his week’s column covers two topics bound by a common theme: information manipulation by a large component of the media which, devoid of any internal moral governor, selfishly pursues its own goal at the expense of its obligation to the public.
The first, a new wave of stories about white-on-black racism is, strangely enough, good news, as it is the first theme on which the media has focused since the virus. Much like the dove that returned to Noah bearing an olive leaf, a media focused on a different topic – albeit for dubious reasons – is a good sign that the coronavirus ‘flood’ is over, or at least that the rainfall is less intense.
To be clear, there is nothing defensible about white-on-black racism, or racism of any kind, in fact. And there’s nothing wrong with journalists covering stories about racism; it’s certainly a newsworthy topic, particularly as it reminds that though we humans fancy ourselves to be an evolved species, there is a subset within which ugly, barbarian tendencies exist. This is particularly troubling when involving law enforcement officers – whose purpose, after all, is to protect all of the public – though it is just as unfair, and please pardon the cliché, to judge a whole group by the color of its uniform as it is to judge another group by the color of its skin.
The problem, however, is how the media chooses to focus on what it covers. Surely during this whole virus ordeal, troubling matters other than white-on-black racism continued to exist, such as: murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, assault, numerous diseases – some deadlier than the coronavirus – currency manipulation, environmental concerns, contaminated food supplies, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, gender-based discrimination, civil wars, Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear weapons quests, defrauding the elderly, human trafficking, opioid addiction, racism other than white-on-black, and a host of other issues far more than this space would hold. Yet, media moguls shout their marching orders to their minions: “go out there and sniff out stories about white-on-black racism.” Of course, quite sadly, in a country of almost 330 million, there’s plenty of material on that topic. But let us not be duped that the media’s laser beam focus on this topic is part of its primary reason for existing: its own survival. Our dentists have a professional obligation to tell us “no cavities, you’re fine” when that is the case, rather than providing us with needless fillings just to pad the bill. Our attorneys are professionally bound to reassure us that “you really don’t need a lawyer for this” in applicable situations, instead of drumming up billable hours based on unnecessary overkill. Similarly, members of the press who truly adhere to the canons of journalism must realize that informing the public in a detatched, objective manner is paramount to any self-interest. Poll-chasing is even less acceptable when practiced by the press than by presidents.
Speaking of presidents, on to the second topic: there’s been a lot of talk recently about whether in a recent interview Joe Biden said “I’m going to be Joe Biden” or “I’m going to beat Joe Biden.” Trump supporters rushed to confirm the latter, citing it as one more piece of evidence that Biden is rapidly losing his marbles. Trump-bashers, in turn, insisted that he said “be,” not “beat” to CNBC’s Joe Kernen’s question of “are you prepared to govern as a progressive, in the mold of [Bernie] Sanders and [Elizabeth] Warren, and if so, what does that say to some moderate Democrats or independents, or even some Republicans dissatisfied with President Trump?”
I’ve drawn my own conclusion that Biden said “beat,” not “be,” but I qualify it by adding that I don’t stand behind that 100 percent. It really could be either, though I think it is more likely he said “beat.” Here’s why:
First, the context issue: the “be” proponents purport that “be” is more in context with Kernen’s question about how Biden may govern. Perhaps they overlooked Biden’s campaign theme of how he will beat Trump, which Biden rolls out at every turn. One of Biden’s early gaffes, in fact, was when almost a year ago in one of the very first Democratic debates, when asked: “what is the most important thing you will do on day one as president?” Biden responded: “defeating Donald Trump.” Arguably, there is a good case to be made either way in terms of whether “be” or “beat” fits best to Kernen’s question, and so the evidence remains inconclusive.
Far more convincing, as I see it, is that most American-born individuals, me included, pronounce “beat” with a silent “t” and so many might assume it sounds just like “be” – but it doesn’t. Here are two exercises you can try, to prove it: if you feel safe enough to speak without a mask to three or four people in the same room, say aloud to them four sets of two sentences each, and let them guess which you said each time (alternate the order, as needed):
Set 1: “I will charge you a fee” and “I will charge you a feet”
Set 2: “It isn’t easy being meet” and “it isn’t easy being me”
Set 3: “You’re white as a she” and “you’re white as a sheet.”
Set 4: “I’m going to beat Joe Biden” and “I’m going to be Joe Biden.”
Hear the difference? Now listen to Biden and how he said it. Which does it sound like to you?
For the second exercise, stand in front of the mirror: first, say the word “be” and freeze yourself, as if pressing the pause button. Look at how your mouth is shaped the moment you’re done saying the word. Now, try it with “beat”: see how your mouth ends up in a different position? Think of where your tongue winds up too.
Naturally, because I am an unapologetic Trump supporter, some might opine that my conclusion is self-serving, but to me, one more gaffe in a sea of so many really doesn’t make a lot of difference; I’m calling it as I see it.