Monday, March 13, 2017

White supremacism is not nationalism


If you spend any time at all talking to rightist immigration restrictionist types on Twitter or elsewhere, you'll notice that they've taken to calling themselves "nationalists." They contrast this with "globalism", which they associate with rootless cosmopolitans pushing open-borders policies on countries to which they have no allegiance. Lots of people on the left take these folks at their word - after all, weren't the Nazis nationalists? Didn't nationalism cause WW2? Etc.

But I've always been suspicious of the "nationalist" label. American rightists have always seemed to me like part of an international, borderless white supremacist movement - a sort of global white-ist Ummah. They always seem to have much more allegiance to their co-racialists in other countries than they do to their own non-white countrymen. 

For members of a movement that purports to focus on putting American interests first, American nationalists seem to spend an awful lot of time obsessing about Europe. 
Europe's birthrates are too low and Europe has Muslim minorities that it's not integrating well, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa complains, by way of defending his tweet that said, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies."
Josh thinks that the nativist right's obsession with Europe is a rhetorical tactic. He thinks that immigration works so well in the U.S. that the only way restrictionists can avoid saying the truth - that they just don't like nonwhite people - is to point at Europe, which is far worse at handling immigration. That's probably true. 

But I think it's more than that. I think America's white-nationalists feel a natural kinship with Europe. They always speak not of American civilization, but of Western civilization. They erupt in outrage over stories of white people (supposedly) victimized by nonwhites in far-off countries, while expressing little or no outrage when nonwhite American citizens are attacked. They are just as likely to complain about immigration to the UK or Germany or Sweden as to the U.S. Pepe the Frog, the Celtic Cross, and old European paintings are replacing the American flag as online markers of rightist identity.

Rightists often claim that American Muslims won't be loyal to the United States, but to a global Muslim community. To me, this clearly seems like a case of psychological projection. White supremacists see themselves as part of an international borderless racial community first and foremost, rather than citizens of a nation-state, so they naturally imagine that everyone else sees themselves the same way.

That's a generalization. I'm sure some of our white-nationalists really are just "restrictive nationalists" - the type of people who feel real American pride, but who also view whiteness as part of the essential definition of American-ness. I bet Steve King and many older people are like that. 

But I also think that the internet is breaking boundaries between national cultures, and forging trans-national loyalties. Twitter, Reddit, and forums like 4chan put European and American rightists in contact every day. Go on 4chan and check out the country flags on white supremacist posts - you'll notice that more than half are from outside of America. That constant contact with international fellow-travelers tends to erode national and local allegiances and create borderless identity groups defined by race, religion, and ideology. This was what happened with ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other global Islamist movements, and I think it's now happening with white-ist movements in Europe, America, and the Anglosphere countries.  

This is ironic; white supremacists embody the same thing they claim to be afraid of - an erosion of national loyalty. It's also scary, because it means that technology has fundamentally changed the game of politics in ways that few anticipated. When people spend most of their time online instead of engaged in their local communities, they naturally lose allegiance to the people near them and gain allegiance to the people on their screens. Whereas in past centuries, comrades-in-arms built loyalty fighting with guns and tanks for borders and land, now they build camaraderie fighting in meme wars and flame wars with comrades sitting in front of screens thousands of miles away. 

That worries me. Nation-states might have fought each other in wars, but they were incredibly effective in the 20th century in terms of providing public goods, improving social justice, and giving people a feeling of togetherness and commonality. International racial and religious movements will almost certainly be much worse at the first two of those tasks. A world defined not by borders but by online identity groups will be a deeply dysfunctional world, I predict. Whatever the sins of nationalism, I think history shows that militant trans-national movements are far more dangerous - they also commit mass violence, but they fail to provide the public goods and institutions that make life good in peacetime. 

19 comments:

  1. I don't get why Japan can get away with being so nativist, and yet people always complain about white nativism and jingoism. The same goes for Israel, where there is a very proactive effort to maintain and preserve their identity.

    I'm not a nationalist, but if a group of people, as defined by some type of linguistic, cultural or historical commonality want to, through their own domestic policy making institutions, establish themselves some type of nation state I don't see the issue. I guess my question is whether or not a people have a right to their own nation state, if they so desire it. That cold very well include "white Americans" who may see themselves as something unique, or part of a broader global white identity.

    I don't really like fragmentation though, Balkanization of people over what appear to be trivial differences is disheartening to see. You hope people would be able to cooperate with one another. Sadly you sometimes get a peaceful self-segregation, the worst is genocide, ethnic cleansing and race based violence.

