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. …


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…


Eric K. Ward

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Western States Center executive director Eric Ward issued the following statement:

“The current scene at the Capitol is a fitting end to the Trump era. This president has relentlessly fueled conspiracy theories and repeatedly spurred his supporters — including white nationalists and militia members — to violence. There is no excuse for throngs of Americans attacking the national seat of democracy in an effort to block the peaceful transfer of power. Blame rests squarely with Trump and his many enablers.

“Responsible elected officials should publicly condemn the attack on the Capitol and urge all protesters to peacefully…


By Eric K. Ward

The election of Donald J. Trump as our nation’s 45th president spurred me to leave a job in philanthropy to return to the Pacific Northwest where I believed the region would once again be a proving ground between the white nationalist movement and those who would choose to resist it. The torch-bearing white nationalists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us” spurred Joe Biden to get back in the game. …

Western States Center

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store