|The Dude Was Really Into Flags . . .|
The reason is that it places two key elements in stark perspective. These are:
- The role of the black-on-white crime narrative that conservative media advances in Roof's radicalization.
- His cleaving to the Confederate Battle Flag for its symbolism of racial oppression.
Both of these are important elements of the GOP today: structural elements of their base and of their message. Both of them are cloaked in a layer of plausible deniability that his manifesto calls into direct question. Let's explore what that means.
The narrative of black-on-white crime is one that numerous conservative websites and alternate media advance. The gist of it is: Blacks are racially targeting whites and assaulting, raping, and murdering them en mass. The liberal media is covering this up for political reasons.
In his manifesto, Roof writes:
The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?
The Council of Conservative Citizens is a fairly stock-standard conservative news site. It is not notably more racist than The Blaze or Brietbart, for example. They have promoted knock-out-game stories and focus on any black-on-white attack. Here is what the FBI statistics look like for homicide for 2013:
|Race of victim||Total||Race of offender||Sex of offender||Ethnicity of offender1|
|Black or African American||2,491||189||2,245||20||37||2,217||237||37||76||807||1,608|
In all of 2013 there were no more than 409 black-on-white homicides in the entire US--but these stories dominate conservative media. Comparatively there were 2500 white-on-white homicides.
What the black-on-white crime narrative sells its conservative audience is a sense that they are not racists for their fear of blacks and their negative racial impressions of them (it also reinforces the idea that the MSM is lying to them for malignant, hidden political reasons). This "get out of racism free" card is very important to today's political racial dialog where in conservatives feel they are unfairly called racist at every turn when all they do is disagree with Obama's policies. It is important to be able to point to very bad things blacks do to whites in order to justify positions that, otherwise, could appear quite racist.
The Black-on-White crime narrative is a crucial supporting element of the GOP's social positioning in the face of extreme distrust and often personal, visceral dislike of America's first black president.
What does that mean? Well, let's look at point 2 . . .
The Confederate Flag
Mike Huckabee thinks he smells a rat in the persistence of the Mainstream Media's focus on the Confederate Flag:
"For those of us running for president, everyone's being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president, and my position is it most certainly does not," Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher, told NBC News on Sunday. "People want their president to be focused on the economy, keeping America safe. I don't think they want us to weigh in on every little issue in all 50 states."Is he right? Is the MSM baiting candidates (GOP candidates) on the flag issue? Well . . . no. The question has come up before: is the Confederate Battle Flag a racist emblem? Or is it a symbol of noble Southern Heritage? Could it be both? Is it unfairly targeted by the Social Justice Warriors of the Politically Correct movement?
The history of Confederate Flags and the Confederate Battle Flag are somewhat complicated and definitely contentious--what is not up for debate is this:
- The flags, all of them, flew over the armies of secessionist states that were fighting, at least in large part, for their right to continue to own (black) slaves.
- The Republican part itself was founded on the elimination of "two evils"--slavery and polygamy.
- Today at a political rally, if you see a Confederate Battle Flag displayed you know, instantly, that it is a Republican rally.
You don't have to get a lot further into the weeds to realize that while the exact meaning and use has changed over time, the flag was adopted as a segregationist symbol at the same time that states rights were used as the cover for states continuing Jim Crow and segregationist polices. Black people in the 20th century were right to see it as a symbol associated with continued oppression--however fair minded The Duke Boys were. From one of the above links:
This, in turn, helped to shape the meaning of the battle flag in American political and popular culture during the mid- to late twentieth century. It became a symbol of the States' Rights Democratic Party, nicknamed the Dixiecrats, which ran South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond for U.S. president in 1948. The Dixiecrats explicitly stood for what some considered to be the traditional values of the Confederacy—states' rights and white supremacy—and although they lost the election, their use of the battle flag helped to associate it with those values. According to a newspaper account, Thurmond's supporters in Richmond shouted the rebel yell and displayed what the newspaper mistakenly described as the "Stars and Bars." In the meantime, Richmond store owners reported that sales of the battle flag during the summer and fall of 1948 equaled or surpassed sales of the Stars and Stripes.The GOP has "ingested" the South in a fashion similar to what the Democrats did back in the days when Southerners, angered by their defeat at the hands of first Republican president Abraham Lincoln, moved to the opposing party and became the Solid South. Today, though, "owning the south" also means "owning the Confederate Flag." It's part of the package deal. That's why their candidates have to tap-dance around the issue of its removal: rejecting the flag would mean rejecting a key constituency of their base--something that would be deadly in a primary and possibly even lethal in a general election.
However racist the flag is (or may be) it is now part of the GOP's DNA. A flag-a-rectomy would break the party*.
What The Manifesto Means
The Council of Conservative Citizens has decided to adopt the position that anti-depressants (SSRI's) are responsible for the massacre. This is also the line Rick Perry settled on--that the problem is drugs, not guns--and not racism. The proponents of black-on-white crime stories have been able to say that they are just reporting facts (they don't make up stories--save for maybe knock-out-game hysteria). Apologists for the Confederate Battle Flag have long argued that whatever it might have meant over a hundred years ago, today it just means you're a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan or something.
These positions have some credibility on an individual basis--however they have gaping credibility holes as larger policy points. The manifesto draws a bright-line connection from them to violence in a way that is so clear that The Omnivore's bullshit detector weakly pings: the Manifesto is almost too perfect.
The document is clearly written and super-duper racist. It details the racial profile of each race and their weaknesses and position as enemies of white people. It's worth reading just for that. It also has numerous pictures of Roof at Confederate sites. It is clear that his appreciation for the Confederacy and the Confederate Battle Flag in particular was as a force (and symbol) of racial oppression--oppression he believed was necessary in defense of the white race because of what he read on conservative news aggregators.
If someone wants to ask what's the harm in correctly promoting stories about black on white crime? Or the implicit message in the flag? This manifesto and the blood on the church floor are all someone needs to point to as an example. Does this mean that everyone who flies the flag is a racist killer? Or that every black-on-white crime story is a trigger for atrocity? Of course not--but it also means that these messages--which are very important to the functioning of the party's base are being called into question in a way they have not been previously.
* Note: in this fast-moving story, we are seeing a sudden about-face by the party leadership on the Confederate Battle Flag. It will be interesting to see how the rank-and-file conservative southern base sees this move. The Omnivore suspects that when you have lost Walmart, it's over . . .