On Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump stunned political observers when he tweeted a demand for the U.S. government to look into the "large scale killing of farmers" in South Africa.
I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
His tweet drew an angry response from the government of South Africa on Thursday morning. "South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past."
In reality, murders among South African farmers are at a 19-year low. But an ongoing conspiracy theory in white nationalist circles alleges attacks against white farmers in South Africa are a systematic plot to steal the land of white people and exterminate them from the country. Numerous white supremacists cheered Trump’s apparent endorsement of this belief, from far-right activist Lauren Southern, to Charlottesville “Unite the Right Rally” organizer Jason Kessler, to racist organizations like Identity Evropa.
More broadly, there is a narrative among white supremacists that South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime — which subjugated the country’s black majority, deprived them of virtually all rights, banned interracial marriage, and forced hundreds of thousands of people off their land and into segregated ghettoes called “townships” — was one of the only civilized societies in Africa, and that its toppling in the early 1990s was a mortal blow to the white race. This is exemplified by Dylann Roof, the white supremacist gunman who murdered 9 black churchgoers in Charleston, who wore the flag of the apartheid South African government on his jacket in a Facebook image.
The idea South African farm attacks are a mass conspiracy to commit white genocide has increasingly trickled into mainstream right-wing organizations. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and his frequent guest speaker Mark Steyn, promote the idea regularly. In fact, Trump’s tweet tags “@TuckerCarlson” and “@FoxNews”, suggesting that it was Carlson who put the idea in Trump’s head.
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