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By Jason Michael
VICTORIA JOHNSON, a young American woman, a new Scot, and founding member of the Independence for Scotland Party (the ISP), has published a video on YouTube supporting Donald Trump for re-election. Quite understandably, this apparent volte-face has sent a miniature shockwave through the Scottish independence movement, a movement which has been characterised by civic rather than racial or ethnic nationalism, inclusivity, and tolerance. In response to the video the ISP issued a brief statement on Twitter distancing itself from the thoroughly obnoxious opinions expressed in Ms Johnson’s video, saying ‘she is no longer part of the Exec team and no longer has any input into party policy or direction.’
It is crucial, however, that a more comprehensive comment be made on this matter. Victoria’s support for Trump and the revelation of her right-wing and white supremacist leanings may have serious and possibly lasting consequences for the independence movement in general and for the ISP in particular. ‘Nationalism’ is a stick with which unionists in Scotland have attempted to beat the independence movement, and this horrible reveal will only serve as evidence to them that lurking in the undergrowth of the Scottish national movement is a hardcore, right-wing, and white ethno-centric racist ideology of Scottish nationalism. Undoubtedly too, the Scottish National Party, keen to distance itself from this stink and from what it describes as ‘pop-up parties,’ will avail itself of this incident to manufacture suspicion across the wider movement of new parties. It is unavoidable, then, that Victoria’s outing of herself as a Trumpist will damage the ISP – regardless of this having nothing to do with the party – and may well jeopardise the entire project of a list vote strategy.
Having now watched Victoria Johnson's conversion to Trumpism video, I am appalled. It has everything; racism, right… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) September 29, 2020
Before addressing Victoria’s video, for the purposes of full transparency, it is only right that I acknowledge my own positionality. Victoria Johnson is someone with whom I have worked with on a number of projects in the past. My concern for her wellbeing and that of her young family has not changed, and I still consider her a personal friend. My sincere hope, if she takes the time to read this, is that she will read it as the words of a friend and not an enemy. But it would not be right to simply ignore the statement she has made – and for many reasons.
Firstly, we must call out the privilege and overt racism of what she has said. One cannot claim to be consistently anti-racist and give one’s friends a free pass. Can one remain friends with a racist? Yes, I believe so, and I believe this because people are not racist by nature. Through ignorance, anger, and frustration people can think and say racist things, but this does not place them beyond moral and intellectual redemption – and this is, of course, my hope for Victoria. Victoria employs a peculiar phraseology in her video, which, after some inspection, reveals itself to be a set of dog-whistles directed towards her intended audience in the racist far-right of the United States. In the opening few minutes of her performance she repeats the refrain ‘I am tired,’ and no this is not her hiding behind her physical exhaustion at being a mother as she pretends; her litany of ‘I am tired’ statements – listing her frustration at ‘fear porn,’ ‘mask mandates,’ creeping totalitarianism, virtue signalling, ‘black square’ anti-racism on social media, media manipulation, and identity politics – deliberately echo the words ‘I am tired’ used by the relatives of young African American men murdered by the police in the States. There is just no other way to describe this sick and cynical use of the phrase by a wealthy and privileged Trump supporter than as despicable.
She goes on to lambast the Black Lives Matter protest movement – whose activists she dismisses as ‘self-indulgent, spoiled, predominantly white middle-class brats who [are] hell-bent on creating havoc and chaos and anarchy’ – as a movement tarnishing ‘the sacrifice and self-control that Martin Luther King embodied.’ Her reasoning masquerades as care and concern for black Americans; seeing their ongoing struggle for racial, social, and economic justice as the cause of ‘black communities that are covered in graffiti and rubble and urine and blood and that are literally on fire.’ This is victim blaming on a par with Ben Shapiro’s comment that: ‘Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage. This is not a difficult issue.’ Yes, some Palestinians ‘bomb crap’ and so many of them ‘live in open sewage,’ but not because they like to, but because the conditions of an illegal Israeli occupation and the colonial settlement of their homeland have forced them to. This is an unjust reality forced on the people of Palestine by the State of Israel. Likewise, many black communities in the US are plagued by poverty and suffering because of the conditions a white supremacist state has forced on them. This is a legacy of slavery, historical injustice, and social and economic alienation – and not because black people enjoy violence, urban decay, and the smell of piss.
Ellen Joëlle Höfer FRSA (@ellenjoelle) September 29, 2020
Her issue with Black Lives Matter is that she does not see it as peaceful. But how can it possibly be peaceful when the prevailing structures of the state – racist structures designed and enforced to preserve white supremacy – define all forms of resistance as ‘violence?’ Black women who are tired of this miserable reality, who are tired of burying their husbands, brothers, and sons, are described as ‘uppity.’ Black men who speak up or act out are described as ‘thugs.’ There is no possible way in which black resistance – quiescent or militant – can be ‘peaceful’ in a white dominated and white privileging society where the language and the narrative are owned by the defenders and the beneficiaries of the status quo. Victoria defends her position by pointing to the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his campaign for racial equality. Does she not know what happened to Martin Luther King (and Rodney King for that matter)? It is as though she is unaware of the Christianity of MLK, a faith built on the words of a Palestinian Jew who said: ‘I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).’
By imposing MLK as the apogee and limit of black resistance, she is blind to the other streams of black struggle; to Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panthers – people and organisations which advocated the same kind of militant fight-back the white men responsible for the US Declaration of Independence and the Constitution advocated against Britain during the American Revolution. Can she not see this contradiction? Can she not grasp that what she sees as sacred, as the core of American ‘Judeo-Christian values’ – a synonym of ‘western values’ and a religionised cypher for ‘white Anglo-Saxon,’ was itself the fruit of a violent struggle against tyranny and oppression? It would appear that most of this America-speak holds the black minority to an entirely different standard, and the white American patriots of 1776 were not subject to the same brutal and dehumanising conditions black people and people of colour are in the America of today. Sure, violence is wrong. She and I can agree on this much, but self-defence in the face of savage violence and wholesale oppression and murder is not violence. Self-defence is never violence – except if you are an African American.
Still, she papers over these whopping contradictions with an appeal to the pseudo-intellectualism of an academic nobody – Karlyn Borysenko. Who the hell is this, you may ask. And this is a good question. According to Victoria, Dr Karlyn Borysenko (PhD) is an organisational psychologist of note and a You-Tuber of some considerable accomplishment. This giant of the academy, this ‘expert,’ has led Victoria to the conclusion that Critical Race Theory – the school of thinking which spells out structural racism, white privilege, and systemic racial injustice – is nothing but ‘junk pseudo-science.’ Having never heard of this Dr Karlyn Borysenko (PhD), and having graduated with a post-graduate degree in Race, Ethnicity, and Conflict from a university ranked 108th in the world, I decided to look her up. She does exist. She’s to be found listed on Academia.edu with a profile that has been viewed an underwhelming four times, she has published no peer review papers, and all that is to be found of her academic record is a PhD dissertation from Capella University. This was the next thing – I have never heard of Capella University. But, thanks to Google, it can be conformed that it too exists. Capella University is a private ‘for-profit’ online university founded in 1993. This isn’t even the best part. Capella University was established by Stephen Shank, the former CEO of Tonka – the toy truck people! Good grief, she couldn’t even find an ‘expert’ from somewhere as illustrious as Trump UniversityTM.
It can only be insulting, then, when she deploys this drivel to write BLM and Antifa activists off as ‘these social justice warriors,’ and the entire cause of racial justice as ‘divisive insanity.’ But she digs even deeper, making the claim that ‘the actual fabric of America is in danger right now from the far-left’ – a turn of phrase that betrays her longer association with right-wing racist ideology. This becomes all the more apparent when she describes herself as part of Trump’s populist ‘silent majority’ whose job is ‘safeguarding [American] democracy.’ But what is she safeguarding? The US Senate gives the average black American only seventy-five percent of the representation it gives the average white American, and the average Hispanic American only fifty-five percent as much. Is this the ‘democracy’ Victoria wants to safeguard?
Then we have the outlandish claims she makes for Donald Trump, chief among them that he has achieved a ‘peace deal’ in the Middle East. Yes, ‘Donald J. Trump,’ as she affectionately calls him, signed off on the Abraham Accords – a name that whistles to the Evangelical Christian right, the so-called ‘Armageddon lobby’ – between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. But this deal is as far from a peace deal as you can get. It was nothing but a formalisation of a pre-existing trading relationship between Israel and the UAE that was pressed by the White House to facilitate arms deals with two of its allies in the region. When she calls the media’s refusal to refer to this as a peace deal ‘intellectual corruption,’ she really ought to check her facts. I did. Father Dr David Neuhaus, no less a person than the Superior of the Jesuit Order at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem – an Israeli, reported to the Vatican News Agency that this will not bring peace or stability to the region, noting that ‘it is rather strange to call it a peace agreement because the United Arab Emirates is not at war with Israel.’ Contacts have been friendly between Israel and the UAE since 2003. Neuhaus, an actual real expert, says the real issue in the region is the relationship between Israel and Palestine, something Trump has only worsened since coming to office. Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has emboldened Netanyahu in his efforts to annex the Palestinian West Bank while anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab discrimination within the State of Israel has increased. Neuhaus rightly describes this as ‘the core of the conflict,’ and the Trump administration has only aggravated the tensions.
Concluding her appeal for her fellow Americans to get out in November and vote for Trump, she repeats a number of right-wing talking points; the fact that she stands for freedom of speech and not cancel culture, that her fear is for the wellbeing of ‘western values,’ and that her respect is for the Constitution. ‘What it means to be an American,’ she says, ‘is that we have shared values, it means Greek Americans, and black Americans, and Irish Americans have these ties that bind us, and that is the respect for the Constitution, that is understanding that our democracy was founded in Judeo-Christian ethics. And there is only one person who is capable of defending our democracy at this juncture and that is Donald Trump.’ One massive dog-whistle.
She has abused our trust and our goodwill, and there is no place for her poisonous opinions in our movement or in Scotland.Tweet
This is not who we are in the Scottish independence movement, and this intellectual corruption puts her well beyond the pale of the values we hold dear – freedom, equality, tolerance, and truth. Her idea of democracy, a democracy only in name that acts to limit the freedom and rights of minorities is unacceptable to us. Her decision to unmask herself as a racist, as a supporter of Israeli colonial-imperialism, and as a supporter of a lying fascist demagogue exposes our movement to the charge of being contaminated with the same political disease with which she has aligned herself – and this is truly reprehensible. She has abused our trust and our goodwill, and there is no place for her poisonous opinions in our movement or in Scotland.
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