Recently Treyf, a radio show on Montreal’s KCUT, had me on the air to talk about the debacle regarding far right antisemite Christopher Bollyn’s talk at the supposedly (or shall we say formerly) “progressive” space the Brooklyn Commons.
It’s about 20 minutes long and you can listen here:
—“It seems like being a Jew is a lot like being a wolf,” Christopher Bollyn
The booking of Christopher Bollyn at the Brooklyn Commons seems to be only the latest bid by the antisemitic wing of the 9/11 Truth and conspiracy movement to find legitimacy in lefty circles. Bollyn, Ken O’Keefe, and others have been speaking at progressive spaces, libraries, and even religious congregations in the recent past with little opposition.
This needs to change.
Bollyn is a former staffer at a leading racist media project who claims that a “Jewish/Zionist” cabal controls the United States. While this is boilerplate Far Right nonsense, he is speaking on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at the Brooklyn Commons—a well-respected Left-wing movement space in central Brooklyn. While it takes some chutzpah to speak there, more worrisome has been the refusal of the space to cancel the event.
Bollyn worked for the Liberty Lobby from 2000 to 2006, which was run by Willis Carto, who for decades was one of the most important racists on the US Far Right. His media group included the Spotlight (now the American Free Press), a White nationalist newspaper (where Bollyn was a staffer), as well as the Barnes Review, the main periodical helping spread Holocaust Denial in the United States (where he was a contributing editor). Bollyn has also appeared on David Duke’s radio show, and has praised the racist paramilitary patrol, the Minutemen Project.
Bollyn made his name by promoting an openly antisemitic brand of 9/11 Truth conspiracies in which he makes boilerplate antisemitic claims. Many of these could be taken directly out of 1930s Nazi Party propaganda—that the US government is controlled by a cabal of Jews who force it to go to wars against its national interest. In case there is any lingering doubt, Bollyn is also happy to quote the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the forgery that is one of the main antisemitic texts that inspired the Nazis.
Thinking it was surely a mistake that such a person would be speaking at the Commons, I contacted them directly. Their booker, Melissa, said she was unaware of this person’s background and would get back to me. (As of press time — several days later — there has been no followup.) When asked to comment about Bollyn by other activists, the unidentified person running the Common’s twitter said, “I glanced at his site and nothing antisemitic jumped out at me.” But without even clicking on anything, the front page of Bollyn’s site is filled with lines like “9-11 is a massive Zionist Jewish crime,” and that NPR is run by a “cabal of Zionist Jews.” Bollyn’s website and other writings include such antisemitic gems like:
“Great nations, like the United States, France, and Germany, once had anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic political parties that acted to challenge the pernicious influence of secret Masonic and Jewish organizations. Today we no longer have such political parties to counter these secret networks and find ourselves ruled by B’nai B’rith and Jewish Freemasons.”
“The ‘false flag’ terrorism of 9–11 is a monstrous Jewish-Zionist crime of our time. The true culprits of this heinous crime are clearly being protected by a gang of like-minded Jewish Zionists in the highest positions of the U.S. government.”
“It seems like being a Jew is a lot like being a wolf.”
He openly cites the Protocols line that: “Not a single announcement will reach the public without our control.”
“I suspect that Arlen Specter is a high-level agent of the B’nai B’rith, the secret organization of Jewish Freemasons which I consider to be the real Elders of Zion.”
(Note: I won’t link to Far Right websites, but you can easily google up all this information.)
Anger about Bollyn’s appearance is growing in the absence of any action by the Brooklyn Commons staff. Many people have contacted the Commons to ask them to cancel the booking. (When DC bookstore Busboys and Poets was contacted about Bollyn’s talk there, they cancelled it within 24 hours.)
Members of several projects based at the Commons—the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Jacobin, the Marxist Education Project, The Indypendent, FUREE, Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory, WBAI, and the Right to the City Alliance—have issued an open letter saying: “We do not have any say in event booking and management at the Commons but agree that such politics should have no place in leftist spaces.”
Bollyn’s friends are also engaged in reactionary politics. For example, Nicholas DeVincenzo, the host of the New York event on Facebook, promotes David Duke videos, even tho he says he is skeptical of white separatism. Meanwhile, DeVincenzo’s friend, Rudy Dent, is slated to introduce Bollyn at the Commons. Dent, who is black, promotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on his facebook (which DeVincenzo approves of), as well as radical right-wing Sovereign Citizen theories.
