“Time for final thoughts. This week two officers were ambushed in Des Moines, Iowa. We lost two blue lives. That’s blue. Notice how I didn’t say we lost two white people in Iowa? See there seems to be some confusion from the Black Lives Matter community on exactly what it means to back the blue, so I’ll help. Backing law enforcement doesn’t mean backing white people as a category. It means backing law enforcement. The shooter is a coward, he’s evil, he’s clearly deranged, he’s also white, and I can assure you it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to me what color he is, nor do the skin colors of the officers make any difference. There are some out there, mostly from the BLM community, that like to spout off when a white man shoots police officers, or church goers, or college kids, like somehow white people applaud that, condone that, or take credit for it. No! Not ever! See that’s the big difference here. This isn’t about skin color. There is no White Lives Matter movement, and no one in the Blue Lives Matter movement advocates violence, rioting, burning or looting in the name of anyone. If you’re trying to make this a race war, you’re on your own.” -Tomi Lahren, Final Thoughts- What it means to Back the Blue(11/17/16).
“Time for Final Thoughts, and a real shocker. Yesterday a Muslim Somali refugee injured 11 people at Ohio State University. He struck them with a car then slashed them with a knife. His name is Abdul, and he was pissed about the mistreatment of Muslims.” –Tomi Lahren, Final Thoughts-Muslim Refugee Terrorizes OSU(11/29/16).
There’s a subtle difference between the two quotes that illustrates a problem in our media that has existed for over a hundred years. Lahren’s first quote makes it a point to individualize Michael Scott Greene (she showed his photo but didn’t name him), defend white people and emphasize that this wasn’t about skin color. Not long after, she made a video about Abdul Razak Ali Artan but emphasized that he was a “Muslim Somali refugee” and went into details about the crime before naming him. She said his attack was a “real shocker” as if she expected that a Muslim Somali refugee would behave this way. Her words make it hard to believe that skin color doesn’t make a difference to her, and she’s hell-bent on making sure it still matters to her viewers.
This sort of propaganda designed to discredit a demographic isn’t new, nor is it by accident. Ever since Birth of a Nation the white supremacist memo has been clear. If one of “them” did it, they all did it. If one of “them” is violent, they’re all violent. If a group of “them” represent something, they all represent it. But never apply this logic to white people. Nope. They’re all individuals and mostly good people. It’s the brown and black savages you need to watch out for. You need guns to protect yourself from them, not good, hardworking (white) Americans.This is exactly the kind of dehumanizing, stereotyping message that got Donald Trump(who also bashed Somali refugees) elected , and it’s the reason the Somali community in Ohio feared backlash from racists and xenophobes after this recent attack.
As an author, I would be remiss to ignore this strategy. As a black American, I know it very well. Malcolm X discussed propaganda’s role in justifying police brutality and Angela Davis tackled the hypocrisy in painting black people out as violent savages despite America’s violent history against black people.
“And then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Whether I approve of guns, I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very very good friends of mine were killed by bombs, bombs that were planted by racists. I remember from the time I was very small, I remember the sounds of bombs exploding across the street, our house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times because…we might expect to be attacked. The man who was at that time in complete control of the city government, his name was Bull Connor, would often get on the radio and make statements like ‘N***ers have moved into a white neighborhood. We better expect some bloodshed tonight,’ and sure enough there would be bloodshed.” –Angela Davis.
The phrase “the media” is often applied to journalists, but this is misleading in this context. Not every journalist is out there trying to spread subliminal messages, those Final Thoughts don’t come from a journalist (by her own admission), and Bull Connor criminalized black people as a government official. Media propaganda occurs whenever this kind of language disseminates on a mass level.
Words of the Serpent will tackle this issue with Achilla Johnson’s past and Samuel Johnson’s political career at the center of the media’s attention. Though they share a father, Samuel and Achilla are more different than alike. Physically, you would never know they were related because Achilla is dark with green eyes while Samuel is light-skinned with brown eyes. From Angel of War to Strike of the Mantis, Achilla left a trail of dead bodies in her wake while Samuel never even got a speeding ticket. They are the sibling yin and yang, and while Achilla protects Samuel with brutal force in the dark, Samuel shields Achilla’s image in the light.
The nature of Samuel and Achilla’s relationship leaves them open to public scrutiny, especially when Apollo gets kidnapped, and they rely on their opposite methods to find him while the world watches. Reporters will ask who kidnapped him and why. They’ll wonder what Samuel will do next. They’ll ask Achilla how her past plays into current events. This is what journalists do, whether it’s good or bad for Samuel and Achilla, because people have a right to know what goes on in their communities. However, what happens when someone uses media outlets to push a narrative about them regardless of whether it’s true? What if someone uses journalists to desensitize the public to their plight, or worse, acts as a mouthpiece for the narrative while ignoring the reporting and research necessary to be an effective, credible journalist? Further, why would someone want to do such a thing?
You’ll find out when you read Words of the Serpent on December 11th. Pre-order your copy here.
By the way, this novel has already received a five-star review. Check it out here.
Stay informed, my friends.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.