Richard Hanania and the Reasonable White Guy Voice
Bigots are able to crack the big time because we trust an aw-shucks white guy no matter what he’s actually saying.
What is left to say about Richard Hanania? The short version is that Hanania, an “enlightened centrist” pundit, was recently exposed by Christopher Mathias of the Huffington Post as a former white supremacist who had been a guiding voice in the formation of the alt-right under the pseudonym Richard Hoste. The longer version is that Hanania isn’t a “former” anything, nor did the HuffPo piece “expose” much; it’s hard to argue that Hanania kept his racism a secret when he continues to publish extremely racist things under his own name.
The scandal of Hanania is how far he got, and how many people enabled him. He was published by the New York Times and the Washington Post. He was boosted by Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie. In the wake of his exposure, the usual round-up of genteelly anti-woke Substack bros — Freddie de Boer, Matthew Yglesias — have had to defend their association with him.
In this way, Hanania has exposed a crucial vulnerability of the media ecosystem — its reliance, past and present, on what I will call Reasonable White Guy Voice.
Reasonable White Guy Voice is a tone of affable, detached professionalism and erudition, mixed with just enough in-group references to seem contemporary — the voice of someone who owns both a worn-out Black Flag t-shirt and a framed diploma from Harvard. The voice is medium-deep, medium-rich, personable, unaccented; it emits a consistent, low, diffused warmth, like the pink glow coming off a Himalayan salt lamp, but never strays into a register that could be considered emotional. Emotion would undermine its…