Part 1: FASCIST RHETORIC
You fight them by writing letters and making phone calls so you don’t have to fight them with fists. You fight them with fists so you don’t have to fight them with knives. You fight them with knives so you don’t have to fight them with guns. You fight them with guns so you don’t have to fight them with tanks.
– “Murray” in Mark Bray’s “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook”
Fascist ideology has crawled its way into the mainstream yet again. Amidst this resurgence is a concomitant escalation of paramilitary brownshirts deploying a rhetoric of “free speech” and using it to justify ever increasing violence against perceived enemies. While the ability to freely express oneself is a critical part of a thriving society, there are other freedoms at play as well. When we discuss the unique memetic qualities of fascism, we see that free speech is of paramount importance, but it comes with both responsibilities and a network of implications for other related freedoms.
What is fascism?
Fascism is an anti-enlightenment, authoritarian hyper-nationalism. It attempts a populist left-right syncretism that employs codewords and ideas typically coupled with both the left (anti-capitalism, ecology, anti-war, labor syndicalism, socialism, collectivism, etc.) and the right (anti-communism, private property, authoritarianism, nationalism, traditionalism, individualism, corporatism, etc.). It typically names a temporarily disenfranchised natural elite and then appeals to some mythical archetype of their resurgence (palingenesis). Fascism attempts to instill obedience to a mythologized tribal identity. It presents itself as a call to reawaken or refashion a vital group consciousness that modern values have deceived people into forgetting, leading to spiritual decay and degeneracy. The vector for this deceit is always a subversive fifth column (Liberals, Jews, Cultural Marxists). Fascism presents itself as a loyal rebellion, a revolt against unnatural cosmopolitan forces on behalf of some presumed authentic tribal spirit. It touts rejuvenation through glorious violence and aggressive conformity.
Highly opportunistic and mutable, fascist movements can adopt virtually anything as their governing memeplex. They can shift seamlessly from brazen Islamophobia to an only partially ironic call for white Sharia law. There are state-centric fascisms, such as authoritarian socialism, and anti-state versions, such as the fascist creep amongst anarchocapitalist-libertarians or amongst the post-left. There are religious fascists and atheist fascists. There are Mongolian neo-Nazis who exalt Genghis Khan and Mexican fascists who want a new Aztec Empire. There are gay fascists who idolize the Spartan warrior and Christian fascists who believe white people are the lost tribes of Israel. Many Black nationalist extremists, such as the Black Hebrew Israelites, fit the bill for fascist politics. Although oppressed black, brown, and native nationalisms are more complicated than white and colonizer nationalisms, certain Native leaders have themselves aligned with the white-supremacist and bio-regionalists such as the National-Anarchist Movement and make the speaking tour of neo-Nazi events, much like the Nation of Islam allied with the Klan. There is significant fascist entryism in the Pagan, heathen, and neo-folk communities which have responded with their own niche internal resistance movements. The Brahmin Hinduvatna caste terrorists often tick the boxes. The Islamic State’s vision of a totalitarian Caliphate is glaringly fascist from its centralized economic controls and pseudo-socialism to its hardcore ethno-nationalist authoritarianism. Japan, of course, has a deep and troubled history of fascist creep. In many ways the U.S. and several European nations lead the charge in the normalization of fascism in the modern era, but they are certainly not alone.
Many interwar fascist movements made use of Leninist organizing principles and propaganda, looking to the Bolshevik state for inspiration. Some, like Mussolini and other Italian fascists, came from socialist and trade unionist backgrounds and were even inspired by the anarcho-syndicalists. However, these fascists rejected Marxism’s materialist methodology and its internationalism. To the extent that Mussolini and Hitler approved of Stalin’s USSR, it was precisely because they thought (like modern National-Bolsheviks (NazBol) such as Putin’s pet advisor Aleksander Dugin or the Strasserites), that it had successfully jettisoned the universalistic “Jewish” ideas of Marx and Lenin and transformed itself into a Slavic ultranationalism that they could understand. When modern white-supremacists express admiration for states like Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (itself an ethno-nationalist regime that supports Western neo-Nazis), it’s for their militarism and national self-sufficiency rather than their professed goals of egalitarianism and world revolution. Richard Spencer, strangely but unsurprisingly, denied the Holodomor genocide which is a tankie team signal that fits with his, David Duke’s, Baked Alaska’s and other white supremacist’s such as the Charlottesville murderer James Fields’, love for Syria’s brutal, pseudo-socialist dictator, Bashar al-Assad.
— Richard 🦃 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) April 7, 2017
Likewise, when the alt-right position themselves as defenders of Western civilization and capitalism, what they mean to defend is the legacy of dominance by white men and the hierarchy and discipline they associate with the corporate firm and nuclear family. When presented with the notion that free markets erode traditional hierarchies and facilitate cross-cultural mobility, the fascists immediately seeks exceptions, attempting bizarre and unrealistic justifications of border controls and racist exclusion policies through a perverted libertarian lexicon of property rights. Increasingly they drop any pretext and just declare themselves authoritarian nationalists with free market characteristics. They reject existing “globalism,” not because it is an inconsistent smokescreen for coercively managed trade and migration, but because the freedom that it offers is already too much. Liberties, whether freedom of movement or freedom of speech, are just exploitable tools for maintenance of the status and integrity of their tribe. No fascist truly values universalist, cosmopolitan freedom. In a sense, fascism is a rejection of ethics and an embrace of opportunistic nihilism.
As varied and contradictory as it appears, fascism is neither indefinable nor purely subjective. The essential features of palingenetic tribalism, anti-cosmopolitanism, and anti-rationalism underlie all of these incarnations.
Memetic Viruses and Hazards
The original definition of “meme” is a self-replicating cultural block of information, e.g. “this book is true, and there is virtue in promulgating it.” Memetics is the study of memes. This isn’t just macro images with Impact font; it’s any type of cultural information, such as a handshake, idea, language, tradition, or bit of art. Memetics allows us to apply the insights of evolution and information theory to things like ideologies and social dynamics. Within the field of memetics we look at the virality or infectiousness of various memes, or, rather, how rapidly they can spread and with what degree of severity. The metaphor of epidemiology continues throughout our discussion as we discuss memetic viruses, inoculation, and tolerance.
A memetic hazard is described as:
…information with three main attributes. The first attribute is that it spreads from person to person, whether through personal contact or some form of recording. The second attribute is that this information causes some form of distress, whether as benign as mental stress to the individual [auto-toxic] or as dangerous as societal dysfunction [exo-toxic]. The third attribute is that it must cause preoccupation–that is to say, it maintains sufficient presence in the host’s mind that either a significant portion of his attention remains focused on it, or it plays a significant part in his decision-making process.
A memetic hazard is an information hazard that presents a strong possibility of negative impact. These can be divided into two groups: those arising from true information and those that arise from misleading or untrue information, such as nationalist propaganda. Obviously not every infectious meme is malicious, nor does every infectious meme cause distress — a large class of preoccupying considerations can cause us pain while still encapsulating valid concerns. One example of a truly malicious meme would be dishonest propaganda in service to a self-compounding irrational fear of vaccinations, leading to outbreaks of formerly repressed diseases. In reality, we often see mixtures of feedback dynamics from both true and false information in the more malicious infectious memes that we seek to combat.
Unlike memetic hazards, there are also net-beneficial memes such as those favoring game theoretic cooperation strategies, or “resistance memes” which are useful in overcoming deleterious memetic hazards. Certain “good” memes can even create a positive feedback loop that encourages or rewards actions leading toward greater truth or beneficial behavior.
The most viral meme is an undeniable truth, in that, once it is seen, it is very difficult or impossible to fully ignore. However, truth is held differently by different viewers. So more accurate would be to say that, the most viral meme is one that speaks to a reality of which the viewer was not previously aware or, a reality to which the viewer was aware, but unable to contextualize, accept, or put into words. These realizations may produce intense preoccupation and may even impose a negative utility value (such as the loss of community) upon recognizing and rejecting the lies of a cult in which one is enmeshed. Atheism itself is an infectious meme that, despite the suffering it may cause, is generally a proactive step for human realization. Again though, due to human limits and failures, even something like atheism has been turned gross by the so-called “New Atheism” movement which bulldozes over indigenous and other marginalized persons in their blind pursuit of a vision of “Truth” which, on closer inspection, more aptly resembles a desire for continued domination filtered through their own glaring racial biases.
As a memetic hazard, fascism can be beneficial to the individual (auto-beneficial) while simultaneously being dangerous to those nearby (exo-toxic), which makes it uniquely infectious and dangerous. Fascism creates its own power-seeking reward system and set of confirmation biases for its host, which makes it a uniquely difficult memetic virus to combat.
Fascism as Memetic Hazard
Fascism is less of a coherent ideology or set of ideologies than it is a cascading epistemological system failure. Its influence, when presented without proper context, serves to compromise the ability of the host mind to tolerate difference and to prioritize persuasion over violent antagonism. Writ large, it eventually compromises the conditions of free speech and rational discourse that it exploits.
It begins with the invention of a mythic identity. This identity is under threat, not just by foreign cultures but anti-cultural subversives. These influences are intent on killing the host, or causing it to forget what it is, thereby lowering its natural defenses against external influence and setting it on a path to self-destruction. To defend itself, the identity must cleanse itself and reinforce obedience to to its own imperatives. Cleanliness is achieved through political violence, and obedience through the cooptation and subordination of all ideas and information channels to the identity’s surrounding memeplex.
In the macroscopic political and social realm, this often entails the gross mechanisms of state power and media control, but these are merely fractal outgrowths of the resculpted fascist mind. Fascism is always and already a threat even when it is “just an idea”.
Purity and Scotsmen: The fascist identity is essentially pure and flawless. It is never responsible for its own failings and mediocrity, but is always the victim of subversive influence by an unfalsifiable external conspiracy. Fascism is a black box concept, mythologized and obfuscated by vague definitions and deliberate fuzziness. In it’s perfect purity, there is also the seamless ability for the fascist to distance themselves from anything less than their non-existent ideal through the No True Scotsman fallacy which says, “A real Scotsman [fascist] would never do that” and then continuously moves the goalposts of debate. This all renders it difficult to confront fascism through rational debate, because it is deliberately evasive.
Genetic Fallacies and Epistemic Closure: Fascism understands ideas as expressions of identity, of the essence of a race or tribe. Ideas, in this worldview, are cultural artifacts defined by their origin and cannot be judged apart from this. Fascist concepts of science and philosophy are inherently relativist. They aren’t construction processes that all humans can and do contribute toward; they are merely the expression of one group’s essence (and assumed superiority or inferiority). For example, “Western science is the best because Western people are the best.” The host begins to see ideas purely as bludgeons or tools for social positioning. This imposes epistemic closure and defense mechanisms against other memetic threats.
The Impossibility of Dialogue: Fascists believe that tolerance and persuasion are only possible within the bounds of the one’s own people. The fascist social media response of “reeeeee” or “shill” at anything a supposed “commie” says is a form of this evasion. On 8chan pol rules they say things like, “The jew will only tell a truth if it benefits a greater lie. The jew, when caught in a lie, will create a new narrative and purposefully skip a logical step to twist the narrative in his favor, then double down on the new lie and never admit to the omitted logical step even upon pain of death.” This is an easy opt-out because anyone in the outgroup is just a “Jew” who can be dismissed. The tribe itself is strictly delineated and internally policed to keep ideas within acceptable bounds. Interactions between insiders and outsiders are understood only in terms of mutual antagonism. Where cooperation with out-group people is necessary, there is a tacit agreement to keep things at arm’s length so as to minimize contamination. This particular worldview becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, perpetually sabotaging conditions of peaceful openness and transmitting itself from one group to another through violence and reaction, much like the intergenerational cycle of abuse within families (which, of course, is also non-deterministic). This is all the more ironic considering the front of “peaceful free speech” they use to justify their right to platforms.
Teamspeak and Anti-Intellectualism: Detached intellects that value truth over team-alignment are understood by fascists as saboteurs. These are the fifth columnists; the Liberals, the Jews, the Cultural Marxists. Much of the nerd-hate perpetrated by the left and the “autistic screeching” memes of the right invoke this caricature of people who, oblivious to social expectations and propriety, won’t easily pigeonhole themselves and simply declare themselves to be for one team or the other. They advance subversive ideas to the detriment of the natural order. This is why — despite having its own loyal intellectuals — fascism is at core an anti-intellectual phenomenon, and why the purported iconoclasm of fascist mouthpieces is subordinate to that.
Fake News: Fascist power structures seek to constantly control the narrative. A free press or internet will always be a threat to authoritarianism which is why they are usually the first things crushed. In the rise to power a fascist must strive to discredit all sources of information critical to their cause but once they have seized power they can simply destroy the opposition and need not resort to the same levels of dishonesty. In the Trump era where reputable, if biased, mainstream media sources are carte blanche labeled “fake news” we have entered into a post-truth era of political smarminess. Even though there is a contradictory Trump tweet to nearly any of his abhorrent decisions, the truth doesn’t matter like the the personality does. Honesty, consistency, or integrity are impediments to power. With power comes the ability to create and mold what is perceived as truth, which to the fascist mind, is more important than actual truth. This step of conquering truth is necessary to overshadowing the cognitive biases and inevitable betrayals rendered by fascist leaders. But as it serves the leaders, it also serves their followers who can dismiss out-of-hand anything with which their sacred mythos does not align.
Iconoclasm and the Illusion of Discovery: Fascists often style themselves as the unpopular messengers of common-sense truths. This provides both a rush and sense of certainty, but sharply limits inquiry beyond a certain point. “Common sense”, after all, tells one that the world is flat. The need to limit oneself to seemingly obvious truisms, to obtain peer approval and the exhilaration of shock value, creates a selection bias toward content that upsets enemies and placates friends. The content, however, rarely has any essential correlation to truth value. In reality, the host merely seeks validation from its peers.
Nihilism and Cognitive Dissonance: Because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistency in fascism, it necessarily encourages the host to become comfortable with inconsistency and intellectual dishonesty. Ideas come to hold no value apart from their ability to bind and motivate a tribe, which varies from one context to another. This in turn functions as a kind of “nuclear option” defense mechanism; when a person strenuously disagrees with them or attempts to show the arbitrary nature of their utility function, they can simply be written off as just a hostile tribe member engaged in the same signalling they are. This is why fascists are able to cooperate with other nationalists even when they hold wildly different characteristics, while remaining mutually hostile to anyone attempting to change their minds. In reality this looks like many fascists holding wildly contradictory values (like Libertarianism and statist border militarism) in a way that may encourage sympathy with some parts of their communicated belief system.
Appeal to Probability/Possibility: The fascist will to power is consistently obscured or justified using the facile assertion that domination is inevitable, therefore it is prudent to dominate first and better. Also known as the “Inevitability Fallacy”, the Appeal to Probability shows how fascist rhetoric creates a false sense of deterministic fatalism and utilizes the co-occurring nihilism to fill the power vacuum through brutality and false promise. The vulgarly perverted natural selection belief that you cannot limit, only rearrange and purify power structures, serves to pinch out the spark of creative resistance and imaginative parallel construction in a similar way to the fatalism of many religions that deny individual agency.
Anchoring Bias: Anchoring bias is an essential aspect of what makes fascism and its deployment of “free speech” arguments so dangerous. People’s minds have a tendency to put things that they’ve heard in succession in generally the same arena. We anchor to what’s been said and don’t adequately compensate for the difference. This is like when people argue that creationism should be taught beside evolution in the classroom on the basis that even evolution is “just a theory.” The problem is that evolution has proven itself to be vastly more reliable at predicting and accounting for the actual evidence– this means it has more truth-value. Teaching them side-by-side gives the false impression that they are somehow equal on the grounds of both being “theories”. Then, even someone who rejects creationism may not adequately counter-balance against its narrative. The liberal media has a tendency to think that giving white nationalists large-scale public platforms is a form of democratic dialogue. What this really does is create an anchoring bias where the truth is seen as “somewhere in between” literally genociding minorities and being against that (“Antee-fuh are the real fascists!”). This tendency gives what should be seen as absurdist insults to human intelligence and ethics, large-scale recruitment and propaganda pedestals. Receiving a flood of propaganda, most people are unable to adequately counter-balance against the information they are hearing. This is not a justification for statist censorship which is a trap as well. An even more apt example of the impact of this is when anti-vaxxers are treated as having an equal and legitimate position to those favoring credible research. In this case, as in platforms for fascism, a memetically hazardous ideology is given the opportunity to reproduce and create the foundation for incalculable increases in human suffering and unnecessary death. Fascists may deserve free speech, but at the appropriate level to the quality and legitimacy of their ideology… which is roughly tin-can phones between two dumpsters (although they do sully the dumpsters). This approach leaves us free to support free speech while also criticizing and resisting the ways it’s sometimes utilized.
Fascism, by way of its epistemological footprint described above, is a self-referential mass of implicit premises that work to poison the wells of knowledge and freedom. Fascists seek to neutralize precisely those ideas that allow for free speech to work and for good ideas to supplant bad ones. It’s a cognitive dead end, as epistemologically complete as any cult psychology but far more externally violent. It is simultaneously immensely stupid and stupefying, and incredibly dangerous, in the way that a zombie apocalypse is.
Fascism appeals not through reason, but by routing around reason. Everything does this to a degree, and that is why critical thinking is an essential practice. However, not everything comes with such a complete package of exploits, providing such an advanced firewall of defensive mechanisms and such a propensity to snowball once a critical mass of adherents get together. It’s for these reasons together that we cannot just rely on inoculating the public through real education, but also must suppress and contain the spread of fascist memes. This is also why we can (to a limited extent) ethically justify deploying memes of our own which leverage monkey-brain cognitive defects to form effective defenses against fascist programming. More important even than freedom of speech is freedom of information which is blocked by fascist discourse and practices of governance. Resisting dynamics such as fascism that form epistemic closures is in line with the complexity creation that free-speech advocates claim to value. Should we tell the fascism-advocating free-speech advocates what happens to free speech rights under fascism?
Part 2: FREE SPEECH
What is Free Speech?
One of the main gravitational nodes in the U.S. free speech debate goes back to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who stated, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” This quote, endlessly abused and misremembered, is, none the less, a flashpoint in the struggle for a free speech that acknowledges the role speech acts may have in creating harm. This quote is often used to justify mass censorship and overreach from government agencies and their interpretation of the Constitution. However, the quote also fails to clearly lay out that, what is actually being restricted is not speech itself, but the instigation of violence. You have the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater but you can also be held responsible for the direct levels of impact that it causes. The chaos that yelling “fire” causes impinges on other sets of rights, and as such does not exist in a vacuum.
Furthermore, as Rothbard (who later turned “race realist” under Lew Rockwell’s influence) and Mises (who is currently rolling in his grave at his cult following of closed-border “libertarian fascists”) often noted, this lens is generally one of property rights in which you have a spoken or unspoken agreement with the property owner who, should you break this agreement, has the right to remove the welcome they offered you to their home, business, or, as it were, movie theater. However, the nation-state does not constitute a tract of private property and as such, the government cannot imprison people for speaking out against war, as it did in the original court-case, US v. Schenck, to which the quote about ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater’ is attributed.
That case set precedent for a number of other Red Scare trials that utilized the Espionage Act to incarcerate numerous non-violent war resisters and those affiliated with Left political causes. Long before that though none other than Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were arrested in 1917 for agitating subversion against the draft. The Brandenburg vs. Ohio case in 1969 stated that, “that inflammatory speech–and even speech advocating violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan–is protected under the First Amendment, unless the speech ‘is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action’”. This is a critical point in that something must be both actionable and likely to be undertaken in order to justify repression, which means that the language itself is no longer the problem but the incidents that it causes. This may be a difficult distinction to make for those immersed in a more historically libertarian understanding of violence that excludes speech acts, and yet it need not be. The speech acts are not the crime, but rather the violence they cause. In fact, this was never even a law and the bizarre and fascistic interpretation of the constitution from the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio which was overturned over 40 years ago.
This logic of tracing the actual aggression to its source extends to non-verbal language such as sign language or even just walking around non-violently in the audience and blocking everyone’s view or jumping up and down noiselessly but still breaking ones agreements with the property owner. As Justice Hugo Black said, “If a person creates a disorder in a theater, they would get him there, not because of what he hollered but because he hollered. They would get him not because of any views he had, but because they thought he did not have any views that they wanted to hear there. That is the way I would answer. Not because of what he shouted but because he shouted.” The logic of this puzzle of rights extends into numerous other questions such as the “chairman’s problem” which asks whether each person is awarded the right to be given a space for speech by the chairman of a gathering should they have an opinion. The answer of course being: no way, or at least not by government mandate. We should have the right to petition and resist for the inclusion of minority voices, but when the government is given the power to make these decisions for people it inevitably results in massive over-step.
When Ann Coulter called UC Berkeley a “graveyard for the first amendment” for not awarding her a platform, she misunderstood (or calculatedly misrepresented) the first amendment, the legal precedent surrounding it, the “Chairman’s Problem”, and the relationship between protected free speech but illegal instigations of violence . The crux of the modern battle for free speech is around what constitutes a legitimate threat and is framed in terms of a divide between “free speech” and “hate speech” in which the Overton window itself is the battlefield. Of course, incitement and legitimacy of threat with regard to “hate speech” are very murky concepts liable to be abused and pushed to the limits by every opportunist around. All of the slopes are slippery especially when you consider something like intimidation as in the case of The National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie in which the Supreme Court ruled that neo-Nazis had the right to assemble and march through the predominantly Jewish town of Skokie, Illinois. The factor of intimidation is escalated when combined with open-carry protections and calls for armed anti-Jewish paramilitary shows of force such as those instigated by Andrew Anglin in Richard Spencer’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana on MLK day (and named in honor of his assassin). In that case, the march never even happened but still managed to incite the chaos of “yelling fire in a crowded theater.” In the age of trolling and 8chan armies, the line between physical and informational threats are further blurred.
The irony of both Coulter’s statements and the right’s recent acquisition of the free speech rhetoric is that historically, free speech was fought and died for by the left and centered around none other than the radicals on the UC Berkeley campus. In 1964, members of Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), war-tired from resisting Klansmen and the like across the country, set about attempting to protect the free speech of political dissidents from collegiate and governmental censorship with a wide range of radical political tactics. Countless persons had been dragged before the House for Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC) as part of COINTELPRO and the Red Scare and charged as “subversives”. These original radical groups banded with others to form the Free Speech Movement, otherwise known as the FSM. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Seth Rosenfeld revealed, “ties between the FBI, COINTELPRO, and Ronald Reagan.” and that “Of the three hundred FBI agents who were active in Northern California in 1964, forty-three were assigned to infiltrate, monitor, and if possible, sabotage and neutralize those people J. Edgar Hoover deemed ‘subversive.’” So continued the illegal monitoring of Black radicals and professors alike, accused of wildly exaggerated or completely imagined crimes and charged accordingly in order to suppress their speech and truth-telling. Reagan went so far in his resistance of the Berkeley radicals as to say that the demands of the “Beatniks, radicals, and filthy speech advocates” had far exceeded their limits and needed to be stopped. This all culminated in Sproul Plaza when non-violent protesters were tear-gassed, beaten, and one person, James Recter, was shot by the police with buckshot, which Reagan then blamed on the protestors themselves. As the years drug on, the FSM continued to resist forcefully and against great violence for their right to speech. In only a few years, they would bear witness to both Bloody Thursday and the Kent State massacre.
Given knowledge of this history, it is ironic and sad that free speech, as it was pushed in favor of Black, Brown, LGBT, and other rights in the UC Berkeley FSM, has in turn become nearly synonymous with the “right to offend”. Furthermore, a recent study by the University of Kansas found that explicit racial prejudice is a reliable predictor of the “free speech defense” of racist expression in a variety of controlled settings. Several experiments showed that “the justification of racist speech by endorsing fundamental political values can serve to buffer racial and hate speech from normative disapproval” in the form of a Justification-Suppression model. This means that people using free speech arguments to defend racist speech are not motivated so much by principle, as by a basic self-defense of their racism to a reliable and predictable degree.
Free speech is one of the most important aspects of an evolving memetic ecosystem. It enables ideas to compete on the free market and be tested in reality to determine which hypotheses (maps) yield the most significant correlations with reality (the territory). The quality of speech is measured in it’s ability to pay rent in evidence. Complexity of narratives through cultural-miscegenation leads to intellectual and cultural evolution in the iron-forge of memetic entanglements. The tricky part of this is that some speech-acts are being utilized in order to mobilize the mass slaughter and disenfranchisement of innocent people. Which is really, objectively, shitty. What began as a struggle for dignity and socio-political access has been hijacked by people who just want to use it for fascist and racist political violence and a personal will-to-power. It is crucial that the broader anti-authoritarian movement reclaim the struggle for free-speech while simultaneously contextualizing it amidst the complex realities of violence, both structural and interpersonal in nature. As a matter of historical fact, if radicals of many stripes fail to uphold the struggle for free speech, it will return as it has in the past, to imprison and incarcerate our movements. Fortunately, being on the side of liberatory struggle, those who oppose authoritarianism and ethno-violence have a claim of legitimacy to what could be otherwise considered “subversive” free speech. If this all isn’t clear enough for you, while the right cries about Ann Coulter’s loss of a pedestal as a free speech crisis, many from the left are facing decades in jail for protesting the trump inauguration while wearing black. This is why we must protect free speech.
Why Fascism is Uniquely Dangerous, Especially in Conditions of Free Speech
Lots of political ideologies involve small-minded drones marching in lockstep obedience to a flag as a means to an end. There’s something profoundly different about people for whom that is the end.
Fascism is a social technology that carries a special seductiveness for the human animal. Think of it as a particularly dangerous cult psychology, creating a self-referential bubble narrative that supplies easy answers to complex problems and a sense of strength through belonging and performative hate. Even smart people fall for cults and employ motivated reasoning to defend and advance the cult’s memeplex, never bothering to question the core identity or why they should value it.
