The White-Man-as-Victim Narrative

NPR has a story about how white supremacy got rebranded as “white nationalist” or “alt-right,” both useless euphemisms designed to cover up the true nature of the ideology. There’s one part of the story that I think is really important to focus on:

TrumpPersecution

Spencer is a new face of the extreme right movement. Well-educated at the Universities of Virginia, Chicago and Duke, he is a world away from old images of the Ku Klux Klan. According to Pete Simi, professor of Sociology at Chapman University and the co-author of the book American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate, the term alt-right was a successful attempt by Spencer to rebrand himself and his followers as something fresh, young and smart for a new generation.

Among its allies, the alt-right embraces President Trump adviser and former Breitbart editor Steve Bannon. Bannon has called the site a “platform for the alt-right.”…

Professor Simi says a key feature of white nationalist belief is seeing themselves as victims. “We’re not the haters, we’re the victims of white genocide,” Simi says, describing the alt-right mindset. Marginalized, oppressed and fighting an uphill battle against the powers that be, they view themselves as noble, courageous, even heroic warriors.

This is important, this notion that the oppressor is really the victim of oppression. It goes along with their hatred of the federal government and this goes all the way back to the Civil War. What they now want are what they call “ethno-states,” countries that are reserved for specific racial groups. American and Europe, of course, would be all-white. Others can divy up other places if they’d like. And this is largely because they are still fighting the Civil War, which they saw as the dictatorial takeover of the south by a repressive federal government that wanted to keep white people from living as they see fit (that is to say, from being able to own black people, the only thing they seemed to care about).

And we hear echoes of this Orwellian rhetoric from not just the white supremacists but from more “mainstream” conservatives as well. We hear constantly how allowing gay people to get married denies the rights of straight people, or one bigoted subset of them, to live in a society where that isn’t allowed (as if they had any such right). Not allowing businesses to discriminate is oppressing those who wish to discriminate (at least when they base it on religion, but only then when it comes to gays, not to blacks or women, at least for now, an inconsistency they never manage to explain coherently).

And we hear it in the endless ranting against “elites,” inevitably done by people who could not possibly be considered anything but a member of the elite, being rich and white and powerful. We hear it from Trump, who views himself as the victim of the most terrible vilification. The quote in the image above is real, he actually claimed that no politician has ever been treated worse than him.

This constant need to strike the victim pose by the very people who have victimized, and continue to victimize, so many others is, as I said above, downright Orwellian. It is a perversion of language and perception on a scale rarely seen.

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