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FTR #1003 School Shootings and Fascist Groups, Part 2

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Patrick Edward Purdy

Introduction: This is the second program dealing with school shootings and the role fascist groups play in the development of such incidents. The broadcast begins with a brief summary and recap of key points of discussion from FTR #1002They include:

  1. Patrick Purdy’s apparent links to Aryan Nations.
  2. Purdy’s anti-Asian xenophobia, deeming that Americans were being edged out in their own homeland.
  3. The Order’s attempts at developing mind control techniques.
  4. Purdy’s involvement with the Unification Church.
  5. The profound effect of school shootings on both parents and students of affected institutions. School shootings fundamentally undermine peoples’ sense of comfort and create an anxiety conducive to the implementation of totalitarianism.
  6. The provision of Oliver North’s martial law contingency plans to use paramilitary right-wingers as federal deputies.

Discussion proceeds to the Florida high school shooting. Mort Sahl’s observation decades ago that “A liberal’s idea of courage is eating at a restaurant that hasn’t been reviewed yet” is exemplified by journalists’ retraction of the story of Parkland, Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz being affiliated with the ROF because of what might be termed “reverse trolling.” A post on a chat group about the Cruz/ROF link was deemed to be false. Jordan Jereb told journalists that Cruz was a member of his group, but that he hadn’t seen him in a long time. He has been said to be “walking that back.” Just HOW does one “walk that back?” ” . . . . The ADL said ROF leader Jordan Jereb told them Cruz was associated with his group. Jereb, who is based in Tallahassee, said Cruz was brought into the group by another member and had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, the ADL said. . . . Jereb told the ADL that ROF had not ordered Cruz to take any such action. He told ABC News he has not spoken to Cruz in ‘some time’ but said ‘he knew he would getting this call.’ . . . .”  Jereb told the ADL that ROF had not ordered Cruz to take any such action. He told ABC News he has not spoken to Cruz in “some time” but said “he knew he would getting this call.”

Whether or not Nikolas Cruz was formally networking with the Republic of Florida or other neo-Nazi groups, he was indeed a neo-Nazi in spirit: It turns out that Cruz had swastikas etched onto his ammunition magazines used during the attackThis reminds us of the jottings Patrick Edward Purdy had on his weapons and clothing.

Cruz didn’t just suddenly adopt a neo-Nazi worldview. He’s been stewing in these juices for years, and clearly had additional mental health issues.

Several factors greatly exacerbate the school shooting phenomenon.

The Steam gaming app, a major distributor for very popular video games, has a neo-Nazi problem–neo-Nazis are using its chat room and voice-over-IP options to promote their ideology. Both the Daily Stormer and Andrew Auernheimer have Steam chat rooms, as does AtomWaffen.

On these forums, there are 173 different groups championing school shooters, lauding them as heroes and setting the stage for future incidents. ” . . . . A leading gaming app that is popular with adherents of the neo-Nazi wing of the alt-right movement has at least 173 groups dedicated to the glorification of school shootings, according to a report published last week by Reveal News. . . .”

In addition, Nazi groups are actively recruiting depressed people! ” . . . . For years, members of the alt-right have taken advantage of the internet’s most vulnerable, turning their fear and self-loathing into vitriolic extremism, and thanks to the movement’s recent galvanization, they’re only growing stronger. . . . According to Christian Picciolini, a former neo-nazi who co-founded the peace advocacy organization, Life After Hate, these sort of recruiting tactics aren’t just common, but systematically enforced. ‘[The recruiters] are actively looking for these kind of broken individuals who they can promise acceptance, who they can promise identity to,’ Picciolini said in an interview with Sam Seder. . . .”

Although not included in the audio portion of the program due to the limitations of time, we note that, in our opinion, the presence of lethal, military-style firearms are not, by themselves, the primary factor in the epidemic of school shootings and other mass casualty firearms attacks. A would-be school shooter can always purchase a pump-action, 12-gauge shotgun, saw it off and precipitate considerable mayhem.

Many of the school shootings have been performed by fascists of one stripe or another, manifesting the type of actions advocated by the likes of Michael Moyniahan, James Mason and their fellow travelers. Mason and his role model Charles Manson are now viewed favorably by a segment of the Nazi movement. The role of nihilist/fascist ideology in motivating some of the school shooters should be factored into the discussion.

The role of the media in conditioning young people to kill is a major focal point of the book On Killing by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, who taught psychology at West Point. From Amazon’s promotional text for Grossman’s book: “The good news is that most soldiers are loath to kill. But armies have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. And contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army’s conditioning techniques, and, according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s thesis, is responsible for our rising rate of murder among the young. Upon its initial publication, ON KILLING was hailed as a landmark study of the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects soldiers, and of the societal implications of escalating violence. Now, Grossman has updated this classic work to include information on 21st-century military conflicts, recent trends in crime, suicide bombings, school shootings, and more. The result is a work certain to be relevant and important for decades to come.”

Our high body-count movies and TV programs, as well as point-and-shoot video games, according to Grossman, replicate to a considerable degree the audio-visual desensitization techniques used by contemporary armies to help recruits overcame their inhibitions about killing. We suggest Grossman’s thesis as a factor in the school massacres.

Program Highlights Include:

  1. The paramilitary right-wing Oath Keepers deployment of heavily armed cadre outside of schools.
  2. Discussion of how the likes of Stewart Rhodes and his Oath Keepers are the type of paramilitary right-wingers who would be deputized in the event of an activation of martial law contingency plans.
  3. The online disparagement of Parkland high school students by the “Alt-Right.”
  4. The use of the C14 militias in Ukraine to enforce public order in Kiev (the capital) and 21 other cities. The organization takes its name from the 14 words of David Lane, a member of the Order. One of that group’s founders was highlighted at the beginning of FTR #1002, noting his quest to obtain sophisticated weaponry and to develop mind-control techniques.

1. The program begins with a brief summary and recap of key points of discussion from FTR #1002They include:

  1. Patrick Purdy’s apparent links to Aryan Nations.
  2. Purdy’s anti-Asian xenophobia, deeming that Americans were being edged out in their own homeland.
  3. The Order’s attempts at developing mind control techniques.
  4. Purdy’s involvement with the Unification Church.
  5. The profound effect of school shootings on both parents and students of affected institutions. School shootings fundamentally undermine peoples’ sense of comfort and create an anxiety conducive to the implementation of totalitarianism.
  6. The provision of Oliver North’s martial law contingency plans to use paramilitary right-wingers as federal deputies.

2a.  In the wake of the Florida high school shooting, an under-reported and subsequently retracted aspect of the killings concerns accused shooter Nikolas Cruz’s participation (including weapons training and political indoctrination) with the Republic of Florida. The ROF is ” . . . a white supremacist group . . . .” It describes itself:  “. . . .  as a ‘white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics’ and seeks to create a ‘white ethnostate’ in Florida. . . .”

Of particular interest in analysis of the Florida shooting is the advocacy on the part of ROF leader Jordan Jereb for the “lone wolf/leaderless resistance” strategy: ” . . . . A training video the group posted online shows members practicing military maneuvers in camouflage clothing and saluting each other, along with music with the lyric: ‘They call me Nazi / and I’m proud of it.’ In the weeks before the attack, on Gab, a social media network sometimes used by white nationalists, Jereb had recently praised Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik as a ‘hero.’ He also posted a diagrammed strategy for using the Republic of Florida militia to create ‘lone wolf activists.’ . . . .”

Nikolas Cruz (insert at left)

Several considerations to be weighed in connection with the incident:

  • Whether by coincidence or design, this incident has fundamentally eclipsed discussion of the Trump administration’s brutal budgetary proposals, not unlike the fashion in which Stephen Paddock’s gun play in Las Vegas eclipsed discussion of the GOP tax proposals.
  • In Miscellaneous  Archive Show M55, we noted the Nazi and Unification Church links of one of the prototypical school shooters, Patrick Edward Purdy. Like Cruz, he had  links to Nazi groups and–in the Moonies–a mind control cult with strong intelligence and Japanese fascist links.
  • In FTR #’s 967 and 995, we noted that the Nazi Atomwaffen Division, which also gives paramilitary instruction, makes ISIS-style videos advocating “lone wolf/leaderless resistance” attacks, was linked to a Florida National Guardsman who was planning to attack a nuclear power plant. Given that many of the Nazi/white supremacist groups have fluctuating memberships and often overlap each other as a result, it would not be surprising to find that Atomwaffen Division and ROF have some commonality.
  • Mort Sahl’s observation decades ago that “A liberal’s idea of courage is eating at a restaurant that hasn’t been reviewed yet” is exemplified by journalists’ retraction of the story of Cruz being affiliated with the ROF because of what might be termed “reverse trolling.” A post on a chat group about the Cruz/ROF link was deemed to be false. Jordan Jereb told journalists that Cruz was a member of his group, but that he hadn’t seen him in a long time. He has been said to be “walking that back.” Just HOW does one “walk that back?” ” . . . . The ADL said ROF leader Jordan Jereb told them Cruz was associated with his group. Jereb, who is based in Tallahassee, said Cruz was brought into the group by another member and had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, the ADL said. . . . Jereb told the ADL that ROF had not ordered Cruz to take any such action. He told ABC News he has not spoken to Cruz in ‘some time’ but said ‘he knew he would getting this call.’ . . . .”  Jereb told the ADL that ROF had not ordered Cruz to take any such action. He told ABC News he has not spoken to Cruz in “some time” but said “he knew he would getting this call.”

  “Florida school shooting suspect linked to white supremacist group: ADL” by Aaron Katersky, Noor Ibrahim, Josh Margolin, Brian Epstein; ABC News; 02/15/2018

The Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights watchdog, told ABC News they have information they believe to be credible linking Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooting suspect, to a white supremacist group called Republic of Florida. The ADL said ROF leader Jordan Jereb told them Cruz was associated with his group. Jereb, who is based in Tallahassee, said Cruz was brought into the group by another member and had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, the ADL said. Law enforcement officials have not confirmed the link.

ROF has mostly young members in north and south Florida and describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida.

Three former schoolmates of Cruz told ABC News that Cruz was part of the group. They claimed he marched with the group frequently and was often seen with Jereb, who also confirmed to ABC News that Cruz was, at least at one point, part of that group.

Jereb told the ADL that ROF had not ordered Cruz to take any such action. He told ABC News he has not spoken to Cruz in “some time” but said “he knew he would getting this call.” He would not comment further but emphasized that his group was not a terrorist organization.

Family members, classmates and former friends described Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, as a troubled teen who was largely alone in the world when he allegedly stormed through the school carrying an AR-15 rifle and multiple magazines.

He was able to leave the school after the shooting by blending in with other students who were trying to escape, but he was apprehended shortly thereafter. He has been answering questions from investigators working on the case.

Cruz was adopted as an infant, but he had been living with the family of a classmate after the sudden death of his adoptive mother late last year. His adoptive father died in 2005.

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, an attorney for the family that had taken Cruz in for the past few months said Cruz was “depressed” following his mother’s death but he had been going to therapy.

The family is still “shocked,” he said, that Cruz would allegedly engage in mass violence.

“They indicated they saw nothing like this coming,” Lewis said. “They never saw any anger, no bad feelings about the school.”

They were aware that Cruz was in possession of a military-style assault weapon, he said, which two law enforcement officials tell ABC News was legally purchased by Cruz within the past year from a federally licensed dealer. They insisted that it be locked in a safe.

“He brought it into the home and it was in a locked gun safe,” Lewis said. “That was the condition when he came into their home that the gun was locked away.”

Cruz’s former classmates, however, were less surprised.

A student who told ABC News that he participated in Junior ROTC with Cruz described him as a “psycho.” Cruz was a well-known weapons enthusiast, the student said, who once tried to sell knives to a classmate.

Another student told ABC News that before Cruz was expelled from the school he was barred from carrying a backpack on campus. The classmate said the rule was put in place after the school found bullet casings in his bag after a fight with another student.

One student said Cruz even once threatened to “shoot up” the school.

“About a year ago I saw him upset in the morning,” student Brent Black told ABC News. “And I was like, ‘yo what’s wrong with you?’ And he was like ‘umm, don’t know.’ And I was like ‘what’s up with you?’ He’s like ‘I swear to God I’ll shoot up this school.’ And then I was like ‘watch what you’re saying around me,’ and then I just left him after that. He came up to me later on the day and apologized for what he said.”

On Thursday, the FBI issued a statement saying that it was alerted in 2017 to a threat on YouTube by someone who said “I am going to be a school shooter.”

“In September 2017, the FBI received information about a comment made on a YouTube channel. The comment said, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” No other information was included in the comment which would indicate a particular time, location, or the true identity of the person who posted the comment. The FBI conducted database reviews and other checks, but was unable to further identify the person who posted the comment.”

According to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, investigators have already found some “disturbing” content on social media that could have provided warning signs.

“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on, and some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.

The photos posted on an Instagram account law enforcement sources tell ABC News belongs to the suspected shooter shows a young man displaying an arsenal of weapons.

2b. More about the Republic of Florida:

 “Attorney: Florida shooting suspect is ‘sad, mournful, remorseful’ and ‘a broken human being’” by Matt Pearce, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Jenny Jarvie; The Los Angeles Times; 02/15/2018

The expelled student accused of killing 17 people at his former South Florida high school is “sad, mournful, remorseful” and “he’s just a broken human being,” one of his attorneys told reporters Thursday.

After a judge ordered Nikolas Cruz, 19, held without bond as he faces 17 counts of premeditated murder, defense attorney Melissa McNeil said that Cruz was “fully aware of what is going on,” but had a troubled background and little personal support in his life before the attack.

Cruz appeared via video, in an orange jumpsuit and with his head slightly bowed, for an initial Broward County court hearing Thursday.

Meanwhile, investigators were scouring Cruz’s social media posts for possible motives or warning signs of the attack. Several social media accounts bearing Cruz’s name revealed a young man fascinated by guns who appeared to signal his intentions to attack a school long before the event.

Nine months ago, a YouTube user with the handle “nikolas cruz” posted a comment on a Discovery UK documentary about the gunman in the 1966 University of Texas shooting that read, “I am going to what he did.”

Other past comments by YouTube users with Cruz’s name reportedly included one remark in September, saying: “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” At a news briefing in Florida, Robert Lasky, the FBI special agent in charge, confirmed that the FBI had investigated that comment. But he said the agency couldn’t identify the person in question.

In another post on Instagram, where he posted photos of himself in masks and with guns, Cruz wrote anti-Muslim slurs and apparently mocked the Islamic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which means God is greatest.

Confusion also swirled after the leader of a white nationalist militia said that Cruz had trained with his armed group, a claim that drew wide attention but could not be immediately verified.

The leader of the Republic of Florida militia, Jordan Jereb, told researchers at the Anti-Defamation League that Cruz had been “brought up” into the group by one of its members, the ADL said in a blog post. ABC News also claimed to have spoken to three people who verified Cruz’s membership, but some white nationalists expressed concern that the news outlet may have been targeted by a coordinated hoax.

The Republic of Florida calls itself “a white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” on its website, adding that its “current short-term goals are to occupy urban areas to recruit suburban young whites” in pursuit of “the ultimate creation of a white ethnostate.”

A training video the group posted online shows members practicing military maneuvers in camouflage clothing and saluting each other, along with music with the lyric: “They call me Nazi / and I’m proud of it.”

In the weeks before the attack, on Gab, a social media network sometimes used by white nationalists, Jereb had recently praised Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik as a “hero.” He also posted a diagrammed strategy for using the Republic of Florida militia to create “lone wolf activists.”

Jereb later told the Associated Press that he didn’t know Cruz personally and that the group had no knowledge of his plans for the violent attack. “He acted on his own behalf of what he just did, and he’s solely responsible for what he just did,” Jereb said.

2c. Here’s some additional evidence  that, whether or not Nikolas Cruz was formally networking with the Republic of Florida or other neo-Nazi groups, he was indeed a neo-Nazi in spirit: It turns out that Cruz had swastikas etched onto his ammunition magazines used during the attackThis reminds us of the jottings Patrick Edward Purdy had on his weapons and clothing.

“Shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz had swastikas on ammunition magazines”; CBS News; 02/27/2018

Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz had swastikas ammunition magazines he brought into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, a federal law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation told CBS News on Tuesday. Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Cruz had 180 rounds of ammunition left, a source confirmed to CBS News.

Sources told CBS News that Cruz broke a third-floor window, possibly to fire upon people from above. Sources say he tried to create a “sniper’s nest” by shooting out the window, firing 16 rounds into the glass, CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reports. But the hurricane-proof glass appeared to have stopped it from shattering, Bojorquez reports.

Investigators believe the suspect tried to reload, but after changing magazine clips, his gun may have jammed, Bojorquez adds. Cruz then allegedly put down his weapon and left the building, blending in with other students.

Police said Cruz told them he had “brought additional loaded magazines to the school campus and kept them hidden in a backpack until he got on campus to begin his assault.”

Cruz is accused of opening fire at the high school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, killing 17 people and wounding 15 others. On Feb. 15, investigators said Cruz told them that as students began to flee, he decided to discard his AR-15 rifle and a vest he was wearing so he could blend in with the crowd. Police recovered the rifle and the vest.

It’s still unclear why the suspect stopped shooting.

Since the massacre, disturbing details of Cruz’s past have come to light. While the motive remains unclear, a YouTube commentator with his name posted on a video: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

Cruz was transferred to a school with programs for emotionally and disabled students when he was in eighth grade but wanted to be mainstreamed back into his home school, Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie said Tuesday.

The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated Cruz in 2016, and police records show deputies went to his home more than three dozen times. Starting in January 2016, Cruz was allowed to spend half his day at the alternative school and half at Stoneman Douglas to ease him into the less-structured environment.

In August 2016, he started back at Stoneman Douglas, but “the situation had deteriorated” by November, Runcie said. That’s when Cruz, who had turned 18 in September 2016, refused the mental health services offered by the school. Runcie said Cruz had the support of his mother.

He remained at the school until February 2017, when school officials finally decided to remove him after unspecified behavior issues. He was told his only option was an alternative school.

Jordan Jereb, the leader of white nationalist group Republic of Florida, had initially claimed Cruz was a member of his group but later walked back the claim and local law enforcement said there was no proof that Cruz and Jereb ever met.

2d. Cruz didn’t just suddenly adopt a neo-Nazi worldview. He’s been stewing in these juices for years, and clearly had additional mental health issues–the”Alt-Right” Nazi groups specifically target depressed people to take advantage of their disorders.

“Nikolas Cruz Was a Racist. Does That Make His Attack Terrorism?” by Dean Obeidallah; The Daily Beast; 03/01/2018.

On Tuesday, we learned a new, bone-chilling fact about the Parkland, Florida high school gunman Nikolas Cruz that should’ve made national headlines but didn’t. That new development was that Cruz had etched swastikas on the ammunition magazines he carried on the day he committed his brutal massacre that took 17 lives.

When I first heard of this development, my jaw dropped for two reasons. First, does anyone actually believe if Cruz had etched the words “Allah Akbar” on his gun magazines we wouldn’t have heard about that for nearly two weeks after the attack? No way. I can assure you that information would’ve been made public, intentionally or by way of a leak. And then Donald Trump would almost certainly have pounced–without waiting for additional evidence–to label this an Islamic terror attack and try to use it to further his own political agenda.

But what also was shocking is that despite this new piece of evidence, together with Cruz’s known history of hate directed at people of color and Jews, we aren’t seeing a fuller discussion in the media about whether this shooting was inspired by Cruz’s apparent white supremacist ideology.

As CNN had reported within days of the February 14 attack, Cruz had in the past spewed vile comments in a private Instagram chatroom where he shared his hatred of “jews, ni**ers, immigrants.” Cruz also wrote about killing Mexicans and hating black people simply because of their skin color and he slammed Jews because in his twisted view they wanted to destroy the world.

And Cruz’s white supremacist views also made their way from the online world to the real world. One of Cruz’s classmates reportedly told a social worker that Cruz had drawn a swastika on his book back next to the words “I hate ni***rs.” He also shared with other students his “hating on” Islam and slamming all Muslims as “terrorists and bombers.” And Cruz was also seen wearing a Trump MAGA hat when he was enrolled in school well before the attack.

While initial reports that Cruz was actually a member of a white supremacist group proved to be unfounded, there’s no disputing Cruz’s documented history of spewing despicable views that line up with the white nationalist ideology. But still, given all that we’ve now learned, the question I have is: How much more evidence do we need before we discuss in earnest whether Cruz’s white supremacist views played a role in this attack?!

True, there’s no evidence that Cruz targeted any specific group of people during his rampage. But then again, ISIS-inspired terrorists who have committed acts of terror on U.S. soil, such as the man who intentionally drove a truck on a New York City pedestrian walkway in 2017 that killed eight, didn’t target any specific race or religion. He and others like him committed acts of terror in furtherance of their sick, perverted ideology—to spread terror.

And the swastikas on Cruz’s gun magazines take on a greater significance when you examine the shooting itself. Of the 17 people Cruz killed, at least five were Jewish. (Some reports note it could be six.) Even more disturbing is that Cruz had reportedly shot bullets into a Holocaust history class that killed two of those students. Did Cruz intentionally target that class since he had formerly been a student at the school? We don’t know but given Cruz’s history this is certainly a fair question. And since he’s that rare mass-shooter who’s still alive, I presume he’ll be asked.

In fact, the question of whether Cruz’s gun massacre was an anti-Semitic attack inspired by a white supremacist ideology was raised in an op-edin the liberal Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz even before we learned about the swastikas on Cruz’s gun magazines. There, the writer noted that Cruz had expressed views “that Jews were part of a conspiracy to unseat white people from power and destroy the world.”In response to that article, the writer was subjected to an avalanche of vile anti-Semitic barbs.

Given these newly revealed swastikas, it’s long overdue that we have that conversation about whether Cruz was more than a troubled youth.And to be clear, Cruz was troubled. He had been repeatedly disciplined at school for disturbing behavior and for a period of time was placed in a special school for kids with emotional and behavior issues. On social media, he even wrote about his dream of becoming a “professional school shooter.” But when he was evaluated in 2016 by a mental health professional, he was determined to be stable and not in need of being involuntarily committed to a mental health institution.

So why does it matter if we raise the question of whether Cruz’s attack was inspired by his apparent white supremacist ideology? For two reasons.

First and foremost, it may save lives. We have seen a spike in the time of Trump of white supremacist violence and activities. As the Anti-Defamation League recently documented, there were 34 extremist-related deaths on U.S. soil in 2017. A majority of those, 18, were caused by white supremacists, while nine were caused by Islamic extremists.

Secondly, we need to end the media’s hypocrisy on this issue. If Cruz had been Muslim, we know from recent history that the media would’ve labeled this a terrorist attack without the in-depth analysis into the terrorist’s mental health. But if the killer is white, the media and many in our nation prefer to believe the person is mentally ill and try to avoid labeling him a terrorist. Just look at the case of Dylann Roof, who literally stated he had executed nine African Americans because he wanted to start a “race war,” yet few in the media referred to him as a terrorist..

In time we may learn the exact reason why Cruz committed his rampage. Perhaps it was truly the act of a clinically insane individual? Or maybe it was inspired by his white supremacist ideology? But given the evidence we have about Cruz together with the recent spike in white supremacist attacks on U.S. soil, it’s time we discuss whether Cruz’s rampage was a white supremacist terrorist attack. That’s the only way we can counter this growing threat.

3. The Steam gaming app, a major distributor for very popular video games, has a neo-Nazi problem–neo-Nazis are using its chat room and voice-over-IP options to promote their ideology. Both the Daily Stormer and Andrew Auernheimer have Steam chat rooms, as does AtomWaffen.

There’s also an overlapping problem with Steam chat forums that glorify school shooters. 173 such groups glorifying school shootings according to one count.

Steam isn’t the only popular gaming app that this neo-Nazi problem. Discord, another very popular app for gamers, also appears to have a number of chat rooms run by neo-Nazis. The Germanic Reconquista group of German neo-Nazis who were training people how to game Youtube’s algorithms did that training using Discord. And, again, Steam and Discord are both quite popular.

The 173+ popular video game chat forums on Steam that glorify school shooters are definitely part of the school shooting problem.

“Neo-Nazis, ‘Future School Shooters’ Using Leading Gaming App to Post Hateful Content in Hundreds of Groups: Report” by Michael Edison Hayden; Newsweek; 03/17/2018

A leading gaming app that is popular with adherents of the neo-Nazi wing of the alt-right movement has at least 173 groups dedicated to the glorification of school shootings, according to a report published last week by Reveal News. Separately, dozens of neo-Nazi groups have cultivated active communities on the app.

The report notes that these Steam groups—which typically have between 30 and 200 active members—glorify men like 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured over a dozen others in the vicinity of the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara, before committing suicide in 2014.

Rodger was a virulent misogynist and wanted to punish women for rejecting him. Other shooters, like Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech senior who killed 32 people in 2007, are also hailed in these Steam groups. The groups have names like “School Shooters Are Heroes” and “Shoot Up a School.” Some of them allude to “future” school shootings yet to take place and are filled with racist language.

The link between violence and the scattered culture of internet Nazism has received greater scrutiny in recent weeks, following a CBS News report that suspected Parkland, Florida, mass shooter Nikolas Cruz allegedly possessed gun magazines engraved with swastikas. Gaming apps like Steam have become increasingly popular within that community.

One example of neo-Nazis using Steam is Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, who handles the technical side of the white supremacist troll website Daily Stormer, and several months ago appeared to threaten to “slaughter” Jewish children in retaliation for his website being taken offline. Auernheimer appears to have a group on the app, which discusses games in the context of whether they portray Adolf Hitler in a favorable light. The broader community of Daily Stormer also appears to have an active community on Steam called “Storm Sect” with roughly 200 members.

Other neo-Nazi groups on Steam have more overtly hateful and violent names like “Fag Lynch Squad,” which depicts shadowy figures hanging limply from nooses in its profile picture. AtomWaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group linked to a number of murders, had its community on Steam removed earlier this month, Reveal News reported.

Angela Nagle, a leftist writer, demonstrated links between the origins of the alt-right and gaming culture in her book Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right. The veneration of school shooters and other killers is similarly linked.

It is not only on Steam where neo-Nazis have found a platform within the gaming world. Discord, another gaming app, was instrumental to young neo-Nazis in planning the Unite the Right event that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August, which led to the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. Discord has made efforts to remove violent and far-right content from its app following reports of the rally, but new groups continue to pop up on that platform.

Unicorn Riot, a volunteer media collective, published recordings and messages this week that appeared to reveal internal planning discussions from the young white supremacist group Patriot Front, which were initially hosted on Discord. Patriot Front splintered from Vanguard America, the group in which the man accused of killing Heyer allegedly marched during the protests in Charlottesville.

Discord told Newsweek in a statement that the company is still trying to purge groups like Patriot Front from its app.

“Discord has a Terms of Service and Community Guidelines that we ask all of our communities and users to adhere to. These specifically prohibit harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence,” a spokesperson said, noting that the group recently removed several offending servers. “Though we do not read people’s private messages, we do investigate and take immediate appropriate action against any reported Terms of Service violation by a server or user.”

4a. Overlapping the use of gaming chat forums to recruit depressed people.

“The Alt-right is recruiting depressed people” by Paris Martineau; The Outline; 02/26/2018

A video on YouTube entitled “Advice For People With Depression” has over half a million views. The title is generic enough, and to the unsuspecting viewer, lecturer Jordan Peterson could even look legitimate or knowledgable — a quick Google search will reveal that he even spoke at Harvard once. But as the video wears on, Peterson argues that men are depressed and frustrated because they don’t have a higher calling like women (who, according to Peterson, are biologically required to have and take care of infants). This leaves weak men seeking “impulsive, low-class pleasure,” he argues. Upon first glance he certainly doesn’t seem like a darling of the alt-right, but he is.

Type “depression” or “depressed” into YouTube and it won’t be long until you stumble upon a suit-clad white supremacist giving a lecture on self-empowerment. They’re everywhere. For years, members of the alt-right have taken advantage of the internet’s most vulnerable, turning their fear and self-loathing into vitriolic extremism, and thanks to the movement’s recent galvanization, they’re only growing stronger.

“I still wonder, how could I have been so stupid?” writes Reddit user u/pdesperaux, in a post detailing how he was accidentally seduced by the alt-right. “I was part of a cult. I know cults and I know brainwashing, I have researched them extensively, you’d think I would have noticed, right? Wrong. These are the same tactics that Scientology and ISIS use and I fell for them like a chump.”

“NOBODY is talking about how the online depression community has been infiltrated by alt-right recruiters deliberately preying on the vulnerable,” writes Twitter user @MrHappyDieHappy in a thread on the issue. “There NEED to be public warnings about this. ‘Online pals’ have attempted to groom me multiple times when at my absolute lowest.”

“You know your life is useless and meaningless,” Peterson says in his “Advice” video, turning towards the viewer, “you’re full of self-contempt and nihilism.” He doesn’t follow all of this rousing self-hatred with an answer, but rather merely teases at one. “[You] have had enough of that,” he says to a classroom full of men. “Rights, rights, rights, rights…”

Peterson’s alt-light messaging quickly takes a darker turn. Finish that video and YouTube will queue up “Jordan Peterson – Don’t Be The Nice Guy” (1.3 million views), and “Jordan Peterson – The Tragic Story of the Man-Child” (over 853,000 views), both of which are practically right out of the redpill/incel handbook.

The common railroad stages of ‘helpful’ linking to ‘motivational speakers’ goes ‘Jordan Peterson —> Stefan Molyneux —> Millennial Woes,” writes @MrHappyDieHappy. “The first is charismatic and not as harmful, but his persuasiveness leaves people open for the next two, who are frankly evil and dumb.” Molyneux, an anarcho-capitalist who promotes scientific racism and eugenics, has grown wildly popular amongst the alt-right as of late. His videos — which argue, among other things, that rape is a “moral right” — are often used to help transition vulnerable young men into the vitriolic and racist core of the alt-right.

Though it may seem like a huge ideological leap, it makes sense, in a way. For some disillusioned and hopelessly confused young men, the alt-right offers two things they feel a serious lack of in the throes of depression: acceptance and community. These primer videos and their associated “support” groups do a shockingly good job of acknowledging the validity of the depressed man’s existence — something men don’t often feel they experience — and capitalize on that good will by galvanizing their members into a plan of action (which generally involves fighting against some group or class of people designated as “the enemy”). These sort of movements allot the depressed person a form of agency which they may never have experienced before. And whether it’s grounded in reality or not, that’s an addicting feeling.

According to Christian Picciolini, a former neo-nazi who co-founded the peace advocacy organization, Life After Hate, these sort of recruiting tactics aren’t just common, but systematically enforced. “[The recruiters] are actively looking for these kind of broken individuals who they can promise acceptance, who they can promise identity to,” Picciolini said in an interview with Sam Seder. “Because in real life, perhaps these people are socially awkward — they’re not fitting in; they may be bullied — and they’re desperately looking for something. And the ideology and the dogma are not what drive people to this extremism, it’s in fact, I think, a broken search for that acceptance and that purpose and community.”

Some of the most toxic unofficial alt-right communities online have operated on this principle. r/Incels (which is now banned, thankfully), began as a place for the “involuntarily celibate” to commiserate, but quickly became the place for extreme misogynists to gather and blame their problems on women and minorities. “Men going their own way,” (MGTOW) was initially a space for men to commune and protect their sovereignty as dudes “above all else,” it devolved into an infinitely racist and misogynistic hellhole. Similar fates have befallen r/Redpill, r/MensRights, and countless others. Commiseration begets community begets a vulnerable trend towards groupthink.

While it’s easy to isolate purely hateful content, the type that preys upon the disenfranchised and uses much more insidious methods to bring them into the fold is much more difficult to manage on expansive platforms like YouTube. Particularly because the message being sent isn’t one of obvious in-your-face hate speech, or something so obviously objectionable, but rather more of a slow burn. It’s not the sort of thing you can train algorithms to spot — or at least, not yet — making the issue of containment that much harder to address.

4b. Further muddying the investigative waters is the fact that the Florida high school students who protested the ready availability of assault weapons have been targeted by right-wing commentators and internet forums.

“How Parkland Teens Became Villains on the Right-Wing Internet” by Abby Ohlheiser; Washington Post; 2/27/2018.

Less than a week after 17 people died in Parkland, Fla., right-wing provocateur Dinesh D’Souza began taunting some of the teenage survivors of the massacre. “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” he tweeted on Feb. 20, commenting on a photo showing Parkland survivors crying as state legislators voted down a bill to ban military-style weapons.

D’Souza wrote another tweet, “Adults, 1, kids 0.” Combined, the two tweets have more than 25,000 likes and 8,000 retweets.

Now, five weeks after the Parkland school shooting, D’Souza’s tweets seem almost quaint. As Emma González, David Hogg and the other Parkland teens fighting for gun control have become viral liberal heroes, the teens are villains on the right-wing Internet and fair game for the mockery and attacks that this group usually reserves for its adult enemies.

That infamy reached a wider audience this past weekend around the time of their March for Our Lives protest, when a doctored image that showed González ripping up a copy of the U.S. Constitution (she actually ripped up a gun target) went mildly viral on the Trump-supporting parts of the Internet, defended as “satire” by those who shared it

Here’s a look back at how the Parkland student activists became such a target:

Day 1: Conspiracy theorists

The first to target the Parkland students were the conspiracy theorists. When a mass shooting like Parkland happens, conspiracy theorists begin to search for signs of a false flag — proof that the shooting was actually staged and/or carried out for political reasons — pretty much right away. They’re following what online trolling expert Whitney Phillips calls a “tragedy script”: The establishment is trying to take away your guns, they’ll use mass shootings to do that, and here are the tricks they use to manipulate the public. Anything irregular becomes conspiracy fodder.

An anonymous 8chan user told the fringe chat board to look for “crisis actors” just 47 minutes after the shooting happened. And if closed chat rooms and fringey boards such as 8chan, 4chan and some subreddits on Reddit are where conspiracy theorists coordinate, then Twitter is where those conspiracy theories — and the harassment that comes with them — are performed for the public. Within hours, anonymous Twitter users were in the mentions of students tweeting from their classrooms during the shooting, accusing them of being part of the conspiracy.

One Twitter thread, made just after midnight on the night of the attack, claimed to contain “Bombshell” information about Parkland. @Magapill (an account once approvingly retweeted by President Trump) shared a video interview with a student that has become the basis of a debunked Parkland conspiracy theory. The thread was retweeted more than 3,000 times.

All this happened before the Parkland students calling for gun control began their ascent to viral iconography. When they emerged, the campaign to discredit and debunk the Parkland students expanded. . . .

 5a. The Oath Keepers, a right-wing paramilitary group, are advocating to function as armed sentinels at public schools.

“Armed Extremist Militias Want to Patrol Schools After the Parkland Shooting” by Jerry Iannelli; The Miami New Times.; 02/27/2018

After the school massacre in Parkland two weeks ago, Mark Cowan, a grizzled man in Fort Wayne, Indiana, began standing outside the town’s North Side High School. With a handgun. And an AR-15 in his car.

As a local TV station reported last Friday, Cowan is one of 100 heavily armed, ideologically extreme “Oath Keepers” who have committed to “standing guard” outside Indiana schools to stop events like the Stoneman Douglas shooting from happening. The Oath Keepers are a fringe right-wing paramilitary group made up of former veterans and law enforcement officers who believe in “defending the Constitution” against perceived threats, which basically just means “gun-control laws.”

This unfortunately might be a preview of what’s in store for our dystopian future: As the hate-tracking Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noted yesterday, Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes this week instructed group members to stand watch outside schools, and the group held a webinar last night encouraging members to “stand guard” outside random schools across the nation. The group’s Florida chapter is also encouraging local members to patrol outside schools around the Sunshine State.

“We will discuss what you can and must do to fix this problem effectively in your community and counter this bloodthirsty and calculated conspiracy to aid and abet mass murder,” the webinar’s announcement page reads. “The time to step up and answer the call is now. And the time to dig in our heels and take a firm ‘three percenter’ type stand against any further restriction on our right to keep and bear arms is now.”

 

The term “three percenter” refers to a discredited theory that only 3 percent of America’s population rose up to fight the British Army in the Revolutionary War. The “Three Percenters” is a separate militia closely aligned with Oath Keepers.

Though members repeatedly deny they support outright white nationalism and are instead just hard-core libertarians, the militias are often allied with white supremacists and tend to appear at the same rallies and events. SPLC notes the group operates on “a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans” and showed up with all-white, armed groups during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, “to protect white businesses against black protesters.”

Rhodes, the group’s founder, believes immigrants are intentionally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a “Communist subversive invasion” of the United States. He also believes Black Lives Matter and immigrant- rights groups are also part of a secret Marxist takeover of America. Oath Keepers were also heavily involved in Cliven Bundy’s 2017 armed insurrection against the federal government in the Nevada desert.

The groups also rose in popularity as a reaction to Barack Obama’s presidency. You’re free to guess why. In light of his political leanings, it appears Nikolas Cruz was far likelier to have been an Oath Keeper sympathizer than an antagonist.

The Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, for example, sent operatives to the Unite the Right neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year. Because they’re made up of fringe ex-military types, they seem as likely to fight off a perceived armed threat as they are to get pissed off and shoot a kid because his Lil Uzi Vert T-shirt resembled Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Oath Keepers have repeatedly propagated a claim that “all federal gun control is unlawful,” which is patently and provably false. Cowan, the so-called guard standing at North Side High in Fort Wayne, has misdemeanor battery convictions in his past, and school reps say they don’t think his presence makes anyone safer, especially because the campus already has an official armed guard.

“We understand he has a right to be out there, as he is not on our property,” a school district spokesperson told the Indiana TV station, “but we do not believe it adds to the safety of our students. At North Side, as at all of our schools, we have security procedures in place. In addition, at North Side, we have armed police officers in the building every day.”

It’s easy to see how the presence of a random, heavily armed conspiracy theorist could make a school-shooting situation worse. An Oath Keeper might sprint into a school after hearing gunshots and, say, riddle the wrong kid with rifle bullets. An arriving SWAT team would be forced to deploy resources to apprehend both a school shooter and an Oath Keeper, because both people would be inside the school armed with weapons and it would be impossible to tell who’s shooting whom or why.

Naturally, the Oath Keepers also support Florida’s proposed plans to arm teachers and place armed guards in schools, which passed through committee last night and awaits a floor vote in both chambers of the state Legislature.

Such is the quality of political discourse in Florida in 2018: Rather than make it more difficult for people like Cruz to buy AR-15 rifles, the Sunshine State will instead train gym teachers with acute osteoarthritis how to mow down students with a Desert Eagle, while armed vets who fear a coming race war will stand outside with assault rifles. Feel safer?

5b. Given the high likelihood that schools and neighborhoods won’t want a heavily armed far-right individual hanging around their neighborhood schools, what does Stewart Rhodes suggest his group do if their armed presence isn’t wanted? Just ignore them and do it anyway because it’s legal:

“Oath Keepers Want To Station Volunteer Armed Guards Outside Schools” by Allegra Kirkland; Talking Points Memo; 02/26/2018

Imagine if every school campus in the United States had its own volunteer security officer: a former police officer or military veteran equipped with an assault rifle.

That’s the dream of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

In the wake of the February 14 massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school, Rhodes is calling on members of his far-right anti-government militia group to serve as unpaid and unaccountable armed school guards — whether teachers and students like the idea or not.

One Indiana Oath Keeper has already deployed to a local school, even though the school district says there’s no need for him to be there.

Rhodes wants the military and police veterans who make up Oath Keepers’ membership to volunteer for unpaid, rotating shifts at schools of all levels, and colleges, throughout the country. He and two other representatives of the fringe militia community will hold a webinar Monday night where they plan to encourage Oath Keepers to station themselves at schools “to protect the children against mass murder, and to help train the teachers and staff.”

“I think it’s essential,” Rhodes told TPM in a Monday phone call. “It’s part of our responsibility to do what we can.”

“And what we can do is be outside of schools so that we’re closer if an attack happens, or when one happens,” Rhodes continued. “We’ll be there to be a fast response.”

Oath Keepers came to prominence as part of the surge of right-wing extremism that marked the early years of the Obama administration. At the group’s core are efforts to stoke fear around outlandish conspiracy theories — that the federal government will disarm all citizens, impose martial law, and round Americans up into detention camps, among other scenarios.

Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, has referred to Hillary Clinton as “Herr Hitlery,” and “the dominatrix-in-chief,” and has said John McCain should be tried for treason and then “hung by the neck until dead.”

The group’s push for vigilante school security officers comes in the midst of a fraught national debate over how to curb school shootings like the one in Parkland that left 14 students and 3 staffers dead. President Donald Trump, the NRA and some GOP lawmakers all have suggested arming teachers who have firearms training, as a way to deter would-be school shooters — an idea Rhodes said he supports. But since training teachers will take time, he argues, it makes sense to use Oath Keepers volunteers in the interim.

The National Association of School Resource Officers and many school shooting survivors, including those from Parkland, strenuously oppose plans to arm teachers. Teachers may not feel safe wielding arms; students could get ahold of the weapons or get caught in crossfire; law enforcement could mistake an armed teacher or other non-uniformed school staffer for an assailant. The prospect of something going wrong seems even higher with non-vetted, non-professional members of a conspiratorial militia group volunteering services that schools did not ask for.

Rhodes’ response? “Tough.”

“If they don’t like it, too bad,” Rhodes said. “We’re not there to make people feel warm and fuzzy; we’re there to stop murders.”

“What I tell our people is don’t ask for permission,” Rhodes continued. “Let ‘em know what you’re doing and be as friendly as you can. But this is the reality we’re in right now.”

“Most schools have this retarded no-guns policy,” Rhodes added, calling such measures, “‘Alice in Wonderland,’ upside-down thinking.”

To avoid confusion, members will be asked to wear a “long-range identifier” like a sash or orange vest, as well as a “close-range identifier” one that copycats cannot imitate, Rhodes said. Before showing up, they’ll be asked to provide police with copies of their drivers’ licenses, descriptions of their outfits and descriptions of their vehicles and license plates.

Mark Cowan, an Indiana-based member of the Oath Keepers and an Army veteran, has since Friday posted himself outside North Side High School in Fort Wayne, wearing an Oath Keepers baseball hat and carrying a handgun and an AR-15.

“If somebody comes to this school or another school where we’re at, that school shooter is going to know, we’re not going to play games,” Cowan told local station WPTA. “You come to kill our kids, you’re dead.”

In other interviews with local media, Cowan has said he is complying with state law by parking his car just off of school grounds, and that he plans to remain there until the school, which already has an armed resource officer, introduces additional safety measures.

According to local news reports, Cowan was arrested last year in connection with a fight that involved his use of a deadly weapon, and pleaded guilty plea to a count of misdemeanor battery. He told WPTA that the incident involved his effort to protect two of his grandchildren, who were attacked by another man. The guilty plea does not prevent him from carrying a firearm under Indiana law.

TPM was not immediately able to reach Cowan. But Bryan Humes, a spokesperson for the Oath Keepers’ Indiana chapter, told TPM in a Monday phone call that Cowan is serving as “another set of eyes and ears” for North Side, which has some 1,800 students, and that other members of the group are interested in taking up similar posts.

“We’re just a little concerned that one officer, with the size of the building and the number of people, may not quite be adequate as far as being able to keep an eye on everything,” Humes said.

“He had a couple of students Friday come out from school during class and thank him for being out there,” Humes added. “He’s also had a couple of the local police and sheriff’s officers stop by and thank him for being out there.”

Captain Steve Stone of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department told TPM that Cowan notified him he would be stationed outside of North Side, and that he personally spread the message to the rest of the department. Stone declined to offer the department’s stance on the Oath Keepers’ presence, noting that Cowan is “not breaking the law.”

“I can’t speak on behalf of the department on the department’s view of having civilians like the Oath Keepers doing that, unfortunately,” Stone said, saying Sheriff David Gladieux was unavailable. “I can’t give you my personal opinion on whether it’s good or not.”

6a. For people who think the notion of paramilitary right-wingers being deputized as part of a martial law contingency plan, note what is happening in Ukraine.

Here’s another piece by Josh Cohen – a former USAID project officer for the former Soviet Union who does a decent job of calling out the neo-Nazi threat to Ukraine – on the growing ‘law enforcement’ role the neo-Nazi militias are assuming.

The Kiev city government recently signed an agreement giving C14 – the militia literally named after the white supremacist ’14 words’ slogan – the right to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets there. ” . . . . But connections between law enforcement agencies and extremists give Ukraine’s Western allies ample reason for concern. C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kiev, and at least 21 operate in other cities. . . .”

They’re also cracking down on political activists such as LGBT and anti-war proponents.

As the article also notes, while the far-right may not be winning at the ballot box, they have powerful political protection, because of the close relationship between Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and figures like Azov leader Andriy Biletsky and Sergei Korotkykh, an Azov veteran who is now a high-ranking police official.

Avakov’s Peoples’ Party is the main partner in the parliamentary coalition led by Poroshenko’s Bloc. Should Petro Poroshenko decided to challenge Avakov and, as a result, the growing role of these neo-Nazi militias, his governing coalition might collapse. And that’s all part of why Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem isn’t just a problem of popular support for the neo-Nazi militias, although the level of popular support they enjoy is still disturbingly high.

“Commentary: Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem” by Josh Cohen; Reuters; 03/19/2018

As Ukraine’s struggle against Russia and its proxies continues, Kiev must also contend with a growing problem behind the front lines: far-right vigilantes who are willing to use intimidation and even violence to advance their agendas, and who often do so with the tacit approval of law enforcement agencies.

A January 28 demonstration, in Kiev, by 600 members of the so-called “National Militia,” a newly-formed ultranationalist group that vows “to use force to establish order,” illustrates this threat. While the group’s Kiev launch was peaceful, National Militia members in balaclavas stormed a city council meeting in the central Ukrainian town of Cherkasy the following day, skirmishing with deputies and forcing them to pass a new budget.

Many of the National Militia’s members come from the Azov movement, one of the 30-odd privately-funded “volunteer battalions” that, in the early days of the war, helped the regular army to defend Ukrainian territory against Russia’s separatist proxies. Although Azov usesNazi-era symbolism and recruitsneo-Nazis intoits ranks, a recent article in Foreign Affairs downplayed any risks the group might pose, pointing out that, like other volunteer militias, Azov has been “reined in” through its integration into Ukraine’s armed forces. While it’s true that private militias no longer rule the battlefront, it’s the home front that Kiev needs to worry about now.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea four years ago first exposed the decrepit condition of Ukraine’s armed forces, right-wing militias such as Azov and Right Sector stepped into the breach, fendingoff the Russian-backed separatists while Ukraine’s regular military regrouped. Though, as a result, many Ukrainians continue to regard the militias with gratitude and admiration, the more extreme among these groups promote an intolerant and illiberal ideology that will endanger Ukraine in the long term. Since the Crimean crisis, the militias have been formally integrated into Ukraine’s armed forces, but some have resisted full integration: Azov, for example, runs its own children’s training camp, and the careers section instructs recruits who wish to transfer to Azov from a regular military unit.

According to Freedom House’s Ukraine project director Matthew Schaaf, “numerous organized radical right-wing groups exist in Ukraine, and while the volunteer battalions may have been officially integrated into state structures, some of them have since spun off political and non-profit structures to implement their vision.”Schaaf noted that “an increase in patriotic discourse supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia has coincided with an apparent increase in both public hate speech, sometimes by public officials and magnified by the media, as well as violence towards vulnerable groups such as the LGBT community,” an observation that is supported by a recent Council of Europe study.

In recent months, Ukraine has experienced a wave of unchecked vigilantism. Institute Respublica, a local pro-democracy NGO, reported that activists are frequently harassed by vigilantes when holding legal meetings or rallies related to politically-controversial positions, such as the promotion of LGBT rights or opposition to the war. Azov and other militias have attacked anti-fascist demonstrations, city council meetings, media outletsart exhibitionsforeign students and Roma. Progressive activists describe a new climate of fear that they say has been intensifying ever since last year’s near-fatal stabbing of anti-war activist Stas Serhiyenko, which is believed to have been perpetrated by an extremist group named C14 (the name refers to a 14-word slogan popular among white supremacists). Brutal attacks this month on International Women’s Day marches in several Ukrainian cities prompted an unusually forceful statement from Amnesty International, which warned that “the Ukrainian state is rapidly losing its monopoly on violence.”

Ukraine is not the only country that must contend with a resurgent far right. But Kiev’s recent efforts to incorporate independent armed groups into its regular armed forces, as well as a continuing national sense of indebtedness to the militias for their defense of the homeland, make addressing the ultranationalist threat considerably more complicated than it is elsewhere. According to Schaaf and the Institute Respublica, Ukrainian extremists are rarely punished for acts of violence. In some cases — such as C14’s January attack on a remembrance gatheringfor two murdered journalists — police actually detain peaceful demonstrators instead.

To be clear, the Kremlin’s claims that Ukraine is a hornets’ nest of fascists are false: far-right parties performed poorly in Ukraine’s last parliamentary elections, and Ukrainians reactedwith alarm to the National Militia’s demonstration in Kiev. But connections between law enforcement agencies and extremists give Ukraine’s Western allies ample reason for concern. C14 and Kiev’s city government recently signed an agreement allowing C14 to establish a “municipal guard” to patrol the streets; three such militia-run guard forces are already registered in Kiev, and at least 21 operate in other cities.

In an ideal world, President Petro Poroshenko would purge the police and the interior ministry of far-right sympathizers, including Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who has close ties to Azov leader Andriy Biletsky, as well as Sergei Korotkykh, an Azov veteranwho is now a high-ranking police official. But Poroshenko would risk major repercussions if he did so; Avakov is his chief political rival, and the ministry he runs controls the police, the National Guard and several former militias.

As one Ukrainian analyst notedin December, control of these forces make Avakov extremely powerful and Poroshenko’s presidency might not be strong enough to withstand the kind of direct confrontation with Avakov that an attempt to oust him or to strike at his power base could well produce. Poroshenko has endured frequent verbal threats, including calls for revolution, from ultranationalist groups, so he may believe that he needs Avakov to keep them in check.

Avakov’s Peoples’ Party status as the main partner in Ukraine’s parliamentary coalition increases Avakov’s leverage over Poroshenko’s Bloc. An attempt to fire Avakov could imperil Poroshenko’s slim legislative majority, and lead to early parliamentary elections. Given Poroshenko’s current unpopularity, this is a scenario he will likely try to avoid.

Despite his weak position, Poroshenko still has some options for reducing the threat from the far right. Though Avakov controls the Ukraine’s police and National Guard, Poroshenko still commands Ukraine’s security and intelligence services, the SBU, and could instruct the agency to cut its ties with C14 and other extremist groups. Poroshenko should also express public support for marginalized groups like the Roma and LGBT communities, and affirm his commitment to protecting their rights.

Western diplomats and human rights organizations must urge Ukraine’s government to uphold the rule of law and to stop allowing the far right to act with impunity. International donors can help by funding more initiatives like the United States Agency for International Development’s projects supporting training for Ukrainian lawyers and human rights defenders, and improving equitable access to the judicial system for marginalized communities. . . .

 

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