A Baylor University study has found that hate groups are using Facebook to spread their message, attract new followers, and launch racist attacks against Barack and Michelle Obama.
More that 20 Facebook groups/pages were analyzed using the keywords hate, Barack Obama, and Michelle Obama to pinpoint them. According to Mia Moody, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, Facebook has become a potent communication tool for Obama hate groups, “The growth of Facebook groups from a fringe activity to a significant communication source illustrates the recent evolution in the spread of hate speech. Hate groups, which might have remained benignly isolated at one time, recruit online and increase their numbers instantly.”
The study differentiated between political hate of Obama and racial hate, “In general, hate groups, fall into two categories—politics and hate speech. Hate groups indirectly spread hatred toward women and blacks by targeting the Obamas with racist and sexist rhetoric. Unflattering photos, comments and articles containing racist and sexist discourse frame the two negatively. While political pages offer some educational value by emphasizing the President and first lady’s political platform, hate pages primarily focus on personal characteristics such as their culture, dietary habits, attire and physical features. Users share derogatory comments about the two playing basketball, dancing and eating items such as watermelon and chitterlings. Animalistic photos depict Obama or his whole family as animals, particularly apes. Findings demonstrate historical stereotypes have made their way onto social media applications.”
It also debunked the excuse used by those who engage in racial attacks against the President and First Lady that they are being called racist because they disagree with Obama, “The groups often highlight the President and First Lady with features that are meant to be negative or funny such as beards, Afros, mustaches, gold teeth, do-rags and various costumes. Mrs. Obama is depicted as a masculine, unattractive ‘angry black woman.’ Most pictures are accompanied with a disrespectful caption. Most captions do not attack the president and first lady’s political views; instead, they attack them personally with racial slurs that build on racist historical narratives. The shocking nature of these pictures spur numerous comments and ‘likes.'”
Moody explained how these groups violate Facebook’s hate speech guidelines while avoiding detection, “Some Facebook members evade those policies by spotlighting a celebrity, politician or athlete. Because slurs are not in the official title, Facebook is not as quick to shut them down. Some group target blacks by focusing on President Obama. One such group refers to him as “n—–” and a “no-good jungle monkey.”
The political question that arises from these findings is how much has the Republican Party’s race based anti-Obama strategy fueled the growth of these groups?
What the Republican Party did when they adopted the anti-Obama rhetoric of the racists was legitimize those beliefs and that language within their own party. GOP operatives understand that their best, and some would say only, chance of beating Obama is to polarize and divide the electorate as many ways as possible. The smaller and more divided the electorate, the more influential the united and vastly white Republican voting bloc will be on Election Day.
The Republican leadership embraced race based politics with open arms, and the result has been the creation of new a virulent strain of racism that has used talk radio and social media to warp a constituency that already disagreed with Obama into an angry mob motivated by racial prejudice.
Long after the Obama presidency has come and gone, the consequences of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s cynical racism strategy will live on.