Daily deaths edge up again!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

Reversing that long, strong decline:
Daily deaths edged up again a tiny tad yesterday.

(We're dealing in 7-day averages nationwide. We're using the Washington Post's data. We've adjusted for the way New Jersey changed its accounting procedures last week.)

From May right on through until last week, there had been a long, strong decline in daily deaths. As we showed you recently, the numbers were looking like this:
Daily deaths, nationwide, 7-day rolling average
May 25-May 31: 915.6
June 1-June 7: 803.4
June 8-June 14: 710.9
June 15-June 21: 585.9
Daily deaths were dropping fast, but the rolling average bottomed out last Thursday at 567.1 (June 19-June 25). At least in the immediate short run, this completed a process of long, rapid, steady decline.

The number has been inching back up since then. As of yesterday, it had moved back up to 583.3 (June 22-June 28).

So far, that isn't a giant increase. But for several months extending into last week, daily deaths had been on a steady, rapid decline.

The Roman Republic was felled by Okmok.
All in all, we may not be doing real great ourselves!

Sayre's Law visits the New York Times!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

Why we can't have nice things:
Sayre's Law is a mighty law. The leading authority on the dictum explains the holding like this:
Sayre's law states, in a formulation quoted by Charles Philip Issawi: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." By way of corollary, it adds: "That is why academic politics are so bitter."

Sayre's law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905–1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University.
A tightly-stated variant of Sayre's Law is often attributed to Henry Kissinger. As always, the more often you hear a certain claim made, the less likely the claim is true.

We thought of Sayre's Law today as we read the New York Times. More specifically, we read this endless report by Kim Severson—a report about a roiling dispute within an organization no one has ever heard of.

Severson's lengthy report is long, suggestive and murky. You'd think the fate of the world was at stake. The lengthy report starts like this:
SEVERSON (6/230/20): For years, people have been calling for John T. Edge to step down as head of the influential Southern Foodways Alliance.

They say he is a kingmaker. They say he is a white man—however charming—who has too much power over who tells the story of food in a region where so much of the cuisine was created by enslaved people.

For years, Mr. Edge has been listening, and remained in his position at the top.
You can learn real things from the Times! Today, we learned that there is an organization called the Southern Food Alliance, and we learn that it's influential.

A few questions did come to mind. Influential among whom? we wondered. Also, influential concerning what?

We can't say that we were clear about those questions by the time we finished the endless report. Nor were we ever told how Edge got to be head of the SFA to begin with, or why there is no pathway for him to be induced to step down.

We weren't told why the phalanx of whining bougies in Severson's piece can't start their own pointless org somewhere else. Mainly, though, we thought about this:

This is why we can't have real discussions about public schools, or about our lunatic health care spending, or even about what actually happened in Flint.

How did the tyrannical Edge become head of the SFA? Why is there no provision by which he can be replaced?

In best Times fashion, Severson skips these obvious points. Instead, she lards her piece with whining and crying, generally built around insinuations and complaints about unexplained matters of race.

At this time, within the Times hive, this is all the hornets know. The newspaper's hopelessly foppish, Hamptons-based culture feeds on such blather as this.

No real discussion takes place in the Times. But dear God, can they ever fill space!

We had an oddly similar reaction to a very different type of report in this morning's Times.

This second report appeared in the Science Times; it was stunningly erudite. That report started like this:
KORNEI (6/30/20): Chaos and conflict roiled the Mediterranean in the first century B.C. Against a backdrop of famine, disease and the assassinations of Julius Caesar and other political leaders, the Roman Republic collapsed, and the Roman Empire rose in its place. Tumultuous social unrest no doubt contributed to that transition — politics can unhinge a society. But so can something arguably more powerful.

Scientists on Monday announced evidence that a volcanic eruption in the remote Aleutian Islands, 6,000 miles away from the Italian peninsula, contributed to the demise
of the Roman Republic. That eruption—and others before it and since—played a role in changing the course of history.
Yes, that's right. Academics have determined that a major eruption from Okmok, a volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, helped bring the Roman Republic to an end.

The eruption occurred in or around 43 B.C., give or take. Soon thereafter, the republic was on the way out.

These academics today! They've been able to determine that an Alaskan volcano took the Roman republic down. But for twenty months during Campaign 2000, journalists were inventing crazy claims and pretending that one White House candidate had been these claims, and no academic ever stepped forward to note the way this stupid practice might bring our republic down.

Our eggheads know all about Okmok. Our bougies want Edge out.

The New York Times is immersed in such matters; that's how it butters its bread. But when it comes to basic questions about various forces which drive the society, the paper is out to a very late lunch.

Aside from food disputes and ancient eruptions, the Times is a rolling joke. Admittedly, decades of branding make this fact hard for most liberals to spot.

Truly, we can't have nice things. For us, that will always be Poundstone's Law. We heard her state it first!

Meanwhile, as in Sayre's Law, the less at stake, the greater the squabble! To the whiners inside the SFA, we offer some good sound advice:

Full your bougie selves with your best bougie food. Then go jump in some deep Southern lake!

Also this: Parkinson's law of triviality? You'll find it explained right here!

JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Christen was shot and killed by police!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

All sides agree on what happened:
Robert Christen, age 37, was shot and killed in Mora, Minnesota on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

Was he shot and killed "by Minnesota police?" We're not entirely sure why you'd put it that way.

Everyone agrees that Christen was shot and killed by Shana [LAST NAME WITHHELD], a Kanabec County sheriff’s deputy. It's also agreed, by all concerned, that Christen was unarmed.

As such, the Washington Post's Fatal Force site lists Christen as one of the six unarmed people who were shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota since the start of 2015.

For those who wish to evaluate our current "journalism of the saints," the circumstances of Christen's death may well prove instructive. Below, you see the initial online report by WCCO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis.

This initial report appeared on October 1, 2015.
The report was souced to police authorities, with punditry by one local resident thrown in:
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office says a man is dead after he made threats and attacked a deputy in Mora Wednesday.

Shortly before 9 p.m., Kanabec County Sheriff’s Deputy Shana McIalwain responded to a residence on the 500 block of Watkins Street after a man called and said he intended to kill someone at the address.

Thirty-seven-year-old Robert Sullivan Christen, of Duluth, arrived shortly after the McIalwain arrived. The sheriff’s office says Christen drove up at a high rate of speed and crashed his vehicle into a tree on the front lawn.

Despite being ordered to stop, Christen continued to advance and then attacked McIalwain, repeatedly punching her in the head. She then shot Christen to stop him. He died at the scene.


McIalwain, a one-and-a-half-year veteran of the department, suffered injuries to the forehead and arm in the attack and was treated and released by paramedics. She has been placed on standard administrative leave.

Christen had a prior assault conviction. Investigators are not sure of the relationship between Christen and the homeowner, but they say two children live in the home.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.
According to the Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office, Christen had threatened to kill someone in a particular home. The deputy sheriff—she was in her second year on the job—reported to the scene and was later attacked by Christen.

"She then shot Christen to stop him," WCCO reported. Also, an investigation had begun.

The factual claims in this initial report were wholly sourced to Kanabec County authorities. There was no obvious reason to assume that every word in that report was accurate, though of course it could have been.

By the time the investigation was finished, there seemed to be little doubt about what had happened. Everyone seemed to agree about the basic facts of the case. The only question that remained was this:

Could something else have been done?

What did the investigation reveal? For starters, we'll recall a lyric from the widely-recorded song, A Tramp On the Street:

As it turned out, Robert Christen was indeed "some mother's darlin'." He had indeed been "some mother's son."

That mother agreed as to the facts of the case, as you'll see below. This might also be said of Christen:

He had once been a fullback for the University of Minnesota's Golden Gophers. We'll guess that he was bigger and stronger than the officer who shot and killed him that night, but we've seen no official statistics to that effect.

Remember, this was an investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed man. What did the investigation reveal? For that, we direct you to a poignant news report by Kirsten Faurie in the Kanabec County Times.

Faurie's report appeared on March 3, 2016. The investigation was now complete. As she started, Faurie reported the basics:
FAURIE (3/3/16): Five months after the fatal shooting of a man by a Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office deputy, the county attorney determined the deputy was justified in her use of deadly force and therefore no criminal charges will be filed against her.

Kanabec County Attorney Barbara McFadden made the determination Feb. 19, shortly after the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) concluded its investigation of the incident. The investigation revealed the man, 37-year-old Robert S. Christen, had a history of mental illness and was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the shooting.
So far, Faurie's report is quite sketchy. As her report continued, she continually referred to Christen on a first-name basis.

She also quoted Christen's mother at length. Under the subheading, "Suicide by Cop," she described some of the basics:
FAURIE: On Sept. 30, 2015, at approximately 8:45 p.m. Rob made a 9-1-1 call to report a “possible crime” and stated he was going to kill a person at a home on Watkins Street, Mora where Rob’s girlfriend, Juanita Lietz, and her two children lived.

According to a letter from the county attorney’s office, Deputy Shanna McIalwain was dispatched to the home and spoke with Lietz and another adult who were at the residence. The second adult left with the two children while McIalwain and Lietz stayed at the home to wait for Rob to arrive.

As more detail emerged about Rob’s violent threats from dispatch and from Lietz who had been receiving text messages from Rob, McIalwain called for backup. Moments after, McIalwain saw Rob’s car come flying around the corner, squealing the tires and honking the horn. The car came over the curb and into the yard toward the front of the house stopping as it ran into some bushes.

McIalwain stepped out of the home and was standing on the landing when Rob got out of the car and began to rush toward her. McIalwain drew her handgun and ordered Rob to stop. Instead, he approached her, pushed away her hands and immediately began punching her in the head. After striking her three times, Rob took a temporary step back either by choice or by loss of balance.

McIalwain reported that at that point she was becoming dizzy and felt she was losing consciousness. Out of fear that she could pass out and be beaten to death, shot with her own weapon or the residents of the home harmed, McIalwain fired her weapon at Rob six times, missing with the first shot but striking him five times. When EMTs arrived they provided several minutes of medical care then pronounced Rob dead at the scene.
Should the deputy have fired her weapon? Was there something else she should have done instead? We have no experience or expertise judging such tragic questions.

As she continued, Faurie reported that Christen had marijuana and cocaine in his system at the time of his death. She also quoted a statement by McFadden—a statement in which the county attorney seemed to misstate one aspect of the facts of the case, at least as Faurie had reported them.

That said, Faurie also began to quote Pam Christen, the mother of the deceased. Here again, Pam Christen was referred to on a first-name basis.

“He was very sick,” Pam Christen said of her son. “My husband and I basically believe this was suicide by cop.”

Rob Christen had been somebody's darling. In some detail, Faurie proceeded to quote Pam Christen as she told the tale.

We include Faurie's sub-heading:
FAURIE: A long struggle

Five months after her son’s death, Pam harbors no anger against the police. In fact, she expressed sympathy for McIalwain.
“I want it very clear that we hold no ill will against the police officer. She was put in a terrible position and she did what she had to do,” she said.

Rob’s family said he had a long history of mental illness and was receiving treatment. Pam said the events of Sept. 30 show Rob had not been taking his prescribed medication and that he had slipped into a manic episode.

Rob was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 25 years old. In the 12 years since his diagnosis to his death, Pam said she had seen her son hospitalized 50-60 times, each time only at the peak of a crisis. She said her family was even advised by a social worker for Rob to tell hospitals or the police that he was going to kill himself in order to be admitted.

“It takes a crisis to get any help,” she said. Pam recalled many times that Rob would call the police on himself. Threatening to kill someone or kill himself was the surest way to make sure he was admitted to a hospital.

“When he was not sick, he was a very loving and wonderful person,” said Pam. “He was such a wonderful son.”

Lietz shared a collection of photos that showed the kind and loving side of Rob.
Just months before his death, Rob was a groomsman in his friend’s wedding. Pictures also show Rob playing happily with Lietz’s family at Paul Bunyan Land and with his favorite dog, Casper.

But his constant struggles with mental illness took their toll. “He just didn’t want to be sick anymore,” said Lietz.
This was an example of hometown, first-name reporting. Mora's population is something less than 4000. It lies some 65 miles from the Twin Cities. The population of Kanabec County is more like 16,000.

Faurie's report continues from there. She quotes the Kanabex County sheriff commending the deputy sheriff for her service that night.

“It was a tragic event that ended terribly,” the sheriff is quoted saying.

The sheriff and Pam Christen are each quoted further as they discuss the shortcomings of the mental health services which had been available to Rob Christen. They each discuss the need to treat mental health issues outside a criminal context.

“We need to get people the help they need and jails are not the place for that,” the sheriff said.

Faurie had composed a lengthy small-town news report. Her report could have been a launchpad for a discussion of some major social issues.

At the upper ends of our mainstream press, few such extended discussions occur. At present, the journalism of the saints is perhaps crowding out some such discussions and coverage.

According to the Fatal Force site, police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed six unarmed person since the start of 2015.

Robert Christen was one of the six. The basic facts in the other five cases may all be quite different.

That said, Wesley Lowery cited this event right at the start of his recent high-profile essay in The Atlantic. Tomorrow, we'll revisit, and review, his presentation of this case. His presentation might be said to be an example of "the journalism of the saints."

We won't be saying that such journalism is right or wrong. We do think it's worth considering the way this event was presented to The Atlantic's occasionally story-fed readers.

"A gruesome cycle"

The fuller lyrics: Reading Faurie's report, we recalled these widely-recorded lyrics:
He was some mother's darlin', he was some mother's son
Once he was fair and once he was young
And some mother rocked him, her darlin' to sleep
But they left him to die like a tramp on the street
The first three lines seem appropriate here. The gravamen of the fourth line was perhaps implied elsewhere.

Hugh Hewitt makes a ludicrous claim!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2020

On Meet the Press, no one noticed:
What kinds of crazy "facts" can a person hear at the very top of our news chain?

Consider the indignities visited on those who watched yesterday's Meet the Press. Hugh Hewitt was part of the pundit panel. Things quickly went sideways from there:
TODD (6/28/20): Hugh, how would you advise the president to turn this around? I mean, it does look like at this point they've made the decision the federal government isn't going to own the response [to the pandemic]. I mean, Secretary Azar kept bringing it back to the states, back to the states. I understand that's a federalism response, but it's not working.

HEWITT: Well, yesterday 500 Americans died, Chuck. And in Germany, 680 Germans died. The United States' death toll has dropped dramatically from May, when it was 2,700...
Hewitt storylined further from there. But good God! Just look at the numbers he cited!

Hewitt's current death count for the U.S. was reasonably accurate. According to the Washington Post's numbers, 546 deaths from coronavirus were recorded on Saturday, June 27.

That death count was reasonably accurate—but how about the crazy number he cited for Germany? "In Germany, 680 Germans died?"

Obviously, that number was crazily wrong. But nobody said a freaking thing about Hewitt's ridiculous statement—not Chuck Todd and not his other two pundit guests.

How crazy was Hewitt's number? Anyone who knows anything about this topic knows that Germany has stifled the coronavirus to a state of semi-extinction.

According to the WorldOMeter site, daily deaths in Germany have been averaging maybe 10 per day. The notion that Germany had suddenly pulled a 680 made no earthly sense.

(In population, Germany is roughly one-fourth our size.)

Still, the claim emerged from Hewitt's mouth. Later that day, in a tweet, he explained:
HEWITT (6/28/20): I was wrong on @MeetThePress this morning. Germany had 680+ new cases yesterday not deaths. My error entirely not @NBCNews
Hewitt had deaths mixed up with cases! That's why he blurted that crazy number, a number suggesting that things aren't nearly as bad as the Trump-haters might have you think.

That said:

A journalist has to know nothing at all to think that Germany could have pulled a 680. We think of something NAME WITHHELD said to us, two decades ago, concerning the total lack of preparation displayed by many journalist guests on C-Span's Washington Journal.

(No, it wasn't Mortman.)

You have to know nothing at all to make a statement like Hewitt's. That said, no one corrected or challenged him on the air and, in the very next segment, Chuck Todd was offering this:
TODD: Welcome back. Data Download time. Let's take a look at how the United States is doing compared with other countries in controlling the coronavirus.

At 107 cases per one million people, the United States has one of the highest infection rates in the world. Brazil's is higher, with a seven-day average of about 163 new infections per one million. Russia and India are also in double digits per one million people. And, of course, we can't be sure how accurate the reporting is in all cases...
The problems continued from there. Already, lack of clarity reigned.

Does the United States currently have "107 cases per one million people?" Actually, that would be the number of new (confirmed or reported) cases on a daily basis.

A viewer could have gleaned that information from the small print on the chart which appeared behind Todd. But Todd's entire presentation was very poorly written.

Just within the chunk we've posted, we were especially struck by this statement: "And of course, we can't be sure how accurate the reporting is in all cases."

We certainly can;t be sure of how accurate the reporting is when it comes to American cases! Just last week, the CDC reported that the actual number of cases, overall, may be as much as ten times the current reported number. "Cases" is a slippery metric, for several basic reasons and in several different ways.

Coronavirus statistics can be very hard! If you want to report accurate information, you have to be careful about you say.

In this case, Todd was conveying basic narrative, but the text he was reading was poorly composed. Earlier, Hewitt's unchallenged statement was a miracle of complete/total incomprehension.

While we're at it, we'll refer you to Kevin Drum's discussion of the recent divergence in U.S. statistics between "daily cases," which are rising, and "daily deaths," which have been dropping.

For pro-Trump reasons, Hewitt was trying to make more of the drop in deaths than anyone sensibly could. In recent weeks, we've noted several people overstating the daily number of deaths, perhaps for opposite narrative reasons.

Largely because deaths are "a lagging indicator," Drum says their number could "turn upward next week." Here's the bad news:

At least on a tiny level, daily deaths have already turned upward! The upward movement so far is slight. It may turn out to be a statistical blip, signifying nothing much beyond the lack of a steady drop.

But the seven-day rolling average has in fact inched upward in the last few days—and yes, we're adjusting for the infusion of deaths which suddenly occurred last Thursday, when New Jersey dumped the results of a change in its accounting system into the daily number.

To what extent have deaths inched up? Consider:

At the end of May, American deaths were averaging 915.6 per day (May 25-31). By June 25, the average was all the way down to 567.1 per day (June 19-June 25).

Since then, the seven-day average has nudged up to where it stands at present, 580.7 (June 22-June 28). That may turn out to be nothing much. But the rise in the past few days represents the first time the average has risen since we started keeping track last month.

At any rate, there was Hewitt, reporting live and direct from Pundit Know-Nothing Land. The people you see on your TV shows often know nothing at at all—except, of course, for the glorious shape of their prevailing narratives.

Those they memorize and recite. Quite often, that's pretty much all.

One last factual point: U.S. daily deaths never averaged 2700 in May, or at any earlier point. According to the Post numbers, the daily count went that high on four occasions, though that may have been an artifact of glitches in the day-to-day recording system.

The daily average of deaths exceeded 2000 per day for at most two weeks in April. The average was never as high as 2000 per day at any time in May.

Hewitt was cherry-picking and overstating in service to pro-Trump narrative. He overstated with respect to the American numbers. With respect to the German number, it was Upper-End Pundit Gone Wild.

JOURNALISM OF THE SAINTS: Wesley Lowery's plea in the Times!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2020

Plus, unarmed man shot and killed:
We'll run through the history quickly:

Long ago and far away, Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, once again gave the best advice.

Homer was there to record the whole thing. In Book 9 of his famous best-seller, The Iliad, he records the way it went down:

The tide of battle had very much turned against the Argives (the Achaeans) in their attempt to sack Troy. "Godsent Panic seized them," Homer reports, "comrade of bloodcurdling Rout."

That evening, Lord Marshal Agamemnon rose in counsel. Tears streaming down his cheeks, he said the Achaeans should cut and run.

"We'll never take the broad streets of Troy," Agamemnon said. He said the Argives should "cut and run—sail home."

(We're working from Professor Fagles' 1990 translation.)

So Agamemnon strangely advised. Other members of the counsel were "struck dumb by his orders," Homer reports. Finally, the headstrong young Diomedes rose to speak.

"Desperate man!" Diomedes said, boldly addressing the lord marshal. "If your spirit drives you to sail home, then sail away, my King!...But the rest of the long-haired Achaeans will hold out, right here, until we've plundered Troy."

So spoke the headstrong young lord of the war cry. "And all the Achaeans shouted their assent," Homer recalls, "stirred by the stallion-breaking Diomedes' challenge."

Based on very limited reading, we regard what follows as one of the great moments in world literature. Nestor scrambles to his feet, eager to restore order.

He praises Diomedes' power in battle, even his general judgment.

"In council you excel all men your age," Nestor says, meaning this as a compliment. But he then points to Diomedes' youth and concomitant lack of wisdom.

"How young you are—why, you could be my son, my youngest-born at that," Nestor coolly remarks.

"It's my turn now, Diomedes," the seasoned adviser coolly said. "I think I can claim to have some years on you. So I must speak up and drive the matter home. And no one will heap contempt on what I say, not even mighty Agamemnon."

Before the evening is done, Nestor has restored unity within Argive ranks. Before a more limited council of "senior chiefs," he has directly chastised Agamemnon, causing him to retract his earlier rash remarks.

The basic advice he gives Diomedes is of no particular relevance here. But we thought of that famous scene from world literature when we sampled the Sunday Review section of yesterday's New York Times.

More specifically, we thought of that famous scene when we read Wesley Lowery's attempt to devise new rules for American journalism, such as it is.

Lowery's essay was the featured piece in yesterday's Sunday Review.
We'd say the piece displayed revolutionary ardor. On the other hand, we'd have to grade the fiery essay as something like D-minus work.

Needless to say, D-minus work is nothing new in New York Times guest opinion writing. Decades of branding make the following point hard to credit, but it's true nonetheless:

If it weren't for all the D-minus work, there would frequently be no New York Times opinion work at all. We offer this unfortunate assessment as an anthropological statement.

In our view, Lowery's essay needed a lot of work. For ourselves, we wouldn't have published the piece as it is.(Childishly, our journalists tend to refer to such essays as "stories.")

Before the week is done, we'll show you what we see the major shortcomings of Lowery's piece—its shortcomings of evidence and of logic.

We'll get there before the week is through. For today, we're going to start with Lowery's recent essay in The Atlantic—an essay about police shootings, a very serious topic.

For ourselves, we wouldn't have published that essay either. As editor, our questions for Lowery would have started with his second paragraph.

For unknown reasons, Lowery and the editors at The Atlantic explicitly refer to his essay, at two different junctures, as a "story." You may think we're picking nits when we mention that fact.

You may think we're picking nits. We would say that we're starting at the beginning. At any rate, the essay deals with a very significant topic—and the essay starts like this:
MINNEAPOLIS—Miski Noor watched just the first minute of the video of George Floyd’s killing before closing the tab and walking the two blocks to join the protests already forming at the scene. The days since have been filled with a maddening sense of déjà vu.

Noor had joined the Movement for Black Lives in 2014, after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The 34-year-old activist’s first protest was that December, a demonstration that shut down the Mall of America during the peak of the holiday shopping season.

Noor soon became intimately familiar with the gruesome cycle: The police killed someone. Activists protested. Small reforms were won. The police killed someone else.

In Minnesota, St. Paul police killed Philip Quinn, a Native American man in the midst of a mental-health crisis, in September 2015. One week later, a Kanabec County Sheriff’s deputy killed Robert Christen, a white former fullback for the Wisconsin Badgers who was enduring a mental-health crisis of his own. Two months after that, in November 2015, Minneapolis police killed Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old unarmed black man. Hundreds poured into the streets.
In the fourth paragraph of his essay, Lowery mentions three Minnesota events. These events are said to be part of a "gruesome cycle."

After the third of these events, "hundreds poured into the streets." But how are we supposed to judge or assess these events? At no point in Lowery's "story" are we given help with that.

By now, of course, everybody reading that essay knew what they were supposed to think about those three events. They understood why those events constituted a "gruesome cycle"—or at at least, they knew what they were supposed to assume about that.

A powerful narrative preceded Lowery as he composed his story. The Atlantic published his story. For ourselves, we would have judged that Lowery's essay needed much more work.

Tomorrow, we plan to describe the events of one of the police shootings cited by Lowery in paragraph 4 of his essay. We'll ask you what you think of those events once you've seen them more fully described—and in this case, there seems to be no disagreement concerning what actually happened.

Tomorrow, we'll show you what happened in that one event. We'll ask you what you think about its placement in Lowery's overall "story."

According to the Washington Post's invaluable Fatal Force site, American police officers have shot and killed roughly one thousand people in every year from 2015 through 2019. (When he was still at the Washington Post, Lowery was involved in creating this invaluable site.)

On a per capita basis, many more people are shot and killed by police officers in this country than in other comparable nations. It's also true, of course, that our nation is commonly said to be "awash in guns."

Sometimes, police officers shoot and kill people who are, in fact, unarmed. According to the Fatal Force site, police officers in Minnesota have shot and killed six unarmed people since the start of 2015.

For the record, five of those people are listed as "white." One is listed as "black."

How gruesome is the gruesome cycle to which Lowery referred? There is, of course, no ultimate answer to that question. But that may be a harder judgment to make if we start reimposing traditional rules on the way we write our "stories."

As for Lowery's recent work, it reminds us of the famous phrase, "Revolution of the saints." If memory serves, we first heard the phrase in connection with Professor Walzer's 1965 book of that title.

At present, it seems to us that Lowery is largely performing the journalism of the saints. This is hardly his sole doing, of course. For better or worse—it's a matter of judgment—the journalism of the saints is now being widely performed.

All this week, we'll be examining Lowery's two recent essays. In closing today, we want to assure you of one important point:

We'll be offering our remarks as examples of anthropology. As we've acknowledged before, we're being advised in our work by top experts in the field.

We offer this work for those who want to consider the way the human brain compels the human mind to work. That said, absolutely nothing is going to change because of anything we write. We'll still be allowed to tell and repeat our stories.

At this site, it's all anthropology now. Elsewhere, revolution and its rules, or its lack of same, now quite widely prevail.

Tomorrow: Unarmed man is shot and killed "by Minnesota police"

Nestor's advice: Nestor's advice to Diomedes isn't especially relevant here. For what it's worth, here it is:
"Lost to the clan,
lost to the hearth, lost to the old ways, that one
who lusts for the horror of war with his own people.”
Or at least, so Homer recalled.

In the current situation, our journalism could conceivably be much improved if practitioners waged war on its current ways from within.

But they'd have to be offering good sound advice—advice which made good solid sense.

Robin DiAngelo, queen of the whites!


Recalling The Family of Man:
Speaking quite frankly, it happens.

Revolutionary cadres ring in the new ideas, the new terms and the new rules. Along the way, they know they must trample the olds.

Once again, here is Andrew Sullivan's description of the way it was done during the age of the Beatles:
SULLIVAN (6/26/20): The Red Guards did what they did—to their friends, and parents, and teachers—in the spirit of the Communist regime itself. They murdered and tortured, and subjected opponents to public humiliations—accompanied by the gleeful ransacking of religious and cultural sites. In their attack on the Temple of Confucius, almost 7,000 priceless artifacts were destroyed. By the end of the revolution, almost two-thirds of Beijing’s historical sites had been destroyed in a frenzy of destruction against “the four olds: old customs, old habits, old culture, and old ideas.”
"The four olds!" However comical the name may sound, the four olds was an actual thing.

Your grandfather's Oldsmobile wasn't involved. In this passage, the leading authority on the four olds explains when the olds first appeared:
The term "Four Olds" first appeared on June 1, 1966, in Chen Boda's People's Daily editorial, "Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons", where the Old Things were described as anti-proletarian, "fostered by the exploiting classes, [and to] have poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years". However, which customs, cultures, habits, and ideas specifically constituted the "Four Olds" were never clearly defined.
The four olds were designed to sweep the monsters away. Meanwhile, which customs and habits were the four olds? New decisions might be reached day by day!

At any rate, when John Lennon wrote Revolution, he was saying that he didn't want any part of this new approach, not even in its British and American forms. Some will suggest that this uppity stance was easy for him to adopt.

No one is being murdered and tortured during our current revolutionary days. As with many revolutions, the current revolution has excellent goals, however imperfect or unwise its procedures and immediate points of focus may sometimes seem.

That said, the olds are again being swept away, and are being replaced by the news. We have new language, the better to mark ourselves by. We have new gurus, new rules.

At present, one of the hottest new gurus is best-selling author Robin DiAngelo, the anti-racism corporate workshop leader turned anti-racism writer.

DiAngelo's current best-selling book is extremely hot. This leads us to wonder if the Washington Post's Carlos Lozada is really permitted to say this:
LOZADA (6/21/20): “Race relations are profoundly complex,” Robin DiAngelo writes in “White Fragility,” a book that, two years after a best-selling debut, is having a new burst of popularity and urgency. In the midst of a nationwide debate on institutional racism and police violence, Americans are binge-reading (or at least bulk-buying) recent texts on race to help them grapple with that complexity...DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”—the No. 1 bestseller on the New York Times nonfiction list this week, and The Post’s No. 4—is officially now part of a new canon.

Except it doesn’t deserve that distinction.
Even as it introduces a memorable concept, “White Fragility” presents oversimplified arguments that are self-fulfilling, even self-serving. The book flattens people of any ancestry into two-dimensional beings fitting predetermined narratives. And reading DiAngelo offers little insight into how a national reckoning such as the one we’re experiencing today could have come about.
In last Sunday's Outlook section, Lozada smashes DiAngeo's book. We mention this because we thought Lozada's review operated on a level that has rarely seen in one of the current olds—in our old upper-end journalism.

We haven't read DiAngelo's book. We did watch the recent rebroadcast of her 2018 interview with Michelle Martin for the PBS show, Amanpour & Co.

We may have seen the original broadcast. We've been amazed by DiAngelo before.

We haven't read DiAngelo's book, but we've seen DiAngelo on TV, and we've read Lozada's review. We thought this passage was astutely reasoned, in a way one rarely sees among the ranks of the current olds:
LOZADA: White fragility is the sort of powerful notion that, once articulated, becomes easily recognizable and widely applicable. (DiAngelo, for instance, uses it to explain Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.) But stare at it a little longer, and one realizes how slippery it is, too. As defined by DiAngelo, white fragility is irrefutable; any alternative perspective or counterargument is defeated by the concept itself. Either white people admit their inherent and unending racism and vow to work on their white fragility, in which case DiAngelo was correct in her assessment, or they resist such categorizations or question the interpretation of a particular incident, in which case they are only proving her point.

Any dissent from “White Fragility” is itself white fragility. From such circular logic do thought leaders and bestsellers arise.
DiAngelo's basic premise goes like this:

Every "white" person—every "white" person except DiAngelo herself—is reluctant to acknowledge or admit to his or her racism. (Below, we'll explain the scare quotes.) As with the Red Guard and in Salem Village, so too here:

This disinclination to confess is seen as proof of the crime. This disinclination to confess is what DiAngelo means by "fragility."

In her days as a corporate workshop leader, DiAngelo was forced to deal with this universal, pathetic state of denial. Her condescending attitude towards all the olds with whom she dealt is rarely hard to spot in her televised interviews.

Also rare is the deftness of Lozada's logic. In the passage we've posted, he defines the "Heads I'm right, tails you're wrong" essence of DiAngelo's new superiority:

If the white person confesses her guilt, that shows that she's guilty of racism. If she refuses to confess, that shows the same darn thing!

This, of course, has always been a part of revolutionary logic. If you read Lozada's review in full, you'll be reading an unusually deft presentation, upper-end press corps-wide

As noted, we'd watched DiAngelo on TV not long before reading Lozada's review. On June 12, the PBS program rebroadcast a 17-minute interview which it originally aired, in edited form, in September 2018.

We're sure that DiAngelo is a thoroughly good, decent person. That said, what self-assured revolutionaries we mortals (may occasionally) be!

To an astounding degree, DiAngelo seems to be lacking the gene which provides the capacity for self-doubt. In the exchange with Martin shown below, we see the new certainty joined to elements of the new argot in service to the new ideas.

You'll also see that DiAngelo totally fails to answer the question she's asked. Asked to give an example of her own fragility, she describes her own greatness instead.

We offer the exchange at some length because it's so instructive. To watch the fuller exchange, click here, move ahead to the 7:30 mark. This is the way the exchange was aired during the original broadcast:
MARTIN (9/21/18): You speak very frankly in the book about how you’ve stepped in it yourself, if I can use that phrase. Can you give an example of where you experienced your own white fragility?

DIANGELO: So I’m in a room with three black women, two of which I’m very close to and one I don’t know at all. And she gives us a survey to fill out, and it’s tedious to me, it seems kind of template. It doesn’t capture the nuance of what we do.

So I push it aside and I say, “Let me explain. We go out into these different offices and we do these anti-racism trainings. In fact, Debra here was asked not to come back when she went to such-and-such office. I guess her hair scared the white people.” She has long locked braids.

So I want you to notice what I’m doing. Not only am I making a joke about a black woman’s hair, which is a sensitive issue and I do know better, but I’m positioning myself as the cool white person, and they’re all the clueless white people. And I wish I could tell you that I recognized I was doing that. I didn’t.

Meeting’s over. A couple of days later, the assistant, Marsha, comes to me and says, “Angela was really offended by that joke you made about black women’s hair.” And I immediately, “Oh God, thank you.” And I called Angela and I said, "Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism that I perpetrated towards you in the meeting last week?"

She said, “Yes.” We sat down. We talked about it. And she said, “I don’t know you. I have no relationship with you. I have no trust with you. And I do not want to be joking about black women’s hair in a professional work meeting with a white woman I don’t know.”

I hear you. I apologize. Then I asked, is there anything I missed? And she said, “Yes. That survey you so glibly shoved aside, I wrote that survey. And I have spent my life justifying my intelligence to white people.”

Owned that, apologized.
Asked, is there anything else that needs to be said or heard that we might move forward? And she said, “Yeah. If we’re going to work together, I’m sure you’re going to run your racism at me again. And so the next time you do, would you like your feedback publicly or privately?”

MARTIN: Interesting.


DIANGELO: I love her for that! I said, "Publicly, in my case, please. It’s really important that other white people see that I’m not free of this but it gives me an opportunity to model non-defensiveness."

And: “Are we good?” “We’re good.” And we moved on. And one of the things she said to me was: “This kind of stuff happens to us all the time. What has never happened to me before is what you’re doing right now, this repair. And I appreciate it.”
In that exchange, DiAngelo is asked to cite an instance in which she herself displayed "white fragility." In her response, she describes an incident in which she heroically displayed the opposite of "white fragility."

When we read Lozada's review, we learned that DiAngelo's memorized anecdote was drawn straight out of her book. At any rate, here's what happened in the incident she described to Martin:

In a meeting with three black colleagues, DiAngelo adopted a know-it-all attitude about a survey one of her colleagues had designed. Along the way, she threw in a joke which offended one of the women on a racial basis.

When DiAngelo was told that she had offended this woman, she displayed no "white fragility" at all. Instead, she quickly confessed her racism to the offended party.

In the ensuing conversations, she and the offended colleague engage in some truly remarkable forms of the new language. By the time these conversations are done, DiAngelo is being told that she has displayed the new behavior in a way no other white person has ever done!

At the start of her anecdote, DiAngelo chides herself for having "position[ed] myself as the cool white person" as opposed to "all the clueless white people." By the end of the anecdote, she's positioning herself the same way!

She's the newest "white" person ever! Along the way, she has claimed that somewhere in this universe, two different people have actually produced such unlikely locutions as these:
DIANGELO: Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism that I perpetrated towards you in the meeting last week?


OFFENDED COLLEAGUE: If we’re going to work together, I’m sure you’re going to run your racism at me again. And so the next time you do, would you like your feedback publicly or privately?
Back in Maotime, the Red Guard invented some truly remarkable newspeak. Even they would have to marvel at the new locutions described in that passage.

Han anyone ever said such things? Only the CIA knows!

Meanwhile, we humans! Some of us may sometimes have an amazing lack of self-awareness. So it seems to be with DiAngelo, self-certified queen of the whites.

Every time we read or watch DiAngelo, we're struck by the controlling narrative in which she is the most morally advanced "white" person in all human history. She is always able to see how pathetic the other whites are. As she was told by her offended colleague, she alone, among the whites, possesses the degree of insight and rectitude she put on display in that anecdote.

None of this means that Robin D'Angelo is some sort of bad person. We would suggest that she seems to possesses almost no self-awareness. This will often be the case with those elect who are charged with inventing the newthink.

In closing, a point concerning those scare quotes. It takes us back to a once famous book, The Family of Man [sic].

The Family of Man is a book of photographs assembled by Edward Steichen. Included is a poetic commentary by Carl Sandburg. Sandburg's commentary includes such matter as this:
There is only one man in the world and his name is All Men. There is only one woman in the world and her name is All Women. There is only one child in the world and the child's name is All Children.


The first cry of a baby in Chicago, or Zamboango, in Amsterdam or Rangoon, has the same pitch and key, each saying, "I am! I have come through! I belong! I am a member of the Family." Many the babies and grownup here from photographs made in sixty-eight nations round our planet Earth. You travel and see what the camera saw. The wonder of human mind, heart wit and instinct is here. You might catch yourself saying, "I'm not a stranger here."
The book has never been out of print since it appeared in the 1950s. In the 1960s, it was very hot, even as the four olds were being smashed and destroyed.

This book was designed to promote a certain understanding of "race." It was the dominant liberal understanding of "race" in that street-fighting era.

According to this dominant thinking, there was only one race, the human race. Babies were the very same babies in Chicago and in Rangoon.

According to this revolutionary thinking, the human race should be understood as a family. The concept that people belong to different "races" was an example of oldthink. It was understood to be an unfortunate product of "the world the slaveholders made."

That was conventional liberal/progressive thinking back then. On balance, it's now a discarded artifact of counter-revolutionary oldthink.

Today, our tribe is deeply invested the idea that everyone actually does belong to some particular race. Not that various people will be treated as if they belong to a race, but that it's actually so.

Everybody belongs to a race. Your identity actually is your race. We will remind you of this every day. Everything turns on your "race."

So goes one part of our modern tribe's tribal newthink. For ourselves, we think the oldview was much more humane, but then too was also more accurate.

From Sullivan on to Wittgenstein!

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2020

The human mind in action:
For today, we're going to throw to Andrew Sullivan with respect to revolution.

In the passage shown below, Sullivan is describing a standard form of human mental functioning in times of revolution. Below, we'll make a further connection:
SULLIVAN (6/26/20): The impulse for wiping the slate clean is universal. Injustices mount; moderation seems inappropriate; radicalism wins and then tries to destroy the legacy of the past as a whole. The Taliban’s notorious destruction of the great Buddhas of Bamian in Afghanistan was a similar attempt to establish unquestioned Islamic rule. “Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to Allah that we have destroyed them,” Mullah Mohammed Omar explained. This was the spirit of Paris in 1789 as well. “If we love truth more than the fine arts,” the Enlightenment figure Denis Diderot remarked, “let us pray to God for some iconoclasts.” (He was also the lovely chap who insisted that “humankind will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” And in the French Revolution, of course, he almost got his way.) The Romans, for their part, eventually decided that the only way to govern Jews was to physically destroy their Temple in Jerusalem.

Iconoclasm is not just vandalism and violence. It is a very specific variety that usually signifies profound regime change. That’s why the toppling of old Soviet monoliths in the 1989 liberation of Eastern Europe was so salient. They were important symbols of that sclerotic Soviet empire’s power. And for true revolutionary potential, it’s helpful if these monuments are torn down by popular uprisings. That adds to the symbolism of a new era, even if it also adds to the chaos. That was the case in Mao’s Cultural Revolution, when the younger generation, egged on by the regime, went to work on any public symbols or statues they deemed problematically counterrevolutionary, creating a reign of terror that even surpassed France’s.

And Mao’s model is instructive in another way. It shows you what happens when a mob is actually quietly supported by elites, who use it to advance their own goals. The Red Guards did what they did—to their friends, and parents, and teachers—in the spirit of the Communist regime itself. They murdered and tortured, and subjected opponents to public humiliations—accompanied by the gleeful ransacking of religious and cultural sites. In their attack on the Temple of Confucius, almost 7,000 priceless artifacts were destroyed. By the end of the revolution, almost two-thirds of Beijing’s historical sites had been destroyed in a frenzy of destruction against “the four olds: old customs, old habits, old culture, and old ideas.” Mao first blessed, then reined in these vandals.
This is the way our tiny minds tend to work when we decide it's time for a change. Nuance simply isn't our thing. We become convinced that our tribe is completely and totally right, and that everything else must fall. Everyone else should be in prison, or in reeducation camp.

We remain amazed, on a nightly basis, by the way Rachel Maddow is drawn to Locking Them Up. Consider the current circumstance:

In the current circumstance, our liberal elite can't conceive of the possibility that William Barr, rightly or wrongly, actually believes that the prosecutions of Cohen, Flynn and Stone were a type of politicized sham. For ourselves, we can't imagine why any liberal or progressive would have any faith, at this point, in prosecutions which were closely connected to Comey.

That said, the call of the tribe is loud. Plainly, our tribe can't even conceive of the possibility that someone else—in this case, Barr—could actually believe, rightly or wrongly, that he is doing something right by challenging or examining these particular prosecutions.

Sullivan is describing the mental impulses which arise during times of revolution. As Sullivan notes, these dimwitted impulses may even emerge in pursuit of revolutionary values which are long overdue and good.

In fairness, some people may believe that this type of upheaval is the only way you can actually get something done. Almost surely, that isn't true. But, as David Letterman and Gallagher proved, we humans do like to smash things!

Our human brains just aren't real sharp. Meanwhile, as a group, we're unable to notice this fact. Our mobs start to rampage through the streets. Those who aren't inclined to mouth their new sacred phrases will be frogmarched away.

How poorly do our human minds actually work? Consider the later Wittgenstein! According to Professor Horwich, this is what he did:
HORWICH (3/3/13): Wittgenstein claims that there are no realms of phenomena whose study is the special business of a philosopher, and about which he or she should devise profound a priori theories and sophisticated supporting arguments. There are no startling discoveries to be made of facts, not open to the methods of science, yet accessible “from the armchair” through some blend of intuition, pure reason and conceptual analysis. Indeed the whole idea of a subject that could yield such results is based on confusion and wishful thinking.

This attitude is in stark opposition to the traditional view, which continues to prevail.
Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on—and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

If so, then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein. For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking...He asks, “[w]here does [our] investigation get its importance from, since it seems only to destroy everything interesting, that is, all that is great and important? (As it were all the buildings, leaving behind only bits of stone and rubble)”—and answers that “(w)hat we are destroying is nothing but houses of cards and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stand.”
Say what? Our allegedly greatest thinkers have been tangled up in "the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking?"

Plainly, any such notion is counterintuitive. But a steady application of Wittgenstein's analytical method can show that much of our allegedly highest thinking actually has, in point of fact, been "nothing but houses of cards"—was based on "grammatical confusion."

Trust us, though—no one in the press corps or the academy is going to perform any such deliberation. No one but Horwich, that is.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our analytical skills are very limited.

Optically, our human capabilities can't overcome certain optical illusions. Physiologically, we can't command our leg to hold still if someone taps our knee the right way.

Intellectually, our allegedly greatest minds cant help fallin' in love with those "linguistic illusions." Given all these obvious flaws, why should we expect revolutionary cadres to show something resembling good sense?

At present, our revolutionaries are worrying about statues and Halloween costumes. No one is going to discusses the lives of children in our low-income schools or all the missing money getting looted from our health care "system."

We're too busy getting the heretics fired. At some point, the virus dies out.

Revolutionary lingo: According to Sullivan, "Revolutionaries also create new forms of language to dismantle the existing order." He describes the way "the woke shift their language all the time, so that words that were one day fine are now utterly reprehensible."

He doesn't discuss another way the saints will rearrange language. They will routinely invent new forms of speech which help the elect identify others who are elect.

Current example—police are no longer brutal to black people. Police are now brutal to black bodies. These stilted new locutions create a form of tribal signalling. The saints can tell that someone can be trusted if they use the stilted new phrases and terms. Oldspeak is a signal of danger.

This is the way our tiny minds work. Our human minds are very tiny, and we're very strongly inclined to march ourselves off to tribal war.

We're wired to create the other. Or so anthropologists say.

TRAUMA AND REVOLUTION: Lawrence O'Donnell's peculiar remark!

FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2020

Sources of anguish, despair:
Lawrence O'Donnell has done some good work down through the many long years.

He's highly experienced in certain areas. There have been times when he's put his experience to very good use on the air.

He's also had some remarkable meltdowns. On balance, these meltdowns haven't been helpful. We'll suppose that few meltdowns are.

Last night, Lawrence started his program by mocking one of the craziest things Donald J. Trump has said yet. In the past few days, the commander has gone farther and farther is support of the idea that we shouldn't do a lot of testing for covid-19.

Reason? If you do a lot of testing, you'Ll end up reporting a lot of "cases." As of yesterday, Trump was almost sounding like he thought the testing somehow creates the infections.

Lawrence started his program by mocking these statements. He didn't explore the possibility that the person making these statements may be cognitively or psychiatrically impaired in a way which medical experts ought to be discussing in public forums.

Donald J. Trump continues to make highly peculiar statements. Last night, at 10:26 PM Eastern, Lawrence made a very strange statement of his own.

MSNBC's Joy Reid had just offered a perfectly reasonable speculation. The videotape of George Floyd's death displayed remarkably heinous conduct by former officer Chauvin, Reid correctly said. Acknowledging that she doesn't know, she said that widespread viewing of the tape may be creating a major change in public perceptions concerning racial misconduct.

Reid's speculation was perfectly reasonable. O'Donnell's response was not.

Lawrence turned to a second guest, MSNBC's Trymaine Lee. This exchange occurred:
O'DONNELL (6/25/20): Trymaine, video has made all the difference. We didn't have a video like that of Michael Brown.

LEE: That's right...
Lee continued from there, moving directly to remarks about the history of lynching. He should have corrected what Lawrence said, but we aren't going to blame him for this.

O'Donnell's implication was obvious. Videotape of Michael Brown's death would have shown horrific misconduct by a police officer, in the way the tape from Minneapolis did.

There are various ways to assess such a comment. The most obvious assessment would be this:

As a matter of basic anthropology, Lawrence's comment calls attention to certain facts about the basic nature of our self-impressed species. We say that for these reasons:

Surely, Lawrence knows what the Obama Justice Department reported about the unfortunate shooting death of Michael Brown. After a lengthy investigation, the department issued a lengthy formal report whose findings were explicitly endorsed by Attorney General Holder.

In its report, the department held that the unfortunate killing of Michael Brown did not involve any act of police misconduct at all. The report was based on forensic investigations and interviews with eyewitnesses, not on the bogus stories which quickly arose in the aftermath of Brown's death.

The liberal world—a world which includes corporate-paid, profit-seeking multimillionaires like O'Donnell—has chosen to ignore, indeed to disappear, the findings of that detailed report. Within that world, Michael Brown's death has remained an iconic example of racist misconduct by America's racist police.

How racist are America's police officers and our police departments? We can't answer those questions.

We can say that O'Donnell surely knows what Eric Holder said about the formal report his Department of Justice prepared. Surely, O'Donnell must know what that report said. He just isn't willing to tell you.

Our liberal world has disappeared the findings of that report. (Over on Fox, viewers are allowed to hear about the findings.) In this way, our liberal world creates our own preferred storylines and our own tribal beliefs, just as the conservative world generates various crazy beliefs about the coronavirus.

Aside from the millions of dollars in corporate pay which are involved in his conduct, why would someone like Lawrence O'Donnell mislead his viewers in the way he did last night?

Anthropologists tell us that this is the way life forms like us are wired. Our species is hard-wired for the creation of tribal beliefs, whether true or false, these disconsolate scholars now say.

They leave it to us to state the obvious. The refusal to tell the public the truth—by which we tend to mean the whole truth—may lead to anguish and despair, even to traumatization.

Lawrence behaved very badly last night, in a way which is required at his profit-based corporate network. By way of contrast, we think of the impressive young woman cited by the Washington Post's Theresa Vargas last week.

In our view, Vargas has been a superb addition to the Post's roster of columnists. In the column under review, she discussed Governor Northam's decision to remove the giant statue of Robert E. Lee which forms the centerpiece of Richmond's jaw-dropping Monument Avenue.

At the press conference announcing his decision, Northam appeared with Zyahna Bryant, a 19-year-old UVa student. Where do such impressive young people come from? That's one of life's continuing mysteries. Vargas offered this background:
VARGAS (6/18/20): When Northam announced at a June 4 news conference his landmark decision to take down the statue and place it in storage, he said: “Virginia has never been willing to deal with symbols. Until now.”

Proof of that statement stood nearby. Zyahna Bryant, a 19-year-old University of Virginia student, had started a petition seeking the statue’s removal when she was a 16-year-old high school student.


The first time Bryant organized a rally was in 2013, after Trayvon Martin’s death.

“I remember that for so many of us, this felt like a defining moment,” she recalled on her Instagram page in a post that appeared a few days before George Floyd’s death. “This was a moment that I can cite in my life as a time where I truly lost hope in the systems that continue to fail Black and Brown people.”

Bryant was 12 at the time.
That means she was in middle school when she first started asking, “How much more blood?”
Luckily, Bryant didn't "truly lose hope" when she was 12, at the time of Martin's death. Within a year, she had started to organize. This month, she stood nearby as Northam made his announcement about the Lee monolith.

Luckily, Bryant didn't lose hope—but we'll guess that others did. Reportedly, some kids in Flint truly lost hope in themselves as a result of the misinformation with which they were plied during the Flint water crisis. Earlier this week, we cited a 7-year-old who was "terrified" by the things he was told in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Somewhat similarly, a great deal of anguish and despair has accompanied the videotape of George Floyd's death. So too, we'll suggest, with the standard accounts concerning Michael Brown's death, and even concerning the death of Trayvon Martin.

When people like Lawrence refuse to tell the public the truth, there may be unfortunate consequences. On the brighter side, their selective presentations may boost their ratings. In this way, their vast deceptions help Keep Salary Alive.

But in response to their presentations, sensible people feel, then express, anguish, dismay and despair. They may even end up terrifying their 7-year-old children.

This conduct may be based on the sense of anguish people like Lawrence agree to engender. Anthropologically, so it goes as our tribal leaders pave our current revolutionary road.

There is no single correct way in which an adult should respond to accurate accounts of this nation's brutal racial history. There is no single correct response to the horrific videotape of George Floyd's death.

In our view, there probably is a correct way to respond to Lawrence's conduct. We think people like Lawrence should stop deceiving their viewers, though anthropologists rush to tell us that nothing like that will ever occur.

In recent weeks, we've read columns in the New York Times in which substantial people have expressed remarkable states of despair in the wake of George Floyd's death. In some cases, the judgments these people describe may not seem to make total sense.

There was the philosophy professor from UVa, Yale and Johns Hopkins. In his column, he said that by 2010, while living in Charlottesville, he "was hardly leaving the house."

"When I did venture out," he wrote, "I kept to myself, avoided small talk, went straight home after doing what I needed to do, grateful when I finally made it back to the safe comfort of my own home."

It isn't clear that he was talking about fear for his physical safety, but it isn't clear that he wasn't. He did say that he felt that he was "possibly in danger [at that time] just by walking out my front door."

As he continued, he too mentioned the death of Trayvon Martin, which occurred two years later, in 2012. On June 17, when his column appeared, he also said this:
"It will be a great surprise if I am not driven to my keyboard within the next few years writing about our campus’s very own George Floyd moment. In the meantime, I keep my distance—I don’t want to be a candidate for such a moment."
To date, there has been no such moment on his current Hopkins campus. Granted, he still has a few years to go. But on a basic statistical or common sense basis, should that fact be anything like "a great surprise?"

In the language of modern literature, that professor was perhaps expressing a sense of "despair." On June 6, the Times had published a somewhat similar column in which a black author who lives in New York City expressed annoyance with the white friends who, "brazen as ever," had emailed him in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.

Did we mention the fact that he said he was talking about white "friends?" At one point, addressing these friends, the writer said he knew that he had "to avoid offending you. Because I know offending you is dangerous."

As with the philosophy professor, so too with this writer. "As a black man, what I actually feel—constantly—is the fear of death," he wrote—"the fear that when I go for my morning stroll through Central Park or to 7-Eleven for an AriZona Iced Tea, I won’t make it back home."

Presumably, there's no way to declare that any such fear is "wrong." It is possible to wonder about the extent to which such a fear makes basic statistical sense.

It's also possible to wonder about the sources of such fear. This writer also mentions Trayvon Martin, and he too mentions something his teachers showed him, perhaps unwisely, when he was 7 years old.

In line with its treatment of everything else, the Hamptons-based New York Times loves to publish such testimonies. These testimonies may not necessarily seem to make perfect statistical sense, but they do serve to spread the sense of despair.

Concerning the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin, we're so old that we can remember what Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about the incident in real time. He said that, based on his own experience as a youth, George Zimmerman was legitimately in fear of death as Martin banged his head on the ground, or perhaps on the sidewalk, just before Martin was shot.

Coates was newly returned from Paris at the time. He quickly shifted his point of view in the days ahead. But as with Michael Brown, so too here:

Young people like Bryant routinely hear a heavily edited account of what is known to have happened that night. In a possible break with editorial norms, the Times let the June 6 writer describe the killing of Martin as a "murder," ignoring the fact that a duly constituted jury unanimously found that it wasn't.

Our tribe has created novelized versions of these events which please our need for moral superiority. On the down side, our heavily edited storylines may also terrify children while helping fill good decent adults with anger, anguish, despair.

On Fox, viewers hear the fuller story concerning these unfortunate events. On our own exalted channels, we much brighter liberals do not. If a person like Lawrence is willing to say what he said last night, what chance is there that he will honor admirablele young person like Bryant with a fuller account of what was once called "the whole truth?"

Seven-year-olds are terrified; 12-year-olds lose hope. Professors are afraid to leave the house. Other highly substantial people write such things as this:
MCDONALD (6/15/20): We can’t rely on the education system to do this work for us: A friend in education told me about white teenagers she’s come across who didn’t learn about slavery or the civil rights movement until high school...One study found that white children who attend predominantly white schools and grow up in predominantly white neighborhoods are less likely to take racism seriously than children who grow up in more diverse settings; many of them have a limited understanding of our country’s sordid history. A quote from an 11-year-old in a 2018 Time article says it all: “Racism was a problem when all those slaves were around and that like bus thing … like Eleanor Roosevelt, and how she went on the bus. And she was African American and sat on the white part … but after the 1920s and all that, things changed.”
Really? A single (alleged) statement by a single 11-year-old child "says it all?" Claims like that may seem to make sense in the world where mothers are terrifying their 7-year-olds, but also in the world where people like Lawrence agree to mislead millions of viewers in the ways their owners prefer.

To what extent are we the people being told "the whole truth" about a range of deeply important matters? We plan to explore that question next week.

For today, we invite you to think about Lawrence. If we were inclined to behave in the fiery way he often does, we'd call last night's statement a "lie."

Surely, though, he must have known what he was doing when he made that grossly misleading statement. He must have known that he was misleading the bright young people he often pretends to admire.

To what extent are we the people over here in our tribe actually told "the whole truth?" More on this question next week.

But why did Lawrence say what he did? Also, and very important:

Do you think his conduct was wrong?

Still coming: Examples and statistics

Yale grads pour it on!


Show us the depth of the rot:
We've been teasing the (two) Yale grads all day, based on two of the first things we read early this morning.

One grad showed us the depth of the rot. The other took a more nuanced approach to a different, but utterly trivial, current pop culture question.

We've long admired this second writer, largely because we're amazed that someone can find so much complexity in so many topics which simply don't matter at all.

People are dying all over the world and this is what they lugged out of Yale! In the interest of brevity, we've decided to end our award-winning "thought piece" right there.

Barro and Nuzzi examine the Post!


Yale grads pour it on:
Three cheers for New York magazine!

More specifically, three cheers for Josh Barro and Olivia Nuzzi, who have now published a detailed report about the way the Washington Post handled that utterly crucial, two-year-old, Halloween costume story.

Through its efforts, the Post managed to get a 54-year-old woman fired from her job in the private sector—all because, two years ago, she tried to mock Megyn Kelly for making unacceptable comments about blackface on Halloween.

To all appearances, the woman had tried to play on the side of those who were attacking Kelly for her unacceptable comments. Two years later, with everyone in the upper-end press corps now pretending to care about matters like this, the woman had to be thrown to the wolves, the ones who live under the bus.

Here's the good news from Barro and Nuzzi's report. It sounds like a lot of staffers at the Post found the their paper's report appalling. Today's report starts like this:
BARRO AND NUZZI (6/25/20): Last week, when Sue Schafer learned that the Washington Post planned to publish a story about one of the dumbest things she had ever done, she had the same question that many readers would have about the resulting 3,000-word article, “Blackface Incident at Post Cartoonist’s 2018 Halloween Party Resurfaces Amid Protests”: Why is this newsworthy?

Readers within the Post newsroom were asking the question, too. “No one I’ve spoken with at the Post can figure out why we published this story,” said one prominent reporter at the paper. “We blew up this woman’s life for no reason.”
Two years ago, Schaefer wore a costume—a costume people found offensive—to a Halloween party given by a Post cartoonist. To appearances, she was trying to play on the "liberal" side of the aisle when she made her fateful decision.

Even if you think the woman's choice of costume was offensive, it isn't clear what made the incident newsworthy. But these are revolutionary, Maoist times, and so the Post ran 3000 words on the topic, with the result that the woman is now out of a job.

The sheer stupidity of the Post's behavior is matched by the cowardly way it seems to have protected its own interests. Post reporters seem to agree:
BARRO AND NUZZI: In the hours after publication, the story started to receive widespread criticism from journalists on social media on the grounds that it got its subject fired while lacking news value...The article now has drawn over 2,000 web comments, which are overwhelmingly negative in nature. Yet aside from PR statements to outlets covering the Post’s coverage, the Post’s response to the criticism of this story has been silence. If this is a story with “nuance and sensitivity” that the Post felt “impelled” to run, why is a spirited defense of the Post’s journalism coming only from a non-journalist spokesperson for the paper? The answer we reached, after interviewing ten current Post journalists for this story, is that the paper’s staff generally does not consider the story to be defensible.

“My reaction, like everybody, was, What the hell? Why is this a story?” a feature writer at the Post told New York.
“My second reaction was, Why is this a 3,000-word feature?” The feature writer added, “This was not drawn up by the ‘Style’ section.”

Employees at “Style”—the paper’s premiere location for long-form storytelling—were confused and displeased to see the piece running on their turf, two Post employees with knowledge of the situation said.
In short, the impetus for this came from corporate, not from reporters themselves. Barro and Nuzzi even suggest the possibility that the report's lead writer didn't care for the assignment he had been handed by his senior editors.

All in all, it seems fairly clear that the Post was covering its big fat asp in the face of these revolutionary times. Idiotic as it might seem, the paper had to get out in front of this non-story story before the paper was frogmarched into the countryside for years of reeducation.

Repeat: Two years ago, a woman who didn't work for the Post attended a Halloween party at a cartoonists house. She appeared in a costume which was designed to mock Megyn Kelly for having made unacceptable comments about blackface at Halloween.

Two years later, that woman has been fired from her job. On the brighter side, the Post has displayed world-class performative virtue in support of its own bottom line. These are the pseudo-revolutionary times in which we're pretending to live.

One last comment:

Until New York magazine published, the Post's behavior had been widely criticized, but only by conservative publications. The people we liberals are trained to respect had been too afraid to speak.

The Post pretended that it cared about a two-year-old racist outrage. We'll suggest that, on balance, our modern journalistic elite knows and cares about virtually nothing.

They don't care about the lives of kids inside our low-income schools. They don't care about the mountains of missing money which are looted away from regular people as part of our health care "system."

They care about wardrobe, makeup and hair. They care about coloring inside the lines.

They care about whatever dumb thing Donald Trump said ten seconds ago. They care about script and repetition. This utterly stupid, self-serving incident makes such facts even more clear.

Concerning the Yale grads pouring it on, please see our next post. But Barro and Nuzzi got it right. Let's say that again.

TRAUMA AND REVOLUTION: Yale grads explore the depth of the rot!


The traumatization of children:
Just for today, let's extend our anecdotal survey of the terrible things that can happen to children. Let's even consider their possible traumatization.

We turn to an Associated Press report, a report we found this morning on the web site of the Washington Post. We'll focus on the 7-year-old caught up in these events:
DAZIO (6/18/20): The half-brother of a black man recently found hanged in a Southern California park was fatally shot by police after opening fire on deputies about to arrest him on charges he beat his girlfriend and held her captive for nearly a week, according to authorities and court documents.

The shootout occurred Wednesday afternoon as Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop a vehicle driven by a woman police described as another former girlfriend of Terron J. Boone. A 7-year-old girl was a passenger along with Boone.

Deputies shouted “hands up!” and Boone opened the passenger door and began firing
from a semiautomatic handgun, authorities said. Boone fired at least six rounds, hitting the deputies’ vehicles, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Robert Westphal of the homicide bureau. Four deputies returned fire, fatally striking Boone.

The girl and deputies were not injured.
The driver was struck by gunfire and treated and released from a hospital.
Some children get a very bad deal when it comes to such matters as these. As to why Boone was being pursued, the allegations read as follows:
DAZIO: In Boone’s case, authorities allege he imprisoned his on-and-off girlfriend in her Palmdale home between June 9 and Monday, threatening and pistol-whipping her, court documents show. The girlfriend “waited for an opportunity when he wasn’t looking and she was able to get out, run to a business and had them call 911,” Westphal said.

Prosecutors filed 13 counts against Boone on Tuesday and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The next day a surveillance team of deputies followed Boone to a residence in the desert community of Rosamond, about 20 miles north of Palmdale.

Boone got in the vehicle and left with the woman and child. Deputies later moved in to arrest him and the shooting erupted.
We can't vouch for the accuracy of any of these statements. But assuming this whole thing wasn't made up, a 7-year-old girl was present in a car when a gun battle broke out.

She was present to see her mother get shot. She saw a second person of her acquaintance as he was being killed.

Should 7-year-olds be exposed to such events? Presumably no, they shouldn't.

Might some form of traumatization result from such horrific events? We'd have to guess that such things happen. You may recall the first-person account of childhood trauma we cited at the start of the week.

We pause to note an intriguing fact about that AP report. Right from its opening sentence, it focuses on the fact that the person who was shot to death was the half-brother of Robert Fuller, 24, who recently died by hanging.

Indeed, the Post might not have published that AP report but for the connection to Fuller. Exactly one week later, Fuller's case reappears on this morning's front page, in a lengthy report which strikes us as the type of journalism which may appear at revolutionary times such as these.

Out in high desert country, authorities are still trying to determine whether Fuller committed suicide or was killed by somebody else. In this morning's bracing report, the Post adopts a less than fully dispassionate stance with respect to that probe and especially with respect to the feelings which surround it.

That said, in paragraph 9 of this morning's report, the Post offers new information to readers. It involves a second high-profile death by hanging. That paragraph reads like this:
GREEN (6/25/20): In Victorville, a city about 50 miles east of here, Malcolm Harsch hanged himself from a tree near a homeless camp on May 31. A review that turned up videotape of Harsch’s death confirmed that the 38-year-old had killed himself, a finding announced by his family to ensure public trust in it.
Really? Harsch's family has announced that his death was a suicide? That (pretty much) came as news to us, in part because we read newspapers like the Post and the New York Times.

For starters, consider the Post. On June 22, the Post published an opinion column by Stacey Patton, who has occasionally been spotted out well past her skis. Along the way, Patton said this (headlines included):
PATTON (6/22/20): Police say deaths of black people by hanging are suicides. Many black people aren’t so sure.
Even the official cause echoes the history of the lynching era


The families of Malcolm Harsch and Robert Fuller, who were found hanging from trees in Southern California within 10 days and 50 miles of each other, are also denying police claims that the deaths were suicides. (On social media, attention is also focusing on the fact that Fuller’s brother, Terron Jammal Boone, was killed in a shootout with sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles County last week.)
Three days earlier, on June 19, Harsch's grieving but thoroughly decent family had announced that his death actually had been a suicide. Three days later, the Post was still exciting readers with Patton's exciting misstatement of fact, connected to the frisson wrung from her citation of the police shooting.

In her citation of the shooting, Patton didn't mention the apparent surrounding circumstances. She didn't mention the pistol-whipped former girl friend. She didn't mention the 7-year-old who was trapped inside this overall madness, a ball of madness which may even be said to include the Post's decision to publish Patton's column.

Let's review the chronology:

On June 19, the Harsch family announced that the death in question actually was a suicide. On June 22, the Post was still encouraging readers to think otherwise.

Everybody makes mistakes! Often, though, mistakes may keep pointing in one direction, occasioning unhelpful stampedes of feeling and false belief.

This morning, the fact of the Harsch family's announcement is finally reported by the Post in a single throw-away paragraph. In paragraph 9, without any detail and without any links, we're told what the Harsch family said.

After that, the exciting report moves excitingly on. This may resemble the type of work once referred to as "yellow journalism."

As for the New York Times, the paper reported what the Harsch family said in a later, online addition to a June 20 hard-copy report. You can peruse what resulted simply by clicking this link.

Clicking that link takes you to the current self-contradictory online report. As it now exists, the report initially says that the Harsch family is disputing the claim of suicide. Later, the same report says that they aren't.

Inevitably, the report quotes a realtor and a mental health therapist saying that no black man would ever hang himself in a public park. The Times printed these exciting remarks despite the fact that similar events have occurred in the recent past, something large news orgs should know.

In these ways, traumatization and fear, and even misjudgment, may spread among us humans. The mental health therapist cited above said that, when she visited the site of Fuller's death, “I just screamed. I was just so outraged and saddened.”

That mental health therapist is a good decent person. In part, she may have reacted in that way because of the various things she hasn't been told, by orgs like the Post and the Times, in the past quite a few years.

In Los Angeles County, a 7-year-old may have been traumatized by a deadly gun battle. In yesterday's report, we mentioned another 7-year-old, one who was described as "terrified" after a talk with his mother. The terrified child even said that he wanted to leave the U.S.

In recent years, various people, young and old, have been encouraged to believe the worst, and only the worst, concerning a range of events. In the next few weeks, we'll re-examine some of the ways our major news orgs have taken part in this unhelpful process.

Should 7-year-olds be terrified by things their mothers tell them? Ideally, no, they should not. But what if their parents believe the worst and only the worst? What are those parent to do?

Should 7-year-olds be terrified by things their mothers tell them? We'd say they probably shouldn't be.

Similarly, should adults be conned by the people who work at the Post and the Times? We'd vote against that process too, with more this afternoon.

When adults are told the worst, and only the worst, they may end up screaming in pain. They may end up believing the worst, and imagining only the worst, about an array of events.

At some point, they may pass their trauma along to their kids. The mother who said her child was terrified said that she herself was crying as she wrote her column for Slate, which then proceeded to publish it.

There's no "right" way to respond to endless accurate representations of our country's brutal racial history. Over the next few weeks, we'll suggest that there probably is a right way to assess the way our major news orgs have functioned over the past eight years.

When adults are told the worst and only the worst, they may end up terrifying their kids. On the brighter side, this may be good for sales and for clicks. For the record, it very much reflects the way our human minds tend to work at revolutionary times such as these.

No one would ever do such a thing, except for those who already have! This may be good for sales and for clicks, but is it good for anything else? Are people well served by this process?

Tomorrow: Somewhat peculiar ideas in the Times

Yale grads explore the depth of the rot?: For something which may verge on comic relief, come back this afternoon.

Donald J. Trump and his mental health!


A cable news pseudo-discussion:
Last night, Don Lemon pretended to tease a discussion. His tease went exactly like this:
LEMON (6/23/20): Next, with coronavirus surging across the country, the president has got a lot to say about his own health. Why he keeps bringing attention to not just his physical health but his mental health.
Interesting! Lemon was going to lead a discussion concerning some aspect of our disordered president's mental health!

A commercial break followed. After the commercial break, Lemon opened the segment like this:
LEMON: President Trump is trying to distract from the spread of coronavirus. He is certainly bringing a lot of attention to his own health.

The president devoted nearly 15 minutes of his Tulsa rally to ranting about his delicate walk down a ramp after his West Point speech. That's after he tweeted about it and brought it up in a Wall Street Journal interview.

The Washington Post has reported that the president is increasingly preoccupied with defending his physical and mental health. So, let's talk about it now.

CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner is the director of Cardiac Catheterization Program at George Washington University Hospital. He joins us now. Sir, thank you.

So, doctor, the Post is reporting on an early June cabinet meeting saying this:

"Trump had taken a cognitive screening test as part of his 2018 physical, and now, more than two years later, he brought up the 10-minute exam.
He waxed on about how he dazzled the doctors with his stellar performance, according to two people familiar with his comments. He walked the room of about two dozen White House and reelection officials. Through some of his questions, he said he aced, such as being able to repeat five words in order."

So, we actually have a copy of this test. You say it is very simple and it looks for signs of dementia. Talk to us about that.
To understand what pseudo-discussion looks like, you should peruse what came next.

"Cable news" is largely pseudo-discussion. You aren't allowed to know how many millions Lemon is paid to do this.