Sunday, September 10, 2017

Long Divisions by Three Percent

It was bad enough when I read about the Three-Percenters in the United States, but then they came to Alberta.

The Three Percenters are an American Militia group, pledging to resist their own government based on their judgement that the U.S. Constitution has been infringed. They take their name from a dubious assertion that only 3% of the population of the British colonies in America actually fought in the Revolutionary War, while scholars ("or socialist eggheads", depending on who you ask) say that number was probably over 15%.

But you see how clever that is, right? If the sole surviving superpower was founded by a violent minority, well, it means anything is possible, even now! It means these guys and their camo-wearing, 'tacti-cool' wearing buddies aren't a fringe element, they are the backbone of the next revolution.

Make no mistake, this is a group of disaffected individuals who relish the thought at taking up arms against what they feel is an oppressive government, so in addition to promoting anti-immigration (and largely anti-Muslim) views, they also make a point of demonstrating that they have access to firearms, releasing videos depicting their 'drilling' and practicing 'small unit tactics'. These individuals feel that armed struggle against a 'co-opted' army and/or police is not an if, it's a when.

Worse still, they claim a significant part of their membership is ex-armed forces and ex-law enforcement, and it is easy to believe, since back in 2013, a number of Jersey City police officers were disciplined for wearing patches that read "One of the 3%".

Armed militias are nothing new, but at least in the past, they felt obliged to maintain a low profile. Not the Three Percenters though; they post videos on YouTube, have open Facebook groups, hold rallies and host demonstrations on the steps of courthouses and city halls to protest lax immigration enforcement and what they fear is the creeping manifestation of sharia law in North American society.

And these demonstration sites include Calgary.

Vice ran a feature on them back in June, describing the inherent danger of  a group "playing with the potentially lethal cocktail of xenophobia and firepower", and estimated their real-world numbers in Alberta alone at between 150 and 200. Their online registration is claimed to be over 1600.

They have showed up as 'volunteer security' at a couple of Calgary events, including a "Deplorable Day" (their words, not mine - well, mine too, I guess...) at City Hall that ended up attracting far more counter-protesters.

I have to tell you, the parallels to the 1930s are getting to the point where I am half expecting toothbrush mustaches to come back into style. As the world continues to shrink, and cultures mesh together with increasing force and friction, and more and more people are wistfully recalling the good old days that never were (well, unless you were a straight, white, Christian male of at least the middle class), there seems to be a greater and greater reflex among a growing number of people to reject it all, and become more insular and isolationist.

And while these exclusionary, totalitarian ideologies are on the rise, who is defending the rest of us against them? Antifa? The Black Bloc? The same yobbos who seem to be just as eager to bust heads as those on the other side? Didn't WWII get fought so we wouldn't have to sort this stuff out now?

Well, yes, but maybe not in the way that you think.

In a great piece for The Guardian entitled "Why we have to cut off the head of fascism again and again", novelist Patrick McGrath describes the fascist movement in Great Britain, both before and after the Second World War. Thanks to some superb historical fiction in comics and novels, as well as Sir Ian McKellen's fantastic adaptation of Richard III, I am well aware that Mosley's blackshirts and other pro-fascist, pro-Hitler elements were a movement up until England went to war, when they were sent to prison.

I had no idea that once the war ended and they got out, they got right back into it, marching speeching, scrawling swastikas in the dark. Which is where 43 Group comes into play:
The 43 Club was founded in early 1946. It was comprised, at first, of tough, well-trained Anglo-Jewish former servicemen. These men set about disrupting the public meetings of the resurgent fascist movement. They also infiltrated it, at great personal risk, to gather intelligence – to learn their enemy’s plans so as to then sabotage them. They fought the fascists on the streets of British cities, and attracted increasing numbers to their cause. They were disciplined, principled and restrained. They were highly effective tactically, and didn’t hesitate to use brute force when it was required. By 1949 the fascist movement in Britain was effectively finished. Mosley had moved to France.
(BTW, one of those members was none other than world famous hairstylist Vidal Sassoon!)

So here's the thing: as the world these days becomes more and more uncertain, I don't see the appeal of fascism becoming any less attractive to groups like the Three Percenters.

I don't see the Three Percenters realizing that the majority of people in either the U.S. and Canada would prefer not be be represented by them.

I don't see a bunch of thrill seekers in black watch caps, bandanas and sunglasses sorting them out when they get rowdy; "disciplined, principled and restrained" do not seem the most apt of descriptors.

And I don't see anyone like 43 Group willing to stand up to militia-like groups when they begin acting up in public.

So where does that leave us?

Well, I hope you didn't come here looking for answers, because I am fresh out, junior.

Unlike a lot of folks, I didn't laugh a lot when alt-right poster boy Richard Spencer got slugged in the face on camera. Many were of the opinion that punching a Nazi is just a great idea, but I had my doubts. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the hell out of it as a delicious piece of schadenfreude, but I recognized it as a guilty pleasure. As a precedent, I still find sucker-punching people with objectionable ideas to be a questionable way for any society to do business.

But I have a bad feeling there will be more opportunities for those of us with convictions to see those convictions put to the test. Maybe it will be on a bus, or in a food court, or on our way into city hall to file some paperwork, and we come across someone in a wanna-be biker outfit, flying the Three Percenter colours of a Spartan-style helmet with a Roman numeral III. Maybe they are haranguing someone for wearing a hijab, or blocking the way as part of a civil disobedience number.

I'm a middle-aged fat man who hasn't thrown a punch in anger since 4th grade, but I have a weird and unsettling feeling I might be in for a fight that day.

43 Group is alleged to have taken their name from the number of people in the room at the time of their founding. With any luck, no actual lines will get drawn up, so no one will need to actually toe them, but if it comes to that, I bet I will find more than 43 people in my corner.

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