The network that popularized backwater racism and homophobia with Duck Dynasty is back to try it again with a new show exploring the “struggles with the internal families” of members of various Ku Klux Klan outfits. According to a tone deaf piece about the new show in the New York Times, the mini-series will include such nauseating scenes as the time a racist father gives his two young daughters their very first pointed hoods.
The setup is warm and fuzzy. “Girls, I got y’all some gifts,” says Steven Howard, presenting his two young daughters with prettily wrapped packages, which they eagerly rip into. The cameras then reveal what’s inside: the distinctive pointed hoods of the Ku Klux Klan.
“Giving my girls my legacy,” Mr. Howard says as he helps place them on their heads.
The show’s producers swear they aren’t trying to “propagate the views” of the KKK, but their logic is tortured.
“We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK,” said Rob Sharenow, general manager of A&E. “The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate.”
To that end they claim they will devote portions of the show to bringing in anti-hate group activists to try to teach the newly famous KKK members that they are wrong. It’s a strategy that will likely backfire.
Already, attempts to confront hatred through empathy for the racists themselves have been shown to do little to stop intolerance. Instead, these men will have the platform and legitimacy of a major broadcasting network to say things like “We all here for the same reason: We’re here for the preservation of our race and the preservation of our people.” For non-racists, the statement might seem absurd. For those on the fence, seeing a “loving” father say that calmly on television might actually make it seem more attractive.
The network already flirted with making bigots celebrities with Duck Dynasty, a show that prominently featured a man who believed black people were better off under Jim Crow and that AIDS was sent by God to punish homosexuality. The Robertson family would heavily merchandise their brand, with Phil Robertson parlaying his role in the show into gigs on Fox News and his bearded mug on t-shirts.
Making matters worse, hate groups like the KKK and various neo-Nazi organizations are seeing a surge in interest thanks to Trump’s rise to power. Given the race-baiting that defined Trump’s campaign, they found in him a kindred spirit. And with this air of power, there are troubling signs that hate group membership is on the rise.
As a direct effect of that, the number of hate crimes recorded in the United States has skyrocketed post-election, with Trump’s name being specifically invoked in many of them.
Now the KKK is getting its very own reality show. And given the partisan bubbles in which Americans now almost exclusively live, it’s unlikely that a few on-camera lectures from stern anti-hate activists are going to dissuade would-be KKK enrollees from signing on the dotted line. They are used to having outsiders lecture them. They are used to ignoring those pleas as well.
This is a very, very bad idea.
Featured image via John Moore/Getty Images