THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: A basic question emerged last year!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 21, 2015

Part 6—In search of Red Riding Hood:
A basic question emerged from the liberal world's attempts at journalism in the year just past.

Rightly or wrongly, that year is now being widely described as The Year of the Liberal, even as "the year of liberal script." Here's the question which emerged from 2015:

Were the late Trayvon Martin's "hands full of candy" when he was "wailing away" at George Zimmerman?

That question emerged from the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, as do the two short quotations contained within that question. The question refers to one of the many instances in which our liberal world, in the year just past, displayed its ultimate fealty to pleasing tribal script.

The first quotation, which had Martin "wailing away," was offered by Coates in July 2013. He was referring to basic facts which had emerged concerning the tragic events of the night when Martin was killed.

The second quotation comes from Coates' book last year, Between the World and Me. By the time he wrote that book, Coates had largely submitted to script.

Don't get us wrong! Coates was handed large piles of money, and many awards, for that submission to script. As part of the downside, such changes of story—his book contains several others—helped give 2015 an unfortunate title, one we liberals should possibly ponder.

What sorts of changes do liberal writers make when they submit to the dictates of script? In Tuesday's incomparable report, we reviewed the change by Coates which produced today's basic question. Quickly, let's revisit that change before we consider some others:

In July 2013, Coates explained his reasons for saying that the jury which acquitted George Zimmerman of criminal conduct "basically got it right." In the process, he seemed to describe the basic events of that night:
COATES (7/14/13): As a younger man, I was in a few fights—mostly on the losing end. Some I provoked. Some I didn't. But in almost every one I can make a case for "death or great bodily harm." One I remember specifically, a guy hit me over the head with a steel trash can at the start. But the fight ended with me overtop of him—much like Trayvon was said to be over Zimmerman—wailing away. He had started the fight—but by Florida law I was the aggressor.

Fights are not like boxing matches. If you provoke one and start losing, your life is basically in someone else's hands. You should be afraid. Punches actually do kill people and cause "great bodily harm."

COMMENTER: I don't see how being on the losing end of a fist fight means a person "reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."

COATES: I am on the ground and you are on top of me wailing away. I am most certainly in "imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."

I say this as someone who has been in that position, and the person putting someone in that position. It is really, really frightening. And you are in danger of "great bodily harm" at the very least. Punches kill people. Skulls hit concrete or tables and cause great damage.

And that assumes that you know you are only being hit with someone's fist. What if it feels like your being hit with brass knuckles? What if you think you see the person reaching for something to finish the job?

Fights are not tame staid events. They are chaotic, random and very, very scary. They are not regulated. There are no TKOs. Fist-fights kill people—and there is no guarantee that a fist-fight will stay at that level.
Can we talk? By July 2013, no one was really disputing the fact that Martin and Zimmerman engaged in a fight that night, a fight Zimmerman was losing. However it may have started, no one was really disputing the fact that Martin was "overtop of Zimmerman, wailing away" in the course of that fight.

Don't get us wrong! Along the way, liberal journalists had already worked to "improve" those facts, which had quickly been deemed undesirable. Lawrence O'Donnell isn't a doctor, but was willing to play one on cable TV. With the able assistance of Dr. Blow, he kept insisting that Zimmerman had sustained no injuries on the night in question.

His diagnosis had basically turned out to be wrong. By the time of Coates' post, almost no one was disputing the fact that a fight had occurred, and that, rightly or wrongly, Martin had been "overtop of Zimmerman, wailing away" in the course of that fight.

Two years later, Coates' book appeared. By that time, our world's devotion to script had congealed. In his book, he described those events a different way, seemingly in search of the perfect victim.

This is the way that fight was described in his "us and them" themed book. Because he'd agreed to make the change, a cynic would say that he was now showered with money and prizes:
COATES (page 104-105): There it is—the right to break the black body as the meaning of their sacred equality. And that right has always given them meaning, has meant that there was always someone down below because a mountain is not a mountain unless there is something below.

You and I, my son, are that "below." That was true in 1776; it is true today. There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream...But because they believe themselves to be white, they would rather countenance a man choked to death on film under their laws. And they would rather subscribe to the myth of Trayvon Martin, slight teenager, hands full of candy and soft drinks, transforming into a murderous juggernaut.
Two years earlier, Coates himself had stressed a certain fact. However the fight got started, he seemed to say, Zimmerman could have been killed.

"Punches kill people," he'd said.

Now, he told a more pleasing story. His new story featured a perfect victim set upon by a wolf.

In his new story, Coates seemed to ridicule story-tellers—sorry, myth-subscribers—like his own previous self. Martin was no longer "wailing away." Now, he was a slight teenager with "hands full of candy," full stop.

Full stop! Except for the soft drinks, of course.

By last year, it was clear. At present, we liberals prefer our stories that way, with all complications removed.

We displayed that preference all through the past year, in one high-profile instance after another.

We liberals now love our perfect victims, with all complications removed. We love to describe Red Riding Hood, set upon by the wolf.

Reflexively, many of us preferred to see "Jackie" that way. In that passage from his book, Coates reimagined Martin in the same way, a process which can only be called silly as a matter of basic journalism and conventional ethics.

How do we craft our perfect victims? We focus on irrelevant facts, in this case the purchase of candy. We disappear important facts, in this case the facts which led Coates to pen his original description.

In this instance, the arc of Coates' moral judgment moved him from fact toward script. That said, last year involved a second high-profile case in which we moved in a different direction, from script toward avoidance of fact.

We refer to the unfortunate death of Michael Brown.

In that case, we liberals started with script, and with a perfect victim. But uh-oh! In March of last year, Eric Holder's Justice Department released a lengthy, detailed formal report which told a very different story about the events which led to that shooting.

We've described that report in great detail; we aren't going to do so again. That said, we liberals swung into action, finding ways to avoid the voluminous facts in that detailed report.

We like our victims perfect! In his award-winning book, this is as far as Coates would go in alluding to Eric Holder's new facts and findings about the death of Brown:
COATES (page 131): Michael Brown did not die as so many of his defenders supposed. And still the questions behind the questions are never asked. Should assaulting an officer of the state be a capital offense, with the officer as judge and executioner? Is that what we wish civilization to be?
The shooting death of Michael Brown plays a much larger role in Coates' book than the earlier death of Trayvon Martin. But there you see his sole act of deference to the voluminous facts in Eric Holder's report.

"Michael Brown did not die as so many of his defenders supposed?" From the account we've shown you above, a well-trained reader might see that Coates seems to be saying that Brown "assaulted" the police officer who shot and killed him.

We'll guess that most readers didn't spot that apparent statement, largely because Coates disguised it so well. He moved straight from a hidden admission to a continued tribal assault, in which he accused the officer in question of acting "as judge and executioner."

In short, of being the big bad wolf, with all possible complications hidden, disguised, disappeared. Eric Holder's formal report said something vastly different, although you haven't learned what it said at your liberal sites and orgs.

In the past year, we liberals made it abundantly clear that we prefer our stories with perfect victims. Sacks of money, and high awards, will follow such presentations.

These cases were numerous in the past year. For better or worse, Coates has also recast his earlier account of the killing of Prince Jones, which lies at the heart of his book.

There is no doubt that this is the way we liberals now prefer our stories. That said, we're so old that we can remember when liberals would mock The Other Tribe for rewriting "the world" this way.

Today, voters are laughing at us for this. Appallingly, those voters are often not wrong.

At our liberal sites and orgs, we are rarely warned about this journalistic and political problem. We've made it clear with our eyeballs and clicks: We prefer "the world" this way.

In our view, this preference makes us a great deal like them. We'd call it an unworldly look.

34 comments:

  1. "wailing away" is a misspelling. The correct spelling is "whaling", which means "to hit, thrash, or beat soundly". Why didn't the book's editors correct this? Leaving a misspelled word could be interpreted as racism, because it makes Coates look dumb.

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    1. Publishers no longer performing copy editing on manuscripts. That is now up to the author. That changed decades ago. As a result most books are full of errors like this. That doesn't make Coates any dumber than other authors. It makes us all dumber.

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    2. Horse manure. Don't blame publishers for your stupidity. That is like Palin blaming Obama for her son beating his girlfriend.

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    3. Good catch there David in Cal. I missed that and there was no "sic" from Somerby. That said, maybe it would be handy if we all had an editor at all times. For instance, I don't mean to suggest this makes you look "dumb" but Coates' use of the wrong spelling for "whaling" did not occur in a book that was edited, that's sort of a key point.

      Coates made his mistake a couple of years back in a comment thread [LINK] (my emphasis):

      [QUOTE] Punches actually do kill people and cause great bodily harm, Coates said. He also seemed to allude to the fact that the case's sole eyewitness testified that Martin had been positioned "over Zimmerman" and had been "wailing away."

      A commenter found that analysis unsatisfying. Coates responded to his comment, explaining his point in more detail:

      COMMENTER (7/14/13): I don't see how being on the losing end of a fist fight means a person "reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."

      COATES: I am on the ground and you are on top of me wailing away. I am most certainly in "imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."

      I say this as someone who has been in that position, and the person putting someone in that position. It is really, really frightening. And you are in danger of "great bodily harm" at the very least. Punches kill people. Skulls hit concrete or tables and cause great damage.

      And that assumes that you know you are only being hit with someone's fist. What if it feels like your being hit with brass knuckles? What if you think you see the person reaching for something to finish the job?

      Fights are not tame staid events. They are chaotic, random and very, very scary. They are not regulated. There are no TKOs. Fist-fights kill people—and there is no guarantee that a fist-fight will stay at that level. [END QUOTE]

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    4. [Blogger waves bloody shirt]

      Zimmerman ole!

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    5. Here's a link to the part of the comment thread where Coates first used the wrong spelling for "whale"- no place where'd you expect an editor to be practicing her trade [LINK].

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    6. Your comments in no way diminish how publishers dumb us down by not editing even if they are not responsible for being racist by not making Coates look dumb as DinC implied.

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  2. Gack! Will Bob Somerby's small circle of campfire crap addicts swallow the latest turd he has deposited for their intellectual nourishment?

    After regurgitating for the third time a 2013 quote from Coates, Bob squeezs out this original piece of
    excrement:

    "Were the late Trayvon Martin's "hands full of candy" when he was "wailing away" at George Zimmerman?

    That question emerged from the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, as do the two short quotations contained within that question....

    The first quotation, which had Martin "wailing away," was offered by Coates in July 2013. He was referring to basic facts which had emerged concerning the tragic events of the night when Martin was killed."

    No Bob. The quote has remained the same all three times you have used it to repeat yourself in your incessant effort to present yourself as the only liberal with integrity and sense.

    "But the fight ended with me overtop of him—much like Trayvon was said to be over Zimmerman—wailing away."

    Coates is describing himself as the one doing the wailing, not Trayvon Martin. And the testimony of one eyewitness to a partial confrontation does not establish any "facts", otherwise it is a "fact" that Michael Brown was executed with his hands up after
    being shot in the back.

    And your cherry picked quote about "hands full of candy" is part of a description of an attitude which has displayed itself on you comment page by many Zimmerman defenders who have described Martin as a thug. That you can't see that is a demonstration you are either senile or enslaved by your own narrative.

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    1. Note that Somerby later embellishes the quote after misinterpreting it.

      "Martin had been "overtop of Zimmerman, wailing away" in the course of that fight."

      Bob uses that quote twice, but he is quoting nobody except himself, the inventor of the quote.

      One is tempted to say, as many others have of Bob, "along the way, Bob had already worked to "improve" those quotes, which had quickly been deemed onsufficient for his narrative."

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    2. KZ, it was so nice when you weren't here. No one is ever persuaded that your nitpicking changes the substance of what Somerby is pointing out here. Coates did change his descriptions.

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    3. I disagree, Anon 10:54, because of the words "much like". Coates wrote, "the fight ended with me overtop of him—much like Trayvon was said to be over Zimmerman—wailing (sic) away." I think that means "I was whaling away at the person I was on top of and Martin much like me (it was said) was whaling away at Zimmerman. YMMV.

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    4. Anon. @ 10:54: Methinks you should go back and read what Bob actually wrote.

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    5. I think @ 10:54 was right. About what Bob wrote. I think he was optimistic that Bob's camp followers might see it, as you demonstrate they cannot.

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    6. And the testimony of one eyewitness to a partial confrontation does not establish any "facts", otherwise it is a "fact" that Michael Brown was executed with his hands up after being shot in the back.

      There was only one third-party witness who said he saw part of the Zimmerman/Martin confrontation. Circumstantial evidence corroborated what he said he saw, or at least that evidence did not contradict it.

      There were several witnesses to the Wilson/Brown confrontation. The Justice Department report in the matter explicitly indicates who among the witnesses the investigators thought were relaying reliable accounts and who was not, in part because of the circumstantial evidence.

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    7. Who the investigators thought were reliable does not establish what the facts are. It establishes what some people thought.

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    8. Why did Somerby alter and embellish the quote?

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    9. @ 1:46 PM asks:

      [QUOTE] Why did Somerby alter and embellish the quote? [END QUOTE]

      @1:46 PM shouldn't have relied on 10:54 AM who got it wrong when he wrote:

      [QUOTE] After regurgitating for the third time a 2013 quote from Coates, Bob [squeezes] out this original piece of excrement:

      "Were the late Trayvon Martin's "hands full of candy" when he was "wailing away" at George Zimmerman?

      That question emerged from the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, as do the two short quotations contained within that question....

      The first quotation, which had Martin "wailing away," was offered by Coates in July 2013. He was referring to basic facts which had emerged concerning the tragic events of the night when Martin was killed."

      No Bob. The quote has remained the same all three times you have used it to repeat yourself in your incessant effort to present yourself as the only liberal with integrity and sense.

      "But the fight ended with me overtop of him—much like Trayvon was said to be over Zimmerman—wailing away."
      [END QUOTE]

      If your read further in the thread you come upon these comments and Coates' follow on response which is certainly fairly cited by Somerby in his post here as, "The first quotation, which had Martin 'wailing away,' was offered by Coates in July 2013. He was referring to basic facts which had emerged concerning the tragic events of the night when Martin was killed.

      [Comment thread] LauraNo [to] Ta-Nehisi Coates • 3 years ago
      I don't see how being on the losing end of a fist fight means a person "reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm".


      northernobserver [to] LauraNo • 3 years ago
      Maybe but most juries would, especially in Florida. Hence the problem. In many ways it is community sanctioned killing.

      Ta-Nehisi Coates Mod[erator] [to] LauraNo • 3 years ago
      I am on the ground and you are on top of me wailing away I am most certainly in "imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."

      I say this as someone who has been in that [position,] and the person putting someone in that position. It is really, really frightening. And you are in danger of "great bodily harm" at the very least. Punches kill people. Skulls hit concrete or tables and cause great damage.

      And that assumes that you know you are only being hit with someone's fist. What if it feels like your being hit with brass knuckles? What if you think you see the person reaching for something to finish the job?

      Fights are not tame staid events. They are chaotic, random and very, very scary. They are not regulated. There are no TKOs. Fist-fights kill people--and there is no guarantee that a fist-fight will stay at that level. [END COMMENT THREAD]

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  3. Today the NY Times is complaining that Hillary's clothes are boring.

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    1. Really? Compared to what?

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  4. "Because he'd agreed to make the change, a cynic would say that he was now showered with money and prizes:"

    "Sacks of money, and high awards, will follow such presentations."

    A realist would say an aging obscure blogger jealously returns to HIS favorite script.

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    1. You think Somerby invented the idea that money corrupts -- because he doesn't chase money himself and is thus envious of those who do? That makes no sense at all.

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    2. Bob was known for touring and performing in only the free admission comedy clubs, like the one his Dad once owned and ran with strippers in Boston.

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    3. A realist would say 11:58 Anonymous prefers the guy who changed his story to the guy who noticed. As is his right. But what a chump, eh?

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    4. In reality a Somerby addict is one who equates finding fault with Somerby as an endorsement of one of Somerby's targets.

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    5. Hey Nona Nym, the only one who says Coates changed his story is Somerby and to make the case he has to distort a tiny passage from a book to a two year old passage dealing with a specific set of facts at issue in a trial.

      Sorry pal, but you are defending a man as looney as.... Rachel Maddow.

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  5. Despite the nit picking on this thread, I believe Bob is correct on the strangeness of Coates flip flop on the Martin Case. Less convincing is his insistence on Coates's motivation. Once upon a time (not so oddly, when he was looking at Republican and Right Press behavior) Bob went out of his way to avoid questions of motivation. Here he damns Coates's motivations capriciously. Understand, the excerpts from Coates book sicken me, maudlin, hateful drivel promoting antagonism between the races. Weather it's all profit based I don't know, and neither does Bob.
    The Daily Howler fails more egregiously on the Matter of Coates's treatment of the Brown case. Coates overstates that the leeway afforded cops in dangerous situations in NEVER questioned, but he's right in that it's the heart of much of the controversy and it is brought up very infrequently.

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    1. Unreconstructed Douchebag TrollJanuary 21, 2016 at 5:58 PM

      No, Greg.

      We all read in the comment just above yours that no one believes Coates has even "changed," much less "flip flopped" on Martin.

      To even think that you must have been mislead by a distorted quote.

      Coates hasn't changed a bit.

      Nope.

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    2. Oh, go get yourself reconstructed.

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  6. OT: The gratitude Michael Moore expressed towards Rachel Maddow on her early coverage of the Flint story is not insignificant. Apparently something of considerable importance was going on along with that "clowning."

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    1. Think what she might do if she wasted no time clowning -- if her staff were repurposed for investigatory journalism and activism!

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    2. Yep, but a little credit when due might push them in the right direction.

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    3. Praise for doing occasionally what she should be doing all the time? I don't think so.

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    4. Nobody covers foolish black Oscar outrage better than Bob Somerby!

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  7. "Think what she might do if she wasted no time clowning -- if her staff were repurposed for investigatory journalism and activism!"

    Easy to imagine. I see them as an obscure blog looking for a larger audience and funding. I don't see them anywhere near a corporate-owned media conglomerate, if they do what you propose. There's no place for that kind of work in the MSM.

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