Fox's Shepard Smith covered the problems in Baltimore yesterday in wake of the death of Freddie Gray. As he played live video of teenagers and police throwing bricks at one another, Smith said that it looked like something resembling the Palestinians and the Israelis.
U.S. cities with high concentrations of citizens of color are, indeed, being dealt with as if they are occupied territories. And now again, the National Guard has been called in, as it was in Ferguson, Missouri. All perspective is lost on how it came to this, observers quickly take sides, and it all becomes another us versus them situation to fight over.
If there is any redeeming value in the Fox propaganda channel, it is Shepard Smith. Follow my rough transcription of this exchange between Smith and a typical Fox Rager from yesterday's broadcast....
Smith: ".... it seems that in the middle of all this, to start picking on people for civil rights, for what people are saying and not saying, we can spend our time watching this and reporting on this..."
Fox Rager: "I don't know Shep...it might be a nice idea, nice timing for one of the higher profile civil rights leaders who tend to come in after the fact and say 'look how bad this is'..."
Smith: "..."I'm sure it would.....that's a wonderful idea, I'm sure...and on your instructions I'm sure they'll do exactly that...."
Fox Rager: "You mention parents,, where are the parents?"
Smith: "...well you know, I've not been on the phone with them....if you want to sit here and indict the civil rights community and indict the parents, instead of, for now, just covering what happened, .....and then later talking about whose fault it is...we don't know whose fault it is..."
Fox Rager: "Can I just jump in, no one is indicting anyone, we're watching the pictures, we're asking legitimate questions, a lot of our viewers are probably asking the same questions...."
Smith: "Bully, (or bull, or bollocks) the question was 'where are the parents'....surely, you don't expect me to know that..."
Fox rager: "Where's the civil rights leaders, where's Al Sharpton, where's Jesse Jackson...."
Smith: "....we've got a major American city which has had decades of turmoil within this neighborhood, decades. You've heard the stories of people being arrested for nothing, of a violent crackdown for years and years. Of them feeling powerless and hopeless and nobody listening to what they were saying. One quarter of the youth locked up. Clearly, there is a big problem....then all of a sudden, an African American man is taken into a vehicle, and he comes out of it, and he dies, and you get nothing from authorities except a suspension. And then those who would do harm take an opportunity to do harm and here we are. But it is what has happened between all of that and today that has led to this. There is no escaping that reality...."
One does not normally expect such honest talk from an anchor on Fox. Good on Shepard Smith.
There is a context to all of these police brutality video stories. But many times the larger context is left out of media reporting....and instead, the context is quickly replaced by a search to blame.
I've watched the video where Freddie Gray was hauled off the sidewalk and manhandled into the van. He was chased by police because he made "eye contact" with one of the policemen and then ran. But the video does not capture how Gray happened to be face down on concrete. Reports say that police placed "pressure" on Gray's back to keep him down.
One officer had his knee on Gray's neck, Moore said, and another was bending his legs backward.
Media has focused on what happened inside the van....use of seat belts, restraints, medical assistance, etc. But it looked to me,....the way Gray was dragging his lower body when cops picked him up.....that his spine may have been seriously damaged BEFORE he was placed in the van. The medical examiner's full autopsy of Freddie Gray may take another 30 to 45 days.
What, I think, is clear from combing through the details and watching the videos is that little consideration was given by police to what they were doing to Freddie Gray. It was as if his life, his well-being, was of no importance whatsoever. And the hell of it is....Gray had not done anything. He had not committed a crime, there were no charges pending and he was unarmed. He made "eye contact" with a policeman.
But as you can see in the Shepard Smith exchange, the same usual white supremacy suspects will quickly make this incident about everything except what it was about. Black parenting, black thugs, Fox's favorite so far...."roving gangs", civil-rights leaders, Sharpton and Jackson.....you know what to expect.
After seeing way too many of these police brutality videos,.....it still seems like too few want to actually solve the larger contextual problem of disproportional use of force, and incarceration, by police when dealing with black suspects. Instead, we seem to want to take sides.....white authoritarians on one side....civil rights leaders on the other....shouting at, and arguing with, one another.
If we don't deal with the larger problems facing black citizens in urban areas, we are in danger of turning black communities into America's "occupied territories".
Is that what freedom is supposed to look like?