ANTHROPOLOGY NOW: Tell us a story, our species insists!

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2017

Part 4—Preferably a cartoon:
On January 17, 2016, Daniel Shaver had an extremely bad day. He was shot and killed by a Maricopa County policeman as she crawled on his belly, submissive, in the hallway of a Mesa motel.

On December 8 of this year, prolonged videotape of the deadly incident was released to the public. In an online report for the New York Times, Vivian Wang described what she saw on the tape. Almost five minutes of videotape accompany Wang's report:
WANG (12/9/17): Newly released body camera footage shows a police officer shooting an unarmed man in an Arizona hotel after the man sobbed and pleaded with officers not to shoot him.

The graphic video, which was released after a jury on Thursday acquitted the officer of murder and manslaughter charges, stoked outrage on social media and renewed calls for reforms in law enforcement.

“This, to me, is the most horrific shooting I’ve ever seen,” Mark Geragos, a lawyer for the widow and the 5- and 8-year-old daughters of the man, Daniel Shaver, 26, said in an interview on Saturday. Mr. Geragos, who said he had seen thousands of body camera videos, said the footage was evidence of “the criminal justice system at its worst.”
Was this really the most horrific such videotape yet? Arguably, yes.

The previous worst videotape showed Walter Scott being shot in the back in North Charleston, S.C., as he ran from a pursuing police officer. Arguably, the new tape was even worse than that, in that 1) it showed the entire incident, from start to finish, and 2) it included the extended crazy instructions given to Shaver and a female friend by the officer who was later acquitted.

Should the officer have been acquitted? We aren't examining that question today. Today, we're discussing what anthropologists have told us about the way the tape of Shaver's death has been treated within the American press and pundit corps—by the way the videotape has disappeared from view.

According to Wang, Geragos said the tape was the worst he's ever seen. She also said the release of the tape had "stoked outrage on social media and renewed calls for reforms in law enforcement."

If so, how odd! Despite the focus on police shootings in recent years, the incident was never reported in the hard-copy Times.

Wang's report appeared online only. According to Nexis, readers of the hard-copy Times have never heard of the incident, or of Shaver at all.

Then too, there's this. Despite the focus on police shootings in recent years, this incident has provoked zero pundit reaction. According to Nexis, the incident has never been mentioned on MSNBC's evening programs, or on any CNN program except for overnight time-kill programs.

(MSNBC doesn't prepare transcripts for its daytime programs.)

The incident has never been mentioned by Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon. It has been mentioned by no columnist at either the New York Times or the Washington Post.

Despite the recent focus on police shootings. that remarkable videotape has come and gone with barely a word of comment. Plainly, everyone knows why that is. But major anthropologists have tried to help us place this incident in a larger context for our award-winning documentary, Anthropology Now, which is scheduled to be filmed in some future year.

The shooting of Shaver has disappeared. According to these major figures, the lack of press and pundit interest can be explained as follows:

Our floundering species, Homo sapiens, is a species whose mental functioning is heavily focused on the contemplation of illustrative stories. Our species isn't instinctively focused on facts.

"Jesus employed no charts or graphs," one witty scientist told us.

How strong is our desire for parables? "Even today, our brainiest journalists routinely describe their news reports as 'stories!' " So this scientist sadly said, shaking his or her head.

According to these anthropologists, the problem with our instinctive functioning runs even deeper than that. Our species isn't content to seek out stories, these scientists say. We're wired to seek the most simplified tales we can find.

"The truth is, we're strongly wired to seek cartoons," one of these scholars said. He or she proceeded to explain what he or she meant, offering specific examples:

"Starting with the death of Trayvon Martin," this anthropologist told us, "members of the American liberal tribe have been constructing cartoonized stories about matters of gender and race."

According to this scientist, facts have routinely been invented or disappeared to cartoonize these stories. In other cases, wholly irrelevant facts have been stressed in the telling of these cartoonized tales.

"As a species, we love the smell of cartoons in the morning," one anthropologist said. Also this:

Sometimes, entire incidents must disappear to drive the overall story! This explains the non-reaction to the shooting of Shaver, these major academics have said.

These major figures are painting a rather gloomy picture of our species' instinctive functioning. As a matter of fact, they've repeatedly said, we humans aren't strongly wired to behave in classically "rational" ways, or to pursue "Enlightenment values."

Especially at times of social stress and tribal division, we're strongly wired to seek cartoons—and the more dumbed-down the better! Or at least, so these well-known figures have said.

Let's make one point perfectly clear. At first, we assumed these scientists were describing the internal wiring and external tendencies of "those people," The Others, the ones who are found Over There. When we made a comment betraying this thought, these scholars brought us up short.

They stressed the claim that this is also the way we liberals are inclined to behave! This seems like a highly irrational claim, but these major anthropologists have stressed it again and again.

Again and again in recent years, we liberals have disappeared facts to create cartoonized tales! In the case of the shooting of Shaver, we've disappeared the incident altogether, despite that remarkable tape!

These anthropologists say these facts about human wiring help explain our liberal tribe's recent moral panics and stampedes. They say these basic facts help explain Kirsten Gillibrand's shaky behavior, even Patrick Leahy's recent flip concerning Senator Franken!

They further say that these facts help explain the way we liberals ignore the public schools. We don't actually care about the kids in those schools, these major figures allege. We only care about our cartoons, which we cling to as a drowning man or woman might cling to twigs from a raft.

Alas! It was with these crazy thoughts in mind that we recently read Cat Person, the New Yorker short story which recently became a sensation among us liberal types. In our view, the story is fascinating and instructive right up to the end, when it becomes a cartoon.

The New Yorker has long been famous for its cartoons. Back in the day, did the famously brainy magazine present its cartoons in disguise?

Final point about Shaver: In the Washington Post, Wes Lowery offered a news report about Shaver's killing. Online, the headline says this:

"Graphic video shows Daniel Shaver sobbing and begging officer for his life before 2016 shooting"

The report appeared in the hard-copy Post on Saturday, December 9. According to Nexis, there has been no subsequent mention of Shaver in the Post, whether hard-copy or online. According to Nexis, Shaver has never been mentioned in the hard-copy New York Times at all.

Earlier this year, Lowery published a best-selling book, "They Can't Kill Us All." It was recently picked by the New York Times as one of the hundred best books of the year.

We aren't judging the quality of the book, which we own but haven't read. The book itself may be superb. We have no way to judge.

That said, "Is that title perhaps a cartoon in itself?" That's what one of our anthropologists somewhat Socratically said!

Full disclosure: Back in the 1990s, we appeared, for the second time, on CNBC's Equal Time. During the course of a hurtful discussion, we were compared to Margaret Mead by Mary Matalin and Tony Kornheiser, our excessively puckish co-hosts.

We were appearing as a comedian! In the new year, we'll try to post the tape.

19 comments:

  1. Two tragic consequences of the narrow media narrative of police shooting blacks because of racism.

    1. Less aggressive policing in the inner cities has caused the number of black murder victims to sky-rocket by almost 2,000 a year.

    2. The focus on racism as the supposed problem deters finding solutions to the real problem, which is police selection, training and management.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not true - no proof re: narrow media narrative causing 1 & 2.

      1. Not true - no proof
      2. Not true - no proof.

      Go back to your source - Prof. Otto Yerass - and try again.

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    4. AnonymousDecember 19, 2017 at 12:32 PM -- there's lots of evidence for the Ferguson Effect. E.g., see https://nypost.com/2017/01/16/poll-of-cops-shows-the-ferguson-effect-is-all-too-real/ and
      https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leading-criminologist-heather-mac-donald-ferguson-effect-golomb

      Delete
    5. There's "lots" of evidence, yet you have to resort to the NY Post and Linkedin, neither of which supports your thesis.

      You due for an extended stay at your nearest troll re-education camp.

      Delete
  2. You typed so many letters, Bob, blaming "human wiring" and other shit that has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    Quite simply: the establishment media disappear every story not aligned with the official establishment 'narrative'. In this instance it's the liberal-racialist narrative.

    And disappearing stories is the least of their misdeeds. In many cases (such as the Seth Rich murder, for example) they actively suppress them, ridiculing and condemning any attempt at scrutiny.

    Hey, just what one would expect from the Ministry of Truth...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "as the Seth Rich murder, for example"

      You spelled "Vince Foster" wrong. LOL.

      Delete
    2. Stick to hyping the Toddler in Chief, Mao.

      Delete
    3. "Seth Rich murder"

      BWAHAHAHAHA! Another Alex Jones/Breitbart zombie.

      Delete
  3. I can think of three police shootings of white victims that were particularly striking. The shooting detailed above. The shooting in California where, as the officer arrived on the scene, he shot and killed a drunk driver climbing from his car--and then covered up the shooting as other officers arrived, pretending he didn't know why the man wouldn't respond (the victim was paralyzed and later died; the officer received at best minimal punishment). And lastly, the victim in Pennsylvania begging for his life as he lay in the snow. The panicked female officer shot and killed the unarmed man. She was acquitted.

    Though I support Black Lives Matter and am grateful for the attention it has brought to the shootings of black victims, I do think that an equally significant problem is the acceptance of police violence in general. In shooting after shooting--whether the victim is white or black--officers are almost never held to account, regardless the evidence. The Shaver case is about as horrifying as it gets in this regard.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bob's approach is equally cartoonish.

    Here's a more thoughtful view this topic.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/a-police-killing-without-a-hint-of-racism/546983/

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is typical Somerby. He learns about it...from the news media, then criticizes the news media for not reporting the story...
    Secondly, he claims the video has "disappeared." It's everywhere.
    Where was Somerby when this story was first reported...in May of 2016? Here's an op-ed that mentions this incident among others (from July of 2016): (http://time.com/4404987/police-violence/)
    Apparently Somerby doesn't actually pay attention to anything at all, but waits for the media to mention something, then he's off and running to criticize them. Somerby will not follow up on this story, nor will he do more than jam it into his pet narrative.

    Did Somerby do a Nexis search on Fox programs for a mention of this story? It is after all the conservatives who took Black Lives Matter to task...not for pointing out potential (and real) problems with our policing, but for, apparently, daring to criticize the police. So they tend to disappear *all* such stories.

    And I DID see this on MSNBC in the past two weeks, but I don't feel like spending hours trying to locate the story.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  8. Somerby talks about these anthropologists as if they were real. They are not. They are his voice. Unfortunately, Somerby knows very little about anthropology and this rhetorical device, never explained, mocks actual anthropology. It is wrong to do this. It also makes Somerby appear kind of crazy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have read that book. It was almost the only flat-out political book I read all year but I have moved on to Chris Capozzola's "Uncle Sam Wants You" which I guess counts. It is more about his experiences as a journalist trying to cover BLM than about police shootings and is extremely valuable on that basis.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was also going to say that according to both DKE and Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report/538 Democrats have shown an identifiable pattern of overperformance in both state and federal special elections all year. This should cause them to feel very good about themselves for 2018.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dave Wasserman might even be asked to appear on TV to discuss this.

    ReplyDelete