FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What if Ida B. Wells Depended on Facebook? 

If Ida B. Wells had depended on Facebook, would we ever have had a National Lynching Memorial?

Two stories collided in my head this week. One of which was the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama—thiscountry’s first major effort to confront the vast scope of the racial-terror lynchings that ravaged the Black community under a pervasive, prevailing culture of white supremacy. It is the first because, until now, that same majority culture of white supremacy hasn’t wanted to look.

At the memorial, a special place is set aside for Ida B. Wells, the crusading journalist who forced Americans to pay attention to these murders. Over a lifetime made shorter by repeated attacks, she documented and publicized the killings, collecting names, dates and descriptions.

She wrote editorials for various newspapers, but her longest running outlet was her own, the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, which she edited and published until it was burned to the ground by her critics. And this is where the opening of the memorial intersects with another important story from this week.

Would Wells’s Free Speech ever have made it into my news feed on Facebook? I doubt it, because Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced May 1st in a meeting with media executives that his company had started ranking news organizations by trust.

News sources that score higher will be promoted, while those with lower scores will be suppressed.

As he put it, “You’re not going to be able to bridge common ground in society if people don’t have a common set of facts.”

To determine trustworthiness, the company plans to survey its two billion users about the sources with which they’re most familiar and best recognize.

However, by that standard, we’d never have had Tom Paine, Ida Tarbell or Ida B. Wells. We’d never have had a revolution, broken up the robber-baron monopoly corporations, or heard enough about the lynchings to have anything resembling a memorial—or even, probably, to make them stop.

We’d certainly have gone off misinformed into a misbegotten set of wars without end against nameless, nationless wrong-doers called terrorists…

You get my point.

From Paine to Wells, it has always been media at the margins—not the center—that has brought critical issues to a boil so that bigger, “recognized” media could inhale the steam.  American democracy has not advanced thanks to the mainstream media, but rather thanks to reporters on a mission and with the means to tell the uncomfortable, unfamiliar, uncommon truth.

After Ida B. Wells published a column on May 21, 1892 denouncing “the old threadbare lie” that lynching was used to “protect white womanhood,” a white mob marched to her office in Memphis, destroyed her presses and left a warning that they would kill her if she tried to publish her newspaper again.

That lie was the most heard, most accepted, most familiar, trusted, conventional, common fact. It has taken the nation a century to wise up. If we want to preserve American democracy, we should learn from the past. We don’t have that long, and we have no reason to repeat history.

Zuckerberg is free to suppress. He’s not a journalist; he’s the head of a for-profit corporation with a track record of mendacity and billions of private dollars at stake.  He’s not deluded, but we are if we believe that the Wellses of today can rely on Facebook. We need a tax-dollars-funded, just-for-journalism’s-sake, public commitment to public media. Otherwise, we risk allowing the common truth to become the only truth we hear.

Find more info, interviews, and radical commentary at www.lauraflanders.com

More articles by:

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv now seen on the new, news channel TeleSUR English – for a new perspective. 

November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
Nick Pemberton
When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House
Ron Jacobs
Impeach!
Lawrence Davidson
A Tale of Two Massacres
José Tirado
A World Off Balance
Jonah Raskin
Something Has Gone Very Wrong: An Interview With Ecuadoran Author Gabriela Alemán
J.P. Linstroth
Myths on Race and Invasion of the ‘Caravan Horde’
Dean Baker
Good News, the Stock Market is Plunging: Thoughts on Wealth
David Rosen
It’s Time to Decriminalize Sex Work
Dan Glazebrook
US Calls for a Yemen Ceasefire is a Cynical Piece of Political Theatre
Jérôme Duval
Forced Marriage Between Argentina and the IMF Turns into a Fiasco
Jill Richardson
Getting Past Gingrich
Dave Lindorff
Not a Blue Wave, But Perhaps a Foreshock
Martha Rosenberg
Dangerous, Expensive Drugs Aggressively Pushed? You Have These Medical Conflicts of Interest to Thank
Will Solomon
Not Much of a Wave
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Yemeni War Deaths are Five Times Higher Than You’ve Been Led to Believe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail