2016: The Year Republicans Admitted They Want the U.S. to be a Fascist, Christian Theocracy

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By Allen Clifton

What gets lost in the media’s obsession with all things Donald Trump is the fact that the alternative to him is Sen. Ted Cruz, someone who I think is far more dangerous than “The Donald.” As I’ve said plenty of times before, Cruz is basically everything bad about Trump – but even more radical.

At least with Trump you get a slight glimmer of common sense when it comes to health care and Social Security. Plus Trump isn’t exactly “Mr. Religious,” even if he’s pretending to be to pander for votes. However, Ted Cruz is a religious radical who has a history of putting himself and his own ambitions before anyone else, including his own political party and the country.

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This is someone who’s so unpopular that he’s done what almost nobody in Washington has been able to do for years: he’s brought Democrats and Republicans together because both groups can’t stand him. But having these two men as the top two candidates for the GOP openly tells us what kind of country conservative voters want to turn this nation into: A fascist Christian theocracy.

Both of these men are essentially different types of fascists. While Trump is more the prototypical “dictator-type,” Cruz is what I call a religious fascist. He’s even said in the past that the only way to “save” the United States is to turn it into a theocracy. These are two men who are almost never honest, who’ve built the foundations of their campaigns on doing nothing more than pandering to hate, anger, bigotry and racism.

Even when they’re called out directly to their face on something they said that was unquestionably not true, they simply accuse the person calling them out of being dishonest, then continue to lie some more. Both individuals are completely impervious to being fact checked because neither one operates within a realm of reality where “truth” matters at all. Which works well for them because most of their supporters couldn’t care less about things like facts or reality.

These are people who simply want to be told what they want to hear. The 2016 election has shown us all that Republicans want this nation to be run as a fascist, Christian theocracy. They want a propagandist who tells them mythical stories created to do nothing more than play to their fantasies.

They want to be indoctrinated, told what to think and have the Bible rule over the Constitution. They want Muslims and immigrants (at least brown ones) out of the country. They want a “leader” who stands behind a podium preaching nationalism, hate and fear. Aside from President Obama’s race, a big reason why so many hate him is because he’s not an idiot. This president is someone who sees the bigger picture and seems to understand that we’re living in a world where your capacity to outthink your opposition is just as important as the size of your military.

Meanwhile, Republicans are sheep who respond to trigger words, simplified talking points and seem to believe that extremely complex problems are solved by solutions that sound like they came from the mind of a deranged 7-year-old Charlie Manson. Right now the country is at a precipice in time that history will look back upon as either the moment we all stood up against this wave of fascist Christianity that’s threatening to take over the country, or the moment we stayed home on election day and allowed it to happen.

I certainly hope that when future generations of Americans look back on the 2016 elections, this year will be defined by tens of millions of Americans rising up against the biggest fascist threat this country has faced since Adolf Hitler ruled over Nazi Germany.

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The French conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories

From left to right: Spicee co-founders Jean Bernard Schmidt and Antoine Robin, editor-in-chief Matthieu Firmin and documentary-maker Thomas Huchon. Photograph: Spicee

Thomas Huchon and Antoine Robin’s bogus film about Aids and the CIA is being
shown in French schools in an effort to educate students about disinformation

by Paul Hill

The CIA invented the virus that causes Aids in the 1960s to wage war against Castro’s Cuba, according to a French documentary that started to spread online six months ago.

The 42-minute online film alleged that the United States was now lifting its 50-year embargo in a cynical move to give the American pharmaceutical industry access to a vaccine developed by Cuban scientists.

But none of it was true.

Even Lionel Perrottin, the mysterious figure behind the footage, was a fabrication.

The bogus film was the brainchild of documentary-maker Thomas Huchon and Antoine Robin, co-founder of the Paris-based video journalism site Spicee.

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Troubled by the emergence of conspiracy theories in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, their “Conspi-Hunter” project was intended to show how quickly and easily disinformation can spread.

Huchon posed as his alter-ego Perrottin on social media, building a following of more than 500 people before publishing the bogus documentary.

The film clocked up 10,000 views on YouTube and thousands of shares across Facebook and Twitter in three weeks before the truth was revealed on Spicee.

The bogus film was also featured by a number of French blogs – and can still be found on one site which has more than one million unique visitors per month.

The story of the Conspi-Hunter investigation appeared on November 12: the day before the terror attacks in Paris.

Even if bizarre plots against Cuba attributed to the CIA have been the subject of genuine research among both historians and journalists, the “Conspi-Hunter” project has since become a media talking point and is being taken into French high schools to encourage students to think critically about what they are reading online.

“Today, if you are 15 or 16 years old, you’re going to ask questions – but the problem is never the question, it’s who gives the answer,” Huchon said. “Today – and for the last 10 years – the people who answer questions like ‘Was Charlie Hebdo a conspiracy?’ are conspiracy theory believers. That’s the problem. As journalists we produce content that can answer these questions. But how can you fight people who do not respect any kind of journalistic rules?”
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Huchon added: “We’ve lost the fight for the algorithm. For 10 years, the conspiracy theorists have been writing on the web and they are over-represented. It’s because they are more eager to share their views than others, they publish more, they go up in the algorithm. It’s a fight for quality of information. And the fight right now, well, we’re losing it for good and bad reasons.”

The Conspi-Hunter project was featured during France’s “national study day on responding to conspiracy theories” on 9 February.

Led by education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the study day saw 300 academics, educationalists and teachers debate how best to counter disinformation online.

It came amid growing concern in France about dealing with radicalisation in schools in the wake of the terror attacks.

Debate in the UK centres on the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015 which put a duty on schools to help prevent students being “drawn into terrorism”.

The Department for Education said its Educate against Hate website was intended to help both teachers and parents encourage “young people to challenge conspiracy theories and build a stronger understanding of the risk of extremism”.

“We want young people to be able to take advantage of the vast potential that the internet and social media offers to their lives and education,” a Department for Education spokesperson said.

“But we also want to make sure they are aware of the risks and dangers. That’s why we are strengthening statutory guidance, so that schools are required to ensure that they teach their pupils about safeguarding, including online safety, and have appropriate filters and monitoring systems in place.”

Successful conspiracy theories had four ingredients: a villain, a victim, an underlying theory and a twist or revelation

Google told MPs earlier this year that it would pilot a programme to show anti-radicalisation material to users searching for extremist material.

Huchon said successful conspiracy theories had four essential ingredients: a plausible villain, a victim, an underlying theory and a twist or revelation.

“We decided at the beginning not to choose an ethnic or religious conspiracy, or anti-Islam or anti-Semitism – all of these subjects are nitro-glycerine,” he added.

“We didn’t want the project to escape from us. Perhaps the biggest point was to stay the master of the experiment. If a crazy story about Aids and Cuba could be spread on the internet, imagine what could happen with a crazy story about anti-Semitism or anti-Islam? We wanted a topic that would keep us a little apart from the major trends. We wanted to be able to explain how something totally fake would be repeated and never fact-checked by anyone. We looked at the ‘complot-sphere’ and decided the best way to understand it was to infiltrate it.”
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In shaping the Conspi-Hunter project, Huchon and the Spicee team drew on advice from Rudy Reichstadt, founder of France’s Conspiracy Watch, anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, sociologist Gérard Bronner, and high school teacher Sophie Mazet, author of the Manual of Intellectual Self-Defence.

Today, Huchon and Spicee’s battle against conspiracy theorists is set to continue.

They plan to follow Conspi-Hunter by mapping “real-time revisionism” and plot how conspiracy theories emerge from breaking news stories.

“We don’t have the choice, we have to answer the questions in front of us – even if we think the questions are ridiculous,” he said.

“We have to answer with intelligence and to the highest standard possible – we need fact-checking and we need to be thinking critically all the time.”

Via The Guardian


Is It Time For The Australian Government and The Jewish Community to Overthrow Chabad Religious Cult Leadership?

Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson looks left

Above: The late rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
“…I believe the time has come where serious consideration needs to be given by the broader Jewish community and government as to whether it is appropriate for [Chabad] Yeshivah to continue under its current administration and in its current form. It is easy to forget amid all this chaos that victims are still hurting and seeking justice by way of holding to account those trustees who remain in power, and that the safety of children within the school is paramount. I concur with another [Chabad] Yeshivah victim who recently said publicly that he does not believe that safety can be guaranteed in the environment that currently exists. I would urge the community to give serious consideration to forcing the trustees to hand the [Chabad] Yeshivah Centre over to capable and independent trustees who can administer the Centre professionally until such time as the community has developed the appropriate structures to have it back. Ultimately it’s the safety and wellbeing of our children – past and present – that we are dealing with. And this must always come first.”

Manny Waks, who was the lead victim in the Melbourne Chabad child sex abuse scandal, writes about the new letter (and the 1973 letter it is based on) from Chabad’s international leadership.

That letter essentially bans transparency and democracy. It also treats the massive Chabad child sex abuse scandal as a bother and inconvenience for Melbourne Chabad’s trustees while offering no support at all for the victims of those trustees’ mismanagement and neglect.

More than all that, the letters make clear that while Chabad-Lubavitch’s Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was alive, he took a special interest in and even controlled what happened in Melbourne. That means many of the child sex abuse coverups took place under Schneerson’s active and engaged watch.

The letters also show that the idea that Chabad worldwide is made up of independent franchises with no hierarchical control based in Chabad’s Brooklyn headquarters is false – something Chabad child sex abuse victims who are thinking of suing should take note of.

Manny Waks’ response to these letters:

I have deliberately stayed silent on the proposed governance ‘reforms’ that have been recently disseminated by the Melbourne Yeshivah Centre in response to last year’s Royal Commission. Some of the proposed ‘changes’ are concerning and appear no more than an attempt by the existing trustees to entrench their power when the only proper course of action is for them to resign. But rather than criticise, I wanted to afford the Yeshivah Centre the opportunity to properly consider its position and, to the extent that they’re prepared to speak up, to hear what the rest of the Yeshivah/Chabad community had to say.

However, it now seems that the Yeshivah Centre has been vetoed by the organisation that apparently has always had ultimate power, authority and responsibility: Chabad Headquarters, which is based in Brooklyn New York. It is important to note that since this scandal became public in 2011, Chabad Headquarters have remained silent for the most part, other than a solitary statement issued following the Royal Commission.

The intervention by Chabad Headquarters raises a number of questions about their responsibility for the child sexual abuse cover-ups within Yeshivah and their failure to speak out against the leadership and communal bullying and harassment of child sexual abuse victims, their families and supporters. At the same time, it again exposes the incompetence of the Yeshivah leadership who can’t even seem to clean up their own mess properly. I have briefly addressed each of these issues below, and reproduced the letter from Chabad Headquarters and the 1973 Merkos Guidelines they reference in their letter.

The Role of Chabad Headquarters

As is clear from the Chabad Headquarters letter, in their view at least, the Yeshivah Centre has at all times functioned under the ‘overarching authority’ of ‘the Rebbe zy”a and his representatives at Lubavitch World Headquarters in New York and in Melbourne’. The questions that need to be asked are: What did they know about the sexual abuse of so many children at Yeshivah? What did they know about the cover-ups? What did they know about the ongoing intimidation of victims, their families and supporters? Why have they waited until now to intervene? Were they comfortable with the way Yeshivah responded to victims of child sexual abuse or did they simply not view child sexual abuse as an issue worthy of their intervention?

As far as I’m concerned, they have had plenty of opportunity to have a positive impact on the Yeshivah Centre and community. Instead, they seemingly chose to stand idly by and allow the ‘Chabad ethos’ to be trampled. And now that their power risks being taken from them, they have intervened at the last minute. From my perspective, and that of the victims I’ve spoken to, it is too little too late.

During the Royal Commission, the global Chabad leadership were apparently too busy to speak to journalists. Perhaps now they can start answering questions about the responsibility of Chabad Headquarters for the sexual abuse of children seemingly within their institutions, the subsequent cover-ups of these crimes, followed up by the campaign of intimidation of victims, their families and supporters.

The Role of the Melbourne Yeshivah Centre Leadership

There has been much talk about changes occurring in the Yeshivah leadership since the Royal Commission. While there has been some positive change, including the installation by the trustees of an alternative Committee of Management and the resignation of some trustees, the reality is this: Every trustee who is running Yeshivah today was also running Yeshivah at the time of the abuse, cover-ups and intimidation. They are the same people who led Yeshivah to a Royal Commission and then promised to resign by the end of 2015. They are the same people who, rather than acknowledge their failures and move on, have seemingly proposed to entrench their power for an extended period. And a year after the Royal Commission, Yeshivah is still far from having good governance in place. The position in which they now find themselves is entirely of their own doing – rather than addressing the conflicts, acting transparently, honouring their past commitments and listening to some within their own community (and beyond) – they have carried on as they always have, as if a law unto themselves. After this latest debacle, hot on the heels of their broken promise to implement new governance by the end of 2015, they must all resign without delay.

That is not to say that the answer is for Yeshivah to again be accountable to a select group of Chabad Rabbis, as would seem to be the position of Chabad Headquarters. That model has been tried and has failed spectacularly. But it is to say (indeed to repeat) that those trustees who, by virtue of their leadership role there, have been responsible for what has transpired at Yeshivah cannot be part of the solution.

I believe the time has come where serious consideration needs to be given by the broader Jewish community and government as to whether it is appropriate for Yeshivah to continue under its current administration and in its current form. It is easy to forget amid all this chaos that victims are still hurting and seeking justice by way of holding to account those trustees who remain in power, and that the safety of children within the school is paramount. I concur with another Yeshivah victim who recently said publicly that he does not believe that safety can be guaranteed in the environment that currently exists. I would urge the community to give serious consideration to forcing the trustees to hand the Yeshivah Centre over to capable and independent trustees who can administer the Centre professionally until such time as the community has developed the appropriate structures to have it back. Ultimately it’s the safety and wellbeing of our children – past and present – that we are dealing with. And this must always come first.


The far Right, corporatist, religious and political lunatic fringe, has an extensive history of fabricating and manufacturing hoaxes to demonise perceived enemies, or competitors.

Mere reality is insufficient to satiate their lust for unbridled power, sociopathic hatreds and extreme paranoia, so that fantasies and fabrications are routinely manufactured to nourish their pornography of paranoia.

Conspiracism, the manufacture of the ‘demonic other’ and group, cultural ‘scapegoats,’ has persistently played a vital and core role, in far Right propaganda.

The grubby, listed hate preacher, Robert Spencer, adored by neo-Nazis, fascists and Catholic/Christian/Jewish extremists, is an intermediate cog in the larger, manufactured Islamophobia Industry machinery, which has been staple cash cow for far Right religious and politicised extremists, hate mongers and fascists preying and profiteering from real and fabricated cultural tensions.

Whilst innumerable examples could be cited, here’s a recent faux ‘news’ ruse, promulgated by the superstitious, Rightist Catholic fanatical loon, Robert Spencer who deludes that despite his lies, disinformation and deception, he is doing ‘the work of god.’

 

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Via by Richard Bartholomew

Here’s one I missed from a month ago. From the Daily Caller:

A group of 51 refugees were brutally assaulted outside a night club in Murmansk, Russia, after they groped and molested women at a night club Saturday.

The refugees had previously been ordered to leave Norway for “bad behavior” and tried their luck in Russia. What they didn’t realize when they went out clubbing in Murmansk is that Russians have less tolerance when it comes to sexual assault on local women than other European countries.

…The refugees tried to flee but were quickly captured by the Russians. They then took them out to the street and gave them a beating they will remember. Police arrived to break up the fight but locals report that they threw a few punches at the refugees before arresting 33 of them. Eighteen refugees were in such bad condition they had to be take to the hospital.

