ELEMENTS OF THE WHOLE TRUTH: When Lowery wrote about Minnesota...

THURSDAY, JUNE 18, 2020

...we imagined a possible survey:
Except for the instant way it surfaced in the discourse, it's a fairly tangential point.
The questions at issue were these:

Should the two officers in Atlanta have allowed the late Rayshard Brooks to walk home on the tragic night in question? Under department protocols, would they even have been allowed to exercise such discretion?

Should they have let him walk home? In the end, it's a fairly tangential question, but it quickly provided a standard messaging-point. As we noted yesterday, Paul Butler offered this assessment on Tuesday night to a PBS NewsHour audience:
BUTLER (6/18/20): When the officer who ends up killing Mr. Brooks shows up, Mr. Brooks says, if you're concerned about my driving, my sister lives two blocks away. I can just walk to her house and leave the car there.

That also is effective policing.
The cops don't have to arrest everyone. Public safety is about keeping people safe. But too often, especially with African-American suspects, the resort is always to arrest. And, sometimes, it leads to these tragic consequences.

[...]

It's about commonsense judgment. The officer could have said, "If I see you in this car, I'm going to lock you up."
According to Butler, the officers should have let Brooks walk the two blocks to his sister's home. His car could have stayed on the Wendy's parking lot. They could have warned him about coming back to drive his car away while he was still drunk.

Yesterday, we forgot to tell you—we feel completely sure that Butler is a good, decent person. Does anyone really doubt that?

That said, Butler is a leading cable news legal expert and a Georgetown Law School professor. By Tuesday night, the assessment he offered on the NewsHour was being voiced wherever our liberal tribe's storylines are sold.

Butler plainly suggested, at several points, that the officers' refusal to let Brooks walk home, or perhaps to walk to his sister's house, was based on racial bias. That too was standard official group narrative. This adds interest to what was said on CNN last night.

To the extent that Chris Cuomo's persistent interruptions allowed an interview to occur, Cuomo interviewed two attorneys for Devin Brosnan, the officer who didn't shoot Rayshard Brooks that night.

On the fateful evening in question, should the officers have let Brooks walk to his sister's house? At one point, fighting through interruptions and a battery of absurdly irrelevant questions, one of Brosnan's attorneys offered this:
CUOMO (6/17/20): Amanda, let's look at this idea that the performance that night [by Brosnan] was "exemplary" in the context of several different aspects of this, starting from light to heavy.

PALMER: Sure.

CUOMO: Light is, you see the guy. He's drunk. He says he wants to walk home. You could have let him walk home.

[...]

PALMER: ...You know, with regards to the argument, Well, why didn't you call him an Uber? Why didn't you—

CUOMO: Or drive him home.

PALMER: —or drive him home.

Number one, Mr. Brooks provided an Ohio driver's license, and he was driving a rental car.

We also see in the video he is disoriented about where he is.
He says that he is in Forest Park, Georgia, when in fact he is in the city of Atlanta. He thinks that his hotel is like just down the street over a bridge. There is no bridge nearby.

So letting him walk home, in Devin's opinion, was not an option
, particularly for Mr. Brooks' safety.
In our view, Cuomo's performance last night was two steps past abysmal. We'll offer more on that depressing topic this afternoon or tomorrow.

For now, should the officers have let Brooks walk home, or to his sister's house? Assuming that Palmer's statements are accurate, we'll guess that the answer is rather clearly no.

For starters, walking home to Ohio would have been quite a stroll. Meanwhile, did he actually have a sister who lived two blocks away?

As storylines have quickly hardened, we've still seen no one ask or answer that obvious question. So too with this:

Under department protocols, were the officers required to make a DUI arrest, as William Bratton seemed to tell Brian Williams on Monday night?

There too, we haven't seen that question directly asked or answered. Our basic point is this:

Within the failing worlds of (1) "cable news" and (2) the upper-end academy, Butler is considered to be a leading expert on matters of this type.

That said, he got way out ahead of himself on Tuesday evening's NewsHour. On its face, the basic script he recited that night made little apparent sense. But it almost completely falls apart based on what Palmer said.

(We're assuming her statements are accurate. If they are, you almost surely won't see them repeated or discussed, except on Fox.)

Beyond that, Butler strongly suggested, at two separate points, that what happened that night was all about race. He strongly suggested that the officers would have let Brooks go without an arrest if Brooks had been white.

Everything is always possible, of course. But on what basis was the underinformed Professor Butler willing to float that claim?

In these matters, the expert was peddling narrative and not a whole lot else. Appallingly, this is the way our discourse has worked for many decades now.

These sub-rational acts of group behavior have been performed by the upper-end press corps on a wide array of topics. The conduct extends all the way from "the Social Security trust find is just a pile of worthless IOUs" and "Al Gore said he invented the Internet" all the way to this week's acts of group declamation.

This is the way these peculiar elites actually tend to function. No, this isn't "rational" conduct—but it definitely is our floundering culture and our deeply flawed species in action.

We had somewhat similar thoughts and reactions when we read Wesley Lowery's new essay for The Atlantic, "Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point."

In his lengthy essay, Lowery discusses police killings in Minnesota. The essay starts like this:
LOWERY (6/10/20): 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 paragraph 4, Lowery named three people who have been killed by police officers in Minnesota. In a departure from current norms, he included one person who was white.

Overall, we thought Lowery had various thumbs on various scales in the course of his lengthy essay. Out of curiosity, we googled reports of Philip Quinn's death. We were already generally familiar with the events which led to the death of Jamar Clark.

We'll link you through to such accounts at some future point. That said, we're trying to proceed extremely slowly on this.

Dating at least to Plato's Apology, history teaches that we the people are reluctant to process encounters with the various facts which may be taken to help define "the whole truth" concerning some given subject. We may tend to prefer pre-existing beliefs.

We're trying to be respectful of that basic fact about our human nature. For today, we'll only mention a possible survey—a possible survey we sometimes wonder about:

After reading Lowery's essay, we wondered how many black men and women have been killed by police officers in Minnesota in recent years. Acting on that curiosity, we went to the Washington Post's Fatal Force site, which documents fatal shootings by police.

(Don't let the site's title page confuse you, as we recently did. The invaluable site is still active, though you'll have to fumble about to access its data, which the Post almost seems to be hiding at this point.)

How many black men and women have been shot and killed by Minnesota police officers? The number for the past six years struck us as perhaps surprisingly low. We also wondered about something else, and about that possible survey:

In recent years, we've often wondered what would happen if you conducted a survey about police killings. Respondents would be told how many black people had been killed by police in some given place during some given period.

They'd then be asked to estimate how many white people had been killed. The question could be asked in various ways. In some versions of the survey, respondents would be given "None" as one possible answer.

How many people would guess that no white people ever get killed by police? How many would have a reasonably good idea about the way the numbers work nationwide?

Just last week, Jelani Cobb somewhat surprisingly said that lots of white people get killed by police. Given the way such matters have been reported in recent years, we'd be curious to see how many people are aware of that general fact.

We'd be curious to see that point explored. We would say, as Cobb seemed to say, that such information is a fairly basic part of what might be called "the whole truth" about this important topic.

Cobb said many people get killed, that it isn't just black and brown. Tomorrow, we'll provide at least one number from Minnesota, and we'll discuss a double killing you've never heard about.

In our view, Butler's presentation on the NewsHour made no sense at all. How much that we hear on our favorite shows fit that unfortunate mold?

Tomorrow: Two previous no-knock deaths

19 comments:

  1. "Everything is always possible, of course. But on what basis was the underinformed Professor Butler willing to float that claim?"

    Because he's a dembot, dear Bob. A liberal-nazi, who automatically assumes that "race" defines all human interactions.

    Well, but it is, of course, entirely possible that the good, decent person Paul Butler doesn't really believe that "race" defines all human interactions.

    In that case, he's a goebbelsian provocateur, working hard to inflame the ongoing race war.

    Deranged maniac or cynical provocateur, whatever. It doesn't really matter.

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    Replies
    1. Please. If Lowery was really a Nazi, David would be here whining about how Lowery is being censored by social media, like the rest of the conservatives.

      Delete
    2. Lowery is black.

      Delete
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  2. "Beyond that, Butler strongly suggested, at two separate points, that what happened that night was all about race. He strongly suggested that the officers would have let Brooks go without an arrest if Brooks had been white."

    I've had officers let me go and not issue a speeding ticket when I clearly deserved one. Why? Because I was young, female and attractive. I got warnings. They have also stopped me unnecessarily in order to flirt, detaining me and inconveniencing me, so it balances out. No, I don't date cops.

    Of course white people get treated differently than black people, especially black men.

    On what planet does Somerby dwell, that he would dispute such a basic fact of life? Black people are treated differently by store clerks, in classrooms, birdwatching in Central Park, and by police officers. On what basis is Somerby willing to dispute that racism still exists in everyday life? If that is his argument, he repeats a common conservative talking point -- that racism is over (because Obama). But no liberal believes that is true, and studies do not support Somerby or Republicans on that matter.

    Butler may not have had the same facts at hand as Somerby has introduced today, including the bit about the Ohio DL, the rental car, and his suggestion about walking home (and not to his sister's house). It would be nice to know what responsibility those officers have for babysitting drunks and making sure they get back to a hotel or house safely.

    In CA, where I live, there is no law against being in a car and drunk, as deadrat says there is in GA. In CA, so many people are living in cars that prohibiting drinking in parked (non-moving) cars would be unenforceable. It would be harassment of people in the only homes they have.

    I haven't seen anyone talk about why the officer, having Brooks under control, then reached for his taser, letting go of Brooks and giving him the chance to get away. I think that tasering someone who is already under control is racist and unnecessarily punitive. I also do not understand why two officers cannot subdue a single older drunk man with resort to weapons.

    I think the extra kicks, punches, arm wrenches and taserings constitute an unfair escalation used more against black people than white people. Putting someone flat on the ground in order to sit on them seems like overkill, especially when used against black women. The belief that black people are so strong or aggressive that such moves are required strikes me as an aspect of racism. I doubt anyone is comparing the relative frequency of such moves against white versus black detainees.

    Somerby doesn't ask about that stuff. He is too busy asking why reporters didn't assume Brooks was lying about his sister.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had officers let me go and not issue a speeding ticket when I clearly deserved one. Why? Because I was young, female and attractive.

      I’m gonna guess you’re an Anonymous internet 8. What’s that on a real-world scale? Let’s just say that anyone can play a hottie in cyberspace.

      Of course white people get treated differently than black people, especially black men. On what planet does Somerby dwell, that he would dispute such a basic fact of life?

      On what planet do you dwell that you would conclude that TDH disputes this basic fact?

      On what basis is Somerby willing to dispute that racism still exists in everyday life?

      On what basis are you willing to conclude that TDH disputes that racism still exists?

      It would be nice to know what responsibility those officers have for babysitting drunks and making sure they get back to a hotel or house safely.

      So when you ask it, it’s just because it would be “nice to know,” but when TDH asks, it’s because he doesn’t believe that racism exists. Have I got that about right?

      In CA, where I live, there is no law against being in a car and drunk, as deadrat says there is in GA.

      No, what deadrat says is that California requires proof of driving for a DUI conviction. Circumstantial evidence can do the trick.

      I think the extra kicks,….

      Sorry, Sparky, the first two words assert a fact not in evidence.

      Somerby … is too busy asking why reporters didn't assume Brooks was lying about his sister.

      No, TDH is asking why reporters didn’t determine whether Brooks was lying about his sister.

      Delete
    2. "No, TDH is asking why reporters didn’t determine whether Brooks was lying about his sister."

      Because it is irrelevant to anything in this case...

      Delete
    3. "On what planet do you dwell that you would conclude that TDH disputes this basic fact?"

      Somerby complains because he thinks Butler is alleging racial bias. Somerby says:

      "Butler plainly suggested, at several points, that the officers' refusal to let Brooks walk home, or perhaps to walk to his sister's house, was based on racial bias. "

      The whole point of the brouhaha over the Brooks shooting is that racial bias led to his death. This isn't about correct procedure during DUI stops. It is about Black Lives mattering. But Somerby thinks it is over the line for Butler to say aloud what everyone who is upset over this incident feels about it -- that racial bias exists in policing.

      That is why I said that Somerby seems to dispute the continuing existence of racial bias. And I also said that the people who do that are generally conservatives, and that Somerby is here advancing the Republican line on these police incidents.

      Then Somerby goes on to suggest that we should be examining how many white people are killed in similar police shootings, as if that might prove that this isn't racial but a more generalized police problem. That too is a conservative argument. It is right in line with David in Cal's statements here. And the next step would be to suggest that black-on-black killings are a bigger problem that police shootings of black men.

      Butler is a guest on the show. He is not a pundit, much less a reporter. There is no reason why he would have to maintain any neutral stance about the issue of racial bias in policing. Yet Somerby calls for it. Somerby is not discussing media, he is complaining because liberal media do not represent the conservative viewpoint that black men are shot because they deserve to be shot, or because cops get out of control with white victims just as often, so often to make racism an invalid explanation. Somerby is arguing his opinions when he says that no one ever hears about the white killings (which is flat out untrue -- they have caused demonstrations here in CA) and that if people did, they'd be less likely to believe that racial issues affect policing.

      This is a lot of effort to negate the liberal argument that police engage in racial bias, which was Butler's opinion as an expert on policing. Who expends that kind of effort to negate liberal viewpoints and advance conservative ones, except a person who is a conservative.

      Delete
    4. You’re so close to understanding. You’ve got TDH’s point correct (you even quote it), but you just can’t bring yourself to discuss it. Instead you’ve got to talk about the “whole point of the brouhaha,” and then stir up your indignation over something that TDH didn’t actually say.

