Look, those people are tricking the police into beating them!
I thought once you’ve been a Big Tobacco shill, you really can’t sink any lower. I was wrong–there’s always revisionist history that slights the civil rights movement (behind paywall–but you should subscribe; boldface mine):
The way he[Gladwell] tells it, conditions on the streets of Birmingham that day weren’t as violent as the people were led to believe. Sure, multiple news reports, eyewitness accounts and photographs showed police dogs attacking black protesters, biting them and ripping their clothes. Gladwell says photos can be deceptive. The truth is that Birmingham’s K-9 unit wasn’t known for violence, racism or bigotry. They were generally nice guys who just happened to be taking their pups out for a walk that day. If you analyze the photo carefully you can see that the police officer and his snarling German shepherd are not the aggressors. They are the victims of a raging black youth who decided to have a bit of fun by kicking the poor mutt in the jaw.
“The officer in the picture is Dick Middleton. He was a modest and reserved man… The dog’s name is Leo. Now look at the faces of the black bystanders in the background. Shouldn’t they be surprised or horrified? They’re not. Next, look at the leash in Middleton’s hand. It’s taut, as if he’s trying to restrain Leo. And look at Gadsden’s left hand. He’s gripping Middleton on the forearm. Look at Gadsden’s left leg. He’s kicking Leo, isn’t he?… Gadsden wasn’t the martyr, passively leaning forward as if to say, ‘Take me, here I am.’ He’s steadying himself, with a hand on Middleton, so he can deliver a sharper blow. The word around the movement, afterward, was that he’d broken Leo’s jaw. Hudson’s photograph is not at all what the world thought it was.
In reality what happened that was that black protesters taunted the police and sparked the confrontation with the aim of getting some sympathetic press. There was no real bloodshed or violence, and the protest was actually fun and exciting for the black folks involved. But of course that’s not how it was reported by the national press hungry for racy headlines, which hyped the violence and compared Birmingham to apartheid South Africa. So in the end, the Americans were duped into supporting the civil rights movement by a crafty PR strategy and sympathetic news media.
It’s a very strange revisionist history that strips all the moral and political elements of the civil rights movement out of the story, reducing it to marketing strategy and tactics. But it’s also something potentially much more sinister: it promotes the idea that race relations in the South were not as bad as people believe, and that the civil rights movement was some sort of hoax.
As Levine notes, this sort of revisionism is common in the fever swamps of the racist right (you probably don’t want to click that link).
You can take the boy out of the right-wing collegiate ‘journalism’ training grounds, but you can’t take the right-wing collegiate ‘journalism’ training grounds out of the boy….
Update:. Racists keep showing up in the comments. I’m trying to keep up but sometimes they slip by.