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Capitol mob wasn’t just angry white men – there were angry white women as well

Capitol mob wasn't just angry white men – there were angry white women as well

There were women among the crowd that marched to the Capitol and stormed the building.

Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jakana Thomas, Michigan State University

The terror inflicted on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 laid bare America's problem with violent extremism.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have begun to piece together the events of that day, while attempting to thwart any impending attacks. Scores of people have been arrested and charged over the attack – the vast majority being men.

In the wake of these events, there were stories attributing the violence and destruction to “white male rage" “violent male rage" and “angry white men."

But what about the women?

To distill the violent insurrection into a tale of angry male rage is to overlook the threat that women in the mob posed to congressional officials, law enforcement and U.S. democracy that day.

Long history of women's involvement

Several women have been identified as alleged participants in the events of Jan. 6. Among those women are a former school occupational therapist, an employee of a county sheriff's office, a real estate broker and a former mayoral candidate.

At least one woman is being investigated for her role in organizing the attack with fellow members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia movement. And Ashli Babbit, a female veteran, was shot dead by police while attempting to breach the Senate floor.

The women who took part in the siege of the Capitol are part of a long history of women's participation in extremist violence, both in the United States and abroad.

A headshot of Jessica Watkins.

Jessica Watkins, seen here in a photo from the Montgomery County jail, is facing federal charges that she participated in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Montgomery County Jail via AP

Women have buoyed American far-right organizations and causes for centuries. In her recent book on women at the forefront of contemporary white nationalism, author Seyward Darby writes that women are not “incidental to white nationalism, they are a sustaining feature."

Since the late 1800s, women have supported and enabled the terrorist white supremacist organization the Ku Klux Klan, while hundreds of thousands joined its female affiliate, Women of the Ku Klux Klan, and its predecessors.

Women helped establish the Klan's culture, bolstered its recruitment efforts and manufactured its propaganda. Despite its hyper-masculine ideology, which identifies white men as the primary arbiters of political power, women have also held leadership positions within the modern-day Klan.

More recently, women have joined the far-right Proud Boys movement, which has openly recruited female foot soldiers. In December, a growing rift between male and female Proud Boys was reported. After experiencing intense sexist backlash from men in the organization, women led by MMA fighter Tara LaRosa began their own group, the Proud Girls USA.

To leave one extremist organization in order to form another suggests a deep commitment to the far-right cause.

Discounting is dangerous

A 2005 study noted a disconnect between the rise in women within American right-wing terrorist organizations and the attention it received from law enforcement.

Despite a marked increase in women's engagement in acts of terror against the state and racial minorities, security officials have largely failed to publicize, search and interrogate women operatives in these organizations, even after they become known to law enforcement.

There is also evidence that American far-right women have drawn inspiration and tactical knowledge from women engaged in extremist violence abroad.

Evidence from the global war on terror points to the potential dangers of ignoring the growth of violent extremism among women. In Iraq, for example, female terrorists carried out large numbers of deadly suicide attacks against American assets during the U.S. occupation.

The rest of the world has since been forced to grapple with the reality of violent women after female terrorists staged lethal attacks in Nigeria, Somalia, Tunisia, the Philippines, Indonesia and France.

Recent terror attacks in American cities such as San Bernardino, California, and Las Vegas that featured women among the perpetrators confirm violent women have already inflicted damage on U.S. soil.

Ku Klux Klan security guards escorting two women members.

Ku Klux Klan security guards escort two female members after a Klan meeting in Castro Valley, California, in 1979.

AP Photo/PS

Gender bias can be deadly

In fact, my research suggests that attacks by female terrorists are often more destructive than those executed by their male counterparts.

In an analysis of over 2,500 global suicide attacks, I show disparities in the severity of male and female attacks are greatest where gender stereotypes suggest that women are neither violent nor political. Such tropes can blind security officials and civilians to the threat posed by women terrorists, causing them to overlook the potential for female complicity.

Female terrorists, including in Iraq, Israel and Nigeria, have been able to deflect suspicion because they were women. My research shows that gender bias can become deadly when it stops effective counterterrorism policies, such as surveillance, searches and interrogations, from being implemented.

Additionally, since ordinary citizens played an unusual role in exposing the identities of the Capitol attackers, gender biases among civilians are also relevant. Failure to accept women's complicity in the Capitol siege and the broader movement may prevent the identification of female offenders and impedes efforts to punish and deter future attacks.

American women have been key pillars of support for violent right-wing extremists for centuries. They have been right-wing extremists themselves – racist skinheads, neo-Nazis and Klanswomen. Women are also Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and Proud Boys. They were capitol rioters.

To construct an accurate account of the Capitol attack, it's necessary to ask “Where are the women?" And the answer is, “Right there."The Conversation

Jakana Thomas, Associate Professor, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘The US is falling apart’: How Russian media is portraying the US Capitol siege

The storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which was Christmas Eve for Eastern Orthodox Christians, was a perfect holiday gift for Russian politicians and state-controlled Russian media.

While President Vladimir Putin has remained silent so far, reaction from political leaders was instantaneous, and the topic has dominated Russian news coverage ever since.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that while the siege is “an internal affair," it's important to point out that the “electoral system of the U.S. is archaic."

Konstantin Koschev, head of the International Affairs Committee of the Federal Council, the upper chamber of Russian Parliament, proclaimed “the end of the celebration of democracy."

Russian media have been eager to take up these points.

For years, the pro-Kremlin media has exalted stability as the core virtue of Putin's “sovereign democracy" – a term coined by Putin.

As a scholar of post-Soviet politics, I've watched how state-controlled Russian media have portrayed pro-democracy protests in countries surrounding Russia, including my native Ukraine, as CIA-led efforts to destabilize Russia.

The storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters has allowed Russian media outlets to change the conversation and depict the siege as the final collapse of the U.S. political system and democracy itself.

US 'disorder'

Russian coverage of the Capitol insurrection points out the perceived hypocrisy of Democratic leaders and the U.S. media.

Russian state-controlled media have repeatedly juxtaposed Democratic outrage over former President Donald Trump's role in the siege against the party's support for the “BLM and antifa summer riots" – their term for racial justice protests last summer in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Hosts of 'Time Will Tell,' a pro-Kremlin news talk show, discuss the U.S. Capitol siege on Jan. 13, 2021.

State-controlled media have also highlighted allegations – debunked in the U.S. – that members of antifa, a left-wing protest movement, and Black Lives Matter participated in the storming of the Capitol. “Time Will Tell" and “60 Minutes," two pro-Kremlin news talk shows on the state-run Russia 1 TV channel, have dedicated air time to this allegation.

The upshot of such coverage juxtaposes the disorder in the United States to the order and stability in Russia – a favorite message of Russian propagandists.

'Digital gulag for Trump'

Somewhat surprisingly, members of both the Russian political opposition and the country's pro-Putin political elite assert that the suspension of Trump's social media accounts amounts to censorship and undermines democracy.

Such statements from people like Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the bombastic nationalist leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, come off as hypocritical in a country whose ruler's power is based on censorship and anti-democratic measures, but are not surprising.

But Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and Putin critic who was poisoned and almost died last August and was recently jailed upon his return to Russia, also criticized Trump's Twitter ban. He is likely worried that the Russian government will mimic companies like Twitter in its own censorship efforts.

Yet, there is also much relish for discussing Trump's Twitter ban among Russian propagandists. That included Vladimir Soloviev, a popular television host, who has dubbed it the “digital gulag for Trump." He has argued that the social media ban is part of an ongoing campaign to silence Trump and his supporters.

On Jan. 13, the hosts of the evening talk show “Time Will Tell" reacted with horror at the “police state" and “repressions" of pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol.

The hosts likened the tips received by the FBI from the public to citizens snitching on each other – a remark that resonates with anyone aware of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin's reign of terror.

They also insisted that Trump supporters have become the “enemies of the people," after Sen. Chuck Schumer urged the FBI to add Capitol rioters to the federal no-fly list.

This portrayal of Trump and his supporters as persecuted political dissidents has been used to further highlight the argument that American democracy is steeped in hypocrisy.

'US is falling apart'

So-called U.S. disintegration has been a favorite topic for the state-controlled network Russia 1. The hosts of “Time Will Tell" have repeatedly reinforced this point by referring to the U.S. as “United, for now, States."

During a recent broadcast, host Anatoly Kuzichev repeatedly said, “the U.S. is falling apart."

RT, another state-controlled media outlet formerly known as Russia Today, reinforced a similar claim by quoting the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who said the Capitol insurrection has “called into question the future fate of the United States as a state."

If Russian media outlets are to be believed, there are no longer any beacons of democracy left in the world. Margarita Simoniyan, chief editor of RT, summed up that view in a tweet: The United States “never were" a model of democracy.

