaiming: “[They] decided to hold Alex Jones responsible for the horrible deaths of those school children in 2012.”

Jack Posobiec, the white-nationalist provocateur, called the verdict against Jones an “obvious attack on freedom of speech.” He claimed on Twitter that MSNBC host Rachel Maddow faced a similar lawsuit in 2019 that was dismissed because “courts ruled she was obviously an opinion show and she couldn't be held liable for what she said on air, even if exaggerated.” Posobiec argued that Jones’ different outcome was “not hypocrisy, it's hierarchy.”

Posobiec’s most recent cohort, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, said Jones “owes a billion dollars for saying mean things on his show” before questioning “how much should the propagandists at CNN, MSNBC, WaPo, and The New York Times pay” for promoting COVID-19 vaccination.

“This isn't about calculating real damages from Alex Jones,” Kirk tweeted. “This is about sending a message: If you upset the Regime, they will destroy you, completely and utterly, forever.”

Kirk also posted a video in which he ruminated on the meaning of the verdict. “It is not about whether you like Alex Jones,” he said. “It is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is, do you think that the law industrial complex, in collusion with the media, can work in harmony to obliterate someone financially, for saying something wrong and then apologizing afterwards! Oh, so they’re gonna go for Mike Lindell next. Or are they gonna go for Steve Bannon, or are they gonna for this program, or are they gonna go for Tucker Carlson? The New York Times says this now holds lessons. This is practice for them. This is a spring football game. This is Spring Training.

“Alex Jones is not the destination,” he added. “Alex Jones is getting them refined to be able to do what they actually want to do to all of us.”

In reality, the verdict was simply a long-overdue measure of accountability within the framework of the nation’s longstanding network of laws designed to prevent people from being harmed by irresponsible smear artists, particularly in the media. “The judgment also sends a message to anyone thinking of deliberately deploying disinformation to disrupt people’s lives for financial gain: Think twice—or risk being hit with a similarly large damages payment,” observed Chris Stokel-Walker at Wired.

“There has to be some message sent here to people like him that this is simply not acceptable in a civilized society,” NYU journalism professor Stephen D. Solomon, the founding editor of First Amendment Watch, told Stokel-Walker.

As Southern Poverty Law Center reporter Jason Wilson put it:

Punishing Alex Jones is less important than destroying the business model that allows people like him to profit by pumping toxic horseshit into the national discourse. Let's hope this accomplishes both.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Republicans Have Become The Party Of Election Cheating

How Republicans Became The Party Of Election Cheaters

Within a few weeks of the January 6 insurrection, it became crystal clear that the Republican Party, by openly embracing both Donald Trump’s Big Lie that fueled the violent attack on democracy and the mob of far-right “Patriots” who undertook it, had ceased to be a viable partner in American democracy. That reality has become fully manifest now, 22 months later on the brink of the midterm elections, as the majority of GOP candidates around the nation—nearly 300 of them—have declared themselves unapologetic election denialists.

Democracy itself is plainly under assault from these denialists (and by extension, the Republican Party). But few of its defenders have a clear view of the larger strategy, involving a menu of varying tactics, being deployed in this attack. A recent report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, fortunately, provides an outline for us, identifying a set of eight specific tactics being deployed by election denialists and their enablers this year.

The report, which identifies what it calls eight “trends during the 2022 US primary elections that are likely to persist or escalate during general elections this fall,” explains that “online audiences of election-denialist content have blossomed to sustain a lucrative media circuit that traffics almost exclusively in conspiracy theories and misinformation about elections in the United States.”

These include operations like Michael Flynn’s roadshow tour promoting denialism to large crowds with a decidedly Christian-nationalist fervor, as well as the work of specifically denialist organizations such as True the Vote, who have affiliated themselves with the faar-right “constitutionalist” sheriffs movement in both promoting false claims about the 2020 election and organizing an army of “poll watchers” poised to potentially wreak havoc at polling places around the country.

The trends identified in the ISD report all reflect distinct but often overlapping tactics that have so far formed the election-denialist strategy to undermine Americans’ faith in the integrity in their foundational democratic institution, the vote. All have become manifest in a variety of ways, often as projects manufactured by the same group of Trumpist conspiracy theorists:

  • Violent and heated rhetoric targeting election workers and public officials

Threats directed at election workers in local precincts around the nation have become a serious threat to democracy in the past year. The most egregious example may be in Georgia, where a flood of threats following that state’s key role in the 2020 election outcome was spurred by an outpouring of right-wing disinformation and conspiracism, resulting in a serious shortage of workers for the 2022 vote. A handful of states have subsequently passed new laws to protect those workers.

