Fox News is Tearing Us Apart: Race Baiting and Divisiveness Hits a Disgusting New Low
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The continuing right-wing effort to make a hero out of Michael Brown’s killer, Darren Wilson, may not turn out so well, if the past is any guide. Remember Cliven Bundy? Donald Sterling? George Zimmerman?
Just because liberals don’t like someone doesn’t mean he should automatically be a hero to conservatives. There was a point when even the National Review seemed to recognize this — editor Rich Lowry once wrote a column titled “ Al Sharpton Is Right,” about the need for charges to be filed against George Zimmerman, when Florida officials were dragging their heels.
But that time is long gone, apparently. And as a result, the right seems well on its way to aligning with the reemergence of a 21st century form of lynching, even while furiously insisting that they are totally post-racial. Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling — the more readily and thoroughly renounced — didn’t kill anyone, of course. But Zimmerman and Wilson both did, and both, to varying degrees, acted under color of law, which is precisely how plain old-fashioned lynching used to work, in a shadow realm that would not have allowed the killing of whites (except, of course, for “race traitors” who allied with blacks).
It didn’t take long for people to start rallying to Darren Wilson’s defense. In less than a week, several hundred thousand dollars had been raised on his behalf — with a healthy smattering of hateful racist messages in support, such as “I would have donated double this amount, but you missed his accomplice” — and Fox News had run a flood of false, unsourced stories, claiming that Wilson’s eye socket had been broken, implicitly “proving” that he had been in a heroic struggle for his life.
It was the overnight creation of what Joan Walsh called “a thriving franchise of the nation’s booming white grievance industry.” In contrast, things moved more slowly when it came to making George Zimmerman a hero. Fox News and most of the rest of the right virtually ignored Trayvon Martin’s killing for months, and even when they suddenly snapped to, it took a while for them to adopt Zimmerman as one of their own. Now, in contrast, it’s all happening at warp speed.
Two decades ago, the acquittal of the officers who beat up Rodney King touched off the most widespread urban riot in a generation, but there was nothing similar in that coverage to the way that first Zimmerman, and now, apparently, Wilson are being treated as heroic figures. Given the role right-wing media plays in hero creation, it was only natural to turn to Media Matters for some perspective, and senior fellow Eric Boehlert made several points to Salon, to describe how we got here.
First, Boehlert reminded us, today’s conservative media were unlike anything in existence in 1992; second, that it was Obama’s relatively benign comments that led conservatives to politicize the killing of Trayvon Martin; and third, that conservative media’s 16-month involvement in smearing Trayvon Martin and defending George Zimmerman had created a new narrative niche, which was now readily filled with similar attacks on Michael Brown and defense of Darren Wilson. (Though Boehlert was describing the broad sweep of developments, one Media Matters blog post highlighted Geraldo Rivera’s virtually identical pattern of victim-blaming in both cases.)
Finally, more broadly, Boehlert noted that white victimization — and thus rallying around victim/heroes — is the cornerstone of Fox News’ programming, even as it’s embraced the ideology that racism has been eradicated ( never mind the actual facts), and concluded that the real racists are those who still talk about race.