Union-busting: First as tragedy, then as [fart]

Welcome back to The Long Version, a newsletter by Jonathan M. Katz.

Some of you know, but others mercifully don’t, a website called Barstool Sports. Nominally a sports news blog, it proudly cultivates the atmosphere of a frat house living room the morning after several Class C felonies were committed.

Its founder, Dave Portnoy, made a business model out of being an ass. His site got early notoriety for posting naked pictures of quarterback Tom Brady’s infant son and joking about the size of his penis. He announced before a planned forty-city party tour: “I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties … However, if a chick passes out, that’s a gray area though.”

Tucker Carlson called Barstool “the internet’s greatest website.”

I’m boring you with this because, this week, Portnoy did a cannonball into the world of labor law. The founder had caught wind that the staff of a rival sports site, The Ringer, was planning to form a union.

Portnoy, who posts as “El Presidente” (Twitter bio: “Worshipped like a 3rd world dictator (sic)”), re-upped a fantasy he’d written in 2015:

“BAHAHA! I hope and I pray that Barstool employees try to unionize. I can’t tell you how much I want them to unionize. Just so I can smash their little union to smithereens … Oh you think you deserve health insurance? You don’t think you should have to work with squirrels in the office? You don’t think I should duct tape Hank to the walls? Well now yis can’t leave! No more free water! No more vacation days! I’m gonna dump rats into the walls! You haven’t seen anything yet!”

Live Science’s Rafi Letzter, whose newsroom is part of the Writers Guild of America East, replied that Barstool employees interested in banding together for better working conditions should contact him.

Portnoy responded with this:

And with that, the political internet got into formations. The AFL-CIO and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez each noted that Portnoy had likely broken the law. (The Labor Department gestured in support of this reading.)

Donald Trump Jr. squealed with glee.

As with so many things in 2019, this is a stupider version of a movie America has seen before. It’s a movie that, in turn, helped get us to this very stupid time.

The Long Version

Back in the mid-20th Century, before we became a country of Grubhubbing shitposters, Americans made stuff. One of our major products was clothes. And one of the biggest textile bosses was Roger Milliken.

Milliken was the rich son of a rich New England family. They’d gotten their start selling woolen textiles to the Army, but soon branched out, becoming sales agents, Manhattan real estate investors, and owners of a bank and department stores.

During the Great Depression, Roger’s father and uncle also snapped up bankrupt cotton mills across the Carolinas. The mills were located near the fields where poor black sharecroppers often worked the same land their enslaved parents and grandparents had made profitable in the first place.

Cheap labor was what drew the younger Milliken’s attention too. When Roger took over the family company right after World War II, organized labor was mounting a historic wave of national strikes for better wages and conditions. But things were quieter at their mills in the South, where a major CIO organizing effort had just failed.

One reason the unions couldn’t break into Dixie was its plantation-like factory system. Workers lived on remote campuses under constant surveillance, leaving little breathing room for organizing. They also got an embarrassment of benefits, from free healthcare and rental subsidies to free sports equipment. These private welfare fiefdoms built loyalty to the bosses and cultivated a real fear of losing their freebies.

The other reason unions struggled to recruit in the South was white supremacy. Whites had the best jobs in the southern mills. Many preferred to stick with lower wages and worse job security than to join forces with—or end up having to work beside—black colleagues.

The result was that textile wages, already low compared to other forms of manufacturing, were 40 percent lower in the South. When South Carolina declared itself a “Right-to-Work” state (the Orwellian term for laws that strengthen management and weaken labor unions) in 1954, Milliken moved his family and headquarters to the upstate town of Spartanburg.

Soon after arriving, Roger learned an important lesson: Labor organizers can be beaten (often literally, as they had been by southern police and guards during the CIO’s failed effort). But workers’ desire for a better life is hard to wipe out completely.

In March 1956, the Textile Workers Union of America launched a recruitment drive at Milliken’s print cloth plant in Darlington, S.C. Roger started driving back and forth, 140 miles each way, to pressure the workers in person. He threatened to fire anyone who voted to unionize, and protect anyone who voted against it. (There is no record of squirrels or duct tape being involved.)

On Sept. 6, 1956, the plant defied Milliken and voted 256-248 to join the TWUA. Milliken’s board closed the plant and fired everyone, no matter how they’d sided.

It was like dropping a bomb in Darlington, a tiny town where everything depended on the plant. The mayor, who had backed management, was left begging for federal food assistance.

If this sounds familiar, it might be because you read the profile of Roger Milliken I wrote a few years ago. More likely, it’s because of the Supreme Court case that came out of the plant closure. In Textile Workers Union of America v. Darlington Manufacturing Company, the high court ruled that Milliken had violated the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which says bosses can’t “dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization.”

Shutting down part of a business to beat the unions, the court said, is illegal. (If, on the other, hand Milliken had closed everything—all his mills, stores, the bank, etc—the justices said that would have been OK.)

The boss still managed to drag his feet on paying court-ordered restitution until 1980. By then a quarter of the fired workers were dead. Some got as little as $50. For years, union opponents handed out bumper stickers that read: “Remember Darlington.”

Time to Party

Milliken left Darlington with his ego bruised but otherwise just fine. He was born rich and would die richer, his workers’ lives crushed like so many Carolina junebugs under the soles of his brown leather shoes. But he was still livid. He called the Court’s decision “a damaging blow of unprecedented proportions at the economic liberties of American businessmen.”

Instead of fighting the unions in the streets, he would do it with politics. He’d make a party so fiercely anti-union that organized labor wouldn’t stand a chance.

At the time, the Democratic Party still ruled the South, a vestige of the old ex-Confederate faction that had lined up against Lincoln’s Republicans and their efforts at racial justice and economic redistribution.

But with liberal Democrats starting to embrace civil rights as a principle elsewhere, Milliken spotted an opportunity: He would marry the conservative white supremacists in the South with existing conservative Republicans elsewhere.

Milliken convinced Barry Goldwater to run for president on an anti-civil rights platform, and lured his adopted state’s segregationist senator, Strom Thurmond, to the GOP. He helped start the Heritage Foundation. He financed the libertarian seminars Charles Koch attended. And he bankrolled his fellow South Carolina Yalie, William F. Buckley, Jr., to start a new conservative (segregationist) magazine, the National Review.

In 1976, Milliken became an early backer of Ronald Reagan. As president, five years later, Reagan would reduce what was left of the once-powerful labor movement to rubble.

A la mierda el presidente

Milliken died in 2010, believing the Reagan-Bush Republicans had sold him out. Realizing they and their donors could make more from finance than manufacturing, they ended protections for domestic industry. The next generation of capitalists found their cheap, exploitable sources of non-union labor in places like Bangladesh, Mexico, Vietnam, and above all China. Much of the South and Midwest ended up like Darlington: the factory closed, and everyone screwed.

The potent, toxic mix of white supremacy, anti-labor/pro-rich-guy economics, and aggressive tariffs the old textile boss helped concoct finally found their champion in Donald Trump. In places crushed by industry’s flight, left defenseless without the unions that kept their forebearers secure and invented the weekend, angry whites cheer the billionaire huckster as he hurls invective at the places their jobs fled, even as he further impoverishes their towns.

Meanwhile, in in the luxury suite, Trump’s rich friends toast their good fortune.

It’s no surprise that a guy like Portnoy ended up a Trump fan. The two have plenty in common:

Nor is it weird that the president’s eldest failson would love a boss who reacts to the specter of unionization by threatening do dump rats in the walls and fight a Latina congresswoman.

Half a century after Milliken lost to the union and the law at Darlington, the party he built is doing just what he designed it to do.

And now some local business …

Barstool Sports claims it’s worth $100 million. That might be bullshit, but it’s a sign of where the money lies in today’s journalism economy.

Hedge funds and venture capitalists don’t invest in outlets that talk about how power works, like this one. Keeping an independent publication that holds the powerful accountable needs your support. This kind of work—whether it’s traveling to concentration camps in El Paso, accessing archives, or just keeping the lights on—costs money.

The best way you can help is by getting a paid subscription. This is a new, experimental journalism model and it needs you to work. Full subscribers get access to special content and features.

Click the button and find out more:

Jonathan M. Katz is a freelance journalist, author, and national fellow at New America. His next book, Gangsters of Capitalism, will trace the origins and contradictions of American empire. You can find him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth

Let's take the next step

This is something new. It’s a paid subscription button:

Subscribe now!

I started this newsletter three months ago with a problem and an idea. The problem: The world is insane.

The idea: a way to do journalism I believe in, featuring take-no-prisoners analysis and the historical context others don’t bother to look for. I imagined a newsletter that could navigate these wild times by breaking free of the bothsidesism and hunger for access that hamstrings so much coverage. By working independently, I could hold anyone’s feet to the fire: Trump, immigration enforcement, climate deniers, even my colleagues in the media.

Thousands of you have subscribed and shared. Thanks to you, The Long Version is making a difference:

Subscribe now - for 20% off!

All this work takes time and money. (Last-minute travel from central Virginia to El Paso is particularly not cheap.) Worse, I’m doing it in an imploding field. You may have seen The Long Version featured in Mother Jones, The Los Angeles Times, Slate, and elsewhere. That’s because, in this gig economy, freelancers like me are increasingly the bedrock of the industry—without the pay rates or stability to match.

That’s why I’m launching a new option: Paid subscriptions. For $6 a month or $60 a year, you can support independent accountability journalism, keeping this work sustainable and strong.

If you opt to become a full subscriber, you’ll get access to members-only discussion threads, and occasional (and I promise not too many!) extra emails with recommendations and updates available only to you. I hope to add more premium options as things grow.

And as a thank you to my early listers, if you sign up in the next seven days—using any of the buttons above—you can take 20% off a year’s subscription. That price will stay good as long as you keep your subscription current.

If, on the other had, you can afford to throw in something extra—to make more on-the-ground reporting possible and subsidize future subscriptions for others, Substack makes it possible to donate additional subscriptions using the button below:

Donate and support The Long Version

Finally, if a paid subscription isn’t right for you right now, no worries! You don’t have to do anything. Regular issues and podcasts will stay free.

All I ask is that you keep spreading the word to friends, family, coworkers, and online.

Thanks as always for reading, and for your support.

Yours,

Jonathan M. Katz

Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre

How the New York Times made 'The Charlottesville Lie' hoax possible

Welcome back to The Long Version, a newsletter by Jonathan M. Katz.

Amid the spate of mass shootings last week, Saturday’s massacre of at least 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso posed a particular problem for conservatives. In addition to being the deadliest of the slaughters, it was also the only one with an overtly electoral mission: Massacring Hispanic people to help Republicans win.

Before opening fire, the killer published a manifesto in which he said his goal was to stop “The Democrat party (sic)” fromown[ing] America.” His words were practically lifted from a Trump rally: that Democrats “intend to use open borders, free healthcare for illegals, citizenship and more to enact a political coup”—boosting the Hispanic vote to make Texas “a Democrat stronghold” and win presidential elections.

This act of ethnic cleansing occurred right as a national consensus was finally starting to harden against Trump’s overtly white-supremacist rhetoric and policy. The president’s allies rushed to deflect attention.

Conveniently for the Trump camp, the massacre came days before the second anniversary of another white-supremacist act of terror: the August 2017 Nazi rampage through Charlottesville, Va. A right-wing propaganda outfit had already been planning to use the occasion to gaslight the public about a defining moment of the Trump presidency: the three-day span in which he reacted to the terror by equivocating, blaming the victims, and finally declaring there were “very fine people on both sides.”

With the body count rising in El Paso, the conservative YouTube channel “PragerU” pushed out a video called “The Charlottesville Lie.” Boosted by the movement’s algorithm-juicing network and Fox News personalities, it went viral.

Its argument was that Trump hadn’t praised Nazis but a different group supposedly at the Nazi rally: innocent protesters who had merely come to picket for a Confederate statue. The claim rested on a single piece of evidence: an article in the New York Times.

But the article was wrong. Written a day after Trump’s most notorious comments—its lead byline a reporter with an established track record of apologia for the president’s movement—it contained a fundamental error. The piece in turn was indicative of a larger blindspot about the goals and tactics of Trump’s America on the part of the country’s most influential newspaper. Left uncorrected for two years, it has served as the bedrock of a pernicious lie, now being used to confuse millions of people amid a rise in white nationalist terror.

The Long Version

Before diving into what the article got wrong, it’s worth taking a close look at what actually happened in Charlottesville in August 2017. On the second weekend of the month, far-right groups planned a rally. They chose the college town in part because it symbolized the national debate over removing Confederate statues: The city council had voted to take down a 1924 statue of Robert E. Lee the year before, a decision alt-right groups and the KKK had already held rallies to protest.

But the August event was not really about the statue. There were no imminent plans for the Lee statue to be removed, as the case was tied up in court. Instead its real, stated purpose was to forge a coalition of alt-right, traditional white supremacist, and perhaps—if they could—even mainstream conservative groups in the Trump era.

On Friday, August 11, 2017, the white supremacists gathered at the University of Virginia and marched with torches to the statue of its founder, Thomas Jefferson.

Chanting the Nazi slogan “Blood and soil!” and “Jews will not replace us!”—a reference to the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory regularly promoted by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson—they surrounded a small number of counter-protesters who’d come to monitor them. Things got ugly fast:

Charlottesville residents had been dreading the rally. Once the violence began, immediately, no one who wasn’t either part of the alt-right rally or willing to confront it directly was going to go downtown.

As the conservative writer and Charlottesville-area resident Robert Tracinski has written:

I know very fine people who oppose the removal of the monuments based on high-minded notions about preserving history. I’m one of them. So I know that we weren’t there that night. Only the white nationalists were there.

The next day, August 12, hundreds of white supremacists filled the tiny downtown. They were heavily armed and gearing for a fight. Counter-protesters came ready to oppose the Nazis. A smaller number of them were armed as well.

Those in the streets that day describe an atmosphere of violence, chaos, and fear. With fights breaking out across the area, police declared an unlawful assembly and refused to allow the organized rally to begin. The governor declared a state of emergency. This was not a place or time where peaceful, independent protests over a statue were going to happen.

At 1:40 p.m., James A. Fields, who marched with the white-supremacist group Vanguard America, plowed his Dodge Charger into a crowd leaving the counter-protest on Charlottesville’s central pedestrian mall. Many were injured. 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed.

Trump reacts

Two hours after the attack, Trump addressed the nation from his vacation estate in Bedminster, New Jersey. (He was there during the El Paso massacre too.) Instead of condemning the white supremacists, he seemed to blame to the victims of the day’s attacks, condemning “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

Trump’s equivocation in the face of terror and an open Nazi rally sparked a backlash. Even Sen. Lindsay Graham said the speech convinced white supremacists that “they have a friend in Donald Trump.”

In a pattern that would repeat itself, Trump, caving to pressure, reluctantly held a second press conference. Two days later, reading stiltedly from a teleprompter, he called racism “evil” and condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.

The gesture did not work. The headliner of the white-supremacist rally, Richard Spencer, called Trump’s second set of remarks “kumbaya nonsense.” “I don't think Donald Trump is a dumb person,” he said. “And only a dumb person would take those lines seriously.”

That set the stage for Trump’s most infamous comments: a third, impromptu press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower. You can read the full transcript here.

As is often the case, Trump’s main objective was to defend himself—in this case from the criticism of his “many sides” remark. His most famous line— “You also had people that were very fine people on both sides”—was in essence the other side of the coin of what he’d said a few days earlier.

With reporters shouting for clarification, he offered his “proof”:

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

This was, in the moment, confusing. There had been a flurry of pictures from the events, but none of peaceful protesters unaffiliated with the white-supremacist march there merely to support the Lee statue. Had the president seen something everyone else hadn’t? Was he talking about neo-Nazis? The reporters shouted for clarification:

TRUMP: I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally—but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

Again, this made no sense. There was no record of anyone being part of the neo-Nazi and white-nationalist group who were not either neo-Nazis or white nationalists. A reporter followed up:

REPORTER: I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?

That’s when Trump gave away the game:

TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly, the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Suddenly it became clear what pictures Trump had seen:

It was unequivocal. If you look back in the transcript, it was Trump’s second insistence that his original “many sides” comment had referred to “the night before”—the evening of August 11. It was the Nazi torch rally.

Maybe Trump was lying. Maybe his foggy memory had hallucinated photos that weren’t there. Or maybe he regarded a group of violent Nazis as “very fine people” because some of them were his supporters:

Spinning the Unspinnable

To make its case, PragerU’s viral video from this week makes a series of blatant lies.

First, it falsely shows Trump condemning marchers with Tiki torches—the very people from “the night before” that the Trump had cited as “very fine people”:

Then it depicts two entirely fictitious groups of people—skinny hipster protesters holding signs around the Lee statue:

This is what the area around the statue actually looked like on August 12:

So what do the video propagandists cite as evidence for the existence of these made-up people?

Enter The Times

On August 16, the day after Trump’s calamity of a third press conference, the Times presented a front-page story with a nonsensical headline:

The lead reporter, Jeremy W. Peters, is based in Washington, and has made a career out of finding sympathetic angles about Trump and his supporters, even where they don’t exist. The August 16 story wasn’t even his first post-Charlottesville attempt at a clean-up on Aisle Trump. Hours before the president tried and failed to salvage his initial remarks with a second press conference, Peters tried to do it for him.

The crucial part comes in the thirteenth paragraph of the August 16 story. It quotes Michelle Piercy, whom the Times identifies as “a night shift worker at a Wichita, Kan., retirement home, who drove all night with a conservative group that opposed the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.”

It appeared the Times had found what no one else has, before or since: One of Trump’s “very fine people.” She practically repeated the line herself:

“Good people can go to Charlottesville,” said Michelle Piercy … After listening to Mr. Trump on Tuesday, she said it was as if he had channeled her and her friends — all gun-loving defenders of free speech, she said, who had no interest in standing with Nazis or white supremacists: “It’s almost like he talked to one of our people.”

The PragerU video quoted this at length.

Fortunately, the paper was not the only team to reach Piercy. Media Equalizer, a pro-Trump website, also got a hold of the Kansan, and included this crucial, if unintentional, corrective to the Times piece:

Michelle Piercy, who travelled to Charlottesville to participate as a neutral peacekeeper for American Warrior Revolution … knew there was going to be violence, but went anyway.

“We were made aware that the situation could be dangerous, and we were prepared.” Piercy says.

According to a lawsuit filed against armed groups after the riot, American Warrior Revolution is a “paramilitary group … active in the militia movement.” It brought 37 members, “many of them armed with semiautomatic weapons” to the rally.

In her interview with the pro-Trump site, neither Piercy nor the writer mentions the Lee statue. Rather, she says, the group was there to act as “peacekeepers”: protecting the Nazis’ right to free speech while “trying to … talk to Antifa and Black Lives Matter and let them know that the way they were protesting is the wrong way to go about it.”

That’s keeping with what researchers have found about such paramilitary groups. As Casey Michel wrote that week for Politico Magazine:

Despite the militias’ public statements of neutrality, evidence has mounted … that the militias have gravitated decisively toward one side … Their presence as a private security force for an increasingly public coalition of white nationalist factions—Ku Klux Klan followers, neo-Nazis and “alt-right” supporters—has transformed a movement that has already demonstrated a willingness to threaten violence.

Here’s an example of AWR’s merch:

According to the lawsuit, AWR’s leader boasted that they “had the justification to use deadly force that day, and mow people fucking down!” The group has been permanently enjoined from returning to Charlottesville “as a part of a unit of two or more persons acting in concert when armed.”

It is important to note that the militia was not part of the rally’s white-supremacist lineup. Piercy herself told the Equalizer that she did not support “white supremacy, Naziism, or alt-right causes.” But they certainly weren’t the skinny-jeansed pro-statue picketers in the PragerU cartoon either.

On the basis of this false data point, Peters, Martin, and Healy went on to offer this fictive-at-the-time, yet perhaps self-fulfilling piece of analysis:

Conservatives like Ms. Piercy, who have grown only more emboldened after Charlottesville, believe that the political and media elite hold them and Mr. Trump to a harsh double standard that demands they answer for the sins of a radical, racist fringe. They largely accept Mr. Trump’s contention that these same forces are using Charlottesville as an excuse to undermine his presidency, and by extension, their vote.

I reached out to both Peters and Jack Healy, who is listed on the story as having reported from Piercy’s hometown of Wichita, for comment. Neither replied.

