The pudgy, balding man openly waved his protest sign - "Hands off Iraq - No Blood For Zionism!" Below that bit of anti-Semitism, he'd printed the web address of the National Alliance - the openly neo-Nazi, white-supremacist organization founded by William Pierce. That's right, William Pierce, the author of the Turner Diaries, a novel depicting a post-apocalyptic race war against blacks and Jews. The novel that inspired the Oklahoma City bombing, that killed one hundred and sixty eight people. In most situations, the very presence of such a bigot would draw a crowd of counter-protestors. On Friday, May 2nd, I watched this bigot march alongside young people wearing the t-shirts of Anti-Racist Action. It was a strange day in Santa Clara, California, where the remnants of the broken anti-war protests gathered to protest President Bush's appearance and speech at a nearby manufacturing plant.
Outside of the Bay Area, news outlets didn't mention the May 2nd protest in any great amount of detail, and for good reasons - it was small and irrelevant, and there was something far more important going on. The real news that day was President Bush's address to the employees of United Defense Industries and to the nation, where he spoke about both national security and his plan to grow and support the American economy. But readers of FrontPage Magazine also need to know about the May 2nd protest, both because it grew directly out of the series of anti-war protests that disrupted San Francisco and other American cities in recent months, and because it was so small. Back when much of the left-leaning media was giving International ANSWER a free pass and accepting their claims to be a 'mainstream movement' without criticism, back when left-leaning columnists were making ridiculous claims about quagmires and catastrophes, anti-war protests had more of a draw. Naïve and uninformed people could accidentally wander into ANSWER's orbit, inflating protest numbers and giving people a false idea of their actual support and influence.
Now, thanks to our liberation of Iraq, there's no one left but the die-hards. And it's important to know who those die-hards are. It's time to finally put a stake in the belief that these protests contain a wide cross-section of American society. What I saw were extremists, plain and simple. A few themes stood out: their belief that President Bush is a fascist, their belief that America is a terrorist nation, and their rampant anti-Semitism.
First, the obsession with fascism. Leaving aside the real fascists, who walked openly among them, many in the small crowd took pains to equate President Bush with Adolf Hitler, and the American government with Nazi Germany. One sign formed a swastika out of American flags. Another
read 'USA uber alles'. A third - 'This is how Hitler started.' One particularly crude sign stated "Sieg Heil You Lying F**k - Bush + PNAC = America," except the 'c' in America was replaced with a swastika. A particularly popular sign, mass-produced by International ANSWER and carried by many, made the point for Spanish speakers - "Bush Facista - tu eres el Terrorista."
Now, no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, it's not hard to distinguish President Bush and our government from fascism. To compare the two is either to lie or be deluded. I'm with Dennis Miller on this one. As he joked on the February 25th episode of the Tonight Show, "If you're in a peace march and the guy next to you has a sign that says 'Bush is Hitler,' forget the peace thing for a second and beat his ass."
But that was only one of the ludicrous themes on open display. Another - the bizarre comparison of President Bush with terrorists, and the declaration that Bush is the biggest terrorist of the lot. As the crowd chanted as they set off from their half-occupied parking lot, "The biggest terrorist in the world today - Bush, Cheney, and the CIA." That only lasted a couple of chants, before people switched it to "the biggest terrorist in the world today - Bush, Cheney, and the USA." One woman held up a sign that read "Ashamed to be an American - my president a terrorist!" A few even claimed that President Bush himself planned the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. One man's sign read, in part, "Who Staged 9-11?" Another man proudly held up his sign, which read 'Bush Did It,' showing Bush's face superimposed over the burning twin towers. Several swastikas complete the picture. He spent most of his time standing supportively beside the speakers at the end of the march; no one objected to him in the slightest.
Do these people have any love for their country whatsoever? Unfortunately, we already know the answer, on clear display that morning. One man from the South Bay Mobilization read a fictional resume of President Bush to the protestors, telling them beforehand that 'they were now free to boo and hiss'. As he went through the various charges - 'warmongering killer of children' and so on, ad nauseum - the protestors booed with gusto. That is, except once. Near the end, neglecting Clinton's vast cuts to the American military and intelligence, he tried to pin the blame for 9//11 on Bush, saying that he 'presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.'
Silence. Suddenly, no one booed. The group could criticize Bush for a wide range of manufactured faults, from failure to produce utopia to failure to speak with their preferred accent, but no one could find their voice to criticize the deaths of three thousand people on 9-11. They can wave around signs saying "There's a terrorist behind every Bush," but they can't even muster a peep for mass murder on the streets of New York.
I've been to more of these protests than I can count, but that's the first time I've needed a moment to regain my composure.
The last theme, of course, was anti-Semitism. That's full-time ideology and profession of the National Alliance, which was openly wandering the streets, happily talking with the protestors about Jewish conspiracies. Besides our pudgy, already-mentioned National Alliance supporter, an elderly man with no sign went from person to person, pressing small slips of paper into their hand: "It's All About Israel." A masked, black clad man roamed the crowd with a sign that read "Zionist Puppet" on one side, "No More Wars For Israel" on the other. One gentleman, dressed up like Uncle Sam, had a large sign that read "I want YOU to die for Israel - Israel sings 'Onward Christian Soliders.'" As he mugged for the camera, I noticed the Israeli flag pinned to his jacket, the Star of David replaced by a swastika. Not every anti-Semite was dressed like a loon; there was nothing peculiar-looking about the man who eagerly gave me a two page, tightly-spaced pamphlet on "Zionist Influence on U.S. Foreign Policy," a pamphlet which claimed that "our leaders are controlled by the well organized, powerful, and unrelenting PRO-ISRAEL ZIONIST / NEOCONSERVATIVE movement." The flyer told us about "Zionist power," which included control over ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, UPN, and a host of other news networks and newspapers.
In other words, the Jews control the media. The flyer contained the URLs of several web pages, including one from the National Alliance and two others which blame 9/11 on Israel and 'the Zionists', in collusion with the U.S. government. And don't be fooled - this kind of nonsense wasn't just coming from cranks in the audience. An anonymous activist from the South Bay Mobilization, never identified by his full name, told the crowd that 'neoconservatives' had promised Bush the presidency for life, as long as he followed the polices of Israel. He spoke this through a microphone, as an official rally speaker. Anti-Semites don't just attend these rallies, they speak from the stage.
If I were a Democrat like Joe Liebermann, I might want to ask my fellow candidates, Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, what their supporters were doing mingling with neo-Nazis, flashing their signs and recruiting for their campaigns?
Of course, the protest was organized by the usual suspects, the communist Workers' World Party-controlled International ANSWER. The marshals for the march wore the same yellow ANSWER vests they wore at the anti-war rallies in San Francisco, the party newspaper, Workers' World, was being distributed, and the signs passed out were all International ANSWER productions. The main and most prominent speaker was long-time Workers' World Party activist Richard Becker, who also spoke at several of the large West Coast anti-war rallies. It was nice to see Becker up close, stripped of the raised stage, expensive sound-system, and lines of ANSWER 'security' - he gave the same speech he gave before, but instead of tens of thousands in downtown San Francisco, it was to a few hundred in a suburban parking lot. His communist line was the same as always - that tomorrow, President Bush would attack his favorite states, North Korea and Cuba; that America was becoming a world-wide empire; that only the 'people's movement,' presumably led by the Workers' World Party, would be able to stop him.
And with that, the people's movement trudged out of the parking lot and along the freeway off-ramps to their target, a barricaded side-street approximately two blocks from where President Bush's motorcade would be passing. The people's movement got lost twice en route - once half the march headed in the completely wrong direction; another time they had to stop and figure out whether to fork left or right. I took advantage of the delay to move to the front of the crowd, so I could count the protestors as they passed. The organizers claimed a thousand, but there were between five and six hundred, tops.
It was a lonely march - the police had cleared the streets of traffic so this small group of protestors could pass. It's almost a shame they didn't mix more freely with traffic, because that would have given them more evidence of their marginality. Just while crossing the street on the way to the protest with a knot of sign-carrying protestors, a passing motorist yelled 'Traitor!' Another yelled 'Get a job!' A man bearing a sign encouraging passers-by to honk their support was largely met with silence. This in the Bay Area, supposedly the bastion of leftism. One of the protestors, stung by the criticism, muttered 'They're always so concerned about free speech, except when it's against them.' The vast expense and inconvenience incurred to accommodate this small crowd's right to free speech, paid for with the taxes of the passing motorists, was of no concern to him.
Not perturbed by fascists, anti-Semites, or communists, at the end of their march the anti-Bush marchers finally encountered something that made them angry - the American flag. A few hundred patriotic Americans had gathered to wave to Bush's motorcade, bringing flags and banners with them. The anti-Bush crowd began to shout obscenities; from what I could see, the people who loved America bore this patiently, tolerating even the communists' right to free speech. After spending so much time among the irrational, it was refreshing to see the signs of the people who had turned out to support Bush: "Bravo, Mr. President," "The Right Man at The Right Time," "American Soldiers: The Sword of Liberty," and, most poignantly, the simple phrase: "Never Forget."
The anti-Bush protest on May 2nd illustrated something that Americans must not forget - the leaders, organizers, and core supporters of these demonstrations, whether anti-Bush, anti-war, or anti-globalization, are not in any sense part of the mainstream of American opinion. When supporters of our government pointed out the kooks at past marches, leftists claimed that they were just a small fraction of the crowd. This time, the extremists were the clear majority - both the majority of speakers and the majority of marchers. No one can make this claim again.
The anti-Bush protest also illustrated something else - the momentum of all that anti-war organizing is over, and the organizers have nothing to show for it. A personal appearance of the president in the Bay Area, purportedly the most liberal area of the country, and they couldn't muster a thousand protestors. While there's still a few tiny protests in the future, and a conference or two for those duped into joining organizations they'd be better off avoiding, the organizers' pretensions to relevancy have been crushed once again. They'll hide, for now, only to re-emerge at the next big opportunity for protesting - the 2004 presidential election. We can expect the same antics from the same people as we head towards the national conventions of both political parties and the general election that follows it. When they show their heads again, remember who they are, and what they stand for.