DUELING DISPROPORTIONS: Times fact-check drives Storyline!

FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2020

Do misperceptions matter?:
Is it possible that misperceptions might arise from the way the mainstream press has been covering fatal shooting at the hands of police officers?

(As a point of fairness, it should be said—not all such deaths involve police misconduct. We would assume that most do not, though we've never seen an attempt to study that question.)

At present, the press corps tends to cover some such deaths in great detail, but only if the victim is black. Is it possible that misperceptions can arise from this remarkable practice?

Beyond that, might such misperceptions be harmful in some way? Or is it possible that, at a time of revolution, selective coverage is the way to go—the way to effect useful change?

Concerning political strategy, opinions will surely differ. Concerning possible misperceptions, it's hard to believe that misperceptions don't arise from such unusual press corps behavior.

That said, the Beatles didn't want a revolution, but today's high bourgeoisie does. They clutter the staffs at our major newspapers. Storyline follows from there.

At present, they rush to show how deeply they care about the kinds of societal problems they and/or their colleagues and predecessors completely ignored in the past. Their news orgs ignored these topics for decades. Today, they pretend to care about little else.

Some of these upper-end journalists are extremely young. Overstatement may be the only kind of statement they've ever known in these highly fraught "spaces."

(According to top anthropologists, the invention of new language helps establish tribal membership in highly tribalized times.)

The thumbs of these ardent journalists may often be found on the scales. Can this lead to misperceptions? Consider something Linda Qiu wrote in yesterday's New York Times.

We have no reason to doubt that Qiu is a thoroughly good, decent person. She's also the top fact-checker at the New York Times, a position to which she seems to bring no discernible skills.

Qiu is six years out of college (University of Chicago, class of 2014). Weirdly, she was only three years out of college when she ascended to her post at our most fatuous newspaper.

It may seem strange to think that a person so young and so unskilled holds so high a position in our upper-end press corps. But this is the way the game is played at the hapless and Hamptons-based Times.

How strong are Qiu's fact-checking skills? Consider something she wrote yesterday. Also, consider the possibility that fevered writing of this type may lead to misperceptions among us rubes, possibly even to harm.

Qiu had been asked to fact-check William Barr's testimony before the House Judiciary committee. As a general matter, we'll suggest this:

Whatever you thought of Barr's testimony, Qiu's efforts may have been even worse.

We're going to focus on one minor claim Qiu made in her report. Barr had spoken about shooting deaths at the hands of police. Early in her report, Qiu performed this check:
“According to statistics compiled by The Washington Post, the number of unarmed Black men killed by police so far this year is eight. The number of unarmed white men killed by police over the same time period is 11. And the overall numbers of police shootings has been decreasing.”

This is misleading. Mr. Barr accurately cited a database of police shootings compiled by The Washington Post. But the raw numbers obscure the pronounced racial disparity in such shootings. (The statement was also an echo of Mr. Trump’s technically accurate, but misleading claim that “more white” Americans are killed by the police than Black Americans.)

When factoring in population size, Black Americans are killed by the police at more than twice the rate as white Americans, according to the database. Research has also shown that in the United States, on average, the probability of being shot by a police officer for someone who is Black and unarmed is higher than for someone who is white and armed.
Overall, Qiu scored Barr's statement as "misleading." For ourselves, we'd be inclined to score part of his statement as just plain simply false:

Is it true? Have "the overall numbers of police shootings" actually "been decreasing?" That's what Barr said, if only in passing. But as far as we know, they have not.

In that passage, Qiu refers to the Washington Post's Fatal Force database, as Barr did in his quoted statement. But that database only records fatal shootings, and these are its annual numbers since it came into existence:
Fatal shootings by police officers, 2015-2019
2015: 994
2016: 962
2017: 986
2018: 990
2019: 999
Most observers have noted the way those annual numbers haven't decreased. If that's what Barr was talking about, then that one statement seems to be false.

Barr may have been talking about something else; Qiu probably should have asked his office. But to the extent that it actually matters, that statement may have been false.

Qiu scored Barr's overall statement "misleading" because he failed to mention the fact that "Black Americans are killed by the police at more than twice the rate as white Americans, according to the [Post] database."

Given the larger point Barr was explicitly making—"the fact is that these events are fortunately quite rare"—we aren't sure we'd fault him for failing to mention that fact. But we were struck by Qiu's next statement.

To be honest, Qiu's next statement had little to do with what Barr actually said. But we couldn't help wondering whether this was actually true:

"Research has also shown that in the United States, on average, the probability of being shot by a police officer for someone who is Black and unarmed is higher than for someone who is white and armed."

We don't know why the term "on average" is included there. But is it possible that an unarmed black person is more likely to be shot and killed by a police officer? More likely to be shot and skilled than a white person who is armed?

It's a bit hard to know what that statement means, but it surely does help drive current preferred Storyline. For her source, Qiu links to exactly one piece of "research," a study from 2015 which bears this daunting title:
A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014
Can we talk? That study is so complex, so convoluted and so technical that we have no idea how to assess its claims. Along those lines, if you think anyone at the New York Times knows how to evaluate that study, we have a bridge to the 51st century we'd be willing to sell you.

To be honest, Qiu's statement had little to do with anything Barr really said. It did reinforce preferred Storyline. But could that claim really be true?

