Reconciliation, Retribution, Punishment, Forgiveness: How Do We Understand and Manage the Fascist Threat We Face?

I think most of us have grossly under-estimated the threat we face in this country, assuming that far-right domestic terrorists are a small segment of mostly uneducated, angry white men. It is much larger than that, and far more dangerous. Today we examine Senator Heinrich’s call for “moving on,” Neil Young’s assertion that the terrorists are also victims, and Rev. Holly Beaumont’s thoughts that we are facing a far more professional and dangerous movement and our failure to understand this is our biggest risk. We also examine an extraordinary blog from Gwen Frisbie-Fulton, whose deeply personal observations about just one terrorist leader should be a real lesson to all of us. At the bottom of the post are two videos, one an interview with the producers of The Social Dilemma, and another, an important interview with Waldon Bello, a student of fascism, an activist, and a former Philippine legislator. We turn to that after a few brief announcements.

Transformation Study Group Meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 4:30-5:30pm. During this session, we will talk with Marianne Dickenson, an expert on housing cooperatives. Her contribution to the discussion will be more focused on how affordable housing solutions, including co-ops, land trusts, etc., can be models for sustaining affordable housing and preventing gentrification. She has wide experience on the business and barriers as well as organizing aspects. We will use this as a point of departure, but then we’ll discuss how worker-owned cooperatives could democratize the workforce and be a powerful tool to drive the Covid recovery and ensure that the “just transition” is also an economically democratic transition. Click here to register for the Zoom meeting.

Constituent/Senator Zoom Conversations

As we’ve reported, Retake has been organizing Senate District Legislative Advocacy Teams with Team Coordinators organizing Constituent-Senator Zoom conversations focused on the 2021 Legislative Session. We feel that this is an important means of connecting with our legislators, establishing a relationship, and exploring how well they understand key bills supported by Retake (often they do not) and how strongly they support our bills (mostly they do). The key word is “mostly.” Through these conversations we’ve identified gaps in understanding of the Health Security Act, the Green Amendment, the Public Bank, the ETA Amendment, and other bills. Once those gaps in understanding surface, we are able to then share that information with bill sponsors and CBO’s who are advancing the bill. As a result of this work, several legislators have reconsidered their positions on bills.

This work will continue over the next week (before the session opens Jan. 19) and throughout the session. Most all of the Senators who have participated in one of the ten Zoom sessions completed to date have indicated that they want to do it again during the session. We have two Zoom Conversations on Thursday with Speaker Egolf and Senator Leader Wirth, likely the two most influential legislators in the Roundhouse. See info below. But we also have an ongoing series with other Senators. You can sign up to join a Senate District team by clicking here. You can view the schedule of coming Zoom Conversations, by clicking here.

Constituent/Legislator Zoom Conversation with Speaker Brian Egolf, Thurs., Jan. 14, 1-1:30pm (we are trying to extend this to an hour). We will discuss his Civil Rights Act bill as well as five or six bills from Retake’s Transformational Bills list. If there is time, we may discuss what might be done in the 2021 session to advance meaningful gun violence prevention legislation, most importantly related to protecting our democracy and prohibiting firearms within 1/4 mile of the Roundhouse and city and county venues where city council and county commissions convene. While we are especially reaching out to constituents of Speaker Egolf, as Speaker, all New Mexicans are his constituent. To register, please click here.

Constituent/Senator Zoom Conversation with Senate Leader Peter Wirth, Thurs., Jan. 14, 5-6pm. We will have a similar agenda for our conversation with Senator Wirth, but with time to go into more depth. As with the House Speaker’s conversation, here too, we are emphasizing constituent involvement but also recognizing that the Senate Leader is the leader of the entire Senate and so we are all his constituents. Click here to register.

Our chance to move New Mexico forward in the 2021 Legislative Session

Town Hall (via Zoom) with State Senator Bobby Gonzales
January 13th, 2021- 6-7:30 PM

Registration required:
Submit questions in advance:
FB Event announcement:
Co-hosted by Residents of NM Senate District 6, Taos United:Taoseños Unidos, Taos County Democratic Party , Taos Progressives and others

Sierra Club Issue Briefings

Please also RSVP here for our various issue based lobby trainings:

Wed. 1/13, 4pm – Climate & Covid Action on Energy Conservation, Cars, Buildings, Rooftops and Utility Bills – RSVP
Fri. 1/15, Noon – Produced Water Act Amendments – Protecting our Environment, Freshwater and Public Health – RSVP
Wed. 1/20, 3pm – “Roxy’s Law” on Trapping / Wildlife Conservation & Public Safety Act – RSVP
Fri. 1/22, Noon – Conservation Bills, Environmental Database, Gila River Protections & Water Planning – RSVP

Reconciliation, Retribution, Punishment, Forgiveness: How Do We Understand & Manage the Fascist Threat We Face?

Not Afraid to Look, by local indigenous artist Charles Rencountre.

“Something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear,” the Buffalo Springfield sang. Talk about an understatement. Today, we try to understand what is happening and as importantly, how we address a surging movement that threatens to destroy our country. But the one thing we can’t do is ignore what is happening. The underbelly of our nation may be ugly, but we can’t avert our eyes; we must not be afraid to look.

We begin this exploration, with a letter from Senator Martin Heinrich whose comments about wanting to “turn the page,” have generated a strong reaction.

I was right there last Wednesday when an angry mob of domestic terrorists assaulted and overwhelmed Capitol Police and stormed the Capitol building. We should all be clear that this happened because Donald Trump willfully incited this mob to riot and for weeks repeated the lies and conspiracy theories that animate them.

So should Donald Trump be impeached? Obviously. Should he be allowed to ever hold office again? Absolutely not. There must be accountability as we hold responsible those who committed these violent acts, those like the President who incited these crimes, and those who enabled the President’s worst impulses.

But I want to be absolutely clear that there is a difference between accountability and retribution. I want my country back, not revenge. I am not motivated by the desire to punish this failed President. I am motivated by the desire to turn the page on this dark chapter in our country’s history.

To do that, our first and foremost priority must be to respect the will of the voters and to successfully execute the conclusion of the 2020 presidential election. 

The peaceful inauguration of Joe Biden must be our paramount priority as we begin the process of returning this country to its rightful place in the world. Then we must govern and govern fairly, produce results for even the most disaffected, and create opportunities for ALL Americans if we are to begin the process of healing this nation torn asunder.

Senator Martin Heinrich

Senator Heinrich indicates that he is not interested in retribution or punishment, but in moving forward with President-elect Biden’s agenda. That is well and good. Just as most of us want to “move past” Covid, it would be nice to move beyond the Capitol insurrection. But we can’t. We must face this assault and figure out how to prevent it, unless we want to be using the National Guard to protect every legislature in the state and an army surrounding the White House to protect the inauguration. We need to find some form of resolution to what has and is transpiring that likely will involve some combination of reconciliation, retribution, punishment, and forgiveness. But it simply can’t be to just “turn the page.” So, how do we do this?

The local Reverend Holly Beaumont had the following reaction to Heinrich’s email to his supporters.

In theological terms this [Heinrich’s position] is Cheap Grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about it as you have pointed out: Forgiveness without repentance. What is Repentance?

* acknowledging the sin.
* confessing the sin.
* asking forgiveness.
* turning away from the sin.
* restoring the wrong done.

This calls for a massive response from his constituents: You, Senator, are WRONG! In his book A Private Diary of Prayer, John Baillie includes a prayer: ‘When You call me to walk through a deep valley, O God, do not allow me to believe that I know an easy way around.’ That’s cheap grace.”

Rev. Holly Beaumont, Organizing Director of Interfaith Worker Justice

Beaumont’s response calls to mind others who have sought to use the principles of restorative justice to mediate and resolve conflict. However, preconditions of restorative justice are, as noted in theological terms by Rev. Beaumont, acknowledgment of an offense, seeking forgiveness, rejecting the offense, and making some form of restitution. There is clearly none of that evident from our President, who just yesterday exonerated himself of responsibility for the violence, blaming the BLM and Antifa. There is no evidence that any of those who encouraged insurrection or those who participated have any intention of seeking forgiveness. In that context how do we proceed?

News In Brief: To begin to launch that exploration, we will use excerpts from two News in Brief articles before closing with some concluding remarks and offering two videos directly pertinent to the challenge we face.

From Medium: “The Things You Are Getting Wrong About White Supremacists Is What Allows Them To Grow.” We will examine several excerpts from this excellent piece after hearing from Neil Young.

From The Guardian: “Neil Young calls for empathy for Capitol attackers: ‘We are not enemies’ The Guardian piece opens with a call for empathy from Neil Young. In it he acknowledges what I think is reasonably incontrovertible: the alt-right media and social media must assume a huge amount of responsibility for the insurrection. From Neil:

I feel empathy for the people who have been so manipulated and had their beliefs used as political weapons. I may be among them. I wish internet news was two-sided. Both sides represented on the same programs. Social media, at the hands of powerful people – influencers, amplifying lies and untruths, is crippling our belief system, turning us against one another. We are not enemies. We must find a way home.

Neil Young

As is often the case, Roxanne saw the flaw in Young’s suggestion that we return to the days when the Fairness Doctrine mandated that all public media provide “balanced” reporting with both sides on issues represented: This sounds good when you are talking about two reasoned positions on Medicare for All or paying off all student debt, but problems arise when applied to the current situation. Is it “Fair” to provide a forum for the proliferation of patently false charges throughout the media and, if we did so, are we not legitimizing illegitimate positions, honoring falsehood and disseminating seditious plans? And yet, who is to adjudicate what is fact and what is seditious?

In relation to the looming climate crisis, there are facts, science, and legitimate research, and then there is faux research funded by the gas and oil industry. Do we afford each viewpoint equal status? And how do such judgments get incorporated within the regulation of media? If the Fairness Doctrine were in force and if every wild QAnon claim were countered with objective reality, would it have made a difference? And do you and I want to be subjected to listening to climate deniers and conspiracy theorists on every channel? Big questions. I encourage you to use the “Leave your reply” box at the bottom of this post to offer your comments.

The second News In Brief is from Medium by an author I had never encountered, Gwen Frisbie-Fulton. Thank you to Joyce Westerbur for forwarding this piece to me. It is exceedingly well written, clear, important, and frightening, as Frisbie-Fulton offers an excellent profile of who the leaders of the alt-right are, their motives, and their recruitment techniques. As noted above, we need to start by understanding who we are dealing with and not simply turn a blind eye or “turn the page.”

She begins by dismissing the notion of the domestic terrorists being a horde of uneducated, easily manipulated white folk. From Frisbie-Fulton:

Just today I saw a CEO, a district court judge’s son, a pharmacist, a mayor, and a woman who flew on a private jet to the rally all be doxxed on Twitter for their participation in the mob. Our rush to distance ourselves from unsavory racists and discounting their intelligence ends up framing the threat incorrectly. And it is allowing the white supremacists to get ahead….

We tend to want to believe that white supremacists and white nationalists are the backwoods Deliverance rejects of our society…. the tiki torches in Charlottesville were overwhelmingly carried by frat boys and orthodontists, and the Capitol was just vandalized by veterans and small business owners in MAGA hats, Phish teeshirts, and Columbia jackets. America needs to come to terms with the idea that some cleaned up Vinlanders might live next to you, too.”

From Medium: “The Things You Are Getting Wrong About White Supremacists Is What Allows Them To Grow.”

“Vinlanders” is the white supremacist group that lived a couple block from Frisbie-Fulton in Chicago. She moved away from the neighborhood because she felt the group would prey upon her young son, a poor white boy. Her impetus for writing this piece was that she saw an Indianapolis Star interview with Brien James, a Proud Boy who entered the Capitol last Wednesday.

“after the attack on the Capitol, the Indianapolis Star — the reputable, award-winning paper — ran a run-of-the-mill story including an interview with a man named Brien James. It was reported that James had joined about one hundred other Trump supporters and Proud Boys at the Indiana statehouse to oppose the Electoral College count and he spoke to the Star as the assault was occurring in Washington. The Star then also quoted James again the next day, documenting him as just another voice in this moment in history. It read like a benign human interest story: Some men, who you may or may not agree with politically, holding a protest at the statehouse — as we do and will continue to do in our American democracy.”

But Frisbie-Fulton knew James — he is the founder of the Vinlanders, the white supremacist organization in Chicago from which she fled with her son twelve years ago.

Brien James was the founder of the Vinlanders Social Club — he is one of the ones I would see goosestepping outside the local bars in steel-toed boots ready to fight. He was the one who selected my neighborhood as a place for his hate group to target. It is documented that James created the Vinlanders after he was kicked out of the Outlaw Hammerskins for being too violent — he apparently nearly stomped someone to death for refusing to do a Sieg Heil in the early 2000s. 

From Medium: “The Things You Are Getting Wrong About White Supremacists Is What Allows Them To Grow.”

Frisbie-Fulton goes on to describe how James, and others like him, have tried to change their image and their recruitment message. Make it easy for those who would say “I am mad as hell at our government, but I’m not a racist.” She relates how now, no one would be asked to Sieg Heil at their first recruitment meeting, that there needs to be significant cultivation before recruits are ready to swallow that pill. But when cultivated correctly, they will. They have. Far more often than we’d like to believe.

The entire strategy of the alt-right in the last four years is evident in their name. They no longer want to be seen as extremists, they want to be considered a legitimate alternative on the political spectrum. That opportunity was offered to them through Trump as well as through press outlets from NPR to Fox to the Indianapolis Star, each of which has conducted interviews with people who explicitly want a white ethnostate as if it were part of canonical political discourse.

From Medium: “The Things You Are Getting Wrong About White Supremacists Is What Allows Them To Grow.”

You can add to that list the Santa Fe New Mexican, which published a “profile” of one of those New Mexicans who travelled to Washington and entered the Capitol. Their report began with “John Block, a 23-year-old conservative,” and went on to allow him to repeat the conspiracy theories and to describe the terrorism as “jovial.” By using the term “conservative” The New Mexican legitimized Block instead of reviling him. As one “commenter” posted in the New Mexican’s online version of the report, the piece treated his insurrection as if it was a “field trip.”

We conclude today’s post with two questions. If Neil Young is correct, and the alt-right media is to blame for facilitating the seduction of people like John Block and even Brien James, what is to be done? How do we address this? The Fairness Doctrine? Censorship?

Second question, if the internet is being used both to recruit domestic terrorists and to plot seditious actions, why are we not arresting the leaders like Brien James and charging them with conspiracy to commit sedition before they assault state capitols and the Capitol in Washington, D.C.? (Not to mention how differently they are treated because they are white.) Would the mass arrest of these leaders ultimately slow the movement? Your thoughts can be left at the end of this post.

Video to Help You Not Avert Your Eyes

In my conversation with Holly Beaumont yesterday, she indicated: “You and Roxanne can’t do ANYTHING else until you have watched Social Dilemma, a docudrama describing the role of social media in shaping our ideas, values, and actions. I thought we may have seen it, but we turned it on last night and indeed we had and indeed Holly was right. You can watch it free if you subscribe to Nextlix. Below you will find two important videos, one a short interview with Walden Bello, Philippine activist and expert on fascism, followed by an interview with the producers of Social Dilemma.


As interesting as the video below is, I’d recommend first watching the Social Dilemma on Netflix, then returning to this. We have to not avert our eyes, we must not be afraid to look.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Fascism

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13 replies

  1. There can be no unity without accountability. That is not retribution it is justice

  2. Good resources for further discussion. I would make 3 points with regard to future strategy:

    1. It would be useful to shift our language systematically. For instance, the term ‘conservative’ should not be used for Trump, his close supporters, white nationalists, Evangelical Christians, etc. I prefer the blanket term ‘radical reactionaries’, since these people are reactionary in wanting to preserve/re-establish the power of rich, white, Christian men. They are radical in believing any means to do this are justified. Similarly I would stop using “Republican Party,” and instead say “Trump Party”, unless the context justifies it. There is no Republican Party anymore. There are other terms we should identify and change. The key is to agree on accurate terms and use them regularly until they become normal.

