On Cryptofascism: The Fracturing of the Alt-Right & the GOP

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“In Roy Moore, we can see a reflection of Bannon’s own political ideology. Bannon believes that there is a cultural war between those of the Christian faith, and the combined forces of progressivism and Islam that seek to unmake Western civilization.”

It would be presumptuous to say that the Alt-Right is “dead.” The movement itself is so elastic in nature, and so diffuse in its structure, that a definitive “death” is unlikely to occur at all. However, it is evident that as of the eighth month of the Trump presidency, fascists in so-called America are scattered and in retreat. The Alt-Right name has lost whatever prestige it earned for installing a dictatorial oaf as the president, and white nationalism has been recognized as a genuine threat by a growing percentage of the population. Without question, the faction of the Alt-Right which planned for a rebirth of outright Nazism has failed; the swastika flag, the Roman salute, and the rhetoric of ethnic cleansing are too overtly grotesque to win widespread support.

The antifascist movement has ascended in America, having recognized the threat of neo-fascism early. Thus far, the fascist right has been unable to hold its ground against the multitude of comrades who have chosen to confront the far-right directly. In practically every instance of dueling protests and street conflicts, antifascists have soundly defeated the opposition through numbers, tactical advantage, and willpower. But smashing one Proud Boy’s hands does nothing to quell the movement that spawned him, nor does it address the larger American superstructure which, ultimately, has been drifting towards fascism for decades. Behind the blatant ugliness of the TWP and assorted blackshirts, which any citizen can recognize, the neo-fascist movement is surviving with carefully-crafted language, which can simultaneously shun neo-Nazism while maintaining the exact same ideological principles.

Following their failure in Charlottesville, the outwardly fascist factions of the Alt-Right have splintered and turned on one another. But the serpent of neo-fascism has slithered back into the shadows, where its message can be reformulated for mass consumption yet again. Throughout the year, we have watched as the Alt-Right has generated false propaganda, invented fake antifascist groups, and staged crimes in order to defame the antifa movement. They have repeatedly reorganized and renamed their composite groups, trying to choreograph a PR-friendly movement that can appeal to a majority of Americans, without sounding too close to an excerpt of Mein Kampf. Fascists have learned the hard way that they cannot win by direct means. Now, as the Republican party follows suit and fragments over Trump’s presidency, neo-fascists might have another chance at victory with the reentry of Steve Bannon, the man who arguably bears the most responsibility for bringing Alt-Right politics into the mainstream.

This essay will examine the ways in which fascist ideology can be injected into public discourse, the fissures forming throughout the American right-wing, and the possibility that even though the Alt-Right has crumbled, its message will live on in modern politics for years to come.

PROPAGANDA AND HISTORICAL REVISIONISM

Early in the year, antifascists were confronted with a slew of artificial antifa chapters popping up on social media channels. It was no real challenge to spot them; their sloppy mimicry of leftist rhetoric never seemed to hit the ear quite right. With the introduction of the Antifa Checker twitter profile and a bit of public awareness, the threat of these phony chapters was minimized – at least, to initiated antifascists. The real purpose of these honeypots was not to distract leftists, but rather to cast a negative light on the antifascist movement as a whole via sensationalist media attention. It worked to a certain degree, but was eventually exposed by more thorough journalists – BuzzFeed, for instance, unpacked the activity of the “Official Antifa” twitter account which claimed responsibility for a photograph of antisemitic graffiti on headstones (actually lifted from an incident in France from 2004) [1]. Ironically, one of the only people to buy into the propaganda was Jack Posobiec, himself the perpetrator of the outrageous “R*pe Melania sign” hoax.

The labor of these ankle-biting trolls has sometimes bled into the material world. The most humorous instance was the fake Sam Houston rally, started by an Alt-Right goon posing as the non-existent “Texas Antifa” chapter. The result was that several hundred neo-Confederates, militiamen, and assorted far-Right bootlickers converged to fight an enemy which never materialized, after shelling out thousands of their own dollars for supply donations and travel arrangements, all of which actually went into the perpetrator’s pockets. An image of a fake antifa poster calling for the murder of white children was circulated so many times that Snopes had to produce a page debunking the obvious hoax. Jesse Watters of Fox News, proving just how little investigative capability it takes to be called a “journalist,” was tricked into hosting a troll posing as a member of Boston Antifa, another fake chapter. Heat Street fed a manufactured story about antifascist calls for indiscriminate violence directly to Fox News.

Despite limited success, the Alt-Right hasn’t given up the tactic of plastering false propaganda anywhere it can, hoping to delegitimize antifascism and vilify its supporters. 4chan produced a series of memes suggesting that antifascists were encouraging domestic abuse against white women. A particularly hackish propagandist claimed to have found a copy of the “Antifa Manual,” posting pictures of the elaborate prop to Facebook, complete with a Hollywood-esque coffee stain on the front page. Joshua Witt of Colorado publicized his account of being stabbed by an antifascist for having a “nazi hair cut,” only to be arrested when it was revealed he’d staged the attack himself. Most recently, Kyle Chapman attempted to spread the rumor that a woman had been stabbed by antifascists during Ben Shapiro’s visit to Berkeley, a hoax so blatant that even the Berkeley Police stepped in to refute it on twitter [2]. It is nonetheless being repeated as fact by Alt-Right social media accounts.