This just goes to show how antisemitism is often the glue that holds unlikely political bedfellows together, and can create a bridge linking the Far Left and Radical Right.
The battle lines are drawn over demonizing narratives that promote oppression. People of any identity can promote narratives of antisemitism and white nationalism, and/or work with those who do. On one side are those who oppose promoting or working with them, and on the other are those who engage in demonization or who promote alliances with those who do. White, black, and other folks—including Jews—can be found on both sides of this line.
Similar to Bollyn, Ken O’Keefe has also been making the rounds of progressive circles. He began his career as a legitimate Palestine Solidarity activist but now propagates antisemitic conspiracy theories, including giving a talk praising Adolf Hitler.
I’m not sure what’s in the air right now, but whatever it is has given the antisemitic conspiracy theorists a push to try and find legitimacy for their views among the Left. Perhaps it’s the shot in the arm that Trump is giving to all forms of racism and bigotry—but nonetheless, it is clear that the response from the Left is severely lacking in regard to identifying and confronting antisemitism. There needs to be more education about antisemitic narratives and tropes so that people can recognize and reject them. And there should be an understanding about how antisemitism allows for cross-recruitment from, and fusion with, racists and fascists—as we are seeing with Bollyn’s attempts to woo progressives at the Commons.
While the media has heavily covered Islamist terrorist activity and the recent deadly ambushes on police, it has largely overlooked increasingly brazen demonstrations and violence by the Far Right. In the last year, the level of violence has ramped up dramatically and is only now hitting its stride.
On July 7, Michael Strickland, a right-wing journalist who videotapes left-leaning protests and puts participants’ photos on the Internet, was arrested after waving a gun at a Portland Black Lives Matter rally. He claimed that he feared for his life – because someone allegedly shoved him while he was taping the peaceful demonstration.
After a late June confrontation with fascists who had secured a permit to rally at the California state courthouse, nine counter-protestors were hospitalized, with five of them stabbed. The fascists, operating under the banner of the Traditionalist Worker Party (but comprised mostly of members of the neo-Nazi Golden State Skinheads), fled after the clash with protestors. A loaded gun was left at the scene, which anti-fascists claimed neo-Nazis has dropped as they ran away.
Four months before, on February 28, three anti-racist activists were stabbed while confronting Ku Klux Klan members who were attempting to rally in Anaheim, California.
And all of this has happened barely a year after 21-year-old White supremacist Dylann Roof attended a bible study session at Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel AME Church, and then fatally shot nine Black worshippers.
Some people have asked how they can figure out if a candidate is aligned with this movement. Below are some specific questions regarding commonly held views in the Patriot movement that can be used to quiz candidates. No candidate should give answers that are in line with these views; if they give answers to more than a few, then the candidate has politics that are compatible with the Patriot movement.
Feel free to use these questions as worded or tailor them to your local situation.
1. Does Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution prohibit the federal government from owning any land except for ports, forts, and 10 square miles of Washington, DC?
2. Is the Second Amendment absolute—does it prohibit all gun control laws and restrictions?
3. Is the county sheriff is the highest law enforcement authority, and do they have the ability to decide which laws are Constitutional? For example, if a county sheriff thinks that a gun control law or an executive order is unconstitutional, do they have the power to refuse to enforce it?
4. Should publicly owned land under federal control be transferred to state or county governments? Should these governments have the ability to ignore restrictions against logging, ranching, or mining that federal agencies have passed?
5. Can county governments (or other local land-use committees or sheriffs’ offices) force the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or other federal agencies to comply with county land-use (or other) policies through the “coordination” process?
6. Should federal agencies like the FBI require a county sheriff’s permission before executing warrants or making arrests in their county?
7. Does the 1872 Mining Act prohibit federal agencies from regulating unpatented mining claims?
8. What is your opinion of militia groups, as well as the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, or a local Committee of Safety? (In Oregon, other groups include the Heirs of Patrick Henry or Central Oregon Patriots.) Are you a member of any of these groups? On social media, are you in any of these Facebook groups or do you Like or Follow these groups? Have you ever had meetings with these groups, or spoken at a meeting that one or more of these groups have sponsored?
9. Does a Committee of Safety have the right to overturn federal or local laws, or otherwise make legally binding decisions?
10. Do citizens have the right to form their own grand juries, outside of the current legal system as we know it, and put public officials or federal employees on trial for violating the Constitution?
11. Should we be concerned about the Agenda 21 plan to use environmentalism as an excuse for the federal government to seize rural citizens’ property, in order to drive them off the land and into the cities?
12. Is the United States a Republic—but not a Democracy?
13. Was Robert “Lavoy” Finicum led into a trap where he was assassinated, as part of a plan that had been designed in advance by the government?
14. Was it illegal for Ammon Bundy and the other occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to be there? Did they break any laws, other than trespassing?
15. Is the Federal Reserve a corporation that is privately owned by banking families?
16. Were the FBI agents in Harney County really French mercenaries?
17. Is the BLM a private, foreign-owned, off-shore corporation?
18. Are citizens’ militias necessary to keep in check a tyrannical government, which is building secret internment camps?
19. Is the federal government behind recent violent disruptions and false flag attacks, which are a prelude to civil war?
20. Are the 14th and 16th Amendments legitimate, or should only the “Organic Constitution” be followed?
This article is based on research from a forthcoming report about Oregon’s Patriot movement, which will be published by the Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates.
In the wake of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January and February 2016, a slew of candidates linked to the so-called Patriot movement are running for office in Oregon, including in the upcoming May primary. Even though most of the actual occupiers were from out of state, the occupation highlighted the state’s large and growing Patriot movement. These often-armed, Hard Right activists organized the initial demonstration that preceded the occupation and helped build political support for the occupiers’ demands. These demands included the transfer of federally-owned public lands to state or county governments in order to avoid land-use restrictions, as well as attempts to circumvent the federal government’s decision-making powers by invoking legally groundless claims about the authority of state and county governments.
The arrest of over two dozen people connected to the Malheur occupation, in addition to the death of occupier Robert “Lavoy” Finicum at the hands of law enforcement, has energized the movement—which now has a new martyr and opportunities for activism to support their newly minted political prisoners. For the last few years, the state’s Patriot movement largely focused on non-electoral movement building; some county sheriffs and a handful of other officials were affiliated with its aims, but by and large it remained outside of the electoral arena. This is changing with Oregon’s May 17, 2016 primary election. In several counties where Oregon’s Patriot movement is strong—including Josephine, Crook, Baker, Douglas, and Harney—candidates tied to the movement are running for office. These candidates include key Patriot movement leaders such as Joseph Rice, as well as Republicans who are courting the movement for votes.
The Patriot movement is a Hard Right movement that is trying to radically transform U.S. political and legal institutions. It seeks to implement a form of right-wing decentralization, including the abolition of environmental laws and the social safety net, replacing them with almost completely unrestricted capitalism, all based on an idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution and various conspiracy theories which support their political views. The best known of the movement’s tactics is the formation of paramilitaries—traditionally “militias,” but more recently including other, more decentralized, armed approaches.
… As the Malheur occupation fades into history, there are many insights on the US social and political landscape to be distilled both from this episode and from the national conversations it has sparked. One underreported aspect of the affair is what it revealed about the nature of the partial but significant overlaps between neo-Nazis and anti-federal-government activists like the Bundys.
The occupiers had been demanding the abolition of the federal government as we know it, using a set of rationales that were originally derived from racist movements. Some of the occupiers were known to spout anti-Semitic or Islamophobic conspiracy theories, while another denied that slavery existed. And so it should not have surprised anyone that neo-Nazis and other organized racists have applauded the occupation.
Just as they have been since January 2, an armed, mostly White, mostly male group of radical right-wing paramilitaries are still occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. So far, local and federal authorities in nearby Burns, Oregon, have taken almost no action. At press time, the buildings are not surrounded by law enforcement. They have electricity, heat and Internet access. Members of the press, supporters and FedEx workers can drive right up to the occupied territory.
A nearby restaurant called The Narrows is still open, too. One can walk in and see a number people—mostly a mixture of media and armed occupiers—enjoying the warm food, Wi-Fi and bar. The atmosphere recalls the cantina scene from the first “Star Wars.”