Putting out the fire with gasoline. That’s what the ‘anti-fa’ strategy does when the Left resorts to violent counter-attack against Fascism. As long as we amp up the conflict, aggression, violence, social division, racialized and gendered hatred, we are creating conditions for more Fascists to take power. That seems to be the lesson from recent investigations of the Russian’s use of Facebook ads crafted to inflame racial hatred and social division. Fascists take power by amplifying the extremes and disempowering moderate voices, driving them away from the political arena. Escalating social conflict causes voter suppression; it keeps moderate voters away from the polls and drives up the voter turnout of extremists: fascists, nazis, white supremacists, alt-right and the like.
A New York Times article says that Russian operatives supporting the Trump campaign bought Facebook ads that featured divisive social issues, and never mentioned ‘elections’, ‘Trump’ or ‘Clinton’. The ads targeted voters in key states and voting precincts to amplify conflict, used hot-button issues like gun control, gay rights and abortion, to increase racial and gender division and inflame voters.
“Providing new evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.
Most of the 3,000 ads did not refer to particular candidates but instead focused on divisive social issues such as race, gay rights, gun control and immigration, according to a post on Facebook by Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer. The ads, which ran between June 2015 and May 2017, were linked to some 470 fake accounts and pages the company said it had shut down.
Facebook officials said the fake accounts were created by a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency, which is known for using “troll” accounts to post on social media and comment on news websites.”
As long as we keep throwing gasoline on the fire, the Fascists win. As Buddhists, we have to counter violent division with non-violent engagement, and counter extreme ‘black and white’ thinking with nuanced and respectful dialogue: the complex ‘grey’ of the middle way. We have to counter extremism with a politics of love, non-violence, respect and dialogue, healing hatred and division, with a goal of restoring peace and cooperative relations.
Trump is just the first Fascist to ascend to power in post-millennial US, and he’s not even the most powerful. In fact, Trump has proven to be quite weak and incompetent, ineffective even at advancing his own pet agenda. The next Fascist candidate could prove to be a competent and powerful dictator who actually knows how to run a government, which could be even more dangerous. How we confront the Fascists now could determine who wins the next election: moderates seeking conflict resolution and cooperative decision-making that benefits a population that is increasingly diverse in terms of race, gender and national origin; or winner-take-all Fascists who pursue a genocidal nationalist project policy of white nationalist ‘purity’.