Over the weekend, hip-hot artist Jasiri X posted this image on his twitter feed. It’s taken from the front page of the New York Daily News’ website. Note the screaming headline and the sympathetic caption: “Accused killer Dylann Roof had one chance at a stable family life — and his abusive dad ruined it for…
Back in March, as civil libertarians hailed Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for his twelve-hour attempted filibuster of John Brennan, Pres. Obama’s nominee for CIA director, I knew something wasn’t right. Garrett Epps at The Atlantic correctly identified the problem with Sen. Paul’s rhetoric, but even he missed the point:
[T]he danger to our country is not the danger Paul identified in his filibuster – that “Americans could be killed in a cafe in San Francisco or in a restaurant in Houston or at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky.” The present danger is that a new, low-cost, deniable technology will become a covert instrument of foreign policy, used on targets abroad without adequate attention to international law.
Yes, the fundamental problem with drones is that we’re using them in this nonsensical “war on terror,” which, as it’s evolved over the past twelve years, has run afoul of international law. But that’s not really what Rand Paul was talking about, nor was his intended audience people like Garrett Epps who are concerned about such things.
Rand Paul wasn’t talking to peaceniks, nor was he talking to civil libertarians. He was talking to neo-Confederates who have an abiding fear of the black guy in the White House.
No, you’re saying, that’s crazy! He’s a United States Senator, for crying out loud. He wouldn’t be sending coded messages to secessionists!
Riiight. And this, I’m sure, is just a coincidence:
A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.
Paul hired Jack Hunter, 39, to help write his book The Tea Party Goes to Washington during his 2010 Senate run. Hunter joined Paul’s office as his social media director in August 2012.
From 1999 to 2012, Hunter was a South Carolina radio shock jock known as the “Southern Avenger.” He has weighed in on issues such as racial pride and Hispanic immigration, and stated his support for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
During public appearances, Hunter often wore a mask on which was printed a Confederate flag.
Prior to his radio career, while in his 20s, Hunter was a chairman in the League of the South, which “advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic.”
That article, from The Washington Free Beacon, quotes Hunter as saying that when he was involved in the League of the South in the late 1990s, it was not a racist organization. That’s not what the Southern Poverty Law Center says:
Founded in 1994 . . . the overarching mission of the League of the South is to accomplish what the Civil War did not — Southern secession. . . .
From the start, the league’s board was dominated by academics. Its unofficial foundational text was Cracker Culture, a book by conservative history professor Grady McWhiney, one of [League President Michael] Hill’s mentors, which asserts that the South was populated by immigrants from Celtic areas of England and constitutes a culture and population distinct from that of the North. At the beginning, it only suggested that Southern secession might become necessary if the rest of America did not straighten out.
But, SPLC points out:
[The League] quickly became more radical. It came out against interracial marriage. Hill publicly defended antebellum slavery as “God-ordained” and another league leader described segregation as necessary to racial “integrity” of both races, black and white alike. Hill called for a hierarchal society composed of “superiors, equals and inferiors, each protected in their legal privileges” and attacked egalitarianism as a “fatal heresy.” He said people other than white Christians would be allowed to live in his South, but only if they bowed to “the cultural dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people and their institutions.” Where the goal of secession was once largely rhetorical, it became a seriously stated aim.
According to SPLC, Jack Kershaw, one of the League’s founders and a board member through at least 2007, once said: “Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery. Where in the world are the Negroes better off today than in America?”
That was in 1998. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Jack Hunter “was last listed as chairman of the Charleston chapter of League of the South in 1999.” So much for the old They-Weren’t-Racist-When-I-Was-a-Member trope.
Rand Paul must have known all of this when he first hired Jack Hunter to co-author his book in 2010. After all, Hunter still appeared on his radio show – bedecked in a Confederate Battle Flag-themed wrestler’s mask – under the nom du guerre “Southern Avenger,” until 2012 . . . when Paul named him director of social media.
This is who Rand Paul is, folks. He’s not a guy who cares about civil liberties. He’s a guy who’s steeped in neo-Confederate tradition. He’s a guy who, during the 2010 senatorial campaign, glibly questioned whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should have barred private discrimination in public accommodations. He’s not all that concerned about other civil liberties issues like racial profiling and stop-and-frisk. In fact, he’s really not all that concerned about the use of drones, either.
But he knows that there are white Americans who fear a black president – especially a black president with the military capability to put down another attempt at secession. If you don’t think that’s who he was talking to back in March, you may need to have your naïveté levels checked.