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racism SRN Boos the News

SRN Boos the News: Local Media and White Euphemisms

We expected our new SRN Boos the News feature to be irregular, but here we are a couple days later with yet another instance of local news suckage.

Facts: A Minneapolis police officer put his body weight on the neck of an unarmed, compliant, handcuffed black man who was lying on the ground. The officer continued to use lethal force as the victim said he couldn’t breathe and onlookers insisted he stop. But he didn’t, and he killed the man–slowly, knowingly, and wholly unnecessarily. His fellow officers looked on and didn’t intervene. None of them made efforts to render aid.

Where I come from, this is called murder.

Well, actually, where I come from it often is not called murder, which is the point of this column.

If you check out the local news, this is merely called “kneeling on someone’s neck” and “dying in custody.” The story comes from the AP, and the headline likely does too, as it was reproduced by news outlets across Nebraska. Yet not only did nobody alter it to make it more direct, some outlets, like the Lincoln Journal Star, restated the euphemisms in their social media post.

Another share of the same AP story, this time by North Platte’s KNOP.

It is true that the officer “knelt on George Floyd’s neck” and that Floyd “died in police custody.” But these indirect ways of describing Floyd’s murder indicate a choice among editors across the state to present this egregious terrorism in the most euphemistic of terms. We don’t need to wait until the glacier-speed bureaucracy comes forth with the findings of a full investigation to know that the police officer killed this man. So why not say “police officer who killed George Floyd arrested” unless you are gymnastically avoiding naming an agent and an action? Is it because its simple, striking, truthful bluntness is just a little too uncomfortable for the local media’s mostly white readership?

It’s also notable that both of these local outlets chose images of protests that conservative white people find outrageous–the LJS choosing an image of someone clad in black, spraying a wall with anti-cop graffiti, and KNOP choosing a billowing inferno with a protester raising a clenched fist in front of it. The subject of the news item is the cop who killed Floyd, but the images show the resulting political tumult. The net effect: minimize the murder of a black man by a white cop, emphasize the lawlessness of the protests.