By Alexander Reid Ross (January 25, 2018)
If you want to know what I think of the Chelsea Manning debacle, the nicest way I could put this is that I suppose it was probably a well-intentioned twofer. Kind of like, “Hey, I’ll gather intelligence while trying to make a difference by being nice and therefore showing that gender diversity disproves their most toxic theories.”
At the same time, not having someone to come out and say, “Chelsea told me about the game nights and the escape room; it was totally a project and nothing to be suspicious about” makes it really hard to trust that this was, as she claims, a strictly information-gathering venture rather than a partially-friendly effort to bring left and right together.
I would favor a return to some form of social cohesion wherein the far right is not lashing out at leftists everywhere, using provocation as a first form of communication, and openly participating on an informal, though relatively organized, level with state-sanctioned terror against migrants, people of color, and other marginalized people.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t think putting stock in such an outcome of extending an olive branch is naiive—partly because the far-right’s response to Chelsea’s appearance at their event shows where their interests lie. They are more interested in making her appearance into a publicity stunt, using a person as a token and a one-up against the left, at that. It was a disrespectful and indiscrete exhibition of their own animus, and that’s what we should expect from people like Posobiec and Cernovich who cannot control themselves.
This is why, if antifascists are going to have any agency in how we handle the far right, instead of having our ideas, words, and actions twisted to cohere to their plans, we need to confront them together. Going off on rogue missions without a support group and a trusted community will just enable them to use us. It’s important to try and understand and empathize with people, but it’s equally important, if not more important, to watch our backs and be there for each other.
The outcomes here are mixed, and nobody should be devastated by what happened. The alt light was able to make themselves appear more legitimate in the eyes of some, because of Chelsea’s appearance. Including a trans person is nothing new or particularly exciting with regards to the alt light. It was a trans person who organized one of the Berkeley freeze peach events featuring Joey Gibson, if not his entire entourage of fascists, conspiricists, and wingnuts. It’s Chelsea’s celebrity that they wanted to exploit, not only the fact that she’s a trans person.
For this reason, the immediate response of many lefties was appropriate: this is precisely why we are a leaderless movement. Chelsea was always someone who was supported by social movements and who provided hope and inspiration. Tweets come cheap, though. The important thing is the work. And consorting with the enemy aint gonna work.