Multicultural, Intersectional: It’s Not Your Daddy’s KKK

So I know I wrote this in The Reactionary Mind:

Beyond these simple professions of envy or admiration, the conservative actually copies and learns from the revolution he opposes. “To destroy that enemy,” Burke wrote of the Jacobins, “by some means or other, the force opposed to it should be made to bear some analogy and resemblance to the force and spirit which that system exerts.”

This is one of the most interesting and least understood aspects of conservative ideology. While conservatives are hostile to the goals of the left, particularly the empowerment of society’s lower castes and classes, they often are the left’s best students.

Sometimes, their studies are self-conscious and strategic, as they look to the left for ways to bend new vernaculars, or new media, to their suddenly delegitimated aims. Fearful that the philosophes had taken control of popular opinion in France, reactionary theologians in the middle of the eighteenth century looked to the example of their enemies. They stopped writing abstruse disquisitions for each other and began to produce Catholic agitprop, which would be distributed through the very networks that brought enlightenment to the French people. They spent vast sums funding essay contests, like those in which Rousseau made his name, to reward writers who wrote accessible and popular defenses of religion.

Even without directly engaging the progressive argument, conservatives may absorb, by some elusive osmosis, the deeper categories and idioms of the left, even when those idioms run directly counter to their official stance. After years of opposing the women’s movement, for example, Phyllis Schlafly seemed genuinely incapable of conjuring the prefeminist view of women as deferential wives and mothers. Instead, she celebrated the activist “power of the positive woman.”…When she spoke out against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), she didn’t claim that it introduced a radical new language of rights. Her argument was the opposite. The ERA, she told the Washington Star, “is a takeaway of women’s rights.” It will “take away the right of the wife in an ongoing marriage, the wife in the home.” Schlafly was obviously using the language of rights in a way that was opposed to the aims of the feminist movement; she was using rights talk to put women back into the home, to keep them as wives and mothers. But that is the point: conservatism adapts and adopts, often unconsciously, the language of democratic reform to the cause of hierarchy.

Still, I was surprised to read this in the International Business Times:

White supremacist organisation, the Ku Klux Klan is rebranding as the “new Klan” by trying to increase membership to Jews, black people, gays and those of Hispanic origin.

Some black people have already expressed an interest in joining, after John Abarr organised a summit with civil rights groups.

Abarr, who has claimed that he is a former white supremacist, told the Great Falls Tribune, “The KKK is for a strong America. White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan.”

Abarr has organised a peace summit with religious groups and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) next summer.

The KKK organiser from Great Falls, Montana told the Associated Press that he filled out a membership card to NAACP, not only paying the $30 enrollment fee but also adding a $20 donation.

Jimmy Simmons, a president of the Montana NAACP chapter, said that while he questioned the use of the letters KKK, if the peace summit took place, he would “take a strong look” at joining the Rocky Mountain Knights.

“If John Abarr was actually reformed, he could drop the label of the KKK,” said Rachel Carroll-Rivas from the Montana Human Rights Network. “They know that their beliefs aren’t popular, so they try to appear moderate. I think it’s just a farce. Our mission for the last 24 years has been to shine a light on hatred.”

However, the more traditional elements of the organisation were unhappy about the direction Abarr is heading in.

Bradley Jenkins, Imperial Wizard of the KKK, said: “That man’s going against everything the bylaws of the constitution of the KKK say. He’s trying to hide behind the KKK to further his political career.”

In 2011 Abarr, describing himself as a former KKK organiser, ran as a Republican for Montana’s seat in the US House of Representatives, reportedly believing there would be a backlash against President Obama’s re-election.

According to an Associated Press report at the time, Abarr’s manifesto included “promises to legalize marijuana, increase mental health programs, keep abortion legal, abolish the death penalty… and ‘save the White Race.'”

At the time mainstream Republicans denounced Abarr as a racist. “There’s no room for racism in our party,” said Rich Hill, a former Republican congressman who lost the 2012 election for Montana’s governor. “That is not what we are about, and we have never been about that.”


  1. joel in Oakland November 10, 2014 at 10:20 pm | #

    I don’t think there’s any question that the GOP envied the civil rights movement’s ability to give people a place to focus their anger and resentment as well as a structure that allowed it to challenge power. Something of the same wrt feminism.

    Nixon was already a master of the politics of resentment, even before the Southern Strategy, and the GOP learned well how to convince folks they’re being discriminated against by those uppity inferiors and their elite backers. (I recall Sarah Palin lauding the Koch brothers a couple years ago, noting that “finally” the GOP had some wealthy backers to counter all those Liberal George Soros types).

    They also knew that a reality-based media was the civil rights movement’s great ally (also the anti-Vietnam War Movement’s), and they’ve successfully jammed those gears.

    While they don’t know how to run a democracy that doesn’t look like Mexico, they certainly know how to run negative politics.

  2. Clifford Owen Smith (@sanzarispetto) November 11, 2014 at 10:23 am | #

    I never thought I’d ever see a Mr Show sketch become reality!

  3. mischling2nd November 11, 2014 at 11:50 am | #

    By contrast, liberals and others on the left have been poor students of conservative success. (1) Politics is the art of seduction; you get people to yield to you by playing on their mixture of ego and insecurity. Conservatives are experts in understanding human psychology. Too many liberals think that all you have to do is recite facts and the rational mind will take over. (2) Conservatives now have no problem accepting women or minorities in powerful positions within their movement; they have no problem with interracial marriage. At one time, these things would have been anathema. But they have learned to keep their eyes on the big picture – the creation of a plutocracy and the destruction of unions and workers’ rights. Cultural beliefs can be changed, compromised or exploited, depending on need.

    • joel in Oakland November 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm | #


  4. R Cook November 11, 2014 at 8:32 pm | #

    The historical Klan was far from unambiguously “conservative.”

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