HBO’s ‘Exterminate All the Brutes’ Is Antiracist Racism

If you have more than the proverbial 1/32 share of nonwhite lineage, Raoul Peck’s new HBO miniseries “Exterminate All the Brutes” will give you even more reasons to hate Western civilization and its alleged white supremacist roots. Coming away from this 240-minute exercise in Anglo-bashing, you will understand, more than ever, how every bad thing that happens to you in life is because you are a “person of color,” and every good thing that happens to you in life is in spite of an oppressive system of white supremacy.

In other words, it is simplistic, one-sided, negative, polarizing pablum.

It isn’t as if anyone needed Peck’s film. Every established European and American institution has been spouting the same message for years: Unless you’re white, don’t bother to take responsibility for your life, your education, your wealth, your health, your community, or your happiness. Just don’t bother. Because if you’re a person of color, you live in an oppressive society that must be destroyed before you can truly experience freedom.

There aren’t enough words to describe how many ways this hideous message is toxic to everything it touches—people of color, people of no color, nations, institutions, civilizations—and plenty has already been written. But in the context of Peck’s “masterpiece,” a few reminders are warranted.

You won’t find those reminders in the rave reviews that have poured forth. Predictably, establishment authors writing for Time, New Yorker, Daily Beast, Vox, New York Times, and so on are in a competitive frenzy to offer the most passionate endorsement.

With the notable and known exception of American Greatness, if any other negative review has been written, Google has suppressed it. But will any of them remind us that every successful civilization in the history of the world has arisen atop the bodies of its rivals? There is nothing “white” about war, conquest, or colonialism.

Consider this from the New Yorker

Peck tells a horrific thousand-year story of white supremacy and its enduring power. Starting with the Crusades and continuing through the so-called discovery of the New World and the colonization of Africa, Peck presents genocide—the killing of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Africans, and the Holocaust—as the essential basis of European and American power, wealth, and indeed, identity.

Despite Raoul Peck’s assertion at one point in his series that “there is no such thing as alternative facts,” there is also no integrity in emphasizing certain facts while omitting facts that don’t support the “white supremacy” narrative. 

Let’s start with the Crusades. It is true that European armies mobilized to fight in the Crusades from around 1100 until around 1500. But these incursions were in response to relentless invasions and conquests by Islamic armies, starting in the seventh century. Why ignore this fact? Why ignore the fact of Islamic conquests that overwhelmed the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, the Balkans, and if not stopped in epic battles, would have taken over all of Europe? Why fail to acknowledge Jerusalem’s status as a center of Christendom long before Islam even existed, or the militancy of these invading Islamic armies?

Inconvenient facts abound. It is true that Europeans, thanks to displays of individual and national vitality and courage that almost defy description, colonized North and South America and conquered Africa. But what was the status of the Americas or Africa before the Europeans came? Would anyone suggest the Comanche, Apache, Lakota, Cherokee, Dakota, Zuni, Chippewa, Omaha, Iroquois, or Ottawa were not warlike? That their tribal nations were not built on conquest, or sustained by violence? What about South America? Shall we examine the Inca, or the Aztec nations, without finding tales of invasions and atrocities that were as perennial as the grass?

Africa is certainly no exception. Hardly worth mentioning is the fact that slavery has existed throughout human cultures throughout history, or that Africans were sold into slavery by other Africans, or that the only thing unique about Europeans and slavery is that Europeans were the first people in the world to abolish it. But what about life in Africa before the Europeans came? Was it peaceful? Hardly. Again, some of the most revered and respected cultures in African history were also the most warlike. Evidence of this is written across that vast continent, in, to name just a few, the legacy of the Shona, Fulani, Masai, Mali, Oromo, Berber, Zulu, Abyssinian, Nubian, and Somali peoples.

This brings up an uncomfortable question. If the precolonial era nations of Africa and the Americas were just as warlike as the Europeans—and they were—what happened?

To answer this, suggesting the triumph of Europeans was merely attributable to their warlike nature, with all that implies—racism, tribalism, supremacism—falls short. Every powerful tribe in every part of the world had those characteristics. What gave Europeans the unique vitality that enabled them to amass wealth and master technology ahead of everyone else on earth? 

It was the strength of European institutions that gave them those advantages. 

Parliamentary democracy. Capitalism. Christianity. The Enlightenment. The unprecedented rise of respect for the God-given rights of each individual. These megatrends, unique to the European nations, were the source of their strength. Any other culture, anywhere, could have chosen this path of societal evolution and it would have flourished and become powerful rivals to the Europeans. But none did. That, too, is a fact of history, Mr. Peck.

A recent essay in American Greatness offers a far more rational path for people of color who live in the West. Written by Albert Turkington, a Malaysian immigrant with a Chinese mother and a European father, it is not only well-argued but also exemplifies the colorblind essence of the values and institutions that define the West. 

Turkington’s focus is on America, and one of his major points is that assimilation is essential to maintaining the American identity. He describes the tense relations between ethnic communities in Malaysia where diverse groups of people do not share traditions. And then he writes:

One of my fondest memories growing up was moving to a house that had an older set of encyclopedias and reading the nearly 100-page long entry for America. The heroic stories of the colonists and the pioneers who settled this land and built a country from nothing made me fall in love with this country. I understand through my lived experience that the vast majority of countries do not share these traditions, and we must guard jealously the cultural gifts the Anglos of yesteryear have bestowed upon us. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity given to me when I was able to immigrate to a country that I had no part in building, but nonetheless, I am able to enjoy. And as long as I am breathing, I will do all I can to defend it.

If Raoul Peck wanted to ease racial tensions in America, and if he wanted to see all people have opportunities to live with dignity, he would not have produced “Exterminate All the Brutes.” His movie is just another tired foray into antiracist racism that will engender further polarization. Instead, he could have offered an even more sweeping survey of world history that recognizes all the wondrous, life-affirming innovations that Europeans have given to humanity. 

It is important to recognize the brutal reality of human history, of man’s inhumanity to man. But where Peck, and leftists in general, fall short is in their failure to also recognize how much progress humanity has made. Despite tragic setbacks and unforeseen challenges, we may be living in the best of times for everyone.

With even better times to come.

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: HBO

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