If we wish to defeat a problem we must understand it. I don’t think we’re able to understand the threat the radical right poses–and how it gained significant entry into the Republican Party–without understanding two related phenomena. The first is the overrepresentation of self-described Christian evangelicals in both the general electorate and the Republican Party (which can rise to a majority of Republicans in certain areas). A minority that perceives itself as embattled and locked in a zero-sum battle leads to a subculture where democracy is a means, not an end. If that same minority also believes that “a right-minded elite of religiously pure individuals should aim to capture the levers of government, then use that power to rescue society from eternal darkness and reshape it in accord with a divinely-approved view of righteousness” should rule, then things get very bad.
This has collided with a second phenomenon, where the radical right has embraced not only the pervasive anti-Black racism that still permeates American society, but also subscribes to specific ideologies (note the plural) that have, as a central element, anti-Semitism. As some asshole with a blog noted:
There’s no doubting that ‘traditional’ racism is a key component of Trump’s support. And to consider U.S. history without realizing how racism is the warp and woof of our national experience is absurd. Politically, racism has driven and still drives much of our politics. But when we consider the Tiki Torch Brigade and many of the follow-on protestors on Saturday, what is central to their bigotry is anti-Semitism, not racism. For them, anti-Semitism is the lodestone, the organizing principle.
In Charlottesville, the evening rally focused on Jews: “Jews will not replace us.”
They issued specific threats towards and intimidated a Jewish congregation.
The rally posters barely mentioned–or failed to mention at all–the Confederate statues.
This is not to say these assholes wouldn’t (and don’t) hurt or kill Blacks, Asians, Latinos, and other minorities (not to mention LGBT). These bigoted bastards would do so with glee. But this small, noticeable–and much more directly violent–part of the far-right is more akin to the militias of the 1990s, which were obsessed with Jewish-led global conspiracies, along the lines of The Turner Diaries. It played a role in motivating the Oklahoma City bombings, and it winds it way through the ‘sovereign citizens’ movement.
In this ideology, Jews are controlling other minorities and use them as their shock troops and servants (as laughable as that is to everyone supposedly involved in the conspiracy). Admittedly, the typical bigotry towards minorities and immigrants is a critical part of it–they use this as a ‘gateway drug’ for recruiting (and they are quite willing to have more ‘traditional’ racists as allies). But, at the core, is a Jewish conspiracy: break the Jews, and it all falls apart.
In this they are much more akin to the European far-right, than traditional U.S. racists and segregationists. They are a related, but different problem, separate from the foundational scourge of racism, even as they use it as a ‘gateway drug’ to build their strength and find allies. If we wish to defeat them, we must understand them.
Which brings me to a point historian Jonathan Sarna makes (boldface mine):
These and related images, captured on television and retweeted on social media, demonstrate that some of those who traveled to Washington to support President Donald Trump were engaged in much more than just a doomed effort to maintain their hero in power.
As their writings make clear to me as a scholar of American anti-Semitism, some among them also hoped to trigger what is known as the “Great Revolution,” based on a fictionalized account of a government takeover and race war, that, in its most extreme form, would exterminate Jews.
Calls to exterminate Jews are common in far-right and white nationalist circles. For example, the conspiracy theorists of QAnon, who hold “that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump,” traffic in it regularly.
The anonymous “Q” – the group’s purported head who communicates in riddles and leaves clues on message boards – once approvingly retweeted the anti-Semitic image of a knife-wielding Jew wearing a Star of David necklace who stands knee-deep in the blood of Russians, Poles, Hungarians and Ukrainians and asks with feigned innocence, “Why do they persecute me so?”
…More commonly, including in recent days, QAnon has targeted Jewish billionaire philanthropist and investor George Soros, whom it portrays as the primary figure shaping and controlling world events. A century ago, the Rothschilds, a family of Jewish bankers, was depicted in much the same way.
QAnon members also mark Jews with triple parentheses, a covert means of outing those whom they consider usurpers and outsiders, not true members of the white race…
As opinion writer Seyward Darby pointed out in The New York Times, the gallows erected in front of the Capitol recalls the novel’s [The Turner Diaries] depiction of “the day of the rope,” when so-called betrayers of their race were lynched. Unmentioned in The New York Times article is that the novel subsequently depicts “a war to the death with the Jew.”
Again, the point is these are very specific ideologies which feature anti-Semitism as much as anti-Black racism. This is not just some crazy stuff like believing aliens are going to whisk you away to utopia, but it is also adjacent to and, often, steeped in anti-Semitism. In many ways, Q and other similar conspiracies are The Turner Diaries, but with less snuff porn, and less overt anti-Semitism (usually. Sometimes they slip up, as Sarna documents). They should be viewed as abhorrent.
I don’t know, man. Whenever I hear “those racists over there” I see divide-and-rule, especially if it doesn’t mention class. Look, everyone (EVERYONE!) is prejudiced. Prejudice is part of human perception. You would literally be unable to see the room you’re in without pre-judging.
So the fixation on racism and Trump looks like a distraction from the class war, mostly.
More generally, declaring any group of victims to be Target 1 throws all the other groups of victims under the bus.
You are very lucky if you know how many targets are on your back and who painted them there.
But the problem is not how many other people have targets on their backs, or how they are apportioned among groups (whose definition may not be intrinsic), or which groups are less deserving of being targeted.
Problem 1 is the people who paint the targets.
Problem 2 is the fact that all victim groups are totally fungible, which makes distinctions among victims absolutely untenable.
I don’t think that all victim groups are fungible. Anti-black racism is subordinationist, not eliminationist. Racists want black people–to clean their toilets. Antisemitism is eliminationist. Also, unlike most other racisms, antisemitism is based on a myth of evil superiority. Anti-black and anti-brown racism are based on a myth of inferiority, with evil an optional theme. Anti-black racism is also based on a myth of sexual (male) superiority: one lacking with antisemitism.
Fear of the other is observed in infants, so in a sense everyone is prejudiced. However, that is something that we can grow out of or unlearn. Every, or almost every racist makes exceptions for certain people, usually people they know. They can learn that their fear of those who are not like them they don’t know is their problem, not the problem of those others.
I don’t know why in the US those who identify as White Christian Americans are more likely than other groups to be racist, but research bears that out. And that group, in particular, are susceptible to anti-Semitism. The anti-Semitic memes of QAnon can be traced back to Medieval Europe. Since QAnon is based upon conspiracy theories, supposed anti-Semitic global conspiracies are perfect for hanging their hat on. There are no such ready built conspiracy theories for Africans or Mexicans. There is for Cubans, via Communism, but that applies to Jews, as well. You really cannot understand QAnon without understanding the history of European anti-Semitism.
Thanks, Mad Biologist, for this and other related posts. 🙂