Lying To Fascists

The norms you want to protect are already gone. The ends don't justify the means, but they do define them. Tips on living in a fascist nation in a time of rising fascist power.

Lying To Fascists
A U.S. flag flies upside-down outside the house of flagrantly bribed Supreme Court justice Sam Alito.

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Hey gang. New newsletter today. Over the coming weeks I'm going to release a couple more chapters of Very Fine People ahead of its release, (and I think I'm finally going to get into a cadence with LOST posts for you LOSTheads) but right now I'm continuing my thoughts about Americans who want to kill Americans—or American fascists, or Republicans, or conservatives, or whatever they want to call themselves.

Man it's been rough this week if you're the sort of person who pays attention, in much the same way as every other week. The stuff that's happening makes you sound crazy if you write it out, but it's not conspiracy, it's really just what's happening. We've got a huge cult of creepy religious bigots who are destroying our public schools and our social safety net and our democracy all so they can establish a fascist dictatorship headed by a flagrantly criminal former game show host with a penchant for Nazi rhetoric, in order to harm and control and kill the people their God tells them to harm and control and kill if they want to live in an eternal gated community while the rest of us burn in conscious torment literally forever because we deserve it. They've captured our courts and many of our levers of power in order to enforce their minority rule, and this November we're giving them another in a string of regular opportunities to seize the rest. It's a big yikes, as the kids may or may not say.

Let's distract ourselves with something apolitical—the sporting life. Let's talk about sports hero and recent Super Bowl champ Harrison Butker, a man whose name sounds like it is pretend.

Butker plays American football for the Kansas City Chiefs, in case you didn't know. He is a kicker, which is the only part of football that uses the feet, but ironically is the only part of football that isn't really football. It's a lot like Harry Potter and the snitch; sometimes the game you're watching is suddenly decided by a totally different thing, and everyone just acts like this is normal and cheers and cheers. It's very important to have and use a good kicker, unless you are the coach of the Detroit Lions, but I'm trying to stay off painful topics so never mind.

And, yes, Butker is a good kicker. He is famous for kicking oblong balls as hard as he gets for the ladies on behalf of Jesus, and as straight as we're told he definitely is, and whatever else one might say about him, he certainly can perform that action with proficiency and skill, which it seemingly qualifies him to speak about life, the universe, and everything to young graduates at Benedictine College.

And speak he did! Harrison Butker went wide wide wide right last week, as you might have heard. Butker and his well-groomed prophet beard and his crisp razor part took to the commencement stage and unloaded on a wide range of pro-fascist topics, including fears of a day when it might be illegal to speak aloud (((who killed Jesus)))—which is apparently important to be able to say for um reasons. And he also opined that it is impossible to be a real Christian and also allow ladies to make decisions about their own bodies or receive often life-saving reproductive healthcare, and as almost an aside he took potshots at the medical practices of IVF and birth control, and at the "tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion," which are all very bad things to fascists.

Most controversially, Butker used his time to let all the "ladies" present know that all of them had been led astray by diabolical liars (who may or may not be the same people who Butker believes killed Jesus—Butker wasn't clear on that point). At this point in the speech I was ready to jump on board, because this is an age of diabolical lies and I'm all about speaking simple truths. Unfortunately the thing Butker decided these poor duped lady graduates all needed to know was that they had been mislead into believing that they might have lives and careers outside of their one and only true identity, which is homemaker and mother to the children of some special boy just like Harrison Butker, and that until each of these ladies fulfilled that role, their lives wouldn't really start, as Harrison Butker's wife's life didn't really start until she had Harrison Butker's kids, according to Harrison Butker. But don't take his word for it—she herself says so too. Harrison Butker told us so.

Now it's not a bad thing to be a homemaker and a mother; a lot of people choose that for their lives, and good for them—though it has to be said it's made much harder to be a full-time homemaker these days; due to the sorts of social and economic policies supported by people like Harrison Butker, most moms have to work at least one job. But it really is a hell of a thing, when talking to a bunch of women who have just worked for years to earn their bachelor degrees, that their worth and value will be determined not by themselves—their skills and abilities and intelligence and accomplishments—but rather will be defined and constrained by the sweaty-minded beliefs of pig-ignorant American supremacists like Harrison Butker, who believe that not only do they get to decide when somebody needs killin', but also what each human life is worth and how it should be defined.

What Chiefs kicker and expert sociologist Harrison Butker is saying is something very important to understand. In order to feel truly free, it's not enough for Harrison Butker and his fellow creepy religious bigots to live in the way they as Christians see fit for themselves. They are going to need to force everyone else to live in whatever way they as Christians see fit to force others to live. They'll use democracy and law in order to do this if they can, but now that most decent people have had it with their shit, they'll demolish democracy and law in order to get it, and their boundless hypocrisy will not serve to shame them but only to comfort them as proof that their supremacy will not be bound.

Those young women in the Benedictine audience (and all other women who heard about Butker's speech) might in healthier times be able to just laugh all this off as the ravings of a lone creepy weirdo, but Herr Butker isn't alone. He's a part of a vast cult of creepy religious bigots who as I believe I mentioned intend to control all of our bodies and our lives, and none more than those of us who are pregnant, and—since they believe they own the exclusive right to define what people's lives should be and what those lives should mean, and to decide who lives and dies—they are more than willing to harm and kill people in order to make sure that women are treated like sexy sexy incubators to be controlled by men like Harrison Butker rather than people in their own right, which means that in fascist states like Texas, real women really die rather than receive needed medical care, because their lives are not as valuable as Harrison Butker's sense of supremacy.

The thing is, I started with Harrison Butker's commencement address, but this was just the most recent item to grab. I could have started in a thousand other places.

In a time of rising empowered and enabled fascism, fascism can be found everywhere.

If you like this essay, it might interest you to know that my book of essays, Very Fine People: Confessions of an American Fool, is coming out on June 25 in paperback and eBook. Preorder wherever books are sold.

For example, I could have talked about Texas governor Greg Abbott, who just pardoned a white supremacist man who murdered a Black Lives Matter protestor, in an unmissable demonstration of the mainstream conservative supremacist belief that American supremacist lives matter and the rest don't, and that if an American supremacist wants to murder, they should be able to do so for any and every reason, and if the courts find them guilty of their murders, then the verdict will be overturned, and if we protest, they can murder us for that, too, as easily as shooting an exuberant puppy in a gravel pit—which is something that fellow fascist North South Dakota governor Kristi Noem bragged about recently, one presumes in order to get in good with the sort of people who demand leaders willing to overlook basic human decency in order to kill what needs killing. Shooting a puppy in a pit sounds like a shocking act when you write it down, or anyway it does if you're not a fascist, but when you zoom out to look at the big picture, it's just another natural expression of the rather openly expressed authoritarian belief in a conservative's right to kill what, who, when, why, and as much as they see fit.

Or I could have started with supreme court justice and longtime bribe enthusiast Sammy Alito and his upside-down flag, the one from a few years back that indicated that he and his wife (whose life started I'm not sure when; maybe we should ask Harrison Butker) are fully captured by the most unhinged parts of the popular "stop the steal" conspiracy, which insists without evidence that the last election was stolen from Don Trump, even as Alito rules in what is supposed to be an unbiased way from the highest court in the land on matters related to this election and the next, and on the fate of the criminal would-be dictator at its center. Alito and his robed gang are modern American fascism's real bulwark—the final reason that this cult of creepy religious bigots really could get their way in the end. There's no law these justices can't abrogate, no protection of citizens they can't demolish with a wave of a manicured hand, for whatever reason they want to make up, because (as any NFL kicker or Quiddich seeker can tell you), sometimes the game you've been watching has to be decided by some completely unrelated thing, so that the protagonists can win a game they would otherwise lose.

This makes American fascists bold. They are very clearly intending to make IVF and birth control illegal, and they're talking openly about punishing women for having abortions, and tracking the movement of pregnant people, and criminalizing gay and trans people, and outlawing even talk of diversity and inclusion, and they're setting their sights on new goals: talking about how the Civil Rights Act was a mistake, and how women getting the vote was a mistake, and other openly fascist stuff. And they're coming for our Social Security, and they're demolishing our public schools and our libraries. And so on and so forth, as far as the eye can see. They call it "making America great again." There are hats and stuff.

