7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us.

7 things to know about the mindset of the neo-Nazis

(Credit: Getty/Chet Strange/Salon)

AlterNet

The neo-Nazis with whom Donald Trump openly sympathizes fit a psychological profile for the most part, according to two psychologists who just released a survey on the subject. Patrick Forscher and Nour Kteily, researchers from the University of Arkansas and Northwestern University respectively, compiled their findings into a working paper titled “A Psychological Profile of the Alt-Right.” To arrive at their conclusions, they polled 447 neo-Nazis who self-identify as members of the “alt-right,” and compared their answers with 382 non-group affiliated survey subjects.

Writing at Vox, Brian Resnick highlights Forscher and Kteily’s most salient conclusions. The two researchers found that much of what seems obvious about the neo-Nazis of the alt-right — their racist outlook, their dehumanization of others — holds true when members are questioned about their beliefs. Especially because the respondents were so forthcoming, as Resnick notes. The era of the loud and proud white racist is upon us, from Charlottesville to the White House.

Forscher and Kteily also found a slight schism among the self-identified alt-right respondents, with some skewing more extremist than others. They labeled the less extreme alt-right members “populists,” while more extreme members were clustered into a subgroup they called “supremacists.” They note that the difference might be a matter of indoctrination level. “It is possible, for example, that the clusters represent two stages in a developmental trajectory of alt-right identification, with people starting in the populist cluster and then moving into the supremacist cluster as they acquire more alt-right friends — a possibility consistent with our finding that those in the supremacist cluster were relatively ideologically embedded among fellow alt-righters. Becoming more embedded within alt-right social networks may further motivate people to express prejudice, both for value-based and normative reasons, causing more dehumanization and aggression.”

Forscher and Kteily hope that examining the thinking of alt-righties may contribute to changing their beliefs. “If we can change the motivation to express prejudice,” they suggested to Resnick, “maybe that gives us a way to prevent aggression.”

Here are seven things to know about the mindset of the alt-right.

1. They’re not lone wolves.

Every time some white guy gets into major trouble, especially if it involves violence against others, someone brings up how quiet he was, what an unassuming loner he seemed to be. We’ve seen this a bunch of times before, from Dylann Roof to Adam Lanza, and now in the case of James Alex Field Jr., who viciously killed Heather Heyer with his car on Saturday. The New York Times cited sources who alternately described Field as a “very quiet little boy” who “had some trouble in school making friends” and “kept to himself a lot.” No one describes him as “no angel” — that kind of talk is reserved for unarmed black kids who are killed by cops — but it should be implied by the crime.

In any case, this inherently sympathetic idea doesn’t hold up here. The researchers write that “compared to the non-alt-right sample, the alt-right reported relatively similar levels of closeness . . . to their friends.” Sure, that doesn’t discount the idea that maybe some of these guys are archetypal loners who found community in the alt-right. But that never seems to engender much sympathy for gang members when they commit crimes, so not sure there’s much difference here.

2. It’s not the economy, stupid.

Producing articles about the economic anxiety that plagues Trump’s base has become a virtual cottage industry at certain media outlets. (I see you, New York Times.) That’s a good way of ginning up sympathy for Trump’s most fervent supporters — including the alt-right — but a bad way of getting to the truth of what truly motivates them. The short answer to that question is, racism and bigotry.

Forscher and Kteily had alt-right respondents “assess each of their personal economic” situations and “rate whether they expected their personal and the national economic situations to get worse or improve.” Not only did respondents not report any uniquely high worries about the economy, researchers write that “the alt-right expected more improvement in the state of the economy relative to the non-alt-right sample.”

3. They think other groups are less human.

Unsurprisingly, alt-right adherents saw other racial and religious groups as less human and evolved than white people, who were rated, of course, as the most fully human of all.

Using a scale of 1 to 100, respondents rated white people’s humanity at 91.8, Jews at 73.09, Mexicans at 67.75, black people at 64.72, Arabs at 58.77, and Muslims at 55.4. The respondents scored men’s humanness at 88.47 and women’s at 83.12, while feminists’ humanity ranked far below at 57.22. Weirdly, at the very bottom of the list was Hillary Clinton, whose humanity they placed at 54.83.

Dehumanization is at the heart of every campaign of genocide and system of oppression. Dehumanization yields a justice system that criminalizes, over-polices and over-incarcerates entire groups, which is horrifying enough. When you continue the trend of describing people as not fully human, it becomes a lot easier to put them in gas chambers and internment camps; render them as chattel property; or kill off the native people of countries you’ve colonized.

4. They’re pretty open about their anti-black racism.

Vox notes that alt-righties co-signed statements including “I avoid interactions with black people,” “My beliefs motivate me to express negative feelings about black people,” and, “I minimize my contact with black people.” The outlet goes on to note:

Forscher explains it like this. When he runs these questions on samples of college students, he usually sees average scores around 2 (out of 9, meaning people largely don’t agree with these questions). “In the alt-right samples, I’m seeing numbers around 3 or 4, relatively close to the midpoint. In all the samples I’ve worked with, I haven’t seen means at that level.” In other words, members of the alt-right are unabashed in declaring their prejudices.

Why would you worry about expressing your prejudices when they’re shared with people like the president? No wonder they’ve taken off the sheets and masks.

5. They score highly in ‘dark triad’ traits.

The alt-right grew out of trollism, a culture that festered and grew in the bowels of 4chan and Reddit. Studies of trolls have found they score highly in “dark triad” personality traits, a trio that includes narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Turns out that the apple doesn’t far fall from the rotting tree. Alt-right adherents have higher than normal levels of these traits. Forscher and Kteily emphasize that these personality traits are “associated with callous, manipulative behavior.”

6. They are unashamedly aggressive.

Researchers looked into “the self-reported frequency of online and offline name-calling, physical threats, harassment, and making statements because others find them offensive” as well as doxxing “and sharing memes intended to offend others.” Alt-right respondents were much more likely to report engaging in those behaviors than non-members of the alt-right. Those who researchers identified as supremacists were most likely to admit having perpetrated those acts.

7. They believe in collective action for whites, and no one else.

An actual majority of white Americans believes anti-black racism is over, and a significant number believe whites experience more racism than blacks. So it’s not that surprising that members of the overwhelmingly white alt-right think like most of their white American counterparts. Guess that makes that thinking not so “fringe,” huh? These are the beliefs, by and large, of many white Americans.

Where alt-righties scored higher than other people is in their support for “collective action on behalf of white people.” In large part, they agreed with the statement, “I think there are good reasons to have organizations that look out for the interests of whites.” There’s a circularity here that seems self-evident: if you see yourself as a victim of some imaginary multicultural takeover and think groups that are focused on white power — like the alt-right or the Trump coalition — are doing the right thing, you’re likely to join those groups. The more indoctrinated you are as a member of those groups, the more likely you are to believe in their necessity, however much observable reality and peer-reviewed studies prove that thinking wrong.

For the record, despite the alt-right’s insistence that everyone should be proud and fight for their own rights, alt-right members were less keen on the idea in practice. They were particularly likely to register opposition to Black Lives Matter, and to agree with the statement, “I think [BLM] has been very harmful to our country.” (BLM has been bad for the U.S., by this logic, but the Klan hasn’t. Absolutely stunning how these people will twist rational thought to fit an agenda.) It’s worth noting that both the alt-right populists and white supremacists gave high levels of support to these ideas.

http://www.salon.com/2017/08/17/7-things-to-know-about-the-mindset-of-the-neo-nazis_partner/

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.

Trump makes an appeal to the fascistic right

4 August 2017

As the political warfare in Washington escalated, President Trump went to Huntington, West Virginia Thursday night for a campaign-style rally bringing together the fascistic themes that the White House has been developing over the past several weeks.

Posturing as the defender of coal miners and other working people against immigrants, environmentalists and unnamed “special interests,” Trump welcomed the Democratic governor of West Virginia, billionaire coal boss Jim Justice, who announced his switch to the Republican Party at the rally.

Trump invited other Democrats to support his right-wing policies and drop their campaign, backed by the military-intelligence apparatus, over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. “The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda and no vision,” he said.

This characterization of the Democratic Party is accurate as far as it goes. The maniacal focus of the Democrats on the Russia investigation leaves a political vacuum in which there is no opposition within the official political system to Trump’s right-wing rampage against democratic rights and the social gains of working people.

Trump seeks to exploit this rhetorically with demagogic boasting about the (nonexistent) revival of the coal industry and the (fictitious) growth of manufacturing jobs. The real content of his economic program is revealed in the “achievement” to which he gave first place in his litany of supposed successes: “the all-time-high stock market,” which enriches billionaires like Trump and Justice, but comes at the expense of the jobs and living standards of workers.

Trump combines bogus claims to stand up for working people with vicious law-and-order and anti-immigrant demagogy, featuring the usual list of villains: “radical Islamic terrorists,” “drug smugglers,” “human traffickers” and “vicious, violent gangs.” Of those actually responsible for the terrible conditions of life in areas like West Virginia—the giant corporations and banks overseeing mass layoffs, wage-cutting and the opioid plague that has ensued—Trump said not a word.

The visit to Huntington is the latest in a series of public appearances through which the White House has carried out a step-by-step campaign to mobilize support from the police, the military, Christian fundamentalists, white racists and outright fascists.

While there has been an authoritarian thrust to the Trump administration going back to his inaugural address, what has unfolded over the past two weeks is a calculated political maneuver, beginning with Trump’s July 22 speech to a naval audience at the christening of the new aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford.

Trump spoke last week before an audience of uniformed police on Long Island and urged them to be “rough” in treating people they arrested, particularly those involved in Latino immigrant gangs.

There have been open appeals to racism and anti-gay bigotry: Trump tweeted his decision that transgendered individuals will not be “permitted to serve in any capacity in the US military.” The Justice Department has taken the position that anti-gay discrimination by employers does not violate civil rights laws, and there are reports that it is preparing to charge that universities with affirmative action programs are engaged in “anti-white” discrimination.

On Monday, the new White House chief of staff, retired Marine General John F. Kelly, was sworn into office, replacing Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and putting a military man in the top White House job for the first time in nearly half a century.

And on Wednesday, Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller appeared at the White House press briefing to announce Trump’s support for legislation that would cut the number of legal immigrants by 50 percent while enacting an openly racist standard favoring speakers of English and those desired by corporate employers, rather than family members.

Increasingly, the administration’s political appeals are separated from any legislative or electoral agenda. The focus is on the persona of Trump himself and the building of a political movement around him.

Miller’s re-emergence Wednesday, after being sidelined for several months due to the initial debacle of Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban, brought the most openly authoritarian of Trump’s top aides before the public and the press once more. He engaged in a widely publicized clash with Jim Acosta of CNN, in the course of which Miller inadvertently revealed the direct connection between the Trump White House and the fascist right.

In an exchange involving the famous poem by Emma Lazarus, embossed on the Statue of Liberty (which includes the line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”), Miller declared that the poem “was added later, is not actually a part of the original Statue of Liberty.” As both the Washington Post and the Jewish Daily Forward have pointed out, Miller’s remark was not original to him, but reproduces positions circulating in the fascist and neo-Nazi right, voiced at different times this year by Rush Limbaugh of talk radio, Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and white supremacist Richard Spencer.

Trump and his closest aides are seeking to exploit the widespread hostility to the Democratic Party as the party of the liberal economic elite, including large sections of Wall Street, with an entirely bogus posture as the advocate of the “forgotten man”, as Trump put it during the election campaign and again on Thursday night. But Trump lacks even the semblance of an economic program to address the spread of mass impoverishment and social misery.

The Democrats are saying nothing about Trump’s fascistic appeals. Instead, they are doubling down on their anti-Russia campaign. There were reports Thursday that independent counsel Robert Mueller has convened a special grand jury in his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion with Moscow.

Leaks from within the White House and the intelligence agencies continue at an unprecedented level; most recently, the Washington Post published transcripts of Trump phone conversations with leaders of Mexico and Australia, giving an embarrassing glimpse of the president’s bullying and double-dealing approach to his foreign counterparts.

These attacks are motivated by differences within the ruling elite over foreign policy. While Trump has sought to accommodate his critics, most recently by signing a stringent new sanctions bill directed against Russia, he is also seeking to mobilize his ultra-right base and push back against his ruling class opponents.

The Democratic Party will do nothing to oppose Trump’s effort to mobilize ultra-right and fascistic elements to attack the working class and destroy democratic rights. Their criticism of Trump is entirely within the framework set by the national-security establishment: he is soft on Russia, erratic overall, and preoccupied with his family’s personal financial interests rather than the interests of Wall Street and American imperialism as a whole.

At the same time, the Democrats are leaving open the possibility of working with Trump, particularly on a “tax reform” that will lead to a new windfall for the corporate and financial elite.

The struggle against the ultra-right and in defense of democratic rights is a struggle to unite all sections of the working class—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and immigrant—on the basis of common class interests, to defend jobs and living standards and oppose the growing danger of imperialist war. This is possible only through the independent mobilization of working people against the two big business parties, the Democrats and Republicans, to fight for a socialist and internationalist program.

Patrick Martin

Donald Trump, a classic case of affirmative action for the wealthy, wants to take it away from the disadvantaged

President often claims he’s “like, a smart person” — but he didn’t get into Wharton on his academic merits

Of all the issues facing higher education today — skyrocketing student debt, for-profit colleges ripping off its students and government subsidies, declining college enrollment – President Trump has chosen to make it harder for black and Latino students to get into college.

The Trump administration is preparing to sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

Apparently Trump objects to affirmative action for African-Americans and Latinos, but not to affirmative action for the super-rich and the well-connected. That’s how Trump got into the University of Pennsylvania in 1966.

Over the years, Trump has frequently referred to his Ivy League credentials as evidence of his intelligence. In a 2004 interview with CNN, Trump said, “I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I got very good marks. I was a good student. It’s the best business school in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

In 2011, Trump told ABC News, “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country,” referring once again to Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968.

“I went to the Wharton School of Finance,” he said during a campaign speech in Phoenix in July 2015. “I’m, like, a really smart person.”

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in August 2015, Trump described Whartonas “probably the hardest [school] there is to get into.” He added, “Some of the great business minds in the world have gone to Wharton.” He also observed: “Look, if I were a liberal Democrat, people would say I’m the super genius of all time. The super genius of all time.”

During a CNN-sponsored Republican town hall in Columbia, South Carolina in February 2016, Trump reminded the audience that he had gone to Wharton and then repeated his boast: “Look, I went to the best school, I was a good student and all of this stuff. I mean, I’m a smart person.”

Last December, in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump repeated those same words to explain why he didn’t need daily updates from intelligence professionals about national security threats, a tradition that goes back to President Harry Truman. “I’m, like, a smart person,” he told Wallace.

He did it again on Jan. 21 of this year, the day after his inauguration, during a visit to CIA headquarters. Trump’s scripted remarks turned into a rambling rant that included attacks on the media and his insistence that as many as 1.5 million people attended his inauguration. In the middle of his tirade, Trump felt the need to tell the nation’s top spies that he is a bright guy. “Trust me,” Trump said, “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Trump has repeated that claim many times. Each time, it isn’t clear if he’s trying to convince his interviewer or himself. Indeed, anyone who feels compelled to boast about his academic pedigree and how smart he is clearly suffers from profound insecurity about his intelligence and accomplishments. In Trump’s case, he has good reason to have doubts.

Trump surely knows he didn’t get into Wharton on his own merits. He transferred into its undergraduate program after spending two years at Fordham University in New York, where he had no significant achievements.

“No one I know of has said ‘I remember Donald Trump,’” Paul F. Gerken, a 1968 Fordham graduate and president of the Fordham College Alumni Association, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Whatever he did at Fordham, he didn’t leave footprints.”

In her 2001 biography, “The Trumps,” Gwenda Blair reported that Trump’s grades at Fordham were not good enough to qualify him to transfer to Wharton. According to Blair, Trump got into Wharton as a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who was a high school classmate of Trump’s older brother, Freddy. The college’s admissions staff was surely aware that Trump’s father was a wealthy real estate developer and a potential donor.

Other than his father’s money and his family’s connections, Trump had no qualifications that would have otherwise gotten him into Wharton. (Most people who mention Wharton refer to its prestigious MBA program, but Trump was an economics major in the undergraduate program.)

In high school at the New York Military Academy, Trump was not an outstanding student. He didn’t organize his fellow students to tutor underprivileged kids or raise money for cancer research. In his senior year, he was removed from his post as captain and transferred to a job on the school staff, with no command responsibilities. According to his fellow students, Trump wasn’t able to control the cadets under his command.

Moreover, for years Trump exaggerated his academic accomplishments at Wharton. On at least two occasions in the 1970s, the New York Times reported that Trump “graduated first in his class” at Wharton in 1968. That’s not true. The dean’s list for his graduation year, published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper, doesn’t include Trump’s name. He has refused to release his grade transcripts from his college days.

The fabrication that Trump was first in his class has been repeated in many other articles and books about Trump, but he has never bothered to correct it.

