From Doomsday Preppers to Doomsday Plotters
June 11, 2021 3:41 AM   Subscribe

Far-right movements have long dreamed of a moment that ends society as we’ve known it. Now, experts say, so-called accelerationist thinking is proliferating in ways that could destabilize democracy.

This story began with a mysterious gun in an airport bathroom and led to a German military officer facing trial on terrorism charges. It’s a story about national identity and reckoning, mirroring the story of Germany itself. And years later, it’s still unfolding — raising a question that democracies across the world are waking up to: What happens when the threat is coming from within? -Day-X via NYT.

Recent Episodes
Day X, Part 1: Shadow Army?
The mysterious story of a German soldier, a faked Syrian identity and a loaded gun in an airport bathroom cracks the door open to a network of far-right extremists inside the German military and the police. They are preparing for the day democracy collapses — a day they call Day X. But just how dangerous are they?
Day X, Part 2: In the Stomach
Franco A. visited the workplaces of two of his alleged targets. We meet both targets to hear the stories of two Germanies: One a beacon of liberal democracy that has worked to overcome its Nazi past, the other a place where that past is attracting new recruits. 
Today, we explore how Germany's history is informing the fight for the country’s future.

Day X, Part 3: Blind Spot 2.0
Franco A. is not the only far-right extremist in Germany discovered by chance. For over a decade, 10 murders in the country, including nine victims who were immigrants, went unsolved. The neo-Nazi group responsible was discovered only when a bank robbery went wrong. 
In this episode, we ask: Why has a country that spent decades atoning for its Nazi past so often failed to confront far-right extremism?

 
If you prefer reading to listening - ‘Day X’ and Germany’s Far Right
posted by infinite intimation (35 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for posting this. It's important to realize that this way of thinking is international and instructive to get a deep dive on what's happening in nations outside of the US.
posted by rednikki at 3:46 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]


I'm no longer concerned about or interested in accelerationism as a means of political change after four years of Trump.

After all that Trump and his cronies have done, and all that continues to trickle out, there's still a hesitation on the part of the dems to push forward and the GOP wasn't shocked into self-reflection. Voters continue to be evenly split where it matters.

It doesn't work.
posted by Slackermagee at 4:31 AM on June 11 [21 favorites]


Accelerationism is when you get bored of your SimCity game and start clicking all the disaster buttons at the same time. For some reason this is now considered a political philosophy
posted by theodolite at 4:36 AM on June 11 [75 favorites]


After all that Trump and his cronies have done, and all that continues to trickle out, there's still a hesitation on the part of the dems to push forward and the GOP wasn't shocked into self-reflection. Voters continue to be evenly split where it matters.

It doesn't work.


Part of the danger of accelerationist thinking is the argument that if accelerationism didn't work, it's only because it didn't go far enough fast enough. Just wreck more shit next time and then it'll all work out. An ideology that can never fail but only be failed is very, very tempting.
posted by cubeb at 4:53 AM on June 11 [15 favorites]


The original accelerationism was a radical-left strategy, specifically that for a Communist revolution to have any chance, capitalism must get far worse, so the goal of all good Communist revolutionaries is to do what they can make capitalism far harsher and more predatory.

If there were a fascist accelerationism (rather than just generic extremism), it'd consist of Nazis going undercover and trying to make the world intolerably multicultural, egalitarian and otherwise progressive, with the goal that it'd provoke the gammon/suburban NIMBYs and such into reaction.
posted by acb at 5:16 AM on June 11 [22 favorites]


acb, it's more likely meaning drift from the evangelical version of accelerationism, which involves bringing about a foretold apocalypse through human activity rather than patiently waiting on a divine timescale, than meaning drift from the leftist version.
posted by eviemath at 5:42 AM on June 11 [18 favorites]


People who've bet everything on apocalypse find themselves wishing to be proved right, to the point of pushing things along if need be, to be sure their bet pays.
posted by hypnogogue at 5:44 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]


acb, it's more likely meaning drift from the evangelical version of accelerationism, which involves bringing about a foretold apocalypse through human activity rather than patiently waiting on a divine timescale, than meaning drift from the leftist version.

I wonder if it isn't more the convergence of two uses. because there's been a small but significant white-straight-male-ultraleftists-ally-with-far-right-chuds issue over the past five or six years. Some of that is people who were always right-ish but were left on a few high-visibility issues (Greenwald, various dirtbag leftists) but some of it is a genuine political shift and I think there is a lot of concept crossover.

Nothing appears out of the ether, but there really have been big political shifts in the past five years, a lot of realignment and intensification. The left political landscape is very, very different from how it was during the Obama administration, almost unrecognizable.

We may not be interested in accelerationism but accelerationism is interested in us - it's what we're living now, like it or not. Funny how even the most accurate and intelligent extrapolations about the future miss the twists and miss the texture - it was easy to think that "accelerationism" was primarily something that people pursued as a strategy and therefore was something that we could debate, but the way it's gone is that we have a kind of convergent accelerationism that's out of our hands - the climate, the increased militarization of the police, the border. The chuds are only a small part and left accelerationists are basically a totally marginalized tendency.

You know what? I really miss the Whelk. He'd have something mordant and pessimistic to say about all of this.
posted by Frowner at 7:03 AM on June 11 [50 favorites]


I wonder if it isn't more the convergence of two uses. because there's been a small but significant white-straight-male-ultraleftists-ally-with-far-right-chuds issue over the past five or six years. Some of that is people who were always right-ish but were left on a few high-visibility issues (Greenwald, various dirtbag leftists) but some of it is a genuine political shift and I think there is a lot of concept crossover

Yep. I know some of these dudes (they are all dudes). They are a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a sliver of a splinter, which is why, in most cases, I'm uncomfortable bringing them up in the event that it provokes some bullshit both-sides-ism from people still trying to act like the cartoon version of "antifa" and ultra violent white nationalists are the same thing. But they are definitely around and still enthusiastically gassing the fires whenever possible.

I also miss The Whelk.
posted by thivaia at 7:17 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


If there were a fascist accelerationism (rather than just generic extremism), it'd consist of Nazis going undercover and trying to make the world intolerably multicultural, egalitarian and otherwise progressive, with the goal that it'd provoke the gammon/suburban NIMBYs and such into reaction.

What do you mean "if"?

This is exactly what they do. They play pretend online to be the most egregious leftist stereotypes. They seek out and amplify the worst examples they can think of, and promote it as normal. They misrepresent the extreme left's demands as the Democratic platform and then pretend that the extreme left is logically, even further.

In a world of cable television and Internet, they don't need to actually bring "intolerably multicultural" into the town square when they're even more successful by bringing it into their living rooms.

They've fully weaponized "perception is reality."
posted by explosion at 7:21 AM on June 11 [17 favorites]


Like, this time last year I was staying up into the small hours looking out the back window to watch the alley while my neighbor stayed up and watched the front - there were out-of-state Nazis here in Minneapolis taking potshots at people and there were a few fires set around town. This didn't really make the media; the only left discourse that really hit nationally was firmly in the "don't say it was outside agitators, that diminishes the actual revolt by Minnesotans of color" and the fact that this place was a magnet for Nazis for a couple of weeks got obscured.

Now on one hand, a hundred or so white supremacists can't literally be everywhere at once, so the individual risk is low, and we knew that they wouldn't be here forever because many of them were well off white men taking vacation time. But on the other, when you're seeing weird license plate-less cars and reliable people are talking about a respectable food distro getting shot up, it's scary.

My point being that last year I was watching by night because I was afraid of neo-Nazis. One night about 1am I saw a weird convoy of cars go through the alley, shortly followed by a convoy of National Guard trucks. The helicopter noise was nonstop for a week. The mail delivery to my neighborhood was cut off for almost a week. Some kind of extreme damage - it was right during the middle of the protests and right where things were happening, but I never found out whether it was fire or someone just breaking stuff - happened to the power station nearby and the power was out for 24 hours.

