••• The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: Reality Check USA
+ Readers Responses 23rd Sept
Hatred On Parade
The Rise of White Nationalism & the Ongoing Threat of Domestic Terrorism
Remember when we were all afraid of ISIS killing us in the streets a few years back? Oh, those were the salad days. We were so much happier then. Foreign religious maniacs, we kind of get. White guys with a grudge and armed to the teeth, we mostly ignore, sometimes laugh at, and strangely vote for. But in the wake of the massacre in El Paso (20 dead, 27 wounded) engineered by a white nationalist, who was, like ISIS, part of an international network of terrorists (his fancy manifesto pointed to inspiration from the New Zealand right-wing Mosque shootings) it is clear we have ourselves a growing epidemic. Citing figures from the Anti-Defamation League, during the years of 2009 through 2018, international terrorism was responsible for twenty-three percent of ideological murders, while far-right extremist killings topped out at seventy-three percent. Moreover, the same report noted that these growing extremist murders have spiked thirty-five percent from 2017 to 2018, "making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995."
Take that ISIS.
White nationalist terrorism has become a 9/11 level problem, but oddly it is treated like some weird anomaly, or to listen to rhetoric excuses of “overrated” or a “hoax”. Systemically, it is flat-out ignored. In fact, the Trump Administration immediately stripped funding and diverted attention away from domestic terrorism, much of it put in place after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, then the most lethal mass-murder in our history (168 dead, including 19 children, and five-hundred injured). In March, when asked at the White House whether white nationalists were a growing threat around the world, the president replied: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.”
It has been clear from day-one that Donald Trump is working on some level of racial paranoia and renders special dispensation from his usual attack-dog mode when commenting or not commenting on white nationalism, which is a nice way of saying he is a racist – the latest example on the heels of the El Paso shooting is the admission from the administration’s Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli that the new proposed stricter limitations on legal immigration is now needed since in the past there were “just people coming from Europe”. As if on cue, as I write this Trump is forcing the hand of Israel to ban two Muslim congresswomen from entering that country. But the president’s overt bigotry does not excuse the rest of our government. Homeland Security, the FBI or the CIA has payed ancillary attention to this crisis while lunatics fabricate invasions from Mexico, a dangerous lie which the El Paso shooter cited as igniting this latest tragedy.
So, in essence, unlike the national derangement we endured post-9/11 which sent our government into fascist spasms – sanctioning torture, cobbling together the goofy Patriot Act, and invading a nation with no connection to the attacks – we now have a government that ignores, and in some cases, openly supports white nationalist terrorism. The United States of America has apparently and willfully entered the infamous “axis of evil”.
To wit: Mere hours and days after 9/11, things went understandably haywire around here. It was a justified reaction, if not weirdly dangerous and mostly illogical. But where is a similar reaction now? An alarming number of dead Americans (fifty extremist-related killings in the U.S. in 2018, making it the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970) and tons of evidence these killings are motivated, inspired and carried out with a similar myopic agenda; destroy American values and choose the victory of one sect of humanity over another. ISIS. White Nationalism. Same shit. Waaaaayyyy different reaction.
It is now exactly two years since that abomination in Charlottesville with neo-Nazis and the KKK proudly marching around town with torches threatening Jews, African Americans and homosexuals that resulted in a street riot and the murder of a woman, followed by flaccid hemming and hawing from Donald Trump, which earned him high praise from the Klu Klux Klan. The murder has still not been designated as a hate crime nor has the investigation into the groups that organized the rally/riot bared anything more on these insurrectionists.
This past spring, a few months after the October synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh a judiciary committee convening on the rise of alt-right hate crimes held a hearing in which FBI Director Christopher A. Wray revealed that the bureau has arrested 250 white nationalist terrorists engaged in anti-American activities over the past two years. However, Dave Gomez, a former FBI supervisor, who oversaw terrorism cases, told the Washington Post that he believes FBI officials are wary of pursuing white nationalists aggressively because of the fierce political debates surrounding the issue. “I believe Christopher A. Wray is an honorable man, but I think in many ways the FBI is hamstrung in trying to investigate the white supremacist movement like the old FBI would,” Gomez told The Post. “There’s some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base. It’s a no-win situation for the FBI agent or supervisor.”
So, on a political level, this makes sense. Angry white people afraid of progress and foreign interlopers is what made Donald Trump president. Even his “the press is the enemy of the people” crap inspired a Florida man who created a two-week crisis by mailing sixteen packages of inoperative pipe bombs packed with fireworks powder and shards of glass to thirteen famous Democrats and CNN who was ironically under sentence the week of the El Paso shooting. Before going to jail he told the court he believed “enemies of President Donald Trump were trying to hurt him and other Trump supporters.” In fact, Trump smartly leans on this fear and anger every time he needs a boost, and tripled-down on this craziness in the fall of last year to try and stem the tide of what would turn out to be a mid-term election pummeling by advancing a total lie about an invading caravan coming up through the southern border – using the term “invasion” over and over again, another inspiration for the El Paso shooter, even going as far as sending in troops to combat this illusion.
But it is simply the fact that the government is turning its back on this growing threat that is troubling, yet it does not surprise me. This country’s history is littered with this miserable shit. And the current climate does indicate that things are only going to get worse. What does surprise me that it is 2019 and we are still dealing with these horrors. But they are real, and they are becoming commonplace, and they must stop.
But who is going to stop it?
© James Campion 8.16.19
JULY 20, 1969
The Apollo 11 Moon Landing at 50
From a six year-old’s perspective, this whole concept is kind of out there. So much so, I stand for an inordinate amount of time in front of our front stoop looking up into the illuminated night sky the evening of July 19
+ Readers Responses 7.29.19
+ Readers Responses 9.23.19
I have never been entirely sure why Manson and his gruesome murders have continued to intrigue us. (AUGUST 9, 1969 – Issue: 8/7/19) I do get it in the immediate like O.J or JonBenét Ramsey, the Unabomber or even Michael Jackson capturing our gory sense of voyeurism. These are of their time. But then after a while something comes and knocks it off the table and we are mesmerized by a whole new horror. This time lapse has sped up considerably with the Internet and social media and 24-hour news channels and we are confronted with the worst violence, including these almost weekly mass shootings now and then… NEXT! But here is Manson and that bloody night a half century ago still having this sinister impact on us all. But I have to say your piece brought it all to light. It was a fair and interesting look at both the youth/hippy movement and the Hollywood culture as well as the ignoring of the signs that a counter-culture could breed.
When I first saw this column I was kind of pissed. Another piece on this scum murderer continuing our queer fascination with violence and mayhem? But it was so well done and I learned some new perspectives, I understood by the end why this period and this terrible event still lingers in our culture, for good or ill.
"All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. " Boy is that reductive & simplistic. Maybe if he'd picked up a few hits of acid instead of a revolver, he would have enjoyed old age more. Interestingly, researchers are discovering after decades of demonization that acid is effective for quite a few afflictions, notably clinical depression. Also probably worth noting, Manson's mom was a horror show as mother's go -- I think she went away for armed robbery. He was raised mostly by his grandparents, who were ultra-strict, and on the first day of kindergarten--first day of school ever--sent him dressed in girl's clothes to punish him for something or other. He wound up in reform school & if my memory is accurate, was repeatedly beaten and raped by both guards and older boys (he was always small). Though this is according to Joel Norris's book on serial killers (which he was not; he was never convicted of actually committing a murder, though he likely did commit one or more) and Norris's book may need to be updated. I also saw the TV movie though it didn't scare me in the least, I suspect for the simple reason that my father was, to me, scarier--and Charlie was in prison; my dad lived with me. That's not irony. I read Bugliosi's book & thought it exceptionally well done.
So, there're my 2 cents.
