With tensions rising in Ferguson ahead of the grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, some troll has crowdfunded a racist billboard that will purportedly say "#PantsUPDontLoot," and while this troll is getting all the attention he wants, shockingly few of the outlets covering the story are willing to call it what it is.
The billboard's slogan is a racist conservative taunt first coined by the conservative National Review, modeled on the Ferguson protesters' "Hands up, don't shoot" chant, and now adopted by Don Alexander, the Brentwood, Tennessee resident who says he's a supporter of Officer Darren Wilson. The description of his fundraiser (which has met its goal) is now missing from his Indiegogo page, but here's what it used to say:
This crowdfunding campaign is for the purchase of a billboard in the Ferguson, MO area. The billboard will display black text on a white background with the text "#PantsUPDontLoot". After some initial confusion we are working with other, undisclosed companies in the area that are willing to create and display this image. The funds collected from this campaign will be used to purchase this billboard for as long as possible. Lamar originally quoted us ~$2,500 for 1 month but others have come in under that amount. Whatever funds we receive will go directly to keeping the billboard campaign up as long as possible. If we come to an agreement with a company and can fund it for 3 months, 5 months, 7 months..., we will.
The page now redirects users to this website, which studiously catalogs all the attention Alexander is getting from online outlets. On its own, this bit of racist trollery isn't all that noteworthy. The billboard page reached its donation target quickly, but with only 29 donors, which means there are, at best, 30 idiots who want to see this thing go up.
No, what I found remarkable was how Alexander was able to crib together clippings from online outlets like Gawker, RawStory, TPM, and Mediaite, without once having his project called racist, or in most cases, even mentioning the racial implications of it. RawStorydid note that the billboard "plays on stereptypes," but Mediaitecalled the proposed billboard "incredibly provocative," and TPM called it "a response to the chant commonly recited by supporters of Brown," as if this is just one side of an open argument about the protesters in Ferguson. Even Salon, while calling the billboard "disgusting," shied away from the r-word Alexander didn't use that one in his online scrapbook.
He also didn't use this piece by Riverfront Times reporter Lindsay Toler, even though he did publish the email she sent him asking for comment. Coincidentally, Toler described the campaign as "promise to display two racial stereotypes in one hashtag," and if her report is any indication, Alexander never replied to her request. In case you're still not sure about it, the proposed billboard is, indeed, racist. As fuck. As Toler points out, it incorporates stereotypes about black attire and crime, and its proposed placement is an accusation of criminality against an entire community. It's also counter to the facts, as even the Ferguson police report that most of the problems have come from non-residents, even at the beginning.
I reached out to Alexander at the email provided on his Indiegogo page, and he was rather brief in his replies. Asked what his occupation is, he replied "CIA" (I don't think he's in the CIA), and said that "OF COURSE!" he had reached an agreement with a billboard company. Asked to respond to allegations the billboard is racist, he said "Those are big allegations, for you."
Most tellingly, though, is that he said the effect he hopes to have on the situation in Ferguson is "Starting the fire."
Update: After publication of this piece, Alexander sent the following email in response:
"The billboard’s slogan is a racist conservative taunt
the proposed billboard is, indeed, racist. As fuck
29 or 30 idiots who funded this thing"
"DailyBanter"..... can't handle the banter.
Coincidentally, his web page no longer contains the online media scrapbook described above, but rather the following apparent attempt at an image rehab:
Inject a ambiguously positive real world message into the community.
Curiosity will produce both tangible and webbased viral results of a good nature.
Utilize the enthusiastic interest to raise awareness and funding for education, community charities and programs for betterment.
Sorry, Don. Still racist. As fuck.