Arnold Ahlert / Jan. 5, 2015

The Narrative vs. the Truth

I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but as a writer who recognizes the need of reaching as wide an audience as possible, I consider it a necessary evil. Yet I also recognize something else: Facebook might best be referred to as Narrative Central in that it is a repository for countless numbers of “true” stories that are anything but.

I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but, as a writer who recognizes the need of reaching as wide an audience as possible, I consider it a necessary evil. Yet I also recognize something else: Facebook might best be referred to as Narrative Central in that it is a repository for countless numbers of “true” stories that are anything but.

Last Thursday, I ran across this video:

It was submitted by a Facebook user who added the following script to it:

The gentle GIANT Yea?

A MUST VIEW
Attached is a video taken from a cell phone, showing how Michael Brown…..(yes, the one and the same)….treats a senior black male. This 300 lb. young boy (that’s what media calls him) is the same Michael Brown that attempted to take a gun away from a police officer and paid with his life. Here is the fellow that all of the riots are about. Videos don’t lie. You will not see this in the media. Pass this around so the truth can be known. It needs to be seen!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the Grand Jury got it
ALL WRONG.

Before you watch the video, let me warn you that it’s not pretty. A couple of black youths beat and stomp an older and far less physically imposing black man who allegedly stole a backpack from them. What they spout at the same time is pretty much what one might expect from a couple of kids seemingly quite comfortable expressing their thuggery.

And of course, as the posting above makes it clear, the so-called “star of the show” is the late Michael Brown, dubbed a “gentle giant” by a media more than willing to fan the flames of racial discord for months leading up to and following the grand jury investigation that ultimately exonerated Officer Darren Wilson. Racial discord that ultimately precipitated several nights of looting, arson and other assorted mayhem in Ferguson, MO. Mayhem ostensibly justified by the thoroughly discredited “Hand’s Up Don’t Shoot” narrative initially perpetrated by Dorian Johnson and subsequently exploited by a host of entities, including President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, race-baiter extraordinaire Al Sharpton and a gaggle of Communists, New Black Panther gangsters and other assorted leftists whose profit, power and prestige depend on dividing Americans against each other – by any means necessary.

Thus for many Americans angry and frustrated by organized hatred based on a foundation of lies, another video evidencing Michael Brown’s thuggish tendencies, added to the one showing him participating in a strong-arm robbery of a much smaller store owner just prior to his confrontation with Wilson, would undoubtedly bring some measure of satisfaction to the party. However, there’s one small problem with this latest video:

It’s not Michael Brown.

As Snopes.com reveals, the above video was initially posted December 9, 2014 by a Facebook user named Shawn Spall who, later the same day, either restricted or removed it, after tens of thousands of people had already seen it. A copy of the video was reposted to YouTube. The Facebook deletion gave rise to yet another narrative, as in Facebook had deliberately removed the video to conceal the truth. This narrative elicited a predictable reaction, such as this example:

“WOW FACEBOOK TOOK DOWN THE PRIVATE HOME VIDEO I HAD ON MY PAGE OF MIKE BROWN BEATING AN OLD MAN AND ROBBING HIM OF HIS BACKPACK! IT’S HAS MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED OFF EVERYONE’S PAGE THAT SHARED IT. I REMEMBER OVER 30,000 SHARES AS OF YESTERDAY AROUND 5PM CST WHEN i FIRST SHARED IT.”

“WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES, WHY WOULD FACEBOOK WANT THIS KID TO BE SEEN AS A MARTYR? WHY WOULD THEY SENSOR (sic) THIS INFORMATION? WE ARE BOMBARDED EVERYDAY BY JIHAD VIDEOS AND STUPID PET TRICKS BUT WE CAN’T SHOW THE TRUTH ABOUT A PUNK THAT IS BEING HELD AS A CIVIL RIGHTS HERO? YOU SUCK FACEBOOK!!!!” (Caps in the original)

Whether Facebook sucks is in the eye of the beholder. A New Republic article published in 2013 details what ultimately evolved into Facebook's community standards. The site lists 11 categories they have determined could merit some sort of post removals. They include Violence and Threats, Self-Harm, Bullying and Harassment, Hate Speech, Graphic Content, Nudity, Identity and Privacy, Intellectual Property, Regulated Goods, Phishing and Spam, and Security.

Facebook also explains how they determine what stays and what goes:

“If you see something on Facebook that you believe violates our terms, you should report it to us. Please keep in mind that reporting a piece of content does not guarantee that it will be removed from the site.”

“Because of the diversity of our community, it’s possible that something could be disagreeable or disturbing to you without meeting the criteria for being removed or blocked. For this reason, we also offer personal controls over what you see, such as the ability to hide or quietly cut ties with people, Pages, or applications that offend you.”

My personal experience with Facebook indicates a site overwhelmingly dedicated to mind-numbing mundanity, interspersed with humor, a few wise observations, and a series of “causes” that ask for one’s “support,” insofar as hitting the “like” button indicates as much. Yet as the above video indicates (along with several others I’ve investigated), there is a level of carelessness exhibited by the posters themselves that is somewhat disturbing. It doesn’t take much investigation, for example, to discover the latest “hot topic” is a two year old story.

Or like the video cited at the top of this piece, a complete fabrication.

It was originally posted in 2012 with the caption “only in Woodland City” which apparently refers to a large apartment complex in Dallas, Texas named Woodland City Apartments. Until I researched this, I wouldn’t have had a clue. However the reason I did was subsequently confirmed: the autopsy report released by the St. Louis County Health Department (as opposed to the media) listed Michael Brown’s weight at 289 lbs. and his height at 77 inches, or 6'4" tall.

The guy in the video isn’t even close.

Snopes cites other factors as well, including non-matching skin tones and the perp’s pierced ears. Brown didn’t have pierced ears. All well and good, but another problem arises: Snopes.com is a self-appointed Internet fact-checker run by David and Barbara Mikkelson of California. And while they have been subjected to a series of unsubstantiated rumors regarding their political affiliations as “flaming liberals,” there is still an unanswered question as to whether uber leftist George Soros finances them.

Are you beginning to get the big picture?

There’s a threefold point I’m making here. First, take everything you see on the Internet with a giant grain of salt, including the so-called fact checkers who may have their own agenda. The bet here is Snopes gets it right on this one for two reasons: the aforementioned height of the perp, and a little more investigation on my part, as in this photo of the apartment complex that shows a style of buildings like the ones in the video. It takes a little extra effort to do such checking, but that beats the heck of out of a display of self-inflicted foolishness on social media sites.

Second, be really careful about buying into yet another narrative, simply because it accrues to your political worldview. Hands Up Don’t Shoot has roiled the nation for months, but it doesn’t justify yet another false narrative to “balance things out.” Or as one of the oldest and truest bromides goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Third, have a little personal integrity. It’s hard to complain about an untrustworthy media if one is going to engage in the same careless practices they do.

We live in an age where journalistic integrity is rapidly becoming a total anachronism, and ascertaining the truth is an increasingly difficult proposition. That in and of itself may be the greatest irony of the digital information age. But succumbing to the alternative – a nation of competing tribes who cling to narratives, utterly irrespective of facts – is far worse.

Officer Wilson was cleared by a grand jury that separated the narrative from the facts. Falsely impugning a dead teenager as payback to a mob that refuses to accept that verdict may feel like some sort of cosmic payback, but in the end all it amounts to is substituting one mob mentality for another. We’re a better nation than that – and it’s time we started acting like it.

©2015 The Patriot Post

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