This is How Fascists Behave
Force and order.
Let me preface this post by noting that I am hardly an expert on the Guardian Angels. On the one hand, I can see something admirable in volunteers attempting to engage in “unarmed crime prevention.” On the other, it is not hard to see how such activities can spin out of control. While one would think that like a neighborhood watch program, the presence of Guardian Angels might dissuade some petty crime, the reality is that folks in uniforms who think they are on the side of justice can lead to force being deployed in that pursuit. And that force would, by definition, be extrajudicial.
As a general matter, I find this kind of vigilantism, even if well-meaning, to far too easily intersect with the American fantasy that the “bad guys” are easily identified by the “good guys” and, ergo, whatever the good guys need to do to stop the bad guys is justifiable.
Such is the core fantasy of superhero tales and copaganda (not to mention most concealed carry fantasies): that is it crystal clear who the guilty are and, therefore, they deserve whatever bullet or fist that comes their way.
I couldn’t help but think about all of that as I read (and watched clips of) the following story via CNN: An NYC vigilante group tackled what they claimed was a shoplifting ‘migrant’ live on Fox News. They were wrong.
Guardian Angels founder, Curtis Sliwa, was doing a live remote with Sean Hannity, wherein he was complaining about NYC Mayor Eric Adams and about the immigrants he claimed were taking over the streets. During the interview, several of Sliwa’s fellow Guardian Angels left their position as set decoration for the remote and proceeded to surround and assault an individual. The video can be seen here via MediaMatters.
From the CNN piece:
“He had been shoplifting first,” Sliwa replied. “The Guardian Angels spotted him, stopped him and he resisted. Let’s just say we gave him a little pain compliance. His mother back in Venezuela felt the vibrations. He is sucking concrete.”
This is how a fascist paramilitary group behaves and speaks. And by what authority are the Guardian Angels the judges who convict (he was shoplifter!) and then mete out “justice” (“pain compliance”!)? Sounds like aggravated assault, if you ask me. The fact that their motives are alleged anti-crime is irrelevant.
It also very much sounds like it was all inspired by xenophobia:
In an interview with The Associated Press, Sliwa said he had believed the man was a migrant because he was “speaking Spanish” and because other Guardian Angels had encountered him with other Spanish speakers on previous patrols.
Ditto the assumption that he was from Venezuela.
According to reporting the fellow “sucking concrete” tried to disrupt the Fox News taping and was charged with disorderly conduct.
At any rate, nonstate actors parading around in uniforms claiming they have the right to use violence against people they believe to be some dangerous “other” (especially if they look foreign and/or are speaking a language other than English) sounds pretty protofascist to me. This is especially true if the reason why such actors feel empowered is because their fellow citizens allow them to operate out of fear and the need for some vague notion of order.
Yay! They beat up some Spanish-speaker and it is justifiable because we are all afraid of crime and immigrants! Who cares about his rights or our alleged ideals, he got what was coming to him! Certainly that is the message that Sliwa is sending, and that is being amplified on FNC.
Again: apart from self-righteousness and alleged good motives, what right do these people have in deploying violence against fellow human beings?