Tennessee state Sen. Bill Ketron was identified by BuzzFeed as one of a long list of public officials who'd made Islamophobic remarks. Credit: Erik Schelzig/Associated Press

In this week’s roundup: The false narrative around the Pulse shooting, white supremacist messaging through diapers and what internal DOJ documents say about civil rights.

The journalists who cover hate across America have been on fire recently.

This week, we wanted to round up some of the best recent longreads on the topics of hate and extremism. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Muslim-bashing (mostly GOP) politicians: BuzzFeed News

From a state lawmaker in Oklahoma who refused to meet with Muslim constituents unless they answered a questionnaire asking whether they beat their wives to the long history of Islamophobia by national security adviser John Bolton, BuzzFeed found examples of Islamophobia by public officials in every U.S. state except Utah.

The money quote:

The anti-Muslim rhetoric in virtually every state reflects the general coarsening of political speech in the anything-goes era of President Donald Trump, who’s lashed out at Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, women, and other targets. Still, the jabs at Islam are set apart by their sheer ugliness as well as by companion efforts aimed at restricting Muslim civil liberties and immigration.  

Pulse nightclub shooting coverage: The Huffington Post

Just about everybody made the wrong conclusions about the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, in which Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded another 58. That’s according to a searing analysis by Huffington Post reporter Melissa Jeltsen.

In the wake of the shooting, journalists from both ends of the political spectrum labeled the tragedy a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community. But evidence unearthed in the trial of Mateen’s widow, Noor Salman, shows that homophobia likely played little, if any, role in the attack.

Mateen had originally planned to shoot up the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex, prosecutors admitted in court. When he showed up at Pulse, he reportedly asked a security guard where all the women were.

The authoritative analysis is just part of a series of excellent stories on the trial of Salman (who earlier this month was found not guilty of aiding her husband).

The money quote:

Mateen may very well have been homophobic. He supported ISIS, after all, and his father, an FBI informant currently under criminal investigation, told NBC that his son once got angry after seeing two men kissing. But whatever his personal feelings, the overwhelming evidence suggests his attack was not motivated by it.

Target fired an employee for putting “It’s Okay to Be White” cards into boxes of diapers: BuzzFeed

Retail giant Target has fired an employee for covertly inserting laminated cards bearing white supremacist messages into packages of diapers.

The cards, which were reportedly distributed in diaper packages sold in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., contained links to white supremacist websites of groups like the Traditionalist Workers Party and The Daily Stormer. The cards also contained the white supremacist slogan, “It’s Okay to Be White.”

The cards were found in diaper packages sold through Target’s brick-and-mortar locations and via its website.

“After being made aware of the situation, we immediately launched a thorough investigation to address the concerns and put a stop to it,” a Target spokesman told BuzzFeed in a statement. “We have identified the source, and given this is a violation of our policies and our commitment to inclusivity, terminated the team member.”

Earlier this year, we reported that neo-Nazi groups have made a deliberate effort to target young people for recruitment.

But this is ridiculous.

Stormfront is drying up

When it comes to online white supremacist sites, Stormfront is the granddaddy of them all. For over two decades, it’s been a key destination for hate on the web. Its users were responsible for over 100 murders between 2009 and 2014, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. However, SPLC is now reporting that the site’s fiscal outlook is putting its future in jeopardy.

In a post flagged by the SPLC, Stormfront founder Don Black spelled out his money woes:

A financial crisis looms at Stormfront. Donations are down. That’s partly due to defunding machinations by the “Intolerance Crowd” who hate free speech and White Pride. We don’t have enough money to cover the bills right now. Thus Stormfront patriarch Don Black must limit access to this site to Sustaining Members as of April 6. Only those folks who make a donation will be able to read or post here at that time. This is a temporary, emergency measure.

At present, only members who have donated to the site are currently allowed to post, but its archive is still openly available.

Here’s the money quote from the SPLC article about Stormfront’s financial problems:

Stormfront, which represents one of the most complete and stable archives of white supremacist content in existence, functioned for years as an onboarding document for burgeoning white supremacists. With the temporary restriction of access to guests and free users and downgraded servers looming, a longstanding pillar of white supremacy looks poised to fall.

For more on the Stormfront and its family drama, check out the Washington Post’s longread about how Don Black’s son Derek, groomed virtually from birth to be a white supremacist leader, decided to split from the hate movement.

Now for our own work: DOJ’s civil rights workers lose faith in their senior leadership

Staffers in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are notably less positive about their senior leadership under the Trump administration than they were under President Barack Obama, according to survey results we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

For example:

  • Between 2016 and 2017, the number of people agreeing with the statement, “My organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity,” dropped from 70.9 percent to 42.7 percent.
  • For the statement, “I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders,” positive responses dropped from 72.3 percent to 39.9 percent.
  • In 2016, 71.5 percent said they were satisfied with their organization as a whole. In 2017, 57.3 percent said the same.

Sharon McGowan, former deputy chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Appellate Section, put the blame on the shoulders of its political appointees, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore.

The money quote:

“It wasn’t just that Trump was appointing people who didn’t have civil rights experience,” McGowan told us, “he was appointing people who actively opposed the mission of the organization itself.”

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Have a hate incident to report? Tell us about it here, or contact The Hate Report team: Aaron Sankin can be reached at asankin@revealnews.org, and Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org. Follow them on Twitter: @asankin and @willcarless.

 

Will Carless was a correspondent for Reveal covering extremism. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and South America. Prior to joining Reveal, he was a senior correspondent for Public Radio International’s Global Post team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Before that, Will spent eight years at the Voice of San Diego, where he worked as an investigative reporter and head of investigations. During his tenure in San Diego, Will was awarded several prizes, including a national award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has been a finalist for the Livingston Awards for young journalists twice in the last five years. He surfs, spends time with his family, travels to silly places and pretends he’s writing a novel.

Aaron Sankin is a reporter for Reveal covering online extremism, election administration and technology policy. Before joining Reveal, he was a founding editor of The Huffington Post's San Francisco vertical and a senior staff writer on The Daily Dot's politics team. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Salon, Time, The Motley Fool, Mashable, Business Insider, San Francisco magazine and The Onion. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Sankin studied history and sociology at Rice University. His work at The Daily Dot was a finalist in Digiday's 2015 publisher of the year award, and a story he wrote about a Midwestern family being terrorized by a teenage hacker was labeled by The Atlantic as an essential piece of journalism for 2015. Sankin is based in Seattle.