The mask on the Beltway media’s embrace of white nationalism keeps slipping

The mask on the Beltway media’s embrace of white nationalism keeps slipping
Gage Skidmore

One of the important factors in the rise of white nationalism is the way it has been normalized within the national media — treated at best as an afterthought, a purely fringe phenomenon that we really needn’t worry our heads about, with coverage often accompanied by warm fuzzy features remarking on how normal these neo-Nazi types can seem in real life.


People both inside and outside the media business often wind up scratching their heads in wonder that this sort of thing can happen even in an age when there is ample information on the toxicity that white nationalism represents. But the more we learn about the alt-right and its tentacles, the clearer it’s become that there are people situated within the media mainstream who in reality are silently sympathetic to these causes, and they are influencing the decisions over what gets covered and how.

A recent BuzzFeed piece by Rosie Gray does an excellent job of exposing how white nationalism has managed to insinuate itself inside the Beltway media ecosystem, mainly through a coterie of ostensibly mainstream conservatives who, it seems, are extraordinarily tolerant of neo-Nazism. It recounts the saga of Katie McHugh, an alt-right provocateur who moved in the right-wing Washington circles of Breitbart, The Daily Caller, GotNews, and WorldNetDaily, and who now deeply regrets the error of her ways.

It’s not entirely clear from the piece that McHugh has come to terms with the deeper issues around the work she did in helping propagate a vicious brand of white nationalism surreptitiously, under the guise of “conservatism.” It’s certainly not clear that she has yet reckoned with the real damage she did and her obligation now to do what she can to repair it, but time will tell on that front.

On the other hand, she clearly is regretful for her past actions, which is where everyone needs to start on the road to recovery from the grip of hateful ideologies. And she deserves credit for taking that biggest of all steps.

She also has started out by performing what is probably a huge public service in exposing much of the inner workings of the Beltway media white nationalist coterie. Editors and other reporters who operate with supposedly mainstream credentials are shown to be co-players in the white nationalist propaganda they all engaged in, though they all deny doing so.

Appropriately enough, the nexus of this coterie is none other than Tucker Carlson, both his Daily Caller news operation, of which he is co-founder but no longer publisher, as well as his daily Fox News program. As McHugh describes it, the vast majority of the surreptitious white nationalist organizing occurred within the ranks of Daily Caller staffers, heavily flanked by a full complement of Breitbart writers.

Some of the more prominent white nationalist movement figures—such as Kevin DeAnna, McHugh’s former boyfriend, who has long been on the radar of the Southern Poverty Law Center for his youthful organization of campus white nationalists in the 2000s—apparently operated more on the periphery, while their close friends occupied media positions inside the Beltway.

McHugh, you may recall, was fired from Breitbart for an overtly racist tweet about Muslims (“There would be no terror attacks in the UK if Muslims didn’t live there”). Of course, it was not actually the most racist thing she had ever tweeted out, but her timing was indiscreet, and she got caught in a media crossfire and was shown the door after having been a protégé of Steve Bannon’s, all while attending truly weird neopagan events:

McHugh sometimes accompanied DeAnna on weekend trips down to the Wolves’ headquarters for what they called a “moot” — a ceremony in which the assembled Wolves would smear ash on their bodies around a fire and give what McHugh described as “dramatic speeches” about self-sufficiency and relying on the other group members. They would then sit around the fire and drink beers.

The Wolves placed a heavy emphasis on masculinity. The women would prepare food for the gatherings earlier in the day before the moot commenced, according to McHugh. The Wolves were into a “Centurion Method” of physical fitness; a video still on YouTube shows DeAnna and Paul Waggener, one of the founders of the group who used the pseudonym “Grimnir,” taking turns lifting up the trunk of a car filled with cement blocks, scrambling around on a bunch of debris, and squatting while holding logs.

What we also learn is that there is a reason the same fellows grunting around campfires to establish their masculinity are eager viewers of Tucker Carlson: his news operation has provided a home for a number of them. Indeed, Snopes.com last year explored the striking extent to which Daily Caller writers have expressed white-nationalist views. Now it’s also clear why that is.

There is a reason that white nationalists avidly watch Carlson’s nightly Fox program in hopes of gleaning talking points and ideas. There is a reason the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer’s favorite pundit is Carlson (Andrew Anglin calls him “literally our greatest ally”). There is a reason the chat boards and other white nationalist haunts positively hum with chatter over Carlson’s TV broadcasts (“Tucker is a national treasure and will be the catalyst for real social change”; “At best, he’s a gateway for us and they know it”).

Of course, Carlson is not alone in the Beltway media in promoting white nationalist talking points. His cohort at Fox Business, Lou Dobbs—one of Donald Trump’s favorite punditsmouths an endless stream of white nationalist and authoritarian talking points as well.

However, it’s obvious that Carlson’s sphere extends well beyond just the frame of the Fox network, and into a much darker world altogether. Nor is he alone.

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