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Seth Cotlar @SethCotlar
, 25 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
1. In light of the tragic death of Mollie Tibbets & the conservative media's opportunistic coverage of it, I want to share what I've learned from studying the history of media and politics.
tl;dr--Media always both reflects AND shapes reality. It's never just one or the other.
2. The "news" doesn't just passively reflect "what's happening." News outlets always select. Good news outlets rigorously try to get the story right, but they also always select which stories to run & which not to. This selection process is not "fake news," it's unavoidable.
3. Thus, media shapes our perceptions of reality as much as it reflects an already existing reality. It is the primary way in which we come to know what we know about "the world out there." From any individual's perspective, the world is what their chosen media shows it to be.
4. Now let's talk about how the @gop and right wing media are trying to shape Americans perceptions of reality through the use of particular stories they are pushing.
5. As this message from Newt Gingrich to a reporter shows, the Mollie Tibbetts story is all over the news because the @gop thinks it is a useful story for them. That's also why the WH just sent this out in their 1600 Daily e-mail.
6. As many noted, Mollie's story was ubiquitous on right wing Twitter yesterday. This was partly a distraction from the Manafort/Cohen news, no doubt, but it's also a story that fits perfectly with Trump's "build the wall" message.
7. First and foremost, Mollie's death is devastating and we should all grieve for her family's loss. Her killer should be prosecuted and punished. There is no disagreement on that. Her family should be left to grieve in peace.
8. That said, we can ask why Fox & the entire right-wing MAGA Twittersphere find her family's loss to be more newsworthy than that of the nation's thousands of other murder victims. All deaths are equally painful to those who've lost a loved one, & equally distant from strangers.
9. At the risk of stating the obvious, the story of Mollie's murder is politically useful to the GOP because it fits with their (false) narrative that undocumented immigrants are violent criminals. If she had been killed by a white man, her story would not get nat'l coverage.
10. Undocumented people are like any group of humans--most are good people, some are bad people. Crime statistics show that undocumented immigrants commit *fewer* crimes than your average American citizen. Evidence from the conservative Cato institute.…
11. So Mollie's death tells us nothing about undocumented immigrants, unless one is a racist who assumes that all people of Mexican descent are responsible for what one person of Mexican descent does.
12. So yes, it is true that a young woman named Mollie Tibbetts was murdered and a suspect has been arrested who is an undocumented immigrant. Now ask yourself, why do you know about this stranger's murder, but do not know about any number of other murders that happened recently?
13. We could ask the same thing about the white farmers of South Africa. Apparently, tonight on Tucker Carlson, there will be a segment on the plight of South Africa's oppressed white farmers.
14. I know almost nothing about contemporary South Africa, and I'm sure the same goes for the overwhelming majority of Tucker's American viewers. So why would he be broadcasting a story about people who live halfway around the world?
15. Interestingly, the plight of South Africa's white farmers has been a talking point on the identitarian far right for a few years now. The person most responsible for getting this story on the media radar is Lauren Southern.…
16. Are there some white farmers in South Africa who feel like they've been treated unfairly by the post-apartheid government? I imagine there are. Is the story of race, land, and economics in South Africa really freaking complicated? Yes, I'm sure it is.
17. Now, what do you think the likelihood is that Tucker will present this story, a story pushed almost entirely by folks on the white identitarian right, in such a way as to convey the complexity on the ground? I suppose we'll have to tune in to find out.
18. My point here is not that Mollie Tibbetts or white South African farmers are "fake news," or even that these stories as presented on Fox contain falsehoods. It's that the stories are being selected and shaped to further the @gop's intensifying white identity politics.
19. There's no stopping Fox or the GOP from pursuing these racist tactics and their efforts to shape our political reality. All we can do is try to name this media strategy for what it is and encourage our fellow citizens to be critical (but not nihilistic) consumers of media.
20. Fox depends upon viewers not noticing the slippage between what a story IS (Mollie was murdered by an undocumented immigrant & SA white farmers have some complaints) to what they say these stories MEAN (white people are under assault & need to protect themselves from "them.")
21. Update. Mollie's accused killer was in the country legally.
22. Um yeah, so as I was saying. This is bad folks. Really bad.
23. And on cue, the white identitarian most responsible for pushing this narrative takes a victory lap.
24. This thread has the key information on the links between this South African farmer story and the far right.
25. Trump speaks frequently about the importance of sovereignty and hates the international organizations that police the world order. He won’t even criticize Putin for murdering journalists. But the internal affairs of SA are our business apparently, because white people.
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