Saturday, October 31, 2020

How Far-Right Propaganda Has Brought America To The Brink Of Massive Violence

The United States hasn’t just become a powder keg for social unrest because of the widening of wealth inequality and the crash of the economy, which have been leading to revolts that defy the police state and give the lower classes more power. With the country’s neoliberal deterioration has also come the rise of reactionary sentiments and movements, ones which seek to make history’s next chapter not one of socialism and equality but one of fascism and war.

This ominous development has been in progress for decades with the rise of patriot militias, the presence of right-wing terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, and more recently the rebranding of the neo-Nazi movement into the “alt-right.” What’s the ultimate goal of the people at the forefront of these radical reactionary strains? It varies among the different ideological sects, but a picture of their general vision can be gleaned from examining the sects among them that have become the most relevant.

QAnon: a conspiracy theory whose followers want to carry out a violent coup

A recent survey revealed that one in ten Americans now identify as supporters of QAnon, the 4Chan figure who claims that Trump is battling to take down “Satanic” pedophiles within Washington’s elite circles. The survey also showed that those who share this belief in Q’s stories are three times more likely than the general population to think violence should used to in order to defend what one believes in. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To understand the depth of the pathology that QAnon has created among its believers, we should assess what its end goal is: a grand apocalyptic event, called “The Storm,” where the righteous will be vindicated and the evildoers will be eliminated. In other words, a repackaged version of the Christian doomsday belief that’s always driven the American religious right. It’s fitting that just as QAnon persuades its followers to support Trump blindly, even consciously accepting outright misinformation and countless false predictions in the process, the Biblical end times prophecy has long persuaded evangelicals to be loyal to the world’s reactionary powers. Especially Israel, which is supported by many of these evangelicals paradoxically because they think a catastrophic battle will need to be fought within Israel in order for the world to be reborn.

Amid the introduction of QAnon, this obsession with shaping world affairs based off of a desire to kickstart divine destruction has become tailored for Trump’s America. Tailored in a way that’s been able to propagandize millions of people into seeing Trump as a kind of American end times Jesus Christ, one who’s waiting to purge the country of corruption. It’s not hard to jump to some alarming thoughts while examining what Q followers believe; their worldview is a carbon copy of the white supremacist mythology about how the U.S. is controlled by a cabal of Jews whose Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG) can only be defeated through violent insurrection.

Looking at this Q post from three years ago, it indeed becomes very apparent that Q’s followers are expecting a vast campaign of violence in order for the evils within the country to be vanquished:

My fellow Americans, over the course of the next several days you will undoubtedly realize that we are taking back our great country (the land of the free) from the evil tyrants that wish to do us harm and destroy the last remaining refuge of shining light. On POTUS’ order, we have initiated certain fail-safes that shall safeguard the public from the primary fallout…On POTUS’ order, a state of temporary military control will be actioned and special ops carried out…However, the atmosphere within the country will unfortunately be divided as so many have fallen for the corrupt and evil narrative that has long been broadcast. We will be initiating the Emergency Broadcast System (EMS) during this time in an effort to provide a direct message (avoiding the fake news) to all citizens. Organizations and/or people that wish to do us harm during this time will be met with swift fury — certain laws have been pre-lifted to provide our great military the necessary authority to handle and conduct these operations (at home and abroad).

A state of military control? Messaging that’s forced by the government onto the masses? A lifting of basic civil liberties? Brutal suppression of those who oppose the regime? If these ideas don’t make you feel uneasy, you must already be down the Q rabbit hole, where anything can be rationalized as long as it serves the end goal.

Falun Gong: a cult that believes Trump is fulfilling an end times prophecy where communism will be destroyed

What’s important to understand about these reactionary conspiracy theories is that they aren’t emerging from random 4Chan trolls or clickbait pseudo-news sites in Macedonia. They’re being amplified by, and in many cases directly produced within, the propaganda centers of the state’s intelligence agencies. As WikiLeaks has assessed, QAnon is very likely a “pied piper” operation by U.S. intelligence, making it no coincidence that former U.S. director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell recently retweeted one of the largest QAnon accounts. It’s also no coincidence that Q’s explosive rise throughout 2020 has largely been the result of law enforcement members throughout the country coming to believe in the conspiracy.

The same dynamic of CIA-created disinformation being promoted by the centers of power is behind this year’s rise of anti-Chinese paranoia. And like is the case for Q, the anti-Chinese propaganda is tied in with a religious ideology that anticipates an apocalyptic confrontation.

Falun Gong, which is behind the increasingly prominent pro-Trump news outlet The Epoch Times, is a China-centered religious group which believes that “Trump was sent by heaven to destroy the Communist Party.” Last year the China Tribunal, one of Falun Gong’s front groups, published a “report” which baselessly claimed that China has been systematically stealing organs from the members of Falun Gong.

The alarming thing about lies like these is that since they serve to advance the U.S. cold war against China, they’re regularly promoted and portrayed as serious by all of the mainstream American news outlets. Even this year’s absurdly misleading claims from The Epoch Times about how China “covered up” Covid-19 have been amplified by a media landscape that’s eager to scapegoat China and communism in general. Like has also been the case for Q, the Trump White House has worked to leverage the lies of Falun Gong in its favor; as soon as Covid-19 began wreaking havoc upon the U.S., Trump started enacting a propaganda program to blame China for the crisis, persuading all of Trump’s allies in the right-wing media to parrot the new series of anti-Chinese talking points.

The goal of the Washington imperialists who propagate these narratives is to economically and geopolitically subdue China. The goals of these religious fanatics at the forefront of the anti-Chinese propaganda war go even further; they’re the Q followers of the American Sinophobic crowd, complete with their own end times prophecies. As Helen Farley wrote in the 2014 paper Falun Gong: a narrative of pending apocalypse, shape-shifting aliens and relentless persecution:

Few people outside of China fully understand the full scope of Falun Gong. Practitioners adhere to a complex theology replete with shape-shifting aliens, multiple planes of existence and warnings of an impending apocalypse brought about by extreme moral degradation which only a lucky few will survive. In this worldview karma plays a pivotal role, but not the abstract karma of Buddhism, but rather a tangible sticky black substance which can be at least partially removed by practising five physically demanding yet meditative exercises.

We keep seeing the ideological threads which link these rising reactionary strains to the evangelical end times prophecy. We also keep seeing what Umberto Eco described in his listed characteristics of a fascistic mentality: a tendency to simultaneously portray one’s enemies as strong and weak, a view of life as one long war between the in-group and the out-group, a disgust with perceived moral impurities, and an “obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged.”

Neo-Nazi accelerationists: a group that wants a fascist revolution

The Nazis provide the kind of outlet for taking power that the Q believers, the Falun Gong followers, the Christian zealots, and the other paranoid reactionaries are ultimately looking for. As the YouTube channel Innuendo Studios observes in their video The Alt-Right Playbook: How to Radicalize a Normie, those who’ve been radicalized towards the far-right find themselves fundamentally dissatisfied with the power that their movement is currently able to wield. The propaganda they’ve absorbed has filled them with a fanatical rage, and leaves this rage unquenched save for when they get some momentary victory like a won election.

And even after they win an election, as they did in 2016, they’re presented with a multitude of new things to rage against: feminism, racial justice movements, queer liberation movements, etc. What perpetually enrages them is the fact that any opposition to their camp exists. Even the centrist and ineffectual Democratic Party is a plague upon the country in their minds, as evidenced by Trump’s absurd demonizations of Biden as some sort of radical socialist. When the very idea of opposition to their Christian chauvinist and racist ideology sends them into perpetual hysteria, the only thing that can satisfy them is a brutal fascist coup.

As Raul Diego of MintPress News writes in his analysis of QAnon, the philosophy behind this sense of rage was part of the American mainstream even before Trump ran for president:

QAnon simply overlays a direct political layer to this ideology using Trump as a savior figure. Any tolerance their followers show towards Israel and the president’s Jewish son-in-law is only part of the “plan” they must trust, and not a departure from the staunchly xenophobic movement, which is ultimately a modern form of what has been termed “British Israelism” — the belief that the Anglo Saxon race is the true chosen people — which runs deep in American Settler psychology and is expressed not only via QAnon messaging, but through far more mainstream media sources like Ann Coulter and Fox News; both of whom target the rust and bible belts where versions of the QAnon narrative have been amalgamating for years as people try to cope with their increased disenfranchisement.

The American neo-Nazis groups, with their recent coordinations of secretive paramilitary training throughout the country and their goal of purging society of “degeneracy,” present a political line that reflects this desire. More frighteningly, they present a political line that’s already triumphed in many countries throughout history, from Hitler’s Germany to Pinochet’s Chile to Ukraine under neo-Nazi rule. These are the groups that are making the risk of violence following the 2020 election so high. They, along with ideologically adjacent “alt-light” paramilitaries like the Proud Boys, are who are preparing to create many more Kyle Rittenhouses should Trump lose and declare the vote count “rigged.”

If they don’t succeed in keeping Trump from having to leave office, they’ll continue to mobilize in the coming years towards some even more far-reaching goal. If right-wing terrorists plotted to kidnap the governor of Michigan this last month, who knows how far they’ll aim in 2024. If neo-Nazi accelerationists have been discussing strategic acts of violence during the Covid-19 pandemic, who knows how they’ll try to exploit the coming climate-related crises of the 2020s. 

In any case, QAnon will continue to aid these terrorist operations through propaganda and perhaps also through direct military backup; QAnon has already been found to be a partial motivation behind a series of violent crimes in the last several years, something made even more alarming by Q’s Nazi-modeled symbolism (“The Storm” is suspiciously close to Stormtroopers, “the cabal” is similar to “ZOG,” etc).

Where is this all leading?

This is what it looks like when the groundwork is being laid for a fascist takeover, such as the one that Ukraine has experienced since its 2014 neo-Nazi coup and its subsequent rise of impune fascist paramilitary groups. It’s started with the selling of coded fascist propaganda to a mass audience, reinforced by a culturally ingrained religious fanaticism and by the proliferation of geopolitically motivated xenophobic lies. In the last decade, while the internet has helped give rise to right-wing mass shooters like 2019’s Christchurch killer and 2018’s synagogue killer, the poisonous ideas behind them have proliferated among a wider and wider part of the populous.

Will the Nazis succeed in carrying out a revolution? Not for as long as the state remains strong, though given current trends this certainly shouldn’t be counted on. Either way the Nazis, along with the other strains I’ve mentioned, will continue to gain traction whether or not the current state remains in place-and certainly whether or not the current presidential administration remains in office. To varying degrees, these strains serve to strengthen the capitalist state under the present conditions, which is why the capitalist state often coordinates with them and amplifies their messages. And the institutional measures that supposedly weaken them, such as tightened online censorship and greater police powers, are tending to mostly harm the left rather than the right.

Behold the derangements and frightening political beasts that are emerging in the United States amid the fall of its global empire. This country’s foundations of capitalism, imperialism, and settler-colonialism are creating a feedback loop, one where the population and the state engage in ever-heightening reaction. As Colin Horgin wrote in his 2018 essay QAnon, Slender Man, and Our Paranoid Surveillance Society, fear is the driving force behind it all:

At the heart of QAnon, just as at the heart of Slender Man, is the story of a society filled with individuals feeling helpless and anxious. In the case of Q, these feelings have warped into a uniquely bizarre urban legend, prompted by Trump’s promise of relief: that power would once again return to political office to deliver clarity and freedom from a corrupt, controlling, and faceless entity that haunts their lives. “For those who have been following the QAnon posts, or ‘breadcrumbs,’ on 8chan, Twitter, Facebook or Youtube, the name itself is loaded with meaning, curiosity, and, perhaps most of all, HOPE,” one follower wrote in March.

Fear that, while often based in legitimately scary things about where our world is headed, leads to dangerous and made-up fears when one lacks the education to discern fantasy from reality.

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