Conquest by Concept

A Novel About the Culture War

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John Gilbert loves Angie, his far-left Antifa girlfriend. Then he meets Edward Hall, a charismatic right wing figure. Hall makes John question Angie’s politics. Soon, John can no longer tell which side is good or evil.

Caught in a political ‘love triangle’ between the far-left and right, John Gilbert faces a choice. Will he stay true to Angie’s passionate progressive values, or can the seductive Edward Hall turn him to the dark side?

Wars are fought in the mind, not just on the battlefield. It’s conquest by concept – with an emphasis on the con.

This is a novel about the ‘culture war.’ Anyone who has followed politics in the last five years will appreciate this novel. Although it takes on serious subjects, the book is a lively read – as shown by the following reader comments:


  • ‘I’m halfway through Conquest by Concept and I can hardly put it down. It’s brill! A breath of fresh air ramped up to a gale force wind.’
  • ‘Just sat down to start reading your book and ended up reading the first six chapters straight! Extremely good book!’
  • ‘I’ve just finished reading your book… Marvellous! Very big subject, very well addressed. I found it interesting and responding to a big challenge of our time.’
  • ‘Politics used to be boring. Not anymore. Brilliantly written and highly entertaining.’
  • ‘Equal parts high drama and French farce, this is a vigorous romp through the culture war. In divided times, a witty and provocative tale of one man’s quest to make sense of it all.’

And what is the culture war? It is the bitter battle between the political left and right for control of the direction of western nations. This battle has raged since the 1960’s, but never more fiercely than in the last five years. Trump, Brexit, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the far-right, far-left, refugees, fake news, feminism, men’s rights, trans rights, race riots, climate change… it’s all here in this dramatic and amusing novel.

Chapters One and Two are presented here.

Conquest By Concept – Chapter One

1: Meditation Made Me a Fascist

If you want to conquer evil, you have to understand it. To understand it, you may need to become it. When you become it, you may learn that evil was something different all along.

So, to the tale of how I became a ‘fascist.’ That’s a joke, by the way. I’m not a fascist, even if that’s what the Antifa called me when he tried to knock me out. Everyone seems to have gone mad these days. It’s now normal for complete strangers to attack each other in the street. I’m going to explain how we reached this point, or at least my own part in it.

For me, it all began that night I went to meditation class. It was a last minute decision to even show up. I hadn’t been to the Bronte Buddhist Centre for months. Too busy with work, study, and trying to live in harmony with Angie. That’s why a little inner peace was so badly needed. ‘You haven’t got time to meditate? You haven’t got time not to meditate.’ That’s what Dipak, the head Buddhist, used to say. Not that I was a Buddhist myself, I just liked to hang out with them sometimes.

So what started my turn to the dark side? It happened like this. I had dinner with Angie, drove to the centre, and parked my car. Then I meditated, came home, and went to bed. And if that lurid tale doesn’t lay bare the slippery slope to evil, nothing will.

Actually it was what happened the next day that did it. I got home mid-afternoon, slumped onto the couch, and heard my phone ring. It was Dipak – and he sounded weird.

‘John, we need to, uh, have a chat. Can you drop over for a few minutes?’

‘I just got home. What’s up?’

‘It’s a… um… a delicate matter.’

‘I can’t go out again now. Just tell me over the phone.’

‘It’s a bit awkward, to be honest.’

Dipak was starting to worry me. Clearly something was a big deal, but I wasn’t going to play guessing games. By the way, despite the fancy name, Dipak was a white Australian guy like me. His real name was Steve, but he changed it to Dipak when he became a Buddhist.

I sighed.

‘Look,’ I said, ‘whatever you’ve got to say, lay it on me.’

‘Alright. Is there something you’d like to tell me about… what happened last night?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Something you did that may have upset someone?’

Alarmed by his tone, I cast my mind back over the events of the night before, yet with no clue what he was on about. Then again, maybe I had done something offensive without realising. It wouldn’t be the first time.

‘Sorry, I’ve got no idea what you mean. Just tell me.’

‘OK then. Someone at the meeting last night… ’

There was a long pause.

‘Yes?’ I prompted.

‘Someone said they saw you… exposing yourself last night during the meditation.’

‘I’m sorry. What?’

‘Exposing yourself. During the meditation.’

The words finally registered.

‘Huh? What the hell are you talking about?’

I’m going to omit the next part of the conversation, as it would be in poor taste to start this story with a stream of profanities. Faced with such a bizarre accusation, you can’t really blame me. Still, it can be left out of the current account. Here’s a cleaned up version of what was said, and I’ll skip forward a bit.

‘I can’t believe you’re taking this seriously, Dipak. Do you really think someone’s going to go to the Buddhist centre, sit around in a circle with everyone else, and pull out his penis during the meditation? Do you realise how crazy that sounds?’

‘I know.’

‘Who would make such an absurd claim anyway?’

‘I’m not going to say who it was.’

‘So some nut job is allowed to destroy my reputation, and you’re going to protect her. It was a her, wasn’t it?’

‘I’m not going to reveal her gender.’

‘You just did. Jesus Christ!’

‘It’s a serious allegation and I’ve a duty of care to protect the victim.’

I’m the victim! I can’t believe we’re having this conversation. How can you possibly take this seriously?’

‘It is odd, John, I’ll admit. But why would she make such a story up? What would be her motivation?’

‘I don’t know. I’m not a psychiatrist. It must be this Me Too mania. I mean, of course I support the fight against sexual harassment. Who wouldn’t? But if this is what it’s come to, it’s turned into a damned witch hunt – and I ain’t no witch.’

‘I believe you, John. At least I want to. Look, can you think of anything that might have caused this person to make a mistake? Something she may have misinterpreted?’

The events of the previous night flashed before my eyes, like in one of those near-death-experiences you hear about. There I was hurrying to finish dinner with Ange. Then I pulled a pair of long trousers out of the wardrobe, squeezed into them, and drove to the centre.

I like to meditate sitting up, and I remembered putting a chair in the circle, moving one of the red yoga mats aside to make room. Soon after, a young woman I didn’t know came back from the bathroom and sat down on the mat I’d moved. She’d seemed to frown a little, which seemed of no account at the time.

As Dipak began leading the meditation, we tried to get comfortable so we could sit still for forty-five minutes. I’d found it harder than usual, realising as I struggled that I’d put on a couple of kilos since last year and the trousers were a bit snug. It’s harder to lose weight in your thirties. In search of a comfortable posture, I’d undone the top button and loosened the zipper… by about one centimetre. Two at most.

No. Surely it can’t have been that. Then again, what else could it be?

The flashback continued. The aftermath when Dipak went round the circle ‘checking in’ with everyone about how their meditation was. I’d said mine was fine! Then the girl who’d given me the stink eye when I moved her mat had declined to comment. There was a sort of weird vibe when she said it. Yes – it was definitely her who made the complaint.

I returned to the phone call.

‘Look, Dipak. I think I know what happened. I haven’t been in for a few months, right? You might have noticed I’ve put on a little weight.’

‘Well… er… maybe a little.’

‘So my pants were a bit tight and I undid the button and put the zipper down a centimetre. But how did this nut job turn that into me exposing myself? What the fuck, man!’

I would never normally have sworn while talking to a spiritual man like Dipak, but I was rattled.

‘I know who it was too,’ I said.

‘I’m not going to say who it was,’ Dipak replied.

‘It was the girl on my left.’

‘All I know is she was extremely upset. She came up to me after the meditation almost in tears.’

‘Call me heartless,’ I said, ‘but I don’t feel a great deal of sympathy. I mean, I go in there for a little peace of mind and this happens! It’s outrageous.’

‘Look, John, leave it with me. I’m going to have a word to the person who made the complaint. See if she might agree she could have been mistaken.’

‘Sure, Dipak. You do that.’

I hung up and swore loudly. Then I texted Angie, ‘You won’t BELIEVE what just happened!’ Still seething in righteous indignation, I was about to call her.

Then stopped.

My mind flew back to our conversation from last month during the Ford-Kavanaugh sexual assault case in America.

