Right wing mood swing in DC

Now victims, now victors, ralliers flaunt their dysfunction

[Note to subscribers: I’m releasing this Monday newsletter a day early, while it’s still sort of newsy.]

all photos © 2018 the author

I’m feeling like a grizzled vet. Ten years ago I covered some of the first Tea Party rallies in New York City. And last Saturday I was baking in the DC sun watching a Proud Boys “#DemandFreeSpeech” rally at Freedom Plaza in D.C., which is really just the latest iteration thereof.

It’s not that I’m too old for this shit, but this shit sure has gotten old for me. There was always an apocalyptic, self-pitying element to the Tea Parties, always accompanied by a triumphalist mood-swing: The attendees were portrayed as a saving remnant, harassed and persecuted by demonic liberals, then encouraged to envision the splendor of their coming victory over them.

You’d think Trumpism would relieve them of this need, but it hasn’t been so: Like other recent rightwing events, the Proud Boys thing operated on same victim/victor logic, and the narrow free-speech focus rendered it even sillier: The few hundred attendees were encouraged to imagine themselves persecuted because some private companies had thrown some famous assholes off their platforms, which they disingenuously portrayed as a Constitutional issue and the casus belli that, would, after a largely unmentioned Democratic comeback in 2018, incite conservatives to real victory in 2020 (or else, as a few ralliers warned, liberal domination and the End of America).

I actually recorded some of the speeches, but wasn’t fast enough to get Peter Boykin, founder and president of Gays for Trump, who told the crowd he had been “raped by social media.” He was referring to his suspension on Twitter, which would seem to have been motivated by his involvement with violent far-right creeps, but which he instead portrayed as a consequence of his conservatism; he inveighed the crowd to “lay down your digital lives” for Trump and freedom.

Well, at least he didn’t scream about being thrown off Tinder like this guy:

I did get audio of a few other warmup acts. Eric Cochran portrayed himself as “the Pinterest whistleblower,” which excited the crowd because rightwing outlets have lavished attention on the guy since he bitched out his employer to celebrity sting operator James O’Keefe last month for messing with the account of anti-abortion fringe group Live Action. (Pinterest said it banned Live Action for spreading “medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment or violence” — that is, trying to line up new Scott Roeders.) Cochran was fired and now works for O’Keefe’s Project Veritas.

You may be wondering how fast you’d get fired from your job if you pulled something like that, but Cochran, who comes off as a blonde Screech from Saved by the Bell, was sore aggrieved: “I could have remained in the tracks [?] of life,” he moaned, “following the formula set for me, advancing my tech career, speaking at international tech conferences...” But duty called: “Pinterest doesn’t care that the majority of its users are Christian moms in the middle of the country,” he cried; “the agenda takes precedence over the business.” Despite the valuable business advice Cochran was offering, “Pinterest tracked me down and escorted me out of the Pinterest office where I worked... Big Tech thought this would be the end of me,” but now that Cochran’s on the case at Project Veritas it’s Big Tech that will taste the lash. He denounced all media, including the “establishment conservative” kind, but shouted-out rightwing Senator Josh Hawley, who has called for breaking up tech companies (another recurring theme at the event). Cochran ended by bidding his comrades forsake “the comforts of this temporary life” and instead work for their reward in rightwing heaven.

At this point the rally’s gravel-voiced compère called attention to the “big, beautiful, diverse crowd — we got black, we got white, we got brown, we got yellow, and then you got that large terrorist organization, all-white antifa, calling us racist!” While there were in fact a lot of black people at the counter-demo a few blocks away in Pershing Park, the only black faces at the Proud Boys rally were the ones that appeared onstage.

(I did, however, see this young Asian man, sullenly marching around with a Betsy Ross flag and a “CNN is fake news” t-shirt.)

Then came Joey Salas. Salas, from Brooklyn, also travels under the name Joey Salad, in which guise he has become known mainly for pissing in his own mouth and for a badly botched racist video scam, and now claims to be running against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress. He claimed to have showed up, not to support his own ludicrous career, but to support freedom of speech. “If you went over there to that terrorist organization side,” Salad claimed, referring to the counter-protest, “and you preached against their organization, they would throw milkshakes filled with cement and punch you in the face.” Salad also claimed to have experienced censorship himself, which is no shock, and affected to be mortally offended over it. “If they want to ban somebody,” he claimed, “they'll go through every piece of content you put up and they’ll try to look for a reason to ban you.” Even if it’s fraud meant to stir racial violence! He then said the crowd needed him in Congress as “somebody who’s not paid off by the big tech companies.”

Next was Look We Have a Black Person, introduced as “Kira Ellis” though she was really Kira Innis, granddaughter of the late African-American conservative Roy Innis. She laughed that off — “It’s a funny last name!” — and apologized for her hoarseness, then got hoarser yelling things like “Black Lives Matter is nothing but a racist terrorist domestic hate group,” and “I as a black woman have no freedom of speech! I can’t support my president, I can’t support the wall, I can’t support low taxes...” She also revealed that she’d been banned from the El Capitan theater in Los Angeles for her MAGA hat, and had been temporarily suspended from Facebook because she “dared speak the truth about certain lifestyles.” Innis further regaled the crowd by screaming at unseen enemies that “Donald Trump is your president whether you like it or not” and “if he is not your president then you’re probably not his resident, so get out.”

Then came Iranian Christian pastor Ramin Parsa, telling us that “America is great because of Jesus,” and thanking God that America had accepted him “as a refugee,” the irony of which occurred to no one. His American persecution story was that social media outlets had banned him, and that he got arrested in Minnesota for “sharing the gospel with some Muslims.” (He seems to be talking about this story which, as it has been covered exclusively by rightwing propaganda mills like Jihad Watch, I cannot completely credit, notwithstanding Parsa is a man of God.) Parsa also claimed, twice, that “in Iran, the Iranian people love Donald Trump,” which we would all see when the mullahs fell, which would happen any day. “Make America Christian Again!” he cried to ecstatic screams.

Tim Fazenbaker, a glad-hander with a distinctly oily Ted Cruz vibe, came up to dangle crowd-bait bromides like “political correctness has taken over in a way like never before, we are on the brink of social war, all these leftist companies like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are silencing conservative voices” etc. But the crowd was losing interest in opening acts by then, so Fazenbaker yelled things like “Sharia law has come here! Think about that!” and warned that “we’re gonna turn into Canada.” That didn’t do it either, though when he announced that he was running for Congress from “the great state of Maryland” he got some hoots. But it bodes ill that the former failed write-in candidate chose this event as his launchpad, and he really should have spelled his name at least once.

After a few more increasingly ineffective speakers came the Gavin McInnes thing. The Poobah of the Proud Boys was introduced by what I guess is one of his YouTube foils, a comedian called CopperCab, who screamed about free speech awhile, introduced McInnes as “a piece of shit,” then gamely pretended to wrestle with him before leaving. McInnes claimed he had visited on CopperCab “a new kind of head-butt I invented, the body head-butt.” He went on about it, about how “you can fuck up a guy’s ribs... with a head head-butt, you’re really just gonna break his nose at best.” This will give you some idea of what he thought of his crowd.

McInnes then showed off some plastic handcuffs that symbolized conservatives’ persecution, announced “we are here to break these chains,” and made to burst the cuffs — unsuccessfully, as it happened, but everyone laughed it off as they were removed with some assistance. Then came the “But seriously, folks” part and it was ten minutes of exactly what you’d expect, e.g.:

So you hate hate, I get it, but all these people talk about is this passionate vitriol against Trump, against Trump supporters, against anyone they deem, I dunno, anyone left of Mao. Then they say punch a Nazi and when they say punch a Nazi, they obviously mean punch a Trump supporter. So these people are brimming with hate. They don’t hate hate, they love hate.

McInnes also suggested that when Tim Kaine, the wimpiest guy in the Senate, said “fight them in the streets,” it was a coded message of antifa violence. Then, as night follows day, McInnes’ claims of victimhood turned to promises to commit (defensive) violence: He made jokes about how the Nazis disdained killing unequipped Russians as “bad for morale... and that’s how it feels to fight antifa... he’s not going to be able to sneeze for a week, I just broke his ribs.” Every so often there was a little duck-back to refresh conservative victimhood — “no media was reporting on [Trump] honestly” in 2016, McInnes claimed, which those of us who remember CNN cameras on standby for every Trump rally will find ridiculous — before roaring back to call his opponents “pussies” and “retards” (how politically incorrect!) who “can't fight, they can’t argue, they can’t even get a job.”

McInnes also told the crowd “get in trouble, let’s step into the fray” -- the balls of which you have to admire, given that after the Proud Boys beat some people up in New York last year, some of his goons got arrested but McInnes skated.

Then came Milo, the movement’s former sassy gay friend, whose opening Laura Loomer impersonation was at least funny, in a Wednesday-night-at-Don’t-Tell-Mama way; but he soon dropped into another dour victim yap (“they want you dead”) mood-swinging into triumphalism (“the left must be made to fear you”); and Laura Loomer wasn’t even sassy, monotonously rehearsing her grievances for an increasingly distracted crowd.

If these people weren’t doing their best to ruin the country, you might feel sorry for them.