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Democracy Under Attack: Right-wing Extremism Tainting Police

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Image by Colin Tooley
Image by Colin Tooley

For many Americans, the death of Heather Heyer at the hands of a terrorist, a bigot and a coward in Charlottesville, VA last month was a reminder that white supremacy is alive and well in this country.

For others, this was a rude awakening, despite how those working in law enforcement or who serve in the military, have seen an influx of white supremacists into their respective organizations for years.

The hell is going on?

The disturbing trend was something that was, up until a decade ago, being closely tracked by the federal government.

In January, the Intercept’s Alice Speri dropped a phenomenal article outlining the Nazis fascination with recruiting police officers and military veterans while actively filling these jobs themselves.

It started in 2009 with a joint study done by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security which highlighted how white supremacists in this country had been agitated by an ailing economy and the election of Barack Obama.

It was after that particular report when a fledgling Tea Party and hardcore conservatives threw a hissy fit. Their gripe: the report was too politicized as it ascribed acts of domestic terrorism to extremists by those who identify with the GOP and right-wing ideology.

Image by Colin Tooley
Image by Colin Tooley

After getting then, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, to bend the knee and to tell Americans the report was biased (it wasn’t) and that it should be dismissed (it shouldn’t), there was a concerted effort to focus on Islamic extremists instead of the violence and recruitment strategies done by neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other domestic terrorists here at home.

Haters and killers

And these aren’t just random crazies, either. A piece published by David Neiwert for the Center for Investigative Reporting shows what happens when you leave white supremacists to their own devices for 15 years.

From 2008 to 2016, of literally all the terror attacks that were planned and executed in the United States, “far-right plots and attacks outnumber Islamist incidents by almost 2 to 1.”

Worse yet, a report from PolitiFact talks about a U.S. Government Accountability Office study showing how far-right extremists killed MORE people than Islamic terrorists for the first 10 out of the last 15 years at a ratio of nearly 3 to 1. By 2016, white supremacists and far-right wingers killed 106 people while 119 lost their lives at the hands of Islamic terror.

With stats like this, it’s hard to defend NOT funding domestic terrorism, particularly after one more uncomfortable truth: most domestic terrorists – right-wing or Islamic – were born in the United States.

And let’s be clear: “right-wing extremists” doesn’t mean basement-dwelling trolls posting offensive messages on internet forums. We’re talking about dangerous thugs made up of hardcore racists anti-government militia-types who openly long for an armed rebellion against the federal government.

On both sides

Ironically, while many were outraged by President Donald Trump’s recent decision to cut funding that would go to combat domestic terrorism and extremism, Democrats and officials working in the administration of the country’s first biracial president weren’t exactly keeping tabs on bigots when they held power, either.

In the past Daryl Johnson, the author of that 2009 report and founder of DT Analytics, has also been very vocal about how though data show credible terror threats at home, he and the other people tasked with monitoring domestic terrorists were reassigned to other positions more interested in Islamic terror and threats.

Also, while former Attorney General Eric Holder brought back a domestic terrorism task force founded after the Oklahoma City bombings, it was virtually useless and most federal funding went toward monitoring Islamic extremists as opposed to home-grown right-wing radicals.

“Suits instead of boots”

So white supremacists are terrible, dangerous people, but what does any of that have to do with the police or the military?

One of the groups affected by Trump’s funding cuts is Life After Hate, a group which helps people looking to get out of the white supremacist movement. It was started by named Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi.

Picciolini was on NPR’s Here and Now last week where he commented the tragedy in Charlottesville, and provided some insight into how neo-Nazis go about recruiting people these days. His quote is pretty much covers it:

“Nowadays, because of a concerted strategy on our part 30 years ago when we recognized that the average American white racist was put off by our edginess,” Picciolini said, “we decided to tone it down, to grow our hair out, to wear suits instead of boots, to go to college campuses and recruit, to get jobs in law enforcement and join the military to get training and to even run for office. It was a strategy to blend in.”

The neo-Nazis would tell you they’re employing a “leaderless resistance,” strategy and they absolutely love this shit. White supremacists are implementing this strategy and it’s working – there’s no other way to put it.

Take a look at Charlottesville: the “alleged” murderer is pictured here as a member of a known white supremacist group called Vanguard America. This group is led RIGHT NOW by Dillon Ulysses Hopper, a veteran and former Marine recruiter.

There are plenty of other examples through the years: there’s the cops from Georgetown, Texas who moonlighted as klansmen; the “racial holy war” Nazis want to use their Army training to wage – a problem that’s been around since the 1980’s; the group of cops committing hate crimes in Los Angeles; the torture of blacks at the hands of Chicago’s former police chief; this cop resigning after posting racist shit; and this guy, and this guy, and this guy

Conclusion

The truth is we’ve been warned about the threat radical right-wing ideology poses not just to human life, but to our security and democracy, and both conservative and liberal politicians – albeit for very different reasons – have clearly failed to take this threat seriously.

Now, hardcore fascists in this country have, to a degree, successfully infiltrated the two entities literally created to protect and serve ALL Americans, enforce the rule of law, and to defend the United States from all enemies, domestic and abroad.  

It’s one thing for someone to hold disgusting and twisted views in their heart, but allowing those people to bring this toxic way of thinking into the very systems put in place to protect us CANNOT be allowed to stand.

There’s a chance insisting our elected officials and community leaders call out racism and bigotry when they see it, or demanding policy and procedural changes from police and the military; or confronting these thugs in the streets while armed with with nothing more than posters and messages of peace won’t be enough.

But it all has to continue, because doing nothing and ignoring the problem has proven to be deadly.

If you want more independent reporting like this, please support Tyrone and TATM with a donation– Every $1 helps us grow!    

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Tyrone Heppard

Tyrone is a reporter from Binghamton, NY based in Syracuse, NY. focused primarily on issues related to area politics, education and the environment. When not running down under-reported stories of abuse or corruption, he will likely be found listening to loud, fast music or doing something nerdy/related to Game of Thrones.