The woman emerged to crowds cheering and hanging on her every word. Her entourage followed closely behind her, dressed in black leather jackets and topped with black berets. The group moved quickly to the field and was soon in place. At the right time, the dancers, led by the singer, began their routine. At one point during the performance, the dancers formed an X seemingly in tribute to black Muslim activist Malcolm X and raised their fists in the “black power” salute. Now, if you thought that this was a small, niche show. You would be wrong. This was the Super Bowl halftime event, watched by more than 115 million people on TV. Beyoncé, the super-star performer adored by millions, was the singer, and she was paying tribute to the “Black Panther’s”, a terrorist group from nearly 45 years ago.
Now, in one sense, the entertainers were celebrating a new song and a new dance routine, in another they shedding light on something they felt was a modern day social cause, that of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. But who were the Black Panthers? From the FBI’s own website-“The Black Panther Party (BPP) is a black extremist organization founded in Oakland, California in 1966. It advocated the use of violence and guerrilla tactics to overthrow the U.S. government.” So, there we have it. A revolutionary group that wished to enact change through blood and brute force and enabled by race based politics.
In fact, local media ran a story that noted — “Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark denounced the star's half-time show in an interview. He asked — “Would it be acceptable if a white band came out in hoods and white sheets in the same sort of fashion? We would be appalled and outraged. The Black Panthers are a subversive hate group in America.” Other articles go on to note that — “People all over the nation have taken offence to Beyoncé’s half-time performance. A group is boycotting at the New York City block of the NFL's headquarters.”
Now, let’s compare the Black Panthers with another story, a story that had just occurred a few weeks before the Super Bowl, that of the death of Robert “Lavoy” Finicum. Finicum was the spokesperson for the group of men that had taken over a federal building in Burns, Oregon. Now, on the surface, the stories are roughly the same, or at least were portrayed that way in media. In short, the cowboys were domestic terrorists that had taken over a federally owned building because of some disagreement that they had with the government.
Of course, the way that the media portrayed the story left many wondering what was going on. Seemingly, an armed group had seized a government owned building and had a list of demands. The case seemed pretty clear cut and that was the way that Fox news portrayed it. However, if one digs a little deeper into the story, one can see that the story was anything but clear-cut.
Local media reported at the time that — “In 2006 a massive lightning storm started multiple fires that joined together inflaming the countryside. To prevent the fire from destroying their winter range and possibly their home, the men started a backfire on their private property. The next day federal agents went to the Harney County Sheriff’s office and filled a police report making accusation against Dwight and Steven Hammond for starting the backfire…. Both Dwight and Steven were booked on multiple Oregon State charges. The Harney County District Attorney reviewed the accusation, evidence and charges, and determined the accusations against Dwight & Steven Hammond did not warrant prosecution and dropped all the charges.” Then, “In 2011, 5 years after the police report was taken, the U.S. Attorney Office accused Dwight and Steven Hammond of completely different charges; they accused them of being “terrorists” under the Federal Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.” That’s right. 5 years later! And completely different charges!
But, the story only becomes more complicated! In June of 2012, both men were found guilty and sent to prison. One for 3 months and the other for 12 months. They were also ordered to pay $400k in fines. Both men reported to prison, served their time, and were sent home. But it wasn’t over yet.
Local media reported that — “Sometime in June 2014, an appeal with the 9th District Federal Court was filed and that sought to see both men return to federal prison for the entire 5 years. Then in October of 2015, “the 9th District Court “re-sentenced” the men, requiring them to return to prison for several more years.” So there you have it. The men, who had already served their time and had been released, were told to go back to jail for much longer. Imagine that. You are found guilty of a crime, do your time, get out, and all of sudden, the government swoops back in years later and says, oh hey, we are sending you back to jail!
The men that took over the federal building were advocating a return to law and order. A return to a constitutionally based country. They feel that the rights that the Founding Fathers had embedded into the constitution have been and are being slowly stripped from the American people. And this is where the Black Panthers and the case of the cowboy constitutionalists overlap; Huffington Post noted that — “Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover feared the rise of the Black Panther Party so he created COINTELPRO, a secret operation, to discredit black nationalists groups. The Counterintelligence Program's purpose was to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize" black nationalists' activities.” Imagine that, a secret government directive to subvert the image of a particular group and to control the narrative surrounding that group in order to maintain control of society.
So, what do you think dear listeners, “Does the US government shape the media narrative?”