A constellation of threats: far rightists respond to the Black-led uprising

Guest post by Ben Lorber

It’s important to remember that when we talk about the far right, we’re not talking about a single unitary force, but rather a constellation of different actors, organizations and movements with different interests and levers of power in our current moment.

There’s the far right authoritarian state, and state-aligned institutions, intensifying repression, policing and incarceration against our movements and communities.

And there are far right, insurrectionist social movements that often oppose the current state, and seek to destabilize and overthrow the existing order to achieve even more extreme anti-democratic and White supremacist goals.

Using the three-way fight model, we can trace how these various far right forces overlap, converge and diverge in our evolving moment.

Showing Up At Protests

Silhouette of police officer wearing gas mask in front of flames
North Precinct, Portland, OR, 26 June 2020

Since the uprising, far right social movements are stepping up their efforts at recruitment, organizing and mobilizing online and in the streets. A wide variety of actors have been showing up at Black Lives Matter protests around the country to harass and in some cases attack protesters.

We have seen established right-wing armed militias like III%ers and the Oath Keepers, as well as new formations like the New Mexico Civil Guard, show up at protests claiming to “defend property from antifa.” We have also seen the formation of ad-hoc armed patrols, often self-organized across informal networks, regional Facebook groups and community forums in response to unfounded rumors of an impending “antifa invasion.” In one instance, a protester was shot by a militia member in Albuquerque.

We have also seen at protests “Western chauvinist” street fighting gangs like the Proud Boys; neo-Confederate groups; as well as small numbers of explicit White nationalists, from individual neonazis to members of the Ku Klux Klan and newer formations like the Nationalist Social Club and the America First/groyper movement.

Among these varied street actors, some are pro-Trump, pro-police, pro-state. Unsurprisingly, we’ve seen police coordinate with militia and vigilante groups to suppress protests on several occasions. In a few instances, police and military were revealed to be members of these groups themselves.

Others, like the much-discussed “boogaloo boys,” are insurrectionist and accelerationist, hoping to increase tensions and violence at protests to destabilize the political space and overthrow the existing order. A few “boogaloo boys” have claimed to stand with protesters against police violence—though typically lacking a race analysis—and one member of this movement murdered officers in California.

White Nationalists Respond

As the uprising rattles the foundations of White supremacy in the US, explicit White nationalists are increasingly angry and desperate. They view protests on the streets, as well as widespread support for Black Lives Matter across broad sectors of media, corporate and political spheres and the general public, as signs of an escalating “race war” in which White identity is demonized and suffocated by an all-powerful cultural-corporate elite that aims to “replace” the White race. Trump is not the savior they wanted, and they have long seen him as part of the “system” they’re up against.

Most have responded to the uprising by recycling well-worn White nationalist pseudoscientific arguments of racial IQ and “impulse control” differences, amidst other vitriolic anti-Black sentiment. The uprising, to them, offers further proof that multiculturalism in America is a failed experiment, White and Black communities cannot co-exist in a shared society, and the only option remains radical separation. Most are using antisemitism to portray the uprising as a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the White race, repeating long-standing themes, central to the White nationalist movement since its formation in the post-Civil Rights era, that Black-led social movements are covertly controlled by Jews.

While White nationalists are unified in viewing the uprising as an existential threat, their orientation towards the State differs. The accelerationist camp hopes, much like the “boogaloo boys,” that escalating unrest will lead to the collapse of the existing social and political order, giving White nationalists an opportunity to establish an ethnostate on all or part of American soil. Others, across blogs like VDARE and American Renaissance and the “America First” movement, call on Trump to crack down on protesters and restore “law and order,” criticisms of the administration notwithstanding.

White nationalists hope to capitalize off White resentment in this moment to further radicalize and recruit White people. They also hope to take action by direct violence, and by encouraging Black Lives Matter activists, Black communities, the broader left, and other rightists to fight with each other and with the state through propagating online rumors and trolling.

The State Responds

Meanwhile, prominent far-right leaders with state power like President Trump and a bevy of right-wing politicians, and state aligned institutions like Fox News, are terrified at rapid transformation, and doubling down on racist and authoritarian appeals for “law and order”. Amidst signals to his Christian nationalist base, Trump is escalating disturbing levels of repression, moving to designate antifa a terrorist organization and deploying federal troops to brutally suppress protests in tactics reminiscent of military dictatorships.

The far-right state is fueled, in its authoritarian response, by dogwhistle White nationalist conspiracism, with Trump calling the uprising “cultural genocide” by a Left that wants to “replace America” and “erase our heritage.” State actors, movements like QAnon and much of the far right andre using antisemitism to blame protests on “outside agitators” and enemies within like George Soros and antifa who, they claim, plot to undermine Trump and American sovereignty and destroy Western civilization. Escalating repression is justified through these appeals to the need to combat a shadowy, invisible enemy.

Overall, when combined with the massive economic collapse brought on by the COVID crisis, we’re plunged deeper into a moment in which more than ever, the center cannot hold.

In disgruntled reaction to perceived excesses of the “woke Left,” prominent centrists are increasingly signaling their willingness to ally with conservatives and traditionalists in bitter opposition to forces of progressive change. We should anticipate that center-right actors and institutions will drift further rightward, while far right movements will win new recruits, and grow increasingly radical and emboldened in their efforts to shift culture and open political space for their ideas to gain influence.

Moving forward, our strategy needs to account for the various ways these distinct threats can intersect. For example, campaigns to defund local police departments should take into account that, as this powerful and transformative win is enacted, it will likely lead to a growth in legitimacy and recruitment by right-wing militias, who will present themselves as the last line of “law and order” defense. Our movements need to be attuned to these various forces as we craft strategy to shape and respond to the evolving moment.

Ben Lorber (@BenLorber8) works at Political Research Associates, a
progressive think tank, researching white nationalism and antisemitism.

Photo by Jeff Schwilk. Used with permission.

1 thought on “A constellation of threats: far rightists respond to the Black-led uprising”

  1. Seems to me that if there's any "demonizing" of White Americans, it's BECAUSE of White Nationalism. In other words, they're doing it to themselves by the hate they sow. If there ever is a "race war" I'd like to let Klan-wannabes know that most White folk will stand with the Black folk, and the Native, and the Latino — and absolutely not with White supremacists.


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