TW: Passing mentions of sexual assault. CW: Discussion of racialized violence.
The media has only occasionally been unkind to me. Most of the time, their inaccuracies reflect misunderstandings that don't have intent to invalidate or mislead at their core.
Occasionally the presentation has been sensationalistic or seedy, like the time the Daily Mail found an online photo of me in a bathing suit to accompany their article on the 35-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN WHO SAYS SHE DOES NOT NEED TO BE RAPED. Because it's a great idea to put me in a bathing suit next to suggestions like that, and release it next to my full name and where I live.
(I didn't authorize use of this picture or know about the article before it was printed and then shared around the world, resulting in dozens of abusive and sexually suggestive messages sent to my various accounts.)
Another time, some twit interviewed me, promised a read-back of the story, and then never followed up, claiming the piece had not been published. I only found out that was a lie when someone who had read the article in a magazine in another country wrote me to thank me for writing it, at which point I also found out it had not only been released but had been written in first person, as if I was saying everything in the article. (It expressed sentiments that were common misunderstandings of my orientation--things I would never say.) When I contacted the interviewer to ask a) why is the piece that is clearly the result of her interview published like this when she claimed it hadn't been published and b) who is responsible for rewriting it in first person with this dippy narrative, she mysteriously was in South America with limited Internet, then had the flu, then had just had a baby and couldn't talk to me. Yikes.
And occasionally I have been attacked by members of my own community and outsiders over things the media claims I said. Now, most of them have been incredibly reasonable when I describe what I originally said and how that was twisted, but sometimes they ignore the inconvenient truth because it's more fun to sensationalize some controversy based on something I literally never said. And some people don't believe that the media lies. Some people believe they only make mistakes, or believe the wrong people.
They explicitly lie sometimes.
You all want to believe they're telling the truth on the important stuff, but the more a publication claims to be unbiased, the more unlikely it is that that's true. And last week, one of my friends was personally victimized by lying media on a much larger scale than I ever was.
My friend was at the Black Lives Matter protests in Charlotte. She took and released what became a very popular video of a white man charging into a group of protesters and pointing a gun at them. After which the police intervened and let him leave after doing that.
"I saw it with my own eyes," she captioned.
Here's an article that gets the details mostly right.
Imagine how lovely it was when right-wing media picked up the story, used her video on their sites, but rewrote it so the story sounded like "A white man was victimized at the Black Lives Matter protests in Charlotte when he was trying to just drive through and protesters SURROUNDED his car, threatening him until he emerged with a gun. If he had not had a gun, who knows what would have happened? He is alive today because he was armed! HOORAY FOR OPEN CARRY!"
Ignoring of course that a) he drove INTO the crowd in an established, sanctioned, permitted peaceful protest that had police protection and threatened the protesters; b) bringing a gun to a peaceful protest of this nature is illegal; and c) carrying with a permit is allowed, but taking it out and pointing it at people is also illegal.
And the point is that even in open-carry states, black people who either have guns or are just accused of/mistaken for having guns are frequently shot, attacked, surrounded, arrested, punished, and murdered without any regard for the law, and this is what these protests are about. And yet, a white man can do what this guy did--with an actual gun, with what looks like murderous intent--and the police response was to intervene peacefully, talk the guy back into his car, and let him drive away with no consequences.
I remind you: Black people are being MURDERED, they are being SHOT ON SIGHT, for being THOUGHT to have a gun (or sometimes not even that), even in states where having guns is sometimes legal. They don't check. They assume any black person with a gun has it illegally and is going to shoot someone, but these police somehow manage to NOT fear for their lives and NOT lose their cool when it is a white person who has the gun. I mean, after all, he might have a permit, and we have time and wherewithal to check before we shoot in that case. (Not to mention. Again. Black people don't even have to have guns for these murderers to assume they do and that they are up to no good, and they are not given the benefit of the doubt at all. White people get away with actively threatening and pointing guns without being shot or even arrested. Black people do not.)
This conversation almost always turns into "but I saw rioters on the news" and "I can't take this seriously when black people kill each other way more than white cops kill them" and "if they say black lives matter, it's inherently racist" and "what do they even think they're accomplishing with these protests? proving they ARE wild and violent?"
My friend received thousands of hateful comments on Twitter and Facebook. Threats. Murderous threats. And the usual several hundred commenting on her appearance, because, you know, she's a woman, and that's always relevant when criticizing a woman. Her crime was recording a slice of truth and presenting it to the public exactly how it happened. Too bad some media outlets presented it as showing the opposite of what happened, and too bad many of the people framing the protests as violent and unfounded aren't a) there or b) victimized by the violence that inspired said protests.
