Fascists and Robocalls Unite?

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In a sign that American politics has hit peak Family Matterswhite nationalists are now sending out robocalls for Donald Trump’s campaign in Iowa. This is yet another one of those strange and increasingly moments in the politics of 2016 where I just wrote a sentence I never thought I would write in my entire life. You can listen to the robocall here. It’s only 30 seconds long, but if you can’t bare to deal with listening to white supremacist nonsense for even that long, the call ends by saying “we need smart,  well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote trump.”

James Taylor, the voice on the robocall, is from a group called American Renaissance, which I admit has a Norsefire-esque ring to it.He calls himself a one-issue voter, that one issue being immigration and backs Trump because, according to the Washington Post article featuring the robocall (linked above):

“He’s attractive to many Americans who see their country slipping through their fingers. You don’t want to end your days living in an outpost of Haiti or Guatemala do you?”

Donald Trump doesn’t actually endorse white nationalist groups, to be clear, and his campaign has actually fired a couple of staffers for allegedly posting over-the-top racist material on social media. But white nationalists certainly support him. KKK “grand wizard” David Duke has endorsed Trump, his only criticism of the candidate being that Trump’s support for Israel is a bit over-the-top. And groups like American Renaissance are actively campaigning for the man in Iowa. Not by knocking on doors or anything like that. No, that wouldn’t be annoying enough apparently. Apparently spewing hate across the state of Iowa like a ruptured sewage line does across a busy street isn’t enough. The hate must be recorded and delivered in the most annoying way ever contrived by the human race: the robocall.

The robocall. Perhaps that is in fact the most fitting way to deliver information like this, in a format that will sit on someone’s answering machine for a week. “This is Randy from Chase Visa about your account,” “This is an advertisement about how much credit we have to offer you for no risk ever*”, “We need smart,  well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture.”  Maybe the only fitting fate for a message like that is it gets laid to rest with other such needless bullshit.

Anyone’s bet on whether this helps The Donald’s campaign.

-G

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Fascists and Robocalls Unite?

Hatred And Fear From the Right

In 2012 the American people elected a fundamentalist preacher from the excessively conservative American South to the Office of the Presidency.

There was not an election in 2016.

The American people, a majority of whom had been seduced by radicalism from within Christianity, allowed Nehemiah Scudder, from a small cult-like church in the South, to overthrow democracy and ascend to the station of the First Prophet.

The century that followed was, perhaps, the long death of America as we knew it. Not at the hands of overt tyranny such as that of Stalin or Hitler, but at the foot of fundamentalism and radicalism – something that, more and more, I am seeing Americans embrace.

This is, of course, fiction; taken from the short story “If this goes on–” by Robert Heinlein. But what if, like Heinlein’s other works, there was a kernel of foresight in the prose? Heinlein, responsible for the invention of the waterbed (Stranger in a Strange Land, 1961), the World as Myth concept (the Number of the Beast, 1980) and the word Grok (Stranger, 61), was prolific in his understanding of the human animal and in its ability to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

In recent years, we have seen the rise of radicalism all over the world. In America, we see this most reflected in the Muslim world and through the lens of terrorism and global violence (but let’s be honest, it’s fear that Fox News and the right all-but invented).

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From a much more global perspective, something I learned partly in the classroom of a very opinionated but brilliant professor, radicalism is present and growing in every field.

In America, radical Christians have attacked medical clinics that perform abortions; act as sounding boards for the worst their faith has to offer. In Iraq, radical Muslims calling themselves an Islamic State have taken over large amounts of land, executed many people and filled a power vacuum left after the beginning of the “War on Terror.” In Israel, radical conservative Jews in the government insist that the country is for Jews and Israelis alone and seem to be closed to a peaceful resolution with their Palestinian neighbors.

It’s everywhere – this idea that sounding and acting, or being, certifiably insane to push a political agenda works. And they might be right.

ISIL is about as strong as any authoritarian military state ever has been (although not if the Saudis have their say). Israel is about as far from peace as she can get without actually being in a classic, formalized war. America is seriously considering letting a racist, fear mongering, fool succeed one of our finest and most accomplished Presidents since FDR.

Radicalism seems to work so far; and it’s horrifying. To quote Owen Harper of the BBC’s Torchwood, “Are you scared enough yet? Because fuck knows I am!”

But fear can’t stop me from trying my hardest to get it into the skulls of anyone who’ll listen: the world doesn’t have to be this way!

Treat your countrymen better regardless of their race or faith; do not fear the foreigner because of what you might not yet understand about him. If you’re a person of the three aforementioned, major faiths, then you know that all three demand the best of behavior from the faithful; and that behavior starts with loving other people unconditionally, not treating them like subhumans because they’re a little different.

Myself? My family is Jewish, I’m an atheist, my best friend and his wife are two of the finest examples of good Christians I know, my Muslim neighbors are great (and their command of spices in cooking is amazing) and the world doesn’t seem like a hostile place so long as I keep myself surrounded by a vast variety of people and culture.

What is xenophobia? The dictionary says it’s an unfounded fear of the unknown. And what is fear? It’s an emotional lack of understanding of a given subject. How do you defeat fear? Learning. To learn is to not know fear, for fear is only of the unknown.

I understand, therefore I do not fear. I do not fear terrorism, radicalism or the fools of the world because I know them. I know that in the long run, their anti-humanitarian viewpoint cannot win out. We might face decades of depression, fear and loss; subjugation and separation, but I know we can never fully surrender to fear.

Until next time,

-M

Hatred And Fear From the Right

THE SONG OF ROLAND AND THE ATTACK ON PARIS

Most of the responses to the recent attacks in Lebanon, Iraq, and Paris perpetrated (most likely) by ISIS sympathizers in Europe and the Middle East has followed the modern standard of what is appropriated or expected to be debated after a terrorist attack. We decide who is responsible, we have a (usually brief, rehearsed and passionate) debate about whether or how many people we should kill in retaliation, we give ourselves a pass at racism for a while while we boo and hiss at the brown-skinned terrorists, and we then return to work without thinking too much else about it.

That superficial understanding (if understanding is even the right word) of modern terrorism and of the Islamic State in general presents a far greater danger to national security then the threat of terrorist attacks themselves. It encourages jingoism and xenophobia as a default response for those that cannot understand the significance and ramifications of world events like the recent attack on Paris. But there was nothing surprising about these attacks, given France’s long and messy history with Islam.

There has been so much discussion on what ISIS really wants, what its goals are, etc., and I don’t want to delve too much into that here, but the popular opinion is that ISIS is an organization bent on bringing about the apocalypse, a gigantic cult so to speak. Certainly there’s plenty of evidence to suggest this is how ISIS recruits new members to its ranks; every culture in the world has a small, clinically insane segment of its population that believes the apocalypse is imminent and they are called to help bring it about. But that theory leaves a lot to be desired. It’s overly simplistic, it has a racist tinge to it, and it smacks of propaganda. At the very least, saying ISIS is a larger version of Jonestown with more aggressive tendencies is an incredibly difficult argument to make. In truth, this has far deeper roots. The organization’s recruitment strategy might take advantage of radical propaganda; there’s not a military in the world that hasn’t done the same at some point. But ISIS’s behavior suggests it’s attempting to restore the dark ages era Muslim caliphate that one dominated the Middle East and came very close to dominating Europe.

If you’ve ever read or heard of The Song of Roland you’ll understand where this is going. The Song of Roland is a very old French military epic poem from the eighth century AD. It celebrates the victory of Charlemagne’s general Roland over forces led by the Emir of Cordoba, as well as some Basque forces, some time around 777  or 778 AD. Even though Charlemagne had to withdraw from Spain a year later and the battle might actually have less historical relevance then the poem would have us believe, The Song of Roland still evolved into a piece of anti-Muslim propaganda through the Middle Ages. The poem wasn’t even written until at least three hundred years later and was steeped with western Medieval tripe about the superiority of Latin Christianity over the pompous and debauchery-laden Saracens.

Charlemagne, of course, was Frankish. And the Franks, after a few hundred short years, became the French. And one does not attack Paris unless one’s target is the French. At least that’s true if we assume one is even remotely competent.

The French have struggled with Islam and Islamaphobia in modern times as well. General Charles de Gaulle, venerated by modern French as a national hero (he even has an airport named after him) took power in France after WWII and immediately made it a priority of his to wage a vicious and bloody war against Algerian independence. This was a war for Algerian independence led by nationalists but many of those nationalists were Muslims. In other words, in modern times countless Muslims gave their lives for a cause dear to their hearts that was directly opposed by the French. Simply given the fact that old propaganda has a way resurfacing during times of war, it’s safe to assume many modern Muslims have read or know of the Song of Roland, and it’s likely that people inside the ISIS command structure know of it as well.

France was a critical turning point in the story of the early Islamic Caliphate. Its military advance was stopped by ancestors of the French, and Medieval Europe turned the story of that into sectarian propaganda. This is only scratching the surface of why ISIS is, but understanding the history of the first Caliphate is crucial to understanding the political and cultural environment of modern Islam and the motivations of the Islamic State in general.

-G

THE SONG OF ROLAND AND THE ATTACK ON PARIS