Posts Tagged ‘alt-right’

Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A. (Tribal allegiances are replacing shared empirical understandings of the world.) — Facebook and Google threaten public health – and democracy

January 12, 2018


The New York Times
JAN. 11, 2018

Harvard University Professor Steven Pinker Credit Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

This week, a video surfaced of a Harvard professor, Steven Pinker, which appeared to show him lauding members of a racist movement. The clip, which was pulled from a November event at Harvard put on by Spiked magazine, showed Mr. Pinker referring to “the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right” and calling them “internet savvy” and “media savvy.”

The clip went viral. The right celebrated; the left fumed. The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website ran an article headlined, in part, “Harvard Jew Professor Admits the Alt-Right Is Right About Everything.” A tweet of the video published by the self-described “Right-Wing Rabble-Rouser” Alex Witoslawski got hundreds of retweets, including one from the white-nationalist leader Richard Spencer.

“Steven Pinker has long been a darling of the white supremacist ‘alt-right,’” noted the lefty journalist Ben Norton. “And he returns the favor.” Others reacted to the rumor with simple exasperation: “Christ on a crutch,” said the liberal commentator and biologist PZ Myers, who also wrote a blog post denouncing Mr. Pinker for this supposed alliance.

The idea that Mr. Pinker, a liberal, Jewish psychology professor, is a fan of a racist, anti-Semitic online movement is absurd on its face, so it might be tempting to roll your eyes and dismiss this blowup as just another instance of social media doing what it does best: generating outrage.

But it’s actually a worthwhile episode to unpack, because it highlights a disturbing, worsening tendency in social media in which tribal allegiances are replacing shared empirical understandings of the world. Or maybe “subtribal” is the more precise, fitting term to use here. It’s one thing to say that left and right disagree on simple facts about the world — this sort of informational Balkanization has been going on for a while and long predates Twitter. What social media is doing is slicing the salami thinner and thinner, as it were, making it harder even for people who are otherwise in general ideological agreement to agree on basic facts about news events.

That’s because the pernicious social dynamics of these online spaces hammer home the idea that anyone who disagrees with you on any controversial subject, even a little bit, is incorrigibly dumb or evil or suspect. On a wide and expanding range of issues, there’s no such thing as good-faith disagreement.

The online anger aimed at Mr. Pinker provides a perfect case study.

The clip was deeply misleading. If you watch the whole eight-minute video from which it was culled, it’s clear that Mr. Pinker’s entire point is that the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical — but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.

The clip begins with Mr. Pinker saying he agrees with the other panelists (two journalists and a lawyer) that “political correctness has done an enormous amount of harm in the sliver of the population that might be — I wouldn’t want to say ‘persuadable,’ but certainly whose affiliation might be up for grabs.” This problem presents itself when it comes to “the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right: internet savvy, media savvy, who often are radicalized in that way, who ‘swallow the red pill,’ as the saying goes, the allusion from ‘The Matrix.’”

Mr. Pinker goes on to argue that when members of this group encounter, for the first time, ideas that he believes to be frowned upon or suppressed in liberal circles — that most suicide bombers are Muslim or that members of different racial groups commit crimes at different rates — they are “immediately infected with both the feeling of outrage that these truths are unsayable” and are provided with “no defense against taking them to what we might consider to be rather repellent conclusions.”

That’s unfortunate, Mr. Pinker argues, because while someone might use these facts to support bigoted views, that needn’t be the case, because “for each one of these facts, there are very powerful counterarguments for why they don’t license racism and sexism and anarcho-capitalism and so on.”

He then goes on to carefully explain those counterarguments: For example, while at the moment it’s true that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the homicide rate is higher for blacks than for whites, that doesn’t really tell us anything about a group of people since at different times in history, different groups have had elevated crime rates — at one point Irish-Americans did. By that same token, he says, “the majority of domestic terrorism is committed by right-wing extremist groups,” not Muslims.

It would be impossible for a reasonable person to watch the eight-minute video and come away thinking Mr. Pinker’s point is to praise the alt-right rather than to make a psychological argument about political correctness, alt-right recruitment and how to better fight that movement’s bigoted ideas

Now, maybe you disagree with certain parts of this argument — I do, in that I think Mr. Pinker overstates the intensity of campus political correctness — but it’s hard to have that debate in the first place when such a wildly skewed version of Mr. Pinker’s point is spreading like wildfire on the internet.

Steven Pinker will be O.K. A fleeting Twitter blowup isn’t going to bruise his long and successful career as a public intellectual. But this is happening more and more — and in many cases to people who don’t have the standing and reputation he does.

It’s getting harder and harder to talk about anything controversial online without every single utterance of an opinion immediately being caricatured by opportunistic outrage-mongers, at which point everyone, afraid to be caught exposed in the skirmish that’s about to break out, rushes for the safety of their ideological battlements, where they can safely scream out their righteousness in unison. In this case: “Steven Pinker said the alt-right is good! But the alt-right is bad! We must defend this principle!”

This is making us dumber.

Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) is a contributing writer for New York magazine and is working on a book about why social-science ideas go viral.


How Facebook and Google threaten public health – and democracy


Far-right speaker prompts protests, police lockdown in Florida

October 20, 2017



© Joe Raedle / Getty Images /AFP | Protesters and police outside the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on October 19, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida.

Video by FRANCE 24


Latest update : 2017-10-20

Protesters shouted “Go home Nazis” as a white nationalist gave a speech on Thursday at the University of Florida, where hundreds of police set up barricades and separated supporters and demonstrators to guard against violence.

Richard Spencer’s event at the university in Gainesville, which prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency to prepare for possible conflict, came about two months after rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to a deadly clash with counter-protesters.

The violence on Aug. 12 added fuel to a national debate on race, and Republican President Donald Trump came under fire for blaming both sides for the melee.

White supremacists have been working to bring Spencer to various public universities, saying he has a constitutional right to free speech. The effort has forced college leaders to allow what they see as hate speech on campus and provide security to prevent violent clashes.

On Thursday, several hundred protesters shouting: “We don’t want your Nazi hate” marched outside a campus performing arts center where Spencer spoke. The protests were mostly peaceful but there were a few scuffles that left five people with minor injuries, the university said in a statement.

Two people were arrested, including a man hired as security for media for illegally carrying a firearm on campus, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said.

Another man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with swastikas emerged from a crowd of protesters with a bloody lip.

Inside the venue, Spencer and protesters yelled at one another, and he criticized them for trying to suppress his speech.

“I’m not going home,” said Spencer, who heads the National Policy Institute, a nationalist think tank, and promoted the Charlottesville rally. “We are stronger than you and you all know it!”

He appeared to have few supporters in the crowd. About 15 white men, all dressed in white shirts and khaki pants, raised their hands when Spencer asked who identified with the alt-right, a loose grouping characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics that includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.

Spencer left the campus soon after the event ended, university public safety officials said on Twitter. Police worked to separate those who attended the event as they left the venue from protesters gathered nearby.

One Spencer supporter appeared to have been sprayed in the face with an irritant. Police were not immediately available to speak about the incident.

‘Love wins’

Anais Edwards, 26, was inside the venue and supported those trying to disrupt Spencer. “I’m really proud of how our community came together. Many of them were willing to stand up and not let him speak,” Edwards said.

The university said it did not invite Spencer to speak but was obligated by law to allow the event. The school said it would spend more than $500,000 on security, and the National Policy Institute is paying more than $10,000 to rent the facility and for security within the venue.

“Despite our worst fears of violence, the University of Florida and the Gainesville community showed the world that love wins,” University of Florida President Kent Fuchs said in a statement after the event.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors U.S. hate groups, said Spencer was “a radical white separatist whose goal is the establishment of a white ethno-state in North America.”

An outspoken supporter of Trump during the 2016 campaign, Spencer rose from relative obscurity after widely circulated videos showed some Trump supporters giving Nazi-style salutes to Spencer during a gathering in Washington to celebrate the Republican candidate’s win. Trump condemned the meeting.

The death in Charlottesville, home to the flagship campus of the University of Virginia, occurred as counter-protesters were dispersing. A 20-year-old man who is said by law enforcement to have harbored Nazi sympathies drove his car into the crowd, killing a 32-year-old woman.


Steve Bannon “Going After” White House Jewish Staffers

August 21, 2017
The Jerusalem Post
 AUGUST 21, 2017 21:21


US media report that Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn are Steve Bannon’s primary targets.

Jared Kushner

Senior staff at the White House Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon (L-R) applaud before being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence in Washington, DC January 22, 2017.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

WASHINGTON —  Unceremoniously fired from the White House, Steve Bannon returned to Breitbart News this weekend full of rage and vengeance, vowing “war” on a long list of his enemies across the media and government that he believes obstructed him from enacting a nationalist agenda in the Trump administration.

Bannon hopes to expand Breitbart– his launching pad into national politics last year, which he has characterized as the “platform for the alt-Right” white supremacist movement– into television and video in order to compete with the right-wing Fox News Channel, from which he can target Republican and news establishment figures, US media reported on Monday.

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He refers to his foes within the Trump administration as “globalists,” New Yorkers, and secret Democrats. Three of the most prominent and high-ranking of those enemies are Jewish: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law turned senior advisers, as well as Gary Cohn, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, are his primary West Wing targets.

Vanity Fair article published on Monday anonymously cites one Bannon ally claiming the former White House chief strategist believes Kushner is a “dope.” That piece, along with several others published in US press on Monday, claim “deep animosity” remains between Bannon and Kushner.

“Trump’s daughter Ivanka pushed out Bannon because of his ‘far-right views’ clashing with her Jewish faith,” Breitbart wrote over the weekend, quoting a UK Daily Mail report. The website later updated its story with their own sourcing characterizing the British outlet story as “totally false.”

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Gary Cohn with President Trump

Bannon is apparently personally offended by the suggestion he is antisemitic, and often cites his support for Israel as evidence to the contrary. He lobbied hard to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and refused to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who he refers to as a “terrorist.”

And yet, Bannon’s final battle with Ivanka, Kushner and Cohn as a White House staffer revolved around Trump’s response to a white power rally in Charlottesville, which prominently featured thousands of neo-Nazis targeting “Jewish influence” in American power centers. The three Jewish staffers encouraged the president to unequivocally denounce the marchers and to distance himself from their cause, but Bannon pushed back, lobbying the president against giving an “inch” to the “opponents” criticizing his crisis response.

New York Times report says that Bannon has openly referred to “Javanka” as a pair of politically naive Manhattanites disconnected from the heartland by their New York roots. Breitbart has also marked Cohn in recent days with globe emojis around his name– denoting him as a globalist, but to many Jewish groups evoking classic antisemitic tropes of Jewish power.

“You can take Gary Cohn out of Wall Street but you cannot take the Wall Street out of Gary Cohn,” reads another Breitbart piece on Cohn, which reported earlier this month on his attendance at an “elite” party in the “ultra-expensive” Hamptons.

“If there’s any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents– on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America,” Bannon told Bloomberg News on Friday.

Bannon joins Breitbart armed with seven months of knowledge from inside the halls of the White House. However, he is only able to weaponize a portion of that information. Given Top Secret security clearance while in government, much of the material he might otherwise disseminate in his “war” against Trump’s family will be legally protected.

Bannon had been under fire from American Jewish organizations since he first joined the Trump campaign last year. Several of those groups praised his departure on Friday, including the Anti-Defamation League.

“Steve is now unchained,” a source close to Bannon told the Atlantic on Friday. “Fully unchained.”


The Rise of the Violent Left — After Charlottesville, People Want To Know About Antifa

August 20, 2017

Antifa’s activists say they’re battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?

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Antifa is a far-left militant political movement of autonomous, self-described anti-fascist groups in the United States. The term is loosely used to refer to anti-racistanti-sexistanti-homophobia, as well as anarchist and anti-capitalist groups.


September 2017
The Atlantic

Since 1907, portland, oregon, has hosted an annual Rose Festival. Since 2007, the festival had included a parade down 82nd Avenue. Since 2013, the Republican Party of Multnomah County, which includes Portland, had taken part. This April, all of that changed.

In the days leading up to the planned parade, a group called the Direct Action Alliance declared, “Fascists plan to march through the streets,” and warned, “Nazis will not march through Portland unopposed.” The alliance said it didn’t object to the Multnomah GOP itself, but to “fascists” who planned to infiltrate its ranks. Yet it also denounced marchers with “Trump flags” and “red maga hats” who could “normalize support for an orange man who bragged about sexually harassing women and who is waging a war of hate, racism and prejudice.” A second group, Oregon Students Empowered, created a Facebook page called “Shut down fascism! No nazis in Portland!”

Next, the parade’s organizers received an anonymous email warning that if “Trump supporters” and others who promote “hateful rhetoric” marched, “we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade … and drag and push those people out.” When Portland police said they lacked the resources to provide adequate security, the organizers canceled the parade. It was a sign of things to come.

For progressives, Donald Trump is not just another Republican president. Seventy-six percent of Democrats, according to a Suffolk poll from last September, consider him a racist. Last March, according to a YouGov survey, 71 percent of Democrats agreed that his campaign contained “fascist undertones.” All of which raises a question that is likely to bedevil progressives for years to come: If you believe the president of the United States is leading a racist, fascist movement that threatens the rights, if not the lives, of vulnerable minorities, how far are you willing to go to stop it?

In Washington, D.C., the response to that question centers on how members of Congress can oppose Trump’s agenda, on how Democrats can retake the House of Representatives, and on how and when to push for impeachment. But in the country at large, some militant leftists are offering a very different answer. On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer. In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former editor. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.

As far-flung as these incidents were, they have something crucial in common. Like the organizations that opposed the Multnomah County Republican Party’s participation in the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, these activists appear to be linked to a movement called “antifa,” which is short for antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action. The movement’s secrecy makes definitively cataloging its activities difficult, but this much is certain: Antifa’s power is growing. And how the rest of the activist left responds will help define its moral character in the Trump age.

Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. When fascism withered after World War II, antifa did too. But in the ’70s and ’80s, neo-Nazi skinheads began to infiltrate Britain’s punk scene. After the Berlin Wall fell, neo-Nazism also gained prominence in Germany. In response, a cadre of young leftists, including many anarchists and punk fans, revived the tradition of street-level antifascism.

In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism. According to Mark Bray, the author of the forthcoming Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, these activists toured with popular alternative bands in the ’90s, trying to ensure that neo-Nazis did not recruit their fans. In 2002, they disrupted a speech by the head of the World Church of the Creator, a white-supremacist group in Pennsylvania; 25 people were arrested in the resulting brawl.

By the 2000s, as the internet facilitated more transatlantic dialogue, some American activists had adopted the name antifa. But even on the militant left, the movement didn’t occupy the spotlight. To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.

Trump has changed that. For antifa, the result has been explosive growth. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.) Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”

Those responses sometimes spill blood. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left. When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”

The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer: In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”

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An antifascist demonstrator burns a Blue Lives Matter flag during a protest in Portland, Oregon, in June. (Scott Olson / Getty)

Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert. The result is a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s. A few weeks after the attacks in San Jose, for instance, a white-supremacist leader announced that he would host a march in Sacramento to protest the attacks at Trump rallies. Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento called for a counterdemonstration; in the end, at least 10 people were stabbed.

A similar cycle has played out at UC Berkeley. In February, masked antifascists broke store windows and hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at police during a rally against the planned speech by Yiannopoulos. After the university canceled the speech out of what it called “concern for public safety,” white nationalists announced a “March on Berkeley” in support of “free speech.” At that rally, a 41-year-old man named Kyle Chapman, who was wearing a baseball helmet, ski goggles, shin guards, and a mask, smashed an antifa activist over the head with a wooden post. Suddenly, Trump supporters had a viral video of their own. A far-right crowdfunding site soon raised more than $80,000 for Chapman’s legal defense. (In January, the same site had offered a substantial reward for the identity of the antifascist who had punched Spencer.) A politicized fight culture is emerging, fueled by cheerleaders on both sides. As James Anderson, an editor at It’s Going Down, told Vice, “This shit is fun.”

Portland offers perhaps the clearest glimpse of where all of this can lead. The Pacific Northwest has long attracted white supremacists, who have seen it as a haven from America’s multiracial East and South. In 1857, Oregon (then a federal territory) banned African Americans from living there. By the 1920s, it boasted the highest Ku Klux Klan membership rate of any state.

In 1988, neo-Nazis in Portland killed an Ethiopian immigrant with a baseball bat. Shortly thereafter, notes Alex Reid Ross, a lecturer at Portland State University and the author of Against the Fascist Creep, anti-Nazi skinheads formed a chapter of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. Before long, the city also had an Anti-Racist Action group.

Now, in the Trump era, Portland has become a bastion of antifascist militancy. Masked protesters smashed store windows during multiday demonstrations following Trump’s election. In early April, antifa activists threw smoke bombs into a “Rally for Trump and Freedom” in the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington. A local paper said the ensuing melee resembled a mosh pit.

When antifascists forced the cancellation of the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade, Trump supporters responded with a “March for Free Speech.” Among those who attended was Jeremy Christian, a burly ex-con draped in an American flag, who uttered racial slurs and made Nazi salutes. A few weeks later, on May 25, a man believed to be Christian was filmed calling antifa “a bunch of punk bitches.”

The next day, Christian boarded a light-rail train and began yelling that “colored people” were ruining the city. He fixed his attention on two teenage girls, one African American and the other wearing a hijab, and told them “to go back to Saudi Arabia” or “kill themselves.” As the girls retreated to the back of the train, three men interposed themselves between Christian and his targets. “Please,” one said, “get off this train.” Christian stabbed all three. One bled to death on the train. One was declared dead at a local hospital. One survived.

The cycle continued. Nine days after the attack, on June 4, Trump supporters hosted another Portland rally, this one featuring Chapman, who had gained fame with his assault on the antifascist in Berkeley. Antifa activists threw bricks until the police dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas.

What’s eroding in Portland is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent. With help from other left-wing activists, they’re already having some success at disrupting government. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors. In February and March, activists protesting police violence and the city’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline hounded Mayor Ted Wheeler so persistently at his home that he took refuge in a hotel. The fateful email to parade organizers warned, “The police cannot stop us from shutting down roads.”

All of this fuels the fears of Trump supporters, who suspect that liberal bastions are refusing to protect their right to free speech. Joey Gibson, a Trump supporter who organized the June 4 Portland rally, told me that his “biggest pet peeve is when mayors have police stand down … They don’t want conservatives to be coming together and speaking.” To provide security at the rally, Gibson brought in a far-right militia called the Oath Keepers. In late June, James Buchal, the chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, announced that it too would use militia members for security, because “volunteers don’t feel safe on the streets of Portland.”

Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.

Antifa’s perceived legitimacy is inversely correlated with the government’s. Which is why, in the Trump era, the movement is growing like never before. As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.

Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Rejects Calls to Resign, Defends President Trump — Yale alumni said it was his “moral obligation” to resign “in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and white supremacy.”

August 20, 2017

‘Some of these issues are far more complicated than we are led to believe by the mass media,’ Treasury chief says

Steven Mnuchin is pictured. | AP Photo


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, citing his own Jewish heritage, said he understood the long history of violence and hatred against Jews and other minorities. | Susan Walsh/AP Photo


Aug. 19, 2017 10:20 p.m. ET

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rejected calls for him to resign in protest of President Donald Trump’s response to violence at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, and defended the president in a statement Saturday evening.

Mr. Mnuchin condemned the “actions of those filled with hate and with the intent to harm others.”

“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or…

From Politico
Mnuchin, facing calls for resignation, defends Trump

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday defended President Donald Trump and called out his critics amid growing condemnation of the president’s response to racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

“I don’t believe the allegations against the president are accurate,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “I believe that having highly talented men and women in our country surrounding the president in his administration should be reassuring to you and all the American people.”

Earlier this week, a group of Mnuchin’s fellow Yale alumni drafted a letter saying it was his “moral obligation” to resign “in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and white supremacy.” Trump was criticized after the Charlottesville incident for saying “both sides” were to blame for the unrest.

Mnuchin on Saturday condemned the actions of “those filled with hate and with the intent to harm others.”

Citing his own Jewish heritage, he said he understood the long history of violence and hatred against Jews and other minorities.

“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president, I feel compelled to let you know that the president in no way, shape or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” he said.

Mnuchin said he was “familiar with the culture wars being fought in our country.”

“Some of these issues are far more complicated than we are led to believe by the mass media, and if it were so simple, such actions would have been taken by other presidents, governors, and mayors, long before President Trump was elected by the American people,” he said.

Mnuchin then went after Trump’s critics.

“Our president deserves the opportunity to propose his agenda and to do so without the attempts by those who opposed him in the primaries, in the general election and beyond to distract the administration and the American people from these most important policy issues – jobs, economic growth, and national security,” he said.

Boston braces for protests in wake of Charlottesville violence

August 19, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP | White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and members of the “alt-right” attack each other during the melee outside Emancipation Park during the Unite the Right rally August 12, 2017


Latest update : 2017-08-19

Conservative activists and leftist counterprotesters prepared for a confrontation on Boston Common that could draw thousands a week after a demonstration in Virginia turned deadly.

Police Commissioner William Evans said Friday that 500 officers – some in uniform, others undercover – would be deployed to keep the two groups apart on Saturday. Boston’s Democratic mayor, Marty Walsh, and Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker, both warned that extremist unrest wouldn’t be tolerated in this city famed as the cradle of American liberty.

Organizers of the midday event, billed as a “Free Speech Rally,” have publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. A woman was killed at that Unite the Right rally, and scores of others were injured, when a car plowed into counterdemonstrators.

Opponents feared that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, raising the specter of ugly confrontations in the first potentially large and racially charged gathering in a major U.S. city since Charlottesville.

Events also were planned Saturday for Atlanta and Dallas.

Counterprotesters from Black Lives Matter and other groups denouncing racism and anti-Semitism planned to march from the city’s Roxbury neighborhood to the Common, and another group planned to rally on the steps of the Statehouse overlooking the sprawling park.

The permit issued for Saturday’s noon-2 p.m. event on Boston Common came with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon.

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© SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP | A small group attends a vigil and march at the New England Holocaust Memorial to denounce hate groups before a controversial rally on August 18, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organized the event, said on Facebook that it’s not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.

“We are not associated with any alt-right or white supremacist groups,” it said this week, insisting: “We are strictly about free speech.”

Black Lives Matter said Friday that members from around the U.S. planned to march Saturday in Boston.

Walsh said the city would do whatever is necessary to head off violence initiated by either side. “If anyone gets out of control – at all – it will be shut down,” he said.

“We will not tolerate any misbehavior, violence or vandalism whatsoever,” said Evans, Boston’s top cop.

Dating to 1634, Boston Common is the nation’s oldest city park. The leafy downtown park is popular with locals and tourists and has been the scene of numerous rallies and protests for centuries.


Steve Bannon Leaves White House Staff

August 18, 2017

Controversial strategist pushed President Trump toward nationalist, populist agenda

Steve Bannon helping with last-minute preparations before President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House on June 1 in Washington, D.C.
Steve Bannon helping with last-minute preparations before President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House on June 1 in Washington, D.C. PHOTO: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

Aug. 18, 2017 12:55 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon left his position Friday, as the newly minted Chief of Staff John Kelly sought to bring order to a White House riven by infighting and power struggles, according to people familiar with the decision.

Mr. Bannon’s departure marks the fourth senior White House official to leave the president’s administration in the past five weeks, which has yet to see a major legislative victory despite serving with a Republican-controlled Congress.

The former banker and media executive is credited with shepherding Mr. Trump to victory in last year’s election. He joined the campaign in the final months when Mr. Trump was trailing in the polls by double digits. He put an end to news conferences by his candidate and pushed for more rallies and a focus on closing the border, renegotiating international trade deals, and eviscerating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with personal attacks.

Bannon’s Critics: Alt-Right Is Wrong for White House
Trump spokespeople rushed to defend the president-elect’s pick of Steve Bannon for senior White House strategist. Democrats and advocacy groups denounced Bannon as a proponent of the Alt-Right, a movement that includes white nationalists. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports.(Originally published Nov. 4, 2016)

Among White House staff, he was the most associated with the conservative, populist nationalism bent espoused by Mr. Trump during the campaign and in the White House. His departure could give rise to more moderate voices in the administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

While the relationship between the president and Mr. Bannon ebbed and flowed, the breaking point came after liberal political magazine American Prospect published an extended interview in which he referred to white supremacist groups as “clowns,” said the president’s pro-business advisers were “wetting themselves” and—contrary to the president’s public positions—dismissed the potential for military action in North Korea.

Mr. Bannon’s allies said he didn’t intend his discussion with the American Prospect to be on the record.

Mr. Bannon’s exit comes after a week in which the president has come under fire for his response to racially charged protests in Virginia. One woman was killed during the violence when a car driven by an alleged white supremacist plowed into a crowd of counter protesters.

The president initially said both sides were to blame for the clashes. On Monday, after facing heavy pressure, Mr. Trump issued a statement singling out white supremacists for blame. But then Tuesday, he delivered one of the most combative news conferences of his presidency, again saying both sides were to blame.

Inside the White House, Mr. Bannon had argued against issuing Monday’s “white supremacists” statement, telling the president that he would be criticized in the media for changing this position, said one person familiar with the exchange.

Later in the week, Mr. Trump doubled down on another of his chief strategist’s recommendations: lamenting the removal of statues commemorating Confederate leaders by likening it to a whitewashing of American history.