Some judge named Brett Kavanaugh had been chosen to head the US Supreme Court. Then a woman, Christine Blasey Ford, made an accusation he’d assaulted her at a party thirty years before, when they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh was President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, and some said Blasey Ford’s action was a political stunt to get at Trump. Others said it was a scandal that a possible rapist could be given the highest legal job in America. So, was Kavanaugh guilty? There was no real evidence either way. It was just another he-said-she-said.

The case was a big deal, especially with the recent Me Too craze about women being sexually assaulted by men in power. Even here in Australia it was all over the news. Angie and I were sitting there watching it on TV one night. Blasey Ford, a middle-aged blonde academic, was in the witness stand wearing her fragile, brave survivor look. Later it was Kavanaugh’s turn, his dignified features tarnished by anger under cross examination. I had my hand in the small of Angie’s back, and felt her body tense up when Kavanaugh appeared.

‘Look at that jerk,’ said Angie. ‘Sorry, frat boy. You don’t get to be supreme justice if you abuse women.’

Angie is Australian but has picked up American terms like ‘frat boy.’

‘You think he’s guilty?’ I said.

‘Look at him. He’s just the type.’

I stared at the TV and saw a middle aged white man. He could have been my dad – and I mean that in the same way Obama said Trayvon Martin could have been his son.

‘What about Ford?’ I said. ‘What’s her type?’

‘She’s one of us. All of us,’ said Angie. She raised her voice and addressed the TV directly. ‘We believe you, Chrissie!’

Angie stood up, as if roused to action. Even angry, she was still gorgeous. Petite, pretty, with short dark hair. She turned to look at me, waggling her finger like an enraged pixie who’d caught me stealing her brownies.

‘Why is this case still going? He’s guilty!’

I hesitated.

‘It’s probably just the lack of evidence.’

‘You can’t expect evidence after thirty-five years!’

‘I suppose they just want to make sure.’

She stared at me with sudden intensity. ‘You believe her, don’t you, John?’

As she stood looking down at me, I was overwhelmed by her elfin beauty. I wanted nothing more than to pull her down to simultaneously comfort and ravish her. Yet it was hardly the appropriate time for that.

‘Of course!’ I replied. ‘As a feminist, as a male ally, I believe her. But what if she’s made a mistake? Or… or remembers things different to what really happened?’

‘Why would Christine make up something like that?’

‘I’m not doubting her for a second, but I heard she’s a professor at a top university, and she wore a pussy hat in the women’s march against Trump.’

‘Fuck Trump,’ Angie said automatically, in the way some people say ‘Bless you’ after a sneeze.

‘Fuck Trump,’ I quickly echoed. ‘But maybe there’s some agenda there. You know, to get at Trump through Kavanaugh.’

‘There’s an agenda alright,’ Angie said darkly. ‘To push back women’s rights and ban abortion and contraceptives. They want to send us back to the fifties. Kavanaugh’s a Christian, you know.’

‘I see.’

‘Only a small number of rapes get reported, John. You know why? Because the victims have to go through another ordeal in the courts. It’s like a second rape. No woman should have to do that, and it’s about time we started believing survivors instead of violating them all over again.’

‘Sure. I’ve got no problem with that. We should always believe women – and any man who’s done nothing wrong has got nothing to worry about.’

I jolted back to the present. After this meditation incident, maybe I was Kavanaugh now. Instead of phoning Ange, I went to my laptop and Googled ‘false accusations.’ The search results were too general, so I tried ‘false sex accusations.’ This brought up quite a few cases.

I then searched for ‘why we should believe women,’ which brought up a lot of feminist blogs, yet also a video, which turned out to be some kind of satire about the Ford-Kavanaugh case. To my surprise, it seemed to be mocking women in general, and Ford in particular. As a male ally to feminism, this seemed jarringly misogynistic. Yet after the shock of Dipak’s phone call, a part of me was newly receptive to seeing women treated as less than saintly, infallible beings.

A couple of lines in the video stand out, both of them voiced by women. ‘Because my inability to get over a two second ass grab from thirty years ago makes me a strong woman,’ was one. The other was, ‘Because a man’s right to due process is far less important than me showing I don’t like rape, like, at all.’ This was said in a foolish, vacuous tone of voice meant to represent people on social media. I laughed, then looked around guiltily in case anyone had heard me.

My phone beeped. What’s up? Angie texted.

I was about to text her back when the phone rang. It was Dipak and he sounded relieved.

‘John, I’ve had a chat to the person who made the complaint.’

‘Did you tell her what I said?’

‘She does allow for the possibility she may have made a mistake.’

‘She’s not a complete nut job then.’

‘You’ve got to understand, John. Buddhism attracts some people who are deeply troubled, one way or another. Whatever happened last night to trigger this person has got nothing to do with you.’

I felt my anger rise.

‘It bloody nearly did have something to do with me, though, didn’t it? People have had their lives ruined by this sort of thing. I’ve nearly finished my teacher training. Before you can even teach in schools, you need a police check to prove you can work with children. This rubbish could have ruined my whole career before it even started.’

‘I know it’s not fair.’

‘I mean, look at you, Dipak. You’ve known me for years, but you were ready to believe her.’

‘She was extremely convincing. She seemed so sure.’

‘I take it back then – she is a complete nut. Anyone who thinks a guy is going to sit around in a meditation circle and pull out his penis needs her head read.’

‘We should really try to sympathise. This person has no doubt been abused in the past.’

‘What’s that got to do with me? Sorry, but I’m not going to be collateral damage to whatever trauma she’s been through. Don’t expect to see me at meditation for a while. I’m going to stay as far away from this person as possible.’

‘I want you to feel welcome back anytime. We want it to be a safe space.’

‘If you keep people like her away, it might be.’

After our chat finished, I texted Angie.

Forget it. Just a mix up. See you when you get home.

I shuddered and sank back onto the couch, hoping that would be the end of it – and in one way it was, and in another way, it was only the beginning.

2: Angela’s Antifa

I got home the next afternoon to find a posse in the living room. For a second I thought they were there for me, but it was just Angie and a few of her student pals.

As usual, I had a sense of being the ‘older guy,’ barely visible, but given some substance as Angie’s boyfriend. I was thirty-five, for Christ’s sake. Resisting the urge to greet them with a facetious ‘hello fellow kids,’ I sat down in an armchair. Some of them were wearing black masks, slipping them on and off their faces as if trying them on for size.

‘Why didn’t you tell me it was fancy dress?’ I said.

The remark drew no response. There was a strangely solemn air to the little gathering.

‘Why the long faces?’ I persisted. ‘Seems more like a wake than a party.’

‘Tonight’s the Nazi rally,’ said Angie. ‘I told you ten times already.’

That explained the masks. Angie’s Antifa comrades were suiting up for combat. Antifa, the anti-fascist group dedicated to fighting the new wave of right wing extremism.

‘Oh yeah – the rally.’ I raised a fist. ‘Bash the fash.’

Angie gave me a terse look. My jokey tone was only meant to cover social awkwardness, but perhaps it was coming off as mockery. I quickly moved the conversation on.

‘Who is it again?’

A young guy in a Che Guevara t-shirt answered. Leon, I think his name was.

‘See for yourself,’ he said, pointing at the flyers on the coffee table.

I picked up a flyer. It showed a bald, middle aged white man and a beautiful young blonde girl. The words ‘Hate Speech is not Free Speech’ were printed across the top.

‘Stefan Molyneux,’ I read out loud. ‘And Lauren Southern.’

Angie cast a hateful glance at the images.

‘Give me five minutes alone with that Nazi bitch. That’s all I ask.’

‘Me too!’ I nearly said, but remembered just in time the lecture on ‘rape culture’ Angie hit me with last month. Those sort of old school innuendo jokes were on the nose these days.

Leon took the opportunity to showboat in front of my girlfriend.

‘You get her, Ange, and I’ll take Molyneux. If only the pussies didn’t hide behind security. They wouldn’t even say where their rally was ’til an hour ago.’

‘Then how can people attend? I asked.

‘They keep the venue a secret ’til the last minute,’ Leon replied. ‘Shows how tough they are.’

‘What are they afraid of?’ I said, rather surprised.

‘Us,’ said a blue haired waif, who looked about sixteen. ‘They want to deny us our free speech to protest their event. Typical fascists.’

I hesitated to reply. The girl, Nina, was one of Angie’s best friends. She was tougher than she looked and had a fiery temper.

‘I suppose they’ve got a point,’ I said slowly, ‘if you’re trying to shut them down.’

‘They shouldn’t be here in the first place,’ Nina snapped. ‘New Zealand kicked them out, why can’t we? If only we had a strong leader like Jacinda Ardern instead of the pathetic racist government we’ve got here.’

I picked up the flyer and scrutinized it.

‘So they’re Nazis, are they?’ I said. ‘What have these people done?’

Angie snorted.

‘What haven’t they done? They’re Islamophobic, misogynist, racist. Did you see what Lauren Southern was wearing when she got off the plane? An It’s OK to be white t-shirt. Disgusting.’

I stared at her blankly for a moment.

‘Er… yeah. So what are you guys gonna do?’

‘We’ll meet up in town with everyone else, then stalk the venue and call out the lowlifes going inside. A few of us have got tickets to get in so we can really fuck those guys up. Anyhow, you’re coming, aren’t you?’

Angie stared at me with those big brown eyes. I looked away.

‘I would but I’ve got that assignment due Monday.’

‘Do it tomorrow. This is important.’

I paused. Staying in good with Ange was always a priority. I was still dreading the thought of her hearing about what happened at meditation, even though I was innocent. Better not push my luck. Besides, there was no way I could knock her back in front of her Antifa pals.

‘Alright, I’ll go.’

Angie took my hand.

‘Maybe you can do the movie with Leon.’

‘What movie?’ I asked.

Angie gave the flyer a withering look.

‘The bitch has made some propaganda film about South Africa. Probably wants to bring back apartheid. Can you believe it?’

‘How can they?’ I said. ‘South Africa’s majority POC, isn’t it?’

POC means people of colour, if you don’t know.

‘Like it always was,’ said Angie. ‘That’s imperialism for you. Ten percent of the population and they think they can run the country. We’ve got two tickets to the film, so someone has to go in and disrupt it.’

‘What do they have to do?’

‘Fuck them up, one way or another. Yell out. Get into the projection booth and smash the equipment. Whatever resistance you can come up with.’

I frowned.

‘Geez, I don’t think I can smash the equipment. Bit extreme, isn’t it?’

Angie rolled her eyes.

‘Yeah, like apartheid isn’t extreme or anything.’

‘If I get arrested, that means a criminal record. It might stop me working in schools.’

‘For stopping Nazis? That should get you more work not less. You should be teaching kids to oppose fascism.’

‘If I heckle and boo, will that do?’

Angie turned away with a disappointed look. ‘You up for it, Leon?’

‘Hell yeah. I’m a-gonna punch me some Nazis!’

‘There’s two tickets so someone has to go with you.’

She looked around the group. A young Somali woman raised her hand.

‘Not you, Bilan,’ said Angie. ‘I don’t expect a woman of colour to sit through that white supremacist filth.’

She looked round the room once more, until her eyes settled on me.

‘Looks like you’re it, John.’

I raised my hands in surrender.

‘Fine – but what will the rest of you do?’

‘We’ll be outside confronting the scum going into the show.’

‘Won’t they be at the movie?’

‘No, that’s just a warm up. The main event is Southern and Molyneux giving a lecture about their racist crap. As soon as the film’s finished, come and meet us outside and we’ll try and stop people going in.’

We picked up the train at Bondi Junction. Angie spent most of the trip texting, probably liaising with other members of Antifa heading to the rally. I spent the trip staring at Ange. It was kind of pathetic, really. I was like one of those teenage girls who writes her boyfriend’s name in her diary. John Gilbert plus Angela Gardiner. Not that I ever called her Angela, although I might on our wedding day, if that ever happened. Certainly never Angel. She might have punched me. But definitely Ange or Angie, as the mood took me. As she tapped messages into her phone, I sat by her side, staring at her impossibly cute features and dreamy creamy complexion, dark brown hair in a pixie cut, and cherry red lips. Yes, I was definitely one of those pathetic teenage girls.

She caught me, and laughed.

‘What are you staring at, you old perve?’

I laughed too, a little too loud. Yes, I was ten years older. So what? It was perfectly normal for a guy to date a younger woman. Ten years was nothing. When she turned forty, I’d only be fifty, and our kids would be in school.

I checked out my own reflection in the train window. Not bad, not bad at all. Not totally tall, dark, and handsome, but at least tallish, darkish, and handsome-ish. Conventional good looks – nothing wrong with that. I’d thought of getting a tattoo, but nah. It would look try-hard. I was a solid 7.5. Good enough. Yeah, Ange was a 9, but so what? It would even out over time. I gazed at our combined reflection. We looked good together, dammit. A handsome couple. Anyone would have thought so.

The sign for Town Hall station appeared.

‘Come on, John,’ said Ange. ‘Let’s go.’

We walked the few blocks to Darling Harbour. The first surprise was the size of the venue. The Convention Centre was no shady dive, but a modern glass-fronted building in the centre of town, and on the harbour to boot. Whoever was coming to this meeting, it looked like we weren’t dealing with the back street fascists.

‘Who knew there were so many Nazis in 2018?’ I said to Ange, walking beside me.

The second surprise was the number of cops. There must have been thirty or forty of them spread out around the entrance to the Convention Centre. There were also quite a few Antifa keeping an eye on the joint, clustered in groups a little further back. As for the people attending the event, those who were here for the propaganda film had already begun filing into the venue. Some had their heads down, aware they were under scrutiny. Others strode ahead, wilfully defiant.

Angie’s crew had already masked up, but as my brief was to infiltrate the movie, that didn’t apply to me. Angie came up and slipped the film ticket into my hand. She gave me a kiss on the lips, and with the romantic exhortation to ‘Fuck them up, babe,’ sent me on my way.

I joined the back of the line and began walking towards the entrance. As the line progressed, I was suddenly aware that to the watching Antifa, I must now look like one of the enemy. There were many more Antifa present than the handful we’d travelled in with, and most of them didn’t know me. Realising this, I turned to  the crowd with a cheeky wink as if to tip them off about my true allegiance. When this seemed to inspire a low rumble of anger, I put my head down and hastened through the glass doors and into the venue.

Once inside, I checked out my fellow filmgoers. They were mostly white and male, but with a scattering of women too. We took the escalator up a level to the main auditorium, a spacious arena which could have easily seated a few thousand. There were only a few hundred here now, although numbers would swell for the speeches to be held after the film.

Leon and I went to opposite sides of the auditorium, working on the theory that yells from each side would create the illusion of a bigger protest. We agreed that half an hour or so into the film, Leon would start chanting slogans, and I would immediately join in from my side, possibly also making an assault on the projection room itself with the hope of stopping the screening. Yet as I settled back in my seat, I decided projector smashing was out of the question. Some loud yelling should be enough to show Ange I’d ‘done my bit’ to stop the march of white supremacy, after which I’d beat a hasty retreat and rejoin the comrades outside.

The film began and my eye was drawn to the evil Lauren Southern herself. What a doll, I thought, before quelling the shameful sexual objectification from my mind. Still, there was no denying her beauty. How could it be that a maiden so fair was infected by the curse of fascism?

Southern started by giving a brief history of South Africa. In truth, she was less arrogant than I’d imagined. I’d expected a smug supremacist. Then again, this was a propaganda film, and no doubt she’d been told to tone it down so as to draw in the gullible.

As for the film itself, it was mainly Southern interviewing local South Africans, mostly whites, and a few token people of colour. Again, I was a little surprised. I’d always had an image of white South Africans as aloof imperialists, yet these people seemed like decent folks. Given that most of them were farmers, this wasn’t really a representative sample. And, to be honest, the tale they told was a little harrowing.

Southern’s film, Farmlands, was about the plight of white South African farmers. The claim was that since Nelson Mandela’s ANC party came to power in the 1990s, conditions had declined for the white population. Now, with Mandela’s relatively benign influence gone since his death, hostility to whites had escalated. Land owned by whites was being reclaimed by force, and even the black government itself seemed on the point of making this legal. More shockingly, there had been several – perhaps many – cases of white South Africans being murdered on their own farms by blacks out to avenge the apartheid years and reclaim the land in the name of justice. Or so the film claimed.

Southern did one interview with a blonde lady farmer who described, in graphic detail, how her own father had been viciously murdered by intruders in the very living room where they were now speaking. All the while I was trying to manage my surprise, telling myself this was nothing but propaganda. Yet the woman seemed authentic. Shortly after, there was another interview, this time with a black government official who said land repossession would soon be a legal right.

I was speculating that Southern had paid some poor wretch from Soweto a few dollars to perform this fictional scene, when there was a commotion on the other side of the theatre. My comrade, Leon, no doubt thinking along the same lines as myself, had risen to his feet and was creating a ruckus with a chant of defiance.

            Fascists, go away

            Come again no other day

            Hate speech, spreading fear

            Nazis are not welcome here

I was about to join in, but was stalled by the chorus of boos from the crowd on Leon’s side of the room. Truth be told, I was reluctant to go up against a roomful of racists on my own. I could make out Leon scuffling with a couple of attendees, and it wasn’t long before security seized him and evicted him from the theatre. To his credit, he continued to chant as he was dragged away.

I opened my mouth to take up where he’d left off, then stopped. After what had happened to Leon, what would be the point? Perhaps I could do more good as an observer, assessing the propaganda film and reporting back to Ange later that night. I settled back in my chair.

The rest of the film was a grim tale of a country in danger of falling into civil war. When Mandela had come to power twenty years before, we’d heard talk of a rainbow nation and a new age of racial harmony. If you believed this film, it was nothing of the sort. The white South Africans seemed to hide behind walls, in the city or on their farms, and the murder rate was as high as anywhere in the world. What had happened to Mandela’s rainbow nation?

I walked out of the theatre in a pensive mood, intending to meet up with Ange and the rest of the crew. I joined the other filmgoers and began filing out of the building. As we got near the glass exit doors, it was clear the size of the crowd had swelled considerably. People who had showed up to hear Southern and Molyneux speak were milling around near the entrance, and the numbers of Antifa had also risen. The mutual hostility was palpable.

I once read a book called Legends of the Firm, about football hooligans. It was a bunch of interviews with members of the ‘firms,’ as they called their gangs, of which there was one for each football club. Apparently, violence was some kind of bizarre hobby for them. Standard procedure was rival firms setting up some kind of ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ whereby they’d meet up before or after games to beat the crap out of each other. These clashes could be between rogue units of five or ten thugs from each firm, right up to full scale battles with hundreds on either side.

That’s what it was like tonight. Antifa was on one side, most of them wearing their anonymous black masks, and the fascists here to attend the meeting were on the other. It seemed about to boil over at any minute.

And it did. Just as I cleared the glass exit doors, fighting broke out some twenty metres to my left, the very direction in which we were moving. I resolved to press on, hoping to meet up with Ange and her crew somewhere among the throng. As it happened, there was little choice due to a surge in the crowd behind me. Within a few seconds I found myself spat out of the line into a little laneway with about five of my fellow filmgoers. As bad luck would have it, the space was filled with ten or fifteen masked Antifa, who immediately set their sights on us.

‘There they are!’ one of them yelled.

Realizing my predicament, I raised both my hands and my voice.

‘Wait! I’m one of you guys!’

A burly, masked Antifa laughed at me.

‘Bullshit. I saw you go inside. Let’s see you wink now, you fucking Nazi!’

‘What! I’m Angie’s boyfriend, you fool. She’s high up in Antifa. Give me a second and I’ll phone her.’

I pulled out my phone and tried to dial Ange but the Antifa guy knocked it out of my hands with a violent swipe.

‘What the hell’s wrong with you?’ I said, now more angry than afraid. To which he replied – and I’ll never forget this –

‘What’s wrong with you, you white cunt?’

On impulse, I reached out and grabbed his mask, ripping it away from his face. He was whiter than an albino’s ghost. I looked round the group and saw the skin showing, up above their masks. They all were.

Then it was on. The Antifa dude threw a right hook at me, which I just managed to avoid. The rest of his masked mates joined in, fighting the half dozen filmgoers who’d been spat out of the line with me. The next minute was a chaotic mess of punches, kicks, oaths, and cries of pain. I’m no brawler but was surprised to find that cometh the hour, cometh a capacity for self defence previously unknown.  I landed a blow on the face of my assailant, who went down hard. Yet just as I was standing over him in an uneasy haze of triumph, disgust, and adrenaline, I felt a surge of pain from a blow to the back of the head, and my consciousness went out like a light.


RP 4a WC

I woke up with a headache and two guys standing over me. There was a tall, gangly fellow, and a thickset stocky one. I made a weak attempt to snap back into fight mode, then realised I was no longer in the street. It looked like some kind of cheap hotel room. I was lying on a tatty old couch at the side of the room.

‘Take it easy,’ the taller guy said. ‘Don’t try to get up.’

‘What happened?’ I said.

‘Fucking Antifa,’ the stocky one replied. ‘Lucky for you our hotel was only a couple of blocks away. You can crash with us, but you’d better stay here. We’re going back to the show.’

Realisation dawned.

‘So you guys are from the Nazi rally.’

The tall guy laughed.

‘The Nazi rally? Yeah, just like you, mate. Are you OK? You were out cold.’

I tried to stand up and winced. The guy put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me gently back down on the couch.

‘Better sit this one out, old boy.’

A thought occurred to him.

‘Hey, give us your ticket. I know someone who needs one. May as well use it.’

I felt a rise of panic. When they found out I had no ticket to the event, my cover could be quickly blown. I sat up and went through the motions of searching my pockets.

‘Oh no. I must have dropped it in the fight.’

‘Never mind,’ he said. ‘Come on, Davo, let’s go.’ He gave me a backwards glance.  ‘Catch ya later.’

I lay on the couch for a few minutes. When the two Nazis didn’t return, I got up and made a cautious inspection of the room. Despite its cheap look, it was quite spacious, almost like a living room. Two single beds on one side; the couch on the other, and a table and chairs in the middle near the door.

The room itself was on the second floor above street level. I looked down and saw traffic and a few pedestrians. I tried the door, half expecting my new friends to have locked it from the outside, but it opened easily onto a hallway and a flight of stairs leading back to the street. I was about to make a hasty exit when it occurred to me I’d have to head back to the rally to meet Ange. Having been knocked out once, going back to a riot wasn’t an appealing prospect.

What then – go home? It would look a bit weak if Ange came back and found me home in bed, having bailed out of the fight. Maybe I should stay where I was. Hell, this might even be a happy accident. I’d managed to infiltrate the enemy’s camp without even trying. What if I stayed for a while, got talking to them, and found out their plans? Acting as a double agent, I could eavesdrop on their white supremacist talk and win big points with Ange when I reported back to her with the lurid details. If nothing else, it would make a great war story and put Leon’s film arrest in the shade.

Then again, facing up to these fascists wasn’t very appealing either. If I gave myself away somehow, they could murder me in this room and no one would ever know. To make matters worse, my head was still aching from the blow. I decided to lie down for a few minutes and think it over.

I sank back onto the couch and closed my eyes. I must have dozed off because the next thing I heard was the sound of a key in the door, as the two white supremacists came inside. The taller guy led the way, followed by the stocky one holding a carton of beer. As soon as they were inside, he placed the carton on the floor, relieved at laying his burden down. He tore open the top of the box, took a bottle for himself and handed one to his colleague. Then, catching sight of me, he gave me a bottle too. Not knowing what to do, I sat up and accepted the beer, then took a big swig to settle my nerves.

‘How you doing, mate?’ said the taller one. ‘On the mend?’

To read the rest of the book, Conquest By Concept is available of Amazon here

Conquest by Concept book by Duncan Smith