Last week, President Trump engaged in a full-throated frontal assault on the media. Many of his lines of attack are not without merit. Any informed reader, listener or viewer of U.S. “news” can detect the biases of the reporter and or their network by the, tone, the content, and the frequency of the information. Just as insidious is what “news” is actually reported and what is downplayed or ignored.
A day before the president’s epic rant, one of the nation’s leaders in biased reporting, The Washington Post, put online a disturbing piece with this caption, “Traffic deaths soared past 40,000 last year for the first time in a decade”. Forty thousand people in the U.S. lost their lives in traffic accidents in a year! The number was the highest in a decade, up an estimated six percent from 2015.
According to Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council and former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, the rising death toll has been tripping alarm bells for the last few years. The cost of the accidents and attendant deaths, injuries and property damage attributed to crashes was $432.5 billion, up 12 percent from 2015.
So, at a time when safety and technological advances in autos should be making vehicular travel safer, something, likely a combination of things, is driving in another direction. That something is not a gun, it’s not a policeman’s gun. It is most certainly something we’d think more benign – the ubiquitous smartphone in the calling, emailing, texting, searching and reading hand of so many drivers today. The ultimate “distraction” is killing us. Add to it, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, whether illegal or recently legalized.
And despite the carnage noted in the Post’s report, neither the Post nor other major publications see fit to make much of it. Unlike a different problem which is roughly 40 times less deadly in America.
I’m talking about reporting on people killed by police in our country.
That’s right – through intrepid reporting by The Washington Post, we can review with just a few mouse clicks, details of every fatal encounter between police and citizens in 2015 and 2016. By Post standards, as well as a few other publications, the problem of excessive police deadly force is so massive that it requires a team of reporters, a searchable database, and regular analysis of events and statistics, in addition to daily or weekly opinions and articles principally designed to create doubt and foment controversy about police hiring, training, judgements, and leadership.
Another of the president’s prime targets, CNN, has apparently covered the traffic fatality story three times this year, each in a brief article. Compare that to CNN’s coverage of just one police shooting incident in North Carolina last September, one in which subject of police deadly force was armed and ignored repeated commands to drop his weapon. In that case and others, CNN and other national media outlets descend en masse, prepared to provide enough cameras, enough oxygen, enough well-placed doubt that would help gather a crowd and ignite it into riot.
The media is indeed biased and often corrupt. They choose targets that will serve their purpose, focus their lights and their questions in a manner that supports their biased narrative. Or they simply ignore.
There will be no Washington Post reporters and no CNN satellite trucks heading to the next fatality on the Beltway. Not unless a police chase led to the crash. They have simply decided that 40,000 fatalities in traffic accidents don’t matter as much as 1000 deaths at the hands of police, more than three quarters of which were justifiable on their face.
On this, Trump was right.
Ron Hosko is president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund in Alexandria, VA. He’s a former FBI assistant director.