Anger makes you dumb.
Writing for Psychology Today in 2010, Leon Seltzer explained: “anger makes you see the world in simplistic, absolutist terms. Everything looks either black or white–as in “I’m good and you’re bad,” or “I’m completely right and you’re totally wrong.” Needless to say, such an extreme, anger-fueled interpersonal stance hardly reflects the complex nature of morality or human relationships. Nor does it facilitate any sort of collaborative problem-solving.”
I don’t usually touch on politics or religion on this blog (it isn’t that kind of blog), but today, I need to make an exception. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and sell you on the merits of the Obama administration or discuss reproductive rights or marriage equality or prayer in schools. Nope. Today, I want to talk about media ethics, rational thinking, and civic responsibility. But to do that, we also need to dive into racism, hatred, and the way media content is being used to fabricate complete bullshit in order to create conflict between people.
Item 1: An Honest Look At Police Brutality.
Cops are awesome. They’re one of the most under-appreciated (and underpaid) resources we have in civilized society. You get in trouble, really bad trouble, you call 911. Minutes later, men and women come rushing to your rescue, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Cops keep us safe whenever they can. They put their lives on the line every day for us and one another. I have no definitive statistics on this but cops probably save tens of thousands of lives every year, and that’s not counting all the grief they save us when property, not just our personal safety, is at stake. First responders (police, EMS and fire departments) are taken for granted in this country, and we should express our thanks to them a lot more than we do, even if they’re a pain in the ass sometimes, and even if some of them should probably look for another career. (And we’re going to talk about that.)
I’m not going to trip all over myself to regurgitate clichés like “most cops are good cops” or whatever. Here’s a better one: all cops are human beings. They’re people. It isn’t a question of good people vs. bad people, or good cop vs. bad cop. It’s more complicated than that. Sometimes, someone has a shitty day and their tolerance for bullshit is 90% lower than normal. Sometimes, someone makes bad assumptions, and the decisions they make based on those assumptions snowball into something that rolls out of their control. Sometimes, people discover that they weren’t as well trained or as well prepared for a situation as they thought they were, or as they ought to have been. Sometimes, people just fuck up. And sometimes, people are just assholes and forget that the person they are having an altercation with is a human being, who might also be having a bad day, and they mistake their frustration for aggression. People are complex and hard to read sometimes, and bad situations can escalate into worse situations really quickly. When you’re angry or scared, all of that nuance flies out the window. Your ability to make smart, emotionally sound decisions fizzles away. When you’re an accountant or a creative director, nobody really notices. Your colleagues might walk away thinking to themselves what an asshole you are, but that’s the extent of it. Office squabbles happen for a million stupid reasons. When you’re a cop or a soldier though, the ramifications of that sort of thing are very, very different.
Let’s face it: being a cop is stressful. Although very few cops are actually killed in the line of duty, it’s a very dangerous job. You deal with dangerous criminals and stupid people with guns, and terrified drivers who make horrendous decisions, and you never know what you’re walking into when you walk up to a door or make a traffic stop. It isn’t like people walk around with warning labels on their foreheads. Every door you knock on could have a shotgun cocked and ready waiting for you on the other side. Fact is that cops in the US have to deal with a very well armed populace, and a not insignificant number of crazies hiding in plain sight. That’s enough to make them want to be a little extra cautious, to the point of erring on the side of aggression. (Aggression = owning the initiative, which is tactically smart.) This is the part where I point out that a lot of cops think tactically to protect themselves, because they feel a little under siege sometimes. This makes them adopt more of a military mentality than a serve-and-protect mentality. You wonder why cops sometimes act like soldiers, and that’s part of the reason why.
Another reason is just culture. Police work attracts all kinds of people. Some love the idea of being good guys, of being heroes, of making a difference. Other love guns and authority more than the actual mission. It’s just like any other profession. Look around your office or your gym or your book club: there’s always a bully in the bunch. There’s always a self-serving asshole. There’s always a bigot of some kind. There’s the ego trip. There’s the follower. And on and on and on. If people are complex as individuals, organizations are infinitely more so. Have you ever worked for a toxic organization? I have. Narcissistic execs, sociopathic middle-managers, cliques of backstabbing assholes, cowardly social climbers… It’s horrible. And then you go work somewhere else and the culture is totally different: Visionary, competent leaders; capable, empathetic middle-managers; cool, friendly coworkers… Those two cultures are night and day, but they might exist in the same industry, even the same city. One is a dream to work with and the other is a nightmare. Well, police departments are no different. And even within departments, one squad might be the opposite of the next. You’re going to have great squads and toxic squads, and that’s just the reality of it. Leadership, culture, blah bah blah… Yeah, I know. Still. That’s how it works.
I’m not going to assume anything about the Ferguson police department or the Cleveland police department or the NYPD. I make no judgment on their cultures or the degree of professionalism that is expected (for real, not just in speeches) from the officers who serve them. But look… every department is going to fall short, and every department is different, and some are going to be more toxic than others, more racist than others, and more laissez-faire than others. It takes a lot of effort to root out cowboy cops and dirty cops and poser cops. Some departments invite them and even create them, while some actively rid themselves of them at every opportunity, but most departments are just too busy trying to get through their daily shifts to bother one way or the other.
Here’s the reality of police brutality: Sometimes, the use of force is necessary. Sometimes, it isn’t. Sometimes, police officers have to use force to subdue a suspect. Sometimes, police officers want to use force to subdue a suspect. Sometimes, police officers’ use of force is proportional to the threat. Sometimes, police officers’ use of force is disproportionate to the threat. Sometimes, police officers are kind, competent professionals. Sometimes, they’re raging psychopaths. And between those two extremes, sometimes, police officers just panic and do something stupid, or get enraged and do something stupid, or get too cocky and do something stupid. There’s a lot of nuance there. As long as we keep trying to reward good practices and curb bad practices, we’ll make progress. Scrutiny and vigilance are key, and when the orgs themselves don’t take matters into their own hands, it’s normal for the public to demand that they get on it.
And yes, you do have killer cops out there, the kinds of nutbags who allegedly rape women in the back of their cruisers, or think that beating up women is part of the job, or think that putting young black men in the grave is some kind of public service. Most troubled cops aren’t killers or rapists; they’re just bullies, and the badge gives them both authority and and a shield to hide behind. Those kinds of cops are out there, unfortunately. There is no denying it. But most cops don’t wake up in the morning fantasizing about any of that. Some are assholes, some are cowards, some are bigots, and some are none of the above. Some are kind and professional. Some are there to be helpful, to make a difference, to save lives. regardless, they all have a job to do, and though some might let their tempers and prejudices show from time to time, most aren’t secretly plotting to harm anyone.
What also happens, sometimes, is prejudices and toxic department cultures explode into violence when a situation between an officer and a ‘suspect’ escalates, when tempers flare and people start acting stupid. Remember: anger and fear make you dumb. Rage and terror turn you into an unreasonable dolt. Cops aren’t immune to this any more than the rest of us. They should be, but they aren’t. This isn’t TV. It’s real life. So sometimes, prejudices and toxic cultures end up taking over, like reflexes: angry, frightened cops feel justified to act in a way they feel entitled to. Their use of force is driven more by anger and a slew of other emotions than by necessity. Sometimes, cops just flip out and lose their shit, and in the moment, they might feel completely justified. It isn’t an excuse, they don’t get a free pass, but it’s important to remember that they’re human beings, like us. They’re flawed, like us. They can be influenced by peer pressure, like us. They can be assholes, like us. They can lose control, like us. Something as simple as a dude with a chip on his shoulder challenging a cop with a chip on his shoulder can be enough to start a confrontation. It doesn’t mean that either of them is a thug (or both of them, even). Sometimes, it’s just sheer circumstance. Someone is having a shitty day. Someone is stressed out. No patience, no filter… two guys with too much testosterone lock eyeballs and square off. Newsflash: some cops aren’t exactly models of wisdom and self control. They’re alphas. We wish they could tuck that testosterone away, and in a perfect world, they would, but… well, it isn’t that simple. And beyond hormones and training, the space between the need to command respect in the street and being officer friendly is pretty hard to navigate sometimes. It’s a far more complicated equation than the average person realizes.
We can talk about the need for better training, better hiring practices, more psychological testing, and those are all really good discussions to have, but we also have to acknowledge that cops, no matter how well trained and selected they are, are human beings too. They’re going to make mistakes, for millions of reasons. Sometimes, things are just going to spin out of control. We’re right to demand empathy from them, but we also have to return the favor.
Item 2: Improving Police Professionalism is never a bad thing.
