Afterword: White Nationalism, Trolling Humor as Propaganda, and the “Renaissance” of Christian Racism in the Age of Trump

  • Robert Hornback
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)


The Afterword builds on the book’s argument that Renaissance nationalism was frequently proto-racist—a kind of Christian nationalism allied, paradoxically, to racist constructions of a pan-European whiteness—and, vice versa, that proto-racism was itself both “Christian” and part of pan-European nationalist movements. Inattention to this early formation of racism has obscured the legacy of this ideology, blinding us to the resurgence of the uncannily similar “white nationalism” that President Trump has exploited through nativist demagoguery and anti-politically correct humor aimed at minorities and immigrants. Jeering Trumpist laughter is Hobbesian, declaring supremacy over others, making it the clearest expression of white nationalism in America today. Trump’s tactics and message alike closely follow white nationalists’ use of “comedic packaging”—the alt-right meme culture of trolling, bullying, insults, digital blackface, and the vitriolic cartoons that act as a gateway drug to white nationalism. In white nationalism, Renaissance understandings of “nation” in terms of race and religion are prominent. Like early modern nativists, modern white nationalists construct nationality in ways consistent with early definitions of “nation” via Biblical senses of “the heathen nations, the Gentiles” (OED 2a) and “Birth, nativity; inborn nature or [moral] character” (OED 9). Metaphysically racist modern white nationalists remain opposed to what they perceive to be the influence of non-Gentile immigrant Strangers. Theirs is a European “identitarian” ideology that emphatically embraces Christendom, though not Christian behavior.

Works Cited

  1. Ansari, Azadeh. “FBI: Hate Crimes Spike, Most Sharply Against Muslims.” CNN, November 15, 2016.
  2. Anti-Defamation League. “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017.” ADL Center on Extremism, January 2018.
  3. Baker, Kelly J. “The New White Nationalists?” Religion & Politics, A Project of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, October 20, 2016.
  4. Balaji, Murali. “The Theology of White Nationalism, the Inevitability of Charlottesville, and the Imagined America.” Huffington Post, August 17, 2017.
  5. Barnes, Luke. “The Man Who Has Become White Supremacists’ Favorite Cartoonist—Whether He Likes It or Not.” Think Progress, September 7, 2017.
  6. Beneke, Chris and Christopher S. Grenda, eds. “Introduction.” In The First Prejudice: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America, 1–20. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  7. Bertrand, Natasha. “‘A Model for Civilization’: Putin’s Russia Has Emerged as ‘a Beacon for Nationalists’ and the American Alt-right.” Business Insider, December 10, 2016.
  8. Boas, Ralph and Louise Schultz Boas. Cotton Mather, Keeper of the Puritan Conscience. New York: Harper, 1964.Google Scholar
  9. Bohl, Ryan. “The Horrifying World of Ben Garrison, Trump’s Cartoon Propagandist.” Medium, March 12, 2017.
  10. Caygle, Heather. “Democrats Demand Hearing after Uptick in Hate Crimes.” Politico, November 20, 2017.
  11. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The First White President: The foundation of Donald Trump’s Presidency Is the Negation of Barack Obama’s Legacy.” The Atlantic, October 2017.
  12. Corrigan, John. “Amalek and the Rhetoric of Extermination.” In The First Prejudice: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America, edited by Chris Beneke and Christopher S. Grenda, 53–72. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  13. Corrigan, John. “New Israel, New Amalek: Biblical Exhortations to Religious Violence.” In From Jeremiad to Jihad, edited by John D. Carlson and Jonathan H. Ebel, 111–27. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Corrigan, John and Lynn S. Neal. Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Delk, Josh. “Franklin Graham: ‘Refreshing’ that Trump Doesn’t Care ‘What the Liberals Think’ on Christmas.” The Hill, December 23, 2017.
  16. DemographicsPro. “More than One Third of Trump Supporters Follow White Nationalists on Twitter.” DemographicsPro, Inc. Accessed December 30, 2017.
  17. Ellis, Glenn and Viktoryia Kolchyna. “Putin and the ‘Triumph of Christianity’ in Russia.” Al Jazeera English, October 19, 2017.
  18. “2016 Hate Crime Statistics: Victims.” FBI:UCR. Accessed December 30, 2017.
  19. Feuer, Alan and Andrew Higgins. “Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin.” New York Times, December 3, 2016.
  20. Goldenberg, David M. Black and Slave: The Origins and History of the Curse of Ham. Berlin: De Gruter, 2017.Google Scholar
  21. Green, Emma. “It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump.” The Atlantic, May 9, 2017.
  22. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan: Revised Student Edition. Edited by Richard Tuck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  23. Jackson, Lauren Michele. “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs. Why Is It So Common?” Teen Vogue, August 2, 2017.
  24. Jordan, Winthrop. White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.Google Scholar
  25. Kendi, Ibram X. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist ideas in America. New York: Nation Books, 2016.Google Scholar
  26. le Miere, Jason. “How Trump Won: White Working Class Voters Motivated by Fear of Immigrants Not Economic Woes.” Newsweek, May 9, 2017.
  27. Leibelson, Dana and Matt Ferner. “How You Can Identify a White Nationalist.” Huffington Post, August 16, 2017.
  28. Lodge, Carey. “Christian Values Are Under Attack In America, Say White, Working-Class Evangelicals.” Christian Today, September 26, 2016.
  29. McElwee, Sean and Jason McDaniel. “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Make People Vote Trump, Racism Did.” The Nation, May 8, 2017. https:/’t-make-people-vote-trump-racism-did/.
  30. Michel, Casey. “How Russia Became the Leader of the Global Christian Right.” Politico Magazine, February 9, 2017.
  31. North, Anna. “The Scope of Hate in 2017.” The New York Times, June 1, 2017.
  32. Nussbaum, Emily. “How Jokes Won the Election.” The New Yorker, January 23, 2017.
  33. O’Shaughnessy, Nicholas. “Make No Mistake About It: The Alt-Right is a Cult, and This is How Its Members Lure People in.” Independent, September 10 2017.
  34. Pastoor, Charles and Galen K. Johnson, eds. The A to Z of the Puritans. Toronto: Scarecrow Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  35. Reuters. “U.S. Hate Crimes Up 20 Percent in 2016, Fueled by Election Campaign: Report.” NBC News, March 14, 2017.
  36. Robinson, Nathan J. “Why Israel Is Richard Spencer’s Favorite Argument.” Current Affairs, November 7, 2017.
  37. Roediger, David. “White Looks: Hairy Apes, True Stories and Limbaugh’s Laughs.” Minnesota Review 47, no. 1 (1996): 37–47: Project MUSE,
  38. Romano, Aja. “How the Alt-Right Uses Internet Trolling to Confuse You into Dismissing Its Ideology.” Vox, January 11, 2017.
  39. Rozsa, Matthew. “A Third of Americans Think White People Are ‘Under Attack.’” Salon, September 14, 2017.
  40. Saletan, William. “What Trump Supporters Really Believe.” Slate, August 29, 2017.
  41. Savitt, John. “Trump Is Telling ‘Jokes,’ But No One Is Laughing.” Huffington Post, August 5, 2017.
  42. Shepard, Steven. “Study: Views on Immigration, Muslims Drove White Voters to Trump.” Politico, June 13, 2017.
  43. Sides, John. “Race, Religion, and Immigration in 2016: How the Debate Over American Identity Shaped the Election and What It Means for a Trump Presidency.” Voter Study Group, June 2017.
  44. Smith, Gregory. “Most White Evangelicals Approve of Trump Travel Prohibition and Express Concerns About Extremism.” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2017.
  45. Stanek, Becca. “45 Percent of Trump Voters Believe White People Face the Most Discrimination.” The Week, August 23, 2017.
  46. Sullivan, Amy. “America’s New Religion: Fox Evangelicalism.” The New York Times, Sunday, December 15, 2017.
  47. Wilstein, Matt. “Only 1% of Fox News Viewers Are Black.” Mediaite, December 15, 2014.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Hornback
    • 1
  1. 1.Oglethorpe UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations