Friday, June 1, 2012

JT READY IS DEAD: FASCISM AND THE ANARCHIST RESPONSE IN ARIZONA, 2005-2012

JT Ready is dead.  And by his own hand.  It took a while, but in the end JT took the free advice of his many anarchist adversaries and followed his leader into oblivion.  Though in the end he opted for the Goebbels style over that of his boy Hitler.  That's the thing with JT: despite being a consistent white supremacist, he could sometimes surprise you.  Not with something entirely new.  No.  But with variations on a theme.  Most of us figured he would blow up somewhere, at some point, and given the history of white supremacists with regard to child and spousal abuse, we are not surprised that his end mimicked his political practice perfectly: violence mostly aimed down the social hierarchy. Consider the death of National Socialist Movement leader Jeff Hall as another case in point.

According to the cops, on Wednesday, May 2, JT, a former president of the Mesa Community College Republican Club and Maricopa County Republican precinct committeeman, stormed the house of his much-abused and terrified girlfriend in Gilbert wearing full combat gear and then proceeded to open fire on everyone in the place.  The dead included Lisa Mederos, her daughter Amber (JT's former treasurer for his run for Pinal County Sheriff), as well as her fiance, Jim Hiott, who was a fellow militia member.  In a truly cowardly act, JT also killed Amber's 15 month-old baby.  Only Lisa's younger daughter survived, hiding under the bed in her upstairs room.

We in PCWC first began running into JT during the early parts of the immigration movement, around 2005, before there was a formal PCWC, really.  As many probably know, JT had a rather chaotic political career, but in those days he was allied with State Senator Russell Pearce and local car dealer Rusty Childress.  Even then political violence had already begun to rear its ugly head in the anti-immigrant scene.  It might be valuable to review some of what had happened in Arizona in the several years preceding JT's final bloody rampage, and it certainly would be worthwhile to consider the ways that anarchists in Phoenix and Arizona organized against him, his politics and his political allies (and enemies) over the last half decade or more.  While liberals advocated for his free speech, anarchists opposed him every step of the way.  The analysis in this piece reflects our experiences as direct participants and organizers.

RACIST VIOLENCE IN ARIZONA, 2005-2009

JT Ready himself made headlines in March of 2006 when he followed a group of Latino men riding in a truck into a cul-de-sac and opened fire on a passerby, Efrain Martinez, who JT claimed had shot at him.  In an indication of what was to be many years of apparent Mesa police protection, the cops took JT at his word and arrested Martinez.   After surviving JT's attempt to kill him, Efrain Martinez languished in detention for 42 days before being deported to Mexico for giving a false name to police.  Funny thing: a week after being deported, Martinez was back in the country.  We taunted JT at his next rally with "We are all Efrain Martinez" signs, among other things.

A recent investigation by the local New Times magazine has revealed that the Mesa police weren't terribly interested in watching white racist militants, even when they were classified as gang members or opening fire on passersby, fueling long-time speculation that JT was at least an informant for one or more police or Federal agencies.  Of course, that wouldn't be unusual in the far right scene.

Taunting JT at one of the USA rallies

Before that, in April 2005, Patrick Haab, a white Iraq War vet, held seven Mexican migrants at gunpoint at a rest stop outside Phoenix.  Claiming they were in the country illegally, Haab blocked off their vehicle with his own and detained them until the sheriffs showed up, upon which -- and much to his surprise -- he was promptly arrested.  Arizona at the time was in the grips of the Minuteman invasion of the border region and the case set off a public outcry in his defense. 

Interestingly, it was the notoriously racist Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who defended Haab's arrest and rejected his "unlawful" detention of the migrants.  In what sounds like an ironic statement now, Arpaio told the Arizona Republic, "Even law enforcement has to have probable cause before taking people out of their cars and telling them to lie on the ground... He threatened to kill them.  He did not have the right to do what he did. How did he know they were illegal aliens?"  However, Haab received an outpouring of support, including offers of bail money, places to stay and other aid.  Remarking on the outpouring, he said, "I really appreciate it.  It makes me feel better about this country."  He said that he believed the men he detained mistook him for a Border Patrol agent.  Several days later Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas dropped all charges against Haab, giving a green light to white reactionaries that such actions would not meet resistance from local government, essentially putting a state sanction on them.