Most identities do this to an extent, but are either much more vulnerable to critical thinking, or they are ‘woo (new-age mysticism cults)’ that only hurts willing converts. Fascism as violent, refined, anti-thought is neither of those things. It’s those two factors (invulnerability and exo-toxicity) in combination that make it uniquely dangerous. It’s neither vulnerable to dialogue nor something that can be safely ignored and tolerated. Dialogue and tolerance are the preferred weapons of open societies with conditions of free speech. This is a major vulnerability.
Fascism is particularly dangerous to societies with even a smidgen of freedom. Freedom creates complexity and diversity. Fascists fear and despise that like nothing else does, and the mechanisms that complex free societies excel at using to defuse bad ideas, don’t work well against rapidly snowballing mobs of drunk, insular lizard brains. They can very easily get to the level of murder and terrorism before liberal institutions reluctantly accept that throwing facts at zombies does not work.
That’s why fascism merits special attention, even when it doesn’t look like the most immediate threat. Communist regimes have killed more people. Capitalist regimes have also killed more people. Fascist regimes are unstable and suck at keeping the trains running on time. But while they exist, the damage they can wreak on not just human bodies, but also the human mind and its works is simply unparalleled, and they can crop up with an unmatched speed and intensity, as these last years have shown.
Violence and Fascist Free Speech
Free speech or die, Portland. You’ve got no safe place. This is America. Get out if you don’t like free speech. Death to the enemies of America. Death to antifa [antifascists]. You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism. Die.
The above quote comes from Jeremy Christian’s arraignment for slitting the throats of two people, and serious injury of one other, who protected two Muslim women from Christian’s rage on the MAX train in Portland. The audience included Micah Fletcher who was hospitalized and nearly killed by Christian in the incident. One of the people attending his trial wore red shoelaces, a white supremacist code for someone who has drawn blood in the white nationalist struggle. Christian was already a known white-supremacist in the Portland scene though long before these murders. Christian attended the “March for Free Speech” organized by Joey Gibson some months earlier wearing a U.S. American flag, having previously posted about a desire to kill antifa. At the rally he was repeatedly yelling racial slurs including the n-word and throwing fascist salutes. Christian’s version of Gibson’s movement was a bit too explicitly extremist though and so even Gibson asked him to leave.
Christian’s instability and political syncretism mark the perfect fascist assassin. He voted for Bernie (a known anti-immigrant, soft nationalist) and then switched to heavily supporting Trump although registered as a Libertarian. Christian ticked all the other boxes too though, including: being a self-avowed nihilist, Nordic Pagan, and believer in the Cascadia white nationalist (Vinland) movement. His emotional instability itself is the perfect scapegoat for the fact that he is an obvious extension of fascist ideals. The right wing press quickly and tactically moved to dishonestly condemn him as a far leftist extremist with mental health issues, while the chans and Stormfront held him up as a hero. Neo-nazi provocateur Andrew Anglin published on his site, the Daily Stormer that, “Well, probably he was defending himself against attackers. He’s going to need a good lawyer. Hopefully he knows better than to talk to the cops. Again, it has to be said: when our people attack their people (if that indeed is what happened), the reason is the same as when the opposite happens: it is because they are in our countries in the first place.” In this grotesque quote Anglin claims Christian as “one of us” and blames the victims for defending the Muslims who ‘shouldn’t have been in the country.’ The link between fascist free-speech and violent terrorism however is not a new one. Rather, it is a clear historical trend.
It is possible to critique, support, and engage in antifascist activity all at the same time. However, a lot of the pushback against antifa misses the major historical point that middle to high level speech acts aren’t usually just speeches; they’re almost always explicit or implicit paramilitary commandments. Hitler’s first Putsch started in a beerhall speech where he declared National Revolution. He took notes from Mussolini’s “populist pageantry”. The SS, the SA, Freikorps, etc were all mobilized through speeches like this. People get vague on this point and say “Oh, we know there exists some connection between fascist speech and recruitment or incitement to violence” and act as if this is just a loose correlation. The Overton shift is primarily necessary in order to create space to both recruit, mobilize, and command paramilitary actions with increased normalization. The dweebs on 8ch (our modern nazi beer-halls) know this and discuss it openly and with intention but the liberal left, centrists, and conservative right don’t seem to get it.
You can’t just go straight from an Obama presidency to 5,000 non-state Nazis with AR-15s goose-stepping down main streets in large cities across the country even if you do have implicit support for white-nationalism coming from the highest office in the U.S. government. People have to be eased into it and the Nazis need a safety bubble to overcome the vulnerable aspects of trying to signal strength while they’re still just a stupid little niche racist movement. Yet, in the recent past we’ve already seen a drastic uptick in marchers, decked out for physical battle, and sporting Nazi iconography in a way that would’ve seemed less plausible only a few years ago in the U.S.. Then, the tragedies (1, 2) and incredibly escalated and openly fascist show of force in Charlottesville really drove the point home for a lot of people.
Historically, paramilitary mobilization of vets, the disgruntled youth, and political leaders has all happened on the platform. The National Front organized the boneheads in France to start marching because having an armed and trained contingent made them seem like a valid group rather than just some out-there right-nationalist party. Fascist violence starts with a speech where people find a sense of strength and maybe a bunch of people conceal carry weapons or beat up some minorities afterwards and meet a couple other peckerwoods that were in a different county jail. The bigger the crowd of more acceptably racist and middle of the road fascists, the more the hardcore people who are willing to build the perception of fascist strength through violence will be crawling in the midst. Richard Spencer wrote to antifa on twitter, “Our message is WE WILL CRUSH YOU.” Likely meant as a power signalling rebuttal to his incessant ability to get punched, hurt, or kicked out of events. This facade of power is a response to the fascist lust for it, summed up with compelling honesty by one poster when he said, “We feel emasculated. Many of us feel we have never had power. We crave power. We lust after power. We want to be part of a group, which will give us power. A group that will confirm our worth as men. We do not have identities. We want identities.” Regardless of their frailty though, when they say they want war, they mean it.
The problem is, even if it’s unethical somehow to resist speech violence (assuming even that no direct or implicit commands of violence were given) once the paramilitary aspects supporting these strong man figures have been able to mobilize, we’ve already lost a major battle and possibly the war. Once a formalized paramilitary outfit, with strong relationships to the state military forces and police is created, they’re able to more effectively control the narrative. They can then depict anyone who resists them as terroristic riff-raff and further justify their mobilization as the clean-cut purifiers of society who must obviously be correct because they have the blessings, or at least the intentional ignorance, of the state and its blade. Increasingly, in the U.S., political parties are turning to traditionalist militia groups for protection in a sharply foreboding homage to history. Once they have paramilitary and physical power they can further diverge ideology from action and control the narrative so they no longer have to abide even by their own stated values. They can dive ever deeper into left-right crossover mythos and rally people at ever expanding levels. Once they have that, they can buy whatever political power they need because they have people and military strength. The government becomes unsure who its own army would side with. This is how coups happen.
If someone was going around saying that whites are the inferior race and should be ‘physically removed so to speak’ (that’s Hoppean-Pepe for ‘murdered’), white people (not a real identity group though) would then need to address how much of a viable threat this person is (how much power do they have or could they get?) and then act accordingly and proportionately in order to protect their lives. Even if speech acts are fundamentally different than physical violence, no one would be so ignorant as to say the general ordering the drone strike is not somehow culpable for the deaths that occur. One of the most famous examples of this of course is the trial of Eichmann, a Nazi bureaucrat responsible for facilitating the movement of Jews and minorities into the death camps. Hitler may never have pulled the trigger against a Jew, but he is undoubtedly the most directly responsible individual for the Holocaust. So this leaves us to question, what is the relationship between speech and violence and at what point can we mark the initiation of aggression?
This answer is contextual and the ethical lines are complex, however, the historical record does show that normal speeches were used to mobilize paramilitary attacks on civilians. Certain lesser known firebrands fomented pogroms of foreign day-laborers and Romani through impassioned and emotionally manipulative speeches. These white people killed a bunch of innocent people when they got triggered. This is of course proportional relative to the reach of the speaker however, the pedophilia advocating Milo Yiannopoulos, was planning on using his platform at UC Berkeley (which was controversially thwarted by broad-base antifa efforts) to encourage violence against undocumented persons including helping to have them sent to detention centers and deported (ie. kidnapped by domestic terrorists) in part by publicly naming undocumented individuals (a tactic known as doxxing). He had also in the past doxxed a transgender student in a vitriolic tirade in his talks, using his platform to encourage violence against her. Richard Spencer has a largely supportive audience in both 8chan (a doxxing Mecca) and Stormfront (associated with 100 known hate-crime murders), allowing him to direct violence while keeping his hands clean like many a fascist neo-nazi creep before him. Anyone who agrees with him should take note of the way he is more than happy to sacrifice his legions to protect himself like many a fascist neo-nazi or old-school U.S., slave owning, Southern elite before him. This is similar to the way that Henry Regnery utilizes Spencer as a whipping-post and how the front line in battles fought to maintain white power are often poor whites afraid of losing their seat.
Prior to WWII, the KPD saw the Nazis as being better than control by the Social Democrats who, by then had already killed Rosa Luxemburg amongst countless others in the communist and anarchist left so they softened their stance on fascism and assumed that people would come to their senses and they could seize power in the meantime. By the time the KPD realized what was happening with Hitler and began to rescind their allegiances and form AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) it was already too little too late. And it wasn’t militant diversity of tactics from the left that caused the rise of the nazis. It was instead, strong allegiances from the left and the right coupled with normalization through debate and ‘strategic’ partnerships. By then the nazis already had enough power to purge literally anyone they wanted, not just the anarchists and the commies (and of course the Jews et al.) but also the SA (the Night of Long Knives) and frame it all as a state of emergency and use it further project their strength and recruit and justify exponential violence.
The nazis won on the night when Hitler gave that first speech to the “patriot movement” in a crowded beer hall in Munich in 1923 and ordered a putsch to seize Bavaria. The “Beer Hall Putsch” did not succeed and Hitler was sent to jail where he was given a light sentence and was allowed to have Mein Kampf transcribed. During his speech he had to have a general in the room. He had to worm around and be smarmy with his Anti-Semitism, catering to audiences and taking risks before that crucial moment. Had people tried to wait for him to give an explicit military command, they would have been far outnumbered, outgunned, and out-trained by the time he said the magic words. Because, the moment when implicitly violent speech acts turns to explicit military commands, is but the time it takes for the sentence to form and by then you’ve already lost.
. We can debate the varied nuances of what we should do in these situations but suffice to say for now that free speech, while incredibly important, should not be allowed to be abused by people utilizing it for personal or violent aims. Free speech rights exist in tandem with the natural rights not to be the target of un-initiated violence. For speakers who utilize speech to repress or violate others, it is unquestionably within our rights to refuse them a p
latform. The question of violence is relative to the actionable threat. Free speech is essential in undermining genocide, but it is often utilized as a wedge to justify the inclusion of genocide advocating speakers amongst the rest of us who aren’t gross.
This is not a condemnation of non-violent or liberal antifascist strategies. We need all kinds. The one-two punch is important. But to assume that the speech acts of medium to high level proto-fascists are not directly linked to violence is an abuse to the historical record. We definitely need people constantly voicing the moral high ground and holding us accountable for our excesses but also we need to be realistic about stopping looming threats. Whether or not a given fascists book gets popularized after a resistance push is secondary in a sense to the meaningful resistance capable of challenging their threats to power and striking while that power projection is still fragile to prevent it from solidifying. But this also isn’t a “pre-emptive” strike; it’s a response to evidence and the justifiable threat of violence even though it is crucial to not let these fine lines ratchet ever-outwards.
Part 3: WINNING THE FASCIST MEME WAR
Ontological Crises, Updating, and Rationality
In order to overcome, resist, and create alternatives to fascist memetics we can utilize the process of memetic updating through evidence. Yudkowsky describes evidence as being “an event that is entangled, by links of cause and effect, with whatever you want to know about.” That basically just means that your thoughts and beliefs are mirrored by reliable phenomena in your environment. Rationality is considered a process of aligning one’s map (ontology) to the territory (ground truth) through the creation or discovery of evidence. Beliefs supported by evidence should “pay rent” in observable phenomena and also be capable of being disproven. Yudkowsky also states that, “The larger the space of possibilities in which the hypothesis lies, or the more unlikely the hypothesis seems a priori compared to its neighbors, or the more confident you wish to be, the more evidence you need.” What this means is that the more reliable a given theory is considered to be, should be directly proportional to the amount and quality of the evidence in favor of it.
An ontological crisis is the “crisis an agent, human or not, goes through when its model – its ontology – of reality changes.” In simpler terms, this just means the feeling when you believe, especially very deeply, that some way of understanding that you hold is true, and are then confronted with compelling evidence against it (1, 2, 3, 4). An ontological crisis can create a sense of dying or extreme discomfort the more tightly wound one’s identity and core epistemology is with the discredited former belief. One of the side-effects of evidence is that, when one allows contradictory evidence to enter one’s consciousness, it can be nearly impossible to eradicate the doubt that it generates. As counter-evidence circulates in one’s subconscious, exponentially increasing quantities of confirmation-biased pseudo-evidence are required to maintain one’s ideological status quo. Information seeks freedom and freedom is its homeostasis. When faced with counter-evidence, one has the choice to integrate this new information or try to resist it ever-forth. In order to not fight the losing, entropy-riddled, battle of self-deception one can choose to update.
In Bayesian epistemologies, people or systems value probabilities supported by evidence as a method of increasing the accuracy of their maps. When confronted by new evidence we must update our probabilities accordingly ( P(A|B)=P(A)·pev(A,B) and P(B|A)=P(B)·pev(A,B) ). When the probabilities reach a tipping point we are forced to update our belief system entirely. This method is designed to reduce the pain of ontological crises while simultaneously opening ourselves to evaluating the quality of beliefs based on evidence rather than just feelings, allegiances, or utility. Bayesian updating is subtracting mutual evidence from uncertainty. To simplify all of this, when we encounter evidence, that challenges our prior beliefs and creates an ontological crises it can be solved by updating our beliefs. Bayesian epistemologies themselves are not a dogmatic or perfect approach to truth but are invaluable tools. This form of rationality is of course also not a sole replacement to empathy and ethics.
Rationality can be sorted generally into two categories: epistemological rationality — valuing truth for truth’s sake, and instrumental rationality — valuing ‘truth’ for the sake of utility (1, 2). Epistemological rationality is trying to figure out what is actually going on while instrumental rationality is trying to figure out things that help one achieve what they want. Fascism is inherently of the latter variety which makes it vulnerable to truth while simultaneously giving it the ability to camouflage itself as truth and offer cheap but addictive rewards as compensation.
Fascism, as being inherently rooted in anti-rationalism, is exceptionally vulnerable to this kind of systematic analysis even though, in modern discourse terms like “race realism” and “the red pill” are meant to denote access to some difficult to accept set of truths. They frame the movement as one of rationality but when faced with a deeper analysis much of the fundamental underpinnings crumble. However, like any strong memetic virus, truths are mixed with lies or are strategically decontextualized for instrumental purposes so the process of weeding through the junk can be extremely cumbersome. For example, the fascist right often invokes African-American disproportionate use of welfare as evidence of their “laziness” while simultaneously decontextualizing the circumstances which could invoke that fact such as the evidenced existence of structural racism. In this example you can see that the deployment of this “fact” without its context serves an instrumental purpose in spreading anti-blackness but is vulnerable to the truths in context. Many people on the broader left (and of course the right as well) don’t have a very cohesive intellectual or moral epistemology so when confronted with literally anything outside of there memeplex it invokes a sort of crisis of identity. Tolerance comes from having actually thought through and solved some of the contradictions in one’s own worldview. This allows us to be less afraid of memetic viruses, including those that are more dangerous than innocuous. Curiosity, the peak virtue of epistemological rationality, is in many senses, the antidote to fascist memetic hazards. In addition to the ability to intellectually process fascist memetic viruses though, they can also just be extremely emotionally draining and depressing which they rely on in overcoming potential attackers will-to-truth. Coupled with curiosity then, is a recognition of our structurally limited rational and emotional abilities and the need for supportive and collaborative care.
Building a Tolerance and Resisting
Of the class of memes that produce net beneficial results, there is something known as a “resistance meme” which is described as follows:
Many memes are self-immunizing – having seen it once leads to recognizing it and not re-transmitting it. It may be that a policy of free speech and rapidly mixing pattern of conversation gives better results than trying to quarantine memes. Still, some memetic diseases keep catching us despite having been caught before. How can we create and spread resistance to memetic diseases? Some memes ‘work’ (that is, propagate themselves) only if they’re implicit – knowing an explicit analysis of how the meme functions in an unwitting host is sufficient to defeat it. This knowledge, if it’s transmissible, is a resistance meme.
This means that memes, both beneficial and deleterious, have different contingencies that enable their spread or quarantine. For some memes such as the “God” meme, you have to believe in the meme in order for it to work properly which can often be disrupted by the introduction of doubt or skepticism. However, other memes are truth resistant in that they can meet a new truth head-on, without being subsumed by it (like rationality). The idea that for some memes we need increased free speech in order to break the implicit functionality of the meme while for others, free speech has been applied extensively and we have not been able to overcome the virus on that approach alone applies directly to fascist memetics in the sense that both conditions are true. We simultaneously need both exposure and quarantine, which provides perverse and contradictory incentives in the creation of resistance memes.
One of the biggest problems plaguing people’s memetic fragility is that we tend towards echo chambers, especially on the internet. Discomfort is….. uncomfortable, so we try to avoid it. Politically and ethically though, this means that people can only process gradual doses of intense ideology without getting bogged down in the details. When someone is coming at you full-speed with an entire paradigm, it can be hard to break it apart along individual claims and often little lies sneak by. In many situations, people need inoculation rather than immersion. However, inoculation against fascism has the double-edge of possibly promoting normalization so must be done carefully. With some dose of irony though, the alt-right and conservative approach of trying to trigger the left is actually helping to build the left’s tolerance in many areas.
Tolerance isn’t owned by scholarly intellectuals either. You don’t have to be a math wiz to understand that you should update when it seems that you’re wrong. The film “Welcome to Leith” showed average rural people effectively seeing through fascist doublespeak and resisting it on every level despite one admittedly not even knowing that white supremacy existed prior to encountering it. They greeted their ontological crises, updated, built a tolerance, and then resisted. This shows there are many paths to the one goal of proper handling.
The Meme War
Like it or not, this is the meme generation. We often communicate even IRL, with language derived from internet memes (“same”). Our thought processes are influenced by these deeply contextual, cultural capital cues and team signals. Memes often have layers of embedded meta level analysis although they aren’t nearly as good at subtlety as they are at making fun of “the other team.” But at the same time, a modern meme isn’t even usually funny unless it’s like at least two or three layers out. They gain their significance through connotation and exchange in social capital more than explicit statement. The alt-right has effectively utilized this through meta-irony and casual nihilism as a form of weaponized ‘cool’ and ‘edginess.’ Memes are a perfect channel for the shallow hits that fascism provides and are directly suited to their logic systems. Memes have further deepened the world of sloganeering which has enabled people on all sides to push catchy simplifications for better or for worse. One anonymous internet denizen remarked, “I’m just concerned that you’ll end up with a scenario like how libertarians aren’t capable of spotting a hyper-targeted, cronyist tax cut because of both the repetition of the “taxation is theft” meme (as in, internet meme) and the heavy opposition to taxes in conservative and libertarian circles. When I say “meme” above I don’t mean just the ones on meme pages. I also mean the broader definition that includes narratives which are effective at short-term results but which also result in a very superficial understanding that can be straight-up counterproductive.” Another contributor added, “My feeling was that in order for a meme to get greater than 3 levels of meta or of irony, it had to be nuanced. That feeling of ‘How did this thing that seems so intrinsically, terminally niche end up with 20,000 shares’ is either an actual sign of nuance or, well, dark arts at play.” In the meme war against the alt-right and emergent fascist creep, it is important to strategically weaponize propaganda, while at the same time subverting the dangerous pitfalls of this realm of deceit and power signalling. After all, the strength of anarchists has always been our ability to integrate complexity. Anarchism is a simple meme, with profoundly deep implications. Whereas fascism feigns depth and complexity but is instead a shallow pit of self-reflecting confirmation biases and smarmy realignments coupled with a strong power and righteousness signalling.
