Yellow Journalism Kills

News: Commentary
by Gene Thomas Gomulka  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 9, 2020   

Exaggerations, scandal-mongering, sensationalism

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For those not familiar with the term, "yellow journalism," Wikipedia defines it as journalism that "presents little or no legitimate, well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering or sensationalism."

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Admiral Hyman Rickover

What most people don't realize is that, over the years, yellow journalism has been responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

A Spark That Lit a War

On the evening of Feb. 15, 1898, a terrible explosion occurred aboard the American battleship Maine, anchored in Havana Harbor. Two hundred-sixty six men lost their lives.

In a competition between Joseph Pulitzer's New York Work and Randolph Hearst's New York Journal to see who could sell more newspapers and make more money, these competitors published unsubstantiated stories that led the American public to respond with outrage.

Even though a Navy Court of Inquiry did not definitely assign blame to Spain for the explosion, Congress declared war on April 25, 1898. The war claimed the lives of 3,289 Americans, as well as some 60,000 Spaniards.

In 1976, Admiral Hyman Rickover, the "father of the nuclear Navy," conducted a new investigation of the Maine using modern investigative techniques unavailable in the late 19th century.

While the police officers involved in his death need to be brought to justice and the Floyd family comforted, the public response fueled by the way his death was reported is totally disproportionate to the facts of the case.

The investigation came to the conclusion that the explosion was not caused by a Spanish mine, but was the result of spontaneous combustion in the ship's coal compartment located under the forward magazine room.

The spark that ignited the Spanish-American War was not a deliberate attack by a foreign power, but an accident owing to a flaw in the ship's design and a change in the type of coal used to fuel naval ships.

Statistical Sleight of Hand

What happened over 100 years ago is happening again today. Consider the frenzy and destruction that has been caused by the way the media has reported the death of George Floyd. While the police officers involved in his death need to be brought to justice and the Floyd family comforted, the public response fueled by the way his death was reported is totally disproportionate to the facts of the case.

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As Candace Owens pointed out in her 17-minute Facebook post that set social media ablaze: "There is no racially targeted police brutality against black Americans." Using facts and statistics to support her argument, she noted, "You have a 25% higher chance as a violent, white criminal of dying at the hands of a white police officer than you do as a black criminal."

In comparing blacks — who make up 13% of the population — to whites, who make up 60%, she noted how blacks commit 50% of all violent offenses. Black men who represent 6% of the population, account for 44% of all murders in the United States. She argued that it is because of this violence that blacks have more encounters with police officers than whites.

You have a 25% higher chance as a violent, white criminal of dying at the hands of a white police officer than you do as a black criminal.

In response to those who would misrepresent law enforcement officers as racist, Owens pointed out that "a police officer has an 18.5% higher chance of being killed by a black person than the other way around."

Media Blindness

When a police officer killed 19-year-old Zachary Hammond on a date while his girlfriend was eating an ice cream cone, there was no national outrage, no demonstrations, no looting. Might that have been because Hammond was white? Eric Bland, the family's attorney, said, "It's sad [that] ... the media and our government officials have treated the death of an unarmed white teenager differently than they would have if this were a death of an unarmed black." Unlike Floyd, who was incarcerated five times, Hammond never had one encounter with the law.

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Candace Owens

One might question why not one media outlet sought to interview a black woman who was robed in her home by Floyd. After almost canonizing Floyd, might they have worried what she might have said as she recalled how Floyd placed the tip of his gun to her womb while she was pregnant?

Owens concludes that the current "entire narrative" surrounding the death of George Floyd, "is election fodder; it's white vs. black because it's an election year." She warns listeners not to be misled by the Democrat narrative that "black people are being disproportionately being hunted down by police officers because of the color of their skin."

Prelates' Pre-Judgment, Prescience

Racist accusations by religious leaders like Pope Francis and Washington Abp. Wilton Gregory are reminiscent of the reactions of Kentucky bishops Roger Foys of Covington and John Stowe of Lexington to media reports about Covington High School student Nick Sandmann.

When Sandmann was misportrayed by CNN and other media sources as disrespecting Native American elder Nathan Phillips in Washington, D.C., both Foys and Stowe condemned Sandmann without knowing all the facts. Foys and Stowe were fortunate that Sandmann did not sue them for defamation as he successfully sued CNN to the tune of $250 million.

Fortunately, not all religious leaders are so easily misled by the media. In his June 7, 2020 letter to President Donald Trump, Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò lamented how Trump, who "courageously defends the right to life," has been subjected to an "orchestrated media narrative which seeks not to fight racism and bring social order, but to aggravate dispositions; not to bring justice, but to legitimize violence and crime; not to serve the truth, but to favor one political faction."

Was David Dorn, the 77-year-old retired black police captain really killed by looters, or was his death caused by CNN and other media sources whose yellow journalism incited looting by their portrayal of Floyd as a martyr for black America?

While yellow journalism contributed to the death of almost 65,000 Americans, Spaniards, Cubans and Filipinos during the Spanish American War, so too have thousands of Americans suffered the loss of property as a result of the media misleading the public to believe that a disproportionate number of blacks are killed by police than whites.

Was David Dorn, the 77-year-old retired black police captain really killed by looters, or was his death caused by CNN and other media sources whose yellow journalism incited looting by their portrayal of Floyd as a martyr for black America?

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a Catholic priest (monsignor) and retired Navy captain/chaplain who served on active duty at Marine Corps and Navy commands for more than 24 years.
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