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Antifa: A Look at the Antifascist Movement Confronting White Supremacists in the Streets
August 15th, 2017, 05:32 PM

President Trump is facing widespread criticism for his latest comments on the deadly white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Speaking at Trump Tower on Tuesday, Trump said the violence was in part caused by what he called the "alt-left." President Trump's comment were widely decried. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter, "No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes." We look at one of the groups who confronted the white supremacists in the streets: the antifascists known as antifa. We speak to Mark Bray, author of the new book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Trump is facing widespread criticism for his latest comments on the deadly white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Speaking at Trump Tower Tuesday, Trump said the violence was in part caused by what he called the "alt-left."

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: OK, what about the "alt-left" that came charging at -- excuse me. What about the "alt-left"? They came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? What -- let me ask you this: What about the fact they came charging -- that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute, I'm not finished. I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.

REPORTER: Mr. President, are you putting what you're calling the "alt-left" and white supremacists on the same moral plane?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I'm saying is this: You had a group on one side, and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs, and it was vicious, and it was horrible, and it was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side. There was a group on this side -- you can call them the left, you've just called them the left -- that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that's the way it is.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump's comments were widely decried. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted, "No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes," unquote. Earlier this week, Cornel West appeared on Democracy Now!. He painted a very different picture of Charlottesville than President Trump, saying anarchists and antifascists saved his life.

CORNEL WEST: Absolutely. You had a number of the courageous students, of all colors, at the University of Virginia who were protesting against the neofascists themselves. The neofascists had their own ammunition. And this is very important to keep in mind, because the police, for the most part, pulled back. The next day, for example, those 20 of us who were standing, many of them clergy, we would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the antifascists who approached, over 300, 350 antifascists. We just had 20. And we're singing "This Little light of Mine," you know what I mean? So that the --

AMY GOODMAN: "Antifa" meaning antifascist.

CORNEL WEST: The antifascists, and then, crucial, the anarchists, because they saved our lives, actually. We would have been completely crushed, and I'll never forget that.

AMY GOODMAN: To look more at the antifascist movement, known as antifa, we're joined by Mark Bray, lecturer at Dartmouth College. His new book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

First, pronounce it for us, Mark, and then talk about antifa.

MARK BRAY: Yes, well, it's pronounced on'-tee-fah. The emphasis is on the first syllable, and it's pronounced more on than an, so on'-tee-fah. It's commonly mispronounced. But antifa, of course, is short for antifascist.

And, you know, President Trump's comments that the alt -- quote-unquote, "alt-left" and alt-right are equivalent moral forces is really historically misinformed and morally bankrupt. The antifascist movement has a global history that stretches back over -- about a century. You can trace them to Italian opposition to Mussolini's Blackshirts, German opposition to Hitler's Brownshirts, antifascists from around the world who had traveled to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War. More recently, modern antifa can largely trace its roots to the antifascist movement in Britain in the '70s, and the postwar period more generally, that was responding to a xenophobic backlash against predominantly Caribbean and South Asian migration, also to the German autonomous movement of the '80s, which, really, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, had to respond to a really unprecedented neo-Nazi wave -- unprecedented in the postwar period, of course.

And then, in the United States, we can look at anti-racist action in the 1980s, 1990s and the early 2000s, which took some of these methods of confronting neo-Nazis and fascists wherever they assemble, shutting down their organizing and, as they said, going where they go. Today, in an article I wrote for The Washington Post called "Who are the antifa?" I explain this and show how today's antifa in the United States are really picking up the tradition where these groups left off. And their movement has really accelerated with the unfortunate ascendance of the alt-right following President Trump.

The other minor note I want to make before we continue is that antifa is really only one faction of a larger movement against white supremacy that dates back centuries and includes a whole number -- there are a whole number of groups that fight against similar foes, sometimes using the same methods, that aren't necessarily antifascists. So, it's important not to subsume the entire anti-racist movement within this sort of one category.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mark Bray, in your book -- and I want to quote a few lines from it -- you say, "Most people have an 'all-or-nothing' understanding of fascism that prevents them from taking fascists seriously until they seize power. ... Very few really believe that there is any serious chance of a fascistic regime ever materializing in America." And I'm wondering about that and the importance of understanding that concept of yours, for those who are looking at what's happening today in America.

MARK BRAY: Right. So, the way people understand fascism, or the way they've been taught about it, is generally exclusively in terms of regimes. So, the thought goes, as long as we have parliamentary government, we're safe. But we can look back to the historical examples of Italy and Germany and see that, unfortunately, parliamentary government was insufficient to prevent the stop -- to prevent the rise of fascism and Nazism, and actually provided a red carpet to their advance. So, because of that reason, people think of fascism in terms of all or nothing, regime or nothing.

But we can see in Charlottesville that any amount of neo-Nazi organizing, any amount of a fascist presence, is potentially fatal. And, unfortunately, Heather Heyer paid the price for that. So that's partly why antifascists argue that fascism must be nipped in the bud from the beginning, that any kind of organizing needs to be confronted and responded to. Even if, you know, people are spending most of their time on Twitter making jokes, it's still very serious and needs to be confronted.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you -- can you talk about -- I mean, very interesting, during the South Carolina protests against the white supremacists, there were flags of Republicans in Spain fighting Franco.

MARK BRAY: Right. So, one of the most iconic moments in antifascist history is the Spanish Civil War, and, from an international perspective, the role of the International Brigades, brave antifascists who came from dozens of countries around the world to stand up to Franco's forces. Franco had the institutional support of Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy, whereas the Republican side really only had support of the Soviet Union, which, as I discuss in my book, had a lot of problematic aspects to it. So, if we look at the role of the International Brigades, we can see that antifascists view their struggle as transnational and transhistorical. And so, today, if you go to an antifascist demonstration in Spain, for example, the flag of the International Brigades, the flag of the Spanish Republic is ubiquitous. And these symbols, even the double flags of antifascism that people will frequently see at demonstrations, often one being red, one being black, was originally developed as a German symbol, which, in its earliest incarnation, dates back to the 1930s. So, it's important to look at antifa not just as sort of a random thought experiment that some crazy kids came up with to respond to the far right, but rather a tradition that dates back a century.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You also talk, in your examples, of other countries, not only the period of the 1930s and '40s, but more recent periods, in England in the '80s, and in Greece, as well, even more recently, and the importance of direct action by antifascists to nip in the bud or to beat back the rise of fascist movements.

MARK BRAY: Right. So, part of what I try to do with my book, Antifa, is draw certain historical lessons from the early period of antifascist struggle that can be applied to the struggle today. One of them is that it doesn't take a lot of organized fascists to sometimes develop a really powerful movement. We can see that recently with the rise of Golden Dawn, the fascist party in Greece, which, prior to the financial crisis, was really a tiny micro-party and considered a joke by most. Subsequently, they became a major party in Greek politics and a major threat, a violent, deadly threat, to migrants and leftists and people of all stripes across Greek society. This was also true back in the early part of the 20th century, when Mussolini's initial fascist nucleus was a hundred people. When Hiller first attended his first meeting of the German Workers' Party, which he later transformed into the Nazi Party, they had 54 members. So, we need to see that there's always a potential for small movements to become large.

