What’s happening at all the George Floyd protests around the country? How many people are showing up? What are the demographics? How many cops are there? Which community organizations are involved? Are local elected officials helping or hurting? Who really broke that window or set that fire? What about these reports of incitement by white supremacists?
Mainstream media doesn’t answer all these questions. They frame everything so narrowly, with an inevitable pro-establishment bias, even when their own reporters are mistreated. Trying to sift out the facts from the spin is a challenge, especially if the media you’re reading is local to someplace you’ve never been. You never know what they’re leaving out.
It’s not like reporters are smarter than other people, wither. These days, it’s more about who could afford journalism school. Plus, 40% of all newsroom jobs in the US have been eliminated since the year 2000. The resources simply don’t exist to provide good coverage.
But what about social media? People are posting all sorts of pictures and videos and rants! Yes, they are. However, wading through all of the posts, status updates and tweets trying to find the Who, What, When, Where and Why is not only time-consuming and frustrating but rarely effective for assembling a picture that’s anything like complete.
True, one will get an impression of events, but this is primarily emotional rather than factual. I’m not dismissing emotion; just recognizing it’s not enough by itself.
After scrolling through social media trying to follow the current events, I often end up feeling waves of depression, rage, and helplessness with a sprinkling of hope (probably false). And with no clear sense of what actually happened. So much is illusion, so it’s easy to find oneself in delusion. I see why the ludicrous conspiracy theories thrive in that environment, as well as the silly misunderstandings, the petty us vs. them thinking, and the irrational adolescent outbursts.
Was social media effective in spreading the initial news about George Floyd’s death? Yes, absolutely. But for documenting the reaction, which is a complex set of events with a multitude of actors, not so much.