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Published on: August 18, 2017
Terror in Charlottesville
In the Shadow of Weimar

Understanding America’s emerging domestic terrorism problem.

Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.
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  • Unelected Leader

    What empowers the radical right are the horrors and violence from the radical left. That was true with Commies fighting and shooting police in 1920s Germany turned the laughable party of alcoholics and failed revolutionaries into the largest party in the Reichstag–the NSDAP. Just look at what happened after the election and even up to the day of the inauguration. Windows smashed, people beaten, cars a blaze, and even some shootings.

    But it’s not just Trump, the radical leftist attacks have been going on for at least four or five years. The election of Trump has at most only intensified what was already happening with the radical left. If I was a skinhead I would be praising them. The best recruiting tool a skinhead could have is to point to the commies in the streets carrying the anarcho-commie flags and dressed like ISIS fighters clad in black.

    • Angel Martin

      In addition to unpoliced attacks on Trump supporters by leftists during the campaign, I would also point to the anti white and mandatory “diversity” university courses as well as the “whiteness studies” academic curriculum.

      The radical left is pushing a multicultural, progressive, globalist (and anti white) agenda on many fronts. And the backlash has started.

      If the alt-right were confined to trying to rehabilitate Hitler, they would be confined to a fringe.

      But the excesses of the left is allowing the alt-right to use a huge portfolio of legitimate issues.

    • Gary Hemminger

      Everyone needs to calm down and take a breath. As I see more of these events I become even more sure that the left and the right are both whacko’s. that is the take away. As long as that is the takeaway from these events, we are okay. Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be with proportional representation) presidential elections are binary. We had no choice but Trump or Clinton. so I wrote in Lincoln for President and Jefferson for VP. the world is not going to fall apart. We are not going to have a civil war. But the media is really bad for the US right now. And the Internet is clearly showing its down side.

      • Mad Max

        I wouldn’t be so sure about not having a civil war. I think we are on the precipice.

        I think the biggest problem is that an educated person could carry on a debate with, and in strong opposition to, Richard Spencer without it becoming a screaming match or fist fight.

        That can’t be done with the leadership (if there is any) or membership of Antifa, BLM, or the other leftist groups. Any speech they don’t agree with is shouted down (or physically attacked) as racist, sexist, Islamophobic, or homophobic.

        You can’t even be pro-American and display the US flag anymore without being attacked as racist by the left. I guess African Americans are no longer American.

    • SeaAyeA

      I don’t feel any sympathy for heather. None. You think that’s petty awful? SHE was part of the problem. SHE was part of group attacking goofballs with a permit exercising their rights. SHE was part of the group without a permit attacking them and clogging the street. SHE put herself in harms way and got hurt. SHE was not a bystander.

      • Suzy Dixon

        I understand where you’re coming from. I hate the socialists and communists now more than ever because they’re forcing me to defend the doofuses with Bath and Body tiki torches. But I will defend them so long as they are the ones getting the permit to assemble, and as long as they are the victims of socialist and communist attacks on their right to assemble as well as victims of attack on their person. That little detail is left out by the MSM narrative, and lies.

    • Gary Hemminger

      Does it seem funny to anyone that the Democrats are trying to get rid of statues which are all monuments to Democrats? And the ones wanting them to stay up are Republicans!

      • Suzy Dixon

        I find it more sad than funny. They are typical communist authoritarians. Want to forget their history and pretend to be some kind of good guy. So predictable and so unoriginal. Mao is still on money because the unelected Chinese Communist Party is still willing to gun down anyone wanting an elected government. Mao killed more Chinese than Tojo.

  • Tom Scharf

    What were the underlying conditions that brought us Trump to begin with? He didn’t get elected in a vacuum. Those who have engaged in divisive identity politics for a decade do not get a free pass. They have progressively antagonized their opponents and it has turned into outright demonization of whites which has caused the fringes to explode. The rhetoric has been amplified with the goal of causing this explosion, not preventing it. The media trolls in ugly race pandering constantly now.

    If everyone is trying to start a fight, don’t be surprised when one breaks out.

    There are no victims here. It is political crips vs bloods, and the very last people who should be proselytizing are the media. They fan the flames.

  • QET

    This is a reasonable essay, I think. But I have two observations.

    First, it appears to me that TAI generally, not to say Garfinkle in particular (I’d have to go re-read his essays to determine), is, like pretty much everyone else from the Center leftwards, somewhat schizophrenic when treating of Trump, as they are with all GOP Presidents. Every GOP President, Trump included, is now stupid, now evil, depending on the writer’s tendencies at the moment. You need to decide which, and stick with it. But your choice had better be plausible. If Trump is Hitler, then he can only be evil. Hitler was certainly not stupid. Hitler spent his adult life in a deliberate quest for political power; every move he made, from encouraging his SA to rumble with the Communists in the streets to knifing them when they had outlived their usefulness to him personally, was to this purpose. Trump has most certainly not reprised Hitler. Trump is an opportunist. Somewhat like Obama in 2008, Trump rolled the dice in the GOP primaries to see what would happen and I expect he was more surprised than anyone to find himself, first the nominee and then the POTUS. Now Trump is not stupid either, but he is somewhat stupid in politics, or at least not smart enough to be Hitler. He did not spend his whole life scheming his way to the Oval Office. He will take what support he can get and is not quick to tar his supporters all with the broad brush of racism, which is what everyone else does. A certain rhetoric is being demanded of him in response to Charlottesville, rhetoric the failure to orate of which leads otherwise sound thinkers to conclude Trump is a crypto-Nazi or crypto-Klan member. Yet in the comments to another TAI piece I reprinted Jimmy Carter’s statement on the Skokie Nazi marchers in 1978 which were, if anything, more anodyne than Trump’s, yet no one ever excoriated him for it like they have Trump. No one reasoned their way from the premises of Carter’s tepid remarks to the conclusion that he was a Nazi (and he was a Southerner!). Trump made the mistake of assuming, without first investigating, that there were non-Nazis and non-Klan types in the vicinity of the marchers who might yet still not want to see confederate statues torn down. Apparently this was not the case, from what I have read. But I understood Trump’s remarks not to be approval of any “fine people” who were Nazis but of “fine people” who weren’t, which sounds pretty Presidential to me, even if it turned out that there were not, in fact, any such “fine people” present. I was not there, but if I had been, upon seeing the Nazis, I would neither have run and hid under my bed (which is what Garfinkle in essence demands) nor started punching the Nazis. I would have stood some distance away and spectated, and I would have been grateful for a President who was Presidential enough to remember a fine person like myself in an address otherwise condemning those present there that day.

    Second, we have to get our standards straight. The death of that poor woman was a tragedy and the guy should hang, just as did the killers of James Byrd. But now he is proof of the clear and present danger of domestic terrorism? All over the Internet are statements by Obama and by his acolytes (which seems to be like 90% of the Internet for some reason) that Islamic terrorism is not an “existential threat,” that I am more likely to get killed by a piece of rogue furniture than by a Muslim terrorist. That instead of devoting time, money and effort protecting against such an improbable threat we should concern ourselves solely with diabetes and heart disease which kill tens or hundreds of thousands each year. OK, so which is it going to be? Are the white power crowd an existential threat or not? If they are, then Islamic terrorism is so as well, and, based on numbers alone, a far greater threat, as of this date, than white racist terrorism, and we must therefore act accordingly. If not, then why react as though it were? Why find the Charlottesville Nazis more worrisome than rogue furniture?

    • Gary Hemminger

      You are asking the far left and the far right to not be hypocrites. this is like asking a turtle not to be a turtle. they are what they are. It is important to see their hypocrisy for what it is and to call it out. don’t expect them to change.

  • leoj

    One of the perpetual weaknesses of Garfinkle’s analysis of the Trump-phenomenon is that he offers no critical separation of ‘Trump the man’ from ‘Trump the image’ (a la Boorstin, Baudrillard, et al). While Trump is mostly responsible for the former, he is largely passive in the creation of the latter. In other words, if we see echoes of Weimar today or in Trump’s behavior we can thank the news media, academia, and Hollywood to a much greater degree than Trump himself. Trump did nothing to make Charlottesville happen as a media event, at most he managed the spectacle poorly by remaining consistent in his unrelenting opposition to settled opinion and good taste. For “Trump the image,’ if it is considered poor taste to tweet out a picture of yourself eating a taco salad on cinco de Mayo, then that’s precisely what he will do. And in fact he did this–not because he is pro-diabetes, or for some other reason that can be gleaned only by pseudo-sophisticated depth analysis–but because it is transgressive and that’s his brand.

