Surfing the net can be a lot like turning over rocks in the countryside. Every now and then you find something underneath a rock (or a link) so disgusting you just can’t pull your eyes off it. Case in point? This little bit of filth from Info Wars.
To begin with, let me apologize for bringing this shitgasm into the lives of you, my readers. I am sorry.
Alex Jones and his bunch are a special kind of putrid, but sadly, they are a special kind of putrid with a lot more influence than they deserve. So, I reckon it’s worth keeping track of their antics.
…regretful though that task may be.
There is a lot of crap in this video, but what got my attention here is the opening pitch.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated anyone hash-tagging ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Christmas Eve’, ‘Christmas’, or ‘Jesus’ a far right wing extremist.”
Sounds pretty shocking doesn’t it? What could possibly lead the folks at Info Wars to such an impluasible conclusion? As they go on to explain in the video, the Southern Poverty Law (SPLC) has been tracking these hashtags in their hate tracker. What is the hate tracker? Well let’s take that information directly from the SPLC.
So, there it is. The hate tracker tracks trends in right wing activity on twitter. It is not a statement about the meaning of any of these terms, nor is it a theoretical account of the trends it identifies. It isn’t even the result of a conscious effort to call attention to specific terms, or the specific use of them in right wing circles. If a hashtag trends in the activities of right wing extremists, it will come up on the tracker.
Simply put, the hate tracker picked up a lot of Christmas tweetage among the right wingers. What that means is an entirely different question. One thing it doesn’t mean is that anyone who uses these terms is a right wing extremist. No, the SPLC was not saying that, and the hackwits at Info Wars know this.
Both the Info Wars video and the Breitbart article on this subject do present a (more or less) accurate account of this in the meat of their stories. The trick here is the mismatch between that substance and the labeling. The folks at Info Wars know very well how the hate tracker works, and they account for it, but then they draw a conclusion totally unsupported by the facts they themselves provide. They are hoping you won’t remember the details, but that you will remember the pitch line they used to start the story. They are hoping you will come away from this thinking that a prominent liberal source has tried to label all talk of Jesus and Christmas as right wing extremism. This is simply not true.
It’s a bit after the bell, but this video is one more shot in the fake war on Christmas. More to the point, it is part of an ongoing effort to weaponize Christmas, to recast the celebration of Christmas as an explicitly political act, a defiance of liberal politics. IN effect, it is an attempt to make the celebration of Christmas into a partisan gesture, one which will divide Americans still further, and pointlessly so.
It may well be that the hashtag trends noted by the SPLC are also part of that effort to weaponize Christmas. Certainly, there have been a lot of people using ‘Merry Christmas’ to say something more like ‘fuck you liberals’, and at least a few of them have been doing this on the net. I expect right wing extremists also wish people Merry Christmas for conventional reasons, like actually wanting them to have a merry Christmas, but I reckon at least a few of those hits the SPLC caught in their tracker were conscious efforts to carry on the war on the eve of Christmas itself. Either way, the Info Wars piece is a conscious effort to spin that narrative up a notch, to pretend that liberals have declared Christmas itself a hateful expression.
The problem is of course that they are lying.
The real question is why? Why tell this particular lie? What does it get the people at Info Wars? I get that the SPLC has its own set of biases, but no, they are NOT trying to crush Christianity. Neither are they trying to steal the Christmas presents out from under your tree. This conscious demonization of the SPLC simply isn’t about correcting bias it’s about enshrining it. It’s about making sure that people do not make careful distinctions between actual hate groups and mere conservatives, or for that matter ordinary Americans of any political stripe. Info Wars wants the public to think the SPLC cannot tell the difference ordinary well-wishing and a racist political agenda. The problem of course is that the SPLC can and does make such distinctions all the time. Alex Jones and his merry band of festering bloodfarts, on the other hand, would love to be thought of as conservative, even patriotic. They would love to have their own brand of lunacy pass for good old fashioned conservative politics, and they would love to have the right wing fanatics who make up their customer base thought of as ordinary people. If they can muddle the distinction themselves, then they can pass all manner of lunatic ideas under the banner of basic American values. That’s their pay-off.
There is always a pay-off for this kind of political charade. For Trump, the War on Christmas was just another effort to brand something (Christmas) to which he contributes absolutely nothing. For the likes of Bill O’Reilly, it was grist for a combative mill that helped keep his ratings high. For Info Wars and Breitbart, it’s the hope for legitimacy. It is an effort by those on the lunatic fringe to pass themselves off as legitimate, to pretend that the ideologically committed racists who regularly consume their products are just ordinary Americans who love Christmas. In effect, they are telling the public that the SPLC and liberals in general cannot tell the difference between a conservative and a deplorable. But we can.
Yes, there is a difference.