Trump and Right-Wing Populism: A Long Time Coming

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This article appears in the Spring 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

Most Americans surveying the wreckage of the national political landscape amid the 2016 presidential election are startled, most of all, by the ugliness and violence that has suddenly returned to our electoral politics thanks to the prominence of racist Far Right ideology in the Republican contest. And they shudder at the prospect of what that might mean for the nation’s politics long after de facto Republican nominee Donald Trump departs the scene—whenever that may be.

Almost as suddenly as Trump himself emerged as a major player in the race, so too did an array of White Nationalists and supremacists, conspiracists and xenophobes, and even Klansmen and skinheads. For decades these figures had been relegated to the outskirts of right-wing politics, and many mainstream observers seemed to think they’d gone extinct.1

The brashly offensive statements made by Trump about any number of minority groups or other individuals have likewise confounded observers.

“He is defying the laws of political gravity right now,” exclaimed mainstream political consultant Michael Bronstein in January. “Inside the presidential race, any one of these lines, if they were associated [with] another candidate, it would’ve ended the candidacy.”2

Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Source: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

But the normal rules simply do not apply with Trump. Although he presents himself as a truth-talking business conservative—having emerged largely from these ranks—Trump has transformed himself into a creature of the populist Hard Right, the movement to which he owes his electoral success. The ideology that is identifiable through the candidate’s braggadocious and at times incoherent speaking style is the “producerist” narrative,3 which pits ordinary White working people against both liberals—who are cast as an oppressive class of elites—and the poor and immigrants, who are denigrated as parasites.

Producerism has historically been tied to far-right movements, whether the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s or the Patriot/militia movement of the 1990s and today. The rhetoric of the militia movement, which arose during the Bill Clinton administration, served to help mainstream the Radical Right. Most of these militias initially presented themselves as ordinary civic organizations devoted to protecting people’s rights and property, even as they gathered a large number of violent militants within their ranks. But any positive spin on the movement was derailed by acts of terrorism associated with the movement, like the Oklahoma City bombing. Marginalized, the Patriots largely went into hiatus in the early part of the new century, during the conservative Republican administration of George W. Bush, but the motivations that fueled their movement remained very much alive.

During the same years that militias were first organizing, right-wing media simultaneously arose as a separate propaganda organ that demonized liberals and presented conservatives as the only true American patriots. The following decade, during the Iraq War, conventional right-wing rhetoric on outlets like Fox News became vociferous and eliminationist: liberals were derided as “soft on terror,” and any criticism of Bush and his administration was denounced as “treasonous.” Meanwhile, conspiracist elements of the Far Right found fuel in the aftermath of September 11th, which produced an entire cottage industry devoted to proving the terror attacks part of a conspiratorial plot, giving fresh life to the already-hoary “New World Order” theories of the 1990s.

During the Bush years, the Far Right largely declined from their 1990s levels of organization but remained active and bubbling along on these conspiracist fringes. The candidacy and election of President Barack Obama in 2008, however, changed all that, sparking a virulent opposition. The mainstream Right, after years of right-wing media conditioning during both the Clinton and Bush years, seemed no longer able to abide the idea of sharing power with a liberal president and set out to delegitimize Obama by any means possible. And it was through that shared hatred that the mainstream Right and the Far Right finally cemented their growing alliance in the loose assemblage of conservative activists known as the Tea Party. Ostensibly a movement for low taxes and small government, in reality the Tea Party represented the mobilization of right-wing groups to oppose any and every aspect of Obama’s presidency.

Source: Christian Cable License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

“New World Order” theories are examples of the conspiracist element of the Far Right. Source: Christian Cable via Flickr.

In the rural and suburban red-voting districts where the Tea Party organized itself, the movement became the living embodiment of right-wing populism, evoking and popularizing producerism’s twin demonization of both liberals and the poor and immigrants. As with most varieties of right-wing populism, many elements of the Tea Party embraced conspiracism, the supposed “tyranny” of the president, and ideas that bubbled up from the Far Right, including “constitutionalism,” “nullification,” and even secession. The Tea Party became the main conduit for passing ideas that originated with the Patriot movement, and its far-right cousins, into the mainstream of American conservatism: the belief, for example, that the Constitution prohibits any form of gun regulation, federal land ownership, or federal law enforcement.4 It’s from these corners of the Right that the idea of the county sheriff as the highest legitimate law-enforcement entity in the land emerged.

Hand-in-hand with these beliefs about the Constitution came a panoply of conspiracy theories: that a nefarious New World Order is plotting to enslave all of mankind; that President Obama was born overseas and plans to institute Sharia law; that climate change is a scam dreamed up by land-planning environmentalists and leftists seeking to control every facet of our lives.

This is a universe in which facts, logic, reason, and the laws of political gravity do not apply. And early on, Donald Trump identified its politics with his own.

“I think the people of the Tea Party like me,” he told a Fox News interviewer in 2011, “because I represent a lot of the ingredients of the Tea Party. What I represent very much, I think, represents the Tea Party.”5

Trump in action has certainly delivered on that. The opening salvo of his campaign, in which he castigated Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists and promised to erect a border wall, was straight out of the Tea Party’s hardcore nativist playbook. And his subsequent positions and rhetoric—attacking “the Establishment,” Black Lives Matter and “political correctness,” vowing to outsmart China on trade, promising to protect the Second Amendment, promising to overturn Roe v. Wade and suggesting that women who get abortions could be jailed—were similarly straight out of the right-wing populist milieu.

Most of all, his claim that his personal wealth would make him, as president, immune to the demands of the wealthy and other special interests, formed the foundation for his populist appeal, as someone who would look out for the interests of “ordinary Americans.” That appeal was bolstered by his promises to get the nation’s economic engine into high gear, voiced in common terms: “We’re going to get greedy for the United States,” he told a crowd in Las Vegas. “We’re gonna grab and grab and grab. We’re gonna bring in so much money and so much everything. We’re going to Make America Great Again, I’m telling you folks.”6

Trump has cannily tapped a large voting bloc that was already created by conservative movement activists, and made large by the very rhetoric and ideology that nearly all of the movement’s media organs embraced to some degree before his arrival on the scene.

Before the Trump campaign, these true believers of the Hard Right were thought to comprise the margins of the Republican Party, a tiny subset that had no voice and even less power. What the Trump campaign reveals, unquestionably, is that they are no longer so tiny, nor so powerless.

Even if Trump were to fade away after 2016—something that is becoming an ever more unlikely event—those who rose up to support him will not, nor will their alternative universe shatter and fall. What they will become after the election will depend on how radicalized they are becoming during the election process, and on how the rest of society responds to the violence that emanates from their ranks. It will be a serious and significant challenge.

After all, the reality is that they have been around for a very long time—buried deep in the American psyche—and are now springing forth with renewed vigor, thanks to the encouragement that Trump is giving them.


About the Author

David Neiwert is a Seattle-based investigative journalist and the Pacific Northwest correspondent for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, as well as the author of several books, including And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border.


Endnotes

1 Chip Berlet, “‘Trumping’ Democracy: Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action,” Political Research Associates, December 12, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/12/12/trumping-democracy-right-wing-populism-fascism-and-the-case-for-action/#sthash.ZwSafuvF.dpbs.

2 Chris Stigmal, “Donald Trump Defying The Laws Of Political Gravity,” CBS Philly, January 25, 2016, http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2016/01/25/donald-trump-defying-the-laws-of-political-gravity/.

3 “Right-Wing Populism in the United States,” Political Research Associates, 2009, http://www.rightwingpopulism.us/graphics/populism/populism-overview.jpg.

4 Spencer Sunshine, “Gunning for Office: Oregon’s Patriot Movement and the May 2016 Primary,” Political Research Associates, April 19, 2016, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/04/19/gunning-for-office-oregons-patriot-movement-and-the-may-2016-primary/#sthash.oCtq6Cl9.dpbs.

5 Dave Neiwert, “Donald Trump Claims To Be The Ideal Tea Party Candidate: ‘I Represent A Lot Of The Ingredients Of The Tea Party,’” Crooks and Liars, April 7, 2011, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/donald-trump-claims-be-ideal-tea-par.

6 “Transcript: Trump’s ‘winning, winning, winning’ speech,” Tampa Bay Times, February 24, 2016, http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/transcript-trumps-winning-winning-winning-speech/2266681.

Tracking Blackness: A Q&A with Dark Matters Author Simone Browne

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This article appears in the Spring 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

We tend to think of mass surveillance as a relatively new phenomenon, a byproduct of the digital revolution. Examples of high-tech surveillance spring readily to mind, including the NSA scooping up our emails, Samsung televisions picking up living room chitchat along with your voice commands, and Oral Roberts University collecting data on its entire student body via Fitbit activity trackers. But, as it turns out, our high-tech surveillance society had lower-tech precursors.

Simone Browne, an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, describes her new book, Dark Matters: On The Surveillance of Blackness, as a conversation between Black Studies and Surveillance Studies—the latter a young discipline devoted to investigating the technological and social dimensions of surveillance. Browne’s research shows that surveillance was an essential part of transatlantic slavery, a system that held millions of people against their will and tracked them as property. And she argues that slavery created an ongoing demand for technologies to monitor Black bodies. The day-to-day enforcement of slavery raised familiar-sounding questions: Is this person who they say they are? Are they allowed to be here? How do we know? Dramas of surveillance and counter-surveillance played out constantly.

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Browne argues that awareness of being under constant surveillance is an enduring condition of Black life. Source: Carley Comartin License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

If surveillance is the state watching the individual, sousveillance is the individual looking back at the state. The history of slavery is full of examples of both kinds of watching. Slave catchers hunted down runaway slaves for money. The catchers were themselves carefully watched, and the news of a slave catcher’s whereabouts could also spread rapidly through the Black community. Abolitionists also circulated handbills warning free Blacks and their allies to be on guard against slave catchers.

Surveillance still goes both ways today, as activists counter police oversight by recording interactions on their own cameras and protesters at rallies for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump film their own attacks, not trusting event security cameras to hold anyone accountable.1

The long history of mass surveillance in the United States began with slavery.

The long history of mass surveillance in the United States began with slavery. Slaves sought to free themselves by escaping to free territories or impersonating free people, and the system had well-developed mechanisms to thwart them. Slave traders branded the flesh of their captives to mark them as slaves. Further, slavery in the United States was so thoroughly racialized that being Black was tantamount to proof of being enslaved—skin color becoming evidence of legal status. Slaves who gained their freedom by “passing” as White had, in effect, eluded the biometric profiling of their day.

To this day, communities of color are subject to intensive surveillance, both public and private. Police helicopters are a familiar presence in some neighborhoods. Young men of color are overwhelmingly more likely to be selected for stop-and-frisk police encounters. Browne argues that awareness of being under constant surveillance is an enduring condition of Black life.

This March, Lindsay Beyerstein interviewed Simone Browne about Dark Matters and what it says about surveillance in our current political climate.

How did you come to write this book?

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Dark Matters: On The Surveillance of Blackness, published by Duke University Press, October 2015. Photo: Duke University Press.

I was working on my dissertation on Canadian/U.S. border security and I got into reading the Surveillance Studies literature. One thing that I found that was missing was a discussion of the archive of slavery because it seemed so important to situate surveillance as a key practice that underwrote transatlantic slavery. So, when it came time to write my own book, I wanted to put Surveillance Studies in conversation with Black Studies.

An enslaving society does a lot of work to keep track of people as property. How does that technology and expertise carry forward into our modern surveillance society?

I didn’t want to make the link that they are one and the same, but that some of the practices that we see happening now have earlier articulations or iterations. There were a few instances that I looked at: Mainly biometric technology, but also tracking people with passports, which we still use now. Also, the ways in which bodies and people become disciplined by way of light. That is, how illumination can make bodies visible, trackable, countable, and controllable. I looked at branding and biometric technology. I also looked at the Book of Negroes [a record of Black Loyalists, former slaves who were eligible to leave the U.S. to settle in Canada after serving in the Revolutionary War] as an early passport to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

There were also lantern laws. These were 18th century laws in New York City and other places that said that Black and Indigenous people had to carry a lit candle after dark if they weren’t in the company of White person. Lantern laws existed in other times and places but there was something specific about the regulation of Black people on the move that I saw as a way to think about how certain technologies become supervisory devices.

So, the lantern was a piece of technology that was mandated because Black people were deemed more suspect than everybody else?

That’s one way of putting it. It was a form of identification. Other people would have been walking with lanterns, too. But the idea was that that any White person would be deputized to seize that Black/enslaved person who was walking without a lantern. You can think about the ways in which White people become deputized through White supremacy today around Black bodies in and out of place. I’m thinking of a Trump rally. Even with people who go to a rally as protest or as observation might be marked as out of place there and subjected to violence. Being Black, wearing a hijab, other markers of being out of place at a Trump rally, and then being subjected to violence from police or Trump supporters.

You talk about slave branding as a precursor to modern biometric ID. How did that work?

There was branding for identification, but also as a form of punishment.

I looked at the ways that the body becomes a mark or a measure of enslavement. If you think of biometrics simply as marking or measurement. How we use it today as identification, verification, or automation, thinking of iris scans, face scans, finger scans…. All of those ways in which the body is reduced to parts, pieces, and performances for identification and verification purposes. I wanted to see if there were moments when those get racialized. Branding became a racialization process during transatlantic slavery.

You write about the hearings at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City and the creation of the Book of Negroes, a document that listed 3,000 Black Loyalists who served with the British during the American Revolution and who sought to be evacuated to freedom after the war. What happened?

A page of the Book of Negros, compiling the name of the 3000 Black people who left New York City in 1783. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A page of the “Book of Negroes,” compiling the name of the 3000 Black people who left New York City in 1783. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

This was something that happened around the British evacuation of New York City [after the American Revolution]. Many people who had answered the call to fight with the British had entered into a bargain with them. These were people who had escaped slavery. They’d worked with the British as soldiers but also as support staff: cooks, spies, laundresses, and so on. Also at this time you had slave catchers coming to New York to seize former slaves who were set up on ships ready to leave the country mainly bound for Canada or Europe. People would be seized on those ships and taken to New York’s Fraunces Tavern every Wednesday from May to November to argue for their freedom by demonstrating that they were behind British lines at time of occupation and therefore entitled to go free.

What was the process of arguing for one’s freedom?

The tribunal was tasked with adjudicating claims under Article Seven of the Provisional Treaty of Paris, which said that the British could not leave with Patriot property, namely “Negroes,” and that that “no person is permitted to embark as a Refugee, who has not resided Twelve Months within the British Lines, without a special Passport from the Commandant.”

The British created the Book of Negroes, which was basically a record of the loss of human property. It was a record of who left [the country]. They would record their names, where they were born, who had enslaved them, how they ran away, information about their bodies, how they were branded, racial descriptors, and so on.

[The people pleading their cases at the Fraunces Tavern] had claimed their freedom. At that moment, you had slave catchers or others deputized to “take them back.” We’re using the term “property” but these were human beings.

You talk about the difference between surveillance and sousveillance. Would it be fair to say that surveillance is the powerful watching the powerless (like the NSA opening our emails) and sousveillance is the powerless watching the powerful (like citizens filming police brutality)?

A drawing by Mann's six-year-old daughter, illustrating surveillance versus sousveillance. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A drawing by Mann’s six-year-old daughter, illustrating surveillance versus sousveillance. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a graphic in the book designed by surveillance scholar Steve Mann. For Mann, sousveillance is the b-side of surveillance. Surveillance is mainly oversight, governing, policing, and the protection of private property. Mann sees it as almost always repressive. The b-side would be about undersight, about looking back—often through wearable computing, like body cameras and cellphone cameras.

There are other forms of surveillance and sousveillance. Uberveillance is surveillance through bodily data, like a chip. Dataveillance is the use of surveillance through aggregate data algorithms. In the book, I also coined the term “redditveillance” [to talk about crowdsourced review of surveillance] using publicly accessible CCTV, Flickr, and 4chan. You saw redditveillance, for example, during the Boston bombing, but there it misidentified [innocent] people.

So for me it wasn’t particularly useful to think of surveillance as always repressive or always liberatory. It’s not necessarily good or bad.

There was a low-tech equivalent of “redditveillance” during slavery where people would be “open-sourcing” which slaves had escaped lately, right?

Yes. Collective eyes and watching. Of who’s really Black? Or who’s passing? Or who’s meant to be enslaved? You can also think of that in terms of women fighting online harassment. Women are being doxxed and being “swatted” (law enforcement teams maliciously sent a person’s house through collective sousveillance online).

When Black Lives Matter protesters bring their own cameras to Donald Trump rallies to document abuses, is that sousveillance?

I think it would be. The other question is: To what end?

You sent me a story about Adedayo Adeniyi,2 who wasn’t even a protester. [Editor’s note: Adeniyi is a Black Nigerian student who attended a Donald Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina in March 2016. He was unfairly ejected by security after two strangers started arguing next to him, but not before 70-year-old Trump supporter Jason Wilton Wetzel hit him in the face. Adeniyi recorded the assault on his cellphone.] I watched the video. I could hear him saying, “That’s not me, I’m not with them. I don’t even know those people.” And he still got punched by a Trump supporter.

It’s clear from the video [that Wetzel] must have known the camera was on him. The camera might have become an invitation. So the idea of having a recording is important, but it gets tricky for a couple of reasons, even with those videos, since there’s still an anti-Black lens that those videos are watched through. Rodney King raising his arms to protect himself gets interpreted as a form of violence, as a hand about to hit. Ramsey Orta, who had recorded the killing of Eric Garner, there are reports of him being harassed by NYPD after Garner was killed and the video went viral. Last fall in Sacramento, a man recorded a SWAT team raiding a house across the street. Police shot him on his own property. They said the camera could have been a gun.3  A camera can make a person the target of more harassment from police, or literally target practice for police.

You write about the ways in which surveillance changes our subjectivity. We start acting as if we’re being watched. Do you think Wetzel felt like he had to perform White aggression because the camera was on him?

It’s possible. We’d have to ask him what he felt. He later said he didn’t know what came over him, that he’s not a racist. So, there was a performance of an excuse for it after the fact.

In the book I was talking about how Black hyper visibility shapes Black people’s ways of being—shopping while Black, walking while Black, driving while Black—and what that might do to the psyche.

You write about modern biometrics and Black bodies, how these devices are calibrated, and what they see and don’t see. Some devices read stereotypically White features with ease, reliably picking up on the subtle nuances that distinguish one blue eye from another, but failing to register stereotypically Black features. Being “legible” to a security system can make the difference between entering effortlessly and being shut out.

Teej Meister, “Whites Only?,” YouTube video, uploaded September 2, 2015.

Teej Meister, “Whites Only?,” YouTube video, uploaded September 2, 2015.

Think of biometrics doing a few things. Identification: Who are you? Are you enrolled in this database? Verification: Are you who you say you are? Are you the person whose biometric is encoded in this passport or Green Card? Automation: Is anybody there? Like a sensor on a faucet in a washroom.

In some cases you have certain bodies that, in biometric parlance, “fail to enroll” or “become illegible.” Earlier technology would read light irises quite successfully but darker irises might not be read.

So the question becomes who is the prototype? I called it prototypical Whiteness. There’s a famous video4 of a sink in a convention center. You have a seemingly Black hand, and soap dispenser is not working. With a White hand, soap appears. How are these technologies designed to serve particular bodies?

It’s interesting that racialized surveillance has made Black people more visible in some ways, but then you’ve got all these technologies that are decreasing Black visibility because they’re calibrated to capture the nuances of White bodies.

That’s the conundrum. It might be quite liberatory to be unseen by these technologies.

I close the book looking at a YouTube video5 with about three million views. It was of two workers in Texas testing the face-tracking camera of an HP computer. One worker, he calls himself Black Desi, asks us to watch what happens “when [his] Blackness enters the frame.” The camera doesn’t pan or zoom or tilt of follow him. But when his White colleague enters the frame, it seemingly works just fine. I use the question “what happens when my Blackness enters the frame?” What happens when Blackness enters discussions of the discussions of surveillance, what does it do to those very discussions?


About the Author

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.


Endnotes

1 Trump’s campaign manager appears to have been caught assaulting a reporter on his own campaign’s security system. “I’m rich,” Trump told his supporters, “So, I have tapes.” Trump claims his footage vindicates the campaign’s version of events. Meanwhile footage was being posted, reposted, and critiqued all over social media. The police reviewed the tapes and charged the campaign manager with misdemeanor battery, but prosecutors ultimately dropped the charge. See: Eli Stokols, Hadas Gold, and Nick Gass, “Trump Turns Blame on Reporter in Battery Case,” Politico, March 29, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/trump-campaign-manager-charged-with-misdemeanor-battery-221336. Also, Dylan Byers, Tal Kopan, and Tom LoBianco, “State will not prosecute Donald Trump’s campaign manager,” CNN, April, 14, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/13/politics/corey-lewandowski-donald-trump-charges-dropped/.

2 Shaun King, “Trump Supporter’s Sorry Excuse After Assaulting Black Teen At Rally Undeserving of Sympathy,” New York Daily News, March 14, 2016, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-charge-trump-supporter-assaulted-black-student-article-1.2563579?cid=bitly.

3 “Police Shoot Man For Recording Them With Phone, Claim They Feared For Their Lives,” Counter Current News, September 12, 2015, http://countercurrentnews.com/2015/09/police-shoot-recording-man/.

4 Teej Meister, “Whites Only?,” YouTube video, uploaded September 2, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHynGQ9Vg30.

5 Wzamen01, “HP Computers Are Racist,” YouTube video, uploaded December 10, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4DT3tQqgRM.

Racial Double Standards in a Mass Shooting Threat Case: David Lenio & White Nationalism

Click here to download the article as a PDF.

