Mar 28, 2020

No longer merely metaphor: Re-reading The Plague by Albert Camus

Photo of Albert Camus, seated at desk, smoking cigarette
Albert Camus, 1957
Albert Camus' novel The Plague offers a portrait of a town under quarantine, ravaged by an epidemic. It tells us of life arbitrarily constrained and unjustly shortened, of human beings isolated by law and by disease, of panics and shortages, of despair and heroic sacrifice. It presents a grim picture of human life, but an affirming picture of human beings.  It ends with a clear moral, that "what we learn in time of pestilence" is that "there is more to admire in humanity than to despise."[i]

The book follows the lives of several men -- most notably Rieux, a doctor; Rambert, a Spanish Civil War veteran now working as a journalist; and Tarrou, a Communist turned pacifist -- as they do what little they can, risking their lives and suffering separation from their loved ones, in order to try to fight the contagion and attend to the public health.  That it falls to such people to take the initiative says much about the failures of the authorities, and reflects Camus' attitude about authority overall. 

The official response to the outbreak is belated, dithering, confused, and inadequate.  The inaction of the authorities forces ordinary people to take extraordinary measures.  The turning point comes when Tarrou, the former Communist, approaches the doctor, Rieux.  "The sanitary department is inefficient -- understaffed, for one thing," Tarrou remarks.  "I've heard the authorities are thinking of a sort of conscription. . . ."  Rieux admits that this is true, though the Prefect remains paralyzed by indecision.

Tarrou then asks,

If he daren't risk compulsion, why not call for voluntary help?

It's been done, [Rieux replies].  The response was poor.

It was done through official channels, and half-heartedly, [Tarrou points out].  What they're short on is imagination. Officialdom can never cope with something really catastrophic.  And the remedial measures they think up are hardly adequate for a common cold.  If we let them carry on like this they'll soon be dead, and so shall we.

He then proposes:

I've drawn up a plan for voluntary groups of helpers.  Get me empowered to try out my plan, and then let's sidetrack officialdom.  In any case the authorities have their hands more than full already.  I have friends in many walks of life; they'll form a nucleus to start from.  And of course, I'll take part myself.

The network Tarrou set up took on a range of responsibilities: They "accompanied doctors on their house-to-house visits, saw to the evacuation of infected persons, and subsequently, owing to the shortage of drivers, even drove the vehicles conveying sick persons and dead bodies." They did their work diligently.  But to what degree these measures contributed to the ultimate waning of the epidemic, or whether the plague just ran its course, we naturally cannot know.  Nevertheless, the sanitary squads may have served a more important purpose: 

These groups enabled our townsfolk to come to grips with the disease and convinced them that, now that the plague was among us, it was up to them to do whatever could be done to fight it.  Since plague became in this way some men's duty, it revealed itself as what it really was; that is, the concern of all.

The plague, of course, is not simply the plague.  It also serves as a metaphor for the French experience under Nazi occupation, when the official response -- surrender and collaboration -- forced ordinary people, Camus among them, to take action themselves and form a Resistance movement. 

This analogy is striking, and has deep implications.  Camus saw fascism -- and indeed any belief system that justifies murder -- as a threat to all humanity which, nevertheless, human beings spread and to which anyone may succumb.  His thinking on this point was almost mystical in its severity: To affirm life meant that one must resist death.  To accept even the fact of death was equivalent to suicide, and akin to murder; it was in fact to become complicit with death in all of its forms.  The challenge, always, was to affirm the value of humanity against the tyranny of death, knowing that such a struggle would ultimately end in defeat.  This required a spirit of rebellion, and thus Camus placed his hopes not in authorities or institutions, but in the hearts of ordinary people.

Rereading The Plague now, in the midst of a pandemic, one finds that it suddenly has a new relevance. It is no longer merely metaphor.  Our hopes for surviving the scourge of Covid-19 cannot rely on the actions of those at the top of the social hierarchies, whose decisions so often manage to be at once draconian and inadequate.  Politicians, bureaucrats, and police are not to be trusted and, in any case, will pursue solutions dependent on laws, bureaucracies, and police.  They are, to Camus' way of thinking, simply another set of symptoms of the plague itself, which is a spiritual and political, as well as a medical, condition.

The cure, if one is to be found, relies not merely on medical science, but on social solidarity.  Our survival may depend on the actions of our coworkers and our neighbors -- people with no official position and no authority, but with enough courage and common sense to act in the public interest even against the orders of the authorities and the instructions of their own purported leaders. In a growing wave of wildcat strikes, auto workers, librarians, electricians, sewer maintenance workers, garbage collectors, fast food workers, bus drivers, warehouse workers, and workers at slaughterhouses have shut down facilities to prevent the spread of contagion when their bosses refused to.  People around the country are forming mutual aid networks to share resources, check in on neighbors, and provide for those who are under quarantine.  Such actions need not, and should not, wait for official decisions.  And these moments carry in them also the promise of a different kind of society, where the bureaucrats are sidelined, where everyday people suddenly discover their own power, and where we look to each other, instead of the authorities, to meet our basic needs. 

Perhaps, then, Camus' analogy may be borne out by reality: Perhaps the means of fighting pestilence will prove to be the same as those for fighting fascism.

The edition quoted is The Plague, by Albert Camus. Translation by Stuart Gilbert.  New York: Vintage, 1991.


Bio:
Kristian Williams is the author of Our Enemies inBlue: Police and Power in America and Betweenthe Bullet and the Lie: Essays on Orwell (both from AK Press).

Photo:
Photo by United Press International, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


[i] I have slightly altered this quotation. The Gilbert translation reads "men."

Mar 25, 2020

Interview with Hilary Moore, co-author of No Fascist USA!

I recently interviewed writer and anti-racist political educator Hilary Moore about the new book No Fascist USA! The John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and Lessons for Today's Movements, which she co-authored with James Tracy. The book includes a foreword by Robin D. G. Kelley and is published by City Lights Books. Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description:
In June 1977, a group of white anti-racist activists received an alarming letter from an inmate at a New York state prison calling for help to fight the Ku Klux Klan's efforts to recruit prison staff and influence the people incarcerated. Their response was to form the first chapter of what would eventually become a powerful, nationwide grassroots network, the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, dedicated to countering the rise of the KKK and other far-right white nationalist groups.

No Fascist USA! tells the story of that network, whose efforts throughout the 1980s––which included exposing white supremacists in public office, confronting neo-Nazis in street protests, supporting movements for self-determination, and engagement with the underground punk scene––laid the groundwork for many anti-racist efforts to emerge since. Featuring original research, interviews with former members, and a trove of graphic materials, their story offers battle-tested lessons for those on the frontlines of social justice work today.
I worked on anti-racist initiatives with members of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I played a small supporting role in the making of this book. Here is the interview:

No Fascist USA! book cover
ML: Why did you want to write this book?

HM: I was a collective member of Catalyst Project, supporting majority white grassroots organizations in Arkansas and Kentucky to expand their anti-racist campaigns. When Trump came onto the Presidential scene in 2015, we noticed a marked shift in what kinds of support these folks were asking for: models, lessons, tips on how to confront newly emboldened white supremacists in the context of long-term anti-racist organizing in majority white communities.

Then in the summer of 2016, I went to a counter-rally to protest the coalition of the Traditionalist Worker Party and the Golden State Skinheads at the state capitol in Sacramento, California. They were using Trump’s campaign as an excuse to unite groups. There, I saw white supremacists stab five people. Horse-mounted police then ushered the white supremacists into the safety of the halls of the capitol. This rocked me and I needed answers. What do you do when shit like this happens?

It seemed that there was a very big gap in my years as an anti-racist political education trainer and the rapidly shifting political terrain. Within white anti-racist strategies—we knew how to challenge institutional policies that prop up white supremacy, we knew how to identify racism in our movements, and with varying degrees of success create anti-racist movement culture, but when it came to confronting white supremacy in the flesh, we were fumbling.

We wrote this book because there were striking similarities between how quickly the political terrain shifted under the Reagan Administration and what was happening with the onset of Trump. For us, the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee was particularly interesting, given their relationship and steadfast commitment to movements for self-determination, and that being the basis from which they confronted the Klan and other white supremacist formations.

ML: What surprised you about the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee?

HM: I was surprised when we realized that most JBAKC members were lesbians and anti-Zionist Jews. So much of the content produced by the JBAKC spoke to the role of white people, rather generally. They rarely, and more likely never, referenced their personal experiences in their political work. It struck me, that a majority-white anti-Klan organization was the political priority of this group of lesbian and anti-Zionist Jews.

I remember asking Laura Whitehorn about this. She said it wasn’t something they talked about very much. It wasn’t until some people surrounding the JBAKC were sent to prison, and were asked by journalists and friends about their personal experiences, did people begin to connect their social location to their commitments to movements for self-determination. This makes sense then, as to why it took awhile for this fact to show itself in the research and writing.

ML: In antifascist activism of recent years, the concepts of “diversity of tactics” and “community self-defense” have been useful for some of the most powerful local initiatives. Reading No Fascist USA!, I saw both of these concepts prefigured in some of the JBAKC’s actions and organizing drives in the 1980s. Could you speak to how JBAKC used diversity of tactics and community self-defense, and what we can learn from their example on these issues?

HM: Broadly speaking, the JBAKC emerged from a call for community self defense. The call was put out by incarcerated leaders within Black liberation struggles. It pointed to the Klan’s activity targeting those leaders within the prison system and it asked people who would become the JBAKC to step into a buffer role against those attacks and an amplifying role to spread those demands. An important aspect is the fact that COINTELPRO had ravaged social movements in the 60s and 70s, so the concept of community self-defense, from this vantage point, wasn’t simply a defense from white supremacist groups, but law and order arms of the state as well.

I think one of the most interesting things about the JBAKC was how they adapted their tactics over time, adjusting to changing political conditions, while keeping their political principles in tact. At first, they were unwilling to work with groups who held different approaches to social change, like reform or voting work. But, when they were pushed to scale up, they began to bring these same principles into coalition work.

And that was a dance. It takes more skill to both hold a political line and create multiple entry points for all kinds of people. They were by no means experts on coalition work, but they were successful in bringing together unlikely groups. For example, faith groups and anti-racist skinheads in their campaign in Chicago to stamp out racist graffiti.

ML: People often assume that having revolutionary politics means being strident and sectarian, and the way to get away from sectarianism is to moderate your politics. Your account of how JBAKC evolved directly challenges that assumption. John Brown started out as a strident, self-righteous radical group, but to a significant degree they were able to move away from the self-righteousness, without giving up revolutionary politics about the United States. What do you think helped them to make that shift, and what lessons can we learn from it?

Poster: "Stop racist attacks on Arab people in the U.S."
John Brown Anti-Klan Committee flyer, 1991
HM: In 1983, organizers in the New African Independence Movement pushed the organization to work more coherently as a national network, and to build broadly, rather than remain as loosely affiliated chapters based on the coasts. Receiving this kind of strategic assessment from trusted comrades was, I think, the clearest reason that the JBAKC decided to shift gears. They had dabbled in coalition work in Austin and Richmond, but this push clarified the organization’s form. It also spawned their first national gathering in Chicago, where members and supporters from all over came together to share tactics and strategies. From then on, the JBAKC more often than not chose tactics that reflected a popular mobilization approach.

Another moment that crystallized this shift was when four JBAKC members were held in contempt of court, and later indicted, for refusing to testify in a grand jury. The organization had always prioritized support work for people incarcerated, but this moment, again, sharpened the imperative to communicate broadly about their particular politics.

When the state comes down on social movements, like it did, for their political work, the need to articulate why it’s happening—so that you can build a wide and lasting network of support— becomes very clear. From this position, being strident or self-righteous only gets you isolated.

ML: No Fascist USA! talks a little about JBAKC members’ experiences with grand jury resistance—refusing to cooperate with grand juries that were supposedly investigating radical activists for their involvement in political bombings or other activities. Could you say more about those experiences—what was at issue and how does this kind of resistance relate to the current situation in the U.S.?

HM: In October 1983, Reagan gave orders to invade the island nation of Grenada. A couple weeks later, a bomb exploded at the U.S. Senate building. In its newspaper, the JBAKC wrote about the bombing of the building “as a response to the invasion of Grenada and other armed actions in solidarity with El Salvador and Nicaragua.” Two years later, four members of the D.C. chapter, were called to testify in a grand jury.

At first these four members were surprised—the D.C. chapter had already folded, and some people had moved on to other political work. But the JBAKC came out of a political tradition that saw tactics like grand juries as a tool for intimidating activists and gathering information for political repression.

This ethic helped them turn what could be an isolating experience into a political platform. They signed onto a national campaign against grand juries, connecting what was happening in this small chapter to broader resistance efforts. The indicted members also believed that the state targeted them specially—as white activists that supported the Puerto Rican Independence movement and Black liberation movement—because white activists are often the weak link under state pressure.

Grand juries have a long history in the United States, and as such, there is a long history of resistance that organizers and activists today can learn from. For instance, in 2011 grand jury subpoenas were issued to members in the [Chelsea] Manning Support Network and others in the Boston area. In 2017, six indigenous water protectors were called before a grand jury in the height of the struggle at Standing Rock, marking the first time the federal government has pursued felony charges against people demonstrating to prevent the building of fossil fuel infrastructure.

ML: The JBAKC focused primarily on combating organized white supremacist groups, and they emphasized the connections between explicit white supremacism and established institutions such as the police and prisons. But what about subtler forms of racial oppression, where people of color are systematically oppressed but there’s no explicit racial bigotry, maybe even a direct rejection of it? How did John Brown address those institutions or situations?

HM: They didn't. Of course they cared about different kinds of racism, and probably personally would act on some of the things you described, but as an organization that just wasn't their intervention.

ML: One of the reasons that Three Way Fight was created was because leftists in the U.S. have traditionally treated fascist movements as just a more extreme version of the established racial and economic order, and have ignored or minimized the ways that far rightists clash with the state. The JBAKC slogan “cops and the Klan go hand in hand” is sometimes true, and describes an important part of the situation, but it also leaves out an important part. John Brown was active during a decade when neonazis were literally taking up arms against the state and being killed in shootouts with police, and when Tom Metzger was urging his supporters to “take the game away from the left” to give voice to white workers’ rage at the ruling class. How did John Brown folks address these realities—and their implications for the left?

HM: By 1980, the JBAKC was one part of an anti-Klan movement that was adjusting to the massive opening in racist attacks and organizing. Given their politics, they wanted to make an intervention in the anti-Klan movement: we cannot rely on cops or the government, for protection from the Klan or other white supremacist groups. During this time, it was common practice for anti-racist groups to appeal to local police departments and city officials to “Ban the Klan” or later, when white power groups turned on the government, to work with the FBI. The JBAKC thought this approach did not protect people in movements fighting for self-determination.

They were also drawing lines of parallel logic: yes at times Klan and cops shared memberships, but they also take up different and complementary roles in intimidation and control of Black and Brown communities. The Klan takes up that work in one way. Police take up that role in another way. U.S. imperialism takes up that role in yet another way.

This moment in history is especially interesting because, like you said, there was a major shift: the white power movement began publicly declaring war against the U.S. government. Because the JBAKC was already in motion six years before this, they had to adapt. I think their biggest intervention on this was in their newspaper. They wrote articles tracking and assessing shifts, like the way Tom Metzger’s was vying for state power in California while at the same time as creating organizations that undermined governance of state power.

But no, it didn’t change their overall strategy or so much of how they went about their anti-Klan work. If anything, this happened in the moment of the organization when they were trying to popularize anti-racism. They were focused on building up a grassroots network of support—a hotline, sending out anti-racist graffiti packets, organizing anti-racist punk shows to raise funds, and writing letters to connect anti-fascist people across regions.

ML: JBAKC advocated “self determination for the Black nation,” meaning creation of an independent country of New Afrika in the Deep South, as a centerpiece of combating white supremacy in the U.S. I’ve always thought there was a tension between the idea of self-determination—i.e., choosing your own status, shaping your own destiny—and the assertion that the outcome of this choice would necessarily be creating an independent state. Political independence is one strategy that’s been advocated by some forces within the Black liberation movement, but as far as I know it’s never been the dominant, majority strategy within the movement. How did John Brown navigate this tension in its interactions with Black political organizations in the towns and cities where it was active?

HM: Absolutely. This tension was real and never resolved. For the most part, members navigated the tension through their relationships, which means there wasn’t a clear, formulaic approach. It also meant how it was handled was uneven and subjective to each chapter.

For instance, in Austin, members were coordinating with people in the Black Liberation Army in New York, while also working on the ground with the Black Citizens Task Force in Austin, who held a more traditional grassroots organizing approach in winning housing and workers rights in the Black community in Austin.

I think it was part of their learning in coalition work: that you can have a long-term vision for Black political independence and still work in coalition with organizations, against white supremacist organizing, who are fighting for basic rights.

ML: What else would you like to highlight or discuss in relation to the book?

HM: The shift you raised, where white supremacists began attacking the U.S. government, also marked a time when far right actors began taking underground action. Public rallies and big demonstrations to sway public opinion was no longer the name of the game. Leaderless movements and single shooter racist attacks against migrants, Black people, and Jewish people are on the rise today—from El Paso to Hanau. The lessons offered in the story of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee don’t account for this tactic directly. I will say though that no matter what, having strong networks of people who know why anti-racism and anti-fascism are important, who are organized before something terrible happens—that lesson is timeless.

Mar 19, 2020

Far rightists divided on coronavirus and Trump

Julia DeCook has a good article outlining how right-wing media activists have been exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to spread xenophobia, conspiracy theories, and other forms of misinformation:
The conspiracy theories about the virus range from it being a biological weapon created by the Chinese government, that it is a conspiracy created by U.S. democrats to prevent Trump’s reelection, or that the CIA created the virus in order to lessen China’s power. Another conspiracy theory that has been circulating, due to a QAnon conspiracy theorist on YouTube, is that the COVID-19 pandemic was created by the Pirbright Institute in England and by Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft. The themes that emerge from these conspiracy theories point to fears and anxieties typical of the right-wing surrounding globalization, multiculturalism, and government cover-ups on the level of the belief of a “New World Order.”

Additionally, Twitter analysis found that there are number of bots that are intentionally spreading disinformation about the virus and the pandemic itself, further strengthening beliefs among conspiracy theorists and the radical right that the media is “overblowing” the significance of the virus. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, has actively been retweeting and sharing information that is blatantly false about COVID-19, specifically that the U.S. has contained the virus, as well as false information about the fatality rate.

*                    *                    *

COVID-19, like other pandemics, has been politicized among the far-right in the United States and worldwide to stoke the fire of Sinophobia, hatred toward the left, and xenophobia toward immigrants in general. ... Fox News personalities like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham repeatedly refer to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Coronavirus” or even “the Wuhan flu.” ... Right-wing media figures have also used the outbreak to justify the building of the border wall, to halt immigration, and to disparage the U.S.’s dependence on the Chinese economy.
"Scapegoat" (Bouc émissaire) - bronze by C. Jongen
Other critics of the far right have made related points. At the beginning of February, Ali Breland in Mother Jones detailed how a number of online conspiracy theorists were not only conjuring up unsubstantiated plots to explain the disease, but also using such claims to make money. And Right Wing Watch has carried several stories about the politics of the pandemic, such as one featuring “The Most Ridiculous Coronavirus Tweets from the Right”—ridiculous for their racism and/or contrived defense of Donald Trump’s policies.

These articles accurately describe a large and important part of the U.S. right-wing landscape. The costs of this rhetoric are stark, as the Trump administration’s brutal treatment of immigrants and refugees increases their risk of getting sick, and virus-scapegoating has brought an upsurge in verbal and physical attacks against Chinese and other Asian people.

At the same time, sections of the far right have also addressed the pandemic in ways that may be surprising to some critics. It’s true that many conservative commentators have been trivializing the disease and claim the Democrats have been overblowing the situation in order to weaken the president. However, some of the most wild-eyed right-wing conspiracists have been saying the opposite for weeks (in some cases a couple of months)—warning that the disease is deadly serious, mainstream conservatives have been lying to the public, and the Trump administration has to do a lot more to address the crisis.

For example, Natural News founder Mike Adams, who is notorious for peddling everything from chemtrails conspiracy theories to herbal remedies for Ebola, has denounced “people like Dr. Drew, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Pence (who still promises millions of testing kits will appear any day now), the US Surgeon General and countless TV hosts, ‘journalists’ and talking heads who all assured the nation that the coronavirus was ‘no worse than the flu.’” Far from defending the president, Adams declares, “It’s time to stop thinking that Trump might be the answer to defeat the deep state and, instead, start thinking about how the entire corrupt, incompetent, malicious, anti-human system of government/industry collusion needs to be allowed to self-destruct once and for all.”

Other rightist have echoed parts of this argument in more muted terms. Jackie Morgensen on the alt-right and antisemitic Darkmoon website ridiculed Trump’s claim that the U.S. is more prepared to combat the coronavirus than any other country by pointing out that the president cut most of the CDC’s money for fighting pandemics two years ago. (I found this article because it was reposted to the neonazi web forum Stormfront.) More surprisingly, the leading Patriot movement organization Oath Keepers, which as a rule has been staunchly loyal to Trump, published a series of articles calling the virus “a VERY real, very serious threat to our nation and its people” and urging the president to take aggressive measures long before he showed any willingness to do so.

A different sort of back-handed swipe at President Trump came from Cindy Jacobs, one of the top leaders of the Christian rightist New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. NAR is massive, with some three million adherents in the United States and millions more on several other continents, and it has consistently supported Trump since the 2016 Republican primaries, through vehicles such as “POTUS Shield.” Like many other right-wing Christian leaders, Jacobs responded to the coronavirus by calling for a day of prayer. Yet one feature set Jacobs’ call apart—its internationalism:
[T]his is a wake-up call that we are a global church, and that the challenges affecting other nations truly affect us all. Pray for the nations as we pray for our own!

If you have been complacent about praying for other nations suffering from this virus, we encourage a time of reflection and repentance.
Jacobs’ global approach to the pandemic stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s nationalistic and xenophobic response, such as pressuring a German drug company to provide a coronavirus vaccine “for the US only.” It’s hard to read the NAR leader’s language as anything other than a rebuke of Make America Great Again ideology—and its top promoter.

My aim here is not to gloss over Jacobs’ or NAR’s authoritarian theocratic politics, or to suggest that right-wing conspiracism is less bad if it takes pandemics seriously. The point, rather, is that rightists don’t speak with one voice and don’t necessarily say what we expect them to say. Many U.S. far rightists have responded to the coronavirus by promoting nativist and white supremacist policies, dismissing science, and attacking Trump’s critics, but some have been ahead of the crowd in advocating social distancing and calling out the administration’s inaction, and a few have even challenged a nationalistic approach to public health as misguided. These differences point to deep-seated tensions and conflicts among rightists regarding Trump and many other issues. They also highlight far rightists’ dangerous capacity to incorporate elements of progressive politics into an oppressive and demonizing framework.

Photo:
By C. Jongen (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Feb 28, 2020

Comment on Foucault and the Iranian Revolution

The Philosopher and the Ayatollah: "A Perplexing Affinity" 

A comment on Foucault and the Iranian Revolution 


by Kristian Williams

If we want to defeat fascism, we need to understand its attraction. Sometimes an exceptional case can be as revealing, in its own way, as the typical one. And an indirect approach, precisely by leading us away from the object of study, may bring us to a better vantage point, revealing features that had previously escaped our view. I want to look, therefore, at a case that may not directly connect to fascism in its narrow conception, but from which we may be able to discern a relevant pattern and draw applicable lessons.

Newpaper photo of Michel Foucault speaking at press conference
Michel Foucault
In a series of articles and interviews, Michel Foucault, the icon of politically engaged post-structuralism, voiced his support for the revolution then unfolding in Iran and expressed his admiration for the Ayatollah Khomeini. In Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson argue that this attitude, surprising at first glance, in fact grew out of deep features of Foucault’s thinking, and perhaps the very nature of his philosophical project:
"There was a perplexing affinity between this post-structuralist philosopher, this European critic of modernity, and the antimodernist Islamist radicals in the streets of Iran. Both were searching for a new form of political spirituality as a counterdiscourse to a thoroughly materialistic world; both clung to idealized notions of premodern social orders; both were disdainful of modern liberal judicial systems; and both admired individuals who risked death in attempts to reach a more authentic existence."[1]
Foucault himself provides the best evidence for this argument, in his journalism and commentary on the revolution.[2] In an interview with Claire Brière and Pierre Blanchet, dated 1979, he announced:
"Among the things that characterize this revolutionary event, there is the fact that it has brought out -- and few peoples in history have had this -- an absolutely collective will.... Furthermore (and here one can speak of Khomeini's political sense), this collective will has been given one object, one target and one only, namely, the departure of the Shah.... [The] national sentiment has been extremely vigorous: the rejection of submission to foreigners, disgust at the looting of national resources, the rejection of a dependent foreign policy.... But national feeling has, in my opinion, been only one of the elements of a still more radical rejection: the rejection by a people, not only of foreigners, but of everything that had constituted for years, for centuries, its political destiny."[3]
Newspaper photo of Ayatollah Khomeini speaking at microphones
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
There is no need to enter into the briar patch of questions about the definition of fascism, and how that definition might be applied to Iran, or whether it can be. (Personally, I am agnostic on the subject.) Rather than try to assign Iran (then or now) a precise place on the fascist spectrum, what concerns us here is specifically Foucault's thinking on the subject; and, whatever one may think of the Iranian revolution as such, the terms of Foucault’s praise sound worryingly fascistic: a "national sentiment" combining grievance and triumph; revolution as both a rupture in history and the affirmation of a particular identity; a celebration of will as an expression of power and the source of its legitimacy; the "rejection ... of foreigners" and all alien influences; and finally, an "absolute" collective will directed at a single objective under the tutelage of an exalted authority. One leader, one people, one will.

The above elegy cannot be explained as a momentary rhetorical lapse or a slip of the tongue, the result of speaking spontaneously and without rehearsal. It is instead a concise encapsulation of the points developed at greater length in Foucault’s articles. Elsewhere, for instance, he refers to "this almost mythical leader, Khomeini" as "the focal point of a collective will."[4] He describes the revolution as both "belong[ing] to history" and "escap[ing] it."[5] Most poetically, he argues that the events in Iran were "not a revolution" on the French or Russian model, but a rebellion that promised freedom, not merely from imperialism, but from modernity, from all totalizing systems, and even from rationality itself:
"It is the insurrection of men with bare hands who want to lift the fearful weight, the weight of the entire world order that bears down on each of us, but more specifically on them, these oil workers and peasants at the frontiers of empires. It is perhaps the first great insurrection against global systems, the form of revolt that is the most modern and the most insane."[6]
Naturally, Foucault could not have known precisely what the revolution would produce. He did not foresee the religious intolerance, the persecution of ethnic minorities, the summary execution of homosexuals, and the total subjugation of women. Nevertheless, in the interview with Brière and Blanchet, he argued that the dynamism of the movement depended on a cultural specificity "based in traditions, institutions that carry a charge of chauvinism, nationalism, exclusiveness, which have a very powerful attraction for individuals."[7]

We can trust that Foucault did not set out to justify oppression. And he was neither so foolish nor so calculating as to believe that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Instead, he was able to persuade himself that the Islamist program represented a kind of freedom -- though of course a different freedom than we might pursue in the West. Indeed, it was that very sense of difference that made Iran so alluring.

Afary and Anderson argue that Foucault’s support for the authoritarian theocracy was facilitated by several elements of his thought, including his anti-imperialism, his relative ignorance about Iran and naiveté about Islam, his longing for authenticity and a spiritualizing politics, and his indifference, bordering on disdain, for the concerns or even the existence of women. Most centrally, his attitude toward Iran also constituted a logical continuation of his rejection of modernity, and in particular his critique of the Enlightenment project of using reason to discover universal truths. For Foucault, such grand narratives were always something of a boondoggle, but abandoning them left him intellectually defenseless when confronted with the particularistic claims of a society forcibly rejecting the yoke of Western dominance.

To the degree that Foucault’s support for Khomeini grew out of his critique of modernity, it should certainly invite scrutiny to that critique and others like it; and to the degree that such critiques may inform our politics, the necessary scrutiny must also take the form of a self-scrutiny. The abandonment of the Enlightenment may, as Foucault would have it, produce new subjectivities; but it will not necessarily lead to new kinds of freedom. It may, instead, amplify existing oppressions or renew older forms of subjugation.

The cautionary lessons for a left that increasingly favors relativistic narratives and cultural specificity rather than claims of universality are, I think, obvious enough. It is not that post-modernism and cultural relativism inevitably lead to the rule of fundamentalist clerics and the stoning of adulteresses, but that is one form that the discontent with modernity can take, and absent other principles -- that is, without Enlightenment-tinged notions of rationality and rights, to say nothing of Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité -- we may find it hard to combat those tendencies, especially when they are presented as the authentic voice of marginalized people overturning the conceptual, as well as the political, structures that confine them.

Implicit in this disconcerting case study is also a challenge for the left. In terms of practical politics it is necessary to break out of the binary logic that so often shapes radical anti-imperialism and liberal anti-racism alike. We must develop a third pole that is neither Khomeini nor the Shah -- or in our own society, one that equally opposes the insurgent right wing and refuses any defense of the neoliberal status quo. We must avoid Foucault’s mistake of siding with authoritarians in the name of anti-imperialism, but we must likewise avoid Christopher Hitchens' mistake of reinforcing the existing power structure as a bulwark against "Islamo-fascism."

Then there is the cultural dimension, the affective aspect: As George Orwell cautioned in his review of Mein Kampf, those fighting fascism would be wise not "to underrate its emotional appeal." He argued that "Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life," because "human beings don't only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades."[8] These desires are, of course, merely the outward manifestation of a deep yearning for purpose, for meaning in one's life, and for a sense of belonging.

Daniel Guérin, too, thought that an understanding of "the living reality" of the fascist movement as it was "reflected in the consciousness of men" required attention to more than the workers' material needs.[9] Visiting Germany during the last days of the Weimar republic and the first period of Nazi rule, Guérin had the strange and enlightening opportunity to view the fascist revolution through the medium of nature hikes and youth hostels.[10] Based on that experience, he faulted the Marxists for "being interested only in the material factors,... [and thus] understand[ing] absolutely nothing of the way in which the privations suffered by the masses are transmuted into a religious aspiration."[11]

Socialism, Guérin argued, cannot win by insisting on the material side of life and ignoring the emotional, idealistic, spiritual side. People could be turned away from "fascist mysticism," he thought, but only if those same impulses could be directed toward a new "idealism," specifically the "highly 'spiritual' purpose of ending man's alienation." In short, it is the struggle as much as the victory that provides a sense of purpose, and so: "Socialism can regain its attractive force only by saying to the masses that to win the 'paradise on earth,' its supreme goal, requires struggles and sacrifices."[12]

The challenge for the left is to provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, without replicating the logic of a death-cult; to create a feeling of belonging without chauvinism, and authenticity without essentializing identities. Our politics must learn to speak, simultaneously, the language of reason and the language of values. Without abandoning the Enlightenment, our movements must be ready, nevertheless, to address our deepest psychological, cultural, and even spiritual needs. Unless we can do so, we may find our demands for material security, social equality, and personal freedom continually outbid by those who promise only a life of sacrifice and a glorious death.

Bio:
Kristian Williams is the author of Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, Between the Bullet and the Lie: Essays on Orwell, and the forthcoming Resist Everything Except Temptation: The Anarchist Philosophy of Oscar Wilde.

Photos:
Images of Foucault and Khomeini are in public domain, available via Wikimedia Commons.  

Notes:
[1] Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 13. For a more sympathetic view of Foucault's involvement, see: Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016).
[2] This material is collected in the appendix to Afary and Anderson's book, along with cautions and counter-arguments from the philosopher's contemporaries.
[3] Quoted in Claire Brière and Pierre Blanchet, "Iran: The Spirit of a World without Spirit," in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, by Afary and Anderson, 252-3.
[4] Michel Foucault, "The Mythical Leader of the Iranian Revolt," in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, by Afary and Anderson, 222.
[5] Michel Foucault, "Is It Useless to Revolt?" in Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, by Afary and Anderson, 263.
[6] Foucault, "Mythical Leader," 222.
[7] Quoted in Brière and Blanchet, "Iran," 260.
[8] George Orwell, "Review: Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (unabridged edition)," in The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, volume II: My Country Right or Left, 1940 – 1943, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), 14.
[9] Daniel Guérin, Fascism and Big Business (New York: Pathfinder, 2010), 88.
[10] Guérin records these experiences in a fascinating short book: Daniel Guérin, The Brown Plague: Travels in Late Weimar and Early Nazi Germany, trans. Robert Schwartzwald (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994).
[11] Guérin, Fascism and Big Business, 88.
[12] Guérin, Fascism and Big Business, 88.

Jan 15, 2020

Trump, Iran, and the right-wing anti-interventionists

[This commentary grew out of discussions among Three Way Fight supporters.]

When Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, many people feared it would lead to full-scale war between the U.S. and Iran—especially when Iran responded with missile attacks against Iraqi bases that house U.S. military forces. But instead of escalating the conflict further, Trump reversed course the next morning, celebrating that no Americans were harmed in the missile attacks and that “Iran appears to be standing down.” This didn’t end the crisis or negate Trump’s aggressive moves, but for the moment at least it pushed back the threat of full-scale war.

Trump’s reversal also pointed to a sharp foreign policy conflict within the array of right-wing forces that put him in the White House—a conflict between aggressive militarists and right-wing anti-interventionists, between those who advocate a U.S.-led crusade against “radical Islam” and those who see a supposed “invasion” of the United States by dark-skinned immigrants and refugees as the greater threat.

From the beginning, Donald Trump’s presidential administration has represented an unstable coalition of conflicting rightist factions. Many of his supporters uphold the “America First” policies he ran on, such as shutting down immigration from Latin America and the majority Muslim countries, boosting tariffs to revive American manufacturing, and pulling the United States back from its global military role and system of alliances. But Trump has also relied on support from more conventional conservatives because of their strong organizational base in the Republican party or in the ruling class. These include neoliberals who advocate free trade and relatively open immigration so that businesses can exploit workers wherever and whenever they want, neoconservatives who want the United States to spread “democracy” by invading and occupying other countries, and Christian rightists who (in most but not all cases) believe that building the state of Israel and waging war on its enemies are part of God’s plan for the Second Coming of Christ. To varying degrees, all of these factions have been represented in the Trump administration.

Some of President Trump’s foreign policy moves have broken with conservative interventionist orthodoxy, such as praising Russian President Putin, criticizing NATO (and privately threatening to withdraw from the organization), and meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. On these points, Trump is in step with America Firsters such as Steve Bannon, who was White House chief strategist from January to July 2017, and whose influence in the administration has persisted. But in substantive terms, Trump’s administration has largely followed an interventionist approach. As one analyst argued a year ago:
“In the name of opposing globalism, Trump has upheld one pillar after another of the neocon policy agenda. He is building up America’s already supreme military, to the tune of $750 billion slated for 2019. He is confronting a panoply of adversaries from Venezuela to Iran to China. He has escalated military engagements in parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, without leaving a single of the nation’s dozens of formal security obligations around the world. He has released the United States from multilateral arrangements like the Paris Climate Agreement, UNESCO, and the UN Human Rights Council, and is exiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. And he has steadfastly supported the right-wing government of Israel, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and slashing aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. If Dick Cheney were president, the record would be similar.”
Pompeo at lectern with "Christians United for Israel" backdrop
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,
interventionist and Christian rightist,
addresses Christians United for Israel
summit, July 2019
Neoconservatives in the Trump administration have included Elliot Abrams (special representative for Venezuela since January 2019) and John Bolton (national security advisor from April 2018 to September 2019). But among interventionist factions, the Christian right has had an even stronger influence on the administration, at least with regard to the Middle East. Ten months ago, Kathryn Joyce noted that Trump’s decision to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights (a “radical shift in foreign policy”) was a gift not only to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also to right-wing evangelicals in the United States, who have been among Trump’s staunchest supporters. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Pence are closely aligned with the Christian right, specifically the Christian Zionist group Christians United for Israel, whose founder John Hagee believes a joint U.S.-Israeli preemptive military strike against Iran is integral to God’s plan. In 2018, Pence successfully urged Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and last year it was Pompeo and Pence who persuaded Trump to have Qasem Soleimani killed.

When Soleimani’s assassination was announced, many Trump supporters celebrated. The Three Percenters–Original, a Patriot movement group, gleefully applauded the attack on its Facebook page. The Federalist Society declared that the murder of Soleimani was “long overdue.” Concerned Women for America (CWA), a leading Christian right organization, wrote in an open email to Secretary of State Pompeo, “CWA is 100% supportive of the President’s decision to retaliate against Soleimani and his murderous thug entourage. History has taught us that appeasement only emboldens terrorists and fascist dictators. We are calling on our members to cover you, President Trump, and our military leaders in prayer.”

Alt-rightists, who played a pivotal role in helping elect Trump in 2016, had a sharply different response. In the months and years after Trump’s inauguration many alt-rightists become bitterly disappointed by what they saw as his betrayal of America First politics and capitulation to the conservative establishment—and to the Jewish cabal that supposedly controls the U.S. political system. The killing of Soleimani bolstered that assessment. Counter-Currents editor Greg Johnson called the attack Trump’s “dumbest foreign policy decision yet.” Brad Griffin (“Hunter Wallace”) of Occidental Dissent wrote that “Donald Trump just took a major step toward starting a war with Iran for Sheldon Adelson and the Jewish billionaires who have bought his foreign policy.” Richard Spencer tweeted: “I deeply regret voting for and promoting Donald Trump in 2016. * To the people of Iran, there are millions of Americans who do not want war, who do not hate you, and who respect your nation and its history. * After our traitorous elite is brought to justice, we hope to achieve peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.”

Other right-wing interventionists also criticized the Soleimani assassination. The libertarian and paleoconservative website LewRockwell.com reposted an article by Thomas Luongo commenting, “Americans supporting this refuse to comprehend that we’re as much to blame as Iran is for the violence. We’re not the good guys and they aren’t the bad guys. Everyone sucks here.... Trump was elected to end this belligerence but he’s incapable of separating strength from weakness.” Neonazi David Duke’s website denounced “Trump’s Illegal Terrorist Attack and Murder of a Hero in the War Against ISIS & al Qaeda.”

Some Trump supporters also criticized the assassination. Helga Zepp-LaRouche, Lyndon LaRouche’s widow and successor as head of the fascist cult network he founded, wrote that Soleimani “has probably done more than anyone to contribute to the defeat of ISIS, Daesh, al Nusra, al Qaida etc., and represents a national hero in the eyes of the Iranians.” Zepp-LaRouche portrayed Soleimani’s killing as a dangerous legacy of former National Security Advisor Bolton’s “confrontational policies,” in contrast to Trump, “who promised to end the endless wars and has already taken several steps in that direction.” To avert further escalation and “outflank the maneuvers of the war-mongers,” she called for an immediate summit involving Trump, Putin, and Chinese President Xi, so that “those three outstanding leaders [can] fulfill the potential that historical providence has bestowed upon them.”

Photo of Tucker Carlson holding a microphone
Tucker Carlson, Fox News host and
right-wing anti-interventionist, who says
"invasion" from Mexico is bigger danger
to U.S. than Iran
Perhaps the most important Trump supporter to criticize the Soleimani assassination was Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson. In contrast to other Fox hosts such as Sean Hannity, who praised the attack, Carlson warned that “America appears to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war” and—like Zepp-LaRouche—blamed the move on Bolton and other advisors rather than Trump himself. Carlson asserted that Trump himself “doesn’t seek war” but suggested he “might be outmaneuvered” by “people around him.”

The evening before Soleimani’s assassination, Carlson declared,
“the very people demanding action against Iran tonight, the ones telling you the Persian menace is the greatest threat we face, are the very same ones demanding that you ignore the invasion of America now in progress from the south. The millions, the tens of millions, of foreign nationals living among us illegally; the torrent, more significantly, of Mexican narcotics that has killed and disabled entire generations of Americans…”
This combination of criticizing military aggression and demonizing immigrants is squarely in the tradition of right-wing anti-interventionists going back to paleocon Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaigns in the 1990s. Coupled with Carlson’s care to blame the attack on Trump’s advisors rather than Trump himself, the approach “seems carefully engineered to appeal to a paranoid, racist president who typically responds to criticism with vindictive hyperaggression,” to quote Matt Gertz of Media Matters. This approach may have succeeded in influencing Trump’s actions. As Gertz argues,
“Carlson, like several of his colleagues, is effectively not just a cable news host but a political operative. These members of the Fox News cabinet try to influence Trump’s actions, both through their public commentary and by counseling the president on the side. Carlson has been particularly effective in this role. Last year, he was reportedly able to attract Trump’s attention and, through both his television show and private lobbying, convince the president to call off planned military strikes against Iranian targets. The Fox host later used that relationship to get Trump to push Bolton out of the administration.”
From the standpoint of many alt-rightists, Carlson is serving a useful “alt-lite” role, helping to spread key parts of their message to a mainstream audience and to Trump himself, as White House advisor Stephen Miller does with regard to immigration policy. Alt-rightist Brad Griffin commented a few weeks ago, “Tucker Carlson is trailing behind us. He is as close to us as he can be while staying within the boundaries of the ‘mainstream’ elite consensus.”

