Monday, November 21, 2016

Trumplandia 2016 (Prelude): What Mainstream Media Hath Wrought | the becoming radical

Trumplandia 2016 (Prelude): What Mainstream Media Hath Wrought | the becoming radical:

Trumplandia 2016 (Prelude): What Mainstream Media Hath Wrought

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The election of Barack Obama prompted a rash claim that the U.S. was officially post-racial. As a cruel commentary on that misinterpretation of the first black president, the era of Donald Trump has coincided with the Oxford Dictionary naming “post-truth” the word of the year.
Part of being “post-truth” includes that which shall not be named.
For example, “[a]n Alabama police officer has been fired for sharing racist memes, including one about Michelle Obama,” reports Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post. But the police department’s explanation for the firing is important to analyze:
Bryant, the city manager, said statements that are “deemed to be biased or racially insensitive or derogatory” can affect the community’s trust in the police department and, when that happens, “we have to take action to correct it.”
Not racist, not racism, but “racially insensitive.”
While Bever does use “racist” in the lede, later she explains:
Since Donald Trump was elected president, a wave of racially and religiously motivated acts of intimidation, violence and harassment have swept across the country — from a middle school in Michigan and a high school in Pennsylvanian to universities in Texas and elsewhere.
Not a wave of racism, but “racially motivated acts.”
And while this article and the incidences Bever details are mostly about how racists and racism have been confronted and with consequences (multiple firings of public officials), the piece still reflects the tendency in the U.S. for mainstream media to avoid or tiptoe around directly naming racists and racism.
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and faculty associate with Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, explains in a detailed blog post:
I said over two years ago that media style guides precluded major newspapers from calling something racist.
Then I asked around and professional media people told me that there isn’t a style convention on this matter so much as an informal culture. The general rule, I was told, is to never call anything racist and certainly to never call anyone racist. At best, they might quote someone calling something or someone racist.
The implication is that there is no such thing as objectively racist. Racism, according to many mainstream media producers and gatekeepers, can only be subjective.
While, again, Bever’s journalism is relatively bold in this context identified by Cottom, the authority figure in the article represents well a fundamental problem in the U.S. with naming racists and racism.
For example, in 2014, when high school students dressed in black faceTrumplandia 2016 (Prelude): What Mainstream Media Hath Wrought | the becoming radical: