Andrew Sullivan: The 'polite' fascist is a fascist nonetheless.
He doesn't wield a torch, he carries columns.
Andrew Sullivan is a fascist.
And now, I will use his own words to justify that statement.
While he has a large back catalogue of racist, totalitarian-comforting fuckery to deal with, I’m only going to use his latest column, published through his Weekly Dish newsletter, as the evidence for the prosecution.
Warning: Contains raw, unprocessed fascist thought. This isn’t dog whistles, this is a pile of megaphones.
Here’s how he starts:
It finally happened. We have lethal battles in the streets between the two tribes of our polarized politics. This week, a 17-year-old man, Kyle Rittenhouse, brought a rifle to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in order, it appears, to protect the businesses that were being burned down or ransacked by rioters after the police shooting of alleged rapist, Jacob Blake. In a series of skirmishes between Rittenhouse and BLM and Antifa activists on the streets of Kenosha, three men pursuing Rittenhouse were shot and two killed by the vigilante in what appears to be some kind of self-defense.
If he were at all committed to the facts, Sullivan would note that Rittenhouse was driven by his mother across state lines, in possession of an illegal weapon, and that his presence on the streets was in contravention of a curfew. Kenosha is not Rittenhouse’s home and those businesses were not his businesses.
Rittenhouse and his gang — militia is a bit of handwaving used by people who want to legitimise this behaviour — went to stoke trouble and they found it. Rittenhouse murdered two people. And Sullivan knows that. It’s simply that he finds the killings to be justified. He just can’t say it with his whole chest; weasel words are his speciality.
He goes on:
I’m doing my best to convey the gist of what happened — and there’s an excellent, detailed report of the incident from the NYT — without justifying any of it. No excuse for vigilantism; no excuse for looting, rioting and arson. The truth is: even a few minutes of chaos and violence can contain a universe of confusing events, motives and dynamics that are extremely hard to parse immediately. And yet it is the imperative of our current culture that we defend one side as blameless and the other as the source of all evil.
That’s the section I’d call the ‘I am very smart’ element of the column, but in truth, it’s just the more literate version of Donald Trump’s ‘good people on both sides’ mumbling after Charlottesville.
Hold on for more pretentious pandering to the far-right coming up right now:
In the current chaos, I’ve come to appreciate Marcus Aurelius’s maxim that “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” And I have to say I’m horribly conflicted on some issues. I’m supportive of attempts to interrogate the sins of the past, in particular the gruesome legacy of slavery and segregation, and their persistent impact on the present. And in that sense, I’m a supporter of the motives of the good folks involved with the Black Lives Matter movement.
But I’m equally repelled by the insistent attempt by BLM and its ideological founders to malign and dismiss the huge progress we’ve made, to re-describe the American experiment in freedom as one utterly defined by racism, and to call the most tolerant country on the planet, with unprecedented demographic diversity, a form of “white supremacy”. I’m tired of hearing Kamala Harris say, as she did yesterday: “The reality is that the life of a black person in America has never been treated as fully human.” This is what Trump has long defended as “truthful hyperbole” — which is a euphemism for a lie.
The lived experience of black people doesn’t matter much, if at all, to Sullivan, who would support Black Lives Matter if it were quietly and ‘respectfully’ asking for rights. Sullivan, had he been fouling the air back then, would have considered Martin Luther King Jnr. a terrorist. He’d deny it, but in his dark heart, he knows that’s true.
And it continues:
But here’s one thing I have absolutely no conflict about. Rioting and lawlessness is evil. And any civil authority that permits, condones or dismisses violence, looting and mayhem in the streets disqualifies itself from any legitimacy. This comes first. If one party supports everything I believe in but doesn’t believe in maintaining law and order all the time and everywhere, I’ll back a party that does. In that sense, I’m a one-issue voter, because without order, there is no room for any other issue. Disorder always and everywhere begets more disorder; the minute the authorities appear to permit such violence, it is destined to grow. And if liberals do not defend order, fascists will.
Yes, protest is fine until it tries to change anything. And the last line of that paragraph is exactly the kind of invective that Sullivan became frustrated that his last home, New York Magazine, would not permit him to publish: “… if liberals do not defend order, fascists will.” I can picture Andrew getting measured up for his black shirt as I write.
Andrew Sullivan watched the despotic pantomime of the Republican National Convention and found it… compelling:
The key theme of the RNC was reminding people of the American narrative that once was. Yes, it was unbelievably vulgar. Yes, it looked like a cross between a sophisticated CGI video-game and a crude car dealer ad with a dollop of Leni Riefenstahl. But it was extremely effective. To see that, you have to remove your frontal cortex and put it in a jar, accept that it’s all going to be a series of lies so massive they stupefy us into stutters, and then cop the feels. Pence gave us a vision of America that was a souped up Disney special from the early 1960s — from Fort McHenry no less. And look at the icons Trump invoked: Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Davy Crockett, and Buffalo Bill. You can mock. But in the midst of a culture being redescribed by the left as a form of foul and relentless “white supremacy”, and in a moment of arson and rioting, it felt like a kind of balm.
And how does Sullivan see protestors, driven to action by yet another shooting of a black man? Well, he’s not so keen:
These despicable fanatics, like it or not, are now in part the face of the Democrats: a snarling bunch of self-righteous, entitled bigots, chanting slogans rooted in pseudo-Marxist claptrap, erecting guillotines — guillotines! — in the streets as emblems of their agenda. They are not arguing; they are attempting to coerce. And liberals, from the Biden campaign to the New York Times, are too cowardly and intimidated to call out these bullies and expel them from the ranks.
This is all ‘the battlefield of ideas’ stuff, where Sullivan, long given a high spot to snipe from, acts as if power dynamics don’t exist. When the guillotines are built, people like Sullivan better run.
He argues, with a straight face, that New York Times, until recently home to Bari Weiss and which published Tom Cotton’s op-ed, is a bastion of the hard-left. The output of that paper on a daily basis shows the lines below are gibberish:
Remember the pivotal moment earlier this summer when the New York Times caved to its activist staff and fired James Bennet? It’s no accident this was over an op-ed that argued that if New York City would not stop the rioting in the streets, the feds should step in to restore order. For the far left activists who now control that paper, the imposition of order was seen not as an indispensable baseline for restoring democratic debate, but as a potential physical attack on black staffers. They saw restoring order within the prism of their own critical race ideology, which stipulates that the police are enforcers of white supremacy, and not enforcers of the rule of law in a liberal society.
Finally, we get to the sinister heart of Sullivan’s argument:
And let’s be frank about this and call this by its name: this is very Weimar. The center has collapsed. Armed street gangs of far right and far left are at war on the streets. Tribalism is intensifying in every nook and cranny of the culture. The establishment right and mainstream left tolerate their respective extremes because they hate each other so much.
As my friend, Willard Foxton Todd noted, “I’m not convinced you can say, ‘This is just like Weimar, I’m voting Hitler because I think Otto Wels is too weak to resist the communists’, without people at least poking the edges of the cognitive dissonance.”
Sullivan thinks he is incredibly smart. He is the most boring man at the dinner party, the unbearable old soak at the end of the bar with the ‘Mussolini made the trains run on time’ opinions, he is a fascist who doesn’t want to admit that’s how he gets his kicks:
Biden needs a gesture of real Sister Souljah clarity to put daylight between him and the violent left. He has indeed condemned the riots, with caveats. But at some point, the caveats have to go. And the sooner the better.
That reference to Sister Souljah, so old Sullivan will have had to blow the dust off it, refers to Bill Clinton’s public and severe repudiation of the rapper and activist. Speaking to the Washington Post in 1992, she was asked about the LA riots and whether the violent action was wise. She replied:
Yeah, it was wise. I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?... White people, this government and that mayor were well aware of the fact that black people were dying every day in Los Angeles under gang violence. So if you're a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person? Do you think that somebody thinks that white people are better, are above and beyond dying, when they would kill their own kind?
Speaking to Jesse Jackson, Sr.'s Rainbow Coalition in June 1992, Clinton responded both to the Washington Post interview and to something Souljah Sister had said in her song The Final Solution: Slavery's back in Effect —"If there are any good white people, I haven't met them" — with the line"If you took the words 'white' and 'black,' and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech."
It was not an off-the-cuff rebuttal by Clinton. He and his staff had debated long and hard about just how much the future President should distance himself from Jesse Jackson to mollify white voters. It was as calculated as Hilary Clinton’s 1996 reference to ‘super predators’:
Sullivan lives in the 90s, when columnists could say what they wanted with impunity, facing only the occasional letter of complaint, when he could say whatever he wanted about ‘race science’ and pour racist bile all over his writing. But we live in 2020 when the truth can be spoken: Andrew Sullivan is a fascist.