Why can't the media just accurately report what is going on when a police shooting occurs?
The latest example comes out of Milwaukee, Wisc., in which a black police officer shot and killed Sylville Smith, who refused to put down his gun.
This was not another case of a white officer shooting an unarmed black man. It was a black officer, and more importantly the man he shot was armed. Riots and violence broke out in Smith's neighborhood anyway.
Beyond trying to downplay the race of the officer and the firearm status of the slain man, CNN went a step further by selectively editing what Smith's sister Sherelle said to reporters.
"Burnin' down s*** ain't going to help nothin! Y'all burnin' down s*** we need in our community," Sherelle told reporters. "Take that s*** to the suburbs. Burn that s*** down! We need our s***! We need our weaves. I don't wear it. But we need it."
CNN stopped rolling the clip after Sherelle's comments about her own community. They framed her comments as "calling for peace." Not exactly.
Members of the media can't help but mislead on these stories in favor of a narrative of innocent black men being gunned down by overzealous, racist cops. Yet in many instances, the narrative preferred by the media has not matched up with what actually happened. The most famous case was the Michael Brown shooting. Over and over we were told that Brown had been holding his hands up in defense when he was shot. Evidence showed he was reaching for the officer's gun, and that evidence was good enough to convince the Obama Justice Department. "Hands up, don't shoot" became one of the biggest lies of the year, but it still dies hard even now because of the way the incident was reported.
In most of the high-profile police-involved shootings since, the media has run with that same story template no matter what the facts have shown, and people have been getting angrier and angrier, and violence has followed. Media outlets like CNN stoke the flames, and when violence breaks out they try their best to downplay or ignore it, insisting that the looters and arsonists are merely nonviolent protesters.
If not for journalists' constant resort to the innocent-black-guy-gets-shot trope for every police shooting by default, we'd probably have a much more nuanced understanding of what's going on. People who perceive the problem would be better informed, not just blind with rage against police, suburban residents, or whatever breakable window happens to be nearest by.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.