The calls in recent years to ban Confederate symbols and historical figures from the public square were initially explained as addressing particular historical or contemporary grievances, typically of a racial nature. But the quick extension of such bans to various other symbols and figures with little or no connection to the Confederacy, and even to seemingly innocuous things such as a cartoon frog named Pepe, has strongly suggested that this explanation is insufficient. A simpler, more comprehensive explanation for these calls to ban supposedly “racist” or “white supremacist” symbols is that they attempt to remove from public acceptability anything that might lend support to white people positively identifying themselves as a group.
The Recent Anti-Confederate (And Anti-America) Hysteria
The activists, corporations, and politicians denouncing and banning various symbols and monuments as of late have been said to be motivated merely by a desire to redress particular historical grievances, such as slavery, perhaps with some vague reference to grievances today. As Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond said, with reference to a proposal to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol, “We will never solve America’s race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States in order to keep African-Americans in chains.” But the actions of these iconoclasts over just a short period of time have made it evident that they are interested in something else.
Two incidents were used as justification for the removal of Confederate statues and flags: The first was a shooting at a black church where nine were killed; and the second, which occurred after statues were already being removed, was the death of a woman after she and a group of people attacked a car following an attempted rally to oppose the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia.
But these incidents merely served as a pretext, albeit a rhetorically useful one. The same excuse mysteriously did not apply to the symbols and historical figures held dear by black activists after a black man murdered five police officers and wounded seven others at a Black Lives Matter rally. The shooter, a former member of the New Black Panthers, had a photo on his Facebook profile featuring himself wearing African-style clothes and holding up a black power fist. He “told authorities his motivation for the shooting was that he was ‘upset about Black Lives Matter’ and ‘wanted to kill white people,’ especially white police officers,” according to the Dallas police chief. But no prominent figure or institution condemned either the Black Lives Matter movement or the black power fist for inspiring violence. And filming for the Black Panther movie began early the next year.
Just as hand-picked contemporary incidents have served as a pretext, so have historical grievances. As agitation spread for the removal of names and monuments, many agitators lambasted President Trump when he brought up the possibility that renowned, non-Confederate historical figures could be next. But few if any of these same people disapproved when that actually happened. Historic figures who had been previously unassailable (in public, anyway) were quickly presented by the press as legitimate targets of ire and erasure, regardless of association with either the Confederacy or slavery. Vice Magazine decreed, “Let’s blow up Mount Rushmore” — the national monument that features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, none of whom were members of the Confederacy, and two of whom never owned slaves. A plaque memorializing Washington was removed from his old church; Jefferson’s name was removed from a national park, and his memorial in D.C. has remained, but only with an update informing visitors of his status as a slave owner; a bust of Lincoln in Illinois was vandalized with fire and tar; and a statue of Theodore Roosevelt in New York was vandalized with red paint.
This increase in the range of targeted historical figures was met with tepid disapproval by some mainstream conservative writers, who tended to respond as if their imagined rationale for such agitation, slavery, was the actual reason. But their attempt to defend the “good” figures has been for naught, because they had already affirmed the implicit proposition that ended up allowing for the removals they later feigned to oppose — namely, the proposition that any white historical figure who does not live up to contemporary standards is disposable. Few commentators in popular media acknowledged the true depth of the underlying motive for all of this. Fewer still could put a name to it. Michael Brendan Dougherty cryptically identified the issue as “white supremacy,” recognizing that it is defined so broadly as to lead to wiping out the Founding Fathers. Pat Buchanan referred to “an egalitarian extremism rooted in envy and hate.” He went on to explain, “Among its core convictions is that spreading Christianity was a cover story for rapacious Europeans who, after discovering America, came in masses to dispossess and exterminate native peoples. ‘The white race,’ wrote Susan Sontag, ‘is the cancer of human history.’”
The Underlying Anti-White Hysteria
Buchanan’s quotation of Sontag (who, incidentally, died of cancer) is apt, because the recent condemnation of figures and symbols is better explained with reference to hostility toward white people simply, without any need to refer to alleged historical misdeeds except as providing convenient justification for such hostility.
