Leave it to CNN to point out hate from a public figure. Unfortunately, Richard Spencer was attacking media, not promoting anti-Semitism.
Social media lit up earlier this week after CNN posted a chyron claiming alt-right leader and white supremacist Richard Spencer questioned if Jews were actually people.
— Maia Efrem (@maiaefrem) November 21, 2016
The chyron received plenty of backlash from people who were understandably horrified by the idea of someone suggesting a race wasn’t human, along with people who were offended at the language CNN used. CNN host Jake Tapper wasn’t happy with the language used, and the news network eventually apologized.
There’s just one problem: Spencer wasn’t referring to Jews. Don’t believe me? Here’s video from Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown.
Oh goddammit you guys. Alt-right founder Richard Spencer was very very very clearly talking about media, not Jews, with soulless comments pic.twitter.com/tnC7xFhFlg
— Elizabeth N. Brown (@ENBrown) November 21, 2016
So Spencer is referring to the media, not Jews, in his speech. It’s still inflammatory and, as a journalist, highly offensive to be considered inhuman. It also shows Spencer doesn’t believe in freedom of the press, and wants to silence those who don’t agree with him. Which is scary.
The other bit which is scary is the entire conference Spencer spoke at. The alt-right (or alt-Reich, as I call them) appears to be full of fascist nationalists, who despise Jews and want to see them destroyed. Bethany Mandel wrote at Forward how she’s been targeted by anti-Semites, including deciding to buy a gun for protection.
“…I was on the receiving end of an influx of hateful and personalized tweets inspired me to finally purchase a gun,” Mandel, who is a Jewish convert, wrote. “I’d applied for a permit earlier this year. Here in New Jersey, a state where it isn’t exactly easy to avail yourself of Second Amendment rights, my husband and I decided to obtain the means to protect ourselves.”
It’s obvious the antisemitism is there, but it doesn’t behoove alt-right critics to do half-truths as a way to criticize Spencer and his ilk. It’s just as likely to backfire on those who want to see the alt-Reich destroyed, as it is to actually work. Suppose you have a white man or woman who isn’t happy with the way America is going, and is concerned about how their neighborhood is changing. It’s completely possible they might actually join the alt-right if they see the CNN chyron, investigate what was said, and discover the truth about Spencer’s comment. The person could decide to no longer trust traditional news sources, and be driven to sources and authors which promote Spencer’s ideology. A similar parallel could be made between a Muslim who doesn’t necessarily like the West, but doesn’t embrace jihad. They could end up joining a terrorist group if they happen to see some talking head on TV suggest, “all Muslims are potential terrorists,” (something which isn’t true).
The best way to expose a philosophy is to be truthful about it. No half-truths. No lies. Just be truthful. CNN’s decision to lie on its chyron does nothing to help those who are intent in seeing the alt-right destroyed because of their nationalistic beliefs and hateful rhetoric. All it does is enforce the idea the major networks can’t be trusted in their coverage. Yes, everyone has their biases, and that’s fine. But the networks need to be honest about their biases. It causes too much problems when they aren’t, which could be one reason why Donald Trump won the election over Hillary Clinton.
It’s confirmation bias at its worse. There will be people who do not believe anything published by CNN, ABC, The New York Times, Mother Jones, Washington Post, etc. because of past sins, and the fact people like their biases confirmed. Others won’t look at stuff published by The Daily Caller, National Review, Reason, or Rare for the same reason. It’s a frustrating situation because there are plenty of times where the opposite side can make good points on issues. It doesn’t mean every piece should be believed, but it doesn’t mean every piece should be discounted because it came from a “liberal (or conservative) rag.” Perhaps if more outlets were truthful, more people would be willing to listen.