You’ll Be the First to Go
I once asked a good friend of mine what he thought of skinheads.
Adam was a punk in every sense of the word. He looked the part, with a two-foot liberty hawk, a gallery of tattoos and piercings that ran the gamut from scrawled anarchy symbols to H.R. Giger recreations. He lived it too, living in free-gan squats while he worked as a piercing artist by day and bouncer at the Middle East by night. He was a brilliant guy, a far better student than I ever was, a former swimmer and ballet dancer who responded to Catholic school by rebelling aesthetically and intellectually against late-nineties American popular culture.
He joined a community that was full of equally brilliant people and more than a few shitheads. Punks can be awful, punks can be chill. Some share, some don’t. Many are violent. Adam could be violent, but his targets were always spot on. He was the guy who’d find you in the parking lot after a show if you grabbed a girl without her permission. He was the one you’d want patrolling your block during a riot or protest, making sure the crowd focused on the banks and not the property of working people. He had a presence and a conscience, and he wasn’t afraid to punch a dickhead if words were not enough. He died young, because his unique mode of employment didn’t provide the health insurance that would have allowed doctors to detect an issue with his heart that took his life. But that’s a story for another day.
The Merrimack Valley in which we grew up was a mostly white community full of bored and idiotic kids who saw the growing black, latino and asian communities in Lowell and elsewhere as a foil for their anger. There were sharp racial divides among the rowdy youth in Nashua, NH, and as a young troublemaker, Adam and his heathens partied with some real bastards. Being a stupid-fucking-hippie, as I was in high school, I asked Adam what he thought of the skinhead crews that would often occupy the same spaces I would see him in. Adam pointed at a patch he’d sewn on one of his many jackets that showed a swastika with a thick red line through it, beneath which read ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off.’ He’d worn it to school before and was sent home. He had offered to tape over the F-Word, but the symbol of the swastika was the real threat. Even when X’d out, it could not be displayed in our school, even as part of a statement against it.
Adam participated in his share of anti-fascist brawls. Nazis tend to be outnumbered in urban areas, so when they show their face, even at a hardcore show, the only thing protecting them is the insipid call for tolerance and peace, shouted by waifs like me. Adam knew that neo-Nazis thrive in conditions of false equivalence, and that the only way to scare them back into secrecy was a well placed boot and a promise to do it again.
I am a non-violent person.
I have only once thrown a punch in anger, incidentally in a beer hall in Munich. But my target was an Italian with glasses who had groped a friend of mine, and I was too drunk to land it squarely (and he was too drunk to respond) and I was quickly swept away by my stupid-fucking-hippie friends who knew I’d lose the fight. I have demonstrated with anti-fascist groups and prepared for conflict with police, but always with the intent to passively resist, to record the incident, to rely on lawyers to protect me after the fact.
But I recognize a simple fact about radical politics that has been proven time and again: Fascists can change minds, and they can get votes, and normalizing their beliefs for even a short time can lead to disastrous outcomes. And once they are in power, it takes very little time for them to enact their plans, many of which require extreme conflict (and even world wars) to undo.
While the Republican Party is a dangerous organization, and their victory at nearly every level of government is a catastrophe, that all of this has occured while also giving primacy to the hopes and dreams of the fascist video game avatars who call themselves the Alt-Right makes this a special kind of disaster. Not only must people of color, queer people, working people, and immigrants deal with a police state bent on their dehumanization and deprivation, but now the worst instincts of white teenagers and their racist fathers and grandfathers have been validated by the very top of government, in the form of the President Elect and his coterie of Ivy League race realists.
This should not be a surprise.
Those of us who spend a lot of time on the internet have seen the development of this loathsome cult of basement dwelling, self-loathing narcissists and their ultimate fruition this election cycle. They have lurked in message boards and online communities, consuming unsourced copy pasta about white superiority while simultaneously trading jailbait pics and antisocial fail-memes about their compulsive onanism. These are the same people who have named feminism as an impediment to their own procreation (since they live in American and European suburbs and cannot own sex slaves) and declared themselves genetic dead ends, staked out video game culture as the last safe space for unfuckable white nerds, and vowed revenge on bloggers, universities, and now political parties, who have abandoned them in their fight for the right to say the n-word on twitter. Most of them will never do anything more than harass women online. The most motivated of them will compare themselves to Anders Brevik, Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza.
Richard Spencer, the spokesman for the neo-Nazi front called the National Policy Institute (an Orwellian twist from the same people who brought you the term ‘feminazi’), is not entirely borne from this swamp, but he plays there, and he knows it is the basis of his movement’s newfound popularity and visibility. The news in 2016 is just a retread of what happens on twitter and reddit the day before, so savvy wanna-be fascists like Spencer have harnessed the momentum of a Trump win to position themselves in the public eye as an avatar for the popular sentiment that elected him. Using the surge of fake ‘news’ and the gullibility of your aunt and uncle who spread it voraciously, and the concerted efforts of racist computer-geeks who make or alter internet robots to boost the virality of Nazi memes and talking points, goons like Spencer have occupied the now necessary position of ‘explainer’ for blogs and news broadcasts whose only model for commentary is giving everyone a seat at the desk and ‘letting the viewer decide.’
The average (white) viewer does not perceive this shift in the Overton Window. All they see is the left and the right, on the left, an incredulous black girl desperately throwing legitimate accusations of racism and white supremacy, and on the right, a guy in a fuckboy haircut saying he denounces the Holocaust but maybe liberalism has gone too far. In the background, however, there are the rumblings of a fascist awakening that even a single beam of sunlight will allow to flourish. Networks which legitimize Richard Spencer and his alt-right movement are complicit in this awakening, whether they are writing puff pieces that accentuate his style and youth, or if they try to debate them on their own terms. By running their quotes on chirons without comment, they give these abominations the airtime to speak their lies and dog whistle to the thugs watching that someone is on their side, and that someone is the President.
Call them alt-right. Call them Nazis. Call them fascists. Call them white nationalists. Call them whatever you want. But just don’t call them to be on your TV news network. If you’re going to leave it to the brave antifas who will actually meet these guys in the streets with bats and bricks, to make them afraid again, then at least don’t give them a platform and the attention they so desperately crave. Focus on the Nazi-sympathizers who occupy the White House, bring them on the show and make them answer for the hateful, fascist ideas their own leader is espousing on a daily basis. Stop trying to air both sides. Suffocate the side that doesn’t think you’re a human being, or you’ll be the first to go.
Categories: white people