The January 6 hearings showed why it’s reasonable to call Trump a fascist

“Amid the many extraordinary revelations at the January 6 committee’s first primetime hearing Thursday, one stood out for its sheer depravity: that during the assault, when rioters chanted “hang Mike Pence” in the halls of the Capitol, President Donald Trump suggested that the mob really ought to execute his vice president.

“Maybe our supporters have the right idea,” he said, per a committee source. “[Mike Pence] deserves it.”

Endorsing violence is hardly new for Trump; it’s something he’s done repeatedly, often in an allegedly joking tone. But the reported comment from January 6 is qualitatively worse given the context: coming both amid an actual violent attack he helped stoke and one he did little to halt. The committee found that the president took no steps to defend the Capitol building, failing to call in the National Guard, or even speak to his secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security.

While he was de facto permitting the mob’s rampage, he was privately cheering the most violent stated objective of people he acknowledged as “our supporters.””

“when a leader whips up a mob to attack democracy with the goal of maintaining his grip on power in defiance of democratic order, then privately refuses to stop them while endorsing the murderous aims of people he claims as his own supporters, it’s hard to see him as anything but a leader of a violent anti-democratic movement with important parallels to interwar fascism.

This doesn’t prove that fascism is, in all respects, a perfect analogy for the Trump presidency. Yet when it comes to analyzing January 6, both Trump’s behavior and the broader GOP response to the event, [the] hearing proved that the analogy can be not only apt but illuminating.”

“Events like the 1922 March on Rome or 1923 Beer Hall Putsch help us understand the way in which attempts to forcefully seize power — even failed ones like the Putsch — can play a role in the rise of radical far-right movements. They help us understand the clarifying and organizing power of violence, the way in which banding together to hurt others can help solidify dangerous political tendencies.

And it helps us understand the potential for violence to recur, especially given the mainstream Republican Party’s continued whitewashing of January 6.

One of the defining elements of the interwar fascist ascendancy is the complicity of conservative elites — their belief that they could manipulate fascist movements for their own ends, empowering these movements while remaining in the driver’s seat. This is precisely how the mainstream Republican Party has approached Trump, even after a violent attempt to seize power exposed just how far he’s willing to go to hold power.”

Was the Capitol Riot Really the Opening Battle of a Civil War?

“A study published last September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges the notion that a substantial minority of Americans—more than two-fifths, according to some reports—condone political violence. The Dartmouth political scientist Sean

Westwood and his co-authors argue that “documented support for political violence is illusory, a product of ambiguous questions, conflated definitions, and disengaged respondents.”
Westwood et al. acknowledge that partisan animosity, a.k.a. “affective polarization,” has “increased significantly” during the last few decades. “While Americans are arguably no more ideologically polarized than in the recent past,” they say, “they hold more negative views toward the political opposition and more positive views toward members of their own party.” But at the same time, “evidence suggests that affective polarization is not related to and does not cause increases in support for political violence and is generally unrelated to political outcomes.” So what are we to make of claims that more than a third of Americans believe political violence is justified?

“Despite media attention,” Westwood et al. note, “political violence is rare, amounting to a little more than 1% of violent hate crimes in the United States.” They argue that “self-reported attitudes on political violence are biased upwards because of disengaged respondents, differing interpretations about questions relating to political violence, and personal dispositions towards violence that are unrelated to politics.”

Westwood et al. estimate that, “depending on how the question is asked, existing estimates of support for partisan violence are 30-900% too large.” In their study, “nearly all respondents support[ed] charging suspects who commit acts of political violence with a crime.” These findings, they say, “suggest that although recent acts of political violence dominate the news, they do not portend a new era of violent conflict.”

These conclusions are based on three surveys in which Westwood et al. presented respondents with specific scenarios involving different kinds of violence, varying in severity and motivation. “Ambiguous survey questions cause overestimates of support for violence,” they write. “Prior studies ask about general support for violence without offering context, leaving the respondent to infer what ‘violence’ means.” They also note that “prior work fails to distinguish between support for violence generally and support for political violence,” which “makes it seem like political violence is novel and unique.”

A third problem they identify is that “prior survey questions force respondents to select a response without providing a neutral midpoint or a ‘don’t know’ option,” which “causes disengaged respondents…to select an arbitrary or random response.” Since “current violence-support scales are coded such that four of five choices indicate acceptance of violence,” those arbitrary or random responses tend to “overstate support for violence.”

What happens when researchers try to address those weaknesses? In all three surveys that Westwood et al. conducted, “respondents overwhelmingly reject[ed] both political and non-political violence.” And while a substantial minority disagreed, that number was inflated by respondents who were classified as “disengaged” based on their failure to retain information from the brief scenarios they read.”

New Research Says Police in Schools Don’t Reduce Shootings but They Do Increase Expulsions and Arrests

“A working paper published last week by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University and written by researchers at the University at Albany, SUNY and RAND Corporation bills itself as the broadest and most rigorous examination at the school-level of how SROs impact student outcomes. Using national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 collected by the U.S. Department of Education, the paper found that while SROs “do effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools,” they do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents.

“We also find that SROs intensify the use of suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests of students,” researchers wrote. “These effects are consistently over two times larger for Black students than White students.”

The study found that the introduction of SROs to schools did appear to improve general safety and decrease non-gun-related violence, like fights and physical assaults. However, the authors say, those benefits come at the cost of increasing both school discipline and police referrals.”

“The number of police in schools has skyrocketed in schools over the past four decades, first in response to drugs, then mass shootings. Police departments and organizations like the National Association of School Resource Officers argue that well-trained SROs act as liaisons between the school and police department. A good SRO, they argue, can actually reduce arrests.

Civil liberties groups and disability advocates, on the other hand, have long argued that increases in school police and zero-tolerance policies for petty disturbances have fueled the “school-to-prison” pipeline and led to disproportionate enforcement against minorities and students with disabilities.

Other recent research has come to similar conclusions as the new working paper. For example, a study published last August by researchers at the University of Maryland and the firm Westat found that increasing the number of police in schools doesn’t make school safer and leads to harsher discipline for infractions.”

“The authors of the new working paper say that school districts should weigh the benefits of safer hallways against the high cost of putting more kids in contact with the criminal justice system.”

Iraq’s parliamentary vote marred by boycott, voter apathy

“Iraqis voted..in parliamentary elections held months ahead of schedule as a concession to a youth-led popular uprising against corruption and mismanagement.

But the voting was marked by widespread apathy and a boycott by many of the young activists who thronged the streets of Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces in late 2019. Tens of thousands of people took part in the mass protests and were met by security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured within just a few months.

Although authorities gave in and called the early elections, the death toll and the heavy-handed crackdown — as well as a string of targeted assassinations — prompted many who took part in the protests to later call for a boycott of the vote.”

“The election was the sixth held since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many were skeptical that independent candidates from the protest movement stood a chance against well-entrenched parties and politicians, many of them backed by powerful armed militias.”

Why Ethiopia wants to expel UN officials sounding the alarm on famine

“A civil war between Ethiopia’s federal government and the country’s northern Tigray region, which began late last year, has led to widespread atrocities and created famine conditions in parts of the country. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s decision to expel UN officials from the country comes after they raised concerns about the worsening humanitarian situation.

UN officials have repeatedly warned that Ethiopia’s government is blocking the movement of critical supplies — like medicine, food, and fuel — into the Tigray region, with as little as 10 percent of the needed humanitarian supplies being allowed in. Those accusations were echoed this week by the head of the UN’s humanitarian aid arm, as well as by a UN report finding the region on the brink of famine.”

Hundreds of law enforcement officials were prepped early for potential Jan. 6 violence

“it raises more questions about why the U.S. Capitol Police weren’t ready for chaos on Jan. 6.

“The intelligence was there in blinking neon lights, yet Capitol Police leadership went willfully blind,” Shapiro said in a statement. “The question is why. Why did Capitol Police leadership ignore the clear threat”

Why Militias Are So Hard To Stop

“When you’ve got neo-Nazis harassing an innocent family in the suburbs because of a podcast that has nothing to do with them, it’s pretty clear this country has a domestic extremism problem. The Department of Homeland Security knows it, Congress knows it, and every single person who watched the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in horror knows it. There are many elements to the domestic extremism threat in America, but one prominent component is private militias. An assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has warned that violent extremist militias present “the most lethal” threats in the U.S., and the share of public demonstrations involving far-right militias has increased since the 2020 general election, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.”

“Militias pose a prickly dilemma for law enforcement because they butt up against a bunch of different American narratives around self-defense, gun rights and how to live in a safe society. Some militias are just a group of guys doing target practice in the woods. Other militias plot to kidnap a governor.”

“The presence of the term “a well regulated militia” in the Second Amendment to the Constitution leads a lot of people to believe that these groups must be constitutionally protected, but the Bill of Rights is open to interpretation. Some scholars say the Second Amendment was referring only to state-run militias called upon by the governor or federal government as needed, not private groups. In fact, in the Supreme Court’s 2008 landmark ruling that upheld an individual’s right to bear arms, the justices notably reaffirmed an 1886 ruling that the Second Amendment “does not prevent the prohibition of private paramilitary organizations” — in other words, private militias.
“Private militias want us to think the Second Amendment protects them, and they’re just wrong,” said Mary McCord, the executive director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. “‘Well regulated’ has always meant ‘regulated by the state.’””

“When Facebook recommended he join the Wolverine Watchmen, Dan thought it was a group for firearm training. It wasn’t until a fellow group member started inquiring about how to find the home addresses of police officers that alarm bells started going off.

Dan, whose last name has not been publicly released in order to protect him, went on to become an FBI informant who was critical in uncovering the Watchmen’s plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In March, he testified at a preliminary hearing for three of the more than a dozen people arrested and charged in the case since October.”

“law enforcement doesn’t always act when it encounters militia activity, and that can lead to dramatic consequences. It’s part of the reason why armed protesters, including some militia members, who had planned to storm the Michigan Capitol in April 2020 didn’t have to storm anything. Instead, they were allowed inside by state police and stood in the gallery above the Senate chamber, toting semiautomatic rifles, staring down as lawmakers went about their business. At least two of these militia members were later arrested for the foiled plot to kidnap Whitmer.”

Mexico Just Took an Important Step Toward Ending Military Impunity

“The marines would soon be charged with kidnapping three men in early 2018 in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. These may be the first of many indictments stemming from that six-month deployment, which human rights activists said turned into an extrajudicial reign of terror over the city. Altogether, 257 of the marines special forces unit are suspected of kidnapping or murdering at least 49 people in the spring of 2018, some bodies found tortured and shot through the head in the desert. Others have never been seen again.

One of the disappeared, Jorge Dominguez, was a U.S. citizen, whose case was documented in December by POLITICO. He was 18, running an errand for his father, when he was snatched off the street by soldiers in military vehicles. But despite witness accounts and evidence of a slew of similar abductions, the Trump administration did not intervene on behalf of Dominguez’s family.”

“Mexico’s military is regularly accused of crimes, and the army has been implicated but not prosecuted in the 2014 disappearances of 43 school teachers in the city of Iguala. But soldiers are typically untouchable, and in the rare circumstance that Mexican soldiers have found themselves in court, it’s usually after intense international pressure.”

“the arrests could be viewed as an olive branch to a new U.S. administration. “Trump didn’t really care about oversight of human rights abuses by Mexican forces,” says Raul Benitez, a Latin American security professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “But now, the Biden government may be looking with more detail toward the violations of human rights.”

But the arrests might also have a purely domestic explanation.

“One idea I’ve seen suggested is that, from the Mexican side, AMLO really doesn’t trust the navy in the same way his predecessors did,” says Duncan Tucker, who works with Amnesty International in Mexico City. Since his election, AMLO has increased the army’s power exponentially, awarding it building projects, giving it control of some ports and hospitals, granting it increased control of the border and expanding its budget. Past Mexican presidents had always favored the navy, perhaps because the U.S. also favored them. But AMLO is something of a nationalist. He may view the navy as tainted by U.S. influence, Tucker says, and so might be willing to see it punished publicly.”

“the difference in Nuevo Laredo is that one man, former journalist turned human rights activist Raymundo Ramos, investigates, documents and publicizes the cases. Without him, it’s almost certain the marines would never have appeared in court.”

“While the 30 arrests are not insignificant, there were 257 marines deployed to the area, sharing three small barracks where some of the missing were hidden. And it seems that no high-ranking officials have been charged. The navy has even sealed the records of special forces commanders for five years, so that no one can know who was stationed where.”

Labeling groups like the Proud Boys “domestic terrorists” won’t fix anything

“Canada recently designated the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group, as a terrorist organization, a move that has put pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration to take similar punitive action against the group and others who participated in January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The Congressional Research Service has asserted that the Capitol insurrection was an act of domestic terrorism, as defined by federal regulations and law. The FBI has identified the criminal activity by the Proud Boys as a domestic terrorism threat.

But while the federal government maintains a list of foreign terrorist organizations, it does not have a mechanism to formally designate domestic terrorist organizations. National security experts argue that creating one would not only invite legal challenges, but would do little to improve law enforcement’s response to the nascent threat of domestic terrorism.

Creating such a list would raise legitimate First Amendment concerns because it could potentially be used to target political dissidents on both the left and the right. Experts also say it’s ill-suited to address the kind of domestic terrorist attacks and plots that the US is facing, which according to the Department of Homeland Security, primarily come from right-wing extremists acting as individuals, rather than as organized groups.

The best way forward, they say, is for the federal government to better employ existing tools to combat domestic terrorism — a threat that was not prioritized by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly refused to denounce white nationalists and told those who stormed the Capitol, “We love you.”

“Violent white supremacists are not a new problem,” Faiza Patel, the director of liberty and national security at the Brennan Center for Justice, said. “Law enforcement has dealt with them before and can do so again. The FBI’s robust response to the attack on the Capitol shows that these groups can be investigated and prosecuted under existing law, undercutting any argument for new tools.””