Last night ESPN’s 6 PM Sportscenter host Jemele Hill chose the 16thAnniversary of 9/11 to go off on the fitness of Donald Trump’s white supremacy in a series of tweets responding to randos on the internet. “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists. Trump is the most ignorant offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period. The height of white privilege is to be able to ignore his white supremacy because it’s of no threat to you. Well, it’s a threat to me. Donald Trump is a bigot. Glad you could live with voting for him. I couldn’t, because I care about more than just myself. He is unqualified and unfit to be president. He is not a leader. And if he were not white, he never would have been elected.” You can see the full roster of tweets here. Apparently it was inspired by an argument about Kid Rock, connected to a protest of his performance at the Red Wings new arena. Surely that will stop him.
I asked Jemele to show her work and name the white supremacists Trump’s surrounded himself with. She didn’t answer – but her followers did, citing Steve Bannon, Seb Gorka, Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, Kris Kobach, and the Trump family themselves. So that’s two guys who are gone, the top Jewish staffer working in the White House, a former Republican Senator, a former Republican Secretary of State in Kansas, and a family of wealthy lifelong New York Democrats. That’s your indication of deep-seated white supremacy at the White House? These are the guys in white hoods carrying torches? And how exactly are they a threat to you?
For those of you who don’t know who Hill is, she stars as one half of the primetime version of ESPN’s marquee product. She’s also a perfect example of the real reason ESPN’s original programming is sucking wind: she’s a really lousy television host, having nothing to do with her politics. The SC6 branded show is not a good one, in part because you have two co-hosts who both are more serious and overly sincere than they are charismatic or quick with the snark. You don’t have the classic goofy/straight pairing, and they lack the tension of two co-hosts who disagree constantly. Neither is a particularly good interviewer, nor have they shown the ability to offer insight on sports that is deep, funny, or entertaining. The show is reduced to two fairly boring people sitting at a cramped table full of papers and laptops on a set that looks unchanged for the past twenty years talking about sports with less insight than a pair at the end of the neighborhood bar. Television is a visual medium, and visually, SC6 looks like local TV.
Stepping back from the ESPN issue, what Hill’s comments really indicate is how low the bar of qualification for white supremacy has become. Ben Shapiro, the conservative California radio host and author, has been planning to speak at Berkeley of late. The Anti-Defamation League noted Shapiro as being the leading recipient of anti-Semitic memes on Twitter during the past election, and he has been a leading critic of Donald Trump and the Alt-Right. But that hasn’t stopped leftists at Berkeley from describing him as a “white supremacist”.
Refuse Fascism, a group that has previously organized violent demonstrations in Berkeley, labeled Shapiro a ‘fascist thug’ and ‘white supremacist’ over the weekend.
‘Fascist thug [and] white supremacist Ben Shapiro is coming to UC Berkeley — The issue is not ‘Free Speech,” the group wrote in a Facebook post. ‘The Issue is Fascism.’
The post linked to a Refuse Fascism statement declaring that “Campuses must become FASCIST-FREE ZONES.
By preventing a Jewish conservative Trump critic from speaking? Okay then. But there really isn’t all that much difference between what the Antifa folks at Berkeley are saying, what Ta-Nehisi Coates was saying about Trump and the whiteness amulet, and what Hill is saying now: if you support anything associated with Donald Trump, you are backing white supremacy and are no different than the tiki torch marchers of Charlottesville. It’s of a piece with the definitions of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which comes across in this surprisingly well-done interview. When everything’s a hate group, dialogue becomes impossible.
Once the left wrapped itself fully in identity politics and convinced itself that America is inherently a white supremacist nation, patriotism and traditionalist ideas became indistinguishable from white supremacy. They are all of the same bitter origin and can have no redemption. And this view only serves to feed the tribalism of the current moment, and make it more permanent and ingrained in our society.
UPDATE: ESPN has issued a statement saying network officials have addressed Hill’s statements with her.
ESPN Statement on Jemele Hill: pic.twitter.com/3kfexjx9zQ
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) September 12, 2017