Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication, culture, and digital technologies at Syracuse University, said that “the takeaway for establishment journalists is stark, and starkly distressing: just by showing up for work and doing their jobs as assigned, journalists covering the far-right fringe… played directly into these groups’ public relations interests. In the process, this coverage added not just oxygen, but rocket fuel to an already-smoldering fire.”

In an article in The Guardian, boyd and her colleague Joan Donovan discuss how hate groups throughout history not only sought the amplification of the media, but considered it one of their most essential recruitment tactics. In the 1969 autobiography of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, he noted that “only by forcing the Jews to spread our message with their facilities could we have any hope of success in counteracting their left-wing, racemixing propaganda!”

The KKK — and many more groups of its ilk — have regularly used inflammatory rhetoric and behavior to bait journalists into giving them free press that would attract more people to their cause, both now and in history.


In response, many in the black, Jewish, and Catholic press promoted the idea of “dignified silence” or “selective silence,” or denying the hate group the oxygen that it so desperately wanted.

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