Posts Tagged ‘Neo-Nazis’


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Of late, critics often accuse Donald Trump and his followers of being a cult. The problem is that they seemingly never define what a cult is, never define the characteristics of a cult, and of course never see how well Trump & co. match such characteristics. It’s time to do so.

Before I began writing AA: Cult or Cure?, I spent well over a year on research, much of it involving religious and political cults. I discovered that all cults, whatever their nature — religious, political, commercial (e.g., multi-level marketing scams) — have many characteristics in common. By the end of my research, I had discovered 23 separate characteristics common in cults; some cults exhibit almost all of them.

(Robert Jay Lifton in his groundbreaking and influential Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism lists eight cult-like characteristics; while I included Lifton’s characteristics in the list I compiled, I strongly believe that his book would have been better if he had included more such characteristics — ones I believe are obvious.)

Let’s see how many of the 23 Trump and his followers exhibit:

1) Religious orientation. Are Trump and his followers religiously based? Yes.

Trump’s core followers are conservative evangelicals. He received the votes of 81% of them in the 2016 election, and that level of support remains virtually unchanged. As well, Trump — who’s about as religious, and has about as much knowledge of the Bible, as the average poodle — routinely panders to evangelicals, flattering them endlessly and doing his best to ram through anti-choice, anti-LGBT judges and repressive, religiously inspired laws.

2) Irrationality. Are Trump and his followers irrational, do they discourage skepticism and rational thinking? Emphatically yes.

Trump and his followers are characterized by their ignorance of and contempt for science and rationality. The examples of this are manifold, with climate-change denial being the most obvious and dangerous. Climate scientists — who arrived at their conclusions through massive, decades-long research and application of the scientific method to the data they’ve gathered — are virtually unanimous in the conclusions that climate change is due to human activity (especially the burning of fossil fuels) and that it’s a dire threat to humanity. Trump and his followers irrationally and dangerously deny this.

3) Dogmatism. Are Trump and his followers dogmatic? Yes in the case of Trump’s followers, no as regards Trump himself.

Trump’s most fervent followers, evangelicals, Bible literalists, are by definition dogmatists. They believe (or at least insist that they believe) that a 3,000-year-old book written by Iron Age slaveholders is inerrant, true in every respect. This leads them to insist on absurdities, such as that the Earth is only 6,000 years old; that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time (or that the devil placed fossils in the earth to mislead humans); that, for that matter, the devil actually exists; that the sun stood still; that a dead man arose after three days and walked out of his tomb . . . The list of dogmatic absurdities goes on and on. In contrast, Trump himself is an amoral opportunist with no apparent beliefs who will say and do anything as long as he thinks it’s in his self-interest to do so.

4) “Chosen People” mentality. Do Trump and his followers have such a mentality? Yes.

Trump’s evangelical supporters routinely and self-flatteringly refer to themselves using terms such as “God’s people,” “the elect,” and “the righteous.” They also consider themselves above other people, especially atheists and muslims, with a great many evangelicals (and other conservative religious folk) saying they would never vote for an atheist or muslim for public office. Trump himself is a very privileged rich kid with a massive sense of entitlement. He was a schoolyard bully as a child; he believes he has the right to grope women — and has bragged about that groping; and seems to abuse almost everyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with him. Only someone who thinks he’s better than other people, who thinks he’s entitled to do such odious things, would do them. One might also mention “American exceptionalism” here, a belief apparently held by almost all of Trump’s followers and, perhaps, by Trump himself.

5) Ideology above all else. Do Trump and his followers elevate their ideology over experience, observation, and logic? Yes, absolutely.

Again, the most obvious example is climate-change denial. But other examples abound, such as the insistence that grossly ineffective abstinence-only sex “education” is the only type that should be taught in public schools; that a few cells the size of a pinhead are, somehow, a “person” (apparently in the same manner that an acorn is an oak tree); that massive tax cuts for the top 1% are somehow good for the bottom 99%; and that America is the land of “equal opportunity” in the face of gross differences in wealth and income and equally gross differences in the quality of education for the rich and poor.

6) Separatism. Are Trump and his followers separatists? No.

We might be better off if they were. Instead of being separatists, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us through the coercive apparatus of the government.

7) Exclusivity. Do Trump and his followers present themselves as the exclusive holders of the truth. Yes.

Trump’s core evangelical followers, biblical literalists, by definition consider themselves the exclusive holders of the truth. (The same holds for his Mormon and conservative Catholic backers.) Trump, with his constant blather about “fake news,” insistence that he’s the only source of the truth and should always be believed (despite his near-constant and blatant lying), and his bald-faced statement to his followers, “don’t believe what you’re reading or seeing,” is equally if not more guilty of this.

8) Special knowledge. Do Trump and his followers claim to have special knowledge that will only be revealed to the initiated? No.

Not unless you count Trump’s for-profit “university” scam, and that would be a stretch.

9) Mind control. Do Trump and his followers employ mind-control techniques? No.

Even Trump’s most hardcore followers don’t employ mind-control techniques such as sleep deprivation, deliberate near-starvation, hypnotic chanting, and thought-stopping techniques (e.g., reciting a mantra over and over again to ward off unwanted thoughts).

10) Thought-stopping techniques. Do Trump and his followers employ thought-stopping language? Not really. 

The childhood religious indoctrination of Trump’s religious-believer backers (evangelicals, conservative Catholics, Mormons), in which children are routinely warned that doubt comes from the devil (and, from my childhood, that you should pray the rosary to ward off doubt), is as close as you’ll get to thought-stopping language in the Trump movement.

11) Manipulation through guilt. Does Trump manipulate his followers through guilt? No.

Rather, Trump manipulates his followers through fear, hate, bigotry, and scapegoating. His appalling attacks on Mexicans and his fear-mongering about an “invasion” of immigrants is only the most obvious example.

12) The cult of confession. Do Trump and his followers use confession for purification and to tie believers to the movement? No. 

The closest any of Trump’s followers come to this is the practice of conservative Catholics who use that “sacrament” for purification and to tie themselves to the church.

13) A charismatic leader. Is Trump a charismatic leader, and do his followers treat him as one? Clearly, yes. 

I’d use many other terms in place of “charismatic,” but the adoration of the Dear Leader by his glassy-eyed followers is all too obvious. The fact that by their own lights he’s moral garbage matters not a whit to them. Nor do his constant, obvious lies and boasting, frequent self-contradiction, bullying behavior, and shameful self-serving. All too many of Trump’s followers worship him no matter what.

14) Hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Do Trump and his followers belong to a hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Yes, several of them.

First and most obviously, the Republican Party, which has been on a decades-long crusade to restrict individual rights (notably reproductive and LGBT rights), and which has likewise been on a decades-long crusade to entrench itself in power via gerrymandering and voter suppression on a mass scale — that is to entrench itself in power by destroying what passes for American democracy. As well, Trump’s conservative Catholic and Mormon followers (and to a lesser degree the evangelicals) belong to clearly hierarchical, authoritarian — “thou shalt”; “thou shalt not” — religious structures.

15) Submission of the individual to the “will of God” or God’s appointed representatives. Do Trump and his followers insist on such submission? Yes.

Trump, hypocritically so. But all too many of his followers are sincere in wanting to use the coercive apparatus of the state to force everyone to submit to that “will” (as they define it).

16) Self-absorption. Are Trump and his followers self-absorbed? Yes.

Trump’s narcissism and self-absorption could hardly be more obvious. It’s almost equally so with his Republican Party, with its phony, preening nationalism, and its amoral, ends-justify-the-means mentality that pursues permanent entrenchment in power no matter how foul the means nor how much damage to the country. The current attempt to steamroll the installation of a blustering, bullying, highly partisan, alleged (have to get that alleged in there) sexual predator and apparent perjurer on the Supreme Court is only the latest instance of the Republican Party’s self-absorption.

17) Dual purposes. Does the Trump movement have dual purposes, are its real purposes other than those it presents to the publicYes, absolutely.

This is very obvious in very many ways. Trump — who received over $400 million from his dad — presents himself as the champion of the working man, yet he’s intent on squeezing money from the poor and working classes, and what’s left of the middle class, and transferring it to the top. He just gave the largest tax cut in history to (primarily) the top 1%; he opposes raising the federal minimum wage; he opposes labor unions; he and his minions in Congress have partially dismantled Obama’s (grossly inadequate) healthcare plan and have offered nothing to replace it; and he opposes extending Medicare to all Americans, thus ensuring that tens of thousands of poor and working class Americans die from medical neglect annually. His “family values” followers by and large support his vicious policy of ripping apart immigrant families at the border and throwing children into cages. And Trump and those same followers demand “religious freedom” which really means the “freedom” to discriminate against LGBT people in public accommodations. The hypocrisy of Trump and his followers, their “dual purposes,” is simply nauseating.

18) Economic exploitation. Does Trump economically exploit his followers? Yes.

Sometimes directly, as with Trump “University,” more often via government economic and taxation policies which work to the advantage of Trump and his billionaire buddies and against the rest of us.

19) Deceptive recruiting techniques. Do Trump and his Republican Party use deceptive recruiting techniques. Yes.

In addition to hypocritically presenting himself as the working man’s champion, “Cadet Bonespur” Trump presents himself as the embodiment of patriotism. But Trump’s “patriotism” is the exact opposite of real patriotism, which is trying to do what’s best for the country and following one’s own conscience, doing what’s right in the face of disdain and abuse. For Trump and his followers, patriotism seems to consist of making a fetish of the flag (instead of honoring what it supposedly stands for), robotically engaging in submission rituals at the start of baseball and football games, military worship, impugning the patriotism of those with opposing political views, bullying dissenters, and, of course, “patriotic” bumper stickers. One might also mention the deception of Trump and other Republicans in posing as guardians of morality when they themselves are moral sewers.

20) Possessiveness. Does the Trump movement go to great lengths to retain members? No.

Cults often go to great lengths to retain members, doing such things as threatening permanent disconnection of family members who leave the cult. Trump doesn’t do this nor does he advocate it.

21) A closed, all-encompassing environment. Has the Trump movement created such an environment? No.

Many cults (e.g., Rajhneeshees, Branch Davidians, People’s Temple, FLDS) set up isolated environments in which they control all aspects of members’ lives. The closest Trump’s followers come to this is having a single primary news source (Fox News for 60% of them) and being immersed in the Facebook echo chamber where they hear almost nothing but views they already agree with. But this is a far, far cry from Jonestown.

22) Millenarianism. Does Trump prophesy the end of the world? No.

