The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a comprehensive guide to symbols used by hate groups, including the KKK and white supremacist groups.
The first time I saw some of these symbols and logos around my own neighborhood, I was very surprised. But the more I looked around, the more I saw. I decided to begin documenting the evidence of far-right “signaling” that I see around my own neighborhood. White supremacy is not some abstract, far-away phenomenon, but is alive and happening right here, right now.
The 3rd National
Sometimes folks with unpopular beliefs want to fly just a little bit under the radar. The “3rd National”, aka the “Blood Stained Banner”, is a popular choice for the discerning neo-Confederate who is worried about what the neighbors will think if s/he flies the regular ol’ Confederate flag. Here is an example of the 3rd National flag, flying on a corner lot located about 3 blocks from my house:
Since the “3rd National” was the last official flag of the Confederacy, you might fly it if you believe that the South never should have surrendered. In fact, this is the flag that flew in front of the “last capital of the Confederacy” in Danville, VA until recently. Every Saturday, “flaggers” still show up in Danville to insist that this particular flag be returned to fly in front of the Capitol building.
Patriots and Militias
On my run one day, I spotted this flag hanging from a window in some student housing one block from Elon’s campus. It has three capital letter I inside a Betsy-Ross style flag.
The “three-percenters” are a Patriot-style militia movement (wikipedia). The name refers to the group’s claim that only 3% of American colonists took up arms against the British in the American Revolution. Examples of militias include:
- The Oath Keepers (nationwide),
- The Alamance Rangers, and
- The NC Tactical Response Force Militia, which has provided security for multiple alt-right/neo-Confederate events such as when ACTBAC protested the removal of the Confederate flag from schools in Orange County.
The ADL has some additional history about the ties between the Oath Keepers and the 3% movement, and the site explains that 3%-ers “also represent the three percent of the population of American gun owners ‘who will not disarm’.” The SPLC has more on the Oath Keepers, calling it “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.”
Speaking of militias, less than 1 mile from my house hangs this interesting flag with red and blue stripes and a white field with 8-pointed stars. (Yes, I spotted this one while running too – I guess runners see things we didn’t really want to see…)
This is the Guilford Courthouse flag, “a North Carolina militia banner” that was flown at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse during the Revolutionary War. How is that anything harmful? Well, sometimes its name is shortened to the “North Carolina Militia Flag”, as explained in this National Parks Service Word doc, and sometimes militia groups decide to fly this flag at their events.
For example, just last weekend (June 10, 2017), we spotted this distinctive flag in Raleigh at an anti-Islam rally hosted by the anti-Muslim group “Act for America”.
These anti-Muslim rallies were held in more than 20 cities nationwide, with Oath Keepers and militias providing “security” for the events.
The Guilford Courthouse flag is also used as the Facebook profile photo for the “Guilford News Network”, which is a Facebook-based right-wing news propagation network.
GNN has threatened to doxx and harass protestors following the May 20, 2017 Graham Confederate Memorial Day.
GNN is also promoting the ‘Unite the Right’ free speech rally to be held on August 12 in Charlottesville. This rally has a speakers list full of notorious neo-Nazis, white supremacists, including Matthew Heimbach (Traditionalist Workers Party), Michael Hill (League of the South), and so on.
The contemporary use of this particular flag as a right-wing militia/hate symbol could be confusing to Greensboro-area history buffs who also fly it as a legitimate historical marker of a Revolutionary War event. The question we are struggling with is: Why was it also flown by militia members at the Anti-Muslim “Act for America” event and why is it flown by a group with ties to the TWP and League of the South? Perhaps, like so many other historical symbols (the swastika comes to mind here, also Pepe the frog), this one is in the early stages of being co-opted for a new purpose.
If history buffs don’t want to see this flag co-opted by right-wing militia groups, they need to be vocal about it, and call out its inappropriate use.
While we were protesting the Raleigh anti-Islam event, we noticed that a newer white supremacist group, Identity Evropa, had posted dozens of flyers around the city. They also took credit for posting these flyers on their Twitter feed.
About a month earlier, similar flyers were spotted on UNC-Chapel Hill Campus:
If Chapel Hill and Raleigh seem too far away to bother you, consider that on May 20, 2017, at a Confederate Flag Rally in Graham (right here in Alamance County!) two US Marines acting on behalf of Identity Evropa were arrested after trespassing on a building to drop a banner with a quote from George Orwell and the abbreviation “YWNRU” (“You Will Not Replace Us”), the slogan of Identity Evropa.
The YWNRU slogan was used on banners and in chants at the Charlottesville, VA torch lighting last month. Extra credit if you can spot the “3rd National” in the photo below.
Maybe these newfangled groups like Identity Evropa are too artsy for some folks. For those who want to keep their hatred old-school, the KKK has a long history in Alamance County. Just today I was reading Elaine Frantz Parsons’ book Ku-Klux: The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction and didn’t even make it past the first paragraph of the “here’s how the KKK got started” section before Alamance County was mentioned (and not in a good way):
Surely the KKK can’t still be relevant in this day and age? In Alamance County? Well, at the same Graham, NC rally – the Alamance County seat, about 10 miles from my house – in the same spot where the Identity Evropa banner was unfurled, and on the same day, we spotted these lovely homemade t-shirts sporting the KKK triangle logo:
The signs and symbols are everywhere if you know what you’re looking for.
… and how to fix them.
In this article about our collective terrible password habits, I discuss some reasons why we constantly use ‘password’ and ‘123456’ even though we know it’s a terrible idea, as well as some fixes that work with human memory and mathematical complexity, rather than against.
Here’s a little article I wrote for The Conversation about why current border security policies make it important that we develop technology so that we cannot reveal our own passwords. This is an online publication where the articles are written by academics, then released under a Creative Commons license so they can be re-published elsewhere. So far the most views have come from Time and Alternet. Pretty interesting.
Update: The local Greensboro paper ran the article too, and on April 5, I’m going to be on a radio show talking about this stuff. It’s so weird that one little cybersecurity article can be this interesting to people, meanwhile I’ve toiled away on free software for years and no one cares 🙂 — I seriously need to change fields.
On January 18, 2017 the US Department of Homeland Security discontinued its Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report service which it had run since October 2006. To enable researchers to study the content of these reports, I collected as many as I could find (2,151 PDF files) and released them to the Internet Archive. You can find them here: DHS Daily Open Source Infrastructure Reports 2006-2017
The PDF files came from the following URLs:
And when these yielded 404 errors (which they did for most pre-2013 files) I used the Internet Archive itself, with the following URL base:
Files are named as they were upon download, in one of the following patterns:
- DHS_Daily_Report_2006-10-11.pdf (most 2006-2012 files have this format)
- DHS-Daily-Report-2012-12-06.pdf (a single December 2012 file has this format)
- dhs-daily-report-2013-01-09 (most 2013-2017 files have this format)
If you are interested in missing dates (for example Archive.org was missing some dates and a few files were corrupted), this blog might be able to help fill in the gaps.
Nearly 12,000 professors have used the AAUP’s “Add My Name” feature in order to be added to Turning Point USA’s Professor Watchlist, and large groups of faculty from Trinity University and University of Notre Dame, among others, have also requested to join. The Professor Watchlist was created in order to expose professors who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls” and inclusion on the list is supposed to be based on “incidents that have already been reported by a credible source.”
How has the list changed?
The Professor Watchlist debuted in November with 146 names, and has grown to 166 names as of January 3, 2016. I was curious who has been added (obviously not all 12,000 who requested to be added!), and even more curious about who has been taken off the list.
So I created a Google Spreadsheet showing the names in November and the names as they show up in January. I got the November list from archive.org’s Wayback Machine, and the current list from the Professor Watchlist website.
Data cleaning steps
- I re-alphabetized 4 names that were out of order on the November list
- I lined up the names so we could more easily see who was added/removed
- I colorized each name with red if it was removed since November, and green if it was added since November.
- 28 professors have been added since November
- 7 professors have been removed since November
- Enrique Neblett Jr. (UNC-Chapel Hill) was interviewed in the News & Observer about his inclusion
- Fran Quigley (Indiana) stated that he was included after he “got into a war with the [local] Tea Party”
- Jeffrey M. McCall (DePaul)
- Keith Swim (Texas A&M)
- Kelly Berkell – appears to have only been included because of association with Charles Strozier, another professor on the list
- Orville Schell – emailed Quartz with his funny response to being included
- Timothy Shortell (Brooklyn College, CUNY)
Unfortunately, the Wayback Machine does not have the original PW pages indexed for each individual professor, so I can’t go back and see what they wrote for each, but based on what I was able to find online, the rationales for these seven seem very flimsy.
Anyway, at a rate of only 35 changes in a month, Turning Point is going to hire some more interns to enter all these 12,000 names! Good luck with that.
Earlier I showed how to extract the postings from a given Facebook page. Here, I will show you how to do some basic text mining on the posts you found. For practice, I will use the messages of a local neo-Confederate group called ACTBAC (“Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County”). Their antics have been covered in local media, but with their re-branding in light of the Trump election and the rise of the alt-right, many people in our area are still wondering just what this group is all about. Perhaps text mining can help illuminate some of their beliefs and strategies for us.
I ran the script on their “ALAMANCEOURS” Facebook page, and it yielded 1017 messages beginning in June, 2015. Here is the spreadsheet (actbac.csv) in case anyone wants to play around with it.
Top 50 words most used in their FB posts
I wrote a program to count frequencies and remove stopwords (stopwords are boring words like ‘a’, ‘to’, ‘it’, ‘is’). Then I highlighted the most interesting words (to me) in yellow. Each word is shown with its count next to it.
From these, we can see many predictable words for a county-based neo-Confederate group (county, state, southern, cause, carolina). However, I was most intrigued by the prominence of the word ‘stand’.
Usage of the word ‘stand’
Stand can be both a noun (“take a stand”) and a verb (“stand up for yourself”). With this group, ‘stand’ is the most common verb used in their messages (not counting stopwords like ‘be’ or ‘is’). My hypothesis is that, as a verb, this word ‘stand’ conveys a lot of the power of their movement. Why?
To help understand how they use ‘stand’, I wrote a program to generate a concordance to show how the word is used in their messages. The first few lines of the concordance look like this:
The word of interest (shown in red) is placed in the center of each line. The concordance then shows each collection of words around that word.
From this, I learned that the word ‘stand’ is used 291 times in 1017 messages, most commonly as follows:
In addition, there are another 41 uses of “stood” and 86 uses of “standing”.
It would be interesting to compare this usage to other Confederate and non-Confederate groups to see whether this is a uniquely ACTBAC thing (I doubt it), or – more likely – it is a rhetorical device used more broadly by all Confederate groups. I would guess that their defensive “stand up for your beliefs, no matter how unpopular” plea has great power in a neo-Confederate setting. After all, the “Lost Cause” narrative also describes a heroic, virtuous South fighting against all odds, and ultimately unfairly defeated in the American Civil War.
Next, just for fun, I wrote a program to build a topic model of the postings. A topic model tells us what words frequently co-occur in sentences, and tries to make groupings of those words into possible “topics”. Inside the program, you can fiddle with the number of topics, and the number of words generated for each.
After running a few experiments, I settled on 3 topics with 4 words each. These topics weren’t terribly interesting, as you can see below, but we can still learn a few interesting things. First, when ‘stand’ is mentioned, it is often used with ‘southern’ and ‘state’, and it seems to be ‘people’ who are doing the standing (makes sense). Additionally, the topic we could call ‘Confederate battle flag’ emerges (labeled Topic 3 below):
Finally, I looked at how difficult the text was to read. These are fairly simple analyses based on sentence structure, number of “difficult” words, and how many syllables are in the words.
The FKRE is the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease metric, which tells you how “easy” a document is to read, and then this number (71.55, or “fairly easy”) can be converted to a grade level metric (7th grade). I also ran an overall readability summary, which integrates several other difficulty measures in addition to FKRE. That one also puts this text at right around 6th or 7th grade.
I hope you enjoyed this quick tour of text mining – perhaps you will find some interesting techniques to use on your own projects!
I was playing around with some code today from Mastering Social Media Mining with Python (by Marco Bonzanini, and published by the same company that published my last two books), and I came up with this snazzy set of scripts (postGetter.py, fileParser.py) that mines the last X posts from any public Facebook page, creates a clickable FB url for each, sorts them in order of most interactions (shares + likes), and creates a spreadsheet with the results.
Here are the results when run for the last 1000 posts by the Times-News of Burlington, our local newspaper: timesNews.csv.
