Identity Politics and Mob Madness

When controversy erupted last weekend over President Trump’s incendiary tweets, the ensuing furor focused on the issue of racism. This has been unfortunate since it has obscured the real elephant in the room, which is identity politics. The Left cannot offer a substantive critique of Trump’s use of identity politics, seeing that identity politics forms such an integral part of their own ideology. Hence, all they can do is just keep repeating the charge of racism.

But it doesn’t really work. After all, if the president had told a white person of Russian ancestry to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” few would imagine that this revealed an incipient racism against whites. However, because the congresswomen that Trump singled out happened to be non-whites, everyone is ready to assume that he must have been motivated by racist impulses.

This is not to excuse the President. Something far more sinister and subtle than racism is happening here. Trump’s use of identity politics is truly demonic and threatens the integrity of our nation.

Identity politics begins with a group-based narrative of victimhood and then works to increase inflammation of grievances among the victim class. It sustains and augments itself through mob-like behaviors, including the use of scapegoats, ostracisms, witch hunts, and persecutions of dissenters. (For more of the intricacies and history of identity politics, see my articles, “The ‘Quiet Revolution’ of Cultural Marxism” and “The Republican Retreat to Identity Politics.” Also see Rod Dreher’s excellent article, “Asymmetrical Multiculturalism.”)

Boromir is tempted by the enemy’s weapon.

In the present case, the victim class are largely white middle class conservatives who understandably feel that America is quickly changing for the worse. Some of the factors they point to are evils like unchecked immigration, militant multiculturalism, moral decline, political correctness, and an increasingly virulent liberalism that threatens many of our cherished freedom. As a victim class, they are willing to do whatever it takes to defeat their enemies, like Boromir when he was prepared to take the ring to defeat the enemies of his people. Under Trump, we have seen conservatives take up the weapons of the enemy, including,

Mob behavior leads to witch hunts.

The French Revolution was an example of mob behavior par excellence, and in it we see the drama of the witch hunt played out. During the revolution’s reign of terror, if someone reported that you were not completely supportive of the revolution (or even that you supported the revolution with insufficient enthusiasm), then you could be sent to the guillotine without an investigation. This witch hunt mentality taps into a very primordial side of our animalistic nature to protect the in-group at all costs.

We see this type of witch hunt in the trumped-up charges (no pun intended) that the President has been leveling against Congresswoman Omar–charges that have absolutely no basis in fact. One of these false charges–that she allegedly said “al qaeda makes you proud”–was what incited the crowd last Wednesday to begin chanting, “Send her back! Send her back!”

Yes, I know Trump said he did not encourage this appalling chant. Watch the video yourself and make up your own mind. But regardless of that, we have to ask: is he doing anything to reverse the might-makes-right philosophy that gives these mobs their particular legitimacy? Has he renounced the republican party’s retreat to identity politics that is fueling this hysteria?

Rod Dreher, no fan of Omar, helps us to make sense of what has been going on this week. From his blog last Thursday,

The Trump mob, convinced of its own righteousness, doesn’t recognize what it is turning into. They’re willing to run over dissenters, even bad people like Ilhan Omar, to get what they want — and just like the progressives they loathe, they’re hiding from themselves what they’re doing. I’m so tired of hearing that whatever Trump says or does is justified, because progressives are so wicked that they must be stopped by any means necessary, and if you object to that, then you must be some sort of cuck. Really? Was Tolkien a cuck when he warned, in one of the greatest literary works of the blood-soaked 20th century, that seizing the Ring to defeat evil was going to corrupt? Was Solzhenitsyn a cuck when he recognized that the fathomless evil to which he bore witness could be reproduced anywhere on this earth, because the line between good and evil bisects the heart of every one of us?…

Many of those drawn to Donald Trump are Christians — Christians who correctly see that the forces aligning among progressives against us really do hate us, and wish to see harm done to us. Personally, I have no time at all for progressives who tell themselves that social and religious conservatives are nothing but paranoids. We see what you have done, what you are doing, and what you will do if you are not stopped. We see this even if, blinded by self-righteousness, you don’t. These Christians — on some days I am among them — are drawn to Trump not out of any respect or affection for him, but solely out of self-protection. It would be a near-miracle if progressives who are mystified by Trump’s popularity would ask themselves, in all honesty, if they have given conservatives reason to fear them such that they (conservatives) would see a manifestly bad man like Trump as the lesser evil.

That said, when I look at Trump’s crowds, shouting, “Send her back!” about Ilhan Omar, I instinctively take the side of the dissenter. From what I know of her, Omar is an appalling figure, and I hope everything she touches in politics fails. But I know the demonic when I see it, and a US president stoking a crowd to chant that kind of thing about an American citizen is demonic….

A mob that is on the side of justice is no less a mob. I have felt that rage too, and it’s intoxicating. If I had ever in my life been in a position to feel that rage standing shoulder to shoulder with others who felt that rage, and someone we trusted had told us to give in to it, to allow its power to run through our bones and our muscles, and to go forth and take power to work justice on those who hate us — it’s terrifying to contemplate.

This is what it means to surrender to the demonic, to the forces of destruction and vengeance and chaos. Very few people choose to do evil, knowing that it’s evil. We tell ourselves that it’s good. We tell ourselves that as good people, we could not do evil, therefore we find reasons to excuse ourselves, e.g., “Racism is a function of power, so I can’t be racist,” or “At least Trump fights, not like those gutless Republicans.”

“Evil is continuous throughout human experience,” wrote Kolakowski. “The point is not how to make one immune to it, but under what conditions one may identify and restrain the devil.”

This is our task: to identify and restrain the devil. We cannot restrain the devil by using the power of demons. It will consume us too. We will become like those we hate. This is an old lesson, and one that progressives who fight Trump should wake up and take seriously as well.”

That was taken from an extended reflection, based on Dreher’s painful personal experience, into the psychology of the mob. I encourage you to read Dreher’s entire piece. When I read it this morning it brought tears to my eyes as Dreher recounts the painful experiences that brought him to the point of resisting the Trump mob. This post is a follow-up to an article Dreher wrote the day before on how Trump is summoning demons. Please, read Dreher’s entire piece. It is so good that I was tempted to copy and paste the entire article right here. Dreher shows that President Trump is aligning himself with the devil, by engaging in actions that are truly demonic. He then contrasts what is happening in America today with what happened in Eastern Europe on the eve of communism’s collapse. Again, read the whole thing.

Further Reading