The Corner


On Crackpot Theories and Nonwhite White Supremacy

Proud Boys and supporters of the police participate in a protest in Portland, Ore., August 22, 2020. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)

In response to Bravo, Washington Post, You’re Now Spreading the Beliefs of Crackpots

As Charlie Cooke notes, the Washington Post‘s media correspondent Margaret Sullivan must have taken leave of her senses to endorse the theory that “the United States is on track to become functionally an authoritarian White Christian nationalist state in the very near future.” The reductio ad absurdum of wedding yourself to this sort of narrative is that you have to keep redefining your terms in order to keep selling it. That tension is alive in today’s Post story headlined “Black, Brown and extremist: Across the far-right spectrum, people of color play a more visible role.” As the story is framed:

People of color are playing increasingly visible roles across the spectrum of far-right activism. Today, non-White activists speak for groups of radicalized MAGA supporters, parts of the “Patriot” movement, and, in rare cases, neo-Nazi factions. Although a few have concealed their identities, many others proudly acknowledge their backgrounds and offer themselves as counterpoints to charges of pervasive racism in right-wing movements . . .

As with many mainstream media pieces on such topics, the reasonable parts are further down the page:

The common refrain that white supremacy is a main driver of the far right is complicated when Black or Brown figures speak publicly for Stop the Steal, the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and other factions that are under scrutiny. The trend is forcing new ways to think about, and talk about, the far right’s appeal…Although the GOP’s hard-right turn in the Trump era has blurred the line between mainstream and extreme, there remains a divide between ordinary conservatives of color and those who align themselves with right-wing movements linked to hate and violence.

Let me suggest that the caveats in the story are right: Maybe we should reconsider the knee-jerk assumption that all right-wing groups are all about white supremacy. Some groups are, and some of their participants are — that should not be controversial to anyone paying attention — but the blanket overuse of “white supremacist” threatens to make the words meaningless. The more you equate the fringe of the fringe with everybody to the right of Elizabeth Warren, the more you end up having to convince your readers that black people are white supremacists. The story’s kicker would make Orwell chuckle:

Cristina Beltrán, an associate professor at New York University who researches conservatives of color, said the fact that far-right extremist groups are forced to diversify means “they’ve already lost the war.” “In America,” Beltrán said, “even white supremacy is multiracial.”


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