There will be a new episode of IDSG along later today. In the meantime, here is a substantially re-edited and rewritten/updated section of something I wrote and originally published for supporters only at my Patreon. As it happens, the subjects discussed below have a fair bit of relevance to the main topic to today’s forthcoming new IDSG.
On 31st May 2020, President Donald Trump tweeted:
“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organisation.”
The statement is meaningless in real terms. As has been widely remarked, ‘ANTIFA’ (even Trump’s use of all-caps is telling of where he’s getting his ‘information’) is not an organisation at all. It is not a group of people who do things; it is a way of doing a certain thing, namely: opposing fascism. To be specific: it is a strategy of direct action for confronting fascists, fascism, or things deemed liable to incite or encourage the growth of fascism. It is a diffuse, rhizomatic, leaderless cloud of people; connected not by membership or hierarchy but by shared goals and tactics – and even that very broadly. Nor, as has also been widely remarked, does Trump – or indeed ‘The United States of America’ (whatever he might mean by that) – have the ability to ‘designate’ (whatever he might mean by that) anybody or anything ‘a Terrorist Organisation’. (…though Attorney General William Barr subsequently indicated that Trump’s threat – which he has made before – might be implemented in some form. Since this was originally written, mysterious hybrids of ICE and the DHS have started their Orwellian black-bagging of protestors. The lack of clarity and formal legal powers was never going to be a problem. Indeed, the mutation of nebulous reaction and state gangsterism into intensely codified and punctilious legality, with liberals and centrists always taken by surprise, is a fascistic hallmark.)
The tweet is pure Trump in that it reeks of truculent political illiteracy, barely concealed sadism, paranoid terror, adolescent performative swagger, and a kind of egomania that can fairly be called Hitlerian since Hitler also messianically equated himself and his emotions with his entire nation. What is remarkable, as ever, is how little it matters. Because, as detached from reality as Trump’s statement may be, it nonetheless serves a very real, tangible political function and gives every appearance of being well crafted to be effective and dangerous. And it manages this, as so often with Trump’s addresses, by being aimed far above the heads of the establishment and the professional pundits. It not being aimed at them, their rebuttals also fail to connect with anything or anyone. It is also characteristic of Trump that he manages to be an incredibly skilled politician via the unexpectedly effective tactic of being an irrational ignoramus. Gibberish though it is, the tweet sends a very definite political message out into the ether where anybody and everybody can hear it and react to it as they choose – and of course Trump knows the kinds of people who will choose to react to it in a certain way, even if they only absorb it with, and as nothing more than, a shrug. …