Antifa, Arpaio and Donald Trump’s All-American Reichstag Fire

Editor’s Note: truthfully, I could have and almost certainly should have written an essay like this one long before now. I have been tracking the rise of American fascism, it’s connection to what I used to regard as “right wing shock media” and it’s gradual political takeover of the US Republican party since the fall of late 2014; long before Herr Donald swooped in to “lead” a politically cohesive fascist movement nurtured with Robert Mercer’s money and Steve Bannon’s fascist propaganda machine at Breitbart News.

Unfortunately, like so many “reasonable” people who analyze US politics and American media, I found myself unwilling to endure the frustration that typically comes with directly identifying fascism on the internet and so, despite my ever increasing horror at what I was seeing unfold in front of my eyes, I resisted the urge to write an article primarily about the openly fascist/ethno-nationalist nature of Trump’s entire administration until very recently; instead choosing to consistently weave my warnings about the rise of American fascism as a political force throughout my work but never once making it the primary focus of an article.

Today however (and in the wake of my last Everyone is Wrong But Me post) we’re going to cut right to the chase and discuss why these last two weeks have me convinced that Trump, his supporters and the wealthy media savvy donors who put this fascist fuckstick into the White House really *are* trying to rapidly turn the US into an All-American version of Nazi Germany. I ask that before you freak out in my mentions on social media, please consider my track record as an analyst and please carefully read both my argument and the links I’ve scattered throughout this piece that reinforce that argument. I do not invoke the darkest moments in world history lightly and I’m writing this now because I fear we’re on the verge of repeating mistakes that lead to mass killings and very nearly the destruction of an entire continent.

 

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”                – Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

As longtime readers of this website may already be aware, I have spent a great deal of my life studying the history of fascist movements and identifying their similarities to the western “democratic” elite social order I’ve found myself living in. While these studies have always informed the things I write to you here on this website, I have typically (although not always) avoided using this space to “teach history” unless it’s absolutely necessary as part of a larger discussion about current events. Unfortunately however, if you want to understand why I fear the United States is about to transform itself into a literal hell on earth, it’s going to be necessary for us to look back towards what many consider the point of no return for Nazi Germany – the Reichstag Fire and Adolf Hitler’s “Decree for the Protection of the People and the State.”

 

Twenty-Five Days

On February 27, 1933, the seat of German parliament (the Reichstag building) was destroyed by an apparent act of arson and in the wake of “a campaign of unparalleled violence and bitterness” by then-Chancellor Adolf Hitler, designed to influence the upcoming German election. Although it remains impossible to definitively prove that Hitler’s Nazi party set the fire themselves, what happened after the fire is a matter of historical record. Fascists in Germany’s coalition government blamed Communists and used the unfounded fear of a nonexistent left-wing uprising against the German government to force President von Hindenburg to approve “the Decree for the Protection of the People and the State” the very next day after the blaze. The regulations permanently suspended numerous constitutional protections; including the right to assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Finally, the decree empowered German police to “root out Communists” by whatever (read: violent) means were necessary; which conveniently allowed Hitler to remove all of his political enemies in a very short period of time simply by suggesting they were Communists. The Reichstag Fire Act as it became commonly known was followed by the “Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich” aka the Enabling Act less than a month later on March 24th, 1933 and Germany legally became a full-fledged fascist dictatorship under the genocidal tyranny of Adolf Hitler. Although this moment did not represent the origins of European fascism and it would still take several years for the full horrors of the antisemitic Nazi regime to be unleashed, the inarguable truth is that Hitler exploited bourgeoisie fears of socialism and direct action to completely obliterate German civil rights and democratic freedoms – and he did it in the span of twenty-five short days in the spring of 1933.

With this little history lesson in mind, let’s fast forward to today as American finds itself in what appears to be a state of shock in the aftermath of a nazi riot in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in the murder of thirty-two year old socialist activist Heather Heyer at the hands of a fascist terrorist. If you didn’t know that the so-called “Alt-Right” were violent reactionary fascists, watching them throw up Nazi salutes while chanting “blood and soil” and “fuck you faggots” in Charlottesville erased all doubt in your mind. If you didn’t already realize US President Donald Trump is a bigoted fascist himself, his bizarre and openly mendacious support of violent white nationalists in Charlottesville made the horrible truth abundantly clear to you. I’m not going to waste energy debating these objective realities with fascists, apologists or deluded centrists desperately hoping that if they believe in the system hard enough, the bad men will go away peacefully; anyone with ten spare minutes and an internet connection can find more than enough evidence that everything I’ve said so far is true.

 

The War On Terror Comes Home

What you may not know however is that activities of fanatically pro-Trump fascists after the Charlottesville nazi riot might have accidentally revealed a method in the swine emperor’s “both sides” madness. Even as we speak, there is a terrifying official .gov petition to formally recognize “Antifa” a terrorist organization awaiting a response from the President. Fueled by “alt-right” ethno-nationalists and nazi apologists in reactionary “conservative” media the petition has managed to attract over 300K signatures already; more than three times as many signatures as is required to theoretically force a response from the White House. This action has simultaneously been supported by a massive PR push against “Antifa” by fascist online provocateurs in the so called “alt right” and pro-Trump nazi-adjacent right wing “media” figures all over the country; including prime time news stories about unrelated anti-fascists actions in Europe, a fake terrorist manual and dozens upon dozens of fake “Antifa” social media accounts designed to turn mainstream voters against anti-fascism by calling for extreme violence and in some cases, terrorist attacks in the United States. As if all that weren’t enough to terrify you however, US President Donald Trump then proceeded to toe the neo-nazi line at his nightmare fuel Phoenix rally – mentioning “antifa” by name and adding “you know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks. And they’ve got clubs, and they’ve got everything. Antifa.

So just why exactly does all of this matter; what is the overall objective American fascists and right wing reactionaries are trying to accomplish with this petition? Well, for starters it’s important to note that declaring “antifa” a terrorist organization would give the Trump administration and the Department of Justice broad, sweeping powers to arrest, detain and harass anyone they identify as “antifa” – a fact which you can be sure pro-fascist agitators in the right wing media are fully aware of.

Now you may be asking yourself, as many did when Bush’s anti-terrorism measures resulted in the mass persecution of Muslim Americans, “what do I care Nina? I’m not a member of antifa anyway” which in turn brings us to the second and arguably far more serious problem with this petition to declare “antifa” an official terrorist organization. The simple truth is that “antifa” cannot be a terrorist organization because it isn’t even an “organization” in any reasonable sense of the word and activists punching nazis or smashing bank windows aren’t fucking terrorism, they’re assault and vandalism respectively; crimes for which we already have laws on the books to address. The term “antifa” itself is actually just short-hand for “anti-fascist” and although some activist groups use the word “antifa” in their self-given titles, there is literally no organizational hierarchy involved here; “antifa” is a loose collection of like minded activists who oppose fascism and aren’t afraid to take to the streets to do it, nothing more. Are some individuals who call themselves “antifa” prone to physical confrontation? Sure, but I don’t see anyone trying to declare Pro Life activists a terrorist threat just because Robert Dear called himself Pro-Life and then shot up a Planned Parenthood Clinic and last I checked it was violent fascists murdering people, not pinko activists; since when did beating someone up become morally equivalent to hate-fueled murder? There is simply no such thing as an all-encompassing “antifa” organization; there are no membership rolls, no national meetings and they don’t even have an Al-Qaida style media relations department. In other words, the very people claiming to support “free speech rights” as a fig leaf for organized fascist intimidation tactics, are now asking their nazi patron president to criminalize the common idea of rejecting fascism as a method of persecuting their political enemies.

