Monday, October 07, 2019

See Ourselves

“O, wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, An' foolish notion.” Robert Burns
Update 10/25/19:  I have gotten something badly wrong, which I correct, below. Nothing I wrote was false, but I missed something major enough to invalidate a part of my claim.

I was listening to a podcast on the Crusaders.  Quite a good one, too, and seemed determined to remind us that motives are complex and sometimes contradictory, and alliance in wars can be enmity within the year. Today's bitterest friend is tomorrow's dearest enemy. Moslem historians regarded the entry of European Christians into their conflicts as rather secondary.  The main conflicts were Sunni vs Shia, and Seljuks vs Fatamids vs Byzantines - and even that was an oversimplification and changed over time. The popular historian being interviews was clearly not a Christian himself, but I thought he handled the varying degrees of piety and sincerity among the Crusaders even-handedly. He dropped in some soft signs of his modern political stance, but they were mild enough that I wondered if here setting up some liberal credibility before making a statement or too that might offend them.

He was referring to the final crusaders to the Baltic states in the late 14th and early 15th C, and how they were largely posers. The young nobles wanted some Crusading and adventuring on their resumes, both for secular and religious reputation. He contrasted this to the willingness of earlier crusaders to endure hardship and keep somewhat better focus on the main idea that the Crusades were to keep Jerusalem and surrounding areas open to pilgrims, because the Moslems had cut this off. Not that even the First Crusade kept their eye on that prize all that well, getting distracted into killing other people, especially Jews, on the way out. Still, the later Crusades were ever-less motivated by religious ideals.  And yet, he cautioned, even at the end there were young men who went on Crusade for more selfless motives.

I wished at this point he would at least acknowledge that the worst of them were at least willing to risk death in battle.  This was part of their bona fides of piety and devotion to Christ. And you, Charles, what have you risked?  How then do you call ME impious? That value is not ours, but one can see the point quite easily.

That irritation was quickly overwhelmed by his next comment, comparing those posers to modern alt-right mass murderers who have taken a fancy to wearing Crusader symbols.

Alt-right mass murderers?  Had I missed something?  I might have missed something, sure.  In the same way that the left has forgotten James Hodgkinson, it could be that there were some incidents that the conservative press buried now, never mentioning them in the same way that the legacy press buries stories as "unimportant" because they are "old news." I did think I might have kept hearing about them, because of working among liberals, and the overall cultural dominance of the traditional, liberal sources. But I couldn't guarantee that.  What to do to find out? I recalled Megan McArdle writing an essay debunking the claim that right-wing extremists had killed more Americans than Islamic extremists since 9-11, but many would call her a conservative writer.* Any search engine would quickly bring up lists that were either biased or could be called biased. But instead of trying to find an objective source. I decided to led bias work in my favor.

Do you remember the old joke about the chicken soup that a chicken had merely walked through at some point?  I decided that is what the Southern Poverty Law Center would be for me.  If any mass-murder had merely walked past something and alt-right group had also walked past in the preceding year, they were going to count that in their totals.  You see? SPLC does have a use after all! They operate on the boundary.  You can be sure they have the largest possible list, and there is no need to look further.

SPLC lists 43 people killed by perpetrators with ties to the alt-right, including incidents with 7, 9, 9, and 6 victims.  I reduced the list to 6 killed, all with only 1 or 2 killed in those incident.

Correct me if I'm wrong on this. Check my work. This list only goes through 2017.  The historian was English, and perhaps there is something in Europe the SPLC didn't bother with. 10/25/19 Update:  There was something more recent in New Zealand, followed by something in El Paso which was likely related.  He was also likely thinking of Charlottesville, which did not have a mass murder, but did have one, and there were some people there with Iron Crosses, Knights Templar symbols, etc. At the New Zealand shooting Brenton Tarrant left a manifesto that included the reworking of a Kipling poem about the English to the include "Saxons" more broadly. The El Paso shooter did not reference the poem or alt-right, but did reference Tarrant's shooting.  So the podcast guest was referencing actual people and events.  I dispute the claim that every white person who feels threatened is automatically part of the alt-right, or of any political movement. Dylann Roof seems to have no politics, just a fear from reading news accounts that black people were killing white people in large numbers and something must be done. There are also groups who like dangerous-looking and transgressive paraphernalia.  There are motorcycle guys who have been wearing the Pickelhaube or Iron Cross helmets for decades, mostly to look badass, with no implied political statement, just a general warning.  Anything alt-right beyond that is mostly just PR work, however much the people who sell it and buy it claim that it is just obvious. Tying El Paso back to the alt-right via two degrees of separation is even weaker.  However, it is true that some of these people at rallies and online are not just posers and toughness-dweebs, but people with at least some clearly right-sing ideas.  So the claim was oversold, but not without foundation. 

 I have not bothered to drive this stake to the center of the earth. Yet I think I was ultimately generous to my opposition in this.  If someone said they were alt-right, I counted that, even if their manifesto sounded politically mixed to me.  Plus, many of them can't be assigned a side, because they are just clearly ill.  As I have noted before, paranoid and psychotic people pick up whatever is in the air around them.  If they hang out with rightists, they are likely to adopt right-wing delusions.  If they hang out with leftists, religious people, gangs, military, or whatever, their delusions will trend that way.

Still, I counted some even of those. There are interesting discussions that could be had whether there is a difference between a white separatist and a white supremacist. It may be that neo-nazis are more right wing than the original nazis who were a left-right mix. I ceded those points without discussion (maybe because I could see that the data was going my way even without it).  I didn't count incels as alt-right.  I didn't count people who just didn't like immigrants and blacks unless there was some scrap of data that identified them with the right, however slim.  For example, one was considered alt-right because he had commented many times on Ben Shapiro's site.  Pretty weak tea, if you ask me, but I let it go.

So the historian - like most historians these days - displays remarkable objectivity, sees many sides, and is an excellent example to us all of what it is like to be even-handed, curious, and slow to draw conclusions - except when it comes to his own politics, in which case he just resorts to the default of his tribe.


Texan99 said...

I believe most progressives would unhesitatingly assign anyone antipathetic to blacks or immigrants as a member of the right, just as they seem to believe that everyone on the right who isn't an open racist is simply a covert one.

I was just reading an article today that mentioned in passing that Trump's appeal to American voters clearly was a backlash against a black president. The author didn't present this notion as speculative or controversial. It was a given, something that I suspect is so obvious to all his friends that it barely needs mentioning. It follows, of course that Trump is himself racist, and therefore that anyone who supports him is racist. It's a neat trick.

RichardJohnson said...

I was just reading an article today that mentioned in passing that Trump's appeal to American voters clearly was a backlash against a black president.

It WAS a backlash against Obama, because he didn't deliver on his promises.
There are two adjacent NE towns where Hillary's percentage of the vote was about 10% lower than what Obama got in 2012. Those two lily-white towns sent a black to the state leg last year. That doesn't exactly fit the backlash against a President because he was black narrative, does it?

It seems to me that the BIG Demo narrative these days is that all those eevul Rethuglicans are racists, as opposed to those excrement-doesn't-stink Democrats who love EVERYONE- as long as they don't vote Republican.

Texan99 said...

The logic obviously goes like this: Obama was black, we liked him, we can't imagine why anyone else wouldn't approve of his policies, ergo, if you didn't, it must have been because he was black. It's a lot easier than figuring out why half the country has a different views on what policies we should be pursuing.

Sam L. said...

Sure, Obama's black. But mainly, he's a DEMOCRAT, and LIBERAL. And Justice Clarence Thomas ISN'T either of those, so he's trashed.