Charlottesville and the Ideological Roots of Extremist Violence

White nationalist demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors.

By Jeffrey Tucker Published on August 12, 2017

The vast majority of people in the United States have no interest whatsoever in street battles between the alt-right (better described today in more poignant terms) and the counter-protesters. Most people have normal problems like paying bills, dealing with kids, getting health care and keeping life together under all the usual strains, and mostly want these weird people to go away. So, of course, people are shocked at scenes of young people in the streets of this picturesque town with a university founded by Thomas Jefferson screaming, “Jews will not replace us.”

It’s hard to see, hard to hear. But they are not going away. For some people with heads full of violent ideology, what’s happened so far is not enough. They imagine that with their marches, flags, uniforms, slogans, chants, screams and guns, they will cause history to erupt and dramatically turn to favor them over the people they hate. Indeed, what is unfolding right now, with real loss of property and life, has gone beyond politics as usual and presages something truly terrible from the past, something most of us had previously believed was unrepeatable.

What this is about is bad ideas. They crawl into the brain and cause people to imagine things that do not exist.

What in the world causes such a thing? It’s not about bad people as such. Many of the young men and women involved in this movement were raised in good homes and, under normal conditions, would never hurt anyone. What this is about is bad ideas. They crawl into the brain and cause people to imagine things that do not exist. It can be like a disease that a person doesn’t even know that he or she has. It causes people to seethe with hatred for no apparent reason, to long for the extermination of people who have never done anything wrong, to imagine insane outcomes of social struggles that have zero chance of succeeding.

The Group

The implausibility of their ideas is disguised by group psychology. They hang around people who think these same things and egg each other on in shared resentments and dreams of new powers they can acquire if they act boldly, bravely, and with determination. They conjure up scapegoats (blacks, Jews, women, Antifa, gays, and a government that is supposedly giving them all privileges at their expense) and begin to believe that the only way forward is to destroy them all in some grand uprising, after which they will seize power and rule forever.

Yes, I know it sounds insane. But one thing you learn from history is that no idea is too insane to be off limits to a group infected with a longing to rule. Any means to the end will do, with the end deeply embedded in the fevered imagination of the group member who finds mission, meaning and significance from some struggle.

The Statue Myth

Much of the media coverage about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia report that this all began with a dispute over the fate of a statue of the Civil War Confederate general Robert Lee that sits downtown. The city council voted to take it down; the protesters want it to remain as a symbol of white pride and rule (which is absurd because General Lee would have been thoroughly repulsed by the ideology these people represent). In actual fact, the dispute over this statue is a complete distraction from the real motivation here.

It’s hard to see, hard to hear. But they are not going away. For some people with heads full of violent ideology, what’s happened so far is not enough.

What this really is: an explosive expression of an idea that has been brewing in a malevolent movement that has been gaining steam for very long time. After the Second World War, most people imagined that Nazi ideology was gone from the earth and that the only real totalitarian view that remained to threaten liberty was Communism. That might have been true for a few decades, but matters began to change in the 1990s, as new violent strains of statism begin to arise.

The Deep History

For the last two years, I’ve written about the deep history of this violent strain, which can be described variously as Nazism, fascism, alt-right, white supremacy, white nationalism, neo-reaction or, my preferred and more technical moniker (borrowed from Ludwig von Mises), right-Hegelianism.

People have variously wondered why I’ve spent so much time and energy digging through the works of people like Johann Fichte, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Charles Davenport, Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Julius Evola, Giovanni Gentile and so on (many of writings on these people are here). All of these ideas existed long before Hitler and the Nazis — and caused enormous damage in the world long before the Holocaust — and they persist after them.

It’s true that probably not even one of the protesters in Charlottesville has read these thinkers, much less the traditional liberal response to these rightist strain of anti-liberalism. How can they possibly be responsible?

Ideas are strangely magical, like time-traveling spiritual DNA, moving from brain to brain like a genetic mutation and just as unpredictably. Keynes was right to observe that most politicians are slaves to some defunct economist; in the same way these violent thugs are slaves to some defunct philosopher who loathed the emergence of universal freedom in the world during the 19th century and were determined to set it back.

Propagandists for Evil

At the same time, there must be some mode of transmission for ideas. The leaders of this movement serve the purpose well, but there is a deeper root. I’ve been very reluctant to mention what might be the most influential tract among the rise of the hard statist right in the last few decades, but given where we are with all of this, it is time. The book is The Turner Diaries, written by “Andrew McDonald” who was really William Pierce, a brilliant physicist whose mind was taken over by Nazi ideology, precisely because he was steeped in the literature above.

I do not recommend reading this book. You can’t unread it. It is their roadmap. I can recall the first time I read it. I was shaken to my very core, and it was the beginning of a new realization of the task before us, to combat this horror with every bit of intellectual energy.

The only means available — and it is the most powerful — is to fight bad ideas with good ideas. We all need to throw ourselves into the intellectual battle most of all and as never before.

It is the story of a small junta of whites who set out to reverse history with a series of killings, starting with Jews, then blacks, then communists and then, inevitably, apologists for the merchant class and libertarians (they hate us deeply too). What you learn early on here is that this movement is absolutely socialist, just in a different way from the more-famous left-wing socialists. They are not red shirts but brown shirts, so they have a different agenda. It’s not about class struggle. It’s about race struggle, religious struggle, gender identity struggle, national struggle.

So what happens? They rally the masses to their side with a growing amount of bloodshed, gain control of the government, set up a centrally planned socialist state, get hold of the nuclear stockpile and slaughter all non-whites in the world. Sorry for the spoiler.

The Genetic Code

Why would anyone rally behind such a ghastly book? Again, the human mind is capable of imagining terrible things, and that which we imagine to be true influences actions. Ideas, as they say, have consequences. Hence, anyone who has followed the transmission of these ideas over the last decades could see where this is heading.

What happens now? The tragedy is compounded, with a burgeoning leftist movement to counter the emerging threat from the opposite side and a government ready to exploit the conflict between the two to crack down further on human rights and freedoms. It’s the perfect storm.

Our Task

The question is: what to do now? The answer lies in the source of the problem. The huge mess began with bad ideas. The only means available — and it is the most powerful — is to fight bad ideas with good ideas. We all need to throw ourselves into the intellectual battle most of all and as never before. What are those good ideas?

The progress of the last 500 years shows us precisely what the good ideas are: social harmony, human rights, the aspiration of universal dignity, the conviction that we can work together in mutual advantage, the market economy as a means of peace and prosperity, and, above all else, the beauty and magnificence of the idea of liberty itself.

Let us all — those who love peace, prosperity, and human flourishing for all — not despair but rather rededicate ourselves to the mission of replacing bad ideas with good ones. Our predecessors in this mission faced far worse odds and they prevailed, and they were far fewer than us. We can too, provided we think, speak, and act with courage and conviction in favor of all that is beautiful and true. This is how the left/right cycle of violence will be replaced by the highest longings of the human heart.


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  • Robert Hightower

    A dangerous precedent is being established. There are factions in journalism and government that would like to see us at each others throat. If it bleeds it leads and gets dollars. We need to get a handle on the definition of what ‘is’ is. We are on a slippery slope and they are greasing the way.

    • Mensa Member

      Almost every sentence of your comment begs a question. I’ll start with the first two:

      >> A dangerous precedent is being established.

      What precedent? With Trump being elected, there seems to be a resurgence of white nationalism. But this has been done before.

      >> We have enemies foreign and domestic.

      Who are these “enemies’?

      I wonder if this is the kind of scapegoating the author identifies as the problem.

      • Mensa Member

        Even your user picture begs a question! What flag is that?

        • Dean Bruckner

          It’s a one star flag, flown by a rear admiral, lower half, in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard. Methinks you have some learning to do before commenting on military matters again.

          • Dean Bruckner

            I looked up the Air Force ranks and it is also the flag of a Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force.

        • Chip Crawford

          and your face begs an upchuck

      • Patmos

        “Who are these “enemies’?

        I wonder if this is the kind of scapegoating the author identifies as the problem.”

        It’s amazing how in the dark you are. You should really spend less time falling for leftist rhetoric and pretending you know something, and more time getting over yourself and trying to learn.

        • Mensa Member

          Again with the personal insults. Could you just click “Block User” and leave me alone?

          • Dean Bruckner

            The Progressive victim, drawing a foul.

          • Chip Crawford

            Yeah, he’s going, heh, I’m the abuser here, what’s with it coming back on me ….

          • Chip Crawford

            You can get out of the kitchen any time … oh thou heat withered troll, oh, ah, soul …

      • Lsymn

        More Mensa reading comprehension problems. Reread. Take notes.

