Category Archives: media

FBI Targets ‘Black Identity Extremists’ Despite Surge in White Supremacist Violence The Trump administration is coming dangerously close to labeling Black Lives Matter a terrorist group.

A leaked FBI counterterrorism memo claims that so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3, 2017—only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis killed one anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, and injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPROprogram of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement. We speak with Malkia Cyril, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript.Copymay not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We end today’s show by looking at a leaked FBIcounterterrorism memo which claims so-called black identity extremists pose a threat to law enforcement. That’s according to Foreign Policy magazine, which obtained the document written by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit. The memo was dated August 3rd, 2017, only days before the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis killed an anti-racist protester, Heather Heyer, injured dozens more. But the report is not concerned with the violent threat of white supremacists. Instead, the memo reads: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” end-quote.

Civil liberties groups have slammed the FBI report, warning the “black identity extremists” designation threatens the rights of protesters with Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many have also compared the memo to the FBI’s covert COINTELPRO program of the ’50s through ’70s, which targeted the civil rights movement.

For more, we’re going to San Francisco, California, where we’re joined by Malkia Cyril. She’s the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice as well as a Black Lives Matter Bay Area activist.

Malkia, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this report and what your assessment is of this term they have used, “black identity extremists”?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, thanks for having me. You know, it’s a great question. What is a black identity extremist? I think we’re all trying to figure that out. Nobody knows, in part because it doesn’t exist. It’s a term fabricated by the FBI, constructed. And it has a history. I mean, for a very long time, for many decades in this country, probably centuries, the FBI has criminalized black dissent. We saw it through the COINTELPRO, the Counter Intelligence Program, as you mentioned, in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. We’re seeing it again today. This term, this idea of black extremism are coming up by the FBI, being used as a way to criminalize democratically protected speech and activity. It’s wrong, it’s erroneous, and it should be withdrawn.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what is your understanding of where it stands now?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, right now, we don’t know. I mean, that’s part of the problem. You know, we need some information from the FBI. It’s clear that the FBIshould provide an unredacted description. What do they mean by a “black identity extremist”? Right now that description is pretty vague. It refers to some anti-white ideologies. It compares—you know, it talks about ideologies of black separatism. But it doesn’t have anything concrete. I mean, I think that’s part of the problem, that this is a categorization that has been constructed. The definition has no—makes no sense. And we need some more information from the FBI, so that we can actually respond effectively to this categorization.

AMY GOODMAN: It doesn’t refer to Black Lives Matter specifically.

MALKIA CYRIL: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that, Malkia?

MALKIA CYRIL: Well, I mean, you know, it doesn’t refer to any specific organization, because the FBI, through its own guidelines, can’t really do that, number one. Number two, its guidelines say it can’t start investigations or investigate anyone solely on the basis of race. So what it’s done is it’s constructed, out of, you know, looking at six different cases over three years that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, of people who have committed violence against police officers. They have constructed a relationship between these cases that doesn’t exist, and then assigned some political ideology to those cases that doesn’t exist. So, anti-white feelings or sentiment doesn’t lead to police violence. Being angry as a black person in America about the—excuse me, doesn’t lead to violence against police. Being angry about police violence in America, police violence that is targeting largely people of color, also does not lead to violence against the police.

So, the bottom line here is that we have a rampant situation where white nationalism is on the rise. And yet the FBI has chosen to use its resources to construct and fabricate a threat that does not exist, instead of addressing a threat that does exist. So, whether it refers directly to Black Lives Matter as an organization or not, it’s clear this is an attempt to criminalize black dissent, which will have an outsized negative impact on those who are working in organizations like Black Lives Matter.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about another issue, about these allegations a Russian company spent more than $100,000 buying thousands of ads that sought to politicize the U.S. electorate ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Some of the allegations relate to Russian Facebook ads specifically referencing Black Lives Matter, targeting audiences in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

MALKIA CYRIL: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Google also says, quote, “suspected Russian agents,” unquote, paid for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of political advertisements last year also aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential election. Your thoughts?

MALKIA CYRIL: First of all, we have to be really clear. This is not simply about what Russia has done. This is about how Russia and the right wing of the United States has collaborated to undermine democracy. So I want to be very clear. When we talk about, you know, Russia buying these ads or using these Facebook pages, so on and so forth, what we’re really talking about is a collusion, a collaboration between a global right wing. That’s really important. We need to be really clear about that, number one.

Number two, whether the ads or the Facebook pages seem to be pro- or anti-Black Lives Matter, the fact is that these pages and these ads were anti-black. That’s what’s clear. They were using anti-black tropes of black militancy to sway an election and undermine democracy. This is not new. The CIA has done this for decades. This is a tactic that has been used by the United States internationally for decades. We should not be surprised that it is being used now. And we need to think very carefully about what is going to happen over the next several years to undermine the next presidential election. And we need to get ready.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about a CNN report, a social media campaign calling itself “Blacktivist” and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the election. Again, they attribute it to two sources with knowledge of the matter talking to CNN. The Twitter account has been handed over to Congress. The Facebook account is expected to be handed over in the coming days, was the report. Your response to Blacktivist? Have you looked into this?

