The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism
First, They Came For The Fascists...


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Mulugeta Seraw

An instructive example of a moral panic which united the police, the left and the media in an anti-fascist witch-hunt against hate crimes is the case of Mulugeta Seraw. In 1988, in Portland, Oregon, Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant, was killed in a drunken dispute over a parking space. Four skinheads were convicted of murder, one of them, Kenneth Mieske, sentenced to thirty years in prison, and the organization White Aryan Resistance was successfully sued for $12.5 million by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Elinor Langer's book about the case, A Hundred Little Hitlers, is a rare example of authentic journalism – she even spells Blood and Honour correctly. More importantly, she goes beyond her own liberal attitudes, and discovers that:

  • Seraw was killed in an unplanned street brawl, not a premeditated lynching
  • It was manslaughter, not murder – this distinction is very important in the USA, where a conviction for first-degree murder is very difficult to live down, especially if you are executed
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center was lying when it claimed that White Aryan Resistance sent agents to Portland to commit racially-motivated violent crimes – in truth, despite its name, WAR carefully avoided illegality
  • The prosecution of WAR set a precedent whereby civil law can be used to convict someone of what is really a criminal offense, with a much lower standard of proof

The fascists lost the case because of the hysteria stirred up by the media, politicians, the police and anti-fascists, and because they could not afford a lawyer to counter the wealthy Zionists who prosecuted them. And, it has to be said, because they are not the sharpest tools in the shed.

Neither are some anti-fascists. Those who have read Langer's analysis don't understand it any better than the people who wrote the book's cover notes or the reviewers in the local press, which give the impression that she blindly follows the anti-fascist party line. A good example can be found in an article in the Portland anarchist magazine Little Beirut which simply repeats the SPLC's distortions in more radical-sounding language (president Bush once described Portland as 'Little Beirut', though 'Little Tel Aviv' would be nearer the mark). The article, Anti-fascist organizing in Portland 1988-1993, contains no trace of an admission that Mieske's conviction was unjust, nor that there is anything wrong with evicting a family from its home for its opinions – instead, it celebrates the persecution of Mieske and WAR, and complains that the SPLC's attack on freedom didn't go far enough:

         'Tom Metzger, who rightfully occupies center stage in her book, may have been convicted in trial and Ken Mieske, who killed Mulegeta Seraw, may be rotting in Oregon State Penitentiary, but white supremacy and the neo-fascist movement were untouched by the legal machinations.'
I hope readers don't think I chose Little Beirut deliberately because it is so imbecilic, in order to discredit anti-fascism. I recommend the New Abolitionist group as a more coherent example of a bunch of do-gooders who have listened to too many Neil Young albums, flogging the dead horse of white supremacy -

  • James Watson, the discoverer of the mechanism by which genetic information is transmitted, lost his job for suggesting that black people might be less intelligent than white people. This genius, whose contribution to understanding life is only surpassed by Darwin and perhaps Mendel, had a lecture tour of the UK canceled, and when he returned to the USA, was fired under pressure from the thought police.
  • people have been evicted from their home for expressing pro-white racist opinions
  • a woman was murdered by the FBI because her husband was a white separatist
  • when liberal academics Mearsheimer and Walt appeared in US cities to promote their bestseller The Israel Lobby, attempts to publicize the event in the local media were often censored
  • the murder of an American woman by the Israeli army is described as 'controversial' in the US media – just like the bombing of Dresden
  • fascists fare less well in court cases than anti-fascists
  • implausible accounts of hate crimes are taken seriously by the police

If the North Carolina cops can be politically blackmailed into framing rich white kids on behalf of a clearly unreliable black witness, white power is not the problem. One indication that Jewish, and not white, privilege is more powerful, is how difficult it is to oppose the former, and how easy it is to oppose the latter. This difficulty is both social and psychological. You will get into trouble if you concentrate on criticizing Israel and its supporters. It is also psychologically difficult, even to say the phrase 'Jewish supremacy', despite the fact that is obviously as valid a concept as 'white supremacy'. Today, anyone who argued for the return of apartheid in South Africa would be called a 'white supremacist', without hesitation. Supporters of the master race in Israel today should be called 'Jewish supremacists', with equal justification, but they are spared this unflattering deconstruction. This in itself is evidence of Jewish privilege. If you held a meeting about white supremacy, the meeting would not be besieged by white supremacists claiming that white supremacy does not exist. If you held a meeting about Jewish supremacy, you would be besieged by Jewish supremacists claiming that Jewish supremacy does not exist. Even if you believe that ethnic privilege and oppression are not particularly useful concepts, it is still revealing that some of these concepts are easier to discuss rationally than others.

The phrase 'Jewish supremacy' clearly describes the situation in the Middle East – one small group gains advantages by racially oppressing the rest of the population. The term 'Jewish privilege' is more accurate to describe the situation in Western countries. In either case, the word 'Zionism' is too mild - it suggests people who are befuddled by an ideology, rather than people benefiting from murder and theft. Thanks to deference to their feelings, Jews, and only Jews, can suppress debate and information which might undermine support for the country in which they, and only they, hold a privileged position; the position of deciding life or death for other people.

So what should you do about hate crimes? The same things as you would do about other violent crimes. An attack on an innocent black person should be treated in the same way as an attack on an innocent white person. Most people I know are more likely to be assaulted by black youths or by the police than by fascists. The only political violence I have encountered was when I was threatened by anarchists for exposing a left-wing group which gave information to the police. And that was before I wrote The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism...

Jay Knott, October 2008

   About the Author

'the only difference is I got the balls to say it...'

Jay Knott runs the Insensitivity Program at the University of Oregon. The name is a pseudonym, in order to make it harder for organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League to spy on him, harass his employer, and so on.