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The Shameful Normalization Of Hate: A&E's Generation KKK

The election's tragic outcome has birthed an even more disgusting reality TV genre: "Generation KKK"

It's a beautiful day for those sympathetic to the KKK or the NPI (National Policy Institute) as Richard Spencer has rebranded the hate group. Folks whose life mission is to advance the white race as a superior race has endless ties to the Petulant Elect. Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway (yes, another reason to dislike that loathsome woman) and Spencer are all simply over the moon thanks to the unexpected windfall of this election. White Supremacist groups never dreamed they'd get one of their own in the White House. Their membership is growing, sadly.

There's no question that A&E has received plenty of scorn, but they are trying to put together a show that seeks to end centuries of hate, and they hope it works something like their other program, Intervention. Is it even possible to cure centuries-old hate in the Old Confederacy?

According to A&E General Manager Rob Sharenow in an interview with The New York Times, “We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK. The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate.”
In theory, that’s a noble aim. Yet in practice (at least on the basis of the first four episodes offered to press), Generation KKK is a reprehensible work—one that normalizes people, and beliefs, that deserve only vilification.

And turning anything into television risks sensationalizing and humanizing the people involved, no matter how odious.

In an interview with IndieWire published Thursday afternoon, A&E Executive Vice President Rob Sharenow said the network is considering rebranding Generation KKK and changing the name to something “less flippant” due to the outcome of the election and the backlash the show has received. Sharenow said he doesn’t want people to see the program as a political statement timed with Trump’s election and said, “This is not a reality show starring the Ku Klux Klan.”

The Daily Beast explains:

Generation KKK seems to believe it’s exposing these cretins for who they truly are (and what they stand for). However, by using a standard-issue TV template to let them prattle on about race-mixing and white power, about their oh-so-sacred “naturalization” ceremonies performed next to dirt road shacks, about their “religious” “cross-lighting” rituals, and about the color-coded ranks of their hate group, the show treats them no differently than any of its other reality TV oddballs.

That includes the bearded hillbillies of Duck Dynasty, whose hit A&E show is, coincidentally, going off the air shortly after Generation KKK—another program courting rural white viewers—premieres. The network’s apparent underlying business model isn’t difficult to decipher. But it’s certainly something to condemn.

Sadly, many of these folks will attract other like-minded white nationalists who will be lured to the lifestyle of the Klan. Do they deserve this exposure? Given the outcome of the election, and how elated these hateful, mean-spirited people are, there are concerns from many that this will only incite more violence and hate.

A&E’s newest series does something worse than just provide a platform for the KKK: It employs the formal format and devices of the channel’s other hits (Hoarders, Intervention) to transform its bigots into colorful characters, thereby placing them on the same plane as the rest of cable TV’s freaky reality stars. By situating them in a familiar faux-verité package, Generation KKK makes clear that these rancid people are just as suitable subjects for our entertainment as anyone else. In short: It legitimizes them.

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