Saturday, July 9, 2016

The John Birch Society's statement on Dallas is identical to liberal red-baiting

The John Birch Society - one of the most notorious and influential right-wing extremist organizations in American history, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "Patriot group" - has posted a statement about the Dallas shootings:


Anyone familiar with the history of red-baiting in the United States will instantly recognize all of the major themes here. Leftists are outsiders, largely based in the universities, who do not belong in the political debate - but who have infiltrated it to advance their alien agenda. They are secretly racists who are advancing white supremacist ideology in order to promote their ideas about socialism - and even when they are black themselves, or are working in solidarity with the black community, they are just being opportunistic.

What I find striking about this is how directly it maps onto the modern liberal "white brocialist" red-baiting rhetoric we see today. For instance, consider this infamous tweet by Freedom House apparatchik Sarah Kendzior:


As Richard Seymour observed, "a great many liberals" echoed precisely this line as the anti-police brutality movement ramped up. And in the piece Kendzior openly promotes, we saw the exact same Bircher narrative:
Opportunistic radical groups from across the country are flocking to Ferguson, Missouri to take advantage of the death of Michael Brown, a young black male shot by local police...They’re members of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA...[They say] It wasn’t George Zimmerman that killed Trayvon, just like it wasn’t the Ferguson police that killed Mike Brown. It was capitalism...Is it any wonder the riots continue despite a change in who is handling things on the ground in Ferguson?
More recently, this "opportunism" rhetoric focuses less on protests and riots, and more on advocacy and narratives - but the premises are the same. For instance, consider this charming exchange:


All the elements are here. Communism is coming out of the universities ("hyper-educated dudes at elite institutions"), "they" are all "white", and they are opportunistically advancing their ideology at the expense of other races ("never seems to include brown and black people"). Only when pressed at length to specify these sinister elements did Bouie admit he was wrong about them - but the initial smears were of course far more popular than the retraction.

Functionally, the end game of this rhetoric is always the same: to break solidarity and thwart coalition building among the left by portraying anticapitalism as some kind of outside divisive force. And necessarily, it does this with vague, flimsy references to mysterious operatives which collapse given even a moment's scrutiny. In the 50s we called them communist infiltrators; in Ferguson, outside agitators; today, we call them brocialists.