Journalists keep offering "links to nowhere!"

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2020

Links which don't support claims:
Yesterday afternoon, we discussed the recent adventure in which we labored to compare New York City's experience with Covid-19 to that of Los Angeles.

Due to an oddity in the far west, it was hard to learn how many people had died of Covid-19 in Los Angeles. As you may recall, our search began with this short paragraph from this op-ed column in the New York Times:
WILENTZ (5/25/20) And indeed, the pandemic in Los Angeles has not been anywhere as intense as in New York, where as of this week the number of deaths was about eight times what it was in Los Angeles. We know people in New York who’ve died of Covid-19; here, so far, we know no one.
In fact, as of last weekend, the number of deaths in New York City was about sixteen times what it was in Los Angeles. That said, in discussing our recent adventure, we forgot to mention one point:

We forgot to mention where our adventure began. It began with a "link to nowhere."

As you can see from the online version of the column, that one short paragraph carries three (3) separate links. We clicked the link beneath the words "about eight times" to see if we could validate that claim about New York City and Los Angeles deaths.

As you can see from clicking that link, the link in question took us to this news report. The report supplied the number of coronavirus deaths in Los Angeles County, but it didn't give the number for New York City or for the city of Los Angeles itself.

In short, that link didn't support the claim it seemed designed to support. It seems to us that "links to nowhere" of this type are appearing more and more often in work at upper-end news orgs.

Consider the latest example:

The first report we read this morning was this report at Slate.
The piece adopts a somewhat tendentious approach to the recent phone call to 911 from inside New York's Central Park.

The author took us inside the mind of Amy Cooper, the person who made the unfortunate phone call in question. The writer tells us what Cooper thought and felt as she made the call. This seems a bit presumptuous to us, given Cooper's extremely disordered behavior and apparent state of mind.

For ourselves, we'd be slow to read the mind of such a disordered person. At any rate, in paragraph 4, the author moves on to say this:
GRUBER (5/27/20): For decades, conservative and liberal women alike have been taught that the key to empowerment against men who pose a threat, real or imagined, is to call the police. As high as the stakes were for Christian, they were nonexistent for Amy. For upper- and middle-class white women, the demographic least likely to be arrested or face state violence, a call to the police appears to be a no-lose proposition.
Is it true that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to be arrested?"

On its face, we didn't (and don't) find that hard to believe. (We'd be curious to see the corresponding rate for Asian-American women.) We'd also be curious to see how different the rates of arrest might be for other groups of women.

Meanwhile, is it true that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to face state violence?"

We wondered what that term might mean. Skillfully, we proceeded to click that paragraph's two links.

The first link seems designed to support the claim about rates of arrest. As best we can see, nothing in the lengthy report to which we were taken says anything about the socioeconomic status of the three groups of women under discussion (white, black, Latina).

As such, the report to which the link leads doesn't support the pleasing claim in question. Nor does the report explicitly say that white women are arrested less often than Latinas!

Indeed, based on what the report does say, it seems possible that white women are arrested more often than Latinas. (Asian-American women aren't included in the report.)

Meanwhile, there's no attempt in the report to discuss socioeconomic status of the three groups in question. The report to which we were taken doesn't address, let alone support, the claim it's supposed to support.

As such, the link in question is another link to nowhere! It seems to us that we're finding them more and more often these days.

So how about that second link—the link designed to support the claim that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to face state violence?"

Slate's link in apparent support of that claim takes us to this study, whose title refers to "police violence." Rather, it takes us to the abstract for that study, whose full text we weren't able to access.

Based on the abstract, that study doesn't seem to include socioeconomic status either. Nor does it include data for Asian-American women.

Meanwhile, good news! According to the first linked report, Latinas are less likely than white women to experience a traffic stop. They're also less likely than white women to experience a "street stop" by police. Overall, it isn't clear who gets arrested more often.