In the past two years, the list of so-called “hate symbols” has expanded in new and increasingly absurd ways, starting with the designation of the cartoon frog Pepe as “a huge favorite white supremacist meme” by a representative of the SPLC, and as “a symbol associated with white supremacy” by the Hillary Clinton campaign. This was after a credulous reporter fell for a troll (that is, a prank) conducted by two young men, who told her that they were members of a secret white nationalist club that conspired over drinks in New York City to claim the frog as their own. Pepe, a meme used by celebrities, corporations, and even a college football team until the compliant press told them that this was now forbidden, soon came to be listed in the ADL’s “hate symbols” database.
Next, milk was designated as a symbol of racism, Nazism, white supremacy, and white racial purity. As with Pepe, this too was the result of a troll: After a few jovial young men drank milk together on a public webcam in solidarity against “the vegan agenda,” a black man accused them of racism for allegedly boasting of a genetic tolerance for lactose not equally shared by other races, an accusation so silly and petty that it inspired an even larger gathering, this time of shirtless men drinking milk with exaggerated exuberance. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the event — and of the incorporation of a milk emoji into the Twitter handles of a couple of pro-white advocates — was lost on reporters, or simply ignored by them.
This tendency of the corporate media and its naïve lackeys to hyperventilate over supposedly white racial symbols inspired a poster on 4chan’s /pol/ image board to initiate a troll campaign, “Operation O-KKK,” by which he encouraged others to “flood twitter and other social media websites” with the claim “that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy.” Presumably, this was in response to an article claiming that a pair of independent reporters friendly to President Trump used the OK sign in imitation of Pepe, which thus supposedly made it a “hate symbol.” A later article from another site speculated in a similar manner about a boy employing the sign in an impromptu photo op with the president during a White House tour.
But the truth was simpler, namely that the hand sign was common among a certain segment of Trump supporters, having been popularized by pro-Trump internet personalities. The intent of Operation O-KKK was to leverage reporters’ paranoia to reveal their madness to the public. As the poster on /pol/ wrote, “Leftists have dug so deep down into their lunacy. We must force [them] to dig more, until the rest of society ain’t going anywhere near that [stuff].” The troll campaign tricked overly-sensitive verified users on Twitter. Perhaps the most hilarious instance was that of one particularly neurotic reporter who claimed, unwittingly using as evidence an image from the Operation O-KKK post on /pol/, that another pair of pro-Trump reporters were “doing a white power hand gesture in the White House.” A British rag picked up the story, but then issued a clarification upon receiving word from its masters at the ADL that no, the OK hand sign is not actually a symbol of white supremacy. This, however, did not put a stop to the hyperventilating press, which months afterward freely passed around the theory that a White House intern, seen in a photo making the hand sign, was secretly an advocate of “white power.”
Pepe the frog, milk, and the OK hand sign have little to no historical baggage with regard to race, racial animosity, or even “hate” in general. And there is nothing particularly racial about them considered in themselves, aside from the disparate distribution of lactase persistence among the races, which is a simple matter of fact without hateful connotations of any sort. But they do have something in common, which they also have in common with the various historical figures and symbols of American history, including Mount Rushmore and the Confederate battle flag: They are, or at least are perceived to be, implicitly white. Reporters called them “white supremacist” because they perceived them as having a certain appeal to white people, regardless of the actual racial backgrounds of the particular individuals who used Pepe memes, drank milk, or held up the OK sign.
Indeed, what has mattered for the reporters, and for others claiming to be opposed to “hate,” is that these are symbols around which white people could rally without even being explicitly racially conscious, and which could in theory preserve or build up a sense of group interest, preference, and cohesion.
The aversion toward symbols for white people has been applied to old European runes, most recently on social media. After Twitter and the ADL announced their cooperative effort against “hate,” Twitter commanded an account called Defend Europa to remove the Algiz “life” rune from its profile image for being “hateful.” The ADL lists this rune as a “hate symbol.” Although the ADL says that context ought to be taken into account when judging the use of this symbol, still as a Twitter censor it denied its use to a social media account that merely encourages a sort of white identity and solidarity.