Overall, these attempts to discredit the antifascist movement have been unsuccessful. They represent the crudest and most desperate tactics available to reactionaries, and while they gain traction with those already predisposed towards hating leftists, those outside the Trump-supporter camp remain unconvinced. Additionally, it seems that members of the Alt-Right have forgotten that if they publish their false-flag masterplans to the internet, literally everybody can see it, and thus many have fizzled before they even started.

However, two forms of fascist apologism have gained mainstream momentum. First is the trend of historical revisionism, as epitomized by Dinesh D’Souza, who published his book “The Big Lie” as an account of how Naziism actually rose out of far-leftist ideology. Thankfully for the rest of us, Mark Bray, author of “Antifa: the Antifascist Handbook,” read through D’Souza’s work and published a brief review. In his book, D’Souza retreads the well-worn myth that the Nazi party was a socialist and, therefore, a leftist one – an easy mistake, for any numbskull naive enough to take Adolph-fucking-Hitler at his word. In his rebuttal, Bray cuts to the chase:

“The Big Lie reads like an Alt-Right wiki where FDR was “our first Duce or führer,” Planned Parenthood is worse than Nazi eugenics, George Soros bankrolls the entire left, and slavery and indigenous genocide in the Americas, which began 500 years ago, were the sole responsibility of the Democratic Party. This from a writer who blamed 9/11 on liberals. D’Souza insists that there had been a vast societal conspiracy for generations to keep all of this a secret… until his book came out.

So why pay attention to this terrible book? Because its warped perspectives are indicative of a growing portion of conservative public opinion  for such notions can only be held as opinions, not facts — that aims to destabilize and rewrite history in order to delegitimize the historically-based claims of the left. If Black Lives Matter turns to slavery and Jim Crow to argue that the United States has a white supremacist history, the right can take D’Souza’s lead by blaming everything on the Democratic Party while revering the “Republican heroine, Harriet Tubman”…

But D’Souza is not alone in promoting one-dimensional interpretations of fascism. As the past year’s news cycles show, conservative and liberal pundits often equate disruptive protest tactics with the methods of the Nazi Brownshirts. By letting that single aspect of fascism stand in for the rest, commentators have fallaciously argued that the anti-fascists, or antifa, who have challenged the growth of explicitly white supremacist politics since Trump’s election are the real fascists, or the “alt-left.”” ~ Mark Bray [3]

This revisionist trend is a much more effective tool than poorly-mimicked antifascist posters. Because it couches itself in the trappings of historical authority, it can be publicly presented as an intelligent talking point. It reverses the polarity on public discourse, allowing the far-right to liberate itself from its association with the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville; those violent bigots, they can claim, are actually the ideological descendants of leftists. It’s not Identity Evropa, an explicitly white supremacist and fascistic organization, that should be castigated, but rather the Democratic Socialists of America, who share a political nomenclature with the Nazi Party, though they share absolutely none of its features. It only hangs together if the listener is willing to ignore the actual history of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, two undeniably conservative and right-wing regimes which protected private property, upheld capitalist interests, exalted patriarchy, rejected the idea of democracy, and imprisoned their leftist political opponents.

Revisionism is also more effective as political ammunition: the entire pro-Confederate bloc bases its identity in a falsified version of American history. Not only does revisionism provide a cover for overtly white supremacist views, but it also allows for the most toxic elements of American society to be enshrined rather than eliminated. As we know, the bulk of Confederate monuments erected in the United States appeared long after the Civil War itself, with two major spikes in production occurring during the Reconstruction and Civil Rights movement [4]. The battle flag flown over the South Carolina state house, supposedly an emblem of the “brave” men who fought and died for the sanctity of “state’s rights,” was hoisted in 1961, as a direct statist opposition to black liberation. Yet rightists have responded to the tearing down of Confederate monuments by comparing antifascists to ISIS, while elevating their defense of the Slavocracy legacy as a proud American heritage. Again, the patriarchal, religiously-fortified, terroristic, pro-slavery attitudes of both ISIS and the Confederacy are presented as entirely different cultural trends, while “breaking statues and wearing black” is submitted as some kind of connecting thread between ISIS and antifa.

Harebrained 4chan memes can be identified by anybody, but revisionism can inform the decisions of an entire state government. If fascism can be spun as a left-wing anomaly, gullible conservatives will take the bait and applaud while their government persecutes the antifascist movement, a clear instance of the state arranging its laws to quash public dissent. Anti-masking laws are suddenly being strictly enforced. New Jersey was the first state to declare antifascism a terrorist organization, and the far-right has crowed about that success ever since.

The second form of successful fascist camouflage is a reframing of the struggle against fascism itself. This has already emerged in numerous forms throughout the discourse of the right, the center, and liberal bloc, in articles and think pieces that lay the blame for the continued violence of the right at the doorstep of antifascists themselves. This underhanded interpretation of the growing conflict remains the most ubiquitous form of fascist apologism, and one of the fascist movement’s greatest assets. No matter how vicious and murderous the Alt-Right has become, the majority of MSM outlets have found ways to accuse leftists of starting this new wave of street violence on a whim. According to FAIR, in the month after the murder of Heather Heyer and the attempted lynching of Deandre Harris, the most widely-circulated papers in America spent as much time condemning antifascists as they did the white nationalists responsible for the death and bloodshed of that day:

“A month after a leftist protester was killed by a self-professed neo-Nazi, it’s notable that a slim majority of opinion in major newspapers focused on those devoted to combating racism rather than to those advancing it. Bear in mind that one side  kills more people than any other ideology in the country and openly promotes genocide, while the other supports aggressive tactics to prevent the promotion of genocide, and hasn’t killed anyone. As FAIR has noted before, the media’s “both sides” fetish is uniquely unsuited for the Trump era, and their peculiar evenhandedness in the wake of Charlottesville illustrates this with stark clarity.

With a major publication like Politico expressly telling its reporters to avoid criticism of “physical attacks on journalists and white supremacy” on social media—so as to not appear “partisan” — one is compelled to ask, of what use is the pretense of “objectivity”? In an attempt to balance the scale, the media put their thumb on it, overemphasizing the threat of antifa while playing down an emerging far right that, in addition to having just killed someone, is in tacit alliance with the most powerful man on earth.” [5]

This reframing mechanism, dedicating a larger portion of media criticism towards the antifascist movement and thereby equivocating it with fascists, can even be weaponized and deliberately employed to take heat off of the fascist movement. The widely-circulated petition to label antifascists as a terrorist organization – a laughable notion for more reasons than one – is acknowledged by its own author as an effort to hijack the discussion around antifa participants:

“Microchip is an online provocateur who is routinely kicked off Twitter and claims to direct legions of automated bot accounts. He said getting conservatives to share and discuss the petition is the entire point, and not to prompt concrete action by the government. He called the petition “a waste of time” but a useful distraction from recent infighting among conservative factions.

He created the petition on Aug. 17, the day after Trump made controversial remarks in which he blamed “both sides” after white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville. Microchip told POLITICO he wrote it with the explicit intent of stoking conservative rage and forcing the GOP establishment to take a stand or risk becoming targets themselves. “It was to bring our broken right side together” after Charlottesville, he said, “and prop up antifa as a punching bag. So the narrative changed from ‘I hate myself because we have neo-Nazis on our side’ to ‘I really hate antifa, let’s get along and tackle the terrorists,’” he explained.” [6]

“FREE SPEECH” AND THE FASCIST CREEP

Prior to the large-scale spread of antifascism in the US, the Alt-Right had already gained cultural influence by infiltrating college campuses across the country. Most memorably, it was College Republicans who paired with the Alt-Right to platform their speakers, advance an ur-fascist agenda, and combat social progressivism in youth culture. Other groups, like Turning Point and the YAF, lent a hand by inviting similarly reactionary speakers who attracted different strains of conservatism and libertarianism, and commingled them under a larger banner. It was a product the same admixture of “satirical” social transgression and deliberate opposition to human equality which had birthed GamerGate, the pseudo-ideological swamp which allowed “alt-lite” celebrities like Milo Yiannopoulos to achieve cultural significance by simply vomiting as many bigoted remarks as they could think up. What probably never occurred to most of Milo’s 18-22-year-old college demographic, as they listened to his rambling diatribes on why feminists are ugly and how white people “invented all the good shit” in the world, was that their gleeful rejection of social equality was also a hallmark of fascism: the open disdain of human rights.

Among the defining features of fascism examined by both Umberto Eco and Lawrence Britt, we find that practically all of them were already finding an audience during 2014; a disregard for civil rights, a culture of mass elitism, and rampant sexism to name a few. Even lowly GamerGate, the vehicle of Milo’s popularity, contained the raw material of a fascist movement: an explicitly anti-female reaction to a previously male-dominated space, which gradually fused with white supremacist and cishetero supremacist rhetoric in a total rejection of modernity and human equality. It disguised itself with the memorable, and laughable, motif of “ethics in journalism,” conveniently eschewing the fact that the movement itself had been born from deliberately engineered rumors around game developer Zoe Quinn.

As Milo graduated from internet ur-fascism to the main stage, so too did collegiate cryptofascism. Surrounding the campaign of Donald Trump was a circus of college conservative groups which boosted his image, encouraged his nationalistic ideology, and in the case of Charlie Kirk, worked directly with the campaign to attract college-age voters. Others, like the Berkeley chapter of the College Republicans, had already been sheltering white nationalists in their ranks, and merely needed a broader coalition to work with. The SPLC would eventually publish a lengthy article examining the burgeoning presence of the Alt-Right on campuses, as the newfound enthusiasm of white supremacists spilled into the open:

“On the day Donald Trump was elected president, students at the University of Central Florida awoke to find posters of white men and women with the headline, “We Have a Right to Exist.” Distributed by Vanguard America, one of several new hate groups active on U.S. campuses, it claims nonwhite immigrants are causing “the genocide of our people.” Its posters read: “Imagine a Muslim Free America,” “Free Yourself from Cultural Marxism,” and “Protect the Family – Reject Degeneracy.”

Within days of the election, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, who is often credited with coining the term Alt-Right, parlayed a raucous appearance at Texas A&M into a national audience.His theme: “America belongs to white men.” At a Washington rally that drew 300 white nationalists shortly after the presidential election, he led a chant of “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory,” as many in the audience sieg heiled.

Two weeks after Trump took office, a tour stop by Alt-Right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled at the University of California at Berke­ley because of violent, anti-fascist protests. Despite his bigoted views, the host Berkeley College Republicans had described Yiannopoulos as “a man who bathes in sheer and unmitigated awesomeness.”” [7]

The confederated forces of fascism had already existed in colleges across the country. A history of racism, sexism, anti-immigrant hatred, and anti-LGBT+ attitudes has already been documented throughout higher education. But the rhetoric of outright fascism didn’t have the necessary cohesion or passability until the various Alt-Right groups settled on the phrase “free speech” as an umbrella term for their campaign to resurrect the Fasces.

The arguments surrounding “free speech” – from what speakers should be allowed on a campus, to what words should be stricken from textbooks, to the appropriateness of slaveholder names adorning university buildings – is nothing new, and has always been a useful backdrop for reactionaries to decry the habits of “kids these days.” But with the emergence of neo-fascism, the term has grown into a shield behind which even the most repulsive viewpoints and behaviors can be chalked up to a difference of opinion, rather than the encouragement of violence, exclusion, and denial of human rights. Groups like Turning Point and the YAF started off small, using their GOP-funded platforms to perform inflammatory, attention-grabbing stunts. They could wax controversial by inflating the dangers of safe spaces and trigger warnings, describing simple measures of inclusion in the classroom as Maoist propaganda. Grant Strobl took a dig at transgender students by declaring his preferred pronoun to be “His Majesty.” Charlie Kirk started the “affirmative action bake sale” as a way to delegitimize the struggle of minority students and toy around with overt racism [8].

It should be no surprise that colleges and online spaces were the two most reliable sources of inertia for the neo-fascist right. Hate groups have always targeted and attracted young, frustrated males, particularly whites; that profile is reflected in both Trump’s voter base and the demographics which frequent /pol, hateful Reddit boards, and the neo-Nazi websites that radicalized men like Dylann Roof and James Fields [9].

The cry of “free speech” has become a movement of its own, albeit a muddied one. It was used by the YAF to defend the presence of Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, where he intended to continue his latest whimsey of outing vulnerable students for his amusement. It was the excuse for the YAF to platform anti-trans Ben Shapiro, anti-black Ann Coulter, and anti-Muslim Robert Spencer. It was invoked again when a horde of white nationalists, bedecked in swastikas and Sonnenrads, traveled from their home states to UCB with clubs and shields in hand. It has been the refuge of Richard Spencer, Nathan Damigo, Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach, Eli Mosley, Gavin McInnes, Joey Gibson, and all manner of reactionaries who vary only in the degree to which they openly embrace the concepts of white supremacy, ethnostatism, and traditional patriarchy, though in private they are brothers all. Never has the term “free speech” been used in this soapbox fashion to address the blacklisting of leftist professors or the unjustified surveillance of BLM activists; this particular complaint of civil rights being violated only applies to ideologies so outrageous, toxic, and exclusionary that they have no place on a college campus. It provides a theoretically bulletproof doorway for white nationalists to introduce their ideas back into common discussion, and thereby lend them legitimacy over time – the moving of the Overton Window, as it’s called.

Yet, in the public sphere, the sanctity of “free speech” remains the central subject of this debate, an ephemeral concept divorced entirely from the dehumanizing, genocidal rhetoric of the neo-fascist movement. UC Berkeley itself was quick to condemn the antifascist actions which deplatformed Milo the first time; the administration, like many campuses across the country, has insisted that everybody has an equal right to rally support, irrespective of the content and intended outcome of their ideology. Various publications warned their readership that while peaceful protest was acceptable, the halting of any one person’s ability to speak is, itself, a threat to democracy and a violation of human rights. Curious, then, that the same liberty applies to those who are actively pursuing authoritarian government, heavy-handed law enforcement, and the complete revocation of human rights.

This is an example of how neo-fascists have molded their rhetoric around ideas which are, at face value, acceptable to the public. It has long been an explicit goal of the far-right to alter their publicly-used talking points so as to conceal fascist content. A Swedish graduate student named Patrik Hermansson, while performing an undercover study of the Alt-Right, discovered as much during his close examination of the movement. The New York Times published his findings:

“”This goal of mainstreaming is an abiding fixation of the far right, whose members are well aware of the problems their movement has had with attracting young people in recent decades. At one point in Mr. Hermansson’s footage, Colin Robertson, a far-right YouTube personality who goes by the name Millennial Woes, explained to an older extremist the importance of putting forward a friendly, accessible face: “If we don’t appear like angry misfits, then we will end up making friendships with people who don’t agree with us,” he said…

Fluent in the language of online irony and absurdism, and adept at producing successful memes, alt-lighters have pulled off something remarkable: They’ve made far-right ideas hip to a subset of young people, and framed themselves as society’s forgotten underdogs. The alt-light provides its audience easy scapegoats for their social, economic and sexual frustrations: liberals and feminists and migrants and, of course, globalists…

According to researchers, the key to hooking new recruits into any movement, and to getting them increasingly involved over time, is to simply give them activities to participate in. This often precedes any deep ideological commitment on the recruits’ part and, especially early on, is more about offering them a sense of meaning and community than anything else.” [10]

From the perspective of the centrist and liberal blocs, the people shouting down antifascists’ attempts to deplatform hateful speakers and reverse the fascist creep, their defense of hate speech is a noble and lofty goal. They view the far-right rallies appearing on college campuses as a necessary evil of a democratic society, and antifascists as authoritarian extremists who prefer to punch their ideological opponents rather than debate them. What they seemingly cannot grasp is that every time fascists are allowed, unopposed, to demonstrate on campus or to hold a speaking event, they are being legitimized in the eyes of their future recruits. Participation in the rhetoric of white supremacy, exposure to publicly-accepted Nazi symbolism, allows the neo-fascist movement spread, sowing the seeds of the next wave of vicious blackshirts.

There are a thousand ways to dress up the elements of fascism – nationalism, authoritarianism, exclusionary politics, white supremacy, patriarchal dominance, anti-intellectualism – such that they become regularly-used and acceptable forms of discourse. “White advocacy” is the preferred label of Baked Alaska, a term which bafflingly implies that American white society is not already prioritized by the government. “White identity” is used by IE and its associates, including Richard Spencer, despite nothing in our society actually penalizing or discriminating against whiteness. “America First” is the most widely accepted term, simultaneously using nationalism and exceptionalism to paint Americans as beleaguered patriots who are being bled dry by the rest of the world, even as the American government ruthlessly extracts wealth from foreign nations and uses practically none of it to benefit the public. “Blue Lives Matter” is the most sickening, by far, venerating the police as an embattled society of do-gooders, while ignoring their extreme militarism and erasing their lynching victims.

And yet, antifa have never forgotten for a second what lies behind the smokescreen, the true objective of anybody condemning multiculturalism, demonizing immigrants, and promoting Western chauvinism:

““It’s gonna end with the expulsion of the majority of the migrants, including [Muslim] citizens,” [Jason Reza] Jorjani told an undercover Hermansson at a pub near the Empire State Building in New York City. “It’s gonna end with concentration camps and expulsions and war at the cost of a few hundred million people. We will have a Europe, in 2050, where the bank notes have Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great,” he continued. “And Hitler will be seen like that: like Napoleon, like Alexander, not like some weird monster who is unique in his own category — no, he is just going to be seen as a great European leader.””

BANNONISM, REPUBLICAN FACTIONALISM, AND FASCIST INFIGHTING

The Alt-Right, Alt-Lite, and the coterie of white nationalists working alongside them, have repeatedly backstabbed and double-crossed one another as their movement has lost ground. Obsessed with self-image and pedigree, no fascist is capable of autonomous action – save for the act of murder – for fear of losing reputation with his brothers-in-arms. Additionally, each faction recognizes that for their individual ideology to succeed, the others must necessarily be absorbed or removed. Thus have we seen major players feign allegiance to one another, only to distance themselves and make accusations once the latest rally has fallen apart.

Jason Kessler and Chris Cantwell, in a discussion about the Charlottesville rally, both blamed Eli Mosley, newly-crowned leader of Identity Evropa, for miscommunications with local police, which suggested the fascists would have a great deal of leeway in how the rally proceeded. During the same conversation, Cantwell accused Kessler of being of Jewish heritage, and alluded to Kessler being part of a larger conspiracy to frame the Alt-Right for the violence of that day [11]. Elsewhere, Mosley himself published a piece to AltRight.com, where he pleaded with his readers to “close ranks” to prevent further fragmentation. He assures the reader that Charlottesville “shed a lot of unnecessary baggage” from the Alt-Right, most likely referring to Kessler and Cantwell. Yet just paragraphs later, he implores neo-fascists to keep their internal disputes away from the media, saying that such arguments serve as an example that antifascists have the upper hand.

Similarly, the “Free Speech Week” at Berkeley fell apart within a matter of days. Planned since February, when our comrades in California chased Milo out of their community, the week-long event was meant to be a victorious return for the Clown Prince of the Alt-Lite. Instead, the small student group responsible for scheduling the event failed to drop off their paperwork on time; some speakers abandoned ship upon learning Milo was involved; others revealed they’d never been invited in the first place, and that Milo had lied about the guest list. Ultimately, the “triumphant return” was reduced to a 15-minute photo op for a puffed-up hasbeen, which cost UC Berkeley $800,000 in security expenses [12]. The massive police response, including multiple barriers and a metal detector, was purposeless, as the sheer bulk of the antifascist response was enough to extinguish Milo’s hopes.

On the one hand, we should be thankful that antifascists, anti-racists, and liberationists in general have developed such a broad and capable coalition. On the other, we should never mistake this kind of Alt-Right fumbling, nor the infighting that comes with it, for the “death” of the neo-fascist movement. The beliefs which catalyzed the Alt-Right will remain in the minds of its adherents, and the factions will once again sanitize and rework their public images. Already, Vanguard America – formerly the American Vanguard – has undergone another name change, rebranding as the “Patriot Front,” to distance themselves from Charlottesville. They appeared in Houston, attempting to disrupt the Anarchist Book Fair and intimidate attendees.

In the shell game of the mercurial neo-fascist movement, it is vital to keep track of the groups which reformat their images, the individuals who inhabit multiple groups at once, the many short-lived alliances, and the ever changing lines of argument being used to conceal fascist ideology behind patriotic bombast. In a way, it is this very factionalism which insulates the movement from a killing blow. The same is true of the Republican Party.

With the ongoing train wreck that is the Trump administration has come a wave of lasting damage to the GOP. The president has seen his approval rating slide into the 30s, both because he is reviled among Democratic voters, and because he has disappointed his nationalist, nativist supporters. Within the Republican party, senators have gradually divided into two factions; one is loyal to the Reaganite image of the conservative Republican, but the other is loyal exclusively to Trump.

