Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Haters Next Door

I'm not surprised by this man's white supremacist views. They're shared by many, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly.

What I find interesting about the above-cited article is its framing:

"Richard Spencer sat sipping his chai latte at the Red Caboose, a train-themed coffee shop in downtown Whitefish, Mont. Clean-cut and restrained, he reminded me of a hundred outdoors-obsessed people I had known growing up here in the Flathead Valley, a resort area nestled in the shadows of Glacier National Park.

But Spencer’s tidy appearance is about more than his sense of propriety; it’s a recruitment tool. Spencer advocates for white separatism and he wants to shake his movement’s reputation for brutality and backwardness. 

'We have to look good,' Spencer said, adding that if his movement means 'being part of something that is crazed or ugly or vicious or just stupid, no one is going to want to be a part of it.' Those stereotypes of 'redneck, tattooed, illiterate, no-teeth' people, Spencer said, are blocking his progress. Organizations that monitor domestic hate groups say it’s just this unthreatening approachability that makes Spencer so insidious.

The lesson isn't just that nice-seeming people, like the good-neighborly-seeming Westboro members, can hold incredibly-problematic views and that organizations can be awful even if they aren't, say, explicitly named the Institute For Arch Villainry.  It's that those who are problematic often carefully, precisely, and mindfully cultivate an image that suggests exactly the opposite about themselves, their views, and their activity. 

They know what the stereotypes are about those who hold bigoted views and they consciously try to subvert those stereotypes. They aren't haters, they say, they just want what's best for the kinds of people who really matter.

We see this PR/image cultivation not just with racists, but with all sorts of bigots and abusers. Other examples that come to my mind, of course, are some of the professional outfits who oppose LGBT equality.

Any others?

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