I Was a Teenage Nazi Wannabe
November 23, 2016 9:18 PM   Subscribe

New Republic Article: The alt-right is a loser's poor fantasy of what a radical revolution looks like. I should know. By Jacob Bacharach.
posted by growabrain (73 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Except they won. So. The question now is how does the loser revolution act in governing the country.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:55 PM on November 23, 2016 [9 favorites]


There is a great deal of racism on the right, obviously, yet the tunnel-vision focus on the comparative minutia of the offensive rhetoric of a crowd of nobodies distracts us from the getaway car.

Minutia like people getting assaulted and shot? Nobodies don't need to get into office to make things hellish. Or to feel supported in doing that. It's not like anyone they voted for is committed to encouraging them not to.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:00 PM on November 23, 2016 [25 favorites]


My (nearly entirely Jewish or Jewish-ish) circle of dumbass friends thought Nazi jokes were really funny too once upon a time but I think a lot of these guys are substantially more serious than that. In the end I'm also not convinced their importance to what's happening right now is as large as they like to think it is though.
posted by atoxyl at 10:20 PM on November 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


I was nearly expelled from high school my senior year, just before graduation. Only my grades, acceptance to a relatively prestigious college, and privileged position as the son of one of the pillars of the local economy prevented it.

Done by the second sentence. People become these mini-fascists because they can get away with it. Of course he wasn't expelled, he's a connected white dude. They'll let you do it, you can do anything!

They never explained that explicitly though. Gets up at dawn for a morning jog without any fear that if he's seen running at that time of day, he could get shot. And so they jog without fear. You can be a racist without fear.
posted by adept256 at 10:23 PM on November 23, 2016 [72 favorites]


I was nearly expelled from high school my senior year, just before graduation. Only my grades, acceptance to a relatively prestigious college, and privileged position as the son of one of the pillars of the local economy prevented it.
Only my incredible privilege prevented me from having to face the consequences of my choices and actions!
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:52 PM on November 23, 2016 [44 favorites]


I read the article…I did. I feel so terribly bad about what white culture is going through in the US…except…not really. I left months ago and from my admittedly privileged perspective, America needs this shit show. I feel badly for the poc there, but the US and the nasty white culture there needed to be exposed for what it it is for a long time and it's a long time coming that it had its face rubbed, hard - really hard until it is bloody - into the dirt by the rest of the world. So I kind of feel bad for these people who are going to have to spend the next however many years polishing that turd, but…not so much. I have ill will for the country and its people and I have no real sympathy for this guy either, despite his apologia.
posted by osk at 11:36 PM on November 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Done by the second sentence.

But... isn't he acknowledging his privilege right up front? How is that a bad thing? Would you prefer he just kept his mouth shut? I can see disliking the essay for plenty of reasons but I think he's just pointing out there that his privileged position is what enabled him to become a troll.

I'm not sure he was ever really alt-right though. It sounds like he was a punk kid really into shocking people, but he was an out gay Jew who apparently identified as an anarchist. He wasn't buying into Mencius Moldbug. If anything, it sounds like he was probably ranting at Obama and The New York Times for not being left enough. I'm getting the feeling he was more of a proto-Bernie bro troll, or just your classic messed-up punk kid from a wealthy family.

I never imagined that fascism would get its claws into America like this. I knew America was getting dangerously stupid, we only had to look at the rise of monsters like W and Sarah Palin to see that, but I never thought we'd see this kind of shit. Yet here are, and suddenly my name weighs on me a lot heavier than it did in 1999.

I've had to explain my name endlessly over the years. Most of the time I felt like the people demanding an explanation were just jerks. I mean, I was a drag queen calling myself Ursula Hitler. The irony should have been obvious.

But here we are in Trump's America (Tomorrow belongs to him) and the complicated joke of my name is suddenly a lot less funny and a lot more complicated. I think I'll keep it, because a pinko Los Angeles drag queen calling herself Ursula Hitler is still a big Fuck You to Adolf Hitler and everyone like him. But my name is more awful than it used to be, thanks to Trump and his lackeys and his fanboys. If people demand an explanation for why I call myself this, I guess I owe them one: It's supposed to be hideously offensive, for the people who think somebody like me shouldn't exist. Also, Monty Python reference.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:40 PM on November 23, 2016 [64 favorites]


Until they write this:

In addition to being a weirdo too fascinated with images of the Third Reich, I was, as admitted, the fortunate child of my town’s professional elite.

'In addition to being'. Not 'I was allowed to be ... because'.

I really wanted them to explain why they were a wannabe nazi. They don't, you have to infer it's because they could just have a childish dabble with racism and never face any consequences.
posted by adept256 at 12:14 AM on November 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Except they won. So. The question now is how does the loser revolution act in governing the country.

Sounding more and more like Sunni vs Shiite all the time.
posted by fairmettle at 1:12 AM on November 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


But... isn't he acknowledging his privilege right up front? How is that a bad thing? Would you prefer he just kept his mouth shut? I can see disliking the essay for plenty of reasons but I think he's just pointing out there that his privileged position is what enabled him to become a troll.

I'd agree, but for all the "insight" the author has "gained" (first-hand witness of country-club privilege is surprising?) his conclusion is: It's all misdirection and real-estate deals-- Watch Out! And as cotton dress sock pointed out, real people die and suffer. Overall, I think the author of this article has trouble distinguishing what's superficial.

So, a big meh...despite the reference-rich writing style. In my browser, I've twitter-tabbed Warren and Trump as a pair and I love her so much, her practical attention to detail, her reserve to prioritize...the latest is questioning the predator-select's transition expenditures. Her experience and discretion are at an apex and she'll be underestimated because, ya know, menstruation. I want to build an ass-trophy room for all the butts she is going to nail to the wall in the coming years.

My take is Trump's astute analysis of lowest-common denominators exploited a greatly divided nation (which has its plusses, exposing ignorance) and is simply an instrument of an owning class' further contraction of wealth begun in 2007, paused, and continues on. Not merely real-estate deals. I base this conclusion on Robert Reich's documentary Inequality for All. The advantage of it is globalization-- transnational markets. There are endless margins to be speculated and explored in numbers never achieved. It's a world of consumer goods and middle class America has pretty far to fall to its average.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 1:13 AM on November 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I read the article…I did. I feel so terribly bad about what white culture is going through in the US…except…not really. I left months ago and from my admittedly privileged perspective, America needs this shit show. I feel badly for the poc there, but the US and the nasty white culture there needed to be exposed for what it it is for a long time and it's a long time coming that it had its face rubbed, hard - really hard until it is bloody - into the dirt by the rest of the world. So I kind of feel bad for these people who are going to have to spend the next however many years polishing that turd, but…not so much. I have ill will for the country and its people and I have no real sympathy for this guy either, despite his apologia.
From 40 centimeters away, what looks like radical honesty on your screen looks more like, on my screen, a cheerful contempt for the suffering of others.

Women losing reproductive rights, more kids showing up at school hungry, hate attacks up in LA and NYC, ((()))ing on twitter, and NASA will be ordered to move away from the 'politicized' science of climate change (apropos of nothing, here's a photoessay on climate change in Bangladesh).

Not one of these people 'need this shit show'. Not one child needs to have dirt rubbed into her face until bloody.

Compassion isn't always easy, but I disagree with you that contempt, the absence of compassion, is going to make things better.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:41 AM on November 24, 2016 [106 favorites]


I'm not sure he was ever really alt-right though.

Yeah I mean that's kinda what I'm getting at, which is that if he ever really wanted to be a nazi he doesn't convey that very well. Dumb kids have played with Nazi imagery because it's shocking for ages. I think if you are, say, a gay Jewish kid growing up 50+ years after the fall of the Third Reich you tend to feel like you have a more of a right to do that than most people. And while there's a whole lot you could write about the pitfalls of that - and some that has been - the notable thing about the alt-right types is many of them started out ironic and ended up dead fucking serious. I'm not sure he actually realizes that. I guess maybe it counts as insight into the likes of Milo - guys who seem incapable of being serious about anything but see money and fame (or something like that) in the far-right.

The prescription for Milo is of course Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night.
posted by atoxyl at 1:47 AM on November 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


At the same time it's not like it was 4chan that won the election for Trump so, you know, don't get lost among the racist frog memes.
posted by atoxyl at 1:49 AM on November 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


But here we are in Trump's America (Tomorrow belongs to him) and the complicated joke of my name is suddenly a lot less funny

And perhaps, just perhaps, it never was nearly as clever or funny as you seem to think it is? It's not like those millions of precious human beings suddenly got any deader in the past two weeks. I've read your "explanations" here before, and never found them even remotely convincing – but hey, it's your life, and it's not for me to tell you how to live it. I'm glad it only took, y'know, the approach of actual fascism to make you rethink your choices a little bit.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:34 AM on November 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


many of them started out ironic and ended up dead fucking serious. I'm not sure he actually realizes that.

That's the whole point of the irony-slash-lulz they use though. They may not be clearly aware of it, but they definitely have enough fuzzy awareness that they use this "haha I'm not actually serious" as a way to submarine the stuff they are in fact serious about, that they know full well would be unacceptable to people they're talking to. They only get serious about it with people they already know are serious. This is how we got to where so many people believed Clinton was a shoo-in.

I grew up in extreme evangelical circles and this is stuff is indeed taught. You never tell people what you actually believe, not until you're a hundred percent certain that they're fully down the rabbit hole. Until then it's "oh well I've heard some churches argue the hard line about abortion, but it's a bit extreme isn't it" all while your pastors are planning picket lines at abortion clinics with photos of aborted fetuses and telling elementary school kids to hold signs that say "you would have killed me". ACTUAL EXAMPLE mmkay, they put a fucking sign with those words in my hands when I was ten.

Except I would just like to say I personally would tell people "yeah they believe some wild things, I don't support it" and in fact tell our pastors at church that they – our pastors – weren't behaving according to biblical guidelines. At that abortion clinic protest? I whispered apologies to the women who walked past. I still remember some of them crying when they saw me and then saw the contemptuous glee on the adults from our church. Goddamned church fuckers. You wanna know why I dare talk about this stuff so often? That's a huge reason. These people have so little sense of shared humanity. That, right there, is not linked to religion; it is linked to extremism.

So chalk me up as someone who has been inside an extremist group, who knows how they work, and who doesn't believe someone who kinda-sorta-but-LOL pussyfoots around "ha ha some people are worth more than others". As a private citizen I get to do that: I get to raise an eyebrow and set a boundary for bullshit I know all too well. A strong whiff of contempt and devaluation of others coupled with a dash of lack of consequences and a pinch of "oh well how am I supposed to know LOL"? Bullshit.
posted by fraula at 2:36 AM on November 24, 2016 [68 favorites]


If you bother to be afraid, then you’re stuck fighting the crazy guy preaching on the corner while the guy in the corner office conspires to rob you blind.

This is arrogant nonsense. I'm bothering to be afraid for the excellent reason that forces that aim to have people like me physically destroyed or hurt are now closer to power than at any time in the West since 1945. I would rather be robbed blind, frankly, than to think of mass deportations or registration or internment as real things that can happen today in the USA. The fact that this guy can't see these dangers makes me think his political judgment hasn't improved much since his teenage days - he still sounds fundamentally unserious, more interested in posturing and making provocative-sounding statements than offering any kind of analysis.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:02 AM on November 24, 2016 [22 favorites]


I think the main thing that bugs me about this piece is that the modern alt-right isn't actually just disaffected teenagers trafficking in eyeroll-y shock value: it's also GamerGate, Twitter harassment brigades, doxxers, etc. They're not just making videotapes (or memes), they're making death threats and SWATting people they don't agree with.

