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)

It’s A Day That Ends With “Y”. Trump Must Be At War With One Of The Pillars Of A Democratic Society.

It’s not difficult to imagine the president sitting in his bedroom late at night, bathrobe-clad, unable to divert his attention away from picking at the scabs on his legs. He never meant to let it get this bad, and he knows he has to let them heal, but the acute relief has driven him to *pick* *pick* *pick* until blood red intermingles with the Nor-rich Blend hue of his skin.

While the vision I’ve presented may cause distress, it’s no more disturbing than the metaphorical obsessive scab-picking Donald Trump can’t seem to stop himself from doing when it comes to perceived or actual slights. Whether by the judicial branch, the Democratic congressional bloc, the Deep State, ordinary citizens practicing their right to assembly or the news media, Trump finds dissent intolerable and will do everything in his power to quell disagreement.

In the case of the media, there’s been not so much a creep as an all-out offensive against the Fourth Estate meant to neutralize any impact their reporting might have. Trump’s style, and in point of fact the preferred method of modern authoritarians, is direct communication. Hence his ruining Twitter forever, hence taking progressively bolder steps to deligitimize uncomplimentary purveyors of information by branding them “fake” and “the enemy of the people”.‡ With the media no longer able to dilute or question his message with any efficacy, his consolidation of power will be that much harder to resist.

His latest affront is in some ways his most openly boundary-pushing to date.

The White House on Friday blocked a number of media outlets, including CNN and POLITICO, from an off-camera briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer, while allowing in a select group of journalists that included many conservative outlets.

The White House had earlier planned on having an on-camera gaggle with Spicer in the briefing room, but the administration later in the day changed it to a restricted off-camera gaggle in Spicer’s office.

As the administration’s controversies proliferate at an astounding rate, their need to bottleneck the flow of communication to preserve their legitimacy in the eyes of The Movement is ever more pressing. A secondary but no less vital function of icing out their critics is that the Trump faithful eat up a “ballsy” strike against the Liberal Media like it’s a plate of grilled red meat and potatoes. As long as they’re sating their appetite for symbolic violence against the enemy, they aren’t thinking about the reporting that led to the off-camera briefing in the first place.

Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, U.S. officials said.

The calls were orchestrated by the White House after unsuccessful attempts by the administration to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of stories on the alleged contacts with Russia.

The Deep State war rages on…

*  *  *

‡ Not to suggest that corporation-controlled media establishments are always on the side of the American people. That their interests seem to coincide with the public so closely right now speaks more to how unusual this moment in our country’s history is.

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.

Continue reading →

Facts Are Up For Interpretation

littlegoldenbook

Why did we start marking time in relation to the moment Donald Trump officially assumed power at the bottom of each post? Why, specifically, does this dating system start with “Year Zero”?

If you agree with the proposition that Trump is a fascist (and we do, clearly), then a nod to life under fascisms past doesn’t seem out of place. Kate Farris’s Everyday Life in Fascist Venice, 1929-1940 (2012) notes that during the myriad changes Italians experienced with the rise of Mussolini’s regime, time was not spared:

One of the means by which the fascist regime attempted to ‘colonize time’ was through the superimposition of a fascist calendar. With echos of the establishment of the French revolutionary calendar, the Italian regime imposed a partial reconfiguration of state time (which could not fail to have some impact on lived time). From 1926, the regime dictated that the counting of years should consider 28 October 1922 as the start of year zero – the start of the “fascist era”.

This isn’t to say Trump will pursue a similar tack with the conventions of time measurement, but it is a hallmark of fascists to redefine hitherto consensus reality to suit their purposes. On day three of year zero, falsehoods are no longer falsehoods but “alternative facts”. Data is now open for radical reinterpretation; numbers are wrong if the government says they’re wrong. The National Park Service can be reigned in for presenting accurate visual evidence. A media outlet can be tarnished wholesale if they report newsworthy information – an attack on the institution itself rather than the veracity of the sources in the story.  The more things change, the more it will be worth comparing the present to the recent past to remind yourself that you didn’t imagine the way things used to be.

(Year Zero/Day Three)