Are unarmed black people shot more frequently than white people who are armed? It's hard to get clear on what that statement actually means, but we decided to look at the Fatal Force site, which Barr and Qiu had both cited.

It's hard to get clear on what that claim means. But this is what we found at the Fatal Force site:

According to the Post database, police officers shot and killed 368 armed white people last year. By way of contrast, police officers shot and killed 14 unarmed black people.

Even adjusting for population, there's no real comparison there. According to the Census Bureau, there were 4.5 times more white people in the national population last year. But the ration between those two groups of shooting victims was 26.3 to one!

We don't really know what Qiu's claim actually means. Nor can we say that it's hugely relevant to anything Barr really said.

That said, it did come straight outta Storyline, the one we all currently love. Could it also create misperceptions? Could it possibly produce real harm?

Could Qiu's highly desirable claim heighten the sense, of a parent or perhaps of a child, that black people are being wantonly hunted down by police officers? It seems to us that it could.

Especially when based on inaccurate claims, can such perceptions cause serious harm? It seems to us that they can!

How should these shooting deaths be reported? We'll close today with two points—with points about two disproportions:

At present, certain black shooting deaths get reported and widely discussed. White shooting deaths do not.

This practice seems remarkably hard to justify, but there's zero chance it will stop. Our press corps runs on Storyline, and this is the one they now love.

It's also true that, in a fuller discussion of this very important topic, absolute numbers of shooting deaths must be adjusted for population. Our cable stars rarely adjust when their failure to do so cuts against Trump, but serious journalists should adjust for population here.

It's true! Roughly twice as many white people get shot and killed by police each year! But this is also true:

"When factoring in population size, Black Americans are killed by the police at more than twice the rate as white Americans." That fact is also true.

At "liberal" sites, the need to state that second fact will rarely arise, since the existence of white shooting deaths won't be mentioned at all. But on the rare occasion when someone like Trump actually makes an accurate statement, a fuller discussion must involve that nagging frequency gap.

A full discussion won't stop there, but that's where a fuller discussion must go. Where might a full discussion go after that?

We'll return to that question tomorrow. For today, we'll leave you with this:

The fact-check by the youthful Qiu came straight outta preferred Storyline. This is par for the course at the Times, a place where the virus has spread.

Why so many shooting deaths? Also, what Sharpton said

Fuller disclosure: Sometimes, the shooting of an unarmed person must be scored as justified. For example:

Out in Minnesota, it turned out that Robert Christen was unarmed when he was shot and killed by that female deputy sheriff.

Christen is listed as "unarmed" at the Fatal Force site. That said, the deputy had no way to know that he was unarmed—and Christen, a former Big Ten fullback, was trying to bullrush past her into the house of his former girl friend, who he'd said he was going to kill.

Christen had a long, extremely painful history of mental illness. This case was tragic for all involved. Except in the realm of Storyline, many of these incidents are.

Sometimes, heinous killings do occur. So it was in the case of the late George Floyd, and in the case of the late Tony Timpa.

At long last, Friedman asks the big question!


How did we end up like this?:
At long last, Thomas L. Friedman has finally asked the big question.

"How did we get so inept?" he asked. He took this route to his query:
FRIEDMAN (7/29/20): When people ask me about my mood these days, I tell them that I feel like I’m a reporter for The Pompeii Daily News in A.D. 79, and I’m sitting in the foothills of Mount Vesuvius and someone just walked up and asked, “Hey, do you feel a rumbling?”

Do I ever.

The summer of 2020 could be remembered as one of those truly important dates in American history
Well actually, that's just the way he started.

For ourselves, we wonder how Friedman can be so upbeat. Given the way our societal downfall is cascading, we wonder what makes him think that there's going to be any history in the future—that any historians will be around to remember anything.

For ourselves, we have a hard time seeing a way out of our current mess. Selling The Crazy is big business now—and yes, it operates Over Here too, inside our own liberal tents.

We're just as crazy as they are. And they're out of their freaking minds!

Will we ever pull out of this headlong descent? Here's how Friedman got to his question:
FRIEDMAN (continuing directly); Everywhere you turn you see parents who don’t know where or if their kids will go to school this fall, renters who don’t know when or if they will be evicted, unemployed who don’t know what if any safety net Congress will put under them, businesses that don’t know how or if they can hold on another day—and none of us who know whether we’ll be able to vote in November.

That is a lot of hot, molten anxiety building up beneath our economy, society, schools and city streets—just waiting to blow the top off our country—because we have so failed at managing the coronavirus. We have 25 percent of all recorded infections in the world, and we’re only four percent of the world’s population. In the ultimate irony, Vietnam, which has a little less than one-third of our population but has reported only 416 cases and no deaths, is feeling sorry for us.

How did we get so inept?
How did we get so inept? We aren't entirely sure, but we started building this site in 1997 because we thought the ineptitude was no longer bearable then.

And yes, The Crazy runs all through our tribe. The simple fact that we still can't see that helps show how inept we are.

The plague seems to add to The Crazy. We've seen unbelievably bad work again and again in the past several weeks, and that includes this very day, in both the Post and the Times. The work is unbelievably bad, and the editors can't seem to tell.

As a species, we have perfectly decent technological and construction skills, virtually no skills after that. We can't reason our way out of a wet paper bag, and we're thinking of a bag which is very wet.

