Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation


At a time when political candidates leverage fear of immigrants and Muslims into votes while the nation debates issues of policing and people of color, the need for media coverage more finely attuned to race and prejudice could not be more clear.   

But instead of informing audiences, many of the fastest-growing news programs and media platforms are playing on old prejudices and deep rooted fears to compete for increasingly narrow audiences. Using the same tactics once employed to mobilize political parties, they send fans coded messages and demonize opposing groups as their audience share soars and website traffic ticks up.

Race-baiter is a term born out of this tumultuous climate, coined by the conservative media to describe a person who uses racial tensions to arouse the passion and ire of a particular demographic. Even as the election of the first black president forces us all to reevaluate how we think about race, gender, culture, and class lines, some areas of modern media are working hard to push the same old buttons of conflict and division for new purposes.

In Race-Baiter, veteran journalist and media critic Eric Deggans dissects the powerful ways modern media feeds fears, prejudices, and hate, while also tracing the history of the word and its consequences, intended or otherwise.

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About Eric Deggans

Eric Deggans is NPR’s first full-time TV critic. He came to NPR from the Tampa Bay Times newspaper in Florida, where he served as TV/Media Critic and in other roles for nearly 20 years. He also serves as a contributor and media analyst at MSNBC/NBC News. A journalist for more than 20 years, he is also the author of Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation, a look at how prejudice, racism and sexism fuels some elements of modern media, published in October 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan.

He has guest hosted CNN’s media analysis show Reliable Sources many times, joining a select group of journalists and media critics filling in for departed host Howard Kurtz. In 2013, he was awarded the Florida Press Club’s first-ever Diversity award, honoring his coverage of issues involving race and media. That year, he also received the Legacy award from the National Association of Black Journalists’ A&E Task Force, an honor bestowed to “seasoned A&E journalists who are at the top of their careers.” Eric also serves on the board of educators, journalists and media experts who select the George Foster Peabody Awards for excellence in electronic media.


Eric is the first full-time TV critic for National Public Radio. He served as TV/Media Critic for the Tampa Bay Times, guest host of CNN’s Reliable Sources and freelance contributor to Salon, Huffington Post, and CNN.com.


Eric has appeared as a pundit and expert on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, PBS’ The NewsHour, the Tom Joyner Morning Show and many other outlets.


In Race-Baiter, Eric dissects the powerful ways modern media feeds fears, prejudices, and hate, while also tracing the history of the word and its consequences, intended or otherwise.

Public Speaker

Eric is available as a keynote speaker, instructor and thought leader on a wide range of topics, including: race issues, media, pop culture, social media, brand identity, music, online technology and much more.

Previously on social media…


Forget about the upteenth version of McGruber; a satirical of this would make an awesome short film. https://t.co/MIyMM7WDW1

I get the frustration. And there’s always plenty of media failure to report on. But Trump’s dysfunction as president has been exhaustively covered by media outlets and at least five bestselling books. His ongoing support does not exist because of a failure in mainstream media. https://t.co/xb3wUcjkBh

You’re right. But I’d say it’s been overt since Trump declared his presidential candidacy in 2015 by spreading horrible stereotypes about undocumented immigrants. https://t.co/QOAAXhxFtB

Speaking as someone who covered TV and media during that time I have to say the words “complete failure” are unfair and inaccurate. Especially by 2016, when it was clear he had a serious shot at winning the nomination. https://t.co/M9zPwL1wvK

“The media” created a lot of journalism describing just how problematic Trump was. Lots of people chose to vote for him, anyway. https://t.co/A6waOzxG70

You only count toward broadcast TV ratings if you are part of a sample measured by Nielsen. https://t.co/KWglNkT84m

One thing about Trump: He always says the quiet part - rooted in stereotypes, unjustified grievance and outright lies - out loud. https://t.co/y4ABIDLlNc Deggans photo

I might as well plead guilty…cause I sure can’t plead the fifth. Any house Prince is in, is where I’ll be… https://t.co/zfH4ViUVfc Deggans photo