Radicalization Concern Trolls and the new Apology Tour

In 1999, when I was lobbying to defeat Georgia’s hate crime bill for the first time, I coined the term “Apology Tour” to describe grasping politicians who try to score points by very publicly proclaiming their guilt for some racist act in their distant past.  

Such timed confessions aren’t really about atoning for personal error: they are one-upsmanship attempts to project accusations of racism onto anyone who doesn’t apologize as loudly as you do — and also fall in line with your politics.

During the 1999 debate in the Georgia General Assembly on the hate crime bill, a Republican state legislator memorably teared up at the podium as he recounted how he had once been rude to his family’s black maid.  He refused to kiss the maid goodby when he was going off to college, he said, and therefore, he would be voting in favor of hate crime laws — because, apparently, nothing says ‘sorry for being a jerk thirty years ago’ like systematically destroying the sacred principle of equality before the law for crime victims.  And everyone else.

What the legislator was really saying is this: I refused to support the hate crime bill because I was a racist.  Now that I have atoned for my racism, I support the bill.  Ergo, everyone who refuses to support the hate crime bill like I do is a racist.

After pronouncing his racial guilt in terms that would make a Maoist re-education guard sniffle, the legislator went on to perform his story of regret again and again before rapt audiences.  He received awards and went on TV and made a profitable cottage industry out of differentiating between his woke self and the knuckle-dragging neanderthals who didn’t have a family maid to apologize to.

This isn’t to say that coming to terms with one’s own complicity in — or witness to — injustice isn’t a worthy thing to do, if that is really what you are doing.  For example, in 1991, then-New York Times editor Howell Raines published Grady’s Gift, the story of the black woman who had worked as a domestic for his family in Birmingham, Alabama.  Raines managed to be pretty insightful, chagrined even, at discovering the limits of his role as the teller of Grady Hutchinson’s life and his desire to involve other people in his condemnation of the past.

But that was way back in 1991.  Today, the New York Times is less a newspaper than a delirious re-education camp, where “whiteness” and “white privilege” are ritualistically and relentlessly denounced.  “Are white people genetically disposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins?” writes Times editor Sarah Jeong.

Wallowing in the pseudoscience of “white privilege” is second only to excusing oneself for global warming in order to take that trip to Paris as the animating pastime of the current elites.  This creates a metaphysical problem for the Times: what do you do with a newspaper written mainly by white people and read mainly by white people which aims to denounce white people while still attracting advertisers selling Patak Philippe watches and Samabe Bali resorts?

Enter the apology tour.  What you do, if you’re the Times, is curate high-profile opportunities for white people to apologize for being white by lashing out at other white people for not being loudly regretful enough for their own existence.  These performances eerily echo the “struggle sessions” imposed on political prisoners in Mao’s re-education camps, and to the same effect: the non-conforming are threatened with consequences and the loudest and most masochistic apologizers are elevated over their less demonstrative peers.

Two articles in the Times this week feature youths performing the exhibitionist rituals of race apology for a national audience.  This new willingness by the paper of record to exploit very young people is further on display in a Sunday Times article that profiles a dangerously mentally ill 20-year old who is both taking hormones to grow female breasts and binding those breasts to conceal them, which the Times celebrates as a “rejection of the gender binary.”

In “The Making of a YouTube Radical,” author Kevin Roose promotes the online “apology tour” of 26-year old “college dropout” Caleb Cain.  Cain claims he was turned into a racist and sexist by watching videos on YouTube but has since cured himself of his toxic beliefs by watching YouTube videos by leftists accusing conservatives of being racists and sexists.  

According to Roose, Cain started out as a “liberal who cared about social justice, worried about wealth inequality and believed in climate change” until he happened upon a Stephen Molyneux video on YouTube and became “radicalized.”

The Times article was originally illustrated with short videos of Jordan Peterson, Milo Yiannopoulos, Joe Rogan, and Ben Shapiro, among others. Though they are not mentioned in the article itself, these (very politically different) men are thus used to illustrate political “radicalism.”  The text goes even further, describing the people who purportedly influenced Cain as neo-Nazis and white supremacists — placing Peterson, Yiannopoulos, Rogan, and Shapiro within the author’s sliding scale of “neo-Nazism” to “milder forms of bigotry.”     

Using the claims of one attention-seeking young man as a jumping point, Kevin Roose and the Times smear the entire conservative blogosphere as “hate speech.” Using the excuse of concern trolling over YouTube’s algorithms (which are good when they help “cure” Cain of his “radicalism disease” by watching leftists) they also smear conservative speech as being uniquely pathogenic, capable of infecting and sickening unwary viewers merely through passive exposure. 

This disease reference is not metaphoric: both Cain and Roose literally believe that Cain was infected with dangerous ideas that took control of him and overpowered his progressive thinking.  In other words, YouTube clicks are to white privilege pseudoscience what measuring head circumference is to the pseudoscience of phrenology.        

Roose actually illustrates the disease metaphor with a chart showing Cain growing “sicker” as he clicks through purportedly conservative sites (few of which are actually conservative), then healthier as he gradually rediscovers leftist sites.  This is a story, Roose theatrically claims, of “a disillusioned young man, an internet-savvy group of right-wing reactionaries and a powerful algorithm that learns to connect the two.” 

Caleb Cain’s role in this is to present himself as an innocent victim of ideas packaged so insidiously that he is unable to resist them.  It should be noted that Cain is a young man from rural West Virginia who was raised by his “conservative Christian” grandparents.  He is thus the sort of person who enters the pages of the Times only as a “whiteness” problem to be solved or an enemy to be vanquished — unless, that is, he can prove his worth by publicly denouncing whiteness, ruralness, conservativeness, and Christianity.  Throughout the article, he performs these rituals of denunciation, apologizing abjectly for being things like Christian and male and white, to the beaming approval of Kevin Roose. 

Here is Roose’s concern trolling for his little sample-of-one: 

Far-right ideology bled into [Cain’s] daily life. He began referring to himself as a “tradcon” — a traditional conservative, committed to old-fashioned gender norms. He dated an evangelical Christian woman, and he fought with his liberal friends.  “It was kind of sad,” said Zelda Wait, a friend of Mr. Cain’s from high school. “I was just, like: ‘Wow, what happened? How did you get this way?’”

According to the apology tour template, Zelda Wait is the normal, while Cain’s grandparents, who raised him, are deviants requiring immediate removal from the public square.  Cain’s choice to very publicly reject the values of his grandparents — to announce to the world that they are pathological and racist — are the reason he is courted by a Times reporter and rewarded with a feature story, albeit one written with the sort of condescension reserved for lower-caste people who try to ape the mannerisms of Times cognoscenti.

And then Ross Douthat, the Times’ resident “conservative” and professional apology tour surrender monkey weighs in. Does Douthat criticize his Times colleague for smearing people like Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Milo Yiannopoulos (would it kill him to Americanize his name?) and Ben Shapiro with the “white supremacist” libel? Do popes shit in the woods? No, they don’t, they shit on gold toilets, but Douthat predictably shits on conservatism while claiming to be worried about it.

It’s not the libelous racism slurs that trouble Douthat: it’s that his pal Kevin Roose just doesn’t get that Ross Douthat is a goody conservative who cares about family dissolution, not a baddie conservative who cares about family dissolution but also stuff like welfare dependency and border control. Here is Douthat’s response to the Times putting all right-of-center ideas into a great big box labelled KKK.

Imagine a furry little ferret adorably sniffing a truffle as he types this:

I have some doubts about categorizations that purport to define the moment when respectable conservatism becomes dangerous extremism.

Gee, thanks Ross. Maybe you and Justin Amash can do some Big Brother Little Brother intervention with Caleb Cain to protect him from the incongruous klavern that includes Milo, Ben Shapiro, and Joe Rogan.

But conservatives aren’t the only victims of this sort of journalism. What sort of long-term psychological effect might it have on a young man like Cain to have his private habits, an early life crisis, and his grandparent’s beliefs dramatized as a morality tale about prejudice in the pages of the Times?  Kevin Roose and his editors certainly don’t care.  Ross Douthat and his smelling salts don’t care.

The article really only uses the lower-class Cain and his drama to smear a wide range of non-leftist thinkers as racist purveyors of “hate speech.” The article is also a warning to other non-elite Caleb Cains: admit that you are complicit in white privilege, or else.  Think and watch and repeat the correct things, or expect to one day be labeled and destroyed. 

The other apology tour article,  “Few Talked About Race at This School. Then a Student Posted a Racist Slur,”is even more disturbing.  Putatively, it is the story of an apologetic white girl and a brave black girl who “confront racism” at their school.  In reality, it is the story of a young girl who is attacked online and in public by her friend and her school principal and an army of administrators and diversity professionals and her town and the New York Times and leftists all over the internet after she is videotaped singing along to the lyrics of a rap song she hears in a car.     

But it’s for her own good, and the good of humanity itself.  Because it starts a discussion of racism.

The Times article begins with large photographs of the two “sheroes” of the tale, the white girl who posts the video of her friend and the black girl who acts out over it to the point of being arrested for some type of violence which the Times and her principal carefully cover up.

Here is how the Times describes the near-riot in the school over the video: 

Kloey’s post helped set off a violent clash the following Monday that involved students, teachers and police officers. The scuffle ended with a black 16-year-old girl being tackled and arrested. That prompted the school’s handful of black students to demand that the school take on its culture of racism. Their efforts led to messy, uncomfortable conversations that would have seemed impossible not long ago.

Messy, uncomfortable conversations that would have seemed impossible not long ago.  A “violent clash” that “involved” “students, teachers, and police officers.”  

How much do you want to bet there’s nothing accurate in either of those descriptions?

The young woman, Kloey, is the grasping ugly American apology tourist here.  Like all children indoctrinated in public schools where the adults are eager to find any incident to pump their diversity training into overdrive, Kloey is already fluent in the narrative of race apology.  She claims to feel bad for putting her friend on the internet, she says, but she probably did it because she had a relative who used the same slur.  Or maybe not, but that’s what she thinks must have happened.

Jane Austen wept.   

The person Kloey throws under the bus is her friend who was merely singing along to a song in a car.  The slur is a slur sung by a (presumably black) rap star, though nobody is demanding that Sony Music apologize.  

Kloey is a bright-eyed girl who has her family and her upbringing and her friend to blame and nowhere to go but up in the hierarchy of race accusation.  The article ends with her “awakening,” thanks to weekly diversity trainings and encounter sessions and that consciousness brawl, of course, and being featured in an article in the New York Times,with her face all over the internet as the girl who woke up:

Slowly, Kloey said, she began to understand how the world still viewed black and white people differently. It made more sense, she said, why the word continued to resonate so painfully with black people.  “I feel bad,” she said. “I didn’t care what others thought and I didn’t care about others.”

Despite her SAT scores, Kloey can now probably get into college by writing winsome essays promoting her apology tour.  Conversely, given the publicity she’s received, it’s doubtful she will be able to get into any college if she fails to enthusiastically make a public spectacle of her shame.  This story will define her as she marches through life, pausing to loudly regret her whiteness if she knows what’s good for her.  Kloey is 16.  

Where are her parents? What sort of teachers and parents and school superintendents and journalists get off on exposing young people to life-altering accusations of racism in the national media and on the internet? 

Well, this type:

Jeffrey S. Elstad, the Owatonna superintendent, said that what happened was a “wake-up call” for the predominantly white school. “Race for us is something that we don’t have to think about all of the time because we are white,” he said. “Our students and our families of color think about race all the time. As white people, how are we O.K. with us just, only when it’s convenient, talking about race?”

Cue the drumroll to Jeffrey S. Elstad’s apology tour. It’s a particularly grotesque one. He gets to polish his identity politics street cred by exploiting a bunch of adolescent girls in the New York Times — pure gold for a Minnesota public school official.  He gets to cover up multiple acts of violence on his watch by posturing that the minority students who committed the violence were rightfully provoked by some alleged tidal wave of prejudice — really just an adolescent girl singing along to a rap song, but who cares?  If you’re Jeffrey S. Elstad, you have to crack a few eggs to get to the magical diversity omelet where everyone ‘talks’ about race or is lectured to about race all of the time, instead of learning stuff like math.

Of course, Elstad also knows what will happen if he doesn’t prostrate himself before the media and start apologizing abjectly.  A decade ago, the Obama Justice Department helicoptered into his school district because a student wrote a paper mildly criticizing the influx of Somali refugees and immigrants to the town.

Think about that very carefully.  The Justice Department threatened a Minnesota high school because an adolescent dared to criticize a federal immigration policy.  A Justice Department investigation. And an Education Department investigation.  Of a high school.  Over one student’s paper:

In 2009, the school was subjected to a joint investigation by the federal Education Department and Justice Department after a scuffle broke out among white and Somali-American students over a paper written by a white student that suggested negative stereotypes about Somali-Americans.

 Suggested negative stereotypes.  A scuffle broke out.   

 Does anyone believe either of those two descriptions are accurate?

So perhaps Jeffrey S. Elstad really had no choice but to go full apology tour when the Somali students began breaking out in scuffles again.  Perhaps, this time, he was primed to throw any available 16-year old girl under the bus because he knows what happens if he doesn’t feed some disposable, of course non-Somali, white sacrificial virgin to the maw.  And the silver lining is, this time, he gets to be the person praised in the New York Times for having that important conversation about race that nobody’s having enough even though it’s really important and it’s terrible that they’re not having it:    

School leaders introduced trainings on race for teachers and students. They brought in diversity experts and hosted community events and forums. A mediator was called in to lead meetings in which the white students involved in the racist posts and the black students hurt by them discussed what had happened.

White youths were forced into federally overseen “mediation” with black students, some of whom had physically attacked them, because someone white sang along to Kanye West using the “N” word. 

Does anyone really believe that racial apology tourism will remain optional for the rest of us?  Two departments of the federal government descended on a school in Minnesota because a kid who was apparently assigned to write a paper about how he felt about mass third-world immigration into his town wrote something that allegedly — allegedly — “suggested” a “negative stereotype”?

If this doesn’t keep you awake at night, what will?

In the comments to the Few Talked About Race article, a “Cloey” (hmm, Kloey, Cloey) posted this:

I attended this high school from 2006-2010, and I am amazed that it took this long for the problem to escalate enough to a point where school administration decided to bring in specialists and work on the problem. This has been a problem in this community for so long, with more community members that the high schoolers struggling with racism. I am proud, however, that a group of strong-willed, passionate teens stood up and started talking about race, a very difficult thing to do in general, but especially in a small town.    

Specialists to work on the problem.  Teen saviors reporting thought-crimes to the “specialists.” What could go wrong? This comment got the Times Editors Pick and 520 upvotes. 

We are all marching towards the re-education camp.       


4 thoughts on “Radicalization Concern Trolls and the new Apology Tour”

  1. Coming over from Althouse.
    Going to poke around a bit.
    Interested in the thought you shared about legislative push.

  2. You DO realize, don’t you, that were it not for my lovely wife of 46 yrs, I would propose marriage INSTANTLY. (that “music of the spheres” thang, ya know) :)

    PS: WARNING! My wife has given up trying to give me away, and now is willing to pay people to ta

  3. Sorry I’m just back at the desk again! I sure do need spare change, always. I do this as a labor of love. Check out my new (long) post on Bill Ayers and Barack Obama. I’m starting to blog regularly again. Thank you for the encouragement.

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