Trump is a serial liar about nearly everything under the sun. But he wasn't exactly lying when he said that white nationalism is not a threat, and just involves a small group of people. A few months before he made this seemingly ridiculous quip about the supposed paucity of white nationalist violence worldwide, the New York Times devoted practically a mini-book length feature on why federal officials were asleep at the wheel in taking the threat of white nationalist terror seriously.
The official somnolence on white nationalist violent included the FBI, Dept. of Homeland security, legions of local police departments, and virtually all local elected officials. These agencies could cite meticulous facts on how many real or busted up terror attacks were made or planned by Islamic Jihadists, and even how many bank robberies and car jackings there are annually. But when it comes to murders committed by white nationalist groups, it's a far different story.
The story is a lot more complicated as to why the ignorance about white nationalists then is just a case of sloth and indifference on the part of Trump and federal officials. The Charlottesville rampage in August 2017 was a near textbook example of why the federal blind eye is more than accidental slipshod. Police and city officials there watched as throngs of white nationalists marched, many openly with guns. When the inevitable violence happened, they handled the nationalist thugs with virtual kid glove treatment.
Trump capped things off with his outrageous soft pedal of the violence, and refusal to call the white nationalists the terrorists that they are. City and state officials railed against the violence. But there was a decided sense that they were seen just a fringe groups of kooks and nuts that virtually all Americans condemned. The figures on the number of white nationalists, their colossal internet network, and the fingering of countless numbers of individuals and groups with ties to or sentiments favorable to white nationalist groups belied the fallacious notion of them as kooks and cranks.
There was more. Fresh reports on the white nationalist movement found that their racial, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic inflammatory hate rants and theories had more than a passing appeal to more than a few in some police departments, and the military. Like other similar reports, it was one day in, one day out in the news. The general public was almost totally oblivious to the findings and the warnings. Even the near brag by Iowa Congressman Steve King that he didn't see much wrong with some of the white nationalist styled attacks on immigrants draw mute silence from GOP officials. It wasn't that King was regarded as a wacky guy prone to say outrageously dumb things, or that there was agreement with much of the venom he spewed.
King was merely regarded as a harmless political outlier hardly worth paying attention to and hardly worth the time and effort to go after. Eventually he went too far even for the GOP, and GOP House members with a big show of self-righteous indignation, kicked him off House committees. However, his antics were still seen as an outrage by one silly, wayward congressman, and no more.
The template for the see no evil, hear no evil about violent prone racists was set years earlier. In 2010, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flatly refused several direct, angled and nuanced efforts to discuss racism in the tea party. McConnell's none-too-subtle refusal to weigh in on the issue was in direct response to the NAACP's resolution demanding that the tea party speak out " and speak out loudly " against the racists among them. Long before the NAACP stirred debate on tea party racism with its resolution, a legion of Democrats, civil rights leaders, and even an online petition from an advocacy group, had begged the GOP to speak out against its naked bigots.
No go. The shouts, taunts, spitting, catcalls, Obama as Joker posters, n-word slurs, Confederate and Texas Lone Star flag waved by some tea party activists " and the deafening silence from GOP leaders during then President Obama's early years in office " was very much is an indispensable political necessity for the party.
In a few cases, federal officials did conduct raids on white nationalist haunts, and announced their would-be heavy-duty prosecutions of those committing murder and mayhem. However, other than a momentary news note, or occasional headline in a case, legal action against these groups totally disappeared from the news.
White nationalists also have found another convenient hiding place that gave their cause a quasi-veneer of legitimacy. That is the move by some Southern cities and states to remove the insulting and odious, racist Confederate statutes and monuments. This was the pretense for the Charlottesville march. The pushback to keep the racist monuments has millions of fervent supporters and officials.
The hideous mass carnage in New Zealand, tossed an ugly momentary media and public glare on the maniacal violence that white nationalism spawns. However, there is still the undertone that this is the work of a few loose wired nut cases. Trump honestly believes that. And tragically, far too many others do too.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Russia Probe: What Did Trump Know, And When Did He Know It? (Middle Passage Press) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L46G65X He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.