The right’s black crime obsession
Conservative media’s total fixation on black-on-black
and black-on-white crime isn’t going to end. Here’s why
(We may derive the intent from the headline: “The right” is conflated with “Conservative media,” because everyone who votes Republican does so because Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have told them to. This is therefore the umpteenth journalistic reiteration of the Media Matters daily mantra about the illegitimacy of conservative media.)
BY BRIAN BEUTLER
(Prepare for deliberate dishonesty.)
There are a few black people up to no good in this country and Fox News is on it! So is Drudge Report. Vigilantly on the lookout, 24 hours a day, for stories about black youths behaving badly.
(Didn’t I warn you? Beutler starts lying right off the bat, assuming a liberal readership who never actually watch Fox News and who are too lazy even to bother checking the Drudge Report.)
This isn’t a particularly new phenomenon, but it’s intensified noticeably in the past year for at least two reasons. Conservatives, particularly white conservatives, feel a burning urgency to find a racial counterweight to the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s shooting (including President Obama’s public comments about the incident), a logical response to the argument that things like background checks and an assault weapons ban are appropriate ways to reduce the likelihood of another Sandy Hook-style massacre, and anecdotal justifications for indiscriminate policing of dangerous neighborhoods.
(This has “intensified noticeably in the past year,” which means since August 2012. Is it true that “white conservatives” actually do feel the “burning urgency” Beutler attributes to them? Or is this just another tendentious assertion he pulled out of his ass? Certainly I feel no such urgency, but maybe someone else does.)
But these are hopeless pursuits. The incidents they draw attention to fail by definition to underscore the things they believe. They all require projecting motives or details or both into tragic events, to create false dichotomies between shootings perpetrated by whites and blacks. They have the unhealthy effect of creating dueling tallies of white-on-black and black-on-white crime. And ironically they all tend to underscore the argument that more “stand your ground” laws and more racial profiling are off-point responses to these incidents.
(Do you see how this is going to go? Brian Beutler asserts that conservatives hold certain beliefs, and then asserts that facts don’t support those beliefs. And notice Brian Beutler says conservatives are “projecting motives,” which Brian Beutler never does!)
The latest conservative cri de coeur is over the tragic shooting death of Chris Lane, a 22-year-old Australian attending East Central University in Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship. Two teen boys spotted Lane on a jog last week, trailed him in a car, and allegedly shot him fatally in the back (a third teen reportedly served as their driver). One of the suspects said the boys committed the murder out of boredom.
(This is merely the “latest” such incident — i.e., in which conservatives are alleged to have done what Brian Beutler says they do — but what was the one before Chris Lane? I don’t remember it, but maybe Brian Beutler could, if he chose, rattle off a long list of incidents like this which, so he says, “conservative media” have hyped for the reasons that he says they’re hyping such incidents. He doesn’t actually provide a list, however, so readers are supposed to take Brian Beutler’s word that this is actually a phenomenon.)
Word of the shooting spread quickly. And that’s when the right clumsily revealed that its obsession with gun violence reflects an obsession with racial score settling rather than with averting further tragedies. The conservative media, including Fox News, repeated the claim that the Oklahoma suspects were all black. But this turned out to be a toxic mix of racial bias and wishful thinking. You almost wonder whether the people whose ulterior motives led them into error like this actually lamented the fact that one of the suspects happened to be white. It would be so much more convenient if that weren’t the case.
(When did Fox News, or anyone else, do what Brian Beutler says they did, claiming that the “suspects were all black”? I mean, maybe they did — I haven’t paid any attention to this story — although I don’t see Beutler linking to a source, or quoting anyone. But once again, Beutler assumes a liberal readership that never watches Fox News, so he could say anything about the network’s programming and his ignorant readers would have no choice but to accept his assertions.)
But let’s pretend for a minute that the suspects had all fit the stereotype the hosts at Fox and Friends wanted. Then the idea is that Chris Lane’s death should somehow offset Trayvon Martin’s, or that the people who sought to turn George Zimmerman’s actions into a national referendum on “stand your ground” laws are somehow hypocritical for having little to say when the races of the culprits and innocent victims are reversed. For reactionary Obama foes like former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., the obvious question is, “Whom will POTUS identify w/this time?”
(The link to the Tweet by Allen West is THE ONLY LINK IN THIS ENTIRE COLUMN. Isn’t Salon.com, y’know, one of those Internet kind of things, where political bloggers routinely link to their sources, so as not to give the appearance that they’re just pulling stuff out of their ass or, as some call it, “doing a Beutler”?)
I’ll give West, et al., this: If you ignore motive, circumstance, history and (likely ) outcome, then liberals, particularly black liberals, sure seem craven. By that standard, though, Jean Valjean and John, King of England are moral equals — just a couple of guy s with similar names taking other people’s property.
(Does that paragraph mean anything? Anything at all?)
So let’s review: George Zimmerman wouldn’t have shot Trayvon Martin if he hadn’t been profiling by race. And even if he had been, the shooting feasibly wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been legally allowed to carry a handgun and didn’t think he was empowered by law to take matters into his own hands. The monstrous killing of Chris Lane has no such back story. The killers apparently had no motive whatsoever, were armed illegally, and certainly weren’t trailing Lane because they believed, based on his race, that he might be a criminal. They are, however, likely to face serious prison time for their crimes. Zimmerman walked.
(And here, evidently too stoned to realize it, Beutler actually proves a point — a conservative point — about crime: People get shot to death all the time, for all kinds of reasons, or for no reason at all, and no policy advocated by liberals is going to prevent this from happening. Zimmerman shooting Trayvon? You can call that “racial profiling” or you can call it a tragic misunderstanding, but exactly how do you propose to prevent it from happening? “Zimmerman walked” because he had a claim of self-defense sufficiently plausible to constitute “reasonable doubt.” Also, notice that, while admitting that the teenagers in the Chris Lane shooting were illegally armed, Brian Beutler assumes that if Zimmerman “hadn’t been legally allowed to carry a handgun,” Zimmerman would not have also illegally armed himself. Why assume that? And what about Trayvon’s “whoop-ass” beating of Zimmerman, which Zimmerman said he thought might end in his own death? Would Brian Beutler have been happy to have Trayvon beat Zimmerman to death?)
Put that all together, and it turns out these stories aren’t counter-parallel at all. And more to the point, the events don’t even anecdotally augur for policies the right supports. The kids in Oklahoma weren’t “standing their ground,” and a “stand your ground” law wouldn’t have saved Chris Lane. Neither would a stop-and-frisk regime — the killers were trailing him in a car. By contrast, a “stand your ground” environment and a stop-and-frisk mentality were instrumental in Trayvon Martin’s death. Take either away , and there’s a good chance he’d be alive today. Martin in fact personified the statistical folly of stop-and-frisk. If Zimmerman had yielded to real police, they would have, in absence of any suspicious behavior, stopped Martin, frisked him and found only the skittles and iced tea that made his death that much more tragically poignant.
(Again, it is only Brian Beutler’s assertion that the Chris Lane murder is being reported because “conservative media” believe the story supports a policy argument. My own guess is that after the incessant 24/7 media drumbeat about the Zimmerman trial, which liberals claimed was an event fraught with political significance, some “conservative media” basically decided, “Hey, we’re going to stop downplaying or ignoring black-on-white crime, just to make a point.” But that’s merely my guess. Unlike Brian Beutler, I don’t possess any clairvoyant mind-reading powers that enable me to know why Fox News producers or Matt Drudge do what they do.)
You could twist that into a claim that stop-and-frisk might have saved Martin’s life. But that gets the onus backward. Proponents of profiling policies need to do better than argue we have to violate the civil rights of minorities in order to protect them from hair-triggered vigilantes.
(The “stop-and-frisk” thing is strictly an issue in New York, because of an NYPD policy that was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. It has nothing to do with Oklahoma and even less to do with Sanford, Florida. Why Brian Beutler keeps bringing it up, I don’t know. Has the “stop-and-frisk” issue has been discussed by anyone at Fox News in the context of the Chris Lane murder? If it has, then why doesn’t he quote that discussion? In general, why are there no links or quotes in this column? Why can’t Brian Beutler be bothered to provide actual evidence of the phenomenon he presumes to critique? Why do liberals think it’s acceptable to assert controversial claims that they don’t bother to prove? How many bong-hits does Brian Beutler usually do before writing his columns? Seven. That’s now an established fact — because I just asserted it, see?)
What might well have stopped both killings, though, is making it harder for people, legally or illegally, to come into possession of handguns. That’s a conversation the right is less obsessed with.
(Again with the assertion: People who Brian Beutler doesn’t like are “obsessed,” or they “ feel a burning urgency,” or have an “obsession with gun violence” and “an obsession with racial score settling,” or are motivated by “racial bias and wishful thinking.” Over and over again — pausing only to take another bong hit — Beutler attributes irrational motives to antagonists for doing what he asserts they are doing, although he merely asserts this without providing any actual evidence of it. There are no quotes from Fox News broadcasts in Brian Beutler’s column, no links to transcripts. It’s just a straight-up rant that was written only because Brian Beutler is supposed to write a certain number of columns per week for Salon and, because he never does any reporting or, for that matter, much of anything that could be called “research,” he just sat down, toked up a few bowls of sinsemilla and let it rip, right off the top of his head.)
Brian Beutler is Salon’s political writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.
(Or you could also block him on Twitter. Or say rude things about him on Twitter. Certainly there’s no reason to follow him, unless you want him to hook you up with some weed.)
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