Is this an emerging fact: Fake facts emerge over time as pundits agree on what they should say within their Standard Group Narratives.
In the past few days, we have started to wonder: Are we seeing the emergence of a new fake fact? Are we seeing the invention of a new claim—the claim of an all-white jury?
Dearest darlings! A lynch mob is running through the streets, declaring the need for a new, all-improved second trial. The story gets a whole lot better if that was an all-white jury!
On Monday’s NewsHour, Cristina Swarns of the NAACP simply asserted the claim:
SWARNS (7/15/13): The second thing I would point out is, you know, the jury selection in this case. I don't understand how the prosecution believed that a jury of six white women was going to be favorable to its case against Mr. Zimmerman. So I think that was another error.Really? Was that “a jury of six white women?” That isn’t what news orgs reported when the jury was selected. But in the past few days, we’ve begun to wonder if a new claim is emerging.
For the record, the hustlers in your pundit corps have a lot of ways to invent new facts. In one technique, you simply let “the man in the street” make the inaccurate statement.
On Monday, Adam Nagourney played it that way in the New York Times. But yikes! On Sunday morning, CNN’s telegenic new team let lots of people say it:
CUOMO (7/14/13): The anticipation surrounded the verdict and the reaction to it. Outside the courtroom, what you're seeing, crowds gathered to witness the finale of the murder trial that's captivated and polarized this country. Many chanting "no justice, no peace" amid a sea of signs asking justice for Trayvon. In cities around the country, people gathered and marched in protest.Kate and Chris let four different people call it an all-white jury! This is one of the ways a fact gets invented and spread.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no way justice could have been done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That could have been my son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we explained, when you have an all-white jury—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All-white jury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have all white women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All-white jury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have a, you have a man, his father is a federal judge. The system has failed!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody wins tonight. You know, George Zimmerman is free, but he has to come out into society living with a lot of people that necessarily don't like him.
(End of video clips)
BOLDUAN: Now, prosecutors who argued their case with very much passion, but this clearly was not the verdict that they were wanting. They accepted the verdict, they said, after it was read, in press conferences afterward.
In the past few nights, we’ve seen other techniques. This was the ever-slippery Piers Morgan on Monday night:
MORGAN (7/15/13): Rachel Jeantel felt very strongly that was not the case, that Trayvon Martin was profiled because he was a young black teenager in a hoodie. Do you think that race was a subliminal presence here And as Rachel suggested, how much was the jury's decision affected by the fact that they were effectively an all-white jury?Thy were effectively an all-white jury!
Sometimes, fake facts get midwifed by the technique Chris Matthews employed:
MATTHEWS (7/15/13): Do you think it's surprising that the prosecution allowed an all-white jury, or five out of six jurors being white?It’s a standard play. First, you state the fact in its preferred form. Then, you “correct yourself.”
ROBINSON: Surprised me.
MATTHEWS: How they did they let that—why did the prosecution, prosecution let that happen? Why didn't they challenge enough to get a mixed jury?
ROBINSON: I have no idea...
(Note that Matthews is advancing the ridiculous claim that the prosecution allowed the racial composition of the jury to happen. By the way, why is Robinson on the air if he “has no idea” about Matthews’ bone-simple question?)
Mark Geragos did the same thing on Anderson Cooper’s program last night. You may think he simply misspoke. We can’t say we're certain:
GERAGOS (7/16/13): They ended up, the judge ended up with those two peremptories reseating those two jurors, and you ended up having six white women, or at least five white women and one undetermined ethnicity, on that jury.Trust us. For some people, saying it wrong, then saying it right, is a way of appealing to people who like it wrong.
Was it an all-white jury? We've seen no one explicitly report the claim as an established fact, but there seems to be a desire to say so. In the Washington Times, Ben Wolfgang reported this:
WOLFGANG (7/15/13): Although there was little violence, there was a great deal of outrage over Mr. Zimmerman's acquittal, including among members of the news media.Belcher is high-ranking—but so is Swarns, the NAACP rep.
Shortly after the verdict was handed down, Associated Press reporter Cristina Silva tweeted, "So we can all kill teenagers now? Just checking." She quickly deleted the tweet and appears to have removed her Twitter account.
Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, a CNN contributor, also issued a controversial tweet.
"Zimmerman was innocent the moment they sat an all-white jury," he said, referring inaccurately to the six women who decided the defendant's fate, only five of whom were white, according to courtroom observers.
Our guess: This may slide into a tribalized claim. Some people seem to want to say that this was an all-white jury. It makes the story much, much better. That's where massaged facts come from.
People like Matthews will slither along, playing the fact both ways.
We should have included Kornacki: Sunday morning, Steve Kornacki let various folk describe it as an all-white jury. It started with Attorney Parks:
KORNACKI (7/14/13): I wonder though, too, Daryl, how much of an obstacle, do you think it was an obstacle for the prosecution, that the limit on—the prohibition, really, on making racial profiling, I could use the term profiling, I couldn’t say racial profiling, how much of a factor was that? Not being able to—is that something you think the prosecution would have run with more as a legal strategy?Doug Wilder said it next:
PARKS: No. I mean why would you do that with an all-white jury? That would make no sense. I think any time you start to make race an issue in a case like this, it tends to divide people for whatever reason and it doesn’t give the case a chance to really stand on its merits. I think they charged it correctly. They—George Zimmerman believed that Trayvon was part of the element who had been burglarizing this complex and that’s why he chose to follow him. And so, that type—the criminal profiling was the issue in this case.
KORNACKI: Governor Wilder, I just—I want to start with you. And I guess just, at a basic level, I’m curious what your reaction is to the verdict of last night and to what you`ve sort of seen in the aftermath of that verdict.Later, Mychal Denzel Smith seemed to call it an “al-white jury.” But so did Kornacki himself:
WILDER: Well, I was surprised by the verdict, first off, and somewhat disappointed, and yet I’ve been listening to the questions and answers that have been coming forth relative to your propounding them. And some of them surprised me. First of all, start off with this, you had an all-white courtroom, for all practical purposes, other than the defendant’s presence and some of the witnesses after the victim, and some of the witnesses, an all-white jury, all of the prosecutors were white, the defense people were white. If race didn't play a part, then you ask this very simple question, if the Florida stand your ground law is not a part of what people considered, then why could you come to this verdict?
KORNACKI: And it was so interesting to hear Daryl Parks, we had him on earlier today, and I asked him about, you know, whether there is limitations, do you think, with the prosecution to do, did it hurt their case that they couldn't explicitly making racial profiling a part of this. And he said, "No, not at all, not with an all-white jury."Kornacki made no attempt to challenge or clarify what Parks had said.
In Bosnia, each of the warring ethnic groups had its own set of facts. That’s the way things are drifting here with our ideological tribes.