Let's begin by being honest. Shaun King is a polarizing figure.
He has a very specific point of view when it comes to American police forces and their dealings with African Americans, and he is not afraid to express himself is the strongest possible terms. In short, he's outraged at the overt and covert racism he sees in our society as epitomized by the disproportionate and excessive force used by police forces across the country when it comes to how they deal with people of color.
And he doesn't sugar coat that outrage, nor does he pull his punches. On the contrary, compared to other well known and prominent spokespersons on this issue (e.g., Charles Blow of The New York Times or Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic) who are just as outraged but approach the subject in a more measured, intellectual manner, Shaun's writing is the equivalent of "shock and awe."
I'm not saying that his style is necessarily a good or bad thing, or that Messrs. Blow and Coates are better advocates for the cause of racial justice than Shaun. But his writing on this issue differs in tone, if not in substance, from many others who advocate for a change in the way our society deals with the issue of racism. His focus is also narrower (at least here on Daily Kos) because his writing primarily addresses police violence and other abuses suffered by African Americans at the hands of the criminal justice system.
Indeed, if you've ever wandered into the comment threads of Shaun King's posts here at Daily Kos, inevitably you have come across a number of folks who dislike the way in which he covers the rash of police killings, racial profiling, etc. of African Americans, and the utter lack of accountability by police for their wrongful behavior. Let me list just a few of the typical complaints I've seen whenever I scroll through the comment threads tom one of his posts here at Daily Kos.
1. The "Click Bait" Argument:It's ironic, but almost every objection I've seen to Shaun posts here at Daily Kos can just as easily be made to most of the other front page posters over the years.
The complaint here is that his titles are sensational, misleading, and exaggerate the facts in order to get people to read his posts.
2. The "You're Shooting Yourself in the Foot" Argument:
This particular complaint is usually posed by those who say that they are concerned that Shaun's use of overly inflammatory language hurts the "cause" of making people aware of racist police conduct. In effect, these commenters claim that Shaun's use of the rhetoric of outrage damages the validity of his arguments. In other words, he turns people off.
3. The Semantics Argument:
Basically, this boils down to the claim that Shaun gets the "legalese" wrong. It's often espoused by those who claim to be lawyers who say they support Shaun's efforts to call attention to police misconduct regarding minorities, a but who then spend paragraphs explaining why his use a particular word or phrase was inappropriate from a legal standpoint, thus undercutting his credibility.
4. The "Unprofessional Journalist" Argument:
This claim is one made by people upset that with Shaun over some alleged breach of the proper ethical standards required of journalists. Generally, its based on the notion that he should be more objective when he writes about these matters and less confrontational and opinionated - more nuanced as they say in his treatment of this subject. More willing to see "both sides" of the problem. More balanced.
Click bait titles? Excuse me, but isn't that a Hunter "speciality?" In fact, most of the front pagers here have at one time or another posted stories with titles that "play to the choir," that "push our buttons," that - yes - seek to draw attention to the post they've written. It's hardly a new phenomenon. Major newspapers and magazines have a rich tradition of using headlines to "frame" the story so as to encourage media consumers to want to read what follows. Many diaries here employ the same tactic to attract readers. You have the discretion to click on those diaries or not, but singling Shaun out for this particular "sin" is rank hypocrisy in my view. Daily Kos was built on click bait.
As for being excessively inflammatory? Child please. Again, this is a political blog, not a news service. Every day people post diaries, front page stories and comments regarding the outrage du jour. No one beats them over the head with the way they express themselves, at least not to the extent that they do with Shaun. Again, let's be honest with ourselves. That is why many of us come here - to read stories that inflame our passions and reinforce our worldview, stories we can often find no place else. Not to pick on diarists who cover gay rights, but I don't recall seeing a great deal of concern that stories exposing bigoted conservative Christians were too "mean" or too excessive in their condemnation of said "Christians" or somehow harmful to the cause of LGBT rights in general.
I contend that the majority of the anti- Shaun King sentiment here at DKos is based on the false premise that Shaun represents himself as a journalist. He's not. He doesn't pretend to be one, either. Does he cover events such as the Ferguson protests over Michael Brown's death? Yes, but not as a journalist or a reporter for a major media company. He covers these events from his own point of view, as a black man and an activist for social justice. Unlike many "journalists" he doesn't try to hide his bias behind weasel words or false equivalencies. Agree or disagree with him, but don't use the the claim that he's a not a proper journalist to argue that his message is wrong, or the manner in which he expresses himself not credible.
Shaun is an advocate for his cause. He's a civil rights activist. He's never claimed to be a journalist. He writes and posts to the "front page" at Daily Kos, which is a political blog, not a news outlet, such as the Associated Press, Reuters, etc.. He has an agenda, and he hasn't been shy in telling us about it. Read what he has to say about himself right here, in this interview by Autumn Alson.
Q: A recent study from PEW,has shown that most whites do not feel that the Michael Brown shooting has raised important racial concerns. This is overwhelmingly different than how most blacks seem to feel. How can you explain this dichotomy?It's right there - Shaun tells us he is a story teller, and one with a very different perspective than the majority of people who read this blog and/or participate in the various discussions on diaries and front page posts that address the issue of police violence and racism. It's a perspective based on his own personal experience of racism that few if any white people in America can truly understand.
Shaun: Those numbers were stark, but not surprising. Even though it’s 2014, that study showed that culture and life experiences truly determine how you see the world. For me though, I think it is really about empathy. Because almost no white people have ever been brutalized by the police, they innately see the police very differently. Almost 100% of African Americans can describe a personal negative encounter with the police and this informs their perspective on this case and all others regarding police violence.
Q: Privilege comes up a lot in discussions of race. How can we get white people to understand this concept? How can we get them to accept their privilege without feeling a sense of guilt?
Shaun: Some of how we get all people to understand privilege is simply to tell our story – one story at a time. I try to do that on Twitter and share stories of others I know. You can never truly understand how others feel, but at least being aware is a good start.
The oppression of others by people in power is a very real thing. I’ve experienced it, witnessed it, and fought against it, publicly and privately, for my entire life. That won’t end, but today I want to talk with you about a widespread form of oppression that crushes dreams and ideas at their root, all over the world. Like a firehose to a small candle with a barely flickering flame, the oppression I want to talk about now is the self-inflicted type. It’s in your heart and mind. [...]So far as I can tell the worst thing he's allegedly done is use inflammatory language and hyperbole to criticize the actions of police officers who have killed unarmed black males. He's angry at the injustice he sees, and he has a right to be angry. He's never held himself out to be a neutral observer or an objective reporter when it comes to this topic, a topic that so many people in America want to sweep under the rug. Police violence against black people demonstrates the impact of societal racism at its most basic, brutal and destructive level. People of color experience overt and systemic racism by law enforcement personnel and the criminal justice system in ways that are difficult for many among the majority white population to grasp. I am not going to condemn Shaun for doing his best, as he sees fit, to make the rest of us feel his own outrage at the oppression of people of color by the police.
... High school in rural Versailles, Kentucky was brutal for me. In middle school I had starred in the school play, was Vice President of the Student Council, had a ton of friends, kept a girlfriend, and was pretty much the happiest 13 year old on earth. High school was a rude awakening for me. I quickly found myself in the middle of decades old racial tensions and became the focus of constant abuse of the resident rednecks of my school. I had half a dozen fights my freshman year, had a jar of tobacco spit thrown on me in the middle of the school day, and came a few feet away from being run over by a pickup truck full of guys who chased me down and nearly mauled me as I walked home from a school dance. I reported it to the school, having saw each guy in the car, but they did nothing about it.
A few months later, a group of guys in the school beat me within a few inches of my life. I missed the next 18 months of school recovering from three spinal surgeries and fractures to my face and ribs. I won’t even try here to explain the depths and extent of my physical and emotional pain, but it was brutal. [...]
The pain and the ugliness of my past impacted me in immeasurable ways, but I refused to be held captive by it.
Shaun King is at heart a muckraker. His goal is to wake people up to what has been an under reported and ongoing atrocity, one to which few major media outlets have ever bothered to devote significant resources because its a story their predominately white readers don't want to hear. He tells the truth as he sees it, based on the facts he discovers from first hand or secondary sources. He doesn't parse words, or have an editor review his copy. You know where he's coming from.
You can disagree with him all you like. And criticisms of his posts based on incorrect facts or faulty analysis of those facts is fine by me. But don't hold him to standards to which hardly anyone else here at Dkos is held because you don't like how he writes about racism. Don't employ trivial, and to my mind, frivolous arguments, to condemn him and what he has to say.
Frankly, we have far more to be worried about from the media elites than people like Shaun, if you ask me. You know what type of "reporting" I find outrageous, and more importantly, dangerous? So-called professional journalists and pundits who pretend to be neutral and unbiased in their reporting, but are the exact opposite.
I'll give you the best example I can off the top of my head - Judith Miller's practice of "journalism" regarding about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in 2002 and 2003. Her reporting in the NY Times, the single most influential media publication in the country, aided and abetted war criminals. She reported as fact lies told by key members of the Bush administration to her, lies that directly led to a war of aggression by the American government. The consequences of her actions? The deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, Iraqis and Americans combined. A refugee crisis involving millions more. Trillions of dollars wasted. A quagmire that continues to threaten the security of the Middle east and our own country. So much for journalistic ethics and good practices.
Save your outrage for people like Judith Miller. And if you believe Shaun King is too bombastic, or his writing puts you off, or if you believe his posts are "dangerous" then here's an easy solution for you - don't read him.