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Trump’s alt-right ambassadors must be resisted

Speculation is rife that US President Donald Trump aims to send South African-born Joel Pollak as his ambassador to the country.

Pollak, editor-at-large of Breitbart news, an alt-right (Washington Post defines this as a “far-right movement whose followers hold racist, anti-Semitic and sexist beliefs and who desire a White’s only state”) publication in the US, was once a speech writer to former DA leader Tony Leon and played an influential role in the success of Trump’s campaign through Breitbart’s alt-right reporting agenda.

The alt-right agenda of the Trump Administration, part of the wider agenda of Western modernity/coloniality, is nothing but a ‘civilisation of death’ which hides beneath the rhetoric of illegal immigration, ‘radical Islam’, and the security and sovereignty of Western Europe and the US.

Alt-right politicians and thinkers such as Pollak, privilege knowledge and narratives produced by the Western world without any form of critical thinking. Reason and philosophy is the privilege of the West whilst non-rational thinking belongs to everyone else.

The Euro-American narrative is not therefore limited to the exploitation of people and the theft of their natural resources. The lobbying for and imposition of colonial narratives, such as that of the alt-right, in a supposedly decolonised world, is a natural extension of colonialism.

This includes the domination and oppression of subaltern thinkers and is coterminous with the mastery, control and exploitation of subaltern knowledge systems. In other words, the misrecognition (denying respect and dignity) of subaltern peoples is inextricably linked to the destruction of their knowledge systems.

Trump, through Pollak as ambassador, will attempt to export the alt-right’s ‘civilisation of death’ agenda through advocating an irrational fear of immigrants, Muslims and Blacks in general, in the process further entrenching the oppressive agenda of Western modernity.

The self-attributed legitimacy of the alt-right will reduce a powerful articulation of Black politicians and thinkers in the country to the silence of barbarians.

Although Pollak’s appointment as US ambassador to SA is not a certainty, his main challenger is believed to be Mike Cernovich, an equally divisive alt-right politician. Cernovich has made no quarrels of his attempt to influence race relations when it comes to South Africa’s foreign policy.

His tweet, “the white genocide in South Africa is real”, will resonate deeply amongst white extremists and fundamentalists in the country who irrationally fear an existential threat.

In anticipation of an alt-right US ambassador, South Africans should begin to engage an alternative decolonial epistemology, one which discusses the nature of knowledge-making in the modern/colonial world, how experts, political analysts, and academics from the Western canon of thought are given privileged positions to disseminate discriminatory worldviews as universal ideas.

Latin American decolonial thinker, Walter Mignolo, writes that “there is no longer a place in the world for one and only one trajectory to reign over the others. Imperium has run its course and global futures are being built in which many trajectories and options will be available, however, there will be no place for one option to pretend to be the option”.

Pollak and Cernovich, using their epistemic privilege, will certainly push the alt-right narrative that constructs the Black ‘other’ and portray us as culturally inferior and frozen in time. This is an innate part of the alt-right agenda.

The South African constitution, regarded as one of the most progressive in the world, is built on the principles of freedom and equality for all and opposes discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality and religion.

If the South African government accepts the appointment of either Pollak or Cernovich, this will be tantamount to providing an open invitation to their alt-right agendas and a clear violation of the constitution.

South Africans of conscience must continue to lobby government to reject the alt-right ambassadorial appointments with the contempt it deserves. Failure to do so will have grave consequences for a progressive democracy such as ours.


Dr Ahmed Jazbhay


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