Trump’s Tergiversations on Charlottesville and Their Significance

In the immediate aftermath of last weekend’s rioting and death in Charlottesville, VA, Pres. Donald Trump stated: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

This is about the best statement on the matter we could have hoped for from the President of the United States. In judging it, we should bear in mind his limited knowledge at that time about what had actually transpired in Charlottesville, as well as his limited knowledge of the case to be made for pro-White advocacy. The President seems to have sound instincts. He understands that as President it is his duty to condemn civil violence and lawlessness whoever commits it and however it may be motivated, and that is what he tried to do.

Predictably, a hurricane of abuse came down upon his head, perhaps best typified by John Oliver’s criticism that “it doesn’t get any easier than disavowing Nazis.” Only a Nazi, after all, could object to the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Two days later, under intense pressure, the President made a second statement which checked off all Cultural Marxism’s mandatory boxes, denouncing racism, the KKK, David Duke, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and people who hate cute little puppydogs. This caused consternation on our side, where some felt Trump had betrayed his supporters (see, e.g., Hunter Wallace’s remarks here). Yet it also met with little to no positive response from the anti-White establishment either: the headlines read not “Trump Denounces Racism,” but “Trump Waits Three Days to Denounce Racism.”

The President may have learned something from this experience, subsequently tweeting:

Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied…truly bad people!

The moral of the story, of course, is that it is foolish to alienate one’s friends in a futile attempt to curry favor with one’s enemies. Republicans are almost uniformly incapable of learning this simple lesson, but Trump just might do so—if he carefully bears this recent experience in mind. As I write, he is already reported to be reiterating the substance of his initial remarks at a press conference.

Listening to Trump’s second Charlottesville statement, I felt the way the average Russian must have felt listening to denunciations of “capitalism” in the Soviet Union c. 1975. It is a very specific type of oral performance peculiar to ideological regimes.

Like the Soviet Union of yore, contemporary America is in the grip of an ideology, a system of ideas not derived from any empirical study of the world around us, but which provides an account of the world, establishes an aim to be pursued and rules for pursuing it, and (most importantly) legitimates the power of some men over others. Another essential element of any ideology, as of any religion, is its demonology—an account of the enemy whom adherents must forever struggle against. Unlike personal enmities which arise through concrete social interaction, ideological enmities are established a priori by the ideology itself. In the ruling ideology of the Soviet Union, e.g., enemies included the bourgeoisie, revisionists, kulaks, and one especially nondescript class referred to simply as “enemies of the people.” In the ideology which prevails in present day America, the ideological enemies are the abstract groups denounced in Trump’s second Charlottesville remarks: racists, supremacists, haters and bigots, Nazis and the KKK. Ritual denunciation of designated enemies is an essential aspect of ideological rule, and leaders of an ideological regime cannot be considered legitimate without periodically making them. In the Soviet Union, communist politicians learned to spit out denunciations of communism’s demons in their sleep. For similar reasons, I do not share Hunter Wallace’s sense of betrayal at Trump’s second speech.

There is no objective or generally agreed-upon way of determining whether an actual person is a member of an ideologically designated category of enemies. Thus, e.g., if you had the misfortune of being designated an “enemy of the people” in the Soviet Union, you had no way to defend yourself. If you were merely accused of murder, the situation was not so desperate: everyone knows that a murderer is someone who has committed premeditated homicide, so a defense against the charge must try to demonstrate that one did not or could not have committed a particular act of homicide, or only did so without premeditation (manslaughter). But what action defines one as an “enemy of the people?”

Essentially the same situation prevails under American anti-racist ideology. There is no agreed-upon definition of racist, supremacist, bigot or Nazi. One’s membership in such supposed groups is not determined by any actions of one’s own, but arbitrarily imputed by ideological zealots, and thus no defense is possible. How could anyone prove he does not harbor “hate” in the privacy of his own mind?

Sometimes such terms apply with some clarity to a tiny core group, and ever-less-clearly to a series of concentric classes radiating outward. Thus, e.g., the most obvious candidates for being identified as “Nazis” are the LARPers of the National Socialist Movement and similar small organizations who parade about American streets with Swastika flags, etc. Even here, doubts are possible; I suspect such persons have less in common with German National Socialists of the 1930s than with Elvis impersonators and other “cosplay” fantasists (the uninitiated may cf. here). But there are not nearly enough such people to satisfy the vindictiveness of “anti-racists.”

So the next circle includes all White advocates: the sorts of people who recently tried to gather to protect the Lee statue in Charlottesville. After them come the class of Trump supporters. Then, perhaps, the class of all White people, or all Republicans, or everyone uninvolved in anti-racist activism. Adherents of anti-racist ideology compete for status by imputing Nazihood to ever-larger classes of persons. Eventually they end up accusing one another: a small and bittersweet consolation for their previous victims.

The French have a wonderful expression for this process: dérapage semantique, or “semantic skidding.” One loses control over what one’s own words refer to.

Public imputations of being an ideological enemy are a form of political combat, yet cannot be effective apart from the naïveté of the great mass of people as to what is really going on. Not being driven by ideology to stretch words to their breaking point, the man on the street is happy to join the zealots in denouncing racists, secure in the assumption that no one could ever include him in that class. But in the minds of true believers, he was devoured by that great, ever-expanding conceptual blob long ago: Ask not for whom the cry of “racism” tolls—it tolls for thee!

The victims of racism accusations usually respond with an acknowledgement that yes, of course, racism is real and must be combated; it’s just that a mistake has been made in their particular case. Does this not perhaps concede too much to our enemies? How many people have you actually encountered who strike you as being consumed with an irrational hatred people who do not look like themselves? “Racism” may be no more than a way of explaining the failure of leftists to realize their utopia of universal love.

Here again, there is a Soviet analogy. Having adopted a completely irrational form of economic production, the communist authorities encountered frequent disappointments: collapsing structures, manufactured goods unable to perform the functions for which they were intended, or failures to meet production quotas. Since the Soviet Union was presumed to possess the finest economic system in the world, such failures had to be accounted for without reference to socialism. So they were blamed on the action of “wreckers,” a class of diabolically elusive saboteurs. Countless innocent men were sent to their deaths or Siberian labor camps after being identified as “wreckers,” made into scapegoats for the failures of an unrealistic ideology.

Might there not also have been a few “real” wreckers? Perhaps: but it hardly matters. What matters is the essentially mythical nature of the concept, the need which gave rise to it, the ideological function it fulfilled—and the terrible harm and injustice which followed from it. I imagine the situation is similar with “racists.” Perhaps there really are a few people out there seething with fury at others because of “the color of their skin.” But it hardly matters. The important point is the fundamentally mythical nature of the concept, and the real injustice done to those it makes into scapegoats. White activism might even be defined as the overt public rejection of our assigned status as scapegoats for the failures of the fever-dream of “anti-racism.”

We’ll know we have won when we have a president who understands this—and is free to say so.

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