Friday, July 24, 2009

The News Filter

We're always being told that professional journalists are needed because, you see, they're trained to separate the wheat from the chaff, to recognize the real news from the distractions, the dubious, and the downy. They analyze, sort, rank, and filter the news for us so we'll know what's really important; so we won't be diverted by side-shows and insubstantial stories.

So, why is it that after Wednesday's lengthy presidential presser followed by a Q-and-A on the need for a national health care plan with a public option, and then a day-long visit by President Obama to the Cleveland Clinic, on Thursday, to showcase how medicine should be practiced, we're seeing almost nothing but wrongful arrest reporting about a privileged Harvard professor who threw a tantrum when a Cambridge cop stupidly mistreated him in his own home and served him with a misdemeanor citation?

Police misconduct happens every day in America. So, too, do citizen tantrums. But a national health care plan? We haven't had one of those in, um... ah.... forever.

So, where are the professional journalists, the precious news editors and reporters? Why have all our newspapers buried the health care story behind and below big, black headlines and lengthy screeds about Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Sgt. James Crowley, and the finer points about Cambridge city ordinances?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know. America has a race problem. True. And, the Thin Blue Line has a lot of stupid, venal, and racist in it, too. What's more, innocent citizens sometimes may get overwrought when they become ensnared in our dysfunctional legal system. Ya think?

But don't suppose for a moment the professional news filters are doing their job by flopping all over this story like a wool blanket, instead of the health care issue. If you really want news about America's justice system, instead of national health care, here is the real scoop:
Wrongly arrest a black men who happens to be a Harvard professor, release him without filing charges, and the national press corps asks the president to comment. Wrongly imprison for years on end a black man who happens to be working class and without celebrity, and the national press corps continues to utterly ignore a criminal justice system that routinely convicts innocent people. * * * [T]he news we get on these matters reflects a value system that is seriously flawed, and ... news consumers bear blame for too.


Anonymous said...

This is not about black vs. white. Sounds like the usual - two men with too much macho going after each other over real or surmised 'disrespect'. Until we see a videotape (doesn't exist) we are all likely to draw conclusions based on personal bias. Agree the media focus on health care was lost over the stray comment. But Obama should have been more circumspect. He got emotional and sorry, but that was a mistake. The two assholes at the center of this ought to cool down and do a mutual apology. More than likely they both behaved badly and thats my biased opinion.

Inspector Clouseau said...

We have three observations about the Harvard professor incident:

1. We find it interesting that the fact that this was the professor's home was evidently not established early on way before the dispute escalated;

2. We find it fascinating that the versions of two members of society, who most would ordinarily view as responsible and honest citizens (this obviously does not include politicians), would vary so dramatically from a factual point of view.

3. Finally, considering that the reading and viewing public were not present at the scene (and thus have no first hand knowledge), and that there is no video tape to our knowledge of the sequence of events and what was said, how so many have formed conclusions, and made assumptions, about who did what and who was wrong.

There are some things which Professor Gates might have considered upon the arrival of the police, no matter how incensed he may have been.

Anonymous said...

Ok the Prez, the Officer and Gates are all going to make nice over a beer in the White House! Perfecr resolution to a silly silly incident that had more to do with male ego than race. Lets all have a beer!!!!