For many people, the alt-right is just a pit-stop for lolz and cheap strikes against easy targets on the left, but it is far too common for people to at some point lose sight of what part of them is wearing the mask of genocidal advocacy and white supremacy and which part has become a genuine advocate. Counter-recruitment is a must, as is misinformation, ethically engaged psy-ops, and genuine friendship. We cultivate something that they don’t: general empathy. We don’t need to virtue signal it because we can instead just share it through practice. A meme-queen remarked, “I mean we regularly have threads telling each other, sincerely, how much we like each other. We support each other in real ways, not the emotionally stunted, meme heavy ways of the fascists. When you can get that and get out of being told you’re scum…. that can be pretty powerful. The best part is it requires zero change in behavior on our part.” As cheesy as it sounds, love is anti-authoritarian and antifascist, as well as being one hell of a recruitment tool. Grounded, earnest wholesomeness and empathy can be strongly infectious memes especially when coupled with truth. Truth though, should intersect with ethics. For the fascist, their belief in race science justifies subversion. For the anarchist, any form of domination is a potential for liberation. For example, an adult anarchist doesn’t see cognitive differences between adults and children and think, “This justifies cruel subversion.” We think, “How can I contribute to the liberation of this mind? How is our liberation interdependent? What does agency and autonomy mean here?” This epistemic difference is crucial. For those fascists that we can pull, we should, for those that we cannot, we should destroy the viability of their ideas on the free market of ideas. This exceptional antifascist memestress also remarked, “We either change their minds or irritate the shit out of them. Both are successes.” We need to be more clever and funnier trolls, with better evidence, but also we need to be better friends. Fortunately, we have a lot going for us in all of these departments. On the individualized front, the memestress added, “It helps to never give them an inch, but also to not go overboard and look like a jackass.” It is also quite possible, and almost simple, to provoke fascists to reveal their actual values as a way to discredit them and spoil their entryism. For most, their fascist will-to-power is only a scratch beneath the surface, and if approached in just such a way, you can convince them to brag about their noxious desires and dreams. The revealing of this hidden dimension undermines their double-speak attempts and forces them to face their desires publicly.
Yet at the same time, we need to be pushing compelling counter-narratives and cooperative memetic strategies at the larger level. Anarchism is rich, but it isn’t self-explanatory to most people and many of our old adages (“Destroy bosses!”) have lost some of their power in modern parlance. We need to be creative. Many have found inspiration in the land of left-libertarianism as an approach to countering far-right capitalist appeals with the values of true liberty and market freedom coupled with a genuine care for people and non-violence. Others, such as the Redneck Revolt and John Brown Gun Club network, have made huge waves through careful labor radical media tactics coupled with rich imagery, a broad base of appeals, counter-recruitment, and clear shows of antifascist strength and readiness. These infiltrations have no doubt contributed to the III Percenter disavowal of alt-right white supremacist groups. We need all kinds. Propaganda and memetics in the meme war are certainly dark arts. We have to utilize them as both tools and weapons without losing sight of their dangers and ever ratcheting internal justifications. We can wear cleats on the slippery slopes. Defense against the dark arts often requires a careful wielding of the dark arts themselves.
This recent spate of nazis hiding, crying, dropping out of organizing along with their website and funding source shutdowns and other platform denials is a direct result of antifascist direct action and countless hours of hidden labor. Through strategies like doxxing, nazis are being outed and losing their jobs left and right and describe the response as ‘terrifying.’ Antifa doesn’t need to win the media war (they won’t) but the recent wave of pro-anarchist/antifa articles and speeches from even pretty normie mainstream outlets and leaders is the result of them doing right as a result of massive pressure. Hell, Mitt mother-fucking Romney distinguished between nazis and antifascist protesters! Meanwhile your mainstream democrat friends on social media are sharing memes about ‘100 nahzee scalps’. Antifa groups were not originally designed for this type of long-term media crafting strategic landscape, but have been thrust into it. Certain figures such as Daryle Lamont Jenkins have emerged as de-facto antifa spokespeople to fill the need for a successful propaganda campaign that mitigates the obstacles antifa groups face in doing their practical and more immediate work.
This is, for sure, the strangest timeline but, the nazis got what they wanted. They drastically moved the Overton window but, what they didn’t intend is how much space that would open up for sympathetic views of the resistance movement against them. We’re in a time where antifascist recruitment in the U.S. is soaring and becoming normalized as people grapple with the real-life threats of fascist white terrorism. The danger is worse than it has been in a long-time but, to an extent, we are winning the meme war.
Fascism is a potentially viral memetic disease, not because of its ‘repressed red-pill truths’ but rather for wholly the opposite reasons: it is a smarmy and mobile syncretism that can provide cheap rewards in a self-replicating will-to-power and does not depend on intellectual integrity. As a result, it has the capacity to cause great damage even despite it’s intrinsic failures to return on its promises of mythical resurgences of order, power, and purity. The solution is grounded empathy and rational approaches to ideological updating, coupled with a willingness to embrace and walk through ontological crises. Free speech, although an integral aspect of thriving society, is complexified by people’s structural inability to meaningfully sift through memetic viruses making it difficult to build collective immunities. As a result, it is important that we adopt the tactics of denial of platforms, freedom of disassociation, and physical resistance/self-defense, coupled with memetic innoculations through the larger meme war. Fascists don’t want free speech or the rationality they feign to worship. They want personal power and are willing to employ unconscionable violence to attain their impossible ends. They must be stopped, and a deeper understanding of how their memeplex functions allows us to be critical with regards to the efficacy of various of our tactics. In overcoming the fascist memetic landscape we will be able to push past vulgar non-cooperative game theoretic strategies, save countless lives, and build a more sustainable and free intellectual and emotional landscape for the future of society.
We would like to thank Megan Clapp, William Gillis, Allyn J., Meg Arnold, and Mike Gogulski who added thoughtful critique, inspiration, some verbatim writing, and needed edits. This was a strongly collaboratively developed piece.