Friday, November 29, 2019

That's Entertainment

Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, is, like most Black people in the United States, a Democrat. Unlike most people in general, Black or White, he's also a billionaire. This may explain why The Washington Post decided that his views on the current state of the Democratic primary field were newsworthy. In a nutshell, Mr. Johnson believes that everyone in the current Democratic primary field is too far to the Left to beat President Trump, "despite what the polls say." His logic is simple enough: the President's inflammatory rhetoric fires up his base, while at the same time alarming Democrats. The President's supporters see this alarm as an attack on them, and rally even more closely around the President's flag. He also feels that most voters, especially Black voters, are centrists, and that the Democratic party has moved far enough to the Left that this broad middle feels left out.

For a counter-perspective, the Post pulled quotes from the co-founder of Black Voters Matter and the executive director of the BlackPAC. Their take on Mr. Johnson is that he's too rich to be able to speak for working class or Black voters. Note though, that they weren't responding to his comments to CNBC, since those were recent, and the critical quotes the Post used were from July.

So in the end, The Washington Post's story looks something like this: Mr. Johnson makes a comment to CNBC. The Post reports on that comment, and then fleshes out the story with criticisms of Mr. Johnson that were made prior to him speaking to CNBC. I get that it's become something of a fad to complain about the way "the media" handles stories, with Conservatives being generally quick to harp on anything they find to be critical of themselves, but sometimes, media outlets do seem to be doing a slapdash job of things. Surely there's a pollster or a political scientist somewhere that the Post could have called upon to critique Mr. Johnson's statement on the merits. Why go with statements that had been made about him previously, that come across as ad hominem criticisms of the person? Is Nate Silver not taking their calls?

That said, I suppose that there could be a story in there about the growing class divide in the broader Black population of the United States. For all that there is a tendency to see Black people as a monoculture, the fact remains that not all Black people think alike or see the world in the same way. There are class resentments between Black people the same as there are between White people. But even that could have been better covered.

In the end, though, I'm not sure that it makes a difference. Like much of the news the breathless coverage of Mr. Johnson's statements, isn't really actionable for most people. It's a factoid, perhaps more about entertainment than information. Something to talk about on a Black Friday other than shopping.

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