Yesterday, protesters and counter-protesters gathered around Lee Circle in New Orleans, the site of one of the state’s many monuments to Confederate figures which are now scheduled (over 150 years after the Civil War ended) to be torn down. Since the election of Donald Trump, we’ve seen many images like the one above from demonstrations that have turned violent. In this case, however, the man on the ground wasn’t hit by antifa or the police: America’s far right are beginning to turn on their own.
Dressed in metal armor and bearing an American flag, an unidentified man clashed with “Stars and Bars”-waving neo-Confederates guarding the monument of General Lee. In a Periscope video, the man claims to have traveled from Los Angeles to take part in the protest, and alludes to his involvement as a Trump supporter in the bloody and vicious streetfights that broke out in Berkley. “You guys don’t understand you’re working against the movement,” he tells a group of people who wanted to see the statue stay, referencing the obvious racial implications.
Removing the statues requires specialized equipment, and the ugly spirit of Dixie refuses to die quietly. As reported by the Times-Picayune, “every heavy crane company in southern Louisiana has received threats in one form or another.”
“I’ve never seen anyone cause in-fighting like this, but this is also the first time people that are what I call MAGA supporters have encountered real ‘white nationalists,’” Alt Right Report, a Twitter user who was at the event, told Gizmodo in a direct message. “You could tell a lot of the people there supporting the statue did not want to identify with the nationalist groups.”
While some in the alt-right suspected the armored man—who they’ve since dubbed the “cuck knight,” a demeaning spin on the “alt-knight” Kyle Chapman—to be a leftist plant, others later noted that the man stayed through the remainder of the event. Another user who filmed the incident was quick to point out that Twitter users within the moderate spheres of the alt-right weren’t helping to signal-boost the infighting. Maybe they didn’t want to dox an “ally.” Maybe they just weren’t comfortable siding with Confederate flag-waving white nationalists.
Animosity has long existed between the various factions of the far right. 4chan’s /pol/ views Reddit’r r/the_donald as “normies”; 8chan’s /pol/ sees 4/pol/ as soft for refusing to seriously acknowledge the “Jewish question” and other tinfoil hat theories; The Right Stuff, Daily Stormer, and other more overt hategroups disregard basically any forum that doesn’t devote itself to humping the corpse of Adolf Hitler. Is InfoWars controlled opposition? Who’s really /ourguy/? For a while it didn’t matter, as these groups were united in electing Trump as the best hope for achieving their own goals. Now that he’s in power and revealing himself to be the spectacular failure half the country knew he would be, those unaddressed questions are spilling out into physical conflicts.
And for some, physical conflict is their entire reason for participation. One of the men pushing against the ersatz knight in the video holds a sign that reads “I’m just here for violence.”
Historically, even alliances between explicitly white power groups do not last. A coalition of MAGA rubes, neo-Nazis, trolls, ethno-nationalists, ex-GamerGaters and other reactionaries will be all the more volatile. Friction between ideals is tearing them apart, or members are forced to clear an increasingly high bar to prove their loyalty. It’s a familiar form of scene policing called a “purity spiral,” and it’s what attentive people have already seen happening on various imageboards and forums for the past few weeks. Make no mistake, this may be the first fight of this kind within the far right, but it will be far from the last.