MALKIA CYRIL: You know, I’ve heard about it. I’ve actually seen the page in the past. You know, I spend a lot of time working on social media issues and looking at, you know, possibly fake pages that talk about black issues, trying to weed them out from pages that are related to real, on-the-ground organizations. And what we’ve seen is, interestingly, while this has come to light, you know, the Blacktivist page has come to light as being associated with this disinformation campaign, it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of fake pages on Facebook, dozens of fake accounts on Twitter, that claim to be related to some black movement, but in fact are not.

What we need to be is very careful making sure that the pages we follow, the accounts we follow, are actually connected to real organizations that are doing real work on the ground. And it’s hard to do. It means that Facebook and Twitter have to take real responsibility for this kind of disinformation on their site, really do something to protect the black activists who are working on their site, and differentiate between the fake pages and the real pages, because it has real consequences for black activism.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, for young people who may not be familiar with COINTELPRO—you certainly are—can you talk about your own family experience? We have just about a minute. But, you know, December 4th, 1969, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton—Fred Hampton, the head of the Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois—are gunned down by police as they’re sleeping in bed. What the Counter Intelligence Program did and the effect, for example, on your family?

MALKIA CYRIL: My mother was a member of the Black Panther Party in New York. She ran the breakfast program in New York. And my mother was visited by the FBIjust weeks before she died in 2005. So this is not something—this harassment, the kind of FBI harassment of black activists, didn’t end in 1969. It didn’t end when COINTELPRO was, you know, exposed in 1971. It is continuing today. There are hundreds of political prisoners in our prison system—black political prisoners, Puerto Rican political prisoners, Native American political prisoners—because of the Counter Intelligence Program. And we need to make sure that never, ever happens in America again.

AMY GOODMAN: Malkia Cyril, thanks so much for taking this time with us, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice, also a Black Lives Matter activist.

MALKIA CYRIL: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That does it for our broadcast today. Happy birthday to Miguel Nogueira! Happy belated birthday, Miguel.

By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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America’s Political Divide Intensified During Trump’s First Year As President Republicans and Democrats have grown further apart in their political views during the first year of the administration, the Pew Research Center finds.

Disagreement among Republican and Democratic voters on a range of political issues has risen sharply in recent years, a political divide that intensified during the first year of President Trump’s administration, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

“The divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values—on government, race, immigration, national security, environmental protection, and other areas—reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency,” Pew’s report states. “In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger.”

Since the widening of the partisan opinion gap is a continuation of a trend, Trump’s presidency hasn’t ushered in a new era of intense political polarization so much as it marks a new chapter in an increasingly polarized political time. Public opinion remains more divided along partisan lines than along the lines of race, religion, age, gender, and educational background, Pew finds.

As the country’s partisan divide has increased in recent years, hostility between Republicans and Democrats has remained high. Perhaps surprisingly, Pew’s data shows a slight decline in the share of Democrats and Republicans who say they have a “very unfavorable” view of the opposing party relative to one year ago. Overall, though, the numbers don’t represent a major change, and aren’t enough on their own to say that partisan hostilities are lessening. The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats, at 81 percent for both parties, say they have an unfavorable view of the other side in the latest report.

America’s partisan divergence reaches beyond the realm of political debate in Washington. Pew data indicates that Republicans prefer to live in rural areas, while Democrats prefer urban living. Sixty-five percent of Republicans say they would rather live in communities where “houses are larger and farther apart” and “schools, stores, and restaurants are several miles away.” In contrast, 61 percent of Democrats said they would prefer to live in a place where the homes are smaller and more densely packed into neighborhoods, and stores, schools, and restaurants are in walking distance.

“What it shows is that even things that are ostensibly not about politics are still subject to political divides,” Jocelyn Kiley, an associate director of research at Pew, said in an interview. “That reflects a lot about the state of the American political landscape right now.”

Those preferences line up with the urban-rural divide that showed up in the results of the 2016 presidential election. Fifty-nine percent of voters who lived in a city with a population greater than 50,000 people voted for Hillary Clinton, while 62 percent of voters who lived in a small city or rural area pulled the lever for Donald Trump, according to exit polls from the presidential election.

The fact that even living preferences have taken on a partisan dimension helps explain another aspect of America’s highly partisan political environment. It’s common for Democrats and Republicans to have social circles filled with people who share their own political beliefs. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats say that a lot of their close friends are also Democrats, while 57 percent of Republican voters surround themselves with Republican friends, Pew’s survey conducted in August 2017 shows. That inevitably diminishes the likelihood that people will have their partisan viewpoints challenged in any kind of meaningful way in their day-to-day lives.

The more that Americans’ social lives and identity become intertwined with partisan beliefs, the more pressure people will face to adopt partisan viewpoints rather than risk alienating close friends and their broader social network. That dynamic is likely one reason why Gallup found in 2015 that college-educated Republicans were more likely than less educated Republicans to say that the threat of global warming has been exaggerated, despite warnings from the scientific community that the harmful impacts of climate change are already underway.

Trump himself has a track record of climate denial, and it is possible that his own defiance of the scientific consensus will intensify skepticism among some Republican voters. Prior to taking office as president, Trump called global warming a “hoax.” After the administration announced it would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the White House sidestepped questions over whether the president continues to think climate change is a hoax.

