Consorting With the Enemy Ain’t Gonna Work: Chelsea Manning and the Alt-Right

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.


Transphobia is Central to Trump’s Ideology, Not a Distraction

By Arun Gupta (July 28, 2017)

This is my take on Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. It should be vigorously opposed, and that can be done without glorifying or supporting militarism and American Empire

Trump is throwing red meat to his base. It’s meant to delegitimize and dehumanize transgender people. He is telling his base that transgender people are not citizens. They do not have the same rights as you and I to be full social agents. They are not even fully human. That is the message of his ban. The danger is it will increase hatred, discrimination, and violence toward transgender people. And it will ripple outward with new discriminatory laws, policies, and regulations against the lives and well-being of transgender people through government, education, health, criminal justice, employment, and housing.

This transphobia is central to Trump’s white nationalist ideology and base, which is also deeply misogynist and patriarchal. The aim is to use state power to elevate straight white men by pushing everyone else into the shadows and into conditions of fear and even terror.

As such, Trump’s ban on transgender people is not about militarism and imperialism and opposing it is not support for those ideas unless you couch your arguments in those terms. So don’t talk about the patriotism and courage and bravery of transgender people or how they are fully capable of serving with honor, can protect the nation, praising vets who are transgender, and so on.

Do not encourage anyone to serve in the U.S. military, which is a scourge on humanity. But being blase about the ban or even saying, “Good!” because it undermines the military is playing into the reactionary and proto-fascistic attacks on transgendered people in American society.

A final note. I am not criticizing those who do or have served in the military. It’s a machine of death and destruction, but there are good people who I know who are vets, and a few who do still serve. It’s possible to oppose the institution and interests they serve with great vehemence while not demonizing individual soldiers. (Now if they actively participated in war crimes, like John McCain, I sincerely hope they rot.)