Website with ties to Civitas Institute promotes anti-Semitic attack on Attorney General Stein
There are a lot of deeply troubling and even shocking aspects to the ongoing rise in “white nationalism” and religious bigotry that plagues the American political landscape these days. First and foremost, of course, is the active participation of the president of the United States in the process. That the highest office in our land is being used in such a perverted way to aid and abet such a noxious cause remains a stunning and unacceptable reality that should sicken all people of good will on a daily basis.
Almost as disturbing as the behavior of Trump and the coterie of bigots with whom he associates at the national level, however, is the real world experience of confronting such behavior close to home. Increasingly, acts, viewpoints and arguments that most of us thought had been relegated to the dustbin of history are now rearing their ugly heads in public places – even places connected to and promoted by “responsible conservatives.”
On Monday of this week, just such a disturbing occurrence took place in North Carolina on a website supported and funded by one of the state’s most visible conservative groups.
Carolina Plott Hound is a conservative news aggregation website that has been on the scene in North Carolina for some time now. Its look and feel is very similar to a popular national right-wing site known as the Drudge Report.
On Monday of this week, the Plott Hound devoted the top several inches of its “front page” to the following, all-caps headline under a large photograph of North Carolina’s attorney general, Josh Stein: “TRIAD CONSERVATIVE: JOSH STEIN’S LATEST ETHNO-LAWSUIT.” The headline then linked directly to a story on a website called the Triad Conservative that is chockfull of some of the most egregious examples of paranoid xenophobia and anti-Semitism that one could imagine.
According to the author of the story, Stein has joined with several other attorneys general from around the country to challenge President Trump’s ban on immigrants from certain Muslim countries and the recent order rescinding the DACA program for young immigrants because…wait for it…he is Jewish.
Yes, you read that correctly.
This is from the post:
…he [Stein] is acting in accordance with the worldview and ethnic interests of his own particular group– i.e., those within contemporary Judaism. Stein is a reform Jew.
That worldview is tilted dramatically toward multiculturalism. And as I explained in a post here last year, his own identity group played a critical role in opening to (sic) floodgates to immigration from non-Western nations approximately a half-century ago. They literally wrote the bill that did this when Lyndon Johnson was president.
Why did they do this? According to Kevin MacDonald, Jewish Americans were serving their own ethnic interests by seeking to weaken the power and influence of American Christians whose ancestors had come from western nations.
And we thus gain insight into the reasons Josh Stein is likely trying to protect Islamic immigration from terror-prone countries; and also why he is attempting to protect illegal Hispanic immigration. Those from within his own ethnic group want the Christian majority with roots in western countries to be numerically diluted.”
The Kevin MacDonald referenced in the story is a retired college professor that the Anti-Defamation League described in a 2013 article as an anti-Semitic leader and white supremacist who has characterized the persecution of Jews as a “rational” act. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes MacDonald as “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic.”
In an email, Rabbi Lucy Dinner of Temple Beth Or – a Reform Judaism congregation here in Raleigh condemned the post, saying:
This blatant anti-Semitic diatribe fuels division and hatred. By design, the article seeks to undermine freedom of religion, one of the cornerstones of American democracy. Criticizing Attorney General Josh Stein based on his religious beliefs is beyond the pale and should have no place in North Carolina politics.”
Doron Ezickson, DC Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League put it this way in another email to Policy Watch:
The author’s attack on this politician is founded on the vile, anti-Semitic beliefs that Jews act in their own narrow, tribal interests at the expense of their neighbors, and that they seek to undermine and weaken non-Jewish societies. In this article and elsewhere on the site, the author cites approvingly of Kevin MacDonald, one of the leading anti-Semitic ideologues in the United States. We reject out of hand any commentary founded on these despicable beliefs, irrespective of the person at whom it is directed.”
Connections to “mainstream” conservative organizations
Of course, as disturbing as the hateful and ignorant attack on Stein is, it might be relatively easily dismissed as the mere ravings of a disturbed blogger if it had appeared only on the Triad Conservative website – a site that is, by all indications, the work of a single troubled soul named Joseph Guarino, a physician who practices in Reidsville, north of Greensboro. Greensboro News & Record editorial page editor Allen Johnson actually called Guarino out for his serial anti-Semitism and all-purpose religious bigotry in a column last spring.
The real problem arises with the deliberate promotion of Guarino’s site by the Carolina Plott Hound. The Plott Hound is not just an anonymous blog. It is a website powered by groups at the heart of the conservative movement in North Carolina.
According to a May, 2017 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a conservative Wisconsin-based funder, the Bradley Foundation (“Hacked records show Bradley Foundation taking its conservative Wisconsin model national”), the Plott Hound is a creation of conservative groups long supported and heavily underwritten by Raleigh businessman Art Pope (who serves as chairman of the Bradley Foundation board of directors):
Bradley Foundation officials are giving $1.5 million over three years to two organizations in North Carolina, another swing state, to ‘create a comprehensive communications infrastructure around four primary elements: radio, online content aggregation, mobile applications and an AP-style news service for local newspapers.’ One group has acquired a Drudge Report-style website called Carolina Plott Hound.”
The story reports that the “two organizations” referenced are the Civitas Institute (formerly the J.W. Pope Civitas Institute) and the John Locke Foundation – both of which Pope has long supported financially. The connections between Civitas and the Plott Hound site are further confirmed by Civitas’ 2016 federal tax return (see page 28 of the PDF), which reports “PLOTT HOUND WEBSITE” as an asset worth $17,500.
Still more (somewhat ironic) confirmation comes from a May, 2016 story that appeared on The Daily Haymaker — another ultra-right-wing site run by a fellow named Brant Clifton that frequently attacks the Plott Hound for what Clifton feels are its insufficiently conservative positions. This is from a Haymaker story entitled “Guess What? Civitas OWNS Carolina Plotthound.”:
According to whois records — a database showing the ownership of various websites across the Internet — The Civitas Institute of Raleigh, North Carolina is — and has been — the owner of www.carolinaplotthound.com. In fact, it looks like Civitas may have created the news site. Records show the domain name was registered by Civitas in June 2012 — right about the time the Plotthound launched, if my memory serves me.” (Emphasis in the original.)
Clifton has also reported that Paul Chesser, a former Locke Foundation staffer, is (or, at least, has been) the person running the Plott Hound.
What to make of all this
While it seems hard to imagine that Art Pope and his close, longtime confidant John Hood — the former President of the Locke Foundation and now chief staffer of Pope’s family foundation, the John William Pope Foundation – would intentionally promote such hateful and bigoted content, it’s also hard to see how they could possibly be unaware of it. As noted, the Triad Conservative has been spreading this brand of filth for some time and the Plott Hound regularly provides high profile links to Triad Conservative stories.
Neither Civitas Institute Executive Director Francis DeLuca nor Hood responded to email inquiries that I sent yesterday about the issue and the nature of the Civitas-Plott Hound relationship. I’ll be happy to update this story when and if they do.
Needless to say, this whole mess is especially disturbing in the late summer of 2017 – a fraught period in national and state politics during which hate and racism have enjoyed a troubling revival and many national conservative figures have pursued a kind of “nudge-and-a-wink” relationship with extremists in what some refer to as the “alt right.”
Let’s hope, however, that all of the Pope organization leaders – and Pope himself – speak up quickly, publicly and forcefully to permanently disavow both the Plott Hound and the Triad Conservative as well as the scurrilous and anti-Semitic garbage they are shoveling.
Over the years, both Pope and Hood have gone to some lengths to present themselves as modern, “pro-freedom” “libertarians” who favor civil discourse while eschewing old fashioned hate tactics employed by some on the extreme and/or racist Right.
This most recent incident presents them with a golden opportunity to put their reputations and money where their mouths have been. Let’s hope they stand up and do the right thing.