Sheldon Kirshner

Trump’s misbegotten rally attracted the alt-right

A ragged assortment of alt-right fanatics and antisemites were seen at President Donald Trump’s infamous “Save America” rally in Washington, D.C., which erupted into an orgy of anarchy, insurrection and violence after he incited them to vent their rage at the seat of government on Capitol Hill.

Among them were white supremacists carrying Confederate flags, neo-Nazis, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and members of militia groups ranging from the Groyper Army and the Three Percenters to the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers.

The last time so many far-right activists converged in one place was at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the summer of 2017, during which they chanted, “Jews will not replace us” at a notorious nighttime march.

Trump supporters gathered in the American capital on January 6, the day Congress was to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in last November’s presidential election. Whipping the crowd into a frenzy and claiming yet again he had been cheated out of victory, he reiterated the false claim that he had defeated Biden by a landslide.

The unproven allegation that the election had been rigged was embraced by such Republican senators as Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and by right-wing television commentators Tucker Carlson and Glenn Beck, who alleged that the “deep state” had fixed the election.

Having unsuccessfully tried to persuade Vice-President Mike Pence to invalidate the certification process to confirm Biden’s victory, Trump exhorted his angry followers to challenge the result of the election.

Trump, therefore, bears the most responsibility for having lit the fuse of the short-lived insurrection, which claimed the lives of five people, including a policeman, and led to his second impeachment in the House of Representatives in less than a year.

As masses of rioters stormed Capitol Hill, in an unprecedented event in American history, they trashed and stole property and occupied the offices of elected officials. Trump watched the carnage on television in the White House, never once condemning this odious affront to law and order and democracy until it had been suppressed.

One of the lawbreakers was Robert Keith Packer, 56, of Newport News, Virginia. He stood out in the crowd, wearing a provocative sweatshirt with the words “Camp Auschwitz” on the front and “Work Brings Freedom” on the back. Holocaust survivors must have squirmed as they watched this nauseating exhibition.

Arrested on January 13, he was charged with several criminal offenses. Packer, clearly an antisemite, was encouraged to attend the rally by ultra-conservative online platforms like Telegram, Parler and, some of which have sine been de-platformed by Twitter and Facebook.

Etsy, the online retailer, removed the Auschwitz sweatshirt from its shelves after the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland tweeted that it was “painful to survivors and disrespectful to the memory of all victims of Auschwitz.” Etsy claimed, most unconvincingly, that its “longstanding policies prohibit items that promote hate or violence.”

There were chilling parallels between the violence that broke out at Trump’s misbegotten rally and the dystopian plot of The Turner Diaries, an antisemitic novel that has inspired a slew of hate crimes and terrorist attacks, including Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

William Luther Pierce, a physicist originally from Texas and the leader of an outfit known as the National Alliance, wrote The Turner Diaries in the form of diary entries under the pseudonym of Andrew Macdonald. Published in the mid-1970s, it revolves around a group of white American fascists who try to incite a race war by launching terrorist attacks on the symbols of the U.S. government, Capitol Hill and FBI headquarters.

And in what Pierce describes as ‘the day of the rope,’ despised politicians, businessmen, judges, teachers and journalists are lynched in mass hangings. The novel’s narrator Earl Turner, writes in his diary, “The real value of our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties. They learned that not one of them is beyond our reach.”

Celebrating last week’s violence in Washington, users of fascist sites like Stormfront and 4chan compared it to the “day of the rope.” By no coincidence, they erected makeshift gallows on the grounds of the “Save America” rally. “The Turner Diaries mentioned this,” one user wrote approvingly on Telegram.

Pierce, who died in 2002, left a legacy of loathsome, unadulterated hatred. He espoused an exclusively white homeland and the genocide of Jews, themes that American fascists have embraced.

Amazon has removed The Turner Diaries from its website, but it remains a source of inspiration to some Americans who regard Trump as a kind of kindred spirit.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,
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