On Trump’s dog whistling to neo-Nazis

On Trump’s dog whistling to neo-Nazis:

Why Americanism is the incorrect response to fascism

* * *

By Daniel K. Buntovnik, 17 August 2017

 

A political dog whistle: “a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others” [x].

Donald Trump sent a loud and clear whistle to his doggish packs of fanatical far-right supporters in a speech delivered on August 12th, 2017 regarding the wave of violence set off the day before in Charlottesville, Virginia by a rally which drew a historic number of fascist bigots espousing a jumble of neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate, “alt-right”, and “white nationalist” genocidal and segregationist ideologies. (Given the name which organizers gave to the rally, one of its main raisons d’être, in addition to preventing the removal of monuments to the Pro-Slavery Rebellion, seems to have been to overcome these rather insignificant ideological discrepancies among adherents of right-wing politics in the United States of America). The most notable violent incident occurred when a member of a contingent of left-wing, anti-fascist protesters named Heather Heyer was killed [x] and a number of others injured by a neo-Nazi terrorist using a muscle car to plow into the counter-protesters. The attacker has been identified as James Fields, who was photographed before the attack standing in formation with a right-wing gang calling itself “Vanguard America”, wearing the group’s Donald Trump golfing outfit-inspired uniform, and holding a shield with the group’s emblem, a Celtic cross made of two crossing fasces, thereby combining two well-known symbols of neo-fascism into one [x]. Vanguard America is, in turn, a member group of a larger umbrella organization called “Nationalist Front” (formerly known as “Aryan Nationalist Alliance”) which brings together a variegated panoply of Klan, neo-Nazi, and Christian Identity groups.

jamesfieldsvanguardamerica

Caught in the center of the above photograph is the white supremacist James Fields. Despite a contradictory attempt by the Nationalist Front sub-group Vanguard America to disavow the neo-Nazi terrorist [x], “Commander” Jeff Schoep of the “National Socialist Movement” and founder of the Nationalist Front, issued a statement confirming James Fields’s belonging to the Nationalist Front camp by retweeting a video of the terrorist attack which showed anti-racist activists rushing to the weaponized muscle car which had just been used as a murder weapon in an effort to render it inoperable and thereby prevent further racist, anti-leftist killing. In the retweet, Schoep issued his own statement in which he said “Antifa attacking car [i.e., the terrorist murder weapon] with ball bats. This is what we faced in Cville, armed antifa, & city allowed it,” [x] (my emphasis). In using the phrase “This is what we faced” in this context (a video of Fields “allegedly” running over participants in an anti-racist demonstration in his car), it can be confirmed that the Nationalist Front leader views the murderer as part of his group. In addition to this, the neo-Nazi leader demonstrates an incredible level of hypocrisy in criticizing anti-Nazi counter-demonstrators for being armed with bats, given the well-publicized images of right-wing, paramilitary-style militias armed with assault rifles which were out in force for the “Unite the Right” rally [x].

Despite the fact that the nature of the conflict playing out in Charlottesville was clearly that of supporters of genocidal fascism versus their opponents, Trump adamantly attributed guilt for the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” to “many sides”, emphasizing the words “many sides” by pausing to repeat them a second time in an insincere fashion [x]. While a number of Democrats and “liberals” criticized Trump for failing to identify the guilty party by saying some words along the lines of “radical white nationalist terror”, many in the Democratic Party actually echoed his dog whistle endorsement of American-style fascism by making appeals to “national unity” and “American values” [x].

By fixating on Trump’s lack of explicit condemnation of the neo-Nazi and Ku Klux groups at the expense of paying the slightest attention to Trump’s exploitation of the Nationalist Front terrorist attack as another opportunity to promote more American nationalism, those whose “opposition” to Trump is superficial set up an easy out for him to redeem himself and atone for his “mistake” by fulfilling their wish and making a short pronouncement in which, after repeating in paraphrase what he had already said two days earlier, he said, “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” [x]. Notwithstanding the fact that Trump made and has fulfilled an explicit campaign pledge to continue the Obama era practice of killing people for nothing other than the blood in their veins, i.e. the kindredness of their blood to that of stigmatized individuals [x], here Trump really only condemns the hate groups insofar as they “cause violence” and behave criminally. This is not a condemnation of the KKK, neo-Nazism and white supremacists and their existence as such (i.e. their right to organize and operate in society), but merely empty words against their illegal tactics, which are inevitably attributed to the infamous figure of the “lone wolf” (as if these “lone” wolves were the only “bad apples” amongst the otherwise upstanding members of the neo-Nazi community). Even American liberals such as Glenn Greenwald continue to defend neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates, so long as they don’t “cause violence” and employ legal methods of struggle, despite the fact that laws in a number of other liberal bourgeois democracies proscribe things such as the use of Nazi symbolism, Holocaust denial, and hate speech [x]. This shows that there is bipartisan support for the legal status of neo-Nazism, which is not a given, even within the confines of bourgeois democracy.

Despite Trump’s tepid condemnation of the neo-Nazis’ illegal tactics and bipartisan support for neo-Nazism’s “right” to fester upon society, on August 15th he spoke publicly about Charlottesville for a third time, arguing that the “alt-left”, a made-up term which serves only to draw a false equivalence between the political Left and the the far-right [x], shared responsibility for the terrorist attack on leftists in Charlottesville [x].

Shortly after the August 14th comments about “criminals and thugs”, Trump went on to say, “We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our Creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under our Constitution.” This is patently false, since Trump’s 90 day travel ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, now halfway expired, hinges on the argument that not all human beings are to be treated equally by the U.S. legal system and Constitution. Once again Trump has rhetorically marshalled the citizenry with Nationalist ideology. This is at a time when his regime appears to be making good on its promise to outdo the previous record-holder, Obama, in effecting more deportations of alien “Others” from the United States [x]. The boilerplate platitude about the U.S.A. being “a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal”, lifted from the Declaration of Independence, is practically meaningless in this context, since chattel slavery outlasted this declaration by almost a century. The phrase “We are all equal” was as incongruent with the real situation of 1817 as it is with the reality of 2017, when so many of us are denied access to basic human rights, treated unequally by the law, and forced by lack of freedom from want and fear to perform unpaid surplus labor during much of our waking hours.

A sober analysis of the facts will reveal that there can be no combination between “Americanism” and anti-fascism. This “anti-fascism” which bases itself on Americanism is ineffective at best, and it is its own form of fascism at worst. I call it the right-wing of “anti-fascism” because, in contrast to the left-wing of anti-fascism, which calls for a multinational revolution against fascism and the conditions themselves which produce it, the right-wing (pseudo) “anti-fascism” calls for liberals (falsely identified with the political Left despite belonging more to the center, in proximity to the Right) to combine with conservatives in a sick display of “national unity”.

What right-wing “anti-fascist” commentary which continues to rhetorically marshal the national “we” (the quintessential subject of fascist reaction) fails to take note of in Trump’s initial response to the deadly Nationalist Front attack in Charlottesville is that it is not merely his “failure” to identify the bigoted antagonizing party to the conflict which is significant, but the way in which Trump’s speech whistles to right-wing dogs, and carries forward their ideology of American nationalism. And by wallowing in Americanism, the would-be opponents of Trump remain tethered to the fascist body, like a gangrened limb.

Expressions of this all-American “anti-fascism” appeared to rise up organically on Twitter, where #ThisIsNotUS became a trend [x]. Not long after that, an anti-“Alt-Right” meme modeled on a World War II era poster featuring the character “Uncle Sam” appeared and began to spread online. This image is worth discussing, as a brief analysis of it will begin to demonstrate that the nationalism of Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, and centrists and moderates is much closer to the nationalism of the Nationalist Front terrorists than it is to antifascist internationalism.

uncle sam stop the alt right

“Uncle Sam” is of course a personification of the United States and the first thing that stands out about him, besides his striped pants and starred vest, is his whiteness, made overwhelming by his pure white hair. Clearly this symbolic representation of a nation embodied in an individual human being conveys something about the artist’s idea of what “kind” of human being is “typical” or representative of that nation’s hundreds of millions of people. As one writer puts it, “Political cartoons” were (and still are) a reflection of the perceived “racial conditions of a society” [x]. So right away, Uncle Sam is an expression of white nationalism.

Even more problematic is the fact that this particular version of Uncle Sam has been lifted from a World War II era poster which features the racial slur “Jap”. The anonymous(?) creator of the “Stop the ‘Alt-Right’” poster has even kept the same style of bold red lettering at the top of the poster and calqued the “We’ll finish the job” into “We’ll beat ’em” at the bottom, so you know where the inspiration came from.

unclesamjapposter
Uncle Sam has a checkered history of being used to promote the exact same racist demands that neo-Nazis and “white nationalists” demand today, demands like booting out racially othered immigrant populations, treating the “white race” as superior to others, and building an “Imperium” on top of annexed foreign lands.

unclesamchinesemustgo

Here, above, the white nationalist personage of Uncle Sam boots out a racist caricature of a Chinese person. Bottom text reads, “THE CHINESE MUST GO”. This image dates to around 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act anticipated Trump’s so-called “Muslim Travel Ban”.

unclesamschoolbegins

This image from 1899 shows Uncle Sam as a disciplinarian schoolmaster. The Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba (territories annexed by the United States during the late 19th century) are represented by racist caricatures of dark-skinned children. Colonialism was often justified by the alleged need to bring “civilization” to the “child-like races”. The white children sitting behind them are studious and the names of states are written on their books, showing that they represent the American states which by that time had become predominantly populated by white settlers. The text on the blackboard reads in part, “England has governed her colonies whether they consented or not. By not waiting for their consent she has greatly advanced the world’s civilization. The U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.”

We have sampled just two out of the many Uncle Sam images with strongly white nationalist messages which have been produced over the years, but I think this is enough to understand the point. More white nationalism is not a good response to the “white nationalism” which manifested in Charlottesville. (Note: I place scare-quotes around this term because, like “alt-right”, it is merely a re-branding of white supremacist groups long understood to be of a neo-Nazi nature, made in an effort to improve their public image).

Yet another expression of this pseudo-antifascist All-Americanism in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville began to propagate itself in the online spheres, where it was “liked” by hundreds of thousands of people and probably seen by many more, when someone decided that those who think their own American nationalism to be of the “good” sort would get a kick out of seeing a clip from a 1947 U.S. military propaganda film called Don’t be a Sucker.

In the particular scene which went viral [x], we encounter a character who is meant to be an “obvious” fascist. He’s standing on a soapbox, addressing a small crowd, railing against the quadruple scourge of “Negroes”, “alien foreigners”, “Catholics”, and “Freemasons”. In the crowd we see two men in particular who are listening to him. One of them is later revealed to be an immigrant from Hungary and the other, a natural-born American.

The “native” American nods his head in agreement with everything the fascist says until eventually the latter starts railing against Freemasons.

“Masons? What’s wrong with the Masons? I’m a Mason. Hey, that fella’s talking about me,” the man says.

“And that makes a difference, doesn’t it?” the naturalized citizen of Hungarian origin replies.

The fascist ends his speech and the two men continue talking.

“Before he said ‘Masons,’ you were ready to agree with him,” the second man says.

“Yes, but he was talking about–What about those other people?” the first man says.

Next, and here we get to the “antifascist” climax of the clip, the second man explains, “In this country we have no other people, we are American people.”

Now compare the “We have no other people,” message of Don’t be a Sucker with what Trump actually said on Saturday the 12th day of August 2017, after a Nationalist Front neo-Nazi had just committed a murderous terrorist attack directed against left-wing individuals standing up and demonstrating against racism and fascism:

“No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are. So we want to get this situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. We want to see where we’re going wrong as a country” [x].

The message from the 1947 U.S. military propaganda film (“We [Americans] have no other people,”) is exactly the same as that which Trump had conveyed by rhetorically marshalling “we” as the national subject in his first response to Charlottesville. Not “we” as in human beings. Not “we” as in opponents of fascism as such. But “we” as in citizens of the U.S.A. “We” as in unquestioning participants in mindless ritual displays of flag-worshipping patriotism. Trump’s boilerplate nonsense about “no matter our color, creed, religion or political party” might sound superficially inclusive and unbigoted to a simpleton. But by excluding nationality, Trump is already excluding the alien “Other” and marshalling the nationalistic body politic. Just think how nonsensical it would sound if he had said, “No matter our nationality, citizenship, migrant status, or if our visas are expired, we are all Americans first.” Simply put, no, “we” are not “all Americans” and dominant culture sure as hell does not treat everyone as though they were “all the same”. This tacky Americanism is a particularly malicious way to respond to a neo-Nazi attack, since neo-Nazis have a long history of attacking the “other people”, not those who are comfortably seen as integral to the nationalistic body politic.

“We” hardly need a newsflash to tell us that James Fields and his neo-Nazi and Klan brethren in the Nationalist Front are citizens of the U.S.A. By saying that “our” Americanism comes before anything else, Trump unifies “us” with the neo-Nazi terrorist and all his American partners who, there is no doubt, would be much more inclined to say, “We love our God and our Country and we’re proud of it,” than those of us on the left-wing of genuine anti-fascism, a significant proportion of us being (1) non-believers in the God of the billionaire Trump (that god which is Money), (2) haters of the system of nation-states which dislocates us from our loved ones, kills migrants, and is the basis of every modern war, (3) adequately aware of and versed in the history of fascist bourgeois nationalism and its mass psychology so as to be immune to all of the cues and triggers designed to induce the crocodile emotions of patriotism, and (4) ashamed, ashamed to be marshalled by this sexually predatory, fake-tanned old man into his subject and told what we must love and be proud of.

According to this way of thinking (which says, “We are all Americans first,”) our Americanism precedes, and is therefore more important and reigns supreme over the fact of whether, for example, we belong to a fascist “political party” or an antifascist one, whether we are actively working towards the orchestration of genocide or slated to be exterminated, whether we are perpetrators of hate-crime or victims, or whether we pay other people to produce untold sums of money for us or we work for other people to get paid hopefully enough to make ends meet. For a materially powerful person who is a representative of the ruling class to rhetorically marshal any of the latter categories into artificial unity with the former is to promise physical violence and annihilation. It is to predestine the elimination of “other people” and the prevention of an “Other” consciousness. It is to combine the promise of “We have no other people,” with the resolve to make it so in reality. It is a declaration of war on “Other” people, i.e. “alien” social elements, the ones who do not love the “God” of Trump, who do not love a piece of cloth, who do not see themselves as Americans first and foremost, who identify themselves in other ways instead, who have other priorities.

The fasces is symbolic of the fascist mentality.

vanguardamericafasces

The fasces, the symbol of the Vanguard America gang members seen in this photo and which was also carried by the murderous neo-Nazi James Fields, is a signifier of this idea that national identity should reign supreme in each individual’s psyche. A fasces is a bundle of sticks which stands for the notion that a nation’s citizenry are stronger when collectively bound together than as twigs which, taken individually, snap easily. As a symbol of national unity, the fasces represents the idea that class struggle within the nation is “divisive” and weakens it. By calling for the members of the national body politic to put their civic identity as “Americans” in a position of supremacy over whatever other affiliations they may have, including as members of socioeconomically, racially, or sexually oppressed classes, Trump — and the so-called “progressive” Democrats — attack class consciousness and endorse the fascist mentality.

In the nationalist utterance of Trump, “We are all Americans first”, we can also parse out a deeper significance to the placement of the word “all” in front of the word “American”. Its appearance here is to signify not only that “All of us are Americans”, but that “We are All-Americans.”

The term “All-American” is frequently employed to describe that which is either “composed wholly of American elements” or “representative or typical of the U.S. or its ideals” [x]. Like the somewhat antiquated term “Great-Russian”, which was “used formerly in distinguishing ethnic Russians from other constituent peoples of the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire” [x], the term “All-American” has long been used to distinguish between those who have the traits of a “typical” American (white, Anglo-Saxon or Germanic heritage, Protestant, etc.) and those who are marked, wholly or partially, by some “alien” stigmata. By saying, “We are All-Americans,” Trump dog whistles a white nationalist conceptualization of what an “American” is and who “we” are.

