How Are They Going to Come at Us?

Near the end of one of the character Vito Corleone’s iconic scenes in the movie The Godfather (1972), he talks to his son Michael about how other mafia families will organize and come after the new don intending to murder him. With political correctness in mind, the scene still has much to teach those who’ve had this whole, unified rotten political and economic system coming at them for a very long time.

How will neoliberal Democrats and far-right fascists of the Republican Party come at the political left following the reenactment of the Reichstag fire (1933) at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021?

Had the forces of reaction had an organized Il Duce (For those still sensitive about labels, the idea of a Fūhrer is also well suited for the role.) at its helm anytime from election day November 2020 on, then those of us on the left would have been in deep shit. We lucked out as a bumbling narcissist was in control.

Had protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, or the left demonstrated at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 in large numbers with the intent of making a strong statement against the power elite, the result would have been obvious.

Those on the left know that our rights have been hammered away since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Our voices were silenced earlier by the destruction of the Vietnam Syndrome, or the hesitancy of those in the US to back war. Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s collection of the phone data of ordinary US citizens got him a one-way ticket to Russia, the alternative being a long prison sentence in a maximum security US federal prison. Readers need only look as far as former Army member Chelsea Manning to learn how the government will come at those who choose to inform the public about what is going on behind the scenes of US endless wars.

We on the left need to know about the most extreme cases of censorship, but our own experiences over decades inform us about how censorship and self-censorship work in limiting what the mass media will air. When was the last time that MSNBC, CNN, CBS, PBS, NPR, or the New York Times or Washington Post aired or wrote a major piece about public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky or Chris Hedges? Don’t hold our collective breath until those media outlets run and air stories about the left or a critical analysis about the right. The fire is burning amid the ashes of republican democracy, but don’t ask for rational assessments about the military-industrial-financial class of immensely wealthy elites to happen soon.

Over the past several years, the march to privatize and censor some on the Internet has moved along with many sites such as the one on which I write these words harder to find during a search of topics on search engines. Just as the algorithms of consumerism are in place when a consumer looks for a pair of sneakers, so are algorithms in place to steer those on the Internet away from critical commentary and information.

We know the propaganda machine behind the erroneous claim that Russia was behind Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016 and that the US only has noble designs for its part in the war in Syria. Even some media outlets on the left will throw in their support with the noble cause of the endless proxy war in Syria.

What we don’t know with any level of certainty is how many members are on the far right and how many of those people are armed and ready to carry out attacks against innocent people “Homeland security warns of heightened domestic terror threat after US Capitol attack,” Guardian, January 27, 2021):

The US Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued a national terrorism bulletin warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by anti-government sentiment after Joe Biden’s election.

The bulletin suggests the riot by a mob of Donald Trump supporters at the US Capitol on 6 Januay [sic] may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks.

We know that some on the left have voiced sympathy with the Capitol marauders in a kind of I feel your pain missive. The left needs to be cognizant of fatal contradictions before taking up the cause of people who have lethal military-style weapons and ammunition and are ready to implement deadly plans against innocent people. One popular program that airs on the Internet recently featured an interview with a self-identified member of the far-right Boogaloo Boys. A semi-automatic rifle stood against the wall of the room in which the interviewee sat, located just to the left of a backpack. The insanity of the US gun culture and its melding with the far right could be easily identified from that scene (“Jimmy Dore Boogaloo Boys Interview Sparks Outrage Among Critics: You’re a Sucker,” Newsweek, January 25, 2021).

Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report writes:

The U.S. corporate ruling class finally has its ‘Reichstag fire’ to justify suspension of constitutional liberties under cover of ‘national emergency.’ (“Democratic Fascists Prepare to Drop the Hammer,” January 28, 2021).

It can’t happen here? The Red Scare and McCarthyism are proof that it can! A splintered, weak, and divided left would have been no match for an organized assault that continued after January 6, 2021. The assault of the foot soldiers of the right will regain strength as long as real and imaginary injustices go unanswered and as long as there are those who plan and enjoy murder and spread hate (“It’s endemic’: state-level Republican groups lead party’s drift toward extremism.” Guardian, January 31, 2021). The equation of white supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-immigrant louts, Islamophobes, misogynists, radical-right insurrectionists, with a nation-wide elected political base and millions of supporters does not point to the survival of republican democracy. That inequality has grown since the move toward a deindustrialized society since the 1970s is fodder for the far right (“An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P.,” New York Times, February 1, 2021). Many are dedicated to the  Medieval premise of anti-science.

The late singer-songwriter Phil Ochs had it right in Crucifixion: “But ignorance is everywhere, and people have their way.”


Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).