I'll admit it: I'm climbing on my high horse and I'm probably going
to anger a few readers. So be it. The fact is, I'm sick of hearing
about the George Zimmerman story, case, and (now) verdict. And it
isn't because I've followed every dramatic development and pawed
after every scrap of "news" related to the story, as
apparently 93.267% of Americans have been doing for the past several
months (I made that stat up, but the rhetorical point should be
clear). In other words, it's not because I'm burnt out from endless
hours of arguing about the case and verdict on Facebook and via other
social media. Sure, I followed the story. Then again, you'd have to
be living in a cave in Iceland to miss the story.
Why my complaining? Is
it because I'm a heartless jerk? Or because I don't care that young
Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26, 2012, by George Zimmerman?
Is it because I'm insensitive to the deep, racial divides in the
look at it another way: what does my offering such obligatory,
defensive rhetorical questions say about what is expected of
consumers (you and I) by the peddlers of such stories (the mass
Canadian philosopher (and convert to Catholicism) Marshall McLuhan
(1911-80) famously wrote a book titled, The
Medium is the Massage
I suggest that if McLuhan was still among, he would need to write a
book titled, The
Media is the Story
If an actual news story exists, the media frames it and positions it
and promotes it as is needed or desired. If the desired story does
not quite exist, or doesn't exist at all, then it can be massaged and
molded, and even birthed into being through artificial, uh, creation.
News stories are essentially products; if they become big enough,
they might turn into brands. And once you buy the product and embrace
the brand, there's a good chance you're being played. Put another
way, you end up discussing the product and debating the brand based
largely, if not entirely, upon the assumptions and premises built
into said product and brand.
some will say, "the internet and FOX News and Blogger Smith and
Talk Shaw Host Jones have helped us fight against the falsehoods,
errors, and misrepresentations surrounding this story." I don't
want to dismiss that out of hand, or say it's not important to fight
biased fire with objective facts. Yet in so many cases, it's not that
the story in question does not have some
merit; rather, its alleged importance is completely out of
proportion to its actual importance. While there is certainly
some subjectivity involved in such a judgment, it's also the case
that the central focus and overarching theme of a story is quite
often a distraction from questions and issues of much greater,
deeper, and permanent importance. There is also this simple fact: the media continues to drive the bus
called "Big Story of the Day." And if you are on the bus,
you can yank the cord as much as you like, but you are mostly at the
mercy of the driver.
I'll illustrate with a couple of simple questions. If a young black
couple went on a date and was abducted by several whites, and then
tortured, raped, and killed, how would you feel if that story went
unreported by the national media? Would you consider such an
oversight "racist"? Or simply inept, lazy, or gutless?
that in mind, here's another question: have you ever heard of
Christopher Newsom and Channon Christian? If not, acquaint
yourself with their story: a young white couple, kidnapped in
January 2007 in Knoxville by five black suspects, four men and one
woman, and were both raped, tortured, and then killed (Channon was
forced to watch to Christopher be raped and killed before she was
eventually murdered). While some accounts have been sensationalized a
undisputed facts are so vile, you may (like me) get sick. But, as
notes, this horrible story was
not reported by ABC, NCB, CBS, cable news networksnot even FOX
would touch it.
Good question. I'll let you mull that over for yourself. And while
you do, keep in mind that a Google news search for "George
Zimmerman" produces over 67 million
results, while a search for "Christopher Newsom" and
"Channon Christian" produces a total of 56,300 results.
is so often the case, it takes a British newspaper to broach a topic
that most American outlets are too politically-correct and spineless
to address. Crystal Wright, in a
July 11th column in The Guardian, wrote,
this trial wouldn't be receiving wall-to-wall national media coverage
if Zimmerman was black. That's what we should be talking about.
statistics reveal that between 1980-2008, African-Americans were six
times more likely than whites to be victims of gun violence and
seven times more likely to kill with guns than whites, according to
the Justice Department. African-Americans represent a mere 13% of
the US population yet more than 50% of federal prisoners are black.
You can claim racial bias in the judicial system, but that doesn't
explain all of it.
suppose those are "startling statistics" if 1) you haven't
been paying attention for the past, oh, few decades and 2) you get
your news from mainstream U.S. media outlets. The real issue here is
racism, since most violent crime is intraracial.
No, it is actually the culture of death, which is rooted (so to
speak) in the collapse of families, the corresponding rise in gangs,
the obliteration of basic familial and social responsibilities, and a
growing subculture that is, it can be fairly said, barbaric and
violent in nature. An August 18, 2012, Wall
"Communities Struggle to Break a Grim Cycle of Killing",
sums up some of the big and very bloody numbers:
of Justice Statistics data show that from 1976 to 2005, white victims
were killed by white defendants 86% of the time and black victims
were killed by blacks 94% of the time.
there is the matter of who is dying. Although the U.S. murder rate
has been dropping for years, an analysis of homicide data by The
Wall Street Journal found
that the number of black male victims increased more than 10%, to
5,942 in 2010 from 5,307 in 2000.
more than half the nation's homicide victims are African-American,
though blacks make up only 13% of the population. Of those black
murder victims, 85% were men, mostly young men.
is a lot going on here, and I won't pretend to have all the answers.
But I will question many of the trite and generally terrible answers
provided by the usual suspects. Again, the real storythe actual,
abiding crisisis not, ultimately, racism. As Jonah Goldberg
a few months ago, "the inconvenient truth is that
conservatives are not only not racist, they aren't a fraction as
obsessed with race as liberals are." Yet that's all we hear
about, and therefore many of us dutifully play the game.
confess that I've been guilty of it in a small but real way. A few
years ago, my wife and I had to take some state-run classes in order
to adopt a child (our third) from another state. It's a complicated
story, but suffice to say we had to attend a dozen or so classes,
each three hours long, that addressed a host of issues. Having
already adopted two children (via private adoptions), we were
familiar with most of the material. The class on race and bi-racial
families, however, was a shock, even though our immediate and
extended family are both bi-racial. For three hours, in different
ways, the several dozen, predominantly white couples in attendance
were told, without much subtlety, that they were racist.
they were white. When one woman timidly raised her hand and uttered a
meek and puzzled question, she was immediately and firmly informed
that she simply didn't understand how things really work, how
minority kids really feel, and so forth. Hey,
you're racist and stupid! Any more questions? Meanwhile,
I kept my mouth shut (it was hard!), because we had one goal: to
adopt a young boy who needed a family. (And
we did; our youngest son is now almost six years old.)
fact is, most people are simply clueless about the staggering depths
of the problem of black-on-black violence, as the WSJ article notes:
black-on-black violence tends to stay concentrated within poorer,
inner-city areas, there is a lack of wider awareness of the depth of
the problem, said Jack Levin of the Brudnick Center on Violence and
Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston. "Nobody in this
room would even know the name Trayvon Martin if it had been a black
kid who shot Trayvon Martin," said Philadelphia Police
Commissioner Charles Ramsey, an African American, speaking at a
gun-violence research forum.
of course, if you bring it up, you're a racist. A hater. A bigot. An
intolerant, insensitive jerk who doesn't understand what's really
really going on, however, is a spiritual and social collapse that has
been spiraling out of control for decades, a collapse that is hardly
unique to black communities, but for various reasons has revealed
itself most dramatically within those communities. Other communities,
of course, aren't far behind or, perhaps, are just as bad off, but
are able to hide it better through sleight-of-affluent-hand tricks
and endless talk about government programs that will rebuild this,
revitalize that, redirect that group, reeducate this group, and so
few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting once again with Fr.
Daniel Maurer of the The
Mary Mother of God Mission Society, who since 1992 has been a
missionary in Vladivostok and a priest at the Most Holy Mother of God
Catholic Church. He discussed some stunning numbers and statistics:
94% of marriages in Russia end in divorce; most women have had 8 or
10 or more abortions; only 1% of the people practice the Faith (that
is, the attend church more than twice a year). There is rampant
corruption and despair throughout the country. The communists, for
some 70 years or so (1917-late 1980s) had worked to destroy family
ties and religious faith, and had done so through a variety of
tactics: propaganda, fear, "education", persecution, jail,
and the murder of some 40-50 million people (perhaps more). The
Soviet Union, without doubt, was very different from today's United States in many ways.
Yet the communist government knew that the key to controlling the
people was through the destruction of belief, the transference of
familial ties and loyalties to the state, and the insistence that
this life is all that matters. That is, in short, a recipe for the
culture of death. And can anyone say that sort of erosion, whether planned or not, is not taking place in this country?
hey, why worry about that when we can argue endlessly about faux
racism? Facebook, here I come!
[Update: The original post incorrectly identified McLuhan's book as The
Medium is the Message.]