What Do You Do When Hate Knocks on Your Door?
Note: This is my personal story of being targeted by the alt-right. It details the events but mainly my thought processes, the information I found on mainstream media and the internet about the organization that targeted me, and how I responded. I have received a lot of positive feedback and I’m treating this as a living document. Apparently these folks engage in a lot of intimidation tactics and do this kind of thing frequently. I update it as new information comes in. Most everything has at least two sources and include highly credible outlets (NYT, WaPo, Atlantic, WSJ, CBS, NBC, etc.). If you have additional citations, sources, facts or especially corrections (please provide sources), or experiences to share, please let me know. Thanks
Days after the January 2021 insurrection at the Capitol that ended in a 140 police officers injured, many very seriously wounded, including losing an eye, broken ribs, chemical burns to the face, being stabbed with a metal fence stake, and one killed for defending our government, an adult student named John, emailed me, unsolicited, to take a position in the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) as the faculty advisor. At first, I began my reply as I do with all solicitations from student organizations; as a matter of policy I don’t take part in any student organizations and I generally don’t allow guest speakers in my classes as well, unless it is a matter of public safety or for a College or Department initiative. I keep a firewall between the personal and the professional.
However, I teach lessons on the importance of researching beyond an organization’s label. Indeed, as a practitioner and teacher of counterterrorism and the psychology of terrorism, we consider the legal ramifications for joining or donating to a group that professes to help refugees but is actually a front for a terrorist organization. Another example of labeling misdirection I cover in my political psychology class is The Advancement of Sound Science Center. Like “freedom”, who doesn’t want “sound science”? It turns out the Center was less than sound. It was a front for Phillip Morris with a goal to debunk research that found second-hand smoke causes cancer. Labels can be tricky.
So, I followed my own lessons, and while I would not join any political organization on campus no matter their cause, I should at least familiarize myself with the organization that solicited me. So, I looked into Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to see what “freedom” meant to them. The name reminded me of the “Council of Conservative Citizens”, which while sounding like it might promote conservative views, it is widely reported being a White supremacist organization. Sadly, YAF appeared similar in some respects. I found that while YAF promoted mainstream views, they also promoted a lot of hate, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Middle Easternism, and White nationalism and featured many “Stop the Steal” speakers.
John solicited me to take part in YAF, but neglected to tell me that current and not-so-distant past YAF chapter leaders included declared White supremacists, racists, and Klan supporters. Kyle Bristow, is one example. He was Michigan State’s YAF chapter president and chairman for years (~2006–2008); during his tenure MSU YAF “jokingly” threatened to distribute small-pox infected blankets to Native Americans, but not so jokingly called Latino students and faculty members “savages”. Bristow’s book, White Apocalypse, is a White supremacist revenge fantasy against African Americans, Jews, Latinos, Native Americans, and well everyone not White it seems.
You can find Bristow’s profile, and racist views on scores of internet sites; today he’s a self-declared lawyer for the Alt-right and White supremacists (at least up until 2018); Bristow for example, represented KKK leader David Duke and Neo-Nazi leader Richard Spencer.
Here’s a few quotes from YAF chapter leader Kyle Bristow:
“The early and relatively sophisticated Egyptians understood that their civilization would be threatened if they bred with the Negroes to their south, so pharaohs went so far as ‘to prevent the mongrelization of the Egyptian race’ by making it a death penalty-eligible offense to bring blacks into Egypt … [although] blacks still came to Egypt as soldiers, slaves, and captives from other nations. By 1,500 B.C., half of the population of southern Egypt was of mixed blood, and by 688 B.C., societal progress had ended in Egypt.”
— Kyle Bristow quoted in The Conscience of a Right-Winger, collection of essays, 2012.
“Homosexuality kills people almost to a degree worse than cigarettes. … These [pro-gay rights] groups are complicit with murder.” Kyle Bristow quoted in the Spartan Edge, Michigan State University, Sept 2006.
A number of sources report Bristow and well-known neo-Nazi Preston Wiginton co-administered two racist Facebook groups “True American Patriot” and “Jobs a White Man Won’t Do”.
MSU’s YAF blog used the same odal-rune symbol in its masthead that Nazis use:
John neglected to mention that this chapter of YAF was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)- an organization, that while being on the left, tracks hate groups in America and routinely sends law enforcement and law makers their findings. Indeed, the Department of Justice and the FBI have enjoyed an ongoing partnership with the SPLC since 2007.  The SPLC however, has also had its own problems of employment discrimination, particularly against women and much of its leadership was replaced in 2018–2019. Many challenge its moral integrity based on their past leaders bad behavior, but few challenge the work of its people or their data and findings (I thank Brent Jackson for this reminder). Things like this are one of the many reasons I sought multiple sources and do not rely upon a single outlet for the most pertinent information.
John also neglected to tell me that YAF chapters sponsored “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” contests, a “Koran Desecration” competition, and “Affirmative Action Bake Sales” that charged prices differently for each student’s race. This appears to have led to other universities and clubs running similar events.
John never mentioned Matthew Heimbach, who led/founded the Montgomery College chapter of YAF (2010), and is also a well-known White supremacist. Heimbach, according to many sources, frequently rallies with the KKK. NBC reported that Heimbach explicitly admitted he was a racist on “Nightline.” Heimbach made his position clear: “The ‘freedom’ for other races to move freely into white nations is nonexistent. Stay in your own nations, we don’t want you here.” Heimbach also founded the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), who led or participated in a series of violent rallies around the country, including the deadly 2017 White supremacist attack in Charlottesville. And recently Fox News Baltimore identified Heimbach as one of the people who attacked the Capitol, but this claim is in dispute. Heimbach argues it is a case of mistaken identity and it may well be, the authorities have yet to make a determination.
John also neglected to tell me about YAF’s (2019) “Hate Speech is Free Speech” events or promotions. While it is true that hate speech enjoys strong protections under the First Amendment, that does not make it morally acceptable or responsible or something one should promote. Threats, advocating violence, harassment, intimidation and abuse do not enable free expression, they suppress it. Indeed, hate speech that incites violence is a crime (e.g., Incitement to Imminent Lawless Action). Nevertheless, I believe our best defense against hate speech is also free speech. Therefore I do not advocate for censorship, but that does not mean we should encourage, support or facilitate racist, bigoted, homophobic, stop the steal, or Qanon speech either. “Hate speech is free speech” is the phrase racist groups often use and is also the exact phrase that Gab’s leaders used to defend their social networking site which is a haven for the alt-right and racists. Robert Bowers, a frequent user of Gab, thought so as well, and went on to kill 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. Such incidents are not isolated, many researchers find a strong link between hate speech, violence and hate crimes.
John also neglected to tell me that the current president of YAF (as of Jan 2021), Ron Robinson, along with YAF Executive Director and board member James Taylor, ran the political action committee, America’s PAC, which donated thousands to the White nationalist Martel Society. At the same time as working for YAF, James Taylor apparently was also the former vice president of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a “White Supremacist think tank”, run by neo-Nazi, alt-right leader, Richard Spencer.  When Taylor was at NPI they published “The State of White America 2007,” which called Brown v. Board of Education (the Supreme Court’s decision that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional) “the worst decision in the Court’s 216-year history” and part of the “war on white America”.
Here you can find a White nationalist speech in which NPI’s Spencer inspires his audience with the Nazi “heil” salute for Trump, and then charges them to conquer or die.
YAF has denounced Spencer’s views recently, however I can find no YAF explanation of YAF Executive Director and board member Taylor’s relationship to Spencer or an explanation of his time and leadership at NPI, and their promotion of segregation.
John also neglected to tell me about YAF’s paid speakers across the country which included Michelle Malkin (for 17 years) who writes for VDare, a White nationalist website; Nov 2019 at UCLA, Malkin defended White nationalist leaders including Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier who stated Jim Crow laws and racial segregation “was better for them. It was better for us. It was better in general.”
Here’s a few pictures of Michelle Malkin with members of the Colorado Proud Boys in July 2019 giving the the White power sign-(the fingers make the W and the index , thumb and wrist the P -left photo) and with White Supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes (right photo):
John never mentioned how YAF speaker Ted Nugent in 2014 called then President Obama a “communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.” He also called for then President Obama’s death, which launched a Secret Service investigation. These are not even close to the more racist comments he has made.
John left out Michele Bachmann as well. She meant it when she said “Too many people are afraid of being called ‘racist,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘Islamophobe; I’m not afraid of it.” Her racism is explicit from her “Tar Baby” comment about President Obama, to her arguing in 2011 that “African American children were more likely to grow up in stable families during the era of slavery than under President Barack Obama.” Most would argue that only an outright racist could ignore that slavery is among the most horrific institutions of humankind- the abuse, rape, selling off of children was devastating to the African American people. Nevertheless, YAF believed Michele Bachmann was the right person to address their annual national conference in 2012.
And of course, Bachmann was not only part of the whole fake election fraud scheme, she took it one step further and blamed the left for the violent insurrection, never minding all the video, audio, testimony and arrests the FBI has been making every day since the attempted coup (video below).
John, perhaps forgot to mention YAF speaker Dinesh D’Souza, who’s behaviors include making of joke of Trayvon Martin’s death and posting “You can Take the Boy out of the Ghetto” with a picture of then President Obama in the White House, and repeatedly retweeting hashtags such as #BurnTheJews and #BringBackSlavery.
John also did not tell me about YAF speakers like Matt Walsh, who called transgender people mentally ill and perverted, or Bradlee Dean who claimed that gay people are responsible for half of all murders committed in large cities, half of the foster children molestation, and 1/3 of all child abuse cases. All are patently untrue.
John never told me about how one YAF chapter leader invited Holocaust denier Nick Griffin to give a speech at the Holocaust Memorial Center.
John also left out YAF speaker Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn who appears to have many ties to QAnon, including financial ties through selling their merchandise. In a video Flynn recites the QAnon oath and slogan “Where we go one, we go all!”. Flynn also started the media venture, Digital Soldiers in partnership with UncoverDC, a website that regularly promotes QAnon conspiracy theories. Flynn first used the phrase “digital soldiers” in a 2016 YAF speech. The phrase has become the “groundwork for the [QAnon] conspiracy theory” and “a theme that QAnon adherents would later adopt” becoming “an army of digital soldiers” who will bring about an apocalyptic reckoning to take out their imagined thousands of “deep state” pedophiles secretly running the country, where Trump is their savior and Flynn is a close second. After the insurrection, Twitter permanently banned Flynn, “who promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory”. Flynn still appears on YAF’s web pages as part of their speakers (as of Feb 2021), but with the curious designation “non YAF speaker.”
John also left out former YAF chairman Jeffrey Wright, who opened the 18th annual Conservative Political Action Conference by calling on the President to attack Iraq with nuclear bombs. I’ve written about the danger of maniacal leaders supporting the use of nuclear weapons- if we want the world to end, then supporting leaders or organizations who wish to nuke other countries for the heck of it, is the way to go.
John never disclosed that a former self described “Executive Director” of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), Kevin DeAnna (also according to numerous reports cited here), is a well-known White nationalist, who also held positions in the the Leadership Institute and co-founded the Youth for Western Civilization, considered by many as white supremacist organization. Deanna writes he “fights every day to achieve his destiny of total Aryan victory.” DeAnna was a regular writer of White supremacist social media, including Radix and VDARE, and published thousands of White nationalist articles under pseudonyms to hide his identity. His connections to these fake identities were unveiled by emails released from former Breitbart editor and girlfriend Katie McHugh.
Here’s some quotes from reported YAF “Director” Kevin DeAnna:
“It’s time to stop being Americans. It’s time to start being White Men again.” — Kevin DeAnna (writing as “Gregory Hood”), “A White Nationalist Memo to White Male Republicans,” Counter-Currents, Nov. 9, 2012.
“The overall strategic objective of political activity is to make race the defining difference between various political, cultural, and social groups, as a precursor to the formation of an ethnostate, the great dream of the White Republic.” — Kevin DeAnna (writing as “Gregory Hood”), “How to Destroy the Republican Party,” Counter-Currents, Jan. 31, 2013.
Here’s a picture of Kevin DeAnna and Richard Spencer. The trend of YAF chapter leaders and the parent organization’s executives or board members having a professional relationship with Neo Nazi leader Richard Spencer or NPI appears with some consistency.
John also did not mention a group of YAF speakers that while many argue are not explicitly or openly racist, in comparison to the Klan for example, they do promote countless negative tropes and stereotypes about Muslims and Middle Eastern peoples (e.g., Ben Shapiro, David Horowitz, etc.). Robert Spencer is widely celebrated among this group; his writings on Islam were referenced more than 60 times in a manifesto by the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, before he killed 77 people, many of them were children (2011).
Finally, John must not have thought it was important to let me know that members and leaders of YAF, are also members and leaders of hate groups such as the “Proud Boys”. In 2018, Hawaii public radio published a profile of Nick Ochs, the University of Hawaii Manoa YAF founding chapter leader who is also the founder of the Oahu, Hawaii Proud Boys (and also Vice Chair of Donald Trump’s Hawaii campaign). Social media posts and a CNN interview placed Ochs at the 2021 US Capitol during the insurrection and he was subsequently arrested for taking part in the insurrection. If Hawaii public radio and the FBI have it right, and I had joined John and taken part in YAF without researching it, I would have unknowingly aligned myself with racists and people who attempted to overthrow our democracy.
This list above is only a small sample of what popped up on Google. I had to stop here; there are too many other YAF leaders and speakers like these that John did not mention and far worse things said and written. And these are not just recent past leaders and speakers; some are current ones.
These things I found within minutes of researching YAF on the internet and contain only the most accessible facts (some have been updated as other people targeted have contacted me). My search was not on the members, but only on YAF’s leaders and the people they pay to represent them. I have no idea what an in-depth review, investigative reporter, deep or dark-web, or federal investigation would reveal of YAF, their leaders and members and their relationships to known hate groups, White supremacist causes or the insurrection.
Obviously not all YAF members, leaders, speakers, or events feature White nationalists, racists, anti-Semites, endorse hate speech, engage in gay-bashing, promote QAnon, took part in attacking or motivating the attack on the Capitol, or promote gratuitous nuclear bombing. But the fact that we can find so many so quickly and using credible mainstream sources, it was clear there are many YAF leaders and speakers that do. This is not a case of mistakes, or bad data, or a few bad citations. Everyone has made mistakes; indeed, if you write enough papers, articles, or blogs, run enough analyses, or speak enough in public, radio or television, or give enough lectures, eventually you will have an error, make a mistake, make some gaffe, or say something stupid. Every one of us has done that. Once live on-air discussing then President Obama’s go ahead strike order to kill Osama Bin Laden, only shortly after it happened, I’m positive I flipped Obama and Osama. Talk about a gaffe! Things like that happen. The very first university class I taught I called a student by the wrong name the entire term- he never corrected me until the last week (he thought it was funny); things like that happen too. After running a hundred studies, I was part of team that stuffed up some data coding and we had to send out a correction. Things like that happen too. All those are normal everyday mistakes.
Here we are talking about something entirely different. The documented YAF behaviors above are not gaffes or exceptions, or moments of bad judgement; they instead reflect those individuals’ consistent views, and accurately represent their overall bodies of work and thoughts over years. The number of instances, variety and number of outlets reporting these facts make it a near impossibility that these overall connections are not valid. They are not a case of vendetta either, or personal feud where one organization or person is trying to air dirty laundry or get revenge on them. Nor is it a case of a few bad apples- those exist in every organization too. These cases and people of YAF do not appear to be exceptions, rather they appear to be common, normalized and widely published. When it comes to racism in organizations, most of it is covert- like an iceberg; only 10–15% can be seen on the surface, and the vast majority is underneath and unseen. If these are the kind of leaders, people and views easily found on the surface, a fair question to ask, is what lies beneath? What is it that drew all these racists to YAF?
Critically important, statements of hate and misinformation are in YAF’s speakers and leaders’ own words; and they are not one-off comments or small errors in judgement, one-time exceptions or taken out of context, but reflect thousands of detailed published statements, video and public interactions. Furthermore, these events and leaders are not ancient history; we are not talking about when YAF praised the “courage” of segregationist Strom Thurmond in 1964; it would be one thing if all these documented instances of racism occurred 100 years ago or even 50 years ago; organizations do change and today’s members may not know or relate to what happened a century ago. But the instances referenced here are active and range from 2006–2021, some only a few days ago.
YAF appears to have a routine of cultivating or inviting hate speech, racist leaders and speakers, providing a venue to get their messages out, but when their leaders and speakers make the most explicit racist, anti-Semitic, statements that cannot be pretended away, YAF later denies their support. I questioned their sincerity — why wait 17 years to stop supporting Malkin? YAF appeared perfectly content and said nothing when she was flashing white power signs and supporting the Proud Boys, but I guess they could not find a way to excuse her support for holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. If YAF was serious about being against racism and the stop the steal nonsense, why support Bristow, DeAnna, Taylor, Heimbach, D’Souza, Bachmann, Walsh, Dean, Flynn, and all the others from the start?
As President GW Bush said “Fool me once, shame on you…fool me…well you ain’t gonna fool me again!” I’m paraphrasing here, but the point is if it happened once or twice, or three times, or maybe even ten, we could say it was an anomaly or an exception, or such a minority that the issue is moot; but how many decades, leaders, and speakers, racism, hate speech, homophobia, QAnon, Proud Boys, and support of White nationalism, and outright lies about the election, does it take to say, ok, if it looks like duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, perhaps we should consider, it is a duck. It is ironic that this phrase was used during the Cold War by Ambassador Richard Patterson and Cardinal Richard Cushing to describe Communist regimes, but if the duck fits...
There is a lot of organizational history regarding the merging of Young America’s Foundation and Young Americans for Freedom (both listed as YAF) — and trying to pretend away past or current support for White nationalistic, racist, anti-Semitic and hate speech is not plausible. All of the above statements about YAF, their speakers and leaders are not my interpretations or opinions; they have nothing to do with me. Rather they are reported by credible sources, which I cite, including the BBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, the Nation, NBC, Newsweek, New York Times, Rolling Stone, Salon, Vox, Washington Post, Washington Times, and scores of other national and local outlets (see the end of this article).
For me, all of the above was enough to say, I don’t want to be associated with this. And more than that. I needed to make clear that I am not open to those kinds of beliefs on racism, stop the steal, QAnon, homophobia, or bigotry, nor will I be in the future, and to leave me out of such ventures. I have a right to say this and base my views on the information above. I never said anyone else should. For some, this amount of hate, racism and just plain crazy, is not an issue. That is their right. Some might argue “hey that’s only 15% of them, maybe the rest are good people”. That is their right. For me, the amount of white nationalism, racism, homophobia, and supporting QAnon and insurrection went well beyond my threshold of acceptability; that is my right.
I still had to choose how to respond to John, either with only my standard disclaimer, or do I try to help him? I thought about this a great deal. Part of the problem of the last four years was letting hate and lies go unchecked. Both Democratic and non-Trumpist Republican leaders have begun to recognize the damage of hate speech and misinformation. For example, Republican Senator Ben Sasse went into detail on how “lies have consequences”; he and others, including Republican Senate Leader McConnell, made clear that Trump and those that supported his lies about election fraud and those who support racism and Qanon are “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on Congress.
To help in my choice, I reacquainted myself with our University policies:
“The Pennsylvania State University is committed to preventing and eliminating acts of intolerance by faculty, staff and students, and encourages anyone in the University community to report concerns and complaints about acts of intolerance to the Affirmative Action Office or the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity, and in cases involving students, reports also may be made to the Office of Judicial Affairs.
If any violation of University policy, rule or regulation is motivated by discriminatory bias against or hatred toward an individual or group based on characteristics such as age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, genetic information, national origin, political belief, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status, the sanction will be increased in severity and may include termination or expulsion from the University.”
I am not a lawyer, nor do I speak for Penn State or have a leadership position at the University, but it seemed pretty clear to me that if I were to join YAF, and support their past, present or potential future role in bringing hate speech to campus, I would be in violation of this policy.
Another university policy states:
“The University is committed to equal access to programs, facilities, admission, and employment for all persons. It is the policy of the University to maintain an environment free of harassment and free of discrimination against any person because of age, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or political ideas. Discriminatory conduct and harassment, as well as sexual misconduct and relationship violence, violates the dignity of individuals, impedes the realization of the University’s educational mission, and will not be tolerated.”
Again, I do not speak for PSU, nor am I an attorney, but by joining a group that endorsed hate speech, a reasonable interpretation of this policy is that I would be violating this policy.
If correct, this also means that John and other students might be violating these policies if they continued YAF’s documented support of hate speech (as reported by scores of news sources).
So which choice do I make? In the end, Edmund Burke’s words inspired my decision:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.”
Today its “good people” not only “men” but, the point remains valid.
The question remained if John knowingly chose to not disclose YAF’s history and nature, or if he was spectacularly ignorant of the organization he is advocating for? All organizations have members to different degrees- some are not very engaged and join for one reason or another and only see part of the organization’s behavior; some members care about certain issues or ideas but turn a blind eye to some of the organization’s behavior, and then at the far end there are those extremist ideologues, the pushers, those members that can find no fault in their organization and in this case endorse the most racist, hate speech agenda put forth by the organization. Of course, there are members somewhere in between. At first, I had no indication which kind of member John was, so when I wrote my first reply, I hoped John was ignorant of YAF’s documented support of White nationalists, hate speech and stop the steal speakers (again according to scores of sources listed here). If true, then it seemed I had some obligation to at least give John a chance to find this information out for himself and make an informed decision on his own.
While I believe it is folly to try to change people minds, values or beliefs (in fact a great deal of research finds that we cannot easily do these things, if we can at all), people can change their own minds. On the one hand, I could have written all the above to John and provided the information for him. But I do not believe we can or should force feed information to people, no more than we can or should feed values. So, John, like everyone else must come to this information himself.
So, I decided to respond to John in a very limited manner that asked him to think, which is part of our main function at the University. It is never easy to perfectly thread the needle on what exactly to say in unusual situations. And it is not every day that someone asks me to take part in an organization that has a documented history of hate speech and promotes White supremacist views, promoted stop the steal and QAnon through their speakers and leaders, and had member(s) that attacked the Capitol. In fact, this was a first for me at Penn State. Nevertheless, I thought it would be irresponsible to not do what I could for John given YAF’s near and far past and our University policies (see my response here).
Was my reply perfectly worded? Of course not. None could be. Could I have done better? Sure. I treated John’s email as I would any adult that emailed me out of the blue. I spent some thought on the nature of my response, but only took seconds writing the message, as I had more pressing things to do like grade papers. In truth, I wasn’t planning for a trolling and internet temper tantrum response, so the need to perfectly craft a message and watch every word and be as p.c. as possible was not apparent at the time. In my reply I tried to open the door for John to look for himself, but not go into detail regarding my discovery of scores of credible sources that report YAF promotes hate speech, or tell John what to do, or what to think. Rather, I asked John to consider taking the time to think about what he stands for and what his organization stands for. And to consider thinking about the timing of soliciting people for leadership positions in his organization when only days ago, White nationalists, and those who espouse hate speech, and “stop the steal” rhetoric, including elected Republican lawmakers, attacked the Capitol. Many of YAF’s paid high profile speakers, who are booked through YAF’s website, promote the “stop the steal” misinformation campaign . As Republican Senator Ben Sasse and others noted, those who inspired the attacks through their rhetoric must be held accountable. This belief is not only from our elected officials. Rather corporate America is now abandoning its financing of members of the Republican party due to their perceived role in the insurrection.
Could I have been nicer in saying “no” to someone asking me to take part in promoting hate and racism, and advocated for undermining our democracy? At the time I didn’t realize how delicate and sensitive the alt-right is, and that they needed the softest landing possible. Perhaps, I should have engaged counseling services to help soften the blow that I won’t stand with racism, QAnon or stop the steal. I suppose I could have lied or simply said no, and maybe I should have. In this climate things like truth are rarely rewarded. But I’ve always thought its best to be straightforward.
Indeed, John emailed me and he asked me to be their organization’s faculty advisor, so he explicitly solicited me for advice. And I responded by giving him my honest answer and plain advice. I am against racism, bigotry, discrimination, Qanon, corruption, nepotism, and coup attempts (altogether defining a good part of Trumpism) and I do not advocate for any organization that promotes those things. Nevertheless, John replied in anger, offered the appearance of outrage and accused me of falsely maligning YAF (see his email here). That would mean, Fox news, CBS, Washington Post, New York Times, Vox, Washington Times, and scores of other national and local outlets were also falsely maligning YAF. John’s response also meant that he or YAF is somehow denying that Kyle Bristow, Matthew Heimbach, James Taylor, Nick Ochs and all the others led, represent or represented their organization or part of their organization. There are university, government, media, personal testimony and other documents that state otherwise. All of these would have to be wrong.
In almost every respect, John’s reply signaled which version of YAF he had in mind; he never addressed YAF’s history, but instead claimed I was attacking him by not agreeing to support his cause. John went so far as to claim that YAF has never endorsed violence, despite their leaders’ and speakers’ actions being so well detailed in the media. YAF’s speakers and chapter leaders- many who are still booked through YAF’s website, feature a suite of “Stop the Steal” promoters (Dinesh D’Souza, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Newt Gingrich, Dana Loesch, Ted Nugent, etc.) and their leaders have explicitly advocated or incited violence through their rhetoric, books, articles and tweets (see the first 54 footnotes for a start).
Here is just one example, where Dinesh D’Souza argues that there was an orchestrated campaign to steal the 2020 election, where the Democrats “cooked up a massive scheme” to defraud the country and steal the election.
John then claimed I knew little about YAF and encouraged me to research its history, either without doing it himself, or considering that I had already done so, which made John either appear all the more incognizant or his words all the more dishonest. Still, despite his reaction, I felt I should try and at least disclose the most limited highlights of my findings in hopes that John was truly ignorant and would look for himself; so I sent a short reply to his second email as well (see reply here).
That reply not only went unanswered, but instead, John took parts of my first reply (the parts that appeared to benefit his narrative) and sent them to alt-right tip lines, and right-wing media, claiming I was biased against him (see emails). This appeared to be purely a punitive action and intended to intimidate. Indeed, there are strong links between the Daily Wire, YAF, the Leadership Institute and Campus Reform. John and company being the aggressors, I found it both disingenuous and amusing they used the word “attacked” and pretended victim-hood; the pretense of sensitivity by the alt-right is contradicted by their declared “devotion” to free speech and the willingness to spout racist, xenophobic and homophobic rhetoric, not to mention inspiring thousands to attack the Capitol. In response to John’s actions, his Alt-right partners cranked out on-line posts claiming I attacked John for not supporting his cause. They further took parts of my reply and added things to make it appear I claimed things I never did. I won’t cite the stories here, there is no need to drive up their traffic but here’s a screen shot of some “articles” in this vein. Dozens of hate mail followed, some directed to me and some to the University (if you want to see how “reasonable” these folks are you can read some of the emails directed to me here; I don’t have the ones directed to the University). Others implied violence. Many more emails and calls however offered encouragement and support.
I had to laugh at the absurdity. Think of John’s and YAF’s logic for a moment- John emails me and asks me to be YAF’s advisor; I say no and explain why and offer some advice as solicited; John dislikes the advice, gets angry I won’t join his cause, goes right to alt-right tip lines to complain I’m biased and starts a social media harassment campaign. In their world, apparently no one is allowed to say no or say anything they do not like. How about, “I’m sorry to hear that you won’t join me, I disagree with you completely and what you said, and you are wrong, and here’s why, so I’m going to look elsewhere”?
