I've often said that in Arizona you don't have to be a swastika-carrying neo-Nazi to have the same or similar beliefs. Which is why the presence of neo-Nazis and other right-wing wackjobs in the midst of the immigration donnybrook here in Sand Land has caused little or no outrage.
And yet, when the rhetoric of hate leads almost inevitably to bloodshed, the rationalizations and excuses begin. In the case of murderous neo-Nazi J.T. Ready, the historical revisionism and denial of guilt has found its ultimate shill in wingnut anti-immigration advocate Linda Bentley, a way-loony scribe who masquerades as a reporter for the über-right Cave Creek freebie, Sonoran News.
Bentley's column this week deals with Ready's massacre of four unfortunates, including a baby girl, before reportedly turning the gun on himself. But the purpose of her column is not to decry the horror of what happened, commiserate with the victims, or discuss how the community should deal with the tragedy.
Nope, all Bentley cares about is covering for Ready's onetime associates, such as state Senate President Russell Pearce, and all the other nativist haters on Bentley's side of the fence.
When it suited their purposes, they embraced dangerous radicals like Ready. Now that he's branded a baby-killer, they have an extra-special need to claim Ready was not part of their movement.
Here's what Bentley writes along those lines:
Sometime around 2005, when Ready first became a public figure in the illegal immigration debate, he appeared to be passionate and well informed on the issue. He was invited to speak at numerous rallies and, as Ready ran for various public offices, he sought and received support from a variety of people who opposed illegal immigration and supported border security, including former Senate President Russell Pearce.
It wasn't until perhaps a few years later, Ready revealed his anti-Semitic and white supremacist views through some e-mails and, while a precinct committeeman, he began passing out white supremacist literature at legislative district meetings.
During all the times Ready spoke at rallies, and Sonoran News covered just about all of them, he never uttered a word that would lead anyone to believe he was a white supremacist with ulterior motives.
However, once it was discovered, Pearce and everyone else involved in the illegal immigration debate immediately distanced themselves from Ready.
Bentley may convince herself or some of her toothless nativist pals with this hogwash. But the truth is that "Pearce and everyone else involved in the illegal immigration debate" did not "immediately" distance themselves from Ready after he was first exposed.
Ready was already involved in questionable activities, including a bizarre 2006 shootout in Mesa with a Mexican national. Also, it had been revealed in 2006 that Ready had a criminal history, including a conviction in Florida for assault and two courts-martial while in the U.S. Marines, which booted him from the service with a bad conduct discharge.
Then on March 13, 2007, during a forum at the state Legislature on the tone of the immigration debate, the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona publicly outed Ready's extremist associations. Ready was then an attendee of meetings of the local nativist group United for a Sovereign America, and I documented one he attended in April. In a subsequent column I discussed what the ADL had to say about his white supremacist ties.
Assuming that Bentley's fellow nativists know their ABCs, I'll cut them some slack for not reading what I wrote. How about the ADL forum at the Legislature? Well, several of them cannot dodge knowledge of that one, as they were seated in the audience, and ended up asking angry questions of the panelists.
Among the anti-immigration folks present were: Buffalo Rick Galeener, Anna Gaines, and Albert Fernandez. There were others present, as well, but I know them more by face than by name. Some present later wrote to the Mesa Police Department to complain about Mesa police detective Mat Browning's accusing skinheads and border extremists of "domestic terrorism."
In addition, some of these individuals were present at a June 16, 2007 anti-immigration rally where Ready spoke. In the case of Galeener, I have a photo of him there.
Was Bentley present for that speech? Did she applaud Ready's blueprint for American fascism, as did Pearce, state Representative John Kavanaugh, and many of the other nativists present?
I don't know. I do know that Pearce worked the crowd with Ready that day, even though he'd been warned of Ready's unsavory affiliations in 2006 by ADL regional director Bill Straus. Pearce did not publicly disavow Ready until August of 2008, and only then because of pressure from fellow Republicans.
The handout of literature Bentley mentions was in January of 2008. See, Ready had been a GOP precinct committeeman since 2006.
In September of 2007 Ready was photographed in Omaha, Nebraska demonstrating with members of the National Socialist Movement. I posted it to my blog about a week after it happened.
It was only after Ready's extremism was exposed numerous times that he became radioactive. (Gaines, for instance, blocked Ready's participation in a 2009 event.) Even then, I suspect many nativists agreed with his activities rounding up illegal immigrants in the desert and his repeated calls for land mines on the border.
Why did Bentley write this column? After all, no one who observes the facts dispassionately is going to buy that Pearce and the other nativists separated themselves from Ready as soon as they found out what he was involved in. That took awhile.
The key is in her line about Sonoran News covering the nativist rallies Ready spoke at. That is a glimmer of guilt, one Bentley and her fellow nativists have to suppress mercilessly, mainly to salve their own consciences.
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That's because Bentley and her nativist cohorts helped create a climate of hate in Arizona that led to the rise of avowed racists such as Ready. This environment fostered the deeds of individuals like minutewoman and kid-killer Shawna Forde and white-on-brown murderer Gary Kelley.
I'm not saying Bentley and her buddies approve of the heinous acts these three committed. But they bear some responsibility for the bigotry that has consumed this state. And it's because of that inkling of a conscience that they're so quick to rationalize away their own culpability.