September 26th, 2016
There’s a long history of police violence footage being distorted to transform the victim into the aggressor. One such example, cited by Nicholas D. Mirzoeff, a Media and Communication professor at NYU, is how the defense lawyer in the 1992 Rodney King trial slowed down the infamous beating video to make King look like more of a threat. More recently, in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old killed by Cleveland police, prosecutors used stills to make the youth’s movements seem more menacing.
Given the toxicity of online culture, it’s hardly surprising that we’re now seeing online trolls trying to discredit video footage of police violence. The bad information then spreads among the “self-referential, wide-ranging and increasingly influential” group of websites and social media users, which Mirzoeff dubs the “Jim Crow Internet.”
“Video is data, not truth. It can be presented in any number of ways,” he concludes.
If you google “Keith Scott,” for example, the name of the man whose fatal shooting by Charlotte police has sparked protests, one of the top hits comes from a conspiracy theorist named Mark Dice who has called Scott a “dead thug.” The Charlotte protesters, he says, should be “taken to the humane society and put into a cage.”
Perhaps the most disturbing trend of the “Jim Crow Internet” is that its paranoia and virulent racism is creeping into mainstream news. CNN, BBC and other outlets are giving voice to the alt-right as if it’s merely an opposing view to the Black Lives Matters movement. Instead, they should recognize it as a continuation of the same Jim Crow policies that made “reckless eyeballing” by a black person a valid excuse for a white person’s use of deadly force.