As shown above, the story is illustrated with a photograph of a gang of burly men, one of whom has a club, beating up another man, who cowers on the ground.

The source given in the link above is an Italian report from Imola Oggi (without the photo), which in turn cites Fort RussThe Fort Russ article is in English (“translated by Tom Winter”), and states that it “was prepared from material on social network sites.”

However, it followed an earlier report on the same site (“translated by Ollie Richardson”) which has a somewhat different version of the story:

Several refugees from Arab countries were beaten in the middle of the night of Saturday in the city of Polyarnye Zori (Murmansk oblast), reported a FlashNord source in the law enforcement bodies of the region.

The incident occurred in the nightclub Gandvik.

“According to preliminary data, five refugees were beaten in the entertainment establishment. According to witnesses, they behaved insolently and had been pestering local girls,” — said the Agency’s interlocutor.

“Five”. As opposed to “51”. And no reference to any arrests. But there’s more: the original article from FlashNord can be seen here. It was followed up on the same day with a second article, confirming that there may have been a fight outside the nightclub, but that details could not be confirmed from CCTV and it was all over by the time the police arrived.

So, it looks like there was an incident of some kind – but it is far from clear that it was anything more significant than the kind of fight that tends to occur sometimes near venues where young men have been drinking and are perhaps “on the pull”. Were refugees involved? Was the incident provoked by anti-social behaviour towards female clubbers? Nothing in the report confirms any such details (and I can’t find further evidence elsewhere) – and the story of a mass incident involving dozens of arrests appears to have been a fiction.

The photograph used by the Daily Caller doesn’t make much sense: it shows just one man being attacked, and – somewhat crucially – it was taken in middle of the day. The site either didn’t bother – or forgot – to remove the photo’s metadata caption, which identifies it as actually showing Russian Cossacks assaulting a Ukrainian in Sevastopol in 2014. It was published in its correct context in the media at the time (see below).

Did the Daily Caller intend to deceive? Robert Spencer, always eager to spread stories about how Muslims are depraved, appears to have taken it at face value as evidence, as did other right-leaning sites.

Perhaps it was intended merely to be illustrative – but given that the Daily Caller clearly approves of the outcome in their version of the story, such a photo serves to titillate, and perhaps to exhort.

Have we really reached the point where a photo of a bunch thugs beating someone up is to be celebrated because someone has said that it shows a refugee, and has further assured us that the victim did something anti-social and deserves his fate?

Spencer-vs-Mirror

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Research Shows Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime

Christian fundamentalism is toxic: Recent research in criminology demonstrates a strong correlation between high rates of violent crime and conservative Christianity.

In The Devil You Know, the Surprising Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime, Elicka Peterson Sparks, an associate professor of criminology at Appalachian State University, demonstrates that “fundamentalist Christian ideology is criminogenic – in others words it actually causes [crime].”

Of particular concern is “Christian Nationalism,” defined as a political ideology steeped in “a Christian right to rule,” and entailing a false revisionist history specifically focused on America’s founding fathers as devout Christians who did not believe in separation of church and state.

Pointing out that the United States has more fundamentalist Christians than any other nation, Sparks notes:

The United States also has a very high rate of violent crime, and particularly high rates of lethal violence – compared to other similarly situated nations.

This is not a coincidence…this belief system, and the culture it inspires, lends itself to many types of criminal activity including the promotion of violent crimes against a variety of victims, terrorism against those of different faiths, and even crimes against the environment.

Why does religion cause crime? Sparks answers that question with three points:

  1. the explicit theology of violence present in fundamentalist religions;

  2. the psychology attendant in insulating oneself from fear of death through religion;

  3. and the promulgation of laws, policies, and programs to address crime that stem from this belief system.

Noting the violent biblical passages often cited by religious conservatives, their sense of righteousness, their dogmatic mindset that tolerates no dissent, and their support for harshly punitive measures toward “sinners,” Sparks shows that their worldview is the ideal seedbed for violence.

Bottom line: Conservative Christianity’s toxic mixture of fundamentalism, authoritarian politics, patriotism, and retributory justice actually causes crime.

For more information on this topic see: The Devil You Know, the Surprising Link Between Conservative Christianity and Crime.

(Image via Twitter)

(Image via Twitter)


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Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images

Former Mexican drug lord Raul Hernandez Lechuga, center, with other alleged Zetas drug cartel members and some of their weapons in Mexico City in 2011. Although ISIL has captured the U.S. media’s attention, other groups closer to home pose much more of a threat.

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Mexican drug cartels are worse than ISIL
Western obsession with the Islamic State is fueled more by bigotry than any genuine assessment of risk or atrocities

The horrific rampage of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured the world’s attention. Many Western commentators have characterized ISIL’s crimes as unique, no longer practiced anywhere else in the civilized world. They argue that the group’s barbarism is intrinsically Islamic, a product of the aggressive and archaic worldview that dominates the Muslim world. The ignorance of these claims is stunning.

While there are other organized groups whose depravity and threat to the United States far surpasses that of ISIL, none has engendered the same kind of collective indignation and hysteria. This raises a question: Are Americans primarily concerned with ISIL’s atrocities or with the fact that Muslims are committing these crimes?

For example, even as the U.S. media and policymakers radically inflate ISIL’s threat to the Middle East and United States, most Americans appear to be unaware of the scale of the atrocities committed by Mexican drug cartels and the threat they pose to the United States.

Cartels versus ISIL

A recent United Nations report estimated nearly 9,000 civilians have been killed and 17,386 wounded in Iraq in 2014, more than half since ISIL fighters seized large parts on northern Iraq in June. It is likely that the group is responsible another several thousand deaths in Syria. To be sure, these numbers are staggering. But in 2013 drug cartels murdered more than 16,000 people in Mexico alone, and another 60,000 from 2006 to 2012 — a rate of more than one killing every half hour for the last seven years. What is worse, these are estimates from the Mexican government, which is known to deflate the actual death toll by about 50 percent.

Statistics alone do not convey the depravity and threat of the cartels. They carry out hundreds of beheadings every year. In addition to decapitations, the cartels are known to dismember and otherwise mutilate the corpses of their victims — displaying piles of bodies prominently in towns to terrorize the public into compliance. They routinely target women and children to further intimidate communities. Like ISIL, the cartels use social media to post graphic images of their atrocious crimes.

The narcos also recruit child soldiers, molding boys as young as 11 into assassins or sending them on suicide missions during armed confrontations with Mexico’s army. They kidnap tens of thousands of children every year to use as drug mules or prostitutes or to simply kill and harvest their organs for sale on the black market. Those who dare to call for reforms often end up dead. In September, with the apparent assistance of local police, cartels kidnapped and massacred 43 students at a teaching college near the Mexican town of Iguala in response to student protests. A search in the area for the students has uncovered a number of mass graves containing mutilated bodies burned almost beyond recognition, but none of the remains have been confirmed to be of the students.

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A still from a video released by ISIL’s official website in September 2014.
AFP / Getty Images

While the Islamic militants have killed a handful of journalists, the cartels murdered as many as 57 since 2006 for reporting on cartel crimes or exposing government complicity with the criminals. Many of Mexico’s media have been effectively silenced by intimidation or bribes. These censorship activities extend beyond professional media, with narcos tracking down and murdering ordinary citizens who criticize them on the Internet, leaving their naked and disemboweled corpses hanging in public squares. Yet American intellectuals such as Sam Harris appear to be more outraged when Muslims protest or issue threats in response to blasphemous or anti-Muslim hate speech than when cartels murder dozens of journalists and systematically co-opt an entire country’s media.

Similarly, Westerners across various political spectrums were outraged when ISIL seized 1,500 Yazidi women, committing sexual violence against the captives and using them as slaves. Here again, the cartels’ capture and trafficking of women dwarfs ISIL’s crimes. Narcos hold tens of thousands of Mexican citizens as slaves for their various enterprises and systematically use rape as a weapon of war.

U.S. media have especially hyped ISIL’s violence against Americans. This summer ISIL beheaded two Americans and has warned about executing a third; additionally, one U.S. Marine has died in efforts to combat the group. By contrast, the cartels killed 293 Americans in Mexico from 2007 to 2010 and have repeatedly attacked U.S. consulates in Mexico. While ISIL’s beheadings are no doubt outrageous, the cartels tortured, dismembered and then cooked one of the Americans they captured — possibly eating him or feeding him to dogs.

The US government cannot formulate an effective response to the narcos’ severe threats because the American public is far too busy disparaging Islam while the US military kills Arabs and Muslims abroad.

The cartels’ atrocities are not restricted to the Mexican side of the border. From 2006 to 2010 as many as 5,700 Americans were killed in the U.S. by cartel-fueled drug violence. By contrast, 2,937 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Over the last decade, some 2,349 Americans were killed in Afghanistan, and 4,487 Americans died in Iraq. In four years the cartels have managed to cause the deaths of more Americans than during 9/11 or either of those wars.

Barack Obama’s administration claims ISIL poses a severe threat to U.S. interests and national security. However, the militants were primarily concerned with seizing and holding territory in Iraq and Syria until the U.S. began targeting them. Even now, while they have called for lone wolves to carry out attacks on targets in the United States, so far those arrested in connection to ISIL have been trying to go and fight abroad rather than plotting domestic attacks. To the extent ISIL wants to kill Americans, its primary tactic has been to try to lure U.S. troops to its turf by publicly executing citizens they already hold hostage. In fact, several U.S. intelligence officials have asserted that ISIL poses no credible threat to the United States homeland. However, the same cannot be said of the cartels.

Narcos have infiltrated at least 3,000 U.S. cities and are recruiting many Americans, including U.S. troops and law enforcement officers, to their organizations. They have an increasingly sophisticated and robust foundation in the U.S., with Mexican cartels now controlling more than 80 percent of the illicit drug trade in the United States and their top agents deployed to virtually every major metropolitan area. There are no realistic assessments indicating that ISIL could achieve a similar level of penetration in the United States.

Explaining the dissonance

It is clear that the anti-ISIL campaign is not driven by the group’s relative threat to the United States or the scale or inhumane nature of their atrocities. If these were the primary considerations, the public would be far more terrified of and outraged by the narcos. Perhaps the U.S. would be mobilizing 50 nations to purge Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel rather than shielding it from prosecution, helping it polish off its rivals or even move drugs into the United States.

Some may argue that despite the asymmetries, the cartels are less of a threat than ISIL because ISIL is unified around an ideology, which is antithetical to the prevailing international order, while the cartels are concerned primarily with money. This is not true.

A good deal of the cartels’ violence is perpetrated ritualistically as part of their religion, which is centered, quite literally, on the worship of death. The narcos build and support churches all across Mexico to perpetuate their eschatology. One of the cartels, the Knights Templar (whose name evokes religious warfare), even boasts about its leader’s death and resurrection. When cartel members are killed, they are buried in lavish mausoleums, regarded as martyrs and commemorated in popular songs glorifying their exploits in all their brutality. Many of their members view the “martyrs” as heroes who died resisting an international order that exploits Latin America and fighting the feckless governments that enable it. The cartels see their role as compensating for state failures in governance. The narco gospel, which derives from Catholicism, is swiftly making inroads in the United States and Central America. In short, the cartels’ ideological disposition is no less pronounced than ISIL’s, if not worse.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government cannot formulate an effective response to these much more severe threats because the American public is far too busy disparaging Islam while the U.S. military kills Arabs and Muslims abroad. One thing is certain: America’s obsession with ISIL is fueled by Islamophobia rather than any empirical realities.

 

Musa al-Gharbi is a senior fellow with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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Call to suspend hate laws ‘disgraceful’: Gillian Triggs

 

EXCLUSIVE

 Gillian Triggs slams calls to change anti-discrimination laws

Anti-discrimination laws won’t prevent free speech so don’t need to be changed during the same sex marriage debate, says the head of the Human Rights Commission.

 

The Human Rights Commission has rubbished the Australian Christian Lobby’s call for anti-discrimination laws to be suspended during the same-sex marriage plebiscite, describing it as “outrageous” and based on a misunderstanding of the law.

In a separate move, about 40 religious leaders have written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urging him to ditch the plebiscite plan altogether, arguing it will damage the standing of religious communities and harm the mental health of gay people.

Responding to the ACL’s push to have anti-discrimination laws “set aside” during the plebiscite campaign to ensure free speech, Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs said it was a “disgraceful way of dealing with the issue”.

Australian Human Rights Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs says of ACL: 'It's an outrageous propositon and ...

Australian Human Rights Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs says of ACL: ‘It’s an outrageous propositon and it’s highly misguided’. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

 

“[They] are saying that we have to stand down or suspend the laws so that you can do what would otherwise be a vilification,” Professor Triggs told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“It’s an outrageous proposition and it’s highly misguided.”

Professor Triggs said the ACL’s call for the federal government to “override” anti-discrimination laws, particularly state-based laws, was “based on a failure to understand the way the law works”.

Rev Graham Long, CEO and pastor of The Wayside Chapel is one of around 40 signatories to the letter to Malcolm Turnbull.

Rev Graham Long, CEO and pastor of The Wayside Chapel is one of around 40 signatories to the letter to Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Peter Rae

 

She said the right to freedom of religious views was one of the best-protected rights in Australia because it was entrenched in the Constitution, adding there was no federal law against vilification on the basis of sexuality and only Queensland, NSW and the ACT made it unlawful to incite hatred on the basis of sexual orientation.

While Tasmania takes a broader approach, Professor Triggs said there was no rush of findings against free speech in the state.

“It is a very, very high threshold,” she said, countering the ACL argument that current laws would make the “no” camp vulnerable to “the constant threat of quasi and full-blown legal action” during the plebiscite.

Victorian Minister for Equality Martin Foley wrote to Attorney-General George Brandis on Tuesday, outlining his concerns that “weakening anti-discrimination laws will further hurt LGBTI Australians”. Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus also slammed the ACL’s proposal, saying: “If you need to offend in order to convince people, you’ve already lost”.

As debate about the process of a plebiscite continued, representatives of Anglican, Uniting and Baptist churches wrote to Mr Turnbull, calling for Parliament to resolve the issue instead.

The letter warns a plebiscite risks providing a platform for “disparaging LGBTI Australians and their families, leading to increased incidents of anxiety, depression and suicide,” and could “discredit the voice of faith communities more generally on public matters”.

Pastor of Sydney’s Wayside Chapel Graham Long said he was a signatory because the plebiscite would see opposing sides to “dig into their trenches” and “throw bombs”.

“I’m really struggling to see where the wisdom is,” Reverend Long said. “The other idea is we could use our Parliament as a Parliament.”

The letter also expresses concern that the “negative case” in a plebiscite would be put by religious groups and leaders “who claim to speak on behalf of people of faith generally, or religious institutions as a whole”.

Letter organiser, Angus McLeayof Merri Creek Anglican in inner-city Melbourne, said it was a concern that the ACL could be seen to represent all Christians.

“The ACL represent certain, quite conservative viewpoints,” Reverend McLeay said.

“The public, they just hear ‘Christian’ and they don’t necessarily make fine distinctions.”

On Wednesday, the ACL stood by its call for anti-discrimination laws to be set aside.

“None of our arguments vilify or hate and neither should they. The arguments are not the problem. The laws are the problem. In particular, the abuse of the laws and legal processes by activists,” managing director Lyle Shelton said.

“State-based human rights commissions are often weaponised by activists against those with different views.”

Senator Brandis was overseas on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Last week in Senate estimates, he said there had been a “great deal of stakeholder consultation” on the plebiscite process and that he would take a submission to cabinet “in coming months”.

There is no date set yet for the plebiscite, which is due after the federal election if the Coalition wins.

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