Black churches are burning & Fox News doesn't care

Eight black churches have burnt down over 10 days in America, but the right-wing media has been strangely silent

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published July 2, 2015 4:59PM (EDT)

  (Jeff Malet,
(Jeff Malet,

Black America's "blues sensibilities"--as well as that of other peoples who have historically suffered under power and somehow found a way to survive and triumph--means that laughter is one of the ways that we navigate times of trouble and sorrow. Other people(s) crumble under the littlest of pressure and pain; to both our detriment and advantage, Black America marches on, indomitable as the miner's canary, we who are the moral conscience of the United States. This is both a blessing and a curse.

White racial terrorist Dylann Roof has been arrested. He subsequently confessed to killing 9 black Americans in their Charleston, South Carolina, church in order to create the spark for a "race war." However, it would seem that America's white terrorist network is still operative, hitting "soft" but symbolically potent targets such as historic African-American churches.

To point: South Carolina's Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church is the 8th such building to burn down in the approximately 10 days since the Charleston Massacre.

On this unfortunate event, Time offered the following comment:

Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, a prominent African-American church in Greeleyville, S.C., caught fire late Tuesday. It is the eighth black church in the southern U.S.A. to burn in 10 days.

Greeleyville, about 60 miles northwest of Charleston, has seen similar fires before, the Charleston Post and Courier reports. Mount Zion was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995, part of a string of 30 fires in black churches that spanned two years.

An investigation into the fire’s cause will begin after it is safely extinguished, chief of the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division Mark Keel told the Post and Courier. He noted that that the thunderstorm that pounded the town of 375 Tuesday evening could have ignited the church. Meteorologist Pete Mohlin of the National Weather Service told the paper there was a lot of lightning in the area around 7 p.m. but he could not say if it had caused the fire.

Parishioners across the south are surveying the damage a string of similar fires has caused this week, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, starting in Knoxville, Tenn. on June 21 and moving to Macon, Ga and Gibson County, Tenn on June 23; Charlotte, N.C. on June 24; Elyria, Ohio on June 25; and Tallahassee, Fla. and Warrenville, S.C on June 26.

Three of those fires have been ruled arson, one was determined to be caused by a falling branch and faulty wiring, and the others remain under investigation. Several have been blamed preliminarily on lightning; weather in the south this week has been turbulent.

While Twitter has been trending the #whoisburningblackchurches hashtag, the mainstream corporate news media has been relatively silent: There is no mass panic about what seems to be a highly unusual series of events in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre, the F.B.I.'s report on the extreme threat posed by Right-wing domestic terrorists, and the increase in white hate group activities in the Age of Obama.

In these times, we cannot overlook how the Republican Party is the United States' largest white identity organization, and how Fox News and the Right-wing media are their propaganda arm. Together, the two have created a logic and worldview that, via "epistemic closure," functions as an alternate reality for its viewers. In this bizarro world, white people, Christians, the rich, men, heterosexuals, and "real Americans" are somehow made into "victims." To sustain the right-wing media's white victimology necessitates distorting Black pain, suffering, and white on black racism, into a series of events that serve white privilege and the white racial frame.

As such, the question of how Fox News will engage in "political aikido" and white victimology propaganda, as they discuss (if at all) the repeated and highly suspicious spate of fires at African-American churches, becomes pressing.

Some suggested #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches Fox News talking points:

  1. Apparently all those black churches used the same electrician.
  2. "Affirmative action" is to blame. Somehow.
  3. "Race hustlers" just want to get attention and make white people look bad.
  4. You see this is really a war on Christians!
  5. Do the math: Churches burn down all the time. Why are black race hustlers and liberals making such a big deal about simple math!
  6. What if Black racists want to hurt white firefighters!
  7. This is a scorched earth strategy to start a race war against white people.
  8. This is what happens when the SCOTUS allows gay marriage!
  9. Rap music! Rappers are always talking about "being on fire" and "making it hot up in here." Let's lay the blame where it deserves. What about personal responsibility!
  10. What if this was caused by, like, solar flares? How can the sun be racist?
  11. We need to talk about the broken Black family, and how black kids love playing with lighters.
  12. What do the liberals want to do now? Ban lighters.
  13. And really, where are black fathers?!
  14. Barack Obama is to blame.

During these last few years, the United States has experienced a long moment of peril and tumult along the color line. This has happened even in an era of supposed "post racial" colorblindness, and when a black man is President of the United States. In a democracy, the news media, as the 4th estate of government, has a responsibility to provide reliable information, clarity, sound commentary, and insight for the American people so that they can pressure their leaders to make good governmental policies.

But, on many matters--especially those regarding racial, gender, and class justice--Fox News and the right-wing noise machine have worked directly opposite of that responsibility and principle. Their coverage of the Charleston Massacre, and subsequent events such as the burning down of multiple African-American churches in the last week, are a further example of how they have abandoned -- if they ever had it all -- any sense of responsibility to truth-telling and the Common Good.

Perhaps Fox and its auxiliaries can surprise and amaze -- in the best sense -- with how they discuss the spate of fires at historic African-American churches in these recent days. But I doubt that is possible; to do so would be contrary to their raison d'etre as the mainstream corporate news media's preeminent mouthpiece for the politics of white racial resentment and white victimology in the post civil rights era United States.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

MORE FROM Chauncey DeVega

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Black Churches Charleston Fox News Racism