The president seems to be mentally ill; the journalists refuse to discuss it. And as for the rest of their work—well, we have almost no skills at all.

We still hope to discuss some of the work we've seen today. That said, the ineptitude is simply amazing, and we're speaking about the work which is done on the highest journalistic levels.

Spreading The Crazy is big business now. Meanwhile, neither of our warring tribes is blessed with a great deal of intellectual skill.

It's all about Storyline, plus tribal loathing. It's those two things all the way down.

Our tribal sachems have very few skills. Our cable stars are absurd circus clowns. Intellectual squalor is pimped every day.

"How did things ever get so far?" How did we, the rational animal, manage to get so inept?

Try to avoid this answer:
Over Here, in our own tribe's tents, it's easy to blame the whole thing on Trump. We refuse to see how many things our tribal stars did to help put Trump where he is.

We simply can't see ourselves as we are. Anthropologists tell us that this is the way the human brain is wired.

DUELING DISPROPORTIONS: Selective coverage of shooting deaths...


...meets a second, large disproportion:
As a matter of theory, news orgs should try to avoid creating misperceptions.

They should especially try to avoid creating large misperceptions. And not only that!

They should try to avoid creating large misperceptions about extremely important topics. In theory, that's what journalists, and journalism itself, should sensibly try to do.

We offer all that as theory. In practice, we'd be inclined to offer this judgment:

On the topic of death at the hands of police officers, we'd have to say that our major news orgs have been doing a very poor job.

Dating at least to 2012, our news orgs have devoted massive attention to some such events, but only if the person who dies is black. If the person who dies is white, Hispanic or "other"—we're using the Washington Post's terminology—our news orgs have tended to avoid discussing such incidents at all.

As a result of this remarkable practice, everyone has heard of Rayshard Brooks, as is completely appropriate. But to this day, no one on the face of the earth has heard of Nicholas Bils.

Everyone has heard of Breonna Taylor, and indeed everyone should have. But no one has heard of Rhogena Nicholas—or of her husband, Dennis Tuttle, who was shot and killed alongside her.

For perfectly sensible reasons, the whole world has seen the videotape of the late George Floyd as he died in Minneapolis, facedown in the street. But no one has heard of Tony Timpa. He died facedown in the street in Dallas, crying for his life.

There are many other examples. No one has ever heard of John Geer or of Bijan Ghaisar, despite endless attempts by the Washington Post editorial board to call attention to the peculiar circumstances of their shooting deaths.

The Post wrote endless editorials, but the national press corps wasn't buying. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows why the corps took a pass.

On June 11, Professor McWhorter rattled off other examples in this essay at Quillette. Because the essay didn't appear in The Atlantic, Atlantic readers were spared the indignity of possibly being exposed to those other names.

By normal standards, this would be a stunning example of absurdly selective press coverage. Somewhat ironically, it echoes part of our nation's brutal history, in which some lives mattered and other lives didn't, based wholly on issues of "race," a conceptual framework which comes to us live and direct from "the world the slaveholders made."

Does this highly selective press coverage make sense? As always, opinions will differ.

Almost surely, though, this vastly selective presentation has been creating vast misperceptions, some of them deeply harmful. As our reports continue, we'll take a stab at what those misperceptions might be. For today, we'l only say this:

Sometimes, the American people get to hear an occasional accurate fact. Recently, an accurate statement emerged from the world's least likely source.

A journalist who's a food decent person asked a rather peculiar question. In fairness, her question conformed to the highly selective journalistic practice described above.

A journalist asked a peculiar question. In reply, the American president, Donald J. Trump, made an accurate statement!

When has he ever done that before? The recent exchange went like this:
HERRIDGE (7/14/20): Let's talk about George Floyd. You said George Floyd's death was a terrible thing.

TRUMP: Terrible.

HERRIDGE: Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?

TRUMP: So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people.
As usual, Trump assailed the journalist for having asked the question. In this case, though, the journalist's question really was rather odd—and the commander in chief had responded by making an accurate statement!

It's true! More white people actually are "dying at the hands of police." The Washington Post's Fatal Force site attempts to record all incidents in which people are shot and killed by police. From 2015 through the present day, their totals look like this:
People shot and killed by police, 2015 to present
White: 2,502
Black: 1,305
Hispanic: 910
Other: 220
Unknown [race/ethnicity]: 552
"Other" people are largely Native Americans, Asian-Americans and (or so it would seem) people of Middle Eastern heritage. For whatever reason, the number of "Unknowns" has grown exponentially, year after year.

(In 2015, Unknowns were only 2.8% of the total number killed. In 2019, the number stood at 14.3%. In this way, the Fatal Force data have become less useful over the years.)

At any rate, Trump's statement was factually accurate. According to the Fatal Force site, police shoot and kill roughly twice as many people of the one group, as compared to people of the other group.

For ourselves, we can't find fault with Commander Trump for making his testy statement. While it comported to current press practice, Herridge's question might easily have fed a rather large misperception.

Beyond that, her question might feed the peculiar idea that only one class of shooting deaths matter. We wouldn't have scolded her as Trump did, but it seems to us that his accurate statement also made perfect sense.

Amazingly, Trump made an accurate statement—but he didn't make every accurate statement. Lying behind his accurate statement, a statistical disproportion exists—and at New York magazine, Matt Stieb proceeded to state it.

