by Justin Rosario
Amid the flurry of executive orders banning Muslims, attacking Obamacare, dismantling Dodd-Frank and sucking up to Russia, Donald Trump (under the control of white nationalist Steve Bannon) is quietly preparing to take the gaze of the federal government off of right wing extremists in America.
The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.
The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.
There are two reasons Bannon would order Trump to do this. The first is to openly antagonize the Muslim community. The second is to signal the violent extremists of the white nationalist movement that the government is going to turn a blind eye to their activities. Both of these reasons serve the larger cause of exacerbating racial and religious tensions in the United States.
By antagonizing the Muslim community, the hope is that they will come to resent the United States and lash out. The more isolated and unwelcome Muslims feel, the easier it will be for them to be radicalized. It might seem insane that anyone would want this, but look at it through the eyes of a white nationalist.
Every time a Muslim becomes radicalized and commits a crime on America soil, it gets easier and easier to depict all Muslims as a threat. Specifically, as a threat to good, decent, hard-working, white Christian Americans (white nationalism is heavily invested in Christianity). That gives Republicans a domestic enemy to fearmonger against, furthering the narrative that white people are under attack, and, more importantly, creates even more extremists.
There is no possible way to round up the 3.3 million Muslims that live in the United States at this time. The public would never sit still for it. But if enough of them were pushed into violence, that would give the Trump administration the cover to crack down on the community, causing even more of them to radicalize in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Criminalizing an already marginalized group is a surefire way to make them criminals. And then we can all be shocked, shocked, when something happens.
While all of that and a Muslim ban is going on, Bannon has sent a signal, loud and clear, to his followers among the white nationalists that comprise the “alt-right” that they are free to run wild. By beginning the process of ending the federal government’s surveillance of right wing extremist groups, they’ll be emboldened to indulge their worst impulses.
News of Trump’s plan to reverse that symbolic recognition of right-wing threats prompted a wave of celebration in white nationalist circles.
“Donald Trump wants to remove us from undue federal scrutiny by removing ‘white supremacists’ from the definition of ‘extremism,’” the founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer (which takes its name from a Nazi propaganda publication) wrote in a post on the site. “Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Donald Trump is setting us free.”
It’s important to take note that many of their memes involve genocide against minorities, particularly Jews. When Steve Bannon had Trump remove any mention of Jews or antisemitism from the official White House statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day, that was another high five to Bannon’s fellow white nationalists. It’s a core belief among them that Jews exaggerate the number of victims to use the Holocaust as emotional blackmail. Or that the Holocaust didn’t really happen and Jews invented it. It depends on the person but they all agree that Jews are terrible and we should stop talking about how Jews were the main target of the Holocaust. And that’s exactly what Bannon had Trump do.
Then, of course, there’s Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon’s, sorry, Trump’s pick for Attorney General. An unrepentant white supremacist himself, Sessions will be a godsend for right wing extremists all over the country. In addition to not lifting a finger to uphold the Voting Rights Act, Sessions will almost certainly either cripple or simply dissolve the Civil Right Division within the Department of Justice.
Conservatives already rail against the very concept of hate crimes; insisting that there’s no such thing. The conceit is that hate crime laws turn marginalized groups into victims. The reality is that the right wing hates anything that interferes with their ability to target marginalized groups for discrimination and violence. And now with Jeff Sessions whistling Dixie, when a group of good ol’ boys have themselves some fun with an uppity Negro what don’t know his place, they’ll get a slap on the wrist. They was just foolin’ around!
Words matter. So does inaction. When the government turned a blind eye to the violence and oppression of Jim Crow after the end of Reconstruction, white supremacists did, in fact, go wild. The KKK spread like a cancer. At least 35 black politicians were murdered. Slavery under the guise of maintaining “law and order” became commonplace again. Lynchings were so widespread that blacks fled the South for the relative safety of the North.
It’s difficult to overemphasize the inherent violence of white supremacy when it’s left unchecked. In 1921, the town of Greenwood, Oklahoma was a thriving, rich, black community. It was so successful that the local white people decided they had to destroy it out of pure jealousy.
During the night and day of the riot, deputized whites killed more than 300 African Americans. They looted and burned to the ground 40 square blocks of 1,265 African American homes, including hospitals, schools, and churches, and destroyed 150 businesses. White deputies and members of the National Guard arrested and detained 6,000 black Tulsans who were released only upon being vouched for by a white employer or other white citizen. Nine thousand African Americans were left homeless and lived in tents well into the winter of 1921.”
White people flew planes over the neighborhood, dropping firebombs on the roofs of houses. Yet, magically, no white people were charged with a crime. An entire community was annihilated and the local, state and federal government couldn’t seem to figure out that a crime was committed. This was not an isolated incident as several other communities were destroyed as well. We hear a lot about black people rioting as part of the narrative of black criminality but it’s a good bet that more white Americans believe they’ve seen a UFO then know about the history of white people raping, murdering and looting black communities like animals.
But violence and depravity is the foundation of the white supremacist movement in America. Their “bible” is not the actual Bible but rather The Turner Diaries, a delightful imaginary romp in which the poor, beleaguered white man rises up in a grand race war and slaughters all the blacks, Asians, Latinos and, of course Jews. Especially the Jews. Always the Jews. This is one of their most treasured fantasies. Timothy McVeigh had pages from the book with him when he detonated a truck bomb, killing 168 people including 19 children. The youngest was just 3 months old.
And now, Trump is giving them the green light again. Republican controlled legislatures are going to pass increasingly restrictive laws blocking minorities from voting. Businesses will start banning Muslims and Latinos and blacks. The police will escalate their campaign of terrorism in minority neighborhoods under the guise of “maintaining law and order.” The War on Drugs will be kicked back into high gear (but only in minority communities). Hate crimes, already on the rise, will not be investigated or deliberately stalled.
All of this will be done with the full knowledge and blessings of the United States government. They may step in on some of the more egregious abuses or make a token effort as political cover but make no mistake about it, the white supremacists have been taken off their leash and like any rabid animal, they’re going to be looking for someone to bite.
A popular refrain from the far left is “We survived Bush, we’ll survive Trump.” But as Chez Pazienza pointed out, this is a notion borne of pure ignorance and privilege. Not everyone survived Bush and even fewer will survive Trump’s race war.
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