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Dr. Kathleen Belew: Trump is Quoting Hilter

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Dr. Kathleen Belew is a historian and expert on the American white power movement. In this episode, she explains how the rhetoric used by Trump and Alt-Right groups is both dangerous and purposeful.

Dr. Kathleen Belew is a professor at Northwestern University and author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.

You can find Kathleen on Twitter at @Kathleen_Belew, and learn more about her at kathleenbelew.com.

Photo Credit: Brian McConkey


Dr. Kathleen Belew:

It is a movement with circulation and with a bunch of social relationships.

And instead of getting down in the weeds about sort of which group believes what, which slim symbol goes where, which one has which weapons, I think it's productive and much more sort of in tune with how it's actually working if we can think about it as just a groundswell that's all part of the same issue.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

My guest today is Dr. Kathleen Belew, an historian and author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.

We've had her on the show a couple times, and I asked her to join us today to give us an update on the state of extremism in the wake of Trump's indictments, the January 6th prosecutions, and the beginning of the 2024 primaries.

Kathleen, lots to cover, welcome to Burn the Boats.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Thank you very much for having me.

Ken Harbaugh:

You once said to me that as an historian, you didn't feel entirely qualified to talk about immediate near-term developments in our politics because we just don't have the perspective yet.

But I have to believe that the rise of authoritarian impulses and all of the associated events, these seem like the kinds of things we're gonna be talking about and writing about a hundred years from now.

What must it be like as an historian to be living through an historical time like this?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Well, that's an excellent question. I think that for historians, like for all of us, there is a desire to use whatever tools we have at our disposal to understand the gush of information out of the fire hose that we receive every day with the news that comes across our desks.

So, I don't have new archival study on the present-day moment, meaning I don't have troves of declassified documents and court cases and interviews.

But what I do have is historical perspective. And from that position, I think there's a lot of ways that the history of the earlier period really helps us understand what we're looking at.

And just to put it simply, this is very, very alarming. We're looking at intensifying rhetoric coming out of the Trump campaign, intensifying calls for violence, and really sort of a mixed record at best with the January 6th prosecutions and the bigger fight there, which is our war for public understanding of what that was and what that meant.

Ken Harbaugh:

You refer to the history of the earlier period slash periods. If you had to identify, say, a five-year period or a 10-year period in our history that is most analogous, most instructive for what we're going through now, to what span would you point?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

I think we're really off the map in terms of historical analogies, and I have been very resistant in conversations with you and others previously about making any comparisons with, for instance, the rise of Hitler in Germany. But we really are seeing a lot of compelling parallels.

And I think the last time you and I spoke, there was still at least an attempt, or I don't know where this comes from, but at least there was some daylight between the most extreme members of the GOP and the Trump campaign.

There was daylight between those folks and what I would think of as white power activists proper, meaning neo-Nazis, Klansmen, people who have declared war on the government, people who are not at all interested in sort of maintaining the nation, but are really looking for overthrow or authoritarianism or other much more catastrophic outcomes.

That daylight is just gone. There's no degree of separation anymore between those two positions.

And I think that started really feeling that way with Nick Fuentes dinner at Mar-a-Lago and the Waco Press Conference, which to people in the white power movement was a call, not just for sort of a general anti-government sentiment, but it's linked directly to the place of the Waco bombing in calls for violence like the Oklahoma City bombing.

Then last week we see Trump quoting about the purity of the national blood, which is directly from Hitler, and there really is an escalation there.

I think on the other hand, we also have to think about the evaporation of what little public consensus there was about January 6th. I think we are now, in the phase of moving past it without a lot of real consequences for most of the beneficiaries of that attack.

We do have some successful seditious conspiracy convictions, which is I think, novel in a lot of ways, ways, but certainly there hasn't been like a broad public reckoning in the way that many people had hoped right after that happened.

Ken Harbaugh:

I want to play a clip of former President Trump talking about polluting the national blood. And then I want to ask you a couple questions about it.

Donald Trump:

Nobody has any idea where these people are coming from, and we know they come from prisons, we know they come from mental institutions and sane asylums. We know they're terrorists.

Nobody has ever seen anything like we're witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country. It's poisoning the blood of our country. It's so bad and people are coming in with disease, people are coming in with every possible thing that you can have.

Ken Harbaugh:

Kathleen, I want you to help us understand what is going on here, because I don't believe for one second that former President Trump has read Mein Kampf or studied Hitler's speeches, but there's an animal instinct he has when it comes to political messaging.