Out of all this, the author came up with a pleasing claim about upper- and middle-class white women. Again and again, more and more often, this is the way our politicized journalism seems to work in these latter days of extremely high tribalization. (More examples to come.)

Links to nowhere seem rather common. Do "editors" ever check those links before they put essays in print?

For extra credit only: According to the essay in Slate, Amy Cooper's crazy phone call poaed no threat to her. "As high as the stakes were for [her target], they were nonexistent for Amy."

Amy Cooper has lost her job and she's lost her dog. Compare and contrast. Discuss.

19 comments:

  1. “that link didn't support the claim it seemed designed to support.”

    Wilentz’ claim is that “the pandemic in Los Angeles has not been anywhere as intense as in New York”.

    That statement is true, and is supported by the link.

    The number of deaths for Los Angeles city cannot be higher than the number for the entire county.

    The death rate in NYC is 1977 per Million. For the City of Los Angeles (population 3.99 million) to have that rate, there would have to have been 7,888 deaths there. All of LA County had recorded only 1,976 according to the linked article.

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  2. "we'd be slow to read the mind of such a disordered person."

    And yet, Somberby can read her mind well enough to say confidently that she is disordered.

    When I read about the whole incident, it struck me that regardless of the circumstances, all of us are on edge these days, stressed more than usual, and that can lead to someone behaving in ways they wouldn't in more normal times.

    But Somerby has not charity, calling folks disordered and crazy, without regard to context in which behavior occurs. Consider the context is one of the first things a therapist learns in training. That's why deciding whether someone is "disordered" or not, is best left to the professionals.

    Coming from Somerby, it is just another form of name calling.

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  3. ‘Is it true that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to be arrested?"’

    According to the first of the two links in that Slate article paragraph:

    ‘Black women were arrested in 4.4 percent of police-initiated stops, which was roughly three times as often as white women (1.5 percent), and twice as often as Latinas (2.2 percent).’

    (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2019/05/14/policingwomen/)

    ‘Meanwhile, is it true that "upper- and middle-class white women" are "the demographic least likely to face state violence?"’

    According to the second link in that paragraph:

    ‘...a notable proportion of women experience police victimization, with significantly higher rates among racial and ethnic minority women.’
    (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009174351730419X)

    Also (from the first link): “Black women actually experienced use of force during a stop about the same rate as white men, while white women were significantly less likely to experience use of force than white men.”

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    Replies
    1. There is also a footnote that explains that if other factors for Latinas were controlled for, their rates of arrest would probably be higher.

      Delete
  4. "As high as the stakes were for Christian, they were nonexistent for Amy."

    Gruber considers only the stakes of the 911 call itself, and not the stakes for Amy of an encounter with an angry stranger in the park. Women may be taught to call the police when endangered, but they also learn to fear men because they are generally larger, stronger and more aggressive than themselves. The call to police is to even their chances in a conflict with a man (any man, not just a black man). Gruber doesn't consider that it was Cooper (the bird watcher) who initiated the contact and who was demanding something of "Amy".

    It isn't fair to say that only Cooper (the bird watcher) had something at stake, when violence against women is a factor too, thus Amy had something at stake, which she addressed by calling the police (while Cooper started videoing her and put their interaction on the internet, an aggressive act). Further, given the consequences, clearly Amy had a great deal at stake, from her dog ownership to her employment to her social standing.

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  5. An odd post.

    Somerby uses the bulk of it to question whether the links in Gruber’s article support her contention that “for upper- and middle-class white women, the demographic least likely to be arrested or face state violence, a call to the police appears to be a no-lose proposition.” The data generally seems to support that.

    But then he relegates the more important and problematical contention “"As high as the stakes were for [her target], they were nonexistent for Amy.” to an afterthought.

    Unmentioned is Gruber’s depiction of the video and Cooper’s behavior, which is important for judging the overall plausibility of Gruber’s opinion.

    Extra points for deciding if Somerby is warranted in calling Cooper’s phone call “crazy.”

    ReplyDelete

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