As the majority of media outlets struggled to make sense of the shooting ambush that left five police officers dead amid peaceful protests in Dallas Thursday night, the New York Post ran a shockingly declarative headline: Civil War.
The subhead: Four cops killed at anti-police protest
The insinuation being that the mostly African Americans mourning the senseless killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La, and Philando Castile in Saint Paul, Minn., had orchestrated the sniper-style attack as part of a master plan to wage war on law enforcement officials across the nation.
It was a bold move that some have called “race-baiting” at worst, and irresponsible journalism at best, charging the publication with using the kind of sensational tactics that could potentially cost more lives Critics, many of them journalists, rushed to social media to condemn the conservative tabloid’s loaded choice of words.
Stoking racial tension to sell papers like it won't put more lives at risk. #NYPost
— Charlene White (@CharleneWhite) July 8, 2016
.@nypost cover calls demonstrations anti-police protests. Activists always say protests are about black humanity. https://t.co/LNU0D27IXw
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) July 8, 2016
Almost immediately, you had outlets like Drudge and Infowars spreading stoking racial paranoia. And this morning, the New York Post.
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) July 8, 2016
Others slammed former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, for his overwrought language while covering the breaking news in a special report for MSNBC. Opponents took issue with the embattled journalist’s repeated references to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which took place in Dealey Plaza, not far from where officers were shot, as well as his use of terms like “urban warfare” and “fog of war rules.”
Can Brian Williams pleasing stop with the damn references to JFK's assassination?! He's driving me #%+=?]~ nuts!!!
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) July 8, 2016
i never took a journalism class in my life and even i'm like wtf man
— josh terry (@JoshhTerry) July 8, 2016
According to CNN host Brian Stelter, Williams brandished a copy of the Post during the broadcast, and remarked, “Let’s hope this headline is wrong.”
The Next Generation Action Network, which organized the demonstrations in downtown Dallas, is a non-profit organization that was formed following the police shooting of Ferguson teen Michael Brown. In a statement released by the social justice group Friday morning, founder and president Dominique Alexander said the group’s goal was to bring awareness to the issues that people of color face concerning police brutality.
“Never in our wildest dreams would we think that our efforts to save lives would take lives,” Alexander wrote.
“We echo the words of President Obama yesterday when he stated that because black lives matter, it does not mean that blue lives, do not matter. With that said, we condemn the actions that took the lives of five officers and wounded seven. We sincerely thank the Dallas Police Department and Dart Police for assisting us with our protest. We understand that although Officers volunteer to risk their lives they certainly did not deserve to die. ”
Alexander told the Dallas Morning News officers were standing several feet in from of him when the shots began and criticized the media and general public for incorrectly labeling the march as a Black Lives Matter event.
“There is no local chapter of the Black Lives movement,” he said. “That’s just national rhetoric.”