The closest he comes is dire warnings about what will happen if the Republicans lose power. But some of his followers, hardcore evangelicals, do prophesy that the end is near and are actively trying to bring about Armageddon (through enthusiastic support of Israeli militarism and expansionism) so as to usher in “the rapture.” Still, Trump is definitely not a millenarian himself.

23) Violence, coercion, and harassment. Do Trump and his followers engage in or encourage these things? Yes.

Recall Trump’s remarks that some of the murderous neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Then recall his attacks on the press as “enemies of the people” and his encouragement of violence against protesters at his rallies. Then recall the huge uptick in racist violence by his alt-right/neo-Nazi supporters since he took office. Finally, let’s not forget that some of Trump’s “right to life” supporters routinely stalk, harass, threaten, and occasionally bomb or shoot abortion providers.

IN CONCLUSION

So, do Trump and his followers constitute a cult? Many of the cults I studied while researching AA: Cult or Cure? exhibit almost all of the above characteristics: the Moonies 22 out of the 23; the Church of Scientology and People’s Temple 21 of the 23; and Synanon 20 of the 23. In contrast, community-based Alcoholics Anonymous only exhibits 11 of the 23, “institutional” AA  (the 12-step treatment industry, which I dubbed “Cult Lite”) exhibits 16 of the 23, and the Trump movement exhibits 13 of the 23, so it’s not entirely accurate to say that the Trump movement is a full-blown cult, though it does have distinct cult-like tendencies. However, and disturbingly, almost all of the cult-like tendencies exhibited by Trump and his followers are also characteristic of fascist movements.


With the events in Charlottesville still fresh in our minds, and with seemingly daily confrontations between neo-Nazis and anti-racists, the information and analysis Keith McHenry presents below couldn’t be more timely. It’s a reasonable bet to assume that the FBI will focus more on anti-racists than on white supremacists and neo-Nazi domestic terrorists, and will attempt to entrap anti-racists.

Even if the FBI, by some miracle, focuses on alt-right thugs, it’s still a certainty that they’ll continue to infiltrate leftist groups and will continue to attempt to entrap activists. If you’re a left political activist, please read on and understand what we’re up against.

Dummy 3 flat 72-small

(The following piece is from The Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe — an actual cookbook written by anarchists which includes accurate information about anarchism and “recipes” for social change.)

* * *

How to Avoid FBI Entrapment

by Keith McHenry

The government wastes millions, probably tens of millions, of dollars annually spying on and disrupting the anarchist movement. It wouldn’t waste all that money trying to stop us if it wasn’t worried that we might inspire resistance.

Even though most anarchists are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and many participate in useful projects such as infoshops, bicycle co-ops, and the sharing and growing of food, the police, state agencies, federal agencies, and military intelligence units in the United States routinely infiltrate anarchist groups, and government provocateurs have repeatedly attempted to entrap activists. For the most part, they’ve failed at that.

But unfortunately some activists have not only been arrested, but have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to years in prison.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies can and do frame or entrap anarchists to devastating effect, so it is important to do all you can to reduce the possibility of being set up on phony “terrorism” or other charges. Not only could you be removed from the community for many years, your family and friends would suffer through your ordeals in court and through the pain of knowing you are in prison. Defense activities also siphon off huge amounts of energy, time, and resources from the good work of building a better world.

Still it is not always possible to avoid being the target of the authorities, so take precautions to limit the damage if the state seeks to silence you. Taking actions that you can be proud of may be the most important single thing you can do. Think of the consequences of your acts. How will you feel if someone is injured or killed because of something you did? Could your actions be used to discredit the movement? Could they add to the divisions, fear, and paranoia in the community?

Don’t think that you can get away with risky, pointless actions. You’re not clairvoyant. The government targets even the most peaceful groups (including Quaker groups)  through its use of informers and provocateurs, and surveillance is unrelenting and omnipresent. So what can you do beyond carefully considering your actions and doing only things you feel good about?
You can take some simple steps to reduce the possibility of being arrested and prosecuted on phony charges. When people talk or joke about taking up arms, trashing communities, or bombing or burning down some place, speak loudly about how you would never participate in any action that could injure someone.

The fact that we know that we are not considering acts of terrorism can cause us to make light of statements about arson, bombings, and rock throwing, but the FBI and Homeland Security have sent infiltrators to political meetings to talk about using violence or property destruction, or initiated conversations while being wired to record conversations. Months later, out-of-context statements can appear as evidence that anarchists were plotting acts of terrorism. When the cases get to court, prosecutors and the media can point out that the accused activists didn’t object to the comments made by the informants, “proving” their guilt.

You can minimize the success of the state in harming you and your efforts by making it clear that you are not going to participate in acts of violence or destructive sabotage. (They’re not the same: violence involves damage to people or animals; sabotage involves—sometimes, not always—damage to property.) If you are planning to damage property, consider making your intentions clear in advance by offering a public explanation of your actions. Examples could include pulling up genetically modified crops or dismantling the separation wall in Palestine, actions designed to stop an egregious harm. At the same time you can refrain from giving the exact time or location of your plans so that the authorities will have at least some difficulty blocking your actions. While you may still be accused of taking part in a “terrorist” plot, you will have much more popular support, and you’ll make the authorities’ “terrorism” accusations less credible.

You can make your positions clear in your literature, statements to the media, at meetings, social gatherings, and during informal conversations. If people are joking about using violence or talking about the virtues of acts that could injure or kill people, it is wise to make several statements making it clear that you will not engage in any kind of violent activity. Point out that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and that anyone considering any other strategies or methods should talk elsewhere.

