Social media platforms that purport to be concerned with the spread of "fake news" must consider -- and contain -- conspiracy theories proactively
What's a conspiracy theory? They don't say.
Social media platforms that purport to be concerned with the spread of "fake news" must consider -- and contain -- conspiracy theories proactively
UR-FASCISM BY UMBERTO ECO
“We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances—every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.”
rest @ http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/ur-fascism/
“Racial dissidents have lost the ability to organize openly”: Alt-rightists on Trump, ice, and what is to be done
AUG 4, ’18 5:32 PM
The alt-right, or alternative right, represents the most recent major upsurge of far right politics in the United States. Blending white nationalism, misogyny, and aggressive social media activism, alt-rightists helped put Donald Trump in the White House and proclaimed themselves the vanguard of the Trump coalition. Although they never believed Trump shared their politics, most of them hoped he would buy time and political space with which they could further their own goal of a white ethno-state.1
In 2017 alt-rightists made a push to broaden their scope and impact by linking up with more traditional neonazi forces and expanding their activism from the internet to physical rallies and street violence. But since the brutal August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, at which one antifascist counterprotester was killed, the alt-right has suffered a series of setbacks. Several major alt-right websites have been forced to find new platforms or shut down entirely, infighting and personal conflicts have weakened the movement, and antifascist mobilizations have blocked their mobilizing drive. In addition, as Trump embraced conventional conservative positions and priorities on many issues (from cutting corporate taxes to bombing Syria) and pushed out several of his more “America First”–oriented advisors (such as Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon), many alt-rightists became increasingly alienated from Trump. Some declared that he has been bought off or blackmailed by Jewish elites, while others held out hope that his populist-nationalist tendencies could still win out.2
Recent actions by Trump (launching trade wars against China and the eu, criticizing nato allies, and holding friendly meetings with Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin) have reintensified his conflict with the conservative establishment, while the crackdown on undocumented immigrants has made his administration look more nativist and authoritarian than ever. How have alt-rightists responded to these developments? In this article I’ll explore alt-rightists’ current outlook, focusing on three issues: attitudes toward Trump, responses to the border crackdown and law enforcement more broadly, and political strategy in a time of weakness.
In broad terms, the alt-right’s views on Trump fall in between those of the Patriot movement (which appears to be squarely behind him) and neonazi groups unaffiliated with the alt-right (which are generally hostile).3 Alt-rightists like the steps Trump has taken to restrict immigration and punish immigrants, but wish he would go a lot further. Applauding the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Trump’s third ban on travel from majority Muslim countries, Hubert Collins of American Renaissance called on him to ban immigration from El Salvador, Honduras, and Jamaica, claiming that “such a ban would save lives and slow the displacement of white Americans.”4 Identity Evropa (arguably the most successful effort to move alt-right politics from the internet to real-world organizing) simply calls on the president and Congress to end all immigration to the United States.5
Writers at Occidental Dissent have been generally scathing in their assessment of Trump’s administration. Marcus Cicero, for example, wrote, “We were promised isolation and got further Middle Eastern conflict, we were promised a protectionist economy and got watered down free trade, we were promised sealed borders and a wall and got hordes of feral Mestizos, and we were promised realpolitik and got slavish devotion to Israel.”6 Brad Griffin, Occidental Dissent’s founder, who blogs under the name “Hunter Wallace,” agreed with Mitt Romney (an establishment conservative loathed by alt-rightists) that Trump’s actions in his first year as president were very similar to what Romney himself would have done.7 But even Griffin and Cicero have praised a few of Trump’s actions, such as ending Obama-era affirmative action policies and holding peace talks with North Korea’s Kim.8
In contrast, Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer has tended to downplay his criticisms of Trump. “I know his faults. I know there are Jews in his office. I know he bombed Syria. Twice…. But when I watch these rallies, my heart is saying ‘there’s the leader of my people, he is fighting to protect us.’ ” And further: “what he is doing, at least with the rallies and the tone, is Fascist in spirit. He is authoritarian, nationalist, and anti-liberal. The racial element isn’t there yet explicitly, but it certainly is there implicitly.”9
