Monday, February 13, 2006

Backyard Nazis

One reason that pseudo-fascism is so harmful is that it creates an environment that positively encourages genuine fascists.

Thus, it is no mere accident that we've been seeing increasing signs of a genuinely emboldened white-supremacist far right, with recruitment rising among disaffected young people. It's no accident that they keep getting bolder and bolder and bolder.

This was driven home for me in a pointed way today when a little cluster of neo-Nazis -- representing a variety of groups, including the National Socialist Movement, the World Church of the Creator, and the National Alliance -- decided to hold a picket in my neighborhood, all of about two miles from my home.

Paul O'Connell, another Seattle resident, was in Fremont to check out the weekly Sunday Market there, and came across them. He snapped these pictures, reporting that there were only seven of them all told: six men and a woman. There were a number of police on hand too. They set up their protest directly across the street from a statue of Lenin that was salvaged from a Slovakian landfill.

O'Connell said there were more people confronting them than there were protesters. Some of these folks tried to engage them; others just insulted them. He also said the rally didn't appear to last very long; when he came by an hour later, they were gone.

It's hard to say what they were trying to accomplish. Fremont is one of the real arts centers of Seattle, and its politics are well to the left -- as the Lenin statue suggests. It's not likely they were looking for (at least hoping for) recruits. More likely is that they hoped to start some kind of confrontation. Evidently, they went away disappointed.

It seems to me that what these rallies are about is shoving their presence in our faces. For the past several decades, Nazis and white supremacists have been shoved so far back to the fringes that they scarcely ever would show their faces.

Now, they're feeling that the tide is turning in their favor. They're showing up in notably liberal venues not to recruit, but to make their presence known, and to send a message that they don't intend to hide anymore.

Who can blame them for being so bold? After all, we now have a national discourse in which one of the leading figures of the conservative movement can stand up and spew hatred about "ragheads." And the room will stand and applaud.

If I were a Nazi, I'd feel encouraged, too.

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