Friday, February 13, 2015

Talking About ISIS and America's Lynching Culture is Verboten: Gary "The War Nerd" Brecher is None Too Pleased. He Doesn't Like The Fact That Black Folks Are People Too

Apparently Jim and Jane Crow Were Not Real Tragedies

The website Pando Daily has some useful content. One of its writers, Gary "The War Nerd" Brecher, occasionally offers up some insightful essays on military affairs and global politics. His style is acerbic and biting. We all have an online "voice" and angle. I do not begrudge him that choice of how to present his particular "brand" to the world. However, I do find it unfortunate that his recent essay Islamic State and American Narcissism, written in response to my basic observation about white on black lynchings and ISIS, is both intellectually dishonest and a fundamental misrepresentation of the facts.

[It is also very revealing that Brecher's essay is a close copy of the objections and comments made by overt white supremacists in responses to my work.]

Becher's Islamic State and American Narcissism is not an outlier or atypical in that regard: one of the recurring traits in the responses to my viral essay on ISIS and lynchings, Bill Moyers' thoughts on the same subject, and the online comments to others who dared to talk about America's cultural habit of spectacular lynchings and white on black violence ("then" done by rope and kindling; "now" and "then" done by cops and vigilantes in the guise of neo slave patrol overseers) is a hostility to the facts.

Yet, The War Nerd's discombobulated screed does have some value.

In Yes, ISIS Burned a Man Alive: White Americans Did the Same Thing to Black People by the Many Thousands and its followup, I located White America's denial of the connections between ISIS's horrible murder of Muadh al Kasasbeh and white lynchings of thousands of African-Americans in a matrix where Whiteness functions a type of racial innocence and also conditions its "owners", through the white racial frame, to a type of experiential, epistemological, and ethical myopia.

I believe that remains true. However, in a classic "but, and..." situation, responses such as Brecher's indicate that there are other explanations for a hostility towards discussing white on black lynchings in the context of ISIS.

White Americans do not "see" people of color, and black folks especially, as full human beings. Research has shown how white people see blacks as somehow possessing superhuman and/or supernatural attributes. Social psychologists and others have also demonstrated how white folks do not feel empathy for non-whites. Moreover, neuroscientists have also discovered that many white people's brains do not fully register the presence of non-whites.

Thus, the logic of the expected and fully rational and human response to a basic claim that ISIS's deeds are horrific and those of white on black lynchers are also horrific collapses because the White Gaze "sees" Muadh al Kasasbeh as a full human being, being burned alive, with whom "we" should all empathize. By contrast, if the humanity of black people is contingent, and not fully realized by the White Gaze, then the logic is broken.

[The White Gaze modifies its optics depending on the perspective of the "viewer" and the context of the "object". Muslims are viewed as less than human and equal by the White Gaze. But, because Muadh al Kasasbeh was killed by ISIS, his status as an Other is made secondary to how ISIS is now the enemy of the moment for the West and America. Muadh al Kasasbeh's savage murder by ISIS "elevates" his humanity from being a part of some undefined Muslim or Arab Orientalist mass to that of a "full" human being.] 

There are other explanations for the vitriol and denial channeled by folks such as Gary Brecher.

The murder of thousands of black people by white mob violence in the United States echoes into the present in many ways.

White material advantages and the illegal transfer of wealth from black to white America was facilitated by white racial terrorism--this is one of the cold facts and byproducts of America's lynching culture. White America is rich because black and brown America is poor.

The perpetrators and victims of white on black lynchings and other types of terrorism are also still alive. White folks may will themselves to forget that fact; black Americans can never will away the psychic violence of Whiteness, terror flows through our individual psyches and our body politic.

"Never forget" is a motto and call to arms that is not exclusive to one group.

The lynch law mentality of punishing innocent black people for crimes they did not commit still exists in post civil rights America: white people still support the unfair and disproportionate punishing of black people by the "criminal justice system". The lynch mob has become "respectable" through the use of bureaucratic procedures that do the work of institutional (and for white folks) impersonal white supremacy.

White racial paranoiac thinking is also a constant from the days of lynching by mob to the recent murder by thug cops such as he who killed Michael Brown or choked to death Eric Garner. The black people who were burned alive and viciously tortured by white mobs across the United States for more than 100 years somehow "provoked" their own murders. White mobs were doing their "Christian duty" to punish "negro fiends". Black people who are shot dead by police and white identified vigilantes must have somehow provoked their own murders wearing a hooded sweatshirt, walking the street, sleeping in car, getting their wallets, reckless eyeballing, bumptious walking, being uppity, or their "big black scary selves".

I also made another error in my assumption about how white folks en masse (and some others) would respond to a discussion of America's lynching culture and ISIS. On Twitter, an insightful and observant person pointed out how reasonable human beings know that Jim and Jane Crow were human tragedies. Unfortunately, White America, and too many white Americans, are not ready to actively own and acknowledge that fact--with all of its implications.

Thus, ISIS's savagery and barbarism are horrific and tragic; American Exceptionalism, as a white supremacist project, by definition deems that Jim and Jane Crow are less horrific and tragic than ISIS's behavior...if  the former are even viewed as human tragedies--as opposed to temporary "mistakes" or "bad behavior" by "Southern whites"--at all.

This is the beating heart of Gary "War Nerd" Brecher's objections in his Islamic State and American Narcissism.

On matters of the colorline and justice, Mark Twain's work resonates and enlightens. Brecher tried to channel him in his Islamic State and American Narcissism. He failed.

A more appropriate use of the great American storyteller is as follows.

From The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
“It warn’t the grounding—that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head.”
“Good gracious! anybody hurt?”
“No’m. Killed a nigger.”
“Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt."
Those who bristle or rage at those of us who dare to talk about ISIS's burning alive of human beings and America's cultural habit of doing the same to black Americans, are as Twain suggested, upset at the fact that black folks are full and equal people.

The inability to empathize with the suffering of black Americans and other people of color is also an indicator of how Whiteness and white supremacy have hurt too many white people's ability to live fully ethical and principled lives.


OldPolarBear said...

I have been aware of Brecher and his War Nerd posts for some time, having read him mostly on the Exiled Online site, which seems to not be very active and/or to have shifted most of its writers and new content over to Pando. I found his pieces interesting and informative in a lot of ways, and he often seemed to have good analysis and insights into some of the foreign policy situations out there. But I hadn't read him in a while.

The linked piece started out with such an outrageous strawman, namely that not only you (and Bill Moyers), but "the left" in general were valorizing and supporting the IS. That was so dishonest (I don't think he is actually that stupid) that I could barely bring myself to read the whole thing. But I did go on and it still turned out to be kind of tl;dr. He does have some interesting bits about where the foreign fighters are coming from, but I don't know how reliable the report he links to is. I did think there was some excellent pushback in the comments. I thought about posting something but then realized I would have to sign up for yet another account. Maybe I will later, but I'm just not up for it now.

Hadn't checked in for a while, so I just thought I would say, good job on these recent posts, Chauncey.

Seor said...

Man, I get what you're saying about white America covering up the terror campaign against black/brown Americans. But I gotta say, I don't really see the connection between to the current events with ISIS. I'm not saying that it isn't there, I'm saying that your article ain't making me see it. I've got fragments of your argument, but you really didn't get a cohesive whole across to me. Yeah, I get that White America is hypocritical because they downplay their history/legacy while decrying things that their immediate ancestors did (or at least benefited from). I agree on that point, but what I'm fuzzy on is what you think follows from that.

Specifically, how does the knowledge of American hypocrisy inform on what we're doing now, both with respect to ISIS and with respect to ourselves?

With respect to the American fight with ISIS, I don't really see how your article applies. You don't seem to have much to say on that conflict one way or the other, really. Yours was an article about America, with ISIS used as a mirror for our issues. I think that that's what got you the "american narcissist" label. It wasn't that Brecher necessarily thought that your american hypocrisy thesis was wrong; he just thought that it was self serving, and more importantly that you were downplaying what's going on with ISIS. For my part, I *do* think is how you came off, but I think it was a matter of framing, not content. The core of your article, where you drew analogies between White and ISIS terror campaigns, was valid and insightful. I appreciate seeing your use of external current events to shine light on internal events.

That being said, I think your articles really suffered due to a lack of secondary analysis. You demonstrated the comparison between ISIS and white terror campaigns, and then... nothing. You didn't do anything with it, as far as I could suss out (and here I admit that I might just plain be missing something). It's an idea that has promise, but it lacked any addition conclusions, calls to action, or even calls for further analysis. Brecher, ironically enough, seems to have taken that as a challenge, and flipped your idea to build up a fairly interesting analogy between ISIS and the post-reconstriction KKK. I'd enjoy seeing more analysis on your part, using global terrorism to deconstruct america's homegrown terrorism.

Anyway, peace.

chauncey devega said...

I will take your comment in the best spirit...

1. I suggest you write your own piece.

2. The truth is the truth. Why compromise it because it makes some folks uncomfortable. Interesting how truths about white on black violence, white supremacy, white privilege, and other miseries are judged to be "bad timing", "framing", or "impolitic". The fragility of whiteness is a damn powerful drug.

chauncey devega said...

He utterly dishonest. His claims are specious. And it is no coincidence that they mirror that of white supremacists. He is a high level troll. Unfortunate really.

Thanks for chiming in. How have you been?

Mack Lyons said...

I have no clue what Pando's doing with most of the former NSFWCorp talent. Aside from the occasional War Nerd column and a few brief flashes from Mark Ames and Paul Carr, nothing's being done with the other writers. If they're still around.

It was already clear from the start what the Pando buyout was all about - apparently NSFWCorp's subscription model wasn't enough to keep it afloat.

BTW, I offered my own take on Brecher's column back at DDSS.

Dan Kasteray said...

It's like rape, when the rape culture warriors blame the victim. Or when people blame the poor for jobs being outsized or environmentalists for environmental disaster.

Keep pissing in their eye Chauncey. If it went viral it did so for a reason. Go hard, in your next essay be twice as offensive to liberal racists

Dan Kasteray said...

Terrorism is terrorism, we just as a culture seem to give a pass to white terrorism

kokanee said...

"[W]e...seem to give a pass to white terrorism" not calling it terrorism.

kokanee said...

I know baseless propaganda when I see it. Here's Gary Brecher in his own words:
For people like Chauncey’s fans or Moyers’s admirers, nothing that
happens outside the US matters at all. Only our sins are important. So a
man burned alive in the Syrian desert becomes nothing but an excuse for
a sermon on American History X, because only America matters, only
America’s sins are real.
Every sentence is unsubstantiated, cringing up the spine nonsense. Never mentioned by Brecher is this line from Chauney's original essay, "ISIS's burning alive of Muadh al Kasasbeh is an act of barbarism."

American news is awash with the horrific deeds of people outside the United States but the American media never looks at what the American government or its forces does in less than heroic terms. Case in point: Pres. Obama was chastising Russia and he could barely get out the words as he choked on the hypocrisy of what he was saying -somewhat along the lines of Russia interfering in the affairs of other nations. {sorry - can't locate the clip.}


I came across this story by accident. Jessica Chambers, age 19, was sitting in her car when an assailant came up to her and doused her with an accelerant and set her on fire. She managed to get out of her car, still on fire, collapsed and died a few hours later in the hospital. She had burns on 98% of her body —everything but the soles of her feet. Police are also looking into the case as a hate crime because the white girl dated black boys. This happened on Dec. 6 in Courtland, Mississippi. Guess what? No one is talking.


This is Marvin Russell who happens to be the director of my wife's department speaking about, "the content of your character" to the next generation of graduates:

Eilardus said...

I'm getting a nosebleed trying to make sense of this. "White People hate ISIS, but they love lynch mobs, so they are hypocrites." Is that it? War Nerd at least made the effort to portray the connection between ISIS and KKK, you've done nothing but offer a tiny history lesson that anybody could get much more depth about by reading a Wikipedia article

Myshkin the Idiot said...

It would take a lot of writing to draw out the comparisons between white Christian nationalist terrorism and pan-Islamic nationalist terrorism.

It could be pointed out that ISIS and other terrorist groups are trying to seize a "freedom moment" defined as a clear possibility of achieving an independent state. For America, the revolution was a freedom moment. Southern slave holders sought their own freedom moment which turned into the civil war, which they eventually won.

Southerners failure to achieve their own state is an important lesson and throughout reconstruction their racial tyranny was actively being subverted. This was an era of the creation of many white nationalist vigilante militias.

Should the US government have prosecuted confederate politicians and military members?

Without the prosecution of these people, they were able to retain their organizing power and they used this to operate a terrorist shadow government until their political rights were restored in the 1870's and they were able to deny the rights of non whites.

joe manning said...

The over reaction of liberal racists is a measure of their vulnerability, their confusion, their fear. The more they are challenged the more they rationalize, the more over exposed their flimsy position, the more apparent the overlap between colorblind and outright racism.

Dan Kasteray said...

What the us should have done is destroy these white terrorists. Deny them comfort and shelter, kill their leaders and don't let it. Because frankly they're a bigger threat than al Queida ever was