Part 6—In search of Red Riding Hood: A basic question emerged from the liberal world's attempts at journalism in the year just past.
Rightly or wrongly, that year is now being widely described as The Year of the Liberal, even as "the year of liberal script." Here's the question which emerged from 2015:
Were the late Trayvon Martin's "hands full of candy" when he was "wailing away" at George Zimmerman?
That question emerged from the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, as do the two short quotations contained within that question. The question refers to one of the many instances in which our liberal world, in the year just past, displayed its ultimate fealty to pleasing tribal script.
The first quotation, which had Martin "wailing away," was offered by Coates in July 2013. He was referring to basic facts which had emerged concerning the tragic events of the night when Martin was killed.
The second quotation comes from Coates' book last year, Between the World and Me. By the time he wrote that book, Coates had largely submitted to script.
Don't get us wrong! Coates was handed large piles of money, and many awards, for that submission to script. As part of the downside, such changes of story—his book contains several others—helped give 2015 an unfortunate title, one we liberals should possibly ponder.
What sorts of changes do liberal writers make when they submit to the dictates of script? In Tuesday's incomparable report, we reviewed the change by Coates which produced today's basic question. Quickly, let's revisit that change before we consider some others:
In July 2013, Coates explained his reasons for saying that the jury which acquitted George Zimmerman of criminal conduct "basically got it right." In the process, he seemed to describe the basic events of that night:
COATES (7/14/13): As a younger man, I was in a few fights—mostly on the losing end. Some I provoked. Some I didn't. But in almost every one I can make a case for "death or great bodily harm." One I remember specifically, a guy hit me over the head with a steel trash can at the start. But the fight ended with me overtop of him—much like Trayvon was said to be over Zimmerman—wailing away. He had started the fight—but by Florida law I was the aggressor.Can we talk? By July 2013, no one was really disputing the fact that Martin and Zimmerman engaged in a fight that night, a fight Zimmerman was losing. However it may have started, no one was really disputing the fact that Martin was "overtop of Zimmerman, wailing away" in the course of that fight.
Fights are not like boxing matches. If you provoke one and start losing, your life is basically in someone else's hands. You should be afraid. Punches actually do kill people and cause "great bodily harm."
COMMENTER: I don't see how being on the losing end of a fist fight means a person "reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."
COATES: I am on the ground and you are on top of me wailing away. I am most certainly in "imminent danger of death or great bodily harm."
I say this as someone who has been in that position, and the person putting someone in that position. It is really, really frightening. And you are in danger of "great bodily harm" at the very least. Punches kill people. Skulls hit concrete or tables and cause great damage.
And that assumes that you know you are only being hit with someone's fist. What if it feels like your being hit with brass knuckles? What if you think you see the person reaching for something to finish the job?
Fights are not tame staid events. They are chaotic, random and very, very scary. They are not regulated. There are no TKOs. Fist-fights kill people—and there is no guarantee that a fist-fight will stay at that level.
Don't get us wrong! Along the way, liberal journalists had already worked to "improve" those facts, which had quickly been deemed undesirable. Lawrence O'Donnell isn't a doctor, but was willing to play one on cable TV. With the able assistance of Dr. Blow, he kept insisting that Zimmerman had sustained no injuries on the night in question.
His diagnosis had basically turned out to be wrong. By the time of Coates' post, almost no one was disputing the fact that a fight had occurred, and that, rightly or wrongly, Martin had been "overtop of Zimmerman, wailing away" in the course of that fight.
Two years later, Coates' book appeared. By that time, our world's devotion to script had congealed. In his book, he described those events a different way, seemingly in search of the perfect victim.
This is the way that fight was described in his "us and them" themed book. Because he'd agreed to make the change, a cynic would say that he was now showered with money and prizes:
COATES (page 104-105): There it is—the right to break the black body as the meaning of their sacred equality. And that right has always given them meaning, has meant that there was always someone down below because a mountain is not a mountain unless there is something below.Two years earlier, Coates himself had stressed a certain fact. However the fight got started, he seemed to say, Zimmerman could have been killed.
You and I, my son, are that "below." That was true in 1776; it is true today. There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream...But because they believe themselves to be white, they would rather countenance a man choked to death on film under their laws. And they would rather subscribe to the myth of Trayvon Martin, slight teenager, hands full of candy and soft drinks, transforming into a murderous juggernaut.
"Punches kill people," he'd said.
Now, he told a more pleasing story. His new story featured a perfect victim set upon by a wolf.
In his new story, Coates seemed to ridicule story-tellers—sorry, myth-subscribers—like his own previous self. Martin was no longer "wailing away." Now, he was a slight teenager with "hands full of candy," full stop.
Full stop! Except for the soft drinks, of course.
By last year, it was clear. At present, we liberals prefer our stories that way, with all complications removed.
We displayed that preference all through the past year, in one high-profile instance after another.
We liberals now love our perfect victims, with all complications removed. We love to describe Red Riding Hood, set upon by the wolf.
Reflexively, many of us preferred to see "Jackie" that way. In that passage from his book, Coates reimagined Martin in the same way, a process which can only be called silly as a matter of basic journalism and conventional ethics.
How do we craft our perfect victims? We focus on irrelevant facts, in this case the purchase of candy. We disappear important facts, in this case the facts which led Coates to pen his original description.
In this instance, the arc of Coates' moral judgment moved him from fact toward script. That said, last year involved a second high-profile case in which we moved in a different direction, from script toward avoidance of fact.
We refer to the unfortunate death of Michael Brown.
In that case, we liberals started with script, and with a perfect victim. But uh-oh! In March of last year, Eric Holder's Justice Department released a lengthy, detailed formal report which told a very different story about the events which led to that shooting.
We've described that report in great detail; we aren't going to do so again. That said, we liberals swung into action, finding ways to avoid the voluminous facts in that detailed report.
We like our victims perfect! In his award-winning book, this is as far as Coates would go in alluding to Eric Holder's new facts and findings about the death of Brown:
COATES (page 131): Michael Brown did not die as so many of his defenders supposed. And still the questions behind the questions are never asked. Should assaulting an officer of the state be a capital offense, with the officer as judge and executioner? Is that what we wish civilization to be?The shooting death of Michael Brown plays a much larger role in Coates' book than the earlier death of Trayvon Martin. But there you see his sole act of deference to the voluminous facts in Eric Holder's report.
"Michael Brown did not die as so many of his defenders supposed?" From the account we've shown you above, a well-trained reader might see that Coates seems to be saying that Brown "assaulted" the police officer who shot and killed him.
We'll guess that most readers didn't spot that apparent statement, largely because Coates disguised it so well. He moved straight from a hidden admission to a continued tribal assault, in which he accused the officer in question of acting "as judge and executioner."
In short, of being the big bad wolf, with all possible complications hidden, disguised, disappeared. Eric Holder's formal report said something vastly different, although you haven't learned what it said at your liberal sites and orgs.
In the past year, we liberals made it abundantly clear that we prefer our stories with perfect victims. Sacks of money, and high awards, will follow such presentations.
These cases were numerous in the past year. For better or worse, Coates has also recast his earlier account of the killing of Prince Jones, which lies at the heart of his book.
There is no doubt that this is the way we liberals now prefer our stories. That said, we're so old that we can remember when liberals would mock The Other Tribe for rewriting "the world" this way.
Today, voters are laughing at us for this. Appallingly, those voters are often not wrong.
At our liberal sites and orgs, we are rarely warned about this journalistic and political problem. We've made it clear with our eyeballs and clicks: We prefer "the world" this way.
In our view, this preference makes us a great deal like them. We'd call it an unworldly look.