Today is one of those days when I am lost for words; well almost. White supremacy: in the white house. Racism: no longer in hiding or in the background, or veiled by politeness, but out and about, right in front of us; given legitimacy, given more places to go.
Many years ago I wrote on how fascism as a politics of hate is written in the language of love. I want to share some of these words now because to hear what is present is to hear echoes of the past. This material is dated. And yet, it is not.
Where was Hatewatch during 170 million crimes committed against White Americans over the last 30 years? Hatewatch. What an absurd organisation. But aren’t they part of the huge parasitic Infestation which is always trying to destroy anyone who loves liberty and disagrees with the Monsters’ plan for the degradation and control, of the White Americans of this nation? They steal what they can and target us for governmental gansterism and drooling meatpuppet consumption… Lovewatch. The Wake Up or Die Love Watch is a listing of those who love this nation and our White Racial Family and the alternative to the lists of parasitic propagandists. (Storm Front Website)
How has politics become a struggle over who has the right to name themselves as acting out of love and in the name of love? What does it mean to stand for love by standing alongside some others and against other others? It has become common for hate groups to rename themselves as organisations of love. Such organisations claim they act out of love for their own kind, and for the nation as an inheritance of kind (‘Our White Racial Family’), rather than out of hatred for strangers or others. Indeed, a crucial part of the re-naming is the identification of hate as coming from elsewhere and as being directed towards the ‘hate group’; hate becomes an emotion that belongs to those who have identified hate groups as hate groups in this first place. Hence in the above quote, the hate watch web site, which lists racist groups on the internet, is juxtaposed with the Lovewatch site, which also lists these organisations, but names them as ‘love groups’. Such groups are defined as ‘love groups’ through an active identification with the nation (‘those who love this nation’) as well as a core set of values (‘anyone who loves liberty’). Love is narrated as the emotion that energies the work of such groups; it is out of love that the group seeks to defend the nation against others, whose presence them becomes defined as the origin of hate. As another site puts it: ‘Ask yourself, what have they done to eliminate anything at all? They feed you with “Don’t worry, we are watching the hate groups” and things like this. You know what they do? They create the very hate they purport to erase!’ Here it is the very critique of racism as a form of hate, which becomes seen as the conditions of production for hate; the ‘true’ hated group is the white groups who are, out of love, seeking to defend the nation against others, who threaten to steal the nation away.
The renaming of hate groups as love groups, and hate watch as Love Watch, exercises a narrative of love as protection by identifying white subjects as already at risk from the very presence of others. These groups become defined as a positive in the sense of fighting for others, and in the name of others. The narrative suggests that it is this ‘forness’ that makes ‘against-ness’ necessary. Hence those who identify hate groups as hate groups are shown as failing to protect the bodies of those whose love for the nation becomes a condition of vulnerability and exposure. By being against those who are for the nation (anti-racists, anti-fascists etc.), such critics can only be against the nation; they can only be against love. The critics of hate groups become defined as those who hate; those who act out of a sense of ‘anti-ness’ or ‘against-ness’ and thus those who not only cannot protect the bodies of white Americans from crimes, but re-enact such crimes in the use of the language of hate. We might note then the slide from the crimes against white people committed by unnamed others (‘170 million crimes committed’) to the crimes committed by Hatewatch (‘they steal what they can’) in this narrative.
Let’s take another example:
The depths of Love are rooted and very deep in a real White Nationalist’s soul and spirit, no form of ‘hate’ could even begin to compare. At least not a hate motivated by ungrounded reasoning. It is not hate that makes the average White man look upon a mixed race couple with a scowl on his face and loathing in his heart. It is not hate that makes the White housewife throw down the daily jewspaper in repulsion and anger after reading of yet another child-molester or rapist sentenced by corrupt courts to a couple of short years in prison or parole. It is not hate that makes the White workingclass man curse about the latest boatland of aliens dumped on our shores to be given job preferences over the White citizen who built this land. It is not hate that brings rage into the heart of a White Christian farmer when he reads of billions loaned or given away as ‘aid’ to foreigners when he can’t get the smallest break from an unmerciful government to save his failing farm. No, it’s not hate, It is Love. (Aryan Nations Website)
In this narrative it is the imagined subject of both party and nation (the White nationalist, the average White man, the White housewife, the White working man, the White Citizen and the White Christian farmer) who is hated, and who is threatened and victimised by the Law and polity. The narrative works precisely as a narrative of hate not as the emotion that explains the story (it is not a question of hate being at its root), but as that which is affected by the story, and as that which enables the story to be affective.
Such narratives work by generating a subject that is under threat by imagined others whose proximity threatens not only to take something away from the subject (jobs, security, wealth and so on), but to take the place of the subject. In other words, the presence of this other is imagined as a threat to the object of love. This narrative involves a re-writing of history, in which the labour of others (slaves, migrants) is concealed in a fantasy that it is the white subject who ‘built this land.’ The white subjects claim the place of hosts (‘our shores’), at the same time as they claim the place of the victim, as those who are damaged by an ‘unmerciful government’. The narrative hence suggests that it is love for the nation that makes the white Aryan’s hate others, who are taking away the nation, and hence their imagined place in its history, as well as their future.
We might note that this emotional reading of others as hateful works to align the imagined subject with rights and the imagined nation with ground. This alignment is affected by the representation of the rights of the subject and the grounds of the nation as under threat, as ‘failing’. It is the emotional reading of hate that works to stick or to bind the imagined subjects and the white nation together. The average white man feels ‘fear and loathing’; the White housewife, ‘repulsion and anger’; the White workingman ‘curses’; the White Christian farmer feels ‘rage’. The passion of these negative attachments to others is re-defined simultaneously as a positive attachment to the imagined subjects brought together through the capitalisation of the signifier, ‘White’. It is the love of White, or those that are recognisable as White, which supposedly explains this shared ‘communal’ visceral response of hate. Because we love, we hate and this hate is what makes us together.
This narrative, I would suggest, is far from extraordinary. Indeed, what it shows us is the production of the ordinary. The ordinary is here fantastic. The ordinary white subject is a fantasy that comes into being through the mobilisation of hate, as a passionate attachment closely tied to love. The emotion of hate works to animate the ordinary subject, to bring that fantasy to life, precisely by constituting the ordinary as in crisis, and the ordinary person as the real victim. The ordinary becomes that which is already under threat by the imagined others whose proximity becomes a crime against person as well as place. The ordinary subject is reproduced as the injured party: the one that is ‘hurt’ or even damaged by the ‘invasion’ of others. The bodies of others are hence transformed into ‘the hated’ through a discourse of pain. They are assumed to cause injury to the ordinary white subject, such that their proximity is read as the origin of bad feeling: indeed, the implication here is that the white subject’s good feelings (love) have being ‘taken’ away by the abuse of such feelings by others.
So who are the hated in such a narrative of injury? Clearly, hate is distributed across various figures (in this case, the mixed racial couple, the child-molester, the rapist, aliens and foreigners). These figures come to embody the threat of loss: lost jobs, lost money, loss land. They are signify the danger of impurity, or the mixing or taking of blood. They threaten to violate the pure bodies; such bodies can only be imagined as pure by the perpetual re-staging of this fantasy of violation. Note the work that is being done through this metonymic slide: mixed race couplings and immigration become readable as (like) forms of rape or molestation: an invasion of the body of the nation, evoked here as the vulnerable and damaged body of the white woman and child. The slide between figures constructs a relation of resemblance between the figures: what makes them alike, may be their ‘unlikeness’ from ‘us’. Within the narrative, hate cannot be found in one figure, but works to create the very outline of different figures or objects of hate, a creation that crucially aligns the figures together, and constitutes them as a ‘common’ threat.
Furthermore, love does not only enter such narratives as a sign of being for the nation, but also becomes linked with particular kinds of subjects who are constructed as ‘loving’. Love, that is, reproduces the collective as ideal, through producing a particular kind of subject whose allegiance to the ideal makes it an ideal in the first place. Increasingly, the ‘hate group’ web sites, for example, are written by and for white women, and argue that white women have a particular role in the defence of the nation and the national ideal. One web site includes a post on Princess Diana. She is identified as a ‘traitor to our race’ because of her love relationships with men from other races: ‘I couldn’t understand how a woman of such racial beauty and purity, this “English rose”, could link herself with non-Aryan men with such frequency’. Importantly, then love relationships are here about ‘reproducing’ the race; the choice of love-object is a sign of the love for the nation. Such a narrative not only confirms heterosexual love as an obligation to the nation, but also constitutes mixed-race relationships as a sign of hate, as a sign of a willingness to contaminate the blood of the race. The violation of this love to the body of the individual here stands for the violation of the ideal that binds the nation together (the posting refers to the ‘rumours that she might even have been pregnant with Fayed’s child’ as a sign of the danger of this contamination to the purity of the white racial family). So the demand for love is not simply here expressed as a demand to love the nation as an abstract idea, but also to love a person whose body can stand in for the national idea, as a confirmation of its value.(1)
Within the politics of love, identifying yourself as a white woman and as a white Aryan would mean loving not just men, or even white men, but white men who can return the idealised image of whiteness back to myself. To love and to be loved is here about fulfilling one’s fantasy image of ‘who one would like to be’ through who one ‘has’. Such a love is also about making future generations in the image I have of myself and the loved other, who together can approximate a ‘likeness’ that can be bestowed on future generations. Indeed the bond the subject may have even for strangers can be predicated precisely on the fantasy of likeness: they may share the ideal I have, such that I could love them, as if they were me. Hence I can love other as if they were me precisely insofar as they ‘share’ the ideals that I have already taken as mine. Within public displays of grief this is crucial: if the subject can imagine that that person who was lost or has lost another ‘could have been me’, then the grief of another, even another whom I may not know, can also become my grief. This ‘could have been-ness’ is a judgement then on whether others approximate the ideals that I have taken to be mine and ‘ours’.
It is hence not surprising that the story of love is most powerfully narrated when the object is missing; then love ‘shows itself’ through lamenting the absence of the object, or through the display of grief and mourning. Such an argument suggests that love becomes a form of defence against the loss of the object; it enacts in its demand for presence, the injury that would follow if the object was given up (an enactment which is also a repetition). We can see this clearly in the accounts of love in the web sites; the nation as loved object has been taken away, and the ‘injury’ of the theft must be repeated as a way of confirming the love for the nation as an ideal object.
Indeed, I would argue that the impossibility that love can reach its object is also what makes love such a useful and powerful narrative. We can see how love then may work to stick others together in the absence of the loved object, even when that object is ‘the nation’. For example, love may be especially crucial in the event of the failure of the nation to deliver its promise for the good life. So the failure of the nation to ‘give back’ the love that the subject has for it can work to intensify the very demands made upon the nation as a love object. The subject ‘stays with’ the nation, despite the absence of return and the threat of violence, as leaving would mean recognising that the investment of national love over a life time has brought no value. One loves the nation, then, out of hope and with nostalgia for how it might have been. You keep loving rather than recognising that the love that one has given has not and will not be returned. To give up on such love may feel like to give up on one’s life, as one’s life has become so deeply interwoven with the love object. Hence, national love can be secure in the face of the failure of the object to love the loving subject in return; in fact, this can be grounds for the intensification of the attachment. Such love becomes nostalgia for the loss of an object, whose existence can only be a matter of past tense, as well as a form of utopia, that images the return of the object in the future (a return that depends on the ‘good will’ of the loving subject). So the subject ‘becomes’ the nation in the event of mourning its loss, which then gets projected as ‘have-able’ and ‘be-able’ in the future. A white subject identifies itself as a national subject through mourning the loss of the nation as an object and in the hope for its return in the future.
We could even think of national love as a form of waiting. To wait is to extend one’s investment and the longer one waits the more one is invested, that is, the more time, labour and energy has been expended. The failure of return extends one’s investment. If love functions as the promise of return of an ideal, then the extension of investment through the failure of return works to maintain the ideal through its deferral into the future. It is not then surprising that the return of the investment in the nation is imagined in the form of the future generation (‘the white Aryan child’), who will ‘acquire’ the features of the ideal white subject. National love places its hope in the next generation; the ideal is postponed, to sustain the fantasy that return is possible.
If the failure of return extends one’s investment, then national love also requires an explanation for this failure: otherwise, hope would convert into despair or a ‘giving up’ on the loved object. Such explanations work as defensive narratives: they defend the subject against the loss of the object by enacting the injury that would follow if the object was given up. We can see this clearly in the accounts of love in the quotes from web sites; the nation as loved object has been taken away, and the injury of the theft must be repeated as a way of confirming the love for the nation. In this instance, the fantasy of love as return requires an obstacle: the racial others become the obstacle that allows the white subject to sustain a fantasy that without them, the good life would be attainable, or their love would be returned with reward and value. The failure of return is explained by the presence of others, which allows the investment to be sustained. We can even consider the reliance on the other as the origin of injury as an ongoing investment in the failure of return.
(1) I have also discussed how the figure of the mixed-race woman is idealized in narratives of multiculturalism, and how this idealization of the mixed-race woman (who is bronzed not brown) can function ideologically as a demand for proximity to whiteness. See in particular my chapter, “Melancholic Migrants,” from The Promise of Happiness (2010).
These words were written a long time ago in the early 2000’s (they formed part of a chapter on love in my 2004 book, The Cultural Politics of Emotion). When we hear the words ‘take back our country,’ words we keep hearing, words that are sharp weapons, words that slice through land and flesh, words that can be used against people, people who are asked to ‘go home,’ we are hearing a long history. We are hearing white supremacy. It is the present.