Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A brief history of the far right trying and failing to co-opt pop culture

Photo: VCG/Getty Images

Nazi fop Richard Spencer can’t stop getting punched in the face, whether literally (by random humans on the street), journalistically (by investigators who uncovered he gets his money from an actual fucking cotton plantation), or even figuratively, by the very pop-culture artists he claims to love. First he confessed his life-long passion for Depeche Mode, to which the band replied with a curt, “Fuck off.” Then he attempted to claim Cabaret’s “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” for the “alt-right,” to which the song’s author’s nephew responded with another “fuck off.”

This same cycle has occurred with the greater “alt-right,” Spencer’s loose coalition of white supremacist trolls, who keep making polite overtures to pop-culture entities that want nothing to do with them. While the “alt-right” do have their own subset of bespoke, racist music, language, and media figures, they also are attempting to live in the world with the rest of us. However, peaceful coexistence is antithetical to the “alt-right” playbook, and so they claim instead that certain pop-culture figures are theirs alone, presumably just like the American nation-state is.


Mel Magazine has produced a compendium of the group’s overtures to pop culture that also works as a case study on the ways that art can be used to wildly varying ends. The “alt-right” embraced Taylor Swift at Milo Yiannopoulos’s behest almost exclusively to piss people off—because she made a video that co-opted black culture, and because embracing her would confound people. They claimed McDonald’s old “moon man” mascot as a racist icon for the same ironic reason any old mascot gets picked up years after its retirement—the lulz, essentially. And they co-opted The Matrix’s “red pill” analogy in part because of the power of the original film’s metaphors for seeing outside of societal structures. In that case, they just missed the entire fucking point of the movie, cherry-picking its one resonant concept and jettisoning the rest of its messages on gender, race, technology, and power.

The whole article, which goes into much more depth, can be read here.


Share This Story

Get our newsletter