When a police chief or mayor sees a problem with his or her police department (maybe there have been a lot of complaints from the community, or some incidents involving unnecessary uses of force, or whatever the problem may be), it’s their job to try and fix it. That’s just leadership. The leader of an organization is responsible for the behaviors and practices of that organization. “Best Practices” are applicable to police forces just as they are applicable to digital agencies. Cops behaving badly or cops using ineffective methods = opportunity for improvement. This is pretty basic stuff.
So when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to calm the public following a Grand Jury’s decision not to indict an officer involved in Eric Garner’s death, he wasn’t attacking the police. He wasn’t throwing his officers under the bus. He was just doing his job, which he was elected by the public to do. That public was demanding leadership. It was demanding answers. It needed to know that the person in charge was listening, understood them, and was going to do something about the problem they wanted him to be aware of. They just wanted to be heard and acknowledged. de Blasio did the right thing: he showed empathy, shared his personal perspective (his wife and son are black, so racial profiling by police is something he understands all too well), and promised some changes. This is what we should all want. It was the right response. Every citizen should applaud it, and frankly, so should every good cop.
Inexplicably, his tempered and entirely appropriate public response was spun into some kind of “attack” on the NYPD by his political enemies. What wasn’t entirely clear to the general public at the time was the ongoing feud between the PBA (Patromen’s Benevolent Association) and Mayor de Blasio. To most people tuning in to the news, it seemed that he police union had taken major offense to a vitriolic attack from their own mayor, that de Blasio had “turned his back” on his own police department, that he was a traitor, that he had lost the faith and trust and respect of blah blah blah. What seems to have happened instead is the PBA saw an opportunity to attack the mayor, and they did.
Here’s an honest and level-headed look at what is actually happening:
Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training, and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy. And any institution worth saving should want to eliminate them, too. – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Exactly. Not super complicated, honestly. It isn’t like this stuff is rocket science. Here’s more:
In a Dec. 21, 2014 article about the shooting, the Los Angeles Times referred to the New York City protests as “anti-police marches,” which is grossly inaccurate and illustrates the problem of perception the protestors are battling. The marches are meant to raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings.
Item 3: Irresponsible “journalism” pouring fuel on the fire.
Remember the Ferguson riots? Or rather… do you remember the news media’s desperate hard-on for the riots they hoped they would be able to bring us live? For over a week, that’s all we were hearing about: the Grand Jury decision. Any day now. Any moment now. Hours of speculation. Hours of vacuous punditry. Dramatic animated graphics introducing segments in which nothing was happening at all… yet. But stay tuned!!! Any minute now… You could feel it. You could see it. The producers had worked out the angles already, what buildings would be looted, what cars would be smashed and burned. And when it looked like the rioting and the looting might not happen, the camera crews onsite got the word to give the crowd a little push.
The YouTube video that follows shows one angle. You’ll get a better sense for what happened in this Vine clip.
What happened? Watch. Dozens of camera crews surrounded a random police car and pointed their lights and lenses at it until someone finally did something. Hey kid, you want to be on TV? Here’s your chance. And so the news networks got the story they wanted. All they had to do was point their cameras at random objects and buildings, and the crowd did what it was expected to do. That isn’t journalism; it’s content creation.
I’m not going to rant about news vs. ratings, but it’s important to realize that journalism isn’t what it used to be. It’s bad enough that once trusted news outlets have turned into fact-challenged newstertainment outlets. You also have a growing number of dubious websites and channels now posing as professional news bureaus that… well… aren’t exactly super concerned with fact-checking. Ad dollars are ad dollars, and political agendas are political agendas, and if you can help boost the former and fit into the latter, guess what: you can get on TV.
Back to the feud between the PBA’s Patrick Lynch and Mayor de Blasio. One of Lynch’s very first stops on his media tour was Newsmax. If you aren’t familiar with Newsmax, that’s probably a good thing. I have heard some describe it as a pseudo-news site that caters to a mostly white, fringe, angry right wing audience that’s fond of conspiracy theories and anti-Obama rhetoric. Here’s the recap from Lynch’s interview, straight from their site:
President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are “running a revolution,” instead of running the government in their unfair criticism of police, says Pat Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “It seems like they’re running a revolution rather than running the city or running the country,” Lynch said Monday on “The Steve Malzberg Show.
