It’s been widely reported that Robert Bowers, the man who gunned down eleven congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, was active on the platform Gab. Although it went offline after the massacre, Gab has consolidated itself as the Wild West alternative to Twitter, where anything goes. Its message boards are awash in a constraint stream of obscene, demeaning, and dehumanizing memes and messages about Jews, women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.
The acronyms and shorthand on Gab, like ZOG—Zionist Occupation Government—or “cucks”—describing emasculated men and mainstream conservatives—are deciphered with a wink and a nod by white nationalists. And the participation of Bowers, whose handle was “OneDingo,” in the vitriol of Gab was typical—just another day in the life of this “free speech” platform.
It is important to recognize the role of Gab in inciting violence. However, it represents the most gruesome tip of a much larger anti-Semitic iceberg.
Indeed, the memes and messages swirling around Gab have meaning for white nationalists, because they tap into both a much longer history of anti-Semitism in the West and, importantly, into core ideas and narratives of twenty-first-century refashioned white nationalism.
Over the past twenty years, white nationalists have produced a body of faux-scholarly literature, calibrating stories of the evils of Zionism and the inordinate cultural influence of Jews for twenty-first-century America. This alt-right literati, some of whom hold PhDs, knows that constructing a persuasive narrative requires accessible prose, argumentation, consistent framing.
Foremost among these white nationalist authors is Kevin MacDonald, a retired psychology professor who runs the blog The Occidental Observer and wrote a trilogy of books that explore what he calls “Jewish in-group preference.” According to him, Jews’ high intelligence has resulted in their successful manipulation of resources and capital to control Western societies. His most well-known monograph, The Culture of Critique, is the age-old conspiracy theory of Jewish dominance masked in an academic façade.1
From the alt-right perspective, Jews are the primary motor behind interracial unions and partnerships, the entrenchment of feminism, and the growing acceptance of LGBTQ communities. Most dramatically, Jews are solely responsible for America’s unfolding demographic transition.
White nationalists pinpoint the origins of this Jewish takeover back to 1965, proposing that Jews single-handedly engineered the Hart-Celler Act, an immigration law that replaced racial quotas with family reunification. As MacDonald has written, “The organized Jewish community was the most important force in enacting the 1965 law which changed the ethnic balance of the country.”2
Put simply, American Jews have caused “white genocide.” From the alt-right perspective, their actions are leading directly to the extinction of the white race as the clock ticks towards 2050, when, according to census projections, this country will have racial plurality, not a white majority.
There are two aspects of these arguments that are particularly dangerous. One, provocatively, repackages Zionist conspiracy as man-made—or Jew-made—genocide. As Greg Johnson said in a podcast with David Duke a few weeks ago promoting his new book, The White Nationalist Manifesto, this genocide is not an accident: “It is intentional.” Second, the Holocaust is demoted from one of the most tragic global events to a minor incident. Both MacDonald and Johnson, for example, spell the word with a lower case h. MacDonald recommends, for instance, that the holocaust be “stepped over,” because it is not pertinent to whites today and serves as a distraction.3
Providing strategies for this disavowal, Johnson, in his book New Right Versus Old Right, describes the Holocaust as an unavoidable topic, a big interruption in history’s march forward that must be tackled in some form, namely, by underplaying its importance to the contemporary moment.4 Johnson does not engage in Holocaust denial, but instead wants to mold history to enable white nationalist consciousness: “because mere historical facts—no matter what they are—should never deter us.”5
In our post-truth era, their arguments about the Holocaust are gaining more currency. As the memories of World War II fade, as the last regenerations pass on, it is more important than ever to remember that genocide was defined by the United Nations in 1948 in direct response to Nazi atrocities, to provide parameters so that would never happen again. It is the most perverse and perilous of ironies that the alt-right have seized the term as a cri de coeur for white victimhood.
The Tree of Life temple, which works with Pittsburgh’s Jewish Refugee and Immigrant Services and was performing a bris for the child of a lesbian couple on the morning of the massacre, is the white nationalist’s worst nightmare. It represents how American Judaism propels forward white dispossession at a breakneck speed.
It is imperative to deconstruct alt-right narratives of history, which provide the underlying meaning for bigoted and hateful memes like the plethora of bearded orthodox Jewish men with craggy notes, hunkered over and enfeebled, that proliferate cartoonishly on Gab and other forums. In the white nationalist mindset, Jews are the biggest obstacle to making American great again.
- Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (Westport: Praeger, 1998), Kindle edition.
- See preface authored by Kevin MacDonald in Greg Johnson, New Right Versus Old Right (San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013), Kindle edition.
- MacDonald preface, New Right Versus Old Right.
About the Author
Alexandra Minna Stern is the author of the award-winning Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (2d. ed., 2015) and Telling Genes: The Story of Genetic Counseling in America (2012). In addition to dozens of scholarly essays, she regularly contributes to the popular media through opinion pieces, blog posts, and interviews. She leads the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab at the University of Michigan whose work on eugenic sterilization in California has been featured in The Atlantic, The New York Times, and NPR, and many other media venues. Stern is Professor of American Culture, History, Women's Studies, and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Michigan. Her forthcoming book from Beacon Press, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination, will be released in July 2019.