January 6, 2017

New Year’s Resolution: Let’s Not Fuck About, Shall We?


Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. By Charles J. Stivale, via Wikimedia Commons.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. By Charles J. Stivale, via Wikimedia Commons.

So. It’s 2017. And like every other year, you’ve decided to go back to the gym, if only to drop the ten pounds you put on righteously stuffing your cake-hole in recent weeks. Maybe you even got a gift membership over the holidays. Fantastic. Exercise is the cheapest anti-depressant available. And with what’s coming—both in terms of the global creep of fascism and the likely repeal of Obamacare—you’re gonna need it.

But wait. There’s more!

Odd as this may sound, it’s comforting for us to think about the Trump era strictly in terms of what we might call state-capture, which is exactly why liberals are performing all manner of outrages about Russia, Trump’s business deals, the number of court appointments he’ll oversee; or how he’ll gut healthcare, maybe privatize the VA, or… you know… kick off a new nuclear arms race.

These horrors are comforting because they’re relatively discreet, finite. Intervening against them has similarly determinate, surgical contours. This week’s attempted raid on the Office of Congressional Ethics, and the “this is what we’ll see for the next two years” rage it’s provoked on Twitter, provide a fairly crisp instance. Here, we can glimpse and take cover in a possible endpoint to this nightmare, which is why we’ve grabbed for every ballot recount, Electoral College revolt, and class action lawsuit on the way down.

Problem is, the notion that this is merely some unchecked rightward consolidation—an extreme expression of standard GOP politics—is delusional. It’s the sort of fantasy one can afford when one’s relative privileges in the world more or less ensure one’s survival to some better day. For anyone not so immunized—inebriated, even—there’s a whole other world unfolding. A much messier, more terrifying one, which we may not get back in its box before the ecological clock runs out.

“The concept of the totalitarian State applies only at the macropolitical level, to a rigid segmentarity and a particular mode of totalization and centralization,” write Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus, in a chapter ominously titled “1933.” “But fascism is inseparable from a proliferation of molecular focuses in interaction, which skip from point to point, before beginning to resonate together in the National Socialist State.”

Think, here, of the hundreds of reported hate crimes following Trump’s election. Or the Pizzagate gunman. Or the case of Olga Perez Stable Cox, a Latina lesbian academic in Orange County sent into hiding by death threats after campus Republicans published online a video of her in class describing Trump’s election as “an act of terrorism.” Or the tidal wave of harassment and death threats Indianapolis union leader Chuck Jones faced after being mentioned in one of Trump’s tweets. Or the recent, similar attacks on Drexel University professor George Cicciariello-Maher after Breitbart went after him for his mockery of the white nationalist trope of “White Genocide.” Or rightwing 4Chan users coordinating to shutter DIY venues in DC, many of them legendary for giving space to vibrant, liberatory political movements (I give some history in my book, The Dog Walker).

Or the armed march on Whitefish, Montana currently being planned, and aimed at the town’s Jewish population. Or, as of a few nights ago, Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes actively rallying NYC fascists to attack attendees of a concert by the antifascist band Pink Mass at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus Bar.

“What makes fascism dangerous is its molecular or micropolitical power, for it is a mass movement: a cancerous body rather than a totalitarian organism,” Deleuze and Guattari explain. They continue:

American film has often depicted these molecular focal points; band, gang, sect, family, town, neighborhood, vehicle fascisms spare no one.  Only microfascism provides an answer to the global question: Why does desire desire its own repression, how can it desire its own repression? The masses certainly do not passively submit to power; nor do they “want” to be repressed, in a kind of masochistic hysteria; nor are they tricked by an ideological lure. Desire is never separable from complex assemblages that necessarily tie into molecular levels, from microformations already shaping postures, attitudes, perceptions, expectations, semiotic systems, etc. Desire is never an undifferentiated instinctual energy, but itself results from a highly developed, engineered setup rich in interactions: a whole supple segmentarity that processes molecular energies and potentially gives desire a fascist determination.

The truth is—and we all knew this, whatever we swallowed back to steel ourselves in the face of recent electoral outcomes—even if a lawsuit, or recount, or Hamilton Elector had yanked our asses from the proverbial fire, the moment Trump was tossed on his ass, blood would’ve run in the streets. If you think Trump isn’t aware of this, think again. He’s already requesting the names of all State and Homeland Security employees who’ve worked on monitoring extremist groups, almost certainly to oust or neutralize them and set fire to their work, just as he has sought to do with regard to climate science and gender equality programs. A world is very likely in the offing wherein Trump gets to continue holding Nuremberg-style rallies after he takes office, and any check on the armed, bigoted organizations he’s wink-nudged since announcing his candidacy will be long gone. The gloves are coming off, kids. Bonus: The police unions endorsed him, so you can stow any lingering hopes of protection from official channels.

That is the situation we face, and it is light years from anything that can be solved by installing Keith Ellison as DNC chair, or finally ditching the Electoral College.

So, get swole. Because here’s the hard truth: Bullies—and fascists are nothing if not bullies—do not care about your appeals to higher principles and are not swayed by your humanity. The only thing that deters them is the fear of what their actions might cost them. The same goes for institutions tacitly enabling them. Drexel’s initial irresponsible decision to rebuke Cicciariello-Maher. Tech execs agreeing to meet with Trump (fuck, anyone agreeing to meet with him). Publishing houses handing six-figure contracts to trolls. And so on. There should be real and tangible costs for these things.

Whatever your mode of response, if you’re not talking about strategies that actively and immediately protect vulnerable people at the ground level and exact a measurable price for fascist impulses and organization, you may want to ask whether you’ve lost the plot. You don’t have to like that assessment. In fact, feelings about it are pretty irrelevant. That platitude about the right thing not being the easy thing has never been more relevant.

Best to begin the adjustment. Don’t skip the gym.



Joshua Stephens is the author of The Dog Walker. His writing has also appeared in Gawker, AlterNet, TruthOut, The Outpost, Jadaliyya, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory.