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Richard Vatz: What the Media Ignore About Baltimore

Downtown Baltimore. Maryland Department of Natural Resources photo.

There are few better examples for rhetorical analysis than the depiction of problems and solutions for violence-prone, impoverished, resident-depleting Baltimore City.

By “rhetorical analysis” I mean the struggle for agenda and spin by principal persuaders, as described in my book, The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the persuasive focusing on x, y and z while ignoring a, b and c and interpreting that on which one focuses.

I see consistently that major news sources still write about Freddie Gray and the implicit racism that allegedly accounts for his death and serves as synecdoche for all of the miseries of Baltimore. I see the problems of Baltimore in a truly tragic reductio ad absurdum consistently reduced to police misconduct and racial causes. I see knee-jerk progressivism in our newspapers and electronic media that never addresses uncomfortable truths about the other major causes and possible cures to the endless maladies that afflict Baltimore.
I am focusing here on fatherlessness and single-parenthood.
As commentator Larry Elder writes in The Washington Examiner, even President Obama cannot avoid this issue. He said in a speech in Chicago, “For a lot of young boys and young men in particular, they don’t see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up in respect. And so that means that [there] is not just a gun issue; [there is] also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building.”  
Let us look at a representative case in point. On April 17, The Baltimore Sun in its lead editorial [“After Freddie Gray’s death, does change elude us?”] contains one revealing clause, a clause that explains why all efforts to confront and solve Baltimore’s endless problems of violence, drugs, poverty and endless et ceteras have failed:  “…many [Baltimoreans] have gone back to a head in the sand approach to its problems.”  
The epitome of the “head in the sand approach,” and there are interminable perfect examples in the leadership ranks of Baltimore, is The Sun’s editorial. The piece never mentions the seminal problems that “single parent” families create for Baltimore. They blame the police, of course, and apparently uncaused humans’ criminal behavior whose “lives had been further altered by violence, drugs, crime and childhood lead exposure.“ Ah, the children are made violent by violence…and “lead exposure.”
You can quite marginally improve poverty, education, violence and the problems of the expanding drug culture, but unless there is a program to incentivize two-parent families and disincentivize having children out of wedlock, there will never be anything approximating ending these devastating problems or even attenuating them.  
One has to smile sardonically when The Sun editorialists focus repeatedly on police malpractice in the Freddie Gray matter and the attendant structural racism in Baltimore, always good scapegoats and not completely irrelevant, but wholly inadequate to explain the devastating problems caused by a population infested with a material fatherlessness problem.
Coverage of the tragic consequences of growing up without two parents, is almost completely absent in press coverage of Baltimore City’s terrible day-to-day existence. You don’t see it newspapers, on television, or on radio, with the exception of WCBM Radio, perhaps the only courageous major media source left in Maryland.
When I ask intelligent media people why their newspaper or station doesn’t cover children with one parent, they tell me either that they will (they won’t) at some point or that it offends their base audience.
Ignoring the most material cause of social pathology in Baltimore guarantees — not virtually guarantees, as less frank observers are wont to say — the certain perpetuation of the destruction of Baltimore’s civilized existence.


The writer is a professor of Rhetoric and Persuasion at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model (LAD Custom Publishing, 2019) and the co-editor of Thomas S. Szasz: the Man and His Ideas (Transaction Publishers, 2017).


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Richard Vatz: What the Media Ignore About Baltimore