Americans have watched this #StopAsianHate hashtag explode into their consciousness over the past few weeks, especially after the multiple-shooting of eight Georgia massage-parlor workers by a white man.
And while authorities are still sorting through this spate of attacks to determine the details, it’s instructive to watch an outsized narrative develop in real-time.
I was reminded of this recently while in Birmingham, Alabama, where I visited the 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of the May 2, 1963, church bombing that killed four young girls. Martin Luther King was jailed in Birmingham and wrote what I consider to be his most important treatise, “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” on the pages of a give-away note pad from a company that made acoustical tiles. These are the things myths are made of.
But not every political battle is 1963 Birmingham and not every political foe is the KKK.
Reported violence against Asians is not necessarily Birmingham all over again.
The narrative that it’s President Trump’s fault because he used the phrase “China virus” last year strains credulity. The all-too-eager anti-Trump media, however, amplifies this message. Indeed, this story and others, including the COVID lockdown/mask information, and the attack on the Capitol Building on January 6th, all have taken on the tell tale signs of hit-and-run narrative-run journalism.
Caveat emptor. We’ve seen the media fail to let facts get in the way of a too-good-to-check-story with disastrous results.
Here are just a few.
1. Satanic Rituals at Preschools
In the early 1980s, media became beguiled and obsessed by the story of the satanic ritualistic sex acts and torture against the tiny tots at the hands of the operators of the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California.
Media, police, and “ambitious prosecutors” believed the child-psychologist-driven “don’t accept no for an answer” method of “believing the children” therapy, which resulted in an explosive story of satanic rituals at the preschool. It was, in part, fueled by new government funding to look for child abuse under the newly penned “Mondale Act,” but the gullible, unquestioning media made everything worse by magnitudes of order.
Out of these sessions came stories of children being groomed by malevolent sex perverts teaching about “boobies and dicks” at the tony preschool. It turns out that the children were being taught the story of “Moby Dick.” The preoccupation by a child who liked to play “doctor” by giving shots and taking temperatures morphed into the tale of one of the McMartin teachers using his penis as the thermometer. There were tales of secret tunnels and hot air balloon rides that didn’t exist and never happened.
A mass panic ensued. And it spread like a spark in the Southern California backcountry in August by an unquestioning media and frantic parents.
Soon pre-schools and day care places in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington state, and New Jersey reported ritualistic child abuse sometimes at the hands of “robots.”
Dorothy Rabinowitz’s reporting was key in freeing the Amirault family of Massachusetts who’d been blamed in a similar hysterical scam. They’d been imprisoned for fanciful tales of children being “raped with knives” with no physical evidence and children being forced to watch as one of their fellow students was tied to a tree naked, while the teacher sacrificed a squirrel.
She blamed the media for suspending their disbelief.
In Massachusetts armies of journalists from the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, and local TV followed this prosecution and its preposterous evidence. Today only silence reigns on the Amiraults and the great abuse trials that occasioned so much fevered reporting. Not long ago a Boston Globe editor dismissed a would-be contributor on the subject, saying “I sent two reporters to cover the story at the time and they said the Amiraults were weirdos.”
Writer Carol Tavris asked in The Wall Street Journal years later:
How do you convey to the next generation the stupidity, the rush to judgment, the breathtaking cruelty, the self-righteousness, the ruined lives that every hysterical epidemic generates?
That’s part of the reason for this story.
2. Trump Is a Russian Secret Agent
The FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies conspired with Hillary Clinton and other Democrat operatives to dirty up Donald Trump and/or prevent him from becoming president. The conspiracy continued into his presidency with the aid of the media wing of the party leaking false stories of Trump’s attorney going to Prague for meetings with Russians, Deutsche Bank follies, General Mike Flynn‘s fake “affair,” Trump Tower meetings between Trump’s aides-de-camp and Russians, and other notorious truly unbelievable stories about hookers peeing on beds and the like.
The media ate it up. Of course, Trump hired hookers to urinate on a bed! It was totally on brand, they reasoned, with the actual Russian-based formulated stories told by Christopher Steele as their north star.
Their obsession with Trump-Russia continues apace with the recent stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop being “Russian disinformation” and using that evidence-free claim as reason to impose a pre-election news blackout of the story for fear it would dirty up Joe “The Big Man” Biden.
And the cover-up of the FBI and CIA racket continued with the Mueller report. Former special counsel Robert Mueller knew early on that there was no evidence to support such fanciful and treacherous claims, but continued the witch hunt anyway.
It’s hard to assess whose behavior was worse, the smug, unquestioning media or the treacherous FBI and intelligence agencies, but former Senate leader Harry Reid’s words about another media/political attack come back to haunt, “It worked, didn’t it?”
3. ‘Epidemic’ of Black Church Burnings
In the mid-1990s a group called the Center for Democratic Renewal put out the story about an epidemic of arsons at black churches. At the time, President Clinton said the burnings were due to racial hostility. While in the year 2021, it might be a believable story, considering the arson-happy, by-any-means-necessary radicals in the BLM and antifa movements, at that time, it was shocking and concerning.
Reporters, with vague memories of the Birmingham church bombing in their heads, were willing to believe there was such an epidemic of black church fires. They figured, hey, 1963 wasn’t that long ago, right?
The CDR held a news conference in which its head touted that the fires were the result of “a well-organized white-supremacist movement.” Except they weren’t. Not so’s you’d know from media reports.
In 1996, The Wall Street Journal looked into the reputed “white supremacist,” “racially hostile” burnings.
The CDR claims there have been 90 arsons against black churches in nine Southern states since 1990, and that the number has risen each year, reaching 35 in 1996 as of June 18. Each and every culprit “arrested and/or detained,” it stresses, has been white.
But when I contacted law enforcement officials in several states on the CDR list, a very different picture emerged. The CDR, it turns out, regularly ignored fires set by blacks and those that occurred in the early part of the decade, and labeled fires as arsons that were not–all in an apparent effort to make black church torchings appear to be escalating.
USA Today, which had taken point on the story, wrote more than 60 stories on the “epidemic” that didn’t pan out.
The … manufactured media coverage that launched the 1990s black-church-arson juggernaut, fueled by former USA Today reporter Gary Fields’s 61 fear-mongering stories, fell apart under scrutiny. Fields’s own employer was forced to admit that “analysis of the 64 fires since 1995 shows only four can be conclusively shown to be racially motivated.”
When BLM and their friends tried to reprise a new story of the 2015 church burnings, The LA Times, of all places, tracked down the causes and found the black church fires weren’t necessarily black churches, weren’t linked, and at least some were caused by lightning and electrical shorts.
4. Hands Up, Don’t Shoot
Michael “Big Mike” Brown was shot by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. The incident fueled riots and it’s out of this milieu that BLM blew up – literally – into public consciousness.
Brown was an unarmed, college-bound high schooler and Officer Wilson shot him simply because the 18-year-old, 6-foot-4-inch, nearly 300-pound kid was walking in the middle of the street. He begged for his life with his hands up, begging Wilson not to shoot him – or so the narrative goes. But, as you’ve probably figured out by now, the narrative was fake news. All of it.
The truth is much blunter – literally and figuratively – than that.
Multiple investigations showed explicitly that the “hands up, don’t shoot” mantra heard at protests and riots afterward was a big, fat lie. Wilson was the one fighting for his life. Brown attacked him.
Reporters took the word of Brown’s friend and hand-me-down hearsay to fashion a narrative that continues to this day in some circles.
The Brown case showed that it’s much easier and expedient for reporters to convey a narrative than to actually report a story. And it also showed once again that mythology is more important to a movement than facts.
5. 1619 Project
The 1619 Project was the brainchild of a New York Times Magazine reporter who recast the founding of the United States as wholly defined by and dependent upon slavery. Nikole Hannah-Jones trotted out her revisionist history that put slavery – not freedom – at the center of the founding in the summer of 2019.
That whole Puritan thing, religious freedom, and King George thing had nothing to do with it.
It’s no small thing to pull a switcheroo with America’s founding, but Hannah-Jones’s historical fakery was carried out with the noblest of intentions, you understand. And The New York Times was there for it, ballyhooing her “project,” hiding her phonied history with newer and newer “editions” of her essays. Changes and edits in her thesis just appeared out of nowhere as the criticism poured in to the editors’ in box proving what a bunch of hooey it was.
Hannah-Jones then revised her entire raison d’être for the project by later saying, naw, I wasn’t really saying 1619 was America’s founding.
After being publicly humiliated, but not before school districts adopted her fake founding narrative, Hannah-Jones admitted that, yes, she just wanted to re-write history and change the founding narrative.
“The fight over the 1619 Project is not about history. It is about memory,” Hannah-Jones tweeted. “I’ve always said that the 1619 Project is not a history. It is a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative and, therefore, the national memory. The project has always been as much about the present as it is the past.”
“Memory” as in recovered fake memories.
6. Arab Spring
The so-called Arab Spring in 2011 wasn’t a freedom movement, as the moniker “spring” connotes, it was the Islamist takeover in the guise of a freedom movement in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Bahrain. Touted by the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the administration predicted the protests would “truly establish democracy.” The media heralded this as an Obama foreign policy triumph.
The media lauded the “pro-democracy” riots and protests that started with the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor in 2010. But it wasn’t about freedom, unless, as Andy McCarthy explains in his book about it, you mean freedom within the religion of Islam and being in total submission to Allah – not exactly a Western democracy.
In Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy: McCarthy explains that what happened within these countries was the opposite of democratic spasms and the yearning for freedom.
The Arab Spring is not an eruption of democracy. It is the ascendancy of Islamic supremecism. Before 2010, 2011, there was reputable polling that was done in the region and upwards of 60, 70, 80 percent polled said they wanted to live under sharia [law], most of them under a strict interpretation of sharia.
[…] Free speech doesn’t exist under a Muslim constitution.
The so-called democracy riots empowered Turkey’s Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to gravitate more toward Islamism and less toward the West. They swept Islamist Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood into the presidency of Egypt – with an assist from the new Obama regime.
And yet, there are some in the media who consider it a huge leap forward.
There is a pile of other, equally corrosive fake stories higher than Trump Tower that could have been added to this list. But these are the ones that will be remembered as much for their explosiveness as for their fakery.
As the former and now deceased editor of The Wall Street Journal Robert L. Bartley once wrote about these news “fads,” as he called them:
Fads, that is, have real consequences. And with tribal cohesion, it seems, there are not many to stand against them, least of all among guardians of the press. So serious people have to be careful to cling stubbornly to reality, to refuse to give the passing craze the benefit of suspension of disbelief.
American media could do with a hell of a lot more suspension of disbelief.
Victoria Taft is the host of “The Adult in the Room Podcast With Victoria Taft” where you can hear her series on “Antifa Versus Mike Strickland.” Find it here. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, MeWe, Minds @VictoriaTaft