Thursday, July 16, 2009

Breathless Media Treatment For One; Yawn for Another

OK, let's see.

Scenario 1:

A guy (with two full carloads of very large friends, as well as a BB gun that looks like a pistol and a bunch of baseball bats loaded in the cars) chases down two very small guys and one girl. One of the small guys shoots at one of the following cars, killing one of the occupants. Despite the chase, the deceased becomes an "innocent victim", and outrage and protest follow. The jurors remain awake and alert during the trial and deliver a guilty verdict for the shooter and his cousin. They are sentenced to long prison terms -- terms which don't satisfy the family and friends of the deceased.

No charges are ever leveled against any of the other individuals in the two following cars for their role in the situation. Every one of the reporters covering the trial itself mention the racial composition of the jury, as well as the race of those involved -- repeatedly.

Scenario 2:

A business man steps out of his truck one morning, is immediately accosted, shot to death, and robbed by three crackheads. The initial shooting was reduced to a footnote and hidden on inside pages of the local daily, and not reported at all by most other papers and radio/tv stations in the area.

Two years later, the police at last arrest three suspects, with what would be considered pretty solid evidence in other cases. At the trial of the first one of the three, several jury members -- all but one of whom is the same race as the defendant -- fall asleep during the trial. Eventually they return a "not guilty" verdict, and set the defendant free. Outrage and protest follow, but again not on the front page. None of the reporters covering the trial itself mention the racial composition (or the sleep habits) of the jury; that's left to the victim's wife to say.

What's the main difference between the cases?

The first story was reported almost as thoroughly and endlessly as Michael Jackson's death; with almost daily updates on the progress of the case. Every reporter managed to play the race card in every story.

The second story was almost completely ignored; with only two major articles in the regional daily during and after the first trial. The reporters leave out the race of the victims and perps; except when the reporter on the second story mentioned that the march by family and friends of the victim was "all white" -- even though a black man is clearly seen in the accompanying photo of the march.

So why the breathless coverage of one case, while the other, where there was a clear criminal (actually three) and an entirely innocent victim, elicits a media yawn? And speaking of yawns, what judge in his right mind fails to declare a mistrial when the jury falls asleep?


Marc Montoni is a network technician and a frequent columnist on the issue of individual liberty, Drug Prohibition, gun laws, and land-use regulation. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virginia and publishes a commentary blog at

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