The United States of America is a huge country with a population of 330 million people and a land mass of 3.8 million square miles. Only China and India have a larger population, and only Russia and Canada have larger land masses. To provide some perspective, the United States alone has a larger population than the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined.
In the same way that certain news stories in Spain are relatively unimportant in the United Kingdom, the same should be true of some news stories in the United States. While there are certainly stories which are relevant on a national level, there clearly exists a scale of importance which shrinks as the scope of the focus increases. As an extreme example, the mild vandalism of a local park bench may be breaking news in a small town but has no place on the front page of the New York Times.
Given that the relevance of news stories can change based on the breadth of its audience, what makes one story relevant to a local news station and another relevant on a national — or even international — level?
Unfortunately, the responsibility for answering this crucial question lies in the hands of the mainstream media. The result of their monopolization of the national narrative is that they have full control of the metrics used to determine a story’s relevance. Under pressure from the modern wave of fast-moving internet-based news and social media platforms, they have abandoned their duty to follow a patient pattern of investigation in pursuit of truth. Instead, stories are selected entirely on whether they can be used to garner instantaneous attention and push a political narrative.
If the initial story can be used to support this narrative, then it is distributed on a national scale with no regard for the accuracy of any immediate assumptions or premature conclusions. If the story doesn’t support this narrative — or worse, counters this narrative — then the strategy is either to ignore it completely, prevent it from gaining widespread attention, or to spin the story to erase its impact.
Each of these strategies are applied with such regularity that the results are plain for all those with intellectual honesty to see: the mainstream media are no longer driven by journalistic integrity, but the desire to promote a given narrative with political objectives. In short, journalists are now activists. This has uncovered a strange journalistic “face off,” where the driving factor is not relevance, but race.
The race-based nationalization of non-national stories with no regard for facts or context
There are some stories which grow organically to justify their national focus. One recent example is the death of George Floyd during his arrest in Minneapolis. The widespread (and bipartisan) anger in response to the available information — particularly video footage — gained an understandable level of attention. The fact that the story of George Floyd, who died in objectively shocking circumstances, aligned with the Left’s general belief that the United States is suffering from a systemic level of racism and police brutality — which can only be solved by electing Democrats — was a cynical bonus.
However, in the wake of the violence which has spread across the country with George Floyd’s death as the alleged catalyst, the mainstream media are clearly looking to maintain the momentum of the Black Lives Matter agenda by continuing to further the notion that all violent instances which have some racial component are therefore racially motivated.
While the conflation of cases by race is something we have come to expect from Democrats — Joe Biden himself suggested that the African American community is not diverse — the same should not be true of our “journalist class.” However, mainstream media outlets now follow a familiar pattern which involves holding up a color swatch next to the alleged “perpetrator” and the alleged “victim,” with the labels of “victim” and “victimizer” often defined by unreliable and biased sources. If the “victim” is black and/or the perpetrator is “white,” the story passes their test and can be used to “prove” their “broad truth” that the United States is therefore inherently racist.
This is the logic which allowed Rayshard Brooks to be advertised as the “next” George Floyd, despite the fact that the only similarity between the two cases was the race of the “victims” and “perpetrators.” Rather than being the primary variable of importance, Brooks’ behavior in the events preceding his death was irrelevant. His skin color fit the narrative, and so he became a household name. The same is true of Jacob Blake. After Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the mainstream media worked to bury all details of the incident other than Blake’s race. Blake was another “black man” shot by a police officer, and a “white” police officer at that. Blake’s outstanding arrest warrant, his alleged attempt to resist arrest, or his alleged proximity to a deadly weapon were, again, irrelevant.
The names Rayshard Brooks and Jacob Blake are now known across the country entirely because the mainstream media decided it should be so. While every death is a tragedy, and every life has value, the circumstances of each death are undeniably crucial in determining its relevance to the national debate over racism. The mainstream media have intentionally ignored the importance of evidence, context, and truth in favor of fast-tracking any story which can be made to fit their shallow racial objectives. Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake, Michael Brown. They fit that narrative. Race matters; facts don’t.
This strategy doesn’t just apply when the “victim” is black. The mainstream media act with a stunning level of carelessness when it comes to presuming and applying guilt based on race. Nick Sandmann was nationally despised after the mainstream media decided to project racist motivations based on his awkward smile during a bizarre confrontation. Kyle Rittenhouse has been labeled as a white supremacist mass murderer, with the media focusing on his race, gender, and age as primary variables of importance, despite video evidence which suggests that Rittenhouse’s use of deadly force was self-defense — with one “victim” visibly holding a handgun when he was shot. Again, race matters, facts don’t.
The counter-productive search for racial counter narratives
In an attempt to protest the sporadic nationalization of stories which fit the Left’s narrative, some among the political Right have attempted to protest by pushing for the nationalization of stories which fit some form of counter-narrative. With any such attempt, it’s important to understand the subtle difference between working to debunk the Left’s narrative with stories which provide counter-arguments and simply fighting the Left’s fire with fire.
One example of a valid counter-argument would be the attempt to promote evidence which exposes the flawed assumptions underlying a national story. Promoting video evidence of Rayshard Brooks’ arrest, radio transmissions of Jacob Blake’s arrest, or Department of Justice conclusions that the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative was fabricated are examples of such actions.
There are others who — somewhat justifiably — see the Left’s control of the national narrative and ask the question “well, why isn’t THIS story in the news?” The crucial point here is not this question, but the motivation behind this question. For example, there was minimal national coverage when 5-year old Cannon Hinnant was murdered. The man accused of his murder was Hinnant’s neighbor, a 25-year old black man called Darrius Sessoms. Cannon Hinnant’s name trended on Twitter, with much of the outrage driven by the mainstream media’s apparent reluctance to report on Hinnant’s murder.
In such instances, if the motivation is to highlight the mainstream media’s clear bias when it comes to the selection (or rejection) of stories based on racial narratives, then such anger is completely valid. By pointing out this bias, the outcome should be the careful selection of stories based on national relevance and objective evidence. If race is proven to be a motivating factor in the murder, then clearly the story is relevant to the national debate. If someone is attempting simply to achieve some form of retaliatory nationalization of one “counter story” based on race in response to another story based on race, then the underlying problem will only be worsened.
The United States has a bizarre obsession with race. To some extent, this is understandable given the United States’ history of racial discrimination in slavery and Jim Crow and the long-lasting impact of past racist policies on communities. However, there is a clear difference between the acknowledgement of history’s impact on the modern day and the continued obsession with applying an irrelevant racial gradient to every societal interaction or event.
The mainstream media is responsible for continuing to fuel this obsession. Racism exists, without a doubt. But by dominating the national conversation fueled by subjectivity in pursuit of a false premise, the mainstream media are not fighting racism. We can never hope to truly end racism if the label of racism is diluted by its continual misattribution. We can also never hope to truly end racism if we attempt to counter the cynical promotion of false racial narratives with racial counter-narratives. The goal should be for the national conversation to be based on objectivity, rather than racial mutually assured destruction. The goal should be for the irrelevant focus on color to remain irrelevant.
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