The Thing That's Coming

An anti-fascist coalition of various factions assigns blame ahead of time for a coming calamity. A series about the election. Differentiators: Part 2.

The Thing That's Coming

Cargo ship Dali lost power and from there it was only a matter of time before it destroyed the Francis Scott Key Bridge. We hadn't maintained the bridge for collisions of this type, we're learning. You'd think we would have, given that the bridge is a critical piece of infrastructure for the Chesapeake Bay area, but we're often the sort of place that fails to maintain what it has built, mostly because maintenance costs eat into tax revenues, and revenues could be used for tax cuts, and tax cuts help profits, and profits are very important, so collapses are just a thing that is coming. An inevitability.

But even if we had performed adequate maintenance, the bridge was probably doomed. Dali is the size and mass of a skyscraper (far larger than container ships used to be permitted to be, but larger ships lower prices in supply chains, and lower prices in supply chains help profits, and profits are important). So the bridge collapsed, and despite the fact that an immediate warning from the captain minimized casualties, some late-night travelers died in the water (CORRECTION - there were, happily enough, no late-night travelers; I regret the factual error), as did four of the six workers who were on the bridge fixing potholes. Fixing potholes are a temporary fix but represent a cheap form of maintenance that do not cut so much into profits, and so we tend to do it on roads we deem valuable enough to deserve it. We fix a lot of potholes in my state, too.

And we're doing what we ought to do after such a thing, which is to ask why it happened. There's some investigation into whether the ship was adequately maintained. There's some investigation into whether the fuel was dirty. It's certainly possible that some company or another is to blame, since very often cutting corners and paying relatively small fines if caught when the results turn inevitably damaging and/or deadly frequently doesn't eat into profit as much as compliance does, and profit is very important, so many corporations decide to cut corners.

Still, we ought to know what happened. We'll get into it, and good for us. You need to know why a tragedy happened if you want to prevent it, though I will note that if the thing that caused the bridge collapse was something that would eat into profits, we might decide that we don't want to prevent it after all , and that bridge collapses and people dying in frigid water sadly just needs to be a thing that is coming. An inevitability.

And Joe Biden—who is the U.S. president if you hadn't heard—announced within a day that the federal government would indeed be picking up the bill to repair the bridge. And to a certain extent, I think this is good. Our government should be the way that all of us organize and operationalize our shared life together. We ought to look to it for relief and repair in times of calamity. However, it also strikes me that this means that if the calamity turns out to be the fault of a gas or shipping company, or some other company, one thing we'll not do is make the company responsible foot the bill. Any penalty anything close to commensurate to the damage would probably put such a company out of business, and at the very least it would eat significantly into profits, and profits are very, very, very important, so important that I think you'd be hard-pressed, if you looked at the way our institutions of government and law and commerce worked, to find any priority that is deemed more important. For example, we don't put corporations out of business if their gross negligence collapses a major bridge.

To only sort of change the subject, there was an immediate reaction to this incident from the unfortunately large and popular and empowered coalition of fascist supremacists in the U.S., who needed no investigation into the calamity to know instinctively who was to blame for it—namely, the same people who supremacists blame for any calamity: minority groups. Open white supremacists (that is to say, mainstream conservatives and Republican operatives) called Baltimore's mayor, Brandon Scott, who happens to be Black, the "DEI Mayor," suggesting that bridge collapses should be expected in a city that would elect a [slur obfuscated] mayor. Last month, these mainstream white supremacists decided that DEI was to blame for panels flying off of Boeing airplanes, which appears to have been caused by a lax safety culture, as opposed to DEI. And last year, the same supremacists decided that DEI was the reason that colleges were to blame for antisemitism on campus, even though antisemitism is the very thing that those same supremacists had spent decades insisting that colleges make room for, in the name of free speech and open discourse.

DEI is just diversity, equity, and inclusion, by the way. That's all it is. It's become the new word that racists say when they want to say a slur but they realize they're in mixed company. It's a handy watchword for people who have decided that every problem is the result of the proximal existence of Black people and other marginalized people groups, because what they actually intend is to end the existence of such people, as soon as they can, with as much violence as possible.

This is probably why supremacists didn't make much out of the fact that the workers who died—the ones who were actually performing acts of maintenance upon the bridge—were from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico; the exact sort of immigrants that white supremacists (that is to say, mainstream Republicans) now insist, via their embrace of the vile antisemitic replacement myth, represent an invasion inflicted upon them by Jewish people (or dog-whistle catchphrases meaning Jewish people). The existence of people like these bridge workers represent an invasion, they say, one that they insist justifies any eliminationist violence they intend.

In other words, hours after the Dali struck the bridge, Republicans and other types of white supremacists had already blamed the victims for the violent end those victims had met, and had blamed those who would suffer most the effects of the disaster for the structural logistical effects that that disaster had caused.

And this is pretty standard stuff these days for conservatives in the U.S., a group that has fully committed to a fascist project of supremacist domination, and has chosen as their leader a corrupt fascist demagogue of zero positive qualities, a man who they intend to install as a dictator and use to demolish democracy forever. They intend to control our bodies and lives with government violence to satisfy the comfort and consciences of a cabal of creepy Christian weirdos. They've written it down and everything. You should definitely familiarize yourself with their clear intentions.

Look: we should expect a supremacist project to involve blame management—not just blaming for what has happened, but pre-blaming for anything that will happen. A supremacist project is based on the belief that only certain people matter, that the people who matter are inherently and exceptionally good, and that everyone else should be used while profitable and then violently eliminated when they are not, because that is what they deserve. It so happens that this is an unsustainable lie, which means that it doesn't sustain—supremacy makes things fall apart. And supremacy, which believes itself exceptionally good and supreme, must believe itself unimprovable (which is one reason supremacy opposes maintenance), and so, as supremacy causes brokenness, it must create elaborate systems of blame in order to hold itself faultless for the abuses it has made inevitable, and to establish that those who suffer most from those abuses and calamities will be the ones blamed, both for the calamities and their own suffering.

Again, we should expect this. The conservative project is a supremacist project, which is why it has embraced fascism's myth of purification through elimination, and why they intend to accelerate the fascist program of eliminationist violence against their own citizens, which means making sure they have established that their intended victims deserve what they get, and that they, the supremacists, are good for giving it.

What this means is that we've got a couple grim realities to deal with.

First: things are already very very bad for a great number of people in this country; institutional supremacy sees to that, a supremacy that is mostly accommodated by institutional power—not only by openly fascist power like the cabal of creepy Christian weirdos who want to control everyone's bodies, but by run-of-the mill power, because run-of-the-mill power is interested in keeping things as they are, and mostly recognizes supremacy as what it is, which is the way things are.

Second: things might get much much worse soon for an even greater number of people in this country; open and proud fascist supremacy intends to see to it, and the coming election makes them hopeful that they will be able to see to it with the power of the chief executive behind them, until the power of the chief executive becomes a dictatorial totalitarian presence, which is what open and proud fascist supremacy wants.

Yes, the fascists think they're going to be able to make this happen in the impending election. Elections are something that impend now. Even those who put the most hope in them speak of them more like disasters to narrowly avoid than opportunities for improvement and change.

It seems as though it's a thing we can all see coming, if we are anti-fascist; like a ship motoring toward our national bridge, this impending election and the rise of fascism and the end of democracy. If this election doesn't put the fascists in power the next one will, or the next one. As long as our institutions intend to go on accommodating fascists to the extent that fascists are able to go on pretending that they are participating in democracy, eventually the bridge will collapse. There's always another ship, and we don't ever use the time in between to bolster democracy's bridge for impact. Fascism is the thing that's coming, then. An inevitability.

So we all see it: The Thing That's Coming. Bigger and more massive than a container ship, creeping at us at the speed of the calendar. And more and more, we seem to be trying to blame one another for it ahead of time.

So this is another one about the election.

