Punch Drunk LOL

Piece-Now.jpgHave you ever hit someone so hard that they cried? How well do you take a punch? Ever been on the ground, trying to fend off kicks to your head? Ever been cut? Ever been shot?

These questions aren’t meant to be rhetorical. I’m curious in the serious meat/real world sense. More and more younger people of my acquaintance are, if not directly advocating “punching Nazis,” sympathetic to the violent concept. Given the current landscape, such feelings are probably inescapable, however inadvisable.

But, fascists don’t deserve free speech! They must be pushed back, made afraid, and ultimately defeated!

You’d think we were fighting for the Spanish Republic. Yet a 21st century America led by a media-created, soft-skinned narcissist doesn’t rise to the level of Falangist Spain, much less Nazi Germany. We have our own brightly-lit, pulsating hell to deal with. I’d like to say that it’s unique, and in many ways it is, but imperial decline is nothing new. Only the toys get more expensive.

When it comes to denying fascists free speech rights, Noam Chomsky would disagree with you. After all, Noam defended the free speech rights of French writer Robert Faurisson, who trafficked in Holocaust denial and was fined by a French court (also, allegedly physically attacked). While Noam deplored Faurisson’s views, he nevertheless felt that the state should not determine historical truth. Promoting a vulgar theory of history should not get you fined or imprisoned, and certainly not punched.

Ah, but if we don’t stop fascists at the polemical stage, their dangerous ideas will spread and lead to another Nazi state!

I’m not a historian of fascism (though I’ve known a couple and have read from their shelves), but I do know that the US is nothing like 1933 Germany. It’s larger and more culturally diverse; dissent has in many ways been marginalized, yet remains strong and influential, thanks to social media. In other words, we’re not heading to the camps anytime soon.

The spontaneous defense of Muslim immigrants and refugees is not strictly an answer to encroaching fascism, but a widening and deepening awareness of the present moment. You don’t need to sucker punch Richard Spencer to show fascists where you stand. Strength in numbers and solidarity is a more effective, lasting reminder. Under Trump/Pence, that collective strength will further solidify.

Still, there are adventurist souls who seek direct confrontation. They’re welcome to it, but what’s the end game? Assaulting some asshole scrawling swastikas on public transit may feel good, yet does nothing to undermine the larger problem. And I wonder to what degree this actually happens. There’s lots of talk, but where’s the daily, hourly video feed?

I’ve met and spoken to some of the people calling for this, and like many domestic radicals before them, most couldn’t kick open a bag of flour. Their romance with violence remains theoretical and, in the Twitter age, a spectator sport. Which brings me back to the top of this piece.

I’ve been punched, kicked, stomped, and thrown against walls; I’ve returned the favors, though not as sadistically as my tormentors. I’ve been cut. I was once shot at and somehow wasn’t hit. I’ve fired automatic weapons, a rocket launcher, and thrown live grenades (courtesy of Uncle Sam).

I’ve known violence, and it’s not a meme. We should be bashing corporate capitalism. It’s not as immediately satisfying and is much more elusive, but it’s the true face we need to punch.

Deny Everything

twump.jpg

In 1979, Dead Kennedys released “California Über Alles,” a satirical attack on then-California Governor Jerry Brown and his “Zen fascists.” It was rumored that Brown would challenge Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination (which he briefly did); DK lead singer Jello Biafra imagined a New Age Nazi regime where jogging and mellow vibes would be mandatory.

Funny for its day.

Brown never became president, but Ronald Reagan did, bringing with him a darker blend of fascist notions. Biafra’s parody of Brown was suddenly pointless. He rewrote the song, casting Reagan as an American Shah bent on war and Christian conformity. It was re-titled “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now.”

Accurate, though given present reality, increasingly quaint.

Is Trump worse than Reagan? Hard to say this early in, but the signs aren’t encouraging. I don’t recall this much craziness at Reagan’s dawn — and Al Haig was Secretary of State! (“Scary man, with morals of a styrofoam cup” as SNL put it at the time.) But then, elites were pretty comfortable with Reagan who was much more popular than Trump. There’s nothing like an unstable narcissist to drive a wedge into the so-called “consensus.”

As we’ve seen, liberal reaction to Trump is all over the place, ranging from conspiracy theories to left-bashing to calls for a military coup (Sarah Silverman’s brilliant suggestion). Marches and demonstrations have increased (I went to three in one week), and there are pleas for a general strike or anything that will slow if not hinder the machine. Bernie Sanders’ campaign anticipated this, but it took Trump to get liberals off their asses and into the streets.

It’s nice to see liberals arise from their eight-year slumber. I don’t know how long it will last or how deep their waking commitment runs, but with President Trump there is no lack of stimulation. Of course, mainstream Democrats remain loyal to the system, regardless of who’s managing it. For many, Trump loses on style points, not for using the weapons honed and passed on to him by Obama. And in case anybody was confused, Nancy Pelosi reminded us that capitalism rules.

Vive la résistance!

Some radicals are opting for more direct confrontations. After fascist dweeb Richard Spencer got sucker punched in DC, and a group of demonstrators aggressively shut down an appearance by alt-right celeb Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley, violence is being considered as a viable tactic. We’ve been here before, usually with disastrous results (there are those who think that the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 were successful, but somehow global capital survived). I suppose each new generation must experience this personally, so we’ll see how violent resistance flies this time around.

I would counsel my young, eager radical friends to think this through. Captain America knocking out Hitler is cute, but physically confronting domestic fascists carries serious risks. Unless you’re armed or know how to fight, chances are good you’ll get the worst of it. Ask the survivors of the Greensboro massacre of 1979, where communists took on the Klan and paid dearly, five with their lives. And don’t forget the fascist-minded in uniform, who have the increasing power of the state behind them. Something to consider before donning the black mask.

It appears, dear ones, that we are in deep shit. And it’s only just begun.