“We have to infiltrate! Infiltrate the military! Infiltrate your local governments! Infiltrate your school board! Infiltrate law enforcement!”
— Tom Metzger Former KKK and current leader in WAR (White Aryan Resistance) in a 2004 speech to skinheads at a hate-rock festival
So now we wait….
There is a palpable sense of dread and danger surrounding my thoughts on the Grand Jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson Police Officer who shot Michael Brown.
There will surely be at least one incident of violence regardless of the outcome, but the question is, who will fire the first proverbial (or actual) shot.
How the events after will proceed, who will be involved, and who will let their passion and frustration get in the way of decency and common sense is becoming cloudier by the second. After the KKK decreed on social media that there were gearing up for some kind of altercation (ironically, and later proven cynically, citing “good people” in their defense, making careful mention of their black friends) the hactivist group Anonymous pulled off their greatest action yet and exposed many Klan members faces and posts to the world. Apparently they (and most 20 year olds on Facebook) haven’t quite figured out that not setting your privacy settings leaves you open to all kinds of mischief.
What has followed has been an uncovering of hatred and a subculture of violence just waiting to erupt.
According to the AP gun sales in counties surrounding Ferguson have skyrocketed, albeit mostly because of some overblown sense of racist paranoia, but even racist paranoia is real in some respects. Frank Ancona the imperial wizard of the Southern Missouri Klan has been outright antagonizing both Anonymous and the people of Ferguson, especially since the initial Klan flyer was published on twitter. So anon members have been antagonizing back.
Since then, they have hacked a Klan account, getting access to many of the members and tracking down their information including businesses they own, their cell numbers and addresses etc and posting them, basically outing them for the entire world to see. One insurance agency a few counter-protesters (including Acona) and possibly a cop or two later and the flurry of outings have slowed, but they are still coming.
Everyone expects there to be some kind of uprising after the announcement, whether pro indictment or not. The Klan, unmasked by #anonymous in a shrewd and targeted response to a threat of violence have been shown to be stuck in the thug hole they have been trying desperately to re-brand themselves out from, and the thick stench of what is a deeper American issue will all play out in the next week or so.
It’s really hard not to see how all of this is interconnected, flowing off from the river of poison race hatred that came to a head in lead up to 2008, when everyone making mention of the birth certificate also tried to claim they hadn’t any racist proclivities, or back in 1988, when the Lee Atwater approved Willie Horton ad tapped the same vein. Or back in pre-civil war America where images of the black savage were legion… Given the conditions I’ve written many times before about, economic stagnation or downturn, the continued reserved place in many White American minds of “their place” as an exalted “race” regardless of their own paltry understanding of what that means, and the continued frustration of both Blacks and whites over continued economic insecurity are bubbling to the surface in a frankly terrifying way.
There is no doubt in my mind that the prevalence of coded signaling from many Whites (Gadsden flags, revived fear of losing “rights” etc.) signals at least an association and sympathetic leaning toward the more virulent racism of the Klan and the “White Patriot” movement. I would go further and say that most whites have some feeling of superiority inherently bestowed upon them by the culture and/or direct experience with others with racist beliefs. I realize this is like saying that growing up in a gang infested neighborhood steers you in the direction of becoming a gang member yourself and yes, that is part of it. In both cases though, one makes a choice, you can choose to follow the path of least resistance and become a thug or you can rise above and seek something else.
This culture has been feeding us all a message of white superiority and black inferiority since its inception, hell the country was literally built on the principal of superior/inferior. It became inherently racist early and the various messaging reinforced it even as in other areas we’ve moved on.
The question now is, will it continue?
Whatever happens in Ferguson it will be culturally trans mutative, if there is a dismissal of charges there will be an explosion, I think the lead up, the media coverage and the racially charged narrative will go a long way to inflame passions already in a state of immolation. If there is an indictment the township may still not escape violence, from protesters who have had their worst fears apparently realized, that one of their own may have been targeted and slain because he is Black or from racist agitators looking as this to be the beginning of the “Race War” they have so long wanted.
Up in here, up in here.
Anger, resentment and scapegoating. Are we seeing the opening for the rise of new Fascism?
Potentially, I think so.
So where did all this feeling superior come from?
Short answer, it has been woven into the fabric of American society from the beginning.
In the short few months since I wrote part 1 a lot has happened. The rhetoric against the President has waned a bit, but that is mostly because the narrative has been so ingrained in the culture that there is very little need to stoke that particular fire any more.
White people are pissed.
At least a certain segment of the white middle and working class believe they are losing the high ground they once held. The myth of America as the land of opportunity for all was taken in by them and absorbed and often conveniently and ironically used to keep others down, with ZERO irony. As I have often said lately to those in my personal circle “White people seem to be losing their damn minds.” Well in a way, at least sociologically, its true.
