Last summer, after attempting to sue us with a fake lawyer (which she still denies doing), Caitlin Johnstone published a series of articles that caused a firestorm on the far left. In them, she argued that the left needed to ally with alt-right figurehead Mike Cernovich to take down the mainstream media, whose propaganda could lead to the end of all life on Earth. It didn’t matter to Johnstone that Cernovich is a paranoid, racist, misogynistic ass-hat because:
“Where we do agree, it’s absolutely stupid for us not to work together, because you can be damn sure the establishment Republicans and Democrats are working together to advance the agendas of the deep state. Once we’ve killed the establishment propaganda machine…Cernovich and I can fight all day and all night over…Until then that fight is a pointless waste of energy.”
The far left wisely took a bulldozer to Johnstone, with CounterPunch’s Eric Draitser summarizing her argument as: “Come, fellow hens…We must throw open the doors to the foxes who, at times, share a common enemy.” Those who stood behind her, like Tim Black and HA Goodman, alienated others on the far left who they had previously called allies, like Progressive Army’s Ben Dixon. Johnstone wrote an additional three articles clarifying her position, but grew increasingly deranged, with the last article bearing the title “I Did Not Call for an Alliance with White Nationalists, You Fucking Idiots.”
This should require no further explanation: the left – regardless of where you are on the spectrum – does not work with today’s white nationalists or neo-Nazis. Period. The debate should have ended right there. Unfortunately, like the killer in a horror movie franchise, it refuses to die.
This weekend, comedian Katie Halper released an episode of her podcast with The Young Turk’s Jimmy Dore. Halper has a nasty reputation on for sending her army of trolls after anyone who disagrees with her tweets but has no problem making Johnstonian arguments for equivocation, as she did last summer when she defended the douchebags of Chapo Trap House:
Dore, also a comedian, is one of the most notable voices on the far left (or as sometimes called the ‘alt-left,’ since their talking points resemble the right much of the time.) A Russiagate skeptic and Hillary hater who heavily promoted Bernie Sanders, he has welcomed the company of others in this camp, even inviting Caitlin Johnstone on his YouTube show to promote her book. Since HA Goodman, Tim Black, and their ilk have declared open season on TYT for being “neoliberal,” his has been the one voice they’ve praised (and if HA Goodman and Tim Black praise you, rethink everything.) But that’s secondary to what transpired on Halper’s podcast, where they advocated Johnstone’s argument in favor of collaborating with Cernovich and the alt-right with a series of misleading and decontextualized comparisons. First, Dore recaps the conflict:
“She recommended working with that guy Mike Cernovich and some other right-wingers to end wars, and everyone then said, ‘She’s the worst person in the world and you can never listen to her.’ That’s real easy to dismiss ideas that way, and so when someone does that who’s a Hillary voter… I go, ‘First of all, she wanted to team up w/right-wingers to end war! She didn’t want to team up w/right-wingers to go commit racism!’ FDR teamed up with fucking Stalin to beat Hitler! Politics makes strange bedfellows!”
While it’s tempting to think of what we’re going through now as the equivalent to WWII (especially since there are Nazis again), it’s ridiculous to think that the left collaborating with a vile racist like Mike Cernovich is equal to FDR working with Stalin. In that case, they didn’t team up to work with Nazis, but to punch them in the face. And after the war ended, we not only kept our distance from Stalin, but were plunged into conflict as he gobbled up his nation’s old territories, much like Putin is doing today. But instead of responsibly dismantling his half-baked case, Halper backed him up:
“I don’t think it’s fair the way they’re like, ‘No, you’re a terrible, racist person, you court racism.’ Look, Marcus Garvey and the KKK both wanted to send black people back to Africa, for different reasons, but Marcus Garvey, who’s a black separatist – and the KKK – politics, as you said, makes strange bedfellows.”
That last part is true – Marcus Garvey met with the KKK in 1922 to advocate for black separatism. But Halper omits that after that meeting, many African-American leaders turned their backs on Garvey, with W.E.B. DuBois calling him “the greatest enemy of the Negro race.” Halper should know better than to use an example of collaboration lauded by anonymous posters on Stormfront message boards. This led to Dore making another false equivalency:
“When I found out what it was about…I was like, ‘Hey, I may disagree with her…but that doesn’t make her a fricking idiot!…’ I wouldn’t work with these guys, but that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t, or shouldn’t! We work with way worse people all the time!…Hillary Clinton’s in bed with Henry goddamned Kissinger, and somehow you’re saying she’s too toxic to work with? Fuck off.”
This one may sound a little more reasonable since Henry Kissinger’s history of war crimes has been well-documented. But what Dore misses about Clinton’s “friendship” with Kissinger is vital: there are only eight living people who have served as US Secretary of State. Clinton and Kissinger are two of them, so it makes sense that they would have some sort of professional relationship. And while there may be questions concerning Clinton’s hawkishness, comparing her to someone like Kissinger is highly misleading. But again, Halper let it slide, continuing:
“I think people portray it as a racist thing, or something that accepts racism, but if you’re anti-racist, stopping war should be a big priority. The victims of wars are people of color. So, yeah, it just seems like a principled – not even principled, but an ideological issue.”
Since Halper used to teach history, maybe she’ll remember this story: in 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler in Munich and agreed to let him take over the “Sudetenland,” a disputed portion of Czechoslovakia where many Germans lived. Believing this agreement would prevent the outbreak of a second European war, Chamberlain returned to England convinced that the agreement had achieved “peace for our time.” Within a year, Hitler had taken over all of Czechoslovakia, invaded Poland, and provoked WWII. By 1940, he would resign in disgrace, his name forever linked to the word appeasement. His successor, Winston Churchill, had a different way of dealing with Hitler – beating the living snot out of him.
Even if you agree with those who espouse white nationalism and neo-Nazism on one or two small things – poverty, healthcare, etc. – it is no reason to invite their company. Halper, Dore, and Johnstone do a great disservice to the left by suggesting that we should reach out to those on the complete opposite end of the spectrum rather than those already on our side. No doubt they will dig in their heels and insist they are in the right, but history proves that those who stand against real tyrants are always better than those who suggest we invite their company.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.