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Lena Surzhko Harned, Assistant Teaching Professor of Political Science, Penn State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sen. Ossoff was sworn in on pioneering Atlanta rabbi’s Bible – a nod to historic role of American Jews in civil rights struggle

The first Jewish senator in Georgia history, Jon Ossoff, was sworn in on Jan. 20, on what his office described in a tweet as a “Hebrew scripture that belonged to historic Atlanta Rabbi Jacob Rothschild."

It left many wondering what exactly the Hebrew scripture meant, and what the relevance was of using this particular copy.

The term “Hebrew scripture" usually refers to the 24 books that Christians denominate as the Old Testament. These biblical books, originally written in Hebrew, are ordered differently in Judaism and Christianity.

In Ossoff's case, the volume selected was a well-thumbed copy of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, which Jews know as the Torah, edited with commentary by the American-educated former Chief Rabbi of Britain Joseph H. Hertz. That, for many years, was the edition of the Torah found in most American synagogues and temples.

As a scholar of American Jewish history, I recognize that in emphasizing the book's tie to Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild, Ossoff appeared to be making a statement about Black-Jewish relations – a central theme in his campaign and a signal of his ties to Congressman John R. Lewis, his mentor, as well as Rev. Raphael Warnock, his fellow incoming Georgia senator.

A Jewish translation of Scripture

First, the selection of the Bible upon which Jon Ossoff was sworn deserves attention. This Hebrew-English text employs the 1917 translation produced by the Jewish Publication Society, then located in Philadelphia.

It is a distinctive Jewish translation of scripture. Though modeled on the majestic language and cadence of the famous King James Bible, authorized by the Church of England and first published in 1611, it nevertheless introduced many new translations from the original Hebrew based on updated scholarship and longstanding Jewish interpretive traditions.

The King James Bible

The first King James Bible.

Jeremylinvip/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

“It was a Bible translation to which American Jews could point with pride as the creation of the Jewish consciousness on a par with similar products of the Catholic and Protestant churches," historian Abraham Neuman observed in 1940. “To the Jews it presented a Bible which combined the spirit of Jewish tradition with the results of biblical scholarship, ancient, medieval and modern. To the non-Jews it opened the gateway of Jewish tradition in the interpretation of the Word of God," he noted.

Thanks to the 1917 translation, American Jews no longer had to depend on other translations to understand “their Bible" – they now had a Bible translation of their own.

Ossoff was making a profoundly Jewish statement in selecting the volume on which he was sworn in. Earlier, President Biden made a similar Catholic statement by being sworn in on a Celtic Bible featuring the Catholic Douay-Rheims translation, published in the 17th century to uphold Catholic tradition in the face of the Protestant Reformation.

Atlanta's rabbi

The book itself belonged to Rabbi Jacob M. Rothschild, who served from 1946 until his death in 1973 as the rabbi of Atlanta's oldest and most prominent Reform congregation, Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, known as “The Temple."

As an outspoken proponent of civil rights, he supported school desegregation; invited Black clergy like Benjamin E. Mays, president of Morehouse College, to speak to his congregants; and wrote that Jews bore a special responsibility “to erase inequality."

To punish Rothschild and as a warning to others, white supremacist members of The Confederate Underground, a collective name for various right-wing extremist organizations in the 1950s, on Oct. 12, 1958, bombed The Temple, in a blast that was reportedly felt for miles around.

Until the mass shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue almost exactly 60 years later, on Oct. 27, 2018, the temple bombing was the most devastating attack in history on an American synagogue. Rothschild refused to be frightened off and remained at The Temple's helm.

Rabbi Jacob Rothschild and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rabbi Jacob Rothschild with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta on Jan. 28, 1965.

AP Photo

In the 1960s, Rabbi Rothschild met Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who had joined his father as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. The Rothschilds and the Kings became friends, and, in 1963, Rothschild introduced King when he spoke before a packed audience of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, known today as the Union for Reform Judaism, at its biennial gathering.

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Later, he played a central role in organizing a large Atlanta dinner honoring King for winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. When King was assassinated in 1968, Rabbi Rothschild delivered the eulogy at the city-wide service in Atlanta in his memory.

Rothschild's message and Ossoff's

Citing the same biblical passages heard at President Biden's inauguration, Rothschild called for America to become “a land where a man does not lift up sword against his neighbor, but where each sits under his own vine and under his own fig tree and there is none to make him afraid."

In deciding to be sworn in on the “Hebrew scripture" that belonged to Rabbi Rothschild, Senator Ossoff gestures back to this relationship that once brought Black and Jewish Americans together in a common quest.

In this gesture, he is delivering the same message as King's widow, Coretta Scott King, did in 1984, when she wrote that the story of Rabbi Rothschild serves as “an inspiring story of commitment and brotherhood during an exciting, creative period of American history."The Conversation

Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

From Biden’s giant Bible to Christian flags waved by rioters, ‘religion’ means different things to different people and different eras

The Bible featured prominently in the inauguration. In fact, three were used in the swearing-in ceremonies – Kamala Harris used both Thurgood Marshall's and one belonging to a friend; Joseph Biden used a 128-year-old family Bible.

About two weeks earlier, on Jan. 6, rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol also held Bibles as a nod to the apparent religious motivations for their actions. The mob took with them flags saturated with Christian nationalist ideology, such as banners with “Jesus Saves" written on them accompanied by chants that “Christ is king, Trump is president."

These and other religious symbols, used both in the service of the presidential transfer of power and also violent protests, demonstrate how deeply religion can motivate people in society and influence their actions politically.

Yet the way people think about religion these days, often as a set of beliefs, has evolved across time and cultures.

Religion in ancient Near East

As a scholar of the Bible and the ancient Near East, I study the role of religion in history and how this term originated and came to be understood over the centuries.

For most cultures in the ancient world, such as Egypt, Assyria and Babylon, until the second century B.C., there was no word for “religion" as a singular, abstract concept.

While these cultures had rituals and rites for worshiping gods and goddesses, there was not a singular word in these languages that refers to “religion" in the modern sense. For example, the Assyrians had a unique blend of religious devotion to their chief god Assur and a belief in a divine mandate to spread their empire, but they did not have one word to cover all such practices and beliefs.

The same is true for the Old Testament, written in Hebrew and Aramaic from approximately the ninth century B.C. to the second century B.C. There is no word that can really be translated as “religion" in the modern sense in the Old Testament, even if there were religious concepts, such as prayers and acts of piety toward the god of Israel.

The evidence from the ancient Near East and the Old Testament points to a complex set of practices that defy a singular notion of religion, such as a creed of faith or spirituality in distinction from other realms of society such as politics or economics.

Early Christianity

A similar complexity appears in the history of early Christianity in how religion functioned, both in terms of rituals and in the use of the Latin term it derives from.

The word “religion" in English originates from the Latin “religio." One of its earliest appearances is in works such as the plays of second-century B.C. writer Plautus.

According to the classicist Niall Slater, the word defies “a theologically rigorous definition" in Plautus. It means something like “awe" in one passage, as well as reserve, in the often ironic sense of characters who find themselves in situations in which they display restraints from certain impulses. For example, in one scene in Plautus' “Asinaria," a woman is bound by a contract from following other male lovers, including gods, a restraint called “religiosa."

In the classical age, religion could possibly imply “scruples," as evident in the writings of Plautus and certainly a few decades later in the writings of playwright Publius Terentius Afer.

By the first century B.C., the word began to be associated with devotion to the divine realm. As seen in the writings of the orator and politician Cicero, one conception of the Latin religio that became frequent in Roman texts was the specific rituals and rites that were a part of worship of the gods and goddesses.

According to the classicist Clifford Ando and scholar of religion Brent Nongbri, for Cicero each ritual could be a religio, and, at the same time, when Romans performed all such rituals they could together be referred to as a “single, Roman, religio."

However, Roman thinkers did not use this term for Christianity in its earliest phases. In the second century A.D., Roman writers such as Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius labeled Christianity not a religio but rather a superstitio, or a “superstition," a term usually applied to non-Roman, foreign practices.

Eventually Galen, a physician and philosopher who died in A.D. 210 in Rome, would call Christianity a “philosophical school," elevating the status of the movement.

Early Christians who wrote in Latin, beginning with Tertullian in the second century A.D., often used the word religio to refer to their own rituals and rites, though other uses appeared as well, which were inherited from the variety of definitions employed by earlier Latin writers.

The ancient Latin translations of the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek, use religio when rendering passages such as James 1:26-27, which described true religion as care for orphans and widows and keeping oneself unstained from worldly pollution, or sin.

Kamala Harris is sworn in on a Bible

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Modern-day interpretation

So how did the modern interpretation of religion come about?

If, according to 19th-century German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, humans are prone to imagining God in their own image, then according to the scholar of religion Brent Nongbri people are often tempted to do the same with our understanding of the word “religion."

As Nongbri observes, people need to be aware that when they encounter the word “religion" in English translations of ancient sources, it is not the same as spirituality or belief in the sense of an abstract set of convictions.

