From the September 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speculated that the attack on the Washington Navy Yard may have been a false flag operation committed by disguised government agents in pursuit of some obscure goal to restrict liberty. Despite Jones' far-fetched and often offensive statements, conservative outlets like Fox News and the Drudge Report have continued to promote his theories -- coverage that has even inspired legislative action in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
After a gunman attacked the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, Alex Jones immediately wondered if the attack was part of some conspiracy, tweeting, "Who will the Navy yard shooting be blamed on? Terrorist? Tea Partier? Leftist? Lone nut?" Later, on his radio show, Jones said, "when you have multiple shooters like this, it has patsy written all over it," and compared it to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, which Jones described as "undoubtedly a false flag." At the time of publication, Reuters reported, "Up to three gunmen, at least two dressed in military-style clothing, killed several people and wounded at least four others in a shooting spree at the U.S. Navy Yard on Monday."
Jones has long promoted false flag conspiracy theories. He once accused the government of using a weather control machine to devastate Moore, OK, with tornadoes. Jones also claimed that the United States government was behind everything from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting. Most recently, he questioned whether the New World Order may be using the Syrian civil war as an opportunity to replace the world's population with human-machine hybrids.
While Jones' theories may seem outlandish, they often receive promotion among the right wing media including Fox News. Earlier this year, Matt Drudge declared 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones." Jones' widely debunked conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been stockpiling weapons and ammunition in order to either commit a coup against the United States or to drive up ammunition prices and keep it out of the hands of American citizens recently spurred the Republican-led House of Representatives to investigate and introduce legislation in order to prevent DHS from stockpiling ammunition.
Jones wasn't the only right-wing media figure to rush to politicize the tragedy. Others included Fox's Katie Pavlich and Martha MacCallum and CNN's S.E. Cupp.
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto argued that George Zimmerman was simply "guilty of being male" when he allegedly threatened his estranged wife with violence. Taranto's tweet echoes his established pattern of dismissing acts of violence against women.
George Zimmerman was taken into police custody on September 9 after his estranged wife told 911 emergency operators that Zimmerman had punched her father and was threatening the lives of her and her family. Zimmerman was later released, and his estranged wife has said she will not press charges.
Wall Street Journal editorial board member James Taranto took to his Twitter account to weigh in on the domestic incident. Linking to a Slate article titled, "Shellie Zimmerman Won't Press Charges Against Her Husband. Alleged Domestic Violence Victims Often Don't," Taranto wrote:
Taranto's characterization of the alleged attack and threats maintains his history of offensive comments regarding women. Taranto previously claimed that efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military amounted to a "war on men" and an "effort to criminalize male sexuality." He also blamed "female sexual freedom" for a "war on men" and called "contemporary feminism" a "sweet deal for hedonistic men."
Taranto has also spoken out against laws that protect women, dismissing the validity of Roe v. Wade and advocating for GOP-backed "life begins at fertilization" legislation. He has called for "a rebalancing of the burden of proof in sexual-harassment cases," because the current legal structure is "highly indulgent of sexual-harassment allegations."
A new study from The New Republic determined that the Drudge Report's use of race-baiting headlines has soared in the last five years, a fact that lends context to the recent flood of conservative media amplifying random, interracial crimes and baselessly assigning them a racial motive.
Matt Drudge's conservative website Drudge Report is infamous for its obsessive coverage of alleged black-on-white crime and race-baiting headlines. But it's only getting worse, according to a new analysis by The New Republic. The magazine analyzed Drudge's use of race-related terms in headlines after 2008 -- the year President Obama established himself as a national figure with his first presidential campaign -- with Drudge headlines before 2008, and the results are striking. According to the analysis, since 2008, Drudge headlines:
Notably, the analysis highlighted that Drudge often altered headlines to inject a racial component when the original source contained none. This method of race-baiting has spilled over into the broader media. Recently, conservative outlets have seized upon local crime stories and baselessly assigned them racial motives when no such evidence existed. This spate of reckless race-baiting has been repeatedly accompanied by inapt comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an attempt to highlight a supposed double standard among civil rights leaders and media figures.
When a video of three teenage students beating up another student on a Florida school bus surfaced in early August, local media reported that the attack was in retaliation for the victim notifying school officials that the three teens tried to sell him drugs. But because the perpetrators happened to be black and the victim white, conservative media broke into a chorus of race-baiting, complaining that civil rights leaders hadn't spoken about the assault. Fox News bragged about its insertion of race into the crime, highlighting that it was the only network to bring race "to the forefront" on the story.
When three teens -- two black, one white -- allegedly shot and killed an Australian college student last month because they were "bored," law enforcement officials emphasized there was no evidence "to indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
Undeterred by facts, right-wing media again repeatedly manufactured a racial motive. Fox argued that the murder was "likely motivated by race" and even criticized other media outlets for "ignoring the race issue" in the crime. Drudge featured photographs of the two black suspects, neglecting to include the photo of their alleged white accomplice.
From the September 4 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen dismissed the real-life rape of a minor as "manhandl[ing]" and refused to acknowledge the realities of the sexual misconduct, a longstanding and common practice for Cohen.
In a Post op-ed on September 2, Cohen highlighted singer Miley Cyrus' recent MTV performance where she infamously twerked in order to bring attention to a New Yorker report by Ariel Levy on the horrific rape of a minor in Steubenville, OH in August 2012. Cohen euphemistically characterized the victim as being stripped and manhandled:
The first thing you should know about the so-called Steubenville Rape is that this was not a rape involving intercourse. The next thing you should know is that there weren't many young men involved -- just two were convicted. The next thing you should know is that just about everything you do know about the case from TV and the Internet was wrong. One medium fed the other, a vicious circle of rumor, innuendo and just plain lies. It made for marvelous television.
The New Yorker piece was done by Ariel Levy, a gifted writer. When I finished her story, I felt somewhat disconcerted -- unhappily immersed in a teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic that I felt like a visitor to a foreign country. That country, such as it is, exists on the Internet -- in e-mails and tweets and Facebook, which formed itself into a digital lynch mob that demanded the arrest of the innocent for a crime -- gang rape -- that had not been committed. It also turned the victim into a reviled public figure, her name and picture (passed out, drunk) available with a Google query.
And yet what indisputably did happen is troubling enough. A teenage girl, stone-drunk, was stripped and manhandled. She was photographed and the picture passed around. Obviously, she was sexually mistreated. And while many people knew about all of this, no one did anything about it. The girl was dehumanized. As Levy put it, "[T]he teens seemed largely unaware that they'd been involved in a crime." She quoted the Jefferson County prosecutor, Jane Hanlin: "'They don't think that what they've seen is a rape in the classic sense. And if you were to interview a thousand teen-agers before this case started and said, "Is it illegal to take a video of another teenager naked?," I would be astonished if you could find even one who said yes.'"
Illegal is sort of beside the point. Right, proper, nice, respectful, decent -- you choose the word -- is more apt. This is what got me: a teenage culture that was brutal and unfeeling, that treated the young woman as dirt. "'She's deader than O.J.'s wife. She's deader than Caylee Anthony,' " one kid exulted in a YouTube posting. "'They raped her harder than that cop raped Marsellus Wallace in "Pulp Fiction." She is so raped right now.' " Yes, I know, they were all drunk, woozy and disoriented from a tawdry cable TV and celebrity culture.
After bizarrely emphasizing that what happened in Steubenville did not involve rape by intercourse, Cohen later referred to the crime as stripping and manhandling without ever definitively acknowledging that the assault amounted to rape. Of course, an Ohio jury found that the victim was raped and two teens were guilty of the crime.
The Washington Post published a problematic op-ed by Betsy Karasik, a Dupont Circle artist described by the Post as a "writer and former lawyer," that argued for the legal acceptance of consensual sexual relationships between teachers and their underage students.
Karasik's column centered on a widely discussed Montana case in which a 49-year-old teacher was sentenced to 30 days in prison after the statutory rape of a 14-year-old student, who several years later committed suicide. This sentence, which many feel was far too lenient and which came after the judge stated that the student was "older than her chronological age," led to a national public outcry.
Karasik, however, found herself "troubled for the opposite reason":
I don't believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.
Karasik does acknowledge that "that teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation."
From the August 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the August 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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On August 12, a federal court judge ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was improperly performing the common police tactic of "stop and frisk" by unconstitutionally targeting persons of color without reasonable suspicion. The New York City Council agreed, and passed legislation over a mayor's veto on August 23 to safeguard against future unconstitutional applications of this long-standing enforcement tactic. Right-wing media responded by ignoring the constitutional violations and instead defended the NYPD's actions for "establishing a sense of order."
Fox News and right-wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh have not hesitated to inject harmful and unnecessary racial overtones into their coverage of an Australian teen shot and killed at random in Oklahoma. Fox and Rush are feeding into a well-worn script of biased media coverage of violent crimes that academic research has shown favors white people and disparages black people with seriously ill effects on racial comity and equal justice in America.
On August 16, three teens -- one white, two black -- shot and killed Christopher Lane, an Australian attending school in Oklahoma, while he was out for a jog.
Conservative media figures pounced on the story with a racial lens. On his radio show, Limbaugh called the murder, "Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse," and speculated that the teenagers "got bored and said, 'Let's go shoot a white guy!'"
Over at Fox News, guest Pat Buchanan appeared on the set of On the Record With Greta Van Susteren to predict that the shooting was "racial" while running through a list of dubious statistics on interracial crime that he used to claim that "racial hate crimes [are] 40 times more prevalent in the black community than the white community, and nobody talks about it."
On the morning side, Fox & Friends wondered why civil rights activists Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson hadn't responded to the murder, while Fox News' White House correspondent Ed Henry asked Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest if the White House had any reaction to Lane's murder "apparently by three African-American young men."
Unfortunately, Fox News' coverage of this tragedy fits a long pattern of racially-biased media coverage of crime stories -- a pattern that has demonstrably harmful effects. Professor of media & public affairs at George Washington University Robert Entman highlighted a few of the subtle media trends recorded in various studies. They include:
1. Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to appear as lawbreakers in the news - particularly when the news is focusing on violent crime. [...]
2. [W]hites are overrepresented as victims of violence and as law-enforcers, while blacks are underrepresented in these sympathetic roles.
3. [B]lacks in criminal roles tend to outnumber blacks in socially positive roles in newscasts and daily newspapers. [...]
4. [D]epictions of black suspects...tend to be more symbolically threatening than those of whites accused of similar crimes...In the ubiquitous "perp walks," blacks were twice as likely as whites to be shown under some form of physical restraint by police - although all were accused of scary and generally violent crimes.
7. [B]lack victims are less likely to be covered than white victims in newspaper coverage of crime.
Fox News has recently engaged in racebaiting by baselessly claiming that a Florida student's beating on a school bus and the shooting of an Australian college student in Oklahoma were racially motivated. But police and a prosecutor involved in these cases debunked these claims during interviews on Fox.
In early August, a video of three teenagers beating another student on a school bus in Florida spread across national news outlets, and an August 6 report from the Orlando Sentinel noted that the attack was in retaliation for the victim notifying school officials that the three teens tried to sell him drugs. But Fox News took a different angle. Since all three of the alleged perpetrators are black, and the victim is white, Fox repeatedly claimed that race was the motivating factor for the attack. On August 9, Fox host Steve Doocy bragged that it was Fox News that brought race "to the forefront" of the story.
But the day before, Fox had interviewed the police chief of the town where the beating occurred. During the interview, Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent said: "The race difference between the victim and the defendants in this case is purely coincidental, there is absolutely no indication that race was a motivator in the attack."
Instead of learning from their mistake, Fox News hosts also baselessly insisted race was a factor when reporting on the tragic death of Christopher Lane, an Australian attending college in Oklahoma. Because Lane was white and two of the three suspects charged in connection with his shooting are black, Fox presented this crime as having a racial bias. On the August 21 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts demanded to know why President Obama, Al Sharpton, or Jesse Jackson hadn't commented on the case, an attempt to connect this crime to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Once again, an official involved with the case debunked the network's assertions that race was a factor in this crime. On August 22, Fox News host Greta van Susteren interviewed local District Attorney Jason Hicks, who said that with all of his evidence for the case, he had nothing to "indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
How many more crimes will Fox News falsely charge are motivated by race?
From the August 22 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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In response to a new ad that cites the death of Trayvon Martin to encourage states to end Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws, Fox's Hannity claimed the laws actually benefit black Americans more than any other race. The falsehood, first pushed by the conservative blog The Daily Caller, ignores the fact that homicides with black victims are disproportionately found to be justified in SYG states, as well as SYG's impact on states' homicide rates.