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Donald Trump had the audacity to attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson last Saturday, Dec. 9.

“I knew a little before everybody else, but I’ll simply say this without even referencing Trump himself,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told me when the visit was announced. “The opening of the Civil Rights Museum is an important moment of a recognition of struggle, and out of that struggle, we’ve seen people historically rescue themselves in a state that has been known for some of the most negativity that the world has ever seen.”

Lumumba took Trump’s election last year with a certain level of equanimity, saying that on the day after the election, “I woke up in Mississippi, which means whether it is Obama, Clinton or Bush, Mississippi is still at the bottom.”

But Trump’s refusal to condemn the white supremacists in Charlottesville caused many civil rights leaders, including Rep. John Lewis, to threaten to boycott the opening if the president attended. But it wasn’t just about Charlottesville: White supremacy may be the only consistent ideology of the Trump administration.

“We have to observe this corrosion of integrity and this erosion of people’s human and civil rights and identify what role or what steps we’re willing to take,” Lumumba said. “It’s important that we recognize that struggle. But any celebration of struggle, any recognition of struggle, must consider what the next step forward is.”

Trump, being Trump, made the controversy worse by seeming to support a justification of slavery. Days before the presidential visit to the first state-sponsored civil rights museum, Roy Moore, the Alabama senate candidate who is supported by the president despite allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with minors, went viral, saying that America “was great at the time when families were united—even though we had slavery, they cared for one another.”

Just in case there was any question about what Trump thought of this definition of his “Make America Great Again” catch phrase, the very next day he tweeted: “LAST thing the Make America Great Again Agenda needs is a Liberal Democrat in Senate where we have so little margin for victory already. The Pelosi/Schumer Puppet Jones would vote against us 100% of the time. He’s bad on Crime, Life, Border, Vets, Guns & Military. VOTE ROY MOORE!”

When he finally got to Jackson, Trump—who was invited by the state’s white Republican governor—spoke to a small crowd, primarily reading from a script, and not at the main event. “The fight to end slavery, to break down Jim Crow, to end segregation, to gain the right to vote, and to achieve the sacred birthright of equality—that’s big stuff,” Trump said. “Those are very big phrases, very big words.”

Lumumba has some more big words for Trump. He wants Jackson—a city in deeply red Mississippi, with a long history of racism and white supremacy—to be the “most radical city” in the world.

“Ultimately, what I mean by being the most radical city on the planet is giving people more access,” he told my colleague Jaisal Noor. “We do this through the … movement of people’s assemblies that allow people to speak to their conditions, and so that is very important to us.”

People’s assemblies are “vehicles of Black self-determination and autonomous political authority of the oppressed peoples’ and communities in Jackson,” according to the Jackson-Kush Plan, a document produced by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and the Jackson People’s Assembly. “The assemblies are organized as expressions of participatory or direct democracy, wherein there is guided facilitation and agenda setting provided by the committees that compose the people’s task force, but no preordained hierarchy.”

The movement grew out of a collaboration of black activist groups forming in the Mississippi River Delta in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, and quickly managed to take over the city of Jackson, when Lumumba’s father won the mayorship in 2012.

“Free the land” was a common refrain in the elder Lumumba’s first campaign. It came from his trip to Mississippi in 1971 to start an autonomous black nation in that state with the “Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika.” To get to their land, Lumumba and his comrades had to face down the Ku Klux Klan. This weekend, with the president’s visit, his son, who succeeded him as mayor, had to take a similar stand. 

The younger Lumumba had resisted repeated calls to run for office. But after his father died in 2014, he decided to run. He won a decisive victory earlier this year, giving some hope as to what a city can do, outside of larger national trends. Lumumba and the People’s Assemblies offer a serious alternative to Trumpian authoritarianism.

“A radical is a person who seeks change,” he said. “A radical is a person who does not accept the conditions as they see them. But we look at the conditions of our community, and we see a need for change. Then the reality is we need to be as radical as the circumstances dictate we should be.”

Baynard Woods is a reporter for the Real News Network and the founder of Democracy in Crisis, a project of alternative newspapers across the country. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Twitter: @baynardwoods.

Published in National/International

On this week's shaking-its-head weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson examines the difference between patriotism and nationalism; The K Chronicles pays tribute to the scariness of the vacuum cleaner; This Modern World wonders how low the GOP will go; Apoca Clips looks in on a budding romance; and Red Meat needs help with an insulin shot.

Published in Comics

In a tax speech in Pennsylvania on Oct. 11, President Trump gave a shout out to "the great Jeffrey Lord.”

He went on to explain that Lord “was on fake news CNN for a long time. He was one of my few sources of truth."

CNN severed ties with Lord after he tweeted “sieg heil,” a Nazi salutation.

Trump’s flirtation with racism is nothing new; it extends back through the campaign and into many facets of the presidency. He called the white supremacists in Charlottesville “very fine people” and has repeatedly refused to condemn hate groups. But the precise mechanisms by which the administration and allied media outlets like Breitbart act as bridges to normalize hate groups are becoming increasingly clear.

Buzzfeed’s massive Oct. 5 story on the right-wing provocateur showed that Milo Yiannopoulos sent at least one major Breitbart story to a number of white supremacists to vet and line-edit. In a video embedded in the story, Richard Spencer and others gave a Nazi salute as Yiannopoulos sang “America the Beautiful” at karaoke. (Scroll down to see the video.) Milo even spiked a story at the suggestion of white nationalist Devin Saucier, a friend of Spencer’s.

Yiannopoulos was forced out of Breitbart after an old tape in which he appears to condone pedophilia came out, but he has remained in contact with the major funders to the site, the billionaire Mercer family, which supported funded Milo Inc.

Bannon, who had declared the Mercer-funded Breitbart to be a “platform for the alt-right,” left the site to run Trump’s campaign and work as a senior adviser to the White House. He returned to the site when he was ousted shortly after the white-nationalist terror attack in Charlottesville.

“Dude—we r in a global existentialist war where our enemy EXISTS in social media and u r jerking yourself off w/ marginalia!!!!,” he wrote to Milo. “U should be OWNING this conversation because u r everything they hate!!! Drop your toys, pick up your tools and go help save western civilization.”

“Western civilization” is often code for whiteness. It is less offensive, and less likely to scare away potential converts.

In his New York Times Magazine story on the Breitbart, Wil S. Hylton (a friend of mine) talked to Yochai Benkler, a professor who had been studying the site’s rise.

Breitbart, according to Benkler’s study, was three times more influential than its closest rival, Fox News, during the 2016 election. In this way, it has, according to Benkler, served as a sort of filter that helps legitimize racist ideas. Benkler told Hylton: “Breitbart is not talking about these issues in the same way you would find on the extreme right. … They don’t use the same language you find on sites like VDARE and The Daily Stormer'’—two sites connected to the white-nationalist alt-right movement.

But they are talking about the same issues, and the fact that they don’t use the same language is what makes Breitbart effective as a “bridge” that, in Hylton’s words, “functioned as a legitimizing tether for the most abhorrent currents of the right wing.”

Now that we know that Yiannopoulos actually sent “his” Breitbart stories (which were often not actually written by him) to Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, who works at the Daily Stormer, the bridge phenomenon comes off a bit differently.

“What we saw in our larger-scale analysis was that Breitbart was offering a bridge, a translation platform from the white nationalists to the rest, but that the language and framing was sufficiently different to not be read directly as white nationalist,” Benkler responded in an email when I asked about the Milo story. “To the extent that the BuzzFeed news story is correct in its details, it describes in great detail the level process by which the ideas were transferred, but then still partly sanitized for consumption by people who would be receptive to the ideas, but not the messenger (e.g. Daily Stormer) or the very specific explicitly white nationalist language.”

Trump himself has often acted as a similar kind of bridge. Although he first endorsed Luther Strange to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat in an Alabama special election, Trump has now come around to fully supporting Roy Moore, the theocratic former Alabama judge twice removed from office for failing to recognize the rulings of a higher court, who beat Strange in the special election Republican primary for the Senate seat.

But Moore is himself acting as a bridge for even more extreme figures.

As Talking Points Memo recently reported, Moore’s top supporter is Michael Peroutka, which the site described as a “hardline Confederate sympathizer with longtime ties to a secessionist group” who has “expressed beliefs that make even Moore’s arguably theocratic anti-gay and anti-Muslim views look mainstream by comparison.”

Peroutka, a secessionist and debt-collection attorney, ran for president in 2004 for the Constitution Party. A decade later, in 2014, he ran for the county council in Anne Arundel County, Md., and was supported by Moore, whom Peroutka has honored by naming a field on his farm for the Alabamian. In 2012, Peroutka asked attendees of a League of the South conference to “stand for the national anthem” and proceeded to play “Dixie.” (Scroll down to watch the video.)

So as the president and his administration continue to throw fits about athletes “disrespecting the flag” by taking a knee during the national anthem, they are actively supporting or receiving support from racist extremists who support either the Nazis or the Confederacy. In the same way that Breitbart launders the extremist views of the Daily Stormer, making them more palatable, the administration is acting as a bridge to legitimize those elements on the right that are even more extreme than Trump.

Baynard Woods is a reporter at the Real News Network. Democracy in Crisis is a joint project of alternative newspapers across the country, including the Coachella Valley Independent. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Twitter: @baynardwoods.

Published in National/International