This article appears in the Spring 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

When I worked for a gun violence prevention organization in 2015, I often spent time on Twitter as part of my job.1 And that’s what I was doing on Valentine’s Day 2015: tweeting worldwide news2 about two deadly shootings in Copenhagen, Denmark. One of the shootings was at a free speech event in a café and the other was at a local synagogue, both following the publication of controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed.3 My tweets drew the attention of a Holocaust denier who, I subsequently learned, was also a White nationalist who owned three guns and lived on the outskirts of a White separatist community in Montana. His online interactions with me over the next few hours led me to discover that one day before, and episodically over the previous seven weeks, he had tweeted threats to shoot grade school children and Jewish leaders.4 During our encounter, he repeated some of these threats, specifying that he wanted to “put two in the head of a rabbi.” I reported him to the FBI and to local law enforcement as a potential mass shooting threat who also appeared to be planning a suicide-by-cop scenario.5 (Apparently referring to how some mass shooters have been killed by police, the man tweeted his desire to massacre school children “until cops take me out.”6) “Thank God Monday is a holiday,” one officer in Montana later told me, “because we have another 24 hours to catch him before the schools open.” And catch him they did. Two days after our Twitter encounter, police arrested David Joseph Lenio, a 28-year-old who had recently moved to Kalispell, Montana, from his parents’ home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.7

Photo of author Jonathan Huson on the documentary, Hate in America: A Town on Fire by Investigative Discovery released in 2016 talking about David Lenio's case,

Author Jonathan Hutson in the 2016 documentary, Hate in America: A Town on Fire, which is about David Lenio’s case. Photo courtesy of Investigation Discovery.

This essay explores two journeys. One is that of a wealthy and privileged young man who sought a White supremacist “homeland,” but ended up taking a detour through the criminal justice system, before being released this spring without bail and without facing prosecution. The other journey is my own: the story of what happened after our paths crossed and what I learned from our respective involvements in the judicial system and what those experiences say about the state of race and justice in the United States.

While people of color and Muslims encounter many “on-ramps” into the system, a White mass shooting threat suspect instead found numerous easy exits and “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

I didn’t know it then, but getting involved in Lenio’s case would change my life and inform the national conversation about how to detect and deter online threats of mass violence.8 From this relatively front row seat to the legal process, I would come to witness what many communities of color already have intimate knowledge of—the structural disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system. While people of color and Muslims encounter many “on-ramps” into the system, a White mass shooting threat suspect instead found numerous easy exits and “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.9 The case would come to illustrate the kind of disparate prosecution of far-right terrorism cases which Naomi Braine has detailed in these pages, writing in the Spring 2015 issue of The Public Eye that:

The differential treatment of Islamic and far-right terrorism cases only becomes explicable through the lens of political calculation. The Right Wing is an entrenched element of the U.S. cultural and political power structure, raising the costs of high profile law enforcement action. The primary targets of federal anti-terrorism investigations have been Muslim men defined by their vulnerability rather than their power.10

Perhaps law enforcement obtains more convictions of Muslims because the FBI focuses on Muslim communities, and constructs scenarios to entrap their members, while simultaneously failing to act promptly on information about possible terror threats from the Right until their militant actions become all but impossible to ignore.

Much of this story plays out on Twitter, where David Lenio’s tweets serve as road markers for an ideological tour of the outer reaches of the Far Right, its culture of conspiracism, and the xenophobic anger of White men who feel dispossessed of their economic birthright in the kind of fury that drives the supporters of Donald Trump.

The Making of ‘A Potential Terrorist’

He would go on to find a calling as part of a populist, nativist movement which advocates the rise of a new strongman in the U.S., scapegoats minority groups, and seeks to establish a White homeland in the Pacific Northwest under authoritarian rule.

At the time of his Twitter spree of horrific threats, Lenio was a line cook in a restaurant who falsely claimed he was homeless and blamed his economic struggles on Jews. He would go on to find a calling as part of a populist, nativist movement which advocates the rise of a new strongman in the U.S., scapegoats minority groups, and seeks to establish a White homeland in the Pacific Northwest under authoritarian rule—an ideal most adherents call the Northwest Territorial Imperative11 and which Lenio sometimes calls Cascadia.12 In the bio of one of his several Twitter feeds, Lenio indicated his support for 9/11 conspiracism and bombastically described himself as “a potential terrorist.”13 This picture is far different than the one we could paint of Lenio, as the snowboarding son of an influential investment banker in one of Michigan’s most affluent cities.

Lenio’s father, Remos Joseph Lenio, co-founded a private investment bank in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in September 2015.14 For decades, he has specialized in serving closely held, family-owned businesses. A conservative Christian who shows support on Facebook for libertarian conservative congressman Justin Amish (R-MI)15 and the libertarian classic Atlas Shrugged, Remos Lenio also shares close business, social, and philanthropic ties16 with the billionaire Dick and Betsy DeVos family of Grand Rapids.17 The elder Lenio also seems to share the DeVos’s vision of turning Grand Rapids into a “Christian Wall Street.” He initiated the $28 billion church financing industry’s first-ever loan syndication deal when he was a partner in Hartwick Capital of Grand Rapids in 2004. Lendees included mega-churches such as Mars Hill Bible Church,18 where Betsy DeVos serves on the board in nearby Grandville, Michigan.19

The multi-billion dollar fortune of the DeVoses, who are Christian Right leaders and one of the conservative movement’s guiding families, flows from their founding of the Amway Corporation. As Mother Jones reports, “DeVos family members have invested at least $200 million in a host of right-wing causes—think tanks, media outlets, political committees, evangelical outfits, and a string of advocacy groups. They have helped fund nearly every prominent Republican running for national office and underwritten a laundry list of conservative campaigns on issues ranging from charter schools and vouchers to anti-gay marriage and anti-tax ballot measures.”20

David Lenio’s own political evolution may have begun with his father’s politics, but it appears to have spanned a wide range of conservative ideologies, from Ron Paul Libertarianism21 to the Far Right.22 Though his religious identity is unclear from his public statements, Lenio has described himself in a Twitter bio as a supporter of the Second Amendment “and Jesus, too.”23

Rather than publicly identify with any particular ideological camp, Lenio seemed to exemplify the free-floating anxieties and rage of some White men who feel dispossessed.

But his politics diverged from conventional libertarianism and Christian Right positions at some point, taking a turn towards the conspiratorial and the overtly White supremacist. Rather than publicly identify with any particular ideological camp, Lenio seemed to exemplify the free-floating anxieties and rage of some White men who feel dispossessed. His tweets often focused on mass shootings and terrorist attacks, which he invariably labels as “false flag” attacks—covert operations perpetrated by Israel or the CIA. He claimed on one occasion that Israel was behind the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (which he called “Sandy Hoax”),24 and on many other occasions, charged that Israel was responsible for 9/11. He also wrote in support of White separatist movements, tweeting in November 2014, “White people need to organize racially, because the other races & democrats are organizing on some anti-white bullshit that needs countering.”25

A month after that tweet, he moved to the town of Kalispell in Montana’s Flathead Valley, which is well-known on the Right, as well as in human rights and law enforcement circles,26 as a locus of one of several White supremacist enclaves known collectively as Pioneer Little Europe (PLE).27

The PLE movement was founded over a decade ago to be, in the words of its organizational prospectus,28 “a conscious white community” that “comes to dominate a geographical area.” Investigative reporter Judy L. Thomas writes:

The manual describes a plan to “swamp” a target area by taking over its local political and economic systems, forcing out those who don’t share their beliefs. White nationalists would live in close proximity to businesses that offer cultural facilities and services, some of which would openly support their political revival.

The movement has gained some traction in Montana.

In the past few years, dozens of white supremacists have relocated to the Flathead Valley, where civil rights activists say they are forging alliances with anti-government Patriots because of their shared hostility toward the government. 29

A Citizen Report

On the day that he arrived in Kalispell in late December 2014, Lenio tweeted his desire to shoot up a grade school in the town, linking his threat to his economic situation. “I David Lenio,” he wrote, “am literally so indebted & #underpaid that I want to go on a sandy hoax style spree in a kalispell, MT elementary #school 2014.”30

Over the next several hours, he fired off four similar tweets.31 He wrote that he wondered how long it would take before he generated national media coverage and other forms of attention for beating the “shooting spree high score” of the 20 kids and six adults who were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School—one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.32

Jonathan Hutson’s tweet asking about the location and identity of @PyschicDogTalk2 on Febuary 14, 2015. Photo courtesy of Investigation Discovery.

From that day until his arrest about six weeks later, his tweets focused obsessively on mass shootings. At times, it appeared that he was grappling with his mental health, as with this February statement: “If I can’t even afford habitat to live on, why the fuck shouldn’t I shoot up a #school and #teach the world something about ‘mental health’?”33 In a prior YouTube video posted in August 2012,34 Lenio voiced a desire for the kind of infamy that comes to mass shooters. He also expressed a distrust of psychiatry and prescribed medications, as well as a fear that his guns might be taken away if he were found to be seriously mentally ill in a way that could make him a danger to himself or others.35

When a White male suspect threatens or carries out a mass shooting, the public conversation often rejects the label of terrorist while highlighting the suspect’s perceived mental state in an attempt to explain his acts.

Lenio’s tweets suggest that, consciously or not, he was setting himself up to be viewed as mentally ill—a factor which, if he could prove it, might mitigate his guilt. That he would introduce this concept is not surprising. When a White male suspect threatens or carries out a mass shooting, the public conversation often rejects the label of terrorist while highlighting the suspect’s perceived mental state in an attempt to explain his acts primarily as a result of mental illness, which could result in an acquittal or a lighter sentence. “It’s as if one cannot, according to the conservative playbook, be both white and a terrorist,” writes Black Lives Matter activist and Daily News columnist Shaun King.36

In contrast, when a person of color or a Muslim engages in similar behavior, the public conversation tends to disregard questions of possible mental illness while emphasizing the suspect’s ethnicity or religion. This dynamic, and the racial double standard it represents, stymies discussion of how White male privilege or even White supremacist ideology—a potentially aggravating factor that could result in a harsher sentence—motivates violence.

It’s also ironic, since White males commit a majority of mass shootings in the U.S. According to data compiled by Mother Jones on 80 U.S. mass shootings between 1982 and 2016, White suspects, almost exclusively males, were responsible for around 60 percent of the attacks.37 That survey notes that most of the shooters had displayed signs of possible mental illness, such as paranoia and depression. The report’s lead author concludes, “Maybe what we need is a better mental health policy.”38

But the fact that most of these shooters displayed signs of possible mental illness does not amount to proof of mental illness, nor does it demonstrate causality. In 2014, Eric Madfis, an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Washington, used an intersectional approach to examine the disproportionate rate of mass killings by White men in the United States. He reached a different conclusion:

Among many mass killers, the triple privileges of white heterosexual masculinity which make subsequent life course losses more unexpected and thus more painfully shameful ultimately buckle under the failures of downward mobility and result in a final cumulative act of violence to stave off subordinated masculinity.39

But whatever his motivations and mental health status, by February 12, 2015, Lenio was calling for the rise of a new strongman—“a Hitler”—to lead a White supremacist movement in fixing the U.S. economy, and stating that he was prepared to go down in a hail of bullets while killing Jews. He continued the same day with the “bet” that he could easily kill a dozen schoolchildren, which, he claimed, “Sounds better than being a wage slave.”40 Minutes later, he imagined more than 30 dead grade school students and called attention to his motives by tweeting, “I bet I’d take out at least a whole #classroom & score 30+ if I put my mind to it.” He then wrote. “#Poverty is making me want to kill folks #mental health.”

FBI studies show that terrorists, including school shooters, often signal their intentions in advance—sometimes to peers or authority figures, and other times to complete strangers.41 While I would normally ignore such hateful rhetoric, David Lenio seemed to fit the profile with the dozens of threatening tweets he’d posted since arriving in Kalispell. When Lenio began to confront me on Twitter, after my own tweets related to the shootings in Copenhagen, I read through his feed and became concerned. I saw his repeated threats to shoot schools and synagogues, and tried to crowd-source the problem of identifying and locating him, tweeting, “WHO and WHERE is @PsychicDogTalk2, who tweeted on Feb. 14 about shooting up a school and executing grade school kids?” Lenio responded by asking where my kids go to school.

I decided to make a citizen report to law enforcement, sending a timeline of Lenio’s threatening tweets, contextual information about Lenio’s apparent White nationalist sympathies, and a profile overview of his threats and his seeming desire for a suicide-by-cop scenario.

When police investigated the next day, on February 15, they discovered that Lenio had taken steps to put his ideas into action: he’d retrieved a cache of rifles and ammunition from a storage locker near his apartment.42 He also had a loaded semi-automatic handgun with him in his van at the time of his arrest and two extra ammunition clips, as well as several jugs of urine—materials that could potentially be used to create a primary charge for a bomb.43

SIDEBAR: What’s in a Jug of Urine?(click to expand)

That fact that Lenio stored jugs of urine in his van invariably catches observers’ attention. But neither federal nor state or local police ever asked Lenio about this bizarre find.

We don’t know why Lenio was storing jugs of urine because law enforcement failed to explore this potential lead. But if they had they might have made a shocking discovery.

Urine has been used to make urea to serve as the main charge in homemade urea nitrate bombs69 in the U.S., as well as in Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, and Pakistan. In the U.S., the best-known case of a urea nitrate bomb is the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.70 In fact, it is a serious enough problem that the Department of Homeland Security offers a training curriculum that includes teaching firefighters and other first responders to be on the lookout for jugs of urine71 as a possible sign of what scientists have called “exceptionally easy-to-make” improvised explosive devices (IEDs).72 The Associated Press reports, “One instructor noted that the discovery of jugs of urine led to the arrest of potential bombers in New Jersey.”73

One bomb-making manual, published by a self-described militia member a few weeks after White supremacist Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, calls urea nitrate IEDs “piss bombs.”

Although urea nitrate bombs are well known to much of law enforcement, experts in counterterrorism, and the violent, revolutionary precincts of the Far Right, most of the rest of us have been left in the dark about it. Unfortunately, some of “the rest of us” include law enforcement officers responsible for an area that is infested with growing numbers of White supremacist revolutionaries.

Urea nitrate looks like sugar and can be made with accessible and non-traceable materials, such as urine, ordinary coffee filters and pans. Such items are at the fingertips of most people, and particularly available to someone like Lenio, who was working as a restaurant cook.74 Later, a Kalispell police officer to whom I spoke75 said he could not recall whether they had found coffee filters, pots, aluminum foil, and something that looked like sugar crystals near the jugs of urine. He didn’t know whether the jugs actually contained urine, or whether the urine had been boiled down to urea, or whether the evidence still exists.

That the investigators did not appear to be interested in the possible domestic terrorism implications of the jugs of urine stored by this suspect—who had already threatened the mass murder of children and Jewish leaders, and who appeared interested in joining a local clan of White supremacists—is troubling.

Homeland Security to this day teaches first responders nationwide to be on the lookout for jugs of urine as a possible sign of bomb-making activity. When alert first responders who had undergone counterterrorism training encountered jugs of urine in a New Jersey apartment in 2004, they knew they were seeing potential bomb making materials. An investigation turned up evidence of a plot to make urea nitrate bombs to target tunnels linking New Jersey with New York City.76 But in that case, an instructor for the Homeland Security training course stated77, the apartment was occupied by people from the Middle East, who were subsequently deported.

Maybe there’s an innocent explanation for Lenio storing jugs of urine or urea in his van— which, of course, by itself is not a crime. What is perplexing and significant is law enforcement’s lack of curiosity, from the federal level on down, and the implications of such a blind spot toward a White suspect and the double standard of dealing with potential domestic terrorists for our national security.

This dangerous double standard persists despite that fact that, as Naomi Braine has written for The Public Eye, “In the nearly 14 years since 9/11, more people have died in the U.S. from politically-motivated violence perpetrated by right-wing militants than by Muslim militants.”78

Two local law enforcement agencies deployed extra officers to guard area schools and notified every parent in the school system about the security threat.44 And on February 16, the FBI, along with law enforcement officers from four other agencies,45 arrested Lenio. He confessed on video to issuing the tweets, stating that he was glad that law enforcement had increased school security in response. However, Judge Heidi Ulbricht would later rule this confession inadmissible because the FBI failed to Mirandize Lenio until after he made these statements.46

Too White to Jail?

After the arrest, however, the investigation of Lenio for his myriad threats softened. To begin with, police said they could find no connections between Lenio and Kalispell’s local White supremacist networks, despite publicly available posts on social media and blogs documenting Lenio’s ties to White nationalist leaders in the Flathead Valley, particularly members of the White supremacist community Pioneer Little Europe.

The mostly conservative, libertarian, and gun-friendly population in Montana’s Flathead Valley takes a live-and-let-live attitude toward White nationalists who espouse rugged individualism and back-to-the-land lifestyles.

Pioneer Little Europe (PLE) is not so much a location or an organization as an organizing method for bringing White nationalists together. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, two White supremacists named Hamilton Michael Barrett and Mark Cotterill developed the PLE concept and promoted it on the neonazi website Stormfront47 as a way for White nationalists to develop affinity communities within existing towns in order to gain political influence and provide each other social and economic support.48 The mostly conservative, libertarian, and gun-friendly population in Montana’s Flathead Valley takes a live-and-let-live attitude toward White nationalists who espouse rugged individualism and back-to-the-land lifestyles. Two-hundred-and-fifty people in Kalispell earn their living making guns or gun parts,49 which provides economic security from skilled labor as well as a steady supply of potentially untraceable weapons.

Unsurprisingly, the result of PLE’s presence in an area can be polarizing. In Kalispell, it led to episodes of violence, as documented in the recent film “Hate in America: A Town on Fire,” co-produced by NBC’s Peacock Productions and the Southern Poverty Law Center.50

caption here

Screenshot captured by Jonathan Hutson of one of the many tweets made by David Lenio on Saturday, February 14, 2015.

While the police would say they struggled to link this group and Lenio, it appeared that not only had Lenio been drawn to the region by members of the PLE, but his expressed opinions and threats mirrored those of PLE activists. Recruiter and spokesperson for PLE April Gaede had tweeted to Lenio from her account @AprilintheNorth at least four months before he moved to Kalispell. Gaede, who makes bolt-action hunting rifles51 in Kalispell and is an outspoken Donald Trump supporter, encourages White supremacists to move to Kalispell for its job security, low crime rate, and the opportunity to build community with White nationalists.

Gaede also has close ties with right-wing terrorists. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that in 2007, Gaede was accorded the “honor” of disposing of the ashes of David Lane, the leader of a neonazi group called The Order who died while serving a 190-year federal sentence in connection with the murder of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg in 1984.52 On New Year’s Day 2016, Gaede tweeted: “When Trump is elected, we will have a new national holiday. #DayoftheRope.”53

Both Gaede’s association with The Order and her “Day of the Rope” tweet are related to William Pierce’s noxious 1978 novel The Turner Diaries, a fantasy of race war and genocide that the SPLC dubbed “the bible of the racist right.” The Order was inspired by a fictional group in Pierce’s book that aimed to overthrow the U.S. government, which they believed was controlled by a cabal of Jews; in real life, The Order’s terrorist attacks included robberies of banks and armored cars to fund White nationalist groups,54 as well as the bombings of a theater and a synagogue. The Turner Diaries also describes a day of lynching during which neonazis string up “race traitors” from lamp posts: an event which comes to be known, in the book, as “The Day of the Rope.”

Over the years, the book’s description of race war has been used as an inspiration and blueprint for other White nationalist terrorists, including Timothy McVeigh—the man responsible for bombing the Oklahoma federal building in 1995—who had several pages of the novel in his possession at the time of his arrest.55 (It’s also worth noting that McVeigh used what was called a “fertilizer bomb,” a truck loaded with ammonium nitrate, in his attack in Oklahoma City. A “piss bomb” of the sort that David Lenio may have intended to make is another kind of fertilizer bomb, composed of urea nitrate.)

Excepts from the letter written by former Aryan Nations leader Karl Gharst calling for support for David Lenio. Photo courtesy of Investigation Discovery

Lenio’s association with Kalispell White nationalists didn’t end with Gaede. While Lenio spent five months in the Flathead County Detention Center following his arrest, another PLE adherent and former Aryan Nations “staff leader,” Karl Gharst, supported him and possibly visited him. Gharst turned to the internet to rally White supremacist support for Lenio,56 falsely claiming that I had baited Lenio into making his threats—this despite the fact that Lenio had been tweeting his threats for six weeks before he initiated contact with me. (Gharst was himself arrested in 2004 for threatening to kill a Native American woman who worked for Child Protective Services.57 He was taken into custody on the Idaho compound of Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and spent five months in the same jail where Lenio would later be held.)

A White Supremacist in the Criminal Justice System

The deficiencies in the handling of Lenio’s case continued with its prosecution. In July 2015, Judge Heidi Ulbricht released Lenio into the custody of his father, without bail.58 The prosecution did not object. As conditions of Lenio’s release, the judge ordered him to stay off social media, to get a mental health evaluation, not have access to guns, and refrain from contacting witnesses. However, the justice system failed to ensure that Lenio comply with the terms of his release. He refused to obtain the mental health evaluation until finally Judge Ulbricht granted his defense attorney permission to obtain a mental health evaluation from Lenio’s own physician and to file it under seal.59 So the public does not know whether Lenio has received a diagnosis and, if so, whether he is receiving any treatment. The deferral of the evaluation and the secrecy as to its findings is of a piece with the preferential treatment which Lenio has received.

Additionally, though law enforcement wasn’t aware of this fact, Lenio’s Facebook page had been updated several times60—including with antisemitic statements and quotes from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke—while he was in jail, although inmates are not supposed to have access to cell phones or the internet.61 Further, although PLE member Karl Gharst posted messages online suggesting he might have visited Lenio in jail—messages that described Lenio’s conditions of confinement and describing their conversations—the justice system had no record of whether or not a visit had occurred, because the jail kept no logs of Lenio’s visitors.

