Dennis “Justin” Raimondo is a minor celebrity in the U.S., thanks to a 10-year career as an amateur demagogue in the libertarian milieu of the San Francisco Bay Area, a political environment where anything goes and nothing matters. He has the familiar personality traits of the type: “sentimental formlessness, absence of disciplined thought, ignorance combined with gaudy erudition.” He poses as a conservative but maintains a website at antiwar.com, that features anti-American cranks like Noam Chomsky and is hugely popular with the left – not surprisingly since it views America as an incipient fascist state.
Raimondo is a confused and confusing person, who seeks to be the master of the confusion he creates. Born plain Dennis, he renamed himself Justin, while attending the Cherry Lawn School, a defunct prep school in Darien, Conn., which he graduated in 1970.
Raimondo unquestionably encompasses many contradictions. Now past 50, he features a photo of himself on his website with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, in a fey (and failed) pose as an homme fatale. He is flamboyantly gay, but promotes himself as a Buchananite conservative and was in fact Buchanan’s San Francisco campaign spokesman during the “culture war” that other gays took personally, many elections ago. The entire package is deceitful, and it is a calculated deceit.
The movement that Raimondo has cobbled out of opponents of the Iraq war, who are drawn into his site, is unabashedly fascist. Justin Raimondo personifies an American “red-brown” alliance, like the one that surfaced briefly in the 1930s when Communists and Nazis combined forces to bring down the Weimar Republic. This alliance was revived after the fall of Russian Communism, when Stalinists and fascists around the world united on an old platform – war against the Jews – of which more will be said further on.
Raimondo’s own understanding of fascism – a word he himself throws carelessly around when defaming political enemies and disarming potential critics -- is utterly superficial. In a preposterous column titled “A Fascist America,” (March 3, 2005), he defines fascism as follows:
1) “The idealization of the State as the embodiment of an all-powerful national will or spirit;
2) “The leader principle, which personifies the national will in the holder of a political office (whether democratically elected or otherwise is largely a matter of style);
3) “The doctrine of militarism, which bases an entire legal and economic system on war and preparations for war.”
Of course. applied to America this is absurd. Outside the neo-Nazi fringe, no Americans, least of all Republicans, idealize the state. The “leader principle” is not only not in evidence, it is almost absent in a political season when the President has been attacked more viciously than any chief executive in memory; and it is pretty difficult to refer to American “militarism” when the country’s security rests on a military that is voluntary and under attack. In the same column, while attempting to draw a parallel between opponents of the anti-war crowd and fascists, Raimondo even lends credibility to Hitler’s fairy tale that the Nazi seizure of power was a response to “the imminent danger of Communist revolution” – a particularly absurd assertion since the Communists actively colluded with the Nazis in their attacks on Weimar’s democracy and passively supported Hitler’s accession to power.
In an attempt to smear America even further (as if that would be possible) Raimondo throws in Augusto Pinochet, the left’s favourite example of an American puppet. But Pinochet never idealized the Chilean state, or promoted a cult of himself as a leader, or prepared for war or waged war against any foreign country, as required by Raimondo’s fascist model. Pinochet even organized a democratic referendum that removed him from power. Indeed, Pinochet was no more than a typical, short-term military dictator of a type seen all over Latin America, bereft of charisma or serious ideology. His rise to power was the consequence of historical accidents, not of ideology or mass mobilization, and he left behind a thriving democracy.
Raimondo himself, on the other hand, has much in common with the true historical type. He once sought notoriety as a leftist, but now poses as a rightist, a pattern first set by Mussolini in 1915. Years ago Raimondo attempted to become a Republican leader in San Francisco but was quickly dumped after boring the small party group in that city with his pretensions and diatribes. He took over a new conservative tabloid in San Francisco and soon put it out of business by turning every front page into a showcase for headlines about himself.
He has always wanted to be considered an author and journalist, no less than a political figure. At about 13 or so, he seems to have imagined himself as a science fictioneer. But he never had the discipline or stamina to apply himself to any profession aside from that of absurdist publicity hound. He has failed as a journalist and political commentator, exactly as Hitler failed as a painter, as Mussolini failed as a socialist leader, and as the most notorious fascist of the left, Fidel Castro, failed as a lawyer.
Like his models, when Raimondo never engages intellectually with opponents, but relies on invective, insults, and innuendo. Notwithstanding his bizarre and vulnerable persona as a gay Buchananite, he glories in violating the privacy of others. He is obsessed with exposing neoconservatives as “Trotskyites,” a largely spurious claim, since the most famous example among the original neoconservatives, Irving Kristol, was a Trotskyist for only a year, nearly seventy years ago, and only a handful of recent ex-leftists – almost entirely ex-Democrats – are leading neo-conservatives today.
The psychological term for Raimondo’s posturing is “projection.” He is obsessed with rooting out alleged political, ideological, and even religious chameleons, with the unconscious intent of advertising his own political transvestism. This pattern is evident in all his activities: he claims that America is becoming a dictatorship, the better to justify his own ambitions for power. He defends the establishment media against criticism by conservative weblog authors, although without the rise of the “blogs” he would be nothing. Until the launch of Buchanan’s unreadable (and soon to be defunct) American Conservative, his only place of publication was the paleo-conservative Chronicles.
Posing as a war-hater, Raimondo defends murderous dictators like Milosevic, who unleashed the only wars in Europe over the past half century. He presents the Ba’athist party-states in Iraq and Syria as victims of the malicious West and openly wished that Japan had won the Second World War, while fiercely alleging his patriotic motivations. When it comes to America’s present wars, he revels in a repellent defeatism. The heinous attacks on America on 9/11 become for him an explanation of American “fascism.”
Taking a leaf from his comic-book canon of political wisdom, Raimondo describes fascism as a product of “the traumatic humbling of a power once considered mighty.” He cites Germany defeated in the First World War, while ignoring that Italy, where fascism originated, was a victor in that war, as was the third Axis power, Japan. Perhaps this omission can be ascribed to the fact that Raimondo idolizes Japan, which was at the height of its power when it attacked Pearl Harbor. As he wrote so eloquently, in an article titled. “Hiroshima Mon Amour: Why Americans Are Barbarians,” posted to his site on August 8, 2001, “the idea that America is, in any sense, a civilized country is easily dispelled.” By contrast, imperialist Japan, which slaughtered millions in East Asia, is his idea of paradise. He believes “the wrong side won the war in the Pacific.” It is, by the way, extremely doubtful that Raimondo has ever set foot on Japanese soil.
The upshot of Raimondo’s mishmash is his charge that September 11 was “an enormous defeat for the U.S.,” and thus the source of Bush fascism. Many fascist movements have been expansionist and imperialist, but others were historically known for their promotion of disaffection and demoralization, such as those in France and England before the Second World War, and the isolationist legion in America at the same time, which Raimondo seeks to revive. The Rosetta Stone of his philosophy is Buchanan’s idea of the betrayed “American republic” – betrayed by democracy that is – an ahistorical trope which echoes prior fascist movements.
Classic fascism has other characteristics that resonate in Raimondo’s agendas. He is a fanatical rumormonger, asserting that U.S. war plans against Syria and Iran are nearly operational, while Bush administration policies toward these states have been notably circumspect. He was among the most active disseminators of the legend that an innocuous document, titled “A Clean Break,” having to do with Israeli foreign policy, was actually a blueprint for the invasion of Iraq.
If, as Mary McCarthy said, every word written by the Stalinist Lillian Hellman was a lie, including “and” and “the,” Raimondo is a prevaricator down to the placement of commas, periods, and semicolons. One of his favorite tricks is the mendacious use of hyperlinks, giving the impression that his statements are backed by other sources. These are usually his own articles, immodestly declared by him to be “classics,” which in fact have little or nothing to do with his latest ravings, but lead to more lies through more links. This, too, is not original with Raimondo; it is the Chomsky method of meretricious citations.
Raimondo calls Abraham Lincoln “the closest to a dictator that any American president has ever come.” A couple of days later, forgetting or ignoring that statement, he labels President Franklin Roosevelt the “predecessor” of today’s “fascism,” and declares that Harry Truman and Winston Churchill were also “fascist heroes.” At the same time, he tenaciously defends Milosevic – a dictator who freed no slaves – and, equally insistently, denies the occurrence of the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica. He also defames the Albanians, and encourages others on his site to do the same, and then denies being an apologist for Serbian war crimes. He has called the Kosovars “the Shi’ites of Western Europe” – meaning, Muslim friends of America, who deserve to be slaughtered. He fervently hopes for a new war between Slavic Macedonians and Albanians, since nothing warms his heart so much as the thought of dead Albanians except, perhaps, the dead “Zionists” buried in the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Calumny is Raimondo’s Socratic method. He refers to David Frum and Richard Perle, two intellectuals who have no governmental authority whatever, as “strutting martinets.” When I myself attempted to clarify the status of Islam in Uzbekistan, an American ally, while criticizing obstacles to democracy there, he labeled me a defender of torture. He accused me of “rationalizing the same sort of regime in the U.S.” as in Uzbekistan – based, according to him, on “torturing dissidents, shutting out all political opposition, and arresting thousands on account of their political and religious convictions.”
In his latest ridiculous column, “The Specter of Fascism,” dated March 9, the Raimondian style of revisionist history is in full display. In a single paragraph, he refers to the leftist New York tabloid PM, published in the late 1930s and 1940s, as “Communist Party-controlled,” which will certainly come as a surprise to Arnold Beichman, a long-serving anti-Communist and former leading editor of the paper. PM was famous as a battleground where Stalinists and anti-Stalinists fought for influence, but was never under Communist control. For one thing, unlike the real Communist press, such as the Daily Worker, PM did not promote an “antiwar” alliance, during the Stalin-Hitler pact, with the Nazis, of the kind Raimondo wishes to revive today – which is why PM, a newspaper that went out of business in 1948, still provokes Raimondista rage. Raimondo refers to PM’s identification of pre-1941 isolationists as a “fifth column,” which Dennis shrieks was “scurrilous and untrue.” He’s wrong. Calling the pro-Axis rabble in America then a “fifth column” was accurate reporting, just as it is accurate reporting to describe Dennis Raimondo as a sympathizer of America’s enemies now.
Sometimes Raimondo posts other leftwing fascists to do his slandering for him. He has done this with Kevin Keating, infamous for hoisting a banner during the anti-Iraq demonstrations in San Francisco that read: “We Support Our Troops When They Shoot Their Officers.” If a critic of Saudi Arabia’s support for Wahhabism enters his sights, he will accuse them of fomenting war against the Kingdom. He has, in fact, insisted that the neo-conservatives in the government are actually preparing military action against the Saudis. Raimondo’s protective attitudes towards the Saudis derive perhaps from the fact he and the Saudi princes share a commitment to the fable of “Zionist” involvement in 9/11.
For Raimondo, the Great Satan is America, and the Little Satan is Israel. He has written a screed called The Terror Enigma, that is a kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion for the War on Terror. Raimondo’s tract – it’s only a pamphlet issued by a vanity press – insinuates, with no serious evidence, that the Israeli government had prior knowledge of 9/11 but failed to warn our authorities; that because an Israeli lived in the same neighborhood as a 9/11 conspirator they were naturally complicit; Israelis selling art on the streets of the U.S. were actually big-time spies engaged in undermining our government; that here, there, and everywhere, the omnipotent Israelis control everything, so why not the attack on the Twin Towers as well? The next step from this conspiracy logic is, of course, the claim that Israel was in on 9/11 with the Bush administration.
On October 29, 2004 Raimondo wrote a piece under the headline, “Bush and Kerry put Israel first.” It claimed that, “the Jewish state keeps an entire people captive in the twin concentration camps of Gaza and the West Bank;” and “the Israelis love to torture and berate [Yasir Arafat] far too much to let him die a natural death.” Referring to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, he wrote, “one needn’t refer to fiction when the relevant facts are so readily available.” (In other words, the Protocols may be fake, but they tell the truth.) According to Raimondo, “Today, the word ‘fascist’ is the political equivalent of the ‘f’-word, rendered virtually meaningless on account of its degeneration into pure epithet. Yet, Israel in its present trajectory fits the classic definition of fascism.” And: “Israel, far from being our faithful ally, is potentially an enemy.”
Almost as intense as his hatred for the Jewish state is Raimondo’s loathing of democracy. Some may have been taken aback by the volume of his bile when he denounced the “orange revolution” in Ukraine as well as the current democratizing efforts in Lebanon. But not those who have followed Raimondo’s prominent association with the Russian Jew-baiting website, Pravda.ru, and its American contributor, the neo-Nazi Bill White.
Bill White has followed the predictable career of neo-Nazi agitators. He is a Jew-hater and a compulsive liar, frequently inventing “facts” about those he targets. Posing as a “libertarian socialist” with a site at www.overthrow.com, he recently distinguished himself by hailing the murder of the family of the judge in Chicago who had the temerity to order payment of a fine by a neo-Nazi leader. The Roanoke Times reported on March 3, “As authorities investigate the killings of a federal judge’s family in Chicago, a Roanoke white supremacist on Wednesday applauded the murders as justified violence against Jews and the federal government. ‘I don’t feel bad that Judge [Joan Humphrey] Lefkow’s family was murdered,’ William A. White, editor of The Libertarian Socialist News, wrote in an essay Tuesday on his Web site, Overthrow.com. ‘In fact, when I heard the story I laughed. ‘Good for them!’ was my first thought.’”
While sorting out the love affair between antiwar.com and overthrow.com is akin to diving into a sewer, Dennis Raimondo and Bill White were eager contributors to the Pravda.ru site until the “patriotic” admirers of both bridled at their association with a journalistic enterprise associated, in the mind of most Americans, with old-fashioned Communist propaganda. Articles by both Raimondo and White have been widely recirculated by the Saudi-funded Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In the “red-brown” logic, Jew-baiting works equally well for fascists, Communists, and Islamo-fascists.
Raimondo’s website consistently published propaganda generated by Randall (Ismail) Royer, a former CAIR employee now doing a 20-year federal sentence for terrorist activities. Recently, one of Royer’s associates, Ahmad Omar Abu Ali, was charged with plotting to assassinate President Bush in collaboration with al-Qaida. Before his arrest, Royer distinguished himself between with a campaign to harass and intimidate critics of the jihadists – myself, and the Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed among them – in the Washington region. Raimondo gleefully recycled Royer’s Jew-baiting rants on his website. CAIR, which employed Royer, joined in the campaign by redistributing the Raimondo screeds. CAIR – which pretends to be an anti-defamation organization – also disseminates the neo-Nazi propaganda of Bill White.
CAIR poses as a civil liberties advocate, Raimondo poses as “antiwar,” White poses as a “libertarian socialist,” and their comrade-in-arms Kevin Keating poses as a “revolutionary.” The technique is familiar to any history student: the Nazi party called itself the socialist party of the German workers, while plotting to suppress the labor movement and enslave wage-earners.
The law recognizes that some conspiracies are real: one such is the common effort of Raimondo, CAIR, Royer, Abu Ali, White, Keating, and others to silence the critics of Islamist extremism and intimidate the supporters of America’s leadership in the global war on terror. Of that leadership, Raimondo has written, “Go F*ck Yourself, Mr. President.” (November 26, 2003).
Raimondo has taken on the role of a pre-1941 Axis agent in America, lashing the Jews, giving comfort to the country’s worst enemies, defaming the president, and, in general, seeking to undermine faith in democracy. He also craves martyrdom, and dreams that he will be arrested and tried for sedition the way some of his heroes were. He is so reckless in his provocations that he may some day get his wish. Raimondo is a prophet of disintegration and ruin. Whether he achieves his martyrdom or not, he has certainly earned a minor footnote in the history of “extraordinary popular delusions.” If, as he claims, a “specter of fascism” is present in America today, Raimondo can best locate it with a mirror.