While Haab was a lone wolf, operating on his own to enforce the color line in Arizona, other militia members in Arizona besides JT have shown themselves equally prone to violence.  In 2009, for example, Shawna Forde (an extremist, even by Minuteman standards, who reportedly even demanded that members swear off Mexican food) and two men who had split from the Minutemen Civil Defense Corp to form their own splinter group, the Minutemen American Defense or M.A.D., staged a home invasion on the home of the Flores-Gonzalez family in Arivaca, a town near the Mexican border.  Sporting military uniforms and claiming to be Border Patrol, they demanded entry to the home in order to check for fugitives.  


Raul "Junior" Flores and Brisenia Flores, killed 
by the Minuteman American Defense

Once inside, they opened fire when their credentials were questioned, killing two and wounding one.  Gina Flores, despite being shot twice in the face, managed to call the police and to return fire, wounding one of the attackers, who all fled.  The militia had hoped to steal drugs and cash from the house in order to fund further vigilante activities at the border, and initially the DES itself expressed suspicion of the Flores-Gonzalez family, even though no drugs were found.  It turned out all the victims were natural born citizens.  Gina Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against the FBI alleging that they were warned in advance of the attack by an informant, who passed on a detailed map of the proposed target and did nothing.

Given the national dialog about what's wrong with Arizona, I want to point out a general trend not just of violence, but of people from out of state bringing racist violence to Arizona.  JT himself was not born in Arizona, and only moved here after he was kicked out of the Marines.    Indeed, he claimed that he used to do vigilante patrols in California while stationed there.  Shawna Forde also came from out of state, the Northwest.  Likewise, Patrick Haab had only just arrived in Arizona when he assumed the role of self-appointed Border enforcer at that rest stop.  Of Arizona's top three main anti-immigrant politicians, former State Senate President Russell Pearce, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, only Pearce was born and grew up in the Copper State.

In the years leading up to the racist backlash against migration, the population of Arizona surged, essentially doubling between 1986 and 2006, when the anti-immigrant direct action movement began to pop off.  Perhaps surprisingly, a large part of that population explosion came not from Mexico, but from other states, notably including California, which had already experienced an anti-immigrant reaction.  Census reports put the Golden State as the largest contributor but with pretty much every state contributing large numbers.  A lot of the blame that gets laid at Arizona's doorstep should at least get shared with the white flight colonists from California and the blue-haired snow birds from the rest of the country who set down roots in their old age and consistently return Joe and his ilk to office.  It's no coincidence that Joe's strongest base of support lies in Sun City and Sun City West, planned retirement communities in northwest of the Valley, where out of state license plates are at least as common as those of Arizona.

I think this is telling.  It's not that Arizona was ever a paragon of racial harmony, but for a long time Arizonans took a relatively open border for granted, and the regular coming and going of migrant workers and indigenous peoples was not considered terribly controversial.  Indeed, the O'odham in Southern Arizona until recently crossed back and forth without need identification or a formal border patrol checkpoint.  The disgusting irony of white newcomers forcing original inhabitants to register themselves in order to practice their traditions of free movement deserves far more attention than it gets.  Likewise the easy access to Mexican beaches and under 21 drinking defined life for many people in the hot Arizona summers and college spring breaks.  Indeed, despite semi-regular pogroms, like Operation Wetback, which served to discipline and terrorize migrant populations, in general the Arizona economy and way of life depended on the free movement back and forth of people.

Another important point: the height of the anti-immigrant movement came in boom times, before the economic crisis.  Further, Arizona continues to rank among the top retirement destinations in the country.  When the white reaction began, housing values were still skyrocketing, the credit cards were still passing out easy money and unemployment was low.  So, for white people, especially those who bring their racism with them from other states and are unfamiliar with the routines of life in Arizona, white supremacy is their natural class analysis.  It is their default setting.  It isn't their fall back position in bad times, it is their first resort all the time.

Thus, by the time JT Ready began to make independent moves on the scene in a major way, the stage was already set for anti-immigrant political opportunists and militants of all stripes, with an ample population now composed of relatively recent xenophobic transplants from other states primed to listen.  The Minutemen set up their lawn chair encampments on the border, and in a case of history repeating, cradled their AR-15s in their aging hands and peered south into the desert with their bifocals and binoculars on the search for brown-skinned folks heading north.  However, despite his present association with the racist militia movement, Minuteman Civil Defense Corp leaders eventually turned JT away for being too extreme. This is Arizona, after all.

 JT READY, POLITICS AND THE ANARCHISTS

During this period of time, JT was also working in conjunction with other right wing politicians and organizers on a variety of anti-immigrant initiatives, including an earlier version of a SB1070-style law that would have applied in Maricopa County.  In those days, JT was busy organizing and intervening with various far right groups, from the infamous Minutemen movement and its spin-offs to a series of protests organized in front of the Mexican Consulate by Rusty Childress' group, United For A Sovereign America, which aimed at bolstering support for various anti-immigrant initiatives.




Confronting a United for a Sovereign America demonstration.

One time, we got a tip off from a journalist at one of the Spanish language stations that JT and his crew were planning to get some footage of the flag being raised at the consulate and of the morning queues for the various services that the consulate provided to Mexicans.  Lines at the consulate were routine, as they provided many services for Mexicans in the city.  We dragged our asses out of bed early and beat them there.  We approached the folks waiting in line for the consulate to open and told them about what was happening and they moved the line to a part of the property where they couldn't be seen.  Then when the Nativist film crew arrived with JT in tow, sweating and awkwardly stuffed into a cheap suit, there was a minor scuffle over the filming of the flag-raising, with people blocking off their cameras.  This kind of thing was common back then, and we would run into him at immigration rallies and regularly disrupt his events.  Whenever we'd show up in our masks and march right into the middle of their protest, all hell would break loose, driving them off message and into a fit of cursing and angry demands that we remove our masks.  As a result, the media reported these protests as contentious and controversial.  It worked every time.


Disrupting JT Ready's press conference

Around the same time, JT was hanging out with other movers and shakers in Arizona right wing politics, including  Pearce,  the man who ordained him as an elder into the powerful Mormon Church and who JT described as his mentor.  JT would claim that during that time the two shared Mexican jokes on Pearce's porch.  In late 2006 it came out that JT, who was then running for city council, had been issued a Bad Conduct Discharge on his unscheduled exit from the Army.  When it came out, he had been slated to lead the local Veteran's Day parade in Mesa as Master of Ceremonies, which caused some political problems, leading the veterans group that organized it to dump him.  Not long after that, the New Times outed JT Ready as a Nazi when his profile was discovered on the racist dating site New Saxon.


Heading to disrupt one USA's protests at the Mexican Consulate

For a while after that, we didn't have many encounters with him, we'd see him at the massive pro-immigrant demonstrations among the anti-immigrant crowd, protected by a line of riot cops, and occasionally dodging a rock or bottle thrown their way.  The immigration struggle had moved into the political sphere, with one racist ballot proposition after another passing with super-majorities each election and the border militias fracturing amidst financial scandal, personalities conflict, territoriality, and demands by some for more militant actions.  JT Ready, for example, called for mining the border.  In the search that followed his death, police reported finding grenades in the house.  This ought to give pause to anyone who remembers that the 2011 #Antisec hack of Arizona law enforcement revealed that explosives had been found near a migrant route and that rogue marines patrolled the region. As with tips to the FBI and Mesa PD before this, these warnings, too, were essentially ignored by local, state and national cops.


 State Senator, later Senate President, Russell Pearce 
endorses JT Ready for Mesa City Council

Around that same time the Tea Party was born, providing an inland sea for all sorts of racists to swim in.  Meanwhile, we in PCWC moved forward in two main directions: trying to come up with innovative strategies as an active minority to fracture the base of the anti-immigrant movement and towards working with Native comrades around border militarization and the preservation of traditional travel rights on the Tohono O'odham reservation.  In addition, we sought to highlight the continuity between extreme elements in the movement and the mainstream politicos in the Tea Party and Republican ruling class in Arizona.  From this combination our demand for free movement and freedom from dislocation was born, which we would deploy later both within the pro-migrant left, as well as against its opposition in the right wing movement generally and specifically against JT Ready when he joined the NSM and marched on the capitol.

JT READY, THE NSM AND THE ANARCHISTS

At some point JT Ready joined the NSM.  It's not clear when exactly, but once he was outed as a white supremacist he seemed to jump headlong into the public role.  In 2007 he participated in an NSM rally in Omaha.  For the most part, JT's strategy seemed to be two-fold.  On one hand he was very active in creating media spectacle and confrontational situations with his small group of white comrades.  These involved varying levels of provocation, from his appearances counter-protesting fully armed and decked out military garb at pro-migrant events and Occupy Phoenix, to his two marches with the NSM in Phoenix.

On the other hand, JT formed his own border vigilante organization, which did routine "patrols" in the desert looking for migrants to turn over to the border patrol.  JT always claimed that his militia was not a racist endeavor and that all were welcome, but its membership included many NSM cadre.  However, it must be said that dupes and patriots are not confined to just the white population, unfortunately.  PCWC, being a city-based group, engaged JT on that terrain, but with the objective of forcing him and the NSM to abandon their public activities.


JT's smiling face, out of uniform, but flanked by NSM boneheads.

Challenging the NSM and JT's Nazi road show

The most spectacular clashes between anarchists and JT Ready and the NSM happened in the streets during their two attempted marches through downtown.  But these were hardly the only ones.  A few months before the first Inglorious Basterds Bloc, anarchists disrupted the book tour of notorious racist David Irving, which had been organized in secret (or so they thought) and which JT Ready and other NSM members attended.  Anarchists got the tip off about the tour and then stormed the secret location, disrupting the place, slashing at least one Nazi's tires and jamming the phones at the diner where it took place with threats of boycott and publicity, etc.

Not long after that, word arrived that the NSM would attempt a march in Phoenix to the state capitol.  At the time we were heavily involved in intervening in the right wing libertarian movement around their fight against speed cameras and, to a lesser extent, internal Border Patrol checkpoints in Southern Arizona.  There was a vigorous direct action and political movement against both at the time, with attacks on cameras coming with frequent regularity, and with white libertarians engaging in civil disobedience at border checkpoints.  We were trying to get the libertarian right in this state to reconcile its internal contradictions one way or the other.  At the time they were engaging in a lot of hypocritical support for border controls and attacks on migrants while also opposing things like FEMA camps, REAL ID and freeway cameras.  We sensed potential.

Many of the libertarians in state government were voting on both sides of those issues, taking progressive positions against REAL ID at the same time they were endorsing attacks on migrants and defending programs like e-Verify.  Our objective when it came to those interventions was to help push as many people as we could in that movement off the fence and to choose one side or the other -- to reconcile their contradictory assertions on movement, which we saw as hinging on their defense of the exclusionary politics and privileges of whiteness.  This contradiction, it seemed to us, could only be worked out one of two ways: either support free movement for all, or defend white supremacy.  There was no middle ground.

JT's NSM boneheads gave us a chance to try to push those right wing libertarians that we have been engaging with into action around the issue of movement, migration and white supremacy.  We wanted to split the right wing along what we saw as a very obvious fracture, and in keeping with our fanatical politics, we then sought to deploy this friends/enemies dynamic in order to mobilize people.  As we said to the libertarians at the time,"You see yourselves as protesting this country's turn towards fascism. We sympathize with this argument and are ourselves no fans of the Obama administration. However, we want to point out that unlike some of your past protests, the NSM rally offers you the perfect opportunity to make known your opposition to fascism in an unambiguous way."


So, we tailored our imagery and message to this.  We chose the Inglourious Basterds Bloc name for a few reasons.  Aside from the obvious connection to Nazis and ready to use imagery, it also referenced a really important feature about the movie which we found really entertaining: the idea of an alternate ending -- one we could create that could deviate from the approved narrative.  That is, Hitler died in that movie how everyone wished he had in real life, gunned down by the resistance, rather than by his own hand via cowardly cyanide capsule in a Berlin bunker.  We chose "Doing it like Grandpa in France of '44" as the slogan and immediately set about addressing ourselves to the libertarian right wing, as well as the white working class generally.

Also important, we carried firearms openly against the NSM, not just for self-defense, or so that the NSM would know we were armed, but also informed by the memory of having seen pacifist anti-war liberals denounce armed anti-war libertarians at protests during the early days of that movement in Arizona.  We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the liberals in the eyes of both groups.  We knew the significance that would have.  And the right wing libertarians responded.  Quite a lot of them came out to the action.



Meanwhile, liberal leaders denounced it, something that wasn't new, and would continue over the course of the year at various other actions.  In fact, one of the strengths of both NSM actions, but the second one in particular, was that it subverted the dominant message from the mainstream migrant movement leadership.  Namely the focus on Sheriff Joe as the epitome of all evil, while giving the Phoenix PD a pass (even organizing with them around marches and security).  This despite the fact that the PPD was actually more active in deportations than the Maricopa County Sheriffs Department and that one of the two police unions that represents Phoenix cops took an actively anti-immigrant position, including supporting SB1070.  When the PPD stands on the same skirmish lines with Nazis, shields lined up together, gives marching orders to the fascists and even consoles poor JT Ready at the end of his failed march, it's difficult to maintain the necessary liberal political illusion that one police force is preferential to another.  This wasn't just some classic anti-fascist common front bullshit.  We used the NSM as a tool to deploy attacks against the liberals as well as the right.

That confrontation with the NSM was exciting and invigoration, and I think it was broadly interpreted a success.  It got us mobilized and excited, and built the energy and comradeship needed in Phoenix for our next big action in January.  Interestingly, the week after the public embarrassment of the November 7th rally at the capitol, JT Ready showed up at a Tea Party anti-immigration rally at the same location, accompanied by another NSM member.  The organizers did all they could to separate themselves from the NSM, who were waving a confederate flag.  But when JT unfurled a tapestry featuring his hero Adolph Hitler, violence broke out, with one right winger physically attacking JT and without any sense of irony denouncing him and his racism. The movement had begun to split along three fronts, just as we had hoped.  Later, this split would be finalized by an uprising from the Chamber of Commerce who, with the help of the libertarians in the legislature and on talk radio, blocked the passage of a whole swath of anti-immigrant legislation that was following on the heels of SB1070.  The anti-immigrant backlash was not defeated, but had received a major blow.
Interestingly, after the IB1, we and other anarchists followed up on those interventions with articles and actions that kept pressure on those groups, culminating with the Diné, O'odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian bloc at the anti-Arpaio rally January 16th, 2010, which we hoped at the time would point towards a new kind of solidarity organized around a different conversation about movement and borders in Arizona.

Diné, O'odham, anarchist/anti-authoritarian bloc

The NSM continued its organizing, focusing increasingly on its militia work in Arizona, but vowed to return the next year, intent on taking the streets.  In November of 2010 they made good on that threat, registering for a permit for a Saturday afternoon march to the Federal courthouse.  The permit expired at three and we hoped to keep them from their goal until it did.  For a second time, then, the forces that had built the DO@ Bloc came together in the streets, determined to stop the fash and to show a united resistance to Nazis.  Once again, JT Ready, now claiming to have left the NSM, showed up in support, marching with them.  And we called for a sequel of our successful bloc from the previous year.



The results of that day have been well-documented.  Once scouts found the march, the bloc and other militants deployed themselves in the street between the Nazis (who were surrounded by police) and their objecting, setting up barricades.  Police held the Nazis back for over an hour, as the clock ticked on their permit, as rocks, smoke bombs and various other projectiles rained down on them, infuriating the brownshirts, who demanded to be allowed to march.  The permit expired, but the cops extended it in solidarity, and used force to try to clear the street.  A clash and then a running battle followed, with liberal amounts of pepper spray deployed by the police, eventually forcing the opposition back far enough to sneak the NSM into a side gate and then into the safety of the fenced off (and empty) "free speech zone".



Some stuck around and mocked them, but for the most part at this point they rattled off to no one, having set up in the far corner of the plaza and flanked on two sides by giant glass walls that made their chants mostly unintelligible.  The whole strategy of the NSM was to play the victim card, hoping to insight white sympathy and to get that trumpeted out through the mainstream media.  The NSM knows full well that the press, worshiping its so-called "objectivity", facilitates the opening of space for white supremacists to speak (witness the repeated mislabeling of the NSM as a "white civil rights organization").  The Nazis count on this debate about free speech and the spectacle of resistance to combine in their favor.  But that was entirely subverted that day, and their message was completely lost in the media.  Once again, liberals who had either opposed directly action against the fascists in the streets, or who had misunderstood the question of anti-fascism as one of free speech rather than self-defense, were left looking useless and reactionary.  After the defeat, the NSM vowed to march again, but they never did.

Interestingly enough, a year later, when Occupy Phoenix was happening, and paranoid liberals were in full freakout mode about anarchists and black blocs ruining their non-violent occupation of a public square downtown, we would learn that Phoenix PD were afraid to raid the camp, citing over and over the likelihood that anarchists would riot as the reason.  The irony of a bunch of nonviolent peaceniks being protected from police violence in their occupation by the violence of the very group they feared most, was delightful to say the least.

JT Ready's Provocations

JT was known for his solo and small group provocations as well.  Not only did he like to play with contradictions and messaging, he also liked to try to intervene within the larger right wing milieu in order to create a sense of continuity between his own white supremacist politics and that of the anti-immigrant right in general.  The case already mentioned above in which he appeared at a Tea Party protest was one such time, but even more frequently JT would show up heavily armed, sporting his black NSM outfit or camo militia getup.  JT showed up to various politicians' events, even endorsing them, as he did with Joe Arpaio and, famously, with candidate for Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.  When JT and his NSM cronies crashed one of Montgomery's press conferences, asserting their support for "Arpaio's candidate for County Attorney", the candidate vehemently denied any association, politically or otherwise.  However Sheriff Joe himself never ran away from them.  On several occasions it seemed to be one of JT's primary objectives to associate himself and his NSM with the infamously anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe.


One of JT's NSM cronies, Thomas Coletto, aka "Vito Lombardi", 
poses with Joe at a Nativist counter-protest.

Perhaps JT's most famous intervention of this sort, though, happened on the first day of Occupy Phoenix, before the mass arrests and the original failed occupation of Margaret T. Hance Park.  By this time JT had been organizing his border militia for a year or so and from our perspective, it seemed to be his main project now.  A couple hours into the day, we got reports that heavily armed men, probably fascists, had shown up.  We ran over to check it out and found JT, with his big head characteristically squeezed into that tiny little helmet, standing on the edge of the park along with a small coterie of other militia members.  Though JT (and various pea-brained right wingers on the interwebs) asserted that he and his goon squad had shown up to assure the safety of the event, it was clear that he was engaged in another one of his provocations, looking for a little media attention for his crew and his cause.

Anarchists, having dealt with JT by this time for the better part of a decade, realized immediately what was going on, and began calling him out to the curious crowd surrounding him.  Several families, of the type who almost assuredly would later demand strict adherence to principles of nonviolence in the coming occupation, were captivated by the "cool soldier guys" and happily posed their children with them.  It was the same kind of privileged analysis of violence that later led to the fights in Occupy Phoenix over police and "the 99%".  As we reminded onlookers and photo-takers that these camo-kooks were Nazis, it caused all sorts of contradictions within the emerging occupy movement to emerge.

Some, predictably, asserted that free speech and the respect thereof ought to define the moment.  Others, on hearing the NSM were National Socialists, hemmed and hawed, pontificating about their affinity for socialism.  But most tellingly, many liberals got upset at the commotion and started calling out anarchists and anti-fascists for being violent -- that is, yelling.  Which is to say, pointing out the presence of armed right wing reactionaries at the protest.  This hearkened back to earlier days when anarchists were denounced by liberals when we tried to isolate and drive out National Alliance chumps from an early anti-war rally.

This was our last interaction with JT Ready.  By the time he offed himself a few months later, he had quit the NSM, at least publicly, and he no longer engaged in politics in the city, moving instead and once again towards the border with his militia.  Though JT proclaimed his group to be open to people of all races and denied it was a front group for the NSM, in October of 2011 PCWC received correspondence from a former member, purged immediately following the Occupy Phoenix photo stunt, that asserted otherwise.  "As for the US Border Guard, JT's group the core group of about 3 to 5 that actually go out on patrols are either current or former NSM (sic)," the purged member claimed.  The person went on to describe the non-core members as a range of "Patriots, White Nationalists... and just regular pissed off Americans. (sic)"  Classic front group.

In the end, JT's dreams of mobilizing masses of people behind his personality and his white supremacist politics failed.  He was denied the streets as a vehicle for mass mobilization and very few would follow him out to the desert either.  As the former USBG member pointed out, JT was not easy to get along with in person: "JT kicked me out of the USBG on saturday after the rally because I would not bend to his commands... I am my own person, I have my own voice, JT speeks for JT not for me. (sic)"  JT couldn't even manage his own small crew.

WAS JT READY A FANATIC?

Joel Olson succinctly defined fanaticism in the political sphere as, "the unconventional, extraordinary political mobilization of the refusal to compromise." In addition, there are several criteria.  As summed up in an AK Press interview, fanaticism "1) refuses to compromise on basic principles; 2) divides the world into friends and enemies; 3) puts pressure on the moderate middle; 4) tries to build a constituency; 5) engages in legal and illegal direct action; and 6) seeks to build a new cultural hegemony or common sense."