As a rule, alt-rightists have been strongly supportive of the Trump administration’s border crackdown and “zero tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers. Hubert Collins declared that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice) protects Americans against foreign criminals and deserves full support.10 Many alt-rightists, like Patriot movement activists and other Trump supporters, have deflected criticisms of ice’s family separation policy by turning pro-family arguments against ice’s critics. American Renaissance wrote of “illegals” “using children as human shields” and dismissed criticisms Trump’s border policy as “hysteria” and “liberal viciousness.”11 Huntley Haverstock of Counter-Currents, drawing on the manosphere-type misogyny that has become standard across the alt-right, declared that newsmedia sound clips of immigrant children crying for their parents represented “emotional abuse against women”—more specifically, an “attempt to hijack women’s hindbrains and override all possibility of rational thought” because “the sound of crying has such a powerful mammalian impact on women that it can literally cause them to lactate.” Haverstock called this supposed physiological reaction healthy and positive in the right context, but in a political context it was “an argument against giving women the vote.”12
However, alt-right discussions regarding ice have gone well beyond these sort of reflexive attacks on immigrant rights politics. Anglin proclaimed that ice is Trump’s “Praetorian Guard,” the only non-corrupt federal enforcement agency, which the president will use to implement martial law and impose a dictatorship.13 As with many of Anglin’s statements, it’s hard to know to what extent he was being serious and to what extent he was just mixing wishful thinking with provocation for its own sake. In contrast, VDare columnist Federale has long argued that ice is a sham immigration enforcement agency that actually prefers to target non-immigrants.14 R. Houck of Counter-Currentswent much further, declaring that all police and federal law enforcement agencies are part of a “hostile occupation force” and “are used first and foremost to protect Jewish interests.” Reversing the arguments of Black Lives Matter activists, Houck claimed that police actually are more likely to use deadly force against whites than blacks, and that “all bias in policing is in fact against the white race.”15 These assertions, aimed to counteract many rightists’ pro-police sentiments, highlight the difference between system-loyal and oppositional versions of right-wing politics.
The alt-right’s setbacks of the past year and misgivings about Trump have spurred some members to take a sober look at the movement’s strategic prospects. Many Republicans are predicting an electoral triumph this November and see the recent victory of democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a New York congressional primary as proof that the Democratic Party is out of touch with most voters. American Renaissance’s Gregory Hood disagreed, and, like other alt-rightists, his political hostility extended not just to liberals and leftists, but also to conservatives:
Despite (or because of) media coverage, racial dissidents have lost the ability to organize openly, while the socialist Left has gained in strength…. The established conservative movement has largely cheered this process. The Trump victory did not lead to a more welcoming environment for identitarians within the gop but increased scrutiny and barriers.
In contrast, the dsa [Democratic Socialists of America] has the most powerful combination in politics—revolutionary cachet combined with support from the power structure.
* * *
The Republican message of “economic growth” is uninspiring compared to the Democrats’ racial socialism, especially when corporate America and economic elites are more favorably disposed towards multiculturalism than they are to Trump-style nationalism. Unless President Trump can truly transform the gopinto the “Workers Party” as he promised during the campaign, it’s unlikely his coalition will last.
In this climate, Hood urged white nationalists “not to daydream about Donald Trump’s ‘Red Tide,’ but to build institutions to ensure our people’s survival in the years when whites will be living under an occupation government.”16
Writing from a similar perspective, James Lawrence of Counter-Currentsdismissed hopes that large masses of whites will embrace white nationalism and rise up against the established power structure as “alt-right victory fantasies.” He urged alt-rightists to learn from how twentieth-century fascist movements achieved power. Using Robert O. Paxton’s analysis in The Anatomy of Fascism (which is also a favorite among many critics of the right), Lawrence drew a number of lessons, including these:“The fascist experience…illustrates the importance, yet also the limitations, of metapolitical action,” i.e., a “process of mental preparation going back decades, in which the failings of liberalism and democracy were exposed and the decline of Western civilization was discussed. This smoothed the way for the creation of fascist movements in the wake of the Great War, but did not guarantee their success.”
“successful fascist movements must cultivate not only the masses but also the vested interests of society. They must be encouraged, or at least tolerated, by an established ruling elite focused on the greater threat from leftist revolution.”
fascism “cannot be recreated in the present era.… The modern avatar of leftist revolution is not a military threat from beyond the frontier [such as the ussr in the 1920s], but a political enemy ensconced in every official institution, and it is now the ‘antifa’ and ‘sjws’ who enjoy judicial leniency and elite patronage.”
“Of the three stages of fascist pathbreaking, the only one available to us right now is metapolitics…. This can never induce the masses to rise up and replace that oligarchy of their own accord, but it can ensure that they become convinced of its illegitimacy and unwilling to react strongly against threats to its power. That is the first step from which all others must follow.”17
Lawrence and Hood’s pessimistic but reasoned call for alt-rightists to prepare for many years of base-building stands in stark contrast to Anglin’s glib optimism, in which Donald Trump serves as a deus ex machina for the movement’s own failings. These are two sides of the same movement. Today the alt-right is significantly weaker and more isolated than it was a year ago. However, it has bolstered supremacist violence, expanded the space for hardline rightists in mainstream politics, and demonstrated the political power of internet memes and coordinated online attacks. The alt-right remains a significant political force, which could either rebound or pave the way for other incarnations of far right politics. Andrew Anglin and other in-your-face trolls have been the most public face of past alt-right efforts. But in the years ahead, it is strategic thinkers such as Hood and Lawrence who represent a greater threat.
American Dream wrote:Decrypting the Alt-Right: How to Recognize a F@scist | ContraPoints
Where are they now? A rogues’ gallery of white nationalists ahead of Unite the Right 2
The movement has splintered, and its biggest proponents have mostly fallen on hard times or been kicked off social media.
Psychologists surveyed hundreds of alt-right supporters. The results are unsettling.
A lot of the findings align with what we intuit about the alt-right: This group is supportive of social hierarchies that favor whites at the top. It’s distrustful of mainstream media and strongly opposed to Black Lives Matter. Respondents were highly supportive of statements like, “There are good reasons to have organizations that look out for the interests of white people.” And when they look at other groups — like black Americans, Muslims, feminists, and journalists — they’re willing to admit they see these people as “less evolved.”
But it’s the degree to which the alt-righters differed from the comparison sample that’s most striking — especially when it came to measures of dehumanization, support for collective white action, and admitting to harassing others online. That surprised even Forscher, the lead author and a professor at the University of Arkansas, who typically doesn’t find such large group difference in his work.
There was a time when psychologists feared that “social desirability bias” — people unwilling to admit they’re prejudiced, for fear of being shamed — would prevent people from answering such questions about prejudice truthfully. But this survey shows people will readily admit to believing all sorts of vile things. And researchers don’t need to use implicit or subliminal measures to suss it all out.
The Rise of the European Far-Right in the Internet Age
Beginning in 2005, a small Danish company called Integral Tradition Publishing (ITP) began building a network of nationalists, traditionalists, and white supremacists intent on creating an alternate vision of modernity—a lofty, if not seemingly impossible, task. The books they sold peddled the works of lesser-known fascist authors whose hands were seemingly less dirty—most prominently the Italian proto-fascist philosopher Julius Evola.[i] Today, Arktos Media, the British-based inheritor company to ITP, is headed by a former coal mining company C.E.O., Swedish nationalist Daniel Friberg. The evolution of Arktos/ITP represents a seismic shift of far-right ideologies from the periphery to the center, quite literally moving from Denmark to a Hare Krishna base in India to right-wing Hungary, and eventually settling somewhere between London and Washington D.C—with employees and contributors scattered globally.[ii] Arktos has grown into what AltRight.com writer Charles Lyons, who as of this past autumn serves as Head of Arktos US, has called the “biggest publisher of traditionalist, conservative, nationalist, Identitarian and overall alt-right literature in the World.”[iii]
Arktos’ books are easily available via their own website and the internet retailer Amazon. YouTubers and message boards dedicate themselves to the ideals proposed by many of the authors published by Arktos—decrying democracy, multiculturalism, “cultural Marxism,”[iv] and “degeneracy,” whilst lauding masculinity and nationalism, inciting Islamophobia. In fact, today, many of Arktos’ editors and authors are closely associated with proud American white nationalist, Richard Spencer. Over the course of this series, readers will be introduced to a hybrid print/digital publisher that has brought esoteric, fascist ideologies back from the grave. Each installment will delve into another aspect of the media company, outlining Arktos’ history, while describing more broadly the ways its collaborators are using both the internet and analogue media to promote fascistic ideologies.
