Inside the White Supremist Movement

I don’t usually listen to podcasts. When I’m working at my computer, I prefer tomb-like quiet. My commute is one flight of stairs. And when I run, I listen to an embarrassing mix of country, rap, and Beyoncé.

But this morning I couldn’t run, because all my running bras were in the wash. So, I walked two miles instead. For some reason, power walks require podcasts, not an embarrassing mix of country, rap, and Beyoncé. I pulled up The New York Times’ podcast, The Daily (Tuesday, August 22) on Spotify.

Michael Barbaro interviewed Derek Black, a former white nationalist whose father was the former grandmaster of the KKK. Black grew up with those people. His father also ran one of the big white supremacist websites. Black started up his own blog for white supremacist kids at age 12.

In the podcast, he describes the ideas that are at the root of the movement. For example, he says that they don’t just hate black people. Anti-Semitism is a big part of their ideology, as we saw on display at Charlotteville. The members wouldn’t describe themselves as a hate group. They just think that the world would be better, if different people lived in their own zones. They oppose globalism. Lots more in the podcast.

And then he went to college. And his views changed. His views didn’t change because professors were indoctrinating him or yelling at him. No, his views changed because he became good friends with an observant Jew, who even knowing about Black’s political views, invited him every week to Shabbat services at his house. There, around the table, he talked politics and social ideas with the other guests. They slowly, over the course of the year and during many conversations, convinced Black that he was wrong about his ideas. They brought information and studies to show him that countered the arguments that he had grown up believing.


Okay, rant over.

Black walked away from the white supremacists. His family barely speaks to him anymore. And the pain of the rejection was palpable on the podcast.

He talked about the content of Trump’s speeches and pointed out lines — lines that were meaningless to me — that echoed and supported white supremacist messages. White supremacists, he said, were a small fringe movement, but some of their ideas have been absorbed by Republicans.

Why is this Black guy not a regular on CNN? He knows more about the movement than any of the other pundits that their show. I learned more from this podcast than I did from hours and hours of CNN viewing this week.

What If

What if the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were actually a very, very small group of losers who couldn’t get a girl friends or proper jobs, as discussed by Kevin D. Williamson in the National Review? What if they grazed IQ’s of 90?

What if our country had almost no neo-Nazis other than those few creeps who descended on Charlottesville?

What if the commentators on CNN and FOX and social media are making this into something bigger than it is, because they are paid to create controversy. Without controversy, they don’t have a job. With controversy, they get speaking gigs, tv appearances, and book deals. What if that was true?

What if the actions of the Moron-in-Chief added fuel to the conflict, which might have gone away on its own?

What if this controversy caused people to react emotionally? And what if those emotions led to political actions that could have benefitted from deliberation among elected representatives?

What if this conflict and emotional decisions resulted in symbolic action, which took the place of larger policy reforms that could actually help people?

Just asking.

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Peter Beinart does a good job explaining antifa. He says that while antifa activists use troubling tactics, they aren’t anywhere as noxious as Neo-nazis.

I’m not cool with the harassment of parents of neo-Nazis who have been doxxed.

Should college students stay away from white supremacist rallies and not counter demonstrate? Does this give the Nazi’s more power? There a rally going on in town tonight. Since neo-Nazis aren’t a huge problem in this area, I’m not sure that we’ll attend. I have a big problem with protests that become Instagram moments.

Interesting article by the ACLU defending the free speech and assembly of horrible groups.


Doubling Down

Yesterday, Trump gave a defensive and defiant press conference, where he doubled down on his previous statements about Charlottesville. He said that not everybody at the rally was a Nazi. There were equally evil people there who attacked the protesters. The protesters had a permit. And he questioned whether or not we were going to start taking down George Washington and Thomas Jefferson statues next.

A lot of pundits said that Trump made a major misstep. He should have simply said that Nazi’s were evil and moved on to talk about his infrastructure plans.

