Is the term “white nationalist” a slur? How about “white supremacist?” The general definition of a slur is “an insinuation or allegation about someone that is likely to insult them or damage their reputation.” For “white nationalist” to be a slur, the term itself would have to be generally accepted as immoral or derogatory. It would also have to be used in a way that incorrectly labels one a white nationalist. Calling Greg Johnson, a white nationalist, for example, is not a slur. He embraces the label.
The interpretation of the term white nationalist is just one interesting aspect of the lawsuit brought by Peter Brimelow, editor of VDare. He is suing the New York Times, according to Brimelow, for falsely labeling him a white nationalist. He not only denies being a white nationalist, he claims the company deliberately labeled him as such in an effort to damage his reputation, even after he made many good faith attempts to point out the error to them. He is seeking $5 million in damages.
That is the first interesting angle to this case. Intent is always a central part of defamation cases. The defendant must be shown to have intentionally libeled or slandered the other party. The statement must have been made with knowledge that it was untrue or with reckless disregard for the truth. Simply making an honest error is not defamation, which is why newspapers have always posted corrections. It allows them to show the false claim was an honest error.
Another interesting bit of this is the unspoken dispute over what exactly makes someone a white nationalist. Greg Johnson, for example, has written a book describing white nationalism. He calls himself a white nationalist. Peter Brimelow, in contrast, has never used to term to describe himself and has been generally negative toward the use of it as a label. No doubt both men share similar opinions on many matters, but they have many important differences as well.
Yoram Hazony has written a book promoting nationalism. He is a proud Zionist and an ethno-nationalist. Large swaths of his book match up well with the arguments made by Greg Johnson in favor of white nationalism. In fact, strip away the references to Israel and the Jews and Hazony’s book is the same argument made by Johnson. Does that make Hazony a white nationalist? Is white nationalism just another manifestation of nationalism, like Zionism or black nationalism?
If this case ever makes it to court, it would be an easy task to show a jury that the term white nationalist is undefined. Its meaning is entirely controlled by the intent of the person using it. When used by the New York Times, the intent is purely negative, perhaps even a synonym for evil. When used by normal people, it is more benign, maybe even positive. In other words, the definition is entirely one of context, which is the heart of the lawsuit against the Times.
That would be an amusing part of this case if it gets to the deposition phase, as everyone involved would have to define white nationalism. Brimelow would have no trouble giving an objective definition. The Times writers and editors would have to figure out a way to craft a definition that puts someone like Peter Brimelow at the same table as Johnson. That’s a circle that cannot be squared, without first asserting the promotion of white interests is negative.
That really is the secret that lies beneath all of this. The underlying assumption of the beautiful people at the New York Times is that white people have no right to promote their interests. Jews, blacks, one-legged trans-lesbians of color, all of these groups have interests and a right to promote them openly. Whites, according to the sorts working for the Times, have no group interests. Therefore, white nationalism is the assertion of something false, for malign purposes.
Now, there is yet another twist to this. From the perspective of someone like Greg Johnson, Brimelow’s suit against the Times can be seen as damaging the cause of white nationalism. The basis of the suit is that the Times deliberately libeled Brimelow by applying a derogatory term to him and his work. In other words, a putative ally is agreeing with the enemy that white nationalism is immoral. That further anathematizes the term and the issues associated with it.
In reality, that train has left the station. In fact, that is another important issue involved in this case and many others. The media is not simply an institution for disseminating factual information about people and events. No sane person would make such a claim, as the media repeatedly states otherwise. The mass media defines the public debate and largely defines public morality. When they pronounce something forbidden, like white nationalism, it usually becomes immoral and off-limits.
That brings us back to intent. There simply is no way the Times can claim they did not intend to libel Brimelow when they called him a white nationalist. There only hope is to conjure a definition of white nationalism that includes Brimelow along with other people, who sharply disagree with him. The only way to accomplish that is to broaden the term to mean any white person, who thinks white people have interests. In other words, merely being white makes you guilty enough in this case.
Finally, this case can be a useful on-ramp. These people are clever, in that they talk about whites in a negative way without directly addressing white people. In this case they have turned the phrase white nationalism into a purely negative term that they liberally apply to white people questioning orthodoxy. They don’t say whites are evil, but they regular claim “whiteness” is evil and that promoting it is immoral. They condemn the thing by condemning its nature.
In the end, this case can only be a net positive, assuming Brimelow and VDare don’t embarrass themselves in some unforeseen manner. Cases like this are a good way to raise this issue. The more people talk about how the Left systematically anathematizes the natural characteristics of white people, the more people will notice the blood libel at the heart of this case and the general war on white people. The reason the Times hates white nationalism is they hate white people.
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