There is a really interesting chapter titled “Money And Ideas Matter” in the book Cold Breezes and Idiot Winds that goes into the monetary incentives that YAF and other organizations provide students if they use their tip lines and troll professors to generate the appearance of victim-hood. They are reported to have a points system that can lead to paid trips and status for getting media attention, bringing controversial speakers to campus and trolling professors. Perhaps that is what is going on here. It would offer one explanation for John’s behavior.
John’s actions forced me to consider that in all likelihood, John already knew about YAF’s behavior and his emails were simply performative. John may be part of the larger White nationalist movement or may simply fit in with the millions of people that have allowed themselves to be manipulated, or be somewhere in between. Likely, I will never know for sure to the full extent, but several people have sent me some of John’s tweets promoting the false story of election fraud. There’s no need to post them here. Despite John’s behavior, I still hold out hope for just plain ignorance. Nevertheless, John is an adult and is therefore responsible for his words, choices and actions.
While one cannot make someone believe anything they don’t want to, leaders and highly salient personalities can legitimize people’s beliefs especially when they are untrue, and validate what they want to believe and push people to the extremes of what they want to be true and move them to action by validating their beliefs. They can and do stoke and inspire hatred and acts of violence. This is what corrupt leaders do and how famous and other notable people mobilize the masses. Trump and those that pushed the false message that the election was stolen as well as those Congressional, institutional and public leaders that refused to confirm the election was not stolen, in part led to the insurrection at the Capitol.. The “Stop the Steal” narrative however, was only one part of the coup attempt; a big part of the violence were explicit messages of White nationalism used to mobilize the most radical of followers to prevent the validation of the election and thwart the will of the American people. YAF appears a documented part of that rhetoric and the false election fraud misinformation campaign through their speakers, leaders, and chapters at the least.
Countless court cases and reviews found no evidence of widespread fraud, not even Republican secretary of states or governors in critical swing states validated Trump’s and his follower’s false claims. Indeed, Trump lost and lost by a wide margin- 7 million votes.
The attack on the Capitol is personal to anyone who believes in democracy and our country; this was an attack on our way of life. Congresspersons came close to being killed. And aside from my patriotism, my sister and cousins are police, my brother is a DA, my family, including myself, have a long history of service to our country in the Army and Marines, and later in various national defense roles. When those who have sworn to protect us die in the line of duty, I not only take that personally, I believe it is part of our civic and professional duty to do so. Those who promote White nationalism, Qanon, alt-right and false election “stop the steal” narratives, mobilized thousands of people to charge the Capitol and kill and harm police and our elected leaders. The law says they share responsibility.
Given this, it is not only fair to question if those who espouse and promote White nationalism, (whether through paid speakers or themselves), or the lie that the election was stolen to have some role in the insurrection, but the US Congress has asked this question; so has the DOJ; so has the FBI. If we take seriously our citizenship, it seems it is also our responsibility to proffer that question as well.
So, in my response to John I asked the question and still do question if all those organizations that promoted racism, anti-Semitism, White nationalism, homophobia, Qanon, “Stop the Steal” and their speakers and media personalities, share responsibility in creating the environment and rhetoric that inspired thousands to attack our country, our government, and our people? Many leaders, government officials, law enforcement officers, judges, and others think they do. And again, if we are to believe credible news sources, leaders of the Proud Boys, YAF, and White nationalists took part in the insurrection and attacked the Capitol (Nick Ochs fits all three at the least). Given the established and documented links between White nationalism, “Stop the Steal” and YAF through their paid national speakers and local leaders and chapters, such as one John wishes to start at PSU, my question to John was perhaps the most measured way I could ask John to at least look at what he is taking part in.
John and others then claimed that I stated his organization was uniquely responsible for the insurrection (not true) and that I was attacking their organization despite my reply being crystal clear that I never claimed anything. My words were “I question if…”. Not I state, not I declare. I questioned if they had a role in the recent environment; they claimed that I attacked their members (not even close to true), they claimed that I made claims I didn’t, that I somehow manufactured my university title (it is a rank and title given by the College and University — for some reason the alt-right really does not like education, academic titles or PhD degrees apparently); they claimed that I was biased for not endorsing their values (this is a novel definition of bias- where you ask someone to support you, they say no, then that makes them biased); and they claimed that I was challenging their right to be on campus (something I never mentioned or even hinted at in either email). Overall, they made a host of outright lies. Again, here are John’s emails to me, some of his friends and supporters emails, as well as inquiries from right-wing media sites (I redacted John’s name from his emails to me as I have no interest to engage in the nonsense that John and others engaged in, but I cannot vouch for what is printed in social or other media or other’s emails). You can find their wild rhetoric on the internet; most on extremist sites.
Words matter. The DOJ, FBI and other organizations are making arrests now because they have the same question I did, and have raided offices of Republican state legislators and other organizations, apparently finding a number of links. Time will tell who is directly responsible. Congress impeached the President on acts of supporting insurrection as they had the same question. Trump’s rhetoric was one of the key reasons for his impeachment. As many news outlets have reported (also in his own words on Twitter), Trump openly condoned supporters who violently stormed the Capitol. At this point however, many have stopped questioning as the evidence is mounting and they have moved from questioning to prosecuting.
Everyone is free to have an opinion in the US. While we may be physically free to say and do whatever we want, if we engage in hate speech, incite the masses and mobilize people to violence, or take part in organizations or movements that do so, there are criminal, civil and employment consequences. Freedom of speech does not protect people from the consequences of their actions. Indeed, a number of states and the US government have laws against hate crimes, in which hate speech is used at the established motive. Perhaps more to the point here, organizations, companies and Universities, also have policies against discrimination, racism, and sexism.
The hypocrisy of John’s response, his supporters, and YAF’s associated right-wing fringe media is not lost on me. They solicited me; I did not solicit them. They brought hate to my door. I did not go to theirs. I never pressed my views on them. They demanded my views by asking for my support. Then when I said no, they threw an internet temper tantrum. It appears in their mind that somehow, I was obligated to support John and his organization. I am not. The irony apparently was lost on all of them; John’s email and his supporters’ appear to argue they and YAF have the freedom to promote speakers and ideas that surround White nationalism and hate and lies about the election, but any freedom to speak and say I am against racism and for democracy is not extended to me. Why do I not get to speak? Am I not free to say “no” that I do not want to take part in their ideals? Or does freedom only extend to those John and YAF agree with? That is not freedom, but rather, that is the hallmark of fascism.
“Freedom of speech” appears to be the skirts/coats YAF hides under as defense of their behavior. But such claims are dishonest. I never sought, nor would I try to take away their freedom of speech. My refusal to endorse hate speech, racism, and bigotry is not an attack on their constitutional rights — it is me exercising mine. I said no thank you in polite words, and offered John the opportunity to revisit and reflect. I never told John what to believe. I asked him to consider looking into his own beliefs. I made no judgment on YAF’s members; rather I made a judgement on whether or not I would take part in an organization that has promoted hate, racism, and insurrection through its leaders and speakers. I never said John’s organization does not have a right be on campus; that is a matter for University officials. Nor did I say John or his organization does not have the right to their opinions.
They took parts of my reply and extrapolated it to ridiculous places. They denied they promoted hate speech, yet their highest profile speakers and chapter leaders, including Michelle Malkin, Kyle Bristow, Nick Ochs, Matthew Heimbach and many more say otherwise. They so fervently claimed that they are against violence, yet somehow looked over that according to numerous credible sources at least one their chapter leaders took part in the violent insurrection at the Capitol and many other leaders and speakers explicitly promoted violence in their rhetoric.
They called me names like communist, Marxist, and other insults (see their emails here and articles here). I suppose they did not realize they ran into someone impervious to their insults, threats and tantrums. I follow Conservative Leader and icon Margaret Thatcher’s lead: “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.” Only those who have no credible argument to stand on, resort to name-calling and lies. Indeed, I am grateful; the more they say, the more they expose who they are and what they are about. I do not want to silence them. Rather, I wish to let all those who espouse and support racism, bigotry, Qanon, conspiracy theories, and lies out themselves.
And it is essential to remind the reader, I did not respond to John as a teacher; he is not a student in my class. Rather, I responded as a citizen who has the right to say no, I do not want to be in your organization and yes, if I am reading the University policies correctly, I seem to have a moral obligation to at least ask you to look at what you are doing.
The funny thing is, John never asked what my values are. He first assumed I would be open to YAF’s explict and implied agendas (or perhaps he never did and this was a con job as Scatamburlo-D’Annibale’s work suggests it could be). Then John and the extremists that supported his charade assumed because I said no to alt-right, White supremacist speech-supporting behavior, I must be an extreme left-winger. Yet anyone with even the most passing knowledge of me, or who had taken a moment to look at my body of work, or who had taken a class with me would tell you I would not be open to either of those causes. In my personal life I’ve written both positive and negative things about liberalism and conservatism alike, and supported both liberal positions and conservative positions, depending on the issue, but I’ve never been a partisan or an ideologue, I simply don’t care for either party. In my professional life, academic scholarship and teaching, however, I take no position on liberal or conservative views, positive or negative. Rather, my first lesson is, my opinions don’t matter- your opinions don’t matter — what matters is the collective opinions of the public. We study why people believe what they do, not our own beliefs or if one’s values are “right” or “wrong “— those are normative questions not relevant for class or scholarship and simply personal to every one of us.
If anyone approached me from ANTIFA, I would have given a similar reply as I did to John. If Democratic leaders instigated an attack on our government, I would have given the same response as well.
In fact, the left dislikes me as much as the right. Indeed, I was recently attacked, harassed with sexually explicit language and called names by a faculty member in the Department of Political Science for simply giving an optional assignment on then President Trump- the same one I gave on then President Obama. The President, like it or not is the most important and powerful figure in the US and perhaps the world. As a scholar, Presidents deserve our attention, but as teachers they provide the most potent tool to train, explore ethics, experimental design, and understand the power of ideological and partisan messages among other things. For this faculty member that attacked me, I suppose that was only true if the President was someone she supported. In this regard, the left and right, this faculty member and John are similar. Both brought hate to my door, both leveled ridiculous accusations (e.g., one claiming I was a criminal and right-wing for giving an assignment on Trump, the other that I was biased against the right for not joining their cause) and I responded to both the same way. No thank you, grow up, and please leave.
I’ve been attacked for years by the left for my genetics research; they called me a Nazi, a fascist, a neo-con, and worse, for saying some part of our character, the way we think and ultimate behaviors and values are in some way, however large or small, however indirectly, influenced by our genetic makeup. These variations in individuals have nothing to do with ethnicity or race, but rather exist across all humans (e.g., why are you different from your siblings?). However, I was also attacked by the right just the same, for my research on sexuality, finding that a large part of gender identity and sexual behaviors are influenced by biology and are a natural part of human variation. I’ve been attacked or harassed for many other things, from wearing an American flag pin at conferences, to having a tangential coding error, to using the words Jihadist and Islamic extremist in my syllabus — the same words the UN, NATO and others have used, and so many more nonsensical things.
So, being a scientist, nonpartisan and independent, I routinely get attacked by both sides. Ideologues, whether on the left or the right treat those who do not agree with them as their enemy and their polar opposite. To me, the extreme left and extreme right are exactly the same; in this way I am very used to the name calling, dishonest attacks, and the like. If you are in the middle you are treated as an enemy to both parties in modern America. Though I find it humorous that I am called a radical leftist and a neo-con right winger at the same time. Perhaps this is the best signal that I am right where I should be.
In the past I have avoided putting my personal views out there to defend against radicals. I teach the science of understanding where values and opinions come from and where they lead in the mass publics, but in class I take no position on the values themselves. Professionally, there’s simply no reason for it. I believe in democracy and that people should come to their own opinions. But we are in an era of hyperbolic nonsense, post-truth social media madness. When someone does not like what you find, say or think, now it has become commonplace to attack their credibility and character, versus their ideas or analyses. So, in this affair, perhaps it is time as educators we do something different. In order to counter false information, even about ourselves, we can provide accurate information instead, even if it is personal. It is so foreign to me, to take part in this information overload “me…me…me…” era. Posting personal things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagam, etc. all seem silly to me. Yet it seems the time has come where we must put our views out there to defend against the views others project onto us. So, in the interest of dispelling nonsense, I suppose if one is going to criticize my political positions, they might as well actually know what those are.
I have no love for Congress, and find that they do not represent me. In my view, Pelosi, McConnell, and Schumer seem to only care about Pelosi, McConnell, and Schumer. Indeed, I think the Democratic and Republican parties do more damage than good, and the two-party system is one reason why we are in this current mess. Nevertheless, Congress does represent our way of life. We don’t have to like them, but it is our duty as American citizens to defend them; and I will. If you physically attack any of them or motivate and support those who do, you attack our country.
