Yesterday, a Columbus police officer shot and killed a teenage girl who was in the process of attacking another girl with a knife. The police department rushed out the bodycam footage and presented it at a press conference.
Typical of the media coverage of the incident was this Washington Post story: Ohio police fatally shoot Black teenage girl just before Chauvin verdict:
Police said at a late news conference on Tuesday that the girl had threatened two others with a knife before the shooting, playing segments of body camera video that showed the victim lunging toward someone in a driveway before an officer fired four shots. A knife is visible in the driveway next to the girl as police perform CPR on her.
You would never know from reading the story that the girl had the knife in her hand and was in the process of attacking the girl in pink when she was shot. But that is clearly what happened if you watch the video.
That story is not an isolated example.
Why would a newspaper not report the clear evidence that the girl was attacking another girl with a knife that was visible in her hand for all the world to see? Why would newspaper headlines make this about race?
Donald Trump poisoned media criticism; even when the media misbehaved, calling it out always fed into a narrative that protected an administration fueled by lies.
But it’s time to call this what it is: media malpractice. This intense hyperfocus on race is spurring a moral panic, causing presumably otherwise rational people to jump to conclusions and trumpet them far and wide.
So far online the reactions I am seeing include:
- The police should never kill anyone under any circumstances.
- Why not shoot her in the leg, ar only shoot once? Or shoot the knife out of her hand?
- Knife fights with girls happen; what’s the big deal?
The widespread insanity inherent in these reactions, to me, is the kind of thing you see in a moral panic. And the media is stoking it by constantly playing up the racial angle, and failing to give statistics that might provide context to what we are seeing (such as noting the disproportionate number of police killed by black shooters, a fact that would contextualize the disproportionate number of blacks killed by police; or noting the currently uncovered examples of police shootings of white people). It’s malpractice and it’s creating a frenzy.
Something has to give.