So, someone enlighten me. After this weekend’s shootout in Waco between two biker gangs that left nine dead and 18 wounded, we started getting a bunch of think pieces from the usual liberal outlets about how the media coverage of this awfulness was “different”.
Those who are using what happened in Waco to start conversations about stereotypes and media biases against black people aren’t complaining about the tenor of this weekend’s media coverage. They’re saying something a little different: that by being pretty reasonable and sticking to the facts, this coverage highlights the absurdity of the language and analysis that have been deployed in other instances, when the accused criminals are black.
I have no idea what Vox is on about. The coverage of this weekend’s events was not very different from the coverage of any other violence. You can read Ed Morrissey here where he talks about the many politicians who have denounced these gangs, the efforts law enforcement has made to reign them in, the arrest of almost two hundred gang members and the efforts made to prevent this before the weekend even started. No one is downplaying this or pretending this isn’t a problem. No one is failing to denounce them as violent thugs. And no one is trying to claim that this event was somehow justified.
Another line of commentary that’s predictable in media coverage and commentary surrounding violence involving black people has to do with black cultural pathology.
Politicians and pundits are notorious for grasping for problems in African-American communities — especially fatherlessness — to explain the kind of violence that, when it happens in a white community, is treated as an isolated crime versus an indictment of an entire racial group’s way of life.
The total absence around the Waco incident of analysis of struggles and shortfalls within white families and communities is a painful reminder of this.
What a bunch of crap. The difference between violence in the black community and violence in the white community is scale. Black people are six times as likely to be murdered as white people and eight times likelier to be involved in a murder. The community in Waco is not nearly as dysfunctional and crime-ridden as Baltimore is. Saying that violence is more endemic to black communities than white ones isn’t racism; it’s a fact.
Now what we make of that fact, how we respond to it; that’s a different ballgame. Then it’s reasonable to discuss institutional racism, the collapse of families, the cycle of violence, the destruction of inner cities, the War on Drugs, etc. I also think it’s perfectly reasonable to question why people get involved in biker gangs or why the media tend to romanticize biker gangs and have previously failed to report on biker violence. But let’s not pretend that a shootout in Waco reflects violence in our nation the same way the constant drumbeat of death and destruction in our inner cities does (Baltimore, to make one example, has had 34 murders just since Freddie Gray died).
And frankly, outlets like Vox are in a glass house on this. They seem to think it’s wrong for conservatives to talk about absent fathers as a contributor to violence. But it’s OK to discuss racism, decaying infrastructure and failing schools?
But the key thing to understand is that the criticism here is not really of the coverage of what happened in Waco. It’s of the juxtaposition of what happened here with what happens when the people involved are of a different color. The message is not that the conversation about Waco should be overblown, hypercritical of an entire culture, or full of racial subtext. It’s despair over the sense that if the gang members were black, it almost certainly would be.
Bullshit. There are about thirty mass shootings a year in this country, many of them involving gang violence. Almost of all of them are ignored by the media. In fact, I expect think pieces next week about why the media doesn’t cover shootings between black gangs with the same intensity they covered this one.
Salon, of course, takes the cake, wondering why the events in Waco weren’t called a riot (mainly because … there wasn’t a riot). CNN wonders why we react to Muslim violence more sharply than biker violence (because no biker gang ever murdered 3000 people). NPR wonders why the National Guard wasn’t called out (because all the perpetrators were arrested and the violence finished on the first day).
You can read a response from National Review, that points out that the media has had no problem labeling riots as such when it involves white sports fans or college students.
And who, precisely, is denying that organized crime syndicates are thuggish? Isn’t that generally what is meant by “biker gang”? No one is arguing that these were the Wild Hogs.
I understand that people get frustrated when conservations about the excessive use of force by police or the militarization of police gets sidelined into discussion of black-on-black violence. It is possible to denounce both at the same time (as indeed most people do). But trying to sandwich media coverage of the Waco shooting into that discussion is a stretch at best.
Sorry, guys. This isn’t about the media. This is about a bunch of thugs who started a brawl that resulted in nine people being killed (including, most likely, several killed by the police trying to deal with the situation). No one is defending them. No one is romanticizing them. No one is pretending this was something other than a vile incident. And if the result is crackdowns on other violent gangs, almost everyone is fine with that.