Springsteen's vision comes back around!

THURSDAY, JULY 2, 2020

Back toward his hometown:
The Washington Post's Teo Armus is two years out of Columbia (class of 2018).

He went to one of "the finest schools." Amazingly, he, like the crusty old Hank Stuever before him, doesn't know enough to reject use of the insulting group denigration, "Karens," as part of a news report.

A news report which is amazingly poorly composed, even after revisions. Meanwhile, it's amazing to think that the Washington Post believes an insulting group denigration like "Karens" should be part of legitimate journalism.

That said:

For our money, few pop songs are better composed than Springsteen's My Hometown. This verse has been popping into our heads of late as we read the work of people like these:
In '65 tension was running high at my high school
There was a lot of fights between the black and white
There was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a Saturday night
in the back seat there was a gun
Words were passed, and a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come
To my hometown
My hometown
My hometown
My hometown
The video in that barely coherent Post report presents part of a very sad story. Meanwhile, the Post's astoundingly terrible judgment has been bringing it all back home.

JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Lowery cites death of Michael Brown!

THURSDAY, JULY 2, 2020

What he reported back then:
Should journalists try to tell us the truth about some issue or topic—as much of "the whole truth" as is relevant and manageable?

Or should they possibly tell us a story—a story which has perhaps been designed to affect our views and opinions about some point of concern?

In our view, the question arises when you read Wesley Lowery's recent essay in The Atlantic.

Right at the start of his essay, Lowery describes three police shootings in Minnesota in the year 2015. These shootings were part of a "gruesome cycle," Atlantic readers were told told as the essay began:
MINNEAPOLIS—Miski Noor watched just the first minute of the video of George Floyd’s killing before closing the tab and walking the two blocks to join the protests already forming at the scene. The days since have been filled with a maddening sense of déjà vu.

Noor had joined the Movement for Black Lives in 2014, after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The 34-year-old activist’s first protest was that December, a demonstration that shut down the Mall of America during the peak of the holiday shopping season.

Noor soon became intimately familiar with the gruesome cycle: The police killed someone. Activists protested. Small reforms were won. The police killed someone else.

In Minnesota, St. Paul police killed Philip Quinn, a Native American man in the midst of a mental-health crisis, in September 2015. One week later, a Kanabec County Sheriff’s deputy killed Robert Christen, a white former fullback for the Wisconsin Badgers who was enduring a mental-health crisis of his own.* Two months after that, in November 2015, Minneapolis police killed Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed black man. Hundreds poured into the streets.
The shootings of Quinn, Christen and Clark were part of a "gruesome cycle," Atlantic readers were told. Indeed, in the aftermath of the shooting of Clark, "Hundreds poured into the streets."

In this way, Lowery's self-described "story" began. But in what way did those three deaths constitute a "gruesome cycle?"

Also, why were those hundreds of people in the streets? Assuming that they were protesting the conduct of "Minneapolis police," was their protest well-founded?

Lowery never addresses these questions. Before long, his basic thesis has come into view:

"Black men and women are still dying across the country as police unions continue to codify policies designed solely to shield their officers from accountability," Lowery writes. That, of course, is certainly true, though it's also true that it doesn't speak to the questions we've asked.

Briefly, let's return to the shooting death of Christen—one part of the "gruesome cycle" Lowery describes as he starts.

Presumably, it would be a better world if no one was ever shot and killed in an encounter with a police officer. In this case, local reporting made it clear that Christen's death occurred as part of a terrible mental health breakdown.

That said, did the police officer whose affiliation Lowery misstated do something wrong in the shooting of the man whose name Lowery misspelled? Everyone, including Christen's parents, seems to agree on what happened:

On the evening in question, a former Big Ten fullback bullrushed a female sheriff's deputy who had arrived at the scene of a potential crime. The deputy was all that stood between Christen and his former girlfriend, who Christen had said he was planning to kill.

When Christen attacked the female deputy on his way into the former girl friend's house, the female deputy shot him. It would of course be a better world if none of this had ever occurred, but did the deputy misbehave in some way on that tragic night?

Lowery never explains. He simply continues to tell his "story," perhaps conveying a certain impression about this unfortunate set of events.

What made the cycle a "gruesome" cycle? In the manner of the saints, Lowery offered this overall picture:

First, "the police" kill someone, he says. After that, they kill someone else. Full stop!

That recitation conveys a fairly obvious picture. That said, should the female deputy who was bullrushed by the Big Ten fullback be summarized in that way?

Even Christen's mother says the deputy did nothing wrong! But when the saints start to engineer revolution, the saints may not tell it that way.

It's true, of course, that "black men and women are still dying across the country" in encounters with police. As we noted yesterday, police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed ten black people since the start of 2015.

In the realm of ideal forms, that would be ten too many. For ourselves, we'd much prefer that police officers never shot and killed anyone.

That said, it's also true that police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed 37 "white" people (including Christen) over that same period, perhaps recalling Professor Cobb's recent statement on cable TV.

(More on that topic tomorrow.)

In our view, Lowery's essay represents the sort of work which may result when the saints start providing our journalism. Because the saints are fashioning revolution, they may feel that they understand what facts should appear in a given "story" and which facts should perhaps disappear.

At any rate, Lowery never explained why that deputy's conduct that night was part of a "gruesome cycle." Should hundreds of people been in the streets because of what she did?

We were struck by what we found when we explored the background of the three events which comprised Lowery's gruesome cycle. Undesirable though each event may have been, did any of those events involve misconduct by an officer?

Lowery never addressed that question. Instead, he let an impression stand, with The Atlantic cheering him on.

Tomorrow, we'll look at Lowery's essay in last weekend's Sunday Review. In our view, the essay was very poor work. For that reason, it appeared in the Sunday Times.

For today, we wanted to call your attention to one other part of the way Lowery began his "story." We refer to his reference to the late Michael Brown, right in his second paragraph.

In our view, the world would be a better place if Michael Brown was still alive in it. He may have been having his own mental health crisis on the unfortunate day of his death, not unlike Quinn and Christen.

People having mental health breakdowns may put police officers in extremely difficult situations. This was obviously true in Christen's case. It may have occurred in the case of the late Michael Brown.

That said, we're always struck when journalists like Lowery cite the shooting death of Michael Brown as an example of police misconduct. We say that for the obvious reason:

On March 4, 2015, the Obama/Holder Justice Department released an 86-page report about the death of Brown.

In our view, the world would be a better place if Michael Brown was still in it. But this is the way the Washington Post's Sari Horwitz began her news report that day:
HORWITZ (3/4/15): Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Mo., in August because he feared for his life after Brown first tried to grab his gun and then came toward him in a threatening manner, according to a Justice Department report released Wednesday.

“Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses . . . there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat,” officials concluded in the 86-page report. The review explained why the Justice Department will not pursue civil rights charges against Wilson for the fatal shooting.
Say what? According to the Obama Justice Department, the officer's account of what happened had been corroborated by physical evidence and by eyewitnesses?

Later, Attorney General Holder explicitly said that he agreed with the report, which he urged people to read.

Was the officer's conduct that day justified? We bring no expertise of experience to such questions. For ourselves, we'd prefer that police officers throw their guns away and run for their lives when they're being charged by people who are refusing to accept arrest.

That said, we've been told that police departments simply can't function that way.

Horwitz's report was quite straightforward. She flatly said, in her opening sentence, that the DOJ held that the officer's conduct had been justified, though she presented no direct quotation to that effect.

Lowery had "contributed to" that report. But on that some day, Lowery wrote his own brief analysis piece for the Post about the Justice Department report.

In our view, Lowery may have had his thumb on the scales, at least a tad, that day.

He offered a narrower account of what the DOJ had said—"federal investigators opted against charging Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson with a federal crime." But his brief analysis offered four bullet points, each of which was accompanied by text from the report:
There is not evidence to suggest Darren Wilson’s use of force was unreasonable

Michael Brown likely did reach into Wilson’s vehicle and grab the officer

Michael Brown did double back toward Darren Wilson

Michael Brown’s hands were probably not up, but it’s impossible to say for sure
"There is not evidence to suggest Darren Wilson’s use of force was unreasonable?"

Speaking a clearer version of English, the passage posted by Lowery actually said this:

"The evidence, when viewed as a whole, does not support the conclusion that Wilson's use of deadly force was 'objectively unreasonable' as defined by the United States Supreme Court."

Somewhat similarly, the passage quoted by Lowery affirmatively finds that Brown actually did reach into Wilson's SUV—and it says that, when he did, Brown "punched and grabbed Wilson." Concerning the bullet point about Michael Brown's hands, we'd say that Lowery was giving ground grudgingly.

Offering an instant appraisal, it seems to us that Lowery may have tended to understate the findings he was discussing. But he surely knows what the DOJ concluded about Wilson's actions that day.

Five years later, in The Atlantic, Lowery opened his recent essay by citing the shooting of Michael Brown. Stating the obvious, everyone knows what such a citation is meant to convey at the present time, at least within our tribe.

Way back then, the Justice Department found that the officer's actions in that unfortunate incident were not "objectively unreasonable." (Reasonably enough, Horwitz turned such statements into a finding the the officer's conduct was "justified.")

That's what happened back then. Today, this incident is universally cited, within our tribe though not within theirs, as an example of racist police misconduct.

In the first four paragraphs of Lowery's essay, Brown's unfortunate death was paired with the unfortunate event in which that female deputy stopped a former Big Ten fullback from killing his former girl friend. Shame on that cop for doing that! A rather clear impression is quickly conveyed about all these events.

Did police officers misbehave in the four incidents Lowery cites? Lowery produces no argument or evidence to that effect. He simply hands us a pre-approved story.

Should The Atlantic have published Lowery's essay in the form in which it appeared? In our view, no—it shouldn't have.

Stories are easy; the whole truth is hard. But as we've been noting for 22 years, if it weren't for all the novelized news, we'd often have no news at all.

Tomorrow, we'll revisit what Jelani Cobb said about our numerous police shootings. We'll also recall what a guest on the PBS NewsHour said—a guest who was telling a story.

Story is easy, the real world is hard! We'll also look at Lowery's recent attempt to offer journalistic advice, as published in last Sunday's Times.

High-minded advice can be very easy! That's especially true if you're one of the saints, convinced of your one true perspective.

Tomorrow: "Focus on telling the truth"

The Post's Hank Stuever isn't a kid!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2020

There's no way out of this mess:
The Washington Post's Hank Stuever isn't a silly young kid.

According to the leading authority of his life, he was born in 1968. He graduated from college in 1990.

He's been at the Washington Post, a major newspaper, since 1999. He became the Post's TV critic in 2009.

Stuever isn't 14. Still, the utterly childish adult male wrote a piece which ate the bulk of the front page on today's Style section.

Pathetically, it starts like this. Hard-copy headline included:
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK
The top show to watch now? Karens.

The most addictive TV show this summer isn’t even an official TV show, but how long before it becomes one? Several times a day, Instagram and Twitter feeds serve up another galling, sad and often intensely satisfying segment of a reality series we can just go ahead and call “Karens,” in which women (almost always white, almost always of a certain demeanor) make the mistake of policing, harassing or discriminating against their fellow humans in public.

As soon as one Karen flames out across the Internet, another apparently more unhinged Karen rises in her place...
There the little boys go again, writing about "the Karens."

We've written about this astonishing phenomenon before; we don't plan to bother again. That said, the fact that grown men don't see the problem with this kind of mockery-by-female-demographic is absolutely astounding. As a matter of anthropology, the sheer stupidity of our species truly defies comprehension.

Presumably, the Style section still employs editors. They too don't see the problem with this kind of mockery by gender and race.

There's really no way out of this mess. As it turns out, it's now official:

Our species actually is this stupid on the highest levels.

One final point:

For years, Chris Matthews (and others) kept taunting Hillary Clinton as "Evita" and "Nurse Ratched" while using a wide array of other such misogynistic put-downs.

In Matthews' case, this went on for roughly ten years, during an era when his show actually was influential. (There wasless cable back then.)

This went on for roughly ten years. No one said a word about it. Stating the obvious, this is one of the basic ways Donald J. Trump reached the White House.

As of today, the Stuevers and the Stuever types are still out there running wild. So, of course, are their nameless editors, who seem to specialize in getting Karens fired.

Some of them went to "the finest schools." Proving there's no way out of this mess, this is what resulted!

Do you understand what Fauci said?

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2020

Also, decline in deaths restored:
Does anybody understand the tricky statistic called "cases?" This is why we ask:

Yesterday, Dr. Fauci made a comment which launched a million reports. Here's the way the comment is presented atop the front page of this morning's Washington Post:
GEARAN (7/1/20): Staggered by the resurgent novel coronavirus, cities and states are reinstituting restrictions on bars, pools and large gatherings days ahead of July 4 celebrations as the top U.S. infectious-disease expert warned Tuesday that the pandemic is out of control in some places and soon could reach 100,000 [new] cases a day.

Nationally, new infections have topped 40,000 in four of the past five days
during an accelerating outbreak that exceeds the worst days of April.

[...]

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he would not be surprised to see the number of new infections more than double, from over 40,000 a day now to 100,000 a day.
According to this remark, new infections (new "cases") are now topping 40,000 per day. But we could go as high as 100,000 new cases per day!

(Gearan et al. failed to include the word "new" in their opening paragraph. They made Fauci's meaning more clear a bit later on.)

We could go as high as 100,000 new cases per day? Does anyone understand that remark? This is why we ask:

Just last week, the head of the CDC said that the actual number of total cases to date may be as much as ten times the current recorded number. This is the way the Washington Post reported that assessment:
SUN (6/26/20): The number of people in the United States who have been infected with the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times as high as the 2.4 million confirmed cases, based on antibody tests, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

CDC Director Robert Redfield’s estimate, shared with reporters in a conference call, indicates that at least 24 million Americans have been infected so far.
That was Redfield's assessment of the overall number of "cases" (infections) to date. We're saying the number is 2.4 million, but the actual number could be as high as 24 million!

That's what Redfield said. He was speaking about total infections to date. That doesn't necessarily mean that the number of new cases on any given day is actually ten times as high as the number which is being reported.

Still, if we're dealing with a factor of ten, isn't it possible that we're already experiencing 100,000 new infections (new cases) per day, with only 40,000 of those new infections being diagnosed and recorded? If not, why not? Do you have the slightest idea?

When it comes to covid-19 statistics, deaths are easy, cases are hard. It seems to us that there are a hundred ways to get confused about "cases," with some journalists striving to dabble in every one.

Deaths are more straightforward, though inconsistent reporting procedures create confusions even there, as New Jersey showed last week.

For ourselves, we're prepared to report a bit of superficial good news: yesterday, nationwide deaths declined again. (We're using the Washington Post numbers, adjusted for the retroactive dump of old deaths New Jersey engineered on June 25.)

Nationwide, we closed the month with the lowest seven-day average since the good old days of mid-March. Below, we make an up-to-the-minute addition to the numbers we posted yesterday:
Daily deaths, nationwide, 7-day rolling average
May 25-May 31: 915.6
June 1-June 7: 803.4
June 8-June 14: 710.9
June 15-June 21: 585.9
June 24-June 30: 543.9
The rate of decline has slowed—but as of yesterday, the decline was still occurring. Yesterday's seven-day average was the lowest such number yet, unless you let a skew occur based on those retroactive New Jersey numbers.

At the end of May, the seven-day average stood at 915.6 deaths per day. After yesterday's numbers were released, the seven-day average at the end of June stood at 543.9.

That's a big decline, but it may not continue. Meanwhile, news orgs now focus on "cases," a rather slippery statistic which offers quite a few pathways to confusion and incomprehension.

In closing, we return to our basic question:

Based on what Redfield said, is it possible that we're already experiencing 100,000 new infections (new cases) per day, only 40,000 of which are being recorded?

Is it possible that this is true? Of one thing you can be certain—no one is going to ask!

JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Characterizing Christen's death...

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2020

...as part of a "gruesome cycle:"
In yesterday's report, we offered background information on one of 61 events. Or possibly on one of only six.

We offered background information on the shooting death of Robert Christen. In September 2015, Christen was shot and killed by a police officer in Mora, Minnesota.

According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force site,
Christen is one of 61 people shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota from the start of 2015 on through to the present day.

Christen is one of only six such people the site describes as being "unarmed" at the time they were shot and killed.

Local reporting on Christen's death was remarkably poignant. Christen's mother, Pam Christen, described Christen as "such a wonderful son." More specifically, she was quoted saying this:

“When he was not sick, he was a very loving and wonderful person. He was such a wonderful son.”

So spoke a loving mother. Unfortunately, Robert Christen had apparently been extremely sick at the time of his death. He'd long been dogged by extremely serious mental illness, his mother was quoted saying.

She said she'd seen him hospitalized 50-60 times. She was quoted interpreting her son's behavior on the night of his death in the following way:
FAURIE (3/3/16): People who knew Rob told investigators that he had recently been struggling with mental health issues and were worried that his text messages and phone calls were hints at a suicide attempt. “He was very sick,” said Rob’s mother, Pam Christen. “My husband and I basically believe this was suicide by cop.”
If we can believe the things we read, Pam Christen didn't blame the police officer who shot and killed her son.

“I want it very clear that we hold no ill will against the police officer," Pam Christen was quoted saying. "She was put in a terrible position and she did what she had to do."

