Here’s another Breitbart search for ripping open our nation’s damaged, fucked-up heart of darkness. In these inverted times.
Meet the Dindu, white nationalist term of art for an African-American who refuses to take responsibility for his actions with the refrain, I dindu nuffin. Breitbart threads riff off permutations and illustrations of Dindu behavior for dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of comments, generally in response to the posting of provocative videos calculated by the organization’s editors to inflate, twist, and bend reality to the specifically dark emotional needs of the site’s denizens. Dindu Nuffin is actually one of the more mild and restrained language conventions, typically the starting point for unrestrained invective that will pretty much knock your socks off.
The term Dindu probably originated as a meme on the 4chan”/pol/” board, gaining popularity within the white nationalist / neoNazi / Gamergate subculture in the 2014 and 2015, in response to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Andrew Anglin’s white supremacist, neoNazi Daily Stormer website often invokes the Dindu meme, which is apparently considered an epically witty and clever bit of wordplay / imagery. This Daily Stormer post entitled Black Lives Matter: The Rise of the Dindu, includes a variety of racist memes, telling you most of what you need to know.
Casual and freewheeling use of the Dindu label is now firmly embedded within the network of alt-right, neoNazi, don’t-get-out-of-the-basement-enough websites and message boards associated with Gamergate and Pizzagate, including the chan websites and Voat. These fringe (visually and otherwise) sites are the refuge of the young, the alienated, and the angry, mostly of the white and male, Adam Baldwin / Milo Yiannopoulos variety.
That Breitbart Media (catering to older conspiracy-minded Americans in flyover country) also incites and encourages use of the term only demonstrates the extent to which a (pseudo-Christian) white nationalism is indeed Breitbart’s beating, pulsing, spewing, tabloid heart (not marginal, as Steve Bannon claims), and to that degree also the centerpiece of a smash-and-grab Whitefellas movement politics:
- Fashioned in the past quarter century by denizens of talk radio, cable news, and digital media, beginning with Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly;
- Enabled by super-wealthy / politically savvy paleo-conservatives such as Charles Koch, Second Amendment freaks spurred on by the gun industry, and Federalist Society legal reactionaries such as Antonin Scalia; and
- Culminating with the lugubrious takeover, in the past decade, of pretty much all of our county, state, and national political institutions.
In this sense, Trump’s rise is epiphenomenal, of course, consequence and not cause, hence Steve Bannon’s unbridled contempt for media and intellectual elites who desperately avoided the exfoliation that would have allowed them to see this revolution coming. And Bannon is not wrong to savage the non-tabloid media, for his Euro-Christian / nationalist / racial / culture /identity movement has been a long-time itching and a long-time hatching, and indeed has never really stopped breeding through the generations.
In the children’s scary story, The Red Spot, a spider lays its eggs in the cheek of a young girl named Ruth while she sleeps. Ruth’s mother reassures her that the red spot on her cheek is only a minor irritation and that it will go away if she leaves it alone, so long as she doesn’t scratch it. The red spot becomes a red boil, hot on Ruth’s cheek. And Ruth’s mother said, “that sometimes happens, it’s coming to a head.” A few more days passed, and by now the boil was unsightly and painful. “We’ll have the doctor look at it,” said Ruth’s mother said. The doctor could not see Ruth until the next day. And that night, while Ruth soaked in the bath, the boil burst. and a swarm of tiny spiders poured from the eggs their mother had laid in Ruth’s cheek.
Clearly, we are Ruth. And we are also Ruth’s mother. And so now out seeps the poison, which will not be stayed, which frenzied, unhinged baby spiders propagate where they may. The unleashed cultural energy of the angry, emotionally damaged conservative movement now extends well beyond insular online communities where these people can breach moral boundaries with impunity. The rising Trump tide has liberated this movement to take their show on the road, via provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos, but also on crowd-sourced platforms such as Urban Dictionary that are the cultural property of everyone. In the spirit of shattering norms just for the hell of it, Dindu made its first appearance in the Urban Dictionary in November 2014, with subsequent definitions appearing during the spring and summer of 2016, as Trump’s ascent liberated the animal spirits of formerly caged and sequestered white nationalists, and of generally angry white folks. The definitions below.
- An innocent African-American, a description used by the family members of criminal African-Americans who din do nuffin. (Those dindus are acting up in Detroit again.) (Mike Brown and Trayvon Marin are the epitome of dindus.) (November 18, 2014. Up/Down Vote Ratio: 4,420/436).
- African tribe of intense warrior tendencies, promiscuity, irresponsibility, and low IQ. Over thousands of years, this tribe crossed the continent village by village slaying all the men, raping all the women (and children), and destroying the homes. By the modern era, all peaceful, noble, and inventive tribes of Africa had been eliminated by the Dindus. (“Isn’t there somewhere in the world, a functional black society?” “No, the Dindu blood runs deep.”) (May 24, 2016. Up/Down Vote Ratio: 730/99).
- A “du-er” of “nuffin”, meaning a ghetto-dweller, who claims he “dindu — didn’t do — anything wrong” (within sight of a security camera or, at any rate, anyplace within the last five minutes). Also known as a thief, a robber, a home invader, a rioter, a looter, a rapist, or a murderer by people with a sense of reality, the dindu is , nevertheless, relatively innocent by rap-culture standards. The dindu runs when “scared”, which defeats his purpose of not being noticed by the police, but never mind. Liberals embrace the dindu (in spirit) during afternoon BLM rallies but hightail it back to white surburbia after sundown. Nobody likes dindus. (If you don’t want to be a “dindu”, don’t steal stuff, hurt people, or otherwise act like a damned fool.) (August 9, 2016. Up/Down Vote Ratio: 323/23).
- A replacement, more “acceptable” term for a young black man. Primarily men brutalized and killed by police officers, whether they were armed and threatening or not. Originates from the mothers and family of the young black men who exclaim that their son “didn’t do nothin’ wrong,” often in an American dialect that makes it sound like “dindu nuthin.” It’s nothing short of blatant racism…and while its use is defended on the grounds that it’s targeted at criminals who wrongfully claim innocence, it’s still overwhelmingly used in regards to black men, whether or not their claim to innocence is legitimate. Similar to the way “Allahu Akbar” is used to mock middle easterners whether they’re Islamic extremists or not. (“I know, I know, poor boy dindu nuffin, right?” “Yes, he stole a cigarillo. I didn’t realize theft was punishable by death in America, my bad.”) (August 7, 2016. Up/Down Vote Ratio: 53/407).
For me, at least, the significance of the appropriation of Urban Dictionary, which through the years has certainly harbored the colloquialisms and vernacular and street dialects of (mostly) young people across a diverse spectrum of backgrounds and interests, has been its seizure for the explicit purpose of trolling (Bannon has called his followers hobbits, but clearly they are trolls). The ratio of up/down votes for the four Dindu definitions is far more extreme than the ratios one normally encounters with Urban Dictionary, and also a far larger “electorate” than one will normally find with a term that has only four definitions. Which is at this point a pretty classic sign of herd-based trolling (for counter-examples, see the numbers for hipster, which is one of the most voted-upon words in the dictionary, and also the numbers for two other alt-right favorites, libtard and cuckservative).
I’ve seen this shit before, but am certainly no less stunned than everyone else – the elated and the gob-smacked alike – to find us where we now stand. When Richard Sherman did his howl on national television after shutting down the 49ers Michael Crabtree to capture the NFC title for the Seahawks in 2014, Fox News online comment threads went postal about Richard Sherman’s impertinence and audacity. Sherman was then a new experience for the NFL and its fans, but the racial spuming of the Fox News cohort – with all of the gutter tropes that one might expect – was nonetheless pretty astounding. This is what I wrote at the time.
Had the Seahawks not prevailed against the Broncos, the trolls would have come hunting for Richard Sherman. No physical mugging, perhaps, but certainly a hungry, persistent claim upon his spirit and soul, retribution for not following the unspoken rules of the race game, for not being sufficiently grateful, sufficiently humble, sufficiently ignorant, sufficiently safe.
In the aftermath, we must wonder why, more than 150 years since the American Civil War, we continue to labor under illusions and misconceptions and prejudices and fears that illustrate the degree to which socially constructed racial categories still rub raw our psychic wounds.
And, too, we must wonder about the unmediated or disintermediated structure of our discourse, the degree to which open online publishing and illusions of digital anonymity tap deeply into the fear centers of our brain, a persistent amygdalic hijack inflamed by coded words and images, a pervasive and journalistically devastating reduction of thought, conversation, ideas, and truth — the constituents of our social coherence — to a mere slurry of tokens, memes, verbal discharge that resembles sewage more than it does considered speech.
What I now realize, of course, is that we should not wonder that we cannot eradicate these destructive and self-defeating “speech” practices. Nor should we wonder about the corrosive impact of the Internet on community standards and norms that allow any civilization and culture, baseline, to subsist. Much has been written about the toxic terminology of the alt-right – shibboleths that both confer status and safety upon the movements true believers, sympathizers, and fellow travelers (see here and here). But truly, there is something deeper going on here than even the free speech debate.
In his recently published (and really excellent) cover story for The Atlantic, David Frum (who’s had more intellectual and political lives than Wile E. Coyote) imagines the playbook Donald Trump (via the sinister counsel and dark arts of his advisers) might use to systematically, selectively, subliminally and (somewhat) sadistically destroy liberal democracy in the United States. Now others – myself included – may also at times long to destroy liberal democracy, but certainly not by using the means employed by the Trump / white nationalist / blow-shit-up axis, nor on behalf of the medieval vision toward which he is leading us. And one of Frum’s great insights in this essay is that this new autocracy will exploit and abuse the soft power of digital and social media to manipulate, intimidate, distract, and cow the American people. The new fascism will not physically terrorize the population, but will not lack for other novel ways to mess with our heads and screw with our destinies. The goal being to accrete power by sowing confusion and doubt about whether reality and truth, certainly with reference to the public sphere and our national life together, even exist. To substitute nagging fear and anxiety, alongside periodic moments of emotional catharsis, for connections to each other based on shared conceptions of science and data and intellectual inquiry, the meaning of words, the possibility of education and enlightenment, the vitality of communities that honor diversity (the spaces in-between each of us) rather than seeking to obliterate those spaces.
Which brings us back to Breitbart and the curious concept of the Dindu, which reveals the maniacal instinct of the silo-hardened alt-right to sprint straight toward their most primitive, hidebound beliefs about huge swaths of the population, grouping within a Biblically simple, pre-Linnaean taxonomy of the saved and damned those who look like them and those who do not. Will the fever pass? Who the hell knows?
But I did take comfort from a useful Politico essay Rutgers University historian David Greenberg about the “perils of calling Trump a liar.” Which is not a good title. But the article itself probes some really interesting ideas in the history of concepts of journalistic objectivity. Specifically, Greenberg reminds us of Archibald MacLeish’s dictum that objectivity in journalism is not the same thing as being neutral, balanced, or even-handed. “It is current-day fancy to consider a journalist objective if he hands out slaps and compliments with evenhanded impartiality on both sides of the question,” MacLeish said. “Such an idea is, of course, infantile. Objectivity consists in keeping your eye on the object [and] describing the object as it is.”
Words to live by. In these inverted times.