MORE CHAOS, MORE RATINGS, MORE REVENUE …
In Ferguson, the protestors themselves are trying to use this event as a way to instill fear in the minds of the police officers. With a hapless set of twenty-something reporters following any bystander willing to talk, the rabble have been emboldened. Unfortunately, this scenario happens far more than it should in the Middle East. Jihadists blow themselves up in a market, because the one thing they know is that people respond to fear. This isn’t a new strategy; American citizens just haven’t used it – at least not often. It’s honestly brilliant. However, to neglect pointing out that the very people covering the story are also antagonists stirring the pot strikes me as wrong.
Countless times, we’ve seen articles claiming – or implying – that “the actions of the protestors are right, the actions of the police are wrong.”
This kind of situation is what makes ratings skyrocket – and a reporter’s worth grow almost overnight – but they won’t be the ones to correct the damage. The reporters will leave and the city will be rebuilt, but not by them.
For the first time in many people’s memory in America, members of the New Black Panthers Party are being hailed as “heroes” by the reporters, seemingly helping to minimize violence, all while chanting for the death of the police officer involved in the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown.
Which unfortunately, goes mostly unreported …
We’ve constantly heard about Ferguson reporters Ryan J. Reilly and Wesley Lowery being arrested for seemingly innocent behavior, but this is the role of today’s activist journalists. Professional activists now stir the pot, buying ink by the barrel. Unlike James Risen who is fighting for his life, protecting his source.
The new world of journalism is deciding what is newsworthy, by what damage they can produce.
Speaking of damage, when I was 21 years old, a SWAT team in Independence, Missouri took me down. A young man had murdered his father, and I fit the description. The helicopters spent the night encircling my apartment, the lights ever present outside my windows … but this made me feel safer. I didn’t ask for badge numbers, or fight the man, because unknowingly, I had crossed a line;
I produced an ID and went on with my life. Having six M4’s pointed at my head didn’t even phase me.
My situation is different, I’ll agree. However, it doesn’t change the fact when the camera’s are on, it gives people who otherwise are in the shadows a chance to do something that will make them famous.
If we look at the first night of the curfew for instance, people were shouting to the media – “They got guns, we got guns!”
This created a situation for a police force that had been dogged by political reporters, activists and others, for days. They had no choice but to act with controlled violence. In fact if you had watched the VICE News live stream, you would have heard bullets flying from the direction of the protestors.
This is counter to the narrative the media has adopted, as reporters have moaned incessantly about the ‘over-militarization’ of the police, and the misuse of force.
I’d ask you this, though: Just what are the police officers supposed to do? And beyond that – what are they really able to do?
To the reporters, the answer is “nothing.”
If they fire CS gas (which every soldier has had to experience), they are damaging a population. If they fire smoke, they are making a move for an ‘unprovoked’ action. If they move at an armed group, they are showing more aggression than would appear to be necessary.
The over-dramatization of the situation has tied the officers’ hands – resulting in a reticence to engage that endangers lives and property.
This situation isn’t about what equipment the police use; it’s about the fact: when the media finds a great candidate for an unjust action, they exploit, corrupt the situation, and don’t move on until the next crisis.
Meanwhile, when the media leaves, the truth is more elusive than it was before they came.
John Osborne is a commentator on controversial issues, and a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @jpaulosborne.