“Mostly Peaceful”: Media Reports on Baltimore Violence

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As we’ve seen in Ferguson, there’s nothing the mainstream media hates more than to admit when black protests go violent. Whether it’s because it flies in the face of their cause or because they are ashamed of their role in sparking the fire, they always use those two words – mostly peaceful – to explain away the exceptions. And we’ve seen those words a thousands times over the weekend as newspapers and TV news shows attempt to downplay the violence that rocked Baltimore on Saturday.

Thousands of people took to the streets this weekend to protest the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal injury while in police custody on April 19. Baltimore Police officials are doing themselves no favors by keeping the details of that injury a secret, and they have come up with no explanation at all for how Gray was killed. In the absence of these details, it is hardly a surprise that Baltimore citizens want satisfaction.

That said, there is simply no excuse for what happened Saturday. Fights, looting, property destruction, and rioting does not bring Gray back from the dead, and it does not bring condemnation down on the Baltimore Police Department. Instead, it hurts the community, it hurts business owners, and it obscures the real issues at hand.

But as damaging as this violence is, it is perhaps even more damaging for the media to pretend as though it isn’t happening. By using those two magic words – mostly peaceful – they are playing favorites and abandoning objectivity. By speculating on “outside instigators” and other buzzwords, they are doing the public a disservice. The media’s job is not to decide on a story and hold fast to that story no matter what. Their job is to report the facts. Unfortunately, when the facts and the narratives run counter to each other, many of our nation’s news outlets have decided they will stick with the narratives.

This isn’t just about the protests themselves; this is about what’s causing them. And when it comes to blacks killed by police, the powers-that-be have decided that they have the story that keeps on giving. How many whites have been killed by police since Michael Brown died in Ferguson? If you got all of your news from CNN, you might think the answer would be zero. But that’s probably not true, is it?

They decide what to report, how to report it, what facts to emphasize, which opinions to feature, and which quotes to pull. They decide, essentially, how you will feel about a story before you ever watch it. And when they get the very reaction their biased reporting inevitably invites, they backpedal and turn a blind eye. If they had any guts at all, they would at least turn a camera to the consequences, even if they can’t bring themselves to accept responsibility.