The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
Rolling Stone: Meet Alex Jones, the most paranoid man in America, and the leader of the conspiracist right.
Raw Story: Joyful white guys finish ahead of struggling woman, black man in promotional shot for Georgia college’s catalog.
E&E News: Minnesota lawmaker calls Bundy supporters ‘thugs,’ urges BLM to seek justice for standoff behavior.
Raw Story: Gay lawmaker shames Idaho colleagues for legislation calling for the impeachment of federal judges who legalize same-sex marriage.
Army Times: Army investigates vicious ‘Racial Thursdays’ tradition at battalion in Alaska.
Salon: Laura Ingraham’s compares Arabic version of Pledge of Allegiance to a neo-Nazi version.
Los Angeles Times: FBI says ‘community deserves answers’ in hanging of black Mississippi man, as preliminary autopsy suggests suicide.
Right Wing Watch: Peter LaBarbera claims gays ‘seeking to penetrate the minds of youth,’ just like Hitler.
While most militia organizers in the United States focus their energies on combating what they see as domestic enemies — particularly the federal government and other alleged participants in a nefarious “New World Order” scheme to enslave Americans — in recent weeks there have been a handful of so-called “Patriots” who have decided it’s more worthwhile to focus their attention overseas. They say they are organizing to fight Islamic State (ISIS) radicals in the Middle East.
The men behind of these efforts — one based in Arkansas, one in Florida — claim to be forming armed squads of militiamen to fly into ISIS hotspots in Iraq and Syria and combat the enemy on the ground. Neither, however, appear to be anything more than a fundraising operation built around pure fantasies.
Their grandiose claims verge on the utterly ridiculous. One promoter, a man who will only identify himself by the alias Swandog, says he’s building a multi-billion dollar operation, will soon have a force of 7,000 specialized military and intelligence operators, and will pay each of them more than $100,000. There is not a shred of known evidence to suggest there’s anything real behind the swaggering talk.
Swandog, a “commander” so brave he refuses to identify himself by name, described for a credulous local Arkansas TV news report his plans for assembling a multi-billion-dollar effort to combat ISIS with volunteers to his “private militia.” With a straight face, the TV station asserted that Swandog “reportedly already has men on the ground in the Middle East” and has raised “tens of millions of dollars.” It even presented a local “expert” who said the effort “seems to be genuine” and could work. In the report, the designated expert, a local criminology professor and former Green Beret, offers no evidence at all for his belief.
“Team Swandog currently numbers just under 500. We are recruiting actively,” Swandog told KTHV-TV reporters from nearby Little Rock. “Right now we do have six advance teams in the theater of operation; they’re in non-combat roles just doing prep work for our arrival.”
He told the reporter that he is recruiting former Special Operations and intelligence personnel, as well as snipers, medics and support staff. He also claimed that he was offering them a base annual salary of $120,000.
Swandog makes some big claims about money: “Most of our funding comes from businesses and churches, we don’t do very much individual fundraising at all. Depending on how fast we want to do this operation, we can do it in the course of two years on about $10 billion, now that’s going to be a fraction of the cost of a full-fledged military operation.”
Without a hint of irony, he also claimed that the team was being selective about just who could sign up. “The challenge is: we deal with a lot of posers, we deal with a lot of people who claim to be a former Navy SEAL or former CIA and we can weed them out just through the interview process,” he said.
Swandog could be describing himself. After a little sleuthing, Hatewatch learned that Swandog’s real name is David Paul Brennan, and he is a Searcy, Ark., man who has at various times in his career has described himself as a “professional badass” and boasted about his supposedly high intelligence-test scores, but who has in fact never served in the military, and has never worked for any intelligence-gathering service.
Brennan acknowledged all this in an interview with Hatewatch. “I do not have a military background,” he said. “About all I’m willing to put out there is having ties to the intelligence community.”
He claimed that he actually represents a team of more than two dozen people who have worked together to formulate a citizens’ strategy for defeating ISIS overseas. “We kind of all met a few years back. We didn’t even know each other until a few years ago; we met at a tattoo shop — the core group — and then kind of added to our little group since then. And when we noticed what was going on with the Islamic State, and we started to research it and realize that everything America does plays into exactly what it is that radicalizes these people and makes more of them, we felt like we needed to try to do something about it.”
Brennan claimed that the group has so far assembled more than $40 million in support from his network, and has already deployed some of its team into the “theater of operations” in the Middle East.
“We are putting together an actual combatant force, which is going to be 3,000 strong, and we’ll have 2,000 in reserve here plus a support element, for a total of 7,000 paid positions for us. And when you get an operation that large, it does take a lot of funding.
“We have raised a considerable amount of money that is funding our advance teams that are in the theater now. And they’re pretty well getting the lay of the land for us. … It’s a pretty robust human-intelligence operation. And that is ongoing. That has funding through the end of April.”
Brennan said these advance-team members are all American citizens. “Most of them come from either the intelligence community, whether it’s defense intelligence agencies, Central Intelligence Agency, or one of the other agencies, or they come from a private security background,” he told Hatewatch.Brennan has created a “Team Swandog” website that lays out their strategy. In a video posted to the site, he described the grand strategy in greater detail.
“We are rising up to destroy the Islamic State and eradicate radical fundamentalist Islam from the face of the planet and we have a strategy to do it with a relative handful of guys compared to a full-scale military invasion. We’re going to do it with a strategy of unconventional warfare, guerrilla tactics,” he boasts.
“Now how do we destroy the Islamic State? We do it by using guerrilla tactics—by unconventional warfare. That’s how we do it. We go in with very inferior numbers as to what is on the ground there to the number of Islamic State fighters there are. But we use superior tactics and superior training. Now our strategy will result in the destruction of the Islamic State by three avenues. One, by tactical victories on the ground; two, by eroding the morale of the Islamic State; and three, by undermining the legitimacy of the Islamic State.”
Calling the fight against ISIS a “religious war,” he continued: “I’m asking you to help Team Swandog on behalf of the United States of America, on behalf of a people who have lost faith in their government to protect them. I’m asking you to help us destroy the Islamic State now. Sooner rather than later, and eradicate this evil ideology of radical fundamentalist Islam from the face of the earth.”
He made a plea for volunteers, too: “Even if you’re just a good old boy who happens to be really good with a high-power rifle, I need you. I can put you to work as a sniper, killing these Islamic State douchebags.” ( continue to full post… )
CNN: FBI investigating death of African-American man found hanging from a tree in Mississippi.
Media Matters: Bill O’Reilly resorts to string of anti-Semitic tropes in making attack on George Soros.
Arizona Republic: Sheriff Joe Arpaio admits to contempt of court in racial-profiling case, offers to make public acknowledgement.
SFGate: California initiative calling for homosexuals to be shot will likely be presented to voters.
Talking Points Memo: In interview on Fox News, white parents condemn Black History Month at their child’s school.
Gawker: New op-ed writer for New York Times has a colorful history of associations with far-right, racist publications.
DiversityInc: Missouri’s lieutenant governor says Justice Department is ‘staffed with Marxists and black radicals.’
New York Daily News: Aryan Brotherhood member reportedly threatens to kill O.J. Simpson in Nevada prison for cutting in line.
OC Weekly: Neo-Nazis try to turn St. Patrick’s Day concert into a brawl, but band drop-kicks them off the stage.
In the past decade, David Joseph Lenio has gone from a Michigan high school cross-country runner called “Dave” to a hate-filled accused criminal who told the world on Twitter: “I am a potential terrorist. I know the truth about 9/11.”
Along the way, he also expressed the desire to shoot a rabbi in the head, shoot 100 schoolchildren and engage in a shootout with police in order to end his life in a “suicide by cop.”
Before he could fulfill his threats, Lenio was arrested Feb. 16 at a Montana ski resort — a day when schools were closed for the President’s Day holiday – just one day after he taken two of his rifles and a quantity of ammunition out of a storage locker in Kalispell, Mont.
Today, the 28-year-old graduate of Forest Hills Northern High School, in Grand Rapids, Mich., will be led in handcuffs from a jail cell in Flathead County, Mont., to a courtroom.
Lenio is scheduled to be arraigned before District Court Judge Heidi J. Ulbricht — herself a mother — on two felony charges, intimidation and criminal defamation, for using his Twitter accounts to publish assorted death threats.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stacy Boman told Hatewatch she will ask that Lenio remain in jail under a $500,000 bond until he stands trial.
Court documents detail the chilling threats allegedly made by Lenio.
“I bet I could get at least 12 unarmed sitting ducks if I decide to go on a killing spree in a #school Sounds better than being a wage slave,” Lenio wrote on Twitter on Feb. 12, the court filings allege.
“What do you think costs more in most U.S. cities? A gun with enough ammunition to kill 100 school kids or the security deposit on an apartment,” he posted later. A short time after that, he wrote: “What would I rather do? Be a #wage slave for the rest of my life or tell society fuck you & do your kids a favor by shooting up a #school?”
On Feb. 14, after sending tweets filled with anti-Semitic comments and expressing a desire to copy other mass shootings, Lenio wrote: “I bet I’d take out at least a whole #classroom & score 30+ if I put my mind to it #Poverty is making me want to kill folks #mental health’#
That was followed by this: “This working and not have a god damn thing to show for it [is] bullshit [and] makes me wanna execute grade #school #kids til the cops take me out too.” He also wrote about his hatred of Jews and called the Holocaust a “lie beyond a reasonable doubt. It is now time to hunt the Nazi hunters.”
When Twitter spotted his hateful messages in January, the social media provider shut down Lenio’s account, but he opened another, then another, mockingly displaying the ease with which he worked around Twitter’s policing.
Some of the 90 tweets Lenio fired off in mid-February came in response to an anti-gun violence tweet by Jonathan Hutson, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Hutson provided information to state and federal authorities that led to Lenio’s arrest. ( continue to full post… )
Bloomberg: Conspiracy theorist’s question at security conference about supposed Obama plot to nuke Charleston leaves Rick Santorum confused.
Raw Story: Feds say Missouri man plotted to kill President Obama with informant posing at Aryan Nations leader.
New Republic: How the Oklahoma fraternity scandal and the Ferguson protest shootings expose a racial double standard.
American-Statesman (Austin, TX): Stickers proclaiming shops ‘Exclusively for White People’ placed on local businesses.
Flathead Beacon: A year later, fallout from Kalispell women’s clinic destroyed by anti-abortion extremist lingers.
AlterNet: Florida teacher suspended for calling teenage Muslim student a ‘raghead’ and ‘terrorista.’
USA Today: Swastikas spray-painted inside Jewish fraternity house at Vanderbilt University.
Crooks and Liars: Ex-employee says James O’Keefe demanded he incite violence in Ferguson, then fired him after he refused.
Think Progress: Far-right Nevada lawmaker Michelle Fiore claims racism is over, then refers to colleague as ‘colored.’
The man reportedly arrested in the aftermath of a shooting spree in Mesa, Ariz., today sports tattoos that identify him as a neo-Nazi. What’s more, a local retired detective says he is a longtime white supremacist skinhead associated with major racist groups.
Ryan Giroux, who allegedly murdered one person and wounded five others earlier today and was arrested after a frenzied manhunt, was released from prison in Arizona in 2013. According to prison records, he has convictions for attempt to commit aggravated assault, marijuana, theft, and second degree burglary. Records indicate that he was sentenced to a total of about 14 years in prison.
The Arizona prison system’s mug shot of Giroux shows his face covered in white supremacist tattoos: where his shaven eyebrows used to be, the words “SKIN” and “HEAD”; and on his left temple, the number “88,” which is neo-Nazi code for Heil Hitler (because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet); and, on his chin, a “Thor’s Hammer,” a symbol used by adherents of Odinism, a pre-Christian faith that has been adopted by many white supremacists.
A retired Mesa Police detective who once infiltrated local skinhead groups told Hatewatch that he knew Giroux from previous encounters, and that Giroux was a member of Hammerskin Nation, a notoriously violent racist skinhead group, and an associate of the Aryan Brotherhood, a national prison gang with a long list of murders to its credit. “He’s a violent guy,” said the former detective, who knew Giroux as a young skinhead in the 1990s and early 2000s . “I think his time in prison contributed to that.”
Giroux, 41, has been in and out of Arizona prisons since 1993, when he was arrested for burglary and marijuana possession. His most recent prison stint, for an attempt to commit aggravated assault, began in 2007 and ended in October 2013.
According to early reports, the rampage apparently began before 9 a.m. at the Tri City Inn, a Mesa motel, when three people were shot in a room by the suspect. One of those, a male, died at the scene; two women in the room were wounded by the shooter.
The suspect then apparently ran across the street to a nearby bistro café and shot a man there. That victim then ran across the street to the motel, where medical personnel had arrived to treat the first victims, and he received treatment there.
