Joe Mulhall’s Drums in the Distance documents growing alarm from a two-decade fight against far-right extremism. A blend of journalism, history, and memoir, Drums in the Distance serves as a dramatic warning of the resurgence of racialized violence and the normalization of extremism in public life and politics around the world.
Mulhall shares dangerous moments from his career with Hope Not Hate, an antifascist British organization that works to infiltrate and expose hate groups. He’s followed skinheads in Poland, militia groups near the US-Mexican border, Hindu nationalists in India, and anti-Islamists pretty much everywhere. His travels often involve photographing and documenting, and sometimes involve befriending and infiltrating, the groups. The work became foreboding over time, as the power of social media fed the flames of global radicalization. The book’s heavy footnotes, which indicate the evolution of far-right groups from the years before World War II into today, augment that alarm.
Though the book’s drumbeat is constant, there are also moments of humor and humanity. Mulhall recalls being drenched in paint after his failed attempts to vandalize a sign and being strong-armed into carrying James Bond’s favorite gun by a bunch of Alabamans. He even drops the occasional joke. He despises the views of the far right, but finds balance by highlighting communities ravaged by economic despair and infuriated by the disinterested elites in power.
While short on hope, the text serves its purpose. There is a rich body of evidence that hate is strengthening, and a growing number of politicians are embracing or tolerating the rhetoric of the far right. Drums in the Distance documents the growing danger of far-right extremism and makes a convincing argument for doing something about it.
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