Racism at Fenway Park

Fans in the stands at Fenway Park in Boston unveiled a banner at yesterday’s baseball game. Here’s a picture.

A news story about the incident

Here’s a story about it:

“Alt-right” activists unveil banner at Fenway

September 13, 2017

In the middle of the fourth inning of the Red Sox-Athletics game on Wednesday night, a sign was unfurled from the front row of Section 6 of Fenway Park’s Monster Seats.

“Racism is as American as baseball,” it read.

The sign remained visible for approximately two minutes before security personnel removed both the sign and four people — all white men between the ages of 40 and 66 – from Fenway Park.

Police said the protestors identified themselves as members of the “Alt-right.” According to Alex Kowalski, a fan who was sitting in the seats next to the where the banner was hung, “They were spouting nonsense about America’s European heritage and the rights of white people.”

A website for a group taking responsibility for the action posted a message about it, including the sentiment, “The races in America are unequal. It’s time we admitted it.”

According to a statement issued by the team, four people were removed from Fenway for violating “the club’s policy prohibiting signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark.”

Another news story about the incident

Here’s a different perspective:

Green Monster protesters make big league statement

September 13, 2017

The Green Monster sported a massive “Racism is American as baseball” banner last night as guerrilla activists staged a fourth-inning protest last night in the latest race-related incident at Fenway Park.

Four protesters were ejected, telling ballpark security on the way out that the message was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. No charges were filed, and the four left the stadium without further incident.

“During the fourth inning of tonight’s game, four fans unfurled a banner over the left field wall in violation of the club’s policy prohibiting signs of any kind of be hung or affixed to the ballpark,” the Red Sox said in a released statement. “The individuals involved were escorted out of Fenway Park.”

Immediately after the final out in the top of the fourth inning, the banner was draped near the middle of the Green Monster. It remained until just before the bottom of the inning, when ballpark security confiscated the banner and broomed the activists.

“We see Boston continually priding itself as a kind of liberal, not racist city, and are reminded also constantly that it’s actually an extremely segregated city,” the protester said. “It has been for a long time, and that no white people can avoid the history of racism, essentially. So, we did this banner as a gesture towards that, to have a conversation about that.”

What is the truth?

One of these stories is true and appeared in a Boston newspaper. The other one is fake news, I made it up.

Which one do you think is true? Don’t read on until you’ve chosen one.

Here’s what I think is going on with this picture and how people see it.

Boston has a history of racism. Fans have shouted racist taunts at black outfielders in Fenway Park. So this incident occurs in a racially charged context.

The moment you read this banner, the blood rushes to your head. The word “racism” is emotionally charged. All people of color in America have experienced it. And virtually all white people feel it does not apply to them. So the moment you see the words “racism” and “America” on a banner, you become incensed at the people who posted it, bringing racial politics into a baseball game.

So you hate and resent the banner.

If you tend more towards white guilt, you may think the protestors are like those in Charlottesville, and this is a banner created in favor of racism. You believe the first story, that racists posted the banner to justify their views.

If you tend more towards suspicion of liberal entitlement, you may think the protestors are Black Lives Matter people attempting to draw attention to their perception of racism and running down the values of America. You believe the second story, that Black Lives Matter sympathizers posted the banner.

This banner is like a Rorschach test for your vision of America. The truth shouldn’t depend on what you believe, but too often, these days, it does.

Who actually posted the banner? To find out, read this story in the Boston Herald.

Photo: Boston Globe.

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  1. It wasn’t really a Rorschach test in the way it was presented here.

    The first story, because it is presented as a real story upfront then taints how one reads the second. If upfront the post were to say that there are two stories, one real and one fake the reader would approach each with an open mind. As the post did not do that, I took the first one to be real because my experience with this site is that you post real news. Then reading on I assumed that the second was an alternative view that was trying to account for or skew what I had assumed was a real news account.

  2. I honestly think there are too many signals here. I don’t ever believe a news story is 100% true, especially when I have no outside context. None of the suggested conclusions comes close to the position I hold. I don’t believe that a sense of liberal entitlement has to come from a conservative stance. As such, I believe that I can hold belief in liberal entitlement, and white guilt, be a supporter of Black Lives Matter, and believe that BLM protestors put up the poster. I never thought that such a poster would be put up by someone with a white supremacist mindset, since the phrasing has been popular among liberal-leaning people for some time now.

    This is complicated by the fact that I was also looking at each “news article” carefully for soft markers of fake news. I concluded the first one was the fake one by the end of the lede. But it’s hard to determine whether I thought it was fake because I immediately recognized that the poster was more in line with a liberal viewpoint, or because the lede in the first story just didn’t come off like I’d been taught to write ledes.

    I think this prompts an interesting discussion over the analysis of conflicting news coverage, but perhaps not in the way indicated. Personally, I believe it’s an opportunity to discuss, in depth, how people use various indicators to determine what they believe is true and what they believe is false. Of course, I’m also not clear on your motives. You claimed that one is true and one is fake news, instead of saying that one was published and you made up the other one. I’m confident you know as well as I do that true/fake news is a false dichotomy. I’m also not sure if you put up three fairly two-dimensional reactions with the expectation that almost everyone would disagree with you, and therefore bring up the larger meta-topic originally. And if that was your intent, then well played, sir.

    1. You say “I concluded the first one was fake by the end of the lede.”

      I cribbed the first one directly from this story in the Boston Globe:


      The lede that you found fake was right there in the Globe. I changed the title and the gender and age of the participants and added a quote from a made-up person. Other than that it’s an article from from the biggest newspaper in Boston.

      My only intention was to make people think a bit more.

      1. I thought about that, too. I said I concluded I was right, and not that I knew I was right for sure, simply because I’m not always right. I’m not a regular reader of either publication, so familiarity with a writer’s tone or a publication’s general style couldn’t have helped me. One thing that this exercise clarified for me was that I was taught two different ways to write a lede. Now I’m considering why I tend to think one is more credible than the other.