This idea of “all-Americanism” is conveyed in the film The Good Shepherd, in the following bit of dialogue between two characters:

Joseph Palmi: We Italians, we got our families and we got the church. The Irish, they have the homeland. The Jews, their traditions. Even the [N word], they got their music. What about you people Mr. Carlson, what do you have?


Edward: The United States of America, the rest of you are just visiting [x].

Several Urban Dictionary entries for “All-American” also detail the racist connotations of this word. Here is the top Urban Dictionary definition of “All-American” [x]:

A word that describes a certain type of ultra-conservative white person who lives in a small rural or suburban towns in middle America. This term is exclusively used by white people to describe their perfect vision of what they believe embodies a true American person. Whites fail to realize just how racist the term “All American” is. If only white people from middle America can be “All American”, that must mean that all the blacks, latinos, asians, native americans and mixed people can never fully be regarded as Americans by the oppressive white society. Think about it, if you are born black in this country, white people will call you “African American”. But the majority of black people born in here in America have never been to Africa and will never go there in their entire lifetime. Its really fucking racist. (Submitted by “thagoldenchild” on May 9, 2008)

Another popular definition for “All-American”:

A conformist who is blindly patriotic, votes Republican not because the values of the party are true to them, but because “everyone else is gay” or they’re scared the terrorists will kill them and does whatever anyone wants for them. All American males usually have blond buzz cuts and are tall, well built and stupid. All American girls will usually have long blond hair, and stupid. They can be of any class, but often tend to be richer, or at least born in a rich suburban family. Still, most rednecks are all American, too. (Submitted anonymously on January 23, 2005)

Shifting slightly, we move now from “all-Americans” to the next bit of the dog whistle: “Americans first”. This is a clear allusion to the “America First” slogan which was adopted by the Trump presidential election campaign in 2016, when he promised that it would be “the major and overriding theme” of his draconian capitalist regime [x]. The slogan harkens back to the “America First Committee”, which was a large anti-war group that petitioned to keep the U.S. out of the Second World War, rendered problematic by the presence of antisemitic and Nazi-sympathizing forces. A latter day “America First Committee” was formed in 1980 by Arthur Jones, a longtime neo-Nazi who took part in the infamous neo-Nazi marches in Illinois in 1978 after the American Civil Liberties Union won them the right to provoke Holocaust survivors by marching through their neighborhoods [x, x]. (Incidentally, the ACLU came under fire in connection to the neo-Nazi mayhem in Charlottesville for, under the pretense of protecting free speech, actually defending the right of the terrorist groups to publicly assemble in armed assault formations and immediately communicating misinformation to the public about the neo-Nazi vehicular assault on leftists that implied that it was accidental and provoked by rock-throwing, although the ACLU later later retracted this false claim [x, x]).

Part of what is significant here is that the latter day America First Committee is one of the founding members of the previously mentioned Aryan Nationalist Alliance, the umbrella organization composed of dozens of smaller Klan, neo-Nazi, and Christian Identity factions whose goal is to “unite the right”. According to a press release from another one of the co-founder groups, the Aryan Nationalist Alliance was formed on April 22, 2016 (two days after Adolf Hitler’s birthday, commonly memorialized by neo-Nazi groups). The Aryan Nationalist Alliance later changed its name to Nationalist Front and, in April 2017, Vanguard America joined the so-called Nationalist Front. Two out of the ten speakers who were slated to publicly address the crowds at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally are Nationalist Front members: Michael Hill and Matt Heimbach [x].

Below is the flyer for the “Unite the Right” rally showing the presence of two members of the Nationalist Front on the official list of speakers, which was shared on Twitter in June [x] by “Alt-Right” white nationalist head of the “National Policy Institute” Richard Spencer (who collaborated with Trump’s chief speechwriter Stephen Miller as members of the Duke Conservative Union at Duke University in 2007 [x]).

unite the right flyer shared by spencer

Michael Hill is the leader of the neo-Confederate “League of the South”, while Matt Heimbach is the leader of the “Traditionalist Worker Party”. Both the League of the South and the Traditionalist Worker Party are member organizations of the Nationalist Front. These two men, along with Jeff Schoep, “Commander” of the “National Socialist Movement” (the largest neo-Nazi organization in the United States) appear to be the main leaders of the Nationalist Front [x], although a press release published by the NSM indicates that the Nationalist Front is essentially Schoep’s brainchild; there it is noted that it was Schoep who “unveiled a Historic document detailing a plan for the Aryan Nationalist Alliance” (now renamed Nationalist Front).

Below is the press release, retrieved from “NSM Magazine Summer/Fall 2016”. NSM and the Nationalist Front seem to have done a half-assed job trying to delete references to Nationalist Front member groups like the “Aryan Terror Brigade”, probably realizing that this is not a good look for an organization that claims to “reject illegal, seditious and violent conduct as a model of political change” and be “dedicated to a peaceful process of gaining power”. References to Aryan Terror Brigade and several other founding groups listed in the original press release have been scrubbed from both the Nationalist Front website (nfunity.org) and an NSM web page relating the information about the “historic alliance formed by U.S. white nationalists”. On a similar note, NSM and their NF front organization appear to have made an effort to “go mainstream” and win more adherents by phasing out their use of the swastika and terms like “Aryan” in favor of symbols like the othala rune and terms like “Alt-Right” [x]. Nevertheless, the NSM website (nsm88.org) continues to host a PDF file of the “NSM Magazine Summer/Fall 2016” where these groups, which are obviously incompatible with the objective of bringing neo-Nazism into the mainstream, are listed as founders of Nationalist Front. The Southern Poverty Law Center also confirms this list of NF founders [x].

