The Widdershins

Borderless nativism…

Posted on: July 22, 2014

Good afternoon Widdershins. Unfortunately, the cheeriest thing I can bring myself to say is, “It’s Tuesday.”

By now, if you are anything like me, you are saturated in the ethnic separatist horror manifested by blowing 298 innocent souls out of the sky or by the millennium of tribalism being played out by proxy pawns along the Gaza Strip. No paltry words of mine can salve the grief stricken suffering as it plays itself out before our eyes.

Murrieta Buses

Forgive me for not focusing on those stories, but the images of the shouting, anger-seething hordes stopping those buses of refugee children have inspired quite a bit of thought over the past week. Inspired isn’t quite right. Those images merely reinforced something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.

In many ways those images are consistent with our long history of ugly prejudice. We always seem to find a way to dressed up prejudice as a concern for public health or an assault upon our national sovereignty. Our entire 19th and early 20th century was infected with attacks on immigrants as diseased intruders upon the American body politic.

In 1832, the Irish were accused of bringing cholera. Later, the Italians were stigmatized for polio. In 1900, the Chinese immigrants in San Francisco’s Chinatown were quarantined out of an unfounded fear of bubonic plague. Not to paint with too fine a brush, but we portrayed Asians as feeble and infested with hookworm. Mexican were diagnosed as lousy. Eastern European Jews were pronounced vulnerable to trachoma, tuberculosis was dubbed the “Jewish disease”, and they were handed the “wastebasket” diagnosis of having generally “poor physique.” In the early 1900s newspapers announced every incoming ship was brimming with syphilitic and leprous heathens.

Buses American FlagsSo the images of the angry mobs attacking buses of children fresh from their jaunty thousand mile desert trek is but a vivid reminder of our heritage of unfocused nativist fears. In reality though, given the mandated required screenings by Homeland Security, these refugee children in all likelihood are better inoculated than American children given the new fear-mongering around vaccines. In short, the odds these migrant children could cause a general infection of anything are slim to none, and slim isn’t crossing the border.

Given that this nativism — this tribalism, isn’t new, it can’t explain away what I sense as a shift in the general ethics of Americans. A few weeks ago I wrote about the differences among values, morals, principles, and ethics. For those of you paying attention you will remember ethics is how we treat one another when we live along side one another. It is my contention the generalized hate, anger, and fear that used to be endemic toward emigrants has now, just like a mutating virus, “jumped the immigration barrier” and infected us as a society at an even broader level. That level is the “others.”

The “others” is a non-specific designation diagnosis. It can be the poor. It can be the uninsured in search of Medicaid. It can be families headed by single women. It can be the jobless or the disabled or gay. The “others” can be race or ethnicity based. It can be women looking for reproductive health care. The “others” no longer have helpful telltale immutable characteristics. Truly, this evolving animosity toward “others” is a work of equal opportunity hatred. It used to be enough to be American, but not so any more.

In order to bolster this theory, I offer you a recent article entitled, The Data of Hate. I don’t often recommend particular articles, but I urge you to click and read it. It’s fascinating and self-described as where “Big Hatred meets Big Data.”

The author is a Ph.D. economist from Harvard who spent a year studying — America’s most popular online hate site. It was founded in 1995 by a man inconveniently named Don Black, a former Ku Klux Klan leader. According to Quantcast, over the last year roughly 200,000 to 400,000 Americans visited the site every month. To bolster its pedigree, a Southern Poverty Law Center report linked nearly 100 murders in the past five years to registered members. Unsurprisingly, one of its most popular “social groups” is “Fans and Supporters of Adolf Hitler.”

What is surprising is this: The Stormfront members are seemingly normal — or relatively speaking, as normal as No New Taxes No New Illegalsmembers of a “social hate site” can be. Members like to read. They are news and political junkies. Members engage in long threads praising Breaking Bad and discussing the comparative merits of online dating sites. And quite surprisingly, they like to read The New York Times. This last data point will be quite the non sequitur to the NYT’s Sulzberger family since “powerful and clever Jews” seem to engender a preeminent amount of hatred on the site.

What is most frightening, at least to me and my theory of this new-found generalized animus, is the relative youth of the members. Seventy-six percent of the Americans on Stormfront who self-identify age are under thirty years old. Again, 76% of the American members are under 30.

Without belaboring my point, don’t expect this new generation of haters to anxiously await every January’s “white sales” in order to pick up high thread count flat sheets. This new generation of hate won’t be as easy to recognize as the Klan was. “For instance, Stormfront member VikingMaiden88 seems like a perfectly nice and intelligent young woman, but her hatred is real. She praises a store for having ‘100% white employees’. She says the media is promoting a ‘Jewish agenda’. And she says she finds Asians ‘repulsive physically, socially, religiously, etc.”

It is my assertion these Stormfront members, through their unfocused anger, are no different in many ways than those who take to the streets in protest over the “47% of takers.” Without any fiscal basis, isn’t cutting food stamps to the poor merely a visceral product of anger? Isn’t withholding Medicaid to Seven Million poor Southerners punishing the “others“? Cutting unemployment benefits while at the same time refusing to pass a jobs bill is nothing more than indicting the victims of the Great Recession as “others.“ And add any qualifier to a single woman — as poor, as unemployed or as a mother, and there is automatic condemnation of being a double “other.”

Child RefugeesThe images of the angry mobs stopping the buses of children were poignant reminders of the ugliness of nativism. While I said I wasn’t going to dwell on the horrors of Malaysian Flight 17 or Gaza, aren’t they just potent examples of the invidious nature of tribalism writ large? The learning they provide is simple: We would do well to weigh the cost of allowing this type of unquenchable enmity to grow unchecked. We should learn from our historical disgraces of blanket prejudice lest we are all one-illness, one job, one child, or one trait away from being an “other.”

This is an open thread.







5 Responses to "Borderless nativism…"

Just now getting in.

it’s all just so disgusting I don’t even want to think about it.

Well…Barry buys a house in Palm Springs/Rancho Mirage. Pretty nice looking estate.

It has a 20-foot waterfall with a lagoon, a putting green with a sandtrap, and more recreational opportunities.

Very moving post, Prolix. i bet we have a lot of nazi-ish groups like that. Yes, I think there’s still a lot of racial hatred, think that’s why there is so much hatred for Obama. I hope the idiots protesting these busloads of kids get a good look at themselves and see how moronic they look.

Fredster, I wonder why they would want to buy in Palm Springs? Ick, the desert. Not a place I ever want to live. I’ve been there a few times and was bored to death. Do not get the attraction, and supposedly the water table underneath it is evaporating and they could end up having giant sinkholes. There are so many beautiful places to live if you can live wherever you want.

annie@4: Well now, I saw that maybe that was just a rumor about the Obama’s and the house! Who knows???

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