Media Buzz

Dallas disaster: Are the media's angry voices finally being drowned out?

'MediaBuzz' host Howard Kurtz reacts to the national media's coverage in the wake of the Dallas shootings

 

For once, calmer voices in the media seem to be prevailing.

The angry and polarizing voices are still there, to be sure. But they are not as overpowering.

In the wake of the awful fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and the cold-blooded massacre of police officers in Dallas, a realization is dawning on many in the news business. That it is possible to be for the police and against police brutality. That it is possible to grieve just as strongly for innocent black men killed in traffic stops and in front of markets as for brave law-enforcement officers who risk their lives to protect our communities.

The incentives in the journalism world, especially television, is to choose sides. To fight for the cops and denounce black activists or to fight for the black community and denounce police racism. 

That creates conflict, which drives clicks and ratings. It’s like politics: Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative.

Except black vs. white is deeply unhealthy for our country.

The New York Post may declare that we are in a “CIVIL WAR.” But some of us are trying to be more civil.

The press, after Ferguson, has gotten a little better at not jumping to conclusions about guilt and innocence.

Here’s my theory: What happened in Dallas in fairly clear-cut. It wasn't a case of protestors getting out of control and rampaging against police and looting stores, so we're not having ideological debates about that. These were executions carried out by, at least in the case of the dead suspect, an angry black man who wanted to murder white police officers. Everyone can agree that this is heinous and reprehensible. It's not Ferguson or Baltimore. The protests were actually peaceful.

The same goes for the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul. While we don't know all the facts and the videos don't tell us everything, it appears that two black men were killed who should still be alive. One was selling CDs outside a market and the other was involved in a routine traffic stop. Would they be dead if they were white?

Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist for the Daily Caller, just wrote what he called “A Confession”:

“In the era of Facebook Live and smart phones, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than the fact that police brutality toward African-Americans is a pervasive problem that has been going on for generations. Seriously, absent video proof, how many innocent African-Americans have been beaten or killed over the last hundred years by the police—with little or no media coverage or scrutiny?”

Lewis says he was raised to reflexively believe the police, but that “decent Americans cannot turn a blind eye to police abuse; they just didn’t really believe the it was happening. Or maybe they didn’t want to believe.” 

And here’s Newt Gingrich, telling CNN: “It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years to get a sense of this," Gingrich, a top option for Donald Trump's running mate, told CNN. "If you are a normal white American, the truth is you don't understand being black in America.”

But liberal commentators also need to look beyond their base, to express sympathy for the daily risks faced by police, to call out fry-’em-like-bacon hate speech in elements of the black community.

Here is how Fox’s Juan Williams put it: “Let’s have an honest conversation about the combustible mix of race and police in this country. Talk now, because silence is assent to every cop-hater, every race-baiter.” And that would include black racists as well.

America is not engaged in a civil war, but the country is in pain, and most assuredly on edge. It would be nice if this time the media played a positive role.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.