It’s a pattern we should all be wearily familiar with by this point. Donald Trump finds himself in political hot water, in this case his former lawyer admitting he broke campaign finance laws on Trump’s orders. So the president then rails against the fake news media before finding a talking point with which to rile up his base.
His latest talking point, however, is taken straight from white nationalists. On Wednesday night Trump tweeted that he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and large scale killing of farmers.”
I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” @TuckerCarlson @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
The so-called “White Genocide” of South African farmers has been a consistent talking point for the far-right for years now. Far-right commentators Lauren Southern and Katie Hopkins (who was previously a much-despised columnist for MailOnline) have both filmed documentaries about the issue. Old-school white nationalists like Jared Taylor have also focused on the issue and the Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C. earlier this month featured Simon Roche, a member of the South African Suidlanders, a white nationalist survivalist group.
Similarly, white nationalists are also incredibly invested in Rhodesia, a former apartheid state to the north of South Africa, equivalent to the modern country of Zimbabwe, which fought a bitter 15-year civil war to maintain white minority rule. White supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof, for instance, wore a jacket emblazoned with flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa.
The issue revolves around land reform, which still has echoes of the South African apartheid-era. According to a 2017 Land Audit, white farmers in South Africa hold 72 percent of the country’s land despite making up just 8 percent of the population. In August, the major political parties in South Africa agreed for the need for extensive land reform. However, those on the far-right want to push the agenda that white farmers are being explicitly and systemically targeted by black South Africans.
It is true that there is violence against white farmers in South Africa, but that is less to do with their race and more with South Africa’s notoriously high crime rate, affecting people from all races and backgrounds. As the Inquistr’s Pieter Howes noted, murderous brutality in South Africa affects everyone from farmers to gay/lesbian couples to immigrants. Furthermore, according to official data, black South Africans still make up nearly 9 out of 10 of all murder victims in the country — and farm murders have actually declined since their peak of 140 killings in 2001/2.
Now for the kicker, as we turn directly to Farm Attacks: Here's the infographic showing that farm murders have actually DECLINED in recent years. Yes, DECLINED. #LandExpropriation #DonaldTrump #FoxNews https://t.co/qpeK9uMmRV pic.twitter.com/r1ts1KhVE5
— Pieter Howes (@PieterHowes) August 23, 2018
It’s also worth noting that it’s only the supposed “genocide” of white farmers in Africa that has drawn Trump’s attention to the region, which he had previously described as being made up of “shithole countries.” Renewed Ebola outbreaks, consistently horrifying violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo or the Central African Republic aren’t worthy of his attention.
But what makes Trump’s latest talking point so disturbing is it shows how white nationalists can game the system to bring a talking point to the president’s attention — regardless of whether or not there’s any actual evidence to back it up. Those initially pushing the South African white genocide were seen on far-right sites like VDare — which Jason Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last year, once contributed to — and Jared Taylor’s white nationalist publication American Renaissance.
It then became a popular topic on r/The_Donald on Reddit, before it weaved its way to Breitbart and Russia Today. Eventually, it makes its way to the white nationalist-sympathizing segments of Fox News, which makes the president pick it up — in turn giving it oxygen to progress further.
This is the result of a Nazi-to-Fox-News-to-the-White-House propaganda pipeline.
Starts on alt right/Nazi message boards, ends up on Breitbart/ Daily Caller, goes to Fox News…. and then the president does a tweet https://t.co/89dc0wBgEO
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) August 23, 2018
The South African government itself also angrily pushed back against Trump’s tweet. “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception,” the country’s government tweeted on Thursday. “[It] only seeks to divide our nation and remind us of our colonial past.”