Rising hosts and guests such as Greenwald, Taibbi, and others may inveigh—indeed Tucker Carlson does inveigh—against capitalism as such. Capitalism is a low-hanging fruit these days. COVID-19 treatments are found and monetized before a blink of the eye. And while entertaining, Rising hosts’ critiques of capitalism are nowhere near as systemic as the comrades at Teen Vogue. It is a sort of “elitist” analysis, talking about bankers and “neoliberals.” It is easy to see how the logic of focusing on an essentially conspiracist or moralistic framing of capitalism is akin to the logic of antisemitism. The Jewish bankers and financiers like Soros, in this understanding, have their hands everywhere. This is not at all to suggest that the Rising hosts are anti-Semites, but that their presentation of capitalism is very close to the socialism of fools. After all, the alt-right shares this analysis and pushes it a step further to the “great replacement theory.” There is an uncomfortable continuum from talking about “banksters offshoring jobs” to talking about Jewish financiers backing a globalist agenda to “replace” white Americans with migrants.
Robinson and many other social democrats either explicitly or implicitly don’t conceive of capitalism as a totality, a set of social property relations, and a mode of social reproduction. Robinson is of the tradition, well known in Canada, that buttresses social democratic politics with a left-libertarian ethos and inflections of anarcho-syndicalism. At one point, his type would be found languishing in the likes of Z Magazine, but he now edits the far more fashionable Current Affairs, one of best journals of the social democratic Left. Yet it is still shocking to him to see people with whom he generally shares a set of ideas tailing reactionary forces. What is valuable, however, is that Robinson, unlike even some forces within the socialist Left, recognizes the nature of the threat. The masks are off, pun intended. There is a genuine fascist movement, a broader fascist sensibility, and a set of fellow travelers in the United States right now. Trump has ostentatiously used Nazi imagery, and it is an open question as to whether there can be a legitimate presidential election come November.
Given the existence of an emergent fascist international with at least indirect connections to the Trump White House, while it is not realistic to claim that Trump is an agent of a fascist international as such, elements around him are happy to encourage fascist rhetoric and basebuilding. Stephen Miller is, at the very least, not unsympathetic to fascism, though he is not a “Traditionalist” like the puppet-master, Steve Bannon. Indeed, Bannon is a Rasputin type. He deserves the title of enemy visionary. Without Bannon, Trump would not be president. Bannon is affiliated with an international network of Traditionalists, capital-T. This is a mostly elite-based, quasi-secret society, mixing ostentatious Occultism with admiration for figures like Julius Evola (who criticized the Nazis from the right), Jung, and of course, Heidegger (“My Guy,” Bannon says).
Bannon does not conceal his Traditionalist politics. The anthropologist Benjamin Teitelman spent time with Bannon, alone and among the Traditionalists, interviewing him at length in the valuable book, War for Eternity. Bannon is not in it for the money like Paul Manafort. He is not Roger Stone, in it for the fun. He is the real deal, attempting to proverbially immanentize the eschaton. And part of his bag of tricks is a synthesis of the Occultist seeking of Kismet with the constitution of a political subject in the form of the “deplorables,” in order to deliberately build a fascist base, partially by awakening the one that already exists. Bannon is a rich man and an ideologue, and he has found a sometimes-willing partner in the White House but maintains his own independent credibility as a sort of broker of ultra-right support.
This base-building is aimed at politically unsophisticated or cynical Leftists who join around the banner of being “anti-woke.” Meanwhile Greenwald, Taibbi, and Ball cultivate this anti-wokeness with the great good guidance of the likes of Walter Benn Michaels and Adolph Reed. These “normie socialists” are not “Red/Brown,” far from it. However, there is a path dependence, a tendency in organized social democracy to go towards the lowest common denominator, tail reaction, and turn on one’s comrades. The cultivated anti-wokeness has brought us to a point in which the distinction between the “normies” and the “red/browns” is one of degree, not kind.
Does this mean that in circumstances of political upheaval and transformation they would not be “on side” with the existing, if still small, socialist Left? It is telling that at least at the beginning, key figures and elements of the “normie socialist” milieu were quite dismissive of the Black-led, multiracial, working class uprising that is occurring south of the Canada-U.S. border. Does this mean, like Rising cohost and young right-winger Enjeeti, they support Trump’s “Don’t tread on me” motto? It is genuinely hard to tell, when both sound the same when talking about the really-existing Left, as well as the movements on the streets. It is notable that Robinson has not taken this “normie” stance and seemingly has a very well developed anti-oppression politics.
In turn, this clearly goes beyond an orientation around the movement for Black lives. On queer and trans struggles, a good deal of this milieu is dismissive, if not hostile. They are practically mute (as is too much of the US Left) on Indigenous liberation. Again, this does not mean the majority of their cothinkers, often “very online” types, would ever cross the “red/brown” precipice. But is it hard to imagine a situation of such political confusion that a layer of potentially left-moving people, white or otherwise, would be brought rightward to red/brown, and thus, eventually Brown politics? And what does it mean to share a platform with someone who shares a platform with white supremacists, as in the case of media ventures like Rising?