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

For The Record  

FTR #948 Walkin’ the Snake with Breitbart: The Gathering Sturm

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

Serpent's WalkIntro­duc­tion: The title of the pro­gram refers to the Nazi tract Ser­pen­t’s Walk. The back cov­er of that book sums up the essence of the tome: ” . . . It assumes that Hitler’s war­rior elite — the SS — did­n’t give up their strug­gle for a White world when they lost the Sec­ond World War. Instead their sur­vivors went under­ground and adopt­ed some of their tac­tics of their ene­mies: they began build­ing their eco­nom­ic mus­cle and buy­ing into the opin­ion-form­ing media. A cen­tu­ry after the war they are ready to chal­lenge the democ­rats and Jews for the hearts and minds of White Amer­i­cans, who have begun to have their fill of gov­ern­ment-enforced mul­ti-cul­tur­al­ism and ‘equal­i­ty.’ . . .”

The “opin­ion-form­ing media” in 2017 has crys­tal­lized into a fright­en­ing­ly dom­i­nant enti­ty, the Bre­it­bart­ian engine of Steven Ban­non, Robert Mer­cer, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca and the lat­ter’s par­ent com­pa­ny SCL. An arti­cle from The Guardian sets forth this ter­ri­fy­ing devel­op­ment. (Note that, due to the lim­i­ta­tions of time, we were not able to read the entire sto­ry. The arti­cle will be the cen­ter­piece of a fol­low-up pro­gram.)

Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca and its par­ent com­pa­ny SCL, spe­cial­ize in using AI and Big Data psy­cho­me­t­ric analy­sis on hun­dreds of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in order to mod­el indi­vid­ual behav­ior. SCL devel­ops strate­gies to use that infor­ma­tion, and manip­u­late search engine results to change pub­lic opin­ion (the Trump cam­paign was appar­ent­ly very big into AI and Big Data dur­ing the cam­paign).

Indi­vid­ual social media users receive mes­sages craft­ed to influ­ence them, gen­er­at­ed by the Nazi AI at the core of this media engine, using Big Data to tar­get the indi­vid­ual user!

As the arti­cle notes, not only are Cam­bridge Analytica/SCL are using their pro­pa­gan­da tech­niques to shape US pub­lic opin­ion in a fas­cist direc­tion, but they are achiev­ing this by uti­liz­ing their pro­pa­gan­da machine to char­ac­ter­ize all news out­lets to the left of Bri­et­bart as “fake news” that can’t be trust­ed.

In short, the secre­tive far-right bil­lion­aire (Robert Mer­cer), joined at the hip with Steve Ban­non, is run­ning mul­ti­ple firms spe­cial­iz­ing in mass psy­cho­me­t­ric pro­fil­ing based on data col­lect­ed from Face­book and oth­er social media. Mercer/Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using Naz­i­fied AI and Big Data to devel­op mass pro­pa­gan­da cam­paigns to turn the pub­lic against every­thing that isn’t Bri­et­bart­ian by con­vinc­ing the pub­lic that all non-Bri­et­bart­ian media out­lets are con­spir­ing to lie to the pub­lic.

This is the ulti­mate Ser­pen­t’s Walk scenario–a Naz­i­fied Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence draw­ing on Big Data gleaned from the world’s inter­net and social media oper­a­tions to shape pub­lic opin­ion, tar­get indi­vid­ual users, shape search engine results and even feed­back to Trump while he is giv­ing press con­fer­ences!

We begin the pro­gram with a “sign of the times.”  Some­thing of a barom­e­ter for the present polit­i­cal cli­mate is New York Times colum­nist Paul Krug­man’s recog­ni­tion that: Are you angry about the white nation­al­ist takeover of the U.S. gov­ern­ment? . . . Does any­one doubt it? And giv­en this real­i­ty, it’s com­plete­ly rea­son­able to wor­ry that Amer­i­ca will go the route of oth­er nations like Hun­gary, which remain democ­ra­cies on paper but have become author­i­tar­i­an states in prac­tice. . . .”

After dis­cussing Bre­it­bart alum­nus Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s role as the point man for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s counter-jihadist strat­e­gy, the pro­gram fur­ther devel­ops his roots in Hun­gar­i­an fas­cism, past and present. ” . . . . But an inves­ti­ga­tion by the For­ward into Gorka’s activ­i­ties from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hun­gar­i­an pol­i­tics and jour­nal­ism, found that he had close ties then to Hun­gar­i­an far-right cir­cles, and has in the past cho­sen to work with open­ly racist and anti-Semit­ic groups and pub­lic fig­ures. Gorka’s involve­ment with the far right includes co-found­ing a polit­i­cal par­ty with for­mer promi­nent mem­bers of Job­bik, a polit­i­cal par­ty with a well-known his­to­ry of anti-Semi­tism; repeat­ed­ly pub­lish­ing arti­cles in a news­pa­per known for its anti-Semit­ic and racist con­tent; and attend­ing events with some of Hungary’s most noto­ri­ous extreme-right fig­ures. . . . In the Unit­ed States, Gor­ka, who was appoint­ed deputy assis­tant to the pres­i­dent on Jan­u­ary 20, is known as a tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor, a pro­fes­sor and an “alt-right” writer who describes him­self as a coun­tert­er­ror­ism expert. A close asso­ciate of Stephen Ban­non, Trump’s chief strate­gist, Gor­ka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group. The new­ly formed group con­sists of fig­ures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil in for­mu­lat­ing poli­cies for the pres­i­dent.”

Turn­ing to the well-pub­li­cized issue of what is por­trayed as “anti-ille­gal” immi­grant pol­i­cy, we note DHS Sec­re­tary John Kel­ly’s recruit­ment of local law enforce­ment offi­cers as fed­er­al immi­gra­tion enforcers, a sig­nif­i­cant step from a stand­point of the con­sti­tu­tion.

The Trumpenkampfver­bande is mov­ing to pub­li­cize crimes actu­al­ly, or alleged­ly, com­mit­ted by ille­gal immi­grants, a tac­tic that was used by Hitler to max­i­mize anti-Semi­tism in Ger­many. When the Ger­man pop­u­lace proved insuf­fi­cient­ly respon­sive to Nazi anti-Semit­ic pol­i­cy, crimes com­mit­ted by Jews became a high-pro­file pro­pa­gan­da fea­ture of the Reich. “ . . . . In The Nazi Con­science, Duke his­to­ri­an Clau­dia Koonz notes that the Nazi news­pa­per Der Sturmer ran a fea­ture called ‘Let­ter Box,’ which pub­lished read­ers’ accounts of Jew­ish crimes. When the Nazis took pow­er, the Ger­man state began doing some­thing sim­i­lar. Frus­trat­ed by the fail­ure of most Ger­mans to par­tic­i­pate in a boy­cott of Jew­ish busi­ness­es in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s gov­ern­ment began pub­li­ciz­ing Jew­ish crime sta­tis­tics as a way of stok­ing anti-Semi­tism. In Nazi Ger­many and the Jews: The Years of Per­se­cu­tion, the his­to­ri­an Saul Fried­lan­der notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Min­istry of Jus­tice ordered pros­e­cu­tors to for­ward every crim­i­nal indict­ment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could pub­li­cize it. . . .

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • The Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s appar­ent intent to stop mon­i­tor­ing the activ­i­ties of domes­tic fas­cist and white suprema­cist hate groups.
  • The League of the South’s for­ma­tion of a para­mil­i­tary cadre, designed with an eye to being dep­u­tized as enforcers by fed­er­al, state or local gov­ern­ments.
  • The Lithuan­ian cel­e­bra­tion of Third Reich col­lab­o­ra­tor Kazys Skir­pa, who was por­trayed as Pepe the Frog, an Amer­i­can “Alt-Right” meme.
  • The appoint­ment of Chrys­tia Free­land as Cana­di­an For­eign Minister–her grand­fa­ther was a major Ukrain­ian fas­cist and Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor. This appears to have mint­ed her anti-Russ­ian dog­ma.

1a. Some­thing of a barom­e­ter for the present polit­i­cal cli­mate is New York Times colum­nist Paul Krug­man’s recog­ni­tion that: Are you angry about the white nation­al­ist takeover of the U.S. gov­ern­ment? . . . Does any­one doubt it? And giv­en this real­i­ty, it’s com­plete­ly rea­son­able to wor­ry that Amer­i­ca will go the route of oth­er nations like Hun­gary, which remain democ­ra­cies on paper but have become author­i­tar­i­an states in prac­tice. . . .”

“The Uses of Out­rage” by Paul Krug­man; The New York Times; 2/27/2017.

Are you angry about the white nation­al­ist takeover of the U.S. gov­ern­ment? . . . Does any­one doubt it? And giv­en this real­i­ty, it’s com­plete­ly rea­son­able to wor­ry that Amer­i­ca will go the route of oth­er nations like Hun­gary, which remain democ­ra­cies on paper but have become author­i­tar­i­an states in prac­tice. . . .

1b. In FTR #947, we high­light­ed Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, a Bre­it­bart alum­nus and Hun­gar­i­an fas­cist. Gor­ka is now the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s point man work­ing against ter­ror­ism. His view (and Ban­non’s) that we are engaged in an his­toric clash of civ­i­liza­tions. That is pre­cise­ly the point of view expressed by ISIS and will play into their hands.

That, in turn, will help pro­pel the U.S. into more end­less wars on the periph­ery of our empire, ulti­mate­ly sap­ping the nation’s vital­i­ty and lead­ing to the fall of the U.S. in a man­ner delin­eat­ed in FTR #944.

“The Islam­o­pho­bic Huck­ster in the White House” by Steven Simon and Daniel Ben­jamin; The New York Times; 2/24/2017.

The new point man for the Trump administration’s counter­jihadist team is Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, an itin­er­ant instruc­tor in the doc­trine of irreg­u­lar war­fare and for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty edi­tor at Bre­it­bart. Stephen K. Ban­non and Stephen Miller, the chief com­mis­sars of the Trump White House, have framed Islam as an ene­my ide­ol­o­gy and pre­dict­ed a his­toric clash of civ­i­liza­tions.

Mr. Gor­ka, who has been appoint­ed deputy assis­tant to the pres­i­dent, is the expert they have empow­ered to trans­late their pre­dic­tion into nation­al strat­e­gy. Mr. Gor­ka was born and raised in Britain, the son of Hun­gar­i­an émi­grés. As a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in post ­Com­mu­nist Hun­gary, he acquired a doc­tor­ate and involved him­self with ultra­na­tion­al­ist pol­i­tics. He lat­er moved to the Unit­ed States and became a cit­i­zen five years ago, while build­ing a career mod­er­at­ing mil­i­tary sem­i­nars and estab­lish­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as an ill-­in­formed Islam­o­phobe. (He has respond­ed to such claims by stat­ing that he has read the Quran in trans­la­tion.) . . .

2. It turns out Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka has a long and exten­sive rela­tion­ship with the Hun­gar­i­an far-right, includ­ing found­ing a Hun­gar­i­an polit­i­cal par­ty with two promi­nent mem­bers of Job­bik. In FTR #947, we not­ed that a mem­ber of Job­bik had writ­ten a glow­ing pref­ace to a vol­ume authored by fas­cist ide­o­logue Julius Evola, one of the philo­soph­i­cal iflu­ences on Stephen Ban­non.

“Exclu­sive: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semit­ic Groups In Hun­gary” by Lili Bay­er; For­ward; 2/24/2017.

When pho­tographs recent­ly emerged show­ing Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s high-pro­file deputy assis­tant, wear­ing a medal asso­ci­at­ed with the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist regime that ruled Hun­gary dur­ing World War II, the con­tro­ver­sial secu­ri­ty strate­gist was unapolo­getic.

“I’m a proud Amer­i­can now and I wear that medal now and again,” Gor­ka told Bre­it­bart News. Gor­ka, 46, who was born in Britain to Hun­gar­i­an par­ents and is now an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, asked rhetor­i­cal­ly, “Why? To remind myself of where I came from, what my par­ents suf­fered under both the Nazis and the Com­mu­nists, and to help me in my work today.”

But an inves­ti­ga­tion by the For­ward into Gorka’s activ­i­ties from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hun­gar­i­an pol­i­tics and jour­nal­ism, found that he had close ties then to Hun­gar­i­an far-right cir­cles, and has in the past cho­sen to work with open­ly racist and anti-Semit­ic groups and pub­lic fig­ures.

Gorka’s involve­ment with the far right includes co-found­ing a polit­i­cal par­ty with for­mer promi­nent mem­bers of Job­bik, a polit­i­cal par­ty with a well-known his­to­ry of anti-Semi­tism; repeat­ed­ly pub­lish­ing arti­cles in a news­pa­per known for its anti-Semit­ic and racist con­tent; and attend­ing events with some of Hungary’s most noto­ri­ous extreme-right fig­ures.

When Gor­ka was asked — in an email exchange with the For­ward — about the anti-Semit­ic records of some of the groups and indi­vid­u­als he has worked with, he instead piv­ot­ed to talk about his family’s his­to­ry.

“My par­ents, as chil­dren, lived through the night­mare of WWII and the hor­rors of the Nyi­las pup­pet fas­cist regime,” he said, refer­ring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hun­gary near the very end of World War II and mur­dered thou­sands of Jews.

In the Unit­ed States, Gor­ka, who was appoint­ed deputy assis­tant to the pres­i­dent on Jan­u­ary 20, is known as a tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor, a pro­fes­sor and an “alt-right” writer who describes him­self as a coun­tert­er­ror­ism expert. A close asso­ciate of Stephen Ban­non, Trump’s chief strate­gist, Gor­ka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group. The new­ly formed group con­sists of fig­ures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil in for­mu­lat­ing poli­cies for the pres­i­dent.

Gor­ka, who views Islam as a reli­gion with an inher­ent predilec­tion for mil­i­tan­cy, has strong sup­port­ers among some right-lean­ing think tanks in Wash­ing­ton. “Dr. Gor­ka is one of the most knowl­edge­able, well-read and stud­ied experts on nation­al secu­ri­ty that I’ve ever met,” Joseph Humire, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for a Secure Free Soci­ety, told the For­ward. Humire has known Gor­ka for near­ly a decade, and con­sid­ers him “top-notch.”

Born in Lon­don to par­ents who fled Hungary’s post-World War II Com­mu­nist regime, Gor­ka has had a career that’s marked by fre­quent job changes and shift­ing nation­al alle­giances. The U.S. gov­ern­ment is the third sov­er­eign state to hire him in a nation­al secu­ri­ty role. As a young man, he was a mem­ber of the Unit­ed Kingdom’s Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Army reserves, where he served in the Intel­li­gence Corps. Then, fol­low­ing the fall of Com­mu­nism in Hun­gary, he was employed in 1992 by the country’s Min­istry of Defense. He worked there for five years, appar­ent­ly on issues relat­ed to Hungary’s acces­sion to NATO.

Gorka’s mar­riage in 1996 to an Amer­i­can, Katharine Cor­nell, an heir to Penn­syl­va­nia-based Cor­nell Iron Works, helped him become a U.S. cit­i­zen in 2012.

A Web of Deep Ties to Hungary’s Far Right

It was dur­ing his time in Hun­gary that Gor­ka devel­oped ties to the country’s anti-Semit­ic and ultra­na­tion­al­ist far right.

Dur­ing large-scale anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions in Hun­gary in 2006, Gor­ka took on an active role, becom­ing close­ly involved with a protest group called the Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Com­mit­tee (Mag­yar Nemzeti Bizottság). Gor­ka took on the roles of trans­la­tor, press coor­di­na­tor and advis­er for the group.

Among the four Com­mit­tee mem­bers named as the group’s polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives was Lás­zló Toroczkai, then head of the 64 Coun­ties Youth Move­ment. Toroczkai found­ed that group in 2001 to advo­cate for the return of parts of mod­ern-day Ser­bia, Slo­va­kia, Roma­nia and Ukraine to form a Greater Hun­gary, restor­ing the country’s pre-World War I bor­ders.

In 2004, two years before the Movement’s involve­ment in the 2006 protests, Hun­gar­i­an author­i­ties opened an inves­ti­ga­tion into the Movement’s news­pa­per, Mag­yar Jelen, when an arti­cle referred to Jews as “Gali­cian upstarts” and went on to argue: “We should get them out. In fact, we need to take back our coun­try from them, take back our stolen for­tunes. After all, these upstarts are suck­ing on our blood, get­ting rich off our blood.” At the time of the article’s pub­li­ca­tion, Toroczkai was both an edi­tor at the paper and the Movement’s offi­cial leader.
Gor­ka co-found­ed his polit­i­cal par­ty with three oth­er politi­cians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Mol­nár and Atti­la Bégány, were for­mer mem­bers of Job­bik. Mol­nár, a senior Job­bik politi­cian, served as the party’s vice pres­i­dent until short­ly before join­ing Gorka’s new ini­tia­tive, and was also a mem­ber of the Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Com­mit­tee dur­ing the 2006 protests, issu­ing state­ments togeth­er with extrem­ist mil­i­tant fig­ures such as Toroczkai.
Toroczkai cur­rent­ly serves as vice pres­i­dent of Job­bik and is the may­or of a vil­lage near the bor­der Hun­gary shares with Ser­bia. Last year, he gained noto­ri­ety in the West for declar­ing a goal of ban­ning Mus­lims and gays from his town.

In Jan­u­ary 2007, inspired by the 2006 protests and his expe­ri­ence with the Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Com­mit­tee, Gor­ka announced plans to form a new polit­i­cal par­ty, to be known as the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coali­tion. Gor­ka had pre­vi­ous­ly served as an advis­er to Vik­tor Orbán, now Hungary’s right-wing nation­al­ist prime min­is­ter. But fol­low­ing Orbán’s failed attempts to bring down Hungary’s then-Social­ist gov­ern­ment, Gor­ka grew dis­en­chant­ed with Orbán’s Fidesz par­ty.

In his email exchange with the For­ward for this arti­cle, Gor­ka explained: “The Coali­tion was estab­lished in direct response to the unhealthy pat­terns vis­i­ble at the time in Hun­gar­i­an con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics. It became appar­ent to me that the effect of decades of Com­mu­nist dic­ta­tor­ship had tak­en a deep­er toll on civ­il soci­ety than was expect­ed.”

Gor­ka co-found­ed his polit­i­cal par­ty with three oth­er politi­cians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Mol­nár and Atti­la Bégány, were for­mer mem­bers of Job­bik. Mol­nár, a senior Job­bik politi­cian, served as the party’s vice pres­i­dent until short­ly before join­ing Gorka’s new ini­tia­tive, and was also a mem­ber of the Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Com­mit­tee dur­ing the 2006 protests, issu­ing state­ments togeth­er with extrem­ist mil­i­tant fig­ures such as Toroczkai.

Job­bik has a long his­to­ry of anti-Semi­tism. In 2006, when Gorka’s polit­i­cal allies were still mem­bers of Job­bik, the party’s offi­cial online blog includ­ed arti­cles such as “The Roots of Jew­ish Ter­ror­ism” and “Where Were the Jews in 1956?”, a ref­er­ence to the country’s rev­o­lu­tion against Sovi­et rule. In one speech in 2010, Job­bik leader Gabor Vona said that “under com­mu­nism we licked Moscow’s boots, now we lick Brus­sels’ and Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s.”

In found­ing the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coali­tion, Gor­ka and the for­mer Job­bik politi­cians aimed to rep­re­sent “con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues, decid­ed­ly stand­ing up to cor­rup­tion and bring­ing Chris­tian­i­ty into the Con­sti­tu­tion,” accord­ing to the party’s orig­i­nal pol­i­cy pro­gram. At the time, Hungary’s con­sti­tu­tion was sec­u­lar.

The party’s founders did not see them­selves as far right or anti-Semit­ic.

“I knew Gor­ka as a strong­ly Atlanti­cist, con­ser­v­a­tive per­son,” Mol­nár, the for­mer Job­bik vice pres­i­dent and co-founder of Gorka’s par­ty, told the For­ward in a phone con­ver­sa­tion. He added that he could not imag­ine Gor­ka hav­ing anti-Semit­ic views.

Mol­nár first met Gor­ka at a book launch event for Gorka’s father, Pál Gor­ka, in 2002. The younger Gor­ka and Mol­nár became friends, bond­ing over their shared inter­est in the his­to­ry of Hungary’s 1956 rev­o­lu­tion and the fact that both had par­ents who were jailed under the country’s Com­mu­nist regime.

Mol­nár became involved with Job­bik in 2003, in the far-right party’s ear­ly days, and quit in 2006. In his words, “Job­bik went in a mil­i­tant direc­tion that I did not like.”

Gor­ka rejects the notion that he knew any of his polit­i­cal allies had con­nec­tions to the far right.

“I only knew Mol­nár as an artist and Bégány as a for­mer con­ser­v­a­tive local politi­cian (MDF if I recall),” Gor­ka wrote in response to a ques­tion regard­ing the Job­bik affil­i­a­tions of his for­mer par­ty co-founders. “What they did after I left Hun­gary is not some­thing I fol­lowed.” (MDF is an acronym for the Hun­gar­i­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic Forum, a now-defunct cen­ter-right par­ty.)

In fact, both Mol­nár and Bégány were mem­bers of Job­bik before, and not after, they found­ed the new par­ty with Gor­ka. Mol­nár was Jobbik’s high-pro­file vice pres­i­dent until Sep­tem­ber 2006, before he, Gor­ka and Bégány launched the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coali­tion in ear­ly 2007.

Gor­ka appeared at a press con­fer­ence with Mol­nár on Sep­tem­ber 21, 2006 — one day after Mol­nár resigned his posi­tion as Jobbik’s vice pres­i­dent. Gor­ka was also pho­tographed on Sep­tem­ber 23, 2006, wear­ing a badge with the Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Committee’s logo as he was stand­ing next to Mol­nár at a podi­um while Mol­nár briefed the press on the Committee’s activ­i­ties. At the time Gor­ka was mak­ing these pub­lic appear­ances with the Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Committee’s lead­er­ship, extreme-right leader Toroczkai was already a top mem­ber of the Com­mit­tee.

Bégány, mean­while, had indeed been a mem­ber of MDF for a time, but in 2005 he joined Job­bik and served for­mal­ly as a mem­ber of Budapest’s Dis­trict 5 Coun­cil rep­re­sent­ing the far-right par­ty. Bégány’s for­mal par­ty biog­ra­phy, post­ed on the Job­bik web­site in 2006, said it is his “belief that with­out belong­ing to the Hun­gar­i­an nation or to God it is pos­si­ble to live, but not worth it.” Like Mol­nár, Bégány left Job­bik only a few months before start­ing the new par­ty with Gor­ka.

Mol­nár, Bégány and the Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Com­mit­tee were not Gorka’s only con­nec­tion to far-right cir­cles. Between 2006 and 2007, Gor­ka wrote a series of arti­cles in Mag­yar Demokra­ta, a news­pa­per known for pub­lish­ing the writ­ings of promi­nent anti-Semit­ic and racist Hun­gar­i­an pub­lic fig­ures.

The newspaper’s edi­tor-in-chief, András Benc­sik, is noto­ri­ous in Hun­gary for his own long-stand­ing anti-Semit­ic views. In 1995, the Hun­gar­i­an Jew­ish pub­li­ca­tion Szom­bat crit­i­cized Benc­sik for writ­ing that “the sol­id cap­i­tal, which the Jews got after Auschwitz, has run out.” That same year, Szom­bat not­ed, Benc­sik wrote in Mag­yar Demokra­ta, “In Hun­gary the chief con­flict is between nation­al and cos­mopoli­tan aspi­ra­tions.” In Hun­gar­i­an soci­ety, “cos­mopoli­tan” is gen­er­al­ly a code word for Jews.

In Decem­ber 2004, the U.S. State Depart­ment report­ed blunt­ly to Con­gress that, “the week­ly news­pa­per Mag­yar Demokra­ta pub­lished anti-Semit­ic arti­cles and fea­tured arti­cles by authors who have denied the Holo­caust.”

In the sum­mer of 2007, Benc­sik became one of the founders of the Hun­gar­i­an Guard, a now-banned para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion known for assault­ing and intim­i­dat­ing mem­bers of Hungary’s Roma com­mu­ni­ty. The per­pe­tra­tors in a spate of racial­ly moti­vat­ed mur­ders of Roma in 2008 and 2009 were found to have con­nec­tions to the Guard.

Gorka’s arti­cles for Mag­yar Demokra­ta focused not only on decry­ing Hungary’s then-Social­ist gov­ern­ment, but also on high­light­ing the per­ceived injus­tices of the Treaty of Ver­sailles, the post-World War I agree­ment that led to the loss of two-thirds of pre­war Hungary’s ter­ri­to­ry.

“We fought on the wrong side of a war for which we were not respon­si­ble, and were pun­ished to an extent that was like­ly even more unjust — with the excep­tion of the dis­mem­ber­ment of the Ottoman Empire — than any oth­er pun­ish­ment in the mod­ern age,” Gor­ka wrote in a 2006 arti­cle in Mag­yar Demokra­ta.

Asked about his choice of jour­nal­is­tic out­lets, Gor­ka wrote, “I am […] unfa­mil­iar with Benc­sik. I believe it was one of his col­leagues who asked me if I want­ed to write some OpE­ds.” Gor­ka told the For­ward that his writ­ing at the time shows “how every­thing I did was in the inter­ests of a more trans­par­ent and healthy democ­ra­cy in Hun­gary. This includ­ed a rejec­tion of all revan­chist ten­den­cies and xeno­pho­bic cliques.”

Gorka’s claim to be unfa­mil­iar with Benc­sik must be weighed against his deep immer­sion in Hun­gar­i­an pol­i­tics and Benscik’s sta­tus as a major fig­ure in Hungary’s right-wing polit­i­cal scene. At the time, Gor­ka gave pub­lic inter­views as an “expert” on the Hun­gar­i­an Guard, which Benc­sik helped to found. In one 2007 inter­view, Gor­ka clar­i­fied his own view of the Guard, say­ing, “It’s not worth talk­ing about ban­ning” the group. Despite its extreme rhetoric against minori­ties, Gor­ka said, “The gov­ern­ment and media are inflat­ing this ques­tion.”

An Affin­i­ty for Nation­al­ist Sym­bols

It was in mid-Feb­ru­ary that Gorka’s affin­i­ty for Hun­gar­i­an nation­al­ist and far-right ideas first came to the Amer­i­can public’s atten­tion. Eli Clifton of the news web­site Lobel­og noticed from a pho­to­graph that the new deputy assis­tant to the pres­i­dent had appeared at an inau­gu­ra­tion ball in Jan­u­ary wear­ing a Hun­gar­i­an medal known as Vitézi Rend. The medal sig­ni­fies a knight­ly order of mer­it found­ed in 1920 by Admi­ral Mik­los Hor­thy, Hungary’s long­time anti-Semit­ic ruler and Hitler’s ally dur­ing World War II. Notwith­stand­ing this alliance, and the group’s des­ig­na­tion as Nazi-col­lab­o­ra­tors by the U.S. State Depart­ment, many with­in Hungary’s right revere Hor­thy for his staunch nation­al­ism dur­ing the over­all course of his rule from 1920 to 1944.

Bre­it­bart, the “alt-right” pub­li­ca­tion, where Gor­ka him­self served as nation­al secu­ri­ty edi­tor pri­or to join­ing the White House staff, defend­ed his wardrobe choice, writ­ing on Feb­ru­ary 14 that, “as any of his Bre­it­bart News col­leagues could tes­ti­fy, Gor­ka is not only pro-Israel but ‘pro-Jew­ish,’ and defends both against the threat of rad­i­cal Islam­ic ter­ror­ism.”

“In 1979 my father was award­ed a dec­la­ra­tion for his resis­tance to a dic­ta­tor­ship, and although he passed away 14 years ago, I wear that medal in remem­brance of what my fam­i­ly went through and what it rep­re­sents today, to me, as an Amer­i­can,” Gor­ka told Breibart on Feb­ru­ary 15, as the con­tro­ver­sy regard­ing his choice to wear a Hor­thy-era medal inten­si­fied.

But the medal was not the first time Gor­ka expressed appre­ci­a­tion for sym­bols that many asso­ciate with Hungary’s World War II-era Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers. In 2006, Gor­ka defend­ed the use of the Arpad flag, which Hungary’s mur­der­ous Arrow Cross Par­ty used as their sym­bol. The Hun­gar­i­an Arrow Cross Par­ty killed thou­sands of Jews dur­ing World War II, shoot­ing many of them along­side the Danube Riv­er and throw­ing them into the water. Gor­ka told the news agency JTA at the time that “if you say eight cen­turies of his­to­ry can be erad­i­cat­ed by 18 months of fas­cist dis­tor­tion of sym­bols, you’re los­ing his­toric per­spec­tive.”

Gorka’s Unlike­ly Trans­for­ma­tion

After the fail­ure of his new par­ty in 2007, Gor­ka moved to the Unit­ed States and over the past 10 years has worked for the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, Marine Corps Uni­ver­si­ty, Nation­al Defense Uni­ver­si­ty, and Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Uni­ver­si­ty.

For­mer col­leagues in the States ques­tioned the qual­i­ty of Gorka’s work on Islam, and said that he shied away from pub­lish­ing in peer-reviewed jour­nals, accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Retired Lt. Col. Mike Lewis told the Post that when Gor­ka was lec­tur­ing to mem­bers of the armed forces, he “made a dif­fi­cult and com­plex sit­u­a­tion sim­ple and con­firmed the offi­cers’ prej­u­dices and assump­tions.”

But Humire, of the Cen­ter for a Secure Free Soci­ety, defend­ed Gorka’s world­view. “Since I’ve known him he has been empha­siz­ing a point that is not prop­er­ly under­stood by most con­ven­tion­al coun­tert­er­ror­ism experts,” said Humire, “that the mod­ern bat­tle­field is fought with words, images, and ideas, not just bombs and bul­lets. If you study asym­met­ric war, this empha­sizes the men­tal bat­tle of attri­tion and the moral bat­tle of legit­i­ma­cy over the phys­i­cal bat­tle for the ter­rain. Dr. Gor­ka under­stands this at a very high lev­el and has taught this to our war fight­ers for sev­er­al years,” said Humire.

3. The sus­te­nance of Nazi/fascist ori­en­ta­tion through gen­er­a­tions is evi­dent in the her­itage of Chris­tia Free­land, a Ukrain­ian descend­ed from, and deeply influ­enced by, her grand­fa­ther, an OUN/B fas­cist who worked with the Nazis.

“. . . . Chrys­tia Freeland’s dark fam­i­ly secret is that her grand­fa­ther, Mykhai­lo Cho­mi­ak, faith­ful­ly served Nazi Ger­many right up to its sur­ren­der, and Chomiak’s fam­i­ly only moved to Cana­da after the Third Reich was defeat­ed by the Sovi­et Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhai­lo Cho­mi­ak was not a vic­tim of the war – he was on the side of the Ger­man aggres­sors who col­lab­o­rat­ed with Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists in killing Rus­sians, Jews, Poles and oth­er minori­ties. For­mer jour­nal­ist Free­land chose to white­wash her fam­i­ly his­to­ry to leave out her grandfather’s ser­vice to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might nev­er have achieved a suc­cess­ful polit­i­cal career in Cana­da. Her fierce hos­til­i­ty toward Rus­sia also might be viewed in a dif­fer­ent light. . . .

. . . . After the start of World War II, the Nazi admin­is­tra­tion appoint­ed Cho­mi­ak to be edi­tor of the news­pa­per Krakivs­ki Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Cho­mi­ak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occu­pied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the com­mand of Gov­er­nor-Gen­er­al Hans Frank, the man who orga­nized the Holo­caust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was direct­ly super­vised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press depart­ment in the Pol­ish Gen­er­al Gov­ern­ment.

Mikhai­lo Cho­mi­ak com­fort­ably set­tled his fam­i­ly into a for­mer Jew­ish (or Aryanized) apart­ment in Krakow. The edi­to­r­i­al offices for Krakivs­ki Visti also were tak­en from a Jew­ish own­er, Krakow’s Pol­ish-lan­guage Jew­ish news­pa­per Nowy Dzi­en­nik. Its edi­tor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was cap­tured fol­low­ing the occu­pa­tion of Gali­cia and sent to the Belzec exter­mi­na­tion camp, where he was mur­dered along with 600,000 oth­er Jews. . . .

. . . . As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi pro­pa­gan­dist Emil Gassner took Mykhai­lo Cho­mi­ak in 1944 to Vien­na where Krakivs­ki Visti con­tin­ued to pub­lish. As the Third Reich crum­bled, Cho­mi­ak left with the retreat­ing Ger­man Army and sur­ren­dered to the Amer­i­cans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his fam­i­ly in a spe­cial U.S. mil­i­tary intel­li­gence facil­i­ty in Bad Wör­ishofen, a clus­ter of hotels sit­u­at­ed 78 kilo­me­ters from Munich in the foothills of the Alps. . . .”

“A Nazi Skele­ton in the Fam­i­ly Clos­et” by Ari­na Tsukono­va; Con­sor­tium News; 2/27/2017.

On Jan. 10, Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau replaced For­eign Min­is­ter Stephane Dion with Chrys­tia Free­land, a for­mer jour­nal­ist proud of her Ukrain­ian roots and well-known for her hos­til­i­ty toward Rus­sia. At the time, a big ques­tion in Ottawa was why. Some ana­lysts believed that Trudeau’s deci­sion may have start­ed when it still seemed like­ly that Hillary Clin­ton would become the new U.S. pres­i­dent and a tough line against Moscow was expect­ed in Wash­ing­ton. . . .

. . . . Peo­ple who have fol­lowed Freeland’s career were aware that her idée fixe for decades has been that Ukraine must be ripped out of the Russ­ian sphere of influ­ence. Her views fit with the intense Ukrain­ian nation­al­ism of her mater­nal grand­par­ents who immi­grat­ed to Cana­da after World War II and whom she has por­trayed as vic­tims of Josef Stal­in and the Red Army. . . .

. . . . By the next decade, work­ing as the U.S. man­ag­ing edi­tor of The Finan­cial Times, she proud­ly inter­viewed then-Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko, who had won con­trol as a result of the 2004 “Orange Rev­o­lu­tion.” In her approach to jour­nal­ism, Free­land made clear her com­mit­ment to foment Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian ten­sions in any pos­si­ble way. Indeed, dur­ing her jour­nal­is­tic career, which end­ed in 2013 when she won a seat in Canada’s par­lia­ment, Free­land remained fierce­ly anti-Russ­ian.

In 2014, Yushchenko’s rival Vik­tor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s elect­ed pres­i­dent while Cana­di­an MP Free­land urged on the “Euro-Maid­an” protests against Yanukovych and his desire to main­tain friend­ly rela­tions with Moscow. On Jan. 27, 2014, as the protests grew more vio­lent with ultra-nation­al­ist street fight­ers mov­ing to the fore­front and fire­bomb­ing police, Free­land vis­it­ed Kiev and pub­lished an op-ed in The Globe and Mail blam­ing the vio­lence on Yanukovych.

“Demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues are rarely chal­lenged as direct­ly as they are being today in Ukraine,” Free­land wrote, argu­ing that the pro­test­ers, not the elect­ed pres­i­dent, rep­re­sent­ed democ­ra­cy and the rule of law. “Their vic­to­ry will be a vic­to­ry for us all; their defeat will weak­en democ­ra­cy far from the Euro­maid­an. We are all Ukraini­ans now. Let’s do what we can — which is a lot — to sup­port them.” . . .

. . . . Chrys­tia Freeland’s dark fam­i­ly secret is that her grand­fa­ther, Mykhai­lo Cho­mi­ak, faith­ful­ly served Nazi Ger­many right up to its sur­ren­der, and Chomiak’s fam­i­ly only moved to Cana­da after the Third Reich was defeat­ed by the Sovi­et Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhai­lo Cho­mi­ak was not a vic­tim of the war – he was on the side of the Ger­man aggres­sors who col­lab­o­rat­ed with Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists in killing Rus­sians, Jews, Poles and oth­er minori­ties. For­mer jour­nal­ist Free­land chose to white­wash her fam­i­ly his­to­ry to leave out her grandfather’s ser­vice to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might nev­er have achieved a suc­cess­ful polit­i­cal career in Cana­da. Her fierce hos­til­i­ty toward Rus­sia also might be viewed in a dif­fer­ent light.

Freeland’s Grand­fa­ther

Accord­ing to Cana­di­an sources, Cho­mi­ak grad­u­at­ed from Lviv Uni­ver­si­ty in west­ern Ukraine with a Master’s Degree in Law and Polit­i­cal Sci­ence. He began a career with the Gali­cian news­pa­per Dilo (Action), pub­lished in Lviv. After the start of World War II, the Nazi admin­is­tra­tion appoint­ed Cho­mi­ak to be edi­tor of the news­pa­per Krakivs­ki Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Cho­mi­ak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occu­pied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the com­mand of Gov­er­nor-Gen­er­al Hans Frank, the man who orga­nized the Holo­caust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was direct­ly super­vised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press depart­ment in the Pol­ish Gen­er­al Gov­ern­ment.

Mikhai­lo Cho­mi­ak com­fort­ably set­tled his fam­i­ly into a for­mer Jew­ish (or Aryanized) apart­ment in Krakow. The edi­to­r­i­al offices for Krakivs­ki Visti also were tak­en from a Jew­ish own­er, Krakow’s Pol­ish-lan­guage Jew­ish news­pa­per Nowy Dzi­en­nik. Its edi­tor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was cap­tured fol­low­ing the occu­pa­tion of Gali­cia and sent to the Belzec exter­mi­na­tion camp, where he was mur­dered along with 600,000 oth­er Jews.

So, it appears Freeland’s grand­fa­ther – rather than being a help­less vic­tim – was giv­en a pres­ti­gious job to spread Nazi pro­pa­gan­da, prais­ing Hitler from a pub­lish­ing house stolen from Jews and giv­en to Ukraini­ans who shared the val­ues of Nazism.

On April 24, 1940, Krakivs­ki Visti pub­lished a full-page pan­e­gyric to Adolf Hitler ded­i­cat­ed to his 51st birth­day (four days ear­li­er). Cho­mi­ak also hailed Gov­er­nor-Gen­er­al Hans Frank: “The Ukrain­ian pop­u­la­tion were over­joyed to see the estab­lish­ment of fair Ger­man author­i­ty, the bear­er of which is you, Sir Gov­er­nor-Gen­er­al. The Ukrain­ian peo­ple expressed this joy not only through the flow­ers they threw to the Ger­man troops enter­ing the region, but also through the sac­ri­fices of blood required to fight Pol­ish usurpers.” (Because of Frank’s role in the Holo­caust, the Nurem­berg Tri­bunal found him guilty of crimes against human­i­ty and exe­cut­ed him.)

Beyond extolling Hitler and his hench­men, Cho­mi­ak rejoiced over Nazi mil­i­tary vic­to­ries, includ­ing the ter­ror bomb­ings of Great Britain. While prais­ing the Third Reich, Krakivs­ki Visti was also under orders by the Ger­man author­i­ties to stir up hatred against the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion. Edi­to­r­i­al selec­tions from Chomiak’s news­pa­per can be found in Holo­caust muse­ums around the world, such as the one in Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia.

The Nov. 6, 1941 issue of Krakivs­ki Visti ecsta­t­i­cal­ly describes how much bet­ter Kiev is with­out Jews. “There is not a sin­gle one left in Kiev today, while there were 350,000 under the Bol­she­viks,” the news­pa­per wrote, gloat­ing that the Jews “got their come­up­pance.”

That “come­up­pance” refers to the mass shoot­ing of Kiev’s Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion at Babi Yar. In just two days, Sept. 29–30, 1941, a total of 33,771 peo­ple were mur­dered, a fig­ure that does not include chil­dren younger than three years old. There were more shoot­ings in Octo­ber, and by ear­ly Novem­ber, Krakivs­ki Visti was enthus­ing over a city where the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion had “dis­ap­peared” mak­ing Kiev “beau­ti­ful, glo­ri­ous.” Chomiak’s edi­to­ri­als also described a Poland “iinfect­ed by Jews.”

 

Accord­ing to John-Paul Him­ka, a Cana­di­an his­to­ri­an of Ukrain­ian ori­gin, Krakivs­ki Visti stirred up emo­tions against Jews, cre­at­ing an atmos­phere con­ducive to mass mur­der. In 2008, the Insti­tute of His­tor­i­cal Research at Lviv Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty pub­lished a paper co-authored by Him­ka enti­tled “What Was the Atti­tude of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists toward the Jews?” The paper states that, by order of the Ger­man author­i­ties, Krakivs­ki Visti pub­lished a series of arti­cles between June and Sep­tem­ber 1943 under the title “Yids in Ukraine” that were writ­ten in an extreme­ly anti-Semit­ic and pro-Nazi vein. The Cana­di­an his­to­ri­an writes that Jews were por­trayed as crim­i­nals, while Ukraini­ans were por­trayed as vic­tims.

Refuge in Cana­da

As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi pro­pa­gan­dist Emil Gassner took Mykhai­lo Cho­mi­ak in 1944 to Vien­na where Krakivs­ki Visti con­tin­ued to pub­lish. As the Third Reich crum­bled, Cho­mi­ak left with the retreat­ing Ger­man Army and sur­ren­dered to the Amer­i­cans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his fam­i­ly in a spe­cial U.S. mil­i­tary intel­li­gence facil­i­ty in Bad Wör­ishofen, a clus­ter of hotels sit­u­at­ed 78 kilo­me­ters from Munich in the foothills of the Alps. . . .

4a. DHS sec­re­tary John Kel­ly has imple­ment­ed an “anti-immi­grant” offen­sive that pro­vides for the de fac­to fed­er­al dep­u­ti­za­tion of local law enforce­ment offi­cers as enforcers of immi­gra­tion law. This is an enor­mous legal/constitutional step. It is one that might be viewed as creep­ing mar­tial law.

In FTR #864, among oth­er pro­grams, we high­light­ed how nativist, “anti-immi­grant” sen­ti­ment was a fun­da­men­tal part of the fas­cist world view in the 1930s and 1940s.

“Mr. Trump’s ‘Depor­ta­tion Force’ Pre­pares an Assault on Amer­i­can Val­ues;” The New York Times; 2/21/2017.

The home­land secu­ri­ty sec­re­tary, John Kel­ly, issued a remark­able pair of mem­os on Tues­day. They are the bat­tle plan for the “depor­ta­tion force” Pres­i­dent Trump promised in the cam­paign.

They are remark­able for how com­plete­ly they turn sen­si­ble immi­gra­tion poli­cies upside down and back­ward. For how they seek to make the depor­ta­tion machin­ery more extreme and fright­en­ing (and expen­sive), to the detri­ment of deeply held Amer­i­can val­ues.

A quick flash­back: The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion rec­og­nized that mil­lions of unau­tho­rized immi­grants, espe­cial­ly those with cit­i­zen chil­dren and strong ties to their com­mu­ni­ties and this coun­try, deserved a chance to stay and get right with the law. It tried to focus on deport­ing dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals, nation­al-secu­ri­ty threats and recent bor­der crossers.

Mr. Kel­ly has swept away those notions. He makes prac­ti­cal­ly every deportable per­son a depor­ta­tion pri­or­i­ty. He wants every­body, start­ing with those who have been con­vict­ed of any crime, no mat­ter how pet­ty or old. Pro­por­tion­al­i­ty, dis­cre­tion, the idea that some con­vic­tions are unjust, the prin­ci­ples behind crim­i­nal-jus­tice reform — these con­cepts do not apply.

The tar­gets now don’t even have to be crim­i­nals. They could sim­ply have been accused of a crime (that is, still pre­sumed “inno­cent”) or have done some­thing that makes an immi­gra­tion agent believe that they might pos­si­bly face charges.

Mr. Kel­ly includ­ed a catchall pro­vi­sion allow­ing Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment offi­cers or Bor­der Patrol agents — or local police offi­cers or sheriff’s deputies — to take in any­one they think could be “a risk to pub­lic safe­ty or nation­al secu­ri­ty.” That is a recipe for polic­ing abus­es and racial pro­fil­ing, a pos­si­bil­i­ty that Mr. Kel­ly will vast­ly expand if Con­gress gives him the huge sums required to hire 10,000 ICE offi­cers and 5,000 Bor­der Patrol agents.

He wants to “surge,” his verb, the hir­ing of immi­gra­tion judges and asy­lum offi­cers. He wants to add pro­cess­ing and deten­tion cen­ters, which sure­ly has the pri­vate-prison indus­try sali­vat­ing at the prof­its to come.

He wants to ramp up pro­grams dep­u­tiz­ing state and local law enforce­ment offi­cers as immi­gra­tion enforcers. He calls them “a high­ly suc­cess­ful force mul­ti­pli­er,” which is true if you want a drag­net. It’s not true if you want to fight crime effec­tive­ly and keep com­mu­ni­ties safe. When every local law enforce­ment encounter can be a pre­lude to depor­ta­tion, unau­tho­rized immi­grants will fear and avoid the police. And when state and local offi­cers untrained in immi­gra­tion law sud­den­ly get to decide who stays and who goes, the risk of injus­tice is pro­found.

So is the dan­ger to due process. Cur­rent pro­ce­dure allows for swift­ly deport­ing, with­out a hear­ing, immi­grants who are caught near the bor­der and who entered very recent­ly. But Mr. Kel­ly notes that the law allows him to fast-track the removal of immi­grants caught any­where in the coun­try who can­not prove they have been here “con­tin­u­ous­ly” for at least two years. He’s keep­ing his options open about whether to short-cir­cuit due process with a coast-to-coast show-me-your-papers pol­i­cy.

He plans to pub­lish data on crimes com­mit­ted by unau­tho­rized immi­grants, and to iden­ti­fy state and local juris­dic­tions that release immi­grants from cus­tody. Why? To pro­mote the false idea, as Mr. Trump has shame­ful­ly done, that immi­grants pose par­tic­u­lar safe­ty risks and to pun­ish so-called sanc­tu­ary cities that, for rea­sons of pub­lic order and decen­cy, are try­ing to dis­con­nect them­selves from ICE.

This is how Mr. Trump’s rant­i­ngs about “bad hom­bres” and alien rapist ter­ror­ists have now been weaponized, in cold bureau­crat­ic lan­guage.

Mr. Kel­ly promised before his con­fir­ma­tion to be a rea­son­able enforcer of defen­si­ble poli­cies. But immi­grants have rea­son to be fright­ened by his sud­den align­ment with Mr. Trump’s nativism. So does every Amer­i­can who believes that the coun­try is, or should be, com­mit­ted to the sen­si­ble, pro­por­tion­ate appli­ca­tion of laws, wel­com­ing to immi­grants, and respect­ful of the facts.

4b. The Trumpenkampfver­bande is remov­ing fed­er­al scruti­ny of white suprema­cist groups.

“ ‘Trump Is Set­ting Us Free:’ White Suprema­cists  Cel­e­brate Reports that Trump Will Dial Down Scruti­ny” by Lau­rel Ray­mond and Alan Pyke; Think Progress; 2/3/2017.“This

Is Absolute­ly a Sig­nal of Favor to Us”

Online neo-Nazi and white suprema­cist forums have been unmis­tak­ably jubi­lant late­ly, as web chat­ter moved from cel­e­brat­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­toral vic­to­ry to cel­e­brat­ing indi­vid­ual cab­i­net appoint­ments and pol­i­cy pro­pos­als.

On Thurs­day, inter­net racists cel­e­brat­ed anoth­er per­ceived vic­to­ry: Reports that Pres­i­dent Trump will soon remove white nation­al­ist groups from a fed­er­al effort to study and neu­tral­ize extrem­ist rad­i­cal­iza­tion, and rebrand the pro­gram to focus sole­ly on groups asso­ci­at­ing them­selves with Islam.

“Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Don­ald Trump is set­ting us free.”

The Coun­ter­ing Vio­lent Extrem­ism (CVE) pro­gram part­ners gov­ern­ment agen­cies with com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions in hopes of pre­vent­ing peo­ple from being rad­i­cal­ized into var­i­ous types of ter­ror and hate groups. Its pri­ma­ry focus has always been in Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, but the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion designed it to also encom­pass the Amer­i­can far-right groups that pro­pa­gan­dize to peo­ple like Dylann Roof.

News of Trump’s plan to reverse that sym­bol­ic recog­ni­tion of right-wing threats prompt­ed a wave of cel­e­bra­tion in white nation­al­ist cir­cles.

“Don­ald Trump wants to remove us from undue fed­er­al scruti­ny by remov­ing ‘white suprema­cists’ from the def­i­n­i­tion of ‘extrem­ism,’” the founder and edi­tor of the neo-Nazi web­site The Dai­ly Stormer (which takes its name from a Nazi pro­pa­gan­da pub­li­ca­tion) wrote in a post on the site. “Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Don­ald Trump is set­ting us free.”

This inter­pre­ta­tion over­states the scope of Reuter’s report some­what. The meme-filled Dai­ly Stormer post alleges that chang­ing the CVE pro­gram and renam­ing it to focus sole­ly on “Islam­ic extrem­ism,” as Trump puts it, would also extend to to call­ing off FBI scruti­ny and tak­ing white suprema­cists and neo-Nazis off of extrem­ist data­bas­es. That would actu­al­ly require sep­a­rate action from Trump.

But in Trump’s move to take even some mea­sure of scruti­ny off of far-right extrem­ism, The Dai­ly Stormer sees a direct par­rot­ing of their own writ­ing and a reward for the far-right’s role in get­ting Trump elect­ed.

“It’s fair to say that if the Trump team is not lis­ten­ing to us direct­ly (I assume they are), they are think­ing along very sim­i­lar lines. We helped get Trump get [sic] elect­ed, and the fact of the mat­ter is, with­out Alt-Right meme mag­ick, it sim­ply wouldn’t have hap­pened,” the post con­tin­ues. “This is absolute­ly a sig­nal of favor to us.”

Anoth­er neo-Nazi site that asso­ciates itself with the so-called “alt-right,” Infos­tormer, cel­e­brat­ed the news and took it as a sign of sup­port. “We may tru­ly have under­es­ti­mat­ed Pres­i­dent Trump’s covert sup­port of our Cause (at least in some form), but after this pro­pos­al, I am ful­ly ready to offer myself in ser­vice of this glo­ri­ous regime” the post reads.

This cel­e­bra­to­ry cov­er­age of the news spread wide­ly through white nation­al­ist forums and chat rooms.

Com­menters at Storm­front rejoiced.

“Amaz­ing my gov­ern­ment no longer tar­gets me as an ene­my,” wrote one. “It’s now offi­cial­ly under­stood at the the high­est lev­els that we are soooo much bet­ter than the kid­nap­per ter­ror­ist pedophile left,” wrote anoth­er.

On the mes­sag­ing ser­vice Gab, which has become a favorite of white nation­al­ists after Twit­ter start­ed clos­ing some high-pro­file accounts for hate speech, users glee­ful­ly post­ed links to the Infowars cov­er­age of the news, main­stream news cov­er­age, and the Dai­ly Stormer arti­cle, often tag­ging the posts #MAGA and edi­to­ri­al­iz­ing their cel­e­bra­tion of the news.

Trump’s pres­i­den­cy has been met with wide­spread cel­e­bra­tion by white suprema­cist groups, many of which rec­og­nized Trump’s “Amer­i­ca first” rhetoric as their own.

Civ­il lib­er­ties orga­ni­za­tions and lib­er­tar­i­an observers have long crit­i­cized the CVE pro­gram as a coun­ter­pro­duc­tive white­wash of gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance of Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. A for­mer offi­cial with the pro­gram told CNN that in prac­tice, the con­tro­ver­sial pro­gram has always focused on Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, and thus that Trump’s most sub­stan­tial pro­posed change is the renam­ing of the pro­gram. Accord­ing to Reuters, Trump would rechris­ten it the “Coun­ter­ing Islam­ic Extrem­ism” or the “Coun­ter­ing Rad­i­cal Islam­ic Extrem­ism” pro­gram.

Much of the white suprema­cist cel­e­bra­tion seems to revolve around the pro­posed name change alone.

Only one orga­ni­za­tion has thus far won a CVE grant for work focused on hate group de-rad­i­cal­iza­tion. Life After Hate, found­ed in 2009 and run by a small staff of men and women who were once part of skin­head, Aryan, and oth­er vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions, has yet to receive the grant it was award­ed last sum­mer.

Life After Hate co-founder Chris­t­ian Pic­ci­oli­ni called Trump’s report­ed plan “extreme­ly trou­bling,” cit­ing the sig­nal it sends to hate groups.

“It sends a mes­sage that white extrem­ism does not exist, or is not a pri­or­i­ty in our coun­try, when in fact it is a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly larg­er and more present ter­ror threat than any by for­eign or oth­er domes­tic actors,” LAH’s Chris­t­ian Pic­ci­oli­ni told ThinkProgress. “We have hun­dreds of thou­sands of home­grown sov­er­eign cit­i­zens and mili­tia mem­bers with ties to white nation­al­ism train­ing in para­mil­i­tary camps across the U.S. and stand­ing armed in front of mosques to intim­i­date mar­gin­al­ized Amer­i­cans.”

“It sends a mes­sage that white extrem­ism does not exist.”

With the pro­posed change, Pic­ci­oli­ni wor­ries Trump could even end up increas­ing the like­li­hood of vio­lence with­in our bor­ders if he does alter the pro­gram to ignore white suprema­cists, mili­tia groups, and so-called “sov­er­eign cit­i­zens.” Since 9/11, attacks from right-wing orga­ni­za­tions have killed far more Amer­i­cans than groups claim­ing to be Islam­ic, accord­ing to data from the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter.

The move “could bol­ster and legit­imize vio­lent white extrem­ism while also poten­tial­ly serv­ing to rad­i­cal­ize dis­af­fect­ed fringe ele­ments with­in Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

“This deci­sion, if true, would severe­ly harm or destroy any com­mu­ni­ty-led efforts to help­ing peo­ple dis­en­gage from vio­lent extrem­ism and poten­tial­ly stop future ter­ror­ist acts.”

4c. The League of the South has formed a vig­i­lante “South­ern Defense Force,” intend­ed to com­bat “the left­ist men­ace.” But it’s not exclu­sive­ly intend­ed to be vig­i­lante in nature. If state and local author­i­ties ever feel the need to dep­u­tize pri­vate cit­i­zens, this new ‘South­ern Defense Force’ is plan­ning on fill­ing that role too.

The poten­tial dep­u­ti­za­tion of the “South­ern Defense Force” should be eval­u­at­ed against the back­ground of the mar­tial law con­tin­gency plans devel­oped by Oliv­er North. Those plans, as dis­cussed most recent­ly in FTR #945, involved the dep­u­ti­za­tion of para­mil­i­tary right-wingers and their use as fed­er­al enforcers in the event of an “emer­gency.”

“League of the South Announces For­ma­tion of ‘South­ern Defense Force’” by Hate­watch Staff; South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter; 2/6/2017.

Edg­ing clos­er to mil­i­tan­cy, the neo-Con­fed­er­ate League of the South says it’s form­ing a force to com­bat the ‘left­ist men­ace to our his­toric Chris­t­ian civ­i­liza­tion.’

In a mil­i­tary-styled order titled “Direc­tive 02022017,” Michael Hill, pres­i­dent of the neo-Con­fed­er­ate League of the South (LOS), announced Fri­day the for­ma­tion of a new vig­i­lante “defense force.”

[T]he League of the South is call­ing for all able-bod­ied, tra­di­tion­al­ist South­ern men to join our organization’s South­ern Defense Force for the pur­pose of help­ing our State and local mag­is­trates across Dix­ie com­bat this grow­ing left­ist men­ace to our his­toric Chris­t­ian civ­i­liza­tion. As pri­vate cit­i­zens in a pri­vate orga­ni­za­tion, we will stand ready to pro­tect our own fam­i­lies and friends, our prop­er­ty, and our lib­er­ty from left­ist chaos. More­over, we will be ready to assist our local and State author­i­ties in keep­ing the peace should they find it nec­es­sary to “dep­u­tize” pri­vate cit­i­zens for that pur­pose.

It remains to be seen what actions the new “South­ern Defense Force” [SDF] will take to “plan for con­tin­gen­cies – nat­ur­al or man-made –– that might affect the South­ern peo­ple.” But announce­ments of plans to mil­i­ta­rize the League are not new.

In 2014, the group began devel­op­ing and train­ing a para­mil­i­tary unit called the “Indomita­bles” to advance a sec­ond seces­sion, though such efforts fiz­zled quick­ly.

Promis­ing increased LOS mil­i­tan­cy has cost the group and led to fal­ter­ing mem­ber­ship. Since Dylann Roof’s mas­sacre of nine con­gre­gants at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015, Hate­watch has doc­u­ment­ed a string of high-pro­file depar­tures.

Hill’s announce­ment clos­es by direct­ing recruits to con­tact the League using a web form reserved for nor­mal mem­bers. “Are you ready to be a man among men?” Hill asks. “Join the League and its South­ern Defense Force today!”

The phrase “man among men” is a ref­er­ence to pro­pa­gan­da posters for the Rhode­sian Army dur­ing the Rhode­sian Bush War, a civ­il war from 1964–79 in the unrec­og­nized coun­try of Rhode­sia that remains a pop­u­lar ref­er­ence for white nation­al­ists. The con­flict inspired Dylann Roof, who named his blog “The Last Rhode­sian” and posed for pic­tures on social media with the Con­fed­er­ate Bat­tle Flag while wear­ing a jack­et patched with a Rhode­sian flag.

It seems to have inspired Hill, too. He has echoed the Rhode­sian mythos in a series of social media posts and on the LOS web­site, typ­i­fy­ing the loss of polit­i­cal hege­mo­ny by whites in that war as tan­ta­mount to racial geno­cide.

While Hill is just one voice in a grow­ing cho­rus con­tribut­ing to an esca­la­tion of vio­lent rhetoric across the South and the Unit­ed States, the for­ma­tion of the SDF rep­re­sents some­thing else, too –– a des­per­ate promise of armed resis­tance from an aging rad­i­cal on the fringe of a move­ment he once dom­i­nat­ed.

4d. “The League of the South is call­ing for all able-bod­ied, tra­di­tion­al­ist South­ern men to join our organization’s South­ern Defense Force for the pur­pose of help­ing our State and local mag­is­trates across Dix­ie com­bat this grow­ing left­ist men­ace to our his­toric Chris­t­ian civ­i­liza­tion. As pri­vate cit­i­zens in a pri­vate orga­ni­za­tion, we will stand ready to pro­tect our own fam­i­lies and friends, our prop­er­ty, and our lib­er­ty from left­ist chaos. More­over, we will be ready to assist our local and State author­i­ties in keep­ing the peace should they find it nec­es­sary to “dep­u­tize” pri­vate cit­i­zens for that pur­pose.

Michael Hill, pres­i­dent of the League of the South, is mak­ing an overt­ly white-nation­al­ist dog-whis­tle when he asks: “Are you ready to be a man among men?”, here’s his dec­la­ra­tion imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing elec­tion day about how no mer­cy should be shown towards “Jews, minori­ties, and anti-white whites”:

“League Of The South Hails Trump, Wants ‘No Mer­cy’ Towards ‘Jews, Minori­ties And Anti-White Whites’” by Bri­an Tash­man; Right Wing Watch; 11/10/2016.

As white suprema­cists and neo-Nazis cel­e­brate the results of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Michael Hill, pres­i­dent of the neo-Con­fed­er­ate League of the South, react­ed to Don­ald Trump’s vic­to­ry yes­ter­day by vow­ing to show “no mer­cy” to “the ene­mies of our God, our Folk and our civ­i­liza­tion” and to final­ly “dri­ve a stake” through the heart of “the glob­al­ist-pro­gres­sive coali­tion of Jews, minori­ties, and anti-white whites.”

Once the glob­al­ist-pro­gres­sive coali­tion of Jews, minori­ties, and anti-white whites stops reel­ing in con­fu­sion from the results of yesterday’s elec­tion, we can expect them to start strik­ing back with trick­ery and vio­lence. Thus, we as South­ern nation­al­ists face both dan­ger and oppor­tu­ni­ty.

Now, more than ever, we need tight orga­ni­za­tion and num­bers to help dri­ve a stake through Dracula’s heart and keep him from ris­ing once again to men­ace our peo­ple and civ­i­liza­tion. No mer­cy should be shown to the ene­mies of our God, our Folk, and our civ­i­liza­tion. None would be afford­ed us.

Today, Hill warned neo-Con­fed­er­ate activists that if “you don’t fin­ish the job by rout­ing your ene­mies and dri­ving them into the sea while you have the chance, they will re-group and be back at your throats in no time! You have been giv­en a reprieve by God (prob­a­bly unde­served­ly so); do not give your ene­mies and His a reprieve.”

He said that a Trump pres­i­den­cy may rep­re­sent a God-giv­en “short reprieve” from the “demise of old white Amer­i­ca,” telling mem­bers that they must use this oppor­tu­ni­ty to fight for and build “White Man’s Land.”

So here is my warn­ing to the vic­tors: do not go back to sleep and think all is well. If you don’t fin­ish the job by rout­ing your ene­mies and dri­ving them into the sea while you have the chance, they will re-group and be back at your throats in no time! You have been giv­en a reprieve by God (prob­a­bly unde­served­ly so); do not give your ene­mies and His a reprieve.

Their goal is to dis­pos­sess you of every­thing. If you have not heard that over the past year, then you have not been lis­ten­ing. Just what the hell do you think mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, diver­si­ty, and tol­er­ance are all about? Your ene­mies care noth­ing about those things. They are mere­ly used as weapons against you for your dis­pos­ses­sion and ulti­mate destruc­tion. The sum of their effect is White Guilt.

These media elites (and oth­ers of their elite ilk) look for­ward to the demise of old white Amer­i­ca and the rise of a new par­a­digm in which they will hold sway. You will be dis­pos­sessed, sequestered in the equiv­a­lent of ghet­tos, and will be a despised and hat­ed minor­i­ty in the coun­try your ances­tors built.

You, by God’s grace, may have been giv­en a short reprieve from this sce­nario. Redeem the time! As for me, I rec­om­mend that we get busy with South­ern inde­pen­dence. We need our own coun­try, and it must be run by us for our own inter­ests. It must once again be White Man’s Land.

4e. Don­ald Trump gave his first speech to Con­gress, a speech that was large­ly and bizarrely hailed by the press and polls as ‘opti­mistic’, despite being a pack of lies that was only slight­ly less dark and inflam­ma­to­ry than his ‘Amer­i­can car­nage’ inau­gu­ra­tion speech.

If you’re a fan of a creep­ing Hit­ler­ian agen­da, it def­i­nite­ly was an opti­mistic speech.

“ . . . . In The Nazi Con­science, Duke his­to­ri­an Clau­dia Koonz notes that the Nazi news­pa­per Der Sturmer ran a fea­ture called ‘Let­ter Box,’ which pub­lished read­ers’ accounts of Jew­ish crimes. When the Nazis took pow­er, the Ger­man state began doing some­thing sim­i­lar. Frus­trat­ed by the fail­ure of most Ger­mans to par­tic­i­pate in a boy­cott of Jew­ish busi­ness­es in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s gov­ern­ment began pub­li­ciz­ing Jew­ish crime sta­tis­tics as a way of stok­ing anti-Semi­tism. In Nazi Ger­many and the Jews: The Years of Per­se­cu­tion, the his­to­ri­an Saul Fried­lan­der notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Min­istry of Jus­tice ordered pros­e­cu­tors to for­ward every crim­i­nal indict­ment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could pub­li­cize it. . . .

In a man­ner rem­i­nis­cent of the Third Reich’s treat­ment of Jews (as excerpt­ed above), a new DHS depart­ment will be focused on immi­grant crimes and “pro­vid­ing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by spe­cial inter­ests” (yes, he man­aged to sug­gest that there’s a con­spir­a­cy to not report crimes by immi­grants).

“First, they came for the ‘ille­gal’ immi­grants. . . .”

In short, Trump is using his new DHS pro­gram to demo­nize non-whites and immi­grants and blan­ket the air­waves with sto­ries about immi­grant crimes in his 2020 reelec­tion bid, that office is going to be used by GOP­ers all over the coun­try, espe­cial­ly in TV ads rem­i­nis­cent of the infa­mous ‘Willie Hor­ton’ ad.

So, get ready for ‘dan­ger­ous vio­lent (non-white) immi­grants are com­ing for you and your fam­i­ly’ to be the GOP’s theme for the fore­see­able future. And get ready for the bil­lions of dol­lars in polit­i­cal adver­tis­ing to make sure that Amer­i­cans receive that mes­sage over and over. Feel­ing opti­mistic?

“Trump Scape­goats Unau­tho­rized Immi­grants for Crime” by Peter Beinart; The Atlantic ; 3/1/2017.

The president’s focus on crimes com­mit­ted by mem­bers of one par­tic­u­lar group sin­gles them out for blame.

Don­ald Trump is wor­ried about vio­lence by unau­tho­rized immi­grants. When he spoke before a joint ses­sion of Con­gress on Tues­day night, he invit­ed three rel­a­tives of peo­ple that unau­tho­rized immi­grants had killed to attend as his guests.

In that speech, he calledfor the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty to cre­ate an office focused on the vic­tims of immi­grant crime. And in a Jan­u­ary 25 exec­u­tive order, he instruct­ed the Home­land Secu­ri­ty Sec­re­tary to “make pub­lic a com­pre­hen­sive list of crim­i­nal actions com­mit­ted by aliens.”

On its face, this is odd. As far as researchers can tell, unau­tho­rized immi­grants com­mit crimes at a low­er rate than the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion at large. A 2007 Nation­al Bureau of Eco­nom­ic Research Paper by Welles­ley Col­lege econ­o­mist Kristin F. Butch­er and Rut­gers econ­o­mist Anne Mor­ri­son Piehl found that “immi­grants have much low­er insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion (incar­cer­a­tion) rates than the native born.” (The dis­crep­an­cy, they not­ed, could not be explained by the fact that the gov­ern­ment deports some immi­grant crim­i­nals, thus spar­ing them incar­cer­a­tion in the U.S.). A review of cen­sus data between 1980 and 2010 revealed that while non-cit­i­zens com­prised 7 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, they com­prised only 5 per­cent of those in America’s pris­ons.

Trump’s allies may believe that sneak­ing into the Unit­ed States, or using a fake social secu­ri­ty num­ber to get a job, pre­dis­pos­es peo­ple to rob, rape, or kill. But the evi­dence does not bear this out. So if Trump’s goal is increas­ing pub­lic safe­ty, pub­lish­ing a list of crimes com­mit­ted by unau­tho­rized immi­grants is irra­tional. It’s like pub­lish­ing a list of crimes com­mit­ted by peo­ple with red-hair.

If, how­ev­er, Trump’s goal is stig­ma­tiz­ing a vul­ner­a­ble class of peo­ple, then pub­li­ciz­ing their crimes—and their crimes alone—makes sense. It’s been a tac­tic big­ots have used more than a cen­tu­ry.

Using crime to incite hatred has a long his­to­ry in the Unit­ed States. Khalil Gibran Muham­mad, a pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry, race, and pub­lic pol­i­cy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment, notes that for at least a cen­tu­ry after the end of slav­ery, north­ern news­pa­pers gen­er­al­ly iden­ti­fied African Amer­i­cans accused of com­mit­ting crimes as “negro” or “col­ored.” South­ern news­pa­pers gen­er­al­ly referred to the offend­er as a “negro crim­i­nal” in bold—using the individual’s name and “the negro” inter­change­ably in the sto­ry. White crim­i­nals, by con­trast, were not iden­ti­fied by race. (This tra­di­tion con­tin­ues at Bre­it­bart, which has a spe­cial cat­e­go­ry for “black crime.”)

Gov­ern­ment crime sta­tis­tics reflect­ed eth­nic and racial fears too. In the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­turies, notes Muham­mad, when native-born Amer­i­cans were grow­ing alarmed by mass immi­gra­tion from South­ern and East­ern Europe, big city police forces broke down crime sta­tis­tics by Euro­pean nation­al­i­ty: Russ­ian, Ger­man, Ital­ian, etc. As nativist fears reced­ed fol­low­ing the shut­down of such immi­gra­tion, the FBI began lump­ing all Euro­pean nation­al­i­ties into the cat­e­go­ry “for­eign born” begin­ning in 1930. By 1940, the Euro­pean for­eign born were sub­sumed into “white.”

In The Nazi Con­science, Duke his­to­ri­an Clau­dia Koonz notes that the Nazi news­pa­per Der Sturmer ran a fea­ture called “Let­ter Box,” which pub­lished read­ers’ accounts of Jew­ish crimes. When the Nazis took pow­er, the Ger­man state began doing some­thing sim­i­lar. Frus­trat­ed by the fail­ure of most Ger­mans to par­tic­i­pate in a boy­cott of Jew­ish busi­ness­es in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s gov­ern­ment began pub­li­ciz­ing Jew­ish crime sta­tis­tics as a way of stok­ing anti-Semi­tism. InNazi Ger­many and the Jews: The Years of Per­se­cu­tion, the his­to­ri­an Saul Fried­lan­der notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Min­istry of Jus­tice ordered pros­e­cu­tors to for­ward every crim­i­nal indict­ment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could pub­li­cize it.

Trump’s defend­ers might claim that what he’s doing dif­fers from these pri­or exam­ples. He’s pub­li­ciz­ing the crimes of a legal group—illegal immigrants—not a reli­gious, eth­nic, or racial one. But in the Unit­ed States in 2017, talk­ing about “ille­gal immi­grants” is like talk­ing about “wel­fare moth­ers” or “crack deal­ers” in 1987. The racial impli­ca­tion is clear. Trump made it so him­self in his announce­ment speech when he said that, “When Mex­i­co sends its people…They’re bring­ing drugs. They’re bring­ing crime. They’re rapists.”

Trump is scape­goat­ing in the clas­sic sense. He’s tak­ing the sin of crime and asso­ci­at­ing it with one, already stig­ma­tized, group, thus allow­ing native-born Amer­i­cans to con­sid­er them­selves pure. In Leviti­cus, the high priest takes a goat, “confess[es] over it all the iniq­ui­ties and trans­gres­sions of the Israelites” and then sends it into the wilder­ness so it won’t con­t­a­m­i­nate them. When it comes to unau­tho­rized immi­grants, Trump is reen­act­ing that rit­u­al. Amer­i­cans will soon learn just how harsh his legal and moral wilder­ness is.

5. Anoth­er exam­ple of the glob­al nature of the “Alt-Right’s” attempts to rebrand far-right ide­olo­gies. Check out the image on the main ban­ner used in a Lithuan­ian far-right march cel­e­brat­ing the WWII pro-Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist Kazys Skir­pa: Pepe the frog. Or, more pre­cise­ly, Kazys Skir­pa as Pepe the frog.

“ . . . The ban­ner also includ­ed a quote attrib­uted to the Pepe-like por­trait of Skir­pa, an envoy of the pro-Nazi move­ment in Lithua­nia to Berlin, that read ‘Lithua­nia will con­tribute to new and bet­ter Euro­pean order.’ . . . ”

As we can see, the “Alt-Right” Pepe-fica­tion of Europe is well under­way, and it’s going to include Europe’s many WWII his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism move­ments: all of those Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors were actu­al­ly mis­un­der­stood free­dom fight­ers. Here’s a fun “Alt-Right” meme about them. But don’t call them Nazis.

“Lithuan­ian Nation­al­ists Cel­e­brate Holo­caust-era Quis­ling, Pepe the Frog Near Exe­cu­tion Site:” Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency; 2/17/2017.

Lithuan­ian ultra­na­tion­al­ists marched near exe­cu­tion sites of Jews with ban­ners cel­e­brat­ing a pro-Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist who called for eth­nic cleans­ing and a sym­bol pop­u­lar with mem­bers of the U.S. “alt-right” move­ment.

Approx­i­mate­ly 170 peo­ple attend­ed Thursday’s annu­al march in Kau­nas, Lithuania’s sec­ond city that is also known as Kovno, the web­site Defend­ing His­to­ry report­ed.

The main ban­ner fea­tured a pic­ture of the col­lab­o­ra­tionist Kazys Skir­pa mod­i­fied to resem­ble Pepe the Frog, a car­toon fig­ure that was used by hate groups in the Unit­ed States dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, accord­ing to the Anti-Defama­tion League.

The ban­ner also includ­ed a quote attrib­uted to the Pepe-like por­trait of Skir­pa, an envoy of the pro-Nazi move­ment in Lithua­nia to Berlin, that read “Lithua­nia will con­tribute to new and bet­ter Euro­pean order.”

Skir­pa, who has a street named for him in Kau­nas, “ele­vat­ed anti-Semi­tism to a polit­i­cal lev­el” that “could have encour­aged a por­tion of Lithuania’s res­i­dents to get involved in the Holo­caust,” the Geno­cide and Resis­tance Research Cen­ter of Lithua­nia assert­ed in 2015. But Skir­pa “pro­posed to solve ‘the Jew­ish prob­lem’ not by geno­cide but by the method of expul­sion from Lithua­nia,” the cen­ter said.

The pro­ces­sion passed near the Lietovus Garage, where in 1941 locals butchered dozens of Jews. Thou­sands more were killed in an around Kau­nas by local col­lab­o­ra­tors of the Nazis and by Ger­man sol­diers in the fol­low­ing months.

“Kau­nas is ground zero of the Lithuan­ian Holo­caust,” Dovid Katz, a U.S.-born schol­ar and the founder of Defend­ing His­to­ry, told JTA on Fri­day. He con­demned local author­i­ties for allow­ing the march by “folks who glo­ri­fy the very Holo­caust-col­lab­o­ra­tors, the­o­reti­cians and per­pe­tra­tors who unleashed the geno­cide local­ly.” Katz was one of five peo­ple who attend­ed the march to protest and doc­u­ment it.

Lithua­nia is the only coun­try that offi­cial­ly defines its dom­i­na­tion by the for­mer Sovi­et Union as a form of geno­cide. The name of the state-fund­ed enti­ty that wrote about Skir­pa in 2005 refers both to the Holo­caust and the so-called Sovi­et occu­pa­tion.

The Muse­um of Geno­cide Vic­tims in Vil­nius, which until 2011 did not men­tion the more than 200,000 Lithuan­ian Jews who died in the Nazi Holo­caust, was estab­lished in 1992 to memo­ri­al­ize Lithua­ni­ans killed by the Nazi, but most­ly Sovi­et, states.

6. The Guardian has a long and crit­i­cal piece on Robert Mer­cer and the Mer­cer clan’s role in the rise of Bre­it­bart as the dom­i­nant ‘out­sider’ con­ser­v­a­tive media out­let, and how deeply inter­twined that endeav­or is with the Mer­cers’ oth­er big invest­ments.

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est are the firms Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca and its par­ent com­pa­ny SCL, where Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca spe­cial­izes in using AI and Big Data psy­cho­me­t­ric analy­sis on hun­dreds of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in order to mod­el indi­vid­ual behav­ior. SCL devel­ops strate­gies to use that infor­ma­tion, and manip­u­late search engine results to change pub­lic opin­ion (the Trump cam­paign was appar­ent­ly very big into AI and Big Data dur­ing the cam­paign).

As the arti­cle notes, not only are Cam­bridge Analytica/SCL are using their pro­pa­gan­da tech­niques to shape the US pub­lic opin­ion in a fas­cist direc­tion, but this for­mi­da­ble pha­lanx is going about achiev­ing this shift in atti­tudes by uti­liz­ing its pro­pa­gan­da machine to char­ac­ter­ize all news out­lets to the left of Bri­et­bart as “fake news” that can’t be trust­ed.

Only far-right media can be trust­ed. That’s the meme dis­sem­i­nat­ed by this the Mercer/Bannon meme-machine.

In short, the secre­tive far-right bil­lion­aire (Robert Mer­cer), joined at the hip with Steve Ban­non, is run­ning mul­ti­ple firms spe­cial­iz­ing in mass psy­cho­me­t­ric pro­fil­ing based on data col­lect­ed from Face­book and oth­er social media. Mercer/Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using Naz­i­fied AI and Big Data to devel­op mass pro­pa­gan­da cam­paigns to turn the pub­lic against every­thing that isn’t Bri­et­bart­ian by con­vinc­ing the pub­lic that all non-Bri­et­bart­ian media out­lets are con­spir­ing to lie to the pub­lic.

This is the ulti­mate Ser­pen­t’s Walk scenario–a Nazi Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence draw­ing on Big Data gleaned from the world’s inter­net and social media oper­a­tions to shape pub­lic opin­ion, tar­get indi­vid­ual users, shape search engine results and even feed­back to Trump while he is giv­ing press con­fer­ences.

And you were wor­ried about the NSA. Wor­ry about THIS!

“Robert Mer­cer: The Big Data Bil­lion­aire Wag­ing War on Main­stream Media” Car­ole Cad­wal­ladr; The Guardian; 2/26/2017.

With links to Don­ald Trump, Steve Ban­non and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US com­put­er sci­en­tist is at the heart of a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar pro­pa­gan­da net­work

Just over a week ago, Don­ald Trump gath­ered mem­bers of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, hon­est­ly, is out of con­trol,” he said. “The pub­lic doesn’t believe you any more.” CNN was described as “very fake news… sto­ry after sto­ry is bad”. The BBC was “anoth­er beauty”.That night I did two things. First, I typed “Trump” in the search box of Twit­ter. My feed was report­ing that he was crazy, a lunatic, a rav­ing mad­man. But that wasn’t how it was play­ing out else­where. The results pro­duced a stream of “Go Don­ald!!!!”, and “You show ’em!!!” There were star-span­gled ban­ner emo­jis and thumbs-up emo­jis and clips of Trump lay­ing into the “FAKE news MSM liars!”

Trump had spo­ken, and his audi­ence had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled “main­stream media is…” And there it was. Google’s auto­com­plete sug­ges­tions: “main­stream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, fin­ished”. Is it dead, I won­der? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the main­stream media – we, us, I – dying?

I click Google’s first sug­gest­ed link. It leads to a web­site called CNSnews.com and an arti­cle: “The Main­stream media are dead.” They’re dead, I learn, because they – we, I – “can­not be trust­ed”. How had it, an obscure site I’d nev­er heard of, dom­i­nat­ed Google’s search algo­rithm on the top­ic? In the “About us” tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Cen­ter, which a click lat­er I learn is “America’s media watch­dog”, an organ­i­sa­tion that claims an “unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to neu­tral­is­ing left­wing bias in the news, media and pop­u­lar cul­ture”.

Anoth­er cou­ple of clicks and I dis­cov­er that it receives a large bulk of its fund­ing – more than $10m in the past decade – from a sin­gle source, the hedge fund bil­lion­aire Robert Mer­cer. If you fol­low US pol­i­tics you may recog­nise the name. Robert Mer­cer is the mon­ey behind Don­ald Trump. But then, I will come to learn, Robert Mer­cer is the mon­ey behind an awful lot of things. He was Trump’s sin­gle biggest donor. Mer­cer start­ed back­ing Ted Cruz, but when he fell out of the pres­i­den­tial race he threw his mon­ey – $13.5m of it – behind the Trump cam­paign.

It’s mon­ey he’s made as a result of his career as a bril­liant but reclu­sive com­put­er sci­en­tist. He start­ed his career at IBM, where he made what the Asso­ci­a­tion for Com­pu­ta­tion­al Lin­guis­tics called “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” break­throughs in lan­guage pro­cess­ing – a sci­ence that went on to be key in devel­op­ing today’s AI – and lat­er became joint CEO of Renais­sance Tech­nolo­gies, a hedge fund that makes its mon­ey by using algo­rithms to mod­el and trade on the finan­cial mar­kets.

One of its funds, Medal­lion, which man­ages only its employ­ees’ mon­ey, is the most suc­cess­ful in the world – gen­er­at­ing $55bn so far. And since 2010, Mer­cer has donat­ed $45m to dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal cam­paigns – all Repub­li­can – and anoth­er $50m to non-prof­its – all rightwing, ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive. This is a bil­lion­aire who is, as bil­lion­aires are wont, try­ing to reshape the world accord­ing to his per­son­al beliefs.

Robert Mer­cer very rarely speaks in pub­lic and nev­er to jour­nal­ists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he chan­nels his mon­ey: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m mod­el train set; cli­mate change denial (he funds a cli­mate change denial think tank, the Heart­land Insti­tute); and what is maybe the ulti­mate rich man’s play­thing – the dis­rup­tion of the main­stream media. In this he is helped by his close asso­ciate Steve Ban­non, Trump’s cam­paign man­ag­er and now chief strate­gist. The mon­ey he gives to the Media Research Cen­ter, with its mis­sion of cor­rect­ing “lib­er­al bias” is just one of his media plays. There are oth­er big­ger, and even more delib­er­ate strate­gies, and shin­ing bright­ly, the star at the cen­tre of the Mer­cer media galaxy, is Bre­it­bart.

It was $10m of Mercer’s mon­ey that enabled Ban­non to fund Bre­it­bart – a rightwing news site, set up with the express inten­tion of being a Huff­in­g­ton Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopou­los and his like, reg­u­lar­ly hosts anti­se­mit­ic and Islam­o­pho­bic views, and is cur­rent­ly being boy­cotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist cam­paign. It has been phe­nom­e­nal­ly suc­cess­ful: the 29th most pop­u­lar site in Amer­i­ca with 2bn page views a year. It’s big­ger than its inspi­ra­tion, the Huff­in­g­ton Post, big­ger, even, than Porn­Hub. It’s the biggest polit­i­cal site on Face­book. The biggest on Twit­ter.

Promi­nent rightwing jour­nal­ist Andrew Bre­it­bart, who found­ed the site but died in 2012, told Ban­non that they had “to take back the cul­ture”. And, arguably, they have, though Amer­i­can cul­ture is only the start of it. In 2014, Ban­non launched Bre­it­bart Lon­don, telling the New York Times it was specif­i­cal­ly timed ahead of the UK’s forth­com­ing elec­tion. It was, he said, the lat­est front “in our cur­rent cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal war”. France and Ger­many are next.

But there was anoth­er rea­son why I recog­nised Robert Mercer’s name: because of his con­nec­tion to Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, a small data ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny. He is report­ed to have a $10m stake in the com­pa­ny, which was spun out of a big­ger British com­pa­ny called SCL Group. It spe­cialis­es in “elec­tion man­age­ment strate­gies” and “mes­sag­ing and infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions”, refined over 25 years in places like Afghanistan and Pak­istan. In mil­i­tary cir­cles this is known as “psy­ops” – psy­cho­log­i­cal oper­a­tions. (Mass pro­pa­gan­da that works by act­ing on people’s emo­tions.)

Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca worked for the Trump cam­paign and, so I’d read, the Leave cam­paign. When Mer­cer sup­port­ed Cruz, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca worked with Cruz. When Robert Mer­cer start­ed sup­port­ing Trump, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca came too. And where Mercer’s mon­ey is, Steve Ban­non is usu­al­ly close by: it was report­ed that until recent­ly he had a seat on the board.

Last Decem­ber, I wrote about Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca in a piece about how Google’s search results on cer­tain sub­jects were being dom­i­nat­ed by rightwing and extrem­ist sites. Jonathan Albright, a pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Elon Uni­ver­si­ty, North Car­oli­na, who had mapped the news ecosys­tem and found mil­lions of links between rightwing sites “stran­gling” the main­stream media, told me that track­ers from sites like Bre­it­bart could also be used by com­pa­nies like Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca to fol­low peo­ple around the web and then, via Face­book, tar­get them with ads.
[Wow–Google and Face­book dom­i­nat­ed by Cam­bridge Analytica–D.E.]

On its web­site, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca makes the aston­ish­ing boast that it has psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­files based on 5,000 sep­a­rate pieces of data on 220 mil­lion Amer­i­can vot­ers – its USP is to use this data to under­stand people’s deep­est emo­tions and then tar­get them accord­ing­ly. The sys­tem, accord­ing to Albright, amount­ed to a “pro­pa­gan­da machine”.

A few weeks lat­er, the Observ­er received a let­ter. Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca was not employed by the Leave cam­paign, it said. Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca “is a US com­pa­ny based in the US. It hasn’t worked in British pol­i­tics.”

Which is how, ear­li­er this week, I end­ed up in a Pret a Manger near West­min­ster with Andy Wig­more, Leave.EU’s affa­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor, look­ing at snap­shots of Don­ald Trump on his phone. It was Wig­more who orches­trat­ed Nigel Farage’s trip to Trump Tow­er – the PR coup that saw him become the first for­eign politi­cian to meet the pres­i­dent elect.

Wig­more scrolls through the snaps on his phone. “That’s the one I took,” he says point­ing at the now glob­al­ly famous pho­to of Farage and Trump in front of his gold­en ele­va­tor door giv­ing the thumbs-up sign. Wig­more was one of the “bad boys of Brex­it” – a term coined by Arron Banks, the Bris­tol-based busi­ness­man who was Leave.EU’s co-founder.

Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca had worked for them, he said. It had taught them how to build pro­files, how to tar­get peo­ple and how to scoop up mass­es of data from people’s Face­book pro­files. A video on YouTube shows one of Cam­bridge Analytica’s and SCL’s employ­ees, Brit­tany Kaiser, sit­ting on the pan­el at Leave.EU’s launch event.

Face­book was the key to the entire cam­paign, Wig­more explained. A Face­book ‘like’, he said, was their most “potent weapon”. “Because using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that indi­vid­ual and how to con­vince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be oth­er peo­ple in their net­work who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you fol­low them. The com­put­er nev­er stops learn­ing and it nev­er stops mon­i­tor­ing.”

It sounds creepy, I say.

“It is creepy! It’s real­ly creepy! It’s why I’m not on Face­book! I tried it on myself to see what infor­ma­tion it had on me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ What’s scary is that my kids had put things on Insta­gram and it picked that up. It knew where my kids went to school.”

They hadn’t “employed” Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, he said. No mon­ey changed hands. “They were hap­py to help.”

Why?

Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mer­cers. And Robert Mer­cer intro­duced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this com­pa­ny we think may be use­ful to you.’ What they were try­ing to do in the US and what we were try­ing to do had mas­sive par­al­lels. We shared a lot of infor­ma­tion. Why wouldn’t you?” Behind Trump’s cam­paign and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, he said, were “the same peo­ple. It’s the same fam­i­ly.”

There were already a lot of ques­tions swirling around Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, and Andy Wig­more has opened up a whole lot more. Such as: are you sup­posed to declare ser­vices-in-kind as some sort of dona­tion? The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion says yes, if it was more than £7,500. And was it declared? The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion says no. Does that mean a for­eign bil­lion­aire had pos­si­bly influ­enced the ref­er­en­dum with­out that influ­ence being appar­ent? It’s cer­tain­ly a ques­tion worth ask­ing.

In the last month or so, arti­cles in first the Swiss and the US press have asked exact­ly what Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca is doing with US vot­ers’ data. In a state­ment to the Observ­er, the Infor­ma­tion Commissioner’s Office said: “Any busi­ness col­lect­ing and using per­son­al data in the UK must do so fair­ly and law­ful­ly. We will be con­tact­ing Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca and ask­ing ques­tions to find out how the com­pa­ny is oper­at­ing in the UK and whether the law is being fol­lowed.”

Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca said last Fri­day they are in touch with the ICO and are com­plete­ly com­pli­ant with UK and EU data laws. It did not answer oth­er ques­tions the Observ­er put to it this week about how it built its psy­cho­me­t­ric mod­el, which owes its ori­gins to orig­i­nal research car­ried out by sci­en­tists at Cam­bridge University’s Psy­cho­me­t­ric Cen­tre, research based on a per­son­al­i­ty quiz on Face­book that went viral. More than 6 mil­lion peo­ple end­ed up doing it, pro­duc­ing an aston­ish­ing trea­sure trove of data.

These Face­book pro­files – espe­cial­ly people’s “likes” – could be cor­re­lat­ed across mil­lions of oth­ers to pro­duce uncan­ni­ly accu­rate results. Michal Kosin­s­ki, the centre’s lead sci­en­tist, found that with knowl­edge of 150 likes, their mod­el could pre­dict someone’s per­son­al­i­ty bet­ter than their spouse. With 300, it under­stood you bet­ter than your­self. “Com­put­ers see us in a more robust way than we see our­selves,” says Kosin­s­ki.

But there are strict eth­i­cal reg­u­la­tions regard­ing what you can do with this data. Did SCL Group have access to the university’s mod­el or data, I ask Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Rust, the centre’s direc­tor? “Cer­tain­ly not from us,” he says. “We have very strict rules around this.”

A sci­en­tist, Alek­san­dr Kogan, from the cen­tre was con­tract­ed to build a mod­el for SCL, and says he col­lect­ed his own data. Pro­fes­sor Rust says he doesn’t know where Kogan’s data came from. “The evi­dence was con­trary. I report­ed it.” An inde­pen­dent adju­di­ca­tor was appoint­ed by the uni­ver­si­ty. “But then Kogan said he’d signed a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment with SCL and he couldn’t con­tin­ue [answer­ing ques­tions].”

Kogan dis­putes this and says SCL sat­is­fied the university’s inquiries. But per­haps more than any­one, Pro­fes­sor Rust under­stands how the kind of infor­ma­tion peo­ple freely give up to social media sites could be used.

“The dan­ger of not hav­ing reg­u­la­tion around the sort of data you can get from Face­book and else­where is clear. With this, a com­put­er can actu­al­ly do psy­chol­o­gy, it can pre­dict and poten­tial­ly con­trol human behav­iour. It’s what the sci­en­tol­o­gists try to do but much more pow­er­ful. It’s how you brain­wash some­one. It’s incred­i­bly dan­ger­ous.

“It’s no exag­ger­a­tion to say that minds can be changed. Behav­iour can be pre­dict­ed and con­trolled. I find it incred­i­bly scary. I real­ly do. Because nobody has real­ly fol­lowed through on the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of all this. Peo­ple don’t know it’s hap­pen­ing to them. Their atti­tudes are being changed behind their backs.”

Mer­cer invest­ed in Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed, “dri­ven in part by an assess­ment that the right was lack­ing sophis­ti­cat­ed tech­nol­o­gy capa­bil­i­ties”. But in many ways, it’s what Cam­bridge Analytica’s par­ent com­pa­ny does that rais­es even more ques­tions.

Emma Bri­ant, a pro­pa­gan­da spe­cial­ist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Sheffield, wrote about SCL Group in her 2015 book, Pro­pa­gan­da and Counter-Ter­ror­ism: Strate­gies for Glob­al Change. Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca has the tech­no­log­i­cal tools to effect behav­iour­al and psy­cho­log­i­cal change, she said, but it’s SCL that strate­gis­es it. It has spe­cialised, at the high­est lev­el – for Nato, the MoD, the US state depart­ment and oth­ers – in chang­ing the behav­iour of large groups. It mod­els mass pop­u­la­tions and then it changes their beliefs.

SCL was found­ed by some­one called Nigel Oakes, who worked for Saatchi & Saatchi on Mar­garet Thatcher’s image, says Bri­ant, and the com­pa­ny had been “mak­ing mon­ey out of the pro­pa­gan­da side of the war on ter­ror­ism over a long peri­od of time. There are dif­fer­ent arms of SCL but it’s all about reach and the abil­i­ty to shape the dis­course. They are try­ing to ampli­fy par­tic­u­lar polit­i­cal nar­ra­tives. And they are selec­tive in who they go for: they are not doing this for the left.

In the course of the US elec­tion, Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca amassed a data­base, as it claims on its web­site, of almost the entire US vot­ing pop­u­la­tion – 220 mil­lion peo­ple – and the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed last week that SCL was increas­ing staffing at its Wash­ing­ton office and com­pet­ing for lucra­tive new con­tracts with Trump’s admin­is­tra­tion. “It seems sig­nif­i­cant that a com­pa­ny involved in engi­neer­ing a polit­i­cal out­come prof­its from what fol­lows. Par­tic­u­lar­ly if it’s the manip­u­la­tion, and then res­o­lu­tion, of fear,” says Bri­ant.

It’s the data­base, and what may hap­pen to it, that par­tic­u­lar­ly exer­cis­es Paul-Olivi­er Dehaye, a Swiss math­e­mati­cian and data activist who has been inves­ti­gat­ing Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca and SCL for more than a year. “How is it going to be used?” he says. “Is it going to be used to try and manip­u­late peo­ple around domes­tic poli­cies? Or to fer­ment con­flict between dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties? It is poten­tial­ly very scary. Peo­ple just don’t under­stand the pow­er of this data and how it can be used against them.”

There are two things, poten­tial­ly, going on simul­ta­ne­ous­ly: the manip­u­la­tion of infor­ma­tion on a mass lev­el, and the manip­u­la­tion of infor­ma­tion at a very indi­vid­ual lev­el. Both based on the lat­est under­stand­ings in sci­ence about how peo­ple work, and enabled by tech­no­log­i­cal plat­forms built to bring us togeth­er.

Are we liv­ing in a new era of pro­pa­gan­da, I ask Emma Bri­ant? One we can’t see, and that is work­ing on us in ways we can’t under­stand? Where we can only react, emo­tion­al­ly, to its mes­sages? “Def­i­nite­ly. The way that sur­veil­lance through tech­nol­o­gy is so per­va­sive, the col­lec­tion and use of our data is so much more sophis­ti­cat­ed. It’s total­ly covert. And peo­ple don’t realise what is going on.”

Pub­lic mood and pol­i­tics goes through cycles. You don’t have to sub­scribe to any con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, Bri­ant says, to see that a mass change in pub­lic sen­ti­ment is hap­pen­ing. Or that some of the tools in action are straight out of the military’s or SCL’s play­book.

But then there’s increas­ing evi­dence that our pub­lic are­nas – the social media sites where we post our hol­i­day snaps or make com­ments about the news – are a new bat­tle­field where inter­na­tion­al geopol­i­tics is play­ing out in real time. It’s a new age of pro­pa­gan­da. But whose? This week, Rus­sia announced the for­ma­tion of a new branch of the mil­i­tary: “infor­ma­tion war­fare troops”.

Sam Wool­ley of the Oxford Inter­net Institute’s com­pu­ta­tion­al pro­pa­gan­da insti­tute tells me that one third of all traf­fic on Twit­ter before the EU ref­er­en­dum was auto­mat­ed “bots” – accounts that are pro­grammed to look like peo­ple, to act like peo­ple, and to change the con­ver­sa­tion, to make top­ics trend. And they were all for Leave. Before the US elec­tion, they were five-to-one in favour of Trump – many of them Russ­ian. Last week they have been in action in the Stoke byelec­tion – Russ­ian bots, organ­ised by who? – attack­ing Paul Nut­tall.

You can take a trend­ing top­ic, such as fake news, and then weaponise it, turn it against the media that uncov­ered it

“Pol­i­tics is war,” said Steve Ban­non last year in the Wall Street Jour­nal. And increas­ing­ly this looks to be true.

There’s noth­ing acci­den­tal about Trump’s behav­iour, Andy Wig­more tells me. “That press con­fer­ence. It was absolute­ly bril­liant. I could see exact­ly what he was doing. There’s feed­back going on con­stant­ly. That’s what you can do with arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence. You can mea­sure ever reac­tion to every word. He has a word room, where you fix key words. We did it. So with immi­gra­tion, there are actu­al­ly key words with­in that sub­ject mat­ter which peo­ple are con­cerned about. So when you are going to make a speech, it’s all about how can you use these trend­ing words.”

Wig­more met with Trump’s team right at the start of the Leave cam­paign. “And they said the holy grail was arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.”

Who did?

“Jared Kush­n­er and Jason Miller.

Lat­er, when Trump picked up Mer­cer and Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca, the game changed again. “It’s all about the emo­tions. This is the big dif­fer­ence with what we did. They call it bio-psy­cho-social pro­fil­ing. It takes your phys­i­cal, men­tal and lifestyle attrib­ut­es and works out how peo­ple work, how they react emo­tion­al­ly.”

Bio-psy­cho-social pro­fil­ing, I read lat­er, is one offen­sive in what is called “cog­ni­tive war­fare”. Though there are many oth­ers: “recod­ing the mass con­scious­ness to turn patri­o­tism into col­lab­o­ra­tionism,” explains a Nato brief­ing doc­u­ment on coun­ter­ing Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion writ­ten by an SCL employ­ee. “Time-sen­si­tive pro­fes­sion­al use of media to prop­a­gate nar­ra­tives,” says one US state depart­ment white paper. “Of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance to psy­op per­son­nel may be pub­licly and com­mer­cial­ly avail­able data from social media plat­forms.”

Yet anoth­er details the pow­er of a “cog­ni­tive casu­al­ty” – a “moral shock” that “has a dis­abling effect on empa­thy and high­er process­es such as moral rea­son­ing and crit­i­cal think­ing”. Some­thing like immi­gra­tion, per­haps. Or “fake news”. Or as it has now become: “FAKE news!!!!”

How do you change the way a nation thinks? You could start by cre­at­ing a main­stream media to replace the exist­ing one with a site such as Bre­it­bart. You could set up oth­er web­sites that dis­place main­stream sources of news and infor­ma­tion with your own def­i­n­i­tions of con­cepts like “lib­er­al media bias”, like CNSnews.com. And you could give the rump main­stream media, papers like the “fail­ing New York Times!” what it wants: sto­ries. Because the third prong of Mer­cer and Bannon’s media empire is the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Insti­tute.

Ban­non co-found­ed it with $2m of Mercer’s mon­ey. Mercer’s daugh­ter, Rebekah, was appoint­ed to the board. Then they invest­ed in expen­sive, long-term inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism. “The mod­ern eco­nom­ics of the news­room don’t sup­port big inves­tiga­tive report­ing staffs,” Ban­non told Forbes mag­a­zine. “You wouldn’t get a Water­gate, a Pen­ta­gon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend sev­en months on a sto­ry. We can. We’re work­ing as a sup­port func­tion.”

Wel­come to the future of jour­nal­ism in the age of plat­form cap­i­tal­ism. News organ­i­sa­tions have to do a bet­ter job of cre­at­ing new finan­cial mod­els. But in the gaps in between, a deter­mined plu­to­crat and a bril­liant media strate­gist can, and have, found a way to mould jour­nal­ism to their own ends.

In 2015, Steve Ban­non described to Forbes how the GAI oper­at­ed, employ­ing a data sci­en­tist to trawl the dark web (in the arti­cle he boasts of hav­ing access to $1.3bn worth of super­com­put­ers) to dig up the kind of source mate­r­i­al Google can’t find. One result has been a New York Times best­seller, Clin­ton Cash: The Untold Sto­ry of How and Why For­eign Gov­ern­ments and Busi­ness­es Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, writ­ten by GAI’s pres­i­dent, Peter Schweiz­er and lat­er turned into a film pro­duced by Rebekah Mer­cer and Steve Ban­non.

This, Ban­non explained, is how you “weaponise” the nar­ra­tive you want. With hard researched facts. With those, you can launch it straight on to the front page of the New York Times, as the sto­ry of Hillary Clinton’s cash did. Like Hillary’s emails it turned the news agen­da, and, most cru­cial­ly, it divert­ed the atten­tion of the news cycle. Anoth­er clas­sic psy­ops approach. “Strate­gic drown­ing” of oth­er mes­sages.

This is a strate­gic, long-term and real­ly quite bril­liant play. In the 1990s, Ban­non explained, con­ser­v­a­tive media couldn’t take Bill Clin­ton down because “they wound up talk­ing to them­selves in an echo cham­ber”.

As, it turns out, the lib­er­al media is now. We are scat­tered, sep­a­rate, squab­bling among our­selves and being picked off like tar­gets in a shoot­ing gallery. Increas­ing­ly, there’s a sense that we are talk­ing to our­selves. And whether it’s Mercer’s mil­lions or oth­er fac­tors, Jonathan Albright’s map of the news and infor­ma­tion ecosys­tem shows how rightwing sites are dom­i­nat­ing sites like YouTube and Google, bound tight­ly togeth­er by mil­lions of links.

Is there a cen­tral intel­li­gence to that, I ask Albright? “There has to be. There has to be some type of coor­di­na­tion. You can see from look­ing at the map, from the archi­tec­ture of the sys­tem, that this is not acci­den­tal. It’s clear­ly being led by mon­ey and pol­i­tics.”

There’s been a lot of talk in the echo cham­ber about Ban­non in the last few months, but it’s Mer­cer who pro­vid­ed the mon­ey to remake parts of the media land­scape. And while Ban­non under­stands the media, Mer­cer under­stands big data. He under­stands the struc­ture of the inter­net. He knows how algo­rithms work.

Robert Mer­cer did not respond to a request for com­ment for this piece. Nick Pat­ter­son, a British cryp­tog­ra­ph­er, who worked at Renais­sance Tech­nolo­gies in the 80s and is now a com­pu­ta­tion­al geneti­cist at MIT, described to me how he was the one who tal­ent-spot­ted Mer­cer. “There was an elite group work­ing at IBM in the 1980s doing speech research, speech recog­ni­tion, and when I joined Renais­sance I judged that the math­e­mat­ics we were try­ing to apply to finan­cial mar­kets were very sim­i­lar.”

He describes Mer­cer as “very, very con­ser­v­a­tive. He tru­ly did not like the Clin­tons. He thought Bill Clin­ton was a crim­i­nal. And his basic pol­i­tics, I think, was that he’s a rightwing lib­er­tar­i­an, he wants the gov­ern­ment out of things.”

He sus­pects that Mer­cer is bring­ing the bril­liant com­pu­ta­tion­al skills he brought to finance to bear on anoth­er very dif­fer­ent sphere. “We make math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els of the finan­cial mar­kets which are prob­a­bil­i­ty mod­els, and from those we try and make pre­dic­tions. What I sus­pect Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca do is that they build prob­a­bil­i­ty mod­els of how peo­ple vote. And then they look at what they can do to influ­ence that.”

Find­ing the edge is what quants do. They build quan­ti­ta­tive mod­els that auto­mate the process of buy­ing and sell­ing shares and then they chase tiny gaps in knowl­edge to cre­ate huge wins. Renais­sance Tech­nolo­gies was one of the first hedge funds to invest in AI. But what it does with it, how it’s been pro­grammed to do it, is com­plete­ly unknown. It is, Bloomberg reports, the “black­est box in finance”.

Johan Bollen, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty School of Infor­mat­ics and Com­put­ing, tells me how he dis­cov­ered one pos­si­ble edge: he’s done research that shows you can pre­dict stock mar­ket moves from Twit­ter. You can mea­sure pub­lic sen­ti­ment and then mod­el it. “Soci­ety is dri­ven by emo­tions, which it’s always been dif­fi­cult to mea­sure, col­lec­tive­ly. But there are now pro­grammes that can read text and mea­sure it and give us a win­dow into those col­lec­tive emo­tions.”

The research caused a huge rip­ple among two dif­fer­ent con­stituen­cies. “We had a lot atten­tion from hedge funds. They are look­ing for sig­nals every­where and this is a huge­ly inter­est­ing sig­nal. My impres­sion is hedge funds do have these algo­rithms that are scan­ning social feeds. The flash crash­es we’ve had – sud­den huge drops in stock prices – indi­cates these algo­rithms are being used at large scale. And they are engaged in some­thing of an arms race.”

The oth­er peo­ple inter­est­ed in Bollen’s work are those who want not only to mea­sure pub­lic sen­ti­ment, but to change it. Bollen’s research shows how it’s pos­si­ble. Could you reverse engi­neer the nation­al, or even the glob­al, mood? Mod­el it, and then change it?

“It does seem pos­si­ble. And it does wor­ry me. There are quite a few pieces of research that show if you repeat some­thing often enough, peo­ple start invol­un­tar­i­ly to believe it. And that could be lever­aged, or weaponised for pro­pa­gan­da. We know there are thou­sands of auto­mat­ed bots out there that are try­ing to do just that.”

THE war of the bots is one of the wilder and weird­er aspects of the elec­tions of 2016. At the Oxford Inter­net Institute’s Unit for Com­pu­ta­tion­al Pro­pa­gan­da, its direc­tor, Phil Howard, and direc­tor of research, Sam Wool­ley, show me all the ways pub­lic opin­ion can be mas­saged and manip­u­lat­ed. But is there a smok­ing gun, I ask them, evi­dence of who is doing this? “There’s not a smok­ing gun,” says Howard. “There are smok­ing machine guns. There are mul­ti­ple pieces of evi­dence.”

“Look at this,” he says and shows me how, before the US elec­tion, hun­dreds upon hun­dreds of web­sites were set up to blast out just a few links, arti­cles that were all pro-Trump. “This is being done by peo­ple who under­stand infor­ma­tion struc­ture, who are bulk buy­ing domain names and then using automa­tion to blast out a cer­tain mes­sage. To make Trump look like he’s a con­sen­sus.”

And that requires mon­ey?

“That requires organ­i­sa­tion and mon­ey. And if you use enough of them, of bots and peo­ple, and clev­er­ly link them togeth­er, you are what’s legit­i­mate. You are cre­at­ing truth.”

You can take an exist­ing trend­ing top­ic, such as fake news, and then weaponise it. You can turn it against the very media that uncov­ered it. Viewed in a cer­tain light, fake news is a sui­cide bomb at the heart of our infor­ma­tion sys­tem. Strapped to the live body of us – the main­stream media.

One of the things that con­cerns Howard most is the hun­dreds of thou­sands of “sleep­er” bots they’ve found. Twit­ter accounts that have tweet­ed only once or twice and are now sit­ting qui­et­ly wait­ing for a trig­ger: some sort of cri­sis where they will rise up and come togeth­er to drown out all oth­er sources of infor­ma­tion.

Like zom­bies?

“Like zom­bies.” . . .

 

 

Discussion

13 comments for “FTR #948 Walkin’ the Snake with Breitbart: The Gathering Sturm”

  1. With the Trump admin­is­tra­tion rolling out the pre­sum­ably-less-uncon­sti­tu­tion­al revised ver­sion of its ‘Mus­lim ban’ today, it’s prob­a­bly a good time for anoth­er peek into Steve Ban­non’s psy­che. Which unfor­tu­nate­ly means we have to take anoth­er peek into far-right hate lit­er­a­ture:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post

    This Stun­ning­ly Racist French Nov­el Is How Steve Ban­non Explains The World

    “The Camp of the Saints” tells a grotesque tale about a migrant inva­sion to destroy West­ern civ­i­liza­tion.

    By Paul Blu­men­thal, JM Rieger
    03/04/2017 05:00 pm ET | Updat­ed 10 hours ago

    Stephen Ban­non, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s chief strate­gist and the dri­ving force behind the administration’s con­tro­ver­sial ban on trav­el­ers, has a favorite metaphor he uses to describe the largest refugee cri­sis in human his­to­ry.

    It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type inva­sion into Cen­tral and then West­ern and North­ern Europe,” he said in Octo­ber 2015.

    “The whole thing in Europe is all about immi­gra­tion,” he said in Jan­u­ary 2016. “It’s a glob­al issue today — this kind of glob­al Camp of the Saints.”

    “It’s not a migra­tion,” he said lat­er that Jan­u­ary. “It’s real­ly an inva­sion. I call it the Camp of the Saints.”

    “When we first start­ed talk­ing about this a year ago,” he said in April 2016, “we called it the Camp of the Saints. ... I mean, this is Camp of the Saints, isn’t it?”

    Ban­non has agi­tat­ed for a host of anti-immi­grant mea­sures. In his pre­vi­ous role as exec­u­tive chair­man of the right-wing news site Bre­it­bart — which he called a “plat­form for the alt-right,” the online move­ment of white nation­al­ists — he made anti-immi­grant and anti-Mus­lim news a focus.

    But the top Trump aide’s repeat­ed ref­er­ences to The Camp of the Saints, an obscure 1973 nov­el by French author Jean Ras­pail, reveal even more about how he under­stands the world. The book is a cult favorite on the far right, yet it’s nev­er found a wider audi­ence. There’s a good rea­son for that: It’s breath­tak­ing­ly racist.

    “[This book is] racist in the lit­er­al sense of the term. It uses race as the main char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of char­ac­ters,” said Cécile Alduy, pro­fes­sor of French at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty and an expert on the con­tem­po­rary French far right. “It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immi­grants that wash ashore like the plague.”

    The book, she said, “reframes every­thing as the fight to death between races.”

    Upon the novel’s release in the Unit­ed States in 1975, the influ­en­tial book review mag­a­zine Kirkus Reviews pulled no punch­es: “The pub­lish­ers are pre­sent­ing The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it prob­a­bly is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.”

    Lin­da Chavez, a Repub­li­can com­men­ta­tor who has worked for GOP pres­i­dents from Ronald Rea­gan to George W. Bush but opposed Trump’s elec­tion, also reviewed the book back then. Forty years lat­er, she hasn’t for­got­ten it.

    “It is real­ly shock­ing­ly racist,” Chavez told The Huff­in­g­ton Post, “and to have the coun­selor to the pres­i­dent see this as one of his touch­stones, I think, says vol­umes about his atti­tude.”

    The plot of The Camp of the Saints fol­lows a poor Indi­an dem­a­gogue, named “the turd-eater” because he lit­er­al­ly eats sh it, and the deformed, appar­ent­ly psy­chic child who sits on his shoul­ders. Togeth­er, they lead an “arma­da” of 800,000 impov­er­ished Indi­ans sail­ing to France. Dither­ing Euro­pean politi­cians, bureau­crats and reli­gious lead­ers, includ­ing a lib­er­al pope from Latin Amer­i­ca, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indi­ans or to do the right thing — in the book’s vision — by rec­og­niz­ing the threat the migrants pose and killing them all.

    The non-white peo­ple of Earth, mean­while, wait silent­ly for the Indi­ans to reach shore. The land­ing will be the sig­nal for them to rise up every­where and over­throw white West­ern soci­ety.

    The French gov­ern­ment even­tu­al­ly gives the order to repel the arma­da by force, but by then the mil­i­tary has lost the will to fight. Troops bat­tle among them­selves as the Indi­ans stream on shore, tram­pling to death the left-wing rad­i­cals who came to wel­come them. Poor black and brown peo­ple lit­er­al­ly over­run West­ern civ­i­liza­tion. Chi­nese peo­ple pour into Rus­sia; the queen of Eng­land is forced to mar­ry her son to a Pak­istani woman; the may­or of New York must house an African-Amer­i­can fam­i­ly at Gra­cie Man­sion. Raspail’s rogue heroes, the defend­ers of white Chris­t­ian suprema­cy, attempt to defend their civ­i­liza­tion with guns blaz­ing but are killed in the process.

    Calgues, the obvi­ous Ras­pail stand-in, is one of those tak­ing up arms against the migrants and their cul­tur­al­ly “cuck­old­ed” white sup­port­ers. Just before killing a rad­i­cal hip­pie, Calgues com­pares his own actions to past hero­ic, some­times myth­i­cal defens­es of Euro­pean Chris­ten­dom. He harkens back to famous bat­tles that fit the clash-of-civ­i­liza­tions nar­ra­tive — the defense of Rhodes against the Ottoman Empire, the fall of Con­stan­tino­ple to the same — and glo­ri­fies colo­nial wars of con­quest and the for­ma­tion of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Only white Euro­peans like Calgues are por­trayed as tru­ly human in The Camp of the Saints. The Indi­an arma­da brings “thou­sands of wretched crea­tures” whose very bod­ies arouse dis­gust: “Scrag­gy branch­es, brown and black … All bare, those flesh­less Gand­hi-arms.” Poor brown chil­dren are spoiled fruit “start­ing to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.”

    The ship’s inhab­i­tants are also sex­u­al deviants who turn the voy­age into a grotesque orgy. “Every­where, rivers of sperm,” Ras­pail writes. “Stream­ing over bod­ies, ooz­ing between breasts, and but­tocks, and thighs, and lips, and fin­gers.”

    The white Chris­t­ian world is on the brink of destruc­tion, the nov­el sug­gests, because these black and brown peo­ple are more fer­tile and more numer­ous, while the West has lost that nec­es­sary belief in its own cul­tur­al and racial supe­ri­or­i­ty. As he talks to the hip­pie he will soon kill, Calgues explains how the youth went so wrong: “That scorn of a peo­ple for oth­er races, the knowl­edge that one’s own is best, the tri­umphant joy at feel­ing one­self to be part of humanity’s finest — none of that had ever filled these young­sters’ addled brains.”

    The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Rev­e­la­tion 20:9 — is noth­ing less than a call to arms for the white Chris­t­ian West, to revive the spir­it of the Cru­sades and steel itself for bloody con­flict against the poor black and brown world with­out and the trai­tors with­in. The novel’s last line links past humil­i­a­tions tight­ly to its own grim para­ble about mod­ern migra­tion. “The Fall of Con­stan­tino­ple,” Raspail’s unnamed nar­ra­tor says, “is a per­son­al mis­for­tune that hap­pened to all of us only last week.”

    Ras­pail wrote The Camp of the Saints in 1972 and 1973, after a stay at his aunt’s house near Cannes on the south­ern coast of France. Look­ing out across the Mediter­ranean, he had an epiphany: “And what if they came?” he thought to him­self. “This ‘they’ was not clear­ly defined at first,” he told the con­ser­v­a­tive pub­li­ca­tion Le Point in 2015. “Then I imag­ined that the Third World would rush into this blessed coun­try that is France.”

    Raspail’s nov­el has been pub­lished in the U.S. sev­er­al times, each time with the back­ing of the anti-immi­gra­tion move­ment.

    The U.S. pub­lish­ing house Scrib­n­er was the first to trans­late the book into Eng­lish in 1975, but it failed to reach a wide audi­ence amid with­er­ing reviews by crit­ics. A rare favor­able take appeared in Nation­al Review. “Ras­pail brings his read­er to the sur­pris­ing con­clu­sion that killing a mil­lion or so starv­ing refugees from India would be a supreme act of indi­vid­ual san­i­ty and cul­tur­al health,” then-Dart­mouth pro­fes­sor Jef­frey Hart wrote in 1975. “Ras­pail is to geno­cide what [D.H. Lawrence] was to sex.” Hart added that “a great fuss” was being made over “Raspail’s sup­posed racism,” but that the “lib­er­al rote anath­e­ma on ‘racism’ is in effect a poi­so­nous assault upon West­ern self-pref­er­ence.”

    The book received a sec­ond life in 1983 when Cordelia Scaife May, heiress to the Mel­lon for­tune and sis­ter to right-wing bene­fac­tor Richard Mel­lon Scaife, fund­ed its repub­li­ca­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion. This time it gained a cult fol­low­ing among immi­gra­tion oppo­nents.

    May’s mon­ey has also been instru­men­tal in fund­ing the efforts of John Tan­ton, the god­fa­ther of the anti-immi­gra­tion move­ment in the U.S. Tan­ton, who began as an envi­ron­men­tal­ist and pop­u­la­tion con­trol pro­po­nent, found­ed a host of groups focused on restrict­ing immi­gra­tion, includ­ing the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform, the Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies, Num­ber­sUSA and U.S. Eng­lish. May’s for­tune has fueled these groups with tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in con­tri­bu­tions over the years.

    Lin­da Chavez was recruit­ed in 1987 to head U.S. Eng­lish, which advo­cates for Eng­lish to be des­ig­nat­ed the country’s offi­cial lan­guage. But then a series of dis­turb­ing sto­ries paint­ed Tanton’s motives in a racial light. Among oth­er issues, Chavez said she learned that his fund­ing came from the pro-eugen­ics Pio­neer Fund and from May, who Chavez knew had helped pub­lish The Camp of the Saints. Chavez recalled see­ing Tanton’s staffers car­ry­ing the book around their offices. She quit the group.

    Tan­ton, who insists his oppo­si­tion to immi­gra­tion is not con­nect­ed to race at all, told The Wash­ing­ton Post in 2006 that his mind “became focused” on the issue after read­ing The Camp of the Saints. In 1995, his small pub­lish­ing house, Social Con­tract Press, brought the book back into print for a third time in the U.S., again with fund­ing from May. His­to­ri­ans Paul Kennedy and Matt Con­nel­ly tied the book to then-cur­rent con­cerns about glob­al demo­graph­ic trends in a cov­er sto­ry for The Atlantic.

    “Over the years the Amer­i­can pub­lic has absorbed a great num­ber of books, arti­cles, poems and films which exalt the immi­grant expe­ri­ence,” Tan­ton wrote in 1994. “It is easy for the feel­ings evoked by Ellis Island and the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty to obscure the fact that we are cur­rent­ly receiv­ing too many immi­grants (and receiv­ing them too fast) for the health of our envi­ron­ment and of our com­mon cul­ture. Ras­pail evokes dif­fer­ent feel­ings and that may help to pave the way for pol­i­cy changes.”

    In 2001, the book was repub­lished one more time, again by Tan­ton, and again gained a cult fol­low­ing among oppo­nents of immi­gra­tion like the bor­der-patrolling Min­ute­men and even­tu­al­ly the online “alt-right.”

    Bannon’s alt-right-lov­ing Bre­it­bart has run mul­ti­ple arti­cles over the past three years ref­er­enc­ing the nov­el. When Pope Fran­cis told a joint ses­sion of Con­gress that the U.S. should open its arms to refugees in Sep­tem­ber 2015, Breitbart’s Julia Hahn, now an aide to Ban­non in the White House, com­pared his admo­ni­tion to Raspail’s lib­er­al Latin Amer­i­can pon­tiff. And the novel’s the­sis that migra­tion is inva­sion in dis­guise is often reflect­ed in Bannon’s pub­lic com­ments.

    The refugee cri­sis “didn’t just hap­pen by hap­pen­stance,” Ban­non said in an April 2016 radio inter­view with Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, who now works for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. “These are not war refugees. It’s some­thing much more insid­i­ous going on.”

    Ban­non has also echoed the novel’s the­o­ry that sec­u­lar lib­er­als who favor immi­gra­tion and diver­si­ty weak­en the West.

    ...

    Now Ban­non sits at the right hand of the U.S. pres­i­dent, work­ing to beat back what Ban­non calls “this Mus­lim inva­sion.” And Trump is all in on the project. Dur­ing the cam­paign, he called for a ban on all Mus­lims enter­ing the coun­try. His Jan. 28 exec­u­tive order, since blocked in the courts, turned this cam­paign idea into exec­u­tive pol­i­cy.

    Trump has con­tin­ued to defend the exec­u­tive order as a life-or-death nation­al secu­ri­ty issue. “We can­not allow a beach­head of ter­ror­ism to form inside Amer­i­ca,” he said in his first speech to a joint ses­sion of Con­gress on Tues­day.

    Five days ear­li­er, Trump had called his immi­gra­tion enforce­ment efforts a “mil­i­tary oper­a­tion.”

    Although Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty offi­cials walked back that state­ment, the president’s con­fla­tion of immi­gra­tion with war­fare did not go unno­ticed.

    “They see this as a war,” Chavez said.

    Chavez, who sup­ports some of Trump’s eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy pro­pos­als, called the direc­tion the White House is tak­ing on immi­gra­tion and race “extreme­ly dan­ger­ous.” She said Trump’s immi­gra­tion moves are “a kind of purg­ing of Amer­i­ca of any­thing but our North­ern Euro­pean roots.” Ban­non, she added, “wants to make Amer­i­ca white again.”

    The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Rev­e­la­tion 20:9is noth­ing less than a call to arms for the white Chris­t­ian West, to revive the spir­it of the Cru­sades and steel itself for bloody con­flict against the poor black and brown world with­out and the trai­tors with­in. The novel’s last line links past humil­i­a­tions tight­ly to its own grim para­ble about mod­ern migra­tion. “The Fall of Con­stan­tino­ple,” Raspail’s unnamed nar­ra­tor says, “is a per­son­al mis­for­tune that hap­pened to all of us only last week.””

    Yeah, that def­i­nite­ly sounds like the kind of book we might find on Steve Ban­non’s book­shelf. Or Trump’s book­shelf, right next to the book of inspi­ra­tional speech­es.

    In tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed news, Ben Car­son gave his first offi­cial address as Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment sec­re­tary today. The top­ic of non-white immi­gra­tion to the US came up dur­ing the speech. And while he did­n’t exact­ly have a Ban­non-esque view on the top­ic, it did­n’t go very well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2017, 9:03 pm
  2. Guess which Trump of Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor spoke pos­i­tive­ly back in 2007 about the move by the far-right Job­bik par­ty to start its own “Hun­gar­i­an Guard” para­mil­i­tary mili­tia based on the WWII “Array Cross” Hun­gar­i­an Nazis. On TV. And if you’re tempt­ed to guess “Steve Ban­non”, that’s a good guess since he prob­a­bly would have been pro-“Hungarian Guard” at the time. But the cor­rect answer is the more obvi­ous one:

    For­ward

    EXCLUSIVE: Con­tro­ver­sial Trump Aide Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka Backed Vio­lent Anti-Semit­ic Mili­tia

    By Lili Bay­er
    April 3, 2017
    BUDAPEST

    As a Hun­gar­i­an polit­i­cal leader in 2007, Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, Pres­i­dent Trump’s chief counter-ter­ror­ism advis­er, pub­licly sup­port­ed a vio­lent racist and anti-Semit­ic para­mil­i­tary mili­tia that was lat­er banned as a threat to minori­ties by mul­ti­ple court rul­ings.

    In a video obtained by the For­ward of an August 2007 tele­vi­sion appear­ance by Gor­ka, the future White House senior aide explic­it­ly affirms his party’s and his sup­port for the black-vest­ed Hun­gar­i­an Guard (Mag­yar Gár­da) — a group lat­er con­demned by the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights for attempt­ing to pro­mote an “essen­tial­ly racist” legal order.

    Asked direct­ly on the TV inter­view pro­gram if he sup­ports the move by Job­bik, a far-right anti-Semit­ic par­ty, to estab­lish the mili­tia, Gor­ka, appear­ing as a leader of his own new­ly formed par­ty, replies imme­di­ate­ly, “That is so.” The Guard, Gor­ka explains, is a response to “a big soci­etal need.”

    Hungary’s offi­cial mil­i­tary, he stressed, “is sick, and total­ly reflects the state of Hun­gar­i­an soci­ety…. This coun­try can­not defend itself.”

    As he speaks dur­ing the pro­gram, a ban­ner head­line read­ing “UDK Sup­ports The Hun­gar­i­an Guard” runs across the screen. The Hun­gar­i­an acronym is a ref­er­ence to Gorka’s own, par­ty, known in Eng­lish as the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coali­tion.

    Both the inter­view­er and Gor­ka refer to the move to estab­lish the para­mil­i­tary out­fit as “the Fidesz-Job­bik ini­tia­tive,” reflect­ing Gorka’s con­tention that Fidesz, a larg­er right-wing par­ty, was qui­et­ly back­ing Job­bik in its effort.

    Gorka’s affir­ma­tion of sup­port for the far-right mili­tia echoed state­ments his par­ty post­ed on its web­site that same month, back­ing the Guard’s estab­lish­ment and refer­ring to it as “the Fidesz-Job­bik ini­tia­tive,” an appar­ent attempt by Gor­ka and his par­ty to some­what dis­tance them­selves from the con­tro­ver­sial mili­tia at the same time. In one such state­ment, a par­ty fac­tion indi­cat­ed its aware­ness of the Guard lead­ers’ extrem­ism, declar­ing blunt­ly, “We sup­port the estab­lish­ment of the Hun­gar­i­an Guard despite the per­son­al­i­ties involved.” Anoth­er August state­ment spoke more gener­i­cal­ly of “a need for guards” in dis­cussing the new militia’s estab­lish­ment.

    The fol­low­ing month, anoth­er par­ty state­ment attacked crit­ics of the Guard, alleg­ing that they opposed the mili­tia to please U.S. Rep. Tom Lan­tos, a Hun­gar­i­an-born Holo­caust sur­vivor who had pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to bar Guard mem­bers from enter­ing the Unit­ed States. Lan­tos, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­rat, cit­ed the Guard’s affin­i­ty for “the fas­cist Arrow Cross regime” that ruled Hun­gary at the end of World War II, when it par­tic­i­pat­ed in the depor­ta­tion of Hun­gar­i­an Jews into Nazi hands and killed thou­sands more.

    On the TV pre­sen­ta­tion, when his inter­view­er notes the ways in which the Guard “echoes Octo­ber 1944, or some­time around then” through its uni­forms, arms train­ing and street march­es, Gor­ka strong­ly defends his party’s sup­port for the Guard, though not with­out some ambiva­lence.

    “I’m not say­ing it’s a good solu­tion, but nei­ther shoot­ing train­ing nor using the Arpad flag [is] uncon­sti­tu­tion­al,” he replied. The Arpad red-and-white flag, a nation­al­ist sym­bol embla­zoned on the Guard’s uni­form, was also used by the Arrow Cross dur­ing World War II.

    As for the Guard’s black vests, which the inter­view­er cit­ed as rem­i­nis­cent of the Arrow Cross’s black shirts, Gor­ka said: “When the police shows up to deal with bank rob­bers in black uni­forms, who talks about a fas­cist police in Hun­gary? Nobody! Now, it is pos­si­ble that when they put togeth­er all these things, the effect in the end will be very bad, but it’s not my prob­lem. It would be Fidesz and Jobbik’s prob­lem.”

    Dur­ing the 11-minute inter­view, which aired on Hungary’s Echo TV, Gor­ka dis­missed con­cerns expressed by the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, and in par­tic­u­lar fears that the Guard pro­voked among Hun­gar­i­an Holo­caust sur­vivors. As is often the case in Hun­gary, the inter­view­er refers to Holo­caust sur­vivors oblique­ly, as “peo­ple who expe­ri­enced 1944” — when hun­dreds of thou­sands of Hun­gar­i­an Jews were deport­ed to Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps — or as those who expe­ri­enced “the Arrow Cross regime.”

    Many such peo­ple, the inter­view­er not­ed, “are say­ing now is the time to leave Hun­gary. So in effect [the estab­lish­ment of the Hun­gar­i­an Guard] is facil­i­tat­ing the flar­ing-up of anti-Semi­tism?”

    “This is a tool,” Gor­ka replied. “This type of accu­sa­tion is the very use­ful tool of a cer­tain polit­i­cal class.”

    The Guard was well known for its mem­bers’ anti-Semi­tism. Mem­bers often attend­ed memo­r­i­al cer­e­monies for World War II-era Hun­gar­i­an fas­cists. In a 2008 speech, István Dósa, who served in the Guard as a high-rank­ing cap­tain, referred to Jews as “Zion­ist rats” and as “locusts” while also dis­cussing “Zion­ist-Bol­she­vik geno­cide” and call­ing Hun­gar­i­an Jews “nation-destroy­ers.”

    In his cur­rent posi­tion as deputy assis­tant to the pres­i­dent, Gor­ka, who immi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed States and became an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen in 2012, serves as Trump’s chief con­sul­tant on counter-ter­ror­ism issues, and in par­tic­u­lar on fight­ing jihadists. He has char­ac­ter­ized the Unit­ed States in this effort as a coun­try “at war” and, in a recent inter­view, reaf­firmed Trump’s call dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign for sur­veil­lance of Amer­i­can Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. Nei­ther Gor­ka nor the White House respond­ed to emailed requests from the For­ward for a response to the infor­ma­tion the video reveals about Gorka’s sup­port for the Guard.

    Crit­ics have ques­tioned Gorka’s exper­tise in the field of ter­ror­ism, which was the sub­ject of his doc­tor­al the­sis at Budapest’s Corv­i­nus Uni­ver­si­ty, where he received his doc­tor­ate. Some have cit­ed seri­ous flaws in his the­sis and not­ed his fail­ure to pub­lish any schol­ar­ship on the issue in peer-reviewed jour­nals. But his August 2007 TV inter­view also rais­es ques­tions about his under­stand­ing, at least at that point in time, of basic secu­ri­ty struc­tures and legal real­i­ties in key coun­tries that are fight­ing ter­ror­ism.

    Asked dur­ing the inter­view if it was “nor­mal” for a polit­i­cal par­ty in “devel­oped democ­ra­cies” to estab­lish “in real­i­ty, a para­mil­i­tary group,” Gor­ka respond­ed: “Well it depends on which coun­try. If we look at the Swiss or Israeli exam­ple, then it’s com­plete­ly nat­ur­al…. Even in Amer­i­ca, where the largest and wealth­i­est mil­i­tary exists, there are such pro­grams where peo­ple can access weapons almost for free if they attend an orga­nized shoot­ing train­ing and always belong to an orga­ni­za­tion.”

    Gor­ka dis­miss­es the interviewer’s objec­tion that the units in these coun­tries — mil­i­tary reserve units in Israel and Switzer­land, or, in the Unit­ed States, Nation­al Guard forces — “are in effect under the military’s con­trol.”

    “It is clear after the dis­tur­bances in Hun­gary last year [that] a need has arisen” to which Job­bik is respond­ing, Gor­ka says.

    Job­bik, which announced its estab­lish­ment of the Hun­gar­i­an Guard in June 2007, has a long record of anti-Semit­ic and anti-Roma posi­tions and state­ments. One of the Guard’s found­ing mem­bers was Gábor Vona, Jobbik’s leader. The organization’s declared aim was to defend “eth­nic Hun­gar­i­ans,” since, its founders argued, Hun­gary lacked oth­er means of “phys­i­cal, men­tal or spir­i­tu­al self-defense.”

    The Guard was for­mal­ly banned in 2009, with the country’s high­est court rul­ing that its anti-Roma march­es vio­lat­ed the rights of the Hun­gar­i­an Roma com­mu­ni­ty. In 2013, two of its mem­bers were found guilty in a string of racial­ly moti­vat­ed mur­ders of Hun­gar­i­an Roma, includ­ing the killing of a 5‑year-old, com­mit­ted in 2008 and 2009.

    In 2013, the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights ruled that Hungary’s unusu­al blan­ket ban on the group was legal. “The movement’s activ­i­ties and man­i­fes­ta­tions were based on the racial con­flict between Hun­gar­i­an major­i­ty and Roma minor­i­ty,” the court ruled.

    Gorka’s inter­view was aired about three weeks before the Guard’s first offi­cial swear­ing-in cer­e­mo­ny. But at the time, many observers and Jew­ish groups were already protest­ing against the Guard and call­ing for a ban.

    In an August 2007 open let­ter, World Jew­ish Con­gress Pres­i­dent Ronald S. Laud­er and Euro­pean Jew­ish Con­gress Pres­i­dent Moshe Kan­tor warned then-Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Fer­enc Gyurcsány that the “impend­ing cre­ation of an armed guard, under the false guise of ‘sport­ing and shoot­ing clubs,’ with uni­forms resem­bling those worn by fas­cists in World War II” was a dan­ger to democ­ra­cy and should be stopped.

    Gorka’s par­ty, which he had launched only recent­ly, was com­pet­ing intense­ly with Job­bik and Vik­tor Orbán’s Fidesz par­ty at the time. While con­firm­ing his sup­port for the Guard, its uni­forms and its para­mil­i­tary nature, when asked whether the Guard would, indeed, resolve the prob­lems he out­lined in Hungary’s mil­i­tary and soci­ety, Gor­ka remarked: “Ah, it’s not that sure. With some kind of pre­sentable orga­ni­za­tion, or sev­er­al orga­ni­za­tions, it could be pos­si­ble.”

    Fol­low­ing the inter­view, the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coali­tion post­ed a link on its own par­ty web­site, under the head­ing “UDK Sup­ports The Hun­gar­i­an Guard: Sebestyen [Sebas­t­ian] Gor­ka on EchoTV.” But near­ly two weeks lat­er, the par­ty com­plained in a post on its web­site that his com­ments had been “mis­in­ter­pret­ed.”

    Dur­ing the TV exchange, Gorka’s inter­view­er allud­ed to a pop­u­lar con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry in Hun­gary regard­ing Israeli secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies main­tain­ing an armed pres­ence on Hun­gar­i­an ter­ri­to­ry to back the gov­ern­ment. “As you all men­tion in the analy­sis you wrote as well, Israeli-owned secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies which also do gov­ern­ment tasks have to be liq­ui­dat­ed,” the inter­view­er told Gor­ka.

    The coalition’s leader did not con­tra­dict his interviewer’s account.

    The tele­vised inter­view was not the only time Gor­ka defend­ed the Guard. A month lat­er, in an inter­view with a Hun­gar­i­an online por­tal, Gor­ka said that when it comes to the Guard, “it’s not worth talk­ing about ban­ning or a nation­al secu­ri­ty risk.”

    Gor­ka left Hun­gary short­ly there­after, as his efforts to build a career in pol­i­tics there failed. In 2008, after a report sur­faced in a Ger­man-lan­guage pub­li­ca­tion about his sup­port for para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tions, he wrote a let­ter deny­ing that he had ever sup­port­ed the Guard.

    ...

    There is no evi­dence that Gor­ka him­self has ever engaged in overt­ly anti-Semit­ic acts or par­tic­i­pat­ed in any of the Guard’s activ­i­ties. But Gor­ka and some of his polit­i­cal sup­port­ers have argued that he has fought anti-Semi­tism through­out his career. The new­ly avail­able video footage sig­nals that Gor­ka not only failed to fight anti-Semi­tism, but also sup­port­ed an open­ly intol­er­ant para­mil­i­tary group and pub­licly reject­ed the Jew­ish community’s con­cerns about their own safe­ty and the safe­ty of oth­er minori­ties due to the group’s found­ing.

    “The Guard was for­mal­ly banned in 2009, with the country’s high­est court rul­ing that its anti-Roma march­es vio­lat­ed the rights of the Hun­gar­i­an Roma com­mu­ni­ty. In 2013, two of its mem­bers were found guilty in a string of racial­ly moti­vat­ed mur­ders of Hun­gar­i­an Roma, includ­ing the killing of a 5‑year-old, com­mit­ted in 2008 and 2009.”

    Job­bik’s “Hun­gar­i­an Guard” may not have been long-lived after all the anti-Semi­tism and mur­ders asso­ci­at­ed with it, but the under­ly­ing ideas dri­ving the “Hun­gar­i­an Guard” have clear­ly endured over the decades. And it was Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka who was try­ing to get the peo­ple dri­ven by those ideas to join Gorka’s new Hun­gar­i­an polit­i­cal par­ty, the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coali­tion. It did­n’t work, but he tried:

    ...
    Gorka’s par­ty, which he had launched only recent­ly, was com­pet­ing intense­ly with Job­bik and Vik­tor Orbán’s Fidesz par­ty at the time. While con­firm­ing his sup­port for the Guard, its uni­forms and its para­mil­i­tary nature, when asked whether the Guard would, indeed, resolve the prob­lems he out­lined in Hungary’s mil­i­tary and soci­ety, Gor­ka remarked: “Ah, it’s not that sure. With some kind of pre­sentable orga­ni­za­tion, or sev­er­al orga­ni­za­tions, it could be pos­si­ble.”

    Fol­low­ing the inter­view, the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coali­tion post­ed a link on its own par­ty web­site, under the head­ing “UDK Sup­ports The Hun­gar­i­an Guard: Sebestyen [Sebas­t­ian] Gor­ka on EchoTV.” But near­ly two weeks lat­er, the par­ty com­plained in a post on its web­site that his com­ments had been “mis­in­ter­pret­ed.”

    Dur­ing the TV exchange, Gorka’s inter­view­er allud­ed to a pop­u­lar con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry in Hun­gary regard­ing Israeli secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies main­tain­ing an armed pres­ence on Hun­gar­i­an ter­ri­to­ry to back the gov­ern­ment. “As you all men­tion in the analy­sis you wrote as well, Israeli-owned secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies which also do gov­ern­ment tasks have to be liq­ui­dat­ed,” the inter­view­er told Gor­ka.

    The coalition’s leader did not con­tra­dict his interviewer’s account.

    The tele­vised inter­view was not the only time Gor­ka defend­ed the Guard. A month lat­er, in an inter­view with a Hun­gar­i­an online por­tal, Gor­ka said that when it comes to the Guard, “it’s not worth talk­ing about ban­ning or a nation­al secu­ri­ty risk.”

    Gor­ka left Hun­gary short­ly there­after, as his efforts to build a career in pol­i­tics there failed. In 2008, after a report sur­faced in a Ger­man-lan­guage pub­li­ca­tion about his sup­port for para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tions, he wrote a let­ter deny­ing that he had ever sup­port­ed the Guard.
    ...

    And after that unsuc­cess­ful attempt to gar­ner the Hun­gar­i­an far-right vote in 2007 Gor­ka even­tu­al­ly left to build his polit­i­cal career else­where.

    And now you know the rest of the sto­ry...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 3, 2017, 8:30 pm
  3. Trou­ble in Par­adise? Pos­si­bly. At least that’s what Roger Stone recent­ly claimed on InfoWars. Specif­i­cal­ly, accord­ing to Stone, Jared Kush­n­er and Steve Ban­non are at war with each oth­er and Kush­n­er keeps tex­ting Morn­ing Joe’s Joe Scar­bor­ough anti-Ban­non sto­ries:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Roger Stone: Kush­n­er Is Leak­ing Intel to Scar­bor­ough
    The president’s friend and self-pro­claimed ‘dirty trick­ster’ alleged on InfoWars that ‘there is no ques­tion now sources are telling me’ Kush­n­er was tex­ting neg­a­tive infor­ma­tion about oth­er White House offi­cials to the MSNBC host.

    Gideon Resnick
    04.04.17 3:29 PM ET

    Dur­ing a seg­ment on InfoWars today, Roger Stone, who was pre­vi­ous­ly an advis­er dur­ing the ear­ly months of Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign, claimed to host Alex Jones that Trump’s own son-in-law Jared Kush­n­er was leak­ing infor­ma­tion to MSNBC’s Joe Scar­bor­ough.

    “Jared Kush­n­er, per­haps the one pres­i­den­tial aide who can­not be fired, is now in reg­u­lar text mes­sage com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Joe Scar­bor­ough,” Stone claimed. “Many of the anti-Steve Ban­non sto­ries that you see, the themes that you see on Morn­ing Joe, are being dic­tat­ed by Kush­n­er. And while Mr. Kushner’s plate is very full with Mid­dle East­ern peace and the Chi­na vis­it, and so on, in this case I think he is dis­serv­ing the pres­i­dent.”

    Stone did not respond to a sub­se­quent text and email from The Dai­ly Beast seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion on this claim.

    “There is no ques­tion now that sources tell me that the president’s son-in-law enjoys a very live­ly text exchange with Joe Scar­bor­ough,” Stone con­tin­ued. “Joe Scar­bor­ough is no friend of the pres­i­dent, he rev­els in pass­ing fake news. He him­self has more scan­dals than you can shake a stick at.”

    Scar­bor­ough has oscil­lat­ed between crit­i­ciz­ing the pres­i­dent on air and main­tain­ing a friend­ly rela­tion­ship with him, for instance recent­ly meet­ing with Trump pri­or to his address to Con­gress. Trump, in turn, has claimed over and over again that he no longer watch­es the show.

    Stone said that his infor­ma­tion has not hit the news and “was break­ing on InfoWars.”

    Jones respond­ed that he didn’t want to “run Jared down” because he “looks like a smart guy, good look­ing guy.” But he was adamant that, in his mind, leak­ing to Scar­bor­ough was a bad idea.

    Stone would not go into detail about the claims he made.

    ...

    ““There is no ques­tion now that sources tell me that the president’s son-in-law enjoys a very live­ly text exchange with Joe Scar­bor­ough,” Stone con­tin­ued. “Joe Scar­bor­ough is no friend of the pres­i­dent, he rev­els in pass­ing fake news. He him­self has more scan­dals than you can shake a stick at.””

    Could Roger Stone actu­al­ly be telling the truth for once? If so, Trump choose fam­i­ly? Or his heart? It’s quite dilem­ma. And just a day after Roger Stone makes those claims Steve Ban­non gets removed from the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil prin­ci­pals com­mit­tee:

    Politi­co

    Ban­non oust­ed from Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion ini­tial­ly faced a bipar­ti­san wave of com­plaints over a polit­i­cal offi­cial serv­ing in a nation­al secu­ri­ty role.

    By Shane Gold­mach­er, Josh Dawsey, Tara Palmeri and Bryan Ben­der

    04/05/17 11:54 AM EDT

    Updat­ed 04/05/17 12:26 PM EDT

    White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non has been removed from an impor­tant seat on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil — a post­ing that had stirred con­tro­ver­sy for plac­ing one of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s top polit­i­cal hands in a key nation­al secu­ri­ty posi­tion.

    The change rep­re­sents the first real diminu­tion of author­i­ty for Ban­non, who has been cast as an all-pow­er­ful whis­per­er to Trump in the administration’s first 75 days, mocked by his crit­ics as “Pres­i­dent Ban­non.”

    In recent weeks, Jared Kush­n­er, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advis­er, has asked search­ing ques­tions — some­times for hours — of inside and out­side advis­ers about the White House­’s per­for­mance and com­plained about Ban­non in par­tic­u­lar, accord­ing to peo­ple who have spo­ken with Kush­n­er. Kush­n­er, a one­time New York Demo­c­rat, and Ban­non, a hard-right nation­al­ist, have clashed as Kush­n­er has told peo­ple that Bannon’s desire to decon­struct the gov­ern­ment is hurt­ing the pres­i­dent.

    One per­son famil­iar with Kush­n­er’s think­ing says Kush­n­er believes Ban­non is more of a prob­lem than Reince Priebus, the chief of staff.

    “Big fight is between nation­al­ists and the ‘West Wing Democ­rats,’” one senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said.

    The White House tried to down­play the sig­nif­i­cance of Bannon’s removal from the NSC — it went unan­nounced by the press office — depict­ing him as sim­ply mov­ing on after suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ing lim­it­ed tasks.

    “It’s not like this is a major shake-up,” said anoth­er admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial.

    But Bannon’s exit, revealed in a fed­er­al reg­is­ter fil­ing and con­firmed by mul­ti­ple White House offi­cials, is per­ceived to rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant long-term increase in author­i­ty for H.R. McMas­ter, Trump’s new nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, who now has greater author­i­ty over the council’s agen­da with­out one of Trump’s clos­est aides watch­ing close­ly over him.

    “McMas­ter won,” one NSC offi­cial said.

    One White House offi­cial said Ban­non was placed on the NSC to “babysit” Trump’s first nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Michael Fly­nn, who resigned in mid-Feb­ru­ary after mis­lead­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about his con­ver­sa­tions with Russ­ian ambas­sador Sergey Kislyak.

    This offi­cial said Bannon’s role was also to ensure that the NSC was “de-oper­a­tional­ized” fol­low­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. “That job is done,” the offi­cial said.

    “It’s not like he’s been in prin­ci­pal com­mit­tee meet­ings con­stant­ly say­ing [to McMas­ter], ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that,’” anoth­er of the offi­cials said. “That hasn’t hap­pened.”

    Ban­non had not been a reg­u­lar attendee of NSC prin­ci­pals meet­ings. One per­son said he attend­ed one meet­ing; anoth­er said he hadn’t attend­ed any.

    Some cau­tioned not to make too much of Bannon’s removal. “I get a sense that peo­ple are going, ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead,’” said Eric Edel­man, who served as under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. “The only thing he doesn’t appear to have is a seat at the NSC prin­ci­pals com­mit­tee, and it’s not clear how impor­tant that will be.”

    The imme­di­ate read­ing by sev­er­al long­time NSC offi­cials and experts was that the pol­i­cy-mak­ing body is revert­ing to a much more tra­di­tion­al struc­ture — with the nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er in the driver’s seat and meet­ings attend­ed by Cab­i­net heads, top intel­li­gence offi­cials and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in the Fly­nn approach was not even des­ig­nat­ed a reg­u­lar mem­ber, even as Ban­non was.

    “It real­ly reflects well on H.R. McMas­ter, who has orches­trat­ed all the key moves behind the scenes in advance of announc­ing them and got­ten their approval,” David Rothkopf, author of two his­to­ries of the NSC, said in an inter­view. “That is a sign of a smart, effec­tive bureau­crat and leader. This restores the tra­di­tion­al struc­tures to the NSC. It is putting in place a pro­fes­sion­al team of nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­ers. It gives McMas­ter more author­i­ty and restores the roles of the mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence lead­er­ship.”

    ...

    The removal of Ban­non also raised ques­tions of whether more changes are in the works, in par­tic­u­lar the fate of K.T. McFar­land, who was brought in as Flynn’s deputy and remains the No. 2 at the NSC.

    “Trump loves [McFar­land], so I’m not sure McMas­ter can fire her,” an NSC offi­cial said.

    One NSC source said no addi­tion­al staffing changes are planned to the agency in the near term, say­ing that NSC intel­li­gence direc­tor Ezra Cohen-Wat­nick would remain in that post. McMas­ter had tried to re-assign Cohen-Wat­nick to a dif­fer­ent posi­tion last month but was over­ruled by Trump after Ban­non and Kush­n­er inter­vened.

    Cohen-Wat­nick sub­se­quent­ly became a key play­er in the con­tro­ver­sy over leaked intel­li­gence when it was revealed that he and anoth­er White House aide pro­vid­ed House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes (R‑Calif.) with evi­dence report­ed­ly show­ing that com­mu­ni­ca­tions from Trump’s team were inter­cept­ed in for­eign sur­veil­lance by U.S. intel­li­gence.

    In addi­tion to Ban­non, one oth­er change was made Wednes­day. Thomas Bossert, an assis­tant to the pres­i­dent for home­land secu­ri­ty and coun­tert­er­ror­ism, held co-equal sta­tus with Fly­nn when he was nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er. He is now sub­or­di­nate to McMas­ter, in anoth­er sign of the for­mer general’s empow­ered role in the Trump White House.

    The changes were not wel­comed among some Trump loy­al­ists.

    Flynn’s son, Michael Fly­nn Jr., tweet­ed that “Flynn/Bannon most loy­al to DJT (both out at NSC),” using the president’s ini­tials, and he com­plained that McMas­ter “wont say ‘Rad­i­cal Islam.’”

    “Is WH seri­ous abt defeat­ing our ene­my?” Fly­nn Jr. wrote.

    “In recent weeks, Jared Kush­n­er, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advis­er, has asked search­ing ques­tions — some­times for hours — of inside and out­side advis­ers about the White House­’s per­for­mance and com­plained about Ban­non in par­tic­u­lar, accord­ing to peo­ple who have spo­ken with Kush­n­er. Kush­n­er, a one­time New York Demo­c­rat, and Ban­non, a hard-right nation­al­ist, have clashed as Kush­n­er has told peo­ple that Bannon’s desire to decon­struct the gov­ern­ment is hurt­ing the pres­i­dent.”

    Is Roger Stone cor­rect and Jared Kush­n­er just won some sort of White House turf war with Ban­non? It’s pos­si­ble, although let’s keep in mind that the removal of Ban­non appears to be part of a much larg­er shake­up of the NSC that effec­tive­ly revers­es the shake­up Trump did back in Jan­u­ary when he placed Ban­non on the NSC in the first place. And while get­ting Ban­non out of there is rea­son to breath at least a bit of a sigh of relief, keep in mind the larg­er con­text of all this: It’s hap­pen­ing right after a chem­i­cal weapons inci­dent in Syr­ia that appar­ent­ly has rad­i­cal­ly shift­ed Trump’s atti­tude towards regime change in Syr­ia, so the kinds of stuff Trump’s NSC is going to be engaged in soon could be a lot more ‘Syri­ous’. Soon. And the guy who replaced Michael Fly­nn, Lt. Gen­er­al H.R. McMas­ter, was try­ing to get var­i­ous peo­ple kicked off the NSC but was over­ruled at the behest of Steven Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er a few weeks ago:

    Politi­co

    Report: Trump Over­rules McMas­ter on NSC Aide’s Ouster

    Trump steps in to keep 30-year-old NSC aide

    Ban­non and Kush­n­er pre­vail on the pres­i­dent to over­ride his nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er and keep a Fly­nn pro­tégé.

    By Ken­neth P. Vogel and Eliana John­son
    03/14/17 09:47 PM EDT

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has over­ruled a deci­sion by his nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMas­ter, to side­line a key intel­li­gence oper­a­tive who fell out of favor with some at the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, two sources told POLITICO.

    On Fri­day, McMas­ter told the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s senior direc­tor for intel­li­gence pro­grams, Ezra Cohen-Wat­nick, that he would be moved to anoth­er posi­tion in the orga­ni­za­tion.

    The con­ver­sa­tion fol­lowed weeks of pres­sure from career offi­cials at the CIA who had expressed reser­va­tions about the 30-year-old intel­li­gence oper­a­tive and pushed for his ouster.

    But Cohen-Wat­nick appealed McMaster’s deci­sion to two influ­en­tial allies with whom he had forged a rela­tion­ship while work­ing on Trump’s tran­si­tion team — White House advis­ers Steve Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er. They brought the mat­ter to Trump on Sun­day, and the pres­i­dent agreed that Cohen-Wat­nick should remain as the NSC’s intel­li­gence direc­tor, accord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the episode.

    The inci­dent rais­es ques­tions about just how much auton­o­my Trump is giv­ing to McMas­ter, who was tapped last month as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er amid ques­tions about whether he’d have full staffing author­i­ty over the NSC.

    It also high­lights ongo­ing ten­sions between the CIA and Trump aides who are skep­ti­cal of the agency, feed­ing into con­cerns expressed by the pres­i­dent and his allies about the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.

    ...

    “But Cohen-Wat­nick appealed McMaster’s deci­sion to two influ­en­tial allies with whom he had forged a rela­tion­ship while work­ing on Trump’s tran­si­tion team — White House advis­ers Steve Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er. They brought the mat­ter to Trump on Sun­day, and the pres­i­dent agreed that Cohen-Wat­nick should remain as the NSC’s intel­li­gence direc­tor, accord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the episode.”

    Yes, just a few weeks ago Jared Kush­n­er helped inter­vene, with Steve Ban­non, to get Trump to over­rule McMas­ter and keep Ezra Cohen-Wat­nick, a pro­tege of Michael Fly­nn, on the NSC. So in that par­tic­u­lar instance Kush­n­er and Ban­non appeared to see eye to eye, although let’s keep in mind that we’ve sub­se­quent­ly learned that Cohen-Wat­nick was act­ing as the source feed­ing infor­ma­tion from the White House to House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes in order to keep the ‘Oba­ma wire­tapped me!’ claim alive. So there was a dis­tinct and urgen polit­i­cal motive for Ban­non and Kush­n­er to work togeth­er on that one. But now here we are with McMas­ter keep­ing Cohen-Wat­nick on the NSC but Ban­non leav­ing. It’s a sit­u­a­tion that’s not obvi­ous how to inter­pret.

    But, again, this is all hap­pen­ing right after a big change in Trump’s stance towards Syr­ia and look who just got added to the NSC on the same day Ban­non left: UN Ambas­sador Nik­ki Haley and Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry, the doo­fus in charge of all the nukes. Plus, the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also been rein­stat­ed as reg­u­lar atten­dees after they were knocked down to ‘invite only’ sta­tus dur­ing the pre­vi­ous shake­up. Which means we prob­a­bly should­n’t for­get that this big NSC over­haul is hap­pen­ing at a time when Trump is prob­a­bly prepar­ing to go to war and needs the full back­ing of his gen­er­als:

    The Hill

    Per­ry, Haley added to Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil prin­ci­pals com­mit­tee

    By Mal­lo­ry Shel­bourne — 04/05/17 03:49 PM EDT

    Unit­ed Nations Ambas­sador Nik­ki Haley and Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry are slat­ed to join the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s (NSC) prin­ci­pals com­mit­tee as part of its lat­est reshuf­fling.

    Haley and Per­ry will now be “reg­u­lar atten­dees” of the com­mit­tee’s meet­ings, accord­ing to a mem­o­ran­dum pub­lished Wednes­day in the Fed­er­al Reg­is­ter.

    Haley’s addi­tion to the com­mit­tee comes the same day the U.N. envoy con­demned Tuesday’s chem­i­cal weapons attack in Syr­ia, which the U.S. has blamed on Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad’s regime.

    The mem­o­ran­dum also solid­i­fies Per­ry’s posi­tion as an advis­er to Trump on nation­al secu­ri­ty issues, as he over­sees a vast nation­al secu­ri­ty com­plex in his role as Ener­gy sec­re­tary.

    ...

    Nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er H.R. McMas­ter made the deci­sion to remove Ban­non, a request Pres­i­dent Trump approved. McMas­ter was tapped to lead the NSC fol­low­ing the ouster of nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn in Feb­ru­ary.

    The deci­sion to add Ban­non in a Jan­u­ary reor­ga­ni­za­tion of the NSC was met with ire from Democ­rats and some nation­al secu­ri­ty experts, who argued that his involve­ment could politi­cize the NSC.

    The direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also been rein­stat­ed as reg­u­lar atten­dees, while the CIA direc­tor has been added to the com­mit­tee.

    Under a 2009 pres­i­den­tial pol­i­cy direc­tive when for­mer Pres­i­dent Oba­ma took office, the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs were list­ed as “reg­u­lar mem­bers.” But Trump’s Jan­u­ary reshuf­fling order said the direc­tor and the chair­man would attend meet­ings only “where issues per­tain­ing to their respon­si­bil­i­ties and exper­tise are to be dis­cussed.”

    “The mem­o­ran­dum also solid­i­fies Per­ry’s posi­tion as an advis­er to Trump on nation­al secu­ri­ty issues, as he over­sees a vast nation­al secu­ri­ty com­plex in his role as Ener­gy sec­re­tary.”

    So while it’s pos­si­ble that Roger Stone is cor­rect about some sort of Bannon/Kushner turf war, giv­en the larg­er con­text of a pos­si­ble sig­nif­i­cant ramp­ing up of the US’s mil­i­tary involve­ment in Syr­ia and the addi­tion of Nik­ki Haley and Rick “I’m in charge of nukes now?” Per­ry to the NSC, it’s hard to inter­pret the big shake­up as the NSC as over­all a good sign. Although it is quite nice to see Ban­non out of there.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 5, 2017, 3:40 pm
  4. Here’s a ques­tion raised by the sud­den shake­up of Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and Ban­non’s appar­ent ouster: So what’s hap­pen­ing with the Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group (SIG)? It’s a pret­ty big ques­tion con­sid­er­ing it’s a think tank described as the “Alt-NSC” that was cre­at­ed by Steven Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er soon after Ban­non’s ele­va­tion to the NSC Prin­ci­ples Com­mit­tee and was look­ing like it might eclipse the NSC in shap­ing Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy (with a dis­tinct Alt-Right lean­ing) just a few weeks ago:

    Alter­Net

    Ban­non and Trump Have Qui­et­ly Installed an Alt-Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Oper­at­ing Inside the White House

    The Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group is the White House pipeline to the white nation­al­ists of the Euro­pean right.

    By Jef­fer­son Mor­ley
    March 14, 2017

    Less than a month after much-admired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMas­ter took over from Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Trump’s alter-ego Steve Ban­non appears to be more in con­trol of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy than ever.

    There is lit­tle sign McMas­ter will be able to restore tra­di­tion­al U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy com­mit­ments to NATO and the Euro­pean Union, and every indi­ca­tion that Bannon’s shad­owy Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group, denounced by two nation­al secu­ri­ty experts as “dan­ger­ous hypocrisy,” is dri­ving U.S. pol­i­cy.

    McMas­ter, a lieu­tenant gen­er­al with a rep­u­ta­tion as an intel­lec­tu­al, was per­haps the last-gasp hope of Washington’s for­eign pol­i­cy pro­fes­sion­als against the rad­i­cal ambi­tions of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. He was seen as a man who could speak unpop­u­lar truths to Trump and block Bannon’s impro­vi­sa­tions while restor­ing a degree of con­ti­nu­ity to U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy under Oba­ma and Bush.

    Los­ing Ground

    No soon­er had Fly­nn been fired over undis­closed meet­ings with a Russ­ian diplo­mat, it was report­ed that McMas­ter would impose order on Flynn’s chaot­ic NSC, purg­ing ide­o­logues and remov­ing Ban­non from the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil as urged by Admi­ral Mike Mullen, the for­mer chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    “Giv­en the grav­i­ty of the issues the NSC deals with, it is vital that that body not be politi­cized, and Ban­non’s pres­ence as a mem­ber of that body politi­cizes it instant­ly,” Mullen said.

    McMas­ter urged Trump not to use the term “rad­i­cal Islam­ic ter­ror­ism,” argu­ing, along with vir­tu­al­ly every oth­er U.S. mil­i­tary leader, that the phrase only alien­ates friend­ly Mus­lims and increas­es the risk to U.S. per­son­nel sta­tioned in Islam­ic coun­tries with­out pro­vid­ing any mil­i­tary or polit­i­cal advan­tages.

    McMaster’s influ­ence has been fad­ing ever since. There would be no “purge” at NSC, an unnamed senior White House offi­cial told For­eign Pol­i­cy. “Key NSC offi­cials focused on the Mid­dle East and oth­er vital areas will keep their posi­tions in the near term,” the offi­cial said.

    Ban­non remains on the NSC’s Prin­ci­pals Com­mit­tee, while the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is only a part-time par­tic­i­pant.

    Trump point­ed­ly ignored McMaster’s advice and denounced “rad­i­cal Islam­ic ter­ror­ism” in his address to the Con­gress, much to the sat­is­fac­tion of deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka. A light­ly cre­den­tialed acolyte of Ban­non, Gor­ka seems to have more influ­ence with Trump than McMas­ter, a dec­o­rat­ed lieu­tenant gen­er­al.

    While Col­in Kahl, for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er to Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, recent­ly expressed hope that an “axis of adults” can take con­trol of Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy, all indi­ca­tions are that the “axis of ide­o­logues,” led by Ban­non and Gor­ka, are ascen­dant.

    What SIG does

    The Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group is emerg­ing as Bannon’s con­duit for aid­ing the pop­ulist right in Europe. Described as a “White House think tank,” SIG is run by Chris Lid­dell, for­mer­ly chief finan­cial offi­cer at a Hol­ly­wood tal­ent agency. The group’s mis­sion is described as sup­port­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion col­lab­o­ra­tion with “pri­vate forums.”

    In prac­tice, that seems to mean Lid­dell will assist in mar­ket­ing the mes­sage of the chau­vin­ist Euro­pean right.

    Last week, Gor­ka sig­naled the ascen­dant ide­ol­o­gy by endors­ing a white nation­al­ist opus by George­town Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Joshua Mitchell in the debut issue of a pol­i­cy jour­nal called Amer­i­can Affairs.

    For glob­al­ists, Mitchell writes, “polit­i­cal jus­tice involved mate­r­i­al growth made pos­si­ble by glob­al man­age­ment and the iden­ti­ty debt-points that glob­al elites dis­pensed to this or that oppressed ‘iden­ti­ty’ group as a con­se­quence of past infrac­tions or of the irre­deemable fault of others—typically (the imag­i­nary cat­e­go­ry of) White Peo­ple.”

    “The dark Protes­tant machi­na­tions about human free­dom and pride that drove Pres­i­dent Bush and Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, respec­tive­ly, make no appear­ance in the think­ing of Trump,” Mitchell writes. “He will ask of for­eign nations, sim­ply, are they going to be allies or not; and will Amer­i­ca be able to win with or with­out them?”

    In oth­er words, Euro­peans who favor eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion, eth­nic plu­ral­ism and mil­i­tary deter­rence of Rus­sia are no longer regard­ed as U.S. allies.

    “Trump has made clear that he’s at best indif­fer­ent, if not open­ly hos­tile to the mod­ern Euro­pean project, and Ban­non has indi­cat­ed that anti‑E.U. pop­ulists have a friend in the White House,” writes Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive James Kirchick in the Ger­man dai­ly, FAZ.

    Ban­non approved of the vis­it of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to Trump Tow­er in Jan­u­ary. He pub­lished Dutch anti-immi­gra­tion leader Geert Wilders in Bre­it­bart News. And now he seems to be tar­get­ing Angela Merkel, the pro-immi­gra­tion Ger­man prime min­is­ter who has emerged as the de fac­to leader of Europe, if not the free world. Merkel, who faces elec­tions this fall, cer­tain­ly sees Ban­non’s media strat­e­gy as a threat.

    ...

    While Ban­non often talks in apoc­a­lyp­tic terms about war between the Chris­t­ian West and Islam, his ini­tial moves in the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil are more polit­i­cal than mil­i­taris­tic. Through SIG, Ban­non seeks to mid­wife a more nation­al­ist and Chris­t­ian Europe, as a pre­lude to esca­lat­ing a “clash of civ­i­liza­tions” war against Islam.

    ...

    “There is lit­tle sign McMas­ter will be able to restore tra­di­tion­al U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy com­mit­ments to NATO and the Euro­pean Union, and every indi­ca­tion that Bannon’s shad­owy Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group, denounced by two nation­al secu­ri­ty experts as “dan­ger­ous hypocrisy,” is dri­ving U.S. pol­i­cy.”

    That was how things looked just a few weeks ago: H.R. McMas­ter, who was brought in to replace Michael Fly­nn, was unable to per­suade Trump to dump Ban­non off the NSC and the SIG was emerg­ing as not just a com­peti­tor to the NSC in craft­ing Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy but even more more influ­en­tial:

    ...
    The Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group is emerg­ing as Bannon’s con­duit for aid­ing the pop­ulist right in Europe. Described as a “White House think tank,” SIG is run by Chris Lid­dell, for­mer­ly chief finan­cial offi­cer at a Hol­ly­wood tal­ent agency. The group’s mis­sion is described as sup­port­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion col­lab­o­ra­tion with “pri­vate forums.”

    In prac­tice, that seems to mean Lid­dell will assist in mar­ket­ing the mes­sage of the chau­vin­ist Euro­pean right.

    Last week, Gor­ka sig­naled the ascen­dant ide­ol­o­gy by endors­ing a white nation­al­ist opus by George­town Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Joshua Mitchell in the debut issue of a pol­i­cy jour­nal called Amer­i­can Affairs.
    ...

    “In prac­tice, that seems to mean Lid­dell will assist in mar­ket­ing the mes­sage of the chau­vin­ist Euro­pean right.”

    So what the deal with the SIG? Is it get­ting demot­ed too? Are there any more issues of “Amer­i­can Affairs” (pro­mot­ing white nation­al­ist opus­es)?

    Well, it’s worth not­ing that just a day before this big NSC shake­up, the SIG was demot­ed. Sort of. Remem­ber the Office of Amer­i­can Inno­va­tion (OAI) that was recent­ly cre­at­ed for Jared Kush­n­er to over­haul and pri­va­tize the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment? Well, the White House is now say­ing the SIG nev­er exist­ed and was instead replaced by OAI:

    The Hill

    WH: Inter­nal Ban­non think tank nev­er actu­al­ly exist­ed

    By Jonathan Easley — 04/04/17 05:27 PM EDT

    The White House is down­play­ing the impor­tance of an inter­nal pol­i­cy shop that was once believed to be the brain­child and pow­er cen­ter of chief strate­gist Stephen Ban­non, say­ing the Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group (SIG) nev­er even exist­ed.

    That appears to con­tra­dict media reports and the claims of at least one White House staffer who pre­vi­ous­ly said that he was a mem­ber of the SIG.

    The group — described in scores of media reports as an inter­nal think tank launched by Ban­non, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior advis­er Jared Kush­n­er — would be irrel­e­vant now even if it had formed, a White House aide said.

    Any need there may have been for the inter­nal pol­i­cy shop, which crit­ics have described as an attempt by Ban­non to pro­mote his own agen­da, is moot now that Pres­i­dent Trump has tapped Kush­n­er to run the Office of Amer­i­can Inno­va­tion (OAI), which is charged with gov­ern­ment mod­ern­iza­tion, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple White House offi­cials.

    “I’ve nev­er known [SIG] to exist,” said a White House aide. “There was a lot of spec­u­la­tion about this ear­ly, but it was nev­er offi­cial­ly rolled out and if any­thing, the OAI is an evo­lu­tion and real­iza­tion of some of these ini­tial ideas.”

    A sec­ond White House offi­cial said the SIG was “always infor­mal” and has since “mor­phed to the new group,” the OAI.

    A third White House offi­cial echoed that sen­ti­ment but said it’s pos­si­ble that Ban­non could still use the SIG for his own projects.

    Mem­bers of the SIG once talked open­ly about their involve­ment and the group’s ini­tia­tives.

    In ear­ly Feb­ru­ary, Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, a deputy assis­tant to the pres­i­dent who is a mem­ber of the group, hit the air­waves to dis­pute reports that the SIG was an effort by Ban­non to launch his own sphere of influ­ence to rival the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, which at the time was helmed by Michael Fly­nn, Trump’s for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er.

    Gor­ka said that, as a mem­ber of SIG, he was work­ing on a cyber-secu­ri­ty task force with for­mer New York City may­or Rudolph Giu­liani. There were also projects aimed at tack­ling vet­er­ans affairs issues, U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing and gov­ern­ment tech­nol­o­gy and infra­struc­ture.

    “We are charged with doing long-range ini­tia­tives that are real­ly impor­tant to the pres­i­dent,” Gor­ka told CNN at the time.

    “We have a Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group to do things with the pri­vate indus­try and bring in out­side experts on key issues such as gov­ern­ment IT, and that is very dif­fer­ent from what the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil is doing every day under the ster­ling lead­er­ship of Gen­er­al Fly­nn.”

    Kush­n­er will now spear­head gov­ern­ment mod­ern­iza­tion efforts — and the var­i­ous oth­er projects in his ever-expand­ing port­fo­lio — as the head of OAI.

    When the ini­tial reports sur­faced about the SIG, crit­ics believed that Ban­non would use the plat­form to push his own long-term for­eign pol­i­cy goals sep­a­rate from the NSC, which han­dles day-to-day nation­al secu­ri­ty devel­op­ments.

    Reports about the SIG’s cre­ation came as, in a con­tro­ver­sial move after the elec­tion, Trump ele­vat­ed Ban­non to the NSC prin­ci­pals com­mit­tee, a spot typ­i­cal­ly reserved for mil­i­tary offi­cials.

    At the time of the first reports about the SIG’s for­ma­tion in late Jan­u­ary, crit­ics wor­ried that it was a fur­ther exam­ple of Bannon’s out­sized influ­ence inside the White House.

    ...

    “Any need there may have been for the inter­nal pol­i­cy shop, which crit­ics have described as an attempt by Ban­non to pro­mote his own agen­da, is moot now that Pres­i­dent Trump has tapped Kush­n­er to run the Office of Amer­i­can Inno­va­tion (OAI), which is charged with gov­ern­ment mod­ern­iza­tion, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple White House offi­cials.”

    That’s the new line from the White House: The SIG is a non-enti­ty and made redun­dant by the OAI under Kush­n­er’s con­trol. So does that mean the SIG was dis­band­ed? Well...

    ...
    A third White House offi­cial echoed that sen­ti­ment but said it’s pos­si­ble that Ban­non could still use the SIG for his own projects.
    ...

    That sure sounds like the SIG is still up and run­ning. And now that Jared Kush­n­er is run­ning the OAI to appar­ent­ly do much of what the SIG was set up to do it seems like a good bet that SIG is going to be increas­ing­ly just Ban­non’s white nation­al­ist think tank in the White House.

    So the ques­tion remains, is the SIG going to still be a deeply influ­en­tial white nation­al­ist think tank that Ban­non can use to devel­op of alter­nate for­eign pol­i­cy or is it slow­ly fad­ing away? It would be nice to get a answer on that but con­sid­er­ing the White House does­n’t appear to want to acknowl­edge that the SIG ever exist­ed we prob­a­bly should­n’t expect an straight response. Although if we see more issues put out by the SIG’s white nation­al­ist new jour­nal that will be a clue.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 6, 2017, 2:43 pm
  5. One of the more curi­ous aspects of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s gen­er­al embrace of Steve Ban­non’s world­view was the strange con­tra­dic­tion between an alleged white nation­al­ist iso­la­tion­ism that called for an “Amer­i­ca First” eschew­ing of for­eign entan­gle­ments cou­ple with Steve Ban­non’s appar­ent desire to see a WWI­II-style clash of civ­i­liza­tions. It’s quite a tightrope act. So with Don­ald Trump launch­ing 59 cruise mis­siles against an air base in Syr­ia fol­low­ing an alleged chem­i­cal weapons attack by the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment per­haps it’s not super sur­pris­ing that there are reports that Trump White House is actu­al­ly con­sid­er­ing not just pulling Ban­non off the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil but remov­ing him alto­geth­er. Steven Ban­non the iso­la­tion­ist might not fit in with a White House plan­ning on major mil­i­tary involve­ment in Syr­ia. But what about Ban­non the glob­al war­mon­ger who is intent on a giant clash of civ­i­liza­tions between “the West” and “Islam”? Isn’t that Ban­non exact­ly the kind of fig­ure we should expect to be play­ing a lead­ing role in just this sit­u­a­tion? It’s all quite a head scratch­er. But, yeah, White House insid­ers are appar­ent­ly say­ing Steven Ban­non, along with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, might be out soon:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Livewire

    Reports: Trump Weigh­ing Major Shake­up That Could Ax Priebus, Ban­non

    By Alle­gra Kirk­land
    Pub­lished April 7, 2017, 3:19 PM EDT

    The clash between the many rival pow­er cen­ters in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s White House may final­ly be com­ing to a head.

    Accord­ing to twin reports out Fri­day from Axios and the Wall Street Jour­nal, Trump is fed up with palace intrigue sto­ries about his top aides and is con­sid­er­ing remov­ing his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strate­gist Steve Ban­non.

    The tim­ing of poten­tial Priebus and Ban­non exits, as well as who would replace them if they depart­ed the White House, was unclear from the reports. Of course, Trump is famous­ly mer­cu­r­ial and could just as quick­ly decide to keep both men on board as dis­miss them.

    Both sites report­ed that Trump’s eco­nom­ic advis­er, Gary Cohn, is under con­sid­er­a­tion to replace Priebus. Unnamed White House advis­ers also told Axios that House Major­i­ty Leader Kevin McCarthy (R‑CA) and two far less­er-known Trump allies, Black­stone Group’s Wayne Berman and Amer­i­can Con­ti­nen­tal Group’s David Urban, are oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties.

    White House Deputy Press Sec­re­tary Lind­say Wal­ters adamant­ly denied the reports in a state­ment to Time’s Zeke Miller, call­ing it a “com­plete­ly false sto­ry.”

    “The only thing we are shak­ing up is the way Wash­ing­ton oper­ates as we push the President’s aggres­sive agen­da for­ward,” Wal­ters said.

    NEW: State­ment from WH spox @LWalters45 deny­ing shake-up reports pic.twitter.com/CnXaNhY8en— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) April 7, 2017

    The first sign that Bannon’s favor may be fad­ing came Wednes­day with the sud­den announce­ment that he was being removed from the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s Prin­ci­pals’ Com­mit­tee. While for­eign pol­i­cy experts cau­tioned that move alone wasn’t enough to assume Bannon’s role was dimin­ished, giv­en his con­tin­ued access to the Pres­i­dent, the rumor mill that has Ban­non on the outs kicked into over­drive over the past 48 hours.

    Sev­er­al reports cit­ing anony­mous White House aides sur­faced in that time peri­od describ­ing bit­ter fight­ing between Ban­non and Trump’s son-in-law and top advis­er, Jared Kush­n­er.

    Oth­ers, like this Fri­day Wash­ing­ton Post sto­ry, claimed that Ban­non was the one con­sid­er­ing a depar­ture, pre­fer­ring the free-wheel­ing, knives-out strat­e­gy of cam­paign­ing to his new but­toned-up real­i­ty in the White House.

    As the Post report­ed, “One friend said he hates attend­ing meet­ings, bemoans the need to fre­quent­ly wear suits, and finds the gov­ern­ment bureau­cra­cy sti­fling.”

    Ban­non has dis­missed sto­ries about an impend­ing depar­ture as “100 per­cent non­sense.”

    ...

    “Accord­ing to twin reports out Fri­day from Axios and the Wall Street Jour­nal, Trump is fed up with palace intrigue sto­ries about his top aides and is con­sid­er­ing remov­ing his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strate­gist Steve Ban­non.”

    Well, we’ll pre­sum­ably find out rel­a­tive­ly soon if there’s any truth to these reports. But don’t for­get that Ban­non does­n’t actu­al­ly need to be on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil to exert enor­mous influ­ence over Trump so we his appar­ent demo­tion at the NSC is the only appar­ent demo­tion we see, it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that we’re look­ing at polit­i­cal the­ater. But also don’t for­get that if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion real­ly is plan­ning on engag­ing in a much deep mil­i­tary engage­ment in the Mid­dle East hav­ing Steven Ban­non open­ly whis­per­ing in his ear is just hor­ri­ble pub­lic rela­tions and risks turn­ing Amer­i­ca’s upcom­ing for­eign inter­ven­tions into “Ban­non’s war(s)”.

    Of course, it’s pos­si­ble that the mis­sile strike on the Syr­i­an air base is also just the­atrics and we aren’t about to see a major new US mil­i­tary ini­tia­tive in the region. It’s pos­si­ble. But if not and the US does end up enter­ing into the Syr­i­an war with the intent on remov­ing the Assad gov­ern­ment and putting the rebels in pow­er, it’s going to be very inter­est­ing to see how Trump’s team plans on doing that with­out replace Assad with al Qae­da:

    Alter­Net
    The Gray­Zone Project

    Is Trump Res­cu­ing Al-Qaeda’s ‘Heart­land’ in Syr­ia?
    West­ern inter­ven­tion would save Syr­i­a’s belea­guered al-Qae­da-affil­i­at­ed rebels.

    By Max Blu­men­thal, Ben Nor­ton / Alter­Net
    April 5, 2017

    After for­mal­ly call­ing off the long­stand­ing U.S. pol­i­cy of regime change in Syr­ia, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is send­ing sig­nals of shift­ing its Syr­ia pol­i­cy under mas­sive polit­i­cal pres­sure fol­low­ing a gris­ly chem­i­cal attack in the rebel-held province of Idlib.

    The chem­i­cal attack alleged­ly took place on April 4. Dozens of civil­ians were report­ed­ly killed, although many details are still unknown.

    “We have not yet any offi­cial or reli­able con­fir­ma­tion” of what took place or who was respon­si­ble, said the UN spe­cial envoy for Syr­ia, Staffan de Mis­tu­ra, at a press con­fer­ence after the inci­dent.

    “We also do not have evi­dence at the moment,” added Fed­er­i­ca Mogheri­ni, high rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the EU for for­eign affairs and secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy.

    The chem­i­cal attack occurred just as peace talks were begin­ning in Gene­va, and with the Syr­i­an army in a dom­i­nant posi­tion in the sixth year of a war fueled by out­side pow­ers.

    The attacks threat­en to reverse the polit­i­cal gains made by the gov­ern­ment of Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad, lead­ing to unre­lent­ing bipar­ti­san pres­sure for Don­ald Trump to autho­rize a bomb­ing cam­paign tar­get­ing the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment and its mil­i­tary.

    For the al-Qae­da-allied rebels who were oust­ed from their strong­hold in east­ern Alep­po in Decem­ber 2016, and whose gains in a recent series of offen­sives have been rapid­ly reversed, West­ern mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion is the only hope.

    Giv­en its dom­i­nant posi­tion, why would the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment autho­rize a chem­i­cal attack that was like­ly to trig­ger renewed calls for regime change? The answer remains elu­sive.

    War on the table

    Despite a dearth of inde­pen­dent­ly sourced evi­dence about the attack, Nik­ki Haley, the U.S. ambas­sador to the UN, warned that the U.S. was “com­pelled to take our own action” in Syr­ia, although it was unclear what she meant by this.

    For his part, Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said there was “no doubt in our mind” that the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment car­ried out a chem­i­cal attack in Idlib, but pro­vid­ed no evi­dence to sup­port his claim. Tiller­son warned Rus­sia it should recon­sid­er its alliance with Pres­i­dent Assad, sug­gest­ing regime change was back on the table.

    The Pen­ta­gon has report­ed­ly begun draw­ing up a list of tar­gets to attack. (Update: Sev­er­al hours after this arti­cle was pub­lished, the U.S. attacked the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, launch­ing 59 Tom­a­hawk mis­siles at the Shayrat air base, in the city of Homs. ISIS seized on the oppor­tu­ni­ty and launched an offen­sive against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment imme­di­ate­ly after the U.S. strike. The attack was like­wise applaud­ed by the Salafi jihadist mili­tia Ahrar al-Sham, Sau­di Ara­bia and Israel.)

    The media has helped spread the war fever. New York Times colum­nist and Iraq war cheer­leader Thomas Fried­man reflex­ive­ly pro­posed that Syr­ia be par­ti­tioned, with U.S. troops if nec­es­sary. On CNN, cor­re­spon­dent Arwa Damon wept over the lack of U.S. resolve, sug­gest­ing that a bomb­ing cam­paign against Dam­as­cus would some­how salve the wounds of Syr­ia.

    But there has been one issue major media out­lets have refused to touch, and that is the nature of the rebels who would gain from any U.S. mil­i­tary offen­sive. Who holds pow­er in Idlib, why are they there and what do they want? This is per­haps the most incon­ve­nient set of ques­tions for pro­po­nents of “human­i­tar­i­an” mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia.

    The real­i­ty is that Idlib is sub­stan­tial­ly con­trolled by al-Qaeda’s Syr­i­an affil­i­ate, which has gone through a series of rebrand­ing schemes but remains the same jihadist group it always was: Jab­hat al-Nus­ra. In the province it rules, al-Nus­ra has imposed what a lead­ing schol­ar has described as a Tal­iban-like regime that has eth­ni­cal­ly cleansed reli­gious and eth­nic minori­ties, banned music and estab­lished a bru­tal theoc­ra­cy in which it pub­licly exe­cutes women accused of adul­tery.

    Even ana­lysts who have repeat­ed­ly called for U.S.-led regime change in Syr­ia have described Idlib as the “heart­land of al-Nus­ra.”

    The ‘Tal­iban­iza­tion of Idlib’

    Joshua Lan­dis, the direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Okla­homa’s Mid­dle East Stud­ies Cen­ter, is among the lead­ing U.S. schol­ars of Syr­ia, and lived in the coun­try for sev­er­al years. In a Jan­u­ary 2016 arti­cle in For­eign Affairs, Lan­dis pro­vid­ed a chill­ing sur­vey of life in Idlib:

    To judge how incom­pe­tent the rebels have been in pro­vid­ing a viable or attrac­tive alter­na­tive to Assad, one need mere­ly con­sid­er the sit­u­a­tion in the province of Idlib, where the rebels rule. Schools have been seg­re­gat­ed, women forced to wear veils, and posters of Osama bin Laden hung on the walls. Gov­ern­ment offices were loot­ed, and a more effec­tive gov­ern­ment has yet to take shape. With the Tal­iban­iza­tion of Idlib, the 100-plus Chris­t­ian fam­i­lies of the city fled. The few Druze vil­lages that remained have been forced to denounce their reli­gion and embrace Islam; some of their shrines have been blown up. No reli­gious minori­ties remain in rebel-held Syr­ia, in Idlib, or else­where. Rebels argue that Assad’s bomb­ing has ensured their fail­ure and made rad­i­cal­iza­tion unavoid­able. But such excus­es can go only so far to explain the ter­ri­ble state of rebel Syr­ia or its excess­es. We have wit­nessed the iden­ti­cal evo­lu­tion in too many oth­er Arab coun­tries to pin it sole­ly on Assad, despite his cul­pa­bil­i­ty for the dis­as­ter that has engulfed his coun­try.

    More hawk­ish experts have acknowl­edged the same. On a pan­el in Jan­u­ary at the Atlantic Coun­cil, a pro-regime change think tank that is fund­ed by West­ern gov­ern­ments and their allies, Nan­cy Okail, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Tahrir Insti­tute, acknowl­edged that Syr­ia is today the “newest and most impor­tant safe haven for [al-Qaeda’s] ide­ol­o­gy.”

    “There is a new gen­er­a­tion of Syr­i­an chil­dren that is grow­ing up with al-Qaeda’s ide­ol­o­gy in some parts of rebel-held Syr­ia as the norm,” added Jen­nifer Cafarel­la, a lead intel­li­gence plan­ner at the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive think tank the Insti­tute for the Study of War, which has received fund­ing from the biggest names in the mil­i­tary indus­try, includ­ing Northrop Grum­man, Raytheon, Gen­er­al Dynam­ics, and Dyn­Corp.

    Charles Lis­ter, per­haps the fore­most advo­cate of regime change and the arm­ing of Islamist rebels in Syr­ia, sound­ed a sim­i­lar note. He explained, “Peo­ple on the ground in dif­fer­ent areas of Syr­ia are increas­ing­ly will­ing not just to accept al-Qae­da oper­at­ing with­in their midst, but are actu­al­ly will­ing to overt­ly sup­port the fact that they are in their midst.”

    He lat­er warned, “al-Qaeda’s rel­a­tive suc­cess in Syr­ia has seen its ide­ol­o­gy and its nar­ra­tive main­streamed, not just in parts of Syr­ia, but also in parts of the region.”

    Lis­ter not­ed local pop­u­la­tions have protest­ed not just the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, but also the al-Qae­da extrem­ists ter­ror­iz­ing them. Peo­ple liv­ing under rebel rule in Idlib, Lis­ter indi­cat­ed, have been lament­ing, “This place is hell; we don’t want to live under this Islamist rule, under all this oppres­sion.” In Idlib, “they see what life would be like under this orga­ni­za­tion, and they don’t like it.”

    In 2016, Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al pub­lished a report doc­u­ment­ing an array of “seri­ous vio­la­tions of inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an law” com­mit­ted by mil­i­tant groups in Idlib and else­where, includ­ing sum­ma­ry killings, tor­ture, abduc­tions, and sec­tar­i­an attacks. The report detailed how extrem­ist Syr­i­an rebels have imposed harsh Sharia law in the areas they con­trol.

    With music offi­cial­ly out­lawed in Idlib, the U.S.-funded media out­let Radio Fresh has resort­ed to nov­el mea­sures. Instead of music, sta­tion direc­tor Raed Fares has been reduced to broad­cast­ing the sound of bleat­ing goats and bird chirps. Ordered by Idlib’s author­i­ties to fire all his female employ­ees, Fares instead relied on a com­put­er pro­gram that auto-tuned their voic­es to make them sound male.

    “They now sound more like robots,” he said.

    ‘The most loved cler­ic’

    When Al Nus­ra and its ally, Ahrar Al Sham, took Idlib’s Abu al-Dhuhur Air Base in 2015, a cler­ic appeared on the scene in cam­ou­flaged bat­tle dress uni­form. Stand­ing among a group of blind­fold­ed, exhaust­ed cap­tives, all Syr­i­an army reg­u­lars, the cler­ic blessed their mass exe­cu­tion, curs­ing them as tak­fir for fight­ing on the government’s side.

    “I don’t like to call them Sun­ni. They were once Sun­ni but became apo­s­ta­tized once they enlist­ed in the Alaw­ites’ regime,” he said of the 56 cap­tives. Moments lat­er, they were lined up and rid­dled with bul­lets.

    The cler­ic was Abdul­lah Muhaysi­ni, a 33-year-old zealot from Sau­di Ara­bia, who was a stu­dent of Sulay­man Al-Alwan, the Wah­habi cler­ic who over­saw what his Mus­lim crit­ics have called a “ter­ror­ist fac­to­ry” in Sau­di Arabia’s Al-Qas­sim Province. Al-Alwan was also the instruc­tor of the 9/11 hijack­er Abdu­laz­iz Alo­mari.

    Today, Muhaysi­ni com­mands an almost mys­ti­cal sta­tus among the Islamist armed groups ram­pag­ing across north­ern Syr­ia. Accord­ing to Bilal Abdul Kareem, an Amer­i­can-born rebel pro­pa­gan­dist cur­rent­ly in Idlib, Muhaysi­ni is “prob­a­bly the most loved cler­ic in the Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ries today.”

    After mov­ing to Syr­ia in 2014, Muhaysi­ni embed­ded him­self among the rebels’ most pow­er­ful fac­tions and worked to unite them under a sin­gle ban­ner. At first, he helped cob­ble togeth­er the coali­tion known as Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Con­quest. Draw­ing on his con­nec­tions in the Gulf, he suc­cess­ful­ly over­saw the “wage jihad with your mon­ey” fundrais­ing effort that raised some $5 mil­lion for the rebels’ push to take the north­ern Idlib gov­er­nate from the Syr­i­an army in 2015.

    Through his Jihad Caller’s Net­work, Muhaysi­ni has mobi­liz­ing resources thanks to a col­lec­tion of wealthy Gulf oli­garchs. In an online inter­view, Muhaysi­ni thanked “a group of broth­ers in Islam from Riyadh (Sau­di Ara­bia), some from our broth­er Abu Ahmed from Kuwait, some from our broth­er Abu Joud from Qatar.”

    A deeply unset­tling video from Muhaysini’s Jihad Caller’s Net­work shows him recruit­ing child fight­ers inside the Atmeh Refugee Camp on the Syr­i­an-Turk­ish bor­der, a squalid redoubt for some 30,000 war vic­tims, hand­ing the ado­les­cent vol­un­teers rifles before truck­ing them off to Idlib and else­where. More recent­ly, Muhaysi­ni appeared before an assem­bly of fight­ers from Tahrir al-Sham, his lat­est jihadist coali­tion, to deliv­er a moti­va­tion­al bat­tle­field ser­mon.

    Tahrir al-Sham was respon­si­ble for a twin sui­cide bomb­ing that killed dozens of civil­ians at the Palace of Jus­tice in Dam­as­cus and dur­ing a birth­day cel­e­bra­tion at a restau­rant on March 15. It has waged a furi­ous cam­paign to retake lost ter­ri­to­ry around the city of Hama, wield­ing sui­cide attacks but ulti­mate­ly fail­ing to hold on against a Syr­i­an army counter-attack.

    If the U.S. and its West­ern allies car­ry out their threats to attack the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, the inter­ven­tion is the last best hope for Muhaysi­ni and the al-Qae­da-aligned forces in his thrall.

    Trump’s Sau­di con­nec­tion

    One of the least report­ed yet most sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ments of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s for­eign pol­i­cy has been its warm embrace of the ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive, theo­crat­ic Sau­di monar­chy. Imme­di­ate­ly after he entered office, Trump made a pact with Sau­di Ara­bia to esca­late aggres­sion in Yemen.

    After a friend­ly White House meet­ing with Trump and Steve Ban­non, the archi­tect of Trump’s Mus­lim ban, Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hailed Trump as “his Excel­len­cy,” describ­ing him as a “true friend of Mus­lims who will serve the Mus­lim world in an unimag­in­able man­ner, oppo­site to the neg­a­tive por­trait of his Excel­len­cy that some have tried to pro­mote.”

    Trump has also pledged to work with Sau­di Ara­bia to cre­ate so-called safe zones in Syr­ia. What exact­ly these would look like has been unclear. Hillary Clin­ton cam­paigned on the promise to cre­ate such zones, although in a 2013 speech to Gold­man Sachs, she con­ced­ed that safe zones could “kill a lot of Syr­i­ans.”

    At the heart of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s for­eign pol­i­cy has been diehard oppo­si­tion to Iran, Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s mor­tal ene­my. The Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment is one of Iran’s clos­est allies.

    ...

    “The real­i­ty is that Idlib is sub­stan­tial­ly con­trolled by al-Qaeda’s Syr­i­an affil­i­ate, which has gone through a series of rebrand­ing schemes but remains the same jihadist group it always was: Jab­hat al-Nus­ra. In the province it rules, al-Nus­ra has imposed what a lead­ing schol­ar has described as a Tal­iban-like regime that has eth­ni­cal­ly cleansed reli­gious and eth­nic minori­ties, banned music and estab­lished a bru­tal theoc­ra­cy in which it pub­licly exe­cutes women accused of adul­tery.”

    That’s unfor­tu­nate­ly the real­i­ty: if the US makes Syr­i­an regime change a major mil­i­tary goal, it’s going to either have to fight the al Qae­da rebels while it fights the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment simul­ta­ne­ous­ly (and ISIS). Or it’s going to have to join team al Qae­da. That’s the sit­u­a­tion on the ground that even the advo­cates of a regime-change pol­i­cy in the US for­eign pol­i­cy estab­lish­ment acknowl­edge:

    ...
    Charles Lis­ter, per­haps the fore­most advo­cate of regime change and the arm­ing of Islamist rebels in Syr­ia, sound­ed a sim­i­lar note. He explained, “Peo­ple on the ground in dif­fer­ent areas of Syr­ia are increas­ing­ly will­ing not just to accept al-Qae­da oper­at­ing with­in their midst, but are actu­al­ly will­ing to overt­ly sup­port the fact that they are in their midst.”

    He lat­er warned, “al-Qaeda’s rel­a­tive suc­cess in Syr­ia has seen its ide­ol­o­gy and its nar­ra­tive main­streamed, not just in parts of Syr­ia, but also in parts of the region.”

    Lis­ter not­ed local pop­u­la­tions have protest­ed not just the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, but also the al-Qae­da extrem­ists ter­ror­iz­ing them. Peo­ple liv­ing under rebel rule in Idlib, Lis­ter indi­cat­ed, have been lament­ing, “This place is hell; we don’t want to live under this Islamist rule, under all this oppres­sion.” In Idlib, “they see what life would be like under this orga­ni­za­tion, and they don’t like it.”
    ...

    And let’s not for­get, Gen­er­al Petraeus, the for­mer head of the CIA, explic­it­ly encour­aged the US to use al Qae­da to defeat ISIS just back in 2015, so it’s not a wild stretch to imag­ine that’s also one of the plans being con­sid­ered for tak­ing out Assad.

    So is the US going to be going to war with the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, al Qae­da-affil­i­at­ed rebels, and ISIS simul­ta­ne­ous­ly involv­ing a major US mil­i­tary mis­sion that could last years with heavy casu­al­ties or does Team Trump have the Petraeus-plan in mind where al Qae­da becomes the pri­ma­ry anti-ISIS/an­ti-Assad group force?

    Those are the kinds of choic­es fac­ing the Trump White House at this point so if Ban­non real­ly is about to get kicked out of the White House it would­n’t be sur­pris­ing if he’s secret­ly some­what relieved. We’ve clear­ly entered the ‘sh#t just go real’ phase of the Trump pres­i­den­cy and that’s prob­a­bly a lot less fun than cam­paign­ing. Unless, of course, he real­ly does want to start WWIII in which case, yeah, he’s prob­a­bly pret­ty pissed if those reports of the immi­nent polit­i­cal demise of Ban­non and Preibus are true. Priebus might not mind the rumors.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 7, 2017, 3:46 pm
  6. With the ques­tion of “what’s next?” swirling in the air after Don­ald Trump’s mis­sile attack on a Syr­i­an air base in retal­i­a­tion for an alleged sarin gas attack by the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, Joan Walsh has a piece that notes a num­ber of impor­tant points to keep in mind when ask­ing “what’s next?”: For starters, the nois­i­est oppo­si­tion to the mis­sile strikes isn’t com­ing from the left. It’s com­ing from Trump’s Alt-Right base, includ­ing not just the Richard Spencer neo-Nazi con­tin­gent but also key Trump backer Ann Coul­ter, who sort of strad­dles the full-blown white suprema­cist Alt-Right with the main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive far-right GOP. Giv­en the cen­tral role the Alt-Right has played in Trump’s entire polit­i­cal life up to this point it’s a remark­able ten­sion to see flare up this ear­ly on in his pres­i­den­cy. Espe­cial­ly giv­en how much deep­er the US’s involve­ment in the Syr­i­an con­flict could go if Trump ends up fol­low­ing the advice of the more tra­di­tion war hawk-wing of the DC estab­lish­ment.

    Anoth­er key point Walsh notes is that at this point we still have no idea if sarin real­ly was used and who did it. Giv­en the abun­dance of evi­dence sug­gest­ing that the pre­vi­ous chem­i­cal weapons attack in 2013 was actu­al­ly done by al Nus­ra, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that this was an ruse by al Qae­da-affil­i­at­ed groups can’t be dis­missed. And the fact that the alleged chem­i­cal weapons attack hap­pened in al Nus­ra’s heart­land and one of the doc­tors pro­vid­ing video evi­dence that it was a sarin gas attack has a his­to­ry of work­ing with jihadists, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that this was an attempt by al Nus­ra to pull the US much deep­er into the con­flict (and on al Nus­ra’s side) can’t be dis­missed. And when you con­sid­er that it’s the Alt-Right fac­tion of Trump’s base that’s also the most open mind­ed to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries like the pos­si­bil­i­ty that this was a false-flag attack it sug­gests the real pos­si­bil­i­ty that if Trump dives deep­er into the Syr­i­an con­flict he’s going to be doing it at a grow­ing cost of his Alt-Right sup­port­ers.

    So when we’re ask­ing “what’s next?” from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, it’s kind of amaz­ing but “what’s next” might involve trad­ing the sup­port of the iso­la­tion­ist Alt Right neo-Nazis fac­tion of Trump’s base for the sup­port that being a wartime pres­i­dent might bring him:

    The Nation

    Too Many of Trump’s Lib­er­al Crit­ics Are Prais­ing His Strike on Syr­ia
    Any­one who sup­ports these mis­sile strikes has to account for what comes next.
    By Joan Wal­shTwit­ter

    4/7/2017 2:19 pm

    It shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing, but it is to me nonethe­less: Plen­ty of lib­er­als who’ve long crit­i­cized Don­ald Trump as unfit to be pres­i­dent are prais­ing his strike on Syr­i­an air­fields.

    On CNN’s New Day Thurs­day, glob­al ana­lyst Fareed Zakaria declared, “I think Don­ald Trump became pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States” last night. To his cred­it, Zakaria has pre­vi­ous­ly called Trump a “bull­shit artist” and said, “He has got­ten the pres­i­den­cy by bull­shit­ting.” But Zakaria appar­ent­ly thinks fir­ing mis­siles make one pres­i­den­tial. On MSNBC, Nicholas Kristof, an aggres­sive Trump crit­ic, said he “did the right thing” by bomb­ing Syr­ia. Anchor Bri­an Williams, whose 11th Hour has reg­u­lar­ly been crit­i­cal of Trump, repeat­ed­ly called the mis­siles “beau­ti­ful,” to a noisy back­lash on Twit­ter.

    While The New York Times post­ed sev­er­al skep­ti­cal, even crit­i­cal sto­ries, it gave us this piece of pro­pa­gan­da: an arti­cle ini­tial­ly titled “On Syr­ia attack, Trump’s heart came first,” buy­ing the president’s line that his oppo­si­tion to anti-Assad mil­i­tary action was reversed by see­ing the heartrend­ing pho­tos of chil­dren strug­gling to breathe after a chem­i­cal attack.

    “Even beau­ti­ful babies were cru­el­ly mur­dered in this very bar­bar­ic attack,” Trump declared. “No child of God should ever suf­fer such hor­ror.” (No word how he felt about ugly babies.) The piece also failed to even men­tion that Trump is keep­ing refugees from the Syr­i­an war, even chil­dren, out of the Unit­ed States. Vic­tims of chem­i­cal weapons are “beau­ti­ful babies”; chil­dren try­ing to flee such vio­lence require “extreme vet­ting” and an indef­i­nite refugee ban. After a pub­lic out­cry, the Times changed the head­line.

    ...

    Remem­ber just last week, phan­tom Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said in Turkey: “I think the…longer-term sta­tus of Pres­i­dent Assad will be decid­ed by the Syr­i­an peo­ple.” The Krem­lin-fund­ed Rus­sia Today described that as “a U‑turn from Washington’s long-held pol­i­cy” that Assad must go. Six days lat­er, Tiller­son was telling reporters, “There is no doubt in our minds, and the infor­ma­tion we have sup­ports, that the Syr­i­an regime under the lead­er­ship of Bashar al-Assad are respon­si­ble for this attack. It is very impor­tant that the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment con­sid­er care­ful­ly their sup­port for Bashar al-Assad,” because “steps are under­way” to muster inter­na­tion­al sup­port for a strike. Rus­sia Today seemed dis­ap­point­ed that the Unit­ed States believes Assad is behind the gassing of his peo­ple, argu­ing that the source is the inter­na­tion­al res­cue group White Hel­mets, which RT shock­ing­ly calls “al-Qai­da affil­i­at­ed.”

    Any lib­er­al who prais­es these mis­sile strikes has to account for what comes next. Obvi­ous­ly, Trump cares lit­tle about diplo­ma­cy, leav­ing Tiller­son out of key meet­ings and slash­ing the State Department’s bud­get. On Wednes­day night, the White House released a pho­to of his team receiv­ing a brief­ing on the Syr­ia attack. At the table were Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wilbur Ross; Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin; Gold­man Sachs alum Dina Pow­ell, deputy nation­al-secu­ri­ty advis­er; along with Jared Kush­n­er; Steve Ban­non; and Bannon’s side­kick Steven Miller. Why are the Com­merce and Trea­sury sec­re­taries there? What explains why Tiller­son, who was in Palm Beach with the pres­i­dent, was not?

    The nois­i­est out­rage against the Syr­i­an attack isn’t com­ing from the left, but the right—particularly the alt-right. Trump’s non­in­ter­ven­tion­ism and his friend­li­ness to Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin were big sell­ing points to white nation­al­ists. Now that he seems to be chal­leng­ing both men, his for­mer acolytes are enraged. On Twit­ter, alt-right white suprema­cist Richard Spencer called it a “total betray­al”; the white nation­al­ists at VDARE blamed it on the “boomer­cucks” in the admin­is­tra­tion. Ann Coul­ter went apoplec­tic:

    Trump cam­paigned on not get­ting involved in Mideast. Said it always helps our ene­mies & cre­ates more refugees. Then he saw a pic­ture on TV.

    — Ann Coul­ter (@AnnCoulter) April 7, 2017


    It was dis­ap­point­ing to see Hillary Clin­ton say Wednes­day after­noon that she thought air strikes on Syr­i­an air­fields were an appro­pri­ate response to the chem­i­cal-weapon attack. She was always more hawk­ish than I wished, and that shows it. But it’s wrong to insist she’d have done the “same thing” as Trump. Clinton’s sec­re­tary of state wouldn’t like­ly have told Assad we were no longer con­cerned about remov­ing him; if she did fire mis­siles at Syr­i­an air­fields, she would have done so with a clear­er notion of what comes next. Trump appears to be clue­less.

    Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders, mean­while, didn’t quite oppose the Syr­i­an strike, call­ing Assad a “war crim­i­nal” and lament­ing his mur­der of civil­ians with chem­i­cal weapons. But not­ing that “it’s that it’s eas­i­er to get into a war than get out of one,” Sanders demand­ed that Trump “must explain to the Amer­i­can peo­ple exact­ly what this mil­i­tary esca­la­tion in Syr­ia is intend­ed to achieve, and how it fits into the broad­er goal of a polit­i­cal solu­tion, which is the only way Syria’s dev­as­tat­ing civ­il war ends.”

    Sen­a­tor Kirsten Gilli­brand sound­ed clos­er to Sanders than Clin­ton on the airstrikes, decry­ing Trump’s “uni­lat­er­al mil­i­tary action by the US in a Mid­dle East con­flict” as well as “the absence of any long-term plan or strat­e­gy to address any con­se­quences from such uni­lat­er­al action.” Like Sanders, she demand­ed that Trump seek autho­riza­tion of mil­i­tary force from Con­gress. By con­trast, her New York col­league Minor­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s move “the right thing to do.” Schumer may find that many con­stituents think it was the wrong thing.

    There remains the pos­si­bil­i­ty that some of this is the­ater. It should be said: Some observers, besides RT, say it’s unproven that the chem­i­cal weapons attack came from Assad; rebels could be behind it. There’s also the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a kabu­ki per­for­mance from Trump, Putin, and Assad. We already know the Unit­ed States warned Putin of the com­ing mis­siles, and that Putin warned Assad, whose mil­i­tary moved air­planes and oth­er mil­i­tary equip­ment away from the intend­ed tar­get. Trump, plum­met­ing in the polls, his domes­tic health-care and tax plans on the rocks, the inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian elec­tion med­dling clos­ing in on his team, real­ly need­ed a boost; maybe they gave it to him. Trump’s sud­den about-face on Syr­ia makes it hard to judge.

    How­ev­er, accord­ing to Syr­i­an state media, nine civil­ians, includ­ing four chil­dren, were killed in the air strikes. That is not kabu­ki. Trump has said noth­ing about those “beau­ti­ful babies,” nor will he. Lib­er­als have to sober up and stop being besot­ted by beau­ti­ful mis­siles and pres­i­den­tial cru­el­ty. Trump is the same Trump he was Tues­day, and that should scare all of us.

    The nois­i­est out­rage against the Syr­i­an attack isn’t com­ing from the left, but the right—particularly the alt-right. Trump’s non­in­ter­ven­tion­ism and his friend­li­ness to Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin were big sell­ing points to white nation­al­ists. Now that he seems to be chal­leng­ing both men, his for­mer acolytes are enraged. On Twit­ter, alt-right white suprema­cist Richard Spencer called it a “total betray­al”; the white nation­al­ists at VDARE blamed it on the “boomer­cucks” in the admin­is­tra­tion. Ann Coul­ter went apoplec­tic”

    That’s where the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion resides at this moment, when it’s unclear if the mis­sile strike is the start of some­thing much, much big­ger. If Trump is seri­ous­ly pon­der­ing a a much deep­er US mil­i­tary engage­ment, he’s going to do it at the cost of that the sup­port from every­one from Alex Jones to Richard Spencer to Ann Coul­ter. That’s a huge chunk of Trump’s base.

    At the same time, wars do tend to make pres­i­dents more pop­u­lar, and with Trump start­ing off his first term with his­tor­i­cal­ly low approval rat­ings it’s pos­si­ble the Trump clan is ready to make a big gam­ble and bet that the Alt-Right/Alex Jone­sian sup­port they lose will be more than off­set by the sup­port a war-time Trump will gain. Piss­ing off the far-right while still exe­cut­ing a war is the kind of thing a cyn­i­cal far-right admin­is­tra­tion like the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is going to be will­ing to do. Espe­cial­ly if it still works polit­i­cal­ly. We can’t rule the pos­si­bil­i­ty out.

    So with all that mind, it’s also worth not­ing that the drip, drip, drip about Steven Ban­non’s appar­ent demo­tion as part of some sort of fight between a Ban­non-wing and a Jared Kush­n­er-wing just keeps com­ing. The lat­est reports are that Reince Priebus, who was also said to be on the outs along with Ban­non, is going to be giv­en a chance to stay on. And Ban­non might be allowed to stay too. But he’s got to be more of a team play­er. As one report put it, “In their view, Ban­non is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process dri­ven by the inter­ests of the pres­i­dent, not ide­ol­o­gy.”:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    Trump Inc Mak­ing Ban­non An Offer He Can’t Refuse

    Josh Mar­shall
    April 8, 2017,

    Mike Allen like­ly has as good a sources as any­one for the White House Game of Thrones sto­ry. He says this morn­ing that Priebus will now be allowed to stay. He is “ ‘with the pro­gram’ of a more inclu­sive style, and will stay.”

    It is worth not­ing here that Priebus was a job-seek­er con­vert to Ban­non­ism in the first place. Now he’ll uncon­vert to keep his job. Ban­non too might get to stay. But only at a steep price. As Allen puts it, “Either Steve becomes a team play­er and gets along with peo­ple, or he’ll be gone.” To ren­der this in the alt-Trump cre­ole, Ban­non can stay if he agrees to go cuck.

    Through all this report, though, one sen­tence (this one describ­ing Kush­n­er’s and Ivan­ka Trump’s view­point) cap­tures the real sto­ry: “In their view, Ban­non is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process dri­ven by the inter­ests of the pres­i­dent, not ide­ol­o­gy.”

    Let’s not be naive. Per­son­al polit­i­cal inter­est is always in ten­sion with ide­ol­o­gy for every politi­cian. But there is some­thing qual­i­ta­tive­ly dif­fer­ent here. What is I think being accu­rate­ly described is an under­stand­ing of the “inter­ests of the pres­i­dent” which is entire­ly sep­a­rate not only from “ide­ol­o­gy” but what we’d like­ly con­sid­er even the broad­est sort of polit­i­cal view­point and belief. The “inter­ests of the pres­i­dent” here is being pop­u­lar, hav­ing strong poll num­bers, ‘win­ning’ as Trump him­self might put it. Ban­non is putting “ide­ol­o­gy” ahead of that.

    ...

    It goes to the heart of the Fam­i­ly, Brand-dri­ven, Klep­to­crat­ic nature of the Trump White House. The core aim is for the Pres­i­dent to be pop­u­lar, to suc­ceed, a goal in key ways even more impor­tant to the thir­ty-some­thing Kushner/Trumps than the 70 year old Pres­i­dent. Pol­i­tics or pol­i­cy and ide­ol­o­gy, what­ev­er you want to call it, is change­able and sec­ondary, just as Trump can shift from author­i­tar­i­an iso­la­tion­ist to faux val­ues dri­ven inter­na­tion­al­ist in a day and a half. This is pre­cise­ly what you’d expect from peo­ple who were prob­a­bly apo­lit­i­cal or per­haps, if pushed, some­thing like Bloomberg Democ­rats and then became execu­tors of far-right, blood and soil, racist nation­al­ist polit­i­cal pro­gram. Words and pol­i­cy have no mean­ing. What mat­ters is pro­tect­ing and max­i­miz­ing the val­ue of the new fam­i­ly acqui­si­tion: the pres­i­den­cy.

    Ban­non and his sup­port­ers now appear to mak­ing a rear­guard argu­ment that this approach is self-defeat­ing on its own terms. Here from the Times ...

    But Mr. Ban­non has his own core of sup­port­ers out­side the White House. And he has argued that Mr. Kushner’s efforts to pull his father-in-law more to the cen­ter on issues like immi­gra­tion would poi­son him with the con­ser­v­a­tive base — a hope­less posi­tion to be in because Mr. Ban­non believes so few Democ­rats would ever con­sid­er sup­port­ing Mr. Trump.

    This seems almost cer­tain­ly cor­rect in my view. But it is telling that Ban­non’s sup­port­ers seem oblig­ed to argue their case on Kush­n­er’s terms. Who­ev­er ‘wins’ this bat­tle it is high­ly reveal­ing of the Trump White House­’s core val­ues.

    “Through all this report, though, one sen­tence (this one describ­ing Kush­n­er’s and Ivan­ka Trump’s view­point) cap­tures the real sto­ry: “In their view, Ban­non is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process dri­ven by the inter­ests of the pres­i­dent, not ide­ol­o­gy.”

    Keep in mind that all this is hap­pen­ing right when the Trump admin­is­tra­tion appears to be gear­ing up for a war that will make that Alt-Right Bre­it­bart base extra unhap­py. Also keep in mind that, in terms of the pop­u­lar­i­ty of Trump’s poli­cies so far, the poli­cies that fall under the “Ban­nonesque” cat­e­go­ry are actu­al­ly wild­ly more pop­u­lar than the poli­cies that fall under the “Paul Ryan/traditional GOP” cat­e­go­ry. Build a wall with Mex­i­co and the ‘Mus­lim ban’ might be dubi­ous poli­cies from the stand­point of effec­tive­ness and basic decen­cy and were over­all deeply polar­iz­ing, but they were still a hell of a lot more pop­u­lar than the Trump­care plan Paul Ryan came up with for Trump’s Oba­macare replace­ment.

    Trump won the GOP pri­ma­ry in part because the tra­di­tion­al GOP’s poli­cies are so unpop­u­lar even among the GOP base. And cater­ing to what we can thing of as the Bannon/Breitbart Alt-Right-wing was part of Trump’s polit­i­cal secret sauce. And yet here we are with reports that Ban­non could be out as part of a shift towards the polit­i­cal cen­ter and it’s hap­pen­ing at the same time Trump appears to be prepar­ing for a war that’s going to send that Ban­non-base back to the polit­i­cal wilder­ness. Giv­en the poten­tial polit­i­cal costs with such a strat­e­gy Trump must be plan­ning on a very pop­u­lar war. And that prob­a­bly means it’s going to be a big one. And prob­a­bly more than just one because let’s not for­get about those reports of Eric Prince try­ing to secret­ly nego­ti­ate with Rus­sia terms for giv­ing Trump a green light to go to war with Iran.

    And yes, Ban­non him­self may have a strange long­ing for WWIII, but much of his Breitbart/Alex Jones base does­n’t. At the same time, even if Ban­non real­ly is some­how ‘demot­ed’, that does­n’t mean Trump aban­dons the larg­er Bre­it­bart pol­i­cy agenda...he’ll just be aban­don­ing the iso­la­tion­ist part. Still, if we’re on the cusp on a much deep­er US mil­i­tary involve­ment in the Mid­dle East (which might not be lim­it­ed to Syr­ia) that could over­whelm what­ev­er sup­port con­tin­u­ing the Breitbart/Bannon domes­tic pol­i­cy agen­da will get him. So if this Ban­non demo­tion thing is real and if it rep­re­sents a pre­emp­tive move to go to war over the objec­tions of that crit­i­cal Bannon/Breitbart/Infowars wing of Trump’s coali­tion, the mod­el of Trump as a pop­u­lar wartime pres­i­dent prob­a­bly just got a major pro­mo­tion with­in the White House too. Yikes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 8, 2017, 2:19 pm
  7. NBC News sent a team to home town of Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka to inves­ti­gate fur­ther what exact­ly his ties were to the Vitez Rend Order of fas­cist Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors. And while they could­n’t find any that could pro­vide sol­id proof that he was a mem­ber of the order, there was no short­age of peo­ple con­fi­dent­ly assert­ing that ‘every­one knew’ Gor­ka was a mem­ber when he was run­ning for polit­i­cal office despite Gorka’s ongo­ing denials. And here’s anoth­er fun fact they turned up and con­firmed: Gorka’s mom worked as a trans­la­tor for David Irv­ing back in the 80’s:

    NBC News

    Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka Made Nazi-Linked Vitezi Rend ‘Proud’ by Wear­ing Its Medal

    by Alexan­der Smith and Vladimir Ban­ic
    Apr 8 2017, 9:40 am ET

    BUDAPEST, Hun­gary — A group with alleged his­tor­i­cal links to Nazi Ger­many has told NBC News it was “proud” when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s deputy assis­tant wore its medal.

    Con­tro­ver­sy has swirled around Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, one of Trump’s top coun­tert­er­ror­ism advis­ers, ever since he attend­ed the pres­i­den­t’s Jan. 20 Inau­gur­al Ball wear­ing the hon­orary medal of Hun­gar­i­an nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tion Vitezi Rend.

    NBC News trav­eled to Hun­gary to dig deep­er into Gorka’s ties with the group, speak­ing with mem­bers of the orga­ni­za­tion as well as with locals who knew him when he lived there.

    “When he appeared on U.S. tele­vi­sion ... with the medal of the Vitez Order ... it made me real­ly proud,” Vitezi Rend spokesman Andras Hor­vath said in the Hun­gar­i­an cap­i­tal of Budapest. Vitezi Rend is also known as the Order of Vitez.

    Three peo­ple, includ­ing one of Gorka’s for­mer polit­i­cal allies, said he was a well-known mem­ber of Vitezi Rend back in Hun­gary, a charge he strong­ly denies.

    Gorka’s deci­sion to wear the medal — which he said was award­ed to his Hun­gar­i­an-born father — has pro­voked out­rage among Jew­ish groups.

    While in Budapest, NBC News also spoke with Andras Heisler, the Hun­gar­i­an vice-pres­i­dent of the New York-based World Jew­ish Con­gress, who said that wear­ing the medal “isn’t a good mes­sage for a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety.”

    Under the Direc­tion of Nazis

    Vitezi Rend was found­ed in 1920 by Hun­gar­i­an ruler Mik­los Hor­thy to award medals to Hun­gar­i­an vet­er­ans of World War I. But the group’s his­to­ry became murky after the coun­try allied with Nazi Ger­many in 1938.

    Heisler told NBC News that mem­bers of the orga­ni­za­tion were like­ly com­plic­it in the mur­der of some of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Hun­gar­i­an Jews toward the end of World War II.

    Dur­ing the war, the State Depart­ment list­ed Vitezi Rend among a group of “orga­ni­za­tions under the direc­tion of the Nazi gov­ern­ment of Ger­many.” And Hor­thy, its founder, once said that “I have always been an anti-Semi­te through­out my life,” accord­ing to “The Jews of Hun­gary,” a 1995 book by Hun­gar­i­an-Jew­ish his­to­ri­an Raphael Patai.

    The Sovi­et-allied com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment out­lawed Vitezi Rend when they took con­trol of the coun­try after the war. But since then, sev­er­al pri­vate orga­ni­za­tions have emerged claim­ing to be the true suc­ces­sors of the group and its ideals.

    Hor­vath, the spokesman inter­viewed by NBC News, rep­re­sents the most promi­nent mod­ern-day fac­tion. He vehe­ment­ly denied his orga­ni­za­tion of 5,000 mem­bers is anti-Semit­ic or extrem­ist, although he con­ced­ed that his group has no Jew­ish mem­bers.

    Accord­ing to its fol­low­ers, Vitezi Rend is mere­ly “a polit­i­cal­ly inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tion with Chris­t­ian-con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues that keeps its mil­i­tary tra­di­tions,” said Vitez John Molar-Gaz­so, the cap­tain of anoth­er mod­ern-day fac­tion of the group. “It has nev­er been rad­i­cal or a fas­cist group. Its mem­bers have always defend­ed the nation’s inter­ests and fought for the Hun­gar­i­an com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, Gor­ka has denied he has ever been a sworn-in mem­ber of Vitezi Rend — whose name trans­lates to “valiant order.”

    In sev­er­al state­ments to the media, he has explained that he wore the medal to hon­or his late father, Paul Gor­ka, who was award­ed it for his fight against com­mu­nism dur­ing Hun­gary’s peri­od of com­mu­nist rule. He has giv­en a sim­i­lar rea­son­ing for occa­sion­al­ly using the ini­tial “v.” in his name — a mark used by Vitezi Rend mem­bers to show the order has been bestowed upon them. He said it was in remem­brance of his dad.

    Last month, three Vitezi Rend offi­cials told Amer­i­can-Jew­ish news­pa­per The For­ward that Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka was one of their order.

    The reports about Gor­ka prompt­ed the Anne Frank Cen­ter for Mutu­al Respect, an Amer­i­can civ­il-rights group, to call for Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s res­ig­na­tion, or at least an inves­ti­ga­tion into his alleged links with the far-right.

    “How many ducks in the Trump White House must walk, talk and quack Anti-Semit­i­cal­ly before our coun­try wakes up and sees the greater prob­lem?” it told NBC News in a state­ment. “Who among us wears a medal of a Nazi-sym­pa­thet­ic orga­ni­za­tion to remem­ber loved ones?”

    When asked about the alle­ga­tions in NBC News’ inves­ti­ga­tion, Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka dis­missed them as “fake news” and point­ed to a state­ment he gave to online Jew­ish mag­a­zine Tablet last month.

    “I have nev­er been a mem­ber of the Vitez Rend. I have nev­er tak­en an oath of loy­al­ty to the Vitez Rend,” he told the pub­li­ca­tion. “Since child­hood, I have occa­sion­al­ly worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ ini­tial to hon­or his strug­gle against total­i­tar­i­an­ism.”

    He told NBC News he “com­plete­ly dis­tanced myself” from any white-suprema­cist or Nazi ide­ol­o­gy. He declined to answer spe­cif­ic ques­tions about NBC News’ report­ing.

    Hor­vath, the Vitezi Rend spokesman, said Paul Gor­ka was a senior Vitezi Rend lieu­tenant for the west­ern Hun­gar­i­an city of Sopron and its sur­round­ings.

    “This is, in the var­i­ous ranks of the order, an advanced lev­el,” he said, his own Vitezi Rend medal on proud dis­play.

    The 69-year-old was speak­ing on the banks of the Danube riv­er in Hun­gary’s sto­ried post-Sovi­et cap­i­tal, where some build­ings still bear bul­let-holes from a failed anti-Sovi­et rev­o­lu­tion in 1956.

    Paul Gor­ka “was more than an aver­age Vitezi mem­ber ... I had good expe­ri­ences and con­ver­sa­tions with [him],” the spokesman said, his grey hair and trimmed mous­tache match­ing his relaxed yet mat­ter-of-fact demeanor.

    Although Hor­vath was unable to con­firm that Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka was a mem­ber him­self, he said it was pos­si­ble. There are many chap­ters all over the world, he said, any of which could have con­duct­ed the inau­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mo­ny.

    He explained that the first sons of Vitezi Rend mem­bers can either choose hered­i­tary mem­ber­ship or to apply in their own names.

    “The mem­ber­ship can be inher­it­ed by the chil­dren and this mem­ber­ship enters into force when they par­tic­i­pate in an inau­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mo­ny,” said Molár-Gazsó, the cap­tain of the oth­er Vitezi Rend group.

    The Road to Pilisc­sa­ba

    Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, 47, was born in Lon­don in 1970 to Hun­gar­i­an par­ents and gained Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship in 2012. Before find­ing his seat in the pres­i­den­t’s inner-cir­cle, he spent years in his par­ents’ for­mer home­land in the 1990s and 2000s.

    After inter­view­ing Hor­vath and Heisler in Budapest, NBC News drove 14 miles north to the small, sleepy town of Pilisc­sa­ba, where sev­er­al promi­nent locals alleged that Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka was a mem­ber of Vitezi Rend.

    The future White House aide ran for may­or here in 2006, but was unable to per­suade its pop­u­la­tion of 7,500 that he was the right man for the job. He came third out of three can­di­dates but only lost by a mar­gin of 39 votes.

    “Every­body knew that he was mem­ber of the Order of Vitez,” accord­ing to Csa­ba Gáspár, who came in sec­ond that day but lat­er became may­or between 2010 and 2014.

    This was cor­rob­o­rat­ed by one of Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s polit­i­cal allies dur­ing that cam­paign.

    ”I knew that Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka was a mem­ber of Vitezi Rend, even then,” said Dr. Gabor Solti, a respect­ed Hun­gar­i­an geol­o­gist who ran for the town coun­cil on Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s tick­et in 2006. Solti, who served as may­or between 2009 and 2010, is not known to be a mem­ber of the group.

    Although the three peo­ple NBC News inter­viewed in the town said emphat­i­cal­ly that Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka made no effort to hide his mem­ber­ship while he cam­paigned in the town, they did not pro­vide any evi­dence of their claims.

    Pic­turesque Pilisc­sa­ba could­n’t con­trast more with Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s cur­rent envi­rons of Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

    A reg­u­lar line of cars run along the two-lane road that cuts the town in half, but most are just pass­ing through, stop­ping for lit­tle more than a bath­room break.

    A large Catholic church next to a cake shop marks the cen­ter of the town, which is sur­round­ed by rolling green hills.

    Eri­ka Las­z­lo also knew Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka dur­ing his failed may­oral bid. Back then, she was the chair­woman of a local envi­ron­men­tal­ist group called For Pilisc­sa­ba, and as part of the group’s activ­i­ties she wrote leaflets about the cam­paign.

    “It was com­mon knowl­edge he was a Vitezi,” she said, pet­ting her Labrador dur­ing a long after­noon at her wood­land home. “And for many peo­ple this was a shine on the armor, if you like, because it was the old, gold­en days before the war.”

    The Gorkas’ con­tro­ver­sial past does not end with the father and son.

    In the 1980s, Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s moth­er, Susan Gor­ka, worked as a trans­la­tor for David Irv­ing, the dis­cred­it­ed British his­to­ri­an who caused out­rage by sug­gest­ing the Holo­caust did not hap­pen, or was at least great­ly exag­ger­at­ed.

    A British judge ruled in 2000 that Irv­ing was a “Holo­caust denier … anti-Semit­ic and racist, and that he asso­ciates with right-wing extrem­ists who pro­mote neo-Nazism.” And in 2006, he was sen­tenced to three years in prison in Aus­tria on charges of deny­ing the Holo­caust.

    Irv­ing wrote an email to NBC News describ­ing his warm work­ing rela­tion­ship with Susan Gor­ka.

    “His moth­er was very help­ful, checked trans­la­tions in the 1980s and tapes of inter­views,” Irv­ing said. “My impres­sion of both Gorkas [Susan and Paul] was at all times good.”

    NBC News attempt­ed to ask Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka about his moth­er’s involve­ment with Irv­ing but he declined to answer detailed ques­tions.

    V is for Vitezi

    In addi­tion to wear­ing the group’s medal, Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka has occa­sion­al­ly used the ini­tial “v.” in his name — short for Vitezi. He claimed this was mere­ly some­thing to hon­or his father, but experts inter­viewed by NBC News were in no doubt that it sig­ni­fied his mem­ber­ship.

    “I called him Vitez, first­ly because he used to call him­self Vitez while being in Hun­gary,” accord­ing to Gabor Hor­vath, man­ag­ing edi­tor of Hun­gary’s Nep­sza­va news­pa­per. “And sec­ond to let the read­ers know that any­one claim­ing to belong to the order … it means that he is a right-wing con­ser­v­a­tive.”

    Gabor Hor­vath knew all too well that the “v.” indi­cat­ed some­one was a Vitezi Rend mem­ber — his own grand­fa­ther belonged to the order. He too could have inher­it­ed the title had it not been for his father mar­ry­ing a Jew­ish woman and break­ing the fam­i­ly lin­eage.

    “In the­o­ry I might have been Vitezi myself … not that I want­ed to,” he said, speak­ing in his news­room back in Budapest. “The orig­i­nal char­ter of the order pre­scribed a Chris­t­ian fam­i­ly life.”

    Paul Gor­ka was born in Budapest in 1930. As a 15-year-old boy in 1944, he “fought with a sub­ma­chine gun through the ruins of the Hun­gar­i­an cap­i­tal,” accord­ing to Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s 2016 book “Defeat­ing Jihad: The Winnable War.”

    He did­n’t spec­i­fy which side his father fought on — Sovi­et or Nazi — but a large part of Paul Gorka’s life there­after was ded­i­cat­ed to fight­ing against the for­mer.

    After the war, Paul Gor­ka joined Hun­gary’s under­ground anti-Sovi­et resis­tance. He was caught, jailed and tor­tured, accord­ing to his son’s account, but then broke free dur­ing the failed rev­o­lu­tion of 1956.

    It was these anti-Sovi­et acts that earned him the medal in 1979 that his son would wear to Trump’s ball.

    Ardent Nation­al­ism

    Mik­los Hor­thy, Hun­gary’s wartime leader and the founder of Vitezi Rend, remains a huge­ly divi­sive fig­ure even today. Some say he attempt­ed to pro­tect Hun­gar­i­an Jews from the Nazis, oth­ers point to a series of anti-Semit­ic laws he passed and claim his actions led to the deaths of tens of thou­sands.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, the actions of Vitezi Rend’s orig­i­nal mem­bers are the source of some dis­agree­ment.

    The spokes­men for the two mod­ern-day fac­tions said their pre­de­ces­sors were not com­plic­it in the depor­ta­tion of at least 400,000 Hun­gar­i­an Jews to Nazi death camps in 1944.

    But many experts dis­agree.

    “Vitezi Rend had a lot of anti-Semit­ic, racist mem­bers,” accord­ing to Heisler, the vice-pres­i­dent of the World Jew­ish Con­gress. “The orga­ni­za­tion had some mem­bers who were actors in the killing of the Jews,” as well as tak­ing Jew­ish prop­er­ty, he said.

    His­to­ri­an Eva S. Balogh fled Hun­gary to the U.S. in 1956 before gain­ing her Ph.D. and teach­ing at Yale. She said that “the like­li­hood that a good num­ber of the [Vitezi] Order’s mem­bers embraced the ideas of Hitler is fair­ly strong.”

    Almost “the entire Hun­gar­i­an high com­mand belonged to the [Vitezi] Order,” accord­ing to Balogh, who also runs the news web­site Hun­gar­i­an Spec­trum and has writ­ten exten­sive­ly about the Gorkas. She said that these Hun­gar­i­an elites “were avid sup­port­ers of Ger­many and eager to join Ger­many’s war efforts.

    Today’s Vitezi Rend mem­bers, accord­ing to Balogh, fol­low the same “eth­i­cal and moral code” as their pre­de­ces­sors in the 1920s — “ardent nation­al­ism, a fos­ter­ing of Hun­gar­i­an mil­i­tary tra­di­tions [and] an attrac­tion to right-wing ide­olo­gies.”

    Aside from the ques­tion of whether or not Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka was a mem­ber of Vitezi Rend, his cre­den­tials as a coun­tert­er­ror­ism expert have also been called into ques­tion.

    ...

    “In the 1980s, Sebas­t­ian Gorka’s moth­er, Susan Gor­ka, worked as a trans­la­tor for David Irv­ing, the dis­cred­it­ed British his­to­ri­an who caused out­rage by sug­gest­ing the Holo­caust did not hap­pen, or was at least great­ly exag­ger­at­ed.”

    So on top of the moun­tain of evi­dence con­tra­dict­ing Gorka’s denials of his involve­ment with the far-Vitezi Rend orga­ni­za­tion that Gor­ka appar­ent­ly inher­it­ed from his father, it turns out Gorka’s mom worked with David Irv­ing:

    ...
    A British judge ruled in 2000 that Irv­ing was a “Holo­caust denier … anti-Semit­ic and racist, and that he asso­ciates with right-wing extrem­ists who pro­mote neo-Nazism.” And in 2006, he was sen­tenced to three years in prison in Aus­tria on charges of deny­ing the Holo­caust.

    Irv­ing wrote an email to NBC News describ­ing his warm work­ing rela­tion­ship with Susan Gor­ka.

    “His moth­er was very help­ful, checked trans­la­tions in the 1980s and tapes of inter­views,” Irv­ing said. “My impres­sion of both Gorkas [Susan and Paul] was at all times good.”

    NBC News attempt­ed to ask Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka about his moth­er’s involve­ment with Irv­ing but he declined to answer detailed ques­tions.
    ...

    it would be inter­est­ing to learn if Susan Gor­ka was paid for her trans­la­tion work or just did it for free. Unfor­tu­nate­ly it does­n’t appear that Gor­ka him­self is going to open up about that. For­tu­nate­ly, David Irv­ing did in a recent inter­view with the Huff­in­g­ton Post: Susan Gor­ka vol­un­teered to work for Irv­ing:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post

    Top Trump Advis­er Faces Calls For Res­ig­na­tion After Reports Of Ties To Nazi-Aligned Group
    Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka proud­ly wears a medal from a Hun­gar­i­an group that col­lab­o­rat­ed with Nazis dur­ing World War II.
    By Jes­si­ca Schul­berg

    03/17/2017 07:48 pm ET | Updat­ed 04/05/2017 days ago

    WASHINGTON — A top coun­tert­er­ror­ism advis­er to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump faces grow­ing calls to resign after a series of news reports alleg­ing he has ties to a far-right Hun­gar­i­an group with his­tor­i­cal links to the Nazi par­ty.

    Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka was pho­tographed dur­ing the Jan­u­ary inau­gur­al ball wear­ing a medal that for­eign pol­i­cy news site LobeL­og lat­er iden­ti­fied as a sym­bol of mem­ber­ship in the Hun­gar­i­an Order of Heroes. The group, known as Vitézi Rend in Hun­gar­i­an, col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazi gov­ern­ment dur­ing World War II, accord­ing to the State Depart­ment. Mem­bers of the group are inel­i­gi­ble for Amer­i­can visas.

    Gor­ka did not respond to LobeLog’s request for com­ment. He lat­er told Bre­it­bart that the medal belonged to his late father, Paul Gor­ka, who “was award­ed a dec­la­ra­tion for his resis­tance to a dic­ta­tor­ship.” The For­ward fol­lowed up with a series of reports alleg­ing that Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka spent years immers­ing him­self in far-right, anti-Semit­ic polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions in Hun­gary, and is a sworn mem­ber of the Vitézi Rend. Gor­ka ignored requests for com­ment on the arti­cle and instead issued a denial to a friend­ly reporter at Tablet after The For­ward pub­lished the alle­ga­tions.

    ...

    Paul Gorka’s Vitézi Rend mem­ber­ship is not the only indi­ca­tion that the Gor­ka fam­i­ly fos­tered con­nec­tions to anti-Semit­ic fringe char­ac­ters.

    After the failed 1956 effort to over­throw the Sovi­et gov­ern­ment in Hun­gary, Paul Gor­ka and his soon-to-be-wife Susan fled the coun­try, even­tu­al­ly set­tling in Eng­land, where Sebas­t­ian was born in 1970.

    Years lat­er, Susan Gor­ka crossed paths with David Irv­ing, a British author known for his anti-Semit­ic revi­sion­ist accounts of World War II. Irv­ing gained inter­na­tion­al noto­ri­ety in the 1990s dur­ing an an unsuc­cess­ful libel suit against a his­to­ri­an who had accused him of being a Holo­caust denier. But he was already a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure decades before the law­suit. In 1977, he pub­lished a book called Hitler’s War, which assert­ed that Adolf Hitler was unaware of the Holo­caust.

    Irv­ing met Susan Gor­ka in the 1970s while he was work­ing on a book about the 1956 Hun­gar­i­an rev­o­lu­tion, he told The Huff­in­g­ton Post in an inter­view. He sus­pect­ed his inter­preter was “ten­den­tious­ly” trans­lat­ing his inter­views, and lat­er con­clud­ed the inter­preter was a Hun­gar­i­an spy. He began search­ing for a new Hun­gar­i­an speak­er who could go through trans­la­tions of pre­vi­ous inter­view tran­scripts to make sure they were cor­rect. Susan Gor­ka vol­un­teered, he said.

    In the result­ing book Upris­ing!, Irv­ing asserts that the Hun­gar­i­an rev­o­lu­tion against the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment was “pri­mar­i­ly an anti-Jew­ish upris­ing” — an assess­ment dis­put­ed by main­stream his­to­ri­ans.

    “The whole con­clu­sion of the book is dead wrong,” Eva Balogh, an emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of East­ern Euro­pean his­to­ry at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view. Balogh, who left Hun­gary after the rev­o­lu­tion, was the first to notice Susan Gorka’s work with Irv­ing.

    “I went through that rev­o­lu­tion and I remem­ber it pret­ty well, there was no sign of anti-Semi­tism as far as I could see it,” Balogh said. “This is a fig­ment of [Irving’s] imag­i­na­tion and his prej­u­dice.”

    Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka did not respond to a detailed list of ques­tions about his mother’s work with Irv­ing, and his own views on Irving’s books. Accord­ing to Irv­ing, Susan Gor­ka shared his belief that the 1956 upris­ing was moti­vat­ed by antipa­thy toward Jews. “Most Hun­gar­i­an exiles do believe that,” he said. “They regard the upris­ing as start­ing as an anti-Jew­ish pro­gram.”

    In the intro­duc­tion to Upris­ing! Irv­ing thanked Susan Gor­ka as one of four inter­preters who made the book pos­si­ble. He also list­ed two inter­views in Lon­don with Paul Gor­ka in 1974 and 1978 in the sec­tion on sourc­ing.

    Irv­ing said he stayed in touch with Susan Gor­ka for sev­er­al years after the book was pub­lished in 1981, and met Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka “two or three times.” He said he has since lost touch with the fam­i­ly. He had nev­er heard of the Vitézi Rend, he said.

    Irving’s past rela­tion­ship with the fam­i­ly, Balogh said, “shows what kind of milieus the Gorkas lived in.”

    ...

    “Irv­ing met Susan Gor­ka in the 1970s while he was work­ing on a book about the 1956 Hun­gar­i­an rev­o­lu­tion, he told The Huff­in­g­ton Post in an inter­view. He sus­pect­ed his inter­preter was “ten­den­tious­ly” trans­lat­ing his inter­views, and lat­er con­clud­ed the inter­preter was a Hun­gar­i­an spy. He began search­ing for a new Hun­gar­i­an speak­er who could go through trans­la­tions of pre­vi­ous inter­view tran­scripts to make sure they were cor­rect. Susan Gor­ka vol­un­teered, he said.

    Yeah, that cer­tain­ly gives us hint of the kind of milieus the Gorka’s lived in. Milieus that clear­ly made a last­ing impres­sion on Sebas­t­ian. Like father, like son. And also like moth­er, like son. Very unfor­tu­nate­ly in both cas­es.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 10, 2017, 3:38 pm
  8. The con­sol­i­da­tion of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team under the direc­tion of nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor H.R. McMas­ter expand­ed recent to include the reas­sign­ment of K.T. McFar­land from the post of deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor to ambas­sador of Sin­ga­pore. So that’s Michael Fly­nn, Steve Ban­non, and now K.T. McFar­land who have lost their nation­al secu­ri­ty coun­cil posi­tion less than three months into the new admin­is­tra­tion. And since all three are from the dis­tinct­ly ‘loop­i­er’ fac­tion of the Team Trump and McFar­land had report­ed­ly nar­row­ly avoid­ed los­ing her posi­tion back in Feb­ru­ary but was saved by an inter­ven­tion by Trump him­self, it rais­es the ques­tion of who’s next to from Team Loopy?

    For instance, how about Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka? Is he going to con­tin­ue advis­ing Trump on nation­al secu­ri­ty issues or is a new job in his near future? Well, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle indi­cates, it’s pos­si­ble Gor­ka will indeed be reas­signed. But it’s also pos­si­ble this reas­sign­ment will still involve advis­ing Trump on some key nation­al secu­ri­ty issues. And Gor­ka him­self is active­ly lob­by­ing for this new posi­tion: Gor­ka wants to become the US spe­cial enjoy to Libya and has lot’s of advice on what to do about the night­mare sit­u­a­tion in Libya that he’d like to give Trump. Specif­i­cal­ly, break Libya up into three coun­tries along the old Ottoman empire lines. That’s the kind of advice Gor­ka wants to give Trump as the spe­cial envoy to Libya:

    The Guardian

    Trump aide drew plan on nap­kin to par­ti­tion Libya into three

    Exclu­sive: Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka told pro­pos­al would be ‘the worst solu­tion’ when he sug­gest­ed it to senior Euro­pean diplo­mat

    Stephanie Kirch­gaess­ner in Rome and Julian Borg­er in Wash­ing­ton

    Mon­day 10 April 2017 02.00 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Mon­day 10 April 2017 03.23 EDT

    A senior White House for­eign pol­i­cy offi­cial has pushed a plan to par­ti­tion Libya, and once drew a pic­ture of how the coun­try could be divid­ed into three areas on a nap­kin in a meet­ing with a senior Euro­pean diplo­mat, the Guardian has learned.

    Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, a deputy assis­tant to Don­ald Trump under pres­sure over his past ties with Hun­gar­i­an far-right groups, sug­gest­ed the idea of par­ti­tion in the weeks lead­ing up to the US president’s inau­gu­ra­tion, accord­ing to an offi­cial with knowl­edge of the mat­ter. The Euro­pean diplo­mat respond­ed that this would be “the worst solu­tion” for Libya.

    Gor­ka is vying for the job of pres­i­den­tial spe­cial envoy to Libya in a White House that has so far spent lit­tle time think­ing about the coun­try and has yet to decide whether to cre­ate such a post.

    Libya has been mired in a con­flict between two com­pet­ing gov­ern­ments since the fall of Muam­mar Gaddafi in 2011 after a Nato-led inter­ven­tion. As rival jos­tle for influ­ence and posi­tion in Wash­ing­ton on the hith­er­to neglect­ed issue, sharp dif­fer­ences have emerged over how much say Rus­sia should have in Libya’s fate.

    There are fears among some Euro­pean allies that the White House will reverse the Oba­ma administration’s strong sup­port for the UN-backed Libyan gov­ern­ment of nation­al accord, which is based in Tripoli and led by Fayez al-Sar­raj.

    While the GNA has been seen by some as the best option for achiev­ing sta­bil­i­ty in the coun­try, it has strug­gled against a rival gov­ern­ment based in Tobruk, east­ern Libya, backed by Khal­i­fa Haf­tar, an anti-Islamist mil­i­tary strong­man. Haf­tar, who would not back par­ti­tion, has sup­port in some parts of the Egypt­ian and Russ­ian gov­ern­ments.

    In Jan­u­ary, he was wel­comed onboard the Admi­ral Kuznetsov, the Russ­ian flag­ship, as the air­craft car­ri­er sailed along the north African coast. Haf­tar, a 73-year-old field mar­shal and for­mer Gaddafi gen­er­al who lat­er became his bit­ter oppo­nent, presents him­self as a bul­wark against Islamism and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which makes him appeal­ing to ele­ments of the Trump for­eign pol­i­cy team.

    Gor­ka advo­cates hard­line poli­cies aimed at defeat­ing “rad­i­cal Islam” and sees the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood as a ter­ror­ist group bent on infil­trat­ing the US. As a for­mer Bre­it­bart edi­tor, he is close to Steve Ban­non, Trump’s chief strate­gist, who believes the strug­gle against rad­i­cal Islam should be the cen­tral theme of US for­eign pol­i­cy. But Bannon’s star is on the wane in the White House and he lost his seat on the nation­al secu­ri­ty coun­cil last week.

    Gor­ka has alarmed for­eign diplo­mats with his views on Libya’s future. The map he drew on a nap­kin dur­ing the tran­si­tion peri­od cut Libya into three sec­tions, appar­ent­ly based on the old Ottoman provinces of Cyre­naica in the east, Tripoli­ta­nia in the north-west and Fez­zan in the south-west.

    For­mer Ottoman provinces of Libya

    Mat­tia Toal­do, a Libya expert at the Euro­pean Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions think­tank, said: “This is like a lit­mus test of how much you know about Libya. If you the only thing you know is that it was cut into three, then it shows you are clue­less about the sit­u­a­tion in Libya.”

    Gorka’s rivals for the envoy job include Pete Hoek­stra, a for­mer con­gress­man and lob­by­ist, and Phillip Escar­avage, a for­mer US intel­li­gence offi­cial who worked on Libya for more than a decade.

    Escar­avage is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered to be the clear favourite to take on the unpaid role. He is believed to have put for­ward a peace pro­pos­al heav­i­ly depen­dent on tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in west­ern finan­cial sup­port.

    At least one Euro­pean ally has pri­vate­ly expressed frus­tra­tion at the US state department’s lack of a posi­tion on Libya, voic­ing con­cerns over Russia’s grow­ing influ­ence.

    While sep­a­ratists who sup­port par­ti­tion claim that a viable state could be built in east­ern Libya, most experts agree that the move would stoke anoth­er civ­il war because the bound­aries would be hot­ly dis­put­ed.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Tobruk gov­ern­ment, includ­ing Haf­tar, have sought to influ­ence the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, call­ing for the US to rad­i­cal­ly change its posi­tion and with­draw sup­port for the Sar­raj gov­ern­ment.

    In a phone inter­view with the Guardian, Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli secu­ri­ty con­sul­tant based in Cana­da, whose com­pa­ny has a $6m (£4.9m) con­tract to lob­by on behalf of Haf­tar and Aguila Saleh Issa, the head of the Libyan house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Tobruk, said the White House had been “briefed” on Libya and was “will­ing to play on our terms”.

    “There is not going to be a par­ti­tion,” Ben-Menashe said. “None of them [Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials] real­ly knew any­thing about what was going on. They were briefed pret­ty exten­sive­ly by us and ... they under­stand that Sar­raj will nev­er work.”

    Ben-Menashe said it was under­stood by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion that a cen­tral Libyan gov­ern­ment accept­able to the west and east of the coun­try could be cre­at­ed “in three days” if Rus­sia were more involved. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion, he added, was “inter­est­ed in get­ting the help of Rus­sians and inter­est­ed in get­ting them to resolve it”.

    ...

    Gor­ka is vying for the job of pres­i­den­tial spe­cial envoy to Libya in a White House that has so far spent lit­tle time think­ing about the coun­try and has yet to decide whether to cre­ate such a post.”

    Whether or not Gor­ka is read­ing the writ­ing of the wall after the depar­ture of Fly­nn and McFar­land or whether he real­ly does want to be the spe­cial enjoy to Libya, Gor­ka is clear­ly inter­est­ed in the posi­tion. So he can advo­cate for recre­at­ing the old Ottoman provinces:

    ...
    Gor­ka has alarmed for­eign diplo­mats with his views on Libya’s future. The map he drew on a nap­kin dur­ing the tran­si­tion peri­od cut Libya into three sec­tions, appar­ent­ly based on the old Ottoman provinces of Cyre­naica in the east, Tripoli­ta­nia in the north-west and Fez­zan in the south-west.

    For­mer Ottoman provinces of Libya

    Mat­tia Toal­do, a Libya expert at the Euro­pean Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions think­tank, said: “This is like a lit­mus test of how much you know about Libya. If you the only thing you know is that it was cut into three, then it shows you are clue­less about the sit­u­a­tion in Libya.”
    ...

    And while par­ti­tion­ing Libya might seem like an extreme solu­tion, keep in mind that the coun­try is already frag­ment­ed and has two pri­ma­ry rival gov­ern­ments: the Islamist-friend­ly GNA and the anti-Islamist (but strong­man-friend­ly) Tobruk gov­ern­ment. And inter­na­tion­al sup­port for the gov­ern­ments is split:

    ...
    There are fears among some Euro­pean allies that the White House will reverse the Oba­ma administration’s strong sup­port for the UN-backed Libyan gov­ern­ment of nation­al accord, which is based in Tripoli and led by Fayez al-Sar­raj.

    While the GNA has been seen by some as the best option for achiev­ing sta­bil­i­ty in the coun­try, it has strug­gled against a rival gov­ern­ment based in Tobruk, east­ern Libya, backed by Khal­i­fa Haf­tar, an anti-Islamist mil­i­tary strong­man. Haf­tar, who would not back par­ti­tion, has sup­port in some parts of the Egypt­ian and Russ­ian gov­ern­ments.

    In Jan­u­ary, he was wel­comed onboard the Admi­ral Kuznetsov, the Russ­ian flag­ship, as the air­craft car­ri­er sailed along the north African coast. Haf­tar, a 73-year-old field mar­shal and for­mer Gaddafi gen­er­al who lat­er became his bit­ter oppo­nent, presents him­self as a bul­wark against Islamism and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which makes him appeal­ing to ele­ments of the Trump for­eign pol­i­cy team.
    ...

    So giv­en all that, who knows, it’s not impos­si­ble that split­ting up Libya could end up being Trump’s pol­i­cy in Libya. And maybe Gor­ka will be the one to craft it. But if that does end up being the plan, it also rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not Gor­ka is plan­ning on a major US mil­i­tary com­mit­ment to keep­ing the peace between the new rival nations he pro­pos­es cre­at­ing. Because as the arti­cle below notes, if you break up Libya along the old Ottoman empire bor­ders you’re going to end up hand­ing most of the oil to the Tobruk gov­ern­ment and many oil fields will be right next to the new bor­ders which almost cer­tain­ly means the mil­i­tary con­flict will con­tin­ue:

    Politi­co
    Mag­a­zine

    So You Want to Par­ti­tion Libya …

    A memo for Dr. Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, Ph.D.

    By Geoff D. Porter

    April 11, 2017

    Dear Dr. Gor­ka,

    So I hear you’re inter­est­ed in being Don­ald Trump’s envoy to Libya. You even sketched a plan on a nap­kin to par­ti­tion the coun­try. The plan would divide Libya into three provinces that date back to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th cen­tu­ry, and there­by solve Libya’s cur­rent cri­sis. If it were only that sim­ple.

    But it’s not. Libya’s ongo­ing con­flict is com­pli­cat­ed. It has to do with the lega­cy of four decades of bru­tal dic­ta­to­r­i­al rule under Muam­mar Qad­hafi that oblit­er­at­ed any sem­blance of func­tion­al gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions and pit­ted Libyan against Libyan. It has to do with lack of rule of law and poor gov­er­nance that has allowed the demo­c­ra­t­ic process ini­ti­at­ed after the 2011 rev­o­lu­tion to be per­vert­ed and then abort­ed. And it has to do with region­al proxy pow­ers inter­ven­ing both open­ly and clan­des­tine­ly in Libya to make sure that they have an oil-rich ally on the Mediter­ranean when the dust set­tles.

    The cur­rent mess in Libya is lay­ers upon lay­ers, with mul­ti­ple bod­ies in dif­fer­ent cities claim­ing to be the country’s true gov­ern­ment. And then there are the fence-sitters—not yet with this side or that but wait­ing to see where the chips fall. And all of these groups are armed. We’re not talk­ing about just small arms, but armor, artillery and air pow­er. Also, let’s not for­get the Islam­ic State, which was only recent­ly oust­ed from its strong­hold in Sirte. Many of those fight­ers who fled like­ly linked up with clan­des­tine cells through­out the coun­try. But let’s put all this aside for the moment and focus on why your plan is a clunk­er.

    For starters, your plan is pred­i­cat­ed on the notion that the Ottoman divi­sion of Libya into three provinces (Tripoli­ta­nia in the west, Cyre­naica in the east, and the Fez­zan in the south) “worked.”

    Well, let’s review a lit­tle his­to­ry. (Yes, I too have a Ph.D.) The Ottomans first con­quered and cre­at­ed Cyre­naica, today’s east­ern Libya, in 1517. It took them anoth­er 34 years to con­quer Tripoli­ta­nia, the region clos­er to Tunisia. The Ottomans only con­quered and cre­at­ed the Fez­zan, Libya’s vast and most­ly emp­ty desert south, 300 years lat­er. And this gloss­es over the fact that Istan­bul lost con­trol of Tripoli­ta­nia for more than a cen­tu­ry in the inter­ven­ing years. These were not hap­py, seam­less times.

    But how did these Ottoman provinces func­tion? For starters, the bor­ders between the regions were pri­mar­i­ly for the pur­pos­es of tax col­lec­tion to be paid to Istan­bul, not for the full remit of gov­er­nance that we would require today. Peo­ple moved back and forth and fam­i­lies and inter­ests spanned dif­fer­ent regions. Law enforce­ment, such as it was, devolved to the local lev­el.

    But all this was before oil—which wasn’t dis­cov­ered in Libya until 1957. Had oil been dis­cov­ered in Libya dur­ing the Ottoman era, would Istan­bul have divid­ed it the way it did? Wouldn’t we then be sketch­ing dif­fer­ent bor­ders on dif­fer­ent nap­kins?

    But for the sake of argu­ment, let’s say we do divide Libya accord­ing to 600-year-old bor­ders (regard­less of whether this is what Libyans want or not). Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. It pays for every­thing from food to water to pub­lic-sec­tor salaries. With­out oil rev­enue there is no Libya.

    The prob­lem is, bor­ders on the ground don’t always neat­ly line up with the oil reserves in it. In Libya’s case, most of the oil is in the east, in what would be Cyre­naica. The Fez­zan would have some too. There is con­sid­er­ably less in what would be Tripoli­ta­nia, the region that con­tains the cap­i­tal, Tripoli.

    Recre­at­ing Ottoman divi­sions then would ulti­mate­ly cut a future Tripolitania’s rev­enue by more than two thirds. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, the oil fields that Tripoli­ta­nia would lose would be just across the bor­der in neigh­bor­ing Cyrenaica—so close that Tripoli­ta­nia would be for­giv­en were it to be tempt­ed to fight for them. And while the Fez­zan would end up with some oil, it has no access to ports and would have to pay Tripoli­ta­nia tran­sit tar­iffs to get its oil to mar­ket. Giv­en how much rev­enue it would have lost, you can bet Tripoli­ta­nia will extract a pret­ty pen­ny. Plus, the Fez­zan would end up a land­locked coun­try. The Unit­ed Nations and the World Bank have ample sta­tis­tics demon­strat­ing how frag­ile land­locked coun­tries are.

    But the Libyan con­flict is already about oil and about con­trol­ling the rev­enue that oil gen­er­ates. This became abun­dant­ly clear last month when mili­tias allied with the Gov­ern­ment of Nation­al Accord in Tripoli seized four oil export ter­mi­nals that had ear­li­er been cap­tured by the mil­i­tary allied with the east­ern gov­ern­ment in Tobruk, which in turn had cap­tured from a sep­a­ratist cum gang­ster. (Are you fol­low­ing along, Dr. Gor­ka?) Even though the Tobruk gov­ern­ment had con­tin­ued to allow oil rev­enue from the ports under its con­trol to keep going to the gov­ern­ment in Tripoli after it cap­tured them in Sep­tem­ber 2016, some polit­i­cal lead­ers in Tripoli were uneasy with that “gentlemen’s agree­ment” and felt they need­ed to take the oil ter­mi­nals “back,” not only to under­mine their oppo­nents in the east, but also to guar­an­tee oil rev­enue for them­selves in the future. They man­aged to do so briefly in March, but the Tripoli gov­ern­ment was able to hold the ter­mi­nals for only a few days before the gov­ern­ment in Tobruk took them back. Now that it has tak­en them back, the Tobruk gov­ern­ment is explor­ing ways of sell­ing oil on its own.

    Mean­while, the gov­ern­ment in Tripoli is try­ing to fig­ure out how to exert more con­trol over oil rev­enue, like­ly to deprive that rev­enue of going to the gov­ern­ment in Tobruk. Fur­ther south, oth­er groups are also lever­ag­ing oil, peri­od­i­cal­ly shut­ting down a pipeline lead­ing from two large south­west­ern fields to deprive the gov­ern­ment in Tripoli of rev­enue and force it to bow to their demands.

    Libya’s cur­rent con­flict, though, is also about more than oil. It is about for­mer Qad­hafi regime mem­bers try­ing to reclaim what they lost in the 2011 rev­o­lu­tion. It is about Islamists—no, not rad­i­cal Islam­ic terrorists—trying to pre­serve the polit­i­cal gains they made dur­ing Libya’s brief demo­c­ra­t­ic inter­lude in the after­math of the rev­o­lu­tion that oust­ed Qad­hafi. It is about for­mer polit­i­cal dissidents—some who were impris­oned, oth­ers who were exiled, try­ing to gain some polit­i­cal pow­er for the first time in a coun­try they call their own. And into this mix add jiha­di ter­ror­ists orga­ni­za­tions like the Islam­ic State; the rem­nants of Beng­hazi con­sulate attack­ers Ansar al-Sharia; and some com­po­nents of Al Qae­da in the Islam­ic Maghreb, a region­al ter­ror­ist group with a large pres­ence in the south. None of these groups fits neat­ly into Ottoman-era bor­ders. Which new coun­try would you give to the Islamists? Which one would the for­mer Qad­hafi hench­men get? Who ends up with the bulk of the ter­ror­ists?

    Despite all of this, per­haps you still think cre­at­ing three new coun­tries is a good idea. But you don’t have to look very far to find instances where this approach has been a dis­as­ter. This is espe­cial­ly the case when oil is involved. Case in point: South Sudan, which not only fought a calami­tous 20-year war for inde­pen­dence from Sudan that reignit­ed over oil less than a year after win­ning inde­pen­dence, but is now engulfed in a civ­il war of its own and fail­ing. Do we real­ly want to be flirt­ing with the prospect of more failed states in the Sahara? After all, failed states are hot­hous­es for jiha­di salafis who are already abun­dant in Libya and the Sahara. We should be work­ing to lim­it their areas of oper­a­tions, not cre­at­ing new ones for them.

    Finally—and this is a big one—despite hav­ing two gov­ern­ments and being on the cusp of civ­il war, most Libyans still think of them­selves as “Libyan.” They don’t think of them­selves as Tripoli­tan­ian or Cyre­naican or Fez­zani. The solu­tion for Libya’s cri­sis is to fos­ter this sense of “Libyaness” as a way of coun­ter­ing the zero-sum men­tal­i­ty that is dri­ving the cur­rent cri­sis. The Nation­al Oil Corp. rec­og­nizes this. It has con­sis­tent­ly main­tained in the face of all sorts of con­fronta­tions that Libya’s oil is for Libyans, east and west, north and south. The chal­lenge now is to spread the “Libya for Libyans” men­tal­i­ty to oth­er gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions. Admit­ted­ly, a plan for doing this doesn’t fit on a nap­kin, but nei­ther would any plans for deal­ing with the mess cre­at­ed by divvy­ing up Libya into bor­ders from a bygone era.

    ...

    “The prob­lem is, bor­ders on the ground don’t always neat­ly line up with the oil reserves in it. In Libya’s case, most of the oil is in the east, in what would be Cyre­naica. The Fez­zan would have some too. There is con­sid­er­ably less in what would be Tripoli­ta­nia, the region that con­tains the cap­i­tal, Tripoli.”

    That cer­tain­ly sounds like a recipe for a lot more war. Espe­cial­ly war over the oil fields just over the bor­der that ‘Tripoli­ta­nia’ is going to be very unhap­py about los­ing. and then there’s the fact that one of the new nations would be land­locked:

    ...
    Recre­at­ing Ottoman divi­sions then would ulti­mate­ly cut a future Tripolitania’s rev­enue by more than two thirds. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, the oil fields that Tripoli­ta­nia would lose would be just across the bor­der in neigh­bor­ing Cyrenaica—so close that Tripoli­ta­nia would be for­giv­en were it to be tempt­ed to fight for them. And while the Fez­zan would end up with some oil, it has no access to ports and would have to pay Tripoli­ta­nia tran­sit tar­iffs to get its oil to mar­ket. Giv­en how much rev­enue it would have lost, you can bet Tripoli­ta­nia will extract a pret­ty pen­ny. Plus, the Fez­zan would end up a land­locked coun­try. The Unit­ed Nations and the World Bank have ample sta­tis­tics demon­strat­ing how frag­ile land­locked coun­tries are.
    ...

    So that’s all part of Gorka’s plan. It’s not actu­al­ly a plan for peace­ful res­o­lu­tion to Libya’s civ­il-war, but it is a plan. And there is a cer­tain log­ic to it in the sense that it’s a plan that would starve the Islamist-friend­ly new nation Tripoli­ta­nia of oil rev­enues that would instead go towards the anti-Isam­list Tobruk gov­ern­ment of ‘Cyre­naica’. That seems like the kind of plan the Trump team might go with...except the log­ic breaks down when you con­sid­ered that even if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion got the rest of the world to go along with the par­ti­tion plan those reduced oil rev­enues for the Islamists of Tripoli­ta­nia isn’t going to stop them from get­ting plen­ty of access to weapons and fight­ers from its var­i­ous Gulf monar­chy spon­sors if it does decide to wage a war for that lost oil.

    So you have to won­der what else Gor­ka has in mind with this plan. Because don’t for­get one of Don­ald Trump’s ral­ly­ing cries through­out the 2016 cam­paign: he would have kept Iraq’s oil as a ‘spoil of war’ which would have pre­vent­ed the rise of ISIS. Well, Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka is propos­ing the cre­ation of a new oil-rich anti-Islamist strong­man-led state that’s going to have a new super pissed-off oil-poor Islamist neigh­bor with exten­sive mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties and like­ly broad sup­port mil­i­tary sup­port from the Gulf monar­chies.

    So is a US mil­i­tary peace-keep­ing pres­ence in ‘Cyre­naica’ part of Gorka’s plan? And is Cyre­naica’s oil going to be the price Trump charges for this pro­tec­tion? We’ll see.

    At least it does­n’t sound like KT McFar­land has any mas­ter plan of her own she’s going to push while serv­ing in Sin­ga­pore. Phew. Although it’s prob­a­bly just a mat­ter of time. She’s pret­ty cre­ative.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 11, 2017, 3:40 pm
  9. We prob­a­bly should have seen this com­ing: The Trump admin­is­tra­tion just reversed the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s pol­i­cy on vol­un­tar­i­ly dis­clos­ing the the White House vis­i­tors log. So if you want to see who’s com­ing and going from the White House, be pre­pared to fill out a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump will keep list of White House vis­i­tors secret

    By John Wag­n­er
    April 14, 2017 at 4:19 PM

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion announced Fri­day that it would not fol­low Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma’s pol­i­cy of vol­un­tar­i­ly dis­clos­ing the names of most vis­i­tors to the White House com­plex, cit­ing “grave nation­al secu­ri­ty risks and pri­va­cy con­cerns.”

    The announce­ment, from an admin­is­tra­tion that has faced point­ed ques­tions about its com­mit­ment to trans­paren­cy, marks a sig­nif­i­cant shift from the Oba­ma White House, which released the names of near­ly 6 mil­lion vis­i­tors, includ­ing scores of lob­by­ists.

    Instead, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion said it would release infor­ma­tion under far more lim­it­ed cir­cum­stances: When Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act requests are filed for those vis­it­ing offices of the White House clas­si­fied under the law as sep­a­rate agen­cies, such as the Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get.

    Under the new pol­i­cy, it will be up to the White House to decide whether to release the names of vis­i­tors com­ing to meet with the pres­i­dent, vice pres­i­dent and their senior staff, at least in the short term. Under a sep­a­rate statute, much of that infor­ma­tion can become pub­lic years after Trump leaves office.

    Fri­day’s announce­ment was harsh­ly crit­i­cized by an array of gov­ern­ment watch­dog groups.

    “The only excuse for this pol­i­cy is that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has some­thing to hide,” said David Don­nel­ly, pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive of Every Voice. “This kind of secre­cy will allow big donors, lob­by­ists and spe­cial inter­ests to have unknown lev­els of influ­ence in the White House.”

    “It’s the exact oppo­site of ‘drain­ing the swamp,’ ” Don­nel­ly added, refer­ring to Trump’s pledge to ush­er in a more eth­i­cal and less cor­rupt era in Wash­ing­ton.

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion was sued in fed­er­al court ear­li­er this week by a coali­tion of watch­dog groups to com­pel the release of the White House vis­i­tor logs. Under Oba­ma, such records, which were pub­lished on a White House-main­tained Web page, were typ­i­cal­ly dis­closed 90 to 120 days after the vis­it.

    Since Trump took office in Jan­u­ary, the page where the vis­i­tor logs had been pub­licly avail­able has gone dark, and Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said Fri­day that they will no longer main­tain it, which the White House said would save tax­pay­ers $70,000 by 2020.

    After ini­tial resis­tance, Oba­ma’s pol­i­cy was craft­ed in 2009 in response to ear­li­er law­suits by Cit­i­zens for Respon­si­bil­i­ty and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton, one of the groups now part of the new law­suit against Trump.

    The pol­i­cy per­mit­ted some excep­tions to dis­clo­sure, includ­ing pri­vate vis­its to the Oba­ma fam­i­ly. The Oba­ma White House also main­tained the pre­rog­a­tive not to release records of par­tic­u­lar­ly “sen­si­tive” meet­ings, such as inter­views with poten­tial Supreme Court nom­i­nees.

    Oba­ma at times drew crit­i­cism for such carve-outs, as well as for oth­er ways for skirt­ing the agree­ment, includ­ing meet­ings between White House offi­cials and lob­by­ists at a cof­fee shop near the White House that did­n’t show up in the logs.

    Trump aides high­light­ed such loop­holes under Oba­ma and said the new pol­i­cy is con­sis­tent with a legal dis­tinc­tion that Oba­ma offi­cials drew in a 2012 law­suit. Despite the vol­un­tary dis­clo­sure of vis­i­tor logs, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion main­tained that the logs were White House records and there­fore not required to be dis­closed under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act.

    Oth­ers have argued that the records are sub­ject to dis­clo­sure under the FOIA because they are cre­at­ed by the Secret Ser­vice, which is an agency cov­ered by the law.

    As a pri­vate cit­i­zen, Trump was high­ly crit­i­cal of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s posi­tion in 2012, writ­ing on Twit­ter: “Why is @BarackObama spend­ing mil­lions to try and hide his records? He is the least trans­par­ent Pres­i­dent — ever — and he ran on trans­paren­cy.”

    The exis­tence of the vis­i­tor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes (R‑Calif.) went to the White House grounds to review intel­li­gence reports on which he lat­er briefed the pres­i­dent. Both Nunes and White House offi­cials ini­tial­ly declined to say whom Nunes had vis­it­ed and who had cleared him onto the grounds, infor­ma­tion that is typ­i­cal­ly con­tained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.

    White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor Mike Dubke said Fri­day that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has tak­en sev­er­al steps to ensure the gov­ern­ment “is both eth­i­cal and acces­si­ble to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” Among those he men­tioned were new restric­tions on lob­by­ists and allow­ing jour­nal­ists to par­tic­i­pate remote­ly in White House brief­in­gs via Skype.

    “Giv­en the grave nation­al secu­ri­ty risks and pri­va­cy con­cerns of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of vis­i­tors annu­al­ly, the White House Office will dis­close Secret Ser­vice logs as out­lined under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act, a posi­tion the Oba­ma White House suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ed in fed­er­al court,” Dubke said in a state­ment, refer­ring to the 2102 law­suit filed by Judi­cial Watch, a con­ser­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tion.

    ...

    With the new pol­i­cy, the White House offi­cials made clear Fri­day that they believe Trump is under no legal oblig­a­tion to dis­close vis­i­tors to the com­plex. As a mat­ter of prac­tice, the White House has dis­closed the names of many of those who meet direct­ly with the pres­i­dent on the days the meet­ings take place. There has been very lit­tle dis­clo­sure of meet­ings with staff.

    Some past and present gov­ern­ment offi­cials have argued that White House offi­cials should be per­mit­ted to con­duct meet­ings out­side the pub­lic eye as a mat­ter of pol­i­cy.

    “I tend to feel it’s the pre­rog­a­tive of the White House to have peo­ple come vis­it, and the pub­lic doesn’t need to know who they are,” Andrew H. Card Jr., chief of staff under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, said in an inter­view last week. “We don’t have a log on every­body who vis­its Con­gress, and they’re a coequal branch of gov­ern­ment.”

    Christi­na Reynolds, who served as direc­tor of media affairs under Oba­ma, said Trump had made “the wrong call” but that it was some­what under­stand­able why he made the call he did. Despite being the first to open up the logs, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was crit­i­cized for not going far enough and endured neg­a­tive news sto­ries about some of its vis­i­tors.

    “If your only guide is whether you’re going to get bad sto­ries, it’s more under­stand­able,” Reynolds said, say­ing that the Trump White House may have decid­ed to “take its lumps” Fri­day but be spared crit­i­cism based on what would lat­er be dis­closed in the logs.

    ...

    ““If your only guide is whether you’re going to get bad sto­ries, it’s more under­stand­able,” Reynolds said, say­ing that the Trump White House may have decid­ed to “take its lumps” Fri­day but be spared crit­i­cism based on what would lat­er be dis­closed in the logs.”

    That’s some good advice from Christi­na Reynolds, media affairs under Oba­ma. If the Trump White House wants to avoid a bad sto­ries about who’s com­ing and going in the future, it’s going to have to take a day of bad press now and change the rules. And it’s not like we haven’t seen some awful­ly bad press emerg­ing from these logs already:

    ...
    The exis­tence of the vis­i­tor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Devin Nunes (R‑Calif.) went to the White House grounds to review intel­li­gence reports on which he lat­er briefed the pres­i­dent. Both Nunes and White House offi­cials ini­tial­ly declined to say whom Nunes had vis­it­ed and who had cleared him onto the grounds, infor­ma­tion that is typ­i­cal­ly con­tained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.
    ...

    Giv­en the fact that there’s already been a bit of a block­buster sto­ry to emerge from the dis­cov­ery of Devin Nunes’s vis­it to the White House via those vis­i­tor logs it’s hard to see how the White House isn’t going to be rou­tine­ly bom­bard­ed with FOIA requests. It will be inter­est­ing to see what kinds of rea­sons they give for not releas­ing them...presumably it will be like “blah blah *nation­al secu­ri­ty!* blah blah blah”. Or some­thing along those lines.

    So now that FOIA requests are going to be required for the release of those White House vis­i­tor logs it might be tempt­ing to assume that noth­ing much of inter­est will be learned from that data source. But that may not be the case. For exam­ple, remem­ber James Guck­ert aka “Jeff Gan­non”, the male pros­ti­tute-turned far-right ‘jour­nal­ist’ who was act­ing as the Bush White House­’s deflec­tion-point man in the press pool and who was found to be spend­ing an unbe­liev­able amount at the White House? Don’t for­get that the White House logs were crit­i­cal to that sto­ry and it hap­pened despite the FOIA request require­ment:

    Raw Sto­ry

    Secret Ser­vice records raise new ques­tions about dis­cred­it­ed con­ser­v­a­tive reporter

    By John Byrne| RAW STORY Edi­tor
    Arti­cle orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished Apr. 24, 2005.

    Updat­ed: Day dis­cov­ered with two check-ins but no check outs; Oth­er events found on some days with­out press brief­in­gs

    READ THE DOCUMENTS

    In what is unlike­ly to stem the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing dis­graced White House cor­re­spon­dent James Guck­ert, the Secret Ser­vice has fur­nished logs of the writer’s access to the White House after requests by two Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­gress­mem­bers.

    The doc­u­ments, obtained by Rep. Louise Slaugh­ter (D‑NY) and Rep. John Cony­ers (D‑MI) through a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request, reveal Guck­ert had remark­able access to the White House. Though he wrote under the name Jeff Gan­non, the records show that he applied with his real name.

    Gannon’s ready access to Pres­i­dent Bush and his work for a news agency that fre­quent­ly pla­gia­rized con­tent from oth­er reporters and tai­lored it to serve a con­ser­v­a­tive mes­sage may raise new ques­tions about the White House’s attempts to seed favor­able news cov­er­age. Democ­rats have sought to paint Guck­ert in the con­text of oth­er efforts by the Admin­is­tra­tion to “plant” pos­i­tive spin by pay­ing for video news releas­es and colum­nists to espouse their views.

    Guck­ert made more than 200 appear­ances at the White House dur­ing his two-year tenure with the fledg­ing con­ser­v­a­tive web­sites GOPUSA and Talon News, attend­ing 155 of 196 White House press brief­in­gs. He had lit­tle to no pre­vi­ous jour­nal­ism expe­ri­ence, pre­vi­ous­ly worked as a male escort, and was refused a con­gres­sion­al press pass.

    Per­haps more notable than the fre­quen­cy of his atten­dance, how­ev­er, is sev­er­al dis­tinct anom­alies about his vis­its.

    Guck­ert made more than two dozen excur­sions to the White House when there were no sched­uled brief­in­gs. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gag­gles aboard Air Force One—which rais­es ques­tions about what Guck­ert was doing at the White House. On oth­er days, the pres­i­dent held pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ties.

    On at least four­teen occa­sions, Secret Ser­vice records show either the entry or exit time miss­ing. Gen­er­al­ly, the exist­ing entry or exit times cor­re­late with press con­fer­ences; on most of these days, the records show that Guck­ert checked in but was nev­er processed out.

    In March, 2003, Guck­ert left the White House twice on days he had nev­er checked in with the Secret Ser­vice. Over the next 22 months, Guck­ert failed to check out with the Ser­vice on four­teen days. On sev­er­al of these vis­its, Guck­ert either entered or exit­ed by a dif­fer­ent entry/exit point than his usu­al one. On one of these days, no brief­ing was held; on anoth­er, he checked in twice but failed to check out.

    “I’d be wor­ried if I was the White House and I knew that a reporter with a day pass nev­er left,” one White House reporter told RAW STORY. “I’d won­der, where is he hid­ing? It seems like a secu­ri­ty risk.”

    Oth­ers who have cov­ered the White House say not check­ing in or out with the Secret Ser­vice is unusu­al, espe­cial­ly in the wake of Sept. 11. The Secret Ser­vice declined to com­ment.

    “We respond­ed to the FOIA request and can pro­vide no fur­ther infor­ma­tion,” Ser­vice spokesman Jonathan Cher­ry said.

    Guck­ert declined to com­ment, direct­ing all ques­tions to the Ser­vice.

    The records fur­nished by the Ser­vice are unlike­ly to final­ly answer who approved Gannon’s “tem­po­rary” day pass­es into the pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence. The Ser­vice keeps a record of who approved pass­es only for the last six­ty days; pre­vi­ous records are kept by the White House.

    Since Decem­ber 2004, all but one of Gannon’s forty-eight tem­po­rary appoint­ments were request­ed by Lois Cas­sano, a White House Press Office media assis­tant. One addi­tion­al request was made by Peter Watkins, a press assis­tant who now works as deputy press sec­re­tary to First Lady Lau­ra Bush.

    Guck­ert some­times stayed for an extend­ed peri­od of time before and after press con­fer­ences, par­tic­u­lar­ly ear­ly in his tenure. This was espe­cial­ly com­mon dur­ing his first few months, when he might be in the White House for as long as six hours.

    A White House reporter dis­missed this as insignif­i­cant, not­ing that some­times reporters stay between events.

    “You could prob­a­bly find peo­ple who stayed there for nine hours,” the reporter said.

    Occa­sion­al­ly, the for­mer Talon News reporter vis­it­ed the White House twice on the same day. This was also most com­mon in the ear­ly months.

    The Secret Ser­vice fur­nished the records after a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request from Reps. John Cony­ers (D‑MI) and Louise Slaugh­ter (D‑NY).

    Guck­ert drew fire from lib­er­als after ask­ing a ques­tion of Pres­i­dent Bush ear­li­er this year in which he mis­quot­ed the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Har­ry Reid (D‑NV). Inves­tiga­tive blog­gers at Dai­ly Kos and AmericaBlog.org dis­cov­ered that Guck­ert owned male escort sites, and was him­self a male pros­ti­tute.

    The now-blog­ger has also been accused of lift­ing copy from press releas­es and oth­er reporters.

    A Mass­a­chu­setts edi­tor and reporter have accused Guck­ert of pla­gia­rism, which RAW STORY report­ed in March. The watch­dog Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca has also found that many of Guckert’s sto­ries lift­ed direct­ly from White House press releas­es.

    Talon News, which shut down after the fra­cas over Gan­non erupt­ed, was self-avowed­ly Repub­li­can. Bob­by Eber­le, the site’s founder, told the Wash­ing­ton Post, “We make no bones about it: It’s a par­ti­san site.”

    ...

    “Guck­ert made more than 200 appear­ances at the White House dur­ing his two-year tenure with the fledg­ing con­ser­v­a­tive web­sites GOPUSA and Talon News, attend­ing 155 of 196 White House press brief­in­gs. He had lit­tle to no pre­vi­ous jour­nal­ism expe­ri­ence, pre­vi­ous­ly worked as a male escort, and was refused a con­gres­sion­al press pass.”

    Good ‘ol “Jeff Gan­non”, the gay male pros­ti­tute found to be seem­ing­ly stay­ing overnight at the White House. It was an, uh, inter­est­ing time for Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. But at least we were able to learn about it even with a FOIA request require­ment. So that’s a bit of a relief. At the same time, note this caveat:

    ...
    The records fur­nished by the Ser­vice are unlike­ly to final­ly answer who approved Gannon’s “tem­po­rary” day pass­es into the pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence. The Ser­vice keeps a record of who approved pass­es only for the last six­ty days; pre­vi­ous records are kept by the White House.
    ...

    So some of the rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion of who is vis­it­ing the White House is kept by the Secret Ser­vice, but only for 60 days. And after that it’s kept by the White House. And as we saw in the first arti­cle excerpt, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is mak­ing the same case the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion made in court: that White House records are not required to be dis­closed under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act:

    ...
    Oba­ma at times drew crit­i­cism for such carve-outs, as well as for oth­er ways for skirt­ing the agree­ment, includ­ing meet­ings between White House offi­cials and lob­by­ists at a cof­fee shop near the White House that did­n’t show up in the logs.

    Trump aides high­light­ed such loop­holes under Oba­ma and said the new pol­i­cy is con­sis­tent with a legal dis­tinc­tion that Oba­ma offi­cials drew in a 2012 law­suit. Despite the vol­un­tary dis­clo­sure of vis­i­tor logs, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion main­tained that the logs were White House records and there­fore not required to be dis­closed under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act.

    Oth­ers have argued that the records are sub­ject to dis­clo­sure under the FOIA because they are cre­at­ed by the Secret Ser­vice, which is an agency cov­ered by the law.
    ...

    So that’s some­thing for the press and pub­lic to remem­ber when it comes to these vis­i­tor logs: FOIA ear­ly, and FOIA often.

    It’s also worth not­ing that the James Gannon/Jeff Guck­er chap­ter reminds us of anoth­er les­son the press and pub­lic should prob­a­bly keep in mind: The Trump team is cre­at­ing an army of Jeff Gan­non media shills for the White House press brief­in­gs :

    Media Mat­ters

    Don­ald Trump Wants An Army Of Jeff Gan­non Shills In The White House Press Brief­ing Room

    MATT GERTZ
    Jan­u­ary 18, 2017 10:00 AM EST

    The Trump administration’s report­ed pro­pos­al to move the White House press brief­ing to a large room that can accom­mo­date pro-Trump syco­phants and pro­pa­gan­dists is brazen and destruc­tive. But it’s also not entire­ly new — the Bush admin­is­tra­tion adopt­ed a sim­i­lar strat­e­gy in 2004, grant­i­ng press brief­ing access to a shill work­ing for a right-wing out­let who they could rely on for soft­ball ques­tions.

    That shill’s name was Jeff Gan­non. Actu­al­ly, that shill’s name was James Guck­ert. But that’s get­ting ahead of our­selves.

    Gan­non par­layed a two-day, $50 broad­cast jour­nal­ism work­shop at the right-wing Lead­er­ship Insti­tute into a job report­ing from the White House brief­ing room for Talon News. Talon News was a shell orga­ni­za­tion run by a GOP polit­i­cal oper­a­tive that used arti­cles writ­ten by right-wing activists to dri­ve traf­fic to anoth­er con­ser­v­a­tive web­site run by the oper­a­tive.

    Thanks to the access the White House press office pro­vid­ed, Gan­non had a plat­form to draw plau­dits from Sean Han­ni­ty and Rush Lim­baugh, get his work pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute, and even attend White House Christ­mas par­ties.

    The White House got some­thing in return: Gan­non became the life­line for Bush’s press sec­re­tary at the time, Scott McClel­lan.

    Here’s how it would work: Oth­er jour­nal­ists would be grilling McClel­lan over the Bush administration’s activ­i­ties. McClel­lan would call on Gan­non for a ques­tion. And Gan­non would bail McClel­lan out, fre­quent­ly with a lead­ing ques­tion ladened with false assump­tions.

    In August 2004, for exam­ple, after tak­ing sev­er­al ques­tions from a reporter about whether Amer­i­can forces had killed any inno­cent peo­ple in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and anoth­er seek­ing Pres­i­dent Bush’s opin­ion of the dis­graced Ahmad Cha­l­abi, McClellen turned to Gan­non. And Gan­non came through: He asked McClel­lan about a new “piece of evi­dence show­ing the direct ter­ror ties between Iraq and Al Qae­da” and fol­lowed up by ask­ing “how dam­ag­ing” a New York Times sto­ry had been “to our war on ter­ror.”

    In June 2004, McClel­lan escaped from a series of tough ques­tions about Bush’s for­eign pol­i­cy record by call­ing on Gan­non, who offered up the fol­low­ing ques­tion: “Why has­n’t the admin­is­tra­tion made more of the U.N. inspec­tors’ report that says Sad­dam Hus­sein was dis­man­tling his mis­sile and WMD [weapons of mass destruc­tion] sites before and dur­ing the war? And does­n’t that, com­bined with the now-proven Al Qae­da link between Iraq — between Sad­dam Hus­sein and the ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion — unequiv­o­cal­ly make the case for going to war in Iraq?”

    The list goes on and on.

    Gan­non even got to ask a ques­tion at Bush’s Jan­u­ary 26, 2005, White House press con­fer­ence. He used that oppor­tu­ni­ty to inquire how the pres­i­dent would be able to “work with” Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers giv­en that they had, in Gannon’s words, “divorced them­selves from real­i­ty.”

    But that appear­ance was the begin­ning of the end for Gan­non. He drew tremen­dous scruti­ny from Media Mat­ters and oth­ers, and with his schtick (and the fact that “Jeff Gan­non” was a pseu­do­nym) exposed, he was forced to resign with­in two weeks.

    Thir­teen years lat­er, the land­scape has shift­ed. Incom­ing White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer is open­ly dis­cussing mov­ing the press brief­in­gs to a larg­er space in order to accom­mo­date “talk radio, blog­gers and oth­ers.” While the White House Cor­re­spon­dents Asso­ci­a­tion cur­rent­ly deter­mines who gets the 49 seats in the brief­ing room, the White House Press Office han­dles cre­den­tial­ing and dis­trib­utes dai­ly press pass­es, giv­ing Spicer sig­nif­i­cant con­trol over the com­po­si­tion of the press room.

    In prac­tice, that means that Spicer could have a sea of Jeff Gan­nons on which to rely — “reporters” from open­ly pro-Trump pro­pa­gan­da out­lets who will side with the pres­i­dent over their col­leagues in the press.

    If ABC News gives him trou­ble dur­ing the brief­ing, he could turn to the reporter from Breitbart.com. When The Wash­ing­ton Post tries to pin him down, he could retreat to the rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Right Side Broad­cast­ing Net­work. If The Asso­ci­at­ed Press and CNN and NBC News are all press­ing him for answers, he could take ques­tions from Lau­ra Ingraham’s LifeZette or One Amer­i­ca News Net­work or Infowars to stall.

    We could even see our first all-shill press brief­ing, with reporters from main­stream out­lets entire­ly shut out while Spicer calls on the syco­phants.

    Mean­while, Trump is warn­ing that there will be reper­cus­sions for the press if they fight back against the move, sug­gest­ing that his admin­is­tra­tion will use the lim­it­ed space in the cur­rent brief­ing room as an excuse to deny access to cred­i­ble news out­lets and grant it to more sup­port­ive ones. “There’s too many peo­ple for this small room,” he said this morn­ing dur­ing an inter­view on Fox & Friends. “We have so many peo­ple that want to go, so we’ll have to just pick the peo­ple that go into the room.” He added that if that hap­pens, the press will “be beg­ging for a much larg­er room very soon. You watch.”

    ...

    When the press is the ene­my, tak­ing brief­ing ques­tions from pro­pa­gan­dists makes per­fect sense.

    “Thir­teen years lat­er, the land­scape has shift­ed. Incom­ing White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer is open­ly dis­cussing mov­ing the press brief­in­gs to a larg­er space in order to accom­mo­date “talk radio, blog­gers and oth­ers.” While the White House Cor­re­spon­dents Asso­ci­a­tion cur­rent­ly deter­mines who gets the 49 seats in the brief­ing room, the White House Press Office han­dles cre­den­tial­ing and dis­trib­utes dai­ly press pass­es, giv­ing Spicer sig­nif­i­cant con­trol over the com­po­si­tion of the press room.”

    A whole army of White House pressti­tutes. That’s the Gan­non plan and it was the plan even before this admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial began.

    So did they fol­low through with that plan? LOL:

    The New York­er

    Is Trump Trolling the White House Press Corps?
    At dai­ly brief­in­gs, Sean Spicer calls on young jour­nal­ists from far-right sites. The main­stream media sees them as an exis­ten­tial threat.

    By Andrew Marantz
    March 20, 2017 Issue

    In nor­mal times, White House press brief­in­gs make for bor­ing tele­vi­sion. Robert Gibbs, Jay Car­ney, and Josh Earnest, the three gener­ic-look­ing white guys who served as suc­ces­sive press sec­re­taries under Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, could walk unmo­lest­ed through the streets of most Amer­i­can cities. Only on rare occa­sions was a clip from one of their briefings—for exam­ple, a testy exchange between Car­ney and Jonathan Karl, of ABC News, debat­ing the logis­tics of Oba­macare enrollment—remarkable enough to make head­lines.

    Pres­i­dent Trump seems to have no tol­er­ance for bor­ing tele­vi­sion. His press sec­re­tary, Sean Spicer, now a recur­ring char­ac­ter on “Sat­ur­day Night Live,” is often tongue-tied, enraged, or both. Spicer’s brief­in­gs, broad­cast live on C‑SPAN, are among the most high­ly rat­ed pro­grams on day­time TV, beat­ing out “Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal” and “The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful.” On major net­works, many hours are devot­ed to night­ly exege­ses of Spicer’s ser­i­al self-con­tra­dic­tions, and to Sun­day-morn­ing ser­mons about how he is imper­illing the First Amend­ment. On YouTube, accounts with names such as Trump Mafia and Based Patri­ot repost Spicer’s brief­in­gs, and oth­ers post exul­tant com­pi­la­tions of the “spici­est” moments, over­lay­ing his rebukes of reporters with images of flames and chili pep­pers.

    The James S. Brady Press Brief­ing Room, in the West Wing, has sev­en rows of sev­en seats. The Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Reuters, and the biggest TV net­works have reserved seats in the front row; blogs like Politi­co and Real Clear Pol­i­tics are near the mid­dle; Buz­zFeed and the BBC are in the back. The seat­ing chart is the purview of the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ Asso­ci­a­tion, an inde­pen­dent board of jour­nal­ists who, with the som­bre secre­cy of a papal con­clave, assess news orga­ni­za­tions accord­ing to fac­tors such as reg­u­lar­i­ty of cov­er­age and cen­tral­i­ty to the nation­al dis­course.

    There are also cor­re­spon­dents who might be called floaters—those who have White House cre­den­tials but no assigned seat. Some floaters work for out­lets that are too new to have been includ­ed in the most recent seat­ing chart; oth­ers work for out­lets that are mar­gin­al or dis­rep­utable. When press brief­in­gs are half emp­ty, floaters can find vacant seats. In the ear­ly days of the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion, when each day’s brief­ing is over­sub­scribed, floaters pack the aisles, angling for a spot vis­i­ble from the podi­um. The par­a­dig­mat­ic exam­ple of a floater is Raghu­bir Goy­al, an ami­able, some­what absent-mind­ed man in his six­ties. Goy­al claims to rep­re­sent the India Globe, a news­pa­per that, as far as any­one can tell, is defunct. Nev­er­the­less, he has attend­ed brief­in­gs since the Carter Admin­is­tra­tion, and has asked so many ques­tions about Indo-Amer­i­can rela­tions that his name has become a verb. “To Goy­al”: to seek out a reporter who is like­ly to pro­vide a friend­ly ques­tion, or a moment of com­ic relief. All press sec­re­taries get cor­nered, and all have, on occa­sion, Goyaled their way out. But no one Goy­als like Spicer.

    Until recent­ly, the more estab­lished White House cor­re­spon­dents have regard­ed floaters as a harm­less distraction—the equiv­a­lent of let­ting a bat­boy sit in the dugout. Now they are start­ing to see the floaters as an exis­ten­tial threat. “It’s becom­ing a form of court-pack­ing,” one White House cor­re­spon­dent told me. Out­lets that have become new­ly vis­i­ble under the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion include One Amer­i­ca News Net­work, which was found­ed in 2013 as a right-wing alter­na­tive to Fox News; LifeZette, a Web tabloid found­ed in 2015 by Lau­ra Ingra­ham, the radio com­men­ta­tor and Trump ally; Town­hall, a con­ser­v­a­tive blog start­ed by the Her­itage Foun­da­tion; the Dai­ly Caller, co-found­ed in 2010 by Tuck­er Carl­son, now a Fox News host; and the enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar and open­ly pro-Trump Bre­it­bart News Net­work. Most of the White House cor­re­spon­dents from these out­lets are younger than thir­ty. “At best, they don’t know what they’re doing,” a radio cor­re­spon­dent told me. “At worst, you won­der whether some­one is actu­al­ly feed­ing them soft­ball ques­tions.” He added, “You can’t just have a parade of peo­ple ask­ing, ‘When and how do you plan to make Amer­i­ca great again?’ ”

    For years, the first ques­tion of each press brief­ing has usu­al­ly gone to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press, whose reporters sit in the mid­dle of the front row. In Spicer’s first brief­ing, on Jan­u­ary 21st, which last­ed five and a half min­utes, he uttered sev­er­al ver­i­fi­able falsehoods—“This was the largest audi­ence to ever wit­ness an Inau­gu­ra­tion, period”—then left with­out tak­ing any ques­tions. For the first ques­tion of his sec­ond brief­ing, he called on the New York Post, whose reporter, sit­ting in the fifth row, was clear­ly sur­prised. He asked, “When will you com­mence the build­ing of the bor­der wall?” In Spicer’s third brief­ing, his first ques­tion went to a reporter from LifeZette, who won­dered why the Admin­is­tra­tion hadn’t tak­en a hard­er line on immi­gra­tion. Many of Spicer’s ear­ly brief­in­gs were unusu­al­ly short—about half an hour, with ten min­utes of pre­pared remarks in the begin­ning. He often escapes from the podi­um with­out fac­ing many tough ques­tions from main­stream jour­nal­ists. (This month, per­haps hop­ing to fore­close pub­lic scruti­ny, or to starve “Sat­ur­day Night Live” of mate­r­i­al, Spicer did his brief­in­gs off-cam­era for a week.)

    ...

    About once a week, the walls behind the lectern are turned inside-out, reveal­ing built-in screens from which reporters around the coun­try can ask ques­tions by video link. This is anoth­er Spicer innovation—the “Skype seats.” Recent Skype ques­tions were allot­ted to a Trump sup­port­er and news­pa­per own­er in Ken­tucky, who asked about reduc­ing coal-min­ing reg­u­la­tions, and to a talk-radio host named Lars Lar­son, who addressed the press sec­re­tary, an offi­cer in the Navy Reserve, as “Com­man­der Spicer,” before ask­ing whether the Admin­is­tra­tion would pri­va­tize fed­er­al­ly pro­tect­ed park­land. Dur­ing one of these ses­sions, Jared Rizzi, a White House cor­re­spon­dent for Sir­ius XM, tweet­ed, “Skypeo­phant (n.) – super-friend­ly ques­tion­er used to burn up brief­ing time through the mag­ic of ear­ly-aughts tech­nol­o­gy.” “I cer­tain­ly appre­ci­ate the pur­pose of bring­ing geo­graph­ic diver­si­ty into the room,” Rizzi told me. “I also appre­ci­ate ide­o­log­i­cal diver­si­ty. I don’t appre­ci­ate diver­si­ty of jour­nal­is­tic prac­tice.”

    A long­time Wash­ing­ton reporter from a main­stream net­work echoed that sen­ti­ment. “I don’t mind them bring­ing in con­ser­v­a­tive voic­es that they feel have been under­rep­re­sent­ed,” he said. “Per­son­al­ly, I don’t even mind them fuc king with the front-row guys, the Jonathan Karls of the world. Those guys are a smug lit­tle car­tel, and it’s fun to watch them squirm, at least for a lit­tle while. But at what point does it start to dele­git­imize the whole idea of what hap­pens in that room? When does it cross the line into pure trolling?”

    ...

    “Until recent­ly, the more estab­lished White House cor­re­spon­dents have regard­ed floaters as a harm­less distraction—the equiv­a­lent of let­ting a bat­boy sit in the dugout. Now they are start­ing to see the floaters as an exis­ten­tial threat. “It’s becom­ing a form of court-pack­ing,” one White House cor­re­spon­dent told me. Out­lets that have become new­ly vis­i­ble under the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion include One Amer­i­ca News Net­work, which was found­ed in 2013 as a right-wing alter­na­tive to Fox News; LifeZette, a Web tabloid found­ed in 2015 by Lau­ra Ingra­ham, the radio com­men­ta­tor and Trump ally; Town­hall, a con­ser­v­a­tive blog start­ed by the Her­itage Foun­da­tion; the Dai­ly Caller, co-found­ed in 2010 by Tuck­er Carl­son, now a Fox News host; and the enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar and open­ly pro-Trump Bre­it­bart News Net­work. Most of the White House cor­re­spon­dents from these out­lets are younger than thir­ty. “At best, they don’t know what they’re doing,” a radio cor­re­spon­dent told me. “At worst, you won­der whether some­one is actu­al­ly feed­ing them soft­ball ques­tions.” He added, “You can’t just have a parade of peo­ple ask­ing, ‘When and how do you plan to make Amer­i­ca great again?’ ”

    That sure sounds like an army of ‘Gan­nons’ is bat­tling for Team Trump. So giv­en the strange his­to­ry of ‘Jeff Gan­nons’ implau­si­bly fre­quent vis­its to the Bush White House and the pressti­tute role Gan­non was play­ing, you have to won­der just how many of the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of pressti­tutes are going to be fol­low­ing the Gan­non tem­plate: spend­ing lots and lots of time at the White House, pre­sum­ably to get tips on which ques­tion the Trump admin­is­tra­tion wants asked and wants not asked, and hop­ing no one notices. Sure, it seems like there should be eas­i­er and less con­spic­u­ous ways to coor­di­nate these kinds of activ­i­ties but the extreme pri­va­cy of White House once you’re inside the place would have its appeal too.

    So that’s all some­thing to keep in mind in mind in light of this White House pol­i­cy shift: The ‘army of Gan­nons’ is already here. Of course, giv­en the fact that Trump appears to have turned Trump Tow­er and Mar-a-Lago into alter­na­tive White Hous­es, let’s also keep in mind that a focuse on whether or not Trump’s army of Gan­nons is spend­ing nights at the White House for spe­cial in-per­son coor­di­nat­ing is kind of out­dat­ed. Yes, that com­pli­cates track­ing the move­ments of the army of Gan­nons, but at least Trump him­self isn’t spend­ing much time at Trump Tow­er for some rea­son so that sim­pli­fies things a bit.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 14, 2017, 3:34 pm
  10. The “does he stay or does he go?” bat­tle between Steve Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er took a rather sala­cious twist a few days ago. Or at least a poten­tial­ly sala­cious twist. Lead­ing Alt-Right per­son­al­i­ty, and big Ban­non backer, Mike Cer­novich just issued a threat: “If they get rid of Ban­non, you know what’s gonna hap­pen? The moth­er­lode. If Ban­non is removed, there are gonna be divorces, because I know about the mis­tress­es, the sug­ar babies, the drugs, the pill pop­ping, the orgies. I know every­thing”:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Alt-Right Ring­leader Mike Cer­novich Threat­ens to Drop ‘Moth­er­lode’ If Steve Ban­non Is Oust­ed
    The Piz­za­gate con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist claims to have a cache of dirty secrets that he’s will­ing to deploy.

    Ben Collins
    04.14.17 4:20 PM ET

    A week after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump began to pub­licly dis­tance him­self from White House Chief Strate­gist Steve Ban­non, alt-right ring­leader Mike Cer­novich threat­ened to release a “moth­er­lode” of sto­ries that could “destroy mar­riages” if Ban­non is for­mal­ly let go from the admin­is­tra­tion.

    Cer­novich made the claims that he’d release a series of “scoops” if Ban­non is offi­cial­ly pushed out of the White House on an eleven-minute, self-record­ed Periscope Thurs­day night.

    “If they get rid of Ban­non, you know what’s gonna hap­pen? The moth­er­lode. If Ban­non is removed, there are gonna be divorces, because I know about the mis­tress­es, the sug­ar babies, the drugs, the pill pop­ping, the orgies. I know every­thing,” said Cer­novich.

    “If they go after Ban­non, the moth­er of all sto­ries is gonna drop, and we’re just gonna destroy mar­riages, relationships—it’s gonna get per­son­al.”

    The Dai­ly Beast reached out to Cer­novich, ask­ing who he meant by “they” and if he had doc­u­men­ta­tion for the claims. He was on InfoWars’ radio show and livestream most of Fri­day after­noon, and did not respond at press time.

    Alt-right lead­ers have spent the week push­ing a #Keep­Ban­non hash­tag on Twit­ter, less than a week after a #FireKush­n­er hash­tag promi­nent­ly ampli­fied by Cer­novich became the No. 1 trend in the Unit­ed States on Twit­ter.

    The hash­tags refer to the falling out between Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er that played out through plant­ed quotes in web­sites like Bre­it­bart, where Ban­non pre­vi­ous­ly worked as its CEO, after Trump’s son-in-law began to take over more respon­si­bil­i­ties inside the Trump White House.

    The proxy quote war led Trump to tell the New York Post on Tues­day that, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straight­en it out or I will.”

    The president’s son, Don­ald Trump Jr., tweet­ed just last week that Cer­novich deserved a Pulitzer for his recent cov­er­age of Susan Rice’s efforts to bet­ter iden­ti­fy Trump cam­paign offi­cials in intel­li­gence reports.

    “Con­grats to @Cernovich for break­ing the #Susan­Rice sto­ry,” Trump Jr. tweet­ed. “In a long gone time of unbi­ased jour­nal­ism he’d win the Pulitzer, but not today!”

    Cer­novich cit­ed the Rice sto­ry and anoth­er piece about Trump Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor H.R. McMas­ter, which were both scoops lat­er picked up by Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, as proof of his sourc­ing inside the White House.

    “I have more sto­ries that I haven’t released. I haven’t released every scoop that I have. I release my scoops strate­gi­cal­ly. I’m sit­ting on way more sto­ries,” he said on his Periscope.

    Cer­novich and many oth­er alt-right lead­ers famous­ly split from the Trump administration’s par­ty line last week when Trump signed off on a 59-mis­sile strike on a Syr­i­an air­base. Alt-right and con­spir­a­cy web­sites like InfoWars echoed both Russ­ian pub­lic offi­cials and Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad’s claim that the attack was a “false flag.” On Thurs­day, Assad float­ed to state media that the attack was entire­ly staged.

    “I will go TMZ on the glob­al­ists. I will go Gos­sip Girl on the glob­al­ists. I will go Gawk­er on the glob­al­ists. So you moth­er-effers going after Ban­non, just know I broke two of the biggest sto­ries before any­body else,” Cer­novich said on his Periscope. “If you think I don’t know the pills peo­ple are pop­ping, the mis­tress­es, the sug­ar babies—I know all of it. So you bet­ter be smart. Because the moth­er of all sto­ries will be dropped because I don’t care.”

    Cer­novich has a long his­to­ry of float­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about alt-right oppo­nents and peo­ple he deems to be “glob­al­ists”. He was one of the lead­ing ped­dlers of the Piz­za­gate con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, which claimed Hillary Clin­ton and John Podes­ta were cen­tral fig­ures in a fic­ti­tious child sex ring run out of the base­ment of a piz­za shop. He also repeat­ed­ly claimed through­out the cam­paign that Clin­ton was dying of a litany of dis­eases, from syphilis to Parkinson’s.

    Fox News ran an arti­cle on Fri­day com­mend­ing Cer­novich’s recent sto­ries, how­ev­er, say­ing his “two recent scoops have been any­thing but fake.”

    ...

    ““I will go TMZ on the glob­al­ists. I will go Gos­sip Girl on the glob­al­ists. I will go Gawk­er on the glob­al­ists. So you moth­er-effers going after Ban­non, just know I broke two of the biggest sto­ries before any­body else,” Cer­novich said on his Periscope. “If you think I don’t know the pills peo­ple are pop­ping, the mis­tress­es, the sug­ar babies—I know all of it. So you bet­ter be smart. Because the moth­er of all sto­ries will be dropped because I don’t care.””

    That’s quite a shot across the bow. So now we know some­one is pop­ping pills with their mis­tress­es. At least if Cer­novich isn’t bluff­ing. But even if he is bluff­ing, don’t for­get, this is one of the lead­ing Piz­za­gate guy. Bluff­ing isn’t going to be an issue. But who knows, maybe he real­ly does have the goods. It’s cer­tain­ly not unbe­liev­able.

    Still, it’s pret­ty amaz­ing the Cer­novich is so pub­licly black­mail­ing the White House. After all, if Ban­non’s posi­tion in the Trump Team sur­vives this peri­od it’s going to be hard to rule out the idea that Cer­novich real­ly did have the dirt he claimed and his black­mail real­ly did work. You can’t undo what Cer­novich just claimed. And even if he sud­den­ly revers­es his claims, well, how do we know that the White House did­n’t counter-black­mail him? That’s the can of worms Cer­novich just opened.

    It’s also worth not­ing that a Trump admin­is­tra­tion seem­ing­ly run by a coterie of Jews who seem­ing­ly kick out the Ban­non-fac­tion, and yet still push for very Ban­non-esque poli­cies, just might be the kind of smoke and mir­rors the­atrics that Trump and Ban­non might have con­coct­ed togeth­er. For instance, imag­ine a plan where Cer­novich drops the ‘moth­er­lode’ of some real and some fake scan­dals with the intent of hav­ing it all dis­cred­it­ed as ‘Piz­za­gate guy revenge stuff’. Who knows, Although, if that’s the case, it’s a pret­ty risky move. Because as Josh Mar­shall not­ed recent­ly, this Kushner/Bannon bum fight is turn­ing into a Trumpian Alt-Right snuff nov­el guar­an­teed to push Alt-Right but­tons in a very bad way:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    Inside the Emerg­ing Trumpian Alt-Right Snuff Nov­el

    By Josh Mar­shall
    Pub­lished April 7, 2017, 11:27 PM EDT

    All signs sug­gest we’re now in the “Pres­i­dent Trump has full con­fi­dence in Michael Fly­nn” phase of Steve Ban­non’s tenure in the Trump White House. I don’t know whether this is some moron genius dialec­tic on Ban­non’s part or just Kar­ma. But can we miss that the man who gave coher­ence and verve to Trump’s cam­paign against the ‘glob­al­ists’ and unroot­ed cos­mopoli­tan elites is about to be boot­ed by the Pres­i­den­t’s Jew­ish tycoon son-in-law and a group of bankers (yes, Jew­ish bankers) from Gold­man Sachs? These are I con­fess uncom­fort­able obser­va­tions, but con­sid­er this ...

    It is always impor­tant to remem­ber that Steve Ban­non came late to Trump’s cam­paign. As pro-Trump as Bre­it­bart News may have been, it was still seen — under­stand­ably — as a wild, sui­ci­dal and entire­ly unex­pect­ed devel­op­ment when Ban­non was put in charge of the cam­paign on August 17th, 2016, almost a month after the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion.

    Before then, Trump had run a thor­ough­ly jin­go­is­tic and xeno­pho­bic cam­paign, with pro­tes­tor beat­ings and var­i­ous shades of cryp­to- and non-cryp­to racism. All on his own he drew around him­self that coterie of “alt-right” white nation­al­ists and neo-Nazis who will like­ly be his great­est and most lethal con­tri­bu­tion to the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal scene. But it was only with Ban­non’s arrival that Trump took on the much more coher­ent and con­sis­tent lan­guage of Europe-derived right­ist nation­al­ism, anti-“globalism” and the thin­ly covert lan­guage of anti-Semi­tism.

    Let’s be clear. This is no defense of Trump. It was all there all along from rage and intu­ition and impulse. But Ban­non pack­aged it togeth­er and tai­lored the suit. It was pure Ban­non, remem­ber, who was behind the speech that became this noto­ri­ous anti-Semit­ic clos­ing ad, released on Novem­ber 5th, 2016.

    And yet here we are and let’s not shy away from it. All accounts sug­gest that Ban­non has fall­en from grace and will soon be fired by the Pres­i­dent. His ouster comes as the los­er in a bat­tle with a group of Jew­ish Gold­man Sachs (Cohn, Mnuchin) bankers and the tall, dap­per and yet neb­bishy Jew­ish lega­cy real estate tycoon Jared Kush­n­er. (I’m Jew­ish. I can say all of this.) It all reads like the kind of alt-right moral­i­ty play one of Ban­non’s deplorables might have writ­ten in some grand alt-right dystopic nov­el. Even the non-Jews are ver­i­ta­ble aus­lan­ders: A key new play­er is Dina Pow­ell (born Dina Habib), an Egypt­ian immi­grant (albeit a Copt) who was her­self a banker at Gold­man Sachs in addi­tion to being a Repub­li­can pol­i­cy insid­er.

    ...

    Only in the world of Trump could such a turn of events be pos­si­ble — per­haps also inevitable. Trump him­self being a ‘pop­ulist’ was always in many ways a ridicu­lous propo­si­tion: a doyen of the wealth, enti­tle­ment and hedo­nism that is the aspi­ra­tion and milieu of New York’s upper crust, Trump con­nect­ed to his base not through lifestyle but through the expe­ri­ence of dis­re­spect, griev­ance and the desire for revenge. He ran a cam­paign which more and more lit­er­al­ly and explic­it­ly demo­nized (espe­cial­ly under Ban­non’s late guid­ance) the ‘glob­al­ist’ machi­na­tions of Gold­man Sachs. Yet, increas­ing­ly, he has built an admin­is­tra­tion run by Gold­man Sachs bankers. Of course, it’s Gold­man Sachs bankers and Jared Kush­n­er and pro­tec­tion­ist ‘eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist’ xeno­phobes and racists. It’s an inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion. They’ve even import­ed peri­od piece East­ern Euro­pean racist nation­al­ists to be part of the fun — see, Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka. Of course, it’s them and the gen­er­al offi­cers. But they don’t seem to be part of this nar­ra­tive and dra­ma.

    How all this ends is impos­si­ble to tell. We’re less than a hun­dred days into Trump’s term. We’re more at begin­nings than end­ings. From peo­ple with a front row seat to the action, I had always heard that Kush­n­er and Ban­non got on sur­pris­ing­ly well and that Kush­n­er — who seem­ing­ly had no real polit­i­cal views at all before this start­ed — was quite tak­en by Ban­non’s ‘nation­al­ism’. Per­haps the whole dra­ma is man­u­fac­tured and the fac­tions less coher­ent than we’re led to believe. The Greek-Amer­i­can Priebus is also said to be on the chop­ping block. But he bare­ly plays in the nar­ra­tive, mere ethno­graph­ic road­kill of no sym­bol­ic sig­nif­i­cance. Along with the gen­er­als, he does­n’t fit into this con­flict between ‘nation­al­ists’ and ‘New York Democ­rats’.

    The one thing we’ve always known about Don­ald Trump is that it’s all about Don­ald Trump — Don­ald Trump and in a tight inner ring almost coter­mi­nous with Trump him­self, the Trump fam­i­ly. Dif­fer­ent rules apply, or rather there are no rules except what seems to work at the moment for Don­ald Trump. Until it does­n’t. Or until it does again. Pop­ulist, real Amer­i­can, Jew, reac­tionary, cos­mopoli­tan, plu­to­crat, vicious and vio­lent or bomb­ing for the suf­fer­ing babies, it’s all mal­leable and sub­ject to revi­sion. He ran a cam­paign which more and more lit­er­al­ly and explic­it­ly demo­nized (espe­cial­ly under Ban­non’s late guid­ance) the ‘glob­al­ist’ machi­na­tions of Gold­man Sachs. Yet, increas­ing­ly, he has built an admin­is­tra­tion run by Gold­man Sachs bankers. Of course, it’s Gold­man Sachs bankers and Jared Kush­n­er and pro­tec­tion­ist ‘eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist’ xeno­phobes and racists.

    “And yet here we are and let’s not shy away from it. All accounts sug­gest that Ban­non has fall­en from grace and will soon be fired by the Pres­i­dent. His ouster comes as the los­er in a bat­tle with a group of Jew­ish Gold­man Sachs (Cohn, Mnuchin) bankers and the tall, dap­per and yet neb­bishy Jew­ish lega­cy real estate tycoon Jared Kush­n­er. (I’m Jew­ish. I can say all of this.) It all reads like the kind of alt-right moral­i­ty play one of Ban­non’s deplorables might have writ­ten in some grand alt-right dystopic nov­el. Even the non-Jews are ver­i­ta­ble aus­lan­ders: A key new play­er is Dina Pow­ell (born Dina Habib), an Egypt­ian immi­grant (albeit a Copt) who was her­self a banker at Gold­man Sachs in addi­tion to being a Repub­li­can pol­i­cy insid­er.”

    As we can see, if the Bannon/Kushner fight is the­atrics, is the kind of the­atrics almost designed to absolute­ly demor­al­ize and enrage the neo-Naz­i/Alt-Right fac­tion of Trump’s base (in which case that’s prob­a­bly a rather ter­ri­fy­ing plan). So who knows, maybe Cer­novich’s threat was real, in which case we should­n’t be too sur­prised if head­lines like “Ban­non out, Kush­n­er on top” in the New York Times get fol­lowed up with head­lines “Pill pop­ping Mis­tress­es in the White House” in The Nation­al Enquir­er TMZ.

    Strange times for Alt-Right. Next thing you know they’re going to learn that Alex Jones is just a fake per­sona doing an act. Would­n’t that be demor­al­iz­ing...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 18, 2017, 6:59 pm
  11. Kudos,Dave Emory! I’ve some­times post­ed the links to your show archives, but more often I put them in com­ments to rel­e­vant posts of oth­ers. This Bre­it­bart series is out­stand­ing! Wish I’d fol­lowed up the head­line soon­er!

    Posted by Atlanta Bill | December 9, 2017, 8:14 pm
  12. Here’s a rather sad fol­low up report on the con­tro­ver­sy in Cana­da over the rev­e­la­tion that the grand­fa­ther of Canada’s for­eign min­is­ter, Chrys­tia Free­land, was a Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor who edit­ed a Nazi pub­li­ca­tion dur­ing WWII and had a pro­found influ­ence on Free­land’s views regard­ing Ukraine and Rus­sia:

    The ini­tial con­tro­ver­sy involv­ing Free­land was root­ed in the fact that Free­lend had pre­vi­ous­ly spo­ken of the influ­ence her grand­fa­ther had on her and her long­stand­ing desire to see Ukraine move away from Moscow’s influ­ence cou­pled with the obser­va­tion from those who had watched her career over the decades that one of the ideas Free­land had long cham­pi­oned the idea that Ukraine needs to be ripped away from the Russ­ian sphere of influ­ence. So learn­ing that the for­eign min­is­ter’s grand­fa­ther was a big influ­ence in her life long goal of see­ing Ukraine move away from Moscow’s orbit and her grand­fa­ther was also secret­ly a Ukrain­ian Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor cre­at­ed some rather awk­ward polit­i­cal ten­sions in the con­text of the ‘new Cold War’ ten­sions between Rus­sia and the West over Ukraine.

    So it turns out those ten­sions man­i­fest­ed again with the recent expul­sion of four Russ­ian diplo­mats from Cana­da. Ini­tial­ly, the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment claimed these expul­sions were in sup­port of the UK in response to the alleged Krem­lin poi­son­ing of retired dou­ble agent Sergei Skri­pal using a chem­i­cal agent pre­vi­ous iden­ti­fied as a Sovi­et inven­tion.

    But then Canada’s Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau final­ly revealed the motive behind the expul­sion of these four diplo­mats he gave a very dif­fer­ent rea­son: they were expelled for call­ing Free­land’s grand­fa­ther a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor, accord­ing to Trudeau who called the (true) sto­ry about Free­land’s grand­fa­ther an effort “by Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­dists”:

    The Star

    Why did Cana­da expel four Russ­ian diplo­mats? Because they told the truth
    The Rus­sians are being pun­ished for say­ing that Freeland’s grand­fa­ther was a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. He was.

    By THOMAS WALKOM
    Nation­al Affairs Colum­nist
    Thu., April 5, 2018

    We now know how the Rus­sians have been sub­vert­ing Cana­di­an democ­ra­cy. They have been prop­a­gat­ing truth­ful news.

    That infor­ma­tion comes cour­tesy of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau who on Wednes­day final­ly explained the motive behind his government’s deci­sion last week to expel four Russ­ian diplo­mats and refuse entry to three more.

    At the time, Ottawa said it was mak­ing the move in sup­port of Britain, which blames Rus­sia for using a dead­ly nerve agent to poi­son a dou­ble agent liv­ing in Eng­land.

    But in a writ­ten state­ment, For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land also said the Rus­sians had been using their diplo­mat­ic sta­tus “to inter­fere in our democ­ra­cy.”

    How exact­ly the Rus­sians had been inter­fer­ing was not explained. Efforts to get more infor­ma­tion from Freeland’s office were unsuc­cess­ful. In an inter­view on CBC, Defence Min­is­ter Har­jit Saj­jan said that he had to stay mum for rea­sons of nation­al secu­ri­ty. Nobody else would talk.

    Then, on Wednesday,Trudeau spilled the beans. The Rus­sians are being pun­ished for say­ing that Freeland’s grand­fa­ther was a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

    Trudeau called this an effort “by Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­dists” to smear Free­land, which per­haps it was.

    The only trou­ble with all of this is that the Rus­sians were telling the truth. Freeland’s mater­nal grand­fa­ther, Michael Cho­mi­ak, was a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

    A Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist, he fled Stalin’s advanc­ing armies in 1939 and sought refuge in what was then Ger­man-occu­pied Poland.

    There, under the aegis of the Nazis he edit­ed a Ukrain­ian-lan­guage, anti-Semit­ic news­pa­per.

    I first learned of this from a front-page sto­ry in that well-known vehi­cle of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da, the Globe and Mail.

    The Globe got its infor­ma­tion by inter­view­ing Freeland’s uncle, a his­to­ri­an who in 1996 wrote – with some assis­tance from his niece – a schol­ar­ly arti­cle detail­ing Chomiak’s wartime activ­i­ties.

    Was the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hap­py to see this being made pub­lic? I expect it was. Free­land is a vocal crit­ic of Moscow’s heavy-hand­ed approach to Ukraine and is cur­rent­ly per­sona non gra­ta in Rus­sia.

    The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment also finds it con­ve­nient to paint all of its crit­ics in Ukraine as unre­con­struct­ed fas­cists. And while Free­land is cer­tain­ly no fas­cist, she has pub­licly praised her grand­par­ents for their influ­ence on her and for their com­mit­ment to Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence.

    Giv­en all of that, the Cho­mi­ak sto­ry was a gift to the Rus­sians. Soon after Freeland’s appoint­ment as for­eign affairs min­is­ter last year, pro-Moscow web­sites began to pick it up.

    To use Trudeau’s words, Moscow was prob­a­bly try­ing to push a “pro-Rus­sia nar­ra­tive.”

    But is it ille­git­i­mate for coun­tries to use ver­i­fi­able facts to make a case?

    Cer­tain­ly, the West doesn’t think so when it comes to the nerve agent sto­ry. Its deci­sion to blame Moscow for the attack is based on one fact – that the poi­son used was first devel­oped in the old Sovi­et Union.

    The pos­si­bil­i­ty that some oth­er enti­ty might have copied it is nev­er enter­tained.

    Instead, the world is pre­sent­ed with a com­pli­cat­ed expla­na­tion that goes some­thing like this: After years of ignor­ing retired dou­ble agent Sergei Skri­pal, Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin final­ly decides to kill him.

    In order to show who is respon­si­ble, Putin has his min­ions use a sig­na­ture Russ­ian nerve agent. But in order to hide who is respon­si­ble, he has anoth­er set of min­ions vig­or­ous­ly deny Russ­ian cul­pa­bil­i­ty.

    The attack isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly suc­cess­ful, since Skri­pal is still alive.

    All of this is done for no appar­ent rea­son oth­er than pure evil.

    ...

    ———-

    “Why did Cana­da expel four Russ­ian diplo­mats? Because they told the truth” by THOMAS WALKOM; The Star; 04/05/2018

    “At the time, Ottawa said it was mak­ing the move in sup­port of Britain, which blames Rus­sia for using a dead­ly nerve agent to poi­son a dou­ble agent liv­ing in Eng­land.”

    Yep, when the Russ­ian diplo­mats were ini­tial­ly expelled it was sup­posed all in response to the Skri­pal poi­son­ing.

    But then, in a writ­ten state­ment, For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land also said the Rus­sians had been using their diplo­mat­ic sta­tus “to inter­fere in our democ­ra­cy.” And when reporters asked for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on what it was they were doing to “inter­fere in our democ­ra­cy,” they could­n’t get answers. Includ­ing the Defense Min­is­ter who said he could­n’t answer for nation­al secu­ri­ty rea­sons:

    ...
    But in a writ­ten state­ment, For­eign Affairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land also said the Rus­sians had been using their diplo­mat­ic sta­tus “to inter­fere in our democ­ra­cy.”

    How exact­ly the Rus­sians had been inter­fer­ing was not explained. Efforts to get more infor­ma­tion from Freeland’s office were unsuc­cess­ful. In an inter­view on CBC, Defence Min­is­ter Har­jit Saj­jan said that he had to stay mum for rea­sons of nation­al secu­ri­ty. Nobody else would talk.
    ...

    But then, Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau final­ly revealed what they of “inter­fer­ence” these Russ­ian diplo­mats were engage in: they were high­light­ing the sto­ry of Free­land’s grand­fa­ther and point­ing out that he was a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor:

    ...
    Then, on Wednesday,Trudeau spilled the beans. The Rus­sians are being pun­ished for say­ing that Freeland’s grand­fa­ther was a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

    Trudeau called this an effort “by Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­dists” to smear Free­land, which per­haps it was.
    ...

    And this expla­na­tion was, of course, insane, because every­thing they were say­ing saw true:

    ...
    The only trou­ble with all of this is that the Rus­sians were telling the truth. Freeland’s mater­nal grand­fa­ther, Michael Cho­mi­ak, was a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

    A Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist, he fled Stalin’s advanc­ing armies in 1939 and sought refuge in what was then Ger­man-occu­pied Poland.

    There, under the aegis of the Nazis he edit­ed a Ukrain­ian-lan­guage, anti-Semit­ic news­pa­per.

    I first learned of this from a front-page sto­ry in that well-known vehi­cle of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da, the Globe and Mail.

    The Globe got its infor­ma­tion by inter­view­ing Freeland’s uncle, a his­to­ri­an who in 1996 wrote – with some assis­tance from his niece – a schol­ar­ly arti­cle detail­ing Chomiak’s wartime activ­i­ties.

    Was the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hap­py to see this being made pub­lic? I expect it was. Free­land is a vocal crit­ic of Moscow’s heavy-hand­ed approach to Ukraine and is cur­rent­ly per­sona non gra­ta in Rus­sia.

    The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment also finds it con­ve­nient to paint all of its crit­ics in Ukraine as unre­con­struct­ed fas­cists. And while Free­land is cer­tain­ly no fas­cist, she has pub­licly praised her grand­par­ents for their influ­ence on her and for their com­mit­ment to Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence.

    Giv­en all of that, the Cho­mi­ak sto­ry was a gift to the Rus­sians. Soon after Freeland’s appoint­ment as for­eign affairs min­is­ter last year, pro-Moscow web­sites began to pick it up.

    To use Trudeau’s words, Moscow was prob­a­bly try­ing to push a “pro-Rus­sia nar­ra­tive.”
    ...

    And as the arti­cle not­ed this insane response actu­al­ly has a num­ber of par­al­lels with the offi­cial response to the orig­i­nal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the expul­sion of those diplo­mats, the poi­son­ing on Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter. In both cas­es there is a clear desire to score a pub­lic rela­tions “win” vs Rus­sia , or avoid a “loss”, and desire (hys­te­ria, real­ly) appears to be dri­ving offi­cial respons­es that a sim­ply divorced from real­i­ty. In the case of the Canada’s expul­sion of those diplo­mats the real­i­ty that the sto­ry, if incon­ve­nient, was sim­ply brushed aside. As Canada’s Defense Min­is­ter put it, it was a “nation­al secu­ri­ty” issue, and that’s a great way to put it: deny­ing real­i­ty is a “nation­al secu­ri­ty” issue when it comes to all things Rus­sia these days in the West.

    And in the case of the Skri­pal poi­son­ings, we are asked to accept Moscow’s guilt for what would be a high­ly provoca­tive (and large­ly point­less) attack on British soil using a chem­i­cal weapon based sole­ly on the obser­va­tion that this chem­i­cal was orig­i­nal­ly devel­oped in the Sovi­et Union decades ago. The real­i­ty that this is very weak evi­dence must be denied. Or bet­ter yet, nev­er acknowl­edged:

    ...
    But is it ille­git­i­mate for coun­tries to use ver­i­fi­able facts to make a case?

    Cer­tain­ly, the West doesn’t think so when it comes to the nerve agent sto­ry. Its deci­sion to blame Moscow for the attack is based on one fact – that the poi­son used was first devel­oped in the old Sovi­et Union.

    The pos­si­bil­i­ty that some oth­er enti­ty might have copied it is nev­er enter­tained.

    Instead, the world is pre­sent­ed with a com­pli­cat­ed expla­na­tion that goes some­thing like this: After years of ignor­ing retired dou­ble agent Sergei Skri­pal, Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin final­ly decides to kill him.

    In order to show who is respon­si­ble, Putin has his min­ions use a sig­na­ture Russ­ian nerve agent. But in order to hide who is respon­si­ble, he has anoth­er set of min­ions vig­or­ous­ly deny Russ­ian cul­pa­bil­i­ty.

    The attack isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly suc­cess­ful, since Skri­pal is still alive.

    All of this is done for no appar­ent rea­son oth­er than pure evil.
    ...

    “The pos­si­bil­i­ty that some oth­er enti­ty might have copied it is nev­er enter­tained.”

    So along those lines, it’s worth not­ing some of the obser­va­tions in the fol­low­ing Finan­cial Times report about some recent devel­op­ments in the Skri­pal poi­son­ings. And they’re large­ly pos­i­tive devel­op­ments: both father and daugh­ter appear to be recov­er­ing. It’s a remark­able twist giv­en the ini­tial asser­tions that the novi­chok group of chem­i­cals are extreme­ly dead­ly and this was con­sid­ered a death sen­tence.

    UK secu­ri­ty offi­cials attribute their unex­pect­ed recov­er­ies to the deliv­ery method. It’s believe the Skri­pals came into con­tact with the nerve agent through a gel smeared on the han­dle of the front door to Mr Skripal’s house. And since absorp­tion through the skin takes much longer this might have allowed the Skri­pals to begin metab­o­liz­ing the pois­ing, reduc­ing its tox­i­c­i­ty.

    But the arti­cle con­tains are pret­ty notable sub-sec­tion about the con­cerns unnamed chem­i­cal experts have over the wide­spread asser­tion that novi­chok was some sort of exclu­sive tool of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. There is no way to link traces of novi­chok col­lect­ed from the crime scene with a par­tic­u­lar man­u­fac­tur­ing site using sci­ence alone, accord­ing to these chemists. Some sort of intel­li­gence sources are required for that kind of pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, these chemists note that the novi­chok agents are rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple organophos­pho­rus com­pounds that com­pe­tent chemists could make from glob­al­ly trad­ed ingre­di­ents. Accord­ing to Phil Par­sons, an organ­ic chem­istry pro­fes­sor at Impe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don, “the whole fam­i­ly of novi­choks are quite easy to make...You could syn­the­sise them in any good chem­istry lab, though you would have to take strin­gent safe­ty pre­cau­tions to pre­vent the staff being poi­soned.”

    As the arti­cle sum­ma­rizes it, a num­ber of the chemists they spoke to said they did not want to throw doubt on the government’s claim that Rus­sia was respon­si­ble for attack on the Skri­pals. They felt the pub­lic should not regard novi­choks as ultra-sophis­ti­cat­ed chem­i­cal weapons that could not be made else­where. Which, if you think about, does actu­al­ly throw doubt on the gov­ern­men­t’s claims because those claims are pred­i­cat­ed on the assump­tion that this novi­choks could have only come from the Krem­lin:

    Finan­cial Times

    Yulia Skripal’s recov­ery adds fresh twist to murky tale
    Secu­ri­ty offi­cials are hope­ful the Skri­pals will be able to pro­vide cru­cial evi­dence

    David Bond in Lon­don
    April 10, 2018, 1:08 PM

    Last month, a High Court judge in Lon­don said it was “unclear” whether the for­mer Russ­ian spy Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter, Yulia, would ever recov­er from being poi­soned with a mil­i­tary-grade nerve agent.

    But on Tues­day, the hos­pi­tal in Sal­is­bury where the pair have been receiv­ing treat­ment since they first fell ill on a park bench more than five weeks ago con­firmed that Ms Skri­pal had been dis­charged. The hospital’s med­ical direc­tor said her father is like­ly to be released “in due course”.

    Their recov­ery is the lat­est twist in a sto­ry that has plunged rela­tions between Rus­sia and the west into their biggest freeze since the end of the cold war, spark­ing tit-for-tat spy expul­sions and a wave of claims and counter claims between Moscow and Lon­don.

    The Organ­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons is expect­ed to deliv­er its inde­pen­dent assess­ment as soon as Wednes­day of the UK’s claim that the nerve agent used in the attack was from the novi­chok group of chem­i­cal weapons that were devel­oped by the Sovi­et Union.

    The OPCW’s ver­dict will be seen as a vital moment for the UK gov­ern­ment, as it seeks to repu­di­ate claims from Moscow that Britain has no evi­dence to blame Rus­sia for the attack.

    Ms Skripal’s release from hos­pi­tal nev­er­the­less pos­es dif­fi­cult ques­tions for the UK author­i­ties, includ­ing how to keep the pair secure as inves­ti­ga­tors race to iden­ti­fy the indi­vid­u­als who might have tar­get­ed them.

    Secu­ri­ty offi­cials are hope­ful that despite being heav­i­ly sedat­ed for more than a month, the Skri­pals may be able to share cru­cial evi­dence that will aid in their inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Offi­cials said that Ms Skripal’s sta­tus as both a wit­ness and a vic­tim meant it was the police’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to keep her safe now that she has been dis­charged from hos­pi­tal.

    The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Police’s counter ter­ror­ism unit declined to com­ment. The Home Office also declined to com­ment on Russ­ian media reports that Ms Skri­pal had already applied for asy­lum in the UK. There have also been reports that secu­ri­ty ser­vices in the UK are explor­ing whether the pair could be reset­tled in the US.

    One for­mer secu­ri­ty offi­cial said that MI6 would wait to see how Mr Skri­pal recov­ered before decid­ing their next steps.

    “It’s his choice,” the for­mer offi­cial said. “They can’t reset­tle one with­out the oth­er.”

    Ms Skripal’s fate may also hinge on whether she wants to return to Rus­sia. Her cousin, Vic­to­ria, has told Russ­ian media that she wants to return home, while the Russ­ian Embassy in Lon­don has request­ed to see her.

    Fol­low­ing the news of Ms Skripal’s release from hos­pi­tal, the embassy post­ed a bar­rage of tweets again attack­ing the UK’s han­dling of the affair.

    “We con­grat­u­late Yulia Skri­pal on her recov­ery,” the embassy tweet­ed. “Yet we need urgent proof that what is being done to her is done on her own free will.”

    In a lat­er state­ment, the embassy added that any attempt to reset­tle the Skri­pals in the US or with any of the UK’s oth­er close intel­li­gence allies would be a “gross vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law”, adding that the world “will have every rea­son to see this as an abduc­tion”.

    UK gov­ern­ment and secu­ri­ty offi­cials said the com­ments were anoth­er exam­ple of Russia’s attempts to dis­tract and deflect atten­tion from its role in the Sal­is­bury attack.

    The Skri­pals’ return to health has sur­prised some offi­cials and chem­i­cal weapons experts who just two weeks ago had feared the worst. But it remains unclear what the long-term effects of their poi­son­ing may be.

    “They may have psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems,” said Alas­tair Hay, a chem­i­cal weapons spe­cial­ist from Leeds uni­ver­si­ty. “Peo­ple exposed to nerve agents suf­fer post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der and can get insom­nia. But as long as there has been no dam­age to the brain from oxy­gen star­va­tion then their cog­ni­tive func­tion should be fine.”

    UK secu­ri­ty offi­cials say the way that the Skri­pals were exposed to the poi­son may explain their rel­a­tive­ly rapid return to health.

    Deliv­ery via an aerosol spray or through inges­tion would have almost cer­tain­ly killed them, accord­ing to one UK secu­ri­ty offi­cial. But police believe the Skri­pals came into con­tact with the nerve agent through a gel smeared on the han­dle of the front door to Mr Skripal’s house.

    Absorp­tion through the skin takes much longer and might have allowed the Skri­pals cru­cial time to metabolise the poi­son, the offi­cial said.

    Out­lin­ing the treat­ment that the pair had received on Tues­day, Dr Chris­tine Blan­shard, med­ical direc­tor of Sal­is­bury Hos­pi­tal, said the pair had “respond­ed excep­tion­al­ly”.

    ...

    Chemists raise ques­tions over novi­chok claims

    Some chem­istry experts are uneasy about the way politi­cians informed the pub­lic about the novi­chok nerve agent used to poi­son Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter, Yulia, in Sal­is­bury.

    In par­tic­u­lar, chemists said, there is no way to link traces of novi­chok col­lect­ed from the crime scene with a par­tic­u­lar man­u­fac­tur­ing site using sci­ence alone, with­out the use of intel­li­gence sources.

    The novi­chok agents are rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple organophos­pho­rus com­pounds that com­pe­tent chemists could make from glob­al­ly trad­ed ingre­di­ents, if they had a spe­cif­ic mol­e­c­u­lar tar­get in mind.

    “The whole fam­i­ly of novi­choks are quite easy to make,” said Phil Par­sons, an organ­ic chem­istry pro­fes­sor at Impe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don. “You could syn­the­sise them in any good chem­istry lab, though you would have to take strin­gent safe­ty pre­cau­tions to pre­vent the staff being poi­soned.”

    Details of sev­er­al novi­chok agents have been avail­able on the inter­net for years. The UK gov­ern­ment has not offi­cial­ly said which one poi­soned the Skri­pals. Vladimir Uglev, a mem­ber of the Sovi­et team that devel­oped novi­choks, said he had no doubt it was A‑234, a view shared unof­fi­cial­ly by experts in the UK. But there has been uncer­tain­ty about the pre­cise struc­ture of A‑234.

    A num­ber of chemists said they did not want to throw doubt on the government’s claim that Rus­sia was respon­si­ble for attack on the Skri­pals, but that the pub­lic should not regard novi­choks as ultra-sophis­ti­cat­ed chem­i­cal weapons that could not be made else­where. They also regard­ed the phrase “mil­i­tary grade”, applied to the nerve agent in some gov­ern­ment state­ments, as mean­ing­less in this con­text, since there exists no known less­er grade of the agent.

    Pro­fes­sor Andrea Sel­la of Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don added: “The Rus­sians have run a fero­cious mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign and some UK politi­cians have inad­ver­tent­ly helped them. Boris John­son has some­times seemed like a babe in the woods.”

    Novi­choks (named after the Russ­ian word for “new­com­er”) were devel­oped in the for­mer Sovi­et Union dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s, in a project to make nerve agents that would be lethal in even small­er dos­es than com­pounds such as sarin or soman. They work in the same way, by block­ing an enzyme called acetyl­cholinesterase that is essen­tial for the human ner­vous sys­tem to func­tion.

    Clive Cook­son, Sci­ence Edi­tor

    ———-

    “Yulia Skripal’s recov­ery adds fresh twist to murky tale” by David Bond; Finan­cial Times; 04/10/2018

    Their recov­ery is the lat­est twist in a sto­ry that has plunged rela­tions between Rus­sia and the west into their biggest freeze since the end of the cold war, spark­ing tit-for-tat spy expul­sions and a wave of claims and counter claims between Moscow and Lon­don.”

    It is indeed quite a twist to see the Skri­pals both recov­er from this attack. But that’s what’s hap­pen­ing.

    And the best expla­na­tion the UK secu­ri­ty offi­cials have is that the deliv­ery method, gel on a door han­dle, reduced the effec­tive tox­i­c­i­ty of the agent by slow­ing its absorp­tion into the body com­pared to oth­er deliv­ery meth­ods:

    ...
    UK secu­ri­ty offi­cials say the way that the Skri­pals were exposed to the poi­son may explain their rel­a­tive­ly rapid return to health.

    Deliv­ery via an aerosol spray or through inges­tion would have almost cer­tain­ly killed them, accord­ing to one UK secu­ri­ty offi­cial. But police believe the Skri­pals came into con­tact with the nerve agent through a gel smeared on the han­dle of the front door to Mr Skripal’s house.

    Absorp­tion through the skin takes much longer and might have allowed the Skri­pals cru­cial time to metabolise the poi­son, the offi­cial said.

    Out­lin­ing the treat­ment that the pair had received on Tues­day, Dr Chris­tine Blan­shard, med­ical direc­tor of Sal­is­bury Hos­pi­tal, said the pair had “respond­ed excep­tion­al­ly”.
    ...

    And part of why it’s going to be very inter­est­ing to see what the The Organ­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) con­cludes in its upcom­ing assess­ment of the attack:

    ...
    The Organ­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons is expect­ed to deliv­er its inde­pen­dent assess­ment as soon as Wednes­day of the UK’s claim that the nerve agent used in the attack was from the novi­chok group of chem­i­cal weapons that were devel­oped by the Sovi­et Union.

    The OPCW’s ver­dict will be seen as a vital moment for the UK gov­ern­ment, as it seeks to repu­di­ate claims from Moscow that Britain has no evi­dence to blame Rus­sia for the attack.

    Ms Skripal’s release from hos­pi­tal nev­er­the­less pos­es dif­fi­cult ques­tions for the UK author­i­ties, includ­ing how to keep the pair secure as inves­ti­ga­tors race to iden­ti­fy the indi­vid­u­als who might have tar­get­ed them.
    ...

    But the OPCW isn’t the only group of experts weigh­ing in on this top­ic. And that brings us to the inter­est­ing sub arti­cle con­tained in the above arti­cle that cov­ers the con­cerns a num­ber of chemists have over the mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the novi­chok fam­i­ly of chem­i­cals. As these chemists point out, this fam­i­ly of chem­i­cals is some­thing com­pe­tent chemists could syn­the­sis from any­one if they had the right equip­ment and took prop­er pre­cau­tions. Plus, the ingre­di­ents for sev­er­al novi­chok agents have been avail­able on the inter­net for years. In oth­er words, the entire premise that the novi­chok must have been the Krem­lin because only the Krem­lin has novi­chok is a false premise. A false premise that has end­ed up as the key premise of the UK’s charges against Moscow:

    ...
    Chemists raise ques­tions over novi­chok claims

    Some chem­istry experts are uneasy about the way politi­cians informed the pub­lic about the novi­chok nerve agent used to poi­son Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter, Yulia, in Sal­is­bury.

    In par­tic­u­lar, chemists said, there is no way to link traces of novi­chok col­lect­ed from the crime scene with a par­tic­u­lar man­u­fac­tur­ing site using sci­ence alone, with­out the use of intel­li­gence sources.

    The novi­chok agents are rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple organophos­pho­rus com­pounds that com­pe­tent chemists could make from glob­al­ly trad­ed ingre­di­ents, if they had a spe­cif­ic mol­e­c­u­lar tar­get in mind.

    “The whole fam­i­ly of novi­choks are quite easy to make,” said Phil Par­sons, an organ­ic chem­istry pro­fes­sor at Impe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don. “You could syn­the­sise them in any good chem­istry lab, though you would have to take strin­gent safe­ty pre­cau­tions to pre­vent the staff being poi­soned.”

    Details of sev­er­al novi­chok agents have been avail­able on the inter­net for years. The UK gov­ern­ment has not offi­cial­ly said which one poi­soned the Skri­pals. Vladimir Uglev, a mem­ber of the Sovi­et team that devel­oped novi­choks, said he had no doubt it was A‑234, a view shared unof­fi­cial­ly by experts in the UK. But there has been uncer­tain­ty about the pre­cise struc­ture of A‑234.

    A num­ber of chemists said they did not want to throw doubt on the government’s claim that Rus­sia was respon­si­ble for attack on the Skri­pals, but that the pub­lic should not regard novi­choks as ultra-sophis­ti­cat­ed chem­i­cal weapons that could not be made else­where. They also regard­ed the phrase “mil­i­tary grade”, applied to the nerve agent in some gov­ern­ment state­ments, as mean­ing­less in this con­text, since there exists no known less­er grade of the agent.

    Pro­fes­sor Andrea Sel­la of Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don added: “The Rus­sians have run a fero­cious mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign and some UK politi­cians have inad­ver­tent­ly helped them. Boris John­son has some­times seemed like a babe in the woods.”

    Novi­choks (named after the Russ­ian word for “new­com­er”) were devel­oped in the for­mer Sovi­et Union dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s, in a project to make nerve agents that would be lethal in even small­er dos­es than com­pounds such as sarin or soman. They work in the same way, by block­ing an enzyme called acetyl­cholinesterase that is essen­tial for the human ner­vous sys­tem to func­tion.

    Clive Cook­son, Sci­ence Edi­tor

    “A num­ber of chemists said they did not want to throw doubt on the government’s claim that Rus­sia was respon­si­ble for attack on the Skri­pals, but that the pub­lic should not regard novi­choks as ultra-sophis­ti­cat­ed chem­i­cal weapons that could not be made else­where. They also regard­ed the phrase “mil­i­tary grade”, applied to the nerve agent in some gov­ern­ment state­ments, as mean­ing­less in this con­text, since there exists no known less­er grade of the agent.”

    And that dis­com­fort expressed by these chemists, dis­com­fort that they might be under­cut­ting the gov­ern­men­t’s con­clu­sions by point­ing out that novi­chok could be made else­where, is anoth­er reminder that in the new Cold War dis­tort­ing or deny­ing real­i­ty on any issue involv­ing Rus­sia in order to “win” in the pub­lic rela­tions wars real­ly is a nation­al secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy. A real­i­ty-warp­ing strat­e­gy that, if you think about it, is actu­al­ly a pret­ty big nation­al secu­ri­ty issue.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 11, 2018, 3:09 pm
  13. Here’s some­thing to keep in mind in light of the recent sto­ry about the US Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) dis­band­ing entire­ly the 6‑person team that was focused on track­ing white suprema­cists: First, recall how the push to strip away gov­ern­ment resources used to track white suprema­cists start­ed ear­ly on in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion when, in Feb­ru­ary of 2017, we learned that DHS was chang­ing the “Coun­ter­ing Vio­lent Extrem­ism” (CVE) pro­gram to no longer track threats from white suprema­cists and instead focus exclu­sive­ly on Islam­ic ter­ror­ism. And now we’re learn­ing about one of the indi­vid­u­als Trump appoint­ed to DHS who was aggres­sive­ly push­ing for these kinds of moves: Katie Gor­ka, wife of Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, who was at that point a senior DHS pol­i­cy advis­er.

    Recall how Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka was part of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion ear­ly on. He was a mem­ber of Steve Ban­non’s Strate­gic Ini­tia­tives Group, a new­ly formed group that served as a Ban­non-led rival to the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. But Gorka’s far right ties — which includ­ed found­ed a Hun­gar­i­an polit­i­cal par­ty with two for­mer mem­bers of Job­bik — even­tu­al­ly pub­lic drew atten­tion after some­one noticed Gor­ka chose to wear the out­fit and medal of a far right fas­cist Hun­gar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion to Trump’s inau­gur­al ball.

    So it should­n’t come a sur­prise that it was Gorka’s wife at DHS who was advo­cat­ing for these kinds of changes to the CVE pro­gram. Specif­i­cal­ly, we’re learn­ing from emails from Feb­ru­ary to August 2017 that Katie Gor­ka was work­ing to come up with rea­sons to cut off fund­ing for two groups that received fund­ing through the CVE pro­gram: Life After Hate — which received a $400,000 grant to help peo­ple leave white suprema­cists move­ments — and the Mus­lim Pub­lic Affairs Coun­cil, which got a $393,800 CVE grant to expand men­tal health and coun­sel­ing ser­vices in Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties. Gorka’s ire against Life After Hate was osten­si­bly due to the fact the one of the group’s lead­ers pub­licly insult­ed Trump, although giv­en that there was already a push to get the CVE pro­gram out of the work of deal­ing with white suprema­cists it seems pos­si­ble that Gor­ka was sim­ply look­ing for an excuse to cut off Life After Hate and found one.

    Dis­turbing­ly, a July 2017 email writ­ten by Gor­ka after Life After Hate had its fund­ing cut­off shows Gor­ka going on to sug­gest that DHS should focus on the real threat: anti-fas­cists. That exchange hap­pened after then-DHS head John Kel­ly asked staffers to come up with exam­ples of orga­ni­za­tions “that counter-hate groups”. Gor­ka replied that she could­n’t come up with any exam­ples and it was in that email that Gor­ka sug­gest­ed they start focus­ing on anti-fas­cists.

    That’s right, so after Trump’s DHS revamps the CVE pro­gram to no longer track white suprema­cists and after DHS cuts off fund­ing for Life After, it was Katie Gor­ka who sug­gest­ed that it was the anti-fas­cists who are a threat DHS needs to be track­ing and this was in an email where Gor­ka explained that she could­n’t come up with any exam­ples of groups that counter hate group:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post

    Trump Home­land Secu­ri­ty Offi­cial Sug­gest­ed Antifas­cists Were ‘The Actu­al Threats’
    Here’s what Katie Gor­ka has been up to at work.

    By Jes­si­ca Schul­berg
    04/05/2019 03:47 pm ET

    Katie Gor­ka, a Trump admin­is­tra­tion polit­i­cal appointee in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, sug­gest­ed in a July 2017 email that the agency, which had just can­celed fund­ing for a group ded­i­cat­ed to derad­i­cal­iz­ing white suprema­cists, redi­rect its efforts to focus on the real threat: anti-fas­cists.

    Gor­ka, a senior pol­i­cy advis­er at the DHS, made the sug­ges­tion in response to a request from then–Secretary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty John Kel­ly, who was appar­ent­ly unhap­py about crit­i­cal media cov­er­age of the agency’s revamped Coun­ter­ing Vio­lent Extrem­ism (CVE) pro­gram. Kel­ly want­ed staffers to come up with exam­ples of orga­ni­za­tions “that counter-hate groups,” an aide wrote in an email, which Huff­Post obtained through a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request. Gor­ka couldn’t think of any spe­cif­ic groups, she wrote in response. But “it would also be impor­tant to get the data on the actu­al threats right now,” she added, “because my under­stand­ing is that the far-left groups (Antifa, or anti-fas­cist) are cur­rent­ly on the rise.”

    Her claim, which is not backed by any data, is the most obvi­ous exam­ple of a trend that per­vades a tranche of DHS emails obtained by Huff­Post: Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials came into office with very spe­cif­ic — and mis­tak­en — ideas about what vio­lent extrem­ism in the U.S. looked like, then went search­ing for evi­dence to back up those ideas.

    The emails, which date from Feb­ru­ary to August 2017, show Gor­ka and oth­er Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials work­ing dili­gent­ly to find rea­sons to strip gov­ern­ment fund­ing from two orga­ni­za­tions select­ed as CVE grant recip­i­ents under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion: the Mus­lim Pub­lic Affairs Coun­cil, which was plan­ning to use its $393,800 grant to expand men­tal health and coun­sel­ing ser­vices in Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, and Life After Hate, which was going to use its $400,000 to help white suprema­cists leave the move­ment.

    Gorka’s name may sound famil­iar because she is mar­ried to promi­nent vest wear­er Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka, who is def­i­nite­ly not a Nazi. “Our pil­low talk is the Islam­ic State and al-Qae­da,” he once said of their rela­tion­ship. Although less rec­og­niz­able than her hus­band, Katie Gor­ka has her own his­to­ry of anti-Mus­lim fear­mon­ger­ing. As a Bre­it­bart colum­nist, she warned of Mus­lim Broth­er­hood influ­ence in U.S. pol­i­tics and “sharia finance” in Lon­don. She took issue with the idea that Islam is a reli­gion of peace. And she claimed that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was “sup­port­ing Islamist groups abroad” and “allow­ing Islamists to dic­tate nation­al secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy.”

    After Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, Kel­ly ordered a full review of the CVE pro­gram. At the time, Trump loy­al­ists were push­ing for the pro­gram to focus exclu­sive­lyinstead of just pri­mar­i­ly — on Mus­lims. In May, then–acting DHS Gen­er­al Coun­sel Joseph Maher laid out the legal stan­dards for rescind­ing grant mon­ey.

    Kel­ly “has broad dis­cre­tion in mak­ing award deci­sions,” Maher explained in an email that was even­tu­al­ly sent to Gor­ka. If a group chal­lenged the DHS in court, the sec­re­tary would have to prove that he was not act­ing “arbi­trar­i­ly or capri­cious­ly,” the lawyer con­tin­ued.

    So DHS aides got to work find­ing rea­sons to jus­ti­fy revok­ing the grants for MPAC and Life After Hate. “We have enough mate­r­i­al on Life After hate [sic] but are com­ing up short on MPAC,” Gor­ka wrote in an email to then–DHS offi­cial John Barsa, who tweets things like “Is Islam a Reli­gion of Peace?” “I thought the Con­gres­sion­al let­ter might be help­ful. Do you have an elec­tron­ic copy you can send me?” The emails released through FOIA do not indi­cate which con­gres­sion­al let­ter she is refer­ring to.

    On June 1, Gor­ka and Barsa received a memo from a redact­ed sender with “rec­om­mend­ed lan­guage” to jus­ti­fy revok­ing fund­ing to the two groups. The memo claimed, with­out evi­dence, that “MPAC, and indi­vid­u­als affil­i­at­ed with the orga­ni­za­tion, have been pub­licly accused of san­i­tiz­ing ter­ror­ism, being affil­i­at­ed with groups that some claim have ties to ter­ror­ism, and mak­ing anti-Semit­ic state­ments.”

    “While DHS takes no posi­tion on the accu­ra­cy or mer­it of the pub­lic accu­sa­tions against MPAC, the exis­tence of those accu­sa­tion does make MPAC a con­tro­ver­sial appli­cant,” the memo con­tin­ued.

    The DHS declined to pro­vide Huff­Post with exam­ples of the sup­posed con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing MPAC. The group’s pres­i­dent, Salam al-Maray­ati, has tes­ti­fied before Con­gress, advised the Los Ange­les Police Depart­ment on its rela­tions with the city’s Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty and served on a DHS advi­so­ry com­mit­tee.

    The claims in the DHS email are “just cut and paste from the Islam­o­phobes like Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes,” he said in an inter­view, refer­ring to far-right con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists who have accused him — and most oth­er Mus­lims — of being ter­ror­ist sym­pa­thiz­ers.

    The June 1 memo went on to say that DHS would not work with Life After Hate because Chris­t­ian Pic­ci­oli­ni, one of the group’s co-founders, used pro­fan­i­ty in a tweet crit­i­cal of Trump. The memo appears to bor­row exten­sive­ly from Gorka’s research, sum­ma­rized in a May 26 email to Barsa, Maher and a redact­ed recip­i­ent.

    [see screen of Katie Gor­ka email that cites Pic­col­in­i’s insults of Trump as rea­son for with­hold­ing funds from Life After Hate]

    Pic­ci­oli­ni, who is no longer affil­i­at­ed with Life After Hate, declined to com­ment. He and Life After Hate are cur­rent­ly suing each oth­er, pri­mar­i­ly over a trade­mark dis­pute.

    The DHS unveiled its revised list of grant recip­i­ents on June 23, 2017. The agency can­celed grants for sev­en orga­ni­za­tions, and five addi­tion­al groups pulled out of the pro­gram vol­un­tar­i­ly. The depart­ment real­lo­cat­ed much of the mon­ey ini­tial­ly intend­ed for com­mu­ni­ty-based non­prof­its to law enforce­ment agen­cies.

    Orga­ni­za­tions that lost their fund­ing didn’t receive much of an expla­na­tion. For small non­prof­its such as Life After Hate, which didn’t have enough mon­ey to pay employ­ees full salaries at the time, los­ing their gov­ern­ment grants could have been a major blow to their work. But sev­en weeks after DHS can­celed Life After Hate’s grant, neo-Nazis descend­ed on Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, cast­ing a spot­light on the threat of far-right extrem­ism. By the end of 2017, Life After Hate had raised about $1 mil­lion, said its exec­u­tive direc­tor, Sam­my Rangel.

    When the DHS wel­comed CVE grants recip­i­ents in late July, it mis­tak­en­ly sent invi­ta­tions for a webi­nar to groups whose fund­ing had been revoked. “God I hate this pro­gram,” an offi­cial whose name was redact­ed wrote in an email to Gor­ka and Barsa on a thread about the webi­nar sna­fu.

    “Don’t despair!” Gor­ka wrote back. “You can’t believe all the good things that are hap­pen­ing right now! Just think of the Wicked Witch of the East dis­solv­ing into a pud­dle, cry­ing ‘I’m melt­ing! I’m melt­ing!’” she con­tin­ued. “Trust me, it’s melt­ing!”

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion is expect­ed to end the CVE grant pro­gram, NBC report­ed last year.

    The DHS declined to respond to a detailed list of ques­tions. “The Depart­ment is com­mit­ted to both pre­vent­ing vio­lent extrem­ists and coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism,” a DHS offi­cial who request­ed anonymi­ty wrote in an email. “Fol­low­ing Sec­re­tary Kelly’s review, some pre­vi­ous­ly announced grantees were deter­mined to be more effec­tive through part­ner­ship with local law enforce­ment and/or were capa­ble of secur­ing non-fed­er­al fund­ing and thus did not receive addi­tion­al funds at that time.”

    “Regard­ing Life After Hate, the Depart­ment, includ­ing Katie Gor­ka, has a pro­duc­tive rela­tion­ship with the orga­ni­za­tion and has recent­ly met and par­tic­i­pat­ed in events with its new lead­er­ship,” the offi­cial added.

    The watch­dog group Democ­ra­cy For­ward is suing the DHS for fail­ing to com­ply with a FOIA request relat­ed to Gorka’s role at the agency.

    It appears that Gor­ka was unsuc­cess­ful in her 2017 bid to get gov­ern­ment fund­ing to fight anti-fas­cists. But she’s not the only one at the DHS who hyped the threat of antifa. Months lat­er, a DHS agent emailed intel­li­gence cen­ters request­ing infor­ma­tion about an antifa plot to over­throw the gov­ern­ment after appar­ent­ly falling for a satir­i­cal antifa super­sol­dier meme, accord­ing to emails obtained through a sep­a­rate FOIA request by the trans­paren­cy non­prof­it Prop­er­ty of the Peo­ple.

    ...

    ———-

    “Trump Home­land Secu­ri­ty Offi­cial Sug­gest­ed Antifas­cists Were ‘The Actu­al Threats’” by Jes­si­ca Schul­berg; The Huff­in­g­ton Post; 04/05/2019

    “The emails, which date from Feb­ru­ary to August 2017, show Gor­ka and oth­er Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials work­ing dili­gent­ly to find rea­sons to strip gov­ern­ment fund­ing from two orga­ni­za­tions select­ed as CVE grant recip­i­ents under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion: the Mus­lim Pub­lic Affairs Coun­cil, which was plan­ning to use its $393,800 grant to expand men­tal health and coun­sel­ing ser­vices in Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, and Life After Hate, which was going to use its $400,000 to help white suprema­cists leave the move­ment.”

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s DHS appointees clear­ly had a mis­sion to remove as much gov­ern­ment pres­sure on white suprema­cist groups as pos­si­ble. And as part of that broad­er mis­sion, pro­grams that receive CVE grants like Life After Hate became tar­gets of this dri­ve. Along with the anti-fas­cists, who Katie Gor­ka char­ac­ter­izes as “the actu­al threats right now” in a July 2017 email:

    ...
    Gor­ka, a senior pol­i­cy advis­er at the DHS, made the sug­ges­tion in response to a request from then–Secretary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty John Kel­ly, who was appar­ent­ly unhap­py about crit­i­cal media cov­er­age of the agency’s revamped Coun­ter­ing Vio­lent Extrem­ism (CVE) pro­gram. Kel­ly want­ed staffers to come up with exam­ples of orga­ni­za­tions “that counter-hate groups,” an aide wrote in an email, which Huff­Post obtained through a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request. Gor­ka couldn’t think of any spe­cif­ic groups, she wrote in response. But “it would also be impor­tant to get the data on the actu­al threats right now,” she added, “because my under­stand­ing is that the far-left groups (Antifa, or anti-fas­cist) are cur­rent­ly on the rise.”

    Her claim, which is not backed by any data, is the most obvi­ous exam­ple of a trend that per­vades a tranche of DHS emails obtained by Huff­Post: Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials came into office with very spe­cif­ic — and mis­tak­en — ideas about what vio­lent extrem­ism in the U.S. looked like, then went search­ing for evi­dence to back up those ideas.
    ...

    So what was the even­tu­al rea­son for can­cel­ing Life After Hate’s CVE grant? One of the group’s co-founders used pro­fan­i­ty in a tweet crit­i­cal of Trump:

    ...
    The June 1 memo went on to say that DHS would not work with Life After Hate because Chris­t­ian Pic­ci­oli­ni, one of the group’s co-founders, used pro­fan­i­ty in a tweet crit­i­cal of Trump. The memo appears to bor­row exten­sive­ly from Gorka’s research, sum­ma­rized in a May 26 email to Barsa, Maher and a redact­ed recip­i­ent.
    ...

    The DHS unveiled its revised list of grant recip­i­ents on June 23, 2017. The agency can­celed grants for sev­en orga­ni­za­tions, and five addi­tion­al groups pulled out of the pro­gram vol­un­tar­i­ly. The depart­ment real­lo­cat­ed much of the mon­ey ini­tial­ly intend­ed for com­mu­ni­ty-based non­prof­its to law enforce­ment agen­cies.

    ...

    And this, of course, all hap­pened right before the neo-Nazi vio­lence at Char­lottesville so for­tu­nate­ly Life After Hate was able to fundraise sig­nif­i­cant­ly after that and more than make up with the lost grant mon­ey:

    ...
    Orga­ni­za­tions that lost their fund­ing didn’t receive much of an expla­na­tion. For small non­prof­its such as Life After Hate, which didn’t have enough mon­ey to pay employ­ees full salaries at the time, los­ing their gov­ern­ment grants could have been a major blow to their work. But sev­en weeks after DHS can­celed Life After Hate’s grant, neo-Nazis descend­ed on Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, cast­ing a spot­light on the threat of far-right extrem­ism. By the end of 2017, Life After Hate had raised about $1 mil­lion, said its exec­u­tive direc­tor, Sam­my Rangel.
    ...

    And note that, while DHS did­n’t end up fol­low­ing Gorka’s advice on tar­get­ing anti-fas­cists (which prob­a­bly had a lot to do with the pub­lic back­lash over Trump’s “very fine peo­ple on both sides” equiv­o­cat­ing of the anti-fas­cists with the neo-Nazis fol­low­ing Char­lottesville), there was anoth­er attempt with­in DHS in Octo­ber of 2017 to refo­cus the agency on the anti-fas­cists based on a bla­tant­ly satir­i­cal online meme about ‘antifa super­sol­diers’ over­throw­ing the gov­ern­ment:

    ...
    It appears that Gor­ka was unsuc­cess­ful in her 2017 bid to get gov­ern­ment fund­ing to fight anti-fas­cists. But she’s not the only one at the DHS who hyped the threat of antifa. Months lat­er, a DHS agent emailed intel­li­gence cen­ters request­ing infor­ma­tion about an antifa plot to over­throw the gov­ern­ment after appar­ent­ly falling for a satir­i­cal antifa super­sol­dier meme, accord­ing to emails obtained through a sep­a­rate FOIA request by the trans­paren­cy non­prof­it Prop­er­ty of the Peo­ple.
    ...

    So Katie Gor­ka may not have giv­en the worst rea­son for tar­get­ing anti-fas­cists in 2017. That prize goes to the agent who took those bla­tant joke memes seri­ous­ly. But the fact that Gor­ka set out to sab­o­tage the gov­ern­men­t’s pro­grams to counter vio­lent white suprema­cist groups and is clear­ly a major far right sym­pa­thiz­er her­self sug­gests that she still deserves the prize for the worst under­ly­ing rea­sons for giv­ing rea­sons to tar­get anti-fas­cists. After all, it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble the DHS agent who request­ed more infor­ma­tion about a joke meme was just being momen­tar­i­ly fool­ish. Gor­ka, on the oth­er hand, is obvi­ous­ly a ded­i­cat­ed far right ide­o­logue. And that’s a lot worse than being momen­tar­i­ly fool­ish.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 9, 2019, 11:36 am

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