Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King's been accused of not handing over charity funding. As he points out truths, so do the victim families and supporters.
On Christmas Day, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King went from celebrating a family holiday to quickly gathering and posting receipts to counter alleged lies posted by the media. And even mainstream media's getting in on the controversy. Now he's decided to reveal documentation ahead of the intended January 2016 release by posting on his Medium account.
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2015's been a hard year for the activist, given the accusations of lying about an incident that caused him to miss “18 months of high school recovering from multiple spinal surgeries from the assault” and even his racial identity.
Mis-categorizing for clicks isn't uncommon in the modern press world. After all, advertisers pay by the click, not the content. In the new business models, those clicks are necessary to survive.
But in the meantime, many people who may otherwise not be so easily instrumentalized as bait are suddenly facing very real threats to their safety. Ask women. But with King, the problems go beyond the ugly stain on his personal life, and impact his professional presence.
Shaun King works as an advocate for Black Lives Matter because police brutality is very real for the black community. Lives are lost or destroyed with police willing to shoot first, questions later – if at all. Just last week, in Douglasville, Georgia police killed a private security guard who had just handled a hostage situation without resorting to violence.
His actions do matter to the lives of those effected. And sometimes ignoring the criticism doesn't work. A time to push back has been reached.
'spreading their stories on his platform'
According to King, The Daily Beast's Goldie Taylor and editors managed to “actually paraphrase white supremacist stories written about my work without actually doing her own due diligence.” The smearing campaign started at right-wing news organizations like Breitbart right after the Black Lives Matter movement pushed to the forefront at Michael Brown's murder.
In fact, questions on his racial identity ended up debunked by Snopes. “Major companies make money off of running negative stories about me”. Perpetuation of the click bait method.
Unlike the newspapers of the 1800s, social media can either be a boon or a curse for people online. It's easy to make cash on lies and to perpetuate through promoting the lies for profit. And the Daily Beast one-upped their own system by misrepresenting Shaun King's work in Black Lives Matter with a co-created nonprofit called Justice Together. Taylor and her editors insinuated and then claimed all the money raised went towards his salary.
But it hasn't.
King provided proof after proof that each time he used social media to raise money for others in need, like Tamir Rice's family or Monroe Bird's mounting medical bills and funeral. The money was never accessible to King. Lawyers and accountants of the various groups have continuously defended him on social media—offering facts. But that doesn't matter since he helped the black community raise $732,181.83 since August 2014.
Taylor notes in the article to have “long been aware of the suspicions some harbor about how he manages charitable donations” and has “groused privately about the veracity of some of his reporting.” The editor-at-large privately told King that she didn't agree with the piece, yet kept promoting the article publicly. If one actor is called into question, then the other must be as well.
The stories does more than smear King. It also casts doubts upon grieving families. A fact that the Morehouse College alum references as victim's families face a bombardment of messages on social media. When clickbait and rhetoric work together, the echo chamber can become deafening.
Law firm Parks/Crump specifically states “Shaun helped these families by spreading their stories on his platform (on his own accord), to which a significant amount of contributions came in.” Social influencer is an often derided term, but in the case of the activist, it fits. His involvement amplifies a message and provides for those in need.
'free speech central'
Critics and trolls are commenting on the article, asking how he survives with no compensation. But King answered the questions in the piece: he works hard at his job while being a graduate student. Money may not be flowing in like a presidential candidate but both he and his wife work hard to keep their life moving forward.
The rhetoric used to cast doubt, like a police officer assigning race to an emergency victim, is an effective tool at feeding a frenzy of neoconservatism. Not just the conservatism of a specific political party, but in general. Controversy sells and the digital age of online gossip rags has arrived.
Yet as King dismantles the power of the words, providing receipts, critics are doubling down. Sites like Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and yes, The Daily Beast have found a golden ticket for ad revenue and attention.
One such critic is Milo Yiannopoulos, tech editor on Breitbart. He's is no stranger to controversy and sees the advantages to his career. Liking being a one-time leader in GamerGate, an anti-social movement with ties to white supremacist groups that regularly harasses and threatens women online.
The editor told Bloomberg News “every big controversy on the Internet is about libertarians vs. authoritarians.” Except if the libertarians are trying to rule the liberals, doesn't that make them the authoritarians?
“Breitbart is going to be free speech central” bodes ill for those who know and represent Constitutional law. Freedom of speech does not allow citizens to incite with the intent to harm others. And a defendant must prove that the intended speech was meant to cause harm.
Given the numerous articles focusing on and misrepresenting proven fund donation, evidence points to a possible victory if King does pursue the “defamation lawsuits against every person and outlet who has egregiously reported that I have done anything wrong with funds in this movement.”
'get out of the way'
Last month, King closed Justice Together and refunded all the funds back to individual donors, regardless of preference. An act meant to prove the registered nonprofit never provided any funding for the activist's personal needs as taking care of the organization proved unwieldy while balancing private life, professional life, and meeting education goals.
“It was my decision to shut down these efforts and to get out of the way for the great women and men who are continuing the hard work on the ground for the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Based in Atlanta, he mentions that a respected member of The King Center, Vonetta West, and donor Mathew Poldberg attested to the returned funds. It's difficult to run a nonprofit when being pulled in many directions. He pushed for the donors to use the returned funds in community efforts like Black Lives Matter to help build a sustainable model in the civil rights movement.
None of the money ever went to his account. He never received compensation for appearing and speaking at major universities known for paying speakers. Morehouse, Georgia Tech, Spelman College, and Yale Law School all received his experience for free. Just like he consulted with charities and appeared national and international television news stations about the movement for free.
Working at the New York Daily News as the Senior Justice Writer, the implications are staggering on all levels. It effects his ability to care and foster for his children (including nieces and nephews), casts doubt on his efforts as a civil rights activist, and slings mud at his own experiences.
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The only way for activists like Shaun King to counteract the accusations is to provide proof. Whether people believe or not is out of the hands of the accused. With some, like those who make their money on his name, it may not matter either way. It's all about controversy selling in the age of cash for clicks.