Warning! Stieb's statements weren't all perfectly accurate, but he did state a basic point. In the main, here's what he said:
STIEB (7/14/20): The president’s answer ignores the basic demographics of the country over which he presides. As CBS News’ Wesley Lowery noted in 2016, the most recent census data shows that there are almost 160 million more white people in the U.S. than there are Black people. White Americans make up around 62 percent of the population, but 49 percent of those killed by police officers; Black Americans make up 13 percent of the population, but represent 24 percent of those killed by police officers. According to a database compiled by the Washington Post, 1,301 Black people have been killed by the police since 2015, while 2,495 whites were killed. But because of the vast demographic differences, Black Americans are killed at a rate more than twice that of white Americans.
The commander's statement was perfectly accurate. So, it would seem, is Stieb's basic claim, in which "black Americans are killed at a rate more than twice that of white Americans."

That's a large disproportion too. This second disproportion would also be part of any serious attempt to discuss this highly important topic, though there's little chance that we'll ever see any such widespread discussion within our upper-end press corps, which runs on Storyline.

The passage we've posted does contain a few flaws. In our worst moments, we'd say it reflects the slapdash lack of effort our tribe brings to any attempt to discuss or critique this memorized Storyline.

For starters, Stieb was working directly from this analysis piece by Lowery in 2016. Stating the obvious, "the most recent census data" from 2016 are not the most recent today.

Last July, the Census Bureau estimated that (non-Hispanic) whites represent 60.1% percent of the country's population. The correct number may have been 62% in 2016, but it isn't now.

Beyond that, Lowery seems to have understated the percentage of "white" people's deaths. According to the Fatal Force site he helped create, 51.8% percent of 2016's shooting deaths involved victims who were "white."

(For obvious reasons, we're only considering those shooting deaths where the victim's race/ethnicity was known.)

Overall, "whites" constitute 51% of the Fatal Force shooting deaths from 2015 to the present. Whites probably constituted 61% of the nation's population over that period of time.

On a strictly statistical basis, that's a bit of a "white advantage." It's also true that blacks are shot and killed by police officers at a highly disproportional rate.

Over the course of the past six years, "blacks" have constituted roughly 13% of the U.S. population, but they represent 26.4% of all shooting deaths in the Fatal Force data. This second disproportion—a statistical disproportion—is in that sense quite large.

In truth, a great deal remains to be said about that disproportion. Tomorrow, we'll consider some factors cited by McWhorter, and also by a second figure too vile to be named at this time.

That said, our flailing tribe has a Storyline and, as humans tend to do, we prefer to stick to it. We seem to be following a certain type of logic, in which the statistical disproportion we've just cited justifies a vast disproportion in coverage—a vast disproportion in which only one class of deaths gets mentioned in public at all.

Tremendous misperceptions will arise from that practice. But then again, who really cares? The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we humans love Storyline and tend to dump everything else.

Professor Cobb and Reverend Sharpton have recently seemed to say that actually all deaths matter. Is it possible that Cobb and Sharpton are right? Is it possible that current press practice is stupid, faux, phony and wrong?

Tomorrow: Brutal history; deaths of despair

How peaceful, how violent. has it been out in Portland?


Do you feel that you're being told?:
As our nation has evolved into two warring tribes, then, at least to some extent, so has our upper-end press corps.

To what extent might we now have two tribalized press corps, neither of which is devoted to telling us "the whole truth?"

On Sunday morning, we began to wonder about that, specifically with respect to events in Portland and Seattle. That first glimmer went down like this:

First, we read Mike Baker's report in the New York Times
about events in Seattle. He seemed to describe a lot of violent conduct on the part of protesters there, if only (at times) through the voice of police chief Carmen Best..

A few hours later, we read this report in Slate
, which was instantly sourced, in its first paragraph, to the Times report. Forgive us, but it almost seemed that the Slate report had been "sanitized"—that it had largely disappeared Baker's references to that violent conduct.

This morning, we've read Jonathan's Chait post about Trump's political motives in Portland. Chait says that Trump's political play there has failed.

We aren't real sure that's the case; we're scared that Chait could be wrong. Mainly, though, we were struck by this passage:
CHAIT (7/29/20): Trump’s ploy has not worked at all. Indeed, he and his supporters have been reduced to complaining that the biased news media is showing images of nonviolent protesters rather than the troops-versus-anarchist battles Trump longs to put on display.

Conservatives do have a germ of a point: Some of the protesters, especially in Portland, have destroyed or defaced property and provoked police, rather than merely demonstrating against racism and police violence. The Portland NAACP complained that “mostly white anarchists” have incited violence and diverted attention from the purpose of the protests.
Conservatives have only "a germ of a point" about the violence?

Forget the fact that the NAACP has complained about the violence. We wondered if Chait had read this recent AP report.

Leave it to the AP! This past weekend, they had one reporter embedded inside the federal courthouse in Portland. Another reporter was out in the street with the protesters, the demonstrators and the tiny number of people engaging in something like violence.

Mike Balsamo was the reporter inside the federal courthouse; Gillian Flaccus was out in the street. We'll suggest that you read their full report, but an early chunk from out in the street goes exactly like this:
BALSAMO AND FLACCUS (7/27/20): At 10:15 p.m. in Portland, the protesters made their first foray into conflict: A man tried to climb the fence and was quickly arrested.

Thirty minutes later, the fence rocked and leaned sharply as dozens of protesters pressed their weight against it, some of them throwing their bodies against it at a running start. The fence, designed to absorb the impact from a car going up to 30 mph, undulated like a wave and tilted dangerously before springing back.


[S]mall pods of three to four protesters dressed in black circulated in the crowd, stopping every few minutes to point green laser beams in the eyes of agents posted as lookouts
on porticoes on the courthouse’s upper stories. The agents above were silhouetted against the dark sky as dozens of green laser dots and a large spotlight played on the courthouse walls, projected from the back of the crowd.

Thirty minutes later, someone fired a commercial-grade firework inside the fence. Next came a flare and then protesters began using an angle grinder to eat away at the fence. A barrage of items came whizzing into the courthouse: rocks, cans of beans, water bottles, potatoes and rubber bouncy balls that cause the agents to slip and fall.
Personally, we wouldn't describe the people using those lasers as "protesters." However you score that point, the report includes this chunk from inside the building a bit later on:
BALSAMO AND FLACCUS: The [commercial-grade] firework came whizzing over the fence so fast that the agent didn’t have time to move.

It exploded with a boom, leaving his hearing deadened and bloody gashes on both forearms. Stunned, with help from his cohorts, he stripped to his boxer shorts and a black T-shirt so his wounds could be examined and photographed for evidence.

He told his fellow agents he was more worried about his hearing than about the gouges and burns on his arms.

By the end of the night, five other federal agents would be injured, including another who got a concussion
when he was hit in the head with a commercial-grade firework. One agent was hospitalized. Several agents have lingering vision problems from the lasers.

After each night of protest, they seize dozens of homemade shields, slingshots, blocks of wood and chunks of concrete.

“My friends have been hit in the head with hammers. I know people who have been shot with fireworks. It’s disgusting,” said the Deputy U.S. Marshal who’s been at the courthouse for weeks. “I’ve never thought I’d have to walk around in my office building wearing a gas mask to go sit in front of my computer.”
We'll admit it. We don't think the Washington Post and the New York Times have been conveying this picture of what has been going on. Cable news? Perhaps even less, though our cable has been semi-down. (As of today, it's back.)

With that said, please try to recall what we are, and what we aren't, asking you about:

We aren't asking what you think of Donald J. Trump. We aren't asking whether most of the protesters have been peaceful. (We assume they have been.)

We aren't asking if the marshals are just getting what they deserve. We're asking a different question:

We're asking if you think we're getting a full picture of what is happening from our anti-Trump news orgs. That's the question we've asked.

By last weekend, we suspected the answer was no. Unless that AP report is wildly off-base, we'll go with a stronger no.

Conservative news orgs are heavily pushing the claim of nightly violence. They tend to say that the peaceful protesters leave at 8 P.M., and the violent anarchists take over from there.

Chait was willing to say that they "have a germ of a point." We're afraid they may have more than a germ—even that continuing violence could imaginably start to tilt perceptions in Trump's favor.

Mainly, though, our question is simple. Are we getting a full picture of what's happening in Portland from our anti-Trump sources?

More and more, concerning various topics, it seems to us that the answer tends to be no. Their work has been horrible in the past. Is there any reason to expect better performance now?

DUELING DISPROPORTIONS: Tony Timpa, age 32, died crying in the street!


A second disproportion also exists:
We've been discussing a major disproportion in the upper-end press corps' coverage of a certain type of event.

We refer to the amount of attention paid to incidents in which people are shot and killed by police officers.

The current disproportion tracks to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in January 2012. Trayvon Martin, then 17, wasn't shot by a police officer, but that's where the current journalistic trend got its start.

More on the coverage of that event next week. For now, back to that disproportion:

At present, some of these shooting deaths receive massive press coverage, as is completely appropriate. Others of these shooting deaths barely get mentioned at all.

Today, we'll cite a pair of cases in which unarmed people were apparently asphyxiated by police officers. In each case, the conduct by the officer or officers seems extremely hard to defend.

We'll start with a headline from the Associated Press. This headline may seem quite familiar:
Video: Man who died during arrest cries, begs police to stop
It would be natural to assume that the report which carried that headline was a report about the recent killing of the late George Floyd. It would be natural to assume that the headline sat atop an AP report about the release of the videotape which showed the horrors of Floyd's recent death.

In fact, that headline sat atop a report about the killing of Tony Timpa, age 32, in Dallas. The AP report appeared in July 2019, when videotape of this killing first appeared.

In fact, Timpa died at the hands of four police officers in August 2016. Yesterday, we heard his name for the first time, as we read a recent piece by Matt Taibbi about a different topic.

Timpa's death at the hands of police receive virtually no coverage in real time. Last year, when that horrendous videotape appeared as part of a legal case, the contents of the videotape occasioned a very small amount of press coverage.

The videotape of George Floyd's death is clearly horrendous. What was horrendous about the videotape in the case of this earlier death?

To understand that, you must watch the tape, or read a summary you feel you can trust. Below, you see the start of a recent discussion of this case which appeared in The New Republic.

This essay in The New Republic was written by Audrey Farley. Farley believes that "increasingly desperate critics of the Black Lives Matter" position are trying to "exploit" the facts of Timpa's death.

Farley is heavily favorable to the Black Lives Matter movement, as is completely appropriate. For that reason, we'll suggest that the summary with which she starts her report can almost surely be trusted:
FARLEY (7/9/20): On August 10, 2016, Tony Timpa, a 32-year-old white businessman, called the police, claiming he needed help. As Timpa told the dispatcher, he had recently stopped taking his medication for schizophrenia and depression, had consumed drugs, and was afraid for his safety. Officers arrived on the scene outside a Dallas porn shop, where a private security guard had already handcuffed Timpa. While Timpa never threatened officers on the scene or resisted arrest, he acted erratically. It wasn’t long before an officer pinned him under his knee.

Body-cam footage released in 2019, following a court order, shows Timpa pleading, “You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me!” and begging to be freed for nearly 14 minutes before falling unconscious.
At that point, officers presumed he was sleeping and didn’t bother to check his pulse. Instead, they joked about his supposed imbecility. “It’s time for school. Wake up!” one officer said. Another replied, “I don’t want to go to school! Five more minutes, Mom!” Officers laughed about buying him new shoes for the first day and making him waffles for breakfast. Finally, after four minutes of Timpa being unresponsive, a medical responder began CPR. It was futile. An autopsy later confirmed sudden cardiac arrest due to “excessive physical restraint,” also citing cocaine and the narcotic Tramadol in Timpa’s system.
This conduct was remarkably similar to the conduct visited, four years later, upon the late George Floyd. In a recent essay for Reason, Jacob Sullum quotes the pleas from the dying Timpa which can be heard on the tape:
SULLUM (7/9/20): Recall that the cops ostensibly were there to help Timpa, who was obviously freaking out and according to his family was "suffering drug-induced psychosis." The officers clearly recognized that Timpa was intoxicated, since they repeatedly asked him what drug he was on, and he told them he had taken cocaine. Yet they proceeded to restrain him for 15 minutes in a position that made it difficult for him to breathe. Given the circumstances, Timpa's "resistance," which the officers repeatedly described as "squirming," was perfectly understandable. [U.S. District Judge David] Godbey's framing suggests that someone who panics because he is being smothered to death thereby justifies the use of force that caused him to fear for his life.

"Will you let me go, please?" Timpa begged. "Please let me go….Help me! Help!…Help me. Help me. Help me….Oh God, please. Oh God, please….Stop, Officer….It hurts! Please take it off." He repeatedly lifted and turned his head, as if struggling to breathe.
In a recent ruling, Judge Godbey granted "qualified immunity" to the officers involved, frustrating the ability of Timpa's family to seek legal redress. We aren't qualified to say if Godbey's decision was right.

That said:

In that passage, Sullum is reporting Timpa's dying words, as they exist on that videotape. Along the way, Sullum mentioned the extent to which this horrendous incident resembles the horrendous incident in which George Floyd lost his life.

In Farley's view, conservatives are trying to "exploit" this similarity. That said:

Presumably, almost anyone can see how similar these horrendous incidents were. People will disagree as to whether attention should be paid to that fact, but the basic similarity of these killings is hard to disappear.

That said, these incidents are vastly different in one major way:

The killing of Floyd has received worldwide attention, as is completely appropriate. By way of contrast, very few people have ever heard of Timpa, four years after his death.

Here again, we see a major disproportion in the amount of attention paid to similar events. The killing of Floyd has received massive press coverage, as is completely appropriate.Until the last few weeks, the killing of Timpa had received almost none.

Does this disproportionate coverage possibly constitute a problem? More specifically, is it possible that misperceptions arise from such disproportionate coverage—misperceptions concerning some of the most important topics with which e must come to terms?

We would assume that this disproportion creates large misperceptions about extremely important topics. We think the press corps' conduct in this regard has been (typically) incompetent, tilting over toward heinous.

That said, when it comes to death at the hands of police officers, a second type of disproportion is often mentioned. When this second type of disproportion is ignored, it too could create a misperception.

It seems to us that this second misperception would be less extreme than the one which is currently being created. At any rate, the second type of disproportion is mentioned today in the New York Times, in its report about Attorney General Barr's appearance before the House:
FANDOS AND SAVAGE (7/29/20): Asked about the pleas for racial justice informing many of the protests, Mr. Barr said, “I don’t agree that there is systemic racism in police departments generally in this country,” and he quoted statistics that more white Americans had been killed by the police than Black Americans.

Critics have called those figures misleading
because they do not account for relative population differences; a Black person is more likely to be killed than a white person.
In absolute numbers, more white people are killed in encounters with police officers. We remain curious as to how many people are aware of that basic fact.

That said:

As a percentage of population, more black people get killed in encounters with police. That disproportion would also be a part of any full discussion of this important topic.

A few weeks ago, many observers cited that second disproportion. They did so in response to an accurate statement by President Donald J. Trump, one of history's rarest events.

That second type of disproportion is part of any full discussion too. We plan to discuss that disproportion in the next two days.

Tomorrow: Disproportions 1 and 2

McWhorter speaks: John McWhorter is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia, where he mainly teaches linguistics. We regard him as visibly sane, if not always right in all things.

McWhorter recently discussed Tony Timpa's death. We expect to return to his analysis, but if you want to peruse it today, you can find it here.