    Even if open borders will increase global GDP, I think the arguments about the nation state and immigration/emigration shouldn't focus purely on numbers and statistics. People like their identity, even just being "black" or "white' is fairly superficial and meaningless. For the time being I guess I prefer nation states with reality low immigration quotas.

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    1. I don't get why Japan can get away with being so nativist, and yet people always complain about white nativism and jingoism. The same goes for Israel, where there is a very proactive effort to maintain and preserve their identity.

      I think some countries can handle it and some countries can't. I don't know about Israel, but I do know Japan, and I don't think they could handle mass immigration without a violent backlash. America is different though. We've handled tons of immigration in the past, and come through stronger and more united and better off. I'm very skeptical of the idea that just because today's immigrants are Asian and Hispanics instead of Europeans it won't work this time.

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    2. Well, America has always been an immigrant nation. Indeed, so has Canada, and really the entire hemisphere was created by people coming here. Almost no one is of pure indigenous background. Between the War of Independence and the 1820's there was very little immigration to the US and the population grew extremely slowly.

      Then of course people started coming her in mass from. In my opinion the current Hispanic immigrants aren't that different then the Italian ones in the 19th and early 20th century. Latin speaking Catholics who do a lot of hard labor. We even have a lot of the same fears about them (organized crime). I think America can handle it.

      My issue is with Europe, a place that is not an immigrant nation and doesn't have that history. I think your concerns over Japan could be pretty well transferred to Europe. They aren't used to mass immigration and historically marginalized foreign people (Roma and Jews). The violence you fear in Japan might be something these ultranationalist parties in Europe are also capable of.

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    3. Luca,

      When you refer to Jews in Europe as being "foreign people," I would note that in some nations such as Italy they have been there for as long as 2,000 years or more. This is longer than the majority populations of many current European nations have been in them, such as the Magyars in Hungary or the Slavs in the Balkan nations or even the English in Britain.

      Barkley Rosser

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  2. What role do you think Critical Race Theory played here, if any?

    Also, I would recommend E.D. Hirsch's writings to you.

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    1. I don't know Critical Race Theory...in general I tend to think that anything involving Critical Theory of any sort is total nonsense that I'll inevitably regret reading...is that wrong?

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    2. Anonymous11:45 PM

      Lovely prior you have there. Very academic.

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    3. I've got priors about flat-earth science, is that a lovely prior too?

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  3. I am sure many of them are racist, but would you call Japanese racist? Is nepotism racism? Seems like there should be other terms for those moved by genes, family, relations, ancestry, culture without as negative connotations.

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    1. If you find yourself 'moved' by lineage, than you really need to evaluate your life.

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  4. Noah, this exact same phenomenon is described by Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism when describing anti-Semetic parties in Europe. By "same phenomenon" I mean "White supremacists see themselves as part of an international borderless racial community first and foremost" that perfectly fits Arendt's description.

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    1. Could you cite exactly where Arendt says this?

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    2. Well, on page 39 we get

      "The second highly significant characteristic of the new antisemitic parties was that they started at once a supranational organization of all antisemitic groups in Europe, in open contrast to, and in defiance of, current nationalistic slogans."

      But Arendt didn't write to be quoted, she writes in whole chapters. I'd suggest reading at least chapter 2 of Origins of Totalitarianism.

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  5. You're sweeping civic (or 'creed' according to the Nymag link) nationalism under the rug, perhaps to bolster the notion that nationalism is racist. At a glance civic and ethno-nationalists share the same concerns but a closer look, especially at interactions between the two groups shows that they do not. Millenial Woes said that he would love the Scottish people even if they were communists. That is a complete repudiation of the civic nationalist desire to preserve liberal values.

    From interacting with self-identified alt-righters it seems that they do not embrace pan-European identity. Keeping white countries white is simply a prerequisite for keeping Germany Germanic or Spain Spanish etc.

    Why would an American civic nationalist care about immigration and birthrates etc in Europe? Because it could be a sign of things to come. Because the loss of fellow travellers of the Enlightenment would be a blow to America's ability to operate by those codes.

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  6. How do they feel about people of Chinese, Indian, Korean Japanese and Jewish descent who tend to be very successful and low crime in the west? That might be telling.

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    1. I believe they want to murder us, rape our female relatives, and throw our body parts to their German shepherds.

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    2. Haha but if is true that are against those groups then it is not just ignorance.

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  7. I've been thinking along the same lines for a while now, I see many similarities between young muslim men and young white men becoming radicalised online, with this whole alt-right thing being analogous to the jihadi movement.

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