In the field of sociology we often discuss privilege as an invisible force field between classes and identity groups. Privilege prevents those people who have it – men, white people, and Christians, for example – from losing social status, and protects them from acts of oppression. Conversely, a lack of privilege prevents people from improving their social status ladder and exposes them to the bigotry and hate built into criminal-justice, healthcare, and educational structures.
Privilege cannot easily interrogate itself. Indeed, to have privilege often means to deny its existence; the millionaire’s pampered son, for example, inevitably thinks of himself as a self-made-man. That makes it extremely difficult to expose, examine, and address, even if it is only by interrogating privilege that we can ever hope to “Make American Great for Once.”
And we can see the clearest evidence of privilege in what can only be called white fragility.
White fragility is the tendency among members of the dominant white cultural group to have a defensive, wounded, angry, or dismissive response to any evidence of racism. And it is rearing its ugly head in right-wing social circles and social in the discussions surrounding COVID-19, vaccines, the economic shut-down, and masks.
My Facebook timeline is filled with links to the delusional rants of YouTube conspiracy theorists who use half-truths and un-connectable dots to make it seem like Bill Gates, The World Health Organization, and even Dr. Anthony Fauci conspired to release a contagious virus that would bring the world economy to a halt, kill half the world’s population, and coerce Americans into getting vaccines in order to implant microchips that will allow the government to track our every move.
Any human being with a partially functioning brain can easily deduce that the idea that the New World Order needs microchips implanted into our body to track our every move is beyond ridiculous. As Shoshana Zubov so brilliantly laid out in her book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power Google, Facebook, and Twitter are already able to track us, and predict our future behavior, through their smartphone apps. In other words, no one actually needs implanted microchips to track people.
Furthermore, if the goal of Gates, the WHO, and everyone else in the New World Order is to depopulate the earth, then why wouldn’t they just hoard the vaccine for themselves, retreat to their shelters, and then let nature takes its course? That would make a lot more sense, would it not? Indeed, the conspiracy theories surrounding Dr. Fauci, Gates, and the future Novel Coronavirus vaccine make no logical sense whatsoever. All it takes is a quick Google search to show that there are no facts to back up any of these bizarre claims.
It is not about facts and logic, however. White fragility easily fills in the glaring logical gaps that in the videos and articles that feed the conspiracy theories. The fear of a secretive “globalist” cabal of wealthy individuals (specifically Jews and Zionist) who answer to no national authority, but who have the power to shape the culture and economy of America in their own image behind closed doors has long been a part of the conservative American worldview. While there might be no actual evidence of a plot by the globalist WHO and the uber-wealthy Gates, the belief in the conspiracy resonates so deeply with the myth that it almost makes sense. After a century of antisemitic indoctrination, conservatives are primed to believe that a hidden enemy is out to destroy everything that they love.
And as the unchallenged white domination of American society has begun to slip, any crisis can look like a global conspiracy through the lens of white privilege.
White Americans, and especially white men, have been sheltered from persecution since the founding of America. They have been far more likely, in fact, to be the oppressors rather than the oppressed, and excused their domination as merely “the way things are,” or as the function of the “free market,” like the “self-made” millionaire who inherited his fortune. Thus, when the country they imagine as a white homeland grows increasingly brown, as women stand up against rape in the #MeToo movement, and the LGBTQ+ community demands equality, White America gets scared. And white America will accept anything explanation that justifies their fear, their anger, and their bigotry.
For The Typescript’s readers and staff, the idea that wearing a mask and getting a vaccine are part of a Jewish conspiracy to bend the white, Christian man’s knee to its will is obviously preposterous. It’s something that we used to laugh about. Yet, proliferation of YouTube conspiracy videos, misinformation, and fake news articles are no laughing matter. Fragile, panicking white men are credulous, and they are buying what the internet is selling. In the midst of a deadly pandemic their gullibility is a threat to the lives and health of us all.
What can we do? We can start to talk about the problem. We can interrogate white privilege at every turn. We can state clearly that the fragile egos of white men are killing people.