Trump’s Latest Dog Whistle to White NationalistsThe president says he's investigating what he calls large-scale killing of farmers in South Africa. His rabid base has heard him loud and clear.
Whether calling neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville “very fine people,” sulking through a disavowal of the Ku Klux Klan or sharing Islamophobic videos from British ultranationalists, Donald Trump has whistled to white supremacists time and again. Wednesday was no exception, as the president took to Twitter—hours after a “Fox & Friends” interview with him was broadcast by Fox News—to indulge in one of his favorite pastimes: stoking racial enmities.
I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
Trump’s tweet was in response to a segment by Fox commentator Tucker Carlson exploring South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to expropriate and redistribute the country’s farmlands. In Carlson’s febrile telling, the Ramaphosa government is “stealing private property for racist reasons.”
The reality, as is so often the case with Fox News, is something else entirely. While the proposal is a subject of heated debate, replete with public hearings across several provinces, South Africa is attempting to reckon both with its history of colonialism and apartheid, as well as a present of grinding inequality. (White residents, who constitute 9 percent of the population, own as much as 35 percent of the South Africa’s land and 73 percent of its farmland.) Ramaphosa contends the plan will grow the country’s economy and agricultural output, telling officials in January, “We can make this country the Garden of Eden.”
Trump’s claim about a “large scale killing” of white farmers, meanwhile, is patently untrue. According to The New York Times, such murders have actually plummeted to a 20-year low over the past year. But what Carlson will never admit, and the Times astutely acknowledges, is that this conspiracy theory has emerged as a favorite talking point on the alt-right. For proof, one need look no further than the responses from some of the movement’s most prominent voices:
The default Republican position has been to conveniently ignore the plight of White South Africans.
Trump–spurred by Tucker, whose report was, in turn, inspired by @Lauren_Southern–has changed the game.
— Richard ? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) August 23, 2018
Very big. Trump has addressed the situation in South Africa, and mentioned whites as a tangible group, even if in quotations. It may seem like a small thing, but this is how we slowly chip away at the all consuming anti-white discourse. Let’s hope this is followed with action. https://t.co/tHO3pK6ujM
— Mike Peinovich ?????? (@MikeEPeinovich) August 23, 2018
This is huge https://t.co/WsE1PZkEgo
— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) August 23, 2018
“Earlier this year, the Suidlanders, a group of South African white supremacist survivalists who believe in a coming race war, took credit for spreading the farmer panic and the wider concept of ‘white genocide’ around the world,” writes Splinter’s Sophie Weiner. “On a trip to the U.S., representatives of the group lobbied alt-right organizations and figures like former KKK grand wizard David Duke to support their cause. They described the trip to the Mail & Guardian as ‘very blessed.’ ”
South Africa’s foreign affairs minister was quick to correct Trump, chastising him for a “regrettable” tweet based on “false information,” while the South African government issued a scathing rebuke of its own:
South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past. #landexpropriation @realDonaldTrump @PresidencyZA
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) August 23, 2018
“It is extremely disturbing that the President of the United States echoed a longstanding and false white supremacist claim that South Africa’s white farmers are targets of large-scale, racially motivated killings by South Africa’s black majority,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “We would hope that the President would try to understand the facts and realities of the situation … rather than repeat… racially divisive talking points.”
A spokesman for Ramaphosa notes that the South African president has been made aware of Trump’s remarks but prefers to address the tweet through diplomatic channels. Patrick Gaspard, who was U.S. ambassador to South Africa in the Obama administration and whom Trump has yet to replace, summed things up succinctly Thursday morning:
Wait, before you go…
The President of the US needs political distractions to turn our gaze away from his criminal cabal, and so he’s attacking South Africa with the disproven racial myth of “large scale killings of farmers” This man has never visited the continent and has no discernible Africa policy
— Patrick Gaspard (@patrickgaspard) August 23, 2018
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