One of the most unhinged things these fascists (or conservatives, or whatever they want to call themselves) intend to do is round up and deport some 20 million people. This is the sort of proposal that should get you put in a Hannibal Lecter mask and strapped to a gurney, but nope; public criminal and Republican presidential candidate Don Trump, who just as an aside has also promised a government purge, promises his mass deportations, and people cheer for it as if he'd just kicked a 60-yard field goal. They're using "replacement theory" as a rationale for all this. And "replacement theory" is a vile antisemitic lie that makes up a load-bearing pillar of Nazi political theory, and among conservatives (or fascists, or whatever they want to be called) it's a very popular Nazi theory, and a perfectly good reason to round up and "deport" a proposed 5% of the country—that's 15-20 million people—which is going to have to involve trains and concentration camps in case you haven't read up on how these sorts of things go, but which, even if you don't give a shit about the human lives involved, will also crash the economy.

When Nazis are on the fringe, you have to really work to be a Nazi—you gotta get out the arm bands and tiki torches and flags and strut around protected by whatever cops couldn't get the day off to join you—the same row of cops who'll someday be beating up anyone who protests you; but once Nazis are in the state capitals and the national government and the high courts, all you need to do in order to be a Nazi is just be willing to go along, and it turns out most people are willing to go along with whatever. And after a while, it's just the air you breathe and the water you swim in, and it takes effort to not be a Nazi. And who likes effort?

Fascists know this, by the way. They always do. They're always looking for ways to move out the margins of permission when it comes to harming and controlling people, to make normal today what wasn't normal yesterday.

What I'm saying is, we have to realize that we're living in an increasingly fascist land, and start to understand what it means to be antifascist people in a fascist land, and start to think about the effort that will take. We are going to have to understand that we are dealing with people who have fundamentally and foundationally broken the social contract, which means we are going to have to treat them as if they have broken the social contract. This means we need to treat people of bad faith as if they are people of bad faith, to begin with. And this means acting in bad faith toward them.

This means lying to them, as a start.

I'm not kidding.

I understand that lying to fascists is a controversial thing to say, by the way. It's extremist, in a way that Sam Alito's stop-the-steal flag will never be. It's dangerous talk, in a way that Harrison Butker's speech could never be. It is hostile and accelerationist and aggressive in ways that a plan to deport 5% of the nation isn't. I think this tells you what sort of things are instinctively treated as normal and what things aren't.

There's a strong current even among people who aren't part of our nation's popular and empowered cult of creepy religious bigots that what's more important even than opposing creepy religious bigots is dealing in good faith with them. The idea here I think is that good faith will create good faith.

And there is a strong current to treat fascists as if they are normal and fascism as if it is normal, as a way of trying to hold on to normalcy. I think the idea is that behaving as if abnormality is normal will create normalcy; that pretending that unsafe things are safe will create safety.

And there is a strong current to avoid dealing with people of bad faith in bad faith, as if it was only extending good faith on limitless credit that creates our morality, when the truth is that grounding our morality in a respect for the limitless art that every human represents is what creates the conditions that allow good faith to exist in the first place.

After all, these people can't be fascists—that's crazy! This is America!

We can't treat them as if they are fascist. Treating people as if they are fascist is what happens in fascist countries.

We have to work with them, even if they are fascist. After all, how can we live in a society with them if we can't work with them?

Lying is wrong, even to fascists. After all, the ends don't justify the means.

This is the thing that makes me flirt with despair the most, I think: when people who claim to want good things start with the premise that people like Sam Alito, who have already proved that they are acting in bad faith, are not acting in bad faith, and then proceed to let absolutely nothing change that opinion. Who tell us that we need a strong Republican Party. That the way to deal with police impunity and militarized brutality is to give the police even more money. That despite all the corruption, Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas aren't corrupt because they just can't be. That what open fascists want isn't fascism because saying that fascism is fascism is extremist and dangerous in ways that fascism itself is not.

It's how you go along with the current. It's how fascism rises; on a tide of goodwill.

Here's what I want you to understand today: These Americans who want to kill Americans have, through their intent and actions, already destroyed the thing you want to protect. What you want to protect is already gone. The reason we can't live in a society with them is not because we have any intention to harm or kill them, but because they are eager to kill so many of us that they are willing to destroy society to do it. Either they get their way, and society is no longer accessible to most of us, or they don't, and everyone including them gets to access society. Therefore, I think they shouldn't get their way or be treated as if they should. These are people who intend to destroy whatever they need to in order to rule over our lives to secure their own personal enrichment and comfort, and are so confident in their success that they announce their intent. They do not care about you, and they certainly do not care about your good-faith efforts beyond the extent to which they make it easier for them to seize control. They will never give you credit for working to find their rationales reasonable. They will never return the benefit of the doubt you extend. Our mission is not finding ways to work with them. Our mission is finding ways to sabotage their efforts and keep their targets as safe from them as we can.

Here's what I want you to understand today: The ends do not justify the means, but they do define them. Lying is usually wrong. It is bad when people lie to capture the Supreme Court because they want to establish a dictatorial theocracy, for example, or if you are for example a New York real estate developer and you want to commit billions in fraud. But lying is not always wrong. Do you think people on the Underground Railroad who hid formerly enslaved people sometimes lied to the nascent police officers hunting them? I think they did. Do you think they lied to those in their communities who they knew would report suspected slaves on the run? I think they did. Do you think that was wrong of them? I don't. Do you think they needed to justify the lie? I don't. What people are actually trying to do is what matters. Apply moral clarity to your thinking, and behave accordingly. The ends don't justify the means, but they do define them.

We are dealing with people who have proved that they are not safe—who insist, loudly, that they are not safe. They'll cheer when your murderer gets pardoned, and then they'll bring him up on stage to celebrate him. Our mission isn't to tell the truth to them. Our mission is to make it as hard as possible for them to do what they intend—as much as we can, wherever we are, however we are able.

So, again, I think it's time to lie to this cult of creepy religious bigots who intend to harm and kill in order to control and define our bodies and our lives, and to decide who lives and dies, and to harm and kill those of us who don't suit their liking.

I think the lies to tell fascists are situational, but I have a few principles to suggest which might hopefully guide us.

First: Fascists don't get to know our intent unless it helps. When somebody disagrees with you on core matters of worldview, it's distressing. The urge is to share your way of thinking, in order to come to a better understanding. This is how good faith operates. With fascists I recommend something different. When somebody reveals their alignment with the rising tide, stop acting as if you are having dealings with somebody on an equal footing and with good intent. Start acting as if you're dealing with somebody whose intentions you want to disrupt.

Next: Understand that we are not trying to change fascist minds. Fascists can change their minds if they want, and we should remain open to the possibility and celebrate if they do, but we are not trying to change them—we are trying to thwart them. Do what makes sense in the situation. Sometimes that's an argument. Sometimes not. Sometimes, if they want to talk, let them. Ask them to go on. Ask them to expand on what they mean. See how far out there they'll go; it's probably pretty far.

Next: Use what you learn. What do you do with that information? I think that depends heavily on time and place. Sometimes it's going to be good to make it known publicly. Sometimes it's going to be better just to know it yourself, to understand how you need to deal with the person going forward, or to surreptitiously warn others, or maybe just keep yourself safe. Maybe if you're in a very specific placement, some point where the fascist rubber meets the road, what's needed is a bit of misinformation or malicious compliance. Sometimes all that's needed is a well-timed disgusted glance, honestly. As I mentioned, a lot of people are just going along with the growing current, and all they need is continual reinforcement of the fact that going along with the current means decent people are going to think things of them they'd rather not have thought about them.

These cultish fascist religious creeps aren't normal, and what they want isn't acceptable. They know this, too, I think, deep down. It's why they act as if they are oppressed even while they are more empowered than pretty much any other group in human history. It's why it's not enough for them to be free to live in their way, which they are, but also feel compelled to cleanse their view and their world of anybody else living in any other way without being appropriately punished.

Finally: Act to keep people safe and free, against those who would harm them and control them. This should be our guiding light. I think it will be a clarifying one. I've spent a couple months talking about using differentiators to separate ourselves from fascists by doing what they can't. This is the ultimate differentiator, the ultimate thing that fascists cannot do.

OK, I'm done. Let's bring this whole thing to a thudding crash.

Stay safe out there.

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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's very nice, very nice, very nice, very nice, very nice, but maybe in the next world, maybe in the next world.