Sunday, June 21, 2015

Flags of Our Fascist Fathers

 (*Updated below.)

If only Dylann Storm Roof had stayed in school and had less of an ego chronically stoked on pills and Internet hate sites, he might have scored a gun and a badge and a uniform in order to perpetrate his race war. With just a little more training and a little more discipline, he could have learned to be a slightly more circumspect executioner of dark-hued people.

 He could have blended into the official American system of allowable oppression of minorities. He might have developed the patience to wait for socially acceptable, state-sanctioned opportunities to take aim and fire. From his professional peers, he would have learned the fine art of stalking Black fathers with broken taillights. He would have developed the sense to keep his racism professional and nonverbal as he snapped the spine of a Black youth who had the nerve to make eye contact with him on a Baltimore city street. He could have joined a posse of uniforms to shoot bullet after bullet after bullet into the bodies of an unarmed Cleveland couple trapped in their car. And then he would have gotten off, because forensics couldn't discern which cops had actually fired the fatal shots.

Roof didn't blend in. He was a lone wolf. He took his inspiration from George Zimmerman instead of from Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who shot Michael Brown in "self defense." He's certainly making life awkward for dog-whistling politicians, gun culture apologists and the Confederate flag-waving crowd this week. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was so confused that he called the mass slaughter in Mother Emanuel Church "an accident." (Maybe he's still trying to kick his own alleged pill habit.)

It is perfectly fitting that Roof and Michael Slager, the cop who gunned down Walter Scott, are sharing the same cell block as they await their trials for murder. I wonder if they've bonded yet. They are two sides of the same coin. The cop had all the circumspect qualities down pat; he just hadn't banked on a passerby with a cellphone to memorialize his one-man extermination squad.

 Roof is a fringe-dwelling end-product of the same cop/gun culture, violent entertainment industry and Southern racist politics that are alive and well and flying as high and demented as the confederate flag and the militarized police state and the privatized gulag of systemic Black incarceration. Like many an adolescent in the Age of Facebook his privacy is not that important to him.  Besides prescription drugs, he also has an apparent addiction to white supremacist Internet sites, inspiring him to create his own virtual domain. But unlike most other cyber-racists, he didn't hide behind the safety of anonymity. Eventually, virtual reality just wasn't real enough for him, and he acted upon his impulses. Also unlike other lone wolf terrorists, he didn't feel the need to kill himself in a blaze of glory after his mass slaughter of nine innocent people. Maybe it's the power of the Nazi-ish middle name his parents chose for him**: Storm. Maybe nomenclature is destiny.

In a must-read piece in Counterpunch, Henry Giroux quotes a study (titled, appropriately enough, Operation Ghetto Storm) showing that one Black person is extra-judicially executed by a state security officer or a vigilante every single day. More Black people are incarcerated in the US than were enslaved ten years before the Civil War. Yet it's the non-state sanctioned violence of a Dylann Storm Roof or an Adam Lanza that gets most of the attention. And forget about the state-sanctioned violence of American forever-wars. Foreign drone victims are neither named nor cared about -- and that is by official decree as well as through media complicity and public apathy. As Henry Giroux writes, 1984 and Brave New World perfectly complement one another:
In Orwell’s world, individual freedom and privacy were under attack from outside forces. For Huxley, in contrast, freedom and privacy were willingly given up as part of the seductions of a soft authoritarianism, with its vast machinery of manufactured needs, desires, and identities. This new mode of persuasion seduced people into chasing commodities, and infantilized them through the mass production of easily digestible entertainment, disposable goods, and new scientific advances in which any viable sense of agency was undermined. The conditions for critical thought dissolved into the limited pleasures instant gratification wrought through the use of technologies and consuming practices that dampened, if not obliterated, the very possibility of thinking itself. Orwell’s dark image is the stuff of government oppression whereas Huxley’s is the stuff of distractions, diversions, and the transformation of privacy into a cheap and sensational performance for public display.
So, will FBI Director James Comey continue to claim that Roof's crime is neither political nor terroristic? With his web-page now on full public display, with his manifesto claiming inspiration from a group whose membership has included elected officials, it's going to be mighty hard to blame the latest massacre solely on lax gun laws and mental illness. He's a product of the instant gratification culture of violence -- topped with a huge dollop of pervasive cyber-racism -- that Giroux describes. Roof apparently spent hours holed up in his lonely room when he wasn't taking grotesque gun-pointing selfies along with his burning of the flag near Civil War memorials.

Where was Homeland Security? Where was the NSA? We know where the FBI has been: tracking Muslim youths on the Internet as they "aspire" to join ISIS.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which does track various right-wing extremist hate groups, has some interesting information on the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), the group which Roof says inspired him. Anti-immigrant and anti-gay as well as anti-Black, it can trace its lineage back to the Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court decision. It uses a warped interpretation of the Bible and Christianity to opine that "God" is not pleased with the mixing of the races. So the fact that Roof chose to gun down his victims in a Black Christian church probably made perfect sense to him.

Unlike the overt and anonymous racism of KKK members, the CCC has been historically comprised of "respectable" businessmen, journalists, judges, bankers... and politicians. (Senator Trent Lott had a close association with the group.) But since the advent of the Internet, the CCC's rhetoric has grown increasingly blatant and crude, according to the SPLC.  Even so, elected officials (mostly state and local) continue to claim membership, while others give speeches at its various gatherings.

Dylann Storm Roof had the implicit permission of the de facto racist establishment to do what he did. No wonder the judge at his bail hearing urged people to have sympathy for his family.

Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long or somebody warned that when fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross. Whether it's the Stars and Stripes or whether it's the Confederate version makes not a lick of difference. Fascism is here, and it has been here for a very long time.

(New York Times, Sept. 12, 1938)

*Update, 6/22. According to various published reports, Roof tried to shoot himself in the church but had run out of ammo.

In case you thought that my post, linking civilian white racist terrorists with certain white racist terrorist cops, was hyperbolic and/or unfair, check out this website/chat room for the NYPD. You might think you'd clicked on Stormfront or the CCC by mistake. Same subject matter, same level of hate. (And no, I am not providing links to those other two.)

The New York Times has more on the global white supremacist movement here, as well as a piece by Eric Lichtblau tying presidential candidates to the CCC, or at least to the CCC's money. These politicians always follow the same script: when they're caught being associated with terrorist hate groups, they plead ignorance and promptly return the money. If anything good is going to come out of this latest episode of all-American violence, it's that the dog-whistling racist pols are being outed in all their moral ugliness.

Here are a couple of my own Times comments in today's paper. First, in response to Charles Blow's op-ed calling for official acknowledgment that there is such a thing as race terrorism:
Either the FBI calls Roof a terrorist, or it doesn't get to call anybody a terrorist. It's about time that the so-called Justice Dept. takes a break from arresting Muslim youths who merely "aspire" to join ISIS on the Internet, and start investigating some very real homegrown terrorists here. The horrific church massacre has also got to result in something more meaningful and lasting than just tearing down the Confederate flag (although that would be a nice symbolic start.)

As a disaffected late-adolescent in a time of record wealth inequality and record youth joblessless, Roof was a bomb ready to go off, living as he did on pills, hormones gone wild, and hate. He got his inspiration from white supremacist websites, in particular one run by a well-known group called the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). While its cosmetically "respectable" members (bankers, editors, executives, and yes, politicians and elected officials) broadcast their racism the usual coded dog-whistle way, the Southern Poverty Law Center notes that its Internet arm has become downright blatant in its call for a war on Blacks, gays and Latino immigrants. A whole new generation of cyber racists is being bred, both on the white supremacist sites and in "mainstream" comment sections. Australia has already made online racist hate speech illegal.

Cyber racists thrive on cowardice and anonymity -- until, like Roof, they don't. Racism is like a drug. Some addicts always need a bigger fix.
Next, my response to Paul Krugman's rather Panglossian ( racism exists, but is waning, it could always be worse, and things are bound to get better... eventually!) Slavery's Long Shadow:
We may have more anti-racist laws on the books, and surveys might show that white attitudes have changed, but Jim Crow is alive and well in the land of the free (defined in GOP-speak as freedom to slash the social safety net to shreds and along with it, millions of "disposable people.")

Black people have taken the brunt of the economic pain since the great 2008 meltdown. They are at least three times as likely to be poor, they earn at least 40% less than whites and their average net worth is about an eighth that of whites. This is true in all the states. In Blue New York, for example, Blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites, and Black infant mortality rates are more than double those of whites.

There are currently more Blacks imprisoned in America than there were enslaved in the decade before the civil war. A study by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement reveals that one Black person is killed by a security officer or a vigilante every single day in this country. A less racist nation?

If anything, "we" are a more racist nation. I hope that the "tear down this Confederate flag" community spirit catches fire. I hope that revelations that the same white supremacist hate group which inspired Dylann Roof also funds certain GOP candidates result in more than the usual "national conversation."

Lectures by well-meaning experts to be patient, that things will improve "over time" are wearing pretty thin. The time for change is now. It's getting desperate out there.
** When Roof was arrested, police records indicated a middle name of "Storm." However, as a reader points out, there seems to be no proof on a birth certificate or other document that the moniker is official.  It seems likely that the neo-Nazi sounding appellation was self-bestowed. Therefore, I crossed out that part of my post about the parents giving him that name. There's still so much that we don't know about his upbringing, etc.


annenigma said...

More excellent writing. Thank you Karen.

This week President Obama made a statement then refined it later. First he said no other country in the developed world had these kinds of violent incidents, clearly forgetting Anders Breveik. He then followed later by trying to clarify that all countries have violent and sick individuals but only ours is awash in guns, clearly forgetting all the countries we/he is shipping arms by the gunboat-load.

How could Dear Leader have forgotten his role as Commander in Chief of the biggest, baddest military and distributor of the largest arms supply on the face of the earth? Countries are awash in guns and various other forms of weaponry that are are paid for by U.S. taxpayers and given away under various forms and guises of 'foreign aid', aka corporate welfare for the Military-Industrial Complex.

President Obama has 'blind eyes that do not see the world's fear and agony', and 'deaf ears that the still sad music of humanity never comes', and 'deadened nerves and unsanitized conscience'. Professor Luccock could have been describing the future U.S. President and representative of Americanism, Barack Obama.

President Obama likes to remind us how 'Exceptional' we are as a country, but when we prove our exceptionalism with violence at home and abroad, he makes it sound like a bad thing. Well, to some of us Americans and most of the rest of the world, the USA really is an exceptional country in aberrant and anomalous ways that are the opposite of good. Obama forgets too many things that don't fit his worldview as Emperor. Too bad he doesn't recall the Triplets of Evil identified by MLK: Militarism, Racism, and Materialism.

I'll start believing anyone is serious about violence and gun control when they start showing some concern about the violence we perpetrate and the weaponry we purvey all over the world while our own country crumbles. Worst of all, this fascist government has destroyed the hope our young people have that things will ever get better - a truly unpardonable sin. So look no further than Washington DC for the source of evil and violence today.

Pope Francis should plan time to perform a mass Exorcism when he comes to Washington this fall.

Pearl said...

Earlier today on CNN one of their women reporters was interviewing 3 people while showing the hordes of people at the church where the killings took place. Two white men and a black man. They all spoke well but when it was the black man's turn, I thought I was listening to Martin Luther King. He spoke of the past and present with such eloquence that it eclipsed the others. I wish they had showed the names of the people when they spoke which is something CNN often omits. All I know is that he mentioned he was 30 years old and connected with an organization I believe was Alliance something.
He represents the hope of the future for blacks and whites and wish I knew who he was as I would have sent in a comment about my admiration and mentioned this was the kind of reporting they needed on CNN. There are many citizens who are beginning to be heard on the issues that keep happening more and more. Hope someone in our group saw this interview and knew who he was. Made my day.

Pearl said...

I appreciated your response to Krugman's 'Slavery's Long Shadow. Even when trying to be kind he exposes his ignorance of the facts. Much of the present day murders by police of African American men and boys has been hidden and only mentioned when riots are occurring as a result. When we bought a modest house to live in during Canada's long winters in Lakeland,Florida in a golf community in l990 when my husband retired, we saw prejudice when an African American family moved in next to us. My husband went out of his way to invite the husband to play golf with him as they were socially shunned and neighbors complained about their presence. As
a result black families were forced to live in specific areas which created a ghetto like atmosphere and a clear divisiveness of black and whites in the city.
But much worse happenings continue to occur much of which never comes to light until a crisis happens.
These problems will never disappear as long as social and financial inequality continues which is a costly burden for everyone.
I am sure Krugman lives in the equivalent of a gated community among upper middle class people including 'acceptable' black families who themselves may look down upon their less than equal brothers.
It is interesting that progressive black leaders are highly critical of Obama and I wonder how this affects future voting for presidential candidates.

Pearl said...

Karen: I hope you saw Paul Cohen's second comment a few down below yours praising your work. A breath of fresh air.

This is the second time I am trying to post this comment as the choices of foods and drinks, etc. is very hard to get right. The numbers choices have to be brought back!

mike roddy said...

Good work, Karen. Contact me if you want to help with a video project.

Pearl said...

Bakari T. Sellers (born September 18, 1984) is a Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing the 90th District since 2006. He was elected in 2006 at the age of 22. He is currently the second youngest member of the South Carolina General Assembly following the election of Boyd Brown from Fairfield County in 2008.

Sellers is also the first vice chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
Sellers has filed to run in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor in 2014.[1]
He is an alumnus of Morehouse College.
He is the son of Gwendolyn Sellers and civil rights activist and professor Cleveland Sellers.

Rep. Sellers was named HBCU Top 30 Under 30,[2] in July 2014


This is the man who so impressed me yesterday speaking out on CNN. I am glad he is a black member of the House of Representatives and will get into higher office.

Presidential material for the future?

Meredith NYC said...

re the obnoxious food and drink, uhg, choices in order to post. I hate them, esp at breakfast time, or any time. I thought they'd gone away. But I found if i just click 1 or 2 pics at random, with half closed eyes, it's an error, and after a few times it gives me the numbers to type in.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen.... to your Krugman comment,

I’m thinking when some whites see those statistics you list for worse black earnings, net worth and unemployment, it only reinforces their negative perceptions. They think it’s all the fault of the minorities, and don’t at all see how our Darwinian policies combine with bias to produce this.

Our media examines the problems and difficulties of minorities, in an effort to bring attention to them as newsworthy. But it’s often constant publicity about how minorities are doing worse than whites. Plus constant crime stat comparisons on the media.

But if the problems are not exposed, nothing would be done. So it’s a delicate situation, where our economic policies make resources hard to get for everybody.

Also the status of middle class racial minorities, with stable families, with good jobs, and doing fairly well, rarely make the news. Only crime is news.
And there’s little socializing between the races, since they live in mostly separate areas. The media’s role in how it presents the races has to be analyzed.

Meanwhile, Sanders says minority youth joblessness is about 50%. This is 30s Depression level, and needs a govt response like Roosevelt, not like Hoover.

Also, as I said to Krugman’s blog.....

We say this issue of race won't go away. But maybe all our wonderful civil rights laws, so hard won, just make us feel better, and pretend, while racism takes more subtle forms.

Before the civil rights laws, we could say the lower socio economic status of blacks was the country's fault. Now with decades of laws in place to ensure equality, some will say the lower income of minorities is their own fault. That's what our civil rights laws have done, for some.

But meanwhile, congress has let corporations pull the rug out from under the majority of working people, with policies on taxes, jobs, wages, unions. Then with fewer resources for all, the right wing will foment class and race hostility.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Gud Lawd, ar oun Govna Nikki Haley decked out in a white suit, she jus toll somebody ta haul down on gmn’t land the Battle Flag of the Confedricy. W’min!

Y’all watch: first, they take ar flag, then they take ar guns.
Gotta put a halt to this. In raction, I predict, people all ovah Dixie be flying the Confedrate Flag frm their windas and frm flagpols on their oun private property. That’ll keep those folks in thr place.

And don’t f’get, we still got ar pledge legiance for the private schools.

“I pledge allegiance to ‘The Blood-Stained Banner’ of the Confederate States of America, and to the spirit of Dixie for which it stands, one South under God, free to do as we damn well please, with liberty and justice for whites only forever.”

Valerie said...

I don't want to beat a dead horse to death but the re-vote on fast tracking the TPP in the Senate is tomorrow.

It is really important that people take the time to call their senators and lodge their distaste for the treaty. From what I can gather, phone calls carry a lot more weight than e-mails so try to call if you can.

My senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, voted with Obama the first time the Senate passed Fast Track but hope springs eternal. Both senators received a lot of flack from their constituents last time and there are things in the straight vote (sans the TAA - aid to workers displaced by the TPP) that could make a difference. I am guessing it is the same for many democratic senators.

Meredith NYC said...

Valerie....I for one can use any updates you care to post, on this long lasting and confusing tpp vote situation. Thanks.

Chet Hump said...

There is still debate on whether or not Roof's middle name is actually Storm. It does not appear in any of his family's ancestry research and some say he adopted the name, more like a screen name to fit his "white power" online presence on sites like (or com, whichever it is). If that is what his folks did name him, nobody knows why yet. CBS news stated he changed it but added no answer as to what is was prior.

Jay–Ottawa said...

File this under ‘Coincidences’

“Police captured the shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, after a 14-hour manhunt, then gave him a bulletproof vest, bought him a hamburger and fries at a Burger King, and locked him in the Charleston County Jail, where Michael Slager, a former police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man earlier this year, is being held. It was reported that an anonymous bomb threat made to Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church, where black and white congregants sang "We Shall Overcome," was made from a telephone in the Charleston County Jail.”

tetris67 said...

dylaan roof is not an example of one "lone wolf", "deranged", "mentally ill" individual with a virulent, murderous racist hate. He IS an example of hate as manifested by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. His is a hate as manifested by Nathan Bedford Forest. His is a hate as manifested by 60+thousands marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1925 hiding under their sheets exalting in their white privilege and perceived supremacy over all POC, Jews and Catholics. And if today they were not subject to immense scorn and danger, I'm sure they want to try a 'million racist march' down Pennsylvania Avenue today.

Dylaan Roof is an example of american racist hate as manifested by old post emancipation proclamation-post civl war Jim Crow laws then and the New Jim Crow laws now.

Dyland Roof is an example of the hate as manifested by Strom Thurmond, Jessie Helms, Harry S. Truman, 1925 he was a dues paying member of the klan, even if he did desegregate the armed forces. Sen. Robert Byrd, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Warren Harding, all Klan members at one time or another in their political careers. David duke speaks today as a manifestation of Dylaan Roof's hate. Stormfront?look it up, der strum.

Dylaan Storm had the permission(paraphrasing original comment)of all these racists from founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson all the way to Michelle Bachmann and thousands of george zimmermans to murder unarmed innocent people and to assassinate a state senator. And with the FBI director afraid to call white terror attacks what they are, it is guaranteed it shall continue

American culture has always given permission to destroy black lives in any manner possible