Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Here He Goes Again

The editor and publisher of a local paper in Alabama is under fire for penning an editorial calling for mass lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
Alabama newspaper editor calls on KKK to lynch Democrats
This is one of those stories that you just can't make up, because no-one would believe a word of it. It's so bang-on to the stereotypes that one wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was ham-handed attempt at parody.

But I find that it raises an interesting chicken-or-egg question. Did Goodloe Sutton publish "Klan needs to ride again" because he felt that the community and environs of Linden, Alabama would be receptive to the message or because he felt that he needed to push the area in that direction?

Or, for better or worse, was it because of a simple desire to sell newspapers? Mr. Sutton comes across as someone who believes what he wrote, but that doesn't change the fact that it's garnered him international attention, even if it does come across as a train wreck. And if train wrecks sell newspapers, might be worth it to take a backhoe to the tracks now and again. Because it very well could be that every copy of the newspaper that incredulous people could get their hands on was sold. The Democrat-Reporter doesn't publish online, and so the only way to get one's hands on the geniune article is to have purchased one. (I'm now curious if anyone's selling them on E-bay... just not enough to actually look and find out.) So it's possible that Mr. Sutton made a bit of money on this whole episode, although people who know him are saying: “Goodloe is just being Goodloe as far as I’m concerned.

And that lack of surprise is something of a double-edged sword. It makes perfect sense for people in the area to have cultivated enough of a familiarity with Mr. Sutton that they no longer bat an eyelash. But at the same time, that very indifference can also be seen as tolerance, and proof that racism is so common that it's normal.

It's not as if Mr. Sutton doesn't know what year it is, or what modern-day attitudes concerning the Klan (and White supremacy more broadly) are. And he's not backing away from his statements. The people in the area who have to live with this guy on a day-to-day basis likely can't afford the emotional energy to constantly be outraged. And so they simply shrug their shoulders and go on. It's easy for people in other places to become worked up about it, but they can put on a show, and then go back to whatever it was they were doing.

And that's the thing about outrage culture. It relies on people like Goodloe Sutton only popping up now and again, doing their shtick and disappearing again. A lack of outrage may be indicative of a lack of attention, but attention is not an infinite resource. And sometimes, it's better spent elsewhere.

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