I’ve been highlighting sensationalist media coverage my whole career. The media often foregoes facts in order to push a narrative. Sometimes this is to push their own ideology, but often it’s just for ratings. Prominent members of the media individually peddle lies in order to advance their own personal agenda. Katie Couric recently did it by intentionally lying in her anti-gun fauxmentary, and Tom Brokaw recently did it when he lied as commencement speaker about guns and crime.
Studies show that media coverage of certain violent events actually causes violence to occur. When you throw in dishonest media coverage that peddles lies as if they were true, especially when they paint a false narrative of violence against a specific demographic, the powderkeg gets lit. That’s what has been happening for years in the U.S. The media has peddled lies, myths, and distortions of the facts as if they were true to paint a false narrative of police violence, and racism against minorities. They’ve done this with many topics, but we’ll stick to these for today.
The media has covered nearly every police shooting, and most violent encounters really, involving black suspects as if they were anti-black racist incidents. They have even done this when the officers themselves are black like in the Freddie Gray case. Nearly all of these stories are painted as white supremacist cops using their unfettered power to kill or harm blacks. Even when no white officers were involved. Years of doing this has conditioned the American public to just assume all violent encounters between blacks and police are rooted in anti-black bigotry. The media has also sensationalized these incidents to seem as if they occur far more than they really do.
They do this on a national scale while ignoring similar cases where altercations between whites and police are ignored. If you have three similar stories at the same time involving police killing suspects (as we do now), but you only cover the two cases involving black suspects, how are you not pushing a narrative of anti-black police bigotry? If Dylan Noble were a black unarmed teenager who was killed by police while lying on the ground, there’d be mass media coverage, demonization of police, and protests organized by Black Lives Matter claiming it was yet another example of racist cops killing an innocent unarmed black teen. But Dylan Noble is not black, so the media all but ignores the case in spite of the fact he’s the only suspect who was unarmed.
In the cases of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, we literally don’t have enough evidence to conclude whether police acted inappropriately yet, but everyone just assumes the worst and gets outraged. Why? Because the media has conditioned the population to be overly reactionary in these cases in spite of the fact that most end up being proven that police acted appropriately. Mature reasonable people will look at the Alton Sterling video and see he was resisting arrest, Tasers didn’t work, he had his hand at his right side, he had an illegal gun in his right pocket near where his hand was, and conclude that it was at least plausible the officers acted reasonably. A reasonable person would hold off judgement in this case, as well as the Castile and Noble cases because there’s no evidence to contradict the police’s version of events. Reasonable people would question if the body cameras really fell off, and didn’t record the incident, or wait for the other videos to be released before passing judgement. Reasonable people would know that this is rarely done overnight, and usually only after the investigation is over. We don’t live in a reasonable society now, however. We live in a media sensationalized society, and social media gives us a safe venue to be an asshat peddling lies.
This brings me to another point. Media sensationalism is often buried in otherwise appropriate news articles.
I highlighted this recently when the media pushed a false narrative that cell phones cause brain cancer a week after the largest study ever done on the subject found no link between cell phones and cancer. Yet the large, scientific, study was buried in favor of a small, unscientific paper that didn’t even prove the link existed, but hypothesized it may exist. Good journalists would have disregarded the paper that said cell phones are linked to cancer while reporting on the much bigger, more scientific study saying there was no link. That isn’t what happened. Why? Media sensationalism. Cell phones being proven to not cause cancer isn’t going to sell papers. So now you have a bunch of people running around thinking science has concluded cell phones cause brain cancer, when the opposite is actually true.
Then a gay YouTuber faked a hate crime to push a false narrative that anti-gay violence is prevalent and common in the U.S., it isn’t.
A pro-gay media outlet rightfully picked up on this fraud, and exposed him as such. That is good journalism, and an appropriate story to cover. However, buried nine paragraphs down, media sensationalism and bias reared its ugly head. The author claimed that the LGBT community was the most likely group to be targeted for hate crimes according to the FBI. I had to debunk that article’s lie with actual FBI statistics. Here’s a gay publication highlighting a fraudulent anti-gay hate crime, but they still had to inject their false narrative into the article just so they reeled people back in to the mythology they push. Now their readers falsely assume hate crimes against the LGBT community are common. This foments hate.
That’s happened with the violence in Dallas last night.
The UK Daily Mirror ran a story today on the black power hate group who’s claimed responsibility for the murders of Dallas police officers last night. Again, good journalism to cover this story in this way. However, 42 paragraphs in, the Mirror sensationalizes police shootings of black suspects with a lie. They wrote:
US police do not publish figures on the number of people shot dead by officers but independent research shows young black men were nine times more likely to be killed by police in 2015.
Not even remotely true without serious statistical gymnastics of a highly dubious nature.
Also, not sure you can call an anti-police website a source of ‘independent research.’ The Daily Mirror’s source is MappingPoliceViolence.org. A website dedicated to highlighting anti-black police violence, and their data is vastly different than official sources, and actual journalism statistics. I’m also not sure where they got the 9x number. The website does say blacks are 3x more likely to be killed than whites. However, that’s a per capita number of the total population for that race. If we want to get into per capita crime numbers, I’m afraid the picture doesn’t look very good considering that blacks commit a highly disproportionate amount of crimes, including murder, than other races. Their ‘solutions’ page is also an intellectually dishonest joke.
The Washington Post and the Guardian have launched their own efforts to track police shootings. Their numbers are similar (Guardian reports slightly higher number of shooting incidents). For the record, these should be tracked better than they are by government officials. I’d also like to see them track the race of the officer.
The Washington Post study for 2015 shows that 87.5% of suspects killed by police were armed with a weapon. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were armed. Dylan Noble wasn’t. Being unarmed is also irrelevant, and usually cited by the ignorant who don’t know what they are talking about. Especially since ‘unarmed’ suspects are 2.6x more likely to murder someone than someone armed with any rifle.
Their study also showed that in 3/4 of police killings “police were under attack or defending someone who was.”
According to The Guardian, in 2015, whites accounted for 50.7% (581) of all fatal police shootings. Blacks accounted for 26.7% (306). More whites were killed by police, but we are told by the media that the opposite is true. Some disingenuous people will start arguing proportion of population at these numbers, but they must remember that blacks make up 13% of the population, but commit 8x the murders as whites/hispanics. If we are going to measure per capita numbers for police shootings, we need to include per capita crime statistics as well. Police operate where the crime is, and there’s more crime in predominantly black areas. Sorry, not sorry, facts.
In 2016, so far, whites account for 49.29% of police killings, blacks account for 24%. Right now, whites are more than 2x as likely to be killed by police.
When the media pushes a false narrative that police officers are hunting down young black men because they are racist on a near daily basis, blacks are being conditioned to be fearful of police. This fear seeds a self-preservation attitude that leads to hate, and ultimately, violence towards police like we saw in Dallas last night. As we’ve seen since Ferguson.
If the media covered alleged police abuse equally, without pushing a racist narrative, perhaps we could focus on eliminating police abuse, and not have racist anti-police militant groups murdering innocent police officers who have nothing do with any alleged abuse.
If the media didn’t cover minorities being killed as racism while ignoring similar cases involving whites, perhaps people wouldn’t have a skewed view of these encounters which are based on mythology. Then, perhaps, radical factions wouldn’t have anger to serve as a launching point for their violent agenda. The nation could stop being divided. If only facts and even handed temperament were pillars of our media, and society instead of inflammatory hyperbole.