On Sunday, CNN finally found something other than Flight 370 to be blindingly stupid about, asking whether, in the wake of the murders of three people at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas last week by racist and anti-Semite Frazier Glenn Miller, it might be possible for the Ku Klux Klan to “rebrand” itself. Spoiler: After consulting with a number of marketing experts, they decided that the answer is pretty much “no.” Still, it was an important enough question that CNN figured it was worth looking into, especially since Kinder and Gentler Klan leader Frank Ancona politely volunteered to share his message of nonviolent white supremacy with the network.
Despite plenty of skeptical headlines — ours included — the piece isn’t really suggesting that all the KKK needs is a nice makeover; instead, it just clumsily sounds like that’s what it’s getting at. Yes, it’s a badly-packaged look at why merely rebranding the KKK would never work. That’s just about as perfectly CNN as a CNN story can get.
The piece, by CNN’s Ashley Fantz, starts with Frank Ancona’s lament about the Kansas shootings: “What this guy just did set back everything I’ve been trying to do for years,” and asks — rhetorically, fortunately — whether there’s a chance in hell that something as vile as the KKK actually could be rebranded. Big surprise: the branding gurus Fantz consults pretty much agree that the KKK has a worse problem than just its image. There’s the whole history of being a violent hate group thing that kind of gets in the way, and that’s not helped even if you swear that you’re not “enemies of the colored and mongrel races.”
So, no, even if the Klan were to “change its name, get a smooth-talking spokesperson, replace the robes with suits and take off those ridiculous hats,” it would still be the Klan, and wait a goddamn minute, how did Fantz even write that sentence without immediately mentioning David Duke, who actually did drop the robes for a suit and got himself elected to the Louisiana House, and then made a serious bid for Governor in 1991? (Duke does get mentioned later in the article, but almost as an afterthought.) But while that might work for one guy, as it did for Duke, we’re supposed to be reassured that it wouldn’t work for the KKK as a whole. Not even if they pretend to renounce violence, which is kind of their brand, no matter what.
So, excellent job, CNN, you answered your very important question: The KKK can’t rebrand and make itself loved by the nation. But it sure as hell can get Klansman Frank Ancona onscreen on CNN by asking the question.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He doesn’t have much of a brand. Or even a tattoo.