The broad labels conservative or liberal do not fit me well either. I believe in a strong and active national defense- Russia and China are not our friends, they are our competitors; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were ill-conceived, resulted in failure and were mismanaged by three presidents; they weakened us greatly, exposed our divisions, fractured our alliances, bankrupted our country, and emboldened our enemies; they led to the needless death of so many of our soldiers; never did I think in my lifetime would I see US troops fleeing our bases, while Soviet troops moved in, and confiscated millions of dollars in our equipment- we in effect handed over control of the theatre to Russia; I believe in science and data; I firmly believe in the right to bear arms — but with rights come responsibility- if your firearm is used in a crime or homicide, then you must be held accountable; I believe in justice for all people and an end to racial injustice; ending monetary welfare for all adults- including corporations, but creating programs that actually work and help people not in Congress; equalizing K-12 schools so that all schools get the same dollars per student- if we really want equality it begins with K-12 education; removing all links between home ownership, real estate tax and school funding- everyone in my view should pay into schools, not just homeowners -every child in America should have access to the same quality of K-12 education, it will only make our country stronger; private schools should only be funded by private money; I believe teacher’s unions are part of the problem and our schools need a merit-based system for teachers and appropriate pay to match; I believe in free school lunches where children who cannot afford them remain anonymous and are never shamed; I believe in taking care of our veterans; taking care of our mentally ill; taking care of our children- no child in the US should go without a proper meal, a home, clothes, kindness and care; DCFS and all similar organizations, and foster care need a complete overhaul; the system has been corrupted and social workers need oversight and to be held criminally responsible when their negligence leads to a child’s abuse or death; a flat tax per bracket with no exemptions, breaks, or write-offs where every person, every corporation pays a predetermined federal tax rate for all revenue from all sources, no tax shelters, and the money comes out at the time it is dispersed, removing filing at the end of the year; I believe in decriminalization of drugs for adults — the tax revenue and the benefit of removing funding from criminal organizations and the relief it will bring police is too much to ignore- and if people want to put those into their body, it is their right, but as part of that right comes responsibility- those who take drugs, smoke or chew tobacco, drink alcohol, etc. must be responsible for their own health care and be held civilly and criminally accountable for any other negative behaviors that result from their actions; school shootings are a national disgrace and it is far past time that we put in place real measures to address the sources of mental illness and motivations for shootings as well policies and physical protections to ensure our children’s safety at school; but arming teachers is a great way to end up with teachers accidentally shooting themselves and their students; for our children’s sake leave security to the professionals and do not arm teachers; instead invest in steel doors, foot locks, weapons detection, lock-down measures to isolate the shooter, etc; I believe in protecting our strategic industries for national defense, including steel, auto and plane makers, microchips, etc.; climate change is real and a threat to our national security; national high speed internet; strict separation of church and state; media and social media companies should be held civilly and criminally accountable for misinformation and we need a major update to libel and slander laws to impose serious penalties on those that engage in such behavior; a true livable minimum wage and $15 is a start; bringing back manufacturing to the US even if products cost more; a strong trade skills program; resolving our national health care dilemma; the ACA was simply a tax on those who already had health care and a nightmare for small businesses and resulted in a loss of jobs; currently the people benefiting the most are insurance companies; the public should have access to the same healthcare as Congress; much stricter immigration with immediate processing and repatriation for those who arrive without documentation, but never splitting up migrant families unless abuse is at hand, and treating all those who wish entry into the US humanely- they are not criminals or prisoners — they are people who just want a better life — it is time to end mass detention centers on the border, let them in or let them out and return them to their home; we don’t have to accommodate them, but we must never demonize them; and always remember, unless you are 100% Native American going back to the dawn of time, you are a child of immigrants too (some forced); a clear path to citizenship for those that have been working and paying taxes in the US for more than 5 years; a border wall is plain stupid- it is a 7th century solution to a 21st century problem- and something a person with a shovel can overcome; recognizing that domestic abuse, including child abuse and sexual abuse, is a national crisis that we can no longer ignore; the right of a woman to choose anything and everything that has to do with her body (the same goes for every sex or gender as well); Planned Parenthood does tremendous good for low income communities and should be funded; serious punishment for serious crimes — there are simply people that do not belong in a civil society; a real change in how we treat homelessness; equal rights for all peoples, whether by race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, etc.; children who don’t get vaccinated should be homeschooled until they do; police reform that brings transparency, removes shield laws, installs mandatory body cams with audio, tackles racial injustice but also supports, trains, funds and protects our police- this includes training for citizens to know what to call police for and what not to- police are not social workers, crisis counselors or psychologists- if we want them to be that, then we need to fund, train and support such an endeavor; police also cannot police themselves — an independent federal or state level agency must take over all IA duties and disciplinary records must be made public; an end to racial discrimination or preferences in all things; national mass transit; real investigation into section 8 and federal housing corruption; what one does in their own bedroom between consenting adults is their own business; term limits for Senate and Congress -we need citizen representatives, not self-promoting professional politicians that have no idea what working and paying bills is like, and we do not need people in Congress so diminished that we can see their dementia during Congressional hearings; instead of giving 40 billion a year to foreign aid, maybe we invest in our crumbling infrastructure, mass transit, roads, schools, renewable energy, national high speed internet, healthcare, reducing poverty, jobs, and creating affordable housing here in the US; mandatory public service; an end to the two-party choke-hold on US elections; an end to gerrymandering — we should choose our representatives, they should not be able to choose us; I do not believe in student loan forgiveness; people should pay their debts- but I do believe in zeroing out the interest and if people already paid as much or more than the original principle in interest payments, calling that loan paid in full, and also making all future student loans zero interest loans; I do not think it is fair that undocumented immigrants be offered in-state tuition but American citizens have to pay out-of-state tuition; I believe in the rule of law; if corporations or government officials commit criminal acts then those who committed the act in the corporation or government office should be held responsible; an end to private prisons; we need real electoral reform so that dishonest politicians cannot use normal delays to sow distrust; I do think it is time to have proper voter identification, it is what the US promotes abroad; an end to lifetime appointments for federal judges and the supreme court; I am against identity politics- the division is harming our country, feeds into White nationalism and racism, and is creating conflict when there should be cooperation; I believe everyone should have the ability to own a home in their lifetime if they work for it, and no one person or corporation should be able to own more than two homes and only US citizens or legal residents should be able to own land or property in the US; I am against looting, rioting, and mob violence of any kind; I support the right for peaceful protest; an end to the electoral college and all primaries should be held on the same day; I believe in protecting the environment and our natural resources -there are no second chances there; life liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and scores of other values that do not neatly fall into liberal or conservative views or Democratic or Republican policies.Currently there is no party for me and I believe I am not alone in this. All too often, it seems we only have a choice between incompetent idealistic narcissists vs. competent but sinister, corrupt, arrogant, hateful, intolerant narcissists.
I thought HW Bush was a great American and a great President (far far far from perfect however and his positions on race were complicated at best). I thought Bill Clinton was a dirtbag (e.g., his treatment of women remains problematic), but a darn good President. I thought GW Bush was hilarious, probably a nice person, and perhaps he even meant well, but he was a terrible President. I thought Barack Obama is an amazing person and amazing American, he brought intellect and dignity back to the White House but he was not a very good President (far better than many however; I was unhappy about some of his policies, in particular the way he handled the war and treated the military, but I admired his overall character). In 2016, I did not vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton. I could think of few people less desirable to be President (I would have chosen any of the former Presidents mentioned or those that ran against them). Trump turned out to be one of the most detestable, corrupt, incompetent public persons I have come to witness, and easily the worst President in my lifetime, if not in the history of the US (and probably future as well). He made President’s GW Bush and Obama look like military geniuses. If I have a known bias it is against the two-party scheme, not against any one party. I certainly have a positive bias toward decency. No matter where one is from, what language they speak, what religion they hold, what color their skin, what sex they are, their sexual orientation, political party, or how they find themselves today, I believe in treating people with respect and dignity. These are some of my views, but I do not project them on to others or propose, expect, demand, ask or even hope anyone else believes in them. I never bring them to work and simply do not care what other’s political views are at the individual level. Nor are my views set in stone. All may change tomorrow. I believe in updating my views based on information, data, science, human decency and changes in the environment and situation. Here are my views, criticize them all you want for what they are. But good luck trying to argue I’m biased against conservatives or liberals for that matter.
But to be clear, I cannot personally or morally endorse, support or tolerate bigotry, racism, sexism, or discrimination of any kind, whether it is from an organization or person. In all things, I will defend the US and our Constitution and way of life. I love my country, sometimes for what it is, sometimes for what it is not. There are many times I detest the decisions of our leaders, past and present for what they have done. But I love the US for the promise of what it could be, and for our ideals, even though we struggle to live up to them.
Given this, how could I have responded to John in any other way, than to say, no, I will not join you or YAF; I can only hope that you take a look at what you are doing and who you are advocating for and if you choose to be part of an organization with a history of promoting hate speech, racism and bigotry, and people who tried to undermine our elections, as detailed by the scores of articles cited here, perhaps consider taking it in a different direction than it has taken in the past.
I was happy to leave it at the short emails I sent, but when John took to social media, published part of our exchange, and through others cast them in a dishonest light, and sought to harass me into agreeing with his cause, or try to punish me for not supporting his cause, that crosses into misconduct. It is because of John’s behavior that I write this up now. I hope this proves helpful to others who have been or will be targeted in the future. John and YAF are free to advocate for their cause, but I am also free to say no I will not join you. John and YAF are not free however to harass and intimidate anyone, through social media or other for not joining their cause.
If they had any honest intention they could have simply asked for a conversation, but instead they took to a public misinformation campaign. They could have said, “hey, you’re right, we have had a lot of racists in our ranks, the evidence is undeniable, we also promoted the stop the steal nonsense too and we’re working to correct that.” But they didn’t. They doubled down, and instead sought to intimidate me into joining them. This post then is my personal response, and thought processes and what motivated how I responded.
I received a hundred or more calls and emails of support, and came to learn that John’s behavior is consistent and increasingly common among extremists. These types of people send emails demanding support, and when one responds in the negative or that they are not interested, they generate a fictitious narrative, much like Trump and Qanon and the “Stop the Steal” radicals. They pretend to be victims to generate outrage. In this way John’s behavior appeared performative. The righteous indignation he posed, claiming that I somehow attacked him or that I am biased against conservatives for not joining his cause, ignores that John started the exchange by asking for support for an organization with a documented history of hate, whose past or present members include a founder of Proud Boys chapter, declared White supremacists, and those who attacked the Capitol. I learned from a person I’ll only name Alexander, in a very kind and detailed email, that the organizations that supported John do this frequently and have a process for it. According to his findings, and many other public sources, such organizations troll, recruit students to set up professors, report partial truths and inaccurate information, blame, pretend victimhood, and develop a false narrative and claim bias, put out a fabricated story to their social media and alt-right spin partners to attain the goals of harming people they target and generate more public outrage to gain increased support from both those in the mainstream and extremists. They inspire others to violence toward professors that don’t facilitate their messages of hate. These are the steps Trump, Qanon, White nationalists and others used to manipulate millions into validating their desires to believe the false narrative of a stolen election and instigate the attack on the Capitol.
Given John and YAF’s behavior, Perhaps it is time we all say “no” to all those that spread misinformation, promote and defend racism and hate, even if that means being attacked by those who wish to harm our democracy, by the alt-right, and by those who support White nationalism. Liberal, Conservative or other, their behavior helps no one. Let’s use our voice in peaceful but honest dialogue to stand up to their intimidation tactics. Not only is the law on our side, so is the Constitution and based on the overwhelming support I have received, all those who hold dear the values of freedom, liberty, justice and human decency.
I’ll leave you with a poem written by Charles Mackay:
YOU have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.
Standard Disclaimer: The analyses, thoughts, suggestions, or experiences here reflect my own and not those of any organization I currently work for, have in the past, or will in the future.
 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/council-of-conservative-citizens-dylann-roof/396467/; https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/23/us/politics/views-on-race-and-gop-ties-define-group-council-of-conservative-citizens.html; https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/charleston-church-shooting/dont-blame-us-church-shootings-council-conservative-citizens-says-n380126;
 https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/former-proud-boy-lawyer-jason-van-dyke-says-an-internet-stalker-is-destroying-his-career-11641420; https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2007/neo-nazi-preston-wiginton-joins-forces-young-americans-freedom-michigan-state-university; https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/yaf-immigrants-catch-heat-race-baiting-conservatives-rile-campus-activists/ ; https://beloitcollegeroundtable.com/2019/11/04/yaf-has-documents-advocating-for-the-removal-of-free-speech-class-on-college-campus/; https://bridge.georgetown.edu/research/factsheet-young-americas-foundation; https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/trumps-culture-impunity-produced/617638/
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 https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/2020-election-misinformation-distortions; https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/25/among-the-insurrectionists; https://www.economist.com/united-states/2021/01/09/the-terrible-scenes-on-capitol-hill-illustrate-how-donald-trump-has-changed-his-party; https://www.businessinsider.com/dc-officer-says-hed-crush-white-nationalist-insurrection-again-2021-1; https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/09/us/capitol-hill-insurrection-extremist-flags-soh/index.html; https://apnews.com/article/white-supremacy-threats-capitol-riots-2d4ba4d1a3d55197489d773b3e0b0f32;
 https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/2020-election-misinformation-distortions; https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/25/among-the-insurrectionists; https://www.businessinsider.com/dc-officer-says-hed-crush-white-nationalist-insurrection-again-2021-1
 https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/01/06/us/electoral-vote#trump-protesters; https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/02/11/ted-lieu-republicans-trump-administration-criticism-impeachment-trial-two-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/trumps-second-impeachment-trial/; https://www.npr.org/sections/trump-impeachment-trial-live-updates/2021/02/09/965903736/graphic-video-of-capitol-insurrection-opens-trumps-impeachment-trial
 I don’t remember ever identifying with a political party. However, it has been 30+ years of voting, so it is very possible, perhaps in my teens or 20’s, that I registered with a party.
 https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/10/30/the-campus-thought-police-faux-outrage-intimidation-and-the-threat-to-free-speech/; https://revealnews.org/article/right-wing-groups-are-recruiting-students-to-target-teachers/; https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-outrage-peddlers-are-here-to-stay?cid2=gen_login_refresh&cid=gen_sign_in; https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/03/02/what-do-when-you-are-academic-under-attack-right-wing-publications-opinion ; https://legacy.virginialawreview.org/volumes/content/miseducation-free-speech; https://www.aaup.org/JAF10/dear-administrators-protect-your-faculty-right-wing-attacks-follow-money#.YB2hVDFKiUk; https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/09/academics-are-really-really-worried-about-their-freedom/615724; https://arizonadailyindependent.com/2017/04/30/nau-professors-claim-student-recordings-are-part-of-an-attack/ https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/04/04/590928008/professor-harassment; https://www.aei.org/articles/dont-write-off-the-power-of-a-few-intimidating-undergraduates/; https://www.virginialawreview.org/articles/miseducation-free-speech/#_ftn66
 https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/21/us/university-professors-free-speech-online-hate-threats/index.html; https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0891243218766831
 This was a favorite of Thatcher’s as well https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/margaret-thatcher-inspired-by-her-list-of-foes-977t7kcsp