The series will draw historical lines between fascism in Mussolini’s Italy, Spain’s Falangism, and neo-fascist youth movements in Europe today. While most historians rightfully delineate historical fascism from neo-fascist groups today, we can still certainly identify fascist tendencies that apply more broadly. Although there is no “fascist checklist,” or a fascist minimum for that matter, there certainly is a moment in which fascist tendencies are easily recognizable.[v]
This “draft history” of Arktos will explore the publisher’s ideological underpinnings, and explore how Arktos has promoted the rise of a fascistic, “Identitarian” trans-European youth movement, “Generation Identitaire” (Generation Identity), which has grown prominent in Austria, France, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Spain, Italy, the United States, and beyond. With an eye toward understanding Arktos’ extension vis-à-vis print and digital technologies, over the course of this series, readers will be introduced to a selection of Arktos’ history, writers and publications to investigate the reception of that material in the public sphere.
Why the Alt Right May Gain Momentum in 2018
August 28, 2018 Spencer Sunshine
At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. Photo credit: Anthony Crider/Flickr
One year after the deadly fascist-led rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the U.S. Alt Right is stumbling to regain its footing. Only a small number of White Nationalists came to Washington, DC rally for a rally on the one-year anniversary. While this doesn’t represent the movement’s strength, the public backlash against the Alt Right has significantly damaged it, and it has been unable to regain its former position. However, the more moderate wing of the movement, the so-called “Alt Lite,” is in far better shape—both in its political orientation and strength in the street.
The Alt Right had a meteoric rise in 2016. It was only late in the year that it started to separate itself into two wings. One, the Alt Right proper, largely followed the longstanding White Nationalist movement, but was different in its smaller details—its leaders, social base, aesthetics, and organizing forms. The Alt Lite shared the Alt Right’s cultural and organizing forms, and many of its politics, but stopped short of calling for a white ethnostate and open antisemitism. It also allowed in people of color, gay, and Jewish members. This stance led to its close cooperation with militia members and the Trumpist wing of the GOP.
The Alt Right was able to revive the U.S. White Nationalist movement, which had been in a long slump. A series of demonstrations and clashes in early 2017, led by the Alt Lite but joined by the Alt Right, culminated in the August 12, 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. However, this rally was dominated by White Nationalists, and the planned speakers were a Who’s Who of the Alt Right. After street fights with antifascists, the police prevented the rally from actually taking place, and dispersed the crowds. But the day ended when one of the fascist activists rammed his car into an antifascist march, killing Heather Heyer and wounding 29 others.
The murder created a wave of public revulsion, and action, against the Alt Right. The Alt Right and White Nationalists—and some Alt Lite members—lost a huge amount of digital platforms, including social media, website hosts, financial services, and even profiles on dating apps. One Far Right rally, held a week later in Boston, attracted 40,000 counter-protestors. Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, the members of Donald Trump’s administration closest to the Alt Right, also left the White House soon after. (Trump advisor Stephen Miller, a former associate of Richard Spencer, has stepped up to take their place.)
The Alt Right also moved away from Trump. They disagreed with his April 2017 bombing of a Syrian air base under Bashar al-Assad’s control, as well as Trump’s strong support for Israel. His economic policies also clashed with many key Alt Right figures, who support social welfare economics—at least for white people.
