An Unhappy Anniversary

How did the night of November 8, 2016 end for you?

Were there tears? Were you panicked? Did you succumb to numb shock? Did you feel something akin to the momentary weightlessness when the trap door opens but before the noose snaps your neck?

I experienced the latter. Sitting in complete silence, not counting the victory speech spewing forth from televisions, I felt spacesick.

Trump’s reign has warped our sense of normalcy, so it’s helpful to recall where Democratic voters and many more non-voters were. The day started with mild optimism. Not for Hillary Clinton, per se, though there was a nation of pantsuit wearers for whom she was an avatar of blasting through the glass ceiling. It was the optimism that a ostensibly democratic system wouldn’t allow a serial abuser and racial demagogue into high office, that the slog — for even then Trump was exhausting — would soon be at an end.

The media narrative was reassuring in this respect. Polls by statistics wunderkind Nate Silver were touted with a kind of religious fervor. I wished I could share their relief; instead, a deep unease disquieted me. I knew, and had been saying for over a year, that Donald Trump was not a joke. He was a threat to democratic norms. He had less in common with the Republican Party than he did with Benito Mussolini. Electing him would spread the poison of fascism deep into the body politic. He was giving fresh voice to America’s ugly racism.

By the end of the night I knew how Cassandra felt.

It’s fitting that the electoral college, a product of the American system of slavery, was the mechanism that solidified our country’s reaction against its first black president. In many ways Donald Trump positions himself as the anti-Obama, the embodied spasm of white rage against the empowered Other. His election was no different. When it became clear Barack Obama had won in 2008, people spontaneously and joyously flowed into the streets. Even many of those who didn’t vote for him felt a cautious optimism about the possibilities of the American experiment. Suddenly the failures of neoliberalism seemed fleeting, a ghost ship passing in the night before the first light of the sun exorcised its terrors.

Eight years of calcified intransigence and growing racial resentment later, we’re under no such illusion. November 8th was the final unspooling of all that hope. In 2016 we were united only in grievance. A year to the day since Donald Trump was improbably elected, his presidency is a singularly corrosive force. America was never great, but what’s happening now threatens to unmake what small progress we were able to scrape together.

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

The Revolution Starts Now (Well, Saturday)

Comrades:

Societal upheaval and glorious slaughter are nearly at hand. Lace up your combat boots, don your Antifa-brand black t-shirts, and select your finest identity-obscuring face mask: The Revolution starts this Saturday.

So what we’re gonna do, see, is we’re gonna kill every Trump voter, conservative and gun owner. Possibly with firearms. How will we know who voted for Donald Trump, you may ask? We’ll just know, and this psychic insight will allow us to successfully track down and eradicate 33% of the American population. Don’t ask how this is feasible, or why people who fundamentally oppose the tenants of fascism would enact a coordinated mass killing, or how small, autonomous bands of antifascists organized this without being shut down by the FBI —

“Just ’cause” should be enough. If you were dissatisfied with last November’s election results you know what I mean.

Are my radical supersoliders ready? Are you pumped? Great! We’ll start by beheading white parents and small business owners!

See you Saturday. If you’re going to bring snacks, make sure there’s enough to share and they’re gluten-free.

(Year Zero/Day Two Hundred and Eighty-Seven)

Neofascists In Contemporary Garb (Updated)

Hundreds of far-right demonstrators wielded torches as they marched on to the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Friday night and reportedly attacked a much smaller group of counter-protesters who had linked arms around a statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Starting at a municipal park less than a mile away, “alt-right” protesters who have gathered for the weekend Unite the Right rally marched in a long column over the short distance to the campus, chanting slogans like “You will not replace us” and “Blood and soil”.

When the marchers reached and surrounded the counter-protesters there was a short verbal confrontation. Counter-protesters claimed they were then attacked with swung torches, pepper spray and lighter fluid.

Emily Gorcenski, who shared several live videos of the event, was among the protesters who said they were hit with the mace spray. “[They] completely surrounded us and wouldn’t let us out.”

She said police did not intervene until long after the rightwing marchers had struck out at protesters. “I saw hundreds of people chanting Nazi slogans and police do nothing.”

The Washington Post reported that at least one counter-demonstrator used a chemical spray, affecting a number of protesters.

Charlottesville police did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Two male protesters who said they were also maced, and did not wish to be named, described far-right protesters moving from verbal abuse, to pushing and shoving protesters, to the noxious spray.

“Someone from the alt right maced me right in the face – unprovoked,” said one. “After they maced people they started punching people and hitting them with torches.” Several protesters said a woman using a wheelchair was among those sprayed.

Just up the street from the fracas, a community prayer meeting was held in St Paul’s memorial church, addressed by several preachers including prominent civil rights leader Dr Cornel West. The end of the service overlapped with the torch parade and many people waited for long periods before leaving citing safety concerns.

In an interview, West said: “The crypto-fascists, the neofascists, the neo-Nazis now feel so empowered, not just by Trump but by the whole shift in the nation towards scapegoats.

“I don’t like this talk about ‘alt-right’, that’s an unnecessary abstraction. These are neofascists in contemporary garb.”

–Jason Wilson, Charlottesville: far right crowd with torches encircles counter-protest group

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A planned protest in Virginia by white nationalists was abandoned on Saturday after a spate of violence prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency and law enforcement officers to clear the area.

The demonstration, which both organizers and critics had said was the largest gathering of white nationalists in recent years, turned violent almost immediately and left several people injured.

The turmoil began with a march Friday night and escalated Saturday morning as hundreds of white nationalists gathered. Waving Confederate flags, chanting Nazi-era slogans, wearing helmets and carrying shields, they converged on a statue of Robert E. Lee in the city’s Emancipation Park and began chanting phrases like “You will not replace us,” and “Jew will not replace us.”

Hundreds of counterprotesters quickly surrounded the crowd, chanting and carrying their own signs.

By 11 a.m., the scene had exploded into taunting, shoving and outright brawling. Barricades encircling the park and separating the two sides began to come down, and police temporarily retreated. People were seen clubbing one another in the streets, and pepper spray filled the air.

Police cleared the area before noon, and the Virginia National Guard arrived as officers began arresting some who remained for unlawful assembly. But fears lingered that the altercation would start again nearby, even as politicians, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a Republican, condemned the violence.

A couple hours later, a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, and city officials said there were multiple injuries after a three-car crash.

Emergency medical personnel treated eight people after the earlier clashes, the Charlottesville Police Department said. It was not immediately clear how severely they were hurt. Several area hospitals did not return telephone calls seeking information.

The fight was the latest in a series of tense dramas unfolding across the United States over plans to remove statues and other historic markers of the Confederacy. The battles have been intensified by the election of President Trump, who enjoys fervent support from white nationalists.

–Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Brian M. Rosenthal, State of Emergency Declared in Charlottesville After Protests Turn Violent

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump is rarely reluctant to express his opinion, but he is often seized by caution when addressing the violence and vitriol of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists, some of whom are his supporters.

After days of genially bombastic interactions with the news media on North Korea and the shortcomings of congressional Republicans, Mr. Trump on Saturday condemned the bloody protests in Charlottesville, Va., in what critics in both parties saw as muted, equivocal terms.

During a brief and uncomfortable address to reporters at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., he called for an end to the violence. But he was the only national political figure to spread blame for the “hatred, bigotry and violence” that resulted in the death of one person to “many sides.”

For the most part, Republican leaders and other allies have kept quiet over several months about Mr. Trump’s outbursts and angry Twitter posts. But recently they have stopped averting their gazes and on Saturday a handful criticized his reaction to Charlottesville as insufficient.

“Mr. President — we must call evil by its name,” tweeted Senator Cory Gardner, Republican from Colorado, who oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans.

“These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” he added, a description several of his colleagues used.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and the father of the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did not dispute Mr. Trump’s comments directly, but he called the behavior of white nationalists in Charlottesville “evil.”

