President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Evansville, Indiana, Aug. 30, 2018.
Evan Vucci/AP
antecedent / power

The Religion of Whiteness Becomes a Suicide Cult

A wounded and swaggering identity geopolitics puts the world in grave danger.
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The exposure of Nazi crimes, followed by decolonization and civil rights movements, generally discredited quasi-scientific racism and stigmatized overt expressions of white supremacism. In our own time, global capitalism has promised to build a colorblind world through economic integration. But as revolts erupt against globalization in its latest, more disruptive phase, politicians and pundits in the Anglosphere are again scrambling to rebuild political communities around what W. E.B. Du Bois in 1910 identified as “the new religion of whiteness.”

The intellectual white web originally woven in late-19th-century Australia vibrates once more with what the historians Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds termed “racial knowledge and technologies that animated white men’s countries and their strategies of exclusion, deportation and segregation.” Mr. Trump, for instance, has chosen Australia’s brutal but popular immigration policies as a model: “That is a good idea. We should do that too,” he said in January 2017 to Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister at the time, as he explained his tactic of locking up refugees on remote islands. “You are worse than I am,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Turnbull.

If right-wing Australian politicians were among the first to mainstream a belligerent white nationalism, the periodicals and television channels of Rupert Murdoch have worked overtime to preserve the alliance between capital and mob in the Anglosphere. Indulged by Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers, writers like Bernard Lewis, Niall Ferguson, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan and Andrew Roberts repeatedly urged American neoconservatives after the Sept. 11 attacks to take up the aging white man’s burden and quell mutinous natives.

A broad range of figures in the Anglosphere’s establishment, including some of Mr. Trump’s most ostentatious critics today, contributed manure to the soil in which Trumpism flourishes. Cheered on by the Murdoch press, Tony Blair tried to deepen Britain and America’s “special relationship” in Iraq. Leaders of Australia and Canada also eagerly helped with the torture, rendition and extermination of black and brown brutes.

Not surprisingly, these chieftains of white settler colonies are fierce cultural warriors; they are all affiliated with private donors who build platforms where political correctness, Islam and feminism are excoriated, the facts of injustice and inequality denied, chests thumped about a superior but sadly imperiled Western civilization, and fraternal sympathy extended to Israel, the world’s last active settler-colonialist project.

Emotional incontinence rather than style or wit marks such gilded networks of white power. For the Anglosphere originally forged and united by the slave trade and colonialism is in terminal crisis today.
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