Among the frustrations that fuel the writing on this blog has been the way the Montana media has minimized or ignored the way that white supremacist, anti-government attitudes have taken over much of the Montana GOP. I’ve written and tweeted for years about the dangerous commentary they share at county dinners, public meetings, and, most of all online. In the wake of some strong editorializing against Steve Daines’s support for the President’s racism, I hope newspapers editors across the state consider the need to report on this bigoted underbelly of the Montana Republican Party.
A post by Billings Representative Barry Usher illustrates the danger of this ignorant worldview quite succinctly.
Usher, who regularly posts inflammatory content on his feed, posted a manipulatively edited video of US Representative Ilhan Omar that has been widely discredited in the past few days because it entirely misrepresents her accurate view that white male extremists are more likely to engage in terrorism than Muslim extremists in the United States.
And then Missoula’s Brad Tschida weighed in with the argument that Omar should go back “to the Sudan.” Putting aside for a moment that Tschida is echoing the same racist trope the President used last week, one would think even a bigot is smart enough to get the damn country right. To Tschida’s credit, both do start with “S” and both are in Africa, but Representative Omar is, of course, originally from Somalia.
And then Jefferson City Representative Greg DeVries weighed in with an argument that seems to suggest the United States should only tolerate those who practice Christianity, writing “She is a prime example of why religious pluralism won’t work. It sounds good as long as other religions mimic Christianity.”
And that’s exactly how the online radicalization of the right-wing leads to unbelievably stupid and offensive policy proposals.
It might be easy to dismiss Facebook posts, but these are three people who bring laws to the Montana Legislature, who are leaders in the Montana Republican Party, and who shape and are shaped by the online swamp in which they swim.
And the pattern here gets repeated over and over again: one member of the hermetically sealed community either knowingly or ignorantly posts a bigoted lie, which is amplified by another member of the community before a third proposes an unconstitutional and immoral remedy for the imaginary problem.
Concern about that isn’t theoretical. These kinds of conspiracy theories which are not unlike those that fueled anti-Semitism before the Holocaust or those that inflame anti-vaxxers lead to widespread belief in lies and actual legislative proposals like the nonsensical effort to stop Sharia law in Montana.
Usher, Tschida, and DeVries probably aren’t capable of feeling ashamed about their role spreading bigoted misinformation, but the press can—and should–shame them. Just as the Gazette and others called out Steve Daines for his sycophantic defense of the President’s racism, the Montana press should call out these Republican leaders who are adding fuel to the already dangerous flames of bigotry in this country.
As Dr. King taught us, only light can drive out darkness, and it’s well past time for the Montana press to turn the spotlight on the dark recesses of conservative social media where posts like this only encourage more hatred.