One of the frustrating things about mainstream punditry on white nationalist protests is the absolute refusal to engage with their historical or even contemporary context. As I’ve written before, the targets of the movement prototypes have been savvy to their intentions for years, so all the “surprised” centrism is quite tedious in our eyes.
Joshua Clover gives us a brief review:
These factors have been mobilized incessantly by the movement itself to produce a cloud of unknowing, precisely so that each gathering can go about its corrupt business without bearing responsibility for the last. Richard Spencer’s famous on-camera punch was preceded directly by his fatuous claim, “Neo-Nazis don’t love me, they kind of hate me.” Nah, my man. Just: nah. And yet a version of that dissimulation has been offered by every manner of white nationalist party planner over the last few months, while organizing the next white nationalist party. We don’t know whoever was responsible for the last violent episode. We have nothing to do with them. We just want to discuss some contentious views. Nothing here to see here but the marketplace of ideas. It’s the fash version of “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Seemingly ensorcelled, people acted over and over as if they believed such arrant nonsense.
All of this has led to perhaps the most bizarre political impasse of our moment: otherwise intelligent people seem unable to evaluate any given white nationalist event in the context of what has preceded it. One need not reach back to the horrors of Tulsa in 1921, as Claudia Rankine did so eloquently in the New York Times. One could just look at the previous month and draw a goddamned line. This has proved strangely challenging for pundits, politicians, and university administrators. The world begins anew each day. Each further provocation is treated as without history and thus presumptively legitimate.
It is as if the world’s oncologists, each time they encountered a sarcoma, were to say, “well, maybe this one is a nice tumor, how are we to know? It probably just wants to exercise its speech rights.”
Read more here.