O’Brien got hers for free: How much should a mind-reader cost?
At a conference in Las Vegas, the GSA paid $3200 for such a performance. For the New York Times’ account of this matter, go ahead—just click here.
How much should a mind-reader cost? We’d say the GSA overpaid. On March 30, CNN got its mind-readers for free!
On that evening, CNN broadcast an hour-long special about the death of Trayvon Martin. The program was called, “Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America.”
The program was hosted by Soledad O’Brien. She spoke to several skilled mind-readers, none of whom (we’re assuming) was paid.
The GSA paid $3200 for its mind-reader. Curtis Sliwa performs this service for free. For unknown reasons, CNN invited Sliwa to be one of the stars of its hour-long special. Before too long, this very dumb TV performer was mind-reading in this manner:
O'BRIEN (3/30/12): Let's begin with you, Mr. Sliwa. You obviously founded the Guardian Angels. And I think your name, it's fair to say, is synonymous with civilian patrols. What did George Zimmerman do wrong, and is there anything he did right that night?The GSA overpaid.
SLIWA: He did nothing right, except wake up early that day and begin to stalk people through his paranoia he thought were looking to commit crime on his compound. A self-appointed watchman.
In the streets we call it mad dogs. He was on a mission. He was solo. He had all the furniture upstairs and rearranged in the wrong rooms.
I know everyone is fixated on hoodies. But I know a bunch of young men who wore different colors passed by with hoodies. He fixed on Trayvon. In his mind Trayvon was a hood, a hoodlum, an enemy of society. He has Skittles and iced tea going home. The guy felt it. Because you know, when you are in the street, you feel the instinct. Somebody is stalking you. Somebody is on your back. And Trayvon probably at a certain point just decided to stand his ground.
In this absurd and disgraceful performance, Sliwa did a brilliant job reading the minds of Zimmerman and Martin. He knew what Zimmerman woke up thinking; he knew what Zimmerman thought about Martin when he saw him that night. He also knew what Martin “felt” as events transpired that evening.
(For the record, Sliwa displayed a second type of clairvoyance, saying he knew that “a bunch of young [white] men” also “passed by with hoodies” that evening. How could be possibly know that?)
On a journalistic basis, Sliwa’s presentation was a disgrace. A journalist should have challenged what he said—but O'Brien simply posed a question to a different guest.
Sliwa’s mind-reading went unchallenged. Before the program ended, he showcased his skill once again:
SLIWA: Why are we fixated on the hoodie? Because it's thug-like. If you wear a hoodie like a thug, you suck in your bottom hip like you've got your trousers down to your butt. And all of a sudden, you're acting big and bad. Well, then you're acting like a thug.Contradicting much conventional wisdom, Sliwa said that Zimmerman didn’t react to Martin’s hoodie. But how could he be so sure of that? O’Brien never asked.
No one is suggesting that Trayvon Martin was acting that way. There was a sea of hoodies that day. No, no, Zimmerman, he locked on Trayvon because he was on a mission. Trayvon didn't have to have a hoodie. He was going to take out Trayvon. It had nothing at all to do with the hoodie.
O’Brien let Sliwa’s mind-reading go. But then, she also accepted a piece of mind-reading by Harvard professor Charles Ogletree.
Ogletree may have been sharp at one time; we’ve been struck in recent years by the weakness of his presentations. At any rate, consider what happened when O’Brien asked him to comment on one part of Zimmerman’s 911 call on the night Martin died.
O’Brien played one specific part of the tape, then asked the professor to comment. We’ll include her introduction, where she promoted Ogletree’s recent book:
O’BRIEN: Joining me this evening is Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree. He's in Boston. His book, Presumption of Guilt, is about the wrongful arrest of another Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates.In truth, that is an important question. Why did Zimmerman call police when he saw Martin that evening? To use O’Brien’s language, what made Martin seem “suspicious?”
I want to focus on the 911 calls. The call lasts a little over four minutes, but it's going to be something that everybody is focusing on in this case. Let's play a little bit of the call between George Zimmerman and the dispatcher.
ZIMMERMAN (audiotape): This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about.
O'BRIEN: Professor Ogletree, I'll start with you. To me, at the end of the day, the most important question seems to be what was it that made Trayvon Martin suspicious to George Zimmerman, correct?