    2. I think a new version of the “Fairness Doctrine” would be useful. I agree it is silly to just allow any crazy position to be given a voice, but a requirement that any significant radio, television, or social media platform has to set aside time for alternative views would, over time, shift how they function. Rush Limbaugh has said reimposing the Fairness Doctrine would put him out of business—not true, but if it scares Rush I’m for it. So is Bernie Sanders. If nothing else it sends an important message about our values.

    3. The radical reactionary movement in the US is grounded in a number of specifically Western groups, and as New Mexicans we have a special responsibility to expose and confront them. Key groups like the 3-Percenters are based in the West, focused on opposition to supposed government oppression over grazing rights, access to land and water, environmental restrictions, and so on. The government has handled these threats with kid gloves—the Bundy’s being the exemplar. Despite taking up arms against the federal government, they received no punishment. An excellent account of how this anti-government movement has intimidated state and federal authorities can be found in Christopher Ketchum’s “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West.”

    Heather Cox Richardson’s recent book, “How the South Won the Civil War,” tells us that the hierarchical, racist worldview of the South did not disappear after the Civil War—it migrated west. A certain kind of rabid individualism and hatred of government has taken root here, based on myths about western history and also cynical exploitation from ranching, mining, and oil and gas interests.

    Speaking generally, US authorities have been slow and soft in responding to radical reactionary threats. We have a special responsibility to expose this deeply anti-democratic, and dangerous, Western vision. We must demand that duly elected local authorities stand up to these threats and not ignore or, as is too often the case, collude with the perpetrators.®i_id=60636855&segment_id=49070&te=1&user_id=a01ec83b1edc2271556d17c74353e67c

    • I’d prefer “extreme” or “extremist” to “radical”. (I think “radical” describes a lot of *us*!)

      “Extremist” conveys the sense of people who will not accept any sort of compromise, reasoned discussion, reasonable accommodation, and the like.

  3. Well-stated, Adam

  4. Appeasement is not the answer. Thanks for a timely and well-thought out article today.

  5. Paul: The Southern Poverty Law Center has been following these extremist groups since the 70s. The groups currently number about 940!! And they provide a map of where these groups operate, which is very interesting. The one change, in my estimation, since the hate groups of the 60s and 70s is that the groups now have social media. They can spread their gospel of hate, racism, misogynism, and xenophobia far and wide, with no repercussions. Social media brought Trump to power, make no mistake. Additionally, this country’s worship of the “individual’s rights” continues to allow lies and fabrications, incitement to violence and murder and racism to be widely spread, again with no repercussions. Where do “individual rights” end and the welfare of the society begin? We have yet, as a nation, to face this question and to grapple with finding a balance that allows individual expression while respecting all members of the society.

  6. So what happened when ISIS radicalized and recruited terrorists via social media? Did we worry about censorship or apply the fairness doctrine? No, we shut them down by all means necessary. I see no difference when the alt-right uses the media to foment domestic terrorism, their tools need to be taken away. Hopefully the new Justice Department will aggressively prosecute domestic terrorism on all fronts.

  7. I watched Social Dilemma several months ago. It documents the slowly evolving awareness of the brash Geek crowd of digital wizards who got carried away with their own brilliance and decided to employ it to construct a new form of mind control – the stochastic model of chaos.

    the dilemma is – how do we put a three-dimensional genie back inside a two-dimensional digital bottle? — ’10 Creepy Things Social Media Does To Control Your Mind …

    The social dilemma is not new. It is just an evolution of the Oracle of Greek and Egyptian lore, and probably the antrhopomorphic manifestation of the Judaic ‘god’ Yahweh, who became the Burning Bush and etched the ten commandments into stone for Moses.

    Especially potent in the Christian and Muslim traditions, social media now seduce every user into becoming a god/acolyte of prophesy. Where once only ‘leadership’ were oracles of truth, now any two-thumbed typist can play god.

    Social media are now the juggernauts of inference, leading to inductive ‘reasoning’ which postulates that if I think it, it must be so, and if someone else thinks it and I see it, it must be so. If a million then think it, it is truth via the acclimation of ‘likes.’

    Most of us are nobodys, no wealth, no fame, no status, no fan club, no power over anything that makes our lives challenging, no rich boyfriend or dazzling arm candy, losers at the casino and online dating, tools of the ten percent.

    Tap into that online misery and you have an army of potential recruits. Charlie Brown clones on steroids. Hero, or goat? Stick with me, kid, and you’ll go places. Trust me. The check’s in the mail, bring you WMD to the party and we’ll have some fun. Take what is rightfully ours, no more victimhood for us.

    You wanna win, you got to be a killer, son.

    Stochastic chaos fueled by propaganda, drama, trauma, norepinephrine, testosterone, estrogen and shoved over the top by adrenaline. All layered on top of lousy nutrition, opioids, meth and/or alcohol. Managed by sociopaths and sadists.

    It is religious zealotry, cult-of-personality fear of the ‘other’ (racism), and Stockholm Syndrome all rolled into one. Absurd and pointless, on its face.

    What to do and how to do it? How do we prevail over chaos?

    The slow blade penetrates the shield. We cannot overpower fear and ignorance. We have to dissolve it, revealing the naked infant beneath the shield. We have to do that via example. Be the strongest, most confident, most humble, softest, gentlest, most kind being you can be, be patient, considerate, loving and fair. Do NOT be a target, or a whipping post, or a victim or a tool of ignorance. Do not back down. Defend Nature and peace and harmony against all offenders. Always speak truth to power. Question authority and deny false gods their power.

    A lifetime’s worth of work, carried out one action at a time. And not-doing is also a doing, perhaps more profound. One size cannot fit all situations. A stochastic model of peace to dissolve a stochastic model of chaos.

    I am tired, and need to feed some birds and oil some postas and korbels.

    Mick Nickel

    • We can dissect the cause of recent social breakdowns, look at where they’ve taken place, and what lead us to where we are now, but it’s almost too late. We are on the verge of total collapse.

      I, for one, am for the abolishment of extreme wealth and for stricter regulations around social services. I believe in reparations for those who’ve been disadvantaged from past atrocities. I also believe in nonviolence, under all conditions, because it allows individual expressions no matter their personal and social maturation.

      At this stage we must be asking each other how to deescalate angers. How to stop and breath. The problems are deep and engrained in the American psyche, because the nation has been misdirected. This is a militant country, and the default response is violence. This act alone, the act to stop, will take every person in the nation to participate.

      What’s about to happen, regardless, is going to be the ultimate wake up call for the nation. Peace isn’t easy, and it’s not a default condition! It’s a science and a specified formula per the circumstance. Think of humanity’s interactions like an entanglement of billions of strings. It’s very easy to become knots which are impossible to brush out, then must be cut. We must constantly disentangle chaos and injustices. Injustice, and establishing justice, must be at the forefront of absolutely all societies issues.

      Freedoms (the illusionary backbone of this democracy) must be constrained, personally and socially. We are humans, not animals, above carnal desires. Society is a privilege, worthy of protections. There is no place in civil society for rape, murder, pedophilia, theft, or the “dark internet.” We must, as Americans, redefine our values. Just as the values of a child are different from an adolescent to an adult, so too is this true of a growing and aging nation. There is nothing wrong in redefining our core values as Americans.

      Because of different maturation levels in society, values will always be all over the place. The disillusioned believe personal opinions should dictate outcomes must stop. Again, civil society is about the collective wellbeing of the masses. If the person refuses to participate, carry his guns and not wear masks, then he/she can leave…or abide…or be removed from society through imprisonments.

      I could go on and on.Regardless, get ready for a rocky ride!

  8. Things are dire. I hope this wakes us all up; I’m not counting on it. So many Americans, including many I know personally, are being “good Germans” these days.

  9. As Heather Cox Richardson has pointed out, McConnell’s mild statement pressuring the president to resign resulted from the cut-off of funds from his sponsors. Now we know that of any $$ we spent at ATT, Wal-mart, etc., a % went to the packing of our federal courts and blocking of pandemic measures. If this bothers McConnell think of how it must be worrying our faux-progressive Senator Pharma — of course he wants to “turn the page” and turn the spigot back on.


  1. Legislators Misinformed on Key Bills & Legislative Session Begins Tomorrow; Biden’s First Days Packed with Actions; Tribute to MLK, Jr. – Retake Our Democracy

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