Could We Maybe Not Have Actual Nazi Richard Spencer Opining About Racism On CNN?
Yesterday, during a segment on The Lead with Jake Tapper, audiences were treated (?) to a segment about how thrilled white supremacists were by Donald Trump's recent slew of racist tweets about Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.
This segment would have been a perfectly fine thing to do — good, even! — had they not capped it off with a completely unnecessary interview with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. All decked out in his Sunday best, because "optics," Spencer shared that not all white supremacists were thrilled by these tweets. In his opinion, Spencer explained, Trump throws "red meat" out to racists, and then doesn't even kick all of the people of color out of the country or whatever it is that assholes like him want. It wasn't the high quality racism he was hoping for, but rather the kind of racism espoused by a drunk racist uncle when he is yelling during Hannity.
There was no pushback whatsoever. It was just "Here is a Nazi" — excuse me, white nationalist — "in a suit and tie, sharing his opinion on this matter."
The initial headline wasn't too great either:
All you need to know about how it went is that Spencer and his goons spent the rest of the day bragging about it on Twitter. He felt it went quite well for him.
One of the biggest problems with this interview is that nothing in it could not have been accomplished without Spencer there. One sentence! "Some white supremacists claim, however, that Trump is all tweets and no action, and that while he says a lot of racist things, he's just not going far enough for their tastes, because they are even worse than he is." There you go! No satellite interview with a neo-Nazi necessary.
Someone like Spencer should only be on television if it is absolutely necessary that he be there, and if it is absolutely necessary, there must be pushback. He does not need to be on there for color commentary.
Quite frankly, a drunk racist uncle who yells during Hannity would have been a better choice of interview subject for this particular piece. The goal of such an interview should not be "Well let's hear these people out," it should be "Look at this foolish asshole." The white supremacists of today are extremely media savvy and extremely concerned with "optics" and presenting themselves as being as reasonable as possible, so the best bet is to bypass the shit out of all of them and find the people who are going to make asses out of themselves and those who agree with them. The things these people believe are ugly as hell and if you can't make that clear, you are not doing your job right.
I am not of the opinion that the only way to "handle" these people is always to ignore them until they go away. There are ways to cover this. There are even ways to do an interview with a creep like Richard Spencer, but it is not something just anyone can pull off. Phil Donahue was excellent at this, but absolutely no one on CNN these days is Phil Donahue. In Spencer's case, however, he has largely faded out of relevance, even among the alt-right. He was being ignored away. He's so happy to be back in the limelight.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse