Fascism in Charlottesville: Why it had a monopoly on violence & Intimidation

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

In his unhinged news conference on Tuesday, Trump equated what he called the “alt-Left” (which is not a thing) with the alt-Right. He characterized the latter as good people who were just protesting removing a statue of the traitor Robert E. Lee and wondered if statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (not notably traitors to the United States of America) would be removed next.

At one point he asked who the alt-Right are.

The answer is only knowable by how they behave. The racist, violent throng in Charlottesville revealed themselves by their tactics to be fascists.

Trump as usual sidestepped all the really important issues. Charlottesville was not about ideas or statues. It was an attempt to demonstrate the political efficacy of acting unconstitutionally, as a menacing mass able to intimidate people. Fascism doesn’t have many ideas, and isn’t the same in each country. Mussolini, Franco and Hitler were all very different in policy and style, and all of them are different from Trump. That’s one reason why the easy resort to Hitler analogies is usually not very illuminating (though you have a sinking feeling that we may need to entertain more such analogies now).

People don’t come to mere rallies with Klan torches and bats and shields and brickbats and even guns. The Unite the Right mob invasion of Charlottesville was not a political protest. It was intended as a Kristallnacht, as the breaking of the windows of the shops of the liberal Jews and Blacks who the ‘Alt-Right’ believes runs the small college town of Charlottesville.

Aljazeera English: “US: Torch-wielding white supremacists protest Confederate statue’s removal”

The organizers of this mob action got enormous bang for their buck. A few hundred people, many of them armed and dangerous, were able to model for the whole country how it is possible to sidestep democratic institutions and go straight for the public jugular, with visceral hatred and identity politics and whipping up fear.

The ISIL-style vehicular terrorism that killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others, sending bodies flying, was only one instance of wanton violence perpetrated by the Alt-Right. (And by the way, Trump’s impassioned defense of the creeps is still not matched by any praise for Heather.)

A white gang also beat DeAndre Harris to within an inch of his life.

ABC7: Photographing A White Supremacist Attack — Charlottesville

The fascists were emboldened to perform this demonstration project by the knowledge that the president is a right wing billionaire who is generally supportive of their goals. Fascists are mostly lower middle class but they want to get rich and join the billionaires, and so are willing to act as the shock troops of the anti-social section of the rich (i.e. Trump and the Kochs, not Warren Buffett). In return, they get to categorize themselves as in the same faction as Donald Trump, as though suddenly thereby their toilet seats will turn into gold, as well. They get to be better by simple mantras of racial exclusivism, than Jews, Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Muslims. They get to rise to the top of the heap, not because of hard work or special insights or striving for higher education, but just by being free to throw around racial slurs and stick their chests out and brandishing assault rifles they have courtesy the pro-Right NRA Lobby.

Here is how Alan Zimmerman described the situation at his synagogue in Charlottesville on Saturday morning:

“On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).

Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time.

For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.

Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.”

Cornell West also reported of the white nationalist thugs,

“But what happened was, they held us hostage in the church. We could not leave after the service, because the torch march threatening the people who were there…”

… You had a number of the courageous students, of all colors, at the University of Virginia who were protesting against the neofascists themselves. The neofascists had their own ammunition. And this is very important to keep in mind, because the police, for the most part, pulled back. The next day, for example, those 20 of us who were standing, many of them clergy, we would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the antifascists who approached, over 300, 350 antifascists. We just had 20. And we’re singing “This Little light of Mine,” you know what I mean? So that the—

AMY GOODMAN: “Antifa” meaning antifascist.

CORNEL WEST: The antifascists, and then, crucial, the anarchists, because they saved our lives, actually.

If these individuals really were there to protest the removal of a statue in a democratic way, they had other choices. They could have joined in local politics, gone to city council meetings, walked neighborhoods, tried to elect a different city council. But how likely would they have been, you ask, to succeed in a liberal college town? One of the more essential elements in democratic practice is that the losers in a political contest accept defeat and go home. Where that doesn’t happen, as in Libya in 2014 and after, you get civil war. Democracy isn’t a guarantee of your views winning and being implemented. It is a guarantee that you get to make a reasoned, public appeal for them before people vote on them.

Trump, and Faux News’s phony equivalence of the fascist mobsters with the counter-protesters is easily refuted. How many people did the counter-protesters put in the hospital? What policy did they attempt to force illegitimately on the democratically elected leaders? How are they, like Trump and his corporate backers, trying to poison our water, spew toxic carbon dioxide into the air and take away people’s health insurance, for the sake of corporate profits?

Shouting Sieg Heil at a synagogue is not democratic process, it is thuggery. And ultimately, all fascism is is commonplace mass thuggery.

The novelist E. L. Doctorow wrote in Billy Bathgate that mobsters view death as a form of garbage. When a gangster loses his temper and kicks a man to death, he has to call cleaners to take out the trash. The criminality of fascism is likewise just a way of making a healthy society into sewage, with hobnail boots and brandishing of weapons and marching and torches and angry racial slurs. It is as banal as turds in a toilet. It builds nothing, makes nothing, invents nothing. It just swallows up everything that is good and turns it into shit.

That, Mr. President, is what your alt-Right is. And if it is what you identify with, then so are you.

20 Responses

  1. The controlled MSM make it impossible to understand the growing social unrest in the Country.

    • Not entirely true.

      The local stories are carried by local press, but due to the massive number of crisis on this earth (many caused by the USA), national news services tend to not connect the dots.

      Most national news services are advertising supported, which means they need to produce stories that have a national focus to gain the audiences needed to draw advertisers.

      No one controls the nationals media, but they do tend to have a herd quality about them.

      BUT . . .

      Note that national media has done stories on bits and pieces of the national malaise:

      – the huge disparity of wealth and lack of political will to change it.

      – the hollowing out of the “middle class.”

      – Stagnant wages.

      – The loss of social power by whites

      – the decline of religion, especially christianity.

      – The displacement of humans by technology (very subtle, slow but continuous)

      I have read all about this, from many sources, but it is fragmented, usually along ideological lines and no one has done a comprehensive look at at all the facets.

      Yes, white christians, especially older ones, are losing “white privileged.” That is economic and social power. Over time, ALL dominate groups lose out to others, but no dominate group ever gives up power willingly. They all fight to their last breath.

  2. How is intimidating, and threatening people, a First Amendment right? Heather Heyer wasn’t a part of any alt-left group, but listening to President Trump you would never know it. Only now we have a president who seems to equate ‘protest permits’ with the right to march in unison as a group of thugs. Tell me Mr President, just what rights do come with a protest permit?

  3. Trump is an unreconstructed racist and a Nazi-sympathizer – plain and simple. He represents the ideology that occupied – and enslaved – my relatives in Denmark and Norway in the 1940s. He is quite happy to have the venomous worm of civil dissensions gnaw at the bowels of our republic.

    I have no truck for lectures from Hillary haters at this point – screw you. The second he came down that f*****g golden elevator and announced his hatred of Mexicans we saw him for what he was.

    But anyone with half a historic memory didn’t need that to know that – we knew what he was since the 1980s and the Central Park Five, or even before then, with his history of housing discrimination against blacks.

    Now he has given material support and comfort to white extremists terrorists and needs to be arrested. Period.

  4. The events of the past 24 hours have shown how correct you were in your brave statement that Trump was not sincere in his denunciation of the Alt-Right, the Nazis, the KKK and other extreme white nationalists. When it seems that things cannot get any worse, President Trump says or does something that goes beyond the expectation of even most moderate Republicans. In the face of the creeping fascism, one either has to remain silent and except a repetition of fascist regimes that the world has experienced in the past, or to take the threat seriously and fight and defeat it.

  5. Once again the media and the pundits are playing into Trump’s hands. During the election, at least 95 % of the stories on Trump were negative, but he didn’t care as long as he dominated the news cycle. And it worked. The negative coverage crowded out all other news and Trump won the election.

    Again Trump is dominating the news and the blogs and he loves it, positive or negative.

    The proper way to undermine a megalomaniac manic like Trump is to ignore him. Just the way one punishes a 2 year old or a puppy. This 24 hour blanket coverage, negative as it is stands a good chance of getting Trump reflected.

    • You can’t ignore the president of the most powerful country in the world for one f*****g second when he is a f*****g intent on destroying the country. I called all my representatives today and insisted on his arrest. He’s an extreme menace to our friends, to our neighbors, to our fellow citizens, not a 2 year old.

    • Yeah, that would have worked great against Hitler. There are tens of millions of people who don’t WANT to ignore Trump because they are searching for a way to aggregate their hatred. They needed very little to find him. The point of the negative news was to warn the rest of us that he, and his followers, were a real threat.

      If warnings are counter-productive, then what the hell’s the point of news, or information, or facts? Or even of this very website?

    • Jack – A great method about 2 years too late. Trump is like a virus, once infected there is usually no cure and has to run it’s course to be eliminated from the system.

    • Ignoring b*stards does not work.

      They have to be directly confronted and disabled.

      We have repeatedly learned this lesson over centuries.

  6. The side that drove a car into a throng of people is the side of terrorists. This may or may not have been planned in advance. This info may come out. Either way, terrorism.

    • One former teacher of James Fields claims that Fields admitted to him while in high school that he had been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

      If this is accurate, expect criminal defense attorneys to exploit this as grounds for a legal insanity defense to pending charges. The fact Fields had no previous adult criminal record bolsters this theory.

  7. Those fascistic rioters who dream of a white America , a neo-Nazi America, with a Confederate flag on every public building and a statue of Robert E. Lee in every park still have not learned that history passed them by more than a century ago.

    The Commander of the Confederate Army, Gen. Robert E. Lee, understood in the end that the dream was over, forever.

    All his statues should be relocated to museums or other appropriate places and what Lee said after the war should be engraved on the base of that statue on each and every other statue that idolizes the Confederacy.

    “We have fought this fight as long, and as well as we knew how. We have been defeated. (…) There is now but one course to pursue. We must accept the situation. ” He also said, “We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing.”

  8. ” the easy resort to Hitler analogies is usually not very illuminating”

    Autocrat 101:

    Charlottesville: Trump is faced with a threat the he has been unable to stop: the investigations. A group he has been condoning throughout his campaign plan and carry out a violent rally. Trump needs this violence to produce more fear in the population, but also to give cover for rescinding civil rights and arresting his opponents. An autocrat can silence his enemies if they are all in one place. Trump can not condemn the neo-Nazis now. He needs more violence. Who else sent out armed bands to attack citizens in the street?

  9. Well during the election, all Trump was going after were Muslims and Hispanics. So that was OK for the Republican Party. Now that he sides with neo-Nazis who go after Blacks and Jews, will that make a difference? Let’s see what they do. Let’s see if there is a hierarchy in discriminated-against ethnic groups in Republican minds.

  10. Please don’t forget the two police officers who died in the helicopter crash.

    I read today’s BBC report on Charlottesville. It referred to Heather Heyer as a “leftest”. I wonder if Europe really understands what’s going on here.

  11. Trump is and always was a racist. The difference now is that he is totally disinhibited in showing his true self to the world. Disinhibition is one of the signs of dementia. This and other signs lead me to conclude that Trump is more than crazy, he is clinically demented. And for the record, I am a physician, and I have a geriatric psychiatrist friend who has been pointing out the manifestations of his dementia practically since the day he took office.

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