By now, getting angry about stuff that’s progressive and inclusive is kind of the alt-right’s schtick. But while that ire has usually been aimed at politicians or breakfast cereals, the ultra-conservative group has a new target: a galaxy far, far away. Yes, in response to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘s diverse cast and female lead, the alt-right is boycotting the movie, spending the last month tweeting #DumpStarWars and encouraging their followers to skip the film when it opens this weekend.
When you ask prominent alt-right mouthpieces why they’re boycotting, they say the Star Wars franchise has become too politicized, and even explictly anti-Trump. The former might be true in a general sense–if you consider Rogue One’s writers and cast speaking out against white supremacy and hate as “politicized”–but by taking those criticisms as personal attacks, the alt-right is literally aligning itself with the Dark Side. More importantly, they’re doing it in a way that allows the alt-right to cast themselves as the oppressed rather than the would-be oppressors. It’s a lesson they learned from the grandaddy of all American white supremacist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic groups: the Ku Klux Klan.
#DumpStarWars: A History
#DumpStarWars started, as so many things have this year, on Twitter. On November 4, the mentions on the official Star Wars account already looked like this:
@starwars i am with the empire
— . . . (@LOKIsDestiny) November 4, 2016
But things heated up a week later when Rogue One writer Chris Weitz tweeted, “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” To which Gary Whitta, another writer, responded, “Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.” In response to a big ol’ backlash (and concurrent uptick in #DumpStarWars tweets), both deleted their tweets the same day, and Weitz apologized. But another tweet of Weitz’s remained up, and was even retweeted by Mark Hamill:
Star Wars against hate. Spread it. pic.twitter.com/Dtf5uqpxba
— Chris Weitz (@chrisweitz) November 11, 2016
That tweet–and mostly, the safety pin symbol, which after Brexit in the UK has become a symbol of solidarity with oppressed, vulnerable groups–was soon drawing attention on Twitter, as well as in the alt-right’s no-censorship, no-SJW social media watercooler, Gab.
Stop ?? giving ?? your ?? money ?? to people ?? who ?? hate ?? you! ?? #DumpStarWars ??
— Mike Cernovich ?? (@Cernovich) December 9, 2016
The growing animosity also showed up, of course, on pro-Trump subreddit /r/The_Donald:
And even IRL:
‘Rogue One’ Premiere Targeted by Pro-Trump conservative street artist Sabo, reads “Rogue Won: A Culture War Story.” https://t.co/e6QKHgYcGY
— Ian McLean (@ianmclean4444) December 12, 2016
Hamill himself has also become a flashpoint, especially since giving an interview in which he said President-elect Trump’s cabinet is “a who’s who of really despicable people,” and that Luke Skywalker might be gay.
@HamillHimself Luke Skywalker officially joins the dark side. Sad! #BoycottStarWars #MAGA
— Thomas Brown (@TrumpYouth306) November 28, 2016
Two Feminist propaganda Star Wars movies in a row, and Mark Hamill says Luke Skywalker may be gay. Time to #DumpStarWars
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) December 9, 2016
Message received: the alt-right is offended, angry, and trying to undermine the movie’s projected $130 million opening weekend.
So What’s Their Argument?
According to alt-right ringleaders, the problem isn’t that Rogue One’s writers and cast hate white supremacy–it’s that Trump supporters feel attacked by the film, says Mike Cernovich, an alt-right social media personality and activist. “Giving money to people who attack them is pathetic,” he says. “I’m going to organize more boycotts.” When we asked him for evidence that Trump supporters had been attacked, he pointed to another of Weitz’s tweets:
Yes. @garywhitta @BoingBoing https://t.co/iwDqJJ6oeI pic.twitter.com/2n3OM6mL8X
— Chris Weitz (@chrisweitz) October 7, 2016
Political? Sure. A Trump attack? Not really. But Cernovich’s reaction implies that you can’t support Hillary Clinton–or anyone else–without attacking Trump and Trump supporters. Which, if our math is right, makes their boycott a protest against free speech. When we asked Cernovich to expand on how Rogue One’s writers were attacking Trump supporters, he replied that #DumpStarWars was a “dopey story.” “What does white supremacy even mean?” he added. “People throw the term around daily, even calling me one. It’s a meaningless buzzword.”
Boycotts Gone Bad
Boycotts are an act of free expression. And boycotting movies has been part of recent progressive activism as well. (Like when people boycotted Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for casting alleged domestic abuser Johnny Depp.) But #DumpStarWars isn’t protesting oppression–it’s protest as oppression. So while Cernovich and other proponents of the hashtag on Twitter claim that they’re the ones under attack, on Gab #DumpStarWars dispenses with such arguments and gets to the heart of the matter.
The alt-right aren’t the first extremist group to use this strategy. “There are clear points of comparison with how the Klan protested against film in the 1920s,” says Tim Rice, a film studies lecturer at St. Andrews University and author of White Robes, Silver Screens: Movies and the Making of the Ku Klux Klan. “These protests–then and now–seek to position the group as an underdog and the threatened minority.” And, just like the Klan, the alt-right holds up media as a symbol of the problem, so any criticism they receive can be dismissed, or used to reinforce their arguments.
But the KKK cracked up, and so will the alt-right. The group is already splintering into rival factions, and their ambition far outweighs their power. The group’s last big boycott called for people to #DumpKelloggs after the brand pulled its ads from Breitbart, and that call to action hasn’t halted Special K consumption. It’s doubtful that the fringe group will have any more impact on Star Wars–let alone Disney–than they did on the cereal giant.
Besides, Jyn Erso is about to take on the Empire at the box office this weekend. Members of the alt-right can align themselves with the Dark Side and boycott if they want, but it’s pretty clear who is strongest with the Force.