VICE News or Fox News?
An Exploration into the “Many Sides” of White Fear and Media Representations
American media is an empire of visual culture that transcends the limits of borders to bring movies, shows, music videos, etc. that are subtitled and redistributed to any country with Internet access, with all of this functioning under the paradigm that: American media = $$$. The terrorism in Charlottesville, VA not only supports the idea that American news has the ability to make global headlines, but also provides a stage to understand what stories the media relies on and what these stories say about American culture as a whole. Specifically, I aim to analyze the coverage of VICE Media of the riots and the overall tone of the platform to sell itself as focusing of youth/young adult digital media, but of which has functioned as a steady, mainstream, televised exhibition of white supremacy and white hate.
What makes the Charlottesville episode interesting is even when using the argument that the purpose was to inform the public about a story, but the story being told is not a new one. The hate that fuels the alt-right as a political alliance stems from the history of American media depicting white bodies as being threatened by black bodies, that with roots in the Puritan times of this country, has left behind a structural legacy of slavery that was supported by media the Puritans created with their version of ‘new’ technology, the printing press, to animate their beliefs that “the providence of God sent Africans into slavery to learn from their masters.”
VICE News follows what UC Riverside Professor Vorris Nunley dubs as the ‘American trope,’ that feeds off of the reality of most to see ‘America’ as a land built on democracy and freedom, a media trope that is so prevalent that it swallows, covers up, camouflages, and disappears the inconsistency of American culture to defaultly only recognize white bodies as having rights as Americans. VICE News plays into this paradigm with their coverage by sending a white woman to cover the story, contradicting the words of their owner, Shane Smith, who has boasted that VICE Media would not be affected by the “crack-cocaine that is Trump,” yet organizes to cover the riots in the safest way by aligning with white nationalist politics and only using white bodies in the episode. The contradictory nature of this type of coverage stems from American identity politics that the media relies on to concretize views that when democracy and freedom are at risk, it is a tragedy, without analyzing the purpose of the “Unite the Right” rally to exclude those rights from any other political identity that doesn’t align with Trump inspired politics.
Nunley describes that ‘tropes can gain and lose cultural power,’ a fact that reigns true when considering the impact of Trump and the 2016 election has had on the political atmosphere of the U.S. The limitied amount of VICE coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement also supports the idea that as an outlet that align themselves with the left, VICE Media is not solely interested in using their platform to win the hearts of the young, they follow the stories that safely push the boundaries, and that is likely why the Charlottesville rally earned an TV broadcast 22 minute episode, while BLM earned a Daily VICE 6 minute webisode.
What I want to highlight most about the problematic nature of the VICE News coverage is that they really aren’t pushing the envelope, they’re not edgy, and they are just like any other media source, that in the aftermath of this political storm, provide imagery that has structural consequences. White hate is accepted, reasoned with, and worth media coverage, and this is exactly what Charlottesville: Race and Terror conveyed when VICE used thier platform as a form of publicity for the alt-right. The true ‘edgy’ move would have been to compile all social media coverage and pose a discussion about the effects that this form of extreme hate in our everyday culture, not just limited the visual violence of one day.