JT and the NSM, all in costume.

Right off the bat, when we look at JT's career, we see not an attempt to refuse to compromise, but in fact a desire to glom onto broader movements.  He was not at war with the middle, nor did he seek to build a new hegemony.  As the super-majorities that backed one anti-immigrant measure after another at the polls show, by the time he got active such politics dominated the middle in Arizona.  He never attacked the reactionary mainstream current that dominated politics here.  JT Ready was like a pathetic, "Me, too!" at the end of every rally, march or protest.  JT sought to attract people to him and his various organizations not by forcing the general racist anti-immigrant current to choose one side or another, but by showing them that there was little to no difference between the politics of the middle and the politics of the NSM.  "May as well join the NSM," he seemed to be saying.  He wanted a re-branding, not a shift in taste.

While JT and his various projects did engage in some direct action, they never built a constituency.  Indeed, when the pressure was on the mainstream racist movement in Arizona, they opted to distance themselves from him.  The most he was every able to get out in the street at one time was a few dozen, and that with all of the NSM's resources backing him, touring the country in their unreliable American cars.  Indeed, even within his own militia, essentially an NSM front, he couldn't mobilize more than a handful, and had to keep the group open to all political persuasions on the reactionary right.

AND JUST LIKE THAT... HE'S GONE!

We still don't know what finally set JT off that day.  Some on the reactionary extreme claim JT didn't commit the murders at all, and that he was a the target of a cartel hit instead, a response to the alleged effectiveness of his anti-migrant, anti-narco patrols.  But he's gone now... just a bloody mess and then no longer a player in Arizona politics.  JT's militia claims it will continue patrols, but there is no reason to believe anyone can fill JT's goosestepping boots.  In the aftermath of the massacre, the Arizona legislature failed to approve a measure designed to legalize and institutionalize the many militias that patrol the border in search of migrants.  This incorporation alleged to sanitize them by screening them for militants and racists, as if such a task were possible.  It's just as likely that they would have just been folded into state power directly.  Militia leaders claim this defeat has only invigorated them.  Will the current cleft between state and reactionary direct action persist, or is it only temporary?  Is this JT Ready's legacy?  The recent electoral defeat of former JT chum Senate President Pearce through recall and the rise of more "moderate" right wing voice of capital leaves the question open for now.

Would state legitimation have disempowered the militia movement, or would it have further invigorated it?  Time will tell whether they will wither on the vine without mainstream support.  Of course, such a breach may be temporary, and we know that the anti-immigrant backlash started in good economic times and there are now far less people able to push back should a resurgence take place.  Meanwhile, the forces of reaction, legal or otherwise, continue to build paramilitary experience out in the desert, even if they have been for now opted out of the cities.  Times now are much worse, and with political alienation on the rise and capitalism's continued failure to deliver for large portions of the population, it's anyone's guess whether the various right wing capitalist forces of moderation will prevail over demand from below for a state defense of whiteness and privilege.

In the final days of his life, JT posted his usual racist, anti-Semitic, paranoid ravings to various message boards and the facebook page for his campaign for sheriff.  He denounced his usual enemies list, including the anarchists.  “Have [the anarchists] not yet figured out that they are... just tools in the same globalist tyranny toolbox?” he asked.  JT, at the end, still did not understand the anarchists.  But we understood him.   Even though it had been several months since the anarchists and JT Ready had clashed, he couldn't forget us.

For the better part of a decade, the anarchists had been his only consistent organized opposition.  While liberals and moderates couldn't figure out how to respond to him, trapped by their own tepid  and defeatist politics, the anarchists were always on his tail, out-organizing him and out-thinking him, determined to win.  The only time the liberals engaged in the question was when they actively attacked anarchists, as when they assisted the police attack on the DO@ Bloc.  Interestingly, that day one of the objectives of the bloc was to confront the NSM and other white reactionaries, who had announced they planned to march to confront the procession.  We didn't buy this nonsense that ignoring fascists, especially in the political climate that is Arizona today, causes them to fade away.  Nazis do not disappear when you don't look at them.  Challenging them in the streets is not enough -- creative resistance must be in line with particular political circumstances -- but direct action is a necessary component.  And, when one knows one's enemy, like we knew JT, it is possible to beat him.  JT Ready: loser.

1 comment:

city said...

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