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.
|A CONVERSATION WITH STATE REPRESENTATIVES Herrera & Ortez|
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: http://tiny.cc/townhallnm
Info: 2021 LEGISLATIVE ISSUES
Submit questions in advance: IDYLLD@gmail.com
FB Event announcement: http://www.facebook.com/events/424671348674142
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?
“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