A&E's 'Generation KKK' Program Causes Expected Controversy

The provocative programming has led to criticism of A&E and calls to boycott the network.

Published Dec 19, 2016

On 18 December 2016 the A&E cable network announced a controversial new program called Generation KKK, describing the eight-part documentary series in a tweeted video that begins with a small child receiving a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe:

Asserting that the ranks of the KKK are "rising," the lengthy Twitter preview delved into the docuseries' focus and included excerpts of interviews with seemingly disinterested children of Klansmen as well as anti-Klan activists working to extricate members from the group. The New York Times reported that plans for the series began to take shape in mid-2015:

“Generation KKK” began taking shape a year and a half ago — not long before the divisive election campaign emboldened Klan members and other nationalist groups in their belief that they were battling a white genocide — when the filmmaker Aengus James sent crews into the South. The goal: to show the Klan at the unvarnished grass-roots level. Continue reading the main story “The struggles we were most drawn to were the struggles with the internal families,” said Mr. James, an executive producer of the series, whose previous credits include TLC’s “I Am Jazz,” about the transgender teenager Jazz Jennings. “We had a stance, and we were clear with folks that we were hoping for them to see the light and to come out of this world. It’s an incredibly destructive environment for anybody to be in, let alone children.” The series follows Mr. Howard, the Imperial Wizard of the North Mississippi White Knights; Chris Buckley, a Grand Knighthawk with the North Georgia White Knights; and Richard Nichols, the Grand Dragon in the Tennessee Knights of the Invisible Empire.

On Twitter, media personalities and others voiced objection to Generation KKK and expressed fears it would "normalize" participation in white separatist groups:

Others asserted the show falsely created an impression of high participation in such groups:

A&E's General Manager Rob Sharenow told the New York Times that the network was making efforts to ensure the show didn't propagate abhorrent viewpoints:

[A tense political climate] meant finding a delicate balance between winning the trust of the Klan members and ensuring the show didn’t propagate views the network’s executives abhor. “We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK,” said Rob Sharenow, general manager of A&E. “The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate.”

“I certainly think that A&E should be on the side of shining a light on things that aren’t really looked at,” Mr. Sharenow said. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re an advocacy brand. But I do think there’s a message of hope in all these shows and a promise of redemption.”

Generation KKK is scheduled to begin airing on 10 January 2017.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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