nsm summer fall 2016 press release

 

The press release also reveals some important facts about the composition of the Nationalist Front which the road rage racist killer James Fields and official speakers at the “Unite the Right” rally belong to. Among its founding member organizations we find numerous groups with penchants for racially-motivated terrorism and violent crime. Let’s just sample a few of these:

One is the so-called “Phineas Priesthood”. This is said by some to be more of a “meme” than an actual organization [x]; an ideology which is nothing but a glorified justification for committing racially-motivated murder. As one source puts it: “Phineas priests take their name from the biblical figure Phinehas in the book of Numbers, who is described as brutally murdering an Israelite man for having sex with a foreign woman, who he also kills. Members of the Phineas Priesthood — which people ‘join’ simply by adopting the views of the movement — are notoriously violent, and some adherents have been convicted of bank robberies, bombing abortion clinics, and planning to blow up government buildings” [x]. The fact that the Nationalist Front names the “Phineas Priesthood” as a founding member of the organization signals that the murdering of so-called “race-mixers” and “race-polluters” serves as an ideological point of reference for what the group hopes to achieve and the methods they are willing to employ as means to those ends.

Another Nationalist Front founding organization is the previously mentioned Aryan Terror Brigade. Members of the Aryan Terror Brigade were convicted of carrying out racist assaults on Muslim-looking people in 2013 [x]. The group is said to be a branch of Combat 18 [x, x], a British neo-Nazi group which claimed responsibility for the terrorist bombing campaign targeting Black British, South Asian, and LGBT communities in London which took place during the days surrounding April 20, 1999, killing three people and causing four others to lose limbs. A group called the “White Wolves”, an offshoot of Combat 18, also claimed responsibility for the bombings [x]. (Another Nationalist Front co-founder is listed as “White Wolves Invictus”).

“Aryan Strikeforce” is another Nationalist Front co-founder group which claims “Combat 18 International” affiliation, as shown on the VKontake profile of the group’s founder Joshua Michael Steever (“Hatchet”), who also founded Aryan Terror Brigade before being kicked out of it and has a history of making terroristic threats [x, x]. Strikeforce is the name of a Combat 18 publication which, before the London Nail Bomb attacks, declared that “The [only] answer is an international terror/sabotage campaign” [x, x]. Numerous members of Aryan Strikeforce were arrested in 2016 and 2017 and are said to have been amassing machine guns [x].

David Copeland, nicknamed “The London Nail Bomber”, was the only person convicted of carrying out the 1999 neo-Nazi bombings in London, claiming to have acted as a “lone wolf” [x]. In part by relying on the doctrine of “leaderless resistance”, neo-Nazi organizations can shift responsibility for all of their illegal actions onto rogue “lone wolves” and enjoy the protection of the capitalist state and “free speech”-defending liberals who back up their above-the-board activism and organizing which pretends to be strictly interested in legal activity. This is a sham pretense. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the nature of an organization founded by groups like “Aryan Terror Brigade” and “White Wolves Invictus”.

It’s worth expanding on one point here and noting that the London Nail Bomber was a member of another British neo-Nazi group, “coincidentally” also named “National Socialist Movement” (like “White Wolves”, the British NSM was also an offshoot of Combat 18 [x]). The British NSM was led by David Myatt, a man who is in turn widely acknowledged to have used various pseudonyms in leading a cult called the “Order of Nine Angles”, which embraces “traditional Satanism” and neo-Nazism, and advocates the practice of human sacrifice as a form of Hitlerian eugenics. In my post “What is Net-Centric Warfare?” from November 2016, I showed how the facelift given to neo-Nazism (by adopting the “Alt-Right” identity and using a cartoon frog called “Pepe” or “Kek” in place of a swastika) has borrowed heavily from Satanic strains of neo-Nazism in developing something called the “Cult of Kek”, which revolves around the belief in “meme magick” and the appearance of Pepe the Frog as a theophany of the Ancient Egyptian god Kek. This runs parallel to the neo-Nazi and U.S. military-linked “Temple of Set”, another Satanic cult appropriating from the mythology of Ancient Egypt.

This cryptic far-right “spirituality” seems to be further manifested by the fact that another keynote speaker at the “Unite the Right” rally was the eccentric eugenics advocate [x] Augustus Sol Invictus, currently a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida, who began making sensationalized headlines two years ago in part for claiming to have sacrificed a goat and drank its blood. “Sol Invictus” is said to identify as “pagan” [x]. Tellingly, comparative religion scholar Mattias Gardell notes in Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism that the eugenics-advocating “Order of Nine Angles” cult describes its brand of Satanism as a “militant paganism” [x] derived from the “solar cults of Albion”, i.e. sun-worshipping cults of ancient Britain. “Sol Invictus” means “unconquered sun”.

Another leading member of the Nationalist Front is Michael Tubbs, head of the Florida section of the League of the South. Tubbs was convicted in the 1990s for his involvement in a plot to start a race war by attacking African-American and Jewish-owned businesses [x, x]. Tubbs has since been released from prison and “was photographed [participating] in several brawls” during the “Unite the Right” rally [x].

The NSM is no stranger to terrorism itself. The case of Samuel James Johnson, a “former” NSM member (because it’s always a “former” member) who went on to found his own “Aryan Liberation Movement” went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 (see Johnson v. United States [x]). Despite plotting to conduct paramilitary-style attacks on a Mexican consulate and left-wing bookstores and assassinate “liberals” [x], Johnson was not tried as a terrorist but as an “armed career criminal”. Uncannily, lawyers presented arguments on behalf of the neo-Nazi on April 20, 2015. The Supreme Court’s decision seems to have been favorable to the neo-Nazi terrorist plaintiff, ruling that the Armed Career Criminal Act by which he had been sentenced to 15 years of prison was unconstitutional.

All of this goes to show that the fascist white supremacist who had conducted the deadly terrorist attack just prior to Trump’s speech last Saturday (August 12, 2017) was, in acting as a member of the Nationalist Front, therefore formally associated with, not only the NF member groups mentioned above which have well documented histories of and connections to terrorism, but also the neo-Nazi organization known as the America First Committee.

Donald Trump’s response to this situation was to invoke a neo-Nazi slogan, a neo-Nazi slogan which has been a neo-Nazi slogan, continuously, for at least 37 years. A neo-Nazi slogan which the Nationalist Front sub-group which the murderous fascist was seen standing in uniformed formation with, Vanguard America, has used in its own propaganda:

america first vanguard poster

Trump’s response has also been to blame the victims of this terrorist attack, the political Left and to make “But not all…” type excuses for the attendees of a rally to defend monuments to Pro-Slavery Rebellion which was officially billed as having multiple speakers affiliated with the Nationalist Front, a group founded by people who openly pine for “an international terror campaign” and spiritual rewards for the act of murdering “race-polluters”.

In uttering the despicable words, “We are all-Americans First,” Trump has blown a dog whistle. When right-wing dogs hear those despicable words, what they understand is:

“We must make our ‘Uncle Sam’-esque National identity our Supreme identity, and act accordingly.”

Or, in other words:

“We must bring Nationalism to the Front.”

There can be no doubt that this is what neo-Nazi ears hear loud and clear.

 


 

rest in power heather heyer

“Valencia, Spain: Mural for Murdered Antifascist Comrade Heather Heyer”, courtesy of Insurrection News [x]


 

ALL WORKS CITED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PRINCIPLE OF FAIR USE.
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European Pop Act First of its Kind to Perform in Pyongyang

By Daniel K. Buntovnik

On August 19-20, 2015, the musical group Laibach will do a ‘Liberation Day’ tour of Pyongang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea. Chogukhaebangŭi nal or ‘Liberation of the Fatherland Day’, known in the West as ‘Victory over Japan Day’, commemorates the 1945 surrender of the Empire of Japan following a series of heinous crimes against humanity carried out by the American government against civilian non-combatants in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Laibach has generated a fair deal of controversy over the years, stemming mainly from their deliberately provocative appropriation of Nazi aesthetics, including the swastika and Schutzstaffel (SS) uniforms. The band was formed in Yugoslavia in June 1980, less than a month after the death of the iconic Balkan leader Josip Broz Tito. This corresponds precisely to the historical moment where ethno-separatist and nationalist trends began to rise sharply in Yugoslavia, culminating in a series of wars and atrocities leading to the country’s disintegration. The band sings in German (although not exclusively), and a bit of onomastic digging reveals that the band took its name from the German word for Ljubljana, the capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia which was occupied by both Italian fascists and then Nazi Germans during the Second World War.

While the band’s visit is unlikely to signal the forthcoming addition of Pyongyang to the standard circuit for artists like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, or Iggy Azalea, the show is still remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, North Korea is seen as a pariah — it’s hard to imagine another country whose level of political and cultural isolation rivals that of the DPRK. Earlier this year, state functionaries in the US imposed a new round of sanctions after accusing it of waging “cyberwarfare” on Sony Pictures in retaliation for The Interview, a would-be comedy turned yellowface propaganda film depicting the assassination of the country’s head of state which was produced in collaboration with the CIA. The Interview and the ensuing real world conflict it helped escalate aren’t the only recent of examples of this imperialist entertainment complex rearing its ugly head. In 2012, a remake of the 1985 film Red Dawn depicted a North Korean invasion and occupation of the United States, an absurd scenario by any stretch of the imagination. Meanwhile, the US, whose weapons of mass destruction stockpile dwarfs that of North Korea, continues to carry out war games in the region on a regular basis which simulate bombing and invasion.

Though the DPRK is still in a de jure state of war, that hasn’t stopped Westerners, including businesspersons, tourists, artists, athletes, educators, and journalists from travelling there. In 2009, Swedish fashion company Noko Jeans became the first foreign capitalists to import trousers tailored in the DPRK. Norwegian artist Morten Traavik has collaborated with North Korean artists and cultural authorities and is the one largely responsible for coordinating Laibach’s ‘Liberation Day Tour’. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman generated a big brouhaha as well when he made visits to North Korea with Vice Media. And despite censorship, the DPRK even recruits Westerner educators to teach in its school system. Laibach follows in the footsteps of all these people, but breaks ground in at least one outstanding way: it is the first foreign musical group to play in North Korea, as far as anyone can recall.  

All of these signs point towards a timid rapprochement between the Kim dynasty and the West as it struggles to survive in a global geopolitical climate which is generally hostile to it. This is mirrored in this year’s re-establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba, another state hit heavily by imperialist sanctions where private enterprises have made significant inroads. Nevertheless, these developments demonstrate that, contrary to the bourgeois media narrative, these reclusive states are not isolationist entirely by choice, but largely as a consequence of sanctions and embargoes imposed by the Global North.

