The following essay is a reworking of two earlier essays for republication in my forthcoming book New Right vs. Old Right. I am publishing it now as it is something of a companion piece to my recent essay “Premature Populism.”
On the question of violence, White Nationalists need to demand both moral strength and intellectual clarity from our leaders.
The Illegitimate Question of Violence
These reflections on violence were provoked by two events in January of 2011. First, there was the wholly spurious attempt to link American Renaissance to the January 8 killing spree of Jared Lee Loughner in Tuscon, Arizona. Second, there was the equally baseless attempt to link Harold Covington’s Northwest Front to the bomb placed along the Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Washington on January 17. The bomb was safely defused, and Kevin Harpham, who had no ties with Covington, was eventually arrested and convicted.
Jared Taylor’s response to the attack on American Renaissance was entirely appropriate. He pointed out that it had no basis in fact and that the characterizations of American Renaissance were incorrect. It was also appropriate for Harold Covington to respond to the attempts to smear him.
But I do not think it is appropriate for other White Nationalists to respond to such smears by protesting their own innocence and posting legalistic disclaimers of violence on their websites.
These White Nationalists condemn violence, of course, because they are aware of the state’s awesome power to inflict violence on us. They desire to deflect this violence by telling the state: “You’ve got nothing to fear from us. We’re cute, harmless little fuzzballs. We’re chumps who will scrupulously obey the laws concocted and enforced by the people who seek to exterminate us. We don’t think violence will ever be necessary to get our people off the path toward extinction. We think that genocidal anti-white policies are all just a hideous misunderstanding. We’re all men of good will here, our rulers included. We think that the people who put these policies in place will yield power someday if we just get our act together and vote them out. And of course if we ever got power, we would not dream of making them answer for their crimes. We’ll just shake their hands, like the good sports we are, and say ‘Good show old boy. Better luck at the polls next time.’”
When people in our movement are falsely smeared as linked to terrorism, our first instinct should be to defend those who are attacked by pointing out the speciousness or groundlessness of the claims and the blatant anti-white bias in the media and law enforcement.
If, however, one’s first instinct is to say “I am against all violence,” that smacks of throwing the accused under the bus and covering one’s own ass. Protesting your innocence when you have not been accused of anything also smacks of a guilty conscience, which subtly concedes the legitimacy of the attack. That’s not leadership.
Rather than getting defensive, leaders should counter-attack.
One should never allow the enemy to control how an event is framed. If you allow the question “Do White Nationalists advocate violence?” to be posed by the enemy, it does not matter what your answer is. We lose either way.
The proper response is to change the question, to reframe the issue, and to put the enemy on trial: “Why do the media and law enforcement have a bias against racially conscious white people, such that they will run unsubstantiated smears linking us to violence committed by leftists like Loughner or unknown parties like the Spokane bomber?”
Anything less smacks of moral weakness and uncertainty.
The Legitimate Question of Violence
The issue is complicated by the fact that violence is a legitimate topic for political theory and strategy, no matter who raises the question. But in the context of a hostile society, we should be the ones who raise the question and determine the parameters of debate, not axe-grinding middlebrow media demagogues.
As I see it, politics is about power, and power always reduces to violence or the credible threat of violence. Therefore, no credible political movement can renounce violence, for the renunciation of violence is tantamount to the renunciation of politics itself.
This is true even if one aspires merely to participate in a political system that seeks to govern force with law and provides legal procedures like election or impeachment to challenge and replace people in power.
The law may provide for the orderly transfer of power, but what ensures that the people in power will respect the law rather than void elections they do not like and tear up constitutions they find too restrictive? Ultimately, it is fear of legal or extralegal retribution, i.e., violence.
Bad Arguments Against Violence
1. Is violence immoral in itself?
Obviously not. Most people recognize circumstances where violence is legitimate, and self-defense against genocide is the best justification of all. Just look at the state of Israel and Jews around the world. Jews pretty much have a moral blank check for bullying and aggression, all in the name of self-defense. Meanwhile, mere verbal advocacy of white interests is automatically branded hate. Why is that? Because Jews have power, which comes down to violence or a credible threat thereof, and we have none.
People may have some sort of innate moral sense, but the moral sense of the public is not independent of power. The people always pretty much adopt the moral judgments preferred by the people who hold the whip. If the power relations were reversed, people’s moral sensibilities could be changed as well.
2. Is violence bad because we stand for “the rule of law” against the “barbarism” of power politics?
That is naïve. The people are ruled by law, but the government obviously is not. We are ruled by men, not laws. The men who rule make laws for the rest of us. And the people who rule us now have legislated conditions inimical to the long-term survival of our race.
Law is not independent of power, and power just means violence or the credible threat of violence. Law is a product of power. The people who have power make the laws. The people who don’t have power obey them. If White Nationalists gain power, we will make different laws. Until then, we obey their laws because they have more power than we do.
3. Is violence bad because it will turn people against whoever uses it?
Again, this is naïve. Like I said, people may have some innate moral sense, but most of the moral judgments that come out of their mouths and guide their actions are shaped by the people in power.
People are not innately “anti-violence.” People condemn violence against non-whites because the television and the newspapers tell them to. They do not lose any sleep over that fact that on an average day in America, 100 white women are being raped by black men, because they are kept unaware of that fact, and if they were aware of it, they would keep their mouths shut and not “go there” for fear of being branded racists.
The moral sensibilities of the public are manufactured by people in power, and power reduces to violence or the credible threat of violence. If White Nationalists had power, we could spin the propaganda dial the other way and people’s moral sensibilities would follow.
4. Is violence a bad idea because it might bring bad publicity?
This is just a variation of point 3 above. Jared Taylor has never advocated violence, publicly or privately. I know this, because I have discussed it with him. Yet that did not stop him from being “linked” by liars to Jared Lee Loughner. Harold Covington writes books filled with revolutionary violence. But publicly and privately, he does not advocate violence under present conditions, and those conditions are likely to attain for a very long time to come. Yet that did not stop him from being “linked” by liars to the Spokane backpack bomb.
Do I really need to spell this out? No matter what we do, no matter how nice we are, we are never going to get good publicity from a media and government controlled by our enemies. Again, good publicity is not independent of power, and we all know what power is. The people in power are capable of telling lies about us and making them stick. Yes, the internet has weakened the control of the establishment somewhat. But do you really think, when push comes to shove, that they are going to allow themselves to be “tweeted” off the stage of history?
Whites will only get good publicity when we have the power to control the media. And we all know what power is.
5. Is violence a bad idea because the state might arrest or kill those who use it?
Should we never use violence because we might get hurt? People who think that way are natural slaves. The people who rule us are of course willing to use violence, even if they might get hurt (or, more often, their underlings might get hurt), because that is how people gain and keep power.
If White Nationalists are serious about gaining and keeping power, then the people who rule us naturally conclude that we too are willing to risk using violence. Our rulers are not going to be fooled by putting legalistic disclaimers on White Nationalist websites.
Furthermore, the government arrests and imprisons dissidents who have not advocated or committed violence. Matt Hale will spend the rest of his life in prison, even though he did not advocate or commit violence. (It was a federal agent who did that.) Edgar Steele did not advocate or commit violence, but he will probably die in jail, even though it is increasingly clear that he was framed by federal agents and informants.
Folks, if this is getting too scary for you, you need to bail out now.
The Lesson so Far
We are pacified by pious illusions about limited government, the rule of law, and fair play. We are doped with religion, sex, and TV. But ultimately we are ruled by violence and the threat of violence.
If you believe that the system needs to be replaced or radically overhauled, or if you merely believe that we need to throw the bastards who are running things out, our rulers will try to stop you, because they know that none of these things will happen except over their dead bodies. They believe that your very thoughts and aspirations, even if entertained merely in the privacy of your own skull, bear the seeds of violence against them.
They will begin with soft measures: mockery, shunning, job discrimination, and the like. But if you persist, and if you constitute a credible threat, then they will work their way up to harsher measures. This has always been the case. America was founded by violence, expanded by violence, held together by violence, ruled by violence, and exports its violence all over the globe. (It is about the only thing we export nowadays.)
Being naïve, or merely pretending to be naïve, about the nature of politics and the people who rule us will not save you. Naïveté will probably just get you in more trouble.
A Credible Repudiation of Violence
Merely verbal disclaimers of violence are silly and pointless. If White Nationalist groups and individuals wish to repudiate violence in a credible way, then they should purge their ranks of mentally ill people, the kind of people who flip out and go on shooting sprees.
White Nationalists, despite our professed elitism, tend to be very, very indulgent of mental illness. Perhaps that is because we know that the establishment paints us all as crazy, so we are loath to make distinctions. But we can and must make distinctions. White Nationalists would be crazy not to get depressed from time to time, given how genuinely depressing our situation is. But no serious movement can afford to depend on people with serious mental illnesses and personality disorders like schizophrenia, manic depression, paranoia, narcissism, etc.
We may feel compassion or affection for such people. They may have talents and money. They may want to do their part for the cause. There is no need to be mean to them. But we can’t afford to depend on them, much less place them in positions of trust and responsibility.
Why Violence is a Bad Idea for White Nationalists
My friends will no doubt interpret the following as a mere rationalization for the pathological squeamishness of a grown man who still covers his eyes when something violent happens on the screen. But attend to my arguments. I think they are sound.
1. Violence is futile.
Setting aside all considerations of morality and legality and calculating merely in terms of forces and potential outcomes, violence against the system is completely futile. Yes, free men take risks. But only fools pick fights that they can never win.
As I never tire of reminding you, White Nationalists are a tiny, voiceless, powerless, despised minority. We are poorly funded, poorly organized, and poorly led. Our enemies control the greatest instruments of propaganda and coercion in history. We cannot beat them with violence. In fact, they need us to commit violence. They feed on violence, which is why they manufacture violence to blame on us.
Violence is futile, not merely because the enemy can catch and punish the perpetrators, but even more so because they can control how people perceive and react to it. The enemy has the power to assign the meaning and morality to our acts. We will never be seen as freedom fighters or romantic outlaws or heroic martyrs. We will be seen as kooks, sadists, nihilists, and terrorists—and with some justice, unfortunately.
We already have enough martyrs. We do not need any more. And martyrdom accomplishes nothing when the enemy determines its meaning. Yukio Mishima’s death meant something in Japan, where the samurai tradition is still strong. Here, he would be branded a kook and a loser, and it would stick.
2. Fortunately, violence is unnecessary.
Politics is about power, and power reduces to violence or the threat thereof. But what if it is too early for politics? Specifically, what if it is too late to reform the system and too early to replace it?
Then White Nationalists need to focus on metapolitics, specifically (1) the intellectual development and cultural propagation of our worldview and (2) building a White Nationalist community—a community that is wealthy, powerful, resilient, and dedicated to the perfection and empowerment of its members; a community that can aspire to be the foundation of a future White Republic.
This approach is valid even if the present system could be expected to remain strong for the foreseeable future. In that case, our community would simply have to become very big and very strong to mount a political challenge to the system.
But fortunately there is every reason to believe that the system is in steep and irreversible decline. Nothing lasts forever, especially a society that violates all the laws of nature. I don’t know when the system will fail, but it will almost certainly be within the lifetimes of most of the people reading this. Honestly, is there anything that White Nationalists could do to destroy the system better than its currents masters? Frankly, my greatest fear is that the system will collapse too soon, long before our community is powerful enough to create a white homeland.
We are few, scattered, voiceless, and powerless. The system is vast and powerful, but it is destroying itself. Time may be short, e.g., we may have only a few decades. So we need to focus our time, energy, and resources not on destroying the system but on creating an alternative. But that requires the discipline not to waste our lives and resources in premature and futile confrontations with the system at full strength.
3. Power isn’t everything.
Throughout this essay, I have stressed the importance of power. In politics, power is more important than legality, public opinion, or moral sensibilities, because those in power create laws and shape people’s opinions, including their moral opinions. They have power and we don’t. As long as this condition persists, they will be able to do what they like with us.
But power isn’t everything. Truth also matters. There are moral opinions, and there is moral truth. There are the laws of men, and there are the laws of nature. (Although Machiavelli was right to observe that unarmed prophets always fail; only the armed prophets succeed.)
As a Traditionalist, I believe that truth is ultimately the source of power, that truth empowers and lies weaken. A civilization rises when it is in harmony with truth, reality, nature, and the life force. A civilization declines as it strays from them. As Spengler points out, a society, like an individual, gains the greatest external wealth and power once it is over the hill and the life force is dying within it.
We have truth, but no power. They have power, but no truth. But the life force surges in us as it ebbs in them, for they have strayed from nature’s way. Our power will wax as their power wanes. Then a day will come when we can revisit the question of violence. But today, that question is closed.
Remembering Knut Hamsun
(August 4, 1859–February 19, 1952)
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 472 Hwitgeard on The Writers’ Bloc
Ask A. Wyatt Nationalist Is it Rational for Blacks to Distrust Whites?
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 471 Ask Me Anything with Greg Johnson & Mark Collett
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 470 Greg Johnson Interviews Bubba Kate Paris
Význam starej pravice
Je biely nacionalizmus „nenávistný“?
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 468 Ask Me Anything with Greg Johnson & Beau Albrecht