On the Media

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The president of the United States has been on a  campaign to discredit the media; he takes every opportunity to cast a cloud over what is called the “mainstream media,” casting them as harbingers of lies. This he does even as he himself blatantly lies about nearly everything.

While I do not agree that what he calls “fake news” is in fact, fake, I do take issue with the press as an entity which has sorely misrepresented situations in the past. The press has enormous power which it could have been using all along to dispel, for instance, that most black people are criminals. It has missed opportunities to shift the narrative about black people from one that makes society justify whatever treatment blacks receive at the hands of law enforcement. It seldom reports on the huge gains blacks make in spite of impoverished neighborhoods, failing schools, and joblessness. In spite of what the press presents, black people in this country have done and continue to do amazing things, racism, sexism and capitalism notwithstanding.

In the same way, the press feeds into the frenzy and the fear around terrorism. Too often, as soon as there is an incident which may or may not be terrorism, the press puts the “t” word out, making those who are already afraid sink even deeper into their fear.

The press is predictably quiet, however, when white people act in ways that are problematic or which reek of radical American Christian terrorism. There has been very little coverage, and certainly, the picture of the man who shot two people from India, yelling before he shot them, “Get out of my country!” has not been plastered across television screens. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/24/get-out-of-my-country-kansan-reportedly-yelled-before-shooting-2-men-from-india-killing-one/?utm_term=.40f469a5d8d6) Chances are, very few Americans know about the shooting, and the dearth of information and reporting on it is helping people stay in their own corners of truth where the “bad dudes,” as the president says, are anything but white.

Last evening, a young man drove into a crowd of people in New Orleans, injuring a good number of them, though none of them apparently have life-threatening injuries. The youngest injured is reportedly 3 years old. The incident was reported, but there was no name given, and no picture. (http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/25/us/new-orleans-mardi-gras-parade-accident/)  Had this man had an Muslim-sounding name, and had he been a person who appeared to be Muslim, there is little doubt his name and picture would have been plastered over every news operation in this country.

There was none of that, though, but instead a strange silence. This young man, taken into custody, was white. He was apparently drunk. And did a tragic thing. Yet, the media protects him.

The press is definitely tainted and leans toward protecting the status quo. It is too eager to report on the troubling and bad things people of color do, while too often not giving the same kind of attention to the things white people do. It represents the power structure and seems that it understands that its job is to keep that power structure in place.

There has been some effort in the recent past by the press to report on the very real struggles of African Americans to make their voices heard. The Black Lives Matter movement is not something that this country likes to give credence to. The press has been good about covering the town halls that are going on all over the country, in spite of Republicans saying they are merely gripe sessions put in place by the angry Left,  using paid protesters.

But on the hatred of radical Christian terrorists, the press has failed miserably. Immediately lifting up a situation which involves a person of color while ignoring a similar situation where the perpetrator is clearly white, and filled with hatred, speaks of a lack of objectivity on the part of the press and a willingness to feed into the paranoia surrounding “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of who commits the act, and white people who drive into crowds of innocent people are not deserving of being protected by the press.

A candid observation …

The Phenomenon of a Co-Opted Media

I realized this morning as I watched Matt Lauer of the TODAY Show interview GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, more than ever, that the media has been co-opted by the powers that be.

In spite of the horrific phenomenon called mass incarceration, in spite of blatantly racist voter suppression movements in Southern states, in spite of problematic policing that is resulting in way too many black people dying at the hands of police, Lauer didn’t ask Trump a single question about any of it.

I was disappointed. Journalism is supposed to be a profession that looks for and exposes truth. It is supposed to give listeners, viewers and readers a comprehensive, inclusive and honest picture of the world. Instead, “we the people” get what the powers that be want us to get.

Yes, I know that the media have covered the disturbances following questionable deaths at the hands of police. And yes, the media covered the disturbances (some call them riots) in Ferguson and in Baltimore …but that was largely self-serving, because so many people want to see black people looting and fighting because it feeds into their perception that black people are bad and that if black people are dying at the hands of police, they must have done something to deserve it.

But there has been little mention of what is going on in Alabama, as white officials are closing 31 driver’s license offices in Alabama in counties that are primarily black, even as the state has announced that driver’s licenses (the most popular form of picture ID) will be required in order for people to vote in upcoming elections. (http://whnt.com/2015/09/30/alea-announces-driver-license-office-closures-includes-two-in-north-alabama/) There has been some mention, but not much, about mass incarceration, in spite of the fact that this nation incarcerates more people than any other modern nation.

There was little to no coverage on major network and cable stations on the anniversary of the Million Man March, where literally hundreds of thousands of black people, largely men, gathered, with no violence, nothing but a hunger to be in a place to learn how their lives and the conditions in their communities could be made better. Yes, Minister Farrakhan spoke, and though I respect him, I found his some of his comments to be sexist and problematic on several levels, but to not cover that mass gathering of black people was a travesty of journalism.

The questions posed to Trump included immigration and the Second Amendment. Mr. Trump, without providing a single detail, continued to give his pat answers, about how he will make America great again, about how he will build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants from piling into this nation, and make Mexico pay for it, about how we need to honor the Second Amendment – all issues that are issues for swaths of white, Conservative voters for the most part, but not entirely. Matt Lauer pushed some, but could not, or did not, get past Trump’s pat, non-specific answers …and the people in New Hampshire in the audience seemed giddy with approval.

Charles Marsh wrote in his book, God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights, that America was then a closed society. He wrote, “People spoke, without blushing, of “Christian” morals – values, families, clubs and society – even of Christian fun and wholesomeness.” The closed society had taken the divine into its own possession; it had brought God under its nervous management.” (p. 146)  He also wrote that white Christians were too often silent on social issues and was “hostile to the Gospel, indeed to Christ himself.” (p. 139) White Christians believed and acted within their belief that church policies were in line with “God’s design for separate races.” (p. 138), and spoke of the “theological bankruptcy of white moderate Christianity. (p. 137) Whites were socialized, writes Marsh, to be “insensitive to black suffering.” (p. 131) More important, he wrote of the conditions in the 60s, (and I would say, even now), was the preservation and continuation of the white way of life, God notwithstanding.

I could not help but go back to Marsh’s words as I listened to the interview of Mr. Trump this morning, Neither he nor any of those people eating pancakes seemed to care an iota about the suffering the black, brown and poor people of this nation are going through. There was not an iota of parents who are crying, schools that are grossly inferior, voting laws that are being pulled back in ways that will again keep black people from voting, nor the mass incarceration which is a trademark of these United States.

The media failed this morning.

A candid observation …

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