Part 3—Picking and choosing examples: John Geer was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, Virginia policeman in August 2013.
At this time, police shootings were becoming very hot in the national "press corps." In many ways, the shooting of Geer was especially egregious. Consider:
Geer was shot and killed, in broad daylight, as he stood in the doorway to him home in the Washington suburbs. He wasn't holding a gun. His hands were raised above his head. See yesterday's report.
Five police officers were present that day. One of the officers shot Geer through the chest. The other four officers all testified that there had been no reason to fire the shot. Civilian eyewitnesses agreed.
The testimony of the four officers made this case especially striking. But good grief! Despite the striking circumstances, the Fairfax police stonewalled the case for well over a year.
They refused to release the name of the officer who had fired the fatal shot. They "refused to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors who wanted to examine Torres's personnel files," the Washington Post later said.
In many ways, this unfortunate case should have qualified as an instant classic. As noted, it came at a time when the national press was feigning deep interest in the topic of police shootings.
Despite these facts, very few people have ever heard of John Geer. The names of several other shooting victims are known all over the country, as is appropriate. But no one has heard of Geer.
This helps us see where novels come from. It also helps us see the problems which may arise when the people who pose as our "journalists" choose to traffic in novels.
Everyone has heard of Michael Brown; this is completely appropriate. Why has no one heard of Geer? Presumably, the answer is obvious:
When Officer Torres shot and killed Geer, he killed someone who is classified within our culture as "white." This example would have undermined the press corps' prevailing novel, which dealt with the killing of people who are classified as "black."
In line with this novelization, the Geer example was disappeared. Other examples were broadcast far and wide—sometimes with basic facts rearranged, dropped or embellished, in service to preferred story-lines.
When a "press corps" picks and chooses its examples this way, it may create a convincing novel—a novel which is morally pleasing. But it also may mislead the public about the real facts of real life.
Just yesterday, we saw Gene Robinson, on TV, pretending that he can't think of any examples of the Geer type. When "journalists" lie to the public that way, enormous harm may be done.
At this point, we're going to make our first recourse to statistics. Once again, this will involve the Washington Post, the newspaper for which Robinson, the Morning Joe star, pretends to work as a journalist.
Last year, the Washington Post performed an extremely rare act. It engaged in a genuine act of journalism, for which it was appropriately awarded a Pulitzer prize.
To its vast credit, the Post compiled a record of all fatal police shootings around the nation in 2015. Under previous procedures, even the FBI lacked such statistics, as Comey the God had acknowledged, displaying his manifest greatness.
The Post compiled a list of fatal police shootings around the nation. A wonderful irony arose from this project, an irony which captures the way our "journalists" work as they pretend to inform us.
That irony was this:
The Post was awarded a Pulitzer prize for compiling those important statistics. But when journalists pretend to discuss this ongoing topic, the Post's most basic statistics are almost never cited.
Below, you see some basic data from the Post's compilation. Conservatives have started to cite these statistics in the past week:
Victims of fatal police shootings by race, 2015For all Post data, click here.
The Post has continued to perform this important journalistic service in 2016. So far this year, last year's ratio has again obtained. So far, police officers have shot and killed approximately twice as many whites as blacks in the year 2016.
Is that a significant fact? Does it tell us anything about the degree to which the shootings of blacks may stem from racial bias?
On its own, that ratio can't tell us that—but it's a very basic statistic. That said, it's a fact the public rarely hears, in line with the press corps' enduring love for its ongoing novel.
Today, in cursory fashion, we've discussed two different ways in which the press corps can fashion a novel:
The press corps can pick and choose its examples. It can feed us a steady stream of one type of example, while disappearing examples of some other kind.
The press corps can also withhold the basic statistics which may complicate its preferred story-line. In each of these ways, the public may come to have a false impression about the way the world works.
Tomorrow, we'll start to look at a third way the press corps can fashion a novel. We'll even quote Candidate Clinton, a non-journalist, as she comes extremely close to telling the public a lie.
We'll also start to look at other relevant statistics. We'll mention that new research—research which suggests that common understandings of police shootings may in fact be inaccurate.
We'll do those things tomorrow. For today, we'll mention one possible problem with novels:
Last Thursday night, an unbalanced person opened fire in Dallas. Tomorrow, we'll pose a question we wish he had been asked.
Almost surely, many people have been misled by the press corps' latest novel. Was the killer one such person?
One of the problems with press corps novels is the fact that this is an obvious question. Beyond that, as we all know, it's a question which won't be asked.
Tomorrow: A possible survey question