McWhorter's piece appears at Quillette, not at The Atlantic, where we normally find his work. We hunted around and found it because it was mentioned by Farley.

The Washington Post won't confront Donald Trump!

TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2020

Not on his mental condition, not on his craziest claims:
What has kept President Trump from fully confronting the virus?

In this morning's Washington Post, Parker and Rucker attempt to consider that question. In paragraph 5, they offer this portrait of the way the commander's head works:
PARKER AND RUCKER (7/28/20): People close to Trump, many speaking on the condition of anonymity to share candid discussions and impressions, say the president’s inability to wholly address the crisis is due to his almost pathological unwillingness to admit error; a positive feedback loop of overly rosy assessments and data from advisers and Fox News; and a penchant for magical thinking that prevented him from fully engaging with the pandemic.
Yikes! According to the Post's reporters, Trump has one important tendency which is "almost pathological." Another part of the mental mix is "a penchant for magical thinking."

Let's be fair! The two reporters may have been speaking metaphorically when they penned those assessments. It may not have occurred to them that they were discussing traits which might call for analysis from medical or psychological experts.

You'll admit that we're being fair! Elsewhere, though, the Post's Michael Kranish interviews Mary Trump and steers around her semi-diagnoses of her uncle's possible pathologies. It seems to us that Kranish is playing by the traditional rules, in which you can't discuss the psychiatric state of a major pol, even of a major pol who plainly seems to have one.

The press is never going to consult with medical specialists about Donald Trump's mental condition. Then too, we note the way Parker and Rucker fail to confront his latest crazy claims—the crazy claims about the way our mortality rate is declining and is also the best in the world.

Parker and Rucker still aren't ready to deal with these ludicrous claims. The problem begins with this passage:
PARKER AND RUCKER: White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews defended the president’s handling of the [coronavirus] crisis, saying he acted “early and decisively.”

“The president has also led an historic, whole-of-America coronavirus response — resulting in 100,000 ventilators procured, sourcing critical PPE for our front-line heroes, and a robust testing regime resulting in more than double the number of tests than any other country in the world,” Matthews said in an email statement. “His message has been consistent and his strong leadership will continue as we safely reopen the economy, expedite vaccine and therapeutics developments, and continue to see an encouraging decline in the U.S. mortality rate.”

For some, however, the additional effort is too little and far too late.
Sad! In fact, there is no decline, encouraging or otherwise, in the U.S. mortality rate. If we're using that term in the way any normal person would, the U.S. mortality rate has been rocketing upwards over the past four weeks.

Presumably, Matthews is referring to the "case fatality rate," a somewhat abstruse statistic which has little utility in the current general discussion.

Parker and Rucker simply accept her grossly inaccurate statement. They don't ask her what she's talking about, or challenge what she has said. Post readers may well assume that our mortality rate is declining.

Later, the reporters tackle the commander's utterly crazy claim, his claim that our mortality rate in the lowest in the world. They do assert that this claim is wrong, but that's as far as they get:
PARKER AND RUCKER: White House staffers have long made upbeat assessments and projections in an effort to satisfy the president. This, in turn, makes Trump further distrustful of the presentations of scientists and reports in the mainstream news media, according to his advisers and other people familiar with the president’s approach.

This dynamic was on display during an in-depth interview with “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace that aired July 19.
After the president claimed the United States had one of the lowest coronavirus mortality rates in the world, Wallace interjected to fact-check him: “It’s not true, sir.”

Agitated by Wallace’s persistence, Trump turned off-camera to call for White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Can you please get me the mortality rates?” he asked. Turning to Wallace, he said, “Kayleigh’s right here. I heard we have one of the lowest, maybe the lowest mortality rate anywhere in the world.”

Trump, relying on cherry-picked White House data, insisted that the United States was “number one low mortality fatality rates.”

Fox then interrupted the taped interview to air a voice-over from Wallace explaining that the White House chart showed Italy and Spain doing worse than the United States but countries like Brazil and South Korea doing better
—and other countries that are doing better, including Russia, were not included on the White House chart. By contrast, worldwide data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. mortality rate is far from the lowest.
Truly, that's astonishing. We're left with nothing but anthropology when a pair of high-end journos from Yale and Penn, one of them a Pulitzer winner, can't do better than that.

For starters, the reporters somehow managed to misquote Trump's most significant statement. When McEnany handed him the data in question, he actually said this, as you can see on this tape at the 2:30 mark:
TRUMP: Number— Number one low mortality rate.
It's hard to misreport something so basic, but the Post was up to the task. For the full transcript, click here.

Beyond that, Parker and Rucker settled for the standard mumbo-jumbo about Trump's lunatic claim.

They said the White House data were "cherry-picked," failing to explain or document their claim. They said that data from Johns Hopkins show that our mortality rate "is far from the lowest" in the world.

That's true, but they left it at that. How far from the lowest is our rate? They didn't bother to say.

How far from the lowest is our mortality rate? So far from the lowest that Trump's claim is insane. Here are the hottest new data:
Total deaths from coronavirus in the past week
As of July 28:

United States: 7,105
Canada: 43
Germany: 32
France: 44
Spain: 12
Austria: 3
Japan: 8
South Korea: 4
Taiwan: 0
In terms of population, Japan is more than one-third our size; Germany is almost exactly one-fourth. In fact, our mortality rate is so far from the lowest that you can't see the lowest from here!

