News Brief: 7 Years On, U.S. Media Still Has No Answer for #BLM

Citations Needed | May 30, 2020 | Transcript

Credit: The Real News Network


Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: You can follow Citations Needed on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed, become a supporter of the show through with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson. We do these News Briefs in between our full length episodes when there is news that we really feel like we need to be talking about. Sometimes it’s a whole lot of bullshit, a lot of time it’s a different kind of bullshit and this time we are talking about the ongoing murder of black people in this country by cops and the way that media talks about it or doesn’t talk about it.

Adam: Yeah, so we want to qualify this by saying that we’re recording this on Friday the 29th, should be posted in a day or two, so I assume much of what we’re saying will probably have gotten worse and gotten worse in different ways. So where it stands now is there’s been a I guess a surge of protest activity, the epicenter of which is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, similar police shootings in Phoenix and Louisiana, have now sprung up in addition to solidarity protests in places everywhere — Chicago, New York, Los Angeles have seen big protests — all in response, the really thing that sparked it was the killing of George Floyd, who was pinned down for seven and a half minutes by a Minneapolis police officer and he asphyxiated, sort of choked to death. The coroner is now saying it was that but wasn’t sort of that but that no one’s buying that up to and including your hosts here.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: Eventually the offending police officer who did the murder, who has a history of abuse, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with third degree murder.

Nima: And manslaughter.

Adam: And manslaughter, thank you, and where it stands now is this is not adequate. Of course the arrest for manslaughter and third degree murder didn’t occur until after rebels in Minneapolis lit a police precinct on fire.

Nima: Oh, the horror.

Adam: So this is where we are, you know, it’s one of those things where people say it doesn’t work, you know, so I want to back up your for a second because this is now going on almost six years since the Black Lives Matter movement began in earnest with the killing of Mike Brown in August of 2014 and the subsequent protests from that in addition to the killing of Eric Garner in 2014 — the hashtag itself, of course, dates to Trayvon Martin in 2013 — but really the sort of movement we generally know as Black Lives Matter, I would say, pretty much began in earnest in Missouri —

Nima: Around Ferguson, yeah.

Adam: Around Ferguson in August 2014. So now we’re roughly going on six years now.

Nima: Six years plus 400.

Adam: But nothing, you know, has changed really. There has been some movement in criminal justice reform, the overall prison population has decreased, I think, in large part due to the Black Lives Matter movement providing the kind of moral impetus for that. So there’s been prison reform, but I think it’s extremely fair to say there really hasn’t been any police reform.

Nima: No. Budgets keep going up. Military equipment still gets delivered.

Adam: They’re the shock troops to protect whiteness and to protect capital so they’ll never go. They’ll sort of slowly ease the prison population, in many ways, they just offset that with increased surveillance, but nothing’s really changed when it comes to actual policing. And so you combine that frustration with the murder of Floyd and you have, obviously the same constituency who’s suffering under police brutality and a harassment regime, is always with these police murders, the murder itself is the tip of the iceberg, it’s a big tip, but underneath it, of course, is a whole system of racist police harassment, criminal justice, quote-unquote “justice,” being racist, lack of opportunity, lack of housing, gutting education, gutting social services, the same racist animus that has been around for forever. This is not new information. If you’re listening to the show, you probably already know all this but this has all been amplified and compounded by the way the United States has handled the Coronavirus pandemic, which as we know is disproportionately killing African Americans. The economy tanking, unemployment is higher among African Americans, they’re more likely to be the quote-unquote “essential workers” who we’ve effectively decided we’re going to sacrifice.

Nima: They’re more subject to student debt, to bad credit reporting, shit like that. It’s redlining a million times over.

Adam: Yeah and this obviously, I think, sort of combusted in a sort of way that was political. And one of the things we want to talk about today, and cover is some of the bad media responses to this and then also, we want to sort of talk about the way in which we talk about rioting, quote -unquote “rioting,” not a term we use, we don’t like to use the word riot, I do think there’s a such thing as a riot, the Philadelphia Eagles win a Super Bowl and people go fuck up cars, I would say that’s a riot.

Nima: Yeah, oftentimes, it is intentionally racialized, the term riot, but it also deliberately strips the action of its political context. So it just seems like random acts, what you hear all the time, what you see in the press all the time, about rioters or thugs or looters and there is no political context, it is completely stripped of that intentionally so that it seems random, seems violent, it seems unconnected to movements for change.

Adam: Yeah, and the extent to which it is given political context they’re like, ‘Oh, they’re just angry over this police shooting,’ it’s sort of seen as this boiling over rage. But one thing I do want to get into is this idea that it’s not, one thing I want to I want to impress upon people is that responding with property damage violence, and even other forms of quote-unquote “violence” — and we won’t attempt to problematize that, again, you can listen to Episode 74 — is actually extremely rational and I think as evidenced by the fact that the officer was indicted the day after the police precinct burned, because there’s no other mechanism people have to call for change, right?

Nima: Right. What is the recourse that is going to get attention?

Adam: And one thing I wanted to do before we begin is talk about this idea of using the term riots to kind of trivialize really, I think, what’s going on, and I know that riots sort of were like a coup where they traditionally have a kind of a political or value neutral term, but now have become, I think, shorthand for trivializing, or looking at a sort of a spasm of emotion, right? Which obviously has its own racial baggage, but we want to read a quick section from a book that I really, really like, it’s by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. It’s a book called Black Against Empire and it’s a very good history on the Black Panthers, who spent a lot of time and a lot of writing, thinking about what riots were. Obviously there were tons of what people call riots, historians, I think, left leaning historians now call insurrections from the ‘60s up until 1967, 1968. We want to read a quick section. Before we read the section I want to note that RAM is a reference to the Revolutionary Action Movement, which was a revolutionary black nationalist group that operated from 1962 to 1969 and as seen as a kind of proto Black Panthers. They were the first group to apply the philosophy of Maoism to the conditions of African Americans in the United States. Malcolm X was a member and RAM was the only secular group that Malcolm X was a member of and they were deeply influential to the Black Panthers. So we’re going to read a quick section for this book, it goes into something we sort of want to impress upon because there’s not a ton of, you know, everyone has a take on what’s going on and I really think it’s useful to begin this by discussing the difference between mindless violence and violence that has a very specific logic and a specific political intent.

Nima: So here’s the quote:

Huey Newton published a series of essays in the Black Panther newspaper in which he explored ways to transcend the tactic of legally armed patrols of police. In “Fear and Doubt,” “The Functional Definition of Politics,” “In Defense of Self-Defense” (a two-part essay), and “The Correct Handling of a Revolution,” he articulates a new politics. Drawing upon the writings of Malcolm X, Mao Zedong, and the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, who participated in the Algerian revolution, Newton expands on the Revolutionary Action Movement’s identification of the black community as a colony within the American Empire. He links both the conditions and the struggle for liberation in the black community to anticolonial struggles around the world, not only in Africa but also in Vietnam and elsewhere.

From there, Newton departs from RAM, seeking to define a politics that, like the tactic of legally armed patrols of police, would speak to and mobilize the “brothers on the block.” He develops his argument in four parts, first applying Franz Fanon’s theory of the psychology of colonization and liberation struggle to the ghettos of the United States, then extending the analogy to identify the police as an occupying force, interpreting U.S. urban riots as protopolitical resistance to this occupation, and asserting the role of the Black Panther Party as the legitimate representative of the black community — the vanguard party — in the struggle for Black Power.

Adam: The piece would go on to say that:

In the third part of the argument of his new politics, Newton identifies the urban riots, such as the rebellion in Watts, as protopolitical resistance to this occupation [e.g. a colonial occupation] and proposes that by arming and organizing the ghetto, black people can obtain power, channeling these protopolitics into an organized military force.

Protesters and police in Detroit, 1967. (Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)

And so they would go on to detail the ways in which during the Detroit Riots of 1967 — quote-unquote “riots” — there was people sniping police officers and other members of the state, there was effectively and this happened in Watts too, there was effectively entire city blocks that were militarily occupied by black people not sanctioned by the state. There were 140 blocks on the west side which became a battlefield, according to The Detroit News, and what they would do is they would specifically target police officers. So, now as troubling as that may be to some people, when you begin to target the police, and you begin to, again, there’s nothing to loot in the Minneapolis police precinct, right? When you begin to gloss over, go run past locally owned or minority owned businesses and target Target, not to make a pun, sorry, or they did in Ferguson, CVS. I actually walked that from the Mondawmin Mall to CVS with some people and we sort of talked about who were there during the uprising in Baltimore in 2015 and there’s they said, ‘Oh, we targeted the CVS’ and we’ve mentioned this before on the show, I think on Episode 6, where we said, cause Jared Ball, our guest, was from Baltimore, he teaches in Maryland, that they were passing by small businesses and attacking the CVS, quote-unquote “small businesses,” and attacking the CVS because the CVS had gouged them and harassed them for years.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: And this Target evidently had done the same, through some reports, you can, you know, believe it or not, but the Target had harassed people, kicked people out of the store, all this has political content, this is not a mindless mob of violence that this is, this is something that you do when you are like most people who engage in violence, I think it’s fair to call burning a police precinct a form of violence, that seems, this isn’t a garbage can, that is potentially people could die, that seems some form of violence, that this is a deliberately political act and it’s an exceedingly rational act and when you give people, it’s not like they haven’t had time, this has been a movement for six years. We’ve done the committees, you know, liberals have done the the Blue Ribbon Commissions, we’ve done the reports, the DOJ has handwrung, we’ve had CNN town halls, we’ve tried to heal the divide, nothing’s fucking changed, right? Nothing fundamentally has changed at all. And so without escalating tactics like this, I don’t know what people want them to do. We have this conversation with Palestine a lot Nima.

Nima: I mean, it depends who those people are, right? They want them to die and shut up.

Adam: So it’s like we have this, you know, we talk about this with Palestine where it’s like, you’re constantly doing this shell game or a cup and ball game where, you know, BDS, it’s non violence, ‘Oh, you can’t do that that’s anti semitic.’ Okay, well, you do this, ‘No that’s violent, that’s not good.’ And, of course, the rub is there’s no right way to do anything. The goal is to just shut the fuck up and continue to be oppressed. And this is the thing which in a weird way the media reaction from 2014 to 2020 is — I got my start doing media criticism criticizing the coverage of Black Lives Matter in 2014, specifically the coverage at New York City where I lived at the time — in a weird way, it’s gotten better in the most superficial way possible, where all these reports will do all the requisite hand wringing, where they’re like, ‘Oh, well, this is a killing and they’re angry,’ but there’s never any sense that (A) this is something systemic to a society, to a capitalist, colonial society, that we don’t need to ask big questions about anything, it’s just a tweak around the margins and (B) there’s never any sense that nothing’s gotten done.

Nima: Or that there is anything to do.

Adam: And this isn’t even about like one or two arraignments or convictions even, only if it’s on video, only if the victim is the perfect angel, only if there’s a requisite justified outrage, only if it meets all five, 10 criteria backwards and in high heels, then only do you maybe get an occasional conviction and there’s no sense of how absurd this is and there’s no urgency to anything. It is a fucking sport of hand wringing, and ho hum and ‘Oh, man, this is awful’ and all these statements are super vague, which we’ll get into.

Nima: And so to that point we see in the media, we’ve talked about this on a number of episodes on Citations Needed, how agency is always best removed from any police action, right? From any police killing, any police murder, when guns go off they just kind of go off by themselves and then maybe people die. ‘Is it connected?’ ‘Who’s to say?’ When people lean on the throats of human beings and kill them we get this kind of language from various media. These were compiled by the artist and friend of mine, Eli Valley. For example, the Associated Press had this headline, “BREAKING. Minnesota authorities say the police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck has been arrested.” From the New York Times you have this, “Breaking News: Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck while Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, is in custody. Charges haven’t yet been announced.” This was previous. You have this from the Washington Post, “Breaking: Derek Chauvin, the former officer involved in George Floyd’s death, is taken into custody.” We see this kind of cop-speak all the time in our media.

You see it also in press releases from politicians. You have Amy Klobuchar, who is no stranger to being a prosecutorial friend of the police in Minnesota, had this, a statement that she sent out on the, quote, “officer-involved death in Minneapolis” end quote, and it is this, quote:

We heard his repeated calls for help. We heard him say over and over again that he could not breathe. And now we have seen yet another horrifying and gut wrenching instance of an African American man dying.

Every single person in every single community in this country deserves to feel safe. As the Mayor of Minneapolis noted, this tragic loss of life calls for immediate action.

There must be a complete and thorough outside investigation into what occurred, and those involved in this incident must be held accountable. Justice must be served for this man and his family, justice must be served for our community, and justice must be served for our country.

End quote.

That was Amy Klobuchar’s statement, which did not mention the word “police,” had no indication of what even happened, who murdered whom, and talked about, you know, all lives matter type of justice involving a reference to an African American man dying, who knows how that happened, per this statement and, you know, that kind of statement is rampant. Before we get into some others I need to note, possibly the worst tweet of all time that I’ve read, which was posted today, again, Friday, May 29, by media powerhouse Katie Couric, and it was this: “It would be great to hear from @BarackObama right now. A friend just suggested he make a joint appearance with George W. Bush. Thoughts?”

Adam: (Laughs.) Thoughts. That’s the sound off in the comments.

Nima: (Laughs.) Exactly.

Adam: Do my work for me. So here’s the deal, right? To quote Joe Biden, “Here’s the deal.”

Nima: Come on, man.

Adam: The reason why we’re going to go over the kind of impotent liberal response to this, we of course have the general euphemisms, which are kind of, you know, at this point, you can build an algorithm to predict them, the various forms of kneeling and death that have no causal link —

Nima: The constant references to ‘unarmed’ black men, as if you need that qualifier.

Adam: We now have and have had for three years now, over three years now, an overtly white nationalist or I think it’s fair to say fascist president who of course went on Twitter, making thinly veiled references, effectively not even thinly veiled, giving the National Guard carte blanche to shoot protesters, effectively ordering them to shoot protesters. He has completely put himself with a Blue Lives Matter crowd, they love him, cops love Trump, they support Trump, the police unions and the ICE union and the Border Patrol union — which by the way, are in the AFL-CIO, which needs to not happen — that the liberal response has to be firm and non equivocal and the problem is that the new line was, and the NAACP did this which is, you know, sort of a partisan, a very partisan organization obviously, Ron Wyden did this, they did this thing where they say, ‘If you’re mad, go vote in November.” And I, my blood boils, there are things for which there are meaningful differences between Democrats and Republicans. You’ll never hear me say they’re the same because they’re not, if they were billionaires wouldn’t spend millions and millions of dollars to make Republicans win elections, but on a lot of things, a lot of very important things, there isn’t much of a difference. When it comes to things like environmental regulations, abortion, Democrats, generally better, not great, not perfect, bad in many ways, but a meaningful difference. There’s actually a meaningful difference you can actually register that really matters. When it comes to, I don’t know, not having a president who uses Nazi language, inciting violence, there is a difference there. But this whole thing started under Obama. Minnesota is a Democratic state with two Democratic senators, a Democratic governor, a city with a Democratic mayor and an attorney general who is a Democrat and to turn this into partisan fodder I think is depressing and of course is completely incongruent with the calls of the protesters. The protesters aren’t out there saying ‘Go vote on November 3, 2020.’ This is not an organic thing and really what this is doing is it’s, this is not a partisan issue, unfortunately, because only when things are partisan do people actually care. This is an issue that has been, you know, mass incarceration was largely bipartisan. Bill de Blasio, the great progressive hero, NYPD hates him, but boy, does he love them, you know, increased budgets. Every one of these liberal cities — Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco, every one of these goddamn cities always increases the police budget — and there’s one thing that abolitionists are good at more than anything ever, which is that they say that budgets are moral documents and if you were serious about this problem, if you’re serious about decarceration, and if you’re serious about preventing more mass shootings, more racial harassment of African Americans in this country, then you cannot support bigger, well-funded police departments. You can’t keep sending them to fucking ADL training camps in Israel. You can’t say ‘Oh, it’s okay we did community policing,’ all these bullshit euphemisms which we’ve talked about to death on this show. We don’t need to keep doing it. And the reality is, is that this is a bipartisan thing. This is a bipartisan consensus. The only difference is in rhetoric and I think that rhetoric can matter. I don’t think it’s a trivial difference. I think Trump inciting violence is bad. I think it emboldens police officers to be more violent, I think it emboldens white nationalists to show up with guns and I don’t want to say there’s no difference there, but the difference is largely rhetorical when it comes to actual votes and actual budgets this continues to be a bipartisan, mindless fetishization with police which is why the first thing people do, the second this thing popped off, Joe Biden just did it on CNN 10 minutes ago, ‘Oh, it’s not all police. Not all police are bad.’

Nima: That’s right.

Adam: Because then we’ve reduced the problem to the moral properties of certain police officers. ‘It’s a bad apple,’ it’s like that is not the fucking point.

Nima: ‘It’s the bad apple.’

Adam: That is not the fucking point. There is a systemic problem with how we view policing which is we fucking police everything and we solve everything with incarceration and everything with police in these ticky tack little bullshit… look, okay, so Pete Buttigieg said, his statement which took like nine years to come up with, you know, he delivered it at 5:30pm on May 29, you know, and he has the appropriate consultants who kind of know the latest vote woke language and they, you know, they’ve read the latest Ta-Nehisi Coates book and they’re sort of wired in a little bit and it’s like, this is not how a human speaks. It says, quote:

Black lives depend on whether America can be what we want to believe it is. What we need it to be. What it could be. Systemic racism is so woven into the fabric of this country, facing it will take action, honesty, listening, and deep, deep change. And for many of us, humility.

By the way, this is someone who praised the Israeli counterinsurgency tactics for police in 2012 when he was running for mayor. So I want to analyze this sort of, this is a great example of just meaningless liberal pab. So we have, at the end he says, “And for many of us, humility.” He’s checking his white privilege, right? He went to the seminars and he’s shaming himself and he’s sort of doing the box checking and the rest of it is just pablum like America’s racist, that’s an obvious statement woven into the fabric, meaningless rhetoric.

Nima: “…action, honesty, listening and deep, deep change.”

Adam: We don’t need to listen, there’s no listening, we don’t need to listen. And what do you mean by? What actions specifically? He doesn’t specify. And this is pretty much Pete Buttigieg in a nutshell but again, this is the kind of liberal responses you get and by the way, the responses from certain activists and even, you know, Colin Kaepernick, who’s now funding the bail funds for the people in Minneapolis, someone who has actually walked the walk, you have this entire industry of hand wringing, it is a liberal pastime to not, are we talking about reparations? Are we talking about cutting police department budgets by 50 percent? Are we talking about cutting the prison population by 50 percent by X date? Are we talking about reducing the budget in the state that you used to run? Are you advertising that the State of Indiana or the City of Indianapolis, are we talking about reducing the police budget by 80 percent? What are you finite doing for me? Are you supporting reparations? Are you supporting programs that help African Americans, education, Medicare For All, are you supporting concrete fucking things that will improve the lives of black people or are you doing this totally performative word salad of fucking privilege checking?

Nima: Right. And that’s all it is. It’s making sure that there’s a tweet on record on Friday afternoon. That’s all that is.

Adam: And we have this thing where and the by the way we like to pick on Pete because he fucking sucks and it’s obviously, he’s so tortured, you know, it’s very, it’s so, he’s like easy pickings, but we have this thing where no one specifies what on a big scale they’re going to do. It’s ‘We have to hold bad police officers accountable.’ Well, no shit but that’s not the problem because the problem is that the other 99.9 have complete support, bipartisan support, big budgets, all the weapons they need, all the military grade weapons they need and it’s just like, we’ve been doing this for so long and obviously this isn’t something that it really affects me personally, but if you’re on the left, or you sort of care at least in theory about the Black Lives Matter cause, it seems like nothing’s changed in six years. All that’s happened is the rhetoric has gotten more shopped by the nonprofit sector, like we have this kind of professional nonprofit sector who can workshop language where you have to just check a few boxes and it’s like, what are your policy proposals? What are you going to do other than, and what do they come up with? Community policing, retraining police, like that’s not the fucking problem. The problem is they have too much power and too much money.

