Last week, The Anti-Defamation League put out a proscription list of hate thinkers they have deemed to be a danger to the republic. In years past, they would roll out lists of old geezers from the 1960’s, but now they are going after the alt-right. They describe Richard Spencer’s thing as “the most visible extremist movement” in the country. They also listed the alt-lite as fellow travelers. The point of the list is to intimidate people into disassociating from the people on the list. The ADL is trying isolate and ostracize these people.
Ironically, it is not a lot different from what the Klan used to do in a bygone era. As is true with most things in the current crisis, the history of the Ku Klux Klan has been retconned to fit the current narrative. According the prevailing mythologies, the Klan was just like the 19th century Cossacks. Instead of riding through Jewish villages on horseback, the Klan drove through black neighborhoods in pickup trucks.They are portrayed as sort of an off-the-books secret police, run by southern political leaders.
The truth is something different. The primary role of the Klan was to keep whites in line, not blacks. Sure, the Klan would terrorize blacks on occasion, but they were mostly interested in keeping the white majority in line. A white business that did not strictly adhere to the color line, for example, could find itself in trouble with the local Klan. They did not have to resort to physical violence in most cases. The most effective weapon of the 20th century Klan was social pressure to force whites to toe the racial line.
The other important bit about the Klan that has been thrown down the memory hole is that they lost. The reason is that after a while, their moral authority eroded and therefore their ability to apply pressure on whites decreased. Think about it. The Klan has no credibility today so they have no power. That means they had real power only when the white majority took them seriously. A look at history shows that the Klan was most active when their influence was on the wane. In that regard, it was always a rearguard action.
The same logic applies to the ADL and SPLC. Within recent memory, being called out by either group would ruin a media career and certainly destroy a political career. People in outsider politics could guarantee they would remain in outsider politics if they found themselves on the ADL’s list of bad thinkers. While you could survive having private doubts about the prevailing orthodoxy on race, you could not survive even the hint of antisemitism. That’s what made the ADL and SPLC so powerful.
This list and the SPLC’s recent missteps suggest that like the Klan in the 50’s and 60’s, these groups are now waning in authority. Including guys like Gavin McInness on their list of crime thinkers is so ridiculous, the only proper response is to laugh. The Proud Boys are about as edgy and subversive as bingo night at The Villages. The only reason anyone cares about them is that McInness is a media gadfly. His “group” is really just a fan club he maintains to promote his media appearances and internet show.
Another indication that these groups and their moral authority are on the wane is the fact that the response has ranged from indifference to mockery. McInness had a meltdown on twitter, but he was the exception. Most of the alt-lite people simply ignored it, as there was very little media coverage. The alt-right people were howling with laughter, congratulating one another over having made the list. The whole point of the name and shame campaign is to actually shame people. If they are laughing, they are not feeling much shame.
There’s another connection to the Klan. These groups, especially their leaders, have gotten very rich in the skins game. Morris Dees has become super-rich peddling himself as the Hebrew Avenger. When you need to hide your money in the Cayman Islands, you have a lot of money. The skins game has been very good to groups like the ADL, just as segregation was a profitable venture for members of the Klan. The ADL is mostly playing defense now, hoping for one last payday in the skins game.
Of course, that’s where the analogy breaks down. The Klan was never able to turn their thing into a profitable enterprise. That’s mostly because they lost, but there’s not much evidence to suggest they tried to monetize their movement. The ADL and SPLC have always been money making schemes from the start. Despite the greed though, they were highly effective at changing public attitudes. At the very top of the modern hierarchy of sin is the sin of antisemitism. It’s the one unforgivable transgression.
Still, the thumbless way that groups like the ADL are responding to the Dissident Right suggests they have not just lost their way, but lost their relevance. When Progressive propaganda outlets are running features like this one about the SPLC, the writing is on the wall. The people in charge no longer respect the moral authority of these groups and their intended victims no longer fear them. Like the Klan, the ADL and SPLC can only exist as long as they are feared or respected. Neither is true now.