Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Social Media And Its Role In Exposure of Police

In recent years, social media has become a popular medium for news to spread. There has been a large number of posted stories and videos of various violent situations between White police officers and African American citizens. Shootings have occurred during some of these altercations, outraging the victims' families as well as Americans across the country. For example, "The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray are -some claim- evidence of long-standing problems with the police racism and excessive violence" (source). Viral videos have become a major part of the exposure of these stories to the public. Recently, while looking on Facebook I came across a link to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjSY0EoWSVc which shows a young African American boy being arrested for supposedly jay walking and disregarding the police's orders. Throughout the video a woman shouts 'he's just a kid' repeatedly. Eventually, nine police officers enter the scope of the video as they arrest him and put him in the back of a police car. This was just one example, as more of these videos have begun to surface (link to a list of videos). 

The most recent incident occurred this week in a South Carolina high school, Spring Valley High, when Ben Fields, a  sheriff's deputy named cop of the year and an assistant coach at the high school who has had previous violations regarding citizen's free speech and excessive force, flipped an African American girl out of her desk and arrested her. It was reported that she was using her phone, was asked to put it away several times, called into the office, and refused to move or leave the room; leading the administration to involve Officer Fields. In the video, the girl hits the officer with her fist but was reported to not have any weapon nor threatened his life. He continues to flip her and arrests her on the ground in the front of the class. The FBI and Department of Justice are getting involved and Fields has been suspended without pay. Field's Sheriff, Leon Lott, disregarded the matter of race and stated that Fields has an African American girlfriend (source). However, many are still suspicious of Fields' motives. The girl who was flipped has been arrested as well as her classmate, Niya Kenny, who tried to "stand up" to the officer, cursing at him as he arrested the girl (source).  New York Magazine called it "the latest in a depressing series of filmed violent encounters between cops and black teens" (source). There is even a hash tag trending titled "#AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh" (hashtag).  Three different videos of this incident have surfaced on social media, expanding its audience across social media platforms. This large audience creates a strong debate setting in the comment sections of the videos. Some have argued that police should take any measures necessary in order to arrest (source) while others believe he did not have a strong enough incentive to use such force (source). What do you think?

>Do you think that social media is a positive reinforcement to spreading news stories across America?
>Some have argued that the media ignores cases where there are altercations between African American cops and white citizens. Has social media created a focus on cases with white cops and African American cops?
>Does the media ignore the special circumstances of each case and generalize? Or do they generalize because each case has created a similar outcome?
>How effective is social media vs specialized news outlets in providing the full story?

Left: Portraitt of Brian Fields 

Right: Still from one of the viral videos posted online

6 comments:

Juliana Stahr said...

I strongly believe that social media does spread awareness of the racism that still exists in our society today. The visual truly gives one the experience of the trauma this young boy felt for "jaywalking." Social media has helped to encourage a more immediate need for change. For example, more people have been active in preventing unwanted police violence through creating organizations and gatherings in their own community. I do not believe that the media ignores cases between altercations between African American cops and white citizens. The news does a fairly decent job at incorporating stories that are important and relevant. The news also wants viewers. We need not to focus on the news not including violent African American cops, but rather be active in putting an end to this nonsensical behavior. People who claim that the news is exaggerating on Caucasian, aggressive cop stories are clearly missing the bigger picture - this absurd violence must end. The news does not generalize in my opinion. The news gives facts on each story and people generalize because the outcomes are all the same. Social media is better in the sense that the videos are real and from a person's camera. A specialized news outlet may have some agenda or purpose in recording the video. Also, a specialized news outlet does not have the ability to record everything at every given moment. This is why civilians are better at capturing the entire story such as the one of the girl in her class being attacked by a cop.

Bobby Sato said...

Social media coupled with video recordings of instances of police brutality are a great reinforcement to spreading news stories across America. Due to the public attention police brutality cases get, recording encounters with police has also become a way to defend yourself. Often police brutality cases are ruled in favor of the policeman because there is no evidence and is simply the victim's testimony against the policeman's. With the rise of social media and recording encounters with police, policeman are required to be more careful while civilians are ensured a new layer of safety. Therefore I see social media as a huge positive reinforcement to American news. Although the case can be made that a truly outrageous policeman may steal the recording device, the layer of safety recordings and social media provides is better than nothing. As to the media ignoring certain cases based on race, I disagree. The media may give more attention to some cases but I find all police brutality recordings to receive lots of attention simply due to the nature of the recording. This can be supported by the fact that social media is made up of a very diverse group of people unlike specialized news outlets. It is sad that race plays a role in police brutality and that civilians must find protection from their own police. Social media is the first step in bringing change to this depressing matter.

Janet Liu said...

While Juliana and Bobby are accurate in saying that social media is probably today's most accessible form of public communication, I think that it's noteworthy to remember that social media is, unfortunately, still media. Like all media, viewers are drawn to the posts which tell the most contentious and exciting stories. Right now, the culturally important story is the "Black Lives Matter" movement, so it isn't really surprising to see the most hits, reposts, and likes going to videos depicting violent white cops.

Yes, the "bigger picture" ought not to focus so much on social media but on the cultural trend that it's been recording. So here I go: Social media is most certainly not the one-stop shop for accurate information, but in this case, its nature to exaggerate is a partly positive force by forcing institutionalized racism out of the shadows.

But what's with this inclination to rehash the "police are racist" story? I know that it comes from a place of good intent and perhaps from a little of Going-Along- With-the-Majority, but "police brutality" is still a symptom of a larger problem.

Truly, this issue goes far beyond police. It traces its historical roots back to slavery and how myths were spun in order to justify it. We, African-Americans included, are still miseducated or undereducated about African culture. Our ignorance still begets fear and hatred. Whether we like it or not, we ALL racially profile and discriminate and bring about homicide and fratricide, and this issue does NOT begin or end with the police.

I wish that we could stop framing the issue as "Why-Are-Police-Racist." If anything good could come out of what social media has done to virtually depose the entire legion of men and women who, for the most part, dedicate their lives to protecting us, it is that the conscientious reader might be moved to step away, take a good long look in the mirror, and ask herself: "What has really gone wrong?"

Huayu Ouyang said...

I think that social media has played a really important role in recent events involving police brutality, and it is a positive reinforcement to spreading news stories because many people, especially the younger generation get most of their news from online, such as from links on Facebook or Twitter. I do not think that the media necessarily "ignores" cases involving African-American cops and white citizens, because the reason that the Black Lives Matter movement has spread is not just to highlight police brutality, but to highlight the flaws in the justice system when dealing with cases involving police and African-Americans. In cases of "black-on-white" violence, it may be that the case is appropriately and justly handled by the justice system, so people on social media do not feel the need to spread the case.

I also feel that although social media is a great tool for getting people more involved and aware in current events and politics, on some level social media as well as mainstream media has also played a role in polarizing the public. The internet and social media do make it easier for people to research both sides of an issue, but they also aide in connecting people with similar views. People naturally gravitate towards websites or online communities that agree with their views, which I think tends to create an outrage cycle where people on both sides of an issue will post articles designed to attack and demonize the other side and get people riled up and angry about a certain issue. For example, if you look at a Facebook news article comment section, such as for Fox or MSNBC, it is mostly filled with people posting the same opinion, agreeing with each other, and attacking the other side. This is effective in that people will actually go out and do something about an issue, but I think the downside is that it becomes very easy to only seek out communities where everyone will agree with you.

Alex Binsacca said...

Personally I do think that social is a great way to spread news across America. Agreeing with some of the previous comments much of today's youth get their daily news online. In some ways it is better than a professional news broadcast, as they can edit the video at any given time to attract more viewers. Thus news video that stems from social media does not have the extra factor of trying to boost their ratings. However, we cannot ignore the fact that they are a PROFESSIONAL news team whose main intent is to spread information among the American public.

While I do agree that social media has had a major trend in White on Black police brutality, I do not think that it ignores the Black on White police brutality. The fact of the matter is that police brutality is a major problem in America in general. In fact if you type into YouTube police brutality you will instantly get a result of thousands of videos online that contain some sort examples of police officers using an excessive amount of force where it is unneeded. Thus one could argue that these more recent videos get more attention because of the racial factor involved. Which is not a bad thing, as it is easily understandable on account of America's dark racist history. I think it is important to understand that there is indeed still a big problem with racism that pollutes our society, however I also think that police brutality itself is also a major issue. If social media can help bring these secret problems out into the light, then I absolutely agree that it is a great method to spread news across America.

Monica Mai said...

I definitely think that social media is a positive reinforcement in spreading news stories across America. Most young adults don't regularly read the news, so social media can be a great source of news. Although hashtag activism is regarded by many as a superficial way of being aware of injustices, I think that to some degree, it can be helpful in spreading awareness. At least, when people jump on the band wagon when they see popular hashtags, they're a little more aware of the injustice happening. I also don't think that media ignores altercations between African American cops and white civilians. Those just do not garner as much attention because white cops' brutality against African Americans can be assumed that it comes from racial profiling and a long history of discrimination against African American people. I do think that it's safe to generalize because each case has had a similar outcome. The cop unfairly treated the African American student because even though she might've hit the officer, it was no actual threat to the grown white cop who clearly is able to overpower her. I think that the bigger problem here is that a lot of the times, white cops have internal prejudices that make them more aggressive towards African-American people, which perhaps encourages an abuse of their power. When dealing withs students, especially African-American students, cops should understand an adolescent's reaction especially when they have had a history of feeling disrespected and looked down upon. Police brutality is definitely a very pervasive issue in America, but I think we also need to examine the overwhelming desire to abuse power when given power, as well as the prejudices of cops that make them treat the constituents unfairly. Overall, I think social media is an effective way to inspire people to look at news outlets for the full story. Certainly, it's done me a great deal in encouraging me to read the news a lot more than I usually would.