Category Archives: ethics

Two riffs on homophobia

(1) “Enlightened homophobia” and straight privilege

Everyone has heard some version of, “I don’t mind gays so long as they don’t bother me.” This is somewhat like saying, “I don’t mind grocery clerks so long as they don’t throw canned goods at me when I enter the store.” Even if the statement were acceptable on its own, the fact that one would bother making it at all calls even his qualified acceptance of grocery workers into question. The fact that he isn’t saying it about other groups of workers assumes some special propensity on the part of these groups to misbehave.

What these vaguely enlightened types mean by “gays bothering them” is most often: approaching them romantically, making out in front of their children, etc. Once we plug in this variable, the comparison to grocery store workers is less apt. Of course we blame grocery workers for hurling stock at patrons; but on what grounds do we blame, say, gay men for approaching straight men? (I target straight men here because they are the demographic from which the argument tend to emerge.) Why must gay men bear the burden of making absolutely 100% sure in advance that whomever they are approaching is receptive to the approach? It is quite possible that the target of a cold straight approach could be a lesbian; yet straight men hold themselves to no such standard. (And holding different social groups to different standards is, in a word, discrimination.)

And why limit mandatory advance knowledge to knowledge of sexual orientation? When I equated matching orientation with “receptivity,” this was a pretty cavalier simplifying device. Any number of straight women are unreceptive to any number of straight men, too; and sexual orientation is just one of many factors that would make them so. Men concerned to “not bother” an unreceptive woman would have to deal with this entire catalogue. The whole enterprise of flirtation would be fatally hampered by an attempt to obtain all the requisite information beforehand. A clinical demographic survey is quite the turn-off for an opener.

Nor would it be enough; receptivity to a romantic approach is at least in part determined by how the approach itself goes, and thus logically cannot be determined in advance no matter what “facts” we know about the parties. (My wife and I are damned compatible, but we’d never have gotten off the ground if on our first meeting I’d shat my pants and addressed her only through a ventriloquist’s dummy.) We simply cannot know if we are open until we see a bit more of what we are opening ourselves to.

(2) The “incomprehensibility argument” against homosexuality

Years ago, I thought I had heard a certain “argument” against homosexuality. It was so absurd that in time, I figured this was misremembering. But sure enough, I heard it again a few times lately. This prompted some light internet research which yielded many more references (including this recent invocation by Mike Huckabee). I talked to some of my coworkers about gay marriage and it was the first thing two of them said about it.

One might call this the “incomprehensibility” argument—insofar as it can be called an argument at all. It consists entirely in the homophobe’s sheer inability to understand why, for instance, a man would want to be with another man. (I hear this argument from both sexes, but mostly of gay men.) It is not entirely clear what this even means. This can’t be like not “understanding” a math problem or a foreign language. It is some kind of failure to “project,” to imagine or picture oneself in the position of having this attraction—and of course the conclusion that the attraction must then be wrong.

So much can be said here. Is the homophobe saying, because he can’t imagine these feelings, he doubts that gay men actually have them for one another? Surely not. But then, if it is true that someone can “imagine” this, the argument wouldn’t apply to those persons’ behavior, right? Homosexuality wouldn’t be wrong for them. Surely it is not the case that, if not everyone is gay, then no one can be. The strongest mandate the logic permits is: Don’t be gay if you can’t imagine what it is like. (And I imagine you wouldnt if you cant.)

By the same token, the homophobe can’t “understand” so many other things—why his friends enjoy cigarettes, or Indian food, and soforth. There are even straight sexual acts, no less—some underworld kink, if nothing else—which he doesn’t “get.” This is, I think, almost exactly what it means to have different interests; and everyone’s interests differ at least somewhat from everyone else’s. In such cases, we don’t work up our lack of imaginative projection into a norm against these activities. Another’s interests could be wrong, yes, but we demand other kinds of evidence to make the case. Nobody says, “I don’t get 70’s music, so it is immoral.” And nobody would listen if they did.

Conversely, many homosexuals will fail to “get” the homophobe’s attraction to women. They can’t imagine themselves wanting that. Should it not follow that the homophobe’s orientation is also wrong? For him to maintain that his own lack of understanding “counts” here, and the homosexuals’ does not, simply begs the question: His argument is supposed to show that homosexuality is spurious; that same argument cannot simply assume that conclusion when it gets in trouble.

Finally—and I consider this the kicker—even the most rabid gay-basher already accepts sexual ‘orientations’ he doesn’t “understand”: He is no more able to “picture” his wife’s or lover’s attraction for men, or for him in particular. He (we’ll assume) is not turned on to look at himself in the mirror, or at other men. But this inability does not lead him to doubt the reality nor the moral legitimacy of his lover’s attraction to him, or to males. He cannot have it both ways; if the “incomprehensibility argument” is rational, then, his lover’s behavior is not.

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Reflections on the National Socialist “Stand” in Knoxville

[Last summer, the National Socialist Movement, a white power group, held an anti-immigration rally in my current home of Knoxville, TN. This is an albeit dated review of that action and our counter-protest.]

Exempting an ultraleft “anarchisty” youth, I have always regarded white power counter-protests with ambivalence. I haven’t been confident that they “do” anything. Most actions that look like this are intended to raise awareness among the non-activist public about issue-x, with a longer term view to movement-building. But everyone is already opposed to overt racism. Like scientific theories, you want your actions to be fecund, to set up momentum for future actions; but this campaign is so immediate and defensive, it isn’t clear where it “goes” after its all over. You either run these guys out of town, or drown them out—and then what?

But with a Nazi group marching a stone’s throw from my home (even closer to where I work), I committed to go. I was genuinely open to some aggro shit. I was ready to go all antifa left-wing futbol hooly on some asses. This reflected both a tactical preference (more on that below) as well as, to be frank, less noble hypermasculinist motivations. I had no reason to expect there would be room for scrapping, though, and there wasn’t. (I was on probation anyway.)

The group that held the rally is the National Socialist Movement (NSM). My clandestine forays onto various white power boards give me the impression that NSM is the hate group most likely to be (a) praised in superlative terms, as well as (b) mocked and scorned, by their racist peers. They earn respect by maintaining high member rolls and “putting in a lot of work,” but the “realist” David Duke-ish contingent see a credibility threat in their cheesy faux-military maneuvers, Nazi suits, ranks and such.

Puh lease.

The rally promised to be a fairly big deal as these things go. NSM called their Knoxville visit “The Stand in the South”—not a stand, nor one stop on a serial stand, but “The Stand.” This follows two weeks of white power events in 2007 where other groups tried to get the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom prosecuted as a black-on-white hate crime. There is some evidence these groups see Knoxville as a relatively friendly place for their kind of work and want to turn it into some kind of regular gig. Many antis (as in, anti-racists) I talked to with were motivated to counter-protest because they got the same impression.

I attended with nine middle-TN comrades (some in the little-c friend sense, some in the big-C socialist-ally sense). I had met all but one only recently via the MTRF campaign (defending the Murfreesboro mosque plan from Islamophobic Tea Party types).

I mentioned being ambivalent. Ambivalence is a mind-state; in terms of action, I went all out. I tore an old t-shirt (red, consequently) to make a “protest rag” (this is for anonymity to cops and to racists, and to be able to walk, not run, if the gas came.) I haven’t worn one of these for years. It is arguably cheesy. But it felt good. I felt strong, and socialist as fuck.

Our group arrived in downtown Knoxville’s Market Square around 1:30. I had a vague plan to meet a local activist, Richard Butler, to whom I’d only spoken by phone. (I know him better now.) He is from the second of two ARA groups in town, which he started on the premise that the original had become too exclusive in an effort to shed the network’s “punky” image. I think he also complained that they prefer the hippy-dippy dancing stuff to any kind of direct action. (Needless to say, this Richard Butler should never be confused with the like-named founder of the Aryan Nations.) Richard B. was there but was still waiting for his people. He and lots of others were saying, with some desperation of tone, that the NSM was “already at the courthouse” (the site of their rally). This was 1.5 hours before they were scheduled to march there from the Square. I concluded they had marched early, ostensibly to avoid close contact with angry antis. (Granted, they would’ve had a police escort, but this is more porous than the barricade that would be waiting for them at the rally.) This was a mistake; they marched around 3:00, as scheduled. I was the victim of honest misinformation. (I found this out only after bombing the white power sites with charges of “chickenshit.” But fuck it.)

So we left Richard to wait for his people, arriving at the courthouse area around 2:00. The “free speech zone” was set up in a section of Gay Street right across from the courthouse. Barricades ran the length of this street and turned the corner onto a section of Gay Street (to the left of the FSZ, facing the courthouse), where the NSM would march in from to get to the courthouse lawn. (At one point, I would think to heckle NSM for being homophobes “parading” down “Gay Street.”) We were advised by an unofficial anti spokesperson that the cops guarding the entrance to the FSZ would not permit water bottles to pass. (It was a pretty hot day.) There was some speculation that the cops were trying to “dry out” both sides; luckily, a light rain would provide some relief in time. Cops were checking bags and frisking everyone going into the FSZ, so we left our bottles with the Food not Bombs people, who promised to watch all contraband until 4:00 PM. (I also had mace, which I hid in a bush.) I later heard people swear the cops permitted mace, tazers and other weapons (not guns) if you declared them, but I can’t verify that.

* * *

We spent maybe an hour in the Zone waiting for the NSM guys to turn onto Main Street. Eric Bell, part of our contingent, is a documentary filmmaker—not aligned with any political group—doing a piece on the ‘Boro mosque protest. He took this time to film our opinions on the NSM thing. Apparently, NSM were frisked a second time at the Gay-Main corner, just out of sight, which (if not other factors) made them late for the protest. (This also inspired another jeer: “Late for your own rally? I thought you sons of bitches made the trains run on time.”)

I have to mention the huge law enforcement presence. I am piss with estimating numbers but cops were simply everywhere. Surely there were a couple to few hundred to be seen from the FSZ. Some were inside the Zone, and a sniper set up in the balcony above us. A few were on the courthouse lawn with the Nazis. There were various armored vehicles, paddywagons, helicopters, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. about at any time. FBI, THP, KPD, and SWAT (or whatever we call them here) were represented. One assumes there were undercover cops too. A line of riot cops lined the street side of each Gay Street barricade, one line facing us and another facing the NSM.

As with the water ban, it is hard to see a benign rationale in this degree of force. Nor do I suspect it is a product of mismanagement, a “waste.” Whatever else it is, it is an exercise, a test of the police infrastructure. And you can bet it’ll be used on us eventually; this protest was the only time any of us activist-types could recall having been on the other side of the batons. (Funny: The city made the NSM wear all black for identification, and they have a penchant for military regalia to boot (which is often black anyhow). A couple of times, new contingents of riot cops marched into view and it was hard to tell right away that they weren’t NSM.)

* * *

Here’s an aside: Speaking of bombarding the white power sites, a little more than half the youtube footage of this event was put up by NSM or their sympathizers. Of course, I lustily taunted them in the comments about needing police escorts. Here’s a snippet:

1964Smoky responds:
@amerikanbeat
The police were there to protect you homos from yourselves. Several of the NSM marchers are ex-military and could have easily taken all of you on.

I respond:
@1964Smoky
You should tell the cops that. That would contradict every public statement they have made re. this and the previous rally. As you well know, the NSM are under discipline not to attack the antis; the police know this also and given the history of previous rallies, they have no reason to expect NSM to act out. “The Commander” is simply flexing nuts (as are you) when he says otherwise.

Also, how many NSM members are “ex-military”? More than 10% of the antis?—because that’s the proportion of ex-mil in society at large. Surely you aren’t claiming that NSM could beat 50 ex-military among the antis (10% of 500), which surely neutralizes their own “ex-mil advantage,” plus all the rest of the hundreds of antis? I assume you’re joking here.

Talking shit, or the ethics of such

Around 3:00 the NSM folks began to appear, crossing Gay Street onto the courtyard. They trickled in rather than marched or paraded or anything. This may have been, again, because they were being fed through patdowns just out of view. This entrance point was the closest we ever got to them, at least those of us bunched on the left side of the FSZ; plus, there was only ever one or two NSM walking past at any one time. This made it possible to call specific racists out, get them to focus on you in particular, and have a kind of direct personal exchange with them. Between comrade J. Westbrooks and myself, we talked more shit than a pro wrestler. Of course, this continued when the rally cranked up, but the noise level and distance between us was never as accommodating again.

The shit-talking in general brought up issues of its own (in no particular order):

(1) There is a preponderance of obese Nazis both in general and in the NSM. In fact, I’ve read a number of the NSM’s white power critics refer to them as a bunch of “fat slobs.” I yelled to a few of them that “Hitler would have thrown your fat ass in the oven, too,” or “Hitler called obesity a defect,” etc. (I don’t actually know if any of that is true; but neither do the NSMs.) One huge guy would lift up his shirt and pat his big belly at me whenever I said this, as if to revel in the feature he thought I was mocking. This was a pretty dopey response, as I wasn’t calling him fat, but inconsistent.

[For the record, I love my heavier brothers and sisters. Indeed (though this will sound worse to some) I’m known as a bit of a chubby chaser. Not that a fetish is the purest proof of “fat acceptance”; but I trust it is incompatible with a view that fat is ridiculous, ugly, etc., and therefore that I meant any such thing by that taunt.]

(2) We (comrade Wesbrooks and I at least) threw a lot of middle fingers and used a ton of profanity. I tried to bait the men into fighting, but this was probably never going to work. (But all it takes is one….) This bled into the personal attacks such as above.

There were those among the antis who opposed this more negative or “hostile” tack. Some were giving out these neon signs that said “LOVE.” On the back, it had a disclaimer that your use of the sign implied consent to use proper decorum, show respect, etc.

The “LOVE” sentiment probably means a couple of things at once. I’m sure it is partly about “loving,” rather than hating, people of color, immigrants, gays, and the rest of the NSM “enemies.” (As in, the NSM should show love rather than hate.) But it is also about us “loving” the NSM themselves rather than hating them. Some people on the microphone (there was prepared material from the organizers, and then open mic time) conveyed this feeling explicitly.

A few thoughts on this:

(a) There is a persistent feeling among anti types that resisting white power and homophobia is fundamentally about “opposing hate.” Well, I “hate” this argument. Surely the hate in and of itself can’t be the problem: It is conceivable (if unlikely) that the NSM could keep all of its noxious policies while dropping just the hate. I mean, you don’t have to hate blacks and latinos to want a nation separate from them (though I’m sure it helps.) There are already plenty of hard-right-wingers who probably don’t hate people of color (Pat Buchanan, maybe?), but this doesn’t stop their policies from harming these groups.

So would we be (more) OK with the NSM if they dropped the “hate”? Would they be any less “protest-worthy” without it? Surely not. But then “hate” is not the main issue here. (Not to mention most of us “good people” hate something, even someone. And we’re OK with that. It is all about just what or whom is being hated.)[1]

(b) I assure you the NSM are unimpressed when a group of “race traitors and mongrels” tell them they are “loved.” This reminds me of when Christians express “love” for more hostile nonbelievers. (You see this from street preachers a lot.) In these contexts, “I love you” sounds obligatory, backhanded and opportunist. Shit, the Bible even says that in being kind to one’s enemy, “you will heap burning coals upon his head.” (“Kill ‘em with kindness” is a secular rendition.)

The point is that you can’t use your own value system to impress an antagonist whose antagonism consists in denying that very system. You’d first have to provide them with a reason to buy into the system. Antis declaring love for the NSM is as effective as quoting the Bible to atheists about the folly of atheism. It can only make us look weak and stupid.

(c) At one point, an older anti chastised us for using personal insults. I politely told the guy I would take it under advisement. (I didn’t mean it but I was trying to be polite. Comrade W. kind of “gave him the business,” though. I ain’t mad at ‘im.)

I have partly addressed this criticism above; being negative per se is simply not the problem. It is not “wrong” in moral terms. (However, it could be impractical. This is entirely a tactical matter.)

But “personal insults” are more than a matter of negativity. There are other issues. On the one hand, there is a falseness in insulting people on the basis of traits that, as all us enlightened types know, aren’t really bad—or at least, that don’t warrant being picked on, i.e., things a person can’t help, or things that picking on won’t help, and things that are moreover irrelevant to the racism we’re really against.

Along these lines, I observed that this kind of protest brings out the arguably worst in a leftist (myself included). Some of the personal stuff was probably innocuous enough: I nicknamed this skinny NSMer “Ichabod Crane” (he definitely got this) and mocked that he wouldn’t fuck back with me on the streets. There was a really dumpy Commander guy with a shittown mustache who warranted, “Time to make the donuts!” after the chef in the old Dunkin Donuts commercials. (Maybe for regional reasons, nobody seemed to get this). In general I tried to impress the NSMers with how dopey and stupid they looked and how I could kick their asses.

Some of the material was less innocuous. I actually heard a gay man call the NSM men “fags.” There were a number of limp-wristed Heil Hitler salutes thrown up as well. The obvious problem with this kind of thing is that it implicates everyone who shares those traits. In mocking legitimate targets on the basis of these “negative” traits, you insult everyone who possesses them. In the end, you are making a homophobic (etc.) statement, whatever else you might be doing on top of that.

Still, the advantages of a “negative” approach are easy to find if you look for them. Socialists are not liberals, but will often use the language of liberalism against the (liberal) state as a way of simply getting things done; it amounts to holding an opponent consistent with its (her/his) own principles. The analogy is remote, but I have some sympathy for fucking (back) with hypermasculine males on and in their own fucked up terms. I couldn’t bring myself to call anyone an overtly homophobic name, but I can imagine “softer” sentiments that call his courage or fighting abilities into question. These features don’t make a damn in the world, but they probably make a damn to him, and this could bear effects. The clearest example of this at the NSM protest was heckling them for being “bad Nazis”—out of shape, shitty formation, late for their own protest, etc. (whereas the “real” Nazis were sharp, on time, etc.) This kind of jeer is intelligible, but nobody takes it to mean one advocates being a proper Nazi. Again, the charge is one of inconsistency.

(I don’t really have any conclusions here. Just articulating the terms of the question. I’m open.)

(d) The other thing everyone did was to mock the NSM about not being able to hear anything their speakers said. We would place a hands to the ear with a screwed up face, saying “What?? I can’t hear you,” pointing in the air to request a volume increase. (I assumed it was a shitty P.A., though the white power guys assure me our side sounded like garble to them as well. One also claimed that the cops allowed our side to exceed the specified decibel level, while the NSM either played nice or was regulated.)

“Arationality” (A kind of conclusion)

This leads me to a main point. If this kind of action “does” anything, I think the drowning out is a key objective. First, I can’t imagine anyone driving 10 hours, and speaking for 2, being absolutely indifferent to whether the message-proper gets out to the public. The white power folks I read afterward seem genuinely disappointed about getting shut down. So maybe this keeps them from coming too often. For whatever reason, R.B. surmises that, when they don’t get a huge response, they come back to the same city in about six months. (They were met in force here in 2007 and didn’t return for three years.)

There is also the issue of recruitment. The NSM is fond of saying, “Where the NSM goes, the NSM grows.” I think this could be true, possibly truer now than in many years. As comrade Jase reminded me, white hate groups have grown 5-fold since Obama’s presidency. The recruitment “pool” seems to be growing apace; the NSM Commander himself said at the rally that the Tea Party Movement was “a step in the right direction.” (They were also invited to come and protest with them.) And I don’t think the actual content coming across the P.A. necessarily has that much to do with recruitment success. The mere fact that a racist group shows up, bravely taking the shit that is given to them (and it isn’t always just verbal), probably inspires and emboldens people already informally sympathetic to white supremacist ideas. They will visit the website even if they can’t get to the group then and there.

But content aside, the drowning out and the strong, passionate opposition in general, can make these groups appear ridiculous. At one point, J. got on the mic and began reciting in Hebrew. These clowns really got pissed at this! It was like Superman responding to kryptonite, almost comical. This is just a dramatic example of how an opposition can convey a sense to potential recruits that these ideas are just beyond the pale, beyond any serious consideration. And it makes them look like they take themselves way too seriously.

This is why I don’t oppose personal attacks on these people per se. There is a distinct ‘arationality’ to this whole enterprise even before we get to content. This is manifest in the above scenario; if stiff opposition conveys a sense that racist ideas are ridiculous, it is in the way that dancing cartoon elves “convey” to consumers that chewing brand-x gum will be fun. It accomplishes the right goal for all the wrong reasons—but accomplishes it no less. This reinforces the completely wrong approach to decision-making, but the cost in a given case might be worth it.

Nobody seriously thinks we can dialogue with white power groups; at least, if we can, we aren’t trying to do it at a counter-protest. On the one hand, this erodes much of the grounds for banning “personal” attacks. The form/content dichotomy is a false one here: If shouting the NSM down isn’t “personal,” it remains a whole bunch of other stuff just as unconducive to “serious” engagement. (And really, if you were shouted down at a public meeting, could you not take this “personally,” even if the content avoided “personal insults” about your appearance, etc.?) The only possible object of setting up a P.A. on the clear other side of the street is to harass and harangue them as much as possible—before you even get to content. Remaining “respectful” ceases to be an option once the shouting down begins. You can not protest, but pretending the protest gains anything by being “respectful” is just bad faith.

To repeat, this might not apply with other kinds of actions. The counter-protest of the Murfreesboro anti-mosque group is about winning the “hearts and minds” of the broader non-activist, non-left community. One approaches this with a certain decorum. Let them look like the unhinged bigots. But “everyone” already hates the Nazis. Few people are (as) put off by yelling, etc. at them. (They killed 6 million Jews, for God’s sake.)

I also think these considerations lead logically to some kind of violence. I think chucking rocks and other debris at the members, leaping the barricades en masse and rumbling with them, will run them out of town more assuredly and keep them away for a longer time. That is, all of the things the protest is designed to do (whether or not the participants are consistent in their self-appraisals of what they are doing), it will do better with physical violence. It might cause the city to deny the next white power permit also. I don’t think it will alienate the broader public, and I think the same “paling” psychological effect on potential recruits is only enhanced. The only obstacles are moral objections, e.g., pacifism, and of course fear of being arrested.

* * *

Finally, I can think of some other reasons to protest white power groups. First, there are all the “generic protest goods”: You can see how cops work, as next time, they’ll be protecting someone else from. Any protest also fosters solidarity and networking among comrades.

Second, for socialists specifically, it provides a chance to point out the connection of anti-racist ideas to socialism (conversely, racist ideas to capitalism). Racism is one of those cleavages within the working class that impedes collective action. This has been actively exploited by individual capitalists and is also “selected for” by the system in functionalist terms. There is also the fact that whites and blacks tend to earn higher wages to the extent that the wage-gap between them is smaller. And there are many such facts.

Notes

[1] On the other hand, hate can be positively useful. It can aid in opposition campaigns of all stripes (protest, war), provide inspiration, drive, etc.

What would it mean to “preserve the white race”?

[Parts I and II here. Part III later.]

This past weekend the white power people came to town. This has prompted me to get a handle on what makes these assholes tick.

Part I

“White power” has any number of meanings, not all of them compatible. There is white supremacy, white nationalism/separatism, “mere” white pride, and so forth. The most basic corollary can be termed “white preservation” (WP). The brief 14 Words manifesto (probably the one thing every white power group agrees on) begins, “We must secure the existence of our people….” In a debate with Tim Wise, WP advocate Jared Taylor expresses the fear that “…whites, who are perhaps 7% of the population of the world now, will disappear in a flood of miscegenation; is that what you would like to see happen?”

WP means ensuring the conditions for whites to reproduce into the future. It is the tenet upon which all the others depend; if it fails, so do the rest. (No whites, no “white-anything.”) This makes it a natural starting point for examining white power “theory.”

Who is it being preserved for?

It is obvious that white preservationists (WPs) view WP not as a nice thing to have happen, but a mandate. That is, the numerical decrease in the white population (real or perceived, present or pending, by human or natural causes) is something “happening to them,” a bad circumstance that warrants self-defense.

