Murder and Media

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The TV stations played the Rodney King tape again and again, as if it were a perverse act of brutality committed by the police and captured on film. The electronic media actively manipulated the public opinion. It directly or indirectly projected the idea of an unspeakable racial atrocity being commited on a black person…

Introduction

"They're going to show you what sells, and not necessarily what tells."
The 19 seconds of baton-weilding recorded on tape said it all, as far as the general populace was concerned. Only the images got etched in the public mind, not the facts surrounding the incident. The incident was branded as another instance of wanton violence on the part of LAPD, and more than that there was clearly a racial element to it.
But this is so absurd. Maybe the police beating was justifiable. Maybe there was nothing of racial bias or hatred involved the situation and the police would have done exactly the same thing even if Rodney King were a white man. Nobody bothered to cast any doubt on the media version of the event, nor bothered to look at it from an impartial frame of mind, that is, until the Washington Post journalist Lou Cannon came up a remarkable account of the whole incident in his "Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD," though only the better part of a decade after the incident.
In the book, Lou Cannon lucids presents his case that the four Los Angeles Police Department officers prosecuted in 1992 for beating Rodney King were merely scapegoats for the deadly riots that took place in the Los Angeles city soon after the police officers received their not-guilty verdicts. ...
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