‘Why Do These Racists Keep Getting Hired by Us?’

One of the iconic Onion headlines of the late 20th century was 1998’s “Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?” The satirical first-person column is written by a stereotypical macho hetero male, who insists he has nothing against gays, but is growing increasingly outraged by the audacity of the many men who insist on orally pleasuring him in gym locker rooms, remote hiking trails, and random bathrooms.

For the irony-averse, the joke is that if you’re finding yourself increasingly homophobic after unwittingly receiving fellatio from many anonymous members of your own gender—while insisting you’re not gay and have no idea how you keep finding yourself with your pants down in the company of strange men—perhaps you’re overdue for a moment of honest self-reflection.

That quarter-century-old joke headline is reminiscent of what’s happening to many prominent voices and organizations among the ostensibly reasonable and respectable political right—as well as the right-leaning center. They insist they have no tolerance for bigotry, and yet, they keep finding themselves with their pants down in a room full of racists. And they don’t seem much interested in figuring out how or why it continues to happen.

NAZI STUFF IN CAMPAIGN VIDEOS, THE N-WORD IN CHAT GROUPS, AND EUGENICS IN THE UNIVERSITY

I can already hear the free speech tourists dashing off their libel lawsuit threats, but this isn’t even hyperbole, much less slander.

In just the past two weeks, the conservative/libertarian/heterodox-center’s relative comfort with online edgelord shitposters, “ironic” lib-trolling racism, and alt-right-adjacent race realism blew up spectacularly in its own face—as three young rising stars of the mainstream right were unmasked as being a little-too-cool with overtly racist stuff to be good for business.

Nate Hochman lost his gig with the Ron DeSantis presidential campaign after creating and posting a short video (from a campaign social media account) that ends with Nazi imagery superimposed over the candidate’s face as emotionless stormtroopers march in formation. Hochman was, until a few months ago, a staff writer for National Review—arguably the most prestigious mainstream conservative journal—and as a Claremont Institute fellow, an in-demand speaker at various right-wing intellectual events.

Hochman was also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow, where young right-of-center journalists are awarded $35,000 (according to the fellowship’s website) to help get their careers jumpstarted. Alumni of the Novak fellowship include the current editors-in-chief of the libertarian Reason magazine and the arch-MAGA site The Federalist, as well as the co-founder of the anti-Trump conservative site, The Dispatch. (Hochman was reportedly stripped of his Novak fellowship after he said Nick Fuentes, the white nationalist antisemite and Trump dinner guest, was “probably a better influence than Ben Shapiro on young men who might otherwise be conservative.”)

Photograph of Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL).

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attends a barbecue in Rye, New Hampshire on July 30, 2023.

REBA SALDANHA/Reuters

Put simply, he was as mainstream as it gets in right-leaning politics. And he was fired from Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign for posting Nazi shit.

A few days later, the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon reported that the pro-DeSantis journalist and influencer Pedro Gonzalez was again found to have contributed antisemitic, homophobic, and racist commentary in private messages and group chats. Among his other high-profile conservative media exposures, Gonzalez was a regular on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, which was regularly the highest-rated show on cable news. Again, this guy was a budding mainstream right-wing media star.

But it was Free Beacon reporter Aaron Sibarium’s tweet promoting his story on Gonzalez that proved accidentally revelatory about the modern conservative movement. Sibarium wrote, “Whenever I’m on a career advice panel for young conservatives, I tell them to avoid group chats that use the N-word or otherwise blur the line between edgelording and earnest bigotry. I’m often asked afterwards why I made a point of saying so. This is why.”

As you might expect, Sibarium’s tweet took on a life of its own, as many commentators from across the political spectrum argued it was evidence of a unique rot within the conservative movement itself.

“Kind of revealing that this advice is necessary,” tweeted center-left New York writer Jonathan Chait. “*scribbling in my notepad at Conservative Training Camp* n-word bad???” tweeted the left-leaning legal account, @Ugarles. “Like ‘don’t engage in cannibalism,’ this is sound enough advice, but if you routinely find yourself in company that requires it, maybe it’s a sign of deeper problems,” wrote Julian Sanchez, a former senior fellow at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.

“I said that I used to think accusations of ironic edgelord line blurring were overblown, but I’ve seen it become a far more common way for people to excuse flirting with (or fully engaging in) actual bigotry,” the right-leaning podcaster Noam Blum wrote. Bulwark contributor and former George W. Bush administration official Christian Vanderbrouk added, “My advice to young conservatives is to publicly denounce bigots and drive them out of the movement. Not sure it’s good career advice but you’ll leave things better than you found them.”

But it was Christopher Mathias’ scoop for Huffpost published on Friday that really ought to provide a “Are We the Baddies?” teachable moment for the right-wing commentariat, were they open to such soul-searching.

Young, intelligent, increasingly popular and influential in right-leaning media and academia, admired and supported by politically active right-wing billionaires. Doesn’t get much more mainstream on the right than that!

Richard Hanania, another rising star on the right known for his “race realist” takes, has published in numerous right-leaning publications—but also mainstream liberal outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post. He also used an alias for years to publish all kinds of much more explicitly racist bile on alt-right and white nationalist-friendly websites.

Once again, this is not hyperbole. He wrote as “Richard Hoste” for VDare, the notoriously racist anti-immigrant blog that regularly publishes white nationalists, and alternativeright.com—the original “alt-right” website founded by Richard Spencer.

Mathias also reported:

“Hanania has his own podcast, too, interviewing the likes of Steven Pinker, the famous Harvard cognitive psychologist, and Marc Andreessen, the billionaire software engineer. Another billionaire, Elon Musk, reads Hanania’s articles and replies approvingly to his tweets. A third billionaire, Peter Thiel, provided a blurb to promote Hanania’s book, The Origins of Woke, which HarperCollins plans to publish this September…”

Meanwhile, rich benefactors, some of whose identities are unknown, have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into a think tank run by Hanania. The think tank doles out cash to conservative academics, and produces political studies that are cited across right-wing media.”

As of this writing, Hanania is still scheduled to lecture at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in October. He was also a 2022 visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin’s Salem Center.

And he was advertised as a 2023 lecturer in “Forbidden Courses” at the University of Austin—the prospective college co-founded by former New York Times writer and editor Bari Weiss. (Semafor’s Ben Smith reported late Sunday that the anti-cancel culture University of Austin had canceled Hanania’s invitation after learning his writing used to be much more openly racist.)

“Hanania has continued to publish Substack articles that share the same obsessions as his former white supremacist pen name, Richard Hoste—IQ scores, eugenics, the need for fat-shaming—even if he writes about these subjects in a more moderate tone,” Mathias reported.

Young, intelligent, increasingly popular and influential in right-leaning media and academia, admired and supported by politically active right-wing billionaires. Doesn’t get much more mainstream on the right than that!

Hanania on Sunday responded to the Huffpost piece on his Substack, where he penned a Ben Shapiro-esque half-assed mea culpa that basically said, Sorry for that disgusting stuff I wrote, but I was just a kid and don’t do that anymore and talking about it at all is left-wing cancel culture.

“The reason I’m the target of a cancellation effort is because left-wing journalists dislike anyone acknowledging statistical differences between races,” Hanania wrote.

And while defending himself against charges of guilt by association (associations that include writing for the original alt-right website founded by the most prominent neo-Nazi in America), Hanania says of Mathias, “The journalist behind the piece is a supporter of antifa, and in the days before publishing his article he reached out to everyone he could think of to try and get them to cut ties with me.”

That sure sounds a lot like a “guilt by association” smear of a reporter who had the temerity to ask the many organizations that pay Hanania money if they have any comment on his long record as (at the very least) an alt-right-adjacent writer of unequivocally bigoted content.

Hanania describes his own racist writings as those of “a young LARPer with a tendency to get carried away with certain arguments, enamored by the romantic idea of grappling with supposedly suppressed ancient truths, simply couldn’t handle that level of nuance.”

It’s a ridiculously transparent attempt at a Jedi mind trick, “These aren’t the racists you’re looking for…” And yet it’s one that the conservative and center-right tribes simply will not stop falling for.

HAPPENS SO OFTEN YOU WON’T EVEN NOTICE

It cannot be understated that these unmaskings are merely the most recent. The ultra-right’s influence on the modern mainstream right remains pervasive, and there are few voices on the right willing to take on members of their own political tribe, to purge the poison, and maybe make the “big tent” just a little bit smaller.

The Libertarian Party’s paleolibertarian Mises Caucus believed the party was getting too “woke” (I’m not kidding) during Trump’s presidency, and successfully took it over at the party’s 2022 convention. Now the nominally pro-free speech LP’s national account tweets out calls to arrest teachers who talk about critical race theory, while some of its state accounts throw up white nationalist dog whistles when they’re not engaged in racist trolling.

 A man carrying a Confederate flag in the US Capitol Building during the January 6, 2021 Insurrection.

A man carries a Confederate flag in the US Capitol Rotunda on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.

Saul Loeb/Getty

And we’d be remiss to not recall that the thrice-indicted former President Donald Trump not only attempted a coup (for months, not merely on Jan. 6), but did so with the coordinated assistance of neo-fascist groups that included a guy wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt and another carrying a Confederate battle flag while they sacked the U.S. Capitol.

There was a subset of us on what was heretofore known as the center-right who, pre-November 2016, warned our erstwhile allies and colleagues of what was likely to come.

We argued that the calls for violence, the unabashed racism, and the “oh-they-don’t-really-mean-it” footsie-games with dishonest, edgelord provocateurs would swallow anything positive and righteous. And besides, these things were simply wrong, against our stated principles, and it’s the height of cowardice to whitewash horrible ideas just because they’re coming from people that are popular with the same uber-wealthy donors who keep the lights on at almost every right-of-center journalistic outfit, think tank, and university center.

For the most part, we dissenters were waved off as overwrought tools of “the Cathedral” or squishes desperately seeking the approval of the “woke.” But we learned that pissing off the right’s big-money donors for writing too stridently about Trump’s racism could cost you your job. While reporting from the 2016 Republican National Convention, I was expressly forbidden from writing for a libertarian outlet about a notoriously racist and Islamophobic pro-Trump event—where “friendly” donors and fellow travelers just happened to be lounging in the VIP area.

As the rise of right-wing media stars like Hochman, Gonzalez, and Hanania has shown, there are career-enhancing incentives to blur the lines between “just lol trolling” and overt racism and antisemitism—just as there are incentives to crying “cancel culture” and “wokeness run amok!” when those tendencies are exposed. (Likewise, there is a disincentive to forcefully oppose what’s popular among the in-group.)

There are, thankfully, still thoughtful voices of dissent on the right, but they are few. If I had to place a bet, I’d say the careers of Hochman and Hanania, in particular, won’t be on the canvas too long. When it comes down to it, you can only be “canceled” by your own side, and the rehabilitation efforts for these two well-connected right-wing media climbers are already underway

I don’t expect many of the high-profile political campaigns, think tanks, publications, cable news shows, and thought leaders on the right to ask themselves, “Why is it that racists, antisemites, and alt-right types keep finding themselves in influential positions in our movement?”

If you never ask the question, you don’t have to come up with an answer.

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