New Book Review

I took a little break from researching the far-right (although I did mention QAnon midwives!) to just do some basic left theory/Critical Theory stuff. Here’s my review of Jeffery Nicholas’s book Love and Politics: https://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviews/19834_love-and-politics-persistent-human-desires-as-a-foundation-for-liberation-by-joan-braune-reviewed-by-joan-braune/.

(This is my seventh review for Marx & Philosophy Review of Books!)

Remembering Bill Morlin

Bill Morlin, a legendary Spokane journalist and Southern Poverty Law Center writer and researcher, recently passed. His courageous reporting on the Aryan Nations compound in north Idaho was essential for this region’s pushback against white supremacist hate. I didn’t know Bill as well I’d like, but I was honored to share my appreciation of his work and his kind assistance to me after I received hate literature in the mail from Nazis several years ago: https://www.rangemedia.co/p/the-mentorship-of-bill-morlin.

New Article: How Fascism Lies and Denies

My latest article, Review Essay: Fascism and Eluded Truths,” is now published in public access format in the latest issue of journal on psychoanalysis and culture, Free Associations.

The article reflects on three recent books that all address fascism’s dishonesty and denialism: Claudia Leeb’s The Politics of Repressed Guilt: The Tragedy of Austrian Silence; Federico Finchelstein’s A Brief History of Fascist Lies; and Keith Kahn-Harris’s Denial: The Unspeakable Truth.

I argue that fascists lie in at least three ways: (1) tactically, to deceive others; (2) as a psychological defense mechanism; and (3) with a degree of paradoxical sincerity, since fascism believes that truth is a product of the violent enforcement of myth, not something that can be accessed by reason.

I conclude with some reflections on denialism within American racism; the ongoing effects of Trumpism; and some recommendations for confronting fascism.

On the “tactical” lying of fascists:

“Despite decades of philosophical and sociological exploration of fascists’ fundamental dishonesty and their leering, tactical bullying—such as their repeated claims to be ‘just joking’—the general public still falls for liberal arguments for inclusion of fascists in a ‘marketplace of ideas.’ Many people still naively hope that the threat of fascism can be overcome by publicly debating fascists. This assumption fails to account for the fact that, in debating fascists, one does not enter into a collective search for truth between the debaters and audience, but rather one plays host to a tactical performance by the fascist to generate publicity, outrage, recruitment, or mockery of enemies.”

Concluding paragraph of the essay:

“Fascist movements in U.S. American society are not a bizarre fringe element to gawk at, but express structures and sentiments at the center of American history and economic, political, and social power. Overcoming the danger they pose will be a long road and will require both structural change and honest collective reflection, not mere protesting or policing. However, perhaps we can create a society more conducive to truth through building our ’embodied reflective judgment’ through genuine solidarity, confronting our own denial by being bravely honest, and confronting fascist myths of heroic greatness with the reality of the experience of its victims and survivors.”

The full latest issue of Free Associations is available here: http://freeassociations.org.uk/FA_New/OJS/index.php/fa/issue/view/35.

Welcoming Afghan Families to Spokane

Bridges Not Walls (a Muslim-Catholic dialogue and friendship group in Spokane that I’m involved in) is cosponsoring this event Saturday with our friends at MCAS (Muslims for Community Action and Support), along with other local groups: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2-5pm at the Women’s Club of Spokane (1428 W. 9th Ave.). All are welcome. Drop by and join us in welcoming Afghan refugee families to Spokane. There will be Afghan tea and cookies, some brief presentations, and time to meet our new neighbors.

Video: Talk Countering Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory, “Cultural Marxism”

Here is the video from my talk on Monday, November 29, to Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus Köln (Alliance Against Antisemitism, Cologne, Germany). I enjoyed the discussion and hope that this explanation of the conspiracy theory of “cultural Marxism”–which is not just about opposition to the Frankfurt School’s ideas, but repackages the conspiracy theory of Judeo-Bolshevism for a post-Cold War context–will prove helpful. I also discuss the growing convergence of conspiracy theories targeting “cultural Marxism” and “Critical Race Theory.” Both right-wing reactionary responses, I argue, are rooted deeply in defensiveness designed to protect denial. (I have been thinking a lot lately about the role that “denial” and “denialism,” as psychological/emotional reactions, play in white supremacy and fascism. I have an article on that topic coming out next week in an open-source psychoanalytic journal, which I’ll link on this site when it becomes available.)

Upcoming Talk Countering Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories

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On Monday, November 29, 10:30 a.m. PST, I will be speaking online to Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus – Köln (Alliance Against Antisemitism – Cologne, Germany) on the antisemitic conspiracy theory of “Cultural Marxism” and how the conspiracy theory is spreading as well as undermining antiracist education through the overlap of this conspiracy theory with conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory.” The talk will be in English.

The talk will air live on the Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus – Köln YouTube channel: Bündnis gegen Antisemitismus Köln – YouTube. More information is available on the Facebook event here: (1) Joan Braune: “Cultural Marxism” | Facebook.


Abstract:

“Cultural Marxism” is an antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish Marxist scholars belonging to the Frankfurt School. According to the conspiracy theory, these scholars implemented a slow takeover of “culture,” seeking to undermine Christianity, family, and nation in favor of a new worldview and international system of control, involving embracing diversity, sexual liberation, and moral and aesthetic decline. The conspiracy theorists believe that “cultural Marxism” now controls all areas of public life, including the media, schools, entertainment, the economy, and national and global systems of governance. Not only does this theory vastly overestimate the influence of a small group of Jewish intellectuals; it repackages old antisemitic tropes and serves as an updated, post-Cold War version of the Nazi “Judeo-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory.

The cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is popular among fascists and white supremacists, and has inspired mass shootings, including the attacks by Norwegian white nationalist Anders Breivik in 2011. However, the conspiracy theory is also making its way into the conservative mainstream. It has been favorably referenced by some conservative politicians around the world, often in the context of attacks on education and academic freedom. In the United States, the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is increasingly merging with conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory” which aim to shut down anti-racist education in schools and workplaces. Conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory” and “cultural Marxism” trade on similar fears. For example, both conspiracy theories claim that teachers are using Critical Race Theory or Cultural Marxism to suppress “free speech” or “make white children feel ashamed.” Since the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory is often merging with conspiracy theories targeting other minority groups, overcoming its influence may require uniting in solidarity against a variety of conspiracy theories targeting Jews as well as other minority groups.

Dr. Joan Braune is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Gonzaga University, and her current research explores Frankfurt School Critical Theory’s work on fascism and applies Critical Theory insights to countering the rise of fascism and far-right movements today, especially in the United States. She is author of the book Erich Fromm’s Revolutionary Hope: Prophetic Messianism as a Critical Theory of the Future (Sense Publishers 2014) and co-editor with Kieran Durkin of Erich Fromm’s Critical Theory: Hope, Humanism and the Future (Bloomsbury 2020). She has written numerous articles, including “Who’s Afraid of the Frankfurt School? ‘Cultural Marxism’ as an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory.” She is a frequent speaker on countering hate groups, is active in the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Hate Studies. She has helped organize locally against white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups active in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Radical Philosophy Hour: Video

If you missed it, a video of Devin Shaw’s and my presentations on fascism for the Radical Philosophy Association is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi0kcblJrbQ&t=2548s. (My presentation was on the limits of counterextremism discourse for understanding fascism, and there was a lot of nice overlap and harmony between Devin’s presentation and mine.)

Ethics of Researching the Far Right

I am excited to be co-editing a book on the Ethics of Researching the Far Right, a project of the U.K.-based EthEx Network (Network for Critical Research on the Ethics of Researching the Extreme and Far Right). Please see the call for papers here, and share with those who may be interested: Call for papers: The Ethics of Researching the Far Right – The Ethics of Researching the Far & Extreme Right (wordpress.com)

The proposal invites contributions on many timely topics, including reflecting on white supremacy within our own research field, “decolonizing” research on the far-right, challenging Islamophobia in the counterextremism industry, exploring the role of activism in research, and attending to needs for self/community care of researchers.


Proposals for contributions (abstracts) are due October 15.

Radical Philosophy Hour

On Monday, October 4, 12pm Pacific Time, Devin Zane Shaw and Joan Braune will be speaking on fascism and fighting it, for the Radical Philosophy Association’s online “Radical Philosophy Hour” series. The talks will be aired on Facebook Live at this link.

Joan Braune’s talk is entitled, “Why We Should Stop Calling Nazis ‘Extremists’: Limitations of ‘Counter-Extremism’ Discourse for Work Against Fascism”

Abstract: This presentation presents a radical challenge to the reigning discourses of the “counterextremism industry.” The counterextremism industry is a loose network of people and institutions involved in work against “extremism,” “terrorism,” and “radicalization,” comprised of various government and law enforcement entities, think tanks, former members of “extremist” movements, counselors and social workers, academics, and research centers. By classifying a broad range of movements including some fascist, leftist, and Islamist groups as “extremist” or “radical,” the counterextremism industry lets the center off the hook, ignoring the ways fascistic and white supremacist aims are supported by mainstream institutions and social policies. It also empowers the far-right to attack the left, by allowing far-right organizations to rebrand as counterextremism groups. The counterextremism industry’s abstractions also feed into Islamophobia, among other problems. I suggest that the ideological abstractions of the counterextremism industry, including its overly broad definitional profile of an “extremist,” like past Cold War profiles of “the fanatic” or “the true believer” (Eric Hoffer), undermine effective struggle against fascism and the far-right, and that left theorists should resist these abstractions and depend instead on a different set of categories.

Devin Zane Shaw’s talk is entitled “Seven Theses on the Three-Way Fight: For a Discussion”

Abstract: In radical circles, fascism is still defined similarly to Dimitrov’s formulation of the Comintern’s popular-front line as established in 1935. He asserts that “fascism in power is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” I will argue that this definition does not explain the potential mass appeal of fascist or far-right movements. I will offer this definition of fascism instead: Fascism is a social movement involving a relatively autonomous and insurgent (potentially) mass base, driven by an authoritarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges bourgeois institutional and cultural power, while re-entrenching economic and social hierarchies. 

Registration Open: International Conference of Hate Studies

Registration is now open to attend the International Conference on Hate Studies, sponsored by the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies (GIHS), which will be held online November 4-6, 2021. You can register here: https://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/centers-institutes/institute-for-hate-studies/international-conference-on-hate-studies/registration-information.

Featured speakers include Kathleen Blee, Eric Ward, Connie Chung Joe, Rachel Rivas, and others. More information about the conference can be found here: https://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/centers-institutes/institute-for-hate-studies/international-conference-on-hate-studies. A full schedule will be posted soon.

(I’m helping with conference planning and chairing a plenary session; I also have a panel with Dr. Ronald Beiner, author of Dangerous Minds–we’ll be doing a panel on “fascism creep” in academia and what we can do to stay alert and resist fascists who try to infiltrate or co-opt the academy. But mainly I really just think you should check out the conference, whether you are an academic/researcher or activist–GIHS is a great project and needs a particularly strong conference this year to continue to get the support it needs to grow its work and demonstrate its contribution to the Gonzaga University campus community.)