Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Obscene Co-Opting Of Charleston

posted on 6/20/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

On Wednesday night, Dylann Storm Roof allegedly entered a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat through most of the prayer meeting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church and then opened fire with a handgun, killing nine people including a sitting South Carolina state senator who was also the pastor of the church. Roof was motivated by hatred of Black people, and has since reportedly confessed to committing the crime in an attempt to start a race war.

In the wake of such an outburst of deadly violence, I was not sure what to expect from right wing media, be it Fox News, talk radio, or the open, reeking sewer that is the conservative internet, including borderline white nationalist sites like Joseph Farah's WND (formerly World Net Daily). Excuses, sure. The usual bullshit about antidepressants and Big Pharma being the real hidden force at work behind white men committing mass murder in places like Sandy Hook or Aurora (violence committed by Muslims, on the other hand, can be placed squarely at the feet of Islam, obviously).

There certainly were a lot of desperate attempts to characterize the attack as motivated by anything but racism. Fox and WND in particular, however, surprised even me – and I consider myself pretty hard to shock, given that I've spent the last ten years regularly reading (and six years blogging about) far right media.

First up, a representative sample of how this awful story was played out on Fox:

See that 'ATTACK ON FAITH' headline? Given Fox News' history of ginning up bullshit stories about poor, persecuted American Christians, does it make you want to vomit until your eyes explode or does it make you want to slam your head against the nearest, hardest surface until you black out and die? Trick question, the correct answer is “both!”

Since I was blissfully media-free for a lot of Thursday, I'm not sure who got to this angle first, Fox or WND, but WND definitely had the most shameless, conscience-free take on Wednesday's atrocity, and is still -- still! -- filing its coverage of the hate crime under it's 'FAITH' section, days after Roof reportedly confessed to both the murder and his racist motive.

obviously, Dylann Roof was just a fan of now-defunct apartheid regimes because he was a history buff. the shootings were REALLY about anti-Christian bigotry, not at all about race.

Why do I call WND's content more offensive than Fox's? For one simple reason.

For now, let's leave aside the obvious, which is that WND probably didn't contribute directly to Roof's racism, paranoia, and hatred, but god damn sure contributed to the media environment that helped create Dylann Roof. Colin Flaherty, who WND has both employed heavily promoted, has made a living over the last few years stoking white paranoia about Black crime. But I've already written about Flaherty (see WND: Racist, Ignorant, Far-Right Lunatics and Racism Is The New (Old) “Not Racist”).

No, this time it's more than just the predictable racism and ugliness that characterize everything from their coverage of events like Ferguson or Cleveland to Michelle Obama's every utterance. This time,WND's editorial reaction was almost instant and, I have to say, very crafty, in a nihilistic sort of way. They heavily emphasized the church aspect of the shooting, and implied – indeed, in early versions of their stories, openly stated – that what this act of terrorism really was was another example of poor, persecuted American Christians being preyed upon by atheists, progressives, and/or possibly Satanists (if you think I'm exaggerating on that last point, you obviously haven't read WND as much as I, unfortunately, have).

This would be all well and good – people of all faiths have been offering prayers for the victims and solidarity with the community at Emanuel A.M.E., and that's a perfectly wonderful, human response – were it not for one inconvenient fact. According to WND, that merry band of demented zealots, the congregation at Emanuel A.M.E. is “not Christian.” Or, at least, weren't until WND could exploit their deaths.

WND's grand wizard and for-profit prophet Joseph Farah said basically as much himself in a column published just a week and two days before the Charleston massacre:

It may be true that 80 percent of Democrats in Congress claim to be Christians. 
It may be true that 78 percent of Democratic governors claim to be Christians. 
It is definitely true that the Democratic president of the United States claims to be a Christian. 
As we have seen from the actions of Democrats who call themselves Christians – as well as many Republicans – Christianity is a faith judged by deeds, not by words. [Farah's emphasis, not mine. -- Ed] 

The thing is, Emanuel A.M.E.'s pastor, who died in the attack, was Clementa C. Pinckney, a Democratic South Carolina state senator, Obama supporter, and supporter of Hillary Clinton.

By Joseph Farah's mean-hearted, deeply stupid standards, the Reverend Pinckney was obviously no Christian at all, and neither were the other victims, who were, after all, shot there in church praying with Pinckney, a man they obviously had insufficient faith to recognize as an apostate imposter.

Despite this, WND was mighty quick to embrace the people they would have shunned as fake Christians – that is, as soon as doing so took the emphasis off of Dylann Roof's (and WND's) racist hatemongering and fit into their narrative of a persecuted American church under fire.

I'm no Christian – in fact, I bat pretty hard for Team Satan – but I'd say it's safe to call what Farah and company are doing by trying to co-opt the pain and grief of the Black community in Charleston for their own purposes not just obscene, wretched garbage, but also, in any real sense of the word, a sin.

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