Thursday, November 7, 2013

Twin Cities Media Bias & Race Reporting

Ich kann gar nicht so viel fressen, wie ich kotzen moechte 

I can't eat enough to puke as much as I want to

—Max Liebermann

In June of this year the United States Supreme Court ruled a section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Without getting into the legal weeds about the subject, this decision had been coming for years. In fact, in a prior case involving similar issues, the Court fairly begged Congress to look at its statutory scheme in light of its apparent constitutional infirmity. This is called deference to a co-equal branch of government; it's the opposite of judicial activism.

Congress did nothing and so, in due course, the Court ruled accordingly.

Demagogues were quick to jump on the decision and characterize it as five Supreme Court justices finally having gotten their way to hurt African-Americans in this country. Because, on the Left, if you disagree, you aren't just wrong, you're racist, bigoted, homophobic, you name it. The majority may as well have worn white robes on the bench instead of black according to these hacks.

Locally, DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler made The Drudge Report by tweeting that Justice Clarence Thomas was an Uncle Tom. Often over-looked was his equally repulsive claim that the other four justices in the majority decision were "accomplices to race discrimination." Twitchy has a good run down of the tweet and various reactions that can be read by clicking here. Full disclosure: I hadn't realized until researching this post that one tweet quoted is mine. Ah, the glamor.

I noticed at the time that our local media treated this otherwise career ending move with exquisite care. In effect, the local media took down every insincere, ass-covering word Winkler uttered in a panic to salvage his career and left it at that. DFL handlers handled their Eddie Haskell, and otherwise fierce seekers of truth and power holding accountable types merely repeated what was said. No hard questions. No outrage. No suggestion that the tweet betrayed a mindset unfit for public office.

Mission accomplished: one could feel the reluctance of local media to cover the story but they did the minimum. Democrats can't be racist; that's the opposite of the narrative they advance at every opportunity. One guy on their team screws up but no problem: they had his back.

The Star Tribune story, which can be read by clicking here, shows as much. The word racism never once appears. That's not an accident. The most honest the story gets is saying "racial slur" which really, when you think of it, isn't quite the same, is it?

As telling, the reporters supinely feed the demagogue from their team a soft question: will use of this term on social media "hurt his future political career?" Winkler is given as much ink as he likes to say no, he's really a good guy. The article could not have been easier on him than if he had written it.

To show you how pathetic the coverage was, the article states at one point "Winkler soon learned just how offensive the term is to some. . ."

To some? Would those reporters say that of the word niggar? Of course not. Their job was to save Ryan, the ersatz educated democrat, whose political ambition is in inverse proportion to his talent. Consequently, only "some" could take offense at the use of Uncle Tom. See how that works?

City Pages was equally quick to give Winkler political cover while pretending to journalism, the outre, brave kind. To City Pages, he was in "hot water" for using a "racially insensitive term." No use of the word racism in this reporting either. Go figure. You can read its coverage by clicking here.

City Pages too largely lets Winkler write the arc of the story. No challenges from that quarter. No: will you resign? Perish the thought! They save that for their political enemies. When Winkler repeated for the umpteenth time the preposterous claim that "there seems to be some debate" about whether calling a black man an Uncle Tom is racist, you'd think he'd be challenged simply for taking his journalistic interlocutors for abject fools. But no. You're all in when you're all in.

FOX 9 News did manage to use the word racist but wrapped up its reporting that gave the last word to Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels who ignorantly claimed the decision destroyed the advances of the civil rights movement. Had FOX 9 any desire to educate its audience (a dubious proposition given that we're talking television) it would have said that the majority pointed to the very success of that movement for making the 1965 based statutory criteria obsolete to the point of unconstitutionality. Another disclosure: I had originally been asked to be interviewed for that story but declined. Given the inarticulateness of who they scrounged up in my absence, I regret the decision. FOX 9's reporting can be viewed by clicking here.

Politics In Minnesota covered the story by reporting on coverage of the story. If you're not paying attention it's almost enough, if done well, to make you think such constitutes actual coverage. Which, of course, it is not. By repeating the coverage (think of journalism at 35,000 feet) one would be surprised indeed if the story sought anything new or asked out loud whether Winkler should resign. Naturally, it did neither. Its water bug journalism™ can be read by clicking here.