Democrats have suggested that Mr. Trump is simply unwilling to alienate the segment of his white electoral base that embraces bigotry. The president has forcefully rejected any suggestion he harbors any racial or ethnic animosities, and points to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an observant Jew, and his daughter Ivanka, who converted to the faith, as proof of his inclusiveness.

In one Twitter post on Saturday, Mr. Trump nodded to that inclusiveness.

“We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” the president wrote, a statement that had echoes of his campaign slogan, America First.

But like several other statements Mr. Trump made on Saturday, the tweet made no mention that the violence in Charlottesville was initiated by white supremacists brandishing anti-Semitic placards, Confederate battle flags, torches and a few Trump campaign signs.

Mr. Trump, the product of a well-to-do, predominantly white Queens enclave who in 1989 paid for a full-page ad in The New York Times calling for the death penalty for five black teenagers convicted but later exonerated of raping a white woman in Central Park, flirted with racial controversy during the 2016 campaign. He repeatedly expressed outrage that anyone could suggest he was prejudiced.

When he retweeted white supremacists’ accounts, he brushed aside questions about them. When he was asked about the support he had been given by David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, he chafed, insisting he didn’t know Mr. Duke.

Finally, at a news conference in South Carolina, Mr. Trump said “I disavow” when pressed on Mr. Duke. He later described Mr. Duke as a “bad person.”

When his social media director, Dan Scavino, posted an image on Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed with a Star of David near Hillary Clinton’s head, with money raining down, Mr. Trump rejected widespread criticism of the image as anti-Semitic.

In an interview that aired in September 2016, Mr. Trump said “I am the least racist person that you have ever met,’’ a statement he repeated at a White House news conference in February.

In Bedminster on Saturday, Mr. Trump said he and his team were “closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.,” then tried to portray the violence there as a chronic, bipartisan plague. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country,’’ he said. “It’s not Donald Trump, it’s not Barack Obama.”

Mr. Trump did not single out the marchers, who included the white supremacist Richard Spencer and Mr. Duke, for their ideology.

While Democrats and some Republicans faulted Mr. Trump for being too vague, Mr. Duke was among the few Trump critics who thought the president had gone too far.

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” he wrote on Twitter, shortly after the president spoke.

The president remained silent on the violence for most of the morning even as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, and dozens of other public figures condemned the march.

Mrs. Trump, using her official Twitter account, wrote, “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville.”

Mr. Ryan was even more explicit. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry,” he wrote on Twitter at noon, around the time that Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in the city.

–Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Trump’s Remarks On Charlottesville Violence Are Criticized As Insufficient

Horribly, [Donovan and O’Meara] are not the only gay men to respond to an olive branch lately offered by white nationalism. The opening of this movement to cisgender gay men is a radical change, “one of the biggest changes I’ve seen on the right in 40 years,” says Chip Berlet, co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America. In the United States, unlike in Europe, out gay men have never been welcome in white supremacist groups. The Klan and neo-Nazi groups, the main previous incarnations of white hate in this country, were and still are violently anti-queer. And while a subset of openly gay men has always been conservative (or, as in all populations, casually racist), they never sought to join the racist right.

That was before groups like NPI, Counter-Currents Publishing, and American Renaissance started putting out the welcome mat. Since around 2010, some (though by no means all) groups in the leadership of the white nationalist movement have been inviting out cis gay men to speak at their conferences, write for their magazines, and be interviewed in their journals. Donovan and O’Meara, far to the right of disgraced provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, are the white nationalist movement’s actual queer stars. But there are others in the ranks, like Douglas Pearce of the popular neofolk band Death in June. And there are many more gay men (and some trans women) who have been profoundly influenced by two white nationalist ideas: the “threat” posed by Islam and the “danger” posed by immigrants.

But when Donovan says violence, he means violence. This is not BDSM. “The ability to use violence effectively is the highest value of masters,” Donovan said in a 2017 speech at a fascist think tank in Germany. “It is the primary value of those who create order, who create worlds. Violence is a golden value. Violence rules. Violence is not evil–it is elemental.” Though Donovan tries to mine the latent sexiness in violence for all it’s worth, he is, in fact, against consensual BDSM, condemning it in a 2010 essay as part of a long list of evils that he feels has been perpetuated by gay culture: the “extreme promiscuity, sadomasochism, transvestism, transsexuality, and flamboyant effeminacy” promoted by “the pink-haired, punk rock stepchildren of feminism,” gay activists. No, it’s straight-up people hurting and killing other people he’s endorsing.

And what is all this violence for? Creating small, decentralized “homelands” in this country separated by—surprise!—race. He enthusiastically embraces an idea the alt-right calls “pan-secessionism,” under which, as Donovan says in his book A Sky Without Eagles, “gangs” of white men would form “autonomous zones” for themselves and white women, where women “would not be permitted to rule or take part in … political life.” The gangs would enforce racial boundary lines, because, as Donovan puts it, whites have “radically different values [and] cultures” than other people, and “loyalty requires preference. It requires discrimination.”

–Donna Minkowitz, How the Alt-Right Is Using Sex and Camp to Attract Gay Men to Fascism

There’s Something Deeply Wrong Here

I wish I’d had more time to enjoy Spicer in the bushes. In the hectic days since president Trump dispatched his praetorian bodyguard to FBI headquarters to do away with a man who wouldn’t pledge his undying loyalty, the absurdity of  Sean Spicer’s flailing about brought some levity to the situation.

The problem is the emergent public record around the firing of James Comey doesn’t need our mirth. It needs to raise our hackles. Alarms should be ringing in our heads. Lights should be flashing and instructing us to exit the building without trampling each other. As Jonathan Chiat put it yesterday: “Trump is trying to control the FBI. It’s time to freak out.”

Trump, in fact, is trying to bend every useful organ of the federal government to his will. Some, like the Keebler Klansman Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, are not only happy kowtowers but directly involved in the move to muzzle another agency’s investigation. Dwelling too long on the imperfect parallels with Richard Nixon in the hope that Comey is what leads to impeachment misses the heart of the matter. The president has had some success in making departments either subservient to his will or has understaffed/underfunded parts of the government that could stand in the way of whatever it is he wants at any given moment.

To put it another way: we can dismiss what’s going on as another Trumpian shitshow and continue to talk about how many scoops of ice cream the president gets, or we can acknowledge the erosion of democratic norms is accelerating. It’s not much fun to admit something deeply wrong is underway, but there isn’t much that can be done for that.

Then there’s the question of 45’s mounting paranoia. When Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower over Twitter, it was shocking and bizarre. Now that the American public has had a chance to contend with this repeated and unfounded claim, it’s just bizarre. He is obsessed with the idea that someone’s listening in. Given all we’ve learned about the man and his associates since November, there’s a good chance this is an existential concern. They’re coming for me. They know what I’ve done. Rumor has it he also makes recordings of his own. His paranoia could also be projection. If I do it, so does everyone else.

Whether one or both are true, this morning saw Trump lashing out like a cornered animal.

President Trump on Friday warned James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director he fired this week, against leaking anything negative about the president …

In a series of early-morning Twitter posts, Mr. Trump even seemed to suggest that there may be secret tapes of his conversations with Mr. Comey that could be used to counter the former F.B.I. director if necessary. It was not immediately clear whether he meant that literally or simply hoped to intimidate Mr. Comey into silence.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Trump also threatened to halt daily press briefings if… he doesn’t get more favorable coverage? Russia is never mentioned again? It doesn’t seem like much on its face other than hunkering down, but given all that’s happening more extreme measures could taken to try to maintain his grip on power.

One thing is certain in this strange and labyrinthine tale: If Donald Trump is going to threaten Comey on Twitter and intimate he has recordings of the conversation, sooner or later people are going to want to take a listen to his audio library.

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Thirteen)