Vox recently released a video that brilliantly breaks down how CNN’s use of “political theater” is making us all dumber and negatively affecting our chance for healthy and substantive public political dialogue.
CNN’s approach to covering politics prioritizes drama and spectacle over truth telling. pic.twitter.com/5cw6zjKPtj
— Vox (@voxdotcom) April 17, 2017
In truth, the reality of CNN devolving into “drama and spectacle” is not a new phenomenon in any way, shape or form. For those who’ve been paying attention, this is exactly what the network has been cultivating since even before the arrival of their current President, Jeff Zucker, in 2013.
The video did a great job of breaking down how Zucker has made a concerted effort to turn political news into verbal sports entertainment that mainstreams the lunacy of Trump surrogates. Yet there’s something far more insidious that is being thoroughly overlooked: the adverse effect that CNN’s political theater has, distinctly and disproportionately, on African-Americans.
To mainstream Donald Trump is to mainstream bigotry, racism and hate (as well as sexism, ableism, Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia), which all intersect with Blackness. To continually allow people like Jeffrey Lord on air to spread rhetoric such as comparing the Congressional Black Caucus to the KKK is not just an unfortunate editorial decision, but it’s a broadcasting choice to allow anti-Black domestic terrorism to be minimized and disregarded in a nation struggling with a rise of racist hate crimes.
The on air population of Trump surrogates, and the Harry Houck’s and Joe Walsh’s of the world is, as the Vox video lays out, a dubious ode to constructive debate. But in this precise moment of unhinged and unshackled White nationalist propagation, CNN’s actions are more than just dumbing everyone down; they are welcoming the harming of marginalized communities, namely Black folks.
Racism is not a “viewpoint that deserves to be heard.” How many times must this be said?
— roxane gay (@rgay) April 19, 2017
Throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, rife with violent anti-Blackness that resulted in physical ejections and assaults on Black bodies, CNN continually played the “let’s discuss if this is racist and problematic” role instead of adopting any baseline journalistic integrity of standing against violent White supremacy. After James Franklin McGraw punched Rakeem Jones in the face at a Trump rally and subsequently proclaimed that “the next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” Trump surrogate Andy Dean was given time and space to praise the old White agitator for being “78 and throwing a punch like that!”
The behavior of these surrogates isn’t just tolerated, it’s accepted and propagated, which is how their explicit anti-Blackness is also accepted and propagated too.
But what is really frustrating is the fact that CNN has made it a point to undercut efforts that address anti-Black state-sponsored violence through specials that neither speak to the actual concerns of the Black community, or serve as hour-long, pro-police infomercials like their “Cops Under Fire” town hall from December 2014, which aired in the wake of the murder of Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley. The town hall was used to show how dangerous policing can be (as if we didn’t already know that), but never addressed the issue at hand: excessive force and brutality.
CNN has been woefully ignorant regarding issues affecting the Black community for some time now, and they’ve unabashedly thrown their editorial support behind the forces that target Black folks. But this slant towards political theater isn’t just making people dumber; it’s building upon their willful anti-Black ignorance to allow our incursion to become fodder for entertainment.
The deaths of our children are filtered through pointless panel eruptions and the language that specifically animated killers like Dylan Roof and James Jackson is allowed to breathe on their air unfettered. Until CNN decides that White nationalism and White supremacy is too dangerous to be treated as provisions for amusing TV, their theater will be nothing more than a forum for legitimizing the worst type of bigotry.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.