Reposted from Medium

Perhaps you read, as I did, about the Facebook group that CBP agents had, where they…made death threats against AOC, dehumanized migrants and refugees, cheered on violence, even against little kids, and were racists, bigots, misogynists in general. Maybe, like me, you were horrified and alarmed — yet somehow utterly unsurprised. Even to find out that women in the camps were made to drink water from toilets.

Yet what do you see when you look at this? Just a scandal — or something bigger? Here’s what I see.

America is building all the institutions of a fascist society now. Fascist-authoritarian societies have classic institutions — camps, secret polices, brownshirts, paramilitaries, propaganda wings — and all those institutions are rising in America, by design, at light-speed. Every single one. What else did you think the bad guys would do, if given power?

Didn’t everyone sane used to “joke” about camps being built on the eve of Trump’s election? But nobody was really kidding. We were just coping. And yet here we are.

If that sounds scary — it is. Nobody should be in denial about just how dangerous this moment is.

Let’s begin by putting the above in more accurate terms. Extreme right wing members of a law enforcement agency, who run a system of concentration camps, hoped to kill a left wing member of Congress checking their power (which is her job, both as a leader and as a civilized person.) They dehumanized and demonized the vulnerable people — even children — under their care, reducing them to animals and vermin. They laughed at the idea of abusing and torturing them. And they lionized the values of cruelty, violence, and supremacy.

Now, you might say — “just a flash in the pan! A few bad apples!” But this group had ten thousand members. Ten thousand. That isn’t just a few bad actors, my friends. Nor is it just a “culture” gone wrong. What it is, in hard political terms, is this.

The beginning of a Gestapo. What else is ten thousand law enforcement agents cheering on torture against kids, making death threats against members of Congress, laughing at the dehumanization of the people in the camps they run…if not the beginning of a Gestapo? It surely isn’t something that remotely happens in a functioning democracy, is it?

So think about what the job of a Gestapo really was. To dehumanize those the Nazis wanted to exterminate. To “raid” homes and workplaces and check papers. TO bully and intimidate the opposition — showing the power of the Nazis, that they could commit violence with impunity. If they could do it to Jews and gays — they could do it to you, too. To carry out the perversion of the law that was executed by the Nazi party leadership. And to turn society into a frightened, subjugated, controlled thing — one where an atmosphere of constant violence and horrific cruelty stifled any kind of dissent, knocked people into line, reduced any kind of opposition to whispers over dinner tables.

And yet all that is precisely mirrored in the episode above, too, isn’t it? The agencies operating America’s concentration camps and torturing children in them are becoming something very much like Gestapos. But what else could they be? A concentration camp needs a Gestapo, my friends. It can hardly run itself.

(Think for a moment of what kind of person takes such a “job” — or “just follows orders” and does it. “Hey, Steve — can you make sure that kid doesn’t have food, water, or medicine?” “Sure, Wilma — damned rats!” “Worms, Steve — burrito eating worms!” To do this kind of “work”, one must be ideologically dedicated to the cause to begin with. The cause of supremacy, of violence, of fascism. One cannot simply be a decent person and look on while kids are tortured in camps. Or if one hopes to be, one will find one’s decency soon enough stripped away.)

But Gestapos are hardly the only institution of fascism that’s rising in America today. Then there are, of course, the concentration camps they operate. Why are people in those camps? There is no real legal reason. It isn’t a crime to be a refugee, or even a migrant — crossing the border “illegally” is a civil, not a criminal, offense. The people in the concentration camps are there because the fascists are operating in an extralegal grey zone. They are simply able to do what they want — because America has no functioning opposition at this dangerous and critical juncture. Concentration camps and Gestapos — two crucial elements of fascist implosions.

And yet there are many more, all of which are rising in America.

If you turn on Faux News these days, you’ll hear literal defenses and justification of…concentration camps and Gestapos. Why they’re necessary, to deal with the existential threat of…little babies with the wrong skin color. There is the propaganda wing of fascism. It’s often said by Americans that Faux News is “state media” — but that’s inaccurate. There’s plenty of “state media” that’s fantastic, in France, Sweden, Britain.

What Faux News really is is the propaganda wing of American fascism at this point. It consists basically of the mantras of fascism, recited and repeated endlessly — those filthy subhumans are dangerous and bad, our strong and noble leader will defend you from them with violence, fear him — but fear them more.

But Faux News is hardly alone in being the propaganda arm of American fascism. There is a huge, deep intellectual infrastructure for American fascism. There are the thinktanks who dress up the fundamental beliefs of fascism in the pretty and high-sounding language of mathematics and equations. Did you know how much our economy’s growing, thanks to our Great Leader?! There are the pundits who promote “race science.” There are pseudo-intellectuals who “debate” fascism, legitimizing it. There’s the constant refrain of violence and supremacy and segregation of American culture, too. All this is propaganda, in various forms — much of it less visible than Faux News, blaring from every TV, 24/7 — but often vastly more effective.

