Immigrant Justice and the Right Wing’s Eliminationist Agenda: A Q&A with Hamid Khan

Los Angeles March for Immigrant Rights, 2017. Photo: Molly Adams via Flickr.

Hamid Khan, a coordinator with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition—as well as a Political Research Associates board member—has long been active in the immigrants’ rights debate, having immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1979. As a board member of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, as well as a founder and former Executive Director of the South Asian Network, Khan helped organize grassroots movements to address discrimination and injustice.

As the Trump administration has increasingly sought to bring immigration and refugee issues into a broader right-wing eliminationist agenda, Khan spoke with The Public Eye about the broader lens progressives must use in thinking about immigration policy, the Right, and our own culpability.

PE: How should we think about the current attacks on immigration and refugee issues?

Khan: The way I look at things is that everything that is going on currently shouldn’t be seen as a moment in a time but rather a continuation of history. The assault on immigrants and migrant communities has been going on forever, though it has taken on different shades and different variations over time—whether through legislation, executive action, or emergency actions. We have to go back and look at the structural shifts in how the integration of migration has been managed—how it moved from states getting involved to then becoming the purview of the federal government, with the departments of Interior and Labor, and then Justice, and now the Department of Homeland Security.

Within that the question is who has been the immigrant? When we mostly saw immigrants of European descent, the intent of U.S. immigration policy was to facilitate people’s transition into day-to-day life in the U.S. and give them status so they can have a documented presence here. But as we move forward in time, and we see demographic shifts happening, there’s a marked shift to enforcement.

We can’t have a conversation about immigration policies in the United States without a sense of race, and what it meant at different times. I think the other piece in policymaking is the constant creation of the other—how the face of the other is culturally, politically, economically, and structurally created, and how that creates narratives that justify their treatment. For example we talk about the face of “the savage native,” and how that social construct justified the genocide, displacement, and occupation of the land of Native Americans. We talk about the face of “the criminal Black,” and how that justified various laws, racism, and demonization. More recently, there’s the face of “the immigrant Latino” and “the terrorist Muslim.” So the face of the other and “the enemy,” and who we demonize, is a very important part of how policy has been created for how people should be dealt with. The idea of the immigrant as a threat to national security has been going on through the history of the United States.

How has the Right deployed that narrative?

I think the bigger question is what happened to our fight, what happened to the resistance, and what happened to our organizing? Decades ago, moving across borders was very much a normal, routine thing. But then we saw the first direct assault in 1986, in IRCA (the Immigration Reform and Control Act), where our fight accepted compromises, particularly the employer sanctions, which prohibited employers from knowingly hiring people who weren’t authorized to work in the U.S. When employer sanctions happened, we not only gave up a lot of room and made a huge accommodation in the fight, but we opened up another world of how enforcement would move very methodically as well. Additionally, organized labor was very much against immigration, so there has to be very critical analysis of the labor movement.

Ten years later, in the IIRAIRA (the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act), we saw another huge enforcement piece, where people were deportable even if they had green cards. Other forms of enforcement happening in 1996 also played a role, from the effects of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (which brought in and incorporated secret evidence laws); to legislation like the Welfare Reform Law, which wasn’t just about cutting back on unemployment benefits or eligibility standards, but also used the immigrant to demonize a larger community; as well as the crime bills of the early ‘90s, which allocated billions of dollars in funding for prisons and to hire 100,000 new law enforcement officers on the street. So I think we have to be constantly mindful of how deeply intersectional race and enforcement are.

When we when we talk about Trump and the current lens, the playbook has been there for the longest time. What has happened is that the playbook has now allowed more blatant race- and racism-driven policies to be incorporated. Up until Bush’s time, there was this coded language of national security and public safety. Now it is more or less “America First,” which uses barely-coded language to refer to a White minority government as demographics are changing. So I think it’s gone from something that was more coded to being very open.

How do we see this in the discussion of DACA?

When we look at DACA, we need to look through various lenses as well. From an organizing and resistance point of view, DACA is the result of a constant watering down and failure in our movements, particularly the immigrant rights movement, which became a very monitored and controlled process of adjustment of status that is very temporary in nature. On the other hand, this has been a tremendous model that young people have been building for what direct organizing and resistance would look like.

While people speak about a pathway to citizenship, the intention was very clear at that time that this was a compromise that the Right and White supremacy is going to make. On one hand, in a very insidious way, it was the Right showing its charitable side—“Oh, if you have children…”—but at the same time, it was very clear that very few among the undocumented community could use it as a pathway to citizenship. Also, these are all temporary measures, because they have to be renegotiated and the eligibility has to be proven every two or three years as it’s renewed, so it’s not a permanent fix. So there is no permanency in this thing, it is not a green card, it doesn’t give legal status. It just is a temporary adjustment of status where you can work and travel but then it could be taken away at any moment.

So I think number one, the failure in our movement is that this is what we were finally pushed to. Secondly, it’s a very clever and insidious way to deal with immigration: that on the structural side, the most this does is become a pathway to citizenship for maybe 10-15 percent of the immigrant population.

But culturally it did even more. It is used to continue the demonization and assigning of criminality to the elders, who are said to have trafficked their little children through no fault of their own. So the criminality and the demonization and the adult population still very much remains. And then to claim that as a benevolent act. So I think we need to really look at it much more deeply, not just on the surface, but structurally what is going on beneath the surface and culturally and politically as well.

There’s clearly a lot of culpability on our side. What about the role of the Right?

The Right has always been more blatant. Strom Thurmond, the senator from South Carolina, was always until his death, a proponent of biased, racist institutions. So when Trump speaks about it, and Steve Bannon goes to Europe and says we should speak about the dangers of immigration loudly and clearly, well he’s just carrying on the tradition that’s been there for the longest time. I think this again shows our own failure that we’re suddenly surprised—as if we were expecting something different. So we’re all of a sudden surprised that, because we went into this slumber, just assuming the Obama years were a sign of progress. If anything, the Obama years should be seen as how what was being granted temporarily is now being lost as well. One can argue that under Trump, the image of benevolence on the Right is lost. I think the role of the Right all along has been preserving and sustaining White supremacy.

Christian Nationalism and Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The depth and breadth of White evangelical support for Donald Trump before and since his election has perplexed most observers. But a team of sociologists, freshly-analyzed data in hand, may have the answer that has eluded journalists, scholars, and political consultants. They recently wrote an essay in The Washington Post titled, “Despite porn stars and Playboy models, white evangelicals aren’t rejecting Trump. This is why.”

Clemson University sociologist Andrew Whitehead and his colleagues Samuel Perry of the University of Oklahoma and Joseph Baker of East Tennessee State University say that religious support for Trump is driven by Christian nationalism, which is not so much about moral purity as it is about power––the kind of power to defend and to deliver the Christian nation that never was. Previously, pollsters and pundits have attempted to link religious identity with political choices by such measures as how frequently people attended church. However, the focus on analyzing the components of Christian nationalism is a departure that has revealed a powerfully animating element for the Christian Right, guiding their electoral choices and helping explain why they continue to stand by their man, despite everything. Analyzing data from the Baylor Religion Survey, conducted in the wake of the 2016 election, the trio wrote, “The more someone believed the United States is––and should be––a Christian nation, the more likely they were to vote for Trump.”  In fact, they found that it was the single greatest religious predictor that a voter would support Trump in 2016.

This may seem counterintuitive to many, since few observers believe that Trump is particularly religious himself. But Trump not only featured Christian nationalism in his campaign and during his presidency so far, but he has done so much in the manner of Christian Right leaders––casting perceived attacks on religious liberty as part of a broad attack on Christianity, and even faith itself.

Whitehead, et al., say the data they crunched from the Baylor Survey show that “Christian nationalism operates as a unique and independent ideology that can influence political actions by calling forth a defense of mythological narratives about America’s distinctively Christian heritage and future.” This, they say, can be correlated, but is not synonymous with “a variety of class-based, sexist, racist, and ethnocentric views.”

They aver, however, that Islamophobia has also been independently well established as a strong predictor of whether someone would vote for Trump, and their own study, although focused on Christian nationalism, tended to bear that out. Thus, they say, “Christian nationalism and Islamophobia, with respect to the Trump vote, might be understood as two sides of the same coin.”

Their extended study, “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election,” is forthcoming in the journal, Sociology of Religion. Such a report might not ordinarily get much attention but because its conclusions are so dramatic, and because it was billboarded in The Washington Post, it will be hard to ignore.

Taken together with a wealth of other data, the Baylor Religion Survey allowed Whitehead’s group to figure out if Christian nationalism mattered to Trump voters. The Baylor Survey asked many of the right questions, including giving respondents the opportunity to declare a measure of agreement or disagreement with such statements as:

  • “The federal government should declare the United States a Christian nation,”
  • “The federal government should advocate Christian values,”
  • “The federal government should enforce strict separation of church and state,”
  • “The federal government should allow the display of religious symbols in public spaces,”
  • “The success of the United States is part of God’s plan,” and
  • “The federal government should allow prayer in public schools.”

This contrasts with the approach of pollsters over the past decade or so, which Whitehead thinks has not helped us understand Trump voters. Whitehead explained to Paul Rosenberg of Salon, “Knowing how religious someone is, like how often they attend church or if they view the Bible as God’s literal word to them, doesn’t help us predict” whether they voted for Trump.  While one’s personal faith is not unimportant, Rosenberg reported, the connection between faith and voting behavior is indirect. Whitehead concluded, “So the influence of personal religiosity on whether someone voted for Trump ‘flows through’ Christian nationalism.”

All this may come as a revelation to many. But to longtime students of the Christian Right and to the Christian Right itself, it is not surprising. The political organizing manual of the Family Research Council emphasizes Christian nationalism in its justification for Christian political action. Christian nationalist authors, such as David Barton, William Federer, and John Eidsmoe (a longtime advisor to unsuccessful Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, a famous Christian nationalist in his own right) have been fixtures of Christian Right political conferences for decades. Political Research Associates has been reporting on Christian nationalism and how it intersects with Dominionism as driving elements of the Christian Right since the early 1990s. Like Dominionism, Christian nationalism has been hiding in plain sight.

What’s more, although candidate Trump often sounded Christian nationalist themes during the campaign, Whitehead, et al., note that Trump’s appeals to Christian nationalism during and since the campaign have typically been “overlooked” by the media. Reporting, during the campaign, they say, “focused more on whether a relatively non-pious candidate could win the vote of the Religious Right.”

For example, coverage of a speech at Liberty University in 2016, focused on whether Trump quoting a Bible verse as being from “two Corinthians” rather than the conventional “second Corinthians” would hurt him with religious voters. The gaffe caused students to laugh and certainly suggested he was unaccustomed to discussing the Bible. But Trump’s direct appeal to Christian nationalism immediately afterwards was met with applause––largely unnoticed in news reports. Trump said:

But we are going to protect Christianity. And if you look what’s going on throughout the world, you look at Syria where they’re, if you’re Christian, they’re chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity, it’s under siege. I’m a Protestant. I’m very proud of it. Presbyterian to be exact. But I’m very proud of it, very, very proud of it. And we’ve gotta protect, because bad things are happening, very bad things are happening…Other religions, frankly, they’re banding together and they’re using it. And here we have, if you look at this country, it’s gotta be 70 percent, 75 percent, some people say even more, the power we have, somehow we have to unify. We have to band together…Our country has to do that around Christianity.

Trump returned to his Christian nationalist theme when he returned to campus to deliver a Commencement address in May 2017. He cast himself as the defender of the faith and U.S. Christian identity:

In America we don’t worship government, we worship God…America is better when people put their faith into action. As long as I am your president no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what’s in your heart. We will always stand up for the right of all Americans to pray to God and to follow his teachings.

A Feature, Not a Bug

Christian nationalism, according to Whitehead, “draws its roots from ‘Old Testament’ parallels between America and Israel, who was commanded to maintain cultural and blood purity, often through war, conquest, and separatism.”  This means that “Christian nationalism can be unmoored from traditional moral import, emphasizing only its notions of exclusion and apocalyptic war and conquest.”

This understanding of the immoral Trump: the destroyer of the enemies of Christendom and the unlikely defender of the faith, stands in the tradition of the kings of “Old Testament” Israel, just as Christian Right leaders portrayed him in justifying his candidacy in 2016. This ideology is significant not only because of its politics of nostalgia for a Christian nation that never was, but because, as Rosenberg emphasizes in Salon, it explains why people can support such a “vicious” leader as Trump. Rosenberg observes that Trump’s “impious leadership makes perfect sense, once you realize what’s at stake. It’s a feature, not a bug. And evangelical voters, Whitehead argues, know it.”

Although, it is premature to say much about it, the possibility for religiously motivated violence in this atmosphere cannot be discounted. There have been rumblings of theocratic violence emanating from neoconfederates and elements of the Christian Right in the Republican Party for a long time. But there have been no overt organized efforts, with the possible exception of Charlottesville. But these elements have never before had potential warrior king to follow. Whether they can view Trump as that figure, and whether he can envision himself in that role, remains to be seen.

Where the White House Gets its Racist Immigration Policies

Protest in support of DACA, September 1, 2017. Photo: Joe Flood / Flickr.

It should come as no surprise that President Trump disparages scores of countries while lamenting the lack of European immigrants coming to the U.S., as he reportedly did during a meeting with lawmakers in January 2018. In addition to his racially charged rhetoric at public events, his administration has sought formal and informal advice from leaders of the Xenophobic Right that has espoused such bigotry for decades.

Over the last year, the organized anti-immigrant movement has obtained significant influence. The movement’s influence is readily apparent in myriad immigration-related policy changes over the last year. Such changes range from the administration’s attacks on family reunification and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to increasingly overzealous enforcement practices and rescinding benefits of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented youth. As Congress considers legislative solutions to the administration’s self-created DACA quandary, the anti-immigrant movement is in a position to radically shift the country’s immigration system towards its bigoted goals in ways not seen in over two decades.

The Contemporary Anti-Immigrant Movement’s White Nationalist Beginnings

The contemporary anti-immigrant movement began in 1979, when Michigan ophthalmologist and White nationalist John Tanton founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) with the purpose of substantially limiting immigration. Tanton originally portrayed his advocacy of immigration limits through a lens of environmental concerns like other population alarmists of the 1960s and 70s. However, Tanton’s personal correspondence, now archived at the University of Michigan, reveals racial bigotry was arguably a more significant source of motivation. The first public indication of Tanton’s bigotry and White nationalist aims came in the late 1980s while his organization, U.S. English, was involved in multiple state referendum efforts to make English the official language. Immigration advocates released a 1986 memo Tanton wrote where he asked, “As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?” U.S. English Executive Director Linda Chavez, as well as several other board members, resigned from the organization following the memo’s release.

Tanton’s later correspondence made his racialized worldview even more explicit. “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American Society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that,” Tanton wrote in 1993. In a 1995 letter to a financial supporter, Tanton described “the cultural consequences of demographic changes that are under way” and “the decline of folks who look like you and me” as a “prime concern.” In the same letter, Tanton enclosed a copy of an essay by late White nationalist Lawrence Auster, The Path to National Suicide.

To further FAIR’s efforts and his own white nationalist aims, Tanton founded a think tank in 1985. “For credibility, this will need to be independent of FAIR, though the Center for Immigration Studies, as we’re calling it, is starting off as a project of FAIR,” Tanton wrote in September 1985. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) was created in response to supposed “pro-immigration forces” that “have the manpower, the material, and the money to crank out papers, run seminars, and supply speakers, and so on.”

“In addition, they have the ear of the President,” Tanton bemoaned.

The political reality Tanton perceived in the mid-1980s changed considerably in the subsequent decade. After President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which offered a pathway to citizenship for approximately three million undocumented immigrants in 1986, FAIR and CIS redoubled efforts to influence lawmakers and cultivate new allies sympathetic to their anti-immigrant aims on Capitol Hill. Their efforts ultimately led to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996. The draconian law still contributes significantly to the criminalization of immigrants and established the current systems of mass deportation and immigrant incarceration. The law “eliminated key defenses against deportation and subjected many more immigrants, including legal permanent residents, to detention and deportation,” according to Human Rights Watch. IIRIRA also erected new barriers for asylum applicants and “defined a greatly expanded range of criminal convictions – including relatively minor, nonviolent ones – for which legal permanent residents could be automatically deported.”

FAIR worked closely with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), IIRIRA’s lead sponsor in the House. Cordia Strom, a FAIR lawyer, worked for Smith and was a primary influence on the legislation. Author Philip G. Schrag described Strom as a “pollinating bee” on Capitol Hill, conveying FAIR’s ideas between the House and Senate’s immigration sub-committees, chaired by Smith and Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), respectively. “We knew that it was a clear advantage to have two strong reformers [chairing] the two sub-committees,” FAIR President Dan Stein told Schrag. “When you have the drafting advantage you have a big advantage.” Former Immigration and Naturalization Services Commissioner Doris Meissner was even more straightforward describing Strom’s influence, telling Deepah Fernandes that “she directly wrote it.”

President Clinton signed the Strom-authored bill into law on September 30, 1996. In December of that year, Roy Beck, a close associate of Tanton’s and an editor of his racist quarterly publication The Social Contract, founded NumbersUSA. Beck, who Tanton has described as his “heir apparent,” founded the new organization to mobilize phone calls and faxes to Congress in support of the anti-immigrant movement’s agenda. NumbersUSA operated as a project of Tanton’s umbrella organization, U.S. Inc., before formally separating from Tanton’s operation in 2002. The group now claims over eight million members and remains the anti-immigrant movement’s primary vehicle for grassroots mobilization.

Tanton is no longer active in the day-to-day operations of any of these groups, but his legacy remains. The principal leaders of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA have all spent more than two decades in Tanton’s orbit and some of their public statements indicate they share his explicit bigotries. FAIR President Dan Stein has said “Immigrants don’t come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing. … Many of them hate America; hate everything that the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans.” Bob Dane, FAIR’s current executive director, refused to condemn Tanton’s expressed desire to maintain a European-American majority population, claiming last year that “the question of whether a country loses its majority status is a fair question.” CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian has written that “Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.” He has also said Mexico’s “weakness and backwardness has been deeply harmful to the United States” and accused the Obama administration of fomenting “race war.” NumbersUSA’s Roy Beck has addressed members of the White nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens and derided immigrant communities as “enabling pools” that foster crime and terrorists. Bigoted remarks about “shithole” countries seem like an inevitability when this trio of organizations become go-to advisors for the White House.

FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA have had significant success shifting immigration policy debates to the right over the last two decades. Lawmakers and media now frequently use the movement’s preferred language when discussing immigration policy. Most notably, the three groups led opposition efforts to proposals in 2006-07 and 2013-14 that would provide many undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship. The groups also successfully mobilized opposition to citizenship for undocumented youth, disparaging any policy as “amnesty.”

President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during the summer of 2012, allowing undocumented youth to apply for temporary deportation relief and work authorization. Hundreds of thousands would eventually benefit from the program. But DACA was always a temporary fix to a problem requiring a permanent solution. The anti-immigrant movement sought to end that temporary solution even earlier by going to court. Shortly after Obama announced DACA, NumbersUSA announced it would underwrite a lawsuit filed by ten Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and the State of Mississippi challenging the program.

Kansas Secretary of State and leading nativist lawyer Kris Kobach led the NumbersUSA-funded legal challenge. Kobach, who would later become a member of the Trump administration’s transition team and its ill-fated voter fraud commission, was perhaps best known at the time as the author of Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 and an advisor to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid. For years, Kobach has been a lawyer for FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and has unsuccessfully defended numerous anti-immigrant provisions in court.

Kobach’s lawsuit against DACA met a similar fate. Crane v. Johnson was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015. DACA would remain in effect until the Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s plans to rescind the program in September 2017.