As the ISD observes, these threats have become especially common on social media, where right-wing commenters demand “capital punishment” for election workers and officials, and consistently recommending violence against them. “Harassment and threats, which can lead to substantial harms of various kinds, can happen on a multitude of scales, including via networked individuals or lone actors,” the report says.

  • Calls for vigilante actions at drop-boxes and polling locations

This tactic received a trial run in western Washington state during its July primary, where election denialists organized the placement of signs at ballot boxes warning people dropping off their ballots that they were being filmed. It continues to gain steam as Christian nationalists like Matt Shea have joined in organizing “poll watchers” at balloting locations. Other actions being urged by far-right election deniers include sabotaging election infrastructure like electronic voting machines, and removing tabulator tape and other election materials from balloting sites.

“In the last month, ahead of general elections, these calls for action have increased in volume and intensity, introducing logistical elements and clearer calls-for-action into conversation,” the ISD reports. “Both partisan groups engaged in election-related activism and organized right-wing extremist groups have encouraged followers to step in where they believe law enforcement and other government agencies have failed to do so. Analysts also witnessed calls for the destruction of ballot drop-boxes.”

  • Small-scale organizing and information crowdsourcing

This is as subtler tactic that indicates how right-wing extremists engage in long-term planning: It essentially entails encouraging election-denialist audiences to collect and report information to organized databases, including through a variety of mobile apps that not only schedule their “ballot watches” but enables them to log in their reporting from ballot sites. The data gleaned from these apps—often deeply flawed and biased by design—is then promoted by election-denialist influencers to further their false narratives.

“Strategic buy-in from major stakeholders in the election-denialist space and pressures for followers to contribute material produce risks of voter intimidation and the inflammation of false narratives about voting well past 2022 Election Day,” the ISD observes.

  • Delays and irregular reporting cited as proof of wrongdoing

This is a common tactic of conspiracy theorists: Claiming that perfectly ordinary and explicable phenomena are in fact evidence of a nefarious conspiracy to control society (think of the recent right-wing fad claiming that food-manufacturing facilities were being targeted for destruction). In this case, election denialists have been leaping to claim that delayed counts and other ordinary features of elections somehow indicate nefarious goings-on. The ISD notes that “analysts observed these narratives permeating into larger, more-moderate Republican audiences.”

  • Calls for audits, hand recounts, and decertification

MAGA activists developed this tactic in the early stages of the 2020 post-election ballot count, particularly in contested states like Arizona, where the denialists managed to force an audit that eventually confirmed Trump’s loss and Biden’s win there, 10 months later. But the agitation continues to this day, embodied by the ongoing efforts of Washington legislator Rob Chase—a conspiracy-loving protégé of Christian nationalist Matt Shea—to force a recount of the 2020 election in that state.

Ostensibly mainstream Republicans, particularly Trump, have played a key role in deploying and spreading this tactic. The ISD notes that “analysts identified allegations surrounding delays and voting irregularities as the most prevalent type of election-related narrative included in this list regarding its adoption among highly influential Republicans like former President Donald Trump, who exerted pressure during the Wisconsin primaries against a favored Republican gubernatorial candidate who would not decertify the state’s 2020 election results.”

  • Efforts to undermine trust in elections infrastructure

This was another tactic that was put to use in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, again in state where the final count was closely contested, embodied by the post-election conspiracy theory that the use of black sharpies had invalidated thousands of votes in places like Arizona. Other conspiracy theories—spread widely not just on extremist sites and social media but by large-scale right-wing media like Fox News—claimed that insecure voting machines, particularly those owned by Dominion, had tilted the election against Trump. This resulted incidents like the one in Barry County, Michigan, when “constitutionalist” Sheriff Dar Leaf confiscated a Dominion machine and handed it off to political operatives who broke its seal while examining it.

As the ISD notes, these conspiracy theories to have wide circulation among election deniers. Variations on this theme included false claims that infrastructure companies are compromised by the Chinese government, and that GOP-aligned poll challengers have faced discrimination.

