Journalist Vegas Tenold spent six years among some of America’s most extreme white supremacists, and discovered a people who believe the white race is under threat and the enemy is everywhere
Matthew Heimbach and I were sitting in an International House of Pancakes restaurant somewhere between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Paoli, Indiana, when Matthew asked me why I never asked him about the Holocaust. The question caught me by surprise, not because I was unaccustomed to Matthew talking about Jews – only a few hours earlier he had ranted about how Jews were behind tens of millions of aborted white babies – but because I didn’t know the answer to the question.
It was on the evening before the presidential election, and I had known Matthew for a few years, watching him gain steam as a nationalist leader in America and putting together the Nationalist Front, his ragtag coalition of white pride malcontents.
I had spent the past six years with members of the radical right in order to write a book that explains the resurgence of rightwing radical groups who march in the streets, whose beliefs are rooted in the flotsam of decades of American racism, antisemitism, and white supremacy. Matthew’s vision was to bring the these groups together within a single political movement – and in the time I knew him he became one of the most significant far-right figures in the country. His question about the Holocaust made me wonder if all the time we had spent together had dulled me in some ways or softened my journalistic instincts.
If you spend enough time with another person, however much you disagree with or abhor that person’s opinions on certain matters, you are bound to find traits you like. And there were traits about Matthew that I honestly liked. He was always upbeat and friendly and had a way of dismissing the rest of the far right in a way that was hard to disagree with. Also, there were political issues that we agreed on. We both felt strongly for the struggle of Palestinians, and we both believed that the prevalence of money and special interests in American politics had gotten the country into trouble.
Perhaps I was getting a form of Stockholm syndrome. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that at some point along the way I had let myself get taken in by Matthew’s charm and gregariousness. The folksy, friendly qualities that made him so much more dangerous than your garden-variety white supremacist had gotten under my skin, and it dawned on me that the reason I hadn’t asked him about the Holocaust might be that I didn’t want to hear what he had to say about it... read more:
Amy Chua - How America's identity politics went from inclusion to division
We are at an unprecedented moment in America. For the first time in US history, white Americans are faced with the prospect of becoming a minority in their “own country.” While many in our multi-cultural cities may well celebrate the “browning of America” as a welcome step away from “white supremacy”, it’s safe to say that large numbers of American whites are more anxious about this phenomenon, whether they admit it or not.
Tellingly, a 2012 study showed that more than half of white Americans believe that “whites have replaced blacks as the ‘primary victims of discrimination’.” Meanwhile, the coming demographic shift has done little to allay minority concerns about discrimination. A recent survey found that 43% of black Americans do not believe America will ever make the changes necessary to give blacks equal rights. Most disconcertingly, hate crimes have increased 20% in the wake of the 2016 election.
When groups feel threatened, they retreat into tribalism. When groups feel mistreated and disrespected, they close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them. In America today, every group feels this way to some extent. Whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, straight people and gay people, liberals and conservatives – all feel their groups are being attacked, bullied, persecuted, discriminated against.
Of course, one group’s claims to feeling threatened and voiceless are often met by another group’s derision because it discounts their own feelings of persecution – but such is political tribalism.
This – combined with record levels of inequality – is why we now see identity politics on both sides of the political spectrum. And it leaves the United States in a perilous new situation: almost no one is standing up for an America without identity politics, for an American identity that transcends and unites all the country’s many subgroups.
This is certainly true of the American left today.Fifty years ago, the rhetoric of pro–civil rights, Great Society liberals was, in its dominant voices, expressly group transcending, framed in the language of national unity and equal opportunity... read more:https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/01/how-americas-identity-politics-went-from-inclusion-to-division