This morning a Baltimore police officer was acquitted of four charges related to Freddie Gray, an African-American who died in police custody in 2015. That was just one of many recent incidents involving police use-of-force (i.e. Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice) that resulted in a tragic and unnecessary fatality. These deaths inspired the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement as an attempt to raise awareness of the problem.
From the start, Fox News has been dismissive, or outright hostile, to #BlackLivesMatter and it’s representatives. They pushed the insensitive and disingenuous alternative of “All Lives Matter” and labeled the black activists racists and anti-police. However, saying that “black lives matter” is no more exclusive of concern for other lives than saying “save the whales” means screw all the other marine mammals. It is just a way drawing attention to a serious problem.
What Fox News considers to be a serious problem is the exercise of free speech by American citizens, particularly those in the entertainment industry. Their target this morning was Beyonce, who will be performing in concert in Pittsburgh next week. Some of her recent appearances and videos have carried the message of #BlackLivesMatter, which has drawn criticism from right-wing pundits and politicians.
On Fox & Friends today, co-host Ainsley Earhardt invited Robert Swartzwelder, the president of the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police, to explain why he is filing a labor complaint on behalf of officers potentially being “forced” to work the concert. She introduced the segment saying that…
“Beyonce backlash is brewing. The singer’s apparent anti-police message has gotten the attention of Pittsburgh officers, many of who plan to boycott the singer’s upcoming concert in their town. There is just one problem. The city might force those officers to work security at her concert on May 31st.”
Earhardt’s bias was plainly stated in her opening by referring to an “anti-police message.” When she asked Swartzwelder about the looming boycott (which he said was not a boycott) he characterized it as ordinary and uncontroversial, and that officers regularly decline certain assignments such as traffic detail. Which is, of course, a ridiculous comparison. No officer has ever cited their objection to the political position of an automobile as a reason for not wanting traffic duty.
Swartzwelder went on to say that officers were offended by “various references in Beyonce’s music” that “all police officers engage in police brutality,” which Beyonce has denied. In the view of Swartzwelder, and Fox News, any criticism of the police is a criticism of all police and is, therefore, unacceptable. And Earhardt was sympathetic saying…
“I get it. I understand. You watch the video and you’re saying she is anti-cop rhetoric, you see the anti-cop images. So if she’s gonna be anti-cop why would we wanna go work her concert?”
While Earhardt did inquire as to whether the police “have an obligation to the people” that would “trump your feelings toward Beyonce,” she buried it under the false premise that Beyonce is against the police. The larger point is that the police do indeed have an obligation to the people. The security services that they provide are not just for the safety of the artist, but also the rest of the community. Their service ought to blind to politics and driven by a commitment to the ethical codes of conduct of their profession and their sense of duty.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.
Officers should not have the ability to veto an assignment based on their political prejudices. You never see them refusing to provide security during a KKK rally, so why should they be able to put an artist and the community at risk simply because they disagree with a perceived political opinion? Aren’t they validating their critics? And more importantly, what does it say about those who refuse to serve?