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Katie McHugh’s Expendable Labor

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On June 3rd, Katie McHugh, a staple at Breitbart, tweeted:

There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn’t live there. #LondonBridge

Within 48 hours, Breitbart fired her for said quip.

The firing is much more shocking than the quip. Even people with the most superficial knowledge of our media landscape know that right-wing partisans think, and indeed often say, exactly what Miss McHugh tweeted. The tweet was par for the course over at Breitbart. They have a “muslim immigration” tag brimming with macabre stories of crimes allegedly committed by Europe’s new arrivals. They have equally lurid tags for “black crime” and “illegal immigration” too.

Furthermore, Breitbart is famous for its unwavering support for Donald Trump, who has called for a ban on all Muslim immigration into America — ostensibly to protect us all from terrorism.

The thinking behind Miss McHugh’s tweet is the thinking behind just about everything at Breitbart, and the President they all adore feels the same way.

Even in terms of tweets, the one that ended Miss McHugh’s career was not out-of-bounds in these circles. Remember when, as a candidate, President Trump tweeted out the insane claim that 81% of white murder victims had black killers? Miss McHugh herself has even said considerably more offensive things on twitter than her latest. Just one example:

“British settlers built the USA. “Slaves” built the country much as cows “built” McDonald’s.”

So why the hell did Breitbart fire her now

She was not out of line with Breitbart’s world view or confrontational style. Nor did she say something that their idol Donald Trump would disagree with. It’s impossible to believe that this is the first step in an attempt to revamp Breitbart and turn it into something more respectable like a poor man’s Weekly Standard.

If I had to bet on money on it, I’d guess politics had nothing to do with it. She probably got fired for one of the typical reason millions of regular people get fired from their jobs by their miserly bosses, that is to say, a higher-up decided she cost too much.

She was the homepage editor of Breitbart during its meteoric rise in popularity. Maybe she was demanding a raise because of how much her hard work benefited the entire company. Maybe she got that raise, but then they decided she wasn’t worth it after all. Maybe she was taking too many sick days, or she was using her health insurance too much. After all, right now she’s fundraising to cover medical bills until she can find another job.

It’s pure speculation, but maybe somebody slapped her ass and she complained about it “too much.” That’s not exactly unheard of at rabid right-wing media companies.

Whatever it was that got her fired, it was not the tweet. Vox, and so many other liberal outlets and pundits are out of their minds to suggest “We finally know what counts as “too racist for Breitbart”.” Breitbart as a whole, and Miss McHugh in particular, have regularly been more racist than that tweet, and will continue to be more racist than that tweet. Don’t believe me? Here’s a recent Breitbart headline: “Poland: Refusing to Import Muslims is Only Proven Counter-Terror Method.” The story was published the same day Miss McHugh was fired.

Breitbart is going to be as racist as ever. This “purge” will not change the site’s tone in the slightest, nor will it improve the lives of Muslims.

All this changes is Katie McHugh’s life. She got fired from her job and her life’s problems are now fodder for liberals desperate for the blood the “Russian scandal” never gave them. After being a topdog for as long as she was at Breitbart, transitioning into a new role will be tougher than an ex-pornstar trying to catch a break on an HBO show. Her medical bills may have to wait a while, but in the meantime I’m sure she’s getting plenty of death threats.

She is going to learn the hard way that right-wing populists are just the bourgeoisie in sexy uniforms. There was no reason for her to worry about her job in the slightest when she fired off that tweet. Tweets like that were part of her job. But now that she’s unemployed and national news. Very few folks in the right’s media empire are going to want to associate with her at all now that she’s been so thoroughly tarred. If she gets hired by the Daily Caller or WND in the next few weeks, her new employer will know that she has nowhere else to go, and will both treat and pay her accordingly.

Breitbart cannot replace its employees with machines and it can’t outsource them to Bangladesh (though wouldn’t that be something?), but it certainly can make an example out of somebody to make sure everyone else stays in line. Miss McHugh has now been cast into the ranks of our country’s poor, white, and hated surplus population, a surplus population she thought she and her now-former employer were helping. Her role will be filled on the cheap with a recent college grad dreaming of sticking it to his liberal professors, or hoping that Steve Bannon will get his dad a new job at a new factory. Like with every job after a high-profile firing, the employees will be sure to be extra productive and extra obedient until the memory of the incident fades.

As the late Pierre Bourdieu noted in Acts of Resistance:

It has emerged clearly that job insecurity is now everywhere…. in industry, but also in the institutions of cultural production and diffusion — education, journalism, the media, etc…. The existence of a large reserve army, which, because of the overproduction of graduates, is no longer restricted to the lowest levels of competence and technical qualification, helps to give all those in work the sense that they are in no way irreplaceable and that their work, their jobs, are in some way a privilege, a fragile, threatened privilege…. So insecurity acts directly on those it touches (and whom it renders incapable of mobilizing themselves) and indirectly on all the others, through the fear it arouses…. by putting the workers in permanent danger of losing their jobs. The whole world of production, material and cultural, public and private, is thus carried along by a process of intensification of insecurity.

Breitbart is not reforming or getting woke, they just figured out a new way to bring casualization to a media company. The ocean of angry Pepe’s on twitter is one big pool of cheap reserve labor for every Roger Ailes who’s still breathing and hoping to turn a buck on the misdirected rage of the Rust Belt and Appalachia. Said reserve labor pool is a capitalist’s dream. It already has a false consciousness that guarantees they won’t unionize, and ensures they’ll look to solve their economic woes through nationalism instead of class solidarity.

Katie McHugh is never going to get the Muslim ban she dreams of. Instead, she’s going to have a harder and harder time getting those medical bills taken care of. The folks that promised her one are the same folks who are giving her the other.

Did she work for an evil company to actively promote evil? Yes. Are her beliefs reprehensible? Absolutely. But right now, she’s just another overworked woman with medical expenses who got fired by an unscrupulous boss. While that situation certainly won’t change Breitbart’s outlook, it might change hers.

With any luck, she’ll take note that it wasn’t Muslims who used her for their own aims and then spit her back out, it was a bunch of old white capitalists who told her they were on her side.

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