Tribalism Redux

This morning, I made my usual bi-monthly visit to my old online home, American Thinker, just to see how dank the place has gotten since my time there. Interestingly, I find that on Monday, their top article was a review of Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, Richard Jewell, by none other than George Zimmerman, he of the infamous Trayvon Martin shooting case. Zimmerman used the occasion of this “review” to draw parallels between his own struggles with the American justice system and those of Mr. Jewell, who was falsely accused in the Atlanta Olympics bombing in 1996. 

Aside from the fact that the two cases are entirely dissimilar — no one disputes that Zimmerman shot Martin dead, whereas Jewell was in no way involved with the bombing — what interested me about AT’s choice to publish this item, and to post it as the top-featured story even on a Monday loaded with topical news, were two things, neither directly related to Zimmerman’s legal case per se.

First, one of the reasons I finally took and deep breath and said bye-bye forever to my old friends at AT was that I was disturbed by the editors’ lack of effort (I’m trying to be polite about this) to weed out the obvious minority strain of white supremacist vitriol from their readers’ comment threads. I had rarely seen anything remotely approaching that level of racial invective in any other major “conservative” media outlet’s comments, and it had grown, during AT’s sellout to the Trump cult, from a few very obnoxious outliers to a steady stream of collectivist morons. I talked about this once with a friend who was also a long-time AT contributor, and he raised the issue with AT’s publisher, whose response was something about how he couldn’t do anything to control or regulate the comments, which is complete bunk.

It seems to me that one of the reasons AT became attractive to such idiots in the first place is that they tended to post a significant number of articles specifically related to racial issues (including the Zimmerman-Martin case for a long time), many of them of a tone that was not necessarily “anti-minority” in itself, but that was inartful and angry enough to draw flies, since such pests are always seeking “hints” or “dog whistles” of their spiritual kin. And AT has continued to post such borderline inflammatory pieces over the years, this new and completely irrelevant Zimmerman “movie review” being a case in point.

In general, I find AT to be far too comfortable using racially charged stories to stir reader emotions, which is irresponsible in itself, and also attracts exactly the kind of readers that a website with the word “Thinker” in its name ought to be looking to discourage. I myself have often written about racial issues, including at AT, but I always approach such matters from my strongly — one might almost say ostentatiously — individualist point of view, and to frame them in rational, rather than emotional, terms. Finally, however, I realized I could not feel comfortable posting anything related to race on that site anymore, regardless of approach or tone. Too many punks around spitting on everything.

Secondly, as I perused Zimmerman’s short article, and then scrolled quickly through some of the comments, I could not help composing an imaginary reader’s comment in my mind, which I will share only with you here in Limbo:

Is anyone at American Thinker aware that back when the Zimmerman case was the hottest item in the conservative blogosphere, including here at AT (we all had at it, but Jack Cashill led the charge), Donald Trump — you’ve heard of him, I presume — posted a short video of himself blasting Zimmerman as a “bad guy,” and has also called Zimmerman “a sicko,” “bad news,” and “no good”?

Just asking for some former friends.

I confine that comment to my readers here in Limbo, since I don’t really need to see my e-mail inbox full of “F— you” messages from the cultists.


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