These dynamics belie simplistic claims that all rightist forces in the United States are pulling together toward the same goals. They also have practical implications for leftists as we work to oppose the Trump administration’s militaristic and murderous policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. Just as anti-war activists face the danger of being coopted into supporting kinder, gentler forms of U.S. imperialism via the Democratic Party and related formations, we also face the danger of unwittingly legitimizing and aiding far right initiatives. Although their underlying politics differ profoundly, rightist and leftist opponents of war with Iran often use similar talking points. When fascists denounce the killing of Soleimani as a terrorist attack, or call on Americans to respect the people of Iran and their history, or even praise Soleimani as a hero in the war against ISIS and al Qaeda, they are advancing arguments that are also being used by (some) leftists.

There is a long history of fascists and other far rightists infiltrating anti-war movements or otherwise seeking to build alliances with leftists against the U.S. government and the political center. This was an issue around the U.S.-Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003, the anti-globalization movement, and the Occupy movement. In recent years, efforts by far rightists to forge red-brown alliances with leftists have received some attention, for example on Three Way Fight, on Bill Weinberg’s CounterVortex website, and in the 2018 report by the anarchist author “Vagabond.” In the recent crisis, following Soleimani’s killing, white nationalists attempted to join or distributed literature at anti-war protests in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Austin. These moves can’t just be dismissed as hypocrisy or disruption, but reflect serious efforts to inject fascistic politics into the anti-war movement or, in some cases, to make common cause with leftists.

As noted above, red-brown alliances aren’t the only pitfall for leftist opponents of Trump’s militarism to be concerned about. Anti-war initiatives are vulnerable to Democratic Party cooptation to the extent that they blame U.S. military aggression on Republican politicians rather than recognizing it as a systemic problem bolstered by both major parties. But anti-war activism is vulnerable to cooptation by the far right to the extent that it echoes far right myths—specifically, that right-wing, authoritarian, murderous governments such as the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Ba’athist government in Syria represent a bulwark against imperialism, or that U.S. policy in the Middle East is dictated by the Israeli government or rich Jews.

Three Way Fight calls on U.S. leftists and antifascists to promote anti-war politics based in liberatory principles and solidarity with the exploited and oppressed people of the Middle East. That means, most urgently, oppose any moves by the Trump administration to escalate military conflict with Iran, but it also means reject cooptation by the liberal wing of the ruling class—or by right-wing or fascist anti-interventionists.

Photos:
Mike Pompeo, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. 
Tucker Carlson, photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Dec 21, 2019

An antifascist guide to Patriot movement websites

By Sebastian Porreca
 
As a window into the Patriot movement’s inner workings, here are brief profiles of many lesser-known Patriot websites and organizations.

Editor’s note: The Patriot movement first exploded in the mid 1990s, as activists formed hundreds of armed “citizen militias” around fears that globalist elites were plotting to disarm the American people, overthrow the Constitution, and impose a dictatorship. The movement quickly collapsed, largely because of backlash following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, but rebounded even stronger after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

The Patriot movement has always been a weirdly and distinctively American mix of political influences, including white nationalism, theocratic Christianity, gun rights, John Birch Society-type conspiracy thinking, libertarianism, the anti-environmental “Wise Use” movement, county supremacy, and “abortion is murder” patriarchal militancy. From the beginning, many critics warned that the Patriot movement was a direct outgrowth of the 1980s Nazi-Klan convergence, but others argued that the two were basically distinct phenomena with some overlap. A few leftists, such Alex Cockburn, even saw the militias as potential allies. But debates about whether the Patriot movement was “really” fascist or non-fascist tended to miss a key point: it was the first U.S. movement since World War II where fascists and non-fascists interacted and worked in coalition on a mass scale.

The resurgent Patriot movement made headlines with the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff (where hundreds of armed activists forced federal police to back down) and the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. In recent years, Patriot groups have become major promoters of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant nativism, and they have tended to cheer Donald Trump more enthusiastically than alt-right or other white nationalist groups. But the Patriot movement’s racial politics have always been more conflicted than many critics recognize, and even some of its most prominent figures have criticized Trump.

The Patriot movement has always been highly decentralized, and this presents challenges to antifascist researchers. Some of the biggest organizations—Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association—are relatively easy to monitor, but once you get past them the task becomes much more difficult, with a shifting array of groups, websites, and competing (but often similarly named) factions. Yet these smaller outfits give us an important window into the movement’s inner discussions and unguarded pronouncements. In this guest post to Three Way Fight, antifascist researcher Sebastian Porreca offers a quick introduction to seventeen of the smaller and lesser-known Patriot movement sites. (URLs are provided but not active links.) Included are militias, Three Percenter groups, sovereign citizen-oriented groups, and others.


*                    *                    *

flag wiith 13 horizontal black and white stripes, black field in upper left corner with thirteen white stars surrounding the numerals "III"
Three Percenters, a subset of the Patriot movement, take
their name from a belief that only 3% of colonists took
up arms against Britain in the American Revolution
American Patriots the III% (https://www.apiii.net/). This III%er website last put out a newsletter in April 2019. (You can’t access it without buying a $5 subscription.) Other than that, there is not much info on the site other than some stuff they did in 2018 and various mission statement/recruitment materials. There is a tab that says “Blog” but it doesn’t actually have any posts.

Citizens Militia of Mississippi (https://citizensmilitiaofmississippi.com/blog/). This blog hasn’t had any new posts since October 2018, but there are still some useful articles. Some are just reflections on nature and the founding fathers, but there are a number of articles discussing gun rights, how the press can’t be trusted, and “truth.” The posts on this blog are actually a bit more thought out and well written than those on many other Patriot movement sites, but there is still paranoia about liberal media and modern liberal values.

Constitution Party (https://www.constitutionparty.com/). The national Constitution Party’s website has a lot of useful stuff. Their twelve key issues talk about how necessary militias are to the 2nd Amendment and the nation’s defense, and also affirm state power over federal power, anti-immigration, abolishing Social Security, and isolationism. It basically is a unified political party version of the Patriot movement. A recent blog post rails against “cultural Marxists” and how the left is basically a big brother-esq thought police. But the Constitution Party folks are also very critical of and opposed to Trump and the Republicans, almost as much so as they are to the left. Many other Patriot sites/groups are anti-government but show a fair amount of sympathy and support to right-wing Republicans, but the Constitution Party does not.

Constitution Party of Mississippi (https://www.constitutionpartyms.com). This state affiliate of the Constitution Party has a very interesting website. The “We’re Different” tab goes on a rant about how both the Republicans and the Democrats are corrupt and making big government, and also rails against taxes. The news page links to mostly far right media sites, such as Breitbart.

Freedom Yell (https://www.freedomyell.com/). This conspiracy theory website is closely aligned with Patriot movement ideology. The site denounces modern banking and believes the U.S. government is secretly a corporation. Very all over the place but seems to lean closer to sovereign citizen type ideology than mainstream militia.

Lightfoot Militia (http://www.lightfootmilitia.com/index.html). This group’s website doesn’t have much in the way of blogs or updates, but it contains a lot of information on how to join, and a map that shows all the chapters, with links to their Facebook pages. There are links to dozens of Facebook groups and pages, although many of them have been taken down.

Missouri Citizens Militia (https://missouricitizensmilitia.com/). MCM appears to be a bigger, more active militia, with close organizing roots to various III%er groups and Oath Keepers. Apparently MCM members and their founder Aaron Penberthy attended the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff. Their home page is full of blog posts about their activities, updates in leadership, and interactions with other groups.

Minuteman Project (http://baesic.net/minutemanproject/). Started by Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox and operating out of the Southwest (mostly Arizona and New Mexico), this was one of the main “minutemen” groups formed in the early 2000s to patrol the border for migrant border crossers. Co-founder Chris Simcox, while not mentioned on the website, is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for child molestation, and has also worked with neo-nazi murderer and militia activist J.T. Ready. The site itself is interesting. The group’s heyday was around 2005-2006, but nonetheless, the site has maintained posting through July 2019. Most of the posts seem to be authored by Gilchrist, but there are some republished articles from other media sites as well. The news page is very rich in information. On immigration, the majority of the posts are articles detailing horrible crimes supposedly done by immigrants like homicide and voter fraud. There are also the expected rants against unpatriotic liberals such as Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama, complete with conspiracy theories that implicate Hillary Clinton in trying to frame Trump for Russian collusion and Democrats in framing Brett Kavanaugh. The posts are very anti-elitist and carry a populist “drain-the-swamp”-esq ring to them, and there is an aversion to all government authority except Trump. There are also a number of interesting anti-immigrant press releases by Congressmember Steve King. Overall, the page carries the typical Patriot movement politics, but give a very good insight into the whole minutemen movement, which focuses particularly on xenophobia and anti-immigrant racism over many of the other issues that militias champion. Also, hilariously, there is a Hate Mail tab which just lists angry political emails sent to Gilchrist, which may or may not be a subtle nudge to his readers to dox the senders.

My Militia (https://www.mymilitia.com/militias/). This site is a WEALTH of information. It is a kind of social media/chat room site for various militias. The “Links” tab lists militias by state and provides links to a lot of militias in any given state. Most seem to be smaller-scale militias, which could be extremely useful if you’re looking for a specific militia group or militias in a specific area. Also there is a calendar of militia events.

Natural News (https://www.naturalnews.com/). Listed on SPLC’s anti-government militia list, this conspiracy theory/pseudo-enviromental news site run by Mike Adams is apparently beloved by the Patriot Movement. Aside from advocating for a ton of bunk natural remedies and supplements, it also pushes a ton of anti-government conspiracy theories. Recently, for example, it touted an article about how Jeffrey Epstein isn’t actually dead and either the deep state or the Clintons have him.

Roll Call – Civil Disobedience Division (https://www.facebook.com/pg/whowilldecide/posts/?ref=page_internal). A Facebook page that uses lots of III%er imagery but is a lot more extreme. Lots of anti-government conspiracy theories, even against Trump, talk of FEMA concentration camps, and extreme racism/xenophobia toward immigrants. Some original postings/rants, but as a Facebook page also a large number of reposts.

Sovereign Education and Defense Ministry (SEDM) (https://sedm.org/education/official-ministry-blog/). A Christian-oriented sovereign citizen website, SEDM features mostly (pseudo)legalistic posts about the processes of becoming a sovereign citizen, with links to various forms and legal advice, and general advice on how to deal with things like ownership, property, and Social Security while being a sovereign citizen. There are also several articles opposing birthright citizenship.

Stand Up America US (http://www.standupamericaus.org/sua/about-sua/). Not to be confused with the anti-Trump group Stand Up America, this is a news/conspiracy media site started by Paul Vallely that seems to heavily influence/or be influenced by Patriot ideology. Very anti-government/anti-regulation, overtly nativist, and extremely anti-leftist. A number of the articles are internationally focused, especially on communist China. The “America First” tab is very long but gives a lot of the group’s anti-federal government, xenophobic, and anti-leftist ideology. Also with a quick search of “Islam” a number of paranoid, Islamophobic articles popped up. Ideas range from shutting down the departments of Education and Energy, the EPA, and the IRS to arming civilians to combat Islam and Sharia law.

Three Percenters – Original (https://www.thethreepercenters.org/blog). This is the first III% website that comes up with a quick google search. This website claims to represent the “original” III%ers and has a huge webstore for merch sales, complete with sticker/shirt/patch designs advocating violence (one sticker says “throat punch donor”) and Islamophobia (the classic “Infidel” patch). It has the group’s supposed by-laws, and a sizable blog. The blog is really interesting, as it is basically authored by mostly one person (“Jack W.”), at least in recent posts, and it closely covers Democratic Party politics. There are a number of articles on the Democratic Party debates, the Green New Deal, and of course the wrongs of socialism. The majority of the coverage of mainstream Democrat party politics involves discussion on how the Democratic party is veering toward an anti-American socialism. Going back to 2018, there are blog posts with people’s full names: Monica Weets, Boyd Martin, Thomas Mosser.

The Three Percent Clan (https://www.wearethethree.com/). I only want to include this so people know to ignore it. While it uses similar language and the same symbol as III% militia groups, this is actually the website and chat room for a videogame, “Clan,” that doesn’t seem to have any actual ties with the III%ers.

III Percent Patriots (https://iiipercentpatriots.wordpress.com/) and (https://www.iiipercentpatriots.com/).  The websites of this group seem to be among the oddest and most extreme so far. There are many references to infighting among III%ers, much anti-government rhetoric, a LOT of references to killing commies, and tons of strange esoteric references and articles. There are numerous links to a website called Kerodin (http://kerodin.com/), which apparently refers to III%er Christian Allen Kerodin, best known for spearheading the unsuccessful III Citadel project to build a semi-autonomous enclave for Patriot Movement adherents in northern Idaho. (See the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Behind the Walls.”) Also notable is the semi-ironic use of Klu Klux Klan imagery on a website sidebar.

III% Security Force (III%SF) The III%SF is a more extreme faction of the III%ers that is led by a man named Chris Hill. It has come into conflict with other more established III%er groups due to its confrontational and violent rhetoric. ”Statement Against III% Security Force” (https://www.thethreepercenters.org/single-post/2018/03/13/STATEMENT-AGAINST-III-SECURITY-FORCE) is an interesting article on the “Three Percenters - Original” site disavowing the more extreme III% Security Force. Oddly enough, the post cites Islamophobia (laughable when coming from a website that sells “Infidel” patches) and anti-government extremism. It seems III%SF got a little too blatant and frank with their rhetoric. III% Security Force’s website (http://www.iiisecurityforce.com/media.html) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GSFIII/) feature a lot of Confederate flags and calls for violence against leftists. Their Twitter account is currently suspended. It should also be noted that several members of the III% Security Force members were convicted for plotting a bomb attack against a community of Somali/Muslim immigrants in Kansas.

As of early September, there has been a major split within the III% Security Force, according to an SPLC report.