Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Why Are Nazis Marching In America?

Me thinking
Read through this thread; it features an American freaking out about Nazis marching in American cities. Apparently I'm supposed to burn the Catholics do something about it, though he won't say what. I presume the "woke" people know. Tonight I'm going to explain my understanding of why this is happening. The conclusions I've come to may surprise you.

To understand what is happening now, we need to understand where it comes from and why it's so compelling.

Where it comes from

Anyone with even a cursory grasp of American history will understand that in 1492 Christopher Columbus led an expedition to find a Western route to Asia only to discover that there was a flippin' great big double continent in the way — the Panama Canal, which cuts through to let shipping pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific, was only completed in 1914. Truth be told, he discovered the Bahamas, then Cuba, then more islands, and continental South America. It was John Cabot who discovered continental North America; the continents were named after one Amerigo Vespucci, who, despite having two large continents named after him, is little more than a footnote in history — it's the rape-enabling tyrannical slaver Columbus who gets all the glory, for some reason. Hold that thought. Now fast-forward past the Mayflower to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The dark side of the Enlightenment

Slavery was a result of Enlightenment ideals such as the idea of a biologically inferior race, utilitarianism and theories proving the moral justification. - A Justification For Slavery, by Emily N. Owens

That's right, the very movement that gave us the US Constitution and Bill of Rights also gave us the Transatlantic slave trade and the horrors of laissez-faire economics that decimated the population of my native Ireland and killed millions in an artificially-worsened famine in India. You'd have thought that Christians would have come out against it but the "Enlightened" descendants of the Puritans were all for it. Basically, the racism that underpinned slavery is embedded in the history and culture of established Americans (people whose families have been there for several generations). It's the Johnny and Jenny-come-latelies who have a problem with it. Right wing thought has always been about the ascendancy of the individual, might as right, and obedience to authority. It shouldn't surprise us, then, that the endgame of right wing-ery is Fascism and Nazis — the roots of their twisted ideology is based on American racism.

The suppression of the left

The McCarthyite witch-hunts of the last century fixed communism and socialism in the minds of the American people as a terrifying boogeyman that must be sought and destroyed. Opponents of "global socialism" cherry-pick the very worst examples of socialism in action (to be fair they're spoilt for choice at first glance till you realise the story is more complex than it first appears to be) to illustrate their point that only neoliberalism can save the world, or something.

After the McCarthy era ended, the intellectuals on the left/liberal/progressive side of the aisle began a movement called the New Left (which gave us political correctness, among other things). These people banded together with Progressive and liberal allies to create the left as America knows it today. While their strongholds are in academia and the media, their influence has enabled gains in civil rights, etc. The Powell Memorandum was composed to oppose this, and led to the creation of think tanks, etc., to counter the left/liberal alliance. The right's strongholds are also in the media and in religious and law enforcement institutions. The end of the Flower Power era and the advent of job insecurity during the economic upheavals of the Seventies and early Eighties brought the right to the forefront of political life; the end of the Cold War effectively put them in charge. So it was that to question the neoliberal status quo marked one out as a leftist and therefore suspect as either an idle hippie or a sinister communist. As I've said any number of times America doesn't really have a left. What they do have is a liberal progressive wing that champions social justice; unions have been in decline since the Seventies and wages have fallen in real terms. If America had an actual left, this wouldn't have happened. So it is that today "socialism" is a catch-all that basically means, "Those who disagree with me." Actual socialism, such as it exists, is on the fringes of American politics.

Why it's so compelling

People swing right when they're scared. Economic anxiety, the pressures of competition with immigrants (or the mere perception thereof) for jobs and services made scarce by austerity measures, and the pace of change of the cultural environment makes people vulnerable to being won over by right-wing rhetoric. Boogeymen and scapegoats are a lazy way of addressing people's legitimate fears but damn if it ain't effective!

Quick-fix  rhetoric

When a supporter asked why he started using racist messages, Wallace replied, "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor." - George Wallace, Wikipedia

It's easier by far to label such people a basket of deplorables than to actually address their issues. Where were the roads and schools they had been promised? What makes Nazism so compelling is the narrative that the underdogs have been put in that position by jealous inferiors determined to rob them of their birthright. So, if you're a loser with no direction in life and you're told a) it's not your fault and b) "Do you know you're genetically superior to Idris Elba?" it is possible that you will latch on to this because it makes you feel better about yourself. However, as I pointed out in my post, "Fear My Boogeyman! The Politics Of Authoritarian Enforcement," the last thing someone promoting extremist ideology actually wants to do is solve people's problems since, if they did, they'd become redundant.


I could have saved you all the bother of wading through this post to get to this point by merely stating that traditional American right-wing-ery is the reason why Nazis are marching in American cities — it's the logical endgame of the racism that underpinned the slave trade, after all, but honestly, we need to think this through. The see-saw/boogeyman game needs to stop if we're going to deal with this properly; we need a left so we can have a middle. Antifa violence is not the answer, it only leads to false equivalence. We need to have a dialogue with the public about what the issues really are and how to address them effectively. I believe that if you empower the individual to take part in the economy, if you address their legitimate concerns, and if you help them to help themselves, they won't see any attraction in joining hate groups. It's the people who have had enough of the status quo and want to force change who do. Forget that at your peril.

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