Tuesday, June 3, 2014

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

I would like to thank the kind folks who donated on the first day of We Are Respectable Negroes' (WARN’s) annual fundraising drive. Their generosity and kindness is very much appreciated. 

The fundraiser is moving along and on its way. 

If you can, and are able, please do throw a few bit of silver, copper, or gold in WARN's begging bowl to encourage and support our work going forward.

One of the ways that I have grown in my writing online, and especially here on WARN, is that I have come to realize the merits of explaining the logic and process that drives the “how” and “why” of the topics which I choose to engage. 

Yes, over-sharing should be avoided; the process, like a magician's tricks, should be kept secret; however, honesty is rewarded more often than not…or so I would like to believe.

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. 

One of the reasons I love sharing with all of you here on WARN is that we are freed of such constraints. While I may annoy or tire some readers with my approach, I do not limit the topics I explore to what is topical or "current". If we need two posts—or ten—to flesh out an issue, then so be it. 

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.

I do not apologize when I nod my head like Brother Afrika Bambaataa, Godfather of Records, and one of the founding fathers of hip-hop, when he presides over a DJ set spun by one of his disciples. 

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 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 recent 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 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?


Myshkin the Idiot said...

Maybe because racism doesn't kill.

In some people's eyes, racism is an unfortunate hold over from a time previously, but rarely if ever does racism lash out at others, particularly white women. It's like a powerless, infirm elderly man who is bedridden and occasionally says something irksome but laughable.

Anyway, that's all I got.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I want to add, when racism does kill it's associated with mental illness.

They interviewed Wade Page's mother and friends, and no one could understand where he learned to be so racist.

DanF said...

On the positive side, the door is cracking. At least the early information about his crisis-with-whiteness were mentioned and tentatively explored before abandoned. Ten years ago it might have been portrayed as a positive, "By all external measures, Elliot Rodgers appeared to be a young man who simply wanted to fit in. Even as a young child he insisted on dying his hair to better blend with his Santa Barbara, beach-going friends. But despite his best efforts, blah, blah, blah."

Being relentless helps. When this happens again, and it will, the MSM will eventually want a fresh new angle, and the more this is talked about at even a low level, the more likely the permission will be there to explore it more fully. Aaron McGruder gave a talk here about ten years ago and he said something that kind of shocked and re-oriented me a little. He was asked about the influence of money in politics and his response was (paraphrasing), "It gives me hope - because if everything is for sell, then eventually it can be bought and changed." I think he was going more for the shock and the laugh, but there is a nugget in there. Media wants to make money. They wont make money by always playing it safe and feeding the expected narrative.

chauncey devega said...

McGruder is so damn smart. I don't know if he is right as the data suggests that gov't is bought and sold and we the people can't get enough money to get in the door--it has been systematically stolen from us--but alas.

Besides a few places, where have you seen a discussion of race and whiteness relative to Rodger in a mainstream media source? Please share.

chauncey devega said...

Great cartoon!

joe manning said...

Racism is a mechanism of social control: (a) It keeps blacks down as high profile scapegoats, (b) thereby giving "getting poorer" whites and other ethnics a sense of mastery, (c) while warning all ethnics (including whites) to stay in their place or wind up on the bottom with blacks, (d) most importantly white supremacist racism forms the social contract that allies "getting poorer" whites with the rich, two otherwise diametrically opposed groupings. The media must self censor in order to maintain this social control arrangement, lest it upset the nation's fragile "political" equilibrium and risk total anarchy at best, Armageddon at worse. Such mass manipulation (gun to our collective heads) occurs within a political vacuum meticulously crafted by the power elite.

joe manning said...

Its not about money its all about social control.

DanF said...

MSNBC under "equality and Society" had a posting up here: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/elliot-rodger-war-women-yesallwomen-hashtag

It's more war on women, but it does touch a bit on his obsession with whiteness. Apologies if you linked this in a previous post (work load up, summer vacation for kids is on, me-time is fading).

d mcg said...

This is one of the best articles I've read on this subject. I have been trying to make something coherent out of all these pins, and I love the way that things are broken down here.

It's really tragic how the media is treating this (and every other story basically).. but ESPECIALLY this one.

A well reported, even handed discussion on this shooting is SO important right now. The motivations behind it touch on so many elephants in the room that weren't necessarily present in previous tragedies.

d mcg said...

Rodgers was known to stalk Asians on whatever dating/pick up artistry websites and project hatred on to them, calling them ugly and telling them how they didn't deserve the women that they were with.

He did this because he actually viewed his own Asiatic features as being a flaw, a defect, to an extreme degree. Unable to understand why women werent throwing themselves at his feet, his 'logic' led him to hate part of his own racial identity.

The issue of VIDEOGAMES needs to be addressed too. The violence, as well as the social isolation involved in the hobby.

It's of epidemic proportion. I'm 23, and I'm seeing the fallout from it everywhere. Aggression, poor social skills, misplaced priorities.. heavily correlated with videogaming (especially binge gaming and massive online gaming)

People honestly try to argue that sitting in front of a TV playing a ridiculously lifelike First person shooter on an xbox, slaughtering life like people for hours and getting ranked via POINTS for how many people you killed isn't in some ways screwing with people's heads... yeah right.

Videogaming as a pastime no doubt exacerbated Rodger's narcissism. Binge video gaming is one of the ultimate forms of narcissism, in my opinion.

d mcg said...

Yea, this is spot on. Just look at the Sterling case. You have not only the old cracker spouting his crap, but his mixed race hispanic/black liasion waxing poetically about how ashamed she is to be part black, how she wants to die her skin and change her to pass as italian, etc.

The dialog to come out of it, for the most part? The obligatory 5 minutes of hate from the left, and the hand waving away of the entire incident by many with the, "hes just an old cracker" defense.

At least he didn't get to just walk away and keep the team.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

anti-blackness is so deep.

Skin lighteners always remind me of these old Pear's Soap ads

Apparently India bought up 258 tons worth of Skin lightener in 2012.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I saw this piece from Al Jazeera

The title initially had me skeptical, but a few lines kept me through the end:

"like most misogynist literature, "My Twisted World" isn't really about women at all.

It's about men."

Courtney H. said...

Good grief! That ad's disgusting!

Myshkin the Idiot said...

This one is pretty bad too.

There's another I can't find which is like a comic series. An African chief has trouble leading his people until the white man comes. He cleans his body with Pear's Soap and turns from a grass skirt wearing stout black man (grossly caricatured) to a regal stout refined white man (also grossly caricatured) who his people are enamored by. They really ran with the white man's burden theme of civilizing through cleanliness. it's disgusting.