American Skinheads and "Mud People": Construction and Justification of Bigotry Through the Media

Yumi Suzuki, University at Albany

American skinheads emerged in 1980s mainly out of resentment of white youths who were alienated from mainstream society. Their aim is to establish a white power structure in a belief that they are the chosen ones. Skinheads' campaign of violence has spawned a number of deaths and grieving families across the nation since their inception. Because young people feel a need to establish their identity, and be provided with positive rewards, they become vulnerable to skinheads' ideology on race and white supremacy. One of the essential aspects in understanding and potentially resolving this phenomenon may come from a rather unexpected area: The media. Young people may be exposed to harmful ideology through television, newspapers, and the Internet. In this sense, society may have a heavier burden to provide youth with the environment where they could receive positive messages on diversity as well as an apparatus to firmly establish one's identity, especially through the media. Beginning with an overview of American skinheads, this paper discusses justification of harm with the emphasis on the effects of the media. A connection between justification of harm and the needs of youths who decide to join skinheads are also discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006