  • Mensa Member

    Very well-reasoned article. Thanks for running it.

  • Chip Crawford

    News media, officials, spokes people: Excuse me; the rally never got underway. There was another group that came in, with armor and weaponry to attack the white rally group. There were TWO groups out there! The white national group was not fighting with itself. It turned violent immediately because the anti-fa group came for that purpose. Please call out THEIR violence and exploitive role in this.

    • Mensa Member

      Are you seriously defending the white nationalists?

      They came armed! Others were waving hate flags. Obviously, they were trying to provoke a fight.

      I condemn any violence by the counter-protesters but c’mon…. this was not a “both sides are the same” situation.

      • Dean Bruckner

        The Antifa killers are just as bad, if not worse.

      • Chip Crawford

        It may very well be that the anti-fa group was actually not the same, but worse. It’s amazing the way the fascist name callers actually behave exactly like fascists themselves — maybe the name calling is to distract from their own agenda and behavior.

      • Hmmm…

        Do you belong to an antifa group Mensa?

        • Andrew Mason

          It’s possible he’s suggesting Antifa etc are worse. They certainly aren’t any better. Disgusting as the racism may be it is their legal right to be so wrong. There is by contrast no legal, or moral, right to suppress such things, and judging by the photos etc I’ve seen, had they not been the victims of assault, there would be no sympathy for them at all.

        • The term “antifa” seems to have joined the terms “libtard,” “snowflake,” and “cuck” in the new alt-right slang.

          • Chip Crawford

            ask them about it troll

      • They knew what they were doing. They wanted a fight, and that’s what they got.

  • Chip Crawford

    There were TWO groups; spokespeople are conflating the two into one. We have yet to get the factual progression of this. The premise of white nationals is wrong; but that does not automatically condemn every word and action of theirs. they came to protest the removal of the statute. The second group, the anti-fascist so called group came deliberately to break up any rally and obviously to inflict harm. Governor McAuliffe put that on the white nationals without any reference whatsoever to the other party. The anti-fascist so called group actually behaved exactly like the brown shirts of old.

    That happens too often, and then the thing of attributing the alleged behavior to President Trump for past remarks or implied nuances which they assign, whether actually spoken or intended or not. Totally irresponsible and obvious political evil. Inciting violence is a crime of itself, and taking advantage of a situation like this is not understandable or excusable. No one is automatically condemned. This is yet to be sorted out, and IT NEEDS TO BE. Rushing to judgment doesn’t work anytime, anywhere with anybody. And an incident occurred here of an official blaming President Trump for alleged white national behavior. There is a broad brush stroke of that, which is libelous and irresponsible in each occurrence.

  • Hmmm…

    The Antifa group remind me of the kind of protesters who organize against conservative speakers on campuses.

  • BTP

    The slogan is, “You will not replace us.” It’s not, “Jews will not replace us.” The slogan is aimed at the elites who prefer to replace the native European populations with foreign populations.

    But not everybody bothers to check facts. And if you don’t know this basic fact, how can anyone expect you have any idea what you are talking about at all?

  • Jim Walker

    Sometimes I actually want a Purge to happen between Antifa and White Nationalist. Sorry it’s my thoughts talking out loud.

    • The term “antifa” seems to have joined the terms “libtard,” “snowflake,” and “cuck” in the new alt-right slang.

      • Chip Crawford

        Only an alt-dope would so comment … The news uses it, most of whom are alt-dopes also.

        • If by “antifa” you mean someone opposed to the sort of Mussolini-style fascism that white nationalists in the U.S. are displaying, count me in.

          • Chip Crawford

            We hope you can still be counted to hold to principle when the Antifa group themselves participate in Mussolini-style fascism.

          • No, Chuck, you DON’T want to be part of that group, unless, of course, you like the idea of claiming to be anti-Fascist, all the while pushing an updated, politically correct, fascist ideological mindset.

  • Lsymn

    The article cleverly focuses upon the wrongs of the right wing protesters lumping them together as an inchoate clump of racist hating revolutionaries. Understandable.
    If one tries to more than mention the evil that cooperated in precipitating the murderous violence, one is accused of supporting nazis.
    So in self defence, self censor any urge to expose all the truth of the violence and blame only those targeted by the general media.
    And don’t protest against the progressive juggernaut.

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