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Summer of Our Discontent:
The Era of Purity Politics

3,242 words

You preachers of equality, thus from you the tyrant-madness of impotence cries for “equality”; thus your most secret tyrant-appetite disguises itself in words of virtue. [1] [1]

We are living through one of those periodic bursts of madness and irrationality that have always afflicted civilized societies. It is not just the fire-eaters who call for a complete rejection of an ancien régime they think is hateful, but the normally clearer-headed also suffer from guilt as they survey their history. So, these people, who in all other times are society’s backbone — the collective voice of reason — hesitate to act in their own interests and save themselves from the pit near which their enemies have cornered them. Knowing that there is nothing new under the sun does precious little to calm nerves and tempers, but it might focus the mind like a scorching swallow of firewater. They have two options: submit or resist. The human tendency is to deny the problems facing the country and Western peoples wherever they may live — to watch the evidence of the cataclysm facing them and read the horror stories online — and then to turn off the television, and exit the browser. Time for a nap.

For some of the timid and comfortable, appeasement will go on until the baying mob arrives, banging on their doors and windows. It is a curious thing that man is often attracted to wild, apocalyptic theories that are obviously false, and yet willfully or ignorantly, he fails to discern the real collapse that threatens his existence. The latter is serious and unnerving, and we prefer the unserious thrill of indulging in dark fantasies. Real problems have always been more banal and yet, more terrifying. I myself believed that the country had several decades before conditions became intolerable. I am still unsure whether recent events signal the beginning of a gradual decline, punctuated by the sorts of convulsions witnessed this summer, or if this era will end soon and dramatically. It will depend on the shape and the level of organization of the still-emerging but increasingly coalescent “unconditional surrender” politics of our enemies.

There is no such thing as politics without losers. Laws do not grant rights to one group without divesting rights from others. Politics is conflict, but it is stable when this conflict is a matter of policy (instead of totalizing worldviews) and when the losers perceive that, in the near future, they can win power legitimately. Thus, they have a meaningful stake in the political system. But politics can turn rapidly, morphing into rebellion, riots, and civil war. Before I explain further, it’s necessary that I give censure where censure is due — namely, to the late political order that until recently governed America. I begin with the faint-hearts and confidence men of the Grand Old Party. In the wake of violent insurrection these past months that included looting, burning, killing, and barricading off sections of Seattle and Washington DC as “autonomous zones” in defiance of the law, what have brave conservative leaders done to protect their constituents? They’ve spent more time and passion attacking colleagues on their side than condemning the destruction of American cities. Perhaps they feel these places are lost causes anyway, but the more likely reason is spinelessness. They’ve cheered mob iconoclasm with calls to tear down “offensive” monuments and symbols of Western achievement.

You can buy The World in Flames: The Shorter Writings of Francis Parker Yockey here. [2]

Meanwhile, George Bush the Younger quit painting his puppies long enough to slander the America of which he was Commander-in-Chief for eight years, calling it a country rife with “systemic racism.” He then refused to endorse the Republican nominee up for reelection in November. He would presumably prefer a senile creep in the White House who can barely articulate what he wants for lunch. Mitt Romney, in between lowering his COVID mask to denounce the president and awkwardly marching with Black Lives Matter protestors, has sneered at police and the people who care about theft and arson. Even military generals have debased themselves in return for tepid and insincere grunts of approval from the media. Just the other day, an overwhelming Congressional majority of Republicans passed a military spending bill mandating that all federal bases named for Confederates be renamed immediately. This, the military welcomed. One could wish that it concerned itself more with winning wars and maintaining the sovereignty of our national borders instead of following the latest social fashions, but the military rewards visionless mercenaries these days, rather than honorable warriors. Rank careerists and cowards, the lot.

It’s hardly surprising, then that both Democrats and Republicans have faced serious insurrection. Voters seem to finally realize that the party system is a script in which the two antagonists select as opponents creatures from the same political “club.” Which to choose, the neoliberal or the neoconservative? A real Sophie’s choice. The Democrat might talk more about the environment or a trendy social movement; the Republican might talk about trade and tax cuts. But enough voters understand that neither of these candidates would make substantive changes or do anything to upset the balance keeping the two-party system — the entities that operate like two crime families — intact. The public realizes that the political process is, in large part, manipulation. The official publications and campaigns gin up the election as a battle royale between opposing forces in which vital national interests are at stake. But nothing of real substance separates a Romney from a Clinton, or a McCain from an Obama.

This brings me now to the situation mentioned above — the situation in which all but the chosen few feel like losers with no stake in the old political process. Like noxious weeds growing fat and foul-smelling on stews of bog water, resentful radicalism proliferates in such climates. The most dangerous of these recent developments is the “total war” purity politics on the rapid ascent. Our military no longer wages meaningful or successful wars, and so war has shifted to the domestic theater of American politics. It is a kind of politics that views the world as a power struggle between an Ultimate Good and an Ultimate Evil. It uses a religious framework to weaponize the movement and to create fanatics dedicated to purifying the state or society, excising it of previous attachments and histories — a process of deracination that involves revolutionary and violent change for a reformed society. A ruthlessly righteous attitude entitles members to do anything in service of that goal. Indeed, in the minds of those engaged in purity politics, losers must suffer complete destruction, and they, the winners, recognized as the only legitimate authorities with the correct answers for organizing and explaining the world, not just for the present moment, but for all time. Such breathtaking lack of humility in these extremists makes purity politics anti-historical, and its entire way of operating ideologically (in the world of rhetoric and ideas) and concretely (in the physical world) is iconoclastic.

Purity politics usually pursues some fantastic utopia that proves impossible to attain. Therefore, the utopia is a constant “process” in which leaders of the movement use the failure to achieve perfect goals as justifications to enact draconian measures, to hoard more power, and to eliminate problem populations or rivals “in the way.” Alternative interpretations do not matter. Science does not matter. There is only belief. Societies dominated by purity politics disallow neutrality; they are, by definition, intolerant. At least outwardly, they demand showy allegiance enforced by surveillance and snitching culture. This benefits the purifiers as internal spying loosens the older bonds of loyalty to family and neighbors, thus making it easier for the movement to control subject populations and to police its own members. It often exalts youth at the expense of older demographics, and one of its weapons is generational division. Yes, readers, I am describing the neo-Puritans of the Woke Left. How did you guess?

These Puritans like to imagine that they are at the vanguard of something never tried. But purification has deep roots in human history. Various cultures understood it as a spiritual journey toward a renewed, superior state of being. And it is often purchased with blood. When politicized, purification takes an even darker form. It involves sundering previous social and historical understandings — making an “un-people” before transforming them into “born-again people” (if they survive the procedure). In a medical framework, purifying can mean literal cleansing or the elimination of harmful germs and parasites from the body. Can it be that the pandemic, which has caused a national obsession with purging the virus literally, has led to shriller obsessions with purging society symbolically? Through whichever lens one views purification — spiritually or bodily — wiping clean often means wiping out. So it is with purification and the body politic. It rejects both the liberal and conservative traditions — the former for its tolerance and individualism and the latter for its restraint and realism about human nature. Both liberals and conservatives will attempt to placate these radicals, still under the impression that their chummy, two-party scam will continue. They will be devoured and unmourned.

As for the rest of us left behind, what will the rites of purification look like? Thanks to history and what we can already see happening, we can reasonably guess. Purification will take the form of inter and intra-group terror. I imagine the inter-group terrorism as advancing along a spectrum of humiliation and violence:

  1. Dehumanizing and demeaning propaganda campaigns
  2. Doxxing, ostracism, threatening livelihoods
  3. Physical intimidation, property destruction, iconoclasm
  4. Physical assaults and legal action; theft and divestment
  5. Imprisonment, exile
  6. Murder

Levels one through three, and arguably, four have occurred with alarming regularity over the summer. After all, the mental leap is modest when iconoclasts escalate from “attack[ing] objects as if they were people” to “attack[ing] people as if they were objects.” [2] [3] In other words, smashing symbols of real (but dead) men will eventually lead the rabid to smash the real (and live) men who remind them of those hated symbols. The living are always the true targets of this outrage. Puritans never did like graven images. The final levels will become frequent after the iconoclasts take over the levers of state power or nullify it. Their own members will not remain unscathed, and perpetual purges and test acts will thin their ranks just as they will sharpen their cruelty. We can expect the continuation of language torture, creeds, chants, and magic words whose definitions change with little warning. There may even be a Woke Puritan dress code and aesthetic that emerges. The Shabby Militant, or something. Perhaps the second coming of the unfortunate sans-culottes pairing of the “liberty cap” and baggy pantalon. Like history, bad fashion repeats itself.

There are several kinds of people involved and drawn to purity politics. Initial leaders of the movement will belong to the class of alienated intelligentsia or the previous elite who felt marginalized or unappreciated. Their ages span from 30 to 45 years, and their motive is retribution against the society that scorned them and were not sufficiently appreciative of their talents. They may spout idealism and even believe some of what they say, but power is their goal. The next group attracted to purity politics are the enthusiasts of the “youth brigade,” students and young people, from 16 to 25 years of age, who are fired by idealism and lead on-the-ground fieldwork. The final group comprises what Professor Lothrop Stoddard (1883-1950) called “under-men”: brutes who lack the skills that were necessary to meaningfully participate in the previous regime due to low impulse control, criminality, character defects, or low intelligence. [3] [4] They join in purity politics for the spoils and the violent chaos revolution promises them. They are civilization’s underachievers and relish taking revenge against the system that kept them leashed and muzzled. Utopian goals are not important to them; the thrill of destruction and the desecration of the old order draws the Under-man like a shark to blood. I’ll flesh out this cast below.

You can buy It’s Okay to Be White: The Best of Greg Johnson here. [5]

The Intelligentsia 

Meet group one: the disaffected malcontents who style themselves as thought-leaders in academia and public office; the self-important cankers and preachers who want to found radical communities of equality, not unlike that shining city on a hill in Guyana. I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that intellectuals have been behind every bad idea and social catastrophe since their rise as a self-conscious class of expert consultants in the eighteenth century. It has long been the stance of ivory tower residents to take up opposition against whatever beliefs they perceive the public majority to hold, less from a place of sincere conviction and more from one of preening vanity. Only the highly educated could make such banal tradition a fashion statement. Only an anointed class of Pharisees could lack the humility and self-awareness necessary to perceive that they no longer speak truth to power, but instead have assumed power over truth. And now there are too many of them who are unemployed and over-educated.

The Youth Brigade

Group one gives rise to group two: young zealots. Anyone paying attention to history and/or recent events knows that young people are dangerous. Most are easily manipulated into group conformity, and they latch on to the words of older mentors whom they admire and want desperately to impress. They are the most likely demographic to join militant outfits, because they have energy, blind faith in causes, and they are less likely to have jobs and families to think of. They listen and learn the lessons taught them by radicals in group one, and their devotion to the purity cause is religious. The youth brigade makes up the majority of violent protests on and off college campuses. While group one writes books and manifestos, group two creates street pamphlets, murals, signs, and fliers. They are heavily involved in on-the-ground organizations and act as reckless and enthusiastic shock troops for purity politics.

The Under-men

Finally, group three: the morlocks. Lothrop Stoddard, American historian, eugenicist, and writer, was a man obsessed with white fragility — not, of course, the variety peddled by today’s professional diversity exorcists — but the fragility of white civilization and how easily European man could sink into history’s abyss like all the other “countless tribes of men [who] have perished utterly . . . or sunk into decadence. Man’s trail is littered with the wrecks of dead civilizations and dotted with the graves of promising peoples stricken by an untimely end.” [4] [6] Though knowledge of genetics was in its infancy during Stoddard’s career, men of learning had long known that organisms passed on their traits hereditarily, and the collective breeding choices of a given species determined its evolution — its success or failure. Stoddard called the passing on of traits from parent to offspring the “germ-plasm.” Because superior strains of “germ-plasm” led to superior peoples, Stoddard argued that a population’s ability to create and maintain civilization was a function of race. Unless a superior race guarded against dysgenics, it risked forming a bloated underclass of inferiors — the enemies of civilization who, through dull resentment or white-hot envy, wished to lay waste the system reminding them of their inferiority. [5] [7] For those who can contribute nothing of worth, destroying the worthy is one of their few pleasures. These are the under-men, and it’s obvious to all reading this who and where they are. Group one often claims to be fighting for the under-man, but they see him as a mascot — a useful tool in order to garner social capital from peers and sympathy from foolish organizations, like ladies’ groups and churches. They also see him as a means to draw the idealists of group two to their cause. Everywhere man is in chains! How unfair. How hypocritical, how un-Christian — whatever guilt trip works. To this, the under-man grins his predator-grin, and when order collapses because of the efforts of groups one and two, he is finally free — to eat them.

What historical regimes and/or movements have engaged in total war purity politics? Tyrannical theocracies and states embroiled in religious unrest, like the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran or Oliver Cromwell’s dreary Protectorate; revolutionary France during its Reign of Terror in Paris and its massacres in the Vendée; China’s Boxer Rebellion and Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution; the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent communist regime. Of course, there are many others. Today’s postmodern Left continues a well-trod path. They are fired by the red fanaticism of zealotry and a good deal of narcissistic sociopathy. Their leaders proliferate in academia, an institution that has gone far beyond the usual oppositional pose intellectuals strike and has since veered into rabid hatred of the citizenry. They have slipped poison into the ears of several generations of young people and thus have inspired the young to hasten their civilization’s doom. In their wake are the under-men of the movement — looters, rapists, and killers of the mostly urban underclass — those who grasp at opportunities to take out their toxic resentments against lawful society. They are a deeply inhumane lot, despite their protestations of “social justice” and pious messages of equality.

I’ll conclude on a bittersweet note, because the reason I write is simple: I love my country and its people. That is all. I am filled with an overwhelming sense of loss when I think of a future America — a future Europe, even — without Europeans, the temperate lands of northerners overrun. Their unmatched beauty, their forests, lakes, and ancient mountains become the grotesque scenes of slums, favelas, and the open sewers so ubiquitous in the Third World. My mother grew up in small-town yesterland during the fifties and sixties, the “golden age of American childhood,” I’ve teased her, with some envy. She has fond memories of graduating high school during the year that the country celebrated its bicentennial, the “Spirit of ‘76.”  It seems less and less likely that America will survive to celebrate its tercentennial. We humans live long enough to regret to see the day we die. The real question now is whether survivors of her fall will keep the memory of Columbia’s “spirit” within their chests. We can take some solace in the fact that after the collapse, only her true sons will remain, and they have always excelled at rebuilding. Until then, we must study those who wish us gone and the nature of their movement. They have many advantages at this point: enthusiasm, political backing, corporate funding, media approval. But we have the traditional weapons of the Right: truth, cool heads, and historical insight. If the Left is the sound and fury of a star that burns brightly and spends itself wildly, the Right is the gravity that will wink it out of existence, having spent only time.

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[1] [10] Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Adrian Del Caro, and Robert B. Pippin, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 77.

[2] [11] Susan Juster, “Iconoclasm,” in Sacred Violence in Early America, ed. Susan Juster. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2016, pp. 192-241.

[3] [12] Lothrop Stoddard, Revolt against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman. New York: Scribners, 1922, p. 23.

[4] [13] Stoddard, 2.

[5] [14] Stoddard, 23.