Imagine the following situation, if you will.
The police hear a tip that a turf war is about to go down between the Bloods and Crips outside a Hooters parking lot in south central Los Angeles. In addition, there are also some other less-known but equally violent LA gangs in the exact same location. Once there, the Surenos, a notorious Mexican-American gang show up uninvited. Tensions flare. A fight breaks out in the bathroom. In the parking lot, a car runs over the foot of a rival gang member. Shots are fired. Hooters customers duck and cover, fearing for their lives. Inside the restaurant, guns are drawn along with knives and brass knuckles. The police show up and begin shooting at the gang members as complete and utter chaos ensues.
The aftermath is devastating. Nine gang members dead. Eighteen injured. One hundred and seventy people arrested and held for $1 million bail for engaging in gang activity. Three-hundred plus weapons are recovered from the area including handguns and brass knuckles stored in bathroom stalls and in the back kitchen of the restaurant. The entire restaurant and the surrounding complex closed indefinitely as police comb the scene for even more weapons. The LA police on full alert, fearful of repercussions from the gangs involved believing that there is a strong possibility reinforcements might be headed to the local jails to aid their imprisoned fellow gang members.
Imagine the questions our media would be asking. How did we get to this point? What is it about this community that breeds violence? Why do these people feel compelled to join these criminal organizations? How does the local music of choice impact their view of society? How does their difficult upbringing impact how they view themselves? Why don't they have proper role models? How has Hollywood negatively impacted their world view? Why can't they all just get along?
That situation would be on the mainstream cable news 24/7. Fox News would send Geraldo Rivera on the scene. CNN would send Don Lemon. MSNBC would send Chris Hayes. There would be panel discussions about gang violence in this country. Rap and hip hop artists would be forced to defend their craft. Xenophobes would cry out that this is just another way that immigrants have led to the demise of this once-great nation. Political candidates would weigh in, even though nobody really cares what they have to say. President Barack Obama would issue a statement that would equally inspire and enrage equal amounts of the population as all his speeches tend to do. Our country would momentarily pause and reflect upon the issue before eventually moving on.
So, if you replace the terms "Bloods", "Crips", and "Surenos" with Cossacks, Scimitars, and Banditos and you replace "South Central LA" with Waco, Texas and you replace "Hooters" with Twin Peaks then you have the exact same situation which happened this past weekend. Local police hearing that rival gangs were set to brawl over turf. An incident setting off the violence in the parking lot. Nine people dead, eighteen injured, one-hundred and seventy arrested. A cache of over three-hundred weapons scattered throughout the restaurant. Rumors that additional gang members are en route to protect their street cred and their fellow members in jail.
So where's our panel on gang violence in this country addressing issues like two-parent homes and motorcycle culture? Where's our on-the-scene reporting? Where's our collective condemnation of classic rock and Sons of Anarchy? Where are our xenophobes concerned with the native biker populations of central Texas? Where is Ted Cruz advocating for the Texas National Guard to step in and restore the peace? Where is President Obama releasing a statement about the unfortunate passing of nine Americans, many of whom had families?
The truth is that our media won't be asking those questions because it doesn't fit their narrative of what gang members are supposed to be. You see, today's media like to create nice pretty boxes for people and when people fit in those boxes, it turns to ratings gold. The oppressed minority community that has been victimized by police brutality? Why that's perfect! A suburb of Texas with affluence bikers and a decades-old turf war? Meh, that doesn't really do it for me. Add to the mix that no bystanders were killed (sigh) and you really don't have something that can be used to churn up the ratings on the 24/7 cable news cycle.
The problem is that we as Americans deserve to have these discussions. We deserve to hear about these issues regardless of whether or not our media deem them important enough to discuss. Nine people were killed on Sunday. That's 2.25 times more people that were killed than in Benghazi and we still hear about that event on a weekly basis. I'm not saying that the major networks need to devote their coverage 24/7 to the shootout in Waco. But some perspective would be nice. If the networks can talk to David Simon, creator of The Wire when it comes to the Baltimore riots, why not get Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy, involved in a discussion. After the shootout, Sutter released a statement that read, "I have no facts. Just aftermath data. No one knows the truth but the members involved. Don't believe the law enforcement rhetoric. Don't believe the bullshit media spin. It's all hype and speculation." Now, wouldn't that be an interesting quote to lead off a panel discussion on the issue?
As a whole, I honestly can't say I'm surprised by the media's response. White-on-white violence is a hard sell in this day and age when it's so much easier to show repressed minorities expressing decades of pent up frustration against an inherently biased justice system. It's even easier to ignore those tens of thousands of minorities who are protesting peacefully to focus on the few, mostly outside agitators, engaged in property destruction. That's another problem with the Waco shooting. Instead of the property destruction of a mom and pop grocery store the restaurant in question served delicious food by scantily-clad women. Again, it's a hard sell to show poor beautiful White women who were momentarily scared for their lives as economically-stable White men got out handguns and began shooting each other in a restaurant parking lot.
The Waco shooting showcased our media's inability to once again engage in meaningful debate. Personally, I'm not going to fear for my life the next time I'm pulled up at a stop light next to a motorcyclist. However, motorcycle gangs are a thing in this country and they need to be discussed. If we're going to have conversations about police brutality in our inner cities then we also need to have a discussion about economic hardship in our suburbs and how and why affluent, mostly White men, feel the need to join such a gang. Is it a quest for identity? Is it out of necessity? Is it a lack of a positive male role model in the home growing up? Is it simply for the camaraderie and friendships involved? I personally don't know the answer to any of those questions but I would love to find out. That is a discussion I would like to hear.
Unfortunately it is a discussion that our media simply won't have.