(This level of propaganda — deep propaganda — serves three functions. It’s aimed at you, without you knowing it. It’s aimed at leaders of all kinds. And it becomes a kind of hidden culture, which, because it can’t even be seen in plain sight, is impossible to fight.)

What does propaganda do? It radicalizes. It drives people mad with fear, quite literally, to the point that their rage boils over, and fearing for their lives at the hands of some imaginary monster, they begin to not just cheer on violence — but do it themselves.

That brings me to another fascist institution that’s rising in America. No fascist meltdown would be complete without brownshirts. Paramilitaries. Usually, torpid, obese men, who, believing their families are about to be killed by evil, malign Jews — or in this case, little Mexican babies — grab the nearest assault rifle, and pile into the streets.

Perhaps you think I’m kidding. Then you haven’t seen what’s happening in Oregon, where right wing “militias” occupied the State Capitol, after GOP lawmakers fled, in order to stop a climate change bill from being debated. That’s an extreme example — but there’s barely a state in America where literal organizations of Nazis haven’t marched proudly down the street. Washington DC? Check. New York? Check. Charlottesville? Check.

These are the raw material for tomorrow’s SS — the shock troops, the “elite”, the ones who love violence most passionately, who are not just willing to commit any kind of atrocity…but are eager to. It is one tiny step to them being given fancy names — Obersturmleutnant! — and guns and uniforms, and let loose on towns, neighborhoods, cities. It could happen — snap! — just like that.

Who are these fascists, these SS’s of tomorrow, inspired and emboldened by? Well, the ones in…the White House. What do you call people that build concentration camps, put kids in them, and torture them? History only has one name for them, my friends.

It’s not well understood in America — Americans are still in deep denial about it — but fascists now occupy the highest positions in the land. Part of this is the many, many top government posts that have been left unfilled. Power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny few, as a result. The Prez, his closest advisors. The Nazis did that, too. It’s a key institution of fascism to concentrate power — and starving democracy of decentralized power is how it’s done. Hence, literal fascists now do everything from “border security” to foreign policy to “research.” That’s why investment in climate change research is being cut, while investment in camps and Gestapos is skyrocketing.

That last sentence should scare you, because it’s the point. Let me make it crystal clear, by summing up recent history. American fascists rose to power, on a tidal wave of Weimar style desperation and fury and discontent. Once in power — though the entire American thinking class couldn’t see it coming — they did what fascists were always going to do. They began to build the institutions of fascism. Gestapos. Camps. SS’s. They began enacting the institutions of fascism, too Torture, genocide, violation, imprisonment.

And even today, the game is very simple. The fascists are slashing investment in anything decent and democratic, and investing staggering amounts, more daily, in fascist institution. Gestapos, camps, SS’s, torture, paper-checking, surveillance, militarization, propaganda, and so on. Instead of, for example, research in climate change, healthcare, education, transport, retirement, university, infrastructure. Those things are where real wealth comes from, my friends — as Elizabeth Warren, who might well be America’s last hope, understands. But the fascists control the state, and the state has the most money and power. They are using it now, to build the institutions of fascism at lightning pace, at record speed.

And once those institutions are built, my friends, it is very, very difficult for a society to come back. Concentration camps and Gestapos, once they’re built, aren’t just used to repress Jews and Mexicans — next, the Gestapos come for the journalists, the intellectuals, the opposition parties, and throw them in the camps, too. SS’s aren’t just there to terrorize conquered provinces — they’re there to make sure you don’t say anything you shouldn’t. The Great Leader wouldn’t like it. And so on.

The institutions of bona fide fascism are rising in America. But what else did you think the fascists would do, except use their newfound power, money, and resources, to build them?

I could go on. I could talk about how the Nazis turned the law into an instrument of violence. They passed law after law, stepwise, to “deal” with the “problem” of Jews. They excluded them from certain kind of jobs, then living in certain places, then owning things, then they sent them to ghettos, and finally they sent them to camps. In other words, the law itself was turned into a fascist institution. I could talk about how all that is beginning to happen in America, too. Citizenship is no longer an inalienable thing — now it’s something that can be revoked. Or just questioned, challenged, trampled on. Various states are passing laws that would make the Taliban proud — jailing women for miscarriage. The Supreme Court recently decided gerrymandering wasn’t a “justiciable” issue. The law, it seems, is increasingly only there to repress — not to do justice.

But perhaps you see my point already. Let me make it clearer. I’m not saying that all these institutions are full blown Gestapos and SS’s and Treblinkas yet.


July 2019

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