See update for November 9, 2022, at end of post.
Fig. 1. Photograph by author, August 25, 2020.
One of the things we learn with systems theory is to embrace paradox, to understand it as the rule rather than the exception. And so it is with white Christian nationalists:
I feel like to many people don't recognise fascism because they think fascism will arrive selling oppression and tyranny, but if you're part of the privileged group fascism is selling you safety, normalcy, and tradition
— Byron C Clark 🍠 (@byroncclark) November 3, 2022
— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) November 3, 2022
Both of these tweets are true. The photograph in the second tweet, by Charlie Sykes, shows banners conveying a similar sentiment, and one I see all around Pittsburgh even as the banners and flags supporting Donald Trump have mostly come down, to the attitude I saw with “Fuck Your Feelings” during the 2020 campaign (figure 1).
More recently, around Verona, a Pittsburgh suburb along the east shore of the Allegheny River, I’ve been signs labeling the moderate Josh Shapiro, who is running for governor of Pennsylvania, as “Kim Jong Shapiro,” a reference to the North Korean dictator. The outgoing governor, Tom Wolf, endured being labeled a “dictator” during the lockdown. There is a blind fury among white Christian nationalists that accompanies a self perception of promoting “safety, normalcy, and tradition” even as they staged and then downplayed a coup attempt to keep Donald Trump in the presidency.
On the one hand, incoherence in political ideologies is to be expected. On the other hand, we have the violence that I have been worrying about all along, most recently manifest in a hammer attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband—his assailant was seeking her—at their Pacific Heights home in San Francisco. White Christian nationalists indulge in conspiracy theories, some entirely vile and despicable, at least one retweeted by Twitter’s new owner, rather than face their complicity.
Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s [November 8] election—I remain very cautiously optimistic about Pennsylvania results, mostly because I’m seeing yard signs supporting John Fetterman and Shapiro even in places I wouldn’t expect to see them—there is a wildcard of white Christian nationalist violence. We saw it organized with the coup attempt. We see it random with the Pelosi assault. But we see all of it deranged, unacceptable, and intolerable, indicating a dire need for involuntary psychiatric intervention.
Update, November 9, 2022: It seems there is, after all, an upper limit to the crazy in Pennsylvania. Both Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman have prevailed, against Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz, respectively.
- Charlie Sykes, “Because it’s all about protecting children and traditional values,” Twitter, November 3, 2022, https://twitter.com/SykesCharlie/status/1588262665990070272↩
- David Benfell, “More questions than answers as Donald Trump flags come down,” Not Housebroken, October 14, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/28/more-questions-than-answers-as-donald-trump-flags-come-down/↩
- David Benfell, “The Donald Trump supporters’ campaign message: Fuck Your Feelings,” Not Housebroken, December 11, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/08/26/the-donald-trump-supporters-campaign-message-fuck-your-feelings/↩
- Byron C. Clark, “I feel like to many people don't recognise fascism because they think fascism will arrive selling oppression and tyranny, but if you're part of the privileged group fascism is selling you safety, normalcy, and tradition,” Twitter, November 3, 2022, https://twitter.com/byroncclark/status/1588310114020503553↩
- David Benfell, “The danger that remains,” Not Housebroken, May 23, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/07/the-danger-that-remains/; David Benfell, “The danger that still remains,” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/24/the-danger-that-still-remains/↩
- Eugene Scott et al., “Assailant shouted ‘Where is Nancy?’ in break-in at speaker’s home, attack on Paul Pelosi,” Washington Post, October 28, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/28/paul-pelosi-attack-san-francisco/↩
- Alexa Corse and Salvador Rodriguez, “Twitter Is Drafting Broad Job Cuts in Whirlwind First Weekend Under Elon Musk,” Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/twitter-is-drafting-broad-job-cuts-days-after-elon-musks-takeover-11667143301↩
- David Benfell, “It might be time to bring back frontal lobotomies,” Not Housebroken, October 27, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/10/25/it-might-be-time-to-bring-back-frontal-lobotomies/↩
- Kris Maher, “Democrat Josh Shapiro Wins Pennsylvania Governor Race Over Doug Mastriano,” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/election-midterms-2022/card/democrat-josh-shapiro-wins-pennsylvania-governor-race-over-doug-mastriano-rdDSLqwHlckU7Q5yZYF2; Aaron Zitner, “John Fetterman Wins Key Senate Race in Pennsylvania, Defeating Mehmet Oz,” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/election-midterms-2022/card/oW3cFfkuo97s4Fa2Q9Sl↩