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Backlash Culture: White Supremacy and the Music of Hatred

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

For the angry right, hatred is a symphony of duplicity, orchestrated by turning the truth on its head – which is how they came to compose an operatic backlash in which a rampaging neo-Nazi was transformed into an insidious tool of the left.

When Wade Michael Page gunned down half a dozen Sikh worshippers and a police officer at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, only a handful of writers on the conspiracist fringe were shameless and/or ingenious enough to blame the left.

After all, Page was literally a rock star in the neo-Nazi white supremacist world: He sang and played lead guitar in the racist hardcore band End Apathy, and had formerly played with Youngland, Celtic Warrior, Radikahl, Max Resist, Intimidation One, Aggressive Force and the Blue-Eyed Devils.

Still, some tried. In a breathtakingly bizarre essay at the American Spectator, former Reagan White House political director Jeffrey Lord pointed to the “leftist roots of not only the all-white Ku Klux Klan … but the history of the Nazis,” concluding that Page, like Hitler and Obama, was a socialist, “and violence in the name of socialism, much less anything further left on the ideological scale, has been as routine as hot weather in July. This is what the left does.”

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Over at the reliably tin hat Prison Planet, Kurt Nimmo suggested that Page was an unwitting participant in a psy ops scheme to discredit gun owners and the far right. “Is it possible the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) is somehow connected?” he asked. “In 2005, court papers revealed that the supposed anti-racist organization ran an ‘informant’ (informant and agent provocateur are often interchangeable) at Elohim City prior to the bombing of the [Alfred P.] Murrah Federal Building in 1995.”

Few paid them any heed.

But when an apparently left-leaning, gay-friendly maniac opened fire on a security guard at the Family Research Council’s (FRC) Washington, DC, headquarters on August 15, FRC president Tony Perkins was quick to take advantage of the opportunity to turn the tables on one of his most bothersome adversaries.

Back in 2010, the SPLC had dubbed the FRC a hate group because of its demonization of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people. “I’m not saying that the Southern Poverty Law Center is responsible for the shooting,” Perkins averred, before going on to assert just that. “They are responsible for creating an environment that led to yesterday’s shooting.”

Later that day, at a press conference, he remarked that the SPLC had given the gunman a “license to shoot an unarmed man.”

The MSM (mainstream media) dutifully followed up with any number of hair-splitting think pieces about whether putting a “mainstream” Christian organization in the same category as neo-Nazis or the KKK wasn’t going too far. “Though all hate groups are not equal,” Newsweek’s David Sessions temporized, “it remains difficult to draw a clear line where propaganda that demonizes an entire class of people – gays, African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, immigrants – becomes hate.”

Still, one can’t help but note the irony that an organization that literally defines itself by its animus against homosexuals (“President Obama’s Administration has aggressively promoted a homosexual agenda … homosexual or bisexual men are approximately ten times more likely to molest children than heterosexual men,” its web site proclaims) would deem itself blameless when gay people are the targets of unprovoked violence, but flaunt its victimhood when a deranged gunman targets them.

It’s the way of things. A year ago, when journalists at, “The New York Times, NBC, the BBC, CNN, the Washington Post, many European publications, and a host of others” saw fit to mention that the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik’s manifesto quoted the anti-Islamic bigots Robert Spencer and Pam Geller, the two were so outraged that they cast themselves as victims of “an unrelenting campaign of vilification.” They were not haters at all, they insisted, just bearers of a politically unpalatable message. In Geller’s oft-quoted catchphrase, “the truth is the new hate speech.”

On March 23, 2012, Barack Obama ventured some unscripted remarks on the Trayvon Martin killing. “I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” he said.

Then he added 11 explosive words: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.” Though his own presidential campaign was on its last legs, Newt Gingrich’s reaction was as swift as it was disingenuous. “Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe period,” he expostulated. “Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?”

And that was just the beginning. Seven birthers were invited to speak at the Republican Convention in Tampa. The super PAC is running ads that purport to connect the dots to explain “the one political vulnerability of President Obama that no one else has the stomach to bring up … his disturbing, yet crystal-clear pattern of tacitly defending black racism against white folks.”

Whether it is Tony Perkins turning the tables on the SPLC, or the Republican opposition researchers behind the Fightbigotry PAC painting the nation’s first multi-racial president as a racist, the trick is to turn the imputation of hatred into a graver offense than the hatred itself.

It has ever been thus. Back in 1964, the Mormon leader and ex-Eisenhower official Ezra Taft Benson was devastated that the media had made so little of Oswald’s leftist associations. “Communist leaders spread the word that the slaying of the president must have been the work of American conservatives,” he wrote.

Moscow has conducted a three-year propaganda campaign to make American conservatives look like hysterical fanatics. It has called them ‘rightists,’ ‘extremists’ and even ‘fascists….’ Even after Oswald was captured and identified as a Moscow-associated communist, there were those who insisted that any who had opposed the president during his term of high office was guilty of that same ‘spirit of hate’ as that which led to the president’s death. This line of thinking was expressed by a number of prominent persons through the press, radio and TV. To me it was incomprehensible.

For the populist right, hatred is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can foment it, calling up images of welfare queens, New Black Panthers, pedophiles, sexually promiscuous women, avaricious Jewish bankers, scimitar-wielding infidels, latte-sipping snobs, bomb-hurling anarchists, UN-flagged Agenda 21 enforcers, black helicopters, black Democrats and any and every other paranoid, Pavlovian boogeyman that will rally the disorderly congeries of the right.

On the other, they can take extravagant offense at the merest imputation of hate-mongering, turning their opponents’ words against them. Just listen to Romney himself, in Chillicothe, Ohio, on August 19: “Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.”

I have quoted Thomas Frank’s maxim about the angry right a thousand times, but until I can think of a better way to put it, I’ll quote it again: “Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of backlash culture,” he wrote. “Voicing the fury of the imposed upon is to the backlash, what the guitar solo is to heavy metal.”

The election is just two months away. Enjoy the music, everybody.