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Researchers took on Exxon’s dare to prove it misled the public about climate change

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Two years ago, Inside Climate News and L.A. Times investigations found that while ExxonMobil internally acknowledged that climate change is human-made and serious, it publicly manufactured doubt about the science. Exxon has been trying unsuccessfully to smother this slow-burning PR crisis ever since, arguing the findings were “deliberately cherry picked statements.” But the company’s problems have grown to include probes of its business practices by the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Now, science historian Naomi Oreskes and Harvard researcher Geoffrey Supran have published the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis of Exxon’s climate communications that adds more heft to these charges. Exxon dared the public to “read all of these documents and make up your own mind,” in a company blog post in 2015. The new paper, “Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications,” in the journal Environmental Research Letters, takes up the challenge. Oreskes and Supran systematically analyze nearly 40 years of Exxon’s scientific research, reports, internal documents, and advertisements, and find a deep disconnect between how the company directly communicated climate change and its internal memos and scientific studies.

“The issue of taking things out of context or cherry-picking data is an important one, and one all historians and journalists deal with,” Oreskes tells Mother Jones. “When ExxonMobil accuses journalists of cherry-picking, there is a way we can address that. There are analyses we can do to avoid these issues. Well, if you think the LA Times is cherry-picking [examples], we’ll look at all of them. Nobody can say we are selecting things out of context.”

Their content analysis examines how 187 company documents treated climate change from 1977 through 2014. Researchers found that of the documents that address the causes of climate change, 83 percent of its peer-reviewed scientific literature and 80 percent of its internal documents said it was real and human-made, while the opposite was true of the ads. The researchers analyzed ads published in the New York Times between 1989 and 2004. In those ads, 81 percent expressed doubt about the scientific consensus, tending to emphasize the “uncertainty” and “knowledge gap,” while just 12 percent affirmed the science.

The same pattern holds for how Exxon has addressed the seriousness of the consequences of climate change. Downplaying the impacts is another tactic climate deniers tend to use to call for more delays in implementing policies that curb fossil fuel use. Sixty percent of Exxon’s peer-reviewed papers and 53 percent of its internal documents acknowledge serious impacts — a 1982 internal document lists flooding and sea-level rise and a 2002 paper lists coral reef bleaching and the disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet among them — but Exxon’s ads were more likely to claim, “The sky is not falling.”

Oreskes and Supran write that Exxon “contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it.”

This distinction is important, argues Supran. “Exxon’s response to the allegations from journalists and investigators was a kind of gloss or straw man,” he says. “They were contributing to climate science. The problem was the company still had a much louder doubt-promoting position in public. It was the discrepancy that confused people.”

Exxon did not return a request for comment on the study before publication, but in the past it has dismissed similar criticisms by pointing to its decades of promoting climate science research, which the paper does not dispute.

Of course, Exxon’s media strategy has shifted over time, and the company adopted a more uniform position where executives acknowledged climate change is human-made when it became untenable to say otherwise. Oreskes and Supran also included one issue that’s caused more recent trouble for the industry than its advertising campaigns. There’s intense debate over what are known as “stranded assets,” a term used to describe assets that have become anachronisms when faced with new business realities. In this case, it is the serious risk that Exxon’s business model is overvalued and incompatible with the world taking serious action to limit global warming. Two dozen of the company’s publications and internal documents acknowledged stranded assets, but it is not mentioned in any of the ads through 2004.

Shareholders actually sued Exxon last fall over stranded assets, claiming the company was aware it would not be able to extract all its fossil fuel reserves but its public statements dismissing the risks were “materially false and misleading.” And shareholders have stepped up the pressure in other ways, too: This May, two-thirds of shareholders voted to force the company to publish an annual report on its climate impacts. The moment was a rare defiance of Exxon’s management, which opposed the report, and maybe a step toward more transparency.

Oreskes, who’s written extensively about industry campaigns to undermine scientific findings, says that Exxon’s message inevitably changes over time as it adapts to new circumstances and old positions become discredited. But Exxon is still following the same general playbook. “They are promoting a different kind of doubt,” she says. “It’s a doubt that says, ‘There’s climate change, but we have to still use fossil fuels because there’s no alternative.’” But, Oreskes adds, there are alternatives.

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Researchers took on Exxon’s dare to prove it misled the public about climate change

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6 Benefits Of Natural Light & How To Maximize It In Your Home

There is nothing more glorious than a room filled with sunlight.

Natural light seems to bring out the beauty, and indeed color, of everything it touches. When it fills our homes, it brings with it a sense of freshness, vitality and even makes us healthier.

6 Health Benefits Of Natural Light

Research has shownthat:

1. Employees working in natural light recorded higher levels of energy and productivity than those working under artificial light.

2. Natural light can lower the risk of nearsightedness in children and young adults by helping the eye produce dopamine, which aids in healthy eye development.

3.Exposure tosunlight, especially early in the morning for at least half an hour, increases your chances of a good nights sleep.

4. Sunlight helps the body produce thehappy hormone serotonin which combatsa type of depression calledSeasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

5. Rooms with ample sunlight have been shown tohelp hospital patients heal fasterafter surgical procedures

6. Sunlight in the classroom has been shown to havea positive impacton student test scores.

But the benefits of natural light don’t end with your health and mood.

Related:7 Little-Known Benefits Of Sunlight

Using Natural Light To Reduce Energy Consumption

As you’ll read in the infographic below, capitalizing on your home’s natural light can help toreduce your energy bills, saving money and slashing your carbon footprint.

“In a typical building, lighting accounts for 25-40 percent of energy consumption. By allowing more natural light to penetrate and controlling both its light and heat components, the financial savings could be considerable,”Marilyne Andersen,assistant professor Marilyne Andersen of MIT’s Department of Architecture, toldScienceDaily.

Simply letting the sun shine in can drastically reduce those energy costs while delivering all the benefits listed above, but it has to be done thoughtfully. By making small changes to the way you use windows, doors, skylights, mirrors, paint colors and even furnishings, you can take advantage of the free light and energy the sun provides.

Scroll through the infographic below for small tweaks and tips that can help you to maximize your home’s natural light.

Infographic via HalfPrice.com.au

Image via: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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6 Benefits Of Natural Light & How To Maximize It In Your Home

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A New Wave of Left-Wing Militants Is Ready to Rumble in Portland—and Beyond

Mother Jones

One week after two men were stabbed to death while defending two girls from a racist and Islamophobic diatribe on a commuter train, Portland, Oregon, is bracing for more violence. On Sunday, over the mayor’s objection, a right-wing group will hold a pro-Trump “free speech rally,” while anti-fascist activists are preparing to protest the gathering.

It’s a pattern that has played out across the country since the election: Pro-Trump events from Pikeville, Kentucky, to Berkeley, California, attract white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen along with other provocateurs from the so-called “alt-right.” And, predictably, “antifa” counterprotesters mask up to oppose them—often physically.

Yet joining up with the well-established networks of antifascists and anarchists is a new generation of militant organizers. In Portland, Rose City Antifa’s coalition at this weekend’s pro-Trump rally will include the local chapter of Redneck Revolt, a national network whose outreach has targeted right-wing militia members.

Redneck Revolt is just one among a handful of left-wing groups that have pledged to resist emboldened white supremacists and right-wing extremists through “direct action” that sometimes goes beyond nonviolent protest—including picking up arms. Some see themselves as the heirs of ’60s radicals like the Black Panthers, while others look to the antifa movement for inspiration. Here are a few:

Bastards Motorcycle Club: A couple of years ago, South Carolinians Steven “Chavez” Parker and Joseph Guinn organized an anti-racist, LGBT-friendly motorcycle gang. Traditional biker clubs, Parker thought, “were all going to think one thing: ‘What a bunch of bastards.'” Since then, the Bastards Motorcycle Club has rolled up to oppose racist events across the South, sometimes armed and ready to rumble. April 2016 they joined a small army of counterprotesters at a rally of white supremacists in Stone Mountain, Georgia, home of a rock carving honoring the Confederacy. They’re now looking to set up new chapters—women need not apply. That’s “not the way things work,” says the group’s president, who insists on being called by his biker name, Gigolo.

By Any Means Necessary: BAMN formed in 1995 to fight California’s rollback of affirmative action. The group, which is led by civil rights lawyer Shanta Driver, has organized anti-Trump rallies and high school walkouts. But it also supports more aggressive tactics. “When we say ‘by any means necessary,’ we mean everything from doing legal cases to organizing more militant actions,” Driver says. “We are not people who believe, in situations where we’re under attack, that we should turn the other cheek.” Last June, BAMN teamed up with antifas to confront a small group of white nationalists marching outside California’s Capitol building in Sacramento. Anti-racist protesters, many in black clothing and masks, pelted marchers with water bottles and hit them with wooden bats. Several people from both camps were beaten or stabbed. “They are organizing to attack and kill us, so we have a right to self-defense,” BAMN activist Yvette Felarca told a TV crew. “Anyone who’s thinking about joining them, don’t. Because it’s not going to be a good day for you.”

Redneck Revolt: This network, largely made up of anarchists and libertarians, is focused on anti-racist organizing among the white working class. Inspired by the Young Patriots—white Appalachian activists who allied with the Black Panthers in the late 1960s—the group now claims chapters in more than 30 regions. Redneck Revolt’s members can speak to their neighbors more easily than ivory-tower liberals, says Lucas Kelly, a member of the Phoenix chapter. “‘Privilege’ means one thing to them. It means a different thing to working-class folks who put in 60, 80 hours a week to support their family.” The group also runs firearms trainings. Last December, Kelly’s chapter sent members to a gun show, where they handed out posters tagged with the slogan “Fighting Nazis Is an American Tradition: Stop the Alt-Right.”

Huey P. Newton Gun Club: After a white Dallas police officer killed an unarmed black man in 2013, community organizers Yafeuh Balogun and Babu Omowale launched the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a coalition of black self-defense groups named after the co-founder of the Black Panthers. “We’re going to educate black, brown, and poor white people to arm up or at least get familiar with weapons,” Balogun says. “So if a situation does arise, if they feel threatened, at least they can defend themselves.” When an anti-Muslim group held an armed protest outside a Nation of Islam mosque in South Dallas in April 2016, armed Gun Club members showed up to counterprotest. Balogun says his group, which operates armed patrols in South Dallas, has drawn the attention of the FBI. But he also emphasizes that it’s not just about guns: “What we advise people is to not necessarily be so quick, so fast, to pick up arms.”

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A New Wave of Left-Wing Militants Is Ready to Rumble in Portland—and Beyond

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Less Liberal Contempt, Please

Mother Jones

Michael Tomasky writes today that elite liberals need to make peace with middle America. We need to be willing to welcome folks to our side of the aisle even if they don’t agree with every single liberal piety:

There are plenty of liberals out there in middle America, and plenty of liberalish moderates, and plenty of people who lean conservative but who aren’t consumed by rage and who think Barack Obama is a pretty cool guy and who might even have voted for him. These people are potential allies. But before the alliance can be struck, elite liberals need to recognize a fundamental truth: All of these people in middle America, even the actual liberals, have very different sensibilities than elite liberals who live on the coasts.

First of all, middle Americans go to church….Second, politics simply doesn’t consume middle Americans the way it does elites on the coasts….They talk kids, and local gossip, and pop culture, and sports….Third, their daily lives are pretty different from the lives of elite liberals. Few of them buy fair trade coffee or organic almond milk. Some of them served in the armed forces. Some of them own guns, and like to shoot them….Fourth, they’re patriotic in the way that most Americans are patriotic. They don’t feel self-conscious saluting the flag.

….We need to recognize that in vast stretches of this country, hewing to these positions doesn’t make someone a conservative.

There’s nothing especially new here. It’s basically the old problem of Reagan Democrats, which liberals have been wrestling with for a couple of generations. I’d argue that it has two fundamental origins.

First, the great sort. A century ago, hardly anyone had more than a high school education. Both of my grandfathers were plenty smart enough to go to college, but neither one did because they couldn’t afford it. (I don’t need to bother telling you about my grandmothers, do I?) Because of this, people of widely different intelligence mixed together all the time. There wasn’t really much choice.

After the war, that changed. College became widely available, and nearly everyone who was smart enough to go, did so. Thirty years later, their kids mostly went to college too. But among the postwar generation that didn’t go to college, their kids mostly didn’t either. Since then, there’s been yet another generation, and we’re now pretty solidly sorted out. Those of us with college degrees marry people who also have degrees. Our kids all go to college. Our friends all went to college. And we live in neighborhoods full of college grads because no one else can afford to live there.

On the other side, it’s just the opposite. Your average high school grad marries someone who’s also a high school grad. (If they get married at all.) Their kids are high school grads. Their friends are high school grads. And their neighborhoods are full of high school grads.

The two groups barely interact anymore. They don’t really want to, and they’re physically separated anyway. (More and more, they’re also geographically separated, as liberals cluster in cities and conservatives live everywhere else.)

Second, there’s the decline of unions. Fifty years ago, the working class commanded plenty of political respect simply because they had a lot of political power. No liberal in her right mind would think of condescending to them. They were a constituency to be courted, no matter what your personal feelings might be.

But young liberals in the 60s and 70s broke with the unions over the Vietnam War, and the unions broke with them over their counterculture lifestyle. This turned out to be a disaster for both sides, as Democrats lost votes and workers saw their unions decimated by their newfound allies in the Republican Party. By the time it was all over, liberals had little political reason to care about the working class and the working class still hated the hippies. Without the political imperative to stay in touch, liberals increasingly viewed middle America as a foreign culture: hostile, insular, vaguely racist/sexist/homophobic, and in thrall to charlatans.

By the early 90s this transformation was complete. On the liberal side, elites rarely interacted with working-class folks at all and had no political motivation to respect them. Republicans swooped in and paid at least lip service to working-class concerns, and that was enough. It didn’t put any more money in their pockets, but at least the Republicans didn’t sneer at their guns and their churches and their fatigue with rapid cultural change.

I don’t think there’s any good answer to the great sort. Certainly not anytime in the near future. But this affects Republicans too, so it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. The bigger problem, I think, is the decline of unions, which broke the political ties between working-class and middle-class liberals. There’s no realistic way that unions are going to make a comeback, which means that liberals need to come up with some other kind of working-class mass movement that can repair those ties. But what? This has been a pet topic of mine for years, but I’m no closer to an answer than I was when Reagan took office.

In the meantime, we can still try to do better. Rhetorically, the big issue dividing liberal elites and middle America is less the existence of different lifestyles, and more the feeling that lefties are implicitly lecturing them all the time. You are bad for eating factory-farmed meat. You are bad for enjoying football. You are bad for owning a gun. You are bad for driving an SUV. You are bad for not speaking the language of microaggressions and patriarchy and cultural appropriation. Liberals could go a long way toward solving this by being more positive about these things, rather than trying to make everyone feel guilty about all the things they enjoy.

Substantively, liberals might have to shift a little bit, but not by a lot. We don’t have to become pro-life, but we need to be more tolerant of folks who are a little uneasy about the whole subject. We don’t need to become Second Amendment zealots, but we should be more tolerant of folks who don’t want to be sneered at for keeping a gun around the house for self defense. We don’t need to tolerate racism, but we should stop badgering folks for not being able to express themselves in the currently approved language of wokeness.

It goes without saying—which is why I need to make sure to say it—that the whole point here is to broaden our appeal to people who are just a little bit on the conservative side of center. That is, persuadable, low-information folks who agree with us on some things but not on others. The hard-right conservatives are out of reach, and there’s no reason to try to appeal more to them.

In the same way that right-wing Republicans need to learn how to talk about women’s issues (see Akin, Todd), Democrats need to learn how to talk about middle America. No more deplorables. No more clinging to guns and religion. Less swarming over every tin-eared comment on race.

In general, just less contempt. Does it matter that working-class folks often display the same contempt toward us? Nope. As any good lefty knows, contempt from the powerful is a whole different thing than contempt from the powerless. We need to do better regardless of what anyone else does.

Can we do it? It’s worth a try.

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Less Liberal Contempt, Please

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How America Treats Working Moms Like Shit

Mother Jones

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Mothers have always worked in this country, whether out of desire or necessity. But America’s relationship with these employed moms has been fraught from the start. In 1873, a Harvard medical professor claimed that higher education would make young women infertile. During the 1950s, writers, psychiatrists, and psychologists argued that career women had “penis envy,” while John Bowlby’s “attachment theory” was widely misconstrued to mean that moms spending time apart from their kids would cause permanent psychological damage.

Where the emotional appeals haven’t worked, opponents have outright or effectively blocked moms from clocking in by cutting day care programs, firing them for breastfeeding, and refusing them family leave. To this day, the United States remains the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate maternity leave.

As many have pointed out, all moms are working moms, regardless of whether they are paid for their work. But as sociologist Arlie Hochschild put it in her book The Second Shift, mothers juggling housework with a day job enjoy a “double burden.” In time for Mother’s Day, here’s a short history of some of America’s most underappreciated employees.

1800s
Women are legally barred from jobs such as lawyering and working underground based on the notion of “separate spheres“—a women’s should be at home with her children.
1850
The popular magazine Godey’s Lady Book touts piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity as the traits of “true womanhood,” and notes that women “step out of their own path when they attempt to encroach on the proper masculine pursuits.”
1851
Abolitionist Sojourner Truth points out that Godey’s definition excludes black women, who are often obliged to work outside the home to feed their children. “Ain’t I a woman?” she asks.
1869
A shorthanded Treasury Department hires married women including moms to fill positions vacated by Union soldiers. At war’s end, some widows are allowed to keep their jobs—at half the pay men get.
1873
Harvard Medical School professor Edward Clarke argues that higher education makes women infertile.
Turn of the 20th Century postcard

1888
Josephine Jewell Dodge establishes an early nursery school in a New York City slum that is later featured at Chicago’s World Fair. She goes on to start the country’s first national day care organization. Her critics propose an alternative strategy—”mothers’ pensions“—to keep women at home.
1930s
The Depression forces white middle-class moms to look for jobs—the number of married women in the workforce jumps 50 percent—while women of color solicit day labor in so-called slave markets. But “no one should get the idea that Uncle Sam is going to rock the baby to sleep,” the White House declares.
1943
World War II shortages of male workers inspire the first federally funded day care program. But the armistice marks a return to traditional gender attitudes: The day care initiative lapses and career-driven women are described by popular writers as “lost,” “man-hating” or “suffering from penis envy.”

1950s
Employers phase out the “marriage bar“—the legal practice of firing (or not hiring) women who get married. It will be nearly three decades before federal law forbids the boss from firing women for being pregnant.
1951
Psychoanalyst John Bowlby’s “attachment theory” posits that separating a mother from her child causes long-term behavioral difficulties—short separations are fine, he says, but his theory is twisted to make the case that mothers shouldn’t work.
1952
Lucille Ball’s real-life pregnancy is written into an episode of the sitcom I Love Lucy, but the actors are not allowed to use the word “pregnant” on air—too vulgar, says CBS.

