Why we can expect political violence in the Trump era

spencer-punched

Neo-fascist and alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer was punched in the face at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Last week, ultra-right radio host Michael Savage was involved in a physical confrontation in a San Francisco-area restaurant. No one was charged, but Savage insists he was assaulted because of his political beliefs. He might well have been. A prominent Donald Trump supporter who interviewed the candidate several times during the campaign, Savage is infamously outspoken about three issues: borders, language and culture. Like so much of the far-right, Savage is a crypto-white nationalist.

The incident recalls President Trump’s inauguration when Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” was punched in the face by a protester. Later that month, riots shut down a speaking engagement by disgraced Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley. Mainstream commentators argue these incidents stifle free speech. But what’s so often left unsaid is that Savage, Spencer, Yiannopoulos and others are figureheads of American fascism, the most violent movement in the country today. Continue reading

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Stop trying to change the name of Black Lives Matter

Protesters carry signs insisting all lives matter.

Protesters carry signs insisting all lives matter.

Since it became a national movement, Black Lives Matter has been met with antagonism for its name alone. The phrase “black lives matter” is seen by some as divisive, confrontational and perhaps even racist. It reveals a great deal about the struggle black Americans face that controversy arises when they assert the value of their lives.

But there’s an important reason why the name shouldn’t be changed: In our criminal justice system, black lives are not treated like they matter. The name is therefore both an expression of what we wish reality to be and an exposé of what reality isn’t. Continue reading

Baltimore mom, Toya Graham, should be proud of her son

Toya Graham grabs her protesting son and forces him to go home with her.

Toya Graham grabs her protesting son and forces him to go home with her.

Toya Graham, a single mom in Baltimore, became a viral sensation after showing up to a Freddie Gray protest, finding her son Michael among the crowd, and smacking and berating him into going home. Before their names were even known, commentary flooded social media. The consensus seemed to be that Toya did the right thing, with some even labeling her Mom of the Year. But it is her son who we should all be applauding and encouraging.

Better not to judge the parenting tactics of others – particularly single, black mothers juggling six children – so this article won’t. But the story has been widely misinterpreted as a mother shocked and appalled at her son’s riotous behavior. While Graham says she doesn’t believe violence against police is the right course to take and was disappointed in her son for potentially participating in it, the primal motivation can be heard in the video when she appears to say, “Do you want to get killed?” and in interviews afterward: Toya feared her son might end up another black kid in a headline. Continue reading

State violence, not peaceful protesting, inspires citizen violence

NYPD officers turn their backs on a video of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at the memorial service for slain officer Rafael Ramos.

NYPD officers turn their backs on a video of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at the memorial service for slain officer Rafael Ramos.

In times of tragedy, the first question the media asks is, “Who is to blame?” It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to investigate, but certain familiar patterns develop. In cases of serial killers, there’s usually an investigation into the killer’s background, interviews with family members, and so on. When the government is under investigation, there’s a long process of buck-passing that the media dutifully follows like a cat entranced by a laser. And in the case of political murders, blame is usually placed on the opposition party.

Since police militarization became a recurrent topic for mass media, there have been a handful of citizen-on-police killings and assaults, most notably the murder of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos by Ismaaiyl Brinsley. And though virtually everyone has condemned the murders, they’ve nonetheless found their way to becoming a contentious political issue. The divisions, though approximately right/left, are perhaps more accurately defined as authoritarian/anti-authoritarian. Continue reading