In 2006, the American media vilified three students on the Duke Lacrosse team for allegedly raping Crystal Gail Mangum, a black student at North Carolina Central University. They were privileged, private school white boys, according to the media. “Privilege” became a near-ubiquitous word in the coverage.
It turns out the students had been falsely accused. But even after the revelations, a good portion of the national media took the position that, though this time they were wrong, white-boy privilege in elite schools is still something that we have to worry about.
The allegations had to be elevated about the facts because the power and privilege of the white kids matter.
A few years later, the media did it again. Rolling Stone ran a story about a fraternity at the University of Virginia. Not only did the reporters attack the fraternity as a privileged, white elite, but numerous reporters attacked anyone who dared call the story into question. Reporters turned on reporters for not being willing to combat the white male patriarchy embodied in a fraternity at the University of Virginia.
The whole story was fabricated and, like in the rape case, the media moved on. The media accountability complex that goes on news outlets to wring hands over Fox News and conservatives would prefer to wring hands over Fox News and conservatives than spend much time exploring why it so often would rather be first than accurate in these stories.
Now they are doing it again, and we haven’t even had to go near the BuzzFeed story, in which BuzzFeed got a story so wrong they pushed Bob Mueller to issue a rare statement calling the report “inaccurate” and the TV talking heads would still rather blast Fox for not running the story than hold their friends at BuzzFeed to account.
The media has spent the last twenty-four hours vilifying some white male students from a private Catholic school from Kentucky for harassing and bullying an American Indian protestor who was beating a drum. The original story had the students surround and intimidate the man.
The man approached the kids and, as he approached, began beating the drum even more loudly. The story got traction because the Washington Post ran a story from the man, Mr. Phillips, without ever seeing the full video. The Washington Post used a selectively edited video with Mr. Phillips misrepresenting what had happened and portraying himself as the victim.
But the full video shows the kids were not chanting “build the wall” and they did not approach or harass Mr. Phillips. He approached them and tried to drown them out with his drum. Then protestors from a fringe African American group started hurling homophobic slurs at the Catholic kids. Reason has some pretty thorough coverage:
Phillips put himself between the teens and the black nationalists, chanting and drumming as he marched straight into the middle of the group of young people. What followed was several minutes of confusion: The teens couldn’t quite decide whether Phillips was on their side or not, but tentatively joined in his chanting. It’s not at all clear this was intended as an act of mockery rather than solidarity.
One student did not get out of Phillips way as he marched and gave the man a hard stare and a smile that many have described as creepy. This moment received the most media coverage: The teen has been called the product of a “hate factory” and likened to a school shooter, segregation-era racist, and member of the Klu Klux Klan. I have no idea what he was thinking, but portraying this as an example of obvious, racially-motivated hate is a stretch. Maybe he simply had no idea why this man was drumming in his face, and couldn’t quite figure out the best response? It bears repeating that Phillips approached him, not the other way around.
And that’s all there is to it. Phillips walked away after several minutes, the Black Hebrew Israelites continued to insult the crowd, and nothing else happened.
The media has, time and again, rushed out with a “first instead of accurate” take in these types of stories and repeatedly pushed a power dynamic of privileged white boys versus others. And more often than not, the media has gotten it wrong.
But this time, with the rise of social media, more extensive damage has happened. They have ruined several boys’ reputations, defamed the organizers of the March for Life and a Catholic school, and, most importantly, have continued to rush out the story even after the facts were making it clear the story was wrong.
I have ZERO doubt that the national media ran as quickly as they did because they wanted to portray the entire March for Life in a negative light. They more often than not refuse to give any coverage to the March and this year hoped to smear the March.
Instead, yet again, the media has damaged its reputation for truth-telling and reporting facts.