BBG Watch Commentary
Both in its regular newsletter and online, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) sent a strong message on April 24, 2018 that Donald Trump is “a perceived ally” of “US extremist groups,” which — according to VOA — ” are shifting their focus from anti-government activism to a new enemy — Muslims and immigrants.” The relevant segment in the VOA Newsletter sent out to subscribers was titled “New people to hate.”
The introduction to a Voice of America report with a link in April 24th VOA Newsletter said:
“With a perceived ally in the White House, a president many members of US militias voted for, the urge to confront the government seems less urgent. So instead of railing against the government, US extremists have turned their venom against new-found foes: Muslims, immigrants, and anti-fascist groups.”
The Voice of America report by Massod Farivar, “Muslims, Immigrants on US Militias’ New Enemies List” refers to “the election of a president whose policies many militia members support.” The VOA report is extraordinarily simplistic and in many respects misleading despite its use of carefully selected facts which are presented without a broader context. The VOA report does not indicate for foreign audiences unfamiliar with the United States that these hate groups are not mainstream but truly marginal. The VOA report also fails to mention for foreign audiences and online and e-mail readers in the United States that these groups have extremely small level of community support due to their racism and their criminal actions. The Voice of America report does not state that such hate groups are widely condemned by almost everyone in the United States, including President Trump and Republicans. The VOA report does not attempt to present these groups and their activities in the wider context of American life as is required by the VOA Charter.
In this news report and in its newsletter, both paid for by all U.S. taxpayers, the Voice of America presents a one-sided and distorted view of America. It is a very dangerous message from VOA to individuals and groups abroad, as well as in the United States, some of whom may already be fully convinced by many similar VOA reports in the past and propaganda from other online sources, including Russia’s RT, that Muslims and immigrants have to fear for their life in America. This has been a consistent message from several VOA reporters for at least the last two years under the watch of VOA director Amanda Bennett and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing, both of whom are still in their positions as holdover appointees from the Obama administration. The report quotes the Southern Poverty Law Center without identifying the organization’s ideological or partisan background.
Since the Voice of America report included a reference to “a president whose policies many militia members support” and the VOA Newsletter outright said that President Trump is “a perceived ally in the White House” of such hate groups, VOA director Amanda Bennett and her deputy Sandy Sugawara should have made sure that President Trump’s position on such hate groups and their criminal activities was also presented. Does he welcome their support? How many Americans think favorably of such groups? How numerous are they? How many of their members are in prison? VOA audiences abroad should be provided with answers to such questions.
In July 2016, Amanda Bennett reportedly sent an email to staff highlighting a VOA interview in which Donald Trump’s immigration plan was described by a student interviewee as one of “hate and prejudice.” The email shared with outsiders by some VOA reporters did not ask or point out whether any countervailing views on illegal immigration were presented in the VOA interview. There have been countless public Facebook and Twitter postings since then by several VOA reporters in which Donald Trump was ridiculed and called obscene names.
Some of the public comments and memes posted on Facebook by VOA reporters includes such descriptions of President Trump as “f*uck cheeto with hair” and “three cheers for f*cking Trumpy and his neo-Nazi crew.” One VOA reporter referred to Donald Trump as “F*ckface Von Clownstick” Bennett issued much later a warning against such unprofessional behavior by VOA journalists. “Voice of America has zero tolerance for public or personal racist, sexist, or politically biased social media communications. Our policies make it very clear that such behavior is prohibited. We are investigating these reports as quickly as possible and will respond accordingly,” Bennett said. Bennett also promised to carry out anti-bias training for VOA journalists in the wake of criticism from Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s supporters that some of the VOA reporting and commentary during the primaries amounted to “state media” bias against their favored candidates. However, there was no break to advocacy and partisan reporting by some VOA reporters, some of whom received high praise from the VOA director. Bennett also said that “Like all American media, VOA is trying hard to cover the candidates and issues appropriately — neither pulling punches, nor exhibiting bias.”
A female VOA reporter who in a public Facebook post called Donald Trump “F*ckface Von Clownstick” and posted memes showing him with a Nazi swastika and as a male sex organ, is listed on the VOA publicity page as one of “VOA EXPERTS” — “seasoned journalists and staff [who] are available for media interviews or to provide their expertise on various issues and current topics trending in the United States and globally.”
Many of them are excellent journalists, but at least one “VOA Expert” and some others fail to adhere to the VOA Charter due to dismal leadership, lack of guidance, poor training and ineffective management by senior VOA and BBG executives who are largely to blame for what VOA has become.
VOICE OF AMERICA NEWS REPORT
[AP PHOTO IN VOA REPORT NOT INCLUDED IN REPOSTING — This combination of Oct. 14, 2016, file booking photos provided by the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office in Wichita, Kan., shows from left, Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, three members of a Kansas militia group.]
WASHINGTON — They called themselves “crusaders” for a reason.
The three Kansas militiamen planned to blow up an apartment complex housing Somali refugees during the 2016 presidential election, unleashing what one of them called “Crusades 2.0.”
But their plan was foiled after their arrest just weeks before the election, highlighting the changing enemy list of a movement founded on the back of anti-government activism a generation ago.
And with the election of a president whose policies many militia members support, the urge to confront the government appears to have lost some of its urgency. Instead of railing at the government, they have in recent years turned their venom against new-found foes: Muslims, immigrants, the Antifa.
“Some of the militia groups have been refocusing their attention on secondary enemies for the movement,” said Mark Pitcavage, who researches extremism at the Anti-Defamation League civil rights group.
Often lumped together with other right-wing groups, the anti-government movement comes in different forms.
There are the “preppers,” so called because they stockpile water, food and other essentials in preparation for civil unrest.
There are the “survivalists,” people who learn skills to “live off the land” in case of a disaster.
There are “sovereign citizens” such as the suspect in the recent shooting at a Waffle House in Tennessee who are opposed to paying taxes and believe they should decide which laws to follow.
And then there are the militiamen who conduct regular military-style training to resist a government they see as engaged in a global plot to take away their guns and constitutional rights.
Start of Modern Militia
The modern militia movement dates back to a series of events in the early 1990s, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Among them: the 1992 election of Democratic President Bill Clinton and an FBI attack the following year on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, an event seen as “evidence of an out of control government willing to attack citizens.”
Under Clinton, the number of anti-government groups soared but it fell during President George W. Bush’s two terms before peaking at 1,360 under President Barack Obama.
In 2016, there were 689 anti-government groups active in the country, including 273 militias, according to SPLC.
The militia movement’s hostility toward Muslims was spurred in part by the 2008 election of Obama, the country’s first African-American president.
Conspiracy theories that Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya and a liberal bent on taking away citizens’ guns galvanized the movement.
Adding fuel to anti-Muslim sentiment a series of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, including mass shootings carried out by Muslim extremists in Chattanooga, Tennessee; San Bernardino, California; and Orlando, Florida.
Law Enforcement Takes Notice
The FBI was alarmed. As early as May 2015, the bureau warned that militia extremists were “expanding their targets to include Muslims and Islamic religious institutions in the United States.”
Marked as it was by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant vitriol, the 2016 election campaign spurred some militiamen into action.
It was in this climate that Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein and Gavin Wright began plotting to blow up the Somali housing complex in Kansas.
The trio were members of a militia group called the Kansas Security Force, which in turn was part of a national umbrella organization called the “Three Percenters.”
Along with a few other militiamen, they began meeting on weekends to discuss ways to rid the country of “cockroaches,” their term of choice for Muslims.They formed an online Zello group to communicate and shared anti-Obama, anti-Clinton, and anti-Muslim memes on Facebook.
Using Google Earth, the Kansas militiamen mapped out Muslim targets in the state, dropping “cockroach” pins across Garden City, zeroing in on the Somali housing complex and mosque.
To underline just how extreme the three were, prosecutors called in other members of the Kansas Security Force. One testified that he quit after hearing about the plot, worried that their “banter” was “turning into something more serious.” Another said she objected to the plan even though she abhorred Muslims.
Defense lawyers sought to paint the Crusaders’ plot as “bluster,” influenced by anti-Muslim rhetoric. And they sought to have Vanderbilt’s Cooter, testify.
After reviewing transcripts and social media records shared by the defense team and interviewing one of the three men, Gavin Wright, Cooter concluded that Wright was more of a “prepper” than a militiaman, finding little evidence that he actively engaged in firearms training.
Cooter said Wright told her that “things spiraled out of control without him realizing what was happening.” But the jury didn’t buy the argument that all the men were doing was vent, convicting them last week of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. They face up to life in prison.
END OF VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA) REPORT
VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA) NEWSLETTER