Updated: Jan 13
On January 6th, most of the country watched in horror as a bunch of fascists, conspiracy theorists, and right-wing grifters stormed the United States Capitol building to obstruct the democratic process. My colleagues Sam and Ben wrote a couple of great pieces here and here about what happened, correctly describing these acts as sedition and those that carried them out as traitors. This mob of sycophants, terrorists, and idiots are an embarrassment to this nation and should face justice immediately. This was a direct result of a decades-long war against objective truth propagated by the right-wing media ecosystem and the fascist nightmare of an administration we have had to put up with over the last four years. It was not, however, a culmination of this nascent fascist rebellion, but rather its main-stage debut.
I’m only about 140 words deep and I’ve already said the word “fascist” a bunch of times. Repetitiveness is usually a pet peeve of mine when writing and editing, but I’m doing it on purpose here. Last night Mitt Romney, the least-but-still culpable Republican Senator, said that the best way to respect the American people who have lost faith in the democratic process is to tell them the truth. He is right, and I am here to drive home a singular and undeniable truth: we have had a growing fascist movement right out in the open for decades now. We have let it fester because we have allowed ourselves to become completely obsessed with some bullshit notion of neutrality that tries to equate social justice movements with their complete ideological opposites no matter how openly hostile the right becomes towards our basic democratic principles. We let fascists gather and march under a banner of "America First" Patriotism, a trick they've been using since the 1930's, while the activists that oppose them get called anti-American in mainstream media outlets. To protect our democracy, we have to be able to identify who its real enemies are.
I came across this tweet from Bobby Lewis in which he uses the phrase “orders of magnitude” to describe the gulf between smashing through the windows of a CVS because cops can’t stop murdering black people and storming the United States Capitol because a bunch of grifters on Parler (the now-defunct bizarro twitter that died so that we may all learn which of our friends absolutely do not understand the first amendment) said the election was fraudulent despite a complete lack of evidence. What happened on Capitol Hill is in no way comparable to the Black Lives Matter protests we have been seeing since 2014, and it is grotesque and irresponsible to even attempt the comparison. This false equivalency isn't a new phenomenon, either; everyone from Jake Tapper to the assistant manager from your local Autozone have engaged in this type of “bothsidesing." The Proud Boys and Antifa are not two sides of the same coin. BLM is not a “terrorist organization.” If you point to people looting a Target and say “they’re destroying our communities!” while completely ignoring that they are looting that Target because hundreds of years of white supremacy and capitalism have destroyed our communities, you are wrong and you are participating in right-wing propaganda designed to maintain a caste system that you are almost certainly over-estimating your status within.
I want to make something completely clear here. I think there are legitimate arguments to be made for less-than-peaceful resistance. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi advocated peaceful protest, but it was a tactical decision; they knew that the state would react with violence and they could leverage public backlash to that response in order to drive political change. Ian at Innuendo Studios made a brilliant video on the subject that you can find here. Peaceful protest has never been the only tool in an activist’s toolkit though. Stonewall was a riot. The Arab Spring wasn’t exactly a sit-in with a drum circle. Hell, the American and French Revolutions started with riots.
The difference between the siege of the Multnomah County Justice Center earlier this year in Portland and what happened at the Capitol is what those actions were done in service of. Antifascists in Portland shot fireworks and threw rocks and bricks at the complex that houses the Portland Police Bureau because the PPB has a long and storied history of murdering civilians, particularly people of color (as if I have to clarify), and collaborating with fascists. This isn’t hyperbole, nor is it some kind of Marxist lie designed to take away your rights or whatever. It is a plainly and empirically true observation of reality. That’s the difference; one side is protesting problems that exist in the real world, and the other is willing to die in a fight against the boogeyman.
It is critically important that we not allow this false-equivalence to persist. Leftists didn’t plot to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia. The Three Percenters, a group allegedly planning to occupy the Washington State House, are not disciples of Karl Marx. The people clamoring for an Ethnostate aren’t rushing out to join the Democratic Socialists of America. The people lionizing white supremacist mass-murderers are not Antifa. Importantly, we should also note that these people aren’t being courted and pandered to by AOC and Ilhan Omar. The politicians openly hostile to democracy don’t have a (D) next to their names.
After the Night of Broken Glass, German Jews knew that anti-Semitic violence would only continue to escalate. It is deeply troubling to me that as we watched people shatter the windows of the Capitol building, there are still people in this country who aren’t clear on who the bad guys are. When I was a kid, I had the medals my Grandfather got for dropping bombs on fascists on display in my bedroom. We know who the enemy is, and we’ve known it for decades. If anyone seems unclear on that point, help save America and tell them the truth.
Photo Credit: By TapTheForwardAssist - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98670006