Over the past few years, my views on the future of American culture have been quite dark. The Republican party has become a de facto regime — protecting power for itself, regardless of the constitution and rule of law. We have a president that commonly and often places himself above the law, and is not challenged by his Republican colleagues. A large, vocal minority of this country takes this man, and this party, at face value, immune from science, facts, or even the ever-changing narrative the party provides. Still, I often tell myself that it’s not that bad, that I’m too critical, that my fears of major collapse are little more than an outlier event which most generations face.
Tonight, I worry that even I may have been too passive a citizen.
…the act against a group who stands against fascists must then be, simply, and horrifically plainly, an act of fascism.
In the last 24 hours, two sitting Republican senators have called for the slaying of American citizens with which they disagree with. Not detainment and prosecution — still a gross violation of the first amendment — but extrajudicial murder. To be hunted down. Their words, not mine.
The first tweet came from the Republican Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton. In a tweet, he supported using the United States military in its full weight and force to “restore order”. That in itself is wildly problematic in a free state.
Cotton goes on to say that there should be “no quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters and looters.”
The phrase “no quarter” has its roots in the wartime act of not accepting the surrender or capture of the enemy, executing them instead. It has been illegal in the United States since the days of Lincoln. It is a war crime. It is a violation of the U.S. Department of Defense Law of War Manual, which states:
Prohibition Against Declaring That No Quarter Be Given. It is forbidden to declare that no quarter will be given. This means that it is prohibited to order that legitimate offers of surrender will be refused or that detainees, such as unprivileged belligerents, will be summarily executed. Moreover, it is also prohibited to conduct hostilities on the basis that there shall be no survivors, or to threaten the adversary with the denial of quarter.
This rule is based on both humanitarian and military considerations. This rule also applies during non-international armed conflict.
Tom Cotton attempted to walk back this war crime by referring his Twitter followers to the Merriam-Webster definition of ‘quarter’, which is more ambiguously to show “no pity or mercy”.
Taken at face value, it is at best, incredibly concerning to use that term specifically. Maybe he did not intend to invoke the idea that American citizens should be summarily executed for their participation in illegal activities of unrest.
And maybe I could have let that slide as incredibly poor judgment, or intentionally being a provocateur of sorts. But that benefit of the doubt came to a crashing halt just hours later when his colleague from the House, Matt Gaetz from Florida made it quite clear what kind of “no quarter” he stood for.
Early Monday afternoon, Gaetz tweeted “Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?”
There are few ways to take this that are even remotely legal. Even if he is not suggesting the extrajudicial murder of American dissenters — which I think he most clearly is — Antifa is not a terrorist organization, nor have they been responsible for a single death. Ever.
I’ll say that again. Antifa has not been responsible for the death of any person, ever.
The narrative that they are responsible for any part of the destructive unrest going on in this country is not based on any reasonable measure of evidence or fact. In fact, Twitter removed an account, @Antifa_US, after it became clear it was being run by white nationals aiming to stoke tensions.
Even if Antifa was responsible for the vast majority of the unrest — which, again, there is no evidence to support — the constitution of this country affords them due process. Due process to, namely, not be murdered by a political party and their supporters for holding views they do not agree with.
These tweets can roughly be traced back to the President himself, who for days has promoted the baseless narrative that Antifa is in some way responsible for the unrest. He has called out the group — if you can even call them that — directly, as well as making references to the protestors being “professionally organized”.
It does not matter what your opinion on Antifa is, just as is does not matter what your view of the KKK is. Free speech is given to all of us. Further, constitutional rights are protected for — especially for — those accused of a crime, as spelled out in both the 5th and 14th Amendments. That includes even acts of terror or suspected terrorists.
It is worth noting what, exactly, Antifa is and is not. Despite their best efforts, conservatives have been unable to identify any leadership, organization, or agenda of the Antifa movement. That’s not a coincidence — no such discernable things exist. They have no clear organization, being a loosely banded together group of social media accounts and personas. They have no stated leader or leadership, and no mechanisms of authority to direct other groups. And they have no stated agenda, aside from the vehement opposition to fascism, violently if need be. They are simply anti-fascists. Antifa.
The idea that this could be designated a terror group by any administration should inspire laughter. Instead, it inspires a harrowing look at the direction of our government.
White nationalism, when including the infamous history of the KKK, has claimed hundreds, if not thousands of lives. Hell, more employees of abortion clinics have been killed by American domestic religious terrorists than Antifa has killed (which is, again, zero). Even if Antifa was responsible for every brick, every injury, every tipped car and every fire across this nation — which, again, there is zero evidence to support even a moderate level of involvement, and none to support an organized effort — they would still rank as “small beans” on the U.S. domestics terrorism scorecard.
And yet, we sit today with two members of Congress who have attempted to declare open season on this movement, and its followers.
Antifa is not the enemy of the people, even if you oppose them with every part of your being. Antifa does not inspire fear in the American people — with no organization and very limited participation, they are objectively weak. Antifa is meant to inspire fear and hesitation into one group of people: fascists.
It is that which concerns me the most. Even if all of the worst claims of Antifa were true, they are but a minor threat to the domestic security of this country. They are no match for any police force, certainly not the U.S. military.
So the act against a group who stands against fascists must then be, simply, and horrifically plainly, an act of fascism.
This cannot be tolerated.
Twitter should ban both accounts permanently. Lawmakers from both sides — especially the side from which they were uttered — should denounce these ideas, and demand immediate resignation from both members of Congress.
A fair and unbiased Department of Justice should investigate Matt Gaetz. The Attorney General — or anyone with authority — should charge Tom Cotton for promoting and endorsing a war crime in violation of our own War Manual.
The president should be forced to either produce evidence and intelligence that Antifa is organizing as he claims they are, or he should be banned from making such claims to the American people.
None of those things, of course, will happen. Twitter will punt, held hostage by those that demand free speech on their platform, who then demand the free speech of others be ended, with capital punishment if necessary. Republicans will be harrowingly silent. There will be no investigation or reprimand of any kind. And these unlawful statements will be allowed to remain.
Facsim in the open.
So it is up to us. In the coming days, weeks, and months, the freedom-loving citizens of this country must make their voices heard. That includes every demographic and party — surely democracy is more desirable than the tyranny of your party. As Lady Justice thrashes for breath, the knee of a regime pushing into her throat attempting to snuff her out, we must do more than just watch in disgust. We must wade through the rising waters of fascism, authoritarianism, and demand that this country be drained of the threat from within. We must use every avenue available to oppose the police state before resistance is futile.
Time may be running out. As America burns for the 7th night, I call out: may the light of the fires lead us to victory in the face of tyranny.
We must resist. Now.
I will be at the Orlando protests tomorrow. Connect with me — I want to be an ally in this moment.