Manufacturing Equivalent Outrage
There has been a great deal of “outrage” in right-wing media and blogs lately about the Christopher Lane murder, and how it’s not a big deal in the media. The thesis of this outrage is, “a white/Hispanic man shoots a young black man, and the nation goes into an uproar; three black kids (as conservative sources originally identified them; in fact, one of the kids is white) senselessly murder a young white man, and the media falls silent.” A representative sample from The Daily Caller:
A Hispanic guy shot a black teenager in self-defense, and it was proof that America hasn’t gotten any better since Emmett Till was murdered. Whereas the following story, which is literally an international incident, has no significance beyond the individuals involved. It’s not useful to Al Sharpton and Barack Obama.
This article has a fair rundown of how the conservative media is handling the story.
I do not use the word “outrage” in quotes because there is no outrage, but rather because it is politically manufactured outrage. This commonly happens after a story that puts conservatives at a disadvantage: they pounce on a story that seems to turn the tables, carefully frame it to suit their political needs, then start beating the drum across the media. You know how some people, when you criticize them, by reflex start criticizing you back on some other matter? That’s essentially what this is: an attempt to excuse their own shortcomings by trying to make the “other side” look hypocritical.
“It’s worse than a double standard. This is a purposeful, willful ignoring of the exact racial components, but in reverse, that happened in the Trayvon Martin shooting.” —Rush Limbaugh
And, as is usual when conservatives do this, the “equivalent” story isn’t equivalent at all. Conservatives, like Limbaugh above, claim that the Lane story should have gotten the exact same reaction as the Trayvon story because they were identical, only with races reversed. Their complaint is that the media and liberal leaders react to incidents when the victim is black and the assailant is white (or close to that), but if the assailant is black and the victim is white, liberals and the “Liberal Media”™ fall silent. They further postulate that because of such, they don’t actually “care” about the black victims but are using them to further an agenda. (Keep conservative tendencies to project in mind, now.)
Which, of course, is not even close to being true. The Martin case would not have been in the news at all had it not been for the fact that (1) the police failed to act on what appeared to be at minimum negligent homicide; once that made the story of some note, it became bigger when (2) the defense used was a controversial law that seems to legitimize killing someone for insufficient cause; and then it was further inflamed when (3) it became apparent that the entire incident was caused by racial profiling.
Race was absolutely a factor, but it was not what made the story a big one. There have been many other killings of black people by white shooters under the “stand your ground laws,” but none of them made national headlines—proving that race alone was not what made the story significant.
In the Christopher Lane killing—which did make national headlines—none of the elements that made the Trayvon Martin case significant exist. The killing did not appear to be racially motivated, but rather simply opportunistic; the killers have been arrested and will almost certainly be convicted in accordance with popular expectation of justice; and no controversial law is being used (at least not yet) to get the killers off.
Now, had the three youths immediately cited a controversial law, had the police processed them then let them go, and had there been evidence that they had chosen their victim because of his color— you can bet you life that it would be as much a story nationwide as the Trayvon Martin case. But none of those elements existed, therefore the two cases are not at all equivalent.
So the whole “where’s the outrage?” outrage on the right is, as usual, completely unfounded, as most of their politically motivated crap tends to be.