LUMPENPROLETARIAT—Meet Lasse Burholt. He is a right-wing YouTuber and spin doctor, with a growing number of followers. He gathers video clips of white supremacist types, pro-Trump types, “Thin Blue Line” flag-wavers, and other politics, which advance the cause of right-wing values and/or undermine Black Lives Matter (BLM). He seems to understand there’s a hungry market out there for confirmation bias. And he seems to throw pieces of red meat at his hungry followers feeding on sensationalistic street confrontations, not unlike how what political scientists call “red meat issues” are used to ‘whip up the base into a frenzy’. Perhaps, people on the Right will say the same thing about BLM or CopWatch, et al focusing on the crimes of police agencies. But there is a fundamental difference there. Cops are expected to be held to a higher standard. Cops are supposed to be policing by consent, not by totalitarian power.
Certain Americans want to believe their biases are true. Flag-wavers want their biases confirmed, so YouTubers, like Lasse Burholt, fill a niche and generate some passive income as a bonus. His followers look for videos like the one below to confirm their bias that all BLM types are “crazed” people, who somehow pose an existential threat to America. And the, perhaps sinister, YouTube algorithms designed towards surveillance capitalism, supply our content streams with increasingly insular and self-reinforcing messaging, if we’re not careful. Diversity of perspectives is easily erased on social media.
From reading and following various right-wing channels, this is the main message that comes through at this point in 2020: variations of ad hominem attacks against pro-BLM types bolstered by confirmation bias. I’ve pointed this out in the comment sections of these right-wing channels; and no one seems to disagree. In other words, when I engage in discussion with right-wing types, we agree on more than we disagree on, despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum. This is probably because we usually share working class backgrounds, despite divergent ideological perspectives. We all just want an honest day’s work and a fair deal. But they usually won’t denounce President Trump’s racist rhetoric, racism, killer cops, or white supremacy for some reason. They just tend to ignore my discussion board comments after that point. But there seems to be no substantive disagreement on the criminality of an on-duty cop committing murder. There is no meaningful disagreement on that point, only temporal animosities, which seem to be triggered and sustained by atomized news media silos.
Perhaps, too many of us too often narrowly listen to only podcasts and talking heads, which confirm our biases. Glen Greenwald recently pointed out how some 15 million people viewed Joe Rogan’s podcast interview with Edward Snowden last month. That’s many times more viewers than primetime network news on their best night. So, we see atomized news media silos, such as Fox, where more than 95% of viewers vote Republican, and MSNBC where most viewers vote Democrat. Everyone seems to be preaching to the choir. So, there’s no fundamental disagreement between right-wingers and others on the criminality of on-duty cops committing murder. But there is the atomized news media, which reinforces skewed worldviews based on stereotypes. So, there’s that and, of course, the cancer of racism, which somehow plagues our society; yet, we are meant to believe no white American could possibly be racist in this day and age. Even the hit country group Lady Antebellum, who changed their name to Lady A recently, in the tumult of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, said, ‘Oops, we had no idea we were flirting with romanticizing antebellum slavery culture. We were just into the architecture and clothes and stuff.’ We see what we want to see, until we are challenged, or shaken out of our usual framing of reality, until we have a paradigm shift.
Somehow, when Lasse Burholt features videos of anti-BLM activists driving monster trucks into crowds of BLM demonstrators whilst spraying mace everywhere, somehow the right-wing followers applaud that behavior, not as “crazed” or harassing, much less abusive, but as justified and even patriotic. There seems to be a double standard for decent civil behavior among this right-wing demographic. Anti-BLM types seem to get away with being as abusive as they want, and are, indeed, often enabled by local cops. But you get one BLM activist, who gets in some lady’s face to encourage her to join in the cause of jailing killer cops, a reasonable request, albeit undiplomatically presented, and right-wing types, like Lasse Burholt, do everything they can to portray all BLM activists as “crazed” lunatics.
It’s fascinating to read the comment sections of right-wing YouTube channels, like this one. I wish I could talk to more people on the right, to interview them, to understand their mindset and perspective. The early protests against the lockdown were eye-opening for me because for the first time in my life, I found myself in the strange dynamic of feeling a certain sense of gratitude for Republican protestors, who were calling for an end to the economic lockdown, which was gratuitously crashing our economy, and which continues causing harm and bankruptcy for many small businesses, causing harm to our school children, and leading to many evictions, foreclosures, and other economic pain. Liberal types didn’t tend to see the economic lockdown, nor the police state response to COVID-19, as tyrannical. Liberals called it “sheltering in place”, fully internalizing the paternalistic behavior of the state. I called it bullshit. It was a unilateral decision made by Gavin Newsom, which was ostensibly based on “science and data”. And, yet, doctors, such as Dr. Annie Bukacek (from Montana) were being censored, or marginalized, for questioning the validity of coronavirus declarations on death certificates of individuals with comorbidities.
I call it a lockdown, just like the right-wing folks do. It bears remembering the martial law type legislation passed by Obama’s NDAA Section 1021, which grants government the right to detain anyone anywhere without cause and without habeas corpus, indefinitely. This antidemocratic legislation is sustained, of course, by Republicans. And, now, under the pretext of public health, the state has shown that it can literally crash the economy at will, as easily as throwing a switch on and off, by simply invoking a pandemic threat and imposing a nationwide economic lockdown, however, dubious the statistical or biological evidence may be. At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, President Trump decided not to lead the nation with a unified protocol, but instead kicked the problem down to the individual states, who had little choice in the absence of federal leadership but to appease the most fearful, not to mention reduce city liability. Mayors began locking down local economies, followed by governors also calling for a police state response.
If I need to shelter in place, I will shelter in place. But, if I need to go to work, I will go to work—unless, that is, a tyrannical government doesn’t care if hardworking families go broke, or if small businesses go out of business, and it outlaws economic activity as it did with the lockdowns. Most people agree the U.S. had the worst COVID-19 response of the developed world, when we could’ve implemented the more sensible Taiwanese, German, or Nordic types of responses.
So, we Americans probably agree on more than we disagree. But try practicing civic engagement these days to defy Robert D. Putnam‘s Bowling Alone thesis of declining American civic engagement, or try engaging in First Amendment activity around any meaningful issue these days, and see how the state treats you. With President Trump’s blessing, secret police have been randomly snatching up pro-BLM protestors, as the Department of Justice is designating protest areas “anarchist jurisdictions”.
These are strange social and political waters America is wading in now. This 2020 Election Year looks like the biggest travesty of democracy in recent memory. Neither of the two major parties even seem to have campaign teams on the ground. Political campaigning seems to have been reduced to digital interaction. And try campaigning for your favorite candidate, or issues, these days. Social distancing conformist culture has placed a social chill on everyday public interaction. Drenched in fear of this pathogen, people cross the street or walk in the opposite direction when they see another human being walking the empty streets of inner cities and suburbia.
But it’s also saddening because, as Max Blumenthal recently commented on The Zero Hour with R.J. Eskow about the current state of political discourse: Even if we do engage in public discourse, most of the time, we’re’re not even debating the same set of facts anymore.
Such right-wing channels as Lasse Burholt, not to mention the outright racist ones, like “The Proud Boys“, are examples of the type of political messaging the “Thin Blue Line” flag-wavers are spreading on social media. In other words, this is the opposition to BLM, which seems to represent this amorphous “silent majority“, which on the one hand seems to be silent because it’s increasingly shameful to appear racist. So, President Trump has played an important role for the American psyche, for waspy types to assuage their consciences and “make America great again”. And the centrist politics of the Democrat Party are, unfortunately, not a sincere oppositional power. Only leftist politics offer sincere opposition to this type of right-wing propaganda, which seems only interested in apologizing for white supremacist culture in policing and government. But leftist politics are blocked from electoral politics by the two-party system.
These types of amygdala-hijacking videos seem to reinforce entrenched political positions cultivated in right-wing podcast echo chambers. Channels like this look for any opportunity to undermine the cause of jailing killer cops or to undermine the broader cause of Black Lives Matter. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? This is how right-wingers tend to think, isn’t it? They oppose BLM. But that is only in the absence of sincere dialogue. I wonder if the anti-BLM “Thin Blue Line” flag partisans are interested in dialogue. Do they simply want BLM to just shut up? That would be pretty fascistic, right? Where is the free speech in that? How can our society facilitate dialogue between these ideological camps? And do you identify with any of these groups mentioned above? Please share your thoughts.
Engaging with right-wing comment sections on YouTube:
- Video title: “Crazed live-streaming white BLM activist harassing Lafayette citizens sitting in their cars”
- Video URL: https://youtu.be/JXINzZIavYk
- Posted by: Lasse Burholt
- Date: 10 OCT 2020
I posted the following comment in the video comments section on 10 OCT 2020 circa 06:00 PDT:
Dale Carnegie said it best. No one can ever win a debate and change someone’s mind. If persuasion is the goal, trust must be established first. When you badger someone, or attempt to shame them into admitting their wrongs, even if they’re white supremacists or neo-nazis, they’ll usually feel defensive and double down their position.
The lady in the car is clearly unsympathetic to the cause of jailing killer cops, Black Lives Matter, or the historical legacy of white supremacy in the USA, which continues to manifest itself in American policing.
The protest lady is not “crazed”, as this hyperbolic and antidemocratic video title suggests. She is simply passionate about the cause of jailing killer cops. It’s understandable that emotions are highly charged. The protester’s only folly is in being so naive about the cruelty inside the heart of that woman in the car.
I wish the protestor lady would’ve been a bit more respectful and direct with her questions and not repetitive to avoid accusations of harassing behavior, as opposed to simply being frank or critical. But she did the best she could. She was not disrespectful. And she did what more of us ought to be doing at a time when killer cops are not being jailed for murder.YouTube public comment by “Phil Messina”
Within the hour, reader “Famous internet youtube celery” posted the following reply:
Or perhaps she waiting for the full story to come out, and isn’t into burning, looting and murdering.YouTube public comment by “Famous internet youtube celery”
This seemed to be a somewhat reasonable reply, so I replied:
@Famous internet youtube celery, perhaps.
She is definitely waiting.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. probably had the best idea when he advocated for dignified and disciplined nonviolent demonstrations, actions, and civil disobedience. Dr. King was influenced by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh towards nonviolence.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government considered him one of the greatest political threats and focused COINTELPRO state surveillance on him until his assassination. (Cf. An Act of State by William Pepper)
Since COINTELPRO snuffed out all of the peaceful voices of dissent, we are left with groups with valid concerns, but afraid or uninterested in presenting a leader capable of clearly voicing their grievances. And, of course, the media is atomized with conservatives locked into their right-wing channels (e.g., Fox News, etc) and echo chambers. And liberals are doing the same on MSNBC, etc.
America needs a post-Civil War process of truth and reconciliation, like South Africa did after apartheid. Until then, women like the one in the car will continue waiting, rather than taking action to jail killer cops. People like her, especially around the hoity toity rich folks of Walnut Creek, tend to pine more for a return to Antebellum America, rather than forging a new social contract, which excludes white supremacy.
How hard can it be to simply denounce racism, killer cops, white supremacy, and show an ounce of solidarity with the just cause of Black Lives Matter?YouTube public comment by “Phil Messina”
About an hour later “Jack Hackert” replied to my comment thread:
She was VERY disrespectful. What video were YOU watching. You contradict yourself. ” I wish she could have been respectful” then two sentences later. ” She wasn’t disrespectful” you lefties are all the same. Trying to dance around the mulberry bush, making loud noises, and contradicting yourselves. Keep up the good work. Y’all are getting Trump votes, and don’t even know it.YouTube public comment by “Jack Hackert”
I thought it was hilarious that I had contradicted myself, like “Jack Hackert” had commented. So, I replied at 11:01 PDT.
@Jack Hackert, 🤣🤣🤣 That’s hilarious! Did I contradict myself? Yikes! Let me go back and read what I wrote:
“I wish the protestor lady would’ve been a bit more respectful and direct with her questions and not repetitive to avoid accusations of harassing behavior, as opposed to simply being frank or critical. But she did the best she could. She was not disrespectful. And she did what more of us ought to be doing at a time when killer cops are not being jailed for murder.”
Wait a second, Jack. I actually did not contradict myself. You seem to have missed the nuance in my writing. Things aren’t always black and white.
By the way, what is a “leftie”? Is that like a Democrat?YouTube public comment by “Phil Messina”
[10 OCT 2020]
[Last modified on 10 OCT 2020 at 22:25 PDT]