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Fight the Alt-Right with Taxi Searchers


About this time last year, it became clear to me that, even if Hillary Clinton had won the presidential election, the impact of Donald Trump’s campaign, having mobilized a white nationalist segment within the general public, was not going away. The insanity found in venues like Breitbart and similar websites was a mass psychosis running rampant over the white population and was going to stay activated long after November.

It was with these things in mind that I wrote an anti-racism primer, sourced to Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks, that is laid out and styled like a late twentieth century film magazine, akin to Fangoria or Starlog, and based around analysis of John Ford’s 1956 THE SEARCHERS and Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER.

All of this was intentional and calculated. The film magazine layout is looked at with fond nostalgia by a number of people who would be drawn to the alt-right’s seductive and treacherous style, which utilizes an anti-establishment grammar and vocabulary combined with the page layout of the New Left alternative press. This book is catered specifically to the Trumpenproletariat, who I do have some familiarity with owing to my whiteness.

Ford’s film, a story of inter-ethnic coupling, insanity, and colonialism in the Old West, is considered both the pinnacle of that auteur’s career as well as a significant motion picture in the genre which at the time was known as “race films”. It is a picture that is trying to formulate an understanding of anti-Black/Brown racism within the confines of a classical Hollywood cinema film made by a director who was a Fellow Traveler of the old Communist Party and indeed stood up for Communist filmmakers during the McCarthy witch hunts. To do this, Ford cuts to the heart of the American notion of masculinity and defense of white Christian female purity against the rampaging Other, utilizing what is known in academic literature as a captivity narrative (https://www.thoughtco.com/women-in-indian-captivity-narratives-3529395). In simpler words, his film offers a very concrete set of coordinates from which to begin a conversation about race and racism. Scorsese’s film, an urban western which the screenwriter admits was a modern remake of the Ford film, provides a very important insight with regards to the modern neurosis we call the gun culture.

To articulate my conclusions, I utilize a novel approach indebted to intertextual literary criticism. I use academic film criticism of TAXI DRIVER to analyze THE SEARCHERS. Then I use Fanon to analyze TAXI DRIVER. This is a way to slough through the multiple layers of ideological devices, installed within the public by the corporate media and political parties, which have hindered building solidarity in a formation that in any other country would be called class-based. In my own experience, I have found that trying to do this work based around personal behaviors and challenging someone for their own inter-personal racism causes blinders to be thrown up by the person you are trying to communicate with. However, if you short circuit this by using art to demonstrate racism, it is only a matter of time before you see the change in someone’s eyes. After a few minutes the externalized explanation and critique of racism begins to make people reflect on their own behavior. Interspersed throughout are short articles by Noel Ignatiev and Kevin Carson that provide important explanations of key issues and which are intended to illuminate elements for those who would have been enthusiastic about Ron Paul’s campaign and then Donald Trump’s.

This is all done to begin at where people are with regard to race and racism. American culture is almost totally defined by an absolute illiteracy about race and racism. This is something that the alt-right is keyed into. For example, in 2014 Breitbart ran this headline, “Political Correctness Makes Race and Genetics Taboo in the West, Which is Why China is Winning”. As such, we are presented as progressive-leftists with a moral challenge as well as advantage. There are millions of self-described whites in this country who can and must be turned against the growth of fascism via the alt-right. This requires a type of political education that I have previously described as “proletarian grace”.

In concrete terms, this book is intended to be used as a manual and aid for action in these efforts. Such efforts require us to sit down and talk with friends and loved ones who were not disgusted by Trump, which is a larger group than just those who voted for him. We have to talk to these people and acknowledge how they have been wronged by neoliberalism. It is necessary for us to build a rapport and teach them about how race and racism works in our society. Doing this requires spending a few days sitting one-on-one with these movies as elements of the pedagogy.

But, here is the rub. You cannot have the Democratic Party involved in this. The duopoly is simply going to hinder these efforts and stifle progress. My own view is that we need to be building a united front between Libertarians, the actual liberals in America, and Greens, our real socialists, with the direct action movements that have gravitated around the banners of Black Lives Matter/Movement for Black Lives and Occupy serving the place previously filled by Communists. The Fourth Comintern Congress said:

The united front tactic is simply an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie. Every action, for even the most trivial everyday demand, can lead to revolutionary awareness and revolutionary education; it is the experience of struggle that will convince workers of the inevitability of revolution and the historic importance of Communism.

Building such a united front is challenging but I hope this book might help reduce those challenges. Use this book with friends and neighbors to begin that work.

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Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

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