A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in Charlottesville

THE RIGHT WING
A group that included many people who were college-educated or ex-military displayed effective planning. “White people are pretty good at getting organized,” said one.

Photo Credit: Youtube screencap / Vice News

The white supremacist forces arrayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend — the largest gathering of its sort in at least a generation — represented a new incarnation of the white supremacy movement. Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent.

Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people who have left the political mainstream in favor of extremist ideologies over the past few years. A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.

Many belong to new organizations like Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and True Cascadia, which have seen their numbers expand dramatically in the past year. Most of these groups view themselves as part of a broader “alt-right” movement that represents the extreme edge of right-wing politics in the U.S.

These organizations exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.

Despite intense interest from the media, police and local anti-racists, the white supremacists kept the location of their intimidating nighttime march secret until the last moment.

The next day, the far-right forces — likely numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 — marched to Emancipation Park. Once again, they arrived in small blocs under military-style command. The racist groups were at least as organized and disciplined as the police, who appeared to have no clear plan for what to do when the violence escalated. The racist groups stood their ground at the park and were not dislodged for many hours.

For many of them, this will be seen as victory. “Every rally we’re going to be more organized, we’re going to have more people, and it’s going to be harder and harder for them to shut us down,” said a spokesman for Vanguard America, a fascist group, who gave his name as “Thomas.” “White people are pretty good at getting organized.”

And though police arrested James Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Ohio man, for allegedly driving a Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and wounding many others, the white supremacists generally avoided arrests.

They also outmaneuvered their anti-racist opponents. On Saturday, a multifaith group met at the historic First Baptist Church for a sunrise prayer ceremony featuring academic Cornel West and pastor Traci Blackmon. The anti-racists, many of them clergy members, walked quietly to Emancipation Park, where they were vastly outnumbered by the white supremacists.

Later, a band of more aggressive counter-protesters showed up at the park, chanting “Appalachia coming at ya. Nazi punks we’re gonna smash ya!” These militant “antifa,” or antifascists, were also repelled by the white supremacists.

Given the scale of the protests, the far-right groups suffered few injuries. That was particularly notable given the fact that multiple people near the protests were armed. Throughout the weekend, right-wing and left-wing militias equipped with assault rifles, pistols and body armor patrolled the streets of Charlottesville. (Virginia is an “open carry” state, so gun owners are legally allowed to tote around firearms.)

State police and National Guardsmen watched passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters.

Many of the armed men viewed their role as maintaining a modicum of order. A “Three Percenter” militia out of New York state posted itself near Emancipation Park with the intention of keeping anti-racists from disrupting the rally. The group says it disapproves of racism but is dedicated to defending the free speech rights of all.

Blocks away, Redneck Revolt, a leftist militia from North Carolina, watched over the perimeter of a park where anti-racists had gathered, committed to preventing violent attacks by the white supremacist groups.

The presence of heavily armed citizens may have played a role in the decision of authorities to largely stay out of the violent skirmishes between the white supremacists and their opponents.

Those who actually marched included many new to the right-wing cause. The victory of Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election has energized a whole wave of young people who were previously apathetic or apolitical, rally organizer Eli Mosley told ProPublica. The president has served as “megaphone” for far-right ideas, he said.

Mosley and his comrades are seeking to draw in as many of these newly politicized young people as possible. “We’re winning,” he said. “We’re targeting the youth and making a movement that appeals to the youth.”

Some of those who’ve gravitated to the extreme right milieu are former liberals — like Mosley’s fellow rally organizer Jason Kessler — and supporters of Bernie Sanders. Many are ex-Libertarians.

“I was a libertarian,” said Mosley, as white supremacists chanted “Whose streets? Our streets!” in the background. “I looked around and noticed that most Libertarians were white men. I decided that the left was winning with identity politics, so I wanted to play identity politics too. I’m fascinated by leftist tactics, I read Saul Alinsky, Martin Luther King … This is our ’60s movement.”

Pure Power: How the Ocean in You Flows

Neo Nazis, violence, right wing extremism, despair. Behind these lies a deeper issue. The West has always been starving for, maybe obsessed with, power. By now, it has gained a little material, technological, utilitarian power — but that has come at the price of moral, spiritual, psychological power. The price of the former is the latter: for example, young people are dying faster because of a raging opioid crisis — like the protagonist in a Greek tragedy, the West is powerless to do much but eat its young. The reason is that it doesn’t quite know what power really is. And so, blinded by hunger for power, it is like a starving person eating poison.

So I want to talk about power in its purest form. I’ll do a long pointless explanation, which you can skip, and then talk a little about the experience of true power, which is what really matters.

When you wake up from a good sleep, you feel “energized”. Why is that? Not just because you “rested”. You can rest and feel exhausted by bad dreams afterwards, too. The reason is that mind, thought, self, mental action was gone. What was free to happen in its place? For some kind of energy to flow through you, “recharging” you. How could that be?

That power is always flowing through you. What is it? It is what being is in itself. If you learn to meditate, if you have a sudden experience of death like me, and so on, you will reach that place of pure being, the same as in deep sleep, only now you are conscious of it, and there you will immediately experience awareness in its raw form, like an ocean without an end. And just “beneath” the surface of that ocean, there is energy. Just pure energy.

You’ve already felt that pure energy — at least an inkling of it — on countless occasions. The instant you fell in love. A moment of epiphany. The birth of a child. Just standing below the stars on a summer night and feeling like you were never there at all. In all those moments, something unimaginably vast, oceanic, tidal, ripped through you.

That is pure power.

And then it was gone. Because the truth is that unless you can “channel” it, which is a terrible word with all the wrong implications, it will indeed rip you apart. So your little ego comes back into life, and then the experience of unity, oneness — and the impossibly vast power that you feel in that moment — vanishes, because your ego in a sense is there to protect you from it.

“Channel”. What do we really mean? We can’t control pure power, raw being. We can only let it guide us. So learning to be powerful in a genuine sense isn’t about Western notions of power at all — will, freedom, liberty, self-reliance, and all that it inevitably leads to: ubermen, competition, conquest, violence, envy, anger, which explains now. Being genuinely powerful is to let that vast ocean of pure energy flow through you just the way it should. What does “the way it should” mean? And how are we to do that?

By opening ourselves to it. Really standing naked in front of this great, vast, roaring ocean. It sounds scary, doesn’t it? It is. Saying: “Here is who I really am. I am wounded, hurt, small in this way, imperfect in this way, incomplete in that way”. And yet. Only then can pure energy flow through us just the way that it should. It can fill us up where up are empty, heal us where we are wounded, mend us where we are broken. It can flow, like water, from wholeness back into wholeness, because pure energy is always seeking itself, which is another way to say that the truth of life is love.

Now it probably won’t as simple as that. You will have to let yourself go. Pure energy, raw awareness, will whisper to you “go this way”, “this person is right”, “that way is wrong”. It will speak without words — and for that very reason, you will resist it, even though you will feel it. It’s movements, the movements of that great ocean, are what we call “emotions”, movements — and the reason that Western thought can’t even define emotions is that it doesn’t have a theory of being like the above yet, that is true to the human experience.

The ocean will speak to you without words. It always is, isn’t it? The challenge is letting your little ego hear its silent voice, without resistance, only acceptance, gratitude, silence. The ego says: “I am not guilty!”, “I am never afraid!”, and so on. What can the universe, pure being, raw awareness, tell you this way? It is talking, but you are not listening. The result is powerlessness. To be powerful is to hear the message that every instant of life is sending you, countless times, over and over again.

I say “message”. Why would this cold, harsh, impersonal universe care about you, me, our suffering, our pain? See? Your ego is already speaking. You are not hearing the universe now, are you? Never mind. It’s OK. Let us answer the question. Even if the universe is aware, why would it care? The answer is very simple, and you already know it. There is no separation between you and the universe, pure being, raw awareness. None whatsoever. All division is illusion. I am nothing you are not, and you are nothing I am not. That vast of ocean of energy beneath the surface of awareness, what is it really? It is you. Not just some of it. All of it. Just as the drop contains the ocean, so you contain pure being. Just as the drop is always seeking the ocean, so you are always seeking unity with pure being.

In its quiescent state, pure being radiates stillness, peace, calm. Now what happens the moment that it “sees”? Then you are created. Then you are born, you live, you die. You suffer, you live, you laugh. You are the act. You are the moment. You are the instant. You are the experience of the seer seeing itself and rejoicing. You feel evanescent and temporary because you are: you are just a glance. And just like a glance is fleeting, so you gain just a glimpse of the truth inside you.

Let me give you another analogy. The fish are just the ocean seeing itself. From the ocean’s perspective, there are no fish. There are just temporary moments and modes of awareness, each seeing in a different way. They are all absorbed back into the very same ocean. Who is, and who is not, and who has ever been? In the same way, you are just a glance, a look, the opening and closing of an eye.

So you must stand naked before this great and endless ocean. You must be able to say: “this is who I really am, frail, broken, small, humble”. You fear, deep in your bones, that the ocean will drown you. But all the ocean has ever done is flow through you. The moment you are naked, then the pure energy of being can flow through every last wound and scar in you. And that is all the experience of power really is. To let it.

Umair
August 2017

https://umairhaque.com/pure-power-ba3347ce2a24

“If you’re not resisting, you’re partaking”

A historian on Trump’s failure to call evil by its name

The president had a chance to take a stand against fascism. He didn’t.

 

A man makes a slashing motion across his throat twoard counter-protesters as he marches with other white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’ during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
 Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“This was our Beer Hall Putsch. This was the beginning of our revolution.”

Thus concluded a post on the Daily Stormer, a popular American neo-Nazi website in which the author, Andrew Anglin, recapped the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend.

The original “Beer Hall Putsch” was the first Nazi spectacle in 1923. It was modeled explicitly after Mussolini’s March on Rome. The putsch was an attempt by Hitler, the leader of the nascent Nazi Party, to seize power from the German government by marching to the center of Munich, alongside 2,000 fellow Nazis.

The putsch failed, amounting to little more than a crazed mob. Hitler was arrested and charged with treason. But the event became central to Hitler’s rise, as he used the subsequent trial to perform fiery speeches that were printed and reprinted in German newspapers.

On Sunday, I reached out to Timothy Snyder, a professor of European history at Yale University. Snyder has made a career of studying the history of 20th century fascism, and earlier this year released a book titled On Tyranny, a tightly argued warning about the dangers of encroaching American fascism.

I wanted to know what he thought about the events this weekend in Charlottesville, about the fact that the self-described alt-right protesters were shouting chants like “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil” (the latter a direct reference to Nazi ideology), and about President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to condemn white supremacy in clear terms.

“There are moments,” he told me, “when there isn’t a gray zone, when there isn’t really room for nuance, where if you’re not resisting, you’re partaking.” Saturday was one such moment, and Trump’s insistence that the violence is “on many sides” was a missed opportunity to take a stand against an emergent threat.

You can read our full conversation below.

Sean Illing

What was your reaction, as a historian of fascism and a citizen, to what you saw yesterday?

Timothy Snyder

Well, my very first reaction has to do with the codependence of the American far right and Islamic terrorism. This is an administration that depends, for its legitimacy, on the threat of Islamic terrorism. And it makes policy which would seem to make Muslim terrorism more likely (i.e., the Muslim ban).

And then, at the same time, you have this incident in Charlottesville, where an American right-wing terrorist tried to take the lives of people by driving his car into a crowd of citizens, which I immediately recognized as a copycat attack modeled on the last several Muslim terrorist events in Europe, in Nice and England in particular.

That was the very first thing that struck me, that American white nationalist terrorists are copying the very people they say they abhor, that they claim to be defending us from.

Sean Illing

Obviously, there’s nothing new about white nationalists or neo-Nazis in America, but did yesterday strike you as a flash point event that might trigger more organized violence?

Timothy Snyder

As your question indicates, this really depends on us. It depends on how local government reacts, how state government reacts. It depends on people keeping their heads. It depends upon law enforcement enforcing a law. In a normal situation, I would say that it depends upon how the federal government reacts. But we know that we’re not in a normal situation. What’s most striking, if you want to try to link what happened yesterday to our own history, is that we now have a president who doesn’t regard Nazis as a symbol of evil.

That’s the really striking thing. His reaction to this event is to say that everyone is at fault, and we should all hold together. That’s not the reaction that one would expect from the president of the United States. But it is consistent with what I’ve been trying to get across for the past few months. It’s consistent with Trump and Steven Bannon’s attempt to do away with the part of the American story that celebrates entering and winning the Second World War. It’s consistent with their attempt to do away with the part of the American identity that has to do with being anti-fascist, or anti-Nazi. It’s consistent with their botching the Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. It’s consistent with the utterly bizarre way that Sean Spicer talked about the Holocaust, when he said Hitler didn’t kill his own people. It’s consistent with Trump being the first major American politician in recent memory to skip visiting the Ghetto Memorial when he came to Warsaw in August.

And above all, it’s consistent with his “America First” slogan. This is what America First means. America First means an America where a Nazi Germany was not the enemy. So that’s the broad historical circle. We have an administration which has “America First.” What “America First” meant when it was used during the WWII era was that we should not resist Nazi Germany. Mr. Trump’s remarks on Saturday are totally consistent with that.

This is who and what the administration has been from the very beginning.

Sean Illing

It’s also consistent with Trump’s conspicuous unwillingness to offend or alienate white nationalists, on whom he apparently depends for votes.

Timothy Snyder

With Mr. Trump, there are two questions. There’s a question of his own convictions, and there’s the question of what he sees as politically useful. In terms of his own convictions, well before he became a politician, he was doing quite dubious things. For example, publishing that ad in 1989 in New York in which he prematurely called for the death penalty for those five African Americans falsely accused of rape. I just don’t think he would have done that if those people had not been African Americans.