And one of the other lessons of the beginning of the 20th century is that people did not take fascism and Nazism seriously until it was too late. That mistake will never be made again by antifascists, who will recognize that any manifestation of these politics is dangerous and needs to be confronted as if it could be the nucleus of some sort of deadly movement or regime of the future.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted you to talk, Mark Bray, about the presence of Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller in the White House and what that means to antifa, to the antifascist movement.

MARK BRAY: Right. Well, the other side of it is it's not just about how many people are part of fascist or neo-Nazi groups. It's also about the fact that far-right politics have the ability to infiltrate and influence and direct mainstream politics. And we can see that with the alt-right. The alt-right is not really actually a lot of people in terms of numbers, but they've had a disproportionate influence on the Trump administration and certain aspects of public discourse. So, the presence of Bannon and Gorka and Miller in the White House really just gives some sort of a hint as to why it is that Trump yesterday basically said there are good people on both sides of this conflict, that Friday night, when there were neo-Nazis wielding torches in Nazi style and they attacked nonviolent UVA student protesters, that he said, "Oh, well, you know, these are good people."

So, part of it is the organized street presence, but, as we saw, by confronting the organized street presence in Charlottesville, this created the question of just how bad these people are, because -- you played earlier, Mitt Romney condemned the fact that there could be blame ascribed to both sides. Well, prior to Charlottesville, that was the dominant media narrative. Most mainstream media was saying, "Oh, well, we have, quote-unquote, 'violence' on both sides. Hands up. Who's to say who's right or wrong?" But by confronting this, by putting it in the spotlight, by shining a light on what these people really think, it's shifted the public discourse and pushed back the ability of some of these alt-right figures to try and cloak their fascism.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you say, for instance, to those who maybe are opposed to the viewpoints of the white nationalists and white supremacists, but also attempt to condemn any attempts to shut them -- shut them down or not allow them to speak? Or -- and, obviously, the American Civil Liberties Union fought for the right of the Charlottesville -- the white nationalists to have their rally in Charlottesville.

MARK BRAY: Right. Well, the question of how to combat fascism, I think, always needs to come back to discussions of the 1930s and 1940s. So, clearly, we can see that rational discourse and debate was insufficient. Clearly, we can see that the mechanisms of parliamentary government were insufficient. We need to be able to come up with a way to say, "How can we make sure never again?" By any means necessary, this can never happen again. And the people back there who witnessed these atrocities committed themselves to that.

So the question is: OK, if you don't think that it's appropriate to physically confront and to stand in front of neo-Nazis who are trying to organize for another genocide now, do you do it after someone has died, as they just did? Do you do it after a dozen people have died? Do you do it once they're at the footsteps of power? At what point? At what point do you say, "Enough is enough," and give up on the liberal notion that what we need to do is essentially create some sort of a regime of rights that allow neo-Nazis and their victims to coexist, quote-unquote, "peacefully," and recognize that the neo-Nazis don't want that and that also the antifascists are right in not looking at it through that liberal lens, but rather seeing fascism not as an opinion that needs to be responded to respectfully, but as an enemy to humanity that needs to be stopped by any means necessary?

AMY GOODMAN: This is Part 1 of our conversation, Mark Bray. We'll do Part 2 and post it online at democracynow.org. Mark Bray is the author of a book that is coming out in the next few weeks called Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. He is a lecturer at Dartmouth College.

Meet the College Student Who Pulled Down a Confederate Statue in Durham and Defied White Supremacy
August 15th, 2017, 05:32 PM

A crowd of activists toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday, just two days after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As the crowd shouted "We are the revolution," a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder, looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse and then pulled the statue to the ground. She was arrested the following day on two charges of felony inciting a riot and three misdemeanor charges, including defacing a statue. Thompson was released last night on a $10,000 unsecured bond. We speak with Thompson about her actions before her scheduled court hearing this morning.

TRANSCRIPT

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today's show in Durham, North Carolina, where a crowd of activists toppled a Confederate statue in Durham on Monday, just two days after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The crowd of activists shouted "We are the revolution," as a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder, looped [a rope] around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse and then pulled the statue to the ground as the crowd erupted in cheers.

PROTESTERS: We are the revolution! No cops, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.! No cops, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!

AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, Takiyah Thompson was arrested on two charges of felony inciting a riot and three misdemeanor charges -- injury to personal property, injury to real property and defacing a statue. She spoke in Durham just before she was arrested.

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I think what we did was the best way, and not just the best way, but the only way, because the state and the Klan and white supremacists have been collaborating. Right? So what we did, not only was it right, it was just. I did the right thing. Everyone who was there, the people did the right thing. And the people will continue to keep making the right choices until every Confederate statue is gone, until white supremacy is gone. That statute is where it belongs, right? It needs to be in the garbage, incinerated, like every statue -- every Confederate statue and every vestige of white supremacy has to go.

AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah Thompson, speaking in Durham, North Carolina. Shortly after she spoke, she was arrested, given a $10,000 unsecured bond. She was released last night, heads to court this morning. But just before she does, she joins us here on Democracy Now! Takiyah Thompson is a student at North Carolina Central University and a member of Workers World Party, Durham branch.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Takiyah. I know you're under enormous pressure as you head to court for -- after being arrested for climbing a ladder, looping a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument and pulling down the statue. Talk about why you engaged in this, and exactly what you did.

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: OK. I participated in a march and a rally. And I decided to climb to the top of the Confederate soldiers statue and put the rope around its neck and throw the rope down to the crowd. And the crowd could decide if they wanted to pull it down or not. And I did this because the statue is a symbol of nationalism, and it's a symbol of white nationalism. And the type of white nationalism I'm talking about is the type of white nationalism that is sending me death threats on Facebook. I'm talking about the type of white nationalist that, you know, has killed a woman in a protest. We're talking about the type of white nationalism that would drive a car at high speeds into a crowd of women and children. And I think vestiges of that, and I think anything that emboldens those people and anything that gives those people pride, needs to be crushed in the same way that they want to crush black people and the other groups that they target.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Takiyah, could you talk about how the events in Charlottesville influenced you or affected you, especially, obviously, the stunning symbols of those marches with torches on Friday night through the campus of the University of Virginia?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Well, when I look at Charlottesville, I look at Durham, North Carolina. I look at Richmond, Virginia. I look at Atlanta. I look at Georgia. I look at Stone Mountain. I look at the entirety of America and American history. And I know that Charlottesville is Durham, North Carolina. Charlottesville is America. The sentiment that was expressed in Charlottesville is part and parcel of what built this country. And I know that Charlottesville can erupt anywhere.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what happened when you were arrested, Takiyah? Where did they take you? You now had to post -- cover $10,000 bond?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Right. Being arrested was in and out. I think the powers that be knew that if I wasn't released in a timely manner, that, politically, that would not be a good move for them. So, I was in and out very quickly. As soon as I got there, people inside were recognizing me, so I know that they knew that, with the climate and the situation in the city, that they had to release me.

AMY GOODMAN: You're charged with felony inciting a riot, three misdemeanor charges -- injury to personal property, injury to real property and defacing a statue. Your answer to those charges?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: The sheriff, Andrews, and the establishment want to make a political prisoner of me, and they want to make an example of me. And they want to scare people, and they want to scare black people, and they want to scare people of color, and they want to scare people who are reclaiming their agency. And they can't, as we have seen. I haven't been keeping up with the headlines, but listening to the headlines from today, you can't keep your foot on people's neck forever. And people are going to rise up, as we're seeing throughout this country. We're seeing the rise of white nationalism, and we're seeing the rise of actual resistance. And I'm not talking about writing your senator. I'm not talking about casting a ballot in a voting booth. I'm talking about voting with your actions. And people are doing that right now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to turn to President Trump speaking Tuesday at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York City.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are we going to take down statues to George -- how about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?

