Follow the Soapbox
 
SPN/World Trust News--Mickey Z.-- 11/28/2014
“There is an odor to any press headquarters that is unmistakable: the unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine.” 

—Norman Mailer

On Nov. 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled, “Darren Wilson explains why he killed Michael Brown.” In a single opening paragraph, journalist [sic] Terrence McCoy gave a master class in corporate propaganda:

“It’s a scene that has played out repeatedly across America: A white cop stops a black teen. Sometimes there is an exchange of profanities. Maybe an arrest follows. Mostly, these events are forgotten, except perhaps by those involved. But a handful are not. That’s the case in Ferguson, Mo., where an Aug. 9 encounter between Michael Brown and officer Darren Wilson ended in death, explosive violence, protest and another bout of national soul-searching about race.”

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

It’s a scene that has played out repeatedly across America: A white cop stops a black teen.

Normalization 101. Yep, white cops stop black teens. That’s what they do. We may believe it’s because black teens are more likely to break laws. We may believe it’s because white cops are racist or at the very least oblivious to their bestowed-at-birth privilege. We may believe a lot of different things but as long as we perceive white cops stopping black teens as just the way things are, we’re no threat to the status quo. And to keep “things” the way they are, the corporate media is ever vigilant to repeat and remind, repeat and remind.

Sometimes there is an exchange of profanities.

Intentional vagueness. In a culture heavily conditioned to view black teens as “thugs” and “gangstas,” though, it’s crystal clear which party in this inherently uneven power dynamic is “allowed” to spew profanities and which side would be tempting fate with even a hint of disobedience. You may or may not prefer your [sic] law enforcement officers to use such language, but let’s face it, the vast majority of Hollywood-influenced Americans dig the tough guy facade. 

Maybe an arrest follows.

Maybe? In the United States, the incarceration rate for whites is 380 per 100,000. For Latinos, it’s 966. For Blacks, it 2,207. According to the Bureau of Justice, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. So, yeah, we’ll get plenty of “context” from the corporate media in the form of rumors and libel after yet another young black man is killed by the police, but don’t hold your breath waiting for institutional context, re: the prison-industrial complex.

Mostly, these events are forgotten, except perhaps by those involved.

These events may be purposefully, conveniently, and selfishly forgotten by those who don’t face daily police harassment but are they really forgotten by those involved? This speculation -- in a major article’s opening paragraph, no less -- leaves readers with the impression that a black teen being stopped, searched, and verbally abused by a cop is essentially a meaningless “encounter” (see below). It also ignores the reality that police officers often target and harass the same individuals over and over thus making it impossible to forget such experiences.

But a handful are not.

The “handful” of these confrontations that are ultimately not forgotten by the privileged take form in this unspoken reality: Every 28 hours, a black person is killed by the police in the United States.

That’s the case in Ferguson, Mo., where an Aug. 9 encounter between Michael Brown and officer Darren Wilson ended in death, explosive violence, protest and another bout of national soul-searching about race.

“Encounter.” Fascinating choice of words when, regardless of whose story you believe, this was a hostile confrontation -- as is virtually every interaction between a cop and a young Black man. 

“Ended in death.” Using such passive language helps the reader avoid uncomfortable images of “explosive violence” until the time is right, e.g. when contemplating what may or may not have happened during the “protest.” 

The final phrase of this manipulative opening paragraph -- “another bout of national soul-searching about race” -- serves as the panacea for white guilt. 

In a nation founded on the near-genocide of its indigenous inhabitants, built on the backs of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, transformed into an empire thanks to the mass repression, occupation, and slaughter of non-whites across the globe, heaven forbid anyone should (wait for it) “play the race card.” This is the Land of the Free™, goddammit! We won’t stand for (wait for it) “reverse racism”!

Take-home message from this lesson in corporate propaganda: Until we free our minds from the divisive conditioning of privilege and hierarchy, we don’t have any souls to search.

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

 


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