As a journalist covering QAnon and fascism in Los Angeles, I’ve seen a lot in the past couple years. I’ve seen danger and violence, heard crazy conspiracies and angry confrontations, and tracked a movement as it spirals deeper and deeper into insanity. It has worn on me, and there are things I’ve seen that I’d like to forget, like people yelling “save our children,” a chant that drones on and on like an endless scream inside your mind.
I went to see it all again last Sunday, April 10th, at a mass anti-vaxx rally in downtown L.A., where the movement faithful gathered for a “Defeat the Mandates” rally at Grand Park near City Hall. The rally, at least in its stated purpose, was a protest against city and county requirements that require most public workers to get vaccinated against a disease that has killed 987,000 Americans.
The rally had a full 6 hours worth of speakers — a mix of local anti-vaxxers with a few national figures — and I thought I was ready for it. But what I witnessed during those hours was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen.
I saw an unholy, dark alliance best described as “festival fascism” — where QAnon, the People’s Convoy, and Dr. Robert Malone can fuse together in ways which make them more powerful than they’ve ever been.
While nearly everyone mocked this rally online, and most of the news coverage was fairly mundane, what I saw was a slickly packaged fascist telethon with ominous warnings of what lies ahead. I believe I saw the future of conspiracy movements, where the disparate outliers join forces to achieve parallel goals.
On a beautiful California afternoon, people screamed, “Lock (Fauci) up!”, danced to bizarre QAnon pop anthems. Political candidates manned booths, while people played carnival games. Someone dressed as Batman posed for photographs, and the director of “Plandemic” was praised as a hero. The “People’s Convoy” — the motorists who did slow laps around Washington D.C. to protest covid policies — rolled in and set up shop, blaring their horns until my ears were bleeding. Everything felt strangely… boring, an absolute mismatch with the violent froth of extremist ideology, conspiracy, and aggression blaring from the stage.
Finally — midway through the rally — the truth emerged.
One of Southern California’s most infamous Neo Nazis walked up to me, said, “Hey Eric”, and photographed me.
And there it was.
This is the future: Festival fascism, where the various strains of right-wing extremism and conspiracy theory insanity fuse into a movement you never wanted to see — but can’t get away from.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned.