The Nazis are coming to Little Rock next weekend. You may have seen the topic trending on social media. I found out when I read a Facebook post by KARK Channel 4. The post was a notification about what the station would not do: give hate the attention it seeks.
I applaud KARK. Too many news organizations are contributing to the low level of public discourse by providing a microphone for people who wouldn’t be heard or be nearly as popular otherwise. Discernment, folks. If a hate group shows up and hates, is that news? No, it’s predictable. If they act outside of that norm or do something to distinguish themselves — good or bad — that’s news.
The National Socialist Movement has announced it will have a rally at 3 p.m. Saturday in front of the Arkansas State Capitol. The group plans to protest racial injustice against white people who live in South Africa.
NSM is a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group is known for violent anti-Jewish rhetoric, among other racist views.
Given the recent violence in Pittsburgh, KARK has opted to not cover the rally. An attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 left 11 people dead and several more injured.
Here’s what KARK News Director Austin Kellerman had to say on the topic: “Quite frankly, I’m not willing to give them our attention. There are far too many important issues in our communities that need to be covered. This doesn’t deserve our time. You, as a viewer of KARK and Fox16, deserve better. The last thing I want to do is censor the news from you. We’re telling you about it so that you’re aware – and we’ll let you know if anything major happens. However, we won’t give them what they’re looking for. They won’t get that ‘attention grab’ and extended camera time. The National Socialist Movement is coming to Little Rock to try and make some noise. But if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Let’s give them silence. Arkansas is better than this.”
Bravo! All sorts of rallies and events are held in Arkansas that fail to capture news headlines — and those aren’t centered on hate. Many are focused on good and they can’t capture the limelight. No one will miss the Nazis.
Kellerman’s position reminds me of a similar stance I took years back as managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. The Ku Klux Klan held a rally on the courthouse square in El Dorado. The white sheet crowd convened alone. They received no publicity from the newspaper and the best we could gather, based on the observations of a lone reporter at the scene, the locals stayed away, as well.
Hate is a problem. The SPLC has identified 953 hate groups operating in the U.S., including 12 in Arkansas. You can educate yourself further by visiting their site: https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map.
Movements don’t thrive and gain steam where they are not welcome. Kudos to KARK for slamming the door on hate. Perhaps if other news organizations follow their example, hate groups will recognize they aren’t welcome and won’t seek attention here.
We can all counter the hateful rhetoric that permeates our society in some simple ways: Be kind. Love your neighbor. Don’t follow hate-filled leaders. And vote like your life depends on it.
Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. E-mail her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheawilson7.