November 4, 2018 in 2,932 words

U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It.

For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized.


The first indication to Lt. Dan Stout that law enforcement’s handling of white supremacy was broken came in September 2017, as he was sitting in an emergency-operations center in Gainesville, Fla., preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma and watching what felt like his thousandth YouTube video of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va. Jesus Christ, he thought, studying the footage in which crowds of angry men, who had gathered to attend or protest the Unite the Right rally, set upon one another with sticks and flagpole spears and flame throwers and God knows what else. A black man held an aerosol can, igniting the spray, and in retaliation, a white man picked up his gun, pointed it toward the black man and fired it at the ground. The Virginia state troopers, inexplicably, stood by and watched. Stout fixated on this image, wondering what kind of organizational failure had led to the debacle. He had one month to ensure that the same thing didn’t happen in Gainesville.

Before that August, Stout, a 24-year veteran of the Gainesville police force, had never heard of Richard Spencer and knew next to nothing about his self-declared alt-right movement, or of their “anti-fascist” archnemesis known as Antifa. Then, on the Monday after deadly violence in Charlottesville, in which a protester was killed when a driver plowed his car into the crowd, Stout learned to his horror that Spencer was planning a speech at the University of Florida. He spent weeks frantically trying to get up to speed, scouring far-right and anti-fascist websites and videos, each click driving him further into despair. Aside from the few white nationalists who had been identified by the media or on Twitter, Stout had no clue who most of these people were, and neither, it seemed, did anyone else in law enforcement.

There were no current intelligence reports he could find on the alt-right, the sometimes-violent fringe movement that embraces white nationalism and a range of racist positions. The state police couldn’t offer much insight. Things were equally bleak at the federal level. Whatever the F.B.I. knew (which wasn’t a lot, Stout suspected), they weren’t sharing. The Department of Homeland Security, which produced regular intelligence and threat assessments for local law enforcement, had only scant material on white supremacists, all of it vague and ultimately not much help. Local politicians, including the governor, were also in the dark. This is like a Bermuda Triangle of intelligence, Stout thought, incredulous. He reached out to their state partners. “So you’re telling us that there’s nothing? No names we can plug into the automatic license-plate readers? No players with a propensity for violence? No one you have in the system? Nothing?

One of those coming to Gainesville was William Fears, a 31-year-old from Houston. Fears, who online went by variations of the handle Antagonizer, was one of the most dedicated foot soldiers of the alt-right. Countless YouTube videos had captured his progress over the past year as he made his way from protest to protest across several states, flinging Nazi salutes, setting off smoke bombs and, from time to time, attacking people. Fears was also a felon. He had spent six years in prison for aggravated kidnapping in a case involving his ex-girlfriend, and now he had an active warrant for his arrest, after his new girlfriend accused him of assault less than two weeks earlier. On Oct. 18, the night before the event, Fears and a few others from Houston’s white-nationalist scene got in Fears’s silver Jeep Patriot for the 14-hour drive. Fears’s friend Tyler TenBrink, who pleaded guilty to assault in 2014, posted video from their trip on his Facebook page. There were four men, two of them felons, and two nine-millimeter handguns. “Texans always carry,” Fears said later.


Dear tech: Stop doing business with Nazis

If only someone would tell them.

Kicking Nazis off tech companies’ services is so easy, and such a simple thing to do. It is such a basic act of human decency, a trivial task that would stop PayPal, Stripe, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, GoDaddy and many more from being unquestionably complicit in the deadly rise of American Naziism. Stakes climb as we approach next week’s elections. And yet.

A week ago, a man emboldened and encouraged by the community on the neo-Nazi pro-Trump social network Gab followed through with the website’s grooming and committed the largest massacre of Jews in American history. Robert D. Bowers told his online community he was “going in” and murdered 11 people while they were praying.

Despite every person with a lick of common sense knowing full well that this was what Gab was about, the eventual endgame of online hate, it took tech businesses a week to cease facilitating the site by providing it with services. First was PayPal, followed Stripe and Joyent. GoDaddy joined the sudden attack of conscience and booted Gab as well.

At the time of writing, Gab remains sort-of offline, with a single-page statement of defiance keeping watch over the domain. The Nazi-networking site also appealed to its enabler-in-chief, Donald Trump, for help.



The bitter reality for journalists covering a president who lies, and lies, and lies some more

TO TELL THE TRUTH


Lie, debunk, repeat.

The American media is being played by the Trump White House’s propaganda machine, and journalists don’t know what to do. How should reporters cover a president who lies, constantly, shamelessly, and seemingly without consequence?

