Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Liberal Media? The NY Times Wants the Public to Empathize With the Ferguson Police Department

The corporate news media is part of the governing order. While some small glimpses of truth may occasionally slip out of what is a very narrowly defined and controlled terrain for "approved public discourse", the sum purpose of the mainstream corporate news media is to legitimize existing hierarchies of power.

The corporate news media cannot present a radical critique of power because by definition they are in league with the powerful.

Police are an extension of the state. And while the news media may occasionally point out examples of police abuse and corruption, they inevitably default to a narrative frame in which "almost all of the cops are good people who just want to do their jobs well" and "it is only a few rotten apples that are racist, corrupt, or who abuse the public". The police as a state institution are granted the twin standing assumptions of innocence and that they work as a positive social force. The corporate news media presents (and protects) the military and the corporation in the same manner.

Of course, black Americans (and other people of color) are not treated with the same worshipful deference and assumption of innocence. The race/crime frame dominates news coverage. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the mainstream news media consistently misrepresents social reality by under-reporting crimes committed by white people and over-reporting those committed by blacks and Latinos. White victims of crime are highlighted; black and brown victims of crime are relatively invisible.

As discussed here, the mainstream news media (with MSNBC being one of the few exceptions) has been complicit in circulating rumors and lies about the killing of Michael Brown by the thug cop Darren Wilson, distortions that are extremely sympathetic to the latter.

The evidence is not kind to Darren Wilson. However, the corporate news media has presented what increasingly appears to be a clear case of reckless behavior and murder by cop as some type of ambiguous event.

The Washington Post presented a story about Brown's autopsy report that trafficked in rumors and a sub par analysis of the facts. The NY Times has offered up a complementary news item that attempts to humanize the Ferguson police department by presenting them as victims who are now under siege by the black community.

In Dan Barry's portrait of white police victimology, he chooses to focus on how two African-Americans--a police officer and  dispatcher (out of a total force of 54 people)--are negotiating the racial tensions surrounding the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson.

This is a recurring and tired trope in America: the "good" blacks are presented as a juxtaposition to the "bad" and "troublesome" negroes.

Thus, the question is implied that "why can't those bad blacks act more like the good ones and there wouldn't be any racial problems?" White supremacy in the post civil rights era works by perversely deflecting the responsibility for, and causes of, white racism back on to black and brown people.

On the Other Side of Ferguson’s Protest Lines, Officers Face New Threats is an example of the "human interest" genre of news reporting. This type of writing does not exist outside of a broader institutional and social context.

To point. The gross racial imbalance in the Ferguson police department is a signal to the racist relationship between that organization and the black community. The NY Times' effort to humanize the Ferguson police department assumes that they are deserving of empathy when in fact its officers have behaved in violent, corrupt, and menacing ways towards the black and brown community they ostensibly protect and serve.

And the NY Times' On the Other Side of Ferguson’s Protest Lines, Officers Face New Threats does not ask an obvious question about the black members of the Ferguson police department: what type of values must a person of color possess in order to be part of an organization that violates the civil rights of African-Americans as a matter of policy, and treats them with disrespect and violence?

The legendary photojournalist Bob Adelman explained that he was not capable of presenting the white on black violence of Jim and Jane Crow in a "balanced" way because the bigots who were beating down and killing civil rights workers and activists had no moral authority or virtues to expound or triumph.

Likewise, it would be irresponsible and morally unacceptable to write a store about the Holocaust and the death camps by focusing on how the guards' feet hurt from standing on them all day long. The men who crewed slave ships that brought millions of black human cargo across the Middle Passage may have gotten sunburn from working on the deck. Again, the ultimate story is in those who are suffering in the hold of the ship, not on those who work that machinery of evil.

On the Other Side of Ferguson’s Protest Lines, Officers Face New Threats would like the reader to believe that it must be so very difficult to be a police officer in Ferguson at present. The NY Times is confusing cause and effect. If there are any difficulties in being a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri those challenges are caused by their personal choices and institutional policies towards the black and brown residents of that community.


Gable1111 said...

This pretty much sums it up:

“What I can’t understand is the constant hate,” Ms. Johnson said. “And the failure to be patient until there’s a thorough investigation.”

Well I’ll be damned.

How are people supposed to be “patient’’ and wait for a thorough
investigation when those doing the investigation won’t let them as they carry on a pattern of leaking information, false and otherwise, engaging in outrageous smears of Brown and dissemination of rumors and outright lies to skew the outcome in favor of Wilson? And how can the Times not ask that obvious question, the answer to which provides the reason the people of Ferguson have to
not trust that the intentions of the department are anything but contemptible?

And instead of allowing the Chief to have his own private pity party in print, why not ask him where the hell was he when his people were leaking those false reports? Why didn't he speak out
then, and do something about those leaks? Why not ask him; aren't the people justified seeing you as someone not
acting in good faith when you as the Chief stood by as the leaks were made?

Ms. Johnson, the Chief and the officers interviewed apparently don’t extend the same expectation of humanity to the protesters, let alone the Brown family, that they expect for themselves. They’re just cops “doing their jobs” and everyone is supposed to understand that empathy is just not in them. Ms. Johnson, of all
people, in her statements and demeanor, delivers the not so subtle message that oppression is the natural state of affairs for black people. But for the community to rise up and challenge
that is just so unnatural and mean; why, that gives the PD a collective sad, and now the Times is here to see to it that they are deserving of the “sympathy of a grateful nation.”

No doubt, the fix was in on this from the very beginning. And I doubt few people anywhere thought otherwise. The Times story, just like the Post and others, are all about the business of preserving the demands of white supremacy, that Brown deserved to die and the protesters (blacks) are not deserving
of any humanity at all.

chauncey devega said...

Pathetic and transparent isn't it. No real reporting, no questions about accountability, lies, and police thuggery and violation of the the citizens' and press's rights. The only honest person has been the black police woman interviewed by the BBC:

chauncey devega said...

You know my appreciation and love of Wholin. On point again in that work. As folks panic over the upcoming elections I wonder how many realize that the USA has not been a democracy--if it ever was--for many many years. Again politics is pro wrestling and folks are cheering on their favorite workers while the bookers and territory bosses run the whole show.

joe manning said...

They're absolutists about defending the status quo, loathe to concede anything; hiding behind the tired "few bad apples" defense.

kokanee said...

The problem with the pro wrestling analogy is that pro wrestling is fun!
I wore my V for Vendetta costume to work on Halloween. I was the only one in costume. Someone pointed out correctly that my costume matches my politics. I think I'm ready for comic con!
I try not to tell people who to vote for but I do think we should vote against the two plutocrat-vetted, elite-sanctioned and corporate-funded parties. Nuff said.
P. S. Lots of new Jim Crow voting irregularities going down by the Pugs. Will the Dims fight or go into scold mode?

Plantsmantx said...

This is a recurring and tired trope in America: the "good" blacks are presented as a juxtaposition to the "bad" and "troublesome" negroes.

According to that trope, there are always-always- more "bad blacks" than there are "good" ones.

Nina Flowers said...

I wish we had a liberal media!