DON’T TRUST THE QUEER IN APARTMENT 213: JEFFREY DAHMER, THE BROADCAST NEWS MEDIA, AND THE POLITICS OF OSTRACIZATION
This senior thesis works to understand the dynamic relationship between Jeffrey Dahmer and the broadcast news media by analyzing the portrayal of his murder case by the big three networks – CBS, ABC, and NBC – between the years of 1991 and 1994. This analysis was conducted visually and rhetorically on 33 news media clips supplied by the Vanderbilt Television News Archive. Utilizing a Foucauldian philosophical framework, this thesis is rooted in the idea that every agent engaged in the process of broadcasting possesses some form of power – be it as producer, viewer, or as the person whose story is being told. This thesis finds that the broadcast news media was able to further ostracize marginalized communities through the sensationalization of the Jeffrey Dahmer case as it produced a layered narrative of fear which terrified an assumedly white, heterosexual “general public.” Once Dahmer was depicted as a violent boogeyman, the news media encouraged its audiences to try and strengthen the sanctity of the nuclear family as a means through which they could then protect themselves from threats like Dahmer. Paradoxically, it was the groups that Dahmer targeted the most – the black and queer communities – which became vilified as a result of this discursive shift. When the news media sought to reduce the importance of the queer underpinnings in the Dahmer case, the message implied was that queer lives didn’t matter. Finally, the Konerak Sinthamsompone incident incited fear in the hearts of white Milwaukeeans, who suddenly became preoccupied with the thought of a race-based riot in their city.
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