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June 20, 2016 0

Name-Calling on the Campaign Trail and in the Schoolyard

Boy being bullied in schoolThis is not the first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion where can­di­dates have engaged in name-calling and put-downs. Through­out his­tory,
name-calling has been used on the cam­paign trail to label, define and con­trol the public’s per­cep­tion of rivals.

How­ever, this year’s cam­paign is widely regarded as unpar­al­leled in the degree and reg­u­lar­ity of the put-downs. From “Low Energy Jeb” to “Crooked Hillary,” “Crazy Bernie,” “Inse­cure Money Grub­ber,” and “Goofy Eliz­a­beth War­ren” and “Pocahontas”—mocking her Native Amer­i­can background—we are see­ing politi­cians invoke name-calling and nasty teas­ing on a grand scale—in tweets, speeches, inter­views and even on the debate stage.  These so-called nick­names are repeated over and over again until the label is cemented in people’s minds. Fur­ther, these names are often hurled at each other in place of actual polit­i­cal dis­course and pol­icy posi­tions so that the pub­lic is just left with the names and lit­tle else.

Name-calling, which is the use of lan­guage to defame, demean or degrade indi­vid­u­als or groups—has a detri­men­tal two-pronged impact: to the tar­get of the name call­ing and to the peo­ple around that per­son.  In elec­tion cam­paigns, name-calling is intended to intim­i­date the per­son to whom the insult is directed, mak­ing them feel unset­tled, dis­tressed, on the defen­sive and pow­er­less.  You can’t debate a “nick­name” or a put-down.

The impact on the bystanders (the gen­eral public—in the case of the elec­tion) is to label the tar­get and chip away at what peo­ple think about them, for­ti­fy­ing in people’s minds the name itself: that Jeb Bush is lack­adaisi­cal and slow, that Bernie Sanders is a “fringe” can­di­date or men­tally ill and can’t be taken seri­ously or that Hillary Clin­ton is not some­one peo­ple can trust. There may be a seed of truth in the label or it may be based on a per­cep­tion of that per­son that already exists, but it is exag­ger­ated and repeated over and over again in the same way that bul­ly­ing uses repeated actions in order to have a last­ing impact.

There are par­al­lels to the name-calling we see in schools.

We know that the name-calling that takes place among young peo­ple can be both a pre­cur­sor to bul­ly­ing as well as an ele­ment of bul­ly­ing. Very young chil­dren some­times engage in name-calling before they actu­ally begin using bul­ly­ing behav­ior.  Older chil­dren and teens, when engag­ing in name-calling, teas­ing and bullying—often hone in on an aspect of their target’s iden­tity (or their per­ceived iden­tity) such as their reli­gion, race, appear­ance gen­der iden­tity or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or a per­son­al­ity trait they want to exploit, and then they belit­tle and demean the per­son based on that label. Identity-based bul­ly­ing can dam­age and erode tar­gets’ self esteem because it goes to who they are in a fun­da­men­tal way. Sim­i­lar to polit­i­cal name-calling, in schools aggres­sors define their target’s iden­tity by attempt­ing to con­trol how oth­ers see them. This name-calling is often done in front of oth­ers and is meant to con­vince oth­ers to view the per­son in a par­tic­u­lar way. When the name-calling is repeated, others—including the target—begin to see the per­son that way and then the label becomes part of who that per­son is. Fur­ther, name-calling can con­tribute to an envi­ron­ment where bias is accept­able and can lead to more destruc­tive, hate­ful and poten­tially vio­lent behavior.

Young peo­ple are aware of the name-calling and neg­a­tive polit­i­cal dis­course that is tak­ing place in this cur­rent elec­tion cycle. Instead of shy­ing away from it, edu­ca­tors can use it as a teach­able moment to think crit­i­cally about the elec­tion. It is also an oppor­tu­nity to help stu­dents decon­struct name-calling in gen­eral and ana­lyze bias in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by explor­ing the intent and impact of the name-calling.  Edu­ca­tors can build empa­thy by hav­ing stu­dents reflect upon how the tar­get feels and how they per­ceive name-calling, both in the elec­tion and in in their own daily lives.

For the teach­ers and other adults in stu­dents’ lives, when name-calling, bias or bul­ly­ing takes place, it should be iden­ti­fied and stopped right away, send­ing a mes­sage that it is unac­cept­able.  But inter­rupt­ing is not enough and we should not stop there. We need to teach stu­dents about bias, name-calling and bul­ly­ing and cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where stu­dents feel empow­ered to be allies  in the face of bias and bullying.

For edu­ca­tors, it is crit­i­cal to estab­lish a learn­ing envi­ron­ment and school cli­mate where diver­sity is explored and cel­e­brated, dif­fer­ences are acknowl­edged and respected, bias and identity-based bul­ly­ing are con­fronted and empa­thy is pro­moted in small and large ways. If stu­dents feel part of this safe, respect­ful and inclu­sive learn­ing envi­ron­ment, they will not use name-calling as a way to exert power and con­trol and put oth­ers down.

We under­stand the pro­found impact that name-calling has on schools and soci­ety. If we stand up to it together, we will emerge stronger and bet­ter for it.








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June 17, 2016 2

Alleged Triple Killer had Extreme Anti-Government Views

Erick ShuteOn June 14, Penn­syl­va­nia author­i­ties caught and arrested a fugi­tive accused of hav­ing shot and killed three of his neigh­bors in West Vir­ginia the pre­vi­ous day. Erick Shute, 29, who allegedly had a long-running series of dis­putes with the neigh­bors, report­edly attacked the three (and a fourth who escaped) over a con­flict about firewood.

Shute was a minor pub­lic fig­ure as the vocal­ist for the long­stand­ing death metal band Pyrexia, with which he had report­edly been involved since child­hood. He also worked as a fire and water dam­age restorer in New Jer­sey and was involved with a vari­ety of odd busi­ness ven­tures, involv­ing crowd­sourc­ing, dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies, and multi-level mar­ket­ing, among others.

After the slay­ings, a woman who described her­self as “one of his ex girl­friends” posted on-line that “he has never been [one] for the police or gov­ern­ment.” That seems to have been a seri­ous under­state­ment. West Vir­ginia author­i­ties claimed that Shute was an adher­ent of the extreme anti-government sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment and even sug­gested that he was build­ing a com­pound on the West Vir­ginia land report­edly pur­chased by his mother and used as a week­end home by Shute. Author­i­ties have said they found stock­piles of food, weapons and ammo on the prop­erty, as well as “bunkers.”

Actu­ally, Shute’s involve­ment with anti-government extrem­ism appears to have been more exten­sive than just the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. Rather, to vary­ing degrees, Shute iden­ti­fied with all three major wings of the anti-government “Patriot” move­ment: the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment, the tax protest move­ment, and the mili­tia move­ment. Shute was also sup­port­ive to some degree of anar­chism, which is also anti-government, though from a more left-leaning perspective.

Shute’s old­est known extrem­ist ties do relate to the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. While liv­ing with his mother in New Jer­sey dur­ing the period 2009-11, he sub­scribed to sev­eral sov­er­eign cit­i­zen beliefs, espe­cially those reject­ing the legit­i­macy of motor vehi­cle laws. In 2011, he tried to get a local police depart­ment to sign a “peace treaty” with him that would some­how allow him not to have a license or reg­is­tra­tion. This visit led to his arrest for dri­ving a vehi­cle with no license plates as well as charges of aggra­vated assault on a police offi­cer, resist­ing arrest, and obstruc­tion. Based on a court­room video he uploaded to the Inter­net, Shute seems to have defended him­self in court—as many sov­er­eign cit­i­zens do—claiming that the judge in his case was not a judge but an “exec­u­tive admin­is­tra­tor” and that there had been no judi­cial courts in Amer­ica for cen­turies. Shute was con­victed and spent half a year in jail.

Shute also became involved to at least some degree with the tax protest move­ment, which claims that a con­spir­acy is hid­ing the “fact” that most Amer­i­cans don’t have to pay income taxes. He engaged in argu­men­ta­tive phone calls with IRS rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sent hos­tile let­ters to the IRS as late as 2015 claim­ing that he had been given no “proof” he was required to file an income tax return or that the IRS had juris­dic­tion over him. Judg­ing by some of his on-line remarks, he may not have been pay­ing income taxes for more than five years.

In recent years, how­ever, Shute seems to have iden­ti­fied most strongly with the ideas of the mili­tia move­ment. The mili­tia move­ment believes that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is col­lab­o­rat­ing with a “New World Order” glob­al­ist con­spir­acy to strip Amer­i­cans of their rights and enslave them. Sub­sidiary con­spir­acy the­o­ries ema­nat­ing from the move­ment include a belief that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to round up cit­i­zens and place them in intern­ment or con­cen­tra­tion camps; a belief that the gov­ern­ment is plot­ting to sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion and declare mar­tial law, per­haps on a pre­text such as a ter­ror­ist attack or pan­demic; and that the gov­ern­ment will engage in mass gun confiscations—among others.

Mili­tia move­ment adher­ents oppose this per­ceived gov­ern­ment con­spir­acy. Many, though by no means all, join para­mil­i­tary mili­tia groups. Though Shute “liked” a num­ber of mili­tia groups on his Face­book pages, he does not seem to have joined a for­mal group himself.

How­ever, Shute’s on-line state­ments clearly indi­cate an adher­ence to the movement’s ide­ol­ogy. Respond­ing to a con­spir­acy arti­cle about an employ­ment ad for a U.N. “dis­ar­ma­ment offi­cer,” Shute claimed in 2014 that any­one who took such a job “deserves to be killed” by some sort of “painful and hor­ri­fy­ing” man­ner such as being “eaten alive by dogs.” When the gov­er­nor of West Vir­ginia vetoed a per­mit­less carry firearms bill in 2015, Shute posted that “some­one needs to behead this mofo.”

In 2015, Shute expressed hap­pi­ness at the thought that police offi­cers might be among the first Amer­i­cans “to get put in intern­ment camps.” He also posted that he could not sup­port the troops “if the troops are train­ing to take you and me away into an intern­ment camp.” Like many other anti-government extrem­ists, Shute became out­raged at the mil­i­tary exer­cises held in the south­ern U.S. under the name “Oper­a­tion Jade Helm,” claim­ing that they were mar­tial law train­ing scenarios.

Shute, an avid fan of anti-government con­spir­acy web­sites such as InfoWars, believed in a wide array of stan­dard “Patriot” move­ment con­spir­acy the­o­ries, from air­planes using “chem­trails” to poi­son the Amer­i­can peo­ple to vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams being part of an agenda “to kill off mil­lions of peo­ple.” Shute even claimed to have tried to attend the 2012 Bilder­berg con­fer­ence in Chan­tilly, Vir­ginia, a mag­netic lure for con­spir­acy the­o­rists who believe that “Bilder­berg­ers” are part of an inter­na­tional conspiracy.

By 2015, it is clear that Shute had devel­oped extreme, and extremely para­noid, atti­tudes towards gov­ern­ment and law enforce­ment. In Feb­ru­ary, Shute stated that it was time “to pull the gov­ern­ment offi­cials out of their beds at night and hang them from the trees in their front yards.” Urg­ing peo­ple to “arm up,” Shute stated in March that every­body should have a gun in every room in their house and that they should even sleep with their guns, so that they would be ready to kill any police offi­cer who came through the door. “This is the time for war,” he wrote, “and if you don’t get pre­pared to fight, that’s your problem.”

In Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary 2016, Erick Shute became a sup­porter of the anti-government extrem­ists who engaged in an armed takeover of the Mal­heur National Wildlife Refuge in Ore­gon and sub­se­quent stand­off, even lis­ten­ing to the live broad­casts by the final few occu­piers in the last hours of the stand­off, before they were arrested. After their arrest, Shute wrote that he “loved” the occu­piers and that “even though we never met, I feel so close to these peo­ple now.”

Inci­dents such as these increased the already extreme hos­til­ity that Shute felt for law enforce­ment. Respond­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2016 to a news report of one offi­cer who had killed a dog, Shute urged that the offi­cer be tor­tured and mur­dered, includ­ing being hung over a fire, whipped, teeth and nails pulled out, fin­gers cut out, among many other vio­lent and grue­some meth­ods. Indeed, so hos­tile was Shute to law enforce­ment that he may have well posed a risk to local law enforce­ment as well as to his neighbors.

Shute will be extra­dited back to West Vir­ginia to face mul­ti­ple homi­cide charges.


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June 16, 2016 5

Arabic-Language Social Media Glorify Tel Aviv Terror Attack

On Wednes­day June 8th, two Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists opened fire in the Tel Aviv Sarona mar­ket, killing 4 Israelis and wound­ing another 6. This was the lat­est in a wave of Pales­tin­ian ter­ror attacks against Israel that began in Sep­tem­ber 2015.

Shortly after the hideous attack, hash tags cel­e­brat­ing and glo­ri­fy­ing it appeared on Arabic-language social media, includ­ing “The Ramadan Oper­a­tion”, “The Tel Aviv Oper­a­tion” and “The Carlo Salvo”, a ref­er­ence to the Carlo machine gun which was used in the attack.

Car­toons and images cir­cu­lat­ing on social media ref­er­enced the fact that the attack coin­cided with Ramadan in order to give it reli­gious sig­nif­i­cance. They sug­gested the attack was anal­o­gous to break­ing the Ramadan fast, and used the slo­gan “We Were their Fast Break­ing”  or “They Were Our Fast Break­ing” (ver­ba­tim trans­la­tion: “they broke the fast on/against us”).

While it is unclear how wide­spread these car­toons are, they do high­light a dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non of ter­ror­ists and their actions being glo­ri­fied across social media. Here are a few exam­ples of car­toons posted on Twitter:

Lieberman and Bibi

This car­toon is enti­tled “The Tel Aviv Oper­a­tion” shows Israeli PM Netanyahu and Defense Min­is­ter Lieber­man cry­ing, while Netanyahu is say­ing that “They fasted and fasted” and Lieber­man is respond­ing “And broke the fast on us”.


This car­toon shows a tra­di­tional Ramadan “Qatayif” dessert for break­ing the fast, which is filled with a bullet.

While some more gen­eral images didn’t include direct ref­er­ence to the attack, they were still cat­e­go­rized under the hash tag “The Ramadan Oper­a­tion”. One such exam­ple showed an ultra-orthodox Jew with two rifles pointed to his head, with the cap­tion “Blood=Blood”, “#kill-them”, “Death to set­tlers”. Another por­trayed Israel as the “mother of ter­ror­ism”, show­ing it breast­feed­ing the Devil.


Israel as terrorist


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