This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Emily and Margaret talk about organizing against fascists while the Eye of Sauron is upon us. Emily breaks down the history of some far-right groups in the US as well as the history of opposition to them. She talks about how to organize against neo-Nazis, the interconnections of antifascism and transness, the perils of seeking asylum, and how to hunt Nazis and win.
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Live Like the World is Dying: Emily on Antifascist Organizing & Hunting Nazis
Margaret: Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcasts what feels like the end times. I’m when your host, Margaret Killjoy, and today I’m excited. I guess I say that every single time that I’m excited. But it’s actually true. I really…I wouldn’t interview people if I wasn’t excited about it. Today, we’re going to talk about antifascism. There’s going to be a couple of weeks–I don’t actually know what order they’re gonna come out–And maybe you’ve already heard me talking about antifascism recently, but nothing feels more important in terms of community preparedness than stopping fascism. So, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. And today, we’re going to talk with someone who was involved in organizing the counter protests in Charlottesville, the anti-Nazi side of Charlottesville, and has had to deal with the ramifications of that. And I think you’ll get a lot out of it. But first, we’re proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on the network da da duh da da. [humming a made up melody]
Margaret: Alright, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess, a vague overview of who you are and why I had you on today.
Emily: My name is Emily Gorcenski. She and her. And I am an activist from Charlottesville. I had called Charlottesville my home for about eight years before the infamous Unite the Right rally happened. And that sort of called me to anti- fascism. In the wake of all of that, I also started initiatives to digitally hunt Nazis and track them down, expose them, and understand how their networks operate, how their movements form and grow and evolve, and have been involved in sort of organizing against fascism for the last several years.
Margaret: Awesome. This is going to be good stuff that we’re going to talk about. Well, bad stuff, I suppose. So the Unite the Right rally, what was that? I mean? It’s funny because it feels like it was either yesterday or 15 years ago.
Emily: Yeah, both of those. It was both of those. Unite the Right was what a lot of people call “Charlottesville.” It was the big neo-Nazi rally in August of 2017, August 11th and 12th to be precise, and it was one of several neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville. It was the biggest and got the most news coverage. During that summer…Locally, we call it the “summer of hate.” We don’t like to use the word “Charlottesville” to describe the moment in time because we are still a community, but it was the moment that you saw everything from the neo-Nazis marching with the swastika, to the terror attack, to Donald Trump saying there were very fine people on both sides.
Margaret:Yeah, kind of it feels like the moment that sort of kicked off the modern Nazi-right. Like it feels like their big coming out party, their gender reveal–if Nazis a gender. I don’t know if it’s…Nazi might not be a gender. I hate to disrespect people’s gender, but that might be not on the list. And I don’t know what color they would use for fireworks. But it… Okay, so it feels like their coming-out, right, like it was this thing. And I’m kind of curious what your take on it is because from where I’m at it seems like kind of a little different than stuff had gone before and a lot of bad things happened. A lot of very bad things happened and we can talk about some of those things. But, it felt like kind of this like aberration. Everyone was like–I mean, except the president the US–everyone was like, “Oh fuck, that’s bad. We don’t like this. This is bad when Nazis march down the street with torches chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us.'” Clearly this is bad. But it feels like…it does feel like it kind of worked for them to kick them off into the mainstream. Like it. It doesn’t feel Like their movement has shrink since then, I guess I will say.
Emily: I think it’s a complicated. Yeah, that’s a complicated topic. If you look at the history of what led up to Unite the Right, there were a number of neo-Nazi rallies, sort of the ascendance of the alt-right throughout the country, right. So we had Richard Spencer growing in prominence and forming the alt-right movement. We had these groups like Identity Europa and Vanguard America, and Traditionalist Worker Party. And all of them were sort of, they’re holding these rallies all over the country, right. There were some in Pikeville, and there are some in in Huntington Beach, California, and there was some in in Berkeley, right, the the sort of infamous battles of Berkeley. And all of these events were sort of in the months around, I don’t know, anywhere from one month before or two months before to a year, year and a half before, right. And this is sort of aligned with the ascendance of Donald Trump, the sort of hard shift right in American politics, the reaction to a lot of things, including Obergefell, the court case that legalized gay marriage, and two terms of a black man being president, right, there are a lot of factors that kind of started to swirl together and formed this vortex of the alt-right. And what happened in Unite the right was, this was…it was almost like that moment in an orchestra where everything was tuning up beforehand, right? You know, there was like the smaller rallies, there was some violence, there were some, you know, definitely some things that are fairly scary, but it was isolated. And it was easy for people to ignore. What happened in Charlottesville, everything came together. And when we saw on the night of August 11th, at the University of Virginia, the Nazis marching with the torches and chanting, “You will not replace us,” and eventually, “Jews will not replace us,” all of that started to come together to be like that moment that the orchestra starts playing, right. And I think ironically, August 11th was also their high watermark. Because even though we have seen fascism grow in power since then, the dynamics are much more complicated because those groups that organized and participated in Unite the Right have essentially been destroyed and that movement has essentially been destroyed. And so what we see is actually something that’s morphing. And I think that’s a much more important thing to understand.
Margaret: Okay, that makes sense. That does kind of–because I don’t hear people talking about the alt-right anymore, right? And a lot of the individual groups that made up yeah Unite the Right like, died, like the part of the Lord of the Rings, where the orc grabs the barrel of dynamite and runs towards the wall and blows up–maybe that…I think that was Lord of the Rings–to bring down the wall or whatever. Like because we don’t talk about the alt-right anymore. We talked about the right wing. And now but it does seem like the right wing is now doing the things that the alt-right used to do. Like, why is it–I’m asking this like half earnestly and half to get a an answer from you–but like, why is it we got rid of, we voted out the far right politician and now things are going further and further right, even though he’s gone. Does that relate to all of this?
Emily: I think I think it does, right? So it’s all about movement and counter-movement. We defeated the alt-right. We killed the alt-right. The alt-right didn’t die. It didn’t die of its own accord. it was killed. it was killed through through antifascist organizing, it was killed through through criminal charges being brought against key players, it was killed through alt-right people committing mass shootings and the movement being unable to recruit, and it was killed through civil court cases even. So there was a number of factors that killed that movement, but
Margaret: I take back my comparison the to the Lord of the Rings guy.
Emily: The thing about the alt-right, though, is that it doesn’t need to exist anymore. Its purpose was simply to set an anchor point that everything else can be sort of tied around, right? And so actually what you see if you look at, over time. at these dynamics, you know, 2015, 2016, 2017, you had the alt-right movement on its upswing. 2018 It started to die. And by 2020 It was pretty much gone. On sort of that sort of downswing of the alt-right, you had groups like the Proud Boys starting to grow in power. So the Proud Boys existed as early as 2016. They participated in Unite the Right, but they were not a major factor. They didn’t really participate in the organizing. They were kind of on the fence of “Should we? Should we not?” But they we’re there. Enrique Tarrio was there. Many Proud Boys organizers were there. As the alt-right died, the Proud Boys started to gain in prominence. And the difference between the Proud Boys and the alt-right, is that the Proud Boys had more of a sanitized image in the public eye, right? They were led by a Hispanic man. And they were…they had these members that were like Samoan and Asian and they didn’t look like the, you know, dapper Nazi with the fascy haircut and all that stuff. And that kind of…what the alt-right did is it created a foil for the Proud Boys, right? So, it was very easy for everyone to decry the alt-right after they committed a terror attack, murdered Heather Heyer, and did all this awful stuff using images of swastikas and stuff like that, right? It was to set a sort of expectation so far removed from what was acceptable, that as long as you weren’t that, as long as you weren’t the worst possible thing, you were probably pretty okay. And so now you see the Proud Boys and they got really involved in the electoral politics, right, they were really close to Roger Stone, and they had a really big part in the the J6 [January 6th] insurrection and all of this stuff, right? So, you see this sort of like…it’s like a three phase current, right, as one, as one movement starts to decline, another movement starts to pick up, and now the Proud Boys are in the decline now. They’re they’re facing trial. The trial is currently ongoing. I don’t know how it will end up. And you see these other movements start to pick up, right, and this is now more mainstream. Now we have more politicians like Ron DeSantis and they’re bringing this explicitly fascist agenda into legislatures and into sort of normie spaces, even though it’s the same exact thread that has been going through the alt-right, the Proud Boys, etc, all the way to like the white power movements. It’s a lot of the same philosophy, but it presents itself differently. And so even though we elected out Trump, we didn’t get rid of that undercurrent. We just changed the face of it.
Margaret: Okay, so if we have these three phases, and this is a very–I’m not really saying…is a very convincing argument–that we have these three phases. And I really like focusing on this idea that this the first wave of it, at least, was stopped by antifascism and through a diversity of tactics, both electoral and direct action tactics. I want to come back to that because I want to talk about what those tactics are, but I want to ask about with this current wave, what do you think are effective organizing strategies? Like what can stop this? Because it does seem probably, legally speaking, no one’s gonna go fistfight DeSantis in the street, right? No one’s going to out him because we know who he is. He lives at Florida’s White House. I don’t know how governors live. What? Yeah, what do we do?
Emily: I think this is why the diversity of tactics is so important, right? Because every movement has a different face. And it has a different way of operating. So you need to be able to confront it with different techniques. And I think that what’s important about like the current wave of fascist organizing is that there actually does exist a long activist history of opposing what they’re doing, right? This movement is not actually new. Everything that like Ron DeSantis is doing, Ron DeSantis is essentially a product of a decade’s long evangelical project to essentially turn America into a theocracy, a christo-fascist theocracy. And so this is like, if you look at the history of how these groups have organized and tried to introduce bills and stuff like that, there’s actually a really strong sort of cadre of people who can oppose those things through the systematic means that we have, right? And so some of the direct action, yes, you can go out on the street and you can punch Nazis and that’s great. You don’t want to go out into the street and punch Ron DeSantis. That’s probably going to end really, really, really badly for you.
Margaret: I feel like there’s different ways of defining the word “want.” “Shouldn’t,” maybe.
Emily: Yeah, maybe yes. So I think that what we need to do is we actually need to look to these groups that have been opposing the other sort of things that this group that these these fascists have been focusing on over the last several years, like homeschooling, and parental rights, and the opposition to gay marriage, and, you know, things like the Tebow bill, if you remember the Tebow bill, right? It was this this whole thing about like using federal funds to allow home schooled athletes to participate in public college sports. And all of this is coming from the same core, right, and there are people who have been opposing this for a long time quite successfully. And so I think that what’s important is actually to understand how to organize with them and follow their leadership and to try to muster up the resources that they can use to effectively oppose these things in the forms where these things can effectively be opposed. Now, there may come a time when that opposition renders itself ineffective, either the bills pass, or, you know, these groups just don’t have enough money to fight all of the bills or whatever it might be, there will probably come a time when that no longer works. And then we have to look at other means, right? Funding battles in the courts, right? Use that system against them, you can protest outside of these people’s houses, right, you can protest outside of these offices that our that are responsible for, you know, some of these consulting firms that are like, funding these politicians, right you can do, there’s a bunch of direct action campaigns that you can choose to organize around that don’t necessarily need to be movement versus movement in the streets type of confrontation, there are a lot of tools in the toolkit. And it’s really important for us to be fluent with as many of them as we can, right. Organize boycotts, strikes, right, all of that stuff.
Margaret: How do people get involved in that kind of stuff? Like, I mean, this would be true, regardless of the tactic, like one of the main questions that I get asked a lot, and I’m always sort of the wrong person ask because I don’t have blanket answers and I can’t necessarily speak to individuals and also I’m just not an organizer. If people say like, “Well, how do I get involved?” and whether it’s how do I get involved in the groups that are fighting Nazis or doxing Nazis, or whatever, but also, how do you find the sorts of organizations that are fighting these bills? How do you? Yeah, how do you do it?
