Right on schedule, someone writes a “They’re no angel” story about the United Airlines victim [Updated]

Update (April 11, 2017, 6:20 p.m. EDT): That beeping sound you’re hearing? That’s the sound of the Courier-Journal backing up and changing their story to be less of a hit piece. Read this post to the end for the update.

A screenshot of the Courier-Journal’s homepage, taken around 1:00 p.m. EDT today. They’ve since changed the headline.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the news story arc that takes place when people of color are hurt or killed by police or security forces, here’s a quick refresher:

  1. The story breaks,
  2. public outcry ensues, and…
  3. after a little dirt-digging, an often unrelated “victim was no angel” story arises.

We just hit part 3 of the arc thanks to the Louisville, Kentucky newspaper, the Courier-Journal, who published a hit piece titled David Dao, passenger removed from United flight, a doctor with a troubled past [They’ve since updated the story; I’m linking to a PDF of the original version]:

A screenshot of the Courier-Journal’s hit piece, taken around 1:00 p.m. EDT today. They’ve since changed it.

The first third of the article covers the original story: the unnecessary, cruel, and brutal “re-accommodation” of Dr. Dao, who refused to volunteer to leave his seat and take a flight the following afternoon in order to allow airline employees to deadhead to their scheduled work flight at the destination airport.

However, the following two thirds of the article is devoted to drug-related offenses for which the victim was convicted in 2004.

He lost his license to practice medicine in 2005 for being “involved in fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances and was sexually involved with a patient who used to work for his practice and assisted police in building a case against him”. He was placed on 5 years of supervised probation in 2005, and in 2015, was allowed to resume practicing medicine under certain conditions.

His debt to society has been paid, and for those of you not doing the math, those debts are for a conviction dating back 13 years. Or if you prefer, during Dubya’s first term as president. Or three years before the iPhone was announced, when the Motorola RAZR v3 was the hottest phone on the market. Or the year that Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his dorm room. Or when the series finale for Friends aired. That long ago.

His past has nothing to do with the beating, nor does it justify it, nor does it add any useful information to the story about the incident. But since Dao isn’t a Default Human Being, it was inevitable that someone would eventually bring up the “they’re no angel” defense.

The Courier-Journal changes its tune

They’ve revised the headline on their front page…

…and the story has a new title, and a less hit piece-like tone:

…but the Courier-Journal’s editor defended the decision to bring up Dao’s “troubled past”. To quote my friend Becca, “When people plant their flag on Asshole Hill, they seem really intent to die on it too.”

4 replies on “Right on schedule, someone writes a “They’re no angel” story about the United Airlines victim [Updated]”

The redone headline is an amazing piece of work.

“Passenger removed from United flight now in spotlight.”

“Why’s he in the spotlight?”

“Er… we wrote an article.”

“Which article?”

“Er… this one where we say he’s in the spotlight.”

[…] As the scandal over a United passenger who was beaten unconscious and dragged off a plane when he refused to give up his seat for a deadheading crewmember unspools, there’s a predictable torrent of bullshit about how United was in the right because something something private property, and let us not forget the great American sport of victim-blaming. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *