Why Nazis are so afraid of these clowns: Clowning as a tactic of creative resistance

Why Nazis are so afraid of these clowns

August 25, 2017

The Finnish group “Loldiers of Odin” formed to protest the anti-immigrant Soldiers of Odin. (loldiers.com)

Trolls chanted in the streets the day of a planned neo-Nazi rally in the small ski town of Whitefish, Montana earlier this year. But they were not the trolls that residents had been expecting — namely, white supremacists from around the country, who had been harassing the town’s Jewish community with death threats.

These trolls wore bright blue wigs and brandished signs that read “Trolls Against Trolls” and “Fascists Fear Fun,” cheerfully lining the route where the neo-Nazi march had been slated to take place. Due to poor organizing and the failure to obtain proper permits, the demonstration had fallen through, leading to what the counter-protesters gleefully deemed a “Sieg Fail.” So, locals held their own counter-event, gathering together to share matzo ball soup and celebrate the town’s unity, which — with a dose of humor and a denunciation of hatred — had successfully weathered a right-wing anti-Semitic “troll storm” and strengthened the community as a whole.

Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians against the Nazi occupation to “The Great Dictator” speech by Charlie Chaplin. In recent years, humor has continued to be used as a tactic to undermine Nazi ideology, particularly in the unlikely form of clowns — troupes of brightly-dressed activists who show up to neo-Nazi gatherings and make a public mockery of the messages these groups promote. It puts white supremacists in a dilemma in which their own use of violence will seem unwarranted, and their machismo image is tainted by the comedic performance by their opponent. Humor de-escalates their rallies, turning what could become a violent confrontation into a big joke.

Satirical imitation was used in Olympia, Washington in 2005 when a dozen members of the National Socialist Movement paraded around the state capitol to recruit members for the coming “race war.” They were met with clowns mimicking the “Seig Heil” salute and goose-stepping in a public mockery that drew attention away from the Nazi demonstration and undermined their image to would-be supporters.

Anti-Nazi demonstrators in Knoxville, Tennessee called themselves Coup Clutz Clowns. (redletterchristians.org)

In 2007, the group Anti Racist Action staged a full-fledged clown performance at a neo-Nazi rally in Knoxville, Tennessee. The clowns feigned confusion at demonstrators’ cries of “White power!” and called back, “White flour?” as they threw fistfulls of flour into the air.

“White power!” the neo-Nazi group shouted, and the clowns pretended they finally understood their mistake. “Oh, white flowers!” they cried out, handing white flowers to passersby, including some of the neo-Nazis themselves.

“White power!” they yelled again. “Tight shower?” the clowns called back, holding a shower head in the air and crowding together in a ridiculous attempt to follow the directions of the white supremacist group.

They tried once more: “White power!” And the female clowns exclaimed, as though they finally understood, “Wife power!” raising letters in the air to spell out the words and hoisting the male clowns in the air, running around and carrying them in their arms.

The clowns stole the show, and continued parading through the streets with the police smiling happily at their sides while the neo-Nazi group called off their demonstration several hours early. This action inspired clowns in Charlotte, North Carolina to also yell “Wife power!” at a white supremacist rally. They also held signs that said “Dwight Power!” next to photos of the NBA player Dwight Howard.

Anti-Nazi clowning can also turn into a wider community event, bringing local people together in solidarity and fun. A recent New York Times editorial highlighted an “involuntary walk-a-thon” in Wunsiedel, Germany, organized in response to an annual neo-Nazi march. The organizers drew chalk markers on the pavement marking the starting point, halfway point and finish line. Local residents and businesses pledged to donate 10 euros for every meter the white supremacists marched to a group called EXIT Deutschland, which is dedicated to helping people leave right-wing extremist groups.

Neo-nazis take part in the “involuntary walk-a-thon” in Wunsiedel, Germany in 2014. (Twitter / @exitdeutschland)

People came out to cheer the marchers the day of the event, flanking the route with signs that read “If only the Fuhrer knew!” and “Mein Mamph!” ( or “My Munch”) by a table of bananas offered to the walkers. This turned the marchers into involuntary supporters against their own cause, and brought the community together in unity to counter the messages of white supremacy.

Other European cities have employed clowns to counter anti-immigrant groups. For example, the “Loldiers of Odin” formed in Finland to counter a citizen patrol called Soldiers of Odin. The clowns danced around the streets the same nights that the patrols went out in the community, bringing acrobat hoops and a hobby horse. They also danced around the “soldiers” while playing in the snow. Their actions countered right-wing propaganda of making the streets “safer” from immigrants by bringing humor and silliness to their actions.

Clowning as a tactic of creative resistance was first developed by a group of U.K. activists who started the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, or CIRCA, in 2003. Mixing slapstick humor and improv theater with civil disobedience, the group had — at its height —over 150 trained clowns in Edinburgh, and their tactics were adopted by activists across Europe and the United States.

Humor has wide-reaching potential beyond clowning in countering neo-Nazis. It can be employed in the form of a serenade, like the sousaphonist who played his instrument to a crowd of Confederate flag-wielding marchers in Columbia, South Carolina. There’s also the parody song “Tiki Torch Nazis,” written and performed by a couple from San Francisco, that went viral after Charlottesville and hilariously undermines the serious image neo-Nazis strive to present. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a group called the English Disco Lovers, or EDL, uses its acronym along with dance music and 1970’s style wigs to subvert public gatherings of the racist English Defense League.

English Disco Lovers protest the racist English Defense League. (Flickr / Tim Buss)

To build on past successes of anti-Nazi clowning, activists and local organizers can draw on the creativity of the community to devise actions and events that mock white supremacist ideology and those who support it. This could be done in the form of a carnivalesque “Fascist Fair,” complete with a dunk tank and jousting match. It could take the form of dressing up in costumes that satirize the labels white supremacists have given counter-protesters, like vermin or Communists. Events can draw in various local groups, from marching bands to theater troupes to intramural sports teams so that resistance to white supremacy becomes a community expression of solidarity, like in Whitefish, Montana.

Counter-demonstrations can employ a tactic called détournement, or culture jamming, to draw on existing cultural symbols that resonate with a wider audience. This could involve staging a humorous match in which one side represents neo-Nazis dressed as Death Eaters from Harry Potter, and the other side represents Gryffindor, or the Avengers, or Wonder Woman and the Amazon warriors. Their marches can be accompanied by a mass choir drowning out their chants with refrains of “You’re So Vain” or JoJo’s “Leave (Get Out).” They could also be met with “Flash Mobs Against Fascist Mobs.” The street where the march is planned could be covered in rainbow paint and glitter that will coat the bottoms of their shoes.

Beyond the marches themselves, clowning can undermine Confederate statues and symbols when their removal would lead to an escalation of violence, as activist David Swanson has suggested. Dressing up Confederate statues as clowns or jokers with signs like “You must be joking!” mocks the statue itself and undercuts the veneration of historical figures who represent the country’s legacy of slavery.

Other creative tactics can be used to counter neo-Nazi propaganda with less direct confrontation. Activists around the world have turned Nazi graffiti into art, like the #PaintBack campaign transforming Swastika’s into cartoon animals.

These actions not only deflate the macho image of neo-Nazis to their own supporters — which is strengthened by violent confrontation — but they also engage the community in planning fun collective actions to counter hate and intolerance. Humorous counter-demonstrations unleash a storm of creativity, as activists and local groups collaborate to design creative actions together. In the end, the actions bring communities together against hate speech. Since humor and clowning can incorporate so many community members — children and the elderly, musicians and athletes, politicians and school teachers — they draw everyone into a joyful, silly expression of solidarity. That’s something a band of tiki torch-wielding neo-Nazis don’t stand a chance against.

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Originally published in Waging Nonviolence
 https://wagingnonviolence.org

Waging Nonviolence content falls under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

New Antifa Documentary Now Online: Global Uprisings

Update: The new 30-minute documentary is now available for free viewing or download here:

ANTIFA: Special January 20th Screener!

 

The film will be available online by midnight Central European time at the end of January 19, so anyone can organize a screening and download it to show on January 20. If you need to communicate with someone in advance about showing the film, email info@weinterruptthisprogram.org.

Here’s a trailer for the film:

Since the election of Donald Trump, acts of racist violence have proliferated across the United States. Racists and misogynists feel emboldened to express and act on their views. White nationalist groups and resurgent traditional white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have used Trumps victory to gain new recruits. All that stands in their way are the groups of anarchists and anti-state communists who have taken it upon themselves to prevent fascism from becoming a powerful political force in the United States. This film tells the story of what “Antifa” is and why people are using these tactics to confront racism and fascism in the US today.

Who are the anti-fascists? What motivates them to risk their lives to fight the far right? What is the history of militant anti-fascism and why is it relevant again today? How is anti-fascism connected to a larger political vision that can stop the rise of fascism and offer us visions of a future worth fighting for? Through interviews with anti-fascist organizers, historians, and political theorists in the US and Germany, we explore the broader meaning of this political moment while taking the viewer to the scene of street battles from Washington to Berkeley and Charlottesville.

New Documentary on January 20, 2017: ANTIFA

Ben Shapiro at UCLA: Antifa & Antifascists as Fascists: Livestream and More

Live

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS BEN SHAPIRO DOING OR SAYING THAT IS CAUSING FOLKS TO SEEK MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT?

Ben Shapiro is a conservative promoting traditional values. Shapiro advocates for capitalism, traditional marriage (man and woman), intact family units (two-parent households) and morality derived from religion (unless it’s Islam–more about that below).

Shapiro is a prolific author. His conservatism is reflected in some of his more popular titles:

Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (2004).

Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future (2005).

Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America (2013).

How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument (2014)

In Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth, Shapiro writes:

“At my own beloved UCLA the numbers are just as frightening. There are thirty-one English professors with registered party affiliation. Twenty-nine of them are affiliated with the Democratic party, the Green party, or another leftist political party. Out of thirteen journalism professors with registered affiliation, twelve are affiliated with leftist parties. Fifty-three out of fifty-six history professors are affiliated with leftist parties. Sixteen out of seventeen political science professors are affiliated with leftist parties. Thirty-one of thirty-three women’s studies professors are affiliated with leftist parties.”

In Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future, Shapiro says:

“Never in our country’s history has a generation been so empowered, so wealthy, so privileged—and yet so empty.”

But where Shapiro really goes hard on college students is in his book How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument:

“College students’ sense of moral righteousness doesn’t come from achievement – it comes from believing that you are a bad person. You are a racist and sexist; they are not. That makes them good, even if they don’t give charity, have never met a black person, stand for policies that impoverish minority communities across the United States, and enable America-haters around the globe.”

And this, also from How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them:

“The leftist bullies have taken over the major institutions of the United States. The university system has been monopolized by a group of folks who believe that it’s no longer worthwhile debating the evidence on tax rates, or whether the Laffer curve is right, or whether Keynesian policies actually promote economic growth. They don’t want to debate those issues. What they want to teach instead is that is you are personally ignorant, bigoted, corrupt, and mean if you disagree with them. Their opinions are not opinions; they are fact. This is the hallmark of being stuck inside a bubble. The people who occupy the professoriate have not had to work a real job – a job with real-world consequences — in over 30 years. They’ve lived on a campus where everyone agrees with them, convincing them that their beliefs are universally-held. Anyone who disagrees is a “flat earther.” Anyone who disagrees is a monster. You are a monster.”

In 2014, Shapiro ruffled feathers when he published this video titled, “The Myth of the Tiny Radical Muslim Minority is Just That.”

And then, in 2015, Shapiro got in heated debate with transgender journalist Zoey Tur, after which Shapiro filed a police report.

So that’s Ben Shapiro… and, as Ben Shapiro says, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

Bob Avakian, Refuse Fascism and Nov4 It Begins

Who is Bob Avakian?

Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party in the United States since 1975.

Author of multiple books, including the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.

In 2005 Avakian published an autobiography called From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist.

Recent press release calls him “the most radical revolutionary alive.”

Critics call him the head of a “cult of personality.” (MORE ABOUT THIS BELOW)

Former student at the University of California, Berkeley during free speech movement.

Known as “Chairman Bob” or “BA.”

Often spends time in self-imposed exile, though he is not wanted for anything.

Maoist synthesized with Marxism, Leninism and science.

In 2016 Avakian founded Refuse Fascism refusefascism.org, an organization opposed to the presidency of Donald Trump. Previously founded “World Can’t Wait” campaign to overthrow the Bush regime.

BIO

Robert Bruce Avakian, born March 7, 1943 in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Berkeley, California.

Previous involvement with the Students for a Democratic Society at Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement, the Black Panther Party, Revolutionary Youth Movement, Bay Area Revolutionary Union.

Charged with assaulting a police officer in January 1979 at a demonstration in Washington DC to protest Deng Xiaoping’s meeting with Jimmy Carter. Fled to France. Charges dismissed but remained in self-imposed exile.

From revcom.us:

To this day, through his talks and writings, and his overall political and ideological leadership, Bob Avakian has continued to guide the RCP, USA, in its fundamental orientation and strategic approach of working for revolution in the U.S. itself and contributing all it can to  revolution and the ultimate goal of communism in the world as a whole.

Cult of personality criticism

Described by critics as having created a this mystique of exile (he is not wanted for anything), he is said to equate himself with revolutionaries such as Malcolm X with a target on his back, the subject of death threats  and a victim of US government attacks and persecution. Followers said to cherish and idealize “Chairman Bob.” He fights for the oppression of Black people, Latinos, women and other oppressed sections of society.

Bob Avakian posters, in the spirit of Che Guevarra posters, are often posted at the Burning Man festival to create hype and generate interest. (BA t-shirts are also available.)

The Article “Free Bob Avakian! Oh, he’s already free? Never mind” written by Mark Oppenheimer (2008) goes into more detail about the cult of personality.

http://archive.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/01/27/free_bob_avakian/?page=1

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Sunsara Taylor, advocate of Bob Avakian’s new communism, writer for Revcom.us, is a co-initiator of Refuse Fascism. Here she is with Bill O’Reilly in 2007 discussing the “Shout-Down” technique the group often employs.

Bob Avakian is set to speak on the UC Berkeley campus in April, 2018 about freedom of expression and communist revolution. The press release indicates he will be exposing and refuting the lies and distortions of Berkeley’s Chancellor Christ about the Free Speech Movement. This event will be co-organized by Sunsara Taylor.


Revolution Books is a chain of bookstores opened with support of the Revolutionary Communist Party of the U.S. which is spearheaded by activist and political theorist Bob Avakian and which sells his many books and pamphlets.

Civil War 2017? Not really–the story behind the hashtag

Antifa Parody Accounts: Boston Antifa is back with a vengeance

Photo courtesy “AmishAntifa” Parody Account 

Antifa parody accounts have quietly existed for some time, spoofing Antifascist activism via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

But one now suspended account, @antifaboston, caused all sorts of confusion and embarrassment when in September mainstream media mistook it for a Russian operative account spreading disinformation. Hysteria over Russian interference in social media peaked when someone noticed the Boston Antifa Twitter account had geo-tagged itself as originating in Vladivostok, Russia.

(NOTE: THIS PARTICULAR TWITTER ACCOUNT HAS NOW BEEN SUSPENDED)

Even Chris Hayes of MSNBC got caught in the crossfire when he reported on the “Russian” account, later admitting on Twitter, “yeah that wasn’t my best performance.” Likewise, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford was duped.

 

According to North Shore Antifa, which claims to be a true Antifa account representing the Boston area, “Boston Antifa” no longer has an active Facebook page nor any other social media, any existing pages are fascist honeypots or troll accounts spreading misinformation. Please do not interact with these pages or share their content, however monitor their activity as precaution.

North Shore Antifa is currently the ONLY verifiable and trustworthy resource on social media for the actual real life antifascist organizing taking place in the Boston area.

For all inquiries/tips please message us directly or use encrypted email & contact NorthShoreAntifa@protonmail.com as well as AntifaBoston@protonmail.com.”

Well, the parody Boston Antifa Twitter account is now back up and running (Boston Antifa @AntifaBostonUSA) announcing, “The Russian @antifaboston trolls have been dealt with. We will leave our geotag on so that folx know we are legit and not from Vladivostok.”

And for more Antifa fun, check out these few (though there are many more):

AmishAntifa

Beverly Hills Antifa

Nantucket Antifa

Pyongyang Antifa

 

 

Civil War 2017? Not really–the story behind the hashtag

November 4 It Begins: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

Refuse Fascism has been publicly organizing a call to action over the past couple of months. According to the group’s website (as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts), Refuse Fascism is planning an occupy-style protest to demand an end to the “Trump/Pence Regime.” There does not appear to be any mention of a “Civil War” nor are any of the group’s activities the least bit secretive.

The call to action reads as follows:

ON NOVEMBER 4, 2017

Take To The Streets And Public Squares

In cities and towns across the country continuing day after day and night after night—not stopping—until our DEMAND is met.

——————

In the Name of Humanity,

We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America!

Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime!

The Trump/Pence Regime is a Fascist Regime. Not insult or exaggeration, this is what it is. For the future of humanity and the planet, we, the people, must drive this regime out.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence have assembled a vicious cabal that has put forth positions and begun initiatives which demonstrate that they fully intend to shred political and social norms with catastrophic consequence.  Because Trump has his finger on the nuclear trigger, the Trump/Pence regime is more dangerous to the world than even Hitler.

Fascism has direction and momentum. Dissent is piece by piece criminalized. The truth is bludgeoned.   Group after group is demonized and targeted along a trajectory that leads to real horrors.  All of this has already begun under the Trump Regime. History has shown that fascism must be stopped before it becomes too late.

Millions of people, outraged by this regime, took to the streets delivering a stinging rebuke to Trump the day after the inauguration. Protest and resistance continues against the many attacks on the people by the Trump/Pence administration.  This must grow broader, deeper, and more determined. This resistance is righteous and necessary, but it is not sufficient. We must recognize that the character of fascism is that it can absorb separate acts of resistance while continually throwing the opposition off balance by rapidly moving its agenda forward. The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law… IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.

In the first weeks of the Trump/Pence regime they have begun subverting the separation of powers, the separation of Church and State, called for a new nuclear arms race, demonized the press, dismissed the very concept of truth substituting their own fabricated “alternative facts.”  It can already be said of Trump/Pence that “first they came for” the Muslims, then the Mexicans, then all refugees, then women, then Black and Latino people, LGBTQ persons, the environment, and anyone who doesn’t conform or submit to their vision and plan for a nation cohered around white supremacy and a political form of Christian fundamentalism, that should rightly be called Christian Fascism.

Fascism is not just a gross combination of horrific reactionary policies. It is a qualitative change in how society is governed.  Fascism foments and relies on xenophobic nationalism, racism, misogyny, and the aggressive re-institution of oppressive “traditional values.”  In Trump’s election campaign he encouraged and fed on the threat and use of violence to build a movement and come to power. In his inaugural address he pledged allegiance only to this movement. What is crucial to understand is that once in power fascism essentially eliminates traditional democratic rights.

Even as the Trump/Pence Regime is moving fast, they have not yet fully consolidated their regime, or, as yet, been able to implement their full program.  But, this is their objective and it is very possible. It might only take a single serious crisis – international or domestic — for this regime to drop the hammer. We do not have much time.

Don’t Normalize…Don’t Accommodate…Don’t Conciliate…Don’t Collaborate…

There is method to Trump’s madness that echoes Hitler.  Fascism advances in stages through outrage, shock and intimidation,  followed by brief periods of normalization where people accommodate to the new situation the regime has imposed.

After the election, Obama said of Trump: “We are now all rooting for his success.” NO! If Trump succeeds, humanity loses. Bernie Sanders has said that he will work with Trump on jobs or where they agree.  NO! If you work with fascists you normalize the road to horror.

This is not just a pendulum swing Democrat to Republican, but a regime that is moving to establish a fascist order under the signboard of “America First.” Acting as if the election in 2018 or 2020 is the way to deal with this regime is folly, betraying a lack of understanding of just how fast, furious, and profoundly this regime will change the rules, cement its rule, destroy lives and crush spirits.

You cannot try to “wait things out.” Those who lived through Nazi Germany and sat on the sidelines, looking on as Hitler demonized, criminalized, and eventually rounded up one group after another, became shameful collaborators with monstrous crimes.

All of this is what renders the Trump/Pence Regime illegitimate and a grave threat to people all over the world. Therefore, we resolve:

[1] Our single unifying mission must be to Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime.

[2] We must manifest the power of NO! everywhere: on signs, billboards, walls, social media and the news. NO! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America must resound.

[3] Every outrage committed by this regime must be met with greater and greater resistance.

[4] We must ORGANIZE:  working with all our creativity and determination toward the time when millions of people can be moved to fill the streets of cities and towns day after day and night after night, declaring this whole regime illegitimate – Demanding, and Not Stopping, Until the Trump/Pence Regime Is Driven from Power.

If this happens, then the whole political landscape would be dramatically transformed, every faction within the established power structure would be forced to respond—and all this could lead to a situation in which this fascist regime is driven from office.

Let it not be said that we did not move heaven and earth to drive out this regime.  This must be a moment in history when millions stand together with conviction and courage, overcoming fear and uncertainty, to resist and say NO! Not just for ourselves, but in the name of humanity.

Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime!

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Get Organized! Leaflets, Posters and Graphics for November 4 are provided at https://refusefascism.org as well as upcoming events in a variety of American cities.

According to Wikipedia, Refuse Fascism was founded by Bob Avakian, the chair of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in December 2016. Its national office is in New York City.

Deface Columbus Day Planned for October 9, 2017

A group calling themselves Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement have announced the following “Call to Action” along with a video on YouTube.
The “Call to Action” reads as follows:
The battles lines have been drawn and white supremacists are on notice. White nationalist statues are crumbling all over the US as our collective revolutionary power is growing. As the monuments of white supremacist society fall we must continue to make it clear that their reign of terror is coming to an end.

We are calling for groups to “decorate” their neighborhoods as they see fit: put up murals, wheatpaste posters, drop a banner, etc. On October 9th put a picture of your action on social media and use the hashtags below. With these actions multiplied around the country, we will make it unequivocally clear that revolutionaries will always stand with the indigenous!

Revolutionary greetings to the insurgent Zapatista communities, the Lakota warriors, the Mapuche fighters, and all of our indigenous comrades in the struggle. With these actions, we renew our commitment to building a revolutionary movement strong enough to turn the tide permanently.

Resistance is life!