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Say it after me: I’m a white privileged man
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Say it after me: I’m a white privileged man

“Just by the merit, the colour of your skin, the opportunities that you have, you’re privileged in ways that you might not even realize because you haven’t been deprived of certain things. ” — Dave Chappelle

A brief look at my experience as a privileged white man, and how the U.S. media is covering (or not covering) the Buffalo mass shooting.

Dan Lett

Dan Lett, Columnist

Dan Lett

The Macro

Perhaps it’s just a result of reaching a 50-something stage in life, but I’ve recently felt the need to make admissions. I did that in a recent column where I fulfilled the dreams of my most vociferous critics, and admitted I was a “libtard.” I won’t go into the whole toxic origin of the word or what it says about the people who utter it, but it’s got me thinking about making other admissions. So, here goes.

I’m a privileged white man.

It’s hardly the scoop of the century, I know. But it’s still worth admitting because, for my part anyway, I’m becoming more and more embarrassed to be a privileged White man. (PWM will suffice for this column.)

This shame has been building for some time, for some pretty obvious reasons. Unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools in Canada and (now) the U.S. The rise of white nationalism in Canada and other countries around the world. Another racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo by a self-declared “eco fascist.” The lusty celebrations from PWMs over an anticipated high-court decision to strike down Roe v. Wade and the prospect of states being able to restrict and even criminalize abortion once again.

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However, even with a fairly significant baseline of shame simmering in my being, I still cringed when I read recently about HB 20, a Texas law that allows any citizen to sue any social media platform with 50 million or more followers for censoring their content.

There are tons of stories online about this law, but my eye was drawn to this dispatch from CNN. In the story, CNN posted an April photo of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and two other men who are not identified, standing outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.

Four round, white, privileged faces. I really hope I don’t have too much in common with these guys. But the obvious characteristics we do share made me shudder, nonetheless.

The Texas law was struck down by a US District court last December, ruling it was unconstitutional. A similar law was blocked in Florida for the same reasons. But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal court, overturned the lower court injunction that had stopped HB 20 from coming into effect.

The decision was very disappointing to a good number of people, including the social media companies. But also troubling; the court gave several indications it had little understanding of the issues involved. At one point, the three-judge panel (all PWMs) confused “social media platforms” with “internet service providers.” The panel should have recused itself right then and there on the grounds of endemic stupidity.

This law demonstrates, almost as well as any news story I’ve read recently, the dangerous blind spots in the world view of many PWM.

To many (but hopefully not all PWM), the problem with social media today is censorship. It’s not hate speech, the toxic online abuse of women and the unbridled attacks based on ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. It’s not the propensity of school-aged bullies to use social media to torment their victims.

No, the problem seen through the PWM lens is the often vain but still unfair attempts by social media companies to cull the ugliness from their platforms.

The Texas law, which is expected to spawn copycat bills in other states, allows citizens and state government officials to sue social media companies for no less than nine different kinds of content moderation, from outright banning to “de-boosting” and “denying equal visibility.”

There is always a risk that in admitting your charter membership in the PWM club, people will think that it’s only to use that admission as a platform to cry crocodile tears and wallow in disingenuous shame and guilt. And for any readers who think that’s what I’m doing, there is little I can say that will change your minds.

But all of the PWM needs to own up to an unavoidable reality: unless we start shaking things up and convince other PWMs to stop being part of the problem, none of us will truly be part of the solution.

Say it after me: I’m a white privileged man and I’m less proud than I am committed to being better.

Journalist, heal thyself

There has been so much written about the Buffalo mass shooting, and about the media coverage of this awful event, in the past few days. However, given that some media outlets (and we’re talking about Fox News) actively promote the “white replacement theory” that sparked an 18-year-old to open fire in a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood, the scrutiny has been ratcheted up significantly.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit the scene of a shooting at a supermarket to pay respects and speak to families of the victims of Saturday’s shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. (Andrew Harnik / AP Photo)

Nobody has done a better job of providing an overview of the media coverage of this incident in the U.S. than Tom Jones in The Poynter Report.

I cite Jones’ work so often he must think by now I’m a stalker. But nobody does a better job at surveying the state of the US media on big stores. No-bod-y.

His most recent effort focused on the Buffalo mass shooting and how media covered the story, and also covered the role of Fox News and other right-wing commentators in possibly motivating the shooter.

In this instance, looking at how media cover a story in a hyper-partisan media marketplace is an excellent way to show people how pervasive white nationalism has become in America.

I won’t cite all of Jones’ excellent research, save for one great piece of reporting. On Monday night, he visited the websites of several major news outlets to see what they thought was top news.

Here’s what he found:

The New York Times: Buffalo shooting and the Russian-Ukraine war

The Washington Post: Five stories about the Buffalo shooting

• CNN: Buffalo shooting and “Baby formula maker Abbott reaches agreement with FDA”

• NBC News: Buffalo shooting

• CBS News: Buffalo shooting

• ABC News: Buffalo shooting

• Fox News: The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard case, Ted Cruz’s Supreme Court case, Clarence Thomas rips the media, former Biden COVID-19 adviser dismisses latest White House warning and “Draft of blue state's redistricting map doesn't look good for Dems”

Enough said.

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