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The Right’s Continuing Glorification of Violence

The warning signs have been there. We shouldn’t be surprised.
August 8, 2019
The Right’s Continuing Glorification of Violence

We can’t say that we weren’t warned. 

Less than a week before the 2016 election, Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic published a chilling prediction. The Trump campaign, they wrote “has provided a baseline undemocratic ideation to hundreds of millions of people and also provided a platform through which extremists, both violent and non-violent, can recruit and cultivate.” If their analysis of the process of violent radicalization was correct, they said, “the result will be blood.” 

That was of course, before Trump became president, with his rhetoric about caravans and immigrants “invading the country,” and “infesting,” cities. It was before Trump’s reference to the white nationalists in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” and his presidential suggestion that minority members of Congress go back to where they came from. It was before he retweeted hoax videos of Muslims attacking white teenagers, and it was years before he laughed at the suggestion that Hispanic immigrants be shot. Just this week, Trump was continuing to share tweets from British extremist Katie Hopkins who has compared immigrants to “cockroaches,” and called for a “final solution” to the Muslim problem. 

As Wittes and Jurecic had foreseen, there has, in fact, been a notable rise in hate crimes. So far this year alone, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee, there have been arrests in 90 cases of domestic terrorism and the majority of those cases “are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” 

After the attacks in Dayton and El Paso, the FBI released a statement saying that they underscored “the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes.”

This does not mean that Trump himself is directly responsible; but words have consequences and imagination can be the incubator of violence.

Back in March, Christian Vanderbrouk wrote an extraordinary piece about a darker but related strain of rhetoric on the right. It is time, he wrote then, for conservatives to stop trafficking in violent fantasies about racial civil wars that pit red and blue states against one another. 

And he raised a warning flag about a genre of white nationalist violence porn that was making its way into the mainstream of the new Trumpian conservatism. You should go back and read the whole thing

In particular, Vanderbrouk highlighted the work of Kurt Schlichter, a well-known figure on the right despite his fringey extremism. Schlichter peddles white nationalist “replacement” theory, calls inner city residents of Chicago “savages,” and celebrates violence with obsessive regularity. Despite that, he remains a columnist at Townhall and fills in as a guest host on Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show. 

But it was a series of books written by Schlichter featuring “white genocide paranoia and race war fantasy” that Vanderbrouk found the most disturbing. Schlichter’s self-published Kelly Turnbull series, Vanderbrouk wrote “imagines a red state/blue state split, the latter now a progressive dystopia called the People’s Republic of North America, where whites have been impoverished and left homeless by reparations taxes.” In the books, Schlichter describes a brutal and hyper-violent “all out war.” In one book, his “ruthless” (his term) protagonist is “sent back into the blue states to help those trapped inside resist a politically correct police state.” 

The body count of progressives, minorities, and even police officers is extraordinarily high. 

The obvious question is whether these turgid, overwrought books are simply harmless fiction. They are, after all, novels, not manifestos. But as Vanderbrouk notes, Schlichter makes clear that “he is not merely writing speculative fiction for entertainment. His objective is to awaken the reader to the existential threat posed by the American left.” In the foreword to one of his books, Schlichter writes:

[W]e have seen blue state governments allow conservatives to be silenced, to be intimidated, and to be beaten, in the full view of blue state law enforcement. My worst fears are slowly coming true, much to my regret. The Left is using all its governmental, political, and cultural power to marginalize and repress its opponents. If you want to see the true frothing hatred of the Left, jump on social media. Don’t worry—the leftists will tell you exactly what they think.

Nothing I write in People’s Republic or in this book is beyond their aspirations; in fact, my dystopian vision may well be too optimistic. The bottom line is that the 2016 election did not render People’s Republic moot. There is still more story to tell and still a warning to be issued. That’s what I hope to do here.

Despite his fascination with racialized violence, Schlichter still has lots of fans on the right. Hewitt has enthusiastically blurbed:  “Schlichter puts a whole flight of Black Swans in the air—each of them plausible—and the result is a riveting page-turner, and a demand from Schlichter for … more.” David Limbaugh calls one of his novels “a thought-provoking action thriller set against the backdrop of a shattered America.” Fox News contributor and author Katie Pavlich says, “They say conservatives are terrible story tellers, but Kurt Schlichter destroys that stereotype in his new novel People’s Republic and issues a dire warning about the future of America.” His Amazon page also includes endorsements from Ben Shapiro and National Review’s Jim Geraghty.

In fairness, it’s not at all clear that they have actually read Schlichter’s books. But Vanderbrouk has. And beyond the cartoonish characters and execrable writing, he notices the unsettling parallels between the Turnbull series and a notorious racist screed that inspired earlier white nationalists.

“Before there was an alt-right,” the Atlantic’s J.M. Berger wrote in 2016, “there was The Turner Diaries.”

First published nearly 40 years ago, the infamous dystopian novel depicts a fictional white nationalist revolution culminating in global genocide.

Crudely written and wildly racist, The Turner Diaries has helped inspire dozens of armed robberies and more than 200 murders in the decades since its publication

As Vanderbrouk noted here back in March, the Turnbull series and the Turner Diaries both “describe a tyrannical government that takes blacks off government assistance and gives them police powers, which they use to terrorize sympathetic white characters and seize their guns.”

In The Turner Diaries, the gun raid that opens the story is conducted by the “Northern Virginia Human Relations Council”, which has “deputized [blacks] in large numbers from the welfare Rolls”

In Schlichter’s books, People’s Republic and Indian Country, gun raids are also conducted by black former welfare recipients deputized into a police force whose slogan is “Diversity Is Our Strength.” Before a weapons seizure operation, an agent in one of Schlichter’s books declares “I’m gonna shoot me some redneck, ride their asses back here tied to my hood.”

There are other parallels:

The Turner Diaries depicts an oppressive government cracking down on “racists, fascists and other anti-social elements.” Posters are displayed “urging citizens to ‘help fight racism’ by reporting suspicious persons to the political police.” In the first chapter of Schlichter’s People’s Republic, a billboard commands “REPORT HATEMONGERS, DENIERS AND SPIES TO YOUR PEOPLE’S BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION.”

And there is a terrorism.

Insurgents in The Turner Diaries use a truck-borne fertilizer bomb to attack FBI headquarters in Washington. In Schlichter’s Indian Country, insurgents use a truck-borne fertilizer bomb to attack a military installation.

At a more basic level, Vanderbrouk noted, “Schlichter’s books and The Turner Diaries share the same paranoia that progressive governments, aided by white collaborators, are empowering blacks to enable them to rape white women and ultimately exterminate the white race.”

The racialized themes of Schlichter’s books are not subtle. Nor are the refrains of “replacement,” or “invasion,” — themes that have become popular – and deadly – on the fringes of the white nationalist movement. 

The chief villain in People’s Republic, for instance, is Martin Rios-Parkinson—the “Rios” is self-applied to gain minority “privilege” status—who is a high-ranking official said to have once had “white boy dreadlocks” and a history of supporting Black Lives Matter. He eventually takes command of the “Patrice Lumumba Battalion” and takes a VA facility as his headquarters (after evicting the elderly veteran residents).

In one scene, a white man and his family are at a gas station when a government militiaman called Do-Rag robs him and beats him with a rifle. 

A member of Do-Rag’s gang then sexually assaults a woman named Becky Collins. The hero, Kelly Turnbull, tells the victimized community, “I guess you can all get your teeth bashed in. Your women can get groped. Or worse. You can live that way, if you want.”

Do-Rag later leads his militia into a church, intent on robbing parishioners. “Get your wallets out bitches, I’m taking a collection!” he yells. When confronted, Do-Rag shoots a man named Will Collins and his wife Sarah. Ultimately a dozen worshippers are massacred.

In retaliation, a white insurgent sets fire to a People’s Republic government building. Inside the building, which houses an agency called the Inclusiveness Bureau, Schlichter describes a poster depicting “a cartoon crew of multicultural children dancing on some prostrate Scandinavian-looking guy.”

Vanderbrouk notes that the theme of white genocide is advanced again “when a government leader with the Jewish-sounding name ‘Darin Kunstler’ declares his plan to exterminate the civilian population under his command, with the exception of minorities (and possibly children, ‘who can be reeducated’).”

But at the core of Schlichter’s books is the catharsis of violence, and the racial elements are often explicit.

As the uprising intensifies, the book describes how “sixteen men in uniforms leapt out, waving their rifles and swearing in incoherent rage at the ‘cracker motherfucker’ driving the truck blocking their way.” Schlichter describes the killing of one of these government agents in distinctly racial terms:

Skinny’s bladder and his legs were freed from their slavery to his faraway brain when Turnbull’s rounds severed his spinal column. His legs went in opposite directions as his sphincter relaxed. Skinny collapsed face-first in the dirt of the soft shoulder, his urine turning it to mud, his dignity taken along with his life. [Emphasis added]

Unfortunately, Schlichter is not alone in his fascination with the pornification of political violence. Vanderbrouk also highlighted the Federalist’s Jesse Kelly, who warned that Trump supporters face genocide or ruin.  In his essay. “America Is Over, But I Won’t See It Go Without An Epic Fight,” Kelly asks readers to “imagine themselves as native Lakota tribesmen who must choose between life on a reservation—‘in the liberal utopian nightmare of 57 genders and government control over everything’—or glorious, doomed resistance: as the Lakota who fights back and holds his enemy’s scalp in his hands.” 

You killed him, won the day, carved off the top of his skull, and now you’re standing over him victorious on the now-quiet field of battle, with a quiet breeze blowing through your hair. Your adrenaline is still pumping with that primal feeling of victory and the elation of having survived when others didn’t.

Politics is no longer about debating one’s foes, he argued. It is a violent war. 

They are not political opponents in the sense that you have a debate with them. These modern-day leftists want you to lose your job. They want to destroy you. How do you think they’re going to treat you when they finally sit in the seat of power for good? So fight them tooth and nail. Make them long for the day when you’re no longer fighting them. Be the Lakota.

This can all be dismissed as hyperbole and lulz… at least until the shooting starts. 

I would like to say that Vanderbrouk’s piece caused a round of deep introspection on the right; or that, even now, there is some serious soul-searching about the kind of language and imagery that encourages Americans to imagine slaughtering one another. But there is no sign of that. 

After Vanderbrouk’s piece was published in March, Hugh Hewitt doubled down on his defense of Schlichter. The Federalist continues to be sunk in terminal whataboutism. Trump continues to ratchet up his rhetoric, even in the face of national tragedy. Tucker Carlson denies that there is a problem of white supremacy at all. 

And there has been blood.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.