How do you falsely accuse a black man of calling for white genocide, when you know full well he didn’t actually call for any kind of genocide?
Well, if you’re David Marcus of The Federalist, you might do it by pretending that you’re making some sort of meta argument about how the left gets away with rhetorical excesses that would never be allowed on the right.
But before you get to that, you start with this categorical accusation:
In a feisty segment on Sunday’s “A.M. Joy,” Elie Mystal of Above the Law made an inflammatory comment in which he said white people who voted for Donald Trump should be destroyed.
When The Federalist tweeted out a link to Marcus’ piece, using similar phrasing, fans of the publication reacted with predictable outrage, accusing Mystal of “hate speech” and “racism” and “inciting mass murder.”
“Well, if that isn’t a call, for an all out, guns a blazing in the streets, Civil War…… nothing is!” declared one especially outraged Tweeter.
Yet another suggested that comments like Mystal’s deserved some sort of divine intervention, possibly imagining it might come in the form of a thunderbolt.
On Twitter, Marcus made his insinuation even blunter. “I feel like there’s a word for suggesting that the majority of a racial group should be destroyed,” he wrote in a Tweet that was retweeted more than a hundred times.
There was just one problem: Mystal didn’t actually call for anyone to be literally “destroyed.” He was calling for those who oppose Trump to beat — to destroy — Trump fans at the ballot box. Here’s the full quote:
You don’t communicate to them, you beat them. You beat them. They are not a majority of this country — the majority of white people in this country are not a majority of the country. All the people who are not fooled by this need to come together, go to the polls, go to the protests, do whatever you have to do. You do not negotiate with these people, you destroy them.
It’s abundantly clear from context that he’s not talking about physical violence; he’s talking about winning at the polls.
But, knowing the propensity of right-wingers to take quotes out of context, the host of the show that Mystal was on, Joy Reid, jumped in to try to prevent someone like /Marcus from ginning up an invented controversy through deliberate misinterpretation.
“And by the way,” she declared, “the black man said ‘beat them,’ meaning in … an election.” Mystal himself added that he was using a “figure of speech.”
Marcus, of course, left these clarifying remarks out of his piece, in which he did exactly what Reid feared someone would.
Instead of acknowledging his rhetorical sleight-of-hand, Marcus went on to sniff indignantly about a supposed “double standard” in political hyperbole, in which Trump and his fans are criticized for talking about an immigrant “invasion” while liberals and leftists can get away with … suggesting that one should beat one’s political rivals at the polls?
When [Trump’s] supporters use fiery language and hyperbole, it is incitement to violence, but when progressives do the same thing, it is justified outrage.
Even the most generous interpretation of his comments — that “beat them” and “destroy them” mean at the polls — leaves some very troubling question. [sic] Are all of these tens of millions of people to be shunned and kicked out of polite society? If they are so horribly irredeemable that others cannot communicate or negotiate with them, what would Mystal have us do with them?
Mystal didn’t say anything about shunning anyone. And even if he had ,so what? Not getting invited to a barbecue is not the same as genocide.
More to the point, saying that it’s not worth trying to convince Trump supporters to come over to the Democratic side is not the same as declaring refugees to be some sort of invading force.
But why am I even bothering to respond to any of the details in Marcus’s piece? I’m sure most of those who reacted to his headline, or the first couple of lines of the piece, never bothered to actually read the whole thing. I don’t think they were supposed to.
It looks an awful lot like the real point of Marcus’ piece wan’t his meta argument; his piece looks, rather, like little more than a cheap rhetorical ploy — a crude, bad faith attempt to smear Mystal, and give the false impression he really did call for white genocide — as both the title and the start of the piece suggest. The rest of the piece, I think, is there largely to cover Marcus’ ass — though he knows, and I suspect hopes, that most people won’t read much past the headline.
Ironically, this whole invented controversy makes clear that Mystal was right: there’s no point in communicating with disingenuous asshats like Marcus who argue in such extravagantly bad faith. We need to vote Trump and the GOP out of power, and we need to send people like Marcus back to the political fringe where they belong.
And no, I’m not inviting any of them to any barbeques either.
— David Futrelle
Brand New Ugly highlights stories that are emblematic of the political and social ugliness of Trump’s America. Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.
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