If you aren't naturally attuned to the frequency at which internet conservatives are currently shaking with rage, you might've been surprised when you visited right-wing aggregation site the Drudge Report this morning and were confronted with the following headline, in 40-point type: "'N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER. N*GGER.'" Clicking on the headline wouldn't satisfy your confusion: it linked to The Hollywood Reporter's review of Quentin Tarantino's new slave-revenge movie Django Unchained — a review that barely touches on the word's use in the movie. It's just a review.
So why did Drudge link to it with that headline? Welcome to the mass right-wing Django Unchained freakout.
When I first heard that Quentin Tarantino was directing an epic western about a slave taking violent revenge on the vicious plantation owner who (literally) stole his wife, I figured the inevitable outcry over its treatment of race would come from the left — Tarantino, after all, isn't the most subtle or complex thinker of race in the U.S.
As it turns out, the people really bothered by the racial politics of Django Unchained (which doesn't even come out until Christmas) are the gutter commenters of the internet right and their enablers in the conservative media. You'd think that maybe the one time scared conservatives could stomach the sight of a black man killing white men is in the context of vengeance for an unspeakable crime. But in the world imagined by the extreme conservative web, a world constantly under the threat of race war, there is no acceptable space for righteous black violence — not as a firsthand depiction, not as secondhand reference, not as fact, not as fiction, not in the movies, and not on TV.
Drudge's attention-grabbing headline, elucidated over the course of the morning in a series of smaller headlines, was an oblique reference to the frequency of the slur in the movie, and Tarantino's own, much-criticized history of using it in his scripts. It's hard to take Drudge — who's obsessed with black people to the point of fetish — seriously on this score, though: is the guy who uses his national news site to hype stories of marauding black teens really, all of a sudden, taking Spike Lee's side on something?
That's a rhetorical question: no, he doesn't care that Tarantino writes "nigger" into his characters' mouths 80-plus times in Django Unchained, in which a slave played by Jamie Foxx seeks to free his wife from a vicious plantation owner. He's just used his particular genius for understanding white American racial anxiety to seize on its newest front line.
This isn't the first time Django Unchained has been on the Drudge Report this week. On Monday, it got a photo and headline above the main story: "UNCHAINED: Foxx Jokes About Killing 'All The White People' In New Movie..." Above the headline, Drudge had a production still of Foxx, in a cowboy hat, holding a revolver.
The link took readers to Jamie Foxx's Saturday Night Live monologue, which was one of Monday's big "stories" in the online conservative media. "Black is in," Foxx had riffed. In his new movie, he said, "I play a slave. How black is that? [...] I get free. I save my wife and I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that?"
The National Review Online, not usually in the habit of linking to SNL monologues, linked to this one. The uncharacteristically flat description didn't really explain why the venerable conservative publication was calling attention to the video:
In his opening monologue last night on Saturday Night Live, host Jamie Foxx joked that President Obama would be "extra black" in his second term. He went on to tell the audience that "I get to kill white people" in his upcoming film Django Unchained, and asked, "How great is that?"
But if you were confused why NRO pimped Foxx's monologue, NRO commenters weren't. "He's obviously one of those people who isn't opposed to the 'culture of killing' in the black community and uses his celebrity to encourage it," wrote one. The post got 200 comments, making it among the most-commented on the site and by far the post with the highest comment-to-word ratio. Most of them went something like this:
Over at Breitbart, commenters got to the point a little more quickly:
Django Unchained, unsurprisingly, has already been the subject of a series of heated blog posts on white nationalist sites. "Django Unchained; Incitement to racially motivated murder," goes one headline; another calls it an "anti-White racial snuff film." NRO and Breitbart won't write that out, specifically. But they know they don't have to: they're sharing an audience with the white nationalist sites — an audience that thinks that President Obama has been a racially "divisive" president, an audience that believes a race war is on the horizon, an audience that sympathizes with George Zimmerman. An audience that thinks an SNL monologue qualifies as incitement to violence.
That's Drudge's audience, too, not that Drudge feels as constrained as NRO does to sanitize his paranoia-stoking. And if Drudge, the most gifted race-baiter since Lee Atwater, has identified the movie as a flashpoint for the kind of terror that characterizes American racism, it means there's a freak-out coming. That, or Drudge just wanted to write "nigger" on his home page. Seven times.