Discover more from The Scroll
What Happened Today: February 7, 2023
China's growing arsenal; The never-ending Hunter Biden garbage fire; Britain's bad options; Intersectional Antisemitism in America
The Big Story
A new report showing that the United States’ military arms’ capacity is lagging behind China’s has intensified the heated debate among American lawmakers on how to deal with Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal. In a letter sent to the Armed Services Committees in both chambers of Congress on Jan. 26, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, who oversees American nuclear forces, wrote that China’s stock of land-based intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers has surpassed those held by the United States, though he noted the United States still has more missiles mounted with nuclear warheads than China.
“China is rapidly approaching parity with the United States,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Wall Street Journal. “We cannot allow that to happen. The time for us to adjust our force posture and increase capabilities to meet this threat is now.”
With already-strained diplomatic relations between Washington, D.C., and Beijing further exacerbated after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina last week, the House Armed Services Committee met on Tuesday to evaluate options for potentially expanding the military’s long-range arms capacity ahead of the 2026 expiration of New START, a treaty between the United States and Russia meant to limit their stock of long-range forces.
Lawmakers and military leaders remain divided on scaling up American arms or pursuing new arms-control pacts that will temper the threat coming from both Beijing and Moscow.
So far, China has turned down U.S. overtures to negotiate arms-control accords. According to the Pentagon, China could have 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035, which is about triple its current allotment.
In the Back Pages: Intersectional Antisemitism in America
→ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency on Tuesday as the death toll rose to more than 7,700 after two powerful earthquakes that struck Turkey and northern Syria on Monday. As local rescue efforts continue, seismologists have begun to analyze the quakes, which were found to be unusually shallow—the first was 11 miles deep, and the second 6 miles deep—thus leaving a vast store of energy little room to dissipate before rising up to the earth’s surface. On the scale of 1 to 10 used to evaluate how much earthquakes shake the earth’s surface, the two that hit Turkey registered between an 8 and a 9—a phenomenal amount of shaking for a highly populated area where local buildings are rarely built with earthquakes in mind.
→ Number of the Day: $10 trillion
A mountain of debt accumulated by local governments across China after three years of Beijing’s stringent zero-COVID policies has left small cities and municipalities struggling to deliver basic services to residents. Of China’s roughly $18 trillion in outstanding government debt, analysts say some $10 trillion is risky debt on the books of local municipalities that saw their tax bases dwindle while their expenses soared as they tried to maintain COVID-19 testing sites and quarantine camps during the pandemic. Now city and regional leaders are slashing government wages, reducing public transpiration, and even winding back fuel subsidies in the deep of winter, leading to an outpouring of complaints on Chinese social media from residents who can’t heat their homes. “Beijing is facing an economic minefield of its own making,” said Craig Singleton, a fellow for Washington, D.C.’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “All told, China’s current debt crisis represents a perfect storm.”
→ President Biden can’t seem to get rid of the headache that is his son’s recent past, as text messages from 2019 reported this week by the Daily Mail appear to show Hunter Biden threatening to withhold wages from an assistant at his law firm, Owasco, if she didn’t FaceTime him for sex. “You have to make up for back work,” Hunter Biden wrote to the assistant, 29 at the time, as he sent $2,000 in back pay and explained what she had to do for the money. “The rule has to be no talk of anything but sex and we must be naked and we have to do whatever the other person asks within reason.” Hunter Biden is already dealing with federal prosecutors who said last fall that they had enough evidence of tax crimes to bring charges, and a House Oversight Committee is examining some 100 large financial transactions stemming from bank accounts tied to him. Hunter’s attorneys have recently gone on the offensive for their client, dispatching ominous letters urging state prosecutors to dig into who’s leaking information about his past escapades and business deals with foreign companies.
→ Western sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine continue to look more decorative than effective as Die Welt reports on a booming grey market for just about any luxury consumer good imaginable, from high-end sports cars to iPhones and clothes. That manufacturers can’t sell their wares directly to Russian consumers doesn’t mean Russians are lacking access to Western wares. “A car is bought in Dubai and transported by ferry to Iran, then across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan. There it is registered in the name of a fictitious local buyer, who then sells it on to Russians and has it rolled across the duty-free Russian border by a car carrier,” Die Welt explains. Smaller products like smartphones are simply smuggled in packages from other nations where little attention is paid to the banned list. The higher cost of the grey-market goods has made them even more desirable in certain circles in Moscow, where Sankzionka, or items on the sanctions list, have become a fashion statement.
Get The Scroll delivered daily!
If your parents were entrepreneurs, you are 60% more likely to be one.
Summer 1951: New York City uproots and destroys 41,000 pounds of marijuana plants growing in vacant lots around town.
In 2020 and 2021, the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago and Philly put young men at higher risk of firearm death than if they’d served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
More than 40% of workers who use a Health Savings Account plan have forfeited some money by the end-of-year deadline—between $339 and $408 per year on average.
Remote work has emptied major U.S. cities like San Francisco, which in May 2022 only showed 31% of the cell-phone activity it had in May 2019.
Some mice will wheel-run outside of captivity for as long as 18 minutes at a clip.
In 1971 the richest 0.1% of Americans owned about 7% of the total national net worth; now that number is 18%.
Massachusetts husband allegedly kills wife and Google searches “Can you identify a body with broken teeth?”
In 1875, two-thirds of all steel produced—or 260,000 tons—went to steel rails.
For a minimum of $25 million, you could be the proud owner of Rubens’ “Salome presented with the head of Saint John the Baptist.”
→ Thread of the Day:
Ryan Gallagher, a Bloomberg reporter, dives into the ramifications of the unprecedented 2021 attack by a group of criminal hackers on Health Service Executive, the public health service in Ireland. The hacking group, Conti, demanded $20 million in ransom while the paralyzed healthcare system struggled to relocate children in the middle of their cancer treatments, and equipment to dole out medication to premature babies in the intensive care unit was rendered inoperative. As Gallagher notes here, some of the hackers grew uneasy with the chaos unfurled across 54 hospitals and some 4,000 medical offices, and withdrew their ransom demand. But the damage was done. “He is a f---ed up bastard. It’s disrespectful. Two times I told him that we do not touch the medical sector,” one of the hackers said of a colleague to Gallagher. A $10 million bounty has been put out by authorities seeking to identify the leaders of the hacker outfit.
→ On the domestic hacking front, a Maryland neo-Nazi and his girlfriend were arrested by the FBI on Friday for planning an attack on the Baltimore energy grid that would “lay this city to waste,” according to the Justice Department. Out on probation after doing time for possessing explosives and other bomb-making equipment intended for a similar attack on Florida’s energy infrastructure, Brandon Russell, once the leader of a neo-Nazi group in Florida, was apprehended by authorities after an undercover informant learned of Russell’s plan with his partner to sabotage a group of substations that would cause a “cascading failure” across Baltimore. “This has now become a thread of the neo-Nazi national socialist white supremacist conversation in the darkest corner of the web,” John Miller, a law enforcement analyst, said on CNN. “The theory is, if they can black out enough cities for long enough, that will lead to rioting and looting and then a race war and then the collapse of the government.”
→ Quote of the Day:
I reached the conclusion we would be better off inside [the European Union]. … We have made a colossal mistake in leaving.
That’s Sir John Major, former British prime minister, speaking to Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the future of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Since his outspoken opposition to the Brexit referendum of 2016, China’s rise and the weakening of the E.U. energy system in the wake of the Ukraine-Russia conflict have only compounded the stresses weighing upon Britain. “Europe is going to face immense economic competition from both America and China. It may face military insecurity problems with China,” Major said. “Suppose we had a socking great row with China. Britain decided to put sanctions on China; China wouldn’t be much bothered. If the European Union did because we were being maltreated, they would feel quite differently about it. It is those strategic issues which make me believe we should be in Europe and that we have made a colossal mistake in leaving.”
TODAY IN TABLET:
Can America Keep Failing Upward? by Jeremy Stern
American bumbling has paradoxically promoted the long-standing U.S. policy goals of greater German and Japanese military engagement. But we should be careful what we wish for.
The Outback’s Jewish Museum by Nomi Kaltmann
Once it was a synagogue serving Jewish immigrants in a remote Australian mining town. Today, it’s a reminder of a history many have forgotten.
SCROLL TIP LINE: Have a lead on a story or something going on in your workplace, school, congregation, or social scene that you want to tell us about? Send your tips, comments, questions, and suggestions to email@example.com.
Get The Scroll delivered daily!
Intersectional Antisemitism in America
The internet has brought Jihadists, Neo-Nazis, and Anarchists together through their shared hatred of Jews
By Lorenzo Vidino
Nicholas Young, a District of Columbia Metro Transit Police officer, was a fixture in the local D.C. neo-Nazi scene in the early 2000s. Sporting an SS tattoo on his arm, he collected German World War II memorabilia and attended parties in full Nazi uniform with like-minded Reich enthusiasts. But at some point Young also became interested in Islamism, eventually converting to Islam and spiraling down a rabbit hole of jihadist websites while never abandoning his Nazi sympathies. He soon caught the attention of the FBI, which targeted him in a sting operation that led to his arrest in 2016 for attempting to provide support to ISIS. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The Nazi-Islamist nexus may seem like a strange one, but Young was ahead of his time—a forerunner of “intersectional antisemitism,” one of the key dynamics characterizing today’s highly complex forms of extremism. Antisemitism is now the conspiratorial glue that binds the many disparate ideologies that poison America’s increasingly polarized society. Because of social media, which allows for an unprecedented degree of interconnectivity between extremists of all stripes, antisemitic tropes, texts and memes are shared across ideological milieus. New crises like Covid-19 or the war in Ukraine provide additional ammunition for cross-ideological antisemitic propaganda to spread and grow. In this environment, it is not uncommon to see Neo-Nazis root for Hamas whenever tensions in the Gaza Strip arise and Islamists praise white supremacists when they attack synagogues.
The belief that Jews are unique agents of evil, secretly manipulating world events is the common denominator in virtually all forms of extremism present in America today. It is not entirely a new phenomenon, as cross-ideological pollination of antisemitism is a centuries-old cancer. But because of the web, we have fully entered the era of intersectional antisemitism.
At these intersecting ideologies of antisemitic vitriol, Young was easily able to synthesize neo-Nazism and jihadism. In his house, investigators found a handwritten prayer for “Hitler, Skorzeny, Hajj Amin al-Hussaini, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Prophet Muhamed, John the Baptist & all the Companions.” Otto Skorzeny was an Austrian colonel in the Waffen-SS who later fled to Egypt, where he trained Palestinian paramilitary forces (with Yasser Arafat counted among his trainees) to conduct raids into Israel. Hajj Amin al-Hussaini was the emir of Jerusalem who sought a political alliance with the Nazis in the hopes of eliminating the Jewish presence in British-controlled Palestine. In addition to the prayer, Young had a poster in his room entitled “The Alliance: Worldwide Association of Nazis and Islamists 1939 – 2004,” and the password to the Gmail account he used to contact ISIS members was Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
In recent years, the largest terrorist attacks against American Jews have come from the Extreme Right. The majority of these right wing extremists, do not belong to any structured movement but operate as freelancers. Such were the lone shooters who stormed Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 and the Chabad of Poway synagogue in 2019.
But even when their targets are not Jews, Jews are often on the mind of America’s militant right-wing extremists. The individuals who carried out the attacks in El Paso in 2019 and Buffalo in 2022, which openly targeted Latinos and Blacks respectively, left behind manifestos that spoke about Jews. Like many others in their ideological milieu, they embraced the so-called Great Replacement Theory that depicts Jews as the sinister masterminds of a plot to replace white people in Western nations with other ethnic groups.
Like the right wing militants who take inspiration from jihadist attacks on Jews, American Islamists are equally interested in right wing extremism. That was the case of Muslim convert Damon Joseph, who was sentenced to twenty years in prison for planning attacks against two synagogues in the Toledo, Ohio area. “In a matter of months, Damon Joseph progressed from a self-radicalized, virtual jihadist to planning an actual attack on fellow Americans,” the FBI wrote. Joseph was inspired by the attack against the Tree of Life synagogue despite the fact that the shooter was not an Islamist but a right wing militant. Joseph went on to publish an antisemitic manifesto and shared statements expressing his desire to die a martyr.
Many jihadists in America are drawn to the Islamic State and al Qaeda, but networks linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas have also created a broad web of organizations, mosques and schools where antisemitic rhetoric is common. Most of the antisemitism of this milieu takes typically Islamist undertones, as when the imam of Jersey City’s Islamic Center of Jersey City called Jews “apes and pigs” and urged his followers to “count them one by one, and kill them down to the very last one. Do not leave a single one on the face of the earth.”