The other thing that I don't really buy is the putative lack of cross-talk between the alt-right trolls, neoreactionaries, Sailer-esque "scientific" racists, paleo-conservative racists, and racist country-club assholes (hmm noticing a trend), such that only the latter are actually powerful enough to merit fear. Sure, the trolls may be a little further from the levers of power than they believe they are, and some fraction of the old guard of country-club assholes apparently find it unseemly to be associated with the likes of 8chan. But Breitbart's whole mission under Bannon seems to have been to whisk the most compatible of these elements together and let them ferment into a base of support for Trump.

I don't really believe the incoming Trump administration is just humoring the alt-right trolls right now (and if they are, gotta say their commitment to humoring them doesn't appear super different from sincerely letting them influence policy). And beyond that it's already clear that some fraction feels enabled by the victory of the racist right, as I think is obvious from the reports of renewed crime and harassment targeting racial and gender/sexual minorities. The trolls hardly need to be setting policy in order to be effective at terrorizing people.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:11 AM on November 24, 2016 [24 favorites]


The article isn't great in getting to the heart of what I think the author is trying to say, spending too much time laying out their credentials and history instead, but from what is there, I think one of the points the author is vaguely gesturing towards is that by giving in to fear you can be empowering these people since that is what they are looking for. Power, then, attracts others who will add to their ranks and will increase the problem. By treating their beliefs as ridiculous, the author seems to be suggesting, you deny them some of the power they want and keep these people marginalized.

I can't say I entirely by that idea, if it is close to what the author was suggesting, since there was no lack of ridicule of those beliefs and their avatar in Trump this time around, but the general point of not giving the groups power through fear has some merit, but that merit is easier to nod to as an idea, than live if one is a member of one of the groups these dress up Nazis will be persecuting.

Personally, Western culture's Nazi fetish is something I'd like to see go away. The non-stop references to Nazis in dialogue and popular culture help maintain the status cult around them that is not beneficial at all. (The same would go for the Confederacy, with a slightly different twist.) There is no surer way to challenge the moral order of the status quo than to adopt Nazi symbols as one's own, even if they are only used "ironically". Young people are often drawn to the symbols and slogans due to their constant visibility and obvious power they represent in the culture. For many that toy with those things, it's not so much the racial beliefs as such that they are interested in, though they obviously aren't denying that part of it, it's just the instant ability to be seen as significant through the denial of social norms and the embrace of its antithesis. That's the heart of the "burn it all down" attitude, the feeling of not being liked or understood converted to hatred for all others, and using Nazi symbols is the easiest way to demonstrate that.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:33 AM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


For many that toy with those things, it's not so much the racial beliefs as such that they are interested in, though they obviously aren't denying that part of it, it's just the instant ability to be seen as significant through the denial of social norms and the embrace of its antithesis.

Except that the social norms they are interested in denying are intimately linked to racial beliefs -- anger about egalitarianism, anger about social obligations, resentment of other people's freedoms, and perceived loss of unearned status. How is this counter-cultural pose different from the Nazis' own belief in themselves as revolutionaries, their contempt for what they called bourgeois and liberal morality, and their rejection of Weimar norms? I am sure that some Nazis became Nazis in the 1920s because of the psychological pleasures of joining a rebellious anti-social movement that gave them instant unearned superiority and an excuse to commit violence. Modern Nazis are doubtless the same. I'm not going to doubt the sincerity of their allegiance to their world-view, or the dangers they pose to the rest of us, for that reason.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:33 AM on November 24, 2016 [18 favorites]


I was Continuing to Read Because Maybe He Had A Point and Would Get to It (Eventually) but bounced really hard the moment he claimed Republicans and Democrats are roughly equally responsible for a list of things including voter suppression.

No?????????????????
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:42 AM on November 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


The other thing that I don't really buy is the putative lack of cross-talk between the alt-right trolls, neoreactionaries, Sailer-esque "scientific" racists, paleo-conservative racists, and racist country-club assholes (hmm noticing a trend), such that only the latter are actually powerful enough to merit fear.

I'm with you entirely, of course. What I think the most superficial analyses miss is that in practice fascism is an ecosystem, with many different roles to play. The Rhine industrialists would have been horrified at the thought of being seen with your average small-town SA thug, but the latter were useful in doing the work — the actual work of beating up KPD and SPD activists, smashing Jewish shop windows and generally imposing a reign of terror on the streets.

They were useful, that is, right up until the moment they weren't, and then they were taken care of. If Spencer and his ilk had any actual historical consciousness, they would reflect on this, and perhaps find it sobering...but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:11 AM on November 24, 2016 [24 favorites]


Yeah, this is confusing the alt-right with tryhard internet trolls who just want to cause drama. While those exist and overlap a bit with the alt-right, the bulk of them are sincere about their beliefs. Brushing it all off as teenage pranksters who crave attention is dangerous.
posted by SansPoint at 6:13 AM on November 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Except that the social norms they are interested in denying are intimately linked to racial beliefs -- anger about egalitarianism, anger about social obligations, resentment of other people's freedoms, and perceived loss of unearned status. How is this counter-cultural pose different from the Nazis' own belief in themselves as revolutionaries, their contempt for what they called bourgeois and liberal morality, and their rejection of Weimar norms?

One of the biggest differences between a modern Nazi movement and that of the Nazis is the amount of history and added meaning accumulated around what Nazis "mean" in society. By consciously referring to that history rather than enacting it in the present with its future unknown, the social meaning of the attitudes change.

The part of my comment you quoted was aimed at those, like the author of the piece, who play with being Nazis for a time, or otherwise use their symbols for shock value or out of anger, not at true believer types who seek to restore the Reich. For both groups, of course toxic racial attitudes are involved, but for the former it is often more inchoate than incarnate in its embodied message, where for the latter it is more truly embodied. That allows people like the author to "try it on" for a while to gain attention, but allows them to think of it as something relatively benign since they didn't really mean it, in their thinking.

I mention that not to give them a pass, but to highlight something I think does deserve a little more careful attention in regards to this past election and the rise of the alt-right. One of the ideologies of the movement, from what I've read, is that they aren't racists, but racialists. Now, from a sensible outside perspective those two things are one and the same, but from an inside perspective, they aren't in ways that echo a little with the pretend Nazis.

To the person voting for Trump after hearing his racist remarks and denying they are themselves racist, might better be thought of as engaging in racialism if one wants to try and get into their mindset in order to better communicate with them. Racialism is, essentially, white anxiety over the changes in US culture over recent years. People who feel that anxiety may also believe they aren't racists because they don't harbor any strong animus towards individual minority members, or towards the group as a whole other than how they are seen as colliding with the racialist's own world. They aren't actively embracing racial superiority, they are passively defending what they see as theirs.

Again, this isn't to defend that attitude, just suggest it is a different thing than active hate or purposeful personal discrimination. Addressing it as racism in that sense can trigger strong denial for their beliefs not confirming to that historical model of racism. (Historical in the sense of that is the dominant taught understanding of racism at its height of discord, not in the sense that has gone away or this is somehow better exactly.) Seeking to protect, as they understand it, their own place and values in the social order isn't, to them, the same as trying to keep someone else down, even if in practice that would be an unavoidable end result of their beliefs. So only addressing their beliefs as examples of racism can work to increase division rather than narrow it.

The historical context of racism shapes the way racialists respond to race and the discussion surrounding it. While there is certainly no shortage of hardcore racists around, the growing visibility of this version of racism suggests the message of the importance of white identity is gaining new ground. Like with the pretend Nazis, it's the inchoate nature of the belief that might provide better hope of addressing it. While I wouldn't go so far as to suggest ridicule, I would say that being more assertive about positive values surrounding minorities and what is thought of as minority culture might help build more comfort and understanding around the subjects, allowing for some easing of tension around identity.

One of the things that seems to be a main hallmark of the altright is in setting the tone of discourse and then dominating the conversations, building anger, distrust, and name calling, which helps maintain separation. This is similar to the dynamic I see IRL, where those supporting Trump often are the ones initiating the topic, dominating the conversation and setting the terms and tone of the discussion. Those of us who are able need to work to get away from that dynamic and do a better job of asserting a positive set of values around contentious subjects and set more of a negative tone around unwelcome ones as starting points for conversation rather than as rebuttals.

To be clear, racialists are racists under any reasonable standard of concern around minorities, it's just persuasion or plain conversation works better when you are addressing people in the terms they understand, so for those of us who are able to engage in these kinds of conversations without undue risk, trying to better address where these people are coming from could be beneficial.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:26 AM on November 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


The question of how to address people who hold racist beliefs is one of tactics. But the question of how we describe those beliefs, and guage the threat level they pose, is one of accurate analysis. From the perspective of accuracy, there is zero difference between racism and racialism. Whenever they have not yet entrenched themselves fully in power, racists always speak the language of self-defence, not aggression. They are perfectly happy with the language of separate but equal for some audiences, reserving the language of race superiority for insiders or for specific moments when they feel confident. The classic racist claim is that the racist doesn't want to harm anyone, and is merely defending his own people against an alien infiltration/threat &c. This is purely a piece of fascist tactics, a lie designed to confuse opponents, and there is no reason to take it seriously. "America has done too much to accomodate minorities and has ignored and disadvantaged the white population" is exactly the same story as "Germany has pandered too much to international Jewry and has ignored and damaged its own Volk". This is deadly dangerous stuff, and the difference in phrasing makes no difference to the risk it poses. The job of liberals is to defend the fundamental truths of liberalism as clearly as we can, not to become enmeshed in the race-based logic of fascists.
posted by Aravis76 at 6:51 AM on November 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


Right, the only difference is really in the depth of the feeling, unchecked, racialism can become hardcore racism, and as it is it is still racism, but perhaps not fully formed enough to be an unshakeable belief.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:56 AM on November 24, 2016


Just about everyone in the US has shared that story about that crazy racist uncle or that conservative Christian side of the family or that cousin that likes to shoot the rusted up car in the backyard and small animals with assault rifles and has been getting into alt right shit and how they sit at a table at thanksgiving and put up with them and nobody does shit about it. That's called being a part of and being complicit with a culture of hatred, xenophobia and violence that is rapidly spiralling toward fascism and being a real problem for the rest of the world.
posted by osk at 7:05 AM on November 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't know how we can diagnose the depth of anyone's racist feelings. All I can say is that "we're only defending what's ours" is a familiar racist trope, and that many sincere and passionate racists - including American defenders of slavery and proponents of miscegnation laws, as well as Nazis and South African defenders of apartheid - have used it whenever tactically necessary. My point is that this whole discourse is a racist one, its mainstreaming in Western culture is an incredibly troubling global development, and that any claim that it's silly to be afraid because these people are just trolls or whatever comes across as extremely tone-deaf. Whether some individual kid with a reddit account is really racist deep down is not really relevant now.
posted by Aravis76 at 7:07 AM on November 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Racism is a spectrum. There is a qualitative difference between muttering in the privacy of one's home about "those people" and going to where they live in order to "mess them up". It's the difference between complaining and performing violence. Not all complainers are violent.
posted by otherchaz at 7:31 AM on November 24, 2016


I can only tell you what I've learned from those I've talked to and worked at moving away from toxic beliefs, and from that I can say, if it comes from others they develop a trust in, then beliefs can shift. It isn't something I'd suggest everyone try, since risk is relative to privilege, but for those with less risk it can be a useful bridge. The alternative is not any more attractive, which is for those of us in positions of privilege to not address it and just treat it as an unfixable situation which we'll just wait out in hopes the next generation can solve won't work. Systemic racism is an unavoidable part of the culture and it needs constant attention in means large and small to try and erode the problem little by little if that's all that can be done.

To do this we can have different kinds of conversations in our separate spheres of connection as long as the focus remains on fighting racism in whatever form it takes. This isn't a one size fits all problem, but one which can be approached from a variety of directions simultaneously.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:37 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


To the person voting for Trump after hearing his racist remarks and denying they are themselves racist, might better be thought of as engaging in racialism if one wants to try and get into their mindset in order to better communicate with them. Racialism is, essentially, white anxiety over the changes in US culture over recent years. People who feel that anxiety may also believe they aren't racists because they don't harbor any strong animus towards individual minority members, or towards the group as a whole other than how they are seen as colliding with the racialist's own world. They aren't actively embracing racial superiority, they are passively defending what they see as theirs.

So in effect, which is ultimately what matters, this is still racism.

I do think what you've said speaks to the concerns and conscious perspective of that group (vs deeper motivations and prejudices).

It also conforms to something I read at school, in a course on community psychology. I'll look for the source if I have a chance (will take some digging!). The nub of it was that racism and aggression towards racial or ethnic outgroup members is less likely to be expressed when there is a perception that there are enough resources to go around for ingroup members (who feel entitled to those resources), and when immigration is gradual and controlled. While a sudden influx of outgroup members perceived as taking deserved resources away, when there is the perception of economic insecurity, encourages greater discrimination and racially motivated aggression.

I mean you can read that explanation (or justification) in any paper called "The Sun", any day of the week, but this had been quantified by at least a few researchers. (An important keyword there though is "perception" [of insecurity or stability of resources & access to them, entitlement, etc.] Because of course people will tolerate inequality if they believe it's just or don't see it.)

And of course any cultural or ethnic difference can become racialized (e.g. Irish or Italian immigrants to the US in the 19th/early 20th century; Poles in England more recently). And in a hostile moment especially, anyone marked as a raced or racialized person, most especially those who cannot escape or disguise that categorization, experiences the brunt of resentment and aggression, no matter how long they've been around, or how much they've contributed.

(I can say that one of my parents came to the country I live in in the late 60s, on a visa given to people with certain professions that were needed in parts of the country where few qualified people wanted to live. (The visa was conditional on moving to those areas.) The reception was apparently warm enough. My parent was marked only by ethnicity, but had peers who would fall into raced categories, and were also respected, and at least nominally appreciated. I think they would have had a different experience today, in different places. And there's no question that they experienced bias in many ways, but locals overrode their prejudices because they needed their skills.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:38 AM on November 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


You can't have your multi-cultural cake and eat it too. The election provided a taste of this, with the label "racist" -- so effective at deterring public endorsement of Trump -- proved ineffective at deterring votes for him, or even at arousing opposition to him. (And when you see the Mitt Romneys and Nikki Haleys of the world move so quickly behind Trump after the election, you see that the label's effectiveness against public conduct is losing its force.)

Democrats should probably try to figure out how not to be on the wrong side of this. Racial polarization of the parties, as has happened in the south, has not worked out well for Democrats -- the country as a whole, for example, is more white than Alabama, and if votes were distributed racially in the whole country as in Alabama, there wouldn't be a Democrat in the White House for another 30 years.
posted by MattD at 7:39 AM on November 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Racism is a spectrum. There is a qualitative difference between muttering in the privacy of one's home about "those people" and going to where they live in order to "mess them up". It's the difference between complaining and performing violence. Not all complainers are violent.

The problem is that the "complainers" and the "violent" are not separated by some kind of impermeable barrier -- the garden variety racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia etc in the US is the background radiation that gives permission for extreme bigotry to thrive. The Klansman doesn't exist without a dozen "nice grannies" who are sweet to friends and family but are "concerned about those people." It's a symbiosis.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2016 [28 favorites]


I think a very important thing that even liberals miss is that race is not ethnicity. And theses people talking about appealing to a 'white race' are appealing to a specific American ethnicity who call themselves 'white' that certainly doesn't include everyone who is white.

Right now, it's largely the rural and Southern folks who pride tradition and fitting in enough that they ignore the fact that there's a good chance they have ancestors who were immigrants here 3 or 4 generations ago.

The danger now is that it becomes more popular to forget or downplay that for other people, too.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:36 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


[I]f votes were distributed racially in the whole country as in Alabama, there wouldn't be a Democrat in the White House for another 30 years.

Then the solution is perhaps to examine why this is not, in fact the case. Why aren't white voters elsewhere distributed the way they are in the South?

After all, there was little to no real shift in urban voting patterns among whites. The major shift has been in rural areas. This, coupled with the setup of the Electoral College, is how Trump won the electoral map despite receiving at least two million fewer total votes.

The irony of rural resentment and, yes, white backlash against the realities of a multicultural world is that the voters who felt left out and underrepresented are in fact *overrepresented* electorally.

Quite how to get on the right side of that level of self-delusion (without sacrificing other, tactically necessary parts of the coalition) seems like an intractable short-term problem.
posted by kewb at 8:53 AM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


More broadly, consider the significance of the fact that Clinton lost whites in every income and educational bracket, but still won the popular vote by a significant margin.

Surely this suggests that racial polarization and, to be frank, white ascendancy are simply part of the design of the electoral system of the United States, which is a much bigger and longer-term problem -- politically, economically, and ethically -- than the tactics of any one election cycle. This is not the sort of thing that works out well for anyone over time.
posted by kewb at 9:01 AM on November 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just to elaborate on my personal identity politics more... I am proud of my family being Scandinavian immigrants way back. My mom still has and uses the chest her grandmother took all her belongings in when she sailed to America as a young girl. I've had lunch with distant cousins in site of the same rocky shore she sailed from. It's a part of my identity and history.

So, I, as a white guy, would never in a thousand years vote for someone who is anti-immigrant because my gut reaction to that is that they are anti me and anti my family no matter what they think they are talking about.

And I can't help but wonder if there is a massive demographic shift going on, hidden underneath the racial label of 'white,' as all these individual family connections to the wave of European immigration in the 19th century fades from being parents' and grandparents' stories about their immigrant families into forgotten history.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:07 AM on November 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I have ill will for the country and its people and I have no real sympathy for this guy either, despite his apologia.

Trump lost the popular vote.

When you say you bear ill will for the country and its people, I think you're making the same mistake as people who voted for Trump because of his white nationalist appeal: You're confusing Americans with white Americans. Trump did win among whites, but white Trump voters are not the true representatives of America.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


The alt-right is a loser's poor fantasy of what a radical revolution looks like

exactly what the original nazis were, no? especially the burning resentment over having lost a war just recently. exactly what everybody sensible said about the original nazis until it became too awkward what with all the murders, I thought

But alt-right Nazis deserve scorn, relentless teasing, and laughter. If you bother to be afraid, then you’re stuck fighting the crazy guy preaching on the corner while the guy in the corner office conspires to rob you blind.

yeah I don't know, they do deserve it and I'm not against making fun of anybody deserving but I've heard those jaunty 1940s spike jones anti-Hitler joke songs and they may have boosted morale but they didn't make the enemy lose any faster, that I know of. I guess I would rather die while sneering than cowering if it comes to that. they laughed at columbus, they laughed at hitler, but they also laughed at bozo the clown. that's how the saying goes, right? it's a point of view but not much of a position from which to organize a "real" fight.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:14 AM on November 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Trump did win among whites, but white Trump voters are not the true representatives of America.

Well, except that the political structure of the US resulted in the white voters' choice being selected as the representative of the country. Does that make the system racist?
posted by dazed_one at 9:15 AM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sartre on Anti-Semites in 1944:
Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:40 AM on November 24, 2016 [50 favorites]


The attachment of alt-right to the Trump morass is important because it appears to be the only thing that remotely drags on him. The American populace left and right has been able to move on from the pussy-grabbing and the disabled mocking and frankly the fact that the man has been an American punchline for most of his adult life. Being a favorite of Nazis has stuck so far, and it has people paying attention. That's a good thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:41 AM on November 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, except that the political structure of the US resulted in the white voters' choice being selected as the representative of the country. Does that make the system racist?

The system is clearly racist.

That doesn't have much to do with the mistake of conflating "Americans" with "white Trump voters," though. Anger at the outcome of this election is understandable, but we shouldn't concede to their belief that they represent "real" America. Because they don't.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:04 AM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


There's no evidence from the election that the "system" is racist. There is evidence that liberals are allergic to (idelogical or cultural) diversity, and so clump up in California (costing the Presidency) and big cities (costing the House).
posted by MattD at 10:07 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the EC designed the way it is - instead of being straightforwardly proportionate to population - in order to preserve the Southern states from any attacks on slavery by more populous Northern neighbours? This is vague pop history I picked up somewhere, so it may not be true, but if it is true then the description of the system as racist seems fair. I will add that many POC and LGBT people whom I know stick to the coasts not because they are "allergic to diversity" but because they fear that their neighbours in red states may harm them.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:14 AM on November 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


That's an interesting definition of "diversity."

Are we "intolerant" because we like living in diverse, vibrant communities rather than small, isolated, remote communities? That's classic deflecting. You may as well say that we're not as tolerant as we say we are, because we are intolerant of white nationalists.

Worst part is that we can't win. Any time we enjoy something rural, we're "hipsters," and if we enjoy something urban, we're "elites."
posted by explosion at 10:14 AM on November 24, 2016 [32 favorites]



We are at this place in history because no one took this clown seriously . He had brand name recognition- that was why he won.

And the piece above was written with that idea in mind- that the idea of what nazism is was a way to shock and entice without the actual consequences of goose stepping around.

That is why that Milo character appears to be their mouth piece- it's not necessarily a racism thing- it's a who can get more clicks by being more outrageous. Who can capture the 30 second attention span of the average american. Who can make you feel good about yourself without you having to do anything.

Our culture has a relentless drive to tell people they are insufficient on some level- is it any wonder that CheetoShit S'more gained votes by telling people they were great as they are, with no effort or thought required.

The racism backlash appears to be a symptom of this as opposed to the cause.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 10:16 AM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's no evidence from the election that the "system" is racist. There is evidence that liberals are allergic to (idelogical or cultural) diversity, and so clump up in California (costing the Presidency) and big cities (costing the House).

What a load of smug, self-serving bullshit.

FFS, courts are literally ruling that districts are gerrymandered, and your earlier comment acknowledged that Trump voters both voted as an ethnic bloc and that they rejected multiculturalism.

More to the point, what part of the United States is more ethnically and culturally homogeneous than the rural and exurban areas that went for Trump?

I don't think it's the liberals who want to eat their cake and have it too in this conversation.
posted by kewb at 10:38 AM on November 24, 2016 [28 favorites]


That's an interesting definition of "diversity."

Are we "intolerant" because we like living in diverse, vibrant communities rather than small, isolated, remote communities? That's classic deflecting. You may as well say that we're not as tolerant as we say we are, because we are intolerant of white nationalists.

Worst part is that we can't win. Any time we enjoy something rural, we're "hipsters," and if we enjoy something urban, we're "elites."


I also think it's a bit backwards. It's more that, urban living and as well as growing up with more diversity in general tends to support more 'liberal' ways of seeing the world. I see that where I live now, even though it's Canada. I grew up in a big city and have lived in a variety of places, now I live rural. People that have 'gotten out' even if it's just for part of their lives and lived not rural tend to be more 'liberal' in their thinking. The folks who have pretty much never left tend towards more conservative and fearful types of viewpoints. They're also much more wary of new and different people in general.

It's not across the board but it's definitely a trend.
posted by Jalliah at 10:39 AM on November 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Democrats should probably try to figure out how not to be on the wrong side of this. Racial polarization of the parties, as has happened in the south, has not worked out well for Democrats

The "wrong" side? As opposed to the "right" side, by which you presumably mean the "white" side. You aren't arguing against polarisation, just for more racism.

You've said a lot of appalling shit on this site, but this takes the fucking cake.
posted by howfar at 10:46 AM on November 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


There is evidence that liberals are allergic to (idelogical or cultural) diversity, and so clump up in California (costing the Presidency) and big cities (costing the House).

People living in multi-cultural urban centres are 'allergic' to diversity, unlike people living in mono-cultural rural small towns? I am amazed at the level of mental gymnastics you must have performed to get yourself to think this way.
posted by dazed_one at 10:51 AM on November 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


MattD, why on earth would anyone expose themselves to the (sorry, incredibly predictable) bigotry and discrimination characteristic of ethnically homogeneous rural areas without a massive incentive?
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:56 AM on November 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Don't feed the trolls, people.
posted by tocts at 11:17 AM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


People living in multi-cultural urban centres are 'allergic' to diversity, unlike people living in mono-cultural rural small towns? I am amazed at the level of mental gymnastics you must have performed to get yourself to think this way.

Even more hilariously, he's also arguing that the *main reason* people live in big cities is and California is so they can clump together ideologically. Leaving aside the obvious, glaring faults in that claim -- ever heard of Orange County? -- it's not exactly a secret that big cities offer a lot more economic opportunities than rural and Rust Belt communities.

Rural areas have been suffering population declines for years and years, and we just had a n election where people from those areas *repeatedly* bemoaned the loss of economic opportunities in their areas!

As to why the mental gymnastics, well, it's a choice, isn't it? Either acknowledge that the Republican Party's voter base is now led by populist, racialist reactionaries, or transparently deny reality and project like mad.

So it becomes necessary to invent the incoherent criterion of "ideological diversity," because adopting the ethical and political commitments that make up an ideology is just like picking which restaurant to go to for dinner, and then claiming that large-scale population shifts towards cities are driven primarily by *ideological* choices by individuals. Which is, you know, tendentious bullshit of the highest order.

That actually does help explain exactly why people like Haley and Romney are going along as well. And why it's not going to work out well for anyone, them included, in the long run.
posted by kewb at 11:20 AM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Don't feed the trolls, people.

But it's Thanksgiving! I imagine they're stuck with a progressive family for the Holidays (including that one hippy Uncle) and just have to blow off some righteous conservative steam online.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:40 AM on November 24, 2016


That's the whole point of the irony-slash-lulz they use though.

Well that's a characteristic of the modern alt-right, that some of them are so wrapped up in layers of irony that it's impossible to tell what they "really" believe - maybe even for them to tell. At least as far as (neo) Nazis go this seems like kind of a new development to me though.
posted by atoxyl at 12:01 PM on November 24, 2016


Are we "intolerant" because we like living in diverse, vibrant communities rather than small, isolated, remote communities?

That original comment was a dumb and offensive comparison but are you really gonna tell me there's no anti-rural bias revealed in these responses?
posted by atoxyl at 12:04 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


That original comment was a dumb and offensive comparison but are you really gonna tell me there's no anti-rural bias revealed in these responses?

I moved from a large city to a smaller, more rural community, albeit both in Canada. I like where I live very much. I do, however, wish it was more multi-cultural.
posted by dazed_one at 12:26 PM on November 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


And perhaps, just perhaps, it never was nearly as clever or funny as you seem to think it is? It's not like those millions of precious human beings suddenly got any deader in the past two weeks. I've read your "explanations" here before, and never found them even remotely convincing

I didn't pick my name because I thought it was funny, I picked it because it was the only name that felt right. I tried others, and it felt like calling myself somebody else's name. This one was mine, for better or worse.

I am a far left, big nosed, pansexual pervert drag queen artist, the kind of person Adolf Hitler would have chucked straight into the camps. For the reasons I describe in this and my previous "explanations," my name honors the millions Hitler killed. Until now, the name pissed off people I was happy to piss off, including a handful of the more strident, self-righteous lefties. But Hitler has become horrifyingly relevant again in the USA, and now my stupid name is more complicated. Maybe it's more fitting than it ever was. I'm still figuring that out. Maybe in a few months I'll change it Ursula Trump.

but hey, it's your life, and it's not for me to tell you how to live it.


At least we agree on that much.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:19 PM on November 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, uh, about your diverse post-racial utopia. Racism and bigotry are things that are pretty much woven into US culture at all levels. Pretending it's just this one area over there (where, conveniently, you'd never go!) is nothing but more deflecting.
posted by byanyothername at 1:40 PM on November 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I would say that having access to contact with other people going through similar experiences is a bit more than "deflection".
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:48 PM on November 24, 2016


Honestly, I think it's hard to grasp what the homogenous/diverse distinction means to minorities if you don't have the experience of being absolutely outnumbered on a street or a shop or a train, by people who look at you with hostility as the one visible outsider in those spaces. I have had that experience, a few times, and it's why I don't ever plan to move from London to rural Yorkshire. It's not that I'm a snob or that I think London is a post-racial utopia. It's that I can fade into a crowd in London, as I can't in a Yorkshire village, and this matters to my sense of risk in day to day life.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:04 PM on November 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


Sadly, that is also why I'll never move to Japan.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:20 PM on November 24, 2016


Yeah, uh, about your diverse post-racial utopia. Racism and bigotry are things that are pretty much woven into US culture at all levels. Pretending it's just this one area over there (where, conveniently, you'd never go!) is nothing but more deflecting.

I've lived in small-town, Rust Belt areas, and I've lived in large cities. There's racism, structural and personal, in both places, but the homogeneity and monoculture of small-town, exurban places really is a whole 'nother ball game. In the cities, there are policy fixes that can have immediate impact; in rural and Rust Belt areas, I'm not even sure it's possible to build a multiracial polity in the first place. And many of the people there like it that way.

And I can back up what Aravis76 said: there's a whole lot of difference merely in terms of personal experience if you're not white in "small town" U.S.A. I grew up the only multiracial kid in my neighborhood; I was one of three visible minorities in my high school. You'd better believe we were all assimilated to the monoculture around us, not as a tactical choice, but simply because we literally didn't know of anything else.

And my hometown was fairly ethnically diverse, albeit extremely segregated, especially in comparison to the smaller towns around it. In some of those places, the first time you'd ever be around someone who wasn't white would be if you joined the army...or moved to someplace more cosmopolitan. The people who stayed, even as the traditional jobs vanished? Provincialism was a big part of it, as was the informal but very rigidly enforced class system among *white* people. Frankly, the first tended to be used as compensation for losing out in the second.

While it doesn't originate with economic anxieties, white supremacism is often experiences as a solution to and reinforced by status anxiety. The growth of rebranded Neo-Nazism is in part fueled by the rise in status anxiety among middle-class-and-falling white people, especially now that the college degree has become a significant marker of status and opportunity.
posted by kewb at 2:22 PM on November 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


Sadly, that is also why I'll never move to Japan.

But I guess no one is calling you an elitist out-of-touch liberal for refusing to move to Japan. And I assume you are not a Japanese citizen, and that decisions made by Japanese voters don't dramatically affect your life. So I'm not sure why the analogy is relevant. I wasn't talking about moving to a foreign country. I was talking about places in my own country where I expect to feel unwelcome and at-risk because of the colour of my skin, and how that influences what voting blocs I could be part of. Similarly, American POC who don't want to move to rural Wisconsin are not in the same boat as white Americans who don't want to move to Japan. The Japanese don't get to pick your president.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:04 PM on November 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I moved from a large city to a smaller, more rural community, albeit both in Canada. I like where I live very much. I do, however, wish it was more multi-cultural.

That's fair enough. I'm a city person myself - what I'm on about is actually just a.) what byanothername said and b.) the coding of "rural" as "white" isn't always a great idea either, whichever direction you're arguing in.
posted by atoxyl at 3:16 PM on November 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


The holy-shit-there-is-nothing-here (my childhood impression) central CA town my aunt lived in is like 85% latinX now.
posted by atoxyl at 3:19 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


He writes off the Neo-Nazi movement as a whole because he was a lukewarm half-hearted, somewhat ironic Neo-Nazi in his youth. The article is focused solely through the lense of his personal experience as a not-very-good-at-it Nazi, but dismiss these extremely dangerous bastards at your own peril.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:02 PM on November 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


But I guess no one is calling you an elitist out-of-touch liberal for refusing to move to Japan.

Chill, my friend. I was just agreeing with you that being singled out for ostracism based on your race is not something people sign up for.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:14 PM on November 24, 2016


The conversation always seems to hinge on cities vs. rural areas, but there is much in between. I live in one of the two largest cities in my state. It's still a small city, with a core population of roughly 350,000. When you include the suburbs the number approaches 500,000. We are large enough to support substantial diversity, and yet my entire state, county by county, went red.

This was not always the case. In the past, my state was far more likely to vote Socialist - even this year, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary by a large degree. I can't know for certain, but I think it's at least feasible that he might have beat Trump in the general election.

It's not enough to say that any state that went red is full of angry white men. I don't personally know many people who were happy to vote Trump. Those I know who did are comfortably middle class. Some others didn't care for him at all, but are life-long Republicans who couldn't pull the lever for a Democrat but weren't quite ready to make a "protest" vote for Johnson.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make. I've come from a family Thanksgiving that could have been fraught with angst, but instead was pleasant, if sterile. I'm feeling a bit adrift. I guess it's that red states aren't frothing with racial hatred - at least not in the cities - it's just that folks think different, to put it in the vernacular. Yes, racism and all manner of bigotry exist here, but it's a mistake to think of middle-America as a vast expanse of homogeneous whiteness.
posted by Mishi at 10:35 PM on November 24, 2016


seems like a vast expanse of homogeneous something that has a bit of an off smell to put it lightly.
posted by osk at 10:40 PM on November 24, 2016


There is evidence that liberals are allergic to (idelogical or cultural) diversity, and so clump up in California (costing the Presidency) and big cities (costing the House).

But IIRC, the places where Democratic voter share is increasing the most over time include a lot of the Sun Belt states, many of which are historically red states even in their urban areas. So yes, CA, but also NV, NM, AZ, TX, GA, NC, and FL. If we were just seeing sorting we should mostly be seeing red states getting redder and blue states getting bluer, but the actual picture seems to be more complicated than that: instead we're seeing migration from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. Ideology doesn't seem to really explain that trend.

I suspect a better explanation for liberal geography has nothing to do with ideology and may be more about economics: i.e. those areas currently offer a good balance of economic opportunity and cost of living, and the most mobile sections of the population (young and/or college-educated) happen to also skew liberal. There may also be non-white-flight out of expensive urban centers, again for financial reasons; racial minorities also skew liberal.

The urban/rural thing is more complicated to explain but you can't really accuse liberals of self-segregating in urban areas without making the inverse argument, that conservatives self-segregate away from cities, equally strongly. However, it's uncontroversial that the US downweights cities politically in both branches of the legislature and in the Electoral College. For the Senate and maybe the EC that's by design, but Congress was intended to actually be proportional.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:39 AM on November 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


About TFA...

Pompous comes to mind. Any point I thought he was trying to make was buried under the smug, dismissive, hand-wavey tone.
posted by Thistledown at 4:49 AM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


One big reason for Democratic sorting into cities is the decades-long effort to exclude African-Americans from many rural and suburban areas across the North and West by use of official government policies, private covenants, and violence. Pretty rich to describe the victims of that campaign as allergic to diversity.
posted by burden at 8:27 AM on November 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


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