Something awfully dreadful running through our age.
It used to happen that, arriving at a party, a perfectly innocent neighborhood party say, within five minutes I would be engaged with a fascist. I suppose there’s one at every party and I’m for some reason a magnet and incapable of resisting baiting. This lack of judgement has had me embroiled in many fruitless on and off-line discussions. I eventually, however, recognize the futility and back away, always striving to maintain respect and civility while engaged, sometimes slipping.
In a recent exchange I encountered the idea that the “violent left” is preparing an insurrection to grab “illegitimate power”. In the wake of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and the murder of journalists in Maryland, this seemed preposterous, especially when used to characterize the whole “left” which apparently, from the right’s point of view, is anyone not a fascist.
I recall the provocateurs among anti-WTO demonstrators in 1999 Seattle, breaking windows, throwing bricks etc; I always thought there were under-cover police instigating at least some of that violence, a not uncommon police tactic from the 60s. Once a fringe group starts breaking windows the police can be turned loose with truncheons and pepper spray. They don’t always need an excuse of course.
So in the mail comes recently a publication from the Southern Poverty Law Center, splcenter.org/hatewatch in 2018. The 32-page tract is a selection from SPLC’s Hatewatch blog investigating the Proud Boys and other elements of the radical right.
Proud Boys is described as a collection of militaristic hate groups that frequently join neo-Nazi and white supremacist rallies. The Make America Great Again hats have a definite presence. Members seem to specialize in knocking critics to the ground and commencing the fine art of kicking them senseless. They talk a lot about “freedom” but it’s hard to square such words with their actions. Maybe they mean freedom for them to violate the liberty of others. And the highly charged word is probably appropriated for its prestige and crudely associated to legitimize their violence, if only in their minds. The Oath Keepers militia planned training sessions for its members to use “lethal force” at far-right rallies, based on this wild belief that the “left” is planning violent revolution.
Organizers invited attendees to bring weapons to Rallies in Berkley, California and Portland, Oregon which were marked by assaults on counter-protesters, both by the right and by police. The police seem too often sympathetic to the right, ignoring their violence or deeming both sides at fault (tRump’s “there are good people on both sides” remark comes to mind).
The FBI seems more interested in infiltrating and containing legitimate free speech activists like Black Lives Matter than in right wing hate groups. Two white neo-nazis, however, were convicted in separate cases in Charlottesville for exercising their “freedom” to kick opponents to and on the ground.
Returning to my confusion around the right’s paranoid claims of “left” violence, the reports include mention of a small faction among counter-protesters, antifa or antifascist, who do antagonize and mirror the right in their eagerness for confrontation and combat. Again, this is small, not characterizing the whole movement, and subject to the same skepticism about police provocateurs as above. There is no record of antifascist shooting or killing anyone in the past several decades but the racist “alt-right” has been involved in murdering 43 people and injuring 67 over the past four years alone.
The right “soldiers” I so foolishly attempted to engage remained silent when I asked where they got their information. I provided my sources – Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Jane Meyer, Commondreams.org, Fair.org, The Intercept, Democracynow.org etc; I did visit brietbart and found it a total bore. Maybe it was a bad day but I saw none of the outrageous stuff I expected.
The SPLC report mentions right websites and web presence via instagram, twitter, reddit and many have been banned due to their hateful content. Censorship always makes me uncomfortable but I have mixed feelings about this stuff.
Milo Yiannopoulous, a racist alt-right figure, was quoted that he was looking forward to vigilantes gunning journalists down on sight. Two days later we had a mass shooting, five dead, at a newspaper office in Maryland. This disturbing report reminds me of the post World War I. clashes in Germany where the right would provocatively march into neighborhoods that supported unions and the left and terrorize the population with assault, even killings.
From a recent song on the album Protection on the cut Random Rifle Fire, “There’s something awfully dreadful running through our age, lingering from last century ferocious karmic rage.”
Image Credit: the illustration was created by the author, Tom Ferguson.