It once was possible to use the defense of entrapment, but that is no longer the case. Vice News contributor Natasha Lennard’s article, “The Line Between FBI Stings and Entrapment Has Not Blurred, It’s Gone,” makes this quite clear.

In her introduction to the Human Rights Watch report, “Illusions of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” Andrea Prasow said that “Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US . . . But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.” While this report focuses on the entrapment and framing of people in the Muslim community, anarchists in the United States have also been targeted, as described in the report.

Natasha Lennard writes:

Since 9/11, Muslims in the US have been the focus of major counterterror stings. But other groups have been caught in the net where sting meets entrapment. A small group of self-identified anarchists in Cleveland were all convicted and sentenced to around 10 years in prison for allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge in Ohio. But an FBI infiltrator provided the target and the fake C-4 explosives. Rick Perlstein wrote of the case in Rolling Stone, ‘the alleged terrorist masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage.

The case of entrapment in Cleveland provides concrete examples of what activists should watch out for. The FBI sent an informant, Shaquille Azir or “Kalvin Jackson,” to the kitchen at Occupy Cleveland on October 21, 2011, seeking to build a relationship with some of the cooks.
FBI Special Agent Ryan M. Taylor filed Federal Complaint 1:12-mj-3073 regarding the matter. The government presented it at the defendants’ May 1, 2012 arraignment; it details how the entrapment worked. It’s a stark warning to anyone who might be a target of the FBI. In sections 8 and 9, the FBI admits to using a Confidential Human Source (CHS) and Undercover Employee (UCE) to encourage acts of terrorism:

8. The (CHS) Confidential Human Source hereinafter has been working as a source for the FBI since July 20, 2011. The CHS has a criminal record including one conviction for possession of cocaine in 1990, one conviction for robbery in 1991, and four convictions for passing bad checks between 1991 and 2011. The CHS is currently on probation in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties for passing bad checks. Since July 20, 2011, the CHS has been paid approximately $5,750 for services and $550 for expenses, the CHS has not been paid since beginning her/his probation.

9. The (UCE) Undercover Employee has been employed by the FBI for over 15 years and has been working in an undercover capacity for 10 years. The UCE has received ongoing training in conducting undercover investigations and has participated in dozens of investigations in an undercover capacity.

Section 12 suggests the FBI was seeking anarchists to frame at Occupy Cleveland.

12. Based on an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists who would be attending an event held by a protest group, the Cleveland FBI directed the CHS to attend that event. On October 21, 2011, at approximately 6:30 pm, and while the CHS was attending the event, the CHS identified four suspicious males with walkie-talkie radios around their necks. Three of the four men had masks or something covering their faces; one male did not. The men were wearing black or dark colored shirts, had black backpacks, carried the anarchist flags and acted differently than the other people in attendance.

Section 29 shows that informant Shaquille Azir was recording meetings for the FBI and claimed that one of those targeted, Michael Wright, had talked of making smoke bombs from a recipe taken from the William Powell book titled The Anarchist Cookbook (NOT this Anarchist Cookbook).

(In a separate case, according to a terrorism complaint filed in Brooklyn in April 2015, FBI informants provided Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas with copies of the Powell book on November 2, 2014, circling the types of bombs the government thought would help build their case.)

29. On March 22, 2012, the CHS was provided a body recorder [and] consensually recorded a meeting between the CHS and WRIGHT. In sum and substance, WRIGHT described using an upcoming festival as an opportunity to create a civil distraction in order to commit a larger act of violence. WRIGHT also discussed making smoke bombs and other explosive destructive devices using the ‘Anarchist Cookbook,’ a book that describes the construction and use of weapons and explosives. The following are some of the relevant excerpts from that conversation:

Sections 97 and 98 show that phone calls and conversations were recorded a couple of days before the FBI-engineered May Day fake bombing:

97. On April 29, 2012, the UCE recorded a telephone call with WRIGHT. In sum and substance WRIGHT said that he would call the UCE around 1:30 pm to give the UCE the exact meeting location, however it was in the Warrensville Heights, Ohio area.

98. On April 29, 2012, the CHS was provided with a body recorder and consensually recorded a meeting with the UCE and WRIGHT, BAXTER, and HAYNE.

In Section 110 of the federal complaint, the FBI admits that the alleged criminal activity that they were investigating amounted to no more than “smoke grenades and destruction of signage on buildings in downtown Cleveland”:

110. WRIGHT recruited BAXTER, C.S. and the CHS to participate in some form of direct action, initially involving smoke grenades and destruction of signage on buildings in downtown Cleveland;” Erick Trickey of Cleveland Magazine noted that defendant Connor Stevens expressed support for nonviolent direct action.

On a Saturday in April, about three weeks before his arrest, Stevens served dinner in Market Square with Food Not Bombs. He got talking with fellow volunteer Aidan Kelly about Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which an American joins the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War to fight a fascist uprising, and is assigned to dynamite a bridge. “I remember distinctly talking about his ideas about pacifism,” Kelly says. He and Stevens agreed that movements such as Food Not Bombs offered a better alternative for creating social change than violence.

Trickey writes of the first meeting of Stevens and co-defendant Brandon Baxter, a meeting like those you may have had if you travel in anarchist circles.

At Food Not Bombs last year, Stevens met another young anarchist, Brandon Baxter, as intense and passionate as Stevens was cerebral.

The 19-year-old Lakewood High graduate’s influences weren’t long-dead, bearded writers, but websites ranging from the far right (the conspiracy-minded InfoWars) to the far left (the Anonymous “hacktivist” movement). He embraced Food Not Bombs with gusto, screaming “Free food!” across Market Square when dinner was ready.

Yet the FBI claims that Wright downloaded Powell’s version of the Anarchist Cookbook with the purpose of making a bomb, which would have been a good trick given that to all appearances Powell’s book has never been sold in e-book format.

111. WRIGHT repeatedly asserted he downloaded the ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ in an attempt to learn how to make explosives including constructing plastic explosives from bleach and other household items; . . .

The complaint finally shows that the FBI was moving their own plot along by providing the defendants with phony C4.

112. When presented with the opportunity to purchase C4, WRIGHT and BAXTER met with an individual offering it for sale;

Michael Winter of USA Today reported that “Three self-described anarchists were sentenced to prison Tuesday for trying to blow up a highway bridge between Cleveland and Akron using dummy explosives provided by an undercover FBI agent.”

Ed Meyer of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote that “U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd, Jr. rejected the government’s insistence that the defendants get 30 years in prison and instead gave Douglas L. Wright 11½ years, Brandon L. Baxter nine years and nine months and Connor C. Stevens eight years and one month.”

Both of Stevens’ parents, James and Gail Stevens, lashed out at the government’s actions.

“My son is guilty, and so are you!” James Stevens told federal prosecutor Duncan Brown at one point. Gail Stevens called her son “my hero,” said she loved him with all her heart, and that he never would have acted as he did if not for the provocateur.

The entrapment of the young Occupy anarchists in Cleveland was the most dramatic attempt to discredit the Occupy movement. And it worked—with the help of some protesters who played into the hands of the police.

Efforts to re-energize the movement failed as the media reported on a wave of Occupy-related violence. Reuters reported:

Occupy Wall Street protesters smashed windows in Seattle, fled police on scooters through the streets of New York, and clashed with officers in Oakland on Tuesday in a May Day effort to revive the movement against economic injustice with demonstrations around the United States. . . .

New York police reported 10 instances of harmless white powder—apparently meant to raise an anthrax scare—being mailed to financial institutions and others . . .

In Seattle, some 50 black-clad protesters marched through downtown, carrying black flags on sticks they used to shatter the windows of several stores including a Nike Town outlet and an HSBC bank before police moved them out of the area. Others smashed windows at a Seattle federal building, and swarms of demonstrators gathered in an open-air plaza.

May 2012 was not the first time authorities used an alleged May Day bomb plot to discredit anarchists. Chicago police, seeking to stop the movement for an eight-hour workday, attacked a peaceful rally in May 1886. A bomb was set off and police shot into the rally in what has become known as the Haymarket massacre. The bomber was never identified and the government provided no evidence linking them to the bombing, yet anarchists August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, and Albert Parsons were accused of the bombing, convicted, and executed.

Historians James Joll and Timothy Messer-Kruse claim the evidence points to Rudolph Schnaubelt, brother-in-law of Michael Schwab, as the likely bomber. Howard Zinn, in A People’s History of the United States also indicates it was Schnaubelt, suggesting “he was a provocateur, posing as an anarchist, who threw the bomb so police would have a pretext to arrest leaders of Chicago’s anarchist movement.”

Spies would later testify, “I was very indignant. I knew from experience of the past that this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight-hour movement.”

That was in the 19th century. The government has been framing, imprisoning, and occasionally murdering anarchists ever since.

But you’re not powerless. You can take some simple steps to protect yourself from being arrested, charged, and convicted of planning or participating in acts of terrorism. The FBI and Homeland Security have sent infiltrators to our meetings to talk about using violence. The authorities will often attempt to give the impression in affidavits or typed memos that someone other than their informant or undercover officer made statements advocating violence, and imply that everyone participating in the discussion supported its use.

One of the most successful strategies used by the FBI is to have those infiltrating joke about the use of violence. When the words they used become the text in memos or court filings, they’re out of context, they no longer seem humorous, and can be presented as a serious conversation supporting the use of violence. Since those participating in such conversation consider the statements nothing more than an awkward attempt to be humorous or fit in with the group, no one thinks to make it clear that they don’t intend to participate in a violent action. Months later, out-of-context statements can appear as evidence that anarchists were plotting acts of terrorism. Even if you state clearly that it is not appropriate to talk or joke about violence, you can still be arrested and tried, but you will greatly reduce that possibility if you do speak up.

Activists have been charged as terrorists after getting a ride home with people that turned out to be infiltrators. After dropping off their passengers, provocateurs and those they’re setting up have burned down buildings or torched vehicles. The fact that you were seen getting into the informant’s vehicle before the act of alleged terrorism happened can provide the evidence needed to accuse you of taking part. The FBI and their informants are not always honest, and may choose not to mention that you were not at the scene of the crime, even though they can honestly say you got into a vehicle with the arsonist. Sometimes federal prosecutors have been able to get convictions simply because the set-up activists were intimidated into not expressing their dedication to nonviolence, fearing that they would be accused of being “weak” and not serious about social change, the well-being of animals, or the environment. Both provocateurs and holier-than-thou true believers use such fears to manipulate people into saying or doing things they would never otherwise say or do. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into silence. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into saying or doing things that could land you in prison.

The first step is to make it clear that you are not going to participate in acts of violence or destructive sabotage. You can make this clear in your literature, statements to the media, at meetings, social gatherings and during informal conversations. If people are joking about using violence or talking about the virtues of acts that could injure or kill people, it is wise to make several statements making it clear that you will not engage in any kind of violent activity. Point out that you are dedicated to nonviolence and that anyone considering any other strategies or methods should meet elsewhere. To help protect your friends you might also point out that it is very unlikely that such plans could be concealed from the government. As you can see in the Cleveland case, otherwise innocent conversations can be recorded and provide support for prosecution.

Another step you can take is to include statements about nonviolence in your literature about any direct action you might be planning or supporting. On occasion, the media and prosecutors will claim that our literature didn’t make any mention that our protests would be nonviolent, and use that as “proof” we are terrorists. If your group is planning an action, you can protect yourself by including explicit language about nonviolence in your publications. This can be difficult when working in coalition with groups that might not share our principles of nonviolence, but you could publish your own literature on the action. Don’t be intimidated into remaining silent on the issue of violence. It isn’t necessary to exclude reference to nonviolent direct action just because people are arguing in support of a “diversity of tactics.” You may initiate a pledge of nonviolence for the campaign you are supporting and organize nonviolence training sessions. Nonviolent resistance is every bit as valid as other methods and is often more effective.

Nonviolent direct action, noncooperation, and nonviolent resistance can be very empowering. It takes courage to organize and participate in campaigns of nonviolent struggle. Nonviolent struggle can build trust between participants and the public. Campaigns of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience can be so effective that governments and corporations will try anything to push our movement into adopting violent tactics. That is one reason groups like Food Not Bombs have been the focus of infiltration and why the authorities rely on agents provocateur to reduce the impact of nonviolence, while sowing fear and alienation.

Don’t let people intimidate you into silence. People can make comments about nonviolent activists being “wimps” or “pussies,” that nonviolence never works, or that you are not really committed to change if you aren’t willing to use sabotage or violence. You might even hear that nonviolence is racist because people of color “have to take up arms,” and that white, first-world people have the luxury to use nonviolence. Infiltrators or government agents may be talking to some of your friends at cafes, clubs, or other public locations, promoting the idea that armed resistance or arson is the only solution. Honest discussion of all tactics and methods, including types of violence, is fine, but make it clear that you and your group are dedicated to nonviolence.

At the same time, it is not wise to make claims of infiltration or accuse someone of being an informant. It is best to not worry about infiltration and to stay focused on the work of your organization. Just take the simple precautions of asking that any discussions of violent tactics take place somewhere other than at public meetings, make it clear you are dedicated to nonviolence; and make that plain in your publications and through organizing nonviolence trainings. If you do this, attempts to convict you on terrorism charges will likely fail, and the fear and mistrust that so often destroy movements will be defused. The government can use the fear of infiltration as a way of destroying trust in your community. Don’t accuse people—just be careful about what you say and do.

You can make sure you and your friends will not fall prey to the government’s efforts to disrupt your work. First, stay focused on the fundamentals of your project or campaign. Don’t feel guilty about refusing to take violent action. Since the world is facing so many dire crises, it might seem rational to consider arson or other acts deemed violent by the corporate state, but these tactics often backfire. They can cause the public to withdraw any support they may have had for your cause. The use of violence also breeds distrust among activists, because of the secrecy involved. But as we have learned from Ed Snowden and other whistle blowers, it is nearly impossible to have secrets in the United States. According to the Washington Post, over eighty billion dollars is spent each year on government and corporate spying.

A campaign of violence would add to the disempowerment in our community and scare the public into greater support of the authorities. If you feel you must investigate tactics that include violent action, ask yourself whether such tactics will do more harm than good for you personally and for the cause you support. Are you really ready to live fearing capture? How will you feel if your friends spend their lives in prison while you’re all portrayed as dangerous and crazy? Will your actions really inspire the public to rise up and save the earth? How will you feel if you kill someone or if one of your friends is killed? Can you really see yourself coordinating a campaign of bombings, arson, shootings? How will you feel spending the rest of your life in prison, seeing the stress this puts on your family and friends?

While it is possible you could spend decades in prison for taking nonviolent direct action, you are likely to feel more empowered and have wider support on the outside than if you were imprisoned for violent acts. Unlike people who are doing life in prison for bombings or shootings, if you are sentenced to a long prison term for organizing or participating in a campaign of nonviolent direct action and noncooperation, you have a much greater chance of inspiring popular support, possibly achieving your political or environmental goals, and of leaving prison before your sentence is up.

In addition, mass nonviolent direct action based on a thoughtful strategy is more likely to be effective. Agents provocateur encourage drastic actions, knowing we are knowledgeable about environmental and economic threats. If pressured, you can remind your friends that many of the anarchists in prison were framed for “terrorist” acts and that as anarchists we are dedicated to nonviolent direct action.

Along with making it clear you are not going to be silent when people suggest using violence, you may want to organize nonviolence preparations, trainings or workshops with your friends or organizations. Suggest that your community study the history of nonviolent direct action in books by people such as Emma Goldman, Erica Chenoweth, Gene Sharp, Martin Luther King Jr., and others who experienced first hand the power of noncooperation and nonviolence.

Again, be concerned about jokes concerning violence. If people joke about armed revolution, bombings, rock throwing or other acts of violence, make it clear that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and ask them to stop. You might remind your friends that conversations and jokes about using violence have resulted in activists being framed and sentenced to long prison terms. Terms sometime decades long. The activists that are joking about violence or making statements about the need to use violence are not necessarily infiltrators or police agents, so don’t make any accusations. They may have been influenced by someone they met or may have read some of the many books romanticizing violence. It is best not to worry and to stay focused on the work of your group. The government can use the fear of infiltration as a way of destroying trust in your community. Again, simply remind your friends that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and that we don’t joke or talk about taking violent action.

While armed resistance has worked to overthrow governments and change the power structure of some countries, in virtually every case the system that resulted continued to use violence to retain its authority. That is the exact opposite of what anarchists are seeking: a society free of coercion, exploitation and domination. Nonviolent social change offers the clearest route there.

* * *

Keith McHenry is the author of Hungry for Peace: How You Can Help End Poverty and War with Food Not Bombs.

hungry

 


Over the last week, we’ve seen several violent clashes between Nazis and counterprotesters. (Nazis might call themselves “alt-right,” “white separatists,” etc. Rather than give any credence to such rebranding, we’re calling them what they are: Nazis.)

It’s necessary to resist these losers, these tools of the powers that be. Violent defense of self and others is perfectly justified to repel physical attack.

But physically attacking people who are merely exercising free speech, no matter how loathsome, is never justified.

Last night, I saw a video of antifa protesters physically attacking Nazi organizer Richard Spencer, who was standing before microphones answering reporters’ questions. I was horrified on several counts:

  • Either you believe in free speech or you don’t. The principle of free speech applies to even the most loathsome speech — especially to the most loathsome speech. Once you start making exceptions for speech you really hate, it’s a very slippery slope to banning speech that anyone really hates, in which case freedom of speech vanishes. (“Anyone” here applies to any individual, group, or organization with the physical power to intimidate or beat others into silence.)

Another antifa protestor provided exactly the justification you’d expect for the assault on free speech, labeling it “violent speech,” saying that it was too “dangerous” to be allowed. (Speech is speech. Violence — physical attack on people or animals — is violence. These two wildly different things are not the same, and mere conflation of the two is not a convincing argument that they are.)

This is a broken record, the same rationale cited by every thug and bully since time immemorial who wants to deny others the right to free speech.

To bolster their position, one half expects antifas to begin citing the ancient half-witticism by authoritarian jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. concerning “yelling fire in a crowded theater.” (Again, political speech is political speech; yelling fire isn’t — short of transubstantiation, it’s impossible to make the two identical.)

  • The antifa protestors physically attacking Spencer do not understand the most basic anarchist principle: The ends do not justify the means; rather, means determine ends. If you employ violent, authoritarian means, you’ll achieve violent authoritarian ends. In this case, the attacking antifas abrogated to themselves the right to determine what others can say. This is straight up authoritarianism.

Beyond that, there’s the simple matter of optics.

  • The video of the attack was shocking and repulsive. How in hell did those guilty of the assault expect people who witnessed the assault to react to it? “Good for you! A group of you beat up an unarmed man to prevent him from speaking! What a display of principles!”

As others have pointed out, such assaults give the moral high ground to the Nazis — the only moral high ground they can claim. Those who attacked Spencer achieved the near impossible: making a Nazi appear sympathetic.

In a related matter, I saw an interview with an antifa protestor blithely talking about deliberate property destruction during demonstrations. Yes, yes, yes, property is just property, vandalism and sabotage are not violence because they’re directed against things, not people or animals. Agreed.

But again, don’t they understand the optics?

When people see protesters smashing in the windows of, for instance, a Starbucks, it’s a fair bet that a good majority of them won’t say to themselves, “Another inspiring blow against global capitalism!” It seems more likely that they’ll say, “Why the tantrum? Why don’t they just grow up?”

An important matter here that no one seems to be talking about is that such property destruction is not a sign of strength; not a sign of good planning; not a sign of the organization necessary to the free, egalitarian reorganization of society.

Rather, wanton property destruction is a sign of weakness.

Real revolutionary change involves taking over existing structures (including physical structures) and transforming them, not wantonly trashing them — which is a sign that you’re letting off steam because you have no idea of how to get from here to there, no idea of how to get from this authoritarian, racist, sexist, exploitative society to the the society that you say you want.

Again — and it shouldn’t be necessary to say this — defending yourself and others from violent assault from fascists is completely justified.

But don’t confuse that with suppressing free speech.

Please realize that the ends do not justify the means. Means determine ends.


Words are cheap. Especially the words of politicians denouncing bigotry and racism. Anyone, no matter how bigoted and racist they in fact are, can denounce bigotry and racism.

What matters is action. What you say is far less important than what you do.

Republicans have loudly and publicly denounced racism of late. But let’s take a look at what Republicans have done over the last half-century.

Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — noted optimist Lyndon B. Johnson said the Democrats would lose the South to the Republicans for “a generation” — the Republican Party adopted its “southern strategy,” pandering to racist southern whites who fled the Democratic Party in the wake of the Civil Rights Act.

At about the same time, Richard Nixon, according to former top aide, John Ehrlichman, proclaimed the disastrous “war on drugs,” which has devastated millions of American lives, as a way of targeting “blacks and hippies” without appearing overtly racist.

One particularly egregious aspect of that “war,” instituted under Ronald Reagan, was the disproportionately vicious penalties for possession and sale of crack cocaine (used predominately by blacks) versus the penalties for possession and sale of rock (powder) cocaine (predominately used by whites).

To mask their racism, Republicans have routinely used, and continue to use, “dog whistle” code words that racists understand to refer to blacks and hispanics: “law and order,” “tough on crime,” “coddling criminals,” “welfare queens,” “welfare cheats,” “zero tolerance,” “super predators,” “illegal aliens,” etc., etc. Through use of these and similar terms, Republican politicians can pander to racists — who recognize the users of these terms as kindred spirits — without appearing overtly racist themselves.

And last but not least, Republicans have for decades been attempting to make it more difficult for poor working people — disproportionately black and hispanic — to vote.

  • They’re dead set on keeping voting on Tuesday, a work day, which makes it inconvenient for working people to vote.
  • They’ve also reduced early voting, notably in North Carolina, which again makes it less convenient for working people to vote.
  • They’ve restricted the number of polling places in black and hispanic areas in several states, notably Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida, making people wait hours to vote, and outright stopping others, who can’t wait, from voting.
  • They and their propaganda outlet, Fox “News,” have created the myth of voter fraud at the ballot box (while all but ignoring the very real problem of easily hacked electronic voting machines) in order to place unnecessary burdens on low-income voters. The most prominent burden is voter i.d. laws in over half the states, which make it inconvenient for the poor (again, disproportionately black and hispanic), who often have to rely on public transit and pay fees, to obtain the necessary i.d.
  • They’ve purged voter rolls in several states resulting in the disenfranchisement of at minimum tens, more likely hundreds, of thousands of eligible voters. A voter purge in Florida in 2000, targeting black voters, was almost certainly responsible for the election of George W. Bush.
  • They’ve engaged in wholesale racial gerrymandering to reduce the influence of black and hispanic voters. There’s nothing subtle about the way this works. The GOP, which has controlled redistricting in most states since 2010, packs black voters (and here in the Southwest, hispanics) into a few overwhelmingly black or hispanic districts, thus diluting their influence in other districts that would, but for the gerrymandering, be in play. The Supreme Court recently ruled that such gerrymandering in two congressional districts in North Carolina is unconstitutional, which one hopes is a sign of things to come.

In the wake of the Charlottesville domestic terrorism incident, some GOP elected officials are denouncing, or at least distancing themselves from, Donald Trump’s racist apologetics.

Yet virtually all of them, from state representatives to U.S. senators, have engaged in and supported the cynical, anti-democratic, racist activities and practices outlined above.

Judge for yourself how sincere they are.


Amidst the weeping, wailing, and grinding of molars over Donald Trump’s victory, there are some reasons for optimism. Yes, there’s a lot to fear, and Trump and his extreme right cohorts will do a lot of damage–notably to the environment and reproductive rights–but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic:

  • Trump’s election has energized the left more than anything since Occupy Wall Street in 2011. There are demonstrations and myriad organizing efforts all across the country, and they don’t seem to be slowing down.
  • A Republican is inciting the left, and it’s probable that this time the Democrats, locally and nationally, won’t conspire with the FBI and corporate security firms to destroy a dissident movement — as they did in 2011/2012 when they were complicit in suppressing the Occupy movement. They’ll try to co-opt the emerging movement, but they probably won’t try to destroy it.
  • The corporate-lackey, identity-politics Democrats’ quadrennial good cop / bad cop blackmailing of the public didn’t work. They found the one candidate who could lose to Trump: a widely disliked corporatist synonymous with the status quo; they rigged the primary process to ensure her nomination, expecting that the Republican nominee would be so odious that they could cram their candidate down our throats. They were wrong. They’re now trying to divert attention from their culpability by blaming voters, pointing to “racism” and “misogyny” as the reasons for the electoral disaster they engineered. But a lot of people are finally wising up to their extortion tactics and realizing that the corporate Democrats are not the friends of working people.
  • As a result of the corporatists’ arrogance, bungling, and all-too-obvious ethical bankruptcy, there’s a real chance that “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will seize control of that party. I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but for the first time in decades there’s a real possibility that it will.
  • The Democrats might start opposing mass surveillance, erosion of civil liberties, and persecution of whistle blowers. Most of them abetted Obama in his assaults on whistle blowers and civil liberties, and his continuation of the mass surveillance begun under Bush. Now, they might show what passes for spine.
  • The alt-right is small and fractured. Current Klan membership is estimated at 5,000 to 8,ooo, and the largest neo-Nazi group in the country, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), has an estimated 400 members. In the 1920s, the Klan had at least 3,000,000 members and perhaps twice that. Taking population growth into account, that would equate to at least 9,000,000 members today. In the 1930s there was a plethora of openly fascist and pro-Nazi groups in the U.S. Just one of them, the German-American Bund, had at least 8,000 members, twenty times the membership of the NSM.
  • Alt-right members will continue to commit horrific hate crimes, but the alt-right is not a great national threat. Had the corporate Democrat won the presidential election, and predictably done next to nothing while public anger and hunger for change grew, it would have provided four more years for the alt-right to grow and metastasize.
  • We lived through eight years of Bush; we can live through four years of Trump.