Question: Is it possible that Martin was behaving strangely this night, as Zimmerman told the dispatcher? Could that be what made him seem “suspicious” to Zimmerman? Like you, we have no way of knowing—and Ogletree doesn't know either. But O’Brien had played the part of the tape where Zimmerman said that Martin was behaving oddly.
Could something like that explain the initial phone call? In his response, Ogletree completely ignored what Zimmerman said on the part of the tape he had just heard. Instead, he did some inventive mind-reading. We’re working from the official CNN transcript:
OGLETREE (continuing directly): He was black, and he was a male, and Zimmerman saw him. This is what the book is all about, as you know, Soledad. It's not about Henry Gates. It's about the presumption of guilt. You look at someone's skin, you look at what they're wearing.Ogletree couldn’t possibly know whether those highlighted statements are accurate. (They could be accurate, of course.) But so what? He got in several plugs for his book as he recited a novelized claim about the thoughts in Zimmerman’s head.
And when I talk in the book, I talked about the Trayvons of the world. And he has now become a legend. Every parent, every relative, every sibling, every stranger is going to say, "What do I do about my son or my daughter, what they wear, where they go?" It's going to change America's behavior.
And this was—in a sense, this was a presumption of guilt. He looked at his face, they saw him dressed, and they said, "That guy is up to no good." He did nothing wrong, but they said he was a man who did something wrong and now he's dead.
Presumably, this mind-reading came free of charge. At any rate, O’Brien never asked Ogletree how he could possibly know such things.
As we watched this CNN broadcast, we were struck by O’Brien’s almost total lack of journalistic instincts this night. No matter how foolish her pundit guests were, she made no attempt to challenge their statements. Jane Velez-Mitchell, a Headline News star, is one of cable’s Nancy Grace-style former prosecutors.
How dumb can these very dumb people get? At one point, Velez-Mitchell asked the world's dumbest known question:
O'BRIEN: Many of the conversations have moved from the facts of the case to race and racial profiling and conversations about George Zimmerman's ethnicity and also Trayvon Martin's race. Why is race such a big issue in this?Why do police departments ask about race (and gender) in such circumstances? Could anyone but a cable “news” star be dumb enough to ask?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it shouldn't be, in the sense that we as a culture need to start moving beyond describing people just in terms of their race. And so I think this is an opportunity for us to really look at what do police departments do. Why do they always ask somebody who is reporting something suspicious is the person black, white or Hispanic?
What's interesting is in the police report, the victim, Trayvon Martin is described five times as a black male in one paragraph in the police report. Now, why are they constantly focusing on the victim being a black male? Is that sort of subliminal racism right there?
Back to the price of mind-reading: Did the GSA pay too much? O”Brien’s program was called “Beyond Trayvon,” but she devoted her opening segment to an interview with Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s attorney.
(No one from Zimmerman’s camp appeared, nor did O’Brien explain this imbalance. Perhaps the Zimmerman camp declined an invitation. O’Brien didn't say.)
Did the GSA pay too much? When O’Brien spoke with Crump, he did some aggressive mind-reading too. More specifically, he put some very ugly thoughts in the mind of some unspecified persons (plural):
CRUMP: I have to say this very quick, because this is troubling. They ran a background check on Trayvon, who is dead on the ground. They don't run a background check on the guy who just shot and killed the kid in cold blood. In essence, what they did, they said that, “Zimmerman, your word is more credible, and we're going to accept that, just like you profiled him in that 911 tape, this is a little thug on the ground, and he really doesn't deserve a fair and impartial investigation.”Wow. It isn’t entirely clear what Crump meant when he said that “they” ran no “background check” on Zimmerman—and O’Brien didn’t ask him to explain. But in that highlighted statement, Crump drew a very ugly portrait of what “they” said on the night of Martin’s death—and he didn’t say who he meant.
Who said that Trayvon Martin was just “a little thug on the ground?” That is a very ugly portrait—but of whom is this portrait true?
An actual journalist would have asked. O’Brien stared into air.
Crump mind-read in an ugly way. Presumably, he did so for free. Plainly, the GSA did overpay at its convention. But then, so did CNN if it hired O’Brien expecting journalistic behavior.
What went through Zimmerman’s mind that night? Like these TV stars, we have no real idea. How could we possibly know such a thing? How could these TV performers?