This is how modern fascists are manipulating us

In part one of this series I described the use of violence by fascists throughout the 20th century to advance their own agenda by influencing liberals into making political concessions for the sake of public order. Now let’s take a look at how modern fascists in America are attempting to manipulate the media and steer public discourse to advance the far-right agenda.

Today’s fascists are sophisticated manipulators who realize that in order to normalize and legitimize their politics in America’s contemporary political climate they must be seen not as aggressors but as victims of repression. They take great pains to present themselves as humble, law-abiding citizens. They aim to strategically mask their acts of premeditated violence build a false impression that they are only acting out of self-defense while simultaneously trying to pin blame for violence on leftists at every opportunity. They muster traditionally progressive concepts such as free speech and identity politics to appeal to centrist mainstream media.

More than anything they want to be seen as typical Americans, because normalizing fascism has historically been the fast track into seizing real political power. And the scary thing is that they have made a lot of progress on all of these fronts in 2017.

Nazis Initiate Violence; Police Stand By and Watch

Armed and armored Nazis at “the Battle of Charlottesville”

Back in August, far-right radicals lead a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and were met by leftist resistance activists in various clashes which sparked a flurry of discourse on political violence in the mainstream media which continues to this day. The so-called “Unite the Right” rally was organized by fascist organizations such as Jason Kessler’s Unity & Security for America and Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker Party.

The organizers of this event fully intended to inflict physical violence and intimidation in the streets of Charlottesville with this event, which is why they came clad in helmets and carrying shields and improvised weapons. They carried tiki torches into the night and chanted “Jews will not replace us” in a low-rent emulation of Nazi rallies such as those held in Nuremburg in the 1930s.

Fascist helmet proudly by the Traditional Worker Party and advertised as “seen at the Battle of Charlottesville”

Allowing Nazis to take up arms and march in the streets to intimidate and frighten communities must never be tolerated. Unfortunately capitalist state structures can never be relied upon to protect communities from fascist violence. According to an in-depth independent investigation by the law firm Hunton & Williams: “Virginia State Police directed its officers to remain behind barricades rather than risk injury responding to conflicts,” and “Charlottesville Police Department commanders similarly instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations.”

In other words, when a large gang of armed Neo-Nazis came to Charlottesville, the police made a deliberate decision to stand by and watch those Nazis deliver violent intimidation to the community.

This pattern has been repeated again and again wherever fascists bring violence to communities. It happened a couple of weeks later in Berkeley when Nazis clashed with anti-fascist protesters and police retreated to the perimeter when violence broke out. Similar patterns have been repeated at various other events where fascists and neo-Nazis seek to intimidate and coerce communities via violent and intimidating demonstrations.

Nazis Pretend to Act in Self-Defense

Fortunately, there are always groups of leftists who were willing to rightfully and courageously stand up to the Nazis by staging a massive counter-protest. In Charlottesville, as the police stood by and did nothing, things rapidly spun out of control. The chaos culminated in the death of anti-fascist counter-protestor Heather D. Heyer, who was run down by James Fields Jr., a neo-Nazi with a history of violence, who intentionally drove into a blocked street to attack anti-fascist activists.

Fascist YouTube video claiming the Charlottesville car murder was an act of self-defense

Neo-Nazis instantly took to social media, posting videos on YouTube and photos on Facebook and Twitter to try and portray the murder of Ms. Heyer as an “act of self-defense.”

The fact is that right-wing activists have been responsible for 74% of politically-motivated murders in the past decade. Only fascist and alt right activists have used firearms during political protests, including a shooting in Charlottesville and another high-profile incident in Gainesville, Florida.

Christopher Cantwell, crying about how he teargassed an unarmed crowd in “self-defense”

Then there’s Chirstopher Cantwell, the “crying Nazi,” a white nationalist who threw tear gas into a crowd at Charlottesville. He and his nazi supporters defended his use of a chemical weapon on an unarmed crowd as self defense.

Another case in point is Kyle Chapman, aka “Based Stick Man,” a meme and hero of the alt right who, along with other Nazi thugs, violently and blindly lashed out with a bludgeon into a crowd of unarmed anti-fascist protestors in Berkeley in March. Despite the clearly violent aggression of Chapman’s attack, fascists tried to paint his actions as “self-defense” and raised tens of thousands of dollars for his legal defense fund.

Whenever Nazis stage an intimidation rally they always try to portray their actions as “peaceful protests.” The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally was described to the media as a “peaceful assembly” by its organizers despite the fact that nazis showed up armed and armored for battle. I refuse to link directly to contemporary Nazi propaganda, but if you venture into the webspace of alt right, white nationalist, and other fascist groups you’ll find countless posts about the “false narrative” of the media, such as this gem from the blog of Charlottesville-instigating Traditional Worker Party:

As per usual, our side can barely scrape up enough money for even the most basic defense of our unfairly arrested guys, much less mount a slam dunk class action lawsuit against the City and State.

Poor Nazis, when will they ever get a break?

But seriously, it’s very important for Nazis to portray themselves as victims so that they can build a counter-narrative portraying anti-fascist resistance as the REAL villains and oppressors.

The Demonization of the Left

A primary goal for fascists is to shift as much blame and accusation onto leftists as possible. Fascists need liberals to see anti-fascist leftists as “just as bad” as fascism itself. Why? Because leftists are the only real barrier standing in the way of intimidation tactics. Since the police have proven to do nothing to prevent Nazi violence and the minority communities Nazis target are, by definition, weaker and more prone to violent oppression, right-wing radicals know they can and will run roughshod over entire communities so long as leftist resistance is undermined.

And this desire by fascists to portray antifascist activists as bloodthirsty and brutal goes beyond the violence which occurs at political events. These days, any time there is an act of extreme violence, alt right and fascist trolls go into overdrive trying to pin the atrocity on the left.

Screengrab of altright trolls planning to try to pin the Las Vegas shooting on Antifa

Take, for example, the Las Vegas shooting. Before the dust could even settle from that horrifying event, rightwing radical trolls were already working tirelessly to link the shooting with Antifa on social media. Another such incident was a church shooting in Texas which alt right trolls tried to label as the “inverse of the Dyllan Roof shooting” as fascist and alt right trolls, including Info Wars’ own Alex Jones, tried to develop a conspiracy theory about the shooting as an antifa terrorist attack.

Nazis are desperate for “normies” – aka centrists and liberals – to see the radical left as violent and bloodthirsty so that they can be given more leeway to aggressively and violently suppressing their political enemies under the guise of “self-defense.”

Wrangling the Media with “Free Speech”

A favored fascist talking point is “free speech.” Nazis love to parade around their concept of “free speech” because they know it’s an emotional hot-button for many liberal Americans. This is why almost every fascist rally is connected with the concept of free speech.

By flying the false flag of free speech, Nazis can present their platform of violence and oppression openly, normalizing their platform and cementing themselves into mainstream discourse.

In nearly every interview with mainstream reporters, fascist leaders will invariably claim that their primary concern is “expressing themselves” and taking advantage of their “right to free speech.” They use these talking points to try and flip the script so that their aggressive Nazi agenda is no longer under the critical lens of the press – instead, they hope to turn the tables on anti-fascist protesters, painting them as oppressive bullies who are “attacking free speech.”

The sad thing is that with liberal media pundits this thinly transparent strategy often works, so that liberal icons like Trevor Noah often end up defending Nazis and aiding the anti-leftist agenda of fascists.

Coopting Identity Politics

“It’s Okay to be White” – the latest incarnation of “White Lives Matter”

Similar to the free speech defense is the coopting of identity politics by rightwing radicals. This is another form of playing the victim card, courting sympathy from white middle class average folks by pretending they just want to be free to have pride in themselves and free from discrimination just like any other group.

A recent example is the “It’s Okay to be White” meme that’s been drifting around Facebook. This is a reaction to various inroads made by minorities to point out the problems of white privilege in American society over the past couple of years, including the highly successful Black Lives Matter campaign. Indeed, “It’s Okay to be White” can be seen as little more than a mutation of the “White Lives Matter” reaction that was making the rounds a while ago. These slogans also resonate with the “25 points” of white nationalism, which try to earn pathos by portraying white people as victims of reverse-discrimination and building up white nationalists as martyrs who only want to build a world where they and their families can be safe and free to be themselves.

Again, the idea is to portray themselves as victims who are only acting in self-defense so that liberals and centrists will take their side against leftist activists the same way they did throughout the 20th century.

Normalization

Here’s how the New York Times normalizes “Nazis Next Door”

The Nazi’s ultimate goal is to go mainstream. Every fascist dreams of the day when their toxic political violence will become the new social and political norm and their platform will be elevated enough for them to purge their enemies and seize power over the nation.

This can’t happen as long as fascism is seen as an alien force of evil. When I was growing up fascists were the default villains. Nazis were clownish buffoons in flashy uniforms who only showed up for Indiana Jones to punch.

These days Nazis are gaining traction as your neighbor, the girl next door, the YouTube star your friend is really into. Their talking points are invading gamer culture, popular memes, and mainstream media news reports. Even the liberal newspaper the New York Times recently ran articles portraying Nazi leaders as “average joes” who shop at grocery stores just like everyone else.

Fascism is not normal. Do not buy into their victim-card theatrics and don’t buy into their anti-leftist agenda. Nazis are cunning propagandists. They prey on the sympathies and traffic in the emotions of liberals, just as they have for nearly a century. Be vigilant when you consume media, including everything from The Daily Show to whatever spicy meme might be making the rounds tomorrow. The Nazis are out there and they know exactly how to use violence to manipulate our public discourse.

Note: the photos from the New York Times piece from the New York Times piece “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” was taken by George Etheridge and is used here for the purposes of educational and critical fair use.

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