Thursday, 14 January 2021

The ugly truth about neo-Nazis
at the Capitol and why Trump
says he loves the protesters

The ugly face of the far-right in Washington last week

Patrick Comerford

I sat up late into the night, watching the impeachment vote in Congress, and President Trump’s later egregious video from the White House.

I noticed, like many, that Trump’s video last night not only made no reference to his impeachment – a vote he cannot say was stolen – but how he still refuses to show any sense of responsibility or remorse for last week’s treasonous insurrection in Washington DC and the storming of the Capitol.

The responses have been interesting when I have referred to Trump in recent days in my blog postings or on social media.

One comment posted earlier this month read: ‘Trump is the greatest president of my lifetime. It is shocking how many erudite individuals such as yourself haven’t bothered to find out the truth about this man and why millions and millions of Americans love and support him ... Please show some curiousity (sic) about who Trump really is, why he was elected, the forces he is fighting, and why we love him and his family so much.’

And he (or she) goes on and on … He knows who I am but hid behind the pseudonym ‘Liberty.’ I do not know who he is, and he has not returned since last week’s riots to speak about truth or about love.

So, I thought I might just show how, as one ‘erudite individual,’ I have bothered to find out about this man and the many people who marched to his orders in Washington last week, those forces he is fighting with though not against.

One of the many horrifying images among the mob that went on the rampage last week shows a long-haired, long-bearded man wearing a black ‘Camp Auschwitz’ hoodie with the SS skull and crossbones.

In smaller letters is the phrase ‘Work Brings Freedom’ – a rough translation of the slogan Arbeit macht frei above the gates into Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. The back of his hoodie said ‘Staff.’ He has been identified as Robert Keith Packer, and was arrested in Virginia yesterday.

Some reports of the riot include a photograph of a ‘Proud Boys’ protester wearing a T-shirt with the initials ‘6MWE’ above yellow symbols of Italian Fascism. The slogan is an acronym for ‘Six Million Wasn’t Enough’ – a chilling reference to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

It now appears, after fact-checking, that the image is from a Proud Boys protest last month rather than from last week. But it reveals the disgusting ideology at the heart of the Proud Boys movement.

A Proud Boys protester … not at the Capitol last week, but showing his true colours and the company Trump keeps

The Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the Three Percenters are among the more prominent violent far-right groups that were prominent in last week’s rally addressed by Trump and in the mayhem that followed.

During a presidential debate in September, Trump told the Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by.’

Prominent Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis were part of the Capitol mob, and some Twitter users said their symbols included a swastika, although this has not been verified. The mob who wreaked havoc in Washington last week brought Nazi paraphernalia, Confederate flags, nooses and other hate signs into the Capitol.

The slogans and numerals displayed by Trump’s supporters on flags, signs and clothing included codes drawn from a variety of conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies shared on the far-right.

The slogan ‘America First’ has been used by Trump to summarise his foreign policy. But his use of this slogan has been criticised by the ADL, pointing out that it origins are in anti-Semitic demands to keep the US out of World War II.

Several members of the mob wore or carried signs invoking the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is laced with anti-Semitism and false allegations that a Democrat-run cabal of paedophiles is plotting to harvest the blood of children and take down Trump. In reference to this, one woman in last week’s riotous protests carried a sign saying, ‘The children cry out for justice.’

Other protesters carried a Confederate battle flag into the Capitol building, and a noose – a symbol of racist violence – was placed outside. In one instance, after members of the mob destroyed camera equipment from the Associated Press and made a noose out of the cords.

Other flags bore the phrase ‘when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty’ – a version of a quote dubiously attributed to Thomas Jefferson – and the Roman numeral III.

The numeral ‘III’ is the logo of the Three Percenters, also known as the III% militia. But, as 1-11, this is a numeric symbol for the Aryan Knights, a white supremacist group inspired by the ‘Aryan’ ideology the Nazis: giving numerical symbols to letters, 1 and 11 mean A and K, the Aryan Knights.

The symbol 109/110 also appeared last week. The figure 109 is white supremacist numeric shorthand for the number of countries anti-Semites claim Jews have been expelled from. In calling for the expulsion of Jews from the US, they often refer to the US as the 110th.

In the same way, 13/52 and 13/90 are numeric codes used by white supremacists who claim that Blacks make up 13% of the US population but commit 52% of all murders and 90% of all violent interracial crime.

Another flag used by the mob shows a coiled snake above the phrase ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’ The ‘Gadsden flag’ was used by Jerad and Amanda Miller, who killed two police officers and a civilian in the Las Vegas shootings in 2014.The Millers reportedly placed the Gadsden Flag on the corpse of one of the police officers they killed.

The Gadsden flag was draped around the shoulders of Rosanne Boyland when she trampled to death during the riots last week.

Other symbols include mediaeval helmets, knights’ weapons and symbols linked with the Crusaders and Templars, supposedly harkening back to an era when white, Christian warriors slaughtered Muslims and Jews.

An ‘intactivist’ protester in front of the Supreme Court in Washington last October

Anti-circumcision activists, also known as ‘intactivists,’ support banning all forms of circumcision and often use anti-Jewish imagery. An ‘intactivist’ comic book, ‘Foreskin Man,’ portrays blonde Aryan superheroes fighting Jewish mohels or ritual circumcisers.

The images and slogans used by an ‘intactivist’ protester in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington last October were seen in Washington DC last week. Some protesters carried signs reading ‘circumcision is the mark of the beast of satan’ and ‘outlaw satan’s circumcision.’

The Oath Keepers try to recruit members from among active or retired military, first responders and the police.

These are some of the people who travelled to Washington last week to support Trump and who were encouraged by him to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.

These extremists hope to trigger what they call the ‘Great Revolution,’ based on a fictionalised account of a government takeover and race war in which Jews would be exterminated.

The anonymous ‘Q’ has approvingly retweeted the anti-Semitic image of a knife-wielding Jew wearing a Star of David necklace, standing knee-deep in the blood of Russians, Poles, Hungarians and Ukrainians. In recent days, QAnon has targeted the Jewish billionaire philanthropist and investor George Soros, portraying him the primary figure shaping and controlling world events. A century ago, the Rothschilds, a family of Jewish bankers, were depicted in the same way.

QAnon members and other far-right activists regularly mark Jews with triple parentheses, a covert means of outing those they identify as usurpers, outsiders, and not true members of the white race. But the three brackets on each side add up to six, another reference to the six million victims of the Holocaust.

Kyle Chapman, a leader of the Proud Boys, recently threatened to ‘confront the Zionist criminals who wish to destroy our civilization.’ The West, he explained ‘was built by the White Race alone and we owe nothing to any other race.’ He uses the term ‘white genocide’ as a shorthand way of claiming the white population in the US will soon be overwhelmed. A popular white supremacist slogan, konw as the ‘14 words’ and seen on signs outside the Capitol last week, says ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’

Many of these symbols, slogans and flags have been analysed in a widely-published essay by Professor Jonathan D Sarna of Brandeis University, a scholar of American anti-Semitism, and they have been explained in detail on the websites of the World Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League.

He points out how the slogan ‘white genocide’ comes from a larger document, ‘The White Genocide Manifesto,’ drawn up by David Lane, one of the conspirators behind the murder of the Jewish radio host Alan Berg in 1984. The manifesto also blames what it calls the ‘Zionist occupation governments of America’ for homosexuality and abortion.

QAnon followers, the Proud Boys and the other far-right groups prominent in Washington last week, believe they are living out the great fantasy played out in The Turner Diaries, a 1978 dystopian novel, by William Luther Pierce. The novel depicts the violent overthrow of the US government, nuclear conflagration, race war and the ultimate extermination of non-whites and ‘undesirable racial elements among the remaining white population.’

Seyward Darby pointed out in The New York Times last week that the gallows erected at the Capitol recalls the novel’s depiction of ‘the day of the rope,’ when so-called betrayers of their race were lynched. Professor Sarna points out that Darby could have gone on to refer to the way the novel subsequently depicts ‘a war to the death with the Jew.’

The book warns Jews that their ‘day is coming.’ When it does, at the novel’s conclusion, mass lynchings and a takeover of Washington set off a worldwide conflagration. Within a few days, ‘the throat of the last Jewish survivor in the last kibbutz and in the last, smoking ruin in Tel Aviv had been cut.’

The use of the The Turner Diaries and the anti-Semitic images from the Capitol last week are timely reminders of the place Jews hold in the intentions of the mob beloved by Trump.

I described last week’s events in Washington as ‘a planned coup attempt, to be compared with Hitler in Munich.’ I asked, ‘Why has Trump not been arrested for sedition and armed rebellion? He talked this up, rallied the mob, and must be jailed.’

One response from Ireland said, ‘It only gets better for the American people. They now have 4 years of a Marxist President with Biden. Biden is pro abortion pro gay marriage and wants to water down the church. Biden is vile.’ The conspiracy theories have their advocates in Ireland too.

