mizzou-protest

When Did Paranoia About Racism Become a Virtue?

And the award for dumbest reporter in America goes to…Josh Feldman of Mediaite! During game seven of the World Series, Feldman noticed three cards in the stands each bearing the letter ‘K’ and began wondering via Twitter if the Klan was rearing its ugly head. He quickly dashed off an embarrassing piece entitled “Wait, What’s That KKK Sign Doing at the World Series?” He was apparently not the only one who believed that the three K’s were somehow related to the Ku Klux Klan. Feldman’s piece relied on a Twitterstorm of perplexed and angry messages from people who also perceived racist intent behind the three K’s.

This is what happens when bandwagon-jumpers tune in to watch baseball for the first time in their lives. If these people knew anything about the sport they would know that ‘K’ is baseball shorthand for a strikeout. It’s common for fans to tally strikeouts by holding up cards with the letter ‘K’ on them. Three K’s means three strikeouts—not Ku Klux Klan. Sheesh. Even I knew that and I haven’t watched an entire baseball game in years. After the error was discovered, Mediate altered the story, claiming that “some Twittters” made the foolish mistake, omitting the fact that the most prominent of these Twitterers was their very own Josh Feldman.

The whole incident would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Did these people really think that the KKK crashed the World Series? Yes, they probably did. As ridiculous as it sounds, they honestly believe that the KKK is a force to be reckoned with in modern American life and not just a negligible group of fringe yahoos who are justifiably held in universal contempt.

Apocryphal KKK sightings are becoming increasingly common. In April, the University of Indiana had a minor panic after news spread via Twitter that an honest-to-goodness klansman was prowling the campus—with a whip no less. Crisis was averted when it was discovered that the “klansman” was Father Jude McPeak, a Franciscan friar dressed in the white garment of his order. The “whip” was actually a rosary hanging from his belt.

At the height of last autumn’s racial unrest at the University of Missouri, word of klansmen on campus went viral—just in time to prove the student protestors’ point that their campus was infested with racism. As you can probably imagine, the whole thing was a giant hallucination. Payton Head, Mizzou’s student body president, did his part to amplify the panic by pushing misinformation (or, more likely, disinformation) through his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Payton Head is black, by the way, and one of the main instigators of the insane Black Lives Matter-inspired hysteria that rocked Mizzou in 2015.

The turbulent events of last autumn began when Head claimed that someone had screamed the n-word at him from a passing pickup truck. I have my doubts that such an incident happened at all because Payton Head is an agenda-pushing racial arsonist and a liar. We know this at very least from his tweeting about the illusory klansmen on his campus: “Students please take precaution. Stay away from windows in residence halls. The KKK is confirmed to be sighted on campus. I’m working with the MUPD, the state trooper [sic] and the National Guard.” The Twitter rumors only got more outlandish from there. Suddenly the imaginary klansmen were chanting “white power!” One Twitterer seemed to believe that klansmen were throwing bricks through dorm windows while enjoying police protection. How’s that for institutional racism?

Eventually Payton Head was forced to admit that the KKK was not on campus. Duh. “I’m sorry about the misinformation that I have shared through social media,” Head wrote on Facebook. “In a state of alarm, I was concerned for all students of the University of Missouri and wanted to ensure that everyone was safe. I received and shared information from multiple incorrect sources, which I deeply regret.”

But Payton Head was not duped. He claimed to have been working with the campus police, state police, and the National Guard. How could that possibly have been true when in fact there never were any hooded bad guys to speak of? Furthermore, the university says that the National Guard wasn’t even on campus. Payton Head told a ridiculous lie that was believed by far too many paranoid ninnies.

The only word to describe the insane fear of a weak and dying redneck organization like the KKK is paranoia. It occurs to me however, that many people don’t perceive paranoia to be a problem when racism is its subject. Given the negative connotation of the word “paranoia” they of course avoid using it, though they embrace it all the same. Dare I say that our society, or at least segments of it, considers paranoia of racism to be a virtue of sorts? Their attitude seems to be that racism is so utterly loathsome that there can be no such thing as excess when opposing it.

There are some people in this world, let’s just call them Social Justice Warriors, who see a racist under every bed. I am intentionally borrowing a Cold War phrase that was often used to discredit anti-communists for perceiving “a communist under every bed.” The phrase had a certain sting to it because it portrayed anti-communists as hopeless paranoids—which they weren’t. Anti-communists weren’t looking for communists under every bed but there were plenty to be found in Hollywood (Lillian Hellman, Dalton Trumbo), in academia (Howard Zinn, the entire Frankfurt school) in the news media (I.F. Stone, Carl Bernstein), and in the so-called “civil rights movement” (Bayard Rustin, Hunter Pitts O’Dell, Stanley Levison). By the late 1960s the communists weren’t even hiding anymore; they were waving Viet Cong flags and brandishing Mao’s little red books.

Yet despite the plethora of evidence that communists were indeed burrowing into our societal institutions, some particularly ignorant people still talk about anti-communism as if it were nothing more than tilting at windmills. Now, some 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union we’ve come to embrace paranoia—real paranoia—as something to be admired. The Don Quixotes of our time are Payton Head and his allies yet we don’t mock them for being wrong in the same way that we mocked anti-communists for being right.

The genuine paranoia of 21st Century race-baiters is excused because it indicates a supposed consciousness of racial issues. In the parlance of the Black Lives Matter movement these people are “woke”—which is to say that their eyes are open to the reality of racism in America. They see nothing wrong with crying wolf about racism because it shows that their hearts are in the right place. Recall Payton Head’s Facebook post in which he claimed that he was only worried about the students’ safety. And who could fault him for an abundance of caring? The rest of us who don’t see imaginary men in white bedsheets are miscreants for not perceiving racism in every aspect of modern American life. It’s a messed up world we live in when paranoids get to lecture the rest of us for not sharing their pathology.

Paranoia of any kind is unattractive and even dangerous. Granted, people will always disagree about what constitutes paranoia. If one person perceives a real threat and another does not, the second person will think of the first as paranoid while the first person will think of the second as blithely unaware. But which one is right? In a country where fake hate crimes regularly spur the population into fits of rage, I think we can safely say that the pathology resides mostly with the Social Justice Warriors. There’s nothing wrong with us but there is something very, very wrong with them. It’s time they paid a social penalty for their crazed antics. Laugh at them. Scorn them. Call them nutjobs because that’s what they are. Only when they cease to be rewarded for their supposed good intentions will the hysteria end.

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Benny Huang

Benny Huang was raised in deep blue Massachusetts. He strives to make the world a better place through his writing. He is a veteran.

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