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“Nothing To Do With Race”: The Simplistic Way Many Of Us Perceive The All-American Conundrum Of Race

It had nothing to do with race.

So said Sheriff Leon Lott, last week, in discussing a violent arrest by one of his officers, a white deputy named Ben Fields, of a black female student at Spring Valley High in Richland County, South Carolina. Fields, a school resource officer, was called in when the girl reportedly ignored a teacher’s instruction to stop using her cellphone and leave the classroom. He ended up overturning her desk and slinging her across the floor like a sandbag or a sack of dog food.

His actions, caught on cellphone video, have detonated social media, many observers expressing visceral fury over this treatment of a black child. But Lott, who later fired his deputy, said he doesn’t think Fields acted from racial prejudice because he has an African-American girlfriend.

It is a statement of earnest, staggering obtuseness that sheds no light on the officer’s overreaction, but reveals with stark clarity the simplistic way many of us perceive the all-American conundrum of race. Granted, it is not inconceivable that a white girl could have been subjected to the same brutality in a similar situation. But it is a matter of statistical fact that it’s more likely to happen to a child of color.Multiple studies have shown that those kids are subjected to harsher discipline in school than their white classmates. Indeed, numbers released last year by the federal government show that this begins in preschool where the “students” are little more than toddlers, yet black kids, who account for 18 percent of the population, get 42 percent of the suspensions.

Nothing to do with race?

The people who habitually say that operate under the misapprehension that racial bias requires intent or awareness and that it leaves obvious evidence of itself: a tendency toward racist comments, let’s say, or membership in the Ku Klux Klan. In that worldview, racial bias is incompatible with having a black girlfriend.

But that worldview is naive. Bias is frequently subterranean, something you carry without meaning to or knowing you do. In a country that has used every outlet of media, religion, education, politics, law and science for over two centuries to drive home that black is threatening, black is inferior, black is bad, it is entirely possible Fields could have acted from unconscious racial bias and yet had a black girlfriend. For that matter, he could have acted from unconscious racial bias and had a black face; African-American people are no more immune to the drumbeat of negativity surrounding them than is anyone else.

So “nothing to do with race” is a reflexive copout many of us embrace against all reason because to do otherwise is to face a mirror whose reflection does not flatter. Which is why the usual suspects — Steve Doocy, Mark Fuhrman, Glenn Beck and etcetera — have attempted to fix the blame for what happened here on the girl.

Let’s be very clear in response. It doesn’t matter if she was disruptive. It doesn’t matter if she was disobedient. It doesn’t matter if she was disrespectful. Those things justify discipline, but they emphatically do not justify this child being lifted and flung by a grown man as if she were an inanimate object. If she were white, that would likely go without saying.

One is reminded of all the other African Americans we have seen in just the last few years brutalized and even killed for no good reason. One is reminded of Trayvon Martin and Walter Scott and Eric Garner and Charnesia Corley and Oscar Grant and Tamir Rice and Sean Bell and Levar Jones and more names than this column has space to hold, more blood than conscience can contain. And how many times have we been offered the same simplistic assurance in response?

This had nothing to do with race, they say.

Of course not. It never does.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 2, 2015

November 3, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Police Brutality, Racism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Serious People Discount Fox News”: What The European Response Tells Us About Ourselves For This Garbage

Tucker Carlson said on Fox that more children die of bathtub drownings than of accidental shootings. They don’t.

Steve Doocy said on Fox that NASA scientists faked data to make the case for global warming. They didn’t.

Rudy Giuliani said on Fox that President Obama has issued propaganda asking everybody to “hate the police.” He hasn’t.

John Stossel said on Fox that there is “no good data” proving secondhand cigarette smoke kills nonsmokers. There is.

So maybe you can see why serious people — a category excluding those who rely upon it for news and information — do not take Fox, well … seriously, why they dub it Pox News and Fakes News, to name two of the printable variations. Fox is, after all, the network of death panels, terrorist fist jabs, birtherism, anchor babies, victory mosques, wars on Christmas and Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. It’s not just that it is the chief global distributor of unfact and untruth but that it distributes unfact and untruth with a bluster, an arrogance, a gonad-grabbing swagger, that implicitly and intentionally dares you to believe fact and truth matter.

Many of us have gotten used to this. We don’t even bother to protest Fox being Fox. Might as well protest a sewer for stinking.

But the French and the British, being French and British, see it differently. And that’s what produced the scenario that recently floored many of us.

There was Fox, doing what Fox does, in this case hosting one Steve Emerson, a supposed expert on Islamic extremist terrorism, who spoke about so-called “no go” zones in Europe — i.e., areas of Germany, Sweden, France and Great Britain — where non-Muslims are banned, the government has no control and sharia law is in effect. Naturally, Fox did not question this outrageous assertion — in fact, it repeated it throughout the week — and most of us, long ago benumbed by the network’s serial mendacities, did not challenge Fox.

Then, there erupted from Europe the jarring sound of a continent laughing. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson an “idiot.” A French program in the mold of The Daily Show sent correspondents — in helmets! — to interview people peaceably sipping coffee in the no-go zones. Twitter went medieval on Fox’s backside. And the mayor of Paris threatened to sue.

Last week, Fox did something Fox almost never does. It apologized. Indeed, it apologized profusely, multiple times, on air.

The most important takeaway here is not the admittedly startling news that Fox, contrary to all indications, is capable of shame. Rather, it is what the European response tells us about ourselves and our waning capacity for moral indignation with this sort of garbage.

It’s amazing, the things you can get used to, that can come to seem normal. In America, it has come to seem normal that a major news organization functions as the propaganda arm of an extremist political ideology, that it spews a constant stream of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, paranoia and manufactured outrage, and that it does so with brazen disregard for what is factual, what is right, what is fair, what is balanced — virtues that are supposed to be the sine qua non of anything calling itself a newsroom.

If you live with aberrance long enough, you can forget it’s aberrance. You can forget that facts matter, that logic is important, that science is critical, that he who speaks claptrap loudly still speaks claptrap — and that claptrap has no place in reasoned and informed debate. Sometimes, it takes someone from outside to hold up a mirror and allow you to see more clearly what you have grown accustomed to.

This is what the French and the British did for America last week.

For that, Fox owed them an apology. But serious people owe them thanks.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 26, 2015

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Europe, Fox News, Journalism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Does Fox News Apologize?”: After Years Of On-Air Idiocy, Why Walk Back Your Business Model Now?

Nearly two years ago, Fox News luminary Shepard Smith delivered a memorable apology. On a slow-news afternoon in September 2012, Smith’s afternoon program followed a protracted car-chase in the Arizona sticks. Its coverage of the drama was so intense that producers failed to cut away from the scene when the driver got out of his car, staggered through a desolate area and shot himself.

Tonal perfection characterized Smith’s mea culpa: “We really messed up, and we’re all very sorry. That didn’t belong on TV. … I personally apologize to you that that happened,” said the host.

The theme of Fox News’s capacity for apology surfaced this week, after “Fox & Friends” co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy joked about the Ray Rice situation. On Monday’s program, the two were discussing the emergence of the TMZ.com video showing Rice assaulting his then-fiancee in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel. To wrap up the discussion, Kilmeade quipped, “I think the message is, take the stairs.”

Doocy, in the jocular spirit of a cable-news morning show during a discussion of domestic violence, joined in: “The message is when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

With that, “Fox & Friends” prepped public expectations for a stone-faced apology. Tuesday morning, that didn’t happen. Instead, Kilmeade appeared to be blaming viewers for using their eyes and ears: “Comments that we made during this story yesterday made some feel like we were taking the situation too lightly. We are not. We were not. Domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us, I can assure you.”

CNN, like a good competitor network, found newsworthiness in the depravity of “Fox & Friends.” In a chat with host Carol Costello, CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter said, “It’s a cheap try yo pretend to apologize but then again, Fox News tends not to come out and apologize when their hosts say offensive things.”

Cue the Google and Nexis searches for “fox news apologizes.”

In August, Fox News’s Shepard Smith apologized for having called Robin Williams a “coward.” (Hat Tip: Johnny Dollar)

In April, Fox News apologized for a graphic that painted a distorted picture of Obamacare enrollment numbers.

In March, Fox News host Clayton Morris apologized for “ignorant” comments that he’d made about gender. (Hat tip: Johnny Dollar)

In October 2013, Fox News apologized for reporting — based on a bogus story — that President Obama had pledged to personally donate to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures during the government shutdown.

In February 2013, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson apologized for ripping Wiccans. (Hat tip: Johnny Dollar)

In July 2012, Fox News apologized for showing a picture of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels in a discussion of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.

In July 2011, Fox News apologized after its politics Twitter account was hacked, resulting in a false message about the assassination of President Obama.

In November 2009, Fox News apologized for misrepresenting some footage of Sarah Palin.

So there’s a sampling of Fox News’s regretful moments of recent years (we don’t claim it’s comprehensive). The circumstances behind them vary — some correct factual mistakes, others remedy stupid, ill-considered remarks made in the error factory that is live television.

Does the network under-apologize for “offensive” remarks, as Stelter suggested? Who knows — a claim that broad and subject to value judgments is both unprovable and irrefutable, a perfect thing to say on cable news. Perhaps there is a contrast to be drawn with MSNBC, a network that went on an apologetic tear starting last November after offending the likes of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, the “right wing” and others.

Despite the squishiness inherent in this debate, it’s clear that there’s an entire industry of apology demands directed at Fox News. Here’s a demand that Fox News host Megyn Kelly apologize for her comments about Santa and Jesus being white. Here’s a demand (from now-Fox News guy Howard Kurtz, in 2009) that Fox News apologize for using “partisan propaganda” on air. Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize for its Steubenville rape coverage. Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize to all Canadians for mocking their country’s military. Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize to John Kerry for catching his off-mic remarks (see comments section). Here’s a demand that Fox News apologize for some allegedly transphobic remarks by Dr. Keith Ablow (who produces apologizable statements in just about every appearance, it must be noted).

And on and on: Some of the demands are perfectly ridiculous, some compelling.

Of all the moments for which Fox News has apologized or received apology demands, none appears as regret-worthy as what went down on Monday’s edition of “Fox & Friends.” In advising “take the stairs,” Kilmeade appeared to be counseling domestic abusers on how to do their thing. Or perhaps he was counseling women not to get into elevators with their boyfriends. Abominable either way. Fox News — and “Fox & Friends” itself — has apologized for much less. Absent an explanation from Fox News itself, only pure arrogance can account for why the network whiffed on its responsibility to viewers. Years and years of on-air idiocy, after all, have propelled “Fox & Friends” to the top of the morning cable-news ratings. Why walk back the show’s business model now?

 

By: Erik Wemple, The Washington Post, September 10, 2014

 

September 12, 2014 Posted by | Domestic Violence, Fox News, Violence Against Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Illusions Of Grandeur”: Imaginary Republican Scandals Don’t Need Distractions

The “White House rocked by scandals” narrative clearly didn’t work out well for President Obama’s critics. The Benghazi conspiracy theories proved baseless; the IRS story quickly evaporated (even if most of the political world ignored the exculpatory details); and the AP subpoenas and NSA surveillance programs turned out to be policy disputes — on which many Republicans agreed with the administration’s position. As Jon Chait recently put it, “The entire scandal narrative was an illusion.”

But a funny thing happened after Scandal Mania 2013 ended: the right decided to pretend the narrative remained intact.

National Review ran a fairly long piece this week, arguing, “The truth about Benghazi, the Associated Press/James Rosen monitoring, the IRS corruption, the NSA octopus, and Fast and Furious is still not exactly known.” The headline read, “Obama’s Watergates.” (Yes, the president doesn’t have a Watergate; he has multiple Watergates.)

Yesterday, Marc Thiessen’s latest Washington Post column insisted that the IRS’s “political targeting of [Obama’s] conservative critics” — which, let’s remember, didn’t actually happen — is “undermining our nation’s security” and “has exposed Americans to greater danger.”

And on Fox News, Steve Doocy has cooked up a conspiracy theory that addresses his conspiracy theories.

“Remember last week all the talk was about ‘phony scandals’ and all that other stuff and the NSA and the IRS and suddenly we get this alert that something could be happening in the Arab world somewhere toward western interests, and it is pro-administration. We’ve heard this a million times. […]

“Just that they would reveal such detail. They burned a source and a method, and that’s the problem. They could still say be careful if you’re in these areas. But to be so specific to make it look like the administration is working overtime, look at these fantastic avenues of intel, that is troubling.”

So, for Doocy, the White House leaked sensitive national-security information to distract attention from scandals that don’t actually exist.

It’s awfully difficult to take this line of argument seriously.

Several news organizations learned of the administration intercepting al Qaeda communications — we do not yet know the source of the leaks — which led to the closings of many U.S. diplomatic outposts in the Middle East and North Africa. For some on the right, this was part of an elaborate White House scheme.

But that really doesn’t make any sense. For one thing, Scandal Mania is over, and there’s no incentive for the administration to turn attention away from stories that the political world has largely given up on. For another, the administration doesn’t gain anything by leaking news of the intercepted messages.

Wait, the right responds, the White House now gets to implicitly argue, “NSA surveillance is really important so these programs shouldn’t be shut down.” But the administration doesn’t need to say that — efforts to stop NSA surveillance aren’t going anywhere, at least not now, and the programs were going to continue anyway.

There are no Watergates for the right to play with here.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 7, 2013

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Failing The Fundamental Test Of Journalism”: Watching Fox Makes You More Stupid

People who work at Fox News might like to think that they are only despised by real journalists because they are conservative and most journalists are liberal. Anyone who saw read the admiring obituaries of William F. Buckley, Jr in mainstream and liberal outlets would know that is nonsense. Journalists, both liberals and ones with no ideology in particular, are quite capable of respecting conservative pundits and reporters who deserve their respect.

But Fox does not. The reason is not because they hold a set of values that others may not share. And it is only partially because they claim to be “Fair and Balanced” when they are neither.

Rather, it is because they fail the fundamental test of journalism: are you informing your audience? According to a new study by Farleigh Dickinson University, Fox viewers are the least knowledgeable of any outlet, and they are know even less about politics and current events than people who watch no news at all.

Respondents to the survey were able to answer correctly an average of 1.8 of 4 questions about international news and 1.6 out of 5 questions about domestic affairs. “Based on these results, people who don’t watch any news at all are expected to answer correctly on average 1.22 of the questions about domestic politics, just by guessing or relying on existing basic knowledge,” said Dan Cassino the poll’s analyst.

“The study concludes that media sources have a significant impact on the number of questions that people were able to answer correctly,” wrote Cassino and his colleagues. “The largest effect is that of Fox News: all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all. On the other hand, if they listened only to NPR, they would be expected to answer 1.51 questions correctly.”

This should come as no surprise if you follow Fox. Consider some recent history. “Fox and Friends” host Steve Doocy invented a quotation from President Obama completely out of thin air. He falsely claimed that Obama had said he and Michelle were not born with silver spoons in their mouths “unlike some people,” in reference to Mitt Romney’s privileged upbringing. In fact, Obama did not say “unlike some people” and he has been using the silver spoon line for years. Several other news outlets repeated Doocy’s assertion as fact and Doocy initially avoided correcting the record after it was revealed he was wrong. Eventually he admitted that he “seemed to misquote” Obama, instead of stating that he did, in fact, misquote him. And he did not apologize for the error.

When Fox isn’t inventing smears against Obama, it uncritically regurgitates corporate funded lies about him. Consider a segment of Sean Hannity’s show from last week. He showed a TV commercial by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded and funded by the Koch brothers, that attacks President Obama’s record on investing in renewable energy. Hannity and Frank Luntz praised its effectiveness, with Luntz saying, “It was fact-based, not assertions. You see the facts come up on the screen. There’s specific numbers.”

The only problem is that the factual assertions are incorrect. The ad says, “80 percent of taxpayer dollars spent on green energy went to jobs in foreign countries.” But the article it cites as a source clearly states only that the money went to foreign firms. The bulk of American tax dollars spent on the subsidies, according to Politifact, went to American subsidiaries of the firms.

The ad goes on to offer specific examples: “$1.2 billion to a solar company that’s building a plant in Mexico. Half a billion to a car company that moved American jobs to Finland. And $39 million to build traffic lights in China. President Obama wasted $16 billion on risky investments.” I won’t bore you with all the details of how each of these claims is untrue; each has been labeled false or mostly false by Politifact or Factcheck.org and you can go to Media Matters for the full rundown.

Hannity routinely takes Republican misinformation as the Gospel truth. To choose just one particularly embarrassing example, he let Herman Cain’s spokesman Mark Block declare absurdly, that a woman named Karen Kraushaar who accused Cain of sexual harassment was the mother of a Politico reporter named Josh Kraushaar. Hannity did not challenge either the veracity of this claim nor question why this “fact” would cast doubt on Politico’s thoroughly reported revelation that Cain has been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment. In fact, Josh Kraushaar had left Politico for National Journal over a year before the story even ran, and he is not related to Karen Kraushaar. It would have been easy for Hannity to check on these facts and correct Block’s assertion, but he did not. Here is what Josh wrote about it the next day:

Anybody with Internet access would, at the very least, been able to figure out that I haven’t worked for Politico since June 2010 — and have been working at National Journal since then. I even Tweeted the fact that I wasn’t related to Karen Kraushaar earlier that evening before Hannity’s show to clear up any potential confusion.

That didn’t stop Block. When I heard what Block had said on Hannity’s show, I immediately e-mailed him informing him of his mistake. I still haven’t heard back.

This laziness, partisan hackery and lack of regard for basic accuracy is what separates Fox News from outlets that merely have opinions. And it is doing their audience a disservice. This Fairleigh Dickinson study is not the first to find that Fox News viewers are the most ill informed of any news consumers. As November 22, 2011 Think Progress had found seven studies showing Fox News’ viewers to be the worst informed of all news consumers. In a post about a report that had just come out in the International Journal of Press/Politics, by communication scholar Lauren Feldman of American University and colleagues which found that “Fox News viewing manifests a significant, negative association with global warming acceptance,” Chris Mooney cited six previous studies with similar findings.

I identified 6 separate studies showing Fox News viewers to be the most misinformed, and in a right wing direction—studies on global warming, health care, health care a second time, the Ground Zero mosque, the Iraq war, and the 2010 election.
I also asked if anyone was aware of any counterevidence, and none was forthcoming. There might very well be a survey out there showing that Fox viewers aren’t [emphasis in original] the most misinformed cable news consumers on some topic (presumably it would be a topic where Democrats have some sort of ideological blind spot), but I haven’t seen it. And I have looked.

In the last year, since Fox News fired Glenn Beck and has sought to line up behind more establishment Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney, the new conventional wisdom has been that Fox is tacking back to the center. As a purely strategic move within the Republican Party, that may be true. But, unfortunately, this has not been correlated with any improvement in the quality or independence of their journalism.

By: Ben Adler, The Nation, May 21, 2012

May 22, 2012 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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