In the shadow of Charlottesville, a journalistic account of some of the extreme right’s players.
Evil is not entirely banal, but it is entirely commonplace. Aided and abetted by the rise of Donald Trump, the extremist white-nationalist movement has been gaining strength, its numbers swelled by “the marginalized, disaffected, and lost [who] were the radical right’s ideal audience.” What’s in it for them? Writes journalist Tenold, who covered the Anders Breivik case in his native Norway—Breivik, “a man who believed that the white race was at war,” massacred 77 summer campers—the payoff is belonging in a movement where they no longer “feel invisible.” Does that moment ever really come? For the rank and file, perhaps not; one whom the author profiles aspires to nothing more than a double-wide, a wife and kid, and a gun. The leaders, formerly shadowy types now propelled onto the main stage, are cashing in more handily as they harp on the supposed victimization of the white race in the hands of its nonwhite enemies. Some of these leaders are comparatively polished; the star of the show, a supremacist Tenold calls Matthew, thinks himself a scholar and is impatient with unsophisticated Klan and neofascist types whose political commitment extends to shouts of “white power!” Matthew cut his teeth in a pro–Western civilization group at college, fell in with supremacists at—naturally—the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, and moved from pondering the “Jewish question,” which “boils down to whether Jews should be considered white and what their place in (white-led) society should be,” to propagandizing for a nationalist utopia. Thankfully, Tenold avoids the dangers of normalizing monsters even as he admits to liking Matthew’s “upbeat and friendly” manner. In the end, the author wonders whether the extremists are not superfluous given that “white supremacy is doing just fine without the far right.”
For those interested in charting the currents of domestic terrorism, a well-reported if dispiriting chronicle.