By Spencer S.
The role the media has on our perception of society is arguably more profound and far-reaching now than in any time in history. With breaking news occurring around the clock in our 24-hour news cycle, it’s hard to not feel inundated with shocking revelations at every scroll of your feed that influences the reader’s view of the world around them. Our unique history in the United States of perpetuating systemic racism while simultaneously maintaining white male supremacy in capitalistic patriarchy has led to a divided and charged climate that is rearing its ugly head more aggressively than ever. The onslaught of stories of black citizens being slaughtered by those meant to protect and serve or riots forming between KKK hate groups and those seeking justice for these atrocities have thrust this situation into an even grander canyon if division. Our current political climate of racially charged division coupled with the anonymity provided by the Internet has led to an emboldened and decidedly more flagrant form of white nationalism and white supremacy that is made vastly more powerful by the support of our current administration and our immediate access to news.
It is clear that our current president values the sustaining of white supremacy and fosters a sense of nationalism that has emboldened a large population of white supremacists in our country. His misleading and often offensive language on the campaign trail when discussing such things as immigration and race relations coupled with his reactions to national tragedies such as the terrorist attack in Charlottesville and his refusal to acknowledge or condemn white supremacists for clear assaults on the safety of our country’s citizens are clearly indicative of a ruler who seeks to spread the ideals of nationalism within the frame of white America. Henry A. Giroux puts the frightening reality of this rapidly unfolding scenario into perspective by stating “As violence and politics merge to produce an accelerating and lethal mix of bloodshed, pain, suffering, grief, and death, American culture has been transformed into a culture of war” (Giroux 887). This toxic cocktail is clearly reaching a tipping point as the vast influence and immediate reactionary reporting and the uptick in civil unrest from coast to coast is brimming with fervor at the brink of eruption.
Another facet of this current state of affairs is the representation and exposure of these hate groups and their tactics. Although seemingly dichotomous, the idea of having a limitless online persona in the realm of anonymity and simultaneously being propelled into the media maelstrom of race relations in America, these two ideas are not as combative as one may presume. “… White nationalism is aggressively seeking a mainstream audience, and in going mainstream it has found it necessary to abandon most of the tactics, postures, and regalia of the older racist right, which no longer resonate in contemporary America” (Swain 4). Emboldened in many ways both hiding behind a computer screen and in large rallies, the hoods have come off and the individuals seeking to further divide our country are no longer relegated to the periphery of society. By being further thrust into the public discussion by our bigoted leadership and constant media stream, these pockets of white supremacists are finding a voice and added support unlike any time in our history. The calamitous result of this exposure and normalization is still unraveling as we see violent encounters between hate groups and anti-hate groups occurring regularly throughout the country.
The insidious nature with which these ideas of nationalism, white supremacy, and neo-Nazism are being fostered and perpetuated is made even more frightening by the gaslighting of our citizens by the elected officials of our country seeking to destroy the credibility of one of the pillars of our democracy: the press. By not only reinforcing the ideals of white supremacy and refusing to condemn heinous acts perpetrated by these individuals, but Trump also has his sights set on destroying the credibility and viability of the press. The importance of this cannot be understated, as our democracy and freedoms are directly associated with the freedom of press and access to information. In research done on the effects of misinformation and fact-checking, it was “… found that Trump supporters did not change their voting behavior after seeing the corrective information even in the case where the initial false information was attributed to Trump” (Barrera et al. 8).
Trump and his administration’s flagrant disregard for the press is a clearly insidious tactic meant to further deceive and empower his supporters who skew to the extreme sides of the political spectrum and broaden the division within our country.
In these uncertain times, it is important to hold onto the importance of facts and the instrumental role of the press in our democracy. Without these standards, we are at risk of devolving even further into a divided and inexcusably xenophobic population. As recently stated eloquently by former President of the United States Barrack Obama in a speech seemingly targeting Trump's brand of deception and division, “If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you’re not going to be able to govern them. You won’t be able to unite them later if that’s how you start.” As the veil is being lifted on the tactics employed by this current administration, we can only hope that this division via misinformation and the unfortunate uptick in white supremacist activity and exposure is some form of an extinction burst that will result in the eradication of these toxic ideals.
Swain, Carol M. The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Giroux, Henry A. “White Nationalism, Armed Culture, and State Violence in the Age of Donald Trump.” Philosophy & Social Criticism, vol. 43, Issue 9. 18 Apr. 2017, pp. 887-910. Sage Journals, doi: 10.1177/0191453717702800
Barrera, Oscar. Guriec, Sergei. Henry, Emeric. Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina. “Facts, Alternative Facts, and Fact Checking in Times of Post-Truth Politics.” 12 Oct. 2017. https://goo.gl/FpsxhE. Accessed 20 Oct. 2017