News spread quickly last year that Arizona Senator John McCain was facing a dire diagnosis of glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer, was met with near universal shows of support and well wishes. Around 20,000 Americans are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year. The American Cancer Society considers the five-year survival rate for patients over 55 to be around four per cent.
Former President Obama immediately tweeted words of encouragement to the Republican Senator.
John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 20, 2017
But to some on the extreme right, Senator McCain is a traitor because of his willingness to work with Democrats, as well as his criticism of President Donald Trump.
The present attack on McCain in the wake of his medical crisis is reminiscent of the early days of Trump’s presidential campaign. After McCain said that Trump “fired up the crazies” during an anti-immigration rally in his state, then-candidate Trump went on the attack. During a family values summit in Iowa shortly thereafter, Trump lashed out at McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.
For his part, President Trump has not endorsed the alt-right’s current attacks on McCain. The president sent a statement of support for him on Wednesday. “Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon.”
But the attacks came. One 4chan user wrote, “The last president for McCain will be Trump. There’s some godly justice right there,” on the Politically Incorrect message board, which is popular for alt-right memes. Another 4chan user replied, “I’m pretty sure that God is punishing him. God made it pretty clear that he supports New Right now.”
On Twitter, some called McCain a cuck. Cuck is alt-right shorthand for cuckservative, a portmanteau meant to combine cuckhold and conservative. The implication is that these Republicans sit back and watch rather than actively intervening to further the agenda of the extreme right on any given issue. Over time, the term cuck has been used as a generalized ad hominen attack on just about anyone with whom the alt-right disagrees, actual liberals included.
Mike Cernovich, a vociferous member of the alt-right, implicitly defended such attacks on McCain with a tweet.
I’m all for wishing cancer patients well but am not going to pretend McCain is anything but who he is. This is called being an adult.
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) July 20, 2017
Cernovich received replies such as:
He’s a traitor and a psychopath. His interests are of the globalists. They all need to die, faster the better. Then we straighten things out
— hj green (@howardcgreen) July 20, 2017
This is the problem with firing up the crazies — they’re awfully hard to extinguish.