So how do neo-Nazis feel about people painting swastikas and Hitler mustaches on Barack Obama? An intrepid anonymous guest posted the question on a Stormfront forum (Stormfront’s logo is “White Pride World Wide”) last August and got a few–a very few, it wasn’t a long string at all–answers. None of them thought much of it, needless to say. “An idiotic tactic used by patriotards to undermine socialized medicine,” reads one of them. “Stupid scare tactics that use the most demonized political movement for propaganda purposes,” reads another. Fair enough.
Stormfront is on the racialist fringe; it doesn’t even pay lip service to the patriotic platitudes of the Tea Baggers. Pat Buchanan, on the other hand, is very much an insider: a cable TV pundit, best-selling author, a speech writer for Richard Nixon and a presidential candidate himself. Nonetheless, he has been caught up in many flaps about his alleged sympathies for 1930s-style fascism over the years. The latest was because of this essay, published on September 3, “Did Hitler Want War?” (spoiler: Buchanan says he would have preferred peace; England was actually the aggressor and hence bears the responsibility for the Holocaust). In March, 2008, Buchanan penned “A Brief for Whitey, a characteristically truculent response to Obama’s race speech:
America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known….no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s…..Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants…..We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?
But Buchanan has also admitted (perhaps mischievously, since he himself has been no friend of Israel–he once called the US Congress “Israeli-occupied territory”) that Obama’s positions on Israel are close to his own. During the campaign, he defended Obama on MSNBC: “Barack is right, we ought to talk to the Iranians, he’s right to oppose the war and, frankly, he’s right to say the Palestinian people have got a terrible deal over there and their suffering ought to be recognized. That’s Obama’s position. It’s my position. I don’t think it is a Nazi position.”
Back in August, in The Daily Beast, Max Blumenthal revealed that the Hitler/Obama meme got its impetus from the Lyndon Larouche organization, who began to develop it during the debate over the stimulus package. Though Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin popularized the accusation, it was Larouche’s people who launched the “death panel” attack against Obama and Ezekiel Emanuel; posters of Obama with a Hitler mustache can be purchased through the Larouche PAC. Jeff Steinberg, the editor of Larouche’s Executive Intelligence Review, told Blumenthal that “we went after this thing…..and put everything out publicly through our magazine and web sites and decided to make a very harsh and shocking point…..there’s a lot of people who for pragmatic reasons could be inclined to accept policies that could take us down that slippery slope to Hitler’s policies in 1939.”
Of course the real reason the meme is so powerful is because it accomplishes an essential move of political ju jitsu–it turns whatever moral advantage Obama might derive from his race against him; it transforms white Christians into an oppressed minority and America’s first black president into their persecutor.
Here’s Rush Limbaugh, in a much-quoted rant two weeks ago, after a 17-year-old white highschool student was beaten up by a group of black kids on a school bus:
It’s Obama’s America, is it not? Obama’s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,’ and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he’s white.
In the through-the-looking-glass world of Limbaugh’s and Beck’s America, “racism” has become the crime of accusing a white person of the socially unacceptable crime of racism. Instead of a Klansman with a hood, or Bull Connor with his fire hoses, the word now evokes the professorial Henry Louis Gates, or, of all people, the bi-racial Barack Obama, who “threw his grandmother under a bus,” we’re told, when he publicly acknowledged that she too had prejudices. It’s quite an accomplishment.