Sure, Nazis Are Killing People But The DHS's Katie Gorka Wants To Focus On Antifascists
As we have documented here, extensively, there is a rising problem with right-wing extremism and right-wing extremist violence in the United States. Unfortunately, regardless of how bad that problem gets, federal law enforcement agencies under Trump seem to be taking a "If we close our eyes it's not actually there and no one will associate our belief system with mass shootings" approach to dealing with this bullshit.
In a July 2017 email obtained by the Huffington Post, Katie Gorka -- wife of Sebastian Gorka and a Trump appointee to the DHS -- suggested that the DHS' Countering Violent Extremism program redirect its focus on "actual threats" like Antifa.
Via Huffington Post
Gorka, a senior policy adviser at the DHS, made the suggestion in response to a request from then–Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, who was apparently unhappy about critical media coverage of the agency's revamped Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. Kelly wanted staffers to come up with examples of organizations "that counter-hate groups," an aide wrote in an email, which HuffPost obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Gorka couldn't think of any specific groups, she wrote in response. But "it would also be important to get the data on the actual threats right now," she added, "because my understanding is that the far-left groups (Antifa, or anti-fascist) are currently on the rise."
This would be a real concern for the DHS were there antifascists going around killing people, which they are not doing. Or if they were significantly more prone to violence than, say, Red Sox fans after losing a game (or winning a game, for that matter). But the vast majority of what Antifa does is research, and occasionally engaging in violence in order to protect people from literal Nazis is really just not the same thing as going on a shooting spree or sending mail bombs or bombing an abortion clinic.
Other emails obtained in the FOIA request show Gorka and other Trump officials trying to figure out a way to strip some organizations of their CVE grants. One of these grantees was Life After Hate -- a group of former white supremacists who work to get people out of the movement. The group, which does amazing work, got $400,000 in funding until founder Christian Piccolini (who is no longer with the organization) tweeted "Fuck you, asshole" to Donald Trump. Because the President's fragile ego is apparently more important than encouraging people to not be Nazis.
The other organization that Gorka and others were so very eager to get rid of was the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which provides counseling and mental health services in Muslim communities. At a loss for how to justify revoking their grant, they settled on just arbitrarily accusing the group of having ties to terrorism:
So DHS aides got to work finding reasons to justify revoking the grants for MPAC and Life After Hate. "We have enough material on Life After hate [sic] but are coming up short on MPAC," Gorka wrote in an email to then–DHS official John Barsa, who tweets things like "Is Islam a Religion of Peace?" "I thought the Congressional letter might be helpful. Do you have an electronic copy you can send me?" The emails released through FOIA do not indicate which congressional letter she is referring to.
On June 1, Gorka and Barsa received a memo from a redacted sender with "recommended language" to justify revoking funding to the two groups. The memo claimed, without evidence, that "MPAC, and individuals affiliated with the organization, have been publicly accused of sanitizing terrorism, being affiliated with groups that some claim have ties to terrorism, and making anti-Semitic statements."
Do Gorka and other Trump officials sincerely believe that if the DHS leaves right-wing extremists alone and focuses on Antifa that no one is going to notice when we keep having right-wing terrorist attacks and zero anti-fascist mass shootings? Is that what they're going for? Like, sure -- the Trumpists looooooooooove doing the silly propaganda thing where they disingenuously claim to be afraid of Antifa and bring up Antifa every time someone brings up right-wing violence as if the two are remotely comparable, but other people are probably going to catch on at some point.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse