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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

At Everett Library, crowd gathers to discuss Trump, fascism, and white supremacism

An over-capac­i­ty crowd filled the audi­to­ri­um in Everett’s down­town pub­lic library Sat­ur­day after­noon to hear author David Nei­w­ert and The Dai­ly Her­ald’s local news edi­tor Scott North dis­cuss some recent his­to­ry of extrem­ist groups in the Pacif­ic North­west and the nature of white suprema­cism more gen­er­al­ly.

Library staff said one hun­dred and sev­en peo­ple packed into the library’s audi­to­ri­um to lis­ten to the two inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists describe a local pre­cur­sor to the pop­ulist author­i­tar­i­an move­ment now in pow­er in the White House and answer ques­tions about how to make sense of Don­ald Trump’s “Alt Amer­i­ca”.

David Neiwert's Alt-America

David Nei­w­ert’s Alt-Amer­i­ca

It was sig­nif­i­cant­ly more ani­mat­ed than the usu­al crowd for an author’s book read­ing.

“The last one I had was four peo­ple,” a Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton book­seller said as Nei­w­ert signed copies of Alt-Amer­i­ca: The Rise of the Rad­i­cal Right in the Age of Trump for more than half an hour after the even­t’s con­clu­sion.

Nei­w­ert and North began with a local sto­ry, that of con­vict­ed dou­ble-mur­der­er, Ari­zona death-row occu­pant, and racist bor­der-watch activist Shaw­na Forde.

Forde had unsuc­cess­ful­ly run for Everett City Coun­cil in 2007 on a plat­form demo­niz­ing undoc­u­ment­ed expa­tri­ots.

How­ev­er, local report­ing by North and The Her­ald in 2008 revealed her to be a life­long felon and grifter who’d false­ly claimed to have been sex­u­al­ly assault­ed by MS-13 gang mem­bers but had actu­al­ly shot her then-hus­band in attempt to get mon­ey to buy a ranch in Ari­zona and start a mili­tia train­ing pro­gram.

Lat­er, she turned to Plan B and start­ed rob­bing drug traf­fick­ers and undoc­u­ment­ed expats, which led to her mur­der­ing a man and his nine-year-old daugh­ter, and fail­ing to mur­der the wife-moth­er who iden­ti­fied Forde and her crew.

While Forde was a sociopath, Nei­w­ert said the con­ser­v­a­tive, anti-immi­grant move­ment she sought to exploit was as socio­path­ic as Forde was.

“It attracts peo­ple devoid of empa­thy,” Nei­w­ert said, because, as an ide­ol­o­gy, it is devoid of empa­thy.

A cohort rad­i­cal­ized through online video-game com­mu­ni­ties first court­ed through the misog­y­nis­tic Gamer­gate move­ment to harass women and attack mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism became a plat­form to rad­i­cal­ize an entire gen­er­a­tion of young white males. That pop­u­la­tion is now ten times as active as those young men sim­i­lar­ly tar­get­ed by the Islam­ic State group, Nei­w­ert said, and their actions are not reflect­ed in the over­all media nar­ra­tive.

“Peo­ple aren’t pay­ing atten­tion to the fact that the Park­land shoot­er put Nazi swastikas on his mag­a­zines,” Nei­w­ert said. While there isn’t evi­dence that he engaged with a par­tic­u­lar group, he was rad­i­cal­ized online nonethe­less.

Nei­w­ert described how white suprema­cist virus­es get into fam­i­lies and rip them apart. “The Inter­net has spread it into fam­i­lies even more,” as well as com­mu­ni­ties and friends. “We can’t seem to agree on what real­i­ty is — what a fact is.”

Even at this event, there was a mid­dle-aged white man from Marysville who swore up and down that Democ­rats were the real racists, Nixon’s South­ern Strat­e­gy was a myth, and that urban areas were the new plan­ta­tions.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, “The Clin­tons” and “Robert Byrd” flowed freely from his lips with no room in his world­view for Strom Thur­mond, Jesse Helms, Lee Atwa­ter, or the gen­er­al drift of the GOP. Try­ing to get him to acknowl­edge oth­er­wise agreed-upon his­tor­i­cal events was not fruit­ful. Indeed, this was actu­al­ly some­thing Nei­w­ert had point­ed out ear­li­er as a prob­lem with the left.

“Lib­er­als don’t argue to per­suade but to win,” Nei­w­ert cau­tioned, more con­cerned with scor­ing points than effect­ing change. The con­ver­sa­tion con­sists of wait­ing till some­one says some­thing racist then ring­ing a vic­to­ry bell. And that’s not enough when the point is to try con­vert the con­vert­ible peo­ple.

Andrea Hol­land-Bon­neu, of Sno­homish Coun­ty, said she’s from North Dako­ta and knows many peo­ple from home who did­n’t trav­el or expose them­selves to oth­er cul­tures and are sus­cep­ti­ble to white suprema­cist influ­ence because of it.

“Their lack of expo­sure to diver­si­ty has warped them,” she said.

Hol­land-Bon­neu said it’s her respon­si­bil­i­ty to per­suade fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends who let their guard down around peo­ple like her, because her friends who are peo­ple of col­or don’t have that same access.

How­ev­er, not every­one is save­able.

Wendy Zieve, of Shore­line, came to the event and described her broth­er, mil­lion­aire aero­space busi­ness­man Peter Zieve of Mulki­teo, as an enthu­si­as­tic Trump sup­port­er who had already been lost to the hatred of the extreme right wing, despite shar­ing Jew­ish grand­par­ents on both sides that immi­grat­ed from Lithua­nia and Ukraine in the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.

“His entire self is obsessed with who he hates,” she said, and it’s been a con­sis­tent drift since he was at least thir­ty.

Oth­er than his wealth, Peter Zieve is not excep­tion­al in white Amer­i­can soci­ety.

Nei­w­ert described how author­i­tar­i­an­ism is always propped up by a size­able por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion who want author­i­tar­i­an­ism, and he laid out their gen­er­al char­ac­ter­is­tics in his talk.

  • They’re sub­mis­sive: they see soci­ety as need­ing to sub­mit to a strong­man — albeit one they con­sid­er legit­i­mate — in order for civ­il soci­ety to remain order­ly and func­tion­al.
  • They’re con­ven­tion­al­ists: they claim to rep­re­sent the main­stream of soci­ety, in our case the Real Amer­i­ca in con­trast to ille­git­i­mate Amer­i­cans, how­ev­er numer­ous.
  • They’re aggres­sive: against those who don’t go along, even to rit­u­als like some­one not stand­ing for the nation­al anthem.

Nei­w­ert said author­i­tar­i­an­ism is always propped up by a size­able por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion who wants author­i­tar­i­an­ism, and that the Nazis in Adolf Hitler’s Ger­many based much of their world­view and spe­cif­ic polices on Amer­i­can mod­els — from Man­i­fest Des­tiny to Jim Crow laws to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

How­ev­er, Nei­w­ert made a point that he goes into more thor­ough­ly in his book: although Trump attracts fas­cists, he’s not one him­self.

He lacks the coher­ent, con­sis­tent world­view to be a fas­cist, Nei­w­ert argues.

He’s an author­i­tar­i­an, and has been for almost thir­ty years, con­sid­er­ing his praise of the Chi­nese gov­ern­men­t’s vio­lent response in the 1989 Tianan­men­men Square protests. Trump is cur­rent­ly admired by many white suprema­cist groups, who have been embold­ened by his elec­tion.

Once Trump leaves the scene, where will the ener­gy go?

“If (Trump) dis­ap­pears tomor­row, we’re still going to have the prob­lem of a horde of anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic, author­i­tar­i­an fol­low­ers,” Nei­w­ert said.

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