The media coverage of Adrian Peterson makes a perfect case study for Media Manipulation 101.
It’s a “beating,” not a “spanking,” It’s a “tree branch,” not a “switch.” Racism comes into play: “Beating of children is a black thing.” Regionalism: “Beating of children is a Southern thing.” Religion and Political affiliation, too, facts be damned.
Simple reality: No one is FOR “child abuse.” But the majority of people — regardless of race, region, religion, or politics — do endorse “spanking.” Including many researchers. Take a look at this chart from the Dallas Morning News. No subdivision whatsoever is below 50 percent:
I heard a sports talk radio host last night tell caller after caller that “beating” was the appropriate word for Peterson, not spanking. Callers would suggest the term was overkill, and the host would go off on another tirade. I suppose he was trolling for callers, but demonization of Peterson was his end result.
The media’s refusal to use the word “switch” is laughable. They don’t have much of a story if they say, “Peterson is a child abuser because he spanked his kid with a switch.” So they say he “beat” his child with “a tree branch.”
The media’s relentless insistence that Peterson used “a tree branch,” not a switch is important to note, but I risk boring readers if I write much more about it. Let me just say (at least for now) that a Google news search for all stories with both “Adrian Peterson” and “tree branch” in them returned 20,400 results.
Here’s a usage in a Fox News article I found worthy of note:
Bush’s comments — which follow the indictment of former Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, who has admitted using a tree branch to discipline his 4-year-old son — were “very concerning,” Antkoviak said.
“Tree branch” is there, of course, but note the clever (actually, not so clever; as it’s a frequent media device) use of “admitted.” The word “admit” implies a person tried to hide or deny something. He finally admitted to the murder. He admitted he stole the money. You never heard this: He admitted he donated money to the Red Cross. The media uses “admit” when they wish to demonize a person. That’s fine when the “admitted” action is a generally-accepted societal taboo. When used to push an agenda, it’s blatant propaganda.
It’s somewhat odd that Fox News is condemning Peterson to such a degree, because their viewers — their bread-and-butter, to whom they cater nonstop — tend to support the spanking of children. I surmise they weighed “evil black man” versus “teaching your children to behave,” and decided “evil black man” would be a better hot button topic among their target demographic. Remember, this is the network that proclaimed President Obama fist-bumping his wife was a secret “terrorist fist bump.”
I should make something clear: I can’t stand the NFL. I seldom watch it. My sport is golf, which should be obvious by the fact of this website. I enjoy and watch college football, because I enjoy the school sprit and student-athlete vibe of it all. The NFL is run by corporations, for corporations. Its popularity peaked 20 years ago, and my interest in it has fallen even faster than the general public’s.
I feel it necessary to point that out to show my defense of Peterson is based not on some blind loyalty to the NFL, but rather on the fact that the media has wrongly demonized Peterson in order to create and extend a Big Story that will bring more readers/viewers.