THE PROBLEMS WITH NOVELS: "All the killings," the cable guest said!

MONDAY, JULY 11, 2016

Part 1—Then came the killings in Dallas:
Last Thursday evening, in the 7 PM hour, Erin Burnett was conducting a typical pseudo-discussion.

The shootings in Dallas were still a few hours away. On her nightly CNN program, Burnett was pretending to conduct a discussion of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

The pretense began with the selection of Burnett's guests. Presumably, such selections are made by Burnett's corporate bosses.

One of Burnett's guests this night was Harry Houck. He was introduced by Burnett as "a former NYPD detective."

On the transcript of the show, Houck is further described as a "CNN law enforcement analyst." Aside from hisrole at CNN, he seems to be the founder and CEO of Harry Houck Consulting.

Culturally, Houck is very "white." As a general matter, he seems to be employed by CNN as a way to generate racial frictions during the network's endless pseudo-discussions of police conduct.

Not everything Houck said that night was "wrong." Some of the things Houck said this night were quite plainly valid and on point.

But once he began interacting with other guests, almost everything Houck said this night was unyielding and unhelpful—except to the extent that it helped generate racial friction of the type that may keep viewers watching.

Houck interrupted freely as the discussion unfolded. He kept offering "law enforcement analyses" like the one shown below:
BURNETT (7/7/16): Harry! Harry! Hold on one second, I know we have a bit of delay, but Harry, let me ask you this question. Harry, hold on.

The point that Paul makes, that black men are stopped three times more often than white men, the point that the governor of Minnesota said today, this death would not have happened if Castile was white: Don't you have to admit that the situation may not have presented itself at the very beginning at the traffic stop if he had not been black?

HOUCK: How do you know that? How do you know that?

BURNETT: I don't know. I'm not saying I know it. I'm saying, isn't it a fair question? How can you say race played no role?

HOUCK: It's not a fair question. How can you say that? It's not a fair question. That vehicle was stopped because of a broken tail light, all right? All right. That's why the vehicle was stopped.

BURNETT: OK. But nonetheless, it's true that white people can drive with a broken tail light and sometimes not be stopped.

HOUCK: I have pulled many of them over and I've given white people summons for the same, exact thing. Lots of white people get summonses every day.
In his latest "law enforcement analysis," Houck refused to acknowledge even the possibility that race could have played a role in shooting of Castile. It wasn't a fair question!

Houck performed a valuable service in insisting that the recent cases shouldn't be prejudged. But his conceptual intransigence, and his constant interrupting, eventually turned the pseudo-discussion into the sort of "racial" conflict Burnett's corporate owners seem to crave.

We say that because Houck, who is culturally very white, had inevitably been paired with two other guests, each of whom was visibly "black." This is the sort of casting Burnett's owners seem to enjoy.

Each of Burnett's other guests became annoyed by Houck's constant interruptions. Eventually, one of the guests made a striking statement in response to Houck.

This second guest, Paul Martin, had been introduced by Burnett as "a criminal defense attorney who has also represented officers involved in shootings." Burnett didn't have to say that Martin is "black," although that's rather plainly part of the reason why he was on the program.

Martin became more and more annoyed with Houck's intransigent "law enforcement analyses." Before long, he heatedly took the bait.

Yay! Martin and Houck exchanged heated opinions about which man "needs to wake up." Raising his voice, Martin asked Houck is he can hear himself.

Burnett's owners exchanged high-fives on their yachts in Caribbean. Before long, strikingly, Martin offered the statement shown below.

Through the use of videotape, we've corrected the usual errors in the CNN transcript:
MARTIN: So I guess, according to you, the series of killings that have happened systematically, year after year after year—

HOUCK: Systematically! Systematically?

MARTIN: —just happened, through circumstance, just by chance, they all happened to be black. Is that your position, sir?

HOUCK: I don't know about these cases you're talking about. Tell me the cases you're talking about.

MARTIN: Where do you want me to start?...You want me to go down the list?
At this point, Martin did go down the list—and it was a very familiar list! Instantly, the two men were arguing about what actually happened on the night Trayvon Martin was killed.

Over at CNN, this is Standard Racial Theater. Presumably, Burnett's owners and bosses keep scheduling Houck in the hope that he will generate this attention-grabbing race-based "cable news" conflict.

That said, Martin made a fascinating comment in that exchange with Houck. His comment helps us see the problems with a novel the mainstream press corps has been purveying for years.

According to Martin, "all" the recent cases of police killings have involved victims who were black. That's what the gentleman actually said. It's what Burnett's viewers heard.

A few hours later, a disturbed man started shooting in Dallas. Five more people got killed.

We would say that these events help show us the problems with novels. Our "press corps" loves to hand us such fare. People are dead all over the world because of this horrible conduct, in which the big giant stars of the mainstream press have engaged for the past many years.

Tomorrow: The familiar cases Martin mentioned; one recent case he skipped


  1. Does MSNBC take money for campaign commercials, then give it to their employees?

    1. I dunno. Does MSNBC have employees? I thought they were like CNN and simply owned people.

    2. There will be about 6.9 billion dollars spent on political broadcast and cable TV advertisements this presidential season. For 2015, FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC combined for 4.0 billion dollars of revenue.

      Are those customers (political parties) tossing around chump change, or do those dollars influence how they slant their stories?

      Is that corruption?

    3. Influence isn't corruption. Is anyone getting kickbacks for their media buys? That would be corruption.

      There is no ethical rule that says media content must be independent of advertising. Look at the tie-ins on entertainment shows.

      When Hillary Clinton has spent far more than Sanders (or Trump) on ads but received far less coverage and far more negative coverage on these political channels, it is hard to see how her $ have gotten her any advantage. Trump is spending very little but his coverage has been until recently positive (to the point of fawning) and way larger than anyone else's. I don't think your theory works.

    4. Forty years ago, the NHL did not allow advertising on the sideboards. They were white except for the colored lines marking the boundaries.

      At the time everyone knew why. The obvious reason was that being advertised to was a form of disrespect. That was also a time when baseball broadcasts had a ton of dead air, with long passages of subdued crowd noise. Subliminal advertising in movies at that time was illegal.

      That ethical resistance has slowly disappeared from our culture.

    5. I'd like the respond @ 9:13 but it is time to take my Restless Leg Syndrome prescription.

    6. Guns, racism, ignorance. Period!

  2. If you watch shows like Bill Maher, where he frequently includes one conservative and two liberals, or one liberal and two conservatives on his panels, you will see that interrupting and shouting over other people's comments is more often done by the conservative guests. I believe they have adopted this strategy deliberately and that Houck may have exemplified that approach (didn't see the show but based on the description).

    To people used to civil discussion, it appears rude and overly aggressive. However, those who agree with what is said regard it as being an effective spokesperson for their viewpoint. They see these discussions as fights for dominance and do not distinguish between points scored by logic and those scored by shouting. Whoever gets the last word in wins. These verbal brawls help viewers feel vindicated in their own opinions.

    The more people who hold differing views try to discuss this issue, the greater the polarization about it. Histrionic headlines about civil war may be wrong, but the underlying sense of division over an issue that cannot be discussed and thus won't be resolved any time soon, does exist.

    Houck seems to be blamed for not listening to others, but forcing someone to stipulate to an opinion he does not hold isn't discussion either.

    1. "(didn't see the show but based on the description)"

      Anonymous @ 11:16 may exemplify reactions of Howler readers. That said maybe this just seems to be the pattern with Somerby's commenters. Fortunately few can be identified who have been killed because of conduct like this.

    2. There is a type of troll here who hints that Somerby may have misrepresented the transcript, quoted out of context, "disappeared" some important segments, etc. That troll asks readers to go back and check. I have done that in the past, gone to the links, read what the troll insists was distorted. In every single case, I have found that the troll was sending people on a wild goose chase. I don't bother any more.

      Somerby is scrupulous about his quotes and transcripts. I don't see any need to go visit the show itself except out of interest in that show. Others here do watch cable -- from their comments.

      The flippant "who have been killed because of conduct like this" shows a callousness about those who have died in past days. It is no surprise that a troll finds deaths to be fodder for their jokes -- they exemplify the dark triad of personality traits (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and sociopathy). The sociopathy is where the joking about other people's deaths comes from, but none of the three types includes empathy.

      I've seen quite a few comments lately about the motivations and personality of cops. There have been studies of this. In general, they are similar to fire fighters, teachers, social workers and others who wish to help other people. That is 95% of their job and the people who seek and stay in police jobs are those who find satisfaction in helping those in trouble. That's why these comments about police being power-hungry bigots are especially galling to those in the police community and their families. Part of the communication gap between BLM and cops involves this huge misunderstanding about who cops are and what they do all day.

    3. Teachers cheat a lot. I read it here in the Howler. Nobody else will mention it.

  3. Once again, the show transcript quoted shows that the guests had the facts wrong. Castile was stopped because he matched the description of a robbery suspect in a BOLO. That is verified by his radio call before the stop. Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds is the only person referring to a broken tail light. We do not know what the officer told Castile about why he was stopped.

    On some websites, commenters have referred to this legitimate BOLO stop as "racial profiling". This might be true if there were no close resemblance between Castile and the robbery suspect (shown in video to officers that morning). But it is ridiculous to suggest that this is racism because Castile wouldn't have been stopped had he not been black. The person committing the robbery was black and Castile resembled that person. Had the robbery suspect been white, Castile wouldn't have been stopped. That doesn't make the officer guilty of racial bias and it doesn't make this stop an instance of racially motivated abuse of power.

    When the guy on the show tries to get Houck to admit that bias could be a cause, he is asking Houck to disregard the circumstances of the case and agree that officers shot black men with no justification other than racial bias. This is the extreme position being taken all over the web, and in public statements, and in twitter.

    You can ask "Isn't it possible that bias was part of this situation?" but you can also ask "Isn't it possible that Castile committed the robbery and drew his gun to prevent being arrested for it?" What does either question contribute to the discussion?

    1. This is the first I've heard of the BOLO. If what you say is true, then the possibility that Castile committed the robbery is significant.

    2. If you look at minute 1:06-1:40 on Reynolds video posted to Facebook, you will see an object in Castile's lap. It could be a wallet or it could be part of a gun concealed beneath his t-shirt. Reynolds said the gun was in the glove compartment. On that same video you can hear the cop tell Reynolds that he told Castile not to move his hands.

      It is possible both Reynolds and the cop are stating untrue things for the video, but the cop sounds very distressed and he also sounds like he is answering her question about why Castile was shot. In the video, the cop's gun is still being aimed at Castile (who is alive and conscious and then unconscious after a minute or two). Reynolds is turned away from the cop, away from Castile and intently focused on talking into her phone. The cop tells her to keep her hands up and she responds that she will. When backup officers arrive, they ask her to exit the car. You can hear the arrival of the ambulance in the background.

      There are several other videos in possession of the police, including dashcam footage and a neighbor's video that shows first aid being administered to Castile promptly.

      These are all things that commenters on the liberal blogs appear to be unaware of. There are a lot of stupid things being said, such as "The gun was in the glove compartment so how could he have gotten it out and shot the cop with it fast enough to be threatening to him?" They also refer to the cop as hysterical and out of control, which he is clearly not on the video.

      It is embarrassing that liberals don't deal with facts because it undermines the BLM position when exaggerated, untrue and bigoted things are said about police. Too much heat and too little information.

    3. The BOLO is now being discussed on several websites. There are two sources. One is a report of a local station (KOCE?) stating that a local citizen heard the police call on a scanner, saying that Castile was being stopped to see if he was a robbery suspect. The other is the statement of the cop's attorney. There is no doubt a recording of what was said to the dispatcher, in the possession of the police.

      The robbery security video is being circulated too. You can see whether Castile looks like either of the suspects. A lot is being made at conservative sites that (1) the cigarettes stolen are the same as those smoked by Reynolds, (2) the glasses worn by Castile look closely similar to those of one of the robbers, (3) Polo apparel is worn by that robber and also appears in quite a few photos of Castile on Facebook. This is of course all circumstantial, but it suggests the cop wasn't just dragging any black guy off the street. (Polo is the #1 choice of hip hop enthusiasts so that probably doesn't mean much unless you were to find that green jacket in Castile's closet.)

      But, as with Michael Brown, the details make the situation more complex than it is being portrayed by BLM. They say that looking for this info amounts to blaming the victim and trying to deny the existence of racism, but if black men are being shot "for no reason," shouldn't there be more clean cases, where there is no doubt the police weren't sincerely trying to do their jobs? Cops get the benefit of the doubt because their context is law enforcement under conditions of uncertainty, where any person encountered could be entirely innocent or violent and dangerous, or anywhere in between. I see no reason to automatically give every black man shot by a cop the benefit of the doubt, as BLM insists be done -- or you are a bigot.

    4. Take your bigoted, unsupported b*llshit to VDARE, The Right Stuff, and the Daily Stormer, where you and your fellow cucks can enjoy a communally erotic experience without bothering human beings.

    5. You tell 'em 2:24! With a reasoned, thoughtful response like that, who could doubt that you are the one to trust.

    6. Plus Zimmerman was framed by the racist POTUS!

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  5. Anyone who has followed Houk's career on CNN knows that Houck is a hack.

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