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The term “civil liberties” may connote different associations, depending on where you fall on the political spectrum. While some connect the term with the struggle for racial justice or reproductive freedom, for others it may evoke a belief in their right to bear arms. This week’s guest on Sea Change Radio is John Stoehr, the founder and publisher of The Editorial Board. In the wake of the latest horrific rounds of gun violence in this country, Stoehr reflects on how America’s lack of gun regulations reveals deeper societal flaws. He explains how the violent fervor surrounding so-called 2nd Amendment rights stems from a power structure rooted in white male dominance. He also connects the dots to the impending repeal of reproductive protections and xenophobic approaches to immigration.
Narrator: This is Sea Change Radio covering the shift to sustainability. I’m Alex Wise.
John Stoehr: A gun is a symbol of white power. More guns in circulation means the expansion of a police state that’s run by people invested in preserving white power.
Narrator: 00:27 The term “civil liberties” may connote different associations, depending on where you fall on the political spectrum. While some connect the term with the struggle for racial justice or reproductive freedom, for others it may evoke a belief in their right to bear arms. This week’s guest on Sea Change Radio is John Stoehr, the founder and publisher of The Editorial Board. In the wake of the latest horrific rounds of gun violence in this country, Stoehr reflects on how America’s lack of gun regulations reveals deeper societal flaws. He explains how the violent fervor surrounding so-called 2nd Amendment rights stems from a power structure rooted in white male dominance. He also connects the dots to the impending repeal of reproductive protections and xenophobic approaches to immigration.
Alex Wise: 1:26 I’m joined now on Sea Change Radio by John Stoehr. He’s the founder and publisher of The Editorial Board. John, welcome back to Sea Change Radio.
John Stoehr: 1:41 Thanks for having me.
Alex Wise 1:42 I’ve been wanting to talk to you for several months now since we last spoke. It looks like the Supreme Court is overturning Roe V. Wade and then we’ve had another spate of these horrible mass murderous shootings. The most horrific one out of the many at Uvalde in Texas, so you’ve written several pieces on both issues. You talk about the hypocrisy of the Republican Party wanting to put government into people’s health care and their private lives by regulating women bodies. But then they also kind of just shrug when it comes to the regulation of guns, like what’s the point of having laws they’re going to break them anyway. Why don’t you dive a little deeper into it if you can?
John Stoehr: 2:29 So what is the connection between Roe and the Second Amendment? They seem to be two separate things that really don’t have much to do with each other. But they really do. In fact, they also connect to immigration. You really have to think of it in terms of the replacement theory. The replacement theory is pretty simple. It is White Americans in this country who fear being replaced at the center of power, it’s not literal like I fear being replaced in this chair. No, it’s about being decentered like white. White culture was American culture and now American culture is actually multicultural. It’s diverse, it’s multitudinous. And that rubs a lot of White Americans the wrong way and has rubbed Americans the wrong way, especially since the election of Barack Obama. So how do we connect these three things together? Well, in terms of guns, you want to expand the circulation. The distribution of guns to such a degree that non-white people in this country people who are already here. A can be controlled by way of terrorizing them into submission. Abortion forcing white women to have more babies. That’s basically what that boils down to. More white babies means more white people and therefore a restoration of “democracy.” And then immigration close the door. Make sure that non-white people are not coming in. If a few Europeans come in well, that’s fine, but there’s really no distinction between legal and illegal. They’re basically the same to these people. All of this should be seen in the context of a reaction to democracy. There’s a reason why I point to 2008 as as the beginning of this democracy produced a black president. And at that time, the right wing bloc of the Republican Party, otherwise known as you know fascists or authoritarians or right wingers, these people felt betrayed by democracy. Remember up until.
Barack Obama, election democracy yielded preferable results. A white president. Maybe it was sometimes a Democrat or liberal and that was not so good from these people. Points of view, but it certainly produced what was expected in a white man’s country. When they felt betrayed by democracy, they also felt betrayed by the rule of law, you know? A peaceful transition of power is the execution of the rule of law. And when the rule of law is on the side of a black president becoming Black Man becoming president, then the rule of law itself becomes suspicious. Remember, for most of our history, the rule of law really meant the rule of white power. If that started to change legally only in the 1960s with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Prior to that, the rule of law was whatever white. People said that. It was and because white people were the majority in this country. That’s the way it was. So this is the connection. This is really what you should be thinking about when you think about these three things. In particular, the guns is really not about the second amend. Then abortion is really not about abortion, and immigration is really not about immigration. It’s really a stand in for something else which is anxiety about the position of white power in this country.
Alex Wise: 6:08 So in the 80s and 90s we looked at a lot of these social issues as social wedge issues as there’s ways to kind of divert the voting public away from issues that really mattered to them on a day by day basis. But am I right in saying that the election of Barack Obama shifted that narrative from these aren’t just wedge issues, but now it’s real and would it be fair to postulate that, like a Merrick Garland scenario, where a Supreme Court seat was just basically stolen would not have happened under a white male Democratic presidency?
John Stoehr: 6:49 Yeah, I mean specifically, I don’t know because that’s a counter factual. But yeah, sure it’s possible. I think it would have been much more difficult for Mitch McConnell to blow up democratic norms the way he did if it were a white man, even though he was a Democrat. The thing about wedge issues. I think that’s always that’s always rooted in white. Power as well. You know wedge issues were really ways of saying, do you want these uppity non-white people telling us what to do? Do you want these uppity women telling us what to do? Do you want people who we have been stomping on for a couple centuries stomping on us in in retaliation? Because because that’s what’s going to happen if we let them rule the country. So you see, it always really goes back to that. It’s pretty simple when you think about it. I think right wing politics is more difficult to understand. When we accept in good faith their propaganda, once you stop accepting their propaganda in good faith. In other words, seeing it for the bad faith that it is. Then it’s actually much easier to understand whenever they say family values, for instance, what they’re really saying is the nuclear family in which the the white man is in control of his woman, his wife, and his children. He’s the ultimate authority, right? And then, that’s it. They don’t really mean family values as in you know what TV shows are appropriate for children, you know what mean? Is it appropriate for a 10 year old to listen to certain music or how do you teach a 10 year old how to be nice with friends. You know it has nothing to do with that. It really has to do with. For it, I always tell my readers, and I hope your listeners hear this, that you have to remember what the natural order of things is to these people. The natural order of things is white men on top of everything. Everybody else is less than by orders going down. So white men on top, then white women and then everybody else. Right and democratic forces that keep challenging those that natural order of things to these people are a perversion to these people. That’s a violation of the Constitutional Republic that we you often hear about or the constitutional order they see politics. Clearly they don’t really buy their own rhetoric. They see it exactly the way – It is that the Constitution was founded as a as a slave owners document right that kind of conned us into believing all men are created equal. That concept obviously has reformed the the country and our way of thinking over time, but you know slave owners telling us that all men are created equal is kind of a, you know, weird thing to say. But they understood exactly what the Constitutional Republic was intended to do. It was intended to treat non-white people as less than white people, period.
Alex Wise: 10:53 This is Alex Wise on Sea Change Radio and I’m speaking to John Stoehr. He is the founder and publisher of The Editorial Board, so maybe you can build on what we were just talking about with the connection of of white power and guns. You wrote a piece for the editorial board entitled “Pro Gun Is Pro White Power,” and let me just read a little excerpt here and then you can expand on it: “to be white is to be in power to not be white is to be subject to power, what better way is there for a non-white man to become white than by purchasing a gun and committing acts of political violence against Hispanic children? Who will benefit from democracy and equal treatment under law for the purpose of restoring the natural order? This setting is where the gun control debate should be located, not in the Second Amendment, not in the Constitution. Instead, in the larger context of democracy law and white power to be pro gun control is to be anti white power. Ted Cruz and the GOP understand perfectly. We should too.” That’s at the end of your piece, but maybe bring the listener into some of your thought process earlier in the piece as well, if you can.
John Stoehr: 12:06 Yeah, that that paragraph came out of my thinking about Salvador Ramos, who is the Uvalde shooter. And I was thinking about, well, you know, he’s not white, so you know how am I gonna, how does he fit into my theory about being programmed as being pro white power?
Alex Wise: 12:28 Yes, you say that he wasn’t white, but he probably wanted to be white. What did you mean by that?
John Stoehr 12:33 Yeah, I mean. I obviously. I can’t read his mind, but you know when people who are oppressed find ways of accessing the tools of the oppressor that that happens in history, and they, those tools are often used to bring down the oppressor you know or to prove yourself to the to the white power structure. Keep in mind that back in the 19th century century, when Italians were not white, they were considered non-white because they were Italian and they were not of Anglo-Saxon stock. Same thing with the Irish. They were not white, they were whatever it was. Those people thought they were. And one way for Italian and Irish immigrants to prove themselves was to join the ranks of law enforcement and commit acts of violence against other immigrants. In in order to prove that they’re white.
Alex Wise: 13:28 Yeah, I’m thinking of this guy from the proud boys who who’s a mixed race individual – I can’t remember what his ethnic background is, but I was like “that’s the head of the proud boys?” He’s like this leader who does not look like what you would expect him to look like. Do you know the guy I’m talking about?
John Stoehr:13:45 Yeah, I do, and he’s operating the in the context I outline in the piece, a context of democracy and the reaction to democracy, right, and the role of white power in that and all of that. And the it’s easy for the right to say “Oh well, Ramos was Hispanic and so therefore this has nothing to do with white power.” You’re asking me to forget heat facts and human in American history in order for that to be true, I have to forget American history and I’m just not going to do that. These everybody works in the similar social context and everybody works consciously or unconsciously according to that context. This is also why I’ve said every single mass shooting since Sandy Hook has been one way or another a reaction to democratic forces that put a black man in the White House. And I I really believe that the whole idea of needing a motive to ascertain whether it was political violence or not seems unhelpful and ridiculous. We really don’t need to ascertain he does. Every shooter doesn’t have to write a manifesto for us to conclude that this was an act of political violence. Any violence that on a mass scale done in public is political violence, just by look by its very fact.
Alex Wise:15:08 Yes, and yet we hear the second this happens. The people who do not want to talk about guns will say, “Let’s not politicize this. There are people grieving. There’s a time for politics, that’s that’s one of the knee jerk reactions that is one of the safe harbors of the propagandist.
John Stoehr 15:38 Yeah, well that I think you’re thinking of the line from Ted Cruz, the Texas senator, and that that was textbook gaslighting. He was basically saying do not do what I have been doing since I became a senator from Texas. Yeah, I mean I’ve heard that a lot and he goes…
Alex Wise: 15:48It’s not just Ted Cruz, it’s you go onto the Senate floor during some kind of tragedy. And like let’s not politicize this. I always think to myself well, if these people aren’t going to politicize it. Politicians, I mean it’s right in their job description in their name. They’re political, they’re the political class. That’s what they’re supposed to do is they need to view things through a political lens.
John Stoehr: But the the Gaslighters are saying let’s step away for a minute, not do our jobs and then just talk from pure emotion and that works to their favor, they think. Yeah, yeah, I think you’re demonstrating Alex and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’re demonstrating one of my criticisms of liberals and that, again, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re receiving in good faith what is only toxic. Sadistic bad faith.
Alex Wise 16:39 Oh no, no I totally agree. I’m just thinking that that it’s absurd that people would say these kind of things, but they find it a winning argument.
John Stoehr: 16:47 I don’t think it is, but do you think it resonates with enough people for it to be a get out of jail free card for these criminals? Well, you know as I as I firmly believe most people, most of the time are doing something else other than paying attention to politics and so therefore somebody like Ted Cruz can come off as reasonable right winger to people who have other things to do, and that’s why you and me and other people who do pay attention to politics need to be screaming loudly like no this is. This is the the proper context in understanding mass shootings like this. Massacres is the white power reaction to democracy, right? And that that that’s the proper context in which we should have this discussion if we’re talking about whether we should or should not politicize a tragedy, we’re having the wrong conversation. You know we we really should. We should be talking about how guns are really a stand in for white power. The more guns, the more white power there is, in fact. To move this in a slightly different direction. Ron DeSantis the governor of Florida, is about to. Pass signs and legislation allowing virtually unfettered. Carry laws, I mean you can carry your gun anywhere and that really should be understood not in terms of the Second Amendment, because if you are thinking of it that way, you’re you’re you lose, you really should be thinking about unfettered gun carry as an expansion of the police state. That’s what you should be thinking of it as because law, the rule of law, law enforcement, these terms are really not about law. The rule of law and law enforcement. They are about the enforcement of white power. They are about the rule of white power. A gun is a symbol of white power. More guns in circulation means the expansion of a police state that’s run by people invested in preserving white power.
Alex Wise: 19:42 This is Alex Wise on Sea Change Radio and I’m speaking to John Stoehr. He is the editor and publisher of the Editorial Board. We were just talking about the police state and Ron DeSantis. Where is the Nexus between the police state Uvalde and our insane gun laws in this country?
John Stoehr: Respectable white people is a term I used to apply to people who have other things to do than pay attention to politics and and they also care about their public image visa vie other respectable white people. I think among these people there’s this. Yearning to respect law enforcement despite the history and the public record of law enforcement being a source of problems in this country, not the solution but the source of the problems. I tried to say things in a variety of ways to get these people to understand that the what they believe about police is pretty upside down and backwards. The question really about why we can’t get a straight story out of police officers is frankly, police lie the way they breathe. They lie and they lie. And it’s just that’s just the way it is. I used to occasionally cover the cops feet at the Savannah Morning News. And this was in Savannah, GA and we had to, you know, go to the police station and look through all the police reports and you can just read. The police reports and see that a police officer is lying and Just and you don’t have to know anything about the incident. You can just see it right in the police report that they just they just lie. This and this is not like slandering police. You know, I actually believe it that it is an honor to wear a badge and conduct unbecoming of a police officer is a is a dishonor. It’s tarnishing the respect that you should be earning. Police don’t earn respect so much as they demand it. And I think having guns is part of that calculus being armed to the teeth like a modern urban warrior is part of that. If you go to other countries where police officers also garner respect but they don’t carry weapons like semi automatic weapons.
Alex Wise 22:06 Then you can see that there’s that distinction between earning the respect and demanding the respect.
John Stoehr: 22:14 In fact, yeah the in police departments are institutionalized white power throughout the country throughout our history. Every single Police Department in one way or another to 1 degree or another is a reflection of the entrenchment of power. Serving white people. I mean, that’s just the way it is – I mean if you think about. Why do police break up protests the way they do? It’s not because people are breaking laws, it’s because protesting is a is a complaint about the status quo. Police protect the status quo, but that’s just the way it is. And so when you when large numbers of people come out, especially if they’re large number of non-white people come out to protest to express their grievance about something they are instantly seen as the enemy. And so putting so why you know they lie like they breathe? The white supremacy is a big lie. That is the biggest lie of all. That white people are inherently by God’s grace better than everybody else. And the fact is, we’re not. We’re like just as bad and just as good and or or whatever as everybody else. But we have this social construction that tricks us, especially respectable white people in think into thinking, well, you know, this is the way the world is. It is not the way the world is we. Have made the world the way it is. Yes, and in that piece you end with saying white power is more important than 19 dead kids. That’s a theory of government. It’s grim and we should say so. Yeah, I mean Rubio in particular. It literally shrugged when somebody asked him if anything can be done about these shooting massacres. He shrugged and said well, the law isn’t going to stop these people from doing it. Anything you know, one set of laws is what they like, meaning forcing laws and state action that forces white women to have more babies. They like that. Right, But the other law to you know, control guns more to to prevent the mass slaughter of innocents. They don’t like that one. You have to ask well why, why one and not another and one of the conclusions I don’t see anywhere except in the editorial board is that, well, mass violence on this scale is good for the Republican Party.
Alex Wise: 24:40 Now, explain that what does that mean?
John Stoehr: 24:42 I mean, you would think Oh well, the Republicans are really going to be in trouble now at the midterms, because there’s been a mass shooting and people are going to realize that the Republicans are responsible for these things. But that’s it’s not such a simple cause and effect. Is it in the in the political reality that is America? Why are these things good for the Republicans? The Republicans inherently benefit from division political division. They represent minority interests if they did not split the majority into several pieces, the majority would crush them, right? So they can’t have that. Well, just take that. In the interest in division and justice you know, put it in the context of white power reacting to democratic forces. That would put a black man in the White House. Well, when that happens, when? Democracy betrays you. Right when the law is not on your side, you reach for a gun. And when you are the party that represents white power, then you can. Serve the interests of those who are reaching for their guns, already reaching for their guns in order to quote UN quote, protect themselves. And you’re creating chaos and anarchy In a way. That terrifies “respectable white people” and very and everybody else in a society such that if there’s enough of that terror, who are they going to turn to? They’re going to turn to the Liberals who you know want to talk about policy and the finer points of this and that you know they’re going to turn to. The people with the guns protect us. If this was another setting, say Nazi Germany, we would understand it perfectly. But we don’t we, we can’t see it when it’s right in front of us.
Alex Wise: 26:30Yeah, I think of that rage that you mentioned and and I can’t help but think of when Beto O’Rourke recently just confronted Greg Abbott and the Mayor of Uvalde and a sheriff at their press conference calling it what it was, which was a a charade. And he’s saying you were doing nothing and he was met with such vitriol from these people. These people who were it, broke them out of their gaslighting somnambulance press conference that they were. And then all of a sudden, just likez “You, S.O.B., and just like they were, just like very mad at this man who was basically calling them out on their BS. Much more mad than they were they were at the shooter.
John Stoehr: 27:13 Right, I mean when you challenge power. Who challenged the quote UN quote authority? What’s the natural reaction of that authority just to snap back and crush you? Right, even if you’re standing on sound moral footing, who cares about the moral footing? They don’t care. The Liberals who you know talk about.Well, well is this is it really political to talk about this and is it really political to talk about that? Is that the liberal virtue is wonderful and it’s and it’s bright. I believe, morally speaking, factually speaking. But it’s not going to do anything. To push back against right wing politics, which cares nothing about virtue, right? Because virtue is an impediment, unless it’s not, unless it’s a tool toward power than that, then they use it, but otherwise I don’t care about virtue.
Alex Wise:27:58 John Stoehr, thanks so much for being my guest on Sea Change Radio.
John Stoehr: 28:01 Thanks, Alex.
Narrator: 28:16 You’ve been listening to Sea Change Radio. Our intro music is by Sanford Lewis and our outro music is by Alex Wise. Additional music by The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Wonder and Van Morrison. Check out our website.At Sea ChangeRadio.com to stream or download the show, or subscribe to our podcast. Visit our archives there to hear from Bill McKibben, Van Jones, Paul Hawken and many others. And tune into Sea Change Radio next week as we continue making connections for sustainability for Sea Change Radio, I’m Alex Wise.