THE PROBLEMS WITH NOVELS: The crazies will always be with us!

MONDAY, JULY 18, 2016

Part 5—Potential problems with a current favorite:
By now, it almost has the feel of an addiction. We refer to the way we pseudo-liberals cling to our most treasured novel.

Consider a new example. On Friday evening, MSNBC debuted one of its silly pseudo-documentaries, "20 Stories That Shook The World in 20 Years."

The silly program was assembled to celebrate the cable channel's twenty years of foolishness. Rachel Maddow read the program's silly, listicle text.

What follows isn't entirely Maddow's fault. The assignment could have gone to anyone at the silly "news channel."

At any rate, Maddow burned an hour reading the text the channel's workers had assembled. Along the way, she introduced one of the "20 stories" by saying this:
MADDOW (7/15/16): Outrage erupts in 2012 when Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, is shot and killed while walking down the street in Florida. A man named Geroge Zimmerman is charged with second dgree murder.

A year later, at trial, Zimmerman claims he acted inself-defense and he's acquitted. Those who oppose the ruling unite and launch the national movement, Black Lives Matter.
Just to be clear: What follows isn't a comment about Black Lives Matter. What follows isn't a comment about the movement it launched.

What follows is a comment about major corporate "journalists," not excluding Maddow. More broadly, it's a comment about our liberal tribe's unquenchable desire to repeat our novelized claims.

Let's state the obvious. Different people have assessed the killing of Martin in different ways. But however a person assesses that event, Maddow's highlighted claim simply isn't accurate, except inside the tribal realm where multimillionaire TV stars serve us the porridge we love.

"Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, [was] shot and killed while walking down the street in Florida?" Whatever you think of that evening's events, that statement just isn't accurate.

As everyone knows, Martin wasn't "walking down the street" when he was shot and killed. As everyone knows, he was actually down on the ground, engaged in a fight with Zimmerman.

Martin wasn't "walking down the street" when he was shot and killed! Maddow understands that fact, as do her corporate owners.

They also know that that's the story we "liberals" like to hear. Plainly, Maddow's statement is inaccurate. But it serves our endless need to keep hearing the stories we like—our novelized forms of the news.

At highly partisan times, various people seek fortune and fame by reinventing basic facts in service to tribalized novels. For many years, we liberals correctly complained when this sort of thing was done by Rush and Sean.

Now, we liberals invent, embellish and disappear facts in the manner of those we claimed to despise. We've discovered the joy of the novel.

Trayvon Martin wasn't shot and killed by a policeman, of course. That said, our country would be well served by a serious discussion of police conduct, good and bad, including police shootings.

That said, the discussion of the past four years has been saturated with our tribe's novelizations. This is done in various ways, as we've discussed in earlier parts of this series.

Our "journalists" keep making their bones by embellishing basic facts in the service of novels. In the matter of fatal shootings by police, at least three problems may result:

People can form false impressions about such events: We stress examples where blacks are killed. We disappear the rest.

We rarely consider the basic statistics. When we do, we're highly selective in the statistics we choose to assess.

In the face of all this novelization, people can form false impressions about the frequency of police shootings. They can also form false impressions about the racial aspects of such shootings.

Where can false impressions come from? Let's quote Rosa Li, a young researcher, in a recent piece for Slate:
LI (7/15/16): The recent high-profile police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and too many other black men and women have raised contentious questions about the extent to which law enforcement officers are affected by racial biases. A newly published working paper by Harvard University professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. received a lot of attention and pushback this week for finding no evidence of racial bias in police shootings. This is surprising, Fryer readily admitted, and anyone exposed to the recent graphic videos of police behaving violently toward black men and women might agree.
What were Fryer's actual findings? To what extent can Fryer's reasearch be taken as definitive?

Starting tomorrow, we'll discuss such questions all week. But as Li noted, "anyone exposed to the recent graphic videos of police behaving violently toward black men and women" might naturally be inclined to draw a different set of conclusions. It isn't obvious that those conclusions will be accurate.

As we've noted, the press corps keeps discussing fatal shootings of blacks while ignoring fatal shootings of whites and Hispanics. At the same time, journalists invent false facts, and disappear actual facts, about these selective examples.

