24 November 2014

How the mainstream media is complicit in police abuse

The mainstream media was quick to observe how the New York Police Department (NYPD) fell flat in its latest social media campaign. Many media outlets, pretending that they are internet savvy, or at least remove the ball-gags from their intern’s mouths, called it “Epic Fail.” Was the #myNYPD twitter gaff a failure of a large institution to understand the dynamics of social media, or a failure of the institutions of the press to live up to the responsibility of media as society's watchdogs? After careful quantitative and qualitative analysis, the Free Press concludes the latter is likely true.

The NYPD, in the hopes of getting good photos for publication and building its community relations, encouraged Twitter users to tweet pictures of their interactions with the police with the #myNYPD hashtag. This predictably led to the posting of many pictures and videos of police brutality. The mainstream press noted the backfire and reported on the story.

Not to be outdone, the west coast responded with #myLAPD for LA, this in turn spawned #myCPD for Chicago, #myDPD for Denver (and Durham N.C.), #myHPD for Houston and so on. The Twitter storm spread to multiple continents with pictures posted from Mexico and Turkey. At the time of this writing, there seems to be no end.

The mainstream American press kept rehashing the same angle in all its coverage and kept recycling the same handful of pictures in all its stories. The coverage seemed to somewhat tease the NYPD for engaging in social media, and was quick to quote NYPD commissioner Bratton's assertion that the pictures were “awful but lawful.” They permitted the commissioner to stand tough and assert that the NYPD would not be scared off social media.

Some media went further in their defense of police brutality. KTLA channel 5 (owned by the Tribune company who also owns WPIX-11 NY, the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune) accused Twitter users of “mocking” the police in their headline. By running only a couple of the same pictures posted to Twitter out of hundreds, KTLA ignored tweeted pictures of actual inflicted injuries, like this child badly beaten by police:

Not content to belittle the exposure of actual police abuse as mocking, KTLA also dug through twitter to find a total of two positive quotes. The first was from @poshwonderwoman, who is actually Lindsay Dixon of Cheshire in the UK, posting a picture of herself hanging out with officers after a ride along. KTLA failed to note from Mrs. Dixon's Twitter feed that she actively works to help train officers in her area. KTLA's second positive quote was from @annuhk who thinks “People are so lame, there’s a lot of good cops out there as well.” Perhaps this Chicago resident was referring to these Chicago police openly advertising their love of beating protestors:

KTLA was not the only media source that was openly scornful of exposed police abuse and biased in their coverage. Pacey Williams (@PaceyWilliams), an afternoon radio personality on VF101Sacremento (Owned by Clear Channel) was quick to tweet “These pics of #myLAPD and #myNYPD are such bullshit, y'all just tryin to make police look bad for doing their jobs.” Williams failed to look in the Anaheim police job description for “Shoot unarmed non-violent protestors in the face and back.”

The mainstream media also failed to report on at least one officer taking to Twitter to mass tweet support, while not disclosing his job as an NYPD special operations sergeant. That user, Jeffrey Rochester (@bronxeast10), NYPD officr stated, “It's sad how everyone capitalizes on the Corny headline, on how #myNYPD is a failure, can't see the heroic officers and their stories!” He went on to volley tweet positive news about the doings of the NYPD while ignoring “corny” things like this:

The LAPD was more reactive than the NYPD, actually speaking to and visiting one activist who posted nearly a dozen pictures on Twitter. While attempting to at least appear to engage in community outreach, what the LAPD did was construed as a threat and reported on Twitter: @LACANetwork #myLAPD just showed up for a friendly "happened to be in the neighborhood" visit. Considering that police have been known to shoot unarmed people in the back and leave them to bleed to death in public in broad daylight without much media scrutiny, the activist's life might have been saved by Twitter. The man below was shot in California for allegedly not paying bus fare:

The media missed an opportunity to focus on the hundreds of pictures that were posted and ask the questions that might have spurred a national dialogue on police brutality and abuse. Instead, the media chose to belittle the survivors, suppress the evidence and re-focus the conversation into a story about social media as opposed to an under-reported epidemic social problem.

In the images below, the Free Press will do the rest of the media's job and publish every single picture we could find on Twitter of police abuse with that our limited technical resources will allow. We hope to keep the nation and world talking about this problem.

The mainstream press failed to show all the pictures, or even more than a handful. The mainstream press was ready to take unsourced quotes straight from twitter if they were pro-police. The mainstream press's silence assists the police in threatening and harassing the activists and others who come forward with the evidence. The Free Press aspires to do what the mainstream press cannot and apparently will not do.