CNN’s Chyron wonders if Jews are People, inspired by Trumpist Neofascism

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Richard Spencer is a rock star of the Neofascist movement that hides behind the euphemism “alt-right.” (Since they’re always going on about how manly white people are, why don’t they man up and admit their Nazism? Why hide behind weak tea like a keyboard pun?).

Trump’s new Goebbels, Steve Bannon, had turned, he said, into an organ of the “alt-right,” i.e. of Neofascism, and Richard Spencer is the leader of the movement Bannon/ Trump have empowered.

On Saturday the Neofascists met at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., and Spencer gave an unhinged rant– I mean, “speech”– during which he denounced the “Lügenpresse,” a toxic German word. The “lying press” or “mendacious press” is not just an attack on journalists in the tradition of the German far right wing. Everyone understood that the term was racialized. Pure Germans did not write lying newspaper articles. Only Jews and mongrel leftist inferior Germans would do such a thing. This connotation of the word was very deep and preceded the rise of the National Socialists. But it was especially used by the Nazis to deflect criticism. Who could dissent from the dynamic march of Nazism but the lying Jewish press?

“CNN: Alt-Right Founder Questions If Jews Are People”

Thus, during the Spanish civil war the German air squadron, the Condor Legion, was loaned to Gen. Francisco Franco by Hitler. It bombarded the Basque town of Guernica in April of 1937, dropping 3,000 incendiary bombs on it. News of the atrocity provoked the horror of the outside world.

Among those deeply touched by the piles of scattered body parts was Pablo Picasso, whose masterpiece on the subject in turn caught the global imagination.


In response, the Nazi propaganda machine swung into action. There was no massacre from the air of Guernica. It was an ancient archeological site that had long been rubble. Allegations to the contrary were, you guessed it, dismissed as the work of the jüdische Lügenpresse, the mendacious Jewish press.

Richard Spencer last Sunday said the word lovingly, with a broad mischievous smile, looking for all the world like Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs after a hearty meal of human and fava beans, drawing out the umlaut on the “u” . . . Lü. . . ü . . . ügenpresse. He knew exactly the Nazi dog whistle he was blowing, knew that he was using a highly racialized term.

Spencer complained of the “mainstream press” and the army of social media commentators who predicted the outcome of the election incorrectly, adding, “One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless Golem.”

Right wing rags are defending Spencer, saying that he did not direct this last sentence at Jews. But of course he did. First of all, he had already identified the target of his ire as the Lügenpresse, which has heavy racial overtones– especially in the world of white supremacism in which Spencer operates. The second dog whistle is his use of the word golem, which derives from a Jewish fable about clay that is brought to life by magic. Then there were his hysterical shouts of Heil! at the end of his speech, which rather give the show away.

Spencer went on to say that the present United States had become “a sick, corrupted society.” He alleged, “America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity . . . It is our creation, it is our inheritance and it belongs to us.” I somehow don’t think Spencer includes Arabs and Jews in the category of “white.” You even suspect you have a good idea who exactly he thinks corrupted American society.

Act two of this sordid tale, which deeply implicates Steve Bannon and Donald J. Trump, came on Monday on CNN when reporter Jim Sciutto asked a panel about Spencer’s speech, describing it as “hate-filled garbage against the Jews.”

Contemporary cable television news services have contracted with the Chyron company, which provides software that electronically generates captions in the bottom third of the screen as interviews are proceeding . These captions are called “chyrons” in the business.

Unfortunately, the robot script went very badly awry, when it operated on Spencer’s National Socialist screed, throwing up the caption “Alt-Right Leader questions whether Jews are People.”

Jewish viewers, who were under the firm impression that their membership in homo sapiens sapiens was uncontroversial, were shocked and horrified that this question was being posed on the small screen in bright letters, as were we other bona fide members of that genus and species. Maybe the Neanderthals of the Neofascist movement not so much.

I fear the condemnations issued by hard right pro-Netanyahu Jewish groups of Spencer’s ugly discourse will not carry much moral weight. They have squandered their credibility by crying “Antisemite” at people who care whether Palestinians are stateless, and by aligning with a Republican Party that has had its lips glued to the dog whistle for some decades. That Israeli cabinet members have stood up for Trump and Bannon further debases their coin. American Jews deserve to be represented by decent organizations who care as much about Palestinian rights as they do about those of Jews.

