I wrote this several days before Trump’s second impeachment trial, and well before his second acquittal. I haven’t altered much of this post in response to it because it is a rather timeless look at the particular context of our fascism in this country and others. I will say that I am deeply concerned about several things: Trump’s lawyers, once they figured out their asses from a hole in the ground, were not playing defense—they were running the early ads of his next campaign; the GOP falling back into line with Trump after a very temporary “it’s complicated” moment, which I’ll talk about a little more below; and, though this is minor, Don Jr. mimicking his father’s delivery and movements in a recent video, which strikes me as obvious but will also probably work on Trump’s followers for when the real thing finally keels over.
I mentioned last week that we're in a precarious position with regards to fascism. I'm sorry to report that hasn't changed in seven days’ time. Despite the lack of gnashing of teeth from the far-right for the past week or so—which feels like a few months in 2021 time—our democracy is still at great risk, and that's not going away anytime soon.
As I see it, there are two main reasons for concern:
- The fascists have insider support. Whether there is a whole cadre of would-be insurrectionists in government, or just Boebert and Taylor-Greene, this issue is bigger than QAnon.
- The movement has oxygen. January 6th gave these people a battle, history, martyrs, and villains. Most importantly, it let them know something like this was possible.
So, let’s look at these two issues, and couch them in the historical context of previous fascist coups so that we might guess what can come next. (There are several dozen podcasts on this, btw. I’d start with Behind the Insurrections, and then listen to them narrate Ben Shapiro’s novel because it is hilariously bad.)
Mussolini’s March on Rome
In October of 1922, Benito Mussolini, already the head of the Fascist Party and given a seat in government, announced that he and 30,000 fascists would march on Rome to take power over all of Italy. Mussolini himself hung out in Milan while everyone else marched, but by their arrival, Mussolini and his party had flexed enough muscle across the country to spook Italian leadership. The Prime Minister, Luigi Facta, resigned but remained in office (yeah, whatever), and attempted to get the king, Victor Emmanuel III, to order a state of siege to combat the 30,000 blackshirts doing their fascist thing around town. The king refused, and made Mussolini Prime Minister.
There was, at the time, a significant leftist population in Italy—and Europe in general. Socialists were everywhere, and not always without political clout themselves. In Italy, the powers that be chose fascism as a more economically safe choice for the rich, and this explains, in part, why the Italian government eventually handed itself over to Mussolini. Mussolini, naturally, would make himself dictator only a few years after becoming Prime Minister.
Hitler’s Beerhall Putsch
Influenced by Mussolini’s power grab in Italy, Hitler attempted his own coup in Munich. In early November of 1923, Hitler and 600 Nazis surrounded the Bürgerbräukeller beerhall, wherein were some 3,000 people and various politicians. Hitler waltzed in and said, among other things, that the revolution had begun (it had not). He and Nazi leadership attempted to convince the politicians in attendance to join their side, but after numerous critical miscommunications and blunders, the putsch crumbled. In a last gasp the next morning, 2,000 Nazis marched through Munich until they were met by soldiers, who opened fire. 16 Nazis were killed, and Hitler was wounded and later tried for treason.
Despite the failure of the putsch, and the treason, Hitler had set the stage for his own victory. He was given an extremely light prison sentence, and through his trial, airtime. He wrote Mein Kampf while imprisoned and was promptly allowed to reform the Nazi party on his release. The killing of the 16 Nazis, meanwhile, had begun the mythos that would surround the movement.
The Homebrew Coup
Common to both the above coups is sympathy or outright support from the government that preceded them. Victor Emmanuel knew Mussolini was coming, and knew that the fascists were amassing power. While Hitler and the Nazis failed in their outright coup, they were given virtually no punishment.
If Trump were to announce a March on Washington from Mar-a-Lago, you can bet he’d find 30,000 fascists willing to make the trip.
For fascism, inaction is tacit approval. Leniency is approval. And approval, historically, does not end with a movement quietly retreating into the night. When we look at the fallout of the 1/6 Insurrection, we see a lot of immediate condemnation, but not a lot of follow-through.
- The Insurrection’s demagogue, Trump, has been acquitted for his role.
- While more are surely coming, only about 1/4 of those who literally broke into the Capitol have seen charges. Law enforcement has strongly considered backing down on the remainder.
- The GOP has taken Q as its consort: while Liz Cheney faced repudiation for her vote to impeach Trump (though the move was defeated), Marjorie Taylor Greene will see no punishment for her extremist views, conspiracy-laden comments, and outright calls for execution, from her own party. Kevin McCarthy took a meeting with Trump, effectively confirming that the latter is still the party power-broker. And, of course, when faced with drawing the ire of Trump and his followers or voting their conscience, the GOP chose to essentially forgive Trump’s treason and the attempted murders of their own.
We have a system of law in this country that tells one political party, one race, and one class that it will not be prosecuted—effectively condoning the chosen people’s actions. We have a party recently out of power that is willing to bargain with conspiracy theorists, fascists, and violent militias in order to get its way. The opposition is weak-willed, and at best seeks only a quieter, more equal theft from the poor. If this doesn’t sound like a modern scramble of a historical moment that presages a dictatorship, allow me to project:
While federal law enforcement is still looking for answers on who aided the insurrectionists, it’s clear that there was inside help. That could be new members of Congress Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, or insiders like Rand Paul (who was helping Trump’s defense during the trial), Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley. Or, of course, Capitol police themselves, who were seen literally opening gates for the rioters. The point: there is a not-insignificant contingent of fascists (you help a fascist, you become a fascist) within our government. These people could conduct another coup on their own or with outside assistance from far-right militias, individual conspiracy theorists, or a whole-ass band of people led by Trump himself. Toward the end of his presidency, Trump was only barely held back from enacting martial law, invoking emergency powers to remain in office, and overturning the election through sheer inertia and will. If he were to announce tomorrow a March on Washington from Mar-a-Lago (which he wouldn’t physically attend, of course), you can bet he’d find 30,000 fascists willing to make the trip if they thought it meant they’d get him back in office.
These people have a mythos now. The QAnon conspiracy theory may ultimately fall apart, but that movement didn’t grow from nothing—it came from the inchoate ramblings of PizzaGate. A conspiracy theory that creates a cabal of utterly evil enemy forces is simply too tempting, too soothing to the psyche, to let die. Q may not even be the apotheosis of such an idea—an idea which can be easily traced over the same ground as Hitler's murderous racism; blame an other, and vilify them. Fold the conventional GOP into the broader “Swamp.” Turn on the police and National Guard that eventually stopped the insurrectionists—some have even turned on their martyr, the woman shot and killed on 1/6. These aren’t losses to true believers, to be clear. This is the removal of even more scales from their eyes—this is finding the blade stuck in their back was engraved. The moment in which fascists can see themselves as most righteous is the moment when they are cornered, alone, and can only dig in or give in.
It doesn’t matter that it’s apparent the GOP at large is still willing to court the fascists. Rather than these people coming to meet the GOP, what’s more likely is the GOP goes to them, its far-right metamorphosis into an openly fascistic party continuing until they are purely bent on white supremacy and unfettered capitalism. The Democrats, meanwhile, will turn an even paler shade of blue to incorporate those former centrist GOP voters who defect.
Right now, weeks past the insurrection and with a level-headed Dem in the White House, you might think that our institutions are stable. But we learned how quickly that can change, how tenuous these institutions are. The last four years have been a lesson in that, and the last year particularly acute. History bears this out—if given a chance, fascism spreads. The government folded for them just yesterday, and that concession should seem eerily familiar to you now.
The “But Eric, You Already Told Us to Get a Gun,” Prep
This week, to prepare against the potential of a fascist terror attack, or attacks in a war—a less likely scenario, we're making your home a harder, more resilient target. Which isn't to say that some white supremacist is going to target your house—it’s to say that your house may be awash in the effects of terror. To harden your home, we’re going to look at two angles: security and sustainability.
Working off the possibility that there are roving bands of fascists in the wake of a terrorist attack (not terribly likely), or shitty white people pretending to secure their neighborhoods in the wake of a terrorist attack when in fact they’re just committing more acts of terror against POC (more likely), you’ll want to beef up your home security. A few easy fixes follow.
- Many doors are spookily easy to kick in. You can make them harder any number of ways, but the simplest may be a longer strike plate. A longer plate distributes the force of a kick across a greater area, making it easier for the wood of your doorframe to absorb without breaking. Longer screws can also help with this.
