Let’s say you’re a modern-day hipster Nazi.
You’re bummed out.
No one wants to hang out with you because of your bald head and your red suspenders and your commitment to the ideals of a defeated and disgraced totalitarian regime.
What are you to do?
No more National Socialist German Workers Party! That sounds too pinko!
Now you’re simply a member of the Alt Right!
It’s not racist! You’re just committed to traditional attitudes and values — if those traditional attitudes and values come from 1945 Berlin!
Heck, you don’t even have to call yourself Alt Right.
You can call yourself a White Identitarian.
You aren’t over-concerned with any one side of the political spectrum or other. You just strongly identify with whiteness — and by extension increasing the political power of white people at the expense of all others.
It should be obvious that this isn’t merely rebranding. It’s propaganda.
In today’s fast paced information age – where every fact is merely a Google away – that can be hard to get away with – UNLESS…
Unless you already have a readymade tool to protect propaganda from the kind of informed critical thought that can pop it like a bubble. Something to insolate the ignorance and keep out the enlightened analysis.
I am, of course, talking about Common Core.
How does Common Core have anything to do with white nationalism?
Common Core is just a set of academic standards for what should be taught in public schools adopted by 42 of 50 states.
Academic standards aren’t political. Are they?
Actually, they are. Quite political.
Just take a look at how the standards came to be adopted in the first place.
The Obama administration bribed and coerced the states to adopt these standards before many of them were even done being written.
Hold your horses. The Obama administration!? That doesn’t sound exactly like a friend of the Third Reich.
And it wasn’t.
It was a friend to big business.
When first created, these standards weren’t the result of a real educational need, nor were they written by classroom educators and psychologists. They were written by the standardized testing industry as a ploy to get federal, state and local governments to recommit to standardized testing through buying new tests, new text books, new software and new remediation materials.
It was a bipartisan effort supported by the likes of Obama, the Clintons and Bill Gates on the left and Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos and Bobby Jindal on the right.
After Obama’s success pushing them down our collective throats, many Republicans vocally decried the standards – often while quietly supporting them.
That’s why after all this time very few state legislatures have repealed them despite being controlled predominantly by Republicans.
Okay, so what does this have to do with the Alt Right?
People like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump are engaged in redefining the conservative movement. Instead of circulating ideas with a merely racist and classist undertone, they want to make those subtleties more explicit.
Most aren’t about to hop out of the closet and declare themselves open Nazis or members of the Hitler fan club, but they want to make it clear exactly how wunderbar the Fuhrer’s ideals are with a wink and a smirk.
For instance, Trump’s campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.
When exactly was America great? When white people had unchallenged political and social power and minorities and people of color knew their place. That’s when.
This is obvious to some of us, but we face a real obstacle making it obvious to others.
And that obstacle is Common Core.
A generation of Americans have been brought up with these shoddy academic standards that don’t develop critical thinking but actively suppress it.
For instance, take the absurd ravings of the Core’s chief writer – and current head of the College Board – David Coleman.
Going counter to the thinking of nearly every expert on literacy, he emphasized cold or close reading over reading text in context.
In particular, he said:
“Do you know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today?…It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with these two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a shit about what you feel or think… It is a rare working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.”
Later, he added:
“The most popular 3rd grade standard in American today…is what is the difference between a fable, a myth, a tale, and a legend? The only problem with that question is that no one knows what the difference is and no one probably cares what the difference is either.”
“This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all students.”
However, Coleman was dead wrong on all counts.
What you think and feel IS important. The requirements of the corporate world ARE NOT the only reasons to teach something. Being able to distinguish between similar but different concepts IS important. And context is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to understanding!
For instance, today’s spin doctor Nazis soon realized that you can’t go goose stepping down main street blindly espousing how much better it is to be white — better than, say, being black or Jewish.
But you can hang up posters in college campuses that say the same sort of thing in a cutesy, passive aggressive way. For instance: “It’s okay to be white.”
If we look just at the text, as Coleman advises, we see a rather innocuous statement.
There’s nothing racist here. It’s just a simple statement that being white is also acceptable.
However, if we add back the context, we find an indirect racial undertone.
These posters weren’t put up willy nilly. They were hung on college campuses where white nationalists wearing MAGA hats were recruiting. They were pasted over Black Lives Matter posters, accompanying drawings of Donald Trump.
In context, then, this statement doesn’t just mean “It’s okay to be white.” It means “It’s okay to be pro-white supremacist, to be pro-white power.”
And that brings up two other examples.
MAGA – Make America Great Again.
Take it out of context and it’s innocuous. It just means to increase the abstract greatness of the country to what it was at some unspecified time in the past.
However, if we put that statement in the context of the Trump campaign and its xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, etc. — then it’s meaning becomes clear. As noted above, it’s an ode to white power and nostalgia for greater white privilege.
And “Black Lives Matter”? Why do many of these same Identitarians take exception to that slogan and the movement behind it?
The Alt Right says BLM is reverse racist. They claim the name BLM means “ONLY black lives matter.”
Context tells us differently.
The BLM group was formed in response to the indiscriminate murder of people of color and those who committed these crimes not behind held accountable. Officer Darren Wilson not indicted for killing Michael Brown. Officer Daniel Pantaleo not indicted for killing Eric Garner. Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback not indicted for killing Tamir Rice. And on and on.
Yet the Alt Right is allowed to mischaracterize a simple call for peace as if it identified a terrorist organization.
Why? Because context has been banished from the building.
I’m not saying that Common Core has caused these problems, but it has allowed them.
I doubt this is what Coleman, who is Jewish, intended.
But whenever you water down critical thinking – even if it’s for purely practical ends – you end up hurting everyone.
The best societies praise intellect and tolerance.
For all their faults, our founders knew this. That’s why they emphasized the importance of public education.
If we had ensured everyone in the country had access to the best possible education, this modern Nazi subculture wouldn’t be able to make as much headway as it has.
This is yet another way that our obsession with unrestrained capitalism, neoliberalism and plutocracy has put us on a road that may end in fascism.