I find it very striking that basically everybody on the alt-right sees Trump as part of their story. They all think that Trump is a stepping stone toward where America should be going. The white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, for example, talked about Trump as John the Baptist, which means he thinks Trump is clearing the way for the world Spencer wants to create, which is this white supremacist America.

Sean Illing

When the stakes are this high, when we’re confronting this kind of violence, the difference between actively enabling and refusing to condemn is negligible.

Timothy Snyder

There are moments, there are times, when there isn’t a gray zone, when there isn’t really room for nuance, where, if you’re not resisting, you’re partaking. And if you’re the president of the United States, you’re literally the last person in the country who has the right to indulge in nuance, who has the right to stay in some of kind gray zone at this time.

In other words, Mr. Trump’s failure is the greatest failure that one can imagine in this situation. There are things he could do that are worse, of course. He could actually endorse National Socialism in so many words. But short of that, not recognizing that these events, in their moral and historical seriousness, is just about the worst thing that a chief executive can do.

Sean Illing

When you look at what’s happening right now, do you see echoes of 20th century European fascism? And by echoes I don’t simply mean parallels — those are obvious enough. I mean, do you see reasons to be seriously alarmed?

Timothy Snyder

Okay, let me try to break that down and answer it in a calm way. First of all, it’s of course true that America has a history of the extreme right. We have a history of fascism, and even National Socialism. In 1939, you could get 20,000 people to Madison Square Garden to listen to a pro-Nazi speech. The tamer view of America First, that the Nazis are basically our allies in the civilizational struggle, that view attracted much, much more support than that. And, in general, the America of the ’20s and ’30s was not so different from the Central and East European societies that we now tend to criticize for their historical anti-Semitism.

Is there an increase in this racism, in this anti-Semitism? Yes. Everybody who measures this sort of thing says that there has been since the end of last year. The Southern Poverty Law Center says that there’s been an increase in incidents of the threats and violence under the Trump administration. Are we at a point where we should say that this is a threat to the system of the society as such? No, we’re not at that point yet.

But when the Daily Stormer writes today that “This was our Beer Hall Putsch,” they’re referring to the history of the German National Socialist Party. So in order to see the phenomenon for what it is, we have to have some sense of the history. The neo-Nazis are well aware of their own history, as it were. And we have to recognize what’s in front of us.

Sean Illing

You stress constantly the importance of language. Terms like “fascist” and “Nazi” have been emptied of meaning over the years due to overuse or misuse. But they absolutely apply here, and the people about whom we’re talking happily embrace them. So how do you think we should talk about these groups, how should we engage them? What sort of language is necessary?

Timothy Snyder

I think you make a good point that the terms suffer from erosion. And I think the only way to react is to always use terms with precision oneself. So when one refers to Richard Spencer as a leading American white supremacist, that’s exactly what he is. That’s how he describes himself. When one uses the word “fascist,” that’s a word that almost no one uses to describe themselves. So one has to have some definition of what a fascist is.

For example, a fascist is someone who believes in will over reason, whose politics begins with separating the outsider from the insider. A fascist is someone who believes that the main issue with global politics is a conspiracy against one’s own group. Given all that, it’s safe to call the kinds of people we’re talking about “fascist.”

The second thing, I think, one has to do is to build context around the people that we’re talking about. So if the language they use or the symbols they employ or the torches they carry are conscious references to Nazi Germany, which they are, then we have to fill in the context, we have to thicken those references, so that people remember all that is involved, in what they’re talking about.

And I think the final thing one has to do is to remember that history is there so that we can see the present, not so that we can dismiss the present. People often say, “Well, this is not exactly like 1933. Therefore, it’s not a big deal.” That misses the point. The point is to use the past to recognize the present, to see what’s actually going on in the present.

If we fail to do this, if we fail to see what’s happening in front of our faces, we will not be prepared for what comes next.

https://www.vox.com/2017/8/14/16141078/charlottesville-unite-the-right-nazi-history-timothy-snyder

Fascism Here We Come: the Rise of the Reactionary Right and the Collapse of “The Left”

Photo by Alec Perkins | CC BY 2.0

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over this last weekend is an important moment in American politics, symbolizing the ascendance of the reactionary right and showcasing the dangers of its toxic assault on democracy, equality, and the rule of law.  News outlets on early Sunday reported that one person was killed on August 12th after a car accelerated into a crowd of counter-protestors, while dozens more were injured.  That intimidation, terror, and murder are tools of the reactionary right in their war on people of color and non-Christians is nothing new in history.  Still, the most recent wave of right-wing hate is instructive, offering numerous lessons regarding the state of American politics.

First, the incident reveals that right-wing fascism has officially “arrived” on the American political scene, as seen in Trump’s refusalto condemn the murders.  Trump knows he can’t afford to alienate racist elements on the right to get re-elected, and he doesn’t want to alienate them, since he himself is a racist and a bigot.  Hence the refusal to use clear lanaguage to condemn the murders.  His political reasoning here is completely transparent, as he’s spent his entire political career cultivating hate on the reactionary right.  Although Trump eventually condemned the attack after receiving a large amount of negative press, his reversal is part of a broader trend Trump is known for, in which he initially signals to racists in his support base that he approves of their actions, thereby devaluing any later reversal as merely the product of political pressure, rather than principled opposition.  The damage, of course, has alredy been done.  Far-right fascists and racists know that the president supports their behavior when he goes out of his way to provide them cover.

The second lesson from this tragedy relates to the futility of claims that Trump and his far-right supporters are the sort of people with which “the left” should be working.  First, there’s the claim among numerous “left” pundits that Trump’s campaign represented the rise of working class populism, the implication being that Trump himself was a working class hero set on restoring America’s past economic greatness.  Other nonsense abounded about Trump the principled anti-imperialist, but that rhetoric is contradicted by his administration’s beliggerent rhetoric and nuclear threats toward North Korea, his militarism in Syria, and his embrace of increased sanctions against Russia.  The rhetoric about Trump the economic populist is contradicted by his record since taking office of embracing typical corporatist Republican policies, incuding deep cuts in social welfare spending, deregulation of big business, and efforts to ram through tax cuts for the wealthy.

It would be silly and wrong to say that all Trump supporters are right-wing fascists or extremists.  Many are simply conservatives who do not embrace racism or bigotry. According to data from the Pew Research Center and elsewhere, while two-thirds to three quarters of Trump supporters embrace reactionary and bigoted social views, the quarter to third do not.  Still, the recent push among numerous “leftists” to seek an alliance between the left and the far right (a “Brown-Red” alliance) is worrisome considering the growing data suggesting the right-wing elements of Trump’s support base are out-and-out fascists.

Three recent surveys raise alarm bells on the Trump-fascist front.  First, there was a poll reported in the Washington Post which found that a plurality of Trump voters believed that white Americans face “a lot of discrimination” in the United States.  Comparatively, just 19 percent said “Latino people” face “a lot of discrimination,” while just 22 percent felt the same about “black people.”  These results suggest mass delusion on the part of much of Trump’s base, considering the mountain of social science data demonstrating that people of color are systematically discriminated against in the mass media, on the job market, in the criminal justice system, and in other social settings.  This paranoia is no doubt feeding the reactionary right’s escalation of the “culture war” against people of color.

A second recent poll suggests that much of Trump’s support base has fallen into a cultish relationship with the president, expressing a blind trust for “The Donald” and authoritarian contempt for the press.  As the Economist reports, nearly half of Republican Americans now believe that the government should “shut down” news media outlets for “broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate,” while over half think these outlets should be fined for allegedly pushing falsehoods – the First Amendment be damned.  If these reactionaries get their way, government will be empowered to decide what constitutes responsible or accurate journalism.  Cultish support for Trump is most evident in the Economist’s polling of trust for Trump, in comparison to trust of various media outlets.  Three-quarters of Republicans state they trust Trump more than each of the following news outlets: CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.  While conservatives have long lambasted these outlets for their alleged liberal bias, the same cannot be said for other outlets, including the neoconservative Weekly Standard and the National Review.  But three-quarters of Republicans say they have more trust in Trump than these outlets.  More than half of Republicans express greater trust in Trump than Fox News.

Mass blind trust in a political leader – especially a con-man as narcissitic, duplicitious, and shamelessly deceptive as Trump – raises dire concerns about the ability of critical literacy skills to survive moving forward.  When citizens favor blatant propaganda as their primary source of information about the world, there is little hope that they will be able to separate themselves from reactionary, officially-endorsed fascism.  The cult of Trump will provide cover for an administration that has long expressed contempt for freedom of the press, and is now indicating its support for fascist policies aimed at criminalizing journalists for reporting on classified intelligence the Trump administration would prefer be kept secret.

A final red flag is raised regarding a new poll reported on by the Washington Post, which finds that 52 percent of Republicans would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump says it is necessary to root out voter-fraud before allowing a vote, while 56 percent say that shutting down elections is acceptable so long as Republicans in Congress agree.  No matter that Trump has presented no evidence of rampant voter fraud in the last election, or that the political experts who actually study the issue conclude that voter fraud amounts to a miniscule and trivial amount of all votes cast.  In a political world in which Lord Trump’s word is gospel, and media outlets challenging his propaganda are heretics, the truth no longer matters.

The organized left has been in serious trouble for years, which is evident in the decline of labor unions, the disappearance of leftist public intellectuals in academia, the rightward drift of the Democratic Party, and the complete failure of the Green Party to make inroads with the mass public.  There are of course some positive signs, as seen in the rise of Black Lives Matter and protests against the Trump administration – particularly those protests that provide a constructive agenda by supporting greater government funding for education and the introduction of universal health care.

Despite these positive developments, much of “the left” – if one could call them that, have turned to increasingly desperate statements and actions in an effort to become relevant again to American politics.  This desperation manifests itself in numerous forms.  First, there is the trend toward dealing with the Trump administration and reactionary supporters with kid’s gloves, downplaying the importance of the right’s bigotry and prejudice, as seen not only in racist and xenophobic rhetoric, but policies that discriminate against Muslims, people of color, and immigrants.  Some have claimed that Trump should be supported by leftists because of his election rhetoric about returning jobs to America, in opposition to free trade, and in support of normalizing relations with Russia.  None of this rhetoric has manifested itself in tangible policy proposals or actual policies, now more than half a year into this administration, which is a sign of how little commitment Trump had to these positions.  As it’s become harder and harder to maintain the myth that Trump’s electoral victory was a product of mounting anger among a working class left behind in the era of outsourcing and free trade, some on “the left” have tried to promote a “Brown-Red” alliance agenda by claiming that the far right can join with the far left to fight oppression and defeat the liberal media and the “deep state.”

Now some Green Party personalities and some of their “public intellectual” supporters who are nominally on the left seek to make common cause with openly white nationalist reactionaries.  This development demonstrates a serious intellectual decline in what counts for “the left.”  By downplaying the severity of the racist, sexist, classist, and xenophobic tendencies of the far-right and the reactionary elements of Trump’s base, individuals who claim to support the left betray the long history of resistance to bigotry, prejudice, and oppression that has historically defined progressive social movements.  Any sane person should want to have nothing to do with right-wing bigots or fascists, although this point has been obscured in talk of a “Brown-Red” alliance.

The decision by Cobb and McKinney to ally with fascists is a serious betrayal of progressive values.  It harms the credibility of anyone on the left who still claims the mantle of the democratic, anti-racist politics.  The Green’s alliance will not be forgotten by people of color, immigrant rights groups, and those opposing America’s Islamophobic turn. One can’t realistically “work with” right-wing nationalists one minute, then claim common cause with minority groups that are the targets of reactionary fascists.

Much of what remains of “the left” today is comprised of anxious, angry individuals who are rightly angry at a dysfunctional political-economic system that fails to represent the needs of the bottom 99 percent.  These individuals often feel deeply isolated from American mainstream society, and unfortunately, have been willing to gravitate toward all types of kooky ideas due to the decline of left-public intellectualism in the neoliberal era.  As public educational institutions have been dismantled and privatized, professors have been pressured and bullied by administrators and state officials to abandon advocacy work. And with the decline of American labor unions, productive venues for progressive activism have also begun to dry up.

Conspiratorial and extremist personalities have stepped forward to fill the left vacuum.  “Left” thinkers embrace authoritarian false prophets such as Assad in Syria and Putin in Russia, and portray these faux revolutionaries as on the vanguard of “anti-imperialism,” despite their repressive domestic human rights records, simply because they are against American militarism.  Others on the left fall into conspiracism, embracing 9/11 trutherism, and various “deep state” conspiracies such as claims that a secret intelligence apparatus was responsible for the JFK assassination and for framing Nixon for Watergate.  Never mind that there is a federal recording (made by Nixon himself) in which the former president openly speaks about paying off the Watergate burglars with hush money; we wouldn’t want to let evidence get in the way of a good conspiracy.

With the rise of “Brown-Red” alliance propaganda, some “leftists” have thrown their lot in with truly despicable individuals.  For example, McKinney and Cobb have recently sought to make common cause with noted Alex Jones groupies such as Mike Cernovich and Robert Steele, both with deeply troubled histories of embracing white nationalism.  Cernovich shamelessly embraces the rhetoric of “alt-right” sexists, referring to men he deems insufficiently masculine as “cucks,” while embracing conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, and advocating IQ testing for immigrants.  He has claimed that date rapeis not real, and has encouraged men to “slut shame” black women to avoid AIDS.  Steele is a David Duke sympathizer who publishes commentary along with Duke about the dangers of the “Zionist deep state,” as tied to conspiracies about how Jews control American politics, media, and banking institutions.  Steele gained infamy after an appearance on Alex Jones’ Info Wars claiming that NASA was running a child slavery ring on Mars.  And Steele explicitly compares Jews to animals, although I will not do him or Duke the favor of linking to any of his repulsive commentaries.  Echoing Steele’s anti-semitism, McKinney also has a long, sordid history of collaborating with blatant anti-semites, despite the presence of many anti-Zionist activists and intellectuals throughout the U.S. and the world who reject anti-semitism.

I’ve recently heard from numerous self-described leftists who defend the supporters of the “Brown-Red” alliance agenda, but the moral bankruptcy of these apologists’ claims have been stripped bare considering the wretched politics of individuals like Steele and Cernovich.  Steele has reached out to me in the past, seeking to recruit me in his battle against “the deep state.”  It was immediately clear that there was something very wrong with this man, which was apparent when he started spouting “deep state” conspiracies about Watergate, 9/11, and JFK.  Not yet knowing about his anti-semitism, I politely told him I had no interest in anything he was selling.  That Green Party leaders could be supportive of such a figure speaks poorly of their judgment.

Marginalized from access to mainstream political, economic, or media institutions, some claiming to speak for “the left” have concluded that the path forward is in allying with fascist forces on the right.  This act of desperation reveals the utter failure of the Green Party to make serious inroads with the public or in gaining political power.  But this Hail Mary is destined to fail. No progressive social movement is ever going to be built by propping up reactionary bigots and conspiracy theorists, who have zero interest in the fight against economic inquality, racism, and capitalism more broadly.  Progressively minded people would be far better served opposing the relatively small number of Americans who openly advocate reactionary white nationalism, and instead focusing on the millions of people of color, in addition to working class, middle class, and poor Americans who are all increasingly left behind in an era of growing corporate, plutocratic power over politics.  There is still time to return respectability to the progressive community in America, but this can’t happen so long as fascist enablers speak for the left.

More articles by:

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/15/fascism-here-we-come-the-rise-of-the-reactionary-right-and-the-collapse-of-the-left/

Donald Trump hasn’t just tolerated this upsurge of fascist violence — he enabled and encouraged it.

A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

 

It’s a dark moment for America — and our president personally made this possible

Now is an era of sadness and despair in America. Not only have right-wing extremists and Nazis, mostly composed of deeply entitled and privileged young white men, marched openly in our streets, pushing well beyond free speech by committing acts of deadly violence and terror against counter-protesters, but it’s become abundantly clear that our chief executive — the president of the United States — is both an enabler and a sympathizer of their lost cause.

There have been many occasions throughout the past two years when Donald Trump has made me embarrassed to call myself an American. There is his disgraceful and unpresidential behavior, often made obvious multiple times daily. There is the disturbing reality that he’s been politically successful both despite and because of his erratic bullying, which is not reflective of a strong leader but rather a fledgling authoritarian, ignorant bigot and amoral toddler.

On Saturday, however, Trump revealed himself to be far worse, given his barely unspoken, between-the-lines support for white supremacist goon squads and, yes, Nazi terrorists inside our national borders, marching in our streets.

It was bad enough that Trump has surrounded himself with “alt-right” white supremacists like Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. It was bad enough that Trump constructed his entire political message around a racist dog-whistle, appealing explicitly to the “forgotten men and women” of America. (There was little mystery about what color they were.) It was bad enough that throughout his campaign and presidency so far, Trump has pandered to aggrieved white people angry about Black Lives Matter and the first black president, while he simultaneously demonized nonwhites, be they immigrants or citizens. And then, in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday, he vindicated all our suspicions with the most atrocious presidential remarks delivered in generations.

While victims of the graphic, horrifying terror attack in Charlottesville were still covered in freshly drawn blood, including and especially the late Heather Heyer, the president meekly denounced the “hatred, bigotry and violence” of the day. By itself, that would have been passable. The president instead decided to add his own apparently improvised qualifier: “on many sides, on many sides.”

In other words, the white supremacist who rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, killing Heyer and injuring 19 others, is on the same level as the counter-protesters who didn’t kill or severely injure anyone that day. This according to your president, the ironically dubbed “leader of the free world.” The president’s “many sides” line also appeared to link the deadly Charlottesville terrorist attack with Black Lives Matter protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and other activists who, again, haven’t engaged in any acts of terror whatsoever nor are linked in any way to the Holocaust and other atrocities of World War II.

Making matters worse, the president refused to condemn the Nazis and white supremacists who assembled in the name of defending, in this case violently, the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville and — perhaps more importantly for them — expressing their perceived grievances in an age of broadening equality and civil rights. Again, it’s worth repeating: The president refused to condemn Nazis — actual, self-identified neo-Nazis with their snappy World War II German cosplayer regalia, their matching Nazi helmets, their khaki slacks and their combat boots.

We know exactly why Trump refused to say what so many other prominent Republicans and Democrats said in response. We know that Trump performs exclusively to his base. No one else matters beyond those represented best by his googly-eyed rally-attending disciples. These are people who largely do not identify as racists or Nazis, but who seem perfectly comfortable sticking it to perceived outsiders as well as the liberal benefactors of those “others.” We know that Trump has no problem with relentlessly blasting his enemies, yet neo-Nazis and white supremacists are somehow off limits.

Indeed, the only people Trump consistently refuses to condemn are Nazis, such as the Unite the Right goons in Charlottesville, and authoritarians such as President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and, of course, Vladimir Putin. Trump was perfectly comfortable comparing the American intelligence community with “Nazi Germany” a few months back, but he defiantly refused to condemn the actual Nazis marching in his backyard, 90 minutes south of the White House.

Trump was more than happy to attack his own attorney general and his own party’s Senate leader. He condemned war hero John McCain. He repeatedly condemned the judges of the Ninth Circuit. Hell, Trump condemned both “Saturday Night Live” and Nordstrom. But he’s afraid to condemn despots like Putin or the Nazis who attacked American citizens in Charlottesville. Why? I think we know the answer.

By now you’ve probably seen the shocking video of the organizer of the Unite the Right gathering, Jason Kessler, being chased away by antifa protesters and others still hurting from Saturday’s tragedies. Knowing that our president, in addition to being a pawn of the Kremlin and a profound embarrassment to the nation, also happens to be an apparent sympathizer with Nazis and white supremacists, it’s past time that we make some hard choices as citizens.

Do we collectively demand the swift resignation or impeachment of the president for his trespasses, or do we continue to endure this tyrant through the next election, even though Trump’s accomplices in Moscow might well seek to skew the election in his favor again? Do we continue to tolerate Trump and his team of racist advisers and the actions of the pathetic young men they’re animating? If after only 207 days, neo-Nazis are so empowered by a sympathetic president to commit murders as they did on Saturday, what will America look like 207 days from now? What will America look like after Trump appoints more top officials while “deconstructing the administrative state” and dealing in unnecessary nuclear brinksmanship? Let us choose not to find out.

We’ve endured incompetent presidents before. We’ve endured criminals in the Oval Office before. But we’ve never had both a Nazi appeaser and an apparent Russian puppet in the White House before. Now we’re beginning to see the real and fatal consequences of allowing a terrifyingly incompetent villain to ascend to this station, and matters can absolutely get worse. There’s no silver lining here, just a raw and mandatory urgency for Donald Trump to be legally ejected from his intolerable stewardship of the American presidency.

 

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon.com. He’s also the host of “The Bob Cesca Show” podcast, and a weekly guest on both the “Stephanie Miller Show” and “Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

The White House and the fascist rampage in Charlottesville

14 August 2017

After months of deliberate planning and coordination with the police, the Nazi “Unite the Right” rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia reached its deadly apogee Saturday afternoon when a 20-year-old Hitler admirer from Ohio drove his car through a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter Heather Heyer and wounding 14 more people.

The corporate press has focused on Trump’s failure to verbally condemn the violence of the far right. But the American media’s handwringing over Trump’s statements is not only naive. It deliberately covers up the extent to which the White House was involved in encouraging and inciting and even planning the Nazi mobilization in Charlottesville. The White House is crawling with pro-fascist operatives. Why would Trump condemn the actions of those whom he and his pal, Steve Bannon, view as a critical political constituency?

This Nazi riot is not an aberrational event in American politics. It is the product of Donald Trump’s strategy to build an extra-constitutional fascist movement outside the framework of the two parties, itself an expression of the putrefaction and collapse of American democracy under the weight of staggering levels of social inequality.

In the past three weeks, Trump and his advisors—Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka—have escalated the administration’s efforts to whip up support among fascist elements who form the core of his political base.

Trump has attacked Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, challenging one of the most powerful legislative figures in his own party. He has made bellicose threats that the US is “locked and loaded” for war against North Korea and appealed to his billionaire constituents as well as the police, immigration and border officials, and the military to support his “tough on crime” and anti-immigrant policies.

In the process, he has emboldened the forces that took over the 22,000-student University of Virginia campus on Friday. The Nazis carried out a torchlight parade across the campus, founded and designed by the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, while chanting “blood and soil,” “Sieg Heil,” and “one people, one nation, stop immigration.”

At dawn Saturday morning, dozens of uniformed fascist militiamen armed with assault rifles and shotguns deployed downtown, establishing military control over the heart of the 50,000-person city. After the militia had secured the area, without police interference, vans filled with people from across the country poured into the city center, unloading hundreds of Nazis armed with guns, knives, chains, metal poles, baseball bats and pepper spray.

What happened next can be described only as a fascist riot. Police withdrew from the scene and Nazis began attacking counter-demonstrators in the streets, shouting racial and homophobic slurs while chanting “Heil Trump.” Straggler counter-demonstrators were pulled into the Nazi melee and beaten mercilessly, while the police looked on.

Brian McLaren, a pastor who had traveled to Charlottesville as a counter-demonstrator, told the press that “the police hung back quite a distance” as the Nazis launched their attack. Then, in the early afternoon, James Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio sped through the crowd in his car, flipping bodies over the hood like bowling pins.

Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, responded to criticism by stating on Sunday that the police did “great work” over the weekend. McAuliffe, former head of the Democratic National Committee and prominent fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, said the murder of counter-protestor Heather Heyer could not have been prevented. “You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon,” he declared.

The purpose of this weekend’s violence was to send a message to Trump’s detractors in the Republican and Democratic parties that he has an alternative base to which he can appeal. Accordingly, the Nazis held their rally just two hours from Washington DC.

A timeline of the three weeks preceding this weekend’s rampage makes clear the systematic and calculated campaign of the Trump White House to mobilize the most backward and reactionary social forces in the country.

  • On July 22, Trump made a bellicose speech to an audience of sailors to mark the commission of a $13 billion aircraft carrier.
  • On July 25, he delivered a speech in Youngstown, Ohio glorifying Christian religious extremism.
  • On July 26, the Department of Justice filed a “friend of the court brief” stating that private corporations are not barred from firing employees based on their sexual orientation. That same day, Trump tweeted that his administration would bar transgender people from military service and nominated antigay Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to be the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
  • On July 28, Trump told police and immigration agents in Long Island, New York that he loved watching criminal suspects “get thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.” He urged them to rough up people being detained, saying, “Please don’t be too nice.”
  • On August 2, Trump and Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue announced legislation, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment [RAISE] Act, which would slash legal immigration in half. At a press conference announcing the plan, Trump’s advisor Stephen Miller echoed the anti-Semitic language of the German Nazi Party when he denounced CNN’s Jim Acosta as having a “cosmopolitan bias.” On the same day, the media reported that the Justice Department was planning to sue colleges for “discrimination against whites.”
  • On August 6, Trump launched a “Real News” program on his Facebook page in an attempt to build a personalist following outside the framework of the mainstream media.
  • On August 8, White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who is a member of the Hungarian fascist Order of the Vitez, said the fascist bombing of a mosque near Minneapolis, Minnesota might be a “fake hate crime” that was “propagated by the left.” The following day, Gorka told Breitbart News that “white supremacists” are not “the problem,” and that terrorism is the product of Islam.

In the days that followed, Trump launched his war threats against North Korea and Venezuela and made new attacks on the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell.

This weekend’s Nazi violence is stamped with the political trademark of Bannon, Miller and Gorka. Nazi demonstration leader Jason Kessler acknowledged after the event that organizers had “networked with law enforcement” for months in advance of the “Unite the Right” provocation.

Kessler also met with several Republican officials in preparation for the Nazi mobilization. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Kessler held a press conference with Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart to denounce Charlottesville’s plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

In March, Kessler traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Virginia Congressman Tom Garrett, who represents the Charlottesville area. Kessler posted on Facebook that he had “a very productive meeting today with Congressman Tom Garrett,” and acknowledged that he was in discussion with Garrett over how Kessler’s Nazi groups could support Trump’s anti-immigration measures: “We talked RAISE Act and Stop Arming Terrorists: 2 great bills we support,” Kessler’s post read.

The events in Charlottesville and Trump’s drive to develop an extra-constitutional fascist movement are a warning to the working class in the US and internationally. The program of the fascists in the White House and on the streets of Charlottesville is for genocidal war abroad and the mass internment and murder of immigrants, LGBT people, Jewish people and socialists at home.

Fascism is the excrescence of the decaying social order of American and world capitalism, which, in the figure of Donald Trump, has vomited up a fitting expression. It will not be stopped through moralistic appeals to the political establishment, but only through the mobilization of the working class united across racial, national and ethnic lines and politically armed with a revolutionary program for the socialist reorganization of the US and world economy.

Eric London

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/14/pers-a14.html

What Can We Learn from 1967’s Summer of Love to Help Us Through Our Current Political Nightmare?

ACTIVISM
Danny Goldberg discusses his new book about a magical and often misunderstood era in U.S. history.

Photo Credit: Radharani / Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: Danny Goldberg is the modern version of the Renaissance man. He has a long and colorful history as an activist, author and influential music executive. Goldberg came of age at the height of the hippie era in 1967, experiencing the powerful and haunting mix of excitement, hope, experimentation and despair. He captures it all in vibrant detail and political nuance in his newest book, In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea (Akashic Books). AlterNet’s executive editor Don Hazen interviewed Goldberg in his offices at Gold Village Entertainment on July 12.

Don Hazen: Let’s start by addressing what lessons we can learn from 1967. In the book, ‘In Search of the Lost Chord,’ there is a lot about that classic split between the hippies and the radicals. And is that a Bernie/Hillary split? Is that split still with us? How do you look back 50 years and apply it today?

Danny Goldberg: Well, there are things to learn to do, and things to learn not to do, from the ’60s. A major feature of the Be-In, in January 1967 that led to event of the Summer of Love, was that it was a “gathering of the tribes” to try to address that split.

There were also serious divides within the civil rights movement. Stokely Carmichael and Adam Clayton Powell sometimes mocked Martin Luther King publicly and questioned his non-violent strategy. On the other hand, when Martin King came out against the war, the NAACP board voted 60-0 to condemn him for that position because they feared pissing off President Johnson.

There were splits in the peace movement between the pacifists and non-pacifists; among those who focused on replacing LBJ with an anti-war Democrat there was bitter resentment between many of those who preferred Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy supporters.

DH: And the Digger critique of Abbie Hoffman was what?He was not ‘lefty enough’?

DG: It was that the Diggers were committed to anonymity and Abbie was the opposite of that. There’s no question Abbie Hoffman was a self-promoter, but on the other hand he had the ability to popularize radical ideas in a way no one else could. The Diggers saw themselves as the conscience of all these movements.

DH: And Peter Coyote was a Digger, right?

DG: Yes, Coyote was one of the thought leaders. The Diggers organized the free concerts near Haight-Ashbury. They made and gave free meals to hundreds of people. They ran a “free store.” They came from the experimental theater world and did a lot public displays that challenged conventional thinking.

They had a mimeograph machine, and distributed circulars in the neighborhood, and when the Black Panthers started in Oakland, the Diggers lent them the machine for the first three issues of their newspaper.

But they also had a self-righteousness that judged almost everyone else in the counterculture adversely. They had a commitment to ideals that were distinct from people that were more commercially minded, so hip capitalism was one of their targets. They also had a jaundiced view of Tim Leary. They were often confrontational with radical political groups that they felt were too mired in old ideology. In some ways, they were the forerunner of the most intolerant anarchists of the Occupy period. But they also had the creativity to create some of the purest expressions of countercultural idealism.

DH: Let’s step back for a second and ask you to explain how people should really understand the hippie idea, and what if any of it could be applied to solving the problems we are confronting today.

DG: The question I ask myself a lot, as I’ve been talking about the book, is: What difference does something that happened 50 years ago matter? Other than nostalgia (which I don’t think is a completely bad thing) the relevance depends on the extent that there are values that are not driven by the 24-hour news cycle or by who’s president, but endure from generation to generation, basic concepts about what it is to be a human being. To me, the hippie idea was a spiritual movement at its core, even though the word hippie and the external symbols like tie dye or long hair or hip language like “groovy” or “far out” or “cool, man,” soon became passé.

DH: Don’t forget the peace sign.

DG: Yes, the peace sign, too—all of these things were quickly drained of meaning because of commercialization, the media magnifying glass, predators, etc. I understand why the punk generation that came along 10 or 15 years later had contempt for it, because they weren’t reacting to the experience I had; they were reacting to the cartoon version of it. I’m sure if I were of that generation, I would have been a punk also, because it was all about trying to seek integrity, authenticity, and meaning.

But to me, the hippie moment was a critique of materialism. Ayn Rand’s philosophy was just as pernicious in the ’60s as it is today, or maybe the way to say it’s just as pernicious today as it was then.

DH: Is there any model of a counterculture theme or anti-materialistic vision that’s applicable today, anything like ‘back to the land’? Because the country is so split. The differences are just enormous. Even the way of thinking.

DG: The thing I keep hoping is that the meeting place is spirituality, because I do think that most people who identify as Christians are sincere about it. Even though many of the right-wing American leaders who exploit them seem quite removed from the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, Pope Francis is a compelling and powerful moral and spiritual voice who, to me, evokes counterculture values as much as he does Catholic tradition. Some of the attitudes of conservative evangelicals are primarily tribal. But I think that the words of Jesus Christ are so powerful that they can have unintended effects; the idea of loving thy neighbor as thyself is essentially the same as hippie idea.

In researching 1967, one thing that blew my mind was reading some of the speeches of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, neither of whom, as far as I know, ever took LSD. They both wore suits and had short hair and didn’t identify as hippies in any way.

DH: No dashikis for Martin Luther King.

DG: And no love beads for Bobby Kennedy… But they came to the same meeting place in terms of the ideal that there’s more to life than just money. Kennedy gave this great speech about how the gross national product measures everything except the things that are most important in life. And King, in sermon after sermon, talked about the inner world, of man as a spirit and as a soul. Of course he coupled this with an ethical code which required activism in an immoral world.

So it is my hope is that there is a critical mass of people who see themselves as being in different tribes, but who in their souls share some values that could create some kind of a moral clarity in the country.

The other big thing, I think, in terms of changing the politics of the country now, is to focus on young people, because that’s also a similarity with the ’60s. You’ve got this gigantic generation, the biggest generation since the Baby Boom generation, and more progressive. Those of us who were against the war were never a majority until way later when the whole country turned against the war by the mid-’70s. But the proportion of younger people who voted for Bernie, the proportion of younger people who vote Democrat, is very, very high.

DH: Let’s go back to the spiritual theme. The heroes of your book are really Ram Dass and Allen Ginsberg. I’m interested in how you think that Allen Ginsberg and Ram Dass were able to carry that message, and whether it’s succeeded in beginning inside the culture, or the culture just went all materialist.

DG: I think it’s a mixed bag. One of the things about being older is knowing that I have more life behind me than in front of me, and it’s quite clear that the odds of all the problems of America or the Western world being solved in my lifetime is extremely low. The rapid success of the civil rights movement on certain issues and the explosive spread of hip images and rock and roll, I created a set of expectations regarding timing that were not realistic. But the fact that everything’s not perfect or close to perfect doesn’t mean that all the efforts to advance the species are a failure; it means that history is to be looked at in terms of hundreds or thousands of years, not just one generation.

In terms of the individual lives, I think Ram Dass is exemplary. He’s been committed to service. The money from Be Here Now went to his foundation that he and Wavy Gravy among others set up that has helped cure blindness in millions of people in third-world countries.

DH: I read a review of your book on the Be Here Now network. I never knew that existed.

DG: It’s a podcast network that is a spin-off that is associated with the foundation that is built up around Ram Dass and run by Raghu Markus. I do a podcast on it called Rock and Roles.

DH: Let’s talk about the riots, and segue from Martin Luther King to Detroit and to Newark and what a huge impact the uprisings had on the black community. We do not seem to have made much progress on race in this country. The riots of 1967 seem to have been a product of somewhat raised expectations from civil rights and the poverty program. Today, the black community has very little expectations. That might be a reason why white males are dying at a much higher rate than blacks and Latinomen,because their reality is more accepted.

DG: The scale dwarfs anything that’s happened since. In Detroit there were 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. And much havoc in other cities as well.

Not everyone called them riots—they were called rebellions, revolts. They were usually triggered by police violence. But the tinder box of frustration, poverty, oppression was so great, and the raised expectations were followed by only marginal improvement especially in the North where the problems was “de facto” segregation that wasn’t fixed by the civil rights bill. Before he was killed, King had become a much more radical and complicated thinker as the years went by and he saw the complexity of the legacy of racism.

DH: What else from the ’60s is applicable in the Trump era?

DG: Number one, ease up on tribalism on our side.

DH: Yeah, well, tribalism’s natural for corruption. And also for loyalty and protection.

DG: True. It’s incredibly seductive, because it feels good. It’s why people join gangs.

DH: Nepotism is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Taking care of your own, your family. Everyone protects their family, or else they’re thought of as having bad character.

DG: Taking care of your own family isn’t the problem. Doing it in a way that hurts other people’s families is what is immoral. The Mafia will claim you have no choice. The Mafia is the ultimate Ayn Rand entity.

DH: So, 1967 is the year that you picked, but ’68, ’69 and ’70 also were huge years for me: 1969 was Woodstock, of course. 1970 was Kent State and Cambodia and the biggest student rebellion ever. It seems to me that the reverberations of 1967 just kept rolling along in different ways. And ofcoursethere’s Altamont versus Woodstock.

DG: Well, I think it’s about the balance, and that’s the conceit of the title, In Search of the Lost Chord, that there were these different notes and relationship to them, and it’s about the balance of the energies. Things got darker in ’68 with the assassinations of King and Kennedy. Another inflection point was the decline of Haight-Ashbury. There was a community in ’65 and ’66 and the beginning of ’67, it was a model of an alternative lifestyle that couldn’t survive the glare of the media. The media definitely killed it. There was actually a formal ceremony in Haight-Ashbury called Death of the Hippie in October ’67. And the drugs got worse very quickly.

DH: The brown acid.

DG: Yes, some of the LSD sold by less than idealistic dealers was mixed with speed. Pure speed, then as now, brought out the worst in people. Heroin, then as now, destroyed lives. So even though shards of countercultural idealism cropped up in places well into the ’70s, the peak was already in the rearview mirror. Even the purest kind of LSD had limits in its value to people.

I’m someone who is very happy with my memories of LSD trips. I’ve never had a bad trip, thank god, but it became like seeing the same movie too many times. It’s been decades and I have no plans to take it again.

DH: Yeah, it doesn’t tell you how to figure things out.

DG: Yeah, at the end of the book, I quote Peter Coyote saying that LSD is like a helicopter that takes you to the top of the mountain, but then it brings you back down again, so if you actually want to live on the top of the mountain, it’s a lifetime of work to get up there, not a helicopter ride.

DH: But the hippie period triggered a lot of things such as the back-to-the-land movement and the Grateful Dead, right?

DG: Absolutely. There are still reverberations from that period that continue to this day. Environmentalism had antecedents with people like Thoreau, but its explosion as a mass movement was the direct outgrowth of hippie culture. Many of the creators of a lot of the internet in the ’90s, including Steve Jobs, took psychedelics. On the political side, there is a direct line from the civil rights and anti-war movements to feminism, the gay rights movement, CodePink, Occupy Wall Street, and many aspects of the Sanders campaign.

In the spiritual realm, in 1967, Richard Alpert, the fired Harvard professor who was Tim Leary’s protégé in popularizing LSD, went to India, met his guru Neem Karoli Baba, was renamed Ram Dass, wrote the book Be Here Now, a major catalyst of the New Age movement. And in 1967 the Beatles, who were the most famous musicians in the world, were introduced to meditation, which overnight went from being a word known primarily in monasteries and theology departments to being part of the language of pop culture.

DH: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, right?

DG: Yeah, the Maharishi was the first one that became a public figure when they visited him, but almost immediately afterwards, George Harrison and John Lennon became interested in the so-called Hare Krishna guru, Swami Bhaktivedanta.

And all this opened up a wellspring of a zillion different spiritual paths explored by people in the mass culture, some of the bogus but some real. The I Chingwent from selling a couple of thousand copies a year to 50,000-100,000 a year, and was quoted in numerous rock lyrics. A lot of younger people were relieved that you don’t have to choose between the religion you were born into or purely secular materialism. There were lanes you could go down to try to integrate the idea of identifying yourself as a spirit without having to be enmeshed in the hierarchy of rules and structures that seemed irrelevant to a modern life. Some people found transcendence in mainstream religions, but a lot of us didn’t find it there.

DH: Is there something that you want the world to know about this book that you’re not getting out there?

DG: Well, the main thing about the book is its complexity. There were so many things happening all at the same time. It’s a mosaic of a couple hundred pieces, and there were another couple of thousand that I couldn’t deal with because I didn’t have the time or the wisdom to do it. I feel guilty dumbing it down sometimes.

DH: Somebody in the book said that New York was always two years later, but you said by ’67 it had caught up. Is that really true?

DG: Ken Kesey said that to Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

There was this sense of you had this magical thing that no one else had. When it was the province of universities and psychiatrists and people that were authorized to experiment with it, it was very limited. But once it was illegal in late 1966, it became easy to get. High school in New York kids couldn’t get acid in 1964, but could in ’67.

DH: They had no Summer of Love in New York.

DG: I don’t know, man. It was nice to be young there then. That’s the year I graduated from high school.

There was a Be-In in Easter of ’67. There were these things that Bob Fass would organize, this Fly-In and sweeping up streets on the Lower East Side. It was a bit darker than the Bay Area, but we had the peace and love thing going too for a minute.

DH: I was both a hippie and a radical and most of my hippie friends were not so political, and most of my radical friends had disdain for drugs. And then there was, within SDS, the progressive labor faction, the ones that cut their hair off and went to the factories and worked.

DG: But there were people who struggled to bridge the divide. Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Paul Krassner—all had dual citizenship.

DH: Abbie Hoffman was one of our best political strategists. I traveled to Nicaragua with him and then I spent some time with him in Zihuatanejo. But I saw his dark side, too, which obviously led to his death. He was amazing. He was a manic depressive, yeah. And when he was manic, there was just no one, no one, who could compete with him as a speaker, as a thinker, a strategist, a performer.

DG: I think he’s a little underrated by history because the depression became more part of the story. Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and of course Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison had tragically premature deaths. On the other hand, the people I dedicated the book to—Paul Krassner, Wavy Gravy and Ram Dass—didn’t self-destruct, and continued to live righteous lives with real consistency about who they said they were as younger people, as did Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and Peter Coyote and many others who are not famous, but who are worthy role models.

So overall, it certainly is a mixed bag. I have a romantic view of it, but hopefully not a delusional view of it.

DH: Well, that’s a good way to stop: A romantic but not delusional view.

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

Danny Goldberg is the author of In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea (Akashic Books) and is the president of Gold Village Entertainment, whose clients include Steve Earle, Against Me!, and Peaches.

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