By Chez Pazienza: Every once in a while I apparently like to see to it that my progressive street cred takes a huge hit and, well, I guess it's that time again. The line to angrily show me the error of my ways forms to the left -- just, please, not the face, eh?
In case you haven't been watching Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox recently -- and I can't in good conscience suggest that you do -- his latest indignant crusade involves the search for answers in the beating of a pair of Virginia newspaper reporters by an angry mob a few weeks back. The two reporters were white; the people who attacked them, throwing rocks at their car and eventually sending both of them to the hospital, were reportedly all black. What got O'Reilly's dander up was the fact that the paper the victims work for -- the Virginian-Pilot -- ran the story not as a news item but as an opinion piece two weeks after the attack. It never bothered to report the initial story; it only chose to comment on it well after the fact and when it did, it stated only that the reporters were beaten by a mob, with no mention of what seemed to be a glaringly obvious racial component. O'Reilly even sent his own little Renfield, intrepid professional asshole producer Jesse Watters, down to the Pilot's offices to confront the paper's management about what he sees as an intentional oversight and ran an interview with at least one man in the neighborhood where the attack happened who claimed that anger over the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida might have played a role in the beating.
To top it all off, a couple of nights ago O'Reilly brought on Bernard Goldberg -- who by the way is probably the most impressive surrogate for Fox's audience of embittered old white people from among its stable of regular guests -- to discuss how liberal media bias contributed to the unwillingness to broach the subject of race in the story. From Mediaite, here's what Goldberg had to say:
"Here is what it is really about. It goes beyond journalism, it’s a much bigger issue. It’s about white, usually white liberal paternalism where they say, ‘Well, we really can’t hold black people up to the same standards as we hold white people up to. That’s why we are not putting it in the paper. They are different.’ So two things happen after that. One, the newspaper, the media, they don’t want to air that kind of dirty laundry because it’s kind of embarrassing for the black community. And two, they don’t want to give ammunition to the bigots who probably would say, you see, that’s how they all behave. Now look, we hate, we detest the bigots. But a newspaper has a responsibility to cover legitimate news."
O'Reilly himself then went on to bring up what he calls an undeniable double standard when it comes to the coverage of the Virginia attack: “You can’t tell me that MSNBC, if it were reversed, wouldn’t be every show, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, on and on and on," he said.
Now make no mistake: Bill O'Reilly isn't the least bit concerned with justice, fairness or, most assuredly, journalistic integrity -- he's just throwing red meat to his viewers to feed their white resentment, persecution complexes and the overall delusion that they're the victims of "reverse racism." Here's the thing, though: He's right about this. And so is Bernie Goldberg. Intentions be damned, almost across the board they're both right.
Was flat-out racism really a factor in the decision by a large group of black people to attack the Virginian-Pilot's two white reporters as they sat in their car at a red light? I don't know, and neither does anyone else at the moment. But to not acknowledge at all the racial component of a story like this requires powers of self-deception -- or at the very least the ability to twist yourself into a pretzel of rationalization -- that border on superhuman. Again, no one should be claiming that race played a role in the attack, but it's entirely fair to ask the question why so few in the media are willing to question whether it did -- and to do it seemingly as part of a general rule about bringing up race when it's a black-on-white crime. O'Reilly may be a pompous buffoon, but I dare anyone to challenge his assertion that were the races reversed in the case in Virginia -- had it been a group of white people who attacked an African-American man and woman in their car -- it would've been the lead on Al Sharpton's MSNBC show every night since the day it happened.
I want to stress one more time, because it's that important: I have no idea whether race played a role in this recent attack and I won't immediately jump to the conclusion that it did. But it's a news outlet's job to dispassionately report the facts, even if it's to impress upon the public that not enough is known about a news item to make a judgment call. But the press generally doesn't do that when it comes to issues of race and violence, not when the victim is white and the assailant is black. As Goldberg says, they're holding the two groups to different standards when it comes to what they're willing to say about them without unequivocal evidence. When a power-drunk white guy in Florida shoots an unarmed black teen, it's asked whether the attack was racially motivated. And it should be. When an angry mob of young black men and women attack a couple of white reporters, trashing their car and sending them to the hospital, the possibility that the attack was racially motivated isn't even discussed, out of fear of offending anyone or fueling an ugly stereotype. And, again, it should be.
Why? Because that's a news outlet's job.