NPR TV critic Eric Deggans on how the media still wield dangerous words to divide us

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NPR TV critic Eric Deggans
NPR TV critic Eric Deggans

Eric Deggans, the first TV critic for National Public Radio, on Tuesday (Aug. 15) discussed the state of media and race on WMNF WaveMakers with Janet and Tom.

Just over a decade ago Deggans wrote a book titled Race Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation. When asked if anything has changed, Deggans said simply: “Yes. It’s gotten worse.”

The book title was inspired by former Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly, who Deggans said often used words and images to inflame his viewers but accused Deggans of being a race-baiter for simply talking about issues of race. The term was originally used to characterize people whipped up by white people against racial and cultural minorities.

While scripted TV programming has improved in its representation of African-Americans and other minority groups, in many other ways the situation is much worse, Deggans said, and has been exacerbated by social media which acts as an echo chamber and heightens misinformation.

In his book, Deggans wrote that “the fastest-growing media platforms now focus on smaller segments of the audience—the plumpest parts of a seriously fragmented viewing/ reading/ listening public. And one way to ensure that those audience segments develop fierce loyalty is to feed them messages demonizing other outlets and the groups who might gather there.”

That has only worsened, Deggans said, with the rise of even more polarizing figures like Tucker Carlson who are much more blatant in their attempts to divide along racial lines.

Hear the entire conversation by clicking the link below, going to the WaveMakers archives or by searching for WMNF WaveMakers wherever you listen to podcasts.

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