With the gang of white supremacists in government seeking to add to their ranks wherever possible — and plenty of monstrous candidates for them to choose from — it would seem to be long past time to call this coalition of neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates what they are: fascists. But outside a subset of unapologetically leftist Twitter users, there’s a surprising reluctance to do so.
The latest example of this spinelessness concerns definite fascist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who is urging Americans to “wake up” and get mad about immigrants.
Mark Collett, if you don’t know, is a British guy who has “expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler” and “called himself a ‘Nazi sympathizer,’” per HuffPost. Which meant that King’s echoing of his ideology drew headlines like “Congressman Steve King Retweets a Nazi Sympathizer,” and “Rep. Steve King Retweeted a Neo-Nazi, and Doesn’t Seem Sorry About It,” and my personal favorite, “Rep. Steve King Retweets Prominent Nazi Sympathizer, Sparks Controversy — Again.”
But here’s the thing: No matter what someone’s bio claims, these retweets are endorsements. To share or promote these views is to admit they’re your views. King even went a step further, eliminating any ambiguity by adding his own apocalyptic warning. In the end, it matters less whom King is retweeting (I imagine he approaches social media like any grandpa selecting racist chain emails to forward to the whole extended family, largely ignorant of original sources) and more how consistently and openly he yearns for a white-controlled civilization. He represents a Union state and put a Confederate flag on his desk.
The news, in other words, isn’t “Member of Congress Likes a European Fascist.” It’s “Member of Congress Is Fascist.” Print that.
Does he not espouse authoritarian politics with little regard for human rights, a philosophy that “exalts nation and often race above the individual”? Hasn’t he repeatedly tried to enact unconstitutional policy? Sure, the Extremely Online right could accuse you of “calling anyone you disagree with a fascist,” but that’s sort of unavoidable when you’re disagreeing with a literal fascist. Anyone defending King, or in the same governing party, should have to answer for his direct and uninhibited fascist statements, not rest easy knowing the media still alludes to him “flirting” with white nationalism — as if he and David Duke are playing footsie instead of giving each other public hand jobs.
Don’t write an op-ed that asks, “Why are Republicans so determined to discourage people from voting?” but a column describing the GOP’s platform of concerted disenfranchisement and voter suppression, efforts that represent the front lines of creeping institutional racism.
Drop the reports of deadly “clashes” in Charlottesville, or the sweet, sensitive kid who happened to terrorize Austin with a bombing spree, and start naming the pattern of this violence: white domestic terror.
At this stage, what do reporters and news outlets have to lose? The reactionaries already hate them. The least they could do is practice an objective style that values precision of language, history and context over feckless, groveling both-sides-ism. That won’t always be easy, but the Steve King situation ought to be a no-brainer. Trust me, we do not need to worry about hurting this asshole’s feelings. Call the guy a fascist. With everything he’s said, the onus is on him to prove that he’s not. And if we force him to make that case, then we’ll finally be having the conversation that needs to happen.