Refuse the Insult

A commenter on my “Shambolic Circus” post directed me to a CNN report on Spencer’s Texas A&M speech, and specifically to what it said about the temporary disorder occasioned by the protest of Quentin Boothman.  Here is the relevant excerpt:

“At one point, Quentin Boothman, a white freshman, stood up near the front facing Spencer as he silently held a sign with an image of a gun pointed toward Adolf Hitler’s face.

“Follow your leader,” it read.

After Spencer started heckling Boothman, freshman Jalen Brown, who is black, stood in solidarity with his peer. The two locked arms as they stared back at the white nationalist.

“White supremacy is a dangerous and insanely harmful concept,” Boothman later told CNN. “I hate it in all its forms.”

Why isn’t Quentin Boothman being denounced for hate?  Not only did he expressly say he “hates” White supremacy “in all its forms,” which is an exceedingly indefinite set of opinions; he also said, by way of his sign, that anyone he, Quentin Boothman, judges to be a “white supremacist” is better off dead.

Historical meanings are irrelevant here.  Calling a man a “white supremacist,” a “Nazi,” a “fascist,” a “racist,” or a “follower of Adolf Hitler” is, today, to call that man by a very bad name.  These are the names of that class of humanity than which none is lower.  Indeed, whether members of this class are a part of humanity is, for some, a matter of serious doubt.

Given the almost incalculable depth and damage of such ascriptions, it is entirely proper that anyone who has not asked to be called by these titles refuse to be called by these titles.  If they are called by these titles, they should regard it as an actionable slander on the order of being called a child molester, murderer, or cheater at cards.

If someone calls me a “dirty bastard,” I do not calmly produce a copy of my birth certificate; I give him ten seconds to take his words back.  If someone calls me a “fascist,” I do not invite him to discuss political philosophy and the subtleties of Italian politics in the 1930s; I regard him as malicious enemy who aims to damage and if possible destroy me.

These are malicious insults, and a malicious insult always has consequences, either for the man who makes it, or for the man who allows it to be made.

On the sign that Boothman carried was a stenciled image of the head of Adolf Hitler with a pistol pointed towards his face and what I took to be blood-spatter behind.  Accompanied by the words “Follow Your Leader,” the meaning of the message was clearly “Die Nazi,” or, if you prefer, “Die Sub-Human Scum.”

Most people would violently resent being told to “die sub-human scum,” but, as I wrote earlier, Spencer was remarkably composed.  To the best of my recollection, he said something like this: “Oh, a suicide image.  Nice.  Turn around and show it to the audience.”

That’s what CNN describes as heckling?  It is, apparently, heckling when some men say, “No, I refuse to acquiesce when told to ‘die sub-human scum’.”

Imagine, if you will, an invited address by a Black writer such as, say, Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Such talks happen quite frequently and without incident.  Imagine that, twenty minutes into his address (with many in attendance wearing full Klan regalia), a furious white racist marches up the center aisle with a sign that says, “Die (insert the name of the class than which, to a furious white racist, none is lower).”

Very, very bad scene, right?  That furious white racist should be thrown out of the room, and none to gently.  If he were, like Boothman, a student, I would favor his being summarily expelled, without hope of refund or possibility of readmission.

Or imagine an address by a communist.  These also happen quite frequently and without incident.  (I once hosted a reception for a world-famous communist in my home, the university happily paying for the food and wine.)  Imagine that, twenty minutes into his address, some furious relation of the victim of the (take your pick) communist regime marches into the room with a sign showing the bullet-riddled corpse of Nicolae Ceausescu, and bearing the words “Follow Your Leader.”

This would be considered grossly offensive, and this despite the fact that Ceausescu is not, like Hitler, universally recognized as the face of that class of humanity than which none is lower.

What would happen in such a case would be that everyone would immediately say that the distinguished speaker is not a communist, but a Marxist, and a Marxist intellectual at that.  They would say that he was not proposing to do anything, but simply discussing ideas.  The more quick-witted among them might say he was merely a speculative Marxist.

The relative of the victim of communism might not be bodily thrown from the room, but I believe he would be hustled to the door.  And if he were a student, I think he might well be called to some very uncomfortable meetings with the Dean of Students.

