Ask any social justice leftist about the tweets by the New York Times’ disgraceful new hire Sarah Jeong, and once you’ve got them off all the red herrings about Trump/white supremacy/fascism/incoherent screaming, you will get an answer along the lines of, “Come on, Jeong’s tweets are just the cathartic way that social justice warriors of color vent their frustrations with white supremacy. It’s not like whites are under any serious threat from this rhetoric. Just let them vent, and check your privilege, because if you have a problem with this rhetoric, you’re suffering from Toxic Whiteness ™.”
I noted this blasé style of apology for Jeong’s rhetoric in the first installment of this series, with Zack Beauchamp of Vox being the most honest example of it, though others have since joined the chorus. And I understand part of it: the defense that Jeong’s rhetoric is intentionally extreme for ironic purposes is one that can apply with equal force to 4chan trolls, after all.
The elite has shown no interest in mainstreaming 4chan’s hyperbolic rhetoric, however, and if they did, 4chan itself would be so horrified at the prospect of being considered respectable that the site’s users would find some other way to scandalize everyone.
In contrast, Jeong’s worldview, if not quite the extreme way she expresses it, has been accepted happily by large swathes of the elite, who seem intent on forcing the rest of us to accept it, too. This means that at minimum, it deserves a greater level of scrutiny.
But even if you believe that the extremities of Jeong’s rhetoric are insincere, there is another problem: namely, the idea that this kind of rhetoric will always—and inevitably—be futile. This argument is so naïve that I have trouble believing anyone buys into it. Rather, I think many of them are following what Rod Dreher calls the Law of Merited Impossibility: It won’t happen, and when it does, you bastards will deserve it.
That being said, perhaps some of our media today are so sheltered and foolish that they earnestly believe rhetoric like Jeong’s will always remain harmless. Let me warn them: It will not. In fact, as I noted in my last article, we can observe what this rhetoric leads to in real time.
Jeongian Rhetoric in Action: South Africa
If you want to do that, just step off a plane in South Africa and witness the cataclysmic collapse of Nelson Mandela’s famed “Rainbow Nation.”
To no one’s surprise, Mandela’s vision of “peace and reconciliation” has become increasingly unsustainable as South Africa’s heavily socialist economy sinks deeper into recession, putting a huge majority of its black population in poverty, and earning an average annual income far below that of their fellow whites. Couple this with inflammatory (and incorrect) claims by the ruling government that whites own 80 percent of the land in South Africa—the number is actually closer to 15 percent—and economic anxiety combined with racial tension has produced a political environment deeply friendly to policies and rhetoric directed against the white population.
Most alarmingly, this year, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the South African constitution would be amended to allow the government to seize white-owned land without compensation: a move likely inspired by pressure from virulently racist radicals like Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the militant Black First Land First (BLF) movement. To no one’s surprise, this move has caused the South African currency to tank, as the market recognizes the obvious echoes of Zimbabwe.
Fighting “White Privilege” Reaps a Bloody Toll
This is as close to a bloodless policy wonk’s view of the situation as one can get. But the human side of the situation is much, much bloodier and more frightening.
Even before the calls for stripping whites of their land with no pay, there was very real victimization and cruelty being inflicted on a large chunk of the country’s white racial minority in the name of combatting so-called “white privilege.” The recent documentary Farmlands, produced by my longtime friend Lauren Southern, depicts some of these injustices in raw, lurid detail.
Southern documents a country essentially on the brink of civil war, in which racial violence is so politicized that even crime scene cleanup crews cannot talk about the racial trends in violence on-camera without fearing for their jobs. Not that they don’t offer plenty of horrifying details, including one story of a child having been boiled to death in a bathtub by attackers. Other farmers tell horrifying stories of seeing their families shot, execution style by attackers, or of witnessing the torture of their loved ones.
More frightening still is the response from the government officials that Southern interviews. One member of the ruling government says in almost these exact words, “Of course we’re not going to steal anyone’s land; we’re just going to change the law so stealing is legal.” A member of the BLF, meanwhile, openly threatens to murder whites on-camera for stealing the land that is “ours.”
As with so much of the rhetoric employed by fighters of “white privilege,” the actual story is much more complicated. While it is true that the British forcibly conquered what is now known as South Africa, and established Apartheid subsequent to that, prior to their conquest, the country had actually been settled by a group of former indentured Dutch servants (read: slaves)—the original Boer.
As Southern notes in her documentary, these Boer were far more likely to trade for land than to fight for it, whereas some of their native African neighbors, such as the Zulu, would often inflict monstrous violence upon peaceful Boer settlers, the most ghastly example being the Weenen massacre of 1838. In other words, these people got their land not by force, but through voluntary exchange, making their claim to the land vastly more legitimate than advertised by privilege theory. Moreover, it is mostly the descendants of these Dutch settlers—the so-called Afrikaners, who still speak the Dutch dialect of Afrikaans—who are the victims of the farm violence Southern depicts. In other words, when it comes to the revanchist attacks on white farmers, the Dutch are suffering for something the British did. But hey, all white people look alike, right?
I joke, but there is an even grimmer reason why these farmers are victims of this violence, and one that Southern touches upon only indirectly. One of the most poignant elements of her documentary, for example, features a journey to a white squatter camp, wherein families of three are holed up in makeshift tents and sheds that look like they were purchased at Office Depot. Those present in these glorified homeless camps speak of a government that has shut them out of employment with its Black Economic Empowerment policies, and left them to rot in the desert or on the street due to the glut of low-skilled black workers who employers are required to hire at a level proportionate to their level of the population.
Further, one of the more controversial elements of Southern’s documentary features a visit to a micro-state known as Orania. Ostensibly, Orania is a culturally homogenous but racially neutral place In practice, however, it is a whites only ethnostate similar to the blacks-only areas set up under apartheid. Southern has been criticized for being too uncritical about the success of this settlement (such as by noting that their crime rate is zero), but she is far from alone in pondering whether Orania’s segregated model might work. Nelson Mandela himself visited the settlement and announced his support for its existence (which is provided for in the South African constitution). Before it became completely unacceptable for the mainstream media to approach racial issues in other countries with nuance, CNN produced a story pondering the same uncomfortable question about whether Orania, as politically incorrect as it is by American standards, could be a successful model for getting South Africa’s economically disadvantaged whites back on their feet in the face of an indifferent-to-hostile government.
Finally, a group that Southern has also been criticized for speaking to are the Suidlanders, a survivalist militia group dedicated to preparing for the prospect of literal racial warfare within South Africa, and which acts as a DIY private security force for the embattled white farmers.
The Suidlanders’ leader, Simon Roche, is a controversial figure, as he has spoken at white nationalist conferences, while also billing himself as a disaffected member of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party. Like the Orianians, in other words, he’s a character who would come off as a fringe crazy person anywhere but where he actually is—namely, in a country where the white underclass has every reason to feel itself imminently in danger of being attacked or possibly even exterminated by some of the more unscrupulous actors in government.
Where Is the “White Privilege” in South Africa, Anyway?
And that’s the key word that Southern doesn’t touch: underclass. As she correctly notes at her documentary’s end, South Africa is not actually a country facing the prospect of genocide, though the warning signs are most definitely there. This is not only because, as Southern has made clear in subsequent interviews, many poor black people could also be hurt or even starved in the event of a Zimbabwe-style economic collapse, and fear that eventuality. Nor is it only because the government has not officially sanctioned or called for the murder/ethnic cleansing of whites: it is also because not all South African whites are victims of the non-governmental hate crimes, which often seem close to genocidal: the privileged white elites in Johannesburg and other major cities have little to fear.
Rather, the victims Southern depicts are vulnerable white people. Unskilled white people. White people afflicted with drought and hardship. White people who the white upper classes have little to nothing in common with, possibly not even the same language. In short, they are poor white people. White people who, if they did possess some fictional white privilege, would possess only that privilege and no other, because every other form of social hierarchy is stacked against them.
Put another way, they are deplorables.
Jeong as American Malema
Which brings us back to Sarah Jeong. Jeong’s tweets would be right at home with racist radicals like Julius Malema, as would her supporters’ defenses of them.
I can prove it. Malema was actually convicted of hate speech in 2011 for leading his followers in a song titled (charmingly) “Kill the Boer.” Malema’s defense at the time essentially was that the song was a celebration of black empowerment, and that the words shouldn’t be taken literally. I mean come on, who actually would shoot the Boer?
Gee, that sounds familiar.
Now, obviously, I am not suggesting that South African style attacks on poor whites are in America’s immediate future. Nor am I saying the explicit kind of reparations-style land and property seizure being endorsed there is just around the corner here. That would be ludicrous. South Africa’s black population constitutes 80 percent of the country. Here in the United States, blacks only number 13 percent of the population. A South Africa-style crisis here is, for the foreseeable future, impossible.
No, what South Africa shows us is something grimmer: namely, a society where elite status is such a blinder on the wealthiest people of one race that they willingly ignore policies and behaviors that approach genocidal character against what Dickens would have called “their hungry brothers in the dust.” A society where an arrogant elite assumes that its status is so impregnable that they can tolerate hate speech, violence, and persecutory policies explicitly directed at all people like them, just because they assume their own privilege is so great that tolerating that behavior is magnanimous. In other words, a society where Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil” is inflicted not by one race against outsiders, but by one race against others like themselves out of sheer indifference, contempt, or desire to reinforce their own status.
And as we will see, that is a future we very much have to fear.
Next: The Trail of “White Tears”
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