Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why are black men the white media “poster boys” for politcized crimes?

Some people may recall the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991. Many people—or at least blacks—were offended that the first George Bush would choose a black man with extreme right views to replace Thurgood Marshall, a hero of the civil rights era as a NAACP lawyer. After all, if it was not for the work of those like Marshall, conservative blacks like Thomas would not even be in a position to be considered for nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. But Thomas arrogantly asserted that he was his “own man” and to hell what other blacks thought. The hearings revealed that Thomas had rather bizarre judicial beliefs to justify his stance, such as a “natural law” philosophy that even other conservative jurists found to be an “inadequate” basis for making judicial decisions.

If there had been a consistent push to demonstrate Thomas’ inadequacy as a jurist, and his record of being hostile to civil rights and equal opportunity, his nomination probably would have failed. Why nominate a black man completely out of step with the majority of black opinion when a white nominee would have been less a point of hypocrisy? But then came Anita Hill with tales of sexual harassment that no one else—not even the witness kept in reserve, Angela Wright—would or could confirm. But Thomas was apparently not uninterested in a woman’s appearance, and thus he was fair game for white feminists who used Hill to further their own political agenda.

However, the lurid stories—at least to Hill and her supporters—that she testified to had the opposite effect intended. Many people—particularly blacks—forgot about the legitimate reasons why Thomas should not have been confirmed, and began defending him. Hill was obviously a tool of white feminists (who were not trusted by blacks anyways), and the white media was attempting to destroy a black man in a most personal fashion. One suspects that many of the (male) Senators were also privately offended by what seemed to be self-serving tactics. Although Thomas won confirmation by a bare majority, I suspect that there was some behind the scenes colluding to insure his confirmation, just enough to convince people that the Senate was “sensitive” to the allegations against him.

But the media did learn a useful lesson following this episode: That making a black man a “poster boy” for a certain crime—particularly one that appealed to a politicized white female constituency—was a huge ratings winner. What followed was less “coincidental” than predictable:

In 1992, the media had wall-to-wall coverage of the Mike Tyson trial for the alleged rape of beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington. The trial was stacked against Tyson from the start, with the media hysteria, a local “celebrity” prosecutor and a female judge with a record of favoring the prosecution in cases involving female victims; for example, she refused to allow the testimony of a man who claimed to have been falsely accused of rape by Washington.  Tyson to this day vehemently claims that he did not rape her.

Not surprisingly, in 1993 the media was ecstatic to have Michael Jackson investigated for sexual contact with a minor, after the father apparently attempted to “extort” money from him. On a recording he is heard to say "If I go through with this, I win big-time. There's no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever..... Michael's career will be over". Jackson was subjected to a “strip search” and intimate inspection of his private parts which allegedly left him forever humiliated. No charges were ever filed, but Jackson paid $22 million to privately settle the case. In 2003, he was charged again with having sex with a minor, but was acquitted after another sensational trial.

1991—Thomas. 1992—Tyson. 1993—Jackson. 


That would, of course, be the O.J. Simpson murder case. Probably no other criminal case in history—even the more recent George Zimmerman case—excited as much media hype as this one. The (white) media was coming out with new “evidence” to convict Simpson on their own for days and weeks on end. Then there was TIME magazine’s lurid cover photo of Simpson, and who could forget the infamous slow-speed highway chase, with viewers glued to their TVs in fascination of how it would end.

And all that before the trial even began the following year. Who could forget scenes following his acquittal by a mostly black jury of “shocked” white viewers and “ecstatic” black viewers? Perhaps no other case more polarized the races. Was Simpson guilty? Let’s just say that the prosecution blew it when it allowed Simpson to show that the glove “didn’t fit” right in front of the jurors’ faces; that was all that was need to “convince” those who thought that the media had decided to become judge, jury and executioner without any consideration of due process.

The aftermath of the Simpson trial deflated the arrogance of the media, although we still have to stomach the arrogant, self-righteous Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell on CNN. But now we have the case of Ray Rice, and with the assistance of hypocrisy and a little editing, the issue of domestic violence has its very own “poster boy.”

Now, what do all of these cases have in common? Well, for one thing the media had field day revealing the latest lurid rumors and gossip on an almost daily basis until the cases were eventually “settled.” Those controlling the “message” were (and are) white. 

And the accused were all black men. Well, there was the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski case, but there wasn’t any actual “crime” being alleged there—and besides, wasn’t Clinton viewed as the first “black” president by some? He was certainly treated that way by the extremists on the right. The murder trials of actor Robert Blake and music producer Phil Spector were just sideshows of the “Main Event.”

This isn’t to say that they were “innocent” victims. But what can be said is that no one has addressed the question of why the media threw due process out the window when it came to cases involving these black men as the accused. Why did the (white) public find the media circus so irresistible? Why is it that black men are made “examples” of crimes that seem to mostly interest women—especially white female media commentators? Is this the “high-tech lynching” that Thomas spoke of? Or is it that white women see themselves in a “competition” with blacks as to who is more a “victim of society”? That question was answered long ago; white women just won’t accept the answer. 

This isn’t about whether the crimes these men were accused of (only Tyson was actually convicted) were not serious crimes; they were. This is a question of the media exploiting the racial attitudes and stereotypes (also true in the case of the Hispanic George Zimmerman) of whites for ratings. Why is this? Because the media knows that the white audience bristles at the thought they can be stereotyped for the crimes they commit, while they have no such compunction when it comes to racial minorities being stereotyped for criminal behavior. Thus minorities being the “poster boys” for crimes is both a “natural” response and a predictable one. It is also racist and wrong. Will the media acknowledge these inclinations? What for? They would claim that don’t even “know” they are doing it. 

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