Filed under: Analysis, Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, Featured, The State, US
“It’s a cynical world, I’m a nihilist.” – Mike Cernovich, 2017
“Ah ha. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” – John Lydon, 1978
On November 4th, permitted and non-disruptive anti-Trump protests took place across the US, just as the organizers of Refuse Fascism, a front group for the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), said they would.
The event were marketed as the start of a mass movement, (which never materialized), to drive the Trump administration from power by holding daily demonstrations, although attendees were instructed not to camp out. But as the day of the demonstrations grew closer, the media began to pick up that on the Right, there was a growing sense that something much different was going to happen. Starting from a series of viral videos and then being picked up by InfoWars and other conspiracy peddlers, a range of randos and pundits all argued that ‘antifa’ were planning a civil war on November 4th, and would be specifically targeting and attacking Trump supporters and white people in general.
congrats to those who bought $2000 in tiger repellant & havent been attacked by one tiger today. we beat those striped motherfuckers pic.twitter.com/Dy0ys5TtR2
— TORMABLAS PICKASDFJKLFDSNMKOFDSJ (@Tormny_Pickeals) November 4, 2017
Lost on essentially everyone of course, was that the messaging and “strategy” (completely non-existent) of the demonstrations were exactly the same as the last official Refuse Fascism protests that took place in July, when the group called on people to “Drive Out the Trump Regime,” with similar non-disruptive marches. And, much as with liberal organized pro-Impeachment marches that happened only a few days before, Refuse Fascism events were met with far-Right counter-protesters including heavily armed militia groups and Alt-Right trolls, as InfoWars pumped up fears of a “Summer of Rage,” funded by George Soros and directed by the Democratic Party.
Ironically, despite the very routine rallies and marches which took place across the US on November 4th, which saw slightly larger crowd sizes than the July demonstrations, (turnouts ranged as low as 45 in Austin to upwards of 1,000 in Los Angeles, with most cities seeing several hundred demonstrators), it was groups on the Right which failed to show up in any real way. In fact, outside of Austin, which saw a united front of both militia members, Trump supporters, and neo-Nazi groups, by and large only handfuls of counter-demonstrators were seen out in support of their favorite billionaire.
— Kit O'Connell (@KitOConnell) November 6, 2017
Thus, despite white nationalist social media celebrities like Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman attempting to ‘go undercover’ at the protests and a barrage of people posting photos of their guns in the lead up to the event implying that they would be ‘intervening’ in some way, a force of “Patriots” and Trump supporters never materialized. Regardless, this didn’t stop Alt-Lite pundits like Jack Posobiec from claiming that ‘antifa’ had ‘cucked out,’ or InfoWars from declaring ‘victory’ against an insurgent civil war that they had made up in the first place.
Unsurprisingly in this context, the neo-Nazi group “Patriot Front,” which contained many of the same people that attended the deadly Unite the Right demonstration in Charlottesville, VA, held yet another tiki torch photo op at an Austin University the night before November 4th, and followed up the next day with a short rally outside of Monkey Wrench Books, an anarchist bookstore. Clearly, just as before with the pro-Trump and “Free Speech” rallies, neo-Nazis and white supremacists were using the space created by InfoWars and ‘Patriot’ groups to position themselves as part of a united front, against the Left.
Deprived of any sort of conflict on the streets on November 4th that they could inject their punditry into, far-Right trolls the next day instead seized onto a horrific church shooting in a small Texas town. Using the same exact narrative, that ‘antifa’ were going to start a civil war and target white conservatives, far-Right and Alt-Lite pundits simply moved their target from the November 4th protests to the Texas shooting. In doing so, from the lowly 4chan trolls to Alex Jones himself, the Right exposed themselves once again as a group of charlatans whose only card left to play was to lie to their own base.
As ridiculous as it seems, this is quite simply the latest chapter in a long, long saga.
From the ‘Summer of Rage’ to Charlottesville
Much has already been written by a variety of journalists about fake news and misinformation that was produced in the wake of the Texas shooting by the far-Right in order to connect it to antifa. At the time of this writing, even Fox News has published an article which states that there are no links between the shooter and the antifascist movement. Instead of simply repeating all of the facts already covered in the likes of Buzzfeed, MIC, Salon, Newsweek, and Right Wing Watch, it’s important to go back to the summer, and see how the attempt to connect ‘antifa’ to ‘something bad,’ first evolved into the monster that it is today.
In the lead up to both a previous Refuse Fascism day of action on July 15th, ‘Drive Out the Trump Regime’ and calls for pro-Impeachment marches by liberal groups on July 2nd, InfoWars argued that a “Summer of Rage” was brewing. Back in June, The Grouch wrote:
The world famous mouth breathers and dingleberries at InfoWars and Breitbart have been hard at work coming up with a new fake news threat for the far-Right to beat off to. Get ready, for the Summer of Rage!
