Part 1—Then came the killings in Dallas: Last Thursday evening, in the 7 PM hour, Erin Burnett was conducting a typical pseudo-discussion.
The shootings in Dallas were still a few hours away. On her nightly CNN program, Burnett was pretending to conduct a discussion of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
The pretense began with the selection of Burnett's guests. Presumably, such selections are made by Burnett's corporate bosses.
One of Burnett's guests this night was Harry Houck. He was introduced by Burnett as "a former NYPD detective."
On the transcript of the show, Houck is further described as a "CNN law enforcement analyst." Aside from hisrole at CNN, he seems to be the founder and CEO of Harry Houck Consulting.
Culturally, Houck is very "white." As a general matter, he seems to be employed by CNN as a way to generate racial frictions during the network's endless pseudo-discussions of police conduct.
Not everything Houck said that night was "wrong." Some of the things Houck said this night were quite plainly valid and on point.
But once he began interacting with other guests, almost everything Houck said this night was unyielding and unhelpful—except to the extent that it helped generate racial friction of the type that may keep viewers watching.
Houck interrupted freely as the discussion unfolded. He kept offering "law enforcement analyses" like the one shown below:
BURNETT (7/7/16): Harry! Harry! Hold on one second, I know we have a bit of delay, but Harry, let me ask you this question. Harry, hold on.In his latest "law enforcement analysis," Houck refused to acknowledge even the possibility that race could have played a role in shooting of Castile. It wasn't a fair question!
The point that Paul makes, that black men are stopped three times more often than white men, the point that the governor of Minnesota said today, this death would not have happened if Castile was white: Don't you have to admit that the situation may not have presented itself at the very beginning at the traffic stop if he had not been black?
HOUCK: How do you know that? How do you know that?
BURNETT: I don't know. I'm not saying I know it. I'm saying, isn't it a fair question? How can you say race played no role?
HOUCK: It's not a fair question. How can you say that? It's not a fair question. That vehicle was stopped because of a broken tail light, all right? All right. That's why the vehicle was stopped.
BURNETT: OK. But nonetheless, it's true that white people can drive with a broken tail light and sometimes not be stopped.
HOUCK: I have pulled many of them over and I've given white people summons for the same, exact thing. Lots of white people get summonses every day.
Houck performed a valuable service in insisting that the recent cases shouldn't be prejudged. But his conceptual intransigence, and his constant interrupting, eventually turned the pseudo-discussion into the sort of "racial" conflict Burnett's corporate owners seem to crave.
We say that because Houck, who is culturally very white, had inevitably been paired with two other guests, each of whom was visibly "black." This is the sort of casting Burnett's owners seem to enjoy.
Each of Burnett's other guests became annoyed by Houck's constant interruptions. Eventually, one of the guests made a striking statement in response to Houck.
This second guest, Paul Martin, had been introduced by Burnett as "a criminal defense attorney who has also represented officers involved in shootings." Burnett didn't have to say that Martin is "black," although that's rather plainly part of the reason why he was on the program.
Martin became more and more annoyed with Houck's intransigent "law enforcement analyses." Before long, he heatedly took the bait.
Yay! Martin and Houck exchanged heated opinions about which man "needs to wake up." Raising his voice, Martin asked Houck is he can hear himself.
Burnett's owners exchanged high-fives on their yachts in Caribbean. Before long, strikingly, Martin offered the statement shown below.
Through the use of videotape, we've corrected the usual errors in the CNN transcript:
MARTIN: So I guess, according to you, the series of killings that have happened systematically, year after year after year—At this point, Martin did go down the list—and it was a very familiar list! Instantly, the two men were arguing about what actually happened on the night Trayvon Martin was killed.
HOUCK: Systematically! Systematically?
MARTIN: —just happened, through circumstance, just by chance, they all happened to be black. Is that your position, sir?
HOUCK: I don't know about these cases you're talking about. Tell me the cases you're talking about.
MARTIN: Where do you want me to start?...You want me to go down the list?
Over at CNN, this is Standard Racial Theater. Presumably, Burnett's owners and bosses keep scheduling Houck in the hope that he will generate this attention-grabbing race-based "cable news" conflict.
That said, Martin made a fascinating comment in that exchange with Houck. His comment helps us see the problems with a novel the mainstream press corps has been purveying for years.
According to Martin, "all" the recent cases of police killings have involved victims who were black. That's what the gentleman actually said. It's what Burnett's viewers heard.
A few hours later, a disturbed man started shooting in Dallas. Five more people got killed.
We would say that these events help show us the problems with novels. Our "press corps" loves to hand us such fare. People are dead all over the world because of this horrible conduct, in which the big giant stars of the mainstream press have engaged for the past many years.
Tomorrow: The familiar cases Martin mentioned; one recent case he skipped