Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Devil You Know

Today's tremendously pleasing quote comes from an interesting (if rawther lengthy) piece on Skookum, which Harry was kind enough to shove my way.

According to Paul de Armond, Research Director of the Public Good Project and one of the people interviewed for the piece, there's an "extraordinarily high incidence of people in the extreme Right who have suffered organic brain damage from head injuries--traumatic injury that turned them into dangerous kooks."

Now I don't know where on earth he got his data from (presumably, being a Research Director and all, he didn't just make the shit up), but I like it. I like it for two reasons. First, because it disses the far right and makes me laugh, in I confess a somewhat un-PC manner.

But more seriously, because it sidesteps the kinds of easy, Iagoesque-organic-evil etiologies we often tend to fall into when thinking about the racist far right and their motivations. Now let's be very clear: I don't say this because I think they deserve our understanding, fuck no. What they deserve is our shovels upside their nazi heads, brain-damaging them further.

I say it because, as the Skookum piece argues, we need to understand them if we're going to fight them effectively. The key to fighting successfully is knowing the enemy, the actual material facts of who he is and what makes him tick, as opposed to some fearful chimera we project of him in ignorance, or a cartoonish sui generis baddie we can speed-process without taxing our nuanced-analysis faculties too much.

Now, duh, I'm not suggesting that the answer to fighting nazis is knowing that they're all brain-damaged. They're not, and it's not. But the thematic point is correct. Only by taking the time and the rigorous methodology to concretely know our enemy are we likely to make any headway fighting him. (Note: I'm using masculine pronouns for the generic deliberately, on the grossly unfair and flagrantly unresearched assumption that more white supremacists are male than female; suck it up.)

It's all very well, and not unimportant, to make generalizing pronouncements about the need to oppose racism. We do that too. But on any given day, we're opposing racists, and the best way to do that is to know concretely who, and what, they are.

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