And I am here to tell you that just because you sfeel that, eg, burning a police station is legit and a natural response to a grotesquely violent state, that does not make a couple of nights of fires around the city less scary, especially because a few years ago someone I used to volunteer with died in a house fire. The fire department was very hard-pressed there for a while.

My point is that this whole situation is basically the future - not that it's going to be constant riots and fires and Nazis everywhere we turn (I hope) but just as with the wildfires in California, what was unimaginable ten years ago is going to happen regularly and may well happen to you. This is not happening because of someone's clever strategy, even if there are chancers with accelerationist strategies out there. It's happening because events themselves are accelerating and intensifying.
posted by Frowner at 7:22 AM on June 11 [66 favorites]


My read on the world situation may come across as an oversimplification, but I honestly thing a major aspect of the problem is this: Post-WW2, among the most powerful and wealthy elites in the major developed nations had one truly common overarching political philosophy, informed by the horrors of that war. Internal continuity of power and top-level stability. Everyone within their own political and economic ideology found different methods of establishing and maintaining stability, but to a large degree they had it. The Soviets had it, despite the incredible risk of chaos after Stalin kicked the bucket. China had it -- yes, even through the Cultural Revolution, they had it. The leadership of all major developed powers fundamentally were conservative, with a small-C, of course.

And even those who were deeply committed to their pet ideologies made concessions to the real, empirical world outside of their little echo chambers, because if they didn't keep their particular ship afloat, there were superpowers ready to eat their lunch.

Now, World War 2 has passed almost entirely from living memory. Conservative political wrangling is passe. Worldwide, even in the highest level of governments, there are more Radicals. And more and more people are not only riding the wave of witchcraft thinking and superstitious nonsense that they started believing their own hype, and that they are somehow immune from the laws of physics and economics. That, to bring it down to a provincial level a bit, *they* can hoodwink Donald and get on his good side and stay there where everyone else who got tossed aside were chumps. (Reader, we all know that everyone is a chump if you're not always and entirely useful and loyal to Donald, even Bill Barr knows that now.)

But to return to my point -- small-C conservatism was ascendant after WW2 because everywhere that was how people gained and maintained power, and though their propaganda always played up the inevitability of their pet ideology's inevitability, they actually knew better and knew it was possible to overplay their hands.

Those lessons are lost from direct living memory now. The Radicals believe their own hype, and superstition (in all its forms, and for the purposes of this comment I place racism, misogyny, "my ideology cannot fail, it can only be failed" as superstitious processes), which has always been endemic, is not being kept at a low boil by conservative political leaders, but stoked by radical ones.
posted by tclark at 7:42 AM on June 11 [16 favorites]


The New Dark Age and the Death of Freedom.
The assumption I’m talking about goes like this. Freedom is the telos, the endpoint, of human organisation and politics. Because that is what “people” long for, want, desire, crave. I put “people” in quotes because this assumption rests on shaky foundations, at best. Do people really want freedom?.................Democracy is under attack not from without, but from within. In every corner of the globe, “people” are beginning to reject democracy — the very same people who gentle and sophisticated and thoughtful and educated liberals like you and I have been taught to believe should and would want freedom.

Re Germany - see previous and meanwhile in Belgium today where Cpl Jürgen Conings, 46, a specialist marksman, has not been seen since he disappeared on 17 May after taking four anti-tank missile launchers, a sub-machine gun and a bullet proof vest from his barracks.
posted by adamvasco at 7:44 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


The original accelerationism was a radical-left strategy, specifically that for a Communist revolution to have any chance, capitalism must get far worse, so the goal of all good Communist revolutionaries is to do what they can make capitalism far harsher and more predatory.

So there is something to the Republicans calling the Democrats communists.
posted by Reyturner at 7:47 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


This is not happening because of someone's clever strategy, even if there are chancers with accelerationist strategies out there. It's happening because events themselves are accelerating and intensifying.

in this context, "events" is doing some serious heavy lifting. Reminds me of a guy I had some conversations with way back. His point (a good one, I think) was that so-called current events were easy to get overwhelmed by if you tried too hard to control them (both on a macro and a micro level). Because they were like weather systems, the result of unfathomably complex causes and effects going back weeks, months, years, centuries even.

Or as he would have put it, of course World War 2 was avoidable, but the time to avoid it was 1918-19. If the victors of WW1 had handled things right, they wouldn't have sowed the seeds for a far worse conflagration twenty years down the line.

So what do we do now about all the dumb, lazy, cowardly, greedy, malevolent decisions made back then (maybe last year, maybe in 1959) that are now galvanizing in perhaps terrible ways? Well, to get back to the weather analogy, dress accordingly ... and maybe get busy piling sandbags. And while we're at it, don't make more dumb, lazy, cowardly, greedy, malevolent decisions that will only end up feeding future storms.

I can only really speak for myself here but I've spent pretty much all of my six plus decades watching history happen to other people, but generally not being that affected by it myself, certainly not acutely. 9/11 came close, but not really (I'm Canadian). No, it took Covid-19 to really understand what it means to cross paths with history, to get in its way. And not in some wild and noteworthy (perhaps adventurous) way, but simply in terms of having to cancel pretty much all of my plans for more than a year due to events that I personally had no part in creating. Like a big storm, they just happened.

Call it a reality check, I guess.
posted by philip-random at 7:54 AM on June 11 [29 favorites]


So there is something to the Republicans calling the Democrats communists.

Well, of course -- from their position on the political spectrum, everything on the Left looks communist (cf. Saul Steinberg's New Yorker cover.) Just as from my position on the Left, Republicans all sound and feel like Nazis, to me.
posted by Rash at 8:44 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I appreciate the framing of this post around the recent incidents in Germany. Mostly because the Day X story feels sort of like a success: the police and government caught a bunch of terrorists and are conducting a coherent and meaningful investigation. So my apologies for engaging with this post as an American but, well, it's who I am.

Here in America we have one of our two political parties explicitly refusing to investigate an attack on the Capitol building. An attack planned and carried out by accelerationists. The Republicans are so in the grip of Trumpism and a slide to far right violent rhetoric that they are deliberately suppressing any investigation of the worst attack on American democracy in well over 100 years. The accelerationists are literally inside the government.

Also wanted to mention my surprise that the Boogaloo Boys aren't in the NYT overview article. They are the poster child for American accelerationism right now. They also convey the complicated nature of the movement. There's a lot of far-right extremists in the group, old school white supremacists, etc. But there's also a lot of people with other politics including some anti-racist activists, some anarchists, etc etc. The thing that seems to unify them all is being nihilistic. Also typically young men.
posted by Nelson at 8:45 AM on June 11 [13 favorites]


It took Michelangelo two years to carve the Pieta and he almost lost an eye forging his own chisels. Imagine how fast he could do it with some help from DeWalt. How fast would protestantism spread if each copy of Luther's 95 theses had to be handwritten?

We have way better tools now. If I saw a squirrel smoking a cigarette, I would say 'holy shit!' and take out my phone, and by tomorrow everyone on Earth would know about the smoking squirrel. Is it any surprise that fringe ideologies catch fire overnight rather than taking generations?
posted by adept256 at 9:50 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


I’ve been listening to the Behind the Bastards podcast episodes about the origins of modern conspiracy theories and Hitler’s rise to power, and there are so many parallels to today. It’s horrifying. When national prosperity starts to fade and economic anxiety takes hold, it seems like a switch flips and a large chunk of the population decides the best course of action is to blame and destroy marginalized groups. And voila! Fascism. And when that fails to solve the problem, move the crosshairs to somebody else and repeat. It is so abundantly clear that the Republicans have already been entirely consumed by this mindset, and the Weimar Democrats are unwilling to take serious action. Sternly worded rebukes don’t stop putsches.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:21 AM on June 11 [19 favorites]


The problem is that fascism is like one of those entities in Conway's Game of Life that morph through a bunch of shapes until they end up in a simple repeating shape that moves across the field and then impacts and dies, taking the generator with it.
posted by Scattercat at 10:57 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Let's also recall that the Right (not even the far Right) used "attempting to overthrow the government" as their main attack clause on any Leftist organizations for decades. Let's give it right back to them. Seditious bastards.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:26 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Hey, so, the post is about Germany and its specific problems, maybe we could engage with that and leave the US situation until another thread?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:46 AM on June 11 [15 favorites]


The Frankfurt police SEK (Special Task Force - SWAT team equivalent ) is also being disbanded because of far-right extremist messages. The FAZ is reporting (in German) that there are more involved, both in the Frankfurt police, and in the Hessen state police.
posted by scorbet at 11:50 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


acb, it's more likely meaning drift from the evangelical version of accelerationism, which involves bringing about a foretold apocalypse through human activity rather than patiently waiting on a divine timescale, than meaning drift from the leftist version.
eviemath

Maybe to some extent, but the modern concept of "accelerationism" comes largely from British philosopher Nick Land, and it's surprising not to see him even mentioned in these articles/pieces, especially with regard to rightwing accelerationism. Google "accelerationism" and you'll find him mentioned in pretty much any discussion of the topic.

but the way it's gone is that we have a kind of convergent accelerationism that's out of our hands - the climate, the increased militarization of the police, the border.
Frowner

This is largely what Land argued in his original conception of accelerationism. In the context of the mainstream ethos of the 1990s that the spread of the capitalist economic and political model was inevitable and irresistible, and the seemingly unstoppable technological revolution of widespread internet access and the birth of mass internet culture (e.g., the rise of the "The Californian Ideology"), Land argued that the two were inextricably intertwined. This techno-capitalist system will inevitably distance itself from reality at an ever-accelerating pace, hiding behind borders and police, separating value from labor, dissolving the individual, etc. In this version of accelerationism, capital itself is the agent ad what it accelerates is its own extinction.

Now why would the esoteric thinking of some obscure British philosopher matter to anyone? Because there are two periods of Land: the weirdo obscure philosopher of the 1990s, and one of the key founders of the "Dark Enlightenment"/neo-reactionary movement of the late 2000s/2010s. The CCRU collapsed in the late 90s, Land had an amphetamine-fueled psychotic break, and re-emerged in Shanghai in the 2000s, now enamored with China's techno-authoritarian political system as the ideal post-capitalist system. He now espoused a new form accelerationism, an explicitly rightwing one aimed at ending democracy and establishing a "capitalist monarchy" that over time became more and more explicitly racist and eugenicist, advocating applying accelerationism to humans themselves in what he himself calls "hyper-racism". These ideas, as you can imagine, have had a lot of play in rightwing online circles, even more traditional ones like existing Nazi movements.
posted by star gentle uterus at 12:08 PM on June 11 [42 favorites]


I don’t think it’s any surprise that the ones prepping for a coming war are the ones who actually want that war to come.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:46 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


Well of course. How else would folks

a) use get to use all the stuff they’ve been stockpiling and
b) finally be right?

Everyone thinks they’ll come out in top when the SHTF. No one imagines being pressed into service to work the fields and mines.
posted by jquinby at 2:05 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


(Side note: star gentle uterus, great comment - you brought up a philosopher that folks who have looked into this topic would likely know about, but recognized that many of us here wouldn't be familiar and so gave enough of an overview of who you were talking about as well as the relevant details of his writings so that we get a sense both of the relevant idea and the context. Thanks!)
posted by eviemath at 3:50 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


The Frankfurt police SEK (Special Task Force - SWAT team equivalent ) is also being disbanded

After listening to the podcast, I thought I should make clear that this is separate to the Frankfurt police officers being suspended because of accessing private information about Seda Basay-Yildiz, the lawyer, as discussed in the third episode. (Or at least separate from the investigation side.)
posted by scorbet at 7:33 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


This podcast series is absolutely excellent and as a long time resident of Germany I am ashamed to learn many of these details from the NYT.

