Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reveal, Revealed: New Terrorism Study Uses Data from Terrorist Organization

You may have expected left-leaning journalists to reflect on the Alexandria, Virginia, terrorist attack. Perhaps you anticipated calls for level-headed contemplation. Or, maybe you thought it appropriate for left-leaning journalists to deescalate the war-of-words that helped bring us to this point. Nope. Instead, various left-leaning media outlets instinctively began pointing to new "studies" that purport to show that right-wing terrorism poses the greatest threat to American society. This blog post will provide a brief examination of one of those studies -- a joint project by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, a nonprofit media center, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Investigative Fund/Reveal "study" -- "Home is where the hate is" -- reads more like a frothy-mouthed polemic against Trump's immigration orders than a detached, scholarly investigation. This study examines a nine-year span (January 2008 to the end of 2016) and pushes the same premises as the Kurzman and Schanzer study -- right-wing extremism poses the greatest threat to American society; Islamic extremism receives a disproportionate amount of attention and resources relative to the threat, while far right-wing extremists go under-investigated and under-prosecuted. The study's splash claims are that foreign-born residents only accounted for 13% of terror attacks, and only 1% of terrorists came from the countries on Trump's travel ban list. Predictable methodological flaws are present, including a heavy analytical emphasis on the total number of incidents (for background on how the number of "hate incidents" were inflated over the last decade, see here), rather than fatalities. Among the many glaring methodological short-comings, sourcing for the "Homegrown Terror" database is the most concerning. According to the website:
To build our Homegrown Terror database, we obtained data from a variety of sources: the Congressional Research Service, the FBI, DT Analytics, The Heritage Foundation, the Investigative Project on Terrorism, New America, Mother Jones, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Abortion Federation and the Animal Liberation Front’s own website. In addition, we set up news filters and searched journalism databases to scoop up missing incidents, using search terms such as “Islamist,” “sovereign citizen,” “Oath Keeper,” “ecoterrorism” and so on.
In other words, Reveal's "study" is built on data gleaned from left-leaning think tanks, which are supplemented by data taken from far-left online publications (some of which rely on unverified, self-reported "hate incidents") and key-word algorithms. To say that this study is fraught with methodological flaws would be a tragic understatement. Mother Jones, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center (more on SPLC here), the National Abortion Federation?

The Animal Liberation Front?

There's predictable left-wing bias, and then there's including an FBI-designated terrorist (ALF) organization's data in a study on terrorism -- sometimes fact is indeed stranger than fiction. Despite the obvious red-flag (pun intended), this study has been cited by numerous "respectable" media outlets in the feverish post-Alexandria push to convince Americans that the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a right-wing terrorist. The Investigative Fund/Reveal study was uncritically parroted by Newsweek, the Huffington Post, The Independent, the Digital Journal, Hot Air, Alternet, and Good.

Seek truth.

- The Cowboy Historian

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Addendum: Left-Wing Violence in the Age of Trump

My previous post, Resistance or Left-Wing Terrorism: What's in a Name?, was written to start a conversation about the plague of left-wing violence in the age of Trump. Please consult my previous post for attacks that occurred prior to June 15, 2017. Also, do note that my previous post focuses on the number of Americans killed as a result of terrorist/extremist violence between January 1, 2016, and June 15, 2017, and does not claim to be an exhaustive resource for all anti-Trump violence during that time period. For recent compilations of threats and attacks targeting Trump supporters since last July, see the recent Daily Caller piece here. Ann Coulter counts over 100 attacks on Trump supporters in the last year.
Left-wing violence in America has a long and storied history (for a primer, see here). Its recent manifestations have gone under-reported and under-recognized. The attack at the Congressional Republican baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, represented a tipping-point in this conversation, however, as it forced left-leaning commentators to grapple with an uncomfortable new reality -- a progressive Bernie Sanders supporter attempted to assassinate Republican Congressmen. This couldn't be dismissed as flippantly as the attacks on conservative speakers and Trump supporters had been. Or could it? As I noted in my previous post:
What point, you may ask? The point at which a deranged Bernie bro shot the Republican whip, Steve Scalise. The point at which regressive leftist responses to this national tragedy ranged from calls for gun control to the need for better organized violent resistance. One Democratic Party official called the attack "so funny," while another operative called for social media followers to #HuntRepublicans. ABC's Scott Pelley stated that, "It’s time to ask whether the attack on the United States Congress yesterday was foreseeable, predictable, to some degree, self-inflicted"? Professors and journalists mocked the recovering Scalise on social media. A Trinity College professor used social media to suggest that first responders should have let Scalise and other "whites" die, using the hashtag #LetThemFuckingDie. A Nebraska Democratic Party official said, "I'm glad he [Scalise] got shot. I wish he was fucking dead." Yet, strangely, I know we haven't reached peak-Kafka. Somehow, things will get more bizarre before the fever breaks, and the trance is lifted.
I originally intended to update that post as new information emerged, but I've since been inundated by the frequency of incidents of left-wing violence and violence-promoting/praising rhetoric. Therefore, this post represents an attempt to track left-wing violence and violence-promoting/praising rhetoric since Alexandria. What follows is a ten day "snapshot" of left-leaning responses and reactions to the Alexandria attack, which reveals a disparity between the emergent reality of left-wing violence in the age of Trump, and the persistent, politicized claim of left-leaning journalists and think tanks that right-wing violence represents the greatest threat to American society.

(Of note -- the conversation surrounding political violence in Europe has followed a similar trajectory over the last eighteen months, with radical Islamic terrorism posing the deadliest threat to Europeans, while the data showing a spike in left-wing attacks. For the rise in anti-semitic violence in Europe over the last decade, see here).

Left-wing violence and death threats to GOP officials since June 15, 2017:

- An unknown number of peaceful protestors were injured when Antifa violently disrupted a free speech rally at Evergreen State College.

- Several shots were fired at a truck flying a "Make America Great Again" flag in Indianapolis, Indiana.

- Four police officers were injured when left-wing, BLM-affiliated, "social justice" activists attempted to disrupt a Pride parade in Columbus, Ohio, for not being inclusive enough.

- While leaving a free speech rally in Santa Monica, California, a Trump supporter was stabbed nine times. During the assault and attempted murder, one of the assailants shouted, "You're getting the shank white boy!” Police reports do not indicate that the attack was politically motivated, but those close to the victim have disputed that claim.

- Police blocked access to Karen Handel's neighborhood during the Georgia special election due to letters with a white powdery substance being sent to Handel and her neighbor's homes. The letters called Handel a "dirty fascist cunt," and exhorted the reader to "RESIST THE FASCIST TAKEOVER!" and "STRING UP THE COLLABORATORS!"

- Thirty GOP Congressmen have been attacked or threatened since May of 2017. For a video of the author discussing his findings, see here.

- Illinois man charged with threatening to kill the president on Facebook. The man's Facebook posts indicate that he was deeply disturbed by the media's Trump-Russia collusion narrative, writing that Trump "sold our country to The Russians. He is a Benedict Arnold."

- Ohio man arrested and charged for death threats to Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio -- "We’re coming to get every g**amn one of you and your families."

- Florida man arrested for death threats to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah -- "we are going to hunt your ass down, wrap a rope around your neck, and hang you from a lamppost!" Chaffetz says he's received dozens of similar threats.

- GOP Rep. Claudia Teeney says Democrats are "encouraging" death threats, and reports a steady stream of death threats -- some make direct reference to the Alexandria attack.

- Threats against lawmakers already surpass 2016 totals.

Left-wing rhetoric praising or calling for violence (other than the incidents noted in my the quote from my previous post above) since June 15, 2017:

- Many left-leaning commentators' initial responses included blaming Trump and Trump supporters for the Alexandria attack.

- Syracuse professor uses social media to call on supporters to "finish off" the "fascists" at a local protest.

- An Antifa website calls for violence against Trump supporters.

Professor: "Spoiled" Otto Warmbier "got exactly what he deserved"

- A Hollywood director called Trump and McConnell terrorists on social media.

- Actor Johnny Depp jokes about assassinating the president.

-Leftist agitator Michael Moore complained to his Twitter followers that the media hadn't (in the wake of the Alexandria and Flint terrorist attacks) called the Governor a terrorist over the Flint water problem.

- MSNBC commentator says that defending Trump is like "hugging a suicide bomber."

- "Morning Joe" co-host says that the Trump administration is a developing "dictatorship."

- Young Democratic Socialists at the University of Georgia retweet that "House Republicans should NOT be shot! They should be guillotined." The organization removed the tweet and said it was a "joke and should not be taken literally."

- Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, related in a radio interview that he wakes up every morning hoping that Trump has a "massive stroke."

What, one may wonder, has been the response of many left-leaning journalists and think tanks?

Analyses from left-leaning journalists have begun to trickle out and have followed a familiar pattern--emphasize how rare left-wing terrorism has been since the 1960s and 1970s, draw only from studies produced by left-leaning think tanks that claim that right-wing terrorism represents the biggest threat to American society, oppose Trump's immigration orders, and downplay the big-picture significance of the Alexandria attack. NPR's "fact-check" on left-wing terrorism dismisses claims that the Alexandria attack represents an emergent trend (based on interviews with J.J. McNabb, an expert on political extremism at George Washington University, and Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism). For a critique of NPR's "fact-check," see hereSalon insists that "left-wing violence is relatively rare these days," and stresses that recent attacks in London and the U.S. show that "not all terrorists are Muslims: as the past week should remind us, political violence is not restricted by race, religion or ideology."

Articles aimed at countering Trump's immigration orders push the narrative produced in left-leaning think tanks that right-wing terrorism represents a greater threat to the American public than radical Islamic terrorism. This includes The Nation (based on SPLC, ADL, and a 2015 survey of law-enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security--see here). Newsweek and The Independent focused their analyses on a joint project by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, a nonprofit media center, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting (for the full study, see here, for a lament about how their federal grant funding is drying up, see here, for methodological flaws in the Reveal study, see here), and drew similar conclusions--Trump's focus on radical Islamic terrorism is misplaced. The Huffington Post, using the same study, ran an article entitled, "Most Of America’s Terrorists Are White, And Not Muslim," and predictably emphasizes the dangers of right-wing extremism.

Some left-leaning journalists and experts, however, have begun to make pained-admissions that left-wing terrorism might be a potential problem, although there is a notable tendency with these analyses to downplay conservative concerns as overblown, hyper-focused on Antifa activities, and disconnected from the greater threat posed by right-wing extremists. Brian Levin, head of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, states that "left-wing extremism is now officially on the radar," but still emphasizes the primacy of right-wing extremism. In a similar vein, Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism, says that “one shooting is tragic, but it doesn’t necessarily constitute a trend,” but concedes that "we cannot ignore the potential or violence or the reformulation of left-wing extremist groups." Pulitzer Prize winner and nationally syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., laments that conservatives are "reflexively" blaming Democratic Party rhetoric for the Alexandria attack, but assures readers that this will not stop him from criticizing "a president of unprecedented incompetence" who "is being enabled by a Congress of criminal complicity in an agenda of frightful destructiveness." Despite the unsubstantiated hyperbole (criminal?), he concedes that "left-wing terrorism might be making a comeback." He concludes that this is a "moment for soul-searching."

Critics of the various studies produced by left-leaning think tanks point out that these studies tend to downplay radical Islamic terror attacks outside of the United States (globally the most frequent and deadliest), rarely point out that Muslims make up less than one percent of the U.S. population, yet account for twenty-seven percent of all terror attacks within the U.S., and tend to emphasize the number of incidents, rather than the number of Americans killed. Additionally, left-leaning studies selectively choose the time-frame they analyze in manner that minimizes the number of fatalities produced by radical Islamic terrorism, such as starting after 9/11/2001, or ending prior to 6/12/2016 (the Orlando attack). These methodological flaws prevent a sober analysis of the most consistent (jihadist), as well as emergent (left-wing), threats to American society.

Similarly, methodological flaws skewed the analyses of left-leaning think tanks and may have prevented those researchers from recognizing the growing threat left-wing terrorism poses. While left-leaning studies tend to lump many different groups into a vast "far right-wing" classification, thus amplifying the data set tallies, the same studies simultaneously water-down the frequency of, and fatalities produced by, left-wing attacks by breaking left-wing groups into separate classifications. Left-leaning think tanks may also be starting to feel the financial pinch, as Trump appears to be killing the goose that lays the golden egg -- federal grant funding -- that once made looking for right-wing terrorism such a lucrative enterprise.

Let's have a closer look at the methodology of one of the newer studies.

The 2015 DOJ-financed survey of law-enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, was authored and published by Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer on June 25, 2015. The survey examines the period from September 12, 2001, to June 22, 2015, and compares survey data of law enforcement threat perceptions with a synthesis of data on extremist attacks collected by the ADL and the University of Maryland's START Center Global Terrorism Database. Kurzman and Schanzer conclude that most law enforcement officers overestimate the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism, and underestimate the threat posed by right-wing extremism.

Of course, the only way Kurzman and Schanzer can make this case is by excluding two of the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history -- September 11, 2001, and the Orlando attack (June 12, 2016). In the data chart provided by the study, Muslim extremist attacks and fatalities for 2001 are listed as zero, and zero, respectively, with one terrorist plot foiled. Zero! In reality, the 9/11/2001 attack resulted in nearly 3,000 killed and an additional 6,000+ injuries. The death and injury toll from that one attack is still rising, and the number of claimants is now in the tens of thousands, with an estimated 247.3 billion dollar total economic impact. 1,300 children were orphaned. Nevertheless, our well-credentialed authors thought it appropriate to start their data set on the day after this attack occurred, treating the deadliest terrorist attack in American history as a statistical anomaly. Due to the date of publication, this report also does not include the Orlando attack, which was the deadliest mass shooting in American history -- forty-nine killed and fifty-three injured. Is this sound scholarship?

There's also the question of objectivity. A cursory examination of the professional publications and activities of Kurzman and Schanzer reveal that both actively support "progressive" causes, and were previously closely involved in shaping the Obama administration's emergent policy on extremism -- that is, redefining the focus of federal anti-terrorism/extremism efforts from the radical Islamic extremism to right-wing extremism. Both supported the Syrian refugee resettlement policy, and are now dedicated to resisting Trump's immigration orders. Do they strike you as impartial truth-seekers?

Back to my point -- in the age of Trump (the last eighteen months), Americans are fifty-one times more likely to be killed by a radical Islamic terrorist, and thirteen time more likely to be killed by a left-wing terrorist, than by a right-wing terrorist.

51:1. 13:1.

- The Cowboy Historian 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Resistance or Left-Wing Terrorism: What's in a Name?

I began forecasting a rise in left-wing violence just after the election, when regressive leftists so crassly started publicizing false Fascist/Nazi allegations, physically attacking conservatives on college and university campuses, and justifying violence against Trump and his supporters -- all with very little pushback. Unfortunately, I was right. Violence has started to snowball. Barring a change in course, we are headed for some type of wider civil conflict. Deep down, everyone knows it. But why?

Is civil conflict either desirable or inevitable?

In part, the Trumpocalypse has been propelled by a hyperbolic, media-driven narrative that suggests Trump's election electrified racists, misogynists, and bigots, and represents no less than the return of Jim Crow America, or worse. I documented some of the more absurd aspects of this narrative in previous posts, but baseless claims have now become so pervasive that documenting them has become impossible. Much of this rhetoric could have been chalked-up to election-year exaggeration. Instead, it's only persisted and grown like Pinocchio's nose -- becoming, day-by-day, ever more grotesque. As a result, I've decided to focus on hard data, the lack thereof, and my synopsis of how we got to this point.

What point, you may ask? The point at which a deranged Bernie bro shot the Republican whip, Steve Scalise. The point at which regressive leftist responses to this national tragedy ranged from calls for gun control to the need for better organized violent resistance. One Democratic Party official called the attack "so funny," while another operative called for social media followers to #HuntRepublicans. ABC's Scott Pelley stated that, "It’s time to ask whether the attack on the United States Congress yesterday was foreseeable, predictable, to some degree, self-inflicted"? Professors and journalists mocked the recovering Scalise on social media. A Trinity College professor used social media to suggest that first responders should have let Scalise and other "whites" die, using the hashtag #LetThemFuckingDie. A Nebraska Democratic Party official said, "I'm glad he [Scalise] got shot. I wish he was fucking dead." Yet, strangely, I know we haven't reached peak-Kafka. Somehow, things will get more bizarre before the fever breaks, and the trance is lifted.

On the one hand, one might have gotten the impression from the media that right-wing "hate crimes" -- allegedly inspired by Trump's rhetoric -- have reached something of crisis proportions. ThinkProgress, the organization that blamed conservative Christians for the Orlando shooting, reported 261 -- dubiously-sourced -- "hate incidents" since the election. A widely-cited (Washington Post, BBC, Huffington Post, USA Today, etc.) Southern Poverty Law Center "studyclaims -- on the basis of self-reported and unverified anecdotal "evidence" -- that the month following Trump's election witnessed 1,094 incidents of "bias-related harassment and intimidation" directed at blacks, Muslims, women, LGBT, immigrants, and Jews, as well as twenty-six "anti-Trump incidents." The SPLC also notes that they were able to identify a total of thirteen false reports.

If you haven't figured it out by now, let me put it to you plainly -- the SPLC is a radical, left-wing, ideologically-driven, propaganda organization. For background on the SPLC, see here. For a debunking of SPLC methodology, see here. For an example of how SPLC rhetoric has inspired real hate crimes, see here. For John Perazzo's excellent overview of the SPLC and various other left-wing hate groups, see here.

While many of the "hate incidents" reported by ThinkProgress and the SPLC do not constitute actual crimes, the authenticity of many of these reports represent a much more significant concern. Besides glaring methodological problems -- including defining "hate incident" -- a fake hate crime wave seems to have accompanied the election, but neither the ThinkProgress nor the SPLC studies offer an effective mechanism for ferreting out fake reports. Meanwhile, independent researchers at fakehatecrimes.org have uncovered hundreds of fake hate crimes. Oddly, many of these fake hate crime reports themselves caused serious disturbances, received national attention, and continue to make the rounds in social media well after being debunked. There's been so many of them since the election that it's impossible to document in one blog post. Don't believe me? Google "fake hate crime." Those uncovered seem to have a binding thread -- the perpetrator wanted to "raise awareness" of...you guessed it..."hate"!

On the other hand, violent anti-Trump riots and attacks on Trump supporters have become a frequent occurrence. What's distinctive about violent anti-Trump resistance is the scope and status of many of the resistors: VP candidate Tim Kaine's son, professors doubling as antifa hooligans, actors and entertainers calling for the assassination of the POTUS, etc. Again, the examples of incitement are numerous. Anti-Trump attacks have become so commonplace, yet simultaneously ignored by the left-stream media, that Trump supporters started a website to document them.

Of course, reliable statistics for hate crimes in 2016 won't be available until the FBI publishes its annual report later this year. Until then, all is speculation, claims, and counter-claims. But, we do have hard data for ideologically-motivated terrorist attacks -- we know exactly which groups are responsible for causing the untimely deaths of Americans over the course of the last eighteen months.  

As I noted in a previous post:
Despite the media downplaying the post-911 jihadist terrorist threat (for an example, see here) and hyping the "right-wing extremist" threat, a sober analysis reveals that there's really no comparison. What, you may ask, would a side-by-side comparison of your chances of being killed by a jihadist or by a right-wing extremist in the U.S. since September 11, 2001, actually be? It's not even close. It's 62:1. Yes, you read that correctly -- Americans are sixty-two times more likely to be killed by a jihadist than by a right-wing extremist (for a short article on the the debunking of the think-tank manipulated statistics that claim the opposite, see here, and for the full study, see here). 
For an updated examination of the issue of right-wing terrorism vs. jihadist terrorism, see here. Nevertheless, certain media outlets persist in claiming that right-wing terror represents the most pressing threat to the American public, and particularly since the campaign and election of Trump.

Let's have a closer look at the numbers:

According to newamerica.org analysts, fifty-five individuals have been "charged with or died engaging in jihadist terrorism or related activities inside the United States," or were "Americans accused of such activity abroad" since January of 2016. During that same time-frame, there have been two deadly jihadist attacks on U.S. soil -- the Florida Pulse nightclub shooting and the Colorado security guard shooting. While only one person died in the Colorado shooting, Omar Matin killed forty-nine (fifty if the shooter is included) and wounded fifty-three at the Pulse nightclub shooting, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Also during that eighteen-month span, black nationalist/separatist/supremacist attacks -- in Dallas and Fresno -- left eight dead and eleven wounded, with the Dallas attack being the deadliest attack on law enforcement since 9/11/2001.

In comparison, New America points out that "right-wing" violence -- stabbings in New York and Portland -- claimed the lives of three, with one injured. Of course, we now know that a left-wing Bernie Sanders supporter carried out the Portland stabbings, which claimed the lives of two, with one injured. When this obvious error is corrected, "right-wing" violence has claimed the life of one person in the last eighteen months. One.

To summarize -- over the last eighteen months (and according to New America), Americans are fifty-one times more likely to be killed by a radical Islamic terrorist, and eight times more likely to be killed by a black nationalist/separatist/supremacist, than by a right-wing terrorist; that's 51:1, and 8:1, respectively. But is it fair to focus exclusively on jihadists, right-wingers, and black nationalists? My point here is not to claim that violent attacks by Trump supporters haven't occurred, or to conflate the attacks of left-wing terrorists with all Democrats. Rather, my point is to illustrate the hate-filled narrative that undergirds the anti-Trump resistance. Would it be misplaced to call ideologically-inspired anti-Trump violence "left-wing terrorism"? How many examples of left-wing terrorism, one must wonder, can we find over the course of the last eighteen months, were we to look for it?

First, we must adequately define terrorism. The textbook definition of terrorism is "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes." National security discussions of future terror threats include concerns about the use of WMDs, cyber-terrorism, online radicalization that inspires lone-wolf attacks, and the myriad ways increasingly sophisticated technology may democratize destruction. Since 9/11/2001, a vigorous debate over the relative threat different extremist groups pose to American society has played out in American politics.

The Barack H. Obama administration tended to downplay deadly terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists, as well as keep their operational definition of terrorism a closely guarded secret. Hence, the many perplexing instances of "workplace violence." This was probably related to a behind-the-scenes policy shift in the focus of anti-extremism/terrorism programs -- and, perhaps, grant funding to think tanks like New America, the SPLC, and the George Washington University Program on Extremism -- which deemphasized the George W. Bush administration's concern with radical Islamic extremism, and broadened government surveillance and countermeasures to include "anti-government views, racism, bigotry, anarchy and other despicable beliefs." Yes, it would seem that the Obama team saw right-wing extremism as the proper focus of the DOJ. According to Obama's Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin's revealing statement from 2015:
When it comes to hate and intolerance, no single ideology governs. In America, harboring extremist views is not itself a crime, nor is the expression of even a hateful ideology or association with a hateful group. But the line between speech and violence is crossed too often, resulting in heartbreaking tragedy.  
Carlin's statement to his "colleagues" at the SPLC and GWU may have underscored a critical feature of how the Obama administration may have defined the dividing line between domestic extremism and domestic terrorism/violent extremism -- the former represents "hateful" ideology, while the latter concerns violence in the name of a "hateful" ideology. With that definition of terrorism/violent extremism in mind -- violence driven by ideological hatred -- we shall now define left-wing terrorism and develop a rough estimate of the number of attacks, deaths, and injuries as a result of of left-wing terror in the last eighteen months.

The ideology driving left-wing attacks -- resistance -- emerged from the fusion of New Left (Antonio Gramsci, the Frankfurt School, French Postmodernism) perceptions/assumptions of/about the pervasively oppressive nature of American society with a diminishing sense of leftist political power and control as a result of sustained electoral losses by progressive/liberal candidates at all levels of government. To be exact, Democrats lost 1,042 posts between 2008 and 2016, which included the loss of control of the House, Senate, Presidency, twelve governorships, and 958 state legislative seats.

Democrats, to date, have failed to examine internal factors -- such as public perceptions of Obama's policies for "hope and change" -- for this precipitous decline in political power. Instead, Democrats have persisted in the externalization of blame and fallen into the self-serving bias. Thus, as a result of deeply identifying the progressive agenda with the American national identity, they failed to see the blowback from a message that promotes national self-loathing, Christian bashing, radical social change, open border lawlessness, globalist agendas that padded the pockets of liberal-minded elites while destroying American jobs, contempt for traditional American values, and the toxic message of identity politics. Essentially, they were, and remain, blinded by ideological spectacles clouded by smugness and groupthink. Trump's victory became the quintessential example for many Democrats -- evidence -- that significant numbers of Americans must be racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, bigots.

Nazis!

As noted above, extreme ideological hate alone does not constitute terrorism. Accordingly, my figures will focus on the number of deaths and casualties caused by violent left-wing attacks, and will not account for the obscenely high number of threats, name calling, graffiti, etc. (the types of things included in ThinkProgress and SPLC figures) perpetrated on a daily basis. Nor do my numbers include self-reported incidents, or the use of intimidation, threats, and belligerent behavior that resulted in significant numbers of violations of the civil rights of college campus speakers. Nor will my analysis include injuries sustained in melees between belligerent pro-Trump and anti-Trump crowds that gathered for the express purpose of a showdown, or the plots foiled by law enforcement agencies (as included in the New America studies). I will exclusively examine the number of verified assaults, deaths, and casualties caused by clearly identifiable left-wing terrorist attacks.

Left-wing anti-Trump terrorism/extremist violence in the last eighteen months:
There have been high-profile attacks. The GOP Congressional baseball practice shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, injured five, with one killed (if we count the death of the shooter). This attack clearly fits the definition of a left-wing terror attack, as Hodgkinson was a dedicated Bernie Sanders supporter who, as an extension of his willingness to "resist," posted to social media that he intended to "Terminate the Republican Party," among many similar hateful, ideologically-driven statements, prior to traveling to Virginia and carrying out the attack. Sadly, regressive leftists in the media have already begun blaming the victims.

Despite initial media reports that indicated that the Portland stabber, Jeremy Christian, carried out a Trump-inspired right-wing terrorist attack, it quickly emerged that Christian was actually another Bernie Sanders supporter with a history of social media posts broadcasting his hatred of both Trump and Clinton. He also bizarrely claimed to be a white supremacist and was harassing Muslims at the time of his killing two and injuring a third. While this is clearly a case of hateful, ideologically-driven terror, Christian's schizophrenic worldview does not neatly fit the definition of left-wing or right-wing terror. Therefore, the deaths and injuries from this attack will not be included in my assessment.

There have also been numerous incidents involving leftist mob violence. In March of 2017, Allison Stanger was injured and treated at the local hospital after being attacked by Antifa and radical leftist protestors during a university scheduled speech by Charles Murray. In February of 2017, Antifa and radical leftist rioters -- up to 150 masked leftist hooligans -- shut down a scheduled speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at U.C. Berkeley. The attacks left behind significant property damage, and Trump/Milo supporters were pepper sprayed, hit with various projectiles, and beaten with metal poles, resulting in at least six injuries. There's the twenty Trump supporters that sustained injuries from beatings that occurred outside of a San Jose Trump rally. Sadly, rather than condemn these attacks, many regressive leftist journalists justified and encouraged them.

Then there are the attacks on Trump supporters that haven't garnered national attention, or academic inquiry. There was the California community college professor arrested for dangerously injuring a Trump supporter with a bike lock, the video of a racist anti-Trump assault in Chicago that took place after an auto accident, an assault on a student wearing a Trump hat, the BLM-affiliated "anti-bullying ambassador" that assaulted a seventy-four year old Trump supporter outside of Trump Tower in NYC, the man who was choked for wearing a Trump hat in the NYC subway, the violent assault of a Trump supporter for waving an American flag and holding a Trump sign in Connecticut, the eleven year old elementary student beaten for voting for Trump in a mock election in Texas, and the Florida high school student punched for holding a Trump sign. There was also the Georgia resident that was shot and killed for joking about voting for Trump.

Finally, there are the various attacks associated with alleged BLM and Black Power incitement. In July of 2016, Micah Johnson shot and killed five and badly injured an additional seven law enforcement officers at a BLM protest in Dallas, Texas. Johnson, inspired by the 1960s Black Power movement, as well as certain hip-hop lyrics, just wanted to "kill white people," and "especially white officers." (For the ongoing court case against BLM and George Soros, see here.) There was the abduction and torture of a mentally handicapped man in Chicago, which the assailants broadcasted via Facebook live and can be heard yelling, "fuck Trump" and "fuck white people." Gavin Long's ideological motivations are complex to say the least (Washitaw Nation and Nation of Islam member). Like Johnson, Long was allegedly radicalized by claims about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and retaliated by killing three and injuring three law enforcement officers in Louisiana. A couple of months ago, Kori Ali Muhammad killed three in Fresno, California, in what appears to have been a racially motivated attack. When considering the motivations in these three attacks, one is faced with a choice of classification -- do we label these attacks as "left-wing" or black nationalist/separatists/supremacist ideology. New America chose the latter, but why?

Aren't BLM and Black Power organizations ideologically oriented with the political left? BLM rhetoric, tactics, and goals seem to emanate from the New Left's playbook via critical race theory and Maoist-inspired socialist organizations. The influence of marxist-inspired leftist organizations of the 1960s and 1970s appears undeniable. Is New America's creation of a separate classification for black nationalist/separatists/supremacist, rather than using a more comprehensive "left-wing" classification, arbitrary and out of step when compared to its catchall category of far right-wing terrorism? I'll let the reader decide if my classification of these attacks as left-wing terrorism is warranted.

The stories above hardly represent a comprehensive evaluation of the left-wing terrorism that has occurred over the course of the last eighteen months. Nevertheless, certain comparisons can be made on the basis of these preliminary findings. Since 2016, left-wing terrorists killed twelve people (thirteen if you include the Virginia Congressional baseball practice shooter), as compared to only one person killed over the same time period by a right-wing terrorist. Left-wing violence injured an additional fifty-one people. These figures likely only scratch the surface of the wave of left-wing terroristic/extremist activity that has accompanied the left's dwindling grip on power. While radical Islamic terrorism still poses the greatest terroristic threat to American lives, left-wing terrorism has emerged as a strong runner-up and must become the focus of more sophisticated analyses that can employ greater resources than those available to a digital cowboy. Those still claiming that right-wing terrorism represents the greatest threat to American society need to take a long look at the data.

To summarize my analysis: Since January of 2016 -- the period in which the anti-Trump "resistance" movement formed -- Americans are fifty-one times more likely to be killed by a radical Islamic terrorist, and thirteen times more likely to be killed by a left-wing terrorist, than by a right-wing terrorist.  That's 51:1, and 13:1, respectively. Should you still prefer the New America classification system, which appears to downplay the role of left-wing ideology, then the statistics are 51:1 (jihadist terrorism vs. right wing terrorism) and 11:1 (black nationalist/separatist/supremacist terrorism vs. right wing terrorism), and 2:1 (left-wing terrorism vs. right-wing terrorism).
Of note: While I did not include the Portland shooter in any ideological category as a result of his lack of a coherent ideological motivation, one might classify the Portland stabber as a right-wing terrorist, as New America does, and would need to adjust the total number of those killed by right-wing terrorism accordingly to three.

