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Jul 5, 17

A Spectacle of Violence: Trump, Fascism, & the Media

It appears the mainstream media has finally picked up on the antifascist movement in America, and their reaction has been just as uninformed and sensationalistic as one would expect. To make matters worse, their interpretation of the rising leftist bloc has been built primarily from right-wing talking points, shuttled to them directly from alt-right outlets. And while the right begins to craft its latest bogeyman to scare voters into loyalty, Trump the Boy King is throwing another tantrum over his flagging administration, frantically looking for a new enemy to attack, and new distractions for his followers.

“Trump the Boy King is throwing another tantrum over his flagging administration, frantically looking for a new enemy to attack, and new distractions for his followers.”

In a year when sociopolitical tensions have risen to a fevered pitch, a year wherein the prospect of armed civil conflict has become frighteningly conceivable, the media sphere has turned into one theater of a larger war. The president has a seemingly limitless hatred of journalists – or at least, those who criticize or expose him as fraud – and an equally shocking disdain for empiric fact. His GOP loyalists have worked to obfuscate or corroborate the falsehoods Trump has used to wallpaper the rotten, groaning timbers of his presidency. And in the streets, his fascist thugs have become as wholly divorced from reality and humanity as their hideous King himself. Vigilantism is evolving towards paramilitarism, while the nation grapples with the realization that the American Empire is in full decline.

All of this has been documented by revolutionary media sources, but also by an established core of publications which were entirely unprepared for the Trump regime, and remain on the defensive. While the former has opened a new avenue for the radical voice to be amplified, the latter is caught in an endless cycle of observation, confusion, and misjudgement. Having long ago lost the ability to critically analyze current events, old-guard journalists accidentally handed Trump nearly $2 billion in free campaign advertising, dragged down into a muddy swamp of bewildered commentation over every new, baffling lie from that ur-fascist demagogue. They have no tools with which to combat a populist who can dictate reality through the sheer willpower of his audience.

And now, after months of street-level conflict between fascist and antifascist organizations, the 24-hour news cycle has become infected with the narrative of the alt-right. As IGD covered in a recent article, Heat Street, one of the many smaller conservative media operations responsible for endlessly generating libertarian click-bait articles, falsified a quote in order to paint antifascists as a gang of rabid killers [1]. Despite being a slapped-together hit piece with a fraudulent headline, this article was co-opted by Fox News and reported as fact. Under Trump, rightist media have become a mouthpiece not just for the president himself, but also the goonish cavalcade of alt-right muckrakers who rode his coattails into the limelight.

“Under Trump, rightist media have become a mouthpiece not just for the president himself, but also the goonish cavalcade of alt-right muckrakers who rode his coattails.”

This essay will examine the dangerous outcome of a post-fact world built atop decaying journalistic cornerstones. While CNN loses reporters to the entropic side-effects of a ratings addiction, the far-Right is using the media to mainstream their own narrative.

A demonization of leftists is in the works, and the calls for antifascist blood have reached the highest echelons of conservative news outlets. In time, they may reach the White House, as well.


As reported by Mic on the 20th of June, the conservative populations has finally gotten used to the term “antifascist” and it’s catchier abbreviation, antifa [2]. But their frenzied attempts to construct a mental image of the antifascist movement have resulted in the word simply being stapled onto existing concepts they attribute to leftism. The results have been predictably foolish, harebrained, and frankly hilarious:

“One illustratively absurd example comes from an article, published Thursday by the traditionalist news site Rebel Media, about an 8-year-old boy who does drag performance. The headline of the story is ‘Eight-year-old drag queen the product of Antifa parenting?’ What exactly is antifa parenting? No one knows — antifa are never mentioned in the article, and there is no direct ideological connection between anti-fascist black blocs and drag performance.

When Swedish police clashed with migrant youth — immigration in Sweden is another topic of obsession for far-Right media — one right-wing blog wrote that the use of masks shows that ‘antifa tactics are popping up among jihadi youth.’ In another instance, a pro-Gamergate journalist wrote that the upcoming game Detroit: Become Human ‘channels antifa’ because the trailer for the game includes a human rights protests where a window is broken.” ~ Jack Smith IV, Mic

However, underneath this chorus of know-nothings is a darker social trend. In a cycle which has been repeated throughout human civilization, the center and far-Right are clumsily fashioning a nameless, faceless enemy to direct their angst towards. Without an understanding of how to define antifascism, these bloggers are instead duct-taping together all of their anxieties towards leftists, crafting a scarecrow which to them represents the culmination of their paranoid nightmares, fever dreams in the style of “Red Dawn meets Pride Week.” This process of “otherization” rarely ends in a benign fashion: even the ambiguous, catch-all term of “political correctness” has informed some truly revolting acts of violence and bigotry [3].

Parallel with this hamfisted conceptualization of antifascism is the alt-right’s cottage industry of yellow journalism outlets like Heat Street, and their supporting publications like Breitbart and The Blaze, which collectively push the cultural tide of the right-wing forward through a ceaseless torrent of tweets, hastily-drafted articles, and outright lies. The Blaze parroted the exact same Heat Street article, and added a lengthy recording by Chris Salcedo, in which he both repeats the same fabricated quote that Heat Street invented, and attempts to tie the antifascist movement to the Democrats (more on that laughable idea later) [4]. Fox Nation published an article insisting that “Antifa” was linked to NAMBLA, again attributed to Heat Street, which in turn cites Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller as its source. Nowhere in this mess of pseudo-journalism is there hard evidence to support these ludicrous accusations, nor even the basic awareness that antifascism is not some singular, formal organization.

“This kind of ankle-biting against revolutionary media, combined with a fraudulent spectre of leftist terrorism, allows the alt-right to conduct their own Trumpian rewriting of current events.”

Again, there is a darker undercurrent to this buffoonery. Chuck C. Johnson’s all-purpose fundraising site, WeSearchr, has become a base for the alt-right’s media blitzkrieg [5]. It has both helped to fund outlets like the Daily Stormer, and issued bounties for both compromising information on leftists and, theoretically, physical violence against them [6]. Johnson himself was banned from Twitter for threatening DeRay Mckesson, but his days of posting bounties are far from over. Even IGD itself has become the target of a bounty through GotNews, the other Johnson-operated project, and yet again, the justification is that demonstrably non-existent quote from the Heat Street piece [8].

This collective demonization, defaming, and scapegoating of leftists as a whole, and antifascists in particular, has quickly gained traction among common conservative newsreaders, as evidenced by their newfound fascination with the word. It serves both to invent a new boogeyman for the perpetually anxious right-wing, and simultaneously pulls in the click-bait crowd from Reddit and Alt-Right Twitter, adding to the money already raked in from rubes who shell out for Mike Cernovich’s mind-expanding pills, Alex Jones’ herbal supplements, and Laura Loomer’s bogus bail fund. This kind of ankle-biting against revolutionary media, combined with a fraudulent spectre of leftist terrorism, allows the alt-right to conduct their own Trumpian rewriting of current events, in their favor.

Crucially, it can’t be ignored that there is a monetary incentive to this fearmongering. Although Heat Street has been scheduled to be closed in August, it is only one of the plethora of alt-right skeleton crews operating small, but profitable news sources. Public trust in the mainstream media is on the decline across the board, and wherever cracks appear, the opportunity emerges for another rightist blogger to graduate and line their pockets for however long they can.

But most concerning is the direct overlap in rhetoric between the alt-right and establishment news sources like Fox. While Heat Street will soon be reorganized under Marketwatch, both of these entities are owned by News Corp, brainchild of Rupert Murdoch circa 1979. Along with these smaller properties, News Corp holds numerous international assets including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Dow Jones & Company, and the UK’s Sun. Murdoch of course is also the CEO of Fox News, which lifted loosely-compiled bullshit from Heat Street and published it as fact. As a consequence, longtime conservative figures are introducing the spectre of “terroristic” antifascism to the daily news cycle, lending it the kind of legitimacy that fringe publications never could.


Ann Coulter, a recurring attraction of the Fox News carnival, was one of the first conservative voices to capitalize on the Alexandria shooting, no doubt still peeved over her lost opportunity in Berkeley. She contributed a piece to Breitbart on the 21st of June, attempting to tie together the Democratic Party, Trump’s unpopularity, and antifascist resistance:

“Nearly every op-ed writer at The New York Times has compared Trump to Hitler. (The conservative on the op-ed page merely called him a “proto-fascist.”) If Trump is Hitler and his supporters Nazis, then the rational course of action for any civilized person is to kill them. That’s not just a theory, it’s the result.” ~ Ann Coulter, “The Left Has One More Argument: Kill Them!” [8]

As her evidence of a bias in the media, Coulter says that there are at least a hundred instances of Trump supporters being brutalized, but the media simply hasn’t covered them. She provides no examples for this accusation – one is left to suppose it just “feels true” to her. As a comparison, she lists the “only” act of right-wing violence in recent memory, the Pizzagate incident. She neglects to mention the numerous, verifiable instances of rightist violence under the Trump regime. For all her time in the spotlight, Coulter remains bafflingly uninformed; she must not have heard about the Portland murders, the death of Richard Collins, or the mosque attacks which continue to this day [9].

Similarly, when Coulter appeared on Fox News alongside Hannity and Carlson, the issue of “leftist rage” blotted out any mention of the secretive development of the AHCA bill [10]. For the established conservative news cycle, the presumed threat of indiscriminate antifascist terrorism is a panacea; they can gloss over the roiling right-wing thuggery to which we are already accustomed, while also avoiding unpleasant topics of conversation by using Antifa as a universal distraction.

Speaking bluntly: of course political violence is to be expected in this turbulent year. Our enemies wear shirts loudly announcing their fetish for execution-by-helicopter of undesirables. They remind us constantly that given the chance, they will corner us and kill us in the street, and sometimes they have succeeded. Some of us choose to answer in kind, physically opposing the police, the henchmen of the alt-right, and longstanding neo-nazi affiliates. Self-defense is our natural right.

“With this obsession comes a dependence on positive news coverage, and “friends” in the industry. He appointed Steve Bannon to his cabinet. He has developed a working relationship with Alex Jones. Fox News has become a state-run media entity, unwilling to question the leader.”

But the modern media landscape is highly partisan, both the producers and the consumers [11]. About 40% of Trump voters receive the majority of their information from Fox News, meaning that if Fox doesn’t report on fascist vigilantism, half of Trump’s loyalists might be left oblivious to its very existence. Conversely, through their reliance on NPR and MSNBC, a partisan Democrat knows nothing about the antifascist movement, regarding Clinton’s worthless “Resistance” as the core of anti-Trump organizing in America. It will be all too easy to paint antifascists as the enemy of both parties: each one has a partisan echo-chamber with which to drown out our voices.

Behind this desperate clinging to false narratives is a long-standing decline in trust between American citizens and the media [12]. While it has affected every demographic to some extent, Republicans have been particularly quick to reject mainstream interpretations of current events. Between 2015 and 2016, Republican faith in news media fell from 32% to an abysmal 14%. Quick to blame the unpopularity of their candidate on a “liberal bias” in media, rightists have firmly concluded that negative coverage of the Trump administration is part of a seditious scheme. In response, the right-wing has entirely abandoned traditional news sources. While a massive 89% of Democrats consider news media criticism to be an effective watchdog for public interest, Republican voters are split, slanting towards a negative opinion [13].

Of course, this puts the average Democrat in the same hazardous pool: such overwhelming conviction in the fair-handedness and objectivity of the media is what birthed their admiration for James Comey, and their belief in the sprawling conspiracy theory surrounding the Russia investigation. Nearly 70% of Democrat voters believe Moscow intervened on Trump’s behalf to steal the election, despite a lack of hard evidence [14]. They are not dissimilar, in this way, from the Trump voters who still believe that millions of illegal immigrants voted in 2016, a fantasy shared by their president himself [15].

This breakdown of press credibility has produced a nation of multiple realities. It’s not just about policy disagreements; a loyalist voter’s party affiliation determines what counts as a “fact” to them, and what doesn’t.

This is partly the fault of the industrialization of news production. Corporate bodies have divvied up the 24-hour mainstream news cycle, lobbying the FCC to relax regulations on ownership and transparency of political donations [16]. Thanks to their efforts to concentrate ownership and substitute oligarchies for monopolies, just 6 companies control 90% of all media outlets in America [17]. This market saturation has driven more consumers to seek out alternatives to the bought-and-paid-for cable news platforms, namely, independent media, crowdfunded journalistic projects, and citizen-reporters [18].

“if Fox News can adopt the rhetoric and aesthetic of the alt-right’s bloggers and twitter celebrities, they can retain an audience which would otherwise distrust their well-funded network.”

There is a positive and negative to this trend. The optimist might say that the death of news media gatekeepers is a departure from corporate influence, partisan bias, and the effects of outlet conglomeration. The pessimist, however, might say that in such a politically divided world, Cassandra Fairbanks and Paul Joseph Watson now hold the clout once enjoyed by Walter Cronkite, despite being tragically vapid and unqualified sources. Because they appear free from corporate bias, they are presumed by their audience to be objective observers. This, in turn, means that if Fox News can adopt the rhetoric and aesthetic of the alt-right’s bloggers and twitter celebrities, they can retain an audience which would otherwise distrust their well-funded network.

Political leanings, business interests, and news coverage have become thoroughly intertwined. As the campaign, election, and presidency of Trump has proved, ideological beliefs now supercede fact entirely. This new, malleable reality has served him well, and become his primary weapon.


From the infancy of his regime, Trump has maintained a bitter and combative relationship with the press. Some, like Fox & Friends, have become favored pets of the president, gleefully praising the his every decision and only offering soft-handed questions during interviews [19]. But the majority of media outlets fall into the category Trump once described as the “enemy of the people.” The White House has selectively blocked certain journalists from attending briefings, using Sean Spicer as a pouting smokescreen who varyingly avoids questions, feigns outrage to shout down inconvenient topics of conversation, or blatantly lies about the president’s agenda [20]. Outlets preferred by the administration, like the Daily Caller and Breitbart, are given privileged positions and access in White House briefings, ensuring their primacy in reporting daily White House activities [21].

Trump, ever the petulant bully, won’t tolerate being questioned or shamed by the media, and has concluded that any journalist who pens an article critical of his administration is a liar, unworthy of sharing his court. And while he has turned the press pit into a giggling pack of admirers, Trump is also wholly obsessed with cable news; by the estimations of the Washington Post, Trump watches an average of five hours of television per day, a healthy portion of which is dedicated to news networks [22]. He has been filmed fielding questions with a television blaring in the background. He is consumed by his image on social media, live-tweeting regurgitated information from cable news with such frequency that his own staff had to intervene, and curb his time spent in front of a screen [23]. Consequently, Donald Trump is at once both actor and audience, more concerned with his public appearance than with his own administration, more tortured by SNL’s caricature of him than his actual approval ratings [24].

With this obsession comes a dependence on positive news coverage, and “friends” in the industry. He appointed Steve Bannon to his cabinet. He has developed a working relationship with Alex Jones. Fox News has become a state-run media entity, unwilling to question the leader, eager to deliver him the coverage he would prefer, and elevating those commentators who can best defend Trump from criticism. He has also weaponized his presence in the media sphere, as illustrated by his latest outburst against Mika Brzezinski. The president has used his fortified position in the news cycle to keep alive nonsensical claims of voter fraud, wiretapping, and soaring crime rates, all to the benefit of his artificial image as an embattled warrior-king.

This is a twofold system of control. While positive stories and the networks responsible for them are lauded and rewarded, anything negative is chalked up not just to misinformation, but a deliberate, biased conspiracy to unseat the president. He has called himself the victim of a witch hunt, the most unfairly-treated president in history. The cry of “fake news” has eliminated the possibility of rational critique or public discourse. Rather, support for Trump, belief in his lies, and approval of the networks that serve him, are all mutually inclusive for a rightist. To be considered loyal, his devotees must willingly relinquish their grip on reality.

“This is a twofold system of control. While positive stories and the networks responsible for them are lauded and rewarded, anything negative is chalked up not just to misinformation, but a deliberate, biased conspiracy to unseat the president.”

Of course, Trump would be nothing without the emergent alt-right. That movement produced the very kind of immature, malicious, and detached followers who would enthusiastically vote for a belligerent nationalist who cares as little for reality as they do. And in the same way the media was entranced by Trump’s unending font of falsehoods, other outlets became morbidly curious about the alt-right itself. VICE infamously gave a puff-piece interview to white nationalist Richard Spencer, and later to Grant Strobl of the YAF. Mike Cernovich was given a platform by 60 Minutes, with Scott Pelley making the fatal mistake of conducting the interview as though his guest was a garden-variety politician. Bill Maher provided fellow anti-Islam bottom feeder Milo Yiannopoulos with a national audience. Each time these outlets underestimated or humored the alt-right, they bestowed legitimacy upon the movement and its ideology.

On the other side of this bellicose, self-serving dynamic is Trump’s fundamental need for an adversary. He does not function well as a lone public figure; he has only managed to appear momentarily cogent during speeches aided by a teleprompter [24]. But from the chants of “lock her up” to his missile strike against Syria, Trump has captivated his audience when he has a distinct enemy, a phantom threat with which to entrance his supporters and rile them up. His “American carnage” speech drew riotous applause from a crowd of onlookers, describing the nation as an apocalyptic wasteland terrorized by enemies both foreign and domestic, a nation he would redeem by unilateral force.

And so now, when Trump’s administration is floundering in the midst of scandal, gridlock, and backroom mobster politics, Trump is once again looking for any victory, against any enemy. He is in a state of susceptible frustration, a dangerous set of circumstances for the anti-establishment forces building in the streets. He made a spectacle of the resignation of three CNN journalists following a botched story regarding the Russia investigation [25]. Just recently, the president was loudly beating his chest over the passing of Kate’s Law, an anti-immigrant measure disguised as concern for the citizenry, born from the same racist fearmongering that used to win him standing ovations at campaign rallies [26].

