I’ve got a few minutes while I work on dinner and Zuzu sleeps in her bouncer next to me. Considering I’ve been in an apolitical slumber the past few weeks, both from focusing on the girls and just near burn-out with my dissertation, I need to get cracking on my writing.
One project that’s in the holding pattern right now is a paper comparing news coverage of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the Westboro Baptist CHurch as an exemplar of white privilege. As it stands, that paper fails to pass the “So what?” test and so it’s been on hold because I wasn’t able to figure out for the life of me where to go theoretically with it. But then, I started thinking that something larger was going on, namely,the way that white Christian extremism gets a pass by the mainstream media- that is, acts of violence by indviduals in the name of fundamentalist Christianity never get named as such.
The massacre at Fort Hood has added to my the argument I’m beginning to develop, so here’s what I’m trying to get at: with Major Hasan and the bloodshed on Fort Hood, you see all of Islam implicated. Because he was a Muslim, the media assume that his act had something to do with his religion and so, by extension, all Muslims are now trying to prove what good Americans they are because of this one man’s actions. Someone on Hardball tonight was talking about this very thing.
The actions of white Christian extremists, however, are never extrapolated onto all Christians or, better yet, all white people; when some Christian wingnut kills people in the name of their cause, it’s discursively isolated from any larger cultural context. The media refuses to connect the dots. In fact, when the Homeland Security report was released sometime in the past year that warned about increasing right-wing violence, the same people spewing the most fiery anti-government rhetoric since the President’s inauguration were outraged at the mere suggestion that they were terrorists. In this way, we see how non-WASPs, for lack of a better description, are racialized and marginalized through their religion. Put another way, we see how religion becomes a code or a sign for the racialized Other and how being a WASP creates the cultural and ideological “space” and power to enact violence, if only discursive, on the non-WASP Other.
So what does this mean for the media? What do I think it means that the media give this “pass” to white Christian extremism? For starters, I think it suggests the landscape of the ideological terrain of the media. If the news focuses on the deviant- by definition, the news covers the irregular, things out of the ordinary- then why would the news media question what is seen as normal? What I’m saying is, the news media do not question the white Christian extremism because the views those groups espouse are only slightly different from the mainstream norm- white Christian extremism is not, in fact, that extreme. I would argue that it is only a ramped-up version of mainstream, WASP, American values, and therefore, the norm, and therefore, not news.
So, this is where I need to define what I mean by white, Christian extremism. Duly noted- it’ll go in my paper. But, any one who’s read this blog at all over time should have a sense of what i mean by that. Now I’ve just got to fill in the rest of the holes. Ugh.