Note: This piece originally ran in the August 18th edition of the Outsider Perspective.
The 30,000-foot view of America right now
What happened in Charlottesville, VA is an atrocity and a stain on America’s moral fabric. My first gut reaction when watching reports last weekend was that it was domestic terrorism.
James Fields, the man responsible for ramming his car into a crowded group of counter-protestors is truly despicable. He had an unabashed love for Hitler, Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad, and spent his time disseminating racist and anti-Semitic propaganda online. He was, in short, the very definition of a white nationalist neo-Nazi. He’s also the very definition of what it means to participate in the “alt-right.”
A favorite talking point was that Charlottesville was about defending Confederate monuments. It wasn’t. It had nothing to do with the Civil War, protecting monuments, or history. The alt-right and it’s “unite the right” white nationalist followers had one goal: bring white nationalism to the forefront in a proud display. Not one of them was a “fine person,” as Stephen Hayes notes:
There was never any question about the nature of the events planned for the Charlottesville weekend. The man behind the Unite the Right rally was Jason Kessler, a well-known racist. The rally was promoted as an opportunity to assert “the right of white people to organize for our interests.” The confirmed speakers—announced in advance—were a who’s who of white nationalist leaders, including people who justify violence to protect white interests.
On August 8, four days before the rally, Kessler joined white supremacist Chris Cantwell for Cantwell’s “Radical Agenda” podcast. They spoke of the possibility that violence would be necessary in Charlottesville in order to accomplish their goals. “It’s a shame that white people have to do this in the country that they founded,” said Kessler. “But if that’s what it comes down to—that we can start getting our rights back and take our country back, then I think that it should definitely be done.” (Cantwell appears to have now taken the podcast down, but he refers to the interview on his personal site, here.)
The event last weekend was a follow-up of sorts to a rally that white supremacists held in Charlottesville on May 13. There was little question about the nature of that rally. … Richard Spencer, a white nationalist organizer of the May event, made clear that “what brings us together is that we are white. We are a people. We will not be replaced.” Another speaker called for the creation of a white “ethno-state.”
Is it possible that the very fine people whom Trump cites weren’t aware of this history? That they didn’t know about the organizers and their motivations? Or the speakers and their views? Or the announced reasons for the rally? Or the rally in May?
Whatever misapprehensions they might have had were clarified Friday night, when the white supremacists and neo-Nazis with whom they’d joined forces shouted “F**k you faggots” and “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Do very fine people yell racist and anti-Semitic chants at torch-lit marches? Or march silently alongside those shouting such things?
These neo-Nazi, racist, alt-right types have grown more emboldened in recent history. Recall Dylann Roof, a neo-Nazi who murdered multiple black church members in an attempt to start a race riot. Or Michael Page in Wisconsin, who killed many Sikh worshippers in 2012.
Every single white nationalist in Charlottesville knew what they were doing. If you don’t believe it, watch any video coverage of their chants. These people are the epitome of evil.
The dangerous and dark turn America has taken
That’s what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. But it’s also another troubling data point for America.
Here’s where we sit:
- Neo-Nazi’s, the alt-right, and white nationalists are roaming free in the streets, protesting, calling for a white ethnostate, and declaring a need to rid America of blacks and Jews. They’re using Confederate monuments as a foil to create big media splashes and bring out violence.
- Antifa has coalesced on the left as a violent “reaction” to the alt-right. In reality, Antifa is an old-school set of communists and socialists, specifically the Trotskyites and Bolsheviks. These people carry communist flags, violently protest G-20 meetings, and come out of the old Occupy Wall Street movement. They’re not anarchists, as many allege, these are pre-Russian Revolution communists who want to overthrow the government and society. (For more on them, I recommend this Ian Tuttle piece at NRO)
- Flash points in race relations in America. We’ve had multiple police shootings of unarmed black men, some like Philando Castile we entirely unjustified. This has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. A major flash point here is in 2016 when Micah Johnson ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas, TX. Tensions show no sign of going down.
- Finally, we had a politically motivated assassination attempt on House Representative Steve Scalise and other GOP members. The shooter was unquestionably motivated by left-wing politics and mirrored many of the ideas Antifa people push.
Many commentators have observed that things feel like the 1960’s again; race riots, political assassinations, and fringe elements fighting each other in the streets. I think John Podhoretz at Commentary Magazine phrased this observation well:
We all know the kindling is there. The baseball-field shooter was a consumer of far-left anti-Republican media; it would only take one consumer of media on the other side to seek to equalize the suffering to ignite a national powder keg.
I don’t want to invoke all the clichés of the past decade, but you know them all — we’re a divided nation, we’re all living in our own bubbles, we don’t even accept the same facts and we hate each other.
And while I think the 1960’s are an apt description of this current era, I think there’s a more accurate period: the 1930’s.
