On the North South podcast we were recently joined by Tadhg MacCionnaith, a self-professed Anarchist. For myself, Anarchism was something I was aware of, I thought I had a working knowledge of it, I thought I knew what it was, and as such I had a number of preconceived ideas about it, mostly characterised by contemptuousness and dismissiveness. I would imagine many people are in a similar boat, but the fact is my position and that contempt were based off a very limited and clichéd interpretation of Anarchism, one with spiky green hair and a grunge band located in its parents basement. But listening to Tadhg challenged that view, it’s not some idolisation of Johnny Rotten, its an ideological approach to understanding systematic injustice and a proposition of an alternate system wherein injustice can be eradicated – check out the interview with Tadhg for a slightly more comprehensive and nuanced appreciation of Anarchism. It gives an insight wherein we get to understand what Anarchism is about beyond some preconceived notion of an angsty teen spray painting circled A’s on their local Tesco, and I don’t propose you’ll come away an Anarchist but it’s invaluable to understand these ideologies beyond our predetermined notions.
Now that I have finished shamelessly marketing our podcast, I’ll get onto the reason why I am bringing up Anarchism, and it unfortunately comes back to the holy grail of content, Donald Trump. The US did an almighty job of manufacturing the red scare, a deep seated and unrelenting fear of an alien Communist ideology supposedly posed to decimate the American way of life. The red scare was immeasurably pervasive, so much so its sentiment still lingers potently over half a century since. This omnipresent scare complimented the practice of McCarthyism, essentially the ability to designate anything unfavourable as an agent of the evil communist threat, the repercussions of which is an unparalleled freedom in policy making and action. Look to practically any Latin American country that democratically elected a Socialist government during the cold war – Oops, all of a sudden there is a band of right-wing militiamen armed to the teeth appearing at that government’s front door, “knock knock, it’s the US we’re hear to install a military junta favourable to our interests, say hello to Mr. Pinochet.”
The deplorable actions of the US defended within the paradigm of the red scare in Latin America, and indeed throughout the world, are more than well documented. What we can learn from this period, is the ability of the US to manufacture an ideological boogeyman that can be very efficiently deployed in the justifications of otherwise questionable actions. That scapegoating is what we are seeing now with Trump and Anarchism. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the US has seen an admirable period of unrest, citizens rising up calling an end to the plague of structural racism and inequality that so abhorrently characterises not just the US, but the entire Western hemisphere. Instead of addressing this unrest as the byproduct of centuries of racism and pledging to change it, ‘President’ Trump has deployed the ideologically alien enemy of Anarchism. He can do so effectively because of Anarchism’s marginalisation to the fringe of political theory, it is not well understood and that founds the preconceived notions I mentioned previously and allows a very quick demonisation of its designation.
Trump claims the Black Lives Matter movement and the thousands of ongoing protests throughout all fifty states, and the world, have been hijacked by ANTIFA and Anarchists. Fox news have lapped up this tagline, as have the usual suspects when it comes to Trumpian bootlickers. I have no doubt there are proponents of an Anarchist outlook participating in the protests, the same way that I have no doubt many other ideologies and anyone with any modicum of anti-racist sentiment will be. But rather than Anarchism hijacking them? I would argue that Trump and his administration have hijacked Anarchism as a scapegoat for his administrations shambolic inability to understand centuries of racial injustice. A 75 year old man understood this injustice, and he stood peacefully protesting it on the streets of Buffalo, NY. He was then violently pushed to the ground by the bastions of US racial discrimination, the Police, but according to Mr. Trump this wasn’t a 75 year old man it was an ANTIFA provocateur and a set up, pesky Anarchists! We’ve been told Trump doesn’t drink, but I’m starting to question that after seeing that particular tweet.
That is far from the only mention of Anarchism on Trump’s twitter or indeed his press briefings and other trash media outlets. Trump is increasingly emphasising Anarchism as the responsible force behind the emanating scenes from the US, it is abundantly clear he would rather demonise an entire ideology as opposed to actually address the roots and grip of racism in America. It is obscene. For all the Anarchists who find their ideology is being demonised and utilised in the defence of unjustifiable positions, I would suggest you reach out to any Communist friends, they might have some tips on how to be a presidential scapegoat.