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Media Watch

Small Towns, Football and Close-Knit Whites:  Monolith of Evil to the New York Times

Christopher Donovan 

May 18, 2009 

Last August, I wrote about CNN's predictably biased coverage of the beating death of Luís Ramírez, an illegal alien in the small Pennsylvania town of Shenandoah.  

The young White men prosecuted beat some of the charges, leading to yet another round of predictable media coverage.  Most stories I read began with that most ominous of phrases:  "An all-White jury..."   

Of course, to a media that considers itself Atticus Finch, nothing good can ever issue from "an all-White jury."  A Google News search reveals endless hits for "all-White jury";  none for "all-black jury" or "all-Hispanic jury."  Really, you needn't read the rest of the story.  I'll finish off the paragraph for your convenience:  "An all-White jury today ignored all evidence presented at trial and handed down an utterly racist verdict that totally affirms the incurably backward, bigoted nature of American society." 

If an "all-White jury" decided to award slavery reparations to all living blacks, it wouldn't be "an all-White jury" — it would simply be "a jury."  And a sensible, fair-minded one at that. 

The media telegraphs a lot by using "all-White jury."  If a few blacks or Hispanics had been on it, the media is saying, they naturally would have been able to appeal to the Whites' better angels, and thus come back with the correct decision. 

The media is barely interested in such trivialities as the burden of proof or the evidence presented at trial — otherwise, it would announce a shocking verdict by saying "despite overwhelming evidence of innocence, Tom Robinson was convicted of rape."  Whites are presumed to be defective jurors.  And anything "all-White," whether a barbershop quartet or local school, is of course illegitimate.  An "all-White jury" may be the most illegitimate thing going. 

These presumptions guided the coverage by Ian Urbina, the New York Times reporter sent to sniff out and send up for mockery the White reaction to the verdict in Shenandoah. 

Urbina goes at his task with gusto, starting off with a claim by a Hispanic student that Whites threatened him with the next beating.  It would be easy for a Hispanic student to falsify such a claim, and I wonder whether Urbina followed up with a request for the names of those White students.  Probably not — minority claims of victimization usually go unchallenged by reporters.  The claim might be true, but the New York Times would never allow a similar claim by a White to serve as the lead sentence of a story, even if it were confirmed by multiple sources.  (Later on in the story, we see that the student himself was suspended after being given "permission" by his father to respond to the Whites with violence, a scenario description that cries out for deeper questioning.)  

Good Guys: The Bermejo family. The boy in the background claimed that  White students told him he would be beaten next.

Naturally, Urbina quotes Hispanic advocacy groups, but does not bother reaching out to a White advocacy group like the National Policy Institute.  He quotes a Hispanic advocacy attorney as saying that "this case is not just about what happened to Luis;  it's about what Latinos nationally are facing."  Needless to say, Mr. Urbina is not interested in what Whites nationally are facing, nor does he question the sense of shared racial fate felt by Hispanics. 

Urbina quotes Hispanics — by name, of course (see my earlier column for a discussion of this) trumpeting that the Whites only dislike them because they represent "change" and are "different."  They thus channel back to the reporter exactly what he believes about White attitudes toward Hispanics or illegal immigrants — kind of like a Mobius strip message circuit.  White advocates, take note:  When speaking to a reporter, it's best to frame your message in terms of things the reporter already believes. 

Urbina winds up with a sucker punch.  He quotes a White man, Ed Rolko, on his reaction to the verdict as follows: 

"'This is a tight-knit place, and everyone knows each other,' said Mr. Rolko, adding that he, like everyone else in town, knows the defendants personally. 

Asked whether he knew Mr. Ramírez, Mr. Rolko said no." 

Bad Guy: Ed Rolko at his styling salon

It's doubtful that any of the happy-to-talk Hispanics knew any of the White defendants, but Mr. Urbina doesn't pose this question to them.  He's only interested in setting up Whites like Ed Rolko as close-minded bigots.  We can safely assume this:  If Mr. Urbina had information that the Hispanics in town knew the White defendants, he would have happily put it out there — further proof of White wickedness in comparison to Hispanic friendliness.  So he either asked the question and got the same answer, or didn't ask the question at all. 

Such is the power of a reporter to shape a story.  Ian Urbina instinctively feels that small towns, football and close-knit Whites are bad things, and he narrates accordingly.  Having moved from one much-hated career to another (journalism to law), I can testify to the dirty tricks of both.   

But the law, at least, has accounted for the tendency of a particular party to shape the story to advance his interests:  the trial, with objections, cross-examinations and separate opportunities to present evidence. 

Sadly for Whites, they sit in the defendant's chair with the media as prosecutor — and no defense counsel in sight. 

Christopher Donovan is the pen name of an attorney and former journalist. Email him.

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