      TDH isn’t saying that Butler’s comment is beyond the pale, just that there may be no basis for its truth. Do the police in Atlanta routinely arrest black motorists for DUI in circumstances in which they escort white motorists home? It wouldn’t surprise me if they did. It also wouldn’t surprise me if there was a police policy to make such arrests across the board and that the police obeyed this policy because they’ve been told to treat drunk driving seriously. I’m agnostic on this point.

      TDH does suggest that we should examine the racial demographic of police shootings. And we should. And not because it might prove anything more than what the statistics say. I believe that the WaPo “Fata Force” site shows racial bias, and I believe that because I did the arithmetic on the data from 2017. But does mean there isn’t a “more generalized police problem” as well?

      Somerby is not discussing media, he is complaining because liberal media do not represent the conservative viewpoint that black men are shot because they deserve to be shot, or because cops get out of control with white victims just as often, so often to make racism an invalid explanation.

      I would take your point (and even excuse your run-on sentence) if any of that were true. TDH is explicitly talking about presentations on PBS and CNN; you cannot find a single sentence in the blog entry that complains that the liberal media should present the argument that black men deserve to be shot; you cannot quote anything in this blog entry that racism is an invalid explanation for police misconduct in general.

      Who expends that kind of effort to negate liberal viewpoints and advance conservative ones, except a person who is a conservative.

      Who expends that kind of effort to negate the liberal viewpoint that open inquiry is a good thing? Who expends that kind of effort to demand knee-jerk obedience to a prearranged script? Except a person who is a fascist at heart.

      See how that works?

      Delete
  3. Somerby said just a couple of days ago that no one would be jailed if it were his preference. He also suggested that the police could issue a summons rather than arresting someone in certain circumstances.

    And yet, here he is presenting a case as to why the officers were justified in arresting Brooks.

    But the whole issue is the series of events that led to Brooks being shot in the back and killed. If Somerby wants to believe that police behavior could or should change, then now is the time to question what the police did and suggest alternatives that might have led to a different outcome. That is the whole purpose of the debate.

    Brooks’ sad life story and his needless death are a disheartening indictment of our country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somerby said just a couple of days ago that no one would be jailed if it were his preference.

      What he actually said (on 6/16):

      For ourselves, we'd prefer to see fewer people arrested in various circumstances.

      Hardly a preference for keeping the jails empty.

      TDH also actually said:

      [W]e’d also prefer to see fewer people offering assessments about extremely important matters where they may not be in full command of the full range of facts.

      How about people offering assessments about not-so-important matters? People like you, for instance.

      He also suggested that the police could issue a summons rather than arresting someone in certain circumstances. And yet, here he is presenting a case as to why the officers were justified in arresting Brooks.

      No, TDH said that he would have liked Brooks to have been escorted home with only a summons, but that he presumed that the cops made an arrest “by the book.” In other words, regardless of TDH’s preferences, he realizes that statute or police policy would dictate an action he didn’t prefer.

      But the whole issue is the series of events that led to Brooks being shot in the back and killed.

      No, the whole issue for this blog is how the events that led to Brooks’ death are discussed. I know you don’t like that, but I guess it just sucks to be you.

      Delete
    2. “If prosecutors were all like us, we'll guess that no one would ever end up in prison!”

      That is a direct quote from Somerby.

      And I am talking about the discussion of the events leading up to Brooks’ death. The discussion involves questioning what options the police might have had and what could have been done differently that could have prevented his death. The police were within their rights to arrest Brooks, and Butler is not disputing that, but he offers the possibility of other options. He also suggests the possibility of bias. Butler’s opinions have merit, so I disagree with Somerby’s characterization of Butler’s side of the discussion.

      Delete
    3. “[W]e’d also prefer to see fewer people offering assessments about extremely important matters where they may not be in full command of the full range of facts.”

      The entire incident was caught on video. We know what was said, and what happened.

      Also, Butler has been an attorney and a prosecutor for many years, so he may have a better command of the facts of police procedure than Somerby does.

      Delete
    4. TDH has his thumb on those scales he like to talk about. Just a bit. Butler says that for black suspects in general, the outcome is arrest, and he says that the cops should have turned Brooks loose on foot. Butler doesn’t quite say that the cops would have let Brooks go walkabout if Brooks had been white.

      I think that’s not an unreasonable inference, though. Does this stance have merit? I don’t know, and nobody in that discussion gave me any clue on the answer.

      Delete
    5. Bob's presentation of Right-wing complaints, is always accompanied by his thumb on the scale. They have no merit without Bob's thumb.

      Delete
    6. Mask to prevent infections during deadly pandemic=tyranny.

      Executed on the street by agents of the state for being drunk and unruly=?

      Fucking right wing fascists

      Delete
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