How Fox News Views Race



In August of 2013, three teens — one white, two black — shot and killed Christopher Lane, a white Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.

There was no evidence that the murder was anything but cold-hearted and random – officials investigating and prosecuting the homicide repeatedly rejected suggestions that race played a factor in the crime.

Nevertheless, conservative media immediately began covering the story with a racial lens. Radio host Rush Limbaugh called the murder, “Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse,” and imagined that the teenagers “got bored and said, ‘Let’s go shoot a white guy!'”


Perhaps the one story that best encapsulates the way Fox News goes out of its way to paint a distorted image of the crossroads of race and crime in America, it’s the network’s coverage of the so-called “knockout game.”

Fox described the knockout game as a violent and spreading trend primarily involving black youths assaulting unsuspecting and primarily white victims on the street for recreation. The network has run numerous segments on the alleged craze, and Fox’s Greta Van Susteren has dedicated a recurring segment to the phenomenon.

The primary take-away for viewers: Be afraid of young, black men and women, and don’t let yourself be an unsuspecting victim — black people could assault you at any time for no reason other than the fact that you’re white.

Contrary to Fox’s knockout game narrative, it’s not new, isn’t growing, and there’s no evidence it has anything to do with race.

A New York Times piece on the knockout game cited police officials in several cities where attacks have been reported who concluded that the game “amounted to little more than an urban myth, and that the attacks in question might be nothing more than the sort of random assaults that have always occurred.” A USA Today report similarly questioned the game’s existence.

Philly Mag’s Stephen Silver noted that media consumers are being fed knockout game framing for stories in which no connection to the game has been established:

What we’re seeing is, every time there’s a mugging or violent assault anywhere, it’s attributed in media coverage to the Knockout Game, even when the connection is not confirmed — every single assault is now suddenly a “possible knockout.”

It was the Daily Beast’s Jamelle Bouie who struck at the root of this coverage — race — noting that this kind of sensationalized media coverage “is almost certain to become tomorrow’s excuse for justifying our skepticism and fear of black teenagers”:

Race is an obvious element in all of this. In almost every report, the assailants are described as young black men, and many of the victims have been white. It’s hard not to see the sensationalized coverage of “knockout”–and before that, “wilding”–as a reflection of our national fear of young black men. Indeed, in the more sinister corners of the Internet, you can find people who argue that these incidents are the opening shots in a “race war” by “feral black youth.”

It should be said the same logic drives the racial profiling behind policies such as “stop and frisk.” Never mind that the vast majority of young black men don’t commit crimes; the behavior of a few turns everyone into a suspect. ¬†This continues to show up in how Fox News views race.

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