Some in the Media Wasted No Time Using the South Carolina Shooting to Further Divide Us

As I sit here, I’m overcome with a varying degree of emotion. First, just sadness over the tragedy that happened in South Carolina. There’s really no other way I can describe it but completely heartbreaking. For someone to be so consumed with hatred that they would be driven to commit such a horrific act of violence is unconscionable.


Then I’m left with a feeling of anger over what I know comes next. This won’t be a tragedy where Americans come together to recognize the horrors that happened Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina. What it will ultimately become – because it’s what the media always does to events such as this – is something that divides Americans even further as it gets politicized by those in the media trying to exploit it.

For example, not even an hour after this story broke this article from Salon came across my Twitter and Facebook page:

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Why was Salon almost immediately trying to divide people and politicize this shooting? And the worst part is, this article wasn’t even about this shooting; it’s from November 1, 2013 – nearly two years ago. They were just trying to capitalize on the South Carolina shooting, hoping to generate revenue with a blatantly false headline and divisive rhetoric literally as this story was breaking.

But they weren’t the only ones.

Next up was PolitcusUSA who posted this:

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The funniest part of that post was that when it flashed across my laptop, I had my TV on MSNBC, which was offering live coverage from South Carolina. Not only that, but I flipped over to CNN and Fox News only to find that they, too, were providing live coverage of what was happening. But PoliticusUSA just couldn’t wait to try to find some way to politicize this tragedy, hoping to make some money off of the horror that transpired Wednesday night.

Then here’s a Twitter post from Mother Jones:

And while those are only three examples as of my writing this in the wee hours of Thursday morning, by later today there will be plenty more. The liberal media is going to play up a few angles:

  • Why are most mass shooters white?
  • Some will try to spin this into “Christian terrorism” just because the shooter is white.
  • If he’s a conservative, some will make that an issue.
  • Possibly something about gun violence.

As well as a few others, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, the conservative media is going to counter with:

  • Why does the liberal media focus so much on this shooting but ignore the violence in Baltimore and Chicago?
  • If Al Sharpton goes, why does he only show up at big events?
  • Was there something (looking for an excuse) that might have driven this guy to commit such a horrific act of violence?
  • They’ll downplay that racism is still a real issue in this country.
  • Somehow this will be President Obama’s fault.

Again, as well as a few other angles, I’m sure.

And all any of this is going to do is divide us even more than we already are. Every single time anything like this happens, the first thing much of the media does is instantly try to find some way to create an angle that panders to a political narrative to drive ratings, get “page clicks” and capitalize on revenue. Just like these examples I listed above.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against anyone trying to make money. But I think there’s a way to do it while still being ethical and producing quality content.

But all of this is beyond frustrating, because it shouldn’t be like this. That’s the problem with the media in today’s world; it’s so intertwined in a sea of analytics, ratings and revenue that ethics, morals or quality journalism no longer matter as much as they should. In fact, division is good for business. The more polarized we are, the more divided we become, the easier it is to trigger “outrage” and “anger” which are great tools to use to increase revenue.

Why do you think Fox News is so successful? It’s what they do

But when it comes to racism, we must all stop allowing the media on both sides to divide us. Not only will we never improve race relations if we keep this up, but we’re actually making them worse with race-baiting and racism-denying.

Then when it’s all said and done, all we ultimately end up getting are two opposing factions more concerned about “being right” or “winning the debate” rather than facts, reality or even the tragedies that triggered these discussions to begin with. It all just devolves into heated back and forth arguments full of pride, ego and ignorance from both sides.

And the truth is, a lot of this falls on the shoulders of the media. We now live in the day and age where far too many people live inside an echo chamber where they only follow news sources that tell them what they want to hear, regardless of whether or not the information they’re receiving is factual or even rational. So, that’s what a lot of the media is giving us. Not the truth, not what we should hear, but what it thinks is going to get the most “Likes” on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, “page clicks,” ratings and ultimately revenue.

Then when it’s all said and done, after the media has picked the bone clean of any possible revenue it might get from a story, it moves on. And usually what we’re left with are Americans who are more divided, more angry and more intolerant than before.

And until we come together as Americans – regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion or any other descriptive which divides us from one another – we’re never going to put an end to such senseless acts of violence like we saw in South Carolina. In fact, if we continue to allow ourselves to be pitted against one another, we’re only going to ensure these acts become more frequent and more violent.



Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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