Accuracy in Media

To disenfranchise someone is to take away their vote. As with convicted felons, or more to the point here, as under Jim Crow when despite whatever the law and constitution said if you had the wrong color skin, you didn’t get to vote.

This is why Vice uses that very strong accusation in their headline: “Alabama’s Plan to Disenfranchise Black Voters Just Hit a Roadblock.” It’s a direct claim that the plan aims to reimpose Jim Crow.

The plan is in fact nothing of the sort, this is about gerrymandering. This is the creation of the districts which then elect the members of the House of Representatives. Everyone – or both sides in America’s two-party system – tries to shade and alter these districts so as to maximize the opportunity for their own side. Largely, whoever is in charge of the state legislature gets to bias the system their way.

Sure, we can think that perhaps this should be done without such shenanigans but we’re talking about politicians and gaining power here. It’s never going to go away. That most of the complaints at present come from the D side is because most state legislatures are on the R side at present (30 of 50 with 3 split). At times in the past, the control went the other way and so did the complaints.

Of course, it’s also possible to point out that Jim Crow itself was near entirely a creation of politicians with D as their party identifier.

A court case – and near all of these redistricting plans do end up in court at some point – has just said that the Alabama plan creates a district that is “too Black” and then distributes the rest in such small parcels across other districts that they’ll not be the swing vote in any of them.

This is undoubtedly bad, we’d like it not to happen, it’s also how congressional districts have been drawn all along and will almost certainly continue to be so. What it isn’t though is anything like actually disenfranchising those Black voters.

Vice is a significant part of the modern media landscape. The TV station reaches 60 million American households, the magazine runs to 900,000 copies, the site itself gains near 30 million views a month. Significant portions of young peoples’ political knowledge are drawn from this site.

As to why the incendiary headline, it’s clearly because of the current impasse in the Senate over varied voting rights legislation. By claiming, falsely, that something akin to Jim Crow is being rebuilt that increases the pressure to pass those highly partisan bills currently blocked.

Gerrymandering isn’t a desirable part of the system, but as the court case itself shows, it is already dealt with. It’s also entirely different from disenfranchisement. But the media, whatever pushes the current political line, right?




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