Thursday, January 28, 2021

White Nationalism Worse Than A Disease!!!

wired |  Our chimeric infectious cancer analogy for white nationalism might require something related but more focused: a war on white nationalism that is much lower on empathy than we’ve ever treated it, and higher on an appreciation for how large and disruptive a menace it truly is. Such a war would include the same administrative and legislative heft that has been given to the wars on drugs and foreign terrorism. (The latter served as the motivation for an entirely new executive department.) It would involve an intersection of experts from the intelligence, legal, criminal justice, and scholarly communities. And these experts would be charged with identifying all of the places that the infectious cancer hides in society, addressing the vulnerabilities in the American immune system, and cutting off the communication channels that serve as a bloodstream (e.g., social media) for white nationalism to further propagate, causing disseminated destruction. The Biden administration has already outlined formal plans for improved surveillance of emerging infectious disease in response to Covid-19. A similar process to address domestic terrorism could just as easily be activated.

Cancer analogies also have limits that oversimplify the blight of white nationalism. For one, cancer is driven by an undirected process driven by the laws of natural selection: Cancerous cells don’t know they’re disrupting anything. The 2021 strain of white nationalism, however, is engineered specifically for destruction. It is not a set of ideas that undermine the laws of the land by happenstance. Their purpose is to undermine them actively and directly.

These distinctions are more than just semantic: Too many narratives of white nationalism incorrectly depict its actors as exclusively low-class and uneducated. This trope says that the white nationalists aren’t really all that bad but are misguided, acting on ignorance, alienation, or economic anxiety.

This ragtag caricature of white nationalism evokes a cancerous cell blindly fomenting catastrophe through directionless meandering. The reality of white nationalism is closer to the opposite: It is a well-oiled machine, driven by nefarious actors with very specific goals in mind. And in this way, white nationalism isn’t much like cancer at all. There are no innocent, guileless actors, guilty only of being short-sighted. The purveyors of white nationalism live by a wicked creed that explicitly dehumanizes others.

If white nationalism isn’t a birth defect, a virus, or a cancer, should we dispense with disease analogies altogether? Why bother with explanatory vehicles at all?

The answer is that disease, in the abstract sense, does effectively capture the rot of white nationalism in important ways (many people even felt physically ill after seeing images of Charlottesville and the Capitol insurrection).

The challenge resides in identifying the right pathology. Finding one has no necessary allegiance to any existing class of disease—we’re free to cut and paste features of different diseases, even use our science-fiction mind to dream up one better fit to describe this unique blight.

The chimeric, hypothetical disease most like white nationalism resembles an infectious cancer—a rare class of diseases where malignant cells can be transmitted between people. The most famous of these is the devil tumour facial disease of Tasmanian devils. A grotesque illness typified by large tumors on the face that eventually spread throughout the body, killing the animal, the problem is so rampant it threatens the species with extinction.

Like an infectious cancer, white nationalism offers mutant, bastardized forms of American ideals and institutions like liberty, states’ rights, freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms. And they prey on and amplify existing white resentment, anti-Blackness, and xenophobia. And most frustratingly, these sentiments are allowed to grow and fester because of privilege: Law enforcement never treated white domestic terrorism as aggressively as it has Black radicals or international terrorists.