Groundswell and building the foundations for Trump 2016

While the anti-immigrant movement was litigating DACA and building opposition to a comprehensive immigration reform measure passed by the Senate in 2013, it was also involving itself in efforts to reassert far-right messages and lay the intellectual groundwork for Donald Trump’s eventual presidential campaign. Representatives of the organized anti-immigrant movement joined far-right activists like anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, Breitbart News employees, and members of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions’s staff to coordinate messaging and other strategies via a secretive Google group called Groundswell. Copies of Groundswell emails obtained by Mother Jones in 2013 reveal the group’s aims to wage “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation.” Groundswell formalized nativist groups’ relationship with far-right media outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart and the effort would position them as influential policy experts on the Right ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Through this coordination, the anti-immigrant movement was able to increase the salience of messages that previously lived on the relative fringes of policy debates. No matter how misleading they may be.

In right-wing media, U.S.-born children of immigrants were no longer United States citizens, increasingly they were slurred as “anchor babies.” DACA wasn’t a program offering temporary deportation relief to a segment of the immigrant population a vast majority of the country believes should be offered citizenship, it was an “executive amnesty.” The Obama administration, which placed more people apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border into deportation proceedings than any of its predecessors, was carrying out a “catch and release” program. Law enforcement jurisdictions recognizing the unconstitutional nature of ICE detainers no longer provided Fourth Amendment protections, they became “‘sanctuaries’ for dangerous illegal aliens.”

The constellation of figures and institutions comprising the Groundswell group gathered around the Trump campaign as it launched in the summer of 2015. Leaders of these organizations, like Mark Krikorian, would attend campaign meetings and be asked to serve as a campaign surrogate. Others, like FAIR Executive Director Julie Kirchner would leave her position at the anti-immigrant group and formally join the campaign as an advisor. As would Jon Feere, a longtime legal analyst at CIS. (Both Kirchner and Feere now have jobs within the Department of Homeland Security.) The campaign would regularly source organizations like the Center for Immigration Studies in stump speeches and advertisements to justify its bigoted policy proposals. Groundswell’s media outlets, most notably Breitbart, would incessantly use their platform to discredit Trump’s opposition in the crowded GOP primary field and amplify their prefered candidate’s racist populist appeals. Meanwhile, corporate media outlets would provide stenographer-like coverage Trump campaign events, creating a larger audience for the anti-immigrant movement’s messages.

The close relationship between the Trump campaign and Groundswell’s media platforms would become even more obvious when Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon left the company to lead the Trump campaign during its final months and later become White House Chief Strategist. The presence of Jeff Sessions, one of the anti-immigrant movement’s most strident allies in the U.S. Senate provides another avenue of influence for the movement. As do his former staffers now working in the Department of Justice and White House, like Gene Hamilton and Stephen Miller.

After Election Day, the anti-immigrant movement recognized the substantial influence it would have on the incoming administration and reoriented its priorities accordingly. Instead of taking a reactive stance, as it had in recent years opposing so-called sanctuary cities and Obama-era enforcement priorities, the movement went on the offensive. It eyed one of its oldest and most ambitious goals: reductions in authorized immigration.

Attacking family visa sponsorships became the primary way the movement would seek this reduction. In December 2016, NumbersUSA’s Roy Beck announces a “break the chains” campaign in his annual message to supporters. Beck described the moment as one “of the best opportunities we’ve ever had to reduce immigration by millions over the next decade” and urged readers to lend their support and help stop “the most destructive part of U.S. immigration.”

Meanwhile, lists of policy proposals produced by both FAIR and CIS were swiftly embraced by the Trump transition team. Many of their provisions were quickly implemented via executive order in the administration’s first weeks. Moreover, as The Daily Beast reported, all three anti-immigrant groups began receiving invitations to ICE stakeholder meetings–a new development for most of the movement’s leadership. “As you might imagine, the communication is much better now, and people are asking us to attend all kinds of different meetings,” Dan Stein said of interactions with the administration in early 2017. “FAIR is a very important organization for explaining to people the purposes and strategies behind various administration strategies, and quite naturally the administration would have an interest in making sure we understood the information and properly explain it to people if we’re asked.”

By the end of the year, the administration would rescind DACA and cynically force Congress to address immigration policy in a significant way. The anti-immigrant movement made sure its drastic cuts to immigrant admissions would be on the negotiating table.

Work permits for ‘Dreamers,’ separation for families

Eliminating DACA was a top priority for the anti-immigrant movement–it was the first action FAIR recommended in its November 2016 policy priorities document. When the Department of Justice was asked to provide evidence for claims Attorney General Sessions made while announcing the program’s end, it provided editorials written by CIS representatives rather than empirical research. The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA created space for a legislative replacement for the temporary program Obama created. More dangerously, as the prospects of a “clean” DACA bill faded, the anti-immigrant movement seized on the opportunity to codify its long-sought immigration reductions via legislation. The term “chain migration” and efforts to eliminate family visa categories would dominate immigration policy debates in Washington by the end of 2017.

In both corporate and right-wing media, occurrences of the term “chain migration” skyrocketed from virtual obscurity in 2016 to a standard phrase in most of late 2017’s immigration coverage. “The dramatic shift didn’t happen by accident,” Roy Beck wrote to NumbersUSA supporters in December. “Every positive CHAIN MIGRATION development this year was connected directly or indirectly to the work of NumbersUSA’s three dozen staffers and its on-line grassroots network of more than 9 million.”

The anti-immigrant movement’s efforts to make family reunification a toxic concept played a significant role in this development. In December, NumbersUSA began running national television advertisements illustrating “chain migration.” The ads are a gross misrepresentation of authorized immigration processes, suggesting the admission of one immigrant expeditiously leads to scores of additional immigrants. The ad disingenuously suggests the family visa sponsorship creates a massive web of new arrivals that ultimately overwhelms the current population. Complicated realities of the U.S. immigration system such as the substantial backlogs and annual visa caps are conveniently ignored to present this narrative. FAIR produced a similar video last month and the White House released a series of graphics similarly distorting U.S. immigration policies to malign family reunification.

While Congress negotiates a DACA replacement, whether it be new, provisional work authorization or a laborious pathway to citizenship, both parties in Congress seem content accepting the anti-immigrant movement and Trump administration’s bigoted position on family reunification. The scope of relief provided to DACA beneficiaries and other immigrants in each proposal varies. But nearly every reported effort in Congress includes reallocating or removing family visa categories. Efforts to preserve the approximately 50,000 Diversity Lottery visas distributed annually have been similarly abandoned. Indeed, it appears both parties have blindly accepted the anti-immigrant movement’s bigoted position that family-based reunification, the foundation of U.S. immigration policy since explicitly racist immigration quotas were repealed in 1965, must be curtailed. And millions of immigrant families and prospective immigrants will suffer for it.

Leaders of the anti-immigrant movement, meanwhile, are relishing their newfound influence. “Getting out of bed these days is a lot more fun than it used to be,” FAIR’s Dan Stein told Vice News last year. “I’m having the time of my life.”

The anti-immigrant movement attained this influential position after decades cultivating relationships with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and publishing deceitful work to incite scapegoating, suspicion, and repression of immigrant communities. Now with a direct line to the Trump administration, it has seen many of its policy goals already implemented in 2017–causing great harm to immigrant communities in the process. The realization of many of these policies is tragically no surprise given the movement’s close ties to the current administration. However, the unwillingness of other elected officials to firmly defend policies that strengthen immigrant families and communities across the country is shameful. In spite of an increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement regime and the uncertainty many DACA beneficiaries face, grassroots movements continue fighting for the protection of their communities. Until their concerns are heeded and their actions receive a proper response, the anti-immigrant movement will continue to make gains–inflicting further harm as it seeks to recreate an even more shameful era of U.S. immigration policy.

One Year In: A Q&A with Tarso Luis Ramos

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This article appears in the Winter 2018 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

On the anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, PRA Executive Director Tarso Luís Ramos talks about some of what’s changed in the past year, and what progressives should be alert to going forward.

PE: What should we make of this anniversary?

As relentless a year as it’s been, the Trump camp accomplished less of its agenda than they might have. They’ve not been able to fully convert on GOP control of both chambers of Congress and it took them a full year to win a major—if devastating—legislative victory in the form of the tax heist. The widespread and fierce resistance to the Trump agenda from the Women’s March onward compelled congressional Democrats to take a harder line of resistance than they could have and deep divisions on the Right scuttled repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act and other administration initiatives. Trump has had to rely disproportionately on executive power and by all accounts, his is not a tight ship. This is all to say that things could be—and may yet become—much worse.

Of course, tremendous damage can and has been done through executive action and the full implications of changes at the various federal departments have not been fully felt. Yet looking back on what PRA anticipated from a Trump presidency, a lot of things that have come to pass were predictable in their broad outlines, if not always in the details.

PRA warned that White nationalists would make a show of force; that the Christian Right would be rewarded with things like judicial appointments and pushback against LGBTQ communities. It was clear that Trump was going to engage in eliminationist policies, directed at Muslims, refugees, and immigrants, and expanded targeting of Black communities.

Looking back on what PRA anticipated from a Trump presidency, a lot of things that have come to pass were predictable in their broad outlines, if not always in the details.

We also warned that Trump would not make good on his promises of economic populism and argued that it would be the job of progressives to reveal Trump’s betrayals as quickly as possible. That nobody, including Trump voters, would deserve what was coming. I should admit that even we, who may have a reputation for gloomy forecasts, thought Trump might choose to lead with the “carrot” of infrastructure (if in a privatizing, crony capitalist way) before the “sticks” of Muslim and trans military service bans and so on.

Given the hollowness of his economic populism, it seemed inevitable that the regime would have to deliver tangible non-economic benefits to Trump’s electoral base. And I think we’ve seen that: No student loan relief, but the revocation of guidelines for redress around sexual assault on campus, as well as challenges to Higher Ed access for Black and Brown students. No policies to revive manufacturing, but a crackdown on “Black identity extremism.” No reining in of Wall Street excesses—people forget that was part of his stump speech, before the Goldman Sachs appointees—but Muslim bans and a steady drip of antisemitism.

Women’s March on Washington,
January 21st, 2017. Photo: Molly Adams via Flickr.

Yet after the election came a chorus of liberal critics calling on progressives to reject identity politics—by which they meant appeals to gender or racial justice—in favor of the supposed universalism of economic populism. We at PRA heard this as a call to a different sort of identity politics: White identity politics. The Trump campaign combined White racial grievance with toxic masculinity and economic populism. It linked, especially, race and the economy, blaming people of color and immigrants for the declining economic fortunes of White people. Trump campaigned on the lie that bigotry can bring prosperity. The challenge for progressives is not to shut up about race, gender, and sexuality but to do a better job of addressing them in relation to widespread economic inequality. Of course, the booming stock market may foster complacency in some quarters about the upward transfer of wealth.


Is any of this similar to dynamics under the last Bush administration?

There are parallels, such as tax cuts for the rich, the crackdown on immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, the “clash of civilizations” framework, and endorsement of torture in pursuit of national security goals.  We’ll see whether Trump also leads the country into major military engagements.

But quite a bit is different from the George W. Bush period, including the more open-throated expression of an exclusionary, White definition of American identity. Many have noted that we’ve left behind the dog whistles for straightforward racial and ethnic appeals. Also, where Bush was an heir to the Republican establishment, Trump ran a hostile takeover of the GOP from the outside. And while they each won support from the Christian Right, with Pence the dominionists appear to have even more influence in Trump’s government. Of course, there’s also Trump himself—a demagogue and racist campaigner from a very different mold.

Another difference is the vast scale of political real estate captured by the GOP in 2016—the executive branch, both chambers of Congress, and the lion’s share of the states. With that has come an opportunity to do deep, generational damage to the economy as well as to any broadly felt experience of American democracy—something long denied to African Americans, Indigenous communities, and others and that may now be denied to an expanding number. Trump’s attacks on the institutional pillars of democracy—the judiciary, the vote, independent media—signal a potential descent into oligarchy or authoritarianism.

So there are continuities from the Bush era, as well as real ruptures that could make what’s coming unrecognizable to large swaths of the population.

Given the increase in violence grounded in bigotry, how should we think about “hate crimes” and “hate groups”?

There’s been a real surge in reported bias crimes—from the desecration of Jewish cemeteries to physical assaults against African Americans, Latinx immigrants, and people perceived to be Muslim. Both the Trump camp and organized bigoted groups are successfully stoking hatreds based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, and so on. Their relentless demonization of targeted communities inevitably encourages individuals to act on their bigotries. Yet defining the problem in terms of “hate” and “hate groups” can obscure both the root issues and the appropriate responses.

Organized bigots, like the White nationalist groups who mobilized to murderous effect in Charlottesville last August, have social and political goals beyond any simple notion of hatred. Richard Spencer and his ilk seek a racially cleansed White authoritarian state. Naturally, they are thrilled to see their agenda of ethnic cleansing reflected in Trump’s push for a southern border wall, Muslim ban and registry, crackdown on Black dissent, and aggressive immigrant detention and deportation program. For these White nationalists, mobilizing racial resentment—and, yes, fostering hatred of other groups—is critical to movement building. But it’s not an end unto itself any more than “hate” sums up the agenda of the German Nazi Party.

If we misunderstand the problem as being limited to a small—if growing—number of violent militants, we’ll tend to use the wrong yardstick to measure White nationalists’ influence. Of concern is not only the number of militants they can mobilize but how broadly influential their ideas have become. The president of the United States champions their eliminationist policies and provided political cover for overt White nationalists even after Charlottesville. Yet the “hate frame,” as PRA contributor Kay Whitlock calls it, relies mostly on legal and law enforcement responses to so-called extremists and avoids dealing with structural racism and other systems of domination. As the Black Lives Matter and trans justice movements regularly remind us, police agencies are among the principal sources of bigoted violence. We should be wary of positioning law enforcement as the solution, particularly in a moment of “blue lives matter” backlash and a national security doctrine of counter-terrorism.

Is Trump’s engagement with White nationalists unprecedented in the presidency?

2017 migrant justice rally in Boston, MA. Photo: Tim Plenk.

Yes and no. People don’t know or forget that the Reagan administration cultivated European fascist émigrés who came to the U.S. after World War II—a story PRA published decades ago. Pat Buchanan, a White supremacist, served in more than one administration. So there’s some precedent on the staffing. By the way, with Trump, it’s not just Bannon, Gorka and Stephen Miller; the administration has pulled in personnel from national anti-immigrant groups founded by White nationalist John Tanton to serve at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Trump’s amplification of neonazi Twitter and his defense of the Charlottesville Unite the Right really are extraordinary developments indeed. Different even from the Klan, which is American as apple pie, Nazis have been beyond the pale even for many armchair racists since U.S. involvement in World War II. The White nationalists and fascists who marched in Charlottesville are part of a revolutionary movement seeking to overthrow the current political order. Even racist politicians who defend the current system of White dominance generally reject insurrectionists as treasonous. Trump has broken with that tradition.

How much of what we’re seeing now are things that many people weren’t paying attention to before?

Trump’s campaign and election have been a wake-up call for many people. In a way, Trump represents the fruition of the economic and social initiatives of the Hard Right in the 1960s and ‘70s that led to the election of Reagan and have continued ever since.

We have been in an extended social and economic crisis in the U.S., and now that emergency is being felt by a much broader segment of society.

One way to think about this moment is to acknowledge that we have been in an extended social and economic crisis in the U.S., and now that emergency is being felt by a much broader segment of society. Suddenly, there is open and widespread discussion in mainstream media about whether the president is a proto-fascist and whether the U.S. is drifting toward autocracy. These are valid questions. Yet conditions were already quasi-authoritarian if you lived in a low-income African American community—in terms of things like policing, denial of due process, regulation of the body and family, deprivation of social services, and denial of education and economic opportunities. To get an idea of what a more authoritarian U.S. could look like, we should look not only at other nations’ histories but also more deeply into the American experience.

So there’s both deep continuity and rupture in this moment. We believe there’s a danger of descent into something more authoritarian but it’s in no way inevitable and it’s all of our jobs to prevent that. Some find the possibility novel and shocking while others view it as an extension of current conditions. Holding those different perspectives simultaneously can be a challenge but is necessary to the project of building a mass movement—not only for resistance but for transformative change.

Photo: Johnny Silvercloud via Flickr.

What are your concerns about the normalization of Trumpism?

We can’t allow what’s happening under this regime to become normalized but neither can we behave as if resistance to oppressive governance began in November 2016.

There’s a gift in this moment: tens of thousands of people are newly aware of themselves as historical actors and are forming (or reforming) their sense of purpose in this extended moment of crisis. There is tremendous opportunity for deep transformation there, of understanding our roles as social and political actors. There’s also tension with and tremendous challenge for movements that have long been in the struggle for transformational change. We are at an inflection point in the social, cultural, and political life of this country, in which simply having a well-formed opinion is insufficient.

In general, we have to practice deep solidarity: if the regime comes for any of us, they will have to come through all of us.  

Non-normalization involves grounding ourselves in shared values. In general, we have to practice deep solidarity: if the regime comes for any of us, they will have to come through all of us.

Is this a fight we can win?

People define the fight differently. For some, success might be getting back to something like what existed under Obama or Clinton. For others, including PRA, the levels of economic and social inequality; the violent, unprecedented deportation program; the military adventurism and reliance on drone warfare; the decimation of economic opportunities for an ever-growing part of the working and middle classes; the ongoing attacks on reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights; the system of mass incarceration—these were all unacceptable conditions even before Trump. For us, Trump represents an escalation of the local and global crisis of liberal democracies. The answer cannot be, as in France, defeating the Far Right at the ballot box with a supposed liberal whose austerity programs will worsen economic inequality and possibly strengthen opportunities for the Right down the road.

There should be no going backward to unjust economic and social arrangements, however worse present circumstances have become. Russian meddling aside, the crisis of our political and economic systems facilitated Trump’s rise to power. His explanation of the causes and remedies for our crises were and remain horrifyingly wrong, but he got a hearing in part because he connected his bigotry to an unrelenting insistence that the economy is fundamentally broken for everyday people. Any victory over Trump that’s worth fighting for should advance a more fundamental restructuring of our social, political, and economic lives and must reject the sort of neoliberal austerity economics that have bipartisan support.

Do I think it’s possible? Yes, but there are many challenges and a desperation for anything but Trumpism could lead to set our sights too low. It took decades for the Right to consolidate this much power and it will take more than one or two political cycles to produce transformational alternatives. We need to shore up institutional pillars of democracy, like the judiciary, that, however inadequate, are critical bulwarks against the worst excesses of the Right. At the same time, it’s a moment to be pretty bold about the need for fundamental structural changes, because the brokenness of our social and economic systems require more than a little tinkering.

Photo: Courtesy of Tim Plenk.


The Big Picture: Far Right Mobilization in 2017

Memorial for Heather Heyer in downtown Charlottesville. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Mical via Flickr.

In the United States, 2017 was a banner year for fascist and related far right activism. There were arguably the highest levels of public demonstrations by the Right since the last wave of Klan and neonazi activity in the 1980s and ‘90s. A main driver was the Alt Right, a new, digitally focused approach to White nationalism that has caught the cultural zeitgeist. It acted in tandem with the Alt Lite, an offshoot movement that shares enthusiasm for Trump, xenophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Leftism, Far Right conspiracy theories, and “fake news,” but stops short of open White nationalism and allows people of color, Jews, and gay men to participate.

The past year has also been marked by clashes with left-wing protestors, who have been broadly labeled “antifa” (short for antifascist). Although antifa have been around as long as fascism has, and broad popular resistance surged in response to Trump’s election, the name has come to be used by the press and others to cover anyone who attends protests against the Far Right.

The Far Right events of 2017—starting with pro-Trump and “Free Speech” rallies in January, and then morphing into support for Confederate memorials, as well as Islamophobic  and “Anti-Marxist” rallies—are notable. Especially during the period between March and June, the Alt Right and other open White Nationalists, Alt Light activists, Patriot movement paramilitaries, and Trumpist Republicans worked together on the streets in numerous cities. The most infamous incident occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, when, after the “Unite the Right” rally was cancelled, a fascist rammed his car into an antiracist march, killing one person and injuring at least nineteen others.

In tandem with right-wing action taken in the streets, the Alt Lite has been able to directly influence mainstream conservatives. Two of Trump’s appointees, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, had ties to White nationalists and fascists (although both lost their positions soon after Charlottesville) and Alt Lite media representatives received White House press passes.

It was also a year where the political impact of digital platforms has come into clear prominence, including memes, discussion boards like 4chan, and Trump’s apparent favorite, Twitter. The landscape of our society has changed so much that a pizza company took to Twitter to distance themselves from neonazis who have embraced it. Additionally, a video game where players shoot Nazis—which just a few years ago would have been considered meaningless entertainment based on a banal theme—is now both a subject of controversy and taken seriously as a work of political commentary.

Even with so much of the political action occurring online, college campuses became main physical sites of conflict, with White nationalist flyering campaigns and a focus by various Far Right figures to get speaking engagements, which were invariably met by raucous protests.

Analyzing the Far Right mobilization that occurred in 2017 can inform social justice movement strategy as we enter year two of the Trump administration. In presenting this long list of events on the timeline below, there is unavoidably a strong subjective choice as to what has been included. History will no doubt be written differently: important things will be forgotten, while others—currently overlooked—will be added. But I do feel confident that this is a fair enough representation of how 2017 appeared at the time to those of us who were paying close attention as the U.S. fascist movement bobbed and weaved.


  • 3rd: Director John Carpenter denounces antisemitic interpretations of his cult movie They Live, saying it “is about yuppies and unrestrained capitalism. It has nothing to do with Jewish control of the world, which is slander and a lie.”
  • 10th: Dylann Roof is sentenced to death for murdering nine Black bible study participants at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Roof had hoped to incite a race war with his actions.
  • 13th: Alt Right figure Mike Enoch, who runs the internet platform The Right Stuff, is doxxed. It is revealed that his real name is Mike Peinovich, he works in tech, lives on Manhattan’s wealthy Upper East Side, and is married to a Jewish woman.
  • 16th:
    • Alt Right leader Richard Spencer launches his new website
    • In response to a pressure campaign against Richard Spencer’s headquarters in Whitefish, Montana, Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer called for an armed march against the town’s Jewish residents on this date. He had proclaimed, “We will be busing in skinheads from the Bay Area.” Before the march, Anglin said he would postpone it, but about 50 antifascists assemble in town just in case.
  • 19th: The Alt Lite DeploraBall” is held in Washington, DC on the eve of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. Organized by Jeff Giesea and Mike Cernovich, attendees include Jack Posobiec, Gavin McInnes, and Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke. Alt Right figure “Baked Alaska” (Anthime Gionet) and Richard Spencer are uninvited for their political views. Scuffles break out with counter-protestors outside the event.
  • 20th:
    • A large “black bloc” with hundreds of participants careens through the city during the protests against Trump’s inauguration. Eventually 230 members are kettled and arrested, including journalists and street medics; in an unprecedented event, all are charged with felonies and face the possibility of 70­–80 year sentences. Members of the Oath Keepers leadership are present and witness some of the events of the day, although they do not become involved. Separately, Richard Spencer is giving a recorded interview when a masked man punches him in the face. This becomes a viral internet video, which initiates a public discussion of if it is okay to “punch a Nazi.”
    • Protests break out at the University of Washington in Seattle against a Milo Yiannopoulos talk. Joshua Dukes is shot as he tries to deescalate a fight. Elizabeth and Marc Hokoana are arrested and accused of having come to the protest in order to provoke a conflict.
  • 21st: Worldwide Women’s March protests.
  • 26th: Actor Shia LaBeouf is arrested for scuffling with a neonazi at the He Will Not Divide Us installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. This video live stream (that was supposed to run 24-hours a day) soon becomes overrun by various Alt Right activists, including many White nationalists, who use it to spread propaganda. LaBeouf is forced to move the installation multiple times.
  • 27th: Trump fails to mention Jews in his Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.
  • 28th: Starting with New York City’s JFK, airports become the site of protests against Trump’s “Muslim ban,” which prevented people from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the US—even if they had valid visas and were temporarily out of the country. Over the week, thousands of people join in as the airport protests spread around the country
  • 29th:
    • Six worshippers are killed and 19 others wounded in a mass shooting at mosque in Quebec City, Canada. Alexandre Bissonnette is arrested. The victims are Azzeddine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Abdelkrim Hassane, and Boubaker Thabti.
    • A hundred people protest at the new headquarters of Richard Spencer’s think tank  National Policy Institute (NPI) in Alexandria, Virginia.


  • 1st: A Milo Yiannopoulos talk at Berkeley is cancelled due to safety concerns after a militant protest. It had been rumored he was going to name undocumented students at the school.  This initiates a long discussion in the mainstream media about antifa and Free Speech that continues all year, and marks the beginning of many conflicts on campuses.
  • 2nd: Clashes in New York City between Proud Boys and protesters at a Gavin McInnes talk at NYU. McInnes is reportedly hit with pepper-spray earlier that evening then has his talk is cut short after he calls the dean a “beta male cuck.
  • 9th:
    • Frank Ancona, the Imperial Wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights, is killed; his body is later found on the bank of a river near Belgrade, Missouri. His wife and stepson are charged in his death.
    • Augusta University president released a statement decrying the appearance of Identity Evropa flyers on campus. This fascist Alt Right group fliers campuses across the nation as part of “Project Siege.” Many White nationalist groups and projects focus on flyering colleges as well, including Vanguard America, Atomwaffen Division, The Right Stuff, Daily Stormer, and The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has tracked over 329 flyering incidents since March 2016, with a spike in February 2017.
  • 10th: Michael Strickland, who antagonized a Black Lives Matter rally in July 2016 in Portland, Oregon before pulling a gun on the crowd, is convicted of menacing and disorderly conduct. He is later sentenced to 40 days in jail, to be served on weekends.
  • 18th: Richard Spencer is thrown out of International Students for Liberty Conference, a libertarian gathering in Washington, DC.
  • 20th: Employees at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri arrive to find over 100 headstones vandalized. On February 25, a Philadelphia Jewish cemetery is similarly vandalized.
  • 21st: Milo Yiannopoulos resigns from Breitbart after his statements seeming to support sex between adult men and young teenage boys are publicized. He is dis-invited from Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and his book deal with Simon & Schuster is cancelled.
  • 22nd: Adam Purinton shouts “Get out of my country!” before shooting three men at a bar in Olathe, Kansas. Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant, is killed.
  • 23rd: Steve Bannon speaks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Richard Spencer is kicked out. Milo Yiannopoulos had been scheduled to speak, but was uninvited beforehand.


  • 2nd: Charles Murray is prevented from speaking at Middlebury College in Vermont by students. Murray is the co-author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, which was widely denounced as a racist text which sought to justify racial differences in intelligence.
  • 3rd: Deep Rai, a Sikh and U.S. citizen who was born in India, is shot in his driveway in suburban Seattle. His White assailant yelled, “Go back to your own country.” Sikh men are frequent targets of hate crimes because of the distinctive clothing they wear.
  • 4th: The March 4 Trump is the first of several nationwide Far Right rallies which occur through June 10. They draw a new coalition of Trumpist Republicans, Alt Lite and Alt Right activists, Patriot movement paramilitaries, and fascists. Notable March 4 Trump events include Lake Oswego, Oregon (a suburb of Portland), where Three Percenters joined by a well-known Klan member. In Denver, neo-Nazis joined Three Percenters and Islamophobic groups. A second clash in Berkeley occurs, which is memorable for Kyle Chapman coming dressed in body armor and photographed wielding a stick, which turned into the meme “Based Stickman.” This inspired an Alt Right uniform, and more militant rightist action.
  • 8th: The California Highway Patrol (CHP) releases a 2,000 page report on the June 2016 clash at the California State Capitol in Sacramento which pit hundreds of antifascists against a much smaller number of Nazi skinheads who attempted to hold a demonstration under the name of the Traditionalist Worker Party. Fourteen people were wounded, including seven stabbing victims. The CHP recommends that 106 people be charged with 68 felonies and 514 misdemeanors. Eventually four arrest warrants are issued: three for antifascists and one for a fascist.
  • 13th: NPI is stripped of its tax exempt status as a non-profit for failing to file proper paperwork.
  • 17th: Mother Jones reveals that Richard Spencer gets money from multiple family-owned cotton farms.
  • 20th: Timothy Caughman is killed by James Jackson in New York City. Jackson, who is White, allegedly told police that he came to the city to kill as many Black men as he could find. He told a newspaper that he read the Daily Stormer; he also subscribed to YouTube video channels for Richard Spencer’s NPI and Radix.
  • 22nd: A former church owned by Craig Cobb is burned down in Nome, North Dakota. Cobb had repeatedly bought property in small Midwestern towns to attempt to establish a White enclave, most famously in Leith, North Dakota.
  • 23rd: A wave of more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools, which started in January, end with the arrest of a teenage hacker in Israel. Previously, a disgraced journalist, Juan Thompson, was arrested for making at least a dozen of the threats in an attempt to frame his ex-girlfriend.
  • 24th: Alex Jones apologizes to the owner of Comet Ping Pong in Washington, DC for promoting the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. The conspiracy held that children were part of a sex trafficking ring that involved the restaurant and a number of Democratic Party members.
  • 25th: The MAGA (“Make American Great Again”) march is the second nationwide pro-Trump event this month. Two thousand attend a Huntington Beach, California march. There, the DIY Division (later renamed the Rise Above Movement), a fascist group that includes members of the Hammerskins, attacks a much smaller group of antifa and press. An antiracist counter-protest in Phoenix draws 40 armed participants. A Philadelphia march, which includes many White nationalists, is overwhelmed by antifascists.


  • 8th: Richard Spencer leads a demonstration in Washington, DC opposing Trump’s missile strike the day before against an airbase controlled by the Syrian regime.
  • 15th: A “Patriots Day Free Speech Rally” in Berkeley draws 500 participants after a national right-wing campaign to mobilize supporters. It includes seig-heiling fascists who appear alongside Patriot movement activists, such as Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who is a speaker. About an equal number of counterprotestors fail to stop the rally from marching into downtown Berkeley. Identity Evropa leader Nathan Domigo is filmed punching a woman, which becomes a right-wing internet hit. The day is considered a great victory for the right and marks a turning of the tables against antifa for the moment.
  • 18th:
    • Richard Spencer speaks at Auburn University in Alabama. Matthew Heimbach and other members of the Traditionalist Worker Party attend, marking the end of a riff between the two. The rally ends with some of the fascists being chased away by the crowd.
    • An SPLC-led lawsuit is initiated against Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin for harassing a Jewish family in Whitefish, Montana. By June, Anglin had raised $150,000 for his defense.
  • 21st: Kyle Chapman “Based Stickman” announces the formation of the FOAK (Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights), a street-fighting group affiliated with the Proud Boys.
  • 26th: Allen Scarsella is sentenced to 15 years for shooting five at Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis in 2015. Scarsella was active on 4chan and sympathized with the Three Percenters.
  • 27th: Six members of Aryan Strikeforce are indicted on weapons charges.
  • 29th:
    • An annual parade in Portland, Oregon’s Montavilla neighborhood had been cancelled because of an anonymous threat. In its place Patriot Prayer held a Free Speech rally, which was attended by White nationalists such as Identity Evropa, and briefly by Mayor Ted Wheeler. Jeremy Christian attends and taunts the counter-protest by yelling “ni**er” and sieg heiling them. Organizers ask him to leave, but he is photographed shaking hands with participants.
    • The first major fascist-led rally of the year is held in Pikeville, Kentucky by the Nationalist Front. Participating groups include the Traditionalist Worker Party, Vanguard America, the National Socialist Movement, and the League of the South, as well as Alt Right figure Mike Enoch. About 150 people attend, and there is an equal sized counter-protest.
    • Controversy erupts after a photo, taken in March, is made public of Alt Lite media figures Cassandra Fairbanks and Mike Cernovich in White House briefing room making the “OK” hand gesture. This has been adopted by both the Alt Lite and Alt Right.


  • 1st:
    • Far Right groups harass May Day demonstrations across the country. In New York City Alt Lite activists set off flares and attempt to disrupt speakers in Union Square.  In Austin, Patriot movement activists and others are armed and prevent a left-wing march. In Nashville, May Day organizers report multiple death threats, and they are outnumbered five-to-one at their rally.
    • Start of pro-Confederate memorial rallies. In New Orleans, supporters carry weapons to their May 1 event.
  • 5th: Emails from French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron are leaked to 4chan in an attempt to throw the election to the Far Right party Front National. Alt Lite figure Jack Posobiec helps popularize the leak.
  • 6th:
    • Matt Furie, creator of Pepe the Frog, releases a one-page cartoon strip depicting Pepe’s funeral in an attempt to combat his usurpation by the Alt Right. Furie later retains a law firm which writes cease and desist letters, issues digital copyright takedown notices, and initiates lawsuits to enforce his intellectual property claims.
    • Alt Right members who attempt to attend a Trumpist rally at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul are turned away by both rally organizers and anti-fascists.
  • 7th:
    • Marine LePen of the Far Right party Front National is defeated two-to-one in the French presidential election by neoliberal Emmanuel Macron.
    • A second demonstration in New Orleans, Louisiana in support of keeping Confederate memorials draws a range of right-wing actors from Oath Keepers to neonazis. A protest for their removal draws 700.
  • 9th: Alt Lite figure Jack Posobiec attends a daily White House press briefing on a temporary pass.
  • 12th: Canadian Alt Right figure Lauren Southern is detained in Italy for participating in an attempt to block a Doctors Without Borders ship which was searching for refugees who ran into trouble while crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.
  • 13th:
    • The first of three unpermitted torch lit rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia is held by Richard Spencer.
    • The first “Free Speech” rally in Boston, Massachusetts is held by Alt Lite and Patriot movement activists.
  • 19th: Devon Arthurs, a former member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division who converted to Islam, is arrested for killing two of his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, who were said to be members. A fourth man, Florida National Guard Private Brandon Russell, is arrested for possessing bomb-making materials; he pleads guilty in September.
  • 25th: A demonstration in New York City against Muslim feminist Linda Sarsour giving the commencement at the CUNY School of Public Health draws a variety of actors. They include Milo Yiannopoulos, Islamophobe Pamela Geller, right-wing Zionist Dov Hikind, Gavin McInnes, and members of Patriot Prayer.
  • 26th: In Portland, Oregon, Jeremy Christian kills two men, Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, by slashing their necks; a third man is also slashed, but survives. The three had intervened against Christian to stop his racist and Islamophobic tirade directed at two young Black women on a light rail.


  • 3rd: White nationalist writer Bob Whitaker dies. His most famous work is the “Mantra,” which is the source of the racist slogan “anti-racist is code word for anti-white.”
  • 4th: In the aftermath of the the two murders on May 26, Patriot Prayer refuses to cancel a “Trump Free Speech Rally” in Portland, Oregon. It is attended by hundreds, including Patriot movement groups such as the Oath Keepers and American Freedom Keepers (AFK), as well as Alt Lite activists and Identity Evropa and Traditionalist Worker Party. A much larger group of counter-demonstrators surround the rally on all sides. An AFK member attracts media attention when he is photographed helping law enforcement arrest a counter-protester.
  • 10th:
    • Islamophobic group Act for America holds a nationwide March Against Sharia, with events in over twenty cities. This is the height of the street coalition of various Far Right forces, with Alt Right and Alt Lite activists, Trumpist Republicans, and Patriot movement groups working side-by-side. In many cities they are met by large counter-protests, which start to turn the tables again against Far Right street mobilizations.
    • In Houston, a march is called against a hoax antifa rally to remove a statue of Texas founder Sam Houston. However, hundreds attend the Far Right rally. There, a Patriot movement activist chokes a White nationalist from behind during an argument. This sets off an online flame war between the Alt Right and the Oath Keepers, helping to break up the uneasy de facto alliance between the two parties.
  • 14th:
    • Robert Doggart is sentenced to almost 20 years in prison for threatening to attack Islamberg, a Muslim community in upstate New York.
    • The Southern Baptist Convention condemns Alt-Right and White supremacy.
  • 16th: The play “Julius Caesar” at Shakespeare in the Park in New York City is disrupted by Alt Lite figures Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer. (Conservative media had alleged the play was a call for the assassination of Trump.) Loomer raises over $13,000 for her legal defense for charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct. Local Alt Lite activists repeat the stunt on the play’s closing night two days later.
  • 18th: Alex Jones appears on Megyn Kelly’s NBC show.
  • 20th: European Identitarians announce they have chartered a ship, which they name the C-Star, to intercept refuges in the Mediterranean and return them to Africa in order to prevent them from reaching Europe, as well as to block ships returning to Europe which have picked up refugees. The project, called “Defend Europe,” raises $178,000 with support from U.S. White nationalists. However, the voyage runs into numerous difficulties, and ends without picking anyone up or disrupting any rescue ships.
  • 22nd: Edgar Maddison Welch is sentenced to four years for shooting an assault rifle inside of Comet Ping Pong, the Washington, DC restaurant which is where the Pizzagate conspiracy theory is set.
  • 23rd: A Department of Homeland Security program, Countering Violent Extremism, makes public that it has revoked an almost $400,000 grant to Life After Hate—the only group on its initial grant list which was dedicated to reducing Far Right activism. The remaining grants all focus on Muslims. This is widely seen as a move by the Trump administration to turn a blind eye to the White supremacist movement, despite its ongoing legacy of violence and murder.
  • 25th:
    • In the wake of the June 14 shooting of four people at a Congressional baseball game, dueling rallies are held in Washington, DC. The Alt Lite “Rally Against Political Violence” is organized by Jack Posobiec and attended by Mike Cernovich, Laura Loomer, Cassandra Fairbanks, Lucian Wintrich, followers of Lyndon LaRouche and members of the skinhead gang 211 Bootboys. The larger, openly White nationalist “Freedom of Speech Rally” includes the Traditionalist Worker Party, Identity Evropa, and Richard Spencer.
    • Identity Evropa activists disrupt an anti-racist seminar in Wilton Manors, Florida. Far Right activists also disrupt two anti-racist trainings in Santa Monica, California in July and early August. In the fall, Berkeley’s Revolution Books, a Maoist bookstore, becomes the target of at least six protests and disruptions in the fall.
  • 26th: Republican Party of Multnomah County, Oregon (which includes Portland) passes a resolution to utilize Patriot movement paramilitary groups the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters for security.


  • 1st:
    • A Far Right rally is held at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. It is supposed to be a counter-protest to what is actually a hoax: an antifa group was allegedly going to desecrate Confederate graves. One participant, Benjamin Hornberger, accidentally shoots himself in the leg during the event.
    • Proud Boys who are members of the Canadian military are investigated after they disrupt an First Nations ceremony on Canada Day.
  • 2nd: Trump tweets a video of himself as a wrestler beating up a man with a CNN logo on his face. It is revealed the video was created by a man known for racist and antisemitic commentary.
  • 7th:
    • Fred Perry CEO John Flynn denounces the use of his company’s yellow and black polo shirts as a uniform by the Proud Boys.
    • Dane Powell is the first person sentenced for the J20 demonstration; he receives four months.
  • 7–8th: The G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany is met by a massive counter-protest. A group of right-wing journalists are attacked after one, Alt Right figure Lauren Southern, attends while wearing a White Nationalist t-shirt.
  • 8th: A small KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is met by a counter-protest of 1,000. Twenty-three are arrested.
  • 13th: Augustus Invictus announces he is leaving the Libertarian Party for the GOP.
  • 14th: Former Milo Yiannopoulos intern Lane Davis allegedly kills his father Charles Davis during a political argument.
  • 15th: A second Islamophobic “Ride for Homeland Security” vehicular demonstration is held outside the Muslim community of Islamberg in upstate New York. Proud Boys, Bikers for Trump, and Patriot movement activists attend. Islamberg is the focus of conspiracy theories which claim it is a jihadist training camp.
  • 21st:
    • National Security Council staffer Rich Higgins is let go after his a memo he authored, which reflect Far Right conspiracy theories, becomes public. It identifies Trump’s enemies as Islamists, globalists, bankers, and the “deep state.”
    • A Mother Jones article reveals that wealthy conservative William H. Regnery II is a funder of Richard Spencer.
  • 26th: Trump uses Twitter to announce his intention to bar transgender troops.
  • 27th: Evan McLaren becomes the new Executive Director of NPI.
  • 28–30: The American Renaissance (AmRen) conference attracts 300 at Montgomery Bell State Park, outside of Dickson, Tennessee. AmRen is the most academic conference for the Alt Right.


  • 5th: Ernst Zundel dies in Germany. He had helped popularize Holocaust Denial in Canada before being deported to Germany, where he served prison time.
  • 6th: Police allow open fighting between antifa and Patriot Prayer in Portland, Oregon.
  • 11th: On the eve of the “Unite the Right” rally, hundreds attend an unpermitted torch lit rally, led by Richard Spencer, on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. Authorities do not try to stop the march. A small group of counter-protestors are attacked.
  • 12th:
    • The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is a turning point for the Alt Right. Organized by Jason Kessler, this rally is supposed to be the coming out party for the White Nationalist wing of the Alt Right. Many prominent movement figures are scheduled to speak, including Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach, Mike Enoch, Augustus Invictus, Baked Alaska, and Christopher Cantwell, as well as neoconfederate Michael Hill. Up to 1,000 people attempt to attend. However, police make no attempt to separate the rally participants and counter-protestors, and clashes break out which involve sticks, mace, and rocks as attendees try to enter the park where it is to be held. The chaos is added to by dozens of heavily armed and uniformed militia members who claim they are there as a neutral party. Shortly before the rally is set to begin at noon, police declare an unlawful assembly and disperse both sides. As they leave, a White rally participant (Richard Preston) pulls a gun out and shoots at the feet of a Black counter-protestor (Corey Long) who had turned a can of spray paint into a makeshift flamethrower. A splinter march of Far Right activists goes into the town, and is recorded beating a Black man (Deandre Harris) in a parking garage. After 1:30PM, two seperate anti-racist marches run into each other, and as they turn up a narrow street, a car crashes into the crowd at high-speed. Heather Heyer is killed and at least 19 others are injured. The car backs up and drives off, but is stopped and the driver, James Fields, Jr., who had marched with the Alt Right fascist group Vanguard America, is arrested. Only four people are arrested that day. Afterward a small number of arrests are slowly made, including planned rally speaker Christopher Cantwell; Preston; those who beat Harris (Jacob Scott Goodwin, Daniel Borden, and Alex Michael Ramos)—as well as Long and Harris.
    • Trump makes the first of several statements on Charlottesville, saying “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides—on many sides.” He does not condemn Far Right groups as such.
    • Starting on the eve of August 12 and continuing through the week, hundreds of rallies in the United States, as well as around the world, are held in solidarity with antifascists and antiracists at Charlottesville.
  • 13th:
    • Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler is chased from his press conference by an angry crowd.
    • A Patriot Prayer rally in Seattle, Washington is met by a thousand counter-protestors.
  • 14th:
    • Backtracking on his earlier statement, Trump says, “Racism is evil—and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
    • A Confederate memorial is toppled by protestors in Durham, North Carolina.
  • 15th:
    • Trump continues to change his statements about Charlottesville. He points his finger at the “Alt Left”—a non-existent group—for violence at Charlottesville. Trump says there were “fine people on both sides” but there is “blame on both sides.”
    • One of the editors of, Jason Jorjani, leaves the website.
  • 16th:
    • Heather Heyer’s memorial in Charlottesville, Virginia is broadcast live. Her mother, Susan Bro, asks for people to make her “death count.”
    • Cloudflare, a service which protects websites from denial of service attacks, terminates the Daily Stormer’s account after CEO Matthew Prince “woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet.” This was just one of many online services which terminated services to White nationalists. Some platforms had taken steps to curtail White nationalist content even before Charlottesville. These included Twitter, Paypal, GoFundMe, Patreon, Soundcloud, Namecheap, and Google Ads. In the run up to Unite the Right, AirBnB cancelled reservations and Facebook took the event page down. Platforms that took action after Charlottesville include Squarespace, GoDaddy, Reddit, Spotify, Discord, SendGrid, Google, and others. Daily Stormer has ended up bouncing around the internet, looking for a URL. It has been hosted by—and removed from—businesses in Albania, Russia, Austria, Iceland, and Hong Kong. It is currently accessible on the dark web via a Tor browser.
    • Kyle Chapman is charged with felony possession of a weapon, which is his third felony charge in a Three Strikes state. In December he is arrested again while in possession of a potentially lethal weapon, in violation of his bail, which is then increased from $135,000 to $400,000.
    • Alt Lite figure Jack Posobiec cancels his nationwide “March on Google,” scheduled for August 19, which was to protest Google for firing James Damore. He was let go after circulating a misogynistic, anti-diversity internal memo.
    • ACLU of California breaks ranks with the national organization over its handling of the Charlottesville.
    • The anti-immigrant, White nationalist VDARE conference scheduled for April 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado is cancelled.
  • 17th: Noam Chomsky says antifa is a “major gift to the right.”
  • 18th:
    • Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House is announced.
    • Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler tweets that “Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist. Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback.” Kessler later claimed he was under the influence of Ambien, Xanax, and alcohol when he wrote the tweet. Richard Spencer says he will not work with Kessler after this.
  • 19th: A Boston Free Speech rally, organized by the Alt Lite, goes ahead despite criticism. It initially featured Augustus Invictus, who had been scheduled to speak at Charlottesville, although he is removed from the speaking list beforehand. Other speakers such as Gavin McInnes cancel. The rally is met by 40,000 counter-protestors.
  • 20th:  An America First! rally in Laguna Beach, California is met by 2,500 counter-protestors.
  • 22nd:
    • Trump’s appearance in Phoenix is met by a demonstration of thousands, which police use tear gas to break up. Trump denounces antifa in his speech, saying “You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks, and they’ve got clubs and they’ve got everything—Antifa!”
    • ACT for America cancels a second round of nationwide Islamophobic rallies which were scheduled for September 9.
  • 25th:
    • Sebastian Gorka leaves the White House.
    • Trump pardons xenophobic former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
    • On the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination, members of the New Order hold a public memorial for George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, outside of the shopping center in Arlington, Virginia, where he was killed.
    • Gavin McInnes formally announces he is leaving Canadian Alt Lite website The Rebel. Co-founder Brian Lilley had left on August 14 after reporter Faith Goldy had sympathetically covered the Charlottesville demonstration and appeared on a podcast affiliated with the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. Goldy is fired on August 18.
  • 26th:
    • A large counter-protest in Knoxville, Tennessee comes out against a pro-Confederate memorial rally.
    • Benjamin Davis, leader of the racist prison gang 211 Crew, is found dead in his prison cell. He was suspected of being involved with the 2013 murder of Tom Clements, who was head of the Colorado Department of Corrections.
    • The contentious Patriot Prayer “Freedom Rally San Francisco” is cancelled by organizer Joey Gibson the day before. Mayor Ed Lee, as well as Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had denounced it, and the ILWU held a port shutdown in protest.
  • 27th:
    • A number of Far Right activists attend the “March Against Marxism” in Berkeley, organized by Amber Cummings, despite the fact that she cancelled it and called on followers not to come. A large antiracist demonstration is there, including a black bloc. Far Right activists are chased away and scuffles break out; one man is beaten on film, although not seriously injured. Despite the minor nature of the conflict, many mainstream press outlets seize on this as an opportunity to denounce antifa, ending a short honeymoon period after Charlottesville.
    • Armed Patriot movement paramilitaries come to intimidate an anti-racist protest in Kansas City, Missouri for the third time.
    • Nathan Damigo leaves as head of Identity Evropa and is replaced by Eli Mosley. By December, Mosely is out and he is replaced by Patrick Casey.
  • 30:
    • Colbert, Oklahoma police chief Bart Alsbrook is revealed to be a longtime member of the Nazi skinhead group Blood and Honour, and has two neo-Nazi websites registered in his name: ISD Records and NS88 Videos. Alsbrook claims he is the victim of identity theft, but resigns as sheriff.
    • Thomas Rousseau splits from Vanguard America and forms the Patriot Front.
  • 31: Proud Boys hold an armed patrol in Texas after major flooding.


  • 1st: Politico breaks the story that FBI is investigating antifa as “domestic terrorists.” FBI director Christopher Wray confirms this at a November 30 Congressional hearing.
  • 5th: Trump calls for the end of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
  • 10th: Patriot Prayer holds a demonstration in Vancouver, Washington; about one hundred attend, and are met by 300 counter-protestors. A car tries to run counter-protestors over; the driver is arrested but later released without charges.
  • 12th:
    • Kenneth Gleason, who is White, is arrested for the random murders of two Black men, Bruce Cofield and Donald Smart, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A Hitler speech is found in Gleason’s residence.
    • Congress passes a joint resolution urging Trump to “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy.” Trump signs it two days later.
  • 13th: FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) releases an analysis of op-eds from six major newspapers after Charlottesville. It says, “Between August 12 and September 12, these papers ran 28 op-eds or editorials condemning the anti-fascist movement known as antifa, or calling on politicians to do so, and 27 condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists, or calling on politicians—namely Donald Trump—to do so.”
  • 15th: Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s speech at Berkeley is met with counter-protests.
  • 16th: The Mother of All Rallies (MOAR) in Washington, DC is attended by militia and Alt Lite members and attracts up to 1,000 people—far less than the one million which organizers claimed would attend. A demonstration held nearby and at the same time by the Juggalos, protesting their designation as a “hybrid gang” by the FBI, draws many more participants.
  • 19th: Hope Not Hate, a UK group that monitors the Far Right and recently established a US branch, releases report The International Alternative Right, based on Patrik Hermansson’s year-long undercover work, which includes damning video recordings.
  • 20th: Augustus Invictus, who was slated to speak at the Charlottesville rally, is expelled from the American Guard. The group was formed by activists involved in Vinlanders, a Nazi skinhead gang, but tries to distance themselves from neo-Nazism.
  • 23rd: Milo Yiannopoulos’s much-hyped Berkeley “Free Speech Week” is cancelled.
  • 24th:
    • Alternative for Germany (AfD), a xenophobic Far Right party, takes 13 percent in the German elections.
    • Two dozen neo-Nazis, led by the Patriot Front, attempt to storm the Houston Anarchist Book Fair, but are prevented from entering.
  • 25th: After undercover video is released of him praising Adolf Hitler, Jason Jorjani is suspended from teaching at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey.
  • 30th: The annual Stormfront gathering in Crossville, Tennessee fails to attract a large audience.


  • 5th: Buzzfeed reveals that Breitbart staff had been in direct contact with White Nationalists, who helped edit Milo Yiannopoulos’s article on the Alt Right—one of the movement’s breakthrough events.
  • 7th: Richard Spencer leads an unannounced, third torch lit rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • 11th:
    • A speech at Columbia University in New York City by British Islamophobe Tommy Robinson, delivered over Skype since he cannot get a visa to enter the United States, ends early after protestors disrupt it.
    • A lawsuit is filed on behalf of several counter-protestors at Charlottesville, including several who were injured, for conspiracy to violate their civil rights. White nationalist groups who attended the Charlottesville demonstration are named.
  • 12th: A lawsuit to prohibit paramilitary activities in Virginia is filed on behalf of the Charlottesville’s city government, plus some neighborhood associations and businesses. White nationalists who attended the rally, militia groups who pretended to be neutral peacekeepers, and armed left-wing groups who were present are all named.
  • 20th: Richard Spencer gives a speech at the University of Florida in Gainesville; he is heckled inside while a large demonstration takes place outside. Three of White nationalist attendees—Tyler Tenbrink, Will Fears, and Colton Fears—are arrested for their involvement in a shooting that occurs after the event.
  • 23rd: Military Times releases poll which finds that 25 percent of U.S. troops “have seen examples of white nationalism among their fellow service members.”
  • 27th:
    • Three members of the racist Aryan Brotherhood gang are sentenced for killing another member in 2011.
    • The video game Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is released; in it, players shoot Nazis in an alternate reality where they won WW2. Alt Right commentators had objected to it, and the game becomes the center of media attention as a work of political commentary.
  • 28th: A hundred people attend a “White Lives Matter” rally in Shelbyville, Tennessee held by the Nationalist Front; member groups the Traditionalist Worker Party, the League of the South, and the National Socialist Movement attend. They are opposed by 200 hundred counter-protesters. A rally in Murfreesboro later that same day is cancelled, but an interracial couple is assaulted afterward in Brentwood by rally participants.
  • 30th: Mike Cernovich speaks at Columbia University in New York City and is met by a large protest. Cernovich’s supporters plant a fake pro-NAMBLA banner in the crowd.


  • 1st: Carlos Moreno, Victor Vasquez, and Pamela Marques, who are all Latino, are shot and killed in a Walmart in Thornton, Colorado. The next day Scott Ostrem, who is White, is arrested. His neighbors said he was “very racist towards Hispanics.”
  • 2nd: Robert Mercer announces he will resign as co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, which has $45 billion in assets. This came after it was revealed that Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos, who he was funding, were in direct contact with White nationalists.
  • 3rd: FOX News’ Tucker Carlson discusses the slogan “It’s Okay to be White,” which was created and popularized by White nationalists on 4chan. In December he retweeted a story from Red Ice, one of the main Alt Right media platforms. This is one of several instances in 2017 when Alt Right slogans and stories have made it directly into mainstream conservative media.
  • 4th: The day of the supposed “Antifa Civil War,” when it was alleged that antifascists were “planning to kill every single Trump voter, Conservative and gun owner.” However, no such event was ever scheduled. The November 4 rumor was the most popular of numerous hoaxes, fake news items, and fake social media accounts that Alt Right and other Far Right activists perpetrated all year.
    These included calls for two fake demonstrations (in Houston, Texas and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) which produced real right-wing “counter” demonstrations; numerous fake social media accounts pretending, with varying degrees of seriousness, to be real antifa accounts; fake flyers, one of which called for the murder of white children; a popular doctored photo supposedly of an antifa activist attacking a police officer; and Alex Jones’s claim that the sniper who killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas on October 1 had “antifa crap everywhere” in his hotel room. Some of the hoaxes were able to make their way into mainstream conservative news. For example, in July FOX host Jesse Watters interviewed a member of “Boston Antifa”—who was actually an Alt Right activist. In November FOX News reported on the civil war hoax as if it was a real story.
  • 10th: Jack Posobiec doxxes Leigh Corfman and encouraged his followers to harass her at work. Corfman has accused Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore of trying to have sex with her when she was 14.
  • 11th: Independence Day march in Warsaw, Poland, which had become a Far Right event inclusive of fascist groups, draws 60,000. Banners include “Europe will be white” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.” A counter-protest draws 5,000.
  • 12th: Steve Bannon addresses a ZOA (Zionist Organization of America) gathering in New York City. In the audience are Sebastian Gorka and Alt Lite figures Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer.
  • 13th: FBI releases hate crimes statistics for 2016. They show a 4 percent increase generally, and a 19 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes specifically, from the year before. The report is widely criticized for undercounting the number of incidents.
  • 14th: Papa John’s Pizza denounces neo-Nazis in a tweet. The company had been declared the “official pizza of the alt-right” by the Daily Stormer after its CEO criticized protests by NFL players against racism.
  • 15th: Twitter bans Alt Right figure Baked Alaska, and removes verifications from Richard Spencer, Laura Loomer, Tommy Robinson, and Jason Kessler.
  • 17th: Neo-Nazi Brent Luyster is convicted of a triple murder in Washington state.
  • 18th: The Rally for the Republic, hosted by Resist Marxism, is held on the Boston Commons. It is attended by Alt Lite and Patriot movement activists and features Kyle Chapman. A thousand counter-protestors show up.
  • 19th: NPI’s conference is held at a wedding barn under false pretenses, after being cancelled by the Press Club in Washington, DC. The hosts force NPI attendees to leave halfway through when they find out its real purpose.
  • 20th: Buzzfeed reports on allegations of sexual assault against John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), a liberal congressional representative. The information had been fed to them by Mike Cernovich.
  • 22nd: It is announced that Richard Spencer is banned from Europe’s twenty-six country Schengen Area.
  • 25th: New York Times article “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” profiling a Traditionalist Worker Party member, is widely criticized for being overly sympathetic to fascists and normalizing their politics.
  • 27th: Jason Kessler files for a permit to hold a second rally in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2018. On December 11 the city denies it, along with a number of other permit applications.
  • 28th:
    • Alt Lite figure Lucian Wintrich speaks at University of Connecticut under the White supremacist slogan, “It’s OK to be White.” He is arrested for assault for an incident during the event but his charges are later dropped.
    • Federal prosecutors in the trial of activists arrested at the Inauguration Day Black Bloc on January 20 (J20) introduce video from Project Veritas as evidence. Videos originating with Far Right paramilitaries the Oath Keepers had also been introduced. The trials, which are being conducted in small groups, started on November 15 and will run through 2018.
  • 29th: Trump retweets videos from the deputy leader of Britain First, a British Islamophobic party. UK Prime Minister Theresa May issues a condemnation.


  • 1st: An independent review of the handling of the Charlottesville demonstration is released, finding that the police actions were both inadequate and produced “disastrous results.” On December 18, Charlottesville police chief Alfred Thomas resigns.
  • 2nd: Richard Spencer’s new group, Operation Homeland, which includes former Identity Evropa leader Eli Mosley, hold a Washington, DC demonstration. They are joined by Matthew Heimbach and members of his group. They call for “Kate’s Wall” in the wake of the acquittal of a Mexican citizen for the murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco.
  • 4th: The Supreme Court approves Trump’s revised “Muslim ban,” targeting travel to the United States from six Muslim-majority countries.
  • 5th: MSNBC fires contributor Sam Seder after Mike Cernovich popularized a satirical tweet Seder made in 2009 about Roman Polanski. MSNBC rehires Seder shortly thereafter.
  • 6th: Michael Wolfe receives a 15 year sentence for vandalizing and leaving bacon inside of a Titusville, Florida mosque.
  • 7th: William Edward Atchison kills two students, Francisco I. Fernandez and Casey J. Marquez, inside of a high school in Aztec New Mexico, before killing himself. He had been a poster on 4chan and Daily Stormer discussion boards.
  • 9th: A Patriot Prayer anti-immigrant rally in Portland, Oregon draws both Alt Lite and Alt Right activists. It is one of the last cities where this coalition of White nationalists and more moderate Trumpists are still taking the streets together.
  • 18th: After a public campaign by users to “Ban the Nazis,” Twitter starts a purge of accounts primarily  related to White nationalists, saying users “may not affiliate with organizations that—whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform—use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.” Some accounts are suspended immediately, while others happen in the following week. They include the American Nazi Party, American Renaissance and Jared Taylor, the League of the South and Michael Hill, Occidental Dissent, Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement, Vanguard American and affiliated accounts, the Traditionalist Worker Party, Generation Identity accounts, Keystone United, Proud Boys Magazine, Eli Mosley, Nordic Frontier, and Wife With a Purpose. Also suspended are Britain First and two leading members, Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding; Trump had retweeted videos from them, meaning these were now unviewable from his Twitter feed. Many prominent white nationalists, such as Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler, remain unaffected. Non-White nationalist suspensions include those associated with the Jewish Defense League and the New Black Panther Party.
  • 21st: First group of J20 defendants are acquitted of all charges stemming from protests during the Trump inauguration.
  • 23rd: Buckley and Scott Kuhn-Fricker are murdered in their Reston, Virginia home; Nicholas Giampa, 17, is arrested. He had been dating the Kuhn-Frickers’ daughter until they pushed her to break up with him after they found out Giampa was a neo-Nazi. On Twitterhe interacted with Alt Right fascist groups like Atomwaffen Division, Traditionalist Worker Party, and Vanguard America.
  • 31st: Michael Riehl was killed after a shootout with police in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, near Denver. One officer, Zach Parrish, was also killed, and six people were wounded. Rihel’s Facebook page includes a number of Pepe the Frog images and attacks on diversity.

When Silence Equals Death

On Friday, December 15, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration has prohibited the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from using the terms “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”

CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald rebutted the claim in a Facebook post on Sunday, saying, “I want to assure you that CDC remains committed to our public health mission as a science- and evidence-based institution. As part of our commitment to provide for the common defense of the country against health threats, science is and will remain the foundation of our work.”

Fitzgerald neglected to address the other five words included on the originally reported list, which was disclosed to the Post by an anonymous CDC analyst, and confirmed by other CDC officials.

When CDC was founded in 1946 (then called the Communicable Disease Center), its primary objective was fighting and preventing the spread of malaria. Today, CDC is the nation’s top public health agency, and is looked to as a global leader in the prevention and control of “infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities, and environmental health threats.”

In her Facebook post, Fitzgerald went on to assert that “CDC has a long-standing history of making public health and budget decisions that are based on the best available science and data and for the benefit of all people — and we will continue to do so.”

It’s true that CDC has historically served as a reliable source of science- and evidence-based research, and has played a critical role in protecting and promoting public health. As a federal agency, however, it is susceptible to the priorities and politics of the White House. The history of the AIDS epidemic is a tragic example of what can happen when those in power insert their oppressive ideologies and agendas into institutions that are otherwise intended to keep us safe.

The first reported AIDS cases emerged in 1981, and it quickly became evident that a national health crisis was developing. On April 23, 1984, CDC announced 4,177 reported cases in the United States, and 1,807 deaths. But as more and more people succumbed to AIDS, the White House remained silent, refusing to address what was at the time dismissed and derided as “the gay disease.”

AIDS research was chronically underfunded throughout the early years of the epidemic. When doctors at the CDC and the National Institute of Health requested more funding for their work on AIDS, they were routinely denied it. Historian and journalist Michael Bronski highlights a striking contrast in priorities: “Between June 1981 and May 1982 the CDC spent less than $1 million on AIDS and $9 million on Legionnaires Disease. At that point more than 1,000 of the 2,000 reported AIDS cases resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaires Disease.”

By the time President Reagan finally began addressing the issue of AIDS in earnest, it was 1987. Over 36,000 Americans had been diagnosed and nearly 60 percent of them had died. Reagan declared that AIDS was ”public health enemy No. 1,” but insisted that the crisis was as much a moral issue as it was a medical one, recommending that abstinence was the best form of prevention.

His commentary reflects the influence of the newly established Moral Majority, which was founded and lead by right-wing evangelical Jerry Falwell, who once declared, “AIDS is the wrath of God upon homosexuals.” Whether or not Reagan agreed with Falwell that AIDS was some sort of God-ordained punishment for LGBTQ people, his silence made him complicit in the deadly politicization of homophobia.

Despite significant advancements in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, the world is still without a cure, and the disease continues to have devastating consequences. According to the World Health Organization, “Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 35 million people have died of HIV.” It’s estimated that 36.7 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2016.

Luiz Loures, deputy director of UNAIDS, notes, “AIDS spreads most quickly wherever people are being discriminated against.” Though the medical community has thoroughly debunked the notion of HIV/AIDS being a “gay disease,” the association — and its attached negative stigma — remains high.

In Russia, the spread of HIV is currently being described as “catastrophic.” According to the United Nations’ UNAIDS program, in 2015 Russia had the third-highest number of new HIV infections globally. In December 2016, the Russian Federal AIDS Center reported that there were more than 1.1 million diagnosed cases of HIV in Russia.

Speaking about the situation in Russia, Sylvia Urban of the umbrella group German AIDS Service Organization observes that issues of sexuality in general and homosexuality, in particular, are taboo. Anti-LGBTQ oppression and violence in the country have been on the rise in recent years, further emboldened by the passage of Russia’s Anti-Propaganda Law in 2013, which banned “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

In an eerie echoing of Reagan’s 1987 comments, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a trusted advisor to President Putin, has called for “moral education” in response to the country’s AIDS crisis, stressing that the “establishment of family values, ideals of chastity and marital fidelity” should be at the forefront of curbing the virus. Vadim Pokrovskiy, head of the Russian Federal AIDS Center, blames this Kremlin-approved “conservative approach” for the fact that the number of HIV-infected Russians has more than doubled in the last decade.

I’ve previously described Russia’s Anti-Propaganda Law as a slow death sentence for the way it effectively isolates LGBTQ people from one another, restricting access to any evidence that they are not alone. The law, along with the culture of stigma-fueled silence that it reinforces, is also a death sentence for the way that it fails to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Government-sanctioned silence, whether it be in the form of neglectful indifference or outright censorship has serious, and sometimes deadly consequences, especially for the most vulnerable among us.

The Russian Orthodox Church was a key player in the passage of the Anti-Propaganda Law, and here in the U.S., the Christian Right’s fingerprints are all over the CDC’s censorship. The banned vocabulary list is part of a thinly veiled effort to advance a familiar agenda — one that aims to erase transgender people out of existence, eliminate abortion access, and maintain the status quo (i.e. White supremacy, Christian hegemony, and 1% economics).

Government-sanctioned silence, whether it be in the form of neglectful indifference or outright censorship has serious, and sometimes deadly consequences, especially for the most vulnerable among us.

In the Court of the Centrist King: Emmanuel Macron and Authoritarian Liberalism

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This article appears in the Winter 2018 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

“New Labour.” – Margaret Thatcher, when asked about her life’s greatest achievements.

“America is the original version of modernity. We are the dubbed or subtitled version.” – Jean Baudrillard, America (1986)

On July 3, 2017, France experienced an unusual spectacle. With all the regal pomp that the French state and the Palace of Versailles can accord, newly elected President Emmanuel Macron addressed both houses of parliament, only the fourth such address since 1873.

Macron used his speech to lay out a program of severe transformations to the French state and society: breaking labor and enacting economic “reforms”; decreasing the number of parliamentarians; minimizing legislation and legislative oversight; and making permanent aspects of the constitutional “state of emergency” France has been under since the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. In other words, far from the image of a liberal democratic savior painted by the Anglo-American press, Macron outlined a program to maintain and consolidate minority-government rule. In terms that hovered between self-parody and pure mysticism, Macron called this an “efficient,” new “contractual republic.” From the dais of the Sun King, Macron proclaimed—several decades after the fact—that we are all human capital now.

Macron’s program is anti-democratic in everything from its rejection of civil rights and equal protection to perfected neoliberal economic “reforms.”1 It even takes aim at the democratic institutions of the state itself. In structure and even aesthetic,Macronism” presents a postmodern pastiche of hyper-modern technocracy and ancien regime all at once. Understanding why this program is so attractive to the political center, and to liberals more broadly, is vital in order to understand the volatile political climate on both sides of the Atlantic. As with the supposedly “boring” political situation in Germany, where the neo-fascist Alternative fur Deutschland party will now be the first Far Right party to enter its parliament since the end of WWII, Macron also represents a rightward trend: a brand of authoritarian liberalism that emboldens the Right, facilitating its political maneuvering, and allowing even small radical right-wing movements outsized influence over national policy.

And yet, Macron’s election was met with near universal acclaim among nominally left-of-center politicians and media commentators across Europe and North America. “About as exciting and theatrical as electoral politics gets,” exclaimed The New York Times.2 Macron’s movement was held up as an exciting prospect, a new “revolution” from the center, a response to “Trumpism” the world over and in the United States in particular. This despite the fact that, just as in the Netherlands and Austria, the French Far Right, while not winning the election, still received higher support in the national contest than ever before.

Political scientists Yascha Mounk and Roberto Foa have recently argued, citing public opinion polling data, that there are decreasing levels of support for liberal institutions and liberal democracy itself.3 Such commentators do focus on the existential threat the Far Right poses. But the implications of their arguments go further: if push comes to shove, better the “traditional” Right than the emergent Left. Mounk and likeminded thinkers imply that there is little difference between, say, enthusiastic English Labour Party supporters chanting for Jeremy Corbyn and torchlight parades in Charlottesville.4 They see the failure to uphold the “vital center” as the disease and men like Emmanuel Macron are the cure.

If Macron is the bulwark against a looming authoritarian nightmare, why does his program look like an assault on the fundamental foundations of democracy in France?

But if Macron is the bulwark against a looming authoritarian nightmare, why does his program look like an assault on the fundamental foundations of democracy in France? If Macron is the defender of a broadly liberal dream, why do his policies look less like support for a multicultural, egalitarian liberal republic and instead, as Nancy MacLean recently wrote of midcentury American libertarians, more like “protecting capitalism from democracy”?5

President Donald J. Trump visits President Emmanuel Macron in France, July 13, 2017 (Photo: The White House / Shealah Craighead)

A “New” Kind of Politician

Wipe away the veneer of the Macron’s École Nationale d’Administration education and superstar status (outside of France) and one is left with a curious picture of the man himself. Macron cuts a strange figure on the French stage, but perhaps one more familiar to an American audience. A banker by trade, he uses his finance background as a stark contrast to the “inefficient” and hopelessly “weak” state. He embodies the increasing cross-spectrum enthusiasm in France for militarism, both in policy and aesthetic. In a weird echo of George W. Bush arriving in a fighter jet to his famously ill-conceived “Mission Accomplished” press conference, mere weeks into his presidency, Macron turned an ordinary naval inspection into a bizarre photo-op. In specially tailored, Macron-branded pseudo-military gear, he rappelled onto a nuclear submarine from a helicopter then had himself photographed in a commanding officer’s pose on the vessel’s bridge.6

This brand of machismo also extends to Macron’s personal behavior: in another strange episode, he engaged in a “handshake-battle” with President Donald Trump in May 2017. “My handshake with him was not innocent, not the alpha and the omega of a policy, but a moment of truth,” he’d later explain. “We must show that we will not make small concessions, even symbolic ones.”7 Macron caused another scene a couple months later at the G20 summit where, either because he relishes his rising star as the purported anti-Trump or was dissatisfied with his slightly background position at a photo-op, he awkwardly hugged, kissed, and elbowed his way to the front, right next to Trump.8 There are dozens of critiques of Trump’s hyper-masculine behaviors during the 2016 presidential election, and rightly so. Yet Macron’s similar behavior makes hardly a blip and when it does, is often noted approvingly by center-left commentators.9

In addition to mirroring Trump’s performance art version of politics, Macron also rivals his U.S. counterpart in sheer narcissism and “will to power,” comparing his rule to that of Jupiter, King of the Gods; openly regretting the fall of France’s monarchy in the French Revolution and, sounding quite a bit more like the conservative Edmund Burke or reactionary Joseph de Maistre than liberal John Rawls, openly lamenting democracy’s inability “to fill this void.”10

An apples-to-apples comparison of France and the U.S. is difficult. Even if Macron’s wish list for curtailing French labor laws and welfare provisions comes to pass, what remained would still be enviable compared to the U.S. This is not an appeal to any kind of Euro-philia. There are areas in these sectors—affirmative action, anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws and regulations—where the American position, however flawed, is salutary in comparison with France. But in basic social provisions—from welfare to healthcare, public housing to paid leave—the United States lacks anything more than the most rudimentary forms of these vital and basic universal social guarantees. But the importance of understanding Macron lies in the appeal of his political tendency—what Macron represents to so many delighted commentators—and the political formation he is trying to create: an anti-democratic, “authoritarian liberalism” as a possible future for “liberalism” itself.

President Donald J. Trump visits President Emmanuel Macron in France, July 13, 2017 (Photo: The White House / Shealah Craighead)

Something Different?

France’s election did do something extraordinary: as the French versions of Republicans and Democrats both imploded, a “new,” “neither Right nor Left” center-of-the-center candidate, Macron, rode middling support and the public loathing of Marine Le Pen’s Front National into a situation of extraordinary power.11 In addition to his sweeping powers as president, Macron’s new La République en Marche! party—an amalgamation of the Right, the neoliberal wing of the disintegrating Socialist Party, and center-right politicians—effectively commands single party rule in the French parliament. Despite overwhelming voter disaffection (voter abstention was nearly 52 percent in the first round of the parliamentary elections and close to an astonishing 65 percent in the second, the highest in modern French history), Macron has taken support from a mere 11 percent of the French electorate and transformed it into complete political domination.12

Macron has taken support from a mere 11 percent of the French electorate and transformed it into complete political domination.

The Republique en Marche! program was hilariously opaque during the elections—draping itself with cant and Camus, technocratic derision and Deleuze.13 Since then, though, it has become crystal clear.14 Macron will proceed—with the incredible speed afforded by the French constitution, which grants the president unusually strong powers—toward a radical transformation of the French state and society. This is most apparent in three key areas: first, destroying French labor and instituting related economic “reforms”; second, making the current constitutional “state of emergency” de facto permanent; and third, enacting anti-democratic political reform.

French cultural issues and even its increasingly bellicose foreign policy seem secondary to the goal of outright consolidation of political power around Macron’s weak, unpopular government, of maintaining minoritarian rule, and expanding state power of the police, intelligence, and military. This political consolidation is the means to enacting a series of “free” market reforms—a kind of massive neoliberal catch-up plan. And if it sounds familiar to American readers, it should. In a Venn diagram of the Republican Party and Trump’s political objectives, Macron represents the vast area of agreement.

State of Emergency

France had been in a technical “state of emergency” since the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The emergency suspended constitutional protections for citizens and residents and granted sweeping powers to executive bodies, from the president to the police. Then-President Hollande’s declaration was the first of its kind in six decades, since the presidency was granted new powers during France’s colonial war against Algerian independence in 1955.15 Despite an election framed explicitly around the threat of fascism, it remains remarkably underreported that for two years France has already technically been in a period of constitutional abeyance: one of the textbook warning signs for more legal understandings of fascism and authoritarianism.

Under the state of emergency, thousands of warrantless raids have been conducted and hundreds of people placed under house arrest—overwhelmingly French citizens and residents of Muslim background and racial minorities. Police were given nearly limitless power of surveillance, search, and seizure. After these searches, only 20 actual charges were ever filed. And although people remain under house arrest to this day, no emergency house arrest has led to any charges. Human rights NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have warned that these developments indicate that the rule of law in France is deteriorating. The emergency measures have been used not only for racial profiling but also to combat political dissent, such as at the COP21 treaty negotiations, in which protests were banned and 24 ecological activists preventatively detained to ensure the smooth negotiation of the market-friendly climate change treaty. One need not imagine how these powers could be used to suppress French unrest over changing labor laws or other political and economic reforms; since 2015, emergency powers have been explicitly invoked 155 times to prevent public demonstrations. Beyond the Muslim dragnet, 639 known political activists have been individually barred from public participation in assemblies and 574 of those cases targeted labor activists.16

In early July 2017, the state of emergency was extended until November and on October 3, the first institutionalization measures were passed. Although Macron campaigned on lifting the state of emergency, it is clear he is doing so in name only. His proposals—which have already sailed through the French senate—codify the power of the executive to ban public gatherings, close places of worship, search individuals, and confine people to house arrest, all without judicial oversight. A speedy judicial procedure—akin to the American FISA court—allows police to additionally raid any space but the executive has full and absolute control over all information the court sees.17 A new national counter-terrorism agency has been promised, intelligence gathering powers enhanced, and a 10,000-officer expansion of police forces proposed.18 This legalization—and in some cases intensification—of emergency rule provides a classic case of nearly every political philosophy argument against the very idea of states of emergency.19 But while Donald Trump has been stymied in fulfilling many of his promises to suspend or abridge U.S. civil liberties, Macron, the supposed avatar of ideological opposition to Trumpism, is pulling it off with speed and efficiency in France.

While Donald Trump has been stymied in fulfilling many of his promises to suspend or abridge U.S. civil liberties, Macron, the supposed avatar of ideological opposition to Trumpism, is pulling it off with speed and efficiency in France.

Crushing Labor

The French Center-Left and Right have long dreamed of breaking the near legendary power of French labor unions. France has followed the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Coordination (OECD) trend in decreased participation in organized labor—moving from a mid-1970s high of around 30 percent of the workforce to a current level of approximately 11 percent, heavily dominated by public sector unions. This is almost a mirror of labor union participation in the United States (while as of 2014, the Scandinavian countries have above or even well above 50 percent, the UK about 25 percent, and the OECD average nearly 17 percent).20 However, what has distinguished French labor even amid this relatively low level of union participation is its militancy. Although the French propensity to strike may be the butt of many jokes, its vital labor protections and admirable working conditions (not to mention its standard 35-hour workweek) were largely secured and maintained through fierce union struggle.

France’s economic situation today is dire. Unemployment has held steadily at around 10 percent for many years. One in four French youth are unemployed, with a similar level of unemployment found among immigrants. Nearly half of all unemployed citizens are long-term unemployed.21 Because of its extensive social welfare system, France has not yet faced the extraordinary decline in quality-of-life indicators that are seen in the U.S.22 But the overall structure of the European Union will likely soon make many of these social provisions increasingly difficult to maintain. For example, France has been in violation of European GDP-to-debt ratio rules since 2009. While France’s political and economic position as the key “second” power in Europe (after Germany) has given it considerable room to maneuver, recent EU and European Community (EC, formally European Economic Community) reactions—particularly to the Greek debt crisis and Brexit—have demonstrated the EU’s ongoing commitment to a strictly neoliberal austerity regime. It’s difficult to foresee a future in which French social provisions are not sharply curtailed without a revolutionary transformation of the EU and EC.

Macron’s initial round of labor laws, put into swift effect by presidential decree in September, weaken national collective bargaining, end sector-wide union representation, allow for swift and easy firing of employees, particularly employees at smaller French firms (over 50 percent of the workforce), and broadly circumvent unions and encourage “modern,” “flexible” employment.23

Macron’s labor and economic reforms will have the twin effect of bringing France closer to overall EU compliance and, to some extent, alleviating aspects of its dire economic portrait. Liberalizing the job market should bring unemployment down, but almost certainly through an explosion of American-style precarious employment for not only youth and the long-term unemployed reentering the workforce, but also for a significant portion of the currently stable labor sector as well. Macron is aware of this, acknowledging in 2014 that his proposed labor reforms mean, “young people will experience ten to twenty changes in their careers, they will work longer, their wages will not increase, not all the time.”24 Already, the initial reforms Macron helped pass under the government of former president François Hollande have produced a pattern where 86.4 percent of new hiring is for temporary employment.25 This increase in precarious employment—and in social precarity overall—is not simply an economic hardship for French workers. It has an additional, fundamental political impact: a more precarious society quite literally has less time and fewer resources for democratic participation.

A more precarious society quite literally has less time and fewer resources for democratic participation.

Macron seems likely to secure his policy victories with the same sorts of measures that have been used in the U.S.—those pioneered by American Republicans and emulated by the DLC-style Democrats of the 1990s and their contemporary successors. His tax and welfare reduction policies—couched in retro-chic Reaganite language, fretting about “the weakest” becoming “wards of the state”—are another near pitch-perfect imitation of Republican policies, promising to starve the state into “proper” form.26 If successful, a more precarious society is precisely what he will get.

Ending Checks and Balances

Perhaps the most audacious of Macron’s plans is his proposal to overhaul the French parliament altogether, decreasing its number of deputies, oversight, and even the amount of legislation it should consider. Although the French parliament has already granted him executive authority beyond his constitutional powers to pass his labor reform laws via executive “ordinances,” Macron remains committed to further reducing the legislature’s power. This parliamentary reform remains the vaguest part of Macron’s program, but he has promised to reduce the size of both houses by a third, to introduce measures to speed legislation more quickly through, and even to move some powers either to the executive or to subcommittees which could bypass parliament altogether. In an echo of U.S. Republicans’ demands to “deregulate,” he used his simulacrum State of the Union address to call on France to “try to put an end to the proliferation of legislation.”

Macron’s popularity—ginned up as the foil to Marine Le Pen—is already plummeting. He knows very well that his party is new and untried and that, as many neoliberals before him have noted,27 his program will never find broad support beyond the technocratic and professional elite. While he has not quite reached Trumpian levels of popular disdain, Macron’s support stands at the lowest all-time for a new French president: 42 percent as of late October 2017. And so it seems he sees labor repression, emergency powers made permanent, and a “kinder, gentler” semi-authoritarian state as the key legs of Macronism into the future.

The Democratic Void

The Austrian economist and key neoliberal theorist Friedrich Hayek was ever fearful of the encroachment of democratic majorities on “individual liberty”—a concept he carefully distinguished from “political liberty” (which he defined as “the participation of men in the choice of their government, in the process of legislation, and in the control of administration”28). What Hayek and modern-day neoliberals value above political liberty is a vision of human beings as completely free within the market and further, since the 1970s, as themselves “human capital”: existing as objects for “investment” to generate profit and not the full, rights-bearing citizens envisioned by classical liberalism.29 The threat that democracy poses for private property is one of the key foundations of neoliberalism.

Democracy, for Hayek et al., is not about majority rule, self-governance, and certainly not achieving egalitarian outcomes (or even the classically liberal position of equal opportunity). Democracy in this sense is purely functional. It allows for a smooth transition of power and provides the necessary checks on majoritarian power and other citizens for the flourishing of property, as cultivated by entrepreneurs. As Hayek once said in an interview:

Democracy has a task which I call “hygienic,” for it assures that political processes are conducted in a sanitary fashion. It is not an end in itself. It is a rule of procedure whose aim is to promote freedom. But in no way can it be seen as the same rank as freedom. Freedom requires democracy, but I would prefer temporarily to sacrifice, I repeat temporarily, democracy, before having to do without freedom, even if temporarily.30

One must keep in mind that “freedom” for Hayek and for his later followers means market freedom above all.

While the history of liberal thought includes many cautions about simple majoritarian rule—sometimes warranted, as for the recognition and protection of minority racial, religious, sexual, and ethnic groups from potential bigotry—Hayek’s chief concern is with preventing any rule of the majority to fundamentally demand a change in the overarching social contract. In this conception, humans are bound forever to the only true vision of freedom—market freedom—and the state’s role is in enforcing that “freedom.” As with small government arguments—from Hayek to “state’s rights”—the rhetoric is deceptive. The state, under his vision, won’t necessarily shrink. It may, in a technical sense, become not clearly sovereign, but its coercive apparati—through policing, surveillance, and programs to promote business—may, in fact, expand.

Macronism seeks to fill what he calls the “emotional abyss” of democracy, dug apparently by the French Revolution, with a neofeudal monarchial spirit of the “free market.” Instead of liberté, egalité, fraternité, Macron seeks to instill a business-friendly alternative: the “efficiency, representativity and responsibility” of his “contractual republic,” all under his careful, well-educated, “Jupiterian” gaze.31 In the heart of technocracy, one finds a postmodern ancien regime.

What Macron cannot change is the fundamental nature of the neoliberal project. Capitalism bought itself an extended lifespan with deregulated finance, the return of boom and bust cycles, and the squeezing of any remaining value out of a nearly fully commodified society—but even at that it can no longer artificially prop up growth rates nor solve the long-term productivity crisis in the economy (nor, many ecologically minded political economists would add, should we necessarily be wedded to any program requiring that). Having once extended and intensified the life of post-war capitalism past the crises of the 1970s, neoliberalism has become increasingly tenuous since its heyday in the 1990s, when there truly “was no alternative” between the feel-good brands of Blair and Clinton or the more hardnosed, “law and order” varieties of Major and Bush. Since the 2008 financial crisis—in which the state was forced to reveal its vast role in both maintaining the economic status quo and explicitly failing to intervene for the vast majority of individuals and communities—the neoliberal political project has held together largely through continued market and political consolidation, and subsequently, greater direct coercion and repression.

What lies at the center of Macronism is the lesson the U.S. Right learned nearly 50 years ago and that Hayek and his followers have always known: this political program, fully exposed, could never gain popular support. In the U.S., Republicans have responded to this reality by working, since the 1960s, to decrease the size of the electorate, disenfranchise racial minorities, and make voting as difficult (and pointless) as possible for poor and working-class Americans.32 Democrats eyeing Macron as a model for sustained commitment to the neoliberal program must know full well that they would be embracing the longstanding Republican outlook on democratic participation and rights.

For weary spectators across the Atlantic, Macron looks like a welcome relief from rising right-wing monsters and sheer gross incompetence. He also is—rightly—a welcome relief from the idea of Marine Le Pen at the helm of the second most powerful nation in Europe. But while liberal commentators like Mounk see Macron as shoring up support for liberal democracy,33 they fail to understand that Macronism cedes the entire “democracy” side of the equation—sometimes even the very idea of popular government—to the Far Right. Simultaneously, the Left is denigrated as expressing populist anti-liberal attitudes that might undermine the one right—property—that is the raison d’être for the regime. For Mounk, for example, popular European Left parties like Spain’s Podemos or Greece’s SYRIZA offer “simplistic” solutions and “inflammatory rhetoric.”34 They have the dangerous temerity to question the realities of “meritocracy.” They seek to “overthrow” the system unlike, well, Emmanuel Macron, who is fighting for a dehumanized “liberal democracy” as outlined here.

Macron demonstrates what it will take for the “center to hold”: nothing short of one-party, technocratic “liberal” authoritarianism, of the kind many OECD countries have been sliding towards for 40 years.35 But as a political program to extend capitalism through crisis conditions, sluggish growth and growing instability, such a project must become increasingly coercive, short-lived, or both. It would seem that the only opposition it can tolerate—in a version of Hayek’s ersatz democracy—is that of the Far Right. But if the neoliberal center can offer up only ever closer approximations to the more unadulterated right-wing project, there are few other possibilities it can pursue (and ever decreasing political prospects). As the great political economist and socialist organizer Rosa Luxemburg proposed in the 20th Century, the choice was simple—socialism or barbarism. This, the 21st Century center tells us, is oversimplified. There is also the choice of extended misery.

The Corbyn-Macron Paradox

During the ecstatic trans-Atlantic jubilation for Macron there was another election right around the corner. Following the Brexit referendum, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called early elections to solidify the position of her new, hard-right nationalist Tory formation. May, who has become one of Trump’s leading international supporters, had married David Cameron’s austerity program with the nativist elements from Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party. That orientation made it strange that many liberal commentators who’d welcomed Macron as an antidote to the Far Right were either silent about the contest between May’s Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s newly recommitted left-wing Labour Party or were openly contemptuous of Corbyn.

The liberal response to Corbyn is all the stranger given that he and similar political figures of the reinvigorated Left are more consonant with liberal tradition writ large than their faux-liberal counterparts of the increasingly authoritarian center. Corbyn’s 2017 Labour Manifesto was the most full-throated major party platform to call unequivocally for both economic democracy and full liberal rights of the individual; for investment in universal public goods and identity-focused programs that specifically addressed the unique social repression faced by women, racial, and religious minorities, LGBTQ people, and the disabled. And within a coherent political framework as well: the flourishing of individuals through the flourishing of society, understanding the interconnection of formal liberal equality claims and demands for recognition, and the social equity and democratization necessary for their realization.36 Corbyn was not attacking basic liberal rights or the democratic process; Theresa May was. And yet the self-appointed defenders of “liberal democracy,” who had championed Macron and his authoritarian liberalism, were silent.

The irony of the Corbyn-Macron paradox, for those in the business of carving out a future for liberal democracies, is that only with policies like Corbyn’s can those phantasmagorically ascribed to Macron possibly come to fruition.

Late to the Future

“America is the original version of modernity. We are the dubbed or subtitled version,” the French postmodernist Jean Baudrillard wrote in his 1986 travelogue America. “We are condemned to the imaginary and to nostalgia for the future,” he continued. “What we see here [in the U.S.] are merely the inescapable results of an orgy of power, and an irreversible concentration of the world that has followed upon its extension.”37

Although Baudrillard’s arguments are slippery, he stumbled onto a truth, almost like a funhouse mirror anticipation of Francis Fukuyama’s post-Cold War declaration that here, in Reaganite and Thatcherite “liberal democracy,” was the “end of history.” Baudrillard proposes instead that America is always already the future. It is where the “idea” of history, where Geist, already landed. And—in good postmodern fashion—Macron proves him both right and wrong. Macron is the overdubbed Ronald Reagan, several decades late and better educated. He’s the subtitled Bill Clinton, without the popular appeal or charm. But for once the French—perhaps because, as the work of Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez reminds us, vestigial feudalism has finally caught up with the times—are indeed ahead. Macron is the centrist vision for a baroque future better suited to the Palace of Versailles than the gleaming skyscrapers of New York. The greatest irony of all: for all this consolidation of power, for all the pomp and delusions of grandeur, Macron is auditioning himself, and France, for, at best, a number two role, to be forever in hock to Germany through the current mechanisms of the EU. Macron will truly be a king without a crown.

Macron’s appeal to political actors and thinkers is that he is the distilled essence of this spirit; he represents a future, hollowed-out liberalism relieved of all but the most cosmetic vestiges of democracy.

Without substantive advances for actual democracy, liberal rights lose even their formal meaning. They become charity bestowed by benevolent autocrats, by Jupiterian kings of the center, parceled out or withheld on whim. There is a dialectic of technocracy and its fruition is a new feudalism. Hiding within every good technocrat is a feudal lord who catches the scent, in Baudrillard’s phrase, of the “primitive future”—of a new-old barbarism just on the horizon. Macron’s appeal to political actors and thinkers is that he is the distilled essence of this spirit; he represents a future, hollowed-out liberalism relieved of all but the most cosmetic vestiges of democracy.

When Margaret Thatcher was asked about her greatest achievement, she replied: “New Labour.”38 In that she was both witty and incisive. It was only with the capitulation of the Center-Left that neoliberalism truly became entrenched as the only alternative to the Right. While Macron reshapes France into the perfect European vassal state and centrists around the world applaud, I can imagine the Iron Lady laughing as she wonders just how much more the Front National wins the next time around.


1 Neoliberalism, broadly construed, is a form of capitalist politics and governance which intensifies market relations in all aspects of society. Sometimes confused with a purely libertarian “market fundamentalism” (which it rhetorically often adheres to) or simply “more capitalism” (which is true but incomplete), neoliberalism extends the life of capitalism past endemic and external crises. So while there is language of the “shrinking” of the state, in fact state power is increased in its coercive functions while it is simultaneously decreased in its definitional sovereignty. One can think of this as a fundamental restructuring of the state in favor of unmitigated capital interests. For a more precise and thorough definition please see Philip Mirowski, Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown, (New York: Verso, 2014), chapter 2. On neoliberalism as a fundamentally right-wing reaction to the failures of the center-left please see, Adam Przeworski, Capitalism and Social Democracy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), chapter 6. For a more purely economic analysis of neoliberalism please see David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); and finally for understanding neoliberalism as a way of thinking, please see Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015). Przeworski’s succinct statement, in the early 1980s, that this is a new Right wing “to free accumulation from all the fetters imposed on it by democracy,” is extremely helpful in understanding that the neoliberal project is principally anti-democratic, not anti-state, even as it undermines, in many cases and areas, state sovereignty particularly where non-market actors might exert limiting powers over market actors.

2 The Editorial Board, “Mr. Macron Starts Making Waves,” The New York Times, July 21, 2017,

3 Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk, “The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect,” The Journal of Democracy 27, no. 3 (July 2016), There is something of a tautological argument across Mounk’s work. Support for liberal democracy is waning, the argument goes. And, while sociological specters like xenophobia, racism, class status, and economic well-being hover off-screen, haunting us with hopes of a causal mechanism, the primary motion is ascribed to the expressions of support or criticism for the status quo. Thus, support for liberal democracy is falling because people are failing to support liberal democracy.

4 See for examples of similar equivalencies: Yascha Mounk, “European Disunion,” New Republic, July 19, 2017,

5 Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, (New York: Viking, 2017), 81.

6 “French President Emmanuel Macron Dangles From Helicopter Over Sub,” NBC News (web), July 5, 2017,

7 “French President Emmanuel Macron says Trump handshake was ‘not innocent’,” USA Today, May 29, 2017,

8 “Emmanuel Macron jostles his way to the front of G20 photo to stand by Donald Trump,” The Telegraph, July 7, 2017,

9 Sylvie Kauffmann, “When Trump Meets Jupiter in Paris,” The New York Times, July 12, 2017, While I have argued elsewhere that the “politics of personality” are a poor substitute for ideology, what is interesting in Macron’s case is not the man himself but rather the reactions to him, particularly among media and political actors outside France.

10 Eleanor Halls, “Emmanuel Macron says France needs a King,” GQ UK, May 9, 2017, Macron’s words.

11 One should recall that various formulations of “neither right nor left”—while more recently popular with centrists—was a frequent self-description of 1920s and ‘30s fascists.

12 Will Worley, “French election turnout worst in modern history as Emmanuel Macron heads for landslide victory in parliament,” The Independent, June 12, 2017,

13 Gilles Deleuze, influential French poststructuralist philosopher.

14 For an examination of the election as well as some of its social underpinnings please see Perry Anderson’s excellent recent piece for the New Left Review 105 (May-June 2017), “The Centre Can Hold.”

15 “France: Abuses Under State of Emergency,” Human Rights Watch, February 3, 2016,

16 “France: Unchecked clampdown on protests under guise of fighting terrorism,” Amnesty International, May 31, 2017,

17 Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, “France: the Permanent State of Emergency,” Financial Times, October 2, 2017,

18 Yasmeen Serhan, “Will France’s State of Emergency Become Permanent?,” The Atlantic, July 11, 2017,

19 This series of developments would seem to confirm the classic Schmittian thesis about executive decision and emergency/exception being the true constitution of sovereign power. However, here it is interesting to note that Macron is not fully sovereign in a Schmittian, Hobbesian, or any traditional definition of the word. In the realm of the economy he is only able to “reform” as pre-determined by the EU and, even there, where sovereignty lies is not entirely clear. This sets up a series of questions about the nature of states and sovereignty in the globalized era that goes far beyond the scope of this paper. Carl Schmitt was a noted jurist and legal philosopher in the Weimar and Nazi eras in Germany. Although a far-right thinker—and an enthusiastic Nazi—his views are extremely influential on a wide spectrum of political thought to this day.

20 Trade Union Density (by country), OECD.Stat,

21 Hannah Murphy and Valentina Romei, “The economy that France’s next president will inherit,” The Financial Times, March 9, 2017,

22 “By almost any measure, life for the vast majority of Americans has gotten worse over the last 40 years or so. Poverty, women’s health, median per capita wealth, income inequality, incarceration rates, and so on have all grown worse. The United States is one of the few countries on Earth where the maternal death rate is increasing. We have a growing life-expectancy gap.” Ajay Singh Chaudhary, “What a proper response to Trump’s fascism demands: a true ideological left,” Quartz, November 17, 2016,

23 Caroline Mortimer, “Emmanuel Macron signs sweeping new labour law reforms amid union outcry,” The Independent, September 22, 2017,

24 Branko Marcetic, “Emmanuel Macron is Not Your Friend,” Jacobin, July 26, 2017, It is worth noting that Macron here is referring to earlier less drastic reforms.

25 Hannah Murphy and Valentina Romei, “The economy that France’s next president will inherit.”

26 Adam Nossiter, “In Lofty Versailles Speech, Macron Tells the French to Prepare for Change,” The New York Times, July 3, 2017,

27 See arguments about difficulties of advancing a neoliberal program with electoral popularity in Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (2014) and Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains (2017).

28 Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), 13.

29 The Chicago School economist Gary Becker popularized the concept of “human capital” in the 1960s. Since then the concept has become prevalent in policy discussions and popular discourse. It is part of a two-fold transformation of the subject as found in classical liberal political philosophy. On the one hand, human beings are “human capital,” like fixed capital—say, machines or buildings. You can invest in them for greater return on investment; they are changeable, malleable, and above all to be understood in their capacity to generate profit. On the other hand, human beings are consumers and all meaningful choices can and should be expressed through the market or market-like mechanisms. This is a far cry from the robust, rights-bearing citizen one finds in the pages of classical liberal political philosophy.

30 Friedrich A. Hayek, as quoted in Philip Mirowski, “Postface: Defining Neoliberalism.” in Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe, The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2009),446.

31 Eleanor Halls, “Emmanuel Macron says France needs a King.”

32 Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains, 87. As argued by Mariya Strauss (“‘Faith-Washing’ Right-Wing Economics: How the Right is Marketing Medicare’s Demise,” The Public Eye, Fall 2015), Republicans have also been enormously successful at mobilizing, within this diminished electorate, popular ideas via Christian moralism and theology of profit as a sign of grace, work as a moral imperative, and capitalism itself as in some ways divinely ordained. As Kathi Weeks and others have noted—drawing on the seminal work of Max Weber—this “Protestant ethic” can serve a profound role in justifying and reproducing capitalism while creating crushing commitments to work for work’s sake. Democrats and many who would consider themselves on the Far Left also often demonstrate a manic commitment to “Protestant ethic” values.

33 Yascha Mounk, “The Real Lessons of the French Election,” Slate, April 24, 2017,

34 Yascha Mounk, “European Disunion.” “Simplistic” is a farcical description of either Podemos or SYRIZA, regardless of one’s place on the political spectrum.

35 Raphaële Chappe and Ajay Singh Chaudhary, “The Supermanagerial Reich,” Los Angeles Review of Books, Nov. 7, 2016,

36 “Where We Stand: Our Manifesto,” UK Labour Party,

37 Jean Baudrillard, America, (New York: Verso, 2010), 76, 95.

38 Thomas Jones, “Blair’s Thatcher, Thatcher’s Blair,” London Review of Books, April 8, 2013,

The Christian Right’s Growing Allegiance to Trump

Donald Trump speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

As Donald Trump exited the stage after addressing the 2016 Values Voter Summit (VVS) in Washington, DC a year ago, the Rolling Stone’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” blasted from the speakers. The audience gathered together for the Family Research Council’s annual conference offered both Trump and then-Governor Mike Pence standing ovations, even though Senator Ted Cruz had won the traditional VVS presidential straw poll each of the previous three years, with Ben Carson consistently coming in second. The thousands cheering in the hotel ballroom were early evidence that evangelicals (who make up the country’s biggest and most powerful religious voting bloc) were gradually coalescing behind Trump. Indeed, come Election Day they turned out in force: exit polls from the 2016 presidential election revealed that the Trump/Pence ticket managed to win over 81 percent of White, self-described evangelicals.

On Friday, the crowd will likely offer an even more enthusiastic reception to now-President Trump. Announcing the president’s confirmed attendance, Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins said, “Values voters have waited eight years for a leader who puts America’s mission first and respects the values that made America into a great nation. … Since the early days of the campaign, President Trump allied himself with values voters, promising to put an end to the 8 years of relentless assault on the First Amendment.”

Perkins emphasized some of the actions taken by the Trump administration that are perceived as major victories for the Christian Right, including Trump’s executive order on religious liberty, which LGBTQ advocates described as a “license to discriminate,” and last week’s directive from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that further codified the Right’s redefinition of religious freedom. For LGBTQ people, these actions effectively legalize discrimination, and further embolden the violence and persecution that has been on the rise ever since Trump’s election.

Perkins also praised the Trump administration’s attack on reproductive freedom last week. The new mandate from the Health & Human Services Department significantly increases the range of employers and insurers that can invoke “religious beliefs and moral convictions” to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that birth control pills and other contraceptives be covered at no cost to patients. According to the Obama Administration, which instituted this coverage, more than 55 million women relied on the provision.

Values Voter Summit is Family Research Council’s annual conference.

CNN has described the Values Voter Summit (VVS) “one of the conservative movement’s marquee annual events,” and Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity called it “the premier conservative event now in the country.” This year’s gathering will feature notable right wing celebrities such as Roy Moore, Steve Bannon, Michele Bachmann, and Everett Piper, and breakout sessions range in topic from “Radical Islamic Supremacy” to “Transgender Ideology.”

Trump’s return to the stage indicates the strength of the Christian Right’s allegiance to a man who stands in stark contrast to what most might assume “values voters” hold as fundamental characteristics of a “model Christian” — Trump is twice divorced, rarely attends church, and has bragged about sexually assaulting women. But his ascension and continued popularity within Christian Right circles reveals the true underpinnings of their agenda: misogyny and White supremacy.

As researcher and sociologist Alex DiBranco explained in the Winter 2017 edition of The Public Eye, “Abortion, contraception, and sexuality education all threaten the enforcement of traditional gender roles,” therefore threatening the dominance of White, male power and control. To appeal to a broader base, however, the Christian Right has adopted the framework of “protecting women” (the same language used to promote discriminatory anti-trans legislation.

Trump’s unfamiliarity with the Christian Right and its evolving tactics is especially evident in his clumsy navigation of abortion rights — one of the Christian Right’s traditional bread-and-butter issues. DiBranco writes,

Set on proving that his “pro-choice” days were behind him, during the 2016 campaign Trump denounced Planned Parenthood as an “abortion factory” and selected hardline reproductive and LGBTQ rights opponent Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. In his eagerness, Trump unknowingly violated the Christian Right’s strategic deployment of a “kinder, gentler” image when he announced that women who obtained an illegal abortion should face “punishment.” Although Trump backpedaled to mollify anti-abortion groups that claim to protect women, his original statement was characteristic of the anti-woman vitriol of his campaign.”

Though VVS attendees may try to distance themselves from that sort of vitriol, and may even denounce groups that are more blatant in their racist and sexist values such as those aligned with the Alt Right, they have always had more in common with people like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos than they’d care to admit.

The Christian Right has aligned themselves with Trump not because he shares in their commitment to restricting the rights of women and LGBTQ people; the Christian Right has pledged allegiance to Trump because they value the preservation of White, male, nativist dominance.



RELEASE: From the Streets of Charlottesville to the Corridors of the Capitol, White Nationalism is On the March

Contact: Greeley O’Connor,, 617.666.5300

From the Streets of Charlottesville to the Corridors of the Capitol, White Nationalism is On the March

(BOSTON) The U.S. Far Right has killed nearly 450 people since 1990. Heather Heyer of Charlottesville, Virginia is the latest casualty of White nationalism. We can honor the sacrifice of the dead and wounded by matching their courage in standing down similar rallies planned for the weeks ahead. Equally important, we can defend members of our communities who are under attack. People of good conscience, regardless of party affiliation, faith tradition, or identity should look upon Charlottesville as a call to moral action in defense of humanity and rejection of White supremacy.

Saturday’s Unite the Right rally was designed, over months, to be the largest gathering of its kind in at least a decade, and was successful in bringing together disparate elements of the Far Right. We should reflect on the deep connection between antisemitism and White supremacy and understand why women, people of color, people with disabilities, religious minorities, immigrants, and LGBTQ people are often targeted first. This is bigger than Charlottesville. White nationalism should not be excused as an expression of “hate” or “ignorance;” it is a strategically coordinated movement with a political agenda.

Not all White nationalists dress up in costume and give Nazi salutes. Whether they are chanting “Jews will not replace us” at a torch lit rally or proposing regressive legislation on voting rights, the right to assembly, or other keystones of a liberal democracy, we must stop their momentum. When our President condemns neonazis only reluctantly and temporarily, it’s not courageous; it is too little too late, and only serves to further embolden the Right.  It is an open secret that the violent White nationalists on the streets of Charlottesville (and many other cities) were emboldened by candidate Trump’s presidential campaign, which gave voice to many of their own dangerous views. Their support is not only for Trump’s platitudes but also for the president’s policies. So while we welcome the denunciation of White supremacy from various corners of Congress, we require more from our elected officials. We call on them to uphold our common humanity as they consider policy changes to immigration, health care, education, and the equitable distribution of taxes needed to fund vital public services. We need to remain on alert for “law and order” rhetoric used to justify police and state aggression. We have no intention of stopping bigotry on the streets only to suffer its continued codification in the laws of our land.

The ostensibly “extremist” ideas given expression in Charlottesville must not be allowed to make racist federal policy initiatives appear moderate by comparison. As PRA’s late founder Jean Hardisty presciently stated in a 2005 essay “Wrong About the Right”:

The right has not been afraid to propose extreme positions, knowing they will be pushed back to more moderate ones still well to the right of the status quo. We’ve seen this in almost every policy fight since 1980. By boldly taking stands that are far outside the mainstream, the right has managed to pull the mainstream to the right, which is why it is now perceived as speaking for the majority.

The activists, faith leaders, and everyday people who stood up to armed and violent White nationalists in Charlottesville are the heroes of this still-unfolding story. Their courage stands in stark contrast to the cowardice on display in Washington, D.C. Theirs is the moral conscience of a people that refuses to be divided. Who we can be together will determine whether the U.S. protects and advances the principles of democracy, justice, and pluralism or succumbs to the forces that threaten to unmake them.

Saturday, August 19, 2017 will be a National Day of Action Against White Supremacy. PRA will be here, as it has for more than three decades, monitoring threats and revealing what each of us can do to advance justice and democracy in these turbulent times.


Battle without Bullets: The Christian Right and Fourth Generation Warfare

This article appears in the Summer 2017 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

On October 13, 2016, just three weeks from the election, then-candidate Donald Trump deflected sexual assault allegations in a speech at West Palm Beach. He railed against his opponent and a corrupt political establishment:

The Washington establishment and the financial and media corporations that fund it exist for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself…. It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities…. The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure. We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.1

Trump used similar language in a two-minute “closing argument” video released on November 4, in which he emphasized that “The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals, massive illegal immigration and economic and foreign policies that have bled our country dry.”2

In the video Trump also warned of a “global power structure,” flashing photographs of prominent Jews, including international financier and liberal philanthropist George Soros, Chair of the Federal Reserve System Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. This immediately provoked charges that Trump was employing antisemitic tropes that could have been taken from Protocols of the Elders of Zion.3

But aside from resorting to one of the oldest and vilest of populist appeals, Trump was doing something else. He was telling prospective voters—most of whom had likely never heard of Protocols—that the ruling political establishment was “failed” and “corrupt,” and that it had “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth.” He had launched a direct and devastating assault on the legitimacy of the country’s government and political, economic, and media elites, which he suggested was comprised of predators who posed an existential threat to voters’ towns, companies, jobs, and families; it had, he suggested, no moral right to govern.

Art: Ashley Lukashevsky

What might have seemed to most to be normal, if unusually acrimonious, political aggression was in fact a classic example of a right-wing strategy developed in the late 1980s: Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW). Trump’s rhetoric and policies rightly identify him as a “right-wing populist bully,” in the words of former PRA senior analyst Chip Berlet, who notes that right-wing populism includes nativism and authoritarianism, as well as “fears of traitorous, subversive conspiracies.”4 What distinguishes harsh populist rhetoric from a 4GW attack, however, is going beyond the charge that one’s individual opponent is wrong or misguided, to claim that the system is illegitimate and one’s opponents have no right to power or even to exist.

Fourth Generation Warfare is a term of art for the latest evolution of types of warfare. Essentially, the three prior “generations” were massed manpower, massed firepower, and non-linear maneuver. Think roughly of the changing approaches of the American Revolutionary War to World War I to World War II. William S. Lind, who originated the term “Fourth Generation Warfare” in 1989, noted that elements from earlier generations of warfare, like “collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him,” would carry over into 4GW but with a greater emphasis and employing new tactics. 4GW expands warfare beyond the physical level to include the mental and moral dimensions. At the highest level of combat—moral conflict—the central objective is to undermine the legitimacy of one’s opponent and induce a population to transfer their loyalty from their government to the insurgent.

Fourth Generation Warfare resonated with military strategists and scholars, especially after 9/11, because it examined the emergence of a new type of warfare between a non-state insurgent and a central government in which ideas are key weapons.5 Part of 4GW is “epistemological warfare”—that is, “warfare” that adapts and incorporates concepts from post-modernism, structuration theory, deconstructionism, and chaos theory. In very simple terms, this type of warfare aims to “Disrupt the moral, physical and/or informational vertical and horizontal relations (i.e. cohesion) among subsystems.”6 This serves as propaganda intended to foster uncertainty, mistrust, and a sense of menace, all aimed at breaking down the bonds of social trust.7

But the doctrine of 4GW has not been limited to use in foreign wars. It has also been used at home: as a psy-ops campaign perpetrated by domestic actors against domestic political and religious adversaries.

The insurgent force, in this case, is the Christian Right, led by its key strategists: the late Paul Weyrich who would transform electoral competition into all-out political warfare against the political system itself, and William S. Lind, the original thinker who postulated the emergence of Fourth Generation Warfare and who served as Weyrich’s right-hand man.

Paul Weyrich, an architect of the Christian Right8 and founder of the Free Congress Foundation, one of the movement’s strategic think tanks, saw 1980s-era America in terms of an epochal struggle between two camps over “our way of life.” He told the Christian Right’s founding direct mail fundraiser Richard Viguerie, “‘It may not be with bullets… and it may not be with rockets and missiles, but it is a war nevertheless. It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.’”9

“It may not be with bullets…but it is a war nevertheless. It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, it’s a war about our way of life.”

Weyrich and Lind commissioned and published a strategic document in 2001 that epitomized their thinking and evolution away from the indirect influence of the Christian Reconstructionists who were more focused on theology. Written by their Free Congress Foundation colleague Eric Heubeck, it was titled “The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program For The New Traditionalist Movement.” The objectives and tactics of the movement were the delegitimization and destruction of the Left, meaning the destruction through unrelenting propaganda barrages of the liberal-secular federal government and associated political culture and Constitution that protects individual rights.

“Our strategy will be to bleed this corrupt culture dry,” the document declares. “We will pick off the most intelligent and creative individuals in our society, the individuals who help give credibility to the current regime.” A little later, Heubeck writes, “Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them…. We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left…. We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime” (emphasis added).10

Weyrich saw the Christian Right’s vision of traditional values as the legitimate and moral side. The other side, cast as the camp of secular liberalism, he saw as immoral and illegitimate. While Weyrich saw these opponents as in rough alignment with the two main political parties, his aim was never merely about electing Republicans. He was about forging a revolutionary Christian nationalist movement to undermine the legitimacy of what he saw as a liberal, secular democratic order.

The Christian Reconstructionists

The starting point for understanding epistemological warfare and 4GW called for by Weyrich and Lind and executed by the Christian Right is to begin with the Christian Reconstructionists—the low profile strategic thinkers who have influenced American politics since the 1960s.

Founded by Rousas John Rushdoony, the Christian Reconstructionist movement, through its voluminous writings, persuaded several hundred influential conservative clergy and theologians that American society had to be reconstructed11—not reformed—on a new basis of knowledge or epistemology in order to build God’s kingdom on earth from the rubble of failed civilization. One way Christian Reconstructionist strategists influenced the trajectory of the Christian Right was participating alongside the John Birch Society in the formation and early running of the secretive Council for National Policy, a highly opaque organization that brought together Christian Right leaders, funding sources, and well-to-do activists.12

The Reconstructionists argued that Christians should make a fundamental choice—obey God’s law or obey secular law. In his 1997 book, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, PRA Senior Fellow Frederick Clarkson noted that Rushdoony had essentially unilaterally declared that America was in a state of long term, civil war. Clarkson noted that according to Rushdoony, “‘every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion’” and that “‘all law is a form of warfare.’” The source for all law, institutions, norms, values, and ways of knowing must be their own idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible.13

This worldview and its variants meant that all law, science, philosophy, and morals that did not conform to their interpretation of the Bible was illegitimate—or, in their words, anti-Christian and anti-God. Christian Reconstructionism had provided Weyrich and the Christian Right a theological justification for their all-out political war. Rushdoony himself was an acknowledged leader and thinker whose views were sought by the founding fathers of the contemporary Christian Right, including Weyrich.14

While the ideological role of Rushdoony and his fellow Christian Reconstructionists may not always be obvious, it’s not hard to detect when considering foundational thought regarding Christian nationalism;15 the grading on religious grounds of candidates for public office at all levels;16 the transformation of the constitutional principle of religious liberty into a demand for Christian Right primacy, the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and accusations that Christians are being persecuted;17 the propagandistic assault on evolution and demand that the creationist controversy be taught in public schools;18 and the unrelenting rejection of climate change science and belief that such evidence is fraudulent.19

The common denominator in all of these Christian Right assertions, demands, and propaganda efforts is not that their opponents are wrong on the facts, but that their opponents are an affront to God and that their way of knowing is illegitimate. This is the essence and objective of a Fourth Generation Warfare attack.

Photo: k8 via Flickr.

Colonel Boyd and Epistemological Warfare

The late Colonel John Boyd’s influence on William S. Lind, the former director of cultural conservatism at Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation, may be one of the most underappreciated stories of the development of the Christian Right and its ever-evolving political strategy. It’s not like Lind was hiding it. He was the co-author of at least three books on political strategy for the Christian Right: Cultural Conservatism—Towards a New National Agenda, Cultural Conservatism—Theory and Practice, and The Next Conservatism.20

Col. Boyd was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in the Korean War who dedicated the latter part of his career to reformulating U.S. strategic thinking. Boyd never wrote a book on strategy, but instead spread his thinking throughout the Pentagon via constantly evolving marathon briefings, each of which could last between 14 and 18 hours. In 1959, while an Air Force captain, Boyd wrote “Aerial Attack Study,” which would become official Air Force doctrine on air combat.21 He went on to help develop the F-15, F-16, and F-18 fighter jets in the 1960s and ‘70s. His contribution to the development of the U.S. Army’s AirLand Battle concept for defending NATO in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the incorporation of his ideas into the Marines’ doctrinal warfighting manuals and the Department of Defense’s joint doctrinal documents, as well as his influence on the United Kingdom’s and other European military doctrines all marked him as a uniquely influential military thinker. As an associate of Dick Cheney, then the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Boyd also heavily influenced the design of the 1991 Gulf War’s ground campaign.22

Boyd’s 1997 obituary in The New York Times noted that he is regarded as having helped “revolutionize American military strategy.” The highly decorated Colonel David Hackworth believed Boyd to be “America’s greatest military thinker.” Likewise, Major Jeffrey L. Cowan concluded his Marine Corps master’s thesis on Boyd’s conceptualization of warfare with the observation that Boyd “should be considered one of the most important military theorists of the United States.”23

What made Boyd’s work such an historic advance in the philosophy of military strategy was that he added the physical, mental, and moral dimensions to the traditional tactical, operational and strategic levels of military combat. For example, Joint Publication 3.0 on Joint Operations—which provides Pentagon doctrine to all U.S. military forces—defines the strategic level of warfare as the setting of national objectives and allocation of national resources to achieve those objectives. This translates national strategy into operational campaigns within a theater (e.g. Europe, Middle East), which then links to its use by military forces.24

Boyd posited that the highest level of warfare was moral, followed by mental, and physical. For example, a victory at the physical level of combat could, in reality, be a defeat at the moral level. Thus a government massacre of villagers could tactically mean that the government could claim a territorial victory, but it could delegitimize the government in the eyes of its citizens or international allies.

At that moral level of conflict, Boyd believed in exploiting three psychological conditions—menace, uncertainty, and mistrust—in order to create an existential and epistemological threat to an army or a society. Maj. Cowan, in his thesis, quoted Boyd’s explanation of these terms: “‘menace, which are the impressions of danger to one’s well being and survival; uncertainty or the impressions, or atmosphere generated by events that appear ambiguous, erratic, contradictory, unfamiliar, and chaotic; and, mistrust as an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion that loosens human bonds among members of an organic whole.’”25

Frans P.B. Osinga, a Dutch Air Force Lt. Colonel with a PhD who wrote a comprehensive analysis of Boyd’s briefings, noted that the aim of moral conflict, according to Boyd, is to “‘Destroy moral bonds that permit an organic whole to exist.’” Osinga quoted Boyd’s analysis of the “strategic aim” of moral conflict: to “‘Penetrate [his] moral-mental-physical being to dissolve his moral fiber, disorient his mental images, disrupt his operations, and overload his system, as well as subvert, shatter, seize or otherwise subdue those moral-mental-physical bastions, connections, or activities that he depends upon, in order to destroy internal harmony, produce paralysis, and collapse adversary’s will to resist.’”26

What has so far gone largely unnoticed is that the Christian Right has applied this type of warfare against the federal government, the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and its religious institutional rivals among mainline Protestant churches.

The Christian Right has applied this type of warfare against the federal government, the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and its religious institutional rivals among mainline Protestant churches.

Adapting Warfare for the Right

Weyrich’s view that the Christian Right had to wage an all-out propaganda war against secular liberalism and the Democratic Party (and the GOP) with the “same intensity” as a “shooting war” would come to early fruition with Newt Gingrich, whom Weyrich personally recruited in the 1980s and trained to use inflammatory rhetoric around cultural wedge issues.27 Eventually, Gingrich ascended to be Speaker of the House of Representatives by exploiting scandals he choreographed against the Democratic and Republican House leadership.

John Dean, President Nixon’s former White House counsel (whose Senate testimony laid the foundation for the article of impeachment for obstruction of justice), described Gingrich’s pre-Speaker tactics as “portraying Republicans as godly and Democrats as anti-religious liberals.” Gingrich’s rhetorical tactics according to Dean, “were developed through consultations with communications experts, and soon became standard operating procedure for Republicans.”28 Gingrich would be instrumental in dismantling the committee structure of the House of Representatives, undermining democratic norms of comity, polarizing the House into warring political tribes, and, weakening the scientific basis of public policy.29

Lind was very familiar with Boyd and his work. Prior to joining Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation, Lind worked for Senator Gary Hart on military reform issues, including as part of a small group working to reform U.S. defense strategy in Europe, which included Boyd. He also collaborated with Colonel Boyd on introducing maneuver warfare to the U.S. Marine Corps. Lind considered Boyd “America’s greatest military theorist.”30 He once wrote that he had “worked with Boyd for about 15 years.”31

Lind acknowledged that Boyd’s theories had shaped his own views on moral conflict, writing that 4GW’s “goal of collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him” derived from “Boyd’s OODA (observation- orientation- decision- action) theory.”32 Lind further argued, in ways consistent with Boyd’s thinking, that “psychological operations,” “manipulating the media,” and television news would become “more powerful” weapons in altering perceptions and public support for a government’s policies than actual military combat.33

Uncoincidentally, Weyrich launched National Empowerment Television (NET) during 1992-93 to attempt to manipulate news directed at conservative and Christian audiences.34 Although Weyrich’s first challenge to the media establishment came in 1973 with the Joseph Coors-funded Television News, Inc. (TVN), part of its significance is that it brought Weyrich and Roger Ailes into a direct working relationship and laid the groundwork for the emergence of Fox News some 20 years later.35

Television News brought Weyrich and Roger Ailes into a direct working relationship, laying the groundwork for the emergence of Fox News some twenty years later.

