Monday, September 03, 2018

White nationalists, racists, and antisemites in the Trump Administration

Discussion on "All in with Chris Hayes" on August 31, 2018, with Rosie Gray (Atlantic) and Michelle Goldberg (New York Times).
Chris Hayes: There have been a lot of stories about white supremacists and racists in this administration and I suspect it’s not a coincidence. The latest, Ian Smith, that's his real name, a former Homeland Security official whom the Atlantic reports was in e-mail contact with white nationalists. In one conversation about an upcoming dinner, one man wrote, quote, “so it’s settled, we know, my home shall remain Judenfrei.” Judenfrei is a German word meaning free of Jews, which the Nazis used to describe areas from which Jews had been expelled or killed. Smith responded to the group, “they don’t call it Freitag for nothing,” using the German word for Friday and added, “I was planning to hit the bar during the dinner hour and talk to people like Matt Parrot” (CH – “The prominent Neo-Nazi”). “I should have time to pop by though.”

This comes weeks after a White House speech writer was fired after revelations he spoke at a conference attended by white nationalists. Here to talk about what’s going on, Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times, and Rosie Gray who reported on those e-mails. There’s the spectrum of people, lots of people who have lost their job in this administration for things they have written or said, Facebook posts about the president or Michelle Obama or birth certificate.

I am still kind of catching my breath from the nature of these e-mails. Who was this guy hanging out with?

Rosie Gray: Well, what I reported is that, you know, basically Ian Smith was in e-mail contact and appears been involved in the planning of social events with a circle of younger white nationalists in Washington. people with ties to institutions like the National Policy Institute or American Renaissance and he appears to have known these people.

CH: Yeah, but I want to, like – I just feel like that language is maybe a little excessively polite. If someone is writing you an e-mail saying the party is going to be Judenfrei, that's a Nazi, even if it's tongue in cheek. 
Michelle Goldberg: It's a kind of ironic joke about their own antisemitism, right? And much the same way that some of the same people who are in this e-mail chain were videotaped doing the Hitler salute with Hail Trump after the election. So it's ironic but not ironic. The antisemitism is 100% sincere.
CH: What was Ian Smith doing in the Department of Homeland Security, and what was the chain of events that led to him being fired?

RG: He was a policy analyst at DHS working on immigration. The Washington Post had a story yesterday that explained more about what he was up to within DHS. As far as him leaving the department, you know, I reached out to DHS earlier this week and they – and the next day basically I learned that he had left and they sent me a statement condemning racism and condemning his radical ideology.

CH: Just to be clear, he's working there for a while, you reach out saying I have information about who he's hanging out with, who he's in correspondence with, they then fire him?

RG: What I learn is that he had tendered his resignation. it seems pretty obvious that it was connected to my reporting. 
CH: He is not the only one, of course, there's a guy named Carl Higbie who said all sorts of vile and racist things. He was fired and then sent to the Trump-aligned superPAC where he did a bunch of events with Mike Pence. [See note 1 below on Higbie].

MG: And this is the third uproar about administration connections to white nationalists this month. There was also the White House speech writer [Darren Beattie] who left after it was revealed he had spoken at a conference alongside white nationalist Peter Brimelow, who is one of the white nationalist speakers at that conference, was invited to a party at Larry Kudlow’s, the White House economic adviser's home. Larry Kudlow then said oh, I didn't know what his views were, everyone knows what his views were, everyone knows what this man's views are. [See note 2 below on Beattie, and note 3  below on Brimelow].
And I think that one conclusion we might want to draw from this is that this is a white nationalist administration. 
And I think that one conclusion we might want to draw from this is that this is a white nationalist administration. Not everyone in the administration is white nationalist, but it's certainly an administration that has white nationalist policies, white nationalist sympathies, the president regularly employs white nationalists and outright white supremacist rhetoric like when he tweeted the lie about a genocide of white farmers in South Africa and actually directed the state department to then investigate this white nationalist conspiracy theory. There are, I would wager, more outright white nationalists in this administration than there are black people.
CH: Ian Smith was a political appointee. This was not someone in the civil service, obviously?

RG: That's my understanding, yes.

CH: And so you've got a – you've got people - people think about who is in the white house but there are all kinds of people in the agencies and sort of at the top of the agencies that are the political folks. It's easy for them not – like if the Times hadn't broken this, who knows how long he would have been there, I guess is my question.

RG: Well, right. I mean, obviously he was not somebody who is particularly well known. I imagine that if I hadn't written the story he could have just continued to labor in obscurity.

CH: And again, labor in obscurity on immigration policy attending meetings that Stephen Miller was apparently running as an interagency process to craft the vision of how the united states will enforce its immigration laws as regards refugees, non-white people.

RG: Right. Well, that's why this is such a significant story because it appears that Ian Smith played a not-inconsequential role in shaping U.S. immigration policy.
CH: Stephen Miller is someone who is the one running those meetings, of course, knew Richard Spencer at Duke, though he says they had nothing to do with each other even though they ran in somewhat similar circles.

MG: And the speech writer who left wrote speeches for Richard Spencer. And the immigration policy that we have, the policy that we have towards refugees and increasingly towards American citizens at the border is exactly what you would expect if a bunch of white nationalists were running that part of the U.S. government.

CH: You've also got a president -­ remember, the President of the United States said that Africa – said Haiti and other African nations were s-hole countries.

MG: it's in front of our face and it's such a living nightmare we've become accustomed to and something happens that reminds us how horrific this is.

CH: Do you know anything more about who these folks were that he was e-mailing with, Rosie? The people setting up Judenfrei dinner parties?

RG: I do, yes. some of the people he was in contact with include activists such as Devin Saucier who has edited for American Renaissance under a pseudonym and others. I can give you the full list if you want. [See note 5 on Saucier].

CH: the names of obscure -­ hopefully- racists and white supremacists in Washington, D.C. It's interesting to me - to sum up, yes. It's interesting this kind of underground exists and is bumping up against the Trump white house which, as you say Michelle, is not that surprising. Michelle Goldberg and Rosie Gray, thanks for joining me.
Note 1: Carl Higbie. CNN reported in January, 2018, that Higbie was fired from his job as chief of external affairs for the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (which runs volunteer programs like Americorps), because of a multitude of racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim comments that he had made over several years on his radio show. He also "derided members of the military suffering from severe PTSD as having 'a weak mind' and said 75% of those afflicted were either lying or milking it for federal money."

Note 2: Darren Beattie spoke at a conference in 2016 of the H. L. Mencken Club, as reported by CNN. This is who else spoke - luminaries of the racist right. If you'd like to read their speeches, they're available at
The Mencken Club, which is named for the early 20th century journalist and satirist whose posthumously published diaries revealed racist views, is a small annual conference started in 2008 and regularly attended by well-known white nationalists such as Richard Spencer. The schedule for the 2016 conference listed panels and speeches by white nationalist Peter Brimelow and two writers, John Derbyshire and Robert Weissberg, who were both fired in 2012 from the conservative magazine National Review for espousing racist views. 
Other speakers from the 2016 conference are regular contributors to the white nationalist website VDare. Jared Taylor, another leading white nationalist, can be heard at the conference in 2016 on Derbyshire's radio show along with Brimelow.
Note 3: Peter Brimelow. According to the Washington Post article, "Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999."
Brimelow’s website is named in honor of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in what is now the United States. Dare has become a symbol for white nationalists who are alarmed by immigration. 
The British-born Brimelow has written that Dare, who was white, is a reminder of the “very specific cultural origins of America at a time when mass nontraditional immigration is threatening to swamp it.”
Note 4: More on Ian Smith's views from the Atlantic article.
According to sources with knowledge of Smith’s role at DHS, he was a policy analyst working on immigration. He used to work for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an anti-immigration legal organization associated with the right-wing Federation for American Immigration Reform (fair). From 2014 to 2017 he wrote a number of columns on immigration for National Review. (The editor Charles Cooke didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment).

Smith’s public writings showcased a right-wing perspective on immigration, such as opposing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended race-based restrictions on immigration, particularly from countries in Asia and Africa, and which Smith argued was responsible for the “barely governable system we have today,” opposing sanctuary cities, and applauding the controversial S.B. 1070 anti–illegal immigration law in Arizona.
Note 5: Devin Saucier "helps edit the online white nationalist magazine American Renaissance under the pseudonym Henry Wolff, and [...] wrote a story in June 2017 called “Why I Am (Among Other Things) a White Nationalist.” American Renaissance is right-wing racist organization and magazine run by Jared Taylor.

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