The Forward on ‘Operation White’

Over at the Daily Jewish Forward, Sam Kestenbaum waxes neurotic on “How Tucker Carlson Boosted The Latest ‘Alt-Right’ Meme Campaign”:

Earlier this month, Fox News host Tucker Carlson railed against what he said were liberals sowing “racial divisions” throughout America. Carlson riffed off a Washington Post article about a principal at a Maryland high school investigating an incident in which someone posted flyers proclaiming, “It’s Okay To Be White.” Carlson was exasperated. What was so controversial about this?

“Being white, by the way, is not something you can control,” Carlson said. “You shouldn’t attack people for it, and yet the left does constantly — in case you haven’t noticed.”

Somewhere, “alt-right” trolls and meme posters cheered: One of their meme campaigns, conceived in the dark corners of an online chatroom late last month, was making headlines — and being defended on a prominent news network. Carlson’s defense of the “It’s Okay To Be White,” flyer was yet another example of how the “alt-right” creatively disguises and popularizes white nationalist ideology.

While the meme is only about a month old, it follows a certain pattern of slogans and images promulgated by the white nationalist “alt-right.” For example, the white nationalist group Identity Evropa has been ramping up campus outreach efforts by circulating flyers that say, simply, “Only We Can Be Us” or “Become Who You Are.” Other posters in this vein include messages like, “I want you to love who you are” and “Don’t apologize for being white.”…

Of the meme’s origins:

Late last month, posts began circulating on the site 4chan, calling for members to place posters with the slogan “It’s Okay To Be White” in public places as “proof of concept” that a “harmless message” would cause a “massive media sh*tstorm.” Some took to calling it “Operation White.”

The troll operation was launched Halloween night, according to screenshots of a 4chan post, and detailed seven simple steps. The plan? Make “normies realize that leftists & journalists hate white people, so they turn on them.” A hashtag circulated, #IOTBW.

4channers printed out the memes of the slogan and distributed them in public spaces, closely following media reactions. When network news began reporting on the emergence of the flyers, describing them often as white supremacist slogans, the trolls cheered. They had provoked — or “triggered,” in “alt-right” slang — their perceived enemies in the culture war.

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