Thursday, May 10, 2012

When the Right Is Right (Complete)


The Full Piece That Ran Yesterday at the Daily Banter

Every once in a while I apparently like to see to it that my progressive street cred takes a huge hit and, well, I guess it’s that time again. The line to angrily show me the error of my ways forms to the left — just, please, not the face, eh?

In case you haven’t been watching Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox recently — and I can’t in good conscience suggest that you do — his latest indignant crusade involves the search for answers in the beating of a pair of Virginia newspaper reporters by an angry mob a few weeks back. The two reporters were white; the people who attacked them, throwing rocks at their car and eventually sending both of them to the hospital, were reportedly all black. What got O’Reilly’s dander up was the fact that the paper the victims work for — the Virginian-Pilot — ran the story not as a news item but as an opinion piece two weeks after the attack. It never bothered to report the initial story; it only chose to comment on it well after the fact and when it did, it stated only that the reporters were beaten by a mob, with no mention of what seemed to be a glaringly obvious racial component. O’Reilly even sent his little Renfield, intrepid professional asshole producer Jesse Watters, down to the Pilot’s offices to confront the paper’s management about what he sees as an intentional oversight and ran an interview with at least one man in the neighborhood where the attack happened who claimed that anger over the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida might have played a role in the beating.

To top it all off, a couple of nights ago O’Reilly brought on Bernard Goldberg — who by the way is probably the most impressive surrogate for Fox’s audience of embittered old white people from among its stable of regular guests — to discuss how liberal media bias contributed to the unwillingness to broach the subject of race in the story. From Mediaite, here’s what Goldberg had to say:

“Here is what it is really about. It goes beyond journalism, it’s a much bigger issue. It’s about white, usually white liberal paternalism where they say, ‘Well, we really can’t hold black people up to the same standards as we hold white people up to. That’s why we are not putting it in the paper. They are different.’ So two things happen after that. One, the newspaper, the media, they don’t want to air that kind of dirty laundry because it’s kind of embarrassing for the black community. And two, they don’t want to give ammunition to the bigots who probably would say, you see, that’s how they all behave. Now look, we hate, we detest the bigots. But a newspaper has a responsibility to cover legitimate news.”

O’Reilly himself then went on to bring up what he calls an undeniable double standard when it comes to the coverage of the Virginia attack: “You can’t tell me that MSNBC, if it were reversed, wouldn’t be every show, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, on and on and on,” he said.

Now make no mistake: Bill O’Reilly isn’t the least bit concerned with justice, fairness or, most assuredly, journalistic integrity — he’s just throwing red meat to his viewers to feed their white resentment, persecution complexes and the overall delusion that they’re the victims of “reverse racism.” Here’s the thing, though: He’s right about this. And so is Bernie Goldberg. Intentions be damned, almost across the board they’re both right.

Was flat-out racism really a factor in the decision by a large group of black people to attack the Virginian-Pilot’s two white reporters as they sat in their car at a red light? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else at the moment. But to not acknowledge at all the racial component of a story like this requires powers of self-deception — or at the very least the ability to twist yourself into a pretzel of rationalization — that border on superhuman. Again, no one should be claiming that race played a role in the attack, but it’s entirely fair to ask the question why so few in the media are willing to question whether it did — and to do it seemingly as part of a general rule about bringing up race when it’s a black-on-white crime. O’Reilly may be a pompous buffoon, but I dare anyone to challenge his assertion that were the races reversed in the case in Virginia — had it been a group of white people who attacked an African-American man and woman in their car — it would’ve been the lead on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show every night since the day it happened.

I want to stress one more time, because it’s that important: I have no idea whether race played a role in this recent attack and I won’t immediately jump to the conclusion that it did. But it’s a news outlet’s job to dispassionately report the facts, even if it’s to impress upon the public that not enough is known about a news item to make a judgment call. But the press generally doesn’t do that when it comes to issues of race and violence, not when the victim is white and the assailant is black. As Goldberg says, they’re holding the two groups to different standards when it comes to what they’re willing to say about them without unequivocal evidence. When a power-drunk white guy in Florida shoots an unarmed black teen, it’s asked whether the attack was racially motivated. And it should be. When an angry mob of young black men and women attack a couple of white reporters, trashing their car and sending them to the hospital, the possibility that the attack was racially motivated isn’t even discussed, out of fear of offending anyone or fueling an ugly stereotype. And, again, it should be.

Why? Because that’s a news outlet’s job.

22 comments:

Capt Clow said...

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. O'Reilly had odds on his side to be on the correct side of a story once.

I've got a new Colbert statement for him: "I don't see race. I assume I'm white because when I pull up to a stoplight I'm attacked by angry mobs of black people".

Steven D Skelton said...

Attorney General Holder calls us a nation of cowards because we don't want to talk about race. He's right, but probably not in the way he meant it.

In St. Louis, we've had a dozen attacks over the last year where a group of young black teens attacks a non-black (white in all but one instance) for no other reason than ....fuck...just to do it I guess. One man has died, and all the victims have been seriously injured. Some devastatingly so.

Yet our local paper, for the most part, hasn't led with any of the incidents and has done everything in it's power to play down the race of the attackers and the race of the victims.

Just imagine if it were reversed! Roving packs of white kids attacking individual black men. There would be multi-part series of articles. The story would be national....as well it should be.

But AG Holder is right. We are a nation of cowards and the press is leading the cowardice.

Nick said...

True enough, the Pilot should have run as news the story of the reporters' beating; they should have sent a swarm of reporters immediately back to the scene to interview anyone they could have got their hands on, talked with the cops, you name it. They should have run that both print and online editions.

As sidebars they c/should have run ancillary stories about the recent rise of black mob violence against whites in Philadelphia, Kansas City and other locations.

In addition, they should have...

Anonymous said...

I defy anyone to find one single example in the last 30 years of an angry mob of whites randomly attacking one or two blacks.

Chez said...

Knock it off, Nick. You strike me as being smart enough to know full well the point I was making.

Nick said...

I took your point, Chez, and agree with it. I'm old enough to remember when any newspaper whose reporters were treated thus would have immediately done as I described and more.

I was tired and therefore sloppy. My intent was to convey frustration -- and no little amount of 'diminishing and going into the West' weltschmerz -- instead of snark. Obviously I failed.

Chez said...

Understood, sir.

Bob Cesca said...

There's a double-standard because the two crimes have very different backgrounds. Blacks are 13% of the population -- therefore the minority race beating up two members of the majority race is vastly different than the majority race shooting the minority race in apparent cold blood. Additionally, it can be argued that centuries of oppression of black people by the white majority is what's caused inner city crime and the like. These are all possible reasons why the press hasn't given this story the same coverage Trayvon received. The two crimes are equivalent on several levels, therefore so-called "double-standard." Also, O'Reilly is beating this drum for one reason and we know what it is: it appeals to his angry white guy audience.

Chez said...

Of course. We know exactly why he's turning this story into a cause -- as I said. Unfortunately, he's still correct about the larger issue of the media being much more unwilling to address the potential racial component of any black-on-white crime -- not even necessarily this one particular attack but others -- than ones in which an African-American is killed by a white person or people. The Trayvon Martin shooting and this attack are separate and vastly different cases, but the overriding double-standard is a fact. Maybe it can be argued that it's being done with the best of intentions, but it's still being done.

Steven D Skelton said...

Bob

That' an incredibly paternalistic and racist comment.

If you really believe that inner city, African American crime is the fault of white plantation owners (or anyone else for that matter) what you are basically saying is that these people aren't capable of controlling their behavior...hence they are not the ones responsible.

I got news for you. Inner city, African American crime is the fault of inner city, African American criminals and nobody else.

I live in St. Louis, not that far from the ghetto. I can tell you that there are plenty of inner city, African Americans that are somehow able to overcome the power of the dead plantation owners and not be criminals. Thousands of them as a matter of fact. The overwhelming majority aren't criminals.

On your site you scream racism at every perceived slight or low brow email forward, yet you yourself believe that inner city African Americans aren't capable of stopping the criminality forced upon theme by mean ole' whitey.

If you could stop looking down your own condescending nose at these people, I'm sure you will find they are just as capable of not being criminals as white people are.

Steven D Skelton said...

Bob

Another thought:

Not only are African Americans from the ghetto capable of controlling their own behavior, they are capable of graduating at the top of their class and earning a full ride to an Ivy league school.

Happened right here.

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/normandy-high-senior-overcomes-hardships-to-land-slot-in-ivy/article_d6b9f853-73ad-57af-9d71-6635a9a8b76b.html#.T6tc5kFz6Xk.facebook

Bob Cesca said...

Correction - I meant to write "aren't equivalent".

Steven wrote: "I got news for you. Inner city, African American crime is the fault of inner city, African American criminals and nobody else."

Really? So white-owned corporations pulling industries, factories and jobs out of the cities and moving them elsewhere had nothing to do with it? What about decades of post-Civil War demonization of black people via everything from white movies (there were hundreds of heinous anti-black silent movies to begin with) to white Southern Strategy politics? What about Jim Crow laws, fire hoses, beatings and lynchings? Neo-slave traders picking up blacks for nonsense laws like vagrancy, disappearing them and selling them into backwoods slavery. All of these factors created a system in which certain were made to feel disenfranchised and disconnected from society. If you don't think all of these things -- deeds of a 70% white-controlled society -- contributed significantly to inner city culture relying upon drugs and crime to get around the system, you're blind.

Bob Cesca said...

@Chez - "The Trayvon Martin shooting and this attack are separate and vastly different cases, but the overriding double-standard is a fact."

If they're different cases (and they are) then, of course they're going to be treated differently by the press. But O'Reilly is talking about the double-standard as if it's a conspiracy against white people.

Bob Cesca said...

@Steven - "...African Americans that are somehow able to overcome the power of the dead plantation owners and not be criminals."

You're right. People overcome societal oppression all the time. But I'm talking about a broader cultural and socioeconomic trend that's contributed specifically to inner city black crime -- and there are dozens of American white atrocities against blacks since the abolition of slavery, all of which have contributed to black resentment against whites. The opposite isn't true and therefore black-on-white crimes don't receive the same attention.

"stopping the criminality forced upon theme by mean ole' whitey."

In what universe has "whitey" *not* oppressed black people since the founding of this country? Read some history, Steven.

Meanwhile, I should also note that black inner city crime is a minor blip on the radar next to white corporate crime.

Bob Cesca said...

Incidentally, the reporters suffered "minor injuries" according to the Pilot -- so minor that they, in fact, weren't hospitalized and received no medical attention that night. And one teenager is in custody for throwing the rock at the car's windshield (the extent of the damage to the "trashed" car).

Conversely, George Zimmerman killed an unarmed kid and then wasn't charged with any crime. He was allowed to keep his weapon, and the police botched the public roll-out of the incident making it seem like a coverup. None of these details are present in the Pilot reporter case. Thus, maybe that's why it didn't receive the screamer headline coverage the press gave to the Trayvon case.

Again, white-on-black crime plays to a much more sordid, historical and twisted narrative. The opposite, black-on-white crime, simply doesn't.

But Drudge first ran the story and via his penchant for lying and exaggeration, he made it seem as if a mob of a hundred black thugs beat a white couple to death. So naturally Fox News Channel is going to play up the story for its predominantly angry white audience. This happens almost every day with the GOP/Fox/Drudge/Radio complex.

Chez said...

No one's arguing with the decades and centuries of unjust treatment -- the violence, disenfranchisement and so on -- that's been inflicted on blacks by whites in this country (and others, for that matter). And no one's arguing -- again -- why O'Reilly and Fox are doing this. But it really does seem as if you believe that there's justification for much of the media being very reluctant to call even an almost certainly racially motivated black-on-white crime what it is. As I said, maybe an argument can be made that there is, in fact, justification.

Look, since they're not the same kind of case, take both Trayvon Martin and this attack as specific events out of the picture -- the fact remains that the press often requires much more evidence of racial motivation in a black-on-white crime before bringing that into the story than it does with a white-on-black crime. And yeah, if you do specifically reference the Virginia attack, it almost doesn't matter how serious it was or wasn't as a crime -- I still believe 100% that if the races were reversed Sharpton would've been all over it. (Although that admittedly may say more about his propensity for gruesome exploitation for personal gain than the story itself.)

If nothing else, I'm at least glad that nobody's shrieking at me that I'm a racist for simply broaching this subject.

Steven D Skelton said...

Chez

I think if you took this off of your blog and published it somewhere else, the shrieking would surely come.

Most of the people that follow you here know you well enough to know you aren't a racist.

In a perfect world, it wouldn't be commendable to publish an honest take on race and the media. But we live in the world we do, and it takes guts to be honest like you are here.

Steven D Skelton said...

Bob

I get a kick out your assumption that because I disagree with you I must be blind or ignorant of history.

I find myself saying this far too often, but it's true. It is possible for a reasonable person of sound mind, full faculties and a broad base of knowledge and education to come to a different conclusion from another person of sound mind blah blah blah.

Chez' essay was about media coverage of the two incidents, and I'm now realizing that it was kind of rude of me to hijack a throw away sentence in your comment and change the subject into a discussion of the root cause of crime in inner city, African American neighborhoods...so I'm gonna leave it where it is. But if you would like to continue our discussion in some other forum, I would be happy to. Like you, I feel pretty passionately about the subject.

Anonymous said...

*I am being a bit redundant based on what has already been shared - as I lead into a point so bare with me*
the media doesn't tend to cover black on white violence due to historical oppression (white guilt) based on the very real/statistical/factual consequences around generational slavery/oppression. our roots shape our values and our expectations of ourselves and our community. yes, many underprivileged blacks find success. based on statistical analysis, these individuals are considered to be outliers or exceptional. it is important to note that the exception does not prove the rule. that being said, there is an incredible amount of research on outliers. What is most commonly found: a resiliency factor (i.e. a great teacher) coupled with high IQ. underprivileged individuals (of any backround) do not fail to thrive because they chose to suck a life (this is what you are saying Stephen. am I wrong?) can you help me understand why a disproportionate percentage of the black community finds itself underprivileged? Are you really asserting that this community simply does not want to thrive? we know that the majority of children in this country will grow into adulthood enjoying the exact same socio-economic status of their parents. breaking the glass ceiling here is incredibly rare. why is that? what meaning do you make of this? for me - this means: our cultural and familial history is overwhelmingly enduring and profound and in many case, crippling. this is not a slight against the ability of blacks to transcend poverty - this is an across the board notice of how socio-economic status (privileged or underprivileged) doesn't tend to fluctuate from generation to generation in any statistically meaningful way. number one predictor of whether or not a child graduates from college: IQ? no. Both parents graduated from college? yes.

mostly, I have chosen to comment because I am confused. for someone who seems to want to be taken seriously - why must you make your point attacking character. if you want this race conversation to happen - it would serve you and the dialogue well to speak carefully (much like Chez) - because - whether or not you can see it, the history of race in this country as well as the residual affects of this history are much more complicated than criminal blacks versus ivy league blacks. Chez makes an interesting point. our country is paralyzed in shame and fear around having an honest conversation about race. opening this wound can only happen in a meaningful and productive manner - if we can all agree to speak on point, with great care, a willingness to hold space for respect, and humility around what we might not know - for room to grow.

Steven D Skelton said...

Anon 2:46

I have no idea how a reasonable reading of my comment could lead to the conclusion you accuse me of.

As I said previously, this discussion is about the media's double standard, not the root cause of crime in the African American community. It was rude of me to shift the subject and I will not comment further.

Anonymous said...

"That' an incredibly paternalistic and racist comment.

If you really believe that inner city, African American crime is the fault of white plantation owners (or anyone else for that matter) what you are basically saying is that these people aren't capable of controlling their behavior...hence they are not the ones responsible.***root cause of crime in African American Community***

I got news for you. Inner city, African American crime is the fault of inner city, African American criminals and nobody else.***root cause of crime in African American Community***

I live in St. Louis, not that far from the ghetto. I can tell you that there are plenty of inner city, African Americans that are somehow able to overcome the power of the dead plantation owners and not be criminals. Thousands of them as a matter of fact. The overwhelming majority aren't criminals.***root cause of crime in African American Community***

On your site you scream racism at every perceived slight or low brow email forward, yet you yourself believe that inner city African Americans aren't capable of stopping the criminality forced upon theme by mean ole' whitey.

If you could stop looking down your own condescending nose***undermining character*** at these people, I'm sure you will find they are just as capable of not being criminals as white people are."

Chez said...

I'm sorry. What was the purpose of that comment, exactly?