Sunday, April 14, 2013

Colorblind Politics in Practice? Puzzling Through Kermit Gosnell and Racial Framing in the Right-Wing Media

The Right-wing media is fixated on Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor who ran a veritable house of horrors in Philadelphia. The story is tailor-made for them, as it combines the anti-choice agenda and conspiranoid fantasies about how the "liberal media" is supposedly conspiring to suppress coverage of Gosnell's trial. 

Kermit Gosnell is African-American. There are volumes of research in the Social Sciences which have repeatedly demonstrated that race is an important variable in news coverage of crime (people of color are grossly over-represented as criminals; whites are grossly under-represented). Race also impacts how individuals quite literally "see" and understand events, as well as judge human social interaction. 

In tests measuring implicit bias and sub-conscious racism, harmless objects held by black men are magically transformed into dangerous objects such as guns and knives when viewed by white test takers. This has real life and death consequences: police routinely murder innocent people of color because they claim to have seen a cellphone, a wallet, or house keys as deadly weapons.

Psychologists also conducted experiments where they showed test takers pictures of Tony Blair and Barack Obama. The former, then British Prime Minister, and white, was judged to be "American." Obama, the country's first black president, was seen as a "foreigner." 

In the collective (white) American subconscious, "whiteness" equals belonging; "non-whiteness" is a mark of outsider status, of being a perennial Other and anti-citizen--even if you are President of the United States.

Given what we know about racial framing in the news media, and the increasing overlap of conservatism and racism (they are now almost one and the same thing), it would be reasonably expected that Kermit Gosnell's race would have become an undercurrent in the Right-wing echo chamber's obsession with the story.

Moreover, given the Right-wing media's efforts in 2008 to smear then candidate Barack Obama as a "radical" "baby-killer" and how contemporary conservatives wallow in white racial resentment, the connection between racial anxiety and hostility, partisanship, abortion as a public policy issue, and Kermit Gosnell should be too much to resist. My survey, however limited, of the Right-wing media has revealed few if any such connections. 

What is going on here? Some potential scenarios:

1. Is the abortion "frame" overriding the racial frame for the Right-wing media? Are Kermit Gosnell 's deeds seen as being so horrific that his racial identity is just background noise?

2. Is the racial framing of Kermit Gosnell working in a very subtle way? Are the dog whistles not heard if one is not cued into the speech cues of the "pro-life" movement?

3. With the cultivating of black conservatives as human chaff and deflector shields (which do not function properly) to immunize the Right from its own racism, as well as the creation of propaganda such as the agitprop "documentary" Maafa 21 on how abortion is a tool used by "progressives" to commit "genocide" against the African-American community, have conservative opinion leaders developed "race neutral" talking points about Kermit Gosnell to mobilize the anti-women's reproductive rights base?

4. Alternatively, have they been able to create a narrative where Kermit Gosnell is a "racist" against fellow black and brown people? Thus, the anti-reproductive activists can claim the mantle of being "colorblind" and "anti-racist?"

5. Kermit Gosnell is a black man. Most of his victims were poor women of color. Is this muting the racial framing of the story for the Right-wing media? Alternatively, what if the majority of Kermit Gosnell's victims were white women? How would the racial framing be different?


Anna W said...

This is just so wrong. People are not raising their voices against Gosnell because he is black, but because he "snipped" the spinal columns of seven babies born alive. You do not need to be pro-life or pro-choice to realise this is a terrible crime. I am writing this from Australia, we don't care about race - in fact I did not even notice he was black. But he is a criminal, and that is what matters!

chauncey devega said...

Ask the Aborigines and black Tasmanians how much Australia "doesn't care" about race. Know your own history.

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nomadfiles said...

Hmmmm....It's good to note that there are some limits to racialized news reporting. This was an obvious oversight. Don't give accidentally racist news media no ideas.

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Lee Viola said...

