Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

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: 

Pub­lic schools and pub­lic edu­ca­tion are, and for many years have been, the focal point of right-wing activ­i­ty. From dis­sat­is­fac­tion over man­dat­ed school deseg­re­ga­tion to oppo­si­tion to the judi­cial ban on prayer in pub­lic schools to the present-day dra­con­ian slash­ing of pub­lic edu­ca­tion budges, the right has attacked the pub­lic edu­ca­tion. At the same time, the right has pro­mot­ed the use of pub­lic funds for parochial schools and home school­ing as alter­na­tives to pub­lic edu­ca­tion.

The for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence of pub­lic school atten­dance might well be viewed as fun­da­men­tal to young peo­ples’ social­iza­tion process–learning to share, acquir­ing tol­er­ance for those of dif­fer­ent back­grounds and learn­ing the basics of civic life  in Amer­i­ca.

Pub­lic schools have also come under attack–quite literally–from armed fas­cists.

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. . . .

 

Discussion

5 comments for “FTR #1003 School Shootings and Fascist Groups, Part 2”

  1. This arti­cle shows a recent sniper, Rex Whit­man Har­bour, who shot 3 peo­ple, fol­lowed the pat­tern of Nazi Lead­er­less resis­tance. Mr. Har­bour admired Park­land Flori­da shoot­er, Nicholas Cruz. Har­bour’s Face­book pro­file also shows that he liked numer­ous his­tor­i­cal pho­tos of Ger­man Nazis, includ­ing offi­cers of the Panz­er­waffe and Luft­waffe. He post­ed a com­ment on a pho­to of Nazi tank com­man­der Kurt Knis­pel, who destroyed 168 Allied tanks, stat­ing “Great work! Long live Ger­many!”.

    The scari­est part of this Nazi link got almost no press cov­er­age. Is there an orga­ni­za­tion which is able to keep this out of the main­stream news?

    https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/05/07/georgia-sniper-appeared-fascinated-nazis?utm_campaign=180510%20eNews&utm_medium=email&utm_source=EOACLK

    Geor­gia sniper appeared fas­ci­nat­ed with Nazis

    May 07, 2018
    Bill Mor­lin and Nick R. Mar­tin

    A Geor­gia free­way sniper, who appar­ent­ly idol­ized a Flori­da mass shoot­er, also appeared fas­ci­nat­ed with Ger­man Nazis and their World War II mil­i­tary machine.

    Rex Whit­mire Har­bour, 26, died of a self-inflict­ed gun­shot wound after fir­ing at sev­en vehi­cles, wound­ing three peo­ple, on Fri­day along a state high­way in Gainesville, Geor­gia.

    Hall Coun­ty Sher­iff Ger­ald Couch said inves­ti­ga­tors lat­er searched Harbour’s home in Snel­lville, Geor­gia, and “dis­cov­ered a man­i­festo” stat­ing his admi­ra­tion for Niko­las Cruz, accused of fatal­ly shoot­ing 17 peo­ple in Feb­ru­ary at Mar­jo­ry Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Flori­da.

    “We found hand­writ­ten doc­u­ments writ­ten by Mr. Har­bour and they were very dis­turb­ing,” the sher­iff told reporters. “He indi­cat­ed that he idol­ized the [Park­land] mass shoot­er,” call­ing him a hero who inspired Har­bour and gave him “courage and con­fi­dence.”

    “The remain­der of the doc­u­ments that I saw are very hate-filled in that regard,” Couch said. “It appeared that he was tar­get­ing all Amer­i­cans. Why? That I don’t know.”

    Author­i­ties haven’t specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned Harbour’s Face­book page, which shows he liked mul­ti­ple pages set up in hon­or of Ger­man Nazis and one titled “Lovers of the Ger­man mil­i­tary forces 1933–1945.” The oth­er pages he liked includ­ed a range of musi­cians and celebri­ties as well as mul­ti­ple pages ded­i­cat­ed to “Amer­i­can Sniper” Chris Kyle and his wid­ow, Taya Kyle.

    Harbour’s Face­book pro­file also shows that he liked numer­ous his­tor­i­cal pho­tos of Ger­man Nazis, includ­ing offi­cers of the Panz­er­waffe and Luft­waffe.

    One of the pho­tos Har­bour liked on Face­book depicts Nazi leader Her­mann Göring and his pet lion, while anoth­er is of Mar­garete “Gretl” Braun, Adolf Hitler’s sis­ter-in-law and part of the Nazi inner cir­cle.

    Har­bour also post­ed a pub­lic com­ment on a pho­to of Nazi tank com­man­der Kurt Knis­pel, who was cred­it­ed with destroy­ing 168 Allied tanks, writ­ing: “Great work! Long live Ger­many!”

    After the high­way shoot­ing, inves­ti­ga­tors retrieved a trail cam­era show­ing Har­bour tak­ing a posi­tion in a wood­en area adjoin­ing the south­bound side of the high­way where the shoot­ings occurred, the Atlanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion report­ed.

    At least 17 shell cas­ings were recov­ered, author­i­ties said.

    As deputies respond­ed to the scene, Har­bour fled in a Buick that came to a stop in a road­way medi­an where he shot him­self. In the vehi­cle, inves­ti­ga­tors found three 9mm hand­guns, a 12-gauge shot­gun and more than 3,400 rounds of ammu­ni­tion.

    HERE IS ANOTHER ARTICLE FROM the Asso­ci­at­ed Press ON THIS: It reveals not only that writ­ings sug­gest he viewed Flori­da sus­pect Niko­las Cruz as a “hero” who gave him “courage and con­fi­dence,” accord­ing to the Hall Count, Geor­gia sher­iff said. but also that “He had the weapons, the ammu­ni­tion and obvi­ous­ly the will to inflict a lot of harm and a lot of hate.”

    https://www.apnews.com/e0538bf801164cdba77eb3f5f9214fed/Sheriff:-Highway-sniper-%22idolized%22-school-shooting-suspect

    May 5, 2018

    Sher­iff: High­way sniper idol­ized school shoot­ing sus­pect

    GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A sniper who killed him­self after fir­ing on cars and injur­ing peo­ple on a Geor­gia high­way idol­ized the Park­land, Flori­da school shoot­ing sus­pect, a sher­iff said Sat­ur­day.

    A sher­iff says 26-year-old land­scap­er Rex Whit­mire Har­bour of Snel­lville, fired at least 17 times and hit at least sev­en vehi­cles trav­el­ing north­bound on Geor­gia 365 out­side Atlanta around noon on Fri­day. Two peo­ple were wound­ed and a third was hurt by bro­ken glass. None of their injuries were life-threat­en­ing.

    Hall Coun­ty Sher­iff Ger­ald Couch told a news con­fer­ence that a deputy chased after a sus­pi­cious car pulling out of a wood­ed area adja­cent the high­way on Fri­day. He said the sus­pect shot him­self in the head, and his car rolled to a stop. Har­bour lat­er died at Grady Memo­r­i­al Hos­pi­tal.

    Couch said inves­ti­ga­tors found three 9mm hand­guns, a 12-gauge shot­gun, a BB-gun, and more than 3,400 rounds of ammu­ni­tion inside his vehi­cle. Then they searched Harbour’s home, where he lived with his par­ents, and found “hate-filled” hand­writ­ten doc­u­ments.

    WSB-TV Atlanta report­ed that the sher­iff said Harbour’s moth­er told inves­ti­ga­tors her son was mild-man­nered and qui­et. But the writ­ings sug­gest he viewed Flori­da sus­pect Niko­las Cruz as a “hero” who gave him “courage and con­fi­dence,” the sher­iff said.

    “What his moti­va­tion was oth­er than just hate, we don’t know at this time,” Couch said. State inves­ti­ga­tors and the FBI turned up no crim­i­nal his­to­ry. “He had the weapons, the ammu­ni­tion and obvi­ous­ly the will to inflict a lot of harm and a lot of hate.”

    Posted by Mary Benton | May 10, 2018, 3:58 pm
  2. This arti­cle hints at a com­mon theme among the alt-right relat­ing to these increas­ing­ly com­mon mass shoot­ings. The inci­dents start by hav­ing online pro­pa­gan­da tar­get white men between about 14 and 30 who are under­em­ployed and frus­trat­ed with their lives:

    https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/nekvg8/why-do-young-alt-right-white-men-keep-killing-people-online-radicalization

    The Ter­ri­fy­ing Trend of White Men Rad­i­cal­ized Online Becom­ing IRL Ter­ror­ists

    It’s no acci­dent that young white guys with a fond­ness for the dark­est part of the Inter­net are descend­ing into far-right vio­lence.

    David Nei­w­ert
    May 17 2018, 11:01am
    vice.com

    The inci­dents keep pil­ing up, like the crest­ing wave of an incom­ing tide.

    A young, self-described “sov­er­eign cit­i­zen” is impli­cat­ed in a mass shoot­ing at a Waf­fle House in Ten­nessee that kills four non­white cus­tomers. An “invol­un­tary celi­bate,” or incel, is arrest­ed over a Toron­to van attack that kills ten peo­ple. A young, appar­ent neo-Nazi involved in an online fas­cist group is arrest­ed in Illi­nois with a large cache of weapons. Anoth­er young man in Geor­gia, who report­ed­ly “idol­ized” the teenag­er who killed 17 peo­ple at a high school in Park­land, Flori­da, opens fire on cars on a Geor­gia free­way, injur­ing two peo­ple before shoot­ing him­self.

    These inci­dents, all from with­in the past month or so, have vari­ables, of course. Besides the set­tings, meth­ods of vio­lence, and kinds of weapon­ry used, dis­tinct agen­das seem to have under­gird­ed them. But they all appear to gen­er­al­ly fall under the far-right ide­o­log­i­cal umbrel­la.

    They also have some­thing impor­tant in com­mon: They were all com­mit­ted by young white men who had appar­ent­ly been rad­i­cal­ized online.

    That’s no acci­dent. The surge of rad­i­cal-right orga­niz­ing by the most­ly online alt right in recent years has, in fact, been con­scious­ly direct­ed at pre­cise­ly that demo­graph­ic: white men between about 14 and 30, under­em­ployed and frus­trat­ed with their lives. This rad­i­cal­iza­tion, in and of itself, is not break­ing news. What does seem nov­el to me, as a long­time observ­er of far-right orga­niz­ing, is that the vio­lence that always lurked under the sur­face of such rhetoric is now increas­ing­ly man­i­fest­ing itself in extreme acts of lone-wolf aggres­sion.

    The details of some of the moti­va­tions involved in recent inci­dents have not been entire­ly set­tled. 29-year-old Travis Reink­ing, the man accused in the Waf­fle House case, claimed a back­ground of at least mar­gin­al involve­ment in the far-right sov­er­eign-cit­i­zens’ move­ment. But it’s not at all clear that ide­ol­o­gy inspired him to act out mur­der­ous­ly, even if the fact that the dead were all black or His­pan­ic rais­es the dis­tinct like­li­hood of a racial moti­va­tion in that crime. Reink­ing awaits tri­al in Ten­nessee.

    It’s also not clear what it means that Rex Whit­mire Har­bour, the 26-year-old accused of open­ing fire on pass­ing cars on a Geor­gia free­way, ven­er­at­ed Park­land sus­pect Niko­las Cruz and left-behind a “hate-filled” mes­sage. Still, latch­ing onto a noto­ri­ous alleged mass shoot­er who report­ed­ly had swastikas engraved on his ammo clips fits the gen­er­al pat­tern here, as does Har­bour’s appar­ent fas­ci­na­tion with his­tor­i­cal fig­ures from Nazi Ger­many.

    Mean­while, because of social-media mes­sages and oth­er evi­dence, it’s fair­ly clear that accused Toron­to van attack­er Alek Minass­ian, 25, was enraged by his lack of roman­tic suc­cess with women. He post­ed sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly about incels like him­self, and wrote warm­ly of Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who in May 2014 car­ried out a mass shoot­ing in Isla Vista, Cal­i­for­nia, that left sev­en dead (includ­ing him­self) and more wound­ed after express­ing sim­i­lar­ly deranged ideas about sex. Then there’s 19-year-old Jakub Zak of Illi­nois, who stands accused of stock­pil­ing weapons ille­gal­ly as part of his fas­cist ideology—he was report­ed­ly an active mem­ber of Patri­ot Front, an online hate group—and may have been involved in a num­ber of oth­er crimes as well.

    Again, the behav­ioral pat­tern we’ve seen inten­si­fy in recent weeks is not a brand new one. The mod­ern arche­type may have been set back in 2015 by Dylann Roof, the then-21-year-old South Car­oli­na white man who walked into a black church in Charleston and mur­dered nine con­gre­gants. The root­less Roof, offi­cial­ly unaf­fil­i­at­ed with any hate or extrem­ist groups but a par­tic­i­pant in their online activ­i­ty, seems to have been dri­ven to seem­ing­ly ran­dom vio­lence at least in part by his absorp­tion in con­spir­a­cy and online forums and chat rooms ded­i­cat­ed to hate­ful ide­olo­gies.

    Since then, at least 27 peo­ple were mur­dered and 52 more injured in attacks by most­ly young men linked to the alt right and its online rad­i­cal­iza­tion process before the inci­dents of the past month. They includ­ed a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist who alleged­ly stabbed his father to death at the height of an argu­ment that appears to have been about Piz­za­gate, a Mary­land stu­dent who alleged­ly stabbed a black man to death after he refused to move out of his way, and a Port­land drifter accused of stab­bing two com­muters to death when they attempt­ed to shut down his anti-Mus­lim tirade.

    Some inci­dents, includ­ing the Park­land shoot­ing itself, remain fuzzy. On social media, Cruz was seem­ing­ly obsessed with vio­lence, guns, and race, once post­ing on Insta­gram that “I hate Jews, nig­gers and immi­grants.” It remains unclear to what extent that hatred fueled the shoot­ing ram­page. Like­wise, the motives and inten­tions of a young white man who acci­den­tal­ly blew him­self up while mak­ing bombs at his Beaver Dam, Wis­con­sin, home, remain under offi­cial wraps for now.

    Even so, the mech­a­nism for this kind of rad­i­cal­iza­tion is uni­form: Dis­af­fect­ed young men are recruit­ed by overt appeals to their egos and desire to appear hero­ic. The appeals often employ trans­gres­sive rhetoric, with every­thing from racist humor to threats of vio­lence, mak­ing par­tic­i­pants feel that they’re being edgy and dark. The main fod­der for their evolv­ing world­view, how­ev­er, is con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.

    These the­o­ries all tell the same larg­er nar­ra­tive: That the world is secret­ly run by a nefar­i­ous cabal of glob­al­ists (who just hap­pen to be Jew­ish), and that they employ an end­less cat­a­log of dirty tricks and “false flags” to ensure the world doesn’t know about their manip­u­la­tions, the whole point of which ulti­mate­ly is the enslave­ment of mankind. Each day’s news events can thus be inter­pret­ed through the up-is-down prism this world­view impos­es, ensur­ing that every nation­al tragedy or mass shoot­ing is soon enmeshed in a web of the­o­ries about its real pur­pose.

    The pre­cise far-right cause in ques­tion often seems less impor­tant than the broad­er resort to inflict­ing harm.

    “Glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of vio­lence gen­er­al­ly among the estranged is its own ide­ol­o­gy,” said Bri­an Levin, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for the Study of Hate and Extrem­ism at Cal State Uni­ver­si­ty in San Bernardi­no. “So, peo­ple with amor­phous or off­beat philoso­phies often embrace vio­lence as an ide­ol­o­gy, not just a method. And they’re com­fort­able with dove­tail­ing philoso­phies.”

    This rad­i­cal­iza­tion appears to be spread­ing like kudzu: A young Mon­tre­al alt-right activist was recent­ly out­ed by stu­dent jour­nal­ists as one of the lead­ing pro­pa­gan­dists in the online neo-Nazi forums Iron March, work­ing to sig­nal-boost racist groups like Atom­waf­fen Divi­sion. Along sim­i­lar lines, ProP­ub­li­ca recent­ly exposed the mem­ber­ship of some Atom­waf­fen activists among the ranks of active-duty Amer­i­can mil­i­tary.

    The tar­get demo­graph­ic for online far-right rad­i­cal­iza­tion could not be more clear. As Andrew Anglin, pub­lish­er and founder of the neo-Nazi site the Dai­ly Stormer, put it this Jan­u­ary, “My site is main­ly designed to tar­get chil­dren.” Like­wise, at the annu­al white-nation­al­ist Amer­i­can Renais­sance con­fer­ence in Ten­nessee last month, long­time suprema­cists bragged of their recruit­ment efforts among younger peo­ple: “Amer­i­can Renais­sance atten­dees are now younger and more even­ly divid­ed among the sex­es than in the past” one speak­er not­ed, before gush­ing over the white-nation­al­ist col­lege cam­pus group Iden­ti­ty Evropa.

    When Amer­i­cans have talked about online rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the recent past, most of us tend­ed to think of it in terms of rad­i­cal Islamists from groups such as Islam­ic State, who have been known to lever­age the tech­nol­o­gy to their advan­tage, par­tic­u­lar­ly social media. But a study by ter­ror­ism expert J.M. Berg­er pub­lished way back in 2016 found that white nation­al­ists were far out­strip­ping their Islamist coun­ter­parts: “On Twit­ter, ISIS’s pre­ferred social plat­form, Amer­i­can white nation­al­ist move­ments have seen their fol­low­ers grow by more than 600 per­cent since 2012. Today, they out­per­form ISIS in near­ly every social met­ric, from fol­low­er counts to tweets per day.”

    Hei­di Beirich, direc­tor of the Intel­li­gence Project at the South­ern Pover­ty Law Center—the watch­dog group with which I am affiliated—told me it “is def­i­nite­ly the case” that the vio­lence SPLC has long warned against and care­ful­ly tracked is increas­ing­ly man­i­fest­ing itself right now.

    “Online rad­i­cal­iza­tion seems to be speed­ing up, with young men, par­tic­u­lar­ly white men, div­ing into extrem­ist ide­olo­gies quick­er and quick­er,” she said, adding, “the result seems to be more vio­lence, as these exam­ples indi­cate. It is a seri­ous prob­lem and we don’t seem to have any real solu­tions for it. These cas­es also show that an era of vio­lence brought on by the Inter­net is indeed upon us, with no end in sight.”

    Yet the response to the string of acts has been strange­ly mut­ed in the main­stream media, espe­cial­ly on cable news, where most dis­cus­sions of the events have focused on issues around gun vio­lence, or on the par­tic­u­lars of the nox­ious incel phe­nom­e­non. The online-rad­i­cal­iza­tion thread that con­nects all these sto­ries togeth­er is the goril­la that every­one tip­toes around in the room—and one Amer­i­ca ignores at its own per­il.

    Sign up for our newslet­ter to get the best of VICE deliv­ered to your inbox dai­ly.

    Fol­low David Nei­w­ert on Twit­ter.

    Posted by Mary Benton | May 19, 2018, 8:15 pm
  3. With a mass shoot­ing seem­ing­ly every week in Amer­i­ca, here’s a pair of arti­cles remind­ing us that vio­lent far right extrem­ist ide­olo­gies real­ly should be seen as one of the key fac­tors dri­ving this phe­nom­e­na. It’s sort of a ‘well, duh’ kind of point. But since there does­n’t appear to be much recog­ni­tion that these mass shoot­ers have almost always been found to have immersed them­selves in one form or extrem­ist far right ide­ol­o­gy or anoth­er, it’s an impor­tant ‘well, duh’ point.

    So here’s the first sto­ry remind­ing us on this: the release of ~1,200 pages of doc­u­ments relat­ed to the Las Vegas shoot­ing is giv­ing us a bet­ter idea of what may have moti­vat­ed Stephen Pad­dock. Sur­prise! Pad­dock appears to be a sov­er­eign cit­i­zen who was super freaked out about gov­ern­ment hur­ri­cane aid was a pre­lude to set­ting up FEMA camps and seiz­ing guns and he talked about the need to ‘wake up’ the Amer­i­can peo­ple. And while we don’t have infor­ma­tion explic­it­ly say­ing that he did these shoot­ings in order to car­ry out some sort of sov­er­eign cit­i­zen goal, it’s hard to imag­ine such views did­n’t play a role in his deci­sion to gun down a crowd of peo­ple:

    The Guardian

    New doc­u­ments sug­gest Las Vegas shoot­er was con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist – what we know

    In the doc­u­ments, those who encoun­tered gun­man Stephen Pad­dock say he expressed con­spir­a­to­r­i­al, anti-gov­ern­ment beliefs char­ac­ter­is­tic of the far right

    Jason Wil­son
    Sat 19 May 2018 06.00 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Sat 19 May 2018 06.02 EDT

    What’s the lat­est devel­op­ment in the Stephen Pad­dock sto­ry?

    Stephen Pad­dock was the gun­man who killed 58 peo­ple and wound­ed hun­dreds more last Octo­ber, when he opened fire from the win­dow of his room at the Man­dalay hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

    Yes­ter­day, fol­low­ing legal action from news orga­ni­za­tions, the Las Vegas police depart­ment released a trove of doc­u­ments on the inves­ti­ga­tion, includ­ing state­ments from wit­ness­es and vic­tims.

    What did the doc­u­ment release tell us?

    Most­ly the doc­u­ments con­tain har­row­ing accounts from vic­tims of Stephen Paddock’s shoot­ing spree. There is also an inter­view with Paddock’s wife. As police said in the press con­fer­ence announc­ing the release, there is noth­ing defin­i­tive in the mate­r­i­al about Paddock’s motives for the mas­sacre.

    But tan­ta­liz­ing­ly, peo­ple who encoun­tered Pad­dock before his shoot­ing say that he expressed con­spir­a­to­r­i­al, anti-gov­ern­ment beliefs, which are char­ac­ter­is­tic of the far right.

    In a hand­writ­ten state­ment, one woman says she sat near Pad­dock in a din­er just a few days before the shoot­ing, while out with her son. She said she heard him and a com­pan­ion dis­cussing the 25th anniver­sary of the Ruby Ridge stand­off and the Waco siege. (Each of these inci­dents became touch­stones for a ris­ing anti-gov­ern­ment mili­tia move­ment in the 1990s.)

    She says she heard him and his com­pan­ion say­ing that court­room flags with gold­en fringes are not real flags. The belief that gold-fringed flags are those of a for­eign juris­dic­tion, or “admi­ral­ty flags”, is char­ac­ter­is­tic of so-called “sov­er­eign cit­i­zens”, who believe, among oth­er things, that the cur­rent US gov­ern­ment, and its laws, are ille­git­i­mate.

    “At the time,” her state­ment says, “I thought, ‘Strange guys’ and want­ed to leave.”

    Anoth­er man, him­self cur­rent­ly in jail, says he met Pad­dock three weeks before the shoot­ing for an abortive firearms trans­ac­tion, in the carpark of a Bass Pro Shop. The man was sell­ing schemat­ic dia­grams for an auto sear, a device that would con­vert semi-auto­mat­ic weapons to full auto­mat­ic fire. Pad­dock asked him to make the device for him, and the man refused.

    At this point Pad­dock launched into a rant about “anti-gov­ern­ment stuff … Fema camps”. Pad­dock said that the evac­u­a­tion of peo­ple by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (Fema) after Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na was a a “dry run for law enforce­ment and mil­i­tary to start kickin’ down doors and ... con­fis­cat­ing guns”.

    “Some­body has to wake up the Amer­i­can pub­lic and get them to arm them­selves,” the man says Pad­dock told him. “Some­times sac­ri­fices have to be made.”

    Why would some­one be wor­ried about Fema camps? Isn’t Fema there to help in emer­gen­cies?

    Yes, but for decades Fema has been incor­po­rat­ed into con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries pro­mul­gat­ed by the anti-gov­ern­ment far right.

    Some con­spir­a­cy-mind­ed Amer­i­cans believe that Fema’s emer­gency mis­sion is a cov­er sto­ry. The real pur­pose of the agency is to build and main­tain con­cen­tra­tion camps, which will house dis­si­dent “patri­ots” after a dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law. The sup­po­si­tion is that the US gov­ern­ment will turn on its cit­i­zens under the direc­tion of the “New World Order”.

    This sounds implau­si­ble. Where did this idea come from?

    The short answer is that it has been a sta­ple of the rad­i­cal right for per­haps three decades.

    The first ver­sion of the Fema camp con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry was in the newslet­ters of the far right “Posse Comi­ta­tus” move­ment in the ear­ly 1980s. It was an update, or an adap­ta­tion, of the fears of for­eign sub­ver­sion that have ani­mat­ed the Amer­i­can pop­ulist right since the high tide of nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry nativism.

    Posse Comi­ta­tus, active espe­cial­ly in west­ern states from the late 1960s, believed that the US was con­trolled by a Jew­ish con­spir­a­cy, which it referred to as ZOG (Zion­ist Occu­pa­tion Gov­ern­ment). It also pro­mot­ed “Chris­t­ian iden­ti­ty” the­ol­o­gy, which held that the white race was the lost tribe of Israel, and that Jews were in league with Satan. At some point, they thought, America’s imposter gov­ern­ment would round up and imprison white men.

    Apart from devel­op­ing anti-gov­ern­ment beliefs, Posse Comitatus’s crank legal the­o­ries laid the ground­work for a still-flour­ish­ing “sov­er­eign cit­i­zen” move­ment.

    But the FEMA the­o­ry real­ly took off dur­ing the rise of the mili­tia move­ment in the 1990s. Move­ment entre­pre­neurs like John Trochmann of the Mili­tia of Mon­tana elab­o­rat­ed the sto­ry in newslet­ters and in his infa­mous “Blue Book”, which was filled with pic­tures alleged­ly show­ing camps, trains loaded with Russ­ian tanks and the arrival of “black heli­copters” in prepa­ra­tion for the sup­pos­ed­ly immi­nent New World Order takeover.

    Trochmann and oth­ers also claimed to have pic­tures of the facil­i­ties which would be used as con­cen­tra­tion camps. These turned out to be army train­ing grounds, fed­er­al pris­ons or as-yet unoc­cu­pied bases.

    These the­o­ries were nev­er­the­less preva­lent in a move­ment that some schol­ars say had up to 5 mil­lion sym­pa­thiz­ers at its height. Tim­o­thy McVeigh, who killed 168 peo­ple when he bombed a fed­er­al build­ing in 1995, also emerged from this anti-gov­ern­ment milieu.

    Okay, but the mili­tia move­ment fad­ed away. Why are peo­ple still talk­ing about this?

    While the mili­tia move­ment declined (or at least went under­ground) in the years fol­low­ing McVeigh’s bomb­ing, the Fema con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry has been kept alive by some very can­ny entre­pre­neurs in rightwing media.

    Glenn Beck might have endeav­ored to go legit since he start­ed his own media com­pa­ny, but back in his black­board days at Fox News, he ped­dled all man­ner of con­spir­a­cy think­ing. In 2009, at the height of the Tea Par­ty surge, he broached the top­ic on Fox & Friends, giv­ing it more main­stream expo­sure than it had ever had.

    But the most con­sis­tent and unapolo­getic sup­port­er of the the­o­ry is Alex Jones, who has built a career – and a grow­ing media empire – on push­ing the idea that a glob­al elite is sub­vert­ing US sov­er­eign­ty. Jones has been talk­ing about Fema camps since he got his start on cable access TV in the 1990s.

    These are just the high pro­file exam­ples. The flour­ish­ing con­spir­a­cy com­mu­ni­ty on plat­forms like YouTube and Red­dit pro­duces copi­ous mate­r­i­al “prov­ing” the Fema camp the­o­ry.

    ...

    So what does this mean for the Pad­dock inves­ti­ga­tion?

    Police are not jump­ing to any con­clu­sions about Paddock’s motives, and nor should we. But it is strik­ing that there is evi­dence that he, like so many mass shoot­ers, may have nur­tured the ideas of the con­spir­a­cy-mind­ed far right.

    Often such beliefs are viewed as harm­less, and increas­ing­ly they have been nor­mal­ized by the suc­cess of fig­ures like Alex Jones. But we need to start tak­ing seri­ous­ly the pos­si­bil­i­ty that they rad­i­cal­ize some peo­ple towards vio­lence.

    ———-

    “New doc­u­ments sug­gest Las Vegas shoot­er was con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist – what we know” by Jason Wil­son; The Guardian; 05/19/2018

    “But tan­ta­liz­ing­ly, peo­ple who encoun­tered Pad­dock before his shoot­ing say that he expressed con­spir­a­to­r­i­al, anti-gov­ern­ment beliefs, which are char­ac­ter­is­tic of the far right.”

    Yep, Pad­dock was rant­i­ng like an over caf­feinat­ed Alex Jones fan in the peri­od lead­ing up to the shoot­ing. One woman claims to have wit­nessed him and com­pan­ion dis­cussing the 25th anniver­sary of the Ruby Ridge stand­off and the Waco siege just days before the mass shoot­ing. And while Waco and Ruby Ridge are pret­ty stan­dard top­ics for right-wingers to rant about, she also report­ed­ly heard him talk about how court­room flags with gold­en fringes aren’t real flags. And when some­one who obsess about Waco and Ruby Ridge also hap­pens to obsess about the valid­i­ty of flag designs, they’re prob­a­bly a sov­er­eign cit­i­zen:

    ...
    In a hand­writ­ten state­ment, one woman says she sat near Pad­dock in a din­er just a few days before the shoot­ing, while out with her son. She said she heard him and a com­pan­ion dis­cussing the 25th anniver­sary of the Ruby Ridge stand­off and the Waco siege. (Each of these inci­dents became touch­stones for a ris­ing anti-gov­ern­ment mili­tia move­ment in the 1990s.)

    She says she heard him and his com­pan­ion say­ing that court­room flags with gold­en fringes are not real flags. The belief that gold-fringed flags are those of a for­eign juris­dic­tion, or “admi­ral­ty flags”, is char­ac­ter­is­tic of so-called “sov­er­eign cit­i­zens”, who believe, among oth­er things, that the cur­rent US gov­ern­ment, and its laws, are ille­git­i­mate.

    “At the time,” her state­ment says, “I thought, ‘Strange guys’ and want­ed to leave.”
    ...

    And then there’s the tes­ti­mo­ny from a man who alleged­ly met Pad­dock just three weeks before the shoot­ing. The man was sell­ing schemat­ics for a device that would turn semi-auto­mat­ic weapons into ful­ly auto­mat­ic ones. Pad­dock want­ed him to build the device, the man refused, and the sale nev­er hap­pened. But accord­ing to this man, Pad­dock was rant­i­ng about FEMA and how Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na was a “dry run for law enforce­ment and mil­i­tary to start kickin’ down doors and ... con­fis­cat­ing guns”. Omi­nous­ly and iron­i­cal­ly, Pad­dock report­ed­ly told the man, “some­body has to wake up the Amer­i­can pub­lic and get them to arm them­selves”:

    ...
    Anoth­er man, him­self cur­rent­ly in jail, says he met Pad­dock three weeks before the shoot­ing for an abortive firearms trans­ac­tion, in the carpark of a Bass Pro Shop. The man was sell­ing schemat­ic dia­grams for an auto sear, a device that would con­vert semi-auto­mat­ic weapons to full auto­mat­ic fire. Pad­dock asked him to make the device for him, and the man refused.

    At this point Pad­dock launched into a rant about “anti-gov­ern­ment stuff … Fema camps”. Pad­dock said that the evac­u­a­tion of peo­ple by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (Fema) after Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na was a a “dry run for law enforce­ment and mil­i­tary to start kickin’ down doors and ... con­fis­cat­ing guns”.

    “Some­body has to wake up the Amer­i­can pub­lic and get them to arm them­selves,” the man says Pad­dock told him. “Some­times sac­ri­fices have to be made.”
    ...

    So is it pos­si­ble Pad­dock planned his attack as some sort of bizarre attempt to ‘wake up’ the Amer­i­can peo­ple? And yes, shoot­ing up a crowd of peo­ple does­n’t seem like the best way to ‘wake Amer­i­cans up’ and get them to arm them­selves in antic­i­pa­tion of a gov­ern­ment gun grab. But don’t for­get that there are few things that help the far right recruit bet­ter in the US than fears of a big gun grab by the gov­ern­ment. So one of the most dia­bol­i­cal­ly effec­tive­ly strate­gies the far right can employ is to encour­age enough mass shoot­ings that the pub­lic calls for ban­ning guns grows to the point where your typ­i­cal gun nut can be eas­i­ly rad­i­cal­ized.

    That’s just one of the ways far right vio­lent ide­olo­gies can make mass shoot­ings more like­ly: they’re the kinds of ide­olo­gies that are more than hap­py to encour­age ‘lone wolf’ attacks as part of a gen­er­al ‘strat­e­gy of ten­sion’ frame­work. Use domes­tic ter­ror to break down civic norms, cre­ate des­per­ata­tion, and make a far right vio­lent takeover more like­ly.

    If turns out Pad­dack was indeed a sov­er­eign cit­i­zen there’s still the ques­tion of whether or not he had out­side help or encour­age­ment. And even if he did plan and exe­cute this attack on his own there’s the ques­tion of whether or not he was inspired by a par­tic­u­lar fig­ure or move­ment. Some­thing put this mass shoot­ing attack idea in his head and plant­i­ng vio­lent ideas in peo­ple’s heads is sort of a far right spe­cial­i­ty.

    Now let’s take a look at the signs of far right influ­ence in anoth­er recent US mass shoot­ing: the San­ta Fe high school attack. The gun­man, Dim­itrios Pagourtzis, was a stu­dent at the school and it was his own art class that he shot up. It’s also been learned that his first vic­tim was a girl who rebuffed his romances. So there’s cer­tain­ly a very per­son­al ele­ment in terms of the motive for the shoot­ing. But as we should expect at this point, it turns out Pagourtzis’s social media accounts show signs of far right influ­ence:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Dim­itrios Pagourtzis, Texas Shoot­ing Sus­pect, Post­ed Neo-Nazi Imagery Online
    Before alleged­ly killing at least eight peo­ple, he appar­ent­ly post­ed online images of a Nazi medal, a musi­cian favored by the alt-right, and a ‘born to kill’ T‑shirt.

    Kel­ly Weill
    Kate Briquelet
    05.18.18 1:14 PM ET

    Dim­itrios Pagourtzis, the sus­pect­ed gun­man who opened fire at a Texas high school on Fri­day morn­ing, appar­ent­ly post­ed pho­tos of neo-Nazi iconog­ra­phy online, accord­ing to social media accounts flagged by class­mates and reviewed by The Dai­ly Beast.

    Pagourtzis, 17, was booked into Galve­ston Coun­ty Jail for cap­i­tal mur­der on Fri­day. He alleged­ly killed 10 peo­ple at San­ta Fe High School, where he was a stu­dent. Explo­sive devices were left inside the school near Hous­ton, author­i­ties said. Pagourtzis report­ed­ly had an assault-style rifle, shot­gun, and pis­tol.

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters that Pagourtzis said in jour­nals he want­ed to kill him­self after the shoot­ing. Instead, he sur­ren­dered to police.

    Pagourtzis told an inves­ti­ga­tor “he did not shoot stu­dents he did like so he could have his sto­ry told,” accord­ing to court papers.

    Before his arrest was announced, two San­ta Fe stu­dents also told The Dai­ly Beast that Pagourtzis was the gun­man and they con­firmed a Face­book account with Pagourtzis’ name belonged to him. Attempts by The Dai­ly Beast to reach Pagourtzis’ fam­i­ly were unsuc­cess­ful.

    On April 30, Pagourtzis appar­ent­ly post­ed a T‑shirt with “born to kill” print­ed on the front, boast­ing that it was cus­tom-made.

    That same day, Pagourtzis post­ed mul­ti­ple pic­tures of a duster jack­et embla­zoned with a vari­ety of sym­bols includ­ing the Iron Cross, a Ger­man mil­i­tary award last giv­en by the Nazis, and oth­er pins. He said he equat­ed the Iron Cross with “brav­ery.” Pagourtzis said a ham­mer and sick­le meant “rebel­lion,” a ris­ing sun meant “kamikaze tac­tics,” and a baphomet meant “evil.”

    Rey Mon­temay­or III, a senior who said he played foot­ball with Pagourtzis con­firmed the Face­book account to be the accused shooter’s.

    “I played foot­ball with him for three years,” Mon­temay­or said. “Peo­ple on the news said he was bul­lied a lot. I nev­er seen him being bul­lied. I nev­er bul­lied him. He was cool to me. I lift­ed with him a cou­ple of times.”

    Mon­temay­or said that when he was with Pagourtzis, “he was a real­ly cool guy.” He said they played foot­ball togeth­er first semester.“He was qui­et. He did keep to him­self. That’s pret­ty much it,” Mon­temay­or told The Dai­ly Beast, adding that he nev­er thought Pagourtzis would shoot up their school.“I know he was qui­et and every­thing but any con­ver­sa­tions we had in the lock­er room or in the field or after games, he nev­er struck me as that per­son.”

    Can­di Thur­man, a junior at the school, also told The Dai­ly Beast that Pagourtzis wore a coat sim­i­lar to the one post­ed to his Face­book page.

    “The sketchy thing is, he wore a full-on black trench coat to school every day,” Thur­man said, adding she hadn’t had a class with him since eighth grade. Mon­temay­or said that in ret­ro­spect, Pagourtzis’ trench coat was odd.

    “Why would you wear a trench coat when it’s 100 degrees out­side? When he first start­ed wear­ing that trench coat, it was dur­ing the win­ter.” But in the hot­ter months, Pagourtzis didn’t take it off.

    Pagourtzis began wear­ing the coat at the begin­ning of the year.

    “It’s like 90 degrees out­side and this guy is still wear­ing a trench coat,” Thur­man said. “It should have been not­ed. That’s a red flag right there.”

    Oth­er images on Pagourtzis’ now-delet­ed Face­book page sug­gest a pos­si­ble inter­est in white suprema­cist groups. Pagourtzis uploaded a num­ber of T‑shirts that fea­ture Vapor­wave-style designs. Vapor­wave, a music and design move­ment, has spawned a relat­ed move­ment called Fash­wave, which bor­rows the same aes­thet­ic but applies them to neo-Nazi sub­jects.

    Pagourtzis’ Face­book head­er image was the cov­er of an album by musi­cian Per­tur­ba­tor. Perturbator’s music has been co-opt­ed by mem­bers of the Fash­wave move­ment, Buz­zFeed pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. Neo-Nazi web­site The Dai­ly Stormer fre­quent­ly includes Perturbator’s music in “Fash­wave Fri­days” posts.

    ...

    A still-live Insta­gram with Pagourtzis’ name has posts from April 24 show­ing an arcade-style game fea­tur­ing a sniper rifle and anoth­er with a gun and knife on a bed­spread cap­tioned: “Hi fuc kers.”

    ———-

    “Dim­itrios Pagourtzis, Texas Shoot­ing Sus­pect, Post­ed Neo-Nazi Imagery Online” by Kel­ly Weill and Kate Briquelet; The Dai­ly Beast; 05/18/2018

    “Dim­itrios Pagourtzis, the sus­pect­ed gun­man who opened fire at a Texas high school on Fri­day morn­ing, appar­ent­ly post­ed pho­tos of neo-Nazi iconog­ra­phy online, accord­ing to social media accounts flagged by class­mates and reviewed by The Dai­ly Beast.

    It’s become part of the Amer­i­can post-shoot­ing rit­u­al: first there’s a scram­ble to dis­cov­er the iden­ti­ty of the shoot­er. Then there’s a scram­ble to search their social media pres­ence get clues about their pol­i­tics. And while there is the rare left-winger involved with these kinds of attacks, like James Hodgkin­son, it’s near­ly always some­one with a his­to­ry of express­ing very right-wing views on social media.

    Some­times they’re out­right neo-Nazis, but not always. In this case we find Pagourtzis open­ly embrac­ing Pres­i­dent Trump, NRA spokesper­son Dana Loesch, and Fox News which mere­ly points towards very con­ser­v­a­tive views but not nec­es­sar­i­ly neo-Nazi views.

    But then there’s his pho­to of a jack­et he put up on Insta­gram in recent weeks. The jack­et con­tained five pins and he lists in the cap­tion of the pho­to what each pin rep­re­sents:
    Ham­mer and Sick­le = Rebel­lion
    Ris­ing Sun = Kamikaze Tac­tics
    Iron Cross = Brav­ery
    Baphomet = Evil
    Cthul­hu = Pow­er

    The Iron Cross is an obvi­ous pos­si­ble neo-Nazi sym­bol. And while many of latched onto the Ham­mer and Sick­le to sug­gest that he actu­al­ly held left-wing views, that’s the kind of assess­ment that ignores vir­tu­al­ly all of the oth­er indi­ca­tions of polit­i­cal views we have about the guy. Is the guy with an Iron Cross and Ham­mer and Sick­le, and who also hap­pens to be a big Trump/NRA/Fox News fan, more like­ly to be right-wing or left-wing? Hmmm...:

    ...
    On April 30, Pagourtzis appar­ent­ly post­ed a T‑shirt with “born to kill” print­ed on the front, boast­ing that it was cus­tom-made.

    That same day, Pagourtzis post­ed mul­ti­ple pic­tures of a duster jack­et embla­zoned with a vari­ety of sym­bols includ­ing the Iron Cross, a Ger­man mil­i­tary award last giv­en by the Nazis, and oth­er pins. He said he equat­ed the Iron Cross with “brav­ery.” Pagourtzis said a ham­mer and sick­le meant “rebel­lion,” a ris­ing sun meant “kamikaze tac­tics,” and a baphomet meant “evil.”
    ...

    And the chaot­ic nature of the pins Pagourtzis select­ed for that jack­et poten­tial­ly relates to the sec­ond big indi­ca­tion of pos­si­ble far right influ­ences: Pagourtzis Face­book page con­tained a num­ber of T‑shirts that fea­ture Vapor­wave-style designs. And his Face­book page head­er image was the cov­er of a Vapor­wave album by musi­cian Per­tur­ba­tor.

    So why is Vapor­wave con­sid­ered to be a pos­si­ble sign of neo-Nazi influ­ences? Because it’s a style of music that’s been embraced by the Alt Right, spawn­ing oth­er sub­gen­res like “Fash­wave” and “Trump­wave”. And the musi­cian Pagourtzis hap­pens to have as his Face­book head­er image, Per­tur­ba­tor, has specif­i­cal­ly been embraced by sites like The Dai­ly Stormer:

    ...
    Oth­er images on Pagourtzis’ now-delet­ed Face­book page sug­gest a pos­si­ble inter­est in white suprema­cist groups. Pagourtzis uploaded a num­ber of T‑shirts that fea­ture Vapor­wave-style designs. Vapor­wave, a music and design move­ment, has spawned a relat­ed move­ment called Fash­wave, which bor­rows the same aes­thet­ic but applies them to neo-Nazi sub­jects.

    Pagourtzis’ Face­book head­er image was the cov­er of an album by musi­cian Per­tur­ba­tor. Perturbator’s music has been co-opt­ed by mem­bers of the Fash­wave move­ment, Buz­zFeed pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. Neo-Nazi web­site The Dai­ly Stormer fre­quent­ly includes Perturbator’s music in “Fash­wave Fri­days” posts.
    ...

    As we can see, while being a fan of Per­tur­ba­tor does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean you’re a fol­low­er of white suprema­cist media, it’s cer­tain­ly a sign you might fol­low white suprema­cist media, espe­cial­ly if you’re exhibit­ing lots of oth­er signs like Pagourtzis.

    So it looks we can prob­a­bly safe­ly con­clude that far right extrem­ism like­ly played a role in two more of the recent US mass shoot­ings. As will almost cer­tain­ly be the case in future shoot­ings. Duh.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 22, 2018, 4:23 pm
  4. Now that the man behind the recent wave of mail bomb­ings, Cesar Say­oc, has been arrest­ed and iden­ti­fied, we’re in the ‘who was he and why did he do this?’ phase of pub­lic analy­sis. And while much atten­tion has under­stand­ably fall­en on Say­oc’s insane pro-Trump white van — cov­ered in win­dow decals that look like a snap­shot of right-wing, pro-Trump twit­ter post­ings — much less atten­tion has been giv­en to the fact that Say­oc appeared to be an ardent white suprema­cist and admir­er of Adolf Hitler:

    Boston Globe

    Mass. native who super­vised Cesar Say­oc in Fla.: ‘He spewed such garbage’

    By Dan­ny McDon­ald Globe Staff
    Octo­ber 27, 2018

    The Mass­a­chu­setts native who hired Cesar Say­oc, the man who was charged in a nation­wide mail-bomb scare Fri­day, to deliv­er piz­zas in Flori­da described him as racist, homo­pho­bic, and anti-Semit­ic.

    In a phone inter­view with the Globe Fri­day night, Debra Gureghi­an said Say­oc worked as a deliv­ery dri­ver at New Riv­er Piz­za & Fresh Kitchen in Fort Laud­erdale for more than a year. He quit in Jan­u­ary, she said.

    Gureghi­an, a 59-year-old who grew up on Cape Cod, attend­ed Barn­sta­ble High School, and lived in Water­town before she moved to Flori­da to care for her ail­ing moth­er six years ago, said Say­oc would spew “anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Jew­ish” rhetoric “every­day.”

    Gureghi­an said he told her that because she is a les­bian she is “deformed” and that she should be “put on an island with all the oth­er gay peo­ple and burned.”

    “He spewed such garbage, it was so vile,” said Gureghi­an, who works as the restaurant’s gen­er­al man­ag­er. “There’s so much hatred today.”

    ...

    Say­oc, who has a long crim­i­nal his­to­ry, was charged Fri­day in the nation­wide mail-bomb scare tar­get­ing promi­nent Democ­rats who have trad­ed crit­i­cism with Pres­i­dent Trump. The crim­i­nal com­plaint charges Say­oc with ille­gal­ly mail­ing explo­sives, ille­gal­ly trans­port­ing explo­sives across state lines, mak­ing threats against for­mer pres­i­dents, assault­ing fed­er­al offi­cers and threat­en­ing inter­state com­merce.

    He used the same white van that was promi­nent­ly fea­tured in nation­al news broad­casts and splashed on news sites on Fri­day to deliv­er piz­zas, she said. The van was adorned with “a bil­lion stick­ers,” she said. She said at times there were KKK stick­ers and at least one stick­er with a bulls­eye over a pho­to of Hillary Clin­ton on the vehi­cle. Say­oc, she said, “loved Adolph Hitler.”

    “If you didn’t fit his pro­file, you should go to an island and the island should be oblit­er­at­ed,” said Gureghi­an, who worked in a civil­ian role for the Mass­a­chu­setts State Police for 23 years before mov­ing to Flori­da..

    Despite Sayoc’s big­ot­ed world­view, Gureghi­an described him as a depend­able work­er, a reli­able dri­ver who was very clean.

    She said she was shocked to hear of Friday’s news.

    “I’m absolute­ly floored,” said Gureghi­an. “Nev­er in a mil­lion years did I think some­thing like this could hap­pen.”

    ———–

    “Mass. native who super­vised Cesar Say­oc in Fla.: ‘He spewed such garbage’” by Dan­ny McDon­ald; Boston Globe; 10/27/2018

    “Gureghi­an, a 59-year-old who grew up on Cape Cod, attend­ed Barn­sta­ble High School, and lived in Water­town before she moved to Flori­da to care for her ail­ing moth­er six years ago, said Say­oc would spew “anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Jew­ish” rhetoric “every­day.”

    Nazi-like rhetoric. Every sin­gle day. That’s how his for­mer man­ag­er at New Riv­er Piz­za & Fresh Kitchen in Fort Laud­erdale described her expe­ri­ences with him. He even told her, his man­ag­er, that she should be “put on an island with all the oth­er gay peo­ple and burned” because she’s a les­bian:

    ...
    Gureghi­an said he told her that because she is a les­bian she is “deformed” and that she should be “put on an island with all the oth­er gay peo­ple and burned.”

    “He spewed such garbage, it was so vile,” said Gureghi­an, who works as the restaurant’s gen­er­al man­ag­er. “There’s so much hatred today.”
    ...

    She also reports that Say­oc at times had KKK stick­ers on his van and appeared to legit­i­mate­ly believe that any­one who did­n’t fit his pro­file should be mass exter­mi­nat­ed. So of course he would talk about his live of Hitler:

    ...
    He used the same white van that was promi­nent­ly fea­tured in nation­al news broad­casts and splashed on news sites on Fri­day to deliv­er piz­zas, she said. The van was adorned with “a bil­lion stick­ers,” she said. She said at times there were KKK stick­ers and at least one stick­er with a bulls­eye over a pho­to of Hillary Clin­ton on the vehi­cle. Say­oc, she said, “loved Adolph Hitler.”

    “If you didn’t fit his pro­file, you should go to an island and the island should be oblit­er­at­ed,” said Gureghi­an, who worked in a civil­ian role for the Mass­a­chu­setts State Police for 23 years before mov­ing to Flori­da..
    ...

    And note the peri­od of time when Say­oc was work­ing there: He quit in Jan­u­ary of this year and worked there for more than a year. So it sounds like this cov­ers 2017 and part of 2016:

    ...
    In a phone inter­view with the Globe Fri­day night, Debra Gureghi­an said Say­oc worked as a deliv­ery dri­ver at New Riv­er Piz­za & Fresh Kitchen in Fort Laud­erdale for more than a year. He quit in Jan­u­ary, she said.
    ...

    So Say­oc as been a Hitler lover since at least some time in 2016 based on the tes­ti­mo­ny of his for­mer boss. But as we’ll see in the fol­low­ing arti­cle, it sounds like he was already basi­cal­ly a Nazi by 2015. That’s accord­ing to his for­mer col­lege soc­cer team bud­dies who met him dur­ing a din­ner that year hon­or­ing their old coach. When they met him, Say­oc was already rant­i­ng like a Nazi and already heav­i­ly pro-Trump:

    The New York Times

    Cesar Say­oc, Mail Bomb­ing Sus­pect, Found an Iden­ti­ty in Polit­i­cal Rage and Resent­ment

    By Jack Healy, Julie Turke­witz and Richard A. Oppel Jr.
    Oct. 27, 2018

    AVENTURA, Fla. — Cesar Say­oc Jr. was a volatile nobody des­per­ate to become a some­body.

    He styled him­self as a body­builder, entre­pre­neur, mem­ber of the Semi­nole tribe and exot­ic-dance pro­mot­er in the sta­tus-hun­gry beach­front world of South Flori­da. In real­i­ty, Mr. Say­oc, a fer­vent sup­port­er of Pres­i­dent Trump who has been charged with mail­ing pipe bombs to promi­nent Democ­rats, was a bank­rupt lon­er who spewed anger and spent years liv­ing in and out of a van, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments and inter­views with peo­ple who knew him.

    He went on racist, anti-gay tirades at the Fort Laud­erdale piz­za shop where he worked as a night-shift deliv­ery­man in 2017, telling his man­ag­er, a les­bian, that she and oth­er gay peo­ple along with Democ­rats should all be put onto an island and then “nuked.” At a reunion event in 2015 with his col­lege soc­cer team, he brow­beat for­mer team mem­bers with racist, sex­ist con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.

    And when Mr. Sayoc’s moth­er and sis­ters urged him to seek men­tal-health treat­ment, he furi­ous­ly repelled their efforts and told his moth­er he hat­ed her, said Ronald Lowy, a lawyer for the fam­i­ly who also rep­re­sent­ed Mr. Say­oc in a 2002 case in which he threat­ened to bomb an elec­tric com­pa­ny dur­ing a dis­pute over a bill. He refused to even lis­ten when his moth­er remind­ed Mr. Say­oc that he was Fil­ipino and Ital­ian, not Semi­nole, Mr. Lowy said.

    “He had tremen­dous anger slow­ly boil­ing up, and resent­ment, and felt ‘less than,’” Mr. Lowy said. “He lacked an iden­ti­ty. He cre­at­ed a per­sona.”

    When they first met, Mr. Lowy said, Mr. Say­oc brought in a scrap­book filled with notes and pho­tographs he had col­lect­ed from wrestlers, body­builders and strip­pers, table scraps from a world that he idol­ized.

    “He comes across like a 15-year-old,” Mr. Lowy said. “He has a total lack of matu­ri­ty.”

    Mr. Lowy said that Mr. Sayoc’s fam­i­ly mem­bers were Democ­rats and that Mr. Say­oc seemed to have no out­spo­ken par­ti­san views dur­ing the 2002 case. But he said that Mr. Trump’s angry rhetoric and his appeals to the “for­got­ten man and woman” dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign seemed to strike a deep chord with Mr. Say­oc, whose father had aban­doned the fam­i­ly when he was a child.

    “He was look­ing for some type of parental fig­ure and being a lon­er, being an out­cast, being the kind of per­son Trump speaks to, I think he was attract­ed to Trump as a father fig­ure,” Mr. Lowy said.

    Mr. Say­oc reg­is­tered as a Repub­li­can and post­ed pho­tographs of him­self wear­ing a “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again Hat” at one of Mr. Trump’s ral­lies.

    On Twit­ter and Face­book, he railed against for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Oprah Win­frey with mis­spelled racial epi­thets, threat­ened for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Biden Jr. and praised Pres­i­dent Trump and con­ser­v­a­tive caus­es. His social-media feeds were an elec­tron­ic ver­sion of the white van cart­ed away by law-enforce­ment offi­cials on Fri­day morn­ing, which was cov­ered in stick­ers prais­ing Mr. Trump, con­demn­ing lib­er­als and putting cross hairs over an image of Hillary Clin­ton.

    While Mr. Sayoc’s sis­ters are suc­cess­ful and his moth­er ran her own cos­met­ics busi­ness, Mr. Say­oc bumped between jobs, arrests, apart­ments and his van. He once lived in a com­fort­able neigh­bor­hood of sin­gle-sto­ry homes in the Coral Ridge Isles neigh­bor­hood of Fort Laud­erdale, but lost the home in a 2009 fore­clo­sure.

    He had a long record of shoplift­ing and theft charges. Once he was arrest­ed while car­ry­ing $19,000 worth of cash.

    In May 2015, he told the police that some­one had bro­ken into his van while he was work­ing out at LA Fit­ness — where he had been show­er­ing — and stole about $45,000 worth of suits and cos­tumes he need­ed for his busi­ness. It is unclear whether he actu­al­ly had any­thing worth that much in the van, or whether he was mak­ing the report as pre­text to make a false insur­ance claim.

    Even then, he had an affin­i­ty for Mr. Trump: The Broward Sheriff’s Office report notes that of the 139 pieces he said were tak­en, 11 were the president’s cloth­ing brand.

    Scott B. Saul, a defense lawyer who rep­re­sent­ed Mr. Say­oc when he want­ed to loosen the terms of his pro­ba­tion sev­er­al years ago, said Mr. Sayoc’s behav­ior sug­gest­ed some­thing was amiss, recount­ing that “he came across pas­sive, and with a sense of inse­cu­ri­ty.”

    “He appeared to be his own island,” he said.

    ...

    “He loved Adolf Hitler; he talked about Adolf Hitler a lot,” said Debra Gureghi­an, 56, a man­ag­er at the Fort Laud­erdale piz­za shop where Mr. Say­oc worked for about a year in 2017. “He would say, ‘I like his pol­i­tics, we should have more peo­ple like him.’”

    Mr. Say­oc went on para­noid, racist screeds, say­ing that blacks and His­pan­ics were tak­ing over the world. He referred to Mr. Oba­ma with a racist slur and said he was not a cit­i­zen. Years before he ran for office, Mr. Trump false­ly claimed Mr. Oba­ma was not an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen.

    Ms. Gureghi­an was famil­iar with Mr. Sayoc’s white van, but she was not sure if he was liv­ing in it. Once when it was rain­ing, she accept­ed his offer to dri­ve her home although she was ner­vous, unsure if she was safe.

    Tere­sa Palmer, 48, anoth­er man­ag­er, said that she also recalled the van, and that Mr. Say­oc would say “nasty things” about minori­ties. She remem­bered him men­tion­ing Mr. Trump, but only recalled him say­ing that Mr. Trump made a “great” pres­i­dent. Mr. Say­oc left the piz­za shop in Jan­u­ary, telling col­leagues he was going to work in long-haul truck­ing.

    When Mr. Say­oc showed up to a din­ner in 2015 hon­or­ing his soc­cer coach from Bre­vard Col­lege in North Car­oli­na, oth­er team mem­bers said they were glad to see him.

    But they said he quick­ly made clear he was a fanat­i­cal sup­port­er of Mr. Trump, and bom­bard­ed them with racist and misog­y­nist con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.

    “He was like, ‘Amer­i­ca needs to be made great again, and I’m work­ing on the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to make sure we get the right peo­ple in office,’” said Eddie Tad­lock, who was at the event. Mr. Tad­lock said the polit­i­cal invec­tive was clear­ly out of place at an event where for­mer team­mates were reliv­ing their glo­ry days on the soc­cer pitch.

    “It was hate­ful stuff,” Mr. Tad­lock said. “It didn’t resem­ble any­thing log­i­cal. He was say­ing things like, ‘Build a wall to keep all the Mex­i­cans out,’ and it imme­di­ate­ly turned me off.”

    “If you want to have a dia­logue about pol­i­tics and pol­i­cy, there’s a way to go about it, but the way he took the con­ver­sa­tion was com­plete­ly off course,” he added.

    A few days lat­er, Mr. Say­oc sent Mr. Tad­lock a friend­ly con­grat­u­la­to­ry mes­sage on Face­book, but soon start­ed bar­rag­ing Mr. Tad­lock with sex­ist, racist mes­sages that were “off-the-charts crazy” and said that Mr. Trump would be the sav­ior of the Unit­ed States.

    “I mean, I’m African-Amer­i­can, and he’s send­ing me racist stuff? And sex­ist stuff, and misog­y­nis­tic stuff — you name it. He was say­ing Trump is going to be ‘The God­fa­ther’ who cor­rects all of it, and I was like, ‘You’re out of your freak­ing mind.’ I unfriend­ed him imme­di­ate­ly.”

    ———-

    “Cesar Say­oc, Mail Bomb­ing Sus­pect, Found an Iden­ti­ty in Polit­i­cal Rage and Resent­ment” by Jack Healy, Julie Turke­witz and Richard A. Oppel Jr.; The New York Times; 10/27/2018

    “He went on racist, anti-gay tirades at the Fort Laud­erdale piz­za shop where he worked as a night-shift deliv­ery­man in 2017, telling his man­ag­er, a les­bian, that she and oth­er gay peo­ple along with Democ­rats should all be put onto an island and then “nuked.” At a reunion event in 2015 with his col­lege soc­cer team, he brow­beat for­mer team mem­bers with racist, sex­ist con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.”

    So while Say­oc was clear­ly an neo-Nazi by 2016–2017, based on the tes­ti­mo­ny of his for­mer piz­za deliv­ery man­ag­er, it sounds like he was already a rad­i­cal­ized racists and vir­u­lent Trump sup­port­er by 2015 when he showed up at a din­ner hon­or­ing his col­lege soc­cer coach and harangued every­one with pro-Trump racist tirades. He also told them he was work­ing on the Trump cam­paign. It would be inter­est­ing to know more about that claim:

    ...
    When Mr. Say­oc showed up to a din­ner in 2015 hon­or­ing his soc­cer coach from Bre­vard Col­lege in North Car­oli­na, oth­er team mem­bers said they were glad to see him.

    But they said he quick­ly made clear he was a fanat­i­cal sup­port­er of Mr. Trump, and bom­bard­ed them with racist and misog­y­nist con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.

    “He was like, ‘Amer­i­ca needs to be made great again, and I’m work­ing on the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to make sure we get the right peo­ple in office,’” said Eddie Tad­lock, who was at the event. Mr. Tad­lock said the polit­i­cal invec­tive was clear­ly out of place at an event where for­mer team­mates were reliv­ing their glo­ry days on the soc­cer pitch.

    ...

    A few days lat­er, Mr. Say­oc sent Mr. Tad­lock a friend­ly con­grat­u­la­to­ry mes­sage on Face­book, but soon start­ed bar­rag­ing Mr. Tad­lock with sex­ist, racist mes­sages that were “off-the-charts crazy” and said that Mr. Trump would be the sav­ior of the Unit­ed States.

    “I mean, I’m African-Amer­i­can, and he’s send­ing me racist stuff? And sex­ist stuff, and misog­y­nis­tic stuff — you name it. He was say­ing Trump is going to be ‘The God­fa­ther’ who cor­rects all of it, and I was like, ‘You’re out of your freak­ing mind.’ I unfriend­ed him imme­di­ate­ly.”
    ...

    It’s worth not­ing it appears that Say­oc was a big Trump fan before Trump even announced his pres­i­den­tial bid in June of 2015. As police records show, in May of 2015, Say­oc filed a police report about an alleged theft from his van. Of the 139 pieces of cloth­ing he said were tak­en, 11 were Trump-brand cloth­ing:

    ...
    In May 2015, he told the police that some­one had bro­ken into his van while he was work­ing out at LA Fit­ness — where he had been show­er­ing — and stole about $45,000 worth of suits and cos­tumes he need­ed for his busi­ness. It is unclear whether he actu­al­ly had any­thing worth that much in the van, or whether he was mak­ing the report as pre­text to make a false insur­ance claim.

    Even then, he had an affin­i­ty for Mr. Trump: The Broward Sheriff’s Office report notes that of the 139 pieces he said were tak­en, 11 were the president’s cloth­ing brand.
    ...

    It’s also worth not­ing that a sec­ond man­ag­er, Tere­sa Palmer, at his piz­za deliv­ery job wit­nessed reg­u­lar racist screeds from Say­oc too. And Say­oc’s para­noia includ­ed a belief that blacks and His­pan­ics are tak­ing over the world. Keep in mind that this bomb­ing cam­paign start­ed after Trump and the GOP made ‘the car­a­van’ from Cen­tral Amer­i­ca a cen­tral theme of their mid-term cam­paign­ing and con­tin­u­al­ly pro­mot­ed the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that George Soros and the Democ­rats were behind the car­a­van as part of a larg­er plot to bring in as many non-whites as pos­si­ble into the US to vote ille­gal­ly. In oth­er words, Say­oc’s fears that ‘blacks and His­pan­ics are tak­ing over the world’ was the meme du jour of Trump and the GOP when he car­ried out his bomb­ing cam­paign:

    ...
    “He loved Adolf Hitler; he talked about Adolf Hitler a lot,” said Debra Gureghi­an, 56, a man­ag­er at the Fort Laud­erdale piz­za shop where Mr. Say­oc worked for about a year in 2017. “He would say, ‘I like his pol­i­tics, we should have more peo­ple like him.’”

    Mr. Say­oc went on para­noid, racist screeds, say­ing that blacks and His­pan­ics were tak­ing over the world. He referred to Mr. Oba­ma with a racist slur and said he was not a cit­i­zen. Years before he ran for office, Mr. Trump false­ly claimed Mr. Oba­ma was not an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen.

    Ms. Gureghi­an was famil­iar with Mr. Sayoc’s white van, but she was not sure if he was liv­ing in it. Once when it was rain­ing, she accept­ed his offer to dri­ve her home although she was ner­vous, unsure if she was safe.

    Tere­sa Palmer, 48, anoth­er man­ag­er, said that she also recalled the van, and that Mr. Say­oc would say “nasty things” about minori­ties. She remem­bered him men­tion­ing Mr. Trump, but only recalled him say­ing that Mr. Trump made a “great” pres­i­dent. Mr. Say­oc left the piz­za shop in Jan­u­ary, telling col­leagues he was going to work in long-haul truck­ing.
    ...

    So Say­oc appears to fit the pro­file of the men­tal­ly unhinged indi­vid­ual who is bare­ly able to con­tain his Nazi-like world­view. A half Fil­ipino white suprema­cist who claimed to be a mem­ber of the Semi­nole tribe (even though he had no ties to them). So it should come as no sur­prise that he was seen by his for­mer lawyer — who rep­re­sent­ed him in 2002 after Say­oc made a bomb threat — as some­one with seri­ous emo­tion­al issues and an iden­ti­ty cri­sis. An iden­ti­ty cri­sis that mor­phed into a Nazi super-Trump fan iden­ti­ty:

    ...
    And when Mr. Sayoc’s moth­er and sis­ters urged him to seek men­tal-health treat­ment, he furi­ous­ly repelled their efforts and told his moth­er he hat­ed her, said Ronald Lowy, a lawyer for the fam­i­ly who also rep­re­sent­ed Mr. Say­oc in a 2002 case in which he threat­ened to bomb an elec­tric com­pa­ny dur­ing a dis­pute over a bill. He refused to even lis­ten when his moth­er remind­ed Mr. Say­oc that he was Fil­ipino and Ital­ian, not Semi­nole, Mr. Lowy said.

    “He had tremen­dous anger slow­ly boil­ing up, and resent­ment, and felt ‘less than,’” Mr. Lowy said. “He lacked an iden­ti­ty. He cre­at­ed a per­sona.”

    When they first met, Mr. Lowy said, Mr. Say­oc brought in a scrap­book filled with notes and pho­tographs he had col­lect­ed from wrestlers, body­builders and strip­pers, table scraps from a world that he idol­ized.

    “He comes across like a 15-year-old,” Mr. Lowy said. “He has a total lack of matu­ri­ty.”

    Mr. Lowy said that Mr. Sayoc’s fam­i­ly mem­bers were Democ­rats and that Mr. Say­oc seemed to have no out­spo­ken par­ti­san views dur­ing the 2002 case. But he said that Mr. Trump’s angry rhetoric and his appeals to the “for­got­ten man and woman” dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign seemed to strike a deep chord with Mr. Say­oc, whose father had aban­doned the fam­i­ly when he was a child.

    “He was look­ing for some type of parental fig­ure and being a lon­er, being an out­cast, being the kind of per­son Trump speaks to, I think he was attract­ed to Trump as a father fig­ure,” Mr. Lowy said.
    ...

    Anoth­er impor­tant aspect of Say­oc’s life is that, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, he social media pro­file took a rad­i­cal turn after Trump announced his pres­i­den­tial can­di­da­cy. Before that it was most­ly benign con­tent like a cook­ing recipes. So while it appears that Say­oc was a Trump fan before Trump announced his can­di­da­cy (based on the Trump-brand cloth­ing he report­ed stolen), it’s not actu­al­ly clear that he was an out­right neo-Nazi before Trump’s run. He cer­tain­ly had emo­tion­al and anger issues before that, but we don’t know yet if he was already indoc­tri­nat­ed into neo-Nazi ide­ol­o­gy before that or if this came after he got heav­i­ly involved in pro­mot­ing Trump’s cam­paign.

    As the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes, Say­oc was bank­rupt and liv­ing with his moth­er as of 2012. As we saw in the pre­vi­ous arti­cle, he lost his house in 2009. And he appeared to be liv­ing in his van for an extend­ed peri­od of time while liv­ing in Flori­da. So in addi­tion to hav­ing some sort of iden­ti­ty issues that he filled with Nazi beliefs and a wor­ship of Don­ald Trump, Say­oc also may have felt he had lit­tle to lose, which would have made him the per­fect can­di­date for a ter­ror cam­paign like this:

    The New York Times

    Liv­ing in a Van Plas­tered With Hate, Bomb­ing Sus­pect Was Filled With Right-Wing Rage

    By Patri­cia Mazzei, Nick Madi­gan and Frances Rob­les
    Oct. 26, 2018

    AVENTURA, Fla. — On Twit­ter, Cesar Say­oc Jr. lashed out at immi­grants, gun con­trol advo­cates, and promi­nent Demo­c­ra­t­ic politi­cians. On Face­book, he mis­spelled a racial epi­thet, direct­ing it at the likes of Oprah Win­frey and for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma.

    With fury in his fin­gers, he shared inflam­ma­to­ry news sto­ries from Bre­it­bart, hard-edge videos from Fox News, and angry posts from pages like “Hand­cuffs for Hillary.” He tweet­ed a threat to for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden. And he post­ed pho­tographs of him­self wear­ing a red “Make Amer­i­ca Great Again” hat at one of Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign ral­lies.

    After a fren­zied nation­wide search for the per­son who sent 13 makeshift bombs to some of Mr. Trump’s most promi­nent crit­ics, Mr. Say­oc, 56, was arrest­ed Fri­day morn­ing in Plan­ta­tion, Fla., at an Auto­Zone car parts shop. Author­i­ties released a pho­to­graph of a man with a buzz cut and a mouth that drooped toward a frown. They hauled away a white van plas­tered with bom­bas­tic stick­ers express­ing sup­port for Mr. Trump and ani­mos­i­ty toward those who clashed with him.

    “Dis­hon­est Media,” read one on the van’s back right win­dow. “CNN Sucks.” Cross hairs appeared on a pho­to­graph of one of the lib­er­al com­men­ta­tors at the net­work, which received more than one pack­age from Mr. Say­oc at its offices in New York.

    Records show he was a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can; friends said he once danced as a male strip­per. He also had a lengthy crim­i­nal his­to­ry — he was once accused of threat­en­ing to use a bomb against a cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive — and led a life filled with fail­ure. Well into mid­dle age, he was liv­ing with his moth­er with no fur­ni­ture, accord­ing to 2012 bank­rupt­cy records, and he appeared to have been liv­ing most recent­ly out of his van.

    Fed­er­al offi­cials said Fri­day they were still explor­ing ques­tions of motive. “He appears to be a par­ti­san,” Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions said at an after­noon news con­fer­ence announc­ing Mr. Sayoc’s arrest, “but that will be deter­mined by the facts as the case goes for­ward.”

    And so, even as the details of a grim and bit­ter life began to emerge Fri­day, a shak­en coun­try was left to pon­der what could have prompt­ed some­one full of polit­i­cal griev­ances to man­u­fac­ture a slew of impro­vised explo­sive devices.

    ...

    On Mon­day, law enforce­ment offi­cials dis­cov­ered the first pack­age linked to Mr. Say­oc at a pri­vate home out­side New York City that belongs to George Soros, the bil­lion­aire phil­an­thropist. Days lat­er, Mr. Say­oc would post tweets that tar­get­ed Mr. Soros and oth­ers, accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

    Mr. Sayoc’s posts on var­i­ous social media accounts in 2015 showed an obses­sion with work­outs and night life pro­mo­tion, with lit­tle to no polit­i­cal con­tent. But his more recent posts are full of polit­i­cal rage. His Face­book account, wide­ly pored over after media reports of his arrest, sud­den­ly dis­ap­peared on Fri­day.

    “We have found and imme­di­ate­ly removed the suspect’s accounts on Face­book and Insta­gram,” Face­book said in a state­ment. “We will also con­tin­ue to remove con­tent that prais­es or sup­ports the bomb­ing attempt or the sus­pect as soon as we’re aware.”

    Much remains opaque about Mr. Say­oc. Some of his social media posts seemed to sug­gest he was part of the Semi­nole tribe in Flori­da. But Lenny Altieri, a rel­a­tive, said that Mr. Sayoc’s father was from the Philip­pines and his moth­er was from Brook­lyn. He was raised by grand­par­ents after hav­ing prob­lems with his moth­er, Mr. Altieri said.

    Mr. Say­oc had short stints in col­lege as a young man, and had a pas­sion for soc­cer, reflect­ed in numer­ous soc­cer-themed mes­sages on the van. He attend­ed Bre­vard Col­lege, a small, Methodist-affil­i­at­ed lib­er­al arts col­lege in West­ern North Car­oli­na, for a year begin­ning in the fall of 1980 and played on the soc­cer team but did not grad­u­ate, accord­ing to a spokes­woman. He also attend­ed Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Char­lotte for one year start­ing in 1983, an offi­cial there said.

    Back in Flori­da, Mr. Altieri said, Mr. Say­oc was obsessed with body­build­ing and worked as a male strip­per. He also worked as a man­ag­er for trav­el­ing “male revue shows,” said Rachel Hum­berg­er, the wife of one of Mr. Sayoc’s busi­ness part­ners.

    Ms. Hum­berg­er said that Mr. Say­oc seemed like a friend­ly man, based on the short inter­ac­tions she had with him, and described the shows as “Mag­ic Mike style,” a ref­er­ence to a 2012 movie about male strip­pers, “Mag­ic Mike.”

    More recent­ly, she said Mr. Say­oc had been talk­ing to her hus­band about start­ing a new busi­ness: fish farms.

    Mr. Altieri said that Mr. Say­oc at one point had “a lot of mon­ey, but lost most of it.” He did not elab­o­rate on how Mr. Say­oc had acquired it.

    Mr. Say­oc amassed a lengthy crim­i­nal record, dat­ing back to 1991, which includes felony theft, drug charges and fraud, pub­lic records show.

    In August 2002, Mr. Say­oc, in a dis­pute with a pow­er com­pa­ny over a bill, was accused of threat­en­ing to blow up the com­pa­ny. Mr. Say­oc was on the phone with the cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive and “was upset over an amount that he was being billed for,” accord­ing to records released by the Mia­mi-Dade State Attorney’s Office. He “then stat­ed that he didn’t deserve it and that he was going to blow up” the util­i­ty.

    The cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive pressed an emer­gency but­ton, which began record­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. Mr. Say­oc stat­ed that what he planned would be worse “than 9/11” and that he planned to blow the agent’s head off, accord­ing to the records.

    When the agent said Mr. Say­oc did not want to be mak­ing such threats, pros­e­cu­tors said he had replied “that he doesn’t make threats, he makes promis­es.” Mr. Say­oc lat­er described his remarks as noth­ing more than a joke.

    In June 2012, Mr. Say­oc filed for per­son­al bank­rupt­cy, list­ing assets of $4,175 and lia­bil­i­ties of $21,109.

    “Lives w/mom,” a hand­writ­ten note on the peti­tion said. “Has no fur­ni­ture.”

    A lat­er place of res­i­dence was the white van, which he often parked out­side an aging strip mall in Aven­tu­ra, Fla., that hous­es an LA Fit­ness, a Jew­ish mar­ket, a bak­ery and a post office.

    Manuel Pra­do, a 56-year-old hair­dress­er in a salon at the mall, Shoppes at the Water­ways, said he had seen Mr. Say­oc for the past sev­er­al years liv­ing in the white van with dis­tinc­tive stick­ers.

    “I knew right away it was him when I saw the pic­tures of the van today in the news,” Mr. Pra­do said Fri­day after­noon. “That van was his home. It was real­ly smelly when he had the door open and you walked by. It was hor­ri­ble. He might dri­ve off and run an errand or some­thing, but every morn­ing that van was there in the park­ing lot.”

    Mr. Pra­do, a hair­dress­er for 17 years, said he also saw Mr. Say­oc fre­quent­ly at LA Fit­ness, a large club imme­di­ate­ly west of the shop­ping mall. “He would pre­tend to exer­cise — I think he just went there to take show­ers,” Mr. Pra­do said. “He’d some­times use a bicy­cle in the gym. I assume he was a mem­ber because they’re very strict about that.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Liv­ing in a Van Plas­tered With Hate, Bomb­ing Sus­pect Was Filled With Right-Wing Rage” by Patri­cia Mazzei, Nick Madi­gan and Frances Rob­les; The New York Times; 10/26/2018

    “Records show he was a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can; friends said he once danced as a male strip­per. He also had a lengthy crim­i­nal his­to­ry — he was once accused of threat­en­ing to use a bomb against a cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive — and led a life filled with fail­ure. Well into mid­dle age, he was liv­ing with his moth­er with no fur­ni­ture, accord­ing to 2012 bank­rupt­cy records, and he appeared to have been liv­ing most recent­ly out of his van.

    So Say­oc expe­ri­enced fore­clo­sure, bank­rupt­cy, and home­less­ness in recent years. But his trou­bles start­ed long before that. One per­son claims Say­oc had “a lot of mon­ey” at some point, but lost most of it. It’s unclear how much he had or how it was lost, but keep in mind in 2009 fore­clo­sure so it’s pos­si­ble he lost quite a bit as a result of the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis. Of course, giv­en his crim­i­nal record, it’s also pos­si­ble he acquired “a lot of mon­ey” through crim­i­nal activ­i­ty. Either way, he was already a deeply trou­bled indi­vid­ual years ago, as the 2002 bomb threat case — a bomb threat made about an elec­tric­i­ty bill — makes clear:

    ...
    Mr. Altieri said that Mr. Say­oc at one point had “a lot of mon­ey, but lost most of it.” He did not elab­o­rate on how Mr. Say­oc had acquired it.

    Mr. Say­oc amassed a lengthy crim­i­nal record, dat­ing back to 1991, which includes felony theft, drug charges and fraud, pub­lic records show.

    In August 2002, Mr. Say­oc, in a dis­pute with a pow­er com­pa­ny over a bill, was accused of threat­en­ing to blow up the com­pa­ny. Mr. Say­oc was on the phone with the cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive and “was upset over an amount that he was being billed for,” accord­ing to records released by the Mia­mi-Dade State Attorney’s Office. He “then stat­ed that he didn’t deserve it and that he was going to blow up” the util­i­ty.

    The cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive pressed an emer­gency but­ton, which began record­ing the con­ver­sa­tion. Mr. Say­oc stat­ed that what he planned would be worse “than 9/11” and that he planned to blow the agent’s head off, accord­ing to the records.

    When the agent said Mr. Say­oc did not want to be mak­ing such threats, pros­e­cu­tors said he had replied “that he doesn’t make threats, he makes promis­es.” Mr. Say­oc lat­er described his remarks as noth­ing more than a joke.
    ...

    So as of 2002, Say­oc was clear­ly a deeply trou­bled indi­vid­ual. Then thre’s a peri­od of his life where we don’t have much infor­ma­tion. Was this the peri­od when Say­oc made “a lot of mon­ey” and then lost it? We don’t know. But by 2012, Say­oc filed for bank­rupt­cy and in recent years was liv­ing in his van:

    ...
    In June 2012, Mr. Say­oc filed for per­son­al bank­rupt­cy, list­ing assets of $4,175 and lia­bil­i­ties of $21,109.

    “Lives w/mom,” a hand­writ­ten note on the peti­tion said. “Has no fur­ni­ture.”

    A lat­er place of res­i­dence was the white van, which he often parked out­side an aging strip mall in Aven­tu­ra, Fla., that hous­es an LA Fit­ness, a Jew­ish mar­ket, a bak­ery and a post office.

    Manuel Pra­do, a 56-year-old hair­dress­er in a salon at the mall, Shoppes at the Water­ways, said he had seen Mr. Say­oc for the past sev­er­al years liv­ing in the white van with dis­tinc­tive stick­ers.
    ...

    So Say­oc fits a now famil­iar pro­file of indi­vid­u­als who end up com­mit­ting these kinds of seem­ing­ly ‘lone wolf’ act. A pro­file of a mid­dle-aged man who has been hit with one blow after anoth­er — a bank­rupt­cy, lost home, inse­cure employ­ment — and becomes angry and rad­i­cal­ized, latch­es onto white suprema­cy, and final­ly lash­es out vio­lent­ly. Although he does­n’t fit the pro­file in one key aspect. He was half Fil­ipino, and appeared to have com­plete­ly made up an iden­ti­ty as a mem­ber of the Semi­nole tribe in Flori­da:

    ...
    Much remains opaque about Mr. Say­oc. Some of his social media posts seemed to sug­gest he was part of the Semi­nole tribe in Flori­da. But Lenny Altieri, a rel­a­tive, said that Mr. Sayoc’s father was from the Philip­pines and his moth­er was from Brook­lyn. He was raised by grand­par­ents after hav­ing prob­lems with his moth­er, Mr. Altieri said.
    ...

    And we still don’t know when exact­ly he adopt the ‘I love Hitler’ world­view. Was it pre-Trump or post-Trump? That remains unclear, but based on his social media con­tent in 2015 it appears that had no real polit­i­cal inter­est. It’s only the more recent social media con­tent where the right-wing polit­i­cal nar­ra­tives start­ed show­ing up:

    ...
    On Mon­day, law enforce­ment offi­cials dis­cov­ered the first pack­age linked to Mr. Say­oc at a pri­vate home out­side New York City that belongs to George Soros, the bil­lion­aire phil­an­thropist. Days lat­er, Mr. Say­oc would post tweets that tar­get­ed Mr. Soros and oth­ers, accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

    Mr. Sayoc’s posts on var­i­ous social media accounts in 2015 showed an obses­sion with work­outs and night life pro­mo­tion, with lit­tle to no polit­i­cal con­tent. But his more recent posts are full of polit­i­cal rage. His Face­book account, wide­ly pored over after media reports of his arrest, sud­den­ly dis­ap­peared on Fri­day.

    “We have found and imme­di­ate­ly removed the suspect’s accounts on Face­book and Insta­gram,” Face­book said in a state­ment. “We will also con­tin­ue to remove con­tent that prais­es or sup­ports the bomb­ing attempt or the sus­pect as soon as we’re aware.”
    ...

    Still, as we saw in the pre­vi­ous arti­cle, he was ful­ly immersed in the far right con­spir­a­to­r­i­al world­view at some point in 2015 based on the tes­ti­monies of his soc­cer team­mates. So if he was­n’t already rad­i­cal­ized before Trump start­ed his cam­paign he must have got­ten rad­i­cal­ized real­ly fast.

    So, all in all, we appear to have anoth­er domes­tic ter­ror cam­paign from anoth­er white suprema­cist, albeit a some­what atyp­i­cal white suprema­cist. And while there’s no indi­ca­tion that he worked with some­one else in this bomb­ing cam­paign, we can’t ignore the fact that Say­oc was clear­ly enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly immers­ing him­self in the world of pro-Trump activism and that’s a world filled with orga­nized white suprema­cists.

    Recall what was saw above: Say­oc told his soc­cer team­mates in 2015 that he was work­ing on the Trump cam­paign. Was he doing this inde­pen­dent­ly? Was his pro-Trump van his idea of work­ing on the cam­paign? We don’t know, but we do know from all the pic­tures he post­ed of him­self attend­ing Trump events that he was min­gling in that crowd. Say­oc even showed up on tv at a Trump ral­ly in Mel­bourne, Flori­da, in 2017 hold­ing up a big anti-CNN sign.

    So Say­oc could have eas­i­ly spent the last three years heav­i­ly net­work­ing with peo­ple from that ‘pro-Trump’ crowd. Might any of those peo­ple have been white suprema­cists? Was Say­oc, who appeared to be seek­ing out some sort of group to belong to, qui­et­ly recruit­ed? Keep in mind that, as a half-Fil­ipino white suprema­cist, Say­oc would have prob­a­bly been seen as a pret­ty hot com­mod­i­ty from the white suprema­cist stand­point. Just imag­ine what a bunch of neo-Nazis would think if they came across some­one like Say­oc, espe­cial­ly after they learn he’s high­ly impres­sion­able and lives in a van. He would have been the per­fect ‘lone wolf’ for use by orga­nized white suprema­cists!.

    And then there’s the fact that he did­n’t have a house to con­struct those bombs. So where did he make them? Did he have help? Those ques­tions remain com­plete­ly unan­swered at this point but it’s hard to see any rea­son to assume at this point that he was work­ing alone.

    It’s also worth recall­ing the par­al­lels to Nicholas Cruz, the Flori­da-based teenag­er who shot up Park­land High School and who hap­pened to be part Jew­ish and His­pan­ic and who also appeared to have seri­ous iden­ti­ty issues. The bizarre sit­u­a­tion where a bunch of neo-Nazi trolls ‘tricked’ the media into think­ing Cruz was affil­i­at­ed with the Flori­da-based neo-Nazi group, the Repub­lic of Flori­da, only to have the ‘hoax’ rapid­ly dis­cov­ered. And recall how that ‘hoax’ appeared to have been designed to be rapid­ly dis­cov­ered and how it all appeared to be a kind of pre­emp­tive ‘hoax’ designed to dis­cred­it the the­o­ry that Cruz was indeed prompt­ed to car­ry out his attack by the neo-Nazis he was net­work­ing with.

    In all, the case of Niko­las Cruz had the look a staged ‘lone wolf’ attack with a planned dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign designed to throw the pub­lic off the trail of inves­ti­gat­ing Cruz’s ties to orga­nized white suprema­cist ter­ror groups. Might the case of Cesar Say­oc be sim­i­lar? Might the same Flori­da-based neo-Nazi be involved? Those are all ques­tions that have yet to be answered so let’s hope they’re at least being asked by inves­ti­ga­tors.

    Beyond all the ques­tions about what pre­cise­ly moti­vat­ed Say­oc to do what he did, there’s the over­ar­ch­ing issue of the unde­ni­able fact that that Say­oc’s attacks took place in the con­text of a hard right anti-immi­grant turn by the GOP in the final weeks of this cam­paign focused on pro­mot­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries alleg­ing Democ­rats and George Soros are financ­ing the Cen­tral Amer­i­can migrants car­a­van for the pur­pose of ‘[insert white suprema­cy con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry here]’. Trump and the GOP has made a slight­ly toned down ver­sion of the clas­sic neo-Nazi meme — that Democ­rats are try­ing to bring non-whites into the US as part of some sort of dia­bol­i­cal ‘glob­al­ist’ plot against white Amer­i­cans — a cen­tral part of their mid-term slo­ga­neer­ing in these final weeks.

    And before Say­oc was caught and iden­ti­fied, the GOP was aggres­sive­ly pro­mot­ing the idea that it was all a false flag hoax car­ried out by the left. Trump even pro­mot­ed that meme in a treat less than an hour before Say­oc was appre­hend­ed, which is high­ly sus­pi­cious tim­ing giv­en the fact that he almost assured­ly would have known about the arrest (and Say­oc’s obvi­ous pro-Trump fanati­cism) before the arrest was made. At 10:19 am EST Fri­day morn­ing, short­ly before the arrest, Trump tweet­ed out: “Repub­li­cans are doing so well in ear­ly vot­ing, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff hap­pens and the momen­tum great­ly slows — news not talk­ing pol­i­tics. Very unfor­tu­nate, what is going on. Repub­li­cans, go out and vote! It was the just lat­est tweet from a promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive hint­ing at the idea that the “bomb stuff” was part of a plot against the GOP and designed to dis­tract from ‘the car­a­van’:

    The Guardian

    High-pro­file con­ser­v­a­tives claim mail bombs are an attack by the left

    Ann Coul­ter and Rush Lim­baugh have sug­gest­ed Democ­rats sent pack­ages to elic­it sym­pa­thy ahead of midterms

    Jason Wil­son in Port­land, Ore­gon
    Fri 26 Oct 2018 10.11 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Fri 26 Oct 2018 12.03 EDT

    A range of high-pro­file con­ser­v­a­tives have embraced a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that mail bombs sent to lib­er­al pub­lic fig­ures are a “false flag” attack by left­wingers. Many have also claimed that the attacks are intend­ed to elic­it sym­pa­thy for Democ­rats ahead of the loom­ing midterm elec­tions.

    Author­i­ties are yet to iden­ti­fy a sus­pect or motive in the bomb­ings, which have seen 12 pipe bombs sent to a range of fig­ures from for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to Bill and Hillary Clin­ton to financier George Soros and even to the out-spo­ken actor Robert De Niro. All the sus­pects have one thing in com­mon: they have been tar­gets of Don­ald Trump’s ire.

    Nev­er­the­less, with­out evi­dence, a num­ber of osten­si­bly main­stream con­ser­v­a­tives joined more overt­ly con­spir­acist out­lets in either express­ing skep­ti­cism that con­ser­v­a­tives would dam­age their own cause, or mak­ing out­right accu­sa­tions that the left are orches­trat­ing the bomb­ing cam­paign in order to sab­o­tage Repub­li­cans.

    In a now-delet­ed tweet, on Thurs­day Fox Busi­ness TV host Lou Dobbs wrote: “Fake News – Fake Bombs. Who could pos­si­bly ben­e­fit by so much fak­ery?” Dobbs has a close rela­tion­ship with Trump and the two report­ed­ly speak fre­quent­ly on the phone.

    Else­where on Fox, three guest ana­lysts sug­gest­ed that the bombs were “false flag” attacks.

    Also on Thurs­day, the president’s son, Don­ald Trump Jr, liked a tweet which read in part: “FAKE BOMBS MADE TO SCARE AND PICK UP BLUE SYMPATHY VOTE.” In the past he has liked tweets ques­tion­ing whether the Park­land sur­vivor David Hogg was actu­al­ly present at the Flori­da school shoot­ing that led him to become gun con­trol cam­paign­er.

    On Wednes­day, after a caller said the bomb plot didn’t “pass the smell test”, the lead­ing talk radio host Rush Lim­baugh asked rhetor­i­cal­ly: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Demo­c­rat oper­a­tive or Demo­c­rat-incul­cat­ed lunatic to do it? Because things are not work­ing out the way they thought.”

    His fel­low rightwing broad­cast­er, Michael Sav­age, opined the same day that there was a “high prob­a­bil­i­ty that the whole thing had been set up as a false flag to gain sym­pa­thy for the Democ­rats”, and to dis­tract from the so-called “car­a­van” of migrants cur­rent­ly in south­ern Mex­i­co.

    The far-right and anti-immi­grant media per­son­al­i­ty Ann Coul­ter, mean­while, claimed on Wednes­day that the “bombs are a lib­er­al tac­tic”. The con­ser­v­a­tive author and film-mak­er Dinesh D’Souza, whose recent work has drawn par­al­lels between Democ­rats and Nazis, tweet­ed: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the sus­pi­cious pack­ages and a very faint let­ter­ing revealed a sin­gle word: DEMOCRATS.”

    Those fur­ther down the con­ser­v­a­tive media peck­ing order were also on mes­sage with “false flag” alle­ga­tions.

    The Trump-aligned pod­cast­er and social media star Bill Mitchell described the bombs as “Soros astro-turf­ing”, refer­ring to the bil­lion­aire phil­an­thropist (and mag­net for con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists) who was the first tar­get of the bomb­ing cam­paign. He added that the attacks were “Pure BS”.

    Rightwing car­toon­ist Ben Gar­ri­son drew a car­toon enti­tled Rais­ing a false flag, fea­tur­ing Hillary Clin­ton, CNN media reporter Bri­an Stel­ter, and for­mer CIA direc­tor John Bren­nan – all bomb­ing tar­gets – rais­ing a flag shaped like a mail bomb. Under­neath the flag, he has George Soros exclaim­ing: “See? We’re vic­tims of Trump’s hate!”

    ...

    On Wednes­day, just hours after mul­ti­ple bombs had arrived at the homes of for­mer pub­lic offi­cials and the offices of media com­pa­nies, Jones alleged that the bombs had been plant­ed by left­ist antifas­cist or “antifa groups”, in order to “smear con­ser­v­a­tives who sup­port Pres­i­dent Trump”.

    ———-

    “High-pro­file con­ser­v­a­tives claim mail bombs are an attack by the left” by Jason Wil­son; The Guardian; 10/26/2018

    “Nev­er­the­less, with­out evi­dence, a num­ber of osten­si­bly main­stream con­ser­v­a­tives joined more overt­ly con­spir­acist out­lets in either express­ing skep­ti­cism that con­ser­v­a­tives would dam­age their own cause, or mak­ing out­right accu­sa­tions that the left are orches­trat­ing the bomb­ing cam­paign in order to sab­o­tage Repub­li­cans.”

    Yep, before Say­oc was arrest­ed and iden­ti­fied, the idea that the bomb­ings were a left-wing false flag was the right-wing medi­a’s ral­ly­ing cry. Even Don­ald Trump, Jr. got in on it:

    ...
    In a now-delet­ed tweet, on Thurs­day Fox Busi­ness TV host Lou Dobbs wrote: “Fake News – Fake Bombs. Who could pos­si­bly ben­e­fit by so much fak­ery?” Dobbs has a close rela­tion­ship with Trump and the two report­ed­ly speak fre­quent­ly on the phone.

    Else­where on Fox, three guest ana­lysts sug­gest­ed that the bombs were “false flag” attacks.

    Also on Thurs­day, the president’s son, Don­ald Trump Jr, liked a tweet which read in part: “FAKE BOMBS MADE TO SCARE AND PICK UP BLUE SYMPATHY VOTE.” In the past he has liked tweets ques­tion­ing whether the Park­land sur­vivor David Hogg was actu­al­ly present at the Flori­da school shoot­ing that led him to become gun con­trol cam­paign­er.
    ...

    Michael Sav­age includ­ed the cit­ed used the­o­ry that it was all designed to dis­tract from ‘the car­a­van’, which tied in the bomb­ing ‘false flag’ meme with the ‘George Soros and the Democ­rats are pay­ing for the car­a­van’ meme that the right-wing had already been aggres­sive­ly pro­mot­ing:

    ...
    On Wednes­day, after a caller said the bomb plot didn’t “pass the smell test”, the lead­ing talk radio host Rush Lim­baugh asked rhetor­i­cal­ly: “Would it make a lot of sense for a Demo­c­rat oper­a­tive or Demo­c­rat-incul­cat­ed lunatic to do it? Because things are not work­ing out the way they thought.”

    His fel­low rightwing broad­cast­er, Michael Sav­age, opined the same day that there was a “high prob­a­bil­i­ty that the whole thing had been set up as a false flag to gain sym­pa­thy for the Democ­rats”, and to dis­tract from the so-called “car­a­van” of migrants cur­rent­ly in south­ern Mex­i­co.

    The far-right and anti-immi­grant media per­son­al­i­ty Ann Coul­ter, mean­while, claimed on Wednes­day that the “bombs are a lib­er­al tac­tic”. The con­ser­v­a­tive author and film-mak­er Dinesh D’Souza, whose recent work has drawn par­al­lels between Democ­rats and Nazis, tweet­ed: “I hear the FBI squeezed lemon juice on the sus­pi­cious pack­ages and a very faint let­ter­ing revealed a sin­gle word: DEMOCRATS.”
    ...

    And per­haps most impor­tant­ly, that col­lec­tive right-wing response was pre­dictable: the main­stream right-wing media will now pre­dictably treat any and all far right ter­ror attack as a ‘false flag’ until it’s con­clu­sive­ly proven oth­er­wise. We also can’t ignore the fact that Trump him­self was blam­ing the media and ‘fake news’ for these attacks. And it’s hard to think of a media envi­ron­ment that could do more to encour­age far right domes­tic ter­ror attacks than a media that will treat those attacks on left-wing false flags and hoax­es and blame the vic­tims.

    And, of course, even after Say­oc was appre­hend­ed and iden­ti­fied, Trump dou­bled down on the rhetoric and the argu­ment that this was actu­al­ly all the medi­a’s fault:

    Talk­ing Points Memo

    Trump Threat­ens To ‘Tone It Up’ Since Media Has Been So Unfair To GOP

    by David Tain­tor
    Octo­ber 26, 2018 5:00 pm

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day crit­i­cized the media for being “unbe­liev­ably unfair to Repub­li­cans,” say­ing that he could “tone it up” because of that treat­ment.

    “Well I think I’ve been toned down, if you want to know the truth. I could real­ly tone it up because, as you know, the media’s been extreme­ly unfair to me and the Repub­li­can Par­ty,” Trump said hours after the FBI arrest­ed a sus­pect in con­nec­tion to the mailed pipe bombs sent to promi­nent Democ­rats and CNN this week.

    Trump says he could “tone it up” because the media has been so unfair to Repub­li­cans pic.twitter.com/AyD3Q7qq0l

    — TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) Octo­ber 26, 2018

    ———-

    “Trump Threat­ens To ‘Tone It Up’ Since Media Has Been So Unfair To GOP” by David Tain­tor; Talk­ing Points Memo; 10/26/2018

    ““Well I think I’ve been toned down, if you want to know the truth. I could real­ly tone it up because, as you know, the media’s been extreme­ly unfair to me and the Repub­li­can Par­ty,” Trump said hours after the FBI arrest­ed a sus­pect in con­nec­tion to the mailed pipe bombs sent to promi­nent Democ­rats and CNN this week.”

    So giv­en that we’re deal­ing with bomb threat ter­ror cam­paign by a man who appeared to have a seri­ous iden­ti­ty dis­or­der and in search of some sort of group to belong to, and giv­en that the right-wing has ful­ly embraced far right dis­in­for­ma­tion as a ral­ly­ing cry, with worth recall­ing the insights into far right thought pro­vid­ed by the ‘Alt Right’ neo-Nazi writer Cur­tis Yarvin, a.k.a. Men­cius Mold­bug. As Mold­bug once wrote, “To believe in non­sense is an unforge­able [sic] demon­stra­tion of loy­al­ty. It serves as a polit­i­cal uni­form. And if you have a uni­form, you have an army.” In oth­er words, pub­licly par­rot­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion is how mem­bers of the far right make their trib­al alle­giance known. It’s an act of group bond­ing that simul­ta­ne­ous­ly bonds the group to the dis­in­for­ma­tion. It’s part of what makes the Big Lie durable:

    Politi­co

    What Steve Ban­non Wants You to Read

    Pres­i­dent Trump’s strate­gic advis­er is ele­vat­ing a once-obscure net­work of polit­i­cal thinkers.

    By ELIANA JOHNSON and ELI STOKOLS

    Feb­ru­ary 07, 2017

    The first weeks of the Trump pres­i­den­cy have brought as much focus on the White House’s chief strate­gist, Steve Ban­non, as on the new pres­i­dent him­self. But if Ban­non has been the dri­ving force behind the fren­zy of activ­i­ty in the White House, less atten­tion has been paid to the net­work of polit­i­cal philoso­phers who have shaped his think­ing and who now enjoy a direct line to the White House.

    They are not main­stream thinkers, but their writ­ings help to explain the com­mo­tion that has defined the Trump administration’s ear­ly days. They include a Lebanese-Amer­i­can author known for his the­o­ries about hard-to-pre­dict events; an obscure Sil­i­con Val­ley com­put­er sci­en­tist whose online polit­i­cal tracts her­ald a “Dark Enlight­en­ment”; and a for­mer Wall Street exec­u­tive who urged Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion in anony­mous man­i­festos by liken­ing the tra­jec­to­ry of the coun­try to that of a hijacked airplane—and who now works for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

    Ban­non, described by one asso­ciate as “the most well-read per­son in Wash­ing­ton,” is known for rec­om­mend­ing books to col­leagues and friends, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple who have worked along­side him. He is a vora­cious read­er who devours works of his­to­ry and polit­i­cal the­o­ry “in like an hour,” said a for­mer asso­ciate whom Ban­non urged to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. “He’s like the Rain Man of nation­al­ism.”

    But, said the source, who request­ed anonymi­ty to speak can­did­ly about Ban­non, “There are some things he’s only going to share with peo­ple who he’s tight with and who he trusts.”

    Bannon’s read­ings tend to have one thing in com­mon: the view that tech­nocrats have put West­ern civ­i­liza­tion on a down­ward tra­jec­to­ry and that only a shock to the sys­tem can reverse its decline. And they tend to have a dark, apoc­a­lyp­tic tone that at times echoes Bannon’s own pub­lic remarks over the years—a sense that human­i­ty is at a hinge point in his­to­ry. His ascen­dant pres­ence in the West Wing is giv­ing once-obscure intel­lec­tu­als unex­pect­ed influ­ence over the high­est ech­e­lons of gov­ern­ment.

    ...

    Trump’s first two weeks in office have pro­duced a dizzy­ing blur of activ­i­ty. But the pres­i­dent has also need­less­ly sparked con­tro­ver­sy, argu­ing, for exam­ple, that his inau­gu­ra­tion crowd was the biggest ever and that mil­lions of peo­ple vot­ed ille­gal­ly in last November’s elec­tion, leav­ing even sea­soned polit­i­cal observers befud­dled.

    Before he emerged on the polit­i­cal scene, an obscure Sil­i­con Val­ley com­put­er pro­gram­mer with ties to Trump backer and Pay­Pal co-founder Peter Thiel was explain­ing his behav­ior. Cur­tis Yarvin, the self-pro­claimed “neo­re­ac­tionary” who blogs under the name “Men­cius Mold­bug,” attract­ed a fol­low­ing in 2008 when he pub­lished a wordy trea­tise assert­ing, among oth­er things, that “non­sense is a more effec­tive orga­niz­ing tool than the truth.” When the orga­niz­er of a com­put­er sci­ence con­fer­ence can­celed Yarvin’s appear­ance fol­low­ing an out­cry over his blog­ging under his nom de web, Ban­non took note: Bre­it­bart News decried the act of cen­sor­ship in an arti­cle about the programmer-blogger’s dis­missal.

    Moldbug’s dense, dis­cur­sive mus­ings on history—“What’s so bad about the Nazis?” he asks in one 2008 post that con­demns the Holo­caust but ques­tions the moral supe­ri­or­i­ty of the Allies—include a belief in the util­i­ty of spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion that now looks like a tem­plate for Trump’s approach to truth. “To believe in non­sense is an unforge­able [sic] demon­stra­tion of loy­al­ty. It serves as a polit­i­cal uni­form. And if you have a uni­form, you have an army,” he writes in a May 2008 post.

    In one Jan­u­ary 2008 post, titled “How I stopped believ­ing in democ­ra­cy,” he decries the “George­town­ist world­view” of elites like the late diplo­mat George Ken­nan. Moldbug’s writ­ings, com­ing amid the fail­ure of the U.S. state-build­ing project in Iraq, are hard to parse clear­ly and are open to mul­ti­ple inter­pre­ta­tions, but the author seems aware that his views are provoca­tive. “It’s been a while since I post­ed any­thing real­ly con­tro­ver­sial and offen­sive here,” he begins in a July 25, 2007, post explain­ing why he asso­ciates democ­ra­cy with “war, tyran­ny, destruc­tion and pover­ty.”

    Mold­bug, who does not do inter­views and could not be reached for this sto­ry, has report­ed­ly opened up a line to the White House, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Ban­non and his aides through an inter­me­di­ary, accord­ing to a source. Yarvin said he has nev­er spo­ken with Ban­non. Dur­ing the tran­si­tion, he made clear his deep skep­ti­cism that the Rus­sians were behind the hack­ing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee, the source said—a mes­sage that Trump him­self reit­er­at­ed sev­er­al times.

    ...

    ———-

    “What Steve Ban­non Wants You to Read” by ELIANA JOHNSON and ELI STOKOLS; Politi­co; 02/07/2017

    Before he emerged on the polit­i­cal scene, an obscure Sil­i­con Val­ley com­put­er pro­gram­mer with ties to Trump backer and Pay­Pal co-founder Peter Thiel was explain­ing his behav­ior. Cur­tis Yarvin, the self-pro­claimed “neo­re­ac­tionary” who blogs under the name “Men­cius Mold­bug,” attract­ed a fol­low­ing in 2008 when he pub­lished a wordy trea­tise assert­ing, among oth­er things, that “non­sense is a more effec­tive orga­niz­ing tool than the truth.” When the orga­niz­er of a com­put­er sci­ence con­fer­ence can­celed Yarvin’s appear­ance fol­low­ing an out­cry over his blog­ging under his nom de web, Ban­non took note: Bre­it­bart News decried the act of cen­sor­ship in an arti­cle about the programmer-blogger’s dis­missal.”

    That’s right, Yarvin/Moldbug also hap­pens to be an asso­ciate of major Sil­i­con Val­ley Trump-backer Peter Thiel. And he’s open­ly writ­ten about the pow­er of dis­in­for­ma­tion as a kind of group loy­al­ty pledge. By open­ly embrac­ing non­sense, one can make their loy­al­ty clear to the group putting out this non­sense. Dis­in­for­ma­tion as a uni­form. And when you have enough peo­ple mak­ing that loy­al­ty pledge you have an army. And army of non­sense that is, nonethe­less, still an army:

    ...
    Moldbug’s dense, dis­cur­sive mus­ings on history—“What’s so bad about the Nazis?” he asks in one 2008 post that con­demns the Holo­caust but ques­tions the moral supe­ri­or­i­ty of the Allies—include a belief in the util­i­ty of spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion that now looks like a tem­plate for Trump’s approach to truth. “To believe in non­sense is an unforge­able [sic] demon­stra­tion of loy­al­ty. It serves as a polit­i­cal uni­form. And if you have a uni­form, you have an army,” he writes in a May 2008 post.
    ...

    So we find our­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where the right-wing response to far right ter­ror is pre­dictably to label it a left-wing false flag or hoax. And that’s hap­pen­ing in the larg­er con­text of the main­stream­ing of far right thought in gen­er­al. So we have to ask: is there’s a con­scious strat­e­gy at work here were far right attacks are cap­i­tal­ized upon by the far right using dis­in­for­ma­tion. In oth­er words, is pro­mo­tion of ‘false flag! Hoax!’ memes one of the goals of these kinds of ter­ror attacks? A strat­e­gy that revolves around cycle of ‘vio­lence + post-vio­lence dis­in­for­ma­tion’ where the dis­in­for­ma­tion is lit­er­al­ly intend­ed as a divide and con­quer tac­tic that forms its own infor­mal army?

    In oth­er words, just as Say­oc appears to have been seek­ing some kind of white suprema­cist approval with his actions, are the right-wing dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns also inten­tion­al­ly pro­mot­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion because it’s know that con­ser­v­a­tives want to stay in good stand­ing with ‘the tribe’ and will pas­sive­ly adopt what­ev­er dis­in­for­ma­tion is put out that ‘their side’ as part of some sort human instinct to show group loy­al­ty? It’s a ques­tion we have to ask, espe­cial­ly as Pres­i­dent Trump threat­ens to “tone up” his rhetoric. Because that’s not just a threat to make the Big Lie even big­ger. It’s also a threat to make the army of peo­ple who now reflex­ive­ly accept that Big Lie world­view as an act of trib­al loy­al­ty even more loy­al. Even more loy­al to Trump and the ever-grow­ing Big Lie.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 27, 2018, 4:03 pm
  5. Here’s a series of arti­cles that under­scores why online video game plat­forms like Steam have become pop­u­lar recruit­ment tools for neo-Nazis and oth­er extrem­ist move­ments:

    First, recall that we’ve already seen reports about how Steam’s chat forums were being used by neo-Nazis like Andrew Auern­heimer and Atom­waf­fen to recruit and one report about 173 dif­fer­ent chat rooms where school shoot­ings were being glo­ri­fied and pro­mot­ed. Also recall how a num­ber of neo-Nazi groups open­ly pro­mote ‘eth­nos­tate gang rapes’ as part of their vision/sales pitch for a neo-Nazi future.

    Recent­ly, Steam found itself in a rather uncom­fort­able posi­tion caused by the com­pa­ny’s vague and lax pol­i­cy regard­ing what con­sti­tutes inad­mis­si­ble gam­ing con­tent and a game devel­op­er who decid­ed to make what might be con­sid­ered the most moral­ly objec­tion­able game ever cre­at­ed. The game, ‘Rape Day’, has a tar­get mar­ket of the ‘four per cent of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion [who] are sociopaths’ and would enjoy play­ing a ‘men­ac­ing ser­i­al killer rapist dur­ing a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse’. That’s the descrip­tion pro­vid­ed by the game’s sole devel­op­er, who goes by the name “Desk Plant”. The game is lit­er­al­ly a ‘visu­al nov­el’ (sort of like a “choose you own adven­ture” video game) that puts the play­ing in con­trol of a rapist sociopath dur­ing a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse. So it’s more of a direct cel­e­bra­tion of ‘Incel’ cul­ture than neo-Nazi cul­ture, but giv­en the fre­quent cel­e­bra­tion of rape in neo-Nazi cul­ture it’s fair to see this game as a cel­e­bra­tion of both. And in a more gen­er­al sense it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of sociopa­thy, which is exact­ly how the design­er por­trays it.

    Despite that con­tent, ‘Rape Day’ man­aged to be adver­tised on Steam for weeks before its release. But it was put under a review process by Steam fol­low­ing a wave of com­plaints. Now, one would imag­ine that a game of this nature would­n’t pos­si­bly pass Steam’s review process, but it turns out that Steam’s pol­i­cy is to only bans games that are ille­gal or inten­tion­al ‘trolling’ and it was appar­ent­ly unclear if Rape Day vio­lat­ed those rules. Yes, the ques­tion of whether or not Steam, one of the most pop­u­lar gam­ing plat­forms on the plan­et, would allow a game made by a sociopath for oth­er sociopaths so they could vir­tu­al­ly indulge in socio­path­ic ram­pages was an open ques­tion that Steam recent­ly had to answer:

    Dai­ly Mail

    ‘Rape Day’ com­put­er game where play­ers sex­u­al­ly assault and mur­der women amidst scenes of necrophil­ia and incest sparks out­rage

    * Devel­op­er claims game is aimed at ‘four per cent of sociopaths in the pop­u­la­tion’
    * It lets play­ers con­trol a men­ac­ing ser­i­al killer rapist dur­ing a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse
    * Gam­ing plat­form Steam review­ing game to see if it breach­es its code of con­duct
    * But Steam has a ‘any­thing goes’ pol­i­cy and only bans ‘ille­gal’ or ‘trolling’ con­tent

    By Con­nor Boyd
    Pub­lished: 07:18 EST, 5 March 2019 | Updat­ed: 04:05 EST, 6 March 2019

    A new PC game that lets play­ers rape and kill women as they progress through its sto­ry of ‘vio­lence, sex­u­al assault, necrophil­ia and incest’ is due to be released this month despite out­rage.

    The devel­op­er of ‘Rape Day’ claims the game is aimed at the ‘four per cent of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion [who] are sociopaths’ and would enjoy play­ing a ‘men­ac­ing ser­i­al killer rapist dur­ing a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse’.

    Desk Plant, the one-man devel­op­er, even brags about its twist­ed sto­ry line in the descrip­tion on gam­ing plat­form Steam.

    It wrote: ‘Annoy, mur­der and rape women as you con­tin­ue the sto­ry. It’s a dan­ger­ous world with no laws. The zom­bies enjoy eat­ing the flesh off warm humans and bru­tal­ly rap­ing them but you are the most dan­ger­ous rapist in town.’

    In a grue­some screen­shot uploaded to Twit­ter, one scene showed the main char­ac­ter forc­ing a pis­tol into a young wom­an’s mouth with the sub­ti­tles: ‘I could blow your brains out and f*** your tight lit­tle p****right here.’

    The game also includ­ed a dis­turb­ing scene of a zom­bie drown­ing a baby before ‘mash­ing it up into pulp’.

    Steam has put the game under review after being inun­dat­ed with com­plaints fol­low­ing its release on Feb­ru­ary 19.

    The ‘visu­al nov­el’ — a genre where play­ers change the plot based on their deci­sions — is cur­rent­ly unavail­able to down­load while the gam­ing plat­form decides if it breach­es its poli­cies.

    Steam strict­ly only bans games that are ille­gal or inten­tion­al ‘trolling’. It’s unclear whether the game con­sti­tutes trolling under Steam’s rule.

    ...

    Ques­tions are now being asked as to how a game titled ‘Rape Day’ with such a brazen descrip­tion made it onto Steam in the first place.

    Accord­ing to devel­op­er guide­lines, a game must pass through a ‘brief review process’ before it can go live.

    But there is no sug­ges­tion that con­tent is reviewed as part of the process.

    In a FAQ, the devel­op­er said: ‘If peo­ple want my game to not exist... their best offense in my opin­ion would be to not talk about me, and not give me free press.

    ‘If both my game is banned and I am banned, then I will ensure that a con­tent plat­form for all kinds of legal, qual­i­ty porn games exist.’

    ———-

    “ ‘Rape Day’ com­put­er game where play­ers sex­u­al­ly assault and mur­der women amidst scenes of necrophil­ia and incest sparks out­rage” by Con­nor Boyd; Dai­ly Mail; 03/05/2019

    “The devel­op­er of ‘Rape Day’ claims the game is aimed at the ‘four per cent of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion [who] are sociopaths’ and would enjoy play­ing a ‘men­ac­ing ser­i­al killer rapist dur­ing a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse’.”

    A game by a sociopath for sociopaths. And it was appar­ent­ly on the verge of being approved for sale on the Steam plat­form with­out any mean­ing­ful review of the con­tent. It was only the out­cry of users that actu­al­ly trig­gered a review and even at that point it was still unclear if the game vio­lat­ed Steam’s rules which only ban ille­gal con­tent of “inten­tion­al trolling”:

    ...
    Steam has put the game under review after being inun­dat­ed with com­plaints fol­low­ing its release on Feb­ru­ary 19.

    The ‘visu­al nov­el’ — a genre where play­ers change the plot based on their deci­sions — is cur­rent­ly unavail­able to down­load while the gam­ing plat­form decides if it breach­es its poli­cies.

    Steam strict­ly only bans games that are ille­gal or inten­tion­al ‘trolling’. It’s unclear whether the game con­sti­tutes trolling under Steam’s rule.

    ...

    Ques­tions are now being asked as to how a game titled ‘Rape Day’ with such a brazen descrip­tion made it onto Steam in the first place.

    Accord­ing to devel­op­er guide­lines, a game must pass through a ‘brief review process’ before it can go live.

    But there is no sug­ges­tion that con­tent is reviewed as part of the process.
    ...

    So did Steam end up allow­ing ‘Rape Day’ to be sold on its plat­form? For­tu­nate­ly no, Steam pulled the game, but only after thou­sands of peo­ple signed a Change.org peti­tion call­ing for the game’s removal. But this deci­sion did­n’t appear to come with any sort of change or clar­i­fi­ca­tion of Steam’s poli­cies. The com­pa­ny stat­ed that “We sim­ply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct. We then have to make a judge­ment call about any risk it puts to Valve, our devel­op­er part­ners, or our cus­tomers. After sig­nif­i­cant fact-find­ing and dis­cus­sion, we think ‘Rape Day’ pos­es unknown costs and risks and there­fore won’t be on Steam,” adding, “We respect devel­op­ers’ desire to express them­selves, and the pur­pose of Steam is to help devel­op­ers find an audi­ence, but this devel­op­er has cho­sen con­tent mat­ter and a way of rep­re­sent­ing it that makes it very dif­fi­cult for us to help them do that.” So Steam’s offi­cial pol­i­cy for this kind of con­tent appears to be, ‘not this time, but we’ll see in the future!’:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    ‘Rape Day’ Game Where You Play as a ‘Dan­ger­ous Rapist’ Pulled After Back­lash

    The gam­ing plat­form Steam had adver­tised the con­tro­ver­sial title for weeks—much like Active Shoot­er, a school-shoot­ing game that was pulled fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar out­cry.

    Amy Zim­mer­man
    03.08.19 1:43 AM ET

    After a wave of social media back­lash, Steam, the pop­u­lar gam­ing plat­form, has announced that it will not be dis­trib­ut­ing a con­tro­ver­sial game called “Rape Day.”

    Pri­or to this lat­est state­ment on the Steam Blog, the pre­view page for “Rape Day” had been up and run­ning on the site for weeks. The pre-release page teased a “choose your own adven­ture visu­al nov­el” in which play­ers can “con­trol the choic­es of a men­ac­ing ser­i­al killer rapist dur­ing a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse.” The dis­turb­ing, since-delet­ed list­ing, which was report­ed­ly hid­den from reg­u­lar search results due to its sex­u­al­ly explic­it nature, offered a mature con­tent warn­ing for sex­u­al assault, necrophil­ia, and incest, to name just a few.

    ...

    Nat­u­ral­ly, “Rape Day” sparked con­tro­ver­sy in the lead-up to its doomed debut. A recent Change.org peti­tion addressed to the CEO of Valve Cor­po­ra­tion, which oper­ates Steam, called on the plat­form to stop “Rape Day” before it start­ed. “Rape is not a game and the mak­ers of this should not be allowed to make mon­ey pro­mot­ing the rape and killing of women,” the writer of the peti­tion urged.

    The cre­ator of the game has respond­ed to the peti­tion, as well as to oth­er cov­er­age of “Rape Day” and its back­lash, with: “lol.”

    As Busi­ness Insid­er not­ed before the game was offi­cial­ly pulled, “‘Rape Day’ puts Steam in a com­pro­mis­ing posi­tion; the game unapolo­get­i­cal­ly glo­ri­fies rape, and has lit­tle to offer in terms of actu­al game­play. Even if Steam isn’t pro­mot­ing the game, it would prof­it from every sale. While Steam has been reluc­tant to restrict con­tent on the grounds of free speech, there’s not much moral wig­gle room left in this sit­u­a­tion.”

    Two days and over 3,000 sup­port­ers lat­er, the Change.org peti­tion was updat­ed with a “vic­to­ry” bul­letin, link­ing to Steam’s recent announce­ment.

    This isn’t the first time Steam has been crit­i­cized for what Poly­gon has deemed its “hands-off approach to game cura­tion.” In May 2018, the plat­form weath­ered a sim­i­lar con­tro­ver­sy with “Active Shoot­er,” a school shoot­ing sim­u­la­tion game that saw its immi­nent release can­celled after intense back­lash; par­ents of school shoot­ing vic­tims were among the many out­raged. In an email state­ment, Valve’s Doug Lom­bar­di told The New York Times that “Active Shoot­er” “was a troll, designed to do noth­ing but gen­er­ate out­rage and cause con­flict through its exis­tence.”

    A sub­se­quent Steam blog post, dat­ed June 2018, attempt­ed to clar­i­fy the platform’s poli­cies, but ulti­mate­ly failed to pro­vide much clar­i­ty. “We’ve decid­ed that the right approach is to allow every­thing onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are ille­gal, or straight up trolling,” the post con­cludes. “As we men­tioned ear­li­er, laws vary around the world, so we’re going to need to han­dle this on a case-by-case basis. As a result, we will almost cer­tain­ly con­tin­ue to strug­gle with this one for a while. Our cur­rent think­ing is that we’re going to push devel­op­ers to fur­ther dis­close any poten­tial­ly prob­lem­at­ic con­tent in their games dur­ing the sub­mis­sion process.”

    At anoth­er point in the blog post, Valve empha­sized that, “If you’re a devel­op­er of offen­sive games, this isn’t us sid­ing with you against all the peo­ple you’re offending…Offending some­one shouldn’t take away your game’s voice. We believe you should be able to express your­self like every­one else, and to find oth­ers who want to play your game.”

    The devel­op­er of “Rape Day,” who goes by Desk Plant, wrote on their web­site that, “My game was prop­er­ly marked as adult and with a thor­ough descrip­tion of all of the poten­tial­ly offen­sive con­tent before the com­ing soon page went live on Steam.” PC Gamer report­ed that, “Valve’s out­line of the Steam Store page review process indi­cates that all list­ings are man­u­al­ly approved by Valve before they appear in the store.”

    ...

    In an email state­ment to The Dai­ly Beast, Desk Plant claimed that Steam’s deci­sion not to dis­trib­ute was dic­tat­ed by pub­lic opin­ion, as opposed to any sort of set pro­to­col. “I don’t think Steam has put much thought into their poli­cies and val­ues,” the game cre­ator wrote. “They have become a reac­tionary com­pa­ny that con­tin­u­al­ly changes its poli­cies based on exter­nal pres­sure and even lie about what they will do in the future, such as when they said they would not be the ‘taste police.’

    “I’m all for rules and lim­its,” the “Rape Day” devel­op­er con­tin­ued, “but a well thought out long term strat­e­gy might be a good idea for Steam to con­sid­er com­ing up with.”

    In their offi­cial state­ment on the game, the Steam team appeared to own this “reac­tionary” label, writ­ing, “We sim­ply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct. We then have to make a judge­ment call about any risk it puts to Valve, our devel­op­er part­ners, or our cus­tomers. After sig­nif­i­cant fact-find­ing and dis­cus­sion, we think ‘Rape Day’ pos­es unknown costs and risks and there­fore won’t be on Steam.”

    They added, “We respect devel­op­ers’ desire to express them­selves, and the pur­pose of Steam is to help devel­op­ers find an audi­ence, but this devel­op­er has cho­sen con­tent mat­ter and a way of rep­re­sent­ing it that makes it very dif­fi­cult for us to help them do that.”

    ———-

    “‘Rape Day’ Game Where You Play as a ‘Dan­ger­ous Rapist’ Pulled After Back­lash” by Amy Zim­mer­man; The Dai­ly Beast; 03/08/2019

    “As Busi­ness Insid­er not­ed before the game was offi­cial­ly pulled, “‘Rape Day’ puts Steam in a com­pro­mis­ing posi­tion; the game unapolo­get­i­cal­ly glo­ri­fies rape, and has lit­tle to offer in terms of actu­al game­play. Even if Steam isn’t pro­mot­ing the game, it would prof­it from every sale. While Steam has been reluc­tant to restrict con­tent on the grounds of free speech, there’s not much moral wig­gle room left in this sit­u­a­tion.”

    Yep, there was­n’t much moral wig­gle room left for Steam in this sit­u­a­tion. Even if the com­pa­ny tries to claim “free speech!”, the ‘free speech’ in ‘Rape Day’ is also ‘speech’ that Steam would be prof­it­ing from since it takes a cut of the sales. But it appears to the grow­ing back­lash was the ulti­mate fac­tor that deter­mined Steam’s actions:

    ...
    Nat­u­ral­ly, “Rape Day” sparked con­tro­ver­sy in the lead-up to its doomed debut. A recent Change.org peti­tion addressed to the CEO of Valve Cor­po­ra­tion, which oper­ates Steam, called on the plat­form to stop “Rape Day” before it start­ed. “Rape is not a game and the mak­ers of this should not be allowed to make mon­ey pro­mot­ing the rape and killing of women,” the writer of the peti­tion urged.

    The cre­ator of the game has respond­ed to the peti­tion, as well as to oth­er cov­er­age of “Rape Day” and its back­lash, with: “lol.”

    ...

    Two days and over 3,000 sup­port­ers lat­er, the Change.org peti­tion was updat­ed with a “vic­to­ry” bul­letin, link­ing to Steam’s recent announce­ment.
    ...

    And as the arti­cle notes, Steam ran into a sim­i­lar moral morass back in May of 2018 when the “Active Shoot­er” video game sim­u­lat­ing a school shoot­ing was about to be released until the back­lash forced Steam to pull the game. And it was in response to the Active Shoot­er con­tro­ver­sy that Steam attempt­ed to clar­i­fy its poli­cies with the dec­la­ra­tion that “We’ve decid­ed that the right approach is to allow every­thing onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are ille­gal, or straight up trolling”, along with the warn­ing that the com­pa­ny will con­tin­ue to han­dle this issue on a case-by-case basis. So the pol­i­cy that almost got ‘Rape Day’ approved for Steam until the back­lash is the same pol­i­cy that Steam artic­u­lat­ed in response to the ‘Active Shoot­er’ out­cry:

    ...
    This isn’t the first time Steam has been crit­i­cized for what Poly­gon has deemed its “hands-off approach to game cura­tion.” In May 2018, the plat­form weath­ered a sim­i­lar con­tro­ver­sy with “Active Shoot­er,” a school shoot­ing sim­u­la­tion game that saw its immi­nent release can­celled after intense back­lash; par­ents of school shoot­ing vic­tims were among the many out­raged. In an email state­ment, Valve’s Doug Lom­bar­di told The New York Times that “Active Shoot­er” “was a troll, designed to do noth­ing but gen­er­ate out­rage and cause con­flict through its exis­tence.”

    A sub­se­quent Steam blog post, dat­ed June 2018, attempt­ed to clar­i­fy the platform’s poli­cies, but ulti­mate­ly failed to pro­vide much clar­i­ty. “We’ve decid­ed that the right approach is to allow every­thing onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are ille­gal, or straight up trolling,” the post con­cludes. “As we men­tioned ear­li­er, laws vary around the world, so we’re going to need to han­dle this on a case-by-case basis. As a result, we will almost cer­tain­ly con­tin­ue to strug­gle with this one for a while. Our cur­rent think­ing is that we’re going to push devel­op­ers to fur­ther dis­close any poten­tial­ly prob­lem­at­ic con­tent in their games dur­ing the sub­mis­sion process.”

    At anoth­er point in the blog post, Valve empha­sized that, “If you’re a devel­op­er of offen­sive games, this isn’t us sid­ing with you against all the peo­ple you’re offending…Offending some­one shouldn’t take away your game’s voice. We believe you should be able to express your­self like every­one else, and to find oth­ers who want to play your game.”
    ...

    And now, in response to pulling ‘Rape Day’, Steam essen­tial­ly dou­ble-down on the pol­i­cy they state in June: the com­pa­ny reit­er­at­ed that it takes these things on a case-by-case basis, stat­ing, “We sim­ply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct. We then have to make a judge­ment call about any risk it puts to Valve, our devel­op­er part­ners, or our cus­tomers. After sig­nif­i­cant fact-find­ing and dis­cus­sion, we think ‘Rape Day’ pos­es unknown costs and risks and there­fore won’t be on Steam”:

    ...
    In their offi­cial state­ment on the game, the Steam team appeared to own this “reac­tionary” label, writ­ing, “We sim­ply have to wait and see what comes to us via Steam Direct. We then have to make a judge­ment call about any risk it puts to Valve, our devel­op­er part­ners, or our cus­tomers. After sig­nif­i­cant fact-find­ing and dis­cus­sion, we think ‘Rape Day’ pos­es unknown costs and risks and there­fore won’t be on Steam.”

    They added, “We respect devel­op­ers’ desire to express them­selves, and the pur­pose of Steam is to help devel­op­ers find an audi­ence, but this devel­op­er has cho­sen con­tent mat­ter and a way of rep­re­sent­ing it that makes it very dif­fi­cult for us to help them do that.”
    ...

    And that’s why we prob­a­bly should expect a lot more ‘games’ of this nature: the offi­cial Steam pol­i­cy is basi­cal­ly, ‘as long as it’s not overt­ly ille­gal or overt trolling, we’ll see.’ And those appear to be the sole guide­lines for devel­op­ers. Make your grotesque game and we’ll see if it gets approved.

    So it’s a pret­ty bad sign that Steam appar­ent­ly does­n’t review the con­tent of games unless there’s some sort of pub­lic out­cry. And this is on top of Steam’s forums get­ting used to as neo-Nazi recruit­ment tools. But regard­ing the use of the chat forums, in fair­ness it’s impor­tant to note the scale of the chal­lenge of mod­er­at­ing them. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, Steam alone has about 130 mil­lion active play­ers:

    Nation­al Pub­lic Radio

    Right-Wing Hate Groups Are Recruit­ing Video Gamers

    Anya Kamenetz
    Novem­ber 5, 2018 10:37 AM ET

    John, a father of two in Col­orado, had no idea what his 15-year-old son had got­ten into, until one night last year when John walked into his home office. We’re not using his last name to pro­tect his son’s pri­va­cy.

    John saw a large pile of papers face­down next to his print­er. He turned them over and found a copy of a noto­ri­ous neo-Nazi pro­pa­gan­da book. “It’s ‘the white cul­ture’s in trou­ble, we are under attack by Jews, blacks, every oth­er minor­i­ty.’ It was scary. It was absolute­ly fright­en­ing to even see that in my house. I was shak­ing, like, ‘What in the world is this and why is it in my house?’ ”

    John con­front­ed his son angri­ly.

    “I was through the roof.” And then, “I went back into my room. I was cry­ing. I felt like a fail­ure that a child that I had raised would be remote­ly inter­est­ed in that sort of stuff.”

    Almost every teen plays video games — 97 per­cent of boys, accord­ing to the Pew Research Cen­ter, and 83 per­cent of girls.

    Increas­ing­ly, these games are played online, with strangers. And experts say that while it’s by no means com­mon, online games — and the asso­ci­at­ed chat rooms, livestreams and oth­er chan­nels — have become one avenue for recruit­ment by right-wing extrem­ist groups.

    At the time, John’s son liked play­ing first-per­son shoot­er games, like Coun­ter­strike: Glob­al Offen­sive. Games like these are mul­ti­play­er — you must form teams with friends or strangers. You can chat in the game, over voice or text, or in sep­a­rate chat rooms. Some of these are host­ed by sites like Dis­cord that make it easy for any­one to cre­ate a pri­vate chat.

    John knew his son was spend­ing time play­ing video games and chat­ting either out loud or over text, but there were no obvi­ous red flags.

    “There was­n’t any­thing obvi­ous to me at first because it’s com­mon. This is the norm for kids. Instead of hang­ing out at the dri­ve-in they’re all online,” he said.

    Yet it’s exact­ly this way, John says, that his son start­ed hang­ing out with avowed white suprema­cists.

    These peo­ple became his son’s friends. They talked to him about prob­lems he was hav­ing at school, and sug­gest­ed some of his African-Amer­i­can class­mates as scape­goats. They also keyed into his inter­est in his­to­ry, espe­cial­ly mil­i­tary his­to­ry, and in Nordic mythol­o­gy. Above all, they offered him mem­ber­ship in a hier­ar­chy: whites against oth­ers.

    “He start­ed to feel like he was in on some­thing. He was now in the in crowd with these guys. It pro­vid­ed some struc­ture and iden­ti­ty that he was search­ing for at the time.”

    John learned his son had been drawn into con­ver­sa­tion with at least one group that the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter calls a Nazi ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. He searched online for help and found a man named Chris­t­ian Pic­ci­oli­ni.

    Pic­ci­oli­ni runs the Free Rad­i­cals project, which he calls “a glob­al pre­ven­tion net­work for extrem­ism.” He’s a reformed skin­head him­self.

    “Thir­ty years ago, when I was involved in the white suprema­cist move­ment, it was very much a face to face inter­ac­tion,” he says. “You know, you had to meet some­body to be recruit­ed, or you had a pam­phlet or a fly­er put on your car.”

    But today, he says, it’s much more com­mon for extrem­ists to ini­tial­ly reach out online. And that includes over kids’ head­sets dur­ing video games. Pic­ci­oli­ni describes the process: “Well typ­i­cal­ly, they’ll start out with drop­ping slurs about dif­fer­ent races or reli­gions and kind of test the waters ... Once they sense that they’ve got their hooks in them they ramp it up, and then they start send­ing pro­pa­gan­da, links to oth­er sites, or they start talk­ing about these old kind of racist anti-Semit­ic tropes.”

    That’s also what Joan Dono­van has seen. She is the media manip­u­la­tion research lead at Data and Soci­ety, a research insti­tute, and she has been fol­low­ing white suprema­cists online for years. She says they’ve been high­ly inno­v­a­tive in using new online spaces, like mes­sage boards in the ’90s, for recruit­ment.

    “I saw how these groups com­mu­ni­cat­ed and spread out to oth­er spaces online with the intent of not telling peo­ple specif­i­cal­ly that they were white suprema­cists, but they were real­ly try­ing to fig­ure out what young men were angry about and how they could lever­age that to bring about a broad-based social move­ment.”

    And vio­lent first-per­son shoot­er games, she says, are one place to find angry young men. She calls “gam­ing cul­ture” “one of the spaces of recruit­ment that must be addressed.”

    Dono­van says that recruit­ment, and even the plan­ning of harass­ment cam­paigns, hap­pens not only dur­ing in-game chat, but dur­ing livestream­ing of game play on plat­forms like Twitch and YouTube.

    For exam­ple, there’s a fea­ture on YouTube called Super Chat, where fans can offer cash tips while gamers are play­ing.

    “Peo­ple will donate 14 dol­lars and 88 cents, which is a ref­er­ence to ... a white nation­al­ist slo­gan, as well as 88, which is most com­mon­ly found in prison tat­toos, for Heil Hitler,” Dono­van said.

    Game-relat­ed Red­dit threads and chat sites like Dis­cord also host sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tions. Last year, a non­prof­it media col­lec­tive called Uni­corn Riot pub­lished chat logs from Dis­cord in which known white suprema­cists planned aspects of the Char­lottesville “Unite The Right” ral­ly.

    Video games are a hun­dred bil­lion dol­lar indus­try.

    What are com­pa­nies’ respon­si­bil­i­ties to ensure that young peo­ple won’t encounter hate groups? We reached out to sev­er­al game and chat com­pa­nies for com­ment. Riot Games not­ed in a state­ment that it relies on vol­un­teers to mod­er­ate game-relat­ed chats. And Dis­cord, the cha­t­room site, for­ward­ed a state­ment from the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter, prais­ing it for recent­ly ban­ning sev­er­al far-right extrem­ist com­mu­ni­ties.

    Greg Boyd, who rep­re­sents video game com­pa­nies for the law firm Frank­furt Kur­nit, says “tox­ic” behav­ior includ­ing hate speech, to say noth­ing of recruit­ment, is a key indus­try con­cern and a fre­quent top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion. “If they could find it all they would get rid of it ASAP.”

    But it’s a daunt­ing tech­ni­cal chal­lenge. The three biggest video game plat­forms — Microsoft, PlaySta­tion and Steam — host 48 mil­lion, 70 mil­lion and 130 mil­lion month­ly active play­ers respec­tive­ly, Boyd says. “That’s the pop­u­la­tions of Spain, France and Rus­sia. And then imag­ine that you’re mon­i­tor­ing all of their text chat ... all of their voice chat, in lit­er­al­ly every lan­guage, dialect, and sub­di­alect spo­ken in the world.”

    In the absence of suf­fi­cient resources for mod­er­a­tion, most game plat­forms rely on play­ers to mon­i­tor and report each oth­er.

    Pic­ci­oli­ni com­pares the com­pa­nies to land­lords with dis­rup­tive ten­ants “dis­rupt­ing or dam­ag­ing the build­ing or threat­en­ing the oth­er ten­ants. You know, they would take action.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Right-Wing Hate Groups Are Recruit­ing Video Gamers” by Anya Kamenetz; Nation­al Pub­lic Radio; 11/05/2018

    But it’s a daunt­ing tech­ni­cal chal­lenge. The three biggest video game plat­forms — Microsoft, PlaySta­tion and Steam — host 48 mil­lion, 70 mil­lion and 130 mil­lion month­ly active play­ers respec­tive­ly, Boyd says. “That’s the pop­u­la­tions of Spain, France and Rus­sia. And then imag­ine that you’re mon­i­tor­ing all of their text chat ... all of their voice chat, in lit­er­al­ly every lan­guage, dialect, and sub­di­alect spo­ken in the world.””

    So we have to acknowl­edge that extreme tech­ni­cal chal­lenge fac­ing Steam and all of the oth­er pop­u­lar gam­ing plat­forms: mon­i­tor­ing the chats of 130 mil­lion active users, tak­ing place in lit­er­al­ly every lan­guage, and detect­ing the kind of often sub­tle recruit­ment tac­tics of neo-Nazis and oth­er extrem­ists is basi­cal­ly impos­si­ble at this point. In the future you could imag­ine some sort of AI han­dling a lot of this mon­i­tor­ing, but for now, it’s basi­cal­ly up to self-mod­er­a­tion and users report­ing abus­es.

    At the same time, we have to acknowl­edge that it’s a lot eas­i­er to review the con­tent of games than it hun­dreds of mil­lions of chats and the fact of the mat­ter is that Steam almost allowed ‘Rape Day’ to go on sale and only appeared to even both­er review­ing the con­tent of the game fol­low­ing the user out­cry. So, yes, Steam has some enor­mous tech­ni­cal chal­lenges it faces if it’s going to do any­thing mean­ing­ful about its chat forums become extrem­ist recruit­ment plat­forms. But Steam had far few­er tech­ni­cal chal­lenges regard­ing the pre­ven­tion of an Incel video game and still almost failed spec­tac­u­lar­ly. If there had­n’t been that pub­lic out­cry it’s hard to see what oth­er­wise would have stopped this game from going on sale. So there are clear­ly oth­er issues, in addi­tion to the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges, fuel­ing this sit­u­a­tion on one of those issues appears to be Steam’s ‘any­thing goes (until there’s a pub­lic out­cry)’ pol­i­cy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 13, 2019, 1:50 pm

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