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10 April 2024

The new racist right are uniquely dangerous

Online, they openly espouse a politics utterly at odds with basic notions of equal human worth and dignity. Yet the mainstream seems oblivious.

By Sohrab Ahmari

Which sector of political opinion produces the most noxious anti-Semitism? If you had asked me this even five years ago I wouldn’t have hesitated to answer: the anti-Israel left – keffiyeh-clad activists who construct their entire politics on opposition to Zionism; who obsessively catalogue the sins of one, and only that one, nation; and who call for boycotts targeting the world’s sole Jewish state, even as they ignore or play down rights violations elsewhere.

Today, however, I’m more worried about the openly Jew-hating (and anti-black) online right. As the “woke” era wanes, the right is witnessing a revival of ideologies centred around hereditary differences among large human groups, eugenics and IQ, and a Nietzschean worship of strength. In this subterranean world, the heroic white subject is assailed by dysgenic black and brown hordes, a project of dispossession engineered by Jews seeking their own racial triumph.

If you hang around Elon Musk’s “X” app (formerly known as Twitter), then chances are your algorithmic feed has exposed you to some of this content – that is, when it isn’t the Tesla boss himself promoting racial-right and anti-Semitic accounts on his $40bn crank playground.

Over the past few months, I’ve collected hundreds of “receipts”, the following of which are just three basic examples:

● An account called “Dietrich” juxtaposes a 1930s anti-Semitic caricature, showing a grotesquely fat Jewish man atop a bag of “GELD,” with a picture of New York’s famously rotund Representative Jerrold Nadler sitting in a similar posture.

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● A popular white-nationalist account with the handle “IAmYesYouAreNo” posts a meme declaring, “You are witnessing the biggest act of cuckoldry in human history. An entire civilisation willingly giving away its land and women.” Musk quotes the post, adding in his own words, “Accurate” (he has since deleted the response).

● A conservative Jewish writer mocks Nick Fuentes, one of the racist right’s most popular spokesmen. In response, he receives hundreds of replies along the lines of: “Time is up, you’ve been found out. YOU ARE JEWISH.” “Shut your mouth jewboy.” “Filthy Jew.” “You’re a nasty Jew.” When one such account claims that Jews are behind diversity and multiculturalism, Musk replies approvingly: “You have said the actual truth.”

And on and on. These tendencies are far more dangerous than hard-left anti-Israelism, because they represent a comprehensive politics whose aspirations are utterly at odds with democracy and basic notions of equal human worth and dignity. Most left criticism of Israel remains within the moral coordinates of modern democracy. And when legitimate progressive criticism of the Israeli government veers into anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, it represents a violation of the left’s universalist norms and is often rebuked as such. By contrast, the e-right’s proudly Hitlerist memes are a direct expression of the movement’s world-view.

Yet strangely, the mainstream and even many progressives are oblivious to what’s flowing through these online sewers. This is because an older mainstream commentariat is accustomed to dismissing what happens on the internet as mere “shitposting”. And because even progressives find it hard to believe that there is a movement afoot to rehabilitate, say, the natural-hierarchy philosophy of the late Antebellum South. Much as it was with jihadism – another extremist ideology that took a while to make itself felt – it’s easy to underestimate the degree to which serious people espouse “this stuff” and really mean it.

But the Islamists did mean it then, and the new racist right means it now. The return of right-wing eugenics and IQ politics will transform right-of-centre movements worldwide and especially in the US, creating a moral permission structure for changes that seem unthinkable today: legal changes aimed at abridging the Civil Rights Act, say, or an even more fundamental attack against the Reconstruction Amendments of the American Civil War.

Eugenic, racial and IQ-obsessed conservatism can also help blunt demands for economic reform: if the poor and working classes are impoverished not by the power differentials generated by markets but by their own mental deficiencies and endemic laziness, then labour unions, antitrust, social welfare and the like can do little to improve the lot of the powerless. The best social policy can do is get out of the way of the asset-rich, whose wealth is only the “natural” product of their genius.

It’s not all online. The new racist right has developed a significant ideological and cultural ecosystem, spanning both online communities and real-world hubs such as the Bay Area, Miami, and especially Lower Manhattan. They have their own canonical texts, their own fashion mavens, their own aesthetic and lifestyle. For many intelligent Zoomers today, “Judeo-Christianity” and Ronald Reagan, touchstones for an earlier generation of conservatives, carry no weight.

Rather, to be “on the right” means to be part of this lifeworld: one defined, above all, by a radical rejection not just of “wokeness” but of the basic commitment to equal human worth and dignity.

The creepy online right is a warning that what’s likely to succeed the woke era on the right could be far worse.

[See also: The bloodbath affair]

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This article appears in the 10 Apr 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Trauma Ward