In a Trump administration filled with political outsiders, Mr. Bannon is among the most colorful, and the most controversial. He texts and emails with colleagues around the clock, and is known for his unkempt appearance and for dropping obscure quotes from John Wayne movies or ancient philosophers into casual conversation.

Mrs. Clinton sought to turn Mr. Bannon into a campaign issue, arguing his arrival showed Mr. Trump was “taking hate groups mainstream.” Before joining the campaign, Mr. Bannon was head of Breitbart News, which he once described as a “platform for the alt-right.” Breitbart has published such articles as “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.”

In a phone call with Mr. Trump several weeks ago on an unrelated subject, Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) pushed back hard against the idea of getting rid of Mr. Bannon, according to a person familiar with the matter. Conservatives from the tea party movement have viewed him as a crucial link to the White House.

Mr. Meadows, who is part of the House Freedom Caucus, didn’t immediately comment on Friday. His group, consisting of several dozen Republicans, doesn’t have enough members to drive the GOP agenda, but it is big enough to deprive House Republicans of the votes they would need to advance legislation with only GOP support.

Among conservative activists and Bannon allies, there are deep concerns about the former Breitbart CEO’s ability to influence the administration from the outside in the same way he had at times from his office just steps from the Oval Office. Additionally, they worry about the president moving toward the political center without Mr. Bannon involved in policy fights, the person said.

“I see New York Democrats and generals in ascendancy, and that is not what we ran on in 2016,” the person continued. “So it worries me.”



Trump Tells Aides He Has Decided to Remove Stephen Bannon

August 18, 2017

President Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Mr. Trump win the 2016 election, according to two administration officials briefed on the discussion.

The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon. The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time.

As of Friday morning, the two men were still discussing Mr. Bannon’s future, the officials said. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but it was delayed in the wake of the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

Mr. Bannon had clashed for months with other senior West Wing advisers and members of the president’s family.

But the loss of Mr. Bannon, the right-wing nationalist who helped propel some of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises into policy reality, raises the potential for the president to face criticism from the conservative news media base that supported him over the past year.

Mr. Bannon’s many critics bore down after the violence in Charlottesville. Outraged over Mr. Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally, leaving one woman dead, human rights activists demanded that the president fire so-called nationalists working in the West Wing. That group of hard-right populists in the White House is led by Mr. Bannon.

On Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, Mr. Trump refused to guarantee Mr. Bannon’s job security but defended him as “not a racist” and “a friend.”

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Steve Bannon May Be Fired At Any Moment

August 18, 2017


Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, in April at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times


August 18, 2017 12:14 PM

Jonathan Swan of Axios, a very fine reporter, has just written that Chief of Staff John Kelly’s review of White House staff is coming to an end — and that Steve Bannon appears to be on the chopping block. “A decision is imminent,” Swan writes.

More fascinating is that the decision seems to rest in Kelly’s hands. Apparently, President Trump now suspects Bannon has been responsible for a series of damaging leaks about his colleagues in the West Wing. His recent on-the-record news dump to a left-wing reporter, in which he bad-mouthed other members of the White House staff, cannot have helped either.

Bannon may still survive, however. Swan notes that he appears unfazed and that Trump will have to consider whether Bannon can damage him from outside the administration, or cost him the support of billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, valuable Trump allies.

Image result for National Review, logo

“Get ready for Bannon the barbarian,” warned a source close to Bannon.

But this may not be enough to save his job: “Many West Wing officials are now asking ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ Bannon goes,” according to Swan.

Chief of Staff Kelly would have good reasons to fire Bannon. As National Review’s David French has written, “Bannon’s actions indicate that, if nothing else, he’s a vicious opportunist.”

This opportunism has led him not only to indulge some of the elements of the hateful alt-right, but also to wage a vicious media campaign against national-security adviser H. R. McMaster, with Bannon’s allies falsely accusing him of being anti-Israel and an alcoholic.

David puts it with characteristic clarity: “Vindictive men who promote the work of racists and normalize their ideas obviously shouldn’t be within 100 miles of political power, never mind two steps from the Oval Office.”

We would do well to remember that as Kelly makes his ultimate decision.

It has become even more difficult to defend Bannon now that, as Charles Krauthammer explained last night, Bannon is openly contradicting the president and attacking other White House staff to left-wing reporters. Kelly will have to keep all of this in mind as he makes his final decision.

Will Bannon be more damaging to the president from the outside than from the inside?

We may soon find out.

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