A Man Called X: On #BoycottStarwars
But then: turns out, it was the work of a few white supremacists, trying to start a movement. Twitter got angry, made it a thing, suddenly, it was trending. It was a dingier Live-Aid, for the secret affliction of White Genocide, the most effective tactic of which is casting John Boyega in a movie instead of poisoning a Chipotle, I guess.
Suddenly, the internet brain trust decreed: we're okay. Journalism screwed this one up, back to work everyone. This wasn't actually a thing. Twitter rage is fallible and stupid. That's a pretty generous version of the truth: casting racism as a random aberration, a game of online telephone, where the players start out whispering the 4 Noble Truths and end saying they’re feeling California and looking Minnesota.
So let's talk memes. Richard Dawkins coined the term, presumably before the inability to bring honey aboard a plane ruined his ability to engage in critical thought. Dawkins, on memes: "We need a name for a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme."
Let's take a "unit of cultural transmission" to mean the simple spreading of an idea, "a unit of imitation" to mean how an idea is parroted. Let's treat the idea of white genocide as a meme that transmits and becomes a unit of imitation.
It begins with a white nationalist. A couple of guys on Twitter, whether they actually think it matters or not, they say, Boycott Star Wars VII. A bunch of incensed people retweet this saying, "Jesus, this is bad," etcetera. There's no movement they’ve defeated, but that's a coin they get to put into the slot of "I've done my good liberal work for today". Pats on the back, drink tickets, someone sexy hops out of a cake and licks buttercream icing off their index finger.
Here's the thing though: it doesn't work on them, but it's not supposed to.
Now, we're gonna invent a guy we'll name X. X is white on the internet. That's all we need him to be. He can be rich, middle class, poor, whatever. I don't want to drag this into a class thing, because this nominally is a white thing. I refuse to believe poor, middle, or rich has a corner on the market of racism but merely that politesse denotes it should be hidden.
X is in some way disenfranchised, because fortune doesn't spread it's graces evenly. If he's living comfortably, he's not getting the attention he feels he deserves from the college of his choice. He might be academically achieving but have no friends. He could have a 4.0 and solid friends but he's a virgin and some of the guys he think are his friends razz him about it. Something eats at him.
To battle whatever disenfranchisement he has or to ignore it, he's ended up on seamy corners of the internet. Let it be said I'm not discussing pornography. But, he's ended up in places where certain disenfranchisements is a norm. But instead of a support system, it's more akin to a pit of hungry dogs gnawing off their own tails and bleeding all over the place. And part of that chewing their tail off thing is blaming something about it. And maybe their disenfranchisement isn’t their fault, maybe it’s simply bad fortune, but, whoever they're blaming, it isn't the problem. Rather, it's what they perceive as the problem. And a lot of times, it’s race.
Now X isn't a white cloak and hood racist. He thinks minorities are people. He's not the kind of guy who commits a hate crime. But, in that corner of the internet, his wheels start turning and he sees something that makes sense to him, that speaks to his disenfranchisement. He thinks, "I'm not racist but they have a point on that one regard..." Whether it’s getting laid, paid, or into school, there’s a convenient scapegoat in other races. Which, if your existence is to be the answer to someone else’s troubles, then obviously you’re inferior. So by nature, it’s white supremacy to blame another race.
So now whenever X ends up in situations where race comes up,he is the “yeah, I’m not racist, but…” guy. Or more likely, he finds another “I’m not racist” guy he feels more comfortable with, and they fall together in mutual inability to recognize how much of a back pat that “but” is.
But then something big comes up. Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and people start citing the wealth of evidence about our race problem. And in those corners of the internet, because like Oscar Wilde said, they say they deserved it. Or making jokes, which are confessions that won’t call themselves that. It’s more normalized. Now he chips in more frequently, because it’s a topic on the table and this is the only place he can says something. It continues to be normalized. So on and so forth. Sooner or later, his arguments aren’t that different than most white supremacists. White supremacy has became a unit of imitation.
This is starting to sound like a form of the gateway drug argument: if you go on the internet, joke around on wherever, the next thing you can expect is to be a member of the Klan. That’s facile to argue. In our ever-so enlightened state, we all think of the Klan as the real bad guys. They’re the Empire. I don’t expect X to set a cross on fire on someone’s lawn.
I expect him to drive past the cross. He’s seen so many on fire it doesn’t really strike a nerve. Unless he laughs or says, “This doesn’t happen that often.”
Now, what I said about #boycottStarWarsVII not being about converting liberals? I believe the original posters were really trying to bring notice to their cause in whatever back-ass way they come up with. This is what I was getting at. It’s a war of attrition. Sooner or later the small burning coal of intense anger at injustice gets extinguished and people quit caring or come up with “Now, I’m not racist BUT I do think it’s a little ridiculous that they need to have political correctness in my space kung fu cowboy movies.” Our chief failing is we’ve made racism the province of wackos instead of something that lives in people we’d least expect it to.
That’s the game. That’s how the terrorists win. White supremacists, neo-nazis, whatever, have, in a way, fallen on a sword so oblique rules about dress codes and immigrant characters on sitcoms can thrive. They’ve terrorized and placated people into a misunderstanding of what racism really is and where it lives in its most effective form: in red tape and doublespeak, in seemingly innocuous gestures.
That’s why #boycottstarwars is a problem. It wasn’t a movement. It was an attempt to create a movement because racists understand racists better than we do. Get enough men named X together, you can close planned parenthood or make a white hood a Halloween costume. Because they support it, silent or speaking.
The internet’s comedy runs on the Mel Brooks adage: “Tragedy is when I cut my finger, comedy’s when you fall into a sewer and die”. But when people keep falling into the sewer, it’s not funny anymore.