In the wake of Wednesdays tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, we have once again seen the mainstream medias complete failure in times of crisis. They have disappointed in their coverage of race oriented issues in past years. Fox News seems to do everything they can to pretend racism is not involved while CNN beats around the bush and refuses to make controversial statements. From Michael Brown and Eric Garner to Freddie Gray and the Baltimore protests, news coverage has been pathetic in a time when it is needed. Now our country is facing one of the worst cases of domestic terrorism in our history and to no surprise, the mainstream media is playing dumb.
21 year old Dylan Roof entered this historic black church, participated in bible study for an hour, and then proceeded to kill nine members in cold blood. Leaving nothing to imagination, he told survivors that “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” He reloaded the gun five times. Upon hearing this terrible news, I voiced my frustration to my mother: “I can’t wait to see how they try to spin this one.” She was shocked, thinking that there was no way; it is too painfully obvious that this was a racially charged hate crime. Sadly I was right.
Somehow, in the same way that they have downplayed the racial elements in countless police killings in America, Fox News is going out of there way to ignore the truth. Sticking to their script, they have found one black man, E.W. Jackson, who fits their narrative and are using him in an attempt to make us think he represents the black community. Mind you, Jackson has in the past referred to the homosexual movement as a cancer, Obama as a radical anti-american, and denied the existence of climate change. Rather than report the truth they are trying to fool us into ignoring it. But don’t get confused Fox is not the only culprit.
As twitter erupted Wednesday night with news of the terrorist attack, news channels remained silent. CNN instead showed an international simulcast, waiting three hours after the shooting to report. Once they did, a detailed description of the suspect was given… without any mention of his race or that the crime was racially motivated. The public response has been extremely negative and it’s obvious that people are fed up.
The hashtag #CharlestonShooting became littered with sarcastic tweets comparing media coverage in different situations. People asked why CNN wasn’t asking “where were his parents?,” “what type of music does he listen to?,” and “where are the leaders of the white community?” People questioned the absence of the word “thug,” which was all over their coverage of the Baltimore protests. This picture was posted all over the internet:
This frustrated response is more than warranted, but luckily there is another channel viewers can tune to if they want more straightforward coverage: Comedy Central. Most people have heard of the satirical news shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, the new Nightly Show With Larry WIlmore and even HBO’s Last Week Tonight. While often used to simply make fun of politicians and offer a lighter take to some of America’s issues, in times of crisis these shows have stepped up their game. Notably, John Oliver’s segment on Ferguson and the militarization of the police opened eyes across the country. It is Stewart though, the veteran of the bunch, who has really made his name as a voice for frustrated Americans. In the wake of the Charleston shooting, Stewart did something that he had never done before, went into his show unscripted. The result was one of the most brutally honest news segments I have ever seen.
“I am confident that by staring into [our gaping racial wound], we still won’t do jack shit,” the clearly deflated Stewart says on the situation, and sadly he is right.
Stewart isn’t the only one who had some powerful words about the attack, as Larry Wilmore, the only black host of one of these shows, also spoke up. He began his segment by saying that he wouldn’t even consider this a hate crime but instead “racial terrorism.” He also called Roof’s claims of black men “raping our woman” lynch language, in reference to the excuse being commonly used for lynchings in our country’s past. In the show he and a panel of four guests voice their frustrations and concerns over the incident and the response.
These shows have made bold decisions to drop the comedy that they are known for and instead have an honest, civil conversation about the enormous issues that our country is facing. It is a much needed break from the watered down, and often ignorant coverage that is given by major media companies like Fox News and CNN. When Jon Stewart retires at the end of this season, we will have lost one of the best media voices there is, but it is good to know that newcomers like Oliver and Wilmore are ready to pick up where he left off.