Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Hammer

In my post commenting on the Youth for Western Civilization, I had observed that the group's crest resembled the Roman fasces. In the comments, Josh, apparently a member of the group, pointed out that the image is not an axe but a battle hammer and is meant to be symbolic of Charles "the Hammer" Martel.

While I appreciate the clarification, I don't find this particularly reassuring. Charles Martel is the sort of obscure historical figure that generally has significance to two groups: history buffs or white nationalists trying to choose a screen name.

The Charles Martel Society, founded by conservative book publishing scion William Regnery II, is a case in point. The organization itself was apparently inspired by the now defunct French anti-Arab terrorist Charles Martel Group.

The iconography involved with Youth for Western Civilization choosing Martel's hammer doesn't seem all that different than that of the early Italian fascists choice of the Roman fasces. Indeed, the November 1921 program of the Fascist Party proclaimed Italy's role as a "bulwark of Latin civilization."

Fear that civilization is in danger from an alien element allied with internal Leftist enemies is one of the basic mobilizing passions of fascism. As Walter Laqueur has observed, xenophobia is a breeding ground for fascist sentiment.

On top of that, with YWC's Martel crest, you get a Romanticized look towards the past when a strong, male Leader defended the unity of one's cultural group.

Viewing one's cultural group as the historical victim in a Manichean battle for civilization between Good and Evil contributes to the politics of vicarious traumatization. Al Gore gave an example of the dangers of this in The Assault on Reason.

Slobodon Milosovic, in the early summer of 1989, went to the plains of Kosovo on the six-hundredth anniversary of the battle that defeated the Serbian Empire in its heyday. Government spokesmen said a million and a half people came. Western estimates said a million people came, covering the hillsides to listen to him speak. In his speech, Milosovic revivified the battle of six hundred years earlier. And in the immediate aftermath of that collective retraumatization, a brutal campaign of violent expulsion began against the Croats and the Bosnians and the Kosovars at least in part because there was a vicarious experience of a trauma six centuries earlier that activated in the physical bodies of the individuals present, in this generation a response as if they were reliving that fear of so long ago.
Josh also said that that group's ideology centers around rejection of multiculturalism and a willingness to assimilate. I don't doubt that. But the lack of explicit racialist ideology doesn't mean there's not a problem. Josh points out that he is Jewish and that others in the group are of various ethnicity, but to me that's like someone citing Michelle Malkin to say that the internment of Japanese American citizens in concentration camps wasn't bigoted extremism. Or better yet, it's like trying to say Vlaams Belang isn't extremist because Pamela of Atlas Shrugs likes the party.

Blogger's Note - I've edited this slightly since first posting. I had identified William Regnery II as a "conservative book publisher" but that is misleading and wrong. Regnery is a heir of his family's book publishing, but is not involved with Regnery publishing (although he does publish racist material). Regnery is now owned by Eagle Publishing. Of course, I regret the error.

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