By Orion Moon
In the weeks ahead we’ll examine in depth the local elements and public figures of right-wing movements that have become prominent in the region and nationally. While many of these organizations and causes have roots as deep as the initial European colonization of the Americas, the past decade has been fertile ground for the explosive growth of ideologies built upon religious fanaticism, paranoia, authoritarianism, and white supremacy. The election of the nation’s first Black president and subsequent antidemocratic backlash provoked the public emergence of virulent strains of hatred masquerading as “liberty”. As with any serious disease of the body politic it is important to understand the causes and symptoms alike, and we hope this series helps illuminate for our readers the parasitic growth of these ideologies upon the margins of our communities.
Four essential threads run through contemporary American far right movements, and these are interwoven to the extent that it’s increasingly unlikely to see an individual group or protest in which one of these threads is absent. I’ll introduce each in the sequence they’ll appear over the course of this series:
Christian Nationalism, also referred to as Dominionism, is an increasingly ubiquitous feature of American far right movements, and is a common indicator of participation in movement causes without specific religious aspects. Dominionists operate on the notion that Christ has commanded them to seize the organs of government, law, education, popular culture, and more with the aim of imposing what they view as God’s law upon the United States and ultimately on the entirety of human civilization. This fringe approach to Christianity is generally inconsistent with that of mainstream believers, just as much as the extremist elements of other religious traditions are unrepresentative of those faiths. Dominionist thought and strategy is found among Evangelicals and Roman Catholics alike, and has spread insidiously among low-information believers who often have little understanding of the tenets of their own faith. The corrupt focus on domination, subjugation, confrontation, and even violence appeals to adherents and nonbelievers alike who are attracted to these approaches, and is the primary interconnection with our remaining threads.
Conspiracy Theorism, once called the paranoid style in American politics by Richard Hofstadter, is a burgeoning element of many far right groups. The phenomenal growth of the Trump-centric Qanon (“Q”) movement is effectively exponential, mirroring the development of any number of religions, past or present. The general public climate of the past decade has fostered the growth and popularity of conspiracy theories, loosely defined as (irrational) beliefs in hidden but powerful organizations and individuals which supposedly control and shape the course of human events outside of public view. Declining education, anti-intellectualism, white supremacist backlash to the Obama era, widespread use of social media platforms, the reality-warping presidency of Trump, and ever widening socioeconomic inequality are but a few factors that have helped propagate a new dark age of unreason. Within each of the movements we’ll consider here, at least one significant conspiratorial claim can be found.
In recent years, and especially recent weeks, Americans have witnessed their own government very publicly take on the very attributes and policies of the fascist regimes the nation once ostensibly opposed. While authoritarianism has been present in US society for centuries in quite real and pernicious forms, it is now embraced wholeheartedly by American far right leaders and movements (and the roughly one third of the population supporting them). Numerous quasi-military operations have sprung up in law enforcement and civilian spheres alike, and at the fringes a genuinely seditious movement which hopes to spark a new civil war. The worship of firearms in US society binds these disparate groups as well. Even among the rank-and-file of American police departments, it is all too common to witness open, abhorrent favoritism toward right wing protesters and paramilitaries during public demonstrations. Naturally, these public and institutional authoritarian leanings lead us to the final thread this series will explore.
The vastly overdue conflagration ignited by the brutal murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many other Black citizens has cast a harsh light on the white supremacy that is root and branch of the American right (and much of America itself). Far right movements in the US attempt to disavow their own evident racism on occasion, but of all the ties that bind them this is the oldest and the key. Fear and hatred of others galvanizes and unifies these movements, and behind those raw emotions is the terror that the dominance, power, and privilege conferred by white supremacy will be lost. We hope to in some small way add to the spotlight glare being thrown on racism in this country by examining regional expressions of these behaviors, ideologies, and movements.
Misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia are far from beyond the scope of a thorough examination of far right movement attitudes and ideology. The upcoming article focusing on religious aspects of these groups covers these poisonous hatreds in considerable detail. It is worth noting that much like systemic racism, these issues are so prevalent in broader society that they’re very much worth reflecting upon independently.