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Friday, November 10, 2017

Anti-Nazism in the Age of Trump

Anti-Nazism in the Age of Trump

"Fascism was hardly poised for a revival in America during the Cold War. Yet the 1984 murder of Denver Jewish radio host Alan Berg by members of an Aryan Nations offshoot, (an event dramatized in the 1988 Costa Gavras film Betrayed), rekindled the American’s media’s fascination with neo-Nazis. At the time, the ADL estimated total membership “of the entire white supremacy movement” to be 10,000, with about a tenth of that number ostensibly “willing to bear arms and fight.” A decade later, spurred by bloody, highly-publicized confrontations involving federal agents at Waco and Ruby Ridge, anti-government militias, (some of them committed to resisting the Z.O.G, or “Zionist Occupied Government”), were believed to command the loyalties of anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 people. Paradoxically, extreme right organizing then declined again under the administration of America’s first black president, to the point that, by 2011 “the country’s largest neo-Nazi party” could claim only 400 members dispersed across 32 states...

There is no mass fascist political movement in America. To be an “anti-Nazi” or “anti-fascist,” then, is a materially meaningless political identity in America today because literally everybody—with the exception of Richard Spencer and his harem of boys sporting “fashy” haircuts—opposes national socialism and fascism.

And yet ever since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, an increasing number of serious people seem to believe that they are engaged in a twilight struggle against Nazis, just like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. The hysteria began with the label Trump’s political opposition adopted for itself, “The Resistance,” a moniker that, unless you are burying weapons in the forests of Poland or hiding in the basements of French country houses, one has no right to assume...

So where do all these legions of Nazis and passionate brigades of anti-Nazis come from? They come from the land of political hyberbole, which is where Trump came from, too...

Fighting Nazis is a free and easy moral victory because there is almost no one on the other side. This suggests that whoever generally advertises themselves to the polity as a brave and forthright fighter of Nazis is either immature or deploying lazy rhetoric to get their listeners to join in the unwitting pursuit of some other, presumably much less popular or acceptable goal. In other words, it’s a con job.

The use of Nazis as a political straw man was long a propaganda technique of the Soviet Union, which casually slapped the label “fascist” on anyone or anything it didn’t like. (The tradition continues with today’s Kremlin propagandists, for whom “fascist” or “Nazi” is interchangeable with “critic of Russian foreign policy.”)... What should worry us is a lazy and agenda-driven mainstream media that continues to treat a political smear operation with a shady Cayman Islands bank account [Ed: The SPLC] as a dispassionate moral authority that fights Nazis...

Anti-Nazism is a substitute for hard thinking. And it is important to recognize the rhetoric and tactics of contemporary anti-Nazism for what they are: not a proportional or apposite response to the actual American political situation, but instruments of a virulent new form of political warfare that insists on demonizing one’s political enemies. One sees a similar dynamic at play with the notion of “white supremacy,” which, in the America of 2017, means anyone or anything that a cohort of angry Twitterati doesn’t like...

Today, the term “white supremacist” is recklessly applied to everyone from David Duke to Columbia professor Mark Lilla (a liberal critic of identity politics) to the American Civil Liberties Union, recently the target of protest at the College of William & Mary by members of Black Lives Matter chanting “liberalism is white supremacy,” an assertion that is the logical endpoint of the new progressive politics.

Attempting to conflate the majority of Americans who recoil at this sort of wildly divisive politics with the minuscule number of actual overt Nazis, and treating Richard Spencer as an emblematic and important political figure whose ill-attended rallies and pompous communiqués make front-page headlines, is the height of political idiocy. Not just idiocy in the factual sense of being wildly inaccurate, but idiotic in the practical sense, in that it alienates potential allies and will destroy any conceivable anti-Trump coalition, which, after all, mathematically speaking, will need to include at least some present or former Trump supporters. One saw this idiocy at work a few months ago in Boston, where tens of thousands of people descended upon the Common to denounce a handful of political eccentrics (including Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Indian-American Republican challenger) as “Nazis” and “KKK.” This politics of conflation makes sense if you are Richard Spencer, hoping to convince every white person that they must join his movement. And it also makes sense if you are a hard leftist who believes that polarizing and dividing society is the way for your radical beliefs to triumph. Which is, ironically, one of the ways Germany got Hitler...

In their predictions of impending fascist doom, many “resisters” are beginning to sound like right-wing survivalists. For all the talk of Trump violating the “norms” of American politics, which he has done repeatedly—beginning with his calls for his opponent to be jailed—so too are his opponents. Resolute in their righteousness, they have taken to playing dirty, violating democratic procedural norms themselves on an ongoing basis.

To take only one relatively trivial example, the unprecedented leaking of the transcripts of phone conversations between the president and various foreign leaders, while maybe providing a few laughs for late-night television hosts, is likely to have profoundly negative effects on the future of American diplomacy. “No leader will again speak candidly on the phone to Washington, D.C.—at least for the duration of this presidency, and perhaps for longer”... Violations of democratic norms by the “Resistance” exist on a spectrum that begins with leaking transcripts of the president’s phone calls, progresses through intelligence community manipulation of domestic politics, and ends with street violence.

And that is where the politics of anti-Nazism leads. For if Trump is a proto-Hitler, if it is “pretty much inevitable” that he will stage his own Reichstag fire, then the response to his rule must be commensurate with the challenge. Hitler, after all, wasn’t stopped by the filibuster, never mind pussy hats. And if Churchill and FDR allied with Stalin to fight Hitler, why shouldn’t liberal Democrats link arms with the goons of antifa, as suggested by progressive luminaries like Cornel West?

In the late 1960s, an element of the West German “extra-parliamentary” left adopted a critique of the postwar Federal Republic which claimed the country was not a real democracy but a mere continuation of the Nazi regime. One of the movement’s leaders devised the term “Raspberry Reich” to describe a place where bourgeois consumerism masked the ruthlessness of a capitalist-imperialist state. Belief in this nonsense persuaded a group of young radical Germans to form a criminal gang called the Red Army Faction that killed over 30 people in a decades-long string of bombings and targeted assassinations. It was the same nonsense that motivated the Weather Underground, the Red Brigades and countless other left-wing terrorist groups around the world...

The inclusion and celebration of Angela Davis—laureate of the Lenin Peace Prize and the East German Star of People’s Friendship; enthusiastic supporter of the Jonestown People’s Temple cult—at the Women’s March was a worrying sign, as is the continued glorification of the empty-headed but reliably pro-Islamist Linda Sarsour. These are not good heroes to have.

In Europe, left-wing terrorism is already on the rise... the Berlin state interior ministry warns that “2016 was marked out by a spiral in left-wing violence that not only led to a multitude of serious crimes but also in part to a radicalized tone. … The inhibition threshold regarding physical attacks is sinking, and we are now at the stage where targeted assassination of political opponents no longer appears completely unrealistic.”

In addition to licensing violence, another danger of calling your opponents “Nazis” is the spell of absolute and unassailable righteousness that the word casts over those who employ it, rendering them unable to see the weeds that are thriving in their own gardens...

Today, the undoubtedly proud anti-Nazi history of the British Labour party is utterly irrelevant to understanding why it has become the most influential anti-Semitic institution in the Western world...

Paradoxically, while anti-Jewish social prejudice, like saying the words “smelly kike,” for example, or refusing Jews admittance to your country club, has become a serious social crime—the sort of transgression that can destroy careers—actual anti-Semitism (“a cabal of rich Jews secretly manipulates and controls American foreign policy to benefit Israel,” “Israel is an illegitimate foreign colonial implant whose bloodthirsty leadership hates peace and delights in killing Palestinian children”) has become increasingly acceptable, even mainstream on some parts of the left. Standing up to Nazism, as the members of the Democratic Socialists of America valiantly did in Charlottesville, serves as a convenient fig leaf behind which they can hide their institutionalized organizational anti-Semitism, which they giddily expressed just a week prior at their annual convention in Chicago, chanting “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free,” after passing a motion in support of the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment movement against Israel...

Anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory, one whose lethality has been proven century after century. Anti-Semitism is lethal to the societies in which it takes root because it provides an entirely false account of how and why things happen. Try running a maritime trading nation, or a large empire, if you truly believe that the reason your ships sunk or your armies were defeated is because of a secret and malicious conspiracy of Jews, whose aim is to harm you. Anti-Semitism is a primitive superstition, an ideological virus. Left unchecked, it can drive entire societies insane. Social prejudice may be annoying, depressing, and generally unpleasant, but it’s anti-Semitism that has proven to be physically dangerous—and very often lethal—to Jews.

The politics of anti-Nazism under Trump serve an important identity function for multiple groups. They allow the hard left, including its hardcore anti-Semitic elements, to pose as great friends of Jews, even while attacking Israel—and “Zionists”—as uniquely perfidious entities. And they allow liberal Jews, who have plenty of reasons to feel besieged, (as both Jews and as liberals), to make common cause with the left under a banner that makes them feel safer, or at least nominally protected by someone. Now, they can be the loudest and most visible anti-Nazis, and thereby serve a useful and honorable function in the larger identity politics constellation—as long as they resolutely shut their ears to some of the less pleasant and more anxiety-provoking implications of the surrounding chatter...

It takes no courage or discernment whatsoever to condemn Nazis in America. It’s like condemning pedophiles or cannibals.

Far harder to condemn is the University of Chicago professor who makes lists of good Jews and bad Jews, the idealistic college student who supports boycotting and then somehow doing away with the world’s only Jewish state and ending hurtful words and Constitutional protections for free speech, the murderous anti-Semitism and violent misogyny that pervades Muslim communities across Europe, or the colleague who celebrates an unhealthy obsession with “Zionist racism” and “warmongering neocons” on his Facebook page. In that silence breeds the potential that might give us actual Nazis, or whatever new kinds of monsters will emerge from the rubbishing of the Western liberal order—which is what the polarizing elements of both the right and left are truly aiming at"


Of course, Tablet Magazine, an American Jewish publication, are Nazis too
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