The First Doctrine: Eurocentricity

Eurocentricity is a polite term for white supremacy. I use it instead of “white supremacy” because the Western liberal establishment has outsourced the latter to slur those it considers to be the conservative, reactionary part of Western society. That is, the “red-necks,” the extremists, the Trump-lovers, and any other who seem to live in the lands between Manhattan and Palo Alto. But the fact remains that this belief in white supremacy, or Eurocentricity, sits deep in the heart of Western journalism, just as it does in Western society in general. And it is a crucial reason for the erasure and silencing of others outside this structure. Anyone reading Western media framing of issues outside of the West will quickly realize how a European ideal and mythical Western liberalism remains the measure against which all others are held, judged and condemned.

Mainstream media, privileging Western-centric morals, values, knowledge, interests, ways of being, and outlooks on life, reduces the voices of others to mere whispers. “Journalism expertise and its dominant authority,” Callison and Young argue, ”have come into being in political and knowledge production settings that have privileged white masculinity.” [Callison, Candis & Young, Mary Lynn, Reckoning: Journalism’s Limits and Possibilities, Oxford University Press, 2020:46-47].

US journalism, in particular, but Western journalism in general, sees the world from a Eurocentric, white male perspective. This view informs the media’s ideas of the normative social order. Voices that speak against it, challenge its assumptions, or reveal its roots in violence, dispossession, exploitation, and racism are either entirely ignored or, at best, placed on the margins. This silencing of the voices of communities long exploited, marginalised, and dehumanised is perhaps most evident at moments of protest, refusal, and public confrontation. During such “uprisings”, the media’s disconnect from the lived realities of these communities and the historical memories that inspire these movements and protests become most apparent.

For example, in the wake of the killing by police of George Floyd, the US media was careful about whom they invited into the studios or gave space to in the newspapers. Barely heard were the voices of the protestors and protest organisers.

In the three weeks after George Floyd’s killing, the New York Times and The Washington Post published a total of 172 Op-Eds pieces, of which only two were written by organisers of the protests, while the rest were written by the newspaper’s columnists or by government officials, academics and freelance writers.

Of the 54 one-on-one and roundtable guests on all broadcast networks, 63% were current or former government officials. The next most frequent guests were journalists themselves. [Loretta Graceffo, “Activist Voices Missing From Corporate Coverage of Uprisings,” FAIR, August 12, 2020]. These “experts” pontificate on the protestors’ intentions, goals, motivations, and aspirations despite very little understanding of the protestor’s lives and social worlds.

There was a pronounced gap between the people’s demands and protests and the “experts” ‘ explanations over the airwaves or Op-Eds. The histories, experiences, and struggles that fueled the protests seemed utterly unknown and, worse, utterly unfelt by the media. Largely sidelined was the question of historical wrongs, systemic police violence, legacies of racism, and the long history of an African-American community denied equal justice and rights. Instead, they dehumanised the victims of police violence, dissecting their lives for social problems to justify the situation.

So entrenched was the conviction in society’s righteousness and innocence that journalists understood the protests and the protestors as the instigators of violence and disturbers of the peace in an otherwise calm, peaceful, and law-abiding society. [Some pertinent examples include Andrew Tangel, Erin Ailworth, Akane Otani and Katie Honan, “Protests Sparked by George Floyd Death Descend Into Violence Despite Curfews,” The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2020; Mark Morales, Andy Rose, Hollie Silverman and Ray Sanchez, “Philadelphia puts Curfew in Place After Violence Erupts During Protests over the Fatal Police Shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.” CNN; Sabrina Tavernise and Ellen Almer Durston, “How Chaos in Kenosha Is Already Swaying Some Voters in Wisconsin,” New York Times, October 16, 2020; David Child, “Philadelphia Riots, Looting Breaks Out As Walmart and Other Stores Ransacked,” Newsweek, October 28, 2020; Olga Khazan, “Why People Loot,” The Atlantic, June 2, 2020; Chicago Tribune Staff, “Chicago’s summer of looting and unrest, and how the city is still reeling,” October 6, 2020].

