Donald Trump responded like a dog in heat to an overtly racist dog whistle by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, who took a sudden interest last night in “land and farm seizures” from whites in South Africa. The implied message was clear: This could happen here.
The issue plays into American political discourse–and racist propaganda–by implying that Democrats could agree to reparations for African-Americans to atone for slavery early in the country’s history.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Carlson’s assertions were lifted straight from white-nationalist talking points.
Alt-right groups “across North America, Europe and Australia” have been trying for months to elevate the issue and its subliminal message to white voters here.
An online petition titled “Genocide of whites in South Africa” calls on Trump to allow “white Boers to come to the United States.” It has 23,000 signatures so far, according to The Washington Post.
Until now, Trump hasn’t given a second thought to South Africa. He’s yet to name a South African ambassador nearly two years into his administration. The last one, Patrick Gaspard, left the post in December 2016.
But Trump’s interest was piqued after Carlson picked up the white supremecist drum beat in his commentary.
“We’ve got an exclusive investigation for you tonight. The president of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa has begun, and you may have seen this in the press, seizing land from his own citizens without compensation because they are the wrong skin color.”
Carlson, however, fails to mention that land was taken from black South Africans during the country’s decades-long policy of apartheid, which separated races by skin color. Apartheid officially ended in April 1994.
“That is literally the definition of racism,” Carlson continued. “Racism is what our elite say they dislike most. ‘Donald Trump is a racist’ they say, but they paid no attention to this at all.”
“So that’s a tragedy, you just heard that,” ” he said in his closing remarks. “Keep in mind our State Department right now supports race based land seizures. We hope that policy changes.”
Critics claim Trump is fixated on Fox News. He proved them right by tweeting in response to the broadcast Wednesday night.
“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,” he wrote on social media.
The South African government was outraged by Trump’s comments, claiming the president was trying to divide their country. The government has pledged to “speed up the pace of land reform in a careful and inclusive manner that does not divide our nation,” it said in a Twitter response.
South Africa’s Natives Land Act of 1913 made it illegal for most black people to own property, a policy that remained in force for decades during the rule of the white-minority National Party. Today, whites own 72 percent of the land in private holdings, according to the government.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department also pushed back against the Fox host.
“South Africa is a strong democracy with resilient institutions, including a free press and an independent judiciary. South Africans are grappling with the difficult issue of land reform through an open process including public hearings, broad-based consultations, and active civil society engagement,” it said in a statement that Carlson read on-air.
Carlson claimed our own State Department is “unbelievable.”
The sudden interest in South African land policy comes at a time when Fox News and other right-wing media outlets are trying to deflect attention from the criminal convictions of two close Trump associates, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, and a rising tide of Democratic sentiment in the mid-term elections.
Such alt-right fear tactics are designed to motivate Republicans and others to support Trump candidates.
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