[This piece is long and discusses Anti-Semitism and the Alt-Right]
Some recent events in US politics:
Google has removed a third-party developed extension for Google chrome whose sole purpose was to highlight names of Jewish people on webpages. http://www.engadget.com/2016/06/03/google-pulls-anti-jewish-chrome-extension/ Uploaded by somebody calling themselves “altright media”, the extension put brackets around names that crorresponded with a pre-defined list of names – specifically either the full names of notable Jewish Americans or Jewish sounding names.
After journalist Julia Ioffe published a profile of Melania Trump (Donald Trump’s wife) she recieved a wave of hate mail much of it focussed on her being Jewish. Among the death threats included altered images of her as an inmate in a Nazi death camp. Other journalists critical of Trump or people such Ann COulter favoured by the AltRight have also been subjected to barrages of anti-semitic “memes”.
Vox Day has a side project: maintaining a Wiki of supposed “SJWs”. It is notable that this Wiki with ostensible aim of identifying leftists has, as a distinct category, “ADL Journalist Police” i.e. people that the contributors to Day’s enemies list think are in some way associated with the Anti-Defamation League a Jewish organisation with a long history of opposition to anti-semitism. Day’s wider list of supposed leftists contains, bizarrely enough, ex-Brietbart journalist Ben Shapiro, perhaps because he defended fellow Brietbart journalist Michelle Fields after she was assaulted at a Trump rally (leading to both journalists quitting Brietbart). However Day has, in the past made something of a deal of Ben Shapiro’s Jewishness even before the Trump incident:
I pointed out that the real “secret” of Jewish success is that Jews “relentlessly and ruthlessly promote other Jews at the expense of non-Jews while furiously fighting to prevent any efforts of the majority to do the same.”…Now, there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with favoring one’s own. It is normal human behavior….But to simultaneously attempt to deny other groups the ability to do the same, and moreover, to deny doing what is observably being done, is both wrong and mendacious.
I’ve personally witnessed this in-group promotion in several different industries. To give one example, I have seen how the Littlest Chickenhawk [Vox Day’s nickname for Shapiro] was handed multiple opportunities to fail upward; he was nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate as a teenager despite the fact that his WND column was banal and one of the least-read; my weekly readership there was 4.1 times larger than his. Now, at 30, he is editor-at-large of Breitbart News, guest hosts regularly for major talk show hosts, and appears regularly on news channels including CNN, Fox News, and Sun News Network in Canada. Is Ben Shapiro THAT much more talented or intelligent or insightful than I am? Than every other contributor at WND is? I doubt Shapiro himself would make such a claim?
Sadly, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find the US right re-asserting anti-semitism. IT had never gone away and even among the more vociferously pro-Israel sections of the Republican Party there are various species of Anti-Semitism. The Anti-Semitism of the Christian right though was of a different tone and tenor – less overt and more confused and often tinged with the belief that it was the exact opposite. The ‘new’ Anti-Semitism of the alt-right is brazen and blatant, adopting imagery from the holocaust to harass and demean Jewish people.
There are multiple levels to this. Firstly, as highlighted above, is the Alt-Right using Anti-Semitic imagery as part of its commitment to trolling & emotional abuse as both an ideology and a replacement for debating ideas. In a recent interview with Vox Day at Heat Street Louise Mensch had this exchange:
Vox Day: No, we don’t care what they do or what they think, but we are certainly engaged in a cultural rhetorical war against them, but we don’t care what they think about us. We’re their enemy, they’re our enemy, and that’s fine.
Louise Mensch: But you’re not employing this against the enemy. I never see these memes employed against the left, ever. I only see them employed against people on the right. John Podhoretz, Ben Shapiro, Cathy Young, people who are 100% on the right. You don’t seem to bother with anyone of the left. Not that … By the way, God forbid that should be taken as an encouragement to go off to burn Hillary supporters with this stuff, but it’s red on red fire.
Mensch gives Day much less latitude in this discussion than she has in previous ones and manages to keep Day off balance throughout. However the gist of Vox Day’s defence amounts to trolls-gotta-troll. In part one of the interview Mensch presses Vox on this issues:
Louise Mensch: Well how is somebody tweeting a picture of African-Americans being hung, as slaves, to a black person, or how is somebody tweeting to a Jew a picture of children being shoved into a gas oven, how is that clearing the way for anything? How do they help you? How are they your fore-soldiers?
Vox Day: Because it’s rhetoric. Rhetoric is designed to manipulate emotions, it persuades by manipulating emotions, and so the same way that … What it does is that it demoralizes those who have relied for decades on pointing and shrieking “racist,” pointing and shrieking “anti-Semitic” etc. Whatever …
Louise Mensch: So what a minute, it demoralizes people that believe in racism and anti-Semitism, by being racists and anti-Semitic to the nth degree, and almost everybody reading this blog who might consider voting for Donald Trump, would consider it to be beneath contempt.
Vox Day: No they won’t.
Louise Mensch: They won’t?
Vox Day: It’s a very straightforward … It’s actually a game technique, called agree and amplify, and so basically what they are doing … And this is why Milo was careful to distinguish between what he called the “meme police” and what he called the “1488ers.” The “1488ers” are the actual male neo-Nazis, etc. etc. The “meme police,” I suspect, – I don’t know, because I have no way of knowing – but I suspect that the most offensive stuff that you see out there, is almost certainly the “meme police” who could not possibly … Who really don’t care, they probably don’t have any position whatsoever on racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, whatever. What they know, is that that is a emotional trigger point for the other side, and so they are pushing it and they are going to keep pushing it as long as people react to it.
Louise Mensch: Yeah, but you know what, really saying “I’ve got a bunch of trolls …” I mean, is that a strategy, Vox? I mean come on. This is not alpha, it’s totally gamma, and may I say …
Vox’s argument is that it is justified by virtue of it being upsetting to the people it is targetting – essentially that somehow it isn’t Anti-Semitic to attack somebody on the grounds of them being Jewish if the intent is to cause them deep upset or to provoke an emotional reaction (because they are Jewish) rather than because of a commitment to Anti-Semitism. As always, the logic is more dream-like than Aristotlean although the essentialism of the modern right seems to underpin it.
Of course this justification-by-trolling would be bad enough in itself. The notion of the Alt-Right simply exploiting Anti-Semitism to score points is disturbing and would help fuel further Anti-Semitism. However it is deeper than that.
Two other aspects fuel this reassertion of Anti-Semitism among the Alt-Right.
The first is the factional battle within US conservatism. At the turn of this century there was an uneasy alliance between the relatively secular Neo-Conservatives (charactrised primarily by a hawkish and interventionist foriegn policy) and the Christian right (characterised primarily by social conservatism). Israel and the conservative Likud party provided a point of commonality. For the Neo-conservatives Israel’s own military policies were an examplar of how to use military might to cut-through complex issues. For the Christian right Israel was seen as a bulwark against Islam and also an important piece in the escahatological view of world events. The Christian right saw/see Judaism still as being heretical but condescendingly as a kind of benevolent hereticism but also a target of evangelical conversion. The disintegration of US conservatism has broken down these connections.
By being brazen in its Anti-Semitism, the Alt-Right is challenging rival factions. The Alt-Right avoids deep ideology and substitutes it with establishing credentials of authenticity via outspokeness. With the wider constinuency of the right feeling lost and cynical, the people who are willing to say things that should hurt their credibility with mainstream beliefs signal that they are the people LEAST concerened with mainstream acceptance. By breaking taboos on Anti-Semitic language, the Alt-Right distinguish themselves from other factions and, in turn, force those other factions to react in a way that is more characteristic of the centre and the left i.e. criticising people on the right for what they are saying.
The second thing is both simpler and more complex but it is a vital one that people have repeatedly overlooked before. The Alt-Right is asserting Anti-Semitism because they simply are Anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism has never been rational, it has never been coherent, it has always rested on an appeal to a notion of secret elites secretly working against people in such a way that a person’s individual failings (perhaps at work or perhaps in life in general) can be ascribed to others. The ur-fascist qualities of the Alt-Right naturally find their way to Anti-Semitism (assuming it was ever seperated from it) because those ideas sit as a toxic-packet within Western culture, ready made for any movement (right or left) that wishes to avoid discussing reality and instead wishes to substitute reason with conspiracy-fuelled emotional reaction.
The lazy, anti-rational qualities of the Alt-Right is what leads them to the bizarre position of blaming immigration of Muslims into Europe (and all the associated demonising of Mulsim immigrants and apocalyptic scenarios that they throw up) on Jewish people. It would be head scratchingly puzzling if it wasn’t for the simple principle that you need to bear in mind when considering the Alt-Right’s ideology: IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO MAKE LOGICAL SENSE, incoherence is intended as a feature rather than a bug. Here is Vox Day again:
The Jews in Europe are doomed because they spent the last 70 years undermining European nationalism and supporting the transformation of European population demographics. That strategy was understandable, given their mid-century experience with German nationalism, but short-sighted, and its long-term failure was absolutely inevitable. That is relatively obvious now; everyone from Benjamin Netanyahu to Sammy Ghozlan has concluded that it is time for continental Jews to go home to Israel. And while the Jews in the UK aren’t quite at that point yet, I expect they will be soon enough. The English have long looked with mild disapproval upon the Jews in their midst, but they simply don’t hate them the way their millions of recent Polish and Muslim immigrants do.
What is much less obvious at this point is that the Jews in America appear to be similarly doomed because their elite has spent the last 50 years undermining American nationalism and supporting the transformation of America’s population demographics under the mistaken impression that it would be “good for the Jews”. Feeling threatened by European nationalism as a result of their experience with Germanic nationalism, a small number of elite Jews worked very hard to remove the barriers to entry that protected their people from those who hate them considerably more than Frenchmen or Americans do.
Of course Vox has to blame SOMEBODY as his story is one of Europe and America betrayed. Having adopted the genre conventions and tropes of Ur-Fascism, he needs to point at somebody to be the delivere of the proverbial stab-in-the-back and as inevitably a Hollywood film director casting a Englishman as a supervillain, Vox reaches for the big bag of fascist cliches and picks the obvious plot-twist.
Naturally I’ve focussed on Vox Day above but he is just a little piece in a bigger problem. The same tendencies are writ larger in the Trump campaign and the same trends and narratives are playing out. They aren’t ideological in the normal sense, nor should the underlying Anti-Semitism be confused with a personal antipathy of people like Trump to actual individual Jewish people*. Anti-Semitism is bizarrely disconnected from any actual reality of Judaism or Jewish ethnicity but rather rest on paranoid fantasies about fictions which are then brutally and disatorously applied to real people.
*[nor am I saying he doesn’t have such antipathies – the point is that this broader Anti-Semitism operates at a different level from direct and distinct individual prejudices. The people who push it exploit such prejudices and indeed may even think that they can’t be Anti-Semitic despite brazenly endorsing Anti-Semitism.]