THREE DAYS OF THE TURKEY: The Outlook section does it again!


Part 1—A fascinating read:
Two Sundays ago, on November 8, we thought the Washington Post's Outlook section had finally hit rock bottom.

On that Sunday morning, the weekly section presented a special "baby boomer" edition. We thought Outlook's dumbness that day was about as dumb as journalistic dumbness can get.

How dumb do journalists have to be in order to write—and then decide to publish!—the pair of silly screeds Outlook featured that morning? They have to be surpassingly dumb, or we thought that day.

(What kind of journalism are we talking about? This pitiful piece by Heather Havrilesky was one of Outlook's front-page features that day. Do we have to explain how dumb that piece was? If so, the problem may extend beyond the dumbness which now seems to rule at the Post.)

Maybe it's our imagination. But it seems to us that Outlook has been getting dumber and dumber since Adam Kushner, age 33, was put in charge of the high-profile weekly section last December.

Previously, Kushner had been in charge of the newspaper's aptly named "PostEverything" site. It could be our imagination, but it has seemed to us that he may have brought the point of view which lurks in that unintentionally comical name to the journalism of Outlook.

Yesterday morning, we thought Outlook's work got even worse from a journalistic standpoint. That said, we were appalled by work we found all through yesterday's Post, and in parts of yesterday's New York Times.

Is it our imagination, or are basic journalistic norms dying before our eyes? We're thinking of yesterday's weekly Fact Checker piece, which awarded two Pinocchios to Candidate Clinton even as the streets run red with Donald Trump's astounding serial misstatements.

We're also thinking of the journalistic values on display in the piece which headlined yesterday's Outlook section. For today, let's focus on the journalism of that remarkable piece.

Please note--we're talking about the journalism of the piece in question. In the end, we aren't attempting to assess the practice of the Santa Monica police department, which played a central role in the piece in question.

We aren't attempting to assess the values, views or beliefs of Fay Wells, the Santa Monica business executive who wrote the piece in question.

We aren't attempting to assess the values and motives of one of Wells' neighbors, about whom she makes some striking assertions. In the end, we're attempting to assess the journalism of Adam Kushner, the journalist who decided to publish Wells' piece in the form in which it appeared.

In our view, yesterday's Outlook piece is an astonishing read. That's especially true if you peruse the background material the Post ignored in presenting Wells' piece, which headlined yesterday's Outlook.

In our view, yesterday's piece helps us consider the basic conception of journalism which increasingly seems to obtain at newspapers like the Post. Such papers are taking us to a post-journalistic age—an age in which the work you read is narrative all the way down.

Question: did the Santa Monica police behave badly on the evening of September 6 in an incident involving Wells? In large part because of the Washington Post, we don't have the slightest idea how to answer that question.

Around 11 o'clock that evening, Wells called a locksmith to help her get into her apartment. (She had locked her keys inside.) A neighbor apparently thought a break-in was occurring, and he called police.

By all accounts, a total of 19 officers reported to the scene. It seems that at least two of the officers had their guns drawn when Wells came to her door to respond to their presence.

Was that an over-reaction? Was it bad policing? Outlook made no attempt to subject such questions to normal journalistic review. They simply published a long, agonized account by Wells—an impassioned account which, time and again, seem to misstate basic facts about what occurred that night.

Wells seems to remain extremely upset about what happened that night. There's no obvious reason why she shouldn't be. That said, it also isn't entirely clear that her various judgments are sensible or sound.

Wells remains extremely upset. That doesn't speak to our concern, the journalism practiced by the Washington Post.

In this case, what's wrong with the Post's journalism? Let's start with the paper's most heinous misconduct. In a lengthy, anguished piece to which it gave a very high platform, the Post let Wells make an endless array of statements and claims which seem extremely hard to reconcile with the facts.

As usual, these apparently fact-challenged statements help make the story more exciting. They make the story fit a familiar story line about a very important topic. Is there any other kind of "journalism" these days?

What sorts of claims in Wells' report seem hard to reconcile with the facts? Consider the claim that the police who responded to the neighbor's call refused to answer her questions or respond to her concerns that night.

This claim is made and implied, again and again, in the exciting and tribally pleasing report the Post chose to publish. We offer these examples:
WELLS (11/23/15): After the officers and dog exited my “cleared” apartment, I was allowed back inside to speak with some of them...

I had so many questions. Why hadn’t they announced themselves? Why had they pointed guns at me? Why had they refused to answer when I asked repeatedly what was going on? Was it protocol to send more than a dozen cops to a suspected burglary?
Why hadn’t anyone asked for my ID or accepted it, especially after I’d offered it? If I hadn’t heard the dog, would I have opened the door to a gun in my face? “Maybe,” they answered.


I spoke with two of the officers a little while longer, trying to wrap my mind around the magnitude and nature of their response. They wondered: Wouldn’t I want the same response if I’d been the one who called the cops? “Absolutely not,” I told them. I recounted my terror and told them how I imagined it all ending, particularly in light of the recent interactions between police and people of color. One officer admitted that it was complicated but added that people sometimes kill cops for no reason. I was momentarily speechless at this strange justification.

I got no clear answers from the police that night and am still struggling to get them...
We'll return to the "strange justification" which still seems to puzzle Wells. For now, let's consider the claim that Wells "got no clear answers from the police that night," even though she "spoke with two of the officers a little while longer."

In fact, Wells spoke with those officers for a full 47 minutes after the search of her apartment had been completed. They answered her questions again and again, and then again and again and again, over and over and over and over, for that length of time.

They answered endless questions, over and over, about the reasons for their procedures. And how helpful! On November 20, the Los Angeles Times posted a transcript of this endless discussion, along with the audiotape.

It's very hard to square that transcript and tape with a good many things the Post let Wells claim and state in her first-person account. Unless he's in thrall to the "PostEverything" ethos, it's hard to know why a young journalist like Kushner would publish such a misleading account about such a significant topic.

You can only see that by reading the transcript of that endless discussion. Meanwhile, let's return to that other statement by Wells:

"I spoke with two of the officers a little while longer, trying to wrap my mind around the magnitude and nature of their response...One officer admitted that it was complicated but added that people sometimes kill cops for no reason. I was momentarily speechless at this strange justification."

Three months later, Wells is still puzzled by that "strange justification," which the Post let her describe quite opaquely. She seems to be referring to the officers' statement that they approach such incidents in substantial numbers, and perhaps with some weapons drawn, because officers sometimes get shot and killed in such situations.

"Well, understand, my brother-in-law got killed in the line of duty entering a house," one of the sergeants told Wells at one point. We don't know if that's true. But three months later, Wells still seems to think that's a "strange justification" for the police procedures she found upsetting. Meanwhile, for unknown reasons, the Post let her present an absurdly murky account of what she was told about that.

It seems that Wells is still very upset by her experience that night. There's no obvious reasons why she shouldn't be.

But we aren't judging the conduct, views or reactions of Wells. We're judging the journalism of the Washington Post, an increasingly horrible "newspaper."

Did the Santa Monica police engage in bad procedures that night? We have no idea. But the Washington Post engaged in horrific journalism when it published that remarkable front-page Outlook piece in the way it did.

An amazing array of statement ands claims in that piece are hard to square with the documentary record. Beyond that, from its own headlines on down, the Post chose to present this event as a racial incident. It let Wells make racial claims about her neighbor and the police, accusing them of racist conduct in the absence of any obvious proof or indication.

Was Wells mistreated by the police that night? If so, was she mistreated because she's black?

The Post let her make that claim throughout her report. The claim made her report much more thrilling. It also fits a preferred narrative many Post readers may love.

That said, the paper never cited the statement by Jacqueline Seabrooks, the black woman who heads the Santa Monica police department. And all through the exciting report, Wells was allowed to make statements and claims which are very hard to reconcile with the facts.

In fairness, Seabrooks grew up in South Central; Wells went to Dartmouth and Duke, a point she shares in her piece. This may help us understand the way young Kushner, who went to Yale, interacts with the world from which he's extracting his lode.

Two weeks ago, we thought those pieces about the baby boomers were about as dumb as journalism could get. This latest work is utterly horrible in a different way.

Truly, it's a fascinating read—but only if you read the lengthy transcript which lets you evaluate the accuracy of the many exciting claims which are being advanced. Only then do you start to see the way the Wells piece is remarkable.

Remember—we aren't attempting to judge Wells' views about what happened that night. Despite her lofty background and high social standing, Fay Wells isn't a journalist.

We're trying to judge the journalism of the Washington Post, an increasingly horrible newspaper. Yesterday, from its front page forward, we thought the Post presented a variety of routes to a post-journalistic world.

Two weeks ago, we thought those ludicrous boomer pieces really took the cake. Yesterday, in line with the season, an even bigger journalistic turkey was given free range in the Post.

Tomorrow: Two Pinocchios, Kessler said

Wednesday: Even after all these years, he's still our biggest gobbler


  1. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely take up space without contributing to discussion and/or attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such comments are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

  2. Somerby doesn't want to talk about the content of Fay Wells complaints, but the net effect of a journalist doing his job properly would be to challenge her account of what happened.

    The liberal enclave of Santa Monica tries about as hard as any place on the planet to respect diversity. If they are so racist, no place is safe for African American people like Fay Wells to live. Where does that leave her? She is treating Santa Monica as if it were Ferguson, on the basis of a police call in which a neighbor, seeing her in the dark, described her as Latino. What is this world coming to?

  3. Wells is insane and going forward, no one can blame police officers who decide to drag their feet after too many incidents in which they are forced to contend with reactions like hers. For that reason, hundreds more are dead so far this year in Baltimore than would have been dead, and SJW's caused their deaths.

  4. Somerby, who closed his last post wailing about 2000 opens this post admonishing those preoccupied with the past.

    He feels the letter he selected to poke fun at is instructive. I think this piece, also in the same Post, which he chose to ignore, is very instructive about who Bob Somerby has become.

    1. Bob's comment box gets results.

    2. That article, if anything, indicts a lack of community that would have enabled the neighbors in question to know there was no break-in.

      But the article is meant for dumb people and its intent is to cause dumb people to conclude dumb things.

      The suspicion on the part of the neighbor is not a bad thing. Black people commit a wildly disproportionate amount of crime and to ask someone who, after crunching certain numbers and patterns in his neighborhood, to train himself not to heed this evolutionary warning and instead take risks and fail to react reasonably, because "racism," would be foolish.

      The police response is not bad either. It's good that those who put themselves at risk for the safety of others would create the safest possible conditions for themselves when responding to a possible violent crime.

      The police and the neighbor have done nothing wrong. The only person who did anything wrong is the one who wrote the stupid article filled with race-baiting insinuation, who accomplished nothing more than further undermining race relations and causing more black deaths and injuries due to police refusing to respond adequately for fear of repercussions like her stupid article.

    3. It didn’t matter that I told the cops I’d lived there for seven months, told them about the locksmith, offered to show a receipt for his services and my ID. It didn’t matter that I went to Duke, that I have an MBA from Dartmouth, that I’m a vice president of strategy at a multinational corporation. It didn’t matter that I’ve never had so much as a speeding ticket. It didn’t matter that I calmly, continually asked them what was happening.

      There is no reason why any of that SHOULD matter to the officers who responded. But low-IQ progressive who does not think logically will believe there is.

    4. "I introduced myself to the reporting neighbor and asked if he was aware of the gravity of his actions "

      And in doing so you made sure the next time said neighbor sees someone actually breaking into your apartment he'll be sure to stand down, foolish lady.


    5. Darwin wrote nothing about break-ins or neighbors. Educate yourself.

    6. Darwin never worte about the evolution of cracker commentary. Fortunately the itchy "publish" finger of Anon @ 4:22 to 4:29 can be instructive.

    7. Darwin had plenty to say about the effects of a stupidity of a group that stupidly endangers itself, in this case by creating incentive for police officers to intelligently ignore the group's needs for fear of politically motivated prosecution. Resulting in hundreds of deaths within that group in Baltimore this year.

    8. David the Guitar PlayerNovember 24, 2015 at 12:49 PM

      And so the new narrative is that "if you criticize the police, people will die!" How convenient. Now all those unarmed people of color who are gunned down can rest in peace knowing that they were keeping their neighborhood safe.

    9. If police are being forced from jobs and subjected to outrageous indictiments as a result of black hysteria, they will behave rationally and stand down when they previously would intervene. The result is hundreds of dead blacks. But SJW's got a chance to feel good about themselves. Worth it!

    10. No one should be concerned about menacing "unarmed people of color" like Michael Brown causing their own deaths. We should be concerned about other thugs who are gunning down police officers in cold blood. And we should support police officers when the risk of a Sharpton-induced charges and violence cause them to refuse to act against other thugs in urban settings, even if that results in more homicides against those they previously protected.

    11. "Thugs". Like those who crashed the world's economy through an epidemic of fraud?
      It's no wonder real Americans are fearful of whites working in the financial industry,

    12. Dave the Guitar PlayerNovember 25, 2015 at 1:00 PM

      Any police officer employed by me (the taxpayer) who believe they should "stand down" instead of doing the job they are paid to do should either resign or be fired. I will defend them when they are right and I will prosecute them when they are wrong.

  5. Bob wrote: We're thinking of yesterday's weekly Fact Checker piece, which awarded two Pinocchios to Candidate Clinton even as the streets run red with Donald Trump's astounding serial misstatements. .

    1. Donald Trump's lies don't excuse Hillary Clinton's lies

    2. WaPo made up for this omission by assigning Trump 4 Pinocchios for a comment that was at least partially true, based on reporting within WaPo itself. The following is a quote from Power Line Blog, who is criticizing Glenn Kessler, the WaPo fact-checker:

    Kessler wrote:

    Trump says that he saw this with his own eyes on television and that it was well covered. But an extensive examination of news clips from that period turns up nothing. There were some reports of celebrations overseas, in Muslim countries, but nothing that we can find involving the Arab populations of New Jersey.

    Emphasis added. This assertion is astonishing, because it means that Kessler is ignorant–or pretends to be–of his own newspaper’s reporting. As I wrote in the earlier post, the Washington Post, on September 18, 2001, wrote:

    In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

    1. People were outside eating on their rooftop while watching the disaster -- in September? That's celebrating?


      They said the claim was debunked. That implies the Washington Post on Sept 18 got it wrong.

    3. So is David saying it is wrong for Bob to decry the Post for claiming Hillary lied, that Bob should not excuse Hillary's lies because Trump tells whoppers, or is he really saying Bob lies about a lot of things involving northern New Jersey?


      They report that the people on the rooftop were Israelis. The Washington Post article never mentions Muslims but refers to Dominic Suter's "boys," employees of his moving company who were on the rooftop. Cannonfire discusses this incident at length. There is a complex discussion of what the 5 Israelis were doing (and Joseph Cannon doesn't like Israel) but the bottom line is that no Muslims were celebrating on rooftops.

    5. I don't know whether or not WaPo got it wrong in 2001. Contemporaneous reports are generally considered more reliable.

      In any case, it's remarkable for a WaPo "fact-checker" to write, "There were some reports of celebrations overseas, in Muslim countries, but nothing that we can find involving the Arab populations of New Jersey." How did he fail to find a report of Muslim celebrations in NJ that was printed in his own newspaper?

    6. It doesn't mention Muslims in the WaPo article. The people reported seen on the roof were Israelis who worked for a moving company and were taking pictures of the disaster.

    7. Surprise - idiot David's defense of Orangehead's lies is bullshit

    8. 4:41 wrote: It doesn't mention Muslims in the WaPo article.

      I re-read the article and 4:41 is correct. Two possibilities:

      1. Police were investigating non-Muslims who happened to live in a Muslim neighborhood and appeared to be celebrating the 9/11 attack.

      2. The aritcle didn't specifically identify the celebrants as "Muslims," out of some sort of sensitivity on the part of the police or on the part of the newspaper.

    9. 4:41 wrote: It doesn't mention Muslims in the WaPo article.

      Therefore, your wingbat source, John Hinderaker is full of shit. End of story.

      Possibility #3: You're a mendacious bastard.

  6. Bob never finished the book

  7. what upsets me most about the incident was the likely illegal search of her residence. police can not enter your home without a warrant unless there are exigent circumstances, which are rare, and certainly do not apply in this case. the police behaved in an unacceptable and likely illegal fashion when they entered and searched her residence. this is a fundamental right in the constitution!

    1. Exigent circumstances are that the neighbor witnessed three people break into the apartment, reporting a burglary in progress. They needed to ensure she was not being held captive, forced to tell a story to make police go away.

    2. Ah, so all it takes for a gang of local cops to decide to suspend your Fourth Amendment rights is a call from a nervous neighbor.

    3. Right,, except the 4th Amendment isn't being suspended. A complaint gives the police cause to investigate. The 4th Amendment protects against investigating without due cause. Look at swatting for a more extreme example of response to a 911 call -- you don't have to be black for this to happen.

      Try not to piss off your neighbors. If you break into your own house, be a good sport when the cops come. They only show up in the better neighborhoods. If Wells were actually treated like a woman of color her burglary call would have been ignored and she could go down and file a report for insurance in the morning, had a burglary occurred.

    4. Sorry, fella, but if the cops knock on your door, hold you at gunpoint, then proceed to search your home without a warrant, your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated.

      But then again, frightened little thumb-suckers like yourself will always sacrifice liberty for security, and will even excuse police of any abuse of power. As long, of course, as they aren't the ones whose homes are invaded.

    5. People who describe others they do not know in blog comment boxes as "frightened little thumb suckers" seem to have a better than average chance of being bed wetting

    6. And in true Bob Somerby fashion, you claim victimhood for being called "names" by calling "names."

      And what am I exactly denying? The alleged "right" of cops to invade your home based on a single phone call from a nervous "neighbor"?

    7. "Try not to piss off your neighbors. If you break into your own house, be a good sport when the cops come."

      That's what civilized people do. Infantilized burdens on civilization seek to avoid accountability for themselves or their group violate codes of civilization and then cry victim.

    8. "Exigent circumstances are that the neighbor witnessed three people break into the apartment, reporting a burglary in progress. They needed to ensure she was not being held captive, forced to tell a story to make police go away."

      Facts are RACIST!

    9. Dave the Guitar PlayerNovember 24, 2015 at 1:00 PM

      I would be comfortable with all of this defense of the police behavior if anyone could point out at least one other case of a suspected break in where 19 police officers with guns drawn turned up and the woman involved was white. I have never heard of it.

    10. what the police did was outrageous. Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure. The bar for exigent circumstances is set high for a reason. My take on the transcript of Wells talking with the police is different than Bob's. To my ears it sounds like the police were most concerned with covering their asses after realizing that they had overreacted in a situation with a person who rightly felt violated. There was already some level of establishment of what the situation was before the police entered her residence without her approval. People this is a basic right of US citizens. It really is nuts. The excuse that some people lie and could be hiding some hypothetical nonsense situation just doesn't work here, and in addition that notion then should be applied equally, so the police should equally have the concern that the 911 caller was lying as much as the resident.

      Bob is rightly concerned with journalists lacking knowledge and critical analysis skills. In debates, journalists rarely are properly armed to rebuke nonsense. Wells should a be better informed citizen and should have focused her discussion more about the police violating the fourth amendment; the police clearly are used to bullying people who are not very informed about their rights. The police lied to her about the 911 call, and they lied about following up with her. She should sue if disciplinary action is not taken against the police involved.

    11. Outcome bias such as that displayed by @2:38 plagues SJW's whose failure or inability to think logically creates a perpetual victim mentality which is becoming a constant source of both annoyance and amusement at this point.

    12. "I would be comfortable with all of this defense of the police behavior if anyone could point out at least one other case of a suspected break in where 19 police officers with guns drawn turned up and the woman involved was white. I have never heard of it."

      You would? That's the dumbest condition ever for a judgment. Either it can be defended objectively or it can't. It can, based on factors others have mentioned. Other anecdotal incidents, skin color, and gender are irrelevant.

    13. Hero @3:10, you're empty smugness is just as annoying as your meaningless comment. If you don't think Wells was a victim, explain your point. Please give an example of your ability to think logically that relates to the discussion. You claim outcome bias has been displayed and is creating a perpetual victim mentality. That sounds terrible! Apparently your annoyance and amusement is something everyone needs to be aware of and be concerned about. Yes let's all be very sensitive about how it makes you feel when others are suffering as victims.

      The police showed very poor judgment in entering Wells' residence without warrant. They knew it in real time, as they tried to cover their asses in the face of a righteous citizen. It is risible to claim that they had a right to enter because of some nonsense hypothetical situation.

  8. The photography in the Post seems to enforce the narrative.

  9. If her home were being burglarized and the white neighbor did not call police, and he previously called the police on behalf of another, white neighbor whose home he suspected was being burglarized, Wells would have been screeching about racism. You can't win with these crazies.

    1. If you are crazy it is a win-win. And I think my "if" situation is more likely than yours,

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