Okay… not exactly a reasonable, rational argument, but that sort of thing plays to very specific audiences, and the more extreme the hate against certain people (like President Obama, for instance), the more mileage you are going to get from saying something completely batshit on the record. Note that Lynch, by extending his critique of Mayor de Blasio to President Obama and AG Eric Holder, just transformed a local political feud into a national one. The strategy here is simple: “if you hate Obama, you hate de Blasio too.” That sort of nonsense wouldn’t fly on NBC news or the BBC. Objective, professional journalists would push back. But on less mainstream channels, it plays and it sticks and it spreads. There’s a reason fringe ideas thrive on fringe websites. This kind of stuff seems to be their bread and butter.
Unfortunately, fringe is gaining traction. We saw this with the birther movement, and the Benghazi conspiracy theories, climate change denial and even the notion that President Obama is some kind of secret Muslim tyrant dictator. This sort of absurd bullshit plays super well in some political circles, and though these beliefs are extreme, they are far more mainstream than they ought to be. It’s important to be aware of how dangerous it is for stuff like this to gain traction. We’ve seen this sort of thing before, and I don’t need to invoke 1930’s Germany because you’ve already spotted the obvious similarities.
The media machine driving this sort of racist, xenophobic, fact-challenged nutbaggery 24/7 is nothing to sneeze at. Want to hear something scary? Almost 20% of registered voters think Barack Obama is Muslim. 20% of Republicans also seem to think Barack Obama is the actual antichrist. That’s not just a lot of stupid, that’s a lot of hate. There’s more to believing that kind of nonsense than just being gullible. You have to want to believe it. It’s a choice. It’s a world view. And when you subject yourself to a daily diet of this (see image below), sooner or later, you’re going to start believing all kinds of ridiculous theories, some more dangerous and heartbreaking and ultimately harmful than others.
So, back to Peter Lynch and right wing news. Within a few hours, social media channels were ablaze with outrage against President Obama and Eric Holder for their “role” in the New York protests since they were now “in collusion” with de Blasio. Al Sharpton got sucked into that vortex of irrational nutbaggery pretty quickly since… you know… he’s Al Sharpton. Within 24 hours, the interwebs were flush with crap like this:
Fox News wasted no time jumping on the bandwagon since any opportunity to fling poo at President Obama, Eric Holder and Al Sharpton is ratings gold for them. And so Lynch’s anti de Blasio crusade morphed into “Obama, Holder, Sharpton and de Blasio are race-baiters trying to drive a wedge between white people and black people,” and “Obama, Holder, Sharpton and de Blasio hate the police.” Not surprisingly, the channel had no trouble putting together a team of pundits willing to spew the most mind-boggling hateful insanity imaginable on air.
Complete and utter nonsense, of course, but when your media diet consists primarily of irrational anti-Obama “news” and commentary, this stuff might as well be fudge-wrapped bacon balls. And it would be easy to shake our collective heads at that insane clownfest if so many of our neighbors weren’t falling for it, hook, line and sinker. Like I said, this isn’t fringe anymore. As extreme and completely nuts as these views and arguments may be, they’re pretty mainstream now, and increasingly so. If you have spent any time on Facebook and Twitter these past few weeks, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of the volume of people parroting this crap. While anti-Obama (anti-Holder, anti-Sharpton and anti- de Blasio) pundits are trying to outdo each other on air in their increasingly irrational scapegoating frenzy, their audience has taken to social channels to do the exact same thing.
Item 4: False narratives, altered protest footage, and deliberate deception.
Now we get to the topic of deliberate media deception, so pay attention.
Following the tragic and horrifying murder of two NYPD officers by a deranged asshole over the weekend, the insanity shot itself into a whole new orbit of crazy, with the pundit-to-audience chain switching gears from “Obama, Sharpton, Holder, de Blasio the race-baiters” to “Obama, Sharpton, Holder, de Blasio the murderers.” The new tagline being parroted around the interwebs was “blood on their hands.”
So now, a mentally disturbed gunman shooting his girlfriend and then deciding to turn his narcissistic blaze of glory into a faux-political killing magically becomes Obama’s fault, and Sharpton’s fault, and Holder’s fault, and de Blasio’s fault. How? Well, if you’ve already convinced yourself that those four are blood-sucking monsters bent on starting a war against the police and the good white people of America, blaming them for the murder of these cops isn’t a stretch, and the usual pundits wasted no time in selling that ridiculous narrative.
So now we’ve gone from the unholy marriage of Peter Lynch’s anti de Blasio crusade and Fox News’ anti Obama/Holder/Sharpton crusade to this:
Remember: anger and fear make you stupid. Hatred makes you stupid too. It doesn’t matter that Sharpton, de Blasio, Holder and Obama have been trying to keep the protests peaceful and non-violent. Hatred and conflict attract more attention. That attention translates to advertising dollars and influence in fringe circles. Reason and facts aren’t even part of the equation at this point; driving this narrative is.
Of course, it didn’t help that protesters were filmed chanting “kill a cop!!! Kill a cop!!!” at a protest in Washington DC. The video was shown by a Fox affiliate and quickly made its way around the country, sparking outrage from an audience already primed to assign blame to protesters and Al Sharpton. Here’s that footage. Take a second to watch it:
Horrible, right? Disgusting. Protesters chanting “Kill a cop!!!” No wonder people were incensed over this. I mean… all this time, we were being told that the protests were peaceful and non-violent, but the reality was that they were inciting the murder of police officers all along. All of those “they got what they wanted” posts expressing outrage and disgust over these chants were absolutely justified and understandable.
Except… that video was bullshit. It was edited to make it seem like the protesters were chanting “kill a cop!” That’s not what they were chanting at all. Here is the unedited video of the same protest, with the complete chant:
What the protesters are chanting is actually this: “We can’t stop! We won’t stop! ’til killer cops are in cell blocks!”
In other words, we won’t stop protesting until killer cops start going to prison.
The Fox News affiliate was busted for editing the footage to make it seem like the protesters were chanting “kill a cop” and quickly apologized, claiming that it was an “honest misunderstanding.”
Oh? Really? An honest misunderstanding? Is that what that was?
I don’t need to do a recap of how we got here. You get the picture: why report on the facts when you can just keep making shit up? It starts with pundits spewing insane theories and snowballs into fake news reports and deceptive video edits.
Below is another example of deceptive editing. In this one, footage of cop-killing chants was inserted into a piece about Al Sharpton’s NAN event in Washington DC to make it seem like the two events were connected even though they were not. Here is the segment:
The result: Everyone following these channels was convinced that they had just watched Al Sharpton lead cop-killing chants, when no such thing actually happened. Facts? Fact-checking? Screw that. It’s more fun to just believe bullshit and spread it around the internet:
Don’t get me wrong: anyone who chants “kill the police” is a scumbag. There’s no place for it and it is indefensible. Call it out when it happens, and hold the people chanting it accountable for their actions, but a) don’t shift blame to people who have nothing to do with it, and b) don’t fabricate chants that never actually happened.
Fact: Al Sharpton never led any cop-killing chants.
Fact: Some of the cop-killing chants weren’t cop-killing chants at all.
Fact: Sharpton, Obama, Holder and de Blasio have all have clear stances against violent protests and calls for violence at protests.
So you have to ask yourself: why are certain media outlets so desperate to just make shit up about this and try to pin it all on political figures they make a habit of hating on and tearing down?
Item 5: Willful Ignorance.
As I write this post, this rhetorical and completely idiotic question is still making the rounds in discussion threads all over the interwebs: “Where are Obama, Holder, Sharpton and Holder about these killings? Why aren’t they saying anything?”
Oddly enough, well publicized and easily available statements from all four seem to be invisible to the average anti-Obama, anti-civil rights troll. Just for shits and giggles, let’s see how quickly the “where is … on this” question can be answered, using this new thing called the google:
Wow! 2 whole seconds. I picked the one from Fox News to show that there is really no excuse for the average Sean Hannity viewer not to know about Obama’s and Holder’s statements. (Meanwhile, the Washington Times ran with this version of reality: Obama mum on NYPD officer murders as de Blasio, Sharpton seize spotlight. Complete bullshit, and yet… there it is.)
Aside from the deliberate obfuscation of basic facts by certain media outlets and irresponsible pundits, there also seems to be an unwillingness by a certain portion of the population to acknowledge the very existence of facts that might contradict their belief in a fabricated narrative. Insert “Obama must have been playing golf” jokes here. “Must have been on vacation again.” And on and on and on. I guess some people (far too many) would rather feed themselves their own ignorant bullshit than spend two seconds doing a Google search to answer their own question.
That is as big a problem as every other item listed here.
Item 6: Media ghouls in action – when dead cops only matter when they can be used as political weapons.
