This is an age of thuggery


It’s Monday. Get depressed even more. Read David Neiwert’s summary of right-wing extremism. A few excerpts:

And now we have gangs of heavily armed right-wing thugs, largely outsiders from rural and exurban areas, invading liberal urban centers with the full intent of provoking violence so that they can portray the American left as innately violent.

I’ve covered about a dozen of these events. I hang out among the alt-righters and militiamen who populate that side and listen to them. They all are brimming with eagerness to beat the shit out of liberals, and they’re prepared to kill if they deem it necessary.

The Proud Boys are selling t-shirts that celebrate the idea of throwing liberals out of helicopters, emulating the Pinochet regime. That’s right. They’re openly promoting the idea of “Right Wing Death Squads”, and they think this would be a great thing.

So now the faction that has long fantasized about civil wars is openly fantasizing about murdering their fellow Americans by various means, most of them as cruel as a good psychopath can dream up. These folks are fanatical authoritarians.

And they are entirely right-wing. There is no counterpart to this on the left. Even the most rabid anarchist/communist/whatever group doesn’t direct this kind of rhetoric at its opponents. Moreover, the far left is a tiny and powerless faction. Unlike the alt-right.

Moreover, it is the far right that now controls all three houses of government in the United States. And the most powerful of all, the president, has a long habit of using eliminationist rhetoric to attack his opponents: “Lock Her Up!” was just one of many such.

Now he is describing half of America – the larger half that did not vote for him, and which now opposes his agenda at every turn – in such terms. Dismissing them as a “mob” and suggesting that they not only cannot govern but cannot BE governed is lethally dangerous.

Yet to hear the centrist media figures and their favorite subjects, centrist politicians, discuss all this ferment, you would think that both sides are engaging in this kind of prewar rhetoric. It’s absurd.

So, listen up, Chuck Todd, Evan McMullin, Susan Collins, and every other hand-wringing centrist wannabe: IT’S NOT BOTH SIDES. Only one side is trying to gin up a civil war in this country.

But it’s not just the USA. Look at Brazil, where elections may make Jair Bolsonaro, AKA “the thing”, president. A few quotes:

• “I had four sons, but then I had a moment of weakness, and the fifth was a girl.”

• “I’m not going to rape you, because you’re very ugly” – to a female representative in Congress.
[That one echoes Carl Benjamin, AKA Sargon of Akkad, who insists that phrase is not a threat. Good work, Carl, sharing slogans with a monstrous thing]

• “I’d rather have my son die in a car accident than have him show up dating some guy.”

• “I’m pro-torture, and the people are too.”

• “They don’t do anything. I don’t think they’re even good for procreation any more” – referring to quilombolas, the black descendants of rebel African slaves.

His followers also have a charming t-shirt to advertise their position: it features the face of “one of the most sadistic torturers and murderers in the military dictatorship that choked Brazil between 1964 and 1985”. How can such a thug become a leading contender for the presidency? I think we Americans can guess: by forming a coalition of religious bigots, the obscenely wealthy, and racists, and because the opposition party is ineffective, unfocused, and uninspiring.

In the cities, he has the support of the leaders of evangelical religious empires, who defend the concept that marriage is possible only between a man and a woman. The far-right candidate also leads among wealthier, more educated men, reflecting the calibre of the Brazilian elites.

In addition to his staunch supporters, he attracts a slice of the population that is simply anti-PT [PT=the Workers Party]. These people hate the PT for many reasons. Some because under former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Rousseff, the party reduced poverty, widened university access to black students, and strengthened rights for housemaids – for a long time, a form of modern slavery in Brazil. Others because they cannot forgive a party that rose to power promising change, only to become corrupted and aloof. Poor, mostly black, women are most vociferously against Bolsonaro.

Jebus, that sounds painfully familiar. Even the part about black women being the most reliable leaders against misogyny and racism.

