Monday, August 14, 2017

Reporting on the Factoids

My son and I attended the "Stand in Solidarity with Charlottesville" event at the Wisconsin capitol  last night, so I was puzzled to read WKOW's take on the event.

"Love and peace was the message Sunday night," wrote David Johnson for WKOW.

The message that I got from several eloquent speakers was that we all need to step outside of our comfort zone and get uncomfortable. We need to challenge and push ourselves and others to do more--much more--to counter the rising tide of racism in America.

Another message reiterated by at least two speakers was to mourn for the dead but to fight like hell for the living.

By comparison, as messages go, "love and peace," while evergreen, sounds like sentimental pablum.  Certainly not a call to action.

The messages I heard were calls to action; and I think it's telling that at least one media outlet chose to water down and add so much artificial sugar to their account of the evening.

The reporter also wrote that "during the rally, a young man started yelling statements that advocated violence. He was quickly drowned out by boos from the crowd."

That's not what happened.

What happened was a young man, who had been introduced as a speaker, said that the police in Charlottesville did not respond adequately to protect the counter-protestors, many of whom were hurt and some of whom were killed.  In response, the young man said, we ought to prepare ourselves as activists to encounter violence at similar events where ideologies (to put it politely) conflict.  Take a class in self-defense, he suggested--especially, women.  Learn a martial art (which is, philosophically, never combative and always defensive). Carry mace.

The mace comment seemed to trigger one man in the audience who then began to shout, "Violence is not the answer!"

The speaker waited for him to stop yelling so he could finish his speech, but the guy wouldn't stop yelling.  He kept shouting "Violence is not the answer!"

I could see the shouting man clearly from where I was standing.  He was angry and determined not to let the young man speak, which angered other people in the audience, who yelled back at the screaming guy, "Let him finish his speech! I want to hear it!"

Someone shouted that the anti-violence guy was behaving violently.

For a moment, tempers flared from several directions and the atmosphere grew tense.

Finally, the man who first started screaming piped down, and the young man rapidly concluded his speech, and stepped back.

So, the article got it totally wrong. The young man was not advocating violence at all; he was expressing concern for the safety of activists. He was saying that the political environment has become volatile and unsafe, so people ought to be prepared to defend themselves if necessary.

Even NPR, yesterday, kept repeating that the whole Charlottesville incident was about a Robert E. Lee statue.

One could just as easily say that the problem was that people were holding a white supremacist rally in Emancipation Park.

The first explanation suggests a deep attachment to white Southern identity, which is really putting lipstick on a pig.

The second explanation says more about why the rally of white supremacists was so extremely inappropriate in the first place.

But sure, let's say that the rally in Charlottesville was about a statue.

And let's say the message at last night's solidarity rally was "love and peace."

And let's say that a young man at last night's rally started screaming and advocating violence.

Oh, why the hell not?

I remember taking a journalism class back in college. Who, what, when, where, why... Journalism was such a slave to facts, back in the day.

Those were good days.

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