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.