The alt-rechts, or, in English, the old right

The old right, I mean alt-right, is clear what they’re doing.

Here’s what’s interesting to me about the current old-right. I am a huge fan of Ralph Ezekiel’s ethnographic study of neo-Nazis (The Racist Mind). But I’ve often wondered the internet changed the dynamics. Years after the book came out, he wrote an article, “The Racist Mind Revisited” that I found really useful. I’ve been reminded of it this weekend, and I’m thinking that the internet changed how the message is disseminated, but not what the message is, nor why it’s persuasive.

These quotes are from this article: “An Ethnographer Looks at Neo-Nazi and Klan Groups: The Racist Mind Revisited.” American Behavioral Scientist, 09/2002, Volume 46, Issue 1.

I’ll mention that he also talks about the macho ideology and the marginalized participation of women.

“Americans today often learn about Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan through television clips of rallies or marches by men uniformed in camouflage garb with swastika armbands or in robes. These images often carry commentary implying that the racist people are particularly dangerous because they are so different from the viewer, being consumed by irrationality. The racists and their leaders are driven by hatred, it is suggested, and one can scarcely imagine where they come from or how to impede them.” (51)

“The movement’s ideology emerged as one interviewed leaders, listened to their speeches, and read movement newspapers and pamphlets. Two thoughts are the core of this movement: That “race” is real, and those in the movement are God’s elect. Race is seen in 19th-century terms: race as a biological category with absolute boundaries, each race having a different essence—just as a rock is a rock and a tree is a tree, a White is a White and a Black is a Black. ” (53, he’s avoiding the first person.)

“At the ideological level—in the writings and speeches of leaders—the contemporary Klan has joined the neo-Nazis in identifying the Jews as the prime source of evil. Leadership speeches throughout the movement present “the Jew” as the central enemy, with African Americans, Latinos, and Asians as the rather dumb members of “the mud races” who are pawns of the Jews, as are many brainwashed Whites. The leadership ranks gay men and lesbian women with Jews in the enemies list.

“Among the rank and file, the picture is more traditional. Most followers whom I have met exhibited intense prejudice against African Americans that tended to reflect the general prejudice of their families and neighborhoods. Followers could repeat the party line about the Jews, but my strong impression from interviews and from watching socialization into the Detroit group was that new members arrived with strong antipathy toward Blacks but little interest in Jews. They came in hating Blacks and liking the idea that the movement represented Whites in a struggle against Blacks; after entry, they had to be taught who the Jews are and why they should hate them.” (55)

“The youths I met had first become involved in racist activity in junior high school. Their prior (and subsequent) schooling had not led them to harbor a concept of community. The classroom had seldom been shaped as a community in which class members had felt mutual responsibility for one another. On the contrary, the classroom probably had reflected the desperation and the atomization of the society outside the school.

“Equally, the schools had left no feel for democracy. The youths had no positive association to the word, which seemed to them a meaningless term used by adults for hypocritical purposes. School had afforded little chance for real impact on decisions that mattered, opportunities to learn in action the meaning of the word democracy. Both community and democracy can be taught through experience in the classroom, when schools consider these goals part of the curriculum and invest energy in building related skills.

“For the neo-Nazi youths, the teaching in school of multiculturalism had been another adult exercise in hypocrisy. Black History Month was an annual annoyance. It is easy for an adult-led discussion to seem like sermonizing.” (65)

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