Often religion is thought of as referring to some inner disposition or abstract belief, such as privately held convictions about salvation separate from politics. The 17th-century thinker John Locke argued this point in his book, “A Letter Concerning Toleration."

Yet, as Nongbri argues, the concept of religion as an activity distinct from others, such as “politics, economics, and science," is a recent and modern contrast, alien to ancient societies. In ancient societies, religion was part of every facet of life because gods and goddesses were involved in every facet of life.

Indeed, the inner, spiritual and privatized nature of what many think of as religion is more a reflection of modern Protestant Christian developments and has little to do with the origins of the term.

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Samuel L. Boyd, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trump sees power as private property – a habit shared by autocrats throughout the ages

Shortly before crowds of his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Donald Trump implored them to “take back our country." His words echoed a long history of authoritarians who have attempted to privatize power and turn it into personal property.

Taking back what is yours would not, by this logic, be trespassing, terrorism or treason. Instead, it is merely setting things right. By inciting a predominantly white crowd to lay siege to an institution that was ratifying what they had been told was a “stolen" election, Trump was trying to preserve his presidency as if it were private property – his to keep, or give away.

Turning power into property

As scholars of comparative authoritarianism, we have come to learn that this is nothing new. History offers plenty of egregious examples of autocrats who treated their office and powers as their private property. Louis XIV, king of France, did not know how to distinguish between himself and the state. According to the legend, the “Sun King" said that he was the state or, modified in property terms, that the state belonged to him.

The Sun King in all his pomp.

Corbis Historical via Getty Images

Whether autocrats come to office by chance of birth, are elected or usurp the leadership of the state, they almost habitually succumb to the temptation to regard their position not as a temporary loan, but as capital they can dispose like landlords. The way autocrats deal with tenure, succession and state assets reveals how they treat political power as private property.

Once elected, fairly or after manipulation, autocrats tend to wrench power from a legitimate government and, if necessary, remove the time limits on their term of office.

In the case of China's Xi Jinping, this was achieved through cosmetic constitutional changes handled by compliant party cadres. Referendums, marred by intimidation and violence, had the same result of extending the tenures of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algeria and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

Brazen despots, such as Uzbekistan's former leader Islam Karimov, simply disregard a constitutional term limit. Vladimir Putin sidestepped it by first setting up a stooge, Dmitry Medvedev, before faking a fresh start after manipulating the constitution.

When it comes to Trump, he dealt with the looming end of his term of power through denial. The lost election forced him to deny it happened, instead claiming a landslide victory. Against all evidence, Trump decried what he claimed was electoral fraud, insisted on repeated recounts and filed a flurry of lawsuits without merit.

But even Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices could not defend his claims to what he believed to be his own: the presidency. Trump's last call to manufacture facts that supported his denial went out to Georgia's secretary of state to find over 11,780 votes.

Inheritance of power

Following the example of hereditary monarchies, autocrats have a penchant for controlling the transfer of political office as property. Acting as if they “own" the power justifies the selection and anointing of an heir. It also ensures the tacit amnesty of any crime they may have committed by putting in place someone likely to absolve them and the gentle continuity of authoritarian rule to continue their legacy.

Hardcore versions of this include the Kim dynasty in North Korea and the Assad family clan in Syria, in which the authoritarians guarantee continuity through their offspring. Elsewhere, it is wives – for instance Eva Perón in Argentina and Imelda Marcos in the Philippines, who became powerful national figures utilizing the base of support that their spouses had amassed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un attend a massive military parade to mark the 65th anniversary of the communist nation's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korean leadership is a family affair.

AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File

Meanwhile for others it is friends, such as Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, who was a Chavez loyalist, or personal physicians, such as the murderous François “Papa Doc" Duvalier in Haiti, who become confidants to ruling strongman leaders and then heirs to the throne.

Under Soviet-style communism, the party first takes the place of power as the legitimate heir to ensure unbroken continuity.

Succession tends to be more difficult where reasonably reliable elections carry the risk of expropriating the holder of power.

Trump may have intended to eliminate this risk by combining denial of the results with court action, the spread of false narratives and the incitement to insurrection of his followers.

Appropriation of public property

Political authoritarianism pays off, history has shown, especially for those who ruthlessly commercialize their position of power. They assume that by virtue of their office they are entitled to the assets of the state, or rather society, for private use.

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Authoritarian leaders have tended to disdain generating a regular income, so their hidden balance sheets read much like those of operational networks of organized crime specializing in theft, embezzlement, fraud and bribery. Latter-day autocrats conceal, as best they can, the sources of their wealth or refuse to pay taxes. Hitler had his tax debt waved in 1935 and then declared that paying taxes was incompatible with the political office of the Führer. Putin's declared income compares to that of a mid-level Russian bureaucrat, while in reality, by conservative estimate, his assets amount to over US$200 billion. It has remained unclear until today how former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi increased his already considerable wealth during his four terms. He was convicted of tax evasion and balance-sheet fraud. Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet spread his and his family's ill-gotten liquid assets in over 100 accounts in the U.S. alone.

Trump broke with the practice of presidential candidates and presidents by persistently refusing to disclose his tax returns, a refusal his lawyers justified before the Supreme Court on the grounds of “irreparable harm." Trump also took advantage of his office to enrich family members by providing them with business opportunities. At a cost to U.S. taxpayers, the Trump company charged the Secret Service for rooms at Trump properties. The entrepreneur-entertainer has seemingly glorified in the monetary benefits of his presidency with notions that he embodies “the Great" America.

It remains to be seen whether U.S. democracy will have the strength to expropriate ex-President Trump, take away from him the perks – honor, trust and profit – of the presidency and teach whoever may follow the difference between private and public property.The Conversation

Fernanda G Nicola, Professor of Law, American University and Günter Frankenberg, Professor of Public Law, Legal Philosophy and Comparative Law, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Experts explain how Trump’s language shifted in the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot

On Jan. 6, the world witnessed how language can incite violence.

One after another, a series of speakers at the "Save America" rally at the Ellipse in Washington redoubled the messages of anger and outrage.

This rhetoric culminated with a directive by the president to go to the Capitol building to embolden Republicans in Congress to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

"Fight like hell," President Donald Trump implored his supporters. "And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."

Shortly thereafter, some of Trump's supporters breached the Capitol.

Throughout his presidency, Trump's unorthodox use of language has fascinated linguists and social scientists. But it wasn't just his words that day that led to the violence.

Starting with a speech he made on Dec. 2 – in which he made his case for election fraud – we analyzed six public addresses Trump made before and after the riot at the Capitol building. The others were the campaign rally ahead of the runoff elections in Georgia, the speech he made at the "Save America" rally on Jan. 6, the videotaped message that aired later that same day, his denouncement of the violence on Jan. 7 and his speech en route to Texas on Jan. 12.

Together, they reveal how the president's language escalated in intensity in the weeks and days leading up to the riots.

Finding patterns in language

Textual analysis – converting words into numbers that can be analyzed as data – can identify patterns in the types of words people use, including their syntax, semantics and vocabulary choice. Linguistic analysis can reveal latent trends in the speaker's psychological, emotional and physical states beneath the surface of what's being heard or read.

This sort of analysis has led to a number of discoveries.

For example, researchers have used it to identify the authors of The Federalist Papers, the Unabomber manifesto and a novel written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym.

Textual analysis continues to offer fresh political insights, such as its use to advance the theory that social media posts attributed to QAnon are actually written by two different people.

The "official" sounding Trump

Contrary to popular thinking, Trump does not universally use inflammatory rhetoric. While he is well known for his unique speaking style and his once-frequent social media posts, in official settings his language has been quite similar to that of other presidents.

Researchers have noted how people routinely alter their speaking and writing depending on whether a setting is formal or informal. In formal venues, like the State of the Union speeches, textual analysis has found Trump to use language in ways that echo his predecessors.

In addition, a recent study analyzed 10,000 words from Trump's and President-elect Joe Biden's campaign speeches. It concluded – perhaps surprisingly – that Trump and Biden's language was similar.

Both men used ample emotional language – the kind that aims to persuade people to vote – at roughly the same rates. They also used comparable rates of positive language, as well as language related to trust, anticipation and surprise. One possible reason for this could be the audience, and the persuasive and evocative nature of campaign speeches themselves, rather than individual differences between speakers.

The road to incitement

Of course, Trump has, at times, used overtly dire and violent language.

After studying Trump's speeches before the storming of the Capitol building, we found some underlying patterns. If it seemed there was a growing sense of momentum and action in his speeches, it's because there was.

From early December to early January, there was an increase in the use of words that convey movement and motion – terms like "change," "follow" and "lead."

This is important, because it signals that the undertone of the speeches, beyond the overt directives, was goading his supporters to take action. By contrast, passive voice is often used to distance oneself from something or someone. In addition, research on linguistic indicators of deception has found that people who are lying often use more motion words.

We also looked at Trump's use of presidential language during the same time frame. Researchers have identified the hallmark features of presidential language. These include using more articles – "the," "an," "a" – prepositions, positive emotion, long words and, interestingly, swear words.

Trump used the most presidential language in the video recorded the day after the riots, in which he denounced the violence, and in his Dec. 2 election fraud speech. His other four speeches more closely match the level of presidential language reflected in his State of the Union speeches.

The violence at the Capitol building and impeachment of the president have only added fuel to a contentious period marked by a pandemic, an economic crisis, widespread protests over racial inequality, a heated presidential election and citizens divided over real and fake news.

In this context, the role of language to calm, reassure and unify is more important than ever – and in this task, Biden has a steep challenge ahead of him.

Roger J. Kreuz, Associate Dean and Professor of Psychology, University of Memphis and Leah Cathryn Windsor, Research Assistant Professor, University of Memphis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Police are 3 times more likely to use violence against leftist protesters than far-right: analysis

Black Lives Matter, Indigenous, anti-war, and other progressive activists reacted with a complete lack of surprise to data reported by The Guardian on Thursday that shows U.S. police are three times more likely to use violence against left-wing and social justice protesters than against those on the political right.

The report, based on statistics from from the U.S. Crisis Monitor—a database created this spring by researchers at Princeton and the nonprofit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED)—found that the overwhelming majority of the thousands of total protests across the nation over the past year have been peaceful.

While most demonstrations in general were not attacked by police, officers used tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings with batons, and other violence against protesters at 511 left-wing events as opposed to just 33 right-wing ones since April 2020, according to ACLED data.

The Guardian analyzed ACLED statistics and determined that 4.7% of protests organized by leftist groups were subjected to police use of force, while only 1.4% of demonstrations by right-wing groups saw police violence.

Ironically—or intentionally, according to some critics—people protesting police violence were much more likely to be subjected to that very violence, and the use of force disparity only widened in relation to peaceful demonstrations. The analysis revealed that police were 3.5 times more likely to attack people at left-wing protests where no violence, vandalism, or looting occurred than at similarly peaceful right-wing actions.

Left-wing protests analyzed include mostly Black Lives Matter, but also actions by Abolish ICE, Democratic Socialists of America, and the NAACP. Right-wing demonstrations include Blue Lives Matter, the QAnon and "Stop the Steal" conspiracy theories, and protests against Covid-19-related public health restrictions over the past year.

Unsurprisingly, left-wing activists were not surprised by the report, with reactions on social media ranging from feigned shock to "water is wet"-type comments. Human rights attorney Qasim Rashid called the report "a surprise to no one paying attention."

Not only have police attacked peaceful Indigenous, racial justice, economic justice, and other protesters in recent years, in some cases state and local law enforcement officers have actively worked with neo-Nazi factions and other far-right groups to target antiracism demonstrators. The FBI has also repeatedly reported a significant white supremacist presence among U.S. law enforcement agencies. Journalists and innocent bystanders have also been brutally attacked by police at or near leftwing demonstrations.

Most recently, commentators have noted the stark difference between the largely hands-off police treatment of the right-wing insurrectionist mob that perpetrated the deadly January 6, 2021 invasion of the U.S. Capitol—which killed one police officer—and the brutal law enforcement attacks on peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C. last summer that followed the killings of Black people including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and others.

Dostoevsky warned of the strain of nihilism that infects Donald Trump and his movement

Nihilism was notably cited during U.S. Senate deliberations after rioting Trump supporters had been cleared from the Capitol.

“Don’t let nihilists become your drug dealers,” exhorted Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse. “There are some who want to burn it all down. … Don’t let them be your prophets.”

How else to describe the incendiary rhetoric and grievances that Donald Trump has peddled since November? What else to call the denial of the electorate’s will and his deep disdain for American institutions and traditions?

In 2016, I wrote about how Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky had, in his work, explored what happens to society when people who rise to power lack any semblance of ideological or moral convictions and view society as bereft of meaning. I saw eerie similarities with Trump’s actions and rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Fast-forward four years, and I believe the warnings of Dostoevsky – particularly in his most most political novel, “Demons,” published in 1872 – hold truer than ever.

Although set in a sleepy provincial Russian town, “Demons” serves as a broader allegory for how thirst for power in some people, combined with the indifference and disavowal of responsibility by others, amount to a devastating nihilism that consumes society, fostering chaos and costing lives.

Power for power’s sake

Before “Demons,” Dostoevsky had been writing a novel about faith, “The Life of a Great Sinner.”

But then a disturbing public trial spurred him in a more overtly political direction. A young student had been murdered by members of a revolutionary group, The Organization of the People’s Vengeance, at the behest of their leader, Sergei Nechaev.

Dostoevsky was appalled that politics could be dehumanizing to the point of murder. His focus turned not only to moral questions but also to political demagoguery, which, he argued, if left unchecked, could result in devastating loss of life.

Sporting a beard, Dostoyevsky stares solemnly into the camera.
A portrait of Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky from around the time he wrote ‘Demons.’ adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images

The result was “Demons.” It featured two protagonists: Pyotr Verkhovensky, a former student with no political convictions beyond a lust for power, and Nikolai Stavrogin, a man so morally numb and emotionally detached that he is incapable of purposeful action and stands idly by as violence engulfs his society.

Through these two figures, Dostoevsky tells a broader story about the many flavors of nihilism. Pyotr infiltrates the town’s local social circles, recruits a group of disciples to a revolutionary group and spins lies to band them together so they may do his bidding. Pretending to lead a broad movement of international socialism, Pyotr manipulates those around him into committing violent acts and insurrection against the local government. As a result, one woman is crushed by a mob, a mother and her baby die from chaos and neglect and a fire breaks out that kills multiple others.

Different townspeople espouse multiple and contradictory ideologies; none translates into purposeful action. Instead, they merely leave characters whiplashed and susceptible to being instrumentalized by Pyotor, the master manipulator.

The allure of feeling something

But Pyotr would not prevail without the nihilism of Stavrogin, a local nobleman.

Many townspeople see him as a leader with a strong moral compass. Throughout the novel, Pyotr seeks to loop Stavrogin into his quest for power by either doing him favors that corrupt him or hinting that he will install him as dictator once he successfully carries out a revolution.

On some level, Stavrogin knows better: He should be protecting the town and its people. He ultimately fails to do so, out of sheer despondence and because of the emotional appeal of chaos and violence have for him; they seem to jolt him out of the ennui he often appears to feel.

When given the chance to restrain and turn in to the authorities the escaped convict who perpetrates most of the violence in town, Stavrogin captures him only to eventually let him go. “Steal more, kill more,” he says to a criminal who has already admitted to killing and stealing. Later, when the political climate gets so heated that it seems an insurrection is imminent, he flees town.

A page covered in Dostoevsky's handwritten script, doodles and drawings.
A page from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s manuscript for ‘Demons.’ Heritage Images via Getty Images

In surrendering his responsibility to serve as a moral guardian, Stavrogin becomes complicit in Pyotr’s schemes. He ultimately kills himself – perhaps, in part, out of guilt for his passivity and moral indifference.

Among the two men, Pyotr is the authoritarian figure. And he cleverly insists that members of the revolutionary group break the law together, cementing a loyal brotherhood of criminality.

By contrast, Stavrogin is the novel’s empty center, idly standing by while Pyotr incites violence.

He doesn’t help Pyotr. But he doesn’t stop him, either.

From nihilism to annihilation

A range of nihilistic justifications – each successively hollower than the rest – seems to have shaped the violence at the U.S. Capitol.

The homegrown American insurrection lacked any sort of ideological foundation. Most ideas fueling it are negations of persons or facts. The immediate rallying cry of the insurrection was the falsehood that the election was stolen. Beyond denying the will of over 80 million people who voted for Joe Biden, this lie also qualifies not as an ideology, but as an absolute denial of truth.

Other ideas fomenting the insurrection – such as “America first” or “MAGA” and even white supremacy itself – are quintessentially founded on the denial of others, whether they are immigrants, foreign nationals or persons of color.

From what we have learned since, some of Trump’s supporters were even imploring him to “cross the Rubicon,” a reference to Julius Caesar’s initiation of the civil war that eventually transformed Rome into a dictatorial empire, expressing a longing to smash American systems and eviscerate the republic.

The only real purpose that seems to have brought the group together was devotion to Donald Trump, who strikes me as the arch-nihilist in all this, the Pyotr Verkhovensky of this American tragedy. Then there are the other public figures who should have known better, who might have helped stop it all, but couldn’t and didn’t. Some, like Stavrogin, excused themselves and were silent for far too long, as the lie about the election grew bigger and bigger. And others seemed to outright encourage the lie through formalized objections in Congress last week.

Playacting at revolution at the behest of a man seeking to cling to power, the rioters ultimately only managed only to vandalize the building, though they left five people dead in their wake.

Nonetheless, to act violently on the basis of such fictions – and to transgress against the humanity of others for nothing at all – is perhaps the most nihilistic act of them all.The Conversation

Ani Kokobobo, Associate Professor of Russian Literature, University of Kansas

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lawmakers will deliberate over a deadly weapon used in the attack on Capitol Hill at impeachment hearing: Trump’s words

Five days after supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol building, the House of Representatives introduced a single article of impeachment against the president.

The article accuses Trump of incitement of insurrection for his continued propagation of lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, as well as his violent rhetoric immediately preceding the attack on Capitol Hill. The article contends that Trump’s lies and rhetoric directly led to violence with the goal of undermining the counting of electoral votes.

The president, says the impeachment article, “willfully made statements that, in context, encourage – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”

Impeachment proceedings that consider incitement to insurrection are rare in American history. Yet dozens of legislators – including some Republicans – say that Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol contributed to an attempted insurrection against American democracy itself.

Such claims against Trump are complicated. Rather than wage direct war against sitting U.S. representatives, Trump is accused of using language to motivate others to do so. Some, including the president, have countered that the connection between President Trump’s words and the violence of Jan. 6 is too tenuous, too abstract, too indirect to be considered viable.

However, decades of research on social influence, persuasion and psychology show that the messages that people encounter heavily influence their decisions to engage in certain behaviors.

Donald Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 at the “Save America March.”

How it works

The research shows that the messages we consume affect our behaviors in three ways.

First, when a person encounters a message that advocates a behavior, that person is likely to believe that the behavior will have positive results. This is particularly true if the speaker of that message is liked or trusted by the target of the message.

Second, when these messages communicate positive beliefs or attitudes about a behavior – as when our friends told us that smoking was “cool” when we were teenagers – message targets come to believe that those they care about would approve of their engaging in the behavior or would engage in the behavior themselves.

Finally, when those messages contain language that highlights the target’s ability to perform a behavior, as when a president tells raucous supporters that they have the power to overturn an election, they develop the belief that they can actually carry out that behavior.

Consider something we have all encountered in a more lighthearted context – messages designed to motivate exercise. These messages often tell us one (or more) of three things. They tell us that exercise will lead to positive outcomes – “You will get physically fit!” They tell us that others exercise or would approve of our taking part in exercise – “Work out with a friend!” And they tell us that it is within our power to begin an exercise program – “Anybody can do it!”

In this context, these messages are likely to increase the message target’s likelihood of exercising.

Unfortunately, as we saw on Jan. 6, these principles of persuasion apply to less benign behaviors as well.

Members of Congress were forced to evacuate the House Chambers to evade protesters.
Members of Congress were forced to evacuate the House chambers to evade protesters. Drew Angerer/Getty Images via Getty Images

How Trump did it

Now let us return to what happened in Washington on Jan. 6.

Even in the weeks before the election, Trump’s rhetoric was belligerent. His campaign solicited supporters to “enlist” in the “Army for Trump” to help reelect him. Following the election and in the lead-up to the attack on the Capitol, President Trump made repeated false claims of election fraud, arguing that something needed to be done to remedy the alleged fraud. His language often took an aggressive tone, suggesting that his supporters must “fight” to preserve the integrity of the election.

By inundating his supporters with these lies, Trump made two key beliefs acceptable to his followers. First, that aggression against those accused of trying to undermine his “victory” is an acceptable and useful means of political action. Second, that aggressive, possibly violent attitudes against Trump’s political adversaries are common among all his supporters.

Words have consequences

In the weeks following the election, allies of President Trump, including Rudy Giuliani, Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and others, only reinforced these beliefs among Trump supporters by perpetuating his lies.

With these beliefs and attitudes in place, Trump’s Jan. 6 speech outside the White House served as a key accelerant to the attack by sparking the raucous crowd to action.

In his pre-attack speech, Trump said that he and his followers should “fight like hell” against “bad people.” He said that they would “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” to give Republican legislators the boldness they need to “take back the country.” He said that “this is a time for strength” and that the crowd was beholden to “very different rules” than would normally be called for.

Less than two hours after these words were spoken, violent insurrectionists and domestic terrorists breached the Capitol.

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In the case of Donald Trump, the relationship between words and actions never seems clear. But make no mistake, there is a scientifically valid case for incitement.

Decades of research have demonstrated that language affects our behaviors – words have consequences. And when those words champion aggression, make violence acceptable and embolden audiences to action, incidents like the insurrection at the Capitol are the result.The Conversation

Kurt Braddock, Assistant Professor, American University School of Communication

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Expert: Trump's Capitol mob highlights 5 reasons why we shouldn't underestimate far-right extremists

In the wake of the mob incursion that took over the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, it's clear that many people are concerned about violence from far-right extremists. But they may not understand the real threat.

The law enforcement community is among those who have failed to understand the true nature and danger of far-right extremists. Over several decades, the FBI and other federal authorities have only intermittently paid attention to far-right extremists. In recent years, they have again acknowledged the extent of the threats they pose to the country. But it's not clear how long their attention will last.

Clearly the U.S. Capitol Police underestimated the threat on Jan. 6. Despite plenty of advance notice and offers of help from other agencies, they were caught totally unprepared for the mob that took over the Capitol.

While researching my forthcoming book, “It Can Happen Here: White Power and the Rising Threat of Genocide in the U.S.," I discovered that there are five key mistakes people make when thinking about far-right extremists. These mistakes obscure the extremists' true danger.

A KKK march in Tennessee in 1986

In this Jan. 18, 1986, photo, a KKK group marches in Tennessee to protest the first national observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

1. Some have white supremacist views, but others don't

When asked to condemn white supremacists and extremists at the first presidential debate, President Donald Trump floundered, then said, “Give me a name." His Democratic challenger Joe Biden offered, “The Proud Boys."

Not all far-right extremists are militant white supremacists.

White supremacy, the belief in white racial superiority and dominance, is a major theme of many far-right believers. Some, like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, are extremely hardcore hate groups.

Others, who at times identify themselves with the term “alt-right," often mix racism, anti-Semitism and claims of white victimization in a less militant way. In addition, there are what some experts have called the “alt-lite," like the Proud Boys, who are less violent and disavow overt white supremacy even as they promote white power by glorifying white civilization and demonizing nonwhite people including Muslims and many immigrants.

There is another major category of far-right extremists who focus more on opposing the government than they do on racial differences. This so-called “patriot movement" includes tax protesters and militias, many heavily armed and a portion from military and law enforcement backgrounds. Some, like the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Boogaloos, seek civil war to overthrow what they regard as a corrupt political order.

A boat flies the Gadsden 'Don't tread on me' flag and a Three Percenters flag.

During an April protest in Seattle, a boat flies the Gadsden 'Don't tread on me' flag and the flag of the Three Percenters right-wing militia.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

2. They live in cities and towns across the nation and even the globe

Far-right extremists are in communities all across America.

The KKK, often thought of as centered in the South, has chapters from coast to coast. The same is true of other far-right extremist groups, as illustrated by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Map.

Far-right extremism is also global, a point underscored by the 2011 massacre in Norway and the 2019 New Zealand mosque attack, both of which were perpetrated by people claiming to resist “white genocide." The worldwide spread led the U.N. to recently issue a global alert about the “growing and increasing transnational threat" of right-wing extremism.

A person wearing a 'Q' vest

The 'collective delusion' known as QAnon will be around for many years.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

3. Many are well organized, educated and social media savvy

Far-right extremists include people who write books, wear sport coats and have advanced degrees. For instance, in 1978 a physics professor turned neo-Nazi wrote a book that has been called the “bible of the racist right." Other leaders of the movement have attended elite universities.

Far-right extremists were early users of the internet and now thrive on social media platforms, which they use to agitate, recruit and organize. The 2017 “Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville revealed how effectively they could reach large groups and mobilize them into action.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have recently attempted to ban many of them. But the alleged Michigan kidnappers' ability to evade restrictions by simply creating new pages and groups has limited the companies' success.

A German American Bund march in New York City

People carrying a Nazi flag march in New York City in 1937.

New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection/Library of Congress

4. They were here long before Trump and will remain here long after

Many people associate far-right extremism with the rise of Trump. It's true that hate crimes, anti-Semitism and the number of hate groups have risen sharply since his campaign began in 2015. And the QAnon movement – called both a “collective delusion" and a “virtual cult" – has gained widespread attention.

But far-right extremists were here long before Trump.

The history of white power extremism dates back to slave patrols and the post-Civil War rise of the KKK. In the 1920s, the KKK had millions of members. The following decade saw the rise of Nazi sympathizers, including 15,000 uniformed “Silver Shirts" and a 20,000-person pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1939.

While adapting to the times, far-right extremism has continued into the present. It's not dependent on Trump, and will remain a threat regardless of his public prominence.

People wearing camouflage and carrying weapons

Members of the Boogaloo movement, seen here at a New Hampshire demonstration, seek a civil war in the U.S.

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

5. They pose a widespread and dire threat, with some seeking civil war

Far-right extremists often appear to strike in spectacular “lone wolf" attacks, like the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995, the mass murder at a Charleston church in 2015 and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018. But these people are not alone.

Most far-right extremists are part of larger extremist communities, communicating by social media and distributing posts and manifestos.

Their messages speak of fear that one day, whites may be outnumbered by nonwhites in the U.S., and the idea that there is a Jewish-led plot to destroy the white race. In response, they prepare for a war between whites and nonwhites.

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Thinking of these extremists as loners risks missing the complexity of their networks, which brought as many as 13 alleged plotters together in the planning to kidnap Michigan's governor.

Together, these misconceptions about far-right extremist individuals and groups can lead Americans to underestimate the dire threat they pose to the public. Understanding them, by contrast, can help people and experts alike address the danger, as the election's aftermath unfolds.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published Oct. 30, 2020.The Conversation

Members of the Proud Boys arrive at an event in Oregon.

Members of the Proud Boys right-wing extremist group arrive at a pro-Donald Trump rally in Oregon in September 2020.

AP Photo/Andrew Selsky

Alexander Hinton, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology; Director, Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights, Rutgers University - Newark

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Expert explains symbols of 'extreme anti-semitism' present during Trump supporters' Capitol riot

One of the many horrifying images from the Jan. 6 rampage on the U.S. Capitol shows a long-haired, long-bearded man wearing a blackCamp Auschwitz" T-shirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, and under it the phrase “work brings freedom" – an English translation of the Auschwitz concentration camp motto: “Arbeit macht frei."

Another image, more subtle but no less incendiary, is of a different man whose T-shirt was emblazoned with the inscription “6MWE" above yellow symbols of Italian Fascism. “6MWE" is an acronym common among the far right standing for “6 Million Wasn't Enough." It refers to the Jews exterminated during the Nazi Holocaust and hints at the desire of the wearer to increase that number still further.

These and related images, captured on television and retweeted on social media, demonstrate that some of those who traveled to Washington to support President Donald Trump were engaged in much more than just a doomed effort to maintain their hero in power.

As their writings make clear to me as a scholar of American anti-Semitism, some among them also hoped to trigger what is known as the “Great Revolution," based on a fictionalized account of a government takeover and race war, that, in its most extreme form, would exterminate Jews.

Extreme anti-Semitism

Calls to exterminate Jews are common in far-right and white nationalist circles. For example, the conspiracy theorists of QAnon, who hold “that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump," traffic in it regularly.

The anonymous “Q" – the group's purported head who communicates in riddles and leaves clues on message boards – once approvingly retweeted the anti-Semitic image of a knife-wielding Jew wearing a Star of David necklace who stands knee-deep in the blood of Russians, Poles, Hungarians and Ukrainians and asks with feigned innocence, “Why do they persecute me so?"

Images of long-nosed Jews dripping with the blood of non-Jews whom they are falsely accused of murdering have a long and tragic history. Repeatedly, they have served as triggers for anti-Semitic violence.

More commonly, including in recent days, QAnon has targeted Jewish billionaire philanthropist and investor George Soros, whom it portrays as the primary figure shaping and controlling world events. A century ago, the Rothschilds, a family of Jewish bankers, was depicted in much the same way.

QAnon supporters, US Capitol

Among the crowd that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were QAnon supporters.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

QAnon members also mark Jews with triple parentheses, a covert means of outing those whom they consider usurpers and outsiders, not true members of the white race.

'White genocide'

Another website popular in white nationalist circles displayed photographs of Jewish women and men, downloaded from university websites, so as to help readers distinguish Jews from the “Aryan Master Race." “Europeans are the children of God," it proclaims. “(((They)))" – denominating Jews as other without even mentioning them – “are the children of Satan."

The website justifies rabid anti-Semitism by linking Jews to the forces supposedly seeking to undermine racial hierarchies. “White genocide is (((their))) plan," it declares, again marking Jews with triple parentheses, “counter-(((extermination))) is our response."

Members of the Proud Boys, another group that sent members to Washington, likewise traffic in anti-Semitism. One of the group's leaders, Kyle Chapman, recently promised to “confront the Zionist criminals who wish to destroy our civilization." The West, he explained “was built by the White Race alone and we owe nothing to any other race."

Chapman, like many of his peers, uses the term “white genocide" as a shorthand way of expressing the fear that the members of the white population of the United States, like themselves, will soon be overwhelmed by people of color. The popular 14-word white supremacist slogan, visible on signs outside the Capitol on Wednesday, reads “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Composed by David Lane, one of the conspirators behind the 1984 assassination of Jewish radio host Alan Berg, this slogan originally formed part of a larger document entitled “The White Genocide Manifesto." Its 14 planks insist that Jews are not white and actually endanger white civilization. “All Western nations are ruled by a Zionist conspiracy to mix, overrun and exterminate the White race," the manifesto's seventh plank reads.

While influenced by the infamous anti-Semitic forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the document goes further, blaming members of what it euphemistically calls the “Zionist occupation governments of America" for homosexuality and abortion as well.

QAnon followers, the Proud Boys and the other far-right and alt-right groups that converged on Washington imagined that they were living out the great fantasy that underlies what many consider to be the bible of the white nationalism movement, a 1978 dystopian novel, “The Turner Diaries," by William Luther Pierce.

The novel depicts the violent overthrow of the government of the United States, nuclear conflagration, race war and the ultimate extermination of nonwhites and “undesirable racial elements among the remaining White population."

Symbolism outside the Capitol

As opinion writer Seyward Darby pointed out in The New York Times, the gallows erected in front of the Capitol recalls the novel's depiction of “the day of the rope," when so-called betrayers of their race were lynched. Unmentioned in The New York Times article is that the novel subsequently depicts “a war to the death with the Jew."

The book warns Jews that their “day is coming." When it does, at the novel's conclusion, mass lynchings and a takeover of Washington set off a worldwide conflagration, and, within a few days “the throat of the last Jewish survivor in the last kibbutz and in the last, smoking ruin in Tel Aviv had been cut."

“The Turner Diaries"' denouement coupled with the anti-Semitic images from the Capitol on Wednesday serve as timely reminders of the precarious place Jews occupy in different corners of the United States. Even as some celebrate how Jews have become white and privileged, others dream of Jews' ultimate extermination.The Conversation

Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Far-right activists on social media telegraphed violence weeks in advance of the attack on the US Capitol

The attack on the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 was shocking, but no one following right-wing activity on social media should have been surprised. The attempt by President Donald Trump’s far-right supporters to violently stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote and formalizing Joe Biden’s election victory was consistent with their openly expressed hopes and plans.

As a researcher of far-right extremism, I monitor right-wing social media communities. For weeks in advance, I watched as groups across the right-wing spectrum declared their intentions. On Facebook, Twitter, Parler and other platforms, influencers, politicians, activists and ordinary people focused on Jan. 6 as their final opportunity to prevent what they claimed was corruption on a monumental scale.

To most of these activists, there was no possible resolution other than Trump emerging victorious. In the open, they discussed how they were preparing to force Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to nullify the election results and declare Trump the victor.

The buildup

Since the election in November, Trump and his allies had spread baseless conspiracy theories alleging that Democrats, some Republicans and the “deep state” had committed widespread voter fraud to elect Biden. In this myth, Trump had won the election in a landslide, and only corrupt politicians stood in the way of his victory. These conspiracy theories sparked fury in all corners of the right-wing ecosystem, and the certification process for the Electoral College votes became a symbol of both corruption and opportunity.

Conservative groups began organizing for a large-scale protest in Washington, D.C., following a tweet from President Trump posted on Dec. 18. “Big protest in D.C. on Jan. 6. Be there, will be wild!” he wrote. His instructions were taken seriously by mainstream supporters and far-right extremists alike.

Stymied repeatedly in their efforts to overturn the election, Trump supporters and right-wing extremists searched for another avenue to reverse election results. For Trump and his supporters, Jan. 6 became a desperate, last-ditch effort. As social media posts showed, this desperation led them to express the righteousness of using violence to force Congress to act in their favor.

Out in the open

In the days preceding the events of Jan. 6, right-wing social media communities frequently discussed preparations, travel plans and hopes for the demonstrations. Across Twitter and Facebook, people began speaking of Jan. 6 in near-mystical terms. By surveying social media data from mid-December to Jan. 5, I discovered thousands of posts referring to the planned protests as if they were a coming revolution.

In some circles, the event became synonymous with a final battle – the moment when all of the supposed crimes of Democrats would be laid bare, and when ordinary Americans would take back the government. “On January 6, we find out whether we still have a constitutional republic,” one user wrote on Twitter on New Year’s Eve. “If not, the revolution begins. I’d rather fight and die than live in a socialist society. Pretty sure 80 million Americans feel the same way.”

