This isn’t anti-fascism – this is mental
Screaming ‘Nazi’ in the faces of Trump supporters is neither radical nor rational.
One of the tragedies of modern political times is the degradation of the word anti-fascism.
This once proud tradition, encompassing the leftists who went to Spain to fight Franco and the activists who chased the National Front out of Asian neighbourhoods in the Seventies and Eighties, is now the butt of jokes.
It’s become a byword for hysterical left-wing intolerance, evoking images of scrawny students shouting at Jacob Rees-Mogg or chubby, bearded Corbynistas milkshaking Nigel Farage.
And the Trump protests in London yesterday proved this bad rep is now – sadly – thoroughly deserved.
In a viral video clip, a group of anti-Trump protesters and anti-fascist activists – all straight out of central casting – surround a Trump supporter and shout ‘Nazi scum’ at him.
One woman, in a ‘Fuck Trump’ t-shirt, screams right in his face. A man in sunglasses, hoody and medical mask – looking like he’s from the germaphobe division of black bloc – squares off to him. Someone throws a milkshake at the Trumper and a scuffle ensues.
He’s pushed away as someone with a cut-glass accent says ‘you’re behaving as badly as he is’ in the background.
No, not quite. And unless someone can show me that the Trump fan was sounding off about Jews or personally grabbing pussies before this incident ensued (I’m happy to recant if so), this looks like what it looks like: a bunch of idiots screaming at someone because he, along with millions of Americans, happens to like the US president.
Speaking to the Sun, the man, who didn’t want to be named, said Trump was the ‘democratically elected president of the free world’ and that he went down to the protests because he ‘just wanted a debate with the sensible left’. ‘I never wanted it to get violent, but I wasn’t going to be intimidated’, he added.
Now, it is worth saying that he did also accuse the protesters of being fascists. In a longer clip, posted by LBC, you can see him arguing with a white guy in dreadlocks – like I said, central casting – and calling him a fascist, before someone nicks his MAGA hat and things start to get physical.
But let’s not indulge in ‘both sides’-ism here. The ‘who’s the real fascist?’ defence, made by Trumpers against intolerant protesters, may be lame and inaccurate, and it undoubtedly contributes to the dangerous watering down of the meaning of that historically loaded word. But they didn’t start it, did they? Most of them probably don’t even mean it.
Meanwhile, one of the most striking things about the ‘Trump is Hitler’ argument is how thoroughly mainstream it is on the liberal-left. This is not just about idiots on the streets or flinging tweets. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan essentially made the same accusation in the pages of the Observer on Sunday.
We shouldn’t extrapolate too much from this one incident. Shit happens when protesters clash. People get a bit carried away, high on righteousness and lukewarm cans. The ‘Fuck Trump’ woman, in a since deleted tweet, even apologised for her part in it.
But it did all feel like the culture war made flesh. There was something unmistakably 2019 about it. And it wasn’t the only incident to come out of yesterday’s protesters, either.
At Trafalgar Square, a group of Trump supporters had to be barricaded in a Wetherspoons by police for their own safety. Elsewhere, another Trump supporter – an elderly man! – was pushed to the floor by a group of protesters, an antifa flag flying in the background.
Anti-fascism used to mean risking life and limb to fight and kill actual fascists, dodging blows and bullets to defend minorities and freedom. Now it means screaming in right-wingers’ faces and rugby tackling men old enough to be your grandfather.
This isn’t radical. It’s not even rational. And it undermines the historical specificity of European fascism. It does a disservice to the millions who perished at the hands of fascists in the 20th century, and it does a disservice to those who fought back so bravely.
Yesterday Semion Rosenfeld, the last known survivor of the uprising at the Nazi extermination camp at Sobibor, died aged 96. On 14 October 1943, he and 300 other prisoners escaped the camp, after they killed 11 SS officers and set the place on fire.
Remember that story next time you hear one of these anti-Trump twerps throw the f-word – or milkshakes – around.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
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