Every Accusation a Confession

False equivalence is fascism's engine. Treating bad faith as if it is good faith fuels that engine. Exploring DARVO tactics of narcissist bullies. 2 of 2

Every Accusation a Confession
Land of the free, home of the brave, I'm told.

OK, this was another long one, so I split it—bifurcated, that is.

Part 1 from yesterday is here. This is part 2 and it is from thisterday.

At the U.S./Mexico border, Republicans are defending their right to make themselves feel safe by murdering refugee men, women, and children, using as rationale a once-fringe Nazi conspiracy theory they are promoting. And yes, they’re talking about a new civil war in order to protect their declared right to do it. And yes, they’re framing it all as self-defense, as if they, the ones eager to murder both foreigners and fellow citizens, are the ones in danger, and the rest of us, who they are eager to murder, are the danger. And yes, they’re also against antisemitism, they’ll tell you, whenever they aren’t promoting their Nazi conspiracy theory.

A Nazi conspiracy theory? Yes indeed.

Back in 2017, Nazis invaded Charlottesville, VA. You probably remember. They carried tiki torches and they chanted “Jews will not replace us.” The chant references the vile replacement myth they call Great Replacement Theory. The theory insists that Jewish people, who the lie's proponents falsely claim control the world, are conspiring to replace white people with other races, by bringing them into the country as an invasion of non-white people, in order to achieve their true goal: the demolition of Western civilization.

Again, this is a vile lie, one of the central pillars of global antisemitism.

The truth is that the far right worldview is in large part the propaganda product of far-right billionaires who are trying to control the world (or at least our courts) in almost cartoonishly corrupt fashion in order to enact their vision of a white Christian fascist ethnostate, and at least one of them has a whole lot of Nazi memorabilia. So Nazis claim that they are in danger of the exact thing intend to enact, which is genocidal elimination along lines of religion and ethnicity, and they claim that the danger comes from the exact people who they most target for elimination. Which shouldn't be surprising, as we've already noted that fascists, like any bully, always accuse wherever it is they are most guilty, in order to expand the margins of permission for themselves.

Anyway, the Nazis invaded Charlottesville in 2017, and one of them murdered counter-protesting activist Heather Heyer with a car. It was a test, to see what would be permitted. It turned out this sort of thing was not 100% permitted—yet. It turns out murdering people with cars was still illegal and people still disliked Nazis quite a lot. I do note that Republicans got right to work proposing bills making it legal to run over protesters with cars, and they've been working hard to make all the rest of it permissible, too.

As a result of all this permission-expanding work, these days the vile replacement lie is the exact rhetoric that elected Republicans are using to frame refugees and migrants entering the United States (which is way the population of the U.S. has grown, historically speaking) as an invasion; a violence that justifies violence in return, whether that violence means drowning kids in rivers or fomenting a new civil war. And again, we’re not talking about random fringe cases pushing the vile replacement lie to enact eliminationism, or musing about enacting war against the United States in service of that lie; no, we’re talking elected Republican officials and candidates. Nor are we talking the occasional random fringe candidate in some weird suburb or other; we're talking state governors and presidential candidates and the House of Representatives, who last week impeached secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas for facilitating an "invasion," as fascist Republican representative and Jewish space laser fearmonger Marjorie Taylor Greene put it.

Nor is this sort of Nazi talk reserved for the so-called crisis at the border; alarmism about birth rates falling below replacement level, once a concern mostly relegated to badly mimeographed Stormfront and John Bircher pamphlets, are threaded throughout conservative talk of why it is necessary to control the bodies of women by banning abortion and birth control and why persecuting trans and other queer people is important. This means that Republicans and other fascists these days simultaneously believe we don’t have a big enough population to replace ourselves and also that we don’t have enough room for the people who we think are trying to replace us, that immigration at the southern border represents such an unacceptable invasion—an invasion of replacement—that we have to start murdering and detaining and harassing and expelling mostly brown people, and I’d call that a bit of a giveaway that the populations that Republicans are trying to maintain are white populations. I'd say the other giveaway is when they just out and say it.

Now the Republican embrace of Nazism is alarming, but is simply a part of the public record. What I want to note is that very recently Joe Biden was willing to give Republicans everything they wanted in order to “secure the border”; he threw his support behind a border bill that was just as draconian and harmful and murderous as Republicans insisted was necessary in order to secure the existence of their people and the future of their white children, and Democrats were willing to pass it, because most of them are still willing to treat Republican complaints and rationales as if they are still being offered in good faith; as if what Republicans care about is safety and security and the end of foreign influence in government, even though their own leader gave away nuclear secrets to who knows who and owes tens of millions to foreign governments; as if Republicans haven’t already proved beyond doubt that what they actually want is to maximally expand to the furthest imaginable boundaries the margins of permission regarding what authority they will be permitted to exercise and what violence they will be permitted to enact to secure that authority.

And so Republicans killed the border bill, which gave them everything they claimed they wanted, because in offering the bill, Democrats had already given them what they really wanted, which is the validation that the things they say are problems actually are problems, and that the eliminationism they propose in response is a permissible solution.

Republicans demanding bills that they have no intention of backing, simply to get Democrats to permit increasingly unacceptable and cruel things—not so Republican can have the laws they say they want, but so they can get validation for their cruelty and supremacy from their opposition even while excoriating the opposition, who are willing to deal with them, for refusing to deal with them? Why, that’s something that has happened only pretty much every other time Democrats have tried to treat Republicans as if they are acting in good faith.

Who could have predicted it, other than literally anybody?

I’m publishing a book of essays called Very Fine People: Confessions of an American Fool, and my readership is helping me do that. If you want the details on how you can get in on that and get a signed copy and my thanks in the acknowledgements section of the book, click this link.

So we can see that Republicans don’t even actually care about securing the border in the cruel ways they say they want to secure it; not as much as they want to establish that only they get to decide what happens to human beings in this country whether or not those human beings are at the border or anywhere else. A bipartisan bill allowing them to do everything they say they want to do simply doesn’t send the authoritarian message as much as doing it illegally in defiance of a Democratic president would. A bipartisan bill simply doesn’t convey the supremacist message the way rejecting that bill and then installing their Republican pig god back into office in order to do even worse and more cruel things in an even more illegal way would. Trump has announced that he intends to send armed troops throughout the nation to round up undesirable elements in what he calls the largest domestic deportation program in history. He’s promised concentration camps, and I feel as if I must stress again he's using as rationale a literal Nazi conspiracy theory and literal Hitler quotes. And his party, who enthusiastically supports all of this, also claim they are against antisemitism, and we’re meant to take this claim in good faith, too. And many Democrats were willing to give them that, validating Republican fearmongering about the border, some of them perhaps to try to gain the favor of their voters, others perhaps because they sincerely agree.

I’m sure the Republicans appreciated all the validation, which demonstrated to the world that both parties agree about Republicans' pet Nazi conspiracy theories about invasion and replacement. Anyway, there are so many valid reasons to criticize Democrats, and most of them involve the ways that Democrats insist on treating their opponents—people who have demonstrated a limitless capacity for bad faith—as if they are acting in good faith, and thus validating both their framing and the vile lies upon which those frames are built.

And yet, as part 1 laid out, Republicans and other fascists keep shifting the conversation back to the very sorts of places where they themselves are weakest: age, infirmity, corruption, bigotry, fitness for office, nepotism, capture by foreign influence.

I think to understand why, we must look to the bully tactics of narcissist abusers.

Here is my observation: Like any bully, a fascist likes lies, but loves false equivalences.

I think what abusers need most is not for people to believe the lie that they are good—though they certainly will take that if they can get it. What they need most is for people to believe false equivalencies; that no matter how bad the abusers are, everyone else is just as bad. That no matter what their intentions are, they aren’t any worse than any other person or group's intentions. That everything and everyone is bad, and so badness is inevitable, and in their badness they are by no means unique. And most of all, an abuser want to establish their intended victims as guilty; as threats to enact the exact abuses the abuser is already enacting against them.