1963
Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique gives voice to “the problem that has no name”—the frustrations and disappointments of housewives. Friedan had conceived of her idea as a magazine piece, but no magazine would take it.
Betty Friedan AP Photo/Anthony Camerano

1969
Under disability laws, five states allow female workers paid maternity leave, while others specifically exclude pregnancy as a temporary disability. A federal family-leave law remains decades away.
1970
“I have no objection of a pediatric or psychiatric nature about women going to work,” writes child-development guru Dr. Benjamin Spock: “What I say is that the children are going to have to be reared, and you ought to have women growing up feeling this is important, womanly work.”
Dr. Spock Associated Press

1971
Congress votes to establish federally funded child care centers nationwide, but President Richard Nixon vetoes the bill, saying it works against “the family-centered approach.”
1972
The Equal Rights Amendment, which outlaws sex discrimination, is attacked by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly on the grounds that a women’s place is in the home. (The bill flops.) Betty Freidan dubs Schlafly “Aunt Tom.”
1978
An ad for Enjoli perfume croons, “I can put the wash on the line. Feed the kids. Get dressed. Pass out the kisses and get to work by five of nine. ‘Cuz I’m a wooooman!” Congress passes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, making it illegal to fire a woman for being pregnant—employers must offer her medical benefits equivalent to what other workers get.

1979
Working Mother magazine targets America’s 16 million working moms: “We would like to share in your problems, your concerns for your family—and in your pride.” (It’s still around.)
Working Mother magazine

1989
In The Second Shift, sociologist Arlie Hochschild describes the “double burden” of mothers juggling housework with a day job. Also Child magazine coins the phrase “mommy wars” to describe tensions between working and stay-at-home mothers.
1992
Vice President Dan Quayle attacks TV show Murphy Brown for “mocking the importance of fathers” after the eponymous character, a working journalist, decides to raise her baby alone.

1992
Asked by reporters about allegations that her husband directed business to her law firm while governor of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton responds, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.” Homemakers are furious.
John Sykes/Liason

1993
The Family Medical Leave Act guarantees maternity leave—but it’s unpaid, and more than half of working women are excluded thanks to exceptions for small businesses and part-timers
1994
Asked how he feels about then-wife Marla Maples (top) working, Donald Trump tells ABC, “I have days where I think it’s great. And then I have days where, if I come home—and I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist—but when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.”
1996
Amid backlash against mythical “welfare queens,” President Bill Clinton overhauls the system, forcing single mothers to get a job within two years or lose their federal benefits.
1997
Future Indiana Gov. Mike Pence argues in an op-ed that “day care kids get the short end of the emotional stick” and that children with two working parents suffer “stunted emotional growth.” Also the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, a bill to end discrimination against nursing moms and make companies give women a place they can pump breast milk, dies in committee.
1999

The proportion of moms staying at home rather than working hits a low point of 23 percent. (By 2012, it’s up to 29 percent.)

2003
The New York Times Magazine describes the “opt-out revolution”—highly educated women scaling back their careers to stay home with their kids.
2008
The VP nomination of Sarah Palin, a mother of five, renews debate over work-life balance. “You can juggle a BlackBerry and a breast pump in a lot of jobs, but not in the vice presidency,” one Obama supporter tells the New York Times.
2009
Modern Family premieres on ABC—none of its fictional moms have jobs. Also a Texas woman is fired for asking her boss to let her pump breast milk at work. A (male) federal judge rules the firing is permissible because “lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” protected by law.

2010
The Affordable Care Act mandates work breaks and a private space for new moms to pump breast milk.
April 2012
Mitt Romney defends his homemaker wife: “I happen to believe that all moms are working moms.” Yet earlier, talking about the welfare-work requirements Massachusetts enacted while he was governor, Romney said that even moms with two-year-olds “need to go to work…I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.'”
July 2012
Anne Marie Slaughter argues in The Atlantic that women cannot, in fact, “have it all”—kids and a fulfilling career. The problem, she writes, isn’t an “ambition gap,” but rather that America’s workplace culture still doesn’t value families.
Sept. 2012
“At the end of the day,” Michelle Obama tells the Democratic National Convention crowd, “My most important title is still ‘mom-in-chief.'”

2013
In her best-selling book, Facebook bigwig Sheryl Sandberg exhorts women to “lean in” at work. Cultural critic bell hooks eviscerates the book as “faux feminism…brought to us by a corporate executive who does not recognize the needs of pregnant women until it’s happening to her.”
2014
Apple and Facebook offer to freeze employees’ eggs in what critics call a cynical bid to delay childbearing. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, meanwhile, claims she has it harder than office moms who “can come home in the evening.” Retorts a New York Post columnist, “Thank God I don’t make millions filming one movie per year.”
2016
America remains the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave—only 14 percent of working moms can get it through their employers. In a September interview, Ivanka Trump brags to Cosmopolitan about her dad’s maternity-leave plan, calling him “a great advocate for women in the workforce.” But it turns out many Trump Hotels, including Mar-a-Lago, don’t offer paid maternity leave.
Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

2017
President Trump proposes a child care plan and asks Congress to “help ensure new parents have paid family leave.” But a Tax Policy Center analysis concludes that 70 percent of the plan’s benefits would go to families making $100,000 or more. “The devil,” the ACLU notes, “is in the details“—the plan applies only to married birth mothers, making it “as inadequate as it is discriminatory.”

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How America Treats Working Moms Like Shit

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People Who Were “Fat Shamed” as Kids Are More Likely to Be Obese as Adults

Mother Jones

Despite recent pushback, fat shaming—making people feel bad about their weight—remains a robust pastime among Americans. Indeed, a notorious practitioner recently became president of the United States. New research suggests that all the teasing and tsk-tsking in service of the thin body ideal may have the opposite effect—it can lock people into a spiral of poor body image and eating disorders.

The latest: A study from University of Connecticut, University of Minnesota, and Harvard researchers, based on a 15-year project tracking a group of students in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area from their mid-teenage years to their early 30s, analyzes the “behavioral, psychological, and socioenvironmental factors related to dietary intake and weight-related outcomes in adolescents.”

Back in 1999, the project enrolled what the researchers call an ethnically and economically diverse group of 4,746 adolescents, assessing their body weight and surveying them about their experiences with weight-related teasing, from both school peers and family members. Perhaps not surprisingly, girls reported being the target of teasing at a slightly higher rate than boys—45.1 percent versus 37.1 percent. Girls reported being teased at home at a much higher clip—29.4 percent of girls said they were teased by a family member, compared with just 13.5 percent of boys. As for teasing from school peers, 30.2 percent of girls and 23 percent of boys reported it.

In 2015, the project managed to get 1,830 of the original participants, by then most of them around age 30, to take a detailed survey. It polled them regarding their body weight and height—to determine their body-mass index, a rough way to gauge obesity rates. Other topics included their propensity for binge eating, embarking on weight-loss diets, as well as “unhealthy” weight-loss methods (like fasting and diet pills), and their attitudes about their bodies.

The researchers adjusted the results (summarized here) to account for potentially confounding factors like their body-mass index back in 1999. While studies that rely on self-reported data always have to be eyed skeptically, this one paints a sad picture: Both women and men who were fat-shamed as adolescents were almost twice as likely to be obese as adults than people who weren’t teased. They were also likely to eat in response to emotional stress and report negative body self-image. Two other apparent legacies of adolescent teasing showed up in women but not men: a higher tendency to have dieted in the past year, and to have engaged in “unhealthy weight control efforts,” like fasting and taking diet pills.

Interestingly, just as girls in the original group reported much more teasing at home than boys did, the impact of fat shaming from family members seemed to hit them harder. Boys who were teased at home but not by peers carried no negative effects into adulthood, but for girls, having been teased at home was strongly associated with bad outcomes as adults, including negative body image.

The new paper echoes a similar 2016 study by German researchers, and comes on the heels of a 2016 study by UCLA researchers finding an association between weight stigmatization in middle school and higher rates of body dissatisfaction, social anxiety, and loneliness in junior high, and a 2013 one finding that two-thirds of teenagers enrolled in a pair of national weight loss camps had been harassed about their weight at school—including, quite often, by teachers and sports coaches.

The message here seems clear: Fat-shaming kids—at home and in the schoolyard—is toxic.

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People Who Were “Fat Shamed” as Kids Are More Likely to Be Obese as Adults

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Trump Brought the War on Women Mainstream in His First 100 Days

Mother Jones

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When a video of Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy” leaked a month before the 2016 presidential election and his party seemed on the cusp of rejecting him, onlookers wondered whether his apparent admission of sexual assault might have finally crossed a line with voters. But conservatives who were reassured by his promises to roll back reproductive rights turned a blind eye to the sexual-assault claims.

With those concerns about his electability far behind him, as president Trump has made good on his assurances. He may have discussed child care and other so-called family-friendly policies, but in the first 100 days of the Trump administration, the country has seen an unprecedented rollback of many hard-won reproductive rights. Trump has pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, appointed a Supreme Court justice who he promised would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and cut off US aide for family-planning services globally. States have also ridden the Trump wave: 1,053 measures—both restrictive and proactive—have been introduced in state legislatures in 2017 alone.

Women have not been passive in the face of these setbacks. They came out in droves to protest Trump’s inauguration during the Women’s March the day after his inauguration. Eleven-thousand women have told Emily’s List, an organization that gets pro-choice women elected to office, that they want to run for something next year, compared with 900 last year. And women already in positions of power have taken Trump to task on his Cabinet nominees, his travel ban, and his environmental policies.

But if his first 100 days as president are any indication, the three-plus years ahead will be grueling for women in the United States and abroad. Here’s what’s happened so far.

Planned Parenthood

In the weeks following Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, his daughter Ivanka took the unexpected step of reaching out to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to request a meeting. On the campaign trail, her father had promised to “defund” the women’s health care provider by prohibiting low-income patients from using their Medicaid coverage for care at Planned Parenthood clinics because the group also performs abortions.

Richards sought to explain to Ivanka Trump that Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood don’t fund abortions, but instead go to other forms of reproductive health care—cancer screenings, pap smears, contraception, and more—because of the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited the use of federal funds for almost all abortions for more than 40 years.

But in the months following the meeting, the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress launched an offensive against Planned Parenthood. Bills proposing to prohibit the use of Medicaid by patients at Planned Parenthood were introduced in both the House and the Senate and are still awaiting a vote. A week after Trump’s inauguration, audio was leaked of a closed-door meeting where Republicans voiced concerns about the political repercussions of defunding a women’s health organization that’s popular even among Trump voters. A month later, Trump tried to cut an informal deal with Planned Parenthood: keep your funding, maybe even increase it, if you stop providing abortions. The women’s health organization rejected the idea. Soon after, the Trump administration’s Obamacare repeal bill was introduced, including a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. That bill failed, but the revised version of the repeal bill, introduced by Republicans this week, contains the same provision and is still awaiting a vote.

Another administration effort to kneecap Planned Parenthood’s funding, however, was more successful. A bill allowing states to withhold Title X family-planning funds from health care providers that offer abortion, like Planned Parenthood, passed both chambers of Congress in February and March. Title X grants help fund nonabortion services such as contraception for low-income women, and more than one-third of the 4 million patients who use Title X each year receive care at Planned Parenthood.

Vice President Mike Pence was essential to that bill’s passage. After two GOP senators voted against the bill, Republicans were forced to whisk in the vice president to cast a tie-breaking Senate vote to advance the legislation. In April, Trump signed the bill into law in a private ceremony, an uncharacteristically publicity-shy moment for a president who has seemed to relish in the public spectacle of his other signings.

State restrictions

Trump’s election greatly emboldened anti-abortion state legislatures to propose measures that restrict women’s access to the medical procedure. His win came months after the Supreme Court ruled last June on the biggest abortion rights case since Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, a ruling that made restricting access through TRAP laws—or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers—a violation of a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

It was hailed as a massive win for reproductive rights advocates, but Trump’s victory and Republican-dominated statehouses reinvigorated both abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates who collectively have proposed 1,053 state-level provisions regarding women’s reproductive health in 2017. Thus far, 18 abortion restrictions have been enacted at the state level, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank. Twenty-two states have potential legislation on deck to ban abortion in most cases outright—four of these are bans known as “trigger laws,” meaning they would automatically become state law should Roe v. Wade be overturned in the Supreme Court. And despite the Supreme Court ruling just last year, 30 states have introduced TRAP legislation in the hopes that a new justice would tip the scales should another challenge to the constitutionality of those laws arise.

Also trending in anti-abortion state legislatures this year are fetal burial laws, which require tissue extracted from the uterus after an abortion to be buried rather than disposed of as medical waste, creating additional costs and burdens for providers; religious liberty protections for crisis pregnancy centers—in Oklahoma; counseling that relies on anti-scientific information to persuade women that medication abortion can be reversed—in Indiana; personhood bills that endow a fetus or an embryo as a person with full rights under the Constitution—in Iowa and North Carolina; and waiting periods between the initial medical evaluation and the actual abortion procedure—in Colorado. Ohio and Kentucky passed laws banning abortions after 20 weeks, and Pennsylvania and Montana are considering similar bills, as are others.

Weakening Roe v. Wade

Years before running for president, Trump said that, despite his personal dislike of abortion, he was “pro-choice in every respect” and that abortion “is a personal decision that should be left to women and their doctors.” But in recent years, the reality TV star turned politician has said he no longer supports abortion access. During his presidential campaign, Trump’s stance remained anti-abortion with the then-candidate saying that the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that women had a constitutional right to an abortion under the 14th Amendment, will happen, automatically,” should he be elected and have the chance to appoint justices to the nation’s highest court. In the months after his election, anti-abortion advocates have argued that he will make good on that promise.

But overturning Roe will be a complicated task and is likely one of the hardest goals for Trump to actually achieve. The Supreme Court recently affirmed women’s constitutional right to abortion without undue burden in its Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision last June, and it will likely take years before another challenge makes its way to the Supreme Court. For the court to decide to completely overturn Roe, it would need to reject more than four decades of settled precedent.

Still, there are ways that Trump can begin laying the groundwork for overturning the landmark ruling. He has consistently promised to place “pro-life justices on the US Supreme Court,” and while some anti-abortion advocates argued that his pool of potential picks weren’t sufficiently conservative, there is still plenty for them to like about Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment, Neil Gorsuch. Since being appointed to the circuit court by George W. Bush in 2006, Gorsuch has taken conservative stances on reproductive issues—recently he wrote the dissenting opinion in a ruling that blocked Utah from defunding Planned Parenthood.

During his time on the appellate court, Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s effort to fight against the Obamacare rule requiring companies to include contraception coverage in their health insurance plans. While Gorsuch is likely to be a strong voice in favor of pro-life advocates, as a successor to Antonin Scalia, he will not drastically shift the balance of the court. But if Anthony Kennedy, a frequent swing vote, or a more liberal justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg vacates their seat in the next few years, Trump would have an opportunity to move the Supreme Court in a decidedly anti-Roe direction.

States also play a large role in determining what will happen. While the Supreme Court’s newest member adjusts to being on the bench, conservative-led legislatures have remained undaunted in their efforts to get another abortion rights case before the courts. Abortion restrictions, particularly the emergence of bans before fetal viability, have become some of the biggest sources of a potential court challenge. As Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a recent interview with Mother Jones, some states “are thinking about being the state that overturns Roe v. Wade, and the way to do that is to adopt something like a 6-week abortion ban or a 20-week abortion ban and then send that up through the courts.”

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Trump Brought the War on Women Mainstream in His First 100 Days

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I Underwent Genital Mutilation as a Child—Right Here in the United States

Mother Jones

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Last week, an Indian American doctor was arrested in Michigan, charged with performing female genital cutting on two seven-year-old girls. As the story hit the local press and then the New York Times, and as it was shared by George Takei and Nicholas Kristof, my phone kept blowing up with breathless messages and links from childhood friends across the country.

“This story isn’t going away,” said one friend over the phone. We both grew up in the same controversial, secretive South Asian Muslim sect as the doctor, a 44-year-old emergency room physician named Jumana Nagarwala who was born in Washington, DC. “This time, the community can’t just pretend it’s not happening.” Just today, two more followers of the sect were arrested in connection with the case.

Our sect is known as the Dawoodi Bohras, a Shiite branch of Islam based in Gujarat, India, with an estimated 1.2 million followers around the world and thriving outposts across America. Some Bohras and others say the sect has veered toward a cult of personality and away from Islamic principles; it’s ruled by a well-heeled clergy of “totalitarian kings” with unusually wide-reaching control over their followers. (The Bohra clergy did not respond to Mother Jones‘ request for comment.)

Federal officials believe Nagarwala may have been clandestinely cutting girls since at least 2005. It’s the first case of its kind in the United States, where female genital cutting is a criminal sexual act and has been illegal since 1996. The practice is widely seen as an attempt to curb women’s sexuality by making sex less enjoyable, even painful.

Nagarwala admits she performed a procedure on the two seven-year-old girls, but says she didn’t cut them—she merely wiped away a mucous membrane and gave the gauze to the parents, who would bury it in keeping with Bohra tradition. She told investigators she’s not aware of anyone in her community who practices cutting.

As little girls, nearly all my female Bohra friends and I underwent khatna, the sect’s term for this practice. None of us remember being “wiped.” We were cut. Some of us bled and ached for days, and some walked away with lifelong physical damage. In interviews with investigators, one of the girls Nagarwala performed on said the procedure hurt so badly that she screamed in pain and “could barely walk afterward.” She drew a picture of the room where it happened, and marked an “X” to show where she bled on an exam table. Medical examinations show that both girls’ genitals have been altered.

While news coverage and the federal case focus on Nagarwala, khatna has been a mandatory religious practice inflicted on Bohra girls all over the world for generations, often in knowing violation of local laws. Bohras are the only Muslims in India who enforce female genital cutting; it’s not a common practice among South Asians or Muslims worldwide, and it’s not mentioned in the Koran. Privately, many Bohras have been praying for the clergy to end this practice for years, even decades. More than one mother I know wept when she learned she was bearing a girl, dreading what she might have to do to her child.

“Maybe this is the case that finally scares them into stopping it,” another friend messaged me. Her khatna happened during a family vacation in India. Mine took place in the bedroom of a family acquaintance in New Jersey in the late ’80s.

I buried the memory until I was 13, when my freshman year social-studies teacher put on a video about female genital mutilation in Africa. As I watched a young girl, dark-skinned like me, being prepared by village elders for her mutilation, I suddenly flashed back to a dim, chilly house my mother took me to when I was about seven. Two Indian aunties I had never seen before held me down on a mattress and pulled down my underwear as I squirmed to get free. One of them held a small pair of silver scissors, like the ones my dad used to keep his beard trimmed. Then, the sudden sensation of a tight, mean little pinch between my legs.

The memory exploded in my head in the dark, quiet classroom, and suddenly, a recurring nightmare I’d had for years made sense. In those dreams, the lower half of my body was made of kid’s construction toys, and pieces kept breaking off as I frantically tried to keep myself together. I began sobbing at my desk. The teacher kindly told me to catch my breath in the hallway; she thought I was upset over the images I was seeing in the video. Later, at lunch, my white girlfriends talked about being relieved that sort of thing doesn’t happen in America.

But it does. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half a million girls in the United States were affected by or at risk for mutilation in 2012. I know of dozens of Bohra women whose parents had them cut in America over the last 30 years, from New York City to Houston to Chicago. Others were taken out of country to have the procedure done, a practice called “vacation cutting” that’s now also illegal in the United States.

We’re the first generation of Bohras born in America. Our parents began settling here after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which brought a wave of South Asian engineers, doctors, and other professionals to America. In our teens and 20s, my friends and I who underwent khatna assured each other the practice would die out as Bohras assimilated. We’re now in our 30s, and it hasn’t stopped. Some women our age and younger are still arranging or considering khatna for their own daughters.

“Nothing is going to change,” sighed the friend who called me to discuss the Nagarwala case. She spoke with a bitterness I could almost taste in my own mouth. “They’ll use this one doctor as a scapegoat, let her take the heat, and pretend it never happened.”

In 2015, the Australian Supreme Court handed down the first-ever conviction for a Bohra engaged in khatna. Many Bohras opposed to the practice hoped this was finally khatna‘s death knell. The Bohra clergy takes pains to maintain good relations with political leaders around the world; a guilty verdict in an affluent, English-speaking country seemed disastrous, especially in an increasing atmosphere of global Islamophobia.

Instead, the head cleric, Mufaddal Saifuddin, 70, seemed to double down on the practice during a cryptic sermon delivered last year in Mumbai. Congregations in the United States and elsewhere were sent letters instructing them to follow local laws, but some reading between the lines heard different instructions: Go underground, and don’t get caught. The parents in the Michigan case traveled with their daughters from Minnesota in February; community members tell me it’s become harder—but not impossible—to find Bohras willing to perform the procedure.

The task of getting a young girl’s khatna done falls on adult female relatives; men often don’t know it’s happening, or even that the practice exists at all. Girls are told to keep the procedure a secret after it’s performed, and they usually do. “For the longest time, I didn’t even know other people had this done, too,” one friend from the community told me. “I thought it was something my mom only did to me, and I didn’t know why.”

In the vacuum of secrecy, and with very little official guidance from Bohra leadership, there are wide variations in how khatna is performed. The seven-year-old girls in the Michigan case were allegedly cut by a licensed medical professional in an unnamed medical clinic. (Nagarwala’s employer, Henry Ford Hospital, says it did not happen on their grounds.) In other cases, the cutting is performed by laypeople with no medical training in unhygienic conditions.

There’s also little consensus about how the actual procedure is supposed to work; it’s often up to the interpretation of whoever is wielding the blade. In some cases, like mine, a “pinch of skin” from the clitoral hood is cut away, leaving no lasting physical trauma. Sometimes the entire clitoris is removed, or surrounding tissue is also damaged. Last year, writer Mariya Karimjee went on This American Life to tell the story of her cutting, which was performed in Pakistan and left her unable to have sex without unendurable pain.

Bohras even disagree on why khatna is performed. The prevailing view is that it keeps girls and women from becoming sexually promiscuous. Others say it has something to do with “removing bad germs” and liken it to male circumcision, which is widely (though not universally) believed to have hygienic benefits. The World Health Organization says female genital mutilation has no known health benefits and “violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”

Despite the prevalence of khatna among generations of Bohra women around the world, there has been almost no public conversation about it until just a few years ago. Speaking out about any of the numerous issues the clergy has come under scrutiny for—khatna, multiple lawsuits over alleged abuses of power, “big brother”-style surveillance of everyday Bohras—is seen as unacceptable. Dissidents can face excommunication and social boycott. The threat extends to family members, whose businesses often depend on Bohra financing, or who may not be allowed to marry within the community or be buried in a Bohra cemetery unless the rebellious relative is quieted.

I’m already estranged from my family because of disagreements over Bohra customs. Like a few of my friends, I’ve tried to bring up khatna to my parents, mostly my mother, with little progress. As in many rigid orthodoxies, the burden of social policing in the Bohra community falls largely on women, who have the most to lose from rocking the boat and who are often suffering from unacknowledged personal trauma of their own.

That’s why it’s remarkable that so many Bohra women have started speaking up over the last few years, from the explosive This American Life story to a documentary film, interviews with major news outlets in India and the United States, and a Change.org petition calling on the Bohra clergy to end the practice that’s been signed by 150,000 supporters. In 2015, five young women started a Bohra anti-FGM group called Sahiyo (Gujarati for “friends”) and conducted the first large-scale, global research study on the practice of khatna among Dawoodi Bohras. Nearly 400 Bohra women took the online survey, mostly from India and the United States and between the ages of 18 and 45. Eighty percent said they would like the practice of khatna to end.

None of this has moved the clergy to unequivocally end it.

One of the girls in the Nagarwala case in Michigan was temporarily taken away from her parents, an act that’s sure to cause additional trauma. Nagarwala could be sentenced anywhere from five years to life in prison for the assortment of charges she faces, though she’s just one of an untold number of khatna practitioners around the country. Bohras opposed to the practice now find themselves rooting against those who are arguably fellow victims.

“It’s feels sick to be happy about all this punishment,” said one of my friends the other night. “But I just don’t know how else to make them listen.”

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I Underwent Genital Mutilation as a Child—Right Here in the United States

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Inside the Underground Anti-Racist Movement That Brings the Fight to White Supremacists

Mother Jones

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At lunchtime on May 19, 2012, 18 masked men and women shouldered through the front door of the Ashford House restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois, a working-class suburb of Chicago. Some diners mistook the mob for armed robbers. Others thought they might be playing a practical joke. But Steven Speers, a stalactite-bearded 33-year-old who had just sat down for appetizers at a white nationalist meet and greet, had a hunch who they were. The gang filing in with baseball bats, police batons, hammers, and nunchucks were members of Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement (HARM), two groups dedicated to violently confronting white supremacists.

“Hey, bitches!” one of the anti-racists shouted before charging Speers’ table. “ARA is going to fuck this place up!”

Speers stood up and warned his seven companions to prepare to fight. His girlfriend, Beckie Williams, who had organized the lunchtime gathering on the white supremacist website Stormfront, grabbed a butter knife. Francis Gilroy, a homeless man who had driven up from Florida to find “work for whites,” as an online ad for the meeting promised, tried to pull the attackers off his companions. Williams was clubbed on the arm. Speers was hit on the head so hard he vomited.

An 80-year-old woman celebrating her granddaughter’s high school graduation at a nearby table was also pushed to the floor. A retired cop who believed he was witnessing a terrorist attack used a chair to knock out one of the masked intruders. That’s when they ran off, dragging their dazed companion.

In less than two minutes, the anti-racists had unleashed a flurry of destruction. A mosaic of smashed glass covered the floor. Blood polka-dotted the ceiling. Three people required medical care.

One group of attackers raced away in a cherry red Dodge Neon. Jason Sutherlin, a 33-year-old with the words “TIME BOMB” tattooed across his knuckles, rode shotgun. His half-brother Dylan drove, and his half-brother Cody, along with their cousin John Tucker, squeezed into the backseat with 22-year-old Alex Stuck, who’d been decked in the restaurant. They sped toward Interstate 80, which would take them home to central Indiana.

An off-duty police sergeant who’d heard a radio call about the attack spotted the Neon and turned on her siren. When she looked inside the parked car, amid the sweaty men she saw a baton, a baseball cap that said “Anti-Racist,” and a black and red scarf spelling out “HARM.” The men were arrested and charged with felony mob action and aggravated battery, which together carried up to seven years behind bars. (Speers and Gilroy were also arrested—Speers for a charge of possessing child pornography.)

Jason Sutherlin Andrew Spear

Sutherlin and his four compatriots would soon come to be known as the Tinley Park Five. Though they had launched the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement just six months earlier, the attack would make them the public faces of a small yet militant movement that had been waging war on right-wing extremists for decades. HARM was part of Anti-Racist Action, a national group that had spent more than 20 years trying to expose and combat radical right-wing activity with tactics that ranged from counseling kids in neo-Nazi gangs to harassment and physical violence. Most of their actions received little attention, though they occasionally made headlines, like after the 2002 Battle of York, where ARA members attacked a white supremacist march in a Pennsylvania town, or the time in 2009 when pepper-spray-wielding ARA members broke up a New York City speech by the British Holocaust denier David Irving. But mostly, this war was invisible beyond the predominantly white working-class youths caught up in it.

As the election of Donald Trump has ushered white supremacists and their ideas from the fringes to the mainstream, their most militant foes have also come out of the shadows. On Inauguration Day, Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” was punched in the face on a Washington, DC, street corner. The blow was caught on video, spawning countless remixes and a debate over the ethics and efficacy of “Nazi punching.” That same night, a Trump supporter shot and wounded an anti-fascist, or “antifa,” who was protesting a speech by Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of Washington in Seattle. Less than two weeks later, “black bloc” protesters in Berkeley, California, helped force the cancellation of another Yiannopoulos speech, setting fires, smashing windows, and punching a Milo fan. Nationwide, new militant groups like Redneck Revolt are recruiting the next generation of activists who believe that white liberals are not up to the challenge of beating back right-wing extremists. The story of HARM’s rise and fall is a prequel to this moment, and a revealing tale about an underground war that’s been simmering for years and may now be poised to explode.

The seed for HARM was planted in People’s Park, a tangle of trees and footpaths in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, where in 1968 an African American graduate student named Clarence Turner opened a small store called the Black Market. In a state with a long history of white supremacism (in 1925, nearly one-third of all adult white males there belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and the governor was a sympathizer), the shop celebrated African and African American culture by selling dashikis and Malcolm X speeches. A few months after it opened, two Klan members firebombed it on Christmas. “This will not be an open season on niggers,” Turner shouted during a rally in front of the ashen skeleton of his shop.

Left Hook: A Brief History of Nazi Punching in America

By the 1990s, People’s Park had become a hangout spot for punks, ravers, hippies, petty drug dealers, and college kids looking to score. It was there around 1996 that Jason Sutherlin met Telly, another teen from a nearby town. Telly introduced Sutherlin to Nomad, a hulking, half-Puerto Rican tattoo artist. (These names are aliases that they asked me to use to avoid being targeted by white supremacists; the investigation into the Tinley Park assaults is ongoing.) Long before they would become leaders of the local anti-racist movement, the three teens “chased the same cute punk girls,” Sutherlin recalls. “At first, they were my competition, but then we became pals.”

The trio shared a love of hip-hop and punk and a hatred for bullies. It was at house parties and concerts that they got their first introduction to Indiana’s numerous white supremacist gangs—specifically, the Hammerskins and the Vinlanders Social Club. Sutherlin recalls attending a show where a Hammerskin stabbed a Latino kid. At another show, concertgoers tried to kick out a group of neo-Nazis, one of whom fired a gun into the air. (More recently, three Vinlanders nearly beat a homeless black man to death in Indianapolis in 2007.) Sutherlin was shocked by the neo-Nazis’ boldness, but he was just as impressed by how the older punks stood up to them. “That culture of not taking any shit seeped into my consciousness.”

A rampaging neo-Nazi shot Won Joon Yoon outside the Korean United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1999. Andrew Spear

Sutherlin had grown up in a diverse, working-class family that moved frequently between Indiana, Texas, and Florida. “We were crazy white trash, but my mom ran a very multicultural household,” he said. He had a gay Latino babysitter and his younger sister’s dad is black. Sutherlin recalled walking down the street with her near their home outside Bloomington when she was four. “Look,” a man shouted from the window of his pickup. “He’s got his own little nigger!” When the 14-year-old Sutherlin launched a bottle of Snapple at the truck, the man jumped out and beat him up. “In that moment, I realized that if there’s anything in life worth throwing down over,” he said, “that was it.”

In July 1999, a 21-year-old Indiana University student who had fallen under the sway of a neo-Nazi cult called the World Church of the Creator went on a two-state, three-day shooting spree, wounding nine people and killing two, including a Korean graduate student in Bloomington. Still, Sutherlin and his friends weren’t overtly interested in politics yet—they just liked hanging out in the park, going to shows, drinking, and getting into fights. Sutherlin describes himself during his teens and early 20s as a “hoodrat.” One night in 1999, after he’d dropped out of school, he burglarized a house, stealing several computers to get money to buy cocaine. He was sentenced to two years. An acquaintance who was also an inmate at the same facility later joined the prison branch of the Vinlanders Social Club. “He wasn’t even racist,” Sutherlin said, “but I think the power of the group appealed to him. If you’re a disaffected young man, any strong masculine identity will hold sway over you.”

Sutherlin became active in politics after getting out of prison and having a child. “Bringing a son into this world made me feel like I had to make things better for him,” he said. Punk, rap lyrics, and his family’s diversity had fostered his interest in left-wing ideas, but now he read voraciously about slavery, capitalism, and sexism. Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, which documents the link between race and mass incarceration, “blew my mind.” He became fascinated by the militant 19th-century abolitionist John Brown. He went on a diet and lost nearly 150 pounds.

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Sutherlin took it as a sign that America might finally be reckoning with its racist past. “He was the first president I ever believed in,” he says. “Like, I was telling my family to vote for him.” But after Obama’s election, the political climate seemed to sour and the racial progress Sutherlin had hoped for never materialized. “America just would not accept a black man as its leader. It enraged me to fully realize that.”

Fanning the flames of Sutherlin’s anger was the emergence of the tea party and birtherism, and the “failure of mainstream Democratic or Republican politicians to aggressively challenge” these movements’ racist and nativist messages. This frustration led him to People’s Park, where a small crowd gathered at the former site of the Black Market one night in October 2011. Just three weeks after Occupy Wall Street took over New York’s Zuccotti Park, Occupy Bloomington was born. Sutherlin helped build a kitchen and cook communal meals, and he didn’t sleep for two days. He was thrilled to be involved in activism of some kind, even if it wasn’t directly addressing racism.

Toward the end of the year, Thomas Buhls, a former Marine and organizer for the Knights, the public wing of the Ku Klux Klan, showed up around People’s Park handing out recruitment pamphlets and talking about “white genocide.” Buhls was part of a new wave of young white supremacists who pioneered the recruitment approach since adopted by the so-called alt-right: rebranding white nationalism not as a philosophy of racial superiority, but as a common-sense extension of identity politics in which the white working class is portrayed as victims of immigration, affirmative action, and multiculturalism. In this world-view, white anti-racists were an especially loathsome threat to racial solidarity. “If I tell the obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews,” wrote Robert Whitaker, a former Reagan administration aide, in his “Mantra,” a mini-manifesto that appeared online in 2006 and has served as a touchstone for white nationalists. “They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white. ‘Anti-racist’ is a code word for anti-white.”

“Buhls was telling people the recession happened because of the Jew bankers, because the Latinos were stealing jobs,” Sutherlin remembers. He and Telly would confront Buhls when they got the chance, and Sutherlin told him not to bother people in the park. “His audacity, man, of showing up at the spot where the Black Market had been firebombed.”

“I wasn’t sure if I was racist or anti-racist,” recalls Alex Stuck. “I just knew I was pissed off.” A high school dropout from Terre Haute, Indiana, who also participated in Occupy Bloomington, Stuck worked at a pizza shop beneath the pub where Sutherlin was a bartender and bouncer. Stuck had a cockatiel Mohawk, a teardrop inked beneath his right eye, and an underbite reminiscent of a French bulldog. “I was your average dumb kid,” he says. “I’d tell a racist joke or use a racist slur.” But Sutherlin began to school him about white privilege, sexism, and structural racism. “Before that, I was a muggle,” Stuck says, referring to the term for Harry Potter characters without magical powers.

The magic Sutherlin introduced him to was the history of the secret war between anti-racists and white supremacists. Like most wars, this one had its own martyrs and heroes. There was the tragedy of Greensboro, North Carolina, where in 1979 Klansmen and neo-Nazis opened fire on a “Death to the Klan” rally, killing five participants. There were the Baldies, a 1980s Minneapolis street crew, whose shaved heads, bomber jackets, boots, and braces mirrored the attire of the racist skinheads they booted out of town. And then there was Anti-Racist Action, which merged the moralism of America’s abolitionist tradition with the nihilism of punk rock and viewed the culture war as a literal war on racists, sexists, and homophobes, whom they denounced as fascists. “Racism is an idea,” an anonymous ARA member said in the 2000 documentary Invisible Revolution, but “fascism is an idea mixed with action. It took fascism to establish Jim Crow and before that, slavery…Anti-Semitism has been around a long time, but it took fascism to make the Holocaust…When you cross that threshold, you negate your rights to a calm, collective conversation.”

If ARA was the brawn of the anti-racist movement, its most prominent brain was Noel Ignatiev, a Marxist, an ex-steelworker, and a former lecturer for Harvard University’s African American studies department. He founded a journal, Race Traitor, as a vehicle for his theories about how to attack and erode white privilege. Anti-racist whites must commit “treason to whiteness” by rejecting the benefits skin color confers upon them, Ignatiev argued. “Be reverse Oreos,” he told the New York Times in 1997. “Defy the rules of whiteness—flagrantly, publicly. When someone makes a racial slur in your presence, say, ‘You probably think I’m white because I look white.'” He added that “challenging people on their whiteness can lead to harsh confrontations, even blows.” Breitbart described him as the “Harvard professor who calls for the ‘destruction’ of the ‘white race.'”

White Nationalists See Trump as Their Troll in Chief. Is He With Them?

Sutherlin, Telly, and Nomad cited this legacy as inspiration for the group they formed in the winter of 2011, just before Occupy Bloomington was evicted from People’s Park. “The feeling was that Occupy had been too moderate and unfocused,” says Sutherlin’s cousin John Tucker, who worked with Sutherlin as a bouncer. He credits his interest in HARM to teenage run-ins with neo-Nazis and to the times he heard his mother, who has a dark complexion, being called “wetback” and “squaw” by strangers in Bloomington. “This was going to be something more effective,” Tucker said. “Protesting and camping is nice, but this was going to have results.”

At HARM’s first official meeting, a few dozen people showed up at Sutherlin’s apartment with potluck dishes and beer. Telly stood before the crowd and announced the new group’s name and mission. Adopting Anti-Racist Action’s four-point platform, HARM promised to fight racists with direct action, eschewing protests or legislative efforts in favor of, say, hacking neo-Nazis’ email accounts, providing security at gay pride parades, and exposing the shady pasts of bigoted candidates. “This is a war,” Telly said, “and we intend to win.”

That’s when all but about 10 people left. “Some of them were hipster liberals,” said Stuck. “Once it came down to the nitty-gritty and we started discussing tactics, they were like, ‘We don’t wanna be a part of this.'”

Those who stayed included Tucker, who’d never been involved in politics before, and Sutherlin’s affable 23-year-old half-brother, Cody. Nomad arrived later that night. Stuck recalls seeing him—muscular as a middleweight, his head Bic-razored, his throat adorned with a tattoo of a switchblade—and thinking, “That’s who I want to be.” “I was a disenfranchised white youth,” Stuck says, “and thank God that HARM got to me first. I could have easily went the opposite direction.”

Nomad had that exact fear about his 14-year-old son, who had recently come home with a neo-Nazi recruitment flyer. White supremacists had even shown up at the tattoo parlor where Nomad worked and tried to recruit him, not realizing he was a militant anti-racist—and half Puerto Rican. “They are poisoning these kids,” Nomad said.

Telly was particularly alarmed by the growing acceptance of extreme right-wing ideas and figures. “It was terrifying,” he said. The birther movement and Arizona’s 2010 anti-immigrant law were “barely veiled racist sentiments that sounded like stuff white supremacists would advocate, not what members of the Republican Party would typically find acceptable.” Telly recalled J.T. Ready, an Arizona Republican committeeman and a former member of the National Socialist Movement who killed his family and himself after the FBI began investigating his border militia group for the murder of undocumented immigrants. There was also Jack Hunter, who had worked as an aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) until it came out that he’d made pro-Confederate statements and written that “John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place.” These people didn’t have much influence, Telly acknowledged, but “it was fucking insane that they had any influence whatsoever. Things had gone so far to the right, and we wanted to pull them back to the left.”

With its core members assembled, HARM planned an action: It would confront Buhls, who was holding a “European Heritage” rally in downtown Bloomington. In preparation, the activists lifted weights in Sutherlin’s garage “to beef up so we could break bones better,” says Stuck, half-seriously. On the day of the rally, in April 2012, more than 100 people came out to protest Buhls, who showed up with just one friend. The HARM members didn’t have a concrete plan to challenge Buhls, and before they could do anything two protesters ran up and punched him. His “Celebrate White Heritage” sign capsized into a sea of counterprotesters. Police whisked him away in a patrol car for his own safety.

A few weeks later, HARM stormed the restaurant in Illinois. While Sutherlin and the rest of the Tinley Park Five sat in jail, their comrades found their next target: the newly formed White Student Union at Indiana University. Matthew Heimbach, a white nationalist leader from Maryland, had pioneered the first White Student Union at Towson University outside Baltimore before helping spread the concept to other schools. Bloomington’s White Student Union announced its presence on campus by planning an “American White History Month.”

But less than a week after the White Student Union made its debut, a disturbing notice was posted on the group’s Facebook page by its founder, an IU undergrad:

I just spent all night in the hospital.

While walking down 10th…a blue van pulled up and four figures poured out of the vehicle…All of them wore all black clothing and had either ski masks or bandanas covering their faces…

What’s up…? That’s the only thing they said. I got hit in the head with something from behind. I fell down and told them that was enough. At this point all…of them proceeded to kick me for what felt like hours. At some point I passed out. I didn’t think I would ever wake up again.

None of it was true—it was an elaborate psyops scheme. HARM had plastered flyers all over Bloomington denouncing the White Student Union’s founder as a racist and then promised to stop only if he handed over access to the group’s Facebook page. Amazingly, he did. Then HARM invented the story of the beating to elicit notes of sympathy from other white supremacists. Once the post was up, they “doxed” those who replied, posting their real names and email addresses online.

“Though we support direct action against white supremacy,” an anonymous HARM member gloated on the group’s website after revealing the hoax, “we also believe in proportional responses and it is our belief that this fictitious action would have been overkill.” In other words, actually beating up the college kid who started the White Student Union would have been a step too far, but harassing him and outing his sympathizers was not. Heimbach “found a young naive conservative kid and turned him into the next battle in the war against racial supremacy,” the HARM member wrote, adding that the student had agreed to disband the White Student Union as a result of the hacking. “White supremacists are like rabid dogs…Just like rabid dogs, putting them down is always the most humane approach.”

I met Telly and Nomad in Columbus, Ohio, several months after the Tinley Park attack. Sutherlin and his brothers, his cousin, and Stuck were in Chicago awaiting trial, and Telly and Nomad were participating in a fundraiser to pay bail. They led me to a carriage house behind a “big-ass, beautiful mansion,” as Nomad described it, where a crowd of about 50 people greeted us. Many were HARM and ARA members, and I wondered if any of the remaining 13 fugitives were among them. (I never found out.) They were dressed in Mad Max-style punk garb—black jeans, black hoodies, bomber jackets, and combat boots, with neck and face tattoos, septum piercings, and rainbow-colored bandannas. They included a few African Americans and a dozen women. As Bob Fitrakis, a political-science professor and voting rights activist who hosted the event, wrote, they “exuded an aura that made the Weathermen look like the Brady Bunch.”

We Talked to Experts About What Terms to Use for Which Group of Racists

Fitrakis, a paunchy man with a ducktail mullet, was running for Congress as the candidate of the Green Party, which had co-sponsored the evening with ARA. His supporters, who had paid $25 to attend, mingled awkwardly with the radicals. Circulating among them was the Green Party’s then-vice presidential candidate, an anti-poverty activist named Cheri Honkala. “Dude,” Nomad said to me after a woman wearing a pearl brooch offered him a glass of zinfandel on a silver tray. The switchblade tattooed across his throat wiggled as he spoke. “This is a little out of my league.”

“These kids are the future,” said a sweaty, elderly man who asked that I not use his name because he was a “prominent professor.” He wore a black blazer over a T-shirt with a peace sign. “This is what the left needs—working-class, radical youth who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and scare the bejesus out of the teabaggers!”

“I guess there’s a time and a place for everything, even electoral politics,” Nomad said as he handed me a PBR, glaring at the clean-cut and middle-aged partygoers around us. He took a swig from a bottle of Southern Comfort he’d stashed in his back pocket. “But—and I hate to use gendered language like this—liberals are fucking pussies, man. Sometimes you’ve got to put on the big-boy boots and stomp through some mud.”

After Honkala made a speech about her work as a housing activist in Philadelphia, Telly and two other ARA members sat at the front of the room and described what had happened at the Ashford House. Nomad, standing beside me, snorted tearfully into a red handkerchief when Telly read a letter Jason Sutherlin had sent from jail. “People might think our actions are extreme,” Telly told the crowd, “but these guys”—neo-Nazis—”are often so far beyond the law that they don’t respond to legal appeals. They don’t care if hate crime legislation is enacted; it makes no difference to them. The situation in America has reached a critical tipping point, and we need to fight back with whatever tactics are effective at sending these guys back into the caves they crawled out of.”

“Right on, brother,” a snowy-haired man said.

Other Green Party members golf-clapped. The professor in the black blazer raised his champagne glass.

A hand suddenly shot up in the crowd. “Am I hearing you right?” asked an elegant African American woman with a bundle of silver-streaked hair and a “No War in Iraq” button on her straw purse. “You guys advocate violence?” She’d never heard of HARM or ARA and had been attracted by their names, she explained, but weren’t they just as bad as the people they were fighting? “Doesn’t your approach make you just like the Nazis?”

“Bullshit,” an ARA activist fake-sneezed, flashing a shit-eating smile. The questioner stormed out of the room. Telly ran a hand over his shaved head and sighed. “We’re not remotely the same,” he told the remaining crowd. “We support a diversity of tactics.” He reminded listeners that most of ARA’s actions were nonviolent—removing swastika tattoos from ex-convicts, counseling juvenile offenders, providing security at protests. “Violence is never our default response, and it’s a tiny fraction of what we do,” he said. “But it is one weapon in our tool kit. We’re not afraid to acknowledge when nonviolence is obviously not working. What you’re doing, what the liberal left is doing, frankly isn’t working.”

Five months later, I met Jason Sutherlin at East Moline Correctional Center, a turreted fortress circled by razor wire rising out of the cornfields of western Illinois, where he’d been sentenced to six years following a plea deal. His brothers, his cousin, and Stuck were sent elsewhere in the state to serve terms ranging from three and a half to six years. (A sixth Ashford House attacker, 28-year-old Jason Hammond, was later arrested and sentenced to three and a half years. His twin brother, Jeremy, is serving a 10-year sentence for hacking the security company Stratfor.) The rest of the Tinley Park attackers remain at large and are unknown.

Sutherlin shook my hand, the T-I-M-E on his knuckles interlacing through mine, as he sheepishly slipped the B-O-M-B hand into the pocket of his prison denims. “That guy acts tougher than he is,” he said, nodding toward a beefy prisoner sitting near us in the visitation room, bouncing his son on a leg adorned with a large swastika tattoo. Sutherlin’s eyes are cottonseed blue and heavily lidded, and his slightly upturned nose gives him a wary, porcine appearance. On his bicep is a tattoo that says “Fools Rush In,” and he has the physique of a dead lifter, a huge torso held up by a pair of tiny sawhorse legs. “My best friend in here is a queer black dude,” he told me, grinning. “But the Nazis don’t mess with us.”

How Trump Took Hate Groups Mainstream

White supremacist gangs have an active presence in some Illinois prisons, and Sutherlin told me a story about a white guard who had approached him one day and said, menacingly, “I know why you’re in here.” Later, Sutherlin found himself alone with the same guard. The guard walked up to Sutherlin and flashed a photo of his wife, who is African American. “I think you’ll be all right in this prison,” the guard said. “I totally misread the dude,” Sutherlin told me. “He was congratulating me.”

Why risk so much to fight racism? I asked. Is this even his fight?

“My sister is black,” he said, “and that gave me a different experience of growing up in Indiana. Today, racism has reached a whole other level. It literally makes me sick to my stomach.”

“But why is violence necessary?” I pressed him. “You seem awfully preoccupied with morality—isn’t violence wrong?”

“Part of me feels bad for the whole attack,” he said. “Some central part of me thinks that all violence is oppression, and it’s never, ever right to oppress another person for their beliefs, identity, sexuality, or any other reason, no matter how heinous. But another part of me thinks that these guys aren’t worth that consideration—they’re such scumbags. All you can do is stop them from influencing others at this point.”

“Is it a danger to dehumanize them?”

“Yeah, man, it is. I think about that every day. I don’t want to dehumanize anybody.”

I later spoke with Brandon Spiller, whom Sutherlin had hit in the head with a steel baton at Tinley Park. He told me that being attacked had strengthened his conviction that whites are under siege in America. In the months after the assault, he said he’d received dozens of threatening phone calls from ARA members at his home in Wisconsin. “It’s definitely made me more likely to use my gun next time,” he said.

This is one of the paradoxes of militant anti-racist tactics: Attempting to stop hate crimes by policing thought crimes may reinforce the narrative of victimization that radicalizes some extremists in the first place. Research also suggests that violent protest may drive would-be allies toward more reactionary positions. Even Ignatiev, the anti-racist intellectual, doubts the efficacy of attacks like the one at the Ashford House. Activists should focus on dismantling the institutions and social structure that perpetuate racism, he has written. “Race is not the work of racists.”

Heimbach, now the head of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, told me that groups like ARA help his cause. (Heimbach was filmed shoving a protester at a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, in April 2016.) “They help reinforce our narrative of white victimization and make recruitment easier.”

Beckie Williams, however, wrote two weeks after the attack that the incident had caused her to abandon the white power movement. “Because of the relentless harassment by the ARA TERRORISTS,” she posted on Stormfront, “my already tenuous health is being impacted in a extremely severe way. My only recourse is to step away from activism for the sake of my continued survival.” (The other targets of the Tinley Park attack could not be reached for comment.)

After buying Sutherlin another microwave cheeseburger, I suggested that, while his actions might be appropriate in a society like Nazi Germany, in a democracy like ours, maybe they’re not. But he didn’t buy that; he believes it’s the responsibility of groups like HARM to police the boundary between democracy and fascism, keeping right-wing extremists in check, disorganized and unable to spread their ideas in public or harass people. “We’re not living in a fascist society,” Sutherlin said. “I know that. But it’s happening all around us, in fits and starts.”

As Sutherlin scarfed down a third vending-machine cheeseburger, I asked him about Tony Horwitz’s book Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, which I’d mailed him. “I feel like that book found me at just the right moment,” he said, a bead of grease dribbling down his chin. We’d been discussing the lesser-known details of Brown’s life, like his murder of slavery advocates at Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas in 1856, and the fact that his raid on Harpers Ferry was widely denounced as fanatical violence, even by President Abraham Lincoln. “I don’t know if we’re headed for a similar moment in American politics,” Sutherlin continued. “But if we are, I want to be someone who did something to stop it, not someone who played it safe and stood by.”

Ten feet away, the guy with the swastika tattoo kissed his son goodbye, and a guard led him away. The brawny, bearded Nazi could have been mistaken for one of Sutherlin’s brothers, the resemblance was so strong.

In January, just before Trump’s inauguration, I spoke with Sutherlin and Telly. All six of the Tinley Park attackers had been released from prison and HARM had gone dormant. Telly lives on the East Coast and has helped create a new group, the Torch Network, which combines several of the most radical ARA chapters, including those in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Central Texas. It promises to be just as militant as ARA, if not more. “New groups call me up and ask for advice,” Telly said. He cited the emergence of anti-fascist groups like the John Brown Militia, Redneck Revolt, and the Bastards Motorcycle Club as reasons to be optimistic, but otherwise he was gloomy. “I don’t know what to tell them,” he said. “We lost. Someone like Trump is what we were trying to prevent from happening.”

“I thought we were being alarmist,” Sutherlin said with a chuckle when I called him at his home outside Bloomington, “but it turns out things were way worse than even we imagined.” He’s no longer on parole and has been lying low, taking care of his six-year-old son and going to anti-Trump rallies but avoiding more militant activism. Since the election, he said, he’d also heard from people who were inspired by his example and seeking his advice. One was a childhood friend, a “gun-loving backwoods survivalist” who had never been political until Trump was elected but recently bought more weapons and talked about defending himself against the radical right wing. “I think a lot of people are now realizing that you can’t be neutral,” Sutherlin said. “A lot of people are suddenly realizing you have to pick a side and go to war.”

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Inside the Underground Anti-Racist Movement That Brings the Fight to White Supremacists

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Donald Trump’s Modeling Agency Is on the Verge of Collapse, Say Industry Insiders

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump’s presidency hasn’t been good for one of his favorite businesses. The president’s modeling agency has been losing models and senior staff in recent months amid a growing backlash over his toxic politics. And the problems at Trump Model Management appear to be escalating. In interviews with Mother Jones, three industry insiders said they believe the agency could be forced to close.

The sources—two model bookers who have worked with Trump Models and another person with deep ties to the agency—attributed the firm’s sudden tailspin to the controversial president himself. The once glamorous Trump brand, they said, now appears to be tainted.

“Yeah, it’s closing,” said Virginie Deren, a model booker at the top Paris firm Premium, which co-represents a handful of models with Trump Model Management. Deren said she was given this information by a Trump booker. “It’s surprising that it’s come to that point,” she added. “It’s rough.”

Trump executives didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for this story, but employees of the agency said this week that business is continuing as normal.

Deren said she didn’t know the precise timing of the potential closure or what might happen next for models at the agency. “For now, they haven’t really told us anything,” she said. “Of course, it’s going to take time.”

“That’s definitely happening,” said a second modeling agent who has also worked with Trump models, when asked about the potential closure. This source added that Trump staffers have approached the source’s own company looking for work. “They’re all pretty much sort of scrambling to get out,” said the source, who spoke anonymously to protect the firm where the source works. “We’ve met quite a few who’ve expressed the dismay this is happening, and their only goal is to find a new place.”

A third source—who has close ties to Trump Models—agreed that the situation at the agency is dire and that closing is a real possibility. This source requested anonymity to protect against the possibility of future legal action by the agency.

Corinne Nicolas, president of Trump Model Management, did not respond to questions from Mother Jones. Ronald Lieberman, a vice president at the Trump Organization who has previously responded to press queries about Trump Models, also did not respond to questions about the state of the modeling business. No one answered several calls to the company’s main phone line Wednesday.

Asked about the claims that the agency could soon close its doors, Michael Wildes—a New York attorney who has worked extensively with the agency, as well as with Melania Trump—told Mother Jones, “I’ve been privy to conversations, but I’m not permitted to share anything.”

Still, employees at Trump Models say their work is continuing as normal. Reached on her cellphone Tuesday, Helene Marengo, who works in the agency’s accounts department, said she was unaware of any plans to close her company. “I’m still working. I’m in my office right now, working like normal,” she said. “I have no knowledge of anything happening. As of right now, it’s business as usual.”

A woman who answered the door at the company’s Manhattan office Wednesday said that “of course” the agency remained open for new business.

Last summer, Mother Jones interviewed several foreign-born models who alleged they had worked illegally in the United States with Trump’s agency—a report that was particularly striking in light of Trump’s hawkish stance on illegal immigration. Four former Trump models told Mother Jones they worked for the agency without work visas; one said she worked for the agency for four years without a visa. Records in a lawsuit filed against Trump Model Management by a fifth former model, Alexia Palmer, indicated that she, too, worked for the company without work authorization. (The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.)

Read Mother Jones’ original Trump Models investigation here.

Deren, the Paris booker, said agencies have recently suffered from a general downturn in the modeling business in both Paris and New York. But, she added, the problems at Trump Model Management have more to do with “the political situation”—that is, with Trump.

Since Trump’s campaign, models and their bookers have become increasingly uneasy about working with the president’s agency, said Brandon Hall, the creative director of Sutherland Models, a Toronto agency. He has co-represented roughly 10 models with Trump’s agency over the years and said he currently has about four or five models in common with the company. (Successful fashion models typically have several agents representing them in different markets around the world to book local gigs.) “I would probably be a little reluctant” to work with Trump’s agency, Hall said—adding that models themselves might be even more reluctant to sign with Trump.

One model Hall represented recently didn’t want to meet with Trump’s agents in New York, he said. “It’s just sort of what has transpired because of the election and what has arisen from that,” he said, attempting to explain the apparent aversion to Trump’s agency in the modeling world. “I’m sure he’s gained in some ways and is suffering in others. And I think in the entertainment industry and the fashion industry, among actresses, models, he’s not well liked.”

According to his most recent financial disclosures, Trump owns an 85 percent stake in the agency. He earned nearly $2 million in commissions from it in 2015. But since the election, the modeling firm he founded in 1999 has suffered from a series of staff defections, including longtime Trump agent Duane Gazi-White, who traveled the globe scouting new modeling talent at pageants and Miss Teen USA contests. He recently went to work for a Trump competitor, New York Models, as director of new faces and development. (Gazi-White did not respond to requests for comment.)

Another Trump agent, Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha, recently left Trump Models to set up a new modeling firm called Anti Management, which launched last month. “I did not start an agency with the intent of taking someone out of business,” Santos-Rocha told the Washington Post this week. “Outside of that I have no comments.” (Rocha wouldn’t comment for this story.)

Rocha told Refinery29, the fashion news site, that Trump models were finding it tough to stay with the company because of Trump’s brand. “The people who got the worst of it were the models; they’d arrive on set and people would say, ‘Oooh, you’re from Trump Models? How dare you,’ or ‘Why are you still with them?'” Rocha said, according to the article. “They were constantly harassed by employees on shoots, especially by other models.” Refinery29 first reported that a possible boycott among industry stylists and photographers was being discussed in early February.

Then there are the models. Katie Moore, a breakout star from New York’s Fashion Week in February 2016, and a rising talent in the modeling world, is preparing to leave Trump’s firm in search of new representation, according to Tabitha Garcia, her Texas-based agent. Garcia told Mother Jones that too many Trump agents were leaving the agency for Moore to continue her career there—the situation had become untenable. “Most of Katie’s agents have moved on to other agencies and we are exploring those options for her right now,” Garcia wrote in an email. “An agent really makes the model…That is why it is sad to have this happen.”

“I will be flying to NYC next week to meet with agencies with Katie to continue her career at another agency,” Garcia added. “The staff at Trump have been nothing but kind and amazing along our journey and I am sad that we had to make this hard decision.”

A post shared by Katie Moore (@katherineann.moore) on Apr 3, 2017 at 4:25pm PDT

Katie Moore’s Texas-based agent confirmed the star Trump model is seeking new representation.

Other top Trump models have also fled the agency. Shirley Mallmann signed on with Anti. Veteran supermodel Maggie Rizer blamed Trump’s politics when she exited the company on the eve of the November election. “As a woman, a mother, an American and a human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand,” Rizer wrote on Instagram.

Trump Model Management might be a small part of the president’s business empire, but it did seem to be particularly close to his heart. It augmented his brand as a playboy, and he enjoyed cross-pollinating his other businesses with Trump models. He personally signed talent directly from his Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions. And Trump Models appeared on his reality show, The Apprentice. Melania Trump was once represented by the agency.

At the agency’s launch party in 1998, Trump issued a promise about the company, as described by New York Magazine. Flanked by his business partner and the supermodel Daniela Pestova, Trump rose for a toast. “To the richest agency,” he declared. Now that agency could become the first piece of his business empire to fall victim to his polarizing presidency.

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Donald Trump’s Modeling Agency Is on the Verge of Collapse, Say Industry Insiders

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