Must-Reads and Thoughts On Fascism's Gruesome Nostalgia

Must-Reads and Thoughts On Fascism's Gruesome Nostalgia

From the new AI narrative to migrant evictions in two major cities, and a constitutional standoff at the southern border, here are some important stories you may have missed this week.

Food Not Bombs trial rescheduled after too many jurors objected to $500 fine for feeding homeless by R.A. Schuetz. “Too many of the potential jurors said that even if the defendant, Elisa Meadows, were guilty, they were unwilling to issue the $500 fine a city attorney was seeking, said Ren Rideauxx, Meadows' attorney.”

Shelter Shuffle Leaves Hundreds of Migrants [In NYC] Waiting Outside In Below-Freezing Temperatures by Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio. “‘The conditions are not good. We don’t eat,’ [Seydou] Ayid, 21, said in French. ‘It is cold. We don’t sleep.’” (My city, Chicago, is likewise poised to evict hundreds of migrants from city shelters, as mutual aid volunteers and the governor call on Mayor Brandon Johnson to delay the mass evictions.)

Governor Abbott signals potential defiance of Supreme Court’s border ruling by Andrew Schneider. “[Teddy Rave, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, said],‘The last time that I'm aware of that this kind of defiance actually happened was resistance to desegregation orders,’ after Brown v. Board of Education.” 

As California closes prisons, the cost of locking someone up hits new record at $132,860 by Kristen Hwang and Nigel Duara. “The cost of imprisoning one person in California has increased by more than 90% in the past decade, reaching a record-breaking $132,860 annually, according to state finance documents. That’s nearly twice as expensive as the annual undergraduate tuition — $66,640 — at the University of Southern California, the most costly private university in the state.”

Israeli HQ ordered troops to shoot Israeli captives on 7 October by Asa Winstanley. “This evidence has been studiously ignored by mainstream media in the West.”

Jails Are Closing Across America. Why? by Brian Dolinar. “The closure of a jail is theoretically something that can be celebrated by opponents of mass incarceration. But in the absence of more far-reaching reforms, closures can also become a symbol of the resiliency of mass incarceration, even in the face of abolitionist organizing.”

Sam Altman's self-serving vision of the future by Paris Marx. “In Altman’s future, the AI tools made by OpenAI will not only become even more resource-intensive as the company seeks to make them more capable, but they will be built into virtually every aspect of our lives.”

Joe Biden Is Running on Roe. It’s Not Enough by Melissa Gira Grant. “So now that Roe has been overturned, we ought to ask: When Democrats like Biden run on abortion, what precisely about abortion do they intend to defend?”

Non-Police Crisis Response Programs Have Been Working. Here’s How by Meg O'Connor. “Experts said that preventing people from coming into contact with the criminal legal system because of a health issue or personal crisis is good, but it’s not enough. Without substantial investment in social services, affordable health care, and housing, people in crisis may be picked up by a social worker instead of a police officer, but they still won’t always be able to get the care they actually need.”


Don't miss my bestie Maya Schenwar on the upEND podcast. Maya is the co-author of Prison Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, the author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, and a co-editor of the anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? She also edited Let This Radicalize You, my book with Mariame Kaba. In this episode, Maya draws connections between the family policing system and other realms of carcerality and explains why abolition is the answer.

Last Night’s Zoom

Many thanks to everyone who joined me for last night’s Zoom conversation with Shane Burley. I had a few drinks, and we talked about fascism and other topics that make us a lot of fun at parties. I really appreciated the questions and insights folks brought to the conversation. If you would like to join my next boozy Zoom with a brilliant friend, please consider becoming a paid subscriber.

Thoughts On Fascism's Gruesome Nostalgia

Thursday morning, I went for a walk outside. With an extreme cold front behind us, for now, I decided temps in the high 30s would be tolerable enough, and I needed to stretch my legs. As I stepped outside, I discovered that while the air no longer stung my skin, the sky was gray, and the neighborhood was drenched in fog. It was the kind of fog that people and cars disappear in within half a block or so. My achy body and depressed mind needed the exercise, so I pressed on, wandering into weather fit for a horror movie. 

The grayish blur of it all felt offensively apt. These days, I resent any weather that can metaphorically match my political unease. 

While temperatures have become more tolerable, for many of us, the weather in Chicago is still cold enough to kill. I know what it’s like to be cold and unhoused, and I am horrified that our city’s mayor – who was elected on a progressive platform – appears set to expel migrant families from city shelters. When one considers all of the obstacles that migrants face when attempting to secure stable housing and employment in the United States, the idea of a two-month limit on migrant stays in city shelters was always unfair and inhumane. Mayor Brandon Johnson announced the limit back in November, saying that he would not “sacrifice the needs of Chicagoans in support of those who wish to become Chicagoans.”

It was an announcement that might have galvanized Chicago’s left under previous administrations. However, having played a large role in Johnson’s election and attached many hopes to his administration, Chicago’s movements have been slow to challenge this mayor. 

In the past, Johnson has loudly pronounced that he would not “flinch” in his support of our new migrant neighbors. But now, with wintertime evictions looming, migrants are being sent a clear message: that there is no place for them in this city. 

"The flow of migrants that are coming into the city of Chicago and the flow to exit has not kept up,” Johnson told reporters on Wednesday.

In other words, Greg Abbott is winning. By sending thousands of migrants to an unprepared Democratic city, Abbott has reshaped what passes for “progressive” in Chicago. Meanwhile, the loyalty and hope that our movements have invested in Johnson have reshaped our tolerance for human disposability. I find it all utterly horrifying, and I hope that we can find the political will to resist this spiral. 

Meanwhile, Abbott appears to be entering a constitutional standoff with the federal government over the removal of razor wire along the southern border. The Supreme Court has ruled that (for now) the Biden administration can remove the razor wire, but Texas officials have continued to install it. Some state lawmakers are insisting that Texas should not allow the razor wire to be removed. State Representative Briscoe Cain, for example, quoted President Andrew Jackson, saying, "The Supreme Court has made their decision, now let's see them enforce it."

Andrew Jackson famously uttered those words as he defied the Supreme Court by using federal troops to round up Cherokee people and force them from their homelands in an atrocity known as The Trail of Tears. 100,000 Cherokee people were displaced, and 6,000 were killed as a result of Jackson’s actions. It is no accident that language reminiscent of atrocity and human disposal, as dictated by colonial hierarchy, is being deployed by Texas officials in this matter. 

This is the gruesome nostalgia of fascism.

Abbott has refused to answer questions about whether Texas forces would physically prevent the removal of razor wire. He has stated:

Texas’ razor wire is an effective deterrent to the illegal crossings Biden encourages. I will continue to defend Texas’ constitutional authority to secure the border and prevent the Biden Admin from destroying our property.

As tensions heighten along the border, former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd has been raising the alarm about a planned right-wing protest in the area, saying, “The insurrection is on the border.” 

According to Budd, participants view an upcoming right-wing convoy in the area as their second stand after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Bud writes:

They want to fight with migrants, NGO volunteers and even Border Patrol all of whom they are claiming are aiding the “invasion” of the US. The take over of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass was the sign for them to come down. This is why BP Union is on right wing media constantly.

Bud warns that federal officials are not taking the threat these protests pose seriously. The convoy is scheduled to run from January 29 through February 3.

When I talked with my friend Shane Burley Thursday night about the right’s preoccupation with imagined threats along the border, he said, “I don't think people are responding to border stuff right now because the far right has been visible on other issues, like attacking trans healthcare facilities and queer youth events, but I think people are missing some really incredible violence on its way.”

All of this is happening, of course, in the context of an election year in which a wildly unpopular, genocide-assisting Democratic president is all that stands between Donald Trump and the presidency. 

Now, perhaps you understand why I find the weather so offensively apt.

All the same, there was some good news this week. I was heartened by a story out of Houston about a jury that could not be empaneled in a case against a Food Not Bombs activist because too many potential jurors were vocal about their unwillingness to fine defendants for feeding unhoused people. That is the kind of integrity and decency we need in these times. It’s also a good reason to show up for jury duty.

As I have said before, human disposability will be increasingly normalized in this society. Disasters will be leveraged by neoliberals and right-wingers alike, and migration will fuel a rightward lurch across the political spectrum. Government officials who manage the norms of capitalism are not open to solutions that make room for people who are displaced from their homes or homelands. The long-term maintenance of the system demands that those people be boxed out and left for dead or subdivided and tightly controlled in camps or institutional environments. What we need is a culture of rebellion against those norms. We need to resist what we are being told is inevitable. We need to reject the very notion of scarcity in a country where billionaires exist. We need to think big and also think small because sometimes, as those potential jurors showed us, the answer is to simply state our values and refuse to play the roles the system would cast us in.

So, take heart. If you want to defy human disposability and resist the abandonment of human beings, you are not alone. I was reminded of that last night when I talked to my friend Shane about fascism, right-wing violence, genocide, and other disturbing topics. I mentioned how much I appreciated that we could talk about these things, given that some people get upset or uncomfortable when I raise these topics. Shane noted that the way we work through these subjects together gives him hope. “Every time we talk, think about how it ends,” he said. “I feel like we have never walked away at the bottom because that's not what we do.” 

He was right. That’s not what we do. 

Because we get to decide, each day, who we are in relation to each other to everything that’s wrong. We can acknowledge how messed up things are without giving up on ourselves or each other. We can resist the norms of capitalism, the extremes of the right, and the idea that anyone should be left out in the cold. We can take action collectively and build movements worth living in and living for. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore tells us, “Freedom is a place. It’s the place that we make.” We have a lot of place-making to do, and we can only do it together.

In solidarity,


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