The tepid response from the President of the United States to a self-described Nazi murdering an innocent protester in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday adds weight to the notion that white supremacists have friends in the White House and in the Trump Administration.
The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville was organized by a collection of white supremacist organizations, including Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, and ended in the death of a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer, who was known for her passionate advocacy for the downtrodden. A 20-year-old, self-described Nazi killed a good person in cold blood with his car and the president says “many sides” were responsible.
After huddling with his “strategists,” Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, Trump’s bland statement carefully ignored the role played by his own supporters in fomenting the violence in Charlottesville. And the Nazi websites rejoiced.
The white supremacist Richard Spencer called the rally a “huge moral victory in terms of the show of force.” “We achieved our objectives,” said Matthew Heimbach, a founder of the Nationalist Front, a neo-Nazi group that bills itself as an umbrella organization for the white nationalist movement. “We showed that our movement is not just online, but growing physically. We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America.”
People we’re chanting “Heil Trump!” at the hate rally. Many of these white men were carrying Trump campaign signs and wearing Trump campaign regalia. They know such displays really anger the “libtards.”
Trump avoided blaming the Nazis, because he needs their votes in the upcoming base election of 2018 and then again in 2020 (if we have an election). Seeing “conservatives” like Rich Lowry on MSNBC and others smugly echoing Trump’s “many sides” line as if the “Antifa” people are equally to blame points to the inability of our political culture to deal with the crisis we face.
And we haven’t seen anything yet.
Old Wine in a New Bottle
Despite the technologically new ways ideas are shared in social media the Charlottesville hate-fest was really just a manifestation of old-fashioned racism. Representing the old-school racists at the rally, David Duke, the former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, was on-hand to remind the youngins that he was there to “take our country back” and “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”
It might be social media-driven, but it’s the same old fusion of Confederate racism and Nazi white supremacy we’ve seen in this country for decades. In September 1962, Robert F. Kennedy was attorney general when an enormous hate rally took place in the football stadium of the University of Mississippi opposing the admission of James Meredith as the college’s first African American student, which featured Confederate flags and Nazi signifiers. Hearing about the spectacle Kennedy said: “I wouldn’t have believed it could have happened in this country, but maybe now we can understand how Hitler took over Germany.”
Integrating Ol’ Miss led racists from all over the South to descend on Jackson resulting in a race riot where two people were killed and 28 U.S. marshals were injured. In June 1963, Alabama governor George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse” door to bar entry of the first African American students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, at the University of Alabama.
Today, we have an Alabaman attorney general who has his own checkered past regarding race. And we have racists in the White House. We also have a presidential “commission” run by Kris Kobach and Kenneth Blackwell designed for the sole purpose of suppressing the black vote. Scott Pruitt, who heads the EPA, surrounds himself with armed guards and his rollback of regulations promises more catastrophic examples of environmental racism like we saw in Flint, Michigan. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos believes black colleges were pioneers in what she calls “school choice.” And a Tea Party “patriot” from Kansas, Mike Pompeo, is the CIA director.
A New World Internet Order
The “gatekeepers” of the old media are dead. They fail to understand that web sites like 4chan and “The Donald” sub-Reddit and many others have for years now defined the tone of race relations for a young and newly politicized generation of white men.
Internet culture, with its irreverence, in-joke parody, and faux irony shaped their ideology and allowed for the forming of armies of trolls. But lurking just beneath the surface were genuinely sinister ideas, motives, and objectives that were lost amidst the maze of seemingly harmless irony and sarcasm. With Trump’s unexpected victory these ideas, motives, and objectives became weaponized beyond Richard Spencer’s wildest wet dreams.
Even the term “cuckservative” that has been bandied around the Internet so widely it has entered the mainstream has at its core a racist appeal: The alt-right accuses traditional conservatives of metaphorically cuckholding their women folk, their nation, and their race to black people and non-white foreign invaders.
The NRA’s recent apocalyptic video featuring Dana Loesch reflects a view of dissent in America as nothing more than an evil plot by a vast “cultural Marxist” conspiracy, as if everything would be just fine if only the “Left” would disappear from the face of the earth. It’s eliminationism.
And the chilling memo written by another Pepe-the-Frog in the White House, Rich Higgins, a staffer with the National Security Council who lost his sweet government gig after some adult in the room had the sense to force him out, reflects this jaundiced view of legitimate dissent in America. Higgins blames “cultural Marxism” for the zany idea that people among groups facing historical injustice need to band together and fight for the same civil rights that whites enjoy. No wonder the Nazis have come out of the woodwork – that bogus and authoritarian view of dissent in a democracy is identical to the one Adolf Hitler espouses in Mein Kampf.
It’s a terrifying view of American history that Bannon’s Breitbart, The Drudge Report, Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, and alt-right websites reinforce in a million different and subtle ways each day. And it must not go unchallenged – especially since it’s clear that we have a federal government that tacitly endorses it.
Ohio Governor John Kasich stepped forward to try to bridge the gap between his party’s loving embrace of racists and a kinder and gentler GOP image. He called for “a national discussion” on race, prejudice and community policing. But it really doesn’t matter what Kasich says, or Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, they don’t control the “bully pulpit” - Donald Trump does and he chose to set up a discourse where Nazis are blameless.
And besides, do we really need another “discussion” about race? We have had our “discussion” about race – we’ve been “discussing” it for decades, and since Obama’s election in 2008 we’ve really “discussed” it – the sitting president claimed Obama was born in Kenya. We’ve “discussed” race and the racists seem to keep on winning. They got friends in the White House, the Congress, and on the Supreme Court.
Coming to a College Near You
One mass casualty 9-11-type attack followed by a war with Iran or Trump unleashing his “fire and fury” on North Korea and we’ll be in a very bad place.
In the 1930s, the FBI under Director J. Edgar Hoover labeled anyone who joined the fight against the Nazis in Spain “premature anti-fascists.” We hear the same kind of bullshit from mouthpieces on the Right today about the antifas – their antifascism is “premature” we’re being told.
Conservatives in Germany during the Weimar Republic took the same approach as McConnell and Ryan do today: They believed they could manage the Nazi’s more bellicose and violent impulses for electoral and legislative gain. In fact, at times Hitler himself would issue conciliatory statements for public consumption even while his Brown Shirts were in the streets pummeling liberals, leftists, and Jews. Ordinary Germans holed themselves up in their homes as the Nazi movement took over the streets. You know the rest of the story.
The Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, has promised: “There will be more events. Soon. We are going to start doing this nonstop. Across the country.” So while “liberals” like Nicholas Kristof and Bill Maher whine about the curtailing of “free speech” rights on college campuses of racists like Milo Yiannapolis and Charles Murray we’ve entered an era of post-neoliberal white identity politics that isn’t going to go away.
Fascist trolls have already targeted colleges for ridicule and violence because they see them as purveyors of the kind of “cultural Marxism” they want to wipe out. The alt-right or fascist right or whatever you want to call it feels more threatened today even though they have friends in the White House and the “Left” is bereft of any real power: the labor unions are weaker than any time since the 1920s, the Democratic Party is in complete disarray, 33 state houses are run by right-wing Republicans, right-wing billionaires buy our elections and own the Congress.
Despite it all - as we approach the 50th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. we should heed his example. We must organize all people of good will to push back strongly and uncompromisingly against the rise of fascism in this country through nonviolent civil disobedience and nonviolent confrontation.
President Barack Obama, whose stature is rising each minute the country and the world is forced to endure the embarrassment and disgrace of the Trump regime, had a comment on Charlottesville: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. . . . People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”