Want to Read A Sample Chapter?

A telegraph with the caption: "Hot off the Wire."

Hey! Remember this post? The one where I threatened promised to share some of the book I’ve been writing? I know you’ve been waiting on tenterhooks but now the wait is over. So put the tenterhooks away. Honestly, I don’t even know where you got those tenterhooks. Are those my tenterhooks? Did you borrow my tenterhooks without even asking me? Get your own tenterhooks!  Honestly, some people……

So, a few words about what I’m offering up on the sacrificial alter of the Internet. This is a first stab at a “sample chapter” which will eventually become part of a book proposal. According to Susan Labiner in Thinking Like Your Editor:

A sample chapter is not really a chapter at all. It looks and smells like a chapter, in that it usually runs about a chapter’s length and had a beginning, middle, and end. But like no chapter in the your final book, it succeeds by cannibalizing other chapters, stealing the best material in the book and presenting it in such a way as to showcase the dramatic potential of the book or the power of the argument, or the richness of the topic.

Did I do that? Who knows? Its a first draft and, as my freshman writing instructor told me college, “The first draft is supposed to be shit.” Or to be more hopeful: The first draft has the same relationship to the final draft as compost to roses.  So, follow the link and give it a read. If you want to send me comments  criticisms, please do so. These can range from large conceptual problems you see as well as spotting typos and formatting errors. There are undoubtedly a lot of problems. Tell me about them.

The Sample_Chapter

Codebreaking the Alt Right: “Russia is Our Friend!”

Map of the Russian Empire, 1820

Martin Shkreli, the infamous “pharma-bro” who first came to attention by endangering people’s lives by raising the cost of an Aids drug by 800% is back in the news. Shkreli, who obviously wasn’t hugged enough as a child, was convicted of securities fraud and is now being forced to part with some of his one-of-kind possessions.  The one that is getting the most headlines is the single copy of the Wu Tang  album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Shkreli bought the album just so no one else could hear it because he’s that kind of guy. I hope his prison stay is unpleasant.

Also among those possessions is an Enigma machine, a cryptography device most famous for Alan Turing’s work with it that help break Nazi codes during World War II.  Today’s Alt Right also likes to use codes, but rather than hiding troop movements they do so in order to enjoy a smirking frat-boy (and I do mean boy) “joke” at the expense of the rest of us. And the codes change all the time; Pepe the Frog is out, Groyper is in. A “reporter” for the Gateway Pundit (aka Jim Hoft, aka “the stupidest man on the internet”) recently gave a speech entitled “Its OK to Be White” that was chock full of such coded language to signal to the Alt Right that he was one of the cool kidz. This included drinking milk during the speech as a way of showing off his superior Nordic genes. Then he allegedly attacked a woman. Like I said, the Alt Right has a problem with women.

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What’s So Alt About Alt America: David Neiwert’s New Book

Cover of Alt America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump

Imagine you live under a totalitarian regime. It is a led by a foreign invader who rules with an iron fist. He has started rounding up citizens and imprisoning them in camps. You are a member of the Resistance; you keep in touch with others who are brave enough to resist his diktats. Your once-great country lies in ruins, but there is still hope that you and your fellow freedom-fighters can save it. It will take courage and nerves of steel, but you are ready to fight for your freedom and those of others.

And then, one day, the worst possible thing happens: the uniformed, jack-booted thugs show up at your door on some ridiculous pretense. You know why: they are there for you. They are there to “disappear” you; to take you away to the camps for god-knows-what. What do you do? Richard Poplawski knew what to do. And that is why Pittsburgh police officers Paul Sciullo III, Stephen Mayhle, and Eric Kelly died that day.

This is only one of the many, many terrifying stories of violence and destruction recounted in David Neiwert’s new book, Alt America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. Neiwert is an investigative reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and has written several important books on the racist right in the past two decades. Alt America is just out and you should buy it, read it, and then join the fight against the figures he discusses. Today.

The great strength of Alt America is the detailed reporting on some of the more notorious antics of the Alt Right. Neiwert details an almost shot-by-shot account of Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine people in Charleston (pp. 1-31). It is hard but necessary reading; the tragedy of the country is that we have become almost numb to such occurrences because they are so damn common. By recounting the details of Roof’s murders it brings into focus the absolute horror of such an event.

My read of Alt America might be cutting against its author’s intention, but I think the central message of the book is that there is very little “alternative” in “alternative right.”

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Virginius Dabney and the Problem of the White Moderate

Photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. getting arrested

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro.”

On April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama. He’d been arrested for violating a judge’s order banning any marches in the city. King, who had come to Birmingham to lead marches against segregation, purposefully and willfully ignored that order and was promptly arrested and jailed. So there he sat.

Friends smuggled newspapers into King. To his shock and dismay he read a “Call for Unity” from a group of clergymen who urged an end to the marches and protests; there was a new city administration, and “Negroes” should give them time to act. Withdraw from the protests, slow down, and give the new white government time to do the right thing. King was shocked because these were not rabid segregationists; these were his friends and allies. These were ministers who had risked a lot by speaking out against the race baiters like Governor George Wallace and now, while King was jailed, they were urging him to quit? He scrawled his answer in the margins of the newspapers that had been smuggled in. Those scribbles became his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is merely a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, where the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substance-filled positive peace, where all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured

King was not addressing newspaper editor Virginius Dabney (1901- 1995) with these remarks, but he might as well have been.

We can discover interesting things about an examination of Dabney as a white moderate. First, we can clearly see the dangers of looking to “moderation” as somehow the solution to polarization. What Driftglass often calls the dangers of “Both Siderism” in our current political culture: that both extremes are equally to blame for a social problem. As we will see, Dabney thought the NAACP was pretty much the equivalent of the Klan in its “extremism” for opposing segregation. Second, we can be deceived into thinking that a “moderate” deserves praise for moderation even if that moderation accomplishes nothing. So, Senator Jeff Flake is receiving praise for speaking out against Trump’s outrages even though Flake shares responsibility for those very outrages. Finally, we can understand how the idea of “moderation” can often mask that the moderate is actually an extremist with nicer clothes and proper language.

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How Not to Write about White Supremacy

As Long as You Aren’t Wearing a Hood, You Get a Pass

KKK members riding a ferris wheel

KKK in Cañon City, Colorado, 1926

Over at the libertarian blog Notes on Liberty Jacques Delacroix published a crack investigation into white supremacy.  He claims that white supremacy is a “boogeyman” that

serves the useful purpose of taking public attention away from several kinds of disturbing socio-intellectual developments to which it is publicly tied. I have in mind, for example, the loss of agency, the creeping de-humanization of individuals implicit in identity politics, now present in every aspect of American life. I am thinking also of the fast retreat from the values of the Enlightenment, beginning in universities, of all places.

If only the damn Democrats had won more elections, the author thinks, we wouldn’t be hearing about white supremacy now. The warning of burgeoning white supremacy in our society “is primarily a cultural herd response to the loss of left-wing electoral ground.”

By attempting to show that the problem of white supremacy is not really a problem, the post actually provides a good example of how white supremacy works.

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Are Libertarian Principles Incompatible with White Supremacy? First Thoughts.

Jacob Levy of McGill University has a thoughtful post entitled “Black Liberty Matters.” Levy forthrightly and forcefully recognizes the troubled history of libertarianism’s entanglement with racism. He correctly notes that “Now, libertarian, individualist, and market-liberal ideas, concepts, slogans, and advocates aren’t alone in having a history that is entangled with white supremacy. Hardly any set of social ideas in American intellectual history lacks such an entanglement.”  Levy reminds us (or reminds me, anyway) that the real opposition is not between libertarianism vs. non-libertarianism but racism vs. anti-racism.

Levy’s essay also helps me clarify what my own project is and is not about. For me, this paragraph was especially stimulating. He frames it in the context of Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains. He’d read a few reviews and found them “entirely persuasive about Democracy in Chains’ details and core claims alike.” In conclusion he wrote:

I don’t want the convincing intellectual victory over Democracy in Chains to fool us into thinking that there’s no problem. I don’t want the forceful, true, statement that libertarian principles are incompatible with white supremacy to fool us into overlooking a morally compromised history and sociological and psychological patterns about how those principles turn into general political discourse.

Now, regular readers know that there has been no “convincing intellectual victory” over MacLean’s book, a point I will return to at the end of this post. For now I want to ask if it is really the case that “libertarian principles” really are incompatible with white supremacy because we seem to have a paradox.

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Going Full Nazi: Let’s Not Wait That Long

beach

It was pretty nice if you like this kind of thing.

I’m back from Hawai’i where I didn’t spend any time at all thinking about Murray Rothbard or Willis Carto. I’m ready take on the alt right again. Let’s wade in right up to our armpits, shall we?

Here’s a little scenario:

Major Right Wing Figure (MRWF): “Here is Something Horrible I believe.”

Proud Right Wing Racist (PRWR): “I believe something Something Horrible too! In fact, MRWF got Something Horrible from me and is furthering my racist agenda!”

Liberal Social Justice Warrior (LSJW): “OMG, everyone, MRWF got Something Horrible from PRWR and PRWR actually thanked MRWF for carrying out the racist agenda!”

MRWF: “How DARE you say that your filthy hippie LSJW! In fact, YOU are the real racist for pointing that out!!

This is a common script we see played out over and over these days. Trump, the current occupant of the dump we call the White House, tweeted a gif of him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball. Hilarious, right? Turns out, however, that Trump didn’t make the gif himself (surprise!). It was a retweet from from a racist account called, get ready to hold your sides from laughing, “fuctupmind.”

Conservative website, The Daily Caller, has posted a piece by Peter Brimelow on how the Great and Powerful Trump has reduced immigration. Peter Brimelow runs a site called “Vdare” dedicated to white supremacy. It isn’t the first time the Daily Caller has helped the white supremacist cause, and it probably won’t be the last. The Daily Caller was founded by Tucker Carlson, cable TV’s number one draw and widely admired by white supremacists himself.

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More Homework While I’m On Vacation!

It could easily be accomplished by a computer…

The machine has taken over, I’ve set up a series of reading assignments for you to be released at timed intervals by computer itself.  This is the first:

  • David Duke and Donald Trump: Game knows game.
  • Read this excellent symposium on Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains. John is far too midwestern to quote from it, but I’m a mad computer so I’ll give you this highlight:

More generally, libertarianism has had an unfortunate recurring tendency to attract or ally with racists of varying stripes. From Reason magazine’s 1970s flirtation with Holocaust deniers to the paleolibertarianism of Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell (the latter purportedly author of Ron Paul’s race-baiting newsletters in the 1980s) to the clear interest in “race realism” evident in the comments sections of today’s libertarian blogs and publications, this history is not pretty. While many libertarians fully embrace racial equality and disavow this aspect of the movement, a history excavating this relationship (perhaps the one now being written by John P. Jackson, Jr., who has also written the most compelling defense of Democracy in Chains), would be both important and timely.

Darwinism, Democracy, and Race

Book cover for Darwinism, Democracy, and Race

This is the cover of my new book, just published with David Depew, the noted philospher of biology.  Writing a book with David has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my academic career. It has been a real pleasure to produce this book with him and I’m very proud of our work. Get your copy today!

Publisher’s Description:

Darwinism, Democracy, and Race examines the development and defence of an argument that arose at the boundary between anthropology and evolutionary biology in twentieth-century America. In its fully articulated form, this argument simultaneously discredited scientific racism and defended free human agency in Darwinian terms.

The volume is timely because it gives readers a key to assessing contemporary debates about the biology of race. By working across disciplinary lines, the book’s focal figures–the anthropologist Franz Boas, the cultural anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky, and the physical anthropologist Sherwood Washburn–found increasingly persuasive ways of cutting between genetic determinist and social constructionist views of race by grounding Boas’s racially egalitarian, culturally relativistic, and democratically pluralistic ethic in a distinctive version of the genetic theory of natural selection. Collaborators in making and defending this argument included Ashley Montagu, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Lewontin.

Darwinism, Democracy, and Race will appeal to advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and academics interested in subjects including Philosophy, Critical Race Theory, Sociology of Race, History of Biology and Anthropology, and Rhetoric of Science.

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