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On Punching Nazis & Forbidden Knowledge In 2017 (#GonzoNotes)

Posted in Gonzo Notes, Journalism, and LGBTQIA

Gonzo Notes” is Kit’s newsletter of political analysis and direct action tips.

The 21st Century Is Just Like The 20th, Only Faster & With Smartphones

Almost a month ago, in broad daylight in a busy urban neighborhood in Houston, nazis tried to shut down a book fair.

If you follow me online, you’ve heard about this incident: a group of about two dozen nazis targeted the Houston Anarchist Bookfair while I taught a class on antifascism (called “Punching Nazis”) inside. The volunteer security team prevented them from entering the building, and they left after throwing a temper tantrum for their livestream viewers. The book fair, and my class, continued after a brief but terrifying interruption.

Master gaslighters, as always, the nazis began their livestream by declaring themselves to be “peaceful,” then stood outside a community center armed with tactical gloves demanding that I — they called for me by name — come out and fight them. The bookfair’s organizers pointed out the likely results if we’d been drawn into a fight:

Purely reactive approaches to antifascism, where we escalate every provocation and always engage the fascists on their terms, is macho, nonstrategic, and counterproductive. That vision of a “victory” is five Nazis in the hospital, 10 antifascists in jail, and a significant event for recruiting, networking, and building our movements being canceled almost as soon as it gets underway.

Contrary to popular belief, while “antifa” are not opposed to violent self-defense, our use of it is strategic. As I explain in my class, Richard Spencer getting punched became an indelible image of resistance because it was selective, rather than random violence.

We know, on the other hand, that if the nazis had gained access to the book fair, they’d have done violence to person and destruction to property, because that’s classic nazi shit when faced with knowledge that they fear. In addition to calling for me to fight them, they underlined their intent by declaring “we won’t let you turn our kids queer” in reference to another workshop at the bookfair which offered tips on giving kids a healthy, feminist, intersectional sex education.

Those words tie these “neo” nazis directly to the original flavor. Many people are familiar with the photo at the top of this newsletter, but fewer realize that it depicts the burning of the library belonging to the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft. This German research institute was a global pioneer in supporting (rather than shaming) alternative sexual identities and transgender people.

Imagine how much was lost. The LGBTQIA rights movement might have blossomed decades before Stonewall, if this information hadn’t been destroyed. We lost decades.

Genocide isn’t only about mass murder; it’s also about destroying knowledge.

Masked fascists in matching khakis and white polo shirts gather outside the Houston Anarchist Bookfair 2017 on September 24, 2017. (Screenshot)

The nazis who attacked the bookfair mostly belonged to an offshoot of Vanguard America, the nazi party that included Heather Heyer’s killer. This spin off, which calls itself “Patriot Front,” is led by a fresh-faced 18-year-old named Thomas Rousseau, creepily groomed for the position by a much-older white supremacist known as “Azzmador.”

Patriot Front is abandoning blatantly nazi imagery. Instead, their website (which they seized from Vanguard America) and social media feed are full of red, white and blue appeals to the Founding Fathers. It’s clearly a way to distance the group from violent white supremacy after Charlottesville, in an attempt to bring back conservatives who were disgusted by what happened there.

This too is classic nazi shit. Nazis in their way are as American as apple pie and crowdfunding for health care. 20,000 nazis crammed into Madison Square Garden in 1939, but beyond simple material support our way of life provided inspiration for the Third Reich. Hitler was open about his admiration for the American genocide against African Americans and our indigenous people.

Back in the present, some people say the “anime nazis” are on the run. Around the country, they keep canceling events (including a book burning). The fascists themselves claim they’re merely going underground and plan to stage more “flash mob” style actions like the bookfair attack. We’re already seeing a new wave of white nationalist posters appearing on city streets and college campuses.

Regardless, we know that our government (and police and military) are full of white supremacists. And they’re destroying knowledge — take climate science data as one example, which is already beginning to disappear from government servers.

It’s less obvious than a swastika flag, but we know the most vulnerable, impoverished and marginalized will suffer first and most. Look at Puerto Rico, and tell me that isn’t white supremacy in action.

I can’t tell you if we’ll still be fighting nazis in the streets in six months or a year. But I can tell you we will still be fighting to protect human knowledge from white supremacy, and that battle is longer, more difficult, and just as vital.

Stay strong, and never give the fash what they want.

When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill. — AI WEIWEI

Gonzo action tips

This week, I want you to distribute subversive literature — specifically zines.

Thousands of zines are available for you to print online. Oh Shit! What Now? collective offers a few, but you can find more at places like Sprout Distro and in the It’s Going Down zine library.

You can, and should, share and discuss zines with your friends. I’m challenging you now to go further and find creative places to leave them around town. You can leave zines in Little Free Libraries, with other literature at your local cafe, near schools, even at the bus stop.

If you wanted to take it even further, you could find an abandoned free newspaper kiosk and transform it into a “free zine” kiosk …

Tell me about a creative place you’ve left zines at

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On Punching Nazis & Forbidden Knowledge In 2017 by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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