From Trump to Fox News to 8chan: the web of white supremacist rhetoric is wide
Since 16 June 2015, the day he rode an escalator down to the lobby of Trump Tower, Trump has made fear of immigrants and those who might look like immigrants, the central theme of his campaigns and his administrative priorities. Trump is a politician perfectly fitted for a media ecosystem that amplifies extreme emotions, resists complex or nuanced thought, impedes deliberation and allows the loud to drown out the calm. Regardless of his tweets and speeches, his actions have inspired and emboldened violent bigots.
It’s hard in the heat of the moment, in the face of so much suffering and horror, to look at the entire ecosystem that fosters and encourages such thought and action. There are no simple, straightforward causes for this phenomenon. There is no simple “solution”. There is not one distinct medium to blame. White nationalists are savvy about how they work our dynamic, interconnected media ecosystem. Some are even savvier than the journalists who write about them and definitely know to exploit the weaknesses of the system. When they post screeds on forums such as 8Chan, white nationalists intend for police and journalists to quote directly from them and spread their messages farther than they could themselves. Their claims and terms of choice leap from the dark recesses of small, discrete groups into wider circulation. Coverage and quotes echo around mainstream news reports, then get recirculated even farther and revised into vernacular commentary via amateur posts to Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. Facebook’s algorithms are designed to amplify content that generates strong emotions and thus, user reactions. Individuals add their own perspectives, reaction to the supremacist’s events and gelling into new forms and new expressions via Facebook and Twitter. What rises on Twitter tends to echo on Facebook and vice versa. Soon images and messages are bouncing back and forth, getting picked up by cable news, newspapers and news sites.
Every player in this complex ecosystem enhances, amplifies and changes the story and the message. The spectacle is the reward. For violent white nationalists and all other propagandists of all kinds and gender, this is an ideal media system. Their numbers can grow once their messages don’t seem so jarring and outside the bounds of normal conversation. The rhetoric of violent white supremacy like for the rhetoric of LGBT groups, the #MeToo movement has become common, almost normal. More and more people find homosexuality, lesbianism, white nationalism and so on, viable and acceptable.
Many, like for any other deviant philosophy and way of life, become less willing to condemn discrimination, racism and bigotry and mainstream media, journalists and pundits, like it or not, by their continuous insistence on reporting and commenting on Trump’s elucubrations are only contributing to convince a growing majority of their audience to grant racists the benefit of the doubt and take their concerns seriously.
In a world of increasing poverty and misery, more and more people might find white nationalism a comfortable world view, one that satisfies a once-latent urge to bond only with those like them and blame problems on those unlike them.
It is about time for all media to realize that without them, like for all deviant groups, Trump is nothing.
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Michel Ouellette / Joseph Michael Dennis, is a former attorney, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.
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