If you think the behavior in the following video is OK in a democracy—or, even worse, if it gives you a visceral thrill of righteousness and justice served—then I hate to tell ya this, my friend, but you are the fucking brownshirt.
Look, it’s not like I would trust Donald Trump as far as I can throw him. That goofy birther debacle aside, I still can’t believe how many otherwise rational people, up to and including libertarians, are flinging their panties at a guy whose stated objective is to run the federal government.
But whether or not you like the man is beside the point. What’s Nazi-tastic about the documented violence against Trump supporters is that citizens (or not) are physically attacking other citizens for participating in the democratic process. They are attacking them for their ideas. They are using the excuse these thoughts are so “dangerous” they require vigilante justice. (Notice how many times the word “dangerous” has been used in this campaign? Most noticeably, it’s been used against Trump by a certain female whose favorite hobby is bombing the Middle East till the entire population thereof dumps itself into Sweden. Yeah, that doesn’t sound dangerous at all, Lucretia Borgia.)
In part, I suppose the more extreme behaviors depicted in the video can be put down to adrenaline and the thrill of the mob; the youthful invincibility of being Part of a Big Event, piled on top of their conviction that they’re fighting the good fight (against American sovereignty). But the stated objective of the “protesters” (a funny word for fascists, but whatever) is to “Shut down Trump,” and their tactics are violence. They are explicitly and actively putting out the threatening message that political activity with which they do not agree will be responded to with grave physical harm. If this escalates into civil war, it ain’t Trump’s fault.
It seems, at first glance, inexplicable and surreal. But strip away the costumes and slogans, and it appears that the underpinning mental process going on boils down to a bizarre twist on dehumanization: the protesters are confusing and conflating fellow citizens with the state. (Or, to use their conveniently vague term, “the powers that be.”)
In a horrible article by the horrible Jesse Benn, horribly titled “Sorry, Liberals, A Violent Response To Trump Is As Logical As Any” (incorrect MS-Word-generated title caps sic), he argues that:
“Violent resistance matters. Riots can lead to major change (*note the irony of that hyperlink going to a Vox article). It’s not liberal politicians or masses that historians identify as the spark underlying the modern movement for LGBTQ equality. Nor was it a think piece from some smarmy liberal writer. It was the people who took to the streets during the Stonewall Uprising. It was the Watts Rebellion, not the Watts Battle of Ideas, that exposed the enduring systemic neglect, poverty, inequality, and racism faced by that community. Similarly, it was the LA Uprising, not the LA Protests, that led to significant changes in the Los Angeles Police Department. More recently, the Ferguson and Baltimore Uprisings both helped prompt the Justice Department to investigate their corrupt police forces.”
Benn is taking examples of rioting for the purpose of changing laws or damaging an entrenched elite, and misusing them to justify rioting against the powerless, shmuck-on-the-street supporters of someone who doesn’t even hold public office yet. Benn advocates committing acts of violence against voters as though they were not ordinary citizens, but corrupt, powerfully racist public officials. Rather than thinking of the other side of the argument as the other half of the populace, in other words, the left has come to think of them as being, every one, a privileged part of the shadowy, powerful Death Star. (It’s arguable that both the left and the right take memes passed down from on high amongst the shadowy Powers That Be, but these protesters appear to think that their thoughts are self-generated and “grassroots,” while Trump fans are all supporters and beneficiaries of the conspiracy.)
Strange and illogical though this idea may be, its roots are pretty obvious: it’s the logical extreme of the regressive left’s identity politics. (Well, not quite the absolute extreme; the White Guy Gas Chambers have yet to be erected, if you’ll pardon my dick joke.)
In the mind of an identity politician, every white male, be he ever so dirt-poor, is an integral pillar and beneficiary of the “power structure,” a concept so vague that it’s conveniently impossible to argue about. Therefore, it’s inconceivable that a white male could be supporting Trump because he opposes the status quo; this faceless white male is by definition the status quo’s creature. It then follows that physically attacking a white male Trump supporter is not a blow against a fellow voter and fellow more-or-less disenfranchised participant in the peanut-gallery portion of the election process—rather, it is a blow against a dehumanized personification of everything that’s keepin’ you down. It might appear to be human flesh you’re cutting and bruising, but in fact that white “man” bleeds not blood, but privilege juice. You aren’t having an argument, you are representing the forces of good and evil. Within this framework, why on earth would you question your actions? Mob away to your heart’s content.
The really weird thing, though, is that it’s not just white male Trump supporters who are physically attacked.
Women and minorities who dare to step outside of their prescribed roles are beaten and hit with projectiles as well (note how the egg lady is blamed for “taunting” the “protesters,” who, when they’re not committing acts of violence, do almost nothing but smarmily taunt people). I can’t even imagine what’s going on in people’s “minds” when they beat up non-whites and non-males for having the wrong opinion about our “plight.” When I worked at the Chicago Reader, I had trouble (to put it mildly) with my liberal coworkers—because as a non-feminist woman, I pissed them off by tearing a hole in their reality. But that was back in the aughts, before things became quite so extreme. Now, I suppose, I would have been more overtly hounded out of a job with accusations of male chauvinism (or set on fire).
This ideology results in a goldmine of darkly comic spectacles, like that of one young man who proclaimed, with the thrilling self-righteousness of the un-self-aware, that he’s burning a Trump hat because “Fuck that cracker! He’s a racist.” Then there’s the hallucinatory spectacle of brown people physically attacking other brown people who disagree with them—sometimes even calling them racists. Hang on; I thought that was impossible. I guess nonwhites can be racist after all, but only if they’re defending white people from racism. Wait, racism against white people isn’t racism. Or something…? The heirs of Foucault have misused and pissed on language to the point where we’re unable to even talk about this stuff coherently, never mind whether we can do it in public debate without being beat up; it’s too bad the word Orwellian is so overused.
Weirder still are the white leftists who go after blacks and Latinos and women who step out of line; for some reason they seem to be particularly vicious. Or perhaps we’re finally colorblind, hooray: ideology is so important that we’re unable to identify the skin color, and rank in the progressive stack, of people who disagree with us. Perhaps—through the precious and demented lens of true belief—the face of the enemy appears to be covered in newsprint.
The Mexican flag has been a thing at protests at least since the Trump rally that was shut down in Chicago; in this highly amateurish video clip I grabbed, you can hear me sputtering bemusedly at the appearance of a vaguely hostile nation’s political insignia being waved around in the process of its neighbor’s election. Kinda sounds like a land grab to me. And frankly, if they win it back, fair on them; we won California fair and square, and they’re going to win it because we’re too blinkered to realize we’re being attacked—but however you manage to lose, you’ve lost, no? I’d be more inclined to blame the arrogant leftists who continue to scoff that it’s ridiculous to think brown people could ever get it together enough to take over the West, and that even if they could, we are so supremely, powerfully, almost gloriously evil as a race that we have earned it. I’ve written about this bizarrely self-hating form of white supremacy before, but I can’t say I quite understand what it’s about yet. A Jesus complex on top of a desire for the most grandiose suicide we can cook up?
Annnnnyway. The left tries to explain the flag bullshit away by calling it an expression of cultural pride—but the national flag is not primarily a cultural symbol, any more than my high school mascot was an organic expression of what my graduating class was like. This is not a cultural expression. It is a political expression. It’s also a threat, made even more obvious by the fact that they are violently injecting this symbol of a foreign sovereign state specifically into our electoral process (I don’t see anyone marching around the opera with foreign governments’ regalia). Whether they are actual Mexican citizens or American citizens who primarily identify as Mexicans, if they want to make America Mexico again, they are no more American than a terrorist living in Molembeek is Belgian or French.
But despite the aggression, some of my well-meaning friends are still more concerned with the rights of non-US citizens than we are with the preservation of our relatively peaceful style of doing politics—a style that it took a lot of blood, sweat, riots, and guts to arrive at. I get it; you think you have the luxury to be magnanimous—because you think you’re more powerful and safe than you are—because “white American privilege.” But if we keep importing and tolerating a third-world dictatorship mentality, we’re not going to have any civil liberties left ourselves. I used to think of identity politickers’ communitarianism and essentializing as merely annoying and silly (“Quit speaking for me against my will, ya damn Baby Boomer feminists!”). But now they’re beginning to use their silly ideas to justify dehumanizing and assaulting their fellow voters. The irony of these ideologues calling anyone else a fascist is no longer all that amusing.