The shooter then hijacked a car from a woman at the parking lot of an adjacent technical school and drove down a nearby boulevard for about a mile, and then pulled into a large apartment complex. Once there, he apparently shot and wounded a man outside in the parking lot. He then crossed the street to a nearby apartment and broke into it. The occupant of the apartment he invaded was left unhurt.
About two hours after the rampage began, Mesa police successfully cornered Giroux and captured him with the use of Tasers. He was led away from the scene in a DNA suit designed to preserve evidence on his person.
During the search for Giroux, officials at nearby Adams Elementary School put the school on shutdown, and officials at nearby Pima Medical Center similarly locked down their facility. After his arrest, there was a flood of cars from the area as people who had been put under lockdown fled, and parents arrived to take their children home from the school.
Talking Points Memo: South Dakota gun show vendor sells racist ‘Official Runnin’ Nigger’ targets.
Charlotte Observer: Muslim’s family home targeted by late-night gunfire, woman inside injured.
Right Wing Watch: AFA’s Bryan Fischer claims that discrimination against homosexuality is not discrimination against people.
Raw Story: Texas lawmaker says anti-gay sodomy law is needed for public health, and to stop ‘bestiality.’
AOL: Young Memphis girl’s parents keep her from attending classmate’s birthday party because she is black.
Newsweek: D.C.’s Crime Museum assembles exhibit on domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
AlterNet: Son of Alabama chief justice Roy Moore claims his drug arrest is a liberal plot to destroy his family.
Think Progress: Penn State fraternity suspended after police discovered their repulsive Facebook page featuring unsuspecting women’s nude images.
The Washington Post today published a major story documenting hate groups’ pervasive use of three leading Internet companies to drum up money — an apparently flagrant violation of those companies’ own stated policies on acceptable content. The article was largely based on a series of earlier investigative reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
As the article by Caitlin Dewey notes, the SPLC over the last year has repeatedly contacted PayPal, Amazon, Spotify, among others, about these potential violations without result. While companies like Facebook have been proactive in enforcing their own policies against hate speech, others have remained obstinate. As of January 2015, PayPal alone was servicing over 60 known hate groups – effectively acting as the banking system of the hate movement.
Media Matters: Alex Jones loses it over gun safety PSA, pulls out gun during radio rant.
Pandagon: ‘Pissed Off Rednecks Like Me’ is a flat-out racist song, and no apologetics can hide that.
New York Times: Theocratic evangelicals plan to unleash an army of believers on behalf of Republicans in 2016.
Think Progress: The United States is becoming more tolerant of everyone, except for racists.
AL.com: Alabama chief justice Roy Moore’s son arrested for drug possession.
Talking Points Memo: San Francisco cops being investigated for racist texts proclaiming ‘all niggers must hang.’
WTVM-TV (Auburn, AL): Auburn residents complain after Ku Klux Klan fliers appear in driveways.
Right Wing Watch: Rick Santorum tells conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney that ‘tyrant’ Obama is destroying America.
Editor’s Note: Officials said today that the start of the trial of Chris Simcox had been delayed until Monday, March 23.
One of the great ironies of the now-moribund vigilante border-watch movement is that its members were obsessed with the lawlessness of the immigrant border crossers they sought to apprehend — but themselves often had criminal backgrounds or, worse yet, hid behind their activism to pursue criminal acts.
Exhibit A: Chris Simcox.
Simcox was the co-founder of the Minuteman Project, the April 2005 gathering on the Arizona border of citizen border watchers south of the Tombstone area, where Simcox lived at the time. Originally founded as a border militia, Simcox and his Minutemen became the epitome of the nativist border-watch movement, embodied by a national fund-raising campaign that he led to build a fence on a section of the border as a demonstration project that mostly ended up lining the pockets of his Beltway-based handlers. The movement, which peaked with 319 nativist extremist groups in 2010, had faded to just 19 groups by late last year.
Simcox was a volatile personality with a history of destroyed relationships, and eventually his Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) shut down amid turmoil within its ranks over finances and egos, as well as the decline of its reputation as the border-watch movement became increasingly associated with criminality.
Simcox himself provided the latest evidence of that association when he was arrested in July 2013 and charged with three counts of child molestation — later reduced to two — after his then-6-year-old daughter and one of her friends, age 5, accused him of sexually assaulting them. If convicted of the felony charges, Simcox could face life in prison.
Simcox goes on trial this week in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix on the charges. (Hatewatch will provide coverage of the trial.) He plans to act as his own attorney in the trial, although he will be required to work through his court-appointed associate attorneys when it comes to cross-examining his two alleged victims.
Simcox’s is hardly the only such case. Seen retrospectively, the border-watch movement was remarkable for the number of its leaders and participants whose careers ended in criminal acts.
Even before Simcox came along with his Minuteman concept, one of the early border-militia organizers who preceded him also had a number of brushes with the law. Casey Nethercott, another Arizona resident, was involved in a border-watch operation called Ranch Rescue at the turn of the century, and he too had a number of criminal legal problems.
Nethercott — who had done prison time in California for assault in the 1990s — and some of his fellow Ranch Rescue members in 2003 assaulted two Salvadoran migrants who had crossed the border on foot and wound up on a ranch where the nativist border watchers operated. The migrants were held at gunpoint, and one of them was pistol-whipped and attacked by a Rottweiler. With the assistance of the SPLC, the migrants sued their attackers and won a million-dollar civil judgment against Ranch Rescue, including $500,000 against Nethercott, who also faced criminal assault charges in the case but eventually had them dismissed.
Nethercott eventually left Ranch Rescue and then began organizing his own border watches at a property he purchased in Arizona. Eventually he had a tense standoff with Border Patrol agents at that property; when FBI agents tried to arrest him for his role in that incident two weeks later, they wound up shooting the white supremacist who was accompanying him at the time.
Indeed, while the phrase “rule of law” even today is often bandied about by the remaining bands of vigilante nativists, the record demonstrates that this was a peculiarly flexible concept for many of the Minutemen and their associates.
Shawna Forde, for example, incorporated the phrase into the logo for her offshoot border-watch operation, Minuteman American Defense. Forde’s operation was widely promoted at the website of Simcox’s Minuteman Project co-founder, Jim Gilchrist; previously, she had been deeply involved in Simcox’s MCDC operations in Washington state.
Then, in June 2009, Forde was arrested and charged with masterminding the horrific murders of a 9-year-old girl and her father in the small Arizona border town of Arivaca, along with a white-supremacist cohort named Jason Eugene Bush and a local man, Albert Gaxiola, as part of her plan to create a border-militia compound. All three were convicted, and Forde and Bush wound up on Arizona’s Death Row.
After the arrests of Forde, Bush and Gaxiola, Forde’s former associates in the Minuteman movement fled from their onetime protégé. National leaders of the Minuteman movement — particularly Simcox and Gilchrist — hastily tried to put distance between themselves and Forde and her group. To this day, Gilchrist tries to claim that he had little to do with her.
But while Forde’s conviction severely damaged the border-watch movement — as one ex-MCDC leader put it, “A lot of people felt, well, you’re a Minuteman, you’re a killer” — that was not the end of it.
In April 2012, one of Forde’s associates in the desert, a Tucson man named Todd Hezlitt, was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor for an affair he had initiated with a 15-year-old girl from a local high school where he was an assistant wrestling coach. Two months later, he fled with the girl to Mexico, and he briefly became an international fugitive.
A few weeks after that, the girl turned herself in to the American consulate in Mazatlan. Hezlitt was caught a short time later and extradited. He eventually wound up agreeing to plead guilty to the sexual conduct charges in exchange for not being charged with kidnapping, and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Another violent incident from a former border watcher erupted in Arizona in May 2012 when Jason Todd “J.T.” Ready — a longtime leader of the state’s neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, and an organizer of independent NSM border watches in Arizona — went on a shooting rampage at the home of his girlfriend.
Before committing suicide, Ready shot and killed his girlfriend, Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47; her daughter, Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; the daughter’s boyfriend, Jim Franklin Hiott, and Amber’s 15-month-old baby girl, Lilly Lynn Mederos. Investigators later found chemicals and military-grade munitions that apparently belonged to Ready at the residence.
As Tim Steller at the Arizona Daily Star observed: “Undoubtedly, there have been border-militia members in Arizona who have carried out citizen patrols without harboring racist motives or having criminal tendencies. The problem for the movement … is that people with these motives or tendencies have cropped up repeatedly among citizen border-watchers.”