Media Is Entitled To Its Opinion But It's Not Entitled To Its Own Facts
Apparently Melania Trump is not going to be winning a scholarship for journalism any time soon. In her much-awaited speed to the Republican convention in Cleveland on Monday, Mrs. Trump blotted her copy with a clumsy plagiarism of a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama.
In a sentence-by-sentence lifting of some boilerplate about her family values, she managed to blunt what had, up till then, been a positive impression on America on behalf of her husband. Innocuous as the Trump campaign tried to make it sound, plagiarism is still unacceptable.
Naturally, Trump’s Democratic opponents and their media pep squad pounced on the mistake, Faster than you could say Deval Patrick, the storm raged about Melania’s mistake. This proved that Trump’s Bunch isn’t ready for prime time, they yelled. (Probably true.) Of course, the Clintonistas and Obamites weren’t quite so outraged when Barack Obama himself lifted some of his eloquence from the aforementioned Deval Patrick, black governor of Massachusetts.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M6x1H08aFc&feature=youtu.be)
Similarly, they showed scarce interest when the president’s lauded autobiographies played fast and loose with his own life story, creating characters out of whole cloth and combining several characters into one. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, infuriated her 2016 primary opponent Bernie Sanders by constantly ripping off his tweets about poverty and “inequality in America”. Crickets.
Literary faux pas in convention fluff speeches is one thing, of course. But the information wars that swirl about this most divisive campaign are more deadly serious. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing in such a heated environment, as we saw Monday and Tuesday in Cleveland.
The latest tempest is over Black Lives Matter, the pressure group founded on the heels of the Michael Brown incident last summer in Ferguson, Missouri and whether Obama has empowered them. (The president had BLM activists to the White House.) BLM’s first foray into the public conscience was Hands Up, Don’t Shoot, a slogan about Brown being shot in the back while surrendering— a whopper told by one of Brown’s friends.
When the facts emerged from the Department of Justice that Brown had, in fact, robbed a convenience store then tried to shoot a policeman with his gun, BLM didn’t blink. Maybe, BLM told media, but blacks are shot by police at a rate much higher than their percentage of the population (12 percent). Further they have a worse outcome at hands of justice than whites. A few recent deaths at the hands of police seemed to underpin this logic.
Such statistics were eagerly regurgitated by media such as the New York Times with a progressive agenda. (Or by media intimidated by the backlash should they contradict how blacks end up clashing with cops more often than do whites.) What you didn’t hear: According to Cleveland police there were 132 murders in their city in 2015. If you take out the black-on-black cases there would have been only 28 murders in 2015. In Chicago, they’re speeding past 500 homicides this year— almost all of them black-on-black. Baltimore. St. Louis, Detroit… same.
If police see more blacks it’s because blacks are disproportionately involved in murders and other crime. As a result, cops are going to where the crime is— neighbourhoods where blacks are preying on other blacks. If you walk in the woods you’ll see more bears than you will walking in downtown Manhattan.
As the invaluable Heather Macdonald (http://goo.gl/v29Q3w) reports, blacks murder at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, and at about 11 to 12 times the rate of whites alone. This data rarely emerges, however, in mainstream media or in the homilies of the President. While decrying violence agains cops, Obama still manages to cast BLM aspersions about blacks being targets of “biases, some conscious and unconscious that have to be rooted out . . . across our criminal justice system.”.
That tone causes Macdonald to say, ”President Barack Obama bears direct responsibility for the lethal spread of that narrative”. Missing from Obama’s race lectures, she says, is any mention of the “massive racial differences in criminal offending and criminal records that fully account for arrest rates and sentence lengths”. If blacks occupy a disproportionate number of places in jails or prisons it’s not because they’re targeted by police (both white and black), says MacDonald. It’s because they’re engaged in criminal activity.
MacDonald says the president knows better but chooses to peddle “the dangerously false narrative that racist police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today”. Instead of inviting them to the White House, Obama should call for the Black Lives Matter movement to fold its tent—and he himself should start telling the truth about inner-city crime.”
But no one in the mainstream media seems inclined to bell that cat. Impressed with the charismatic young ideologues of BLM, it repeats Obama’s “litany of junk statistics” that blacks are arrested at twice the rate of whites and get sentences almost 10 percent longer than whites for the same crime as proof of malicious intent by cops.
That media are easily swayed is predicable. Layoffs/ firings have stripped newsrooms of experienced editors and producers who supplied the institutional knowledge when a big story emerged. There are fewer TV, radio and newspaper outlets currently being run by anyone with a mindset that dates back more than a decade. Often cheaper, ideological younger staff, fresh from journalism schools, are thrust into decision-making that leans more toward TMZ than “check twice, print once”.
A good king is badly served by poor soldiers. Likewise, the public is poorly served by BLM slogans and Obama equivocations that serve his legacy but not Black America. But if we’re hoping for mass media to hold him to account we could be waiting a long time.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).