Pew’s latest report suggests that kind of rhetoric may have had an impact on Republican voters who support the president. Among Republicans, voters who strongly approve of Trump were also the most likely to say that there is no solid evidence of global warming, while Republicans who disapprove of the president were the most likely to say there is solid evidence. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans who disapprove of the president said there is solid evidence for global warming, while 57 percent of Republicans who “very strongly” support Trump said there is not.

As long as Republicans and Democrats continue to cluster geographically across the country and surround themselves with like-minded partisans, it’s likely that the partisan divide will remain as entrenched as ever.

By Clare Foran/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump, “Fake News” and the War on Dissidents

The state-corporate media must be in trouble if a BBC veteran like Nick Robinson is getting dirty in the trenches, taking up arms against the “guerilla war” he claims people like me are waging. In a new commentary piece for the Guardian, he argues that media critics – from the right and the left – are taking to social media in an organised campaign to discredit what Robinson calls the “mainstream media”. Predictably, his article strikes the self-satisfied tone of those who claim to be right because they have come under attack from both sides.

Let me delay briefly to point out that critics of the BBC, including myself, are not suggesting – as Robinson claims – either of the following: “that we reporters and presenters are at best craven, obeying some diktat from our bosses or the government, or at worst nakedly biased.”

Robinson, like his colleagues in the corporate media, seems either averse to, or incapable of, understanding that serious criticism of the corporate media is based on the Propaganda Model, set out in great detail in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent by Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky.

According to that model, structural constraints – what Herman and Chomsky call “filters” – ensure journalists conform ideologically to their role in a media system that is incapable of questioning the foundations of the capitalist system of which the media is an integral part.

Put at its simplest, journalists like Robinson succeed in the state-corporate media because they are supremely good at promoting the official line. They rise through the ranks while journalists who are too critical fall by the wayside, weeded out in the long selection procedures journalists undergo before they reach the top.

In other words, journalists aren’t “cravenly taking orders from bosses”. Journalists like Robinson are selected for their highly partisan assumptions, because they proudly believe in and promote orthodoxy – in this case, the legitimacy of the neoliberal system. They manufacture consent for the present economic, political and social conditions, not because they are told to do so but because they fervently believe those conditions are for the benefit of all. If they did otherwise, as Chomsky once famously pointed out to Robinson’s colleague Andrew Marr, they would not be sitting where they are – in the interviewer’s chair.

Anyone who threatens the legitimacy of this system is treated as a menace, whether it be a progressive like Jeremy Corbyn or a too-nakedly brutal neoliberal capitalist like Donald Trump.

And this brings us to the second point. Robinson suggests that the new social media “guerrilas” plotting against the “mainstream media” are somehow indistinguishable from each other in their methods. Those on the right, the Trumpists, are no different from those on the left. In fact, he goes further and argues that progressive-left critics of the BBC are actually learning from Trump’s attacks on the media.

Campaigners on left and right have been looking at and learning from the method behind what some regard as the madness of Donald Trump’s attacks on the “failing” press as purveyors of “fake news”. Italy’s leftwing populist Beppe Grillo has described the Italian media as “the opium of the people – they hide the truth to reassure you, while you slowly die”. In Germany the rightwing Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) has revived the Nazi insult “lugenpresse”, meaning “lying press”.

But this is to invert reality. It is an example of the very “fake news” Robinson claims to be worried about. Trump isn’t teaching us about “fake news”. He’s exploiting popular disllusionment with the corporate media – the understanding that it has a corporate agenda that benefits a tiny elite – for his own political ends.

It is not that Trump rejects that corporate agenda, as progressives do; it’s that he is reckless in regard to the image carefully crafted for it by its guardians, the traditional political and media elite. He is not interested in advancing the broader interests of the corporate system, of maintaining its legitimacy; instead, he wants to advance his own personal interests within that system. He is a prime example of the self-destructiveness at the heart of neoliberal capitalism.

What Trump and his followers have done is appropriate the linguistic veneer of media criticism, without its intellectual substance, to justify their hyper-selfish agenda. By “fake news”, Trump means those who disagree with him and his political programme. That is not what the progressive left means. Their goal is to identify when and how the news is misrepresented by the corporate media, and whose interests are being served.

Worse for the progressive left, Trump has given ammunition to the enforcers of orthodoxy, like Robinson. The Trumpists’ often-empty claims of “fake news” serve to obscure or discredit the reality that the corporate media daily promotes fake news to further its agenda, whether it’s in Iraq or Venezuela, or whether it’s articles about a comic-book super-villian Putin taking over the US, or another moral panic about supposed rampant anti-semitism in the Labour party.

In reality, Trump’s scatter-shot claims of fake news are being exploited to shore up the corporate system. There is already a backlash, one being used to justify ever tighter controls over the internet and access to websites offering real critical news. Robinson’s claims that the left and right are the peddlers of the same “fakery” in attacking the media is part of that campaign to ensure normal service is resumed as soon as possible.

As the saying goes, the corporate media would have had to invent Donald Trump if he didn’t already exist. He has become the perfect foil to allow the system to relegitimise itself.

By Jonathan Cook/DissedentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ken Burns Vietnam Documentary? Or Should I Watch Game of Thrones Again?

This series already seems problematic from almost a sanitized version of history. KEN BURNS SAYS THE VIETNAM WAR WAS “BEGUN IN GOOD FAITH.” SO WAS EVERY OTHER LOUSY WAR.