The post-Roaring Twenties/Great Depression America
America before and after the Great Depression is like looking at two different countries. The Great Depression did a lot of things, but the first thing it did was slam the door shut on the Progressive Era in America. The Progressive Era was one of the most expansive forces for liberalization across the country (public education, women’s suffrage, the first signs of the civil rights movement), but that optimism and unity collapsed on Black Tuesday.
What rose in the place of the liberalization of the Roaring Twenties was: Reactionary politics. Reactionaries prefer a return to the status quo and an end to the excesses of liberalism. The Great Depression caused many people to question the liberalization of their lives and want a return to the prosperity of a better time. The results of that reactionary movement led to the Nazi Party, harsh racial politics (Nazi children summer camps opened in America, for example), and a push towards a more conservative society.
(Note: A reactionary is different from a conservative. A conservative has a particular set of ideals and beliefs, typically a faith in institutions, that slow liberalization to protect order, tradition, and the rule of law. Reactionary politics are pushing back against the forces of their time. It’s more about what they’re reacting against than having a distinct set of beliefs.)
In the Roaring Twenties, people believed technology and democracy would lead to a better world. It the 1930’s, belief in fascism and a strong leadership took hold. People preferred the strongman to the institutions of the Republic. Leaders like Stalin and Hitler thrived.
The new Reactionary American Era
Donald Trump is, I’d wager, the first reactionary President in American history. Note, I’m not saying he’s Hitler, Stalin, or anything close, but rather that he represents a delayed reaction from the American public.
Typically, in the aftermath of a recession the scale of which we had in 2008/09, you’d expect the reaction to be almost instant. Barack Obama was the first wild swing of the pendulum, and people wanted a complete shift from what caused the Great Recession.
Voters reacted sharply in response to the Great Recession. However, instead of reflecting that reaction, Democrats went further left and pursued more liberalization. Barack Obama and the Democrats never followed a reactionary path and reigned in the government and society.
Hence why only two years later, Republicans retook the House. Mitt Romney was never a true “reactionary” candidate, despite being plenty conservative, and failed at winning over those voters. But Republicans made gains again in 2014, and Trump won the White House in 2016 giving us the delayed reactionary President.
It’s worth noting; Democrats acted like their 1930’s liberal peers, they began pushing socialism and a socialist – Bernie Sanders – as their harbinger of change. Fringe elements began taking over in a reaction against establishment values of people like Hilary Clinton.
In other words, both political parties are facing reactionary pushes from the edges of the spectrum: Trump’s vulgar reactionary politics, which stands against whatever the mainstream parties want, and Bernie Sanders, who would overthrow the entire system for socialism (similar drives are happening in Europe).
Mainstream liberalism and conservatism are no longer in control of the major political parties. Each is beholden to external fanatic elements that seek to subvert and destroy American order and traditional American political ideas.
My concerns observing this era
America is on kindling. We are nearing an irreversible flashpoint between the evil animating forces in American politics. What’s even more troubling is that the white nationalists, alt-right, and Antifa movements shouldn’t be considered a part of either mainstream political party. These are fringe elements that are entirely antithetical to the entire American experiment.
As an aside, it wouldn’t surprise me if Russian intelligence is helping both sides. The USSR and KGB have a long history of funding and giving platforms to America’s fringe elements, in a bid to destabilize the country.
My biggest concern is we hit another bad recession while the alt-right and Antifa movements grow in strength. If that happens, it would only make recruiting for these fringe groups easier; they could prey on disillusioned people manipulate them into joining. It’s a very similar recruiting strategy to that of Islamic radicals in ISIS.
The alt-right and Antifa are romanticizing the idea of political violence. People speak in glowing terms about the need to punch Nazi’s, and the alt-right talks about the need to engage violently in preserving blood and land. These types of romantic notions of violence only end in tragedy.
These groups have to be defeated for America to continue as a nation. Neither can be allowed to thrive or prosper. These groups aren’t American or representative of either side of American politics. They are the bastard cancers killing America:
And so here we are. The mainstream Left has been increasingly suckered into walking hand-in-hand with the SJWs while ignoring the most egregious activities of Antifa; the mainstream Right has been increasingly seduced into footsie with alt-right associates while feigning ignorance at the alt-right itself.
That’s why Charlottesville matters: not only because we saw destruction and terror, but because if all Americans of good conscience won’t do some soul-searching and move to excise the evil in their midst, that evil will metastasize. There is a cancer in the body politic. We must cut it out, or be destroyed.
The only way America survives is if these political movements are neutralized and eradicated – not just condemned. Playing the “both sides” card pretends this is just partisan bickering – it’s not. These groups are lethal cancer.
I pray we neutralize these groups before they metastasize and make Charlottesville seem like child’s play.