Here’s something I grabbed from Steve Marmel’s Facebook page yesterday. It will set the stage for this next point.
Before I begin, I want to make sure that I am clear about something: I have zero problem with people being horrified about the murder of these two officers. We all should be. I am. But there is something odd and somewhat false about the fervor of the anti-Obama/Sharpton/Holder/de Blasio crowd when it comes to their very conspicuous outrage over the senseless killing of officers Liu and Ramos. Let me elaborate:
1) The obsession with the “blood on their hands” narrative: Instead of focusing on the deranged gunman, the blame for these officers’ deaths has been shifted almost entirely to the President, Eric Holder, Al Sharpton and Mayor de Blasio. Excuse me but… WTF is that about?! let me reframe:
A deranged asshole shoots his girlfriend and goes on a cop-killing rampage. Rational people see this for what it is: another psycho with a gun. Not the first, not the last. We have a problem with that sort of thing in the US.
But irrational people with a particular political ax to grind somehow manage to pin this on the president, the attorney general, the mayor of New York, and a civil rights leader, none of whom have a thing to do with inciting violence or causing any of it, from police brutality to this psycho shooting. And strangely, the shooter himself, and his first victim (his girlfriend) are absent from the tsunami of Obama/Holder/Sharpton-blaming hatred. And the mayor of NYC? Really? The guy who wants to make sure his cops are held to a high professional standard of behavior? That’s who is to blame for a cop killer? How does that make any sense?
Remember the Islamist gunman who took over a coffee shop in Sydney a few days ago? How about the couple of right-wing militia losers fresh from the Bundy ranch ‘revolution’ who shot two cops in a diner in Vegas last spring: Remember them? Same thing: deranged assholes with guns looking to kill people, and acting on their own. Who was the blame pinned on then?
If you are pinning these murders on people who have nothing to do with these shootings, stop. Take a breath. Step away and look at this whole thing again. You are being irrational. Your argument makes zero sense. Your hatred is showing and it’s ugly.
The outrage seems like more of a means to an end (smearing Obama, Holder, Sharpton and de Blasio) than actual sorrow for the loss of officers Liu and Ramos. I have a problem with that. If you think that’s a stretch, here comes the other thing that bothers me.
2) Outrage over some politically motivated cop shootings but not others.
Where was the outrage (and the scapegoating) from the brigade of anti-Obama and anti-Sharpton blame-slingers when pro-tea party, anti-Obama, right wing militia gunman Eric Frein ambushed and murdered Pennsylvania state police officer Bryon Dickson in September?
Where was the outrage back in June, when two more pro-tea party, anti-Obama, right wing militia Jered and Amanda Miller, fresh from the Sean Hannity-supported “Bundy Ranch Revolt,” gunned down Las Vegas police officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck? Whose hands was that blood on?
If one is to blame President Obama, Attorney general Holder, Mayor de Blasio and Rev. Al Sharpton for having “incited” some narcissistic psychopath’s police-killing rampage, surely, the same logic would dictate that daily cheerleaders of the anti-government, “2nd amendment remedy”, “by ballot or bullet” movement would be equally responsible for inciting those equally narcissistic psychopaths to kill those police officers, right? Same exact argument. Same exact logic. But strangely, the outrage and blame-shifting machine didn’t activate when the cop killers were fans of Fox News’ daily rhetoric of hatred and sedition, or regular listeners of anti-Obama pundits like Sean Hannity, Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh.
Weird how that works. Hang on… let me look up the exact definitions of hypocrisy and double-standard.
PS: R.I.P., guys. You all deserved better.
Item 7: Full frontal racism.
I don’t have to point out right wing media’s obvious racism problem. The obsession with labeling the first black President as a foreigner, as a Kenyan, as a Muslim, as “other” and illegitimate, is well documented. (Candidate John McCain was born in Panama. Did anyone ask question his nationality? Has the subject of nationality ever been a thing with any white President?) It’s sad and pathetic and disgusting. It’s at the root of the Holder and Sharpton connection (newsflash: they’re black too). It’s at the root of the “Black Panther” conspiracy theories, and the abject narratives of black deficiency, white supremacy and reverse racism that soulless pundits keep tossing at their audience of angry racist bigots.
