A North Carolina Democrat appeared to be appalled this week by a Republican state senator referring to political opponents – such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke – as “clowns.”
Dan McCready, a candidate for the upcoming North Carolina House special election, reacted to an article accusing GOP State Sen. Dan Bishop of “embracing” a slur purportedly used by white supremacists by tweeting on Monday that “we are better than this.”
— Seo Alonzo (@SeoAlonzo) August 5, 2019
The piece, entitled “North Carolina Republican’s response to shootings: Embrace ‘clown’ slur pushed by white supremacists,” was published Monday in the liberal Daily Kos outlet. In it, Daily Kos political director David Nir criticized Bishop for “berating Democrats” on Twitter by calling them “clowns.”
Nir included a series of screenshots cataloguing the insults.
According to Right-Wing Watch reporter Jared Holt, whom Nir cites favorably in his article, the “white nationalist far-right is adopting clowns (yes, clowns) as their new identifying symbol.”
In an April tweet, Holt averred that while the clown memes used by far-right provocateurs and trolls may seem “comedic at first,” they betray a “deep nihilism” that he finds “troubling.”
This resonates somehow with the discomfort I felt watching the new Joker trailer yesterday.
While the filmmaking on display was very impressive & exciting, I could also see this loner-turned-sociopath narrative eliciting gleeful hard-ons in the far-right/incel/Pepe/4Chan crowd.
— Ben ⧖ Stephens (@stephens_ben) April 4, 2019
Writing for Right Wing Watch that same month, Holt claimed that a clown version of Pepe the Frog, which has come to be known as “Honk Honk” or “Honkler,” had been co-opted by the far right and begun bleeding “into racist propaganda.”
The far-right owns clowns?
Shortly after the publication of Holt’s piece earlier this year, an obscure YouTube personality gained attention for a bizarre video in which she announced she was reclaiming “Honkler” in the name and the anti-Trump resistance.
The woman, Bri Washington, accused racists of taking “a symbol of happiness and acceptance and multiculturalism” and turning it “into something racist, and anti-Semitic, and homophobic and transphobic.”
Washington was summarily mocked by various conservatives, including actor James Woods.
It could be said that liberals such as Holt, Washington and McCready are playing into the hands of trolls who relish exploiting what they see as liberal hypersensitivity to symbol after symbol, from the “OK” hand gesture to Revolutionary-era flags.