In the wake of three incidents of xenophobic and extreme right-wing violence, some are pointing a blaming finger at Donald Trump, who feeds and feeds upon what’s properly called hierarchically invidious monism, a prominent feature of—some might call it a “mother’s milk” for—authoritarian populism:
Lorraine Code criticizes classical logic for a requirement that “[e]verything has to be either A or Not-A, for A and Not-A exhaust all possibilities. Continuity between the terms is a logical impossibility.” This binary is not simply a dualism, for as we progressively conflate A and Not-A with binaries such as true and false, right and wrong, us and them, healthy and ill, white and Black, male and female, rich and poor, etc., it is clear 1) that such binaries are not value-neutral, 2) that one side of each binary is preferred over the other, and 3) that persons associated with the preferred side of each binary benefit from privilege. Because of this, Elizabeth Minnich rejects the term dualism to refer to such binaries, preferring instead the term hierarchically invidious monism.
There are several causes, as I note in an update to the latest issue of the Irregular Bullshit, including alienation, which is inherent to the valorization of individualism in neoliberalism; sports and entertainment that promotes hierarchically invidiously monistic thinking, where “our” team must defeat “their” team or the Cowboys must defeat the American Indians or cops must defeat robbers or, more generally, that the “good guys” must defeat the “bad guys;” a cultural peculiarity in which many individuals’ self-identity is inseparable from their guns even as guns facilitate many, but not all, acts of violence; empire as perhaps the ultimate mass expression of hierarchically invidious monism in the enslavement and subjection of anyone who is not a religious, political, economic, or military elite, but especially those in conquered territory, including all of the western hemisphere, Africa, and the Middle East; and the colonial legacy of resentment feeding resentment.
You might notice I have not listed Trump as one of those causes. Much as the Left justifiably vilifies him, he is not a linear cause. I said above that he feeds and feeds upon hierarchically invidious monism, as seen in his reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, in his and his administration’s anti-migrant actions and rhetoric, and in too many other incidents to catalog. This is a feedback of mutual causation. History includes precedents suggesting that we may have a long ways to go before another feedback retards what we might call the Trumpian feedback. Further, what we see is that a “solution” to right-wing extremism is never “final.” This undermines claims of social progress.
And you might notice that I have pointed to a number of cultural traits in our society. We may think “[t]hese senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans,” but in fact they are. And until we stop celebrating violence in so many forms, they will continue.
- Ray Sanchez and Melissa Gray, “72 hours in America: Three hate-filled crimes. Three hate-filled suspects,” CNN, October 28, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/28/us/72-hours-of-hate-in-america/index.html↩
- Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1991), 29.↩
- Lorraine Code, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1991); Patricia Hill Collins, “Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 541-552; Cornel West, “The New Cultural Politics of Difference,” in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, ed. Charles Lemert, 4th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010), 511-521.↩
- Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Transforming Knowledge, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2005).↩
- David Benfell, “Hierarchically Invidious Monism,” July 28, 2017, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/content/hierarchically-invidious-monism↩
- I combine lists of elites found throughout Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, eds., Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008). and in C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (1956; repr., New York: Oxford University, 2000).↩
- Noah Bierman, “‘Alt-left’ charged at ‘alt-right,’ Trump says, again placing blame for Charlottesville violence on ‘both sides,'” Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-trump-blames-both-sides-for-1502828835-htmlstory.html; Jonathan Easley, “Trump unloads in defense of his Charlottesville response at Phoenix rally,” Hill, August 23, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347592-trump-unloads-in-defense-of-his-charlottesville-response-at-phoenix; Jeet Heer, “Trump’s Racism and the Myth of ‘Cultural Marxism,’” New Republic, August 15, 2017, https://newrepublic.com/article/144317/trumps-racism-myth-cultural-marxism; Jonathan Easley, “Trump unloads in defense of his Charlottesville response at Phoenix rally,” Hill, August 23, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347592-trump-unloads-in-defense-of-his-charlottesville-response-at-phoenix; Colleen Shalby, “From blaming ‘many sides’ to ‘racism is evil’ and back again, what Trump has said so far on Charlottesville,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-how-trump-s-responded-to-violence-in-1502831078-htmlstory.html; Times of Israel, “Criticism mounts over Netanyahu’s response to US neo-Nazism,” August 17, 2017, http://www.timesofisrael.com/criticism-mounts-over-netanyahus-response-to-us-neo-nazism/; Jeffrey Toobin, “Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and Charlottesville,” New Yorker, August 15, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/donald-trump-steve-bannon-and-charlottesville; ↩
- Avery Anapol, “Judge does not give Trump admin more time to reunite all separated families,” Hill, July 7, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/395916-judge-will-not-give-trump-admin-more-time-to-reunite-all-separated; Associated Press, “Federal judge sides with Philadelphia in “sanctuary city” immigration fight,” CBS News, June 6, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/philadelphia-sanctuary-city-fight-judge-rules-2018-06-06/; Rachael Bade, “Immigration storm bears down on Republicans,” Politico, July 2, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/02/immigration-republicans-border-fallout-687895; Cindy Carcamo, “At the border, mothers prepare to make an agonizing choice,” Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-asylum-seekers-prepare-to-cross-20180625-story.html; Andrea Castillo, “Judge demands independent audit of conditions at detention centers for migrant children,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-flores-ruling-20180727-story.html; Doina Chiacu, “Trump threatens U.S. government shutdown over border wall,” Reuters, July 29, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-trump/trump-threatens-u-s-government-shutdown-over-immigration-idUSKBN1KJ0H7; Isaac Chotiner, “‘This Entire System Is Designed to Make Things Impossible for Immigrants,'” Slate, July 2, 2018, https://amp.slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/07/child-separation-now-why-its-still-so-difficult-for-immigrant-families-to-be-reunited.html; Chris Cillizza, “Donald Trump has no answers for the border crisis. And things are about to get worse,” CNN, July 5, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/05/politics/immigration-separation-border-trump/index.html; Nancy Cook, “Trump aides plan fresh immigration crackdowns before midterms,” Politico, June 18, 2018, https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/06/18/trump-aides-plan-fresh-immigration-crackdowns-before-midterms-652246; Maura Dolan, “Appeals court rules Trump can’t withhold funds from California ‘sanctuary’ cities,” Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-sanctuary-9th-circuit-20180801-story.html; Aris Folley, “Federal judge says Trump must fully restore DACA,” Hill, August 3, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/400332-federal-judge-says-trump-must-fully-restore-daca; Josh Gerstein, “Judge orders Trump administration to reunite migrant families,” Politico, June 26, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/26/judge-orders-trump-reunite-migrant-families-678809; Richard Gonzales, “Federal Judge Orders Administration To End Arbitrary Detention Of Asylum-Seekers,” National Public Radio, July 2, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/07/02/625504723/federal-judge-orders-administration-to-end-arbitrary-detention-of-asylum-seekers; Evan Halper, “Trump administration moves to block victims of gang violence and domestic abuse from claiming asylum,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-sessions-asylum-20180611-story.html; Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “In southern Texas, patching the border wall with $49 million in gates,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-border-wall-gates-20180418-story.html; Arelis R. Hernández, “Judge halts mother-daughter deportation, threatens to hold Sessions in contempt,” Washington Post, August 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/judge-halts-mother-daughter-deportation-threatens-to-hold-sessions-in-contempt/2018/08/09/a23a0580-9bd6-11e8-8d5e-c6c594024954_story.html; Jake Johnson, “Trump Finally Admits He’s Responsible: ‘You Have to Take the Children Away,’” Common Dreams, June 19, 2018, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/06/19/trump-finally-admits-hes-responsible-you-have-take-children-away; Brent Kendall, “Judge Rules Trump Administration Must Continue DACA Program,” Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-rules-trump-administration-must-continue-daca-program-1524624398; Victoria Kim, “Judge rejects Trump administration’s effort to change rules for detaining immigrant children,” Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-flores-ruling-20180709-story.html; Tal Kopan, “Hundreds of separated children not reunited by court-ordered deadline,” CNN, July 26, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/26/politics/family-separations-deadline/index.html; Tal Kopan, “Judge slaps Sessions, feds over ‘sanctuary cities,'” CNN, June 6, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/06/politics/sanctuary-cities-court-ruling-sessions-immigration/index.html; Tal Kopan, “Judge strikes down law underpinning Sessions’ anti-sanctuary city push,” CNN, July 27, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/27/politics/trump-sessions-defeat-sanctuary-cities/index.html; Taryn Luna, “California beats Trump in sanctuary state battle’s first round,” Sacramento Bee, July 5, 2018, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article214374659.html; Taryn Luna, “Federal judge rejects Trump lawsuit against California’s sanctuary state law,” Sacramento Bee, July 9, 2018, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article214595375.html; Nesrine Malik, “Trump is creating his American caliphate, and democracy has no defence,” Guardian, June 18, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/18/trump-american-caliphate-democracy-arab-world; Brittny Mejia, “Trump administration reunites just over half of migrant children under 5 with parents, says others are ‘ineligible,’” Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-eligible-children-reunited-20180712-story.html; Nomaan Merchant, “Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas,” Associated Press, June 17, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/9794de32d39d4c6f89fbefaea3780769; Nick Miroff, Amy Goldstein, and Maria Sacchetti, “‘Deleted’ families: What went wrong with Trump’s family-separation effort,” Washington Post, July 28, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/deleted-families-what-went-wrong-with-trumps-family-separation-effort/2018/07/28/54bcdcc6-90cb-11e8-8322-b5482bf5e0f5_story.html; Rebecca Morin, “Trump: ‘I would have no problem doing a shutdown,’” Politico, July 30, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/30/trump-government-shutdown-2018-749760; Brianna Rennix, “Understanding The Administration’s Monstrous Immigration Policies,” Current Affairs, June 17, 2018, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/06/understanding-the-administrations-monstrous-immigration-policies; Reuters, “Migrant children and families now face indefinite detention by US,” Guardian, June 29, 2018, https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/30/migrant-children-and-families-now-face-indefinite-detention-by-us; Jay Root and Shannon Najmabadi, “Kids in exchange for deportation: Detained migrants say they were told they could get kids back on way out of U.S.,” Texas Tribune, June 24, 2018, https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/24/kids-exchange-deportation-migrants-claim-they-were-promised-they-could/; Joel Rose, “Judge Halts Family Deportations For Now,” National Public Radio, July 16, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/07/16/629568352/judge-halts-family-deportations-for-now; Joel Rubin and Dakota Smith, “Money for police cannot be pegged to cooperation with ICE, judge rules,” Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-police-grant-ice-20180412-story.html; Philip Rucker and David Weigel, “Trump advocates depriving undocumented immigrants of due-process rights,” Washington Post, June 24, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/trump-advocates-depriving-undocumented-immigrants-of-due-process-rights/2018/06/24/dfa45d36-77bd-11e8-93cc-6d3beccdd7a3_story.html; Maria Sacchetti, Michael E. Miller, and Robert Moore, “Sen. Warren visits detention center, says no children being returned to parents there,” Washington Post, June 24, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/desperate-to-get-children-back-migrants-are-willing-to-give-up-asylum-claims-lawyers-say/2018/06/24/c7fab87c-77e2-11e8-80be-6d32e182a3bc_story.html; Maria Sacchetti, Kevin Sieff and Marc Fisher, “Separated immigrant children are all over the U.S. now, far from parents who don’t know where they are,” Washington Post, June 24, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/separated-immigrant-children-are-all-over-the-us-now-far-from-parents-who-dont-know-where-they-are/2018/06/24/c9bc5ba6-7568-11e8-805c-4b67019fcfe4_story.html; Samantha Schmidt, “Trump administration must stop giving psychotropic drugs to migrant children without consent, judge rules,” Washington Post, July 31, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/31/trump-administration-must-seek-consent-before-giving-drugs-to-migrant-children-judge-rules/; Evan Sernoffsky and Joe Garofoli, “MS-13 is scary, but Trump may be exaggerating the threat,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 24, 2018, https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/MS-13-is-scary-but-Trump-may-be-exaggerating-the-13020572.php; Kelsey Snell and Susan Davis, “President Trump Injects Fresh Chaos Into Immigration Debate,” National Public Radio, June 15, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/06/15/620356425/president-trump-injects-fresh-chaos-into-immigration-debate; Jon Swaine, “Trump stokes immigration chaos with call for summary deportations,” Guardian, June 24, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/24/trump-family-separations-children-immigration-dhs-texas; Sarah D. Wire and Jazmine Ulloa, “Trump administration won’t return children to immigrant parents in custody, top official says,” Los Angeles Times, June 26, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-immigration-house-vote-20180626-story.html; Lydia Wheeler and Rafael Bernal, “Sessions orders ‘zero tolerance’ policy at Southwest border,” Hill, April 6, 2018, http://thehill.com/regulation/administration/381991-sessions-orders-zero-tolerance-policy-at-southwest-border; Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan, “Sessions cites Bible passage used to defend slavery in defense of separating immigrant families,” Washington Post, June 15, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/06/14/jeff-sessions-points-to-the-bible-in-defense-of-separating-immigrant-families/; for more, see https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/content/perpetual-illegality-results-border-enforcement-and-policies-mexican-undocumented-migrants-0↩
- Paleoconservatives, who include the right-wing extremists apparently behind these attacks, perceive whites as being under genocidal siege by “browns” (presumably including Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African people, and Asians) and Blacks (generalized to include people of sub-Saharan origin). Any backlash to right-wing violence feeds this narrative.↩
- Tom Wolf, quoted in Ray Sanchez and Melissa Gray, “72 hours in America: Three hate-filled crimes. Three hate-filled suspects,” CNN, October 28, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/28/us/72-hours-of-hate-in-america/index.html↩