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By Robert A. Vella

Yesterday, PBS broadcasted a town hall meeting on race relations in the aftermath of Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina last June (see:  WATCH: America After Charleston hosted by Gwen Ifill).  Although America desperately needs more honest public discussion on matters of race and other cultural differences which are increasingly plaguing the nation, this one completely failed to provide any answers whatsoever.  In fact, the meeting was one of the most depressing and hopeless exchanges I’ve ever witnessed through the news media.

First of all, advocates for the growing presence of white nationalism/supremacy in America today were nowhere to be found in the town hall meeting.  How can an honest discussion on race take place when one side doesn’t participate?  In their absence, the meeting was restricted to the airing of legitimate black grievances along with a smattering of white guilt from prominent individuals and local residents.  One white man, in particular, stood out when he expressed his sincere desire to unlearn the racism he had been taught as a child.  But mostly, the sentiments shared simply reflected the pain and weariness of a longstanding division.

Secondly, the host – Gwendolyn L. “Gwen” Ifill – committed the most egregious of journalistic sins (in my opinion) by engaging in rhetorical false equivalences when responding to black grievances such as the imposition of strict voter id laws by the state’s Republican majority.  In her reply to a charge that these laws were intended to suppress the black vote, Ifill countered that the laws’ supporters disagree.  Obviously, Ifill fell into the morass of mainstream media irresponsibility by reporting prevailing political opinions rather than the substantive merits of an issue.  For the record, the weight of empirical and circumstantial evidence strongly validate assertions that the wave of Republican-sponsored voter id laws – and related actions – since 2010 are both suppressing minority voter turnout and were specifically designed to do so.  Furthermore, several GOP politicians have been caught on videotape publicly admitting that intent.

Ifill was correct about one thing, though – that America’s problem with race isn’t going away anytime soon.  As long as the public debate is restricted in the above-described manner, her prophesy is sure to become reality.

4 thoughts on “PBS’s Town Hall meeting ‘America After Charleston’ misses the mark on Race Relations once again

  1. Robert, you describe very well an example of PBS biased coverage of news and issues. Ever since I learned “PBS Killed Wisconsin Uprising Documentary “Citizen Koch” (2013)To Appease Koch Brothers,” I have been wary.

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    • Indeed. It seems we are stuck between a mainstream media which isn’t performing its Fourth Estate duties, and an ephemeral alternative media which in most cases lacks journalistic professionalism and credibility.

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  2. Perhaps people could express gratitude for the outstanding alternative media groups who’ve made a real difference in this world. For example, stopping the fall 2013 planned war/bombing campaign by the United States/Britain/NATO on the nation of Syria, which could have escalated into overt World War III. Rarely look at TV these days but seem to recall major defense contractors like McDonnell-Douglas’ sponsor ads on PBS. You might recall Jonathan Kwitny’s “Kwitny Report” on PBS which closely resembled the outstanding alternative media groups mentioned, and which gained large viewership in its short stay on PBS. The Kwitny Report was short-lived with PBS before the powers-that-be pulled the plug on it.

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