Broadcasting Poison: An Irresponsible News Media Warps Public Opinion And Politics On Cop Shootings

Wiat...how can this guy be a police shooting victim? I don't understand.

Wiat…how can this guy be a police shooting victim? I don’t understand.

There have been two disturbing police shootings of black men in recent days, both incidents partially recorded on cell phones.

In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, an officer fatally shot  32-year-old Philando Castile as he sat in a car with a woman and a child. A day earlier, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot and killed during a confrontation with two police officers outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store where he was CDs. Neither of these cases have been investigated yet; the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. In both cases, however, the initial impressions of the incidents were those of relatives of the deceased: Castile’s wife and Sterling’s mother. Guess what they had to say about their deceased loved ones and the police who shot them

This is, as a judge would say in a trial, extremely prejudicial. The emotional and angry reactions of the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown seized and controlled the “narratives” in those two cases before the facts were confirmed and the fatal encounters clarified. Today, CNN presented Mrs. Castile, who  declared that placing the officer involved in her husband’s death on administrative leave with pay was proof of the low value placed on black lives. She, of course, knows what happened, and that her husband couldn’t possibly have been responsible in any way for his demise. The shooter should be punished now, by loss of his income, before any investigation has been undertaken or completed. He’s guilty—of racism, of murder.

Hers is an understandable but biased, emotional and unfair reaction. For that to be the first exposure many Americans have to the case is destructive to the legal process, the justice system, and law enforcement, as well as racial comity. Later this morning, we heard Castile’s child screaming: “Where’s my daddy? I want my daddy!” This is tragedy porn. Meanwhile, the police are demonized and condemned before the facts and sequence of event have been established.

Victim’s families should not be asked to give their opinions on such events when the responses add nothing to the public’s understanding of what happened and only biases them in favor of the idealized portrait of the victim. Yesterday, I heard Alton Sterling’s mother describe him as a gentle giant, and perhaps he was. Michael Brown, however, was also supposedly a gentle giant. The fact is that two police departments don’t know what happened, except that two officers shot and killed two black men. Maybe the cops were racists who executed the men. Maybe they were badly trained police who have a dangerous and biased fear of blacks. Maybe the shootings, or one of them, were justified. The investigators don’t know, I don’t know, you don’t know. The relatives of the dead men, however , are sure that they know: Racist cops once again killed black men. They are the last people who the media should be presenting to the public, and instead they are the first.

I googled “White suspect shot,” just for the heck of it. Google immediately directed me to the stories of the Castile and Sterling, though to be fair, it didn’t ask “Are you sure you don’t mean “black men shot”? Down the list of hits, however, was this story:

“Police in Fresno, California, found themselves in a face-off with a White mob protesting a shooting of a suspect. On June 25,  police responded to reports of a White male carrying a rifle on a residential street. Police confronted Dylan Noble, 19, at a gas station after a car chase for speeding down the street. According to police, Noble got out of his pickup truck, started to walk away and refused to show his hands. Fresno Deputy Chief Pat Farmer told reporters Saturday that “The subject made a statement that he hated his life and made affirmative movement to the small of his back at which time he was shot several times by officers at the scene.”The officers indicated they feared that Noble was reaching behind his back for a weapon and they opened fire. Noble was hit several times and later died during surgery at a local hospital. The two officers involved in the shooting were wearing body cameras. No weapon was found on Noble or in the vehicle.”

While the shooting deaths of the two black men received national coverage, only a few news sources have covered Noble’s death, which is at least as suspicious as those were. Nor has any national source interviewed his mother. Why is that, do you think?

No wonder Jesse Williams thinks no unarmed white men are shot by police.

 

84 thoughts on “Broadcasting Poison: An Irresponsible News Media Warps Public Opinion And Politics On Cop Shootings

  1. A quote from Peggy McIntosh:

    “Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at, starting with, for example, one’s place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and spoken words, or your parents’ places of origin, or your parents’ relationship to education and to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background.”

    I cannot tell you how adamantly and how radically I oppose this way of seeing and this way of being in reality. I see it is entirely debilitating. I do not desire to, and never will voluntarily assent, to sacrifice any advantages I have in order to favor anyone else. True, my ‘birth order’ has relevance, but then so does every natural and unnatural hierarchical order. And our universe and our kosmos is a series of hierarchies.

    If anything at all I would recommend empowerment. In martial arts for example one does not start from the realization of one’s position of weakness in order to wage an attack or a defense. One assesses the relative strength of one’s position vis-a-vis the other. I canot become powerful by disempowering myself. I cannot make you or anyone else more powerful by disempowering myself. The notion is perverse and absurd. Yet such ideas *function* at the core of certain strains of thinking. Myself, I reject them.

    In the face of such twisted ethics and philosophy, I resolve to upend the table at which this effete conversation is going on. (I hope that you will understand that I am speaking in dramatic and symbolic terms, and I am speaking to the idea, not to you). I resist and then reject the ideas that inform this disempowering, feminizing narrative. I resolve to gain and to claim more power, more privelage, more ‘passports’ and ‘visas’ of all sorts and to revel in the fact that I have them.

    What I will also do is to suggest that everyone else resist and disassemble these perverse ideas and make efforts to develop their own power-base, their economy, their advantage. Instead of seeing my ‘birth order’ (number 3 out of 4 — what could this mean?) I will accept it as it is and twist the world to serve my purposes, my will, my intent.

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