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Why is The Daily Dot, smooth and sassy website of ‘the internet community’, publishing racist nonsense?

23 July 2014

7:14 PM

23 July 2014

7:14 PM

The Daily Dot, founded less than two years ago, is best read while sipping the flattest of flat white coffees. I love it, even though it’s not pitched at me: most of its 11 million monthly unique visitors are ‘millennials’. No UK site integrates tech news into the broader culture so expertly. This is what you can find on the Daily Dot home page right now: ‘A guide to Silicon Valley’s top political donors’; ‘How the paleo diet developed into a cult of nonsense’; ‘Anonymous goes to war with Israel’; ‘Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler freaked out by giant reporter’. Those headlines were brewed by some of the world’s best digital baristas.

Alas, when it comes to America’s culture wars between liberals and conservatives, the Daily Dot follows the lead of Salon and Slate: nuance flies out of the window. Also on the homepage: ’17 things white people need to know about #YesAllBlackPeople’, a post by Derrick Clifton, a black journalist and activist. ‘YesAllBlackPeople’ is a Twitter hashtag that ridicules the mantra that ‘not all white people are racists’. Clifton insists that all black people experience racism, sometimes in the form of white anti-racism.

That’s a defensible position. But Clifton’s ’17 things’ range from crude generalisations to race-baiting garbage. For example:

#YesAllBlackPeople contend with whites dictating to us how we should talk about racism, instead of taking our lead in the conversation… 

#YesAllBlackPeople know better than Webster’s Dictionary what racism actually means. We’re living it. Don’t whitesplain it to us. (Webster’s and Oxford English Dictionaries are largely white-controlled purveyors of language.) 

#YesAllBlackPeople have to often racially code switch as a method of survival and getting ahead, because our authentic expressions are seen as inferior to whites. 

#YesAllBlackPeople would prefer to share their lives, experiences and struggles without being seen as the representative of all people from their racial group.

With that last point Clifton blows his own argument to smithereens, but he doesn’t seem to have noticed. As for the other stuff, it’s patronising, infantile – ‘whitesplain’, for God’s sake – and, yes, racist. All black people do not ‘racially code switch’, a creepy concept which implies that when they speak the same language as whites they are suppressing their ‘authentic’ voices. Can you imagine a conservative writer being allowed to make that claim?

This crazy rant isn’t the only nonsense about race on the Daily Dot. Dexter Thomas, a ‘scholar of hip-hop and contemporary culture at Cornell University’, has written an article entitled ‘Is “Black Twitter” dead?‘ His argument is more complicated than Clifton’s. In fact, it’s so messy that it’s hard to describe, but his conclusion is that white society now dictates what black people are supposed to find funny – to the extent that it can dispense with actual black people.

‘We might not have gotten there yet with machines, but it looks like black culture has probably hit a point of Cultural Singularity. We’ve spent the past 400 years as a society generating data points about what black people are supposed to look, think, and act like. Now, finally, the machine that is capitalism has begun to move on its own. It is creating its own content. Don’t get me wrong: the idea of black people is still entertaining, but black people are no longer required to provide that entertainment.’

Would the Daily Dot publish such loopy, inflammatory material if it related to, say, the architecture of the internet or the regulation of Bitcoin? No. But race, along with abortion and the fortunes of the GOP, falls into the category of hot-button topics in which debate is policed by the liberal tribe. Editorial standards fall victim to the exigencies of the culture wars.

This sickness has infected so much of the smartest online journalism; I’m constantly on the verge of banishing Slate from my Twitter feed because its tweets are written by the Left-wing equivalent of Michelle Bachmann. The problem won’t be solved until ‘millennials’ reject the Manichean division of society into liberals and conservatives, white and black. The Daily Dot could help abolish these blind allegiances. Instead, it commissions Derrick Clifton. That’s a crying shame.

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