Ken Burns latest documentary series “Vietnam” leads with the claim that the US war in Vietnam was a mistake, a tragic miscalculation. In fact it was a crime that cost 3 million lives.

I’ll get around to seeing Ken Burns series on the war in Vietnam some time soon. It will be kind of a chore, something I’m really not looking forward to. That’s because I’ve already heard that the Ken Burns documentary declares the war in Vietnam a “tragic mistake” based on “misunderstanding” of something or somebodies by other somebodies. In a way that’s enough for me. I understand the war in Vietnam as not a tragic mistake, but a vast and heinous crime, a crime wave really, lasting 3 decades from 1945 to 1975. During the last third of that time alone more than 3 million people lost their lives.

The bloodletting began at the end of World War 2. Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese Communists led the fight against the Japanese occupation forces and cooperated with US and Allied war aims. Vietnamese fully expected US support for their independence from France after the war. Instead the US and British forces sent to Vietnam to accept the Japanese surrender re-installed the French colonial regime. The Vietnamese fought a bloody nine year war against a French colonial army entirely provisioned and supplied by the United States. When the Viets surrounded and defeated the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 President Eisenhower offered France nuclear weapons, but the French declined.

Convinced that Uncle Ho as the Vietnamese called him and his party would win the 1956 elections, the US created a brutal puppet government in the southern half of Vietnam to cancel the election and “request” US military aid against so-called invaders from so-called North Vietnam. In the final decade of the long Vietnamese war more than half a million US troops were deployed, more bombs were dropped than in all of World War 2, and millions of civilians mostly Vietnamese perished. It’s the final decade of the 30 year bloodbath that most now think of as the American war in Vietnam, Vietnam the mistake, Vietnam the tragic misunderstanding.

Only it wasn’t a mistake, and certainly not a misunderstanding. The Vietnamese and other colonial subjects had been insisting on their independence for decades. Ho Chi Minh showed up at Versailles back in 1919 when the terms of the treaty ending World War 1 were being drafted. Ho demanded independence for the African and Asian colonies of France, Britain and other European powers. The Vietnamese knew from the very beginning what they wanted to do with their lives and resources in their country. The so-called misunderstanding was that the US political and military establishment, and 5 US presidents over 30 years imagined they could torture, bomb, invade and slaughter their way to some other outcome.

Ultimately they could not. 58 thousand Americans and 3 million Asians perished. 3 million dead is not a mere mistake. It’s a gigantic crime, after the world wars, one of the 20th century’s greatest. Crimes ought at least to be acknowledged and owned up to, if not punished. Pretty sure Ken Burns is not at all about that. At best Burns seems to be about a species of healing and reconciliation that limits itself to Americans agreeing with and forgiving their trespasses against each other, and dutiful acknowledgements of the valor of fighters on both sides.

The series has not yet concluded, so we’ll have to wait and see whether Ken Burns ignores or buys into the discredited lie propagated by our country’s war propaganda industry that unaccounted for Americans prisoners were somehow left behind and missing at the end of the Vietnam war. They were not. But the little black flag and ceremonies for the imagined “missing” in Vietnam are standard now four decades after the war’s end.

I didn’t go to Vietnam. Vietnam came to me, or tried to. I was lucky enough to live in a big city, Chicago, and to connect with the antiwar movement, which included black soldiers and marines returning from Vietnam. Some of them frankly confessed to taking part in all sorts of atrocities and war crimes and we took them from high school to high school in the fall and early winter of 1967 to repeat those confessions, and to tell other young black people like us it was an unjust war we had a duty to resist.

I thought I was risking prison when I sold Black Panther newspapers at the armed forces induction center on Van Buren Street and refusing to be drafted like Muhammad Ali. But by then so many young people were resisting the war that Uncle Sam’s draftee army became useless. In that era there were not enough cells to lock us all up, and many white Americans were declaring themselves ready for revolution, or something like it. US policymakers learned that part of their lesson well. They ended the draft and most white antiwar protesters went home.

Noam Chomsky has it exactly right when he declares that Vietnam was not a mistake or tragic error. It was an example that said to the world – THIS is what you get when you defy the wishes of the US ruling elite. You get bombs, you get rivers of blood and you get your country’s economic potential set back half a century. Seen that way, Vietnam wasn’t some tragedy the US blundered into by mistake. It was an example. And a crime.

For that reason it’s going to be a chore and a bore at best to sit through Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary. Maybe I’ll just watch Game of Thrones again instead.

By Bruce A. Dixon/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

What Trump’s Generation Learned About the Civil War

A scene from the Gettysburg Cyclorama, an 1883 cyclorama painting depicting the climactic clash between Union and Confederate forces during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

History textbooks used in New York City during the president’s childhood called the Klan “patriotic,” and downplayed the role of slavery in “the War Between the States.”

In March, President Trump visited the Hermitage, a former slave plantation in Tennessee once owned by Andrew Jackson, to pay homage to his 19th century predecessor. For Trump and his then-chief strategist Steve Bannon, the parallels were irresistible: An agrarian populist from the Tennessee frontier, Jackson was the first to cast himself as the common man’s warrior against corrupt Washington elites and moneyed political interests.

