Members Only | August 5, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Modern-day ‘Brownshirts’ Answer Trump

He spent a week maligning cities. Then came massacres in El Paso and Dayton.

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The president condemned white supremacy after the bloody massacres in El Paso and Dayton. Does anyone believe him? I hope not. Donald Trump long stopped deserving the benefit of the doubt. Continuing to give him that is enabling his toxic bad faith.

“Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul,” the president said this morning.

I’m not buying it. Neither should you.

The president has told thousands of lies since taking office. This is a fact. He also plays coy when it comes to the racist ideology that lifted him to the land’s highest office. If under pressure from his party and the press corps, he’ll deliver a scripted condemnation. He’ll sound very sober and very serious on TV. That will be enough for the Republican Party, but also for a political press too amoral to judge for itself. 

Later, he’ll say there are good and bad people on all sides, undermining whatever good will he earned with his formal statement. But by then, his party and the press corps will have moved on. Few will be listening, except enemies and the white supremacists operating in the shadows who are already highly attuned to the president’s rhetoric. They know Trump didn’t mean a word of his condemnation. They know he said it because he was goaded into saying it. They know he’s really one of them. 

It seems entirely reasonable to conclude they are not just for gun rights. They are for people dying.

The president also said this weekend’s double massacre is more about mental illness than it is about guns and gun violence. That’s another whopping lie. More guns means more death. It’s as simple as that. Saying it’s about mental health is cover for the Republicans, especially those in the Senate. The Democratic House already passed gun-control legislation. Senate Republicans facing reelection do not want to be forced into voting against the NRA. Trump is helping them by focusing on mental health.

The temptation among liberals and leftists might be to accept this framing—mental illness v. gun control—as if is were true. I’m not suggesting there’s no truth in it. I’m suggesting, actually outright saying, that that’s playing by Trump’s rules. Liberals and leftists should make the whole truth more obvious. By their inaction, Trump and the Republicans are telling us they want people to die, especially people they dislike. Why would they want people they dislike to die? Because they’re American fascists. 

The president spent last week maligning cities as cesspools of crime, corruption and much worse. During the entire time, the Republican Party establishment was silent. In doing so, the president was following the same playbook other fascists have used successfully. Rural Germans were for Hitler the real German nation. Rural Germans worked hard, worshipped God and loved their country. City residents, on the other hand, were corrupt politically as well as genetically. Under Jewish influence, people of different religions and ethnicities mingled together, even had sex with each other, and in the process not only desecrated a pure Aryan race but threatened to replace it.

Sound familiar? It should.

El Paso and Dayton, it will be noted, are cities. So is Pittsburgh and so is Charleston. So is Las Vegas and so is Parkland (Greater Miami). In these cities are liberals and Jews and other “cosmopolitans” as well as racial and sexual minorities—all of them lazy, criminal, decadent and/or diseased. Real Americans pay taxes. Urban Americans are dependent on the state. We are “real.” They are “dangerous,” and they must be dealt with. Fascists don’t hate cities because cities are liberal economic success stories.

They hate cities, because they’re cities.

They kill, because they want to kill.

Hitler didn’t just demagogue the German people into accepting his racist and antisemitic worldview. He beat it into them. He organized a militia called the Sturmabteilung, or brownshirts, at first to provide security for his rallies. But as it grew, the SA became a means by which Hitler terrorized the population, especially in cities where Jews and other “undesirables” were targets. Brownshirts rioted, vandalized, assaulted and murdered in cold blood until there was no political resistance left.

Trump and the Republican Party don’t need a party-aligned paramilitary group to advance their interests. They don’t need actual brownshirts to terrorize the population. All they need to achieve both is send the right signals to the right people who are already embedded with one kind of white supremacist group or another. When these “lone wolves” hear the president talking about infested cities, invading and diseased immigrants and the like, they are ready, willing and able. It’s unorganized, unattached to the GOP and untraceable but very effective. Some call it “stochastic terrorism.” 

All of this may sound shocking. I have qualms typing these words.

But if Trump and the Republicans are not American fascists who want to see people die, they should prove it. As it is, they are asking us to trust them, and like I said, this president has long since stopped deserving the benefit if the doubt. Given the GOP’s years of inaction and indifference to mass death and suffering, it seems entirely reasonable to conclude they are not just for gun rights. They are for people dying.

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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