The Klansman in the Closet: How Racism and Nazi Propaganda Infiltrated Modern Politics
There is much hubbub in the news today regarding the Women’s March leadership and the uncovering of anti-Semitic sentiments expressed by members among it. To those having paid attention to the likes of Linda Sarsour and her sentiments surrounding Israel, this perhaps isn’t the most surprising of discoveries, but incidents like these being uncovered by left-leaning political mouthpieces seem to be appearing more and more often these days.
Among folks like Joe Bernstein and Billy Eichner, who can’t help but purity test those who have achieved more than they have, you perhaps wouldn’t be surprised to find the former recently criticized YouTuber Felix “PewDiePie” Kjallberg over supposed anti-Semitism. This for daring to laugh at someone killing another player’s character in a Virtual Reality video game as they shared their love of Felix’s content, which Bernstein tried to spin as Felix laughing at the fact that the person who committed the virtual drive-by had an anti-Semitic picture as their profile picture. For those thinking this is a stretch on Bernstein’s part, of course it is.
No doubt Bernstein was simply riding the tide of fuss made about Felix’s sharing of 28 YouTube channels in the form of a video shout out, one of whom whose videos made edgy references and used Nazi propaganda footage within some of his videos, which Kjallberg would of course, later rescind and apologize for. But of course, an apology is never really enough for those who are determined to find Nazis everywhere, because finding secret Nazis is the key to riding the headlines. How ironic then, that our would-be Nazi-hunting hero had earlier made statements about all whites needing to be perceived as potential predators, as well as another encouraging others to kill white men?
Likewise, Billy Eichner, Emmy nominee, who made a great deal of noise about Kevin Hart surrounding the drama of him presenting at the Oscars for using anti-gay language, would later be found having repeatedly using language that constituted the very same gay bashing that he complained came out of Kevin Hart.
But if you thought it was just Buzzfeed writers and Emmy nominated hosts being total hypocrites, fear not. Louis Farrakhan is here to remind you that he’s “not an anti-Semite, he’s anti-termite.”
This phenomenon is not new. The idea of the “faithful” using their virtue to shame those who disagree with them, while likewise taking every opportunity to use the same language they claim to decry to do exactly that, or else acting as though their politics ought to grant them immunity from judgment for doing the exact same thing, has existed since at least medieval times. Church inquisitions would often be lead to purge the wicked and the unholy, while acts of sodomy would go on behind closed doors among the priesthood or the royals. This sort of “enlightened aristocratic” attitude of shaming has been a part of humanity for centuries, and belies the truth we had but made a steady peace with, which we all but seem to have forgotten of late with the advent of social media.
On page 54 of Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’, the author describes how and why public shaming as a punishment was phased out of the greater American Politique. Calling the process “far too brutal”, he goes on to quote founding father Benjamin Rush in his March the 9th address of 1787 “An Enquiry into the Effects of Public Punishments Upon Criminals and Upon Society”. Rush had this to say of the process of public shaming:
“Ignominy is universally acknowledged to be a worse punishment than death... It would seem strange that ignominy should ever have been adopted as a milder punishment than death, did we not know that the human mind seldom arrives at truth up on any subject till it has first reached the extremity of error.”
Shame has always been a weapon, and those who seek power have always used it against their enemies, either to gain more themselves, or to hold what little they have. Likewise, it seems clear that there are those who exist in today’s modern political left who, despite decrying the rise of fascists and Neo-Nazis, are happy to engage in the most-often quoted (and usually mis-quoted) actions of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, known famously for saying:
“The cleverest trick used in propaganda against Germany during the war was to accuse Germany of what our enemies themselves were doing.”
This clever act of deflection belies the truth of those who signal for virtue, even as they attempt to use their authority to silence those they disagree with, while spewing vile racism of their own. Indeed, Authoritarianism seems to breed racism, and predicts for it as well as any other factor, regardless of political alignment. This sort of selfish aggrandizement has baked itself into our culture, spreading constantly through identity politics, and can be tracked in the rise of political extremism not solely because of those on the far-right, but because those on the left have embraced racism wholeheartedly, and apply a racist double standard in order to function.
The truth is, when examining the racist ideas of the extreme authoritarian left and the extreme authoritarian right, there is little difference. Both believe the Jews and Whites to be superior in social position. The far left merely believe that this is socially constructed, whereas the far right believe that this position is genetically determined. The left wants this to change forcefully, and the right wants to end those who are a threat to their racial group specifically. In America, it is clearest however, that both groups have a burning loathing for the Jew. Radical leftists hate Jews for their financial success, and those on the far-right hate the Jewish for what they perceive as genetic inferiority (despite Jews having outperformed whites in almost every way on a meritocratic basis, which naturally destroys their entire argument).
Neither can allow themselves to believe that it is their own fault for not being better, trying harder, or doing more, that they are in the position they are in, and thus, they seek to blame those who have risen to the top. This identitarian, group-think mentality is the very sort of thing driving people to the extremes. As moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt best put it:
“It’s as though some people have a button on their foreheads, and when the button is pushed, they suddenly become intensely focused on defending their in-group … But when they perceive no such threat, their behavior is not unusually intolerant. So the key is to understand what pushes that button.”
The key to defeating Nazis is not stirring up racial divides. It’s not hating people of different ethnic groups because some in that group have more than you do. It’s not harping over jokes from edgy man-children who you don’t like and trying to silence them. It’s interrogating the beliefs of people who think racial superiority is a valid worldview to embrace politically (Spoiler alert: it’s not) and reminding people that we are all individuals who are stuck navigating our lives on this blue mote of cosmic dust together.
Threatening others for what race or sexuality they possess does not help anyone. Holding courts of public opinion over jokes and statements does not benefit society. It is cruel and unusual punishment that we tried to do away with two centuries ago. Accusing others of things they are not guilty of, with stretching statements for your own benefit is a recipe for disaster, and the only way out of this modern day mess we find ourselves in is not to embrace the extremes, but to embrace each other, and realize that we are not perfect, any of us. Every human being has flaws and no one ought to be held to impossible standards. Of course, I do not believe that there should not ever be any punishment, but we should be better about how we navigate this new world we find ourselves in, and try to be kinder about the outrage we impose upon others. Hating groups of people for things they cannot help will not heal the divides we face. It will only result in them growing far worse.