Into the former category – the Establishment, as they are pejoratively called – fall such old-guard figures as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. The latter includes firebrands of questionable qualification who are held together, not by a desire to govern or shared political goals, but rather their unfailing, cultish devotion to Donald Trump himself. Unfortunately for the GOP, it is this second group of so-called “outsiders” who have retained public support. A recent survey conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal asked respondents if they supported Trump himself, or the Republican party as a whole. The results: 58% for Trump, 38% for the party itself. Of those, the Trump loyalists are more strongly in favor of repealing birthright citizenship, support the pardoning of Joe Arpaio, agree more with Trump’s handling of Charlottesville, and are the least satisfied with the GOP leadership [13].

The voters who put Trump in power do not consider him to be a component of the government, but rather a weapon against it. When they cast their ballots, they envisioned an economic juggernaut who would seal the borders, fortify American global dominance, and expel unwanted peoples from the nation itself. With almost a year behind him, Trump has completed none of his campaign promises, and his base is shrinking. When Steve Bannon, the Rasputin of Trump’s cabinet, was ousted in early August, Newsweek reported a scant 24% of survey respondents approved of the president’s performance [14]. His supporters have become skittish watching their president fail to pass bills even while the entire government is controlled by Republicans. His lack of restraint and compromise won him the election, but they have also made it impossible for him to govern. His loyalists, however, blame this primarily on the Establishment GOP, not Trump’s ineptitude – of those Trump loyalists surveyed before, 99% said they still supported the president.

Which brings us to Steve Bannon himself. Bannon is a supremely twisted political figure, equal parts medieval vizier and modern far-right populist. Having boosted the Trump campaign through Breitbart, Bannon quickly became disillusioned when the president failed to follow through with his strong-man nationalist agenda. But rather than work against Trump himself as revenge, Bannon is doing something even more sinister: saving “Trump the Idea,” even at the expense of “Trump the Man.”

When he left the White House, Bannon began plotting a war against the GOP leadership. The GOP runoff win by Roy Moore in Alabama, the insurgent senate candidate who squared off against incumbent Luther Strange, is his opening salvo [15]. Utilizing the same Alt-Right media platform that helped Trump succeed, Bannon staged a public jousting match against the president and won, ironically using the same anti-establishment energy of the 2016 campaign to unseat a senator loyal to Trump. As reported by Politico:

“Moore’s win — over an incumbent who benefited from millions of dollars in spending by a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — is certain to provide fuel for conservative challengers lining up to take on sitting senators in states like Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi.  The result was a major setback for President Donald Trump, who went all-in for Strange in a state where the commander-in-chief is overwhelmingly popular. And it emboldened Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who said the Alabama race is the opening front in a pitched midterm war against GOP incumbents — and an opportunity to undermine his nemesis, McConnell. After the race was called, Bannon stood backstage with Moore as the victorious candidate prayed.  As he introduced Moore at Tuesday’s victory party, Bannon made clear that he was looking far beyond Alabama, which he called the start of a “revolution.”

“You’re going to see in state, after state, after state, people that follow the model of Judge Moore – that do not need to raise money from the elites, from the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington, DC.,” said Bannon at Moore’s victory party. The race, he said, centered on the question of “who was sovereign — the people or the money — and Alabama answered today, the people.”” [16]

This is the next objective for Steve Bannon. In his victorious speech, he claimed that he challenged Luther Strange not to defy Trump, but to “praise and honor him.” He had the support of those Trump voters who, like Bannon, appear to still be loyal to the political message of the Trump campaign, even as they lose faith and interest in the actual president. From the Independent:

“… many of those gathered in the early evening sunshine close to the Gulf Coast – some of them Mr Trump’s strongest supporters – expressed anger and bewilderment over his decision to support Mr Strange. “I don’t know why he is supporting Strange. He has to go back to his own. He was elected to drain the swamp,” said Deane Suits, who had travelled from the town of Foley.  Another supporter of Mr Trump, Debbie Giles, said she she did not think Mr Strange would stand up for the issues important to her – primarily the freedom of religion. She said that Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell was close to being a socialist.  “I think Mr Trump was wrong this time,” she said. “He needs to pay attention to the people who elected him.”” [17]

In early September, Bannon was interviewed on 60 Minutes, where he laid out his grievances with the Trump administration and responded to questions on his own ideological beliefs. During the course of the interview, he strongly criticized the GOP establishment, claiming that McConnell and others were working against Trump’s “economic nationalist” agenda. He warned of a “civil war” within the Republican party, unless the president can coalesce power around himself and remove those elements of the GOP working against him. “The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election,” he said. “That’s a brutal fact we have to face.”

In Roy Moore, we can see a reflection of Bannon’s own political ideology. Bannon believes that there is a cultural war between those of the Christian faith, and the combined forces of progressivism and Islam that seek to unmake Western civilization. Moore believes that the “law of god” should supercede constitutional rights, that Christian values should be favored by the state, and that there are neighborhoods in America currently living “under Sharia law.” Both believe that they are supporting the president by removing disloyal senators. Both refuse the idea of amnesty for any undocumented immigrant. Both seem to regard the president and America as a unified identity, and so can work against Trump while claiming they’re upholding his honor. This is a revitalization of the nationalistic, xenophobic, and traditionalist worldview that earned Trump the presidency, and it just secured an upset versus a senator backed by the president himself. It represents the reformulation of the Alt-Right’s message, this time in the hands of Steve Bannon alone, a man who is more articulate and calculating than Trump, and more capable of effectively wielding popular support.

There is no telling how successful Steve Bannon’s insurgency will be. But if he manages to rack up similar victories, if he can tilt the balance of power away from the Establishment GOP and install Trump-absolutist senators, there is a very real possibility that Bannon could spawn what would, effectively, be a genuine far-right party in the style of European counterparts. Like the AFD of Germany and France’s National Front managed to reintroduce taboo social outlooks and scapegoat immigrants, so too could Bannon rewrite the clumsily-worded neo-fascist agenda into something palatable to Trump voters who, like Bannon, no longer consider “Trump” to mean just the flesh-and-blood president.

And if he had the necessary support, it would work. During his 60 Minutes interview, Bannon explicitly rejected the inclusion of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other fascist elements in his ideal political party. And yet this is the same Steve Bannon who declared Breitbart the “platform of the Alt-Right.” He has openly aligned himself with the same neo-fascists he spat upon in his interview, and while he denounces white nationalists, he engages in the same anti-Muslim rhetoric that has, for certain portions of the Alt-Right, taken the place of anti-Semitism as the shadowy “enemy within” that is a centerpiece of fascism.

This attitude – that being a white nationalist or supremacist revolves entirely around shaving one’s head and wearing SS Bolts – is shared by a huge portion of the population. A poll conducted by University of Virginia Center for Politics found that although they reject the concept of white nationalism, about a third of Americans share the core beliefs of the torch-bearers of Charlottesville:

“In total, 39 percent of respondents agreed to some extent that white people were currently “under attack” in the U.S. Only 29 percent of white people disagreed with the statement, compared with more than half of nonwhites (54 percent).  Nearly a third of total respondents (31 percent) agreed that the country needs to “protect and preserve its White European heritage.” The percentage of people who disagreed was only slightly higher at 34 percent…

A strong majority of Republicans agreed to some extent that white people are under attack in this country (63 percent), which isn’t altogether surprising given the racially charged — and just outright racist — rhetoric the GOP has employed through the years. But while the rate of Democrats who agreed that whites are under attack was comparatively low, at 21 percent, that still indicates that a fifth of “progressive” respondents subscribe to one of the so-called Alt-Right’s core beliefs.” [18]

BASH THE FASH & SMASH THE STATE

Antifascism is built around the understanding that fascism, as an ideology, represents a unique threat to humanity itself. The political school of Mussolini encourages the domination of humans, affords absolute authority to police and the military, and actively pursues the establishment of a ruling class. In summation, everything that anarchism rejects, fascism embraces and advances. It is the culmination of the worst tendencies of the human mind, manifested as a pseudo-religious devotion to the nation, the leader, and a singular cultural identity. In every instance of fascist uprising, what follows is a typhoon of violence, bloodshed, torture, and terror.

Thus far, the Alt-Right have been no match for antifascists. But the boneheads and polo-shirt miscreants being chased out of our communities are the tip of the iceberg, just a symptom of a much larger problem. They do not have real power, because they are incapable of marshaling themselves into a unified movement. They cannot reach out to their fellow residents, have nothing to offer the most vulnerable members of society, and can’t even operate safely without a massive police presence. Some of them are so weak-willed, they don’t even consider themselves loyal to the movement they’ve joined.

The progress of antifascism cannot end at the staving-off of these ragtag outfits of woman-hating, unfulfilled men and their neo-Nazi leadership. They can be cut down endlessly, and still the hydra behind them would replenish itself, never suffering a wound. Instead, antifascists have seen their greatest successes come from those action which target the legitimacy of the state, demonstrate the power of non-hierarchical organizing, and remove barriers between the people and their autonomy. There are dozens of examples of that very dynamic at work, from many sectors of the public uprising of 2017.

In the wake of hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, organized groups of civilians took it upon themselves to offer disaster relief where they could. Among them were the Yellowhammer Alternative, a far-leftist collective of women of color. Speaking with Teen Vogue, activist Assata Dela Cruz described the scene of towns left without the resources of the state:

“”Our original intention was to come here in a truck filled with donations, serve food several times a day, at several different locations, and then head back home.” But when she arrived in Houston’s Fourth and Fifth wards, Assata saw little evidence of recovery efforts. Trash piles line the roads and local stores have yet to open. “In a lot of the areas we were going to, we were it. If we had not showed up to serve these people, they would not have gotten anything,” Assata says.” [19]

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief deployed their resources to Florida, where they encountered the barriers of state-sanctioned nonprofits, hierarchical prioritization, and the result of a governing body which has not improved its disaster response since Katrina, and was intending to cut $876 million from FEMA’s budget just before Harvey made landfall:

“”In order to provide much needed aid to those neglected by the Red Cross and FEMA, we drove with a van full of medical supplies and a 12 ft moving truck filled with food, water, and other necessities to the poorest areas. Yet, before we even entered, there were a number of other obstacles in our way constructed by the State and the non-profit industrial complex looking to take advantage of successes in autonomous organizing and the opportunities that disaster provides. The immense amount of supplies that have been collected at “The Hub” in the past couple weeks was made possible through the long-standing connections between various radical communities and the donation of the space from the St. Paul Lutheran Church.

A non-profit organization called “Coalition of Hope” told us there were still many checkpoints throughout the keys and we would need an official invitation to do relief work in order to be allowed in. After promising us the necessary clearance, they also slowly revealed their other intentions, which was for us to come to their station in Key West and drop off our supplies at their distribution center where they could be sorted and organized. They also stated that they were feeding the police, relief workers, National Guard troops, and FEMA, along with protecting property there from looters, although they made little to no mention of the actual neighborhoods or people they were serving.”” [20]

In Minneapolis, a group of residents staged a demonstration against the fraternities of UMN, the members of which have committed multiple acts of sexual predation just in the first months of this year. A chapter advisor for the UMN Delta Epsilon chapter, Don Powell, downplayed the events and regurgitated the typical defenses of rape culture, accusing the victims of making up stories. This comes at a time when, in addition to the toxic male attitudes of the Alt-Right, Betsy DeVos is rolling back legal protections for rape survivors on campus. The assembled group of protesters were fed up with moneyed, heteropatriarchal creeps preying on those left vulnerable by an uncaring government and college administration:

“This organizer also said that the aim of the militant march was “letting them know that this shit’s not gonna fly here” and that “they will always have to plan their events around resistance that will only escalate and grow in numbers.” Another organizer described the purpose of the action as resistance to fraternities as a whole because of many toxic aspects of frat culture:  They’ve been raping people, they’ve been a force of terror for people of color and trans folks, and we’re trying to tell them to get the fuck out and that they’re not wanted here.”” [21]

In St. Louis, the latest atrocity at the hands of police has sparked a massive protest. For nearly two weeks straight, residents of the city have made their outrage known in the only manner the city government cannot ignore. During these events, police have revealed the depths of their brutality and depravity, trampling and then arresting a bystander whom other protesters had tried to rescue, and grotesquely chanting “whose streets? Our streets” during an arrest. The SLMPD publicly released the names and addresses of 33 arrested individuals over twitter, claiming the Sunshine Law requires them to do so. The law itself, however, includes a stipulation that addresses are not, in fact, subject to disclosure. In the Galleria Mall, police choked and brutalized a mother protecting her child from their rampage. Nonetheless, the protests are continuing; the people of St. Louis are fed up.

The sicknesses of nationalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, state oppression, police brutality, and corporatism are alive and well, no matter how many times Richard Spencer gets his jaw loosened. When the Alt-Right has been shattered, there will remain behind it the overarching culture of America which bred fascism in the first place. Antifascism cannot stop when armband-wearing inchworms are too afraid to Sieg-Heil in public; fascism must not be allowed to crawl into the darkness, renew itself, and reemerge as something just as bloodthirsty. This is why it is imperative that the struggle of antifascism spread outward to attack the roots of the American state itself. The very same mechanisms of authority which allow the state to oppress the working class also empower fascists to attack their targets. The police defend the Alt-Right during protests, the judicial system and media focus more attention on antifascists than murderous neo-Nazis, and the government has allowed an autocracy to emerge around Donald Trump in the form of yes-men senators who will never challenge his authority.

A genuine public revolt seems to be developing, a rebellion against the American state, against militarism and surveillance, against the violation of indigenous territory and the dehumanization of trans individuals. This is not a struggle that will be won in a single black bloc protest, but so long as antifascists commit to ferreting out fascism wherever it hides, this movement will not be quelled. Neo-fascists can wear whatever face and name they please; they are not welcome in our communities.

SOURCES

[1] https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/fake-antifa-twitter-accounts?utm_term=.rhWnzbYwD#.akQ1gYkwZ
[2] http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Berkeley-cops-tweet-of-stabbing-outside-Ben-12201372.php
[3] http://lithub.com/why-we-should-pay-attention-to-dinesh-dsouzas-terrible-book-about-fascism/
[4] http://theweek.com/speedreads/718507/striking-graphic-reveals-construction-confederate-monuments-peaked-during-jim-crow-civil-rights-eras
[5] http://fair.org/home/in-month-after-charlottesville-papers-spent-as-much-time-condemning-anti-nazis-as-nazis/
[6] http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/24/antifa-white-house-petition-trump-troll-241990
[7] https://www.splcenter.org/20170810/alt-right-campus-what-students-need-know#alt-right-targeting
[8] http://time.com/4954437/university-new-mexico-affirmative-action-bake-sale/
[9] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/the-worlds-worst-support-group/536850/
[10] https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/opinion/alt-right-white-supremacy-undercover.html
[11] https://angrywhitemen.org/2017/09/01/christopher-cantwell-pleads-for-money-and-urges-followers-to-monitor-enemies-in-jailhouse-phone-call/
[12] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/milo-yiannopoulos-security-cost-berkeley-800000-170925080606054.html
[13] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/how-donald-trump-splitting-republican-party-two-n803746
[14] http://www.newsweek.com/trump-base-shrinking-polls-kelly-charlottesville-bannon-racism-652182
[15] https://www.wsj.com/articles/roy-moore-wins-alabamas-gop-senate-primary-1506475781#
[16] http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/27/alabama-republicans-moore-midterms-strange-243188
[17] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/steve-bannon-donald-trump-roy-moore-nigel-farage-alabama-senate-race-latest-praise-and-honour-a7967126.html
[18] https://www.theroot.com/1809942057
[19] https://www.teenvogue.com/story/hurricane-harvey-relief-is-being-provided-by-diy-activists-too
[20] https://itsgoingdown.org/where-non-profits-fear-to-go-report-from-florida/
[21] https://www.unicornriot.ninja/2017/minneapolis-residents-march-rape-culture-fraternities/


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