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How Fox News Uses 'Big, Scary Hip-Hop' to Race-Bait its Viewers

This week's outrage over Common and Jill Scott was ridiculous, but there was a more pervasive, nefarious issue at hand.

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Hannity and Rove and Palin and Drudge were tearing a script from that playbook, sticking it to Common and Scott, and hoping it would rub off on Obama, even though all of their assertions about the White House poetry invitees were mostly fantasy.

Which brings us to Monday night, when Jon Stewart debated Bill O’Reilly on the O’Reilly Factor about the topic. While Stewart tried to speak reasonably about the context of each of the accusations against Common, O’Reilly talked over him (as is his way), though Stewart got in a few shots. ("Guess who wrote a song about Leonard Peltier? Bono. Guess where he was? The White House. BOO-YAH.") But his most important comment:

There is a selective outrage machine here at Fox... This guy is in the crosshairs in a way that he shouldn’t be, whether you agree with him or not. You may think he’s ignorant in believing that Assata Shakur is innocent. You may think he’s ignorant in believing that Mumia is. But then guess what. Bono can’t go to the White House, Springsteen can’t go to the White House, Bob Dylan can’t go to the White House. You’ve got a lot of people who can’t sit in the White House because they’ve written songs about people convicted of murder.

Aaaand... hip-hop gets scapegoated again.

As for the actual White House poetry event last week, it went off without a hitch. Jill Scott read a poem about high rates of HIV. Common rapped and referenced Martin Luther King Jr. No one was harmed.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.