Specific references to storming the Capitol also appeared, although infrequently. As one Twitter user put it, “Roberts is the Corrupt-in-chief. January 6. We need to storm Congress and @SCOTUS and arrest Roberts, McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer, McCarthy just to begin the swamp’s draining! #RobertsCorruptInChief.”

More frequently, QAnon adherents zeroed in on Jan. 6 as the beginning of a chain of events that would lead to apocalyptic cleansing they refer to as “The Storm.” Some even believed that The Storm would arrive during the demonstration itself, and that Trump would, far beyond any reasonable expectation, arrest members of the Democratic and global elite for treason while also winning the election.

A man wearing a shirt with a large Q on it stands in front of a group in a smoke-filled corridor
QAnon conspiracy theory adherents were among those who stormed the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Although posts on Facebook and Twitter hinted that more than just protests were possible, nowhere was the coming violence as obvious as on Parler. The site, which has attracted millions of new conservative users in the past year, has positioned itself as a bastion for right-wing conspiracy theories and organizing efforts. From my research, hundreds of Parler users expressed their sincere belief, and even desire, that the demonstrations would spark a physical battle, revolution or civil war.

“We are ready to fight back and we want blood,” a Parler post from Dec. 28 declared. “The president need to do some thing if Jan. 6 is the day then we are ready.” Another user stated, “January 6 will either be our saving grace or we will have another civil war that should end very quickly!! Either way Trump will be our POTUS!! Anything less is unacceptable!!”

Using tools that allow me to monitor large-scale social media data, I found evidence that right-wing activists had been explicit and open with their intentions for the Jan. 6 demonstrations since at least mid-December. I have no doubt that the demonstration was specifically designed to force Congress to overturn the election. Although the act of storming the Capitol may not have been planned, the demonstrators had prepared for weeks to use at least the threat of physical violence to intimidate Congress and Pence during the certification process.

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A pattern of planning and calls for violence

The profound transparency with which right-wing activists planned their demonstrations indicates both that extreme, anti-democratic thought has become normalized on Parler, and that Twitter and Facebook still struggle to moderate open calls to violence. This is not the first time. Right-wing activists have made a habit of organizing in the open and galvanizing supporters to express their desire for violent confrontation.

Far-right activists have also engaged in online fundraising, including while livestreaming the attack on the Capitol building.

Since the attack, I’ve observed users on Parler, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously celebrating the occupiers and spreading unfounded, dangerous conspiracy theories that the instigators of the violence were actually antifascists and leftists. On Parler, many users have turned on Pence, and calls for the execution of politicians have increased.

Law enforcement and intelligence services should learn from what happened and the apparent lack of preparedness on the part of Capitol police, because this is likely to happen again. It’s impossible to know what will happen next. However, the communities that caused the events of Jan. 6 organized for it openly on social media – and they show every intention of acting again.The Conversation

Alex Newhouse, Research Lead, Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, Middlebury Institute of International Studies

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QAnon and the storm of the US Capitol: The offline effect of online conspiracy theories

What is the cost of propaganda, misinformation and conspiracy theories? Democracy and public safety, to name just two things. The United States has received a stark lesson on how online propaganda and misinformation have an offline impact.

For months, Donald Trump has falsely claimed the November presidential election was rigged and that’s why he wasn’t re-elected. The president’s words have mirrored and fed conspriacy theories spread by followers of the QAnon movement.

While conspiracy theorists are often dismissed as “crazy people on social media,” QAnon adherents were among the individuals at the front line of the storming of Capitol Hill.

QAnon is a decentralized, ideologically motivated and violent extemist movement rooted in an unfounded conspiracy theory that a global “Deep State” cabal of satanic pedophile elites is responsible for all the evil in the world. Adherents of QAnon also believe that this same cabal is seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope in defeating it.

The evolution of QAnon

Though it started as a series of conspiracy theories and false predictions, over the past three years QAnon has evolved into an extremist religio-political ideology.

I’ve been studying the movement for more than two years. QAnon is what I call a hyper-real religion. QAnon takes popular cultural artifacts and integrates them into an ideological framework.

QAnon has been a security threat in the making for the past three years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played a signficant role in popularizing the QAnon movement. Facebook data since the start of 2020 shows QAnon membership grew by 581 per cent — most of which occurred after the United States closed its borders last March as part of its coronavirus containment strategy.

Aggregate growth of QAnon membership in Facebook groups and pages between January and September 2020. Data collected and visualized September 4, 2020 courtsey of CrowdTangle.

As social media researcher Alex Kaplan noted, 2020 was the year “QAnon became all of our problem” as the movement initially gained traction by spreading COVID-related conspiracy theories and disinformation and was then further mainstreamed by 97 U.S. congressional candidates who publicly showed support for QAnon.

Crowdsourced answers

The essence of QAnon lies in its attempts to delineate and explain evil. It’s about theodicy, not secular evidence. QAnon offers its adherents comfort in an uncertain — and unprecedented — age as the movement crowdsources answers to the inexplicable.

QAnon becomes the master narrative capable of simply explaining various complex events. The result is a worldview characterized by a sharp distinction between the realms of good and evil that is non-falsifiable.

No matter how much evidence journalists, academics and civil society offer as a counter to the claims promoted by the movement, belief in QAnon as the source of truth is a matter of faith — specifically in their faith in Trump and “Q,” the anonymous person who began the movement in 2017 by posting a series of wild theories about the Deep State.

Trump validated theories

The year 2020 was also Trump finally gave QAnon what it always wanted: respect. As Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher and host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast recently wrote: “Over the past few months …Trump has recognized the QAnon community in a way its followers could have only fantasized about when I began tracking the movement’s growth over two years ago.”

Trump, lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, and QAnon “rising star” Ron Watkins have all been actively inflaming QAnon apocalyptic and anti-establishment desires by promoting voter fraud conspiracy theories.

Doubts about the validity of the election have been circulating in far-right as well as QAnon circles. Last October, I wrote that if there were delays or other complications in the final result of the presidential contest, it would likely feed into a pre-existing belief in the invalidity of the election — and foster a chaotic environment that could lead to violence.

Several protesters, including a shirtless man wearing a fur hat with horns, confront a security guard at the U.S. Capitol.
A shirtless man known as the ‘QAnon Shaman’ was one of the high-profile members of Trump supporters who invaded the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Hope for miracles

The storming of U.S. Capitol saw the culmination of what has been building up for weeks: the “hopeium” in QAnon circles that some miracle via Vice-President Mike Pence and other constitutional witchcraft would overturn the election results.

Instead, QAnon followers are now faced with the end of a Trump presidency — where they had free rein — and the fear of what a Biden presidency will bring.

We have now long passed the point of simply asking: how can people believe in QAnon when so many of its claims fly in the face of facts? The attack on the Capitol showed the real dangers of QAnon adherents.

Their militant and anti-establishment ideology — rooted in a quasi-apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world and usher in a promised golden age — was on full display for the whole world to see. Who could miss the shirtless man wearing a fur hat, known as the QAnon Shaman, leading the charge into the Capitol rotunda?

What will happen now? QAnon, along with other far-right actors, will likely continue to come together to achieve their insurrection goals. This could lead to a continuation of QAnon-inspired violence as the movement’s ideology continues to grow in American culture.The Conversation

Marc-André Argentino, PhD candidate Individualized Program, 2020-2021 Public Scholar, Concordia University

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An expert on political violence explains the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol

Editor’s note: Ore Koren is a scholar of civil conflict and political violence. Before the November 2020 election, he wrote a story for The Conversation about the likelihood of election-related violence in the U.S. So we went back to him on Wednesday, while what some are calling an insurrection unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, to ask him for some perspective on the event. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You’re a scholar of political violence. What were you thinking as you watched what’s happened at the U.S. Capitol?

Koren: First of all, I felt pretty stunned. I think that’s a natural response to this. This is a new situation; it shows the power of misinformation and stuff that we’re not really good at dealing with.

My research focuses on organized political violence, which often happens in places where the state does not have much power to prevent violence, where the economy is underdeveloped, where democratic institutions are weak, and where there is a history of organized violence. And usually when we see events at this magnitude, they are accompanied by many casualties, which thankfully was not the case today.

What happened at the Capitol, from what I can tell, was a messy riot where people lashed out at the heart of American democracy, but it remains unclear how organized an effort this was.

Still, it is kind of shocking. We have the biggest economy in the world. Based on what we see in the research, weak economic performance is a strong predictor of organized political violence. The people marching on the Capitol have much more to lose than to gain from this, and to me that’s puzzling.

With an incumbent who has been advocating for a strong law-and-order agenda, many people did not expect this. In a country with a strong domestic security apparatus, militias and vigilantes hurt rather than help in promoting the rule of law.

What separates the U.S. and other advanced and militarily capable democracies from other countries where deadly election violence happens is the ability to wage an effective state response and very quickly implement the rule of law, cracking down on both the perpetrators and any groups they might be affiliated with.

One example of a very effective state response was in Michigan, where the militias plotting to kidnap the state’s governor were quickly apprehended by federal authorities.

Capitol police officers point their guns at a vandalized door, barricaded to prevent entry.
U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House chamber during a joint session of Congress on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images News via Getty Images

Q: How does this compare with political violence in countries you’ve studied?

Koren: Compared to other countries, I’m hoping it won’t get to that threshold of being more extreme. A lot of violence actually happens when a party refuses to give away power or a party blames the other for cheating. Well, that’s kind of what we saw happening here, right, one party was blaming the other for cheating. Only here, we had lots of evidence to the contrary, and we had legal and institutional ways of verifying any cheating or lack thereof.

In the U.S., most of the election challenges happened through formal legal channels. The main problem in places where we see violence happen is because they don’t have these kinds of institutions to deal with this, courts, all those things that our legal system can handle. But in countries where such institutions are weak, the state can’t handle that, and can’t address election challenges through a peaceful process. In this case, we see many political leaders, and not only angry citizens, saying those political institutions are not valid.

Also, in other countries, those engaging in such violence are often pro-government militias, but these are not pro-government militias we’re seeing here; as we saw today, they are actively opposing the police.

Q: But what you’ve got in the U.S. is a group of people who actually don’t believe that those institutions handled this, that it’s all corrupt, that it’s all fake and not real and cheating and plots happened. And we’ve had a president saying that.

Koren: Well, you have the president saying he was cheated, but going through the legal channels. The president didn’t just go and say, “OK, let’s go charge the Capitol,” although Wednesday morning’s speech could definitely be interpreted as instigating something like this. Until now, his rhetoric could be considered more about mobilizing support, and trying to create enough reasonable doubt that could then be used to pressure the results through formal channels.

But we do have a very unpredictable incumbent pushing the legal envelope during the worst pandemic in a century. What we’re seeing today, I think, has a lot more to do with his unpredictability and things we can’t account for in models we use to study political violence events. It’s been more than two months since the election and we didn’t see any serious violence until now, but as the legal options closed, the situation became more problematic. We don’t often see election-related violence months after an election.

Protesters enter the Capitol building.
Protesters enter the Capitol building. Win McNamee/Getty Images News via Getty Images

Q: What do you think this means for the stability of the U.S. government or U.S. elections?

Koren: I’m not an election expert, but it’s a bad precedent. We don’t have a recent history of election violence and, now we can say we do have it, and that’s not a good thing.

What hugely contributed to all of this is misinformation. People mobilized based on a conspiracy with no evidence. I think this is a major problem that has to be addressed – I don’t know how. But it is really crucial to address the underlying problem – that people believe in what they feel is real, not what is real.

Once you engage in political violence, it becomes easier to do it again. But if there’s an effective state response to these events, then it can help strengthen those institutions.

So, I think a lot of people will be saying, look, this is all going to have long-term negative implications. But there’s also a possibility that this can actually help in the long run by showing the grave consequences of manipulating democratic institutions for political gain. Again, it depends on how the state and politicians and security and everybody responds to this. But having a history of political violence is a pretty strong predictor of future violence.

I think it’s really important for federal authorities to show their ability to tackle this. When it comes down to it, the government must show that it can protect American democracy, through force if necessary.

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Naomi Schalit, Senior Editor, Politics + Society, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trump tapped into white victimhood – leaving fertile ground for white supremacists

Despite failed lawsuits, recounts and formal confirmation that President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, President Donald Trump and his supporters continue to maintain that the election was rigged and that he and the American people are victims of massive voter fraud.

This politicization of victimhood is nothing new to the Trump presidency.

It was there from the beginning. When Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower to announce his presidential campaign in 2015, he stoked fears of Mexican rapists and drug traffickers attacking U.S. citizens.

The claims of victimhood ran throughout his presidency. He played on U.S. fears of being attacked by foreign terrorists to enact the travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries.

When protesters called for the removal of Confederate monuments, Trump claimed that they wanted to make people ashamed of American history. As COVID-19 spread across the U.S., Trump dubbed it the “China virus” and contended that China would pay for what it had done.

Journalists and commentators also turned to a sense of aggrievement to explain the popular support Trump received. A narrative emerged: White, working-class voters from rural and Rust Belt communities felt abandoned by the political establishment. Decades of free trade, automation and cuts to the social safety net turned these voters against the mainstreams of both political parties.

But this narrative fails to answer two critical questions: Why did upper-middle-class and wealthy white voters – who aren’t economic victims – vociferously support Trump in 2016? And why do communities of color – who’ve experienced centuries of economic and racial victimization – largely oppose him?

I teach about whiteness in the U.S. and am writing a book on the rhetoric of white entrenchment. I believe Trump and Trumpism tapped into a long-standing sense of aggrievement that often – but not exclusively – manifests as white victimhood.

White victimhood

The politics of white victimhood is nothing new. For example, before the Civil War, pro-slavery advocates blamed abolitionists for causing slave revolts and endangering the lives of white Southerners.

A sense – or fear – of victimhood pervades contemporary white supremacy, from the extreme to the mainstream.

Since the 1980s, figures like Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan have alluded to plots involving Mexican immigrants and the Mexican government to retake the U.S. Southwest.

This paranoid victimhood ultimately led to a ban on ethnic studies in some Arizona schools after politicians claimed that the classes encouraged hatred toward white people and activists contended that Mexican American studies would bring about a reconquest of the U.S. Southwest.

And there is the perennial War on Christmas wherein some Christians feel they are persecuted by people who say “Happy Holidays” to recognize that their fellow citizens may celebrate other faith traditions. Notably, the idea of a “War on Christmas” was coined by Peter Brimelow, founder of the VDARE white supremacist website.

Even avowed white supremacists fear their victimhood and use fear of becoming the victim as a recruiting tool.

Consider this motto widely used across various neo-Nazi groups: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” These adherents wouldn’t need to secure a future for white children if they didn’t see that future as imperiled.

Similarly, at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”

Trump’s stoking of victimhood is neither novel nor something that merely taps into economic anxiety.

‘Wages of whiteness’

To understand this identity invested in victimhood, we must explore whiteness.

Historian David Roediger demonstrated how in the 19th and early 20th centuries, adopting whiteness gave working-class European Americans certain psychological and social advantages as well as economic ones. American intellectual W.E.B. DuBois called these advantages the “wages of whiteness.”

Portrait of W.E.B. DuBois
W.E.B. DuBois, American sociologist and NAACP co-founder, 1868-1963. Keystone/Getty Images

These “wages of whiteness” gave white Americans the social advantages afforded by higher-paying jobs as well as residential and school segregation. The psychological payout came in knowing that even if they were being economically exploited by elites, at least they held social standing above their Black working-class counterparts.

Although the U.S. is far from achieving racial equality, many of the formal mechanisms for these wages have disappeared. We live in hypersegregated neighborhoods, but racist housing covenants are now illegal. Public education is tremendously inequitable and often de facto segregated, but Black or Mexican schools are no longer explicitly written into the law.

But because whiteness is an identity built upon securing advantages over others, the historical shift toward greater equality – even if it’s often more formal than substantive – is perceived by many whites as a loss. American sociologist Michael Kimmel has described this as a form of “aggrieved entitlement.”

For example, programs designed to address centuries of inequality and admit more students of color to universities are viewed by some white people as victimizing whites.

Purely economic explanations of Trumpism ignore this aggrieved entitlement. When commentators contend that free trade and technological advances have left behind blue-collar Americans – whom they often assume to be white – they fail to note how the perceived loss of the “wages of whiteness” has fostered a political identity based on aggrievement.

The danger isn’t simply a victimhood identity – it’s how victimhood can be deployed and weaponized. White power groups use this sense of victimhood to recruit and radicalize.

On numerous college campuses, white supremacist groups have posted flyers asserting “It’s OK to be white” and “Diversity is code for white genocide.” These slogans tap into a preexisting sense of white victimhood in much the same way that Trump has done at his rallies — stating the purportedly politically incorrect to elicit a sense of besieged belonging.

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In its most dangerous manifestations, the rhetoric of victimhood is used to excuse violence or rationalize murder. That’s evident in the cases of mass killers Elliot Rodger, Dylann Roof, Patrick Crusius or even Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Church shooter Dylann Roof invoked this victmhood when he claimed that “What I did is so minuscule to what they’re doing to white people every day all the time.”

Trump may recede from the limelight in coming months. But this politicized victimhood that existed long before him – a victimhood he powerfully tapped into and mobilized – will be fertile soil for white supremacy and political violence for generations to come.The Conversation

Lee Bebout, Professor of English, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.