The New Nationalism: What’s In A Name? The White Nationalist and The Strange Re-Birth of Humpty Dumpty
Submitted by Caleb M. Pilgrim
The term “white nationalist” has recently come into greater prominence, and used to refer to individuals such as Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, the Alt-Right, the Breitbart people and others elsewhere, e.g Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, UKIP et al in the U.K. These particular whites largely appear disaffected, disappointed, disillusioned, if not at times delusional. But, the term “white nationalist” is a specious, counterfeit concept. It represents nothing more than another claim to “aryan” supremacy, by another name. It does not elevate. Its function is simply to legitimize or excuse white extremism (e.g the bigotry of the “good old boys” who lynched thousands yesteryear with impunity).
Time was when words used to have consequences. It may seem less so now, even a bit blurred, in an age of “fake news”, “alternative facts”, and so-called “political correctness”. Some may even say that they no longer know what to believe. But, words, because of their effects, still matter.
In their studies on nationalism, writers such as Kedourie, Minogue, Gellner and Hinsley in the U.K. , and a ton of others in the U.S.A, going back as far as Professor Carlton Hayes and others, all considered the kernels of nationalism as involving (1) a common language; (2) a common culture, shared traditions and a common stock of historical memories; (3) a distinct national territory, even if disputed (e.g the Kurds and many others).
Historically, if we consider the differences between American, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Slav, and other sometimes warring nationalisms, although pigmentation may be white, such nations and their nationalisms are clearly not one and the same. What, for instance, does a murderous, genocidal Nazi/German nationalism have in common with Russian, Polish, or Yugo(Slavs) nationalisms or nationalism of the untermenschen, or with the nationalism(s) of European Jewry sometimes resistant, say in a Warsaw ghetto under siege? How can Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian and Albanian nationalism be the same? Would English and Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa be the same? Ditto Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian nationalisms? Need I go on?
Today’s “white nationalist” and white nationalism thus represent nothing more than an amorphous blob, a rag bag which either wrongfully lumps together many different types of whites or simply co-opts any type of white, regardless. The idea goes back even before racists such as Senator John C. Calhoun, Chief Justice Taney, and the millions who believed that a black person had no rights that a white person was bound to respect.
The idea of the “white nationalist” confuses concepts of race, nation(ality) and nationalism. Its pedigree betrays it as an ugly, hopelessly confused mongrel. It is like mistaking a skinhead for an ordinary bald-headed man, ignoring the implications. In terms of today’s civil society and our ever declining civil discourse, the so-called “white nationalist” is the result of a marriage of inconvenience, a savage, untamed, marauder dressed up in respectable clothing.
One other point, it appears that if the matter involves a murderous white sicko, a Dillon Routh, a James Harris Jackson, or a Jeremy Christian, rampaging and killing or attempting to kill innocent blacks or some other minorities, then the accused is labeled a “white supremacist”. On the other hand, a Steve Bannon, a Richard Spencer, Alt -Right and Breitbart, espousing similar if not the same ideology, are euphemistically referred to as “white nationalists”. In either case, they are rooted in race, rather than nationality or nationalism.
We are thus reminded of Humpty when he first saw Alice and asked her “but tell me your name and your business”. She replied “my name is Alice, but —-“. Humpty interrupted her impatiently saying, “It’s a stupid name enough. What does it mean”? Alice, doubtful, in response, then asked Humpty “Must a name mean something”? Humpty: “Of course, it must, with a short laugh. “my name means the shape I am — and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost”.
For those of us who still believe that words have meanings, and that we should say what we mean and mean what we say, we should resist this illegitimate use of this term “white nationalism”, as it betrays the concept of nationalism, liberal or conservative, properly understood. Historians, political scientists, academics in general, and indeed any History or Pol Sci major, ought to have long aided in correcting and exploding this egregious abuse of language, this strange new Humpty Dumpty notion, and the growing if not pervasive misconception, the bastardization of traditional nationalism, and this novel, additional bit of a-historical, un-analytical muck.
The notion of the “white nationalist” may hold a magical attraction for some. However, its sinister intent should concern us all, including the millions of black immigrants in the US, UK and elsewhere.