So I was listening to The Young Turks yesterday, and Cenk ended the first hour by telling a lovely story about a shop owner in Ferguson. The shop was one that was looted on the first night. Here’s Sonny Dayean (the store owner) telling his story in his own words (from the HuffPo article);
We got some advisements from people from the neighborhood that said that they heard something, that you know maybe I should board it tonight. But I just didn’t believe it. I’m here 17 years. … So I had faith in the community, and indeed it wasn’t the community — it was just a couple of, you know, bad guys, I don’t know what to call them. But they were drinking all over the store. They stir drinks, they come here, vodka was everywhere, soda was spilled everywhere. I mean you should have seen the store this morning. Man, a mess!
… There’s been four break-ins in here, so it’s not my first time, and it’s not a big deal. But most of the time it’s minor, a door here, a door there, they call Ferguson[police], they come here, they save the day. This time around, the alarm company called Ferguson and said there’s movement inside the store, the officers said we can’t do anything. There’s riots going on and there’s troopers out there.
I had to immediately come over here, and I tried to get into the area. I couldn’t get into the area because the whole area was blocked. And I was like, ‘People are robbing my store, can I just go and put some boards on it?’ They did try, but then in the middle they changed their mind and said no, it’s too risky or something, please wait. They took my information and told me they’re going to call me as soon as the area is clean. That was about 1:45, 3:45 a.m., I’m just waiting.
Nobody calls me, so I just decide to come over. So I get here around 5, 5:30 a.m. There are a few people outside, some reporters were outside too, but the whole store was open, people could come in and out and take what they want at their leisure.
So that’s on the sad part. The good part is the people who were out here were waiting outside, they wanted to help me. So as soon as I got here, they said ‘Can I help you? Can I do this, can I do that?’ I wanted to take my time and clean as part of my therapy, as part of dealing with the situation. But some of them would not leave unless they did something to help, unless they got a hug or something. So that was very overwhelming, I didn’t think I’d come in there to be so overwhelmed by the community. So that’s very sweet.
That’s a great story, right? When I heard Cenk telling it, it felt great to hear a positive story coming out of all hurt and pain in Ferguson. I started to look up the story, just to hear it again. The three minutes it took Cenk to tell it, wasn’t a sufficient amount of loveliness for me so I wanted to spend a little more time being charmed and feeling joy. The first hit I got was from the very conservative National Review. Here’s the headline;
I read that and thought, WTF? This couldn’t possibly be about my charming store owner. So I read the story to make sure it was about the same person as the story I excerpted above. Here’s what the National Review story said;
Sonny Dayan, owner of St. Louis Cordless Communications, tells National Review Online police prevented him from returning to his business while it was being looted and the police did nothing to stop the crime.
Dayan says police would not let him walk down the street to his business, a cell-phone service and supply store, as they were letting looters run through the streets and into stores. “As far as I know my business is burning down, I’m getting calls from the alarm left and right, you got to get here, you got to get here,” he says. “They [the alarm company] called the police. The police said, ‘We cannot come help you because it’s not our job anymore. We got kicked out.’”
He says police told him they would call him when it was safe to return to his store, but never did. When he did make it back to his store a few hours later on Saturday morning, he found several Ferguson residents standing guard and waiting to help him clean up. He says police came into his store on Saturday to make sure he was okay, but offered no explanation as to why they would not protect his store. “My store or my business, it’s nothing that they worry about,” he says. “It’s the last thing they worry about.”
Huh. This doesn’t even seem like the same person. These stories were published in the same day and posted about seven hours apart, both by reporters who I confirmed are physically in Ferguson covering the events here. I’m a sunny optimist, so my assumption is that neither of these reporters made up any of the quotes attributed to Mr. Dayean (or Dayan, depending on who you read). I’ve observed human nature for long enough to know that both versions of this shop owner can very likely be real. People change depending on who they’re talking to and how questions are presented to them so my observations regarding these two accounts aren’t about the store owner.
Here’s what the HuffPo headline looked like;
They’re about the reporters. Specifically, they’re about the reporters skill in writing the type of story that appeals to their audience. This is an observation I’ve made many times before. I regularly (okay, daily) go to websites that range varying points on the political ideological spectrum. I’m not one that just gets my news from sources that will tell me what I like, and what supports the ideology I started with. My opinions don’t precede my information. I like to form opinions based on a diverse pool of information.
When reading articles on the same topic, I always (literally) find the precise difference that is illustrated in this piece; conservatives like it rough, dark, and mean. They like reading about how the world is a bad and scary place. That’s just a fact. Liberals don’t really have a preference as to how a situation is presented. In other words, liberals don’t have a proclivity for "happy" news all the time. They’re not the inverse opposite of conservatives. So called liberal outlets run the gamut of emotional tone and world views, depending on what the topic at hand is. And different liberal outlets will have very different interpretations, even among the liberal community. Conservatives don’t have that. Every conservative article will have precisely the same analysis, and it’s always created around the narrative that the world is full of bad things. We have physiological evidence for why conservatives like it rough. There have been a couple of studies that suggest that conservatives possess a bigger amygdala. That’s the fear center of your brain. The studies used entirely different methodologies and were conducted in different countries. I’m not going to get deeply into the studies because that’s a more analytical post for another day, but they absolutely suggest that we’re (to some degree) born either conservative or liberal.
The reporting on this store owner in Ferguson perfectly illustrates this. I’m positive that Ryan Lovelace’s (from the National Review) approach to the store owner absolutely elicited the responses he received just as Ryan Reilly’s (HuffPo) approach did the same to elicit an entirely different approach to the same situation. I believe that the store owner was more positive and warm in regard to what happened to his store when he was speaking with Reilly, than he was when he was speaking with Lovelace. Ryan Reilly was drawing out those positive emotions.
To be clear, I’m not accusing anyone of intentional bias. I believe that all of us find what we’re looking for when we go on a fact finding mission. I went to Ryan Lovelace’s twitter page to review his tweets from Ferguson. He isn’t attempting to create a narrative that demonizes one side or another. He’s not trying to paint police officials as demons, while lionizing the protestors or vice versa. He genuinely seems to be sharing what he sees so sometimes he tweets about a fucked up thing the cops have done, and sometimes it’s about a fucked up thing a protestor did.
I’ll be honest with you, I found Reilly’s story in HuffPo to be more authentic and credible. Not because I wanted to, but because Reilly used more of the store owner’s words. Many more of his own words. He let the store owner’s narrative dominate his story. Lovelace’s article felt less authentic.
Okay, maybe I want Reilly’s story to be the truth, just a little bit. I’ve been knee deep in the angst of the world for too many days in a row. I’m tired of getting it rough. I want some gentile cuddling for a minute. Is that so wrong?