I remember the uncovering of the NSU murders back in 2011 (?) and the cold chill of what looked less like incompetence from the Verfassungsschutz and more like obstruction and even complicity in a decade long racist murder spree.

Even back then everyone was saying that there was no way that the NSU was just uwe/uwe/Beate. That there was a network and this can only be a small part of it. I am also sure it does not end now with Franco A.

I have the sinking feeling that the Verfassungsschutz is essentially running a Y-Combinator for far right extremists. They pay monthly salaries to a huge network of deeply involved right wing informants.... And then never seem to prevent or solve or hint at any of the worst excesses of the German far right. They even shred papers and protect their employees who appear to be compromised.
posted by molecicco at 11:34 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I highly recommend everyone to actually listen to the podcasts. they are riveting.

If you are scratching your head at "Verfassungsschutz agent was present at the murder but says he heard and saw nothing", then watch this forensic architecture video investigating the murder of Halit Yozgat in an internet cafe.
posted by molecicco at 11:38 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


I am not sure if or where this series is available online, but this three part series, which was also available on Netflix in English previously, is a great dramatization of the NSU, which illustrates the role of the Verfassungsschutz.
posted by molecicco at 1:36 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately I can't find NSU German History X available anywhere for streaming in the US now. Couldn't pirate it either. Here's a a short article about Andreas Temme, the intelligence agent who seems to have been at the scene of the NSU murdering Yozgat and yet claims to have not witnessed it. I think the article is about the same investigation that molecicco referenced, the forensic architecture video.
posted by Nelson at 7:11 AM on June 13


That intercept article is good (and quite long!), thank you for sharing. Yeah, I guess that forensic architecture video was an installation shown at Documenta, in Kassel. That is a shame that the series is not streamable. I searched in German and it looks like it often re-aired on television, but I could not find a streaming link anywhere.

Not (yet) mentioned in the podcast series so far is that Michele Kieswetter, the police officer who was assassinated by the NSU (presumably the two Uwe's but hey who knows)... her boss at the time was a member of the German KKK (an actual thing that exists) and the Verfassungsschutz knew this (German link to the Süddeutsche Zeitung).
posted by molecicco at 11:24 AM on June 13


I just finished listening, and they are well worth a listen. I hope later episodes try to dig into whether far right groups are purposefully infiltrating the military and law enforcer, or whether the structures of military and law enforcement lead them to recruit people who are vulnerable to far right recruitment.

The narrative about the police insisting violence against immigrants was violence by immigrants was especially chilling.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:00 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


I thought this was a really interesting contrast to this post from a week or so ago, praising how Germany has faced its past. There's this dichotomy where yes Germany has done an amazing amount of work to account for what they did, and because of that there's this refusal to believe that racism could exist there, even though there is alot of "soft" racism (e.g. not physically violent) that people are blind to (like blackface for costumes is still ok somehow to alot of people).

And this is touched a little in the podcast, where the reporter keeps asking if the police were blind or complicit, which is as of episode 3 has not been answered. Yes there were neo-Nazi police, but were the others blind or complicit? (The rule in the US is generally that any cop that doesn't speak up is complicit. I'd like to try to think about this not through a US lens.) There is alot of "soft" racism here that goes unacknowledged (soft as in not physically violent).

Anyways, I'm hooked and really looking forward to the rest of the series. I especially like these kinds of series that go into the cultural psyche. Living in Germany, I'm really interested in their history, particularly the part after WWII, which we don't learn very much about at all in US schools. Its absolutely fascinating to me. I recommend A Perfect Crime if you're interested in an examination of culture during a specific time as well.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:41 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


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