Emily: Yeah, I think that the most important thing is to connect with your local community and see who’s been organizing in your local community because they usually know the best, right. And even if they’re not the ones that are opposing these things, they usually know who is and how to oppose it and stuff like that, or they usually know what groups are out there. There’s also a lot of resources online, right. If you’re opposed to like the hateful legislation that is being proposed and debated, there’s like the Equality Network that tracks and, and lobbies against it and and they’re different in each state–and some of the states are kind of mediocre, and some of them are actually pretty good–but they’ve been effective, right? And I think that what we forget is that what we’re seeing now is not unique. It’s barely even noteworthy compared to what we’ve seen over the last year. So right, there’s like, 400 or so like anti-trans bills this year, right. But if you look at the last three years, there’s been a thousand anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced, right? So, we know how to fight this stuff. And in these organizations that are putting themselves out there and raising funds and looking for volunteers and stuff like that have been showing leadership. Now, I don’t always love equality, right? I don’t the Equality Network, right. I love equality. But the Equality Network, right. I’m not always their biggest fan, right? If you don’t know…like, you can start there and branch out. And I think that the most important thing is that a lot of people come to activism because they’re upset with seeing something, they’re hurt, they’re feeling marginalized, they’re feeling scared, and they feel like they need to do something. And that kind of gets bundled up with a feeling that nobody else is doing something. But it’s not really true, right? There are people who are fighting these things. And the most important thing that you can do is actually just start with your local community, see who’s doing what, go to your city council meetings, talk to your….you know, find your local Black Lives Matter chapter, find your local immigrant rights chapter, you know, whoever is fighting for….fighting against ICE, fighting against, you know, police violence, right? This exists in almost every community. And if it doesn’t exist in your community, look at the neighboring community. Network with these people, because they have the leadership. Even if they’re not fighting for the cause that you believe in directly, all of these causes are linked together and they will be able to help you. So that’s the first step is just get to know people around you.
Margaret: Well, it’s good…that actually…you know, most of what we talked about on this show is preparedness, right, like how to store water and all that shit. And the number one thing in all of that is the same. It’s literally the same. It’s get to know your neighbors. And whether it’s get to know your neighbors because you want to share water with them or get to know your neighbors because you want to know who is going to try and murder you as soon as it’s legally allowed for them to murder you. getting to know the landscape of what’s around you makes them a lot of sense to me. And it ties into something…Okay, so you’re like talking about diversity of tactics often is used as this kind of like, way of saying, “Hey, more people should support more radical action.” But it’s worth also understanding that diversity of tactics also means like supporting action that like, isn’t quite as radical seeming or as like revolutionary, like you might want in terms of just actually maintaining a decent platform from which to fight, right? It’s like easier to fight for things when you’re not in jail. It’s easier to fight for things when you’re not in the process of being forcibly detransitioned medically. And it’s interesting because like, okay, earlier on, you talked about how one of the reasons that all this stuff came up is that people felt so aggrieved by the fact that we had two terms of a black president and we had gay marriage, you know, sanctified in law, or whatever. And it’s funny, because in the crowds that I’m part of, two terms of a black president and gay marriage was like, so unimpressive. The left was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” right? Whereas meanwhile, I guess the right is, like frothing at the mouth that these things are happening, which makes me realize that they were a bigger deal all along, or something, you know, I don’t know.
Emily: Yeah, I think it’s because the left is really good at judging situations as a…in their distance from where we want them to be. Right? So we judge things, as, you know, from how far are they from our ideal. The right doe opposite, right. They judge things as “How far is it from the norm,” so things like gay marriage and a black president, those aren’t really big things. Like a black president is not a big deal when they actually what you want to do is abolish the presidency, right? But if you’re if you’re a, you know, white Christian Evangelical that is a racist and, you know, maybe doesn’t like openly support the Klan, but doesn’t really denounce them either, right, like, that’s a huge deal because you actually do believe in this notion that like white Christian men should be in charge of everything. And that means the presidency. And that means everything else, too. So, I think that part of what we have to do as organizers is actually try to look at where things are, and how our sort of political opponents are using change to drum up recruitment, and are using fear mongering and things like that, right. And we’re so used to trying to judge based on the outcomes that we want that we miss that picture.
Margaret: Now, I really liked that way of framing it. It’s an interesting…do you think that relates to…there’s there’s sort of this cliche that the left will cast you out for one sin and the right will take you in for one virtue? Which I don’t think is…doesn’t have to be true, but…
Emily: It doesn’t have to. It doesn’t have to be true. And it’s not really true, right? Because there’s much more complex dynamics on top of that. But I mean, it’s really kind of like to same philosophy. Yeah, exactly. It’s the right, well, if…they’ll overlook a lot of failures if you can move the needle even one degree further, which is why you have things like fairly moderate, otherwise moderate politically women in the UK who are like, supporting the Proud Boys and these anti-trans issues, right? They’re just like, “Oh, yeah, I don’t care about the fact that you’re basically a Nazi organization, as long as you also hate the trannies.” Like, that’s kind of how that is all working.
Margaret: Yeah, and you have this thing that I wanted to be a bigger split than it was–although I think it’s something worth holding on to–is that like, there’s like Satanists and pagans throwing down alongside evangelical Christians because they’re all Nazis together. And it like, it doesn’t make any sense to me. I can’t imagine–Well, it’s hard to imagine being a Nazi period–but it’s just like…You know, even like the rise of the Catholic right. I keep wanting to be like, “Y’all know that the evangelical right doesn’t even think you’re Christians. Like, they want to murder you too.” That is the history of the United States. That is the history of large parts of Europe. Like, it’s amazing who will decide the Nazis are on their side because they all hate the same people or whatever. Okay, so to tie this into the the trans thing, right? Both of us are in a book called No Pasarán on by Shane Burley, that you can go and get from wherever you get your books–this is really ad, this is a plug–and your piece in that talks about relating antifascism and transness. And when we talk about like a lot of the laws that are right now being challenged, a lot of the stuff that…currently, the Eye of Sauron seems to be on the trans community in particular. It’s on lots of communities in particular, but like we’re the ones in the news, even more than usual or something right now. I’m wondering if you kind of want to talk about antifascism and transness. And then we can kind of tie that back into this conversation.
Emily: Yeah, sure. So the chapter I wrote is about looking at antifascism through the lens of transgender identity. And what I tried to do is to take a walk through the current day to the historical context and then back through to the current day of how fascist and far right movements have used trans people as scapegoats for a larger agenda, part of that agenda being hatred of other people, including hatred of the Jews, but also a power play, right? And I think part of the lesson of the chapter is that we need, we need to be much more careful and thoughtful in how we look at comparative analysis. Because there’s sort of two schools of thought that are happening in the left, especially in social media discourse. One is, you know, you you sort of look at historical mapping, and you say, this is basically the same thing as this thing that happened in the past, right, like, the laws that are being passed against trans people now, it’s like, just what happened in the Holocaust. And that’s kind of a problematic comparison, right? But it’s also, it’s also like another thing where it’s like, you also have people saying, “Oh, don’t compare what like the bathroom bills are about to what happened during Jim Crow, because that’s a problematic comparison,” right? So these are two things, like two different perspectives. Or it’s like, don’t compare these two groups of people. And then another perspective is like, “Actually, these things are…” you know, because the first is like, “Don’t compare these two, these two situations because, you know, people now don’t have the same dynamics. There’s not a racial element. There’s not a history of slavery,” for example, right? And the other school is kind of like, “Well, actually, you need to look at the causes. And you need to look at the factors that went into it.” And I think that there’s a little bit of both of these things that are going on, right. And so when we actually look at historically how trans people were targeted in the Holocaust and how gay people were targeted in the Holocaust–and they were. There were a lot of trans–what we would now, today, call transgender people–they didn’t have those words back then and also they were speaking German–And, you know, and queer people. They were targeted in the Holocaust. But it’s also impossible to separate the way that they were targeted from the anti-semitism, right. So a lot of trans people talk about, today, talk about like the raids and the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft [Institue for Sexual Science] in Tiergarten, Berlin. So, the Deutsche Studentenschaft, which was like kind of like the Proud Boys of its time, raided the archives of Magnus Hirschfeld, who is a sexual scientist at the time, and they burned those books and a lot of trans people love to focus on these images and say, “You know, these, these books were the archives of the Institute for Sexualwissenschaft, and it’s partly true, right? But, it also erases a big part of that history because it wasn’t only those books, it was also Jewish authors like Sigmund Freud. It was Carl Jung. It was Jewish scholars,and politicians, and philosophy.
Margaret: So all of this homosexuality is all a Jewish plot to destroy the good German people? [said with dry sarcasm]
Emily: Right. And if you actually look at the posters that the DST put up to recruit for what they were calling the aktion gegen den undeutschen Geist, the action against the un-German spirit. Their…one of their key like bold faced bullet points was “Our principle enemy is the Jew,” and so what they were doing is they were using trans people as a way to attack Jews. It doesn’t mean that trans people weren’t attacked. What it means is that you have to recognize that, historically, there was an interconnection here. And so if when we’re erasing that interconnection, we’re losing out a big part of that history. And we’re also losing out a big part of how we can fight against these movements. At the same time, when we, when we totally ignore these things, like when we say, “You know, don’t compare the trans movement now to the civil rights struggle of before,” we’re missing out on how the right wing uses these arguments to recruit and to motivate, right. So yes, it’s not true that trans people who are denied bathroom use now, they’re not in the same position as black people were who were denied bathroom use during Jim Crow, right, but the arguments are very similar. The white Christians back then were saying “These black people are going to like go into the bathrooms and they’re going to rape your women,” right? They use the like the fragile virginity of the white American woman as this this sort of rallying cry to drum up support for their cause, which is very similar to the arguments that are being made against trans people now. So when we look at this sort of comparative analysis, we have to bring in sort of a two sided perspective.
Margaret: Yeah, there’s so much there. It’s funny because my immediate instinct, and I don’t know whether this comes from my position as a white American or something, is to…it would never occur to me to compare the bathroom bill to Jim Crow, right? That just, to me, seems like obvious that the foundation of slavery is so dramatic and so influential. When, as compared to when I think about being targeted by the Holocaust, you know, to me–and maybe it’s just like, my Twitter brain or like constantly thinking about what people could say to undermine what I’m saying or find holes in it or whatever–to me, that feels like a not only a safer argument but a more logical argument because it’s…I wouldn’t compare what’s happening to trans people as to what’s happened to Jews in the Holocaust. I compare what happens to trans people, to what happened to trans people in the Holocaust. I can make that comparison. But I really, I think this is really useful, this thing that you’re talking about because the way I’ve been talking about it lately, right, like a lot of the anti-trans stuff and the rhetoric right now on the not-far-right, but the middle right, is around trans athletes, right? Specifically, trans feminine people, participating in sports with other feminine people with similar levels of hormones and bone density and shit, or whatever. Whatever the fuck. And it’s this wedge issue, right?. And if you take a step back–it’s the reason I don’t fucking discourse about that–is because it’s a wedge issue. It is meant not to talk about trans people in sports but to use trans people in sports as to break off support for trans people in general from the rest of LGBT community with the eventual intention, I believe–I evade anything that seems conspiratorial, but this seems like the strategy that our enemies are taking–to then eventually, you weaken LGBT, you split them off. Homosexuality can be a larger wedge issue to start more and more just like basically dividing and conquering and, you know, with the eventual plan of making us no longer exist.
Emily: Yeah, I don’t think it’s conspiracy, right, I think it’s exactly true because they say so much. They say it like that. They say, “Let’s split the T off of the LGB.” I think that’s absolutely true. And you’re right, it is a wedge issue, it is a way to get us to fight amongst each other instead of fighting against them. At the same time, the answer to us fighting against each other, is actually to look outside of us and actually to go and seek the solidarity of other groups of people who are marginalized, right. And so I, like I’m really uncomfortable with some of the language. Like I’ve written about this, like, there’s a big movement of like, “How do you apply for asylum?” right? I’m like, screaming at the top of my lungs, “Please do not do this.” Because not only do you not understand how bad this process is for people who are actually seeking asylum–and you thinking that you’re going to get some sort of preferential treatment to that is really problematic–but it will also ruin your life, and in ways that you don’t yet know. And this is like that sort of, there’s like a whiteness or an Americanness of the privilege to this, this thing that’s being that’s being promoted, right? And so I’m like really hesitant to embrace some of this catastrophizing language. Also, because we have seen stuff that is just as bad being done against people like immigrants at the southern border of the US, right, of Muslims during the early days of the Trump administration, right? We’ve seen this stuff, right. And what we should be doing is we should be banding together with solidarity with these groups and saying, “Look, it doesn’t actually matter what our internal dramas are. What matters is that we must be united against this broader front, right? We have to unite against patriarchy, we have to unite against white supremacy, we have to unite against xenophobia, against anti-semitism, against Islamophobia, all of these things. And we have to, we have to come together, right. And so I’m a little uncomfortable with some of the things that have been sort of out there because it’s such an internal focus on ourselves. And it’s not really doing a great job at saying like, “Actually, you know, what, like, we’ve been saying, you know, ‘First they came for the x…'” And we’ve been saying that about three different groups, four different groups over the last four years. At some point, you actually have to stop and think, “Actually, wait a second, I’m not the first. They were the first. And before them, or, you know, before them…before us, was them and before them was another group. Why don’t we start building those connections? Why don’t we start building those networks?
Margaret: Right. Well, and that’s actually why like, at the beginning, I was like, you know, the Eye of Sauron like currently on us, right? Like, it’s not, it didn’t start on us. We are not the primary….yeah, like, I guess I’m saying I agree with you. And then even in terms of when I think about the history of splitting up the movement and things like that, like I think about how the first thing that the Gay Liberation Front did after, in 1969, after Stonewall, you know, which was a very diverse crowd of different queer people fighting back against the repression as gay people, it was in this context of the late 60s in which all of these other struggles are happening. And the Gay Liberation Front, at least, and many other people, at least–whether because of their own intersectional marginalization or just out of having some awareness of history and present–worked together, right? Like the first actions of the Gay Liberation Front were to protest the Women’s House of Detention where Afeni Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s mother, was being held as part of the Panther 23 [Meant 21] trial, right. And the Gay Liberation Front, I don’t think was even aware of Shakur’s sexuality at this point–I don’t actually know if she was at this point, it was around…I believe she had her realizations while she was in the Women’s House of Detention–but they were doing that because they were part of the new left. They were part of…like, of course we roll with the Black Panthers, of course we work together with all of these other groups, all of these different marginalizations. And yeah, so in my mind, it’s less like…yeah, rather than comparing ourselves one to one with other marginalized groups, yeah, we just need to be fucking working together.
Emily: And I think it’s also important, like, at the same time, that we don’t…like the Eye of Sauron, as you said, it’s on us now and it’s going to look away. And it’s probably going to look away pretty soon, right? The right wing doesn’t have the attention span to stay focused on one thing for a long time, right. Like, over the last five years, I’ve been called a terrorist by a government organization of some sort at least four times, right? And I’m still hearing, I’m still walking free, right? I remember when Antifa was a terrorist organization that Donald Trump was going to like executive order in prisons all, right? I remember all of this stuff. And I’ve been through so much of this, right? This focus on the trans thing, it’s going to go away and it’s going to be on somebody else. And what we should be doing is actually preparing for supporting that group, whoever it goes on to next whether it’s Muslims, whether it’s immigrants, whether it’s Asians, right, remember when it was the Asian hate, right? That was at the beginning of the pandemic. All of this stuff, right. It’s going to be something else, pretty soon and we just need to be prepared for that. But at the same time, I think we also owe ourselves this look at history to look at how these groups have won and how they have succeeded, even in the face of these, you know, incredible odds, right? Because, we actually owe ourselves a little bit of joy and hope at the same time, right? You don’t become an antifascist, because you like, are a cynic, right? antifascism is about creating a better future. Nobody goes out into the street and like maybe gets shot because they don’t believe that they can create a better world. So we do need to think about this as a struggle but a struggle that we will win and a struggle that is going to, you know, lead to a better future at the end of the day. So, I think it’s really important to like, keep that sort of focus in that perspective.
Margaret: That makes sense to me. One thing, I kind of want to push back a little bit on is about the asylum thing, where–and maybe it’s just because my standard is that I do not judge people on whether they choose to fight or whether they choose to go, right? Like, I’m a bit of a stay-and-fight person myself, right. But, I think that there’s also this thing where I’m coming at this as an adult, right? Like, the state I’m in will probably pass a law this year that will make it illegal for me to go to the grocery store. It probably won’t be used against me. And I can put on pants and pass as a weird looking cis man with bangs, you know? And, but like, I have the tools to navigate that, right? But, the children who can’t access gender-affirming care or the adults in some states that will no longer be able to access gender-affirming care without breaking the law–and I do think that there is a difference between…I guess you don’t seek asylum in Oregon, right. You just moved to Oregon. But, I think that the general…I dunno, frankly, I think that a lot of people should, if they’re able to, keep their passports current. Like, I…go ahead.
Emily: Absolutely. Like there’s nothing wrong with with fleeing, right? Nobody has to fight. I moved to Germany because I had a Nazi that was trying to kill me and like there were multiple attempts on my life. Right. I was SWAT’d. There was all sorts of stuff. Yeah, there’s nothing there’s nothing shameful about fleeing. Asylum is a very specific word, however. It has a legal meaning and it means a specific thing and a lot of people…like, yes, keep your passports handy. But before you even think about moving overseas and requesting asylum, talk to people who have done this because there’s a lot of options out there for how you can do this safely, and not request asylum. Because, the thing that a lot of trans folks who are not organizing in solidarity, or who have not yet organized in solidarity, let’s just say, with immigrants with with refugees and stuff like that do not understand how bad this process is. If you apply for asylum in Europe, for example, like some people are like, “I’m gonna go to Europe” First of all, Europe will deny your claim, almost certainly. I’m not a lawyer. Not legal advice. But, they will almost surely deny your claim. But they will only deny after two years, maybe. During those two years, you have to live in a detention center, essentially…not a detention center. It’s called an Arrival Center. But it’s essentially a camp. You have four square meters to yourself. You cannot work. You cannot travel. You can’t leave the city or the state that you’re in. Right? The medical care is worse than the medical care that you’ll get even under the laws that are being passed in the United States. The violence in those centers is off the charts horrible, right. And there are trans people who have tried to apply to asylum. There’s a there’s a case, that I am not going to name to the person, but this person went to Sweden and applied for asylum and spent like 16 or 18 months there, living on the equivalent of $6 a day. And at the end, her claim was denied and was deported. And now she can’t even come back to Europe, most likely. So it’s a really, it’s a really dangerous thing. And I really want to stress this for anyone that’s out there. Talk to people who can help with this because this is…the stuff that’s going around is so dangerous that if you don’t have an expert supporting you, it’s going to ruin your life.
Margaret: Okay, now that that makes a lot of sense. I was thinking of it mostly in the context of like, leaving the country versus the specifics of seeking asylum.
Emily: It’s way easier to move to Minneapolis than it is to move to Madrid.
Margaret: Right. And there is kind of a like, “Where we’ll stay safe” is a very blurry thing, right? It is unlikely, but not outside the realm of possibility that we’ll see federal bans on various things in United States, depending on how power can move. But it’s unlikely, right? And, but at the same time, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, that place that everyone loves all the trans people, and no one thinks we’re horrible monsters who are against the will of God,” that place, you know, like, I mean, there are places that are better and worse, don’t get me wrong. But okay, so I want to I want to change gears and talk about digitally hunting Nazis because I feel like that’s something that you have some experience with, is that fair to say?
Emily: I think that I’m a pretty decent Nazi Hunter. I’ve exposed a few.
Margaret: What’s, you know, cuz it’s funny, because I think about like, Okay, we’ve talked about how the landscape has changed to where it’s no longer doxing and holding physical space in cities as like the two primary…Well, they were never the primary, but they’re certainly the most visible and some of the easiest to sort of get involved in in some weird way because you can just…you can’t just go fight Nazis, right? It’s not a good idea. You should have support networks and all that shit. But it is like…it’s like the advantage of direct action, as you can imagine point A to point B fairly easily. But even though the landscape has changed, I feel like a lot of people….his, like, the grassroots Nazis still exist, right? And like, they still, like I have my Nazi doxers who occasionally remind me that they exist and things like that, you know? And like, so it still feels like there is still this territory. And I’m curious about what your experiences has been hunting Nazis, like, what are some of the…what are some of like, the wins, you’ve gotten out of that and some of the things that you’ve learned from doing that?
Emily: I think that what really makes me proud when I do that work is when I get somebody out of the community that could have done harm to that community. And by exposing these folks and by helping a community defend itself, I think that’s the greatest reward. So there’s a young neo-Nazi, who with his 17 year old wife, lit a synagogue and fire in Indiana, and I did a lot of work tracking down his case and researching the documents. And in following his case, I found that he was recruited along with his wife into Identity Europa and found evidence of some of the people that recruited him and how they met and how they brought him into the network and her into the network and exposed this information. And as it turns out, this information helped connect to an online presence to a real name, and it turns out that this woman was running a stand in the Farmers Market in Bloomington, Indiana, and was just there in the community every day, and she was a neo-Nazi recruiter. And when the community found out, they mobilized and they organized and they work to get this woman kicked out and pushed out a farmers market and totally disrupted her ability to organize and recruit for that group. And I think for me, that’s like the reward of sort of hunting Nazis and exposing them is that you actually get to help a community defend itself. I think the thing that I’ve learned from doing this is that it’s fucking dangerous. Because, what you’re doing is actually you’re exposing people to shame. And the reason that this sort of–we can call it doxing–the way that this sort of doxing works is that it has to be bad enough for a person to be shamed out of their community, right. We don’t do it to harass, we don’t do it to intimidate. It’s done to give people the tools to say, “I’m not willing to have this person in my midst. I’m not willing to employ them. I’m not willing to go to school. I’m not willing to work with them.” Shame has to be a factor, right? And when you shame people, they can react, and they can come after you and yeah, that’s why I had like an Atomwaffen hit squad tried to fly to Germany to assassinate me once, so I knew that was always a possibility.
Margaret: Aw, that’s exciting.
Emily: Yeah, that was very strange. It was really strange when the Berlin police, like the Berlin polizei slid into my Twitter, DMs. That’s 100% true story. I will show I will show you the DMs if you want some day.
Margaret: No, I believe you. The interactions I’ve had with German police have all been incredibly authoritarian and incredibly polite. Those are the two…whatever, I’ve only been stopped by the German police twice. And both times, very polite, very stern.
Emily: That’s, the German dream, that that’s Deutschland for you. Very authoritarian and very polite.
Margaret: Which, you know, I have feelings about but yeah, it is what it is. I guess…Damn, okay. So wait, tell me more about this hit squad. Like what happened?
Emily: Yeah. I don’t exactly know what the motivation was. But I got a DM from the Berlin polizei. They were trying to find me. Because apparently–we think it was the CIA because the CIA is responsible for protecting Americans overseas–But somebody had, through whatever surveillance they had on Atomwaffen, the Atomic Division in English, whatever like surveillance they had on this group, they detected that these folks were flying overseas and had intentions to be in Germany and that they had intercepted chats apparently, saying that they’re going to try to find me at a demo and stab me. Which is very funny, because I don’t really go to demos in Berlin. But anyways, that was their plan. And I think I know who these folks are. They ended up getting arrested and sent to prison at some point, not for trying to murder me but for other things.
Margaret: For being an Atomwaffen. So pretty…Yeah. Yeah. I don’t feel like that group deter deserves to be pronounced properly in German because I feel like that’s like what they want is to be like, “We’re good, proper German Nazis,” but there’s just some fucking…I mean, obviously, I’m not trying to….Well it’s interesting, I do want to diminish them and make fun of them, but at the same time, like, there’s a weird balance here, where you kind of want to be like, “Oh, you dumb little assholes,” you know? Well, not, while still accepting that they’re a very serious threat in some ways. You know?
Emily: I could always speak actual German around them. And watch them be dumbfounded.
Margaret: Yeah. Okay, so one of the things that stands out from what you just said about all this stuff–besides the how complicated of strange times we’re in where the CIA is stopping Nazis from murdering antifascists–is the fact that this recruiter was at the farmer’s market instead of like…like when I was more actively involved in stuff, it was like metal shows, you know, it was this like, it was a very subcultural milieu, the the Nazi scene. And I feel like this like move to farmer’s markets is like worth exploring and talking about, you know, you have the kind of like, the way I usually see it expressed is like the crunchy granola to Nazi pipeline and things like that. And like you talked about how, like homeschooling was like a big avenue. Yeah. Do you want to talk more about that just to the why they’re at farmer’s markets?
Emily: I think it’s, you know, there’s so many different factions of the far-right. And one of them is sort of this traditionalist faction, right, there’s a lot of like homesteading, and there’s a lot of prepping, and there’s a lot of like live off the land and be independent and have lots of white children and be pregnant and barefoot all the time. That’s part of this sort of Christian, this this far-right, like, Christian sort of segment of the far right. And there’s also like it’s part of this white Christian sort of traditionalist second segment of the far-right. There’s also like, Neo-pagan segments of the far-right that are similar. But yeah, I think that there’s there’s a lot of this like mythology, right? One of the essential elements of fascism is that what differentiates fascism from other far-right, authoritarian ideologies, is that Fascism is fundamentally around sort of this mythos of rebirth, right? So these these mythologies around like folkish culture and traditionalism, and the rebirth of like, return to like proper America, and like, when men were men and women were women and all of that stuff, right? Yeah, this is part of the mythology of it. And so the difference, like the shift between the skinhead Nazi to the traditionalist Nazi, it’s as much a matter of ideology and aesthetic as it is the degree to which they understand and embrace those elements of the fascist belief, right? And I think it’s dangerous because so much of American identity is also about nuclear family and home values, like you know, good old fashioned values and home cooking, and you know, doing things with your mom and your dad and your 2.7 kids and having a white picket fence, right. So much of American culture is wrapped up into that, fascists have realized that it’s really easy to prey on that. That’s why you have Nazis at the farmer’s market.
Margaret:Yeah. Makes me sad, but I get it. So what are what are we…we’re coming up on an hour, and I’m kind of wondering what’s the question I should have asked you? What else do you think? Do you have any, any final thoughts or any like, you know, rousing “How do we solve all of this?” not to put you in, not to give you an awkward question.
Emily: I would have asked me about what it’s like beyond the activism? Right, because I’ve actually kind of retired from the activism. And I think that a lot of my perspective now, is about what it feels like to be in the middle of this whole milieu of the shit. And then to walk away from it.
Margaret: Yeah. Alright. What’s that like?
Emily: So I don’t know. I think that there’s a few years where like, I spent almost every day looking through Discord logs, doing alt-right research, tracking their cases. I was spending thousands of dollars on pacer fees, downloading and court documents and all this shit, right. And I would end my workday, and I would go home and I wouldn’t play video games, I would start hunting Nazis. And I would wake up in the weekends and I would update my website where I tracked Nazis and I did this and this was my life. And it was a way of dealing with trauma. There was also a time, still today, probably a week doesn’t go by that I don’t see the torches from from the rally from August 11th, right? So that trauma is still very present. And it was a response to it was my way of coping with it and dealing with it. And then when the insurrection happened, I kind of saw that as a passing of the torch. The insurrection was the moment that the alt-right stopped being relevant and the Republican-right started being relevant in this discussion of “Extremism,” right? And I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to…one, I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with it and two, my work was done. My goal was always to try to give tools to mainstream journalists so that they could write more effectively about what we were seeing in the world from the position of an antifascist, right? antifascist often have a really antagonistic relationship with the media and for very good reasons. At the same time, if you don’t have relationships with the media, nobody’s going to tell your story to that forum for you. You have to have some sort of ability to work with these groups of people in order to help get your message out. With these reporters and stuff, right. And I feel like since 2016 up until 2021 there were a lot of folks that actually started to figure out how to write about the far-right. They’re not always perfect at it, they don’t always do a good job, they sometimes fail to credit and stuff like that. All of those things are annoying, but I think that they covered substantively a lot of this much better. And I decided to retire from public activism. And now that I stepped back, and I can look at this, and I’m not on Twitter day to day, and I’m not, you know, in every debate and having every argument, I can actually sort of zoom out and feel like I can have a much broader picture. And it helps helps with like my mental health. And I think that’s actually…I think it’s actually important to also take breaks from this work. Because if you’re just in the day after day, you’re going to be fucking miserable. And it’s, and you’re not going to be able to change anything, you’re not going to fix anything if you don’t give yourself breaks.
Margaret: That makes a lot of sense to me. I feel like there’s a lot of cycling in and out. And I don’t know, I do think that there’s a difference between…I think that sometimes people and you’re not necessarily doing it here, but sometimes people refer to it as sort of like leaving a thing, right, and being like done with it. Or like, sometimes people burn out so hard that they’re like, “Now I’m apolitical,” or, “Now I don’t care,” or whatever. And I think there’s a very big difference between like, “My time in the front line of this particular struggle is done. And now I’m in this like, support role where mostly I’m living my life,” you know, and I feel like–and maybe I say that, because that’s what I do, right? Like, I’m no longer in the streets to the degree that I was when I was younger. But and I actually think it’s useful for people to see folks like you, who are no longer doing something full time but still still existing in this. Like, I don’t know how to say this. But it’s just like, I think it’s useful for people to see that it’s like, this isn’t everything. This is not the entire life, one’s entire life is not the struggle and things like that, you know?
Emily: Yeah. And I think one, people are doing it better than I ever have done it. The people, the work that’s being done now is such high quality, like the antifascist groups that are out there, they’re so good at what they do that I’m embarrassed to even be in the same breath as them, right? They’re so much better. They’re so much more rigorous, they’re so much more careful, they’re’ so much more impersonal egoless, right, that I like, stand in awe watching what they do. And I don’t even want to consider myself part of that because they’re just on another plane. I think that when I started this, we didn’t have enough people doing the work. And I’m happy that I was able to contribute. And I think that that’s my chapter of it. antifascism is shift work, right? You can’t work in solid…like part of solidarity work is knowing when to step up and knowing when to step back. I’m still writing, you know, I think I know that not everyone agrees with some of my takes. My goal is not to get everyone to agree with me. Right? I think that’s also something that I’m trying to take away getting away from Twitter, right, is I don’t actually necessarily need to convince you or to sell you or to get you to agree with me. What I want to do is actually give you something to think about. And I want to try to give you a lot of tools to view a problem from a variety of perspectives, knowing that we’re all on the same side. Right. And so, I don’t know, I’m just sort of hoping that that I can add, if there’s anything that I still have to add to this fight, it’s that there’s a little bit of to add depth and sort of dimensionality to it, rather than just being front lines, whether it’s digital front lines or physical front lines, just to try to add some…to broaden the spectrum.
Margaret: That makes sense. Yeah, go ahead.
Emily: And also, just to kind of live a good life. Like I was targeted by Andy Ngo for how long….I was like…Seb Gorka once followed me on Twitter, right, while he was in the White House, you know. There was like, Milo Yiannopoulos was targeting me, right. I went through all of this stuff. I had Atomwaffen trying, you know, flying overseas and threatening to execute me and all this stuff. It’s like…none of them succeeded. None. Like Chris Danwell spent, has spent five years trying to put me in jail and has never succeeded. These folks, they’re not winning. I won. Yeah. And what allowed me to say that I won is I can close my laptop whenever I want, I can walk out the door, I can breathe free air. And even though I will face oppression in everything that I do because I’m not white and because I’m trans, I still had the freedom of that choice. And that is something that the fascists can never take away from me. And I think that that is an act of defiance and antifascism too.
Margaret: That makes a lot of sense. And that feels like maybe a good note to end on. If people want to find more of your work, or in a nice way, if people want to follow you do or….I mean, it sounds like you…do you want people to find your work? And if so, how can they do so?
Emily: Um, you can you can google my name. I still syndicate stuff through Twitter, right? So you’ll still see the links and the stuff that I do when I post, right. So you can twitter @EmilyGorcenski, you can go to emilygorcenski.com and see what I’m posting and half of it is about my day job working in technology and half of it is about trans issues or antifascism or politics and half of it is shitposting. And I know that that’s three halves. But I’m a mathematician, so I get to make the rules with numbers. And yeah, I think that, you know, I’m on Mastodon as well, but it sounds complicated. So just like Google my name and figure it out.
Margaret: Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you so much for coming on. And keep winning. It makes me happy.
Emily: Thank you for having me and keep doing what you’re doing because I couldn’t be winning if it weren’t for people like you. Thanks.
Margaret: Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, you got something out of it then well, the main thing to do is to think about how to be in solidarity with different groups when the Eye of Sauron passes upon each of us, because it does stay in motion for better and worse. You can also, if you like this podcast, tell people about it. You can tell people about it on the internet. You can tell people about it in real life. You can tell your dog about it. Kind of the only person I’d be able to tell about it right now. Hey, Rintrah, I like this podcast. Rintrah doesn’t care. I recommend telling people. Animals are great but people are most of our listeners as far as I’m aware. I’m about to shout out Hoss the Dog. Shout out to Hoss the Dog, our like longest standing Patreon backer. If you want to support us as well as Hoss the Dog has supported us, you can go to patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And there you will see that we put out new content every month that actually anyone can access for free at tangledwilderness.org But, if you want it mailed to your house support us there. And also you get a discount on everything we do in the store. You can also check out our other podcasts. At the moment…well, there might even be a new one by the time this comes out because I’m recording this a little bit before this one comes out–but at the moment, there’s Anarcho Geek Power Hour, for people who hate cops and like movies. And there’s Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness for the content that we put out as Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. That one comes out monthly. And I want to thank some of our backers. I want to thank Hoss the motherfucking Dog, who has been with us as a Patreon backer for years. Thank you Hoss, Michaiah, Chris, Sam, Kirk, Eleanor, Jenipher, Staro, Kat J., Chelsea, Dana, David, Nicole, Mikki, Paige, SJ, Shawn, Hunter, Theo, Boise Mutual Aid, Milica, Paparouna, Aly, Paige, Janice, Oxalis, and Jans. If you’d like to see your name on here, you can do it. You can even make it be a silly name that I have to say every time but not an offensive one because I wont do it, not even for money. Anyway, I hope you’re doing as well as you can and I or one of the other hosts will see you next Friday.
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