So in May 2020 I started a new Youtube channel. It includes links to different videos of me, going to back to my visit to the armed occupation of the Malheur Refuge in 2016 in Oregon. I have also started making new videos; my first one explains the potential problems one can get into if you call landlords “parasites.” To understand this, I explain the links between antisemitism (and the Far Right), and what is called the “producerist” narrative, as well as the technique of personification.
Category: Left/Right Crossover
Spencer’s ISE talk on Decentralization: Libertarian Socialist vs Far-Right
The Institution for Social Ecology (ISE), founded by Murray Bookckin, recently hosted me on a panel at their 2019 annual gathering. I spoke about experiences I had working against the Patriot/militia movement in Oregon in 2015 and 2016, who were espousing a program of Far Right decentralization. This posed special challenges to left-wing decentralists — like social ecologists and anarchists.
My presentation lasts about 20 minutes, and it starts around right after the 30:00 mark.
(I answer some questions too, and around 1:38:20 i explain some of the intricacies of cattle ranching politics, which i found fascinating.)
I have a piece in the new European publication, The Battleground, about the attempts by Senator Ted Cruz and Donald “Cheeto Mussolini” Trump to get the federal goverment treat antifa as a domestic terrorist organization. It also looks at how the German antifa movement influenced the evolution of their US cousins as Anti-Racist Action wound down, and a new generation of antifascist activists arose.
“The United States is having its third wave of “Antifa panic” in as many years. Donald Trump’s 27 July tweet called for Antifa—short for antifascist activists—to be declared “a major Organization of Terror”.
This produced a pushback, especially in Germany, sending #IchbinAntifa trending on social media.
Antifa is not an organisation at all, but a decentralised, leaderless movement that opposes fascism and the far-right. Although most of its work is legal and non-violent, the movement is best known for occasional street fights with extremists.
Recently in the US, Antifa has become a bogeyman among conservatives, like 1950s anti-Communism.”
Video of “The Far Right Today in the U.S. and New York City”
The video of my talk at Verso Books on June 28, 2017, “The Far Right Today in the U.S. and New York City,” is now online.
Apparently people attempted to pressure Verso to cancel the talk beforehand.
Afterward, Gavin McInnes seems to have ordered his keyboard kommandos to harass me. You can really tell what’s on the Alt Right’s mind by their comments: Jews, people’s body size, and violence. Pretty funny overall.
The talk is about 40 minutes long, and the Q&A goes on for an hour.
Audio of talk: “Anti/Fascism in the USA”
An 40 minute audio recording of my talk “Anti/Fascism in the USA,” recorded in Montreal in April 2017, is now online. I cover how Trump’s presidential campaign energized white nationalists; the question of “Is Trump a fascist?”; the Trump administration’s appointees and their connections to white nationalist and right-wing populist politics; the rise in hate crimes; a detailed overview of the different fascist and white nationalist factions, including the Alt Right; and the re-emergence of the militant antifascist movement.
Writings on Antisemitism
[updated: April 2, 2022]
Since my op-ed in the Forward on has been well-received, I thought I’d throw together a list of my writings that specifically address issues of antisemitism and left-wing movements. (A list of all of my recent work is here).
My most comprehensive, and possibly final, statement on the matter of Left Antisemitism is here:
“Looking Left at Antisemitism,” Journal of Social Justice, vol. 9, June 2020
Other articles and videos of mine that address antisemitism in various ways on both the Left and Right include:
“Leftists on Left-Wing Antisemitism,” (video) panel at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, NYC, May 4, 2021
I give an introduction to a panel of leftists, from different viewpoints, on how antisemitism manifests on the Left. Participants are Sina Arnold, Shane Burley, Keith Kahn-Harris, and Joshua Leifer.
“I’ve Been Tracking the Far Right for Years. Then Lin Wood ‘Exposed’ Me as the QAnon Shaman,”Daily Beast, January 12, 2021
A humorous story about how a decades-old conspiracy theory about me – which started out as explicitly antisemitic before becoming “deantisemitized” – briefly ended up on the national stage right afer the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol takeover.
“The Anti-Black and Anti-Semitic History of ‘Outside Agitators’: An Interview with Spencer Sunshine,”It’s Going Down, June 2, 2020
In this interview I explain how Trump’s blaming of “antifa” for the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests is a conspiracy theory ultimately based in antisemitism.
“Is It Antisemitic to Call Landlords ‘Parasites’?” Patreon, April 2020
I was asked if it was antisemitic to call landlords “parasites.” I said you’re not going to get in trouble for this, but you should understand the reason that this might happen: because the role that producerism, personification, and the critique of finance capital plays in antisemitic discourse.
“Steve Bannon’s ‘Washed Out’ Antisemitism,” Political Research Associates, January 12, 2018
An analysis of accusations of antisemitism against Bannon. They include his promotion of the Alt Right, Bannon and Breitbart‘s use of antisemitic narrative structures and code words, a Trump campaign speech and ad, his prejudiced personal expressions, proto-fascist intellectual influences (inc. Maurras and Guénon), his relationship with European Far Right parties, endorsements by antisemites, the Breitbart comments section & the website’s singling out of Jews as such.
“The Left Must Root Out Anti-Semitism In Its Ranks,” Forward, June 1, 2017
A call for the Left to ban Holocaust Deniers and antisemitic conspiracy theorists from its venues and publications.
“Far Right Conspiracy Theorist Christopher Bollyn to Speak at the Brooklyn Commons,” spencersunshine.com, September 5, 2016
Outline of a former editor at Willis Carto’s neo-Nazi media empire, Christopher Bollyn, who spoke at a “progressive” Brooklyn venue.
“Drawing Lines Against Racism and Fascism,” Political Research Associates, March 5, 2015
What are the criteria we should use when excluding antisemites, among others, from left-wing spaces?
“Campus Profile—Alison Weir: If Americans Knew,” Political Research Associates, 2014
Profile of a famous crypto-antisemite who is frequently given a pass by Left circles. Part of the Constructing Campus Conflict report.
* “The Right Hand of Occupy Wall Street: From Libertarians to Nazis, the Fact and Fiction of Right-Wing Involvement,” Public Eye, Winter 2014, pages 9-14, 18; online: February 23, 2014
* “20 on the Right in Occupy,” Political Research Associates, February 13, 2014
* “Occupied With Conspiracies? The Occupy Movement, Populist Anti-Elitism, and the Conspiracy Theorists,” Shift, December 11, 2011
Three articles which address why antisemites and other rightists were attracted to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“Rebranding Fascism: National-Anarchists,” Public Eye, vol. 23, no. 4, Winter 2008, 1, 12–19
Profile of a crypto-fascist group that codes its antisemitism as “anti-zionism” in order to engage in entryist tactics.
“The Left Must Root Out Anti-Semitism In Its Ranks”
I have an op-ed in the Forward encouraging people to speak out against antisemitic conspiracy theorists who appear on Leftist platforms – like the Left Forum and Brooklyn Commons. While it’s almost always a super-frustrating experience, you really can isolate these people from most left-wing platforms.
“In the last year, numerous anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists have appeared at left-leaning venues in New York City. As a monitor of far right politics, I keep track of this sort of thing, and I’ve noticed an significant increase in the number of such events.
But unlike the other bigots energized in the Trump era, these anti-Semites are seeking audiences among the capital-L “Left” — anarchists, Marxists, socialists, and participants in social movements such as Occupy Wall Street. But people inside the Left are increasingly speaking out, and if more continue to, the anti-Semites can be made unwelcome.”
Read the rest in the Forward.
Spencer’s 2016 speaking tour in Germany & London
I’ll be a doing a speaking tour in Germany leading up to the US elections, as well as a couple dates in London. There are two different talks I will be giving: one is on the U.S. radical right in the age of Trump, and the other is on U.S. Left/Right crossover movements (which in Germany is recognized as an issue for the Left, more than in the U.S.).Read More »
“Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement”
I started working on this report two months before the Malheur occupation – which threw quite a wrench in the thing. But now it’s finally finished. A joint project from Political Research Associates and the Rural Organizing Project, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement explains the Patriot movement’s national structure and goals; shows its decades-old history in Oregon; looks in-depth at six Oregon counties where Patriot movement organizing is strongest today; explains why the rural Oregon economy is in bad shape; and offers concrete suggestions—including numerous examples from the last year—of how Oregonians have counter-organized against this movement.
Spencer Sunshine, with Jessica Campbell & Rural Organizing Project, Political Research Associates, Daniel HoSang, Steven Besa, and Chip Berlet, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement (Somerville, MA: Political Research Associates & Rural Organizing Project, October 2016), 188 pages.
Available in PDF and HTML (free), and softcover ($15+postage).
Far Right Conspiracy Theorist Christopher Bollyn to Speak at the Brooklyn Commons
—“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.
TO CONTACT THE BROOKLYN COMMONS:
388 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217