While crime among young people is a point of emphasis in mainstream media in Baltimore, homicides and non-fatal shootings are down. Community-based organizations like We Our Us and the Baltimore Peace Movement have been at the forefront of violence prevention efforts over the last several years, but the media does not do the work of exposing the community to the work these organizations do so we can build on their success. What the media does do is lift up the most extreme cases of violence and brutality, painting a broad brush that characterizes these instances as more widespread than they really are.
I talk to a lot of people who ask, “What are people doing to deal with all of this violence?” And when I tell them about We Our Us or the Baltimore Peace Movement, they say that they didn’t know about them. The societal propaganda that is perpetuated through entities like Fox45 impairs our ability to see when we are doing work that is having an impact.
Fox45's White Supremacist Propaganda
Fox45 is a company that has a conservative, right-wing agenda. Their coverage of Baltimore projects Black people as inherently pathological. They shroud their coverage in the language of accountability and transparency, but their interest is not in empowering Black people.
Unfortunately, they have been able to tap into the deep pessimism in our community and garner an audience that is conditioned to seek out messages that reinforce hopelessness. Additionally, there is a societal disregard for the humanity of Black people, which our own people internalize, and that amplifies Fox45’s propaganda.
This disregard manifests itself in the promotion of so-called “tough on crime” policies that played a key role in the damage that was done to Black people by mass incarceration. Currently, Fox45 is advocating a reversal of policies that were designed to address the fact that Maryland incarcerates the largest percentage of its children, a majority of them Black, than any other state in the country.
The Demonization of Black Youth
Anyone who has seen the docu-series “When They See Us” is familiar with the Exonerated 5 in New York City who were coerced into making false confessions to committing a rape and brutal attack on a white woman in Central Park. The Maryland General Assembly passed a law in 2022 called the Child Interrogation Protection Act, which required that when police officers are conducting a custodial interrogation a parent must be notified and an attorney must be present.
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger (D) and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates (D), with the help of Fox45 propaganda, have been calling for this law to be rolled back. There has been ubiquitous messaging from law enforcement and prosecutors that this law is keeping them from being able to talk to youth and therefore impairs their ability to address youth violence and crime.
This is a pretty ridiculous position to take because adults are required to be Mirandized and have the right to remain silent in accordance with their fifth amendment rights. No one would say that we need to infringe upon an adult’s right to remain silent. And given the fact that children are more vulnerable than adults, why shouldn’t we make sure that children have their rights protected?
Additionally, the notion that police cannot talk to young people because of this law is untrue. They can talk to young people and ask for cooperation and make lawful demands of a young person. These laws do not impact the ability for law enforcement to do their job.
Will Fox45 do meaningful coverage of the incompetence and corruption of law enforcement that keeps them from having any positive impact on addressing the violence in our community? Of course not, because that does not align with their worldview.
Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle has said that community-based violence prevention programs and community oversight of law enforcement is the best way to address violence. Yet Fox45 continues to push a law enforcement-centric narrative, which has become such a powerful discourse that Democratic leadership in the state has been silent in their defense of legislation they passed.
Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), who has been the most ardent legislative fighter against dehumanizing policies of mass incarceration, sponsored the Child Interrogation Protection Act, along with Del. Sandy Bartlett (D-Anne Arundel) in the House of Delegates in 2022. But media coverage of this legislation focuses almost exclusively on attacking Senator Carter.
The failure of Democratic lawmakers to defend the Child Interrogation Protection Act and use their power to uplift stories about organizations like We Our Us and Baltimore Peace Movement is political cowardice. The representations of Black youth as massively savage and violent is politically salient, and Fox45 benefits from this.
Changing the Narrative
Too often, those of us who advocate against the Fox45 propaganda are accused of being comfortable with the violence in our community. The reality is that the policies Fox45 is advocating for, historically, have not made Baltimore safer, and other approaches — community-based violence prevention and community oversight of law enforcement — have not been meaningfully implemented by political leadership. But it is clear that Fox45 does not want to have a substantive conversation about a truly different approach to public safety.
We need messages in Baltimore that show that Black people are doing meaningful work in the community so that we can build the momentum we need to improve the conditions in our community. But in order to do that, we need to believe that Black people can win. I know we can. We should stop letting Fox45 tell us that we can’t.