The difficulty rests in trying to locate a victim in this process. Just who is it happening (or would it happen) to? Suppose that multiculturalism, immigration, and miscegenation actually brought about the “extinction” of the white race. Just who is harmed by this? The fear is not that whites are directly endangered, being “killed off.” (If anyone claims this, they’re crazy.) So whites’ “preserving themselves” cannot mean “saving we particular here-now individuals from death.” It could only mean “ensuring future white generations.” Fine, but in what sense is this a self-defense?—as “the existence of our people” would suggest. How would ensuring future whites serve the self-interests of present-day whites? To say “both groups are white” only begs the question; the whole issue is why the fact that they are both white makes them “ourselves.”

The seduction of grammar

WPs speak in terms of a “loss” that they themselves “suffer.” “Whiteness” is a quantity they have, and must hold onto. The whites of today must preserve their whiteness. Indeed, they could speak no other way; a self-defensive imperative always takes this form. This way of speaking is inspired, or reinforced, by the formal structures of language: Grammatically, “whiteness,” like “being married,” is a transient property, one which can be lost and gained by the self-same underlying subject. But WPs seem to have forgotten that it isn’t transient in real life; unlike marriage, if you ever had “whiteness,” you still do, and vice-versa.

Thus, to say that whites have failed to preserve, have “lost their” whiteness must really mean: Some whites died; and later, some non-whites were born. This describes two distinct events, with two corresponding subjects. The first event in no sense “happens to” the second subject. Indeed, if the relevant event is “the extinction of the white race,” it didn’t “happen to” the first group either! (An individual can’t “go extinct”—any more than running out of jellybeans means this particular jellybean ran out.)

Indeed, a numerical decrease is the very sort of thing that “happens to” no one in particular. For whites to suffer a “loss of whiteness” just means that there are no whites left to suffer any kind of loss at all. What “they” have “lost” is precisely their status as a “they.” (And if there is no “they” to be harmed, then, from a self-defensive point of view, there is no harm.)

* * *

In conclusion: The “extinct” whites can hardly be victims of “extinction”; they simply died out naturally, as they would have without any process of “white loss.” Their position is precisely the same either way. The only possible victims are the future survivors of this “tragedy.” But this is a miscegenated future; the survivors are (at best) biracial. The implicit logic of WP would have us view these persons as “potential” or “supposed-to-be” whites who missed out on “their” whiteness. One imagines them sitting and lamenting to themselves: “We” have been robbed of “our” proper racial inheritance. The absurdity is (hopefully) manifest.

I conclude the “self-defense” argument for WP is simply incoherent.

Part II

Arguments from analogy: ”But we preserve so many other things”

At times, WPs set aside the negative consequences of failing to preserve the race (i.e., those “harms” to be “defended against”) in favor of the positive virtues of preservation. One argument is that those features associated with whites—say, “white culture” or Caucasian physical anthropology—are unique and valuable, and thus should, all things being equal, be kept around. (For now, we set aside questions as to whether a “white culture” exists, and is preservable by moral means.)

For example, an alternate 14 Words with wide currency in white power circles demands, “Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.” This aesthetic sentiment is matched by those which exploit the discourse of multiculturalism. These are typically heard at those “cultural celebrations” held by WP groups, e.g. Irish, Scottish, or Southern (US) “heritage events”: “If they (Mexicans, etc.) can celebrate (promote, “preserve”) their culture, why can’t we?”

Notwithstanding the near coextension of ‘those who make these statements’ with ‘racist whites,’ by themselves the statements are not necessarily noxious. That is, to say they often indicate racist beliefs is not to say they are themselves racist (any more than a weather vane is a southerly wind). And the analogy of whites to other groups holds a surface plausibility; every culture has folkways, coping mechanisms and other specialized knowledge borne of a particular social housing, which in principle can inspire, enrich, entertain, or aid anyone.

A more advanced argument from analogy is heard as well: Parsing the words alone, the concept “white preservation” seems to resemble other kinds of morally benign “preservations.” Consider the ecological impulse to “preserve” endangered species. By this I do not mean the desire to preserve as a means to some end “beyond” the species (or beyond biodiversity) itself, e.g. ecosystem balance. Nor do I intend anything having to do with protecting species members from pain and harm per se. Rather, I mean the “moral” impulse to save a biological group for its own worth.)

The idea is that each animal group contributes a unique layer of novelty and interest to the world, and this is (all things being equal) a value to be preserved. For instance, we wish to “save the Great Apes” because apes are beautiful, interesting, and so forth; that is, a world in which apes exist is a more interesting, beautiful, etc. world than one in which they are absent.) In short, if a species is worth saving, why not a race? (This could even rescue the earlier “self-defense” argument: If neither extinct whites nor the miscegenated generations of the future would be harmed by white extinction, maybe it is the whole group of survivors, of all racial complexions, that are harmed in being denied that cultural or aesthetic inheritance associated with whites.)

When it “doesn’t” it doesn’t matter whether it “can’t”

Even if this argument can be defended, it is not clear it can be defended from a white power perspective. The WP project as we know it is not simply concerned to endow a unique value to the world. If it were, we could expect to hear from WPs—in parallel with other “multicultural” affections—that WP will benefit and enrich other racial groups. Indeed, one could expect other racial groups themselves to make these arguments alongside the WPs.

The WPs attribute their exclusion from the multicultural catalogue to anti-white discrimination; but this hardly explains why they welcome and foster the “exclusivity” themselves: Whatever benefit they believe “white culture” has conferred upon the world, this benefaction forms no part of their motivation. They don’t give a damn about how this legacy benefits non-whites. (In fact, they probably resent it.)

The point (here) is not whether this racial exclusivity is wrong or right. The point is that it cannot be deduced from the bare preservationist impulse—any more than an impulse to “save the whales” for their beautiful songs and mating rituals implies that whalewatch trips and aquariums should be limited to white patronage. Such delimitations must be “grafted on” from outside, and their merits independently argued.

I don’t doubt that the disanalogies between WP and ecological-preservationism (EP) reflect something sinister; to the extent the WPs use the “us too” argument, it is disingenuous, a mere tactic, a wedge issue to make palatable some other agenda. For present purposes, though, the disanalogy just means: We cannot take the benign character of EP as support for the benign character of WP—as the white power folks actually conceive it. (More on the “multicultural” comparisons in the concluding Part III, soon to come.)

