Walter Masterson is a comedian known for going deep into Trump territory. Follow him on Instagram: waltermasterson Twitter: @waltermasterson or TikTok: @waltermasterson and watch his YouTube videos. He talks with Sam Goldman about why the Trump movement is deadly serious.
Then, Sam talks to Andy Zee, one of the initiators of Refuse Fascism and a host of The Revolution Nothing Less Show on YouTube about the movement against fascism in the US.
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown.
Sun, 10/10 3:09PM • 56:14
Walter Masterson 00:00
At the core of everything, I feel like we got to where we are in this nation because not enough people really push back on things early on enough to make a difference… Can we push back on these ideas and fascism.,, You know, you being sitting on the sidelines is not okay anymore.
Andy Zee 00:17
Republicans could take back the Senate, very likely, possibly take back the House, and win the presidency for Donald Trump or a surrogate for him… But should they come to power again, it’s going to be extremely draconian… I think there’ll be a big revenge thing, and you’ll be in a situation that will be very difficult to recover from.
Welcome to Episode 80 of the Refuse Fascism podcast. This podcast is brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show. Refuse Fascism exposes analyzes, and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in the country. In today’s show, we’re sharing a conversation I’ve had recently with comedian Walter Masterson, who is known in particular for going deep into Trumpian territory and getting the fascist base to open up to him in often shocking, and yes, hilarious ways. Then, as part of celebrating our 80th episode, we will share an interview with Andy Zee, a co-initiator of Refuse Fascism and host of the RNL – Revolution, Nothing Less – show on YouTube.
But first, wow, this has been a week where we need to stop and do a round up of news, revelations, reminders, share insights from unlikely sources from Fiona Hill to Bill Maher, and respond to some bad takes. So here we go. This week we saw the Texas abortion ban, SB-8, lifted for mere hours before being slammed back into place. It was an objectively good thing that one judge, Judge Pitman, lifted the ban and issued a powerful moral and legal statement. It makes sense why people celebrated, but the overall incident should drive home the fact that the judiciary as an institution is overrun with Trump appointees and others holding down the fort for fascism. Roe v. Wade is slated for official gutting or outright overturn when the direct challenge to Roe v Wade is heard on December 1. As Sunsara Taylor recently said, “The streets have been far too quiet and there is way too much fatalistic complicity and acceptance in advance of the unacceptable.” Turning to the attempted fascist coup, Adam Serwer outlines in his piece for The Atlantic, titled Trump’s Plans for a Coup Are Now Public: Five Ways That Trump Attempted to Stay in Power Despite His Electoral Defeat. While we’ve covered these in previous episodes of the show, they’re really worth reminding ourselves about, 10 months after the election. One, Trump tried to pressure Secretaries of State to not certify. Two, Trump tried to pressure state legislators to overturn the results. Three, Trump tried to get the courts to overturn the results. Four, Trump tried to pressure Mike Pence to overturn the results. And through the newly released Eastman memo, we see the further methodic calculation of the Trump team, their blueprint that they believe would work. And five, when all else failed, Trump tried to get a mob to overturn the results. As Serwer details in his article, “At the core of these attempts is a dangerous ideology. The presumption that because Trump supporters represent ‘real Americans,’ the will of democratic majorities can be disregarded. This does not mean the Republican Party isn’t capable of winning majorities, but that winning them is irrelevant to whether or not the party of the Trumpist faithful, believe they’re entitled to wield power. Win or lose, their claim to be the sole authentic inheritors of the American tradition means they are the only ones who can legitimately govern, and are therefore justified in seizing power by any means. This is the modern incarnation of an old ideology, one that is justified excluding certain groups of Americans from the suffrage on the basis that their participation is an affront to the political process.” This week, we learned the details of a meeting between Trump and top DOJ officials in his final days in office, where the only thing stopping him from installing a “Stop the Steal” fanatic as acting Attorney General was a direct threat of mass resignations from both Department of Justice officials and White House Counsel. We’ve witnessed some of Trump’s close circle be subpoenaed by the special investigative committee into January 6, only to refuse the subpoenas, thus far without consequence. This criminal conspiracy to defy these subpoenas is all out in the open, straight from the top with a letter sent from Trump’s lawyer detailed in the New York Times. Yet, of all the talking heads, let alone the politicians, it was Michael Steele, former chairman of the GOP, who seemed most angry about the Democrats’ inaction when Democratic “strategist,” Don Callaway openly sold accommodation to fascism on MSNBC, saying that “we’re also trying to win elections. We’re also trying to appeal to a middle-of-the-road white voter, and what does it look like if I drag a bunch of white guys in and do perp walks, kick them out of their country clubs.” In response to this horrendous display, Steele made the point, “Look, Bannon and others can hold out and not appear, but when the marshals show up at their doorsteps, when they have to get lawyers to deal with that, that’s a whole different reality.” The fact is that it wouldn’t simply be a whole different reality for Bannon. It would be a whole different and much better political reality in general, one where fascism faced the bare minimum of a hurdle. Sometimes insight comes from unlikely and cringeworthy places, and this week it wasn’t just Michael Steele, but also Fiona Hill and Bill Maher. Fiona Hill, former National Security Council official, in an interview with Politico, stated two key points we need to confront if we’re