Journalists did this by using “a very subtle, rather sophisticated language regime” designed to downplay state violence, exaggerate or suggest threats to police and posthumously smear black victims to rationalise their killing after the fact. [Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, “The Media’s Default Setting of White Supremacy,” Citations Needed, Episode #6, August 9, 2017, online at: (last accessed November 2023)]. This language regime discredits and delegitimises black experience, voice, and perspectives. The predominant white pundits, analysts, academics, and political figures centre their place as society’s normative voice and push out to the edges all African-American voices.

US media plays a significant role in the normalisation of racial injustice, which is unsurprising. Popular cop shows, produced and broadcast by the same corporations that own the news, “overwhelmingly present a complimentary depiction of police officers as complex, nuanced, and valorized characters” and mislead “the public about the criminal justice system by advancing distorted representations of crime, race, and gender.” [“Normalizing Injustice: Crime TV Report: The Dangerous Misrepresentations that Define Television’s Scripted Crime Genre,” Color of Change, June 2020, report online here (last accessed April 2021)].

I further elaborate on a definition and habit of Eurocentricity: The Joy Of Eurocentricity.

We saw the same pattern of erasing during the media’s coverage of The Sacred Stone Camp set up by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota. Hundreds of Native American tribes had gathered on sacred lands to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Despite harsh weather conditions, sustained attacks by private security forces and the police, and a general dismissal of their protests by the established media outlets, people quietly but determinedly continued their protests for months.

The protests, which were about Indigenous people’s rights and environmental concerns, were mainly framed as aggressive by the press and rarely covered the Indigenous protestors’ actual demands. [Some examples include Eyder Peralta, “Dakota Access Pipeline Protests In North Dakota Turn Violent,” NPR, September 4, 2016; Derek Hawkins, “Police defend use of water cannons on Dakota Access protesters in freezing weather,” The Washington Post, November 21, 2016; Madison Park and Mayra Cuevas, “Dakota Access Pipeline clashes turn violent,” CNN, November 22, 2016; Jonah Engel Bromwich, “16 Arrested at North Dakota Pipeline Protest,” New York Times, November 21, 2016]. Violence and clashes caught the media’s attention. [Daniella K. Kilgo and Summer Harlow, “Protests, Media Coverage, and a Hierarchy of Social Struggle,” The International Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 24(4) 2019:508–530].

This sharply contrasted with how Indigenous media outlets reported on the situation. The difference in coverage was so stark that it seemed that the mainstream and Native American press were covering two entirely different stories. [Jenni Monet, “Covering Standing Rock,” Columbia Journalism Review, Spring 2017]. Events such as the arrest of Amy Goodman, the host of “DemocracyNow!” elicited strong interest from the mainstream media, whose coverage was almost always in reaction to moments of violence and police actions. However, the arrest of Indigenous journalists did not provoke the same interest.

“I don’t think we have the culture to be accepting of real indigenous voices,” argued journalist Tristan Ahtone, who is a member of the Kiowa tribe. “Maybe people just like us better as sports mascots.” [Judith Matloff, “A Journalist’s Solo Mission to Cover Native Peoples Across the Globe,” Columbia Journalism Review, November 17, 2016]. Indigenous voices were unwelcome in the mainstream press pages because they speak about treaties, colonialism, settler violence, and centuries of betrayals and hence challenge the feigned innocence of our society. They reminded us not just of past harms but of the fact that our current social order, including the power of the US media, is a result of this long history of dispossession and death of the Indigenous.

US media can speak about America’s colonial settler and race histories, but only as it took place in the past. These histories are imagined safely behind us, and our present privileges are unrelated. But this is what Indigenous critiques question and why the media struggles to hear them. It reports the confrontations and the sensational acts of violence. It shies away from centring Indigenous voices because these voices reveal that the Eurocentric, white social order is an outcome of historical and ongoing violence, dispossession, repression, and exploitation. Voices that speak to these truths are pushed aside and ignored. “There’s a lot of things that white people don’t want to talk about,” says Giago, owner of the Native Sun News Today. “We remind them of things they’d rather forget.” [Jenni Monet, “Covering Standing Rock,” Columbia Journalism Review, Spring 2017].

It can also make for comical reading. For example, in the New York Times, Jesse Newman wrote an article about corruption in Russia. The entire piece projected a view of Russia that has long informed US media: a corrupt kleptocracy with no regard for justice, law or civility. Throughout her essay, the shadow of an idealized USA, i.e., an idealized Eurocetric nation, was nearly impossible to miss.

Based on the work of photographer Misha Friedman, she argued that;

Before James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for discovering DNA’s double helix, “Photo 51”—an X-ray photograph—helped them identify the molecule’s complex structure. And just as photography made visible what scientists suspected, Misha Friedman is training his camera on what seems like a common trait in his national genetic code; corruption. [Jesse Newman, “An X-Ray of Russian Corruption”, The New York Times, February 23, 2013].

You read that right; she wrote that Russian corruption was in their genes.

According to Newman, Russian corruption was so pervasive that it “manifests itself in people’s private lives, radiating outward through Russian society, touching ordinary men and women, and becoming the norm.” [Jesse Newman, “An X-Ray of Russian Corruption”, The New York Times, February 23, 2013].

[You can read a more detailed analysis of this piece and the accompanying photographs here: Case Study: Genetically Corrupt.]

A photo series accompanies the text. The writer tells us that these photos “are not documentary evidence of corrupt acts” but are nevertheless presented to the reader as a journey into Russian corruption sites and situations. Friedman’s images offer a “visual tour” of acts such as collusions between private interests and political power, scenes of domestic violence, political leaders providing access to government residences, police corruption, a photo of where once a gulag stood, and one of mining-related pollution.

But do Russians have a genetic propensity for corruption, nepotism, cronyism, institutional corruption, and state failure? And what about the racist claim that it is in the Russian national genetic code? Both are ridiculous if not egregiously irresponsible, claims and only work because Russia is a nation long dehumanized in the US political and public imagination.

US political leaders have sold access to White House chambers. US capitalists and billionaires have a close, cosy insider relationship with US political leaders. Dozens of Senators receive payments, payoffs, insider information, and lucrative speaking deals from corporations and industries they are otherwise supposed to oversee. It is not unusual for members of Congress to have personal financial stakes in the sectors they legislate. Members of Congress have private investments in the defence industry, and several sit on committees that determine significant funding sources for defence companies and weapons contractors.

There have been many corruption investigations and prosecutions of US police officers. US mining and oil companies continue to pollute and poison vast tracts of land within continental North America with impunity and hardly any regulatory checks. The US operates one of the world’s largest prison–industrial systems globally, giving an American twist to the Russian gulag. The Enron collapse revealed the scale and scope of US corporate greed and corruption. The scale of the 2008 mortgage scandal revealed the vice inherent in the practice of US finance capital.

The Russia that the US media constructs defies belief. But if it is an “enemy,” US journalists can get away with making all sorts of claims and not be challenged on it. Under their pens, Russia becomes an all-powerful, corrupt, unfathomable nation with the ability to install a Manchurian candidate as the US President and attack our spies with invisible death rays. It is all quite laughable, and yet it passes for journalism.

It does so because the idea of an idealized Europe/West informs these pieces that can pathologize the Other, which are less about the Other than about celebrating the self.

For an example where a photojournalist erases the people’s history of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and centres the Western actor as the only creator of DRC history, see Genocidal War As A Game.

The normalisation of the Eurocentric, white social world ensures that any challenges become marginal, minor, distracting, and merely an annoyance. Journalists frame challenges to the dominant social order so that they remain marginal and a nuisance because they can’t conceive a social order other than the one within which they have achieved their privileges and power. They operate as if Western liberal myths are ideal for all mankind and perfect in their imagination and actuality. These myths continue to colour their worldviews, regardless of the facts, which are posited as exceptions and anomalies rather than outcomes and consequences of these very liberal ideals. More on this later in the essays.

Again, I am not speaking about ethnicities but worldviews when I use the terms “white” and “Western.” Many “diverse” newsroom remains white and Eurocentric despite not literarily being ethnically white. I discuss this issue in a separate section.