The Far Right Told Us What It Had Planned. We Didn’t ListenBreaking News
tags: far right, racism, Capitol Riot, Turner Diaries
Ms. Darby is the editor in chief of The Atavist Magazine and the author of Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism.
A woman was killed in the riot on Wednesday — Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Trump supporter, was shot in the Capitol by a police officer. Her death shouldn’t have happened, and it should now be investigated, no question.
What’s frightening, however, is that many Trump supporters are already heralding her as a martyr. “Say her name,” advocates of Wednesday’s coup attempt have tweeted, co-opting the language of the Black Lives Matter movement.
A dead or injured white woman — even the illusion of one — has always been a powerful symbol on the far right, a rallying cry for people to stand up and act to preserve their contorted notions of honor, liberty and purity.
Consider the apocryphal stories of sexual violence that led to countless lynchings. Or of Ruby Ridge in Idaho, in 1992, when federal agents killed an unarmed white woman during a botched raid: “When the Feds blew the head off Vicki Weaver I think symbolically that was their war against the American woman, the American mother, the American white wife,” an acolyte of the far right, a pastor, said at the time. “This is the opening shot of a second American Revolution.” Right-wing activists have been citing Mrs. Weaver’s death ever since as evidence that they stand for what is good and right: family and freedom.
How will they now twist Ms. Babbitt’s death, even if the mob brought the violence to the state, and not the other way around?
We can’t remedy the past errors that brought us here, but we can avoid new ones, starting by rejecting the assumption that Wednesday’s events won’t lead to something worse. Just because a coup attempt fails doesn’t mean the next one will.
History holds important lessons, if only we are willing to hear them. This moment — men and women breaching the Capitol’s barricades, entering the chambers of Congress and demanding the nullification of the presidential election based on nothing more than lies and conspiracy theories — is a culmination, but it is not an ending. It is not, as some pundits have suggested, white supremacy or Trumpism’s “last gasp.” It is the manifestation of a long-held right-wing fantasy. Opponents of democracy stormed the nation’s seat of power. They walked out, many unscathed and uncuffed, to fight another day.
They told us they were going to do it, and they did.
It’s useful to remember the story of Earl Turner. He is 35, white, unemployed, racist and angry. The world is changing too fast for him: The economy is in shambles, Jewish people wield more power than he thinks they should, Black Americans incite chaos, and the government is cracking down on civil liberties, including the right to bear arms. Turner refuses to sit by, so he joins a movement plotting to overthrow the government. He wants to install right-wing rule by any means necessary. He is frustrated by those he judges to be merely “conservative,” people who talk but don’t act. Turner and other zealots go to Washington to do their part, and violence ensues.
Earl Turner wasn’t one of the people who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. He isn’t even real. He is the titular character of “The Turner Diaries,” a racist dystopian novel published by a white supremacist named William Luther Pierce in 1978, in which right-wing guerrilla operatives terrorize the streets of Washington, bomb the F.B.I. and commit atrocities against fellow citizens. Still, Turner was very much present on Wednesday. The plot, symbols and language of Mr. Pierce’s novel have seeped into the right-wing imagination, influencing generations of extremists. “The Turner Diaries” is so influential, in fact, that experts on white nationalism sometimes refer to the book as the movement’s bible.
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