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Trusting Mainstream Media

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

December 21, 2010

By Perry Redd

In America, one must know what’s happening around them. Knowledge of the revolving course of politics, social change, economics, and culture is among the most imperative and responsible things one can do for themselves, their loved ones and their communities.  Of course, many don’t and many won’t.  But for those who do, they possess  with information, the tools to change the course of history.

On Thursday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners refused to work, stopped all other activities and locked down in their cells in a peaceful protest for their human rights.  I logged onto CNN.com and saw no mention of it.  These prisons are in CNN’s backyard…

The December 9th strike became the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States. Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, initiated this strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. But did CNN, MSNBC or even Fox cover it? No.  And do we wonder why? 

One thing I don’t want to do is to echo the refrain of the conservative Right, that mainstream media is a tool of the left…because I am of the left.  There’s nothing more leftist than just, fair, open and honest coverage of poor people’s issues.  Here’s where we sound alike: “here’s yet another story the mainstream press chose not to cover.”  But here’s where we differ…they neglected to cover this story for a totally different reason.

There were many different reasons to cover it.  Among them, the constitutional issue that the prisoners claim.  The Georgia DOC violently attempted to force the men back to work—claiming it was “lawful” to order prisoners to work without pay, in defiance of the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery. 

Then there’s the moral issue…In Augusta State Prison, six or seven inmates were brutally ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs for several men, one man beaten beyond recognition.  This brutality continues there.  At Telfair, the Tactical Squad trashed all the property in inmate cells.  At Macon State, the Tactical Squad has menaced the men for two days, removing some to the “hole,” and the warden ordered the heat and hot water turned off. 

And then there’s the precedential aspect of the story.  Never before has a prison protest been initiated through telecommunications between inmates.  Though against policy, it happened, placing America’s “dirty laundry” on front street.  Reminds me of Wikileaks…except these are black people.  Therein lies the difference.

Black media outlets, like Black Spin, News One, The Atlanta Post, and The Final Call did cover it.  But if they reached a proportional 12% of the American demographic, that’s 88% it didn’t reach.  Issues of black and poor people get all kinds of coverage—when whites are in the “savior” role.  Just listen to NPR.  On any given day, people of color are portrayed as in need of whites to survive.  If indeed that were true, then it would speak to a greater imbalance that America should be addressing.  But, we wouldn’t go there either.

It was reported in the New York Times on Friday as, the inmates’ use of “contraband.”  No mention of the injustices inflicted that caused the responsive act by the inmates.  So, what this event in America’s history has clearly demonstrated to me, is that 1) America has its priorities twisted, and 2) America is still racist.  This non-coverage of this precedential social issue should lead us all to no longer rely on mainstream media for our information.  From national security to net neutrality, we’re told just enough to keep us pacified.  We are told only the news that empowers the power structures and maintains racially imbalanced institutions.  So who will you listen to for what you need to know?

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