For her, Trump isn’t Hitler. He’s worse.

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Sunsara Taylor

Recently we spent a few days recounting the curious careers of Bob Avakian, longtime head of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and his loyal sidekick Carl Dix.

As it happens, there’s a third figure who looms large in the RCP and who deserves her place in the sun on this website. Her name: Sunsara Taylor. She surfaced recently on the Fox News program Tucker Carlson Tonight, where she was identified as an “organizer” of a movement called Refuse Fascism. Its exclamation-point-heavy website explains its position:

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Bob Avakian

In the Name of Humanity,

We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!

Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime!

The Trump/Pence Regime is a Fascist Regime. Not insult or exaggeration, this is what it is. For the future of humanity and the planet, we, the people, must drive this regime out.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence have assembled a vicious cabal that has put forth positions and begun initiatives which demonstrate that they fully intend to shred political and social norms with catastrophic consequence. Because Trump has his finger on the nuclear trigger, the Trump/Pence regime is more dangerous to the world than even Hitler….

The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law…IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.

During her six-minute appearance on Carlson’s show, Taylor may have set a world record for comparing Trump to Hitler. “We the people,” she insisted, “must drive this regime out!” Donald Trump and Mike Pence, she charged, “are operating out of Hitler’s playbook.” She referred to Trump’s “Nazi inauguration.” Her prescription for change: “We need to pour into the streets and say no….We must drive them out. We must stay in the streets.”

Quite a show. But as it turns out, Refuse Fascism is only the latest in a long list of groups with which Taylor has been involved. Or perhaps the proper term should be “pseudo-groups” or “front groups,” because in fact Taylor has, all along, been nothing more or less than an RCP operative and a devout disciple of Avakian.

no-stoptrumppencemosaicenspfararabv1These various groups or sub-movements (or whatever you want to call them) have come and gone over the years, rising up at a certain point – apparently in an effort to catch a wave of public feeling – and then disappearing when the wave breaks on the shore. They all involve a good deal of money-grubbing. Case in point: Refuse Fascism’s Facebook page urges supporters “to start out with a $5 donation” and be “part of crowdfunding this movement to stop this fascist, illegitimate regime from ruling.”

Tomorrow we’ll take a little stroll through Sunsara Taylor’s previous attempt to overthrow the U.S.A. – and rake in cash for the RCP.

Socialism’s triumph: Oil-rich Venezuela is out of gas

Nicolas Maduro

As the Venezuelan economy continues to circle the drain, perhaps the quintessential symbol of the extraordinary personal incompetence of President Nicolás Maduro and of the thoroughgoing failure of the socialist system he inherited from his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, has been the mind-boggling inability of this, one of the top oil-producing nations on earth, to meet its own people’s demand for gasoline. This shortfall has occurred despite the fact that Venezuela has actually been importing fuel – for most of which, according to reports, it has been unable to pay its bills.

Cars lined up for gas at Maturin, Venezuela, on March 23

Over the last few months, despite continual reassurances by Maduro, the supply crisis has only gotten worse. On February 21, Maduro promised “good news soon” because he had installed a “new PDVSA board” that was dedicated to fighting “corruption and unnecessary costs.” On March 22, however, thanks to maintenance issues, production challenges, shipping difficulties, and a shortage of working trucks attributed to a lack of spare parts – in other words, significant problems at pretty much every stage of the oil extraction and distribution process – the situation had deteriorated to a point at which the entire nation was experiencing a critical shortage of petrol. At gas stations across the country, dozens of cars could be seen queued up, their owners hoping in vain to be able to fill their tanks.

Eulogio del Pino

Aside from the magnificently unmasterly Maduro himself, the personification of this embarrassing dilemma is Eulogio del Pino, president of the country’s colossal oil entity, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which is the primary engine of the nation’s economic power, such as it is. Or was. In a touch that would seem insane in the policies of any country but that these days seems par for the course for the Bolivarian Republic, just a couple of days ago came the news that Venezuela, despite its domestic oil crunch and its emergency oil-import policy, had not only continued but stepped up fuel exports to Cuba, Nicaragua, and other allies.

On March 23, a man in Maturin pushes his car after running out of gas

But, as with much else about Venezuela’s current, many-faceted nightmare, the chief culprit here seems to be Maduro himself. Apparently more interested, even now, in shoring up and enhancing his own power than in trying to rescue his nation from catastrophe, he’s dismissed relatively skilled key officials in the PDVSA and replaced them with his political and military cronies, most of whom have little or no background in the oil business – or, for that matter, in the competent management of anything. Other PDVSA executives, recognizing that Maduro’s hirings and firings are only helping to drive the state-owned company even further into the ground, have jumped ship of their own accord, presumably recognizing that at this point, under present governance, the whole massive enterprise is, quite simply, doomed.  

In the midst of all this drama, Del Pino, in what can only be read as a display of the remarkably tone-deaf insouciance that so often characterizes the mindless, mediocre agents of ineffectual and indifferent authoritarian states, visited a fuel distribution plant where, in response to a chorus of irate complaints by laborers about their working conditions and salaries, simply smiled inanely, loftily ignoring their concerns. Somehow, that distant and detached reaction seemed the perfect summing-up of the whole ridiculous tragedy.

Hooey from Hughey

So far this week we’ve met a couple of college professors who, not realizing they were being videotaped, browbeat their students after Donald Trump’s election victory – and ended up going viral. Today we’ll pay a quick visit to an academic who went public himself with his reaction to the election results.

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Matthew Hughey

His name: Matthew Hughey. An Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut (he’s also on the Adjunct Faculty of the Africana Studies Institute and American Studies Program), he’s written several books with titles like The White Savior Film; Race and Ethnicity in Secret and Exclusive Social Orders; White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race; The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?; and 12 Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today.

Plainly, the red thread running through his work is race. According to him, all of his scholarship is guided by a single question: “What is the relationship between the heterogeneous interpretations of race and the long-term staying power of racism and racial inequality?” We’re not sure that we entirely understand this question, but let’s not allow that to distract us. In order to probe his guiding question, Hughey explains, he studies “race and ethnicity as a dynamic and ongoing practice with an emphasis on racism, meaning-making, and asymmetrical relations of power.” So race and ethnicity are practices? Or, rather, a practice? Welcome to academia. “A thorough scholastic comprehension of race,” Hughey maintains, “must move beyond views of static identities or ideologies. Rather, an understanding of the processes and contexts that produce race, how race is imbued with particular meanings, and how race constrains and enables pathways of human action and order, is necessary.”

Um, what? Hold on, his next paragraph is quite a bit clearer:

I situate my worldview against concepts of social life that are entirely individualistic and which analyze society only in terms of psychological make-up, skills, and atomistic behaviors. These assumptions gesture toward a belief that social structures will magically change via one’s hard work, good intentions, or education. History affords too many examples of participation by the “righteous,” “educated,” and “hard-working” in structures of oppression to allow any objective observer of social life to accept that notion that equitable or just social arrangements are based entirely on the redemption of the individual without direct attention to external social forces.

Simply put: black people are still held back by racism, no matter how skilled they are and how hard they work. There’s a degree of truth in this, of course. Prejudice has held back all kinds of people in every society throughout human history. The main point, however, should be that America today is less racist than virtually any country at any time, ever. Four years ago, as it happens, the World Values Survey found that the U.S. is one of the least racist countries on earth. Check out this map, which suggests that a serious, scrupulous scholar who was genuinely interested in exploring racism would do far better to study India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia – in fact almost anywhere outside of the Americas, the Anglosphere, and Scandinavia – than to focus on the U.S.

racism

But to the likes of Hughey, racism in the above-named countries – racism everywhere other than in the West – is invisible. Or irrelevant. Or, perhaps, attributable, via some contorted academic logic, to Western colonialism and/or American imperialism. For the whole point of the kind of “scholarship” that people like Hughey pursue is to prove, for the millionth time, that America is Ground Zero for all human iniquity. Again, yes, there is abundant iniquity in the U.S. But there’s more of it almost everywhere else on the planet. And to ignore that fact as systematically as Hughey and other academics in the social sciences do today is to give a pass to a great deal of outright evil.

Which brings us to Hughey’s take on Donald Trump’s election. He wasn’t happy with it, of course – and he blamed it on (what else?) white supremacism. When confronted on this assertion by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Hughey readily added that Trump’s ascendancy was also the fault of three other vices: sexism, heteronormativity, and capitalism. But the main cause of Trump’s win, he insisted, was race – because America is and has always been afflicted by white supremacy. There was, to be sure, one little detail Hughey didn’t explain: how had an electorate so thoroughly and permanently poisoned by a white supremacist mentality managed to elect a black man to the presidency twice in a row?

Joseph Massad, Jew-hating propagandist

His 2013 article “The Last of the Semites,” published on the website of the Al-Jazeera TV network, has been described by The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg as “one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory.” Paul S. Appelbaum, a Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Law at Columbia, maintained that the essay reflected a “profound ignorance of Jewish history” and that it had, in fact, represented a deliberate effort to “slander…Jews and Christians simultaneously.”

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Joseph Massad

We’re talking about Joseph Massad, the Columbia University professor who, as we saw yesterday, is a vile and dishonest anti-Semite. This is, after all, a man who has argued that “all the good Jews were killed in the Holocaust” and has claimed that early Zionists collaborated with the Nazis, to wit: “The Nazis’ Final Solution initially meant the expulsion of Germany’s Jews to Madagascar….It is this shared goal of expelling Jews from Europe as a separate unassimilable race that created the affinity between Nazis and Zionists all along.” Scholars who are actually experts in the history of Nazism and Zionism have thoroughly refuted Massad’s claims – and expressed contempt for them: “Zionism, according to Massad, emerged not as a response to European anti-Semitism but in sympathy with its racialist precepts,” writes columnist Liam Hoare, who views Massad’s equation of Nazism and Zionism as “the statement of a sick and disordered mind.”

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Columbia University

When he was up for tenure, Massad insisted that, one student’s accusation to the contrary, he had never equated Israel and Nazi Germany. Such an equation, he said, would be “abhorrent…reprehensible.” But after he had been granted tenure, Massad saw no further need to misrepresent his views: in a 2009 article entitled “The Gaza Ghetto Uprising,” he charged Israel with planning to “make Israel a purely Jewish state that is Palästinener-rein” – a formulation that explicitly identified Israel with Nazi Germany. He’s also maintained that the Israeli Defense Forces are composed of “brigades of baby-killers.”

For Massad, Israel isn’t the Jewish homeland – it’s an outpost of American imperialism. And though the Jordan-born Massad has found great success in America, he appears to have nothing but contempt for it. In a 2004 article for the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, he depicted America as an apocalyptic nightmare of misogyny and “violent racism.” He referred to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War as “the US invasion of Vietnam” and wrote about that war as if the U.S. were the sole, or at least by far the worst, aggressor. He complained that while Westerners “never tire of speaking of sexism and women’s oppression in the Arab World, including the Western horror at ‘honour crimes,’ it might be time to address the rampant Western misogyny which disdains all that is feminine and posits women as the terrain of male conquest.”

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Abner Louima

He suggested that women in America are in greater danger of being murdered by their husbands and boyfriends than their counterparts in the Muslim world. He argued that the American military systematically “freminise[s]” Iraqi men. He cited the bizarre 1997 case of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, who was rectally violated by a broomstick wielded by sadistic New York City policemen, as proof “that white American male sexuality exhibits certain sadistic attributes in the presence of non-white men and women over whom white Americans (and Brits) have government- sanctioned racialised power.” And he argued that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib, far from being unreflective of American military conduct in general, was “emblematic of American and British imperial cultures not only at present but also historically.” In short, Americans are “rednecks” who view Muslims and Arabs with a “concentrated spirit of hatred” that causes them to act upon “the most savage and barbaric of instincts.”

To read Massad, one would think that Palestinians were innocent victims, that Saddam’s monstrous acts of violence against his own people had never taken place, that Arab and Muslim cultures are peaceable kingdoms – oases of civilized conduct and respect for women beside which American society is primitive, brutal, and permeated with rape. “[T]he content of the word ‘freedom’ that American politicians and propagandists want to impose on the rest of the world,” he wrote, “is nothing more and nothing less than America’s violent domination, racism, torture, sexual humiliation, and the rest of it.” No Taliban propagandist could have put it better.

Joseph Massad’s “blatant fabrications”

During the last week and more we’ve been strolling through Columbia University’s Hall of Shame. We’ve met Hamid Dabashi and Gil Anidjar, both of them Professors of Middle Eastern Studies who, hired to teach culture and history, have instead filled their students’ heads with outright lies born of ugly prejudice.

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Joseph Massad

Here’s a third member of that club: Joseph Massad. Not only is he a member of the Columbia faculty; he received his Ph.D. from that institution. Middle East expert Martin Kramer, indeed, has described Massad as “the ultimate mutant in the Columbia freak show” and as “a thoroughly Columbia creation. Columbia gave him his doctorate, Columbia University Press published it, and Columbia gave him his tenure-track job.” Kramer has also identified Massad as one of several Columbia professors who “have distinguished themselves in the black art of defaming Israel as a Holocaust emulator.”

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Gilead Ini

Born in Jordan in 1963, Massad has often been at the center of controversy owing to his statements about Jews. As Gilead Ini of CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) wrote in 2005, Massad “redefines anti-Semitism, Jews and Israel to suit his radical agenda.” For Massad, Ini noted, Israel is a “racist settler colony,” consistently brutal and sadistic; the Palestinians, however brutal and sadistic they may actually be, are in fact doing nothing other than pursuing their “legitimate rights…to resist.”

Ini summed it up as follows: “To Massad, it seems, everything about Israel is racist, whereas the notion of Arab ‘anti-Semitism’ – set in scare quotes – is mocked.” What about anti-Semitism directed at Jews, especially by Muslims? For Massad, there is no such thing; Jews have been transformed by their own modern history from the victims to the perpetrators of anti-Semitism, with Muslims and Arabs as the new victims thereof. Massad’s picture of anti-Semitism today is very clear and utterly divorced from reality: for him, Muslims who deny the Holocaust aren’t anti-Semites; Zionist Jews are.

massadbookIndeed, Massad has argued that today’s Jews aren’t really Jews at all – he denies that they descend from the Hebrews of the Bible. To claim otherwise, he has written, is “preposterous.” Instead, it’s the Palestinians who are the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. Today’s Israeli Jews, far from reclaiming their ancient homeland, are merely tools of “European white supremacy,” instruments of Western colonialism. He even dares to maintain that in the 1930s, while the Nazis were carrying out Kristallnacht against Jews in Germany, Jews in the Holy Land were eagerly taking part in “British colonial death squads that murdered Palestinian revolutionaries between 1936 and 1939.”

As Ini points out, this is a mirror image of the truth: “In 1936, Arabs launched a six month campaign of violence against Jews and their property.” Some Jews retaliated, but, as an official British report stated at the time, “in times of disturbance the Jews, as compared with the Arabs, are the law-abiding section of the population, and indeed, throughout the whole series of outbreaks, and under very great provocation, they have shown a notable capacity for discipline and self-restraint.” But this lie, according to Ini, is only one of innumerable instances in Massad’s writings in which he “relies heavily on quotes taken out of context” or on “blatant fabrications” in order to paint various distinguished Israelis as anti-Arab bigots.

But there’s more. Tune in tomorrow.

Defending Ahmadinejad

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013, called the Holocaust a “myth” and a “lie” and maintained that AIDS was a Western plot to destroy the Third World. He banned Western music from Iranian radio and TV and severely limited Internet access for most Iranian citizens. Even more than his predecessor, he cracked down on protests and tortured dissidents. He persecuted women and academics and forced scientists into retirement. Oh, and he promised to “wipe Israel off the map.”

On September 24, 2007, at the invitation of Columbia University’s then president, Lee Bollinger, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at Columbia as part of its annual World Leaders Forum. While some members of the university community publicly criticized the invitation, others cheered Ahmadinejad on his arrival. For them, it appeared, hailing the Iranian leader was yet another way to express their contempt for then U.S. President George W. Bush.

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Lee Bollinger

Ahmadinejad’s speech received a mixed reception. Audience members laughed when he insisted that there were no gays in Iran, but applauded his negative remarks about Bush and the U.S. government and his insistence on the need to study “the root causes of 9/11.” The introduction to Ahmadinejad’s speech was given by Bollinger himself, who took the opportunity to call him “a petty and cruel dictator.” Bollinger may not have been the most hospitable of hosts, but his remarks were nothing less than factual.

But Hamid Dabashi, the Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia whom we’ve been discussing this week, was outraged. Writing in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahran, he condemned Bollinger’s remarks in the harshest terms. Bollinger, he maintained, was a “white supremacist” whose remarks exuded “mind-numbing racism.” They echoed “the most ridiculous clichés of the neocon propaganda machinery, wrapped in the missionary position of a white racist supremacist carrying the heavy burden of civilizing the world.” They were, indeed, nothing less than examples of “propaganda warfare…waged by the self-proclaimed moral authority of the United States.”

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Hamid Dabashi

A columnist at the New York Sun suggested that Dabashi’s article was “perhaps the most severe public indictment yet of Mr. Bollinger’s behavior.” Judith Jacobson, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia, called Dabashi’s article “sheer demagoguery,” adding that “attributing President Bollinger’s remarks or behavior to racism is absurd.”

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Ward Churchill

Then along came Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder who attracted national attention in 2005 because of an essay in which he’d described those killed at the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns.” Charged soon afterwards with plagiarism and other types of professional misconduct, he won support from fellow radical academics around the U.S. One of them was Dabashi, who in a published statement compared himself and other professors who had rallied around Churchill to the members of the slave army in the 1960 movie Spartacus who, when a Roman general demands that they identify their leader so that he can be executed, refuse to do so and instead stand up and say, one after the other, “I am Spartacus!” “Today,” wrote Dabashi, “every single professor teaching in the remotest parts of this country with an abiding conviction in the moral duty of democratic dissent is Ward Churchill. In the company of that magnificent chorus of hope for the democratic future of this country, I too am Ward Churchill.” Churchill was fired anyway.

Lies, bullying, and Jew-bashing: Hamid Dabashi

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Hamid Dabashi

In 2004, a Boston-based group called the David Project produced a 40-minute video, Columbia Unbecoming, in which fourteen Columbia University students and recent graduates recounted classroom encounters with anti-Israel “bias and intimidation” on the part of various faculty members in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC). Among the three professors who were considered most guilty of this offense was Hamid Dabashi, whom we met yesterday and who, as Israeli-British historian Ephraim Karsh later reported in Commentary, “was accused of, among other things, canceling classes to attend, and to permit his students to attend, a pro-Palestinian rally on campus that featured a call for Israel’s destruction.” In Dabashi’s view, wrote Karsh, “Israel not only has no legitimate place but can hardly be said to exist, except as an unnamed Dark Force.”

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Ephraim Karsh

In 2002, a Columbia University student named Aharon wrote an op-ed critical of Dabashi in the New York Post. Three years later, Dabashi claimed in a radio interview that he’d “stopped speaking publicly” after Aharon’s Post piece “because of a rash of threatening phone calls” that he had received from readers of it. During the radio interview, Dabashi played a recording of one of the phone calls, in which the caller said the following: “Mr. Dabashi, I read about you in today’s New York Post. You stinking terrorist Muslim pig. I hope the CIA is studying you so it can kick you out of this country back to some filthy Arab country where you belong, you terrorist bastard.” Aharon pointed out that three years earlier, in an article for the Times Higher Education Supplement, Dabashi had cited the exact same phone message. “This double use of the same call, years apart,” wrote Aharon,

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Edward Said

spurs several thoughts:

  1. It confirms my doubts about the onslaught of threatening calls he supposedly received due to my critique. The call he received is indeed vile and inexcusable, but it is not a threat. (Meaning, law enforcement would not find it actionable.)
  2. The recycling of this call years apart confirms how few calls he received – or why else would Dabashi keep coming back to the same old one?
  3. Dabashi falsely presented a call from 2002 as though it happened in 2005.
  4. His claim in the March 6, 2005, radio interview that he “has stopped speaking publicly” because of threatening phone calls is untrue. [Aharon proceeded to list several occasions since 2002 on which Dabashi had, indeed, given speeches in public.]
  5. Dabashi’s inability to get the facts of his own life correctly emulates his mentor, Edward Said, who famously lied about his childhood, as Justus Weiner so remarkably exposed in a September 1999 article, “’My Beautiful Old House’ and Other Fabrications of Edward Said.”

But all this is just prologue to Dabashi’s more egregious offenses. More tomorrow.