Friday, April 9, 2021

Right Wing News Consumers Are Being Fed a Constant Diet of Racism. How Should We Respond?

Demonstrating that many conservatives are abandoning the use of dogwhistles in favor of deploying the bullhorn, Tucker Carlson actually defended the Great Replacement theory on his show Thursday night. Keep in mind that this is the theory that not only motivated the Charlottesville protesters, but was also embraced by the terrorists responsible for the shootings in Christchurch and El Paso (among others).

Only a bit more nuanced is a piece by Larry Elder blaming this country's first African American president for the death of George Floyd.
George Floyd might be alive had former President Barack Obama not, for eight years, consistently played the anti-cop race card...[T]he political Obama knows that Black anger and resentment translate into Black votes. How many routine police encounters with Blacks escalate into something far more serious because young Blacks believe the "systemic racism" lie pushed by Black Lives Matter and their sympathizers?

Kevin Williamson attempted to defend the GOP's obsession with voter suppression by asking, "Why Not Fewer Voters?" He utilizes the more coded language of referring to "better" voters. 

Much of the discussion about proposed changes to voting laws backed by many Republicans and generally opposed by Democrats begs the question and simply asserts that having more people vote is, ceteris paribus, a good thing.

Why should we believe that?

Why shouldn’t we believe the opposite? That the republic would be better served by having fewer — but better — voters?

As Julian Castro pointed out, that is straight out of the Jim Crow playbook. 

Whether couched in coded language (ie, dog whistles) or blared from a bullhorn, consumers of right wing media are being fed a daily dose of outright racism in a way that is unprecedented over the last few decades. 

In the midst of all of that, Fox News has demonstrated that they recognize exactly what is happening and have assigned Greg Gutfeld the job of making fun of what will be the appropriate response.

Greg thinks that calling out racist hate is really funny. That is a great example of why conservative humor is always so bad. 

But perhaps you see what they've done here. Conservatives spread their racist hate and then mock anyone who calls them on it. Or, as Elder did with Obama, they claim that accusations of racism are examples of "playing the race card" and blame the accuser for the actions of racists. 

Back in 2010, Julian Sanchez gave us a name for that kind of closed feedback mechanism: epistemic closure. It is intended to shut down all reasonable attempts to have a conversation about the role of racism in our culture. Sanchez identified why that is so important for maintaining the insurgency (emphasis mine).

This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile...If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely...And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.

Frankly, when it comes to my friends and family, I gave up trying to engage the insurgents in conversation quite a while ago. But I still occasionally leave crumbs scattered around that might ignite a bit of cognitive dissonance. If any of those ever flower into actual questions someone want to pursue, they know where to find me.


  1. Perfect. Why indeed not restrict citizenship and the vote to Trumpsters. Just think of the civil and intellectual quality of such an informed voter. Come to think of it, why not take our urgent response to the pandemic and climate change away from liberal academics and give it to right-winters who really understand this stuff. Why didn't we think of that four years ago? Oh, wait.

    Seriously, do they care that those applying for citizenship get around 4 of 5 test questions right, while native-born citizens get less than half? Then, too, people often are struck by Werner Heisenberg's role in charge of Hitler's A-bomb project. Was he a sincere Nazi? (Maybe but hardly certain.) Was he just forced into the situation? (Almost certainly.) Did he even stall on the project to undermine the Nazis? But that misses something: a racist regime had chased practically every European scientist to the United States. No wonder the Manhattan Project won the arms race.

  2. Zeynip Tufekci on “epistemic fracture”:

    0:16:53.6 ZT: So it’s not like the gatekeeping has disappeared, that it’s all flat, it’s just not the old kinda gatekeeping. And that, in turn, changes what we have as common knowledge, what people think is the norm. Do we even have a common knowledge? Do we have a way in which we construe what’s happening in… Because if you think about it, you don’t really know what’s happening around the world, it’s… Somebody tells you. You don’t see it all. So you have sources you trust, news you follow. So you have a mental model of what’s happening right outside your immediate visceral experience that comes through mediated sources for you. And that’s fine. That’s true for everyone. So if you look at mid-20th century, those are very centralized for the United States. They come through big broadcast, big TV, big media. Right now it’s really fractured. So you have an epistemic fracture. So these are, I think, very interesting things, because if you have an epistemic fracture in your society, you can have a very different mental model of what’s going on in one portion of the society, and the other portion has a completely different view of what’s going on. That’s a different kinda question than what we had before. So I think those are the ways in which these things are changing how we live through things, including through pandemics or political crises or anything we go through.

    It may be the central problem for our society. We’ve lost any shared sense of what’s of going on, let alone a shared vision that can unite us.

    I saw my Republican in-laws this past weekend for the first time in ages. It’s folly to think any conversation about politics will change anything. Now that we’re post-Trump, the tenseness of talking with them is gone, but it’s as bonkers as ever.

    1. Link:


Disney to DeSantis and Rufo: FAFO

On February 27th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that allowed him to appoint members to the supervisory board of the the Reedy...