On the immediate heels of scheduling a campaign rally in Tulsa—where Black Wall Street was burned to the ground—for Juneteenth and shifting the Republican National Convention to coincide with the 60th Jacksonville, Florida’s infamous Klan-stoked Ax Handle Saturday riots, the Trump campaign has made a new symbolic move that cannot reasonably be brushed aside as coincidence.
In new Facebook ads and posts, the campaign is urging supporters to sign a new petition condemning antifa, an ideological lumping of anti-fascism activists held up by the party as the most recent enemy of Trump and Trump’s nation. They are doing so, in part, by using one of the most notorious symbols of Nazi concentration camps: the inverted red triangle, the patch used by Nazi guards to designate those imprisoned as political enemies of the fascist state. The campaign is using the symbol not accidentally, but correctly: It was, indeed, the badge used by fascists to identify enemies of fascism.
The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection using a Nazi concentration camp symbol.
Nazis used the red triangle to mark political prisoners and people who rescued Jews.
Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors.
Their masks are off. pic.twitter.com/UzmzDaRBup
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) June 18, 2020
While The Washington Post quotes an expert historian who says it is “hard to imagine it’s done on purpose,” due to the relative obscurity of the symbol, it is harder to imagine the dead-on use of that particular symbol to designate anti-fascist enemies was done by accident. The campaign has repeatedly adopted white nationalist and anti-Semitic imagery and themes, sometimes replacing them and sometimes not, after being confronted on their meaning. The campaign and White House both have also courted white nationalist reporters and lavished special attention on outlets, like OAN, that have promoted conspiracy theories pulled from white nationalist groups.
That the symbol was only one of many used for the ads is not a plausible counter. While the “Trump War Room” insisted that the symbol was “widely used by Antifa,” notes Media Matters, that is transparently not true. Very, very not true.
Again, there is no remaining credibility for the campaign, for Trump, for Pence, or for the Republican Party to draw on here. Trump’s own adaptation of fascist ideologies and declarations, especially in the past few months, is not plausibly in dispute. They have adopted white nationalist stances aggressively, continue to rely on an identified white nationalist as key White House strategist and speechwriter, have relentlessly engaged in propaganda and gaslighting. They have also directly encouraged a militant base to rise up against “antifascists”—which has resulted in exactly that—and, again, have made a series of recent symbolic moves that cannot be translated as anything but intentional nods to notorious acts of violence and racism.
This, in addition to committing actual violence themselves, for the purposes of demonstrating to Trump’s followers that he can attack Americans for no greater purpose than the desire to go for a brief walk. If the f—ers want to claim incompetence or ignorance as the reason for each supposed error, then they would have taken steps to make those errors less prevalent, not more so.
For the record, there is no “antifa,” as an organization, and Trump’s own government has soundly dismissed all claims of supposed “antifa” actions during recent protests. While there has been astonishing violence during some recent rallies, the perpetrators have almost universally been on the fa side of the ideological spectrum.
It would be easier to believe that Trump’s band of for-hire white nationalist deplorables stumbled on things like Nazi concentration camp symbols accidentally if they also did not run actual concentration camps, in this case for refugees, intentionally. Or demand the militarization of the streets, or promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, or declare, even in the Senate, that the law of the nation is now subservient to Dear Leader’s personal agenda and interests. There is no subtlety here, however. The movement is both advocating for explicitly fascist things and declaring “anti-fascists,” real or imagined, to be enemies of the state. There is no flowchart needed to get from A to B.