    Garfinkle is once again pushing his silly theory about a ‘Trump-cult’ to explain the persistence of his support in a section of the populace. I believe it makes much greater sense to focus on this unstinting willingness to transgress the boundaries of the increasingly repressive clerical class. If there’s a historical analogy between the present moment and Weimar, I think it’s to be found less in Trump the man than in the disaffected and nihilistic character of many of his biggest fans. Recently I’ve been put in the mind of what Strauss said during a lecture he gave in the earlier 40s at the New School.

    One would have to possess a gift which I totally lack, the gift of a lyrical reporter, in order to give those of you who have not lived for many years in post-war Germany, an idea of the emotions underlying German nihilism. Let me tentatively define nihilism as the desire to destroy the present world and its potentialities, a desire not accompanied by any clear conception of what one wants to put in its place. And let us try to understand how such a adequate desire could develop.

    No one could be satisfied with the post-war world. German liberal democracy of all descriptions seemed to many people to be absolutely unable to cope with the difficulties with which Germany was confronted. This created a pro found prejudice, or confirmed a profound prejudice already in existence, against liberal democracy as such. Two articulate alternatives to liberal democracy were open. One was simple reaction, as expressed by the Crown Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria in about these terms: “Some people say that the wheel of history cannot be turned back. This is an error.” The other alternative was more interesting. The older ones in our midst still remember the time when certain people asserted that the conflicts inherent in the present situation would necessarily lead to a revolution, accompanying or following another World War a rising of the proletariat and of the proletarianized strata of society which would usher in the withering away of the State, the classless society, the abolition of all exploitation and injustice, the era of final peace. It was this prospect at least as much as the desperate present, which led to nihilism. The prospect of a pacified planet, without rulers and ruled, of a planetary society devoted to production and consumption only, to the production and consumption of spiritual as well as mate rial merchandise, was positively horrifying to quite a few very intelligent and very decent, if very young, Germans. They did not object to that prospect be cause they were worrying about their own economic and social position; for certainly in that respect they had no longer anything to lose. Nor did they object to it for religious reasons; for, as one of their spokesmen (E. Juenger) said, they knew that they were the sons and grandsons and great-grandsons of godless men. What they hated, was the very prospect of a world in which everyone would be happy and satisfied, in which everyone would have his little pleasure by day and his little pleasure by night, a world in which no great heart could beat and no great soul could breathe, a world without real, unmetaphoric, sacrifice, i.e. a world without blood, sweat, and tears. What to the communists appeared to be the fulfilment of the dream of mankind, appeared to those young Germans as the greatest debasement of humanity, as the coming of the end of humanity, as the arrival of the latest man. They did not really know, and thus they were unable to express in a tolerably clear language, what they desired to put in the place of the present world and its allegedly necessary future or sequel: the only thing of which they were absolutely certain was that the present world and all the potentialities of the present world as such, must be destroyed in order to prevent the otherwise necessary coming of the communist final order: literally anything, the nothing the chaos, the jungle, the Wild West, the Hobbian state of nature, seemed to them infinitely better than the communist-anarchist-pacifist future. Their Yes was inarticulate they were unable to say more than: No! This No proved however sufficient as the preface to action, to the action of destruction. This is the phenomenon which occurs to me first whenever I hear the expression German nihilism.

    It is hardly necessary to point out the fallacy committed by the young men in question. They simply took over the communist thesis that the proletarian revolution and proletarian dictatorship is necessary, if civilisation is not to perish. But they insisted rather more than the communists on the conditional character of the communist prediction (if ”civilisation is not to perish). That condition left room for choice: they chose what according to the communists was the only alternative to communism. In other words: they admitted that all rational argument was in favour of communism; but they opposed to that apparently invincible argument what they called “irrational decision.” Unfortunately, all rational argument they knew of, was historical argument, or more precisely: statements about the probable future, predictions, which were based on analysis of the past, and above all, of the present. For that modem astrology, predicting social science, had taken hold of a very large part of the academic youth. I have emphasized before that the nihilists were young people.

    http://interpretationjournal.com/backissues/Vol_26-3.pdf

  • Isaiah6020

    So antifa thugs that engaged in a sustained campaign of violence are just “some antifa types” barely worth mentioning. No, it’s all about Trump and the Other he represents. You ignoring Leftwing extremism is how you got Trump. If you continue to ignore Left-wing extremism you will get the generals.

  • Stephen

    Identity? I think there is plenty of that going around. Our politics now is a politics of identity: Let a thousand identities bloom!

  • Stephen

    But what about hateful speech that does not obviously incite to violence? Where is that line, and who gets to draw it?

    I assume this is a rhetorical question: SCOTUS has issued a few well-known opinions on this matter. Guidance and answers are not lacking.

  • “A house divided against itself cannot stand….I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” – Abraham Lincoln

  • D4x

    Anyone whose “first impression upon viewing the video footage from Charlottesville was a single word: Weimar.” needs to leave his library and pay attention to “identity/community/purpose” in 2017 America. Look at ‘gang culture’ in American prisons, where Black Muslims, and white supremacist neo-Nazis, provide ‘protection’ for their respective cohorts. In popular culture, this was in Season 1 of FX’s “Justified”, 2010-2015, the first thought I had when I viewed the video footage from Charlottesville.

    Boyd Crowder was the most compelling tv character I can think of, ever. The actor Walton Goggins was amazing.
    I viewed “Justifed”, 2010-2015 as ‘Hillbilly Shakespeare’, but never thought about the influence on white male teenagers.

    Until Charlottesville.

    Boyd is very cool, very articulate, and paraphrases Thomas Paine.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e8131cf393a6ad78085decf143b9d9f76190c50cd77d86b7dd9ba6f8a3582f72.png
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ff14c9ca45735d7083d68c5bdf1246ef5f40a98aab4524945fb95c25c1ef41c5.jpg

    Boyd Crowder is an outlaw archetype, but, in Season 1, he is also a coal miner, Desert Storm veteran, and then neoNazi White Supremacist.
    http://justified.wikia.com/wiki/Boyd_Crowder
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3c8369a8443dc780fc4e381b0002b6b13c40d830d4f263ec70919ee9417cff08.jpg

    Boyd Crowder in Federal Prison, Season 1 “Justified”

    James Fields, Jr’s interest in Nazis in 9th grade Boone County, KY might have been more inspired by Boyd Crowder in Harlan County, KY than Mein Kampf.

    “Justified” exec producer Graham Yost also produced “The Americans”, one reason why the Russia! hysteria proved
    useful past two years; co-produced Spielberg’s “The Pacific” for HBO, and “Falling Skies”, where a history professor from Boston leads
    the 2nd American Revolution against the aliens who enslave teenagers.

    Required reading for every voice whose “scales are so stuck to his eyes that his eyes and brain have been frozen in amber for eighteen months: “How To Know You’re In a Mass Hysteria Bubble Posted August 17th, 2017 @ 12:36pm

    History is full of examples of Mass Hysterias. They happen fairly often. The cool thing about mass hysterias is that you don’t know when you are in one. But sometimes the people who are not experiencing the mass hysteria can recognize when others are experiencing one, if they know what to look for.

    A mass hysteria happens when the public gets a wrong idea about something that has strong emotional content and it triggers cognitive dissonance that is often supported by confirmation bias. In other words, people spontaneously hallucinate a whole new (and usually crazy-sounding) reality and believe they see plenty of evidence for it. The Salem Witch Trials are the best-known example of mass hysteria. The McMartin Pre-School case and the Tulip Bulb hysteria are others. The dotcom bubble probably qualifies.

    We might soon learn that the Russian Collusion story was mass hysteria in hindsight. The curious lack of solid evidence for Russian collusion is a red flag. But we’ll see how that plays out. …
    The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President…”
    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/164297628606/how-to-know-youre-in-a-mass-hysteria-bubble

    I know Adam Garfinkle is so secure in his mass hysteria bubble that he can not read the thoughtful feedback from those of us who actually still waste time reading his hallucinations about Donald J. Trump.

    This essay triggered me to wonder who on earth thinks teenagers are reading Mein Kampf, or worse, who in any dimension of unreality thinks that the United States of America has any parallels to Weimar Germany, a short-lived experiment in parliamentary democracy that emerged from the ruins of the German Empire, 1871 – 1918, an Empire that included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies (six before 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory, preceded by variants of autocratic monarchies.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c5e80bb51e39f8a591b4f8b3c202fa9266f0586db3a5fd715898b8ce92193fcd.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3d56ce2e33cd61da1e136d9444e901210c66274875625ed6b621594ac4df0f9e.png

    Library in “Day after Tomorrow” 2004. It got so cold they had to burn books (shudder), but no worries, they burned the tax laws first.

    Jeremy: Friedrich Nietzsche! We cannot burn Friedrich Nietzsche; he was the most important thinker of 19th Century!
    Elsa: Oh, please! Nietzsche was a chauvinist pig, who was in love with his sister.
    Jeremy: He was not a chauvinist pig.
    Elsa: But he was in love with his sister.
    Brian Parks: Uh… ‘scuse me? You guys? Yeah… there’s a whole section on tax law down here that we can burn.

  • Martin Jennerson

    For at least a year, Trump supporters have usually not been able to convene without being physically threatened/assaulted by mobs covering their faces with masks.

    Imagine if mobs of right-wing thugs, covering their faces, attacked Hillary supporters every time they gathered. The MSM would have a fit and the leaders of the mobs would be persecuted/arrested. There is something seriously wrong with the way the right is treated in your country – the left won’t have any problem justifying serious violence if it occurs against you.

  • Steve Smith

    >”Does “free speech” now really mean the right to say all sorts of crazy things, mostly anonymously over the internet, that are not only deliberately false but hateful? Should it?”
    Yes and yes. Don’t even try to erode the First Amendement, Garfinkle.

  • Arthur

    The problem is not in Trump. The problem in American society. Americans think of themselves as an exceptional nation that has the right to dictate its terms to everyone else. They forgot that this human history had already passed relatively recently. Again, the Russians will have to kick out the shit from the Americans, as they kicked him out of the Germans.

  • The issue that never gets talked is that of the dark center. The extremes are every bit as violent and anti-democratic as they’re described here. Both right and left peddle different forms of identity politics as an alternative to the ‘rotten’ politics of elections and representation: allegiance to group displaces citizenship and raw emotion replaces due process.

    At the centre of the horseshoe we’re supposed to meet liberal, law-abiding people with respect for the constitution and varying views of how the state should expand – or not – to address economic issues. And we do meet them: it’s everyone’s neighbors and colleagues. The normal people, you know.

    But this is not reflected in government, media and education system. They all break down their audiences into constituencies, lobbies, bases and groupscules, catering to ethnicity and race and constantly generating a multitude of ever-increasing grades of sexual and gender identities: notice how Walmart sells ‘multicultural’ hair dye, as if the fact of having a certain kind of hair color and texture is an emotionally-charged huge thing; notice how kids are now expected to ‘choose their pronouns’ at the first day at school (real thing in many places), as if pronouns were a real grievance. Instead of being treated as individual and rational citizens, people are treated as preset groups who cannot conduct cross-boundary communication except on the symbolic level of ‘solidarity’ and ‘reaching out’. The system, whoever runs it, in other words, focuses on balkanizing the electorate and herding the individuals into manageable collectives.

    So the nice, sane, reliable and relateable people one meets on the everyday level are not actually represented unless they are a group, unless they have an identifiable grievance, and even then that grievance is represented not on its own terms, but as a form of liturgy, usually highlighting past symbolical wrongs rather than present hitches that might be actually resolved (the idea is of course not to resolve but to perpetuate). So the visible center of the horseshoe is a vacant representation, a form of politics nobody has deep connection to – thus giving credence to the extremes’ appeal to ‘authenticity’. And the invisible center of the horseshoe, the actual people, is, well, invisible, not registered in public events, and therefore also gradually pushed over to the edges.

  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    Murder is serious, of course — but the so-called alt-right isn’t. Richard Spencer’s much-publicized white-supremacy conference was attended by 300 or so. BronyCon — attended by so-called men who like to dress up as the ponies in a cartoon aimed at 5-year-old girls — draws 7000.

    Yes, American culture has problems — but the alt-right is far from the most pressing.j

  • Kathy Hix
  • Trajan Fanzine

    Uhmm, hate to break up your back patting but Obama spent 8 years ratcheting up racial tensions, predicting that an outside the beltway personality, that actually won, would kick off the inevitable back lash didn’t take a Sybil….

    And lets not forget this ‘backlash’ was in incubation actually, for decades, way before ‘Trump” derangement syndrome, these same Antifa useful idiots were on a webmasters mailing list, updated to todays vapid millennial cohort to fill in for the aged anarchists that have been wrecking G-20 meetings on 3 continents since 1999….

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