Epilogue—Piers Morgan v. Cronkite and Brinkley: Are ditto-heads born? Or are they made?
Surely, it’s a bit of both. We’re all inclined to pick and choose (and invent) our facts, supporting the tales we prefer. Until we train ourselves not to do this, it’s something we all tend to do.
That said, we ditto-heads get a lot of help on the road to perdition these days. Here was Catherine Crier, declaiming on last night's Ed Show and pushing a narrative forward:
SCHULTZ (4/12/12): The second-degree murder, is it going to be hard to get a conviction with this law on the books, from what you know on about the case?Is that actually true? Did the 911 operator tell Zimmerman to stay in his car? Yesterday, special prosecutor Angela Corey presented an affidavit giving her official account of this matter. This is the sequence Corey described in this official document:
CRIER: Well, it’s going to be interesting, because I certainly think that the special prosecutor has made a gutsy call. She could have gone for manslaughter. We all would have accepted it. But I think she was satisfied reviewing the evidence that not only did Neighborhood Watch say you don’t carry a gun; the 911 operator said, “Stay in your car.” There were only about five minutes from the time he ended that call until Trayvon Martin was dead on the ground.
COREY AFFIDAVIT (4/12/12): Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin. When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and that the responding officer would meet him. Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home.In Corey’s sequence, Zimmerman was already “out of his vehicle,” following on foot, when the dispatcher made his remark. But so what?
The story works better the other way, with Zimmerman told to remain in his car! Last night, we ditto-heads got to hear that story again. Crier repeated this much-preferred tale—and Big Eddie just let it go.
(For the record, Zimmerman says he began to return to his car when the dispatcher instructed him not to follow. We don’t know if that is true. We don't know if Corey's qaccount is right.)
People! In part, this is where ditto-heads come from! Yesterday morning, citizens got to read the more pleasing account in a New York Times editorial (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/12/12). Twelve hours later, watching Big Eddie, they heard this account once again. But so it has gone all through the past month as major “journalists” have advanced a stunning assortment of bogus facts about the Trayvon Martin case. (We're not even discussing their "logic.")
They claim they care about this case. But they don’t seem to care enough to honor us with real facts.
We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a case where so many bogus elemenary facts were invented and advanced so widely. And Crier isn’t some hapless shlub Big Eddie dragged in from the street.
Who the heck is Catherine Crier? Incredibly, she comes from the very top of the guild which serves as a successor to your country’s former press corps:
WIKIPEDIA: Crier began her TV career at CNN in 1989, where she co-anchored the programs Inside Politics ‘92 and The World Today. In 1992, ABC News hired her as a correspondent for ABC World News Tonight and the newsmagazine 20/20. After spending three and a half years with ABC News, Fox News Channel hired her to anchor The Crier Report, a live, nightly talk show. In 2000, Crier joined Court TV as host of Crier Today, a daily show concerning legal news, and in 2001, launched a new show, Catherine Crier Live. Catherine Crier Live ran for six years until it was cancelled on April 27, 2007. In 2004, she covered horse racing for ESPN/ABC Sports, which lasted one year.Let’s guess she managed to keep her facts straight when she was calling horse races! But Crier sat at the top of modern “broadcast news” for almost twenty years.
Last night, she rattled off an account of the facts which seems to be baldly inaccurate. But this is the norm among the guild which replaced the American press corps.
Just a guess: In part, Crier was on the air all those years because she was quite telegenic. Another guess: In part, Andrew Rosenthal is running the Times editorial page because he’s the son of a former Times honcho.
But this kind of performance is now the norm among the successors to our press corps. Bogus facts have been all around as this upper-class guild has pretended to cover the killing of Trayvon Martin.
In large part, this is where ditto-heads come from! Based on yesterday’s affidavit, let’s review the status of a few former facts—factual claims which were widely advanced in the past four weeks:
Concerning that alleged racial slur: In this official court document, Corey says that Zimmerman used the term “fucking punks” as he was pursuing Martin. For weeks, we liberals were assured, on our liberal “news programs,” that trusted pundits could hear him using a racial slur at that point.
Is Corey right in that assessment? We have no way of knowing. But it might be worth reviewing the way this assessment first came to light—or failed to.
On Thursday, April 5, CNN began reporting that Tom Owen of Owen Forensic Services had analyzed the 911 tape. He had concluded that the word in question was actually “punks.” CNN reported this in regular rotation for two straight days, on April 5 and 6.
On MSNBC, you were sheltered from such unwelcome ideas. According to Nexis, the claim that the word was actually “punks” was mentioned just once on The One True Liberal Channel, on April 5. (This refers to broadcasts from 5 PM on. MSNBC doesn’t provide transcripts for daytime shows.)
In this one fleeting reference, Al Sharpton quickly explained that the word “punks” was problematic too—and viewers weren’t told where this new claim had come from. “Now, someone comes out and say no, he didn’t use a racial word, he used the term punks,” Sharpton said.
MSNBC has repeatedly failed to broadcast news that interferes with its preferred story. In this way, liberals get turned into ditto-heads. On cable, this pattern was pioneered, then perfected, by Fox.
Concerning the expertise of our alleged audio experts: Is Corey right about the word “punks?” We have no way of knowing.
But in the past few weeks, we rubes were told that various experts had listened to that part of the tape. These “experts” reached all sorts of conclusions about what Zimmerman said.
One of these “experts” actually said that he couldn’t make out what Zimmerman said. (Good for him, we lustily cried.) But other “experts” said they could make out the word in question, thanks to their brilliant enhancement techniques. According to these various experts, Zimmerman said “fucking cold,” “fucking goons,” “fucking coons” or “fucking punks.”
How reliable are these “experts?” We don’t recall seeing any broadcaster state the obvious: Most of these “experts” had to be wrong! To this day, it may be that they all these “experts” were wrong. Yes, that could include Owen.
Who was yelling for help on the tape: In her affidavit, Corey says Martin can be heard yelling for help on the tape. Somewhat surprisingly, she sources this claim to Martin’s mother, who has “reviewed the 911 calls and identified the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin’s voice.”
Last night, legal experts noted the relative weakness of that identification. After all, George Zimmerman’s brother has reviewed the tapes; he says the voice is that of his brother. We have no idea why Corey cited Martin’s mother as the source for her judgment. For the record, Tom Owen told the Orlando Sentinel in late March that he had ruled out Zimmerman as the source of the cries, based on enhancement techniques.
Was Owen right about that? We have no idea. But you guessed it! MSNBC widely cited this earlier judgment by Owen, a judgment which fit their preferred story-line. Increasingly, MSNBC now functions like Fox News. You are allowed to hear the facts which support your preferred tribal story. You’re also allowed to hear lots of “facts” which aren’t actually true.
This is where ditto-heads come from. We have our own ditto-heads now!
Tribal war makes strange bedfellows: Is Angela Corey right in her judgments about this case? We have no idea; she included very little evidence in yesterday’s affidavit.
But it was odd to see Al Sharpton praising Corey so highly on Wednesday night. Corey may be perfectly right in her assessment of this case (or not). But how do we fiery liberals feel about the judgment she showed in the following case?
On Tuesday, Lizette Alvarez profiled Corey for the New York Times:
ALVAREZ (4/10/12): Many point to the contentious case of Cristian Fernandez as an example of overzealousness and a lapse in judgment. Cristian is charged with first-degree murder in the 2011 death of his 2-year-old half-brother, David. He was 12 at the time but is being tried as an adult. The boy is accused of slamming David's head into a bookcase while he was baby-sitting. If convicted, Cristian would serve life in prison without parole.The fiery liberals at MSNBC have had nothing to say about the fate of that 12-year-old child. Warning! Don’t confuse this case with the previous case of Lionel Tate, who was also tried for murder in Florida for an act he committed as a 12-year-old child, while pretending to be a pro wrestler.
But Cristian's short life has been marred by astonishing hardship. His mother was 12 when she gave birth to him, and he spent time in foster care and was abused repeatedly by his step-father, his lawyers have said. His mother also failed to take the unconscious David to the hospital for eight hours after the incident. She pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter.
The case, like Mr. Martin's, stirred outrage on social media and in the local community. ''Where is your compassion?'' was a common reaction, said Michael Hallett, chairman of the University of North Florida's criminology department, who recently published a study of Ms. Corey's record.
Who prosecuted that 12-year-old child? Tate was prosecuted and convicted by Ken Padowitz, who now serves as Al Sharpton’s trusted sidekick on cable TV.
Would these fiery Florida prosecutors have prosecuted 12-year-old white children? On MSNBC, no one is asking! But then, you’re being sold a TV show in which a pre-judgment has been rendered. Padowitz is part of the entertainment. Never mind the kind of judgment he may have shown in the past!
One final point: In that same profile, Alvarez explained how Corey was assigned to the Zimmerman case:
ALVAREZ: Ms. Corey was named special prosecutor in the Martin case after Norman Wolfinger, the state attorney for Seminole County, stepped aside on March 22 after coming under intense criticism for moving too slowly. The state's attorney general, Pam Bondi, who advised Gov. Rick Scott to choose Ms. Corey, said she considers her to be a role model and mentor.Corey’s judgments about this case may be perfectly accurate. That said, everyone knows how awful Scott is—and Bondi got famous on Fox, where she was cast in a standard role. On Fox, she served as one of cable TV’s young blonde former prosecutors, in whose mind every suspect is loudly assumed to be guilty.
We liberals used to complain about people like these! Now, they’re our trusted helpmates; they're widely praised because our tribe wants a conviction. But then, we have a new hit TV show, a TV show we very much like. These are the peculiar bedfellows in whose judgment we now place our trust.
Last night, Catherine Crier was at it again, enabled by Big Eddie. The previous night, Piers Morgan had continued his own profoundly embarrassing efforts concerning this case.
This is how ditto-heads get born. And they now get born in our tribe.
There was a time when people like these would not have been running “news” programs. Morgan is a former Murdoch hack. This is Wikipedia’s account of how he rose in this country:
WIKIPEDIA: Morgan branched into television mainly as a presenter, but has become best known as a judge or contestant in reality television programmes. In the UK, he was a judge on Britain's Got Talent. Morgan is best known in the United States as a judge on the show America's Got Talent, and as the winner of The Celebrity Apprentice. On 17 January 2011, he began hosting Piers Morgan Tonight for CNN in the timeslot occupied by Larry King Live before the retirement of host Larry King.His wife's last name is "Shalloe!" Tonight, you see this fellow on CNN, embarrassing himself as he tries to discuss the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Throughout 2006, Morgan appeared as a judge on the American television show America's Got Talent alongside Brandy Norwood and David Hasselhoff on NBC. Morgan was chosen by Simon Cowell as a replacement for himself because of the conditions of his American Idol contract. Morgan appeared as a celebrity contestant on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice in 2007, to raise money for Comic Relief. During filming, he and Alastair Campbell reduced fellow contestant Trinny Woodall to tears when they tried to sabotage her team's event, and were involved in a brawl with her. Upon his team losing, Morgan was selected by Sir Alan Sugar as the contestant to be fired.
Also in 2007, he appeared as a judge for the second season of America's Got Talent and also appeared as a judge on the British version of the show, Britain's Got Talent on ITV1, alongside Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell. He also presented You Can't Fire Me, I'm Famous on BBC One. In January 2008, Morgan fronted a three-part documentary about Sandbanks for ITV1 entitled Piers Morgan on Sandbanks.
Morgan was the winner of the U.S. celebrity version of The Apprentice, in 2008. The most memorable feature of the programme was the rowdy disagreements he had with fellow contestant Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth. This was resolved in Morgan's favour on 6 March, after her team was defeated by Morgan's in the biggest margin of victory in Apprentice history. Morgan ended up the overall winner, being named Celebrity Apprentice on 27 March, ahead of fellow finalist, American country music star, Trace Adkins (whom he surprised by kissing him on the cheek just moments after an on-air spat with Stallworth) and having raised substantially more cash than all the other contestants combined.
Shield the eyes of the children! Crier’s lack of journalistic skill is evident every time she appears. Big Eddie was a right-wing hack until 2000, when he flipped, becoming a hack for our side. (Sometimes, his work is informative.)
At one time, these people would not have been given major news forums. We would have been forced to get our news about this case from Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley and their correspondents.
Plainly, their work wasn’t perfect. Nor did they live to create ditto-heads (thus building market share), the way the way their successors do.