THE BLOG
10/14/2014 09:59 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

Satire as Libel & Resistance to Anti-Racism Efforts

Recently, a Zimbabwe American of European heritage contacted me to ask whether I actually believed what I was quoted as saying in an article currently going viral titled "Zimbabwe Announces Ambitious Plans for a Final Solution to White Racism" appearing on the online site "Diversity Chronical" dated April 18, 2014. The article focuses on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's, "announced plans" for a "Holocaust" against all white people in his country. According to the article, at his announcement Mugabe forcefully asserted:

"All through history, whites have done nothing but exploit other races. Whites are an oppressive, abusive, dishonest, criminal, and evil race as they themselves admit! We have decided, therefore, to exterminate every white man, woman, and child in Zimbabwe. We will purify our Black African nation of the disease of whiteness. I will show them no mercy. I will show them a new definition of pain. I will finally deliver justice to our people!"

The assembled 10,000 Zimbabwe citizens and African leaders reportedly rose to their feet in "thunderous applause" as Mugabe added:

"We will show no mercy even to white children. We will grab the suckling baby from its mother's breast and break its neck. We will beat the mother to death with the baby's corpse. I will rip the babies from the wombs of white women and strangle them with my bare hands....It will be a beautiful genocide against an evil race!"

"What!?," I heard myself saying. I had known that Mugabe enacted a number of Draconian policies in his country, formerly known as Rhodesia, since ascending to power in 1980 first as Prime Minister and later as President. Some people have accused him of racism toward white people, of "redistributing" land formerly owned by white farmers, and enacting harsh policies against LGBT people. Though what I knew of Mugabe, I hadn't read about this supposed "Holocaust" again white Zimbabweans as so openly expressed. As I read these words, the horror my Polish family suffered at the hands of Nazi forces in my ancestral town of Krosno returned to me in stark unrestrained terror.

But then I asked myself, why had this Zimbabwe American contacted me? Maybe further in the article, the reporter quoted something I may have written specifically on my research on the German Holocaust or some other area in my published articles or books on social justice. I continued reading until I came to my supposed quote:

"Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, a writer with the Huffington Post noted that 'I used to think we could slowly kill off the white race, through immigration, through intermarriage and miscegenation. I now realize I was wrong. It just isn't happening fast enough. If present trends continue, whites won't be a minority in all of their own nations until around 2050 or so perhaps. While I do acknowledge that the problem could eventually be solved that way, it just isn't fast enough for me. The Holocaust against whites also has the added benefit of punishing whites for their crimes; this is about justice. Every white person is guilty. There are no exceptions.'"

#$%@#&^%$*%!#@$^%. I was utterly speechless! Angry! Frustrated! Enraged! I would never, had never stated or written anything even close to this! My heart beat so rapidly I thought it might puncture my chest and smash into my computer screen. How dare they fabricate, yes fabricate, this and attribute it to me, virtually using the language of neo-Nazi white racist extremists, though, in this instance substituting "people of color" for "white"? With my family connection to the atrocities during the German Holocaust, and aa a human being, I felt offended, betrayed, and paradoxically, silenced, for this quote betrayed and violated all that I had known, written, and worked for throughout my life.

After I had some time to regain a semblance of composure, I got back to the Zimbabwe American who had initially contacted me assuring her that these we not, in fact, my words but rather, a complete fabrication. Like her, I too felt shocked and angry.

On October 1, 2014, the day I read the article, I wrote in the "Comments" section online following the article:

"The quote referenced to me is a complete and total FABRICATION. I NEVER said or wrote this. I am offended that you referenced it to me and did not do your homework! Please DELETE this quote. Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld." I also contacted the publisher of Diversity Chronicle demanding them to delete my quote, and I threatened a lawsuit if this were not done immediately. That was 6 days ago and my quote remains.

I read through the numerous other comments following the article, which provoked very strong mixed reactions from diatribes against Mugabe to what can only be viewed as white racist rants. Though the article read as bona fide journalism, if one does not search the journal's main page "Disclaimer" asserting that "The original content on this blog is largely satirical....My name is Erik Thorson. I created this blog for my own personal amusement," or read the few comments bringing this to light following the article, there would be no way of knowing this.

Some readers referred to Mugabe as a "sociopath," a "Mentally Sick and Depraved man on his last leg," "a moron," "an idiot," "stupid," and many other negative characterizations.

On the other hand, many of the comments exposed readers' xenophobic and chauvinistic prejudicial beliefs.

One blogger commented: "He has already been allowing and condoning the slaughter of White farmers and business owners. The press remains quiet. We whites should all leave and make the West White and let the Blacks have Africa. Down the tubes they will go. I'm sick of White guilt."

According to another: "All I can say he's forgetting that the black man was walking around in rags before the white man came, the stupid ape. Claims to have brains but hes ran that country into the dirt, so I ask you, big brains?"

And from what can be seen as an alleged white freedom fighter: "lots of whites also fought for black freedom. why i think now. this is worst than the apartheid years the blacks went thru. de klerk gave this country away without a fight. but i will with plenty other whites stand together and start fighting back. viva white freedom viva. time to fight back."

"Satire" has been defined as "the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc." Nowhere in this definition, however, do we see spreading false rumors, defamation of character, attributing to others -- primarily those who have nothing what-so-ever to do with the "story" allegedly reported -- something they never have stated, no, something they diametrically oppose!

Knowing the article is satirical but responding nonetheless: "...Even though this is satire, there is more truth to it than most people realise, people in other countries have no idea about the white genocide that is currently going on here."

This latter quote may, in fact, be true. In that case, write a "straight" story exposing Mugabe's genocide. But, why, on the other hand, did the article's author, apparently Erik Thorson, use me to introduce this fictitious quote, which I allegedly wrote on the Huffington Post?

For a number of years and continuing today, I have been proud to have written editorial blogs for the Huffington Post. Since 2011, HP has published approximately 140 of my commentaries. In many of these I focus on issues of "race" and racism, most notably by exposing white privilege and the history of white racism in the Americas, how U.S. immigration policy has historically rested on racist policies, and how racism continues to plague our nation. As a historian and educator, my goal has always been to remind us of our past, and to work to dismantle all the hierarchical systems that grant power to the few at the expense of the many. The words attributed to me on Diversity Chronicle run counter to what I have worked for throughout my life.

Resistance to challenges of dominant group privilege specifically and to issues of social justice more generally comes in many forms along a spectrum from disbelief, denial, stretching the truth, fabrication, and downright lies, slander, libel, harassment, physical attack, and even more violent backlash. Resistance may also surface in the guise of satire.

The resistance anti-racism activists continually experience, while venomous and blaming in tone, is nonetheless predictable in that these tactics have been employed time after time against individuals, groups, and communities that have challenged oppression and dominant hegemonic discourses.

Dominant groups try to intimidate minoritized communities and incite fear within the larger population in its attempts to silence opposition and to prevent minoritized groups from engaging in the decision-making process that affects the course of their lives, and even to name and define the terms of their existence. In this way, dominant groups attempt to reposition themselves as the victims.

Being anti-racist is NOT being anti-white. Working against white supremacy is NOT working against white people. Rather, it is attempting to share privilege with all people of every socially constructed identity. As a white person, I am not working to ensure that white people suffer from racial profiling, or receive tougher penalties in the judicial system, or are punished more harshly in the schools, or suffer the consequences of lower educational outcomes, higher unemployment, greater health issues and higher mortality rates, and higher rates of incarceration, or are "red lined" into certain neighborhoods on account of their "race" as people of color currently experience. Instead, we are working to end these discriminatory practices for everyone by looking at and challenging the systematic social inequities.

As a public person who adds my voice to the market place of ideas, I have come to accept the reality that I will be challenged and even verbally attacked by people who oppose what I say, what I write, and what I stand for. But no one, NO ONE, has the right to attribute to me what I not only have not stated or written, but more importantly, what run contrary to what I believe and how I live my life. This goes way beyond satire, for it has crossed a line into defamation of my character. It is libel plain and simple.