A white gunman, bent on killing African Americans, shot 10 people dead and wounded three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York

Op-Ed: The stench of American racism – Buffalo shootings show how accepted racism is in US society


A white gunman, bent on killing African Americans, shot 10 people dead and wounded three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York – Copyright AFP Anwar AMRO

Fanaticism is now a flavor of America. You gotta be rabid, doesn’t matter who or what is the subject. The polarization is so severe that any sort of threat or actual racial violence is now and still part of the furniture in US politics. The main difference is that racism is now so acceptable in US right-wing politics.

The Buffalo shootings have unearthed some hideous statistics to back up the facts. One of which is that mass shootings are becoming more common in grocery stores. …For the convenience, perhaps? Added to this is the irritating stat that “13% of mass shooters are racially motivated”.

Maybe the Land of the Free Nutcases is taking itself for granted. So far, there have been no retaliatory shootings. Maybe Black America is a bit more grownup than the Alt-Right. Well, most people are; but can you assume someone’s not going to get pretty annoyed about this sort of thing?

The economics of hate

This is something I wrote as a submission for The New York Times in 2015. It didn’t get published, but it’s still much too true enough:

If the Charleston massacre was a hideous atrocity, it had commercial power for an entire global industry. The White Power icons worn by the accused shooter were covered on just about all news media. The coverage omitted to mention the multi-million dollar global trade in all types of hate merchandise, but it was great advertising for that trade.

The “idealism” comes with some highly remunerative commercial values. Hate merchandise is the dream merchandise of any retailer: No copyright, no royalties to pay, and a lot of historical imagery, bogus or otherwise, to back it up.

If you search Nazi merchandise online, and check out the images, you’ll find just about anything which can have a swastika printed on it. The Jewish Journal discovered Nazi memorabilia being sold on Amazon, “again” in 2013 as Rabbi Yonah Bookstein said, referring to prior sales issues in 2008.

They still do, in 2015. You can get anything from actual uniforms to accessories and more. If you want a Heinrich Himmler action figure, it’s there. These things retail around the $1000 mark, or less for “used” Himmlers. If you want a “German Youth Dagger” with scabbard, complete with the reassuring recommendation that it was the type used by the Gestapo, it’s a snip at around $20. It’s also basically a rebranded flick knife.

One store keeps details of its sales and views. The store sold 164 Nazi T-shirts in 30 days, with over 6000 views. The other thing of note – The store is in Japan. Globalization of hate really is a massive trade. Estimates of revenue vary, and they aren’t well defined. They’re certainly not reliable and research has a few obvious problems, but at least one estimate in the mid-2000s was in the tens of millions of dollars in Europe alone, per year.

The nature of the industry is based on propaganda, old and new. Polarizing societies is definitely good for business. The occasional massacre is good for sales, as well as delivering whatever message you’d like world media to cover.  It’s pretty similar to the Islamic State online media campaigns, in that way.

If you know anything about merchandising production values, you’ll get another message from the modern hate industry – The merchandise has gone way upscale in terms of production quality. This is “designer hate on demand”, in one sense, and the upmarket merchandise is quite expensive to produce.  That means there’s plenty of money to pay for production.

So- Has hate become “another mucking middle-class trade”? Undeniably, yes. This is no cottage industry. Forget the ideologies and millions of deaths, this is business. Don’t be too surprised to see books or other products called “How to Succeed in Genocide Without Really Trying” or death squad franchise opportunities. The rationales are also saleable, and “How to Be a Better Bigot”, with diagrams, can’t be far away.

(I’m sort of sorry the NYT didn’t publish it. These issues are the basics and it’s only got worse. Most people don’t know these things because media rarely covers the mechanics of hate. Racism is funded, merchandised, and promoted in the US like high fructose candy. Trump made it a lot worse, and they kept the money from the merchandising. It’s like organized crime in that sense.)

This can get a lot worse, fast

Responsible behavior in US politics is a bit unfashionable. It doesn’t have the folksy charm of people getting shot every day, for example. Nor is anyone accepting any liability, another great American political tradition. There are reasons for this. For one thing, “responsibility” is hard to spell for people who claim to have college degrees and don’t like to mention the subject, Another issue is that nobody’s responsible for anything.

Add to this the obvious fact that promoting hate is big business. This is where it gets nasty. Like the gun lobby, which is also a business, not an ideological thing, the ammo for hate and racism is propaganda. That’s all you need. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen, because there’s nothing stopping it. Nothing at all.





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