Rachel Maddow opened last night with a timely reminder: white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence is nothing new. Demonstrations, robberies, assassinations, hostage-takings, and efforts by racist rightwing extremists to start a race war—nothing new.
"It always seems amazing every time it surfaces, but we have always had it," Maddow said of American white supremacism and neo-Nazism. "And overtime they go through various ridiculous and self-important names and iterations and patterns of symbolic behavior. But overtime it's all the same basic idea, and at it's core it's aways violent. It's the Order, it's the Klan, it's Aryan Nations, it's the Christian Identity Movement, now they want to be called the alt-right—okay, whatever. Their ideas are not new, their violence is not new."
Maddow cites two differences this time. First, a practical difference: the public identifiability of the participants thanks to those tiki torches and the ubiquity of cellphone cameras. In the past racists marched though the streets in hoods—or robbed armored trucks in ski masks—but the assholes in Charlottesville? They carried torches and marched their bigoted asses through a brand new world of cellphone cameras and an Internet that never forgets. The Charlottesville assholes are now being outed, one by one, and some are losing their jobs. Was this a stupid mistake, Maddow asks, or did march organizers intend to lock participants into the white supremacist movement for life?
Maddow doesn't endorse doxxing the assholes who marched in Charlottesville. She notes that it's happening. It's also messy, as the NYT reported this morning, and it's going to have serious consequences—but not just for the assholes getting doxxed. As Maddow points out, being identified as one of the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville will make these guys pariahs. And rightly-the-fuck so. It could also make it impossible for these guys to ever walk the fuck away from this hateful movement—which, again, may have been the plan all along.
"Anybody who was just, you know, flirting with white supremacy because it's hot the new thing in conservative politics in the Trump era," Maddow said, "anybody who was just there on a whim, who's finding themselves and wondering if maybe they're a Nazi, [they] will find for the rest of their life that they are identified as a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist for having been at that event."
People who can't walk away, Maddow worries, may double-down. They may become radicalized for life. Because what other choice do they have?
The second difference is political: for the first time in modern American history, white supremacists and neo-Nazis have an aggressive, overt, and shameless ally in the White House. So they do have employment prospects—in the Trump administration, for as long as it lasts.