A Pulitzer Prize-winning nation security reporter explains why Magneto was right

I think the direct comparison of Xmen with real life oppresed groups doesn’t really work on a 1-to-1, mutants have reality altering powers and humans are just not on equal footing to them hence their predisposition to default to experimenting on mutants against their will, using them as weapons against their best interests, and wiping them out. The closer you look at the Xmen the less you can make those comparisons, that said they’re still a good stand-in to talk about discrimination within the frame of story telling. That said the closest we can get to the comparison is in today’s culture marginalized groups have taken to being more vocal and aggressive defending themselves rather than being passive about wanting to be treated as equals. When a cop shoots a person of color their communities force cities and governments to take action, rather than take the long road of playing nice and hope that they’re taken seriously.

I wouldn’t say that marginalized communities need to start their own separate countries or governments, but there is a good case to be said for taking charge on making the changes you want to see happen rather than wait for those in power to throw you a small bone when its in their best interest.


I guess that makes sense as far as it goes. It just strikes me as odd because the core truth about race is that it’s purely a social construct and people from one end of the world to the other are all fundamentally the same. While both Magneto and his opponents are right, humans and at least some mutants aren’t.


While true, it’s a social construct with real power and force behind it.

I’m not sure I agree with that, given that as much as we’re alike, we’re also different, because we live in different cultures and contexts. Even capitalism hasn’t had the power to completely flatten civilization into a global mono-culture, no matter how hard it’s tried. But that’s not a bad thing, of course. It is a fact and something that is largely a plus with regards to humanity, because it shows the real genius of the human animal, just how complex and adaptable we are to a variety of conditions.


To be clear, I am not one to argue this at all. A hit list is purely a social construct. It still matters tremendously whose name is on it and it would be a serious mistake to pretend ignoring its existence would make it go away.

And also to be clear I don’t disagree with this either. I’m saying biologically we are all the same clay, and then you’re quite right, socially we make a wonderful diversity of things out of it. :slight_smile:


I know! I do think there is probably people who read social construct and think “fake” so I do find it useful to constantly reinforce the reality of social constructs.



It certainly doesn’t. But you can’t really escape how it’s actually been executed.

As another example you might take Liberia.

Both have pretty big examples of just porting violence and oppression to new places and different people, and an inherently colonialist thing going on. Even if that isn’t the whole of it.

As general thing we don’t really hear all that much advocacy for creating safe homelands for minorities.

Outside of very different context with things like Basque separatism, the Kurdistan movement. More about peeling off an existing population in place, and thus localized enfranchisement, than carving new nations to relocate people to.

The more Magneto style take on it, tends to have a lot more currency among White Supremacists. Seperate nations for seperate people. And if some one started talking about a seperate homeland for Black people, or LGBT folks. We’d all have a pretty good guess about where that was coming from.

To a certain extent the comics are a bit hemmed in by the continuity and the long history of the X-Men as stand ins for real social issues. That’s kinda of a hoary way to go about things these days, and Magneto’s particular history together with the very complicated Israel reference point sorta leaves a pretty specific thing hanging out there.

That specific take is pretty hard to read as a good thing in real world terms. To say he’s “right” in terms of the end goal.

I don’t think “Magneto is right” is the right take way. And I don’t think Xavier is an Uncle Tom is the right read there either.

A core part of these books has been the debate between those two characters as to approach, it’s damn sight more interesting and relevant when it’s less cops and robbers black and white. And when their goals are closer together.

As far as that goes. Softening Magneto, and abstracting the particular things it’s drawn from. Goes a bit hand in hand with hardening Xavier. And from the comics I’ve read, the point seem to be more that both are wrong in different ways, both right about core things. The idea they seem to be pushing is that the two of them cooperating can find a better, more right, way forward.

I didn’t say it was. What I said that Xavier isn’t wrong because his position is to fight for enfranchisement, and that there is a difference between that and hiding, assimilating and hoping the oppression stops.

The X-Men side of this has seen characters run for office, protest marches, and stuff getting blown up.

