Two major media outlets, the Los Angeles Times and Mother Jones, have come under fire for publishing articles that present self-proclaimed white supremacist Richard Spencer in a similar manner to attractive male models and celebrities. Recently, Spencer has made other headlines for opening his speaking engagement with, “All hail Trump! Hail our victory! Hail our people!” and, as the lead representative of a movement that suggests white people are inherently better than non-whites, saying, “America was, until this past generation, a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
This is why the glamour shots of him in not one, but two, publications, are so worrisome. Featuring a smoldering Spencer dressed to the nines in a photo set that could be pulled from the pages of Tiger Beat and taped to a teenage girl’s bedroom wall, the Los Angeles Times story, and its tweet promoting the story (“Meet the new think tank in town.”), seemed to coo “Isn’t he sooo handsome?” instead of “Isn’t he sooo terrifying?” Mother Jones even called Spencer “dapper,” a term that hasn’t been used since the days of yesteryear to describe young Walt Disney or Marlon Brando (which, come to think of it, is probably pretty spot-on because both guys were super racist).
Mother Jones ended up removing “dapper” from its story and the LA Times has since replaced its fashion-forward photo with a still-frame from a video interview, but the message is clear: Spencer is being packaged as a pretty boy to make his movement, now called the alt-right movement, more digestible and mainstream. I had no idea that Nazism is sexy now. Talk about a rebranding.
Listen, I get it. I understand why some think we need to feel less uneasy about blaming non-whites for America’s current problems. Otherwise, how will we forget that white people killed six million Jews in the Holocaust, put 120,000 Japanese people in internment camps, are responsible for the systemic murder of Native Americans, ignored apartheid in South Africa and installed colonialism in too many countries to count? Maybe if we start re-branding slavery as indentured servitude, as plantation owners did to distinguish their white slaves from black slaves, black people will finally stop asking for reparations.
Rebranding Nazism sounds like a bad idea on the surface, but at this rate, I can’t imagine it being long until more newspapers and magazines jump on the bandwagon to make us feel better about it. Trend stories sell, after all. Soon we’ll be opening style sections to find stories like “Damaged Your Hair From Trying to Achieve That Perfect Blond Look? Don’t Worry, the Skinhead Look Is In!”, “Forget No-Shave November. An Inch-wide Mustache Under Your Nose is Hip Again!” and “10 Tips to Keep Your Armband Looking Its Best” (Spoiler: the secret is to hand wash it.).
See? Rebranding can be as fun as it is appeasing—and it doesn’t need to stop there. Want to have sex with a woman without bothering to get her consent? You’re in luck, because rapists are being rebranded too—as “passionate doms.” Millions of women have bought Fifty Shades of Gray. A lot of them must be into aggressive sex, right?
In addition to rebranding immoral ideas into sexy, appealing ones, we should probably start rethinking things that are supposedly “good” for us and rebrand those, too. Broccoli is now known as fart trees, personal trainers are now fat-shaming bullies and men who refuse to give into ideas of toxic masculinity are cuckholders. In order to eradicate society’s evils and keep America’s progress on-track, poverty is now a “work ethic problem,” discrimination will now be known as “religious freedom” and bragging about sexual assault is just “locker room talk.” All of those things are disgusting and have no place in America. This is a land founded by and advanced by teams of politically charged, maligned white, chiseled brutes sporting Ray-Ban Wayfarers and taper fade haircuts, after all. Let’s make sure everyone remembers that.