By March 2018 the Alt Right hit a low point. The Traditionalist Worker Party, the only group consistently able to mobilize a street presence, folded after a scandal: their leader was caught sleeping with his father-in-law’s wife. Alt Right leader Richard Spencer’s university speaking tour, which had already run into problems, was cancelled after a disastrous appearance in Michigan. And Alt Right figures—especially those who had attended Charlottesville—continued to be doxxed and fired from their jobs. This left only two active, on–the-ground Alt Right groups (the Patriot Front and Identity Evropa), and they focused on unannounced, pop-up demos. A number of White Nationalists entered the spring 2018 election primaries, but most have been soundly defeated.
This downturn did not affect Trump or his more mainstream supporters. The Alt Lite had also lost its momentum in street rallies. But Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson was able to revive them in the western states. The Alt Lite fight gang, the Proud Boys, also avoided collapsing after Charlottesville, and are now a growing—and increasingly violent—group. The Alt Lite also has the advantage of avoiding the public taboo against White Nationalism. Unlike the Alt Right, ideologically the Alt Lite is unreservedly pro-Trump, supports his fiscally conservative economic policy, and is pro-Israel. This allows Alt Lite members to portray themselves as regular Trump supporters to the public.
Around 400 (including members of militias) attended an August 4, 2018 Patriot Prayer rally in Portland, Oregon; many were dressed in body armor and carrying shields. The counterprotest, which drew over 1,000 people, was attacked by police with crowd control weapons and dispersed.
The organizer of the first Charlottesville rally, Jason Kessler, held a second one in DC on August 12, 2018. While less than 30 people came, the counterdemonstration drew about 1,000. But Leftist victory claims overlooked that after the first rally, Kessler had fallen out with almost all of the speakers and groups which came to the first one.
This was followed by rallies a week later on August 18— in cities like Tucson, Austin, San Jose, Boston, and Seattle—many of which were billed as against “far left violence.” Most of these were organized by Resist Marxism group, which combines Alt Lite figures with Patriot movement and militia activists. It ended as a debacle though: in most places, counter-protestors easily outnumbered the modest numbers of Far Right activists.
Nonetheless, this shows a revival of interest by the Alt Lite and its Far Right allies to hold national street demonstrations. And they are still trying to build momentum. Upcoming events in September include a rally by the neoconfederate League of the South (who were at Charlottesville last year) in Tennessee; Joey Gibson is holding an event in Austin to defend conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; and the militia and Alt Lite groups are holding a second Mother of All Rallies (MOAR) in DC.
It’s unclear where the Alt Right can turn next. They have drawn a new generation into White Nationalist politics. For the time at least, this new blood is not going away. But the Alt Right’s thunder seems to be stolen by the Alt Lite, who can function more openly. Their rank Islamophobia and aggressive misogyny has been normalized by Trump. So, for example, doxxing has no affect on them outside of extremely liberal areas. It is only as the level of Alt Lite violence has increased have those outside the radical left started to respond.
Trump continually stokes the fires of racial resentment in the United States. The revelation that federal authorities who detained undocumented immigrants were separating small children from their parents created widespread outrage. And Trump continues to fuel unabashed racism with lies such as his August 22, 2018 tweet, which claimed there was a “large-scale killing” of white South African farmers. (This is a long-standing conspiracy theory among White Nationalists.)
There is already an unheard-of level of open White Nationalist sentiment expressed by mainstream media and political figures, like Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. On August 8, 2018, Ingraham gave an on-air, baldly White Nationalist rant in which she claimed, “The America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because immigration was being “foisted” on Americans. This situation lends itself to the possibility that the Alt Right could collapse while its primary talking points will be taken up, in a more moderate form, by mainstream conservatives.
The United States feels like it is teetering on a precipice, ready to fall headlong into a racist delirium at any moment. Whoever can channel the zeitgeist—whether it’s street-fighting fascists, Alt Lite gangs, or the president and his administration—will be the immediate beneficiary of this.
‘An Efficient Genocide’: Proud Boys Facebook Post Comes to Defense of Nazis
This has been around for a few days now, and the Proud Boys have their heads in the sand about it. Eh, it’s not like we were going to buy what they try to sell us anyway.
A since-deleted Facebook post on the page of Proud Boys Canada has generated heat against the group, because they defended the neo-Nazis that rioted and attacked innocent people in the streets of the German city of Chemnitz, implying they were the frustrated descendants of those who orchestrated what they referred to as “an efficient genocide”.
The post was a link to a Daily Mail article about thousands of neo-fascist thugs taking to the streets in Chemnitz and engaging in racist mob attacks response to a knife killing, allegedly committed by a Syrian and an Iraqi and the protests that followed with some neo-fascists carrying banners or insignia of the neo-fascist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) and a handful doing the right-handed Hitler salute, which is illegal in Germany.
“When migrants fuck shit up in the birthplace of Nazism, they should’ve expected an eventual breaking point,” the post read. “These are repressed descendants of a people who committed an efficient genocide. Maybe staying polite and trying to intergrate would be a better policy?”
Flyers, Booklets, and Resources Against the Proud Boys
A series of flyers and booklets for handing out to the public about the far-Right, nationalism, and the Proud Boys.
Specter of a White Minority
By Robert L. Tsai
BESIDES SUPPORTING Donald Trump, what do Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, Joe Arpaio, Paul Ryan, and Peter Thiel all have in common? At first blush: Not much. They back a variety of government proposals from the stale to the exotic, enjoy varying degrees of access to power and wealth, and come from very different walks of life. When we scratch Trumpism’s surface though, it turns out that what yokes together the president’s followers isn’t a consistent set of economic policies. It’s not even a coherent political philosophy. Rather, it’s an outlook, a sensibility — an identity, even — as members of what I call an “incipient minority.” Whether you are a religious traditionalist, techno-libertarian, rapacious capitalist, market skeptic, or white nationalist, you share a belief that you are part of an embattled community that is only getting smaller. What unites you just as surely as the belief in your imminent demise is the conviction that liberalism, feminism, and multiculturalism are to blame for your sorry state of affairs. Your kind feels like it’s on the ropes, having lost the debate over the United States’s direction for some time, pushed out of the public sphere, your values and worldview denigrated. Decisive intervention is called for, before all hope is lost.
This fear of “incipient minority” status is ubiquitous in contemporary right-wing discourse: white nationalists accuse the government of programmatically causing “white genocide,” while conservative opinion-makers issue dire warnings about progressives in annihilationist terms, describing them as “vicious” people “who will micromanage every aspect of your life” and “want to destroy you.” For white identitarians, changing demographics will inevitably lead to the loss of white sovereignty and the demise of so-called Aryan civilization. A related sense of second-class status is also what mainstream conservatives conjure when they decry the stifling quality of “political correctness.” Thiel has called the liberal environment in the San Francisco Bay area “a one-party state,” while Niall Ferguson channeled these feelings of inferiority when he recently tweeted, “Conservatism is on the brink of extinction in much of academia.”
The rhetoric of cultural pollution and political domination connects members of the far right with Trump’s mainstream supporters. Indeed, a recent essay in the online publication The Federalist predicted that “barring some unforeseen awakening, America is heading for an eventual socialist abyss.” “Will we all die in the inevitable communist purges within ten years? Of course not. Will it happen within the next century or two? Almost certainly.”
Trump’s power comes from his cunning in speaking to this general status anxiety, regardless of its specific motivation. To the patriot and capitalist, he says: “I see America getting ripped off and abused. We have become a laughingstock, the world’s whipping boy, blamed for everything, credited for nothing, given no respect.” To cultural supremacists, he says, refugees and immigrants damage our “quality of life.” “I think allowing millions and millions of people to come to Europe is very, very sad,” President Trump chided Europeans during his recent visit. “I think you are losing your culture.”
The collective sense of siege can be manipulated to create a powerful political consciousness that cuts across income, geography, and profession. This means that even though white Americans still comprise a clear political majority and continue to possess most of the country’s wealth, it is possible to stoke outlandish fears of a coming reckoning where racial and ethnic minorities will seek to subjugate white citizens. The rhetoric of cultural degradation can also be weaponized to encompass threats to economic prosperity and a comfortable lifestyle that are especially effective with suburban and wealthier voters.
In fact, many white Americans believe that they are already an endangered species. A poll conducted by NPR in the fall of 2017 found that a majority of white respondents believed that discrimination against whites is a serious problem, even if they admit it’s never actually happened to them personally. The perception that white Americans comprise an incipient minority widens when political affiliation is taken into account: Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that whites face discrimination and to think that unequal treatment is worse for whites than discrimination experienced by blacks. This evidence of group-based disquiet runs counter to data that finds that white Americans continue to outpace their counterparts in terms of financial success and educational attainment. But if perceptions of white vulnerability are more anecdotal than real, this does not stop them from being both widespread and capable of being mobilized.
Appealing to what University of Pennsylvania political scientist Diana C. Mutz calls “dominant group status threat,” issues such as immigration and economic domination by foreign countries prompt a predictable desire to “regain a sense of dominance and wellbeing.” In her study, she found that voters who switched to become Trump voters in 2016 were motivated to do so because of the candidate’s positions on immigration, trade, and China. She also discovered that “perceived discrimination against high-status groups does indeed have a substantial impact on the likelihood of supporting Trump.” These same voters “who perceive whites as more discriminated against than minorities also see Christians and men as experiencing greater discrimination than Muslims and women, despite the former groups’ dominant status.”
When these groups believe that their very survival is at stake, they are willing to accept extreme means of redress. Professor Mutz concludes that when the dominant group feels threatened, its members will find hierarchical political and social arrangements more attractive, act assertively to defend the dominant in-group, and engage in “increased outgroup negativity.” Extrapolating from these findings, a rising sense that whites are on the verge of becoming a minority in the United States feeds the expectation that preemptive action will be necessary, deepens support for emergency policies that worsen social stratification, and facilitates harsh, broad-based measures against offending populations.
At times, the Trumpian sensibility defies not only empirical reality but also rational, economic self-interest. Immigration raids that leave crops rotting unpicked on the vines drive up the costs of produce, while new barriers to secure temporary work visas put the seafood industry in crisis. Tariffs lead to economic reprisals, and renegotiating existing trade deals in a climate of contentiousness is risky for everyone involved. Harsh immigration policies and trade agreements will also do little to mitigate economic inequality, which today has more to do with wage stagnation, tax policies that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, and the rising costs of health care.
But what seems economically irrational can also be culturally affirming. This paradox of Trump’s appeal is usefully illuminated in Angela Nagle’s book Kill All Normies. “In this style of politics,” she observes, “what a political leader actually does often seems entirely secondary to what cultural politics they profess to have.” In the book, she paints a fascinating portrait of an alt-right community dedicated to nurturing this sense of cultural grievance. She explains that the hard-core racists who make up the alt-right are partly sustained by “alt-light” writers and online activists who revel in a transgressive, youthful resistance of a perceived “cultural Marxism.”
This irreverent, boundary-busting, muscle-flexing community found its hero in the first troll-who-became-leader of the free world. Trump adopted the alt-right aesthetic as his own governing style, and that very public act of endorsement thereby blessed a new form of pugnacious civic engagement for average citizens. Liberated from notions of civility or morality, some white Americans have tried to recapture their lost sense of belonging by shouting at dark-skinned individuals to “go back to their own country” or chanting “build that wall” as a racial epithet, or warned the president’s detractors to jump aboard the #TrumpTrain or be run over.
As Nagle’s account suggests, Trumpism took existing online outrage and remade it for electoral ends, directing that toxic mixture of anonymous bro banter and civic fantasy against the enemies of a conservative nationalist movement: foreigners, social justice advocates, journalists, intellectuals. Still, the irreverent cultural stance of the alt-right does not appeal to every supporter of the president. Social conservatives, for example, hold their noses, tolerating the president’s scandalous tone because they believe that disruptive resistance is necessary to undermine the liberal-pluralist order and because they are grateful for whatever can get checked off from their agenda. What members of the alt-right and social conservatives do agree on is that the culture war must be fought just as vigorously in the virtual world as in the real world because conservatives are an endangered species. Together, though fitfully, alt-right activists and mainstream conservatives are “kicking back against a common enemy by any means necessary.”
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