It is a story that shocks the conscience. Even amid all of the death and atrocity in the world, it stands out, and sticks with you. Five-year-old Cannon Hinnant was murdered in cold blood this past Sunday while out riding a bike in front of his father’s house. The alleged killer, Darius Sessoms, was witnessed walking right up to the child, putting the gun to his head, and pulling the trigger. An execution at point blank range, of a small child, in front of his sisters who were also playing outside at the time.
Sessoms initially fled the scene but was caught hours later. It is still not known why he allegedly committed this unspeakable atrocity, though at one level it doesn’t matter. It is obviously a hideous evil no matter the motivation. But you cannot help but ask why, especially when you realize that Sessoms was the next door neighbor, and according to some witnesses, he had just been over for dinner the night before. Whatever the answer to the “why” question — and I suspect we may never be given a coherent one — a beautiful and joyful child has been taken from the world, and the hole left in his absence will never be filled. That is one thing we know for sure.
Here’s another thing. The name Cannon Hinnant would be known across the country, and the name Darius Sessoms reviled the world over, if the races were reversed. A story of a white man running up to a black child and executing him while he rode his bike would be front page news for weeks. And there would almost certainly be rioting, spurned on in part by the incessant coverage.
Instead, this story has gotten almost no coverage by the American national media. And when I say “no coverage,” I really mean no coverage. A visual here will be instructive.
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) August 12, 2020
As of this morning, when I last checked, a search for Cannon Hinnant turned up zero results with the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters, Yahoo News, NBC News, and ABC News. A search on CNN also turns up no results, though Google directs to an article by WRAL, a local news channel in North Carolina. APnews.com does have a little blurb about it, but you have to search to find it. It’s a few sentences long and doesn’t make any mention of the races of the people involved.
In the next few days some of these outlets may follow suit and put up their own blurbs, if they feel some pressure for having ignored it. They may eventually cover the case and move on quickly, confident that they now have plausibile deniability from the bias charge. Or maybe the blackout will continue and none of these outlets will ever breathe a word about the case. Either way, the point is clear. This is not something they want to talk about.
It is easy to anticipate the excuses that will be offered — and in some cases have already been offered — for this outrageous disparity. It will be claimed that Cannon’s execution is not as newsworthy because it was carried out by a civilian, not an agent of the state. But Ahmaud Arbery was killed by civilians. So was Trayvon Martin. They are both household names.
It will be argued that this crime wasn’t racially motivated, which is supposed to make it less relevant to the general public. But even if I agreed with the premise that non-racially motivated crimes aren’t as relevant (and I don’t) and even if it’s true that Cannon’s murder wasn’t motivated by race (we don’t know at this point), this argument still doesn’t wash because Michael Brown wasn’t a racially motivated killing. Neither was Freddie Gray. Or Eric Garner. Or George Floyd. Or, really, any of the famous homicide or alleged homicide cases from the last decade or so. None of them have had any proven link to racism. Yet these victims are also household names.
As a last ditch attempt at obfuscation, it will be said that this crime isn’t on video, thus making it less sensational and giving it less viral potential. It is sad if murder is looked at this way these days — as mere content to be consumed — but I concede that this is in fact how the media views the subject. But there was no video of Trayvon Martin. There was no video of Freddie Gray. And on the other side, I can think of plenty of sensational murders that were caught on video yet received very little coverage. Daniel Shaver, the white Arizona man killed by cops while on his knees begging for his life. Or how about Brittany Hill, the black Chicago mother gunned down by gang members while holding her baby? That is one of the most shocking crimes ever to be caught on camera, and yet the national media has said little about it.
There simply is no explanation for the way these various incidents are treated, other than the most disgraceful and infuriating one — the national media is specifically interested in fueling a certain racial narrative, and they will make the intentional editorial decision to blacklist or downplay any story that interferes with it.
Brittany Hill was ignored because she was killed by men with the wrong color skin. The silence around Cannon Hinnant’s name is even more deafening because he was killed by a man with the wrong color skin while also having the wrong color skin himself. We cannot be so jaded that we don’t stop to really focus on this and consider it for the horror that it is: the national media doesn’t care that Cannon Hinnant died, and doesn’t want you to care, because he was white. It is that straightforward, that sick, that evil. There is no way around this. It is the truth. It is undeniable.
The lesson that we take from this is crucial. We live in the Information Age, but information is not the same thing as knowledge, even less is it perspective or wisdom. To be informed of something is merely to be made aware of certain events, often presented in bits and pieces. But we have confused information with knowledge, which means that the people giving us information also give us the illusion of knowledge. They sift through the events of modern society, pulling bits from here and bits from there, presenting pieces of different puzzles, but never the full picture.
We take all of those pieces and imagine that we know something about the world. So, if the national media only ever tell us about white on black killing, and only very carefully selected facts about those killings, and they flat out refuse to acknowledge the existence of black on white killing — or if they have to acknowledge it, only in a dismissive way, and certainly never in the context of any kind of larger trend — then we will begin to think that we know something, and what we know, we think, is that America is a racist country where black people are being hunted and killed, and the reverse almost never happens because white people are protected by their privilege and by the racist institutions that elevate them while oppressing everyone else.
The narrative is all that matters. It is the only thing that is ever considered when deciding what not to cover, what to cover, and how to cover it. And that is why Cannon Hinnant, despite being an innocent young child, savagely cut down in broad daylight, will not be memorialized or mourned over the way that George Floyd was. But that does not change the fact that this is a great tragedy which commands our attention. No matter what CNN says — or, more precisely, doesn’t say — about it.