The Way It Is

Seeing the full picture in a fascist age of bloodbaths and violence-incitement rallies. But first: a joke about context.

The Way It Is
Not the first time; not the 100th time. Trump at a violence-incitement rally in 2020.

OK, let me tell you a joke. It’s a joke about context.

One of the most popular topics for jokes, I know. I give the people what they want.

Here’s the joke:

Say somebody gave a rally, and a lot of people came. Say that the person who was the focus of the rally was a politician, a man who had once been president of the United States, had stopped being president of the United States, and now was running to be president of the United States again. Say the person was going to use the rally to talk about all the violence he thought should happen, and who he thought the violence ought to happen to. Say all the people who came to the rally came because they liked to cheer at suggestions of violence, because the idea of violence being done to other people cheered and comforted them, and the politician was their favorite violence-suggester, in no small part because of how successful the politician had been at enacting his suggestions and turning them into real violence.

This made the rally a violence-instigating event.

Now, let’s say this wasn’t the first rally, or even the 100th rally. Let’s say there had been hundreds and hundreds of these rallies over the last ten years from which one might draw upon in order to understand them as events, or to understand the big picture about them, and to report on what sort of thing they were, if reporting on things is your interest, or maybe your job.

Let’s say that the last time this politician ran as a non-incumbent, he regularly incited eliminationist violence animated by every sort of bigotry at similar rallies and also in other venues, and let’s say that his presidency was marked by a massive spike in supremacist hate speech, hate crimes, and violent acts of hate against the sort of marginalized groups against whom he had suggested violence should occur. Say that this politician spent his time in office encouraging this sort of violence, by promoting Nazi and white supremacist ideas and ideals, and by pursuing Nazi and white supremacist political goals using Nazi and white supremacist rationales, and say that his crowd had cheered and cheered for these things, and as a result Nazi ideas and ideals and tactics had long ago passed in to common currency—had been normalized in U.S. society, to such a degree that the party that ought to have been his opposition were taking on his view of things, to try to siphon away a bit of his support.

This meant that his violence-instigation events were also fascist events. You could call them Nazi events, if you weren’t afraid of being tarred as alarmist by people who think that being alarmist is a greater danger than being accurate.

Let’s say that when the politician ran for re-election, he accelerated all of this violence, and used his power to accelerate all points of eliminationist violence that are (very shamefully and unfortunately) already present in our society. Let’s say he also used his power to enact violence against ethnic and religious minorities and other marginalized groups. Let’s say that he took to flying an alternate flag at his rallies; one with black stripes and a single blue one, which is used by white supremacists and other authoritarians to celebrate the impunity our police enjoy when engaged in brutality and murder against marginalized people, which is the sort of thing that the politician liked to encourage at his violence-instigation rallies. Let’s say that he also issued threats about what would happen if he were not victorious in his re-election, promising that he would respond to a loss by inciting his followers to violence. And then let’s say that he did lose his re-election, and then made good on his threats, inciting his followers into an almost successful attempt to murder Congress and his own Vice President to prevent their certifying the election he had lost, and to establish himself as the sort of dictator that he has never stopped openly admiring.

Now let’s say that the party he leads made no attempt whatsoever to distance themselves from him in the weeks and months and years following this attempted coup; indeed, they defended him in every way they could, and spent all their time and energy and political power not only validating the attempted coup and honoring those who engaged in it, but also in validating and honoring the clear intentions behind the coup: by accelerating his already accelerated eliminationist intentions; by passing more and more and more laws to obviate the rights and the lives of racial and religious and other minorities; by making their language even more closely and exactly and precisely aligned to that of Nazis and white supremacist groups and Nazi and white supremacist parties both present-day and historical, and purging any members who did not hew exactly enough to the fascist party line.

Now let’s go back to the rally. Not the first, or the 100th. Just the most recent.

Say that the rally began with the national anthem sung in praise and support of those who attempted to overthrow the election and murder Congress, who he and his movement now treat as political hostages and martyrs, instead of what they are, which is insurrectionists for a fascist movement. Let’s say that the politician, who had been insisting that his political enemies were poisoning the blood of this nation (a nation of immigrants) by allowing immigrants to enter, and who had been talking about a racist mass deportation event utilizing armed groups of thugs in and out of uniform, and who has posted his plan to gut the people’s government in order to give himself a dictator’s power, got up to speak and said that (on the basis of his poisoning-the-blood Nazi rationale) immigrants aren’t even people, and the people in his crowd cheered and cheered.

It was a fascist violence-incitement rally, in other words.

It wasn’t the first fascist violence-incitement rally, or the 100th. Just the most recent.

Now. Having said all that, let’s talk about a detail.

Let’s say that during a seemingly off-the-cuff riff on the car industry (during which he suggested that he would levy draconian 100% tariffs upon all imported automobiles—an act that would create a certain amount of economic chaos, if you care about such things) he mentioned that if he didn’t get elected this time, there would be a bloodbath, and that a bloodbath would be the least of it, and then, having dropped in a threat of violence and a promise of inciting further violence, he went back to riffing on his insane automobile tariffs idea.

And let’s say that all of this led people who had been watching this violence-incitement rally to believe that his offhand promise of a coming bloodbath represented another example among many of incitement to violence; that this promise of a coming bloodbath represented a promise of a coming bloodbath.

So that’s the setup to the joke.

It’s the way it is, and I spent all this time laying out the way it is, because unless we are clear on the way it is, the joke won’t work.

But the politician isn’t the person this joke is about.

Now, I’d like you to now pretend that there are a group of people whose job it is to inform people what is happening. They’re called reporters, sometimes, or journalists. Sometimes they’re called “the media.” To the extent that these people do their jobs, and actually report on fascism as if it were fascism, the politician I’ve been talking about threatens to imprison them or worse, and his followers like to talk about hanging them at the nearest tree. They even wear t-shirts that say so.

Murdering journalists who actually tell the truth about fascism and white supremacy and other Republican hobbies is a big applause line at these violence-incitement rallies. It’s one of the main things that makes them violence-incitement rallies.

And it must be said that despite this persistent and credible threat, a lot of journalists very bravely do their job, and tell people true things about the way they are, even though it’s getting more and more dangerous to do so. Some of those journalists reported on the latest violence-incitement rally as what it was, which is a violence-incitement rally. In the headlines, some of them mentioned that he had said that immigrants, who are human beings, aren’t human beings. Some of them even used the word that the politician had used during his speech, to indicate the least of the consequences that would attend any loss he suffered in the election. That word, again, was “bloodbath.”

This was all very accurate. As such, I salute both their accuracy and their bravery.

But those who despite the risks bravely do their jobs (which, again, is to look at the way it is and tell others) aren’t the people that this joke is about.

So now let’s pretend that there are a bunch of people who are hired and often paid pretty decently to just pretend to be the sort of people who report on the way it is, but who in actuality just focus very narrowly upon whatever portion of the way it is that allows people to go on pretending that abnormal things are normal, if that’s what they’d like to go on pretending.

I’d like you to pretend that a large number of people, many of them this sort of journalist, took to social media and other media to insist that this politician was clearly only using “bloodbath” metaphorically, and only making a point about the automobile tariffs. They would then point to the words of the transcript of the politician’s riff on automobile tariffs, as if it made their point, rather than making the opposite point. And they left out the fact that the word “bloodbath” was being uttered at a fascist violence-incitement rally, not the first or the 100th one, but just one of hundreds and hundreds.

I’d like you to pretend that these people then claimed that the full context of the moment was not the history of hundreds of violence-inciting rallies, or any of the actual violence that had transpire, but was only a couple of paragraphs about automobile tariffs—a couple paragraphs that they then proceeded to totally misread even within the context of the most clear possible reading of those words within the context of the paragraph.

I’d like you to pretend that these people (whose job, again, is informing the public about what is and what is not) insisted that it was very disingenuous and foolish to think that “bloodbath” might mean “bloodbath” when coming from the lips of somebody who had spent 10 years both threatening and delivering bloodbaths.

I’d like you to pretend that this created a lot of room for other people both malicious and complacent to pretend that a fascist demagogue at a violence-incitement event who has already delivered bloodbaths in the recent path wasn’t inciting violence in that moment, that him using the word “bloodbath” is just as likely to be benign and metaphorical as it would be coming from the lips of any other politician, or a sports announcer. Why did they have room to do this? Because people whose job description is “informing the public” were making just that case—were treating alarm as if it were alarmism, and then treating alarmism as if it were a thing far more dangerous than a fascist violence-incitement rally, by treating that rally as if it were just another normal political event.

I’d like you to pretend that these people (whose job, again, is informing the public about the way it is) insisted that those who read some sort of incitement to violence into this violence-inciting politician’s words were utilizing a very specific tool of disingenuous denialism.

That tool is “ignoring context.”

That was the punchline to the joke, by the way.

I didn’t say it was a funny joke.

OK, let’s stop pretending. Let’s return to the way it is.

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So the thing about the politician from the joke: his name is Donald Trump. Unfortunately he’s very real, and so unfortunately are his supporters.

Trump is a fascist who is running to be a dictator, and he intends suppression and oppression and mass murder, to put it plainly. Does that sound alarmist? It’s certainly alarming.

He intends to accelerate all points of eliminationist violence that are (very shamefully and unfortunately) already present in our society, which he already has accelerated a great deal. He also intends to introduce as many new points of accelerating eliminationist violence as he can, and to do so in such a way that there exists no political apparatus to ever stop it or remove him from office once he takes it.

There’s a website up that talks about all this. Just go read about Project 2025 if you haven’t. Or better still, just listen to him talk for any random couple minutes.

That’s just the way it is, which I mention if you are somebody for whom “the way it is” happens to be an interest, or maybe your job.

This is all pretty obvious, but I’m mentioning it because we have a whole lot of context aficionados today. So, if you’re interested in conveying accurate context, that’s a bit of context about whether or not there were incitements to violence at yesterday’s violence-incitement rally.

Here’s the thing about a fascist who is running to be a dictator: every statement he makes, no matter what it is, represents an incitement to violence, because a fascist running to be a leader is running to become a dictator, and a fascist running to be dictator on an platform of accelerating eliminationist violence represents a promise of political violence and an incitement to violence in and of himself, and his party represents a promise of political violence in and of itself.

Any story that excludes the fact that such a politician is a fascist running to be a dictator who intends to accelerate eliminationist violence excludes the most important context about him. Any attempt to parse his statements in order to determine which parts do comprise a violent threat and which parts do not comprise a violent threat obscure that fundamental truth.

Every statement a fascist would-be dictator makes is a violent threat, because a violent threat is exactly what a fascist would-be dictator is, and that fact is the overriding fact about any other thing he does or says.

When Donald Trump arrives at a campaign stop and orders a burger at a local restaurant, he’s placing the order within the context of being a fascist who is running on a platform of accelerating eliminationist violence in order to establish himself as a dictator, and that fact should be present in every moment of the report about the campaign stop, both before and after reporting on what kind of cheese the fascist got on his burger (American, probably).

“Donald Trump ordered a cheeseburger at a campaign stop” is accurate to the extent that nothing about it is false, but it is not a true story—not if you care about the full context.

“Donald Trump is a popular and politically empowered fascist running to become a dictator, and he intends suppression and oppression and murder, and he ordered a cheeseburger.” That’s the true story.

“At his rally, Donald Trump talked about raising tariffs on imported automobiles, and he used the word ‘bloodbath,’ and in my opinion his use of it was metaphorical and linked only to the tariffs, even though many others read it differently” is accurate to the extent that nothing about it is false, but it is not a true story—not if you truly care about reporting on the full context.

“At his rallies, which have been consistently used to incite violence and foment hate over the years, Donald Trump talked about raising tariffs on imported automobile, and he used the word ‘bloodbath,’ and in my opinion his use of it in this instance was metaphorical and linked only to the tariffs, even though many others read it differently, but whether or not I’m right about that, arguing about it would only serve to obscure the fact that he is a popular and politically empowered fascist running to become a dictator, and he intends suppression and oppression and murder, and he’s incited a great deal of political violence already, and he very clearly intends to incite more.” That’s the true story.

If you want to believe that “bloodbath” was metaphorical, and you tell the story that way, then you’ll get little argument from me, because I don’t like wasting my time arguing about details that don’t matter much, and I feel that wasting time arguing about details is precisely what is intended by those who spend their time focused on the use of one specific word and arguing over what it all might possibly mean, when we already know full well exactly what Trump means with every word of every sentence of every paragraph.

Whenever the overriding facts about Trump aren’t present in every moment, it is an obfuscation of the truth of what’s happening, not a refining of it. It’s deliberately looking at only the parts of what the fascist is doing in the present moment that looks normal, which makes the fascist seem like something he’s not, namely a normal part of a healthy system.

It’s a lie. It’s the sort of lie that you make by looking only at the part you want to look at and not looking at the rest. I will admit that doing this and then claiming that the people who are looking at the whole picture are the ones focusing too narrowly, and that they, who focus on only the sentences before and the ones after a single word like “bloodbath” are the ones delivering the full context, is ballsy in a way that one might almost be tempted to admire. But I suppose my admiration is tainted somewhat by my contempt—not contempt at the hugely and increasingly important role of journalist, but by those who would obscure the value of the role by posing in that role and then engaging in this sort of dangerous obfuscating nonsense, by hyper-focusing on the one aspect of a violence-incitement event—not the first one, not even the 100th one—that they can try to spin into being something that it wasn’t; into something normal like a proposal on car tariffs, even if the proposal itself is so outlandish and extreme that from any other lips it would be treated as the norms-shattering outlier that it is, and would dominate the news cycle from any other source, with or without the word “bloodbath” affixed.

And then they can come up with examples of other politicians who have used the word “bloodbath” before—trying to obscure the actual point being made, which is not that every use of the word “bloodbath” represents political violence, but that every word from the mouth of a member of a Nazi party represents political violence, whether that word is “bloodbath” or “tariff” or “taco truck,” all of which have been used as a preamble to the sort of eliminationist intention and violence-inciting rhetoric that Republicans traffic in these days.