So it went as the hometown newspaper reported this shooting death. For more details concerning the incident, see yesterday's report.

We reviewed this incident because it was recently cited in a high-profile piece of journalism. We refer to a high-profile essay by Wesley Lowery which recently appeared online at The Atlantic—an essay which Lowery and The Atlantic's editors specifically describe as a "story."

For reasons which were never explained, Christen's death was cited by Lowery right at the start of his essay. Headlines included, the essay starts like this:
Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point/
Black men and women are still dying across the country...


MINNEAPOLIS—Miski Noor watched just the first minute of the video of George Floyd’s killing before closing the tab and walking the two blocks to join the protests already forming at the scene. The days since have been filled with a maddening sense of déjà vu.

Noor had joined the Movement for Black Lives in 2014, after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The 34-year-old activist’s first protest was that December, a demonstration that shut down the Mall of America during the peak of the holiday shopping season.

Noor soon became intimately familiar with the gruesome cycle: The police killed someone. Activists protested. Small reforms were won. The police killed someone else.

In Minnesota, St. Paul police killed Philip Quinn, a Native American man in the midst of a mental-health crisis, in September 2015. One week later, a Kanabec County Sheriff’s deputy killed Robert Christen, a white former fullback for the Wisconsin Badgers who was enduring a mental-health crisis of his own.* Two months after that, in November 2015, Minneapolis police killed Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed black man. Hundreds poured into the streets.
According to Lowery's essay, Christen's death had been part of a "gruesome cycle" in which "the police" killed someone and than, after activists protested, "the police" killed someone else. As for the asterisk which appears at the end of the highlighted sentence, this explanation appears at the end of Lowery's piece:
*This article previously misspelled Robert Christen’s name and misstated the affiliation of the officer who killed him.
"Whatevs!" an experienced cynic might cry. Who cares about stupid sh*t like that when we're performing the type of work which is now being widely described as "the journalism of the saints?"

In fairness, everyone makes mistakes. Lowery's pair of mistakes suggest the possibility that he hadn't devoted a lot of attention to the details of Christen's death, which he decided to cite in his essay's fourth paragraph.

That said, our analysts say that a larger question arises in the passage we've presented—a passage which appears right at the start of Lowery's self-described "story." That larger question would be this:

In what way did these three incidents constitute a "gruesome cycle?" What point was Lowery trying to make by citing these deaths at the start of his essay, then linking them in that way?

Presumably, we'd all prefer that police officers never shot and killed anyone. Presumably, we'd all prefer that there would never be any such shooting deaths.

That said, what point was Lowery trying to make about the three incidents he briefly cites in that paragraph?

According to Lowery's account, two of those deaths arose out of mental health crises. Was Lowery suggesting that it would be better to send mental health specialists, not police officers, to the scene of such events?

In the rest of Lowery's essay, there's little evidence that he was trying to make some such suggestion Instead, it becomes clear that he is, in the main, attempting to address claims of racism on the part of American police.

As the essay's first section ends, a photograph of Noor shows her in a t-shirt which says, STOP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE. Later, he quotes Noor saying this:
LOWERY: “We want justice for George Floyd, but we know justice isn’t enough,” Noor said. “That’s why we’re demanding bigger and bolder things. Now is the time to defund the police and actually invest in our communities.

“These systems were created to hunt, to maim, and to kill black people, and the police have always been an uncontrollable source of violence that terrorizes our communities without accountability,” Noor added. “Black communities have been and are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities.”
Noor seems to care deeply about such matters, as indeed she should. That said, we're evaluating the journalists here—Lowery and the Atlantic's editors.

For himself, Lowery refers to the United States as "the country whose police officers are carrying out the extrajudicial killings of black people." More specifically, he describes Barack Obama as "the former chief spokesperson for and political figurehead of the country whose police officers are carrying out" those crimes.

Stating the obvious, there's nothing wrong with examining the way American police officers and police departments have behaved, and are behaving, toward the nation's black citizens.

Lowery's essay was offered in the aftermath of the brutal killing of George Floyd. It's fairly clear that his chief focus involves the claim that police officers and police departments are deeply involved in the kind of misconduct described by Noor.

If he chooses to stand trial, former officer Derek Chauvin will have a chance to explain his conduct on the day George Floyd was killed. That said, it's hard to imagine what he could say to make his conduct seem less vicious that it looks on videotape.

Racial justice is a deeply important concern; it has been for a long time. That said, at least as a matter of theory, intelligent journalism is highly valued too, though it's a practice which is valued mainly in the breach.

After reading Lowery's essay, we looked into the facts surrounding the three shooting deaths he cites in his fourth paragraph. We'll only say this:

In the case of the late Robert Christen, the mother of the deceased says the officer did nothing wrong. In the other two cases Lowery cites, it's much less clear what actually happened—but it isn't clear than the officers in question did anything wrong in those cases either.

(For an account of the death of Philip Quinn, including dashcam videotape which is unhelpful in the end, you can just click here.)

Very few people are going to doubt that Derek Chauvin behaved in the most egregious way possible when he took the life of George Floyd. (It's also true, as mentioned above, that he still has a right to due process.)

For better or worse, other cases are harder to judge—until we turn the story-telling over to revolutionary figures like Lowery. Until we adopt the story-telling procedure we began describing, all the way back in 1999, as the "novelization of news."

Out of curiosity, we also checked Minnesota's data from the Fatal Force site after reading Lowery's "story." When we took a look at the record, this is what we found:

According to the Fatal Force site, police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed 61 people since the start of 2015. According to the site, ten of those people were black; an additional 37 were white. The full listing looks like this:
Shot and killed by police in Minnesota, 2015 to the present:
White: 37
Black: 10
Hispanic: 3
Native American: 5
Asian-American: 3
Middle Eastern: 2
Unknown race/ethnicity: 1
The site says that six of these 61 people were unarmed when they were shot and killed. Five were white, including Christen. The sixth unarmed person was, in fact, Jamar Clark.

The site says that at least 21 of the 61 victims had been involved in an episode involving mental illness. Some others had been involved in reams of ludicrous conduct.

Such ludicrous conduct will sometimes put police officers in very difficult circumstances requiring instant decisions. So it was in the case of Christen, who was apparently undergoing a major mental health breakdown.

Why was Robert Christen's death placed at the top of this "story?" Were readers supposed to assume that the officer whose affiliation Lowery misstated must have done something wrong in killing the person whose name Lowery couldn't spell?

Were readers supposed to assume that some act of misconduct by that (female) deputy must explain why this event had been part of a "gruesome cycle?"

Were readers expected to make that assumption? People, of course they were! In fairness to Lowery, it's possible that he hadn't ever checked to see how that event had gone down.

It's possible that he didn't know the first freaking thing about this part of his story. So it may tend to go when saints start practicing journalism.

When we read Lowery's story in The Atlantic, but especially when we read his featured essay in Sunday's New York Times, we thought of headstrong Diomedes being chastised by the much more experienced Nestor not far from the high walls of Troy. According to Homer, Nestor admired Diomedes' spirit, but he felt that his judgment might be somewhat poor.

Tomorrow, we'll look at a reference Lowery makes in the second paragraph of his Atlantic essay. On Friday, we'll look at the inchoate mess the New York Times inevitably decided to publish last Sunday.

This is the way our discourse may tend to go when we practice the journalism of the saints. On the other hand, some will say that no major change ever occurs, in any society, without a few journalistic eggs possibly being broken.

Tomorrow: Lowery cites Michael Brown. Also, back to what Cobb said

Daily deaths edge up again!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

Reversing that long, strong decline:
Daily deaths edged up again a tiny tad yesterday.

(We're dealing in 7-day averages nationwide. We're using the Washington Post's data. We've adjusted for the way New Jersey changed its accounting procedures last week.)

From May right on through until last week, there had been a long, strong decline in daily deaths. As we showed you recently, the numbers were looking like this:
Daily deaths, nationwide, 7-day rolling average
May 25-May 31: 915.6
June 1-June 7: 803.4
June 8-June 14: 710.9
June 15-June 21: 585.9
Daily deaths were dropping fast, but the rolling average bottomed out last Thursday at 567.1 (June 19-June 25). At least in the immediate short run, this completed a process of long, rapid, steady decline.

The number has been inching back up since then. As of yesterday, it had moved back up to 583.3 (June 22-June 28).

So far, that isn't a giant increase. But for several months extending into last week, daily deaths had been on a steady, rapid decline.

The Roman Republic was felled by Okmok.
All in all, we may not be doing real great ourselves!

Sayre's Law visits the New York Times!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

Why we can't have nice things:
Sayre's Law is a mighty law. The leading authority on the dictum explains the holding like this:
Sayre's law states, in a formulation quoted by Charles Philip Issawi: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." By way of corollary, it adds: "That is why academic politics are so bitter."

Sayre's law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905–1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University.
A tightly-stated variant of Sayre's Law is often attributed to Henry Kissinger. As always, the more often you hear a certain claim made, the less likely the claim is true.

We thought of Sayre's Law today as we read the New York Times. More specifically, we read this endless report by Kim Severson—a report about a roiling dispute within an organization no one has ever heard of.

Severson's lengthy report is long, suggestive and murky. You'd think the fate of the world was at stake. The lengthy report starts like this:
SEVERSON (6/230/20): For years, people have been calling for John T. Edge to step down as head of the influential Southern Foodways Alliance.

They say he is a kingmaker. They say he is a white man—however charming—who has too much power over who tells the story of food in a region where so much of the cuisine was created by enslaved people.

For years, Mr. Edge has been listening, and remained in his position at the top.
You can learn real things from the Times! Today, we learned that there is an organization called the Southern Food Alliance, and we learn that it's influential.

A few questions did come to mind. Influential among whom? we wondered. Also, influential concerning what?

We can't say that we were clear about those questions by the time we finished the endless report. Nor were we ever told how Edge got to be head of the SFA to begin with, or why there is no pathway for him to be induced to step down.

We weren't told why the phalanx of whining bougies in Severson's piece can't start their own pointless org somewhere else. Mainly, though, we thought about this:

This is why we can't have real discussions about public schools, or about our lunatic health care spending, or even about what actually happened in Flint.

How did the tyrannical Edge become head of the SFA? Why is there no provision by which he can be replaced?

In best Times fashion, Severson skips these obvious points. Instead, she lards her piece with whining and crying, generally built around insinuations and complaints about unexplained matters of race.

At this time, within the Times hive, this is all the hornets know. The newspaper's hopelessly foppish, Hamptons-based culture feeds on such blather as this.

No real discussion takes place in the Times. But dear God, can they ever fill space!

We had an oddly similar reaction to a very different type of report in this morning's Times.

This second report appeared in the Science Times; it was stunningly erudite. That report started like this:
KORNEI (6/30/20): Chaos and conflict roiled the Mediterranean in the first century B.C. Against a backdrop of famine, disease and the assassinations of Julius Caesar and other political leaders, the Roman Republic collapsed, and the Roman Empire rose in its place. Tumultuous social unrest no doubt contributed to that transition — politics can unhinge a society. But so can something arguably more powerful.

Scientists on Monday announced evidence that a volcanic eruption in the remote Aleutian Islands, 6,000 miles away from the Italian peninsula, contributed to the demise
of the Roman Republic. That eruption—and others before it and since—played a role in changing the course of history.
Yes, that's right. Academics have determined that a major eruption from Okmok, a volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, helped bring the Roman Republic to an end.

The eruption occurred in or around 43 B.C., give or take. Soon thereafter, the republic was on the way out.

These academics today! They've been able to determine that an Alaskan volcano took the Roman republic down. But for twenty months during Campaign 2000, journalists were inventing crazy claims and pretending that one White House candidate had been these claims, and no academic ever stepped forward to note the way this stupid practice might bring our republic down.

Our eggheads know all about Okmok. Our bougies want Edge out.

The New York Times is immersed in such matters; that's how it butters its bread. But when it comes to basic questions about various forces which drive the society, the paper is out to a very late lunch.

Aside from food disputes and ancient eruptions, the Times is a rolling joke. Admittedly, decades of branding make this fact hard for most liberals to spot.

Truly, we can't have nice things. For us, that will always be Poundstone's Law. We heard her state it first!

Meanwhile, as in Sayre's Law, the less at stake, the greater the squabble! To the whiners inside the SFA, we offer some good sound advice:

Full your bougie selves with your best bougie food. Then go jump in some deep Southern lake!

Also this: Parkinson's law of triviality? You'll find it explained right here!

JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Christen was shot and killed by police!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

All sides agree on what happened:
Robert Christen, age 37, was shot and killed in Mora, Minnesota on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

Was he shot and killed "by Minnesota police?" We're not entirely sure why you'd put it that way.

Everyone agrees that Christen was shot and killed by Shana [LAST NAME WITHHELD], a Kanabec County sheriff’s deputy. It's also agreed, by all concerned, that Christen was unarmed.

As such, the Washington Post's Fatal Force site lists Christen as one of the six unarmed people who were shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota since the start of 2015.

For those who wish to evaluate our current "journalism of the saints," the circumstances of Christen's death may well prove instructive. Below, you see the initial online report by WCCO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis.

This initial report appeared on October 1, 2015.
The report was souced to police authorities, with punditry by one local resident thrown in:
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office says a man is dead after he made threats and attacked a deputy in Mora Wednesday.

Shortly before 9 p.m., Kanabec County Sheriff’s Deputy Shana McIalwain responded to a residence on the 500 block of Watkins Street after a man called and said he intended to kill someone at the address.

Thirty-seven-year-old Robert Sullivan Christen, of Duluth, arrived shortly after the McIalwain arrived. The sheriff’s office says Christen drove up at a high rate of speed and crashed his vehicle into a tree on the front lawn.

Despite being ordered to stop, Christen continued to advance and then attacked McIalwain, repeatedly punching her in the head. She then shot Christen to stop him. He died at the scene.

[...]

McIalwain, a one-and-a-half-year veteran of the department, suffered injuries to the forehead and arm in the attack and was treated and released by paramedics. She has been placed on standard administrative leave.

Christen had a prior assault conviction. Investigators are not sure of the relationship between Christen and the homeowner, but they say two children live in the home.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.
According to the Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office, Christen had threatened to kill someone in a particular home. The deputy sheriff—she was in her second year on the job—reported to the scene and was later attacked by Christen.

"She then shot Christen to stop him," WCCO reported. Also, an investigation had begun.

The factual claims in this initial report were wholly sourced to Kanabec County authorities. There was no obvious reason to assume that every word in that report was accurate, though of course it could have been.

By the time the investigation was finished, there seemed to be little doubt about what had happened. Everyone seemed to agree about the basic facts of the case. The only question that remained was this:

Could something else have been done?

What did the investigation reveal? For starters, we'll recall a lyric from the widely-recorded song, A Tramp On the Street:

As it turned out, Robert Christen was indeed "some mother's darlin'." He had indeed been "some mother's son."

That mother agreed as to the facts of the case, as you'll see below. This might also be said of Christen:

He had once been a fullback for the University of Minnesota's Golden Gophers. We'll guess that he was bigger and stronger than the officer who shot and killed him that night, but we've seen no official statistics to that effect.

Remember, this was an investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed man. What did the investigation reveal? For that, we direct you to a poignant news report by Kirsten Faurie in the Kanabec County Times.

Faurie's report appeared on March 3, 2016. The investigation was now complete. As she started, Faurie reported the basics:
FAURIE (3/3/16): Five months after the fatal shooting of a man by a Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office deputy, the county attorney determined the deputy was justified in her use of deadly force and therefore no criminal charges will be filed against her.

Kanabec County Attorney Barbara McFadden made the determination Feb. 19, shortly after the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) concluded its investigation of the incident. The investigation revealed the man, 37-year-old Robert S. Christen, had a history of mental illness and was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the shooting.
So far, Faurie's report is quite sketchy. As her report continued, she continually referred to Christen on a first-name basis.

She also quoted Christen's mother at length. Under the subheading, "Suicide by Cop," she described some of the basics:
FAURIE: On Sept. 30, 2015, at approximately 8:45 p.m. Rob made a 9-1-1 call to report a “possible crime” and stated he was going to kill a person at a home on Watkins Street, Mora where Rob’s girlfriend, Juanita Lietz, and her two children lived.

According to a letter from the county attorney’s office, Deputy Shanna McIalwain was dispatched to the home and spoke with Lietz and another adult who were at the residence. The second adult left with the two children while McIalwain and Lietz stayed at the home to wait for Rob to arrive.

As more detail emerged about Rob’s violent threats from dispatch and from Lietz who had been receiving text messages from Rob, McIalwain called for backup. Moments after, McIalwain saw Rob’s car come flying around the corner, squealing the tires and honking the horn. The car came over the curb and into the yard toward the front of the house stopping as it ran into some bushes.

McIalwain stepped out of the home and was standing on the landing when Rob got out of the car and began to rush toward her. McIalwain drew her handgun and ordered Rob to stop. Instead, he approached her, pushed away her hands and immediately began punching her in the head. After striking her three times, Rob took a temporary step back either by choice or by loss of balance.

McIalwain reported that at that point she was becoming dizzy and felt she was losing consciousness. Out of fear that she could pass out and be beaten to death, shot with her own weapon or the residents of the home harmed, McIalwain fired her weapon at Rob six times, missing with the first shot but striking him five times. When EMTs arrived they provided several minutes of medical care then pronounced Rob dead at the scene.
Should the deputy have fired her weapon? Was there something else she should have done instead? We have no experience or expertise judging such tragic questions.

As she continued, Faurie reported that Christen had marijuana and cocaine in his system at the time of his death. She also quoted a statement by McFadden—a statement in which the county attorney seemed to misstate one aspect of the facts of the case, at least as Faurie had reported them.

That said, Faurie also began to quote Pam Christen, the mother of the deceased. Here again, Pam Christen was referred to on a first-name basis.

“He was very sick,” Pam Christen said of her son. “My husband and I basically believe this was suicide by cop.”

Rob Christen had been somebody's darling. In some detail, Faurie proceeded to quote Pam Christen as she told the tale.

We include Faurie's sub-heading:
FAURIE: A long struggle

Five months after her son’s death, Pam harbors no anger against the police. In fact, she expressed sympathy for McIalwain.
“I want it very clear that we hold no ill will against the police officer. She was put in a terrible position and she did what she had to do,” she said.

Rob’s family said he had a long history of mental illness and was receiving treatment. Pam said the events of Sept. 30 show Rob had not been taking his prescribed medication and that he had slipped into a manic episode.

Rob was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 25 years old. In the 12 years since his diagnosis to his death, Pam said she had seen her son hospitalized 50-60 times, each time only at the peak of a crisis. She said her family was even advised by a social worker for Rob to tell hospitals or the police that he was going to kill himself in order to be admitted.

“It takes a crisis to get any help,” she said. Pam recalled many times that Rob would call the police on himself. Threatening to kill someone or kill himself was the surest way to make sure he was admitted to a hospital.

“When he was not sick, he was a very loving and wonderful person,” said Pam. “He was such a wonderful son.”

Lietz shared a collection of photos that showed the kind and loving side of Rob.
Just months before his death, Rob was a groomsman in his friend’s wedding. Pictures also show Rob playing happily with Lietz’s family at Paul Bunyan Land and with his favorite dog, Casper.

But his constant struggles with mental illness took their toll. “He just didn’t want to be sick anymore,” said Lietz.
This was an example of hometown, first-name reporting. Mora's population is something less than 4000. It lies some 65 miles from the Twin Cities. The population of Kanabec County is more like 16,000.

Faurie's report continues from there. She quotes the Kanabex County sheriff commending the deputy sheriff for her service that night.

“It was a tragic event that ended terribly,” the sheriff is quoted saying.

The sheriff and Pam Christen are each quoted further as they discuss the shortcomings of the mental health services which had been available to Rob Christen. They each discuss the need to treat mental health issues outside a criminal context.

“We need to get people the help they need and jails are not the place for that,” the sheriff said.

Faurie had composed a lengthy small-town news report. Her report could have been a launchpad for a discussion of some major social issues.

At the upper ends of our mainstream press, few such extended discussions occur. At present, the journalism of the saints is perhaps crowding out some such discussions and coverage.

According to the Fatal Force site, police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed six unarmed person since the start of 2015.

Robert Christen was one of the six. The basic facts in the other five cases may all be quite different.

That said, Wesley Lowery cited this event right at the start of his recent high-profile essay in The Atlantic. Tomorrow, we'll revisit, and review, his presentation of this case. His presentation might be said to be an example of "the journalism of the saints."

We won't be saying that such journalism is right or wrong. We do think it's worth considering the way this event was presented to The Atlantic's occasionally story-fed readers.

Tomorrow:
"A gruesome cycle"

The fuller lyrics: Reading Faurie's report, we recalled these widely-recorded lyrics:
He was some mother's darlin', he was some mother's son
Once he was fair and once he was young
And some mother rocked him, her darlin' to sleep
But they left him to die like a tramp on the street
The first three lines seem appropriate here. The gravamen of the fourth line was perhaps implied elsewhere.

Hugh Hewitt makes a ludicrous claim!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2020

On Meet the Press, no one noticed:
What kinds of crazy "facts" can a person hear at the very top of our news chain?

Consider the indignities visited on those who watched yesterday's Meet the Press. Hugh Hewitt was part of the pundit panel. Things quickly went sideways from there:
TODD (6/28/20): Hugh, how would you advise the president to turn this around? I mean, it does look like at this point they've made the decision the federal government isn't going to own the response [to the pandemic]. I mean, Secretary Azar kept bringing it back to the states, back to the states. I understand that's a federalism response, but it's not working.

HEWITT: Well, yesterday 500 Americans died, Chuck. And in Germany, 680 Germans died. The United States' death toll has dropped dramatically from May, when it was 2,700...
Hewitt storylined further from there. But good God! Just look at the numbers he cited!

Hewitt's current death count for the U.S. was reasonably accurate. According to the Washington Post's numbers, 546 deaths from coronavirus were recorded on Saturday, June 27.

That death count was reasonably accurate—but how about the crazy number he cited for Germany? "In Germany, 680 Germans died?"

Obviously, that number was crazily wrong. But nobody said a freaking thing about Hewitt's ridiculous statement—not Chuck Todd and not his other two pundit guests.

How crazy was Hewitt's number? Anyone who knows anything about this topic knows that Germany has stifled the coronavirus to a state of semi-extinction.

According to the WorldOMeter site, daily deaths in Germany have been averaging maybe 10 per day. The notion that Germany had suddenly pulled a 680 made no earthly sense.

(In population, Germany is roughly one-fourth our size.)

Still, the claim emerged from Hewitt's mouth. Later that day, in a tweet, he explained:
HEWITT (6/28/20): I was wrong on @MeetThePress this morning. Germany had 680+ new cases yesterday not deaths. My error entirely not @NBCNews
Hewitt had deaths mixed up with cases! That's why he blurted that crazy number, a number suggesting that things aren't nearly as bad as the Trump-haters might have you think.

That said:

A journalist has to know nothing at all to think that Germany could have pulled a 680. We think of something NAME WITHHELD said to us, two decades ago, concerning the total lack of preparation displayed by many journalist guests on C-Span's Washington Journal.

(No, it wasn't Mortman.)

You have to know nothing at all to make a statement like Hewitt's. That said, no one corrected or challenged him on the air and, in the very next segment, Chuck Todd was offering this:
TODD: Welcome back. Data Download time. Let's take a look at how the United States is doing compared with other countries in controlling the coronavirus.

At 107 cases per one million people, the United States has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Brazil's is higher, with a seven-day average of about 163 new infections per one million. Russia and India are also in double digits per one million people. And, of course, we can't be sure how accurate the reporting is in all cases...
The problems continued from there. Already, lack of clarity reigned.

Does the United States currently have "107 cases per one million people?" Actually, that would be the number of new (confirmed or reported) cases on a daily basis.

A viewer could have gleaned that information from the small print on the chart which appeared behind Todd. But Todd's entire presentation was very poorly written.

Just within the chunk we've posted, we were especially struck by this statement: "And of course, we can't be sure how accurate the reporting is in all cases."

We certainly can;t be sure of how accurate the reporting is when it comes to American cases! Just last week, the CDC reported that the actual number of cases, overall, may be as much as ten times the current reported number. "Cases" is a slippery metric, for several basic reasons and in several different ways.

Coronavirus statistics can be very hard! If you want to report accurate information, you have to be careful about you say.

In this case, Todd was conveying basic narrative, but the text he was reading was poorly composed. Earlier, Hewitt's unchallenged statement was a miracle of complete/total incomprehension.

While we're at it, we'll refer you to Kevin Drum's discussion of the recent divergence in U.S. statistics between "daily cases," which are rising, and "daily deaths," which have been dropping.

For pro-Trump reasons, Hewitt was trying to make more of the drop in deaths than anyone sensibly could. In recent weeks, we've noted several people overstating the daily number of deaths, perhaps for opposite narrative reasons.

Largely because deaths are "a lagging indicator," Drum says their number could "turn upward next week." Here's the bad news:

At least on a tiny level, daily deaths have already turned upward! The upward movement so far is slight. It may turn out to be a statistical blip, signifying nothing much beyond the lack of a steady drop.

But the seven-day rolling average has in fact inched upward in the last few days—and yes, we're adjusting for the infusion of deaths which suddenly occurred last Thursday, when New Jersey dumped the results of a change in its accounting system into the daily number.

To what extent have deaths inched up? Consider:

At the end of May, American deaths were averaging 915.6 per day (May 25-31). By June 25, the average was all the way down to 567.1 per day (June 19-June 25).

Since then, the seven-day average has nudged up to where it stands at present, 580.7 (June 22-June 28). That may turn out to be nothing much. But the rise in the past few days represents the first time the average has risen since we started keeping track last month.

At any rate, there was Hewitt, reporting live and direct from Pundit Know-Nothing Land. The people you see on your TV shows often know nothing at at all—except, of course, for the glorious shape of their prevailing narratives.

Those they memorize and recite. Quite often, that's pretty much all.

One last factual point: U.S. daily deaths never averaged 2700 in May, or at any earlier point. According to the Post numbers, the daily count went that high on four occasions, though that may have been an artifact of glitches in the day-to-day recording system.

The daily average of deaths exceeded 2000 per day for at most two weeks in April. The average was never as high as 2000 per day at any time in May.

Hewitt was cherry-picking and overstating in service to pro-Trump narrative. He overstated with respect to the American numbers. With respect to the German number, it was Upper-End Pundit Gone Wild.

JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Wesley Lowery's plea in the Times!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2020

Plus, unarmed man shot and killed:
We'll run through the history quickly:

Long ago and far away, Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, once again gave the best advice.

Homer was there to record the whole thing. In Book 9 of his famous best-seller, The Iliad, he records the way it went down:

The tide of battle had very much turned against the Argives (the Achaeans) in their attempt to sack Troy. "Godsent Panic seized them," Homer reports, "comrade of bloodcurdling Rout."

That evening, Lord Marshal Agamemnon rose in counsel. Tears streaming down his cheeks, he said the Achaeans should cut and run.

"We'll never take the broad streets of Troy," Agamemnon said. He said the Argives should "cut and run—sail home."

(We're working from Professor Fagles' 1990 translation.)

So Agamemnon strangely advised. Other members of the counsel were "struck dumb by his orders," Homer reports. Finally, the headstrong young Diomedes rose to speak.

"Desperate man!" Diomedes said, boldly addressing the lord marshal. "If your spirit drives you to sail home, then sail away, my King!...But the rest of the long-haired Achaeans will hold out, right here, until we've plundered Troy."

So spoke the headstrong young lord of the war cry. "And all the Achaeans shouted their assent," Homer recalls, "stirred by the stallion-breaking Diomedes' challenge."

Based on very limited reading, we regard what follows as one of the great moments in world literature. Nestor scrambles to his feet, eager to restore order.

He praises Diomedes' power in battle, even his general judgment.

"In council you excel all men your age," Nestor says, meaning this as a compliment. But he then points to Diomedes' youth and concomitant lack of wisdom.

"How young you are—why, you could be my son, my youngest-born at that," Nestor coolly remarks.

"It's my turn now, Diomedes," the seasoned adviser coolly said. "I think I can claim to have some years on you. So I must speak up and drive the matter home. And no one will heap contempt on what I say, not even mighty Agamemnon."

Before the evening is done, Nestor has restored unity within Argive ranks. Before a more limited council of "senior chiefs," he has directly chastised Agamemnon, causing him to retract his earlier rash remarks.

The basic advice he gives Diomedes is of no particular relevance here. But we thought of that famous scene from world literature when we sampled the Sunday Review section of yesterday's New York Times.

More specifically, we thought of that famous scene when we read Wesley Lowery's attempt to devise new rules for American journalism, such as it is.

Lowery's essay was the featured piece in yesterday's Sunday Review.
We'd say the piece displayed revolutionary ardor. On the other hand, we'd have to grade the fiery essay as something like D-minus work.

Needless to say, D-minus work is nothing new in New York Times guest opinion writing. Decades of branding make the following point hard to credit, but it's true nonetheless:

If it weren't for all the D-minus work, there would frequently be no New York Times opinion work at all. We offer this unfortunate assessment as an anthropological statement.

In our view, Lowery's essay needed a lot of work. For ourselves, we wouldn't have published the piece as it is.(Childishly, our journalists tend to refer to such essays as "stories.")

Before the week is done, we'll show you what we see the major shortcomings of Lowery's piece—its shortcomings of evidence and of logic.

We'll get there before the week is through. For today, we're going to start with Lowery's recent essay in The Atlantic—an essay about police shootings, a very serious topic.

For ourselves, we wouldn't have published that essay either. As editor, our questions for Lowery would have started with his second paragraph.

For unknown reasons, Lowery and the editors at The Atlantic explicitly refer to his essay, at two different junctures, as a "story." You may think we're picking nits when we mention that fact.

You may think we're picking nits. We would say that we're starting at the beginning. At any rate, the essay deals with a very significant topic—and the essay starts like this:
MINNEAPOLIS—Miski Noor watched just the first minute of the video of George Floyd’s killing before closing the tab and walking the two blocks to join the protests already forming at the scene. The days since have been filled with a maddening sense of déjà vu.

Noor had joined the Movement for Black Lives in 2014, after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The 34-year-old activist’s first protest was that December, a demonstration that shut down the Mall of America during the peak of the holiday shopping season.

Noor soon became intimately familiar with the gruesome cycle: The police killed someone. Activists protested. Small reforms were won. The police killed someone else.

In Minnesota, St. Paul police killed Philip Quinn, a Native American man in the midst of a mental-health crisis, in September 2015. One week later, a Kanabec County Sheriff’s deputy killed Robert Christen, a white former fullback for the Wisconsin Badgers who was enduring a mental-health crisis of his own. Two months after that, in November 2015, Minneapolis police killed Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed black man. Hundreds poured into the streets.
In the fourth paragraph of his essay, Lowery mentions three Minnesota events. These events are said to be part of a "gruesome cycle."

After the third of these events, "hundreds poured into the streets." But how are we supposed to judge or assess these events? At no point in Lowery's "story" are we given help with that.

By now, of course, everybody reading that essay knew what they were supposed to think about those three events. They understood why those events constituted a "gruesome cycle"—or at at least, they knew what they were supposed to assume about that.

A powerful narrative preceded Lowery as he composed his story. The Atlantic published his story. For ourselves, we would have judged that Lowery's essay needed much more work.

Tomorrow, we plan to describe the events of one of the police shootings cited by Lowery in paragraph 4 of his essay. We'll ask you what you think of those events once you've seen them more fully described—and in this case, there seems to be no disagreement concerning what actually happened.

Tomorrow, we'll show you what happened in that one event. We'll ask you what you think about its placement in Lowery's overall "story."

According to the Washington Post's invaluable Fatal Force site, American police officers have shot and killed roughly one thousand people in every year from 2015 through 2019. (When he was still at the Washington Post, Lowery was involved in creating this invaluable site.)

On a per capita basis, many more people are shot and killed by police officers in this country than in other comparable nations. It's also true, of course, that our nation is commonly said to be "awash in guns."

Sometimes, police officers shoot and kill people who are, in fact, unarmed. According to the Fatal Force site, police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed six unarmed people since the start of 2015.

For the record, five of those people are listed as "white." One is listed as "black."

How gruesome is the gruesome cycle to which Lowery referred? There is, of course, no ultimate answer to that question. But that may be a harder judgment to make if we start reimposing traditional rules on the way we write our "stories."

As for Lowery's recent work, it reminds us of the famous phrase, "Revolution of the saints." If memory serves, we first heard the phrase in connection with Professor Walzer's 1965 book of that title.

At present, it seems to us that Lowery is largely performing the journalism of the saints. This is hardly his sole doing, of course. For better or worse—it's a matter of judgment—the journalism of the saints is now being widely performed.

All this week, we'll be examining Lowery's two recent essays. In closing today, we want to assure you of one important point:

We'll be offering our remarks as examples of anthropology. As we've acknowledged before, we're being advised in our work by top experts in the field.

We offer this work for those who want to consider the way the human brain compels the human mind to work. That said, absolutely nothing is going to change because of anything we write. We'll still be allowed to tell and repeat our stories.

At this site, it's all anthropology now. Elsewhere, revolution and its rules, or its lack of same, now quite widely prevail.

Tomorrow: Unarmed man is shot and killed "by Minnesota police"

Nestor's advice: Nestor's advice to Diomedes isn't especially relevant here. For what it's worth, here it is:
"Lost to the clan,
lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for the horror of war with his own people.”
Or at least, so Homer recalled.

In the current situation, our journalism could conceivably be much improved if practitioners waged war on its current ways from within.

But they'd have to be offering good sound advice—advice which made good solid sense.

Robin DiAngelo, queen of the whites!

SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 2020

Recalling The Family of Man:
Speaking quite frankly, it happens.

Revolutionary cadres ring in the new ideas, the new terms and the new rules. Along the way, they know they must trample the olds.

Once again, here is Andrew Sullivan's description of the way it was done during the age of the Beatles:
SULLIVAN (6/26/20): The Red Guards did what they did—to their friends, and parents, and teachers—in the spirit of the Communist regime itself. They murdered and tortured, and subjected opponents to public humiliations—accompanied by the gleeful ransacking of religious and cultural sites. In their attack on the Temple of Confucius, almost 7,000 priceless artifacts were destroyed. By the end of the revolution, almost two-thirds of Beijing’s historical sites had been destroyed in a frenzy of destruction against “the four olds: old customs, old habits, old culture, and old ideas.”
"The four olds!" However comical the name may sound, the four olds was an actual thing.

Your grandfather's Oldsmobile wasn't involved. In this passage, the leading authority on the four olds explains when the olds first appeared:
The term "Four Olds" first appeared on June 1, 1966, in Chen Boda's People's Daily editorial, "Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons", where the Old Things were described as anti-proletarian, "fostered by the exploiting classes, [and to] have poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years". However, which customs, cultures, habits, and ideas specifically constituted the "Four Olds" were never clearly defined.
The four olds were designed to sweep the monsters away. Meanwhile, which customs and habits were the four olds? New decisions might be reached day by day!

At any rate, when John Lennon wrote Revolution, he was saying that he didn't want any part of this new approach, not even in its British and American forms. Some will suggest that this uppity stance was easy for him to adopt.

No one is being murdered and tortured during our current revolutionary days. As with many revolutions, the current revolution has excellent goals, however imperfect or unwise its procedures and immediate points of focus may sometimes seem.

That said, the olds are again being swept away, and are being replaced by the news. We have new language, the better to mark ourselves by. We have new gurus, new rules.

At present, one of the hottest new gurus is best-selling author Robin DiAngelo, the anti-racism corporate workshop leader turned anti-racism writer.

DiAngelo's current best-selling book is extremely hot. This leads us to wonder if the Washington Post's Carlos Lozada is really permitted to say this:
LOZADA (6/21/20): “Race relations are profoundly complex,” Robin DiAngelo writes in “White Fragility,” a book that, two years after a best-selling debut, is having a new burst of popularity and urgency. In the midst of a nationwide debate on institutional racism and police violence, Americans are binge-reading (or at least bulk-buying) recent texts on race to help them grapple with that complexity...DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”—the No. 1 bestseller on the New York Times nonfiction list this week, and The Post’s No. 4—is officially now part of a new canon.

Except it doesn’t deserve that distinction.
Even as it introduces a memorable concept, “White Fragility” presents oversimplified arguments that are self-fulfilling, even self-serving. The book flattens people of any ancestry into two-dimensional beings fitting predetermined narratives. And reading DiAngelo offers little insight into how a national reckoning such as the one we’re experiencing today could have come about.
In last Sunday's Outlook section, Lozada smashes DiAngeo's book. We mention this because we thought Lozada's review operated on a level that has rarely seen in one of the current olds—in our old upper-end journalism.

We haven't read DiAngelo's book. We did watch the recent rebroadcast of her 2018 interview with Michelle Martin for the PBS show, Amanpour & Co.

We may have seen the original broadcast. We've been amazed by DiAngelo before.

We haven't read DiAngelo's book, but we've seen DiAngelo on TV, and we've read Lozada's review. We thought this passage was astutely reasoned, in a way one rarely sees among the ranks of the current olds:
LOZADA: White fragility is the sort of powerful notion that, once articulated, becomes easily recognizable and widely applicable. (DiAngelo, for instance, uses it to explain Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.) But stare at it a little longer, and one realizes how slippery it is, too. As defined by DiAngelo, white fragility is irrefutable; any alternative perspective or counterargument is defeated by the concept itself. Either white people admit their inherent and unending racism and vow to work on their white fragility, in which case DiAngelo was correct in her assessment, or they resist such categorizations or question the interpretation of a particular incident, in which case they are only proving her point.

Any dissent from “White Fragility” is itself white fragility. From such circular logic do thought leaders and bestsellers arise.
DiAngelo's basic premise goes like this:

Every "white" person—every "white" person except DiAngelo herself—is reluctant to acknowledge or admit to his or her racism. (Below, we'll explain the scare quotes.) As with the Red Guard and in Salem Village, so too here:

This disinclination to confess is seen as proof of the crime. This disinclination to confess is what DiAngelo means by "fragility."

In her days as a corporate workshop leader, DiAngelo was forced to deal with this universal, pathetic state of denial. Her condescending attitude towards all the olds with whom she dealt is rarely hard to spot in her televised interviews.

Also rare is the deftness of Lozada's logic. In the passage we've posted, he defines the "Heads I'm right, tails you're wrong" essence of DiAngelo's new superiority:

If the white person confesses her guilt, that shows that she's guilty of racism. If she refuses to confess, that shows the same darn thing!

This, of course, has always been a part of revolutionary logic. If you read Lozada's review in full, you'll be reading an unusually deft presentation, upper-end press corps-wide

As noted, we'd watched DiAngelo on TV not long before reading Lozada's review. On June 12, the PBS program rebroadcast a 17-minute interview which it originally aired, in edited form, in September 2018.

We're sure that DiAngelo is a thoroughly good, decent person. That said, what self-assured revolutionaries we mortals (may occasionally) be!

To an astounding degree, DiAngelo seems to be lacking the gene which provides the capacity for self-doubt. In the exchange with Martin shown below, we see the new certainty joined to elements of the new argot in service to the new ideas.

You'll also see that DiAngelo totally fails to answer the question she's asked. Asked to give an example of her own fragility, she describes her own greatness instead.

We offer the exchange at some length because it's so instructive. To watch the fuller exchange, click here, move ahead to the 7:30 mark. This is the way the exchange was aired during the original broadcast:
MARTIN (9/21/18): You speak very frankly in the book about how you’ve stepped in it yourself, if I can use that phrase. Can you give an example of where you experienced your own white fragility?

DIANGELO: So I’m in a room with three black women, two of which I’m very close to and one I don’t know at all. And she gives us a survey to fill out, and it’s tedious to me, it seems kind of template. It doesn’t capture the nuance of what we do.

So I push it aside and I say, “Let me explain. We go out into these different offices and we do these anti-racism trainings. In fact, Debra here was asked not to come back when she went to such-and-such office. I guess her hair scared the white people.” She has long locked braids.

So I want you to notice what I’m doing. Not only am I making a joke about a black woman’s hair, which is a sensitive issue and I do know better, but I’m positioning myself as the cool white person, and they’re all the clueless white people. And I wish I could tell you that I recognized I was doing that. I didn’t.

Meeting’s over. A couple of days later, the assistant, Marsha, comes to me and says, “Angela was really offended by that joke you made about black women’s hair.” And I immediately, “Oh God, thank you.” And I called Angela and I said, "Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism that I perpetrated towards you in the meeting last week?"

She said, “Yes.” We sat down. We talked about it. And she said, “I don’t know you. I have no relationship with you. I have no trust with you. And I do not want to be joking about black women’s hair in a professional work meeting with a white woman I don’t know.”

I hear you. I apologize. Then I asked, is there anything I missed? And she said, “Yes. That survey you so glibly shoved aside, I wrote that survey. And I have spent my life justifying my intelligence to white people.”

Owned that, apologized.
Asked, is there anything else that needs to be said or heard that we might move forward? And she said, “Yeah. If we’re going to work together, I’m sure you’re going to run your racism at me again. And so the next time you do, would you like your feedback publicly or privately?”

MARTIN: Interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

DIANGELO: I love her for that! I said, "Publicly, in my case, please. It’s really important that other white people see that I’m not free of this but it gives me an opportunity to model non-defensiveness."

And: “Are we good?” “We’re good.” And we moved on. And one of the things she said to me was: “This kind of stuff happens to us all the time. What has never happened to me before is what you’re doing right now, this repair. And I appreciate it.”
In that exchange, DiAngelo is asked to cite an instance in which she herself displayed "white fragility." In her response, she describes an incident in which she heroically displayed the opposite of "white fragility."

When we read Lozada's review, we learned that DiAngelo's memorized anecdote was drawn straight out of her book. At any rate, here's what happened in the incident she described to Martin:

In a meeting with three black colleagues, DiAngelo adopted a know-it-all attitude about a survey one of her colleagues had designed. Along the way, she threw in a joke which offended one of the women on a racial basis.

When DiAngelo was told that she had offended this woman, she displayed no "white fragility" at all. Instead, she quickly confessed her racism to the offended party.

In the ensuing conversations, she and the offended colleague engage in some truly remarkable forms of the new language. By the time these conversations are done, DiAngelo is being told that she has displayed the new behavior in a way no other white person has ever done!

At the start of her anecdote, DiAngelo chides herself for having "position[ed] myself as the cool white person" as opposed to "all the clueless white people." By the end of the anecdote, she's positioning herself the same way!

She's the newest "white" person ever! Along the way, she has claimed that somewhere in this universe, two different people have actually produced such unlikely locutions as these:
DIANGELO: Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism that I perpetrated towards you in the meeting last week?

[...]

OFFENDED COLLEAGUE: If we’re going to work together, I’m sure you’re going to run your racism at me again. And so the next time you do, would you like your feedback publicly or privately?
Back in Maotime, the Red Guard invented some truly remarkable newspeak. Even they would have to marvel at the new locutions described in that passage.

Han anyone ever said such things? Only the CIA knows!

Meanwhile, we humans! Some of us may sometimes have an amazing lack of self-awareness. So it seems to be with DiAngelo, self-certified queen of the whites.

Every time we read or watch DiAngelo, we're struck by the controlling narrative in which she is the most morally advanced "white" person in all human history. She is always able to see how pathetic the other whites are. As she was told by her offended colleague, she alone, among the whites, possesses the degree of insight and rectitude she put on display in that anecdote.

None of this means that Robin D'Angelo is some sort of bad person. We would suggest that she seems to possesses almost no self-awareness. This will often be the case with those elect who are charged with inventing the newthink.

In closing, a point concerning those scare quotes. It takes us back to a once famous book, The Family of Man [sic].

The Family of Man is a book of photographs assembled by Edward Steichen. Included is a poetic commentary by Carl Sandburg. Sandburg's commentary includes such matter as this:
There is only one man in the world and his name is All Men. There is only one woman in the world and her name is All Women. There is only one child in the world and the child's name is All Children.

[...]

The first cry of a baby in Chicago, or Zamboango, in Amsterdam or Rangoon, has the same pitch and key, each saying, "I am! I have come through! I belong! I am a member of the Family." Many the babies and grownup here from photographs made in sixty-eight nations round our planet Earth. You travel and see what the camera saw. The wonder of human mind, heart wit and instinct is here. You might catch yourself saying, "I'm not a stranger here."
The book has never been out of print since it appeared in the 1950s. In the 1960s, it was very hot, even as the four olds were being smashed and destroyed.

This book was designed to promote a certain understanding of "race." It was the dominant liberal understanding of "race" in that street-fighting era.

According to this dominant thinking, there was only one race, the human race. Babies were the very same babies in Chicago and in Rangoon.

According to this revolutionary thinking, the human race should be understood as a family. The concept that people belong to different "races" was an example of oldthink. It was understood to be an unfortunate product of "the world the slaveholders made."

That was conventional liberal/progressive thinking back then. On balance, it's now a discarded artifact of counter-revolutionary oldthink.

Today, our tribe is deeply invested the idea that everyone actually does belong to some particular race. Not that various people will be treated as if they belong to a race, but that it's actually so.

Everybody belongs to a race. Your identity actually is your race. We will remind you of this every day. Everything turns on your "race."

So goes one part of our modern tribe's tribal newthink. For ourselves, we think the oldview was much more humane, but then too was also more accurate.

From Sullivan on to Wittgenstein!

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2020

The human mind in action:
For today, we're going to throw to Andrew Sullivan with respect to revolution.

In the passage shown below, Sullivan is describing a standard form of human mental functioning in times of revolution. Below, we'll make a further connection:
SULLIVAN (6/26/20): The impulse for wiping the slate clean is universal. Injustices mount; moderation seems inappropriate; radicalism wins and then tries to destroy the legacy of the past as a whole. The Taliban’s notorious destruction of the great Buddhas of Bamian in Afghanistan was a similar attempt to establish unquestioned Islamic rule. “Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to Allah that we have destroyed them,” Mullah Mohammed Omar explained. This was the spirit of Paris in 1789 as well. “If we love truth more than the fine arts,” the Enlightenment figure Denis Diderot remarked, “let us pray to God for some iconoclasts.” (He was also the lovely chap who insisted that “humankind will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” And in the French Revolution, of course, he almost got his way.) The Romans, for their part, eventually decided that the only way to govern Jews was to physically destroy their Temple in Jerusalem.

Iconoclasm is not just vandalism and violence. It is a very specific variety that usually signifies profound regime change. That’s why the toppling of old Soviet monoliths in the 1989 liberation of Eastern Europe was so salient. They were important symbols of that sclerotic Soviet empire’s power. And for true revolutionary potential, it’s helpful if these monuments are torn down by popular uprisings. That adds to the symbolism of a new era, even if it also adds to the chaos. That was the case in Mao’s Cultural Revolution, when the younger generation, egged on by the regime, went to work on any public symbols or statues they deemed problematically counterrevolutionary, creating a reign of terror that even surpassed France’s.

And Mao’s model is instructive in another way. It shows you what happens when a mob is actually quietly supported by elites, who use it to advance their own goals. The Red Guards did what they did—to their friends, and parents, and teachers—in the spirit of the Communist regime itself. They murdered and tortured, and subjected opponents to public humiliations—accompanied by the gleeful ransacking of religious and cultural sites. In their attack on the Temple of Confucius, almost 7,000 priceless artifacts were destroyed. By the end of the revolution, almost two-thirds of Beijing’s historical sites had been destroyed in a frenzy of destruction against “the four olds: old customs, old habits, old culture, and old ideas.” Mao first blessed, then reined in these vandals.
This is the way our tiny minds tend to work when we decide it's time for a change. Nuance simply isn't our thing. We become convinced that our tribe is completely and totally right, and that everything else must fall. Everyone else should be in prison, or in reeducation camp.

We remain amazed, on a nightly basis, by the way Rachel Maddow is drawn to Locking Them Up. Consider the current circumstance:

In the current circumstance, our liberal elite can't conceive of the possibility that William Barr, rightly or wrongly, actually believes that the prosecutions of Cohen, Flynn and Stone were a type of politicized sham. For ourselves, we can't imagine why any liberal or progressive would have any faith, at this point, in prosecutions which were closely connected to Comey.

That said, the call of the tribe is loud. Plainly, our tribe can't even conceive of the possibility that someone else—in this case, Barr—could actually believe, rightly or wrongly, that he is doing something right by challenging or examining these particular prosecutions.

Sullivan is describing the mental impulses which arise during times of revolution. As Sullivan notes, these dimwitted impulses may even emerge in pursuit of revolutionary values which are long overdue and good.

In fairness, some people may believe that this type of upheaval is the only way you can actually get something done. Almost surely, that isn't true. But, as David Letterman and Gallagher proved, we humans do like to smash things!

Our human brains just aren't real sharp. Meanwhile, as a group, we're unable to notice this fact. Our mobs start to rampage through the streets. Those who aren't inclined to mouth their new sacred phrases will be frogmarched away.

How poorly do our human minds actually work? Consider the later Wittgenstein! According to Professor Horwich, this is what he did:
HORWICH (3/3/13): Wittgenstein claims that there are no realms of phenomena whose study is the special business of a philosopher, and about which he or she should devise profound a priori theories and sophisticated supporting arguments. There are no startling discoveries to be made of facts, not open to the methods of science, yet accessible “from the armchair” through some blend of intuition, pure reason and conceptual analysis. Indeed the whole idea of a subject that could yield such results is based on confusion and wishful thinking.

This attitude is in stark opposition to the traditional view, which continues to prevail.
Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on—and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

If so, then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein. For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking...He asks, “[w]here does [our] investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important? (As it were all the buildings, leaving behind only bits of stone and rubble)”—and answers that “(w)hat we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stand.”
Say what? Our allegedly greatest thinkers have been tangled up in "the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking?"

Plainly, any such notion is counterintuitive. But a steady application of Wittgenstein's analytical method can show that much of our allegedly highest thinking actually has, in point of fact, been "nothing but houses of cards"—was based on "grammatical confusion."

Trust us, though—no one in the press corps or the academy is going to perform any such deliberation. No one but Horwich, that is.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our analytical skills are very limited.

Optically, our human capabilities can't overcome certain optical illusions. Physiologically, we can't command our leg to hold still if someone taps our knee the right way.

Intellectually, our allegedly greatest minds cant help fallin' in love with those "linguistic illusions." Given all these obvious flaws, why should we expect revolutionary cadres to show something resembling good sense?

At present, our revolutionaries are worrying about statues and Halloween costumes. No one is going to discusses the lives of children in our low-income schools or all the missing money getting looted from our health care "system."

We're too busy getting the heretics fired. At some point, the virus dies out.

Revolutionary lingo: According to Sullivan, "Revolutionaries also create new forms of language to dismantle the existing order." He describes the way "the woke shift their language all the time, so that words that were one day fine are now utterly reprehensible."

He doesn't discuss another way the saints will rearrange language. They will routinely invent new forms of speech which help the elect identify others who are elect.

Current example—police are no longer brutal to black people. Police are now brutal to black bodies. These stilted new locutions create a form of tribal signalling. The saints can tell that someone can be trusted if they use the stilted new phrases and terms. Oldspeak is a signal of danger.

This is the way our tiny minds work. Our human minds are very tiny, and we're very strongly inclined to march ourselves off to tribal war.

We're wired to create the other. Or so anthropologists say.