serious about understanding the real and present danger of fascism. She said: “He,” referring to Trump, “is mulling again, a return to what he sees more as a crown than the presidency in 2024.” She goes on to say, “I feel like we’re at a really critical and very dangerous inflection point in our society. And to Trump, this is not on an ideological basis; this is just purely an observational basis on the larger international historical context. If he makes a successful return to the presidency in 2024, democracy is done, because it will be on the back of the lie, a fiction, and I think we have to bear that in mind.” TV host Bill Maher, on Friday, in his monologue on a slow moving coup, echoed and illustrated points we’ve been consistent about on this show, including that Trump isn’t over and that January 6, was a dress rehearsal, and that the mob would return stronger. I wanted to share a few statements Maher made that are worth repeating. If they sound familiar to things we’ve said, they should, thanks for listening, but it matters that he’s saying it and that people take note, and most essentially, act accordingly. The question I have for Maher is then when will you call people into the streets? Anyway, here are some of the remarks that Maher made that I think are worth repeating. He said, “I’ve been saying ever since he lost, he’s like a shark that’s not gone, just gone out to sea, but actually, he’s been quietly eating people this whole time. By eating people, I mean, he’s been methodically purging the Republican Party of anyone who voted for his impeachment, or doesn’t agree that he’s the rightful leader of the Seven Kingdoms.” In the program, Maher states “…and yet 2024 comes and Democrats treat it as a normal election year. They are living in a dream world where their choice of candidate matters, their policies matter, the number of votes they get matters. None of it does. I won’t even predict who the Democratic nominee will be, because it doesn’t matter.” Finally, this is an essential point that Maher states “But even if they win, Trump won’t accept it.”, adding that the fraud this time will, “…be fully embraced by stooges he is installing right now.” So what do we do with all this? As co-editor of RefuseFascism.org, Coco Das recently wrote to me. She said: “Trumpism, a 21st century fascism hell bent on revenge, violence, and the gutting of the rule of law, is far from over, and no one is going to stop them but the millions of people who refuse to lie down and accept it. A mass movement against fascism, even through four years of a fascist regime in the White House, and all of the crimes we’ve witnessed, has yet to emerge, and the time that Biden’s victory bought us to organize real undeniable, overwhelming opposition, that could actually drive this fascism out of government and society is running out.” Stay tuned to RefuseFascism.org. She is putting out a blistering piece that’s going to be there soon. I am excited to talk with comedian Walter Masterson. Walter has done epic trolling from being at anti-Vax events, to school board meetings, to confronting Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz. While the videos make you laugh, they also provide powerful exposure, digging in to critical questions around race, gender, sex, and the history of this country. I want to start by saying thank you for the work that you’re doing. Thanks not just for making us laugh, but making us question things. What got you started on this path of waking up and yeah, I’m gonna go in the middle of a pandemic to some anti-Vax event, you know, poke the dragon?
Walter Masterson 10:15
What I do at times seems very journalistic, it seems very activist-oriented and it becomes that the initial motivation was comedy. These are things that also feel authentic to me. I went through a lot of identity crisis where I was like, What am I doing? There’s an activist within me but I’m also a comedian at the end of the day. So you can find me funny or not, that’s your choice as an American. I think the pandemic radicalized a lot of us; some in good ways, others in just awful ways. I’m sure we all have that friend that we’re going Wow, okay – didn’t know you believe that. Let’s not hang out anymore. I’ve grown up, I’ve been very privileged. I went to private schools. I had a decent middle to upper middle class upbringing. I’m white, I’m a straight male, and I’ve also been through the criminal justice system. Around the time that George Floyd happened, I was incensed, because I’ve actually passed $20 counterfeit bills multiple times, knowingly. When I heard that was the motivation behind the cops publicly executing him, I thought, well, I’ve actually done that multiple times, intentionally. Like I knew exactly what I was doing. I’ve done a lot of things that people have gotten shot over, and I did it with just very bad intent. Obviously, I felt a way about that. I felt strongly about that. It became a very important issue. It went from being an important issue to being an issue that just lit me on fire. I thought that when you dress up like Trump supporters, you can have a very different conversation with them. They’re a little bit more honest with their intentions, they’re sometimes more agreeable. I thought this is right for comedy. We can do good comedy this way. I thought this is actually great. I’ve always loved Sacha Baron Cohen and vintage Steven Colbert, the Daily Show thing. And I thought, what I do can be its own brand of comedy. It came from a place of comedy, and it also came from a place of rage. Just as a caveat, if you’re not familiar with my work, I show up to anti-Vax and Trump rallies. I show up non-violently, to mock and make comedy. I’m not showing up with any violent intention. I think that’s why I’ve been able to sustain my presence there. I think people that do know me, while they dislike me intensely, they know that I’m not coming to knock anyone out and that my hands stay at my side.
Sam Goldman 12:38
You know, that’s an important part. You’re very disarming, you’re coming there, yes, to pick on and unearth some really telling things, but you’re doing it in a way that you’re not being combative. You’re not doing it to incite any violent reaction. Because of that, you get some frighteningly honest and sometimes scary responses from people. What have you learned that surprised you?
