Federal authorities in Utah have charged 21 white supremacist gang members and associates with distributing drugs and firearms around the state, according to a series of indictments unsealed Friday.The charges follow a 16-month investigation into three “home-grown” hate groups — Soldiers of Aryan Culture, Silent Aryan Warriors and Noble Elect Thugs — which officials described as increasingly organized criminal enterprises.“Unfortunately, this is a Utah product,” U.S. Attorney John Huber said at a news conference. “There are many things to be proud of in Utah, from our snow, beautiful mountains...
Former President Donald Trump has plans to begin holding his signature political "Make America Great Again" rallies across the country, yet again, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections - and according to a top aid, they will be starting any day now.
"Trump senior adviser Jason Miller tells Axios Trump rallies are likely to 'start as soon as late spring or early summer.' Miller said Trump 'has already begun to vet and endorse candidates for 2022, with an eye toward electing not just Republican candidates, but America First Republican candidates,'" Axios co-founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei reported on Friday.
Miller and a group of Trump allies didn't return Salon's request for comment on Trump's rally plans.
The news comes as two Republicans, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz have also taken to the campaign trail to hold "America First" rallies. The duo's first rally kicked off this past Friday at The Villages in Florida. "The elderly crowd in The Villages, a sprawling senior community nestled among billboards for orange juice and baby alligators, came dressed in five years worth of MAGA gear, from well-worn red 'Trump 2016' hats to 'The 2020 Election Was Rigged' t-shirts. The kickoff of Gaetz and Greene's 'America First' revival tour meticulously followed Trump's rally playbook, as the largely unmasked retirees—many of whom told TIME it was their first big event since getting the coronavirus vaccine—energetically danced to 'We are the Champions,' shouted 'Lock her up!' and heckled the media in the back," TIME political correspondent Vera Bergengruen noted from the Sunshine State on Friday.
Trump's allies have long encouraged the former president to start holding rallies again, following his 2020 election loss, but it appears the former president has been more concerned with floating baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
While interviewing Trump on his podcast at the end of April, Fox News contributor and right-wing radio host Dan Bongino said: "We need a Trump rally, sir...Can you just do one for fun!? We need to feel alive again!"
Trump's rallies ahead of his 2016 election win were a safe haven where frustrated Trump supporters, along with their cult-like leader, frequently incited violence against anyone who dared to disrupt their gatherings.
"I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks. It's true. I'd like to punch him in the face; I'll tell you," Trump stated back in Nevada in February of 2016.
In light of the Jan. 6th Capitol insurrection, it remains to see what tone and tenor the former president will have live at his rallies, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest he will continue to claim the 2020 election was stolen. On Tuesday morning, Trump released a statement where he compared the 2020 election to that of a diamond heist.
"If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned. The Fake News media refuses to cover the greatest Election Fraud in the history of our Country. They have lost all credibility, but ultimately, they will have no choice!" Trump declared in a statement via his Save America PAC.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell held his much-anticipated-by-fans "Frank Speech" rally Monday night at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, where there was no shortage of baseless claims about the 2020 election. The event was billed as providing a venue for Lindell to relaunch his failed social media platform Frank, but no announcement about the platform occurred.
Before the event began, a long line of people waiting to get into the venue wrapped around the outside of the building. But once they got inside, the situation was less impressive. Only around 1,500 people tuned out for the event, which Lindell had initially boasted might draw a crowd of 30,000 supporters. (In fact, the Corn Palace's seating capacity is just 3,200.) Even so, Business Insider's Grace Dean noted that some attendees waited in line for seven hours before the doors opened.
Shortly after people were seated, former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Joe Piscopo took to the stage to praise Lindell, even offering the pillow guru an original musical number.
At one point, Piscopo's microphone stopped working, most likely a standard technical error of the sort that bedevils performers at all levels of the entertainment ecosystem. The once-popular late-night comedian chose to blame the malfunction on Chinese interference. "We're not racist," Piscopo declared, apropos of nothing. "I travel around the country, and we're a good country. They are criticizing us every which way, and tonight it stops." While working the crowd, Piscopo spotted a fellow MAGA-friendly celebrity — a cast member of the show "Duck Dynasty."
"My guess is half the crowd was 60 or older," one attendee of the South Dakota rally told Salon on Monday night. "A lot of people yelled 'No!' when Piscopo asked if anyone got vaxxed, and the audience made the most noise when Lindell predicted Trump will be back in office [i.e., back in the White House as president of the United States] by August. They were very happy about that possibility."
Then the crowd heard a bit (virtually) from Donald Trump's former HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who offered cookie-cutter conservative remarks that appeared to have little effect on the audience. "We recognize that our rights and our liberty comes from God, not from government. And that makes us very unique," Carson said, while also offering Lindell high praise.
Far-right radio host Eric Metaxas also spoke before Lindell, offering a hodgepodge of jokes that appeared to miss the mark with the crowd and attempting to stir up outrage about the alleged persecution of religious believers around the world. "People are being persecuted around the world because their governments don't believe in God," Metaxas stated. "When you push God out, freedoms go away. It's what we're seeing right now — it's why we're starting Frank Speech!"
With attendees reportedly on edge over the supposed threat that antifa might sabotage the event, Lindell, the evening's Elvis equivalent, took to the stage, where he shared his life story but neglected to say anything about a relaunch of Frank, the supposed purpose of the event to begin with.
Lindell spoke for around 90 minutes, sprinkling in random tangents meant to support his baseless claims of 2020 "voter fraud" and allegations that China was somehow to blame. The pillow magnate once again suggested that once the truth is known, the Supreme Court will unanimously vote to void the election results and reinstall Trump as president. (No legal or constitutional mechanism exists that could accomplish that result.)
"They will have to protect our country, and it's going to be a 9-0 vote to pull the election down," Lindell vowed at one point, while not discussing the non-relaunch of Frank, perhaps because it was poorly constructed using the wrong software and is never likely to work.
Before the rally, in an interview with a local right-wing talk show, Lindell said he had recently spoken to Trump, who conveyed how "proud" he is of the work Lindell is doing.
As for other notable moments, both the self-explanatory organization "Bikers for Trump" and members of the far-right Proud Boys were in attendance. An attendee told Salon that a group of six Proud Boys "walked in and sat in the middle of the crowd, near the front." Another attendee could also be seen in one photo wearing an anti-government "Three Percenters" patch.
Salon also learned about an investment opportunity being pushed during the rally, which "optimistically (yet reasonably)" promised a 3,500% return. Seemingly too good to be true! The custom-made flyers touted, "We are living in a time of war against the deep state, so it is wise to be prepared," while the investment scheme offered the opportunity to "expel deep-state operatives, communists, and socialists" from the U.S. educational system.
Once the rally ended, representatives for Lindell encouraged attendees to take home multiple boxes of the pillow maven's book. Apparently, Lindell was prepared to hand out 30,000-plus copies of his election fraud movies and books, but as it turns out, he literally couldn't give them away.
"They were begging people to take boxes of books home to give to addicts so they can be entrepreneurs," an attendee told Salon.
Lindell, who has a unique relationship with this Salon reporter, didn't return a text or call from Salon on Tuesday morning, seeking comment for this story.
Why Anna Duggar stays: A woman who left Quiverfull movement says 'there's a huge martyr's mentality'
Vyckie Garrison remembers watching Michelle Duggar, the matriarch of the then-TLC program "14 Children and Pregnant Again!" on television and feeling a twinge of envy. It was 2004, and Garrison had seven children of her own whom she was raising and homeschooling within her fundamentalist, "radically pro-life" Christian community in Nebraska.
"I remember thinking, 'Look at her actually doing it,'" Garrison told me in a phone call from her new apartment in Albania. "I was in awe of her. Her kids, they seemed like they were completely on-board. They have the same mentality and the same giving spirit. She was my idol. Well, not 'idol' because we couldn't have idols, but, you know."
The Duggar family's foray into reality television also marked many Americans' first introduction to Quiverfull ideology, a theological movement that interprets the Old Testament Psalm, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of [children]," as a command to reproduce often, sans any birth control or family planning. For the record, the Duggars don't claim to be Quiverfull, though they do reference that verse on their website in response to the question, "Why have such a large family?"
TLC positioned the Duggars, led by Michelle and husband Jim Bob, as a benign oddity, a kind of oversized "Waltons" family where episodes centered largely on pregnancy announcements, chaperoned courtships and managing a home large enough for the family.
Over the course of a decade, the family eventually ballooned up to 19 children. There was some controversy along the way, as the Duggars actively lobbied against abortion access and for legistlation that discriminates against transgender individuals; writer Nina Burleigh described the family as "good TV. Good, sugarcoated rat poison, politically speaking."
But it wasn't until 2015 that their fame bubble would finally burst, when it was revealed that the couple's eldest son, Josh Duggar, had molested at least five girls — four of whom were his sisters — when he was 14 or 15 years old.
TLC canceled the show and several months later, Josh was at the center of another sexual scandal. During a data breach at Ashley Madison, a website that caters to users seeking discreet affairs, it was revealed that Josh was a user of that site. He issued an apology saying that he was "the biggest hypocrite" and that he had been "viewing pornography on the Internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife."
Fast-forward to this year. On April 29, Josh Duggar was arrested and later released on bail after being charged in federal court with receipt and possession of child pornography, including images of minors under the age of 12.
Josh Duggar isn't the only evangelical Christian man to see scandal in recent years — there's been former Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr., evangelist Bill Gothard and megachurch pastor Dave Reynolds, to name a few — but the very public nature of his family's life before his conviction, especially as it relates to childbearing and parenthood, makes his fall somehow more striking.
Just a few weeks before his arrest, Josh's wife, Anna, had announced the couple was pregnant with their seventh child. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Josh could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted and Anna will be left to essentially raise their family on her own.
It's a stark reality, the kind unfit for even the most salacious TLC show, that spotlights the dark underbelly of patriarchal Christianity. While men are sold a promise of life where they are revered as the spiritual head of the household — a life in which their virility and manhood is unquestioned — when it comes to the Quiverfull movement, what's in it for the women?
* * *
Unlike Anna Duggar and many women in Quiverfull families, Vyckie Garrison was not raised in the church.
It wasn't until she became pregnant during a short-lived relationship with an older man who had lied about having a vasectomy, ending up in the offices of a faith-based crisis pregnancy center, that she was first introduced to some of the basic principles of "Christian family values."
While she waited for the results of her pregnancy test, she was shown the 1984 anti-abortion film "A Silent Scream." When the staff returned to confirm that Garrison was pregnant, they informed her by saying, "God blessed you."
"I didn't think I had any option but to be a mom, but I knew I was going to suck at it," Garrison said. "That's when I really started turning towards religion. I wanted a map, a guidebook, 'Motherhood for Dummies.'"
Garrison found it in the curriculum and radio programs of Focus on the Family, an evangelical parachurch group that rails against pre-marital sex, LGBTQ rights, divorce and abortion and promotes "the permanence of marriage" and "the value of children."
While homeschooling her daughter, Angel, Garrison was introduced to fundamentalist Christian women who viewed motherhood as a mission field.
"There was a lot of talk of women being submissive and anti-birth control or, as we put it, 'radically pro-life,'" Garrison said. "I had health complications that made [getting pregnant] a life-threatening condition, but it's really pushed on the moms that you should be like Jesus and you are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes."
Garrison, who was married at this time to a man named Wesley Bennett, went on to have six more children despite the health risks because it's what she thought the Bible called her to do.
"The women would tell me, 'Missionaries risk their lives every day and they do it because it's their calling,'" she said. "'When they get to heaven, they'll get their martyr's crown.' There's a huge martyr's mentality."
Garrison embraced the lifestyle, even starting a newspaper for families that adhered to the Quiverfull philosophy. In a blog post that she'd written before becoming pregnant with her seventh child, Garrison said, "Whether a couple has a dozen children or only one, it is important to welcome them in the same spirit in which we would receive the Lord Jesus Himself."
However, things at home were reaching a boiling point.
Bennett eventually became verbally abusive, "very controlling and wanted to know everyone's thoughts." Furthermore, Garrison was seemingly always on the verge of a complete physical and mental breakdown due to the toll a seemingly endless cycle of nursing and pregnancies was having on her body.
"But I had that martyr's mentality; I was going to do everything to ensure this home for my kids," she said. "But I looked at my kids and they were not thriving. I sucked at homeschooling and they were not happy."
She began corresponding with her uncle, an inquisitive atheist who asked her questions about her chosen lifestyle. When Garrison realized that, other than pointing to scripture he didn't believe in, she didn't have answers for why she lived how she did, something clicked. She realized that she and her children both deserved better.
A few weeks later, she fled to Kansas City to stay with a friend; when she eventually returned after divorcing her husband, she successfully retained custody of her seven children.
Garrison is an atheist now and lives in Albania, halfway across the world in an apartment where you can catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea from the living room window.
In the years since her "quivering days" she co-founded and maintained the blog "No Longer Quivering," a resource for women like her who plan on leaving the movement.
"The women, they get into it for the kids," she said. "But that's also why they get out."
* * *
In her academic essay, "Christian Patriarchy Lite: TLC's 19 Kids and Counting," Christy Ellen Mesaros-Winckles said that while the concept of being "barefoot and pregnant" lost overall social cachet decades ago, it's still alive and well in the Quiverfull movement.
And while, Mesaros-Winckles said, the theology underlying the Duggars' beliefs was often underplayed, "conformity and a rigid male leadership hierarchy often place women in the Quiverfull movement in subservient roles."
According to Garrison, that's the system in which she found herself trapped — and in which Anna Duggar, who has been conspicuously silent about her husband's various scandals, likely feels trapped as well.
Is she blameless? Perhaps not. But she is undoubtedly a victim of a patriarchal system designed to make women feel like they don't have a choice to leave.
"The situation she is in is just impossible," Garrison said. "The only way she can save herself and her children — she would just have to give up her idea of her faith."
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