- Home security signage can be bought for just a few bucks. There’s a fine line to walk between “this home has a security system, don’t come in,” and “this home has a lot of stuff, so we have a security system, don’t come in,” but signage can be one of the simplest ways to deter amateur thieves or fashy looters (more likely the former than the latter, but hey, it’s like three dollars).
- Plywood ain’t pretty, but your windows are, and they’re a potential point of ingress. Plywood boards will protect your windows during periods of unrest, and unlike other, more high-tech solutions, won’t immediately wreck the window below it. Just measure out your first-floor windows, get some wood from Lowe’s (surprisingly progressive, especially vs. Home Depot), and store until necessary.
More likely than a fascist trying to kick in your front door after a terror attack is a utility failure. The power grid could be targeted, the water supply, communications, or something similar. Someone with the means could effectively harden their homes completely against the effects of a downed grid, etc., but those are expensive fixes and they require time and/or infrastructure. In lieu of that, here are some ways to become resilient against such failures or attacks.
The concerns for an attack on the power grid can vary, but typically you’re going to be worried about keeping the food in your fridge cold, keeping your house warm (or cool), and powering devices. Without a generator, there’s no realistic panacea, but there are some simple fixes that can help.
- Keep your fridge and freezer full. A full fridge will thaw out much more slowly than an empty one. You should also reorganize your shelves so that items that need to stay cold longer are kept further back from the door.
- Portable chargers/power banks can keep your devices charged through what is, hopefully, a short grid failure. If you know someone who can make a bicycle generator—hello, new best friend.
We’ve talked plenty about keeping enough water in your household. Should an attack on a municipal water supply occur, that’s going to be a great deal of people in your area going thirsty—your first inclination might be to hide away your minimum 30 gallons of water, but I would urge you to give when asked. There are ways you can make your water stretch (beyond that which you simply drink, I mean). This means using—really, re-using—gray water.
- When you have to use water for washing yourself, dishes, or prepping food (spaghetti, not baking bread, obviously), you should save that water in a large bucket. This means, yeah, you’re going to be standing over a bucket when you wash, but you’ll get used to it. That water, which is now probably a dingy tint, can be used to flush toilets, and if you use natural soaps (not Axe Arctic Mountain Blast), can even irrigate your garden. That may not sound like many uses, but your tune will change the first time you don’t pour half a gallon of drinkable water into your toilet.
A communication failure, like that which followed after the bombing in Nashville by a white conspiracy theorist, can be a mild inconvenience or a life-threatening problem. There’s not a lot that can be done about the loss of a cell network, but work can be done to ensure that the loss of your internet and cell phone don’t mean you’re completely out of contact with loved ones.
Create an emergency communication plan:
- Get a folder or binder (or a few of them), to organize and disseminate this plan. Include a city map with routes to important locations highlighted.
- Your plan should include the names and addresses of loved ones, physicians, area hospitals, and vets.
- Agree upon a meeting point and a fallback location, and the conditions under which you’d want to meet, so that one of you doesn’t just hang out there while the others stay home. Ideally this location is someone’s home, or some other safe place.
- Send texts rather than making phone calls, as they will potentially sneak through intermittent service when a call won’t.
- Consider a landline, which may still work.
- Radios are perennial prepper favorites. If you have a particular friend, family member, or household you want to be in touch with should phone lines fail, or if you need to leave home for work, this might be the route for you. Most preppers rave about Baofeng Radios. They’re fairly cheap, but will require a CB license (which is also fairly cheap, and simple). The range on a Baofeng is pretty short, so bear in mind that this enables communication, at best, across around 10 miles—useful in a lot of situations, not in all.
The fairly predictable outcome of Trump’s second impeachment trial has, being fairly predictable, not shaken me much. The things that need to happen to change this country remain the same, and the way that they will change remains the same as well: it’s the people. That’s the silver lining to literally everything of the last four years, and probably the only one—a lot of us stood up and realized how fucked up things are, even if late in the game. While there are plenty out there who wholeheartedly embrace fascism, there are more who don’t, and who will not let its rise go unanswered. It’s not going to be simple, or easy, going up against these people, but today’s work is one more step in ducking the fascist’s first punch, and being ready to respond in kind.