Five Reasons To Feel Uneasy

#1

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says in its latest “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” that the number of assaults, acts of vandalism and violence against Jewish institutions between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 totaled 1,299, compared to 779 over the same time last year. The 1,299 figure surpasses the total for all of 2016, which stood at 1,266, the group said.

In case you’ve been trying furiously to scrub the disturbing details from your brain, one of the hateful slogans the army of frat boy Nazis at Charlottesville chanted was “Jews will not replace us!” Not that antisemitism is always so nakedly obvious.

#2

A New Jersey town has introduced hateful and highly discriminatory new rules aimed at barring Orthodox Jews from moving in, according to a stunning complaint filed by the state attorney general.

The nine-count complaint accuses Mahwah’s public officials and most vocal residents of using the same tactics employed by “1950s-era white flight suburbanites who sought to keep African-Americans from moving into their neighborhoods.”

Speaking of flight…

#3

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NAACP issued a warning for African Americans who fly American Airlines Tuesday.

The group says they are noticing a pattern of disturbing incidents involving the removal of black passengers from flights, in addition to other troublesome conducts that are giving rise to this warning.

Is it too much to ask that black folks just be allowed to exist without encountering racism at every turn?

#4

[A]ccording to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, the 2016 Crime in the United States report — the first released under President Trump’s administration — contains close to 70 percent fewer data tables1 than the 2015 version did, a removal that could affect analysts’ understanding of crime trends in the country. The removal comes after consecutive years in which violent crime rose nationally, and it limits access to high-quality crime data that could help inform solutions.

“To me it’s shocking that they made these decisions to publish that many fewer tables and they didn’t make the decision with the APB,” James Nolan, who worked at the UCR for five years and now teaches at West Virginia University, told FiveThirtyEight.

Nolan called the FBI’s removal of the tables for lack of web traffic, “somewhat illogical.” (A spokesman for the UCR program told FiveThirtyEight that in the last year, the UCR received 3,045,789 visitors.)

It’s a simple enough trick. If you’re going to make spurious claims about crimes committed by immigrants and refugees, it helps the cause of institutional nativism to control the flow of information.

#5

Asylum seekers who illegally crossed the U.S. border into Canada this year are obtaining refugee status at higher rates, new data shows, as authorities accept claims from people who say they feared being deported by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

More than 15,000 people have crossed the U.S.-Canadian border illegally to claim refugee status in Canada this year. Many were in the United States legally and some interviewed by Reuters said they might have stayed were it not for an immigration crackdown.

This would seem like far-flung fabulism had it not been reported by Reuters. Will Canada have an American refugee crisis by 2018?

(Year Zero/Day Two Hundred and Ninety-One)

So You’ve Been Caught Supporting A Hungarian Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Group

It could happen to any of us.

You’re minding your own business, trying to fit in at your new job as a counter-terrorism adviser to the president, when the liberal media slanders your good name by calling you an Islamophobe. You’ve got it all wrong, you say. I’m not afraid of Muslims, I just think letting them come to America is national suicide and the Koran has made them all violent maniacs. No one listens to your reasonable explanation. You feel terribly misunderstood.

When you think it’s all boiled over, some jackanape viciously attacks you for wearing a medal associated with Hungarian Nazi collaborator Admiral Miklós Horthy. You plead for people to see reason – you’re just honoring the valiant anti-communist efforts of your former countrymen. Fake News has their fingers in their ears. “Nazi!” they scream. “Fascist pig!” Your feelings are hurt, but you stand your ground and the jackals wander off to find something else to feast on.

A month goes by. You’re convinced the unpleasantness is behind you now. You’ve made lots of friends at the office, and the higher ups really liked your presentation about bombing Islam off the face of the earth. Life is good… until some Hebrew publication finds out you backed the violently antisemitic Magyar Gárda Mozgalom militia way back when you were a Jobbik politician in Hungaria. That was forever ago! They were drinking buddies! I don’t *hate* Jews, I just… is it getting hot in here? I need to go to the restroom. Don’t wait up for me.

It’s a very stressful situation! You worry your past has come back to haunt you in a major way… and then the worry melts away. What’s the big deal? You’re not going to lose your job. Unlike the hard times you went through in the old country, you can do pretty much anything you want here and your boss will stand behind you.

You give a relieved chuckle, start up your laptop and log into Stormfront.

(Year Zero/Day Seventy-Five)

In Romania, God Was A Fascist

 

[Please note: This post includes historical accounts of horrific massacres. Further, several quoted passages include antisemitic slurs.]

It’s March of 2017 and all 100 United States Senators are urging Donald Trump to do something about the sharp rise in antisemitism since his election. If you follow the Senate, you’re aware 100% agreement in that august body is akin to seeing a real-life unicorn. One unbalanced former journalist aside, the sickening spike in bomb threats to Jewish community centers/synagogues and desecration of Jewish cemeteries is real – and should trouble us all.

I’ve been thinking about antisemitism a lot these days, as I slowly work my way through Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), a cornucopia of academic journal articles and the occasional podcast. One particularly incisive podcast, as I’ve mentioned before, is Slate Academy’s limited series named (and concerning) FascismTheir third episode is dedicated to its Romanian iteration. Outside the field of fascism studies and Romania itself, this history is either largely overlooked or unknown in our country. It had barely registered on my radar, and I was at least somewhat actively in search of that kind of information.

It should be noted this history is vast and serpentine. My overview can only scratch the surface. If you’d like to contextualize the emergence of the movement as it relates to Romanian history, see BBC’s Romania history timeline; for a more comprehensive chronology of the fascist takeover, we refer you to the Analytical Chronology of the Romanian Legionary Movement, who were also known as the Legion of the Archangel Michael or Iron Guard.

Founded in 1927 and officially brought into the fascist coalition government by Conducător Ion Antonescu in 1940, the Iron Guard led vigorous pogroms against the Jewish population and assassinated their political enemies. These Romanian fascists had many of the ideological markers one might expect: rabid nationalism, malice towards perceived Others and systematized antisemitism/anticommunism were precepts of the movement, but by wedding those currents to Orthodox Christianity they transformed into a mystical “political religion” and a “death cult”.

“God is fascist!”
One of the unique characteristics of Romanian fascism is the incorporation of Orthodox Christianity into the political doctrine and structure of the Iron Guard.  The religious element of Romanian fascism was utilized by the Iron Guard to gain the support of the rural population of Romania where religious beliefs were the strongest.  The Iron Guard used religious themes for most of their propaganda.  The widespread occurrence of “miracles” in Romania during the rise of the Iron Guard represented the utilization of religious propaganda to appeal to the superstitious rural population.  In addition, Romanian fascists made use of collective prayers, religious chants, and processions in order to sway and influence the Romanian people.  Orthodox Christianity was an essential component of Romanian fascist ideology because it was considered one of the most important elements of the “historical continuity” of the Romanian people.  The Iron Guard was initially called the “Legion of the Archangel Michael” because it characterized the predestined character of the legionnaire movement.

In his A History of Fascism, 1914 – 1945 (published in 1996), historian Stanley G. Payne described The Legion of The Archangel Michael/Iron Guard as

arguably the most unusual mass movement of interwar Europe. It is generally classified as fascist because it met the main criteria of any appropriate fascist typology, but it presented undeniably individual characteristics of its own. German historian and philosopher Ernst Nolte has written that it “must not only be declared, but also plainly appears, to be the most interesting and the most complex fascist movement, because like geological formations of superimposed layers it presents at once both prefascist and radically fascist characteristics.” What made [Iron Guard founder and martyr C.Z. Codreanu] especially different was that he became a sort of religious mystic, and though the Legion had the same general political goals as other fascist movements, its final aims were spiritual and transcendental—“The spiritual resurrection! The resurrection of nations in the name of Jesus Christ!” as he put it.

The “spiritually resurrected” man viewed the Jewish people with deep suspicion on a good day and murderous intent on a bad one. They were a constant bugaboo, accused of everything from being fifth column communist saboteurs to stealing hardworking Romanians’ jobs (in reality, a poor economy exacerbated by 1929’s stock market crash meant there just weren’t enough jobs to go around). The soil was fertile for the kind of violent reactions that would culminate in a holocaust. In 1941, the newly empowered Iron Guard (at this time lead by Horia Sima) and Antonescu came into serious conflict over the best way to rob the Jews.

[T]he Legionnaires wanted everything, and they wanted it immediately; Antonescu, while sharing the same goal, intended to achieve it gradually, using different methods. The leader stated this clearly in an address to Legion-appointed ministers: “Do you really think that we can replace all Yids immediately? Government challenges are addressed one by one, like in a game of chess.”

The Iron Guard’s plan for getting everything was terrorizing, torturing and murdering Jewish people, then plundering their possessions. Dissatisfied with Antonescu’s gradual legal disenfranchisement stratagem, the Guard began spreading rumors that the Conducător was a Freemason, and worse! had Jewish ties. They were setting the table for a coup that they hoped would put them in full control of the government.

But their insubordination would not go unchallenged. With Adolf Hitler’s assent, Antonescu began purging Legionnaires from government through firings and arrests. Sima, realizing the window of opportunity would not stay open much longer, initiated a two-pronged attack. The Iron Guard stormed the Ministry of the Interior, police stations and media outlets, and drafted sympathetic elements of the rural peasantry to fill the streets of Bucharest. At the same time, the Guard enacted a pogrom against the Jews to “legitimize” their uprising. Swaths of Jewish property were destroyed, and 125 Bucharestian Jews were murdered. Christopher Simpson recounts one such mass killing that took place during the rebellion in Blowback: The First Full Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis and its Disastrous Effect on Our Domestic and Foreign Policy (1989).

Some victims were actually butchered in a municipal meat-packing plant, hung on meathooks, and branded as ‘kosher meat’ with red hot irons. Their throats were cut in an intentional desecration of kosher laws. Some were beheaded. ‘Sixty Jewish corpses [were discovered] on the hooks used for carcasses,’ US ambassador to Romania Franklin Mott Gunther wired back to Washington after the pogrom. ‘They were all skinned … [and] the quantity of blood about [was evidence] that they had been skinned alive.’ Among the victims, according to eyewitnesses, was a girl no more than five years old, who was left hanging by her feet like a slaughtered calf, her body bathed in blood.

Antonescu was able to repel the Iron Guard’s putsch. Some of the guardsmen who weren’t killed in the fighting, like Sima, fled to Germany, while some 9,000 others were imprisoned. Though they had lost, certain members of the Iron Guard would go on to zealously cooperate with Antonescu later that year. Iasi, which bordered Russia, had a sizable Jewish population. As Hitler and his allies went to war with the Soviet Union, Antonescu suspected Iasi Jews were on the side of the communists. He ordered the military to “cleanse” the city; at the same time, Legionnaires in the city were released from prison to assist in the massacre.

Iasi was one of the bloodiest pogroms of the era, resulting in the death of an estimated 13,266 Jews. Radu Ioanid’s article The Holocaust in Romania: The Iasi Pogrom of June 1941 (published in 1993) gives you a sense of the carnage with following eyewitness account:

I saw a multitude of people rushing in confusion towards the Zafiropol garage, near the Chestura, in a hail of machine-gun fire. Two bullets grazed me as I fell to the pavement. I lay in this state for several hours, and saw with my own eyes people die in front of me, some of whom I knew, others who were strangers. For instance a wounded Jewish veteran of the 1916-1918 campaign, with his medals for ‘Courage and Faith’ still pinned to him, in his hands papers that entitled him to rights (as a Romanian citizen), his chest torn open by bullets, died like a dog in a rubbish tip. Then there was young Segal, son of a leather dresser (who also died, together with his two other sons), who kept moaning as he was dying: ‘Mother, father, where are you? Give me water, I’m thirsty.’ But nobody could help him. The soldiers passing by saw Jews in their agony and pierced them with their bayonets to end their misery.

Nor was Iasi an isolated incident. In Hitler’s Forgotten Ally: Ion Antonescu and his Regime, Romania 1940 – 1944 (published in 2006), Dennis Deletant surveys the breadth of Romania’s genocidal fervor:

The statistical story is grim: ‘mass murder’ was ‘carried out by the Romanian authorities under Antonescu’s military dictatorship’. The death toll was ‘the result not only of systematic killing, but also of deportation and its consequences … These figures—almost 300,000 Jews in all—give the Antonescu regime the sinister distinction of being responsible for the largest number of deaths of Jews after Hitler’s Germany’.

As the Axis fell into disarray near the end of World War II, a successful coup was launched against Antonescu by Romania’s deposed Monarch Michael I. Michael I was then compelled to appoint a communist government and to hand Antonescu over to them. The Conducător was put on trial, and executed by firing squad in 1946. The country he had allied with Hitler would be overseen by a repressive pro-Soviet puppet government until the fall of the USSR in 1989. Its legacy of fascism and genocide, however, would remain a deep wound to the national psyche.

*  *  *

Episode 3: Romania: Bloody, Mystical Fascism from the East is behind Slate’s paywall, but I’ve taken the liberty of excerpting a few of the observations Rebecca Onion, Joshua Keating and June Thomas made about this sad chapter in the country’s history.

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A Healthy Skepticism

Before anyone gets too excited about this

President Trump, signaling a potential major shift in policy ahead of his first address to Congress, told television news anchors on Tuesday that he is open to a broad immigration overhaul that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.

“The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides,” the president told the TV anchors at the White House, according to people present during the discussion.

…recall how Trump claimed he was “softening” his immigration stance in August 2016. The administration’s modus operandi is generating chaos and confusion with often contradictory claims. The president’s assertion re: his immigration policy is about as believable as his concern about the country’s rising tide of antisemitic crimes

Scary, alarming, disheartening, unprecedented. Those are just a few of the adjectives used to describe the recent widespread spate of bomb threats that have targeted Jewish community centers and schools in 33 states in the United States and two provinces in Canada. The threats have reached such a crescendo that President Donald Trump will use his speech to Congress on Tuesday night to address the issue, an administration official told CNN.

considering

President Trump appeared to suggest Tuesday that the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the U.S. could be coming from within the Jewish community itself, according to a Pennsylvania state lawmaker present for the comments.

(Year Zero/Day Forty)

Online Blackshirts, McCarthyists and Pony Lovers

Since I’m in the weeds of research for a couple upcoming posts, I thought I’d lighten things up a bit (lighten up here referring to a general reduction of the amount of reading and information synthesis required to make cogent points). Over the last two years I’ve been in the unfortunate position to watch someone I used to talk to with frequency change from a well-intentioned, historically aware libertarian to a proud, self-identified pro-Trump fascist. At this point I follow them on Facebook for the window they provide in to the memes of the “Deplorables”.

There’s a storied tradition of edgelordery on the Internet by the Internet. “I did it for the lulz” has been used to handwave away the consequences of shitty online behavior since Usenet. But unlike many of the mythological trickster gods whose employment of bizarre or contradictory methods was key to imparting secret knowledge through provocation, online trolls are naught more than human beings.  Psychological studies have shown that at the heart of trolling is disinhibition. Though they may use the Janus mask of online persona and irony, the best interpretation of their behavior is to take the admittedly counter-intuitive approach of treating what they have to say with some seriousness (inasmuch as it reveals something about how the troll really feels).

If most of your interactions are inside your own bubble, it can be hard to believe that what you’re looking at is real. The November Surprise may have shaken that conviction, but convictions die hard. The sampling of pages the person I follow on Facebook likes and shares I’m about to show you isn’t intended to be a GREAT REVELATION so much as to reinforce how rank the stench is in the fetid swamp of the Alt-Right.

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