REPORTER: I do love Thomas Jefferson.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Takiyah, what are you -- what's your response to the president equating the actions that have been occurring now with the -- with taking the statues of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson down?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I think he knows what he's doing. I don't know how to -- I'm not sure how to express how I feel about that, but I feel as though the people will decide. And we live in a representative democracy. And our representatives are supposed to enforce our will. And when our representatives fail to enforce our will, then the people are left with no choice but to do it themselves. So, in this instance, I can't really speak to whether or not people want statues of whoever removed, but if the people do, then the people will do it, and the people will find a way.

AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah, you're certainly not alone in wanting statues taken down. Just today in the headlines, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have revived calls to remove all the Confederate monuments from the halls of Congress. People were protesting in places like Memphis, Tennessee, a large crowd linking arms, surrounding a monument of the former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In fact, Robert E. Lee, the Confederate soldier, the monument to him in Charlottesville is what's at the core of the controversy here, that they're taking it down, said he did not believe in Confederate monuments. But Democratic Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina, your governor, initially tweeted racism is "unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments." On Tuesday, he unequivocally said the statues must come down. And this is what he said.

GOV. ROY COOPER: Unlike an African-American father, I'll never have to explain to my daughters why there exists a monument for those who wished to keep her and her ancestors in chains. Some people cling to the belief that the Civil War was fought over states' rights. But history is not on their side. We can't continue to glorify a war against the United States of America, fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down.

AMY GOODMAN: So, your governor is saying these monuments should come down. You just took one down. He says, though, there's a better way. Your response, Takiyah?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I'm going to let the governor breathe for now. I'm glad he made that statement. And --

AMY GOODMAN: Did he make that statement after you took the monument down?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: I'm sorry, could you -- what was that?

AMY GOODMAN: Did he make that statement after you took that monument down?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Yes, yeah, yeah. My problem with his initial statement was that he's like, you know, "There's no place for racism," and then he goes on to say, "But there's a better way." And if there was a better way, we wouldn't have been waiting almost a hundred years to do that. And like I've been trying to reiterate over and over again is that there is no "but" when we're talking about racism, right? There is no "but" when we're talking about people's right to life and people's right to not be psychologically attacked with these dehumanizing images. So, there's only a right side and a wrong side. But I'm glad he did release that statement, and I'll let him breathe.

AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah, I know you have to go right now to court, but I want to ask you: The effect that Bree Newsome and her act two years ago in South Carolina, when she shimmied up the flagpole of the Confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol and took down the Confederate flag, what kind of effect that had on you in your actions this week?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: Well, earlier this week, I spoke to some news, and they asked me like what was I thinking when I was going up the steps. And my response was that as I was going up the steps, I was thinking about the history of like black nationalist organizing and black nationalist struggle and black struggle, and I was thinking about my ancestors, and included in that is Bree Newsome. I could not have -- you know, she created a model of possibility for me. And I was thinking about her. I was thinking about people who believe in people's power and the power that they have within themselves. I was thinking about people like Kwame Ture. I was thinking about people like Ella Baker, organizers, grassroots people, who give power to the people and let them decide.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Takiyah, Heather Heyer is being buried today. There is a memorial for her, a major memorial, in Charlottesville. She was on the streets, killed by the white supremacist who plowed his crowd [sic] into the antifascist protesters -- plowed his car. What are your thoughts about Heather today, a white ally in this struggle?

TAKIYAH THOMPSON: My thoughts about Heather's murder is that it's a tragic death, especially to be killed so violently and so brutally. My condolences to her family. May she rest in power. And I won't stop fighting, and the people won't stop fighting, against people who did this, right? And we're not fighting against hatred, right? We're fighting against an ideology. We're fighting against a system, right? When you create a pseudoscience to prove your superior -- superiority to the world, we're talking about more than just hate, right? We're talking about something a lot bigger than that. Of course this ideology is rooted in hate, but we're talking about systems, systems of government -- right? -- systems of disenfranchisement. And that's what we're fighting against. And we won't stop until we have equality and we have justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Takiyah Thompson, I want to thank you for being with us. Takiyah now heads to court. She's a student at North Carolina Central University. She climbed up a ladder this week, after the Charlottesville attack, looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument in front of the old Durham County Courthouse, pulled the statue to the ground.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, Bree Newsome joins us from Charlotte, North Carolina. Stay with us.

Things Trump Will Get Mad At
August 15th, 2017, 05:32 PM
A Call for Self-Defense in the Face of White Supremacy
August 15th, 2017, 05:32 PM

Self-defense against the forces of white supremacy has always been necessary, but liberalism has incorrectly maligned most acts of self-defense as violence. Being more moral than the far right is no defense against bullets. In these terrifyingly violent times, it's worth challenging liberal views on self-defense as part of a broader rejection of this capitalist white supremacist empire.

 

White nationalists and neo-Nazis exchange insults with anti-racist counter-protesters as they attempt to guard the entrance to Emancipation Park during the 'Unite the Right' rally August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)White nationalists and neo-Nazis exchange insults with anti-racist counter-protesters as they attempt to guard the entrance to Emancipation Park during the 'Unite the Right' rally August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

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"Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves in Jacksonville, Fla., and Paducah, Ky., and prevented it. The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense." -- Ida B. Wells

"The stranglehold of oppression cannot be loosened by a plea to the oppressor's conscience." -- Robert F. Williams

In order to self-defend, groups targeted for violence by white supremacists have to first acknowledge in ourselves that we are worthy of defending. Those of us who experience the daily damages of white supremacy and desire its end deserve a world without it.

Our beings and our bodies are not empty things intended to labor in service to a nation that refuses to protect us. A rejection of liberal mythology -- the untruth that those who have fallen victim to the atrocities of this nation's past and present were simply necessary fodder -- is an act of preservation and protection for anyone who chooses to strive for liberation. It's an act that has been increasingly necessary for some time in an increasingly hostile United States. Our future depends on our understanding of self-defense and how it's applied to the constant crises unfolding around us.

The failures and asininity of party politics should be plain to an exhausted movement against white supremacist violence. Accommodationist brands of politics like centrism and moderatism, which are seen as occupying the "left-leaning" flank of the right-centered political spectrum, have defined themselves by their inability to accomplish progressive change. Politicians in these camps promote themselves through expressing a hollow desire for "equality," while their neutrality in the face of threatening violence allows the very oppressions they supposedly oppose to thrive. For this reason and more, liberal politics has largely become about the symbolic. Since liberal politicians haven't been able to consistently secure material improvements for their more vulnerable constituents amid a growing right wing, the need to overemphasize attributes like being better educated and more moral than the far right has grown. Unfortunately, these sorts of things don't stop bullets.

