Monday, May 16, 2022


Graeme Wood is a terrorism expert whose 2015 Atlantic article "What ISIS Really Wants" was used by right-wingers and centrists alike as a stick to beat then-President Obama with, at a time when Obama was committing the unpardonable sins of (a) not rallying America to a high level of chest-thumping outrage over ISIS and (b) denying that ISIS practiced genuine Islam. Obama wanted to downplay the conflict between the West and ISIS in order not to rally more people to ISIS's side, and while he may have been slow off the mark, he set in motion a campaign that gradually degraded ISIS, as it was intended to do. America's horror at ISIS's outrages faded, Wood's subsequent book on jihadists was not a bestseller, and he retreated to the company of fellow terrorism researchers.

Now Wood has read Buffalo mass shooter Payton Gendron's manifesto, and his expert opinion is: It's so tacky.
It is written ... casually (“plz” for please, and other bits of 4chan jargon), and it clears the very low bar of being a more engaging read than the Unabomber’s. Perhaps the presence of graphics, cartoons, and jokes—however unfunny—make it more likely to draw readers in. But I doubt they will convince anyone. I found on nearly every page of the Buffalo manifesto evidence of profound moral deformity, and inability to think about history, science, race, or humanity in sophisticated and adult ways. It is pathetic, stupid, and witless....

Suppressing this manifesto is in some ways an act of kindness to its author, who comes across as a crass amateur who learned his history from cartoons and 4chan.
Yes, a manifesto written by a gauche autodidact couldn't possibly persuade anyone to follow in the author's footsteps ... except, um, it already did: Gendron's manifesto borrows heavily from the manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand in 2019 -- one estimate says it's at least two-thirds plagiarized. Clearly that document inspired Gendron, so it's safe to assume Gendron's version will inpsire other racists.

Wood finds that implausible; he thinks Gendron's work is far too tacky to serve as inspiration for a future mass murderer. Wood is much kinder to Tucker Carlson.
Many have noted the similarity between the Buffalo shooter’s “Great Replacement” theory—that liberals are trying to replace the current electorate with new, more obedient voters from the Third World—and theories espoused on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News. This is because Carlson has said (I quote from his show), that liberals are “trying to replace the current electorate with new, more obedient voters from the Third World.” The existence of this belief cannot be suppressed. It is on social media; it is on Fox News. But I rarely see it expressed in a form as repulsive as the one it takes in this manifesto, with its images of hook-nosed, “demonic” Jews and grotesque, animalistic caricatures of Black people. If Carlson aired these images, he would be fired during the first commercial break, and aghast viewers would return from their reverse-mortgage ads to find a stricken-looking Sean Hannity, hastily wheeled out from his makeup station to pull a double shift.
Really? Would Carlson be fired? Or would Fox simply announce the next day that he was embarking on a two-week vacation -- previously scheduled, of course! -- after which he'd return once our attention was directed elsewhere?

Wood believes that racism at this level would horrify Carlson!
I think Carlson himself would be repulsed by these images—and for the sake of all, including his soul, I would like him to distinguish his views from those expressed this weekend. Does he believe that Jews controlled the slave trade and owned 78 percent of enslaved people in the United States? ... Does he consider Black people subhumans fit only for child abandonment and crime? How does his version of the Great Replacement differ from the one in the manifesto, which considers the history of race in America a colossal and genocidal crime against white people? ...

Suppressing this manifesto ... is unfair to Carlson, who may struggle to deny his association with a killer whose words are hidden from the public. He deserves his chance to explain why his views are not just genteel versions of the manifesto, especially because many of those in a position to analyze and summarize the manifesto hate him.

... if I were Carlson, nothing would make me squirmier than the knowledge that the author of this irredeemable nonsense might have thought I was onto something.
Has Graeme Wood ever watched Tucker Carlson? Has he ever read a transcript of a Tucker Carlson segment? Because the pre-Fox Carlson published journalism in elite magazines and the Fox News Carlson exhibits a verbal fluency that suggests education and some breeding, does Wood assume he's smarter than Gendron and therefore more moral? Does Wood, an elite journalist, think fellow elitists can't be as immoral as the proletarian Gendron, by definition?

Carlson doesn't traffic in the crudest forms of racism and anti-Semitism. There are no "demonic" Jewish caricatures on his show, no "animalistic" caricatures of Blacks. But we can guess that Carlson avoids these largely because they're not quite socially acceptable, even in the right-wing media bubble. Trafficking in them would hurt his career, and he's nothing if not a careerist.

We can guess how Carlson might talk about Jews and (especially) Blacks if he thought he could get away with it, because we know how he talked about Muslims on the Bubba the Love Sponge show in 2006, a time when it was acceptable to describe Muslim as less than human, even in polite society:
You know, I'm not defending the war in any way, but I just have zero sympathy for them or their culture. A culture where people just don't use toilet paper or forks.

... The second we -- they can just shut the fuck up and obey, is my view. And, you know, the second we leave, they’re going to be calling for us to return because they can’t govern themselves.
Carlson might not say in public what Gendron says about Blacks and Jews, but we have no reason to assume his racism is in any way different. There are very good reasons to believe his view are genteel versions of the manifesto.

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