The ambush murders of five Dallas police officers on July 7, followed ten days later by the murders of three Baton Rouge cops, outraged the nation. To the social media network of provocateurs called Black Lives Matter (BLM), however, these massacres were equivalent to recent white police “murders” of blacks. Though evidence negates such equivalence, many journalists are insisting that we see these events through the group’s lens. Rather than objectively pursue truth, they selectively use facts and manipulate language to propagate the view that blacks are being targeted for death and are justified in taking matters into their own hands. Case in point: Last December, as part of its annual Person of the Year issue, Time magazine praised BLM as having “weaponized protest.”
Since the start of this year, National Legal and Policy Center has published more than a half-dozen highly critical stories of Black Lives Matter and its assorted allies. There is good reason for this newfound focus. The informal meetup organization, armed with smart phones, Twitter accounts and emotional overkill, has become a noxious force on city streets and college campuses. It was BLM that organized the “peaceful” Dallas rally of the early evening of July 7 at which five local police officers were murdered; the black sniper, Micah X. Johnson, admitted after being cornered by cops that he was inspired by the group’s rhetoric (a number of BLM activists, in fact, celebrated Johnson’s mass murder). By regularly blurring the line between protesting and rioting, Black Lives Matter’s tactics often go beyond even those of longtime black shakedown artists such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Unwilling to separate cause and effect when reacting to a violent incident with racial implications, the group goes out of its way to intimidate public figures whom it deems apathetic. BLM members hectored Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, despite each being a natural ally, during the recent primary season. Black Lives Matter activists may deny it, but when they speak of “justice,” they do so with a conviction that whites aren’t entitled to it.
Black Lives Matter coalesced in July 2013 in the immediate aftermath of a Florida state jury acquittal of a white anti-crime patrol volunteer, George Zimmerman, in the February 2012 shooting death of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Media outlets across the country from the start peddled the view that Zimmerman, a resident of Sanford, Fla., was a trigger-happy racist on the prowl, while Martin was a harmless, “unarmed” black child. Yet as facts became known during the course of a hasty and abusive special prosecution, reality revealed itself: Trayvon Martin, a tall, strapping high school student from the Miami-Dade County area visiting family in Sanford, had assaulted Zimmerman that evening without provocation. Indeed, Martin likely would have killed Zimmerman had the latter lacked a gun and a willingness to use it. In rendering “not guilty” verdicts for murder and manslaughter, the jury ruled correctly. The prosecution had no case. But facts did not deter blacks across the nation from seeing a grave injustice and holding demonstrations which in certain cities descended into rioting. Three black community organizers – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi – took a different approach: They created Black Lives Matter. Using social media, especially Twitter, to win supporters, the group’s supporters grew exponentially.
This networking paid off a year later in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., following the death of another “unarmed” black youth, Michael Brown. A local white cop, Darren Wilson – the revelation of his identity by authorities itself being an act of capitulation to black radicals – had shot Brown shortly after noon on August 9, 2014 on a local residential street. For the next couple of weeks, Black Lives Matter activists hijacked a section of Ferguson, providing pliant media outlets with the misleading claim that Officer Wilson wantonly killed Brown. The group’s ad hoc spokesman on the scene, DeRay McKesson, became a media superstar. Yet as it turned out, Officer Wilson had acted properly, and in doing so, saved his own life. Brown, at 6’4” and nearly 300 lbs., was anything but harmless. Evidence showed that in rapid sequence, he had: 1) sucker-punched Wilson while the latter sat in his patrol car; 2) attempted to steal Wilson’s service revolver with the obvious intent of using it; and 3) violently wheeled around and charged at a standing Wilson shortly after leaving the immediate area on foot. The oft-cited claim by several eyewitnesses that Brown had raised his hands in surrender and pleaded, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” was a misperception or a hoax. Either way, it had no basis in fact. But thanks to dishonest reporting and editorializing, this account became the coin of the realm. And Black Lives Matter quickly acquired a reputation as speaking truth to power. Blacks, already having rioted in Ferguson in August, did so far more destructively that November in reaction to a county grand jury decision, rendered after an exhaustive review of evidence, not to indict Wilson. Months later, in March 2015, following the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement that it would not file civil rights charges, another BLM-organized street rally exploded into anti-police violence just as the proceedings were about to break up. Police, acting on a tip, arrested a black demonstrator, Jeffrey Williams, supposedly “not with the group,” for shooting and wounding two St. Louis-area cops who were trying to keep order.
