Back Again, with an Old Rant from April
I stayed up way too late last night watching what has to be the most appalling and disgraceful example of journalistic cowardice and know-nothingism EVER.
Last night's episode of ABC's Nightline began with a clean-cut white boy-man asking what was so wrong with black women that so many of them couldn't find men? That was their lead-in to a Springeresque panel-discussion that pitted youngish, professional-looking black women against an oafish-looking (and oafish-sounding) black man, and a better-looking black man (who I'm told dates white women exclusively), both of whom blamed black women for being (among other things) too picky and idealistic.
This was the kind of "news" show whose superficial flaws (men making stupid, childish demands of women and offering nothing in return) completely mask its most damning fundamental flaw -- the total failure to even MENTION the issue of high rates of incarceration of black men.
Seriously, folks, the Washington Post already had a front-page article about black women dating outside their race; and even those white business wonks in Whitest Europe, a.k.a. The Economist, had their own piece on the same subject; and both offered lengthy discussion of black male incarceration as the primary cause of black women's inability to find enough suitable black men. And yet this Nightline episode, which aired after both aforementioned articles, did not mention this issue at all. It looked to me as if the entire panel had been forced to take an oath of silence on this subject, even though it was central to the announced topic of the show. One person, in the audience, briefly hinted at black men in prison, and one of the women on the stage echoed it just as briefly, but the subject was passed over with no elaboration.
I'm not one to buy into conspiracy theories, but ABC's silence on this issue can only have been premeditated and enforced. Black male incarceration has been widely and openly discussed for years; and in all my years of working in DC, I have never met or heard of a black woman who wasn't both aware of the problem and willing to talk about it. There is, quite simply, no excuse for a national netowrk like ABC to dodge this issue so blatantly. If they really didn't have the guts to face it, then they shouldn't have mentioned black women's dating troubles at all. That course of action would at least have looked like typical mainstream-media carelessness, rather than a deliberate (and, let's face it, malicious) act of censorship.
This brief but shameful moment of silence reminds us of our unwillingness, as a society, to see and confront the consequences of our overall zero-tolerance, zero-thought, zero-flexibility, infinite-fear, unlimited-punishment approach to crime and human imperfection in general.
Teens who engage in "sexting" or any other activity involving ess-ee-ex are now accused of criminal offenses, with no public discussion of the effect of such treatment on the kids' lives.
Adults (and even teens) are placed on sex-offender registries, for life, sometimes without trial, for offenses both major and piddling, ostracized from nearly all aspects of normal public life, and sometimes forced into "re-education" programs, with no public discussion of what happens to them afterword. Then we act comically surprised when we see these "sexual predators" pitching tents in the few places the law still allows them to breathe. (What shall we call such tent cities? "Meganvilles?") Nor does anyone publicly ask why we have "sex-offender" registries, but not racist, rapist, murderer or financial-fraud registries.
We arrest greater numbers of non-violent people for piddling drug-related offenses -- including schoolchildren bringing their own prescription meds to school -- with little serious discussion of what happens to their lives as a result of being treated like dangerous criminals. And the fact that drug use continues virtually unchanged despite all these draconian policies is never mentioned, except as an excuse to demand more money for anti-drug policies that weren't working.
Today our drug-enforcement establishment brags about the senseless violence in neighboring Mexico -- including the killing of judges, cops and elected officials -- as proof that our anti-drug policies are "working." They make these bloodthirsty boasts, and ignore the continued availability of drugs in America, without a trace of humor, irony or shame. Clearly, the continuation of failed policies is worth an unlimited number of foreign lives to the people who have made lucrative careers out of those failed policies.
State laws that create more criminals, and force the incarceration of more people, are openly advocated and influenced by prison-guard unions, for the sole purpose of enhancing their own job security. If ever there was a case to be made for union-busting, this is it. And yet, strangely, union-hating "conservatives" aren't making it.
ABC's blatant cowardice and enforced silence, inexcusable in itself, is merely the filthy tip of a toxic, polluted iceberg: since the 1980s we Americans have been in the grip of multiple spasms of hysteria (Commies! Socialism! Drugs! Child-molesters! Teen sex! Porn! Adultery! Muslims! Terrorists! Angry black men! Healthcare rationing! Death panels!), which have propelled us into policies that are poorly designed, justified by pure emotion, implemented without regard to consequences, fail miserably and at huge (and undisclosed) cost to innocent people, attract and foster corruption, and yet remain in place year after year because we're too scared of too many boogeymen (and too scared of being called "soft on crime") to stand up for common decency. So instead of doing their jobs, our "news" media -- who have their own part in all this to cover up -- distract us from the awful truth with "news" that refuses to connect events into a complete picture, and staged "debates" and "forums" where every interaction is scripted, deviation from script is feared and avoided (learn your lesson yet, Mr. West?), and talking-points are carefully tailored to avoid letting uncomfortable information slip.
ABC is the same network that gave us The Road to 9/11, a "documentary" so full of blatant lies (all in the service of the Republican Party, and all explicitly disputed at the time) as to flush their credibility as a "news" outlet down the drain forever. It's long past time for ABC, Faux News, and all their affiliates to lose their broadcast licences, and have them divided evenly between the BBC and al Jazeera, either of whom would make better use of the time-slots and cover American events better than most American "journalists."
Hopefully Coming soon: something about the Republicans' latest attempt to use anti-Muslim bigotry to distract everyone's attention from the consequences of their failed policies. Welcome to Weimar America. For a really timely reminder of said failures, look for God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise, Spike Lee's documentary about post-Katrina, post-BP New Orleans. Oil isn't the only thing they're hiding with dispersants.