Follow any Facebook feed that purports to be in any way associated with Tea Party aligned politics. What you’ll generally find among the Constitutionalists, Survivalists, Conspiracy theorists, and other assorted self-described Right Wingers is that they are overwhelmingly White and majority Male, the very demographic that has, historically benefited most from the social structures in the US. It is twice and thrice divorced working class White men, the Mechanics, Laborers and Small Business owners who the Democrats lost to Regan and have yet to win back despite policies that would only help them regain their ground, who populate these groups. It is the Farmer, and most ironically the public employees such as Fire and Police officers who let fear win over logic and slap those Gadsden flags on the backs of their F-150 (union made, I might add).
Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 Harper’s Magazine essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” critiques this form of pseudo-conservatism. Its no surprise that along with a resurgence of “Objectivism” in educated circles and Revolutionary War rhetoric everywhere else, there has been a renewed interest in Barry Goldwater, in many ways the progenitor of this current crop of populists.
Hofstadter’s prophetic essay, lays the groundwork for understanding what has been wrought. How the political class used and in some cases lost control of the populist movements they tried to co-opt. McCain’s loss to Obama, proved this. The addition of the aforementioned Sarah Palin (see part 1) and her disastrous inability to control what came spewing out of her mouth appealed to the same ditto-heads who tune in daily to the Rush Limbaugh program. Who, incidentally, has also gone off the rails lately, making a string of racist, sexist and other assorted comments that are at the very least in poor taste.
Hofstadter’s essay, while several years old, is more relevant daily.
Populism, be it Left or Right, has always been fraught with contradictions. The anti-elitism that is essential in populist politics, the down homey every-man of a Rush Limbaugh or a Jim Hightower doesn’t always jibe with the reality of hierarchical human culture structures. Structures need leaders, classes, different specialties, and although we on the Left often shun the idea that everyone is not equal in ability we try to obscure the question by claiming that everyone may not be equal in ability but are of equal worth. Right Populism is not so generous.
What distinguishes Right Wing movements in particular is that they often implicitly or explicitly target a certain group for their message and their venom, and the groups they target (with a few notable exceptions, are White). It is a short hop from traditional American extremism to the type of rhetoric we see in the Tea Party movement and it’s allies. By combining all the previous attributes of past, often contradictory, extremist movements they’ve managed to do something incredible and terrifying. They have been all the things they have claimed not to be, blatantly and obviously, and none of them seem to care.
And then there was Ferguson…
As I was driving home this afternoon, dial pinned to NPR as usual, I heard an excellent program about the unrest in Ferguson, everything I had planned on saying about it was better said here.
What I do have to say only reinforces the above points. There is a legal defense fund for Officer Darren Wilson, which, in and of itself makes sense, everyone should be entitled to the best defense they can afford, it’s the American way after all. But what really makes me fume are what some of the very same White males who have been persecuted by the Black Muslim Socialist Obama are saying. Because, you know, there is a long and storied history of those damn Blacks running roughshod over good christian White folks rights.
The latest incident of seemingly random violence, where two police officers were gunned down in cold blood in a CiCis Pizza in Las Vegas, should hopefully be a wake-up call to the nation, but somehow I doubt it. At the nexus of gun control, which cops have been painfully absent in the discussion of lately, and extreme Right ideology, to which many in the departments may secretly espouse, there is the threat and now, the actuality of violence against police officers. Now I am no blind believer in the sanctity of law enforcement, I believe that in many cases they have grown painfully unaware that they serve US and not the other way around. Police have been getting more and more bold about restricting and in some cases outright trampling on the public’s rights. But under NO circumstances would I say that cops should be killed execution style, or any style, while not engaged in law enforcement activities. Police are aware of the fact that they have the ability to use deadly force, and therefore are targets, they accept this as a part of their job, but this…
That being said, there is a terrible irony in all of this, actually several. Just last week another incident in Forsyth county Georgia (anyone else remember Forsyth county? 1987? ) where a “sovereign citizen” Dennis Ronald Marx attempted to lay siege to the county courthouse. He didn’t make it inside. So here you have two incidents of anti-authoritarian, anti-government violence directed by whites against a largely white power structure yet there is not yet an outcry. Here comes the irony. Remember Ice T? Not the TV friendly streetwise cop on Law and Order, not even the OG, but the lead singer and primary lyricist of Body Count. Body Count who wrote a little song called Cop Killer. A fucking song, and not even a particularly good fucking song, got law enforcement, political leaders and the whole country talking about free speech, the POTENTIAL of violence against police officers and well at least covertly, race. Where is that outcry now?
I’ve been telling friends and family for years that I feared such a resurgence of this type of ideological violence, that the rhetoric of G. Gordon Liddy and the burgeoning right wing talk phenomenon he heralded would collude with the erosion of the White middle class that started with Regan and accelerated with Clinton, that Angry White Males were only being made angrier by reinforcement of their elemental belief that they were superior by the talk radio establishment, that all of this and more would coalesce into violence in a way we haven’t seen yet in this country’s modern history. It now seems that my biggest fears are coming to fruition.
The ideologues are taking over the GOP. The Tea Party is at the nexus of Koch, God, Guns, Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism ™ and fear. Just as the great brainwashing of American people of color that opportunity was within their reach and that racism was no longer a “thing” and its resulting gangs and poverty dyslexia, Whites who had always been absolutely sure of their Americanness and golden ticket holding status are now experiencing their own form of Mxyzptlkian confusion. Already having the established “right” to bear arms drilled into the culture, that “right” and all the power/impotence it implies has made them a confused mess. These thugs are no more than gang members, they behave in the same manner, have either formalized or implicit codes of conduct, and traffic in drugs and violence, one being the mind altering type the other of their implicit superiority, their “birthright” and the fear of being just as economically bad off as the brown people, one gets you fucked up and high, the other gets you fucked up on fear. It is very easy to get twisted up in the racial politics but that’s only because of the 200 years of programming not only inflicted on Black America but White America as well. Everything is about race, but nothing really is about race at all.
Which brings us to 2008…
White America was quietly stunned, at first.
At first, surprisingly, only Fox news had speculated that the couple involved in the incident had fringe ties. But to anyone who lived through the sporadic violence of the 80’s and 90’s, the skinhead resurgence and the Alan Berg incident as well as the numerous beatings, stabbings and dragging’s that have occurred over the last 30 years the all hallmarks of the manifest anger of angry white males.
I’ve been struggling with the ideas surrounding the apparent eclipse that began covering the bright light of White privilege for a while now. Although I saw, as millions of others, the election of Barak Obama as a major turning point that I also think some of us also knew would not be smooth sailing through. In fact, in many ways it would get worse
before it got better if in fact it gets better at all. I remember watching the 2008 election results come in and feeling a sense of promise and dread. As all pivotal moments go, from graduation to landing a new job, to saying “I do” the luster of the thrill of accomplishment rapidly gives way to the sheer terror of “what the hell do I do now.” I can only imagine what the reaction was on the other side.
The Palin effect.
The first indication that there was a blood in the water came before the election itself when the GOP made the head-scratchingly bad decision to run Palin as McCain’s running mate. Aside from her painfully dim political I.Q. and her strikingly horrific faux-folksiness she was uniquely unqualified for the vice presidency, in fact she was uniquely unqualified for Girl Scout troop leader. I realize that all candidates vetted through the party system are sculpted in some way by the parties expectations, or or what they think the party is expected to be by the eggheads in its leadership, but this Frankenstein’s monster of ignorance was probably the worst move the GOP has made in recent memory. A calculated (probably on an abacus, because calculators are the work of the devil) concoction at the crossroads of gender, jingoism and religion, her ascension to the throne of chief wing-nut was the bunker hill of the current and future civil war within and without the Republican party.
Never had a candidate been so built around so many false notions and disparate parts as Palin. A fiscal conservative governor in a state that receives a disproportionate amount of federal funds for a relatively small number of people, a social conservative who’s daughter’s out-of wedlock birth caused more than a casual derisive snicker or twelve and a gun toting grizzly mama NRA loving every-white-woman who was rumored to have secretly boned an African-American basketball player star, Palin can’t even be described as a mass of contradictions, she’s simply a hot mess.
Despite all of this, and demonstrating one of the central insanities of the Tea Party and its loose socially conservative Ecumenism/ (borderline?) racism, she was and to a certain, clawing to still be relevant sense, the poster woman for the movement. Choosing her, the GOP phase shifted from doling out chum to “the base” to trying to outright co-opt it. The results have not been pretty.
Of course the prevailing feelings of entitlement were stirred by Palin’s big spoon; the soup was already boiling for many years. In a lot of ways the election of Barak Obama signaled a sea change that the White Right have been fearing, warning against and arming for since before the civil war. But it was the election of 2008, the emergence of the Tea Party and Palin’s fawning, despicable and disgusting approbation of it that began to galvanize this “other America.” Bringing together Libertarians of the economic kind (The Pauls are only Libertarian when it suits them, opposing Gay marriage on religious grounds and opposing general Civil rights as a way to add froth to the already rabid base and remaining largely silent on Marijuana decriminalization, many of the above clearly NOT Libertarian in the least) old angry White men who have found themselves in a world they did not make (because the very premise of America to them had always included a sanctified place in this country for even the least of THEM while demonizing the rest of US, no matter how productive, no matter how American) and now instead of blaming the greedy and the wealthy who have been lying to them and using them as foot soldiers, bulwarks against the unwashed brown masses, they have reverted to their worse nature and are blaming the victims.
There is something inherently horrifying to many people that is very comforting to these folks, the old romanticized order of things that has good hard working (white) folks getting by (barely) on hard work and “skilled” manufacturing and mechanical labor (which is being lost to the same “market pressures” that have lowered the number of skilled jobs in the US to the lowest level in modern history) and shiftless Blacks and Mexicans serving them in some capacity. They don’t need to be reminded that it was less than 70 years ago when slavery effectively ended in the south, though they won’t call it that. They call Obama a Socialist without really knowing the meaning of the word, either do not know or conveniently forget that the consensus among historians and most rational people is that union membership and wartime government spending was what created the middle class and that when one group is deposed as the convenient scapegoat, they will eventually fill that role.
Next, the radical right goes mainstream.