Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Sep 10, 2023
The slow-mo wave of fascism engulfing Florida - book bans, more guns, no drag, cheerleading for slavery - took a big goose-step forward with the latest incursion of a snarling horde of swastika-swathed Nazis screaming "White Power!" and "Did you thank Hitler today?" After it, DeSantis was mute but busy: He moved to ban abortion, chose a fanatic to guard state ethics, snubbed Biden, assailed a black man, and launched a vicious ad vowing to execute migrants. And it has t-shirts! They're still tweaking the swastikas.
Improbably given the harm he's already done, DeSantis' march into authoritarianism goes on apace; his surly fail of a presidential run seems to have only fed his zealous malevolence - Meaner! Crueler! Lower! He's turned schools into fearful wastelands of fear, chaos and perfidious fascist propaganda: Don't say gay, drag, books, trans, racism, voting rights or Black history. He's unleashed guns in the hands of virtually anyone without need of permit, training or background check while quietly spending $61.6 million to "harden the Capitol" by upgrading its windows to render them "ballistics-rated" and bulletproof, an dazzling exemplar of cognitive dissonance. Above all, doggedly bullying any kind of other - of race, gender, political persuasion - he's become "the man who put the 'bigot' in bigotry...a spokesperson for hate, plain and simple." "Through his words (and) actions, DeSantis has created an environment where bigotry feels free to walk proudly (in) the open," writes Monique Judge. "It doesn’t have to hide under the white hoods (of) yesteryear." Like any good fascist playing to hate and fear, he's also pointedly declined to disavow his most fervid fans to fashion a place where "it's safer to be a Nazi than Black or LGBTQ."
And so, a week after a racist gunman shot and killed three Black people out of pure, mindless race animus, they came, almost cartoonish in their evil, wrapped in their swastikas, shouting their "Sieg Heil!", raising their stiff-armed Nazi salute and spitting their hate, some with DeSantis flags fluttering above them. Up to five groups of neo-Nazis blithely congregated in a country that has seen anti-Semitic hate crimes soar 36% in a year from already record highs; in Florida, they rose 71%. Germany's Nazis, of course, focused on Jews - during the Holocaust, they razed a populace of over 500,000 down to 37,000, and that was without the millions in Poland et al - but today's Nazis have wielded a broader brush, joining with white supremacists and like-minded bigots to target LGBTQ+, migrant, Black, Brown and any other minorities. Predictably, they chose for their cosplay Orlando, where Black people make up a larger-than-usual quarter of the population, in a state where their governing brother-in-hate has touted the "benefits" of slavery and otherwise so profoundly devalued Black life the NAACP felt moved to issue a travel advisory warning the state “has become hostile to Black Americans" - a message that DeSantis, with his usual grace and tact, called "a joke."
Because it's their job to keep tabs on this country's enduring hatred, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism had warned of the latest onslaught. It included between 50 and 100 members of multiple far-right groups: Aryan Freedom Network; Order of the Black Sun, based in Florida;14 First, now-disbanded and absorbed into the National Socialist Movement; Goyim Defense League, whose goal is to "expel Jews from America" and whose child-grooming leader Jon 'Handsome Truth' Minadeo boasts he's "AMERICA'S #1 ANTI-SEMITE"; and Blood Tribe, a militantly anti-LGBTQ, white supremacist group led by Christopher 'Hammer' Pohlhaus, a former Marine who recently bought land in Maine (WTF) to build a domestic terrorist camp and was widely recorded in Orlando screeching "SIEG!" to troops of his "March of the Redshirts," dressed in matching black pants and red shirts - thank you again, Vinny Thomas - who dutifully hurled back a guttural "HEIL!" Creepy video here. Oddly given they're the same dolts who were whining masks infringed on their freedom, most wore black masks. "They're even wearing them outdoors," noted one puzzled observer. "Don’t they know that sunlight kills the virus?"
The cosplay Nazis gathered at two high-profile spots, the gates of Disney World and the entrance to a shopping center, where they screamed invective: "Jews will not replace us!", "This is just the beginning!", "White Power!", "Heil the führer!", "We are everywhere!" and, yes, "Jews get the rope!" They seem nice. They even harassed right-wing Laura Loomer - a "faggot" who "should be thrown in an oven" - who later criticized their "vitriolic" behavior but insisted on their "right to free speech (even if) they are irrational Nazi trolls (and possibly even Feds)," a Pavlovian false-flag claim popular among GOPers who deny the Nazi elephant in their midst. Still, evident confusion wafted in their ranks. Some yelled "Vote for Ron DeSantis!” and bashed Trump as a "pussy" part of a "kike wing" who "didn’t do anything he said he was going to do (and) married all his kids off to Jews"; others screamed, "Ron DeSantis is a joke!" "We just have to start a fire - we're the kindling," said Blood Tribe's Pohlhaus. "We need (to) show other white men they can stand up, (to) not be afraid and stick up for your fucking selves (against) the subjugation of our race." At one point a black man drove by, ignoring the "Nigger!" calls to smilingly ask, "Why y’all got on masks, though? Why y’all got on masks?!"
Because they're racist gutter slugs afraid to show their vile faces is the general consensus, and maybe they've seen what happened to Tiki-torch bros and Jan. rioters who didn't mask up. Others argued that, while street Nazis and "MAGA shock troops" are dangerous, they're no worse than "the Nazis in Congress in suits and ties egging them on." The Orange County Sheriff's Office called the groups "revolting," but said none of their actions "rose to the level of arrest." After a few Nazis pointedly destroyed a rainbow flag for the cameras, some LGBTQ observers rejected Disney assurances of their safety, citing the ACTUAL REAL LIFE NAZIS...Literal f**king Nazis" at the gates. Florida Dems roundly blamed DeSantis for the ugly spectacle. "We saw the very real consequences of his inaction on a swastika-wrapped gun barrel last month in Jacksonville," noted one. Another called the "We are everywhere" boast "disturbingly true" when DeSantis "has made so much room for them in our state...Ron has failed time and time again to denounce neo-Nazis - even when they’re chanting "Jews get the rope” in front of his campaign signs." "Nazis marching in our community," said Gen Z Rep. Maxwell Frost. "Why? Because they feel comfortable enough to do so."
The hate kept seeping across Florida: The next day, residents of several towns found plastic bags with anti-Semitic flyers outside their homes, Still, DeSantis stayed silent, an even bolder move than when Nazis last invaded, which he at least acknowledged by trashing Democrats for trying to "smear" him as if he "had something to do" with it. This time, after ignoring both Nazis and Biden visiting to offer hurricane aid, he brazenly appointed a fascist Moms for Liberty co-founder to a state Ethics Commission tasked with investigating "complaints of breach of the public trust by public officers," thus giving a woman who believes LGBTQ students should be segregated from other kids official power to target and remove the same people her hate-filled "joyful warriors" are already attacking. He also found time to sullenly "combust" at a black veteran who calmly suggested his hate-mongering may have contributed to armed racists feeling they can "hunt people like me." During the brief encounter at a presser to badmouth new COVID boosters - because the big issue today is "they want to muzzle our children" - DeSantis erupted: "You don't get to come here and blame me for some madman - that is nonsense." Then his thugs escorted the guy out, not an authoritarian move at all.
Neither was the next day's hearing before a right-wing state Supreme Court with flagrant, unrecused anti-choice ties, dubbed "naked corruption out flapping in the breeze," to impose a deeply unpopular, ultimately regional abortion ban by arguing Roe v Wade is "an abomination," abortion access is putting "a whole class of human beings" - aka a quarter-inch fetus - "outside the protection of the law," and abortion is just like infanticide or euthanasia, already illegal. As advocates fight back, it remains unclear what else will be under Little Mussolini's reign. His week's final, brutal move was to release an ad by the bellicose super PAC Never Back Down - no more compassionate conservatism - for his persistently venomous presidential campaign. In the ad, part of a $25-millionpush in early-nominating Iowa and New Hampshire, he reiterates his queasy promise of extra-judicial execution for anyone daring to try to enter the land of the free: "We're gonna leave them stone cold dead." His troops like the threat so muchthey also made t-shirts, $35 each, emblazoned with it: "Cartels cutting through the border wall?" they read. "They're going to end up STONE COLD DEAD." The ad, oozing ominous music, ends darkly: "No excuses. We will get the job done." Like a Final Solution, right?
Moms For Liberty bedtime reading by Uncle Adolf.Cartoon by Clay Bennett for the July 11 Chattanooga Times Free Press
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