Political Asylum: The Jan. 6 Committee Spotlights America's Crazy Problem
It was just over a week ago that 100 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front descended on Boston and marched along the city's iconic Freedom Trail holding a banner reading "Reclaim America." The group, which spearheaded two of the largest white supremacist rallies in the country last year, is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "one of the most prominent white supremacist groups in the United States" and openly embraces Nazism.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu called the group's march "disgusting." She is right, of course, but it was also unsurprising. The Front boasts chapters in 40 states, and actively recruits on college campuses, in the military and elsewhere. Along with the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, QAnon and a witches' brew of organized, semi-organized and loosely organized right-wing groups, it represents a steadily metastasizing American cancer that in an all-too-real sense threatens America's survival.
Sociologist Pete Simi, co-author of "American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement's Hidden Spaces of Hate," notes that many of those guilty of the mass murders that get passed off as the product of plain vanilla "mental illness" have taken the teachings of these lunatics to heart. "We are dealing with a massive movement," Simi says. "We saw it manifest itself in terms of the January 6th insurrection. We saw it in Charlottesville at the deadly rally there. We're seeing it with these single actor attacks all over the country: Buffalo, El Paso and Pittsburgh. Time and time again we're seeing these incidents of violence kind of written off as a single lone deranged actor instead of an actual movement that's promoting this kind of violence."
Indeed, many of those guilty of the massacres to which professor Simi alludes share a common adherence to "replacement theory," a racist doctrine endorsed by Fox personalities Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham and spread by them to their viewers.
The House committee investigating former President Donald Trump's attempt to overturn an election and keep himself in power will hold two more hearings this week. California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a committee member, told CNN that she expected them to "connect the dots" for Americans on the symbiotic relationship between the former president and America's dregs.
Lofgren was being not merely discreet but generous. Anyone who still needs to have the dots connected for them wouldn't acknowledge a dot if it jumped onto the kitchen table and began performing the "Macarena." The relationship between Trump and white supremacists isn't only a mutuality of interests. It is a two-way love fest.
Trump, who defended the "very fine people" among the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and klansmen chanting racist and antisemitic slogans at Charlottesville, Virginia, was heartily endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in 2016 and again in 2020, though Duke did urge Trump to replace Vice President Mike Pence on the ticket with Tucker Carlson. Patriot Front leader Thomas Rousseau, arrested recently for conspiracy to attack an LGBTQ event, is another huge Trump booster.
After The Donald urged his supporters to travel to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 to pressure Congress to block the transfer of power to President Joe Biden and promised them a "wild" time, his biggest fans showed up in force and with weapons. The neo-fascist Proud Boys, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an "alt-right fight club," came ready to do what was needed to keep their man Trump in office. Ditto for the Oath Keepers, whom the FBI has called a "paramilitary organization" and the Anti-Defamation League calls "heavily armed extremists with a conspiratorial mindset." The leaders of both groups have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to overthrow the government of the United States by force, which used to be considered a bad look.
Yes, there will be some fairly straightforward connecting of the dots this week. One would have to be inordinately resistant to dot-connecting to miss the connections.
But in the America in which we find ourselves, we have plenty of that kind of resistance.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.