Why the alt-right believes another American Revolution is coming


Clare Corbould, Deakin University and Michael McDonnell, University of Sydney

The alt-right, QAnon, paramilitary and Donald Trump-supporting mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6 claimed they were only doing what the so-called “founding fathers” of the US had done in 1776: overthrowing an illegitimate government that no longer represented them.

This was the start of what they called the “second American Revolution”.

This is why the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag was visible in the chaos — a symbol of resistance that dates back to the (first) American Revolution and was resurrected a decade ago by Republican Tea Party activists.

It is not hard to understand the appeal of this history to Trump’s followers. The era of the “founding fathers” has always loomed large in the minds of most Americans. And stories about the past are, after all, how individuals, families, and communities small and large, make sense of themselves.

Yet, it is worth noting these recollections of the past are necessarily selective.

The right to life, liberty — and to abolish government

Alt-right extremists, following conservative politicians, have also drawn succour from the Constitution, particularly when it comes to their “rights”, such as the right to free speech and bear arms.

These and other rights were not actually enumerated in the original Constitution, but rather tacked on in the Bill of Rights — a set of ten amendments passed to appease opponents of the Constitution and get it ratified.

These rights are fused together with the more vague yet “unalienable” rights enunciated in the 1776 Declaration of Independence — chief among them being the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.




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Drawing on philosopher John Locke’s ideas, the Declaration of Independence proclaims “we the people” come together to form a government to protect these rights.

And crucial to Trump supporters today, it says,

whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

This was the sentiment voiced on January 6 when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol. They chanted “This is our America” and “Whose house? Our house!”

Trump himself encouraged this thinking when he told the crowd before they marched to the Capitol, “You’ll never take back our country with weakness.”

The question is: who do Trump and, more broadly speaking, the alt-right think has taken the United States from them?

Many protesters outside the Capitol carried signs against the government.
John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

Rights for only a select few

The answer is evident in how the alt-right imagines the past: their vision of history omits or callously ignores the fact their constitutional rights have come at the cost of the lives and rights of others.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence it was a “self-evident” truth “that all men are created equal.” Generations of enslaved and free Black activists and their allies have worked towards realising this goal.




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Why the far-right and white supremecists have embraced the Middle Ages and their symbols


But for the founding fathers, and many of their white supremacist heirs, true “citizens” were exclusively white and male. A few years after penning the declaration, Jefferson denounced Black people as inferior. He owned hundreds of slaves. Even his own children, whom he fathered with Sally Hemings, were born into slavery.

Almost all of the founding fathers, in fact, were slaveholders or profited from the slave trade. Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution freed any of the half million enslaved people in the new United States — one-fifth of the population.

Rather, the Constitution purposefully entrenched the institution of slavery. By protecting the rights of slaveholders to pursue their happiness by holding on to their “property”, it doomed four more generations to enslavement.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence
Signing of the Declaration of Independence, by Armand Dumaresq.
The White House Historical Association (White House Collection)

By the start of the Civil War in 1861, there were 4 million people enslaved in the US.

The Constitution also gave the government the power to raise an army. After the American Revolution, this power was used time and again to wage a long genocidal war against Native Americans across the continent.

When enslaved and free Black people and their white abolitionist allies acted against slavery, slaveholders invoked the Revolution. They claimed they were undertaking God’s will to complete the work begun in 1776 of creating a free nation, and made slave-holding former President George Washington their hero.

It took an unprecedented and destructive Civil War to finally put an end to slavery, and another century or so for African Americans to achieve full rights as citizens in the United States. Every step of the way, they were contested and blocked by individuals, groups, states and judges who claimed they were upholding the principles of the Constitution.




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Why is the Confederate flag so offensive?


Rights trump equality

It should be no surprise, then, the alt-right movement is invoking the same “Revolution” today.

After Barack Obama’s presidency, Trump gave a voice to the grievances of his largely white supporters who feared they were being displaced in their own country.

And following the summer of the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump’s baseless claims the 2020 election was stolen, the Capitol Hill insurrectionists firmly believed “they” had lost control of the United States. They were no longer the “we the people” in charge.

'We the people will bring DC to its knees'
A sign at the Capitol insurrection declaring, ‘We the people will bring DC to its knees’.
John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

As in the past, they also had the support of prominent politicians beyond Trump. One of their supporters, the newly elected Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (who is also a QAnon supporter) declared before the January 6 move to block the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory,
This is our 1776 moment”.

And Congressman Paul Gosar, a prominent Trump supporter, wrote an op-ed entitled “Are we witnessing a coup d’etat?” in which he advised followers to “be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House”.

It has never been entirely clear when exactly the United States was last great in the minds of Trump supporters wearing their “Make America Great Again” caps. It might be the Ronald Reagan presidency of the 1980s for some, or sometime prior to the civil rights, women’s and gay liberation movements and the US defeat in Vietnam.

But there’s no doubt as to when this mythical greatness started. The yearning for the founding era — a time when slaveholders overthrew a government to protect their rights (including the right to hold people as property) — is palpable.The Conversation

Clare Corbould, Associate Professor, Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin University and Michael McDonnell, Professor of History, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why the far-right and white supremecists have embraced the Middle Ages and their symbols


Helen Young, Deakin University

Medievalist references littered the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6th.

Rudy Giuliani called for a “trial by combat”; the “Q Shaman”, Jacob Chansley (also known as Jake Angeli), was covered in Norse tattoos; rioters brandished a flag with a Crusader cross and the Latin words Deus Vult: a Crusader war cry meaning “God wills it” that has been taken up by the far-right.

These far-right appropriations of the European Middle Ages are important reminders that recent violence has a long history and global scope. Medievalist symbols were displayed at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The Christchurch terrorist’s manifesto referred to Norse and Crusading medievalisms.

There are many other examples.

Extremists misinterpret and appropriate medieval culture to suit their own purposes. They add new modern meanings to historical images and ideas and put them in new contexts. To understand why and how, we need to look to the modern world, not the Middle Ages.

Medievalism and whiteness

The association of the European Middle Ages and white identities reflects modern racisms more than medieval realities.

In the late 18th century, nations like England, Germany and France needed new origin stories that accounted for the emerging pseudo-science of race and the support imperialist claims of superiority over peoples they sought to subjugate.

In the 18th Century, white Europeans developed new unscientific definitions of ‘race’, such as in this 1851 map of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s five races.
Wikimedia Commons

The Middle Ages had been understood as a dark period of barbarism between Classical and modern times, but were re-imagined as the crucible of European whiteness and its variations such as “Celtic” and “Anglo-Saxon”.

The roots of social and cultural institutions were linked to ideas of biological descent.

In the 1700s, the Germanic “Gothic race” was understood, especially by the English and Germans who claimed descent, as having an inherent love of freedom, capacity for violence and respect for women. These supposed qualities were said to have led to the feudal system of government, chivalry and particular cultural aesthetics.




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The same ideas were linked to an imagined “Anglo-Saxon race” in the British Empire and its colonies. Racialized ideas about freedom that come from the 18th and 19th century are still influential among white extremists.

In architecture, academia, literature, language and art, whiteness was associated with the Middle Ages in ways that still resonate in 21st century society and culture. Pre-Raphaelite art created a white medievalist aesthetic reflected in modern TV shows like Game of Thrones (2011-19) and The Last Kingdom (2015–).

The pre-Raphaelites reimagined the Middle Ages as a white society, such as in this 1901 painting by Francis Bernard Dicksee.
Bristol Culture, CC BY-NC-SA

This association of white racial and cultural identity with the European Middle Ages is still strong in mainstream culture, as well as among extremists. We only need to look at controversies, such as the black British actor Jodie Turner-Smith playing Anne Boleyn.

Why do white supremacists use medievalist symbols?

White extremists take up existing ideas to legitimise their ideologies and false claims about the past. A rigidly structured feudal society ruled through violence by a king and nobility is appealing to fascists.

Most Western nations, including Australia, understand the European Middle Ages as part of their heritage. A copy of the Magna Carta, an English royal charter from 1215 often said to have enshrined trial by jury and other legal freedoms, hangs in Parliament House in Canberra. This makes medievalist symbols useful in allowing extremists to reach across national borders.

Medievalism is everywhere in contemporary Western culture, from entertainment like Vikings (2013-20) and the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise, to home loan and credit card advertisements, political discourse, themed restaurants and much more.

This helps make extremist associations deniable. Hate symbols can be hidden in plain sight when their meaning is open to question.

While Chansey’s tattoos are classed as hate symbols by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), they also note they are sometimes used by “non-racist pagans”.




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Popular culture medievalisms contribute to this deniability and provide opportunities for radicalisation through shared interests.

Former Ku Klux Klan member Derek Black started a section dedicated to Lord of the Rings and fantasy (a major area of popular medievalism) on the white supremacist site Stormfront in the early 2000s specifically to recruit people to white nationalist ideology. He told the New York Times he thought people who liked the “white mythos” of Lord of the Rings could be “turned on by white nationalism”.

More recently, video games and gaming websites — where medievalist material is common — have become major sites of concern for anti-radicalisation practitioners and policy makers because of activity by the far right.

Awareness is needed

Recent years have seen an increase in white extremist violence, including — but not limited to — mass-murderous terror attacks. It is increasingly important that we are aware of hate symbols.

The ADL’s advice to consider context in deciding if a particular use of a symbol is “racist” is not necessarily useful in deciding whether it is a sign of white extremism because of deniability and exploitation of common beliefs.

Medievalist symbols like those displayed at the Capitol have been linked to white European identities for centuries. Their use by violent extremists means that this connection can not be denied, ignored, or thought of as a neutral choice. We must deliberately, actively, and explicitly reject hateful meanings and the violence that goes with them in all aspects of our medievalist modern world.The Conversation

Helen Young, Lecturer, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

India: Persecution News Update


The link below is to an article reporting on the bashing of Christian pastors by Hindu extremists in India.

For more visit:
http://www.persecution.org/2013/06/07/twenty-christian-pastors-beaten-by-radical-hindus-in-india/

Persecution News: Calls for Beheadings


The link below is to an article reporting on Islamic extremist calls for beheadings of those opposed to Islam and those that insult Muhammad.

For more visit:
http://www.wnd.com/2012/09/decapitations-called-solution-for-criticism-of-islam/

Nigeria: Latest Persecution News


The link below is to the latest persecution news from Nigeria, where 19 people have been killed by Islamic extremists.

For more visit:
http://www.worthynews.com/11676-gunmen-kill-19-at-bible-study-evangelist-also-dies

Latest Persecution News – 26 June 2012


Islamists Bomb Three Churches in Kaduna State, Nigeria

The following article reports on the latest news of persecution in Nigeria, where Islamic extremists from Boko Haram have bombed another three churches.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/nigeria/article_1604845.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Latest Persecution News – 11 June 2012


Violence Continues in Nigeria as Akinola Criticizes President

The following article reports on the latest news of persecution in Nigeria where Islamic estremists continue to attack Christians and their churches.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/nigeria/article_1563037.html

 

Court Rulings Mirror Fears, Hopes in Egyptian Vote

The following article reports on the fears and hopes of Egypt’s Christians in that country’s return to democracy.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/egypt/article_1567353.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Nigeria: Latest Persecution News


The following link is to an article reporting on the latest news of persecution in Nigeria, where Christians have again been attacked by Islamic extremists.

For more, visit:
http://www.mnnonline.org/article/17141

Latest Persecution News – 28 April 2012


Bible School, Church Buildings Attacked in Sudan

The following article reports on the latest news of persecution in Sudan by Islamic extremists. A number of church and Christian buildings have been attacked, damaged and destroyed, with some Christians also beaten.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/sudan/article_1519092.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Latest Persecution News – 26 April 2012


Bombers Attack Center in Christian Area of Jos, Nigeria

The following article reports on the latest news of persecution in Nigeria, where Muslim extremists have attacked Christians watching a soccer match.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/nigeria/article_1517384.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.