Upon graduating from college, Trump didn’t have to apply for jobs or go through interviews with potential employers who would judge him on his merits. Instead, his father Fred Trump handed young Donald the keys to his real estate empire.

Despite this, Trump often tries to portray himself as a self-made entrepreneur. “It has not been easy for me,” Trump said at a town hall meeting on Oct. 26, 2015, acknowledging, “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

But an investigation by The Washington Post last year demolished Trump’s claim that he made it on his own. Not only did Trump’s father provide Donald with a huge inheritance and set up big-bucks trust accounts to provide his son with a steady income, Fred was also a silent partner in Trump’s first real estate projects. According to the Post:

Trump’s father — whose name had been besmirched in New York real estate circles after investigations into windfall profits and other abuses in his real estate projects — was an essential silent partner in Trump’s initiative. In effect, the son was the front man, relying on his father’s connections and wealth, while his father stood silently in the background to avoid drawing attention to himself.

Born into privilege, Trump got into Wharton through family connections and then inherited a fortune. Now his administration is preparing to thwart efforts by colleges and universities to recruit students of color who had to overcome obstacles that Trump can’t even imagine. The Justice Department memo uncovered by The New York Times described its plan as challenging “intentional race-based discrimination,” referring to programs designed to bring more minority students to college campuses.

Affirmative action programs were designed to help qualified students who lack the sorts of connections that Trump used to get into Wharton. The purpose is to level the playing field by helping students who have had to cope with considerable economic and social disadvantages, including racism.

No selective university or college simply uses grades and test scores in deciding which students to accept. Colleges accept students whose high-school grades and SAT scores meet a basic threshold, and then give extra points to students with various characteristics, based on such factors as athletic or artistic ability; urban, suburban or rural background; demonstrated commitment to public service; attendance at public, private or religious high schools; and ethnic and racial backgrounds. All of this is done to create a diverse student body.

The Justice Department memo noted that the anti-affirmative action project will be run out of the Civil Rights Division’s front office, comprised of Trump administration political appointees, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is staffed by career civil servants who normally deal with issues involving schools and universities. This suggests that the entire scheme is designed as a political gesture to Trump’s base of conservative white supporters who view affirmative action as a form of reverse discrimination.

Candice Jackson, acting head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (who would certainly play a key role in the administration’s attack on affirmative action), once complained that she was discriminated against for being white while she was a student at Stanford.

But an even more egregious form of discrimination is the kind of class privilege that allowed a second-rate student like Trump to get into Wharton, depriving a more deserving but less well-connected student a spot in that elite institution. Now, as president, he wants to deprive tens of thousands of truly worthy students the opportunity to overcome disadvantages and become our nation’s future leaders.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His most recent book is “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame” (Nation Books).

The American nightmare: the career of moviemaker George Romero

Nicole Colson looks at the career of moviemaker George Romero, who died July 16.

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”
— Karl Marx

“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
— Johnny, Night of the Living Dead

Zombies on the hunt in Night of the Living Dead

Zombies on the hunt in Night of the Living Dead

THE “THEY” that were coming for poor Barbara–and for us in the audience–changed frequently from film to film over the course of horror-master George Romero’s career. Racism, consumer culture, Reagan-era militarism, the ruling class–all were fair game for the father of the modern zombie movie, who died on July 16 after a career in film spanning nearly 40 years.

Romero’s best and most-enduring film was his first–1968’s Night of the Living Dead. It was made by a group of friends and shot on a shoestring budget outside of Pittsburgh in just 30 days, with the cast and crew working in 24-hour shifts. Friends played the zombies, and the meat and entrails needed for the gore were helpfully provided by a friend who was a butcher.

Night of the Living Dead tells the story of a group of survivors of a zombie outbreak seeking shelter in a farmhouse–catatonic Barbara, whose brother Johnny is killed in the opening scene, squabbling parents Harry and Helen and their young daughter Karen, young couple Tom and Judy, and protagonist Ben. [Editor’s note: Spoilers abound throughout this article, but it’s your fault if you haven’t seen these movies already.]

The film masterfully ratchets up the tension as the survivors fall victim to the zombies, before ending on a note that is both shocking and beautifully bleak, and stands as not only a masterpiece of modern horror, but one of the starkest commentaries on racism in American film.

While zombies had been depicted in American film before Night of the Living Dead, they were, essentially, not monsters but slave labor. Romero’s genius was in taking zombies and turning them into a slow, inexorable, mindless force bent only on feeding–a force that he would use as an allegorical foil in multiple films.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

NIGHT OF the Living Dead was one of a number of horror movies from the late 1960s and ’70s that were shaped by the massive upheavals taking place in American society.

Romero and other horror icons, like Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper, who emerged at the time transmitted on screen what they saw in the world: the violence of police, dogs and fire hoses being used against civil rights marchers; city streets burning in the wake of urban rebellions; body bags and the escalating horrors of Vietnam.

The monstrous was already taking place in real America every day, and making its way into living rooms on the evening news. It was only natural that this should find its way onto the big screen as well.

As Romero commented in the 2000 documentary The American Nightmare, explaining the choice to shoot his first movie in black and white, “In those days, the news was in black and white, and black and white was the medium…I thought it was great, you know, this idea of a revolution…a new society devouring the old completely and just changing everything.”

“Obviously,” Romero added, “what’s happening in the world creeps into any work.”

In contrast to the multitude of zombies in horror today–from the Walking Dead to World War Z, the endless iterations of Romero’s own Living Dead series, and even a genre of “zombie romantic comedies”–Night of the Living Dead was the first time that an act of cannibalism had been portrayed on a U.S. movie screen.

The scene of a young child eating her parents was shocking for what it said about a society so at odds with itself, as evidenced by the racist violence used against civil rights activists and the increasing numbers of young men returning home from Vietnam in body bags or still alive, but profoundly changed by the horrors of war.

In fact, the look of Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead owes much to effects artist Tom Savini, who used his experiences as a combat photographer in Vietnam as inspiration.

While Romero didn’t originally intend for Night of the Living Dead to be a commentary on race and racism, the casting of Black actor Duane Jones as protagonist Ben makes it impossible to not see the film this way. Because of Jones, scenes in the film evoke lynchings, the terror of the Klan and the civil rights movement.

That Ben is authoritative and seemingly in control throughout–slapping Barbara out of hysterics at one point and telling Harry to “Get the hell down in the cellar. You can be the boss down there. I’m boss up here”–only underscores the gut-punch of the casual brutality of his death. It is one of the most emotionally devastating endings in modern film, not just horror.

In a twist of fate, Romero and his collaborators finished the film and loaded it in a car trunk to take to New York to find a distributor on April 4, 1968–the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

PART OF the brilliance of Night of the Living Dead is the way it builds tension through demolishing movie conventions–the ostensible heroine becomes catatonic for virtually the entire film, only to be eaten by her brother; the young couple in love are burned alive and eaten; the nuclear family is (literally) torn apart as a zombified child chomps on her dad and then hacks mom to death with a trowel.

Just when dawn is breaking and rescue seems imminent for Ben–who has, against all odds, survived the long night of the zombie hordes–he is nonchalantly gunned down. Shot between the eyes by a white sheriff’s posse, he is reduced to “another one for the fire,” his body dragged away with hooks.

As Renée Graham wrote recently in the Boston Globe about seeing the film in 1968:

Everyone in the posse is white. Ben is African American. I was a child, but the message I received was depressingly clear: They killed Ben because they believed a Black man had to be a threat. A Black hero equaled a dead hero…

Already, 1968 had been a beast of a year. On an April night, as my family prepared to celebrate my father’s birthday, a TV bulletin announced the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Two months later, still wearing a costume from my dance recital that evening, I stood in front of the television watching mourners wave, weep and salute as a train carried the body of Robert F. Kennedy, murdered days earlier. For months, every adult around me walked around in agony and silence.

Yet nothing that year affected me as profoundly as watching Ben die…

Night of the Living Dead made Romero a legend by expanding the audience’s concept of what a horror movie could be. Its resonance for me still cuts deeper. Whatever his original intentions, Romero’s classic taught me early and indelibly that the real monsters who threaten us aren’t undead ghouls stalking the night.

“We always had that ending,” Romero commented later. “It seemed like the only fitting end. And even though the posse goes rolling across the countryside, leaving our hero dead, we get the feeling that they are not going to win either. There’s this new society coming. In the end, none of this is going to work, guys.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

LATER INSTALLMENTS of Romero’s Living Dead series would make the social commentary more explicit–though none to the same brilliant extent as Night.

Romero would state in one DVD commentary that while writing or making a movie, the points he would make about society were often more important to him than the characters–which led to politically interesting films, though the storytelling sometimes suffered.

Dawn of the Dead, perhaps Romero’s best film outside of Night, is a satire on consumer culture. In it, survivors take refuge from zombies inside Pittsburgh’s Monroeville Mall, leading to hilarious sequences of “mindless consumption”–both by human survivors and, of course, the zombies. “This was an important place in their lives,” one character says in explaining why the zombies would be drawn to a shopping mall after dead.

In 1985’s Day of the Dead, Reagan-era militarism comes under fire. A group of scientists and soldiers are stuck in an underground military base, coming into conflict over the macho militarism of the soldiers in charge, as well as the grisly experiments by one of the scientists, who believes that zombies can be made docile.

Of particular interest in today’s current political climate, however, is Romero’s 2005 Land of the Dead–an uneven, though often hilarious, entry in the Living Dead series.

A maniacal and entertainingly campy Dennis Hopper plays a character clearly modeled on our current president. In the face of societal collapse, he has convinced the super-rich to move into a self-enclosed, Trump-Tower-like, high-rise called “Fiddler’s Green.” The rest of the human population lives outside in squalor and fear, while Hopper’s character sponsors mercenaries to go out on runs and collect supplies for the rich.

At the core of the film is the question of the allegiances of the mercenaries and the potential of a growing zombie consciousness. Led by a Black zombie mechanic, the zombies begin to communicate and organize. The climax of the film hinges on a moment of zombie-human solidarity that is both funny and deeply satisfying for socialists to watch.

As Romero once said, “The zombie for me was always the blue-collar monster. He is us.”

Also well worth watching is Martin, Romero’s 1978 meditation on the vampire genre–which asks what makes a monster and what kind of psychological dysfunction lurks inside the house next door.

Though uneven, the film takes joy in exploding romanticized notions about vampires–there’s nary a sexy or sparkly vampire anywhere in it–to get down to brass tacks in examining what might be thought of as vampire working conditions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“I’VE BEEN able to use genre of fantasy/horror and express my opinion, talk a little about society, do a little bit of satire,” Romero once said, “and that’s been great, man.”

Marxist film scholar Robin Wood, a staunch defender of Romero’s work into the 1980s, would go farther, claiming:

It is perhaps the lingering intellectual distrust of the horror genre that has prevented George Romero’s Living Dead [series] from receiving full recognition for what it undoubtedly is: one of the most remarkable and audacious achievements of modern American cinema, and the most uncompromising critique of contemporary America (and, by extension, Western capitalist society in general) that is possible within the terms and conditions of a “popular entertainment” medium.

So in tribute to George Romero, don’t wait until Halloween this year to watch his movies. With the monsters in Washington revealing their true natures every day, we should remember what Romero thought about the potential of horror:

Horror is radical. It can take you into a completely new world, new place, and just rattle your cage and say, wait a minute–look at things differently. That shock of horror is what horror’s all about. But in most cases, at the end of the story, people try to bring everything back–the girl gets the guy and everything’s fine and things go on just the way they were. Which is really why we are doing this in the first place. We don’t want things the way they are or we wouldn’t be trying to shock you into an alternative place.

So go ahead–when it comes to George Romero movies, consume away.

https://socialistworker.org/2017/08/02/the-american-nightmare

Pepe the Frog dead at 12

In a move against the racist trolls who use his cartoon, Pepe’s creator has murdered the controversial amphibian

Pepe the Frog, mascot of the alt-right, dead at 12
Pepe the Frog(Credit: Getty/Josh Edelson)

Pepe the Frog, the cartoon anthropomorphic amphibian adopted by members of the alt-right for use in hundreds of racist and pro-Trump memes, died at the age of 12 on Saturday. Pepe’s creator, indie comic-book artist Matt Furie, killed the character in a cartoon published on Free Comic Books Day of “World’s Greatest Comics.”

Born in 2005 in Furie’s web-published comic book, “Boy’s Club,” Pepe spent his early years as a wholly apolitical, if perhaps crude and cantankerous, creature often seen on Myspace. In 2008 Pepe began to appear in a series of memes produced across a number of platforms, with many reflecting the character’s original spirit.

Early in the run-up to the 2016 elections, however, the burgeoning troll culture of the darker corners of message-board site 4chan adopted the grinning frog, spinning his once-harmless visage into material for its often racist, often misogynist, often hateful memes. In time, he became a popular mascot of the younger, nastier side of then-candidate Donald Trump’s wide-ranging group of supporters.

Furie, a self-identified progressive did his best to fight this rising trend, but to little avail. In 2016 the Anti-Defamation League classified the frog as a hate symbol and elements of the Pepe meme have been used by members of the Trump-controlled executive branch.

In response to his creation’s now extensive involvement in the alt-right, Furie staged a wake for his character. A cause of death is not known at this time. Pepe is survived by an army of hateful, web-based dude bros, who will no doubt continue to employ his appearance in memes to come.

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/08/pepe-the-frog-meme-racist-creator-dead/?source=newsletter

What white liberals so often get wrong about racism and Donald Trump

Bernie is wrong and Malcolm was right:

White progressives have a tough time confronting racism — as Bernie Sanders, a hero in many ways, has made clear

Bernie is wrong and Malcolm was right: What white liberals so often get wrong about racism and Donald Trump
Bernie Sanders; Malcolm X (Credit: AP/Craig Ruttle)

In the United States, white liberals and progressives have historically shown a serious inability to grapple with the realities of the color line and the enduring power of white supremacy. Many of them are either unable or unwilling to understand that fighting against class inequality does not necessarily remedy the specific harms done to African-Americans and other people of color by white racism.

For example, last Friday Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke in Boston at the Our Revolution Rally, where he said this:

Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks. I don’t agree, because I’ve been there.

Given Sanders’ long history of fighting for human rights, his comments are profoundly disappointing. They also demonstrate the blind spot and willful myopia that too many white liberals and progressives have toward white racism in America.

Sanders’ defense of Donald Trump’s “white working class” voters can be evaluated on empirical grounds. This is not a case of “unknown unknowns.”  What do public opinion and other data actually tell us about the 2016 presidential election?

Donald Trump’s voters — like Republicans and conservatives on average — are much more likely to hold negative attitudes toward African-Americans and other people of color. Social scientists have consistently demonstrated that a mix of “old-fashioned” white racism, white racial resentment (what is known as “modern racism”), xenophobia, ethnocentrism, sexism and nativism heavily influenced white conservatives and right-leaning independents to vote for Donald Trump.

Trump voters are also more authoritarian than Republicans as a whole. Trump voters possess a fantastical belief that white Americans are “oppressed” and thus somehow victims of racism.

Polling experts such as Cornell Belcher have placed Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton within the broader context of a racist backlash against Barack Obama’s presidency among white voters.

And one must also not overlook how Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and victory inspired a wave of hate crimes across the United States against Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, First Nations people, gays and lesbians and those of other marginalized communities. Donald Trump used a megaphone of racism and bigotry to win the 2016 presidential election. His supporters heard those signals loud and clear.

Sanders is also committing another error in reasoning and inference, one that is common among white Americans in the post-civil rights era. Racism and white supremacy are not a function of what is in peoples’ hearts, what they tell you about their beliefs or the intentions behind their words or deeds. In reality, racism and white supremacy are a function of outcomes and structures. Moreover, the “nice people” that Sanders is talking about benefit from white privilege and the other unearned advantages that come from being white in America.

Sanders’ statement is also a reminder of the incorrect lessons that the Democratic Party is in danger of learning from its 2016 defeat.

Chasing the largely mythical “white working-class voters whose loyalties went from “Obama to Trump” will not win future elections. The white working-class voters they covet are solidly Republican.

Alienating people of color and women by embracing Trump’s base of human deplorables will not strengthen the Democratic Party. It will only drive away those voters who are the Democratic Party’s most reliable supporters.

Sanders has unintentionally exemplified the way that both white liberals and white conservatives are heavily influenced by the white racial frame. As such, both sides of the ideological divide are desperate to see the best in their fellow white Americans, despite the latter’s racist behavior.

This is why “white allies” are often viewed with great suspicion by people of color. Malcolm X discussed this point in 1963:

In this deceitful American game of power politics, the Negroes (i.e., the race problem, the integration and civil rights issues) are nothing but tools, used by one group of whites called Liberals against another group of whites called Conservatives, either to get into power or to remain in power. Among whites here in America, the political teams are no longer divided into Democrats and Republicans. The whites who are now struggling for control of the American political throne are divided into “liberal” and “conservative” camps. The white liberals from both parties cross party lines to work together toward the same goal, and white conservatives from both parties do likewise.

The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.

Bernie Sanders’ comments on Friday serve as an unintentional reminder of Malcolm X’s wisdom.

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.