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Why I went to a neo-Nazi website to help me process the Pittsburgh massacre

White supremacists were carrying out mass murders in America long before Donald Trump was born, and definitely before he ran for president. That doesn’t mean we can let him off the hook.

Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi and Confederate flags before the 'Unite the Right' rally, Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (Anthony Crider / CC BY 2.0)

White supremacists and white nationalists are seen with Nazi and Confederate flags before the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (Anthony Crider / CC BY 2.0)

I opened up the Daily Stormer this morning. For whatever reason, probably because it was too hard to think about the actual massacre inside that synagogue in Pittsburgh, I did what journalists and analysts across the globe do when tragedy strikes: I set out to learn more.

What I found were things I already knew but didn’t want to fully believe. Perhaps that is why I navigated to the notorious white supremacist website in the first place — out of guilt for some sort of unwillingness to see clearly and acknowledge what we’ve all known all along.

The article I stumbled into — written by the site’s founder and publisher, who seems to write much of its content — was disturbing but not surprising. (I am deliberately not naming the author nor am I linking to the article because I don’t want to amplify their messaging any more than I already am by writing about them.)

Believe it or not, the article actually decried the murderous attack at the Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday. Not because the author is opposed to murdering Jews, quite the opposite, but because doing so is not conducive to advancing the cause of white nationalism in the United States at this particular moment.

“[Y]ou’re not going to fight the Jews and overthrow the system with random terrorist attacks,” the prominent white supremacist explained. “The only time any type of violence-oriented political agenda was ever possible, it was in coordination with a legitimate political party.”

“That means that because we do not presently have political organization, we have to be working on that right now, exclusively,” he continued. “Random people shooting random Jews is completely insane, and only puts us in a worse situation. It is a selfish act that can only bring some temporary satisfaction to the individual, who is choosing to put that personal feeling over the wellbeing of our people.”

Firstly, the article can help us understand a broadly glossed-over part of the last social media post made by the murderer, Robert Bowers: “Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Bowers ostensibly knew that his white nationalist, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist ilk are playing a long-game. He knew that others who share his hateful and murderous ideology are worried about creating a detrimental backlash before the moment is ripe for them to begin implementing their true, grand agenda. He decided to reject that logic and go ahead and murder as many Jews as possible anyway.

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Secondly, the passage above sheds some light on the thinking behind the long-game strategy. The United States has a long, long history of white supremacists keeping a low, deceptive profile in order to slowly sneak into enough positions of power to begin implementing their terrifying worldview.

We saw it in the heydays of the Klan. Over a decade ago, the FBI warned that white supremacists were making a concerted effort to infiltrate law enforcement. We’ve heard about the same white supremacists and white nationalists joining the armed forces in order to recruit others and while also getting military training. The 2006 FBI document refers to them as “ghost skins.”

The current mid-term election cycle is making it even harder to ignore how far unabashed racists’ and white nationalists’ attempts to enter politics have come.

***

Trump and his cronies are absolutely guilty of legitimizing, normalizing, and fueling white supremacy, white nationalism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and anti-Semitism, all of which invariably lead to abhorent violence, the likes of which we saw in Pittsburgh this weekend.

We must fight those things, those people, and their ideas as if our societies and our futures depend on it. They do.

Yet it is also important to acknowledge that this is not an issue that began with Trump. There is a danger in placing too much responsibility for these phenomena and this horrid violence on Trump and Co. as if it didn’t exist before them.

The list of horrid acts of violence perpetrated against Jews, Blacks, Muslims, and others was at least as horrid in the years before Donald Trump announced his presidential run. From the Oklahoma City bombing to the Charleston church shooting, the Wisconsin Sikh temple, and the Overland Park JCC, the list goes on and on. Go back a few more decades and the list of victims is unthinkably long.

So no, we can’t let off the hook those who are actively and knowingly fanning the flames of hatred and violence. But our goal should be far more ambitious than to just lower the flames of white supremacism and hatred. This is about way more than Trump, and as much as we’d rather not think about or acknowledge it, the threat is far more sophisticated than Robert Bowers.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      Yeh, Trump is obviously a SECRET NAZI.
      His Jewish daughter and grandkids are just CLEVER CAMOFLAGE.
      His many Jewish advisors in his administration are just a SMOKESCREEN.
      His support of Israel is just a DECEPTIVE SCAM.
      Soon, he will remove his Orange mask
      Then, a moustached man with an Austrian Accent will emerge and start a new World War.
      Ooooh…….

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Lewis: “Trump’s Ideology Is Anti-Semitism Without Jews”

        http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/trump-pittsburgh-shooting-anti-semitism.html

        During the 2016 campaign, Trump has inadvertently slipped over the line between explicit and implicit anti-Semitism when he tweeted out a meme produced by anti-Semites calling Hillary Clinton the “most corrupt candidate ever!” inside a Star of David. (The star signaled to anti-Semites that Clinton’s alleged corruption was in reality a form of control by the Jews.)…More often, he would invoke anti-Semitic themes without any explicit reference to Jews or Judaism. Trump’s closing campaign ad on television denounced “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities,” over images of Janet Yellen, George Soros, and Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom happen to be Jewish

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Lewis, if this is an example of the complexity of your thinking, and the depth of your grasp of an issue, then it well explains your other fatuous rants. And it kind of crosses a line of all decency given the eleven dead in a Pittsburgh synagogue, murdered because of a nutcase who very definitely fed off the dog whistling energies and implicit license-giving of one Donald Trump. If the shameless demagogue Trump were not president those people would be alive today, of that I am sure.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      In the aggressively dishonest, deliberately obtuse, really shameless rhetoric displayed by Katrina Pierson I see the kind of rhetoric displayed by many commenters on the Right in these +972 pages:

      WASH, RINSE, REPEAT
      Team Trump’s Game Plan Following Synagogue Slaughter: Blame the Media More and Insult CNN Harder
      Don’t expect President Trump or anyone close to him to tone the rhetoric down.
      https://www.thedailybeast.com/team-trumps-game-plan-following-synagogue-slaughter-blame-the-media-more-and-insult-cnn-harder

      “The reason the president was talking about the caravan [right after the shooting] is because it is a clear and imminent threat to the country. It would be irresponsible for a leader to allow a crazy person to dictate the message in a time when there is an invasion attempt on the country”

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Is that picture at the top of the article not the perfect picture of the demagogue?

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Trump’s Own Team Knows His Caravan Claims Are Bullshit

        https://www.thedailybeast.com/trumps-own-teams-know-his-caravan-claims-arent-true-dont-particularly-care

        ‘Donald Trump and his political allies have embarked on an aggressive, end-of-the-campaign effort to drum up fear among voters about a caravan of poor migrants several thousand miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Much of it is mistruths and embellishments, but Trumpland could care less. “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate,” a senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast. “This is the play.”…’

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Anyone who thinks it is even minimally plausible to defend Trump against charges of anti-Semitism, or to defend Trump against charges of deliberately and maliciously, calculatedly dog-whistling anti-Semitism, needs to read this and once and for all stop kidding themselves and us. Enough already:

      Trump, the Jews and anti-Semitism: A Dangerous Double Game
      Alexander Griffing
      https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/trump-the-jews-and-anti-semitism-a-dangerous-double-game-1.6601063

      Trump is a sociopath. An absolutely amoral person. He will do anything and say anything. Honestly I think Netanyahu is basically the same. Netanyahu is far more intelligent and sophisticated than Trump, but on amorality they are not very different at all.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mikesailor

      Which brings up the issue so studiously avoided by so many: Is Zionism (a racist ideology) synonymous with Judaism? Trump and is ilk (Neo-Nazis, White supremacists etc.) support Israel all the while claiming the Jews are a secret fifth column bent on the destruction of the United State and other Western liberal democracies. Why do they support Israel? Because the see it rightly as an ethnocratic state bent on maintaining a Jewish political and military domination of all “others” within their so-called borders. And they see the Jewish and other minority populations outside as “outsiders” who have the ultimate goal of denying the “white race” from their “rightful” domination of their own “mongrel” inhabitants. Actually, such thinking, which predominates in Israel, is the rationale underlying Bibi’s fascination and appreciation of bigots such as Orban let alone Trump. Bibi sees the antipathy and antisemitism of such leaders as goads for a rise in Jews wishing to move to Israel (aliyah) or at least as an argument to shut up Jews who believe in equality before the law. Curious, isn’t it? How a despicable racist ideology underpins both Zionism and antisemitism?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mikesailor

      Wow! The Israelis are sending a medical trauma team to Pittsburgh, the city which houses the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the premier medical facilities in the world. What are they going to do there? Change bedpans?
      Don’t you understand that Zionism and the antisemitism it engenders are two sides of the same coin? Zionism is predicated on the belief of Jewish domination over all minorities living within their “undeclared” borders. The right-wing white nationalist movement is likewise predicated on an ideology wherein “white” Europeans and Americans should dominate over all minorities within their midst (Jews, Latin Americans, Muslims etc).Why do you think these same white nationalists, including the Israeli hero Trump and his fellow travelers within the rightist movement, love Israel but hate Jews? They see Israel as a shining example of what they want: an ethnocracy enshrined in law with certain rights denied to those they deem unworthy..Apartheid? Who cares. Discrimination? A necessary evil to ensure political and “legal” dominance. The only difference is that in the US, so far we don’t kill and brutalize the disenfranchised minorities with the same impunity enjoyed by the “master” race in Israel. But these same Trump supporters are envious of the racism enjoyed by those in that little country on the Mediterranean. Bibi, Bennett, Shaked and others revel in their ability to brutalize the Arab population. And all the other minorities within Israel
      And here is the other side: they also love the antisemitism their actions engender. First because they hope it leads to an increase in aliyah. Basically because Israel is losing their best who wish to emigrate ASAP. And secondly because such antisemitism is seen as an excuse to undercut all Jews who deplore the status quo and push for a more liberal agenda. Why do you think Bibi is so close to an avowed antisemite as Orban in Hungary and now Bolsonaro in Brasil? Why is the labeling of asylum seekers in Israel as “infiltrators”; copied by the Trumpistas labeling Central American refugees as “invaders”? If you cannot see the parallels in both ideologies: Zionism and White Supremacism, and how they feed off each other, you are willfully blind. .

      Reply to Comment
      • john

        this event helps further the zionist goal of ending jewish assimilation in america. to say nothing of their demands that palestinians assimilate in jordan or egypt. of course bibi &co will cry a bit when he gets what he wants – but soros is still somehow to blame.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          An interesting way of putting it, John, in terms of yet another way of having it both ways, Israeli style. That is, Israelis tend to view “assimilation” with horror, except when it is somebody else doing the assimilating (the Palestinians into Jordan and Egypt) and then it’s just fine. It’s more than fine–they demand it. Substitute “boycott” for “assimilation” and the same equation applies. I could go on. Israeli style is: “What is very bad for the gander (me) is just fine for the goose (you), in fact I demand it of the goose. Because I’m special.”

          Reply to Comment
          • john

            assimilation is viewed by israeli jews in roughly the same way ‘cultural genocide’ is viewed by white nationalists.

            Reply to Comment
    6. Daniel

      I am sure a well informed reporter as your self is aware of the photo of Barak Obama with Rev. Farrakhan, the notorious racist and ant Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam, and his association with Jeremiah Wright another world class anti Semite. The media somehow ignored the deep connection of Obama with the anti Semetic elements in the USA, yet relentlessly pounce on Trump for the fringe element in his support Many of the Rights issues with American Jews are ideological. because many American Jews lean left, but Jews who lean right are readily accepted by the Right and have continued support and inclusion. The majority of the Right has strong support for Israel while the Left is an avowed enemy of the Jews sacred homeland. American Jews need realize the Right is far more supportive of Jews, both home and abroad, than the Left, and the evil on the far Right is just that evil and far Right.

      Reply to Comment