FERGUSON, Mo.—The role of the media is supposed to be to protect the public by uncovering truth, but there is an old adage about freedom of the press: Freedom of speech belongs to those who can afford it. We could add “freedom” of the press belongs to those who control it and we need to understand the press role as a major partner, backer and participant in the oppression of Blacks and framing of issues.
Over the past two days, White media outlets, CNN and those following CNN in particular, have spun the story of the audio recording that seems to have captured the shots fired by officer Darren Wilson in his confrontation with Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager.
Remember this whole crisis begins because officer Wilson decides to exert authority over two young Black men walking down a pretty narrow street that winds through an apartment complex. It’s not a major highway, it’s a little street. It’s summer time and Mike Mike and friend Dorian Johnson were walking to Mike Mike’s grandmother’s home. The officer curses and orders them out of the street. They reply that they are almost at their destination. Then officer pauses, backs his patrol car up, blocks the two young men, and an assault begins: Mike Mike is assaulted as the officer attempts to grab him from by the neck. There is a struggle and the friend says the officer fires a shot.
The two friends, terrified, flee. The officer shoots, Mike Mike is hit. Mike Mike turns with his hands up. Witnesses, public witnesses, say his hands were up and he was in a surrender position. They all say the officer pauses and keeps shooting. The line of shots and their concentration fits the identified eyewitness accounts.
Yet CNN is using sources casting doubts on the audio tape, one “source” went so far as to say his first thought was CNN was being “punked” by a shock jock who had put together this recording. Other sources have cast the audio in a negative light and raised questions and scenarios that have never been previously discussed:
• Perhaps the officer was reloading. That has never come up from witnesses, that is conjecture.
• Michael was rushing the officer. Again intentional lying and framing the scenario. There was never any account early one that the young man was charging an armed officer. So a young man runs away from an armed officer who is shooting, then turns around and charges the same armed officer? Madness. Explicable because the forces of White supremacy, with the media as a willing partner, must protect themselves.
• There audio is suspect because it surfaced two weeks into the crisis in Ferguson, say CNN experts, who are mainly former law enforcement or those connected with the police and prosecutorial industrial complex. This is one-sided analysis from a group of experts who see things through a single lens. Audio two weeks late? It was CNN’s fault. According to CNN host Don Lemon, the tape was given to a CNN producer in Ferguson, Mo., and the person who gave the audio tape thought the tape was going to Lemon. There was some kind of mix up and the audio tape languished until it surfaced a couple days ago.
• The officer was possible hurt and trying to recover, say White media experts say. But that lie has already been debunked by CNN, which said a report of eye injuries to Wilson on an x-ray were untrue. This clearly focuses on the problem with the resounding voice and view and frame of White media. It comes up clearly when talking heads are assembled who have little actual firsthand information. The major media give information and at times report accurately, at times the reporting is suspect, and the analysis is ubiqituous and off-base, and Black experts rarely seem willing to challenge, confront or correct their White counterparts who are in error, uttering half-truths and painting pictures that make no sense.
• If anchors and analysts are not prepared, or weakly prepared, on leaning toward the police view, the analysis of the moment—which seems to be intent on raising doubt about the audio tape—drowns out other voices and is seen as true by viewers. Many of whom are not drawing a clear distinction between straight reporting and someone’s opinion.
It is criminal and irresponsible that CNN and other “responsible” media outlets have tried to equate a single anonymous radio interview from “Josie,” a reported friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend of Officer Wilson who heard about how he was attacked and responded with eyewitness accounts and video from Blacks who live in the community and could easily be targeted by police. While Josie hides, speaks and is elevated to the place of a credible witness, she is not credible. Does she even exist at all? Then law enforcement sources, the same sources who Black people don’t and should not trust, are used by White media to verify her account. This is like going to players on the same team and asking one team member to vouch for his teammate.
What happened the old standard of media skepticism and questioning authority and a predisposition to understand those in power have a tendency to withhold truth and cover up? We still don’t have a police report from the actual shooting incident. What is the problem? Why a delay?
We have seen the police and prosecution industrial complex galvanize and the attempt to tarnish and slander the shooting victim. The Ferguson police chief showed an image from a video that purported to be Mike Mike leaving a store and in a disagreement with a shop owner. The chief, who later admitted the image had nothing to do with the conflict with officer Wilson and was relieved of his command, described the store incident as a strong arm robbery. This power figure in the White establishment felt safe and secure in spewing this slander.
As attorney Benjamin Crump told Lemon, the only witnesses are those who have come forward on the record, spoken with media and law enforcement and whose accounts and motivations are being investigated.
Where’s Josie? The account of a single, unknown, unidentified White woman counts more than the combined eyewitness accounts and videotaped accounts of Black young women and young men who witnessed the shooting.
White supremacy and White media are cooperating at their best.
Why doesn’t CNN have sources who talk about how foolish it would be for someone to try to fake a tape like this and how easy it would be to uncover such a gross, asinine and dangerous thing. The owner of the tape is not an unknown person. The owner of the tape has a lawyer and has been questioned by the FBI. While his public identity is not known, he is known to law enforcement and would surely face prosecution if he faked this thing.
Why is the media so concerned?
Officer Wilson represents the established White Power structure and the structure that controls the lives of Black people, especially with these small police departments that dot the suburbs around St. Louis. He must be vindicated because if he is not vindicated, then the system of White Superiority is exposed. Not the silly framing of race usually given but an entire system constructed to protect and benefit Whites and control Black behavior—both consciously and subconsciously as Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, author and brilliant psychologist, notes.
The White Media, for all its talk of ethics and integrity, is part of the same power structure and must protect White interests. Accept their misinformation at your own risk.
(Richard B. Muhammad is editor in chief of The Final Call Newspaper. Follow him on Twitter: @RMfinalcall)