There’s also a difference between expecting minorities to fix society for the rest us, and discussing the very real need for people to have a voice in their government and self determination. And the practical necessity of it to counter oppression.

Likewise you can’t hand wave away the actual oppression and displacement of people on Ethnic grounds. That is bad. You can understand the context that lead to it, and the right of Israel to exist and what drove it. And still think that’s bad. You can look at similar movements that went the same way. And it’s hard to so and say that Magneto is right to have that as his explicit goal.

Imagine carving out a Jewish state in Europe. Lots of people ended up here, but you can’t blame people for NOT wanting to live next door to people who were STILL pretty keen on seeing you leave. But I never said it excused shit.

Except Mutants are meant to represent a disenfranchised minority, so no. Not really. It’s not like there aren’t non-whites who have been historically oppressed who have expressed supremacist world views. But since our world is white supremacist, and white people are generally empowered with the monopoly on violence (and they are the ones who created the whole scheme in the first place), they are less likely to carry out acts of violence. As you say, this is the case in Israel right now, but the truth is that it’s pretty understandable that Jewish people might not want to live along side a bunch of people who just killed about 6 million of their co-religionist.

And it’s still not the same thing as white supremacy, because we live in a white supremacist world, not the other way around. As you say, “you can’t escape how it’s actually been executed.”

And it’s not like there were singular arguments about Black people in America. King was not speaking for everyone, and those voices included everything from integration to full-on segregation, because white people will never live alongside Blacks. And there are plenty who won’t. So, it’s not a problem OF Black people, it’s a problem FOR Black people, but its’ a white people problem. Same with Mutants. It’s a human problem, not a mutant problem, because non-mutant humans run and built the world and it’s up to them to change it.

I very much did not do that and anyone who has interacted with me here knows I do not do that.


It certainly doesn’t map cleanly. It’s kinda an outdated approach in general, when you can have actual minorities and actual issues in the books, in stories told by minorities themselves.

Part of the issue here is the attempt to keep it current. But the X-Men books have always functioned on a direct metaphor basis. It works better these days to have Xavier and Magneto closer together ideologically. And for both have serious shortcomings.

Right. But I don’t think just waiting and playing nice is the position Xavier represents. The more recent books I’ve read he certainly gets criticized on that front, and they’ve laced in the respectability politics. Certainly in a lot of the older books he was a sort of vaguely, morally upstanding sort of “activist”. Often explicitly compared to the public perception of MLK.

But broader strokes and in plenty of story lines it’s forcing governments to take action, being vocal even being aggressive in defending themselves. Hank McCoy was even a Senator I think, or ran for office. I forget.

But Magneto does. And he did.

There’s interesting stuff going on with how to use that to push other nations and societies, to improve the lot of Mutants in other places. That’s part and parcel of pushing it away from the “evil” version of this particular Magneto goal.

But if you’re saying Magneto is right. You’re saying that’s the right approach.

The whole thing with this is framing a debate in approach through these two characters. Using past continuity to give them ideological warts.

To be fair Xavier’s past is much more of an indistinct, warm and fuzzy, yay civil rights sort of thing.

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In the context of the comics, Magneto has to be right and wrong. It’s that tension that drives conflict and story lines. It’s fine example of Chekov’s gun. You could eliminate it, but at the expense of cutting off potential story lines.

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But what bearing does that have on the very real displacement, killing and oppression of people in the process and right now?


But show me the wide spread calls for the creation of “homelands” for minority groups. Which is what I actually said. You tend to hear this more often from ethno-nationalist, we do not generally argue that the best path forward for minorities is for them to pickup and go somewhere else where they can be the majority.

The closest thing are those nationalist/sovereignty movements I mentioned. Which are fundamentally different.

Again yeah. I know the history and context of how this happened.

What is not justifiable, even when we understand the context, is the displacement, killing and oppression of Palestinians still going on.

Responding to a reference to that with how justifiable the motivation for a Jewish state was, “but at some point, you can’t keep expecting human beings to NOT act as human beings tend to,” and “it’ s a little disingenuous to ask them to decolonize their way of thinking” carries a pretty big implication of excusing things.

“Palestinian people are oppressed” does not demand a justification for the existence of Israel in response.

Talking about how people can go about improving things, and the practical need for oppressed people to have a voice in their government and society is not the same as saying it’s their problem to fix.

The entire X-Men, Xavier-Magneto thing is about how. Recently as start a new nation without the problem, or fight to make it happen where you are.

I really would appreciate you not putting words in my mouth. At no point did I advocate for the slaughter or disenfranchisement of Palestinians. At all.

Have a good day.


This is cool, but even as a kid who nerded out over comics so hard in the 80s and 90s, it feels kinda uncomfortable to me when we look at everything through the refracted lens of comic books and comic book characters?

Plus, I’ve tried to get back into comics and honestly, the form can be super limiting, especially for mainstream characters who live on forever and have their story re-told over and over… how many reboots of Spider-Man and Batman and Superman do we need?

This might come across as being a debbie downer, and I’m sorry about that, but it’s hard for me to take over-analysis of comics seriously, especially mainstream stuff like the X-Men. :confused:



Comics are a byproduct of our culture, and as such, they reflect it back to us, and help us think through aspects of the culture. The X-Men and a lot of the post-Stan Lee Marvel comics were purposefully dealing with some heavier themes that were much more complicated than the older DC comics (though post-70s DC got darker and more interesting). Including, yes, discrimination that many people who read comics faced in their daily lives. Ta-Nehisi Coates, among other very smart, thoughtful people, has discussed this in depth and it’s driven his decision to go into writing comics. And of course new people are getting into comics and want to see themselves and their lives reflected in the stories.

Some are better than others. But humans retell stories all the time. Because story telling is intrinsic to humanity itself. One can hear an old story and get something out of it, or one can hear a new version of a story and get something out of it. Because each iteration comes when you’re at a different place in your life and might mean something different each time it’s told to you. Because we’re not born fully formed, but are always in the process of becoming.

But as Kevin Smith said, comics are our modern day mythology, and myths are there to be told and retold. If people get value out of it, then they’ll embrace it. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that either.


Right – and that was a very interesting, offbeat choice in Black Panther. It’s the Supermans and Batmans and Spider-Mans that get all the attention, so a bit more diversity would be appreciated for sure.

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There are tons of attention being paid to other comics now. Hollywood has been looking outside the mainstream comics for a while now, even in the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy was a bit more off the beaten path than Spiderman for example. And then there was the recent Watchmen series, which was a spin-off from the original comic. They are currently making a series based on Sandman (which was vertigo, a DC imprint). They made a series from Preacher not too long ago. The Umbrella Academy started as a comic. Wynonna Earp is based on a comic. Tank Girl. Persepolis. American Splendor. Ghostworld. Judge Dredd. V for Vendetta. The Tick. Tales from the Crypt. Blade. Archie and Sabrina the Teenaged Witch. Walking Dead. Luke Cage. Jessica Jones. Legion. Even in cases where some of these are Marvel or DC, many of them have been able to tell compelling, complex, and interesting stories that talk to people. Many of these might not be as big as the old classics, but there is an audience, and it’s not insigificant. The Walking Dead has managed to go to 11 seasons, with two spin off series, and some movies in the works. It’s definitely not your typical superhero comic.

I think the choice of Coates is probably less off-beat than you think, given there is much more fluidity between other forms of writing and comics now a days. I think that probably Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman showed you can be both a novelist and a comic writer, and that you can write comics that are seriously works of literature.


Defining humans along a mutant/not-mutant binary will work as well as every other attempt to divide people based on genetic factors.


Some of the X-Men movies were pretty good, but this TV series, which seemed to come and go without attracting any attention or viewers, may have been the best adaptation of the property so far

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Those are excellent “deep cut” superhero examples, and you’re right, I had forgotten about a lot of them! They even made a Swamp Thing series recently and that was one of my 80s favorites. Thanks for reminding me.

(Also, the Winchester Mystery house is fun to visit. Maybe not more than once, but I liked it. I did visit it a few years ago.)

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