The trial was originally slated for August,62 and then rescheduled until November 9. On November 9, it was delayed again, as Deputy County Attorney Stacy Boman stated that her office and the defense were trying to resolve the case in the judge’s chambers, out of public view.63 One outcome of this would be that if Lenio were not adjudicated as mentally ill, or convicted of a felony, then the state of Montana would return his three guns and ammunition, and he would be able to pass a Brady background check that would let him purchase an arsenal.

Photo of author Jonathan Hutson in the 2016 documentary, Hate in America: A Town on Fire, which is about David Lenio’s case. Photo courtesy of Investigation Discovery.

I had initially been called to be a witness in the trial, but when it wasn’t held I traveled to Kalispell anyway to hold a press conference, along with local rabbis, parents of local school children, and leaders from the human rights group, Love Lives Here in the Flathead Valley.64 I felt the public had a right to hear the evidence, to know what the justice system would do to protect school children and religious leaders, and to be warned that Lenio could be rearmed by virtue of the state’s lax prosecution.65

But for the fact that Lenio is White and the son of a politically-connected banker, he might have faced more serious charges; he might have been tried more swiftly; his security in jail would have been tighter and records would have been kept of neonazi leaders visiting him there. If the court had deemed him to be eligible for pretrial release, then he might have been required to wear an ankle monitor and his bail would likely not have been waived. Further, he would have been held accountable for violating the conditional terms of his release: his failure to obtain a psychological evaluation and his continued presence on social media, where he posted at least 348 times since his release in July. Lenio’s flouting of the judge’s orders made news in Montana and nationwide, but local Flathead Valley law enforcement offered no explanation for why he was not rearrested.66 At the same time, 37 other inmates in the same jail were rearrested for violating their release conditions.67

The charges have been dropped, and the state of Montana has returned Lenio’s guns without any further conditions or public explanation.

This March, three weeks before Lenio’s trial was finally set to be held—he was ultimately charged with a felony count of intimidation—the defense attorney announced that the prosecutor and judge had agreed to a deferred prosecution. This means that Lenio, who had already broken the conditions of his release, is expected to be a law-abiding citizen and keep his attorney informed of his location for two years. Meanwhile, the charges have been dropped, and the state of Montana has returned Lenio’s guns without any further conditions or public explanation. If he is found to break the law over the next two years, then the prosecutor could decide to pursue the case. Otherwise, Lenio’s record will be wiped clean.

Did Incuriosity Kill the Case?

Although the prosecution of Lenio may be over, we can say this much about the significance of the case: that it draws sharp attention to the problem of differential prosecution in the U.S. criminal justice system. The case began as one of threats of mass murder on social media by a possibly mentally ill individual. One of the more pressing questions was whether he would be able to get his guns back when it was all over. But over time, serious issues of the disparate treatment of criminal suspects in terms of race and class have come to loom large. What’s more, my further investigation suggests that if law enforcement had been even a little bit curious about the seemingly inexplicable jugs of urine Lenio had in his van at the time of his arrest, they could have understood them as possible bomb ingredients, with clear implications for potential domestic terrorism.  (See above sidebar: “What’s in a Jug of Urine?”) Law enforcement turning a blind eye to a potentially larger threat, which might have involved others, and may have put the rest of us at risk of violence from right-wing terrorists.

The Right’s entrenchment within U.S. cultural and political power structures raises the costs of high-profile law enforcement action against right-wing suspects.

As Naomi Braine writes in her exploration of differential prosecution of Muslim and far-right terrorism cases, the Right’s entrenchment within U.S. cultural and political power structures raises the costs of high-profile law enforcement action against right-wing suspects. What happened in Kalispell exemplified this. White nationalist leaders, such as Gaede and Gharst, make their presence felt there. They have many supporters, and they attract unstable figures such as Lenio to participate in their PLE affinity group. When police claimed not to see any connections between Lenio and the local White nationalist groups, and when they failed to meaningfully investigate evidence of a potential terrorist threat, it seems a case of willful blindness: not seeing what is inconvenient to see.

Beyond the possibility that Lenio could make good on his threats in the future, a second casualty of the case is the public’s confidence in the justice system. In the wake of the prosecutor’s decision not to prosecute Lenio, local resident Jerry Weissman wrote a letter to the editor protesting, “Letting Lenio go is not justice.”68 He continued, “Who will hang their heads in ultimate shame if this powder keg of a person explodes and takes children’s lives? Who will mourn if lives are taken, especially when proper care could have been taken to remove threats to the citizens of our country?”

David Lenio's tweet several weeks after the documentary, "Hate in America" was released.

David Lenio’s tweet several weeks after the documentary, “Hate in America” was released.

On March 24, when the “Hate in America” documentary premiered, David Lenio returned to Twitter. In what seemed like a taunt, he pinned to the top of his profile a series of exchanges from our February 2015 encounter in which I tried to identify and locate the man who had tweeted threats to shoot grade school kids. Several weeks later, on April 12, he indicated that he remained fixated on the idea of shooting school children when he tweeted: “What do you think costs more in most US cities? A gun with enough ammunition to kill 99 school kids or the security deposit on an apartment?”

Whatever Lenio does or does not do, it will take far more vigilance to see that the criminal justice system works without the filters of racial, religious and class bias that fast track the prosecution of some suspects but let others off the hook. That the likes of David Lenio manage to avoid accountability for crimes that would have derailed the lives of most of the rest of us should shock us out of our complacency.


About the Author

Jonathan Hutson is a human rights activist and strategic communications consultant at Global Media Max in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.


Endnotes

1 I served at the time as Chief Communications Officer for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. More than 63,000 people and organizations follow me (@JonHutson) on Twitter, because of my influence in human rights, social justice, LGBTQ issues, transgender equality, reproductive freedom, conservation, and global health. The Montreal Institute on Genocide Prevention has recognized me among its list of 74 Global Humanitarian Twitterati.

2 Here is my tweet at 9:23 p.m. on February 14, 2015: “#Freespeech will not be silenced, even as gunfire erupts at a café and a synagogue in Copenhagen http://nyti.ms/1JekieA #terrorism”. https://twitter.com/JonHutson/status/566784933407248384.

3 Andrew Higgins and Melissa Eddy, “Terror Attacks by a Native Son Rock Denmark.” The New York Times, February 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/world/europe/copenhagen-attacks-suspect-is-killed-police-say.html?_r=0.

4 Bill Morlin, “Man Arrested in Montana After Alleged Threats to Kill School Children and Jews,” Hatewatch, February 17, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/02/17/man-arrested-montana-after-alleged-threats-kill-school-children-and-jews#disqus_thread.

5 Vince Devlin, “Kalispell School Threat Suspect ‘Tangled’ with Wrong Twitter User,” The Missoulian, February 19, 2015, http://missoulian.com/news/local/kalispell-school-threat-suspect-tangled-with-wrong-twitter-user/article_9c3a4af7-eb20-526a-8598-17304d9e9f24.html. I provided federal and local law enforcement agencies with several things based on my research: a timeline of tweets that appeared to cross the line between free speech and criminal threat; a profile of him, based on his social media presence; and a strategy to identify and locate him.

6 Bill Morlin, “Man Arrested in Montana After Threats to Kill School Children and Jews,” Hatewatch, February 17, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/02/17/man-arrested-montana-after-alleged-threats-kill-school-children-and-jews#disqus_thread.

7> Bill Morlin, “Court Papers Detail Alleged Threats from Holocaust Denier,” Hatewatch, March 19, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/02/17/man-arrested-montana-after-alleged-threats-kill-school-children-and-jews#disqus_thread See also Vince Devlin, “Suspect Threatened to Shoot 100 Kalispell Schoolkids,” The Missoulian, March 17, 2015,http://missoulian.com/news/local/kalispell-school-threat-suspect-tangled-with-wrong-twitter-user/article_9c3a4af7-eb20-526a-8598-17304d9e9f24.html .

8 Martin Kaste, “Awash in Social Media, Cops Still Need Public to Detect Threats,” All Things Considered (NPR), February 23, 2015, http://www.npr.org/2015/02/23/388449799/awash-in-social-media-cops-still-need-the-public-to-detect-threats.

9 Jonathan Hutson, “White Banker’s Son Threatens to Shoot School Kids and Jews, Gets ‘Get Outta Jail Free’ Card.” Huffington Post, November 16, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-hutson/white-bankers-son-threate_b_8579146.html.

10 Naomi Braine, “Disparate Legal Treatment of Muslims and the Radical Right.” The Public Eye, June 19, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/06/19/terror-network-or-lone-wolf/#sthash.bDPRht1N.MHVeuJjb.dpbs.

11 Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler popularized this term for enclaves of White nationalists in the Pacific Northwest after he set up a neonazi compound in northern Idaho in the 1970s. But overt White nationalists are not the only militants to seek haven in Montana. For example, the Rev. Chuck Baldwin, a Patriot leader who ran for president on the Constitution Party ticket in 2008, moved to the Flathead Valley in 2010. He leads the Liberty Fellowship church in Kalispell, whose members include Randy Weaver, a white supremacist who engaged in a notorious standoff with federal authorities in 1992. Ryan Lenz, “A Gathering of Eagles: Extremists Look to Montana.” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 15, 2011, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2011/gathering-eagles-extremists-look-montana.

12 David Joseph Lenio has held at least four Twitter accounts: @leniodj, @PsychicDogTalk, @PyschicDogTalk2 [sic], and @PsychicDogTalk3. The first of these accounts featured an avatar that read, “I am a potential terrorist. I know the truth about 9/11.” Twitter has shut down @PsychicDogTalk and @PyschicDogTalk2 for violating their Terms of Service by threatening violence. However, the Twitter bio for @PsychicDogTalk can still be viewed online through a third-party app. It describes his location as “Cascadia, at the apex of time.” The Cascadia Independence Party (CIP) is a secessionist movement that advocates the independence of “Washington, most of Oregon and Idaho, parts of Montana and Alaska, and most of the Canadian province British Columbia.” CIP website, “What We Do,” http://cascadiaindependenceparty.strikingly.com/#what-we-do.

13 Bill Morlin, “Court Papers Detail Alleged Threats from Holocaust Denier.” Hatewatch, March 19, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/03/19/court-papers-detail-alleged-threats-holocaust-denier See also Vince Devlin, “Suspect Threatened to Shoot 100 Kalispell Schoolkids,” The Missoulian, March 17, 2015, http://missoulian.com/news/local/suspect-threatened-to-shoot-kalispell-schoolkids/article_075b6e83-1997-5c20-91c3-7ec6db2e2a3d.html.

14 Remos Lenio and Phillip Blanchard launched Tillerman & Co. of Grand Rapids in September 2015. They had previously been partners in turnaround firm DWH, LLC of Grand Rapids. Demetri Diakantonis, “People Moves of the Week,” Mergers & Acquisitions, November 3, 2015, http://www.themiddlemarket.com/news/people_moves/people-moves-of-the-week-tillerman-arsenal-goodwin-258750-1.html.

15 Politico has called Justin Amish, who founded and chairs the House Liberty Caucus, “the House’s new Ron Paul.” James Hohmann, “The House’s New Ron Paul.” Politico, April 1, 2013, http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/the-houses-new-ron-paul-justin-amash-089485.

16 For example, Betsy DeVos serves as Honorary Chair, and Remos Lenio serves on the executive leadership team for the American Heart Association’s 20th Anniversary of the Grand Rapids Heart Ball slated for December 2016. https://ahagrandrapids.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/20162017GrandRapidsMIHeartBall/Leadership/tabid/766588/Default.aspx In addition, Remos Lenio’s CV states that he holds a seat on the MiQuest board of directors. http://tillermanco.com/images/RemosLenioCV2015.pdf MiQuest is among the groups sponsored by the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. https://www.gvsu.edu/cei/competitions-funding-160.htm Remos Lenio’s LinkedIn profile states that he is also a founding board member and past president of the Association for Corporate Growth – Western Michigan, which has featured Dick DeVos as a speaker. Retrieved from http://grsouth.wzzm13.com/content/dick-devos-key-bringing-southwest-airlines-grand-rapids-supporting-airtran.

17 The son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, Dick DeVos served as Amway’s President and ran an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of Michigan in 2006. His wife Betsy Prince DeVos, former chair of the Michigan State Republican Party, and Board President of Mars Hill Bible Church, is the sister of Blackwater founder Erik Prince. See Andy Kroll, “Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan’s Plan to Defund the Left,” Mother Jones, January/February 2014, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/devos-michigan-labor-politics-gop. See also Benjy Hansen-Bundy and Andy Kroll, “The Family That Gives Together,” Mother Jones, January/February 2014, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/devos-family-foundations-heritage-americans-prosperity-blackwater.

18 Daniel Schoonmaker, “Is This Christian Wall Street.” Grand Rapids Business Journal, April 10, 2006, http://www.grbj.com/articles/66232See also Daniel Schoonmaker, “Collection Plate, Meet Wall Street.” Grand Rapids Business Journal, April 10, 2006, http://www.grbj.com/articles/66233.

19 Betsy DeVos also holds the title of President of the Council of Elders. Kelefa Sanneh, “The Hell-Raiser,” The New Yorker, November 26, 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/11/26/the-hell-raiser-3. In 2011, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation gave $525,000 to Mars Hill Bible Church, according to the Foundation’s annual report. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2011/382/902/2011-382902412-08bfa3ae-F.pdf.

20 Andy Kroll, “Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan’s Plan to Defund the Left.” Mother Jones, January/February 2014, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/devos-michigan-labor-politics-gop#sthash.9BXvf4Kh.dpuf.

21 In an April 2013 YouTube video on the Boston Marathon bombing and the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, originally posted under his pseudonym David Dave, Lenio endorsed Ron Paul for President. In his video, he also blames the Boston Marathon bombing on the CIA or the Mossad, and characterizes the Sandy Hook mass shooting as a hoax. His YouTube account, in which he currently uses the pseudonym gc hg, links to, and promotes, his writings under his Twitter handles @PsychicDogTalk and @PsychicDogTalk3., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOu7CAFGAyI.

22 Ron Paul is a self-described paleo-conservative who has stated his support for neo-Confederates and secessionists. Rachel Tabachnick and Frank L. Cocozzelli, “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right.” The Public Eye, November 22, 2013,  http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/nullification-neo-confederates-and-the-revenge-of-the-old-right/#sthash.RKoqSGLs.dpbs.

23 Scoopnest has archived the Twitter bio of Lenio’s @PsychicDogTalk account, which Twitter shut down in January 2015 for violating its Terms of Service, http://www.scoopnest.com/user/PsychicDogTalk/.

24 He also characterizes well-documented mass shootings including those in Copenhagen, in Tucson, Arizona, and Aurora, Colorado, as well as the bombings at the Boston Marathon, among others, as “false flag” attacks for which he blames Israel.

25 This tweet from @PsychicDogTalk is archived at http://vnnforum.com/showthread.php?t=207710&page=14

26 David Holthouse, How White Supremacists Are Trying to Make an American Town a Model for Right-Wing Extremism: A recent influx of white supremacists and Patriot group members to the town of Kalispell, Montana, is causing alarm. AlterNet, November 22, 2011, http://www.alternet.org/story/153162/how_white_supremacists_are_trying_to_make_an_american_town_a_model_for_right-wing_extremism.

27 David Holthouse, “High Country Extremism: Pioneering Hate.” Media Matters for America, November 15, 2011, http://mediamatters.org/blog/2011/11/15/high-country-extremism-pioneering-hate/154613.

28 H. Michael Barrett, “Pioneer Little Europe (PLE) Prospectus a.k.a. ‘Stormfronts of the Street’.” http://s3.mediamatters.org.s3.amazonaws.com/static/pdfs/pleprospectus.pdf

29 Judy L. Thomas, “Neo-Nazi Is Shopping for Land in Kansas.” Kansas City Star, October 2, 2015, http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article37425801.html.

30 Jonathan Hutson, “White Banker’s Son Threatens to Shoot School Kids and Jews, Gets ‘Get Outta Jail Free’ Card.” Huffington Post, November 16, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-hutson/white-bankers-son-threate_b_8579146.html.

31 Jonathan Hutson, “White Banker’s Son Threatens to Shoot School Kids and Jews, Gets ‘Get Outta Jail Free’ Card.” Huffington Post, November 16, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-hutson/white-bankers-son-threate_b_8579146.html.

32“Newtown Shooting Victims,” Newsday, December 14, 2012, http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/newtown-shooting-victims-photos-1.4336461.

33 Bill Morlin, “Man Arrested in Montana After Alleged Threats to Kill School Children and Jews,” Hatewatch February 17, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/02/17/man-arrested-montana-after-alleged-threats-kill-school-children-and-jews#disqus_thread.

34 David Lenio, “Release the Security Camera Footage of the 2011 Tucson AZ Shooting!” YouTube video uploaded August 8, 2012,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPcxszkJ61A Lenio originally uploaded the video under the pseudonym David Dave, and subsequently changed his pseudonym to “gc hg.”

35 The first quote is at 4:30; the second is at 9:39.

36 Shaun King, “Muslim Shooters Like Syed Farook Are Easily Called Terrorists While White Mass Killers Never Get That Label.” New York Daily News, December 3, 2015, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/king-white-mass-shooters-called-terrorists-article-1.2454528.

37 Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen, and Deanna Pan, “U.S. Mass Shootings: 1982-2016.” Mother Jones, originally published on December 28, 2012, and updated to include data through 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data.

38 Mark Follman, “Maybe What We Need Is a Better Mental Health Policy.” Mother Jones, November 9, 2012, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/11/jared-loughner-mass-shootings-mental-illness.

39 Eric Madfis, “Triple Entitlement and Homicidal Anger: An Exploration of the Intersectional Identities of American Mass Murderers.” Men and Masculinities 17, no 1 (April 2014):67-68, accessed May 17, 2016.  http://jmm.sagepub.com/content/17/1/67.abstract.

40 Bill Morlin, “Court Papers Detail Alleged Threats from Holocaust Denier,” Hatewatch, March 19, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/03/19/court-papers-detail-alleged-threats-holocaust-denier.

41 Peter Bergen, “Who Do Terrorists Confide In?” CNN, February 3, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/03/opinions/terrorists-confidants-leakage-bergen/index.html.

42 Jonathan Hutson, “Guest Post: Nuts to Silence.” Montana Cowgirl, November 28, 2015, http://mtcowgirl.com/2015/11/28/guest-post-nuts-to-silence/.

43 Brendan James, “How a Gun Control Advocate Helped Stop a Man Threatening to Shoot Up a School,” Talking Points Memo, February 20, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/david-lenio-montana-threats-jews-children.

44 Justin Franz, “Kalispell Man Accused of Threatening Schools Posed ‘A Very Real Threat.” Flathead Beacon, February 18, 2015, http://flatheadbeacon.com/2015/02/18/kalispell-man-accused-threatening-schools-posed-real-threat/. See also Alli Friedman, “Man Accused of Threats Against Flathead Co. Students, Jews.” NBC Montana, February 17, 2015, http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/man-accused-of-threats-against-flathead-co-students-jews/31323966.

45 Agents from the FBI, the Kalispell Police Department, the Whitefish Police Department, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, and the Northwest Drug Task Force were involved in the arrest of David Lenio. The FBI took the lead in the interrogation.

46 Justin Franz, “As Trial Nears, Details Emerge in Intimidation Case.” Flathead Beacon, June 30, 2015, http://flatheadbeacon.com/2015/06/30/as-trial-nears-details-emerge-in-intimidation-case/. Bill Morlin, “Twitter Threat Defendant Defies Judge, Continues Hate Speech on Social Media.” HateWatch (Southern Poverty Law Center), November 13, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/11/13/twitter-threat-defendant-defies-judge-continues-hate-speech-social-media.

47 Registered users of Stormfront have been behind almost 100 murders, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/stormfront.

48 Mark Potok, “Closed Circuit.” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 20, 2013, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2013/closed-circuit.

49 Felicity Barringer, “In Montana Town’s Hands, Guns Mean Cultural Security,” The New York Times, February 20, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/us/in-montanas-kalispell-guns-are-a-matter-of-life.html?_r=0.

50 Discovery Communications, “Investigation Discovery Premiers Second Installment of Series ‘Hate in America’ Exploring Growing Domestic Issue of White Supremacists and Anti-government Radicals.” Press release, March 21, 2016, https://corporate.discovery.com/discovery-newsroom/investigation-discovery-premieres-second-installment-of-series-hate-in-america-exploring-growing-domestic-issue-of-white-supremacists-and-anti-government-radicals/.

51 April Gaede, who tweets as @AprilintheNorth, has posted photos of her work in Kalispell assembling bolt action hunting rifles. She tweeted one such photo on December 8, 2015, https://twitter.com/aprilinthenorth/status/674264327268921344.

52 Profile of April Gaede (Southern Poverty Law Center), https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/april-gaede.

53 Retrieved from @AprilintheNorth Twitter account https://twitter.com/AprilintheNorth/status/682834077292969984

54 Beneficiaries included William Pierce’s National Alliance and Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr.’s White Patriot Party. In November 2015, a judge sentenced Miller to death for the fatal shootings of three people at Kansas Jewish sites. Associated Press, “Jewish Site Killings: Death Sentence for White Supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller,” November 11, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/jewish-center-shootings/jewish-site-killings-death-sentence-white-supremacist-frazier-glenn-miller-n461071.

55 Camille Jackson, “The Turner Diaries, Other Racist Novels, Inspire Extremist Violence.” Intelligence Report , October 14, 2004, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2004/turner-diaries-other-racist-novels-inspire-extremist-violence.

56 Karl Gharst, a/k/a morserkarl, took to a right-wing conspiracist site, LibertyFight, to post a statement in support of Lenio, in which he falsely claimed that I had provoked threats that Lenio had tweeted between December 30, 2014 and February 14, when I learned of Lenio’s existence because Lenio initiated contact with me. Gharst’s statement is available online at https://disqus.com/by/morserkarl/.