Vox argues that journalists should “stop repeating Trump’s lies.” As does Mother Jones. Politico points out that not covering everything Trump says and does is an option. The Washington Post noted that some news outlets are blowing off coverage when presidential events are not about substantive policy but merely acted out for fear mongering.

Trump isn’t just fumbling along. He intentionally distracts from issues that matter to Democrats, like healthcare, by getting Americans—not just his base, but especially—all riled up about issues like immigration. If you listen to Trump, you might imagine that there are no jobs or opportunities for Americans, that armies of foreigners are invading, and that immigration has not been a huge positive for the US economy. He is sending 15,000 US troops to the border of Mexico to stoke those fears, even as US Army officials estimate that only about 1,400 of 7,000 migrants traveling across Mexico now will actually reach the US border.

Ed. THE FOLLOWING IS A LIE

US news organizations are all grappling with the same question: “How should we cover the most powerful person in America, when he doesn’t tell the truth?” The issue has reached a turning point: After being invited to cover a presidential policy talk at the White House on Nov. 1, some television networks stopped their live coverage when it became an ugly, lie-filled invective about immigrants.


Donald Trump parodied “Game of Thrones” on Twitter. This is how memes die

YOU WIN OR YOU DIE

Donald Trump’s tweets about television usually focus on the current-affairs programs he likes, such as Fox and Friends and Hannity, and those he does not, as in all others. (Occasionally he’ll gripe about Saturday Night Live, the show he once called a “guilty pleasure.”)

A tweet from his account today (Nov. 2) reimposing all sanctions on Iran strayed into new territory: television-drama based memes. With any hope, his may be the death knell for one over-used example in particular:

The tweet parodies the motto of HBO’s fictional Stark family, from the popular series Game of Thrones: “Winter is Coming.” Borrowing those words to live by may not have received quite the response Trump was hoping for.

Critics on Twitter chimed in with what they feel are more apt comparisons from the show’s universe. One suggested tiny despot Joffrey Baratheon, while another thought Trump resembled the show’s humanoid White Walkers: “fear-mongering, war-mongering, and championing division at every opportunity for political gain.”



Vote Like The Fate Of The World Depends On It

Let’s say you’re a corrupt, power-hungry monster who is in some high position of authority. Which of these two citizens is a bigger threat to you:

A) A completely vapid, selfish person who doesn’t get involved with politics because they’re too busy clothes-shopping and watching reality TV

B) One who passionately opposes you, but outside of retweeting memes about it, doesn’t get involved because the entire system is corrupt and therefore there’s no point taking any action until the whole thing is rebooted somehow

I think A is the bigger worry. At least that person might have a crisis of conscience at some point. The second one has decided that their inaction is heroic.

Hey, have I mentioned that the USA is having an election in a few days?

5. It’s Been Two Years Of Rage And Terror (At Least, That’s What We Say)


You might not have guessed this because I’m so well-adjusted, but I spent every Sunday growing up hearing that the Apocalypse was imminent — within the year, maybe within the month or the hour. I would call the congregation “doomsday preppers,” but here’s the thing: They weren’t prepping at all. They talked like the apocalypse was coming, describing in chilling detail how soon, the godless government would start beheading Christians. But they weren’t spending their spare time stocking water, canned goods, or fuel. They walked out of those sermons about the impending starvation and pestilence and then went home to watch the Chicago Bears.

I don’t think they were lying about their beliefs; it’s just that those beliefs didn’t exist anywhere outside of their skulls. They certainly didn’t extend to their feet, which could have carried them to the hardware store to get water purification pills and a shitload of batteries. They never propelled them to the library to study insurgency and guerrilla tactics. They believed the climactic battle with Satan was at hand, but they didn’t believe it.

I’m bringing this up now because today I can open up my Twitter feed and see a meme about how only guns and guillotines will end the Trumpocalypse, followed minutes later by that exact same user lavishing praise on Red Dead Redemption 2. (“I’m 70 hours in and barely scratched the surface!”)

So now, on the eve of a vote that can reverse the tide of history, I’m curious to see. All that talk for the last two years about how we’re living under the new Hitler, do people really believe it? Or is it just, like, a thing we say?

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Voting was the specific fail-safe right given to the people to end this reign of terror.

In 2014, the last mid-term election, only 36 percent of voters bothered showing up to the polls, and among people aged 18-29, only 21 percent voted.

That wasn’t due to suppression or gerrymandering. That was due to people like you and me not giving a shit.



Spend “frivolously” and be penalized under China’s new social credit system

People who waste money on non-essentials or behave “badly” are penalized under the controversial new ranking.


China’s controversial new social credit system punishes consumers for both spending habits and “bad” behaviors.

