Laugh, don’t fight

Wikimedia Commons/Southbanksteve

On April 15, a distinctly disturbing event took place in Berkeley, California. Several hundred proto-fascists gathered in a downtown park. They were armed and itching for a fight. Most of them were from out of town and many from all over the country. This was a pro-Trump Patriots’ Day rally for “free speech” organized online by a far right alliance of white supremacist/nationalist, alt-right, anti-feminist, neo-Nazi and militia groups.

They wore motorcycle helmets, ski goggles, gloves and carried weapons.

Many wore masks. Quite a few performed the Nazi salute. Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer said it seemed like many had only known each other on social media and were meeting in person for the first time.

He overheard discussion and debate of obscure far right positions. A man carried a sign saying “Da Goyim Know” which refers to a popular alt-right internet meme about how powerful Jews control everything and silence the critics who expose them.

They wanted revenge for an earlier event on the University of California campus. In February, a small group of rock-throwing masked Black Bloc leftists had forced the cancellation of a speech by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

On April 15, the far rightists and the Black Bloc fought each other for hours in the streets. At the end, 11 people were injured and six hospitalized. Police arrested 21 people on a number of charges.

The organizers of the rally, the Proud Boys, said they had won an “enormous victory.” On their Facebook page, the Proud Boys said they are “founded on a system of beliefs and values of minimal government, maximum freedom, anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt, pro-gun rights, anti-Drug War, closed borders, anti-masturbation, venerating entrepreneurs, venerating housewives, and reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism during an age of globalism and multiculturalism.”

The group’s founder, Gavin McInnes, claims that Proud Boy meetings mainly consist of drinking, fighting and reading from Pat Buchanan’s book, Death of the West.

McInnes was a Fox News commentator who left the network because it wasn’t conservative enough. He’s also a contributor for the racist website VDARE, where he belittled Muslims and called Asian Americans “slopes” and “riceballs.” He once received an award for “hipster racism.” Being a “hipster racist” involves engaging in behavior commonly regarded as racist and defending your antics by claiming you are just being ironic or satirical.

The Proud Boys have a frat boy three-degree initiation. You publicly declare yourself a Proud Boy. Then you get beaten up until you cry out the names of five breakfast cereals. Finally you get a tattoo. You have to maintain a “#NoWanks masturbation regimen” at all times. That is, you can only masturbate once a month. However, Proud Boys can always masturbate within a yard of a woman if she consents.

Recently the Proud Boys added a fourth degree: fighting the anti-fascists. They have also formed a “fight club” military arm called the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights.

Most likely, the battle in Berkeley is only the beginning. The left will make a mistake if we get into a war with the far right, argues David Neiwert, an investigative journalist who has been reporting on neo-Nazis and fascist types in the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years. From his observations and from his reading of history, he says that fascists provoke violence by their enemies in order to portray themselves as victims.

Consider what happened in the last days of Germany’s democratically elected Weimar Republic in the 1930s. The country was in the middle of a political and economic crisis that left the society on the brink of civil war. Street violence by paramilitary organizations on the left and the right increased discernibly. Shortly before the July 1932 parliamentary elections, Prussian authorities reported 300 acts of politically motivated violence that left 24 people dead and almost 300 injured.

In Berlin, Nazi Party leader Joseph Goebbels deliberately provoked Communist and Social Democratic actions by marching their storm troopers into working-class neighborhoods where those parties had strongholds. Nazi fighters who were injured or killed became martyrs romanticized by Nazi newspapers, photographs, films and paintings.

“The Horst Wessel Song” became the Nazi anthem. It lionized a 23-year-old storm trooper who was killed in 1930.

Neiwert says, “Fascists… are the ultimate psychic vampires: They feed off hate. They want to stoke it as much as possible. They want things to become as violent as possible. They love it when you become violent and give them martyrs.”

Neiwart says the most successful anti-fascist demonstration he ever observed occurred in 2005 in Olympia, Washington. A neo-Nazi group held a rally calling for a “race war.” The townspeople mocked them with a loud and mostly good-natured musical celebration of diversity.

Their noise drowned out the fascists on the loudspeakers. There was a troupe of clowns mimicking Nazis goose stepping around.

Don’t punch Nazis. Laugh at them.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

  • Eric Goodman
    So when they start doing this with the cops standing by, the left should just point and laugh? Black Bloc is a terrible tactic for fighting hate. We need a formal, disciplined, and above all, organized protection groups with roots in the working class and the oppressed in order to show the right that their behavior is unacceptable. The alt right is relatively small and composed mainly of cowardly neckbeards, but you can be certain that success will bring them strength and increase their brashness. We must smash their enthusiasm to the curb while making it clear who we are and why we are doing it.

    • louis

      Sunsara Taylor, in a talk and challenge to debate titled “why it’s right, and righteous to drive fascists off campus…out of Berkeley, and out of power!” – contended in the q & a with UC Berkeley [screeching] College Republicans for 2 hours on May 4th.

    • louis

      A Wild Night at UC Berkeley:
      Sunsara Taylor Speaks on the “Battle for Berkeley”

      May 8, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |

      On May 4th, Sunsara Taylor began her speech at the University of California Campus by quoting Ann Coulter’s insistence that Black children be publicly whipped, along with other shocking quotes. While many have heard Coulter’s name, in recent weeks as two sides battled over whether Coulter would be allowed to speak at Berkeley’s campus, few had read and taken seriously the content and impact of Coulter’s words, so this set an important context for the speech and discussion that Sunsara Taylor led that night. About 150 people turned out to hear Taylor give a talk called, “The Battle for Berkeley: Why It Is Right, and Righteous, to Drive Fascists Off Campus, Out of Berkeley, and Out of Power!”

      In recent months, a series of “intellectual” hitmen—including Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, and Milo Yiannopoulos—have targeted the UC Berkeley campus and on two occasions ready-to-brawl fascist militia types have amassed in downtown Berkeley by the hundreds. Taylor insisted that this cannot be ignored, that it will not “go away” on its own, and is closely linked to the imposition of fascism across the country by the Trump/Pence Regime. Berkeley has become a flash point with high stakes in this larger battle precisely because of its radical history and because if the fascists succeed in making inroads in Berkeley, it will greatly strengthen their hand in consolidating fascism and suppressing opposition nationwide.

      At the core of Taylor’s presentation and the contentious question and answer that followed was her insistence that the issue was not “free speech”—as most in the media and on campus are claiming—but the right and responsibility of the people to resist and drive fascists out of power in this country before it is too late. Taylor exposed the concrete harm done by Coulter, Yiannopoulos, Horowitz and other fascists who have targeted Berkeley, as well as the ways that these people—and their ideas—are being implemented and given backing from the U.S. government, the most powerful state in human history. Taylor showed how the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of the people to speak and assemble free from government suppression, not the right of those backed by and tied to the government to be “protected” from vigorous protest. She also showed how even the principle that ideas should be heard by their most ardent advocates, while a very important principle, is also not—and should not be treated as—“absolute.” In a world divided into antagonistic classes as well as profound relations of oppression and exploitation, it is “not an even playing field.” Flowing from this, she argued that the ideas and speech that need protection are those that go up against and challenge the entrenched power of the state and the ideas promoted by the state. In contrast, ideas that have backing from that state and from hundreds of years of oppressive traditions do not need that protection or additional platforms.

      Taylor also set the record straight on the actual history and meaning of the famous Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the 1960s. Bob Avakian (BA), now the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the architect of a new synthesis of communism, was a student at Cal back then and active in the Free Speech Movement from its earliest days. He was arrested, along with 800 other students, during the sit-in at Sproul Hall that was a decisive turning point in the ultimate victory of the Free Speech Movement. Drawing from BA’s experiences, Taylor showed how the Free Speech Movement had been about students demanding the right to stand up against racism and oppression, not of the right to have racists and fascists with ties to the state spew their poison at students unopposed.

      The question and answer session that followed her presentation was intense and contentious. The single largest section of the audience was students, but there were also a good number of people from the Berkeley community and beyond. The majority came out of sincere curiosity and interest, both over the “Battle for Berkeley” and over the direction being imposed on this country under Trump. At the same time, organized fascists made up a significant minority of the audience, including off-campus alt-right livestreamers and some who had clearly come to disrupt and even threaten the speaker, as well as on campus Young Republicans who had invited the fascists to speak in the first place and seemed to be seeking a “youtube moment” by challenging her from the floor. Several times throughout the night, yelling, accusations and physical disruption and intimidation broke out from these fascists in the audience and had to be firmly opposed by the event organizers.

      Early in the evening, someone responded to Taylor’s exposure on the bone-deep racism and misogyny which was a core part of the Trump/Pence campaign and now his regime by asking if Taylor thought everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. Taylor clarified that it wrong to say that absolutely everyone who supported Trump was a racist, but it was extremely important not to ignore or “prettify” the fact that everyone who voted for him was clearly okay with blatant and grotesque racism and misogyny, and that for a great many this was precisely the appeal. When the majority of the room burst into applause, it became clear for the first time that evening that there was a section in the room deeply opposed to the Trump Regime in the audience. This came out repeatedly in other ways, including when two different students asked very sincerely how they could get involved effectively in refusing fascism and driving out the Trump/Pence Regime.

      However, when questions from the audience focused more directly on the question of speech, the room was much divided. Many who deeply hate the content of Ann Coulter’s words still feel defensive about her being shut down and are either confused by or in agreement with the argument that she has the “right” to speak at Berkeley. From many different angles, Taylor hammered at the fact that it is Coulter and Trump and the whole cabal of fascists now in power who are the real enemies of free speech (citing Trump’s threats and incitations of violence against protesters, his attacks on the media, and more) and that it is the rights of people to stand up against fascism that is under attack. While there was clearly a large section of the audience that was more with what Taylor was arguing, and a smaller section of the audience that was really with the fascists, a significant portion of the audience would sway back and forth between the two when the arguments were focused up around “free speech.” This confusion and the deepening engagement on this question throughout the night underscore how important it was that these questions were being torn open and taken on frontally.

      This confusion is not unique to Berkeley campus or to the Berkeley community. There are many good people, people who deeply hate and want to do something to end the horrors being committed by the fascist Trump/Pence Regime and their whole fascist movement, who are defensive and paralyzed by the false claims of victimhood of the fascists and specifically around the question of whether it is right to shut these fascists down. Fascists are getting over by claiming the mantle of “free speech” even as they move aggressively to demolish the rights of people to speak against, to report honestly on, to protest, and to resist their crimes. Across the country, hundreds of articles and countless thought-pieces have criticized the students and protesters in Berkeley that shut down Milo Yiannopoulos and were preparing to protest and resist Ann Coulter. Sunsara Taylor is alone in having gone to Berkeley to put forward a vigorous, substantive argument of why it is absolutely right to call Coulter and the others fascist and why it is absolutely right to not only drive them off campus, not only to drive them out of Berkeley, but to drive them out of power.

      Everyone who is agonizing about what the Trump/Pence Regime is doing, everyone who is alarmed by the words and outlook of Ann Coulter and others like her who have significant ties to the fascist regime in power, everyone who is trying to sort out what is the best way to stand up against all this, should take the time to watch the video of this event. There is much to wrangle with and learn from how Sunsara Taylor situates and clarifies what is really at stake in this “Battle for Berkeley” and much work for all of us to do to stand up now, in the name of humanity, to refuse to accept a fascist America.

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      You apparently know nothing about the Proud Boys and that Gavin McInnes is basically a comedian moonlighting as a journalist. The guy is hilarious and you hyper sensitive lefties keep taking him too seriously. Just relax and breath and enjoy life and stop creating an unnecessary divide all the time and looking for Nazis when they don’t even exist. You are all looking quite ridiculous now and people are laughing at you and not taking you seriously. The Proud Boys, simply put, is a male fraternal organization open to ALL races. Did you read that? Open to ALL races. Therefore, it is NOT a Nazi, KKK, racist, white nationalist organization. It is an organization that is fighting for the preservation of western culture and defending it against the likes of Cultural Marxism. You may even like the Proud Boys once you research it more and you may even find that you are in agreement with many of their decrees. It’s quite simple, we are Western Society and we will NEVER be ashamed of who we are or for creating the modern world. Please tell me, why is this so bad?

      Thank you and peace to you all.

      • UGADawg09

        Not all races are allowed to join. We’ve tried our hardest to change the rule, but Abbos are still banned.

  • Central Intelligence Agency

    The fact that the Nazis killed my people and real Nazis try to hide who they really are disgusts me. Antifa wears the swastika proudly, dresses like the Nazi SS and beats up minorities yet you have the audacity to support them? Disgusting, while liberals and republicans stood together fighting the real fascists all you do is create spin articles. It’s ironic really how little words like, “Nazi, fascists, racists” mean now that they have been used to silence political dissidents from speaking out against the real Nazis, fascists and racists such as the writer of this article.
    But don’t listen to me or anyone else in your bubble like you keep doing, watch the thousands of videos of minorities like me being told to get back in line by Antifa. Or maybe the hundreds of millions slaughtered by the same political system that oppresses people, communism. I doubt you will though, people like you never learn.

  • DISQUSted PussyGrabber

    Pretty obvious from this article and the posts in this thread from Leftist snowflakes that traditional American conservatives have nothing to fear from the Regressive Authoritarians who are desperately attempting to overthrow the country. Well, that is after a brief but staggeringly violent period of cleansing the country of communist Antifa, after which we will return to normal operations. You dumbass libs truly do not understand the reality you are so desperately attempting to escape. Communism has failed everywhere it has been tried and Communists have been defeated every time they have been challenged. You are next.

  • What arrant nonsense.

    Dave Anderson starts off with a review of Berkeley riots, provoked by violent anarchist criminals, and segues into…

    …Joseph Goebbels and the Horst Wessel song?

    Discombobulated horseshit, lads.