By Eric K. Ward

As over one-third of Oregon went dark in the state’s largest-ever power outage, my thoughts traveled back to the 1990s, to a brightly lit auditorium in Ellensburg, Washington filled with Holocaust deniers.

I had travelled over many rural miles in a Greyhound bus, ever-present anxiety my only companion, to enter that auditorium. The only visible person of color present, I already understood deep in my bones how morally repugnant and politically dangerous Holocaust denial was. …


By Eric K. Ward

May Day Proud Boys and paramilitary rally in Salem, Oregon was a bust. We can’t be lulled into complacency and think the threat has gone away. But we can see the impact of what we’ve been doing right.

When President Biden spoke to a joint session of Congress to mark his first 100 days, fencing was still up around the Capitol; the seat of democracy, still defended by the National Guard.

“The insurrection was an existential crisis — a test of whether our democracy could survive,” the President reminded us; “the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol — desecrating our democracy — remain vivid in our minds.”

He went on to pose the questions at the heart of this moment: “Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us —…


Part Six: Calling For or Engaging in Acts of Intimidation or Violence

By: Western States Center Staff

Photo courtesy of Canva

This is the final post in the six-part seriesMy Child Is Repeating Conspiracy Theories. What Do I Say?” authored by Shelly Tochluk, Christine Saxman, and Joanna Schroeder. Read the first post and access links to the entire series here.

No one wants to believe a child or teen in their care will encounter or be influenced by hateful extremists. However, due to the nature of today’s online environment and devastating examples of murders committed by young people like those at the Emanuel…


Part Five: Supporting Anti-democratic Groups and Spreading Conspiracies or Overt Hate

By: Western States Center Staff

Photo courtesy of Canva

This post is the fifth in the six-part seriesMy Child Is Repeating Conspiracy Theories. What Do I Say?” authored by Shelly Tochluk, Christine Saxman, and Joanna Schroeder. Read the first post and access links to the entire series here.

When a young person begins actively supporting conspiracy theories (online and in person) or vocally identifies with an organized hate group, parents and caregivers face a more urgent problem.

In these instances, a child or teen not only feels some affinity for a racist…


Part Four: Asserting Far-right Beliefs in Daily Life

This post is the fourth in the six-part seriesMy Child Is Repeating Conspiracy Theories. What Do I Say?” authored by Shelly Tochluk, Christine Saxman, and Joanna Schroeder. Read the first post and access links to the entire series here.

Two characteristics of today’s political climate are the decentering of values focused on the common good and the demand for false equivalence (or the belief that all ideas deserve equal airtime). As a result, openly bigoted and separatist rhetoric has increasingly found its way into the mainstream, contributing to a hostile environment…


Part Three: Sharing Jokes and Memes to Be Edgy

By: Western States Center Staff

Photo courtesy of Canva

This post is the third in the six-part seriesMy Child Is Repeating Conspiracy Theories. What Do I Say?” authored by Shelly Tochluk, Christine Saxman, and Joanna Schroeder. Read the first post and access links to the entire series here.

Adolescents naturally test boundaries, take risks, and push against familial and cultural norms. Far-right leaders know this and leverage teens’ desire to be edgy or transgressive by creating sarcastic and ironic content they are more likely to share. …


Part Two: Accidentally Encountering Hateful Messages

By: Western States Center Staff

Photo courtesy of Canva

This post is the second in the six-part seriesMy Child Is Repeating Conspiracy Theories. What Do I Say?” authored by Shelly Tochluk, Christine Saxman, and Joanna Schroeder. Read the first post and access links to the entire series here.

Given the range of easily accessible online and social media platforms, the ever-increasing amount of time we spend online, and the prolific posting habits of many conspiracy theorists and far-right recruiters, young people have ample opportunity to unintentionally encounter content that promotes or furthers far-right ideologies.

Often couched as…


Part One: A Caregiver’s Conversation Guide

By: Western States Center Staff

Photo courtesy of Canva

This post is the first in a six-part series authored by Shelly Tochluk, Christine Saxman, and Joanna Schroeder.

Over the last decade, Americans across the country have witnessed a steep rise in violent white supremacy, overt white nationalism, and conspiratorial extremism. The web of false and bigoted narratives that support anti-democratic views and actions now influences a wide share of the U.S. population, including young adults and even children.

Among the most dangerous examples is QAnon, which has already softened the ground for white nationalist and paramilitary groups to…


A statement from Eric K. Ward, Executive Director, Western States Center

Joe Biden was in high school when he heard the nation’s first Irish Catholic president utter the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” That call to action led a working class kid mocked by his classmates for his stutter into the library to research the path that would make him one of the youngest ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

Sixty years later, Joe Biden has been sworn in as our oldest president ever…

Western States Center

Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy.

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