Friday, April 15, 2011

Jackboots for Liberty!

All march in lockstep for freedom against fascism.
This evening I encountered this 'anti-fascist' march on Seventh Avenue. An army of muscular young mostly guys, masked, booted, uniformed and disciplined. They yelled in unison, waved their flags decorated with reverse swastikas and anarchy symbols, halted and charged forward in phalanxes. Thru the back of my mind ran newsreels of jackbooted Nazi Brownshirts.

"Down with the fascist government! Antifascists to power!"

When I snapped photos, they challenged me, several times.

"You can't take pictures of us. We have our own photographers."

"This is a public event in a public place," I said. "And this is a free country."

The guy didn't question my statement about it being a free country.

"In the past, people have made bad use of photographs," he told me. "I recommend that you don't take pictures."

Confronted with a bunch of masked, burly young men, I retreated and took photographs discretely from further away - a completely pointless exercise with my cheap little camera. But the guy's warning told me more about them than did their banners. What sort of a group believes it has the right to dictate how it is portrayed? That only its own version of reality counts? A fascist one.

The next time I approached the march and started snapping, the anti-fascists called another enforcer. By this time, tho, I'd thought about things and come up with an argument.

"Have you taken pictures?" he asked in the tone of someone used to being obeyed. "That's prohibited. Show me the photos in your camera."

"You know," I said, "you have a very fascist attitude."

I didn't put the camera down. I felt nervous. But perhaps the approach of the city's anti-riot police, employees of this supposedly fascist government, who were escorting these protesters down Bogotá's most important avenue at rush hour, gave me security.

Many people have observed that the political extremes often intersect in their own forms of totalitarianism, as in Hitler and Stalin, generally disastrous for their own peoples and nearby nations. For another example, look next door at Venezuela, where a supposedly leftist president has eliminated checks and balances, repressed the independent media and just said that he'll stay in power until 2019, at least. (He was first elected in 1999.)

I once had a discussion with a Colombian neo-Nazi. (Absurd on its face in a nation with very few people of Aryan descent and where most people are of mixed ethnic heritage.) They are of course explicitly racist, altho they deny hating anybody, and spout wild conspiracy theories about Barack Obama being a communist agent. Today's supposed anti-fascists seemed little different, besides the swastikas being flipped over. Despite their anti-racist rhetoric, I didn't see a singly non-white face in their ranks, which says something. And, ir they want to dictate who will photograph their march, can you imagine how they'd dictate the media if they ever reached power?

Colombia's government certainly has issues with freedom of speech and repression of dissidents. But the anti-fascists' own march, down Bogotá's principal avenue, puts the lie to their claims about the government and says something about their own ideological blinders.

One of the anti-fascist's flyers told more about them then their banners did. Alongside a drawing of a muscular man glaring at the reader and readying a punch, it said: 'In the neighborhood anti-Nazis rule.' It was written by the Kennedy Anti-Fascist Front, whose slogan is 'Commitment, Revolution and Liberty,' the words encircling the image of a muscular, growling dog readying a punch and flanked by the symbols of anarchy and communism. Confusing, since communism has almost always meant uniformity and obedience, while anarchy has never led to equality.

Kennedy is a huge, mostly poor area in South Bogotá, with lots of crime and violence. These 'anti-fascists' look to me like yet another urban tribe, a gang of kids who define themselves by their enemies and mistake hate and group cohesion for ideology.

By Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours

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