57 Bill Morlin, “Man Accused of Twitter Threats Has Aryan Nations Supporter,” HateWatch , August 20, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/08/20/man-accused-twitter-threats-has-aryan-nations-supporter.

58 Justin Franz, “Man Accused of School Threats Released.” Flathead Beacon, July 20, 2015, http://flatheadbeacon.com/2015/07/20/man-accused-of-school-threats-released/.

59 Megan Strickland, “Twitter Threat Case Faces Another Delay.” Daily Inter Lake, February 8, 2016, http://www.dailyinterlake.com/members/twitter-threat-case-faces-another-delay/article_aec382ca-ce17-11e5-b8ed-d39fa3af80fd.html.

60 Bill Morlin, “Twitter-threat Defendant Defies Judge, Continues Hate Speech on Social Media.” Hatewatch (Southern Poverty Law Center), November 13, 2015, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/11/13/twitter-threat-defendant-defies-judge-continues-hate-speech-social-media.

61 Vince Devlin, “HateWatch: David Lenio Has Violated Terms of His Release 348 Times.” The Missoulian, November 13, 2015, http://missoulian.com/news/local/hatewatch-david-lenio-has-violated-terms-of-his-release-times/article_04810fc6-1e7f-515f-bc73-5390e9944fd9.html.

62 The author received a subpoena dated July 16, 2015, in State of Montana v. David Joseph Lenio, Cause No. DC-15-040C, to appear at a jury trial slated to begin August 3, 2015.

63 S. Boman, email to author. October 30, 2015. S. Boman, telephone interview with author, November 5, 2015.

64 Vince Devlin, “Flathead Valley Group Wants Nothing Less Than a Felony Conviction for Lenio,” The Missoulian, November 10, 2015, http://missoulian.com/news/local/flathead-valley-group-wants-nothing-less-than-a-felony-conviction/article_4a720fa1-d82c-562c-8ef4-cb8e3dcccfdb.html.

65 Francine Green Roston and Jonathan Hutson, “David Lenio Reloaded?” Opinion column in Flathead Beacon, November 19, 2015, http://flatheadbeacon.com/2015/11/19/david-lenio-reloaded/.

66 Vince Devlin, “HateWatch: David Lenio Has Violated Terms of His Release 348 Times,” The Missoulian, November 13, 2015, http://missoulian.com/news/local/hatewatch-david-lenio-has-violated-terms-of-his-release-times/article_04810fc6-1e7f-515f-bc73-5390e9944fd9.html.

67 Flathead County Sheriff’s Office – Jail Roster.  https://apps.flathead.mt.gov/jailroster/.

68 Jerrold A. “Jerry” Weissman, “Letting Lenio Go Is Not Justice.” Letter to the Editor, The Daily Interlake, March 24, 2016, http://www.dailyinterlake.com/opinion/letters/letter-letting-lenio-go-is-not-justice/article_ed883820-f1da-11e5-ba98-079703a87180.html.

69 Urea nitrate can be used as a main charge in improvised explosive devices, according to a 1969 U.S. Army handbook on improvised munitions. By 1970, saboteurs were passing around U.S. Army demolitions manuals and using them to make bombs. UPI, “Want to Build a Bomb? Get U.S. Army Manual,” May 6, 1970, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=110&dat=19700506&id=cpBaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=N0oDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7285,2080077&hl=en.

70 Peter Barnes, “N.M. Tech Class Teaches Response to Terror Attacks.” Associated Press wire story in the Albuquerque Journal, February 1, 2005, http://abqjournal.com/news/state/299694nm02-01-05.htm

71 Peter Barnes, “N.M. Tech Class Teaches Response to Terror Attacks.” Associated Press wire story in the Albuquerque Journal, February 1, 2005, http://abqjournal.com/news/state/299694nm02-01-05.htm

72 Tamiri T., Rozin R., Lemberger N., and Almog J., “Urea Nitrate, an Exceptionally Easy-to-make Improvised Explosive: Studies towards Trace Characterization.” Anal Bioanal Chem, (National Center for Biotechnology Information) 395, no 2 (September 2009):421-428, accessed May 17, 2016, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19575193.

73 Tamiri T., Rozin R., Lemberger N., and Almog J., “Urea Nitrate, an Exceptionally Easy-to-make Improvised Explosive: Studies towards Trace Characterization.” Anal Bioanal Chem, (National Center for Biotechnology Information) 395, no 2 (September 2009):421-428, accessed May 17, 2016, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19575193.

74 The use of urine to improvise explosive devices and gunpowder is so well known in military and paramilitary circles that it has been going on for centuries. Napoleon’s army collected urine from soldiers and livestock to make gunpowder. See Brian Benchoff, “Gunpowder from Urine: Fighting a Gorn,” Hackaday, June 15, 2015, http://hackaday.com/2015/06/15/gunpowder-from-urine-fighting-a-gorn/

75 S. Warnell, telephone interview with author, January 5, 2016.

76 Joseph J. Kolb, “Preparing for the Inevitable: New Mexico Univ. Prepares First Responders for Bombing Incidents.” Journal of Counterterrorism (International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals), Vol. 19, No. 3 (Fall 2013), pp. 54-57, http://issuu.com/fusteros/docs/iacsp_magazine_v19n3. A leading expert in bomb investigations writes in his textbook used by the FBI that the presence of urine at a crime scene indicates possible “clandestine manufacture of urea nitrate.” James T. Thurman, Practical Bomb Scene Investigation, Second Edition (2011), CRC Press, p. 88, http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Investigation-Criminal-Forensic-Investigations/dp/1439819599.

77 V. Romero, telephone interview with author, January 6, 2016.

78 Naomi Braine, “Terror Network of Lone Wolf?” The Public Eye, June 19, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/06/19/terror-network-or-lone-wolf/#sthash.S10xajqt.dpuf.

Beyond Trump: Disrupt, Defuse, Compete

The crowd goes wild at a Donald Trump rally in Dallas, Texas in September 2015. Credit: Jamelle Bouie via Flickr.

For justice-minded people, the unfolding drama of the 2016 presidential contest has been disorienting and frightening.  The usual jockeying for control of the Republican Party among Christian Nationalists, neoconservatives, and Chamber of Commerce types has been trumped by the rise of stridently bigoted populism. We’ve all witnessed ugly rhetoric in presidential campaigns before, but this is a different level of threat.

To defeat the current upsurge in right-wing populism, progressives will need to disrupt, defuse, and – critically – compete for portions of its constituency.

To defeat the current upsurge in right-wing populism, progressives will need to disrupt, defuse, and – critically – compete for portions of its constituency. Donald Trump’s torrent of racist and misogynist remarks and his fascistic policy proposals –barring Muslims from entry to the U.S. and deporting 11 million undocumented people – are aimed at the growing masses of White middle- and working-class people fearful of their declining economic and social standing. Amidst all the demonizing, explains PRA alum Chip Berlet, Trump’s supporters “are responding to rhetoric that honors them as the bedrock of American society.” From White suffering, he is mobilizing White rage.

It’s working. And the media circus around the primaries has pulled the national conversation to the Right, opening space for liberal politicians to abandon commitments to immigrant justice and other progressive demands. As we develop strategies and slogans to contest bigoted populism, we must think broader than any one candidate and beyond the current electoral calendar.

One thing we desperately need is a compelling story about race and the economy to upend the false but increasingly dominant right-wing populist explanation: liberal elites have usurped the wealth and social standing of “real Americans” and doled it out as patronage to communities of color and other undeserving masses of “takers.”

In reality, the racism that once helped to build the White middle class has for decades been strategically redeployed by the Right to undermine public support for democratic institutions and antipoverty programs. The result: falling real wages and accelerated income and wealth inequality even among Whites. Simply put, racism is destroying the American middle and working classes.

Simply put, racism is destroying the American middle and working classes.

But that story is not told clearly, loudly, or often enough. Most liberal discussion of the economy addresses race, if at all, in terms of disproportionate economic hardship. And much of the current national discussion about racism only addresses jobs and the economy in order to pivot away from the realities of racism. What we need is a synthesis.

As Heather McGhee and Ian Haney-López have argued, “The progressive movement should expand from a vision of racism as violence done solely to people of color to include a conception of racism as a political weapon wielded by elites against the 99 percent, nonwhite and white alike.” Call it the love child of Black Lives Matter and Occupy. Let’s make it clear that racism is not a viable vehicle for economic advancement for the growing White precariat. Only a multi-racial movement of and for working people can accomplish that.

To compete, we’ll have to build it. We can start by flipping the script on race and the economy and agreeing that we need to contest for some of those currently drawn to snake oil solutions to their suffering.

 

A Forthcoming Fortnight of Demagoguery

Religious liberty is already a central feature of the 2016 election campaign.  But the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) intends to enlarge and escalate the debate when it wages its fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom this summer. The campaign will feature two weeks of events—from June 21st to July 4th—in most, if not all, of the Catholic dioceses around the country. Their aim is to highlight interest in, and mobilize support for, their religious freedom agenda. The beginning date is significant because it falls on the date the Church commemorates the martyrdom of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—English Catholic leaders who defied and were executed by the King in the 16th Century. The campaign will include a nine-city tour of relics of these “martyrs of the English reformation.”

Image via YouTube.

Image via YouTube.

In preparation for the campaign, the bishops recently released a ten minute video produced by the Knights of Columbus, titled “The Right to Religious Freedom.”  If the video is any indication, Church leaders are urging their flock to militancy – warning of the threat to religious freedom in America and in the world; mixing soft-focus Catholic evangelism with edgy political propaganda that by any reasonable standard has more in common with the garish partisanship of election years than thoughtful commentary on contemporary issues.  Indeed, the video’s claims that religious persecution and martyrdom may be at hand play into the hyperbolic Christian Right narrative of a looming tyranny in America – a tyranny that the faithful must prepare to resist, violently if necessary.

It is worth focusing on and answering a few themes of the Christian Right’s current campaigns, which are well crystalized in this election year video. The USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty’s tweet announcing the video states: “New video on #TheLittleSistersofthePoor & what Catholic Church teaches on religious freedom!” Another tweet calls it a “conversation starter.”

The reference to the Little Sisters of the Poor involves the Supreme Court case Zubik v. Burwell, and its implications is the focus of the video. The case is a consolidation of seven similar cases questioning whether religiously-affiliated non-profit organizations such as charities and hospitals must conform to the contraception mandate in the regulations under the Affordable Care Act.  The video highlights one of the cases, that of a Catholic order that operates nursing homes. The Little Sisters of the Poor did not want to have to file the simple paperwork requesting a religious exemption from the regulations – claiming that the very act of signing the form that would exempt them from contraception mandates would violate their religious freedom.

The USCCB’s video, however, says little about the substance of the case. The good works of the order are highlighted, while leading Catholic scholars suggest that there is an imminent and inexplicable governmental threat to the rights of the Litter Sisters of the Poor that will lead to a broad and escalating siege against the rights of all.

First they came for the nuns

“A government that doesn’t acknowledge limits on its power to regulate religious institutions is probably going to come after others as well,” Professor Rick Garnett of Notre Dame Law School gravely warns in the video.  As footage of rioting and fire in the night in some unidentified place and time scrolls by in the background, Garnett continues, “Governments that try to squash religious freedom tend to face political fragmentation; political disunity.”  His words thus come across as more of a threat than an observation.

The stakes, in the view of the bishops, are illuminated by Professor David L. Schindler of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of America.  “When you are confronted with a tank,” he declares in the video, “it’s clear your freedom is being deprived, and you… have an identifiable enemy.”

Schindler further suggests that the current situation is not “so benign” as it is presented.  He and the bishops seem to be suggesting that if things do not go their way in Zubik, the faithful may have to face military tanks in much the way that reform-minded Chinese students famous did in Tiananmen Square.  In fact, video footage from that episode appears in this video, as well as footage of East Germans breaking through the Berlin Wall.

Thomas Farr. Image via YouTube.

Thomas Farr. Image via YouTube.

Thomas Farr, a Catholic neoconservative who heads the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University also appears in the video, highlighting a running theme on the Christian Right which seeks to conflate domestic issues (such as marriage equality) with anti-Christian genocide abroad. “We can’t love God, we can’t do our job, if we don’t have religious freedom,” Farr declares, “and there are Christians around the world who are being denied that right.”

Such false equivalences and analogies between the horrors of religiously-motivated genocide in the Middle East and domestic issues are the rule rather than the exception for many Christian Right leaders.  In 2015, Farr gave a talk titled “ISIS and Indiana: The Global Crisis of Religious Liberty and Catholic Responsibility,” in which he implied that the terror group ISIS had some bearing on the debate at the time over LGBTQ discrimination in the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Religious liberty, he suggested, is in danger of being “lost in America.” (Farr’s talk was promoted by the USCCB.)

Helen Alvaré, a former staffer at the bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, and now a professor of law at George Mason University is similarly apocalyptic in the video, claiming “When religious freedom goes away, and there is no transcendent authority, there is only majority will, then the law is the only norm, and the people in power now, are always the only power.”

Alvaré’s claim that religious freedom is subject to “majority will” ignores the actual constitutional system in which we live. Our system of government is intended to be a check against majoritarianism and factionalism. And it is explicitly intended to prevent the undue entanglements between church and state. Governments, political parties and individual politicians come and go, but only those with conspiracist worldviews believe that the people who populate the government at any given time are the only power. What Alvaré suggests is that her church represents the correct and permanent “transcendent authority,” and therefore their parochial approach to religious freedom should hold sway.

What is religious freedom? It’s all about religious and non-religious pluralism. As Thomas Jefferson put it: when one’s religious identity “shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

It can be difficult to take seriously the hyperbole and seemingly twisted perspectives of such soft-spoken and scholarly figures as Schindler, Alvaré, and Farr and their sponsors, the leading Catholic bishops in the United States. But it would be foolish to ignore them.

Thomas Farr goes so far as to equate the idea of religious liberty with his own religious identity. He says, “the dignity of the human person, that’s what religious freedom is. Every human being has dignity as a human person because he or she is created in the image and likeness of God.”

In fact, religious freedom has always been defined as having nothing to do with such parochialisms. Indeed, claims like Farr’s are the fount of all theocratic reasoning. His bibliocentric claim that because people are made in God’s image, that this is therefore the meaning of religious liberty, conflates his explicitly religious view with the Enlightenment idea of religious equality when it comes to citizenship. As Thomas Jefferson put it in his landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, one’s religious identity “shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who leads the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty (which organizes Fortnight for Freedom), has denied that he and his fellow bishops are right-wing culture warriors bent on imposing their agenda on everyone else. But he also essentially acknowledged that they want to do just that by, among other things, blocking access to legal and otherwise constitutionally protected contraception and abortion care wherever they can.

Lori has also served as a director and Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus for a decade. That he and his fellow bishops and the Catholic scholars that appear in this Knights of Columbus-produced video seem to adhere to views that have more in common with the most militant elements of the Christian Right should be fair warning to those who value religious pluralism and constitutional democracy.

Trump, Cruz, & Dominionism: Some Christian Right Leaders Fear a Crack-Up

The 2016 Republican presidential campaign has transformed American politics, likely forever. Everyone is making adjustments, but two recent illuminating episodes suggest that some Christian Right leaders are finding the changes to be unusually awkward and challenging.

trump cruzThe Christian Right, as a voting bloc, has never united behind a single candidate during the Republican presidential primaries (with the exception of Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s unopposed second-term races). Still, we tend to forget that the movement has never been monolithic and that there have always been political tensions between rival candidates and factions. But the factional tensions are different this year. And there are two main reasons for this.

The first tension is related to the unique, and uniquely divisive, candidacy of Donald Trump. Evangelical think tanker Michael Cromartie, in a curiously overwrought speech, widely-discussed in the evangelical press, has gone so far as to call it a conservative “crack-up.”  The second is the specter of Dominionism as it relates to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his campaign. 

The Christian Post recently reported on the eyebrow-raising remarks of evangelical think tanker Michael Cromartie at a luncheon sponsored by the neoconservative Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington DC.  (IRD is best known for its efforts to degrade the historic communions of mainline Protestantism.)  Cromartie runs the Evangelicals in Civic Life program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) in Washington, DC.

Cromartie is upset that the “new branding” of evangelicalism and the Christian Right is being ruined by evangelical and conservative leaders who support Trump. He said the movement has benefited from the rise of Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and megachurch pastors and authors Tim Keller and Rick Warren. He believes that they better “present” the movement’s goals than such founding Christian Right figures as James Dobson, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell, Sr.

But this rebranding, Cromartie says, has been undone because of the pro-Trump activities of noted Southern Baptists such as megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

The Christian Post continued:

“In the last six or seven or eight years, we now have new leaders to replace those leaders, so that it’s a new branding of evangelicals in our society,” Cromartie stated. “Now, that is all out the window, ladies and gentleman, when Jerry Falwell Jr. has the audacity to come out and endorse Donald Trump, when Robert Jeffress goes on and sells his soul every week on Fox News, encouraging the candidacy of Donald Trump.”

“If this is not a crack up,” Cromartie observed,” I don’t know what it is.”

As if to underscore his confusion about all this, Cromartie also cited blogger Matt Walsh, whose hyperbolic post “Let’s Remember The Cowardly Conservative Leaders Who Betrayed Us For Trump” leaves readers with little doubt that the faction fighting is getting bitter.

Speaking of Falwell and Jeffress, Walsh declared:

“They now promote Trump in direct defiance of Scripture, which clearly stipulates that anyone who desires to be a leader must be noble, respectable, temperate, and dignified (and probably not someone who brags about his adultery and thinks the nation’s largest abortion provider is ‘wonderful [sic]).  To claim Trump belongs in any of these categories is blasphemy.”

“Our ‘leaders’” he continued, “have subjugated themselves to the American Kim Jong Un simply for the publicity and the ratings and the chance to be friends with a billionaire celebrity.”

Meanwhile, the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and his unexpected emergence as the leading candidate of both the Christian Right and much of the GOP establishment as an alternative to Trump is causing the movement other kinds of indigestion.

Catholic neoconservative strategist Robert P. George is apparently worried about how voters will react to the way Senator Cruz relates his religious views to public policy. Specifically, he is worried about Ted Cruz and Dominionism.

At the beginning of the presidential primary season four years ago, the Christian Right was similarly worried that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) were receiving press attention for their well-established involvements in the theocratic politics of Dominionism.

In that race, those two candidates both dropped out early. But with Cruz actually having a shot at the nomination, George apparently hopes to squelch the emerging discussion about Cruz and Dominionism before it goes any further. This may be why he was featured in a recent article in Christianity Today, which sought to smear researchers who have published about Cruz’s dominionist roots, namely evangelical historian John Fea, evangelical psychology professor Warren Throckmorton, Daily Beast writer Jay Michaelson, and myself.

In the article, George claimed:

“The contemporary religious Left’s version of McCarthyist red-baiting is to smear opponents by labeling them ‘dominionists.’ … Ted’s not a dominionist; he’s a constitutionalist.”

This is as silly as it is wrong.  What’s more, although former PRA Senior Analyst Chip Berlet and I may have defined and popularized the terms “Dominionism” and “dominionist” in the 90s as a way to describe a tendency that is evident across a wide swath of evangelicalism, we have always sought to apply it fairly and accurately.

Nevertheless, George and the authors of the article did not offer a single example of the supposedly McCarthyist-style uses of the term by those of us named in the article or anyone else.

Also ignored by the authors and George is the fact that the term was part of the debate about Christian Reconstructionism in the evangelical community for years before Berlet and I used it for wider publics.1  The term has also been objectively employed in many scholarly books and articles.

As I recently told journalist Bill Berkowitz, who wrote about the discussion of Cruz and Dominionism for Truthout, “The question of whether Cruz is a Dominionist will linger because the available evidence suggests that he is.” John Fea has detailed how, in addition to Cruz’s own statements, Cruz’s father Rafael (who is also his principal campaign surrogate) is openly a 7 Mountains Dominionist, as is the head of Cruz’s Super PAC – revisionist historian David Barton. One of Cruz’s foreign policy advisers, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council, is also a well-known 7 Mountains Dominionist and a longtime board member of a 7 Mountains political project called The Oak Initiative.

The public debate about the Christian Right is usually limited to the tripartite agenda of what they term “life, marriage, and religious liberty” as put forth in The Manhattan Declaration.  But their agenda has always been broader and deeper than that, which is why Robert P. George, the principal author of the Declaration (and current Vice Chairman of EPPC) does not want to risk us talking about the political and economic dimensions of what they mean by “taking dominion” over society. This, combined with the bitterness of some about evangelical support for Trump, may very well signal a period of disunity rather than the politically homogenized evangelicalism preferred by Washington, DC think tanks and power brokers.


 

[1]  These usages are discussed in Christian Reconstructionism:  R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism by Michael J. McVicar, University of North Carolina Press, 2015.; page 204.

Gunning for Office: Oregon’s Patriot Movement and the May 2016 Primary

This article is based on research from a forthcoming report about Oregon’s Patriot movement, which will be published by the Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates.

In the wake of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January and February 2016, a slew of candidates linked to the so-called Patriot movement are running for office in Oregon, including in the upcoming May primary. Even though most of the actual occupiers were from out of state, the occupation highlighted the state’s large and growing Patriot movement. These often-armed, Hard Right activists organized the initial demonstration that preceded the occupation and helped build political support for the occupiers’ demands. These demands included the transfer of federally owned public lands to state or county governments in order to avoid land-use restrictions, as well as attempts to circumvent the federal government’s decision-making powers by invoking legally groundless claims about the authority of state and county governments.

Patriot Movement-affiliated candidates and elected officials are in several Oregon counties.

Patriot Movement-affiliated candidates and elected officials are in several Oregon counties.

The arrest of over two dozen people connected to the Malheur occupation, in addition to the death of occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum at the hands of law enforcement, has energized the movement—which now has a new martyr and opportunities for activism to support their newly minted political prisoners. For the last few years, the state’s Patriot movement largely focused on non-electoral movement building; some county sheriffs and a handful of other officials were affiliated with its aims, but by and large it remained outside of the electoral arena. This is changing with Oregon’s May 17, 2016 primary election. In several counties where Oregon’s Patriot movement is strong—including Josephine, Crook, Baker, Douglas, and Harney—candidates tied to the movement are running for office. These candidates include key Patriot movement leaders such as Joseph Rice, as well as Republicans who are courting the movement for votes.

The Patriot movement is a Hard Right movement that is trying to radically transform U.S. political and legal institutions. It seeks to implement a form of right-wing decentralization, including the abolition of environmental laws and the social safety net, replacing them with almost completely unrestricted capitalism, all based on an idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution and various conspiracy theories which support their political views. The best known of the movement’s tactics is the formation of paramilitaries—traditionally “militias,” but more recently including other, more decentralized, armed approaches.

The movement also relies on a number of crank “legal” strategies that have no basis in law. The most important is “nullification,” the notion that a lower government (such as the county or state) can ignore laws passed by a higher authority (usually the federal government). One popular form of nullification is the false claim that county sheriffs have the authority to decide which laws are unconstitutional and therefore should not be enforced.1

The movement also promotes the concept of “coordination”: the false idea that federal agencies must comply with county government plans regarding land-use decisions, usually about natural resource extraction on federal lands that are within a county’s borders. Coordination is a new form of “county supremacy,” an idea popular in the 1990s that is re-emerging.2 By 1996, 70 counties had passed laws attempting to gain control over federal lands.3 (This is based on the idea that removing restrictions on natural resource extraction will revive moribund rural economies.) In the end, these county governments only wasted their energies tilting at windmills, instead of working on constructive solutions to local problems. Related to this, many in the movement believe the federal government has no legal right to own most public land, which they think should be transferred to state or county control. All of these positions reflect hostility toward the federal government, which is not uncommon in the rural West.

Because of the movement’s political focus on the county, it is not surprising that this year’s crop of Patriot-friendly candidates are largely seeking seats at the county level.

The most important Oregon Patriot movement groups today are those associated with the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), and the Pacific Patriots Network. The Oath Keepers are a national membership-based organization that recruits current and former police, military, and first responders; however others can still be “associate members.” Members swear to disobey government orders they claim are unconstitutional, but these are mostly staple right-wing conspiracy theories such as federal government plans to disarm civilians before herding them into concentration camps. The CSPOA is composed of standing law enforcement members and is affiliated with the Oath Keepers. Their founder, former county sheriff Richard Mack, believes the county sheriff has the authority to interpret the Constitution, and therefore decide which laws should be enforced. The Three Percenters are a somewhat decentralized militia; individuals can identify with the label, but in some places, including Oregon, there are also organized groups with leadership structures. Some individual Three Percenters were involved in the Malheur occupation.4 The Pacific Patriots Network is a network of nine “partner” groups, mostly based in Oregon and Idaho, including the Oath Keepers of Josephine County and both the Oregon and Idaho Three Percenters. The Pacific Patriots Network became infamous for their third-party activities around the Malheur occupation in Burns, Oregon—the town just outside the refuge.5 Their members organized the initial January 2, 2016 march that the occupation came out of; held events and meetings in Burns to promote Patriot movement ideology; deployed armed members in the town; and helped bring supplies to the refuge. This allowed them to try to position themselves as a neutral party while really playing “good cop” to the occupiers’ “bad cop,” and raising their public profile at the same time.

If the current wave of Patriot–affiliated candidates in Oregon are elected, it will not be the first time sympathizers with this movement have held office. Quite a few public officials supported the militia movement in the 1990s—the direct precursor to today’s Patriot movement—including then-U.S. Representatives Steve Stockman from Texas and the late Helen Chenoweth-Hage from Idaho, as well as many state and local legislators, such as the late Colorado State Representative and Senator Charlie Duke.6

There are a number of current Oregon officials who have links to Patriot groups or who showed support for nullification, coordination, and/or the Malheur occupation in different ways. (Please note that the inclusion of a candidate or elected official in this article only relates to their political beliefs and is not an accusation that they are engaged in paramilitary training or illegal political actions.)

  • Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, perhaps the best known in this list of currently serving officials, was on the CSPOA’s Council of Sheriffs, Peace Officers and Public Officials and won the 2012 CSPOA Sheriff of the Year Award. In 2015 he tried to invoke coordination for his sheriff’s office to have rights on federal forestland. He also met with occupiers during the occupation, and the occupation’s leadership was stopped and confronted by law enforcement when they were traveling to meet Palmer at a community meeting in the town of John Day.7
  • State Representative Dallas Heard (District 2) visited the occupation as part of a trip with out-of-state elected officials.8
  • State Representative Carl Wilson (District 3) was praised by the Oath Keepers for writing a letter in support of miners who established armed encampments at the Sugar Pine Mine in Josephine County, Oregon in spring 2015 over a land use conflict with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).9 This incident is seen as a precursor to the Malheur occupation.
  • Baker County Commissioner Bill Harvey has invoked coordination and spoke at a “Rural Lives Matter” rally—one of the first statewide attempts to build Patriot movement public support after the Malheur occupation ended.10
  • Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett publicly blamed the BLM for Malheur occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s death and has supported the movement’s politics in general.11
  • Grants Pass City Councilor Roy Lindsay is the treasurer of the Josephine County Oath Keepers.12

In addition, state Senator Kim Thatcher (District 13) and state Representatives Bill Post (District 25) and Mike Nearman (District 23) took part in a spring 2015 rally in Salem, Oregon against SB941, a state law requiring background checks for private gun sales. They appeared alongside two Patriot movement leaders, including Three Percenters’ cofounder Mike Vanderboegh. He threatened “civil war” (as he did at the Bundy Ranch) as a response to the new law, calling Oregon Governor Kate Brown and others in the state government “tyrants” and “domestic enemies of the Constitution.” Vanderboegh concluded, “this country has long had a remedy for tyrants—a second amendment remedy. So be careful for what you wish for, Madam—you may get it.”13

In addition to the currently serving officials, there are at least fourteen Patriot movement affiliated candidates running for Oregon office—although there are undoubtedly more who have escaped our attention or are hiding their affiliations. Most candidates are running in the May primary, although some races will be decided in the November election. These include candidates who are Patriot movement activists; those who are directly courting or endorsed by Patriot groups; and those promoting the movement’s radical political positions including nullification, coordination, and sympathy with the Malheur occupation.

State Races

Bruce Cuff is a gubernatorial candidate in the Republican primary and is actively seeking Patriot movement support.14 According to his website, “The highest elected law enforcement officers in the State of Oregon are the 36 County Sheriffs.” It also says, “All Federal lands should be returned to the State of Oregon so local counties can manage the public lands within their borders.” His campaign strategy statement invokes Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 17 of the U.S. Constitution to support the legally specious belief that the federal government is restricted to owning what, in the Patriot movement’s jargon, is referred to as “forts, ports, and ten square miles” (of Washington, D.C.).15 He is campaigning on the idea of “state sovereignty,” saying that any actions by at least ten federal agencies (including the FBI, BLM, and OSHA) will have to be permitted by both the state governor and local sheriff. He also attacks Oregon Governor Brown for allowing Syrian refugees into the state by invoking typical demonizing rhetoric, including accusations that they are disease carriers and are potential ISIS members.16 Cuff attended a March 2016 Portland rally supporting those arrested for the Malheur occupation; elsewhere he said, “LaVoy was murdered,” and placed the blame on Governor Brown.17 In 2014, Cuff ran in the Republican primary for governor and received 23,912 votes (9.7 percent).18

The Constitution Party of Oregon is a Hard Right theocratic party that split from the party’s national organization in 2006, although the state party has the option to place the national party’s candidate on the ballot. In the 1990s, the national party was named the U.S. Taxpayer Party and it had many links to the militia movement.19 Today, some members are also involved with the Oath Keepers. The Constitution Party of Oregon’s platform calls for the transfer of federal public lands, the right of the county sheriff to interpret the Constitution, and for taxes to be paid in gold or silver. During the occupation, the party called for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to be transferred out of federal hands.20 The Constitution Party of Oregon’s gubernatorial candidate is Aaron Auer, and party candidates for the November election are expected to be announced soon. Auer ran for Oregon governor in 2014 and received 15,929 votes.21

Dennis Linthicum is the only Republican candidate for state senate for District 28 so he is up for election in November. Linthicum was a Klamath County Commissioner from 2011 to 2015. He appeared at an event alongside then-CSPOA Sheriff Gil Gilbertson of Josephine County, and is active with Patriot movement social media. In a blog post written before the Malheur occupation, about the convictions of Dwight and Steven Hammond (whose mandatory minimum prison sentences for arson were the initial issue which inspired the occupation), Linthicum echoed Patriot movement conspiracies that “the vast majority of actions at the federal level are aimed at building a federal empire of absolute control.” He later wrote favorably about the Malheur occupation, claiming that those who did not support it were beingtrapped in the web of manufactured information,” and implying it was the federal government—not the occupiers—that was the real party guilty of breaking the law.22 In 2014, he challenged Greg Walden in the Republican primary for the U.S. House seat in District 2 and received 19,936 votes (24 percent).23

Jo Rae Perkins is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Representative in District 4 and is heavily courting Patriot movement support. She is challenging Art Robinson, who ran for the position several times, and in 2014 was both the Republican and Constitution Party candidate. Her calendar shows her appearances with right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers of Linn & Benton Counties, Lane County’s 912 Project, and the Liberators—though it omits her Roseburg, Oregon talk hosted by Three Percenters.24 Perkins is a former Linn County Republican Party chair.25 Her platform includes standard right-wing causes such as opposing immigration (including ending sanctuary cities), making abortion illegal, and supporting gun rights. Additionally, she cites Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution to support the erroneous belief the federal government cannot legally own most public lands.26

County Races

In Harney County, where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation occurred, at least three Patriot-style candidates are running for county positions. Charmaign “Sis” Edwards, one of the few local ranchers who supported the Malheur takeover, is running for Commissioner. She is currently on the South Harney School Board and has a grazing permit on Bureau of Land Management property.27 On December 11, 2015, before the occupation, she signed a “Redress of Grievances” concerning the Hammond family that was being forwarded by a number of Patriot groups.28 Edwards and her husband visited the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and, after meeting with Ammon Bundy, told reporters they supported both the occupation and the transfer of the refuge land to local control.29 She is using “Rural Lives Matter” as a campaign slogan, and in one Facebook post promotes a right-wing conspiracy theory popular in Patriot movement circles about Agenda 21. In reality, this is a nonbinding United Nations’ resolution that advocates ecologically sustainable development; however, right-wing conspiracy theorists believe it is actually a nefarious global socialist plot to drive rural people off the land and into cities, where they will be herded in concentration camps. On Edwards’s Facebook page, she cites Agenda 21 a part of “a serious effort to reduce the population and control man’s existence by a New World Order.”30

Anna Jo Surber is running for Harney County Judge, a position similar to a county commission chair, currently held by Steve Grasty, an outspoken critic of the occupation who is retiring. Surber is an employee at the Narrows, the restaurant and RV park just outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters that welcomed the occupiers as customers. Her campaign Facebook page says, “We need constitutional Judges, Sheriffs and other elected officials.”31 One week into the occupation, she agreed with a podcast interviewer that the armed occupation was “a good tactic” and described the occupiers as “peaceful.”32 A couple weeks later, in an interview with Pete Santilli, the Patriot movement livestreamer who was arrested for his role in the occupation and is in jail awaiting trial, Surber described the tactic of nullification as “exactly what I would want to do.”33

Alan Johnson is running for Harney County Sheriff. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Johnson’s candidacy is “sanctioned” by the CSPOA, and he was in attendance at CSPOA founder Richard Mack’s February talk in Harney County.34 He is running against Sheriff David Ward, a supporter of the Hammond family who had initially met with Ammon Bundy and other Patriot activists. However, Ward (along with Judge Steve Grasty) became an outspoken critic of the occupation, even as he continued to meet with the occupiers and work for a peaceful resolution.”

In Josephine County, the co-founder of the Pacific Patriots Network and leader of the county’s Oath Keepers chapter, Joseph Rice, is running for county commission. Rice was the de facto leader of the Sugar Pine Mine operation in spring 2015. In this incident, Patriot movement activists came from around the country to Josephine County and established armed camps in support of locals on a mining claim were who were in conflict with the Bureau of Land Management. Members of the Josephine County Oath Keepers helped organize the original demonstration in Burns in support of the Hammonds, which Ammon Bundy and others left at the end of to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. The Josephine County Oath Keepers is part of the Pacific Patriots Network, and although they technically distanced themselves from the occupation, Rice met with the occupiers and the Pacific Patriots Network came back to Burns to attempt to politically profit from the situation.35 In this primary, Rice is vying for Position 2 County Commissioner against other prominent local right-wingers, including Dale Matthews, who runs the Bad County website, and Paul Walter, who runs the conspiracist News With Views website.36

In Crook County, two members of the Central Oregon Patriots (COP) are seeking county positions. COP is an influential local political organization; its origins are in the Tea Party and although its politics are similar to the Patriot movement it is tactically more moderate than the other groups mentioned here.37 However, COP has cross-membership with the Oath Keepers and connections with members of the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, which is part of the Pacific Patriots Network. COP co-organizer, Ken Taylor, is the Crook County Republican Party chair.38

COP Chair Craig Brookhart is running for Crook County Judge, a position that, like in Harney County, is roughly equivalent to a county commission chair. In 2012, Brookhart ran in the county Republican primary for Judge, receiving 972 votes (32.96 percent).39 Brookhart is also secretary of the Crook County Republican Party, a Precinct Committee Person and the Chair of the Crook County Natural Resources PAC, another vehicle for Patriot movement politics.40 The PAC has already held a seminar to promote the idea of coordination.41 Brookhart’s election website carefully hides his Hard Right connections; COP is never mentioned, and the PAC only in passing.42 His platform calls to “restore local control of natural resources,” and he calls himself a “Constitutional Conservative” while making various appeals to the Constitution in a manner consistent with Patriot views.43

COP member Pete Sharp is also running for Crook County commission. He has said, “With my platform, I put God first,” and “I want to get back to the Constitution, which means less government, less control, and the government working for the people of the county.” He is also promoting Crook County invoking coordination status and hopes this will allow for more logging.44

In Douglas County, hardline Patriot movement activist J.D. Parks is running for county commission. He is a Three Percenter, an Oath Keeper, and a founding member of the Heirs of Patrick Henry—a member group of the Pacific Patriots Network.45 Parks’s election Facebook page posts typical movement propaganda and views; for example, in one post he says, “One of our two senators actually lives in New York. The other is a communist.”46 He was part of the Sugar Pine Mine action in 2015 and is forwarding a resolution to transfer federal lands to the state and county level.47

Kody Justus, who is running for Baker County commission, is another hardline Patriot movement activist. The coordinator of his county’s Oath Keepers group and Vice-Chair of the Baker County Republicans, Justus took his nine-year-old daughter with him when he brought supplies to the Malheur occupation this January, earning a mention in the New York Times.48 His campaign video promotes “aggressively engaging federal agencies through coordination and pursuing the transfer of public lands to local control.”49 Justus’s website includes links to groups with Patriot movement-style politics like CSPOA, the Tenth Amendment Center, and Defend Rural America. Justus also attended the Rural Lives Matter rally in Halfway, Oregon on February 6, 2016—one of the first post-Malheur occupation support events.50

Sheriff’s Deputy John Hoopes is running for Baker County Sheriff in an election that will be decided in November. Hoopes is a CSPOA member, visited the Malheur occupation, and attended the Rural Lives Matter event in Halfway. 51 Hoopes’s Facebook page promotes talks by sovereign citizen lawyer KrisAnne Hall and CSPOA founder Richard Mack.52 In his answers to a 2015 candidate questionnaire, Hoopes said he wants Baker County to control public lands and that as sheriff he will refuse to enforce laws that “support gun registration or confiscation” because he believes they are unconstitutional.53

Last, Mandi Jacobs, a Patriot movement activist, is a write-in candidate to be a Republican Party Precinct Committee Person in Douglas County’s Precinct 17—despite the fact that she has not been registered as a party member for the required period to be eligible.54 Her run for this low-level elected position is of note because it represents part of a bottom-up, rather than a top-down, approach to taking over political institutions—an approach which can be seen reflected across the Patriot movement’s strategies.

The Patriot movement in Oregon has shown that it can grab headlines through the use of armed action. It will be seen this May and November whether it can capture political power at the ballot box as well. If they successfully gain county-level seats across the state, we can expect confrontations around federal land transfer, nullification, and coordination. These actions will attempt to short-circuit existing democratic structures and circumvent federal laws (especially environmental restrictions), and Patriot movement-affiliated county officials will help create a welcoming environment for further right-wing paramilitary activities in the state.

ENDNOTES

Unless otherwise noted, all online citations are accessible as of April 19, 2016.

1) The origin of this idea is usually attributed to Posse Comitatus, a decentralized Christian White supremacist group. See Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2002).

2) There is an actual federal rule called “coordination,” but it has a different meaning, and does not grant counties the right to dictate land-use decisions to federal agencies. See Montana Human Rights Network, “Recycled County Supremacy Gains Traction, Lacks Legal Basis,” November 2, 2012, http://www.mhrn.org/publications/specialresearchreports/MHRN%20Report%20-%20Coordination.pdf.

3) Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 125.

4) Rachel Tabachnick, “Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers,” Political Research Associates, April 23, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/04/23/profile-on-the-right-oathkeepers; Political Research Associates, “Profiles on the Right: Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association,” November 22, 2013, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/profiles-on-the-right-constitutional-sheriffs-and-peace-officers-association; Spencer Sunshine, “Profiles on the Right: Three Percenters,” Political Research Associates, January 5, 2016, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/01/05/profiles-on-the-right-three-percenters.

5) “Partners,” Pacific Patriots Network, http://www.pacificpatriotsnetwork.com/partners.php; OPB Staff, “New Armed Group Enters Harney County, Meets With Sheriff,” OPB, January 9, 2016, http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/armed-convoy-arrives-at-harney-county-courthouse.

6) Stern, A Force Upon the Plain, 212–17.

7) CSPOA, “The Leadership—CSPOA Council of Sheriffs, Peace Officers and Public Officials,” https://web.archive.org/web/20150820114146/http://cspoa.org/about/leadership, archive from August 20, 2015; Jonathan Thompson, “The rise of the Sagebrush Sheriffs,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, https://www.hcn.org/issues/48.2/the-rise-of-the-sagebrush-sheriffs; George Plaven, “Grant County sheriff demands coordination with Forest Service,” East Oregonian, October 9, 2015, www.eastoregonian.com/eo/local-news/20151009/grant-county-sheriff-demands-coordination-with-forest-service; Les Zaitz, “State licensing board seeks investigation of Grant County sheriff who met militants,” Oregonian/OregonLive, February 18, 2016, http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/02/state_police_board_seeks_inves.html.

8) John Sepulvado, “Oregon Lawmaker Says Roseburg Shooting Prompted ‘Fact-Finding’ Visit To Armed Occupation,” OPB, March 20, 2016, http://www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/roseburg-shooting-republican-politician-dallas-heard-occupation-visit. The refuge trip that Representative Heard went on was organized by COWS (Coalition of Western States), but he says that he is not a member of the group.

9) The Facebook account of the Oath Keepers of Oregon posted, “Every Politician should be supporting the miner’s rights or else they are violating their oath. At least Oregon state Rep. Carl Wilson Supports Miners’ Access To Due Process:,” May 15, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/OathKeepersofOregon/posts/686948074750130. The Josephine County Oath Keepers also posted Representative Wilson’s press release on their site; see “Rep. Carl Wilson Supports Miners’ Access To Due Process,” April 28, 2015, http://oathkeepersjoco.com/downloads/Rep-Carl-Wilson-Supports-Miners-Access-To-Due-Process.pdf.

10) Joshua Dillen, “County, Forest Service discuss coordination,” Baker City Herald, October 2, 2015, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/County-Forest-Service-discuss-coordination; Jayson Jacoby, “Message Delivered,” Baker City Herald, February 8, 2016, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Message-Delivered.

11) Nicole Montesano, “Commissioners urged to help calm Malheur tension,” Yamhill Valley News Register, January 28, 2016, http://newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=commissioners-urged-to-help-calm-malheur-tension–1454029836–20827–. Starrett is also a former Constitution Party official and candidate.

12) Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the other standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, http://www.hcn.org/issues/48.2/showdown-at-sugar-pine-mine.

13) “Senator Kim Thatcher—‘I will not comply!’—SB 941 Protests” (video), YouTube, uploaded May 31, 2015, https://youtu.be/3oe3co_tHfU; “Bill Post—‘I will not comply’ SB 941” (video), YouTube, uploaded May 31, 2015, https://youtu.be/Ycbey1VMyCQ; “Mike Nearman—‘I will not comply’—SB 941” (video), uploaded May 31, 2015, https://youtu.be/ystyU-kv5J4. For Vanderboegh, see “We Will Not Comply Rally—Salem, Oregon—May 30, 2015” (video), YouTube, uploaded July 3, 2015, https://youtu.be/sDD7GZJLSkE. His call for “civil war” is around 57:15, and comments on Governor Kate Brown around 1:04:40.

14) For example, he is speaking to the Douglas County Oath Keepers on April 15, 2016 as publicized on their Facebook page, March 22, 2016: http://www.facebook.com/oathkeepers/posts/468874663307449.

15) “Strategies to Return Local Control to the Communities and Voters of Oregon,” Bruce Cuff for Governor of Oregon, http://www.time4cuff.co/strategies-to-return-local-control.html, accessed April 17, 2016.

