Some media outlets -- and senators -- sure were eager to make the Ma'Khia Bryant shooting a story about race

Some media outlets -- and senators -- sure were eager to make the Ma'Khia Bryant shooting a story about race

An addendum to Ed’s post earlier about the Ma’Khia Bryant case, in which cops rolled up on a 16-year-old girl with a knife in her hand seemingly fully intent on stabbing the person she was fighting with. If they hadn’t fired and Bryant had killed the other girl right in front of them, how would that girl’s family have reacted to the bodycam footage after it was released?

Why didn’t you stop her? they would have asked. What would the cops have said?

Some members of our fair and balanced media didn’t wait for details to decide what the Bryant story was Really About. On the very day that Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder for killing George Floyd during an arrest, another incident in which white officers had killed a black girl — a minor, no less — had dropped in their lap. Fate had handed them an opportunity to declare that, while justice had been done in Floyd’s case, unjust police brutality towards African-Americans would not only continue but had already added to its body count before Chauvin had even left the courtroom.

The narrative was too good to check, so they didn’t. This was a story about race first and foremost, they concluded. NPR:

The Daily Beast:



The Washington Post:

The Post’s headline is especially egregious since it was published this morning, not yesterday afternoon, and so they have even less excuse for not viewing the bodycam footage before drawing a conclusion about what happened. In fact, notes Jeryl Bier, the Post story never states that Bryant had a knife in her hand even though it’s clearly visible in the video. They acknowledge that she “lunged” at someone and that a knife was found next to her after she fell, but all they’ll allow by way of reporting that she was trying to stab someone was that police claimed that she did.

I assume each outlet will defend itself when challenged by arguing that, although the police’s use of lethal force was defensible, the mere fact that another black suspect had been killed on the street was newsy because it was destined to inflame racial tensions. Which is likely true in this case because the media insisted on covering it through a racial lens.

Some narratives just can’t wait for the facts. Take NPR’s word for it:

What if I told you that you could wait to report on “facts” until you verified them as actual facts? “Journalists who have occasion to go back and realize that they have reported some key facts wrong in the heat of a breaking story should have a little more humility in judging people whose jobs involve making graver decisions in less time with no ability to edit their own mistakes later,” writes Dan McLaughlin, who may be a little more charitable towards the press than I’m willing to be. Jumping to conclusions about the Bryant shooting wasn’t an honest mistake based on having received bad facts. It was a conclusion they eagerly leaped to because they had a storyline they were motivated to push, enough so they were willing to run initially with Bryant’s aunt’s account of the shooting even though she didn’t witness it herself.

The media had a fever and the only prescription was gratuitous racial antagonism. Not an honest mistake.

Bad enough that the press would succumb to a misleading framing of the shooting in order to sow social dissension, but it’s worse when a senator does it:

Brown didn’t mention race explicitly but by linking Bryant’s shooting to the Chauvin trial he obviously meant to imply that her death and George Floyd’s had something important in common when they didn’t. Floyd wasn’t a mortal threat to anyone when he was subdued. And what killed him wasn’t a split-second reaction but an extended ordeal in which Chauvin didn’t react to his distress even though bystanders pleaded with him to do so. It’s apples and oranges — except for the fact that the police were white and the victims were black in both cases, which of course is Brown’s point. Question for him: If, as he says, Bryant should be alive right now, should the girl in pink whom she was about to stab be dead?

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