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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

When there are not enough racists, the Media invents them

By Drew Holden 


I know it may seem straight out of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but the supposed-racist-barrage-turned-innocent-fan-behavior this weekend in Colorado says a lot about the media.

I try to unpack why after some highlights from the unfounded outrage. ⤵️ 
For those unaware: over the weekend, a fan reportedly called an MLB player a racial slur. Not 24 hours later, the team concluded he was just calling out the name of the team’s mascot, Dinger.

But if you read the @nytimes, that the story was even in doubt likely escaped you.Image
But, as ever, it wasn’t just the Times. Not to be outdone, @CNN also got in on the act, making the same allegation.

Again, no hesitation, no couched language, no waiting for the story to play out with additional information. Just confident - and totally misplaced - assurance.Image
@mentionsreally leaned into the narrative on this one.

As you can see from the opening paragraph (and h/t to for finding this) there isn’t any equivocation: “The n-word was shouted multiple times from the stands”

That, simply, wasn’t true.ImageImage
I think this story/correction from @AP is illustrative of the point here.

For the first tweet, you have certainty: a fan did this racist thing.

But then, as soon as the narrative went bunk, you get words like “suspected” start to creep in.

Where was that framing to begin with?ImageImage
A lot of the updates took a similar route as APs.

Safe to say there’s a slight difference in tone between this original @USATODAY piece and the follow up one from when it became clear the first was wrong.ImageImage
@mentionsalmost couched this but decided to go with “apparently” instead, and then leaned into how this was an “ugly incident” despite none of the players on either team noticing anything was amiss.Image
Sports media in particular really jumped the gun on this one. Here we’ve got @Si@SportsCenter@BleacherReport and MLB networks @SeverinoMLB all doing the same thing.ImageImageImageImage
@mentionsis a name I never envisioned including in a thread if I’m being honest.Image
And the coverage even made it international! Here you’ve got @Independent from the UK and this truly outrageous take from @heraldsunsport in Australia.ImageImage
Short on space but we saw the same thing from both the Post and @NYDailyNews.ImageImage
The response from the @Rockies was pretty terrible.

How do you conclude, right off the bat, that your own fans are vile racists, without even bothering to investigate?Image
But even their self-flaggelating and inaccurate apology wasn’t enough for many on Twitter. Here’s just a brief snapshot of journalists and other blue checks. @rolandsmartin@TroyWestwood & @mollyhc

Again, this is in response to an apology for something that didn’t happen!ImageImageImage
And a lot of people across the media ran with this one when they should’ve known better.

Here’s @BNightengale, a sports columnists for USA Today, suggesting that this guy (who, again, didn’t do anything wrong!) should be put in jail.Image
It always pays to follow the @EsotericCD rule: when something outlandish happens, don’t rage tweet about it for twenty four hours.

WaPo’s @MrMichaelLee…didn’t do that.ImageImage
@mentionsof HuffPost helped get the outrage going, in a since-deleted tweet.

Something tells me we’ll get a lot of quiet deletes and stealth edits as a result of all this.Image
I won’t pretend I had expected anything better from @KeithOlbermann, though.ImageImageImage
Listen, I’m a Red Sox fan. I won’t pretend there aren’t racist incidents in the MLB (or other sports) or that they aren’t heinous when they happen.

But a quick way to turn people off to a problem is to play the boy who cried wolf. A lot of folks across the media did that here. 
An earnest desire for change sometimes has a funny way of turning shadows into monsters. I hope folks will take this as a reminder to slow down, especially when something happens that is both outrageous and conveniently aligned with one’s narrative.

Especially in the media. 
No, this isn’t Russiagate. It’s a dumb misunderstanding that’ll quickly recede from memory. But it is emblematic of an enormous problem with the corporate press.

Information that sounds right to a journalist is increasingly treated as fact, and we’re all poorer for it. 
That’s the real problem here. We had uncorroborated information that - in the blink of an eye - became a story, reported in a uniform fashion across the corporate press.

If a story like this can take shape this quickly, what outrage mob can’t? 

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