The police documents obtained by The Washington Post allege that Freddie Gray was supposedly “banging against the walls” of the police vehicle he was detained in for sagging pants, with intent of hurting himself. A recently released article by Fox News claims “the medical examiner found Freddie Gray died as a result of slamming his head against the inside of a police van.” The plausibility of a man self-inflicting blows on himself lethal enough to result in spinal injury and death is pretty slim. However, sadly, the explanation need not be sensible to be effective.
Here are some responses from the comments sections of various news outlets who published the piece to demonstrate that point:
In a country where all issues are publicly polarized between Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, there exists very little room for critical, honest analysis. Each “breaking news” release of details related to police brutality cases is merely fitted into and used to bolster the pre-established opinions of individuals who have been indoctrinated into very harmful belief system. Not to mention, many Whites would prefer to blame victims of generational, structural racism rather than accept the fact that the country has a major problem that stems back to its inception, anyways. This rings especially true for those who find themselves more “conservatively” aligned.
These are the people who comprise the demographic that believes all Black men are drug dealers, reprobates, thugs and disinclined to contribute productively in society. That all protestors are jobless and looking for government handouts. Their opinions, mostly fueled by stereotypes and propaganda, purveyed by powerful, national news websites, cannot be changed. They cannot be changed because they are widely disseminated and distributed. After all, Fox News is the most watched news network in the United States of America, 13 years in a row. And one of their hosts, Sean Hannity, responded with outrage at the notion that protestors in Baltimore would not accept the contrived story that Gray somehow broke his own spine.
“So facts be damned!” he responded, insinuating “the left” dismisses “facts” that do not support its agenda.
His response has merit. What is “fact” if not reports released by investigators who are supposedly probing the case and tasked with the expectation of doing so “fairly”? What is fact if not the information disseminated by news outlets? To the public, powerful institutions– like the media– are the gatekeepers of “fact” that shapes society’s cultural, political and social reality. Sadly, institutions consistently betray the trust of the public and the ramifications for that betrayal are substantial and should not be discounted or undermined. In other words, commentary made by Sean Hannity or other “conservative” figures cannot simply be mocked and casted aside, their opinions and the “facts” used to support them simply branded absurd (though they are). After all, those opinions inform a vast number of people– A demographic that is fairly sizable and powerful.
Though one would like to believe as proof of widespread police brutality becomes practically insurmountable, it will become less deniable; it will not. Each new story highlighting protests against these injustices, where new information surrounding these cases are released into the public spaces, large numbers of Americans are pushed further into denial and hate by conservative media. This poses an immediate “threat” to America’s aspirations of inclusivity and progressiveness and to American democracy and freedom. A threat that will look like direct opposition to actions to redress racism and police brutality.
This forces me to question: How can a country preach of openness, understanding and acceptance where a vast proportion of its population depends on (and believe) unfair, racist vitriol disseminated under the guise of fact? Where so much of the population easily aligns itself with deeply problematic opinions?
I often fear America has never been and will never be a country that can broach the matters of injustice, structural racism and inequality with honesty. After all, even “left” leaning, liberally-minded Whites denied (and even continue to deny to some degree) the prevalence of racism. I suppose the silver lining for POC who are simply looking to survive encounters with the police lies in the fact that some of those White people have accepted a more “enlightened” mindset. Strength in numbers gives way to greater social and political power. It may also help enact laws or provisions to protect the most vulnerable and recompense those affected by such travesties.
Still, I fear those numbers may be obviously outweighed by the many who maintain the thought that victims of police brutality are deserving of such fates and those who do not agree with that opinion– are willing to fight and stand for freedom and equality– are merely liabilities to be discarded: Low-lives, men and women without honor who are underserving of basic respect and human dignity. These sentiments will prevail as long as there exists a media that is not held to any standards of “fairness” or “accuracy”. As long as the forces shaping societal opinions and culture reinforce racist, stereotypical notions.
When, if ever, will the American media be held accountable for spreading obvious misleading propaganda?