Berkeley, CA August 31, 2020 – “Hatemonger. Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda” By Jean Guerrero. William Morrow, 2020,
If you don’t know much, or even if you don’t know anything, about Stephen Miller, you might not want to read this book.
Not that it isn’t worth reading. It is. It’s just that reading it may well deepen any sense you might already have about the hopelessness of the political situation on this planet as our Presidential election approaches. If someone like Miller, a bundle of viciousness, mendacity, opportunism, and delusion can get to where he’s gotten, what does it say about whether it’s inevitable that a different person, with vastly different attitudes and attributes can still get anywhere at all? Much less to a position where his confused and irrational attitudes form an important part of how a government attracts, and maintains, popular support.
There’s an even more important question that “Hatemonger” forces us to think about. How many mini-Millers are already spreading like a virus in our land?
Every time a self-intoxicated zealot like 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse, who travelled from his nearby home in Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, surfaces to maim and kill there are details of a sad life that emerge. On August 26 he said, on line and in person, that he was “protecting” people against lawless individuals. As part of a “Guard” which ignored and disrespected publicly funded civilian and military groups, he got his information from distorted propaganda outlets. The kinds of places Miller and his major influencers, Stephen Bannon and David Horowitz, create, support, and utilize as deeply and as widely as they can.
When Rittenhouse opened fire on unarmed protestors a reporter on the scene said “there were moments when law enforcement officers seemed to treat him and some of the other armed men as allies, even as a city curfew began and the men stayed around. In Wisconsin, an open-carry state, it is illegal for those 18 and younger to carry weapons openly in public. But Mr. Rittenhouse seemed to draw no scrutiny from the police for his gun.” Indeed, police at one point gave him and his small group bottled water. “We appreciate your being here,” one officer announced on a bullhorn. “Rittenhouse can be seen, weapon in full view, hands up, walking towards groups of officers – and appearing to go unnoticed by them.” (“Teen Murder Suspect Glorified Police and Arms.” “N.Y. Times, 8/28/2020.)
“White supremacist groups have infiltrated U.S. law enforcement agencies in every region of the country over the last two decades,” according to The Guardian. “Hundreds of police officers have been caught posting racist and bigoted social media content.” They are rarely disciplined, much less dismissed, as they are granted immunity for their actions by legislation that their unions have advocated and paid for through campaign contributions. (“White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says” “The Guardian” 27 August 2020)
These same white supremacist groups have established significant presences in many governmental agencies under Trump. Jean Guerrero did much research into them and their agencies for “Hatemonger.” She found people like Scott Lloyd, a fundamentalist Catholic zealot with no qualifications for public service (a common theme for Trump ideologues) who became head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Homeland Security and used it for anti-abortion advocacy. People like Dimple Shah at DHS, a Texas lawyer who helped implement Miller’s illegal and inhuman separation of children from their suspected illegal immigrant parents. People like Tracy Short, whose role in ICE was to defend the agency against allegations of civil rights violations in detention facilities. People like Michael Anton, senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, who during the 2016 election wrote an op-ed piece, “The Flight 93 Election,” in which he drew an analogy between that electoral contest and the September 11, 2001 crash of Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania, in which desperate passengers gained control as the aircraft was headed for Washington but were unable to avoid a crash, killing everyone aboard. Unless we’re all willing to die to stop them, “Third World Foreigners with no tradition of taste for or experience in liberty” will take over “a society, a country, a people, a civilization that wants to die.”
Trump of course, loves hyperbolic, irrationally apocalyptic surmises and rhetoric.
And in Miller he’s found a protégé, yes-man, and acolyte. How a middle class Jewish kid from an affluent L.A. neighborhood became a recruit to what is sometimes referred to as “the dark side” is quite a tale. A tale of alienation, of loneliness, of prideful personal experimentation. And of a society and “civilization” that is closer to dismemberment than most of us would like to think. Though of course we think so not because of immigrants invading; or of the not born, who somehow have rights; or of “liberals” dictating rules and regulations to corporations. But because we on the left-progressive side of the political divide tend to believe it’s almost all over, because of what can be readily observed, in the work of Milller and his bigoted, divisive ilk.
“Hatemonger” pays significant attention to two practitioners of Miller’s miserable creed. There are 30 references to the now disgraced (pending the outcome of the serious legal charges he’s facing) Steve Bannon. And 35 mentions of Miller’s guru, David Horowitz.
The latter is a train wreck of unprincipled, opportunistic, illogical babble, on a life path we’ve seen before over the decades, abandoning the politics of his youth (his parents were Communists, he was once a Trotskyite) to move into the politics of Trump. (Full disclosure: Horowitz and I were “Ramparts” magazine editors in the late 1960’s).
In a 1999 “Salon” article, “Guns Don’t Kill Black People, Other Blacks Do,” Horowitz wrote, “Unfortunately, as a nation we have become so trapped in the melodrama of black victimization and white oppression that we are in danger of losing all sense of proportion. If blacks are oppressed in America, why isn't there a black exodus?” He has previously lamented using the phrase “people of color,” claiming it is “an ideological term to demonize white people.” Horowitz has also said that the “real” racism in America today is “black racism” and “certainly not [from] white people.”
Guerrero points out that like a lot of other “free marketers,” Horowitz has taken advantage of tax laws to get rich. Although the publications of the modestly named “David Horowitz Freedom Center” are manifestly political in their trumpeting of Trump and Trumpism, he (like politically hyper-active Christian fundamentalist churches) claim tax-exempt status for them.
The bigotry against refugees (generally stereotyped as “Muslim” or “Mexican”) continues as a mainstay today. It is sad and painful to see how someone like Miller convinced himself as early as his high school years in diverse Santa Monica, to be a part of it. His school contemporaries didn’t understand it then, and don’t understand him now.
But aside from his mother, Guerrero can find no one in Miller’s family and social circle who is anything but scornful and angry about him. Aunts and uncles, cousins, even the rabbi of the Santa Monica congregation he grew up in use strong language to denounce him as cruel, unfeeling, inhuman etc. Some don’t hesitate in likening his trajectory to that of Nazis under Hitler, and are especially furious that he doesn’t see how the far right crazies in the pro-Trump mobs are, among other things, Jew-haters. The proto-family he’s assembled from marginal characters like Horowitz seems a thin substitute for the human relations from which he’s seemingly isolated himself. Like so many people of all ages and occupations he seems to be reading and interchanging through hand-held screens all the time. Perhaps there’s some hope for a more in-person intimacy. Now 36, he got married for the first time early this year. (But his choice of wife isn’t all that encouraging. She was Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary. They’re now expecting a child. Mazel Tov!)
We’re about to find out if the extensive support for Trump and his bigotry-based policies is deep as well as wide. Opposition to it doesn’t have a Fox news megaphone, or a cadre of think tank experts speaking out. Leadership is a major issue, too. Joe Biden has too many miles on him and may be well past his pull date. Kamala Harris will excite the anti-Trump base but also is already inspiring talk about the “Bradley effect.” Where white people mislead pollsters when a Black candidate is in a race.
Even usually quiescent political figures like former First Lady Laura Bush called the Miller-Bannon-Horowitz-Trump “ border security” measures “cruel” and “immoral.” She compared tent cities of asylum seekers at the Mexican border to the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II.
So, what’s the score with two months to go? During the years I did radio programs and wrote articles about elections, there were websites I depended on.. You can join the club. And consult a site daily that’s free, well-researched, non-ideological and comprehensive. It’s electoral-vote.com. Do it before you fall into the already growing trope among Main Stream Media pundits about how Trump isn’t really far behind. And is one militaristic intervention or one marketable vaccine/cure from winning a second term.
Here’s what electoral-vote.com says on August 30:
Electoral College (270 needed to win): Biden 388, Trump 138, 18 ties
Senate: (Currently Republicans 52 Democrats 48) Democrats 51, Republicans 49
House of Representatives: (Currently: Democrats 232, Republicans 198), Democrats 237, Republicans 193
Congratulations to Jean Guerrero for a job well done in researching and writing “Hatemonger.” It certainly provides a full awareness of the toxic stew Miller, Horowitz, and Trump have concocted. With which they would poison us all.