The first online report of the CERA/Tea Party anti-Indian hate campaign was on April 6, the day of the Anti-Indian Conference in Bellingham, Washington. That report at Get Whatcom Planning, a blog by Western Washington University professor and environmental lawyer Jean Melious, notes the active involvement of the Tea Party and right-wing KGMI radio in promoting the event to attack the treaty rights and water rights of the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe. One of the organizers of the hate campaign, Skip Richards, has a history as a property rights activist of recruiting Christian Patriot militias to back up his domestic terrorist threats. As I noted in Anti-Indian Messaging, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance is simultaneously holding anti-Indian conferences in New York, Massachusetts and California as part of their strategy to mount a national offensive against tribal governments in the United States.
Melious’ concern, as a planning aficionado, was the impact a hate campaign might have on water resource planning in Whatcom county, in particular water resource management in the Nooksack River Basin. In Melious’ April 28 report on right-wing misbehavior at the county planning commission, she expresses her horror at the hyperbole used by a property rights attorney — advocating for official lawlessness in the form of nullification — who performed a similar theatrical function during the right-wing coup of the 1990s.
Nullification, as some might recall, is a states’ rights theory used by Southern states to oppose the federal Civil Rights Act that has roots in the states of the Confederacy. In this instance, it is being advised by attorney Jack Swanson as a tactic to oppose Washington State’s Growth Management Act, but nullification is also a recent topic of discussion among the GOP Liberty Assembly in Washington state, where Constitutionalists affiliated with the Christian Patriot Movement merge with Ron Paul devotees to promote white supremacy and anti-Indian activism. As I noted in Christian Hate, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Washington is chaired by Sandi Brendale, an anti-Indian activist married to Phillip Brendale, a featured speaker at the April 6 anti-Indian conference.
This tactic was used successfully by property rights terrorists in the 1990s, and is apparently now being dusted off for reuse against both the state and the feds. As I noted in Hate For Hire, Charles Tanner Jr’s report Take these Tribes Down leaves no room for doubt about the strategy or motivations of the hate campaign. As right-wing ideologues and agent provocateurs like Skip Richards and Jack Swanson attempt to recreate a political climate of hate, there is a disturbing silence in the community.
Part of that silence is due to the fact that the only daily newspaper in Whatcom county, the Bellingham Herald, covered up the right-wing crimes in the 1990s, thus providing no accurate Institutional Memory as Community Safeguard. While reporting on the 1996 arrests of Christian Patriots by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Herald never exposed the real estate and building industry ringleaders behind the climate of fear, that led to mobilizing resentment in the form of militias. Having provided cover for real estate and building industry officials, the Herald laid the groundwork for the 1990s coup and the subsequent consolidation of political power the Tea Party and white supremacists — with the organizing assistance of CERA — now hope to build on.
The Herald having marginalized all authentic political leadership in Whatcom county in the 1990s, the last bulwark against right-wing terrorism using vigilantes as a pressure group is alternative media, liberal churches and human rights groups. While the Cascadia Weekly reminds us these terrorists have A History of Violence, the liberal churches and human rights groups appear to be asleep at the wheel.
In Mainstream Malice, I wrote briefly about right-wing terrorism in the 1990s in Washington state. The impetus for my reflection was a June 2005 Democracy Now program interview of former FBI undercover agent Mike German. In the interview, German mentioned infiltrating white supremacist meetings that led to the 1996 Whatcom county arrests of Christian Patriot Militia members for firearms and explosives violations. In my 2003 book Blind Spots, I detailed the political climate change that led to these arrests, a climate change organized and funded by the real estate development and building industry.
In my book, I described how the combination of media collusion and corporate corruption led to the corrosion of governance. While the Reign of Terror that Wise Use operatives like Skip Richards, anti-Indian ideologues like Elaine Willman, and Tea Party activists like KGMI radio host Kris Halterman promote might not play out the same this time around, it nevertheless portends a further corrosion of community, and for the Lummi Nation, a looming threat to the safety of the members of their tribe.
As I noted in The Umbrella Group, in 1996, when Eric Ward at Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment stated he was terrified with the idea of militias being able to utilize the electoral force of Wise Use groups to legitimize racist based policies regionally and nationally, he wasn’t referring to some vague threat. He was talking about a reality on the ground. Unfortunately, in Whatcom county, Washington, Wise Use ideology and anti-Indian rhetoric today — as the Tea Party and Wise Use hate entrepreneurs try to capitalize on fear over water rights and anxiety over economic salvation by the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal — again threaten to throw the region into turmoil .
A community’s incapacity to deal with social phenomena like hate campaigns creates a popular psychosis where such aberrations as the Tea Party, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance and Christian Patriot Militias are rationalized as normal, which, unfortunately, becomes a self-fulfilling interpretation. To break out of this popular psychosis, citizens of Whatcom county and Washington state need a more realistic estimate of the situation.
When most people read news like this, they assume that someone else in their community will take care of the problem. Law enforcement, human rights groups, churches, some government agency. Were it only so. History teaches us law enforcement responds when there’s a corpse, moral authorities when there’s malicious harassment. Sometimes human rights groups once there are death threats or physical assaults. Last time the hate campaign organizer noted in this article ran amok, it took a cross-burning and death threats against public officials and candidates to mobilize civil society to organize themselves and act. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that much to get them mobilized this time.
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