Centrist liberal politics helped create the situation we're currently seeing around the US, because of its adherence to the status quo and failure to advance real transformation. A dominant far-right administration is leading a movement toward a more classical, blatantly violent white supremacist US tradition. The hope for a return to the "great" America -- one that was more blunt about its white supremacy -- is being secured by a malevolent authoritarian presidency that puts the entire country at risk for the sake of white paranoia. For the reinforcement of the white imaginations of those who have been increasingly fearful they're losing their societal dominance, all lives must be risked. The entire empire was put into the hands of a known egotistical, ignorant political actor simply because he was willing to go the furthest to prove his loyalties to his whiteness in the presidential office. This is where we all are, regardless of how we voted (or didn't vote), because the US political system is structured not around reflecting popular demand, but around continuing updated iterations of the same old abuses.

The status quo is this capitalist white supremacist empire and the violence that it inflicts daily. "Law and order," the court systems and all of the white supremacist institutions that forgive vigilante white supremacist movements are aided by liberal politics. Not only have these institutions been founded, operated and infiltrated by white supremacists since the moment the US existed, they are further empowered by them. Dr. King, whose legacy is regularly misappropriated by liberal dishonesty, mentioned this in his letter from the Birmingham Jail:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice....

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.

It's a shame that the insights of this letter, endlessly taught in schools, reposted and reread, bear the need for repeating, but this clear message -- that liberal moderatism is inherently flawed -- is often ignored. Moderatism aids the damming of social progress, as King stated. It actively deters actual progress by compromising with violence as if it's tolerable for the sake of progress.

So, many of us must resolve to not depend on the state, liberal idealism or any other unfulfilled promises. We must be prepared, ready and willing to defend ourselves with whatever means we have to do so.

Unfortunately, those who would identify as liberals, progressives and even some leftists in opposition to the right are egregiously behind when it comes to self-defense. The right has largely been allowed to dominate conversations around arms as a means of self-defense through the means of the Republican Party, NRA, military and policing institutions. Many within these elements have long been stockpiling weapons, which is a regular occurrence. The Guardian reports the "top 14% of gun owners -- a group of 7.7m people, or 3% of American adults -- own between about eight and 140 guns each. The average is 17." Allowing this to continue to the extent that it has without any organization is a misstep because of our pressing need to educate, prepare and inform our communities about organized self-defense.

Despite a general reverence among many progressive activists for historical armed rebellions led by Black people, Native people and many other people of color, there's often a disconnect from arms themselves. The commodification and sterilization of armed Black revolutionary historical leaders like Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), Assata Shakur, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois and countless others disarms them in the public imagination. Sometimes they are even remembered in the context of a false, violent-versus-nonviolent (Malcolm X versus King) binary, which employs liberal and white supremacist myths about what violence is. In all actuality Dr. King and Malcolm X were both nonviolent. Anyone who defends themselves by any means necessary when they are being attacked is not the one bringing violence into the world. There is nothing violent about defending your life or the life of your loved ones. The oppressed are not and have not been the aggressors in this white supremacist society, and we should never allow untruths that label us so.

Those who oppose white supremacy and the violences it distributes out in the world should begin arming themselves if they are not already. Kind words, liberal idealism and the state are not guaranteed to protect you. In an escalating bigoted environment where the president refuses to denounce white supremacists, because he is one of them and encourages their violence, many of us are prepared to protect our lives with the same weapons that aggressors would use to attack us. Those who seek to do us harm will do so whether we're unarmed or armed, even with gun permits. Police and other state enforcers should not cause us to willingly make ourselves more vulnerable for the sake of looking more innocent or less guilty in their eyes. Many of us carry the presumption of guilt merely because of our skin color, so we might as well carry the means to safeguard our lives as well. The question of if passivism and respectability can save us has already been answered by the countless killings of Black people who were following all the supposed rules of perfect victimhood. Abandoning some of these rules doesn't mean that we're bad, nor does it mean we're violent; it means that we're prepared.

Many liberal nonprofits, academic institutions and politicians tell us to engage in civil debate with extremists who want us dead. But for a process like this to work, our opponents would have to see us as humans worth debating in the first place, which they do not. Therefore, pleas for us to depend on the courts and the logics of white society, like prisons, police and prosecutors -- institutions that oppress us -- means more dying. Yet again, we're supposed to continue being human sacrifices for the sake of "progress." However, many of us know that we are more than readymade martyrs who should be willingly brutalized and murdered so that, in the future, self-satisfied people in power can look back and feel all right about taking their time to possibly implement change. We are not logs to be thrown on the fire whenever the US needs to soul search.

We need the resurgence of a sustained understanding of self-defense. This means a movement that doesn't praise the historical heroics around armed struggle and its revolutionaries while rejecting arms as unnecessary in these times. We need a firm understanding of self-defense as badly as we need a real political opposition and a true anti-capitalist left movement in the United States. Without this, an empowered right is free to go about securing its most terrible desires through open conflict.

Preparedness here may decide if one lives or dies in the worst of scenarios. These horrible possibilities are not unrealistic to consider. There are many graves that serve as a testament to naivete and overly optimistic denial in the face of an empire built on oppression. As much as some would like to think that past atrocities can't happen again, or that atrocities happening elsewhere can't happen here, they always can. What makes disaster more preventable is the active mobilization of those willing to make sure it doesn't reoccur.

Self-defense is survival. We can learn this from the survivors of domestic violence, rape and other forms of gender violence who are criminalized for protecting themselves. Women and girls in our communities who have fought to declare their right to exist are some of our most exemplary models of self-defense. Women who have to defend themselves from violence regularly at work, in their neighborhoods and in their own homes provide us with a model that doesn't restrict our understanding of survival to one style of defense or weaponry.

Women-led movements to form defense organizations and resist abuse at the hands of anyone -- including harmful community members, extremists and the state -- provide us with a model of determination we can all learn from. Guns and violence regularly torment many of our communities and turn many people off at just the thought. However, what we're facing will not hesitate or wait for us to regain control over the daily tragedies of gun violence that feel like a lost cause to many.

The effort to protect what we care for most starts with a revolutionary love that prioritizes, stands by and supports the ones we cherish even amid the violences we know most intimately. That love is the work of overcoming to get closer to collective liberation despite what feels like endless struggle and disappointment.

Ida B. Wells once wrote:

A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great a risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged and lynched.

There's a rich tradition in many Black families, resistances and communities that embraces armed self-defense. Black defense provides us with a historical handbook. This stretches back to the earliest moments enslaved Africans were brought to this country. Ever since then, many Black Americans have cherished the ability to defend our loved ones from the violences they've faced. It's this history that established the Black American gun clubs and organized movements for self-defense we shouldn't be pressured to disassociate ourselves from today.

The Black Panthers, whom many of us have looked to as inspiration, once sang a song that instructed, "The revolution has come / It's time to pick up the gun." While it's not necessarily a revolution we're currently facing, we are still faced with a similar choice: we can continue to risk being killed to somehow prove our lives are worth something, or assert they are through our dedication to defending ourselves and each other.

Department of Justice's Demand for Information on Dissenters Goes to Court
August 15th, 2017, 05:32 PM

(Photo: OlafSpeier / iStock / Getty Images Plus)(Photo: OlafSpeier / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The Justice Department will attempt on Friday to defend a warrant requiring an internet host to turn over 1.3 million IP addresses of visitors to a website critical of the Trump administration.

Dreamhost, the subject of the DOJ order, called it a "clear abuse of government authority." The company has been fighting the warrant for months leading up to Friday's court date on the matter.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the IP addresses of anyone who visited disruptj20.org, a website hosted by Dreamhost, as well as the website's database records, and the personal information of administrators and thousands of individuals who interacted with the site.

Disrupt J20 organized one of the many Inauguration Day protests against the incoming Trump administration. Law enforcement officials believe the group was involved in one particular action that allegedly led to the injury of six police officers and $100,000 in property damage in downtown Washington, DC.

After initially receiving the DOJ's data request, Dreamhost requested the department narrow the scope of its warrant. US officials, instead, filed a motion in DC Superior Court forcing Dreamhost to comply with the warrant. Last week, the company responded by filing it's own legal arguments against the sweeping DOJ order.

In a blog post on its website, Dreamhost argued that the information the government is seeking "could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution's First Amendment."

"That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone's mind," the company added.

The digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been providing "professional support" to the web host in its legal battle against the DOJ.

"No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible," said EFF senior staff attorney Mark Rumold.

Outside the digital realm, hundreds of people are still facing serious legal jeopardy stemming from the Inauguration Day protests. More than 200 people were charged with felony rioting, and could face up to a decade in prison.

The Washington Post reported in April that DC police had actually infiltrated the group ahead of its planned January protest.

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The Role of Nurses Is Critical in the Fight for Health Care
August 15th, 2017, 05:32 PM

The Republicans may have lost the battle to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but their war on our access to medical care will certainly continue. Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are determined to dismantle the social safety net, and health care funding is their central focus.

Trump openly states that he wants the ACA to collapse, and there are some key aspects of "Obamacare" that need to be defended, such as the expansion of coverage via Medicaid and children up to age 26 and the ban on denying insurance based on pre-existing medical conditions.

But the reality is that the ACA is a completely inadequate solution to our broken health care system. It mandates severe cuts to Medicare and funding to hospitals for the uninsured, and it shovels money to insurance companies while still leaving 28 million people without health insurance. Now many insurance companies have pulled out of the ACA, making even a "high cost/bad coverage" insurance plan more difficult to get.

In response to the bleak debate between the Democrats' shoddy ACA and the Republicans' proposals for even worse, there has been growing support for a government-run "Medicare for all" system that makes health care a basic right and not a matter of profit.

This is an important development that has received a lot of media attention. But what's received less attention is the growing organization and militancy of the heath care workers -- particuarly nurses -- whose unions have the power to both win better care for their patients on a local level and be the driving force for a national health care reform movement.

Health care workers are the ones who titrate medication drips, clean bowel movements and comfort families, and who shoulder the emotional, physical and psychological work that makes hospitals run, yet they are left out of the discussion of who gets care, when they get it and how the care will be designed.

Nurses daily coordinate every patient's care with other health care professionals -- doctors, social workers and pharmacists -- as well as transporters, ward clerks and lab technicians. Because of this key role, nurses' strikes have a disproportionate impact on the running of hospitals which cannot function properly without them.

***

As health care has become a more central part of the U.S. economy, hospital unionization rates have increased -- in stark contrast to the declining numbers of the larger labor movement.

Union membership in hospitals grew from 13.8 percent in 2000 to 14.3 percent in 2010. "Although the growth in density might seem modest," writes labor analyst Kim Moody, "it was nonetheless significant as union density in hospitals was twice that for the private sector workforce as a whole."

Nurses are at the forefront of this trend: In 2014, 17 percent of registered nurses and 11 percent of licensed practical nurses were unionized.

Organized nurses have tremendous potental to use collective action to win improved staffing and safety for themselves and their patients, as well as improved wages and benefits. Hospital corporations are well aware of this, of course, and many have gone on the offensive in recent years against their employees.

Last month, Tufts Medical Center in Boston imposed a four day lockout on its 1200 nurses in the Massachusetts Nurses Association, in retaliation for the nurses' one-day strike over patient safety, staffing levels and cuts to wages. Tufts spent $6 million on replacement nurses but offered no money to meet the nurses' concerns.

The battle at Tufts comes on the heels of two 2016 strikes involving 4800 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association at Allina Hospital, which sought to strip nurses of their health care. Allina spent $104 million to bring in scab nurses during that time.

The strikes at Allina and Tufts have inspired health care workers, but in both cases nurses returned to work with questionable contract gains and financial hits taken by both the union and the members.

The lesson to be taken from these heroic efforts is not that nurses shouldn't strike or that they can't win, but that -- like working people everywhere -- they're up against cold-hearted corporations and need to be clear about the issues they're fighting for and what it will take to win them.

What gives nurses a potential advantage over many other workers is that health care a highly politicized industry. Strikes by nurses and other hospital workers can shine a light on the miserable conditions being created in hospitals every day by the for-profit health care system -- and rally public support both for the strikers and for larger reform.

***

One common argument made hospital CEOs during a nurses' strike is that the workers are prioritizing their own needs over their patients and violating the pledge all health care workers take to "do no harm."

The idea that nurses organizing to strike are going to simply abandon their patients mid-shift is preposterous, and it's especially rich coming from health care managers who talk about their patients as "clients."

Hospital bosses present a moralistic and self-serving vision of nurses and other health care workers as servants who are there to provide a good patient experience first, and medical care second for patients -- with no agency over how their workplace is run.

In reality, the constant pressure coming from above to cut costs, drive down wages and benefits and slash staffing reveals the empty morality of management and foces nurses to collectively organize for their patients and themselves. "Safe staffing" has beome a key demand in most contract negotiations and strikes.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association emphasized the centrality of its demand for better staffing by calling its walkout a "Patient Safety Strike." Striking nurses held signs with slogans that read, "Tufts Patients Deserve Safe Care" and "Tufts RNs Protecting Patient Care."

Similarly, during the Allina strike, striking nurse Gail Olson told Labor Notes, "Our number one issue is staffing. Allina is refusing to agree to a staffing proposal that actually adds staff."

It's obvious to nurses that better staffing leads to better patient outcomes, and their feeling is backed up by research. A 2014 study from the British medical journal The Lancet found an increase in a nurse's workload by just one additional patient increased the likelihood of a patient in that hospital dying by 7 percent.

In other words, it is striking nurses who are the ones fighting for patients, and hospital bosses who put their own selfish interests above those of their "clients".

Nothing makes this clearer than hospitals' dangerous use of replacement nurses as scab labor during a strike.

During a strike at St. Vincent Hospital, in Worchester in 2000, "three replacement nurses recruited by the same strike replacement nurse agency Tufts plans to use were fired after separate incidents in which they left a patient alone after surgery ...gave the wrong baby to a nursing mother," according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association. "Another patient was given a nearly fatal overdose of morphine because a replacement nurse misunderstood a doctor's order."

Similar incidences occurred in the Allina strikes, compelling one replacement nurse to quit and join the strking nurses on their picket line. Explaining her decision to the Star-Tribune, the nurse said,"There are some nurses working out of the scope of their practice that are completely lost."

***

When nurses strike over staffing, it can strengthen the relationship between patients and nurses. It is through this social connection, much like the one between students and teachers, that a common struggle for both better care and better working conditions can be forged.

But nurses and other healthcare workers also have a right to a safe and respectful workplace. The issue of safety in hospitals is centered primarily on patients. While patient safety is obviously critical, workplace safety for nurses often takes a backseat.

Whether it's physical injuries, exposure to communicable diseases or the daily grind of seeing people at their worst moments, nurses are supposed to "suck it up," ignore the pain and take care of patients. There are few other jobs where it is routine to be bitten, punched, kicked and verbally abused on a daily basis with few protections.

According to data from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Bureau of health-care workers experience the most nonfatal workplace violence compared to other professions by a wide margin. A 2014 study in the Journal of Emergency Nursing found almost 80 percent of nurses reported verbal and physical abuse on the job from patients and visitors within the past year.

For many nurses, this violence intersects with the daily sexism they experience on the job. Female health care workers are often the victims of sexual harassment from physicians, administrators, managers and patients. More than fifty percent of female nurses say they have been sexually harassed.

The sexism faced by nurses isn't just interpersonal but institutional. Over the last several decades, nursing has attracted more men because it's a growing field with the prospect for higher hourly wages, benefits and stability. But even as more men enter the profession, 90 percent of nurses still being women.

Yet the gender pay gap between male registered nurses and their female counterparts has not narrowed. In fact, male hospital nurses make almost $4000 more per year than female nurses with similar positions.

The struggle against sexism and for equal pay should be central to improving the conditions that healthcare workers face daily.

***

Like all workers, nurses face an unrelentingly hostile force in the Trump White House.

Public-sector nurses unions face the potential of national "right-to-work" union-busting if the Supreme Court, stacked with conservative judges, rules against unions in Yohn v. California Teachers Association and Janus v. AFSCME.

Trump's new appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) may revive the 2006 Kentucky River cases to declare that because nurses delegate work to other licensed and ancillary staff, they are supervisors and therefore inelibigle for unionization.

Within this context, nurses' unions must be defended as they remain the key organizations by which nurses can speak out for themselves and their patients, against the onslaught of profit-driven work flow management schemes.

Organized nurses are the most powerful force for resisting the power of for-profit insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations and the American Hospital Association -- and it's bought off backers in both political parties.

A recent Associated Press survey found that 62 percent say it is the federal government's responsibility to make sure that all Americans have healthcare coverage. But health care workers and their patients can't depend on a two party system to legislate away a $3 trillion dollar industry.

Nurses and other health care workers have the potential to democratically put forward a different vision of free health care for all, provided in safe, clean and well-staffed hospitals. For this to happen, nurses will need to show that they have the organization and ability to strike for themselves, their patients and their community.

Danny Katch contributed to this article.

Tech's Growing Stranglehold on the Media
August 14th, 2017, 05:32 PM

Tech billionaires are often portrayed as champions of innovation and social entrepreneurship in the mainstream media, while their tax evasion schemes and labor abuses go underreported. So, when billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Laurene Powell-Jobs procure major media outlets, we should be paying closer attention, especially in the wake of an election that hinged on media coverage.

Billionaire Peter Thiel. (Photo: Ken Yeung)Billionaire Peter Thiel. (Photo: Ken Yeung)

In July, reports surfaced that a private company known as Emerson Collective LLC had purchased a majority stake in The Atlantic. The news seemed hardly unwonted: the company had a history of media investments, with such outlets as news-summary site Axios and criminal-legal journalism outlet The Marshall Project among its beneficiaries. What distinguished the acquisition, however, was the person at Emerson's helm: Laurene Powell-Jobs -- also known as the widow of Steve Jobs.

As reporters have noted, Powell-Jobs' procurement came on the heels of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos's purchase of The Washington Post in 2013. Indeed, the parallel events would seem to mark an inchoate phenomenon: West Coast tech billionaires' foray into mainstream media ownership.

This is cause for alarm. To begin to parse why, it's prudent to examine the seductive narrative of tech billionairedom. The villainy of such figures as Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch and Peter Thiel -- the rogue Silicon Valley Trump supporter who infamously engineered the dissolution of Gawker Media due to a personal vendetta -- is transparent. However, those who've amassed their fortunes in the tech industry (with the exception of Thiel) are often deemed the "good billionaires," earning the trust of the business-cheerleading professional class and its young aspirants.

One of the draws of the "good billionaires" is their brandishing of "innovation" and corporate liberalism, a reflection of the industry's age-old PR aphorism "change the world." Powell-Jobs extols the virtues of "social entrepreneurship"; among Emerson Collective's stated priorities are immigration and education reform. While Bezos has long been notorious for his comparative dearth of philanthropy, he has professed support of same-sex marriage and has recently sought ideas for charitable projects. "'The Good Rich' Do Exist," Forbes declared in 2013; writers Brian Solomon and Caleb Melby proclaimed that "billionaire philanthropists ... genuinely care about making the world a better place," citing Bill Gates's global work and tech luminary Elon Musk, whose companies "are trying to solve the world's energy problems."

Furthermore, pundits often fetishize tech magnates as modern Horatio Alger characters. Industry leaders tend to be "self-made"; rather than a breeding ground of moneyed dynasties, the technology industry is framed as a hub of innovators who "bootstrapped" their way out of kitchens, garages or prestigious universities to futuristic mega-campuses. (This perspective, of course, often disregards the social and financial capital that permitted such ascents in the first place.) Much of the hagiographic lore surrounding these figures centers on resilience: Google cofounder Sergey Brin immigrated from Russia to the United States, where his ingenuity would catapult him into realizing the "American Dream"; Bezos, an adoptee of his Cuban immigrant grandfather, dared to quit his Wall Street job to begin selling books out of his garage; Steve Jobs, born to an immigrant and adopted by a working-class San Francisco couple, disrupted his way into superlative affluence. ("Remember what a Syrian immigrant looks like -- the father of Steve Jobs," Nicholas Kristof has fondly mused.)

Under the auspices of these celebrated techno-capitalists, media outlets will likely only heighten these narratives while obfuscating dissent. A recent survey from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that since Bezos acquired The Washington Post, the newspaper had published "almost uniformly uncritical -- oftentimes boosterish -- coverage" of Amazon over the last two years, as had The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Ninety-five percent of The Washington Post's coverage "ranged from neutral to positive/fawning"; The New York Times's and Wall Street Journal's percentages were 93 and 94, respectively. In a crowning example, FAIR noted, the Post ran a piece entitled "An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos's plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for 'future human settlement' of the moon" last March.

Such corporate propaganda substantiates what would seem like an obvious truth: When businesspeople buy the media, they leverage it to protect their own interests. It's not hard to imagine the direction The Atlantic -- a periodical that already has a history of repackaging Apple's press releases -- might take under its new ownership; a simple look at Axios's soft, often glowing coverage of Apple provides another clue. (Among its greater offenders: a story about a new Foxconn manufacturing plant in Wisconsin that neglects to address the pattern of suicides at the Foxconn iPhone factory in China.)

These reverent biases ignore the myriad ills their subjects inflict -- from Apple's tax-evasion schemes to Amazon's labor abuses -- essentially absolving tech's aristocracy of its iniquities. In the wake of an election whose outcome hinged largely on media coverage, the political influence of corporate media can't be understated. This is especially true considering the growing fusion of tech's upper crust and US politics; though Bezos has denied presidential ambitions, his monopolistic intrigues -- namely, Amazon's recent Whole Foods purchase -- betray an interest in titanic power, and his California counterparts Mark Zuckerberg and Thiel are angling for technocratic policy influence and possibly political office. Powell-Jobs, whose fortune has afforded her personal ties to both the Clinton and Bush families, might not be far behind.

Painted as champions of innovation, titans of industry and purveyors of the "American Dream," tech elites have manufactured a trifecta of hype; meanwhile, the voices that should be rebuking them are instead beholden to them. Bezos's and Powell-Jobs's acquisitions must serve as cautionary tales of a system in which the flow of information can be treated as another business venture, a mere stratagem in a campaign to pursue the sheerly capitalist virtues of wealth and power. At a time when the US is suffering from the election of one billionaire, it can't afford to be bamboozled into empowering others. 

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In the Wake of Charlottesville, Let's Call for Structural Transformation
August 14th, 2017, 05:32 PM

A vigil is held in downtown Philadelphia on August 13, 2017 in support of the victims of violence at the 'Unite the Right' rally In Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. (Photo: Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)A vigil is held in downtown Philadelphia on August 13, 2017, in support of the victims of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. (Photo: Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)

Opposing white supremacist mobilizations is important in the defense of marginalized people and civil society. But focusing mainly on the acts of individuals or emotions like "hate" obscures the role of structural racism in white supremacist violence. To prevent more acts of violence, we must confront and eradicate the structural foundations of white supremacy.

A vigil is held in downtown Philadelphia on August 13, 2017 in support of the victims of violence at the 'Unite the Right' rally In Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. (Photo: Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)A vigil is held in downtown Philadelphia on August 13, 2017, in support of the victims of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. (Photo: Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)

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White supremacist James Alex Fields Jr.'s murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and near-massacre of antiracist protesters at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville turned the mobilization into a flashpoint for politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as for media outlets. Heyer's death shifted the mainstream portrayal of Charlottesville from a "street fight between the right and the left" to a terrorist attack aimed at the antiracist left.

Donald Trump, of course, did not make this shift. Although he has supplied swift responses to the attacks that have occurred in places like Paris, the president initially remained mum about Heyer's murder and the dozens of people who were injured in the white supremacist attack.

Trump's conspicuous silence and weak response led both conservatives and liberals to frame their conversations on Charlottesville through discussions of the president's lack of moral leadership. Republicans and Democrats, such as Senators Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe condemned Trump for his initial silence. Once Trump finally issued a response condemning what he described as "violence on many sides," he attracted more criticisms from both liberal and conservative politicians and pundits for failing to identify that white supremacists were at fault and suggesting that both the left and the right were to blame.

While Trump's comments were indeed egregious, mainstream narratives about Charlottesville that focus primarily on Trump's bad character and the actions of one murderous racist (Fields), leave something to be desired: They obscure the need to creatively confront and defeat the white supremacist right. These limited narratives belie the structure of white supremacy in the US. Ultimately, this framing tells many of us on the left what we already know: Neither liberals nor conservatives have a real strategy for eradicating white supremacy at its root.

Like many Americans, I was horrified to hear about the murder of Heather Heyer and the injuries to other anti-racists and anti-fascists resisting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. As an organizer working to confront racist police violence in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I have seen tense moments where drivers have threatened to ram their vehicles into marchers exercising their right to protest, so I knew that this violence was not a case of a few "rotten apples;" the threat of it persists everywhere.

Fields' evil deed recalls this nation's deep history of state-sanctioned white supremacist violence aimed at people of color, especially African Americans, and the left. Friday night's tiki-torch march and Saturday's deadly assault recall the wave of race riots as well as the first Red Scare after World War I. Part of the white nationalists' vision, at least as described by white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, is to create a white "ethno-state." Driving through a multiracial flank of radicals could represent a pursuit of this goal, or at least an attempt to create the space needed for further white nationalist organizing.

However, the framing of Saturday's attacks by liberal and conservative politicians and pundits does not really present death as a logical outcome of white supremacist organizing and a white nationalist White House. The overwhelming emphasis on the actions of the driver, as well as on Trump's responses, reduces the problem of eradicating white supremacy to one murderous act by an individual and a lack of moral leadership from an immoral president, not the product of structural racism. Rather than seeing white supremacy as a system, many analysts are describing Friday's and Saturday's events as the result of an emotion: "hate."

Critiques of Trump focused on his days-long inability to reference Neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan, eventually forcing him to deliver a new statement. But what is the point of pushing Trump to denounce white supremacists, when he clearly does not have the moral authority to criticize them? Trump helped popularize birtherism, which offered a basis for Republican Party obstructionism during the Obama era. Trump-fueled birtherism also helped delegitimize certain policies, such as the Affordable Care Act.

Trump has employed white nationalists, such as Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, in his administration. His administration has sought to implement a constellation of policies that can only be described as an attempt to explicitly center white racial nationalism in domestic and foreign affairs. These policies include the Muslim travel ban, the continuation of restrictive immigration and aggressive deportation, a turn toward resurrecting racist drug war policies, and the Department of Justice's flirtation with suing colleges and universities over their use of affirmative action policies. Trump is also "seriously considering" pardoning racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Calling on him now to denounce a part of his electoral base that he helped cultivate with his birtherism -- without rolling back any of the aforementioned policies -- seems like an empty gesture. Would we take seriously a well-known jewel thief's disavowal of the latest bank robbery because the robbers killed a hostage? Probably not. So, why should anyone believe this president if he says he condemns white supremacists? 

We are mistaken to focus on Trump's inability to do the easiest thing ever -- call folks who wave Nazi flags "Nazis" and white nationalists who commit murder "white supremacist terrorists." We are also mistaken to reduce Heyer's murder and white nationalist organizing to "hate" and a product of "fringe" and "bad" beliefs. We will not defeat white supremacy by just trying to shoo all of the "bad racists" back out of public life.

Black- and people-of-color-led movements against state violence have illustrated how white supremacy is resilient and powered by acts of institutional violence. These acts are perpetrated by policies constructed and enacted by both Democrats and Republicans. Bill Clinton was not wearing a KKK hood when he signed the 1994 crime bill, which fueled the mass incarceration of people of color. George W. Bush was not waving a Nazi flag when he and Congress enacted the Patriot Act, which led to egregious forms of racial profiling of Arab and Muslim folks after 9/11. While the KKK and other white supremacists have a history of using violence to block African Americans' property, labor and voting rights, the federal government has not always needed the KKK to enact discriminatory policies.

So, yes, we must use a diversity of creative tactics to resist white supremacists whenever and wherever they organize, but that is not the only strategy. Eradicating institutional racism -- especially as it is related to a host of other legal, political and material structures, such as private property rights and policing, restrictive immigration and deportation, wage and property theft, deindustrialization and the assault on organized labor, the patriarchal assault on reproductive rights, the theft of Indigenous land, imperialist wars, and other crimes committed by capitalists and the state -- offers us the best chance to eradicate the foundation of white supremacy.

Without the acts of the criminal state to stand on, white supremacists will not have a platform to build a movement. Denying white supremacists' racist symbols and ideas is important. I am a fan of confederate flag burners. But we may be able to prevent more acts of white supremacist violence if we finally eliminate their structural foundation.

This elimination will not be initiated by Democrats or Republicans. The focus on Trump's behavior reflects the lack of a structural analysis. This should not surprise us. Before Black Lives Matter's emergence, Republicans mainly operated on the official line that the United States was colorblind, while Democrats, colleges and universities, and much of corporate America embraced superficial notions of diversity and multiculturalism. In recent years, however, resistance to economic injustice, deindustrialization, mass incarceration, racist police violence, Islamophobia, restrictive immigration and deportations, and theft of Indigenous land for corporate gain has shattered both of these visions.

As Democrats scramble to adjust their racial politics, we should, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor emphasizes in her piece demanding "No More Charlottesvilles," confront the violent right whenever and wherever it emerges. And while we are opposing the violent right, we should continue to offer our alternative: a working class-focused multiracial solidarity politics that aims to enact racial justice and economic democracy for everyone. Working from these strategies, hopefully, we will be able to prevent future Charlottesvilles.

This is a tall order, because structural transformation is difficult. Let's not take the easy way out.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on How Cities Are Winning Reparations for Slavery
August 14th, 2017, 05:32 PM

The white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend came after thousands of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists descended on Charlottesville to protest the city's plan to remove a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee. The effort to remove this statue was spurred in part by the African-American city Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy, who convinced his fellow city councilmembers not only to vote to remove the statue, but also to create a "reparations fund" for Charlottesville's African-American residents. For more, we speak with award-winning author and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who in 2014 penned the influential piece for The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations."

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Ta-Nehisi, as we begin to wrap up, I wanted to go to one of the stories that got so much attention, that you wrote, and that was "The Case for Reparations." Interestingly, we had Wes Bellamy on before these mass protests and the white supremacist rally this weekend. He's the vice mayor of Charlottesville, the only African-American city councilman, one of five. And he's the one who was originally pushing for the statue of Robert E. Lee to come down. He couldn't get that approved. And instead, though, he got something like an $8 million reparations fund to deal with equity in Charlottesville. And it was after that was passed that then they just moved ahead. Is that right, Juan? I mean, you were just with Wes Bellamy in Austin at a conference of progressive cities, where they said, "OK, we're going to take that down, too."

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Right, he was able to get the one final vote, a 3-2 vote on the council, to then agree to also take down the statue. But before that, the white councilmembers tried to placate him by agreeing to an equity fund for the black community in Charlottesville. It occurred to me this might be a potential, at the local level, at the municipal and state level, for politicians to begin demanding equity funds as a form of reparations, to beginning it from the ground up instead from the national government down.

AMY GOODMAN: And that's where all this began in Charlottesville. And if you can comment on that issue, an issue that you were not originally for, reparations, and what it could look like today, as even today, after the terror attack, Wes Bellamy is on the air talking about how important it is, once all the media leaves, to talk about equity in the critical institutions of Charlottesville, that have remained, for so long in the past, separate and unequal.

TA-NEHISI COATES: Well, see, this is why I come on Democracy Now!, right? Because I just got informed, because I wasn't -- I actually was unaware of all of that.

But I think the story points to -- you know, honestly, to two things. And the first thing is that if there were to be reparations in this country, I actually think it would happen like that. I think it would be a series of small local cases based on very, very specific claims. We think of reparations as this grand sort of action, you know, the Supreme Court passing judgment, for instance, that black folks are owed X number of billion or trillion dollars, or Congress perhaps passing a bill, signed by a president, and then, you know, there being this national reparations fund. It's not so much that I'm against that, but I suspect what will actually happen, or what would actually happen, in terms of a practical thing, is you would see folks look into specific instances. Virginia, for instance, I believe, you know, had a reparations fund for African Americans who were denied access to public schools in the wake of the response to Brown v. The Board. The sterilization cases in North Carolina, where black women were sterilized, and there were reparations claims made on their behalf. The torture of African Americans in Chicago by Jon Burge, a gentleman who worked for the Chicago Police Department, a successful reparations claim was made there. I think you would more see it in that sort of way. And so, you know, I'm happy, A, to see that happening in Charlottesville, but I'm also happy that the gentleman there didn't stop there. I think oftentimes people think, you know, "Well, if we win this, that means the end of all struggle, and we can go home and, you know, just relax and have a beer." I'm happy to see that he continued.

AMY GOODMAN: Do these grassroots movements give you hope --

TA-NEHISI COATES: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN:  -- right now across the country?

TA-NEHISI COATES: Yes, they're all we have. They're all we have. They're all we have. I smile when I see them. I'm happy to see them. They're all we have right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And in the White House, you have Stephen Bannon. There's questions whether he'll remain, but of course there have been those questions for many months right now. You have Sebastian Gorka. You have Stephen Miller. These are well-known people who represent this white nationalist strain, this thread, where you have Stephen Miller, one of the advisers to President Trump, actually holding the White Press news briefing last week and saying perhaps the poem by Emma Lazarus, "Give me your tired, your poor," should be removed --

TA-NEHISI COATES: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN:  -- from the Statue of Liberty, that it shouldn't have gone up there to begin with, it wasn't a part of it originally.

TA-NEHISI COATES: Right, right. I mean, these folks represent the worst in us. You know, they represent the worst in America. And again, I cannot emphasize that the path was laid by mainstream, acceptable politicians, who heard, you know, this birther business, who saw all of this, who heard people, you know, consistently lobbing racist attacks at the president, and did nothing and just stood aside. And so, you know, the idea that the party would then be taken over by a much more extreme or much more vocal sort of white supremacy is not shocking. If you did nothing, you know, if you didn't speak up during the Obama era, when these claims of racism, when these charges of racism were being lobbed, if you just stood aside, you're part of the problem, you're part of how we got here, you know. And you don't get off by, you know, after somebody's been killed in Charlottesville, making a statement about white supremacy at this late hour, after the fruit has already come to alms.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. Ta-Nehisi Coates, thanks so much for being with us. That does it for our show. His forthcoming book, We Were Eight Years in Power.

Pentagon Ready for "Full Range" of Options, Despite South Korea's Pleas to Rule Out War
August 14th, 2017, 05:32 PM

A North Korean soldier (R) looks at South Korea across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on July 12, 2017 in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)A North Korean soldier looks at South Korea across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on July 12, 2017, in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)

The highest-ranking US military officer again warned that the Trump administration stands ready to attack North Korea, despite pleas for peace from South Korea.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Joseph Dunford on Monday said that the Pentagon is prepared "to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the US homeland." Dunford made the comments in Seoul while meeting with South Korean civilian and military officials.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged the sabre-rattling to stop, declaring "there must not be another war on the Korean Peninsula."

President Moon also vowed to work with the US "to safeguard peace," according to the AP, and told Pyongyang to "stop issuing menacing statements and provoking."

"Whatever ups and downs we face, the North Korean nuclear situation must be resolved peacefully," Moon also stated.

Top ranking US officials have been claiming that President Trump is intent on avoiding war, and that he has issued threats to back-up diplomatic efforts.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis wrote an op-ed, published on Sunday by The Wall Street Journal, saying that "diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea’s course of action."

Dunford claimed on Monday that the US is "seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis."

The crisis comes in the wake of North Korean missile tests, UN sanctions, and a Washington Post report about the US intelligence community's assessment of North Korean capabilities.

The paper said Tuesday that American intelligence officials believe Pyongyang "has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles," and that it "is also outpacing expectations in its effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the American mainland."

President Trump responded to the Post report by vowing that North Korea "will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

North Korean officials then threatened to launch four missiles into the sea off the coast of Guam.

Trump replied with another aggressive claim on Friday, tweeting that: "Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should [sic] North Korea act unwisely."

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