There are some really weird things going on around “identity politics” or what is commonly being called identitarianism. It took me hate-reading a strange piece on Spiked Online to finally think through and write some things on it — it’s so disordered and nonsensical it’s not even worth linking, and I found it via an odd Twitter account I’ve been poking some fun at recently. Someone or a group of someones cherry-picking pieces from mainstream media that apparently chronicle the demise and degradation of a once more civil United States seemingly sans a ruthless ruling class where people’s minds latch onto “degenerate” themes and consume self-destructive media products as if by magic. But I digress. I’d like to lay out some parameters here for the how the ideology operates before moving onto the more current happenings around how the left wing of the USian spectacle is deploying identitarianism.
My long-running thesis is that this was always a rightwing invention; in my lifetime, I recall it becoming more of a national talking point in the 80s with the rise of shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh who hated women in the workplace and bemoaned the the unfairness of affirmative action. These factors were going to lead to the downfall of our fine society. Today this is echoed by similar reactionaries posing themselves as opposition to an institutional left that has placated people into being helpless victims due to their identities. This has encroached upon anti-imperialist movement because, as any good guided false opposition is built, there are some truths to what they propose, and these are cloaked in aesthetically “hard left” identities online. To my mind, this is only part and parcel of the larger rightwing indentitarian project.
The rise of the institutional left since at least the late 90s has not made this a difficult sell. Bill Clinton identified as the “first black president” while his policies only piggy-backed off Reaganite drug programs to then empty the public purse in urban areas. The dismantling of Yugoslavia was based on a new left fantasy of an american multicultural project so desperately needed by backwards Slavs who were as white as the prospective college audiences after all — and by virtue of that, who also deserved such a chance at a free market future — that chaos agents were sent to rally among and build support for the bombs that eventually reined down. Barack Obama, the actual first black president, has a thoroughly CIA background and convinced a multi-racial, “progressive” crowd who identified as anti-racist that NATO intervention was fulfilling the “agency” of imagined droves of angry young Arab men of color who had nothing else to do but join head-chopping gangs of mercenaries due to their disenchantment with the “failed” policies of neocon nation building.
There is also a real material difference that can now be seen to have been formed under the Obama administration to pave the way for Trump’s rise that has been an obvious strategy of tension along racial lines. The Affordable Care Act actually hollowed out rural areas (commonly thought of as purely white, but this is certainly not the case) due to the privatization of Medicare and Medicaid, driving out clinics and medical practices, that is anything but socialist. However, Trump absolutely played to smaller-scale white landowners in these regions who have only been in that position because of previous racist and apartheid policies that locked out many black people and other people of color from ever establishing generational businesses and farms.
So we are supposed to see truth here too without the broader historical read, and this is what the rightwing identitarians push presently. The nastier currents are explicitly Hitlerian and are now emboldened to openly speak of things like “white genocide” and the “destruction of the white race”. Subcurrents of “hardline” anti-imperialists and even marxist parties adopt national socialist rhetoric such as “it’s okay to be white”. The Jacobin and Zizekian “left” respond with an imaginary destitute white working class unto itself that needs immediate attention, ignoring hard fought and won progressive legislation despite all setbacks and spectacular frothing against along with multi-racial working class solidarity on a smaller, community scale that without wouldn’t have secured survival for blocs of the working class under Reagan and onward.
Whiteness is again the identity that doesn’t need to assert itself as such. It simply is; it’s the default, it the given, it’s correct beyond all measure. The problem according to the rightwing identitarians lies with people of color, which almost always means black, not only asserting what is assigned to them as identities but identifying the exact eugenic, apartheid policies and actual pogroms enacted against them based on their position opposite to whiteness. Rightwing identity ideologues then point to this or that much maligned establishment gain that may have been made, only through the historic struggle of people of color, as if it was handed to them by white magnanimity.
This not so surprisingly justifies the continuation of whiteness under this ideology — white self-identification, white pride, the angst whites are supposed to experience as they are told by an empowered Nazi wing under Trump. “If they (black people) or (((they))), with (((their))) all-powerful lobby are doing it, then why can’t I?” This is the desired tension. The democrats and their phantom opposition to this compounding white nationalism round out a more “inclusive” reich with the Justice Democrats at the fore taking the correct cues suggesting that there are “internationlist-minded” among us but that’s quite all right as long as their loyalty is to The Homeland and apart from The Lobby; an “antiwar” Tulsi Gabbard whose humanitarianism extends as far as what’s best for Our Country and hip prosecutor Kamala Harris follow the lead.
With these latest developments and actors in the spotlight currently, it is clear the ruling class feels comfortable with fully putting on display how blood thirsty and imperialist their appointed left wing darlings are. There’s no hiding it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can barely spit out coherent stances on supporting socialist movements abroad and over the weekend uttered silly platitudes like her cue cards were simply pages torn from a daily Hallmark calendar. She’s meant to sound like an idiot as much as other Latino politicians from across the aisle do presently. And here is where I will move on to a followup post after some more thought regarding Ilhan Omar and the newest “anti-hate” propositions that are a continuation of this rightwing ideology dressed up in pure white pencil skirts and blazers representing the left on the stage presently.