Saturday, March 05, 2011

CNN Tries To Tackle White Anxiety -- By Treating White Nationalists As Credible Sources

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

[Louis C.K.answers CNN preemptively. Warning: NSFW.]

This was the headline yesterday at CNN:
Are whites racially oppressed?

"We went from being a privileged group to all of a sudden becoming whites, the new victims,'' says Charles Gallagher, a sociologist at La Salle University in Pennsylvania who researches white racial attitudes and was baffled to find that whites see themselves as a minority.

"You have this perception out there that whites are no longer in control or the majority. Whites are the new minority group."

Call it racial jujitsu: A growing number of white Americans are acting like a racially oppressed majority. They are adopting the language and protest tactics of an embattled minority group, scholars and commentators say.
Considering the racial angst that underlies so much of the Tea Party movement, this actually might have been an interesting and worthwhile subject to tackle. And it starts out promisingly, with quotes from smart people like Tim Wise, discussing the role of economic insecurity in these fears.

But then it devotes a great deal of space to the views of people like the Political Cesspool's James Edwards and VDare's Peter Brimelow -- hate-group leaders who are allowed to basically spew their venom as though their ideas were worth considering in the first place. And there's not a word devoted to discussing the hatefulness of the core ideology they promoted.

As Todd Gregory at Media Matters notes:
The most glaring problem with CNN's treatment of Brimelow and Edwards is that it presents the nature of their views as a he said/she said matter -- i.e., the Southern Poverty Law Center says they run hate groups, but they deny that. Any fair-minded look at their public statements would show that they espouse the view that minorities are inferior to white people.

Another important point about this treatment of white racial anxiety: It is completely unfair to white people who don't hold hateful views of minorities. If you are seeking perspective on "what white people think about race," you have committed journalistic malpractice by quoting people like Brimelow and Edwards. They can't be said to be in any way representative of what white people think.

Treating Brimelow and Edwards this way has the same effect as treating the New Black Panther Party as representative of black people. They're not. Plain and simple.
It's one thing to lend space to the views of racial hatemongers. It's quite another to do so without any kind of countering opinion. Yet the closes the CNN piece comes to doing that is to simply mention that the SPLC considers the subjects to be extremists -- as if that bit of proxy is all that's needed to explain to readers that no, really, white people are the opposite of being oppressed.

Gregory also observes:
Even if your goal is to accurately report on the views of people who hold "pro-White" views or sympathize with "white nationalists," setting up interviews with them and disseminating their message to a wider audience is the wrong way to go about it. People who are openly bigoted make plenty of statements about what they think, which could easily be quoted. Allowing them to offer fresh thoughts through your reporting presents them an opportunity to promote their views.
This is, of course, always a danger when it comes time to report on white supremacists of various stripes: In order for your readers to understand them, you have to present their views. But to do so without explaining to those same readers why these views are misbegotten and grounded in misconceptions, lies and pure bigotry is, in fact, profoundly irresponsible.

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