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Allen West on Richard Fletcher

Richard Fletcher is a 61-year-old Maryland man who was beaten close to death by a group of mostly black students. My prayers go out to this man for his rapid recovery, and I have to express my shock at our capacity for violence. I need to make it absolutely clear that I don’t excuse or condone the actions of these boys and girls and I have no intention of speaking to the sociological realities of this event.My finger-pointing and my criticism in these columns is reserved for manipulative and dishonest arguments that sink to the level of sinister. In this case, in an article published by Allen West, who is using this tragedy to demonize young black men and the liberal media.

Allen West is a conservative republican and tea party member who served two years as a Florida Congressman. Before that he spent a year as a high school history teacher, and before that he was a Lt. Col. who was forced to retire after 20 years in the US Army.

West makes the argument in this article that American media only cares about the deaths of black people (as opposed to white people), or some incomprehensible bullshit like that.

The man is serious, or at least feigning earnestness. Let’s take a look at the article. West starts by saying, “Most of America doesn’t know [who Richard Fletcher is] because, well, he’s a white man. But if he were a black man you’d be well aware of his plight.”He bemoans the lack of protests, the lack of media coverage. He points to Fox News as the bastion of all things decent and noble. According to him, they are the only ones covering this.Get it so far? Here is a guy who has had an average military career, who was pushed out of the military, who has not fared well professionally or politically since then. He has no real bona fides to explain his continued presence in a conservative media that is consistently hostile towards black people except that he is the first black Republican Florida congressman in over a hundred years and one of only seven African American congressmen in the Republican Party in as long. He is the guy that Republicans on Fox News are talking about when they say they aren’t racist because they have black friends.

It sounds like I’m being hyperbolic, but seriously. He is one of few black voices in the conservative party and in conservative media. So forgive me if I put a little extra credence in the post antebellum poltergeists knocking Uncle Tom’s Cabin off my bookshelf.

Here’s a breakdown of why his article is utter bullshit.

He said Fox News is one of the only media outlets letting American’s know about the violence of black people in general and about this case in particular. He’s lying, or he is incredibly negligent in his fact checking. You can do a search on Google to see what media outlets have reported on this and still have a few seconds to take a hearty swig of something strong before making the daunting trip into the comments sections of those articles. Results for “Richard Fletcher Beating” bring articles from CBS, NBC, local television news outlets, The Daily Mail, The Inquisitr, The Daily News, The Blaze, Huffington Post, and more from the left, right and center.

West, like Fox News, depends upon the loyalty and lack of intellectual curiosity or critical thinking of his audience. He depends upon the typical viewer making no attempts to get their news from outside of a very limited sphere.  He depends (comfortably) on his audience doing zero to broaden their perspective or check his assertions.

Let me ask you this: Do you think Fox news is EVER going to cover the beatings of homosexual youths by gangs of drunk white boys? Are they ever going to take a sober and nuanced look at racism in college fraternities without blaming black rappers for the behavior of confused, vilified, white frat members before softly and slowly mourning the wilting of such promising futures?

The only time they ever cover these stories is when the events have accessed the American zeitgeist and then only to make the victims look bad and apologize for the white people. I’ve watched hours of Fox News. I’ve never seen them say a pleasant thing about black people that didn’t sound like it was coming out of the mouth of a southern belle sipping a mint julep and bragging about her favorite house slave. They couch their compliments of black people as if there is some miraculous quality to it.

Comment Hell

If you read any of the articles about this incident, and you read the comments after the article (after first taking another sip of your drink) you’ll see stuff like the following. These were pulled from an article that included pictures of several of the assailants at the end.

“That one dude’s face is like 70% lip…”
“As long as blacks allow themselves to be portrayed as victims, as long as liberals continue to portray black behavior as justified…”
“Your 15 minutes are up. white america says go @#$% yourself”
(Sic all.)
These people call black teens feral, animalistic, rotten.

It’s silly and destructive to say all whites are racist just like it’s silly and destructive to say all blacks are violent thugs,  but the thing to keep in mind is these people, these rancid sacks of meat making comments like the ones above, are the target audience of articles like this one by West.

Of the news outlets that published articles about Fletcher’s mugging, about half were conservative publications, two or three were liberal publications, and the rest were arguably objective news outlets.

(Most) news organizations consider it their main priority cover events that will draw an audience, rather than to first cover the news of greatest importance. It’s one of the unfortunate realities of modern journalism. The news outlets that Allen West gets his news from are going to think writing about brutal attacks against an old men by high school children will draw more visitors. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are news outlets out there that are still reeling from the protests in Baltimore, still shaking their head at the hate-filled rhetoric from news personalities like Allen West and barely-literate comment trolls and deciding that they are not going to cover this story because it is by all accounts a regional news story.

Regarding a last point West makes that I want to step on. Please find me a single news outlet that is making apologies or rationalizing the behavior of these black students that beat this man so badly that they are being charged as adults even though the oldest is 17. It doesn’t exist, but Allen West would have you believe that it is systemic in liberal media. He would have you believe that not only is most of the mainstream media liberal, but they are all invested in ignoring the black violence, or indulging in the kind of logistical contortions that Fox News excels at.

I could talk about the failure of the system that results in roving gangs out of Lord of the Flies, and it would be a legitimate conversation. I could talk about absentee parents, the impact of poverty on family dynamics and family values, about eroding education and economic opportunity; these are real things, but the second anybody indulges in, “Oh those wayward black people…” it’s not about reality anymore. It’s about hasty generalizations based on bigotry and ignorance or denial of the sins of every other ethnic group.

West spends the rest of the article expressing his startled consternation at the beating visited upon this man. I remain unconvinced, I am still looking forward to his expressed concern for his African American brothers and sisters. I think it will come some day. Maybe when Fox news tires of him or finds a more cynical black man willing to through his brothers and sisters under the boss, or in twenty years when there is another black man who joins the republican congress.

In the mean time, Allen West should read the comments sections of some of the articles regarding this news story and maybe he’ll get a sense of why more liberal news outlets didn’t want to publish this story in the middle of the current environment. I wonder what his rationalization would be reading some of the following comment threads.


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