Here is Ben Stein, a popular guest on Fox News, explaining that Barack Obama is “the most racist president” in American history. That takes some balls. It also takes a pretty solid dose of delusion, but that would have to be a collective delusion at this point. Here is Glenn Beck, a guest on Fox News, explaining that Barack Obama hates white people. The notion that this President hates white people, hates Christians, hates America and so on is pretty prevalent in ultra-white ring circles. “He hates us because he isn’t one of us” is the prevailing theory, predicated on his “otherness.” He is seen as the enemy. A threat. The antichrist. A terrorist. In spite of reality, these irrational fears and the brand of hatred that can’t be divorced from them have prevailed. Naturally, Al Sharpton is part of this scheme, as is Eric Holder, for a litany of batshit tin-foil hat reasons invoking a broad spectrum of conspiracies, from “Black Panthers” to “Communists.” Because derp. Hell, even Ebola was an Obama plot to kill everyone, apparently.
If, like me, you have found yourself having to deal with raging bigots airing out their KKK-themed closets, you’ve seen, heard and read some pretty abject stuff in recent weeks. For starters, there’s the liberal use of the term “thug” to describe young black men. There’s the assumption that “the black community” is somehow deficient and more self-destructive than the white community (because… you know… “why do they burn down their own neighborhoods?” White people don’t riot or do that!!!). Sorry but here’s a little dose of reality for people suffering from that racially driven bit of bias and complete bullshit: Here’s a piece on rioting and looting. Here’s another one that’s even better.
You no doubt also heard all about the so-called “black-on-black crime problem,” which somehow seems to not plague white communities. Why? Because white are better, of course, right? Well shit… that’s a nice story, bro, but it’s also a massive load of bullshit. Here’s a piece on black-on-black crime vs. white-on-white crime. And while we’re on the subject of hypocrisy and deliberate blind spots, here’s a piece on black cops being ‘mistaken’ for ‘perps’ because, well, they’re black.
I’ll assume that you are already well aware of how certain news outlets like to portray black suspects AND black victims… which is to say that they’re all suspects. If you aren’t familiar with the suspect-by-blackness bias, here is an example of what I am talking about:
Because, you know… “thug.” But hey, people posting crap like this aren’t trying to stereotype anybody, right? For another example of this sort of blatant racist stereotyping, I will let Jon Stewart and Jessica Williams take the helm for a minute:
But wait, it gets worse. Much worse. Much much worse. Read the comment section of right wing Facebook pages and right wing sites these days, and what you bump into is a river of blatantly racist hatred that passes for twisted patriotic virtue. And not just those. Legitimate news outlets are similarly assaulted by a flood of racist comments so brutal and cringe-worthy that reading them will make you weep for humanity. Twitter is no better. Even Pinterest is being flooded with memes and horrendous content far worse than what I am about to post here. (For the sake of decency, I won’t post the really bad ones.)
And on and on and on. You get the idea. And seriously, it gets a lot worse. The term “ni**er” is even used without shame at this point. It’s as if the last 50 years never happened. Here… you can go scroll through the damage at @YesYou’reRacist. In fact, you can just do a search on Twitter for whatever keyword combinations you want. Here’s some of what you’ll find. Here’s more.
You can also scroll through the comments here, to get a better feel for what’s out there. What you will find, right there alongside the obvious white-hood style language, is the prevailing notion that President Obama and his “race-baiters” are the real racists in this equation, that they are trying to create division in America, and that they are ultimately trying to create a race war of sorts, so that “Tyrant Obama” can impose martial law, take away all the guns and Bibles, and throw everyone in FEMA (or UN) concentration camps, and finally get payback for slavery and colonialism.
That conspiracy narrative may be realistic to only a small percentage of truly delusional morons. I don’t believe most of the people who hide behind it actually believe any of it. It’s far too absurd and far too insane to get a foothold in most people’s brains. It seems more like a front to me, a smoke screen, something to hitch a much simpler reality to so maybe people won’t notice what’s really behind all of that anger and mistrust and animosity. Most Obama-haters don’t really believe he is Kenyan or Muslim. They don’t really believe that he wants to spread ebola in the US, or crash the economy or start a race war. They know there’s no Agenda 21, that there are no FEMA camps waiting for them, that no one is coming for their guns, that Benghazi was indeed a tragic screwup and not a conspiracy. They might not dare admit it, but they know it. Just like they know that the economy is growing strong, that the ACA is already saving lives, that Obama has even outperformed Reagan in job growth. They just don’t care. They don’t want to see it. They don’t want to hear it. They just fucking hate him. And why do they hate him? Same reason they hate Sharpton and Holder and Michelle and Jay Z. Same reason they call him a Kenyan and a Muslim. Same reason they post stupid shit like this on their Facebook walls:
(No, asshole, you’re being labeled a racist because you call the President a monkey, because you mistake people demanding to just be treated like human beings for the start of a race war, because at the first mention of white-on-black police brutality, you spew bullshit about “black-on-black crime,” because you complain about how lazy black people are and bitch about how much their food stamps are costing you. You’re being labeled a racist because you prove that you are every time you post a comment on Facebook or open your mouth on TV. The crack-dealer stereotypes, the eye rolls anytime the NAACP and the NAN come up, the ease with which Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are dismissed as “pimps” and “hustlers,” the regular bitching about the unfairness of affirmative action and the ever pathetic “why isn’t there a White Entertainment Channel?”… It’s all the same recycled KKK bullshit: dumb, predictable, transparent, tiring. You might as well put it all on a T-shirt and slap a confederate flag on it. It’s that fucking obvious, and you’re a complete assclown for not realizing just how transparent you are.) /rant
This isn’t new, by the way. We’ve been here before:
What’s sad is that there is room for legitimate criticism of the Obama administration’s policies – its successes and its failures. There really is. We could be talking about drone warfare and the NSA’s overreach. We could be talking about Wall Street fraud and environmental protection failures. But none of this nonsense is legitimate criticism. It isn’t even a legitimate debate. It’s just racist bullshit, and we’re all drowning in it. So stop. Please stop. No more. Enough. If you want to have an adult, rational debate about real issues, let’s have it. But this shit? No. Go burn crosses in your back yard if that’s your thing, wear your white sheet around the house on the weekends, goosestep up and down your driveway if that floats your boat, but stop spewing hate while pretending that you have a legitimate political point to make. You’re done. This whole thing is done. It’s over.
And please, for the love of God, stop believing every rumor and fake news report that comes across your Facebook feed (or turns up on news channels with damaged credibility). Learn to fact-check. Use your brains and your fingers. Don’t be a dolt. Seriously. Some of you are acting like children; horrible, ugly, mean, spoiled little shits. Stop it.
The last word.
I’m all out of words, so I will end this with more from Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s brilliant letter to Time:
“The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.
At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garne, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.
Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.
Some police unions are especially heinous perpetrators. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s previous public support of protestors has created friction with these unions. The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association responded with a petition asking that the mayor not attend the funerals of officers killed in the line of duty. Following the murders of Ramos and Liu, an account appearing to represent the Sergeants Benevolent Association tweeted: “The blood of 2 executed police officers is on the hands of Mayor de Blasio.” Former New York governor George Pataki tweeted: “Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder and #mayordeblasio. #NYPD.”
This phony and logically baffling indignation is similar to that expressed by the St. Louis County Police Association when it demanded an apology from the NFL when several Rams players entered the field with their hands held high in the iconic Michael Brown gesture of surrender. Or when LeBron James and W.R. Allen wore his “I Can’t Breathe” shirts echoing Eric Garner’s final plea before dying. Such outrage by police unions and politicians implies that there is no problem, which is the erroneous perception that the protestors are trying to change.
This shrill cry of “policism” (a form of reverse racism) by Pataki and the police unions is a hollow and false whine born of financial self-interest (unions) or party politics (Republican Pataki besmirching Democrat de Blasio) rather than social justice. These tragic murders now become a bargaining chip in whatever contract negotiations or political aspirations they have.
What prompted a mentally unstable man to shoot two officers? Protestors? The mayor? Or the unjust killings of unarmed black men? Probably none of them. He was a ticking bomb that anything might have set off. What’s most likely to prevent future incidents like this? Stopping the protests which had sparked real and positive changes through a national dialogue? Changes that can only increase faith in and respect for the police? No, because the killer was mentally unfit. Most likely protecting the police from future incidents will come from better mental health care to identify, treat, and monitor violent persons. Where are those impassioned tweets demanding that?
In a Dec. 21, 2014 article about the shooting, the Los Angeles Times referred to the New York City protests as “anti-police marches,” which is grossly inaccurate and illustrates the problem of perception the protestors are battling. The marches are meant to raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings. Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training, and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy. And any institution worth saving should want to eliminate them too.”
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