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When the Central Florida Association of Black Journalists (CFABJ) invited author and journalist Eric Deggans to discuss his new book, Race Baiter: How the News Media Wield Dangerous Power to Divide a Nation, at their monthly meeting, there was little doubt I had to attend. Deggans is a media critic for the Tampa Bay Times newspaper and commenter for NPR and the Huffington Post. He is a frequent critic of Fox News and all things conservative.
In preparation for his visit I read through his book and viewed a seventy-minute presentation of Deggans recorded by CSPAN. The title is a backward handed homage to Fox news commentator Bill O’Reilly that labeled Deggans “one of the biggest race baiters in the country;” hence, the title. The book can be summed up simply: Fox News, talk radio and conservatives generally use racism and racist rhetoric to appeal to racist white males to make money, and it is dividing (read: destroying) America.
A few chapter titles in his book include: “Fox News Channel vs. MSNBC: Downgrading all Journalism in a Race to Win a Political Fight,” “Fox News Focus on Scary Black People” and “Hate Radio Why Talk Radio May Not Be a Haven for Middle Aged White Guy for Much Longer.” Within his presentation Deggans used examples like the story about a White House barbecue posted on the Fox News Nation blog page titled “Obama’s Hip-Hop Barbecue Didn’t Create Jobs.” The story was accompanied with pictures of President Obama, Chris Rock, Charles Barkley and Jay-Z, prompting Deggans to complain there was only one rapper pictured, so it is not a hip-hop barbecue. In Deggans’ mind, this is a clear case of “racial code,” because, you know, only black people go to barbecues.
Other examples Deggans used to illustrate his point were the controversial remarks Rush Limbaugh made about birth control activist Sandra Fluke, Newt Gingrich’s charge of Obama being the food stamp President, and a Brookings Institute study that found Fox viewers believe whites are as discriminated against as blacks.
So his message is clear. Fox news is racist. Conservatives are racist. Fox commentators are mostly racist, and Fox News viewers are racist. Everyone else, however…wait Deggans does not really discuss anyone else. His book is a detailed diatribe against Fox news and Conservatives, but virtually ignores other news organizations, liberals or Democrats. This is quite odd given that the tag line of Deggans book is “How Media Wields Dangerous…” At what point did Fox become the media? It is true, their ratings are higher than CNN and MSNBC combined, but that’s hardly big enough to classify them as “the media.” Where was the discussion about ABC, CBS, or NBC? Deggans thinks Hannity and O’Reilly are dangerous; okay, what about Ed Schultz or Keith Olbermann? It is no stretch to assert that either are choirboys when it comes to divisiveness. If Deggans wants to attack Fox news and conservatives, and it is clear from the content he does, then why not call the book, “How Fox News Wields Dangerous Words…”
I questioned Deggans during his presentation on this and other points. Want to know how he responded? Be sure to read part II.
Image credit: Eric Deggans via Facebook