Since then, not only has the growth of the Christian Right and various sub-movements benefitted from Fox News misinforming its viewers36 but the Religious and Political Right depends upon dubious documentaries as a form of psychological operations to inform and expand its base of conservative and evangelical supporters, as well as undermine progressive organizations.37 Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s senior strategist, is responsible for eight documentaries alone, including In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed, Generation Zero and Fire from the Heartland (about the Tea Party movement), District of Corruption, and, Occupy Unmasked. The group Citizens United also released Rediscovering God in America and Rediscovering God in America II, produced by Candace and Newt Gingrich; Hype: The Obama Effect; Blocking the Path of 9/11; Hillary: The Movie; We Have the Power: Making America Energy Independent; ACLU: At War with America; Border Wars: The Battle over Illegal Immigration; and, Broken Promises: The United Nations at 60.

Under the strategic guidance of Weyrich and Lind, the Christian Right launched multiple propaganda campaigns since the 1980s38 to induce, through stages, a crisis of confidence and legitimacy39 completely independent of which political party controls the presidency and Congress, which philosophy holds sway in federal courts, or prevailing economic conditions. The delivery mode of this unrelenting barrage of criticism—designed to provoke a Boydian sense of disorientation, disruption, overload, menace, uncertainty, and mistrust among the general public—is propaganda disseminated through television,40 radio, movies, and documentary film,41 all mediums that appeal to emotions rather than logic.

The Payoff

Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute scholars Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein respectively reported in their 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, that the “Republican Party has become the insurgent outlier in American politics…The contemporary GOP…has veered toward tolerance of extreme ideological beliefs and policies…and rejection of the legitimacy of its partisan opposition.”42 Four years later, the scholars argued that both the Republican Party and the dysfunctional government had gotten worse. In their view, the “radicalization of the Republican Party” included “an utter rejection of the norms and civic culture underlying our constitutional system.”43

This conflict of legitimacy predates Trump’s candidacy. In addition to Republicans’ efforts to delegitimize President Obama, they were undermining the very basis of a secular, constitutional order and were using fear and propaganda to do so. But Trump also built upon these efforts and included his own violations of democratic norms.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump used racially charged accusations against Hillary Clinton, such as the insinuation that she would use African American voters to rig the election through voter fraud. These claims originated years before within the Republican Party.44 Not only is the claim of massive voter fraud without a factual foundation, it has long been a right-wing propaganda tool.45

Trump also declared throughout the campaign that he intended to jail Clinton for treason and prosecute her and her lawyers, calling her “crooked Hillary.” The Republican convention descended into a cesspool of prospective authoritarianism with calls to “lock her up” led by prominent Trump campaign officials and surrogates, including the future White House National Security Advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn. The effort appeared to be intended to delegitimize Clinton and her administration if she had won the election.46

In addition to delegitimizing candidate Clinton, Democratic voters, and the prospective election results, Trump amped-up long-standing right-wing attacks on the existence and functioning of a free, independent press.47 In fact, Trump escalated and expanded his attacks into full-blown epistemological warfare.48 But as historian and journalist Neal Gabler argued, Trump’s triumph and the ongoing epistemological war it wrought was made possible by the very same mainstream media that failed to adequately report on Republican and Christian Right destabilization of democracy.49

The theological-political war first unleashed by the Christian Reconstructionists, followed by decades of Fourth Generation Warfare propaganda barrages perpetrated by the Christian Right and the wider conservative movement, ultimately resulted in something most political observers thought impossible: the election of Donald Trump as president. This is both a result and a cause of American society probably being more divided—by race, class, gender, and political ideology—than at any time since before the Civil War. The bonds of societal trust are disintegrating. Constitutional norms of governance are being undermined. Institutions meant to hold the executive branch in check are under assault from within and without. None of this was accidental. But if we are to hold onto any semblance of democratic society, knowledge of how Fourth Generation Warfare works, and that a religious and political insurrection is well advanced in the United States, is essential to formulation of appropriate strategies going forward.

The strategic intent of a 4GW attack, as Boyd explained, is “to dissolve [an enemy’s] moral fiber, disorient his mental images, disrupt his operations, and overload his system, as well as subvert, shatter, seize or otherwise subdue those moral-mental-physical bastions, connections, or activities that he depends upon, in order to destroy internal harmony, produce paralysis, and collapse adversary’s will to resist.”50

Any effective counter-strategy to efforts of the Trump administration and its Christian Right supporters must begin by understanding that when they attack, their objective is to undermine opponents’ legitimacy, since under 4GW, legitimacy is the coin of the realm. But fact-checking and debunking conspiracism is only a partial solution. It must be accompanied by defending the legitimacy of institutions, democratic norms, legal procedures, and social groups singled out for attack.

In a 4GW scenario, the better narrative wins. Thus, any counter-strategy must include a robust narrative of what is being defended and why.

In a 4GW scenario, the better narrative wins.51 Thus, any counter-strategy must include a robust narrative of what is being defended and why, as well as the tools to counteract the menace, uncertainty, and mistrust engendered by 4GW attacks. These tools—a corresponding set to those in Boyd’s plan of epistemological warfare—provide individuals and groups with moral strength. Or in Boyd’s words, a “triumph of courage, confidence, and esprit (de corps) over [the] fear, anxiety, and alienation” of our modern, domestic, psychological war.


1 Katie Reilly, “Read Donald Trump’s Speech Addressing Sexual Assault Accusations,” Time, October 13, 2016,

2 Donald J. Trump, “New Television Ad: Donald Trump’s Argument for America,” November 4, 2016,

3 Dana Milbank, “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody,” Washington Post, November 7, 2016,

Steve Benen, “Trump’s closing argument faces allegation of anti-Semitism,” MSNBC, November 7, 2016,

4 Chip Berlet, “‘Trumping’ Democracy: Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action,” Political Research Associates, December 12, 2015,

5 Frans P.B. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd, (London: Routledge, 2007). 255.

Martin van Creveld, A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind, (Kouvola, Finland: Castalia House, 2015), 121-2.

6 Frans P.B. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd, (London: Routledge, 2007) 126. See Osinga’s chapter 4, pages 86-127, on how John Boyd was influenced by various scientific revolutions occurring in the 1970s and 1980s and adapted them into his reformulation of military strategy.

7 William S. Lind, et alia, “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,” U.S. Marine Corps Gazette, October 1989: 22-26, Global Guerrillas,

William S. Lind, Major John F. Schmitt, and Colonel Gary I. Wilson, “Fourth Generation Warfare: Another Look,” U.S. Marine Corps Gazette, December 1994,

Major Jeffrey L. Cowan (USAF), “From Air Force Fighter Pilot to Marine Corps Warfighting: Colonel John Boyd, His Theories on War, and their Unexpected Legacy,” U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, paper submitted for the Masters of Military Studies, 1999-2000, See his Chapter 4.

8 Joan Bokaer, “Paul Weyrich: The Man Who Framed the Republican Party,” Talk to Action, August 9, 2006,

Jean V. Hardisty, “The Resurgent Right: Why Now?,” The Public Eye, Fall/Winter 1995,

David Grann, “Robespierre of the Right,” The New Republic, October 27, 1997,

Political Research Associates, “Paul Weyrich,” January 12, 2009,


9 Richard Viguerie, The New Right: We’re Ready to Lead, (Falls Church, VA: The Viguerie Company, 1981), 55.

10 Eric Heubeck, ‟The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement,” [Free Congress Foundation, 2001], no date, at

11 Julie J. Ingersoll, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 8-9.

James C. Sanford, Blueprint for Theocracy: The Christian Right’s Vision for America, (Providence, RI: Metacomet Books, 2014) 3-4.

  1. Wayne House and Thomas Ice, Dominion Theology, Blessing or Curse?: An Analysis of Christian Reconstructionism, (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988) 352-361.

Rachel Tabachnick, “The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism (Updated),” Talk to Action, August 15, 2011,

12 Russ Bellant, The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism, (Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates, 1988,1991) 36-46.

Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1997) 80-1.

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13 Frederick Clarkson, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1997) 78-9.

14 Michael J. McVicar, Christian Reconstructionism: R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism, (The University of North Carolina Press, 2015) 144-147.

15 Frederick Clarkson, “Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters,” The Public Eye Volume 22 Number 2, Spring 2007,

Steven K. Green, “God is not on our side: The religious right’s big lie about the founding of America,” Salon, June 28, 2015,

16 Sarah Posner, “Manhattan Declaration Is The New Old Culture War,” Religion Dispatches, November 23, 2009,

Frederick Clarkson, “When Politics Means the End of the World (as we know it),” Talk to Action, August 27, 2010,

17 Frederick Clarkson, “When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right,” Political Research Associates, January 12, 2016,

Frederick Clarkson, “Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight,” The Public Eye,August 18, 2016,

People for the American Way, “The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry,” June 13, 2014,

18 District Judge John E. Jones III, “Memorandum Opinion,” “Tammy KITZMILLER, et al., Plaintiffs, v. DOVER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants,” December 20, 2005,

Reid Wilson, “New wave of anti-evolution bills hit states,” The Hill, January 27, 2017,

19 Right Wing Watch Staff, “The ‘Green Dragon’ Slayers: How the Religious Right and the Corporate Right are Joining Forces to Fight Environmental Protection,” April 2011, at

Lauri Lebo, “Creationism and Global Warming Denial: Anti-Science’s Kissing Cousins?,” Religion Dispatches, March 17, 2010,’s_kissing_cousins.

Jack Jenkins, “Evangelicals laud Trump’s climate denier EPA pick,” Think Progress, December 19, 2016,

20 William S. Lind and William H. Marshner, Cultural Conservatism—Towards a New National Agenda, (Lanham, MD: UPA Inc., 1987).

William S. Lind and William H. Marshner, editors, Cultural Conservatism—Theory and Practice, (Washington, D.C.: Free Congress Foundation, 1991).

Paul Weyrich and William S. Lind, The Next Conservatism, (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2009).

21 Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, (New York: Hachette Book Group, 2002), 5.

22 Frans P.B. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd, (London: Routledge, 2007), 3-4.


23 Robert McG. Thomas, Jr., “Col. John Boyd Is Dead at 70; Advanced Air Combat Tactics,” New York Times, March 13, 1997,

David Hackworth, “A Great Airman’s Final Flight,”, March 18, 1997,

Major Jeffrey L. Cowan (USAF), “From Air Force Fighter Pilot to Marine Corps Warfighting: Colonel John Boyd, His Theories on War, and their Unexpected Legacy,” U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, paper submitted for the Masters of Military Studies, 1999-2000, There is nothing simple about Boyd’s briefings. Frans P.B.. Osinga, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Netherlands Air Force with a PhD, noted that one of Boyd’s biographers, Robert Coram, believed “his briefings are virtually impenetrable without explanation.”

Frans P.B. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd, (London: Routledge, 2007), 7.

24 U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Operations, Joint Publication 3.0, Joint Staff Director for Joint Force Development, January 2017: 40-1.


25 Major Jeffrey L. Cowan (USAF), “From Air Force Fighter Pilot to Marine Corps Warfighting: Colonel John Boyd, His Theories on War, and their Unexpected Legacy,” U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, paper submitted for the Masters of Military Studies, 1999-2000,

26 Frans P.B. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd, (London: Routledge, 2007), 171, 176.


27 The Leadership Institute, “A Tribute to Paul Weyrich,” no date, accessed June 12, 2013,

28 John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience, (New York: Penguin Books, 2007), 122.

29 John Dean, Broken Government, (New York: Penguin Books, 2007), 31-4.

Thomas Frank, The Wrecking Crew. How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation, (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2008-9), 195-6.

Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science, revised and updated, (New York: Basic Books, 2005) 49-64.

30 William S. Lind, “John’s Boyd’s Book,” “On War #235,” Defense and the National Interest (maintained by the Project on Government Oversight), October 2, 2007,

Major Jeffrey L. Cowan (USAF), “Warfighting Brought to You by…,” no date,


31 William S. Lind, “John’s Boyd’s Book,” “On War #235,” Defense and the National Interest (maintained by the Project on Government Oversight), October 2, 2007,

32 William S. Lind, et alia, “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,” U.S. Marine Corps Gazette, October 1989: 22-26, Global Guerrillas,

33 William S. Lind, et alia, “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,” U.S. Marine Corps Gazette, October 1989: 22-26, Global Guerrillas,


34 Dan Morain, “2 Wealthy Conservatives Use Think Tanks to Push Goals,” Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1996, at

Media Transparency, “Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, Inc.,” no date, accessed May 13, 2009,

People for the American Way, “Buying a Movement: Right-Wing Foundations and American Politics,” no date, accessed June 3, 2013,

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35 Kerwin Swint, Dark Genius: The Influential Career of Legendary Political Operative and Fox News Founder Roger Ailes, (New York: Union Square Press, 2008), 60-1, 67, and 219.

David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt, and Media Matters, The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network Into a Propaganda Machine, (New York: Anchor Books, 2012) 31.

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36 Heather Hogan, “This Is How Fox News Brainwashes Its Viewers: Our In-Depth Investigation of the Propaganda Cycle,” Autostraddle, September 2, 2015,

Bruce Bartlett, “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics,” Social Science Research Network, June 3, 2015,

Chris Mooney, “Fox News Viewers are the Most Misinformed: A Seventh Study Arrives to Prove It (and to Vindicate Jon Stewart!),” DeSmog Blog, November 21, 2011,

Gordon Gauchat, “Study: Conservatives’ Trust in Science Has Fallen Dramatically Since Mid-1970s,” American Sociological Association, March 29, 2012,

37 Andy Ostroy, “The ACORN Vote: House Democrats Just Stuck a Knife in Their President and Party,” The Huffington Post, November18, 2009,

David Rosen, “The Tea Party Propaganda Factory You Probably Don’t Know About,” AlterNet, April 19, 2011, at

People for the American Way, “The Activists And Ideology Behind The Latest Attacks On Planned Parenthood,” August 3, 2015,

Asawin Suebsaeng, “I Watched All of Steve Bannon’s Bad Movies,” The Daily Beast, August 19, 2016,

Alex Kotch, “Trump Campaign Leaders Made Movies Comparable to Nazi Propaganda,” AlterNet, October 6, 2016,

Matthew Phelan, “Building the House of Breitbart,” Jacobin Magazine, November 5, 2016,

38 Jean Hardisty, “Constructing Homophobia: Colorado’s Right-Wing Attack on Homosexuals,” Political Research Associates, March 1993,

Surina Khan, ‟Calculated Compassion,” Public Eye Magazine, October 1998, at

Tarso Luis Ramos and Pam Chamberlain, “Nativist Bedfellows:The Christian Right Embraces Anti-Immigrant Movement,” The Public Eye, July 31, 2008,

Pam Chamberlain, “It’s Their Party: How The Tea Party Sustains The Anti-LGBT Right,” Political Research Associates, April 1, 2012,

Jean Hardisty, “Thoughts From PRA’s Founder,” Political Research Associates, December 21, 2012,

39 Ehud Sprinzak, “The psychological formation of extreme left terrorism in a democracy: The case of the Weathermen,” pp. 65-85 in Walter Reich, editor, Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, ideologies, theologies, states of mind, Cambridge, England and New York: Cambridge University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1990: 77-82. According to Sprinzak, the process of delegitimation moves through three stages: a crisis of confidence, a conflict of legitimacy, and a crisis of legitimacy. The crisis of confidence “implies a conflict with specific rulers or policies.” The conflict of legitimacy “implies the emergence of an alternative ideological and cultural system, one that delegitimates the prevailing regime and its code of social norms in the name of a better one.” A crisis of legitimacy entails the dehumanization of all individuals associated with the prevailing regime. “It bifurcates the world into the sons of light and the sons of darkness, and makes the ‘fantasy war’ of the former versus the latter fully legitimate.”


40 Eric Hananoki, “Fox’s news programs echo its ‘opinion’ shows: Smears, doctored videos, GOP talking points,” Media Matters, October 13, 2009,

Chris Mooney, “The Science of Truthiness: Why Conservatives Deny Global Warming,” The Huffington Post, March 26, 2012,

Bruce Bartlett, “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics,” Social Science Research Network, June 3, 2015, at

Heather Hogan, “This Is How Fox News Brainwashes Its Viewers: Our In-Depth Investigation of the Propaganda Cycle,” Auto Straddle, September 2, 2015, a

41Public Eye Magazine, “Citizens United—Floyd G. Brown,” no date, accessed May 29, 2013, at

David Rosen, “The Tea Party Propaganda Factory You Probably Don’t Know About,” AlterNet, April 19, 2011,

Alex Kotch, “Trump Campaign Leaders Made Movies Comparable to Nazi Propaganda,” AlterNet, October 6, 2016,

42 Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, (New York: Basic Books, 2012), 185.


43 Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, “Republicans created dysfunction. Now they’re paying for it,” Washington Post, March 8, 2016, a

44 Maggie Haberman and Matt Flegenheimer, “Donald Trump, a ‘Rigged’ Election and the Politics of Race,” New York Times, August 21, 2016,

The Editorial Board, “Donald Trump Cues Up Another Conspiracy,” New York Times, August 22, 2016,

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Elizabeth Warren, “Trump didn’t invent the ‘rigged election’ myth. Republicans did,” Washington Post, October 18, 2016,


45 Michael Wines, “All This Talk of Voter Fraud? Across U.S., Officials Found Next to None,” New York Times, December 18, 2016,

Jon Greenberg, “Fact-checking the integrity of the vote in 2016,” Politico PolitiFact, December 17, 2016,

Nick Fernandez and Cat Duffy, “Voter Fraud Myths Pushed By Trump Have Long Been Propagated By Right-Wing Media,” Media Matters, January 25, 2017, at


46 Dylan Matthews, “The Republican National Convention and the criminalization of politics,” Vox, July 19, 2016, at

David Corn, “Why This GOP Convention Is the Most Dangerous One Ever,” Mother Jones, July 20, 2016,

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, “The Republican ‘lock her up’ chants were disturbing. They were also inevitable,” Washington Post, July 22, 2016, at

47 Oliver Darcy, “Donald Trump broke the conservative media,” Business Insider, August 26, 2016,

Charlie Sykes, “On Where the Right Went Wrong,” New York Times, December 15, 2016, at

Charles J. Sykes, “Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying,” New York Times, February 4, 2017, at

Jennifer Rubin, “Questions Fox and the right need to answer,” Washington Post, May 24, 2017,

David A. Bell, “Fake News Is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing,” The Nation, December 22, 2016,

48 Editorial Board, “Trump is rigging the election: No matter who wins, America loses,” Washington Post, October 18, 2016, at

Paul Waldman, “Donald Trump’s Epistemological Netherworld,” The American Prospect, December 12, 2016,

Media Matters Staff, “Carl Bernstein: For Trump And His Administration, ‘The Opposition Is Not The Media; The Opposition Is Becoming The Truth,’” Media Matters, January 27, 2017,

Andrew Sullivan, “The Madness of King Donald,” February 10, 2017, at

Henry A. Giroux, “Rethinking Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World in Trump’s America,” TruthDig, February 13, 2017, at

49 Neal Gabler, “How the Media Enabled Donald Trump by Destroying Politics First,” BillMoyers, March 4, 2016,

Neal Gabler, “Blowing the Biggest Political Story of the Last 50 Years,” BillMoyers, March 11, 2016,

Neal Gabler, “After Playing a Central Role in the Trump Catastrophe, Will the Mainstream Media Learn Its Lesson?,” AlterNet, November 8, 2016,

50 Frans P.B. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd, (London: Routledge, 2007) 177.

51 David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, “What Next for Networks and Netwars?,” pp. 311-361 in John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, editors, Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001: 328-333.