comments_image Comments

Journalistic Malpractice: The NY Times Offers an Extensive Piece About Elliot Rodger's Mental Health. Mentions of Internalized Racism? Zero.

I have written a series of essays about Elliot Rodgers.

In the 24/7 news cycle, topics are treated with drive-by grace: they are discussed briefly and then the next “if it bleeds it leads” subject is the object of focus.

I have continued to write about Elliot Rodger because his murder spree is a concentrated example of so much that is wrong with American society: gun culture, consumerism, racism, woman-hating, crude sexuality as power without an appreciation for the erotic, White Supremacy, broken masculinity, a failed mental health system, and white privilege are channeled through his tortured life and gross actions.

There is a satisfaction that comes with “connecting the dots” about an issue of public concern in a way that garners acknowledgement and affirmation from the public and those in the pundit classes.

However, there is also a sickening sadness that comes with being correct about the nature of an event--how White Supremacy and whiteness hurts white people and others--that had death and destruction as a result.

Here, I wrote about how the mainstream media has, quite literally, white washed the Elliot Rodger saga, subsequently ignoring his manifesto, to remove any reference to how White Supremacy and internalized racism were major factors in his murder rampage.

My observation has been echoed and built upon by several other writers (most notably a recent piece in Al Jazeera by Dexter Thomas). Nevertheless, it remains an outlier opinion.

As evidence of how our discussions of the role that internalized white racism played in Elliot Rodger’s murder spree, and the mainstream media’s gross neglect in discussing such an obvious fact, I point to the NY Times' piece "Before Brief, Deadly Spree, Trouble Since 8".

There, the authors offer a rich and compelling narrative about Elliot Rodger’s mental health issues that led to his killing six people near Santa Barbara, California.

How many times is racism or internalized White Supremacy mentioned in the Times' recent story? Zero.

Moreover, the photo accompanying The NY Times’s story features a picture of Elliot Rodger, as a child, with his hair dyed blonde. Rodger’s hair color is presented as a curious fact, one unmoored from the larger context of his life, and the decision to kill people in a misogynistic and racist rage that he wrote extensively about in his diary.

Elliot Rodger desperately wanted to be a “fully white” man. As he detailed in his manifesto, he both idealized and idolized Whiteness.

And as he wrote in his manifesto, Elliot Rodger’s decision, with parental consent, to change his hair color to “look less Asian” is dead center in the mania that drove a self-hating white Asian to kill.

The mainstream American news media reproduces the white racial frame and the White Gaze. In addition, the American news media also helps to socialize citizens into a set of values about “appropriate” values and beliefs about the nature of social reality.

The decision makers in the American news media are also overwhelmingly white and male.

As a fact, this is not necessarily a problem. However, to the degree that such an arrangement results in a narrow, distorted, and myopic view of social reality which reinforces Whiteness and White Supremacy, those demographics can be extremely dangerous to the Truth.

Was there a pitch meeting where the role of racism and White Supremacy in the context of Elliot Rodger’s murder spree was discussed and then discarded? Who knows? In the writing of "Before Brief, Deadly Spree, Trouble Since 8", did a junior editor point out the obvious contradiction and question posed by a picture of a self-hating Elliot Rodger with blonde hair and a story which does not mention his internalized racism? I am unsure.

The famous sociolinguist Noam Chomsky has written extensively and persuasively about how the mainstream media's coverage of events is constrained within a narrow set of rules and scripts about what is considered “appropriate” for the public discourse. These rules do not need to be discussed in order to be acted upon. They exist, are understood to be real, and like many manifestations of Power, make themselves known by virtue of the consequences felt by those individuals who dare to bend or break them.

In the post civil rights era, a moment when a black man is President of the United States of America, it is acceptable for the mass media to discuss incidents of gross and ugly racism. On some occasions, a smart and especially talented journalist can find a way to sneak a discussion of institutional racism into the public discourse: Ta-Nehisi Coates' recent piece about the crimes committed against black Americans by their own country is one such example.

Yet, to talk in an honest and direct fashion about the role of race, White Supremacy, and aggrieved white male entitlement in mass gun violence remains outside of the boundaries of what constitutes “polite” public discourse.

I would like to be able to laugh as I watch American opinion makers avoid discussing the influence of internalized White Supremacy and racism in Elliot Rodger’s wicked and evil behavior. In all, they are avoiding the role of white racism in Elliot Rodger’s behavior almost like it is a hot rivet that has fallen down the back of their shirts while innocently walking past a construction site manned by buffoons.

In avoiding the fact of White Supremacy’s relationship to Elliot Rodger, the mass media is offering up a racialized version of classic comedy routines by The Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy.

I want so very much to laugh. I cannot. Why?

I am concerned and worried about the mental and spiritual well-being of my white brothers and sisters and how White Supremacy does so much harm to too many of them. In that sentiment, I am like most black and brown Americans; I am their best friend because I am willing to tell them the truth when others are not.

Once more and again, what is The NY Times, and the supposedly "liberal" media, afraid of in their reporting about Elliot Rodger? Why are they running away from the role that White Supremacy and internalized racism played in his deeds?