CBS’s plan to racially segregate the tribes for the 13th season of “Survivor” has white-supremacist Web bulletin boards buzzing, prompting concern from the Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights group.
“It has lit up the white-supremacist world,” said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Report at the SPLC. “It’s been a fairly remarkable reaction. [The format] plays into the hands of many people in this country who have racist feelings.”
The upcoming season of the 6-year-old CBS reality show has contestants separated by race into four groups: The African-American Tribe, the White Tribe, the Hispanic Tribe and the Asian-American Tribe. The tribes will stay segregated for about half the season.
Since the format was announced two weeks ago, the plan has been widely criticized as a racially inflammatory ratings stunt. Show creator Mark Burnett has said the format was a response to criticism that the reality program didn’t include enough minorities.
People posting messages on white supremacist Web sites such as Stormfront.org and Vanguardnewsnetwork.com, are greeting the “Survivor” format with a mix of hope and suspicion: Some hail the idea as a way to foster racial pride among whites, but others fear Hollywood will portray whites unfavorably.
“This is a great idea,” wrote poster “Drafli Hakon” on Stormfront, which claims 120,000 members. “This will get all those millions of couch potatoes who watch the show [rooting] for their own. Win, lose or draw, millions of whites will start to remember that they ARE part of a tribe. If the Whites win, they will feel pride. If they lose, they will feel resentment towards those who won. It’s win-win for us.”
Another poster, “Krom,” agreed. “This is great and should be really interesting!” the poster wrote. “One benefit I see is that people will really see racial differences are real PLUS they will be able to root for their own people; a sense of racial solidarity. Good luck to the white team!”
Much of the reaction is tempered by fearful certainty that the show will portray whites in a negative light.
“The show will choose the weakest and most indecisive whites to be on the island, and the opposite for the other races (except the asians, maybe),” wrote one poster, “Kragen.” “The show will also be carefully edited to fit their agenda … to make people think whites are nothing without non-whites.”
CBS declined to comment about the message boards. Mr. Burnett could not be reached for comment by press time.
Mr. Burnett has denied the show will inspire racism and has called critics “less than open-minded.”
Mr. Potok, whose nonprofit group investigates racist organizations, said segregating players is an unhelpful way to address diversity issues. “I’m not sure if creating a mini-race war on TV is much of a solution to an affirmative-action problem,” he said. “To some people, this is a chance to get up and cheer for your race. And that’s not helpful at a time when race relations are doing poorly in America.”
One poster on Stormfront noted that the new “Survivor” format might “double or triple [CBS’s] ratings.” To which another member hopefully replied: “It might double or triple Stormfront’s ratings.” Stephanie Robbins contributed to this report.