Last week, a Black man was found hanging in Mississippi. Since most in the media think the state is still stuck in Mississippi Burning, the death became an international story that conjured up images of hooded klansmen lynching peace-loving blacks.
To the disappointment of many, it turned out to be just like most hangings—a suicide. Despite the erroneous coverage and rampant speculation that it was a racially-motivated murder, there was no mea culpa forthcoming after the truth was revealed. Instead, we were treated to another explanation that while this might’ve not been a lynching, it reflected a real problem festering in America.
Does this sound familiar?
It should be, considering what were the two most covered stories at the end of 2014. One was Ferguson; the other was the UVA gang rape fiasco. Ferguson was based on the false notion that a Black man was shot in cold blood by a White police officer while he had his hands up. The outrage over the supposed UVA gang rape was based on a completely fabricated story dreamt up by a mentally-ill girl. All these media events turned out to be hoaxes—but that didn’t quell the coverage. In fact, the line that, even though these stories weren’t true, they both reflected real-life problems that America desperately needs to solve. Ferguson became a tale of racist police who oppress innocent Black folks; UVA became a saga of frat boys perpetuating rape culture.
Even when the claims of these cases were thoroughly refuted by officials, the dogma was still promoted. The Department of Justice report basically destroyed any idea that Michael Brown had his hands up and that Darren Wilson wasn’t rightfully exonerated. . .but diverted the focus away from the specific case to the apparently prejudiced local police. When local police in Charlottesville announced that UVA “Jackie” could not produce a shred of evidence that she was raped, they still wouldn’t rule out the possibility she was still a victim. . .of something.
Furthermore, the media has been doing its utmost to promote The Hunting Ground, a film that bills itself as a probing investigation of college rape culture. In reality, it’s mostly based on myths and half-truths. Even its tagline—“For 1 in 5 women, their dream school will become a nightmare”—isn’t true, not by a long shot.
This all brings us back to the depressing fact that truth doesn’t matter in our society. When the media can hop from hoax to hoax with zero consequences, we have to conclude that our “guardians of truth” are more concerned with deceiving the public than informing it. Narratives always trump the truth, and the feeling that an event might’ve happened, far more than the facts surrounding it, give a greater weight to whether the average person will accept it as true. We’re all programmed to believe in certain things. We’re told racism is a problem because of White people, and Blacks are arrested more because the justice system is racist rather than they commit more crime. We’re told “hate” groups (read White hate groups) are a major threat and still do hate shit—like lynch Black men in Mississippi. We’re told the safety of women on campus is jeopardized by privileged White boys, and rape is reaching epidemic levels at places of higher learning.
All of these are pretty much pure BS, but programming is hard to resist. That’s why we keep getting force-fed hoaxes that fit favored Narratives. Luckily, these falsehoods are not being flushed down Orwellian memory holes. Many people are coming to realize that the most trusted names in news aren’t so trustworthy after all. With the rise of the Internet and the declining influence of the old media empires, we’re seeing the rise of a public that can get information elsewhere. It’s why a lot of people knew Michael Brown didn’t have his hands up long before Eric Holder told us so. It’s why questions about the veracity of Jackie’s claims kept building and led to the discrediting of Rolling Stone’s original article. It’s why people are turning off their TVs and cancelling their paper subscriptions in pursuit of other means of acquiring news.
And while the mainstream media will never correct its errors in its promotion of falsehoods and fabrications, that still doesn’t mean their consumers won’t notice the crap left behind. The media undermining its own credibility and the continuous disproving of these Narrative-driven stories can only result in exposing the myths of the System to increased scrutiny. If these stories continue to turn out differently from the mandated path, then what else might not be true? Pushing people to become more skeptical of the news means more people questioning the System’s dogmas.
Sure, it will reinforce those ideas for some and further push harmful agendas to the public—but it also contains the seeds for awakening dissent.
When it comes to hoaxes, I take the Leninist position: keep on selling that rope.