That’s right, the Summer of Rage, brought to you by….the Democratic Party!
According to InfoWars: “The establishment media is fanning the flames by portraying Trump as illegitimate. This could be the flashpoint that brings about a violent coup in America. Leftist demonstrators are also set to attend summer “resistance camps” generously funded by the DNC where they will learn tactics to prolong the “resistance” to Trump that began on November 9.”
As ‘evidence,’ they then link to a Breitbart article.
Of course, the reality behind Breitbart’s DNC “resistance camps,” was that the DNC was organizing an actual campaign entitled “Resistance Summer,” that was more about activating the same people that were bummed that Bernie had been pushed out of the DNC and getting them ready for the primaries, than anything close to rioting. By all accounts, this push is also going horribly, as people hate the Democrats almost as much as Trump. But regardless of reality, InfoWars continued to harp on the idea that not only was George Soros and the DNC funding riots and revolution, but that specifically they were going to launch a violent revolt to overthrow the Trump Administration in July.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 3, 2017
When protests on July 2nd and 15th came, the Right was ready, and a collection of Alt-Right trolls, ‘Based Stickmen,’ and militia members showed up to counter protest, often while carrying automatic weapons and clad in ‘Stickman’ fighting gear. As we wrote in late July:
[B]oth during liberal impeachment rallies and on July 15th during RefuseFascism.org marches, members of the far-Right, militias, and the Alt-Right came out to counter-rally, harass, and at times, attempt to block, anti-Trump protest events. Police in all of these instances largely did nothing but protect those on the far-Right and allowed them to harass and intimidate demonstrators, often while armed.
Both Refuse Fascism and the impeachment marches came and went in July, with groups of several hundred taking part across the US. No riots took place, and the only reported violence came from the Right, who showed up often heavily armed, and in some cases started fights with demonstrators.
Militia members police a Refuse Fascism protest on July 15th in Ohio
It’s important to stop here and look at how the narrative has changed since the summer. Back then, it was still a smart move to appear to want to support Trump from outside forces controlled by shadowy puppet masters, whereas now the narrative has changed yet again to instead be against shadowy forces that are attempting to attack broad sections of the population; sectors that are falling away from Trump and the far-Right no longer feels it has access to. Thus by painting social movements as enemies of ordinary people, the Right can then position themselves as their protectors.
The big reason this has changed, is Charlottesville.
From Unite the Right to Las Vegas
As soon as Trump came into office, the grassroots Right mobilized to defend him, and in doing so, helped grow a street coalition that included the Alt-Right, the militia movement, the Alt-Lite, and Deplorable Trump supporters which hit the streets on March 4th in support of Trump. In some cities, as as in Huntington Beach, CA, neo-Nazis were filmed brutally beating counter demonstrators, and in April, intense clashes broke out in Berkeley between members of the Alt-Right and antifascists.
Soon, the demonstrations in support of Trump soon grew into “Free Speech” rallies, and began to take on a much different, and much more political character, as Alt-Right and neo-Nazi speakers such as Lauren Southern and Baked Alaska began to share the stage with Trump supporters, surrounded and protected by militia members and Alt-Lite crews like the Proud Boys.
It’s important here to also appreciate the trajectory of these events, which began as a means of “defense” of Trump, but then were organized as a way of obscuring Alt-Right participation as well as projecting victimhood of supposed rights and freedoms being taken away. Now the Right has taken things a stop farther, and has started to project an association onto their supposed enemy, as rallies against “Marxism” and “Communism” have begun to proliferate.
But still, many on the Right could see that the common thread of support for Trump was leading to diminishing returns, and sought to create an exit strategy. Unite the Right in Charlottesville was one such attempt, and it attempted to push the Alt-Right into a place of leadership, with the rest of the far-Right marching behind it’s banner. But despite many Proud Boys and militia groups taking part in the demonstration, it failed to do any uniting, and instead made the Alt-Lite and militia factions distance themselves from white nationalism. In the aftermath, Alt-Lite mainstays like The Rebel Media fell apart, as many within the Alt-Right itself were driven from their jobs, off social media platforms, and often lost their ability to fundraise. Charlottesville signaled the beginning of the end of the Alt-Right’s attempt at rebranding white nationalism, and eventually led to a schism between the neo-Nazis in the Nationalist Front, and those associated with Richard Spencer, thus killing it’s trajectory of growth that began during the 2016 Trump campaign.
But times were tough all over, especially for Alt-Lite figures that had long attempted to feed off the energy of the Alt-Right, but never fully accepted it’s entire ideological package. But then, a Trump supporting multimillionaire killed almost 60 people in Las Vegas.
“I have something horrible to say,” Gavin McInnes, the Vice co-founder-turned-“alt-lite”-rabble-rouser, told viewers of his daily video rant, Get Off My Lawn, on Tuesday. “Something sick and wrong.”
“I thought, yesterday, ‘Oh, good!’” McInnes said. “Sorry, I know it’s a horrible word to use in such a catastrophe. But I thought, ‘The narrative may have switched now. Right-wingers are no longer the murderers of Heather Heyer. Now we’re the victims of Stephen Paddock.’”
After Charlottesville laid bare the violent consequences of all their blather about “white genocide” and the “death of the West,” the counter-narrative of a murderously intolerant “alt-left” took flight—and was soon being used by alt-liters to characterize the whole liberal movement. Nobody was more invested in that Orwellian inversion of truth than McInnes, whose Proud Boys had initiated the organizer of the fateful Unite the Right rally. (McInnes claimed this was part of a plot to “infiltrate” the group, and repeatedly insisted that he had “disavowed” the event beforehand, though the Proud Boys’ “tactical defense arm,” the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights, certainly showed up in force, along with a fair number of Proud Boys.)
Now, with no motive immediately apparent, the murder of 59 country music fans offered a golden opportunity to ramp up the argument that the left is violently targeting white people. Reports that indicated Paddock had considered other targets with very different crowds, including a festival headlined by Chance the Rapper the previous weekend, were beside the point. So was the untidy fact that the shooter himself, like most mass murderers, was white himself.
But the Las Vegas shooting was more than simply a way to push Charlottesville out of the news, it was also an opportunity. And so, those on the far-Right began a campaign to link Paddock in Las Vegas to antifa, despite the fact that he was in fact a Trump supporter himself. From Metro:
This Las Vegas shooting conspiracy theory claims that, despite the inability of the country’s Democrats and Republicans to work together on the most basic of issues, three separate groups of people — Antifa, ISIS and the “deep state” — managed to conspire together to bring about the horrific mass shooting.
From the beginning, Jones asserted that the FBI “found Antifa information in the room and photos of the women in the Middle East…There was Antifa crap everywhere,” before changing the story, or expanding it to include other players. He invited Internet personality and right-winger Laura Loomer onto his show to discuss the Las Vegas shooting and quickly adopted some of her claims.
Loomer discussed how she believes Paddock and ISIS were linked, telling Jones “I think that this guy is a hardcore leftist with Antifa connections who became radicalized through ISIS.” She said, “You see a lot of these leftists who are embracing Islam.”
Loomer, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a follower of James O’Keefe, a conservative political activist with unusual methods. Loomer and Jack Posobiec interrupted a performance of Julius Caesar in New York, which the YouTuber who posted the disruption dubbed “The Trump Assassination Play.” “You are inciting terrorists!” was one of the chosen verbal attacks lobbed by Posobiec during the interruption.
The video clip with Jones and Paul Watson below shows this in full detail. In the clip, Jones claims he has been texted by a law enforcement officer and states that there is proof that there was ‘antifa crap’ all over the shooter’s room, and then proceeds to delete the text in order to protect his source.
Jones and other InfoWars hosts would go on to then argue that the shooting signaled something larger: the ‘October Revolution,’ which was presented as an attempted Communist takeover of the US. As we wrote in early October:
On the morning of October 2nd, Alex Jones continued the time honored tradition of far-Right trolls recording videos while they drive. In his video, he weaved a tangled web of conspiracy theories and attempted to link both social movements, the ongoing #TakeAKnee protests, ISIS, and ‘globalist’ elites together into one meta-narrative, along with his conception that an “October Revolution,” or civil war, is starting. Another InfoWars host, David Knight, echoed these sentiments, calling the shooting in Las Vegas a false flag designed to take guns away from US citizens, and bring in a second Bolshevik revolution.
Trolls on sites like 4chan or with The Gateway Pundit continued this trajectory:
[T]rolls on 4chan were ultimately the most successfully, as they reported shortly after the shooting that they had “found the killer” on various Instagram and Facebook accounts. Unsurprisingly, these ‘suspects’ were also liberals or Leftists, and were thus used by trolls to promote a far-Right narrative surrounding the Vegas shooting.
Taking this information from /pol/, conspiracy hack blog The Gateway Pundit, home to such Alt-Lite writers as Lucian Wintrich, ran with the story that liberal Geary Danley was in fact the shooter, and drew attention to the fact that Danley belonged to a series of anti-Trump groups on Facebook.
In all of these examples, a clear pattern emerges that we will see later against after the Texas shooting. This includes a rush to hijack the narrative, mainly through the quick viral spreading of false information on social media, the sharing of blog posts that include doctored photos, and also the feeding of journalists over platforms like Twitter obvious false information that misdirects reporters.
