February 23, 2018

Nazi Rally #Fail is a Sign: The Fascists are Morphing

The far right Nazis, white supremacists, and fascists brought all their most famous people to the White House for a little anti-immigrant party on Sunday. But no one came. The crowd with the most energy was we the antifascists and anti-racists who organized with less than 24 hours’ notice.

But we should be vigilant. Their rally #fail should not be taken as a total victory. It’s a sign that the fascists are morphing into something new – not a sign that they’re totally vanishing.

Only about 20 white supremacists were present at the rally, and at least six of them were actual media personalities. Richard Spencer was there – notorious bourbon-swilling drunken Nazi, known mostly for getting decked and igniting the “It’s Okay to Punch a Nazi” national conversation. So was Matt Heimbach, the bearded white nationalist who tried to start a White Student Union at Towson University. Elliott “Eli Mosley” Kline, former president of Identity Evropa, who was a lead organizer of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in which Heather Heyer was killed when a right-wing terrorist rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters.

Oh, and Tony Hovater, recently afforded a “Nazi next door” profile by The New York Times, and Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, anti-Semitic video blogger and “Alt Right” personality, and Evan McLaren, the new head of Spencer’s National Policy Institute. A variety of lesser-known fascists were there, too, such as William Clark and “NotMatthias” of Identity Evropa – people whose names don’t elicit headlines but are dangerous nonetheless. Not one person with them was a woman or femme-presenting person.

So, if all of their most famous people were there, where were all of their adoring fans? Why would they hold this celebrated event with such poor attendance?

One answer is that their street-level hate is no longer working. We antifascists have succeeded in removing their platform in this way. That is very happy news. However, that doesn’t mean we should consider this moment an easy victory. In many ways, the fight is just beginning. Now is the most important time to strengthen our antifascist movements. We must realize that their organizing is changing, but it is not disappearing.

We must change to fight their new forms. They’re changing. So must we.

On Saturday afternoon, activists noticed tweets sent out by Peinovich and Spencer, threatening to appear at the White House at 2 PM on Sunday, less than 24 hours later. We began organizing on Saturday evening. An “All Out to Oppose Nazis” Call to Action was written and submitted to various public platforms such as ItsGoingDown.org, who posted it on Sunday morning as dawn hit the East Coast.

An ensemble of socialists, communists, anarchists, and other leftists gathered at an off-site location. Some would use masks and some would not. We had eyes and ears in the vicinity of the White House. At 1:45 PM, we began marching. Red and black flags were flown. The Nazis had said that they would meet at Lafayette Park, so we briefly convened in that park, on the north side of the White House. We got word that the Nazis had been spotted, heading toward the White House. We left Lafayette Park and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to meet them.

As the two groups marched towards each other, many braced for impact, thinking that direct hand-to-hand confrontation was imminent. The Secret Service and MPD, however, responded too quickly, and formed a barrier between our groups. (One detail about our local cops: On most days, any tiny display of aggression can get you arrested in a heartbeat by one of our city’s many law enforcement agencies. So the likely stakes of a rumble include getting tangled in the criminal justice system.) After just a moment, the cops assembled a fence of metal barricades between our groups, with almost all of the cops on the fascist side. Go figure.

What followed was a frankly pathetic show from the fascists. Unable to reach Lafayette Park, they rallied in the middle of the road to the northwest corner of the White House. Their numbers were tiny. Their energy was low. Most of them were just standing there looking somewhat bored. Peinovich began yelling into a handheld megaphone, followed by other speakers. Addressing our energetic antifascist crowd, the supposedly-academic Richard Spencer, whose funding has mostly come from his parents throughout his rise to fame, appealed to baser instincts, leading chants like “Trust Fund Commies” and, following a baffling diatribe about hygiene, a chant of “Take a Shower.” So much for lofty speeches.

On our side, we were generating a wall of noise that included chants, a song “If You’re a Nazi and You Lose Your Job,” and a few impromptu speeches, emanating from several megaphones, which successfully drowned out their voices. Many of us did not even realize Spencer was speaking. After roughly 18-19 minutes, the Nazis concluded their rally, and marched away under heavy police escort. We marched away, too.

