A Dangerous Spotlight: Does Hyperbolic Coverage of White Supremacy Encourage It?
If you were to ask me the meaning of irony, I’d be inclined to point to CNN writing articles decrying the rising notoriety of white supremacist websites like the DailyStormer… all the while displaying the content of the neo-Nazi publication and giving readers a play by play of the hateful posts of social pariahs. In short, providing a legitimate mouthpiece for the very radicals they purport to be working against.
They say, ‘any exposure is good exposure’ and as far as actual white nationalists are concerned the past few years have seen wildly disproportionate coverage by media outlets all the way to the ‘top tier’ CNN and co. For in their obsession to paint Donald Trump’s right leaning populism as overt white supremacy packaged for mainstream politics, the reality is the endless hyperbolic coverage of a demographically minuscule pool of radicals is dangerously blurring the lines in terms of what labels such as ‘Nazi’ mean.
Perhaps worse, and at the least much more dangerous in the short term, having outlets like CNN plaster the trodden paths of online information with radical pages emboldens those radical actors, driven to believe their beliefs have mainstream appeal, to act on those beliefs, as we saw in Pittsburgh.
While Jim Acosta’s antics may have claimed the spotlight of the Trump press conference the day immediately following the results of the historically contentious 2018 midterm election, there was in fact a lot going on besides bickering over a microphone.
One of the most charged questions hauled Trump’s way – albeit with proper decorum and thus totally okay, please note Jim – was posed by PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor, who pointed to Trump declaring at a Ted Cruz rally,
“I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist” and commenting “we’re not supposed to use that word.” To the roaring audience.
Alcindor queried, “Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists. There are some people that say that now the Republican Party is seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric,”
While Trump was quick to dismiss the clearly negative notion (as well as call the question ‘racist’ in classic Trumpian fashion) this PBS commentary epitomizes a phenomenon we’ve seen from detractors of Trump, and the right in general, since his rise to power; the idea that Trump is fanning the flames of white nationalism.
For many outlets, such as CNN, as well as the public at large aligned against the administration, this longstanding narrative culminated to a climax with the massed murder of 11 Jews in their place of worship by an actual bona fide Nazi white supremacist in Pittsburgh. In their eyes, this serves as empirical proof of Trump’s ‘aura of bigotry’ emboldening such pariahs.
As a member of the people who have served as the eternal prey of violent bigotry and jingoism for millennia, as well as the chief victims in terms of recency (in short, a Jew) this narrative is extremely lacking for substance. Donald Trump might not always be particularly charismatic, but he’s a far cry from a catalyst for white supremacy.
For instance, while the main narrative off Pittsburgh churning from the presses of CNN et al. has been that the shooter was inspired and emboldened by a Trump America that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s downright dishonesty for the sake of political expediency.
The shooter was in fact markedly appalled by Trump for the obvious fact that he has a family of Jews, his own daughter a convert and mother to a devout family of his grandchildren. Considering the shooter has plead not guilty on the basis of preventing a Jewish invasion it isn’t particularly hard to grasp where his notion of Trump being a traitor to said Jewish invasion stems from with the man quite literally having a family destined to future generations of Jewish Trumps.
So, absent a factual basis where is this idea of rising white nationalism coming from? And, is it really happening?
Essentially it boils down to a total dilution of the concept of white nationalism to the point that it endangers targets like ‘my people’ to the empirically dwindling ranks (and thus increasingly radical in composition) of *actual* Nazis and supremacists as per the Pittsburgh shooting.
What left wing ‘watchdogs’ turned partisan money machines like the SPLC label as white supremacy is tragically laughable; however, it does offer an explanation into why once credible news outlets are emboldened to label a Jewish family as catalyzers of Nazism. Acclaimed career reporter John Stossel helps Reason explain,
There are dangerous hate groups in America. So, a group called the Southern Poverty Law Center promises to warn us about them. They release an annual list of hate groups in America.
It lists Ayaan Hirsi Ali—who grew up Muslim in Somalia and suffered female genital mutilation—as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” Just because she now speaks out against radical Islam.
They also list the conservative Family Research Council as a “hate group.”
That listing led a man to go to the Council’s office to try to gun down their workers. The shooter later told law enforcement that he picked the group because he saw they were on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate map and he wanted to fight bigots.
Stossel disagrees with the Family Research Council on many issues. But he says they don’t deserve to be called haters. The group’s Executive Vice President, Jerry Boykin, tells him: “I don’t hate gay people, and I know gay people, and I have worked with gay people.”
Another group that the Southern Poverty Law Center smears is the Ruth Institute. The group argues that gays shouldn’t have the same rights to adopt. But does that make them haters? No, says founder Jennifer Morse: “I have no problem with gay people. That’s not the issue.”
Other reporters, such as Megyn McArdle at Bloomberg, have also pointed out that the group is an odd fit for a “hate” list.
This isn’t exactly surprising given the fact that the SPLC, hailed as an authority on ‘hate’ by leftists eager to paint those with opposing opinions as bigots, is a glorified direct-mail scam.
The organization without fail year after year spends far more on direct-mail fundraising (otherwise known as spam and trash mail) according to Philanthropic watchdog analyst Philanthropy Roundtable. In fact, the organization spends an, again, tragically comical pittance on actual services ranging from 31 to a genuinely pathetic 18% of funding. This organization with a 6-story headquarters for managing a $200 million dollar endowment that goes almost entirely to everything *but* their purported cause is somehow an authority on what constitutes ‘hate groups’…
Truly this epitomizes the issue at hand when it comes to the endless hyperbolic outcry over ‘white supremacy’; that the definition has become a tool of political expediency and as a result we’ve entirely lost focus of actual threats of violent bigotry to the point that when they explicitly decry a politician they’re somehow still labeled as inspiration to bigots, as has happened with Trump.
The Good News
News networks even now sadly including the likes of CNN have been vocal about the alleged rising tide of white supremacy are eager to tie bigotry to Trump with whatever distasteful means presents itself such as literally linking to Nazi websites and displaying their content…and then ironically bemoaning the page views it gets…
But the good news for those of us looking for facts over hysteria (especially since that hysteria is personally dangerous to those like myself) do have some reassuring metrics to look to. Americans have been trending away from racism and bigotry rapidly, even making great headway since the Clinton administration era (remember all that confederate merch?). The Economist lays it out,
Long-term trends suggest a decline in both professed racist views and racist acts. On a range of survey measures including reported discomfort about living next to someone of a different race, or opposition to inter-racial marriage, Americans appear far less racist than in the past. Only 4% of Americans supported interracial marriage in 1958. By 1997 that was 50%; today it is 87%. Inter-racial marriages climbed from 7 to 15 percent of all marriages between 1980 and 2010. And racially and ethnically motivated hate crimes reported to the FBI fell 48% between 1994 and 2015.
Even leftist outlets and commentators have noted the decline of white supremacy in society, despite the blatant logical inconsistency with the narrative that Trump is rallying their ranks. Take The Guardian celebrating,
“The alt-right appears to be falling apart. The Traditionalist Workers party disintegrated this week after a lurid interpersonal drama among its leadership… it seems that the white supremacist alt-right will not survive the Trump era as a coherent movement.”
This objectively good development for everyone but those with genuine radical racist tendencies is threatened by the simple fact that media outlets and monetary juggernauts like CNN and the SPLC insist on fanning the flames of white supremacy; most markedly by rewriting the definition to ‘people I disagree with’.
This isn’t good for society in any respect. The dilution of the meaning is a double-edged blade in that it not only takes America’s ‘eye off the ball’ in terms of actual tangible threats of violent Nazism, but also in that it communicates to dwindling numbers of radical bigots that their viewpoints have a much broader fan base than they actually do.
When CNN splays the radical content of publications like TheDailyStormer, all that does is tell them that whatever their likes are doing is working, and right now what *actual white supremacists* (not Republicans) are doing is killing Jews; because that’s what actual white supremacists do.