I’d almost forgotten this post. It’s a hazard of being prolific. It was written in the wake of the Charlottesville lost causer riot, but it still rings true six years later.
What’s not to love about a vintage post that name checks Kurt Vonnegut?
I’m never certain as to whether white nationalists live in a fantasy world or a fugue state. They talk about a world that never existed with absolute certainty, which means they’re absolutely wrong. They filter everything through their warped ideology and it ends up sounding like they’ve followed Alice down the rabbit hole; a reference many of them would not get. The only Alice they know is the zany maid on The Brady Bunch. Why? They believe in white culture, and what’s whiter than the Brady Bunch?
American white nationalists like to speak in buzz words and epithets. They have a label for everyone and everything. I’m not sure what they’d call me: liberal internet snarkmeister comes to mind. One label they insist on affixing to everything is white culture. They’re a little vague as to exactly what they mean by this. High European culture? Bach was into fugues, after all. End of feeble attempt to make a fugue state pun. Do they mean American pop culture? I haven’t the foggiest and, in the end, neither do they. They’re as coherent as the President* they so admire.
Speaking of cultural M*A*S*H-ups, I’m reminded of Radar’s attempt to be cultured:
The cleverer white nationalists like to contrast African and Asian cultures unfavorably with that of Europe. They almost sound like EU fetishists when they go on about European music, literature, and history. Of course, their version sounds very little like the agreed upon facts and more like delusions. It’s always fun to see if they know how much of European high culture was the work of Jewish artists such as Gustav Mahler, his conversion notwithstanding. They probably think Mahler has something to do with the postal service…
The vast majority of white nationalists only have a vague idea of what could be called Eurocentric culture. They call it white culture, which is something that does not exist. There is Polish culture, English culture, French culture, German culture and on and on and on. There is no such thing as a culture based on skin color, which is a granfalloon on steroids. There are sub-cultures influenced by one’s ethnicity but there is no such thing as white culture.
American white nationalist bigots have been with us a long time. They used to belong to xenophobic groups like the Know-Nothing party and the 1920’s iteration of the KKK who were rabidly anti-Catholic. Today’s white nationalists have dropped the anti-papist rhetoric in favor of ranting about black and brown people and that old standby, the Jews. It’s an easier sell to the Trump base some of whom are Catholics who skipped the cafeteria stage…
One thing I’ve noticed in my time as a political observer is that we no longer hear much about pols seeking the votes of European ethnic groups. It used to be a big deal to go after, say, the Polish vote in Chicago, the Irish vote in Boston, the Italian vote in New York, the pan-Slavic vote in Cleveland, and the German vote in Milwaukee. That’s a radical oversimplification that leaves out many groups but it’s still pertinent to my analysis.
People don’t seem to identify as much with their ethnic background as they once did. As someone who does, I’ll often ask someone if their last name is, say, Croatian. It used to be that everyone knew the root of their names but that’s increasingly less common. I guess the whole assimilation thing is working. Those European ethnic groups all had their baggage and discrete and insular prejudices, but it was healthier for one to identify as, say, Polish than white. It’s the difference between a karass and a granfalloon in Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional faith Bokononism. It may be the time for a Bokononist revival. Anyone game? At the very least, we should all read Cat’s Cradle. the book from whence Bokononism sprang.
The next time someone mentions white culture as being bound up with Confederate monuments, just shake your head and walk away. I, too, am tempted to argue with them but it’s as futile as arguing with one of the Robert E. Lee statues that are being taken down across the country. It’s a pity that they’ve settled upon harmful lies as opposed to the Bokononist idea of foma, which are: “harmless untruths; lies that, if used correctly, can be useful.”
That’s another term for a white lie which exist whereas white culture does not.
Repeat after me: white culture does not exist, and white nationalism is the ultimate granfalloon.
The 2023 last word goes to Nick Lowe who used one of Vonnegut’s catch phrases as the title of a catchy song: