Monday, October 29, 2018

Quickly and Violently

This was at a private White House dinner with evangelical leaders last Monday, where somebody made a tape that was revealed over the weekend. He didn't warn, as you might imagine from the headline, that disappointed rightwingers will rise in violence, with their belief that US elections are manipulated by "illegal" immigrants and their belief that Democrats want to turn the nation into Venezuela and their belief that the Second Amendment overrides the rest of the Constitution and licenses revolution. He was saying that the victorious Democrats would be violent:

I guess antifa will be in charge of restoring health insurance coverage to the people deprived of it by the Trump administration's sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, in their black balaclavas and wielding sticks? Maybe they'll cruelly whip the legislation through Congress.

This provides a classic lesson in how fascist rhetoric works, on a couple of levels.

First, the way he works in the reference to antifa by dodging: makes the ridiculous assertion that the new Democratic Congress will be violent and then, in the place where a legitimate argument would give you an example, he gives you an association—the implication is that, well, antifa's the friend of the Democrats (which is stupid enough on its face, as if there were some organization of slightly rowdy guys who come out to protect demonstrators and it has a formal relationship with a political party), and they're said to be violent, because two guys broke some windows at the Metropolitan Republican Club on E. 83rd St. and spray-painted the anarchist circle-A symbol and left a note:
“Tonight, we put the Republican Party on notice, in defiance to the policy of mass misery they have championed,” the message reads. It goes on to claim the U.S. government has created “concentration camps around the country for Latino people” and “shamelessly murders black people.”
The note also calls Democrats “spineless partners-in-crime” of the Republicans.
“Our attack is merely a beginning. We are not passive, we are not civil, and we will not apologize,” the message reads.
So that's pretty violent, especially the feelings-hurting language about concentration camps and murdering black people, and it might be the antifa if such an organization exists (though if it was they'd hardly have said this was the "beginning" since they've been around, to the extent they exist at all, for years), and they're obviously friendly to Democrats though they say very carefully they aren't, so that really proves it, right?

But none of it is made explicit in the eight words, "There is violence. When you look at antifa—" Just a transition from one group (the freshman Congresscritters of 2019) through an impersonal verb (Donald really loves those, as in "there is no collusion") to another group or pseudo-group and a kind of lie ("When you look..." as if he ever had looked) and bam! point made. In fact there's no point, just verbal poison working through the conversation.

And the other thing, how it works as an incitement to violence, not by inviting his audience to attack but inviting them to defend themselves against the imaginary threat, the Them who are going to attack you. This is how it's done.

It's how it was done during the last caravana de migrantes, in April, when they were terrorizing us with the "army of 3000" making its way through Mexico to "invade" us, sponsored, said some, for some unspeakably nefarious purpose, by the hedge-fund investor George Soros. Remember that? Of course by the time it got to Tijuana there were only 150 asylum seekers left, 11 of them criminal enough for the CPB to charge with something, and almost everybody had forgotten entirely about it by the time the current caravan started. Now we're getting the same dialing up of fear, and even bigger ("army of 7000!"), which inspired the one crazy to attempt to murder all of Trump's "enemies" with mail bombs, and the other one to succeed in murdering 11 Jews at worship in Pittsburgh ("He didn't even support Trump!" the wingers will tell you, but his Facebook page was infected with the MAGA slogan and the fear of the caravan—the synagogue he attacked earned his fear by joining in the national Refugee Shabbat the week before).

There's no reason, to my way of thinking, to think Trump was hoping to spark some violence in his dinner with the old evangelicals—his explicit purpose was merely to ask them to violate the terms of their religious tax exemptions and push their congregations to vote for Republican candidates for November 6—but there's no reason to think he'd get upset by it, if a Democratic victory frightened some of his crazier supporters into some desperate and bloody act. I don't think he'd care a lot though. He doesn't care enough to stop talking this way.

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