No matter what the topic might be, selective examples and bogus facts are bound to produce false impressions. But our press corps plays those childish games in much the way real humans breathe.

What's the "truth" about fatal police shootings? We'll examine Fryer's research all week, noting its limitations. But manifestly, people can't learn the truth from selective examples driven by bogus facts.

Children (and parents) may become irrationally scared: In a new piece for The New Yorker, Kai Gregory profiles Lezley McFadden, Michael Brown's mother, on her current book tour.

Gregory's profile is extremely selective; it's often less than fully coherent. At one point, Gregory records a sad exchange:
GREGORY (7/18/16): An African-American woman raised her hand and identified herself as the mother of a twelve-year-old boy. She said, “I have fear every day, as he walks to school, or wants to go to the pizza shop.” Did McSpadden have solutions?

“I’m asking that as well,” McSpadden answered. She has an eleven-year-old son at home.
That unnamed woman "has fear every day" as her son walks to school. But what is her fear about?

Gregory doesn't say.

From the context of Gregory's novelized piece, one would assume that the woman has fear of police shootings. If that's the case, this woman said she has this fear every time her son leaves her sight.

Have children and parents received a false impression about the frequency of police shootings? Tomorrow, we'll start with that question as we examine Fryer's findings.

The crazies will always be with us: Corporate journalists should stoip making inaccurate statements. They should also stop trafficking in selective examples, with police shootings stressed and/or disappeared on the basis of race.

That said, they've been doing exactly that for the past four years. Almost surely, many people have been misled in the process. They've received false impressions about these important events, which deserve serious journalistic examination.

Many people have been misled. Was Micah Johnson one of those people? How about Gavin Long? How about Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who murdered the two policemen in Brooklyn in December 2014?

Obviously, it's possible that the anger of those killers stemmed from false impressions. The crazies will always be with us. That's one reason why people like Maddow should perhaps try something new:

They should try making accurate statements when they discuss such serious matters. They should consider the harm that's already been done by the endless series of novels their corrupted predecessors have let loose on the world in the past twenty-five years.

Have people perhaps been misled about fatal shootings by police? Starting tomorrow, we'll examine that question all week.

We'll consider some basic findings by Fryer. We'll consider his work's limitations.


  1. Sometimes the victim deserves what they have coming to them.
    BTW, where are the reports about anyone who criticized or had a problem with the three victims in Baton Rouge yesterday?
    We need to know if they deserved what happened to them.

    1. The crazies will always be with us.

    2. I live in Los Angeles where there have been many innocent young and older people shot while walking down the street. Typically they are shot by stray bullets during gang-related violence. Sometimes they are targeted as part of a gang initiation or because they have a relative on the wrong side of a gang dispute. It is very sad when this happens and LA community leaders and police have both worked very hard to reduce such violence.

      Trayvon Martin was not shot under those circumstances at all. He was shot because he fought with the wrong guy. He was thus part of the problem, not an innocent bystander. Young men fighting is a huge problem in our country because of the presence of guns. Guns matter. Guns need to be focused upon as the problem they are.

      Castile had lots of traffic stops -- he was always in one sort of trouble or another. He drove for 6 years without a license or insurance. He was arrested for DUI because he had pot in his car. He wasn't killed or hurt during any of those stops until he bought a gun. Then things were different. Guns matter. They cause black and white lives to be lost for no good reason.

      Why isn't BLM joining forces with the gun control people to reduce the impact of guns on black lives?

    3. "Why isn't BLM joining forces with the gun control people to reduce the impact of guns on black lives?"

      Something about the marginalization of both groups due to NRA largesse.

    4. Wouldn't both groups be less marginalized if they joined forces?

    5. I have a question about the Castile tragic incident. He told the cop that he had a gun. Why did he do that? He was stopped for a busted tail light. I've been stopped a few times before, and I've never owned a gun, but if I did have a gun on me, why would I volunteer that information? Was there an outstanding warrant or warrants against him?

    6. Both Martin and Castile seem to have cultivated a gangsta hip hop persona. How are cops supposed to tell the difference between a real gangsta and a wannabe? Trayvon was new in town. Castile, who seems to have been known to the local cops, may have graduated from irresponsibility and pot smoking to actual criminal behavior -- perhaps to impress his girlfriend or fit in with her. It is hard to account for why he would have bought a gun. Yes, he has the right to own one (but wasn't qualified for a concealed carry permit), but why did he want or need one? That's part of where the problem lies, in my opinion.

    7. Stimulating, perceptive thread, especially AC/MA.

    8. At Daily Kos, they are describing having to pay fines for having no car insurance as a form of victimization. I don't understand this. ALL car owners must pay for license, registration and insurance. It is the cost of operating a car. When someone doesn't have insurance, they cannot cover their liabilities should there be an accident (their fault or not). Why is it "victimization" to expect all drivers to be responsible?

      Castile and other poor people who skip the license or insurance or registration wind up getting fines and then "must choose between paying fines and buying insurance." This does dig the hole deeper by increasing the cost of operating a car, but if you cannot afford the car, you don't drive. You don't keep getting more fines and endangering the public by operating without insurance. The suspended license is to keep drivers without insurance off the streets, not to burden poor people.

      I don't understand why all segments of society must adhere to the same rules about operating a car except black people, who are supposedly being targeted unfairly by such laws. Why do people think it is wrong to expect Castile and others to follow the same laws as everyone else?

      I get it that poor people spend a higher $% of their income on cars, housing, etc. But when you cannot afford something, you don't do it anyway. Castile could have carpooled or used public transit or moved closer to work or roomed with a friend or otherwise cut expenses to afford his insurance. That is what responsible people do. No one makes excuses for white people who behave irresponsibly and certainly not for Hispanic people (especially if undocumented). Why do black people get a pass on this stuff?

    9. "Why do black people get a pass on this stuff?"

      Why indeed!

    10. From "The Broad Ax" (1906), John T. Campbell:

      "In the past, white men have hated white men quite as much as some of them hate the Negro, and have vented their hatred with as much savagery as they ever have against the Negro. The best educated people have the least race prejudice. In the United States the poor white were encouraged to hate the Negroes because they could then be used to help hold the Negroes in slavery. The Negroes were taught to show contempt for the poor white because this would increase the hatred between them and each side could be used by the master to control the other. The real interest of the poor whites and the Negroes were the same, that of resisting the oppression of the master class. But ignorance stood in the way. This race hatred was at first used to perpetuate white supremacy in politics in the South. The poor whites are almost injured by it as are the Negroes."

      How little things change.

    11. If Castlie ever bought the NRA line about the 2nd Amendment being to fight the tyranny of the government, then yes, he's stupid.
      Because you'd have to be to believe such nonsense.
      Speaking of which, don't a lot of conservatives repeat what the NRA says?

  2. Trayvon Martin was shot and killed because he walked down the wrong street in Florida.

    FIFY AH.

    1. That, and he punched the wrong person in the face.

    2. More specifically as evidenced by the testimony of Rachel Jeantel in the courtroom: Trayvon Martin was shot and killed because he walked through the wrong lawn in Florida on his way back to the front door of his house before turning back to go after the wrong person to start a fight with. THIS WAS THE PROSECUTION'S WITNESS COURTROOM TESTIMONY!! Pay attention! Facts good! Rachel Maddow fastasy-world bullshit bad!

    3. He was shot for fighting.
      He was only followed under a cloud of suspicion for being black.

    4. He was cutting across lawns and standing on porches of homes where he did not live. Despite the rain, he was in no hurry to get home (was not walking as if he had a destination). That made him seem suspicious, especially in the context of recent burglaries.

      Had he been actually walking down the street he would probably not have attracted attention. Pretending he was the only black kid in a white neighborhood is silly given the demographics of that area. He wasn't followed for being black. He was followed for behaving like someone who might be looking for an easy target for a burglary (unlocked door, open window).

      Zimmerman was neighborhood watch, after all.

    5. "Zimmerman was neighborhood watch, after all."

      Speaking of, how the hell did anyone think hiring that paranoid, hothead was a good idea?
      I assume their first choice, Charles Manson, wasn't available because he was still doing time.

    6. Give Zimmerman a break. There hasn't been a report of him threatening someone with a gun in weeks.

    7. Zimmerman is/was not a "hothead". He is a regular guy who enjoys eating Skittles and drinking Arizona iced tea watermelon juice. Does that sound like it could possibly be a violent person to you?

    8. 4:53 PM,
      At least you didn't excuse his paranoia.

    9. Leave it to the Libs and SWJs to continue to try and lynch George.

    10. Why would anyone buy Zimmerman's story?
      After all, as was pointed out by an authoritarian here just last Friday:
      "All humans lie and lying to stay out of trouble is a common motive. Self-aggrandizing is another. Blaming cops for doing what everyone does seems pointless."

    11. There was corroborating evidence.

  3. Bob - If you bother to read the comments (I wouldn't if I were you), I just want you to know that you really are doing great work. It must be endlessly depressing that your daily efforts are mostly ignored, despite the fact that they are more important than almost everything published or broadcast to the masses.

    I hope that your efforts manage to help people see the light one day soon, in a big way.

  4. Did this not start with Henry Louis Gates Jr. / Cambridge Police thing? Like it or not, fair or unfair, Mr.Obama's reluctance to stand up (for historical reasons) has today spawned something quite ugly.

    1. It started in 1962 with the Black Liberation Army assassination of two cops in NYC. The Weather Underground and similar radical groups justified their bombings by issuing statements deploring racial injustice and prison conditions. The leaders of those groups were arguably mentally ill in the same way as the paranoid shooters in Baton Rouge and Dallas, but they were viewed as terrorists instead of lone wolves because they had followers, I guess.

      Many people believe that these extremist acts destroyed the non-violent protest movements and worry that these recent shooters will have the same effect on peaceful attempts to reform police by polarizing people and drawing support away from BLM.

      Back in the 50s and 60s FBI agent provocateurs attempted to provoke violence in the civil rights movement in order to undercut it and to give a pretext for jailing its leaders.

    2. "Mr.Obama's reluctance to stand up (for historical reasons) has today spawned something quite ugly."

      And what the hell was Obama supposed to do? Hold a public badge-ripping ceremony for the one cop in the country he could find who might have used racial profiling? Then black people across the country would never have formed a warped perspective of what is supposed to happen when they fight with cops while armed?! Dream on.

    3. "then black people across the country would never formed a warped perspective of what is supposed to happen when they fight with cops while armed."

      Big time, first-class insight.

    4. Anon at 4.59PM
      By Stand up I meant standing up for that Cambridge police officer instead of calling his action stupid.

    5. President Obama did say arresting Professor Gates for breaking into his own home after Gates proved that it was his house was "stupid." The charges against Professor Gates were dropped the next day. Shortly thereafter, President Obama apoligized to the Cambridge Police Department and convened a beer summit with Officer Crowley and Professor Gates to ramp down the controversy.

      From Harvard Magazine:

      An independent panel with experts from across the nation published a report on June 30, 2010, which states that "Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates each missed opportunities to 'ratchet down' the situation and end it peacefully" and share responsibility for the controversial July 16 arrest. Crowley could have better explained how uncertain and potentially dangerous it is to respond to a serious crime-in-progress call and why this can result in a seemingly rude tone. Gates could have tried to understand Crowley's view of the situation and could have spoken respectfully to Crowley. The report cites research that shows people's feelings about a police encounter depend significantly on whether they feel the officer displays respect and courtesy.

      Your sound-bite sized analysis, Plum Wdhse, although understandable given your point of view, is woefully lacking.

  5. Seemingly some on the left will never think rationally about either Martin or Brown. I am not sure if that is because they have media and politicians telling them what they want to hear, or if it would happen anyway.

    Such media is bound to exist, there is a demand for people to have their beliefs affirmed. Often trying to reason with them will just have them charging you with heresy. Maddow is probably part of the tribe more than she is a person who says what she is paid to say.

    1. Boy oh boy, I couldn't agree more.

    2. Response from the final post from last Friday:
      "All humans lie and lying to stay out of trouble is a common motive. Self-aggrandizing is another. Blaming cops for doing what everyone does seems pointless."

      Does "everyone" include the media? If so, what's the point of this blog?

    3. It could be to teach how to recognize the tricks the media use to make it seem like they are not lying.

    4. @ 8:49 is a corporate plant.

    5. You mean like a spider or jade? Still, a potted plant would look smart next to our troll.

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