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“Alex fucking Jones. He’s a piece of shit. Quote me on that,” scott crow told me.
I sat down with the anarchist organizer and author last month at my house in Austin when he delivered some copies of his book, “Emergency Hearts, Molotov Dreams: a scott crow reader” to use in my Gonzo Giveaway.
While our paths cross frequently in the Austin activist community, I don’t get a chance to formally interview him often. “Emergency Hearts” features another, a three-part interview I originally published when I edited for Firedoglake (now known as Shadowproof).
2017 was a historic year in so many ways, many of them disturbing ones, and I wanted his perspective on what often seems like the collapse of democracy as we’ve known it. As crow put it,
What a weird time in America, where we’re much more liberal on one side, but we’re also much more conservative on the other. I think that having the tiny-headed orange one in the White House has been more disruptive than any other president I’ve seen in my life.
One of the most alarming features of the current moment is the role of media: the collapse of traditional investigative journalism, attempts by tech giants to silence the left-leaning independent media, and the rise of far-right propaganda that successfully masquerades as news.
This part of the interview focuses on scott crow‘s thoughts on the media and fascist propaganda, but I’ll share more in future installments early next year, including a look at the present and future of antifascism.
“Critical thinking is already difficult in America because it’s not taught to anyone, and then over the last 20 or 30 years we’ve been inundated with the 24-hour news cycle,” crow told me.
That cycle sped up over the past few years under the influence of social media, then accelerated still further in the Trump era, as any exhausted journalist can tell you. To make it all worse, the left struggles to combat the growing influence of fascist trash like Infowars (whose founder, Jones, crow referenced in this article’s opener), and Infowars’ even weirder cousins where the worst of the worst memes like Pizzagate and QAnon fester and spread.
crow collaborates with Agency, an anarchist public relations collective, where one of his duties is to track the rise of fascist media online.
“I really started to pay attention to this in the fall, just before Charlottesville,” he recalled. “Actually it was super terrifying to watch.”
In particular, we were both horrified by the rapid spread of conspiracy theories around November 4, a day of action called by the Revolutionary Communist Party (a small but often disruptive communist splinter group), which the far right transformed into an incipient civil war. YouTube flooded with dozens of near identical videos, each one stoking fear and panic about what the fascist right wing imagined might happen on that day.
The claims about November 4 quickly spread from YouTube, reddit, and other more obscure places:
Alex fucking piece of shit Jones just began to say really ludicrous and outlandish things. He was saying that antifa, antifascist people were going to kill people on November 4, they were going to behead people, they were going to have super soldiers with super serum. This sounds like comic book stuff but then it gets picked up by more quote unquote “mainstream” right wing news and then it makes its way to Fox News.
“I was very worried,” crow recalled.
Luckily it didn’t materialize into massive numbers of fascists showing up in the streets, “but the fact that they got that kind of traction in all of these alternative media places is something that we need to pay attention to.”
The darkest places on the internet have become a breeding ground for these kinds of virulent misinformation. “The fact that this news can spread — it’s not even news — this fake information, these conspiracies can really spread in these places that we’re not even looking at is something that progressive people or people with radical ideas need to look at and address.”
Making the media landscape all the more challenging, the far right’s propaganda outlets are funded by shadowy think tanks and rich benefactors like the Mercers, while the independent media on the left fights over crowdfunding scraps.
“How do you combat that if you have anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist people who are trying to repel money to a degree?” crow asked.
He didn’t have clear answers, but suggested it’s up to anarchists and other radicals to develop a more nuanced take to the issue than the corporate media and tech giants, which are coming down indiscriminately against independent media in their quest to stamp out “fake news.”
“We have to recognize that this is potentially very dangerous,” crow said.
Just as antifascists believe fascists must to be stopped in the streets by any means necessary, he suggested direct action will be required to shut down fascist propaganda outlets like Infowars as well.
“We need to pay attention to these people; there needs to be a high cost for the hate speech they’re engaging in.”
Check out scott crow’s latest book, “Setting Sights: Histories and Reflections on Community Armed Self Defense,” now available from PM Press.
scott crow On The Media In An Age Of Antifascist Conflict by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://kitoconnell.com/2017/12/31/scott-crow-on-the-media/.
This post was made possible by Kit’s patrons, including a generous anonymous sponsor who asks that you support Austin Pets Alive! with your time and money.