Media Bias and what you can do about it

A message for all people who care about the safety of cyclists in San Francisco

How the story the local media reported is falling apart.

If you have an eye witness report of the events of the evening of July 25th, feel free to post it here by e-mailing us to help create a public record of the event.

Approximately 80% of the TV watching public are incapable of independent thought and will absorb the ugly bicycle bashing message that is being put out by the local San Francisco media.

The other 20%, which also tends to be more active politically, will listen to reason - if they are given the facts.

As anyone who rode in the July 25th ride knows, the media threw out all their photos and videos of the thousands of peaceful, law abiding riders who participated and focused on the few who caused problems. The July 25th ride has been dishonestly called "mayhem", "chaos", "a confrontation."

To "document" their claims the media repeats hearsay and elaborates on it. I have heard one "journalist" on Channel 4 refer to bicylists "kicking in windows." Where? When? Where are the pictures? Another, on this morning's news, spoke about "a face off between thousands of bicyclists and motorists."

Their other source of "documentation" are photographs and video - and this is where their case falls apart - and where the 20% of the population that can think independently and is concerned with distinguishing truth from falesehoods can be educated.

The photographic and video evidence reviewed so far is very, very thin considering that: 1) there were dozens of news camera people in the field and 2) there were 10,000 people riding in the event. (Note: the 10,000 person estimate was based on "news" reports when the ride was organizing in Justin Herman Plaza and thus easiest to count. If was only after the ride was targeted for slanderous reporting that the estimate was downgraded to 5,000.)

Here's all the TV stations seem to have by way of evidence (and note they repeat the same tired clips over and over again):

1. Shots and shots of riders doing nothing but riding
2. One young man sitting on a bike in front of one car, arms crossed, appearing to taunt the driver (yes, he's acting like a jerk)
3. Two young men pounding on the hood of a car, once each. No context given.
4. A policeman tackling an oncoming bicyclist who appears to be a young woman 75% of his height and 50% of his weight. The clip the news originally aired gave the full story: a bicyclist in motion, driving in a normal manner, being tackled and torn off her bicycle. The shorter, edited version makes the incident look like a "collision."
5. And one fascinating image of a mass of bicyclists going through an intersection. The hand held camera jiggles for one second and reveals...they had the green light and the legal right of way!
6. Young people in handcuffs and being handcuffed and one young man resisting arrest.

Note: Some new home video of the event has appeared and we'll be reviewing it shortly.

And that's it. That's the sum total video evidence of "thousands of mad bikers on a rampage."

There are two possibilities:

1. The camerapeople for the local media are spectacularly inept and this is all they got from the "bitter confrontational" ride


2. The news editors chucked the numerous images that reflected the 99%+ riders who obeyed the law and focused on the (not so) "sensational" pictures that made their dishonest case.

Hint: news editors pick the photos, not photographers

The long history of hate mongering media in San Francisco

Question: (And I use the St. Patrick's Day example because I am an Irishman in good standing. Any group that has even been targeted by media hatemongering can put themselves in this example.) If there is a St. Patrick's Day Parade and a few people misbehave, does the media follow the next day with an attack on the Irish? They used to. When signs on stores in New York City 100 or so years ago used to read "No Irish or Dogs Allowed."

And to bring it home, a visit to the Public Library wil reveal decades of hate mongering from the Chronicle and the Examiner against: the Chinese, the Japanese, African-Americans, peace activists, civil rights activists, labor unions, gays - even a prosecutor who was conducting a financial fraud and government corruption case against the mayor and Board of Supervisors (1907 - not 1997...yet)

Why this matters so much: lots of reasons, but here's one to chew on. Statistically, the kind of reporting the local SF media indulged itself in in the first few days after the event(us vs. them, "the biker people are bad", "punish them!") usually leads to increased violence against the target group. The press needs to be called on it.

If you have a report, feel free to post it here by e-mailing us to help form a public record of the event.

Also, a team of lawyers working on behalf of San Francisco cyclists would like to hear from you. Your eye witness account could be very helpful to someone who was wrongfully arrested and/or assaulted.

Finally, Mary Dunlop at the OCC (Office of Citizens Complaints) is compiling police misconduct reports. Call her at this number: (415) 597 7711. (They have a very odd phone system. Don't be put off by it.)


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