Rudely besmirching the stately Lincoln Memorial, a group of about 100 white nationalist thugs and losers of the Patriot Front who couldn't get dates this weekend marched through D.C. "to show our strength not as brawlers or public nuisances (but) as men capable (of) seeking an America that more closely resembles the interest of its true people," an ambiguous mission statement that left confused observers wondering if Nazis were now advocating for Native Americans, but somehow we don't think so. To the beat of a tinny little snare drum, the blindingly white, oddly self-conscious mob wore lame matching outfits - khakis, navy jacket, white neck gaiters, knee pads - more bewilderment - while bearing "mildly menacing" plastic shields, American flags sometimes upside down and a banner that read "Victory or Death," all while dutifully chanting "Reclaim America" - more questions, like from and for what. "These guys sure like flags," noted one discerning bystander. "Not as snappy dressers as they used to be, though." The critique would likely dismay Patriot Fronters, who the Southern Poverty Law Center calls "image-obsessed" and focused on "theatrical rhetoric" with an "explicitly fascist agenda." Formerly known as Vanguard America until one of their own garnered some dubious P.R. by murdering Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, the Front often holds unannounced actions - they had no permit Saturday - to avoid counter-protesters. They also like to use optics like the Capitol to attract hapless recruits open to hateful drivel about those "who are not of the founding stock of our people (and) do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization" or an America whose "tyrannical elite has usurped your democracy and turned it into a weapon, first to enslave and then to replace you."
The weekend's event featured their leader Thomas Rousseau, who likes to boast he's been a white supremacist since high school. On behalf of a country reflecting "the interests of its true people" - "Who knew that Red Scarf Cowboy Hat Guy was the custodian of what constituents a real American?" - he made a garbled speech with a bad mike, but you can hear the phrase "useful idiot," which seems apt. Overall, the event felt so slapdash some right-wingers whined false flag - "This looks fake to me" - arguing FBI or antifa or Jews or brown/black people in whiteface must have dressed up as dorky fascists just to embarrass them. Unfortunately, its move to amplify hate speech and normalize its presence was real and creepy enough to invite chilling comparisons - "This is very Germany 1935" - but it turned out a false Twitter account had helped spread the word before morphing into "Reclaim America" Nazi-speak and being suspended. Some compared the spectacle to a 1925 KKK march on D.C. that drew 30,000 robed, hooded, defiantly unmasked Klansmen and had a Karma-filled end: Crowds awaiting "the eloquence of Klan orators" to "electrify the multitude" saw black clouds looming and were reassured by the Dragon "the Lord (is) with every Klansman," at which point "the heavens opened up, and the crowd dissolved from view." It took today's neo-Nazis a bit longer to clear out: After ranting about reclaiming their country, they ran into difficulties reclaiming the U-Haul truck they'd come (illegally) packed into for the ride home. Video that night shows about two dozen guys, looking rumpled and humble and dumb, stranded by the side of the road in the cold and dark as they wait for the truck to make multiple trips over three hours to fit them in. Meanwhile, the cops stand doing nothing until the truck takes its final run, at which point one spots a forlorn, play-acting shield left behind and yells, "Whose shield is that?" Better question: Whose country is this?
"You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case." - Timothy Snyder in On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century