We’ve been busy watching Rabid shenanigans with books covers, but meanwhile over in Sad Puppy domains, Chris Chupik has decided that modern Nazis are largely imaginary. Chupik, for those who don’t know, is notable mainly as a regular commenter on Puppy blogs but sometimes he guest-posts at According to Hoyt. https://accordingtohoyt.com/2017/03/25/coyote-gravity-by-christopher-m-chupik/
[This get’s long so more below the fold…also ‘Spencer‘ is usually an external link but each time to a different article rather than peppering this piece with quotes]
The post is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as an example of a genre of commentary among the right in the age of Trump. Hoyt was a reluctant Trump voter, initially critical of Trump as a potential nominee and then voting for him on the basis of opposition to the left. I don’t see that as hypocritical (although faulty in other ways) – a lot of anti-Trump sentiment among the more die-hard libertarian-tinged right was out of fear that Trump was such a poor candidate that he’d guarantee a Clinton victory, plus fears that his apparent populism was a cover for left-leaning economic policy. With Trump in power, the reluctant-Trumpers and a hefty section of the never-Trumpers are faced with a dilemma: they don’t want to overtly cheerlead for Trump but still hate the left more than they hate Trump. Currently the left (and centre) is very loud indeed and that kind of unapologetic assertiveness is what makes sad puppies sad. So we get what has been called the ‘anti-anti-Trump‘ position exemplified by Chupik’s post and similar ones by Hoyt.
Secondly, what caught my eye was this statement by Chupik:
We’ve already seen violence inspired by the Left’s reckless “punching Nazis” rhetoric. Look, the National Socialist Party of Germany has been dead for decades. The only real Nazis left are a handful of aging war-criminals and some dumb thugs with shaved heads. Therefore, you’re likely not punching a literal fascist. You’re assaulting someone with different politics for the sole reason that they’re different. That’s what happens when your view of reality isn’t based on what’s real anymore.
Put aside briefly the projectionism of complaining about people whose “view of reality isn’t based on what’s real anymore”, what I want to focus on is “You’re assaulting someone with different politics for the sole reason that they’re different” This is a specific version of a more general argument. In this case, it is focused on the “punching Nazis” idea but the more general idea predates it. It is a fallacious defence we’ve seen before from the supposedly libertarian right in defence of the authoritarian right – a kind of concern trolling that works like this:
Y (possibly on the left but not necessarily) objects to the behaviour of X on the authoritarian right for specific reasons (typically because it either directly harms individuals or promotes violence and intimidation to groups identified by ethnicity, sexuality, religion, gender) and proposes some action against X. Z on the supposedly non-authoritarian right criticises Y and the proposed action on the grounds that Y is ‘just’ or ‘solely’ etc punishing, oppressing, silencing X because X disagrees politically from Y. It doesn’t matter to Z that X themselves was overtly trying to silence, punish, oppress, intimidate or even calling for the genocide some group. Instead, Z ignores why Y has an issue with X and ends up defending X.
I won’t list examples as I’m sure readers can think of multiple ones. The net effect is the supposedly non-authoritarian right providing cover for the authoritarian right (who then laugh, call them ‘cucks’ and eat their political movement from the inside out).
So let’s flesh this out a bit further. Specifically, the ‘punch’ meme is not some abstract concept that floated out of nowhere but has an epicentre around a particular individual: Richard Spencer. ‘Nazi’ here is a shorthand – is Spencer LITERALLY a member of 1930 German political party the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei?* Nope, one strawman knocked over. Is he a member of a party that has, in more recent times, overtly stated that it’s ideology is that of Adolf Hitler and/or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei ? Nope, yet another strawman knocked over. Is Richard Spencer a skinhead? Nope, he likes Depeche Mode** rather than Oi! as far as UK 80’s music genres go.
So yes, it is not WHAT Spencer is that validates the antipathy towards him but the nature of his political position, BUT that does not mean the ‘sole reason’ is because those politics are ‘different’. That’s rather like saying my sole reason for objecting to murder is because it is a ‘different’ way of interacting with people. In Chupik’s defence, I assume his argument arises largely out of ignorance (possibly willful) and just really bad reasoning rather than any desire to provide cover for white nationalists.
Is Spencer a Nazi or a neo-Nazi? Well, we are into if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck but doesn’t advocate the nationalisation of the German steel industry or think Autobahn’s**** are a nifty idea or wear Hugo Boss uniforms, is it still a duck? territory. As I said ‘Nazi’ here is a shorthand for a set of particularly toxic views. Nor is this even a matter of things-Nazis-do-when-they-get-full-control-of-a-state. The toxicity of the views in question have an immediate impact on ordinary people’s lives. In anticipation of arguments from some quarters about Stalin, the Holdomor, the Cultural Revolution or Pol-Pot, you are missing that point that I just made: the views I am discussing lead directly to intimidation, violence, and murder of people *now* – Nazism (or whatever you want to call it) doesn’t need to have full control of the state to advance its sociopathic agenda^.
So what exactly is the issue with Spencer‘s views rather than his hairstyles, party memberships, or taste in music? It isn’t Spencer’s theatre of Nazism (disturbing though that is, as a measure of the confidence these people have in Trump ) rather it is his“`:
- white nationalism
- racial supremacism
- pro-ethnic cleansing
- promoting pro-genocide views
Unlike Vox Day, Spencer is more overt in his racial theories and his authoritarianism to the extent of angering Vox (see http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/controlled-opposition-or-media.html ) but these threads of racism and nationalism and general anti-whoever-is-vulnerable-to-attack runs through the alt-right. There are differences in degree or on emphasis or on ideological purity but the primary differences between Spencer‘s alt-right and Vox Day’s alt-Right, is one of theatre and messaging.
At the heart of the anti-anti-Trumper’s argument is a principle of free speech that must assert that it is wrong to attempt to silence others just for who they are. Yes as we have seen with there defence of the ‘alt-lite’ Milo Yiannopopulis or the more clealry Nazi-associated Richard Spencer, this principle is adopted assymetrically. We see people like Spencer or Milo use their platforms to launch campaigns of intimidation INTENDED TO SILENCE people just for who they are. Yet, for this the supposed advocates of ‘free speech’ say nothings in criticism or worse (in the case of Milo) laud them as fellow advocates of free-speech.
Beyond this we see the continuing violence of ‘lone wolf’ far-right terrorism in the US and Europe. Terrorism that is routinely ignored across conservatism or dismissed as inconsequential.
The politics, ethics and messaging of punching nazis may be more complex than some on my side may think^^ but it is very much NOT about somebody having just ‘different views’^^^ but rather a reaction to an IMMEDIATE direct threat to the lives, safety and well-being of ordinary people. The threat from Nazis, neo-Nazis, krypto-Nazis, not-technically-Nazis“ is not an abstract one or an extrapolation from some sort of alt-history Man In the High Castle/Fatherland/Whatifhitlerwonww2 fiction but a current threat where people are forced into silence by their actions.
**[Did I mention that this week is 70s/80s synth-pop week here?]
***[But read the Wikipedia link for an overview of the more complex politics of Oi! as a post-punk genre. Also, not all skinheads were/are neo-Nazi skinheads. None of this complex history detracts from the tangential point to this post that Garry Bushell is an arse.]
****[ see ** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobahn_(album) ]
^[Although gaining full power over the state and undermining democracy and the rule of law are also key elements as well. And while I mention that Spencer claims to be connected with living-unccany-valley-inhabitant` Stephen Miller]
^^[Or not – the KISS principle shouldn’t be ignored but leftists like me over-thinking things sometimes should be]
^^^[aside from anything else, the ‘different views’ most likely to antagonise your average leftist are the views of some other leftist]
`[I don’t make a habit of mocking people’s appearance, it’s just that Miller really does somehow manage to achieve that same unsettling ‘dead eyes’ effect that still plagues video games and can be seen in early motion-capture movies like Polar Express. I’d be more sympathetic but I really, really don’t like him.]
“[This is my preferred nomenclature for those who like what that the Nazis did except the economics, the specific branding and the whole losing really badly]
“`[misogyny, homophobia and transphobia were left off the list here because amid the myriad of articles I didn’t find one with more blatant examples. As I’ve discussed before, these are often more central to the alt-right than other forms of prejudice but with Spencer, the white nationalism is what gets reported on]