CHILDHOOD’S END: MSNBC needs to explain!


Part 2—Is someone doctoring photos: For decades, we liberals got to roll our eyes at those gullible ditto-heads.

They would phone Rush Limbaugh to state their full allegiance. When they did, they would recite the mélange of bogus, false and doctored facts El Rushbo had been spewing.

If we lower the tax rate, we get higher revenue! Global warming is all about sunspots! No claim was too bogus to be recited. If Rush said it, it was true!

It was good for liberal self-esteem to see these pitiful public displays. Surely, we liberals are the smart, “nuanced” people, we told ourselves down through the years.

Today, comment threads in liberaldom offer similar displays. Liberals burning with true belief recite the scripts they’ve been served by their own cable masters. One example:

Last Wednesday, Kevin Drum offered this perfectly sensible post about the George Zimmerman case. Drum’s view: Given the nature of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, it’s unlikely that Zimmerman will be convicted of a crime. Drum based his judgment on a report about the law in the Tampa Bay Times.

If Zimmerman is charged, will he be convicted? Should he be convicted under terms of that much-maligned law? In each case, we have no idea. But rather quickly, Drum’s comment thread spilled with tortured tribal reasoning—and with bogus facts. This comment came quite quickly:
COMMENTER (4/4/12): Where "near your size" is defined, from Trayon Martin's perspective, to be “100 lbs. heavier and chasing me in an SUV.”
Was Zimmerman 100 pounds heavier than Martin? The commenter was advancing a “fact” which had proved to be bogus. But so what? Soon, another commenter recited the same bogus claim. This commenter was armed with the modern-day liberal’s weapon of choice—a pleasing dollop of snark:
COMMENTER: Zimmerman weighs 250 lbs. Trayvon weighs 140.

The video shows NOT A MARK on Zimmermman. I've actually seen the REAL one.

Trayvon keeps getting bigger and uglier every time you losers post. First he was 6'; now he's 6'3"; what next? 9 feet? Keep your story straight, at least.
Within the context of the thread, this commenter seemed to think that conservative “losers” were embellishing Martin’s height to gain a tribal advantage. In fact, it was Charles Blow, seeming to cite Martin’s parents, who first said Martin was 6-foot-3. And no:

Zimmerman doesn’t weigh 250 pounds, a fact which was quite clear by last week. (For more information, see below.) But that was the “fact” we had been fed by our “liberal” post-journalistic machines. And alas:

As Limbaugh’s ditto-heads have done for decades, we liberals have been marching forth to repeat our own tribe’s bogus claims. We laughed at them when they played it this way.

Now, the ditto-heads are increasingly us.

In this case, Drum’s conservative commenters seemed better informed on the question of height and weight. His liberal commenters had cast themselves in the ditto-head role, faithfully repeating the bogus claim they had heard from people they trusted. Just a guess:

It may not have entered these commenters’ heads that they were possibly being played by the high-profile people they trusted. That Sharpton, O’Donnell and Schultz had been feeding them reams of bullroar—had perhaps been feeding them lies.

Alas! A stream of bogus factual claims has been advanced on MSNBC over the past three or four weeks. In some cases, the bogus claims were false; in other cases, the claims were unknown, unproven. But just as in the Limbaugh/Fox years, so too in this brave new corporate world: A steady stream of true believers have been prepared to repeat what they hear.

They’ve heard a lot of bogus claims—as in the Fox/Limbaugh years.

Last night, matters got worse. On Politics Nation, Al Sharpton was interviewing Kendall Coffey and Ken Padowitz, a pair of Florida “legal experts” who can be relied upon to echo Sharpton’s views and claims. As in the Fox/Limbaugh years, this leads to the state we liberals have mocked as “epistemic closure.”

As usual, Sharpton, Coffey and Padowitz were echoing each others’ views. To watch the full segment, click here.

For us, a rather shocking moment occurs around 11:45 on this tape.

At that point, without comment from Sharpton, new videotape of Zimmerman appears. It offers a very large close-up of the back of his head as he arrives at the Sanford police station on the night of the killing.

This close-up isn’t grainy. And wow! In this close-up image, the back of Zimmerman’s head seems to be completely pristine. There isn’t the slightest sign of any blemish or injury.

There isn’t a stub of a hair out of place. There is no sign of any injury. To judge from this new close-up view, Zimmerman didn’t suffer the slightest wound or abrasion on the night of the killing—just exactly as we libs have been told. (See the second comment to Drum, above.)

Does that close-up represent an accurate picture of Zimmerman’s head on the night of the killing? We have no idea. But this close-up photo is impossible to reconcile with two earlier close-up shots, including one close-up which was aired by MSNBC on March 29. That close-up seemed to show an obvious goose-egg on the back of Zimmerman’s head, crowned with an obvious abrasion.

Later, ABC produced another close-up of Zimmerman’s head. This close-up was grainer, and more distant, than the image aired by MSNBC. But it seemed to show two abrasions on the back of Zimmerman’s head.

Which of these three close-up views is not like the others? In fact, none of these images seems like the either one of others! But last night’s close-up completely contrasts with the close-up this same cable channel showed on March 29.

On March 29, Zimmerman had an obvious wound on the back of his head. Last evening, his head was pristine. (For a link to that earlier close-up, with viewing instruictions, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/12.)

Question: What exactly does it mean when news orgs tell us that we’re looking at “enhanced” photos? We don’t know, but as non-experts, we would say this: One of the close-ups shown by MSNBC simply has to be doctored.

“Doctored.” Not enhanced.

We could be wrong in that assessment. But the contrast between the two close-ups is remarkable. If you thought that “journalism” was still being practiced on our cable “news” channels, you might say the contrast was shocking.

In tribal times like these, people tend to extend true belief to their side’s tribal leaders. In the case of Limbaugh, the ditto-heads have done this for decades. As we form our own “news orgs,” we liberals are moving in this same direction.

It’s natural, if unwise, to place full faith in tribal leaders. But what the heck happened on Politics Nation last night?

Was the back of Zimmerman’s head injured that night? We have no first-hand knowledge. Last night’s close-up may be a faithful representation of the state of his head when he arrived at the police station that night. But if that is so, what explains the earlier close-up aired on this same cable channel?

And what explains Sharpton’s endless silence in the face of such contradictions? Our tribe’s true believers recite what he says.

Why won’t Sharpton explain?

Again, the tape of the tape: Regarding height and weight, the New York Times reported on April 2 that Zimmerman was 5-9, 170; Martin was 6-1, 150.

One day later, the Orlando Sentinel offered this fact-check:
STUTZMAN (4/3/12): Trayvon was trying to defend himself against a man who outweighed him by 100 pounds.

Outweighed, yes. By 100 pounds, no. George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who says he killed Trayvon in self-defense, outweighed him by 30 or 40 pounds, according to family members. A Sanford police incident report says Trayvon was 6 feet tall and weighed 160 pounds. A spokesman for the family's lawyers gave a slightly different set of numbers: 6 feet 1 and 150 pounds. Zimmerman is 5 feet 9 inches tall, according to the police report, but it is silent about his weight. A family member says he currently weighs about 190 pounds. Zimmerman used to be far heavier. A 2005 police report put his weight at 250 pounds, but security-camera video released last week by Sanford police show him to be much trimmer.
Obviously, we don't know the precise figures. In best New York Times fashion, the newspaper simply gave us our data, didn't say how it knew.


  1. If I take you out of a photo and place you in another completely different, that's doctored. If I increase the contrast, etc. but basically leave the photo unchanged, that's enhanced.

    But you probably already know that.

    1. Remember, though, that no matter what word one uses to describe the process, every digital technique that changes an image loses information.

  2. Wow. Now Somerby is reduced to cherry-picking comboxes for his "proof" of how bad the "media" has misled the poor, dumb public.

    And of course, he ignores those comments about how Zimmerman was DEFINITELY in the fight of his life and had no recourse other than to shoot an unarmed kid to death.

    Where did they get the basis for that information, Bob? Hint: From the "media."

    Here's another clue for you: Despite what the media reports, people will still make up their own minds, one way or another, based on their own experiences, ideologies, biases and prejudices.

    1. And of course, you ignore the fact that Zimmerman was not required to be in "the fight of his life" and was not required to have "no other recourse."

      Zimmerman was only required to reasonably fear serious injury or death.

    2. Except that story isn't good enough for Zimmerman or his family, who keep making it better and better and better with more "details" with every telling.

      But you do raise an excellent point. "Stand Your Ground" is a law written for gun-toting pussies. All they have to do is wet their pants at the mere sight of a black kid, and they get to shoot him.

  3. The movie Forrest Gump had some "enhanced scenes".
    Don't believe everything you see or hear on film or tape.
    Don't believe everything you read.
    Don't believe everything you hear.
    But you already knew that.

  4. The importance of the bad reporting that Bob has been describing is shown by a newspaper report of a white man who was badly beaten by a group of black men who shouted “Trayvon” before the attack.

    I posted this link last night, and several commenters responded with reasons why the report might be incorrect. They're right. It might be incorrect.

    OTOH this is the third newspaper article I've seen where a white man was attacked by a group of blacks, and where there's reason to believe that they may have been motivated by the Trayvon Martin killing and the way it's been presented. I think some people are bending over backwards to deny that this may be provoking violence.

    I'm sure nobody would claim that black on white violence is justified, even if Zimmerman was motivated by racism and killed Martin in cold blood. However, I think many would support demonstrations because of the injustice of this case. It may be worth noting that blacks murder (whites & Hispanics) twice as frequently as (whites and Hispanics) murder blacks. (FBI statistics include Hispanics with whites for this purpose.) Maybe it's the whites and Hispanics, who should be demonstrating for justice.

    1. And I guarantee you, David, that in just about every homicide, if not every case, in which a white victim has been killed by a known black suspect, the black suspect has been arrested and charged. And it didn't take a month.

    2. Apparently some people never learn:

      "Ms. Ashley Todd, a 20-year old Republican activist from College Station, Texas, was using an ATM machine in Bloomfield, PA prior to 9 PM Wednesday night. According to police sources a man approached her, put a knife to her throat and demanded $60 from the young woman.

      "He continued to kick and punch her repeatedly and said he would teach her a lesson for supporting John McCain," said police Chief Nate Harper during a press conference.

      The man then viciously carved the "B" into Todd's right cheek. While the cops are continuing their investigation, one officer told this writer that he believes the "B" carved on the young woman's face is an initial for Barack Obama's given name."

      Of course we now know the story was complete bullshit and made up out of whole cloth by the alleged victim.

      Years later the race baiters seem to have learned nothing.

    3. Based on his/her comments, TRA is very smart -- certainly smart enough to know that one example of a falsely report attack doesn't prove that every reported attack is false. Is TRA's comment another attempt to avoid looking at the harm done by the false and malicious presentation of this case?

      A thought-provoking article in today's WSJ presents an analogy to To Kill a Mockingbird in which George Zimmerman is the analogue of Tom Robinson -- the defendant who is denied presumption of innocence by a mob that's been incited to believe in his guilt.

    4. Ah, come on, Real! What possible motive would a guy walking home from bars at 3 a.m. have to lie about a mid-sized car packed with Trayvon-shouting black dudes who kicked his ass for no reason?

    5. Oh, and the "To Kill a Mockingbird" analogy isn't inflammatory.

      What are you asking for here, David? Are you saying that the media shouldn't report anything that could get a few nutcases all riled up?

    6. "Is TRA's comment another attempt to avoid looking at the harm done by the false and malicious presentation of this case?"

      No, I'm just illustrating how you race baiters never change.

    7. "A thought-provoking article in today's WSJ presents an analogy to To Kill a Mockingbird in which George Zimmerman is the analogue of Tom Robinson..."

      Damnit!!! I've been working on a rewrite of Uncle Tom's Cabin casting Zimmerman as the hero.

  5. Hey, Bob? How do you reconcile the first two "close-ups", the one that showed the goose egg and the round spot on top, and the second that showed two wounds?

    Both of those can't be true. But let's ignore all that and concentrate on the third one. THAT's the one that is obviously the fake.

    1. "THAT's the one that is obviously the fake."

      How do you know that? Is it just a hallucination?

      You didn't get it from Somerby.

