Monday, August 14, 2017

The Great White Nope

The armies of this age are weak.

That was the takeaway from the neo-nazi march in Virginia this weekend, a spectacle of sound and fury signifying nothing but the weakness of the marchers themselves. They came, they saw, they scurried off when the kids talked back. A wave of preppies with tiki torches, bands of right-wing militia carrying their street-legal AR-15s, and they retreated from mouthy, unbowed college students without firing a shot. And even the Republicans are demanding criminal investigation after the one loser out of all the other losers staged a terrorist attack with his car, like a feckless European jihadi.

Keep that in mind as all the polite media types ring their hands over this terrible excuse for political violence: The armed right-wing militia never fired a shot, the worst violence being delivered by some chipmunk-faced shmuck from Ohio driving into a pedestrian mall. As terrible and tragic as that attack on the Downtown Mall was, it netted only a single casualty. Nineteen injured and one dead is a typical Cavaliers victory party.

Comparisons to ISIS are even more accurate than they typically are when talking about these alt-right types. ISIS sympathizers who plow through pedestrians in Paris and Berlin are making a tactical decision, using the best weapon they have available. Contrast this with Virginia, where you can buy guns. Loads and loads of guns. There's a gun show somewhere in the Commonwealth every month, so if you're serious about revolutionary violence you and your buddies can get strapped right quick. That's what many of the alt-reichers did for this march:

Veterans for Bernie like to point out these guys aren't actual soldiers, despite all their tacticool gear. They showed up to menace everyone who isn't a nazi into silence.

It didn't work, as you can clearly see. But no one going to C-Ville knew that, especially not the UVa kids and locals who turned out to counter-protest without any weapons beyond hairspray. And it speaks all the more to their bravery  that they took on these self-styled brownshirts without any hope of protection from the Charlottesville police.

I lived in Charlottesville for three years after college. I can say from personal experience that the ruling institutions of that town are a microcosm of all the mealy-mouthed poshlost that passes for respectable discourse in this country. This is best illustrated by the Downtown Mall where the attack took place, where I once saw a C-Ville police officer ticket a black man for drinking a beer while fifty yards away the wealthy white liberals of UVa swilled wine at an over-priced restaurant. C-Ville cops are not there to protect you, but to protect the image of a college town that loves to talk up it's relationship to Thomas Jefferson without ever mentioning his support of free universities. Or his slaves.

This makes C-Ville an ideal place for the Alt-Right's big debutante ball but they couldn't even do that right. They came in their macho-wannabe uniforms, trying to look united and scary, and turned right around when they met resistance. One ISIS-style hit and run and trying to gang up on a guy in a parking garage, that's what happens when these nazi thugs try to make good on their violent rhetoric.

Like ISIS and other right-wing reactionaries, the Alt-Right is much more a support group for miserable middle class failures than a competent military force. That should be everyone's takeaway from the Battle of Charlottesville, that the nazis of the 21st century are a pale imitation of the Wermacht, that they have no stomach for a real fight and what's more they're real shit at fighting anyway.

Just be sure to arm yourself, because cops won't protect you. That goes double if you're not white.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Gangster in The Mirror

I came to understand the neoliberal hatred of Russia and Trump through observing how socialism will never take root in New York City. This will be upsetting to the Jacobin crew and other optimistic reds, but we need to recognize socialism is as much a culture - an attitude - as a set of policy goals. And NYC is just not a socialist-friendly culture because it likes the hustle.

It's a word middle-class white folks learned from their, or rather their children's love of hip-hop. Because hip-hop culture celebrates the hustler mentality, as exemplified by Jay-Z's many business ventures and the swaggering confidence of hip-hop specializing academics. It's grassroots entrepreneurship, the sort of thing Clinton Democrats - and even some Republicans - claim to champion but the attendant egomania and blue collar crassness just doesn't sit well with their patrician sensibilities. Which is how you got the precursor of the current climate of russophobia in the bipartisan crusade against Gangsta Rap.

Remember that? Well, a lot of you Berners won't but it's an instructive moment of history. Everyone from Dan Quayle to Al Gore's joyless wife declared the works of Ice-T and Ice Cube and others to be the worst affront to civilized society since Hitler. Because that histrionic Austrian is always the gold standard of evil for mindless middlebrows, not the entrenched culture of racism at the LAPD, or the corrupt vampirism of Wall Street... Or the vicious looting of post-Soviet Russia in the Yeltsin years.

Americans, at least in the pundit class, recall the 1990s as the golden years of Russian democracy before Putin came in and ruined everything. Actual Russians remember a time of desperation, vaporized savings, and children falling into rusted steam pipes where they died with their skin melting off. This is why "democratsiya" is a dirty word in Moscow, even among the opposition - which is huge and doesn't give a damn about US interests. Putin initially rose to power with a few symbolic jailings of Yeltsin era oligarchs but he's since brought in just as many of his own oligarchs. Russia has been a gangster state since the Berlin Wall came down, but only under Putin does it really rankle with the masters of the universe huddled inside the Beltway.

And that's where we get to the muddled truth of all this. So far, the neoliberal love of Yeltsin and loathing of Putin would just be typical hypocrisy but remember the hip-hop precedent: gangsterism does not offend the powerful because of its wickedness but because it is an honest expression of the capitalist spirit both Democrats and Republicans claim to adore. The Moscow oligarch - just as the Flatbush hustler or the Reality TV CEO - is a living breathing rebuke to the ruling class and its pretensions to civility, while stripping rural proles of their healthcare and dropping bombs on mud huts.

The Gangster is the purest expression of the free market so often celebrated by Pelosi, McConnell, Ryan, and especially the Clintons. It is their own blackened heart and they would all sooner start World War III than admit their own ugliness.