Walter Masterson 13:04
The funny thing is that when you talk to Trump supporters, these are people that have been radicalized to some degree and indoctrinated. If you want to have a proper conversation with them, you can, but you have to strip buzzwords from your vocabulary. Once you mention buzzwords, people lock up and it just becomes this very binary position. When I want to make comedy, I use buzzwords. I have videos where I’m talking about my niece, and how the second grade teacher is teaching them her pronouns. I literally just say pronouns and they’re just off to the races. It’s great comedy, obviously. I literally just say pronouns, and they’re just like… I say, well there’s only two pronouns, and they’re like, absolutely, two pronouns, which is absurd. Grammatically, there’s over 100 pronouns. That’s funny, but I also make videos where I want to show some similarity, and I do it by stripping buzzwords. Like describing communism and socialism without even saying socialism or communism works very well. Describing teaching history, it’s actually amazing the response I get. So suddenly, we’re all like human beings again, and things don’t get fucking weird. That’s what I think is sort of the dangerous thing. People’s identity comes into play. I’ve interviewed nurses that have been on the frontlines of COVID that are anti-Vax, anti mask, COVID-denying. And I was like, no, you’ve literally unplugged people from ventilators after they died, you’ve seen this, but their identity is coming into play, and it’s overriding their reality. That’s one of the most frightening parts of what I’ve seen. So there’s hope and then there’s a lot of fear and anxiety.
Sam Goldman 14:46
That’s really heavy, thinking about people not even being able to believe what’s really happening in front of them. Has there been anything that you’ve seen change over time at these Trump rallies with these diehards? Is there anything in this post-January 6 world after an attempted fascist coup, where there was a violent siege on the Capitol? Have there been any changes that you’ve noticed?
Walter Masterson 15:13
Yeah, there used to be sort of fairly reasonable Trump supporters, and those lines have shifted very much. It becomes a lot more difficult to have someone who just happened to vote for Trump, but what I’ve noticed is that this behavior is not in a vacuum. No one just voted for Trump. There’s other things that are part of their personality that come into play with their identity. I’ve noticed that your moderate Trump supporter is very far out. I noticed that because I started going to the Stop the Steal rallies right after the election and I was watching the shift. I used to wear a mask to these rallies and just wear a trump hat and a mask and I fit in fine. I actually can’t wear a mask anymore. As a result, I actually got COVID a few months ago from one of these things. From one of the Q-Anon things, and it just sucked. I tested positive for it, so it was nasty. You can’t wear a mask. It used be that you’d have some people wearing masks, and they would explain how the wife or significant other is immunocompromised, but that line has shifted to the point where if you wear a mask, you’re automatically branded. People look at you with venom, and this is part of a one-world government, New World Order, socialist, communist, CCP thing. It’s frustrating. The other frustrating thing is – it’s a weird phenomenon – you have a lot of anti-Vax rallies in New York City, and you have hardcore Trump supporters on one side and alt left on the other. So you have a lot of…
Sam Goldman 16:46
What is that Walter?
Walter Masterson 16:48
I just asign it as alt-left. They’re not Trump supporters, but they’re on this weird part of the left that’s anti-Vax, anti, just, everything, and they’ll lock arms with the Trump supporters at these anti-vaxx rallies.
Sam Goldman 17:03
It’s bizarre. What makes them left?
Walter Masterson 17:06
You’ve had leaders from Black Lives Matter (Sam “Got it! Got it!”) You have people that came over from Black Lives Matter that joined some of these rallies and spoke at them. I’m hoping that long-term there’s some net profit from that. I’m hoping that it allows there to be some dialogue that takes place between them, and they can maybe understand Black Lives Matter. It is alarming that you have these people coming over and locking arms with Trump supporters on this issue. I mean I’m all for unity, but it’s always just funny to me. Can we have unity on an issue that doesn’t suck? Can we lock arms and defeat big money in politics? It’s weird, it’s very weird.
Sam Goldman 17:52
Instead of uniting to allow a pandemic to rage with no end in sight?
Walter Masterson 18:00
It’s like this bizarre thing. I wonder, what do all of you want? Let’s be perfectly honest. You are against taking a PCR test, you’re against getting your temperature taken, you won’t distance. you won’t wear a mask, you won’t get vaccinated. What will you do? And then constantly having to stop and just be like, this isn’t socialism with them! That actually wears me down. I can go to a Trump rally and make comedy all day and there’s a novelty and it’s funny to me and haha, but the anti-Vax rallies just wear me down to the bone. There’s just so much actual nonsense being spread at these rallies and it’s just stuff that’s not true.
Sam Goldman 18:38
I think that is a commonality between the Trump rally and the anti-Vax rally, the refusal to acknowledge even an approximation of truth. Something with even hints of the truth, there’s an allergic reaction. I want to ask you a question about comedy. You do a lot of work, ridiculing and satirizing without downplaying the seriousness of a threat. You did this with Trump consistently. You weren’t just calling him a buffoon and leaving it at that. You’re not even leading your followers to say “haha, stupid anti-vaxxers.” How do you walk that line between ridicule, laughing and also getting people to be like, folks, this is serious? What’s your process, or how do you do that?
Walter Masterson 19:26
Thank you for thinking of my content as been so high-minded. Some of it isn’t. My recent video is I’m interviewing them, and I get them talking to a corn on the cob. I think that’s just light and funny. (Sam: There’s a range) There’s a range, but there’s a lot of stuff I think about. There’s that “show, don’t tell” rule within storytelling. There’s a lot of people sort of speaking at each other, and I thought maybe if I show people what this looks like, and I show them this, it’s a little bit harder to deny it. I’m not telling you that this should be a thing that this should be this, I’m showing you this thing within an interaction. I’m showing you this sort of hypocrisy. It’s one thing for me to say that for all the Trumpers criticizing Afghanistan and Biden’s dealings with Afghanistan, they don’t actually care about anyone in there. I was like, let me show you by interviewing them, and asking them if they should come to this country. And the answer was across the board, absolutely not. No, no way in hell should they be anywhere near this country. I feel like that’s a bit more powerful. I approach it like, let me show you how these people feel, demonstrate that, rather than just talking at you and some little talking head. That’s fun, too. But I just think it’d be more impactful.
Sam Goldman 20:43
I agree with that. And I think that you’re able to then engage a wider audience and ask these questions.
Walter Masterson 20:50
I think the other thing that’s important, I’ve seen people try and do what I do, and it’s great, good. I hope to inspire a nation of people doing exactly what I do. But the thing that I see is a common mistake. I see a lot of people come to these rallies to engage Trump supporters and counter protest. The biggest mistake I see is them trying to change their mind. I let go of that. It’s the weirdest thing. Okay, you know what, I’m just gonna push back on what you’re saying. I’ve given up on you changing your position on anything, but I am going to push back on it. At the core of everything, I feel like we got to where we are in this nation, because not enough people really pushed back on things early on enough to make a difference. I feel like that’s sort of at the core of everything. Can we push back on these ideas and fascism?
Sam Goldman 21:41
I think that’s a really important way to look at it. How do you see pushing back without trying to change someone’s mind? Can you talk a little bit more about what that means to you?
Walter Masterson 21:52
Well, people say stuff and it just goes uncontested. The longer it goes uncontested, that actually gives me anxiety because we as progressives, as liberals, as leftists – everyone has their own little enclave, and – we don’t know about any counterpoint and counter message until it’s reached the mainstream. Think about all this anti-Vax garbage that’s out there. I’ve known about this for so long. I’ve known about all these stupid talking points – Robert Malone, who did not invent the mRNA, and a lot of these things. I’ve known about it for months. Now it’s just coming into mainstream; there’s mainstream pushback on it, whereas before there wasn’t. I feel like that’s sort of the problem. Like with COVID denial, early on in the quarantine, all of us were like, why are these lunatics showing up at the state capitol? Why are they wanting restaurants to be opened again? I didn’t know at the time, but I know now – they thought this was the Chinese takeover. So they’re letting this spread, they’re letting it be called the Wuhan virus, it’s just intentional. I don’t think we need to go around changing everyone’s mind, and forcing people to change their mind. If someone’s shoving back and saying: no, that’s categorically false. Just to say, for example, the Civil War not being about slavery, recently you’re having intellectuals and historians get involved and say absolutely fucking not. This is documented history. Each state signed an articles of secession. Each state signed a separate document, outlining in no uncertain terms that this is about slavery; states rights and their right to own slaves. Some states doubled down on it. Some states had it be a small paragraph. Plus there’s the cornerstone speech. You’re only seeing a recent push back on it. They’ve gotten away with saying that bullshit for years, and having no one thinking it’s important enough to just step up and say: Excuse Me, Fucking No, that is not how history works, this is widely documented. That’s that pushback thing. You know what? Fuck you. This is ridiculous. Do we have to change everyone’s mind about it? You have to force them? No, but I think we should make people a little more reticent about spitting out ignorance when there’s gonna be pushback on it.
Sam Goldman 24:11
There’s a lot of truth in that and I think it also challenges all those people who are sitting on the sidelines and not speaking out. You’ve got to pick a side – pick a side, not in some like combative way, but are you with truth and reason? Or are you with nonsense?
Walter Masterson 24:29
It’s funny, because I’m old enough to remember when it was kind of hip to be like, hey, I’m not political, I’m not involved in all of that stuff. I’m sort of above it all. I’m above all this politics stuff and having opinions on things. That’s not sexy anymore. It’s not cool. It’s not a cool thing to say. That was actually cool for decades on decades, and it’s like you don’t really talk about politics in mixed company, and you don’t get into that, stay classy. Now it’s like no, no, no, you sitting on the sidelines, it’s not okay anymore — for either side. Both sides have come back and decided this is not okay. The other side of that is at any given point it seems like we’re on the brink of civil war, but…
Sam Goldman 25:15
All I would say is the side that’s most out of touch with reality, the side that is most filled with revanchism and white supremacy and sexism, is the loudest and the most in your face. I’m not saying we should copy, at all, their way of being. I’m not in any way promoting violence, but I do think that there is something about not biding our time and not being silent, and not just reserving it to a tweet. Being out there and being visible, I think is really important for the people that are on the side of humanity.
Walter Masterson 25:53
That’s another thing that I think about a lot. There’s a lot of people in this country that identify themselves as centrists. Some of the most problems that I’d have on the internet and in my life are with centrists. These are people that say: Well, we need to hear out both sides. Everything is always both sides. Sometimes they’re coming from a genuine place. There’s a lot of people among that group — which I think we need to be very careful and vigilant about — they’re not centrists, they’re not progressives, what they are is closet conservatives. They don’t want to come out as conservative, so they say that they’re liberals, that they’re progressive, and they say that they’re centrist, trying to see both sides. But the only side they really criticize is the left, the left, the left, the left. They’ve minimized white supremacy and Trumpism is a few 100 people in some flyover state somewhere. It’s not a big deal. Why do we have to worry about that? And those are the people I see as the most toxic. I get the most criticism from them. Those are the people that really get on my case about: Why don’t I just leave these people alone? I’ve had public arguments, people, friends, and so on, where I’m just like: Why do I need to just tie my hands behind my back? You know, these people were marching through the streets with a Trump flag. I need to restrain myself? There’s this thing, it’s amongst the left: We have to walk this very fine line. They’ll say we have to be better. No we don’t. We don’t have to be better. I don’t think there’s any air of truth to it. I think when they say we have to be better, what they really mean is we have to tie our hands behind our back and be the ones that do nothing, and let white supremacists speak on our campuses and all of the above.
Sam Goldman 27:37
Yeah, I think that we’ve seen the cost of doing that and what happens when we cede the streets to fascists. So I really appreciate what you were saying. As we close out our conversation, I want to ask you if there’s been a project that — I’m not exactly sure what to call all of what you do.
Walter Masterson 27:58
I don’t know what to call what I do, either.
Sam Goldman 28:02
Comedic interventions is like something I’ve been workshopping. You do comedic interventions. I might come up with something better. I’ll keep noodling.
Walter Masterson 28:11
When you do, let me know, because I don’t know what it is. My family doesn’t even. I remember my sister was talking about me to her neighbor and just saying: Oh you’ve probably seen this videos… She didn’t even know what to call me, and what to call what I do. I’ve had to fight for my own identity. This year has been me realizing, okay, I really need to make it very clear that this is not journalism. I’m not a journalist. I’m not even good as a journalist. I’m a shit journalist, and I need to cede that territory to real investigative journalists. It can be activism. However, at the end of the day, I do comedy. I need to remember that I’m just making jokes at the end of the day, and comedy becomes political commentary. That’s why everything sort of gets blurred with what I do. It’s the same reason why people are watching The Daily Show for their news, which is terrifying, obviously. There’s a shrinking of our media. There’s not as many reporters on the ground. I was at January 6, I was at Capitol Hill on January 6. There were a few other people there that were real journalists, really covering it. There was that one guy who went inside the Capitol who was inside the Senate chambers with the Q Shaman, and all of them, who did amazing work. There are a few others. That was it. Then there was me. I came there to do comedy, and it wound up being very journalistic. But, imagine that happened 20-30 years ago when we had a larger media. We had more employees, more boots on the ground. That’s been shrinking. They’ve been talking about that forever. There’s not as many people on the ground. I go to these rallies and sometimes I’m the only one. I’m it. It’s just me. No one else is really there doing coverage. That says something. I’m sort of filling this deficit by my presence there. No one’s really talking to them. When they do send people, I talk to them, I’m gonna be perfectly honest, most of the journalists they send to talk to them don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. They don’t know how to have a real conversation with a Trump supporter. I always watch journalists try and have conversations and I ball my fists. I’m like, that’s not how you do it! That’s what I wanted to say, my observation of everything and my crisis of identity in terms of my artistic identity.
Sam Goldman 30:27
Yeah, what you’re saying is really heavy. I think that what you do in terms of your comedy does matter in terms of bringing it to more people who may not be able to engage with it otherwise, who would tighten up and become more reserved, not access it but just want to look away. I think one of the great roles that comedians can play is getting people to look and not clench up and to be open enough to actually hear it. I wanted to give you an opportunity, if there was either a project that you just completed, where you were like: This was an amazing intervention. Or something that is on the horizon, where you’re looking forward to…
Walter Masterson 31:08
It’s funny, I’m trying to sit down and write something as a TV show, as a narrative, that is based on what I do. I don’t have anything upcoming. I’m still just going to be doing the stuff you see. If you want to see me, you can follow me on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok. I am just on every – well, I’m sort of on Facebook. So Walter Masterson is on all those platforms, and you’ll just see more of the same. You’ll see more — get more Borat-ish with some of these things.
Sam Goldman 31:42
Well, we look forward to seeing what you do next. Listeners can head over to the show notes to find links to Walter’s, YouTube and all that jazz. Thank you so much, Walter, for taking the time.
Walter Masterson 31:56
Absolutely. Anytime. Love the show.
Sam Goldman 32:00
Our conversation got me thinking about the differences between his work and the Washington Post’s and New York Times constant ventures, into “what do Trump’s supporters think” that often ends up rationalizing, romanticizing, or valorizing these fascists while giving their views an unrestricted platform. Walter is able to actually show, not tell, the content of the fascist groupthink in revealing ways. I really appreciated the part of our conversation discussing the difference in approach between pushing back on fascist views and talking points versus getting bogged down, trying to convince individual fascists to see the light. Next, you’ll hear Andy Zee, who helps us pull back the lens and recognize the moment that we’re in and how we got here. A moment that Andy views is one of radical change of one sort or another, and you guessed it, as a revolutionary, he is advocating for emancipating change through revolution. So, hear him out. It’s our 80th episode and to help us mark 80 episodes of getting into, exposing, analyzing, and standing against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in this country, I am really happy to be chatting with Andy Zee. Andy is a co-initiator of Refuse Fascism, a previous guest on the show, and Andy is the host of the Revolution, Nothing Less show, The RNL show, which you can find on YouTube, with episodes coming out each Thursday. A link to it is in the show notes. Andy’s writings can be found at Revcom.us. Welcome, Andy. Samantha, it is good to be on your podcast, the podcast of Refuse Fascism. We’re here about nine months since Trump left office formally. In a recent piece that was run in Revcom titled The Fascist Move to Bolt Down Elections to Ensure Their Rule, How to Understand It and How to Act, there’s a section that I want to quote from and help it frame our conversation. “If you thought the fascists who support Trump would retreat after they stormed the Capitol on January 6, and were then met with widespread condemation, you would be wrong. They have pushed further and harder on their offensive to institute a much more openly dictatorial form of rule; a full-out fascist state. They will use this to repress even harder, the masses of Black people and other people of color, to demonize and terrorize immigrants and refugees and to throw women and LGBTQ people back into dudgeon-like existence. They are moving to lock in permanent rule.” You founded a movement to drive out the Trump/Pence regime. I think that it is important for us to take a moment and talk about why did you do that? Why was that necessary? What did we go out in the world to do and what situation are we now in? That yes, he’s out, but he wasn’t driven out by mass sustained nonviolent protest, the kind that Refuse Fascism was working for. Andy Zee:
