Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Fox News pulls a Rachel Dolezal

In an earlier post on last night's tragic mass murder in a Charleston church, I urged commenters not to "trivialize this tragedy by using it an opportunity to advance whatever political opinion you may harbor; do not use it as a cudgel against others.... Our enemy is hate; it is not each other."

I stand by that plea. At a time like this, we don't need to sink into endless rounds of "your side caused this!!" nonsense, as if the act of a single deranged individual could tell us anything about the relative merits of one political party or ideology. Liberals didn't cause it; conservatives didn't cause it. One man's hatred and perhaps insanity caused it.

Unfortunately, Fox News almost immediately gave us a perfect example of an attempt to hijack this tragedy, rearrange the facts and use it for crass political purposes. It's so egregious that it should not be ignored.

A young white man, believed to be Dylann Roof (above), walks into one of the most politically prominent, historic black churches in the country and kills nine people, all black. According to reports, he told a survivor that "You rape all our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go," and it is highly unlikely that he is referring to Christians in that remark. Based on that report and other evidence, the FBI says that it is treating the attack as a hate crime.

Fox News then takes that fact set and twists it into something else entirely.

An attack in which black people are targeted at random for murder for no reason other than their race -- an attack testifying to the continuing violence done by racism in this country -- is stolen and repurposed. Suddenly, it is transformed to fit the popular Fox narrative of "An Attack on Faith," on Christianity and on those who hold biblical values. Why?

So that the largely white viewers of Fox News get to revel in being its victims and targets. So that their sense of persecution gains confirmation.

"If we're not safe in our own churches, where are we safe?" asked Elisabeth Hasselbeck, no doubt making black Americans all over the country ask the classic question:

"What on Earth do you mean by 'we'?"

Yes, we are all shocked by the murders; yes, we all feel the pain involved. And yes, the fact that this took place in a church compounds its horror. When Gov. Nikki Haley said in a press conference that "the heart and soul of South Carolina has been broken," she was right.

But let's at least acknowledge this for what it is, and not turn it into something it isn't. Ask yourself: If a black man walked into a white church announcing that he was there to kill white people, would Fox still report it as "an attack on faith"?

In recent days, we've all had a lot of fun at the expense of Rachel Dolezal, the blond white woman in Washington state who tried to pass as a black woman and thereby expropriate the African American experience of discrimination and repression for herself. Why would she do such a crazy thing?

Well, with the segment above, Fox News is attempting to do much the same thing, but on a much larger and more serious scale. They attempt to steal the pain and agony that many black Americans feel at being targets of hatred, so that Fox and its viewers can wrap themselves in that comforting mantle of persecution instead.

It's just astounding.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.