But at times American Islamists borrow straight from other forms of antisemitism. It’s a phenomenon that dates back decades. In the early 1990s, the now-defunct Islamic Association of Palestine, a Chicago-based organization linked to Hamas, published America’s Greatest Enemy: The Jew! And an Unholy Alliance!, a 32-page screed that reprints various antisemitic essays. The first article in the collection argues that “Blacks are still begging for crumbs” while “the Jews through their Zionist machinery have power over all the agencies and organs of the United States government.” Another article reproduces a speech by Austin J. App, a Nazi apologist and Holocaust denier. App delves into classic denial theories, arguing that “the German concentration camps were internment and work camps, never, absolutely never, death camps.” Published by an Islamist entity and containing writings by Black supremacists and neo-Nazis, America’s Greatest Enemy is a perfect archetype of intersectional antisemitism. Similar texts are now widely available online.
Antisemitism is also a feature of various extremist ideologies within the African American community. The Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) movement, for instance, which recently dominated the news in the wake of several scandals involving Kanye West and Kyrie Irving, believe that modern-day African Americans are the real descendants of the Biblical Israelites and that white Jews are imposters. Moreover, some BHIs argue that Jews controlled the slave trade and that Jews “invented” the Holocaust as a hoax to distract from another genocide targeting African Americans. A fringe group that traditionally limited its activism mostly to colorful street demonstrations, BHIs have in recent years utilized the internet to disseminate their views to a much broader audience.
Some of the group’s supporters have also carried out a slew of deadly attacks against Jews. The two most notable of a long list of incidents took place in the New York metropolitan area in December 2019. In the first, two BHI followers engaged in a crime spree against Jews and cops that culminated with a mass shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, where three people and the two attackers were killed. Two weeks later, a masked man heavily influenced by BHI propaganda attacked a Hannukah party in Monsey, injuring four and killing one.
Some of the very same narratives that are common among white supremacists and Islamists have become increasingly popular within far left and anarchist milieus, though it’s rare to find people in these communities openly embracing the antisemitic character of their politics the way Islamists and those on the far right do. More often, left wing antisemites claim to be acting in the name of progressive principles while espousing the same trite tropes that depict Jews as embodiments of soulless capitalism, colonialism (Israel is cast as the last colonial state), and white privilege.
It is true that left wing extremists have not targeted Jews with terrorist attacks the way their far right and Islamist counterparts have. But over the last few years episodes of violence that occurred at anti-Israel events organized by far left and Palestinian groups have grown in frequency, such as the attacks that took place during two pro-Israel events on visibly Jewish passersby in New York and Los Angeles who had no involvement in the protests themselves. The increasingly antisemitic and threatening nature of anti-Israel activities on college campuses—most recently exemplified by a rally at the University of Michigan where protesters held a sign saying “There is only one solution” and screamed “Intifada”—do not bode well for the future.
Finally, antisemitism is also a defining feature of the latest development in American extremism, the growing trend that sees disturbed and violent-prone individuals cherry picking elements of various extremist ideologies to rationalize their actions--a phenomenon authorities call “salad bar extremism.” A textbook example is that of Ethan Melzer, an active-duty member of the U.S. Army who in June 2022 plead guilty to various terrorism-related charges. Melzer was also a member of the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), a U.K.-based occultist group whose members, according to US authorities, “have espoused violent, neo-Nazi, antisemitic, and Satanic beliefs, and have expressed admiration for, among others, Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Usama Bin Laden.” The government also noted that “hatred of Jews was a unifying belief for members of the conspiracy and they regularly expressed anti-Semitic sentiments to foster trust and cohesiveness.” Melzer spoke about killing Jews and “turning israel and their ppls to dust inshallah and imposing fashy [fascist] shariah” while regularly praising Hitler.
In this climate, it is not surprising that, in 2019, 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes were against Jews. The federal government, law enforcement agencies and Jewish communities throughout the country understand the problem, and know that there is no easy fix. A good place to start would be with large-scale educational efforts: a 2020 national survey of millennials and Generation Z showed that 63% did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. We also need to see enhanced security protecting Jewish targets, and increased focus on the antisemitic content that is tolerated by social media platforms. These endeavors are necessary to begin to stem the tide of the growing American problem of intersectional antisemitism.
Lorenzo Vidino is the director of the Program on Extremism at The George Washington University.