We formed Refuse Fascism, because we saw the danger with the election of Trump. We formed it actually, right after the election, before the inauguration. We saw the danger of a coming together of a fascist regime in the Trump/Pence regime, and should they be allowed to continue in office, they would make tremendous progress towards instituting a fascist form of rule, which is a different form of the same kind of system, a different form of rule of the system we live under, which is capitalism-imperialism, that has been ruled in a way a form of democracy that is really a – everybody complains today of authoritarianism – but, we live under a system that really dictates to the masses of people all the time, what their choices are. That you will live in a world where we’re not going to really take care of climate change, a world where 1000 people, at least a year, are killed by the police, a world where there’s systematic discrimination against people of color, particularly Black people — white supremacy woven into the foundation of this country, that all of this has been the norm of the society. But fascism, full-out fascism is a different form of rule. It discards the rule of law and becomes an arbitrary power that is enforced through the state as well as through vigilantism; armed thugs. It had a program that we identified at that time as a triad: three elements: white supremacy, patriarchy, which you’re seeing now in full effect with the Supreme Court, and potentially the loss of the right to abortion for people in this country, either effectively, or in fact, as a matter of law, and xenophobia, their hatred of foreigners, and an immigration policy that would be an demonization and deportation, including actual death of many immigrants in this process and refugees. So this was a triad. Why we made this analysis and said that this was such an acute situation was that the there was this unholy marriage between Donald Trump, a hedonist if ever there was one, and Mike Pence. There was this Christian fascist movement that had grown up in the United States over a long period of time, decades, in fact, and that Trump recognized that he had to have that base to win and they made a deal. The result is what we’re seeing today. It was there on January 6. Now this analysis that caused us to form Refuse Fascism, was developed by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian, who had been working on this problem for over 30 years and more. This analysis of the growing fascism in this country going back to the 1980s, and deepened in the 90s. Some of us who formed Refuse Fascism, like myself, who is an advocate for the work of Bob Avakian, and his leadership, and the new communism he’s developed, got together with a broader group of people, including Cornel West, scientists and other political leaders to form Refuse Fascism in December of 2016. So I find if that helps in terms of setting the political context for why we did this, and then we can talk about how we started doing this, what happened, what’s the situation today and what needs to be done, If you, in particular, could talk about Refuse Fascism, the vision that we were fighting for, was for people to do something that was very, very uncomfortable for people living in this country, but it’s something that has been done all over the world, which is for people to plant themselves in the streets, and be unrelenting, nonviolently demanding the ouster of their tyrant. While fascists per se, have not been driven out through that mechanism, tyrants definitely have all around the world. That’s what we were fighting for. We were fighting for sustained, nonviolent mass protests. Sam Goldman: Can you talk a little bit about what difference that would have made had that been achieved? People did vote and the fascist was voted out, but the fascism wasn’t ousted, in my opinion, how do you see it? Andy Zee: Well, look, we called for massive nonviolent protests; millions of people flooding the streets and demanding that the regime be removed from office, then in 2016, 2017, 2018 and today. Plenty of reasons, plenty of violations that could have been brought to drive them from office. This didn’t happen. There was the grip of the Democratic Party and politics as usual in this country. So you did not have a situation as took place in South Korea, Egypt, the Arab Spring, Ukraine, different places where people took the streets in massive numbers and had regime change. Had we actually succeeded in that, all that would have changed would have been a big thing. It would have meant that there was an aroused population that was refusing to accept what was going on, and refusing to play by the rules. Because you see, Trump came in by the rules, through the legacy of slavery. You have an Electoral College, you have a disproportionate influence of the rural and southern states, you have a Senate. You have all these things that are legacies of slavery in this country and white supremacy, that mean that you can get 7 million more votes, and this time, that was just enough to win the election, but as things are being rewritten now, in state legislatures around the country, the game is changing. You could have been in a situation where you had the aroused people. Instead, what you have is an election that was won by Biden, not conceded, not conceded by not only Trump, but at this point, it’s close to 40% of the country who believe that Biden is not the legitimate president. They’ve delegitimized the normal form of rule; bourgeois rule in this country. By bourgeois rule, I mean rule in the interest of the capitalist system, and the Democratic party who has lived by that. Ironically, what happens is you have these people who had been the mainstream of the Republican party, these never Trumpers, actually more enraged and more willing to get outside of things, and to criticize this and sound the alarm than many of the Democrats and Joe Biden. Now, that would have been a different situation, including that people became relatively passive after this election. In fact, the progressive movements who were very much opposing Refuse Fascism wanting to call for mass protests in the summer of 2020, going into the election, were saying, look, if he doesn’t accept these results, then we’re going to take to the streets. Of course, they didn’t do that. At every step of the way, there has been a demobilization. While it was wonderful if there were 65 or 60,000 people out last weekend around abortion rights, the people who were leading that march in thrall to the Democratic Party and politics as usual, saying no, don’t bring coat hangers, don’t wear handmaids costumes, let’s not really stir the beast too much, when there’s a beast that’s bearing down on us. Where we’re at right now is a very acute situation, where the great divide in this country at the top of society that we saw in 2016, that called on us to form this organization, because we saw the danger of actually the consolidation of the fascist movement, from a party that had been increasingly becoming fascist — the Republican Party over a number of years — we saw that danger then, but now it’s metastasized to a whole different place, such that the revolutionaries, the revcoms, have issued a declaration that’s titled “A Declaration: A Call to Get Organized Now For a Real Revolution.” It makes the point in this that, quoting Bob Avakian in a New Year statement, saying “the fact that the fascist Trump was voted out of office is important only because it buys some time and that time is not on the side of the fight for a better future for humanity.” More recently, he has written in a in a very important article, available at the website, revcom.us, This is a Rare Time When Revolution Becomes Possible: Why that is so and how to Seize on This Rare Opportunity that says this — and I think it’d be very important for your listeners to hear this — “that the division among the ruling powers, and in the larger society cannot be resolved within the framework that has existed and has held things together for nearly 150 years since shortly after the end of the Civil War, which led to the abolition of slavery. They cannot be resolved on the basis of the capitalist democracy that has been the normal means of capitalist rule/dictatorship for so long. Something radically different is going to replace this framework that has existed for all this time.” And the Declaration and Call points out sharply that “the crisis and deep divisions in society now can only be resolved through radical means of one kind or another, either radically reactionary, murderously oppressive and destructive means or radically emancipatory revolutionary means.” I think your listeners and certainly the people who followed Refuse Fascism and those who were interested in it can see that January 6, that attempted insurrection, or the attempted coup at the Capitol, represented a certain culmination. When you said at the time, this was more like a dress rehearsal than the final act, and since then, other people have written that it was more like a prologue than an epilogue. In fact, the movement has become more lunatic, more desperate, more detached from reality, but also more hardened. The core of it has been consolidated. They are working at establishing fascist rule throughout the country, in state legislatures. They’ve packed the courts under Trump, and we’re facing a situation now that could be very devastating, should they ascend into power again. Like every fascist regime, they will attempt to do that through manipulation of legitimate means. Sam Goldman:
Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by that? What do you mean, legitimate means? Andy Zee: Put really simply, Republicans could take back the Senate, very likely, possibly take back the House, and win the presidency for Donald Trump or a surrogate for him. That’s what legitimate means are — even as they’ve done it illegitimately in the eyes of those who are paying close attention and see how they’ve restricted voting rights, particularly for people who will be more likely to vote Democratic and also have created very onerous, really terrible conditions for Black people, particularly in places like Georgia, Texas, the deep South to actually even go to the polls. They’ve been purging officials, including diehard Republican right-wingers who have not completely expressing fealty to the big lie that the election was stolen. That’s what I mean by legitimate means. Barring that, they are prepared for violence, and those two things will go together as they always have. Should they come to power, again, it’s going to be extremely draconian. I think there’ll be a big revenge thing against masses of people and against people who’ve been in opposition to this, and you’ll be in a situation that will be very difficult to recover from. Which is one of the reasons that we are working so hard to develop a movement so that there won’t just be radically reactionary, violent means that is inflicted on people in this country in the world, but radically emancipatory means for a world without oppression and exploitation; a revolutionary movement with that as its objective. Sam Goldman:
You’ve been talking a lot about the stakes in this moment, and the danger posed in the sharp relief that this could go one way or another. Without the masses of people inserting themselves and wrenching something positive, humanity faces an extremely dire situation. In fact, it is an existential danger, even, in my opinion, if there wasn’t this Trumpist movement, when you look at something like climate change. But then, you have this movement. You have this movement of millions, which has not been thwarted at all in their determination and their revanchism, that has become more organized. We’re learning more and more about what we so narrowly escaped. Many people who write me — thanks for writing me, keep doing it. If you’re listening, write now to me — and say things: “we need to be the dynamite that lights the fire beneath the Democratic Party to get them to fight. We need to be progressive and aggressive as a counterbalance to fascism and white supremacy. We need to get the Democrats to do it.” People are pulling out their hair right now. There’s a lot of confusion about why has Biden made infrastructure so central while negating the fascist threat? I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to that, to people who are full of anguish at what the Democrats are doing and want to know, why is this happening? Why, if it’s so clear that the Republi-fascists are moving to bolt down permanent minority rule, why aren’t they fighting this?
Andy Zee 47:34
Well, I think the first thing is because they are representatives of the system itself. That’s what they’re representing. You see this very acutely. Every time they try to do something, or you think that every time you want them to do something, they are going to do something that’s in accord with the nature of the system that they rule. And, the Democrats are very committed to playing by the rules. That’s their calling card. They play by the rules. They rely on the norms of what has been democracy in this country, while the Republicans are moving to tear up these norms. We emphasize that in Refuse Fascism, and we’ve emphasized that in their movement for actual revolution. The Republicans don’t give a damn about these rules. In fact, they think these rules are part of the obstacle, which is why they’re changing them. You see, but the Democrats – that’s their calling card. Why? Because it has been for 150 years or more since the end of the Civil War. A better way to rule the system, where at least you get people feeling like they have a stake in the government. You hear people say all the time, well the politicians work for us. But no, they don’t work for you. They work for the system. In terms of the fascism, Refuse Fascism is going to continue to expose, as you do every week on your show, what this fascism is about, for people to really understand that it is a very real and present danger, they are growing in their fascist core, even as numerically they maybe are a little depleted, but there’s every basis as things move towards the 2022 and 2024 terms and the presidential vote you’re gonna move towards. There are other things that could cause them to just jump off with some things that we just don’t know about. There’s a lot of changes in a very fast-paced world right now.
Sam Goldman 49:20
I just wanted to close by asking, in this situation, most – all maybe – of our listeners are thinking, wow, things are really fucked. How do you see hope in this situation for this, the kind of revolution that that you were talking about earlier?
Andy Zee 49:42
Yeah, I’d be lying if I said things weren’t on a very negative trajectory, but within that there is a positive possible resolution. If you’re going to rely on the Democrats and be a tail on their machine, no, it’s not going to turn out to be anything good. You’ve got enough object lessons over the last one year, four years, eight years, 12 years, 20 years, 150 years that should teach you that: no, you’re not going to resolve this. In particular, dealing with the threat of fascism that took a huge leap with the Trump/Pence regime that’s heading in a bad direction, and it’s going to continue. You can’t put this country back together the way it was before. I think that should be clear to people in a serious, objective look at it. They’re not going to put it back together on the same terms. The question then becomes, since people do aspire to a world where there is justice, where people are outraged by the fact that youth have no future under this system, where just to be young means being denied a chance at a decent life. In fact, the planet itself could not be habitable by human beings if things continue in this direction. People see that there’s all these honeyed words, really nice sounding things from the Democrats, but then the reality doesn’t match up to it, and it never can do that. But people desire something much better. This is a revolution to get on the road to a world without oppression, without exploitation, poverty, and the destruction of the environment. Now, that’s a long road, but the first step is getting rid of a system that requires all of that, and then you begin to work on changing it. So, the very extreme negative of this situation should be reason for people to say: Well, what is this guy talking about? What is he talking about? Who is this person BA, Bob Avakian, that he keeps speaking about? So go to revcom.us. Watch our show, the Revolution, Nothing Less show on YouTube. Find out about it. Do your own investigation, and understand that revolution is not just a good idea, it’s actually possible. You may think it’s not possible because it hasn’t happened in this country for a long time, but that’s a ridiculous argument. That’s always the case. Revolutions always seem impossible before they happen, and then they seem, well yeah, that was inevitable; I could have told you that. But that’s not the case. What I want to leave people with is I’m extremely hopeful that people will wake up to the situation we face and take advantage of the fact that there is a theoretical doctrine and an answer to how we could actually bring something very good out of this. There is a force of people organizing it, and there’s a leadership for it in the revcoms. We’re organizing for this. We’re uniting with people wherever we can to fight against injustice, but for the purpose of building a movement to finally end all this madness once and for all. I’m personally torn up about going to funerals of people killed by the police that I have been going to for 55 years. This is unconscionable. That’s just not the best of all possible worlds, the greatest of all countries. No, this is a horror show for humanity. People need to confront that, and then we can talk about and get into what’s new in the New Communism, why that really does concentrate a world where people could have that generosity of spirit, that largeness of mind, and have that freedom to be able to work together collectively to transform all of society and eliminate all forms of exploitation and oppression. These are not just sweet words, but they are a sweetness that could be real if we got together and fought for it.
Sam Goldman 53:12
Thanks so much, Andy, for joining us and giving us a lot to think about. I hope that folks will join me in watching the RNL show, Revolution, Nothing Less on YouTube each Thursday. A link is in the show notes. Again, you can read more from Andy at revcom.us. With all the new revelations that I touched on in the beginning of the episode, Trump should not even be a legitimate candidate. Yet, he has already begun his campaign rallies. Last night in Iowa, as he continued to spew the deadly lies about stolen election, he had the support of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Governor Kim Reynolds standing by him. If we go to sleep now and keep relying on the Democrats, who cannot fight this in the way it needs to be fought, we’ll lose. I have to wonder what it will take to get folks to stop begging via tweet that Merrick Garland indict Trump — it’s clear he has shown no intention to do so in the months he has had the opportunity to — and start demanding it in the streets. To me, it’s clear, there is no savior coming from up high, and I can only imagine the revenge, violence and nightmare of a second Trumpist term. The GOP is a hollowed-out fascist party. The Dems don’t have the answer. They can’t even get their own party fully on board to pass an infrastructure bill, let alone address the real possibility of upcoming civil war and the looming threat of fascism. It’s up to us, in our millions, to refuse to accept a fascist America. Thank you for listening to Refuse Fascism. I want to hear from you. Share your thoughts, questions, ideas for topics. Tweet me @SamBGoldman or you can drop me a line Sam[email protected] Leave a voicemail by calling 917-426-7582. You can also record a voice message by going to anchor.fm/Refuse-Fascism and clicking the button. You might even hear yourself on a future episode. Want to support the show? It’s simple. Show us some love by rating and reviewing on Apple podcasts or your listening platform of choice and follow Subscribe so you never miss an episode. If you want to help us reach more listeners, you can also donate to help us play podcasts at Give at Refusefascism.org or Venmo Refuse-Fascism. Thanks to Coco Das, Lina Thorne, Richard Marini and Mark Tinkleman for helping produce this episode. Thanks to incredible volunteers, we have transcripts available for each episode, so be sure to visit RefuseFascism.org and sign up to get them in your inbox each week. We’ll be back next Sunday. Until then, in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.