The violence which drenches Trump’s daily rhetoric has undeniably fueled the heightened state of social division we see today. In one of his earliest rallies, he openly wished physical pain on his detractors, and encouraged his followers to take out their aggression on protesters. This month, he blithely released a video in which he beats an effigy of CNN itself. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement condemning this blatant demonization of journalists, warning that this kind of behavior contributed to a culture of permissiveness towards persecution and hatred of the press. The CPJ, incidentally, received $50k as part of a settlement from Rep. Greg Gianforte, who assaulted a journalist as punishment for asking too many questions.

So what will happen when Trump fully digests the message of the now well-known NRA video, which makes a blanket statement encouraging lethal violence against leftists? What will he do if he recognizes that the far-Right has increasingly become the true driving force behind his administration, and adopts more of their rhetoric and perceptions?

Portland’s Multnomah County Republican Party (MCRP) has approved a resolution allowing them to recruit volunteers from the Oath Keepers and III% militia to act as private security for their rallies, two groups which have already formed a bond with militarily-minded elements in the alt-right. If this draws public support from the right, what if Trump decides to harness that enthusiasm for himself? [27]

If his addiction to cable news, now parasitized by alt-right bloggers and twitter celebrities, leads Trump to believe he’ll get some easy points for standing up to “leftist thugs,” how far would he go in order to reestablish his cultivated image as an iron-fisted hero of the people? What price might we pay for the satisfaction of his infantile ego?


We arrive at the conclusion that the media cannot be considered a backdrop of American culture, mere scribes keeping a record of wins and losses. Rather, the channels by which daily events are brought to the people are, themselves, an integral part of this cultural conflict.

Fox News and various affiliates of the rightist media network are not interested in coverage for the sake of posterity or analysis. They function exclusively as stenographers and propagandists, keeping a not-insignificant portion of the population captive in a narrative which distorts fact to justify intolerable conditions. We live in a world where the police, vigilantes, paramilitaries, and alt-right street preachers are working to create the necessary atmosphere of a fascist regime: the strangulation of journalism, extrajudicial punishment of political opponents, and the targeted oppression of leftists [28]. Fox News will dedicate no time to these developments, instead letting Ann Coulter conjure fears of a terrorist menace that nobody can actually define.

This is why revolutionary media sources are absolutely vital to the antifascist movement. Across the globe, those who have already fought this war on multiple fronts have offered their words, footage, and analysis through the internet. From both coasts, our comrades have developed their own platforms and shared their resources in the chronicling of America’s slow, bloody downfall. Social media amplification has allowed those voices most oppressed by the state, and least represented by corporate media entities, to find one another.

“The alt-right is so polluted with self-invested leeches that they have repeatedly been fooled into making large donations to imaginary causes, showing up en masse for Antifa rallies that never existed, betrayed by their own factionalism.”

We are flawed creatures. Bias will exist in any form of human record-keeping. But in the ecosystem of journalism, the largest fish in the water have become a massive, monopolistic empire of party-approved news coverage. The monoliths of MSNBC, CNN, and Fox cannot possibly understand, nor do they intend to acknowledge, the antifascist movement, except as a means of ratings, ad revenue, and political fodder for their loyal fans. Their coverage will be exclusively manipulative and opportunistic, if it happens at all.

It is critical to keep abreast of all three fronts in the media conflict: the revolutionary, the mainstream, and the fascistic. We have already seen the true nature of shiftless creeps like Jack Posobiec and Baked Alaska. The alt-right is so polluted with self-invested leeches that they have repeatedly been fooled into making large donations to imaginary causes, showing up en masse for Antifa rallies that never existed, betrayed by their own factionalism. But some of these voices are also calling for unification of the fascist right, chiefly by way of a street war against leftists. Conservative news sources seem to agree, in some capacity. The president himself, consciously or not, is adding fuel to this fire.

Control of the press was crucial to the birth of fascism in Europe. Both Italy and Germany maintained a firm hold on newspapers, suppressing subversive articles and broadcasting their own propaganda through statist publications. During the early 1930s, the American press failed catastrophically in registering the graveness of the events unfolding in Italy and Germany. Newspapers credited Mussolini with “rescuing” Italy from leftism. Some journalists theorized that in gaining power, Hitler would accidentally expose his own ineptitude, awakening the German public to the irrationality of his beliefs. A CBS reporter’s son was beaten by brownshirts for not showing the Fuehrer proper respect; the father chose not to report the incident [29].

When American journalist Dorothy Thompson interviewed Adolf Hitler in 1931, she regarded him as an incoherent, politically illiterate firebrand, and little more [30]. By 1935, she had realized her mistake:

“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument of the Incorporated National Will. When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.”



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Chronicling the radical struggle in the central region of so-called America.

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