The local Associated Press coverage was a masterclass in bias, both factually flawed and ideologically tilted. Guess what word is never used in that story either? That's right. The story claims "[t]he ruling makes it tougher for federal officials to prevent states and localities, primarily in the South, from adopting policies that add barriers to voting." That's simply, breathtakingly wrong but said with an unearned air of factual authority. Reading the press these days actually makes people dumber.

The story quoted no republican, made no mention of the national attention brought to the tweet and couldn't bring itself to use "racial slur," instead demoting Uncle Tom to a "connotation." Viola! Democrats must have a peace of mind republicans will never know by having the Associated Press in their back pocket, although, to be candid, it's a mighty crowded media-filled back pocket. Of course, national and local media were largely silent when we learned that President Obama had secretly obtained telephone records of reporters for the national Associated Press. You're all in when you're all in.

Compare this forced coverage, then, by local press to the laughable hysterics over a posting of a tasteless analogy to slavery by a hapless Chisago County republican activist to the county's Facebook page. We've all seen the grotesque bumper stickers that bark: "Don't like abortion? Don't have one." The Facebook page had an image of a slave auction making the same non-sequitur point: don't like slavery? Don't own a slave. Stupid.

Ah, but here was something per se racist because any mention of slavery by a republican makes it so and local press was keen to jump on it. Jump they did. To my dismay, almost no republican rebuked the race mongers on foundational grounds: the analogy to slavery is always tasteless and wrong. It does not constitute racism itself. Of course, this was lost in the flood of faux outrage which local media both reported on and added to. I'm pro-life and am always careful never to call abortion "another Holocaust." Well meaning types on my side of the issue who do so are wrong but not anti-semitic.

The same holds true for the posting by the Chisago County Republicans. We can't seem to learn how to push back, question premises and start another narrative. To be sure the media will fight us in that but that's how the game is played. "There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn," said Camus, and so too is it with the dishonest, biased media, despite seeing them die by degrees in the internet age.

The Star Tribune's coverage was typically hyper ventilated: "Local Republican Group's Facebook Page Sparks Firestorm."

Really? Why firestorm? Oh right, it fits the reporter's and the newspaper's narrative. The story goes on to note national coverage about the posting, including the number of views and other analytics. There was no such notice of the Winkler Uncle Tom remark, no reader was informed his tweet was covered by BuzzFeed and then The Drudge Report.

Wouldn't that qualify as a "firestorm?"Any honest person would think so. The story included quotes from Republican Party Chair Keith Downey who wouldn't know how to message if his party's life depended on it. Which, by the way, it does. DFL Chair Ken Martin sanctimoniously weighed in, all full of concern despite liberal policies which have proved ruinous for blacks in America. Martin never condemned Winkler's Uncle Tom tweet, something the article made a point not to mention. You can read the vastly different coverage of this incident by clicking here.  

Only Republican Party Secretary Chris Fields, himself a black man, made the sensible point that a poor analogy does not make the maker a racist, an anti-semite or whatever the subject matter of the analogy.

City Pages, naturally, was not to be outdone in the faux outrage department. They have low information readers to pander to! "Chisago County Republican Party Publishes Extremely Racist Facebook Post." Where to begin?

Is there a secret, brain-dead liberal stylebook that could be shared with us knuckledraggers so we know when something is: 1. a racial slur, 2. a racially insensitive term, 3. a connotation, 4. racist and 5. extremely racist. Actually, we've no need of it. We know how the terms are applied. We just remain amused at how well media regards themselves. It's like they don't think anyone is watching. As someone said, journalism is the only business where what the customer of the product thinks is unimportant. You can read the City Pages article by clicking here.

You can read the brief coverage given by the Pioneer Press by clicking here. The Pioneer Press used an Associated Press story when it covered the Winkler Uncle Tom tweet.

It's not often that Minnesota republicans and democrats both have a racially tinged story with which they must deal. Here, each had one within five months of the other. The vastly different ways local media handled each instance tells a reasonable person all they need to know about the state of play for republicans in the local media market.

Republicans in Minnesota are particularly inept at messaging. When they find themselves in a jam, unfortunately usually of our own making, they cannot rely, like our friends on the other side, on the good graces of the media to tamp down the controversy, to have our backs.

Like national media, local media have taken sides. We pretend otherwise at our peril.