My synopsis:
Scripted violence against Trump and his supporters started when Trump secured the GOP nomination, but has gone into hyperdrive since the election. As we've come to expect in high-stakes political campaigns, Trump's already brash statements were frequently taken out of context and packaged as contextless, inflammatory sound-bytes -- Trump was as a racist, misogynistic, bigot. As a result, many developed the notion that these claims were unquestionably true. Calls for direct action and mob violence to thwart Trump rallies resonated in places like Chicago. Trump's campaign headquarters in North Carolina was firebombed. The removal of yard signs, as well as the vandalism of businesses and private residences of Trump supporters emerged as a commonplace sport. Physical assaults on Trump supporters proliferated. All was justified in the name of resisting what Trump and his "deplorable" supporters supposedly stood for.

Yet, most of the anti-Trump violence and property damage went unnoticed by the left, or was dismissed as anomalous. Instead, most media outlets were content focusing public attention on a series of supposedly Trump-inspired "hate crimes." Too often, these events turned out to be hoaxes perpetrated by radical leftists purposefully providing grist for an all-too-ready media that had abandoned any semblance of objectivity and journalistic standards. Don't believe me? Consider the the absurdity of the revival of Dan Rather's career as an example of the growing demand for fake anti-Trump news. Rather was previously hounded out of the profession for...fake news.

Then came the false allegations that Trump, his closest aides, and his supporters were Fascists and Nazis. These weren't allegations by amateur pundits. Flagship progressive/liberal outlets, such as The Atlantic and The New York Times, led the charge. Top leaders in the Democratic Party, including Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean, repeated the "white supremacist" and Fascist/Nazi allegations as though they were common knowledge. As we all know, Fascists/Nazis killed people -- lots of people. To make matters worse, progressive/liberal talking points in opposition to Trump's policy agenda were framed as to imply that Trump's policies, such as leaving the Paris climate accords, will kill people. Likewise, it's become commonplace for progressive/liberal commentators to wish death upon Trump voters and supporters for supporting the repeal of Obamacare. A popular motif, which has been openly embraced by Hillary Clinton and become the anti-Trump rallying-cry, has been to "resist." Borrowing a term used by the French resistance during the World War II Nazi occupation of France, flows naturally from the assumption that Trump's regime represents Fascism/Nazism. Do you talk to Nazis? Do you compromise with Nazis? No -- you kill Nazis because they are evil. Get it?

Accordingly, the media has given uninterrupted coverage of regressive leftists looking to ride the wave of anti-Trump hysteria to fifteen seconds of fame. Journalists joking about the assassination of Trump, or calling for his execution, have been overlooked. High-profile academics at the most prestigious American institutions have openly called for the forced reeducation of the POTUS and the overthrow of the U.S. government. Actors and entertainers have repeatedly celebrated the mock assassinations of the POTUS. One MSNBC commentator said defending Trump was like "hugging a suicide bomber." Members of the national security apparatus have frequently leaked classified information in an ongoing attempt to smear the POTUS, and on, and on.

Then there's the Russia narrative. This is probably the most unsettling aspect of the anti-Trump witch-hunt, as it appears that officials associated with the previous administration attempted to fix the election. Once the election was over, the same set of characters appear to have set in motion a plan that involved leaking calculated misinformation in order to subvert, and, ultimately, overthrow the Trump administration. Many useful idiots in the media uncritically swallowed the entire storyline hook, line, and sinker.

Perhaps yesterday's senseless attack by a disgruntled Bernie bro will convince the Democratic Party leadership to put the insurrection genie back in the bottle, but I doubt it. They seem to have fully embraced the art of cry-bullying and intend to take the Lyotard formula to its logical conclusion -- to either beat the republic into socialistic submission, or sacrifice the future of their party on the alter of irrational anti-Trump resistance. Have they given up on winning elections, and are now focused only on seizing power through banana-republic tactics? I suspect that at some point Trump will come out swinging. Otherwise, he, and the republic, may suffer death by a thousand leftist cuts.

For better or worse, that's how I see it.

- The Cowboy Historian

**See my Addendum for a ten-day "snapshot" of leftist violence and violence promoting/praising rhetoric in the wake of the Scalise shooting**
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lyotard?

Ulrich Baer's recent oped in the New York Times, "What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech," argues that we live in a "changed world" in which SJW attacks on conservative speakers do not mean that SJW's are "overly sensitive snowflakes" driven by "paranoid intolerance." Au contraire! Baer sees liberators attempting "to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people." They are visionaries who should be thanked for "keeping watch over the soul of our republic." They are freedom fighters courageously revising "existing definitions of free speech to accommodate previously delegitimized experiences." What great insight, one naturally wonders, earned such high praise from New York University's Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities, and Diversity? Trauma equals truth; speech is a public good. Welcome to the neo-Marxist philosophy of French post-modernist Jean-Francois Lyotard!

According to Baer, the "reflexive defenders" of an outdated notion of free speech -- the concept that truth emerges from vigorous debate -- must recognize the "new reality" in which free speech isn't "an unchanging absolute." Baer insists that a cultural shift and new understanding of "free speech" emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, which require "vigilant and continuing examination of its [free speech] parameters" to "legitimate" personal experience -- "especially traumatic experience." VoilĂ  -- without the regulating hand of social justice activists, speech is oppressive. But wait, there's more! Baer writes that:
The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.
Certain truths, claims Baer, have been silenced as a result of "the asymmetry in discussions between perpetrators and victims of systemic or personal violence." "Certain topics" can "restrict speech as a public good," such as "claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing." These claims can't be debated, "because such people cannot debate them on the same terms." Therefore, protests to disrupt the speeches of Murray, Milo, and others weren't censorship; they "should be understood as an attempt to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people." To allow those claims would be to "invalidate the humanity of some people." Besides, those peddling "hate speech" already have a platform -- the internet. Baer suggests that "a more sophisticated understanding" of free speech, "such as the one provided by Lyotard," will require the parameters of "public speech"  to be "continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing."

Baer's ambitions do not stop at the university's gates. His primary examples of asymmetrical silencing include, unsurprisingly, a list of white supremacists -- George C. Wallace, William Shockley, Richard Spencer -- and, of course, POTUS Donald Trump and HUD Secretary Ben Carson. Thus, Carson's claim that transgenders are "men and women in disguise" does not recognize them as "fully human." In like manner, Trump's campaign rhetoric challenges "the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse." Trump's "insults are meant to discredit and delegitimize whole groups as less worthy of participation in the public exchange of ideas."

Lyotard's formula
Lyotard's formula represents an interesting innovation. His followers have cleverly mapped out a program for engineering new socially constructed truths. Social justice activists in the academy (like Baer), in the media, and on the streets are the engineers, construction workers, and foot soldiers. It's simple, once you understand the game. Claim to represent "social justice." Identify yourself as the champion of a "silenced" group and slander decent people as racists, bigots, and misogynists (make it up if necessary). Define speech as a "public good" -- a collective, rather than individual, right. Regulate the parameters of speech in the name of "inclusivity" and according to the premises of critical theory. Start with university speech codes, diversity, and inclusivity policies and expand into government via hate speech and anti-discrimination legislation. Exclude speech (conservative, Christian, and even secular humanist) that does not meet the SJW concepts of liberation and oppression. Discredit all meta-narratives as tools of oppression. Replace the meta-narratives with micro-narratives that project the evolving madness of the social justice movement onto all facets of learning -- line-by-line. Treat the claims of "traumatized" victims (brainwashed snowflakes) as the most sacred form of truth -- the truth of individual experience.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Do Lyotard's concepts measure up to cowboy standards? Let's see. 
Truth is that which is in accordance with fact or reality. God is the source and arbiter of truth. In contrast, Lyotard does not believe in absolutes. For him, truth does not exist in any objective sense. His "truth" is power. Lyotard's innovation is to treat the traumatized individual's personal narrative as the highest form of truth. To question the subjective perception of the individual is to "invalidate their existence, humanity, etc." Thus, reflective learning, institutional authority, science, history, social norms, etc. are treated as oppressive structures. This is, of course, insane. Psychology journals are filled with discussions of the various ways trauma can negatively effect mental health. Trauma can impair cognitive function and memory formation. Trauma is the root cause of a number of anxiety disorders. In severe cases, trauma can cause dissociation and psychosis.

Only God can legitimate one's existence. Our rights come from the Almighty. Government exists to secure those rights. In contrast, by seeking to "legitimate the existence" of others, Lyotard is claiming that a human being's worth, dignity, value, and rights flow from government. Lyotard's legitimation claim is a dominance strategy to assert power through the false claim of moral authority.

Free speech is a sacred, Constitutionally-enshrined, God-given, individual right (a concept grounded in the nation's founding documents, contested in case law, and clarified by the SCOTUS). By "free speech," Lyotard means a "public good" subject to regulation, such as official statistics, a government report, or a public road. This is the mechanism SJW's are using -- the collectivization of thought and speech -- to attempt to restrict legitimate campus speech. Media pundits are ramping up efforts to push this paradigm beyond the university (see this piece by the editorial board of the Washington Post).

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but speech will never invalidate my existence. By suggesting that speech can "invalidate one's existence," Lyotard is attempting to re-frame and restrict any legitimate challenge to the deranged individual's perception of reality. This is a common mind control tactic used by cults to inoculate members against evidence-based arguments, social norms, laws, and common sense. Also, Leotard's conflation of speech with violence does not meet the SCOTUS's standards of being a clear and present danger or incitement.

This is Marxism turned nihilism, and that is, in a general sense, how the New Left differs from the Old Left. Whereas the Old Left sought to replace the meta-narratives of Western Civilization with a new meta-narrative (dialectical materialism), New Left radicals use nihilistic arguments to destroy the "meta-narratives" (the Enlightenment, Christianity, capitalism), and replace them line-by-line with neo-marxist "micro-narratives" designed to undermine constitutional government, the Judeo-Christian worldview, and market economics. It's civilizational cancer. Like a psychopath, or someone suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder, they just want to see the world burn.

Lyotard was part of the the French post-modernist/post-structuralist (Derrida, Foucault) milieu of the 1960s/1970s New Left, which was, at times, critical of the Columbia/Frankfurt School tradition. Nevertheless, they were basically making approximations of the same argument -- the culture, values, and institutions that Western Civilization rests upon are evil and must be destroyed. Compared to his more celebrated counterparts, Lyotard flew under the radar. Upon closer examination, however, it would seem that Lyotard methodically trained a group of apprentices at universities across the U.S. We are now seeing the fruits of his labors.

To be clear -- I do not accept the unconstitutional premise that the individual's freedom of speech can be infringed upon by public, state-funded universities, or by government at any level. Speech is not a public good. Trauma is not truth. The individual does not have the right to overturn constitutional processes and law. Lyotard's hyper-empowerment of deranged individuals is a strategy designed to promote lawlessness and anomie.

Socialism is slavery masquerading as liberation from God and nature.

- The Cowboy Historian

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, and "History Deniers": The New Left Revealed

Unsurprisingly, the POTUS is receiving more negative press. This time, remarks he made about the "swashbuckler" Andrew Jackson to The Washington Examiner reporter Salena Zito (for Serius XM's “Main Street Meets the Beltway” program) have been the focus of media scrutiny. Prior to airing the interview, however, Serius XM tweeted a selectively edited part of the interview. Before the entire interview aired, journalists and historians pounced on the new meat and immediately began evaluating the implications of Trump's comments. What was so controversial that they couldn't wait for the entire interview to become available (see the partial transcript of the interview clip released by Serius XM, here)? Here it is:
TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart, and he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. There’s no reason for this. People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it, why?
Three aspects of these comments generated controversy. First, Trump implied that Jackson's leadership style could have possibly prevented the Civil War. Second, the latter part of Trump's comments could be interpreted, if one desired, to imply that he did not know that Jackson died (1845) before the Civil War began (1861). Of course, one must willingly ignore the first part of Trump's statement -- "had Jackson been a little later" -- in order to reach this conclusion, but why give the POTUS the benefit of the doubt? Third, Trump suggested that averting the war would have been a desirable outcome, which, as we shall see, is an unacceptably "racist" interpretation.

Were Trump's comments clumsily worded? Yes. Is a lack of polished preparation part of what we have come to expect from Trump? Yes. Is Trump an eloquent orator? No. But, does the content of this interview definitively show that Trump has "no clue" about U.S. history, or that he is promoting a "distorted alternative history," as many have suggested? Not at all.

Trump's comments are perfectly reasonable. Does that offend you? Those taking offense, and purporting to represent "history," are in fact the ones pushing a radical New Left narrative. They describe Jackson only as a racist, genocidal maniac, and the Civil War as an inevitable war of liberation. Any departure from that narrative -- attempts to contextualize, consider nuance, or appreciate the past in all of its complexity -- is derided as supportive of racism, slavery, and, ultimately, the Confederacy. For the New Left, the story of America is only a story of oppression. To depart from this narrative is to commit the ultimate sin -- supporting the historical structures of oppression. It is my contention that the New Left's historical narrative plays a central role in producing the irrational cognitive processes associated with the current "social justice" movement.

Could Andrew Jackson have averted the Civil War, had he been alive? Possibly. Let's consider the Nullification Crisis as a precedent -- after all, Lincoln did.  
Historians have routinely pointed out that Jackson's threat of force, combined with a willingness to compromise, played an important role in the resolution of the Nullification Crisis in 1832, when South Carolinian state legislators, amid talk of secession, attempted to nullify the federal tariff. The crisis ended after Jackson threatened to invade South Carolina and hang the leaders of the revolt "from the nearest tree." Despite being a slave owner and states-rights advocate, Jackson's loyalty ultimately rested with the Union. South Carolina's leading men wisely backed down, and undoubtedly knew that Jackson was not one to make idle threats -- the Union was preserved. Trump's statement is not some radical departure from previous inquiry.

Did weak leadership and the breakdown of compromise contribute to the start of the war? Yes.
Historians have also commonly cited weak leadership in the 1850s as a contributing cause of the Civil War. Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan have been consistently ranked as the worst presidents in American history precisely for failing to find an adequate solution to the sectional crisis. By the time Abraham Lincoln took office, the nation was utterly polarized, seven states had seceded, and Lincoln faced a choice between accepting disunion, or war. Lincoln, a moderate Republican, opposed slavery's expansion into the western territories during the election, but as president, Lincoln solemnly led the nation to war to preserve the Union.

Trump implied that avoiding war would have been a desirable outcome. Should he be condemned for that? 
Suggesting that Lincoln thought of the war as inevitable or desirable, or that he waged a war of liberation from the outset, are ahistorical claims. It was only mid-war that Lincoln made ending the institution of slavery a wartime goal with the Emancipation Proclamation (1863). Suggesting that the Civil War was either inevitable, or desirable, represents a methodological flaw wedded to a moral judgement. On the one hand, the claim that historical events are somehow inevitable reveals a hopelessly fatalistic and deterministic outlook, but this is not surprising considering that New Left methodology flows from marxist theoretical assumptions -- the inevitable march of socialism.

