The news media’s deletion of the sex of the victims from their narrative about police shootings of unarmed civilians comes as no surprise, at least to MHRAs. But closer examination of that narrative reveals media hypocrisy in which journalists’ willingness to marginalize men trumps even their supposed concern about race.
Case in point: The Diane Rehm show on Friday 13 March 2015 featured the story of the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, apparently in retaliation for the killing of Michael Brown. The show’s narrative – the victimization of African-Americans by police – was appropriate. The Department of Justice had just released the findings of its investigation of the Ferguson police department that revealed rampant racism at all levels of the police hierarchy. Rehm’s takeaway: racism is common among police officers which leads to the profiling of blacks and the use of excessive force against them. As far as it goes, that description isn’t wrong. A look at the body count of police killings of unarmed individuals indeed shows a large preponderance of victims to be black. But “as far as it goes” isn’t far enough, as soon became clear.
In her impromptu list of recent lethal shootings by police, Rehm ignored the one in Pasco, Washington last February 10th. That incident has raised the type of public protests in Pasco that Michael Brown’s shooting did in Ferguson, but Rehm never mentioned it. Why? Because the victim was a Mexican and therefore failed to reinforce her narrative of race.
So the preferred narrative, while not incorrect, narrows and distorts the reality of police shootings. It highlights the race of victims, but ignores their sex. The fact that sex plays a much larger role than race in predicting who will be shot by the police went unmentioned by Rehm as it does in virtually every account of police killings. Indeed, if unarmed women are ever killed by the police, I’ve never seen it reported. Meanwhile male bodies stack up like cord wood.
To his credit, New York Times columnist Charles Blow bucked the trend in this article (New York Times, 1/4/15):
The day after Christmas, a shooter terrorized the streets of a Chattanooga, Tenn., neighborhood. According to the local newspaper, the shooter was “wearing body armor” and “firing multiple shots out her window at people and cars.” One witness told the paper that the shooter was “…holding a gun out of the window as if it were a cigarette…”
“Officers found two people who said they were at a stop sign when a woman pulled up in a dark-colored sedan and fired shots into their vehicle, hitting and disabling the radiator. Then more calls reported a woman pointing a firearm at people as she passed them in her car, and that she fired at another vehicle in the same area.”
When police officers came upon the shooter, the shooter led them on a chase. The shooter even pointed the gun at a police officer. Surely this was not going to end well. We’ve all seen in recent months what came of people who did far less. Surely in this case officers would have been justified in using whatever force they saw fit. Right?
According to the paper, the shooter was “taken into custody without incident or injury.”
Who was this shooter anyway? Julia Shields, a 45-year-old white woman.
Imagine a man who had fired at numerous occupied vehicles, led the police on a chase and pointed a loaded pistol at an officer. Surely, he’d be shot to death. And the incident would barely make the papers because his killing would be considered justified by the police, prosecutors and courts. But that’s not what happened and the woman’s sex and race seem to explain why it didn’t.
Simple accuracy demands that the news media say that, whatever the race of the victim, the sex is the same from one shooting to another. Failure to make the point strongly suggests an anti-male animus on the part of the media. Of course the shootings themselves suggest the same on the part of the police. And when the police kill, they mostly do so with impunity. For every case in which a police officer has gone to prison for killing an unarmed man, there are scores in which he hasn’t.
But the news media aren’t interested. Their preferred narrative of race, while valid enough, serves a vital function; it obscures the larger reality of male victimization. By doing so, it helps to “manufacture consent” for public policies that find male disposability useful. Were they to mention the sex of victims, the concept of male disposability might seep into public discourse. As well as police slayings, they might apply it to mine cave-ins, drilling rig explosions, wars, suicides, incarceration, etc. The public’s awareness of male suffering and death might increase. People might demand widespread reforms, from workplace safety to criminal justice to family courts and beyond. And we can’t have that.
Excluding from the narrative the sex of male victims is business as usual. But here’s how we know that the media’s narrative of race, accurate and important as it is, serves the larger purpose of marginalizing males and male suffering. When the topic turns to sex and the sexes – poof! – the news media’s concern with race vanishes.
Expanding on her narrative, Rehm next brought up the shameful display of racism by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma. Apparently fraternity members had chanted about lynching African-Americans. The incident was deeply offensive and immediately condemned by the university’s president, David Boren, as it should have been.
But again the narrative of race deflected attention from that of sex. For what the fraternity’s song evoked was our former willingness to hang black men accused of raping white women. That disgraceful past bears an eerie resemblance to radical feminism’s enthusiasm for putting ever more men in prison on rape charges and running ever more of them off campus. And those are trends Rehm, the NYT, National Public Radio and the like have never criticized and in fact avidly support.
I don’t suggest that being expelled from college is the moral equivalent of being hanged, much less the actual one. And no feminist organization has yet called for men to be strung up from lamp posts. But, while the punishments are far different, the processes are disturbingly the same. Lynching was charge, trial, conviction and punishment without due process of law. The current rules on campus, as mandated by radical feminists in government, similarly lack due process of law. That was the message delivered by 28 professors at Harvard Law School and by countless other commentators. It is also a simple fact.
The absence of fair notice of the charges against the accused, the absence of the right to counsel, the absence of the right to confront his accuser, the absence of an impartial tribunal and the absence of a clear description of what behavior is prohibited all characterize campus rape adjudications. Add to that the fact that a man can be found to be at fault based on no more than a complainant’s allegations and you have the closest thing now possible to conviction and punishment without due process of law. The man doesn’t die; only his academic career does.
For example, the New York Times has conducted its own written lynching of Florida State University football star Jameis Winston. As detailed by Charles Taylor, the “paper of record” has done its worst to convict, in the court of public opinion, a man thrice exonerated of the offense charged – rape. In the third instance, lawyers for the complainant, Erica Kinsman, were unable to muster even a preponderance of evidence against Winston. So the Times, in order to find him guilty, had to omit or marginalize many of the facts that compelled Winston’s release without charge.
Now we have the movie The Hunting Ground that many commentators, including Taylor and the president of FSU John Thrasher, have excoriated for its shameful take on campus rape generally and the Winston case specifically. The movie pretends to be a documentary, but traffics in outright falsehoods and strategic omissions, and offers no opposing viewpoints. And, much like the new rules governing claims of rape on campus, one of its goals is the destruction of an innocent man’s career. As Taylor says,
the film “throws down a challenge of a sort for the National Football League with a not-so-subtle suggestion that teams should think twice about drafting one of the top college prospects, Jameis Winston,” as the New York Times enthused.
Meanwhile, National Public Radio, which airs the Diane Rehm Show, gave the makers of The Hunting Ground a lengthy hearing, with no chance to respond afforded those with pertinent facts or differing opinions.
Of course all of that might be defensible if there were any evidence that Winston had raped Kinsman. But apart from her allegations, there is none. And her frank misrepresentations and ever-changing story render her incredible, as the former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, Major Harding, found in his ruling against her. In short, the Times and others have chosen to believe the word of an unbelievable woman against all the other evidence in the case. That is precisely what lynch mobs do.
Where is race in the media’s iteration of the Jameis Winston matter? Not in the Times, not in The Hunting Ground, not on the Diane Rehm show nor anywhere else on NPR. When it comes to a white woman, accusing a young black man of rape, the media’s concern with race takes a holiday. When the cry is “Rape!” all of a sudden, the only place for a black man is behind bars, the facts and due process be damned.
Hypocrisy is a difficult thing. It requires mental contortions and genuflections that few can long sustain. So I have a suggestion for the news media: take notice of men. Value us as fully human. When you do, you’ll notice that the people killed by the police are all but invariably men, that those lynched by mobs were all but invariably men, that those killed and maimed in war are all but invariably men, etc., etc.
Doing so will make your life much simpler. You’ll no longer have to pretend outrage at racism in police departments while promoting it yourself on campus. Your brains can then be used for better things than attempting to rationalize your own hypocrisy and we can all get on about the important business of treating men as more than mere utilities or worse.
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