Part 2—Paralysis from the professors: Is our nation trapped in a type of moral and intellectual paralysis? As Joyce thought his Dublin was?
We liberals noticed this problem when it appeared among our rival conservative tribe. Starting in the 1980s, we rolled our eyes at the “ditto-heads” who proclaimed their fealty to a tribal priest, Father Rush Limbaugh.
Yesterday, in a column in which he himself made an error, Paul Krugman described a problem which can plague a tribalized nation. Speaking of Republican voters, Krugman correctly said this:
“Base voters actually believe the stories they [have been] told—for example, that the government is spending vast sums on things that are a complete waste or at any rate don’t do anything for people like them” (our emphasis).
It’s true—Republican voters may believe various things they’ve been told, things which aren’t actually true. We liberals may be slow to see that we now have similar problems.
Alas! As a more active liberal world has started to form in the past dozen years, we have developed our own bands of besotted priests. These priests may gift us with our own false facts, with our own bogus stories.
Here at The Howler, we’ve often complained about the professors who choose not to speak. Increasingly, we liberals are now in the grip of the professors who do.
In the ID line to this lengthy new piece, The Nation notes that Patricia Williams is “a professor of law at Columbia University.” Williams wrote a 3600-word piece about the recent Zimmerman trial.
Unwisely, The Nation published it. When a nation’s professors behave this way, a form of paralysis may ensue, with its deadly work.
Right from the start, this professor does horrible work. That said, her work bears a constant scholastic veneer which shows up first in paragraph two, where she makes an erudite reference to a “Schrodinger’s cat box of suspense.”
Such dollops convince us gullible lefties that we’re in the hands of a highly literate guide. We may not notice the intellectual squalor being spread among our own tribe.
Did Professor Williams actually watch this trial? In this passage, she extends an erudite metaphor concerning George Zimmerman’s metaphorical slaying of dragons. But as our tribal desires get serviced, do we realize that the things she is saying aren’t true?
WILLIAMS (8/19/13): As St. George, moreover, Zimmerman became aligned with a solid, big-shouldered, brawny round table of law enforcement witnesses: buff, goateed men who identified with Zimmerman and traveled from all over the country to volunteer their expertise in court. Zimmerman was exalted by this company not as a full-fledged police officer but as one of those small, heroic souls endowed with a singular chivalry, a David to Martin’s Goliath. The defense even propped up cardboard cutout figures—one big, one small—to underscore the supposedly yawning gap in physique. And in a fact-free “demonstration” during final argument, O’Mara-as-Martin dropped a huge chunk of concrete, bigger and more jagged than a cinder block, in front of the jury box—as though onto Zimmerman—from a great and death-dealing height.In that passage, a professor from a ranking university offers a baldly false account of something attorney O’Mara did; offers an absurd account of the way Zimmerman claimed to have been injured; and offers a sneering, inaccurate account of what one juror said.
This latter was the ultimate metaphor of reversal: the sidewalk, by dint of Martin’s immense power, didn’t just abrade the back of Zimmerman’s head when he supposedly fell to the ground. Rather, an ugly chunk of it leapt up to smash him, hovering above him before crashing down upon his skull. It was counter-factual and illogical, yet, according to one juror, it marked a turning point for some.
At one time, we liberals would roll our eyes when conservative voters bought this kind of bullshit from Rush. Now, it’s part of what we liberals do—and it’s the kind of “deadly work” the young Joyce sought to examine.
Is that passage accurate? Did defense attorney Mark O’Mara “drop a huge chunk of concrete, bigger and more jagged than a cinder block, in front of the jury box—as though onto Zimmerman—from a great and death-dealing height?”
Plainly, that’s what the professor says. Plainly, her claim is untrue.
Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can see what O’Mara said and did in the matter the professor describes. If you click here, then move ahead to 12:30, you will see that the professor’s account is baldly inaccurate.
Here’s what O’Mara actually said as he ever-so-carefully placed a slab of concrete on the courtroom floor:
O’MARA (7/12/13): George Zimmerman was in fact armed with a firearm, and we know that. We know he had a right to have it. And then it was said, how many times was it said, that Trayvon Martin was unarmed? Now, I'll be held in contempt if I drop this, so I'm not going to do some drama and drop it on the floor and watch it roll around. But that's cement. That is a sidewalk. And that is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home.Everyone can make a mistake, as even Krugman has proven. Who knows? Williams may have relied on faulty memory as she made her ridiculous claim about what O’Mara did.
But even worse than the factual error was the ridiculous account which followed, in which this professor seems to claim that the sidewalk “just abraded the back of Zimmerman’s head when he supposedly fell to the ground.” The word “supposedly” is a marvel in that utterly clownish account—in that utterly clownish account which comes from a ranking professor. Her sneering account of that déclassé jury completes a hat trick which reeks of a growing paralysis.
We’ll look at what the juror in question actually said at the end of this piece. For now, let’s return to the start of this professor’s piece—her long imitation of Rush.
As she opens her lengthy piece, Williams engages in standard pleasures. She luridly paraphrased unnamed pundits and engaged in on-line nut-picking. In these ways, any damn fool can prove any fool thesis she favors.
But just like that, our professor shows that her possible contempt for the facts will be matched by an open contempt for mere logic. In the following passage, she establishes an old favorite, the “double standard” allegedly displayed by Zimmerman’s acquittal.
Our tribe is pleased by double standards. In this case, look at the way this professor attempts to display one:
WILLIAMS: [W]hile the legal process rendered formal justice, there remain important, unresolved issues embedded in the widespread sense of delegitimacy, dissatisfaction and unfairness that lingers in the verdict’s wake.Was a double standard involved when White was convicted of manslaughter, but Zimmerman was not? It ought to be embarrassing to see a professor make such a fatuous claim.
Much of it comes down to an all-too-familiar double standard...For all the legal language of the courtroom, racialized narratives will emerge and form along the very same lines that Gordon Allport and Leo Postman identified in their research more than sixty years ago: in the “retelling,” a razor will leap “from the white man’s hand to…a colored man’s hand.”
And so, by the end of the trial, the 200-pound Zimmerman, despite martial arts training and a history of assaulting others, was transformed into a “soft,” retiring marshmallow of a weakling. The 158-pound Martin had been reimagined as an immense, athletically endowed, drug-addled “thug.”
Consider, by way of inverted contrast, the 2007 conviction of John White, a black man who shot an unarmed white teenager in New York in 2006. According to The New York Times, the victim, Daniel Cicciaro, “showed up at Mr. White’s house just after 11:00 p.m. to challenge his son Aaron, then 19, to a fight.” Waking up to “threats, profanities and racial epithets,” Mr. White “grabbed a loaded Beretta he kept in the garage of his house in Miller Place, a predominantly white hamlet on Long Island.” At the trial, which the Times described as “racially charged,” the prosecution successfully argued that the case “did not hinge on race but the rash actions of a quick-tempered man who kept an arsenal in his house in preparation for such a situation.” White, unlike Zimmerman, was convicted of manslaughter.
Whatever one thinks of either case, the facts involved in the two cases were quite different. If you have an ounce of sense, you know that a double standard can’t be deduced from such cases.
(For the New York Times’ fullest account of the White case, click here. After three years, White’s sentence was commuted.)
Except in a deeply tribalized world, no professor would allege a double standard based on “evidence” like that. But in our world, ranking professors start long articles in famous publications with hapless, embarrassing claims of that type. Williams then makes a sweeping claim about the way “women fare” under stand your ground laws. She bases this sweeping judgment on exactly one case, which she describes in a rather scripted manner.
Her article is an embarrassment. In more than 3600 words, Williams never describes, or attempts to evaluate, the defense which was actually offered in the high-profile Zimmerman case. She never discusses the evidence used to advance the claim that Zimmerman acted in self-defense after being attacked by Martin.
Like this hapless, denatured “professor,” we weren’t present in Sanford that night, and so we can’t tell you what actually happened. We can tell you what was presented in the courtroom during this televised case.
In the manner of paralyzed worlds, the “professor” refuses to do this.
This professor should be an embarrassment to all honest liberals. She is constantly making ugly claims which she doesn’t attempt to justify. She constantly offers short, invidious “quotations” without saying who she’s supposedly quoting.
She constantly retreats to her dragon-slayer narrative, giving us the impression that we’re in the hands of an erudite being. And she never attempts to state or evaluate the evidence presented and used by the defense in this case!
To those condemned to read her work, this evidence simply doesn’t exist. John Good, the eyewitness, doesn’t exist. Zimmerman’s injuries didn’t exist. The location of the fight didn’t exist. Instead, we get a professor’s sneering account of the way a jury decided:
WILLIAMS: [T]he sidewalk, by dint of Martin’s immense power, didn’t just abrade the back of Zimmerman’s head when he supposedly fell to the ground. Rather, an ugly chunk of it leapt up to smash him, hovering above him before crashing down upon his skull. It was counter-factual and illogical, yet, according to one juror, it marked a turning point for some.Oh, that illogical jury! What can we upper-class people do with such crackers as these?
Williams offers a clownish account, then mocks a juror for calling it a turning point for some of the jury. But below, you can see what the juror in question actually said—this juror, who seems both smarter and more honest than this pathetic “professor.”
You might disagree with this juror’s verdict. But her statements here are perfectly sensible—and she doesn’t say that the concrete slab “marked a turning point for some:”
COOPER (7/16/13): Do you have any doubt that George Zimmerman feared for his life?In keeping with the rules of his guild, Cooper misstates the requirements of the self-defense law. But the juror makes perfect sense throughout, and she doesn't say what the professor alleged.
JUROR B37: I had no doubt George feared for his life in the situation he was in at the time.
COOPER: So when the prosecution in their closing argument is holding up the Skittles and holding up the can of iced tea and saying this is what Trayvon Martin was armed with, just a kid who had Skittles and iced tea, you felt George Zimmerman— Did you find that compelling at all, or did you find Mark O'Mara with the concrete block compelling?
JUROR B37: Mark, with the concrete block, definitely. The Skittles and the Arizona can were ridiculous to even put it up and compare the two. I mean, anybody can be armed with anything. You can bash somebody’s head against a tree or a rock or this concrete.
COOPER: So you believe that Trayvon Martin was slamming George Zimmerman's head against the concrete, without a doubt?
JUROR B37: I believe he hit his head on the concrete. I think he was probably trying to slam it. I don't know how hard George's head hit on the concrete. It hit enough to get damage, bruising, swelling. I think it was definitely enough to make you fear when you're in that situation.
COOPER: And the photos of George Zimmerman, the photos of his injuries, to you those were all—were those something you also looked at in the jury room?
JUROR B37: We did. We did. We did all the—that kind of evidence first, and then we listened to all the tapes afterwards.
COOPER: And that was important to you because that also made you believe George Zimmerman was legitimate in fearing for his life?
JUROR B37: I believed it. I believe because of his injuries.
For the record, the professor gave us our serving of Skittles midway through her pretentious piece. Unlike an entire generation of American “journalists,” the juror was able to see that the Skittles were wholly irrelevant!
A person might reach a different verdict. But this juror is reasoning sanely, and she’s describing the actual evidence which was presented during the trial! By way of contrast, the “professor” is diddling herself and her readers. In 3600 words, she refuses to discuss or evaluate the evidence. She behaves likes a sad circus clown.
Moral and intellectual paralysis can come from many sources. In our world, we liberals were able to see it coming from Rush.
Today, our own tribe has its our own bands of paralyzed priests, just as Joyce’s Dublin did. Today, as then, such priests can paralyze our minds, and they will often arrive with unearned titles of respect.
Tomorrow: A very high priest named Lehrer
By the way: Did you know this about Rachel Jeantel:
“At 19, she could neither read nor write, looked twice her age but sounded half that.”
That is what the professor wrote. In fact, Jeantel was asked to read transcripts at various points in her testimony, and she seemed to comply.
She said at one point that she can’t read cursive writing, which is no longer taught in many schools. But whatever made the professor think that she can’t read at all?
Did this besotted pseudolib priest actually watch this high-profile trial? More to the point, can a nation with such elites avoid the type of paralysis denounced by Joyce long ago?