nationalism/patriotism


Mexico filmmaker Pablo Fulgueira happened to be traveling in New York shortly after the attack of 9/11. He took the opportunity to interview people on the streets and turned that footage into this short documentary, “SiNYster,” showing the very first social consequences of the 9/11 attack in New York City.

Part I:

Part II:

Pablo Fulgueira studied filmmaking at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica in Mexico City and graduated in 2006.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Anders Behring Breivik has now joined the pantheon of homegrown domestic terrorists who have unleashed horror on their own countrymen. Sixteen years ago, Timothy McVeigh and other members of the Aryan Republican Army blew up the Murrah Office Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 of their own countrymen and women. It was the worst act of domestic terrorism in our history, and, indeed, until 9-11, the worst terrorist attack of any kind in our history. We know what Norwegians are going through; as Bill Clinton said, we “feel your pain.”

As pundits and policymakers search for clues that will help us understand that which cannot be understood, it may be useful to compare a few common elements between McVeigh and Breivik.

Both men saw themselves as motivated by what they viewed as the disastrous consequences of globalization and immigration on their own countries. Breivik’s massive tome, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, paints a bleak picture of intolerant Islamic immigrants engaged in a well-planned takeover of European countries in the fulfillment of their divine mission. His well-planned and coldly executed massacre of 94 of his countrymen was, as he saw it, a blow against the policies promoting social inclusion and a recognition of a diverse multicultural society promoted by the labor-leaning government.

McVeigh also inveighed against both multinational corporate greed and a society that had become too mired in multiculturalism to provide for its entitled native-born “true” Americans. In a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper, McVeigh, then a returning veteran of the first Gulf War, complained that the birthright of the American middle class had been stolen, handed over by an indifferent government to a bunch of ungrateful immigrants and welfare cheats. “The American dream,” he wrote “has all but disappeared, substituted with people struggling just to buy next week’s groceries.”

McVeigh and Breivik both sought to inspire their fellow Aryan countrymen to action. After blowing up the federal building – home of the oppressive and unrepresentative government that had capitulated to the rapacious corporations and banks — McVeigh hoped that others would soon follow suit and return the government to the people. Breivik cared less about government and more about the ruination of the pure Norwegian culture, deliberately diluted in a brackish multiculti sea.

For the past five years, I’ve been researching and writing about the extreme right in both the United States and Scandinavia. I’ve interviewed 45 contemporary American neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, Aryan youth, Patriots, Minutemen, and members of rural militias. I also read documentary materials in the major archival collections at various libraries on the extreme right. I then interviewed 25 ex-neo-Nazis in Sweden. All were participants in a government-funded program called EXIT, which provides support and training for people seeking to leave the movement. (This included twice interviewing “the most hated man in Sweden,” Jackie Arklof, who murdered two police officers during a botched bank robbery. Arklof is currently serving a life sentence at Kumla High Security prison in Orebro. To my knowledge, I’m the only researcher to date to have interviewed him as well as members of EXIT.)

I’ve learned a lot about how the extreme right understands what is happening to their countries, and why they feel called to try and stop it. And one of the key things I’ve found is that the way they believe that global economic changes and immigration patterns have affected them can be understood by looking at gender, especially masculinity. (Don’t misunderstand: it’s not that understanding masculinity and gender replaces the political economy of globalization, the financial crisis, or the perceived corruption of a previously pristine national culture. Not at all. But I do believe that you can’t understand the extreme right without also understanding gender.)

First, they feel that current political and economic conditions have emasculated them, taken away the masculinity to which they feel they are entitled by birth. In the U.S., they feel they’ve been emasculated by the “Nanny State” through taxation, economic policies and political initiatives that demand civil rights and legal protection for everyone. They feel deprived of their entitlement (their ability to make a living, free and independent) by a government that now doles it out to everyone else – non-whites, women, and immigrants. The emasculation of the native-born white man has turned a nation of warriors into a nation of lemmings, or “sheeple” as they often call other white men. In The Turner Diaries, the movement’s most celebrated text, author William Pierce sneers at “the whimpering collapse of the blond male,” as if White men have surrendered, and have thus lost the right to be free. As one of their magazines puts it:

As Northern males have continued to become more wimpish, the result of the media-created image of the ‘new male’ – more pacifist, less authoritarian, more ‘sensitive’, less competitive, more androgynous, less possessive – the controlled media, the homosexual lobby and the feminist movement have cheered… the number of effeminate males has increased greatly…legions of sissies and weaklings, of flabby, limp-wristed, non-aggressive, non-physical, indecisive, slack-jawed, fearful males who, while still heterosexual in theory and practice, have not even a vestige of the old macho spirit, so deprecated today, left in them.

