In the years since September 11, 2001, Americans have suffered more violent terrorism from figures connected to right-wing and white supremacist groups than from Islamic extremists. Given that reality, Christiana Mbakwe asks a simple question: “Why don’t we cover white supremacy the way we cover ISIS?”
In a piece for CJR, Mbakwe worries that “there is a significant risk newsrooms will treat Charlottesville the way they treated the church murders in Charleston—like an aberration rather than a symptom of an ideology knitted into the fabric of America.” Indeed, while violent events like Charlottesville or Charleston rate intense national coverage, sustained reporting on white supremacy, its roots, the methods of its proponents, and their attempts to expand is harder to find.
It’s past time, Mbakwe writes, for a white supremacy beat. In the past year, there have been steps in this direction. ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” project aims to collect and verify reports of hate crimes and bias incidents. But Mbakwe argues more is needed. She suggests journalists emulate the work of ISIS experts like The New York Times’s Rukmini Callimachi, who has embedded in online communities used by terrorists and their sympathizers, and has reported on the ground from areas where terrorist groups are active. By focusing on all aspects of ISIS, from ideology, to propaganda strategies, to recruitment, to execution of attacks, Callimachi’s continuous reporting has created a window into the way the group operates.
Hours after Mbakwe’s piece posted, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s exploration of Dylann Roof demonstrated what apex reporting on the white supremacy beat would look like. Ghansah’s piece, “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof,” deserves all of the praise it’s getting. After traveling to Charleston with the intention of reporting on Roof’s nine victims, Ghansah instead found herself drawn to the silent terrorist who refused to explain himself. “I decided that if he would not tell us his story, then I would,” she writes. Her story for GQ is well worth your time.
Below, more coverage of white supremacy.
- Learning from white supremacist dropouts: Pacific Standard’s Francie Diep spoke with sociologist Pete Simi about what we can learn from those who have left white supremacist movements.
- “Not your grandfather’s KKK”: What does white supremacy look like today? How do its members hope to expand their influence? The Washington Post’s Daniel Kreiss and Kelsey Mason tackle those questions and more in their look at the modern movement.
- Roots of the problem: Rolling Stone contributor Carl Skutsch examines the history of white supremacy in America, writing that those who marched in Charlottesville “have roots that go deep in American history and America’s present.”
- “Who is America for?”: Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s chief political correspondent, writes that “it’s up to white people to make a choice—will they share the country and its story, or will they reject equality for hierarchy and caste?”
- The latest from Derek Black: On today’s episode of The Daily, Michael Barbaro speaks with the former white supremacist, whose father started The Daily Stormer, about the events of the past year.
- Politicians search for answers: The California State Senate will hold hearings to assess the rise of white supremacy in the state, reports The San Francisco Chronicle’s Melody Gutierrez.
Other notable stories
- Last night, President Trump announced his administration’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan, admitting that he had changed his mind. The New York Times’s Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman report how military leaders convinced him to go against his gut instinct.
- Shakeup at the West’s largest newspaper: Davan Maharaj is out as editor and publisher of The LA Times, replaced by a pair of outsiders. Last year, David Uberti profiled the polarizing Maharaj for CJR.
- The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reports that an editing change is at the center of Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against The New York Times,
- For CJR, PolitiFact Founding Editor Bill Adair writes on the unlikely success of the fact-checking powerhouse as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.
- While millions donned cardboard glasses or stared into mangled cereal boxes, Fox News’s Shepard Smith was stuck in a studio covering the eclipse. Apparently, he wasn’t thrilled with the assignment.
- “Of course he looked”: The New York Times’s Matt Flegenheimer says Trump’s unprotected glance at the sun fits with everything we know about his personality.