Thinking about Smith and what he says in the clip below, and what he doesn't say, helps me think about how whiteness works. It contributes to such terrorist incidents as James von Brunn's assault yesterday on the Holocaust Museum, by demonizing "Jews" and other minorities, but it also deflects our understanding of how more general and common white attitudes help to cause such incidents.
In the video clip below (a transcript appears at the end of this post), Smith talks about "scary" emails that he's been getting. He doesn't say that they're from right-wing extremists, even though that's clearly the case. In an effort to explain their hatred and their heightened frequency, Smith ends up blaming the blogosphere, rather than more proper targets, such as his own network and other corporate media outlets; conservative ideology; and America's more general white supremacist culture.
In terms of his own employer, Smith is overlooking or denying how the exaggerating blowhards on Fox News foment what he refuses to label "domestic terrorism." He also refuses to identify the political location of this extremism -- on the "Right," the conservative side, the side where Fox sits in all but name and slogan ("Fair and Balanced" -- Yeah, Right!). It seems to me that instead of denigrating the Right, Smith is serving more mainstream conservative interests, by trying to distance extremism "way out there on a limb," rather than within the Right Wing.
Nevertheless, some Fox fans have written on blogs and comment forums that Smith should "get his ass on over to CNN," or MSNBC, "where he belongs." But when it comes to race, and especially whiteness, other networks are nearly as bad as Fox. They too fail, not only by refusing to routinely call right-wing domestic terrorism what it is, but also by refusing to identify the overwhelming whiteness of that terrorism, and of their own blinkered perspective.
On Fox News and elsewhere in the corporate media, "terrorism" is what Arabs/Muslims do. Like most white people, corporate media workers see white people as individuals before they see them as "white." That tendency makes it less likely that they'll see violent white people who commit terrorism as members of a group, as people whose actions in any way represent that group.
Because corporate media workers view and depict the world through a white racial frame, they're more inclined to depict white people who commit what amounts to group-supported (and perhaps sponsored) terrorism as lone individuals. As "nutcases" whose horrendous acts are "isolated incidents."
But incidents of domestic terrorism are not isolated, and they're happening more frequently. As Alex Kingsbury writes,
In the past two weeks, the country has seen the bombing of a Starbucks coffee shop in New York City, the arrest of four men for allegedly plotting to blow up synagogues and shoot down planes, the shooting of two soldiers at an Army recruitment center in Arkansas, the assassination of a doctor inside a Kansas church, and the shooting at the Holocaust Museum. Although these are not all cases of right-wing extremism, each is an example of domestic terrorism.
Aside from their recent heightened frequency, these incidents are also not "isolated" in the sense that those who commit them are often informed by, or members of, right-wing groups that openly espouse hate, and even murder.
They're also not isolated in another sense. While the corporate media, and American culture in general, depict minorities in countless group-oriented and negative ways, white individuals are very rarely identified as white. And yet as a group, whites are implicitly identified as the ones who need to protect themselves from the supposedly encroaching and dangerous minorities. All of this promotes an "us versus them" mentality, which in turn encourages these supposedly lone actors to act.
It's easy to see that in glossing over the significance of the hateful email he receives, Shepard Smith is denying the complicity of his own, clearly conservative network in stoking the hatred of extremists.
But I think a bigger, and more crucial issue here is how the corporate media at large, and white Americans in general, fail to understand the common white tendency to view white individuals as merely individuals. That isolating perspective stops us from seeing the multiple pernicious forces that contribute to domestic terrorism by influencing those who commit it. Correcting that failure means focusing on and understanding all forms of whiteness that inspire violence, not just the extreme forms.
America itself is founded and grounded in white supremacist violence to all sorts of non-white people; Americans currently live in an empire (declining though it may be) that has long bolstered itself with the resources, sweat, and lives of non-white people. America's violently white foundations may be invisible to most of today's white people, but their influence continuously flows into all of us, and then out into our actions.
Shepard Smith: I read a lot of email around here, and the email, to me, has become more and more frightening. It's not a new thing; it's been happening over the past few months. It's been happening, you know, to some degree since the election process went along. I mean, we had a woman, we had a black man, we had a lot going on. And there are people now who are way out there on a limb. And I think they're just way out there on a limb with the email that they send us, cuz I read it, and they are out there, I mean, out there in a scary place.
I'm gonna read to you a little bit from one -- and I'm not gonna read the name -- but this is, I promise, a representative sample of the kinds of things we get here:
Shepard, How dare you tell us to get over Obama not being a US citizen? Where is the birth certificate, where? He won't show it. So why are you so trumped up to believe it. I cannot stand Hussein, he is a socialist Marxist who is at fast rate destroying our country.
If you're one who believes that abortion is murder, at one point do you go out and kill someone who is performing abortions? Well, I think we just learned, for [sic] the murder of Dr. Tiller.
If you are one who believes these sorts of things about the president of the United States, and I could read a hundred of them like this, I mean, from today, people who are so amped up and so angry, for reasons that absolutely wrong, ridiculous, preposterous. Yet they are mad, and they're very mad that I just called it preposterous.
Other Guy: Well, if anybody wants to know the level of anger, or whatever you wanna call it, crazy, just take a spin around the blogs out there, on the Internet. Just take half an hour and go on through and randomly see what is being said out there. It is, it's frightening on a lot of different levels, and part of the problem is that they're feeding each other. People are not going out there --
SS: They are! They're on web sites, feeding each other, the same bunch of hate that's not based in fact. And it's ginning itself up, and I guess if that's what you want to do with your time, maybe that's what you do. But more and more, it seems that people are taking the extra step and getting the gun out.