Kenosha Unsurprising

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

There is little to be surprised about by recent events in Kenosha, Wisconsin given:

+ The deepening crisis of Black life in the COVID-19 period.

+ The persistent problem of murderous and racist policing.

+ The possession of video-capable smart phones by tens of millions of Americans.

+ The ongoing existence of a protest movement for the protection of Black lives.

+ The military-style weaponization of much of the populace.

+ The presence of heavily armed rightly-wing white militias across the country.

+ The toxic hold of eliminationist white nationalism over one of the nation’s two reigning political parties.

+ The existence of a noxious right-wing media empire.

+ The longtime (arguably foundational) elevation of property over human rights in American history.

+ The continuing presence of an (at least) instinctual fascist and doctrinal Christian white nationalists (e.g., Stephen Miller and William Barr) in the White House,

Of course there was a domestic disturbance in the city’s impoverished Black community. The George Floyd protests didn’t dismantle racial oppression and inequality in America. Systemic institutional racism and savage race-class apartheid remain in full force, with the domestic misery they produce exacerbated by COVID-19.

Of course a young Black man involved in the disturbance was viciously assaulted by a white police officer who pumped seven bullets into his back. The nation’s heavily armed police forces haven’t been purged of the vast number of violence-prone white racists and authoritarians who infect their ranks. Racist cops are regularly egged on to “crack down” violently on Black people by right-wing “law and order” forces from the President of the United States down through FOX News, right-wing talk radio, online racist hate groups, and the heads of local police unions.

Of course the shooting of Jacob Blake and the murder of one protester were caught on cell phone video and posted on social media. Damn near every American over 10 years old has a smart phone that can record and upload videos these days.

Of course Kenosha erupted in the wake of the attempted police murder of Jacob Blake. Activists and citizens did not take to the streets within and beyond Kenosha in record numbers this summer – at least 27 million across the United States by the end of the July – in order to go back to racist police state butchery caught-on-videotape-as-usual. The George Floyd protests did not occur so that neo-Jim Crow police state fascism could continue unabated.

Of course Kyle Rittenhouse, the demented white teenager affiliated with right-wing militia and thanked for his service by local police, shot two protesters dead in the streets of Kenosha with an AR-15 and then walked right past Kenosha City police with his weapon around his shoulders. The nation is saturated with deadly assault weapons at the behest of the neofascistic National Rifle Association. Psychotics and sociopaths regularly gain access to weapons of mass destruction like AR-15s in the “armed madhouse” that is contemporary America. Federal, state, and local government have long tolerated the existence of far-right white-nationalist militia terror groups, some of whom function as open allies and adjuncts of their racist friends in local, state, and federal law enforcement.

Of course Rittenhouse and his “Kenosha Guard” militia comrades justified their lethal presence on the streets of Kenosha with the claim that they sought to protect private property. Private property had long been considered sacrosanct and identified as the true basis of “liberty” in arch-capitalist America.

Kyle’s Dear Leaders: “The Communists Are Taking Over”

Damaged young men and adolescents like the Kenosha street-shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump fan and police devotee (his social media account is filled with “Blue Lives Matter” posts) are being sparked into a fascistic frenzy by a fascist president, a white-nationalist (Republican) party, and neofascist media outlets who tell them that the Great White Fatherland is under existential assault from Communist totalitarians masquerading as civil and human rights advocates and allied with the other leading national party – the supposedly “radical Left” Democrats.

On his path to infamy, the 17-year-old psycho killer Kyle Rittenhouse became a big time MAGA-boy, a Trump fan who travelled from northeastern Illinois to Des Moines, Iowa to hear his Dear Leader speak last January. A CSPAN photo shows Rittenhouse standing in the arch-propertarian Trump rally’s front row, gazing in rapt adoration at the indecent beast who tells police to “take the gloves off” when dealing with Black criminals and who fantasizes about attacking immigrants and protesters with “vicious dogs.”

We can be sure that young Kyle listened carefully to the paranoid-style rhetoric of the Chosen One as Trump responded to the George Floyd rebellion this summer. Let’s examine some of what he likely heard – and then activated upon three nights in Kenosha. Look at this passage from the June 26th executive order in which Trump responded to the George Floyd uprising by mandating prosecution and prison sentences for anyone who defaces public monuments honoring vicious slave-owners and Indian killers like Andrew Jackson and George Washington:

“Over the last 5 weeks, there has been a sustained assault on the life and property of civilians, law enforcement officers, government property, and revered American monuments… Many of the rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists who have carried out and supported these acts have explicitly identified themselves with ideologies — such as Marxism — that call for the destruction of the United States system of government. Anarchists and left-wing extremists have sought to advance a fringe ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust…”

Read that again. That was the President of the United States trying to criminalize the notion that the U.S. is “fundamentally unjust.” [1]

Behold the following lines from Trump’s July 4th Eve speech, delivered amid openly fascist esthetics in the holy Fatherland setting of Mount Rushmore while Lakota Sioux activists faced tear gas on the perimeter. In badly delivered prose likely drafted by the neofascist Stephen Miller, Trump proclaimed that:

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children… Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities…They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive.  But no, the American people are strong and proud, and they will not allow our country, and all of its values, history, and culture, to be taken from them. “

“… We will expose this dangerous movement, protect our nation’s children, end this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life. In our schools, our newsrooms, even our corporate boardrooms, there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.  If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished.  It’s not going to happen to us…Make no mistake: this left-wing cultural revolution is …determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage. The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice.  But in truth, it would demolish both justice and society.”

“American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles, and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the earth. We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing.”

Did you take all that in? Fascistic Marxists and left anarchists are taking over. They’ve infiltrated “our” media, “our” schools, and “even our corporate boardrooms” (!) They are taking over our children’s minds and wiping out our history. A Radical Left specter haunts America, portending a grim totalitarian future. But the great American volk will slay this evil demon because they are not weak. Under the lead of the tangerine-tinted Chosen One, the silent Amerikaner majority will stand up to protect the Great White Homeland against the Red Menace and its swarming, deranged, and polyglot minions in the scary, sinister, and dark-skinned cities, where weak liberals have handed power to communist animals scheming to loot American culture and society. (My guess is that Miller tried but failed to get Trump to use the phrase “cultural Marxism.”)

Listen to a recent insane Trump attack on Biden: “He’s going to do things that nobody ever would ever think even possible. Because he’s following the Radical Left agenda. Take away your guns. Destroy your second amendment. No religion, no anything. Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.” (That’s right, the deeply conservative U.S. corporatist-imperialist Republocrat Joe Biden is such a dangerous tool of the Radical Atheist Child-Eating Marxist-Fascist Conspiracy that he intends to use the presidency to hurt God. Our kind of energy”? That would non-renewable fossil fuels, the kind of energy that is ending the human experiment by turning the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber.)

I’m guessing that young Kyle appreciated Trump’s Tweeted response to early George Floyd unrest: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Perhaps the teen killer also heard an unhinged outburst of racist neo-McCarthyism from the mouth of Trump’s henchman, Attorney General William Barr. Evil Buddha Barr recently went on the raving lunatic Marc Levin’s FOX News show to say that Black Lives Matter (BLM) is comprised of “Bolsheviks” advocating “some form of socialism, communism.” Barr called the social justice protests that have arisen since the George Floyd lynching “a new form of urban guerrilla warfare.” Barr claimed that BLM reflects the Democratic Party’s shift to the “far left” in pursuit of “complete political victory.” Power, Barr said, has become a “secular religion of the left…They want to run people’s lives so they can design utopia for all of us…and it’s the lust for power.” According to Barr, the corporate Democratic Party is cover for and captive to the great Stalinist campaign to put Americans in work and re-education camps. Barr told Levin that a considerable portion of the Democratic Party’s congressional delegation are “true believers…essentially revolutionary in outlook; they believe in tearing down the system.” (The rest of the Congressional Dems,” Barr said, are “just cowards” who “are interested in getting re-elected and are afraid of a challenge from the Left. For them, it’s careerism…”)

Donald “White Power” Trump preceded the Democratic National Convention’s opening two Mondays ago with a feral, hour-long neo-McCarthyite rant in which he said the following:

+ “Nobody’s going to want to cover Sleepy Joe. We’ll end up with one very boring socialist country that will go to hell…they’ll all lose their networks, they’ll all lose their wealth, everything will be gone.”

+ “Unlike Sleepy Joe Biden our approach to the pandemic is based on science, not left-wing ideology.”

+ “Kamala Harris… co-sponsored a $32 trillion socialist takeover of healthcare and our country, because our country would be ruined, destroyed… You have $33 in healthcare and $93 trillion on the socialist Green New Deal.”

+ The Democrats are “typical politicians, but radical left wing.”

+ “If Joe Biden and the radical Dems take power, they will pass legislation gutting every single police department in America…Every voter should ask themselves a simple question: do you want the radical left policies of Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco imposed on the entire country?”

+ “Joe Biden is the puppet of left-wing extremists, trying to erase our borders, eliminate our police, indoctrinate our children, vilify our heroes, take away our energy…Destroy our second amendment, attack the right to life and replace American freedom with left wing fascism. Left wing. We’re going to left wing all the way. Fascists. They are fascists.

+ “Now Biden is running on the most extreme far-left agenda ever put forward by a major party…the Biden Bernie manifesto calls for appointing far left prosecutors, judges, and justices of the United States Supreme Court.”

Fascist Tropes

This brutish 21st Century neo-McCarthyism – completely absurd considering the deeply conservative and even right-wing nature of the Biden-Harris presidential ticket – has been a key animating theme in this week’s Republican National Convention (RNC). One RNC speaker after another preposterously linked the corporate and imperialist Biden candidacy and Democratic Party to “socialism” and even “communism,” both smeared as “totalitarian” enemies of “Western civilization.” Especially amusing and (yet) terrifying was the fanatical oration yelled by the bizarre Gene Simmons impersonator and gold-digging fascist Kimberly Guilfoyle (Donald Trump, Jr.’s scary silicon girlfriend). “Biden, Harris, and the rest of the socialists,” Guilfoyle bellowed, “will fundamentally change this nation…As a first generation American, I know how dangerous their socialist agenda is… The same socialist policies which destroyed Cuba and Venezuela must NOT take root in our cities and our schools.” (A child of Puerto Ricans, Guilfoyle appeared not know that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens before they came to the mainland).

Again and again, RNC speakers hit on core fascist and authoritarian tropes: the menace of Marxism/socialism; the false conflation of corporate moderates and centrists (like Biden, Harris and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment) with “the radical left;” the “weakness” of the liberals and moderates in the face of the alleged Red Menace; the grave danger to the “homeland” posed by dark, polyglot, and cosmopolitan cities; the readiness to use force as a political weapon (the genuinely grotesque right-wing activist Charlie Kirk called Trump “the bodyguard of Western Civilization”); the obsession with Law and Order; the conflation of protest with rioting and (sacrilegious) property destruction; the betrayal of the great Nation by liberal and Left elites who are “indoctrinating our children,” wrecking “our culture and history,” and turning us all into slaves of a giant Stalinist State.

The opening night of the convention prominently featured a speech by Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the wealthy white couple who criminally brandished an assault rifle and a rapid fire pistol at Black Lives Matter protesters from the steps of their mansion in St. Louis, Missouri last June 28th.

The McCloskeys were charged with “the unlawful use of a weapon,” a felony offense, by St. Louis County last Jull 10th. But so what? White nationalism is about extra-legal measures. Fascism is not bound by the rule of law.

It can’t happen here? Get over that one, for God’s sakes. It’s happening right now and has been for some time. If Trump gets a second term, maybe Kyle Rittenhouse can be released from detention long enough to be a guest of honor at the ceremony unveiling the newly carved face of Donald Trump at Mount Rushmore. Don Lemon will cover the event from an undisclosed location in western Canada.

Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson still has his job after telling his millions of viewers that Rittenhouse’s murderous actions were justified since the teenager rightly “decided to maintain order when no one else would.”

Surprised that Carlson would incite further violence by saying that? You shouldn’t be. Tucker’s a fascist too. There’s a whole bunch of them running loose in the Armed Madhouse.

And “this monster” – Tucker Carlson – is, a friend writes, “the most watched talking head on cable news.”


1. The United States, by the way, is fundamentally unjust. Even before the Trump Virus sparked a depression and corporate bailout that deepened inequality in the U.S., the three wealthiest Americans’ combined wealth already exceeded that of the nation’s bottom 50 percent. The top tenth of the upper U.S. One Percent already had a shared net worth greater than that of the nation’s bottom 90 percent and median Black household wealth amounted to 6 cents on the white median household dollar. The nation has long been riddled by massive, interrelated disparities of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and power that make an abject mockery of its claim to represent democracy and equality before the law. Exhaustive empirical research shows that progressive majority public opinion is close to irrelevant in the making of “public” policy, which consistently reflects the preferences of the wealthy Few and their giant corporations and financial institutions. You can learn all about this from mainstream researchers and journalists who never identify with “ideologies such as Marxism” or acknowledge that significant socioeconomic disparity and top-down class rule are inherent to the profits system.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).