Why is nothing like this is happening to Mr. Boothman?

Indeed, why was nothing like this done to Mr. Spencer?  His opinions are entirely speculative.  One might call him a disciple of Lothrop Stoddard, or if you like a Stoddardist.  Why, if his supporters had the keys to the academic decontamination chamber, he might be today known and respected as a speculative Stoddardist!

But his supporters don’t have the keys to the academic decontamination chamber, so he is known and disrespected as a white supremacist.  And the academic decontamination chamber is in any case tied up sanitizing Soviet flags and Red Salutes and Mr. Boothman’s oh so adorable form of “hate.”

* * * * * *

Another commenter on that same post, who had watched a video of the talk, remarked that Spencer had shown particular “disdain and impatience” towards one questioner, a pudgy white man wearing a BTHO Hate tee shirt (i.e. Beat The Hell Out of Hate).  At the time this happened, I was myself somewhat taken aback by Spencer’s aggressiveness, which seemed unprovoked; but thinking it through I have come to believe he acted correctly.

Here again, he was refusing to accept the insult.

The BTHO Hate tee shirt was the insult, and Spencer’s personal honor required that he either accept or refuse the allegation that he and his movement are actuated by “hate.” As I said above, a malicious insult has consequences, either for the man who makes it or for the man who allows it to be made.

The man in the BTHO tee shirt handed Spencer a turd, and Spencer quite rightly threw it back in his face.

If we are surprised that Spencer did this, it is because we live in a liberal society where most men show they are “civilized” by saying “thank you” every time someone hands them a turd.  In the past, the passing of a turd led to a duel of honor.   Duels of honor still occur in the lower classes, of course, but they are unknown among persons with any claim to gentility.  Some of this is due to the value we place on being “laid back,” which is a euphemism for cheerful resignation to steady bombardment by turds.  But we must also see that we value being “laid back” because liberal society makes it hard to complain about turds, and almost impossible to “seek satisfaction,” unless the turd comes from someone of lower institutional status.

When this happens, the institution seeks satisfaction for you.  That’s why the furious white redneck gets thrown out of the lecture by Ta-Nehisi Coates without Mr. Coats doing a thing.  That’s why the furious relation of the victim of the (take your pick) communist regime gets thrown out of the lecture by the world-renowned, err, Marxist intellectual without Mr. Marxist intellectual doing a thing.  And that’s why Richard Spencer has to take on the BTHO Hate tee shirt man all by himself.

If you aim to speak truth to power, get used to refusing the slanderous labels that power is trying to paste on your forehead, and get used to fighting  duels of honor for yourself.

21 thoughts on “Refuse the Insult

  1. Boothman, et al, had already been forewarned by the university faculty that his presence at the gathering could be taken the “wrong” way. I guess better to err on the side of caution and make a big show of one’s opposition to Spencer. Likewise for the fat slob professor.

    What sorts of awards (or rewards) may we expect for these two from the university in the days to come?

  2. Now if you understand “white supremacist” to mean a real white.Christian with all those other terms a means of euphemistic deflection then the entire scenario is exponentially more odious.

    And projection…

    “Die human scum” is the invite to eradicate under the auspices of white Christian righteousness.

    SEPARATION better get on Orthospherean lips soon.

  3. Pingback: Refuse the Insult | Reaction Times

  4. The reason Marxists are tolerated and Christians are not is because Marxist ideas are OBJCECTIVELY FALSE while the Christian’s are OBJECTIVELY TRUE. A mans IQ is an objective reality, and there are a lot of people who have a hard time dealing with objective reality.

  5. Howdy,

    The original poster’s points are understandable but missing important context.

    The Hitler sign, while offensive to many, was a direct reference to Spencer’s recent speech where he and his followers gave the unmistakable Nazi salute to Donald Trump. Spencer later downplayed this as a “Roman salute” given in a spirit of “irony and exuberance” (his words). The sign was communicated directly to Spencer, appealing to his sense of irony—that his tyrannical idol had committed suicide when his maniacal reign came to an inevitable end, exposing his selfishness over his ideology as is common for megalomaniacs to do when they are cornered and their loss assured. This was certainly understood correctly by Spencer who verbally acknowledged the sign as such. It did not condone or exhort murder.

    BEAT THE HELL OUTTA… is a common refrain posted on College Station store signs and supporter banners, and yelled before and during Aggie sports events (“B.T.H.O. LSU!”). It is not in any way a message of violence (except for 280 linebackers slamming into each other for 60 miniutes). Spencer would certainly understand this t-shirt as meaning nothing other than Aggie solidarity and pride—having grown up in nearby Dallas, he has heard and seen this slogan his entire life (and unless he is a closet Aggie fan, he likely detests it).

    These men stood silently while Spencer launched ad hominem attacks directed at them, based on nothing but appearances and stereotypes, a tactic he consistently uses when he is unable to wrench the microphone from those who confront his ideas.

    As for characterization of “hate” in these messages, I suppose it is up to individuals to interpret for themselves the degree of difference in meaning between “hate” of an ideology and “hate” for members of the human race.

    • The NPI was described as “Nazi” and “fascist” long before the salutes at the recent conference, and its conferences have been protested and harassed by Anti-fa activists for as long as I have been aware of its existence. Outrage over the salutes may have added fuel to the fire last Tuesday, but it did not start the fire.

      I do not think anyone should attempt to rehabilitate the “Roman salute,” but I do see what Spencer is getting at with his words about “exuberance and irony.” People like Spencer will always be beaten with the Nazi stick, whether they give Roman salutes or not, so it makes sense for him to try to make the Nazi stick a little more flaccid by making fun of it. To be honest, this is somewhat like the way in which some homosexuals embraced the word “queer.”

      I don’t know if you were at the event last Thursday, but there was nothing ironic or playful about Mr. Boothman or his sign. He was, as he said, expressing hatred for Spencer and Spencer’s ideas. I know nothing about Boothman apart from what was reported in the papers, but I am quite willing to believe that he did not in any sense intend Spencer’s death. But I would point out that my charitable interpretation of Mr. Boothman’s intentions was not reciprocated by a charitable interpretations by Mr. Boothman.

      If Spencer must take Mr. Boothman’s gesture in a spirit of charity (or irony), then Mr. Boothman must take Spencer’s gestures in a spirit of charity (or irony).

      We see the same double standard in BTHO tee shirt. Of course BTHO is just an Aggie slogan, and when Aggies use it they do not mean or intend assault and battery. But assault and battery is the literal meaning of those words. Since every word and symbol Spencer uses is given the worst possible construction by his enemies, why shouldn’t he turn the table and put the worst possible construction on the words and symbols that they use?

      This is simple game theory. tit for tat. Real questions were given real answers. Street theater (the clowns, the Che wannabes) was answered with street theater (although only Spencer gave indication of having fun). Belligerence was met by belligerence. But Spencer followed the rules of game theory throughout. Let the other party set the tone, afterwards tit for tat.

      Your distinction between hate of an ideology and hate for members of the human race is real, but also academic. Ideologies are embodied in members of the human race, so to hate an ideology is to hate the humans in which it is embodied. Political violence is far more deadly than simple racial animus.

    • alexcara@: “The Hitler sign … was a direct reference to Spencer’s recent speech where he and his followers gave the unmistakable Nazi salute to Donald Trump. Spencer later downplayed this as a “Roman salute” given in a spirit of “irony and exuberance” (his words).

      I have to say, in reference to the above, that while I’m personally not a member of the official, card-carrying “alt-right,” I do know and communicate privately (by way of email) with young men who are. Speaking strictly in terms of the salute, these same young alt-right men have told me, on more than one occasion *months prior to* Spencer’s now infamous salute, that “Donald Trump is our Julius Caesar.”

      The salute was very probably as Spencer said. More on the same point later.

      • Spencer gave no salute. This needs to be stressed, lest we allow the media and liberal trolls dictate truth for us. And you are right that Spencer and others in the Alt-Right wish to see Trump as a Caesarian figure who arrived in order to rescue a decadent and dying republic and lead as emperor. (Make no mistake, they are keen enough to know this is largely myth-making).

      • GW: I’ve been brooding over this notion of cultural palingenesis. One part of my reactionary soul is attached to it, but another part tells me it is an idle dream. We are all haunted by Spengler’s ghost.

  6. A good post — as long as the elites persist in their hypocrisy, white racial consciousness, even rage, will continue to build — at this point, you have to say their ignorance of this is willful — and it is not unfair to interpret their behavior as ‘anti-white’.

  7. Wow. This post is full of fallacies, inconsistency, and misinformation. I will address the latter first, as I was there, and there are videos of the exchange online if you wish to double-check. You say that Spencer responded to my silently standing with a sign with composure, saying “Oh, a suicide image. Nice. Turn around and show it to the audience.” He did say this, but followed up with a barrage of insults, calling me a “gutter punk,” a “liberal,” and likening me to a professional protester who has nothing better to do than to protest Nazis. In fact, this was my first protest, not that it matters.
    You argue that it is hateful to call someone a Nazi in the same way that racism is hateful, because Nazis are “a class of humanity than which none is lower.” You couldn’t be more wrong. White nationalists, white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, whatever you want to call them, are not a class of people. A class is “the system of ordering a society in which people are divided into sets based on perceived social or economic status, or, the sets themselves,” and I did not insult Herr Spencer based on his wealth or station in life. I insulted him because he espouses beliefs in public that would be abhorrent in private. He has every right to want a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of the United States, and I have every right to hate him for it. Hatred is not evil- hatred is useful. I hate racism. I hate fascism. I hate Nazism. I don’t necessarily hate those who ascribe to these beliefs, I hate their ideology, but those who disseminate those beliefs are the ideology, and hatred of them is perfectly justified.
    You also misinterpreted my sign. You wrote “he also said, by way of his sign, that anyone he, Quentin Boothman, judges to be a “white supremacist” is better off dead.” First of all, I will admit that anyone who is Hitler is better off dead, which is what my sign literally said, and I dare you to disagree with me. I was simply reminding Spencer of the necessary endpoint of the path his movement is on- one of absolute failure. In addition, I don’t judge Richard Spencer to be a white supremacist. He has said it himself. In an “Ask Me Anything” on the reddit forum /r/altright, (https://www.reddit.com/r/altright/comments/4x3fm2/richard_spencerask_me_anything/), he stated “The Black family was definitely stronger during the age of segregation. In other words, segregation and White supremacy benefitted Blacks, from a certain perspective.” In addition, he has said many time that white people are the most superior race- one might even say ‘supreme.’
    Finally, your ideas of what would be analogous to my holding up a sign are patently ridiculous. First of all, a key difference between your theoretical Coates visit has a key difference between Herr Spencer’s – Spencer was not invited, so he has less leverage to kick a peaceful protester out. In addition, racists and anti-racists are not exchangeable- racists have lynched 2500 black people since slavery ended, and that’s only violent death at the hands of racists. Anti-racists haven’t killed anyone, so it’s reasonable to assume that I’m not going to shove a gun in Spencer’s mouth and force him to pull the trigger. If, however, Mr. Coates was berated by someone with a sign that said “Die N*gger” or the like, it would be reasonable to assume someone might take violent action against him, especially if the room was filled with “Klansmen.” While you like to appear knowledgeable about history, you seem to love ignoring historical context. Also, I’m sure that if a protester held up an analogous sign at a Communist rally of Nicolae Ceausescu, he may or may not be thrown out- but it doesn’t matter, because Communism, a mostly economic, slightly social ideology, is not analogous to the near-genocidal ideology of Nazism. In addition, while you call Spencer’s ideas “speculative,” this is no defense. The alt-right movement is alive and well, and taking action, as evidence by the shooting on Sunday. Remember, Hitler’s ideas were once speculative as well.
    And I apologize for my sign not being enough of an in-depth analysis. Next time, I’ll write a 40-page treatise comparing Nazis to turds and toss it at Spencer.

    • Quentin: Thanks for writing. I hope we can have an exchange that helps to promote tolerance and understanding all round.

      My general point in “Refuse the Insult” was that exchanges of political ideas should not begin with insults, but that if one side breaks this pact of mutual respect and civility, the other side should respond in kind. I didn’t develop the point, but I would add that I believe a cessation of insults by one party should be rewarded by a cessation of insults by the other party. I was at Richard Spencer’s talk, sitting about ten feet from where you took your stand in the aisle, and I think this is how he conducted himself. He answered respectful questions respectfully and insulting questions somewhat insultingly.

      My purpose in this strategy of “refusing the insult” is to steer an ugly conversation back towards the rational level, or shut it down altogether. I prefer the rational level, but like least of all a limping conversation where one side arrogates the right to be rude. For the conversation to be rational, both parties have to be open—even if only in theory—to the arguments that the other party is making. This means treating them as intellectually and morally respectable, and using rational means in an attempt to change their ideas.

      Spencer advanced three or four propositions that we can judge as either true or false. If they are false, we may very well go on to point out their disastrous consequences, and we may very well speculate as to why Spencer is so perverted or misguided as to hold them. But the question of truth comes first. Some of Spencer’s propositions could have been challenged on scientific or historical grounds, but that is not the way most challengers went (those who did, did so poorly). Instead most challengers went directly to an attack on Spencer’s moral quality or (as in your case) took the consequentialist line that “we know where this leads.” Both types of challenge are beside the point until it has been shown that Spencer is wrong.

      I will admit that people on the Right often use the term “liberal” as an insult, although the more thoughtful use it as a simple way to refer to a constellation of ideas and arguments (with which they of course disagree). Saying “that’s liberal” or “you’re a liberal” is properly just descriptive, and does not by itself answer liberal arguments. In an imaginary world, the same could be said of “Nazi,” or “fascist,” or “racist,” or “white supremacist.” These words would simply describe a constellation of ideas and arguments, all of which might be wrong, even wrong and wicked, but the wrongness or wickedness of which would not be presumed demonstrated simply by enunciating the words.

      In the world that we actually inhabit, however, these words (unlike “liberal”) incite hatred and violence, such as we saw a few weeks ago at Texas A&M. And these words are applied very, very loosely. All of this is essentially a leftist form of red-baiting.

      Your definition of class is taken from Marxist theory. It is, in fact, essential to that theory. Saying this does not disprove the theory or discredit your use of the term in this sense, but it does indicate that it is very far from being the only legitimate definition of the term social class. Drug addicts and “deadbeat dads” are social classes, although not in the Marxist sense of “class conflict,” the “iron law,” and the “dialectic of historical materialism.”

      Referring to Spencer as Herr Spencer is insulting to Spencer, who is not German, and to the tens of million German men have no connection to Nazism. This is a low and insensitive ethnic slur that you should stop using.

      If your sign actually meant “anyone who is Hitler is better off dead,” it would seem to have been rather pointless. Only one person is Hilter, that that person is (or rather was) Hitler himself. And he is dead. So when you say “anyone who is Hitler,” you clearly mean “anyone who is like Hitler,” and since you took the trouble to haul your sign to the MSC, you clearly believed someone in that room was “like Hitler,” and therefore “better off dead.”

      My comparison to a talk by Ta Nehisi Coats works even if we assume he was invited to speak by a private citizen, and a room on campus was simply booked in the way the room for Spencer’s talk was booked. In fact, what made your suppose that he would have come at the invitation of a campus organization, and with the blessings of the entire university? Presumably you supposed this because such a set of circumstances is altogether probable. But you supplied those circumstances to my analogy, and they are not part of the analogy I actually made.

      I know you have a lot on your plate as a new college student, and you are clearly way ahead of where I was when I was your age, but you really ought to look into what Communism actually is and has done. Over the course of the twentieth century, it killed more people than National Socialism by an order of magnitude. And yet we had a Soviet flag waiving above the protesters outside the MSC, a couple dozen Red Salutes about six feet where I was sitting, and nary a word of censure from the university or the local newspaper. There is food for thought there!

      If one were to ask the people with the Soviet flag and the Red Salutes if they know “where that leads,” they would of course say that the dreadful consequences of twentieth-century Communism were not hard-wired into their ideas. Presumably Spencer (who is probably farther from real Nazis than these people are from real Communists) would say much the same thing in answer to your consequentialist objections.

      In closing, let me assure you that I do not oppose protests, even protests like yours. I thought the protests at A&M were overly loud and more than a little lame, but I would not have shut them down. But I do think that protesters are fair game for symbolic retaliation in kind. If they toss around pejorative titles like “Nazi” and “Fascist,” the object of those insults is absolved of responsibility to show any tender regard for careful, nuanced or sensitive descriptions of the protesters’ opinions.

      Keep your eyes and your mind open, and stay brave. Courage is the greatest virtue, since without it every other virtue comes to nothing.

    • alexcara:

      As for characterization of “hate” in these messages, I suppose it is up to individuals to interpret for themselves the degree of difference in meaning between “hate” of an ideology and “hate” for members of the human race.

      JMSmith:

      Your distinction between hate of an ideology and hate for members of the human race is real, but also academic. Ideologies are embodied in members of the human race, so to hate an ideology is to hate the humans in which it is embodied. Political violence is far more deadly than simple racial animus.

      Quentin Boothman:

      He has every right to want a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of the United States, and I have every right to hate him for it. Hatred is not evil- hatred is useful. I hate racism. I hate fascism. I hate Nazism. I don’t necessarily hate those who ascribe to these beliefs, I hate their ideology, but those who disseminate those beliefs are the ideology, and hatred of them is perfectly justified.

      There ya go.

    • Are you encouraged because their bitterness is a sign that they are about to loose once and for all, or because it means they will now begin to fight back?

      • Mr. Campbell has some odd notions about what most of the people he means to criticize actually think about race. Very few argue that races are “discrete categories,” or advocate treating other races “with distain or even outright contempt.” Most argue that races are fuzzy categories with significantly different normal distributions of some relevant behavioral traits, and that a world adapted to accommodate these differences will work better (for everyone) than a world that does not. It is, of course, an insult to state that everyone who believes that race is real entertains notions that are scientifically ignorant or morally repugnant.

        Campbell’s false and insulting equation of race realism and race hatred is the basis for his inconsequent talk about theosis. All of this is irrelevant since the premise is false.

        His argument that race realism is incompatible with the doctrine of atonement also strikes me as false. By his account, the temptations faced by Christ must have been identical to those faced by every man (and woman), which would mean that the temptations faced by every man and woman must have been identical. Obviously this is false. The sins to which women are prone are not identical to those to which men are prone. The sins to which men of the Middle Ages were prone are not identical to those to which men of the twenty-first century are prone. And he sins to which one man is prone are not identical to those to which his brother (or sister) is prone. The fact that one man is prone to violence and another is prone to gluttony does not mean that one of them is “more fallen” than the other.

        It also strikes me as odd that he claims this is the Orthodox position. I’m far from expert on this, but of all the branches of Christianity, Orthodoxy seems the most comfortable with national identity.

      • Perhaps Mr. Campbell is your pudgy, race-denying Phd colleague who was wearing the BTHO Hate tee shirt at Richard Spencer’s A&M talk? Ha, ha.

        In any case, I too hope that Quentin will consider it worth his time to engage in dispassionate conversation on this topic with those of us who have knowledge and experience enough to teach him a thing or two about where he is going wrong, and how to think for himself.

      • JMSmith…

        Your “race” is your father and a son knows this as a child before he is learned otherwise by the inversion of the babblers.

        The notion that the above cannot be so is nothing more than a simple lack of freed will to push back and then submit the degenerate paradigm of the radical “liberal” to an Absolute reckoning.

        The zeitgeist wants to replace our sole metaphysical Father with a SINGLE worldly “black” one who came out of Africa. The zeitgeist calls this “common descent.” It uses this “common descent” to criminalize separation and desire for Supremacy. But, the zeitgeist also sells inversions of reality. In this WORLD, father does not beget the son (“we” are not all sons of one black father out of Africa), the Son begat the father and so DEFINES the races of men through the sons of God.

        Your race is your father.

        Anti-racism is the scourge of a hatred for one’s father. It is a burning contempt for the father who has not properly defined the world for his son. It is a rage of once being sure of yourself and your race and now possessing neither nor.

        Your race is your father.

        Racism is the immersion into your father who then is symbiotically defined as the son comes into his own.

        Your race is your father. Nothing fuzzy. Truly particular. And CONTRA the zeitgeist.

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