I’m not entirely sure that it was a misstep. I think Trump knows his base a lot better than we do. They want to honor Thomas Jefferson. They were unsettled by the Black Lives Matter movement and the attacks on police. They fear the restrictions on freedom of speech.

They are also dealing with major disruptions in their communities. That’s why Trump also talks a lot about the opioid crisis. I saw a whole lotta white junkies in Asheville last week. I saw horrific numbers of twenty years olds passed out on the sidewalk and smoking cigarettes outside methadone clinics. I haven’t seen scenes like that since New York City in the 1980s. The local news featured the mayor of Nashville who talked about losing her son to drugs.

Trump is purposefully bringing it all together. He doesn’t need John McCain or Mitch McConnell. He’s building his own party. And a scary one it is.

Thoughts on Charlottesville

I just returned from a long drive to the South. In twelve days, we were in NJ, DE, MD, VA, NC, VA, WV, and PA. Needless to say it was too much driving, and we have vowed that the next vacation will involve staying in one place for the entire time.

We were driving through VA when the problems in Charlottesville broke out. I momentarily considered a detour to Charlottesville to get a story, but I had two very tired kids in the backseat. They just wanted to get home. I feared them more than I feared the skinheads, so we stayed on course back to home.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t really understand the South. The first time that we visited my in-laws in North Carolina, we toured Fort Macon.  When the guide started talking about the War of Northern Aggression, I whispered to Steve, “what is he talking about?” I had never heard of this term for the Civil War.

But what I do understand is compromise, because that has been the way that the North has dealt with the South since the Revolution. For good or for ill, the country has turned a blind eye to evil practices in order to keep the nation together. When compromise hasn’t worked, there’s been conflict, riots, and war, of course, but then we very quickly return to compromise.

The compromise that we’ve had since 1960’s is that as long as African-Americans can vote and are not overtly discriminated against in terms of education and employment, then we will allow Southerners to maintain certain myths about their past – the whole tragic nobility of the South. We would allow them to honor their ancestors. We would allow them to pretend that slavery casts no shadow on today.

Well, when we uproot statues in their parks, when we punch holes in their myths and traditions, when we point out that grand-daddy was kind of an asshole, then that compromise unravels. There’s no question that the Nazi’s that marched through Charlottesville were a mentally unwell minority. However, there are a number of people down there who have been unhappy about the unraveling compromise. They might not wear swastikas, but they voted for Trump.

Honestly, I am not quite sure of what to do about this situation. Clearly, we can no longer have statues of Robert E. Lee in public parks, but how can you tell a group of people that their past and their ancestors are shit, and then expect that they will vote for our candidates and support our platform?

One way to have Southerners walk away from their culture is to heavily invest in modernity. We stopped in Raleigh on our long drive across North Carolina. Steve’s old college roommate lives there with his adorable wife. They are just about the nicest people that I’ve ever met. And like all super happy people, they started up an ice-cream store. Their business is booming like just about the rest of the town. Raleigh is a mix of Northerners who have come down to the new banking centers, university eggheads and students, and employees in all the new science and tech businesses. They have the largest, newest, shiniest high schools that I’ve ever seen.

Maybe by creating a better future in those states — more places like Raleigh — the South will more easily walk away from the past.

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I am very sad about Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. If those crazy kids can’t make it work in Hollywood, who can?

My twittterfeed has been yellling about that Google guy all day today. Some are saying that this move gave Trump a little more steam. Others are saying ‘who cares.” 

It’s raining at the beach today so we went to the movie theater. Saw Superman 2 for a second time. It’s a seriously excellent movie with a Ramones soundtrack. Peter Parker wears all sorts of geeky t-shirts that we’re buying for Ian. 

We visited Tryon’s Palace at New Bern yesterday, which is interesting to anybody who slogged through the later books in the Outlander books.  Tomorrow, we’ll have lunch with a friend in Raleigh on the way to Asheville. Bluegrass music every evening!