After a recent arrest was filmed on campus, talk of police brutality spread on Twitter. Once Twitter users viewed the video, accusations that the police officers involved used excessive force quickly became the main focus in the video. Upon first view, with four police officers approaching one black man all at once, it is easy to make rapid assumptions. However, once the truth broke, the narrative of the story quickly shifted. By sharing these videos, people spread the face value narrative that was found at the filming of the clip, which painted the police officers in a light of racism and villainy. Sharing messages without knowing the full context of the situation can lead to the spreading of misinformation, which is wrong, unethical and should not be accepted.
When the man who was trespassing and resisting arrest admitted to purposefully provoking officers in the video, some school organizations who supported the man retracted their statements. As the tone of the video changed from one of police brutality to one of justified action, it was easy to see where so many people may have gone wrong with their immediate accusations.
The original stance taken was the side of calling out police brutality, which is okay and should be done when there is an actual instance of police brutality. The onlooker who took and posted the video had no knowledge of what was actually happening; no one knew what was happening with the police officers, and while it is important to document the scene for further review, the video should not have been shared without context. However, a scene of a black man being arrested in such a way was a quick and easy post if the goal is to get views and likes. Journalism is never as simple as that. One quick look at the records online will show that the scene being made was justified, but in our new age of journalism, research is typically ignored in favor of quickness and remaining topical. We should not sacrifice accuracy for a speedier delivery of information. Without collecting the correct information, fake news can easily be spread to the public. These blatant dismissals of important information can be dangerous in ways that are unrecognizable at first.
The people who create and post this kind of content are indirectly undermining the experience of actual victims of police brutality, sexual assault or hate crimes. Recently actor Jussie Smollett, who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and a person of color, has been accused of staging a hate crime to help promote and further his own personal career.
If true, he threw a wrench into the already fluctuating climate. In an article in the Washington Post, the Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston, who is a pastor of Chicago’s New Hope Baptist Church, explained the danger that what Smollett is accused of doing poses to others who report hate crimes. “How much more cautious are [police] going to be to extend credibility and resources to a real hate crime?” Livingston said.
Sharing and posting remarks that bash the police officers involved makes it easier for other victims of hate crimes to be ignored or discredited. In cases such as falsified rape claims and Smollett’s alleged fake hate crime, the people creating the reports are in the wrong. But in cases such as the one on campus, it is the media’s responsibility to weed out what is incorrect.
Next time, instead of just sharing a clickbait video or bashing people in a situation where you don’t have all the facts, do some research and find out the truth; it is the only solution.