The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Ahmaud Arbery: Focus on Media Bias, Because ‘The Issue Is Never the Issue’

Posted on | May 12, 2020 | Comments Off on Ahmaud Arbery: Focus on Media Bias, Because ‘The Issue Is Never the Issue’


Andrew Branca, an attorney specializing in self-defense cases, has referred to the “propaganda circus” surrounding the death of Ahmaud Arbery. One of the problems I’ve encountered is that, while my attention to the case has focused on the issue of media bias, which is what this “circus” is actually about, many people seem to think it is necessary to engage in arguments about the incident itself. But this is exactly what the “propaganda circus” seeks — to take a case that ought to be a matter for a judge and jury to decide and transfer jurisdiction to the “court of public opinion,” for a trial-by-media, with people reacting to what cable TV talking heads say about the case. You see this in the comments on my American Spectator column Monday, as well as my blog post Monday.

A 1960s radical once said: “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.” Whenever the Left seizes on some incident like the Arbery shooting, they do so to advance their agenda, and the role of supposedly “objective” journalists in assisting this project is what we need to focus on: What propaganda methods are involved?

First, consider the factor of selectivity. We must keep in mind that the United States has approximately 14,000 homicides in an average year — about 1,200 homicides per month, 40 homicides per day. Very few of those crimes ever get national media attention. It must be noted that about half of U.S. homicide victims are black, as are about half of known perpetrators of homicide, despite the fact that black people constitute only 14% of the U.S population. Black-on-black violence is a disproportionate amount of crime in America, whereas situations like the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery are quite rare.

So the media have chosen a rare type of incident to make a national story. Why? The agenda is unmistakably political:

Satilla Shores is a predominantly white neighborhood, one the Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe describes as featuring “several homes … decorated with Trump flags, one bearing the president’s smiling face with the phrase, Make liberals cry again.” . . .
>Advocates for Arbery argue his killing is a very clear case of racial profiling; in his caption for the video, Merritt wrote, “Ahmaud Arbery was pursued by three white men that targeted him solely because of his race and murdered him without justification.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by others, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who tweeted Tuesday, “The video is clear: Ahmaud Arbery was killed in cold blood.”
Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election and who has said she hopes to become Biden’s running mate, demanded a “full investigation, appropriate charges, and an unbiased prosecution.”

That’s how the left-wing site Vox spun the story last week. They scarcely bother to conceal their message: “Trump voters are racist. White Republicans are the reason Ahmaud Arbery is dead.”

Yet it must be kept in mind that white-on-black homicide is a statistical rarity, a tiny fraction of the 14,000 homicides committed annually in the U.S., crimes that the national media typically ignore. The selectivity involved is driven by a partisan political motive, a desire to inflame public opinion in a way that is disadvantageous to Republicans. Another propaganda factor involved in the media’s coverage is omission.


Most Americans have never seen that 2013 mug shot of Ahmad Arbery, because the media do not wish to acknowledge his criminal record:


This is highly relevant to the circumstances of Arbery’s death, because Gregory McMichael, now charged with murder, was an investigator on that 2013 case in which Arbery was charged with bringing a pistol to a basketball game between Brunswick High (his alma mater) and their arch-rival Glynn Academy. Arbery was sentenced to five years’ probation in that case, and was subsequently convicted for violating his probation:

In an email [Ware County prosecutor George] Barnhill wrote to the state attorney general’s office on April 7, he asked to be taken off the case, stating that his son, an assistant district attorney in the Brunswick prosecutor’s office, had handled a felony probation revocation case involving Mr. Arbery. He also said Gregory McMichael had helped with “a previous prosecution of Arbery.”
Court records show that Mr. Arbery was convicted of shoplifting and of violating probation in 2018; according to local news reports, he was indicted five years earlier for taking a handgun to a basketball game.

How many CNN viewers know about this? And in the endless discussion of the case, how often is the significance of this information pointed out? Because, you see, first of all, that if McMichael recognized Arbery as he ran down Satilla Drive (“hauling ass,” McMichael said in his statement to police), he would have been aware that Arbery was a convicted felon with a history that involved firearms. Was it reasonable for McMichael to believe Arbery had a weapon? Could this explain why the former police officer decided to get his gun and pursue Arbery? Furthermore, because George Barnhill’s son was also involved in prosecuting Arbery, this helps explain why the case didn’t result in an immediate arrest, because Barnhill (who was chosen to handle the prosecution after the Glynn County D.A. recused herself) had to recuse himself after Arbery’s family objected to his possible conflict of interest. My purpose in drawing attention to this is not to argue about the shooting, but rather to show how the omission of these facts distorts perceptions of the case.

So, two methods of propaganda — selectivity and omission — are part of how the media have shaped the narrative of Ahmaud Arbery’s death, and they have done this to advance a political agenda: “Blame Trump!”

When the 36-second video clip of the shooting went viral last week, it was presented without context — or worse, was presented with the inflammatory false context of a “black jogger” being “hunted down” when, as we now know, Greg McMichael and his son believed themselves to be in pursuit of a burglary suspect. Again, this is not to argue about the case, as such, but rather to address the propaganda methods used by the media to advance their political agenda. If all you knew about the case is what you saw in that 36-second video clip, you’d certainly be angry about it, and if you were told that Ahmaud Arbery was just out for jog, you’d be even angrier. Even after it was explained that Arbery was a convicted felon whom the McMichaels suspected of committing burglaries in the area, you might still be angry, but there is a wide distance between (a) what actually happened, and (b) perceptions created by how the case has been portrayed in the media. “The issue is never the issue.”

It would be impossible for me to list everything that is being omitted, or at least not being properly emphasized, in coverage of this case. If you’re going to do hourly updates on cable news about a story, wouldn’t it behoove you to explore the story in-depth, rather than just showing the same video clip over and over and soliciting commentary from politicians and pundits? CNN can’t be bothered, however, and instead all the really useful reporting is done by other organizations, for example the Daily Mail, which interviewed the guy who called police to report Arbery’s trespassing at 220 Satilla Drive:

The witness’s timeline tallies with a recording of a 1:08pm non-emergency call released by the Brunswick Police Department and published last week by ‘There’s a guy in the house right now, a house under construction,’ the male caller says in the clip.
The audio is redacted to protect his identity but can confirm it’s the same voice as the man we spoke to.
He claimed there had been a rash of thefts in Satilla Shores recently that included pistols and rifles stolen from people’s vehicles. Police have said they recorded one burglary in the area since January; there are no records matching claims of firearms thefts from vehicles.
However, he said he had never personally seen Arbery before and had no evidence he was linked to the theft or any other crimes.
‘I saw him running down the street and I know someone matching his description had been entering vehicles and been on people’s docks,’ the witness added.
‘So I went down there to call the police and get a closer look.’

Notice the phrase “people’s docks.” In case you haven’t looked at a map of this neighborhood, it’s waterfront property, on the north bank of the Little Satilla River, and there are boat docks behind the homes on the even-numbered addresses on Satilla Drive. While it’s not Palm Beach or Malibu or some other luxurious resort location, having a riverfront property with your own private boat dock is rather a sizable investment.


If you believed that your property was at risk of being stolen or damaged by intruders, it would not be unreasonable to call the police when you saw suspicious activity in the neighborhood. Does that explain why Gregory McMichael and his son thought it would be a good idea to grab their guns and set off in pursuit of Arbery? No, except that there apparently was concern about crime in the neighborhood and — just speculating here — maybe the senior McMichael, an ex-cop, was feeling ornery that Sunday afternoon. It’s one of those situations where you ask, “What the hell were they thinking?” However, you could ask the same question about Ahmaud Arbery’s behavior that day.

Watch this report from Savannah’s WSAV-TV:


You’ll see that there’s not only the video we’ve all seen — Arbery evidently checking out the unfinished construction site at 220 Satilla Drive — but also other videos, from the same site, taken at night and showing someone who may or may not be Arbery inside the site. According to the report, these other videos date back as far as October 2019. So it was not a matter of paranoid imagination when a 911 caller told the dispatcher the day Arbery shot that this was an “ongoing situation.” There is yet another video I’ve seen which shows Arbery exiting the site at high speed (“hauling ass,” as Gregory McMichael told police), perhaps because he realized that the neighbor had called police.

Recall that, just two years ago, Arbery got busted for shoplifting and violating probation. Even if you think he was just out for a jog and decided to check out this construction site, what would Arbery think when he saw the neighbor standing in his driveway talking on the phone?

“Oh, no. They called the police. Better get out of here.”

This is speculation, but it is a fair guess that if Arbery thought police were on their way to investigate his trespassing on this property, he wouldn’t stick around to explain himself to the cops. You can read the police report yourself and see what allegedly happened thereafter, and you can also read George Barnhill’s letter asserting that the McMichaels’ actions did not violate Georgia law. Many people — including Dana Loesch — have criticized Barnhill’s argument. That’s immaterial to what I’m saying about media bias. If all you know about this case is what you’re getting from CNN or MSNBC, you know a lot less than half the story.

The media are deliberately distorting the case, using it as propaganda to incite racial anger to advance their political agenda.

Stop arguing about the case, and instead “turn the camera around,” as Andrew Breitbart used to say: Force the media to defend their bias. Hold them accountable for their selectivity and omissions. Why are they reporting on this homicide, rather than covering any other of the approximately 40 homicides that happen every day in America? What makes this Georgia case more important than any other case?



Comments are closed.