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Why Natalee Holloway Is Lucky She Is Not Around to Make Accusations

Reported by Judy - April 20, 2006

Natalee Holloway is lucky she is not around to make accusations against anybody who may have done her harm. Why? Just look what has happened to the woman who says members of the Duke lacrosse team gang-raped her. Fox News has turned her into the criminal, attacking her credibility and rallying to the defense of the white privileged defendants in the case. It's all about the underlying political agenda of Fox News.

Everything on Fox News has a political agenda -- even coverage of missing white women, which we all know far exceeds the coverage of missing people of any other gender or race on this network. But what is the Fox News political agenda regarding missing white women and how does Fox News coverage of the Natalee Holloway disappearance and the alleged gang rape of a woman by members of the Duke lacrosse team exemplify that?

The thinking of Berkeley linguist George Lakoff -- Don't Think of An Elephant -- helps explain Fox News' political agenda in these matters. Fox News' editors and reporters subscribe to a world view in which men rule -- what Lakoff calls the strict father paradigm. The father is the boss in the family, and by extension, George Bush is the boss in the country, the world. Family members are subject to the strict father's severe discipline, which they need in order to learn how to survive in the world. Besides meting out discipline, the father's job is to protect the famly members from the dangerous outside world.

Lakoff contrasts this view of the world (he calls it a "frame") with the world view of progressives. Progressives see the family as made up of nurturing parents who are both equal and equally responsible for raising children in a loving environment that stresses empathy and caring over strict discipline. Now, according to Lakoff, most people have both world views embedded in their psyches but using certain words or phrases can activate one frame or another. When the strict father frame is active in viewers, George Bush and conservatives win. It is Fox News' job to keep that strict father frame active in its viewers at all times.

Within this world view, Fox News recognizes only two kinds of women -- victims and sexual deviants/whores. Natalee Holloway represents the first kind. In Fox News' world view, we can feel sorry for her because she has been a victim of the dangerous outside world. More importantly, we can feel sorry for her because she is no longer around to level charges against her accusers.

Suppose Natalee Holloway had been able to escape her attackers that night and go to the police with her story of what happened? Then Natalee Holloway would have slipped from the category of victim to sexual deviant -- the same Fox News category that encompasses the alleged victim in the Duke lacrosse gang rape case, the female teachers who have sex with their students, and most progressive women politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein.

Why would Holloway have switched categories? Because her going to the police would necessarily have entailed making accusations against males. And unless those males were non-white, by making an accusation against a male, Natalee Holloway would have been challenging the authority of the strict father figure, which is the touchstone of so much conservative thinking. Strict father figures are to be obeyed, not challenged. Once a woman, even a likely victim such as Natalee Holloway, challenges that authority, they must be destroyed through character assassination, and the targets of her accusations must be defended at all costs because they are society's supreme authority figures -- privileged white males.

Fox News' agenda was never so clear as on "Dayside" on Thursday (April 20, 2006). The program featured first a segment on developments in the Duke lacrosse gang rape case. "Dayside" co-hosts Mike Jerrick and Juliet Huddy interviewed Russ Ferguson, the student body chief of staff at Duke University, who said the campus mood has switched from sympathy for the accuser to support for the lacrosse players. Issues of class and race of the accuser and the accused make that no surprise, but the decision of defense attorneys to begin aggressively spinning evidence, which they never make public, in favor of their clients also accounts for some of the switch.

Then Huddy and Jerrick went to questions from the audience, and who is the first person they call on? A guy from New Jersey who just happens to have known the family of one of the accused, Reade Silbermann. The New Jersey delivers a character defense of Silbermann, unrebutted in any way by a spokesperson for the victim or women's advocates, and laments how Silbermann will never be able to get his good name back when he is cleared. The audience applauds. (Amazing,isn't it, that Huddy and Jerrick were able to find this guy randomly in the audience on the first try? Is Fox News actively working with defense attorneys in this case to skew public opinion in favor of the defendants?)

Then "Dayside" went immediately to the Holloway case in Aruba. Julie Banderas cried no tears about the potential impact of trying the case in the press for the defendants in the Holloway case. In fact, she still is trying to implicate Joran van der Sloot even though police have arrested someone else.

The difference in treatment of the back-to-back stories was jarring and cried for an explanation.

Because Holloway is not around to make allegations, she can safely remain in the victim category. She is not challenging male authority, thus she is a "safe" victim. If she were alive and making allegations of a horrific experience at the hands of male attackers on the beach that night, Fox News would drop her like a whore with syphyllis. Natalee Holloway would become the issue to a much greater extent than she has so far -- what her sexual history was, what she told police and any inconsistencies that existed in her story, what kind of a woman goes to the beach with guys she doesn't know, and on and on -- and the white male suspects would become the victims.

There have been other cases of the strict father frame at work on Fox News. John Gibson's attack on CBS legal analyst Wendy Murphy on Wednesday (April 19, 2006) is one of them. His contempt for the victim was visceral. You could almost feel his outrage at the challenge to his authority as a strict father figure.

Which brings us back to Fox News' political agenda. Strong progressive women fall into the sexual deviant category not because of their sexual activity necessarily, but because of the threat they pose to the strict father paradigm. They are sexual deviants because they don't fit into the conservative frame of a family where the father rules without challenge. They must be attacked and destroyed unmercifully because every right-wing male knows that if Hillary Clinton is ever elected president, his authority within his own family is at risk -- or so he fears.

The challenge for progressives, according to Lakoff, is to avoid activating that strict father paradigm in American voters at all costs. In the case of women who cry rape, that means focusing on caring and compassion for the victim, in hopes of activating that nurturant parent frame that exists in many Americans' psyches and deactivating that strict parent frame.

The strict father frame never sleeps on Fox News. And that's why Fox News' watchers should not sleep either.

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