The racist reactions from the anti-choice crowd on The Atlantic's comment board after a pseudo-Libertarian ran with this conspiracy "left-wing bias" meme was nauseating. Anti-choice loons equating abortion to slavery and attacking black writers on the Atlantic staff such as Ta-Nehisi Coates as being self-loathing because he wasn't covering this "black Holocaust." You may be bombarded soon with these culties.

Magda Kamenev said...

Nice how some people love having this both ways. Ignore leftist and feminist reporting on this case, then accuse leftists and feminists for not doing enough to make it a front-page story.

As for how victims of colour slip under the media radar, I have a story from my youth in South-Central. There was a hospital in Watts named after MLK - when I was growing up, my friends and I called it "Killer King" and made jokes about if we were ever shot (during the gang/crack wars of the 80s), to make sure the ambulance wouldn't take us there, else we'd never walk out of there.

Years later, a county sheriff's deputy is shot and ends up at King Hospital. Seriously wounded, but given a good prognosis if he had had the vascular surgery he was supposed to get. He didn't get it and he did. People got upset. The LA Times started digging. Lo and behold, the hospital had been cooking the books for years as to what surgeons were on-call - quite a few people had died needlessly over the years. But it was all unfounded rumors and cynical jokes by ghetto kids until that sheriff's deputy died (that said, the man was Asian-American, so it's not a simplistic racial frame).

That's my story, but I can't believe that it's all that rare.

Wavenstein said...

Killer King is good for delivering babies and little else. I still miss L.A. tho

CNu said...

The war on safe, effective, legal abortion has been waged now for centuries. Most of the inquisition centered on the elimination of abortifacient knowledge and subject matter expertise, and transfer of the traditional medical knowledge and authority from nurse/midwives to the preposterous butcher barber/chirurgeons.

The current round of violent interference and inquisition began with the Casti Connubii supplemented and extended by the Humanae Vitae

Although nearly anything is an improvement on the literal hell-on-earth that was the inquisition, contemporary anti-abortion propaganda is a particularly vulgar insertion into the biological and psychological prerogatives of women.

To add the element of race to this pornographic propaganda is an extra over-the-top insult, but given the Casti Connubii's anti-eugenic stance, you have to expect that conservatards will mine this for every iota of what it's worth to them for political brownie points with bible-thumping people of color.

Constructive_Feedback said...

My Dear Friend Chauncey DeVega:

Do you mind if I expose the pattern that you, Filled Negro and other "Black Quasi-Socialist Progressive-Fundamentalist Racism Chasers" use?

DO YOU SEE, you have not imparted YOUR OPINION about the sight of scores of (mostly) Black human fetus body parts in a laboratory and freezer (a residential fridge was used inside of a medical establishment to freeze these parts prior to their disposal).?

YOU need to stand up A RIGHT WING TARGET - through which your commentary will be made.
THEN after tearing him down based upon his "Nefarious Racist Intent" - YOU believe yourself to be the "Smartest Negro Around" - our at least that's what your White Progressive broadcast friends tell you to make you blush.

What happens to you and Filled Negro once the RIGHT WING THREAT is sufficiently immobilized - NOT from its MENTAL ANGUISH that it causes you but from its ability to do PHYSICAL/MATERIAL harm to you with impunity and without fear of prosecution?

I still don't get it" with respect to how OBAMA IS A VICTIM OF RACISM - but YOU are unable to qualify what the "People Of Color" in Yemen, Pakistan or Libya -who were on the receiving end of the "Commander in Chief's orders to bomb them.

Please let me in on the secret as to how you keep YOUR TWO SETS OF BOOKS in alignment with each other while avoiding an audit?

chauncey devega said...

When are you going to start your youtube series? Just do it!

John Pack Lambert said...

Gosnell was a racist who would give much better treatment to white patients than to black patients. The fact that he is not being more universally attacked for his racism should be disturbing you.

chauncey devega said...

He should be in jail. I just marvel at how many conservatives all of a sudden discover "racism" when it suits their agenda, but are totally blind to it--and in many cases support it--when most of the remainder of the time.