By Anabel M.
How has the media played a role in hate groups across America? According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently 917 hate groups across America. The SPLC website says, “white nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of non-whites”. Other groups such as the KKK, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead and Christian Identity- which are categorized as a branch of white nationalism. All together these hate groups make up 471 of the total 917 hate groups. White nationalism has been around since the ’60s but since the most current election, the media has played a role in publicizing the movement making it bigger, bolder and potentially more dangerous, as demonstrated (evidenced) in the recent events in Charlottesville, VA.
The Unite the Right rally took place in Charlottesville, VA on August 11thand 12thto protest the removal of a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee. Counter-protestors showed up and what intended to be a peaceful protest turned violent. The wide media coverage was used by these white nationalists as a recruiting tool. The mass media coverage reaches sympathizers and likeminded individuals. The white nationalists then use social media to show images of their group in large numbers looking peaceful while the opposing side shows violence. In Gabriel Weimann’s book “New Terrorism and New Media” he explains how terrorism is increasingly using social media as a recruitment tool. They no longer have to wait to be sought out but can target likeminded individuals and persuade them to join their cause. With the use of propaganda, they can create images and videos that attract a greater number of people. This idea of propaganda leads me to my next point of “fake news”.
President Trump deems most media as “fake news” but favors and endorses Fox news and his daughter-in-law’s “real news” on Facebook. He spends a ridiculous amount of time bashing the media and is creating an anti-media rhetoric. During the coverage of Charlottesville, Fox news tried to blame the violence on “media coverage” instead of the hate groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis and the white supremacists that were marching with TIKI torches chanting racists and homophobic slurs. They [fox news] claimed the media wanted something more to talk about and kept pushing until there was violence. How certain media outlets such as fox, reported on the incident showed racist bias. Regardless of the violence and the death of Heather Heyer, many media outlets refused to call this an act of domestic terrorism simply because it was done by a group of white people.
When President Trump, the leader of our country, says that there are “some very fine people” on both sides, it seems as though he is defending white nationalism. Eventually, he released a statement saying racism is evil and condemned groups such as the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. However, Richard Spencer, the leader of the white nationalists told reporters that he didn’t think his group was included in Trump’s condemnation. From the president’s remarks or lack thereof it, he seems to be creating a culture that is accepting of these ideals. In addition, he recently retweeted videos from a British far-right fascist group of people assaulting Muslims. Although this is a separate issue concerning immigration and border control, by retweeting that group and the violent videos he is sending a message that he supports violence and hate groups.
The media has given white nationalists a platform to make their group stronger. In the book “Practical Media Literacy,” Nick Pernisco says “media and media messages can influence beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, and the democratic process” (64).
With biased reporting, constant coverage and President Trump’s seemingly passive attitude towards racism, more people feel comfortable coming forward with their white nationalist ideals. These groups also feel as if they can act bolder because they aren’t fearful of the law or repercussions. In 2017 media has had a huge role in a growing hate culture.
Weimann, Gabriel. New Terrorism and New Media. Vol. 2. Google Scholar. http://tsas.ca/wp-content/uploads/224069893-New-Terrorism-and-New-Media.pdf
Southern Poverty Law Center.https://www.splcenter.org/
Pernisco, Nick. Practical Media Literacy. 2nded., Understand Media, 2015.