But even more revealing than their similarities was how Trump viewed his predecessor’s place in American history. In an interview a month after the trip, he alleged that Jackson, who died in 1845, could have prevented the Civil War:

I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

Historians today broadly agree that a slaveholding aristocracy was irreconcilable with the nation’s founding pledges of liberty and equality, and that decades of compromises between top American statesmen only delayed an inevitable confrontation. But the president’s view that the conflict could’ve been “worked out” would’ve fit at home in another place: the history classes of his youth.

Until the late 1960s, history curricula in Trump’s home state of New York largely adhered to a narrow vision of American history, especially when discussing slavery, the Civil War, and its aftermath. This was true in the predominately white public schools throughout the country. The African American experience and its broader significance received little to no attention. When textbooks did cover black Americans, their portrayals were often based on racist tropes or otherwise negative stereotypes. Trump’s understanding of the Civil War may be out of step with current scholarship, but it’s one that was taught to millions of Americans for decades.

“The dominant story was that secession was a mistake, but so was Reconstruction,” Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University professor who studies the history of American education, told me. “And Reconstruction was a mistake because [the North] put ‘childlike’ and ‘bestial’ blacks in charge of the South, and the only thing that saved white womanhood was the Ku Klux Klan. When African Americans read this in their textbooks, they obviously bristled.”

Thanks to his family’s wealth, Trump did not attend public school in Queens, where he grew up. In 1951, his father Fred enrolled him in the Kew-Forest School for kindergarten, and he stayed there until seventh grade. When he was 13 years old, his father sent him away to the New York Military Academy, a rigorous military-themed boarding school in the Hudson Valley—to “get him in line” because he was too “rambunctious,” Trump told The Washington Post last year. He completed his high-school education there and graduated in 1964.

Attending private institutions would not have inoculated the president from the retrograde learning of this era, because private schools often used the same history textbooks and curricula as their public counterparts.

Trump’s high-school education coincided with the resurgence of the civil-rights movement and its push to improve American history classes. The fight has its roots in World War II. Defeating Nazi Germany and its racist ideology inspired a new generation of black activists, Zimmerman said. Spurred by the wartime realignment of the American economy, thousands of black families left the South for new opportunities in the North and the West during the Second Great Migration in the 1940s. They quickly encountered stark differences in what their children learned about America’s past. Segregated black schools in the South had often used works by black scholars like Carter Woodson, who became known as the father of black history, and W.E.B. Du Bois to teach history. Northern and Western schools followed a different path. Their textbooks about slavery and the Civil War prompted protests from black families and community leaders.

African American parents and students emerged as the strongest voices in protesting history curricula. Major black newspapers like the Chicago Defenderand the New York Amsterdam News regularly covered new developments in the fight. Civil-rights organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League appointed committees to review textbooks and push back on flawed material. They pressured public officials and textbook publishers to present a more accurate and comprehensive view of black Americans in history.

“For more than 100 years, the American educational system has revolved around four basic R’s—reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and racism,” historian Lerone Bennett Jr. wrote in Ebony magazine in 1967. “By sins of commission and omission, by words said but also by words not said, facts conveniently overlooked and images suppressed, the American school system has made the fourth R—racism—the ground of the traditional three-R fare.”

New York’s schools were no different. A 1957 report found a textbook on the city’s recommended list which, while roundly condemning its violence, said of the postwar Ku Klux Klan, “Its purposes were patriotic, but its methods cannot be defended.”

In 1960, four years before Trump graduated high school, Albert Alexander, a textbook analyst for the New York City Board of Education, complained that publishers had warped their coverage of the Civil War so their products could be sold in both the North and the South. He noted that four of the textbooks used in city schools only referred to the conflict as the “War Between the States,” the segregationist South’s preferred term.

In 1966, Irving Sloan, a New York social-studies teacher, published a study for the American Federation of Teachers reviewing how contemporary American history textbooks covered black history. He opened by observing that many publishers had improved their coverage in recent years. But he also qualified his praise of their progress, noting that “none of the texts have completely succeeded, and several are so far from the target that they invite suspicion.”

Sloan noted, for example, that even some newer textbooks “still cling to the romanticized versions of the happy slave life.” Abolitionism was mostly depicted as a solely white movement. “No text gives enough attention to the participation of Negroes in this struggle for their freedom,” he observed. Things got worse when students moved past the Civil War. “In analysis after analysis of the texts, the reader will find the statement that after Reconstruction ‘200-300 pages pass before we get a reference to the Negro,’” Sloan wrote. “This is why whites do not always ‘see’ Negroes. As Ralph Ellison puts it, they are ‘invisible.’ And the reason they are unseen is that they are left out from such a large part of American history.”

The quality of the textbooks reviewed by Sloan varied. He praised the junior-high text Land of the Free for its quality, which he partly credits to eminent black historian John Hope Franklin’s co-authorship. Others received more scathing treatments. Sloan’s critiques of a senior-level high-school history textbook titled Our Nation From Its Creation typify the most common errors he encountered.

In a section dealing with different opinions about the causes of the “War Between the States,” the authors include the opinion of ‘more and more Northerners and some Southerners … that slavery was a moral evil and had to go.” The text’s presentation of the Southern response to the moral question is worth quoting in full: “Aren’t our slaves much better off than your so-called free workers in the filthy factories of the North? One Southern writer suggested that the so-called free laborers of the North would be better off if the North turned them into slaves.”

[…]

Coming to the period after the war, the Reconstruction era, the authors discuss the condition of the Freedmen. A statement such as, “Some thought that now that they were free, life was going to be one long spree, without work,” is at best gratuitous and at worst unsupportable. But it remains consistent with much of the tone of this text’s treatment of the Negro.

“Since the authors of the text are New York City teachers, it probably has wide use in the city,” Sloan concluded. “What is more, it probably has wide use in the South. Among high school texts, this gives one of the poorest treatments of the Negro encountered in our study.”

Racist material permeated other sections of the American curriculum, well beyond the field of history. Geography textbooks depicted Africa as “the dark continent” and either ignored it or portrayed it as a place of cannibalism and barbarity. “[Black] critics condemned biology textbooks, which often reflected eugenic theories of racial hierarchy,” Zimmerman wrote in a 2004 article on U.S. textbook changes after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. “Still other blacks attacked music textbooks for including songs by [prolific 19th-century songwriter] Stephen Foster, complete with Foster’s original lexicon—‘darkey,’ ‘nigger,’ and so on.”

These textbooks shouldn’t be interpreted as reflecting their readers’ views, Zimmerman cautioned me. Instead, they offer a window into what students would have learned in a previous era. “This tells us more about the culture of race as expressed in the curriculum than it does about what any given individual imbibed or not,” he explained.

With the horrors of slavery diminished and its presence occasionally justified, it’s easy to see how someone from Trump’s generation could view the Civil War as a conflict whose core tensions could be “worked out” without violence. Trump himself has recently embraced other extraordinary views of that era. After a deadly attack on demonstrators protesting a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, he became an avowed defender of Confederate statues.

“So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down,” he said at a Trump Tower press conference on August 15, referring to two Confederate generals’ statues. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” His embrace of the statues and the white-nationalist movement defending them served clearly political purposes, but it also betrayed a flimsy understanding of the country’s history: Washington and Jefferson devoted their lives to setting the American experiment in motion; Lee and Jackson killed thousands of their countrymen in an attempt to end it.

Of course, Trump is far from the only American politician with an outdated understanding of the Civil War era. In a January 2016 town hall in Iowa, Hillary Clinton—who is one year younger than Trump—said that had he not been killed, Abraham Lincoln’s more tolerant policies may have hastened national reconciliation, and that what actually happened left white Southerners “feeling totally discouraged and defiant.” My colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates noted similarities between Clinton’s statement and the Lost Cause view “that Reconstruction was a mistake brought about by vengeful Northern radicals.”

For Trump and Clinton’s generation, the curriculum’s impact may be measurable. In August 2015, a McClatchy-Marist poll asked American adults whether schools should teach that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. Sixty percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they should, as did 59 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds and 57 percent of 45- to 59-year-olds. Support then dropped off markedly among those who would’ve been offered more retrograde views of the Civil War in school: Only 49 percent of Americans over the age of 65 thought slavery should be taught as its main cause, the poll found.

By the 1970s, activist pressure brought about significant changes in how history classes would be taught. But how American children learn the history of non-white groups is still controversial, and led to a recent federal court battle in Arizona. During a wider clash over laws targeting undocumented immigrants in 2010, the state legislature banned classes that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” that are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled Wednesday that the law violated the First Amendment because “both [its] enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus,” citing disparaging blog posts about Mexican immigrants by the statute’s author.

The fight over fair treatment in textbooks and curricula also continues. In 2015, an African American student in Houston noticed his geography textbook described the slave trade as bringing “millions of workers” to plantations across the South, eliding the difference between mass immigration and indentured servitude from Europe and the enslavement of Africans. He sent a picture of it to his mother, whose criticism of the phrasing went viral on social media. McGraw-Hill Education, the book’s publisher, apologized and said it would revise future editions.

That incident, Zimmerman noted, evoked a previous generation of textbook battles that had before reshaped American history education. “And again the reason that it changed was that people of color objected, thank God,” he said.

By Matt Ford/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Jeff Sessions Remains the Great White Hope of Trump’s Presidency

Steve Bannon is back at Breitbart News, but the stigma of Breitbart-style white nationalism he brought to the White House lives on inside the Trump administration.

First and foremost, of course, the stigma remains because of the president. Though Trump dismissed Bannon, he isn’t about to turn against Breitbart. In a tweet sent out after Bannon’s departure, Trump wrote: “Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews … maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!”

Trump’s racist and nationalist views are enduring and entrenched. They date back long before the formation of Breitbart News to his alleged discriminatory practices as a young New York City real estate developer in the early 1970s. Those views won’t change, even if Bannon’s hulking figure no longer roams the halls of the West Wing.

And then there are the unhinged Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller, both of whom have strong ties to Breitbart and remain on the payroll as presidential advisers and prominent spokesmen. They have Trump’s ear on matters of national security, terrorism and immigration.

Gorka is a former Breitbart columnist. Miller, although just 31 years old, had amassed an impressive nationalist resume even before joining Trump, working as communications director for Jeff Sessions, then a Republican senator from Alabama before his appointment as Trump’s attorney general. Among his achievements while a Sessions staffer, Miller regularly provided source material to Breitbart, particularly on immigration issues.

Apart from the president, however, no one in the administration embodies the principles of white nationalism more directly or effectively than Sessions. That’s why, despite Trump’s heated and public denunciation of Sessions as being “very weak” for recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of alleged Russian election meddling, the attorney general has kept his job.

Sessions isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He and Trump need and complement each other. Together, they are the glue that keeps the GOP base from shattering. As Sessions told reporters on July 28 during a trip to El Salvador to coordinate efforts to combat international drug gangs, he and Trump have a “harmony of values and beliefs.”

Sessions is also a top Breitbart and Bannon favorite. The close relationship between Sessions, Bannon and Trump is chronicled in a chapter of journalist Josh Green’s new bestseller, “The Devil’s Bargain.” As Green explains, Bannon was the driving force in bringing Trump and Sessions together during the presidential campaign.

According to Right Wing Watch (RWW)—a liberal research project sponsored by People for the American Way that opposed Sessions’ nomination to become attorney general—between 2013 and December 2016, Sessions was interviewed on Breitbart radio programs (which are currently broadcast on the SiriusXM Radio’s Patriot channel) a total of 18 times, including 14 interviews conducted directly by Bannon. In addition, Sessions gave seven print interviews to Breitbart and penned a number of op-eds for the website.

As RWW has reported (including an audio link to the SoundCloud podcast streaming service), during a Feb. 27, 2015, radio interview, the same day Sessions addressed a Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in Maryland on immigration reform, he told Bannon:

Let me just stop a minute and say Breitbart has been the absolute bright spot in this whole debate. You get it, your writers get it, every day they find new information that I use repeatedly in debate on the floor of the Senate because it’s highlighting the kind of problems that we have. And nobody else is doing it effectively.

These comments were made well before Trump formally announced his presidential bid in June 2015.

In another radio interview with Bannon, in October 2015, Sessions praised the Immigration Act of 1924, which set strict quotas on immigrants based on their countries of origin and heavily favored immigration from Western Europe and Canada. He decried current laws for flooding the country with “low-skilled” labor from non-English-speaking parts of the world that he said saps government resources and brings down wages for native citizens. He also asserted that immigrants and refugees were bringing crime and terrorism, before moving to a discussion of what Bannon provocatively termed the “Muslim invasion of Europe.”

When Bannon asked Sessions to respond to charges of “nativism” that had been leveled against him, the future attorney general struck a now-familiar nationalist note, replying, “I love America,” before adding that some congressional leaders “think they represent … the whole world.”

Bannon and Sessions continued their nationalist dialogue in subsequent shows. When Bannon’s radio program went weekly on Nov. 4, 2015, Sessions was his first invited guest. The two men slammed the mainstream media as “internationalist” and for being dedicated to “banishing meaningful discussion of issues critical to Republican voters.”

In another November 2015 appearance, Sessions again invoked the 1924 Immigration Act as a model for future policy, prefiguring Trump’s present proposals to revamp immigration law. A month later, Sessions returned to Breitbart to express “cautious” interest in Trump’s infamous call for “a total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the country.”

In early February 2016, as his Breitbart-fueled public profile expanded, Sessions circulated a five-part questionnaire to leading Republican presidential candidates, asking their views on trade and immigration policy, as well as their position on increasing federal prison sentences for drug-related offenders. In mid-February, Breitbart carried Sessions’ announcement that Trump was the only candidate who had answered the questionnaire to his satisfaction. By the end of the month, Sessions became the first member of the Senate to formally endorse Trump.

As the presidential campaign heated up, Sessions continued to appear on Breitbart radio. In a particularly notable June 2016 installment, two months before Bannon officially joined the Trump team, Sessions clearly aligned himself with what Bannon called the “populist, nationalist” movement that had sprung up in opposition to what he called the “nation’s political, financial, and cultural elites.”

Asked if he thought those elites had the “backbone and the belief in the underlying principles of the Judeo-Christian West to actually win this war” against Islam, terror, immigration and globalism, Sessions, by then fully embracing Trump’s slogan to “Make America Great Again,” replied:

I’m losing great confidence that our elites … do not operate sufficiently in the real world. And it’s a dangerous thing and they are eroding regularly, it seems to me, classical American values that are so critical to our success. We need to elect a president who understands it. That’s a deciding issue in this election. We need to make sure the presidential candidate who is elected understands the threat and is willing to take action to protect the republic.

Since assuming his post as attorney general, Sessions has used his power as the nation’s top law-enforcement official to advance Trump’s regressive white nationalist agenda at almost every conceivable turn.

As I’ve noted in this column before, on immigration Sessions has been a staunch defender of the president’s Muslim travel bans, mass deportation and the border wall, and he has threatened to withhold federal law-enforcement grants from sanctuary cities.

On criminal justice, Session has urged federal prosecutors to press for the harshest available sentences, even in minor drug cases. He supports continued use of private prisons, and he wants to undo or limit consent decrees that call for federal oversight of local police departments to ensure compliance with civil rights laws.

Sessions also has taken steps to reverse the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and the department’s support for equal protection of LGBT Americans. Weighing in on affirmative action earlier this month, Sessions announced plans to allocate Justice Department resources to crack down on colleges and universities that he believes may discriminate against white applicants.

In addition, Sessions has boasted that the department under his direction has tripled the number of “leak” investigations (over and above the high levels reached during the Obama administration) aimed at punishing those who disclose “sensitive” government information to the press. For good measure, he’s reviewing, and threatening to expand, the department’s policies on subpoenaing reporters to force them to disclose the sources of leaked material.

Like a true loyalist, Sessions also has adamantly defended the president’s pathetically inadequate response to the recent neo-Nazi and KKK violence in Charlottesville, Va..

So while Bannon may be gone, Sessions and the cause of white nationalism remain entrenched in the Trump presidency. Sessions, in no small sense, is the bridge between the old right that he has long represented and the alt-right movement that helped sweep Trump into power. Trump may choose to humiliate him before the press and in late-night tweets—as he does to many others—but in the end their shared values and interests will keep them together.

By Bill Blum

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump and America’s Fascist Forefathers

Trump and America’s Fascist Forefathers

“If you rightly condemn Washington and Jefferson as loathsome oppressors of humanity, you are then obligated to purge the nation and world of the poisoned fruit of their racist perversion.”

Donald Trump was even more agitated and combative than usual at Tuesday’s press conference. How could he draw a line to separate the “neo-Nazis” and assorted “white supremacists” that had descended on Charlottesville, Virginia — one of whom used his car to crush the life out of a young woman — and the “very fine people” that favored keeping Robert E. Lee’s statue on its pedestal in (recently renamed) Emancipation Park? And, where would the racist-removal project end?

The answer, as somebody once said, was blowing in the wind. “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee,” warned Trump . “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

There is nothing wrong with Trump’s logic. If the legacy of slavery is to be excised root and branch, then nothing less than the most profound social transformation is in order. Why stop with statues of long dead men? If you rightly condemn Washington and Jefferson as loathsome oppressors of humanity, you are then obligated to purge the nation and world of the poisoned fruit of their racist perversion.

What these forefathers “brought forth on this continent” was “a new nation, conceived” NOT in liberty, nor was it dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal. According to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s Dred Scott decision , the United States was founded as a white man’s country in which “neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument” (the Declaration of Independence).

“The super-profits of the slave production system had made the United States a global economic power.”

In 1857, when Taney made his ruling, the value of U.S. slaves was greater than every other national asset except the land within its borders — land that was itself stolen from the indigenous peoples, and much of which would be valueless without slave labor. The super-profits of the slave production system had made the United States a global economic power, the second great industrial power on Earth — right behind Britain, where U.S. slave-produced cotton was the engine of its globalizing juggernaut. Through ruthless exploitation of captive Black bodies, writes Edward Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, “the United States seized control of the world market for cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution, and became a wealthy nation of global influence.”

U.S. imperialism is rooted in the rapacious expansionism of the slave system. George Washington envisioned the new nation as a “rising empire.” Jefferson spoke of an “empire of liberty” — meaning, the liberties he enjoyed from the labor (and sexual exploitation) of the slaves. White supremacy legitimized every avarice of the new nation. The Monroe Doctrine staked the exclusive U.S. claim to dominate the Western Hemisphere — regarded as populated by inferior and “mongrel” races — an “exceptionalism” Washington now insists extends to the entire planet.

“U.S. imperialism is rooted in the rapacious expansionism of the slave system.”

Fascism, including the Nazi variety, is not some strange European social disease. After crushing Black Reconstruction, the southern states invented, from the bottom up, the world’s first totally racially regimented society. U.S. “Jim Crow” inspired Adolph Hitler’s vision for nation-building under Aryan supremacy, as documented in James Q. Whitman’s recent book, Hitler’s American Model. American fascism predated — and has long outlived — the European variety. It is generally accepted that fascist states are characterized, to one degree or another, by:

  • Extreme nationalism
  • Frequent resort to mob rule
  • Oppression of an internal “Other” as an organizing principle
  • Militarism
  • The political dominance of the most reactionary elements of the bourgeoisie

All of these characteristics describe the southern states of the U.S. during the nearly century-long period between the death of Reconstruction and the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, the post-Reconstruction reconciliation between North and South guaranteed that the southern fascism model would leave its imprint on the larger American political economy. In the aftermath of the Sixties, the Republican section of the corporate electoral duopoly assumed the role of the White Man’s Party — the purer party of indigenous American fascism.

“American fascism predated — and has long outlived — the European variety.”

The Democratic Party, which founded this homegrown fascism, was now popularly identified as a haven for the nation’s racial and ethnic “Others.” However, the Democrats continued to pursue national reconciliation, as did the Republicans during the old Jim Crow. Even as the two parties were switching racial constituencies, they found common cause in imposing a “New” Jim Crow — the mass Black incarceration regime that spread to all parts of the country with astounding speed at the close of the Sixties, and which is the most dramatic domestic expression of American fascism. The Democrats and Republicans are as close as “lips and teeth,” as the Chinese say, when it comes to U.S. imperialism. They both belong to the War Party, committed to unfettered U.S. expansion and endless warfare against the darker peoples of the world — a national mission that began with Washington and Jefferson, and must be undone.

Donald Trump warned that, by knocking the icons off their pedestals, “You are changing history, you’re changing culture.”

Not quite – but it’s a small start.

By Glen Ford/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist