It’s a new reality for anti-racists on Twitter, who decried the racism of all those racists who are pissed that Halle Bailey will be playing Ariel in Disney’s upcoming live action The Little Mermaid. The only problem with the #NotMyAriel hashtag that bounced up on Twitter is that the original nasty racists couldn’t be found. The whole thing was a reaction to an anticipated backlash that never happened.

This hashtag is perfectly emblematic of our times, where everyone is so sure of what the opposition thinks that they manufacture it before the opposition has a chance to manifest it. In an era where roving gangs of middle class white kids beat up gay Asian journalists in the name of tolerance, it makes perfect sense that the search for imaginary racists would not be limited to the streets. In fact, it’s long been prevalent in the tweets.

The inconvenient truth for the virtue-signalling mob is that most people get along and don’t care about race. Racism exists, there’s no question about that. As a culture, however, we are moving away from it. It’s easy to imagine that racism is still the driving force keeping society divided, but it’s less racism and more ideological differences that come between reasonable people who disagree. 

The push to frame non leftist views as inherently racist is its own weird brand of call out culture. It’s a way to discredit opposing views without addressing those views themselves. The people who are most race-obsessed these days are the practitioners of intersectionality⁠—that insane social convention that, while it originally made sense as a corrective when it was first applied, has now infiltrated so many aspects of discourse and turned friends and family against each other. 

If there were really people out there who were pissed about a talented African-American actress playing Ariel because of her race, that would be something to talk about, especially if they had any place in the conversation. But it’s a backlash that didn’t arrive. Bailey looks like a great choice for the role. Anyone would be hard pressed to say otherwise. Indeed, it appears that the only people saying otherwise were sock puppets and bots.

Some observers suggested that the whole hashtag may been clever guerrilla marketing:

It’s possible too that this is another instance of the insidious, social media, misinformation campaigns that are intentionally designed to make everyone oppositional and disrupt American discourse. 

It took Disney long enough to cast across racial lines and start telling non white-centric stories, and even now, they’re moving slowly. But they are getting there, and casting the right actor for a role is about so many things, from the actor themselves, to their compatibility with the story and the rest of the cast. It behooves Disney to also consider representation, for lots of reasons including reaching a broader market share. 

There are enough racists out there without inventing fictional ones. There is a narrative that hate crimes are on the rise, when in fact their reporting is on the rise, and even so, there are less hate crimes now than there were before the increase in reporting. There have been surveys showing that the increase in divisionist propaganda since the beginning of the Trump presidency has urged people toward less, rather than more, racism. 

A recent article from the Washington Post confirms what reasonable people all know: we are becoming less racist: “Racial prejudice has not increased among white Americans since the explosive 2016 election,’ argues political scientist Daniel J. Hopkins. It has actually decreased by some measures.” 

But, as actual racism declines, paranoid fantasies about racism increase:

The fact of the matter is that more people were legitimately upset in 2017 when it was hinted that Lindsay Lohan might be the new Ariel:

It appears that the #NotMyAriel hashtag is a perfect storm of social panic, identity politics, and straight-up fake news. While the moralist pearl clutchers chase intolerant ghosts through our streets and timelines, those of us who have managed to not lose our minds will continue to think freely, have meaningful conversations, and get along just fine.