Conservative Media Dance to the Same Old Racial Narrative Tune

I first heard about the death of Ahmaud Arbery as I was going through my routine checks of conservative-land by visiting my favorite online sources. On May 5 I saw this post by Rod Dreher, one of the more talented and erudite authors at the American Conservative. The title was “Ahmaud Arbery, Just a Runner.” I started reading the article and stumbled across the graphic and horrifying video of Arbery’s last seconds alive. Momentarily stunned, I had all these images of white-on-black, racially motivated violence spinning through my head.

It hearkens back to the kind of stuff I read as a student in public schools, like To Kill a Mockingbird. It harkens back to the movies I watched in my younger days, like “Mississippi Burning.” It reminded me of the music I listened to in my youth, like “Strange Fruit.” And I saw the Arbery story plastered over numerous “mainstream” media sites: the New York Times, CNBC, CNN, the Washington Post, and so on.

Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father and son who have been charged with Arbery’s killing, might be guilty of aggravated assault, manslaughter, or murder. From the evidence I have seen thus far, it will be more and more difficult to return a guilty verdict for each escalation of the charges.

But that’s for an actual jury to decide. I’m more interested isn’t what this article is about. It’s about the media circus enveloping the case.

Much of the early reporting featured an image of Arbery in his high school graduation photo. And the words typically being used to describe the incident refer to “two white men” who “hunted” Arbery and murdered him in a modern-day “lynching.” And what was the picture given of the McMichaels? A photo of them dirtied up behind a wild hog they had hunted and killed.

A couple minutes went by and after my initial shock wore off, I started to ask myself: What is Arbery’s background? What is the background of the McMichaels? And why are the images presenting these two sides so charged as to make you think that a completely innocent young man was “hunted down” and killed by two Southern, white, male rednecks who hunt hogs? Why did they all describe him as a “jogger” and almost never discuss any other potential activities?

It took me just five minutes to find several facts that were either completely omitted from the story or were passed over while being rebutted, as in this USA Today article. Here’s what the vast majority of mainstream media accounts omitted: When Arbery was a 19-year-old adult, he brought an illegal handgun to a high school basketball game. When confronted, Arbery fled. A school resource officer fractured his hand in the pursuit.

Arbery also had a history of mental illness. He was convicted of shoplifting and he violated his probation in 2018. Much of the media still hasn’t included any of this in their coverage.

In the meantime, while Black Lives Matter provocateur Shaun King was busy posting death threats against the accused on Facebook, mainstream “Conservatism, Inc.” went into high gear—yet again—trying to gain brownie points by condemning the 36-second video that started the national uproar and accepting—almost without question—the basic tenets of the left-liberal media’s narrative: Arbery was a completely innocent “jogger,” who was brutally hunted down and “murdered in cold blood” by “gun-toting, Trump-supporting white supremacists.”

On May 7, the day after the story broke nationally, former National Review editor David French said the available evidence “indicate[d] a level of violent vigilantism” that echoes and imitates “lynchings of the past.” French’s article, “A Vigilante Killing in Georgia,” had nothing to say about Arbery’s prior convictions and dismisses the idea that his trespassing on private property was justification for a group of men in Georgia to perform a citizen’s arrest—despite the fact Georgia law appears to say otherwise.

On the same day, David Harsanyi published “The Murder of Ahmaud Arbery,” at National Review Online.

Writing for the New York Post, Sohrab Ahmari titled his article, “A Blatant Citizen’s Arrest Homicide.

On May 8, conservative commentator Matt Walsh dismissed the idea that Arbery could have been anything but a jogger and insisted that what happened was not a valid citizen’s arrest—something which none of us can definitely answer even today.

President Trump’s daughter Ivanka chimed in on May 8 by asking why it took months for the two McMichaels to be arrested and why it was that it “took . . . the release of a video” to “catalyze action.”

And the Drudge Report, one of the most trafficked websites in the world—not just the conservative world—pushed out this inflammatory headline on May 8, “Father, Son Charged With Hunting Black Man.”

Now here we are and several new facts have surfaced. First, there is the release of a video that appears to show Arbery indeed trespassing on someone’s property in the immediate moments before his fateful encounter with the McMichaels. And there is the release of the audio from the 911 calls which appears to show that someone called the police while Arbery was trespassing and identified him as someone who had previously stolen from this neighborhood.

The relevant questions from day one—none of which were discussed with any clarity were:

  1. Was Ahmaud Arbery trespassing and/or burglarizing private property before his demise?
  2. Were there witnesses or is there video evidence to corroborate this claim?
  3. According to Georgia State law, one may engage in a citizen’s arrest. Indeed, one can do this “without a warrant, you may arrest anyone who commits a mis-demeanor or a felony in your presence or with your immediate knowledge.” Therefore, were the McMichaels present or did they have “immediate knowledge” when and if Arbery was trespassing and/or possibly burglarizing property in the neighborhood?

None of the coverage coming from the “mainstream media” or their surrogates in entertainment like LeBron James, Gabrielle Union, Viola Davis, Naomi Campbell, Ava DuVernay, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, or Justin Timberlake have mentioned any of these key questions. The chorus of condemnation is resounding; most of the people who play our sports, sing our songs, make our movies, teach our classes, and curate what we see on the internet who are talking about this case are piled together on one side of the issue.

Time will tell what the outcome of this tragic and sordid tale ends up being. But when will mainstream conservatives who have influence stop trying to chalk up brownie points from the social justice crowd while potentially destroying people in the process?

We’ve seen this same repetitive narrative, from Steven Pagones, to the Duke Lacrosse players, to Darren Wilson, to Brett Kavanaugh, to Nick Sandmann and the Covington Catholic boys. It is unclear if this is another example of the same, but that’s the point. It is unclear.

This is why we have due process. This is why the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is why it is the job of the courts to be the sole vindicators of one’s innocence or guilt. But the people pushing the narrative aren’t interested in any of that.

The indoctrination stemming from our public schools that teaches kids the racial-caste hierarchies of oppressors and victims is near complete. It is codified in their universities with the “diversity and inclusion” departments which have become ubiquitous today. When you are conditioned to think that every bad interaction between a white person—especially a white man and a black man—invariably is a redux of To Kill A Mockingbird, this is what we get. It’s all Bob Ewell versus Tom Robinson, as far as the eye can see.

And who would defend the former? It continues throughout one’s life with the movies pumped out by Hollywood always revisiting the ugliest episodes of America’s racial past; if every interaction between a black and white man means defending Frank Bailey from “Mississippi Burning,” you’re not going to find a lot of people rallying to his cause. Even if the man being defended is nothing like Bailey at all; the cultural narrative conditions people in this country to conflate the two. You hear it backed up by most of the most prominent comedians and entertainers. It is promoted by the mainstream internet tech giants who help promote this mainstream fake news time and time again.

I don’t know what is more disheartening. The fact people are oblivious to the leftist-dominated nexus of news media, entertainment, education, and high-tech that pushes conflict between America’s many peoples? Or conservatives who continue to fall over themselves to signal their support for the whole system? Rather than thinking critically and scrutinizing the music, they continue to dance before people who refuse to let them play the tune.

About Hezekiah Kantor

Hezekiah Kantor is a pseudonym for an American high school teacher and coach with a B.A. from an Ivy League University and an M.A. in teaching from a Jesuit college on the West Coast. A teacher of the year in his first school district, he holds a National Board Certificate for Adult and Youth Social Studies. He has an interest in politics, religion, economics, and military history. His 2019 book, Trojan Horse Religion explains in detail the beliefs and practices of the Progressive Liberal religion and describes how Progressive Liberalism aims to be the State Church.

Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

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