Laibach is set to play their shows at the Kim Won Gyun Conservatory, exposing approximately 2,000 people to their spectacle over the course of two days; that’s around 0.008% of the country’s population. While little seems to be known for certain about who will be amongst those eight-thousandths of a percent of the populace in attendance, or about the process citizens must go through to gain entry to the event, bourgeois journalists speculate that the audience will be made up virtually entirely of Workers’ Party of Korea apparatchiks and/or their children.

To what extent Laibach will play up its ‘totalitarian’ image (which is otherwise its defining element) while in Korea, and whether Laibach will leave a significant impression on the North Korean public in terms of their idea of ‘The Occident’ at large remains to be seen. There are nevertheless a few things we can examine here.

Nazi Image

Laibach is well-known for giving off a Nazi vibe. While some attempt to label it ‘totalitarian’ — dubiously equating Nazism with Communism — their aesthetic firmly remains predominantly Nazi. Recurring colors in promotional material and music videos are red, black, and white. Uniforms worn on stage, in music videos, and in promo photos are obviously based on the SS. They sing in German. They have white skin. All of this has made a lot of people question whether these musicians might be supporters of the far right.

classic

Laibach’s ‘Classic Nazi’ look, circa 2003

neo2011

Even with their newer, toned-down look (2011), the group would still not look out of place at a Neo-Nazi rally:

neonazi-2012

Jeff Schoep, leader of America’s largest Hitlerian hate group, speaks at a Neo-Nazi rally in 2012. As you can see, Neo-Nazi fashion trends follow a similar trajectory to that of Laibach.

The same question arises, and with all the more frequency, with regards to Laibach’s more commercial, more bro-ish, and less original little brother, Rammstein. In fact, Laibach anticipated a whole movement of Nazi-themed industrial and metal music. ‘National Socialist Black Metal’ (NSBM) exploded in the 1990s with explicitly pro-white supremacist lyrics. But other groups took the Laibach route: Nazi imagery combined with a (supposed) sense of ironic detachment. Perhaps the most notorious example of this kind of group is Hanzel und Gretyl. Like Laibach, this New York-based industrial rock band sings mostly in German and English and they incorporate space elements as well (see Iron Sky, a nearly unwatchable sci-fi film about a Nazi moon colony for which Laibach produced the soundtrack). In a 2009 interview, Hanzel und Gretyl give the following answer when questioned about the Nazi nature of their music:

Vas [Gretyl]: “No, it’s not Nazi music!”

Loopy [Hanzel]: “I think the person should react however they’re gonna react. I mean, we’re just sort of putting it out there. It’s a… maybe an extreme mode of expression and it’s gonna elicit different types of reactions. And that’s what we’re most interested in. We’re just putting it out here to see what happens. It’s not hate inspired.”

Vas [Gretyl]: “We just like to have fun!”

What has happened is that, even if we take at face value the dubious claim that their music wasn’t hate-inspired, it has indeed inspired haters. Their song “Third Reich From the Sun” was uploaded by Youtube user “88nordichate” (88 means ‘Heil Hitler’ in Neo-Nazi numerology, H being the eighth letter of the alphabet) over five years ago and has a comments section riddled with pro-white supremacist statements. “88nordichate” has uploaded dozens of other Neo-Nazi and Neo-Confederate videos, among them two other Hanzel und Gretyl music videos. The fact that Hanzel und Gretyl and Metropolis Records haven’t reported these videos for copyright infringement after more than half a decade would indicate that Hanzel und Gretyl and/or their manager either: (a) don’t ever use or check Youtube (unlikely), (b) don’t mind hate groups and bigots using their music as a platform for outreach and networking, or (c) haven’t experienced any backlash from their fans, whose political views range anywhere from apolitical to extreme right-wing.

The inner cover sleeve of Laibach’s third studio album, Opus Dei, features the following image created by John Heartfield (1934), a man regarded as an innovator in the instrumentalization of art towards political ends. Heartfield was a communist and one of the first people to be persecuted by the Nazi regime after it came to power:

heartfieldaxes

Subtext reads: “Blood and Iron – The slogan which Bismarck formulated lives again in the new German state. The executioners’ bloodstained axes form the Nazi swastika.”

Traavik, the Norwegian who sold the DPRK on a Laibach show, says that Laibach are “not a band making statements, but a band that is always questioning contemporary attitudes.”

Surely Heartfield wanted to make a statement with his above artwork. And one would be hard-pressed to accept that a group of men wearing SS uniforms and grunting in German about fascism, witchcraft, and NATO are merely “questioning contemporary attitudes”. Even if you did accept that, a question is also a statement insofar as it reflects the interest of the one who asks it. Using music as a tool for posing questions makes Laibach’s orientation instrumentalist. A critique of instrumental artwork must evaluate how effectively, and to what practical ends, that art is instrumentalized.

Dubious Exoneration

One of Laibach’s most famous contemporary countrymen is the anti-capitalist psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek. He has defended both Laibach and Rammstein from critics who say that their fetish for Nazi militarist iconography could be dangerous. Not only does Zizek exonerate them of any wrongdoing, but he actually goes so far as to say that their approach is “fighting Nazism”.

“The minimal elements of the Nazi ideology enacted by Rammstein are something like pure elements of libidinal investment,” Slavoj Zizek informs us in the documentary film The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012) as frontman Till Lindemann goose-steps across a stage. “Enjoyment has to be, as it were, condensed in some minimal ticks, gestures which do not have precise ideological meaning. What Rammstein does is it liberates these elements from their Nazi articulation. It allows us to enjoy them in their pre-ideological state. The way to fight Nazism is to enjoy these elements, ridiculous as they were here, by suspending the Nazi’s horizon of meaning. This way you undermine Nazism from within.”

Short of a time machine, these elements, gestures or constellations of “minimal ticks” can never be returned to a “pre-ideological state”. Zizek is actually appealing to de-politicization/decontextualization or, at best, ideological dilution. “Suspending the Nazi’s horizon of meaning” is not possible without cultural amnesia. This is not the way to fight Nazism, at least according to survivors of the death camps, who are some of the strongest advocates of memory. The very idea of being able to de-politicize the iconography of Nazi militarism, strip it bare of its Nazi significance, is akin to the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency’s ludicrous goal of expunging Nazi war criminals of their genocidal past in the post-World War II US government program Operation Paperclip, which was done for the same reason Zizek puts forth here: to nicely bring the German scientists to a pre-ideological state where their “enjoyable” elements were then accessible in the form of strategic scientific knowledge and data — at the expense of justice.

As we have seen in the case of Hanzel und Gretyl, the injection of Nazi elements into a “pre-ideological [de-politicized] state” is liable to attract and mobilize those who genuinely admire and romanticize Nazism.

In the best case scenario, the majority of those attracted to the band will be apolitical folks who simply find it interesting or enjoy the sound of the music and don’t care to examine its deeper message, while a minority will appreciate the work as a political critique and be strengthened or encouraged in adopting an anti-fascist worldview. Here live performances may even function as political sociodramas, which are a form of group psychodrama. Kellerman (2007) writes in Sociodrama and Collective Trauma, “In sociodrama groups that explore the effects of oppressive regimes and totalitarian political systems, it may be suitable to suggest that group members show this situation in action.”

Nevertheless, the worst case scenario, that of spreading romanticization and fetishization of militarist iconography (and by extension, militarism itself) among fans remains possible, even for Laibach, no matter the group members’ intentions. It would be no stretch of the imagination to envision the baby killers in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 getting psyched up on a Laibach track instead of the Bloodhound Gang’s “The Roof is on Fire”. It’s also been said that the perpetrators of the Beslan school siege listened to Rammstein during the event. De-politicization allows anyone, including Nazis and terrorists, to make the music theirs and instrumentalize it towards politically reactionary ends.

There are still other reasons why this would-be de-politicization or decontextualization of swastikas, goose-stepping, black and brown shirts, arm bands, etc. can be regarded as dangerous.

The mass psychology of fascism is alive and well in today’s world. The authoritarian family, rabid middle classes, crises of free market liberal democracy are all part of our 21st century world. Only when these things have been done away with will it be theoretically possible to divorce the elements of fascism from their horizon of meaning. The mere popularization of the constellation of elements is an indicator of a rising tide of vituperativeness amongst the petite bourgeoisie. Laibach are not licensed therapists qualified to carry out mass sociodrama. They are a rock band.

Whether people are making “libidinal investments” into a militaristic parade or into a performance of musicians on a stage at a consumerist venue, the fact that libidinal energy is being sublimated into anything at all means that everyone involved is a victim of a society which has made them feel that their naturally occurring animalian desires are unacceptable and that they should instead somehow divert that into “higher” desires like rigidly extending their arms at a forty five degree angle towards the Great Leader or enjoying consumeristic musical venues. The latter is all the more insidious precisely because it has become the more acceptable and palpable means of social control. War and genocide in their 21st century forms continue without the former, and are made possible in part by the latter.

Undermining Authoritarianism from Without

Do we really need to get into Nazism in order to undermine it, as Slavoj Zizek suggests?

We might consider some alternative perspectives on this issue to counterbalance Zizek’s.

In 1940, indigenous peoples in North America resolved to disown the swastika, a symbol which had been theirs previous to the rise of Nazism in Europe.

28 Feb 1940, Tucson, Arizona, USA --- 2/28/40-Tucson, Arizona: Florence Smiley and Evelyn Yathe, Navajos of Tucson, Arizona are shown signing the imposing parchment document which formally outlawed the Swastika symbol from designs in Indian art, such as basket and blanket weaving. Four tribes, Navajos, Papagos, Apaches and Hopis banned the symbol which was in use by the Indians long before it came to have a sinister significance. The document tells why Indians banned it. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Signing the resolution

In his 1964 autobiography, Romanichal actor Charlie Chaplin wrote of his 1940 film The Great Dictator, “Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator, I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis.”

thegreatdictator

Charlie Chaplin as “The Great Dictator”

Perhaps instead of tolerating, much less enjoying, these elements from within, the best way to fight Nazism is to recognize that the measure of free speech we have under private market liberal democracy and the lack of it under private market fascist dictatorship are really two sides of the same coin. Instead we must practice social responsibility and censor, ban, and lay utter waste to Nazism and fascism from without. We ought personally admonish fascist fucks in an intense and intimidating fashion and culturally repress their desire to be antisocial dickheads until they are forced to take their blasted libidinal investment in other directions. But with this blatantly outrageous and over the top censure bordering on obscene levels of anti-fascist bravado must also come a willingness to patiently and calmly explain why only revolutionary socialism can undo our hierarchical societies’ horrific injustice.


All works cited in compliance with the fair use doctrine.