16) “Oregon is a Sovereign State!,” Bruce Cuff for Governor of Oregon, http://www.time4cuff.co/oregon-is-a-sovereign-state-.html, accessed April 17, 2016.

17) KOIN 6 News Staff, “Shouts of support, waves for jailed Bundy brothers,” KOIN6, March 5, 2016, http://koin.com/2016/03/05/shouts-of-support-waves-for-jailed-bundy-brothers; “BLM Protest Wardo interviews Bruce Cuff and J D Parks Oregon 3/26” (video), YouTube, uploaded April 1, 2016, https://youtu.be/qQyF7wamshU. See starting at 2:27.

18) “Oregon 2016 Election Center,” Washington Times, http://m.washingtontimes.com/elections/OR/profile.

19) Montana Human Rights Network, The Constitution Party of Montana: The Radical Right Wing’s Collision with Mainstream Politics, third edition, 2009 (originally 2000), http://www.mhrn.org/publications/specialresearchreports/CPOM%20Updated%20report.pdf, 9–13, 63–64.

20) “Platform of the Constitution Party of Oregon,” The Constitution Party of Oregon, http://www.constitutionpartyoregon.net/platform_of_the_constitution_par.htm; see also, Constitution Party of Oregon’s Facebook post from January 10, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/ConstitutionPartyOfOregon/posts/561405287347989.

21) Oregon Secretary of State, “November 4, 2014, General Election, Official Abstract of Votes,” http://sos.oregon.gov/elections/Documents/results/results-2014-general-election.pdf.

22) “Josephine County Republicans Present Rich Wyatt and Kevin Starrett,” 2015, https://jocogop.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/richwyatt.png; Dennis Linthicum, “BLM v Hammond—A Blind Pimple Or Worse?,” Dirt Road Economist, November 23, 2015, http://www.dirtroadeconomist.com/2015/11/23/blm-v-hammond-a-blind-pimple-or-worse; “Absolute Power is not Easily Tamed,” Dirt Road Economist, January 28, 2016, http://www.dirtroadeconomist.com/2016/1/28/absolute-power-is-not-easily-tamed.

23) “Oregon—Summary Vote Results,” May 21, 2014, http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/files/elections/2014/by_state/OR_US_House_0520.html.

24) “March 2016” calendar, http://www.perkins4oregon.com/Calendar/Events/2016/03.aspx; “Meet with Jo Rae Perkins,” Facebook event, http://www.facebook.com/events/890834391033614, accessed April 1, 2016; screenshot in possession of author. The 912 Project was founded by Glenn Beck.

25) Ian K. Kullgren, “Election 2016: Who’s running for office in Oregon? Portland? We’ve got your list right here,” Oregonian/OregonLive, March 09, 2016, http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/03/candidate_list_final_2016.html.

26) “Issues,” http://www.perkins4oregon.com/Issues.aspx, accessed April 17, 2016.

27) “Charmaign ‘Sis’ Edwards for Harney County Commissioner,” March 30, 2016, http://www.facebook.com/Edwards4Commissioner/posts/1750781981820909; Karina Brown, “Residents Mixed on Bundy Militia’s Takeover,” Courthouse News Service, January 7, 2016, http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/01/07/residents-mixed-on-bundy-militias-takeover.htm.

28) We the People—United Individuals of these States United: Coalition of Western States (COWS), Pacific Patriot Network (PPN), Bundy Family and Supporters, Oregon Oath Keepers, Idaho III%, Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, Oregon Tactical, Oregon Bearded Bastards, Liberty Watch Washington, Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, Rural Heritage Preservation Project, Liberty For All (LFA), etc., “NOTICE: Redress of Grievance – December 11, 2015,” http://holdingblock.blogspot.com/2015/12/we-people-united-individuals-of-these.html.

29) Brown, “Residents Mixed on Bundy Militia’s Takeover.”

30) http://www.facebook.com/charmaign.edwards; see February 21, 2016 post.

31) Caitlin Dickson, “In Oregon occupation, residents choose sides on social media—and things get ugly,” Yahoo News, January 11, 2016, http://www.yahoo.com/news/in-oregon-occupation–residents-choose-sides-on-social-media%E2%80%94and-things-get-ugly-202711268.html; “About,” http://www.facebook.com/Annajoforjudge.

32) Trent Loos’ Podcast, “Loos Tales for Jan 11, 2016 Anna Jo Surber works at the The Narrows,” January 10, 2016, http://trentloos.podomatic.com/entry/2016-01-10T05_07_40-08_00. See around 1:40, 3:00, and 3:38.

33) “Anna Jo Surber Running For Commissioner In Harney County Oregon— #OregonFront,” January 26, 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbO9rSXn2RE. See around 7:44.

34) Bill Morlin, “‘Constitutional Sheriff’ Richard Mack Hoping to Capitalize on Oregon Standoff,” February 16, 2016, http://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/02/16/%E2%80%98constitutional-sheriff%E2%80%99-richard-mack-hoping-capitalize-oregon-standoff.

35) Tay Wiles and Jonathan Thompson, “Who’s who inside and on the outskirts of the Malheur occupation,” High Country News, January 11, 2016, http://www.hcn.org/articles/whos-who-at-the-oregon-standoff-malhuer-bundy.

36) Josephine County Voters’ Pamphlet: Official Primary Election, May 17, 2016, http://www.co.josephine.or.us/Files/May%202016%20Primary%20Election%20VP.pdf.

37) An archived COP website says, “On September 12, 2009 two area citizens were part of the largest peaceful protest march in the history of our nation. We now recognize the Tea Party on 9/12/2009 as the genesis of COP.” See https://web.archive.org/web/20160212180928/http://www.copatriots.org.

38) “Ken Taylor,” http://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-taylor-59b24719; “Crook County,” http://www.oregonrepublicanparty.org/CrookCounty.

39) Jason Chaney, “Brookhart again running for judge,” Central Oregonian, November 24, 2015, http://www.pamplinmedia.com/ceo/162-news/282544-158473-brookhart-again-running-for-judge; “Primary Election, May 15, 2012—Official Final Results” http://co.crook.or.us/Portals/0/MayPrimary2012.pdf.

40) Aaron West, “Three running for Crook County judge,” The Bulletin (Bend), April 5, 2016, http://www.bendbulletin.com/newsroomstafflist/4186316-151/three-running-for-crook-county-judge.

41) Aaron West, “Crook County residents form a PAC to make a land use plan,” The Bulletin (Bend), February 29, 2016, http://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/4042307-151/crook-county-residents-form-a-pac-to-make.

42) Brookhart for Crook County Judge, 2016, http://electcraigbrookhart.com.

43) “Platform,” Brookhart for Crook County Judge, 2016, http://electcraigbrookhart.com/Brookhart_for_Crook_County_Judge/Platform.html; “About Me,” Brookhart for Crook County Judge, 2016, http://electcraigbrookhart.com/Brookhart_for_Crook_County_Judge/About_Me.html.

44) Jason Chaney, “Sharp joins county commissioner race,” Central Oregonian, December 4, 2015, http://www.pamplinmedia.com/ceo/162-news/284047-159397-sharp-joins-county-commissioner-race; Aaron West, “7 up for open seat in Crook County,” The Bulletin (Bend), March 26, 2016, http://www.bendbulletin.com/newsroomstafflist/4162552-151/7-up-for-open-seat-in-crook-county.

45) Carisa Cegavske, “Susan Morgan critic J.D. Parks running for her commission seat,” NR Today, February 9, 2016, http://www.nrtoday.com/news/20566618-113/susan-morgan-critic-jd-parks-running-for-her, accessed April 1, 2016. Copy in possession of author.

46) “J.D. Parks for Douglas County Commissioner,” http://www.facebook.com/groups/781291355309827.

47) “J.D. Parks—Bringing the Constitution back at the local Level,” February 24, 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD4VFnFCkAY. One of Parks’s opponents is Gary Leif, who visited the Malheur occupation, but came away saying he did not support it. See Carisa Cegavske, “County commissioner candidate Gary Leif meets with protesters at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” NRToday, January 22, 2016, http://www.nrtoday.com/news/20276992-113/county-commissioner-candidate-gary-leif-meets-with-protesters.

48) Gina Perkins, “Coordinator of County’s Oath Keeper Group Running for Commissioner,” Record-Courier, January 28, 2016, http://www.therconline.com/#!Coordinator-of-Countys-Oath-Keeper-Group-Running-for-Commissioner/cg4a/56aa60a60cf2c295f1f2674f; Julie Turkewitzjan, “Fervor in Oregon Compound and Fear Outside It,” New York Times, January 12, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/us/fervor-in-oregon-compound-and-fear-outside-it.html.

49) “Kody Justus for Baker County Commission,” https://vimeo.com/157685693.

50) Kody Justus for Baker County Commission, http://www.justusforbakercounty.com; Jayson Jacoby, “Message Delivered, Baker City Herald, February 8, 2016, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Message-Delivered.

51) A February 19, 2016, comment on a February 20 “Hoopes 4 Sheriff” Facebook post says he has joined CSPOA; Jayson Jacoby, “Message Delivered, Baker City Herald, February 8, 2016, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Message-Delivered.

52) “John ‘Hoopes 4 Sheriff,’” http://www.facebook.com/John-Hoopes-4-Sheriff-1708084419467568.

53) “Sheriff candidates interviewed: John Hoopes’ answers,” March 13, 2015, http://www.bakercityherald.com/Local-News/Sheriff-candidates-interviewed-John-Hoopes-answers.

54) Facebook post, March 15, 2016; http://www.facebook.com/mandi.jacobs.3/posts/1149962291681485.

The Christian Right’s Favorite New Target: North Carolina Isn’t Alone

A slate of anti-LGBTQ laws and policies is sweeping across the country with transgender and gender-nonconforming people squarely in the crosshairs. While violence and oppression continue to wreak havoc on the lives and livelihoods of trans people, as of this writing at least 44 anti-trans bills have been proposed in 16 states this year, aimed at putting an already vulnerable community at even greater risk for harassment, abuse, ostracization, and discrimination.

But this attack isn’t restricted to the Bible Belt, nor is it limited to GOP-dominated cities and states. Trans people are being systematically targeted across the country as part of a nationally coordinated effort led by a coalition of Christian Right powerhouses – organizations that have been plotting this campaign since long before even the concept of a “post-marriage equality moment” existed.

Mickyel “Micky” Bradford, a regional organizer with the Transgender Law Center, protests HB2 outside of the governor's mansion. Image courtesy of Ryan Lavalley

Mickyel “Micky” Bradford, a regional organizer with the Transgender Law Center @ Southerners On New Ground (TLC@SONG), protests HB2 outside of the governor’s mansion. Image courtesy of Ryan Lavalley

Precariously situated at the end of the LGBT family, the “T” has often been neglected and/or forgotten by those on both the Right and the Left. Now, with the LGB portion of the queer umbrella experiencing increasing levels of legal acceptance, affirmation in the media, and economic access in the United States, the Right has cast their spotlight in the direction of those whom they’ve determined are still easily scapegoated; those who dare to continue resisting assimilation – trans and gender-nonconforming people.

Last week, North Carolina’s General Assembly approved a bill that was described by Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, as “the most extreme anti-LGBT bill in the nation.” House Bill 2 (HB2) invalidates the recent expansion of nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals in the City of Charlotte, and additionally prevents all municipalities in the state from adding any new protections for LGBTQ people.

HB2 was introduced and passed in the span of a single day during a special session called expressly for the purpose of eliminating Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance (costing taxpayers $42,000). The ordinance in question would have (among other things) granted the right to transgender individuals to use public facilities that correspond to the gender with which they identify. In other words, this straightforward civil rights measure would have allowed a trans man (or, more simply put, a man) to utilize a men’s bathroom, and a trans woman (a woman) to use bathrooms designated for women.

Despite the valiant resistance of organizers, activists, faith leaders, and families from across the state (and the fact that, to date, there have been no cases in which a trans person has committed assault in a bathroom), anti-trans fear mongering ruled the day, and within hours of passing both the House and Senate, HB2 was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, R, who previously stated that Charlotte’s nondiscrimination policy would “create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.”

Gov. McCrory’s words speak to the effectiveness of the massive coalition of national players behind this devastating blow to LGBTQ people in the State of North Carolina. Over the last several years, right-wing opponents to social justice have steadily honed their anti-trans tactics and rhetoric, and now we’re seeing the effects of their well-resourced, diligent campaigning.

Today's anti-trans attacks echo the "save our children themes" from Anita Bryant in the 1970s.

Today’s anti-trans attacks echo the “save our children themes” from Anita Bryant in the 1970s.

Led by Christian Right powerhouses like the Alliance Defending Freedom, Focus on the Family, and Family Research Council, this coalition aims to scare communities into believing that women and girls are in grave danger as a result of comprehensive civil rights legislation by falsely painting transgender people as deviant, dangerous, and sick. (If this sounds eerily familiar, recall that less than 40 years ago, this exact same rhetoric was applied in anti-gay witch hunts such as Anita Bryant’s infamous “Save Our Children” campaign in 1977, which successfully repealed a county ordinance in Florida that prohibited discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens in employment, housing, and public accommodations.)

Indeed, McCrory’s comments echo both the historic vitriol of the Christian Right of yesteryear and the distorted, anti-trans language that Bryant’s contemporaries are currently propagating around the country. Notably, McCrory’s rhetoric matches that of a letter he received on March 2, 2016 from John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council (NCFPC), reacting to the passage of Charlotte’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, demanding that the General Assembly call a special session to overturn it and “preempt any other municipality or county in the state from enacting a similar ordinance,” spoon-feeding McCrory the talking points needed to make it all happen.

SEE ALSO: When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/01/12/when-exemption-is-the-rule-the-religious-freedom-strategy-of-the-christian-right

SEE ALSO: When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/01/12/when-exemption-is-the-rule-the-religious-freedom-strategy-of-the-christian-right

It’s important to know that NCFPC isn’t just some obscure, local, “family values” operation. NCFPC is an affiliate of Focus on the Family’s policy arm, CitizenLink, a multi-million dollar operation that oversees a national network of 39 state-based “family policy councils” collectively committed to restricting access to abortion and reproductive justice, resisting efforts toward LGBTQ equality, and redefining religious freedom into a dangerous tool of oppression. In addition to providing strategic direction for its affiliates, CitizenLink also contributes financially. According to the most recently available IRS form 990s from both organizations, CitizenLink contributed nearly $170,000 to NCFPC in 2013, which amounts to over one third of NCFPC’s operating budget that year.

What’s also at play here is major backlash against the Obama administration’s expansion of Title IX protections in April 2014. Under the new guidelines, Title IX prohibits discrimination in publicly funded schools not only on the basis of sex, but also on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, and disability.

In a press release issued last Wednesday, ACLU-NC flagged this element of potential harm caused by HB2, noting that in addition to eliminating protections for LGBTQ people, the bill “jeopardizes the more than $4.5 billion in federal funding that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.”

This isn’t new news to the U.S. Right.

According to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, within months of the 2014 change, dozens of religious colleges and universities had applied for and been granted a “religious exemption” from the law. While the exact nature of the relationship is unclear, at least four of the qualifying schools cc’d the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on their exemption request letters.

Later that year, ADF—one of the Christian Right’s most powerful legal institutions, and a longtime partner of Focus on the Family and CitizenLink—would take on an even more prominent and aggressive role in the anti-trans Title IX pushback. In December 2014, ADF sent emails to public school districts nationwide encouraging use of their model “Student Physical Privacy Policy,” which provides guidelines for how schools can supposedly “protect” [cisgender] students in areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms. In reality, the model policy effectively encodes trans-exclusionary guidelines and subjects transgender students to further scrutinization, shame, and interrogation when it comes to their privacy.

SEE ALSO: Alliance Defending Freedom: The Right-Wing Lawyers Fueling Transphobia in Schools. http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/12/18/alliance-defending-freedom-the-right-wing-lawyers-fueling-transphobia-in-school/

SEE ALSO: Alliance Defending Freedom: The Right-Wing Lawyers Fueling Transphobia in Schools. http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/12/18/alliance-defending-freedom-the-right-wing-lawyers-fueling-transphobia-in-school/

What’s playing out on the ground in places like North Carolina, Tennessee, South Dakota, Washington State, and in school boards across the country isn’t some sort of isolated, homegrown scheme, and it isn’t the result of trans and gender-nonconforming people seeking to harm or threaten women and girls. These anti-trans bills are part of a nationally-coordinated, proactive campaign that seeks to deploy dangerous transphobic myths and rhetoric in order to mobilize conservatives and preserve a gender essentialist status quo that ultimately harms us all.

To join in the chorus of social justice advocates speaking out against HB2, please consider signing this petition from our friends at ACLU Action, calling on Gov. McCrory to repeal the law.

 

TONIGHT: What Happens When Terroristic Threats Come From Someone Wealthy & White?

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Hutson is the author of a forthcoming article in The Public Eye magazine fully examining the case of David Lenio and the disparate treatment of offenders from different backgrounds and ethnicities by the criminal justice system.

In the wake of a controversial decision this month to drop the felony intimidation charge against David Joseph Lenio—a 29-year-old White Nationalist who tweeted threats last year to shoot up a grade school in Kalispell, Montana, and “put two in the head of a rabbi,” then retrieved a weapons cache—the Investigation Discovery channel will premier the next installment of “Hate in America,” which explores the growing movement of strong-man worshiping populists, nativists, and armed anti-government militants across the country through the lens of Montana’s Flathead Valley.

Preview:

In “Hate in America: A Town on Fire,” which premiers Thursday, March 24 at 8pm ET / /7pm CT, Emmy Award-winning journalist Tony Harris introduces America to this beautiful valley nestled outside Glacier National Park.

The case of David Lenio is opening up many questions about the criminal justice system and White supremacy. Specifically, questions about how terroristic threats are treated when the person making them comes from a wealthy White background versus someone who is low-income or a person of color.

Armed and Ready

On December 30, 2014, the day he arrived in Montana, Lenio tweeted several times that he felt so angry at being economically disadvantaged that he wanted to “shoot up” a grade school in Kalispell. This short-order cook and snowboarder who falsely claimed to be destitute and homeless but who is actually the son of influential banker Remos Joseph Lenio, who co-founded the private investment bank Tillerman & Co. of Grand Rapids, blames a Jewish conspiracy for his sense of being disinherited from his economic birthright. He bragged that, in retaliation for his supposed life of poverty, he could kill more people than the 20 school kids and six adults who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.

Specific Threats

Screenshot of a David Lenio holding a semi-automatic pistol in a video uploaded to YouTube in 2012.

Screenshot of a David Lenio holding a semi-automatic pistol in a video uploaded to YouTube in 2012.

Here is one of his tweets from the day he arrived in Kalispell, threatening Kalispell school children and teachers: “I David Lenio am literally so indebted & #underpaid that I want to go on a sandy hoax style spree in a kalispell, MT elementary #school 2014.” There are only five elementary schools in Kalispell.

From then until his arrest six weeks later, he obsessed about mass shootings and terrorist attacks – which he invariably claimed were hoaxes and false-flag operations perpetrated by Israel or the federal government.

By February 12, 2015, Lenio was calling for the rise of a new strongman to lead a White supremacist movement in fixing the American economy, stating that he was prepared to go down in a hail of bullets while killing Jews. “USA needs a Hitler to rise to power and fix our #economy,” he tweeted, “and i’m about ready to give my life to the cause or just shoot a bunch of #kikes …”

Calling for a Chapel Hill-Style Mass Shooting of Jews

Lenio also seized on the February 10 murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to call for a Chapel Hill-style mass shooting of Jews in retaliation for those murders and for his sense of economic disempowerment. On February 13, he tweeted: “I think every jew on the planet deserves to be killed for what kikes have done to our #dollar and cost of living Killing jews > wage #slave.” He added, “Best way to counter the harm #jewish #politics is causing is #ChapelHillShooting styling [sic] killing of #jews til they get the hint & leave.”

“I bet I could get at least 12 unarmed sitting ducks if I decide to go on a killing spree in a #school,” he tweeted on February 12th. “Sounds better than being a wage slave.”

The same day, he tweeted, “What do you think costs more in most U.S. cities? A gun with enough ammunition to kill 100 school kids or the security deposit on an apartment,” he tweeted. Then he wrote: “What would I rather do? Be a #wage slave for the rest of my life or tell society fuck you & do your kids a favor by shooting up a #school?”

‘I Bet I’d Take Out At Least a Whole Classroom’

Two days later he expressed a desire to emulate the shooting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – in which a White man was arrested and charged with fatally shooting three Muslim students – Lenio wrote: “I bet I’d take out at least a whole #classroom & score 30+ if I put my mind to it #Poverty is making me want to kill folks #mental health.”

The line between free speech and true threats is crossed when one goes beyond scapegoating and conspiracy theories to threaten the indiscriminate shooting of 30+ school kids and teachers, as well as threatening to put two bullets in the head of a rabbi (of which there are only two in the Flathead Valley) to salve a sense of economic grievance and to advance White supremacy. There is also reason to believe that Lenio planned to put his murderous ideas into action.

Police found that on February 15, just after I reported his threats to law enforcement, Lenio had retrieved a cache of rifles and ammunition from his storage locker. He also had a loaded semi-automatic handgun with him in his van at the time of his arrest – along with extra ammunition clips and jugs of urine.

The First Amendment protects unpopular, crude, and controversial speech. But First Amendment protection is not absolute. Certain speech acts, such as extortion, false advertising, and true threats which would make a reasonable person fear violence and take precautions are not protected. Nor should they be.

In the Lenio case, the threats resulted in a nationwide effort involving FBI, police, and sheriffs from three states. Flathead County schools contacted every parent to let them know that the schools had enacted a security plan to respond to the Twitter threats, and extra police and sheriff deputies were deployed to guard the schools. When parents received the calls, they were scared for their kids, as any parent would be. And, for the first time ever, the Flathead Valley’s synagogues hired security guards.

As Rabbi Fancine Green Roston and I  wrote in the Flathead Beacon, “Each of us writing this piece knows what it is to be threatened by Lenio. One of us (Francine) is one of only two Flathead Valley rabbis and has kids in the local schools. Lenio tweeted to the other of us (Jonathan) to ask where his kids go to school. Lenio crossed the line between hate speech and hate crime.” However, we presciently titled our op-ed “David Lenio Reloaded?” because the justice system was already bending over backward to show Lenio undue leniency—unlike other defendants.

In the “Hate in America” series, produced by NBC’s Peacock Productions for the Investigation Discovery channel, former CNN news anchor and Emmy-winning journalist Tony Harris teams with noted civil rights advocacy organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), to showcase stories from the organization’s files, including the David Lenio case, which SPLC’s HateWatch has reported on in detail.

Lingering Questions

Why did the justice system give David Lenio preferential treatment by releasing him into the custody of his wealthy banker dad without bail in July 2015? Why did the authorities fail to act when Lenio violated his release conditions at least 348 times in August 2015 even though 37 other Flathead County Detention Center residents had been rearrested for violating their release conditions? Why did the prosecutor and judge keep delaying the trial and finally agree to drop the felony charge of intimidation against him without any meaningful conditions? And what could be the significance of those jugs of urine in Lenio’s van? Those are topics about which I plan to write more extensively in the future.

The same week Lenio received a deferred prosecution, a 24-year-old mentally ill transient in Oregon (who actually was homeless, unlike Lenio, who merely pretended to be while enjoying expensive snowboarding jaunts in the nearby resort in Whitefish) got 18 months in prison for making Facebook threats against unnamed police officers. In the Oregon case, the offender, Timothy Loren McCoy Fleming, didn’t possess a real, working gun; he had an inoperable pellet gun. In contrast, Lenio had fetched a working semi-automatic pistol and a working semi-automatic rifle along with a busted bolt-action rifle and spare ammunition clips after making his threats specifically against a Kalispell grade school as well as threats to put “two in the head” of a rabbi, in a Montana valley where only two rabbis reside.

Meanwhile, here’s a Investigation Discovery channel finder. Don’t miss “Hate in America: A Town on Fire” tonight, March 24, at 8ET / 7CT.

Russian Social Conservatism, the U.S.-based WCF, & the Global Culture Wars in Historical Context

 

Click here a printable PDF.

Click here a printable PDF.

A Right-Wing International?

This article appears in the Winter 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

As the poll observer listened sympathetically, the rural priest diagnosed the root of Russia’s social problems in “the decay of all the old supports: religion, family, morality, the traditional way of life.”1 An election of representatives to the Russian State Duma was underway, and the man the bearded priest was talking to—Professor Sergei Bulgakov, an Orthodox Christian intellectual and future theologian—was observing the vote in Crimea. While the priest’s lament sounds like a textbook complaint of contemporary social conservatives, the year was 1912.

Russian Students Day in Saint-Petersburg, 2014. Photo by Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy via Flickr.

Russian Students Day in Saint-Petersburg, 2014. Photo by Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy via Flickr.

Social conservatives have been focusing on the family for a long time, and Russians have frequently been at the forefront of the fight for “traditional” values. In more recent times, Russian conservatives were central to the founding and operations of the World Congress of Families (WCF), a Christian-dominated inter-confessional coalition of right-wing activists from around the world dedicated to defending what they call “the natural family,” that is, a nuclear family consisting of a married man and woman and their children. When the coalition met for its ninth global conference this October in Salt Lake City, Utah, several Russian activists numbered among the speakers, including Alexey Komov.

Komov is WCF’s Regional Representative for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States; the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society’s representative to the United Nations; and a member of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarchal Commission on the Family and the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood. He was in Utah to speak about “The Family in Europe—Past, Present, Future,”2 and during his presentation, he touted Russia’s leading role in the global “pro-family” movement today, emphasizing that the nation’s Communist past has given Russia and other Eastern European countries a taste of the dangers supposedly inherent in secularism, which “more naïve” Westerners might miss. As a result, he maintained, “Eastern Europe can really help our brothers in the West” to resist the “new totalitarianism” associated with “political correctness” and the sexual revolution.3

In addition, Fr. Maxim Obukhov, the director of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of Family and Life, attended and received the 2015 Pro-Life Award for his longtime involvement in prominent Russian organizations that oppose abortion and promote the “natural family.”4

WCF IX represents an opportunity to consider the outsized role contemporary Russia plays in the global culture wars, with particular attention to two related questions. The first is whether Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent chill in U.S.-Russian relations represents any kind of turning point for the collaborative efforts between Russian and U.S. social conservatives, and particularly the impact of the removal of WCF’s official imprimatur from what would have been WCF VIII in Moscow, but instead became billed as an international forum called “Large Families: The Future of Humanity.” The second and more interesting question regarding the relationship between the U.S. and Russia with respect to the global culture wars was posed two years ago by Political Research Associates’ Cole Parke: “When it comes to the culture wars, who’s exporting and who’s importing?”5 As Komov’s words suggest, contemporary Russian conservatives certainly don’t see themselves as solely on the receiving end of this international movement.

It’s a mistake to think of U.S. and Russian social conservatives as having a one-way relationship, or to imagine Russian conservatism as confined to Russia itself.

Very important work has been done on the efforts of American social conservatives to export far right ideology in connection, for example, with Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill.6 It is also the case that U.S. social conservatives helped lay the foundations for resurgent social conservatism in post-Communist Eastern Europe and Russia. Russian Orthodox Christian journalist and commentator Xenia Loutchenko, who has researched some aspects of Russian-American collaborative culture warring efforts,7 assesses American influence in the early post-Soviet days as particularly important with respect to building the Russian anti-abortion movement (for which Fr. Maxim Obukhov was honored at WCF IX).

Nevertheless, as Loutchenko and I also discussed in an interview conducted in Moscow in May 2015,8 it would be a mistake to think of the relationship between U.S. and Russian social conservatives as something of one-way influence, or to look at Russian social conservatism as essentially confined to Russia itself.9 Seriously considering Russia’s influence on international social conservatism, both historically and in our own time, presents new ways of thinking about the global culture wars—as well as important insights for how progressive activists might strategically resist the international Right’s global encroachment on human rights.

Russian Religious Conservatism in Historical Context

It’s no coincidence that the idea to found WCF was hatched in Russia in 1995, as the result of discussions between Allan Carlson, then president of the Rockford, Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, and Anatoly Antonov and Viktor Medkov, two professors of sociology at Lomonosov Moscow State University.10 Nor is it coincidental that Carlson was heavily inspired in the first place by the Russian-born conservative sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, longtime head of the Sociology Department at Harvard, where Sorokin worked from 1930-1959.11 Throughout his years in the West, Sorokin consistently exhibited concern about the ostensible crisis of Western culture, which he linked to the “collapse of the family” in books such as his 1947 Society, Culture, and Personality: Their Structure and Dynamics, a System of General Sociology and his 1956 The American Sex Revolution.

Sorokin’s work represented a continuation of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European attempts to defend a role for the realization of spiritual values—in some cases explicitly for Christianity—in society and governance. This discourse was developed, with substantial Russian participation and influence, in response to revolution, secularization, and what I have described elsewhere as the “perceived cultural threat of nihilism.”12

Guiding this fear was the idea that, absent absolute values grounded in unchanging religious truth, human morality will decay and society will descend into chaos. Sexual “permissiveness” is of particular concern, because it supposedly indicates a reversion to an animalistic nature that only higher values are capable of countering. As the fin-de-siècle Russian Christian philosopher and apologist Prince Evgeny Nikolaevich Trubetskoi put it, “Faith in the ideal is that which makes man human.”13 Similar sentiments, including in the writings of Trubetskoi and Bulgakov, were often tied to the concern that in a society without prevailing spiritual values, the state will be elevated to the status of a god, an idol that would encroach utterly on human freedom. As the fictional revolutionary conspirator Shigalev put it in Dostoevsky’s 1872 novel Demons, “Beginning with absolute freedom I conclude with absolute despotism. And I would add that apart from my solution to the social question, there can be no other.”

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow. Photo by Marco Fieber via Flickr.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow. Photo by Marco Fieber via Flickr.

Christian critics of 20th-century totalitarianism advocated the realization of religious values in society and statecraft on precisely these grounds, arguing that godlessness would inevitably lead to tyranny by making the state into an idol. T. S. Eliot, for example, argued in a 1939 series of lectures that a critical secular liberalism was inherently unstable—it would have to be replaced by something with substantive content, and if that something were not religion, then it would be the “pagan” fascism of Germany or Italy, or the Communism of the Soviet Union.14 While Eliot referred to the French Neo-Thomist theologian and personalist philosopher Jacques Maritain as an influence, we know that Maritain was heavily involved in dialogue with Russian exiles in Paris,15 not least the Christian existentialist Nikolai Berdyaev, who had made a very similar argument to Eliot’s in his 1924 The New Middle Ages (translated into English in 1933 with the title The End of Our Time). Berdyaev would exert considerable influence on American understandings of Russian history and on religious anti-Communism.16 Meanwhile, the refrain about the state becoming an idol has become a staple of conservative defenses of “religious freedom.” As Tucker Carlson put it in April 2015, in defense of the supposed right of businesses not to hire atheists, “If there’s no God, then the highest authority is government.”17

But to return to Berdyaev and his relationship to the contemporary Russian Right, it is important to note that he was not only an advocate of a religious society, but also of a kind of Russian national messianism. That is, he (along with Bulgakov and others) believed in a particular Providential calling for Russia, and, while opposing the Bolsheviks, they looked forward to a future in which a spiritually renewed Russia would have an important role to play in reviving the Christian roots of European civilization.18 The key point here, even more than any specific understanding of family relations, is the idea of a special role for Russia in the world’s moral progress—an idea that, despite the intellectual contortions that thinkers like Berdyaev and Bulgakov went through in attempts to avoid charges of chauvinism and nationalism, all too easily play into a sense of Russian exceptionalism: a sense that Russia represents a morally superior civilization.

With or without claiming inherent moral superiority, in any case, there is a clear claim here that Russia has a spiritual mission to enlighten other nations. Historically, this claim is rooted in Slavophilism, a nineteenth-century Russian form of nationalist thinking that asserted that Russia had a special path of development and represented a more holistic, harmonious, moral civilization than that of the Latin West. Instead of the West’s calculation, capitalism, individual rights, contracts, and “rationalism,” Russia had “sobornost.” A nearly untranslatable term, sobornost was invoked by Aleksey Khomyakov and other Slavophiles to mean a kind of collective social harmony in which individuals realize themselves organically as a part of the community, a concept that was meant to contrast with the individualism that supposedly characterized the West.

The collapse of the Soviet Union brought with it an upsurge in interest in Russian religious and émigré thought, already known to Soviet dissidents in samizdat (the underground reproduction of censored publications across the Communist bloc). In the 1990s, there was a widespread sense that perhaps these thinkers had preserved a more authentic form of Russian thinking and culture. Russian nationalism was on the rise—its official suppression had been a source of tension in the USSR—and some Russians gravitated to the messianic conceptions of intellectuals like Bulgakov and Berdyaev, or the much more radically conservative monarchist Ivan Ilyin, for ways to conceptualize Russian greatness. And that greatness could not be conceptualized apart from a mission that was larger than Russia itself.

Along with post-Communist concerns about a “demographic winter”—the idea that the West is suffering a “birth dearth” of too few babies as a result of secular values and the embrace of progressive sexual mores19—the Russian discourse of moral mission and the superiority of Christian values to those of the “decadent” West has played a key role in the resurgence of social conservatism in post-Soviet Russian society. It should be noted that this discourse is essentially imperial; Russian concerns about public morality have never been only about Russia, but have always been bound up with considerations of the role that Russia should play in the wider world. One of the most influential exponents of this exceptionalist discourse today is the neo-Eurasianist Alexander Dugin.20

Perhaps feeling betrayed by the middle class his policies had helped create, Putin took a populist, nationalist turn, identifying himself more closely with the Orthodox Church and expecting its absolute loyalty in return.

These days, these sensibilities get a boost from Russian political leaders as well. Not only has Dugin had Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s ear,21 but Putin also sent the leadership of the currently-ruling United Russia Party books by the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian religious philosophers Vladimir Solovyov, Berdyaev, and Ilyin as New Year’s presents in 2014. These three intellectuals had varying approaches to theology and politics—the Christian socialist Berdyaev and the monarchist Ilyin hated each other—but all of them advocated the integration of religious values in society and governance.22 In his third term in office, Putin has worked very closely with the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, and Russian plutocrats to promote social conservatism at home and abroad. The latter include figures such as “God’s oligarch,” Konstantin Malofeev,23 the successful founder of Marshall Capital Partners who is known for investing his fortune into Orthodox Christian and social conservative initiatives, such as the Russian Society of Philanthropists for the Protection of Mothers and Children, the Safe Internet League, and the YouTube channel “Tsargrad TV,” which Loutchenko has described as an attempt to build a Russian FOX News.24 It also included former Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin. (Yakunin is on the U.S. sanctions list for his closeness to President Putin, while Malofeev has been sanctioned by the European Union in response to accusations from the Ukrainian government that he was financing the rebels in Donbas.) This elite backing lends considerable oomph to Russian social conservatives’ international efforts, making it all the more important for advocates of human rights to be aware of them.

Russia’s Hard Right Turn

Since the end of 2011, when tens of thousands of Russians participated in mass protests against election fraud, Russian social conservatism’s star has risen within Russian circles of power. The late-2011 protests continued into 2012, ahead of the election of Putin to a third term as president. Perhaps feeling betrayed by the middle class his policies had helped create, representatives of whom made up the bulk of the protesters, Putin took a populist, nationalist turn, identifying himself more closely with the Orthodox Church and expecting its absolute loyalty in return. This became abundantly clear that February, when members of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot famously demonstrated in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, performing their “Punk Prayer” to condemn Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, for backing Putin’s candidacy. (Three members of the collective were sentenced to two years in penal colonies for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”—one was freed on probation—with the vocal support of some U.S. conservatives like Concerned Women for America’s Janice Shaw Crouse.25 Two would emerge to international celebrity.)

"Enough is enough - Open your mouth!" demonstration against homophobia in Russia. Photo by Marco Fieber via Flicker.

“Enough is enough – Open your mouth!” demonstration against homophobia in Russia. Photo by Marco Fieber via Flicker.

The “Punk Prayer” performance led to new legislation, enacted in June 2013, that made it a crime to insult religious believers’ feelings. But the law was just one expression of what Russian political commentator Alexander Morozov has called a “conservative revolution,” marked by populist rhetoric scapegoating political opponents and the LGBTQ community, which began with Putin’s third term.26 There was also the Dima Yakovlev Law, Russia’s ban on the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens, which passed the Russian State Duma and Federation Council in late December 2012 and took effect on January 1, 2013. The Russian president’s children’s rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, pushed hard for this law, promoting it not only on the grounds of individual cases of abuse and neglect involving Russian children adopted by Americans, but also on the basis of opposition to potential adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples.27 While this law could hardly have been well-liked by many American social conservatives—Russia was a popular country for American evangelicals seeking to adopt foreign children—National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown actually joined a delegation of French members of the National Front in Moscow, where he encouraged the passage of the law because it would keep Russian children from going to countries that allow same-sex couples to adopt.28

June 2013 then saw the passage of Russia’s federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values,” popularly known as the “anti-gay propaganda law,” which bars vaguely defined “propaganda” of “non-traditional” sexual relations to minors, effectively making it illegal to provide LGBTQ teenagers with life-saving information.29 Members of the United Russia Party quickly fell in line with the changes originating at the top, and so opposition to such moves was eliminated from the political center amid increasing rhetoric about ‘national traitors’ and ‘fifth columnists.’ In Morozov’s view, the Russian political center is now “full of supporters of global ‘conservative revolution.’”30

Meanwhile, direct Russian government collaboration with the Orthodox Church has proceeded apace in matters of both domestic and foreign policy. Pavel Astakhov’s position on “children’s rights” is actually an essentially radical doctrine of state non-interference in family matters—that is, despite staggeringly high rates of domestic abuse in Russia, he is opposed to any legal enshrining of the term “domestic abuse” on the grounds that it is an affront to the sacrality of the (“natural”) family and paves the way for undue state interference in parents disciplining their children. In this respect, Astakhov’s official pronouncements parrot the ideas of the far right Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, head of the ROC’s Commission on Family Matters and the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood, who frequently has Astakhov’s ear.31

WCF moscow russia logoAs Sergei Chapnin  has astutely observed, the ROC has coordinated with government propagandists to promote patriotism and traditional values. Chapnin writes, “Beyond liturgy and piety, other traditions were revived: respect for the family, opposition to abortion,32 the banning of homosexual practice and propaganda. These measures are seen as asserting traditional Russian mores in opposition to the decadence of the West.”33

But Russian conservatism isn’t just defensive. As Chapnin explains, there’s an imperial element as well:

The Church has taken on a complex ideological significance over the last decade, not least because of the rise of the concept of Russkiy Mir, or “Russian World.” This way of speaking presumes a fraternal coexistence of the Slavic peoples—Russian, Ukrainian, Belarussian—in a single “Orthodox Civilization.” It is a powerful archetype. It is an image of unity that appeals to Russians, because it gives them a sense of a larger destiny and supports the imperial vision that increasingly characterizes Russian politics.

This imperial ethos was certainly on display in what would have been WCF’s eighth annual meeting in 2014, when the World Congress of Families had planned to head back to its birthplace in Russia. Those plans, however, took a different turn.

Global Social Conservatism in Putin’s Third Term – A Right-Wing International?

Prior to the annexation of Crimea, Putin had received a substantial amount of praise from representatives of the U.S. Religious Right, even if some mistrusted his KGB past. President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Franklin Graham, for example, could not resist praising Putin for the passage of Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law, declaring that Russia was acting more morally on this issue than the United States, despite his reservations about Putin’s Soviet background.34 American Christian culture warriors also sometimes took credit for Russia’s conservative legislative onslaught. For example, Scott Lively, a Christian Right author and activist who is currently being sued for crimes against humanity for his involvement with the Uganda “kill the gays” bill and who has traveled to Russia and Eastern Europe on more than one occasion, claiming credit for the passage of the anti-gay “propaganda” law.35

Despite examples of claims to have exported their initiatives to Russia, however, U.S. social conservatives also frequently recognized Russia’s agency and leadership in global social conservatism. WCF Managing Director Larry Jacobs minced no words when he reiterated the Russian messianic trope described above, declaring on End Times Radio in June 2013, “The Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world.”36 Likewise, it was not an affect, or mere diplomacy, when American anti-LGBTQ crusader Paul Cameron proclaimed to the Russian State Duma that he had come “to thank the Russian people, the State Duma, and President Putin… in the name of the entire Christian world” for Russia’s active legal repression of LGBTQ rights.37

A few months after Cameron’s visit to Russia, however, it became more complicated for Russian and U.S. social conservatives to unite, making it momentarily possible to hope that international tensions might hamper the effectiveness of the global culture wars. In our interview in May 2015, Loutchenko and I speculated that 2014 might have represented a turning point in this regard. Although subsequent events have shown that many American social conservatives are more than willing to work with Russia, when Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the world at large reacted with alarm, and the conservative “pro-family” world became divided. WCF had planned to go back to Russia that coming September for its eighth conference, but Putin’s brand had now become toxic to enough conservatives to make this difficult, even apart from any fear of the possible violation of U.S. sanctions against Russia. WCF withdrew its official sponsorship from the event, releasing a statement explaining that their withdrawal was made necessary by practical considerations, but which also went out of its way to praise Russian churches and individuals for their “leadership role in the fight to preserve life, marriage, and the natural family at home and as part of the international pro-family movement.” It added, “The World Congress of Families takes no position on foreign affairs, except as they affect the natural family.”38 Other social conservative groups were not so sympathetic. Concerned Women for America pulled out of the event altogether, with its CEO and president Penny Nance declaring that her organization did not “want to appear to be giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin.”39 (Subsequently, articles in the conservative journals First Things40 and American Conservative41 have warned against the religious nationalism of Putin’s “Corrupted Orthodoxy” or “Orthodox Terrorism.”)

WCF Managing Director Larry Jacobs minced no words when he reiterated the Russian messianic trope, declaring, “The Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world.”

It wasn’t that CWA or other social conservatives who turned against Russia now objected to Russia’s hard anti-LGBTQ line, of course. It was that the annexation of territory in violation of international law revived Cold War era right-wing perceptions of Russia as a threatening state that is not to be trusted. (In this regard, it should not be forgotten that American Christians have missionary ties to Ukraine, which is also a popular country for U.S. adoptions.) Nevertheless, the American leaders of WCF stuck by their Russian partners. The meeting went forward, but not as an official WCF conference. Instead, the conference was titled “Large Families: The Future of Humanity.” U.S. WCF leaders remained intimately involved, with Communications Director Don Feder and Managing Director Jacobs on the organizing committee.42 The event depended for its financing primarily on Russian oligarchs Yakunin and Malofeev.

Larry Jacobs at a WCF presentation, 2012. Photo by HazteOir.org via Flickr.

Larry Jacobs at a WCF presentation, 2012. Photo by HazteOir.org via Flickr.

Meanwhile, the lack of international approval for the renamed WCF VIII most likely emboldened Russian social conservatives in their claim to global leadership in the fight against abortion and LGBTQ rights—a claim that WCF’s American leaders and their fellow conservative comrades, apparently untroubled by Russia’s increasing anti-Westernism, had already recognized. For example, some Russian speakers highlighted the changed circumstances of the conference as proof that Russia was a global leader in tackling problems other countries wouldn’t face. As one of the first speakers, Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina, who authored the anti-gay “propaganda law,” proudly announced, an event like this one, which took place in the Kremlin and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (where the Pussy Riot protest took place), most likely could not take place in Europe or the U.S. in their current climates.