In his first statements on the violence, Trump called on his supporters to be peaceful, but still lauded them as ‘very special,’ adding that ‘we love you.’

‘What is needed now is for us to listen to one another, not silence one another,’ he said in last night’s video. ‘All of us can choose by our actions to rise above the rancour and find common ground and shared purpose.’

This jibe is on a par with telling an abused wife to find common ground with a violent husband, or telling a Jew in Auschwitz to find common ground with the camp guards. Compromising with the Nazis and meeting them half-way would have sent three million Jews to the gas chambers. There can be no common ground, no compromise with Nazis; we must always speak out against racism and hate-speech and expose the motives and plans of those who spout it out.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author of Night, said, ‘We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’

The World Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League have decoded the coded letters and numerals used by the far-right

Why a teenage football fan
turned to a paper round,
journalism and justice

As a young teenager, I came to appreciate the architectural details and variety found on Kenilworth Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing yesterday about Kenilworth Square in Rathgar, the architecture of its houses, and the people who lived there over the past century and a half.

I mentioned, in passing, that in my early teens I got to know this square and the streets and houses in the immediate area.

I think I may have been about 11 or 12 when I walked around Kenilworth Square and along those houses almost every weekend. My uncle Arthur Comerford, who lived nearby on Rathgar Road, was my father’s elder half-brother and he and his wife, my Aunt Kathleen, had been my godparents at my Baptism.

In early 1963, when I was 11, I had cycled with friends to Glenmalure Park in Milltown and was among 18,000 people who saw Manchester United, including Harry Gregg, Noel Cantwell, Nobby Stiles, John Giles, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, win 4-3 against Coventry, then in the Third Division, during a harsh winter that had shutdown English football.

While my father seemed to spend most Sundays playing golf in Rathfarnham, Arthur must have taken pity on me and recognised my interest in football. He was a member of Bohemians, a leading soccer club, and offered to bring me to Bohs’ matches every week during the playing season.

Every second Sunday, we would take the bus from Rathgar to Phibsboro to see the ‘Bohs’ play at Dalymount Park. Sometimes he even used his membership to get me into the players’ changing rooms to collect their autographs and the autographs of visiting teams. He also generously gave me pocket money, encouraging me to buy my own sweets and soft drinks to sustain me through each match.

Then, on most alternate Sundays, we went to away matches … Drumcondra and Shelbourne at Tolka Park, Shamrock Rovers at Glenmalure Park in Milltown, Saint Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park in Inchicore, Transport at the Greyhound Stadium in Harold’s Cross … he even took me to see Stanley Matthews, then 48, and Stoke City play a combined Bohs/Rovers team at Dalymount Park.

My parents were then living in Harold’s Cross, and as I made my way across to Rathgar Road on those Sunday afternoons, left to my devices, I would walk two different sides of Kenilworth Square each Sunday, growing in my appreciation of the different architectural styles and details of each house on the square.

There were other houses and buildings in the area too: the villas on Rathgar Avenue, the curious decorative gothic details of Leicester Lodge, and the new synagogue built on the other side of Leicester Avenue.

Leicester Lodge and its curious decorative gothic details on Leicester Avenue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

During this time, I had innocently put my eyes on what I think was a toy or replica, shield-shaped police badge in the widow of a newsagent’s shop in Harold’s Cross, O’Beirne’s. The shop then faced the top of Leinster Road but is no longer there.

I did not have enough money to buy this playful item, and my father refused to countenance giving me the money to buy it. I was told I would have to save for it, although my weekly pocket money – to me, at least – appeared to be meagre.

I asked the shopkeeper whether he could reserve it for me until I had saved up enough to pay for it. As a family, we bought our newspapers, magazines and comics in another news agent’s shop, known as the Magnet, so he could not have known who I was. But he was kindly and he agreed to take it out of the window and hold it for me, for at least a few weeks.

I cut down on the amount of sweets and soft drinks I bought at Sunday matches, and saved some meagre coins week-by-week, until I had enough to buy this one coveted item.

Today, I cannot imagine why I wanted such a trifling thing, or how I imagined I was going to play with it. It seems like childish and immature for a young teenage boy at that age. I simply wanted it, and added it to my small collection of other toys in a low, dark cupboard beside the fridge.

But my father came across it one day. I was not prepared for his fury and his anger. He could never show me love or affection, but he knew how to express disapproval and rejection. At first, he accused me of shoplifting and theft, and demanded that I return to the shop and apologise. He stood me before my sibglings and called me a thief and a liar.

I mumbled as I tried to explain that I had bought it with my own savings, but he demanded to know in forensic detail how I had managed to save for it.

When I finally explained how I had managed to save for this, Sunday after Sunday, he demanded that I return to the shop, ask for a refund, and return the money to my uncle, his half-brother.

I debated with myself which were the worst options: to embarrass myself before the shopkeeper, to humiliate myself before my uncle or to stand up to the capricious bullying of my father.

Valour won that, and I stood up to my father. It was not the last time.

His spiteful response was to try to stop me going to Sunday football matches with my uncle, but Arthur was understanding and my father failed.

Casimir Road … one of the streets that was part of my paper round in the mid-1960s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

By now, I was determined not only to stand up to bullying, no matter who the bully was, to be confident of my own integrity, and to try to be as independent financially as far as possible, even as a young teenager.

In the summer that followed, I walked into yet another local newsagent’s shop, Dwyers, and asked for a newspaper round. Every morning and evening and once on Sundays in the summer of 1965 and 1966, I delivered newspapers, magazines and comics along a route that took me through Kenilworth Park, Wilfrid Road, Casimir Road, Casimir Avenue, Sion Hill Avenue and the lower end of Lower Kimmage Road.

Sometimes there was a second morning round if the English papers arrived late. Occasionally, towards the end of the week, I got an extra round on one or two days, with magazines such as the Radio Times, Time and Newsweek, and religious newspapers such as the Universe, the Church of Ireland Gazette and the Jewish Chronicle.

And, at times, when another boy failed to turn up, my paper round was extended to Kenilworth Square, Kenilworth Road, Westfield Road, Clareville Road, and even parts of Leinster Road, Leinster Road West and Effra Road.

I enjoyed waiting for papers to be marked up on the counter by the full-time staff. I cannot even remember their names now, but they gave me an opportunity to read the newspapers and news magazines. Over those two summers my teenage interests shifted from sports to politics and international affairs.

On my rounds, I had a second opportunity to read the front pages in borrowed snatches of time. I came to learn the politics of each household based on the newspapers I delivered, and I learned to appreciate the social and religious diversity of the area: our next-door neighbour was a Methodist widow; the Mahon family four doors away were parishioners in the closed Church of Ireland parish church; their next door neighbours, Dr Samuel Davis and his family, were Orthodox Jews with a long back garden; a family across the street went to the Plymouth Brethren Gospel Hall in Rathmines.

Local newspapers delivered at the end of the week revealed the provincial origins of other families.

In the gaps between deliveries, I became an avaricious reader in the library at the end of Leinster Road, facing Rathmines Town Hall.

I was answering to myself for my own financial independence and my use of time, and developing my appreciation of cultural, political and religious diversity and pluralism in a society that, in retrospect, still seems, in a contradictory way, to have been very monochrome.

I returned to that paper round during school holidays at Christmas and Easter throughout 1965 and 1966; I was 13 and 14; By 1967 and 1968, at 15 and 16, I was working as a copyholder or proof-reader’s assistant at Irish Printers, first in Aungier Street and then on Donore Avenue. I earned enough to pay for my own small delights, including regular newspapers, during term time when I was a boarder in Gormanston.

I have only one memory of kindness shown by my father after that incident. I recall the summer of 1967, during a summer holiday at the Park Hotel in Virginia, he occasionally took me out in a boat on Lough Ramor and taught me to row. The Six-Day War had taken place that year, and he shared memories of his childhood friend Chaim Herzog (they were three months apart), who had become famous as a military commentator on radio programmes and then became military governor of East Jerusalem and Judea and Samariathe West Bank.

Because of a dysfunctional childhood, my childhood memories are sometimes suppressed and difficult to access. But I was reminded last week of that police badge in the shop window in Harold’s Cross as I watched on television the thin line of police facing the violent coup attempt and Trump-inspired insurrection. I had never forgotten the beauty of Kenilworth Square or Arthur’s kindness. But it took some days to recall the details of that paper round and the names of the newsgaents and former neighbours.

I still cannot fathom why I ever wanted that silly badge. But, perhaps, that display of parental envy and bullying back in 1963 or 1964 took a positive turn, shaping my curiosity for news, newspapers and newsprint. Without doubt, it helped to form my adult pacifism, to shape my values of justice, and to develop my appreciation of diversity and pluralism.

As for soccer, I never became a Bohs fan. My interests turned to rugby, cricket and later to rowing, but I became an armchair fan of Aston Villa and Spurs.

In one small stretch of Lower Kimmage Road, there was diversity and variety that challenges popular images of the monochrome 1960s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)