The Selma that Fox News will never understand

Published 1:35 pm Friday, August 21, 2020

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Selma gets trotted out a lot by Democratic politicians seeking to garner favor with progressive voters by conjuring up memories of the valiant march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, but year after year those same politicians come, have their photoshoots and depart for another campaign frontier without leaving anything behind but memories – this is a sentiment I’ve heard countless times since coming to Selma and one that rings ominously true.

But when it falls from the lips of Tucker Carlson, one of the premier voices on Fox News, it seems hollow, hypocritical and just as offensive – perhaps even more so – as when it’s done by other politicians looking to cash in on Selma’s history of struggle.

Carlson invoked the name of Selma Thursday as a case study in the effects of Democratic leadership, essentially saying that Selma’s ongoing struggles with crime and poverty are related to its support of the Democratic Party.

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“Often they bring up a place called Selma,” Carlson said during the show. “Selma is a small city in the State of Alabama. Selma is famous because there was a consequential civil rights march there 55 years ago this spring. You hear a lot about the march, but you never hear how the story ended. People in Selma voted — and good. That was the point of the march. And they voted for Democrats. How did that turn out for them? Selma is now the poorest city in Alabama. It is the most dangerous place in the state. It has the highest unemployment rate. More than 40 percent of the people who live in Selma are poor. They’re in poverty. That’s a tragedy. It’s amazing there is a city like that in this country.”

Like most of the commentary on Fox News, as what churns out over its airwaves can scarcely be called news or even information, Carlson’s view take an overly simplistic tone and describes Selma as if it exists in a void, doomed to suffer because of its support of progressive policies and politicians, but one can scarcely put the blame for Selma’s struggles on national Democrats without placing an equal share of the blame – likely more – on state Republicans, who control the legislature and the governor’s office.

To be sure, Carlson’s assessment of Selma is not wholly inaccurate – there’s violent crime and widespread poverty – but blaming Washington Democrats, such as Selma’s own U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, while paying no mind to the myriad policies enacted by Alabama Republicans, which have had a direct and punishing impact on the people of this region, is to gloss over reality in a way that only Fox News can.

Carlson’s use of Selma as a propaganda tool against Democrats is no better than Democrats’ use of Selma as a propaganda tool aimed at supporters, but at least Democrats have an air of reverence for the city and its legacy, while conservative talking heads are content to slander and demean it.

Carlson asked what good voting for Democrats has done for Selma – my questions is what good have Republicans done for Selma? Strangely, the answer is exactly the same: absolutely nothing.

You see, it’s not Carlson’s attack on Democrats that irks me, it’s the utter hypocrisy of the statement, which surely had scores of people nodding in agreement without even considering the reality of the situation – Republicans have controlled state government for years and have done nothing to address the crime or poverty in Selma or any other desperate area of the state.

So, it’s true, neither state nor national level politicians of either party have done anything to benefit the people of this city, who have become quite adept at advocating for themselves and creating their own opportunities and uniting to provide for one another in their leaders’ absence.

However, it isn’t the gloom that defines this city, but the resilience of a people that have grown accustomed to being overlooked and who continue to this day to build and rebuild, time and again, a city whose lessons are still not being properly learned by those who trot its name out for their own agendas.