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Last time I talked about the election as a great chance for all of us to yell at each other. And I talked about how there appears to be a sincerely anti-fascist coalition, with a spectrum of beliefs of varying accuracy about our institutions. I simplified this spectrum into two factions: anti-institutional and institutional. The anti-institutional side is less likely to vote for Joe Biden for a variety of reasons we can get into; it is in fact is less likely to vote at all, which practically speaking does make a Trump presidency more likely. The institutional side is more likely to indicate that they will vote for Joe Biden no matter what he does, no matter how much whatever he does accommodates fascism or supremacy, which as a practical matter makes it more likely that Biden will accommodate those things.

This is what causes a lot of the yelling.

I'm not against yelling, by the way, or arguments, or fights. This isn't going to become a civility lecture.

And I don't think both perspectives are equally correct. It's not going to become a "both sides" lecture.

The differences between these members of our anti-fascism coalition are important, for the same reason that it is important to investigate when a ship hits a bridge or a panel blows off a passenger plane. A lot of the differences we have are over our still-existing alignments with supremacy, which is systemic, and we need to witness to these, if we are going to actually understand the problem of fascism and prevent it.

However, the election exposes those differences. So the election becomes an inflection point for fascists to create wedges: binaries and illusions of binaries, as I put it last time. And the election seems to me to be one of the great fulcrums they can use to work their many wedges.

It would be good if an anti-fascist coalition held, even though some anti-fascists hold very wrong opinions and beliefs. And this is why fascists, who act in limitless bad faith, can be found online and elsewhere, espousing positions they don't believe, to try to demolish an anti-fascist coalition by posing from within.

Last time I also talked about differentiators: Categorical differentiators that a politician can offer to completely distinguish themself from their opponents, and differentiators in kind, which a politician can offer to entice their opponents' supporters over to their own side.

And I suggested that in the fight against fascism, we should discard differentiators in kind. What we want is categorical differentiators—both for politicians and for ourselves—because, as anti-fascists, appealing to fascists is not what we should want to do, and also because categorical differentiators are far more effective, for the simple fact that a categorical differentiator means doing things fascist cannot. It means going where they will not.

It makes the difference between us and them much easier to spot, for ourselves and others. It makes the choice more stark.

This is why right now I'm thinking about this tendency to blame.

I want to be clear what I mean.

There's the need to witness to what is: to point to what is right and what is wrong wrong, and what our underlying problems are and what the causes are. This is a healthy thing to do, and makes us better people and more effective anti-fascists.

Then there's this other urge: the urge to establish that whatever else may be true about The Thing That's Coming, it isn't our fault. It's a self-exonerative urge. It's a supremacist urge—the supremacist urge.

Listen: it's not that the blame for our present situation is shared equally. It's not that giving into the urge to blame somebody who actually holds a portion of the blame for the current situation makes you a fascist. Assigning blame doesn't even make you wrong, necessarily.

It just doesn't go where fascists can't. It doesn't differentiate. Fascists have absolutely no trouble assigning blame ahead of time in order to establish themselves as entirely absolved. It's a crucial part of their whole thing, in fact. If we're thinking about where we still unconsciously align ourselves with fascism and other supremacies, the self-exonerative urge is probably the one buried deepest.

Self-exoneration is probably not where we want to spend our time, if we want to be effective anti-fascists—no matter what we think about how unaware or wrong or even toxic others who claim membership in this anti-fascist coalition of ours, and no matter how crucial pointing these things out might be.

So what should we do?

What I think we should do is eschew self-exoneration. Let me try to unpack what I mean.

Everyone in the anti-fascist coalition agrees that The Thing That's Coming is fascism. Again, to simplify, these are on one hand people who think that the main problem exists in the historical supremacy of our systems and institutions, and that the solution is going to have to be a total transformation of our beliefs and assumptions followed by a systemic restructuring, and then on the other hand people who think that the problem begins and ends with Donald Trump and will be fixed by the election and only the election. And in my opinion one faction is far more correct than the other. (In case what I've written so far isn't clear, I think its the first one.) Donald Trump is not a cause; rather, he is an inevitability of systems that are themselves supremacist in nature, as a matter of historical record and a matter of present observable truth. If we sink his boat, we can already see the next ones lining up to take a run at our bridge.

And Joe Biden isn't openly fascist himself in the way Republicans are—in the sense of using actual Nazi slogans and pursuing actual Nazi objectives using actual Nazi conspiracy theories and talking points as rationale—but he aligns naturally with the status quo, and the status quo is pretty observably supremacist in nature, and this causes him to put himself into some rather incoherent positions.

For example, Biden's trying to get food relief to Gaza, where 30,000 Palestinian civilians, many of them children, have been bombed to death, and where the current far-right Israeli government is instituting a program of starvation and thirst against the civilian population, in part because this sort of treatment of Palestinians has been their policy all along, and in part as a response to the attacks and hostage-taking of Hamas. And Hamas is an anti-democratic terrorist organization guilty of heinous acts, and also an organization that has held power in Palestine over the last decade in no small part because of the financial support of the far-right Israeli government, which uses the existence of the very real danger Hamas poses as a rationale for their case that Palestinian lives do not matter, and should therefore be eliminated, which is something that members of the far-right Israeli government say in shockingly open ways.

So anyway Joe Biden is trying to get food aide to the civilians there.

But at the same time Biden is trying to get this aide to Gaza, he's also making sure that the United States is supplying both the political support that the far-right Israeli government needs to conduct the bombing, and also the munitions—the actual bombs—which is a good example of what I mean by saying that aligning with the status quo leads Biden into incoherent positions. There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions on why he's doing this, but my opinion is that Biden is committed to keeping things as their are, and the way things are are mostly supremacist, and the far-right Israeli government killing Palestinian civilians in Gaza in response to terrorist acts and the threat of terrorist acts is part of the way things are, is part of the way things have been for a very long time. It's not The Thing That's Coming. It's the thing that's already here.

Joe Biden had some pretty harsh words for Israel's far-right government this week, after they targeted and killed a bunch of relief workers from the World Central Kitchen. These were brave and wonderful people, and their deaths are tragedies, and they sure seem like a targeted murder which is a war crime, but they also weren't Palestinian, so their deaths were not part of the way things are, and Joe Biden and many of us appear to have been far more shocked and offended by those deaths than by the tens of thousands that preceded them, or at least we and our institutions found them far harder to ignore.

Incidentally, the fact that Israel's government is far-right is in no small part due to the support (of far-right governments in general but in Israel in particular) of a lobby of far-right nationalist Christian extremists in the U.S. who see the gathering of all Jewish people in Israel as a part of the fulfillment of an apocalyptic prophecy that will end with a handful of true-believer Christian people in heavenly eternal rapture and all other people—including any Jewish people who won't convert to Christianity—eliminated forever into eternal conscious torment. And this faction of Christians could be considered a cult or a fringe group if they weren't so powerful and influential both in the U.S. government and in the U.S. Christian church, and if they weren't in fact the source of much of the conservative movement's capture by antisemitic tropes like the vile replacement myth. So while we must all recognize that one key indicator of rising fascism is that Jewish people are facing alarmingly rising rates of global antisemitism, we should also recognize that some of the staunchest supporters of the far-right Israeli government's actions in Gaza are some of the most virulent antisemites in the world, so they at least probably don't see Israel's actions in Gaza as a part of fighting antisemitism, even though this is the rationale they claim—an example of what I mean when I say that we can find fascists everywhere acting in bad faith, claiming positions they don't believe.

I don't think Joe Biden believes any of the genocidal things that this mainstream Christian faction of creepy weirdos believes, but when he aligns with the supremacy of our institutions, he aligns with them—so his support of far-right governments in Israel might also be read at least in some part to be a sort of transitive portion of his status-quo based support of supremacist structures within in the United States, and it looks like I'm talking about both the election and Gaza in one essay, which suggests that I'm interested in achieving heretofore unknown levels of yelling.

My reason for doing this is to make this point about U.S. citizens: the fact that our country is supporting this politically and with bombs makes us, as U.S. citizens, to one degree or another, culpable for the situation. Not equally culpable, but culpable, in ways that are not escapable simply by aligning against it with votes or political activism, or both. Or to put another way: our alignment against supremacy is hugely important, but if we're only aligning against it so that we won't be culpable, then we're not really aligning against it, because we're still playing supremacy's first game, which is blame management to establish one's own innocence. If we try to establish ourselves as free of the culpability we share as U.S. citizens, supremacists will be happy to grant it to us, because it allows them to free themselves from their even greater culpability, and to place the blame instead on a group they'd like to target, such as Palestinian people, or Jewish people.

And we could be talking about any other manifestation of institutional supremacy. We don't all benefit from white supremacy, so we are not all culpable, nor do those of us who benefit from it benefit equally, but we as white people benefit the most and thus share the most culpability. Black men don't benefit as much from male supremacy as white men do, but Black men still do benefit from it to some degree, and share that portion of culpability for that supremacy. And while its true that those who align with these interweaving supremacies and work to preserve and expand them share more culpability and blame (even as they deny all culpability and blame), it's not true that any of us are free of it simply through taking some action or posture to align against it.

OK, back to the election: the impending one.

It's between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Maybe you heard. A candidate who often aligns with supremacy and fascism to the degree these things represent our status quo, and another who would like to expand fascism as quickly and as violently as possible.

And some of us in our anti-fascist coalition do not intend to vote for Joe Biden—or against Trump, if you like. The issue is that, to their mind, Biden hasn't differentiated himself, or that U.S. democracy has become so corrupted that it no longer matters. And there are within that group many who are most targeted and threatened by fascism.

This distresses some of us in our anti-fascist coalition. It distress me, actually. Even though I believe our supremacist assumptions need to be rethought and our supremacist institutions need to be overhauled, I don't happen to believe the act of voting doesn't matter, if only because the most virulent and open fascists seem so intent on demolishing the option for us to perform that simple act, and seem so eager to bring that demolition about. The end of elections seems to be a part of The Thing That's Coming.

But some of us in our anti-fascist coalition—these would be the institutionalists, mostly—will say to these non-voters that if you don't vote for Joe Biden, then you must want Trump to be president. Those of us who say this will even say things like "if you don't vote for Biden, everything that happens after is your fault." Some of us will even say things like "you deserve what Trump does to you," which to me suggests that some of us aren't actually interested in anti-fascism at all, but rather are only interested in blame management. And a lot of us will say such things from a fairly unthreatened position to people are in a far more threatened position.

Many of us, when we talk at people who don't intend to vote, seem to treat the election as a culpability vaccine, as if by voting correctly we join the innocent ones. We seem to believe that we're not culpable of supremacy, as long as we don't vote for the worst version of it. It seems to me that when we do this—even though we may be right in many ways about democracy and elections—we reveal ways we are motivated by self-exoneration rather than anti-fascism; it seems to be why we decide the right response to The Thing That's Coming is to pre-establish blame for it, and then deliver that blame to others.

So, some of us in our antifascist coalition indicate that we will vote for Joe Biden no matter what he does, no matter how much he accommodates fascism or supremacy. We might even suggest that these decisions and accommodations and the effects of them upon other people don't matter at all, next to the danger posed by Donald Trump. And there are within that group many who are most targeted and threatened by fascism.

This distresses some of us in our anti-fascist coalition. It distress me, actually. While I think it's important to prevent Trump from regaining power, I think it's hugely important to hold power to account, and abdicating that responsibility risks abdicating something much bigger than a single election. In fact, failure to see our leaders and institutions as they are seems to be a part of what makes The Thing That's Coming so inevitable.

But some of us in our anti-fascist coalition—these would be the anti-institutionalists, mostly—will say things like "if you vote for Joe Biden, then you must want all the fascism his institutional alignment enables." We might even say things like "your support for Biden is why we're going to have Trump." We might even say things like "you want genocide in Palestine." And a lot of us will say it from a fairly unthreatened position to people are in a far more threatened position.

Many of us, when we talk about the election, seem to treat not voting as a culpability vaccine—even if we don't think that voting matters, we still treat the act of voting as a way to assign blame. We seem to believe that we're not culpable of supremacy, as long as we don't vote at all, to avoid calling attention to distractions from more important activities like organizing and civic planning and mutual aide. It seems to me that when we do this—even though we may be more right than institutionalists about the situation in which we all find ourselves—we reveal the ways we are motivated by self-exoneration rather than anti-fascism; it seems to be why we decide the right response to The Thing That's Coming is to pre-establish blame for it, and then deliver that blame to others.

I return to differentiators.

There are things that we can do that fascists simply can't.

We should do those things.

Maybe, to the extend that we are institutionalists, we need to recognize that our vote doesn't free us from any other obligations between elections. Maybe we need to recognize the ways our commitment to institutions that abuse others have caused abused people to despair and mistrust us. Maybe we need to admit how we were wrong about the nature of our institutions, how we believed they protected and benefitted everyone simply because they protected and benefitted us. Some of us, if we are particularly unthreatened by fascism and particularly benefitted by supremacy, might need to realize that listening and following are more effective anti-fascist actions for us now than speaking and leading.

Or maybe, to the extent that we are anti-institutionalist, we need to recognize that our anti-institutional alignment doesn't mean we aren't still culpable to the degree we are, and recognize that if we are taking that alignment primarily to evade culpability, we're still aligning ourselves spiritually with that institutional supremacy. Maybe we need to recognize that while elections aren't the only thing, they are still a thing. Maybe we need to recognize that just as voting doesn't free us from whatever culpability we carry, not voting doesn't free us, either.

Again, I'm not saying both of our perspectives are equally correct, or that we should stop arguing about it, or witnessing to the truth we see. We need to do that.

But while doing that, let's differentiate ourselves—a categorical difference.

The differentiator here is the look inward. The differentiator is to reject the urge to self-exonerate. We might find exoneration if we look inward. Some people are marginalized and brutalized and threatened and not culpable at all. But some of us—many of us—will find our culpability. If we find it, we can speak to it.

That is something no fascist can do.

It's the most fundamental thing. And it’s something we do as well as. It's not something we do instead of.

Are we voting for Joe Biden? OK. Let's do it. But let's also talk about what that makes us culpable of, and why, and in so doing highlight the fact that there are no choices that eliminate culpability—which will highlight the scope of what needs to be changed.

Are we not voting because we think Joe Biden is too accommodating of fascism? OK. Let's do that. But lets actually do the more important work—the organizing and civic planning and the mutual aide—so that others can see the truth that democracy is something that happens between elections at least as much as it is what happens; and let's never stop talking about the ways that the system we're working to change still implicates us, and why—because doing so will highlight the scope of what needs to be changed better than blaming Biden voters for Biden ever can.

We aren't going to pretend that everyone in our anti-fascist coalition is equally correct, and we're going to be honest about the assumptions we see that are corrupt and twisted and wrong, so we can be better people and better anti-fascists. And that might even sometimes mean a fight. It might even mean (gasp) yelling.

However, I submit that we are going to be effective and honest about seeing it in others, we need to start that honesty in the closest place. It's a place no fascist can ever start, and if we do it, we'll differentiate ourselves from them in ways that will be sharp and clear and bright.

We start by finding and holding the blame in ourselves.

Fascism cannot accept blame within itself. It doesn't understand it when people do. It can't even comprehend such a thing.

I suspect fascism will have few ways to counter it.

Let's find out.

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A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places, and the upcoming essay collection Very Fine People, which you can learn about how to support right here. He is also co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media which goes in your ears. He wouldn't know what to do with another chance if you gave it to he; so keep on calling he names, keep on, keep on, and he'll keep kicking the crap 'til it's gone.