All of which naturally brings up a number of disturbing questions. Does anyone else remember what happened the last time the United States Government went to war against an abstract concept? Do you oppose fascism? I sure as fuck know that I do and until very recently, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Americans would readily describe themselves as “anti-fascist.” If Donald Trump is objectively a fascist, what precisely is the difference, legally speaking, between an “antifa” protest and an anti-Trump protest; are mainstream liberals prepared to do time in Gitmo for wearing a pussy hat and waving a sign? After they’re done arresting all of the “terrorists” willing to continue calling themselves “antifa” who do you think will be next? Is the expression “first they came for the Communists” starting to ring any bells for you yet? Have I mentioned that this petition already has 300,000+ signatures and Trump himself has started using the word “antifa” in his neo-fascist rally stump speech yet? Just checking.

 

Actually, It Can Happen Here

Now, if hundreds of thousands of reactionary American fascists were merely petitioning their nazi-apologist president to declare their shared political enemies terrorists in a vacuum, it might be possible (if unwise) to put your head back in the sand and wait for this insanity to blow over; after all Trump has actively been ignoring White House petitions since he got into office and even declaring someone a terrorist doesn’t completely void the US Constitution. Unfortunately for the “let them eat sheetcake” crowd however, absolutely none of this is happening in a vacuum and the swine emperor isn’t the only villain involved in our tale.

At the exact same time as far right reactionaries have initiated an all out public relations war against anti-fascism, Herr Donald and his hate goblin Attorney General Jeff Sessions are in the process of aggressively attacking civil liberties, protest rights and freedom of the press. The US Department of Justice is already engaged in a repressive campaign to identify and aggressively prosecute protestors (and several journalists) from the J20 Disrupt event on Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day – the DoJ recently tried to force Dreamhost to turn over identifying information for over 1.3 million IP addresses that visited the website “disruptj20.org” as part of an attempt to prove that demonstrators conspired to riot before attending the protest; although this attempt was only partially successful due to a ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin.

This coordinated fascist push to criminalize “antifa” also comes at a time when the Trump administration has openly threatened leakers, whistle-blowers, a university, Sanctuary Cities, journalists and Wikileaks. It comes during the opening phases of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement crackdown that has left officers feeling emboldened to engage in profound acts of cruelty in the government’s longstanding crusade to deport undocumented migrants.  It also comes at a time when both the House and Senate are considering bills that would criminalize boycotting Israel over it’s illegal occupation of Palestine. Factoring in the Department of Justice’s stated intent to fire up mandatory minimums and the myopic, utterly hopeless “War On Drugs” again, it sure looks like the US government is on the verge of being able to put pretty much anyone Trump doesn’t like in prison; a result that probably suits his staggeringly corrupt Attorney General just fine.

Further complicating matters are the realities that Trump’s administration is disintegrating, the swine emperor has already declared the media an “enemy of the American people” and notorious pro-Trump ratfucker Roger Stone just told TMZ that any politician who tried to impeach Trump would be “endangering their own life” while predicting (read: threatening) “a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.”  Can anyone truly say in good conscience that they know what President Trump won’t do now that he’s desperate, increasingly isolated and feeling Robert Mueller’s breath on the back of his neck at all hours of the day?

 

To Protect And Serve (Fascism)

So unless you’re (figuratively speaking) strung out on box wine and Xanax, there’s a pretty good chance you’re starting to realize that we have a serious problem on our hands here; and by “we” I of course mean anyone in America who isn’t a shithead fascist or a nazi sympathizer. Unfortunately however, we still haven’t talked about the most terrifying development on the road to America’s very own Pork Reich; the fact that the police all over the United States seem to be overwhelmingly siding with fascism and against left wing protestors. If what I’ve just said sounds like an exaggeration to you, I’m sorry to say that you haven’t been paying very close attention because even long before Charlottesville, the evidence has been both extensive and conclusive:

 

At this point, only bigots and cop-worshiping morons can deny that this is a disproportionate response from American authorities towards ostensibly “left wing” protestors as opposed to those on the reactionary right. Arguably even more terrifying than the notion that US law enforcement has already picked a side in a culture war only right wing reactionaries wanted however is the fact that the neo-nazis themselves are fully aware of this and are actively exploiting it during demonstrations. Perhaps that’s because even the FBI has acknowledged that reactionaries, fascists and white supremacists have actively infiltrated many law enforcement agencies all over the country – “some of those that work forces” indeed.

Finally of course, anyone who has followed Herr Donald’s political career up to this point will be fully aware that the swine emperor has made no attempt to hide his open pandering to law enforcement officers in the United States; with a particular focus on appealing to the darker, authoritarian side of American policing at every possible turn. Shockingly, while there has been some grumbling from higher-ranking police officials about Trump’s inappropriate statements; rank and file police officers and ICE goons have largely reciprocated the President’s advances and platitudes.

 

Law and Disorder

Let’s stop for a second and review the size of the problem here; the president is a fascist, various appendages of government in the United States appear to be trying to criminalize virtually all forms of protest, pro-Trump neo-nazis and the right wing reactionary media are actively trying to help them by petitioning the president to make opposing fascism a terrorist act and there’s a pretty good chance a significant percentage of cops in America are actually on the ethno-nationalist’s side. To describe this situation as alarming would be an understatement of colossal proportions but there are still more factors at work here that suggest a full blown fascist dictatorship might be just around the corner.

Functionally speaking, being President of the United States essentially puts Trump himself “above the law” while he’s in office; we can argue until we’re both blue in the face about Richard Nixon and a possible constitutional crisis but the overall scholarly consensus is that “a sitting President is immune from ordinary criminal prosecution.” Furthermore, although there is some debate on the matter, nobody seems entirely sure that Trump can’t simply preemptively pardon himself and his associates before he leaves office because no President has ever tried it before. At this point I should also remind you that Donny Tiny Hands has already fired three federal officials investigating his government in some way and nothing but his word is currently keeping him from firing a fourth. Finally, thanks to the woefully shortsighted actions of the previous two US administrations at least, the swine emperor has both the legal authority and the raw structural means to aggressively persecute the numerous political enemies of fascism in America.

By my calculations this really leaves only two structural barriers stopping Herr Donald from installing outright fascism in the United States, if that is indeed what he’s trying to do here. The first barrier is primarily political; if they so choose the Republican Party has the ability and more than enough reasonable cause to impeach or otherwise remove President Trump from the White House. Unfortunately, whether because they’re terrified of Trump’s voters or because they don’t really mind fascism all that much, there seems to be almost no political will inside the GOP to accomplish this goal (even as Trump empowers violent right wing reactionaries of all stripes in America) and the swine emperor has already begun mercilessly attacking the few Republicans who have spoken out against his nascent fascist regime. Of course, all of this presupposes that Trump would obey an impeachment order in the first place; what happens if he refuses to abandon the Presidency and uses the threat of violence from his supporters to retain power? Is anyone prepared to order the Army to evict the President of the United States? Are we sure they’d even listen?

Ultimately then, this really only leaves the Judiciary branch of the United States government standing in between Donald Trump and a modern update of Man in the High Castle. Although the courts can’t actually depose the President, they can theoretically block the worst of his orders based on legal precedent and the US Constitution; whether they will or not however, is still very much an open question. Here too, Trump has tried to intimidate the federal judiciary with vitriolic attacks and unprecedented public accusations clearly designed to call into question the very legitimacy of any court that doesn’t rule in the swine emperor’s favor. Once again however there still remains the uncomfortable question of what exactly happens if Trump or pro-Trump minions in the federal government simply refuse to obey a given court order and American history suggests the answer might be “not bloody much.”

 

The Tyranny of Evil Men

All of which brings us to this past Friday and the horrifying epitome of swine emperor Trump’s open embrace of violent fascists and brazen disrespect for the rule of law; the crass pardoning of malevolent former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio mere hours before a category four hurricane slammed into Texas and Louisiana. For those unfamiliar with the malignant boil on the ass of humanity that is Joe Arpaio let me say without hyperbole that “Sheriff Joe” is the nearest facsimile of Rudolf Höss the United States has ever seen and when our modern era joins the pages of American history I firmly expect his name to appear alongside racist psychopath cops like Bull Conner and Jon Burge. Although it would be far beyond the scope of this essay to explore the full depth of Joe Arpaio’s savage cruelty, open bigotry or staggering criminal incompetence, I encourage you to read this piece by Nathan J Robinson at Current Affairs which explores the topic in heartbreaking detail; here are some low-lights:

 

As horrifying as all of that is however, these blatantly inhuman crimes aren’t the reason Sheriff Joe’s name will live in infamy long after his wretched soul shuffles off the mortal coil; that would be “Tent City” the nightmare fuel outdoor containment facility that Arpiao himself has jokingly called a “concentration camp.” The real question that remains to this day (even after the removal of Tent City) however is “was he really even joking?” In the summer, temperatures inside the Korean War era army surplus tents have been clocked as high as 145 degrees; in the winter inmates were denied both heat and additional clothing in even bitterly cold conditions. Inmates were purposely fed nutritionally insufficient amounts of moldering food because who doesn’t enjoy a little orchestrated starvation while exploiting legalized slave labor? In the past Arpiao has openly admitted that treating prisoners cruelly was an active goal in all of his jails; even people who might be innocent and are just awaiting trial. Over the years Arpiao also repeatedly ignored court orders to improve the objectively squalid conditions in Maricopa County’s jails. Prisoners with health issues or a mental illness were routinely provided with shockingly inadequate care, an activity that resulted in the death of an inmate on more than one occasion. Which of course brings us to the staggering number of dead prisoners that came out of Arpiao’s jails and were carefully hidden by woefully insufficient record keeping in both Sheriff Joe’s office and the County Medical Examiner’s office; why waste your time with puppies when you can quietly murder “w*tbacks” instead?

Perhaps the most sickening thing about the whole Arpiao saga however is the fact that it wasn’t any of these heinous, morally outrageous activities that ultimately caught up with Sherriff Joe. Indeed despite racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in civil awards and legal fees, Arpiao managed to win six consecutive elections in Maricopa County and even Obama era Democrats were happy to work with him so long as Arpiao kept feeding the US deportation machine. Frankly Sheriff Joe didn’t even have to fire the individual officers who engaged in inhumane abuses; he actually fucking promoted them. Like so many other repugnant villains in American history, Arpiao has (thus far) escaped punishment for most of his outrageous crimes against human decency; it was only his open disrespect for the US government that ultimately laid Sheriff Joe low. After a near ten year long racial profiling case, Arpiro and his department were ordered by US District Court Judge G. Murray Snow to “stop detaining people based simply on a belief that they were in the country illegally, rather than suspicion that a crime has been committed.” Naturally Arpaio responded by telling Snow to pound sand and then gave interviews with various television reporters in which he stated he would “never give in to control by the federal government,” that he would not “back down” and “if they don’t like what I’m doing get the laws changed in Washington.” It took almost three more years but finally America decided it had seen just about enough of Sherrif Joe; he lost his bid for re-election and was recently convicted for criminal contempt of a federal court order to stop pretending the US Constitution didn’t exist for people who vaguely looked like Mexicans. It wasn’t exactly justice, but Arpaio’s many victims could finally sleep at night knowing that Sheriff Joe was going to pay in some small way for all the lives he’d destroyed; until swine emperor Trump came along and pardoned him that is.

Once you can grasp the full picture, it becomes easy to see how pardoning Joe Arpaio is arguably the defining moment thus far in Herr Donald’s increasingly proto-fascist and already far too long presidency. In one terrifyingly calculated blow, the swine emperor has managed to simultaneously endorse ethno-nationalist violence by state officials and attack virtually everyone and everything in a position to stop him from pushing the country into overt fascism. In addition to being an outrageously cruel insult to Arpaio’s many victims, Trump’s pardon also represents a terrifying attack on the US Judiciary branch, the authority of federal courts and indeed the very rule of law itself. In addition to sending a clear message of support to racists, white nationalists and neo-nazis, this presidential pardon is also an unprecedented assault on American civil liberties; after all, if Trump can get Sheriff Joe out of jail for violating the civil rights of Hispanic Americans, what’s to stop him from pardoning cops who abuse the rights of left wing protestors? Pardoning the former Sheriff also forces Trump’s “moderate” rivals in the Republican party to choose between attacking a popular icon in reactionary conservative circles or refusing to acknowledge that such a vile act is unquestionably grounds for impeachment; which is definitely a lose/lose proposition for many vulnerable GOP representatives. In pardoning Arpaio, Trump has not only resumed his long courtship of violent law enforcement in America but also shattered the last fundamental check to his power by demonstrating the ability to use the presidential pardon to violate the US Constitution at will. The “Russiagate” investigation isn’t going to stop Trump because the President has just definitively proven that he and his supporters are above the law.

I’m not trying to be alarmist because we’re far past the point of quibbling over terminology here, there is no other way to describe Herr Donald’s flagrant abuse of power; it’s fascism. If we’re asking “how do you end up with death camps in the United States” it seems to me that building dozens of massive, inhumane holding pens for migrants all around the country, electing an authoritarian who is also an unapologetic racist and then pardoning the guy who built the Tent City concentration camp after he’s repeatedly taken a giant shit on the US constitution, might be a pretty good way to go about it. Those arguing that “it could never happen here” either haven’t connected all of these very obvious dots or they are vastly overestimating the stability of an American “democratic” system under assault by wealthy elites long before Trump decided to run for President of the United States.

 

Fifth Column, Fourth Estate

In these dark and dangerous times for marginalized Americans and those who would oppose fascism alike, I find myself utterly stupefied at the casually callous and openly mendacious behavior of a centrist US political class that instantly forgot Donald Trump is literally a goddamn nazi when he said the three magic words our elites have apparently been waiting for; “war in Afghanistan.” This sense of outraged confusion is only further magnified by the downright suicidal behavior of our corporate “liberal” media who are even as we speak helping to spread the idea that “antifa” attacked “peaceful right wing protestors” in Berkley despite the fact that nobody knows who was arrested and there is literally no such goddamn thing as a “peaceful” nazi. After helping to push fascist ideology and ethno-nationalist provocateurs towards mainstream acceptance, the moneyed American aristocracy seems quite content to pretend that the country isn’t about to step directly into a mind-fucking authoritarian nightmare that may legitimately result in the deaths of millions of people. This is likely because deep down inside affluent centrists (of all ethnicities) secretly believe they personally have a lot more to lose from socialist reforms than a fascist takeover and many of them objectively realize they have little to fear from violent nazi terrorists; a thought process eerily reminiscent of mainstream Germany’s slide into Nazism during the 1930’s.

The simple truth is that I honestly don’t know what we’re supposed to do next; what I do know is that the threat of impending, overt fascism in America is as real as penitentiary steel and it seems highly unlikely that Donald Trump (or whoever pulls his strings) has merely stumbled on to Adolf Hitler’s exact recipe for Nazi Germany by accident. This isn’t going to stop until everyday Americans make it stop and as is so often the case in history, the proletariat alone stands in the way of the tyranny of evil men. The corrupt US establishment isn’t going to rescue us and the authorities are more likely to help the nazis abuse us than send in the cavalry to save the day.

Whatever we as a people choose to do next will have far-reaching consequences that ring down for generations; even if what we choose to do in the face of ascendant American fascism is literally nothing at all.

Choose wisely my friends… and swing heil.

 

  • Nina Illingworth

 

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