When we first learned that Kenosha resident Jacob Blake was offering his first interviews and sending out video messages from the hospital after being shot by the police in Kenosha, I noted a somewhat fawning tone to the media coverage he was getting. This left me wondering about the other people involved in his story, particularly the alleged victims of his past criminal behavior.
Just curious, has anyone interviewed the woman with the restraining order against him that he (allegedly) sexually assaulted *again* before the cops arrived? If she doesn't feel like talking, that's understandable, but it seems like it would be part of the story. https://t.co/3R3A6OlpzE
— Jazz Shaw (@JazzShaw) September 6, 2020
Judging by the thousands of combined retweets and likes that message received, I didn’t seem to be the only one raising these nagging questions. None of these issues slowed down the rest of our major media outlets, however. The New York Times has been generating a lot of clicks this week from their own piece on the subject. They describe Blake as a “rare survivor” of police assaults and seemingly admire his willingness to “tell his own story.”
Unlike so many of the people who have become grim symbols for a movement, Mr. Blake survived and has begun to tell his own story.
“Your life — and not only just your life, your legs, something that you need to move around and move forward in life — could be taken from you like this, man,” Mr. Blake says from his hospital bed, snapping his fingers for emphasis, in a video released over the weekend. In the video, he speaks publicly for the first time about what happened to him. His injuries are severe, and his family says he was paralyzed from the waist down in the shooting last month.
The Gray Lady then goes on to favorably share a Saturday tweet from someone who describes Blake as a “brother who can’t be silent.”
Words from brother who can’t be silent Mr Jacob Blake pic.twitter.com/cc6pEdlvRQ
— Our Lives Matter! (@GHOGM) September 5, 2020
The Times speaks glowingly about how activists see the opportunity to present the public with a personal voice to his experience to be “encouraging.” They quote Blake’s attorney, Ben Crump, saying that his client “hasn’t been able to fully grasp what a symbol he has become.”
The article does eventually (and very briefly) get around to mentioning why the police were called to the scene that day and the charges he faces, but it then immediately switches gears back to describing what an opportunity this is supposed to be for victims of police violence to “have a voice.” I’m once again left wondering who is making these editorial decisions at the Paper of Record and if they’ve really lost all sense of self-awareness.
It may yet be proven that the police acted improperly when the decision to employ potentially deadly force against Blake on the morning of the event. An investigation is underway and we won’t know the results of that inquiry for some time. But in the meanwhile, there are a number of other things we do know and which should obviously be part of this story.
As I wrote on August 29th, at least some reporters have been digging into Blake’s backstory and the picture isn’t a pretty one. It’s the tale of someone who has had numerous “touches” with law enforcement over the years and not for minor matters. The woman whose home Blake was at when the police arrived had a restraining order against him… an order he had violated yet again that same morning, allegedly sexually assaulting her in front of her own child. She said he had assaulted her numerous times over the years since she had known him, generally when he needed money.
The charges against Blake included illegal weapons violations, domestic violence, criminal assault, and more. In short, this was not some innocent victim of racist cops who were out randomly looking for Black people to murder. Jacob Blake has a profile best described as being a serial predator.
Does that excuse the police shooting him if the decision to employ potentially lethal force is found to have been flawed? No. The rules are the rules. But one bad thing happening to Jacob Blake does not erase all the bad things that happened to other people at his hands. When someone beat the heck out of Jeffrey Epstein in his cell last year, the public was clearly entitled to criticize the jail for not keeping their inmates safe while in custody. But that doesn’t mean that the press was going to go out and start painting flattering images of Epstein as some sort of wronged victim of the criminal justice system rather than keeping in mind that he was a serial child rapist and predator.
If the media insists on having Jacob Blake tell his story as the “victim” of a police shooting, they are free to do so. But someone should be telling the story of the woman whose home Blake was invading that morning as well as anyone else who ran afoul of him in the past rather trying to turn him into some sort of hero in their war on the cops.