In what continues to be a truly wild February for the books, the publisher of a small-town Alabama paper published an op-ed calling for the Klu Klux Klan to clean out Washington, D.C.—nooses preferred.
The Valentine’s Day op-ed (after all, what better way to express your love of democracy by inciting the optics of a race war?) was written by Goodloe Sutton and appeared in the Linden, Alabama paper, the Democrat-Reporter. It was spurred, ostensibly, by the threat of increased taxes coming out of Washington, D.C.
To beat back this tax hike, Sutton, the paper’s editor and publisher, called for the Klu Klux Klan to “night ride again” and raid the city; specifically targeting Democrats and “Democrats in the Republican Party.”
In a largely unreadable piece, Sutton called a potential tax increase “socialist-communist idealogy [sic]” alongside other claims which I’m frankly still trying to make sense of (h/t to the Montgomery Advertiser):
People who do not understand the constitution do not like to be responsible.
Slaves, just freed after the civil war, were not stupid, At times, they borrowed their former masters’ robes and horses and rode through the night to frighten some evil doer. Sometimes they had to kill one or two of them, but so what.
This is the same so what used when Democrats got us into World War I and World War II. Then they got us fighting in Korea. Next, when the industrial northeast wanted more money, they got us in the Vietnam war, and now into the Middle East war.
Pressed by the Montgomery Advertiser on whether he really meant to call on a known white supremacist organization known for domestic terrorism to raid D.C., Sutton didn’t back down.
“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off,” Sutton told the paper.
There’s not much subtext there, but when the Advertiser asked Sutton to elaborate on what exactly “cleaning up” meant, he went whole hog with the racist symbolism, saying lynching would be ideal.
“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” Sutton told the paper.
But this wasn’t racist lynching, Sutton clarified. By “them,” he meant “socialist-communists,” he said. He also compared the KKK to the NAACP, claiming that the former was neither racist nor violent.
“A violent organization? Well, they didn’t kill but a few people,” Sutton told the Advertiser. “The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”
It’s easy enough to laugh at a story like this—which itself seems to be a conglomeration of stereotypes and clichés. Here goes this old, buffoonish white man writing an op-ed for an Alabama paper few have ever heard of (and will quickly forget), containing an inane cluster of sentences that, without the racist provocation of invoking the Klan, would just sound like a hot pan of half-baked drivel with a shiny, Joseph McCarthy-esque glaze.
Except what Sutton is positing isn’t an entirely new or outlandish concept. Not when American presidents specifically, and American politicians generally, have explicitly supported or benignly ignored the Klan. Not when the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has himself enacted policies and harnessed rhetoric that would have the modern-day Klan stomping and cheering.
What Sutton called for is nothing short of domestic terrorism, the kind which is a real threat—particularly to religious minorities, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. And data shows us it’s a threat that has only grown in recent years.
Sutton was schooled by none other than Chip Brownlee, editor-in-chief of The Auburn Plainsman, Auburn University’s student newspaper. The Plainsman shared Sutton’s op-ed on Monday.
Here’s what Brownlee had to tell the Advertiser:
Granted, I’m the editor of a student newspaper, but all newspapers should be held to the highest ethical and moral standards. Editorials should be about new ideas, constructive criticism and opinion backed up by facts. To call for the return of domestic terrorism — no matter its form — is counterproductive and wrong.
Sutton said he welcomed feedback on the piece, either through phone calls, letters, or a boycott. So uhmmm, do with that what you will.