It is really beginning to appear that the persistent rumors forecasting the eventual demise of the newspaper industry in America are not really exaggerated after all. However, one might actually say that they are all too very real. Neither is it simply the worsening economy that has been the major factor in all of this. However, over just the last year alone the economic downturn seems to have ultimately accelerated the enviable. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that the US Congress could ever see clear to a financial bailout of the Fourth Estate; no matter what the political climate in the country. All in all, it is the business model of an out-worn dead-tree industry that has been solely dependent upon advertising revenue drawn from its pages for its bottom line; which has gradually been supplanted by the a New Digital Media. Like the automobile industry, this is but another example of a large deeply-entrenched American institution that simply has not heeded notice of encroaching innovative change. Nonetheless, if the newspaper industry must die in order that a few more trees can live, then so be it.
We began to see these developments clearly during the 2008 Presidential campaign, when all of a sudden it was internet news sites like the Huffington Post and Politico that really seemed to have a jump on the Old Media in the battle to scoop the 24 hours news cycle. For the first time in years, the Old Media masters seemed to lose a great deal of the power that they once had to determine exactly who is projected as a viable presidential candidate. Furthermore, with the birth of the independent citizen-journalist, suddenly the so called ‘mainstream media’ can no longer repress outside options of exactly what is deemed to be newsworthy. One should not be surprised that many Old Media commentators have now begun to suggest that with the imminent demise of the newspaper industry, we are certain to lose a bit of professional objectivity along the way. One commentator even went so far recently to suggest that without newspapers, local politicians will be encouraged to be evermore corrupt; as if to say an independent press outside of massive corporate control simply cannot be trusted to professionally do the job of political oversight. This is simply another way of saying that the masses are meant to be controlled and led by big brother.
Yet, in spite of huge technological innovation, if the newspaper industry had a viable history of maintaining a high standard of editorial objectivity, then its demise might not be as inevitable as it has now become. However, the myth of American journalistic objectivity is of but one of the myriad layers of ritual deception that continue to arrest the development and the full potential of this society. The truth is that major newspapers have always been under either partisan, or corporate control; or both. For years, they have simply ignored the pleas of the common citizen to portray the news as it is truly experienced within their own neighborhoods. More often than not, in most communities the record shows that local newspapers have actually turned a blind eye to the corruption of the majority of local officials. If you were not a rich or powerful citizen or group, then the chances that your story would pass editorial muster was slim at best. The local dailies have often appeared to believe that it was their job simply to ‘manufacture’ reality. This is especially so within the African American community, where more or less, the newspaper industry has consistently maintained an adversarial relationship with its readership; often making the Black community the political dumping grounds for the nation’s ills.
This could not be more real than with the 144 year struggle to put an end to the racist practice of lynching in the United States. The mere fact that the alarming epidemic of African American lynching continues to exist, although the term lynching itself has been cleverly removed from the official lexicon as a description of these racist atrocities is testament enough to the media’s traditional disregard for the Black community. However, nobody ever maintained that it simply requires a rope and a tree to lynch someone. Furthermore, the history of lynching in the United States demonstrates that there has always existed an extraordinary amount of police culpability in this mode of terroristic activity; as it has continued to be applied towards the Black community. Indeed, many of the traditional lynch mobs of the South during much of the first half of the Twentieth Century were actually made up of large numbers of off-duty members of the Criminal Justice System, including sheriffs and their deputies, police officers, county clerks, and even judges. Although a handful of newspapers, such as the New York Times for one, must be signaled out for its consistent abhorrence of the crime of lynching, many others like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution were notorious for posing as nothing more than bulletin boards for the latest surge of racist bloodlust.
Often, these newspapers would go even further by manufacturing the actual rationale that would in turn incite a racist mob to go into action in the first place. This was the case during the Atlanta Riots of 1906, when the Atlanta newspaper had their ‘paper-boys’ stationed at Five Points inciting rioting White mobs with the latest headlines of their spontaneous editions that all too often claimed that some Black man in the area was once again on the prowl for the purity of some White women. In the spring of 1918 another White mob kidnapped Mary Turner who was eight months pregnant at the time. She was tied upside down to a tree from her ankles. Her body was doused with gasoline and her clothes were burned away from her body. One man stepped forward from the crowd brandishing a large fishing knife and proceeded to cut the baby directly from out of Mary’s stomach, causing the young, 21-year-old devout Christian woman to wail in indescribable pain. The child instantly fell to the ground and gave out a small cry. Another man then came forward and smashed the baby’s skull directly under the heavy heel of his boot. Mary’s body was then riddled with gun fire and the crowd of men, women, and children dismembered whatever the pleased, taking their customary souvenirs back to their homes. Mary’s only crime was that she publically expressed her natural anguish that her husband had become the innocent victim of a similar mob’s bloodlust only hours earlier. If she had not voiced her pain within ear shod of a newspaper reporter who published her sentiments within hours, Mary and her unborn child may not have become the victim of such a gruesome murder.
Today, police within the United States continue to lynch innocent Black, men, women, and even children at an alarming rate. As if keeping up tradition, they have continued to get away with it; largely making the bizarre application of the Criminal Justice System towards the African American community – a crime in itself. Newspapers outside of the Black community over the last forty years have done little but attempt to manufacture a rationale for these serial murders of Black people by police officers. It is this Old Media dead-tree industry once again that has all too often attempted to ascribe culpability for this terrorist behavior towards the victims themselves. At some point they made the editorial decision that as far as they are concerned, no longer is this behavior to be considered outright lynching at all; at most they are “Justifiable Homicides”. At times (whenever they can get away with it), they can even be considered as “Suicide by Cop”.
On May 25, 2004 in Gwinnett County, Georgia (a state with a notoriously ‘red record’), 31 year old Frederick Jerome Williams fell into an epileptic seizure. His wife called 911 hoping to secure the aid of an ambulance to help her husband’s medical condition. A police officer arrived instead, who immediately reacted to Freddie’s medical emergency with violence. Before it was all over, an additional 15 squad cars had arrived along with 20 additional police officers. Frederick Williams was severely beaten before he ever reached the police station and he had been shocked by an electric taser gun at least three times before he died. A video showing Williams being tasered by police as he pleads for his life has been shown on television news programs around the world; making Frederick Jerome William’s murder the most public lynching in American history. Two years later, police in Atlanta served a ‘no-knock warrant’ on the wrong house and executed an innocent 92 year old grandmother named Kathryn Johnston who lived at 933 Neal Street. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other Old Media outlets immediately published stories suggesting that Kathryn Johnston was some kind of Annie Oakley who somehow went and got her gun and shot first at these officers. However, further evidence of an elaborate conspiracy which was soon revealed in this case, has left doubt as to whether Kathryn Johnston even had or pointed a gun at all. This manner of systematic terroristic abuse of the African American community has been a prominent aspect of American culture since the founding of this nation. Today it is something that truly demands greater international scrutiny.
One of the most outrageous abdications of journalistic responsibility in recent years is the continually blatant disregard of Old Media outlets for incidents of torture at home; all the while an enormous controversy concerning torture abroad has continued to loom large upon their editorial agendas. Even if, as it is believed by some that the use by police of tasers on unarmed suspects does not actually constitute torture, the mere fact that a shocking number of people have actually died under this abuse – unlike the torture faced by suspected terrorists at the hands of US service men and women overseas – should be enough to have made these allegations of torture at home a major story in the US media. After shocking revelations about torture at the prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay came to light, it should have been no stretch to realize that these allegations of torture at home would ultimately find their way towards greater media scrutiny. Moreover, in order to find a case of American officials using torture on suspected criminals, we need go no further than the well-know case of the San Francisco Eight.
On January 23, 2007 eight former African American community activists and members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense were arrested in three states and booked on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. This was the second time that these men had been charged in this case. The original charges were actually dismissed after it was discovered that three of these men were forced to make statements after being tortured for several days by police in New Orleans. John Bowman (who recently passed away), Harold Taylor and Ruben Scott were reportedly tortured with the use of sensory deprivation, electric shock, cattle prods applied to their genitals, constant beatings, wet blankets used as a means to induce asphyxiation and plastic bags put over their heads. Even though this case involved a judge’s finding that the torture of these suspects was sufficient enough to warrant tossing out the charges against these men, the Old Media has chosen to completely ignore this case. However, there remains no greater example of torture existing as an official aspect of the mind-set of the United States than the Case of the San Francisco Eight.
The majority of these cases of lynching and torture will continue to be completely ignored by the Old Media; and as the newspaper industry slowly slips away in your neighborhood, you might want to really pause and ask yourself just how stellar a job the corporate press has really done in actually covering the news. How many of you aware that even before the New Year had begun in earnest several more lynchings occurred in the United States? On New Year’s Eve a police officer in Oakland California shot an unarmed 22 year old Black man named Oscar Grant Jr. in his back as he lay prone on a train platform. The incident was caught on tape making it the second largest public lynching in the United States. On that very same day in Bellaire Texas a police officer shot the 23 year old son of Bobby Tolan, a once famous professional baseball player. Robbie Tolan ended up with a bullet lodged in his liver, only because as he stood in the driveway of his own home, a White police officer merely assumed that the car he actually owned was a stolen vehicle. Then hours later, on New Year’s Day, nine police officers in New Orleans discharged their weapons 48 times and put 12 bullets into the back of yet another unarmed African American man. Adolph Grimes was shot dead and lynched in a hail of gunfire just inches away from his grandmother’s home. So too, the outrageous number of Black people who have fallen victim to the torture of tasers in the United States, including a pregnant 33 year old woman named Valreca Redden, who voluntarily went to the police for aid, has prompted an international petition to ultimately put an end to this method of torture within the United States.
For these stories and others about what is really going on in a neighborhood near you, do not expect the Media of Old to be covering any of this. You shall have to look to the new independent digital media to find this kind of honest responsible reporting. If the newspaper industry is to meet its death in the United States, why anyone concerned with the truth should be shedding any tears is a truly mystery to me.