Part 5—Potential problems with a current favorite: By now, it almost has the feel of an addiction. We refer to the way we pseudo-liberals cling to our most treasured novel.
Consider a new example. On Friday evening, MSNBC debuted one of its silly pseudo-documentaries, "20 Stories That Shook The World in 20 Years."
The silly program was assembled to celebrate the cable channel's twenty years of foolishness. Rachel Maddow read the program's silly, listicle text.
What follows isn't entirely Maddow's fault. The assignment could have gone to anyone at the silly "news channel."
At any rate, Maddow burned an hour reading the text the channel's workers had assembled. Along the way, she introduced one of the "20 stories" by saying this:
MADDOW (7/15/16): Outrage erupts in 2012 when Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, is shot and killed while walking down the street in Florida. A man named Geroge Zimmerman is charged with second dgree murder.Just to be clear: What follows isn't a comment about Black Lives Matter. What follows isn't a comment about the movement it launched.
A year later, at trial, Zimmerman claims he acted inself-defense and he's acquitted. Those who oppose the ruling unite and launch the national movement, Black Lives Matter.
What follows is a comment about major corporate "journalists," not excluding Maddow. More broadly, it's a comment about our liberal tribe's unquenchable desire to repeat our novelized claims.
Let's state the obvious. Different people have assessed the killing of Martin in different ways. But however a person assesses that event, Maddow's highlighted claim simply isn't accurate, except inside the tribal realm where multimillionaire TV stars serve us the porridge we love.
"Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, [was] shot and killed while walking down the street in Florida?" Whatever you think of that evening's events, that statement just isn't accurate.
As everyone knows, Martin wasn't "walking down the street" when he was shot and killed. As everyone knows, he was actually down on the ground, engaged in a fight with Zimmerman.
Martin wasn't "walking down the street" when he was shot and killed! Maddow understands that fact, as do her corporate owners.
They also know that that's the story we "liberals" like to hear. Plainly, Maddow's statement is inaccurate. But it serves our endless need to keep hearing the stories we like—our novelized forms of the news.
At highly partisan times, various people seek fortune and fame by reinventing basic facts in service to tribalized novels. For many years, we liberals correctly complained when this sort of thing was done by Rush and Sean.
Now, we liberals invent, embellish and disappear facts in the manner of those we claimed to despise. We've discovered the joy of the novel.
Trayvon Martin wasn't shot and killed by a policeman, of course. That said, our country would be well served by a serious discussion of police conduct, good and bad, including police shootings.
That said, the discussion of the past four years has been saturated with our tribe's novelizations. This is done in various ways, as we've discussed in earlier parts of this series.
Our "journalists" keep making their bones by embellishing basic facts in the service of novels. In the matter of fatal shootings by police, at least three problems may result:
People can form false impressions about such events: We stress examples where blacks are killed. We disappear the rest.
We rarely consider the basic statistics. When we do, we're highly selective in the statistics we choose to assess.
In the face of all this novelization, people can form false impressions about the frequency of police shootings. They can also form false impressions about the racial aspects of such shootings.
Where can false impressions come from? Let's quote Rosa Li, a young researcher, in a recent piece for Slate:
LI (7/15/16): The recent high-profile police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and too many other black men and women have raised contentious questions about the extent to which law enforcement officers are affected by racial biases. A newly published working paper by Harvard University professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. received a lot of attention and pushback this week for finding no evidence of racial bias in police shootings. This is surprising, Fryer readily admitted, and anyone exposed to the recent graphic videos of police behaving violently toward black men and women might agree.What were Fryer's actual findings? To what extent can Fryer's reasearch be taken as definitive?
Starting tomorrow, we'll discuss such questions all week. But as Li noted, "anyone exposed to the recent graphic videos of police behaving violently toward black men and women" might naturally be inclined to draw a different set of conclusions. It isn't obvious that those conclusions will be accurate.
As we've noted, the press corps keeps discussing fatal shootings of blacks while ignoring fatal shootings of whites and Hispanics. At the same time, journalists invent false facts, and disappear actual facts, about these selective examples.
No matter what the topic might be, selective examples and bogus facts are bound to produce false impressions. But our press corps plays those childish games in much the way real humans breathe.
What's the "truth" about fatal police shootings? We'll examine Fryer's research all week, noting its limitations. But manifestly, people can't learn the truth from selective examples driven by bogus facts.
Children (and parents) may become irrationally scared: In a new piece for The New Yorker, Kai Gregory profiles Lezley McFadden, Michael Brown's mother, on her current book tour.
Gregory's profile is extremely selective; it's often less than fully coherent. At one point, Gregory records a sad exchange:
GREGORY (7/18/16): An African-American woman raised her hand and identified herself as the mother of a twelve-year-old boy. She said, “I have fear every day, as he walks to school, or wants to go to the pizza shop.” Did McSpadden have solutions?That unnamed woman "has fear every day" as her son walks to school. But what is her fear about?
“I’m asking that as well,” McSpadden answered. She has an eleven-year-old son at home.
Gregory doesn't say.
From the context of Gregory's novelized piece, one would assume that the woman has fear of police shootings. If that's the case, this woman said she has this fear every time her son leaves her sight.
Have children and parents received a false impression about the frequency of police shootings? Tomorrow, we'll start with that question as we examine Fryer's findings.
The crazies will always be with us: Corporate journalists should stoip making inaccurate statements. They should also stop trafficking in selective examples, with police shootings stressed and/or disappeared on the basis of race.
That said, they've been doing exactly that for the past four years. Almost surely, many people have been misled in the process. They've received false impressions about these important events, which deserve serious journalistic examination.
Many people have been misled. Was Micah Johnson one of those people? How about Gavin Long? How about Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who murdered the two policemen in Brooklyn in December 2014?
Obviously, it's possible that the anger of those killers stemmed from false impressions. The crazies will always be with us. That's one reason why people like Maddow should perhaps try something new:
They should try making accurate statements when they discuss such serious matters. They should consider the harm that's already been done by the endless series of novels their corrupted predecessors have let loose on the world in the past twenty-five years.
Have people perhaps been misled about fatal shootings by police? Starting tomorrow, we'll examine that question all week.
We'll consider some basic findings by Fryer. We'll consider his work's limitations.