This is why narcissist abusers love to point toward finer values in their rationales, even though they don’t care about those things: because those finer values are what people who oppose them use in opposition—so, if they can perform those cruelties in the name of finer values, they can associate those finer values with cruelty, and create a false equivalence between themselves and people who actually care about those values. And if they can make people who actually care about those values agree with their eliminationist rationales, agree that their cruel intentions are an acceptable way to promote and defend those fine values, and in so doing lend a modicum of truth to the false equivalence? So much the better. They’ll even pose as such people if they need to, and so we'll see the most corrupt people defending their right to corruption in the name of draining the swamp; we'll see the most bigoted people defending their right to bigotry in the name of liberty; we'll see the most cowardly people defending their cowardice in the name of bravery; we'll see the most violent people defending their right to violence in the name of self-defense.

When fascists accuse, they will always accuse wherever they are most guilty, because this makes any accusation against them sound like part of a feedback loop of mutual accusation, and it creates opportunities for them to convince those in opposition to bolster their fascist positions by validating that their rationales for those positions, which are offered in fathomless bad faith, are actually offered in good faith.

This is why, for fascists, every accusation is a confession.

Let me give some examples.

• False equivalence means that if you have a leader who has illegally stolen classified documents, you need to accuse your opponent of having done the same, and if you find nothing, and your own leader happens to be old and unfit, then you should make the conversation all about how old the opponent is. False equivalence means that if you have a leader who has taken secret money from foreign governments, you need to accuse your opponent of having done the same, and if you find nothing, and your leader happens to also engage in the worst sort of self-dealing nepotism, then you should make the conversation all about how the opponent's son is benefitting from his access to power.

Am I saying that Biden’s age or fitness or business dealings or the alleged crimes of his son should not be a topic of discussion? I am not. I am saying these seem to be the conversations fascists want us to have about him right now, and I'm suggesting that establishing false equivalence might just be the reason why. And I’m saying we’d be wise to realize that if Democrats treat the critique as if it were in good faith, and act to avoid these accusations by having these conversations earnestly and taking actions to demonstrate that we take the accusations seriously, they will soon learn that nobody who would vote for Trump actually cares about any of these things, and will simply use the honest dealings from the opposing side to accelerate the accusation. So perhaps we should act on these matters, but we should understand why we act, and be strategic about when.

• False equivalence lets fascists posture as if, just because their political opponents are frequently quite bad, this means that their political opponents are just as bad as them. And I know a lot of people who believe that it is true that there is no difference between the parties, and because of the many enablement of fascism the Democratic party engages in, I can easily understand why one might believe this—but one group who sure doesn’t seem to believe that the two parties are the exact same are the fascists themselves, who do everything they can, whether legal or not, to keep any non-Republicans anywhere from gaining or exercising any power whatsoever.

Is this saying that Democrats are great and mustn’t ever be criticized? It is not. It’s only saying that we should look at which criticisms Republicans and other fascist groups would most like us to levy against Democrats, and note that it’s rarely if ever for the thing that Democrats should most be criticized for, which is accommodating fascists. It’s almost always something else. Sometimes the tune fascists want us to sing is even a valid topic of criticism, but I’d recommend we notice who is changing the song, and think twice before dancing to their tune at the moment that fascists want it played. I'd recommend we focus our criticism of Democrats squarely where I think harms fascists most, which is the seemingly indestructible willingness of many Democrats—especially the older generations—to treat fascists as if they are acting in good faith, and the ways this exposes the alignment many of them have with fascism.

I think that this criticism allows us to speak about the ways we find such accommodations unacceptable, which I think we’ll need to do if we want to make it clear to younger Democrats—who we might actually still have to kick around in twenty years—that bipartisanship for its own sake, and one-sided accommodation and unstrategic aisle-reaching with Republicans and other fascists, and giving them credit for having good points when those points are offered in service of eliminationist ends, and similar concessions that treat bad faith as if it were good faith, is absolutely unacceptable. That what we expect instead is differentiation.

This might make it sound as if I’m saying let’s not vote for Democrats at all, because voting doesn't matter when both sides are complicit. If you are hoping I’m saying that, I’m sorry to disappoint. I'm not.

• False equivalence also lets fascists posture as if voting and other ways of participating in our shared government don’t matter, as if who wins elections is immaterial. And I know a lot of people who do believe that, and given chronic Democratic accommodation of fascism I can understand why—but there’s one group that sure seems to believe it matters who votes and who wins, and that’s fascists. If they didn’t think it important, they wouldn’t have spent so much time and energy and money over the decades voting to demolish the right to vote and access to voting, and fighting to prevent Democrats (many of whom definitely do pursue terrible and/or fascism-accommodating policies, whether out of political calculation or because they truly do agree with them) from doing other things that Democrats and their allies actually very often will organize together and work like hell in the face of powerful supremacist opposition to achieve—things like fair redistricting and abortion and other healthcare protection and free school lunch and expanded Medicaid and the sorts of things that people do when they believe that problems should be solved and that we can solve them.

Is this saying “just vote?” Is it saying “blue no matter who?” It is not. I think saying these sorts of thing actually participates in false equivalence. What I am saying is that before making your voting decision it's best to understand why you're making it, and what outcome you hope see as a result. And it's worth noting that keeping people from voting seems to matter a whole lot to fascists, for something that doesn't matter at all, and protecting the right to vote sure seemed to matter to a lot of very brave people who fought and sometimes died to secure that right, and in recent elections my home state of Michigan voted for Democrats, who sure aren’t great a lot of the time, but now we have fair districting and legalized weed and a statewide right to abortion, and many other things that matter as well that we simply would not have if it had gone the other way, and a great many horrible things that likely would have happened if it had gone the other way have not happened. I'm saying that I can see who is most benefitted by the notion that because both sides are bad both sides are equally bad, and it's the side that uniformly and energetically wants fascist rule, not the side that has an infuriating and devastating but not uniform tendency to validate fascist framing.

There's a musician in my hometown that I know by his TikTok and Bluesky handle, with is Thirrdperson, and he frames the act of voting in a supremacist nation such as the United States as "picking your opponent." I like that framing, and I think that when picking your opponent you'd do well to pick an opponent that's shown at least some inclination to occasionally play a useful game.

I'm guess what I'm saying that what’s needed is not less political engagement, but more, and that voting is really only the most basic part of it, and that while it's possible to be more engaged while not voting, it seems to me that those who don't do the easiest thing are those least likely to the harder things. It seems to me that the people who most want you to believe that engaging politically—organizing and mutual aide and demonstration and, yes, even voting—are useless acts are fascists, who happen to be the people who actually seem to most believe it matters, because of how hard they fight to prevent it.

• False equivalence means that if you are propounding antisemitic Nazi beliefs and theories to justify your racist eliminationist intentions, you will need to establish yourself as being in opposition to antisemitism, and it would be most beneficial if you can do so by defining “antisemitism” not as “a conspiracy theory involving ideas like Jewish dual loyalty and Jewish replacement of white populations” but as “any support of any kind for diversity, equity, and inclusion programs,” or “any opposition whatsoever to ongoing and maximalist violence against civilian populations in response to an invasive attack.” And if your opposition goes along with you and validates your framing, so much the better.

Is this saying that I support Hamas and its horrifying terrorist attacks, or that I will overlook instances of antisemitic talk that can be found coming from the left? Some will automatically think it does, I know, but no, that's yet another false equivalence. However, for what it is worth and for those who need it said, I repudiate Hamas’ October terror attacks, and I believe they should release their hostages, and I also believe that there is nothing that the government of Israel can do, no matter how vile, that frees me from the moral obligation to stand in solidarity with Jewish people across the globe in their demand to be liberated from the threat of antisemitism—any more than there is anything that Hamas can do, no matter how vile, that frees me from the moral obligation to stand in solidarity with Palestinian people in their demand for liberation from ethnic cleansing and apartheid occupation, and I reject any argument that would attempt to free me from either obligation, because I believe that any such argument demonstrates a rhetorical goals that have nothing to do with liberation.

What I am saying is it’s worth noting that it seems very valuable to the Republican Party and other fascist factions to draw such equivalences even as they actively pursue maximalist violence at our border using a Nazi lie as rationale, and that makes me doubt very much that such an equivalence benefits Jewish people or Palestinian people, or that it opposes antisemitism or terrorism in any way. This is not because I think terrorist attacks deserve no response, or that Hamas are good-faith actors, but because I know that our U.S. fascist political party acts in fathomless bad faith, and so I know that they don’t care about border security or antisemitism or anti-terror or Jewish people or Palestinian people, or anything other than establishing and defending their own supremacy.¹ This equivalence seems to me to be valuable mostly because it helps bolster cases for maximalist violence, which is the exact thing that fascist voters and officeholders in America have demonstrated they actually care about most and most want, so much so that they are willing—eager, even—to start a civil war in order to make the violence they hope is coming as maximal and as cruel and as dominating as it can possibly be made.

These are just a few examples. We could go on forever.

For months now I’ve been talking about the bully tactics of narcissist abusers, using the common psychological acronym DARVO (Deny, Accuse, Reverse Victim and Offender).

I did an essay on Deny, and one on Accuse.

This has been one on Reverse Victim and Offender. Reversing victim and offender runs on false equivalence.

I think the counter to false equivalence is differentiation.

You make false equivalences by treating bad faith as if it were good faith, and engaging with it as such.

You create differentiators by recognizing bad faith as bad faith, and refusing to let it skate by on its bullshit posturing, or to accommodate it in any way. It's passing a school lunch program without seeking the permission of those who think feeding hungry children is a moral crime. It's insisting on operating from the truth that open borders are safer than closed ones, and diversity is stronger than homogeny. It's demanding that we recognize that accepting and caring for refugees is a moral duty and that immigrants have historically been the engine of our growth and thriving. It's refusing to accept eliminationist arguments no matter where they come from and no matter what fine value they claim to be offered in service of.

I think that's what we ought to be demanding.

Ultimately, I think of fascism or any other supremacism as narcissist abuse on a societal or global scale. What narcissist abusers most want, I think, is what every bully wants, which is to enact as much abuse as possible with as little consequence as possible. And bullies keenly understand, first, that the abuse that will be possible is governed by the margins of permission, and second, that once something is permitted, it is permissible.

It’s necessary for an abuser to reverse victim and offender, if they want to harm their intended victim with minimal legal, political, or social penalty—or even with the general support that attends expanding permission.

False accusation allows bullies to expand the margins of permission, by framing themselves as victims of a hypothetical danger, a threat posed by those who the bullies intend to harm.

Fascists, like any narcissist abusers, like any bully, seek to associate their victims with the threat of violence. They do this to identify their victims, toward whom they intend violence, as the source of violence, in order to justify the violence they intend. The ultimate fascist false equivalence is to frame their brutality as safety itself, and frame groups they intend to eliminate as the danger, and then get everyone else to believe it or at least act as if the framing is a reasonable one, until people not under immediate threat from fascist violence begin to experience fascist violence as not just safe, but safety itself; until fascist violence isn’t even seen as violence, but as safety.

Because every fascist accusation is a confession, if you want to know who a fascist intends to murder, listen to who it is they claim is trying to murder them—particularly when the evidence that they intend to commit murder is thick, and the evidence that they are in danger is scant.

Notice what violence it is that makes you feel frightened.

But most of all, notice what violence it is that makes you feel safe.

That's it for now. See you in a week.

The Reframe is supported financially by about 5% of readers.

If you liked what you read, and only if you can afford to, please consider becoming a paid sponsor.

Click the buttons for details.

Looking for a tip jar but don't want to subscribe?

Venmo is here and Paypal is here.

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. When he finds himself in the thick of it, he helps himself to a bit of what is all around him.

¹ Take for example white supremacists such as prominent Christian nationalist John Hagee—who is himself a massive antisemite, a man who believes that Jewish people must all gather in Israel to fulfill an apocalyptic prophecy that will end with the destruction of everyone on the planet, leaving only him and his fellow Christian nationalists to escape from eternal conscious torture in hell—has joined this allegedly antisemitic cause, which increasingly involves equating Jewish people everywhere as inseparable from the state of Israel, and the state of Israel as inseparable from Jewish people everywhere—which is the “dual loyalty” framing which is itself a major component of the conspiracy narratives that form antisemitism. All this even as the mainstream right continues to spew the vile replacement myth specifically as a pretext for justifying violence against Jewish people in America who support diversity and equality in their own home countries—many thousands or even millions of whom have spent these past months protesting the actions of the state of Israel in the Gaza strip, and many thousands or even millions of whom are doing so specifically because their Jewish faith compels them to do so.