Known by Our Hopes for Each Other


Allow me to juxtapose two essays that might seem in conflict.

Kevin Williamson has been the recipient of much-deserved plaudits, today, for his essay, “Angry White Boys,” wherein Williamson reviews the nature of political rallies and exposes some of the hypocrisies and ignorances of the white-supremacist types, concluding:

What does an angry white boy want? The fact that they get together to play dress-up — to engage in a large and sometimes murderous game of cowboys and Indians — may give us our answer. They want to be someone other than who they are. That’s the great irony of identity politics: They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals. They are a chain composed exclusively of weak links. What they are engaged in isn’t politics, but theater: play-acting in the hopes of achieving catharsis. Their online personas — knights, Vikings, reincarnations of Charles Martel — will be familiar enough to anybody with a Dungeons and Dragons nerd in his life. But sometimes, role-playing around a card table isn’t enough: Sometimes, you need a stage and an audience. In the theater, actors and audience both can forget ourselves for an hour or two. Under the soft glow of the tiki torches, these angry white boys can be something else — for a night.

The tiki torches are a giveaway, like a plastic sword in a costume, which sort of looks the part, allows some of the same dramatic motions, but doesn’t carry quite the same risk of hurting one’s self.  The genuine article of racist mobs would have in hand sticks appended with flaming wads of combustibly saturated cloth shedding hot drips of their uncontainable intensity.

Now join Williamson’s derisive revelry to Leah Libresco’s critique of the urge to dox (i.e., expose in real life) those captured on camera participating in the rallies (read at the recommendation of Father Matthew Schneider):

For many of the rally attendees, Charlottesville may be the first time they gathered with the people they’d spoken to online, their first chance to see the movement they’d joined in the flesh. For some of them, that first encounter, and the violence that they were a part of, may have left them with a queasy feeling, and looking for a way out. …

Doxxing and social vilification complicates that. It’s harder to walk away from the group you’ve attached yourself to when you know (because everyone is telling you) that you’ve blown it – that you shouldn’t have a job; that you can’t be forgiven; that everyone needs to know who you are right now, so they can shun and disemploy you for the rest of your life. …

Doxxing is one more avenue our society has discovered for throwing people away.

As I mentioned on John DePetro’s 1540 AM WADK show, yesterday, I’m not averse to identifying these people, so that these rallies don’t become, as Williamson describes, a sort of weekend fantasy camp.  But that requires us to be the sort of society that doesn’t take vengeance, but seeks conversion.  Those sorts of better instincts and fundamental human respect are what prevent society from simply being a bigger mob.

What joins Williamson’s and Libresco’s essays is that they treat the “angry white boys” as people.  Too many of those offering commentary on the events of the last few days won’t allow that, whether for cynical political purposes or to create for themselves a cartoonish villain from whom they can safely feel superior.  That’s a form of costume, too.