CBS's Axelrod Praises Twitter's Ferguson Protests; Omits How Featured Protester Hoped Rioters/Looters 'Keep at It'

Smartphones and social media are enabling African-Americans all over the country to join in on peaceful, digital protests of the fatal shooting of unarmed Ferguson, Mo., teenager Michael Brown, CBS's Jim Axelrod reported on the August 14 Evening News. Axelrod turned to one such Twitter user, "Andre Fields... a 27-year-old political aide" from New York. But while Axelrod presented Fields as measured and interested in "both sides" of the story being heard, a look at this Twitter stream reveals some disturbing tweets.

"If rioting and looting is what it's gonna take for them to get their voices recognized then I say keep at it," Fields (@_JustDreTho) tweeted at 10:31 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, August 12. Hours earlier, Fields tweeted a quote from the late Martin Luther King Jr., "Riots are the language of the unheard." Of course the whole conceit of Axelrod's story is that the previously unheard and marginalized ARE being heard, and seen, through the peaceful and ubiquitous means of social media [see the segment's transcript, screen capture, embedded tweets and video below page break]


"Is there some sort of internal memo being passed around between American cops with the subject 'Shoot "Them" on sight?'" Fields tweeted at 2:38 p.m. Eastern today. He followed that up two minutes later by backpedaling a bit: "Maybe that last tweet was a reach, but you all get the point."

Yes, we get the point. Mr. Fields is entitled to his opinion, but Axelrod and his producers most certainly should have known how radical Mr. Fields's tweets have been on the Ferguson controversy. 

Below is the transcript for the entire segment. The portion in bold is the part I've clipped in the video also embedded below:

CBS Evening News

August 14, 2014

SCOTT PELLEY, anchor: Street protests have always been part of American democracy, but after the fatal police shooting in suburban St. Louis, protesters are taking not only to the street, they're taking to the Web. Here's Jim Axelrod. 

JIM AXELROD: There is nothing new about the racial tension underpinning the events in Ferguson, Missouri, nor in the power of an image to rouse people to action.

But what is new about Ferguson is the role of social media in spreading that message wider and more quickly, particularly for African Americans. Andre Fields is a 27-year-old political aide.

AXELROD to Fields: It's a community that could not have been built before social media this way? 

ANDRE FIELDS: Not-- not-- well, it could have been but not this quickly. 

AXELROD: There have been somewhere near six million tweets relate to the Ferguson shooting since Saturday, many organized around hashtags like "If they gunned me down" in which African-Americans post two pictures of themselves, one they feel plays into stereotypes and one which doesn't and asks which the media would use. 

FIELDS: It's bringing awareness to say, OK, you need to tell the whole story. 

AXELROD: While more whites than blacks use the Internet, the disparity disappears when it comes to social media. Six percent more African-Americans aged 18-29 use social media than whites. Twelve percent more with Twitter alone. Kwame Opam covers social media for the online magazine The Verge. 

KWAME OPAM, The Verge: The digital divide is such that having access to broadband Internet is lesser in poorer communities or urban communities, that having access to a smartphone gives you a powerful chance to use the Internet in a way that other people might not. 

AXELROD: And smartphones are more social-media driven? 

OPAM: You're just going to jump on them because it's what you're holding in your hand. 

AXELROD: That picture of police dogs was taken on May 3, 1963. Of course, no one saw it until May 4, when the paper came out.  It now takes just seconds for social media to rocket images around the globe, shaping people's sense of the story as they go. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, New York.

 

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters