It’s so tempting to reduce everything in America to good versus bad. Some days it feels like we’re in a post-Sixth Sense M. Night Shyamalan film. Occasionally something good or interesting happens, but you know the end is gonna suck. Nowhere is this more apparent than the resurgence of white nationalism and the goddamn Nazis. HERE IN AMERICA. Jesus, we didn’t even have Nazis in America when they called themselves Nazis.
But whether the new crop of would-be genociders labels themselves in the same way as fascist Germany did back in the day or not, they’ve taken a page from the old Nazi playbook. In fact, I think they might have plagiarized entire passages. There’s the first glaring comparison: Racism and overt statements of superiority. Then you have the appeal to “freedom of speech,” in declaring their aim of eradication of nonwhites in America a simple “political viewpoint.” But in the age of the meme, no Nazi trick is quite as effective as propaganda.
This page they definitely stole from Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, or as the Alt-Right (maybe) calls him, Uncle Joe (probably).
Memes have made people superstars. They’ve ruined lives. They’ve forever changed iconic characters. Memes are the ultimate advertising for… what? A meme is much like an ad, but just for its own content. And although they started as funny or ironic, memes have taken on a much more sinister power: Recruitment.
So how does this all relate to right now? After the Charlottesville murder of Heather Heyer, the Nazis responsible for holding the rally became instantly aware that a gladiatorial thumb gesture from Donald Trump could make or break their nascent return to politics.
That thumb turned up.
Emboldened, the Nazis began attacking the only people who were actually literally fighting back against them, a “group” of anti-fascists called Antifa. They are the heirs to the proud American union group the Industrial Workers of the World, or “Wobblies.” The IWW has a long history of opposing fascism, which many Americans are woefully unaware of. To the soundtrack of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, the Wobblies didn’t just oppose fascism — they smashed it.
Groups like the GDC in Seattle pose more of a threat to modern-day Nazis than any condemnation from Donald Trump ever could. Alt-Right groups, knowing that he would never explicitly name them in his remarks, have never been worried about Trump. But they do worry about getting their fascist heads kicked in by students of history.
That’s why they’ve returned to their roots with Goebbels’ tactics. Their latest attempt to discredit the anti-fascist movement came in the form of memes. Researcher Eliot Higgins of the website Bellingcat found evidence of a campaign organized on 4chan by Alt-Right activists to smear Antifa as not merely a violent group — as though their violence is not in response to FASCISM — but as viciously cruel to women.
It would have been effective if they hadn’t been so obvious about it. They created Twitter accounts purporting to be Antifa members, then tweeted memes featuring battered women. They included captions like “She Deserved It For Being A Nazi.” They marked their tweets with commonly-used anti-fascist hashtags like #PunchANazi and #GoodNightAltRight.
The Alt-Right was outed this time. Their adherents won’t care. Not two weeks have passed since the Charlottesville tragedy, and they are already talking about running protesters over again. They don’t care because they are Nazis.
Will their memes work next time? The Nazis have Trump on their side. They have some police departments on their side. Even the ACLU has defended their “right” to be fascists. Don’t let them smear the one group that’s actually fighting back against them. Don’t be an American who is ignorant of history. Please share this article with others who should know what we’re up against, and who our allies are. If you can’t or won’t join the actual literal fight against Nazis in America, at least understand the people who have.
Featured image via Scott Olson/Getty Images