Now with around 40 chapters nationwide, Black Lives Matter has continued to ramp up its profile. For a couple weeks late last fall, BLM activists illegally set up a blockade in the middle of a street in front of a Minneapolis police precinct station to protest the fatal shooting by two white cops of a black male, Jamar Clark, before belatedly being removed. As National Legal and Policy Center described at length several weeks ago in the wake of separate decisions of state and federal prosecutors not to file charges against the officers, Clark not only had violently resisted arrest, but had grabbed the gun of one of the officers. On December 23, Black Lives Matter activists in Los Angeles shut down several lanes of a freeway for roughly a half-hour to dramatize police “murders” of blacks across the U.S. And BLM student activists during the 2015-16 academic year, in the wake of revelations of “racist” incidents of highly questionable veracity, intimidated administrators, faculty and fellow students at the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas, Yale University and other institutions. To Black Lives Matter, academic “diversity” does not include a diversity of opinion.
So how did this band of demagogues come to play such a prominent role in American public life? Character deficiencies and social network technology aside, it would seem that the main explanation is the moral legitimacy conferred upon the group by people who should know better. Black Lives Matter, put simply, is socially respectable because its benefactors are. That’s why people who object to their views or tactics usually find themselves on the defensive. Even the benign rebuke, “All lives matter,” now can be cause for a public grilling. President Obama did much to advance the standing of BLM this February 18 by hosting a White House summit on race, crime and policing that featured more than a dozen black leaders (but no police), including Black Lives Matter’s DeRay McKesson and Brittany Packnett. “Conservative” Republican politicians have paid their respects, too, most notably, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., during a re-election campaign speech. Social media corporate multibillionaires also have lent key support, going so far as to help bankroll McKesson’s recent unsuccessful Baltimore mayoral campaign. National Legal and Policy Center, in response, on July 18 asked the CEOs of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), Google (Eric Schmidt) and Twitter (Jack Dorsey) to cease all personal and corporate support of Black Lives Matter; neither they nor their spokespersons have responded yet. Higher education leaders also have been running interference for Black Lives Matter. The BLM-led takeover all but in name of the University of Kansas during most of the 2015-16 academic year occurred because Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and other campus administrators were too feckless to push back. Indeed, they gave every indication of tacitly supporting the campaign.
Perhaps the most insidious source of Black Lives Matter enabling, however, is mass media, especially print media. Many newspapers, magazines and websites are giving this rude bunch the benefit of any doubt. Happily, they provide a platform for radical journalists to express their half-baked grievances. Rare indeed is the account on the Ferguson crisis that doesn’t refer to the deceased black attacker, Michael Brown, as “unarmed.” Even reasonable journalists are shying away from criticizing BLM, lest they be accused of racism and possibly terminated. The preordained script of “white oppressor, black victim” is now almost mandatory. Should the facts lead to an opposite view, journalists ignore those facts, minimize their importance or create a false human interest drama on behalf of the “victims.”
Examples of advocacy masquerading as straight news abound. Last September, a senior political reporter for NBC News, Perry Bacon Jr., lambasted what he saw as a “backlash” against Black Lives Matter. His story began:
A growing backlash is emerging against activists who have protested the killings of African-Americans by police officers and called for major reforms in law enforcement.
Conservatives, including two Republican presidential candidates, and some police departments in more liberal cities have cast the activist movement as anti-police, even as the protestors, who have organized under the mantra “Black Lives Matter,” emphasize they simply want to improve how police interact with everyday citizens.
There is no evidence that the nationally-publicized shootings of police officers in Texas and Illinois over the last week were motivated by the activist movement.
Such reporters know how to pour on the three-handkerchief sentimentality. A recent unsigned Inside Edition/America Online story, “Sister of Dallas Gunman: ‘I Keep Saying It’s Not True,” treated Nicole Johnson, sister of the late Dallas police mass murderer, Micah Johnson, as though she were a hybrid of a saint and a grieving widow. Here is the article in full:
The sister of Dallas gunman Micah Xavier Johnson has become the first family member to break their silence on Thursday’s shooting.
Nicole Johnson took to Facebook to express her shock. “I keep saying it’s not true,” she wrote. “My eyes hurt from crying.”
She later deleted the post, but added: “The news will say what they think, but those that knew him know this wasn’t like him. This is the biggest loss we had.”
Micah Johnson, 25, shot and killed five officers while peaceful protests were underway in the city. He was later killed by police who blew him up using a robot.
The Dallas protests were in response to the recent killings of two black men by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana.
Following her initial comments about her brother, Nicole added on Facebook: “White (people) have and will continue to kill us off. The only difference is they serve the system hiding behind that blue suit and get off easy murdering civilians.”
She later told her Facebook friends she would be shutting down the page.
Her brother, who was from Mesquite, Texas, reportedly had no criminal record or no known ties to terrorism, and told police he was acting alone in the shooting. He also claimed to be a U.S. Army veteran.
There the story mercifully ends.
While giving this puff piece its full measure of justice would take pages, an abbreviated skewering is necessary. First, the unnamed author didn’t interview any family members of the five deceased police officers. Surely they, too, are grieving – and with far more justification. Second, and related, the author assumes moral equivalence between a cop-killer and cops generally. By conflating the death of Johnson and the death of his intended targets as “killings,” the piece effectively casts Johnson as a righteous, troubled soul understandably driven to his wit’s end. In fact, every “police killing” cited by Black Lives Matter supporters, when exposed to scrutiny, has been justifiable. That’s why few of these cases have produced indictments, and none yet have produced convictions. Third, the author, minus any hint of devil’s advocacy, approvingly quotes the sister’s paranoid and ludicrous observation that whites “will continue to kill us off.” Finally, her claim that murdering cops in cold blood “wasn’t like” her brother is pure evasion. Murdering cops was exactly like her brother. The choice to murder was his, and his alone.
This sort of manipulative reporting also can be found in “prestige” publications. In the July 7 print edition of the Washington Post, reporters Wesley Lowery, Travis Andrews and Michael Miller, writing about the shooting death by Baton Rouge police of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black male with a lengthy criminal record, favorably cited Black Lives Matter activists who, on the basis of an inconclusive online video posting, concluded this was murder. The authors described the amateur video maker as a “citizen activist.” They interviewed no cops, but somehow saw fit to elicit quotes from sympathizers, such as Sandra Sterling, aunt of the deceased:
Sandra Sterling acknowledged that her nephew had a rap sheet but said that he had “paid his debt to society.”
She described him as a “generous giant.” At 6-foot-4 and more than 300 pounds, Alton had only recently gotten out of jail and was living in Living Waters Outreach Ministry, a Christian transitional living center, she said. Though he was struggling it get his life back on track, he still “gave away more CDs than he sold.”
On a table in front of the convenience store Wednesday sat a growing memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and several burned CDs. Above it hung a sign stating “RIP Big Alton.”
The reporting team also interviewed an ambulance-chasing lawyer for the Sterling family, Louisiana State Rep. Edmond Jordan. “Mr. Sterling was not reaching for a weapon,” remarked Jordan. “He looks like a man who is trying to get his head up, who is actually fighting for his life. A life that ended immediately thereafter, almost as if he knew what was about to happen.” The tone of this and similar articles on the Baton Rouge incident is of more than passing importance. First, as I explained in July, the claim that Alton Sterling was murdered is not conclusive. Second, the article accepts as given the accusation that white cops are killing innocent black persons in large numbers. Keep in mind that one of the blacks bent on avenging his death was a Dallas-area resident named Micah Johnson.
Speaking of Micah Johnson, the Washington Post published a story in its July 10 print edition by reporters Kevin Sullivan, Abigail Hauslohner and Keith Alexander that featured interviews with blacks who knew him during his younger days. Repeatedly, the authors tried to humanize Johnson, portraying him as just a friendly, regular guy who went off the deep end after having witnessed one social injustice too many. A high school classmate, Jake Hunt, told the reporters after seeing Johnson’s photo caption on TV: “He was a good guy. I just don’t know what happened.” Another interviewee, a next door neighbor named Avis Blanton, also advanced this theory of the Benevolent Time Bomb:
About seven years ago, when Blanton would walk her then-7-year-old son about five blocks to school, Johnson would see them and offer to walk her son the rest of the way to school so she could return home and get ready for work.
He’d say, “Hey, Ms. Avis. I got this,” Blanton said. He was a good kid. He was truly, truly good.
Blanton said she thinks Johnson “just snapped.”
Black folks are tired. We are just tired. I am not justifying what he did, but I see why he did it,” she said.
Blanton, who is black and has a brother who is a Dallas-area transit police officer, said she thinks the shootings of African-Americans in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and elsewhere had “set him off.”
Blanton said the Johnsons were a close family. Although Micah Johnson’s parents were divorced, his father would come to the home every two weeks and mow the grass.
“They are a loving family. His mother would speak to everyone,” Blanton said.
In the very same Post edition, another article, written by T. Rees Shapiro, profiled Allysza Castile, sister of Philandro Castile, the 32-year-old black man who had been shot after an encounter with two cops in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul. Like many write-ups of this incident, this one portrayed him as if he were a martyr:
At home after the vigil and march, the Castiles stayed up late, unable to sleep. Allysza consoled her mother who finally was overcome by the pain of losing her son.
My mom was screaming and wailing,” Allysza said. She lay beside her mother in bed, cradling her as she fell asleep in tears. “I held her like a baby. I held her like she was my baby.”
On Friday morning, Allysza said she was still unable to believe her brother was gone.
“I went to sleep and felt like it was a dream,” she said. “Now I’m awake and still feel like it was a dream.”
The article later closed things out with these words from a “scared” Ms. Castile, now armed with a 9mm handgun:
“I’m more scared of them (i.e., the cops) than anyone else,” she said.
Her phone rang. It was another caller offering kind words. Tears rolled down her cheeks once more.
“I woke up,” she told a friend on the phone, “and it’s still not a dream.”
Well, was it a dream or not? Mr. Shapiro himself might not know the answer.
In yet another article that day, Washington Post reporters Krissah Thompson and Robert Samuels favorably quoted St. Louis-based Black Lives Matter leader Johnetta Elzie, who disavowed any connection between her group and Micah Johnson. “He wasn’t a protestor,” Elzie said. Later in their piece, Thompson and Samuels quoted another St. Louis-based BLM activist, Clifton Kinnie:
“What is happening is just so traumatizing, and my heart is just so heavy,” said Clifton Kinnie, who organized high school students during protests near his home town of St. Louis. “Being in the movement has caused me to get to a point where my heart is so heavy. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Sandra Bland. (Note: the late Ms. Bland, a 28-year-old Houston-area black female, hung herself in her holding cell in July 2015 following her arrest for assaulting a police officer during a routine traffic stop. Certain activists allege, without evidence, that she was killed by a cop inside the jail house. A grand jury in December declined to hand down an indictment.)…The past 72 hours my phone was on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ My spirit was not broken, but like many in the community I am tired.”
If the Washington Post is a daily booster for Black Lives Matter, then Time magazine qualifies as the weekly version. Several times last year its reporters hyped Black Lives Matter and its mentality as an overdue addition to a dialogue on race. The April 20, 2015 cover story, penned by David Von Drehle, read in large bold capital letters, “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” with the subheading, “This time the charge is murder.” The subject was the recent shooting death in North Charleston, S.C. of an ostensibly unarmed black man, Walter Scott, by a white police officer, Michael Slager. The event, caught on an impromptu video, allegedly caught Officer Slager shooting a fleeing Scott eight times from behind. The implication was clear: Unlike in Ferguson, Staten Island and Cleveland, a murderous white cop was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. For once, the argument went, a white police chief and a white prosecutor did the right thing. CNN News on April 9 triumphantly declared: “Instead of wearing his police uniform, Slager now wears a jail uniform.” Time’s Von Drehle called upon cops and Black Lives Matter activists to follow through and recognize each other as natural partners:
The shocking nature of the South Carolina shooting, so vividly captured on the video, ought to put police departments on the same side with the protestors who are demanding change. Everyone would benefit with less suspicion and fear. Everyone shares an interest in better training and technology to reduce the number of times the gun comes out of a holster. Everyone would be happier in a climate of trust among police and the public. No matter who you are, if you’ve seen Walter Scott gunned down, you now know what the problem looks like. Senseless and tragic, it is nonetheless a step toward solutions.
If only it were that simple. In fact, as NLPC reported at the time, there was a lot more to the story than what had been reported. According to the police dispatcher recording, Officer Slager could be heard shouting that Walter Scott had grabbed his Taser gun. And the video, rather than establish Officer Slager’s guilt, may have done the opposite. An independent frame-by-frame analysis strongly suggested that Taser wire was attached to the torso of Slager, and tightened by the fleeing Scott, just as Slager fired the first of his shots. The charge of first-degree murder appears to be motivated by appeasement toward “civil rights” hustlers (including Al Sharpton, who paid a visit to North Charleston) rather than by examination of evidence. Neither the local police department nor state prosecutors were impressed. Slager was arrested, fired from his job and held in solitary confinement until this January when finally released on $500,000 bond. His trial is set for this October. The Scott family can console itself in the meantime with the reported $6.5 million civil settlement their lawyers reached with the City of North Charleston last October.
Only weeks after the South Carolina shooting came another teachable moment courtesy of Time: a massive riot in Baltimore triggered by the death from a spinal injury of a longtime local petty criminal, Freddie Gray, a black, while under police custody. By reliable accounts, Gray deliberately had tried to injure himself (and not for the first time) inside a paddy wagon in hopes of winning a civil settlement. The May 11, 2015 cover title read, “America
1968 2015,” and was slugged, “What Has Changed. What Hasn’t.” Once again, star correspondent David Von Drehle was on the case. And once again, he seemed unable to distinguish cause and effect:
Baltimoreans of a certain age know that change is hard, yes, but riots don’t make it any easier. They lived through 1968, when rioting after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. left six people dead and 700 injured, and some 1,000 businesses were looted. Almost a half century later, parts of the riot zone have yet to bounce back. “We never really recovered from the riots of 1968,” says City Council President Jack Young. “Our infrastructure was destroyed: butcher shops, clothing stores, supermarkets, all destroyed for one reason or another.”
Von Drehle managed to overlook that Baltimore blacks, the ostensible victims of this “neglect,” did the destroying, in 1968 as in 2015. In other words, he refused to consider the possibility that it isn’t decay that causes rioting; it’s rioting that causes decay. There is a self-fulfilling prophecy here. For when blacks riot and then rationalize their behavior as a response to “despair,” they are creating despair. Unfortunately, Time ignored this cause-and-effect dynamic.
Misguided as Von Drehle was, he came off as beacon of probity and wisdom compared to a guest sidebar article in the same issue by Tavis Smiley, host of a popular black-themed TV talk show on PBS. Smiley wrote:
The two seminal pieces of legislation in the 20th century happened just before the tumult of 1968 – the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Fifty years later, we ought to be in a season of celebration. Instead, we find ourselves in an American catastrophe. Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner. Freddie Gray…
These riots aren’t a black or white thing – they’re a humanity thing, a dignity thing. When the mayor and the police chief and the President cannot explain to fellow black citizens why Freddie Gray is dead, somebody’s got to be held accountable.
Today, you don’t have the Klan, and you don’t have Emmett Tills and Medgar Everses, but it’s more insidious in that predatory policing is happening under the rule of law.
This is wishful thinking. The “catastrophe” of which Smiley writes is the widespread penchant for blacks to violently react when faced with a possible arrest, not the penchant for whites, including cops, on occasion to defend themselves from such attacks. And contrary to the author’s appeal to universalism, the riots indeed are “a black thing” – not a white thing, a Chinese thing, a Mexican thing or any other thing. As for the police procedures that led to the death of Freddie Gray, they were anything but “predatory.” The case against each of those six Baltimore cops, three white and three black, as NLPC observed over a year ago, was nonexistent. No rational person should have been surprised when three of the subsequent bench trials this year resulted in a “not guilty” verdict, prompting a reluctant Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to drop the other three cases (one of which already had resulted in a mistrial). All the prosecutions constituted a rush to judgment, an enabling of mob rule. The abrogation of rule of law was not the death of Freddie Gray; it was Mosby’s bringing forth these cases in the first place.
Inviting guest black columnists to pitch black radicalism is a common BLM-friendly media practice. A few weeks ago, on July 19, for example, CNN News published a column by Peniel Joseph, professor of black studies at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs, titled, “The Problem with Blaming Black Lives Matter.” The article should have been called “Black Lies Matter.” Here is a sampling of the wisdom of Professor Joseph:
Black Lives Matter activists have never been anti-police, anti-white or anti-government. The young women and men who comprise a close network of community groups organizing under this banner – as well as the tens of thousands of people who have demonstrated as fellow travelers in this movement – have been vocal critics of structural and institutional oppression that flourishes in some of America’s most disadvantaged and invisible cities like Ferguson, Missouri – and Dallas, Memphis and Washington, D.C., among others.
But now, inflammatory and ill-informed critics have turned the national conversation about race, policing, and the criminal justice system – that just two weeks ago finally appeared ready to take place in the aftermath of the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile into an historic tipping point. Conservatives dishonor the truth as well as their own political cause by scapegoating Black Lives Matter activists for creating – rather than merely identifying and speaking out against – the atmosphere of violence that led to the deaths of police…
Black Lives Matter did not invent racial hatred or violence, but have instead mounted a human movement bold enough to articulate unspeakable, unspoken truths about a national culture of violence, division, and racial oppression.
All of this is nonsensical, not to mention incoherent (“invisible cities”). These words could have come straight from a Black Lives Matter press release. Some might dismiss the importance of this article by claiming it is merely “one man’s opinion.” Yet if that is the case, why not solicit a few opinions from “inflammatory and ill-informed” conservatives? A little balance would go a long way – even at CNN.
Sometimes a news source will go beyond inviting guest columnists to boost Black Lives Matter and will assemble its entire editorial staff to deliver a holy writ. Early last September the editorial board of the New York Times published a strident op-ed, “The Truth of Black Lives Matter,” arguing that critics of the organization, rather than the organization itself, are the problem. Here’s how the op-ed began:
The Republican Party and its acolytes in the news media are trying to demonize the protest movement that has sprung up in response to the all-too-common police killings of unarmed African-Americans across the country. The intent of the campaign – evident in comments by politicians like Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky – is to cast the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as an inflammatory or even hateful anti-white expression that has no legitimate place in a civil rights campaign.
After drawing a series of strained parallels between BLM and the civil rights battles in the South during the 1960s, the piece concluded with this broadside:
The “Black Lives Matter” movement focuses on the fact that black citizens have long been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police, and is of a piece with this (civil rights) history. Demonstrators who chant the phrase are making the same declaration that voting rights and civil rights activists made a half-century ago. They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact – that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of the movement. But politicians who know better and seek to strip this issue of its racial content and context are acting in bad faith. They are trying to cover up an unpleasant truth and asking the country to collude with them.
For many faithful Times readers, this high-minded diatribe no doubt will serve as the gold standard of social justice advocacy. Such a judgment, however, is many times removed from reality. It is a fact: All of the “police killings” denounced by Black Lives Matter and their supporters (including those occurring since the appearance of this op-ed), when examined in detail, constitute either a likely or verifiably justifiable use of force. In defense of its position, the Times resorted to the familiar trope of how blacks in such incidents (e.g., Michael Brown, Jamar Clark) were “unarmed.” Earth to the New York Times: When a criminal suspect, regardless of race, sucker-punches a police officer or tries to steal his service revolver (or both), that is not being unarmed.
More broadly, why should tens of millions of whites in this country have to cower in apology for misdeeds they have not committed – and under the guise of some “conversation” on race? They have done enough of that. Times staffers might snicker with contempt at the thought, but blacks for decades in this country have been given every opportunity to succeed – and then some. We have instituted and expanded for more than 40 years an economic and educational spoils system rigged in favor of blacks at the expense of whites, known alternately as “affirmative action” and “diversity.” We have expanded a welfare state largely at the whims of black activists, in and out of government, that covers health care, food, education, housing, business development, job training legal aid, tax credits and other areas. Even assuming these programs serve the public good – and that is a hard case to make – is it not ludicrous to assert that American blacks are getting a raw deal? The problem with the New York Times and similar-minded news organizations is that the people who run and write for them cannot acknowledge the pathological character that permeates so much of black culture. It is a culture in which men and women alike routinely resort to hair-trigger violence to resolve disputes, however trivial they might be. It is a culture in which beating, robbing and even murdering unsuspecting white strangers function as collective psychic payback. It is a culture in which reprobate shakedown artists such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, claiming to seek “justice,” pass themselves off as moral giants in the eyes of uncritical followers. And it is a culture in which black activists demand that we abandon basic tenets of rule of law in the criminal justice system, so as to accommodate violent mobs. Black Lives Matter now stands at the vanguard of this black culture of radical resentment, and for that reason alone, must be opposed.
One could cite literally dozens of other fawning accounts of Black Lives Matter and barely scratch the surface. The point is that news media, prestigious or otherwise, believe that this organization occupies the high moral ground in racial debate. Their publications really can and do sway their readers, or at very least, affirm their construction of reality. Why else would people read these publications in the first place? There are a number of plausible reasons why so many news organizations see Black Lives Matter and their allies as noble champions of the poor and the disenfranchised.
First, the journalism profession for decades has operated on the implicit assumption that an unequal group distribution of power and wealth in a given society, especially ours, is inherently unfair. Reporters learn this lesson in journalism school and learn it again from their newsroom bosses and colleagues. Having internalized this worldview, they see themselves not just as reporters but as agents of social reform on behalf of the vulnerable (good) fighting the powerful (evil). This sort of morality play may make for drama, but it is not good journalism. Granted, the press should have some adversarial relationship with those in power. It is the job of print and broadcast media to question official explanations for institutional behavior, to challenge conventional wisdom and shibboleths. But the downside of this self-anointed missionary role is that sentimentality often supplants reason or even a willingness to investigate or publish facts that don’t fit the preordained script. Reporters imagining themselves as Social Justice Warriors typically begin with a conclusion rather than reach one. And on race, the script is that blacks are powerless victims and whites are privileged victimizers. This default view underlies most stories on Black Lives Matter. I have worked in the world of public policy journalism long enough to know that all reporters, regardless of race or beliefs, have “biases.” But in the world of racial conflict, “black vs. white” is usually another way of saying “David vs. Goliath.” Too many reporters, especially those addressing partisan audiences, cast aside objectivity in favor of crusading. The rise of blogger culture has accentuated this tendency.
Second, and related, print and broadcast journalists are for-profit enterprises. As such, they are sensitive to the need to attract new audiences and retain existing ones. Knowing that Black Lives Matter and their allies have a certain halo over their heads, they often inject de facto advocacy into their stories. To appear critical would be to risk acquiring a stigma for “racism,” sometimes known as “institutional racism.” That could jeopardize readership and profits, and possibly trigger a boycott. In contemporary America, nothing is more stigmatizing to a white individual or institution than the label “racist.” Author and editors, as a general rule, follow the line of least resistance, shading their stories in ways that legitimize black grievance merchants. To even suggest that Black Lives Matter rests on an edifice of menace, hysteria, hoaxes, and contempt for liberty is unthinkable. It takes courage these days to challenge the overarching narrative of “whites = oppressors, blacks = oppressed.” And courage is a commodity in short supply in our newsrooms.
Third, and perhaps most crucially, many journalists who boost Black Lives Matter are blacks themselves. This factor cannot be underestimated. “Newsroom diversity” is now a prime directive within the journalism profession. Newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets during the last decade or two have gone on hiring and promotion binges of blacks and other “people of color.” This reconfiguring operates on the dubious premise that nonwhites are uniquely qualified to write stories on issues of concern to nonwhites. The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) makes no secret of its leanings. Since 1997, it has conducted an annual Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey as a means of raising the profile of nonwhites in journalism. ASNE explains its mission this way:
Increasing diversity in U.S. newsrooms has been a primary ASNE mission since 1978. The Society has been an industry leader in helping news organizations better reflect their communities.
The ASNE Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey (previously known as the Newsroom Employment Census), sponsored by a significant grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is a tool ASNE uses to measure the success of its goal of having the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025.
The Harvard-affiliated Nieman Foundation for Journalism, whose mission is “to promote and elevate the standards of journalism” apparently believes that there’s nothing ailing the profession that couldn’t be fixed by replacing white writers with nonwhite ones. For decades, the foundation has sponsored one-year Nieman Fellowships for journalists from around the world to hone their craft. Recent contributors to the foundation’s quarterly, NiemanReports, are positively evangelical in their zeal for injecting black identity politics into every facet of reporting. Thus, National Public Radio media critic Eric Deggans, writing in the Spring 2015 issue of that periodical (“Why Journalists Must Stop Segregating Stories About Race”), called upon news organizations to greatly elevate the profile of racial stories – as if race doesn’t already dominate the news:
In an increasingly multicultural society, race and culture deserve a different level of coverage than most mainstream journalists now provide. When you watch a typical TV news broadcast, there are regular segments on the weather, sports, or the stock market, regardless of the news at hand. Audiences have accepted such coverage as a steady feature of any news product. Race, culture, and poverty deserve the same kind of coverage as the barometric pressure and the Dow Jones. If the weather and stock market tell us about the health of our environment and economy, then race, culture and poverty tell us about the health of our society.”
It doesn’t take too much speculation to realize what kind of “coverage” Deggans has in mind: White “racists” need not apply. Another NiemanReports contributor, Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, demanded the assignment of more black reporters to cover Black Lives Matter (“Making Black Lives Matter in the News,” Spring 2015). This was her opening salvo:
After unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer last summer in Ferguson, Missouri, a photo or Brown appearing to throw gang signs began circulating online. In response, hundreds of black people began tweeting using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown – some posting dual images of themselves, one playing on stereotypes, the other capturing more positive depictions – underscoring the message: Which photo would the media use if I were gunned down? The social media campaign turned a critique of the mainstream media’s portrayal of African-Americans into a viral lesson about racial stereotypes.
Ms. Richardson is deluded. In the first place, mainstream media has been deferential to blacks, especially lower-class blacks, to a fault. In today’s politically-charged environment, white journalists in particular place a halo over black heads. Second, there was absolutely nothing wrong with posting that online photo of Michael Brown making gang signs. Quite obviously, his gesture signified an identification with gang culture. In a real sense, then, the web posting was a public service. For it revealed Michael Brown as he really was, which was anything but the “gentle giant” of his mourners’ collective imagination. The implicit motive behind the campaign against the photo was to secure an indictment and conviction of Officer Darren Wilson, who as explained earlier, had acted in self-defense. The campaign failed in part because the grand jury on some level understood that the reality of Brown was far different than commonly depicted. Susan Smith Richardson, by contrast, would airbrush the image of the Michael Browns of this world, even at the expense of public safety.
Most of the slightly over one dozen authors critically discussed in this article, in fact, are black, something easily confirmed by a web search. They are: Perry Bacon Jr., Wesley Lowery, Keith Alexander, Krissah Thompson, Robert Samuels, Tavis Smiley, Peniel Joseph, Eric Deggans and Susan Smith Richardson. Only four – Travis Andrews, Kevin Sullivan, Abigail Hauslohner and David von Drehle – are white. Additionally, the main force behind the unsigned New York Times group editorial was the paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, a black.
Put simply, Black Lives Matter and the journalists who cover for them are on the “same page.” Their worlds are the same. Their goals are the same. And their relationship is symbiotic. Each group reinforces the power of the other. When Black Lives Matter activists take to the streets or the campus auditorium to dramatize the latest “outrage” against American blacks, they do so in large measure because they are counting on favorable press coverage. Each BLM campaign effectively functions as a membership recruiting drive, which in turn, can produce more campaigns. Viewed from the opposite direction, the journalists who puff these activists know that each Black Lives Matter campaign increases the “need” for favorable coverage of the group and of blacks generally. Major media, pressured by people from within their ranks such as Eric Deggans and Susan Smith Richardson, then will hire “appropriate” journalists. In this way, news outlets in this country will expand further their favorable coverage of Black Lives Matter and what it represents.
The de facto Black Lives Matter-media partnership is destructive and must be reversed. The most feasible way to accomplish this is for the media to take the radical step of reducing coverage of black issues. As a corollary, the media should analyze black issues in a manner that invites a diversity of opinion rather than a diversity of demography of people holding identical opinions. The media also should stop using emotionally loaded clichés such as “police killings” and “unarmed black men.” This is a tall order in today’s political climate. But it must be done. For if it is not done, Black Lives Matter will have carte blanche to intimidate. About a week ago it released a six-point “policy agenda” all but identical in substance to the Black Panthers platform of some 50 years ago. Skeptics within the media need to expose the reality of this organization. The alternative is more demagoguery, more intimidation and more murders of police officers.