If you don’t know who Jon Jafari (a.k.a. “JonTron”) is, you probably aren’t all that familiar with his particular genre of comedic game and movie reviews. In fact, you were probably equally puzzled by the controversy over let’s player Pewdiepie as well.
But speaking as a longtime fan, I can attest to his ability to skewer terrible games and films — the abominable Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Food Fight come to mind — with his peculiar brand of off-the-wall humor and sight gags. In short, I always found him to be an eminently talented comic.
Now to be clear, I have no issue with an actor or actress or comedian holding conservative views. In a 2004 interview, Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame admitted that he reads the National Review “cover to cover” and believes the Democratic Party is “bent on turning this into Silly America.”
Clint Eastwood is a Republican who lectured an imaginary President Obama during the 2012 Republican National Convention. And I certainly don’t always agree with the politics of South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
However, there is a line that must be drawn somewhere, and, for me, Jon Jafari’s recent statements defending outspoken white nationalists and their arguments have crossed it. During a January 27, 2017 livestream with YouTube philosopher/stupid person’s idea of a smart person Sargon of Akkad, Jon complained about the number one problem plaguing the far-right: anti-white racism. Jon said:
I’ll say, this anti-white kind of thing, it started — I used to even refrain from saying anti-white, because I thought it was really explicit, but oh my god, for fuck’s sake, it’s just so obvious now. So this anti-white thing, it started back even in the 90s when I was growing up in California. You know, very subtle, with just a bit of anti-Americanism. You know my history teacher taught us not to do the pledge of allegiance. Just like subtle — just a strip a little bit of patriotism here, a little patriotism there. And then also history books just teach you everything bad that white people did. But now they’ve gone from just an implicit, sort of, white badness to just “White people need to be shut down.”
Sargon, of course, seemed to conflate concepts such as “white privilege” and “institutional racism” with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. “It’s literally like saying the Jews did it,” claimed Sargon. “Oh it is!” Jon exclaimed, adding that it “is that similar strawman: ‘The Jews this, the Jews that.’ It’s like ‘The white man this, the white man that.'”
Later in the livestream, they discussed forthcoming elections in France, the Netherlands, and Germany. Jon declared his support for racist and authoritarian politicians, stating that “hopefully” Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders will “win” their respective elections.
Marine Le Pen took over the helm of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party from her father Jean-Marie in 2011 with the goal of detoxifying it. Jean-Marie, a lightning rod of controversy, was known for dabbling in Holocaust denial, advocating for quarantining AIDS patients, and accusing Jacque Chirac of being under Jewish control.
In 2015 the elder Le Pen was expelled from FN as part of the party’s makeover, but his daughter is little better, having compared crowds of Muslims praying in the streets to an “occupation.” She also wants to deny free education to the children of undocumented immigrants, favors a ban on wearing hijabs and kippahs in public, and vowed to stop what she called “uncontrolled immigration” to France.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders is similarly Islamophobic, having compared the Qur’an to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and called for it to be banned outright. He also called Moroccan migrants “scum,” advocated for a ban on Muslim immigrants and building mosques, and referred to Islam as an “ideology of a retarded culture.” It is unsurprising that Wilders has been nicknamed the “Dutch Trump.”
“Don’t forget [Frauke] Petry,” said another livestream participant (identified as “Dr. Layman”) who claimed to be living in Germany. Frauke Petry is the candidate from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, yet another far-right nationalist group. Its track record on LGBTQ rights is predictably spotty, with many members taking a “traditionalist” anti-gay stance on marriage and adoption. MEP Beatrix von Storch of AfD called pro-gay student groups a form of “forced sexualization,” for example.
On Islam, AfD is even worse, adopting a platform calling for a ban on minarets and the Muslim call to prayer. Petry herself, when asked about how to secure the 800 kilometer Austrian border, replied that border guards must “use firearms if necessary.” When the interviewer asked, incredulously, whether German law permits shooting refugees, Petry walked back her statement, saying that lethal force should be used as a “last resort.”
Jon seemed to recognize the AfD’s name, but asked whether or not she was “popular” in Germany. “It really depends,” said Layman, “Amongst, let’s say, right-wing people she actually is really popular.” He boasted, however, that “with every terror attack she gains 5 to 10 percent” in the polls.
In addition to his support for these reactionary figures, Jon recently made a series of comments on Twitter defending white nationalist talking points. The controversy began yesterday when Rep. Steve King said this on Twitter: “[Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
In a single comment, King managed to distill the white nationalist fear of declining white birthrates in less than 140 characters. Most observers knew what King meant, including legions of white supremacists who applauded him.
His statement was even less surprising to anyone remotely familiar with the Iowan’s history of racist remarks, from blasting DREAMers as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes” to scoffing at the idea that any other racial “subgroup” contributed more to civilization than white people.
Jon’s response to King’s remark was to immediately come to his defense:
When Jon was reminded that he is, quite literally, the son of an Iranian immigrant, he responded by crediting the “founding stock” of America with the opportunities he has today:
He continued by repeating the common white supremacist refrain that only “white nations” are prohibited from “protect[ing] their culture”:
He defended colonization of Third World countries as a “net benefit”:
He then got into a protracted argument with other Twitter users, claiming that other people were “making this 100% about race” and asserting that our nation’s culture is “rapidly deteriorating.” And, taking another page out of the white nationalists’ playbook, Jon even called immigration from non-European immigrants a form of “demographic suicide” and said “no one would ask Japan to become less Japanese”:
Now, this is not a post I wanted to write. In fact, until yesterday’s comments defending King and European colonization of non-white countries I probably never would have said a word about Jon Jafari here. But I suppose that’s the straw the broke the camel’s back, and ultimately soured his comedy for me once and for all.
To be clear, I am not asking readers to start a boycott or get his show taken down or anything else. This is strictly about what I as a fan found to have crossed the line. Being a conservative is one thing. And dabbling in the politics of white racial resentment is quite another.