Matt Drudge’s imaginary race war
Alex Pareene at Salon has an excellent report on how Matt Drudge has spent the past few years concocting a picture of America as one torn apart by a crime-based race war, where random black people are "rising up" and attacking and killing white people. If you, like me, find this image strange (including going to your window to make sure that so far, it's mostly birds chirping and moms pushing strollers, and not in fact mob violence), then you're not wrong! Crime levels, especially violent crime, continue to cascade downwards in the U.S. Overall, the nation has become a gentler one, at least within its borders. (The argument about our imperial adventures is outside the bounds of this discussion.) I would even argue that the one area where crime is going up—domestic terrorism—is partially a response to the other trends in the U.S. A lot of right wing extremists look at the growing emphasis on non-violence in the U.S. and feel like it's emasculating and turn more violent and gun-loving in response.
Even though crime is going down, there's a perception in the American public that crime is going up. There's a number of theories about why there's such a disconnect, but I would argue that Matt Drudge is a large part of the problem. In the past few years, Drudge has been steadily building up this image of a de facto race war, and since Drudge, as Atrios always notes, rules the world of the mainstream media, these local stories he trumpets become national stories. And he's fucking relentless, as John Cook reports. Alex summarized:
It all came to a head, as John Cook noted, this Memorial Day weekend when Drudge posted 10 separate headlines — including the massive, above-the-logo one — related to violent incidents involving "urban" people at venues like "Black Bike Week" in Miami and "Rib Fest" in Rochester, N.Y. There was an "Urban Melee in Charlotte," for example. Do you know what makes an "urban melee" different from a regular "melee"? It's not that it takes place within the city limits of a major metropolitan area. It's that it involves the world's most obvious code term for "scary black people."
As John at Gawker points out, the number of local news stories about crime invariably rise during Memorial Day weekend because holidays create crime peaks. it's the combination of time off and alcohol, basically. It goes up for all races. Drudge's choice of what stories to highlight is about creating a narrative, and the insinuation is now that we have a black President, all hell is breaking loose. One of the weirdest, most long-standing conservative myths is that black people are aching to "rise up" and take the nation by force. The argument is then that they have to, more in sorrow than in glee, argue against equal rights for black people. They'd want to share, but you know, violence! The notion that black America is revenge-minded is something that is surprisingly powerful for wingnuts. That's why there's non-stop chatter on right wing radio about slavery reparations, even though the subject has no traction in real world discourse, and even if it did, said reparations would look much different than right wingers imagine it would like. (They're picturing jack-booted thugs stealing your grandmother's pearls and giving it to some family you don't know to pawn, but it would more likely be a check that resembles a Social Security check or a tax refund.) And that's why Andrew Breitbart thinks that some court settlement to black farmers who were systemically discriminated against for decades is the biggest problem our nation faces. It's really a level of paranoia that's hard for me to wrap my mind around.