I stumbled upon an alt-right subreddit the other night (presumably because the universe wants me to get a stupidity-induced nosebleed before the year is up) and one of the posts on there caught my eye.
Clicking on it sent me to an article the notorious red pill culture website Return of Kings.
Here it is:
The article talks about how an unnamed — but major — DNA testing company intentionally inserted false African genetic results into the ancestry composition of white people just to mess with them.
Whoa! That’s completely awful! If this is true, that company needs to be outed and shown for what they are…
…only there’s little indication that it’s true. Like at all.
Why? Three reasons:
Reason #1: Fourth hand sourcing
The article on Return of Kings got its information from another article on a completely different (but equally inane) alt-right website called Squawker (Emily Gould eat your heart out).
The article on Squawker — titled “DNA Testing Companies Like 23andme Admit Adding Fake African Ancestry To White Profiles In Order to ‘Screw With Racists’” — got its information from a Cracked article titled “Inside the Shady World of DNA Testing Companies”…
…which got ITS information from an anonymous source allegedly working for an unidentified DNA testing company.
It’s through these four layers of stupid that we get the Return of Kings article, which brings us to…
Reason #2: Willfully misleading
It’s ironic that these articles are railing against DNA testing companies for being misleading when they themselves are deceiving their audience.
Both Return of Kings and Squawker frame their articles to make it seem like companies like 23andMe arbitrarily add African ancestry to white people’s composition reports just to fuck with them.
“They were dealing with clients who were wondering if their natural rhythm was just a fluke,” Return of Kings writes, “or if they should bite the bullet and learn some good collard green recipes.”
The awful race jokes continue, “Their results didn’t indicate any African genetics, but the people at this company—whichever one it is—decided to mess with their heads. They gladly would’ve fooled one of them into thinking he was nearly an octoroon (to use the old term) if they didn’t fear getting shot over the prank.”
As the potential future father of an Octoroon, I resent their usage of the O-word. But that’s beside the point.
“While I can’t say I’m surprised, you may be shocked to learn that these ancestry sites aren’t always as accurate as they claim to be,” Squawker writer Alisha Sherron says wrongingly. “Beyond this, they’ve also admitted to tampering with the result to ‘screw with racists’.”
Squawker then calls into question whether or not the famous incident in which white supremacist Craig Cobb found out he was 14% African had any veracity to it at all.
Which is, of course, fucking stupid.
From the Cracked article:
I only know of two times somebody wanted to be tested for being another ethnicity because they didn’t like that ethnicity. Both times, [they were] white people not wanting to believe they had black ancestors.” The first of these made an offhand remark that, “‘I’m hoping it will show people I’m not black.’ And not as a joke. He was serious.” The second customer was even less subtle: “He caught himself from saying the N-bomb. He said, ‘I want to know if any of my family are ni- black.’”
Morgan and his colleagues were caught between a rock and a really-want-to-mess-with-racists place. It would’ve been fun to throw a “10 percent West African” in there, but then they might have a pissed-off, dangerous person at their office, waving a gun.
“Since we couldn’t do anything to the results (and we wanted to), what we did was add ‘<1 percent’ to each African category of ethnicity. That way we weren’t lying, and they would both be wondering how much under a percentage point was. We always try to round to the nearest number because we sometimes hear about percentage points, but for them, we leave it open to whether it’s a one or a zero.”
So AT WORST it can be said that this major DNA testing company allegedly misled a customer, but to say that they lied or that they’re “not as accurate as they claim to be” is fucking ridiculous.
Squawker’s claim that this throws Craig Cobb’s results into a new light is ludicrous considering he’s 14% African according to his ancestry composition results. According to the Cracked article, the “tampering” was nowhere near that number.
Also, with a title that includes the phrase “DNA companies like 23andme” it’s hard to believe that Squawker doesn’t have it out for 23andMe for one dumb reason or another. Especially when you consider that the source remains anonymous throughout the Cracked article.
Reason #3: The Cracked article — and their “source — is awful to begin with
I’m actually a big fan of Cracked. I think After Hours is an absolutely hilarious show, and their listicles are great bite sized ways to get through a train commute.
However, I enjoy them AS ENTERTAINMENT — not a serious source of in-depth reportage.
In fact, they’ve been known to straight up lie when it’s convenient so they can get a more “clickable” article.
Two other reasons this particular article is just awful:
- The unsubstantiated source: I’m completely fine with utilizing an anonymous source, but the claims made by the source aren’t backed up with any hard evidence. It brings into question the veracity of the entire article.
- It’s poorly written: Many of the points made in the article aren’t even “shady” practices like, “They uncover hidden family secrets.” NO SHIT. They’re a DNA testing company. Many of the people going to them want family secrets unhidden. Stupid.
At the end of the day, Cracked is going to be Cracked and they’re going to try to get you to click on their listicles even if it means resorting to some good ol fashioned fear mongering.
But it still brings into question: What is the alt-right’s deal with ancestry websites?
The Venn diagram of the alt-right and red pillers is almost one circle
First, I think it’s important to recognize that the alt-right and red pillers are, in fact, two different communities.
The alt-right is a political movement that lies upon a bedrock of white supremacy, promoting far right conservative policies while lamenting “political correctness” in society. The term itself was coined by notable punchable Nazi Richard Spencer in 2010 and has since seen itself formed into a movement — one that was largely responsible for the tragic protest in Charlottesville in 2017.
Let’s take a quick moment to appreciate the best thing that Richard Spencer ever did (get punched in the face).
The Red Pill is an online community birthed in the dregs of Reddit. They dedicate themselves to the belief that women inherently want to be subjugated and that society has been overly feminized due to regressive ideas like “women should have rights” and “you shouldn’t rape people.”
A few minutes spent on the front page of the subreddit will reveal that it’s just a bunch of sexually frustrated dudes angry at women for not wanting to sleep with them. So they created a community where they can vent their frustrations and try to “help” one another with “advice” like this:
However, it’s also important to recognize that the Venn diagram of the alt-right and red pillers is almost one circle. Both communities are made up primarily of young while men who struggle socially and financially. The way their frustration manifests is through the blaming of other people (ie Women and minorities).
Not to mention both groups are VERY sexually insecure.
What does that have to do with anything? Two things:
- Both communities are obsessed with the preservation of “Western Culture.” This is a dog whistle phrase that describes their fear that, among other things, white women will start dating non-white men en masse. It’s sexual insecurity projected onto racial insecurity.
- They hate anything that perceive is a threat to that. Both groups loathe feminists, POC, mixed-race relationships, and anything else that disrupts their narrative that white men know and do best. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so horrifying.
And this is all to say one thing:
The Alt-right hate ancestry
With the rising popularity of genetic testing kits such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe, many white supremacists have turned to the platforms in order to reaffirm their whiteness — only to discover that they might not be as white as they hope to be.
The aforementioned Craig Cobb even went on daytime television to have his ancestry results read to him, and when he discovered that he was “86 percent European, and […] 14 percent Sub-Saharan African,” Cobb immediately attempted to brush off the results as “statistical noise” while a studio audience roared with laughter.
Check out the video of that moment below:
I DRINK YOUR TEARS, CRAIG COBB.
Cobb has since doubled down on his insistence that the ancestry results were wrong saying that the genetic test was “short science.” He even went as far as getting another ancestry test done with a different company. Those results STILL had African-American ancestry in his composition.
And it’s not just Craig Cobb who’s suffering from Clayton Bigsby Syndrome: So many white supremacists are discovering that they’re not 100% white that scientists researched the matter.
In 2017, researchers at UCLA conducted a study that looked into how white supremacists reacted on online forums after discovering their ancestry composition. To do this they turned to various threads on the popular neo-Nazi website Stormfront wherein members discussed their ancestry results.
In their research, they found that the reactions to discovering that they weren’t 100% white were split up into two buckets:
- Reject. Many just outright rejected the results of the test, questioning the genetic testing company’s validity and scientific rigor.
- Reinterpret. The majority of the responses in the study came from people who attempted to rationalize their heritage through an “educational or scientific explanation” for the results (eg blaming the results on statistical errors).
“Once they start to see that a lot of members of their community are not going to fit the ‘all-white’ criteria, they start to say, ‘Well, do we have to think about what percentage [of white European genealogy] could define membership?’ says Aaron Panofsky, the sociologist who co-led the study.
But that’s just one side of the coin. As it turns out, ancestry doesn’t quite take a liking to white supremacists either.
Ancestry hates the alt-right
In response to the rise of racists using the direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits to affirm their “racial purity,” the same companies providing the kits have denounced people using their kits to “justify twisted ideologies”
As a company, we believe in the importance of diversity, unity and acceptance, as well as the fundamental truth that we are all more alike than not. Our purpose as a company, and the intent of our products, is to bring our shared diversity into the spotlight in order to promote understanding and equality. To be clear, we are against any use of our product in an attempt to promote divisiveness or justify twisted ideologies.
Our product is built on science, which illustrates the diversity in all of us. People looking to use our services to prove they are ethnically “pure” are going to be deeply disappointed. We encourage them to take their business elsewhere.
Diversity is quite literally part of every person in this country and this planet. We built our AncestryDNA and family history products to celebrate just that—the diversity within each of us and the connections that bring us closer together. Diversity, after all, is in all of our DNA and is the very foundation of Ancestry.
Isn’t it ironic…
Isn’t it ironic that a group of people so god damn obsessed with heritage and racial ancestry absolutely hates the truth that lies at the very heart of genealogy?
I guess none of us should be surprised that the same people responsible for the tragic shit show in Charlottesville wouldn’t have the self-awareness to interrogate their own hypocrisy.
Because if there’s one thing anyone just getting involved with genealogy should know, it’s this: You are going to be surprised by what you learn. Not only that, but there’s a good chance you’re not going to like what you find.
But on the flip side, that’s what makes the process exciting. Everything could change with a single DNA kit. You’re going to make connections with people related to you whom you’ve never met before. People who have lived entirely different lives from you but still share that ancient and beautiful connection of being your relative.
You share history with complete strangers — and there’s nothing to hate about that.