National Public Radio is stirring up liberal hysteria again, courtesy of Odette Yousef, who works the outlets “extremism” beat (as in solely “right-wing” extremism). NPR’s website claims that “Yousef aims to explore how extremist ideas break into the mainstream, how individuals are radicalized and efforts to counter that.”
The latest “extremist idea” Yousef has latched onto is a… song? The raw, countrified tune “Rich Men North of Richmond,” a populist plea from singer/songwriter Oliver Anthony criticizing taxes and welfare, made history by debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was accompanied by a not very terrifying clip of Anthony with his guitar and two dogs.
To neutralize this danger, Yousef enlisted supposed extremism expert Jared Holt, who worked for much of the Trump years for the liberal People for the American Way’s project Right Wing Watch, not exactly an objective source:
It rails against the hardship of taxation, but also against people on welfare -- and it also nods to a conspiracy theory that has become a mainstay of the far right.
In one lyric, Anthony says, "I wish politicians would look out for miners/And not just minors on an island somewhere."
The mention of "minors on an island" is understood to refer to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal; though Epstein died in jail in 2019, the circumstances around his death continue to feed conspiratorial thinking.
"[That] really opened up a lot of people to conspiratorial content that they might have not otherwise interacted with," said Jared Holt, senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue….
One doesn’t have to be a conspiracist to have suspicions about Epstein’s death, including the lack of guard checkups and the lack of a cellmate.
With their hypersensitivity to “right-wing extremism” and misinformation, today’s liberals have painted themselves into their own extreme worldview, where speaking out against child trafficking is dangerous.
Yousef extrapolated wildly from the songwriter’s concern about human trafficking “One of the worst things a human can do is take advantage of a child”), managing to leap from there to an accusation of “anti-Semitic blood libel.”
Together, those notes hit on themes that are foundational to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
That conspiracy theory revolves around a baseless claim that elites (those whom Anthony might call the "Rich Men North of Richmond") are secretly trafficking children for sex and to harvest their blood.
It is closely tied in with the anti-Semitic blood libel and has helped lay the groundwork for a moral panic around children being targeted by pedophiles, which today has propelled violent extremists to target LGBTQ people and their allies.
Of particular note is the way in which this song went viral. "It sort of spread as an anthem," said Holt. "How I encountered it was through political channels rather than music-focused channels. It's not like Pitchfork wrote up the song."
….Holt warned that the individuals seizing on the song may lead unsuspecting audiences into their extremist spheres.
Among the early online boosters of the song were Matt Walsh, a far-right commentator who has fanned anti-LGBTQ sentiment….
Note that the “objective” tax-funded journalist and the liberal researcher share the same “far right” labeling proclivities.
"What is concerning is how this song is being used and the type of figures who are attaching themselves to the song, especially on the back of its success," said Holt. "And if these far-right figures are successful in associating themselves directly with the song, it could potentially open up a wider audience that they might normally not have access to all the time."