Richard Spencer can be seen running and diving headfirst into a black, shiny SUV, as security personnel hold the door open for him. He left the rest of his comrades behind following the rally in Washington DC. (Screenshot from video by News2Share.)

How scared are the Nazis? At the end of the event, top Nazi Spencer was filmed escaping into a black shiny SUV. We’re not sure what they had in mind, but video footage by News2Share shows Spencer sprinting away from the crowd and clumsily pitching his body head-first into the backseat of the vehicle. He looks terrified. As he disappears into the expensive-looking vehicle, the same type of vehicle that is used by media and government personalities, a reporter asks, “Where are you going, Richard?”

There’s a giant metaphor in Spencer disappearing into this slick, expensive vehicle. This kind of getaway is obviously expensive and not something most people would be able to afford.

Sadly, the Nazis have been making bank lately.

The results are astounding. As reported by Mic.com on December 1, 2017:

“After the Charlottesville protests, many white nationalists lost access to money-transfer services like Apple Pay and PayPal, and therefore turned to bitcoin, doubling down on their investment or creating wallets to experiment with the apolitical cryptocurrency.”

A tool created by John Bambenek of the cybersecurity firm Bambenek Consulting tracks how much Bitcoin currency has been flowing into the pockets of certain hate groups. It displays contributions on the Twitter account @NeoNaziWallets.

Mic.com continues:

“In the past few months, the price of bitcoin soared to record heights, reaching a trading price over $11,000 per coin on Wednesday. Throughout this boom, white nationalist wealth has grown, with some of the country’s most virulent celebrity racists often raking in thousands of dollars in a single day.”

The everyday right-winger will tirelessly shout their belief that the antifascist movement in the US is funded by the Soros Foundation. It shouldn’t need to be said, but: All joking aside about waiting for our Soros paychecks, we are self-funded. The activists I stand shoulder to shoulder with, we pay for our own freaking paint and signs and flyers and wifi and transportation, from our own pockets. We should marvel at our resolve that we have such an amazing movement on our shoestring “budgets.” Anyone can turn cream into butter. We turn water into wine.

But while we starve and tighten our belts, the fascists are raking in the dough.

At the same time, Richard Spencer and a variety of other fashy personalities have decided, just this past week, to start a new organization called “Operation Homeland.” (I’m guessing the reference to “homeland” is just because “National Policy Institute” didn’t sound creepy enough?)

This new white nationalist organization isn’t making big waves. That’s probably because really nothing about this new devilry appears off the beaten track. The one AltRight.com article on the organization has a photo of a white lady in a wheat field, an American flag, the word “identitarian,” and talk of hating migrants and loving statues. Pretty standard fashy fare. They say this new organization will “foster collaboration” among hate groups. It remains to be seen whether that will happen. Except for this one announcement and a few tweets from the personalities involved, there has been no big splash.

In fact, almost no news outlets wrote about the organization at all, except for “Alt Right News,” which was, well, kind of obligated to cover it. But even this right wing news site seemed pretty cynical about the whole thing, observing that, “looking at the article announcing the formation of Operation Homeland on AltRight.com, it seemed like somebody was cloning somebody.”

As these fascists launch their new little organization, they obviously think they have a good thing going. And if they’re getting rich from their exploits, then they’ll probably try to milk it for all it is worth.

This happens amidst a backdrop of open class warfare by the Senate, which will harm vulnerable communities and those living on the margins. Trump’s Administration is investigating antifascist activists on multiple levels. Nearly 200 people arrested protesting at the Inauguration are facing unjustly harsh charges and over 60 years each. Certain “Alt Lite” individuals, such as conspiracy theorists / Pizzagate perpetrators / serial liars Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec are setting up PACs to try to manipulate voters during the 2018 midterm elections.

Trump continues to support policies that skew authoritarian and fascist, while the right wing shrieks about it is they who are having their rights impinged upon, just because private individuals and media companies are opting not to give their message a platform.

And of course, they think it is terribly unfair that we antifascists are opposing them in the streets. The big reason they complain is that it is working.

When we fight, we win. We must continue to fight them wherever they are. If that means changing our tactics, we must be prepared to do so.

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