Thursday, April 30, 2015

Philly is Baltimore

If you walked around Center City this afternoon, tensions were high. Comcast Center was cordoned off with black ropes. Suited security guards stood with folded arms, hiding their anxiety behind dark glasses. Whispers echoed throughout corporate cubicle pools, employees stared down from Liberty Place and Centre Square with a weary unease, and commuters left early to work the afternoon from home. 

"4:30," they said with a mix of concern and curiosity. For the past week we've watched Bane take Gotham and Charm City fall. And "Philly is Baltimore" wants the world to know, we stand beside you and against our own police brutality.

There's just one thing, though. What happened last week wasn't a Christopher Nolan movie. There wasn't one hero and one villain. There was no script, no actors, and the story didn't end when the credits rolled. Those involved must face their consequences and the innocents must pick up the pieces of their lives. And CNN isn't going to cover that. 

More to the point, and what "Philly is Baltimore" seems to misunderstand, is what actually happened this week. Thousands of protesters turned out to peacefully demonstrate, the Baltimore Police Department proved that while massive forces employ a corrupt few, the vast majority of our Men in Blue are dedicated solely to justice and protecting their neighbors. 

But what we saw, what "Philly is Baltimore" saw, is exactly what the media wanted us to see. What the Free Press did this week - even the most reliable sources - was completely neglect their ethical and moral obligations to their readers. They chose the role of Hollywood by satisfying our morbid infatuation with civil unrest. 

While the events in Baltimore are tragic, both its riots and the death that led to them, locals must be scratching their heads in both frustration and bewilderment. Not only did the media deliberately foster a comparison between this week and Los Angeles' riots of 1992, they neglected the root cause, the peaceful elements to the protest, and eviscerated the reputation of a city that will soon recover. 

Newspapers and the nonstop media are continuously looking for "the next Rodney King," "the next Ferguson," and "the next Trevon Martin." It's nothing new. The media has always been a competitive industry. But the internet allows even the most local of media sources to go international, and the 24 hour news cycle has turned Yellow Journalism into a cultural Amber Alert. And it's all so overwhelming, no one has time to step back and truly question the morality of those delivering it all. 

We're reeling from the consequences of being tethered to hype, evident in the circus surrounding today's protest. "Philly is Baltimore" quickly became Philly Wants to Be Baltimore. It's sad, but there are plenty of kids, even adults who watched the events unfold this week with a hint of jealousy. Baltimore looked angry, but they looked tough, and we wanted a piece of that. 

There is definitely merit to the cause, but many of today's protestors turned out with the hopes of satisfying a blind urge. Meanwhile, hundreds of police officers have been diverted from neighborhoods that need them, doing their jobs, and waiting for every journalistic hack in the local media to dub their presence "excessive," plus three news helicopters hovering in the sky, desperately hoping that the city erupts into a sea of fire.

We all know this in the back of our minds: there are a few in the crowds with a noble mission, but the mission is tarnished by an overwhelming number who think that a riot looks like a lot of fun, career picketers hoping for a photo op to prove their point, and a media with a rock hard boner for fear, anger, blood, and fire, poking the worst in all of us until even the most reasonable are ready to rage. The one thing all but a select few seem to really want is peace. 

Why? No one ever sold a blockbuster about peace.

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