Maiello: Defeat the Press
Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
While the Trayvon Martin case slowly unfolds in Florida, supporters of shooter George Zimmerman feel compelled to play up any sort of black-on-white violence to prove that it's all good. On local Baltimore TV, over the last month or so, we've seen endless replays of a white man getting punched to the ground by a group of black people at supposedly safe Inner Harbor.
Last week, Republican Delegate Patrick McDonough, whose district includes parts of Baltimore County and Harford County, but not Baltimore City, issued a press release, "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays." Claiming that state investments were at risk, he called for Gov. Martin O'Malley to declare the Inner Harbor a "no-travel zone." Despite accusations of racism, McDonough now has called for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to resign because she is soft on black-on-white street violence. It's all red meat for his district.
For conservative website WorldNetDaily, Colin Flaherty author of “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How The Media Ignore It,” writes Call for crackdown on black-on-white terror. Yeah, terror.
The Inner Harbor is a dangerous place for residents and visitors,” said McDonough. “And it does us no good to avoid this hard truth: Black youth are responsible for a sustained and dangerous period of violence in one of Baltimore’s nicest neighborhoods.”
McDonough’s “aha” moment came two months ago when he and his wife were in the area for a charity fundraising dinner.
“This was a Wednesday night,” he said. “And when I stopped at a traffic light, I saw a hundred young black people in the next block over fighting and walking down the middle of the street.
“There were no police around. No police reports. And no stories in the paper. Violence and mayhem among young black people in the Inner Harbor is the new norm,” said McDonough. “And this has to stop.”
McDonough’s comments were echoed by many callers to his talk show on WCMB in Baltimore and by a New Jersey tourist as well.
“My husband and I came to Inner Harbor last month and stayed at a hotel there,” said the visitor to Baltimore who did not wish to be identified. “That night, we looked out our hotel window and saw at least 100 black people walking down the middle of the street, fighting and acting in a menacing way. The police did not show up for at least an hour. When I got back to New Jersey, I was curious about what happened. Then I learned there were no police reports. No newspaper stories. It was as if it had never happened.”
McDonough was seemingly unfazed by the whirlwind of criticism facing him for his remarks.
“The Good Book says speak the truth and fear not,” he said. “And for everything they are calling me, you will notice they are not saying one thing. No one is saying that what I said is untrue.”
It was kind of sad finding WND, because one of their writers is Barry Farber, who penned a tiresome screed, The Homosexuals are Overreaching under a byline, The Gaying of America. I used to listen to Farber's talk show on WMAL in the 1960s and 70s, and he seemed like an open-minded enough guy back then, with his closing tag line, "I'm Barry Farber, Keep Askin' Questions." Why did you start hatin' on gays, Barry?
I'm familiar with the complaint that the media under-report black violence. Even in the 1970s my parents used to complain that the Washington Post rarely identified the race of criminals, and preferred more conservative papers, like the departed Washington Star and the Unification Church's Washington Times. My Dad persists in reading the declining Times for politics, but also grabs a Post for decent coverage of sports.
More recently I browsed a back-and-forth between Chez Pazienza and Bob Cesca, individual bloggers who also write for The Daily Banter and who also do a weekly podcast together. They mostly agree on stuff, but had different takes on media reporting of race:
First Pazienza: Yes, When It Comes to Race, There Is a Double-Standard
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.
To be clear, none of these historical realities exculpates the crimes committed in Norfolk or Sanford or wherever. A crime is a crime and the people responsible for attacking Forster and Rostami should be arrested and charged (one person is already in custody). But this exhaustively lengthy context begins to explain why the crimes occur and how/why they’re covered. If the press is a little tentative about covering black-on-white crime, especially when it’s a minor non-fatal assault like the Forster/Rostami case, we can begin to understand why with the proper background. We can also understand, given all of these reasons, why a white-on-black crime might harken back to any of the countless atrocities committed against blacks by the white-dominated American power structure and, subsequently, we can also understand why African American activists like Al Sharpton and others are outraged when it happens. It makes complete sense given the prologue of the past.
Yes, there’s a double-standard. And until there’s full equality and the long slow process of racial healing is completed, the double-standard has to remain.
As for the media allegedly ignoring what appear to be black-on-white crimes, ask anyone associated with the coverage of the O.J. Simpson case if that’s true.
Then Pazienza again: The Black-and-White Media Double-Standard: Yes, But is it Right?
I'm not saying that the media don't report black-on-white crime. Of course they do. Jesus, in a lot of places — mostly local news markets — it's almost all they do. The difference — the double-standard — occurs when it comes time to tag a crime as racially motivated or to acknowledge a racial component within a crime. When there’s a possibility of labeling a crime racially motivated, the burden of proof is much higher in a black-on-white crime than it is in one that’s white-on-black. I understand completely the history involved — which Bob outlined nicely — and how and why that can come into play, but I’m still not sure that makes it right from the standpoint of journalistic ethics. From what I’ve seen, it would take a person or a group literally shouting “I hate white people” while kicking somebody’s ass for many in the media to report that a black-on-white crime had racial overtones — and if it didn’t appear at first glance to have overt racial overtones they almost certainly wouldn’t go looking any deeper for them.
I can't agree with Cesca's claim that we have to accept a journalistic double standard—we should always demand accuracy. Pazienza's assertion that the burden-of-proof is higher strikes me differently than how he presents it. There certainly is racial antipathy out there, but in many cases crime is just about money or territory or anger or class or even different customs, such as when the black cop emptied his weapon into the black man who grabbed his wife's rear end.
If criminals would issue press releases saying, White man successfully terrorized or White drivers chased away or Black trespasser executed it would be as clear as reading McDonough's Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore ... that they were primarily concerned about race. But the most obvious explanation of a tourist getting mugged at Inner Harbor is that he was vulnerable and they wanted his wallet and smartphone, not that they cared that he was white. The most obvious explanation of reporters getting harassed in Norfolk is that they were strangers in the neighborhood. The most obvious explanation of Trayvon Martin being followed is that he was stranger in the neighborhood. Yes there may well be racial overtones, but there's an economic and class divide fueling racial divisions as well, so those have to be considered.
The real problem is that reporters should offer more proof of racism, and everything else, than, "Some say."