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Las Vegas as America’s Reichstag Fire. Some Notes on Mass Shootings as a Tool of Fascism.

The insistence by conservatives that there is no legislative solution for mass shootings has a political component that is being ignored.

The cult of passive aggressive apathy in the face of this danger is not just a reflection of moral turpitude, legislative lethargy and the power of the NRA and associated gun lobby’s. It is a reflection of a specific premeditated political ideology that seeks to create a paralyzing state of terror in which the basic and normal habits of a free society breakdown and are replaced by a shadowy condition of perpetual emergency.

In such a state democratic systems become meaningless. Consider Republican Senator Jeff Thune who suggested that the best response to the threat of mass shooting was “to get small.”

Here is the entire statement:

“It sounds like he used conversion kits and other things, you know, to make these weapons more lethal. Like I said – we’ll look at the facts when we get them all in here. I think that all of us want to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like that from happening again. You know – it’s an open society. And when somebody does what he wants to do – it’s going to be hard to prevent anything. But I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions. To protect themselves. And in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said – get small.”

He meant, on the surface that individuals should lessen their presence as a target. But this is also a complete surrender to not only terrorism but also a de facto advocacy of the establishment of a state of emergency in which the expectations of a civil society (the right to peacefully walk the streets, the right to peacefully assemble) are now questionable. He means the government will not only actively do nothing to protect civilians but will continue to allow heavily armed fanatics to roam the country which is not just advocacy of conservative small government rhetoric but a clear and deliberate statement of support for domestic terror as a means to silence dissent.

To get small in the patois of a fascist or a fascist’s fellow traveler like Thune means to shrink from being present in society.  It means to be seen little and heard even less.

The atavistic fanatics holding the Republican’s hostage and the combination of Stockholm Syndrome and cowardice and tacit agreement by Republicans with the fascist wing of the NRA is a clear and present danger to what little remains of the republic.

Add to this the traditional listless supine position of the Democrats which once again positions them as America’s version of Neville Chamberlain. Where they should be preaching civil disobedience we get instead wonkish outrage and internecine squabbles. Instead of profiles in courage we get talking points focus-group-tested to the point of being morally castrated.

Writing in Harper’s this past summer, Masha Gessen spoke of The Reichstag Fire Next Time – the idea being that as in Germany in the 1930s, the thugs would either create a provocation or take advantage of one to establish a dictatorship. Gessen paints a scenario in which after a massive 9/11 type attack, Trump, his instinctual dictatorial reflexes triggered by his need to appear strong and his desire to crush dissent, declares a state of emergency. Buoyed by the knee-jerk jingoism of rank and file pols, the neo-fascist desires of any number of cadres (from the intelligence services to professional goons like Rudy Giuliani and the soulless corporate media) and the acquiescence of a terrified population, we would very quickly find ourselves in a high-tech, neo-fascist police state.

“The Reichstag fire, it goes almost without saying, will be a terrorist attack, and it will mark our sudden, obvious, and irreversible descent into autocracy. Here is what it looks like: On a sunny morning you turn on the television as you make coffee, or the speaker in your shower streams the news, or the radio comes on when you turn the ignition key in your car. The voices of the newscasters are familiar, but their pitch is altered, and they speak with a peculiar haste. Something horrible has happened—it is not yet clear what—and thousands are dead, and more are expected to die. You hear the word “terror.” You feel it.

You reach for your cell phone, but the circuits are busy, and will be for hours—it will take you the rest of the day to check in with your loved ones. They are safe, but changed. And so are you. So are all of us. Tragedy has cast its shadow over every space where you encounter strangers: the subway, your child’s school, your lunch spot. People are quieter, less frivolous, yet they are not subdued. They share a sense of purpose that is greater than their fear. They are experiencing something they’d only read about: War has come to their land. Everyone is a patriot now.”

While Gessen may yet be proven prescient what happened in Las Vegas must now be understood as the Reichstag fire of our time and the non-response as part of a deliberate strategy by the fascist wing of the Republican party.

The hysterical demonizing of any and all critics of the NRA/Bund, the relentless overbearing denunciations of any who disagree with them, as un-American, not patriotic, anti-Bill of Rights, cowards and limp leftists or Progressives, are the hallmarks of all fascist movements.

But in addition there is the atavistic cult rhetoric that celebrates what are clearly delusional and out of date historical dead ends as if they were live wires of current cultural needs and expressions of useful contributions to the betterment of the country.  This is who and what then candidate Obama was referring to when he decried their bitter allegiance to the past and to guns.

The furious dedications by Steve Bannon, to nostalgia, to blood and soil, to an American Arcadia that never existed are exactly the traditional rhetoric of fascists. Consider that at his most recent public appearance Bannon said he had come to praise and honor Trump – unremarked upon by the media that is the language of a Centurion calling forth a Caesar. It is alt-right code for the understanding of the brotherhood of fascists with its celebration of authority and patriarchy. It is the language of a fascist thug manipulating the rank and file to at once support the great leader while simultaneously manipulating the figurehead to serve the puppeteer’s agenda. And in that run-off in Alabama it was the gun-toting neo-fascist with his hate against queers and his professions of respect for dictatorial thug Vladimir Putin who won.

This speaks to the delusional fantasies of the self-proclaimed All-American individualists making a last stand against the government – as if one person let alone a militia would stand a chance against the most powerful military in the world.

But these are people who are immune to logic and indifferent to reason. As we outlined previously it is in the pro-gun Bund that we find the echoes of state’s rights and slavery have migrated and morphed into fantasies about heroic individualism, paternalism and dead cults of macho codes of honor. Fueled by these delusions, these pathologies are reflected back by the cracked mirror that shows the horror of the post-industrial wasteland and the desiccated remnants of a vast social strata moving further and further into the realm of violent tribalism. There is truth to the narrative depicting the destruction of entire segments of the country but the NRA/Alt-Right fascists are full of nothing but lies and hate.

Swirling in an electric mist around overlapping issues including the decimation of the predominantly White working class, the wholesale gutting of the industrial base, the collapse of upward mobility, unions, the environment and the demographic emergence of non-White majorities sufficient to bring progressive agendas to the fore of government’s to-do list, has created an atmosphere ripe for fascism.

It’s here. It’s happening now.

Masha Gessen’s scenario of a forever war envisions a foreign conflict. That may yet happen or the one(s) we are in now may metastasize. But consider her description and in place of a foreign threat however manufactured, substitute Las Vegas and the idea that the Republican refusal to do anything is in fact a plan of action. (emphasis added)

“The country is in a forever war, a state of exception that has taken away many American freedoms, some of which were ceded voluntarily.

That is what we talk about when we talk about the Reichstag fire, and it has already happened. Like sad versions of the characters in The Wizard of Oz, who set off in search of traits they already possess, we are living in fear of an event that will catapult us into a terrifying future, when the event has already occurred—and has given us our terrifying present.”

The “forever war” was declared in Las Vegas. The refusal to take action is a declaration of an undeclared state of emergency.

No one is safe. And that is the Republican plan.

Concerts, parties, protests, fairs, subways, schools, cafes, libraries, shopping malls – the entirety of the fabric of our society has now been painted by the Republicans as targets.

The refusal to take action is the action the Republicans are taking precisely because they hope to use Las Vegas as an excuse to create a state of terror.

Their goal is the establishment of a state of fear. This is the forever war.

That is the plan of cowards and fanatics.

The question remains what will you do about it?


See Gessen’s essay here:

Update: 10/4/17:

From The guardian. A man preaching about armageddon and salvation caused a panic on a British Rail line.

One comment on “Las Vegas as America’s Reichstag Fire. Some Notes on Mass Shootings as a Tool of Fascism.

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