Second, they use gender to problematize the “other” against whom they are fighting. Consistently, the masculinity of native-born white Protestants is set off against the problematized masculinity of various “others” – blacks, Jews, gay men, other non-white immigrants – who are variously depicted as either “too” masculine (rapacious beasts, avariciously cunning, voracious) or not masculine “enough” (feminine, dependent, effeminate). Racism, anti-Semitism, nativism, and homophobia all are expressed through denunciations of the others’ masculinity.

Third, they use it as a recruiting device, promising the restoration of manhood through joining their groups. Real men who join up will simultaneously protect white women from these marauding rapacious beasts, earn those women’s admiration and love, and reclaim their manhood.

American White Supremacists thus offer American men the restoration of their masculinity – a manhood in which individual white men control the fruits of their own labor and are not subject to the emasculation of Jewish-owned finance capital, a black- and feminist-controlled welfare state.

At present, I am working my way through 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, the 1,518 page manifesto written in London by Anders Behring Breivik (under the Anglicized name Andrew Berwick) in the months leading up to his attack. These same themes are immediately evident. (Quotes are from the document.)

(1) Breivik associates feminism with liberal, multicultural societies. He claims that feminism has been responsible for a gender inversion in which, whether in the media or the military, we see the “inferiority of the male and the superiority of the female.” As a result of this widespread inversion, the “man of today” is “expected to be a touchy-feely subspecies who bows to the radical feminist agenda.”

(2) Breivik spends the bulk of the document playing off two gendered stereotypes of Muslim immigrants in Europe. On the one hand, they are hyper-rational, methodically taking over European societies; on the other hand, they are rapacious religious fanatics, who, with wide-eyed fervor, are utterly out of control. In one moment in the video, he shows a little boy (blond hair indicating his Nordic origins), poised between a thin, bearded hippie, who is dancing with flowers all around him, and a bearded, Muslim terrorist fanatic – two utterly problematized images of masculinity. 3:58 in the video:

(3) In his final “call to arms” and the accompanying video, he offers photos of big-breasted women, in very tight T-shirts, holding assault weapons with the word “infidel” on it and some Arabic writing, a declaration that his Crusader army members are the infidels to the Muslim invaders. 9:02 in the video:

This initial, if sketchy, report from Oslo, and Breivik’s own documents, indicate that in this case, also, it will be impossible to fully understand this horrific act without understanding how gender operates as a rhetorical and political device for domestic terrorists.

These members of the far right consider themselves Christian Crusaders for Aryan Manhood, vowing its rescue from a feminizing welfare state. Theirs is the militarized manhood of the heroic John Rambo – a manhood that celebrates their God-sanctioned right to band together in armed militias if anyone, or any governmental agency, tries to take it away from them. If the state and capital emasculate them, and if the masculinity of the “others” is problematic, then only “real” white men can rescue the American Eden or the bucolic Norwegian countryside from a feminized, multicultural, androgynous immigrant-inspired melting pot.

————————

Michael Kimmel is a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stonybrook.  He has written or edited over twenty volumes, including Manhood in America: A Cultural History and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.  You can visit his website here.

In Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq, John Dower discusses how the U.S. responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Militarily, it pushed the U.S. into officially entering World War II, but Dower is just as interested in cultural responses, particularly efforts to stigmatize all U.S. residents of Japanese descent as unpatriotic or even traitorous.

A prime example of this is the film December 7th, created by John Ford, legendary director of classics such as Stagecoach and The Grapes of Wrath. The first version of the film was 82 minutes long. In it, an idealistic figure representing the U.S. talks with “C,” a figure meant to represent his conscience. Uncle Sam naively believes the racial and ethnic diversity of Hawaii isn’t a problem, but C helps him see that the large Japanese American population is a threat, even when they appear to be loyal, patriotic, assimilated Americans. Japanese-language telephone books and newspapers are ominously shown as evidence of their lack of true American-ness. Start at about 8:40:

The message is unequivocal: Japanese Americans are untrustworthy, and any actions or behaviors that seems to indicate that a Japanese American is loyal to the U.S. provides potential evidence of just how deceitful they are — they cover their treachery with an appearance of patriotism. At around 18:25, Uncle Sam tries to defend freedom of religion, but C patiently explains the problem with this view. C says he’s not saying all Japanese Americans are disloyal, but that he’s “just presenting the facts,” and can’t be responsible for separating the loyal from the disloyal.

Ford cut the film down to 34 minutes before releasing it. This shortened version of December 7th won the 1943 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject:

The attack scene from December 7th is often assumed to be actual documentary footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but Dower points out that it was almost entirely staged by Ford, since there was almost no existing film of the surprise attack available.

Dower also discusses the animated Disney film Victory through Air Power. The film was based on the book Victory through Air Power, by Alexander Seversky. Seversky’s book justifies bombing non-combatant targets as a way to demoralize the enemy and disrupt supply lines and communication. Civilians would no longer be seen as inherently off-limits for military operations. The film served as propaganda for this view, which increasingly took hold in the U.S. military, eventually justifying dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

You can find the entire film on Youtube, but the most relevant segment is at the end; the widespread bombing of (noticeably resident-free) Japanese cities is presented as key to a glorious victory by the U.S.:

These films served to justify military strategies (internment camps and bombing non-military targets) that could have faced stiff resistance by drawing on popular fears in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack. In both cases, they widened the circle of legitimate potential targets of war-related government actions to not just Japanese soldiers and government officials but to the entire civilian population of Japan, as well as anyone with Japanese ancestry living in the U.S.

After the tsunami in March, we featured a series of hateful Facebook updates suggesting that the Japanese deserved the devastation. Yesterday Japan won the women’s World Cup against the U.S. and we’re seeing the same rhetoric.  The collection below, and more, was up on Buzzfeed as of yesterday night.

Interestingly, in addition to the now familiar racism and jingoism, some of the updates suggest that the gods were smiling on Japan in the aftermath of the tsunami, allowing them to win because they’ve had such a rough time of it lately. Of course, this nicely erases the athletic ability of the Japanese team and the possibility that they were actually just better than the U.S. team.

Trigger warning:

Thanks to Who, Harmony for the heads up on Twitter, a new distraction that I’m enjoyingsuper much!

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Last week we featured a guest post by Stephen Bridenstine about the invisibility of Native American reservations on Google Maps, and how this affects our awareness of geographic and social realities. The flip side of ignoring some information about our country is what we do choose to draw attention to.

Over a year ago, Charlotte C. sent in a photo of a sign she noticed in downtown Fall City, Washington, about 25 miles east of Seattle. The sign includes several milestones for the area. The first significant event worthy of note is the first time a White person laid eyes on nearby Snoqualmie Falls:

This reminded me of a photo I took of a monument near the Black Hills in South Dakota. The monument is for Anna (or Annie) Tallent, a woman who was a teacher and superintendent of schools for Pennington County. While the monument mentions she was a “teacher and author,” her major claim to fame appears to be that she was the “first White woman to enter the Black Hills”:

Text:

In Memory of Anna Donna Tallent

Teacher and Author

Born in New York State, April 12, 1827.  Died in Sturgis, S. Dakota, February 13, 1901.

The first White woman to enter the Black Hills, arriving in Custer City in December 1874.

This monument is erected by the Society of Black Hills Pioneers and many admirers.

“The world is better because she lived and served in it.”

The monument to her achievements fails to note that in 1874, when she entered the Black Hills, the region was part of the Great Sioux Reservation and were not legally available to Whites for settlement. The U.S. Cavalry removed her entire party for setting up an illegal gold mining encampment on land that was clearly owned by the Sioux, according to an 1868 treaty with the U.S. government…a treaty the government quit honoring soon after Whites found out there was gold in the Black Hills, which the the federal government confiscated in 1877. Tallent discussed the illegal land invasions (including her expedition’s efforts to avoid detection by government officials) in her 1899 book The Black Hills, Or, The Last Hunting Ground of the Dakotahs, in which she laments the “mournful” state of the Sioux nation but rhetorically asks whether it’s appropriate to honor treaties that “arrest the advance of civilization” (p. 3) and, generally, presents a racist, condescending depiction of Native Americans as pathetic, sad “savages” whose displacement in the name of progress and civilization was inevitable.

So what story about our nation do these two monuments tell? The only information contained on the two-sided Fall City monument refers to the activities of Whites; the Native residents were important only when they lost land. For all intents and purposes, the history of the area started only once a White man had set eyes on it. Similarly, Tallent’s arrival in the Black Hills is memorable largely because she was a White woman, whose presence is by definition worthy of note and celebration — imagine, a vulnerable White woman braving the wildness of the Dakota territory! The fact that she was an illegal prospector camping on land she didn’t own while in the pursuit of quick wealth is neither worth mentioning nor a cause to question whether she’s a laudable figure deserving of a monument. Thus, the effect of both of these monuments is to normalize colonization and illegal settlement, and present the arrival of Whites as the beginning of meaningful history.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Following up on a post I put up last month about World War II internment camps for Japanese Americans, reader Eduardo let us know about a short film distributed by the federal Office of War Information explaining why the camps were necessary and trying to portray them in a positive light. It’s a great example of propaganda. Notice at about 2:45 the narrator explains the change from voluntarily to required relocation of Japanese Americans in terms of their own protection, and at 3:20 mentions that those forced to relocate “cheerfully” took part in the process. It was such a happy, smooth process, with the federal government helping out!

The implication starting at about 4:00 that “loyal” Japanese Americans were happy to relocate as part of their patriotic duty is particularly striking. Presumably, then, if you objected to the violation of your civil rights and treatment as a potential enemy of your country, you proved exactly why you needed to be relocated.

But don’t worry. “We are protecting ourselves without violating the principles of Christian decency.”

The blog Of Another Fashion, by Minh-Ha T. Pham, serves as “an alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color.” The collection includes images taken from public sources as well as photos sent in by readers and provides a contrast to fashion exhibits that usually present fashion trends as almost entirely White experiences.

While the collection is fascinating overall and definitely worth a look, I was particularly struck by the photos of life among Japanese Americans forced to live in internment camps during World War II.

A legal notice requiring Japanese Americans on the West Coast to relocate voluntarily to internment camps or face arrest:

Women playing volleyball:

(Library of Congress. Photo by Ansel Adams.)

Walking to school at the Manzanar camp:

(Library of Congress. Photo by Ansel Adams.)

Women in biology and dressmaking classes:

(Both images by Ansel Adams, 1943; Library of Congress.)

One camp’s version of a beauty salon:

Intake processing at the Santa Anita center:

(From the Library of Congress’ Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information Collection (April 1942). Photographer unknown.)

Pham discusses the fact that in many of the photos of the processing centers, the women are smiling and look very happy, despite going through what had to be an upsetting, frightening, and humiliating experience. Japanese Americans were not allowed to bring their own cameras into the camps; the photos were taken by others, including Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams. And they found their subjects didn’t always cooperate with the images they were planning to provide of the camps:

According to Sue Kunitomi Embrey the chair of the Manzanar Committee, Adams hoped to capture the despair of camp life in order to stir some public sympathy for Japanese Americans but was frustrated by all the primping and posing Japanese Americans did when he was photographing.

…I hope that images of smiling and fashion-conscious Japanese American women…adds to and deepens our appreciation of the small acts of feeling, creativity, and resistance that happen everyday in spite of huge limitations. In an act as seemingly trivial and trite as smiling for the camera, these women interrupt and take some control of the historical, political, and visual frames through which they’re being viewed.


Some of you may have heard about the anti-Muslim protest outside a charity event in Orange County on February 13th. A local chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief, a Muslim charity organization that raises money for women’s shelters, food pantries, disaster relief, and other humanitarian work, sponsored a fundraiser at the Yorba Linda Community Center.

Chrissy Y. sent in a video of the protest. It includes chants of “Go back home!”, “USA!”, and “terrorist!” amid loud boos as individuals walked into the center. At around 3:10 a woman accuses a man of beating his wife and being a child molester. Between the conflation of Muslim with being inherently un-American, the conflation of all Muslims with terrorists, and the reliance on the stereotype of Muslim men as brutal oppressors of victimized women, it is an ugly, ugly example of anti-Muslim sentiment: