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…


I am equal parts annoyed, amazed and amused when people roll up on the Twitter page of a TV critic to complain about me covering major events on TV. It's like asking a sports reporter why he covered the latest Yankees or Knicks game. Short answer: It's the job. https://t.co/d7QqFTiFYu

I think you missed the part where I said he opened his Tesla factory before local officials said he should during a pandemic. https://t.co/uAlzhPgtzG

If missed: My take on Elon Musk's turn as host of Saturday Night Live #SNL, where his impish awkwardness - and a brief bit about being a host w/Asperger's - couldn't keep it from feeling like a disappointing stunt for attention and pop culture relevance. https://t.co/9PbhQfwFdo

My fave bit from #SNL's Elon Musk episode had the least Musk in it: the Mare from Easttown parody "Murder Durder." https://t.co/YMtETgTvvF

So far, #SNL's satire of the "very specific whites" in shows like Mare of Easttown in the parody "Murder Durder" was my favorite moment in the Elon Musk episode -- and not just because Musk was only in it for 5 seconds playing a creepy priest.

A promoted tweet is just a way to get more people to read a good story. Not sure why you would block an account unless you don't care for the content. https://t.co/ALss6lXTRn

So, was the point of that monologue proving that not only is Elon Musk an android, his mom is, too? #SNL

Jobs alert! https://t.co/58GGD2LJGa
Deggans photo
Los Angeles Magazine @LAmag
We're hiring! Los Angeles magazine is looking for a smart, hard-working, resourceful journalist to join our digital team as a staff writer. Head to the link for more on the position, requirements, and how to apply. https://t.co/8lG5Fk3c49 https://t.co/dPASjmMkRR