King of the Hill’s “Traffic Jam” took notice of white nationalism online more than a decade before it was wildly discussed.
While King of the hill Often parodying the lighthearted aspects of the American suburbs, the show was not afraid to shy away from serious themes. During the season 2 episode “Traffic Jam”, King of the hill took note of white nationalism online, noting how widespread the problem was years before it became a source of popular discussion.
“Traffic Jam” sees Hank Hill attend a driving school run by an African-American comedian, Roger “Booda” Sack, whom Hank’s son Bobby admires. After hearing Bobby’s attempt at a standup comedy, Booda tells the 13-year-old to stop imitating dark humor and “get in touch with (his) white roots” before inviting him out for a night out. This eventually leads Bobby and Joseph to search for jokes online, while using the keywords “white, roots, and funny”, leading Bobby to a White Nationalist website. Out of ignorance, Bobby uses this material for a standing routine, enraging the mostly black crowd until Booda steps in to defend him.
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As a former employee at a Silicon Valley start-up, King of the hill creator Mike Judge was well aware of the issues facing the tech world at the time, like search engine keywords suggesting hate sites. This specific problem persisted for nearly two decades after “Traffic Jam” aired, as Google did not begin to filter the Holocaust denial of its searches up to 2016. The episode also describes how susceptible children are to hate speech online, which continue being a major problem online.
Although the episode’s criticism of online hate speech appears to be ahead of its time, it is really documenting the beginning of this problem. While the show’s white nationalist website is fictional, its images are filled with Confederate flags and lightning bolts, parodying several real-life white nationalist sites that rose to prominence in the mid-1990s. Following the episode aired on 1998, there were approximately 163 hate sites. according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which was a massive increase from the only registered hate site present in 1995, when the first prominent white supremacist website was launched. That number jumped by 60 percent in late 1998.
The problem of online hate sites dates back even beyond the 1990s, with a New York Times report identifying three extremist bulletin boards present in at least 1984. In 1985, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) began to take notice of the proliferation of hate online, writing, “There is little to suggest that this represents a major step forward in the spread of anti-Semitic and racist propaganda.” Many white supremacists realized the internet was a powerful recruiting tool early on, with Derek Black, Don Black’s son, who founded the aforementioned White Nationalist website in 1995, explaining that his father tried to use the web. to spread your hateful message globally.
“It’s important to understand the context in which, in my family, pioneering white nationalism on the web was my father’s goal,” said Derek Black, who has publicly renounced his father’s beliefs. explained. “That was what drove it from the early 90’s from the beginning of the web, and so, growing up, we had the latest computers, the first people in the neighborhood to have broadband because we had to keep running ***** **** and, therefore, technology and the connection of people on the website, long before social networks “.
Although the Internet landscape has changed dramatically since the obnoxious online message boards of 1984, the widespread proliferation of extremist content on the web and its accessibility to children remains persistent problems. While “Traffic Jam” refers to a moment in time, the episode is sadly more relevant today than ever.
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