By Michael Frank
How does one become a fascist? For myself, it was fear and I was constantly ruled by it: fear of others, fear of the unknown, and fear of myself.
I grew up in a loving home. We were politically moderate Catholics. I remember my early childhood being happy, but when I began attending Catholic school, that’s when I began to suffer. Bullying was rife and friends were few but I struggled on, eventually finishing high school and enlisting in the Army.
During training, I became disillusioned with the military and especially the Iraq War, which was heating up at the time. I thought they would show me how to be strong, but I had never felt weaker and more afraid, even after finishing basic. Nothing that was felt right, and my descent into fascism and white supremacy began with this simple axiom, that something is terribly wrong with the world.
You see, I had always feared people with different skin tones, accents, ethnicity, etc., even when I professed to be anti-racist. This is why I’m skeptical of those claiming some particular event or experience “made them racist”. With the recent election of Donald Trump we hear claims he won because the left accused so many of racism. Ridiculous. You were always a racist, and you’re admitting it now because the gloves are off.
When I attended college, I was assigned roommates at random and two of them who were disrespectful to me had dark skin. A reasonable person would just conclude this guy’s a huge jerk, but instead I chose to blame millions of people who looked like my roommates.
I began to read alternative news sites, such as the stuff put out by Tom Metzger, David Duke, and Jared Taylor, to name a few. Like any ideology, there’s some nuances and the three I mentioned all despise each other. While they differ in some ways, it’s important not to get hung up on these small differences. The white supremecist Richard Spencer (in that video of him getting elbowed in the face) said he wasn’t a nazi and that nazis hate him. That may very well be true, but he is still a fascist.
While reading, I stumbled upon this tactic referred to as the “lone wolf strategy”, alternatively known as “leaderless resistance”. Due to incredible pressure from Antifa and anti-racist activists (and even the state, we can’t take all the credit) many fascists have endorsed working alone or in small groups of 2-3. I believe that this reflects a desperation,… I was constantly terrified of being discovered or confronted about being a fascist, which thankfully limited my activities. I never made contact with any racist groups or individuals offline, and at best I could only donate money and anonymously post fliers.
Halfway through college, my unit was activated and deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Going to Iraq really pushed me to my breaking point and during my tour I was treated for major depression and thoughts of suicide. This caused a significant crisis of conscience…I finally got a taste of what it’s like to hurt other people and I hated it. I never fired a single shot (thank goodness) but occupying another person’s land, holding them at gunpoint, these are all acts of violence and my raw, emotional reaction to what I witnessed knocked me out of my world view.
Except it didn’t affect that first axiom, that something is terribly wrong with the world. It only affected the conclusions I drew from it, and this led me to Anarchism.
I began to do some introspection, and I started noticing contradictions in my previous belief. If I was opposed to the government, then what should replace it? Wouldn’t a coup fail to prevent tyranny? It wouldn’t change the fundamental structure of government that allows oppression in the first place. Saying phrases like “racial tribalism” is just empty rhetoric, not a coherent theory or plan of action.
When Occupy Wall Street kicked off, I saw Anarchists in the news, and I really liked what they stood for (plus those black bloc masks were totally dope). I started reading Anarchist news, as well as the “classics”, like The Conquest of Bread and Anarchism and Other Essays. These ideas showed me the problem isn’t in governance per se, but in hierarchy, which exploits and abuses all underneath it.
I also realized my problems with other peoples were really my own problems. During therapy, I discovered I had been depressed for years, spending much of my time in isolation. Instead of seeking help, I chose to scapegoat. This reminds me of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s observation of Dylan Roof, the perpetrator of the Charleston church shooting:
“Isolated, alienated, alone in the world, his sole remaining possession was his whiteness, the only thing that gave his existence meaning.”
He may as well have been talking about me.
Our society is still incredibly racist, and it cloaks its racism behind the color of law and respectability. For example, many white people find it easier to believe that people of color are more prone to crime, rather than concluding what the prison system’s victims have been saying for decades: that the state criminalizes and targets dark skinned people. These same people concerned about inner city violence aren’t as concerned when whites bomb entire cities into rubble. This illusion of respectability allows people to behave in a racist manner while remaining oblivious to it. That’s why it was so easy for me to become a fascist. It is a privilege to hurt so many while still receiving respect, and my “whiteness” allows me this privilege. If I struggle, then I must cling to and defend my whiteness at all costs, lest I lose my last source of comfort. This thinking was mostly unconscious but I very much viewed myself a “victim of multiculturalism”. This is the major contradiction of fascism: “We are supermen, but the slightest loss of power threatens our very existence.” It is delusional and fascists use it to hide the fact they aren’t necessarily stronger or smarter than anybody else. It’s quite useful to them, psychologically speaking.
But this new theory, this Anarchism, it helped free me from hatred. I no longer have to live in fear because those around me are people, and we can live and work together so that all our needs are met, leaving us free to pursue our own desires. I can finally be myself.
So what is to be done? Like I said earlier, no platform gets the goods. I have no doubt about that. Lately, however, we’ve seen a surge of fascist organizing in the open, largely inspired by Donald Trump’s victory through the electoral college. Many of these events have been smashed, but the fascists managed to drive off Antifa at an April 15th protest in Berkeley. For No Platform to fully work, we have to organize better and hit harder than the fascists. Still, if I and others have changed, how can we use this to smash white supremacy? Musician Darly Davis reports he’s personally befriended and convinced around 300 people to leave the Klan. I’ve also heard that some Antifas help former racists leave the white supremacist movement. I don’t believe this should be our main focus, but it appears to be a viable strategy we should continue to pursue. Every individual we can save is one less we have to confront in the streets.