The Times’ error resonated because it was, in a way, reassuring. It matched an assumption that many Americans made instinctively: that there must have been “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville. For many, the reality—that the president of the United States had just praised Nazis by pretending they weren’t Nazis—was too disturbing. PragerU’s fake cartoon is the image people want to have of America: a place where there might be some fringe extremists, but politics is fundamentally bloodless, and terror could never serve a mainstream political goal.

But we can not take such people at their word. They know optics, and they know how to manipulate them. Even the 21-year-old El Paso shooter ended his blood-soaked manifesto by insisting that he somehow wasn’t a white supremacist. For him, being thought of as racist was somehow worse than announcing his plan to murder dozens of people for their ethnicity.

That’s what makes this bigger than a question of sloppy reporting. The Times’ error is the type of error made by powerful people who understand politics as a game played by two competing but symmetrical teams, who hardly dare imagine anything could come along that would truly threaten that status quo. That approach is not up to the challenge of the rise of a fundamentally illiberal, violent faction in America headed by a fundamentally racist, authoritarian president of the United States.

It is why for the political press each new wave of white supremacist violence arrives like a surprise. It’s how the president’s terror-enabling reactions always seem like bewildering deviations instead of as further evidence of a clearly established strategy for power, and why they are so eager to buy his self-serving obfuscations after the fact.

The public is left unprepared to see what is coming. Left uncorrected and unexamined, it is the sort of mistake that will happen again and again.

I’m a regular contributor to the Times. Its reach and history make it an indispensable institution. One of my hopes for this newsletter is that it will allow me to keep contributing to national publications while retaining an independent perspective. Thanks for reading. If you haven’t yet, please support independent journalism by subscribing now:

Jonathan M. Katz is a freelance journalist, author, and national fellow at New America. His next book, Gangsters of Capitalism, traces the origins and contradictions of American empire. You can find him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth

Photos: Zach Roberts/NurPhoto/Getty Images, Seth Herald/The Atlantic

End the Nightmare

Keyla Alison Salazar was supposed to turn fourteen today. She didn’t, because she was murdered by a white supremacist. It happened one week ago at a food festival in Gilroy, California. She died trying to help a relative with a walking cane escape.

The family couldn’t even hold Keyla’s funeral before the next white supremacist massacre came. At least twenty people were shot to death yesterday in El Paso by a man who told police he wanted to kill “as many Mexicans as possible.” Hours later, yet another white man used an AR-15-style rifle to execute another nine people, including his sister, in Dayton, Ohio.

Much about this week of bloodbaths feels horribly familiar. But at the same time, it feels like something has shifted. Some Republicans are still hiding behind platitudes and crocodile tears over the state of mental healthcare in America. But others, it seems, can’t hold that pose any longer.

Surprisingly, to me at least, one of the strongest statements came from Sen. Ted Cruz:

I sense fear in Cruz’s tweet. It isn’t fear about guns. I’m not even sure, despite his appeals to his father’s Cuban heritage elsewhere in the thread, that he feels personally threatened by the white supremacist wave himself—though the thought may be beginning to dawn on him.

Rather, I think Cruz realizes a stark political fact: In the wake of this latest terror, a larger swath of the public may finally be coming to the realization that a significant part of the wave of white supremacy gripping this country can be traced to his party and its president—and that they may be getting ready to hold them accountable.

Many Americans, including powerful figures in media, have been willing to tolerate the clear evidence of a rising tide of violence suborned by the president for the past two years because they haven’t had to directly confront its effects. The people who’ve died behind the barbed wire of Trump’s concentration camps don’t have friends at the networks. They are anonymous and hidden, as their captors intend.

But mass shootings are different. They are, despite the attempts of politicians to falsely claim otherwise, inherently political events—especially when a killer writes a manifesto ahead of time. They are acts of terrorism: symbolic attacks intended to have their most significant effects far from the killing zone. As such, these shooting have the potential to shock millions of people into action, and to reframe debates in ways the killers might not intend.

White supremacy is a far bigger and more pervasive pathology than a single party, or even the entire electoral system. White liberal racism is a thing too, as is left racism, and both are destructive. But in the face of this wave of terror, there are some basic facts we need to state clearly: This violence has been abetted most specifically by the Republican Party. Its perpetrators are feeding on Trump’s unmistakably fascist, racist rhetoric, which in turn draws profligately from the same racist conspiracy theories and memes that populate the far-right boards where the killers plan.

While removing its leaders from power—as Cruz may fear the people will do—would in no way end white supremacy in America (how could it?), it is a tangible step. And it thus one that, as millions of people may be thinking this weekend, is becoming increasingly urgent.

In 2009, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security produced a report that identified white supremacy as the greatest domestic terror threat facing the country. Republicans forced the department to rescind the report because they feared its findings and knew it would make Republicans and their voters look bad. Once Trump got into office, he eliminated the last vestiges of DHS’s monitoring of white nationalist extremism. The wave has risen since.

Trump has also made clear on the rally podium that he supports violence in general, and violence against immigrants specifically:

In the hours since the latest massacres, Trump has made a few perfunctory tweets that barely mentioned the victims. As the bodies were being collected in Texas, he was hanging out at one of his golf clubs, doing a celebrity drop-in at a wedding.

The manifesto attributed to the El Paso killer reads like it could have been delivered by the old man himself. “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” it says. It repeats lies about the looming loss of jobs, supposed threat of immigrants voting, and how much worse things are in Europe. It echoes the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that underlined the Charlottesville Nazi march two years ago and is a staple of Tucker Carlson’s program.

Nor is it likely a coincidence that the suspect traveled all the way from a Dallas suburb to El Paso—a nine-hour, 650-mile drive—just a few weeks after a congressional delegation visited concentration camps around that city and condemned the conditions there. Trump was reacting in part to that criticism when he bellowed at young congresswomen of color who were on that trip to “go back” to their supposed countries of origin. The resulting Trump rally chant—“send her back!”—was echoed in the manifesto as well.

Republicans have also largely stood alone in their aggressive defense and promotion of the widespread proliferation of guns. That is also a deeply, though not exclusively, white supremacist position, rooted in white fears of blacks and immigrants, as evidenced by how rarely the National Rifle Association’s advocacy extends to nonwhite gun owners.

The trouble for Cruz is that it may be too late to put the genie back into the bottle. With Trump’s election, Republicans had started to all but give up on nonwhite voters, apparently relying on their ongoing efforts to undermine elections and block nonwhite voter participation instead. Out of 279 current Republican governors, members of Congress, and the president and vice president, only 13—less than five percent—aren’t white.

History clearly shows that there is no peaceful white supremacy. There is no segregation without violence. Even the El Paso shooter’s purported manifesto tries to deny, after four pages of detailed plans for mass murder aimed at balkanizing the United States into a series of ethnic enclaves, that he is a white supremacist. (To say otherwise, he notes, quoting the president, would be “fake news.”)

If Cruz really believes that white supremacy has no place in America, he may have to leave his party. Those who remain will have to decide how long they are willing to stand by and tolerate the use of terror as a political tool. The longer the rest of us go without addressing the root political cause, the worse the nightmare grows. More families like Keyla’s will pay the price.

Thanks for reading. Please share this widely. And help support independent journalism by subscribing to this newsletter:

Jonathan M. Katz is a freelance journalist, author, and national fellow at New America. His next book, Gangsters of Capitalism, will trace the origins and contradictions of American empire. You can find him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth

Podcast #2: Is a Trump a Fascist? (Yes.) With Prof Jason Stanley, author of 'How Fascism Works'

  
0:00
-1:07:05

The president’s authoritarian rhetoric, racist tweets, and tolerance for surging white supremacist violence make one question more urgent than ever: Is Donald Trump a fascist?

According to Prof. Jason Stanley, the author of How Fascism Works, the answer is an emphatic yes. In today’s special audio edition of The Long Version, the Yale philosophy professor and I talk about the surprisingly long history of fascism in America, how the president and his Republican allies are unleashing dangerous forces for power, and why institutions from the Democratic Party to the New York Times keep proving themselves so unable to deal with the crisis.

Please listen and share widely. And if you haven’t yet, help support independent journalism by subscribing to The Long Version, right now:

Jonathan M. Katz is a freelance journalist, author, and national fellow at New America. His next book, Gangsters of Capitalism, will trace the origins and contradictions of American empire. Follow him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth.

Loading more posts…