The term “Quisling” comes from a Norwegian sympathizer who aided the Nazis during WW2.
I first saw the term in Max Brooks World War Z. In his post-apocalyptic zombie text, one of Brooks’ characters describes an extreme form of Stockholm Syndrome in victims of the zombie infestation. These people, unable to psychologically cope with the extreme violence and depredation of the living dead, form a maladaptive coping mechanism and emulate them. The people moan, groan and slump their way toward the living, even attacking them, perhaps in some broken hope that they will be spared the zombies’ wrath. They aren’t.
We are far removed from the horrors of the Third Reich, spreading like a plague across Europe. But, zombie literature is something very familiar to my generation, which is why I include the Brooks’ reference over a more historically relevant exposition.
But why the hell am I bringing it up? Donald Trump castigated “hatred, bigotry and violence from many sides.” He may as well have said “both sides.” In the aftermath of that statement, alt-right and neo-Nazi groups, including the lead Nazi site the Daily Stormer, have lauded his equivocating statement. But that’s just abstract political stuff.
Earlier today, one of my friends condemned Nazism and fascism in general. The very first response was from a commenter saying “socialism and communism too.” For the record, ok sure, there were some terrible things done in the name of socialism/communism. Neither here nor there. The alt-right is not socialist or communist. The commenter went on to argue with my friend that the alt-right is somehow a reactionary force against ‘economic anxiety, globalism and socialist forces.’ This person doesn’t himself identify as a Nazi, but he readily repeats alt-right talking points that minimize the impact of a neo-Nazi actually killing a woman with his car yesterday by equivocating “both sides.”
There is one side that is violent: the neo-Nazis, the alt-right. For a long time, I’ve been involved in debates with folks about “the intolerant left” and the paradox of intolerance, and whether protests that shut down the alt-right are violations of free speech. I’ll be elaborating on those arguments in the near future.
But here’s the rub. There is an ideology growing in our country that is ok with disenfranchising, and even harming racial and religious minorities in our country. And for every one neo-Nazi, marching without enough shame to wear a hood like a member of the KKK, there’s an alt-right edgelord online, or at the bar, right now arguing that “well, both sides are the same.” Those are Quislings. Those are the people to be worried about. They are the ones who will nod in silent agreement, or stand by and do nothing, when the people around us have their rights taken away, or get rammed into by a car while peacefully protesting.
So, find the Quislings. Engage with them. Call them out for their equivocating bullshit. There is one acceptable answer to “should fascism be tolerated?” That answer is not “but the socialists!” It’s not “But the intolerant left shut down a speech!” The appropriate answer is “Never Again.”
One of JFK’s favorite quotes came from Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,”:
“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”
And I like that quote. But another one sticks with me.
So, Your Move.