Last year’s WCF in Salt Lake City may belie Mizulina’s statement to some extent—WCF IX demonstrated a clear attempt to tone down Hard Right rhetoric43—but her claim matters. To Russian and U.S. social conservatives, a key takeaway from the forum was the impression that, while Russia is very happy to be working with foreigners in the fight for the so-called “natural family,” it is Russia that is at the helm. WCF’s Larry Jacobs admitted as much when he stated at the event, “I think Russia is the hope for the world right now.” Invoking Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Jacobs went on to explain that since Russia had defeated Marxism, it could help the West defeat “cultural Marxism” today—a nearly identical claim as that which Alexey Komov made this past fall at WCF’s meeting in Salt Lake City.44

And Russia is clearly pushing forward with this agenda on the international stage, with Komov in a leadership role. Take, for example, Russia’s role in securing the passage of a UN Human Rights Council resolution on “Protection of the Family,” which defined the family “as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children.”45 This resolution, sponsored in part by Russia—whose influence at the UN is bolstered by its permanent seat and veto on the UN Security Council—was clearly understood, by both supporters and opponents, as an attack on individual rights and a win for supporters of the “natural family”46 (which implicitly excludes families headed by same-sex couples). Komov has bragged of his part in delegations to the UN, which included Russian political leaders Mizulina and Astakhov, in which they pursued similar goals.47

Meanwhile, when I spoke with Russian commentator and researcher Xenia Loutchenko in May, she highlighted Russia’s success in attracting members of the European Right, mentioning that the French National Front recently took millions of dollars in loans from a Russian bank, in what many saw as a reward for the National Front’s support for the annexation.48 She also described Yakunin’s World Public Forum, which hosts an annual “Dialogue of Civilizations” in Greece, as a “right-wing international.” The phrasing might be hyperbolic, with its invocation of the Soviet-dominated Comintern, or Communist International, which was dedicated to spreading Communism around the world from the 1920s-40s. Nevertheless, drawing a comparison between the Comintern and the contemporary global culture wars, in which Russia is playing a leading role that is far from entirely derivative, makes a valid point. We will not be able to grasp Russia’s role in the global culture wars if we persist in treating Russia as essentially a recipient of America’s exported culture wars, and not an independent actor, and even exporter, in its own right.

The recent Cold War past makes it difficult for some, on both the Left and the Right, to imagine contemporary Russia as a conservative state vying for the role of international leader in global right-wing politics. Retired NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen’s recent writings, for example, have desperately tried to salvage a vision of post-Soviet Russia as somehow left-wing. While Cohen is not wrong to perceive continuity between Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, it is important to note that the relevant ideological continuity extends further back, with its origins lying in the messianic discourse of moral superiority associated with twentieth- and twenty-first century Russian intellectuals and, before them, with Russian Slavophilism, which intellectual historian Andrzej Walicki once described, quite accurately, as “a conservative utopia.”49 During the Soviet Union’s seven decades of existence, the conservative version of this Russian messianism persisted in the Russian diaspora and among Soviet dissidents such as Solzhenitsyn. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, projected its own purported moral superiority as the ostensible vanguard of socialism, a system understood as far more just than Western capitalism. Just as the official Soviet, left-wing version of this ideology of moral superiority attracted its share of fellow travelers, so has, and does, the now resurgent right-wing brand.

After Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, U.S. paleo-conservative Pat Buchanan suggested that God is on Russia’s side now.

This right-wing iteration of moral exceptionalism entails a belief that Russia was given a Providential calling to revive the Christian roots of European, or more broadly Western, civilization. Despite (or perhaps because of) the sense of moral superiority of Russian civilization, it has proven irresistible to certain Western Russophiles—whether late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British religious conservatives, or, fast forwarding to the present, American “paleo-conservative” Pat Buchanan.50 Notably, it was after Putin annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, that Buchanan strongly suggested that God is on Russia’s side now.51 Like Buchanan, the American leadership in WCF seems prepared to see Russia as doing the Lord’s work, and therefore to go on working closely with Russian social conservatives despite tense international relations and concerns about Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis.52 What’s more, Franklin Graham has lost all compunction about praising Putin, and, after a recent visit to Moscow during which he met with Patriarch Kirill, seems to be entirely on board with the idea that Russia is “protecting traditional Christianity.” In turn, Patriarch Kirill has declared American Protestants and Catholics who defend the “natural family” to be “confessors of the faith.” Such propagandistic statements, meant to impact U.S. public opinion, might be construed as Russia exporting its culture wars to us, as leaders of the “godless” West.53 In this regard, it is also worth noting that the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate is expanding its presence in Paris, with plans for the construction of a new cathedral that will include a cultural center, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.54 It is also important, of course, that Russia is exporting its culture wars in what the Russian state considers its more immediate sphere of influence, with Astakhov turning up at regional WCF conferences in countries such as Georgia, and а Russian-model anti-LGBTQ “propaganda” initiative, withdrawn at least for the present, having been recently considered in Kyrgyzstan’s parliament55

The events of 2014 may have tempered enthusiasm for Russia among some on the U.S. Right, but for many of those dedicated to the pursuit of an anti-human rights, “pro-family” agenda at home and abroad, partnership with Russian social conservatives will continue. If we wish to understand the effect of such partnerships, however, we must stop looking at Russian social conservatism as a kind of American import. We should take steps not to underestimate the global significance of Russian culture warring in its own right. While there is a complex transnational intellectual history at play here, Russian actors are more than capable of damaging LGBTQ and women’s rights all on their own, independent of U.S. actors. If we consider Russian involvement in WCF as entirely derivative of U.S. leadership, we may well miss the full import of the new Russia-led “right-wing international,” which would hamper the ability of human rights advocates to counter its influence.


Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Scott Lively is “on trial” for crimes against humanity. The legal proceedings against Mr. Lively have not yet reached the trial stage.


About the Author

Christopher Stroop (@C_Stroop) earned a Ph.D. in Russian history and Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from Stanford University. Currently a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the History Department at the University of South Florida, Christopher is also a senior research fellow in the School of Public Policy at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow and editor of the academic journal State, Religion and Church.


Endnotes

1 Sergei Bulgakov, “Na vyborakh. Iz dnevnika” [Observing the Elections: From my Journal], Russkaia mysl’ [Russian Thought] 33:11 (1912), 185-92, esp. 189.

2 World Congress of Families IX, “The Family in Europe – Alexey Komov, Maria Hildingsson, Laszlo Marki, Dr. J. Szymcsak,” YouTube Video, 1:01:35, November 13, 2015, https://youtu.be/a9Rpyl2NofI.

3 I thank PRA researcher Cole Parke for providing me with a recording of Komov’s presentation, which he gave on October 27, 2015 to an apparently highly receptive audience (judging by the laughter, comments, and applause audible in the recording).

4 Benjamin May, “World Congress of Families IX Announces Four Recipients Who Will Receive Awards in Salt Lake City on October 27,” Christian Newswire, October 20, 2015, http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/7575776890.html.

5 Cole Parke, “U.S. Conservatives and Russian Anti-Gay Laws – The WCF.” Eyes Right Blog, October 17, 2013, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/10/17/u-s-conservatives-and-russian-anti-gay-laws-the-wcf/.

6 Rev. Kapya Kaoma, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia,” Political Research Associates: 2009, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2009/12/01/globalizing-the-culture-wars-u-s-conservatives-african-churches-homophobia/.

7 For example, see Xenia Loutchenko, “Vera ili ideologiia? ‘Tsargrad-TV’, Radio ‘Vera,’ i Novye Dukhovnye Skrepy” (Faith or Ideology? Tsargrad-TV, Radio ‘Faith,’ and New Spiritual Supports), Colta, September 22, 2014, http://m.colta.ru/articles/media/4720.

8 My abridged translation of our interview has been published in a new independent U.S.-based journal of Orthodox Christian thought. “Religion and Politics in Russia: An Insider’s View. Xenia Loutchenko Interviewed by Christopher Stroop,” The Wheel 1:3 (2015), 30-35, Available online: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/54d0df1ee4b036ef1e44b144/t/564281e0e4b0a83ded1ed25e/1447199200469/Loutchenko.pdf.

9 Ibid.

10 Hannah Levintova, “How US Evangelicals Helped Create Russia’s Anti-Gay Movement,” Mother Jones, February 21, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/02/world-congress-families-russia-gay-rights.

11Cole Parke, “U.S. Conservatives and Russian Anti-Gay Laws – The WCF.” Eyes Right Blog, October 17, 2013, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/10/17/u-s-conservatives-and-russian-anti-gay-laws-the-wcf/.

12 Christopher Stroop, “Nationalist War Commentary as Russia’s Religious Thought: The Religious Intelligentsia’s Politics of Providentialism.” Russian Review 72:1 (2013), 94-115, esp. 100-01.

13 E. N. Trubetskoi, “Vozvrashchenie k filosofii” (The Return to Philosophy) in Filosofskii sbornik L’vu Mikhailovichu Lopatinu k tridtsatiletiiu nauchno-pedagogicheskoi deiatel’nosti. Ot Moskovskago Psikhologicheskogo Obshchestva. 1881-1911.) (Philosophical Festschrift in Honor of Lev Mikhailovich Lopatin’s Thirty Years of Scientific-Pedagogical Work [1881-1911], from the Moscow Psychological Society). (Moscow: Kushnerev, 1912), 1-9, esp. 9.

14 T. S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1940.

15 Catherine Baird, “Religious Communism? Nicolai Berdyaev’s Contribution to Esprit’s “Interpretation of Communism,” Canadian Journal of History 30:1 (1995), 29-47.

16 Christopher Stroop, “The Russian Origins of the So-Called Post-Secular Moment: Some Preliminary Observations,” State, Religion and Church 1:1 (2014), 59-82, https://www.academia.edu/5949640/The_Russian_Origins_of_the_So-Called_Post-Secular_Moment_Some_Preliminary_Observations.

17 Scott Kaufman, “Fox Guest: Keep Discrimination Legal Because Bible Tells Businesses Not to Hire Atheists,” Alternet, April 7, 2015. http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/fox-guest-keep-discrimination-legal-because-bible-tells-businesses-not-hire.

18 Christopher Stroop, “The Russian Origins of the So-Called Post-Secular Moment: Some Preliminary Observations,” State, Religion and Church 1:1 (2014), 59-82, https://www.academia.edu/5949640/The_Russian_Origins_of_the_So-Called_Post-Secular_Moment_Some_Preliminary_Observations.

19 Kathryn Joyce, “Missing: The ‘Right’ Babies,” The Nation, February 14, 2008, http://www.thenation.com/article/missing-right-babies/.

20 Although it is a little too essentializing in its treatment of Russian national character, on Russian exceptionalism, including brief comments on Dugin, see Paul Coyer, “(Un)Holy Alliance: Vladimir Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Exceptionalism,” Forbes, May 21, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulcoyer/2015/05/21/unholy-alliance-vladimir-putin-and-the-russian-orthodox-church/.

21 Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn, “Putin’s Brain: Alexander Dugin and the Philosophy Behind Putin’s Invasion of Crimea. Foreign Affairs, March 31, 2014, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russia-fsu/2014-03-31/putins-brain.

22 Paul Goble, “Window on Eurasia: The Kremlin’s Disturbing Reading List for Russia’s Political Elite,” Window on Eurasia—New Series, January 24, 2104, http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.ru/2014/01/window-on-eurasia-kremlins-disturbing.html.

23 Joshua Keating, “God’s Oligarch,” Slate, October 20, 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/10/konstantin_malofeev
_one_of_vladimir_putin_s_favorite_businessmen_wants_to.html
.

24  Xenia Loutchenko, “Vera ili ideologiia? ‘Tsargrad-TV’, Radio ‘Vera,’ i Novye Dukhovnye Skrepy” (Faith or Ideology? Tsargrad-TV, Radio ‘Faith,’ and New Spiritual Supports), Colta, September 22, 2014, http://m.colta.ru/articles/media/4720.

25 Miranda Blue, “Pussy Riot’s American Detractors,” Right Wing Watch, February 18, 2014,  http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/pussy-riots-american-detractors.

26 Alexander Morozov, “Konservativnaia revoliutsiia: smysl Kryma” [A Conservative Revolution: The Meaning of Crimea], Colta, March 17, 2014, http://www.colta.ru/articles/society/2477.

27 Brody Levesque, “Russian children’s rights commissioner: only Italy can adopt Russian children,” LGBTQ Nation, December 3, 2013, http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2013/12/russian-childrens-rights-commissioner-only-italy-can-adopt-russian-children/.

28 See Miranda Blue, “Globalizing Homophobia, Part 2: ‘Today the Whole World is Looking at Russia,’” Right Wing Watch, October 3, 2013. http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/globalizing-homophobia-part-2-today-whole-world-looking-russia.

29 “Federal Law of the Russian Federation of July 29, 2013, No. 135-F3, Moscow. Amending Article 5 of the Federal Law ‘On the Defense of Children from Information Harmful for their Health and Development,’ and other legislative acts of the Russian Federation with the goal of protecting children from propaganda rejecting traditional family values.”: http://www.rg.ru/2013/06/30/deti-site-dok.html

30 Alexander Morozov, “Konservativnaia revoliutsiia: smysl Kryma” [A Conservative Revolution: The Meaning of Crimea], Colta, March 17, 2014. http://www.colta.ru/articles/society/2477.

31 Jennifer Monaghan, “Russian Orthodox Priest: Parental Violence Campaigns are Anti-Family,” The Moscow Times, March 24, 2015. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/russian-orthodox-priest-parental-violence-campaigns-are-anti-family/517976.html. Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, “Vystuplenie protoiereia Dimitriia Smirnova na Obshchesetvennom sovete P. Astakhova” (Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov’s Presentation at the Community Forum of [the Ombudsman of the Office of the President of the Russian Federation for Children’s Rights] P. Astakhov). April 5, 2014.  http://www.dimitrysmirnov.ru/blog/cerkov-56880/.

32 With respect to abortion, as of November 21, 2011, according to Federal Law 323-F3, Russia banned abortions after 12 weeks except in the case of rape (up to 22 weeks) or medical necessity (at any time). Orthodox Christian leaders and their allies in the Duma continue to push for more severe restrictions, such as required ultrasounds.

33 Sergei Chapnin, “A Church of Empire: Why the Russian Church Chose to Bless Empire,” First Things, November 2015, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/11/a-church-of-empire. Chapnin served as managing editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, an official organ of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, from 2009 until December 16, 2015. Chapnin’s moderate, highly informed and frank assessments of Russian church life are impressive, and his presence in the patriarchate was a rare bright spot among its prominent predominantly far-right voices. On December 18, social media associated with the Russian intelligentsia and Orthodox Church exploded with the news that Chapnin had been fired from the patriarchate for his critical views of the church’s prevailing ideology and relationship to the Russian state, particularly for remarks he made in a talk given at the Carnegie Moscow Center on December 9. The media have now confirmed the firing. See, for example, “Moscow Patriarchate Fires Sergey Chapnin, Editor of its Journal.” AsiaNews.it, Dec. 19, 2015. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Moscow-Patriarchate-fires-Sergey-Chapnin,-editor-of-its-journal-36205.html.

34 Franklin Graham, “Putin’s Olympic Controversy,” Decision Magazine, February 28, 2014, http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/march-2014/putins-olympic-controversy/.

35 Hannah Levintova, “How US Evangelicals Helped Create Russia’s Anti-Gay Movement,” Mother Jones, February 21, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/02/world-congress-families-russia-gay-rights. Meredith Bennett-Smith, “Scott Lively, American Pastor, Takes Credit for Inspiring Russian Anti-Gay Laws,” Huffington Post, September 9, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/scott-lively-russian-anti-gay-laws_n_3952053.html.

36 Quoted in Jay Michaelson, “The ‘Natural Family’: The Latest Weapon in the Christian Right’s New Global War on Gays,” The Daily Beast, June 14, 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/14/the-natural-family-the-latest-weapon-in-the-christian-right-s-new-global-war-on-gays.html.

37 Christopher Stroop, “Russian Parliament Hosts U.S. Anti-Gay Activist Paul Cameron,” Religion Dispatches, December 12, 2013. http://religiondispatches.org/russian-parliament-hosts-u-s-anti-gay-activist-paul-cameron/.

38 World Congress of Families, “Planning for World Congress of Families VIII Suspended,” n.d., http://worldcongress.org/press-releases/planning-world-congress-families-viii-suspended.

39 Evan Hurst, “Russian ‘Pro-Family’ Conference Exposing Internal Dissension Among American Religious Right Leaders?” Two Care Center Against Religious Extremism, September 10, 2014, http://www.twocare.org/russian-pro-family-conference-exposing-internal-dissension-among-american-religious-right-leaders/.

40 Mykhailo Cherenkov, “Orthodox Terrorism,” First Things, May 2015, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/05/orthodox-terrorism.

41 Philip Jenkins, “Putin’s Corrupted Orthodoxy,” The American Conservative, March 24, 2015, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/putins-corrupted-orthodoxy/.

42 Hannah Levintova, “Did Anti-Gay Evangelicals Skirt US Sanctions on Russia?” Mother Jones, September 8, 2014, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/world-congress-families-russia-conference-sanctions.

43 Peter Montgomery, “World Congress of Families in Denial over Promoting Homophobia Globally,” Right Wing Watch, October 21, 2015, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/world-congress-families-denial-over-promoting-homophobia-globally.

44 “Final Plenary Session,” International Forum “Large Family [sic.] and the Future of Humanity,” http://www.familyforum2014.org/#!final-plenary-session/c1umu.

45 “Resolutions and Voting Results of 29th HRC Session,” UN Watch, July 2, 2015, http://www.unwatch.org/resolutions-and-voting-results-of-29th-hrc-session/.

46 Jay Michaelson, “At the United Nations, it’s Human Rights, Putin Style,” The Daily Beast, June 26, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/26/at-the-united-nations-it-s-human-rights-putin-style.html. Rebecca Oas, “Big Win for Traditional Family at UN Human Rights Council,” C-Fam, July 9, 2015, https://c-fam.org/friday_fax/big-win-for-traditional-family-at-un-human-rights-council/.

47 “Plod very. Posol vsemirnogo kongressa semei v OON Alexey Komov. Chast’ 2” (The Fruits of Faith. The Ambassador of the World Congress of Families to the UN, Alexey Komov. Part 2), http://tv-soyuz.ru/peredachi/plod-very-posol-vsemirnogo-kongressa-semey-v-oon-aleksey-komov-chast-2.

48 On the National Front’s relationship to Russia see Anne-Claude Martin, “National Fronts Russian Loans Cause Uproar in European Parliament,” EurActiv.com, December 5, 2014, http://www.euractiv.com/sections/europes-east/national-fronts-russian-loans-cause-uproar-european-parliament-310599. Also relevant: Sam Ball, “Sarkozy to Meet Putin as French Right Looks to Russia,” France 24, October 29, 2015, http://www.france24.com/en/20151028-sarkozy-meet-putin-french-right-looks-russia-syria-hollande-assad.

49 Andrzej Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: History of a Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth-Century Russian Thought, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989.

50 Michael Hughes, “The English Slavophile: J. W. Birkbeck and Russia,” The Slavonic and East European Review, 82:3 (2004), 680-706.

51 Patrick J. Buchanan, “Whose Side is God on Now?” April 4, 2014. http://buchanan.org/blog/whose-side-god-now-6337.

52 For more evidence of this, note the effusive praise lavished on Russian actors by WCF IX Executive Director Janice Shaw Crouse: Fr. Mark Hodges, “Janice Shaw Crouse: Homosexual Activists Peddling ‘Falsehoods’ about World Congress of Families,” Life Site, September 29, 2015, https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/janice-shaw-crouse-homosexual-activists-peddling-falsehoods-about-world-con.

53 “Franklin Graham praises ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law, Criticizes US ‘Secularism,’ in Russia Visit,” Pravmir, November 3, 2015, http://www.pravmir.com/franklin-graham-praises-gay-propaganda-law-critizes-us-secularism-in-russia-visit/. Priest Mark Hodges, “Russian Orthodox Patriarch: Americans for natural marriage are ‘Confessors of the Faith,’” Pravmir, November 3, 2015, http://www.pravmir.com/russian-orthodox-patriarch-americans-for-natural-marriage-are-confessors-of-the-faith/.

54 “France: A New Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris,” Dici, February 14, 2014, http://www.dici.org/en/news/france-a-new-russian-orthodox-cathedral-in-paris/. “Frantsiia razreshila stroit’ pravoslavnyi dukhovno-kultur’nyi tsentr v parizhe” (France has Permitted the Construction of an Orthodox Cultural Center in Paris), Pravoslavie.ru, December 25, 2013, http://www.pravoslavie.ru/news/67006.htm. Since the days of Berdyaev and Bulgakov, both of whom lived out most of the rest of their lives in France after the Bolshevik victory in the Russian civil war, there has been a large Russian Christian presence in Paris with a complicated relationship to Moscow. While the details of this situation are beyond the scope of this article, it is important to note  that Moscow seems to be attempting to exert greater influence over the ethnic Russian Christian population that remains in France.

55 “Pavel Astakhov prinial uchastie v konferentsii Vsemirnogo kongressa semei v Tbilisi” (Pavel Astakhov Took Part in a Conference of the World Congress of Families in Tbilisi), Press Service of the President of the Russian Federation’s Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, May 18, 2015, http://www.rfdeti.ru/news/9835-pavel-astahov-prinimaet-uchastie-v-konferencii-vsemirnogo-kongressa-semey-v-tbilisi. “ V Kyrgyzstane iz parlamenta otozvan zakonoproekt o zaprete gei-propagandy” (In Kyrgyzstan the Parliamentary Bill Banning Gay Propaganda has been Withdrawn), Gay Russia, June 30, 2015, http://www.gayrussia.eu/world/11571/.