Another National Anthem

There’s another national anthem playing
Not the one you cheer
At the ball park.
“Where’s my prize?”
It’s the other national anthem, saying—
If you want to hear—
It says “Bullshit!”
It says “Never!”
It says “Sorry!”
Loud and clear
It says: Listen
To the tune that keeps sounding
In the distance, on the outside
Coming through the ground
To the hearts that go on pounding
To the sound
Getting louder every year

—Stephen Sondheim, Assassins

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I went to Boston on Labor Day Weekend for the “Straight Pride” parade, a far-right rally organized by the hate group Resist Marxism, now operating as Super Happy Fun America. Straight Pride rallies have existed since the 1970s as pushback on the encroaching freedoms of gay people. This one was not much more than a neo-Nazi rally, where a knife-toting man—one of several with prominent Nazi tattoos, his including SS bolts and a swastika—gave interviews to the press, and far-right huckster Milo Yiannopoulos called the enormous crowd of protesters beyond the police barriers ugly lesbians. The police themselves beat the protesters viciously and without provocation.

The “rally” was a miserable affair populated by people who did not appear to have recently enjoyed any form of human interaction for more than about ten consecutive minutes. They had their slogans, costumes, jokes, and slurs ready to go; they tricked a number of reporters into incrementing their numbers by following them down the parade route, which was blocked off from the genpop by not one layer of police barriers but two, forming a wide and empty lane separating angry antifascists from Nazis, idiots in Pepe outfits, and one man smelling of alcohol who had dressed as Santa.

At the center of the parade was a huge float that said “TRUMP 2020” and “BUILD THE WALL.” The black bloc kids and assorted allies, many from the local DSA organization, were a less motley and more energetic crew, mostly young, often smiling, some dressed as storybook witches or in band t-shirts. One gigantically tall person arrived in a costume that devoted to their genderqueer identity; they looked a bit like Magneto with maroon dreads. The activist Vermin Supreme showed up with a crown on his head in place of his usual boot.

The protest was, with intent, a joyful affair. The Black Lives Matter chapter organized a bake “sale,” though sale may be the wrong word since there was no price on anything, just a pay-what-you-can jar of bills and change next to paper plates of muffins and cookies and bagels. There was a “non-confrontational” rally beforehand where pacifists could affirm their LGBT pals, and a dance party afterward, which I intended to attend but missed because, frankly, I was too depressed to leave my hotel room.

Inside the fences, snickering, unhappy memelords in clown wigs and a pathetic assembly of right-wing newsmen trawled for clicks and views on their YouTube feeds or Facebook Live streams. Traditional newspeople tried to interview clowns and Santa Claus. Ford Fischer, a man who wears a GoPro camera on his bicycle helmet and acquires good footage of street-level events that he tweets and sells to news outlets, was there; so were CBS and Vice.

One of the speakers, Enrique Tarrio, a Republican operative who leads a violent militia called the Proud Boys, was a no-show. A small woman in a red “socialism is for fags” shirt screamed “faggot” at protesters.

The parade eventually reached City Hall, where a stage, a microphone, and a perimeter of police were waiting. Everyone who wanted to attend the festivities had to be wanded and present their bags for inspection. Proud Boys arrived incognito as a “security” detail for Yiannopoulos, among them a frowning long-haired man wearing what looked like a band shirt bearing, on the back, a paraphrased verse from Leviticus (misattributed) about cannibalism. He and the armed Nazi stood at the back. He told me the Proud Boys had been instructed not to wear their trademark Fred Perry shirts today, though some of them had disobeyed and he was clearly unhappy about it, and about talking to me, so he walked away. I googled the shirt and found that it was from a doomy “lifestyle” clothing brand called BlackCraft Cult (caps theirs).

Outside the rally, the mood was much brighter, but it was colored by a different fear. Inside, the rallygoers were afraid of cultural Marxism, of the things the protesters represented. Outside, the protesters were afraid of being physically hurt or humiliated by ralliers and the cops. At one point, chatting with a couple on the street, a white kid with long blond hair came up to us and said with a badly feigned sincerity that flirted with sarcasm, “Hey, did you see those awful, bigoted straight pride marchers anywhere? Do you know where that homophobic straight pride rally is?” We shrugged him off and he went away, but the experience was unsettling, the clumsy pretense in his voice clinging to our own conversation like a spiderweb as we wondered, half to ourselves, whether he had tried to hustle us into engaging with him for a hidden camera or a group of friends who meant us harm. I didn’t know the man and woman, both very young and animated, but in that moment we were all, suddenly, on one side, and he and the police were on the other.


Police pepper-spray protesters standing on the sidewalk


The cops beat the shit out of everyone. Police departments from all over the state at a cost of more than half a million dollars earned overtime zooming through the streets on bicycles in riot helmets, shorts, neon yellow-and-black uniform shirts, wraparound shades, and clenched scowls. Some carried weapons for a melee and had zipties velcroed to the front of their armor for easy access; one had an enormous truncheon as long as his leg tucked into a ringed scabbard behind him on his belt. When the rally ended, the cops left the barriers between the rallygoers and the protesters up; then they drove motorcycles through the crowd to break it up.

A second wave of cops, these on bicycles, worked their way into the crowd to chants of “Good cops quit” and “shame, shame, shame.” The cop closest to me put the shield on his helmet down over his face.

Then they forced the protesters down the street, pushing ahead with their bikes, chanting, call-and-response style, “move,” “BACK,” “move,” “back,” the cantor calling “move” and his fellow soldiers yelling “BACK.” Everyone complied as best they could, but the crowding was far too dense for anyone more than a few people deep in the throng to simply disperse. The bottleneck into which police had forced the protesters was blocked on the one side closest to city hall by the barriers the police had erected themselves and refused to open after the parade’s permit ran out. On the other, a fence between the two lanes of the street prevented the protesters from leaving across the grassy expanse outside Boston’s Holocaust memorial. The police began hurling the protesters, especially the women, to the ground; one stick-thin twentysomething girl was led away with huge abrasions on her shoulders from being dragged across the pavement by the enormous cop, who had forearms like Popeye, restraining her. Cops blasted pepper spray at protesters standing on the sidewalk, where they had been directing people. Plainclothes police planted in the crowd led away more people in handcuffs from outside the scrum, why, I couldn’t tell.

As the crowd backed up, the bike officers formed a neon yellow phalanx across the street from fence to fence and bludgeoned with their bicycles anyone who tried to move through it or who didn’t move away quickly enough. Everyone moved back. Finally, when the remaining protesters had dwindled to two, the police charged them, threw them to the ground, beat them, and handcuffed them in front of a crowd who videotaped and took photos. It’s easy and tempting to dismiss the men who did this as violent bullies who like to hurt people, but this was not bullying. Bullying is impulsive. This was preplanned tactical movement against an unarmed, nonviolent adversary, many if not most of whom were young women, to protect armed neo-Nazis from confrontation because the city had given them a permit to shout slurs and provocations at women, gay people, and immigrants. And the police didn’t care, and there was no reason, beyond decency, for them to care. And we were well beyond decency.

Reports after the parade said that the police had stolen a cane from an elderly woman and had broken one protester’s arm. I texted a source who had been closer to the violence than I was to ask if they were all right. “Skin is spicy, I needed an eyeflush,” they replied, adding that they’d been hit with a bike but were otherwise okay.

I like America. I like being from here. I like my memories of childhood in the infinite woods setting off bottle rockets and swinging like Tarzan on vines over creeks and building dams in those creeks and learning to pick up crawdads just behind their claws. And as a grownup I like living in a big insane city stuffed with weirdos who have to cram daily onto a network of awful trains that pretzel into each other in such an inconvenient configuration that it must be, on some level, intentional, and take their kids to the zoo, and boo the mayor, and complain about the theater, and go see their friends’ awful bands and stand-up routines, and eat sandwiches as big as a man’s shoe. I like that we have a ridiculous law here that declares your right to say absolutely anything you want, anything at all that doesn’t directly ask another person to commit a crime, and if somebody else doesn’t like it, why, it’s their right and their duty to scream at you and tell everyone who will listen that you’re an asshole. I like the Me Too movement. I like comic books, and movies that cost more than the GDP of Denmark, and musical theater, and awful rock music that is so sincere it makes your teeth hurt to listen to it. And I like that so many of us, me included, hoped that we would be able to surmount the problems we all knew were coming when we made our president a fascist game-show host who hates black people and women. That he wouldn’t be able to burrow deep into our structures and institutions; that those things were flawed but still, somehow, basically sound.

That hope was foolish, and I repent of it after seeing what happened in Boston with my own eyes. It is too late.

§

Noah Carl is a young academic who was drummed out of Cambridge last year for participating in a conference of race scientists and contributing to Mankind Quarterly, a magazine devoted to advancing theories of intelligence and its correlation with race. Carl became a cause celèbre among conservative media creatures, taking bylines in Quillette, The Economist (yes, The Economist grants bylines to guest contributors), and receiving sympathetic coverage from many conservative pundits, among them Bloomberg writer Cass Sunstein and libertarian Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle, who is personally famous for such theories as “children should be trained to charge into the line of fire during school shootings” and “the fire at the Grenfell Towers public housing project was normal attrition.” The Times of London published a leader—Britspeak for an unbylined editorial, one that states the institutional position of the organization, rather than that of a specific columnist or contributor—entitled “The Times view on the sacking of Noah Carl: Monoversities.”

“Mr Carl does not stand accused of writing anything unlawful or liable to incite hatred. His main offence seems to have been to challenge the ‘woke’ left-wing orthodoxy now starting to grip British universities as it does many American ones,” write the authors of the Times leader, who may be relieved to hear that the Koch petrochemical dynasty has endowed several chairs in prominent universities run by their American cousins.

Other pundits such as Michelle Malkin shared Carl’s crowdfunding campaign, with which he hoped to sue Cambridge in retaliation for his dismissal. Outlets like UnHerd and The Federalist ran ringing tributes to this fallen thought warrior, as they often do.

I know it cannot be true in every case but I hope so much that these writers are merely extraordinarily stupid. That would make me think better of them. McArdle, at least, is profoundly lazy and entitled, so perhaps she can plead her usual ignorance.

Noah Carl is a Nazi. He is a prolific contributor to OpenPsych, a racist pseudojournal of non-peer-reviewed work, much of it on eugenics, that overlaps significantly with the authorship of Mankind Quarterly. He has published with Emil Kirkegaard, the lay-researcher founder of OpenPsych, who is both an apologist for pedophilia and a white nationalist.

Mankind Quarterly was founded by a number of fascists but the most important name on the list is Otmar von Verschuer, who trained Josef Mengele, convinced the German Research Society to fund Mengele’s experiments on the population of concentration camps, and worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute on human remains Mengele provided him from Auschwitz. As early as 1935, he had advocated passionately for experiments on twins, which Mengele carried out. Other founders of the journal include Italian fascist Corrado Gini and neo-Nazi Henry Garrett, the latter of whom helped to found the “Liberty Lobby,” a political activist group dedicated various forms of antisemitism including denying the Holocaust in which his professional colleague had personally participated. Current editors at Mankind Quarterly now review for OpenPsych, as does Kevin MacDonald, author of the ur-text of contemporary American antisemitism, The Culture of Critique.

The editor-in-chief of Christianity Today regularly sends his readers links to The Federalist and UnHerd. In my opinion, there should be more steps between Christianity Today and “eyes from murdered gypsies, internal organs, skeletons and blood samples … likely … of twins, one of them deliberately infected with typhus or tuberculosis by Mengele,” to quote the section of the Nature article on scientific racism devoted to Verschuer.

§

I read the collected Kevin Huizenga Ganges comics, called Glenn Ganges in The River at Night. It’s absolutely delightful. As good as anything Chris Ware has done, and I love Chris Ware. I’m also in the middle of Eleanor Davis’s The Hard Tomorrow, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s extraordinarily moving. I’ve got Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, and a bunch of old New Mutants comics to read, as well. Transmetropolitan is being reprinted; it’s still one of my very favorite comics. In single issues:

•JJ Abrams’ first issue of Spider-Man, with his brother Henry and art by the wonderful Sara Pichelli, is very promising.

•Mark Russell and Richard Pace’s Second Coming is just terrific. I’m reading all the Russell books at the moment—that’s Second Coming, Wonder Twins, and Red Sonja, I believe, and Second Coming is the best, though they’re all good.

•Jonathan Hickman’s vast X-Men reimagining, House of X and Powers of X, with Pepe Larraz and RB Silva, respectively, is remarkable. Some of the best X-Men comics I’ve ever read and a very clear vision for what the stories ought to be doing. Hickman’s enormous metanarrative experiment with the Marvel Universe in the early ‘teens didn’t quite get the fanfare it deserved, in part because it was so long and only a few people realized he was doing it. There’s plenty of fanfare around this one, so I think more folks will be on board from the jump, which is essential.

My little boy is super into Carl Barks at the moment. WEAD DONGLE DUCK AN THE BEAGO BOYS, he instructs. WEAD THE BEAGO BOYS. So we do. It’s good. Life is good. Life itself, always, is good.

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