Secret White Nationalist of the Week
What Is Happening to the Conservative Movement?
“Birchers in Heels”
My long, fairly comprehensive article on Moms for Liberty went up yesterday at The UnPopulist.
The theme is right there in the headline: Moms for Liberty has brought the spirit of the John Birch Society to the debate over education.
One particular example crystallizes both the content and style of Moms for Liberty activism. As an approved alternative to the materials on slavery and segregation that they want to restrict, Moms for Liberty recommends W. Cleon Skousen’s The Making of America….
Skousen was a leading figure in the John Birch Society, which promoted conspiracy theories about communist plots for world domination, including the idea that these plots were supported from within the US government, going all the way up to the top.
The Birchers were the chief example of what Richard Hofstadter famously called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” and it followed a pattern we can recognize with Moms for Liberty today: a belief that there is an insidious plot to destroy American society; a catastrophist view in which the threat of tyranny and destruction is immediate and everywhere, even in the midst of the heartland; a view that the whole system is working to promote these nefarious goals; and most of all, the idea that even apparent friends, allies, and fellow conservatives are all in on it….
In short, the Moms for Liberty look a lot like Birchers in heels—the paranoid style in education politics.
A more subtle sub-theme of the article is that Moms for Liberty is actually undermining “the real engines of parental engagement in education: school boards and parent-teacher associations.”
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I found one example to be particularly striking.
Just prior to these recent controversies, the state of Tennessee mandated an overhaul of its state education standards, eliminating the Obama administration’s Common Core standards which were “embroiled in political controversy over charges of federal overreach.” In response, the Williamson County school board spent years selecting a new curriculum package that would be consistent with the new standards. Then Moms for Liberty arrived, filing frivolous complaints after having participated in none of the difficult legwork of choosing the curriculum in the first place.
Secret White Nationalist of the Week
Williamson County, Tennessee, is the setting for much of this story because of how Moms for Liberty has targeted normal conservatives there, but also because it provides a warning about the ongoing infiltration of the conservative movement by outright racists.
Williamson County…has emerged as a particularly gaudy flashpoint in the culture war.
This was underscored in the past few weeks when Gabrielle Hanson, a populist conservative candidate for mayor of the county’s biggest town, Franklin, Tennessee, showed up at a candidates’ forum escorted by members of the Tennessee Active Club. The Club is notorious for its antisemitism, and local investigative reporter Phil Williams tracked down one of the leaders of the organization, who described himself as “an actual literal Nazi.” After refusing to disavow the group, Hanson was defeated by a huge margin in Franklin’s early election on Tuesday.
The dogged professional reporting by Phil Williams has been a reminder of the crucial important of local news—what is left of it.
But while Gabrielle Hanson has gone down to an ignominious defeat, she is only one case out of many. The conservative movement has recently been hosting an unnerving show we might call “Secret White Nationalist of the Week.”
I wrote recently about the discovery that “anti-woke” activist Richard Hanania had previously been a leading “alt-right” advocate of eugenics, under a pseudonym. This followed the similar outings of a white nationalist staffer and then an antisemitic “influencer” for Ron DeSantis.
Since then, another “anti-woke” activist and former Trump administration official, Michael Benz, has been unmasked as a prominent online racist and antisemite.
Frame Game avoided showing his face in his videos or appearances, during which he pushed a variety of far-right narratives including the “Great Replacement Theory” that posits the white race is being eradicated in America for politics and profits. In others, Frame Game said he was a white identitarian, railed against the idea of diversity and made montages urging white viewers to unite under the banner of race.
In interviews with white nationalists, Frame Game blamed Jews for “controlling the media” and for the decline of the white race. “If you were to remove the Jewish influence on the West,” he said in one video, “white people would not face the threat of white genocide that they currently do.”
And then there’s this:
Commentator Ian Smith has shared material denying the Holocaust, defended Nazis as simply “protecting their sovereignty,” said World War II was actually “engineered White genocide facilitated by international usurers,” and attacked Jewish people for being behind “all of these things that are used to control us.” Trump National Doral Miami recently welcomed him as a speaker alongside key Trump officials, including Eric Trump.
Had enough? Too bad, because there’s more.
The big controversy now roiling the Republican-led Texas state legislature is whether it’s OK to hang out with Nazis.
The day began with House Speaker Dade Phelan responding to The Texas Tribune’s reporting that Defend Texas Liberty PAC President Jonathan Stickland hosted antisemitic white supremacist Nick Fuentes at his office building for nearly seven hours on Friday. “This [is] not just a casual misstep,” Phelan said in a statement. “It’s indicative of the moral, political rot that has been festering in a certain segment of our party for far too long. Anti-Semitism, bigotry and Hitler apologists should find no sanctuary in the Republican Party. Period. We cannot—and must not—tolerate the tacit endorsement of such vile ideologies.”…
Throughout the day, Defend Texas Liberty PAC and recipients of its funds issued statements taking aim at Phelan and calling for his resignation. They condemned Fuentes, but none of them addressed whether they would return the Defend Texas Liberty money, nor did they criticize Stickland for hosting the meeting.
Ignorance is not a plausible excuse. Everybody who works in politics knows who Nick Fuentes is and what he stands for, especially after his dinner with Donald Trump late last year.
The Call Is Coming from Inside the House
So what the hell is going on here? On the one hand, this is a consequence of Donald Trump breaching the moral quarantine on racism. I have also traced it to the basic intellectual weak spot of conservatism, which instead of standing for universal principles tends to stand for the narrow preservation of past social arrangements.
But the sheer number and persistence of these cases also reflects a very deliberate influence campaign.