I had honestly forgotten about Manson until I recently saw the Netflix series Mind Hunters. It is a fascinating look into the minds of serial killers or merely the minds and motives and behavior of the violently insane. Manson to me always seemed like a con artist, which is one of your first descriptions of him in the piece. He played the hippies, he played the Hells Angels and the Black Panthers and the cops and the media and the justice system. He was constantly putting on a show, changing his image and methods to fit whatever situation he could exploit. And since Manson had very little interest or put much stock in human life the murders were just another a show. He made it a show, and this is what has survived in our violent American culture, the show. And I think your reference to Trump is apt in the sense that he represents the show portion of our inability to see the con artist from the celebrity from the story those two weaves to keep us from seeing their true nature.
You can’t help yourself, can you? This was one of your finest pieces to date…. right up until you tried to tie Charlie Manson to Donald Trump. Why Trump? Why not Obama? Why not either of the Bush guys? You really need to get your Trump Derangement Syndrome checked out. It totally destroyed one of your finest pieces to date.
I am appalled at our celebrity culture. It has always been our great distraction, our true “opiate of the masses” and in a way it is our religion. We are transfixed by the shallowest shit, even our murders. Our criminals Our presidents now. Celebrity culture. Pathetic. We deserve our violence and our idiot president and our vacuous music and insipid movies and TV shows and our worship of maggots like Charles fucking Manson.
Woodstock is one of the greatest moments in music history and certainly American history (AUGUST 15 - 18, 1969 – Issue: 8/14/19). I have really enjoyed your three-part series on three pretty incredible events happening within weeks of each other in the same month in the same year! But this one was the best. Maybe it’s because of the even. It has frankly stood the test of time better than the other two. It has become kind of a catchphrase and a symbol for those times and also the part of the rock and roll culture that is passed down through the generations. This was a wonderful piece. Thank you.
I just started reading your column. I only knew your great writing from your music books and your podcast (Underwater Sunshine). You guys doing this long series on Woodstock has made me rethink its import and how seminal it was beyond music to our national psyche. I was always perplexed by the film. It seemed more of a period piece than an actual documentary or music film to capture it for future generations. It was like they were selling the times and not capturing the time historically. Does that make sense? And because of that Woodstock, the festival, seems to exist in a vacuum. Much of what we know, if not all of what we know about Woodstock is the film. The music, as you guys are covering in the podcast, kind of got lost along the way. So many great artists were either forgotten or in the case of Janis Joplin, The Band, Blood Sweat & Tears or CCR no one even knew they were there, as amazing as their sets ended up being. What I’m getting at is Woodstock remains one of our most celebrated mysteries. Not sure what we are saying by this celebration. Are we pining for these times? Are we saying that we can never again make it back to the garden, in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell, or where was the garden in the first place? Was it something we just created from its history? Another American myth unsolved.
Excellent summation of a special event in R&R History. Still glad we did not stop along our way to the Catskills.
Game Show Host + Presidency
James Campion 9.28.19
History is a bitch and it has come calling for Donald J. Trump.
Well, of course. How else could this possibly end? It was only a matter of time that this abomination of a presidency would finally sink us into a constitutional crisis and wind up in the embarrassment of impeachment.
Tinsel Town Terror & The Demonizing of the Drug Culture
James Campion 8.2.19
One Night in Hollywood - August 1969
In the wee hours on the morning of August 9, 1969 four ragamuffin refugees from the California commune/cult acid culture hijacked by a lunatic thirty-four year-old con man, pimp murderer, Charles Milles Manson slipped over the high steel black fencing of 10050 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles.
The Woodstock Miracle & The Aging of Aquarius
August 15th-18th 1969
James Campion 8.11.19
During the weekend hours that passed in that field in Bethel, New York, the world got to see the best of the human spirit – not by conquest or violence, our favorite pastimes, but sharing, caring, singing and imbibing. Lots and lots of imbibing.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, "Midnight For Cinderella" and “Y”. and his new book, “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”.