FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

George Ciccariello-Maher vs. the White Power Alt-Right

by

Photo by Erik Drost | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Erik Drost | CC BY 2.0

 

In the decade I have known George Ciccariello-Maher – as a colleague, co-author and personal friend – he has always excelled at exposing and challenging injustices in sharp, uncompromising terms that highlight hypocrisy with passionate and often blunt wit.  He inspires friends and enemies alike; while I openly count myself in the former group, it is unfortunately the latter group which has made George the topic of conversation this week.  On Christmas eve Ciccariello-Maher jestingly tweeted “All I want for Christmas is White Genocide” – a clear and direct satire of a white supremacist trope through which neo-Nazis and other racist groupings argue that things like immigration and interracial marriage are “undermining the Aryan race.”  Ciccariello-Maher’s simple, sarcastic comment stoked the ire of Breitbart (and the even further fringe-Right social media) bringing this manufactured controversy to the inboxes of Drexel administrators on Christmas day, who have thus far capitulated to this attack, an effort concocted in the cesspool of racial hatred attempting to re-brand itself as the so-called Alt-Right.

I am angered by this situation, but honestly not terribly surprised.  This contrived ‘hate-speech’ controversy ironically stems from George pithily retorting to the long-established racism of the individuals and groups now attempting to repurpose liberal notions of political correctness against a longtime promoter of racial justice by trying to intimidate a renowned university into muffling one of their most important voices.  Thus far they are succeeding.

“Make America McCarthyist Again”

This pattern of singling out progressive or radical thinkers who have a degree of social influence is longstanding, but it has taken on new forms in the era of social media.  Like the House Un-American Activities Committee of the 1950s, these recent efforts to undermine free speech, disrupt the personal lives of prominent critical figures, while intimidating others into silence, today’s Red-baiting has become far more insidious and anonymous (and even less accountable) in the age of the internet and Right-wing news media echo-chamber.  Recent hysterias produced by Far-Right media, and amplified through social media, brought about the ouster of President Obama’s Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones, as wells as Shirley Sherrod, a prominent figure at the Department of Agriculture.  Both lost their jobs due to false accusations of ‘anti-white bias’ manufactured by Breitbart and later pushed by Fox News.  You may also remember Breitbart’s role in destroying ACORN, with doctored videos which were edited to appear as if ACORN workers were helping an alleged pimp set up a prostitution business.  Peddlers of both dog-whistle politics and plain-old overt racism such as Breitbart have little to lose by engaging in these hatchet adventures, while their army of assorted reactionary internet trolls have obviously zero accountability and nothing better to do.  If they succeed in getting Ciccariello-Maher formally reprimanded, or worse, they can chalk this up as another victory and move on to the next target, maybe just go down the Professor Watchlist one by one.  If this effort fails, they retain their ‘credibility’ with their base of ideological adherents and this farcical identity politics of white victimhood simply entrenches itself a little further.

Academic Freedom vs. Making Twitter a “Safe Space” for Racist Trolls

Within the academy there have been a litany of politicized attacks against proponents of a just settlement to the Israeli occupation of Palestine (Steven Salaita), the silencing of anti-war voices (Ward Churchill), as well as political campaigns against radical feminists and anti-racists that have exploited purposely-vague university codes of “civility” to silence critics of social injustice.  Too often these efforts have proved fruitful, tarring the name of the institutions which deferred to them, inspiring further attempts to use refashioned political correctness to pursue an overtly reactionary political agenda.  At an absolute bare minimum, it is the job of fellow academics, responsible journalists, and everyone who does not want to see the 4Chan troll army and the cowards sending Ciccariello-Maher death threats further empowered and emboldened, to speak and act in Dr. Ciccariello-Maher’s defense.  This contrived controversy is not about whether or not you share George’s acerbic sense of humor.  This is not a debate about appropriate academic standards of etiquette or professionalism.  Whether or not his tweets disturb the liberal sensibilities or norms of comportment among some on the Left or in academia, failure to stand in active solidarity with Dr. Ciccariello-Maher, directly helps to further legitimize and empower the racist online cesspools that spawned this situation.  Those that seek to further undermine academic freedom and free speech, primarily targeting radical anti-racists, are emboldened by Trump’s election and are looking to flex their muscles in the real world and see how far they can push.  By no means will this be their last effort, but the stakes are presently high, as we await the Drexel administrations next move.

“White Genocide” is a term used exclusively by white supremacists, referring to what they see as the erosion of their supposed biological racial superiority through inter-racial marriage, immigration, diversity policies, and (ironically) political correctness.  Dr. Ciccariello-Maher’s public mocking of the idea of “White Genocide” was obviously inflammatory, but its anti-racist message and satirical intent is clear to anyone familiar with the term and its longstanding usage within the political culture of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists in the United States, dating back far too many decades.  Dr. Ciccariello-Maher’s critique of a white-supremacist political culture is that much more necessary today as those beliefs have become increasingly normalized and emboldened by the election of Donald Trump.  It is not hyperbole or a reciprocal smear to identify that Alt-Right, white-supremacist culture as the producer of this manufactured drama which has been foisted onto the desks of Drexel administrators, one they have so far taken seriously.  My own current research focuses on the topic of politicized white victimhood, and how it is being used to undermine the achievements of civil rights movements past by using political correctness and the language of identity politics to pursue a white-supremacist political agenda – this effort is squarely an expression of that political project.  These white victim politics, this contrived outrage Drexel is being asked to placate, the accusations of racial bias against whites, only has power if it effects institutionalized decision-making.  Drexel President Fry, and other administrators, have an obligation to defend free-speech in one of the last institutional bastions of free and critical thought this country has.  Those standards of free inquiry and debate within the academy are precisely the reason Dr. Ciccariello-Maher is under attack.  Drexel’s response thus far has been an abysmal embarrassment to the profession, exposing just how easy it is for claims of reverse-racism to force the hands of university officials who should 1) know that there is no such thing as reverse racism and 2) have enough integrity to understand the broader precedents they are helping to set.

The objective of these attacks is clear: to undermine a vibrant anti-racist voice and celebrated decolonial writer while further legitimating fantasies of institutionalized anti-white bias and persecution. Breitbart, the website leading the charge for his removal, is effectively demanding a safe space for white supremacists on the internet when jokes are made about their racist ideology, while also steadily bemoaning and belittling actual university students from oppressed backgrounds when they demand safe spaces.  Whether Drexel administrators value the hurt feelings of white supremacist internet trolls more than free and critical thought, academic freedom and the future of one of their best professors, should have been an easy decision – one that required no public statements of deep concern and no questions about disciplinary action.  Whether Drexel capitulates to this sad assortment of racist internet bullies and conspiracy theorists, or stands by one of its strongest faculty voices, is unfortunately the situation George and everyone who values critical intellectual thought find ourselves in at present.

Mike King is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Bridgewater State University.  His work has recently been featured in Race & Class and the edited volume Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.  His book (tentatively titled) When Riot Cops are Not Enough: The Repression of Occupy Oakland will be published by Rutgers University Press in 2016.  He can be reached at mikeking0101 (at) gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 30, 2017
William R. Polk
What Must be Done in the Time of Trump
Howard Lisnoff
Enough of Russia! There’s an Epidemic of Despair in the US
Ralph Nader
Crash of Trumpcare Opens Door to Full Medicare for All
Carol Polsgrove
Gorsuch and the Power of the Executive: Behind the Congressional Stage, a Legal Drama Unfolds
Michael J. Sainato
Fox News Should Finally Dump Bill O’Reilly
Kenneth Surin
Former NC Governor Pat McCory’s Job Search Not Going Well
Binoy Kampmark
The Price of Liberation: Slaughtering Civilians in Mosul
Bruce Lesnick
Good Morning America!
William Binney and Ray McGovern
The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate: Will Trump Take on the Spooks?
Jill Richardson
Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs
Robert Pillsbury
Maybe It’s Time for Russia to Send Us a Wake-Up Call
Prudence Crowther
Swamp Rats Sue Trump
March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail