In the span of a few days, Dilbert — a cartoon lampooning workplace culture by Scott Adams — was dropped by hundreds of newspapers. The backlash was in response to a racist rant that Adams posted on YouTube in which he described Black Americans as “a hate group” and advised white people “to get the hell away from Black people.”
Adams was reacting to a poll by Rasmussen Reports, Donald Trump’s favorite pollster. The survey of 1000 Americans asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “It’s OK to be white.” Overall, 72% of Americans said they agreed with the phrase and 12% said they disagreed. Among Black Americans, 53% agreed and 26% disagreed.
Adams concluded this was evidence that “nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with White people.” But it probably reflects a greater familiarity among Black Americans about the origins and use of the phrase used in the poll. “It’s OK to be white,” or IOTBW, was created by racist trolls and later adopted by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
“It’s OK to be white” was popularized in 2017 on the 4chan message board, a popular hangout for online racists and other trolls. The phrase had floated around 4chan for several years, and was used synonymously with another racist rallying cry, “white pride.” In October 2017, “an anonymous author suggested printing the saying on flyers and placing them on high school and college campuses.” The point of the flyers was to provoke a backlash that can be used to “prove” that the media is “anti-white.” This would convince “normies” — a derisive term for non-racist white people — that the media hates white people and ultimately persuade some of them to align themselves with the alt-right or white nationalism.
Brian Friedberg and Joan Donovan, researchers at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, documented how the campaign to inject IOTBW into the national consciousness through fliers was highly organized. [Continue reading…]