“It’s Okay To Be White”
One could say that the recent rash of condemning various symbols has been motivated more by politics or ideology than by racial animosity toward white people. Even if this were the case, then it would still be curious that the major grievance against each symbol has been that it stands for a specifically white “sin,” whether antebellum slavery (but only on the part of white owners), or white racism, white nationalism, white supremacy, etc. (and not that of any other racial group). To dismiss or explain away the racial motive as being actually political or ideological would merely point to a political aim or ideological principle that is itself in opposition to white people in particular.
In the fall of 2017, an experiment was carried out to test whether the animosity truly has been anti-white: People across the United States (and some in Canada) participated in a campaign that avoided the use of symbols, and instead stuck to a simple, inoffensive phrase, “It’s okay to be white,” printed in a plain font (and sometimes written) on fliers surreptitiously posted in public spaces, especially at colleges. It was inspired by the hysterical reaction to fliers posted at Boston College bearing an iconic image of Uncle Sam with the words “I Want You To Love Who You Are” and “Don’t Apologize For Being White,” which had been made available for download on the web site of American Renaissance, a pro-white advocacy organization. The “It’s okay to be white” campaign eschewed even positive imagery like Uncle Sam, and had no formal or even informal connection to any organization. It began on Halloween, when people were expected to be seen walking around at night with cloaked identities. The response was as expected, with schools condemning the fliers, police investigating them, and press outlets claiming that they stemmed from white people’s ill will toward other racial groups. The response by a D.C. high school the next day was emblematic, ably summarized by Tucker Carlson on his show:
Here’s the lede of an actual Washington Post story: quote, Fliers saying “it’s okay to be white” were found taped to the exterior doors of a Maryland high school Wednesday morning, apparently as part of an effort to spark racial division, unquote. Officials at Montgomery Blair High School in suburban D.C. say they ripped down those signs, called the cops, and are investigating security footage to find the monster who did it. The sentiment “It’s okay to be white” is now a hate crime. Okay, so what’s the correct position — that it’s not okay to be white? Being white, by the way, is not something that you can control. Like any ethnicity, you’re born with it, which is why you shouldn’t attack people for it, and yet the left does constantly, in case you haven’t noticed. So who’s sowing racial division here? They ought to stop. These things never end well.
And of course, the ADL also condemned the fliers using the specious reasoning that so-called white supremacists had used the phrase in 2001. (Sixteen years evidently constitutes “a fairly long history” according to the ADL.)
Moreover, the press contended that the fliers were “racist” because the idea for them arose from 4chan, /pol/ in particular. But /pol/ is just a minimally-moderated forum open to everyone, not some sort of private club that requires racist credentials for membership. No reporter bothered trying to demonstrate that the particular anonymous posters responsible for the development of the idea were racist, in part due to laziness and lack of concern for the truth, and also due to the fact that the posts actually planning the campaign (as opposed to the posts of contrarians and trolls) were uniformly inoffensive, emphasizing straightforward, positive messaging, non-aggressive font selection, and so on. In theory, the development of the flier’s message and design could have taken place elsewhere, but pro-white advocacy is routinely banned as “hate speech” from mainstream social media platforms — just as the sort of objectively innocuous posters described here have been derided as unacceptable and hateful by media corporations, academic institutions, and organizations such as the ADL. It is thus unsurprising that a pro-white flier campaign originated on 4chan.
If “It’s okay to be white” is dismissed as hate speech, then anything potentially supportive of positive white identity can be dismissed as hate speech. And that is precisely what has been happening, from the tearing down of Confederate statues to the relegation of Pepe to “hate symbol” status. The political rhetoric and shaming tactics are consistent across each case in what is evidently an ongoing, relentless campaign against positive white identity. This is the explanation that accounts for all of the available evidence without positing contradiction or confusion among those participating in this campaign. The reason that white people and their symbols are singled out among all races for collective condemnation is because white people in particular are objects of derision. Attempts to explain away this open hostility with reference to history, institutional power, or demographic majority status only assume the basic premise that white people in particular are wicked, since the past and present behaviors of other racial groups are generally not subject to the same criticism, even where such groups exercise institutional power or possess a demographic majority. The ruling class across media and academia has deemed that white identity is fine only as long as it is an identity of guilt and shame, but must be crushed when it bears even the hint of contentedness or camaraderie, let alone pride or collective political action.