Anis Shivani continues his rumination upon white supremacy by tracing the tendrils of it throughout contemporary American society. He traces its presence not only within the commonly understood movements that are openly racist, but also into the neoliberal policies and globalizing structures of the last thirty years. For Shivani, there is more than just an alt-right but also an alt-left, both of whom have eschewed enlightenment ideals to embrace a kind of “resistance” permeated with white supremacism. Shivani is supposed to follow these up with a more nuanced take on what he means by alt-left. I look forward to it.
To think of white supremacy as being conventionally theological in nature is to overlook its mainsprings; this misunderstood psychic energy has been so strong in America over the last five decades that, in Campbell’s terms, it has succeeded in being a “major agency of cultural ‘diffusion’” of its ideas into the “host culture’ (established institutions), and has also been a “major agency of cultural innovation.” Most of the resonant ideas have come in this time period from this movement, and continue to do so, even if discrete white supremacist “cults” like the Aryan Nations or Posse Comitatus seem long past their heyday. Cults need underground media; no matter how powerful a cult’s media becomes, it must present itself as embattled and surreptitious: hence, Fox News’ or right-wing talk radio’s self-image as underground fighters.
White supremacy is a form of pursuit of exotic or forbidden knowledge (stigmatized knowledge, as Michael Barkun would have it). We think of globalization as rational, calculating, efficient, anti-state and anti-religion—in short, anti-cultic. One way to think of the current dominance of white supremacy (like other forms of irrationality) is to see it as rising in opposition to globalization. The other, more interesting, way is to see it as embodied in globalization itself; that is to say, white supremacy is a form whereby globalization manifests and strengthens itself, just as it deploys all other forms of irrationality (from Hollywood’s apocalyptic scenarios to campus identity politics to consumerist remolding of the body).
Again, is globalization really an open process, or does it create vast new openings for stigmatized knowledge, by repressing so much of it that doesn’t fit into its parameters? Is the modern alt-right just a creation of neoliberal globalization, in other words, just as the impoverished dreams and visions of modern alt-left protest movements, such as Occupy, are yet another creation of globalization?