Now if only there were a way to form a coalition of humanists, egalitarians, scientists, decent people from all walks of life, who didn’t brag about compelling authority at the point of a gun, didn’t celebrate torture and murder in their slogans, and didn’t live to serve the whims of the extremely rich, maybe we could make some headway against the forces of thuggery. Somehow, a t-shirt that announces “We won’t throw our fellow citizens out of a helicopter!” just isn’t very compelling, maybe because it’s declaring something that we ought to take for granted, and find hard to believe that anyone would disagree. If you’re one of those “hand-wringing centrists”, anyway, you’re fine with sitting in your safe, quiet lair surrounded by people exactly like you, who aren’t threatening you, because they’re busy threatening other people.

Susan Collins can smugly dismiss those others, because the Republicans are sucking up to her — while her colleague Orrin Hatch can sneer at victims of sexual assault, and her president can mock them at rallies. Meanwhile, Christine Blasey Ford is still in hiding and still receiving death threats.

But oh no, there are decent people on both sides.

And that’s how the Republic will fall — because we lie to ourselves about the severity of the threat, refuse to believe that murderous thugs even exist, and roll over and let them seize power, enabled by these contemptible apologists.


John Oliver has a few things to say about the Brazilian election.

Comments

  1. birgerjohansson says

    “Orrin Hatch can sneer at victims of sexual assault, and her president can mock them at rallies”

    They may not be brownshirts, but they sure leave skid marks wherever they go.

  2. Chabneruk says

    Here in Germany, the far-right is creating fear with the idea that refugees may bring in Sharia law and topple our democracy. After 2015, when the refugee crisis hit, they have steadily increased in power and now neo-nazis are marching through the streets, chanting about Hitler and attacking people which are different. And they still portray themselves as the victim. It is abhorrent.

    Yet I have relatives who comment on this with “Yes, but the rise of the far right happened for a reason!” (That reason implicitly being the influx of refugees, instead of the real reasons like the financial crisis at the beginning of the century). Some people are willing to close their eyes to even the most horrific things, because someone tells them the other side is just as bad.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    A beautiful coincidence: Charles Stross’ latest “Laundry” novel is about to be published, and…

    “…Mhari’s most recent assignment takes her and a ragtag team of former Laundry agents across the pond into the depths of North America. The United States president has gone missing. Not that Americans are alarmed. For some mysterious reason, most of the country has forgotten the executive branch even exists. Perhaps it has to do with the Nazgûl currently occupying the government and attempting to summon Cthulhu. ”
    Actually, the Nazgûl would have more style.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    The refugees actually often abandon islam once they arrive to a safely secular country. I know at least two people myself.
    But this does not fit the neo-Klansman narrative.

  5. evandrofisico says

    The situation here in Brazil is indeed dire. We had our equivalent of the Woman’s march, and guess what? The “Thing”‘s numbers went up! There are videos of soccer fans shouting “Bolsonaro is gonna kill all the fags” in soccer arenas and metro stations. It’s like the worst people in Brazil lost all their inhibitions and are showing how racist, misogynistic and homophobic they really are.

  6. KG says

    Chabneruk@2,

    instead of the real reasons like the financial crisis at the beginning of the century

    Yes, that is a real reason, along with the failure of the left to provide an adequate response – largely because most of its supposed representatives had already capitulated to neoliberalism, and so had no moral authority to denounce it when it led to the crisis. But we fool ourselves if we don’t recognise that fascism has a real, visceral appeal to a frighteningly large section of the population, who would long have welcomed the opportunity to participate, actively or vicariously, in the persecution, torture and genocide of those they despise – and who, in the last decade, have seen their chance. This is one reason I disagree with the classic Marxist analysis of fascism as the desperate strategy of a capitalist ruling class under threat: it ignores or downplays its intrinsic, autonomous power. And what we see now is the rise of proto-fascism, increasingly shading into fascism undisguised and unashamed, in a situation where the ruling capitalist elite is under no short- or even medium-term threat.

  7. KG says

    I should have said something @6 about where fascism’s intrinsic appeal comes from. Selfishness, cruelty and spite are aspects of human potential, just as compassion, altruism and solidarity are, but I’m convinced that authoritarian child-rearing practices, and particularly the use of violence (“smacking” or “spanking” in the eupremisms favoured by its advocate) are key in bringing them out – see Alice Miller’s For Your Own Good: The Roots of Violence in Child-Rearing.

  8. says

    Oh, they just want to trigger us. That’s the whole reason they say they want to throw people out of helicopters.

    Just as, later on, triggering us will be the whole reason they will actually throw people out of helicopters.

    Must be our fault.

  9. says

    They made a big mistake when they let non-white non-supremacists into the military. Now, they seem to forget that there is a pretty substantial number of minorities who learned how to make IEDs from the Taliban.

    It’s unsurprising that the fascist extremists are bad strategists; they always tend to be, because to the totalitarian mind-set violence is the option that will always work. Yet, it seldom does. They don’t seem to be able to put 2 and 2 together.

    Because fascists are full of rage and hatred and are ignorant and not very thoughtful, they don’t seem to understand that there are plenty of people who will shoot them if it’s necessary. Regretfully, for sure, but they are not as tough or as safe as they think they are. Fascists’ wars haven’t worked so well for the fascists; for all that the like to build statues to preserve their history, they don’t seem to understand it. Such movements usually devolve into self-hatred if they try to establish a coherent political position, because simply hating people doesn’t make the trains run on time.

  10. says

    Golly, maybe constantly caving in to pressure from the Republican Party in the name of bipartisanship in both the previous Democratic presidential administrations was not a good idea. Maybe portraying wishy-washy centrists as the saner part of the Democratic Party, rather than as traitorous backstabbers who prevented anything positive from happening, was dangerously enabling to the far right. Whoever could have foreseen this? Aside from anybody with more than 2 working brain cells, I mean? This is where the “Third Way” has led us. Thanks, Clinton supporters, it’s been a slice.

  11. raven says

    Because fascists are full of rage and hatred and are ignorant and not very thoughtful, they don’t seem to understand that there are plenty of people who will shoot them if it’s necessary.

    I had a fascist threaten to kill me not so long ago.

    I just pointed out that the last time they tried that, they lost big time.
    We fought Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan during World War II.
    And won.

  12. rpjohnston says

    And remember that around the polls, and especially after the Blue Wave, having lost their ability wash their hands of genocide by doing it politically, these degenerates will take it into their own hands – and barrels. I still haven’t bought a gun myself, but I’m going to start carrying a knife…

    Yeah yeah, we know vicar. As usual I agree with everything up to the point where you stomp your feet and declare that if the choice is between day-old fast food and arsenic you’ll have us drink the arsenic. Fucking faker.

  13. unclefrogy says

    And what we see now is the rise of proto-fascism, increasingly shading into fascism undisguised and unashamed, in a situation where the ruling capitalist elite is under no short- or even medium-term threat.

    true enough but is the belief in a threat more then an actual threat that is operative. it also what constitutes short term or medium term as well. There is no doubt at all that the degree of difference between the ultra rich and even the upper working class let alone the those who are less economically secure has been historically unsustainable. At the same time few believe we are in any way truly prepared for the next economic collapse. Fear is the active force and by far the most dangerous one and the most difficult one to control. Fascism offers a response to all the fears but unfortunately in the long run is incapable of delivering any of the stability desired other than the grave.
    uncle frogy

  14. microraptor says

    I see that as usual, The Vicar is pretending that Bernie never said he’d be willing to sell women and minority rights out to the conservatives in exchange for a few of his tax bills.

  15. Marissa van Eck says

    We’re past the final tipping point. I felt the timeline snap when Kavanaugh was confirmed. Many, many possible futures have been consigned to the Dirac Sea, and the ones that remain range from “are we seriously doing this shit again?!” to “FOR THE LOVE OF CTHULHU PLEASE KILL MEEEEE!”

    Things are going to get one king hell mountain of a lot worse before they get better. I’ve been having presentiments of my own death coming in the next 18 months, but only now do I understand why. I just hope it’s fast and as painless as possible.

  16. Paulino says

    This quote:
    “They don’t do anything. I don’t think they’re even good for procreation any more”
    is a bit longer and much worse than that, The thing started it by lying that he visited a quilombo and saying “The lightest afroamerican there wheighted seven arrobas”. Arroba is a weight mesure used for cattle, one arroba corresponds to 20 kg (44lbs).

    My cousin told me, that if Bolsonaro lost I shouldn’t complain if a criminal invaded my home and raped and killed all my family, after learning that I was voting for a left-wing candidate.

    There are mobs openly shouting in the streets “Hey (expletive for homossexuals), better watchout! Bolsonaro is gonna kill you (another expletive for homossexuals)!”

    And yes, “moderates” are saying that the corrupt Worker Party are just as bad a this fascist. A long night is coming.

  17. KG says

    true enough but is the belief in a threat more then an actual threat that is operative. it also what constitutes short term or medium term as well. – unclefrogy@15

    Could we possibly have a translation into English? Or for that matter, French, Arabic, German, Swahili, Japanese, Italian, Tagalog, Basque, or any other language Google Translate might be able to deal with!

  18. unclefrogy says

    sorry let me try and say that again,
    it is a fear that there is a threat or their belief that there is a threat more than any actual threat that is important.

    It is also how short term and medium term are defined as well that control that level of fear of a threat, which determines what kind of response they give.
    To be clear there are threats to the security and prosperity of the rich and powerful but they are mostly the result their own excesses and stupidity. they seem to think yet again that they can use the ignorant violent rabble to bring some order and control to society but that has seldom worked long term and often leads to some kind of a Runnymede in order to regain some essential liberty.
    the conservatives have truly mounted the tiger and forced things along out of greed and lust for power. the only problem is once astride the beast you can not dismount easily nor safely.
    I hate mondays that start so darkly
    uncle frogy

  19. Snoof says

    KG @ 6

    And what we see now is the rise of proto-fascism, increasingly shading into fascism undisguised and unashamed, in a situation where the ruling capitalist elite is under no short- or even medium-term threat.

    The rapidly-approaching ecological collapse seems like the kind of thing that might inspire the current oligarchs to recruit a horde of violent cultists.

    No good being Immortan Joe without your own army of warboys, after all.

  20. says

    I think what Frogy is saying is, well, the Wizard’s First Rule.

    People will believe anything, either because they fear it’s true, or they want it to be true. (What actually is true is irrelevant.)

  21. logicalcat says

    The Vicar, while toiling away in a fascist labor camp mutters to himself- “Clearly this is all Clinton’s fault”.

  22. Akira MacKenzie says

    The Vicar has a point.

    As much as I despise the Trump and the American Right, I feel mainstream Democrats are just as fucking capitalist as their GOP opponents, but only think they are “left-wing” because they drive a Tesla, can put solar-panels on their Malibu beach homes, and can afford to eat fair-trade, organic, “clean” vegan. I feel the Dems have told the lower class to “fuck off” in favor of the fickle whims of rich, condescending, limousine liberals in New York, LA, Seattle, and San Francisco.

    I’ve got tens of thousands of student loan debt and medical bills to pay. It doesn’t help me clear those problems up when the party that claims to speak for America’s down-trodden tells me that “we’re not Denmark” and tells me that national health care is impossible.

    I can understand why The Vicar and the so-called “Bernie Bros.” are pissed at centerists. We need change NOW. We can’t wait for a democratic “Mother-May-I” from the uneducated proles, and some of us don’t mind breaking a few rules and slitting more than a few reactionary throats* to create the society humanity NEEDS.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    Akira @27:

    some of us don’t mind breaking a few rules and slitting more than a few reactionary throats

    So what’s stopping you?

  24. rpjohnston says

    Speaking for myself: What’s stopping me is living as an antisocial basement gremlin having or passing for virtually all forms of privilege in a fairly liberal county, while pining on a probably forlorn hope that I’m merely paranoid and mass rightwing violence will not occur within a month, and not wanting to give any lucre to the gun industry unless things become absolutely dire (and hoping that I’ll survive long enough to make that assessment if it comes).

    In other words, sticking my head in the sand because I’m a coward and really, REALLY don’t want to fight.

    Going to start carrying my multipurpose knife in my car soon, though. Not that bringing a knife to a gun fight would really matter much, but…hey, it’s got a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter if anyone asks.

  25. microraptor says

    Akira @27:

    The Vicar continually ignores several facts in order to continue his little crusade of self-righteous indignation:

    First, PZ and most of the people here actually supported Bernie over Hillary during the primary, and only switched to tacitly supporting her during the election because the alternative was the orange shitgibbon.

    Second, that had Bernie actually won the nomination and then the presidency, he’d have been facing a hostile Congress with a conservative majority that would have left him without much ability to actually accomplish things like tax reform.

    And Third, that Hillary, for all her faults still isn’t as bad as the orange shitgibbon and had she been elected we would not be watching her cozy up to North Korea or Russia while having the children of refugees thrown into prisons.

  26. Akira MacKenzie says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 28

    Because I’m slightly outnumbered. A million angry Lefties destroying the Right is a revolution. One angry lefty is target practice for the cops.

    Microraptor @ 31

    I was also a Supported-Bernie-But-Voted-HRC-To-Avert-Trump Democrat… for all the fucking good that did us.

    had Bernie actually won the nomination and then the presidency, he’d have been facing a hostile Congress with a conservative majority that would have left him without much ability to actually accomplish things like tax reform.

    And Hillary wouldn’t have? This is a woman they spent the last 20 years vilifying. They called her a “communist” just as frequently as they did Bernie. Or are you admitting that Hillary would have sold us out to the Republicans just to look like she’s accomplishing something, just like her slimeball, hick trophy-husband did when he was president?

    that Hillary, for all her faults still isn’t as bad as the orange shitgibbon and had she been elected we would not be watching her cozy up to North Korea or Russia while having the children of refugees thrown into prisons.

    I don’t disagree about the refugee matter, but given her “rah-rah capitalism, we’re not Denmark” rhetoric, I don’t think for an instant she would have made any of the much needed economic reforms we need. National Health Care and squeezing the upper and middle classes for their fair share in taxes is far more important than fulfilling whatever jingoistic glee comes from staring down foreign thugs.

  27. logicalcat says

    Holier than thou leftists can change the party by actually voting democrat. Thats my problem with ppl like vicar. They are politicaly ignorant. These dems become centrists because they cannot count on the lefts vote. That is what happened last election and the ones before that all the way to Carter. The right drifts more to the right in contrast because their voters actually vote. When you vote, you make that party beholden to your ideals. If you dont then they will drift towards the center because statistically thats where most of the votes are.

    You guys have the bluster, but not the tactics. And ni matter how many good policies you support it doesnt matter if you have a poor strategy for change. This is why I abandoned the progressive movement in favor of supporting the dnc. I can fix whats broken, i cant fix what is useless.

  28. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    “there are plenty of people who will shoot them if it’s necessary. Regretfully, for sure”

    Like Old Yeller … don’t like the necessity, but I’ll do it if I have to.

  29. vaiyt says

    Bolsonaro is the president Brazil deserves. We’re a nation of selfish degenerates. The average Brazilian longs for a Cultural Revolution in the belief that only people they don’t care about will be purged. He is the reflection of how ugly we always were on the inside, rather than this cordial image we like to project.

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