  • Voter suppression narratives and tactics

While democratic advocates have expanded efforts to improve voter access for decades, election denialists work assiduously to undermine them. As the ISD observes, election denialist influencers “have sown doubt around efforts to expand voting access, including early and mail-in voting.” A prime recent example of this is Shea’s efforts to organize poll monitors at Washington state ballot drop boxes, claiming that the state’s longtime all-mail voting system was corrupt and needed to be replaced. The poll monitors, he said,

“Influencers have disparaged automated systems that send mail-in ballots to registered and eligible voters, absentee ballot request systems, and other means of giving more voters opportunities to vote,” the ISD reports. “Some influential voices have encouraged voters to cast ballots in-person and as late in the day as possible, claiming that doing so makes it harder for votes to be manipulated.”

  • Local to national and back again

“National right-wing, far-right, and election-denying figures and media outlets repeatedly amplified claims made by state-level actors regarding alleged election fraud during primary elections, elevating these claims into national discourse,” the ISD explains. Figures like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell—one of the main financiers of election-denialist efforts—have regularly deployed largely concocted or inaccurate claims from small, often county-level elections to suggest they represent a national problem. Similarly, “constitutional sheriffs” often hype factually inaccurate claims about reports from their members.

“Higher-level influencers and politicians have consistently inserted themselves into local elections, particularly in close-contest races or in areas with particularly active supporters,” the ISD explains. “Local claims also often spread via amplification from pundits in other smaller communities, creating a national network effect in fringe and mainstream online spaces. The relationship is understood as symbiotic: Just as national voices can shape local narratives, what happens locally can also influence national conversations.”

The impact of the election denialists, as the Washington Post’s recent reportage demonstrated, will not be insubstantial, despite the conspiracists’ fringe status in many districts. The paper’s survey found 299 Republican candidates—53% of the 569 analyzed—on this fall’s ballot in races for the House and Senate, as well as key statewide offices, who embrace election denialism.

Not only are they running in nearly every state, a majority of them are expected to win, particularly in safe Republican districts (173 in all), while another 52 are running in competitive races.

As ThePost explains:

The implications will be lasting: If Republicans take control of the House, as many political forecasters predict, election deniers would hold enormous sway over the choice of the nation’s next speaker, who in turn could preside over the House in a future contested presidential election. The winners of all the races examined by The Post — those for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, Senate and House — will hold some measure of power overseeing American elections.

“Election denialism is a form of corruption,” NYU historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat told The Post. “The party has now institutionalized this form of lying, this form of rejection of results. So it’s institutionalized illegal activity. These politicians are essentially conspiring to make party dogma the idea that it’s possible to reject certified results.”

The spread of this denialism is a sign of democratic rot, warned University of Minnesota politics professor Larry Jacobs.

“It is a disease that is spreading through our political process, and its implications are very profound,” Jacobs said. “This is no longer about Donald Trump. This is about the entire electoral system and what constitutes legitimate elections. All of that is now up in the air.”

This is precisely the kind of crisis of democracy that has always been an essential preface to the rise of fascism, historically speaking. It’s important to keep in mind Robert Paxton’s warning in The Anatomy of Fascism, as I explained before the 2020 election:

Fascism can appear wherever democracy is sufficiently implanted to have aroused disillusion. That suggests its spatial and temporal limits: no authentic fascism before the emergence of a massively enfranchised and politically active citizenry. In order to give birth to fascism, a society must have known political liberty -- for better or for worse.

… In other words, it's clear that the "crisis of democracy" necessary to create a genuinely fascist dynamic is a real potential that lies around many corners on our current path. The key, then, is to finding the path that does not take us there.

The first step in that path, clearly, will entail finding ways to overcome the strategies being deployed like rhetorical cannon fire by the authoritarian Trumpist right, and winning at the ballot box.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

False Reports By Fox News Promote Terror Against Children's Hospitals

False Reports By Fox News Promote Terror Against Children's Hospitals

Right-wing media figures have been putting on a master class in stochastic terrorism in the past month, targeting children’s hospitals with conspiracy theories claiming they are “maiming” and “mutilating” young people by providing them with gender-affirming care—after which the hospitals are barraged with threats of violence. The most notorious of these involved the mob that descended on Boston Children’s Hospital, leading to a bomb threat that forced a lockdown, after leading right-wing social-media influencers like LibsOfTikTok and Matt Walsh falsely claimed it was performing hysterectomies and other forms of “butchery” on children.

The firehose of smears, however, became an overwhelming deluge when Fox News—with Tucker Carlson once again taking the lead—ran multiple segments amplifying them to their audience of millions. Moreover, as Mia Gingerich reports for Media Matters, Fox News eagerly amplified the claims, but ran zero segments reporting the attacks and bomb threats that resulted. That’s exactly how stochastic terrorism works.

The barrage is based on a vicious mischaracterization of “gender-affirming care,” which is the practice all of these hospitals use. As Scientific American recently explained, the term describes a range of medical care from simple recognition of transgender children’s needs and rights to providing hormone treatments including puberty blockers, and “supporting the process of gender development rather than directing children through a specific course of gender transition or maintenance of cisgender presentation.” Only a limited number of transgender youth opt for surgery, and most cannot receive genital replacement surgery until they are adults.

Boston Children’s Hospital explained that, contrary to the claims of right-wing provocateurs, it only provides gender-affirming hysterectomies to transgender people 18 and older. Nonetheless, it was barraged with “hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence toward our clinicians and staff,” culminating in a bomb threat that brought police to the hospital.

“It’s actually crazy. I can’t even imagine being one of my patients,” Justine Lee, a craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon in Los Angeles who performs gender-affirming surgeries, told The Washington Post. “I can’t think of any other medical condition that would result in this level of hate.”

Vice’s David Gilbert reported on the wave of right-wing extremist threats on Aug. 17. “Long past time to start executing these ‘doctors,’” wrote participant in the pro-Trump message board formerly known as TheDonald. “Demons like this do not deserve to breathe! Crimes against humanity=DEATH,” one Telegram user. “These people are physcopaths [sic] and should be locked up,” commented another.

As Gingerich reports, Fox News has played a central role in generating the deluge of threats, primarily by endorsing and amplifying the smear artists on social media and other political figures, including QAnon-loving Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene:

Between August 18, when the network’s first segment attacking Boston Children’s Hospital aired, and August 31, when Fox aired its most recent segment, attacking Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, the network aired 7 segments and spent more than 20 minutes vilifying the hospitals. Notably, three of the Fox prime-time shows featuring the attacks are in the top 10 most-watched cable news programs in the country — Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Ingraham Angle, and Jesse Watters Primetime.

Carlson’s program has been leading the pitchfork parade. A day after Vice reported on the wave of threats, Carlson hosted a segment in which he called gender-affirming the “sexual mutilation of children.” It included anti-trans extremist Chris Elston of Canada, who called it “the biggest child abuse scandal in modern medicine history.”

Greene also appeared as part of the discussion, discussing her proposal for national legislation to outlaw gender-affirming care. She said these practices are “actually an assault, and it’s child abuse,” adding: “This practice should never happen. It’s disgusting and appalling. It’s an embarrassment to our country.”

Gender-affirming care, she claimed, “is really genital mutilation, it’s puberty blockers that cause chemical castration, teenage girls actually having their breasts chopped off, teenage boys being castrated. This needs to be illegal, and I’m going to introduce a bill, called Protect Children’s Innocence Act, and it would create a law that would cause it to be a Class C felony for any person involved in so-called ‘gender-affirming care.’”

On Aug. 30, Carlson invited LibsOfTikTok proprietor Chaya Raichik onto his show after Boston Children’s was hit with a bomb threat to counter the growing narrative about the violence. He claimed that Raichik had provided proof of nefarious intent at Children’s National Hospital in D.C. by calling up two care providers there and claiming (dubiously) she had a 16-year-old daughter and was wondering if she could obtain a hysterectomy, then being told she could.

“Yeah, castrating kids,” Carlson intoned. “They admitted it, flat out.” He went on to claim that Children’s National was “castrating young people, minors for no legitimate purpose whatsoever,” adding that Raichik, whose tweets were taken down, was “committing actual journalism.”

Children’s National spokespersons explained toThe Washington Postthat neither of the people to whom Raichik spoke were qualified to respond accurately, and that it does not perform hysterectomies on women under 18.

The next night, Carlson continued the narrative by intoning: “Most people trust children's hospitals implicitly. They just didn't know the details — but thanks to the internet, we now do.” He went on to claim that “some of these hospitals are performing horrifying experiments on children,” including “things you think would be crimes but that apparently aren't and that are going on in children's hospitals in the United States.”

He then invited right-wing propagandist Chris Rufo—progenitor of the phony “critical race trheory” hysteria—onto his show to explore the claims further. Rufo falsely claimed that Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago was promoting “‘trans-friendly’ sex toys for children,” citing a resource document designed for teachers.

Gingerich found that while Fox only covered the threats as a springboard for attacking the hospitals, both CNN and MSNBC did cover them specifically—but spent relatively little airtime (five minutes and 13 minutes, respectively) on the story.

This is how stochastic terrorism—also known as “scripted violence”—has always worked: create messages that target a specific “enemy” or threat with extreme demonization and dehumanization, then disavow the consequences when your audience unsurprisingly acts on them in violent and threatening fashion.

As Chip Berlet explains in his essay on scripted violence:

The potential for violence in a society increases when the mass media carries rhetorical vilification by high profile and respected figures who scapegoat a named ‘Other’. This dangerous ‘constitutive rhetoric’ can build an actual constituency of persons feeling threatened or displaced. Or to put it another way, when rhetorical fecal matter hits the spinning verbal blades of a bigoted demagogue’s exhortations, bad stuff happens.

The resulting violence can incite a mob, a mass movement, a war, or an individual actor. Individual actors who engage in violence can emerge in three ways. They can be assigned the task of violence by an existing organizational leadership; they can be members or participants in an existing organization, yet decide to act on their own; or they can be unconnected to an existing organization and act on their own. According to the US government definition, a ‘Lone Wolf’ is a person who engages in political violence and is not known by law enforcement agencies to have any current or previous ties to an organization under surveillance as potential lawbreakers. The person committing the violence may expect or even welcome martyrdom, or may plan for a successful escape to carry on being a political soldier in a hoped-for insurgency. Either way, the hope is that ‘a little spark can cause a prairie fire’. Revolution is seldom the result, but violence and death remains as a legacy.

We saw this in action recently, when anti-LGBTQ “groomer” hysteria generated by far-right social media whipped up right-wing extremists into threatening a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and even more recently in Boise. As Daily Kos’ Hunter says, the right is stoking fascist violence against transgender Americans, and it’s working.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Extremist Sheriffs Double Down On Embrace Of Big Lie As Midterm Approaches

Extremist Sheriffs Double Down On Embrace Of Big Lie As Midterm Approaches

It’s a testament to the cult power of Donald Trump’s Big Lie that an elected lawman who himself now faces investigation for tampering with voting machines will not only refuse to apologize, but proceed to double down. Another law enforcement official subscribing to the same authoritarian conspiracy theories is meanwhile threatening everyone within his fiefdom with repercussions if they don’t submit to his similar “investigations,” and setting the stage for his nakedly partisan deputies to patrol at polling places.

These cases, both involving the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” movement’s open embrace of Trump’s election denialism, reflect the challenge that awaits much of the country—particularly the rural areas where these sheriffs rule—when we head to the polls in November. Their well-financed campaign, coordinated with leading Trumpists, to overturn election results and seize voting machines they suspect of skewing the vote could wreak havoc with election results around the country if it continues to gain steam.

Dar Leaf, the sheriff of Michigan’s Barry County, has played a leading role in the unfolding saga. It recently emerged that not only does Leaf insist that his dubious “investigations” of election outcomes in his county—based almost entirely on a fraudulent Dinesh D’Souza pseudodocumentary—are legitimate, but that he has continued to seek warrants to confiscate voting tabulators from election officials in townships throughout his county.

Leaf sought warrants to seize machines and search offices of the Barry County Clerk, as well as in Woodland Township and Irving Township, Bridge Michigan found through a Freedom of Information Act request. His affidavits could not cite any evidence justifying the searches, saying only that Leaf sought "evidence of the crime of election law violations."

The report found that Leaf wanted to seize "components of voting and election equipment"—tabulation machines, poll books, election reporting modules, as well as 2020 election paper ballots. He also demanded keys to unlock the devices.

Leaf’s intentions, the affidavits showed, were to have the voting equipment "forensically examined" by someone "who is certified and trained to conduct data extractions."

His involvement in seizing one such tabulator in 2021—which resulted in its being dismantled and examined, then returned with its seals broken—is part of a state investigation that involves not just Leaf, but the Republican nominee for Michigan’s attorney general, Matthew DePerno.

Last month, the current Democratic attorney general, Dana Nesso, filed a petition for a special prosecutor to handle that investigation since it involves her likely Republican opponent in the fall election. The petition indicated that state police investigators believed that DePerno was “one of the prime instigators,” along with Leaf and a state legislator, of a conspiracy to persuade Michigan clerks to allow unauthorized access to voting machines.

DePerno’s campaign issued a statement ridiculing Nessel’s petition as “an incoherent liberal fever dream of lies.”

Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt's office refused to sign off on the warrant requests because Leaf had not established "probable cause" to conduct the searches.

"There just wasn't anything in there that amounted to any fraud that I could see," she told Bridge Michigan.

Leaf’s efforts on Trump’s behalf began in December 2020, when he filed a lawsuit demanding Barry County’s voting machines be impounded—which was swiftly laughed out of court. He then embarked on an “investigation” of the machines by sending a deputy and a private investigator to grill township officials about their intricacies.

It was during one of these interrogations that the Irving Township clerk surrendered one of the town’s Dominion machines to Leaf’s team. “I’ve been told they took it (to the Detroit area) and tore it apart,” she told a local TV station, noting that when the machine was returned during a meeting in a parking lot, its security seal had been broken.

Dominion’s machines were the focus of a conspiracy theory popular after the election among the Trumpist right claiming that vote totals had been secretly manipulated to hand the presidency to Joe Biden. The theory was widely circulated on right-wing media such as Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax, all of whom now face multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits from the company.

Leaf was connected through his attorney, Carson Tucker, to a number of the leading Trump-loving conspiracists the former president employed, including ex-Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood. “My client Barry County Sheriff and several other county sheriffs in Michigan would like to consider issuing probable cause warrants to sequester Dominion voting machines if there is evidence of criminal manipulation,” Tucker wrote to them in one email.

His claims made little sense in Barry County, where Trump won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Rutland Charter Township clerk Ruth Hawthorne observed tartly: “They seem to think there was some kind of microchip in our tabulators that was throwing votes to Biden. But Trump won Barry County. He won by 65 percent of the vote, so I don’t know where they’re thinking that any kind of chips were in any of our machines or thinking that something had happened to them. The whole thing is nutty. It is nutty, totally nutty.”

Leaf’s extremism was well established before the 2020 election. He had appeared on stage at an anti-masking rally bashing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with three of the “Patriots” who were later charged with plotting to kidnap and execute her. He first suggested to reporters that perhaps the plotters were only trying to make a “citizens arrest.” Leaf and other Michigan “constitutional sheriffs” also later refused to enforce a statewide ban on guns in Michigan polling places.

His “election integrity” campaign in Michigan caught the attention of Richard Mack, the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Keepers Association (CSPOA), who then announced a nationwide campaign involving all of the country’s “constitutional sheriffs.”

In May, Mack called on sheriffs and police around the U.S. “to come together in pursuit of the truth regarding the 2020 election.” A CSPOA press release made clear that the basis of their “investigations” was D’Souza’s widely debunked pseudodocumentary, 2000 Mules:

Considering the persistent allegations of election fraud since even before the 2020 elections began, and as a response to the perpetual polarizing effect this has had on the American people, the CSPOA would like to put this issue to rest. Our constitutional republic and peaceful future as a free people absolutely depend on it.

In the opinion of the CSPOA, there is very compelling physical evidence presented by truethevote.org in the movie “2000 Mules” produced by Dinesh D'Souza. “Law Enforcement has to step in at this point,” asserts D'Souza, and we absolutely agree with him. Therefore, we are asking for all local law enforcement agencies to work together to pursue investigations to determine the veracity of the “2000 Mules” information.

In fact, D’Souza’s documentary has been repeatedly demonstrated to be utterly groundless garbage. It has been debunked by Reuters, the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, FactCheck.org, Politifact, and NPR, to name only a few of the outlets where its phony “facts” and false premises have been eviscerated.

In short order, the CSPOA had teamed up with Trump’s most fervent election denialists, True the Vote, which receives substantial funding from notorious pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. “Constitutional sheriffs” in other counties—including one in Kansas and another in Wisconsin—attempted similar “investigations” but came up empty-handed.

At a Las Vegas gathering organized by Mack and True the Vote in July, Leaf called the county prosecutor’s refusal to hand out the search warrants "ridiculous,” adding: “We think we have enough for search warrants and everything else,” Leaf said during the conference, which also featured speeches from Trump loyalists like Lindell. “We're gonna keep moving forward, folks. We’re not done with this.”

Leaf harkened to the “constitutionalist” claim that county sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, saying: “What that does, it gives you the power—and I don’t know if you’re gonna appreciate me saying this—if we can’t get anywhere, we’re looking at doing grand juries, at the common law.”

One of True the Vote’s partners in the “election integrity” campaign is another “constitutional sheriffs” organization called Protect America Now, run by Sheriff Mark Lamb of Arizona’s Pinal County. Lamb was a featured speaker at a Trump rally in Prescott in July, where he revved the crowd up with promises that the nation’s sheriffs would intervene on their behalf in future elections.

“We’re gonna make sure that we have election integrity this year,” Lamb declared. “Sheriffs are going to enforce the law. This is about the rule of law. It is against the law to violate elections laws—and that’s a novel idea, we’re going to hold you accountable for that. We will not let happen what happened in 2020.”

Lamb has plenty of local critics in Pinal County. At recent meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors, he was accused by longtime residents of indulging in baseless fearmongering over election results.

Roberto Reveles, a longtime Arizona civil rights activist, told commissioners that Lamb was engaging in naked partisan threats: “I recently was subjected to the intimidation referred to by a previous speaker. Sheriff Mark Lamb walked up to me and pointed at me … and said, ‘You and your fellow Democrats are destroying our country.’”

Lamb defended himself shortly afterwards during an appearance on Newsmax. “Last week in the board meeting I had probably 8 to 10 Democrats show up and absolutely blast me because I believe in the ‘Big Lie,’” Lamb said.

“It clearly shows that these folks don’t care about election integrity,” he continued. “They’re happy that their guy is in power, and right now they should care more than ever because this guy in office, Joe Biden and his administration, is absolutely destroying America and freedom and they’re turning this into a country that we just don’t recognize.”

Local Democrats like Ralph Atchue, formerly a candidate for Arizona Senate, state that Lamb and his deputies will begin patrolling polling places. “I hear from everybody that the line is being crossed,” Atchue told Jessica Pishko of Bolts. “Completely blurred.”

Far-right election denialists in Seattle’s King County placed signs during the July primary at ballot drop boxes warning people that their actions were being recorded on camera. Ironically, the King County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating those actions at the behest of the county’s elections office.

“The specter of law enforcement at the polls is already enough to discourage people from going to the polls,” observes Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. “Moreover, the threat of surveillance of polling places and drop boxes proposed by groups like True the Vote is meant to intimidate voters, particularly people of color, and deter them from casting ballots.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Behind Fascist 'Warrior' Facade, Patriot Front Is Just Another Grift

Behind Fascist 'Warrior' Facade, Patriot Front Is Just Another Grift

One of the constants of the world of right-wing extremists is that their leaders all find ways to turn their authoritarian activism into a moneymaking operation that wrings funds out of their gullible followers. Even if these leaders buy their own bullshit—and most of them do—they also are assiduous in creating revenue streams generated from the eager suckers who lap it up.

Take Patriot Front, the neofascist marching gang that recently drew national headlines for being busted outside a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for example. A recent examination of the organization’s operations by Mackenzie Ryan of The Guardian found that Patriot Front’s ability to spread its brand of hate politics by operating as a “white nationalist pyramid scheme” that recruits angry young men with a vision of creating a “warrior elite,” the reality of which is remarkably buffoonish.

“No other white supremacist group operating in the US today is able to match Patriot Front’s ability to produce media, ability to mobilize across the country, and ability to finance,” Anti-Defamation League researcher Morgan Moon told Ryan. “That’s what makes them a particular concern.”

The man atop Patriot Front’s pyramid is Thomas Rousseau, the 24-year-old Texas man who founded Patriot Front in 2017 out of the ashes of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America, under whose banner he had marched in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, alongside James Alex Fields, the man who later that day drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Fitting his politics, Rousseau runs Patriot Front in remarkably authoritarian fashion: ordering his followers to follow exercise regimens and to participate both in online ideological discussion and real-world “actions” that both spread the group’s propaganda and line Rousseau’s pockets.

Most of its recruitment begins online, in gaming chat rooms, message boards, or social media channels where they seek out young white males seething with various resentments. Part of its marketing, as Stephen Piggot of the Western States Center told Ryan, involves creating video packages aimed at younger audiences. Simultaneously, he says, much of their appeal involves the group’s emphasis on translating the ideology into real-world action.

Recruits are particularly drawn in by Patriot Front’s emphasis on creating “young warriors” and a “warrior elite,” Moon said. This includes an emphasis on fitness and diet, and is manifested in the real-world paramilitary training sessions it organizes.

Once recruits sign on, they’re quickly drawn up in Patriot Front’s authoritarian operations. They’re required to attend monthly online meetups and street demonstrations, and to meet a weekly activism quota that the group’s top lieutenants, called network directors, monitor with spreadsheets. Should a recruit fail to meet those requirements, Rousseau expels them, Moon said.

A data leak of Patriot Front chat rooms published earlier this year by the journalism collective Unicorn Riot revealed these operations in detail. Rousseau and his network directors oversaw the chats, organized by region. They organized real-world “actions” in the chatrooms, such as pasting propaganda stickers and fliers around the downtown areas of cities where they lived, as well as hoisting banners with their slogans and logo over freeways on overpasses.

The “actions” included a number of criminal acts of vandalism, such as defacing memorials, statues, and murals in highly public places. These included a memorial to George Floyd in New York City, as well as other works of public art that provoked their ire, such as a mural supporting Black Lives Matter in Olympia, Washington, and depictions of Black heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman.

They also clearly believed they could do so with impunity. “As our recent actions have shown we can walk down busy avenues at prime time in Seattle and deface the largest most well protected mural in shitlib Olympia without so much as being accosted once,” one member who apparently participated in the Olympia vandalization wrote.

A more recent Unicorn Riot report exposed how members of Patriot Front participated in a likely hate crime by vandalizing an LGBTQ youth center in Springfield, Illinois, in November 2021. Video recordings made by the group’s members showed them stenciling their logo over a rainbow mural on one side of the Phoenix center, a nonprofit that provides housing and support to at-risk LGBTQ youth.

The video shows them applying the stencil, fleeing the scene, and then discussing how they targeted the building because “it’s a gay and trans youth center.” They also reveled in the distress they expected to create: “Those f*gs are gonna lose their mind,” boasted one of the vandals.

In all, Patriot Front records showed the group responsible for at least 29 acts of destruction of public art honoring Black, Mexican, Asian, and LGBTQ people. According to the ADL, Patriot Front has been responsible for up to 14 hate incidents a day.

Rousseau and his lieutenants set quotas for members to engage in various “actions,” including regional group quotas of at least “10 big actions a month.” Acts of vandalism are recorded in a spreadsheet.

The group also monitors its roughly 220 members’ personal lives and is fanatically controlling. Members are required to regularly log their weight and fitness regimen, follow an apparently disordered diet obsessively, and update their superiors on their “bad habits,” such as pornography and junk food. Leaders pointedly chastise members for failing to participate in enough chats or meetings or to file their mandatory fitness updates.

On top of all these demands, Rousseau charges his followers a premium for the same Patriot Front propaganda material that he then requires them to spread, according to Southern Poverty Law Center researcher Jeff Tischauser. Network directors are required to push members to buy new flyers and then spread them monthly.

“In this sense, Patriot Front is close to a white nationalist pyramid scheme,” Tischauser observed.

The scheme has created some internal turmoil. Researchers say Patriot Front chats they have obtained include complaints from members about the constant expense of buying new stickers, stencils, and other propaganda materials that Rousseau both requires they buy while charging them a premium.

There have been other cracks in Rousseau’s façade, notably the June arrests of 31 Patriot Front marchers in Coeur d’Alene—all of whose identities were publicly exposed—while attempting to create a riot at the city’s annual Pride in the Park event. The court cases arising from those arrests got under way this month, with Rousseau among the defendants.

“They got kind of the opposite of what they wanted: they weren’t able to disrupt the LGBTQ Pride events, and they got a whole lot of mainstream media attention,” Piggot said.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.