    2. I'm not saying any of those "enhanced" photos is real or not. That's the game Somerby wants to play. In his world, the one showing no injuries can't be reconciled with the two that show injuries. Except that the two showing injuries show quite different injuries, and can't be reconciled with each other.

      As for me, I couldn't care less. If Trayvon Martin managed to beat the crap out of a guy with a gun following him, good for him. That's what I call standing your ground.

      And if all Zimmerman could do was pull out his gun and shoot, well too bad that being a pussy isn't a criminal offense.

    3. "Hey, Bob? How do you reconcile the first two "close-ups"

      Mr. Somerby doesn't have to reconcile anything. He doesn't even have to know the difference between "enhancing" and "doctoring."

      Bloggers want to claim they're doing serious work without being held to any standards.

    4. "As for me, I couldn't care less. If Trayvon Martin managed to beat the crap out of a guy with a gun following him, good for him."

      However, Zimmerman's story is that Martin made an unprovoked attack on him after Z had stopped following M. If that turns out to be the truth, are you OK with that, Anonymous?

    5. TRA, here's a report of a shooting incident that may be linked to the Trayvon Martin killing. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

      SANFORD, Florida (WKMG) - A Sanford police car parked near the Trayvon Martin shooting scene was found Tuesday morning with several bullet holes in it, according to authorities.

    6. The Real AnonymousApril 10, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      "here's a report of a shooting incident that may be linked to the Trayvon Martin killing...."

      Yep, keep stirring up the pot....

    7. "And if all Zimmerman could do was pull out his gun and shoot, well too bad that being a pussy isn't a criminal offense."

      Sexism pretending to care about racism. Gotta love those "liberals".

    8. The Real AnonymousApril 10, 2012 at 1:58 PM

      "TRA, here's a report of a shooting incident that may be linked to the Trayvon Martin killing."

      Since it appears no one saw what happened I'm now wondering if it wasn't some of those neo-nazi buddies of yours who claim to be patrolling a city of 50,000+ with "10 to 20" armed nazis.

      Let's use the prevailing logic of your posts and just say "we don't know but it could be."

    9. The Real AnonymousApril 10, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      Oh well, looks like you'll have to hold off on the hysterics:

      "The patrol car was parked outside Bentley Elementary School to deter tour buses from using the school’s property during the day and evening hours, Sanford Police Sgt. David Morgenstern said in a statement, NBC News reported."

    10. TRA, I wonder whether your comments reflect an implicit assumption that racial tolerance means that one is supposed to minimize misdeeds by blacks. You may or may not hold this attitude, but I think it's common and I think it actually harms blacks. This attitude has led to reduced emphasis on black-on-black crimes, which are a more serious threat to black people than non-black-on-black crimes.

    11. Well, you wonder wrong. I see in you a eager and quantum leap to the conclusion this "misdeed" done to the Sanford cop car, parked in a predominantly white neighborhood, was a "misdeed by blacks" in the absence of any evidence.

      Now go back to the Internet and troll for more crimes that you even suspect were committed by blacks so you can blame Trayvon Martin and Al Sharpton for them.

    12. The Real AnonymousApril 10, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      Didn't I speculate yesterday that Fox News and Zimmerman were a perfect match?

      "One of the most intriguing claims the attorneys made was that at some point recently, Zimmerman put in a call to Hannity, the Fox News host who aired an exclusive interview with the man’s father last month. Attorney Hal Uhrig sounded particularly unnerved about the lack of information he and his colleague were getting about the call.

      “We learned that he had called Sean Hannity of Fox News directly, and not through us,” Uhrig said. “And we believe — I can’t confirm this — we believe that he spoke directly with Sean, off the record.”

      Presumably speaking about Hannity, he added: “He’s not even willing to tell us what our client told him.”

    13. Yeah, Jon Stewart had a bit where "Fox contributor" Judith Miller accused MSNBC of carrying water for Trayvon Martin.

      I guess if anyone should recognize Gunga Din, it would be Judith Miller.

  6. On the matter of NBC, their firing of a producer for a phony edit of the Zimmerman 911 call (He looks suspicious... he looks black") aired on March 27 got some attention.

    Jeralyn Merritt discovered the Today Show used the same edit on March 22. And NBC 6 Miami had that edit in text in three website stories from March 19-20, all of which were re-edited on April 9 to eliminate the "He looks black" problem. Three week old stories suddenly needed freshening?

    NBC has a deeper problem than they let on with their two sentence apology and assurance of a vigorous internal investigation.

    1. Sorry, 'JustOneGroup' is Tom Maguire. I blame the darn sign-in technologies because a poor workman blames his tools.

  7. Funny thing is, the race baiters who have latched on to "To Kill a Mockingbird" as relevant to Martin-Zimmerman incident are endorsing precisely the type of police corruption they suspect in this case and claim to abhor.

    "Bob Ewell fell on his knife". The race baiters love that part!

    1. But Bob Ewell was a low-class white racist! Those people don't deserve due process!

  8. The Sheriff didn't want to call Ewing's death self-inflicted because Ewing was a racist.
    He did it to protect the reclusive "Boo" Radley from public trial and exposure.

    Radely was considered to be "touched in the head" by the townsfolk, but the Sheriff and the Finches knew he loved Scout and Jem, and was willing to face a murder rap to save them.

    The townsfolk wanted to lynch Tom Robinson because he pitied a "poor white trash" girl.
    Robinson was "uppity" and didn't know his "place". He repudiated the testimony of a white woman, a capital offense.

    1. If you really want to draw a parallel, Ewell could have claimed that Jem and Scout fought back and were beating his head into the sidewalk, then he could have killed them. And of course, since Ewell was "standing his ground," Radley was completely in the wrong to come to the children's defense.

    2. So do you approve of the summary execution of Trayvon Martin because of the piece of crap he was?

      If you don't, then your analogy falls on its face.

    3. Ewell died at the hands of Boo Radley not because he was a "piece of crap" white trash racist, which he was, but because he assaulted a couple of kids walking down the street.

    4. Have any you read the book, Anon 4:44? Ewell was stalking the Finch kids through the woods with the intent of killing them because their father humiliated him and his daughter in court.

      Boo Radley was following the kids because he habitually followed the kids at night to watch over them.

      Radley was not stalking Ewell, and he was not standing his ground, he was intervening in the premeditated revenge murder of two children.

      Radley stabbed Ewing with Ewing's own knife, carried Jem home and waited patiently for whatever consequences his act might entail.

      The Sheriff, realizing that his act was justifiable homicide, saw no reason to torture the heroic man for what he did by making him stand trial, and then have all the townsfolk come to the door to thank Radley personally.

      Scout did not witness Ewells killing, and Jem was still unconscious when the Sheriff made his decision. He didn't take the word of children, he walked into the woods, found Ewell's body, and figured it out for himself.

      You would have to be truly soul-sick to think there was a racist or reverse racist motive to the acts of Radley or the Sheriff, and even sicker to call others racist because, unlike you, they grasped the point Harper Lee was making.

      In case you didn't realize it Anon, To Kill a Mockingbird was not a report of a homicide, but a work of fiction! It was a novel!
      Wise up!

      I have removed my sarcastic comment because it was obviously way over your head.

    5. I agree, Gravymeister. Their act of fabricating a story to explain a killing and keep it out of the courts for what they decided were the "right" reasons represented a completely justifiable law enforcement cover up.

      Some corruption and cover ups are righteous and heartwarming, some are wrong and evil. Racists just don't get it, do they?

  9. He did it to protect the reclusive "Boo" Radley from public trial and exposure.

    Indeed, and THAT kind of police corruption and cover-up is the GOOD kind, you dumb racists.

    The kind of cover-up and corruption where law enforcement takes the word of children about a killing and then concocts a story in order to defend a killer, but one who he just knows in his gut is a GOOD killer who had no choice.

    Boo was acting under the "stand your ground" defense which allows the killing of a person in defense of another person if the killer reasonably believes the other person faces death or serious injury.

    So because Boo was engaged in the GOOD kind of "stand your ground," the Sheriff was doing the GOOD kind of cover-up and fact-inventing.

    You dumb racists don't understand anything!

  10. There's a convenient summary of the current state of the evidence, as now reported, at

    1. Good summary. There's no telling what kind of clownery took place around yesterday's events but it probably reached unprecedented levels.