And doing this not only obscures the danger of a fascist demagogue running to become a dictator, but makes it harder to talk about the failings of his opposition: the ways they now move toward him and accommodate his accelerating eliminationist violence, whether they do so out of political opportunism or fear or greed or because they genuinely agree.

And all that’s not even the part I find most enraging.

The thing I find most enraging about all this is sort of petty, so maybe it would be more accurate to say "most frustrating," but I’ll mention it because I think it matters.

What’s so frustrating about this is the way the people who do so tend to fret that using the word “bloodbath” in headlines will create a narrative that those who rightly critique Trump have lost credibility, when other better criticisms could be levied. And they will do this while entirely ignoring that they themselves are the ones who are now, even as they speak, the ones formulating that narrative, specifically by making the bullshit obfuscating argument they are currently making, and not focusing on the bigger picture, or offering any of those other better criticisms.

They are worried about the optics of bickering about the meaning of a single word in a single speech, while forcing the argument by bickering about the meaning of a single word in a single speech.

They say they’re worried that people who critique the Nazi will lose credibility for doing so, as they make the narrative designed to do that very thing, and expect us to ignore that this is the narrative they are crafting even as they make a show of their worry that the thing they are causing to come about might come about.

That’s right. They are creating the problem they say they worry about.

Talk about ignoring context!

We’re ten years into this shit. It’s far too late in the game for people whose job is giving us information to be this bad at giving us information. And we have far too much information available about the way it is for people who are supposed to do this for a living to still go on acting as if they have no idea about the way it is, to only look at the portion of the story that makes something abnormal appear normal, to treat every story about Trump as if he is starting the game fresh at each new campaign stop, arriving with no baggage, and that he can’t be written about as if he represents a walking incitement to violence until he once again incites it so directly that it finally can’t be parsed away even by the most blinkered observer. At a certain point, we have to understand this failure as a willful decision to obfuscate.

All this, even though the danger in a time of rising fascism has never been failing to give fascists the benefit of the doubt. The thing that has empowered fascists has always been to downplay the danger, to parse it, to soothe, to say it’s not really that bad and they won’t really be able to do that and that’s not really what they meant and those people sounding the alarm are too alarmist. Has there ever been a time when fascists rose to power, and history’s judgment has been “too many people sounded the alarm, and the alarm was too loud, and not nuanced enough?” Let me know if so. I’m not aware of it, and I like awareness. Always looking for new things to be aware of.

I don’t know the reason why so many people whose ostensible jobs are to tell it like it is insist on telling it like it isn’t. Maybe some fear reprisal. Maybe some hope for advancement. Maybe some just don’t like looking at truths when those truths become too frightening or ugly. Maybe they’re just ignorant and incurious. Maybe they have really bad memories.

Or maybe they’re worried that speaking the simple truth will seem biased, forgetting that in an age of rising fascism, speaking the plain truth will necessarily be hugely biased against fascists and all their terrible lies.

But I don’t really care anymore to figure out the why. It’s dangerous nonsense whatever it might be. We ought to call it out for it and refuse to listen. Rather than let them fashion narratives to strip credibility away from those who manage to observe truth clearly, we should take credibility from them, by refusing to give it to them anymore, and to give our attention to other voices, many of whom have been kept or pushed out of the mainstream.

There are still people whose job it is to tell people the way it is and actually do it, even though it’s become more and more dangerous and less and less lucrative to do so. It’s an important job. We should help them.

If there are some who hold that title, but refuse to do the job, we have to understand that no matter what their business card says, they have some other job.

I seek people with voices that speak to the full picture. Many of these voices focus most often on speaking to the way it is about Democrats, a group with massive failings who are, unlike Republicans, still persuadable in observable ways. This means they criticize Democrats sharply for all the ways in which they accommodate and appease fascism and bigotry and in so doing paving the way for some future eliminationist fascist dictator, but they are also voices that never failing to note that an eliminationist fascist dictator is exactly the real and present threat that Donald Trump poses to the country and the world, or to talk about what that acceleration might mean, and for whom.

These are people who tell it like it is by looking at the whole picture, not taking a couple of paragraphs and trying to spin it into something they then trying to pass off as the whole context.

I’d recommend finding people like this as well. I linked to a few of mine a couple paragraphs up. I’m sure you have your own. Share them with others. If they are freelancing, as so many are these days, and you can afford to, throw them a few bucks.

And, I’d suggest, as best we can, let’s help them, by look at as much of the full picture as we can, and speaking out about the way it is ourselves.

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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 might be on a side-street, or a stairway to the stars.