What happened was not Jim Sciutto’s fault– he was obviously deeply appalled by Spencer’s remarks. He was filling in for Jake Tapper, who is Jewish, so the awkwardness is, like, multidimensional. It was the gaffe of a robot, and of television producers who had automated chyron-generation.

But I’d like to point that this misstep of the chyron bot is simply symptomatic for CNN in its 2-year-long coverage of the presidential campaign. It almost nightly turned the airwaves over to Trump bloviating at his rallies and saying racist things. Moreover, its reporters have rushed to normalize Trumpism. The disgust and discomfort we all felt at seeing the Nazi chyron is not a new emotion. We had felt it when Mexicans were being excoriated as rapists and all Muslims as dangerous, and women were configured as undressed Barbie Dolls whose limbs and genitals are available for twisting.

The Nazi chyron, in short, is the perfect symbol of the complete pusillanimity and complicity of the corporate media in the dark side of the Trump phenomenon, which Steve Bannon has admitted has more in common with the planet-destroying Darth Vader than with George Washington and James Madison.

17 Responses

  1. Leonard Haggstrom

    Alt-Right ? Israel has been high on ethno-nationalism for generations, put on steroids by Likud … and the media doesn’t question their bombing campaigns against civilians in Gaza.

    • Hopefully very soon, and frequently, if it is solely used as a slightly unflattering nickname for Louise Mensch.

  2. “Maybe the Neanderthals of the Neofascist movement not so much.” Professor Cole, please do not insult Neanderthals ; Recent research shows that they happen to have mixed with Cro-Magnon (horresco referens) to beget Homo sapiens…

  3. “Then there were his hysterical shouts of Heil! at the end of his speech, which rather give the show away.”

    …and the Nazi salutes. But they’re not neo-Nazis, they’re simply the “alternative right.” Thank you, mainstream media.

    Spencer is also much more charismatic than David Duke. He’s only 38, and he’s from – wait for it – Boston Mass., which makes him even more attractive to Midwesterners and Northerners because he doesn’t come across like a Southern racist.

    And then there was the inexcusable sight of high profile MSM personalities marching up to Trump’s “Berghof” as if summoned to be scolded for their negative coverage of Trump during the campaign – coverage that gave Trump $millions in free publicity.

    Juan, do you have anything more on this latest incident?

    I think many of us are asking ourselves, “Is this really happening in the US in 2016?”

    • I somewhat disagree about these newly-ascendant Yankee racists being more attractive, because they bring their own alien baggage to the racist table. The Southern racists have always used self-victimization and all their whining about their distinctive culture and peculiar institutions and especially God ‘n’ Guns as their Teflon. Neo-Confederacy thus served as the central organizing principle of racist ideology; just do everything like Jefferson Davis would.

      That Germanic stench that Prof. Cole observes around the newly-minted “alt-right” will create a 2nd racist constituency beyond the South, but not necessarily a comfortable fit around the old one that demands its pride of place ad nauseum. Let’s get creative and start thinking of ways to get them to really hate each other. Federal vs State conflicts, the reality that the low-wage South needs free trade as it always has, the problematic position of Catholics, the inevitable grope of the alt-Right towards a national school curriculum of hate (a Common Korps?) to secure its dominance. Feel free to add.

  4. No need to equate Neanderthals with neofacists. Neanderthals successfully evolved and lived for hundreds of thousands of years, overlapping homo sapiens. They were were intelligent and resourceful hominids. I realize this is written as cliche but due to we drop it.

  5. I hate to keep picking on CNN but frankly, Jeff Zucker has turned their coverage into a clown show. Jeff Tapper, who is a solid TV ournalist, must be wondering whether the big bucks he’s paid is worth the humiliation of representing such a lousy news product.

  6. Just because they now call themselves “alt-right” doesn’t mean we have to, even in quotation marks. “Neo-nazi” still works just fine. Never cede control of language to the opposition. It reminds me of when “friendly fire” replaced “military blunder” in describing when our military kills its own soldiers.

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