And part of this also, has to be about the people he's surrounded himself with. How is he getting these dog whistles into his vocabulary? How are they making it into our political dialogue?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

This is another excellent question, and I'm afraid I don't have the answer. There's a whole sub-genre of experts now, who are just in charge of understanding Trump, how he works, what he does.

I'm not sure that he hasn't read more than we think, but I wouldn't have the slightest idea. From where we're sitting, it's very difficult to say, is this something that was simply written into a speech of his? Is this something that is in his mind? Is this something that an aide told him to say? I have no idea.

What I can tell you is the effect. That is a clear, not even dog whistle, so much as just a whistle to the folks in the white power movement who follow the idea that immigration is the pollution, quote unquote, of the national blood.

The idea that immigrants are somehow going to dilute and ruin the best parts of the nation.

And for the most extreme activists, it's signaling trump's openness to much more extreme and much more violent positions than he took even in his first term in office.

I read that as an escalation and also, as sort of evidence of a continued disregard for any concern about using those positions.

I mean, I think were you or I or most politicians to inadvertently quote from a source like this, the move if that is an innocent mistake, would be to immediately say, “Oh, sorry about that. I didn't realize.” We know that he doesn't do that.

So, I think there is no effort to put distance between himself and the most extreme parts of his base.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, the permission structure he's created, we are already seeing the effects of it in things like the Moms for Liberty newsletter that quoted Hitler as well.

This is something that just a few years ago would've ended an organization or at least gotten someone fired. Now, the response always seems to be to double down.

And I want to reshare this clip of one of the leaders of Moms for Liberty not only sticking up for the member who put that quote into that newsletter, but leading the crowd in a cheer of support. It's really over the top. Play the clip.

Voiceover:

“I don't know what to say. There is always a bridge, there’s always a reason. There's only the reason why something happens, right?”

“Yes.”

“One of our moms in a newsletter quotes Hitler. I stand with that mom.”

Ken Harbaugh:

So, Donald Trump has created a permission structure for the toleration of Nazi propaganda for Hitler quotes. We see other effects of this in the way literal Nazis, not even neo-Nazis, literal Nazis are parading across Florida.

And I think we all expected that there would be a political consensus in condemning this kind of thing. There doesn't seem to be the governor of Florida has nothing to say about the Nazis in his state.

What's your reaction as someone who studies this stuff?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

I think that there has not been a condemnation of much of this quite broadly since January 6th.

So, I think we're on the trajectory of public comment that started with this sort of, this is just a normal tourist visit claim when we all saw on television that that's not what it was.

And has really escalated into disavow of what happened that day. And also, just a growing acceptance of the presence of these groups in our broader culture and society.

So, one important part of that story is that we have to do the work of connecting all of these things together.

So, Nazis on the march in Florida needs to be in the same sort of reporting as the Proud Boys showing up to intimidate school boards in libraries, as people showing up to intimidate election workers.

And in the same thinking as the people we usually describe erroneously as lone gunman who show up and commit mass shootings for the same political ideology.

All of this is an interconnected problem. And the failure to disavow anyone part of it is part of a deliberate strategy to keep us from understanding the whole.

The fact that Trump is now, openly marshaling this ideology and these symbols is really a concerning development because I think it really leads to two equally disastrous sort of courses of action if he's reelected.

I think one has to do with authoritarianism, with threats to the rule of law, with gutting of democratic institutions, threats to free elections.

And the other has to do with threats to the nation itself. The idea that these activists since the 1980s have been interested in overthrowing the US. That course of action leads to sabotage efforts, war from within, mass casualty attacks against vulnerable groups. And I mean, they would like to lead to race war.

So, both of these things are threatening in different ways, but however you slice it, this is a time of incredible danger for free elections in the United States.

Ken Harbaugh:

You mentioned the lone gunman. I want to get to that mythology of the lone wolf in a second, but I would love your reaction to something our last guest, Ruth Ben-Ghait said about the growth of the Proud Boys.

The number of domestic violence extremist groups seems to be declining, but overall, membership is growing. I find that terrifying. We've looked into it, that it's true. And I take Dr. Ben-Ghait at her word, but the data is actually there. Membership in The Proud Boys is growing.

What do you make of that after the January 6th prosecutions?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

I think January 6th was an incredible advertisement for the white power movement and its goals. There's a lot of incredibly frustrated people in our nation who have been mobilized in various ways by the politics of this moment.

And I think that the white power movement is always fundamentally opportunistic. They would like to figure out how to reach whoever can be recruited.

So, we saw this immediately after January 6th, when right away, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and similar groups were recruiting within kind of more mainstream Stop the Steal and MAGA spaces online.

And we also, see that there were a string of articles saying that those seditious conspiracy convictions sort of cut the head off the snake, quote unquote, was one of the phrases I saw a lot. Because the idea is if you remove a few leaders or a few prominent activists, the rest of them will sort of, I don't know, be ashamed into inaction.

That's not how this has ever worked. The people who go to jail become martyrs and heroes of the movement and the people they leave behind are even more galvanized and even more emboldened.

Because to them, those arrests show the fundamental corruption of our jury system, of our police. It's just a doubling down of the ideology. If anything, it's cutting the head off a hydra that inflames things even further.

Now, that's not to say we shouldn't arrest and prosecute, but I think that my point here is just that this calls for a much broader and wider reaction than the prosecution of a few select activists.

Ken Harbaugh:

Mike Breen, who we had on as well, CEO of Human Rights First, Army vet now, combat vet, characterized January 6th as a phenomenal success for the extremist movement in terms of recruiting, in terms of demonstrating capability, and in terms of further radicalizing and co-opting a major American political party. How would you react to that?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

I think that's right. I mean, I think even the most exciting and sort of hopeful developments to come out of January 6th have gotten caught up in sort of the usual grind of inaction that this politics has engendered.

So, for instance, the DODs stand down where they said they were going to do a full audit of extremism in the military and look at how many people are infiltrating, checkout different ways that people are actively involved, which is against regulations.

All of that stuff was very, very hopeful and the most decisive action that I have ever seen from the Pentagon about this.

But when journalists this year have gone to say, “Hey, how's it going?” There's no report forthcoming, there's no numbers. It doesn't seem that these things have been enacted at all.

It's incredibly concerning because these moments provide a sort of window of action while the public is paying attention. And then immediately people have other things to worry about and that goodwill sort of disappears, but the movement doesn't. And so, I'm very concerned about that.

Ken Harbaugh:

Will you join Mike Breen, if I'm not mistaken, in signing an open letter that was published in USA Today and other places calling on the DOD to be more forthcoming and transparent in its reporting or report on the findings of extremists in the ranks.

I would love your thoughts on why they have suddenly gone quiet. And I'm biasing your answer here, but the political pressure that they are under right now.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Yeah. I mean, I think nobody wants to regulate anything in an election cycle, but the thing is, when is it not an election year now? We're already geared up fully for 2024. And in the meantime, we still have to govern, we still have to deal with this problem.

We know from the historical record that veterans have been enormously important to white power groups. And that's not to say that the history of veterans is the history of white power groups.

But definitely the history of white power groups has a lot of veterans in it because they bring munitions expertise, and tactical know-how, and organizational know-how, and also some ideological factors that can help amplify the reach and impact of these groups.

Now, we know that that's happening. We know that we have a big population of veterans at play right now, because of the global war on terror, and we know that an outsized percentage of veterans were involved in January 6th. That's what caused this whole stand out to begin with.

I also, think that reasonable people can agree that you can't fulfill an oath to protect the nation from enemies foreign and domestic and also, be involved in a movement to overthrow the nation at the same time.

So, although I am sympathetic with the difficulties that Pentagon has in addressing this problem while maintaining freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, I think that there are necessary limits that have to be in place in order to maintain discipline within the ranks.

So, my guess is that either there is political pressure not to do this, and or there are so many people involved that it has become a public problem to acknowledge it, and or that the counting mechanism isn't working.

And we know that in the past that hasn't been working because if you ask someone to run an exit interview and they simply refuse to write down the answers, for instance, can't get an accurate headcount.

Now, all of that we should put aside and say that's an organization that is trying to do this counting. We also, have problems with infiltration in Bureau of Prisons and police departments and there's no record keeping mechanism there at all.

So, in total, this problem is quite large and complex. And the biggest lever to push would be the military because when the military wants to, it provides this kind of thing so well for its own people.

And we could look at welfare benefits for military families. We could look at mental health care for vets. The military does a better job with a lot of this than our society at large does.

But if the military decides it doesn't want to take it on, then we have no lever to push.

Ken Harbaugh:

Right. When I asked about the political pressure, I'm referring to some specifics. In a very real way, it is the military deciding not to take it on because leadership requires risk taking in situations like this.

But the other element is the top-down political pressure when you have someone like a US Senator Tommy Tuberville from Alabama responding to a question about white supremacists in the military saying, “I don't see white supremacists, I see patriotic Americans.”

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Yeah, I think he said white nationalists.

Ken Harbaugh:

White nationalists.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

But I mean potato potato in a way. I think the fine grain distinctions between white supremacy, and white power, and white nationalism were not the point of that particular quote.

And I agree with you that he is saying that this is all fine and if people want to be in the clan or in a neo-Nazi group and part of the military, it's okay with him, I guess.

I would point out that those folks have not been fulfilling that oath in all kinds of ways that I think even he would have trouble with. But this is a complex problem.

I think the trick is that getting anything done about this requires some amount of public buy-in. And the turmoil over how January 6th would be remembered and understood started almost immediately.

And it's now, become so fractious, it's like another of these third rails that people can't talk about across political lines and that makes it very difficult to get anything done.

Ken Harbaugh:

In addition to Tommy Tuberville, we have other incredibly influential Republican politicians defending white nationalism, elevating it. Can you explain to us what white nationalism actually is because it's not the US nation really that white nationalists are advancing.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Sure. So, we can think about white supremacy as sort of a set of beliefs and practices and systems that perpetuate racial inequality.

So, one part of that is individual racist belief, individual white supremacy. Another part of that is say a hospital system in which white mothers live more often than black mothers, or incarceration systems that privilege one race over another.

And we have a lot of these measures in our society that are very clearly about old histories of white supremacy such that you don't even need active individual racism in the room to get an unequal response.

Then within that set of problems, one thread is white nationalism. Which can either look like at the political level, sort of that America is a fundamentally white country with white histories and cultures and people that should be privileged in decision making.

So, that can look like draconian and inhumane border crossing policies. That can look like national quota systems, things like that.

But usually, what people are talking about today when they say white nationalism is not that classic definition. Usually, what people are talking about is actually white power.

So, that comes out of a social movement that rose in the late 1960s and early 1970s, really congealed in the early ‘80s and fully declared war on the government in 1983. That movement brought together Klansmen, neo-Nazis, skinheads, militiamen in a kind of broad groundswell of anti-American activity.

When those folks say white nationalism, they're not talking about the United States as the nation, they're talking about an Aryan nation, the welfare of white people the world over.

And we see that that version of white nationalism is on the march, not only in our politics, but in other countries. Many places are having these very draconian discussions about immigration that imagine kind of barricading themselves off from the world or even envisioning an all-white planet.

These are very extreme ideas and it's not just about something like preserving the character of the United States. It is a fundamentally anti-American ideology.

Ken Harbaugh:

One of the tactical innovations of that movement was cell style terrorism, which brings us to the myth of the lone wolf. Can you deconstruct that for us?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Sure. So, in 1983 as they declared war, the white power movement also adopted a strategy called leaderless resistance, which is just cell style terrorism.

The idea is that a few people would work in cells without communication with other cells and without direct communication with leadership.

So, notably, there are leaders in leaderless resistance. There just aren't the kinds of receipts that you can use to prosecute the connections between these people.

Now, leaderless resistance and the term lone wolf come up at the same time in the white power movement. And one of the reasons is that leaderless resistance allows this movement to look like a whole bunch of disconnected action instead of as one coherent social force.

So, much like groups do this, we have the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters, and they all claim to be their own discreet thing.

Even when there are people and weapons and other information that join those activists together, lone wolves or single action stochastic terrorists are able to appear to be disconnected even though they're part of a movement.

So, that strategy is how we get shootings like Jacksonville, and Buffalo, and the Tree of Life Synagogue in El Paso, and Christchurch all appearing as acts of single mass violence, when in fact they're part of a connected, ideologically motivated white power movement.

I think connecting those is incredibly important because it enables those communities to share resources and media exposure and strategies with each other and to understand that they've all been targeted by that same movement as have we all after January 6th.

Ken Harbaugh:

I think a lot of people probably underestimate the sophistication of this movement. They pioneered the use of the early internet. They may be brutal and backward in their outward affectations, but in terms of organizing and messaging, they're not cavemen.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

No, not at all. They're incredibly media savvy and they're also, quite opportunistic.

So, one thing that you'll see often is that the uniforms, or the flags, or symbols will change to sort of suit the prevailing public moment.

So, when I studied this in the 1980s, a lot of these groups wore camouflage fatigues. That's partly because of like tactical readiness, but it's also because people thought that was cool in the ‘80s and people wanted to join those groups.

So, when we see them turn up in tropical shirts, or in khakis and polo shirts, and tiki torches, or in other sorts of different uniform changes, it's because they're attacking the prevailing wind.

So, for instance, in Charlottesville they got a lot of blowback for using outright clans symbology at the Unite the Right rally in 2017.

We didn't see a lot of that at January 6th. Instead they showed up with their yellow and black Gadsden purchase flags and their Don't Tread On Me stuff. Same people though and working for the same end game.

Ken Harbaugh:

Can you explain the connection between the white power movement and the pathways that provides, and the Proud Boys and how they funnel into each other?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Sure. I think that the white power movement and the militant right, really is a sort of, it's a groundswell of interconnected groups and ideologies.

So, a lot of this we won't know with certainty until later when we get people leaving the movement and testifying about these relationships and declassify documents that tell us the inside story of some of what's happening.

But it's clear that the Proud Boys are part of the white power movement. I think the label western chauvinist is meant to suggest that they are not a racist group, but in practice they certainly have acted like one.

And similarly, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, the list of groups that comes up over and over again.

In the earlier period, what we would expect to find based on how this worked in the 1980s is that all of these affiliations are somewhat temporary and that people probably move through these groups with some regularity or even have multiple memberships, multiple causes.

So, you'll hear stories about people showing up for a march about one thing over here and then later showing up at January 6th.

So, it's a movement with circulation and with a bunch of social relationships.

And instead of getting down in the weeds about sort of which group believes what, which slim symbol goes where, which one has which weapons, I think it's productive and much more sort of in tune with how it's actually working if we can think about it as just a groundswell that's all part of the same issue.

Ken Harbaugh:

Can you explain the KKK in the ‘20s? Because I think it's a really helpful analog in how they were anti one group in the northwest anti another in the southeast. I think it helps us understand that oppositional aesthetic that defines the current movement.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

And that is exactly the opportunism that I'm talking about. So, if you think about the Klan in the 1920s, sometimes people have studied this one in school.

This is the one that you'll see pictures of them on the National Mall in DC marching with hoods and robes, but with their faces uncovered because it was a totally respectable thing to do at the time.

It was really big, like 4 million people. 10% of the state of Indiana is estimated to have been part of that clan.

And that's the one that probably is the most historically analog to the first term of the Trump presidency, thinking about 100% Americanism, America for Americans, and slogans like that, that are very sort of nationalistic in that way.

So, we often think about the clan as anti-black and anti-Jewish and it was both of those things. But as you say, we also see a lot of like local prejudice picked up and brought in in order to recruit people.

So, in the east where there were a lot of immigrants, the Klan was anti-immigrant. On the US Mexico border, they were anti-Mexican. In the Northwest where there was a big union drive among timber mills, they were anti-union. And in Indiana where they had Notre Dame University, they were anti-Catholic.

So, what they do is come in and mobilize around whatever the existing tensions are in a community in order to put together their kind of best recruitment pitch.

Ken Harbaugh:

How important is militant Christianity today? It was a powerful force for the clan you are describing.

In a number of our conversations, it's been suggested (meaning my interviews with some of your peers) that a militant perverted form of Christianity is a powerful force behind these movements. What's your take?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

So, in the 1980s, there are two big faith beliefs in the white power movement. One is Odinism, which is the kind of pagan belief that postulates that sort of white gods are in charge. So, people who like Odin and Valhalla and Viking mythology. My guess is that that's a little bit smaller.

The main one is Christian identity, which is a political theology that posits that white people are actually the lost tribe of Israel and that everyone else in the world, whether you are a Jewish or a person of color is a descendant of Satan or a beast.

So, this is a incredibly intense distillation of white supremacy.

So, Christian identity is an interesting one because it positions white people as both victims and as being sort of in charge of reclaiming the world for Christ before the apocalypse can happen.

So, identity followers don't have a rapture. They are supposed to clear the world of enemies before Christ can return.

It's very apocalyptic. It mobilizes these feelings about a state of emergency. And it also, makes it a holy war when you are trying to attack people of color.

I am not sure that we know how big Christianity or Christian identity is in the present-day moment, but I think I would turn to, as always, this is a coalition movement.

So, there are some very non-Christian components of what's going on in the far right today. And then we have continued Christian ideology coming in as well. Evangelical churches in that period between the 1980s and the present have gotten bigger and much more political.

There was always a little bit of overlap between those communities. But we may find as the data come out that there is more of an overlap or even that that little overlap means a lot more people.

For sure Christianity is still at work and you can see it in the way that people talk about what they're doing. But I think that question about like how big or how small, for a historian, I think it's too early to say.

Ken Harbaugh:

Can you tell us a little bit about the book you are working on now? All I have is the title Home at the End of the World, but I have to believe it deals with end times, eschatology, and some of what you're just now referring to.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Yes, I'm looking at the role of violence, gun violence, especially in American society in the recent past. And thinking about well, the many mass shootings that aren't politically motivated like school shootings and other mass attacks, the place of guns in our culture.

And also, the way that we tell and consume stories about those events that make it more difficult for us to confront them.

So, it focuses on Colorado in the 1990s, which is where I grew up, and it's sort of a number of different stories about that place coming into one book.

Ken Harbaugh:

I wanna end on a positive note and I heard you say once that de-platforming works. That it is possible to sanction some of these voices on the far right that are provoking violence, that are spreading hate, and it has a real impact on the movement they're trying to advance.

I am a little skeptical because my fear is that you remove someone like Tucker Carlson and as nature a porous a vacuum, so does extremism. Someone else just fills that space.

But if you're right, how does that work? How does de-platforming actually in operation, can you explain to us how that works?

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Absolutely. And even in that example, I mean, like I think it's rare that somebody that prominent is de-platformed and we just see him pop up in another place anyway.

But more than that I think we can't unring the bell. Like there will always be extremist content somewhere in this wild vast space of the internet. There's no way to regulate everything. There's no way to stop that.

And I don't think I would want to in any case because it is speech at the end of the day in many cases.

But what we do know is that people are not entitled to free use of the super highways that are private spaces owned by businesses like Twitter and Facebook and Fox News. Those are businesses. They get to have some say over what is responsible speech on those platforms and what kinds of impact it has after it goes through those platforms.

And what we know is that although we can't remove extremism from the internet, de-platforming slows down momentum and that has measurable impact on how much violence can be done, how much resources come in, how many people can be drawn into something.

And those are material things that we can do to help. So, I think de-platforming is one really helpful and useful tool.

The other hopeful thing that I have for you is that there are a lot of smart and capable people working on this problem at every level.

So, from the places you would expect like the people doing prosecutions, and people who work at surveillance agencies, and people who are real-time journalistic monitors and watchdogs who are just simply aggregating data and trying to do what they can.

All the way down to people like the librarian in your local school system, or your kids' teacher, or people who are working with preteens. There's all kinds of places that we as a society have to catch this.

And I encourage people to think about where that is in your own life and in your own community because those people really do need some help.

Ken Harbaugh:

And you've also, shared stories in the past about extremists finding their way back. Except in very few cases, redemption is possible.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Oh, absolutely. And the people who work on deradicalization also certainly need some help.

The model seems to be very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous in that when I hear stories about people who have left the movement, it is typically through individual or intimate group relationships, long conversation, trying to create resources to leave, trying to figure out how to challenge people's worldviews in a conversational way. Man, which is advanced citizenship in this polarization we're living through.

But people do leave and they help others leave. And that's sometimes small and quiet work, but it's incredibly important.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, thank you Kathleen. I think that's a good note to end on. As always, really appreciate you joining us.

Dr. Kathleen Belew:

Oh, thank you very much for having me.

Ken Harbaugh:

Thanks for listening to Burn the Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We're always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on Twitter @Team_Harbaugh. And if you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to rate and review.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs, and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our audio engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.

I'm Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.


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Dr. Hassan explains how cults indoctrinate members, and how the radical right has copied these strategies....
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Dr. Bandy Lee: A Duty to Warn

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:158
Psychiatrist Dr. Bandy Lee discusses Trump’s mental state, and the danger he poses to the country....
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Tristan Snell: Trump’s Legal Strategy

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:157
Tristan, who prosecuted Trump as the Assistant Attorney General of New York, talks about Trump’s legal strategy, our current judicial system, and ...
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