For whatever reason—maybe because the conservative gene is connected to the sour gene or maybe it's because watching Fox News sucks all the humor out of life—conservatives just aren't into funny. Predictably, the hashtag #triggeraliberalinfourwords, which trended on Twitter earlier this month, was about as amusing as skin tag removal (with one exception). Plus, a lot of it didn't even make sense—apparently counting to four is beyond many conservatives' capabilities. Example A:
I guess this is supposed to be funny? Then, in the midst of all this bland humor, something happened. As the Washington Post reported on Thursday, "Kambree Kawahine Koa, whose bio identifies her as a 'political news contributor,' scored big with her offering, which garnered almost 10,000 likes and close to 1,000 replies. 'The Democrats created KKK,' she tweeted over a photo of a Klan march captioned: 'This photo was taken at the 1924 Democratic Convention. It was known as the ‘Klanbake’ (just in case you want to Google it).'" Koa, by the way, has nearly 100,000 followers.
Kow is either lying or misinformed. The Democratic Party didn't create the KKK and the KKK didn't march at the 1924 Democractic convention, which was held at Madison Square Garden. That photo was actually taken in Wisconsin.
In reality, both parties have ties to the Klan. The group was founded by six dumb dudes in Pulaski, Tennessee, shortly after the Civil War. The group decided to be secret, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "to heighten the amusement of the thing, and the titles for the various offices were to have names as preposterous-sounding as possible, partly for the fun of it and partly to avoid any military or political implications." Which is how you get embarrassing, LAPRy titles like "Grand Wizard."
After its founding, the KKK quickly went about the business of sabotaging Reconstruction governments and terrorizing the South. This period, however, only lasted three or four years before the Klan faded away. Then, it was revived in the early 20th century when mass immigration brought 23 million people from the UK, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Russia to American shores. This time, spurred by anti-immigration sentiment, the Klan grew: By 1925, the group had between 2 million and 5 million members.
The second go-round was helmed by William J. Simmons, who was apparently inspired by the immeasurably racism film, The Birth of a Nation. Simmons advertised the "secret" group in Southern papers, calling it “The World’s Greatest Secret, Social, Patriotic, Fraternal, Beneficiary Order,” and a “High Class Order for Men of Intelligence and Character." Simmons later attributed the growth of the Klan to the media and the government. “It wasn’t until the newspapers began to attack the Klan that it really grew,” Simmons said. “Certain newspapers also aided us by inducing congress to investigate us. The result was that congress gave us the best advertising we ever got. Congress made us.” Once again, however, the Klan briefly terrorized parts of the country, and again quickly faded.
The third resurrection happened during the Civil Rights era in the mid-20th century. "When the Supreme Court threw out the 'separate but equal' creed and ordered school integration in 1954," writes the SPLC, "many whites throughout the South were determined to oppose the law and maintain segregation. Like the Southern opposition to Reconstruction government, the tensions and fears that arose after the Supreme Court decision provided the groundwork for Klan resurgence." By 1965, the number of Klan members in the U.S. was estimated to be from 35,000 to 50,000. During this time, the Klan murdered black people as well as white activists, burned hundreds of homes and churches, and were instrumental in the spread of racist violence across much of the South.
There was, however, opposition across the U.S. and in the federal government. The FBI infiltrated the Klan and there was a Congressional investigation. In 1965, seven Klansmen were indicted by a federal grand jury and found guilty. The Klan wasn't dead, but again, its power had faded.
Over the Klan's history, it had (and maybe still does have) plenty of members from both parties. "In the South," WaPo writes, "Jim Crow-supporting Democrats made a natural fit for the KKK. But in Midwestern industrial towns full of immigrant Catholics and Jews who voted Democratic, the Klan took root largely among Republicans. The Klan was Democratic in Oregon and Republican in Indiana — two of its biggest strongholds." It wasn't Republican or Democrat; it was both.
On the right, however, that history has largely been replaced by rumors and memes. Take "Klanbake," the term allegedly used to refer to the 1924 DNC. According to WaPo, the term doesn't go back to 1924, but to 2000, when Jay Maeder, a New York Daily News writer and cartoonist, used it in a column with no citation. It was then rebirthed in 2002, when the University of Houston created an online American history site and including a page on the 1924 convention. From there, WaPo writes, “'Klanbake' sneaked into scholarly histories, popular accounts and journalism on the right, left and center."
In 2017, at the beginning of the Trump presidency, the term appeared on a pro-Trump Facebook group as a meme, which was shared over 18,000 times on Facebook alone. The photo still wasn't of the 1924 convention, but that hardly matters at this point. All that matters is that it keeps spreading, pushing out lies, falsehoods, and misinformation. The history of this nation and of the Democratic Party is no doubt a dark one; but the Klanbake of 1924? It just didn't happen. As WaPo wrote, "Now, not only can partisans and malicious actors manufacture fake news, but they can falsify history as well."