These smaller actions undertaken by trolls, are then rebroadcast on a much larger platform when they land on Alex Jones’ desk and are then shared by Alt-Lite media celebrities, and over and over again seek to establish a connection between social movements and horrific acts of murder and terror. In this way, even if one certain story or fact is shown to be untrue or contradicts another, largely it doesn’t matter. What matters is that at the end of the day, the idea that autonomous and grassroots social movements are not only controlled by the elites, but that they are carrying out acts of terror and intend to harm the public, is disseminated and planted in the minds of enough of the population for it to stick.
We see the fruit of this labor in the conspiracy surrounding November 4th, as well as the attempt to shift the same narrative onto the events in Texas.
From Civil War to Texas Shooting
In many ways, the hype of the November 4th Civil War conspiracy theory is different from previous ones, in that it was rocketed into the mainstream largely by forces outside InfoWars. As Blake Montgomery of Buzzfeed noted:
Jordan Peltz, who works for the private company US Warrant Service, posted a video to his YouTube channel in late September warning of an upcoming civil war. The video has been reposted and viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
As InfoWars began to heavily promote it, the hoax soon took on a life of it’s own, and Alex Jones told millions of viewers that ‘antifa’ would attack police and elected officials in an attempt to start a civil war. But beyond claiming that a political insurrection was brewing, many on the Right stated that broad sections of the population were also threatened, including just simply, “white people.”
But with November 4th failing to produce anything tangible that would feed into their narrative, many on the far-Right simply switched from playing up fears of protests to claiming that ‘antifa’ had in fact ‘cucked.’
It should also be noted, that in numerous interviews both IGD and well as often referenced speakers and writers within the antifascist and anarchist movement were very clear that November 4th was not connected to ‘antifa,’ and that it was simply a protest organized by, Refuse Fascism. When Mark Bray was asked about what November 4th was on VICE, he responded: “It’s Saturday.”
Oh good, a Texas congressman just said on CNN that SAM HYDE was the church shooter. pic.twitter.com/2iFauUjJTz
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) November 5, 2017
But after the marchers had gone home on November 4th, on November 5th as soon as the news hit of the shooting, the far-Right began pushing the narrative that the murderer was an antifascist. While a massive amount of articles have already tracked the spread of the conspiracy theory from start to finish, as people within the movements that the far-Right seeks to attack, we should be especially clear about one thing: those that seek to manipulate and deceive their base, don’t care about them. Meaning, the far-Right sees working-class white Americans as money signs, votes, and social media followers, not as compatriots or even just people that shouldn’t be lied to.
But the question remains, how do we show that to people?
We have to ask ourselves how we can combat the spread of fake far-Right conspiracy theories on social media, especially among populations that get what little news they do receive through memes and viral videos.
Do we slog it out on social media? Do we make our own videos and memes? Do we create pro-Trump accounts just to share IGD links and Submedia videos? Or do we instead continue to focus on working in our communities, making real relationships with people and hope that these can overcome the bullshit? In truth, it’s all of these things, but we especially need to understand that particularly poor and working class people are the easiest targets for this click-bait bullshit. If we are going to counter it, especially online, we need to make our counter-info accessible and readable. Meanwhile offline, we need to have a presence in these communities, sharing information and resources, and providing real alternatives.
We should also remember that there is no reason to believe that any of this is going to stop based on logic or actual facts presented. In just the last year and a half, members of far-Right, militia, and white nationalist groups have attempted to blow up a mosque and a apartment complex housing refugees in Kansas, tried to blow up a bank in Oklahoma city, and been shown to be making plans online to attack protesters at demonstrations and blow up buildings along with critical infrastructure. To speak of “rising Left wing violence” is completely absurd, but it’s not like the facts actually matter to these people. Meanwhile, in the wake of the Texas shooting, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes told his followers to prepare for ‘Civil War,’ and Alex Jones argued that ‘antifa’ and ‘the media’ gave the killer permission to kill. In short, expect more of the same, with continued calls for further violence from the Right, specially against the Left and social movements.
The other important question is, why was there more build up around the November 4th hoax but less far-Right activists on the ground? Why did we see more Alt-Right trolls and militia types out in July, but not in November? It seems across the board, that far-Right street protest movements are winding down. In the Alt-Right, some pundits are arguing that people should stop holding public rallies altogether. Meanwhile, support for Trump continues to wane, while across the far-Right, a thread of any possible unity has largely been broken.
This is where understanding the importance of the November 4th hoax, along with the ‘Summer of Rage’ and the ‘October Revolution,’ becomes crucial. The importance is not in mobilizing bodies to get out into the street, but in normalizing who is an enemy, and who is not. Moreover, this helps grease the wheels for actual attempts at repression from the State, which we are seeing currently with the labeling of Black Lives Matter as ‘Black Identity Extremists,’ and Water Protectors, antifascists, and anarchists as domestic terrorists.
The best way to fight back against this normalization is to normalize instead resistance, and moreover to support and expand those movements that are facing repression, from Standing Rock to DC.