Over the last few decades, I doubt that any American political organization has received greater negative attention in our national news and entertainment media than the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK. For example, although white activist David Duke left that group over 35 years ago, the media still often identifies him as one of its former leaders, and partly as a consequence Duke’s support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has regularly been treated as headline news.
Such massive coverage may be objectively demonstrated. Googling “KKK” yields over 72 million results, considerably more than the joint total for “Communist” and “Communists,” and well over twice what you get for “Communism.” Such prominence seems rather excessive, given that throughout most of the 20th century, Communism controlled some one-third of the world’s population, and the resulting political conflict periodically threatened to unleash global thermonuclear war. Even today, a self-described Communist Party governs China, a nation 1.4 billion strong, which by some measures has now passed the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy. Meanwhile, the last time the KKK held any significant political power was almost 100 years ago, during its Midwestern heyday of the 1920s.
And if we focus on the sanguinary consequences of the two movements, the imbalance is even greater. The famous Black Book of Communism, published in 1991, claimed that across the 20th century, Communist regimes had racked up a peacetime total of roughly 100 million human fatalities, and although that latter figure has been widely disputed as a considerable exaggeration, the true number is surely in the many tens of millions, with merely the famine deaths induced by Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward of 1959-1961 usually pegged at 35 million or more.
Meanwhile, the victims of the notorious KKK seem rather fewer in number. TheWikipedia entry for the KKK is over twice as long as that for Communism, and hardly seeks to airbrush the misdeeds of that violent organization, but only manages to provide some 15 murder victims, all listed by name, drawn from the combined decades of the 1950s and 1960s, which represented the height of the Klan’s modern power. This apparent gap between 15 deaths and perhaps 70,000,000 or so seems rather wide.
Not only does the KKK total pale in comparison with Stalin and his considerable body-count, but during its two decades of greatest infamy all those hundreds or thousands of armed Klansmen accounted for fewer victims than the number sometimes sent to the Chicago city morgue over a long holiday weekend these days, let alone what various half-forgotten teenage spree-killers produced during their individual short rampages. For example, a decade ago disgruntled Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 33 people within a couple of hours, and he hardly remains a household name these days. Meanwhile, the last of those infamous 15 KKK racial killings took place a full half-century ago.
A considerable disproportionality between media attention and actual activity seems undeniable.