Too easy: Yet more proof the Murfreesboro mosque protest is about bigotry and not security

If you missed the last few posts (see here and here), those protesting the new mosque/Islamic center in Murfreesboro, TN “officially” say they are merely opposed to the legal process used to vet the plan. However, when you look at their rally signs, and the comments made in the commission meeting, there is nothing but anti-Islam sentiments.

Kevin Fisher, the main guy pushing against the mosque proposal, wrote a shitty letter to the Tennessean outlining his case. Among the very few specific “concerns” he lists, he is upset that “there is [no] ref­er­ence to 9/11 on its his­tory sec­tion of its web­site.” (“It” being the Murfreesboro Islamic Center, the group trying to build the new facility.)

He didn’t elaborate on this point, which is odd, as this could mean a few different things. But I’ll make some educated guesses.

First, the reality is that virtually no church with a history section is going to mention 9/11, nor the great majority of other human events that have ever occurred. For theirs is not “History” but rather “a history”—a selective account tailored for a less-than-general purpose. (I hear Muslims don’t list 9/11 on their medical “histories” either.)

The purpose of the Center website could be anything. Maybe it aims to educate new Muslims on events they may not know about yet. (Surely they’ve heard of 9/11.) Or one of a million other things having nothing to do with 9/11.

However, I am almost certain Fisher is not looking for a “history” of any kind. He is looking for a denunciation of 9/11. He wants the Center to state that they don’t support the terror, didn’t have ties to the bombers, etc. If not this, explicitly, he wants some mention of the event because it would show that the Center is not “avoiding the subject,” ashamed to acknowledge it.

But think about how weird this request is: If the Center is truly innocent of supporting 9/11, why should it have any greater obligation to denounce it than anyone else who is innocent of that act? Again, Fisher doesn’t demand this disclaimer of other websites, church or otherwise; he himself has writings online that don’t mention 9/11. How is an innocent Muslim different from an innocent anyone-else?

I contend Fisher demands this disclaimer because he believes that simply being Muslim means that the site indeed “has something to do with 9/11”—that it is someway or another implicated in terror, etc.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying Fisher finds the Muslims guilty. By analogy: Many readers have found themselves in a restaurant sitting with someone who is rude to the server. We are not guilty of this behavior, but we usually feel some responsibility to apologize on its behalf—as if saying nothing would be to condone it. At least, we have more responsibility than someone at another table, or who had the same table last week, or a grocery clerk in Holland.

At best, Fisher is acting like a server who wants this apology and hasn’t gotten it. His request only makes sense on the assumption that the Center Muslims are at least responsible in a way that other Americans are not.

Let me put this another way. Demanding the statement only makes sense if Fisher is unprepared to accept such a statement in the first place. Think about it: If Fisher were sincerely prepared to accept the Center’s plea of “innocence,” such a plea would be neither necessary nor sufficient. You might take the word of someone who tells you they aren’t a murderer (or a murder-supporter), if, for whatever oddball reason, they brought up the subject. But if you already assume they might be guilty, surely a paltry verbal assurance won’t be enough to make you feel secure: “Oh, you’re not going to chop off my head, you say? Shit, I really thought you might. OK, works for me!” Of course a guilty person will claim innocence; a suspect’s own assurances are worthless for evidentiary purposes.

* * *

This gives further lie to Fisher’s and the other protester’s claims that they are disinterestedly “investigating” the Muslims for security purposes, e.g. “We don’t hate anyone for their religion, we just want to vet them before the mosque gets the go-ahead.” Not so. Fisher’s expectation of a 9/11 disclaimer is insane unless he has already made up his mind that they are “bad guys.” Again, since there is nothing about this group that tells Fisher they are “bad guys” except for the fact that they are Muslim—this is plain and simple religious bigotry.

Solidarity site on the Murfreesboro mosque protest

I’ve been writing about the Islamophobic protest against the planned mosque/Islamic center in my old hometown. This tells more about the counter-protest, whose rally actually dwarfed the original (concurrent) protest. It shows the role of World Outreach Church, where the organizers and most of the opposition appear to come from, something I’ve not known enough to talk about.

Be sure to read the comments at the end–lots of good info there too. Word to my comrade Jase Short.

Link here.

Murfreesboro Mosque redux: More proof this is about bigotry and not security

Those protesting the mosque plan like to claim they are merely “investigating” the Muslims for security purposes—given the reality of Muslim terror, the war, etc.: “We don’t hate anyone, we just want some answers first; we aren’t saying the mosque can’t be built, we just don’t like that the legal process to determine this was shunted.’

In my last post, I argued that the generally negative tenor of the protest contradicted this claim. Let me add to my earlier examples.

Consider the presence of Israeli flags at the rally. First, Israelis and Muslims probably shouldn’t be viewed as natural “sides,” whereby in supporting one, you automatically go against the other; for there is a third option in the interests of both. But that isn’t the point. The point is that the protester who waves this flag clearly intends it to antagonize neighboring Muslims.

I don’t have a problem with “negative tenor” in principle. I’m not calling for “civility” in political action; that is a tactical, not a moral question. I’m all for antagonizing “the enemy.”

But that’s the problem: Antagonizing local Muslims only makes sense if they are the enemy, when the whole point of “investigating” was to determine that very question. Waving the Israeli flag means the “investigation” is complete in the minds of the wavers.

In fairness, fearing all Muslims isn’t enough to make you a bigot—if all Muslims are in fact dangerous. In that case, your “prejudice” just happens to be an astute observation. (The same logic applies in the saying, “it ain’t really braggin’ if you got it.”)

Obviously, it is empirically false that all Muslims are dangerous. But we don’t even need to prove that because the protesters don’t deny it—at least, not openly. They will each acknowledge that there are, or could be, some peaceful Muslims in the world. They just don’t like the “bad ones.”

But here’s where they slip up. As soon as you admit the possibility that a Muslim, some Muslim, could be un-dangerous, the question emerges: What makes these Muslims dangerous? What specifically are they doing that those “good ones” aren’t?

The protesters can’t answer this question because there isn’t an answer. The Murfreesboro congregants haven’t done anything to warrant being taunted with Israeli flags, etc., besides be Muslim. Logically, any other Muslim in their position “would do”—would warrant the same level of antagonism. The antagonism precedes and is detached from a determination of “danger.”

So the protesters’ claim to “respect all faiths” is bullshit. This is about opposing Islam because it is Islam. This is religious persecution, by definition. Either (a) the protesters are lying about not believing all Muslims are “bad,” or (b) they are prepared to mistreat a Muslim whether they think them to be “bad” or not. There are no other options.

On the Murfreesboro Mosque Protest

I spent 15 years of my recent adult life in Murfreesboro, TN, lately the subject of national media attention. Recently, a local Muslim congregation received permission from the county planning commission to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque on their own property. Some mostly white, Christian residents have protested the plan on the ugliest possible grounds. They filled a commission meeting to complain and held a march/rally in the town square.

Of course the protesters are full of shit and I’m shamed by it. On a high note, some of my comrades have organized “Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom,” which staged a pretty exhilarating counter-protest. (I would say they “won.”)

This post is my response to the episode and to Islamophobia in general.

Kevin is Fishing for a pretext

It seems a Murfreesboro man named Kevin Fisher sparked the drama. He filed a grievance with the state charging that the planning commission failed to properly notify the public that they were considering the plan. His complaint went public and managed to gather steam. He remains the chief organizer and “public face” of the protest.

"Shit for Brains"

Fisher’s on-camera statements have been careful to focus on legal-technical matters—zoning issues, how the construction could negatively impact traffic flows, water tables, home values, etc.

But Fisher is no amateur municipal policy wonk. His letter to the Tennessean [newspaper] briefly notes these logistical concerns before reminding readers of the ongoing War on Terror, which he describes, Sam Huntington-style, as a clash of “ideologies.” Unless this is just a nice historical aside, it appears to be his entire case: ‘We are at war with people who are Muslims; therefore, the new center is a “concern.”’ He never gets any more specific than that. The implication is (can only be) that the mosque—just for being a Muslim entity—may be implicated in some kind of “anti-American” terrorist or otherwise dangerous/illegal activity.

I will argue below that this fear is misplaced. But first:

It is unclear how this security concern is supposed to relate to the “technical” side of Fisher’s complaint. Indeed, he makes zero attempt to relate the two sides in terms of substance. (Unless, that is, disrupting the traffic flow or water pressure is itself the dangerous or illegal activity he suspects the Muslims of plotting.)

I am trying to read his point charitably. I suppose he is attempting a kind of “argument from ignorance”: “We just don’t know what these Muslims may be involved in, so we need to investigate.” By itself, this is pretty weak, since we can never be 100% sure about anyone (therefore, we should investigate everyone). But the point is at least consistent. That is, until you note that none of Fisher’s actual, concrete proposals (also in the letter) have anything to do with crime, terrorism, and the like—they are all about those “technical” issues. Demanding traffic and water studies is an odd response to an abiding, mortal fear—especially since Fisher trusts the “suspects” to conduct the studies upon themselves!

A cover story

Fisher’s whole “schizophrenic” approach only makes sense if the legal concerns are just a cover story—a handy tool for waging what is fundamentally an Islamophobic campaign.

This probably won’t be an “a-ha!” moment for people like my counter-protesting comrades, who already suspect duplicity. But if you read Fisher’s words carefully, he all but admits it: In the letter, he describes the commission meeting (in retrospect) as a chance for people to “address concerns…that had been denied through lack of proper due process.” He adds that zoning, etc. “laws were ignored to stifle public outcry.”

Notice: He doesn’t say that the concerns were over lack of due process; nor that the public outcry was over the ignoring of laws. Rather, the ignoring of due process and the law were bad because they preempted a “concern” and “outcry” existing prior to and having fuck-all to do with those technical matters. (Namely, the fact that the project is run by Muslims, for Muslims.)

I don’t know if Fisher, etc. expect the technical protests to actually stop construction. Maybe the goal is simple harassment. His proposals have yet failed to impress the commission, and are so plainly out of whack with the relevant laws that I wonder if he means them seriously. But the protest alone could induce the mosque leaders to voluntarily back down, as happened a few miles away in Antioch, TN, and in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville.

What is obvious is that Mr. Fisher doesn’t give a shit about water pressure.

[Sidenote: Not long ago, the same commission approved a plan allowing Grace Baptist Church to build across the street from the proposed mosque site; construction has already begun. The circumstances aren’t identical (no two ever are), but most of the logistical issues would apply here as well. Needless to say, neither Fisher nor anyone else has raised a peep over “undue process,” traffic, etc.]

The rank and file protesters: Islamophobia without tears

Whatever Fisher thinks, a leader or organizer cannot be equated with whatever thing he is leading or organizing. It remains that the protest is very clearly, openly, driven by Islamophobia. Virtually every public comment and rally sign has been directed toward the Muslim identity of the congregation. As one newspaper observed: “Questions of whether the public was given adequate notice about the proposed mosque…quickly turned into attacks on the Muslim faith during the public comment portion of today’s Rutherford County Commission meeting.”

The following is a sampling of protester quotes, culled from local and national newspapers. (Note: I didn’t have to cherry-pick anything, as nobody at the meeting spoke in the mosque’s defense.)

“Everybody knows they are trying to kill us…Somebody has to stand and take this country back.”

“Experience has taught us that a segment of Muslims are very hostile to anyone who is not Muslim…Their Quran is very explicit about how they should treat infidels.”

“We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam.”

“Islam is a system of justice [i.e., not a religion – ed.] We’ve got people here who remember Sept. 11, 2001. These people are scared.”

“I’m afraid we’ll have a [terrorist] training facility in Rutherford County.”

“We are fighting these people, for crying out loud, and so I don’t necessarily want them in my neighborhood.”

“Our country was founded through the founding fathers [true by definition, duh – ed.]—through the true God, the Father and Jesus Christ.”

(Note also: If anyone still doubts Fisher’s real concern, his own comment at the meeting simply endorsed the comments that preceded his—in a “Hear that? The people have spoken” kind of way. Of course he agrees with that shit.)

Are these fears reasonable?

If the technical concerns are a lie, at least the lie makes sense. But opposing the mosque because you think Islam is dangerous is plain bizarre. In Murfreesboro, the proof is in the pudding. Nobody is proposing to create a brand-new entity. There is already an Islamic center with a de facto mosque; it has been there for 13 fucking years. It is merely moving locations.

All things being equal, isn’t past behavior the surest indicator of future behavior? We can estimate how the new site would function by looking at the old site. I am not giving away any big secret when I note there have been no terrorist plots, nor other evils of Islamic coloration, emerging from the old location. The congregants have been “good neighbors” all this time.

Granted, the new site will be larger, and if you are already inclined to fear Islam, you will be inclined to oppose its “growth.” However, the expansion follows upon real growth that has already occurred; it isn’t clear it will create it. There aren’t hordes of Muslims not practicing simply because the current facility is overextended. The “bigger” congregation is being served now, only with relative difficulty.

Any such argument against relocation, then, is also an argument for shutting down the original site altogether; for it is just as “Muslim” as the new one. (This is the totalitarian place the protestor logic leads us. And Fisher says its about “let[ting] freedom ring.”)

Arguing against Islamophobia in general

Fear of Muslims should be examined apart from the particular conditions of Murfreesboro, TN.

The popular methodology of Islamophobia has two components: (a) citing naughty things (violence, etc.) done by Muslims, and (b) citing naughty passages from the Quran. I will treat these in turn.

(a)

We can agree with Fisher that the folks “we” are warring against are Muslim. The problem is that they are many other things as well—theists, mammals, beings with noses, etc. Must we be suspicious of everybody who has any feature in common with someone we are at war with? If not, why this feature—religion—rather than any other?

Just as not all Christians are Phalangist assassins or clinic-bombing militia types, not all Muslims are terrorists, medieval obscurants, etc. Citing the bad ones, even many bad ones, needn’t speak to the rest of the group. (This is a pretty elementary point, but frankly, I’m speaking to a pretty elementary argument.)

(b)

Method (b) is somewhat more powerful because it does look to taint Muslims as a group. It goes: ‘Despite their apparent diversity, all Muslims are beholden to the Quran; the naughty statements it contains (injunctions to kill infidels, etc.) are injunctions that hold for all, even the “good” Murfreesboro-type ones. It is their book; therefore, the naughty parts are theirs also.’

This reasoning commits a fatal error in assuming that a religion is reducible to a holy text. It is more correct to say: Islam is a holy book plus an interpretive scheme—a scheme embodied in traditions, auxiliary beliefs, and yet other texts, each with yet other interpretive schemes. This scheme is used to tell the faithful what the text means.

Actually, this expanded definition is still too narrow: There is no “Islam” to speak of, nor is there an interpretive scheme. There are only particular variants of Islam, each coupled with one of many competing interpretive schemes. (A religion is like a language: There is no “English,” just particular dialects of English.)

It follows that, if you want to establish the “danger” of an Islamic group, you have to do better than cite the book; you must show that it is actually interpreted and acted upon by members in a dangerous way. So far as the Murfreesboro believers are concerned, quoting passages that appear to endorse killing non-Muslims fails—because these worshipers simply do not interpret these passages as licensing them, in the present day, to kill non-believers. And that is that.

* * *

Some Islamophobes will go on: ‘OK, perhaps there are different interpretations. But the only proper, consistent interpretation is the “naughty” one; all Muslims are in fact commanded to wage jihad against the infidels, no matter what each interpreter may think. The Quran is not merely taken by some people to endorse violence; it “really” endorses it.’ This is supposed to deprive mainstream Muslims of the means to differentiate themselves from radicals like al-Quaeda, etc.

We don’t have to debate what the Quran “really” says to see that the logic of this argument is piss. The most it could mean is: “Mainstream Muslims ought, logically speaking, to be violent, but they are not.” The important point remains that they are not. (Since when can we equate what a person does with what he ought to do? I may as well tell the judge that, since I ought to have obeyed the speed limit, I am not liable for the ticket.) Perhaps these Muslims can be accused of poor reading; but we cannot call them dangerous.

* * *

Finally, an outsider can find just as many ostensibly dangerous passages in the Bible. For example, in Luke 19:27, Christ says: “Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

“On its face” (whatever that means), this verse appears to condone murder of “infidels” too. It isn’t much further to say that being “Christlike” means His followers should follow suit. If Muhammad spoke these words, the protesters would be drooling over it.

Christians allege that in context the meaning of this verse is benign. They reserve the right to distance themselves from militia types, etc. by invoking alternate interpretations of the identical text. And they probably have a good point. But it is irrational or worse to deny the same charity to Muslims.

Conclusion

Some “rational” Islamophobes (in the sense of “rational racism”) will say that they are only hedging their bets. They don’t hate anyone, and they aren’t even sure these Muslims are the “bad kind.” They just can’t take that chance.

Let’s test this claim. If a protester is sincerely in this position, we can expect him to behave in a certain way. He would be like a door attendant who has to wand everyone entering the building with a metal detector. The attendant is “investigating” his “suspects”; but this wouldn’t give him a reason to bear animosity toward those he wands. It simply wouldn’t occur to him, right?

But the tenor of the Murfreesboro protest is nothing like this. One marcher was quoted by Channel 5: “Half of [Muslims] will bury a body in their backyard and then drink the water.” Eh? Even if this were true, it has nothing to do with fear of terrorism, much less municipal law. It’s just a mean, egregious, insulting thing to say—nothing we would expect from a marcher merely seeking security. And the majority of the comments and signs are like this.

So: This protest is not the “rational,” disinterested self-defense of the doorperson. It is personal. The protesters aren’t seeking to ensure that their neighbors are the “good Muslims”; they have already presupposed their guilt. This is the only way to explain the persistence of mockery and harassment.

* * *

I direct my final point to the anti-Muslims: Going by numbers provided by our Federal government, the statistical likelihood that your local mosque will prove instrumental in some terrorist activity is far, far less than the chance that your white, nominally Christian neighbor will rob your house or otherwise criminally violate you at some point. So if it is “rational” to bet-hedge the Muslims, it would be all the smarter to protest the guy across the hedge. But you won’t do that—because it’s about something else.

Fuck you with hot sauce.