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The Federalist falsely accuses a black man of calling for white genocide, sort of

Elie Mystal: Does not actually want to kill white people

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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61 replies on “The Federalist falsely accuses a black man of calling for white genocide, sort of”


“The Secret” is as pernicious as word-faith/prosperity teaching.

That was rather my point. And that a lot of the ‘you can cure your cancer by the right diet’ sort of thing is the same as well, it’s all ‘the treatment can never fail, it can only be failed’ victim-blamey stuff.

@AsAboveSoBelow – I’m sorry, your example wasn’t a great one. I know what you were going for, this is just a bad example. ‘Cracking the whip’ means that you could easily hit someone. It’s going to punch and stopping, just to see someone flinch.

Re: ‘Mythology’ vs ‘theology’ – I’ve always found it weird how Christianity gets a special word to describe what is, in essence, the same thing as every other religion. *shrug*

@Nagflar : existence of the founder of the christian religion is not the same as existence of the Jesus of the scripture.

The only sure thing about Jesus, historically speaking, is that Christianism have been founded at some point, and his founder executed. While supernatural stuff like ressurecting Lazare and creating wine is almost certainly poppycock, even credible stuff like the temple altercation have no sources outside the bible.

Since I am not a Christian, I haven’t read the New Testament in depth and am not particularly familiar with Jesus. What I said earlier was not meant as supporting a literal interpretation of the Bible. I meant to distinguish Jesus, who was at least in some way a real person, from a wholly fictional figure such as Loki or Adam. I phrased this poorly, and I am sorry for misunderstandings I may have caused.

That was rather my point. And that a lot of the ‘you can cure your cancer by the right diet’ sort of thing is the same as well, it’s all ‘the treatment can never fail, it can only be failed’ victim-blamey stuff.

Yep. Plus ça change…

I believe in both god and jesus and I went to church every week when I lived with my parents. I don’t understand what is insulting and disrespectful about calling it “Christian mythology”. if people do not believe in God and they are not trying to attack me or call me stupid or naive, if they think Christianity and other religions are “mythology” it is difficult to disagree. stories and events from the past which mean things? which guide life and belief and behaviour? that sounds like mythology.

stories and events from the past which mean things? which guide life and belief and behaviour? that sounds like mythology.

I forget where I first read it (Wendy Doniger’s Other People’s Myths, maybe), but I love the statement that myths are “true stories.” No, they aren’t factual, but they communicate truths. The word “myth” is used a lot as a synonym for “lie” or “misconception,” and I think it muddies the waters so that people take offense where none was intended.

Generally speaking, theology is the academicization of mythology. It’s not unique to Christians, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism all have extensive theological traditions. Comes of being from literate cultures with large classes of religious professionals who mostly haven’t got any calls on their time besides complicated exegesis of their mythology. Other religious traditions generally have fewer members of the priestly class and give them more to do.

There’s a saying in the CoE: “Theology is what allows atheists to be bishops“.

Don’t you love when so-called Christians use that bible to justify their vile actions? We also need to put a muzzle on these would be commentators as well. Just saying.

I think a better description of works like the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost/Gained, and Pilgrims Progress are as fantasies based on Christian beliefs instead of Bible fanfic. Fanfics would require that at least some of the people featured in the Bible would be the main characters in the story. The Divine Comedy and Pilgrims Progress, at least, didn’t feature any Biblical characters as anything but very minor characters at best.

And there are discussions like this that make me want a good cultural translation of the Bible to exist, if it doesn’t already. A modern understanding of what the ancient storytellers intended as the actual lessons of those old tales could go a long way in fighting off the arguments of the Religious Wrong.

To use an example the RW likes to use a fair bit: Sodom and Gomorrah. They like to say the sin that led to their destruction was allowing homosexuality to exist; the ancient scholars thought a totally different sin was the one that God hated. Basically, that they violated the ancient laws of hospitality and helping the poor and needy to such a degree that God felt like something had to be done about it. The Wiki page has a decent discussion on that:

Maybe a cultural translation could help reframe that discussion towards what the more like sins were, and how close the current practices of both the GOP and the RW are to those old sins.

And there are at dozens of things like that in the Bible that could a translation like that to help show what the original writers were trying to say (the writings of St. Paul, for one). The possibilities are endless.

At least in my opinion; YMMV on that point.

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