Not that surprising or shocking, but here goes. The last 1000 only goes back to August or so (modify the params at the top of the code to make it scrape more), but the top five posts for August-December based on interactions seem to be:
- The death of Tim-Bob from Graham Cinema
- The abduction of a middle schooler from a bus stop
- Kmart closing
- 25-minute Christmas Lights show on Maple Ridge Dr.
- Housing emergency at Burlington Animal Services
No election-related or weather-related items cracked the top 20.
The other day on This American Life, Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina GOP, dismissed evidence that vote fraud in the state was basically non-existent:
Don’t show me studies. Academics, I mean, a bunch of knuckleheads, pointy-headed professors. We deal in the real world.
Since I’ve done prior academic work on insults, I was very intrigued at the possibility of my being simultaneously pointy-headed and knuckle-headed, living in an unreality where I and my cranially-challenged colleagues churn out reams of useless studies in order retain Total World Domination.
As it turns out, the origin of knucklehead was a U.S. Army PR/recruitment program’s Goofus-type character (like the old Highlights magazine “Goofus and Gallant”) named R.F. Knucklehead. He was never portrayed as smart, and was always making bad decisions. Here is a cartoon showing Aviation Cadet Knucklehead working hard at signing a simple signature:
Incidentally, knucklehead was also the word chosen by President Obama to describe the prostitute-hiring Secret Service agent shenanigans in Cartagena.
The origin of pointy-headed was George Wallace in 1968 (good company you’re keeping there, Dallas). The word is a play on the shape of an egg, as in egghead. The Washington Post explains the Wallace usage:
He sneered from the campaign podium at the “long-haired men and short-skirted women” of the 1960s and derided “pointy-head college professors who can’t even park a bicycle straight.”
I wonder what happened in the bicycle parking lot between Wallace and some unlucky academic. We’ll never know. But The New York Times brings back the “pointy-head” quote for our times, comparing Wallace’s use of anti-intellectual populist insults to Trump’s.
Chronicle of Higher Ed ran an article back in 2012 listing additional stereotypes that politicians use to describe the hated professor. The article includes a really nice egghead pun from Adlai Stevenson (“Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your yolks.”), who was often criticized for being one himself.
Interestingly, Google users seem to think differently about professors (for those wondering if these results were influenced by my login, they weren’t: this was an incognito browser window).
Anyway, I hope this little etymological excursion shows what a professor does when she hears something idiotic: we brush aside the insult and instead we ask lots of questions, look up the answers, synthesize the results into a conclusion, maybe ask additional questions, cite our sources, then teach what we learned to others.
Many friends are posting results of the Quizzstar “words of the year” app on Facebook. It generates a 2010-style word cloud of the words you used on Facebook posts most frequently. To make the image, the user gives Quizzstar permission to view all their old posts, download them to Quizzstar, at which point Quizzstar generates the image. Below is a screenshot of the Quizzstar web site, showing that this app is currently their #1 most popular. (They also have other apps that harvest your friends list and so on.)
What users might not be aware of is that by installing this app in your Facebook account, you are agreeing to have your profile and posts mined in order to change and influence the advertisements that you are subsequently shown.
An example of how they use your FB wall posts are mixed with this third party data is as follows (section 18),
We use the remarketing and ad technology provided by Taboola… in order to improve the relevance of the advertising presented to consumers. [This]… includes technical browser and system information, details of how you used our service, such as your navigation paths the referring site, application, or service as well as might be combined with such data collected on other sources. Taboola might also use “Web Beacons” (small invisible images) to collect information. Through the use of “Web Beacons” simple actions such as the visitor traffic to the website can be pseudonymously recorded and collected.
Doesn’t that sound fun?
If you regret installing this app, here’s how to get rid of it.
On a regular device, such as a laptop or desktop machine (i.e. full screen browser):
- Go into privacy, and click “See more settings”
2. On the left, click “Apps”
3. Click “Show All” and hover your mouse over the errant app. Use the “X” to remove it (the Cartwheel app is shown, because I had forgotten to remove this one after an experiment last month! whoops)
Removing it on a mobile device
If you’re using a mobile device, you can remove apps by finding your profile page and click through as shown. Sorry Android users, this is an iPhone – I hope FB mobile is similar on your device!
Removing Data from Quizzstar
Go to their user history page on their site, scroll to the bottom.
See if it shows any history for you. (Mine didn’t because I never had the app, but maybe this works for you?)