Protests are not useless and they are not about looting and they are not about "being an angry mob." They're about declaring that a line has been crossed and that we cannot, as a nation, take it anymore. Whenever a country disappears down the rabbit hole, like Germany under the Nazi party or like North Korea, people say "how did it get this bad?" How did it? Because nobody did anything. Everybody just assumed that the government must be just and must be primarily making good decisions about how to govern, and nobody used the power of numbers to declare that they aren't taking it anymore. This nation has already become a dark stain on history in some respects--with public shootings happening so frequently in the absence of any attempt to address what causes gun violence, and with some of our citizens being labeled as thugs and treated as subhuman because of the color of their skin. "He shouldn't have been X if he didn't expect to get murdered!" Really, is that how you think justice works in the land of the free? That if a person is stealing or might have been stealing or is suspected of stealing, they should be fatally shot and not given a fair trial? I'm betting you would not feel that way if it was your father or your daughter who was shot just for being suspected. It shouldn't have to be your relative or your friend before you think it's disgusting.
This is your problem. It's not a small problem. Stop washing your hands of it because you didn't do anything racist (even though maybe you did tweet that thing about thugs deserving it, but those are only the bad black people, right?), stop repeating that nobody alive today in our nation was a slaveowner or a slave and therefore "real" racism is over, and stop ignoring that protests are a form of doing something against a system that is brutalizing its own citizens. Stop treating it like it isn't your business. Stop talking about it like your primary purpose in speaking is to make sure nobody thinks you're bad. Stop denying that there are many bad people in uniform who are abusing their power and getting away with it because their status confers righteousness they didn't necessarily earn. (People are denying that police did anything wrong even when cameras reveal how they plot against people they detain, discuss planting evidence, mock them and punish them for fearing, and treat them abominably when they are imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit.) It's also sort of weird how some of these folks want to organize militias and "take back the country" from someone they think shouldn't "have" it (???), but they somehow also respect the authority of the police without asking whether some individuals have proved they shouldn't have that power. But that's another story, despite being related.
Media is lying. In many cases they are joining with agitators who deliberately send in "protesters" to make the crowds wilder and more violent so they can photograph and film activity that will make people distrust the protesters. Media is sometimes spinning Black Lives Matter as a hate group that primarily exists to take from whites. Media is sometimes taking absolutely every white guy with a gun and turning him into a poor attacked person defending himself from savages, and absolutely every black guy into a potential and probable criminal who may be the victim in this situation but hey he probably did a gang sign or smoked a joint or wore an Ethnic Hairstyle that Looks Scary that we can circulate to make people think he deserved it. While aggressors, criminals, terrorists with guns are presented smiling, groomed, in sports headshots or school pictures if they are white. Let me say that again. Criminals who are white are frequently presented at their best, while VICTIMS who are black are presented to the media as bad dudes so we can all wonder if he maybe probably definitely deserved it. If someone has locs or a gold chain, they probably aren't good people, right?
Those are the stereotypes that make supposedly well-trained police apparently so afraid for their lives that they shoot on sight. They find these images of cultural differences scary, and black skin and everything that can go with it automatically stacks the deck for anything they do to feel threatening. They see neutral and even positive images as signs of mischief and violence. These are the cues unsavory media reps are zooming in on to make people afraid. To make people think there isn't really a problem and the police really are just punishing bad dudes.
The media isn't telling you what's happening. They're telling you what fits their narrative. Do not make the mistake of assuming the news media is "objective" while the people in your social network telling you a different story are "biased." Everything written by a human is biased. I believe that listening to people who were there, like my friend who was AT the protests in Charlotte, will give you a more accurate story than people who write a news story claiming a peaceful protest involved a mob of BLM protesters mobbing an innocent man in a car who then was forced to defend his own life with a gun. It looked very much to me like he was intentionally threatening them because he did not believe in their cause and wanted them to think this is what they get for their civil disobedience.
They are not freedom fighters when they do this. Protesters are protesting violence that has already been done to them. They are not creating the violence, and when they are victims of it, they are not receiving the fruits of something they've sown. They're saying something, in a peaceful way, that helps people understand we have crossed the line. This narrative of white gun-toting freedom defenders and black gun-toting thugs needs to die, and when the media lies to you, they are not your friend. At best they are grossly irresponsible, like that magazine was when they decided hey, let's advertise that this girl is a virgin and never wants sex, and let's put her bathing suit picture next to her real name and what city she lives in. That can't hurt her at all, I'm sure. I doubt they were cackling evilly in their villain tower and plotting to fill my inbox with dick pics, marriage proposals, and sexual comments on my websites, but when media wants a sensational story before it wants to show you what's happening to people, it fails us. It fails you.