In 2020, China will fully roll out its controversial social credit score. Under the system, both financial behaviors like “frivolous spending” and bad behaviors like lighting up in smoke-free zones can result in stiff consequences. Penalties include loss of employment and educational opportunities, as well as transportation restrictions. Those with high scores get perks, like discounts on utility bills and faster application processes to travel abroad.

China is currently piloting the program and some citizens have already found themselves banned from traveling or attending certain schools due to low scores. These ramifications have led to a flurry of recent criticism from both human rights groups and the press. This week alone, news outlets like Business Insider and National Public Radio weighed in on China’s social credit score and the stratified society it may foster in the communist country.

The outcry about China’s social credit score is understandable, given that the country’s authoritarian regime leaves citizens with little recourse to challenge the new system. But concerns about China’s credit system have overlooked how the US system also divides consumers along class lines — and has done so for decades. Social behaviors may not factor into US credit scores, but the idea that a person’s financial history reflects trustworthiness has long influenced employment decisions and other factors that affect Americans’ quality-of-life.

How China’s social credit score will work

China first announced that it would be devising a “social credit score” in 2014. The government said then that the system would help ensure a model society in which “sincerity and trustworthiness become conscious norms of action among all the people.” According to NPR, the fact that most Chinese people don’t have bank accounts or credit histories likely spurred the government to create a credit system of some sort.


How a Tiny Flightless Bird Ended Up on an Island in the Middle of the Ocean


An Inaccessible Island Rail.

An island half the size of Manhattan in the south Atlantic Ocean is so isolated, it’s called Inaccessible Island. On that island, and only on that island, live nearly 6,000 puny featherballs called Inaccessible Island rails. But they can’t fly, and the island is only a few million years old. How did the birds get there?

A new analysis may have solved the mystery. The bird’s DNA reveals that it evolved relatively recently from some visitor to the island, and lost its ability to fly from the forces of natural selection.

“It’s quite spectacular that the word’s smallest living flightless birds ended up in one of the most remote places ever,” study author Martin Stervander, University of Oregon postdoctoral researcher, told Gizmodo. “It seems the birds arrived on the island, and since they faced little threat from predators, there wasn’t much point of flying.”


Inaccessible Island, which is, as its name implies, hard to access.

When scientists first described the bird in the 1920s, they knew immediately that they were looking at something strange. Inaccessible Island is 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) from South America and 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles) from southern Africa. The bird doesn’t occupy either of two nearby islands located less than 20 miles away. They proposed, before the theory of plate tectonics existed, that the bird somehow walked to the island over some sort of sunken land bridge. They placed it in its own genus, Atlantisia. More recent research has proposed that the bird originated from rails in Africa.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

CNN political commentator Ana Navarro explains why she’s still a Republican, gives her take on Florida’s gubernatorial race and lays out Donald Trump’s impact on politics.


Ronny Chieng explores the ways conservationists in Florida are trying to get rid of the invasive and dangerous lionfish.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.


Featuring: Kerry Washington, Mike Myers, Christiane Amanpour, Taylor Mac, Billy Eichner, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chris Wallace, Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Jessica Parker.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Me commentary on one of the greatest police fails on the web, I reckon. What a stubborn door ay.


庭で遊ぶまるとはな。Maru&Hana play in the garden.


FINALLY . . .

Your friends’ voting history and party are public. This app will show you.

TEXT WITH ME


A few clicks away.

A few weeks ago, I sat down to dinner with my family and opened the VoteWithMe app. Each of my relatives’ names was listed on the screen. Next to each one was a symbol signifying their party registration: Democrat, Republican, or Other. Below that was a long list of elections since 2000 with checkmarks indicating whether they cast a ballot in each one. Before anyone could object, I went around the table as I asked about their voting history (if not who they voted for) in public for the first time.

My dad, a lifelong Republican now voting Democrat after Trump’s takeover of the GOP, had missed just one poll since 2000, according to VoteWithMe. My stepmother had missed none. That’s true, they confirmed. I turned to another close relative. The app showed she had voted just once in the past 20 years since becoming old enough to do so. “Yes,” she said, wincing. “I’m part of the problem!” But she vowed to vote again this year, her second ballot since 2016.

That’s precisely the kind of reaction Mikey Dickerson envisioned for VoteWithMe, an app drawing on public voting records to show whether friends and family in your contact list are participating in America’s democracy. The way it works is simple. Everyone’s party registration and voting history are a matter of public record. While each state has different rules about accessing this data, companies aggregate and sell voter profiles to campaigns, political parties, and advocacy groups. Similar to the way Zillow made once-obscure real estate prices and history available for anyone to browse, VoteWithMe is making voting records easily accessible to the public for the first time.



Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?