In the coming months it goes without saying that media will exhaustively cover the shooting of Walter Scott by South Carolina police officer Michael Slager. What won’t be addressed is how ghoulish partisan hacks poison the well of intellectual discourse to further their own career or political agenda.
Consider the headline by Raw Story’s Tom Boggioni: ‘Geraldo Rivera justifies Walter Scott shooting: Officer’s ‘blood was boiling’ after struggle’.
Is Mr. Boggioni being intellectually honest, or is he one of many political hacks who make having an adult conversation on race-relations near impossible?
Here is what Geraldo actually said, via Mediaite:
Well, I’m extremely glad that they released the dash-cam video because it gives context to the event, however horrific and tragic and outrageous the shooting in the back is. It shows that it started as a righteous traffic stop. There was a light out, the driver was acting very hinky, very edgy. He got out of the car, was told to get back in the car. […] He bolts. The officer runs after him. The taser comes out. There is a struggle. There is reliable eyewitness account that there is then a struggle after the Taser.
So, up until that point, the cop with his adrenaline pumping, now he’s been in a physical tussle, and now the perpetrator has reached for the Taser allegedly. Now it gives you the context of his blood boiling. [Officer Slager] has done everything professional and now he’s had this, this civilian has dared to physically have this altercation with the officer. Put that in the officer’s head now. I think it saves him from the murder rap. This is a horrible, horrible shooting, but there was no premeditation. This is manslaughter. I believe that this is manslaughter. […] This is unforgivable.”
I am not particularly a fond of Geraldo Rivera’s style of commentary. It is a strange day indeed when I feel as though I must defend the man. However, what men like Mr. Boggioni do is culturally destructive. They are masters in the dark art of personal destruction.
The logic goes something like this: Geraldo Rivera works for Fox. Fox is bad. If there is an opportunity to twist something a commentator on Fox says, then my responsibility is to take it — no matter how grotesque the distortion might be.
Reasonable people know that Mr. Rivera was talking about the very important legal distinctions between murder and manslaughter. Those things matter, as Florida prosecutors painfully found out during George Zimmerman’s legal proceedings.
Only a very angry, very unfair person would twist “This is a horrible, horrible shooting, but there was no premeditation. This is manslaughter. I believe that this is manslaughter. […] This is unforgivable,” into “Geraldo Rivera justifies Walter Scott shooting.”
If you want to know why America can’t have nice things in 2015, then just look at Raw Story’s headline on Geraldo. It’s a glaring example of how media outlets often abdicate their responsibility to strive for truth and clarity in favor of smearing an ideological opponent.