Sunday, February 26, 2017

Making America Gangrenous with Fear, Again: Donald Trump and the "New" Face of the Ku Klux Klan


Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17

Note: The Following is a letter to the editor of the Press Enterprise, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, 2.25.17. It's a response to an editorial written by Pete Kendron, editor of the PE--included in full below. Kendron's editorial is a response to criticism the PE received for having printed a Klu Klux Klan flier--including contact phone numbers as part of its new coverage. The article--sans KKK flier in also included in full below.

To the editor:

While it may be true that the Press Enterprise didn’t publish the Ku Klux Klan flier “to promote or endorse” white supremacism, it’s Kendron’s insistence that PE editorial decisions are driven by journalistic integrity that’s the fig leaf—one intended to cover crass opportunism. 

Kendron knows that salacious details sell papers, and while news demands an unbiased account of the facts, obscuring the KKK phone number would neither have detracted nor altered anything of substance in the news coverage. The claim that including the number helps us “face our fears” is absurd. 

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee 2.17
  Were the PE committed to that noble mission, it’d be awash in accounts of the Trump regime’s efforts to make Big Bank, Big Gas, Big Gun, Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Private Prison, Big Factory Farm, and Big Russia great again—at the peril of civil, reproductive, environmental, educational, healthcare, religious—and free speech rights. 

Were the PE interested in news, it’d tell the truth about the relationship between the growth of hate groups, the election of Trump, and the confirmations of his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, his corrupt, climate change denying, EPA director Scott Pruit, and his anti-education, privatize it all, DOE director Betsy Devos.

But just like Trump knows his base doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about niceties like a free press, the PE knows its 30 Seconds readers are more interested in having their biases confirmed than fancy notions like news. Kendron knows that printing that number titillates the Trumplodytes who, buoyed in their bigotry by a kleptocratic white nationalist for president, feel perfectly just calling Michelle Obama an Orangutan (30 Seconds, 2.25). 

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17
It “justifies” a travel ban on Muslims even though we know neither geography nor religion are reliable indicators of terrorist affiliation. Printing that flier as if it were like any other advertisement aligns the PE with NewsMax and Breitbart—the rags of Steve Bannon’s alt-right. However much a fig leaf the PE story offered to decrying racism, Kendron knows the flier confirms local bigots who support the repression of voting rights via racist Voter ID initiatives. 

Willful ignorance, moreover, is no more excusable. 

Who needs the Klan when you’ve got 30 Second frequent fliers who deploy free speech to demonize everyone and everything not them? It’s deluded to defend Trump against his weakening of regulations to protect puppies; it’s demented to thank a butcher like Putin for helping Trump win; it’s daft to believe a swamp glittering in Goldman Sachs will trickle down its wealth. It’s nuts to think the “free market” can make healthcare accessible to poor folks, or that appeals to “state’s rights” will protect gay kids.

As for “facing our fears,” it’s ironic that while we’ve plenty to fear from the Trumpster’s militarist, anti-science, Islamophobic, bigotry-soaked agenda, his sycophantic followers stand to be harmed the most when the only jobs that materialize are low wage “right to be fired” jobs, or when education becomes just another product—the real thing for the kids of the wealthy, and the knock-off on-lines for the rest. 

It’s hard to admit you’ve been had by hucksters. 

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17
Easier to excuse puppy mills, trash Muslims, and defend tabloid tactics as free speech. 

Kendron’s excuse-editorial for printing that number is like CPAC’s pretense that Robert Spencer is an outsider to conservative values: it forgets that the very platform upon which it would decry racism is paid for by racists. 

Here’s a suggestion for the next edition of the PE: print a flier calling out Brandon Eyerly to demand its editors produce a newspaper instead of a tabloid, or fire them: 570-387-1611.

Wendy Lynne Lee
Lightstreet, PA

595 words.

 Kendron's editorial:

We don’t believe in fig leaves – those comforting, but useless, courtesies that let people say they did everything they could to shield people from ugliness while still allowing the ugliness to exist.

So on Tuesday, when we published a story about some hateful Ku Klux Klan flyers showing up in Berwick, we also printed the flyers in their entirety. But we didn’t do it to promote, or endorse, those views.

We did it because it’s news. It’s ugly, it’s dismaying, but it’s news.
Some have asked why we didn’t blur or crop the flyer so contact information for the KKK group would not have been visible. It certainly would have made our editors’ phones ring less.

But it would have been a fig leaf.

Even if we hadn’t published the phone number, a person looking for like-minded haters would have had no trouble finding the Klan via the Internet. Before even seeing the flyers, it took our reporter only about two minutes.

The vast majority of our readers – who know a white cloak and hood are about as in fashion as knickerbockers – wouldn’t be enticed into membership just because they had the Klan’s phone number. But they now have a better idea of who or what has been skulking around Berwick, trying to stir up hate.

We are not a nation of cowards. Most of us are descendants of people who uprooted their families and took huge risks in search of a better life. There were no fig leaves to hide the challenges they faced. They had to confront their fears. And so should we.

So if those flyer reprints upset you Tuesday, good.

Take action.

Get to know your neighbor who’s from a different culture.
Reach out to the family who sits alone in the church pew on Sunday.

Maybe even call the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire — you have their number — and tell them in no uncertain terms that Berwick, Bloomsburg and Danville are not fertile recruiting grounds for their hateful tribe.

Managing Editor Peter Kendron supervises the reporters, photographers and daily gathering of news for the Press Enterprise newspaper and website.

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.17
 The original story:
Woman decries KKK leaflets
Berwick activist fears rise of hate crimes
By Julye Wemple - Press Enterprise Writers
Published: February 21, 2017

BERWICK — Another round of Ku Klux Klan flyers has hit the Berwick area, but this time in a small neighborhood a stone’s throw from City Hall.

Bette Grey, 57, of Arbor Street says she’s lived in Berwick all her life and she’s never encountered such hateful beliefs.
And when she told council members about the flyers Monday night, council President Alvin Hill assured her such ideas have no place in the borough.

“We’re a community of immigrants, not a community of hatred,” he said. Other council members murmured in agreement.

Grey says she and her husband, Robert, found the first flyer in their yard on Friday, then another one on Sunday afternoon when they came home from church. Both times, the leaflets were tucked neatly under a bag of rice in the grass, Grey said.

At first, Grey, a former councilwoman, thought she was being targeted because of her political activism.

But at least six other neighbors got them, too. Some of them had different messages than the ones Grey received, she said.

Hers questioned the lack of a “white history month” and touted the accomplishments of white people over the centuries. It states the “technological advancements of our people — from the megalithic calendar of Stonehenge to the moonwalk of the Apollo astronauts — are unequaled.”

Grey said another neighbor’s flyer says God loves the KKK, and encourages white people to be proud of being white. None of the flyers were put in mailboxes, which would have been a federal offense, and all were weighted with rice.

The Klansmen knew what they were doing, Grey said.

The pamphlets also provided a website and hotline number for anyone wishing to join the group.

Considering the political climate in the country, Grey’s afraid these leaflets are just the start of trouble, she said.

“I think you’re going to see more of this stuff,” Grey said. “Hate crimes will start.”

Berwick Police Chief Ken Strish says he’s been made aware of the handbills. The ones on Arbor Street are the first of their kind in the borough, he added.

He urged residents who see anyone distributing the flyers to call 9-1-1.

It’s not clear the pamphleteer is breaking the law, but police at least want to talk to the person, Strish said.

Same group
The papers are the work of the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, a Klan group with a home base in Rising Sun, Maryland, just over the state line. It was the same group that distributed flyers in the 800 block of East Third Street in Salem Township in September.

Those leaflets, decrying illegal immigration, angered Hispanic families living in that neighborhood.

According to the group’s website, the East Coast Knights are a “traditional Klan” that seeks to “ensure a safe and secure future for Caucasian Americans.”

“We do not preach hate, and at no time would we react hatefully to any man, woman or child,” the website proclaims. “We strive to cleanse the Klan name by our positive actions.”

But Grey’s not buying their “positive” message.
“It frightens me,” Grey said. “This is significantly nasty.”

Grey said that’s why she was taking her concerns to council.
“It’s not that I want to draw attention, but I want people to be informed,” she said.

Julye Wemple can be reached at, or at 570-387-1234, ext. 1323. Susan Schwartz contributed to this article.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Short Course in the "Logic" of Bigotry--And the Indivisible Will to Take a Stand Against it

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.3.17

The following is a comment posted in the regional newspaper, The Press Enterprise, call-in feature "30 Seconds." The caller identifies herself as Evy Lysk--a frequent flier whose anti-Islamic, racist, misogynist bigotry has a long and well-established history:

"Travel ban motovates BU protest. Student calls Trump moves "reminiscent of Nazi Germany." Save yourself and drop out of college Jessa Wood. You have been brain-washed by your liberal professors. I'll tell you who's moves reminiscent of Nazi Germany. It's ISIS. To Professor M. Safa I asked you way back. "Do you support sharia law?" I never did get an answer. Miss Wood ask him is he for Sharia Law. If you don't get an answer then that should tell you he is for it. Sharia law does not give women rights--that law kills women. Miss Wendy, yes wear a hijab, but have it cover you whole face and make America beautiful again. Go Trump!"

Let's analyze Ms. Lysk's comment:

Setting aside the poor grammar, misspellings, and the fact that she does not know Professor Saracoglu's name, Ms. Lysk does offer us an opportunity to sharpen our capacity to detect fallacies, unwarranted assumptions, and very poor logic.

1. Lysk claims that BU Professors are "liberal." But she neither defines what "liberal" means, nor does she offer any evidence other than that BU community members orchestrated a very successful protest, one, in fact, whose numbers were significantly under-reported by the Press Enterprise at 100, when the actual number was far close to 300. She appears to assume that BU professors organized the protest--flatly false--and that BECAUSE they did so, BU students must be "brain-washed." This assumes, of course that BU students are children. False, and that BU professors have some sort of magical "brain-washing" power. False. BU students organized this action--with very little time and to very powerful effect. They should be applauded for their initiative and discipline. BU is fortunate indeed to have such thoughtful and committed student citizens.

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee, 2.3.17

2. While not bothering to check his correct name, Lysk refers to BU history Professor Safa Saracoglu as a defender of Sharia Law. But like "liberal," she fails to define what that means---she simply assumes we all know it's bad. To be clear, I am neither defending nor decrying Sharia Law--but it is question-begging to assume your audience knows and understands to what you're referring without any additional definition or clarification. The overwhelming likelihood is that, given Ms. Lysk's past history and references, she is appealing to a far right wing website like Infowars or NewsMax--neither of which are remotely credible sources for, well, anything.

3. Lysk commits fallacy of appeal to ignorance: She claims that because professor Safa Saracogluu did not answer her very likely loaded question about Sharia Law, that this means he supports it. But no such conclusion follows--and absence of evidence (his not providing an answer) is NOT EVER evidence for some other claim (such as, he supports Sharia Law). This is simply Lysk's way of making an accusation for which she has no evidence whatever--and it assumes a definition of Sharia she has not provided. In short: Lysk set a trap, and Professor Saracoglu didn't take her bait.
4. She then claims that Sharia Law "does not give women rights." But rights are NOT given. Rights are recognized, and Ms Lysk's own view of women's rights is made clear in the very next line where she refuses to address me as Professor Lee--a fact she has been aware of for at least 15 years. Indeed she does refer to "Professor Safa," but not to "Professor Lee." This makes very clear her own patent sexism, a fact confirmed by her claim that I should wear a hijab to cover my "whole face." In other words, I'm a legitimate target for ridicule because, according to Lysk, I'm an ugly woman--one not deserving of the recognition of human rights. This, of course, is ad hominem: attack the person instead of their argument--and it is the common recourse of the assailant who has nothing else to offer in defense of their claim.
Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee 1.3.17

Lastly, it's very unclear what Lysk's claim is other than "Go Trump!" But that's not a claim--it's just an exclamation, one as groundless as her comment.

Nonetheless, this is precisely the kind of frenzied, irrational, and bigoted fodder that far right supremacist groups like this one feeds on. 

White Nationalist Recruitment Posters Reported on Kutztown University Campus as Part of National Campaign | Raging Chicken Press

The point is not merely that Lysk is a racist and sexist bigot--she makes that clear on many occasions in 30 Seconds. The point is that she knows she has an audience for this horse-pucky--and that audience put a fascist into the White House.

That audience would ban Muslims from entering the United States because they are Muslims--and it has a president who will utilize every nefarious means at his disposal to fulfill that promise.

That audience holds that the drowned child of the Syrian refugee is less valuable than the child of a wealthy white real estate mogul.

That audience will remain silent as the new president makes it impossible for citizens to know whether their new puppies came from puppy mills.

That audience will allow the president to sell off the country's national parks as private drilling sites to his cronies.

That audience thinks reservations are the natural condition of Native Americans, and would just as soon see the bravery and citizenship personified in the siege at Standing Rock crushed as give up driving their Jimmies.

That audience confirmed the far-right charlatan and donor Betsy DeVos for education czar, a religious ideologue poised to destroy public education and use tax dollars to rape the separation of church and state. DeVos is more concerned about Grizzlies attacking classrooms than she is about whether children become literate. Come to think of it--far better for the Trumpledites that we remain illiterate and ignorant. That's what makes DeVos perfect for education secretary.

That audience celebrates ignorance as a virtue.
That audience silenced Elizabeth Warren for daring to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King that lays out the bigotry of Jeff Sessions who, if confirmed as Attorney General of the United States, is likely to preside over the most racist and repressive voting restrictions the country has ever seen.

That audience would foul its water and air beyond reclamation in order to deny climate change.

That audience mouths "Energy Independence" and "jobs" as if these were magic-bean words--even after the evidence is made clear to them that hydrocarbon exports will weaken national security.

That audience made a CEO of Exxon-Mobil and "Friend of Putin" its Secretary of State.

That audience would rather be ruled by the autocracy/kleptocracy of a psycho-maniacal child-king via Twitter than do the hard work of actually being citizens.

That audience would allow the complete militarization of the police--making our communities effective fiefdoms of martial law.
That audience mistakes power for justice--at the absolute peril of the latter and the ultimate self-defeat of the former.

I could of course go on. But this is surely sufficient to show how important it is we remain not merely vigilant but insurgent against this tyranny.

Perhaps Lysk thinks a desiccated environment dominated by uber-wealthy white guys is a suitable life.

I do not.

And I will resist the violent illogic of the Trumpledite Autocracy until that moment sanity returns to our civic discourse and to our country.

Wendy Lynne Lee

For more photographs of the inaugural Indivisible action at Bloomsburg University, please see: