Monday, June 10, 2013

Beneath the Headlines

A "white Hispanic"
Every morning, I try to read the two free dailies offered on weekdays in Washington, D.C.: the Washington Post Express and the Washington Examiner. I usually start with the Express, as it contains far less substance, which allows me to lament the substance-free, short attention-span style of news today. It also includes a lot of AP wire stories, some of which betray a revealing spin to those who can see it. Here are some examples from today:

From “Trayvon Martin Murder Trial Starts,” an AP story by Mike Schneider:
George Zimmerman’s lead attorney will be walking a fine line as he tries to convince jurors that his client didn’t murder Trayvon Martin: He needs to show why Zimmerman felt threatened by the African-American teenager while avoiding the appearance that either he or his client is racist.
This presents a rather novel view of justice in the United States: racist until proven innocent. And speaking of race, here’s a selection from the same story:
If convicted, Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic [my emphasis], could get a life sentence.
What was that? “Identifies himself as Hispanic?” How postmodern! The facts of the Trayvon Martin ordeal largely escape me, but the insistence among media outlets to avoid identifying George Zimmerman by his ethnicity certainly has not (see picture above). Here, for example, is how the New York Times described him a few months ago:
Mr. Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic [my emphasis], told the police that he shot Trayvon in self-defense after an altercation.
“White Hispanic,” eh? (Is that something like Morgan Freeman's "Irish" Red in The Shawshank Redemption?) Let’s recall what Mark Steyn has to say about this curious term:
There’s no real white guy involved in this. They want you to think it’s like a Klansman, this white racist. For starters, this guy is a registered Democrat. He’s half Hispanic, which is why the New York Times has had to invent the term “white-Hispanic” hitherto unknown to American journalism. “White-hispanic” was a phrase constructed so that this guy could still be white enough to fit the narrative of the Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton super-annuated race huskers.
In other words, readers are being misled. But most of them are likely not aware--much as they are in this AP news brief out of London, headlined “Police Investigating Fire At Muslim School in U.K.”:
A suspicious fire at an Islamic boarding school in suburban London is under investigation, police said Sunday. The blaze, which broke out Saturday night at the Darul Uloom Islamic School in Chislehurst, comes at a time of increased anti-Muslim attacks in Britain [my emphasis].
Let’s side aside the fire for now, as details remain uncertain. Instead, note well here the lazy connection made on the attention-short reader’s behalf: i.e., people in Britain are anti-Muslim, there was a fire at a Muslim school, therefore, British people are responsible. Only one of those holds true at the moment--the other two represent exaggeration and speculation, respectively . But if it’s context the AP seeks, then how about the recent hacking to death of a soldier in London by a UK Muslim of Nigerian ancestry? Here’s his on-air confession:  

I don’t supply this context to suggest the whole “eye-for-an-eye” worldview justifies the “suspicious fire.” Rather, I’m just trying to give a fuller picture of the problems the UK faces in assimilating its immigrant population. It’s a much more complicated story than a simple tit-for-tat; even so, the AP fails its readers when it leaves out the “tit” (the hacking) and focuses in on a dubious, unconfirmed “tat” (British anti-Muslim sentiment rising).

Finally, here’s “Worker Surrenders in Philly Building Collapse”:
A heavy equipment operator accused of being on marijuana when a building collapsed in Philadelphia, killing six people, is in custody after surrendering, police said Saturday. Sean Benschop faces an array of charges, including six counts of involuntary manslaughter.
In addition to echoing one of “Breaking Bad”’s best scenes, this story brings me to wonder about marijuana legalization. The conservative and libertarian in me have warred over legalizing marijuana for some time; I still couldn’t quite tell you what I believe. But I can say this: if marijuana becomes legal in a regime similar to that which currently governs alcohol, then I hope its users and advocates adhere to similar guidelines--such as “do not operate heavy machinery under the influence.”

And that's today's peek into the world beneath the headlines. It's a very complicated place, but it's one we're better off discussing honestly and in full. Unfortunately, both the spin of news providers and the attention spans of news consumers continue to complicate such efforts.

No comments:

Post a Comment