MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2022
Where tribal identity comes from: We don't know anything about Lord of the Rings, or about Tolkien himself, or about Tolkien's world.
(As we used to enjoy telling Blaine and Patton, we were busy stopping a war when The Brady Bunch was on. So too with those books by this Tolkien fellow!)
That said, Kevin Drum has a sensible question today:
Apparently, a certain, possibly small number of people are complaining about the casting of non-"white" actors in Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series. Drum says he suspects that the number of people advancing these complaints may be rather small:
DRUM (9/19/22): There's a tiny cadre of [stupenagels] writing about this [diverse casting], an even tinier cadre of committed racists, and a super tiny cadre of people who think they're arguing for being faithful to Tolkien's legacy. But the numbers are so small that it's not clear why anyone is bothering to write about this.
Am I wrong? Are there really hundreds of thousands of these folks around? Where? And if not, why are we bothering to give voice to a minuscule sliver of [lost souls] who have done nothing except spend ten seconds to write a snarky tweet?
Drum's question goes like this:
Assuming that these complaints are coming from a mere handful of lost souls, why do we bother discussing them?
We don't know how many people are complaining about this casting issue. Drum seems to assume the number is small.
If so, why are some people talking about it? It seemed to us that a possible answer began to surface in these two comments to Drum's post:
COMMENT: As far as I can imagine, there's no way to know [how many such people there are], short of someone spending a bunch of money on a real poll, which seems highly unlikely and pretty pointless. But we know from many other polls, election results and the general news that the country is chock full of racists. So my guess is there are quite a few people [who are upset] about this stuff. Probably the relatively small number of trolls posting about it did a lot to generate a backlash that would not otherwise have existed, but that's the whole modus operandi of the rightwing hate machine. Take something silly that most people wouldn't know about and then leverage existing racism / sexism / homophobia / Islamophobia etc. to make it a controversy.
COMMENT: "Am I wrong? Are there really hundreds of thousands of these folks around? Where?"
While the loudest voices complaining about these are probably smaller than the noise they make, I would put the actual number of people who would have strong opinions along these lines if they were aware of it a lot closer to the number of people who are loyal Trump supporters.
These commenters rushed to say that the country is "chock full of racists." According to the second commenter, the actual number of such racist, sexist, homophobic Islamophobes closely resembles "the number of people who are loyal Trump supporters."
Within our self-assured blue tribe, this core belief forms a key part of tribal group identity. In some cases, observers may focus on complaints of this type as a way of instructing the rest of us rubes about the danger in failing to loathe The Others with sufficient zeal.
According to this wing of tribal thought, there's a Deplorable under every bed! As an example of what we mean, these are the headlines which sit atop the essay in Vox to which Drum refers:
The racist backlash to The Little Mermaid and Lord of The Rings is exhausting and extremely predictable
Lord of the Rings and The Little Mermaid are just the latest targets of racist fans
According to this school of thought, we can't say "racist" often enough. There's a racist under every bed! Our blue tribe needs to be warned!
(We're exhausted by all this predictable stuff! This is just the latest racist behavior from all the racist fans!)
"The Others are very different from Us, and they're all very bad!" According to the major top experts with whom we consult, belief in this claim involves the oldest of all known human instincts.
Could this explain why some people may be inclined to talk about this? By the basic rules of construction, our answer will have to be yes!
Also, the source could be this: Another commenter offers this theory:
COMMENT: "There's a tiny cadre of [people] writing about this, an even tinier cadre of committed racists, and a super tiny cadre of people who think they're arguing for being faithful to Tolkien's legacy."
And a very large number of bots that are set up to spread & amplify every right-wing grievance.
"To amplify every right-wing grievance!" (And to set our "left-wing" alarm bells off?)
Does Putin like to divide and conquer? If so, the gentleman may be tired by now of amassing all the wins!