Nima: Well, and then you get the reporters who report as if they’re in war zones, and then when journalists are actually arrested or targeted by cops, that’s when they’re brethren rush to their aid and handwring about the treatment of their colleagues and how outrageous that is, while, you know, obviously they are reporting what is happening, or at least they are there saying words and pointing cameras, but I don’t want to say they are there to be megaphones for city officials and the National Guard and cops unions, but largely they do that a lot. For example, just today, a CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his production crew were detained by state police while they were live on air on CNN and so obviously there was immediate outrage. That should not happen. I’m not saying that should happen. That is absolutely terrible and absurd, but the reaction reinforces a lot of already terrible narratives, right? And so you have, for example, CNN colleague, Jim Sciutto, who tweeted this, “As a reporter I’ve been detained in Iran, spied on in China, and followed and harassed in Russia.”

Adam: Real quick, clearly the tweet is about how awesome he is, right? Like he is centering how awesome he is in this, but go ahead. Just to clarify, in case it wasn’t obvious.

Nima: “I’ve never had colleagues arrested in handcuffs while doing their job here in the US.”

Adam: So then he gives away the game because Dennis Perkins responds with a link to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker saying, “This is woefully naive.” The tracker shows that seven journalists get arrested —

Nima: (Laughs.) Journalists get arrested all the time. Even here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Adam: And he said — we’re going to go back to the J20 protests and the episode we did on that, Episode 9, and we’re going to talk about the article I wrote on that back in 2017 — he said in response, quote, in response to his, quote, “No intention to disparage or forget these past arrests. Difference is witnessing a colleague arrested and handcuffed on live television.” Oh, I see. So you only care when it’s your friends.

Nima: Yeah, exactly. When it was Amy Goodman or any of the other journalists who’ve gotten arrested all the time.

Adam: So Brian Stelter, I’m sorry, I just fucking hate this guy, total vacuous dipshit like everyone else on CNN, he tweeted out seven tweets about how lamented he was, he wrote an article about how this is an attack on the First Amendment, and how devastating it was. Now, I found this profoundly interesting because in September of 2017, I was covering the J20 protest arrests, they arrested dozens of people, two of whom were journalists, originally it was six journalists, they released four of them, but the Department of Justice, the federal government, prosecuted two journalists. Journalist Alexei Wood, who was a freelance journalist, photographer and reporter Aaron Cantu, who at that point was working for the Santa Fe Reporter, and they were facing decades in prison. This was not a brief detainment. This was a targeted federal prosecution. And I being naive as I was, was shocked that no one, none of these major, quote-unquote “media analysts” at the big shops, CNN, New York Times and Washington Post, Brian Stelter, Jim Ruttenberg of the New York Times and Eric Wemple at the Washington Post, so I messaged them and I said, ‘Hey, you know those two journalists who have been arrested and facing decades in prison for merely covering the Trump inauguration unrest on January 20, but because they had spoken to or associated with some of the protests they were they were basically charged under a RICO thing and there had been zero real mainstream coverage.’ Eventually there was some that trickled in but at this point there have been none, but none on CNN, none in the New York Times or the Washington Post, and I emailed Brian Stelter because he follows me on Twitter and I said, ‘Hey, Brian, are you going to comment on this?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, give me a second. I’ll comment later,’ and then I pinged him back and he never got back to me.

Nima: Wrong number.

Adam: You know, and then earlier today, there were protesters smashing the windows at CNN.

Nima: Mm-hmm.

Adam: You know, this is maybe not the biggest, most urgent issue right now, but, it may deserve it’s own episode, the whole like, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re going after journalists thing.’ They shouldn’t be going after anyone and the extent to which we treat journalists as if they’re some, you know, precious protected class, I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think it’s arrived at or this inclination or this kind of outrage is arrived at through any kind of deep moral consideration where they sit around and read, you know, Thomas Aquinas and debate the morality of freedom of the press, and Jim Sciutto basically said this, which is that it’s just their friends, it’s professional clique-ism, and Alexei Wood and Aaron Cantu weren’t in their club so they didn’t give a shit, but one of their buddies at CNN gets arrested all of a sudden it’s, ‘Oh, gosh, I’ve seen this in Russia and China, and it’s fucking North Korea times Iran multiply by Russia’ and it’s it’s like okay guys, first off timeout, they’re gunning black people down in the streets. How about for like ten minutes, and I know that the journalist that was arrested was black, two of the producers were not, but for five minutes can we not make this about you, not make this about CNN thrusting themselves in the center of the story and I think that this is one of the things that frustrates the activists and frustrates protesters that, you know, on one of the major unrests of the Trump era, CNN was totally non existent, did not fucking care at all that two journalists and dozens and scores of other protesters were facing decades in jail, didn’t give a shit. Suddenly one of their own does and now it’s it’s you know, ho hum, fucking you know, ‘We got Ken Roth on speed dial,’ and it’s like, shut the fuck up. Nobody cares. You’re not that important. None of us are that important. I had the misfortune of catching 20 minutes of CNN the night that the precinct was set on fire and I started the clock for roughly 20 minutes, me and Sarah, and we saw that they brought on a former federal prosecutor, a former FBI agent, the Minneapolis Fire Department Chief, another ex-police officer, and CNN’s quote-unquote “security correspondent” who is — guess what? — a former FBI agent. Perhaps one of the downsides, and they did this before, but it’s gotten worse, one of the downsides of the constant prosecutor, former intelligence operation officer, former FBI officer during Russiagate, was that now that this shit is popping off, who do they turn to? Former security state people because we were told those were our buddies who were going to put Trump in handcuffs and turned out that didn’t happen.

Nima: So much of what we see here is the outrage over the corporate press seeing themselves on the same side as the cops, right? So that’s why it’s so outrageous when one of theirs gets arrested or is treated in a way without deference or without respect, you know, like requisite respect and so it’s like, ‘We’re out here, hey, just trying to do our job just like you’re trying to do your job, tell us where to go, we’ll get out of your way, we just want…’ you know, right? And playing this kind of, ‘We’re just here to be objective and show what’s going on but really we’re on the same side here, we’re working with you,’ which is not at all the way the fourth estate should work and also, that is why there is this pearl clutching when there are arrests of corporate reporters and silence when reporters who, as you said Adam, are not in that club, do not get White House Correspondents Dinner invites, when they are routinely harassed and arrested, that obviously gets no mention, there is no fraternity or solidarity there.

Adam: Yeah, and when there was a cop in Louisville who started throwing rubber bullets at a journalist live on air, which I’m sure many of you have seen by now, the anchor who’s listening real time was outraged and said ‘Do they not know you’re a journalist?’ And I’m like, wait okay, like obviously they shouldn’t be hitting this woman with rubber bullets but like why would the fact that she’s a journalist fucking matter? If she wasn’t a journalist they should just unload the rubber bullets on her?

Nima: Right.

Adam: I just I don’t think it’s a an organically arrived at moral distinction that’s very logical, I think it’s arrived at because it’s just professional clique-ism and people are naturally professional clique-y and you know, for the most part, I get it, you’re a reporter and your buddies are reporters and your friends are reporters and some of my best friends are journalists, but like the fact that we keep centering them as this is sort of ‘Oh, they’re the real victims here’ it’s like, come on, no they’re not. Just sorry, shut up. Like these people are fucking harassing and terrorizing these black citizens of Minneapolis for fucking decades and you step in for five minutes and you put yourself at the center of the story. It’s like, shut the fuck up. Sorry. Just how I think.

Nima: Well, I think that’s, I want to say a good place to leave it, it is a place to leave it. We will be following this of course closely as the story unfolds, but you know, we know what is happening, right? We know the way the media is reporting on this, we know the way prosecutors are going to react, we know that things are not going to fundamentally change until they fundamentally change and so thank you everyone for listening to this News Brief from Citations Needed, but we will obviously be back with full length episodes, but as we kind of continue to follow this story, we will be back with more News Briefs if there are takes that need to be dished out, doled out, but certainly, everyone, thank you for listening. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Associate producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. The music is by Grandaddy. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Saturday, May 30, 2020.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.