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I have a weird habit that after big, divisive events I watch Fox News. Sometimes when something like last night happens I look at what other people in my life are saying about it and wonder if we live in the same universe. And then I remember that a lot of them are only getting their info from Fox News, so I check in to see what they’re seeing.
This morning I took one for the team, and watched a couple hours of Fox News so that you wouldn’t have to.
After running a few errands I put on Fox News on around 9:15. I had only been watching for a minute or two before I saw this:
Did you catch it? Watch it again. It starts at 21 seconds.
The female anchor says: “Try to imagine your hometown. Uh, just picture your main street, with twenty-five businesses burned out and broken into.”
And there it is. It’s as subtle as that. This could happen in YOUR town. They’re coming for YOU. This isn’t just Ferguson, it could be where YOU live. THE BLACK PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BURN DOWN YOUR MAIN STREET, TOO.
In the two hours that I watched Fox News this morning they did many things that were more egregious than that. I mean, they had Mark Fuhrman on to give his opinion about Furguson. Mark Fuhrman, for crying out loud.
But it’s the subtle things that are more dangerous, because they shape people without those people knowing that they’re being shaped.
Every time a news report stresses repeatedly that a murdered black man was on his way to college. (As if young black men who aren’t headed to college aren’t worth keeping alive.)
Every time a reporter notes that a black family’s house was “neat and tidy.” (You just won’t hear that comment about an upper-class white family’s home.)
“Your kids are so neat and clean. You wanna come work for me, be my maid?” “Hell no.”
When the same black actor gets cast in commercial after commercial because he’s able to give the brands diversity while still being “nonthreatening.”
When the media uses the most gangsta-like picture of a black victim that they can find, to help justify his death.
I wouldn’t normally turn to George W. Bush for words of wisdom on anything, and understand that I am NOT doing that here. But I do like a good turn of phrase. And in a July 2000 speech to the NAACP, he talked about “the soft bigotry of lowered expectations.” And that kind-of nails it.
Pay attention to how the media you consume is framing stories. Are they trying to scare you? Are they subtly suggesting things that help justify criminal acts by people in authority? Are they hinting that only certain types of people are worth keeping safe?
It’s not the overt stuff you have to watch out for, because you see that shit coming a mile away. What you have to look out for is not the man in the white robe and pointy hood screaming about killing black people. It’s the police officer who had been trained to confront the very people he was supposed to be protecting.