On the other hand, to suggest that civil war was desirable reveals the belief that the "ends" justify the "means," as calling a war "desirable" is not the same as stating that it was "just." Most -- accepting that slavery was an evil institution -- would agree that the war was just. But desirable? This position represents the application of the inevitability assumption to the moral position that the Civil War was a just war. If one can imagine another way that the institution of slavery could have been eliminated, or that the war could have been averted, or some combination thereof, then civil war represents the failure of American society and its institutions to resolve internal differences without recourse to violence -- hence, the breakdown of compromise thesis.

Civil war embodies the inverse of the Enlightenment project, but then, so does slavery. It's possible that war was the sole catalyst that could have ended Southern slavery, but we'll never know for certain how the story would have played out -- had war been averted. Lest we forget, slavery had been abolished in the Northern states prior to the start of the war. The connection to the market revolution, in this regard, is striking. But, for the moment, let's accept the New Left's assumptions -- that the Civil War was both desirable and inevitable -- as true. What is the lesson? What other systems of oppression must inevitably be overcome through war? Do you see the problem here? It's a programmatic and formulaic lack of imagination. If one accepts the claims of intersectionality, for instance, then one sees structures of oppression everywhere -- racism, bigotry, misogyny. Of course, this raises a host of questions about perception, as many others think the SJW crowd are deluded fanatics. Who is right? Agreeing to basic ground rules of civil discussion and living according to the laws passed by our representatives are at the heart of the constitutional process, yet those claiming systemic oppression are the same ones infringing upon the free speech of those arbitrarily deemed "haters" by the SJW crowd. Where does this process lead?

Civil war is neither an inevitable, nor desirable, means of solving social injustices -- either real (slavery) or perceived. If all history is biography, then we should all find it disturbing that prominent journalists and academics are condemning the POTUS for thinking that civil war should be avoided. Of course, one only need examine the course of twentieth century socialism -- and its 100 million victims -- to understand that radical leftists have often found civil war desirable; unfortunately, societies that have embraced socialism have always found civil war inevitable.

For socialists, theory is a mystical place where history and progress flow together as one -- the details are just window dressing. Socialists do not think of theory in the traditional scientific sense -- a rational step toward a clearer understanding of the world; something to be challenged and reconsidered. Rather, socialists treat theory as the starting block, a guiding premise, and a strategic conversation for achieving and exercising power. For socialists, theory is truth -- and a jealous god.

If Trump's sparse and vague comments -- besides the awkwardly worded sentence noted above -- allude to mainstream historical interpretations (for a brief overview, see here), then what is the source of the left's outrage? Simple -- the left hates Jackson and Trump with equal vigor. But why? Let's consider the legacy of Andrew Jackson. 
Not many presidents have such an intensely disputed legacy. Jackson has been the subject of numerous biographies, and, until relatively recently, those biographies gravitated toward either celebrating Jackson's accomplishments, or regurgitating the criticisms of Jackson's enemies. Historians have found many things to celebrate. Jackson served as a teen courier in the American Revolution until he was captured, imprisoned, and slashed across the face with a saber by a British officer as a result of Jackson's refusal to shine the officer's boots. Despite being orphaned by the war, Jackson obtained an education, headed west to Tennessee, and made a career as a horse trader, politician, and military officer. General Jackson was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, where he led a group of irregulars to victory over the British army, marking the first time an American general defeated a European general without the assistance of a European power. Jackson served in Congress, founded the Democratic Party, expanded the franchise to the common man, preserved the Union, killed the Bank, etc.

Historians have also found many things to dislike about Jackson's legacy: a mercurial temper, the tendency to hold personal vendettas and ruthlessly exact revenge on enemies, an authoritarian style of leadership, a refusal to condemn the institution of slavery, a penchant for making legally questionable choices (he invaded Florida!), and most notoriously, support for the Indian Removal policy. He is also criticized by some as having destabilized the national economy, expanding the scope of the presidency, engaging in demagoguery, and callously allowing the expansion of the institution of slavery westward.

In many ways, Jackson was a "tough person" that had a "big heart." Jackson was an unabashed nationalist -- loved by his friends, feared by his enemies, and respected by all. He was a dueler, brawler, and a military man. He was brave, but vengeful. He could be vulgar, or eloquent. This was a pocked-face, Scots-Irish commoner who won the popular vote in 1824, but lost the election due to a "corrupt bargain" made between establishment elites and their powerful, monied backers. Undeterred, Jackson returned to defeat the aristocratically-reared establishment candidate, John Quincy Adams, in the election of 1828 -- but his victory came at a price. Jackson went to his grave believing that the grief his beloved wife Rachel suffered, due to attacks on her character during the election (widely considered to have been the most vicious election in American history, until recently), resulted in her death just prior to his inauguration.

To focus exclusively on Jackson's flaws is to overlook his substantive contributions -- to throw out the baby with the bath water. In many ways Jackson personifies the best and worst of antebellum American culture. In a global context, his rise from obscurity to prominence -- through force of personality and fierce determination -- stood in stark contrast to the rigid class structures of medieval and early modern Europe -- a point not lost on Alexis de Tocqueville. The emergence of a mass democracy between the mid-1820s and early-1850s has been aptly referred to by historians as the Jacksonian Era. Jackson's political ideals -- empowering the common man -- defined the outlook of generations of Americans and has been rightly labeled Jacksonian democracy. Of course, history is an interpretive exercise. The New Left is free to interpret Jackson's legacy as they do, but not to pretend that their narrative is anything other than a radical departure from previous historiography.

In the twentieth century, Jackson's supporters tended to be aligned with the Democratic Party. Both New Dealers and New Frontiersmen (Kennedy advisor Arthur Schlesinger wrote an Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Jackson) found Jackson's willingness to take on corporate capital inspiring, and they were willing to forgive him for owning slaves and enforcing Indian removal. But over the last decade, New Left historians have focused almost exclusively on Jackson's imperfections. This historiographical shift has moved in tandem with the realigning of the Democrat Party's core values from a worker and union-centered emphasis, to identity politics. This new focus has meant abandoning FDR's New Deal coalition for a coalition of urban elites, women, immigrants, and "oppressed people of color." This shift has signified a leadership change-of-the-guard from holdover vital center Democrats to New Left radicals. Workers and working class issues -- the traditional focus of Old Left marxists -- are too white and too male for the New Left. In fact, the New Left sees white males as the lynchpin of oppression in the modern world. Accordingly, white males must be brought to heel, demonized. That begins by destroying their identity, their connections to the past.

The New Left's loathing of Jackson and Trump converge
By amplifying Jackson's imperfections -- the fact that he owned slaves and signed the Indian Removal Act -- New Left historians have created an unbalanced narrative in which Jackson's accomplishments and contributions to American history have been overshadowed. Regressive leftist historians hate Jackson because they judge him through a presentist lens - he's a racist, genocidal maniac who expanded white male supremacy to include the common white man. Is there anything more despicable to the New Left than a folk hero of the common white American man? For Trump to suggest that Jackson possessed any redeemable qualities, much less that Jackson deserved to be honored with a portrait hanging in the Oval Office and a presidential visit to the Hermitage (the only presidential visit since Reagan), is interpreted by leftists as Tump embracing slavery and genocide. These are the only things that matter concerning Jackson's legacy. Right?

Despite the fact that Jackson has traditionally been one of the most revered presidents in American history (consider the number of cities named after Jackson, see here), or that Democrats claimed Jackson as their party's founder for nearly two centuries, the New Left wants him, and the decedents of his constituency, banished to outer darkness. The left no longer approaches controversial topics with an NPR-like air of objectivity. The New Left's totalizing impulse will allow no "alternative" interpretations of the past! Trump's comments are a "distortion" of Jackson's legacy, and represent a set of "alternative facts" injected into national memory. Jackson's face must be removed from the money. His statue must be removed from New Orleans. His name, along with that of Thomas Jefferson, must be removed from the Democratic Party's annual fundraiser (for an insightful, yet flawed, marxist analysis of the name change, see here). Why? The past must be purified, sanitized, sanctified. The past, like the present, can only be seen as oppressive; the only option is to resist.

Alarmist headlines in response to Trump's recent comments about Jackson reflect "scholarly" concerns that "Trump has a blind spot on black history." Trump's comments reveal a "dark underside," and the "great truth" that "the party of Lincoln has become the party of Jefferson Davis." The Daily Beast suggested that Trump's response was "all Bannon." By now, the echo chamber knows the implication -- white supremacy! Snopes.com, the "impartial" fact-checker, predictably relates the New Left's talking-points on the topic -- Jackson and Trump represent ignorance, racism, and everything wrong with America, past and present. According to the SPLC, the fact that Jackson's portrait now hangs in the Oval Office represents a "signal" that Trump is defending "white identity."

How have New Left historians reacted to Trump's election, and more recently, his comments about Jackson? 
Although some of the leading figures of the New Left, such as red-diaper baby and retired Columbia historian Eric Foner, have given measured responses (for interesting primer on Foner, see here), others have attempted to use this moment to capture public attention -- to "resist." According to Yale historian, and author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American MemoryDavid Blight, "before you know it, we may have a new term: history deniers." History deniers! Yes, the cultish denier template has expanded. For Blight, Trump's election signaled that "historians had failed." As a result, Blight insists that historians must become "public spokespeople" who, "in a role similar to climate scientists," must challenge Trump's "historical nonsense" with the "truths of history." Just as "there are truths of science," Blight extolls, "there are truths of history.” For Blight, the only remedy to Trump's "historical nonsense" is for Trump to take a leave of absence for "forced re-education." (Yes, he really said that.) "God help us," Blight pleads. He's subsequently made his course on the Civil War free and available online. Blight isn't the only historian sounding off.

The New Republic insists that "Trump’s Ignorance Is Radicalizing U.S. Historians." Princeton historian Julian Zelizer, author of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, exclaims that it was the historian's "job" to "knock down what President Trump says." Zelizer complains that the POTUS had shown "no interest in the history of our nation, or his own office." Zelizer also predictably points out that Jackson died "long before Civil War started," but then focuses his criticism by claiming that Jackson would have probably been "on the wrong side of history and stood with the Confederacy." He suggests that Trump overlooked the fact that the Civil War ended slavery, and that Trump's interest in Jackson was simply a "loaded" appeal "to white working class voters with this famous strongman." Of course, Zelizer, a frequent contributor to CNN, also provides regular partisan "progressive" commentary on a host of public policy issues (see this link for his most recent lament about ACA repeal/replace legislation.)

Penn State historian Amy Greenberg, author of A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico, found Trump's election to be "stunning and demoralizing" -- “When they called Pennsylvania for Trump," relates Greenberg, "my world was just cracked open.” It's probably safe to assume that Greenberg was "with Her." Nevertheless, Greenberg cautions that historians must find the "proper tone with which to object to Trump’s positions." As part of a CNN panel criticizing Trump's comments about Jackson and the Civil War, Greenberg uncritically accepts the premise that Trump thinks Jackson was alive in 1860, and dismisses the POTUS's musings about Jackson as something "a fifth grader could have answered," as "Jackson died in 1845." Tone?  I've included the following quote from Greenberg's latest gem so that the reader can get a sense of the type of New Left "scholarship" Greenberg is engaged in. Her efforts represent a broader rebranding effort by the New Left to portray the Jacksonian era of westward expansion as a story of conquest driven by misogyny. Do note the application of a presentist lens, the amplification of a perceived fault of antebellum Americans (the evil patriarchy!), and the placement of a theoretical position (new wave feminist theory) as the central theme of the narrative:
Manifest Destiny did not mean the same thing to all Americans. Some Americans, who supported a martial vision of masculinity, advocated an aggressive expansionism that supported territorial acquisitions Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire JPG through force of arms, and particularly through filibustering. Other Americans, advocates of a more restrained vision of manhood. . . . believed America’s Manifest Destiny would best be accomplished through the proliferation of her superior political and religious forms. . . . In other words, competing gender ideals at home shaped very different visions of American expansionism. Gendered visions of women and men abroad, from Latin America to the islands of the Pacific, justified and reinforced particular practices of manhood and womanhood in the United States. . . . Hegemonic American masculinity, this study will attempt to show, was actually made manifest through the process of antebellum territorial expansionism. — Amy S. Greenberg in “Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire”
David S. Reynolds, Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, as well as regular contributor to CNN, The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and the New York Times, also uncritically accepts the premise that Trump didn't know that Jackson died in 1845. Notwithstanding, Reynolds opines that Jackson would have, if anything, promoted the expansion of slavery and therefore contributed to the slide to war. Reynolds juxtaposes the slaveholding Jackson with the "firm-principled Abraham Lincoln, who was antislavery to the core," and was willing to "accept civil war rather than allow the spread of slavery."

Peniel Joseph, professor of history and the Barbara Jordan Chair in Political Values and Ethics and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, faults Trump's analysis of Jackson by stressing that nothing could have stopped the Civil War -- it was inevitable. Trump's error, however, wasn't simply "wishful thinking." According to Joseph, Trump's commentary was "dangerous in its distortion" and reflected "willful ignorance." When he isn't criticizing Trump, Joseph is an avid online activist for the Black Lives Matter movement, and a firmly-dedicated Obama partisan.

The BBC also invited historians to do a line-by-line analysis of Trump's comments - David Blight, Jim Grossman, and Judith Geisberg. Grossman, a resident scholar at the American Historical Association, interpreted Trump calling Jackson a "swashbuckler" as indicative of a shared "male" leadership style of "pushing people as much as you can, rather than creating consensus." Vilanova historian Geisberg sees Trump's "swashbuckler" reference as part of a plan to use Jackson's legacy as "cover" for Trump's lack of military experience. What about Trump's claim that Jackson "was a very tough person, but he had a big heart"? Geisberg suggests that the reader try telling that to American Indians and Jackson's slaves. Grossman's analysis of Trump's statement that war may have been averted "had Andrew Jackson been a little later," reveals the crux of the issue addressed in this blog post. Grossman writes:
He starts from the wrong premise - the premise that the Civil War should somehow have been avoided, and that someone more skilled on the White House could have avoided it. If one sees the Civil War as a war of liberation, which is what it was, then it shouldn't have been avoided. Had you compromised out the differences between the government and the confederacy, or between anti-slavery forces and southern slaveholders, the victims would have been the enslaved people of the south. If the president has the notion that it would be desirable to compromise that out, without emancipation, it is frightening.
For Grossman, there is only one way to interpret the Civil War -- it was a war of liberation that could not -- should not -- have been avoided. Any other interpretation must be seen as racist support for the continuation of slavery. In this view, even making the argument -- as many past historians have -- that the Civil War was a national calamity with a silver lining of ending slavery and forming a more perfect union, does not meet the purity standards of the New Left. Is it any wonder that our college and university campuses are teeming with uncompromising leftist radicals who are fanatical in their quest for "social justice"? Who interpret speech they do not agree with as "hate speech"? Other narratives must be removed, repressed, destroyed; the symbols of the past must be recast into the totalizing mold of "oppression to be overcome." Give me a break!

This blog entry is hardly exhaustive, but the point is clear -- what is being portrayed by the media as "the truths of history" are actually the talking-points of the New Left's tortured version of American history. We must challenge these lies and half-truths. These contextless and unbalanced interpretations of the past are being used to indoctrinate a generation of young Americans. This vision of the past is designed to induce self-loathing and divide the nation on the basis of race and gender for crass political purposes. It is the weaponization of compassion. Of great importance, however, is that these are not marginalized historians writing from the fringe. These historians are at the top of the field. Their views are dominating the academy. They represent the new normative interpretation of the American past that is being taught to children in primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. It is my sincerest hope in writing this that the American public will wake up and smell the coffee, before more children get "woke" by cultural marxists.

This cowboy isn't buying their bull puckey, and neither should you.

- The Cowboy Historian