The New York Times’ latest hapless professor!

TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2013

Intellectual norms tumbling down: Over the past thirty years, our society’s intellectual norms have been falling way down.

By now, our various tribes get to make up their facts. Routinely, the simplest logic is discarded as our tribes tell preferred tales.

You can see this process on cable—but you can also see it unfold in the New York Times. Consider the latest op-ed column from the Times’ latest hapless professor.

Ekow Yankah is a professor at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law. Having read his column today, we find that fact unsettling.

Yankah makes some sane suggestions at the end of his piece—sane suggestions the average undergraduate could advance. Unfortunately, these sane suggestions have nothing to do with the subject of his column, “The Truth About Trayvon.”

“Ignore the lawyers,” the sub-headline says. “This case was always about race.”

What does Yankah mean by that? Because his column is murky throughout, it’s somewhat hard to tell.

He seems to mean that Zimmerman acted on the basis of race. He may mean that the jury made its judgments that way too.

In the end, his column makes almost no sense—and the New York Times couldn’t see that. So it goes as society's standards keep getting dumbed way down.

Yankah starts with a murky complaint about a basic element of our legal system. His highlighted claim is dramatic, but a bit unclear:
YANKAH (7/16/13): Lawyers on both sides argued repeatedly that this case was never about race, but only whether prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman was not simply defending himself when he shot Mr. Martin. And, indeed, race was only whispered in the incomplete invocation that Mr. Zimmerman had “profiled” Mr. Martin. But what this case reveals in its overall shape is precisely what the law is unable to see in its narrow focus on the details.

The anger felt by so many African-Americans speaks to the simplest of truths: that race and law cannot be cleanly separated. We are tired of hearing that race is a conversation for another day. We are tired of pretending that “reasonable doubt” is not, in every sense of the word, colored.
It’s hard to tell what the highlighted statement means, although, admittedly, it’s dramatic. Does Yankah mean that juries bring considerations of race to their assessments that “reasonable doubt” (or its absence) blocks (or permits) a conviction?

Yankah never really explains his dramatic statement. It’s true, of course, that juries are sometimes swayed by racial feeling or racial perceptions. The jury system isn’t perfect. Juries are influenced in all sorts of ways as they reach their judgments.

By the end of his piece, Yankah is making a few mundane suggestions about some ways we could eliminate types of racial injustice from the legal system. He makes a few other suggestions which are hard to parse.

But as he continues from the passage we’ve quoted, Yankah offers his basic view of the killing of Martin and the Zimmerman verdict. In this passage, he speculates about Zimmerman’s conduct that night:
YANKAH (continuing directly): Every step Mr. Martin took toward the end of his too-short life was defined by his race. I do not have to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is a hate-filled racist to recognize that he would probably not even have noticed Mr. Martin if he had been a casually dressed white teenager.

But because Mr. Martin was one of those “punks” who “always get away,” as Mr. Zimmerman characterized him in a call to the police, Mr. Zimmerman felt he was justified in following him. After all, a young black man matched the criminal descriptions, not just in local police reports, but in those most firmly lodged in Mr. Zimmerman’s imagination.
Would Zimmerman “even have noticed...a casually dressed white teenager?” There is no way to answer that question, which makes it tribally pleasing. But please note something Yankah does as he enacts the tribal prerogative:

In that passage, Yankah disappears the conduct Zimmerman described in his phone call to the Sanford police. He disappears Zimmerman’s description of the ways in which Martin was said to be behaving strangely.

Was Martin behaving oddly that night? Like Yankah, we have no earthly way of knowing. Unlike Yankah, we don’t want to discard the parts of the story, the possibilities, our tribal cohort won’t like.

But alas! As our society’s standards fall, this is increasingly the way our tribes proceed. In this case, a hapless professor rewrites events to make them fit the tribal preference, and the New York Times lets him do it.

Part of Zimmerman’s story is disappeared as Yankah advances his speculation. This makes it easier to claim or suggest that his reaction to Martin was purely racial.

Again and again, our own tribe’s leaders have behaved this way as they’ve discussed that evening’s events. Note how far Yankah is willing to go as he plays readers this way.

As he continues, Yankah asks us to “imagine” something that could happen. Imagining things can be good solid fun, of course, especially when we’re allowed to imagine events in highly selective ways.

At this point, Yankah’s column gets very dumb. If the professor is competent, this passage is also dishonest:
YANKAH (continuing directly): Whether the law judges Trayvon Martin’s behavior to be reasonable is also deeply colored by race. Imagine that a militant black man, with a history of race-based suspicion and a loaded gun, followed an unarmed white teenager around his neighborhood. The young man is scared, and runs through the streets trying to get away. Unable to elude his black stalker and, perhaps, feeling cornered, he finally holds his ground—only to be shot at point-blank range after a confrontation.

Would we throw up our hands, unable to conclude what really happened? Would we struggle to find a reasonable doubt about whether the shooter acted in self-defense? A young, white Trayvon Martin would unquestionably be said to have behaved reasonably, while it is unimaginable that a militant, black George Zimmerman would not be viewed as the legal aggressor, and thus guilty of at least manslaughter.
How about it? In the case that Yankah imagines, “would we throw up our hands, unable to conclude what really happened? Would we struggle to find a reasonable doubt about whether the shooter acted in self-defense?”

Quite possibly not! But in part, that’s because Yankah has disappeared the parts of the Zimmerman case which helped produce reasonable doubt.

Please. Putting both thumbs and his knees on the scale, Yankah imagines a young white man “finally holding his ground—only to be shot at point-blank range after a confrontation.”

Trayvon Martin was “shot at point-blank range,” just like this imagined white teen. But my! How our professor cleans up the “confrontation” which preceded the shooting!

What helped create reasonable doubt in the Zimmerman case? These elements, all of which have been disappeared from this professor’s imagined account:

Zimmerman says he was sucker-punched by Martin.
Zimmerman sustained injuries before the shooting occurred. Martin did not.
The eyewitness with the best access told police that he saw Martin wailing away at Zimmerman, MMA style, in the moments before the gunshot.


In his imagined account of that white teenager, Yankah imagines several things which aren’t known to have occurred in the Zimmerman-Martin event. He imagines that the white teen-ager is “trying to get away” from the militant black man. He imagines that the white teen-ager only decides to hold his ground when he is “unable to elude his black stalker.”

It isn’t known that Martin behaved in those ways; the professor is simply imagining. Beyond that, he disappears several things which are known to have occurred.

He disappears Zimmerman’s injuries. He disappears What John Good Said.

Is Professor Yankah competent? If so, he’s being dishonest today. So too with the editor who decided to publish this crap.

But alas! This is the way pseudo-liberal elites have routinely behaved as they pretend to reconstruct the events of that evening. They imagine events not known to have happened. They disappear events that did occur.

Lord, how good it makes the tribe feel when our leaders deceive us this way! In the end, it only means that our moral standards are being dumbed way down.

85 comments:

  1. Imagine that a militant black man, with a history of race-based suspicion and a loaded gun, followed an unarmed white teenager around his neighborhood. The young man is scared, and runs through the streets trying to get away

    Now that you've wasted a few moments imagining something for no good reason, let's imagine the same facts in the Zimmerman case but with the races reversed.

    Black neighborhood watchman with a history of calling in suspicious people, some of whom turned out to be HOME INVADERS in his neighborhood. Black Zimmerman takes a sliding door lock to his neighbor after her home was invaded by black teens as she held her baby. Black Zimmerman calls SPD and stays on the phone describing white hoodied person standing between houses in the rain, aimlessly, at the same house previously burglarized. Black Zimmerman leaves his truck, still on the phone, staying on the phone for 2 minutes discussing addresses and saying the suspect (yes, suspect is the proper use of the English language) ran. Cops come on the scene and black Zimmerman is beaten, his screams were recorded, there is an eyewitness telling the same story he tells police at the same time without knowledge of witnesses' stories.

    Black Zimmerman would NEVER have been charged, and MSNBC would not show photos of white Trayvon as a 12 year old, would not lie for weeks about the evidence, race hustlers would not pull their usual bullshit.

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    1. Additionally, don't forget white Trayvon has four minutes to get home, doesn't run away "scared", hides in the darkness until he can size up black Zimmerman, and attacks him.

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    2. Jeantel testified that Martin told her he was at home when he called her on his cell phone. That suggests he went home then went out again to confront Zimmerman. Or he lied to her, or she was confused -- although she says she asked him where he was and that was what he told her.

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    3. Quaker in a BasementJuly 16, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      Jeantel testified that Martin told her he was at home when he called her on his cell phone

      At home. Almost home. Same thing, right?

      Delete
  2. I read the column and was just amazed, but these last days I have been continually amazed at the anti-judicial, anti-democratic remarks that are being made from supposedly educated people who are evidently not at all educated about our democracy.

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    1. They're educated, but also insane.

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  3. The destructive Al Sharpton being Al Sharton:

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2013/07/16/us/politics/ap-us-neighborhood-watch-sharpton.html

    July 16, 2013

    Sharpton to Rally in 100 Cities Over Martin Death
    By ASSOCIATED PRESS

    WASHINGTON — The Rev. Al Sharpton says there will be vigils and rallies in 100 cities this weekend to press for federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman....

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  4. There he goes again:

    "Would Zimmerman “even have noticed...a casually dressed white teenager?” There is no way to answer that question, which makes it tribally pleasing.".

    It is very hard not to wish something bad would happen to this blogger.

    He must be frustrated that Hannity, Coulter et al. have taken the (lucrative) talking head slots that would match his natural ideology. I suspect 90 pct of his writings consists of gnawing on (well paid) "liberals" and the rest would be about the enormous injustice done to Al Gore.

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    1. Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you.

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    2. A better understanding of how citizens are misled can still be learned, even if that learning paints some personalities that you like as less than honest.

      It seems that there are many things that are very hard.

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    3. "It is very hard not to wish something bad would happen to this blogger."

      What an incredibly sick and hateful remark. Unfortunately this is not all that unusual among certain types who become enraged when it's pointed out to them that the facts don't fit their preferred narrative.

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    4. All fine and dandy : But here is a prediction.

      This gentleman is a raging winger at heart and is going to do a David Horowitz one of these days (he was a radical leftist in the late 60s - early 70s and is now a hard right conservative who asks college students to rat out their "liberal" professors.)

      The neo-confederacy is still a clear and present danger to civil society and all this gentleman can do is to nit-pick liberals and snark about how much money they are making.

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    5. Sickening troll, go to hell.

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    6. @ Anon 12:00 and 12:30,

      Yours are the most disgraceful posts I've ever seen in TDH comments.

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    7. No; I speak truth.

      Has the blogger expressed ONE IOTA of regret that TM's life was snuffed out the way it was?

      Legally yes - a jury has spoken and Z is now a free man. But why is the blogger ONLY using the case to bash "liberals" and refusing to talk what young black males face in this society?

      I'll be so honest to say that if I were alone on a dark street and heard footsteps behind me and turned around, I'd prefer to see Z rather than young TM.

      But that doesn't change the fact that Z committed a deeply immoral dastardly act and this blogger seems to be orgasmically joyful to defend his act, because it annoys "liberals".

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    8. Every word this crazed trolls writes is steeped in vicious malicious lying.

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    9. Anon 1230,

      About your prediction--I think you're probably correct. The tough thing would be some sort of objective confirmation. Since our host declares that his rants against liberals are only meant as helpful media criticism, it's not likely we will see an open admission of a full David Horowitz flip.

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    10. Thanks Anon 1:57.

      I used to read him along with Coulter et al. with the same morbid fascination we have for car-wrecks - but just as I can't bear to go to Drudge's site any more, I think I am done with our esteemed host. By the way - look for the "indignation gap" in his writings (a phrase introduced by the execrable Dinesh D'Souza) - the visceral venom for "liberals" accompanied by inevitable non-sequiturs about their income - compare that with the almost reverential mild criticisms he occasionally has for Hannity or O'Reilly.

      He does write well - all he needs is an opening from Fox or the Koch brothers or some such entity and he'll drop his transparent pretences in a jiffy and start being true to himself.

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    11. Don't pretend you're going away; don't tell us you'll go away -- just go away. We'll miss you, terribly. SCRAM!

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    12. From "counterpunch"

      "Zimmerman pursued Martin. This is a fact. Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back."

      Thats the missing piece of the puzzle - totally missed by the white prosecuting team (it is also possible that they wanted to lose).

      Z put TM in a "no-win" situation.

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    13. Anonymous on 7/16/13 @ 4:29P,

      That's some powerful piece of narrative you've got there.

      Every black man knows. Wow. I hope there's some some obscure literary quarterly you can submit this to.

      Every black man knows that creepy crackers are armed and will shoot you in the back if you run, so it's much better to get into a wrestling match with one?

      Did Z draw his gun before the struggle with M? Did M even know Z was armed?

      I'm not saying that M didn't have every right to confront Z in a public place, and I'm not saying that M didn't have every right to defend himself if he reasonably felt threatened. But Z didn't "put" M anywhere.

      Except at the tragic end.

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    14. Zimmerman reported to the dispatcher that the suspect was running away. Jeantel states that Martin told her he would walk fast instead. Either way, there are two sources of confirmation that he went in the opposite direction from Zimmerman. When the dispatcher asks if Zimmerman is following, Martin needs to be moving away in order for that to occur. Zimmerman says yes and the dispatcher says "we don't need you to do that" and he says OK and based on the background noises seems to have stopped.

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    15. Deadrat

      "Every black man knows that creepy crackers are armed and will shoot you in the back if you run, so it's much better to get into a wrestling match with one?"

      Which part of "no-win situation" don't you understand?

      You at least seem to be partly human (as opposed to our esteemed host who might need institutionalization if a lucrative right-wing talking head slot doesn't turn up soon) for recognizing what happened was tragic.

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    16. Anonymous on 7/16/13 @ 9:44P,

      The part where Zimmerman has the opportunity and power to dictate to Martin exactly two alternatives -- run and get shot in the back or stand and get shot in the chest.

      Actually, it's not a matter of not understanding your claim; it's just a matter of pointing out that it's narrative and not fact. As is speculating about what every black man in the country knows.

      Partly human; partly rat. That's me.

      Clear now?

      Delete
  5. "Would Zimmerman “even have noticed...a casually dressed white teenager?”

    Definitely so if white teenagers were the ones caught breaking into homes like savages terrorizing young women with children, and probably so even if they weren't.

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    1. Viewed from a passing car, at 7 pm in the rain, with the hoodie up, how salient is race? Martin's location and behavior would have been more noticeable than his face (skin color). Zimmerman testified that he looked for black suspects in the previous burglary because that was the witness description given by the woman who was in the home at the time. Also Zimmerman did not volunteer the race of the suspect to the dispatcher and only mentioned after being explicitly asked. The MSNBC excerpt was edited to omit the dispatcher's question and make it appear that Zimmerman called Martin black spontaneously. MSNBC has apologized and fire the staff responsible for this. It is just part of the smears against Zimmerman brought in support of the preferred racial narrative. Bob isn't making this up.

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    2. Yes, and one more thing: Zimmerman at first said "He looks black," not that he was. When Martin approached Zimmerman he then said that Martin was black w/o qualifying his remark, which would seem to indicate that he was now sure whereas he wasn't before. That alone calls the presumption that Zimmerman was acting out of racism into question.

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    3. Good point Brain. That will be helpful if there is any civil rights action by this nauseating administration who decided to further inflame the insane anti Zimmerman lynch mob by referring to the shooting of Martin as "unnecessary."

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    4. It's really unnecessary to imply, as you're doing 12:48, that the shooting of Martin was "necessary."

      That's sick, and the kind of rhetorical assistance I'm sure H.B. and Somerby find as repulsive as I do.

      A jury finding that Zimmerman can't be reasonably believed to have acted with malice and depraved intent is not the same as claiming Martin's death was necessary. Grotesque. Are you trying to out-do mch?

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    5. Self defense presumes the death was NECESSARY to prevent serious bodily injury or death.

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    6. (correction, the shooting)

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    7. Nice save, Anonymous on 7/16/13 @ 6:08P and 6:09P,

      Self defense presumes that physical forces was necessary, and death thereby doesn't make criminally liable a defender who hasn't provoked the confrontation.

      That's a far cry from the necessity of Martin's death. In hindsight, it seems more than possible that Z would have merely lost a fist fight. The law doesn't require that Z wait to find out any more than it deems M's death necessary.

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    8. Sometimes merely losing in a fight results in brain damage or death to the loser. A sucker punch isn't a fist fight. For it to be a fist fight, Zimmerman needed to have been fighting back. There is no evidence that was occurring. There IS evidence he was taking a beating that included head injury.

      In boxing matches when a fighter is no longer defending himself they stop the match in order to prevent serious injury, and they use padded gloves and mouth pieces as protective gear.

      Delete
  6. It is very hard not to wish something bad would happen to this blogger.

    Typical deeply disturbed white tribal liberal

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  7. Zimmerman says, Zimmerman says.... Obviously, some people do not share Mr. S's faith in what Zimmerman says. Or in the decisiveness of John Wood's testimony or Z's injuries.

    People may object to the argumentation in Professor Yankah's piece, but I would suggest that to characterize him dismissively as one of those "pseudo-liberal elites" Mr. S loves to demonize will not advance public discourse about this case or about the larger issues Professor Yankah is chiefly interested in raising -- larger issues that Mr. S claims to care about in other posts, when he discusses education and appeals to the years he taught in Baltimore's schools to assure us how much he really cares.

    It may interest Mr. S to know that the "pseudo-elite" Professor Yankah teaches criminal law to students who then start to practice it in clinics like the Innocence Project and the Criminal Defense clinic, and many of whom then go on to become prosecutors as well as defense lawyers. Oh, those lazy good-for-nothing pseudo-elites who know so little about the travails of the young people Mr. S taught in Baltimore many years ago, who merely devote their whole lives to the people Mr. S spent a few years with....

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    1. "Zimmerman says, Zimmerman says.... Obviously, some people do not share Mr. S's faith in what Zimmerman says. Or in the decisiveness of John Wood's testimony or Z's injuries."

      Jurors are permitted to take Zimmerman's statements with a grain of salt, but they cannot legitimately disregard witness testimony or physical evidence (supporting Zimmerman's injuries and Martin's injuries or lack thereof). It is intellectually dishonest to pick and choose the facts you like to fit the narrative you prefer. That is the crux of your problem here.

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    2. mch,

      What about the larger issue of innocent until proven guilty? Your mocking of what a defendent's account is shows that you have little interest in this larger issue. Be careful what you wish for, if you think general racial societal issues trump presumption of innocence.

      Delete
    3. mch,

      Zimmerman has told a consistent story that overwhelmingly matches the known evidence especially the police recording and his injuries versus Martin's. The anti-Zimmermans have made multiple factual claims that have turned out to be BS. Zimmerman was not brought in for questioning! He was. He was allowed to keep his gun! He wasn't. He was allowed to keep his clothes! He wasn't and, of course the grass stains on his back supports Zimmerman's side of the story. Treyvon Martin was just an innocent kid! Sure, an innocent kid on his third school suspension for drug possession whose text messages showed that he was into guns.

      And the anit-Zs have persistently left out information that makes Trayvon Martin the obviously guilty party. Trayvon was unarmed! Unarmed after breaking Z's nose and pounding his head into the sidewalk thus using it as a blunt object.

      I am a liberal and I am so appalled and disgusted by the behavior of my own tribe. I thought we were the enlightened ones. I thought we were the ones who cared about facts. I thought it was right wing boobies who had to support their irrational belief system with a bunch of made up shit and reality denying.

      We are assholes, we are assholes, we are assholes.

      Fuck me.

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    4. Or in the decisiveness of John Wood's testimony or Z's injuries.

      People like you put more faith in the testimony of the state idiot ME than the top pathologist in the country who said paramedics were negligent in not transporting Zim to have his head injuries evaluated at a hospital.

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    5. "The narrative I prefer...." And what would that be? I do not have a preferred narrative for Zimmerman's killing of Martin. I really don't, and have never participated in the arguments here about the evidence in this case, except to acknowledge that the jury probably rendered a fair verdict, given Florida law, the judge's instructions, and the evidence they were presented in court.

      That you (and others here) should presume that I have a preferred narrative perhaps suggests that you are being infected by Mr. S's, and many commenters', anger, whatever the source of that anger, and are falling into the trap of locating in "pseudo-elite liberals" an object at which to direct that anger -- what I was referring to when I used the word "demonize" in my first comment.

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    6. You have stated repeatedly that you do not believe anything Zimmerman says. Your preferred narrative is that he is a liar -- something the media has worked hard to put across. Like it or not, you do have a narrative.

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    7. Maybe the confusion is caused by your consistent criticism of Somerby and his supporters for accurately pointing out others inaccuracies and your weaselly writing style.

      "People may object to the argumentation in Professor Yankah's piece, but I would suggest that to characterize him dismissively as one of those "pseudo-liberal elites" Mr. S loves to demonize will not advance public discourse about this case or about the larger issues Professor Yankah is chiefly interested in raising..."

      You show absolutely no concern that Prof Yankah demonstrably distorted reality in order to make his case against Zimmerman. Instead you criticize Bob for "demonizing" critics. This makes no sense. Bobs point is and always has been that you can't have intelligent discourse w/o a basic respect for facts.

      And what we have seen with the Zimmerman case is a media lynch mob determined regardless of the evidence, to paint him as an evil, racist stalker/murderer of innocent black folk who is completely responsible for Martin's death. Apparently the degree to which Zimmerman has been demonized doesn't concern you either.

      The facts overwhelming show that Martin was the criminal aggressor, not Zimmerman. Apparently, if a group of people persistently fail at their jobs no one is supposed to call them on it as a group or, according to you, that's demonizing.

      I really have to wonder what it is you think you're accomplishing.

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    8. PS: One more thing. If you're not on the other side why are you defending Prof. Yankah's blatantly prejudiced anti-Zimmer piece?

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    9. Anonymous at 1:25, please cite one time I have written here (or said or written anywhere) that I do not believe anything Z says. I think you are practicing precisely what Mr. S regularly inveighs against, mis-stating facts and jumping to conclusions.

      And of course I "have a narrative." It is impossible for anyone not to. But it is not the narrative you attribute to me.

      Many of the comments here, like Mr. S's posts on the Z/M case, are rather remarkable for their anger -- anger unlike any I find in the actual liberal sites I visit or their comment sections, or in conversations with actual liberals I know. (In fact, I'd use the word sadness rather than anger to characterize most liberal reaction.) For an example of that anger, see Anonymous below: "The EFFORT the race agitating lynch mob puts in to ignoring MAJOR facts of this case including the entire beating of Zimmerman by Martin is fascinating. And disgusting." The "race agitating lynch mob"? Wow! Or the the Anonymous comment above, "It is very hard not to wish something bad would happen to this blogger."

      There seems to be no way to assuage the anger that some people feel toward the "tribe" of "pseudo-elite liberals" and that Mr. S almost gleefully fans. I used to overlook his bitterness and anger, but the kinds of comments he has been attracting with his Z/M posts make me no longer able to do so. He is fanning hatred no less than do Rush Limbaugh et al. I am afraid that a post about Toshi Seeger's death, with a link to an Elizabeth Cotten interview, does not rescue Mr. S from responsibility for the anger and hatred he has been fanning in his Z/M posts.

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    10. HB, "If you're not on the other side why are you defending Prof. Yankah's blatantly prejudiced anti-Zimmer piece?" And what am I trying to accomplish?

      I am trying to get you and others to stop thinking in terms like "the other side" (might there be more than two sides here? many sides? nuances to consider?) and "blatantly prejudiced" (again, an inaccurate and even inflammatory characterization of Yankah's op-ed, and certainly an incomplete summary of it). And I think I am also trying to get people here to ask themselves why they are so angry -- what they are really angry about, and if they are directing their anger at its proper object.

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    11. mch,

      This shall be my last response to you as I have other more fruitful things to do. This is like the Dead Parrot sketch and you are the Michael Palin character.

      Like it or not there are two sides here. One thinks Zimmerman is guilty. The other side thinks he was being railroaded. In asking that we stop thinking that way you are asking us to deny reality. It's like trying to be balanced by declaring that we're being unreasonable because we refuse to consider the possibility that Martin may not be dead but just resting.

      And of course you refuse to discuss the details of the case or take any kind of stand about factual reality.

      Saying, as Yankah does, "I do not have to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is a hate-filled racist to recognize that he would probably not even have noticed Mr. Martin if he had been a casually dressed white teenager." is blatantly prejudiced as one cannot make a statement like that w/o presuming racism on Zimmerman's part. This is especially true given that Martin's behavior was genuinely suspicious in a neighborhood that had experienced a series of burglaries. You can insist that it's not prejudiced all you like just as Palin insisted that the parrot wasn't dead. It was still dead.

      We are angry because a man has been persecuted and continues to be treated as a monster despite overwhelming evidence that he was innocent--the same evidence that you so piously and I would say cravenly refuse to discuss. (Because, once we discuss the facts your pretense about nuance falls apart.) We are angry about people who consider themselves enlightened and who get paid handsomely for being in-your-face incompetents (and who infuriatingly are among the most prominent representatives of my side of the political spectrum) acting like the lead fuckwits at a witch trial. You have demonstrated no nuance. You have shown no deeper meaning. All you have done is deny the problem.

      Until you can go through specific facts of the case to compare reality to claims about reality or specific claims by Bob or others and show how they are factually or logically flawed, if you just criticize others and flatter yourself by declaring that we lack nuance and are too angry w/o adding anything concrete to the conversation then you are nothing more than an especially annoying and useless backseat driver.

      But, I'll tell you what. If you actually want to discuss the facts of the case then you can show us your idea of nuance and also show us how your interpretation works better than ours.

      Otherwise, stick it.

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    12. Look, H.B. there's really no reason to take at face value mch's claim (I'm being generous with the word "claim" yes. It's actually a lie) that she's never gotten involved "in the arguments here about the evidence" -- it's just not true.

      mch has produced her share of distortions and omissions in recounting a version of the incident.

      So there's that.

      The there's mch supposed deep concern over "the anger and hatred he has been fanning."

      This concern over what a wee blogger says, naturally doesn't ever extend to concern over the distortions and omissions committed again and again by the folks with the big circulations and big audiences, distortions and omissions which could quite reasonably be supposed to be fueling hatred and anger. But that doesn't count in mch's mind.

      Her quite insupportable idea is that by debunking those liars with the big megaphones, the guy with the little audience is the dangerous one.

      She's demented.

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    13. Mr. HB,

      The state of Florida deemed that there was enough evidence to go to trial. There was a trial. The jury deliberated for 16 hours, not 16 minutes, suggesting they were trying to be thorough and fair. Z was acquitted. If you want to call that railroading, go ahead.

      Do you have the same kind of anger over the black and brown teenagers and young men who definitely are railroaded every day in our criminal justice system? Perhaps you do. But law professors who want to direct the conversation in that direction are just pseudo-liberal elites (and much less knowledgeable and intelligent and fair-minded than the commenters here, or than Mr. S)....

      That I haven't engaged in the pointless exchanges at this site about the facts of this case (exchanges full of cherry-picking and ill will toward anyone who sees things differently) does not mean I haven't tried to follow the evidence. I appreciated Bob's initial posts calling attention to misinformation about it in the press. I have tried to be fair. I do not agree with you that the ONLY way to interpret the accurate/true evidence is in Z's favor -- even Mr. S has regularly noted that none of us can ever know what really happened -- though for you that means I must be like Michael Palin and be anti-Zimmerman, since you insist there can only be two sides here. (My way or the highway; love it or leave it; and those elite professors with their cushy jobs -- ah, such "liberal" sentiments!)

      You're right: there's not much point in continuing this discussion if, no matter what I might say, you'd put me in just one of the two camps you have declared are the only two that exist. Let me part by noting that I would "stick it," but I've already been told by other commenters that I don't have balls (or something like that -- I don't commit to memory all the insults the sophisticated commenters here come up with), so I assume I also don't have the part I'd need to stick somewhere. Oh, there's no anger here that needs explaining....

      Delete
    14. Anonymous @3:44: "mch has produced her share of distortions and omissions in recounting a version of the incident." Have I really? I have no memory of having done so and in fact remember only resisting the occasional temptation to enter discussions here about "the incident." But then, who can trust the memory, or the honesty, of a demented person?

      I leave with the suggestion that many people here need to examine what they're really so angry about and whether their anger is properly directed at the "liberal media" or "pseudo-elite professors" or people like me.

      Delete
    15. mch,

      Isn't cowardly to say, "I do not agree with you that the ONLY way to interpret the accurate/true evidence is in Z's favor," yet do not explain? You seem to feel as if you are staying above the fray, but you are making statements that are at the heart of the dispute, but without backing them up with discussion.

      You want to have your cake and eat it.

      Delete
    16. Anonymous at 5:06: Cowardly? I don't think so. Unless walking away from bullies is cowardly. In my view, the discussion of the facts of this case at this site has been dominated by bullies. (Btw, let me thank David in Cal. I agree with little that he says, but I don't think he ever bullies anyone.)

      I hope it is enough to point out that Mr. S himself acknowledges that none of us can know what really happened during the Z/M confrontation; we cannot know (independently of Z's claims) who initiated the physical confrontation, for instance.

      I noted above that "The jury deliberated for 16 hours, not 16 minutes, suggesting they were trying to be thorough and fair." I would add that, if all the facts before the jurors produced the slam-dunk conclusion so many commenters here insist would inevitably be reached by any half-way intelligent, sane, and fair person (I am none of these, of course), they could have done so in closer to 16 minutes than 16 hours.

      Delete
    17. We don't know if they did it in 6 minutes. You simply can't know until they tell us. Jurors have been known to let time elapse on controversial decisions before voicing their decision. Anyone of moderate or higher intelligence who understood the instructions and prohibitions would find Zimmerman not guilty of ANY crime.

      Delete
    18. Anonymous, have I suggested that the jury arrived at an incorrect verdict? (No, quite the opposite.) I am only suggesting that, unlike many commenters here, perhaps jurors gave some time to considering possible alternatives to the scenario that Z presented. I am hoping the jurors did, because that would have been their duty.

      Delete
    19. HB,

      You're just pinin' for the fjords if you think there's overwhelming evidence of Z's innocence. The jury said there was sufficient evidence for reasonable doubt of his guilt.

      For what it's worth, I don't think Z was guilty. I just don't know. I also don't think he was railroaded.

      Delete
    20. Why don't you think he was railroaded? Wo has ever seen more of a railroading?

      Delete
    21. Anonymous on 7/17/13 @ 12:32A,

      Because there was probable cause to believe he was culpable in killing someone whom he actually killed.

      Because he got every benefit that Florida law allowed.

      Because he got a fair trial.

      Because he was acquitted.

      Is that enough for you?

      Pick someone on death row in Texas and you'll likely see more of a railroading. Start with the guy they convicted on phony arson evidence and executed anyway, knowing full well that the evidence was bogus.

      You gotta get out more.

      Delete
  8. Perhaps the theory of cognitive dissonance helps explain the conduct of people like Prof. Yankah and many liberals. Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions. Theory says people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system.

    Cognitive dissonance arises because racial profiling is considered to be a big-time sin in today's USA. We're supposed to believe as if all races and ages were equally likely to commit various crimes. However, young black men have a much higher crime rate than average. So, it's reasonable to be more concerned about a young black man acting suspiciously. In order to resolve the CD, people make Z into a demon and M into an angel.

    A similar situation exists with regard to terrorism. We're supposed to believe that Caucasian grandmothers are the same level of threat as young male Muslims. Of course, that's not true. So, there are efforts to ignore Muslim terrorism. E.g., there's the bizarre situation of the government treating Major Hassan as a non-terrorist, even though he was a Muslim who cried "Allahu Akbar" while committing mass slaughter.

    It seems that "cognitive dissonance" and "political correctness" are close relatives

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    1. David, be careful of picking and choosing parts of psychological theories to fit preferred political beliefs. Political correctness and cognitive dissonance have nothing to do with each other. One is about prescriptive norms for social interaction, the other is about cognitive processes resulting in attributions and causal explanations.

      In your example of the grandmothers, we are supposed to treat all citizens alike under the law, so the frisking of grandmothers is not about belief that they are terrorists but about how citizens deserve to be treated by government officials. Hassan's treatment as a non-terrorist similarly arises from his status as a citizen and member of the military, not from any consideration of what motivated his crime (not yet investigated). Further, given that the large majority of Muslims are not terrorists, treating all Muslims as if they were makes no sense even as profiling, which presumably is based on probabilities. Finally, we do not treat American citizens as if they were terrorists because of the presumption of innocence. Those at Guantanamo are not American citizens and are being held without trial because they are presumed guilty. Some of us object to that because it violates that important tenet of justice.

      Delete

    2. "not yet investigated"? Well, yes, he did have "soldier of Allah" on his business cards and he did yell "Allahu Akbar," but we're still trying to pin down the mystery of what may have motivated him!

      Delete
    3. The attack took place in 2009.....and anonymous @12:31 says it we still don't know what motivated his attack. If we don't, perhaps it is because we have been spending the last year arguing about whether or not he must shave his beard. This country has gone literally insane. This guy should have been dispatched with long ago....

      Delete
  9. The EFFORT the race agitating lynch mob puts in to ignoring MAJOR facts of this case including the entire beating of Zimmerman by Martin is fascinating. And disgusting.

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  10. Simply another Somerby end-zone dance . [Yawn]

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  11. Predictable hissing and snark from a blogger --- and many commenters --- who seem to have an autistic incapacity to try to empathize in these matters with a black person's perpective.

    I found the op-ed piece thoughtful, well-argued, and worthy of reflection, even from those who disagree. But here, it's all hissing, name-calling, throwing of tomatoes. Why respond to an argument with which you disagree with such contempt?

    And by the way, that "tribal thinking" in this matter encompasses likely the vast majority of blacks in this country. Does their view count at all? Or is it just "tribal"?

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  12. I have a hard time understanding the Zim sympathy, maybe he's innocent under Fla's law, but as far as anyone reasonable is concerned he's a creep.

    I mean, what sort of adult man goes out following kids, even hooligans, while carrying a loaded fire arm? What sort of adult man shoots someone (especially a kid) simply because he's getting his ass kicked in a fist fight (which he instigated in the first place)?

    Am I to believe we're allowed to shoot people for breaking our nose? Holy crap, half of Bensonhurst would have bullet holes.

    Anyway, I'll save my sympathy for the dead kid.

    Hank Borelli

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    1. Dear Mr. Hank Borelli,

      I sincerely hope you get your nose broken by one of those fine people. Remember, some broken noses lead to death, being close to the brain as the nose is.

      Delete
    2. What do you mean by "one of those fine people?"

      Anyway, unlike Zim, as far as I know Martin was never arrested for a violent act.

      As for me, I've had my share of fights, lost a tooth, got my jaw messed up etc. I've also broke at least one guy's nose. And never had I felt like literally murdering the other guy, I'm pretty sure they didn't feel like murdering me. Seriously, shooting a teenager because he broke your nose? In what world is that defensible?

      Hank Borelli

      Delete
    3. Did Martin have any history of violent acts? Did he like to fight? Was there anything found, say, on social media to indicate he might have been involved in fights, advised to stop fighting, punched a bus driver, purchased or sold guns, broke into homes to steal? Anything?

      Delete
    4. "I mean, what sort of adult man goes out following kids, even hooligans, while carrying a loaded fire arm?"

      The same kind who knows "kids" were in his neighborhood breaking into homes of young mothers and terrorizing them. You would be too frightened or lazy to do anything. And that's OK!

      Delete
    5. Unknown, please consider your anger and try not to bully, please.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous on 7/16/13 @ 4:27P,

      I get it that you think Z is a "creep." Where do you get "anyone reasonable" to join you in this judgment?

      "What sort of adult man goes out follows kids, even hooligans?" Someone whose neighborhood's homes have been burglarized.

      "While carrying a loaded fire arm?" Someone suffering from Dunning-Kruger?

      "What sort of adult man shoots someone (especially a kid) simply because he's getting his ass kicked in a fist fight?"

      Simply? Or because he feared for his life or safety?

      "(which he instigated in the first place)?" And you know this how?

      "Am I to believe we're allowed to shoot people for breaking our nose?"

      If we're reasonably afraid for our lives, sure. The law doesn't require that you wait to determine the extent of your injuries.

      "Anyway, I'll save my sympathy for the dead kid."

      Fine, but you realize that to do that you don't have to disengage the parts of your brain that handle reason, right?

      Delete
  13. " I do not have to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is a hate-filled racist to recognize that he would probably not even have noticed Mr. Martin if he had been a casually dressed white teenager."

    The word "probably" and its variants mean you don't know. Time to reword your sentence on a subject as important or inflammable as this.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Unknown, perhaps I can help:

    I do not have to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is a hate-filled racist to recognize that he would not even have noticed Mr. Martin if he had been a casually dressed white teenager.

    ReplyDelete
  15. " I do not have to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is a hate-filled racist to recognize that he would probably not even have noticed Mr. Martin if he had been a casually dressed white teenager."

    The word "probably" and its variants mean you don't know. Time to reword your sentence on a subject as important or inflammable as this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Confused keeps saying that because it's AOK to presume, I mean "recognize," that Zimmerman and anyone who is a "Zim sypathizer" is a racist.

      mch doesn't call that bullying either!

      Delete
  16. I think Ta-Nehisi Coates may once have gotten wrong the detail about when exactly GZ was told by the dispatcher "we don't need that" (I may not have the quotation exactly right), so some people here will never trust Coates or have any interest in anything he ever says again. Others, including those who share Mr. Somerby's view that centuries of slavery and Jim Crow have something to do with the challenges many black children face in school, might be interested in reading Coates' commentary on the Z verdict and the larger issues some of us think this case might usefully get people discussing:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/trayvon-martin-and-the-irony-of-american-justice/277782/


    ReplyDelete
  17. And this:

    http://prospect.org/article/chart-day-5

    (Examples here of actual "liberal" analysis.)

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  18. We are angry because a man has been persecuted and continues to be treated as a monster despite overwhelming evidence that he was innocent--the same evidence that you so piously and I would say cravenly refuse to discuss. (Because, once we discuss the facts your pretense about nuance falls apart.) We are angry about people who consider themselves enlightened and who get paid handsomely for being in-your-face incompetents (and who infuriatingly are among the most prominent representatives of my side of the political spectrum) acting like the lead fuckwits at a witch trial. You have demonstrated no nuance. You have shown no deeper meaning. All you have done is deny the problem.

    Thank you H Brain.

    Years ago Clarence Thomas lied to the Senate about being subjected to a high tech lynching. We got to see a real one over the last 16 months and it was horrifying.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous -- It's true that Clarence Thomas wasn't literally lynched. However, Thomas's statement was a metaphor. Metaphors aren't true or false. They're only more apt or less apt.

      Your contention that Martin was literally lynched isn't supported by the evidence. That's why a jury unanimously acquitted Zimmerman of all charges.

      Delete
    2. D in C: I was talking about the high-tech lynching of Zimmerman. Martin wasn't lynched, high tech or otherwise. He caused his own death.

      Delete
  19. Anonymous at 12:45: gee, why does this site attract so many anonymouses? -- choose a handle that will keep your "real" identity unknown but at least afford you a consistent persona in comments -- but I don't mean to be harsh, since I hear a real appeal for communication in this post, so I'll try to respond, because, believe it or not, I do understand that Z is a human being, a man, a husband, and (this means the most to me) a mother's son.

    I don't think I have ever said anything that suggests Z is a monster -- or that most anyone has. This is the danger of Mr S's posts that has bothered me so: he fans that kind of thinking. (Though I trust he intends better, that's the effect of his posts).

    Okay, here's my WORST case scenario for Z: influenced by a mixture of legitimate concerns and very vague prejudices, he used bad judgment. Like I never have? No. I have, you have, we all have.

    We all have. Please get over the stark saints and sinners alternatives. Please do read the links I have provided. There are larger ways of thinking all of this, larger ways that can enlarge us all. We are all in this together.

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    1. Actually, mch, it you really cared about justice, you would not argue that pointing out media misinformation in this case is tantamount to inflaming divisive passions and to ignoring racial injustice (as well as not caring that Martin died).

      You'd be able to process the notion that rage and hatred were fueled and fostered by media inaccuracies such as reports that Zimmerman never had to surrender his gun, was not at all injured as he claimed, and did not obey a request to stop following Martin.

      As it stands now you wave away such things as being incidental to the 'real' story here, and as Somerby handing dangerous kindling and comfort to racists.

      An Olympic gymnast would not be capable of the twists and postures you've performed here. And all because the facts did not comport with your preferred narrative.



      Delete
    2. Okay, here's my WORST case scenario for Z: influenced by a mixture of legitimate concerns and very vague prejudices, he used bad judgment. Like I never have? No. I have, you have, we all have.

      Nope. No bad judgment at all. Good judgment, and only "bad" if looked at in hindsight and allowing Trayvon's attack and subsequent death color your evaluation of whether it was good or bad judgment.

      Delete
  20. The danger of what puny Somerby does debunking lies: really worrisome to mch.

    The danger of what liars with big megaphones do: no big deal to mch.

    So, on top of being a sanctimonious, condescending person, you also have a warped idea of power relationships and no understanding of what's really dangerous.

    And yet you lecture on, oblivious. That's what makes you such a hoot, mch.

    Keep on keeping on!

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  21. HANK "SKULL-KRUSH" BORELLI is a loose cannon and I feel uncomfortable sharing a commentary section with him. Please bob, can we honor trayvon by advocating a removal of criminal elements from this commentary section. Thank you in advance - HL

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