The Reconstruction of American Journalism in the Age of Culture War
The coverage of race and xenophobia in American life and politics has often lacked adequate pattern recognition and historical context. I spoke about this in a speech in March, posted below as text and video; and am posting it now, spurred by the recent mass killing in El Paso, Texas. The gunman’s manifesto read that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” We have to understand the history and present implications of weaponized political xenophobia, as reporters and as Americans, if we want to survive this era and build a better future for all. When I gave this speech in March, I reflected on why the media has failed time and again to report on white supremacist extremism, the number one cause of domestic terrorism. Now is a moment when we can reflect and do better.
[Given as a speech in March 2019 at the Power of Narrative conference in Boston under the title “Alone in America With You: 25 Years On the Road in a Changing Nation”; and a variant at American University (video below); some edits to text made for clarity.]
I. We are at war. There are wars of blood and death; others of disinformation, data breaches and cyberattacks; and, years after I thought they had faded, cold wars fought primarily through diplomacy and threats. But the thread that connects them all is narrative.
One person’s glorious leader is another’s oppressor. One person’s liberator is another’s rogue actor. To a greater and greater degree, no war can be won without the narrative first emerging that supports its victory.
The wars of narratives are wars for hearts and souls and minds. As a subset of “narrative storytelling,” journalism can be an instrument of either liberation or obfuscation.
That is true of the war to reconstruct American journalism as well. I say “American journalism” because that’s what I will drill down on, but be clear that the news generated in the United States is a global force, just as…