When Actual Racism Doesn’t Happen I Guess We Have to Invent It

"EXTRA! EXTRA!" by Filip Jovceski is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Disney has been doing this thing where they re-make their old animated movies with real actors and live action. The latest is the Little Mermaid, which in the original animated version portrayed Ariel as a young girl with red hair.

The live action remake, however, will feature a black woman named Halley Bailey in the role of Ariel.

If you’re a reader of the Washington Post (or other media publications) you’d probably think, based on two separate articles, that there is some widespread backlash to this choice.

Only, it seems the only real evidence for this backlash is a viral tweet posted by someone who turns out to be a troll:

The reason the tweet went viral is not so much because it was representative of what a lot of people think, but because of all the people denouncing it.

“It’s true that a few Twitter users seemed genuinely upset about the casting. But the overwhelming majority of people tweeting #NotMyAriel are doing so in support of Bailey and expressing outrage that anyone would be offended by a black Ariel,” Robby Soave wrote of the situation for Reason. “Their fury is well-intended but largely unnecessary.”

People denouncing things that nobody really needed them to denounce is a big part of what social media is – people do like to signal their virtue – but shouldn’t the media be trying to bring some truth and nuance to these situations instead of pouring gas on the fire?

It wasn’t some obscure, spammy link farm that promoted this controversy. It was the Washington “Democracy Dies In Darkness” Post, among others. A media publication which has repeatedly bristled when politicians like President Donald Trump talk about “fake news” yet seem just fine with exaggerating a controversy in order to prop up an argument about racism.

It seems to me there’s enough actual hatred, and actual racism, in this world that we don’t need to invent more for the sake of clicks.

The journalism industry likes to talk a lot about how important their jobs are, but their ability to be effective in reporting the truth and holding the powerful accountable relies on their credibility with the public. Credibility which is diminished through nonsense like this.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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