Montana Politics

The Media is pretty clearly aggravating racial tensions at this point

All Lives are Equal, but some lives are more equal than others, at least in terms of media coverage. There’s been plenty of controversy and polemic about whether the media exaggerates Black deaths at the hands of police, most of it unproductive. But a glance at the other side of the coin reveals that when it comes to police deaths, the media amost certainly contributes to the perceptions of a constant violent clash between police and African Americans, and it’s hard to see how they don’t, in so doing, contribute to the actual violence between police and the African American community.

What do I mean? On August 24th, state trooper Steven Vincent was shot to death (and taunted as he died) in Louisiana. The killing certainly made more headlines than a typical homicide in an almost uniquely violent state – 26,500 hits on Google news are returned for “Steven Vincent”.

Four days later, deputy Darren Goforth was killed in Texas, shot in the back while filling his patrol car. Unlike Steven Vincent and most other police killed in the US, Goforth was killed by a Black man. A Googe news search for “Darren Goforth” returns 333,000 hits, and growing – many blaming the Black Lives Matter movement for his death.

Cops’ lives matter – most people would agree with that statement. But to blame the killing of police on a movement trying to highlight police violence against African Americans is not only irresponsible, it’s logically incoherent. The majority of cop killers are not Black – in fact, compared to homicide victims as a group, police murder victims are relatively less likely to be killed by Black people (despite the fact that police are far more likely to be killed in the South than other regions). But it’s very easy to be misled into thinking the opposite, for a couple of reasons. First, homicides involving police (going either direction) are far more likely to be cross racial than other homicides: the vast majority of homicide victims in the US are killed by people of their own race, so shootings involving police have a racial element that draws attention. That’s a fact with a complex history involving discrimination and mistrust going back decades (centuries, really), which has created a situation where most police a white but a plurality of homicide victims and perpetrators are Black. This fact alone makes it hard to counter the current narrative of a ‘war on cops’ perpetrated by Black men. However, when domestic terrorists like Dylann Roof are citing “black on White” crime as the primary motivation for their hatred, the fact that the media have chosen to consistently overrepresent the racial factors involved in violence against police is the peak of journalistic negligence.

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  • Polish Wolf thankyou for a refresing read!
    Helped me to follow up then re-set some of my concepts.
    Seems like you did some of your own research and thinking.

  • American journalism is not hard to understand. Ground-level journalists are selected for compliant attitudes, as you so often demonstrate in your writing. (Seriously, did you ever consider a career in American journalism? You’d excel!) Once inside the profession, if not relegated to food and beverage or political campaigns, each meaningless, they are given a beat but are so constrained in what they can report that they chomp at the bit for a story. Along comes a cop killing a black. Doesn’t pass the editor. Not news! Along comes black killing cop. Restraints lifted! At last, you can write and your words get past the editor!

    The desire to report, to be a serious journalist, is real, but opportunities in our thought-controlled land limited. (You have been brainwashed, and of course, do not know it.) Give them a story that the editor doesn’t quash, and you have the excesses you wrote about here, but do not really comprehend.

    • “Along comes a cop killing a black. Doesn’t pass the editor. ”

      This is of course demonstrably false – and I almost left my comment at that. But, though your condescending tone remains, you have a point. The selection of which cop killings to cover is highly significant. Sure, they have to fit a prescribed narrative. And they’re more likely to be covered if they result in some sort of backlash that the media can spin as Blacks Behaving Bady (this should be a segment on cable news – I mean, in practice it is already). But I also have been mulling around for a while the idea that the entire focus on Black people being killed by cops is actually incredibly convenient when managed the way the media manages it. There are three real problems that lead to cops killing Black people – 1. overall violence in the United States, stoked maybe by some cultural factors but also largely explainable in terms of inequalities of wealth and opportunity, 2. racial inequality and historical injustice leading to violence in Black communities far beyond that in White or Hispanic communities, and 3. the generally over-policed nature of the US (and the passage of laws specifically to target poor and Black people, like Federal drug laws). But if the media can just report on “racist cops” or even “racist police departments”, the wider issues of mass incarceration, persistent racial inequality, and a legal code designed to punish poor people for being poor can continue to slip under the radar. Better yet – by stoking racial division and focusing on the most divisive element of the problem, those who write the narrative can ensure that no efficacious supermajority of Americans can unite behind any one cause.

      • At least you grasp, apparently, and as most don’t, that there is a narrative, and it is not journalists on the beat who determine it. A news story can either gain traction or wither. It is not a natural phenomenon, but rather a guided one. The effect of what we call “news” is a mass attraction/ distraction machine telling us to ” look here, not there.” It is guided by those who manage the on-the-beat journalists, who are heavily constrained in what they can write.

        Experienced news observers know that the best coverage of any event happens right away, before the editors get their marching orders, before they clamp down and guide perception to the desired state. They also know that most important events gain zero coverage, and that when a small event is magnified, it is with purpose. Then the question to be answered is “why is this story being trumped?” It calls for active brain functioning, lacking in most, deadened as they are by TV, education, news and entertainment.

        Often we don’t know. Often events are so big they cannot be ignored, and so are spun to hold a different meaning. Often events are contrived. Almost every event coming from a politician or corporate PR office is fake.

        The point is, the more attention you pay to news, the less you know.

        By the way, you missed the primary reason for cops killing blacks: our cops themselves are drawn from the criminal elements. Most police departments are corrupt.

  • One of the best posts you have ever written. Do you think the media has some sort of objective, or are they just being ‘trendy’ ?

    • I think it’s really hard to say – the way they cover the problem is basically ensuring that it won’t be dealt with, not at the root, but if that’s a side effect of chasing ratings, or an end in itself, I couldn’t say.

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