Trump's ridiculous statement wasn't just wrong—it was batsh*t crazy, "this man must be insane" wrong. But nine days after that interview, star reporters like Parker and Rucker still don't know how to let readers understand that fact.

In this, we continue to see the mental state of our nation's top reporters. Despondent anthropologists mordantly tell us this:

Facts play almost no role in their world. Simply put, our floundering species just wasn't wired that way.

Also note this: According to Wallace, Italy and Spain "are doing worse than the United States."

We know what he may have meant. But go ahead—take a look at the data we've posted!

Wallace is a Harvard man. According to the early Dylan, it's one of "the finest schools!"

DUELING DISPROPORTIONS: Robert Christen was shot and killed "by police!"

TUESDAY, JULY 28, 2020

But was misconduct involved?:
Within our failing society, quite a few people are shot and killed by police officers every year.

That said, these incidents don't all involve misconduct by those officers. Depending on how you want to score it, we'll guess that most of these incidents don't involve such misconduct.

Consider the shooting death of the late Robert Christen in September 2015:

By all accounts, Christen was a good and decent person when he was on his meds. According to Christen's mother, he also had a long and terrible history of mental illness.

In the aftermath of Christen's death, his mother told a reporter that "she had seen her son hospitalized 50-60 times, each time only at the peak of a crisis."

She said that, on the night when her son was shot and killed, "he had not been taking his prescribed medication and that he had slipped into a manic episode."

In the course of that manic episode. Christen had called police and said he planned to kill his former girl friend. When he arrived at that woman's house, a single deputy sheriff—a young woman—was there to protect the former girl friend, who had remained inside her house.

According to reports which no one denied
, Christen rushed the deputy sheriff, punching her three times. At that point, he was shot and killed.

Presumably, everyone would prefer that this shooting death hadn't occurred. But did that deputy sheriff engage in some sort of misconduct?

In her interview with a reporter, Christen's mother made it clear that she held no such view. “I want it very clear that we hold no ill will against the police officer," Christen's mother said. "She was put in a terrible position and she did what she had to do."

No one has to agree with that. But that's what his mother said.

Christen's mother may have concluded that her son had engaged in so-called suicide-by-cop. “He just didn’t want to be sick anymore,” she was quoted saying. She was also quoted saying this:

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

Presumably, it would have been better if that incident had ended without loss of life. We'd also assume that very few people would find fault with the deputy's conduct.

Presumably, most people would be willing to say that this incident didn't involve misconduct by that officer. For current purposes, that may be where the human element starts coming in.

Perhaps somewhat oddly, Wesley Lowery opened a recent essay in The Atlantic by mentioning this unfortunate incident. Perhaps somewhat oddly, he didn't explain the circumstances surrounding this shooting death, but he described it as part of a "gruesome cycle" afflicting the state of Minnesota—a gruesome cycle which, he said, had proceeded like this:

"The police killed someone. Activists protested. Small reforms were won. The police killed someone else..."

Lowery didn't explain why activists would have protested that shooting death. Nor did he mention the fact that a woman's life had apparently been at stake.

We'd have to say that Lowery's presentation might feed a type of misperception about this important topic. For what it's worth, his essay now carries this formal correction:
"This article previously misspelled Robert Christen’s name and misstated the affiliation of the officer who killed him."
Whatever! At certain times, Storyline may perhaps be the main thing we're after. Even our own tribe's emerging saints may perhaps tend to feed misperception, so certain are they that they understand Absolute Truth.

According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force site, roughly a thousand people are shot and killed by police officers in this country every year. The site has now attempted to record all such deaths since the start of 2015. Here are their annual totals for their five completed years:
People shot and killed by police officers in the U.S.
2015: 994
2016: 962
2017: 986
2018: 990
2019: 999
After adjusting for population, that's vastly more people than get shot and killed by police officers in comparable nations. That said, our nation is "awash in guns" in a way few other such nations are.

Our team tends to remembers to make that statement when it serves the interests of Storyline. At other times, we may tend to forget.

(To see our police shooting death rate compared to those of Canada, Germany, Iceland and others, you can just click here. Our rate dwarfs those of comparable nations. To consider a more inclusive list of nations, you can just click this.)

Police officers shoot and kill about one thousand people per year. That said, we have no idea how many of these incidents involve misconduct by the officer. As far as we know, no one has ever attempted to quantify that.

Did the shooting death of Robert Christen involve police misconduct? Presumably, most people would say that it didn't.

In other cases, it's very hard to imagine a way to justify the conduct of the police officer. At present, a peculiar practice clearly obtains in all such shooting deaths:

We tend to discus such incidents when the shooting victim is black, but not when the victim is white or Hispanic or "other." This pattern is abundantly clear. It would make no sense to deny it:

People have heard a great deal about the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, as is completely appropriate. Very few people have ever heard about the shooting death of Nicholas Bils.

People have heard about Breonna Taylor. Very few people have ever heard of Rhogena Nicholas—or of her husband, who was also shot and killed.

This represents a vast disproportion in the way such events get reported and discussed under current procedures. Almost surely, this vast disproportion in press coverage is creating misperceptions about such shooting deaths.

Other misconduct by the press has surely helped create misperceptions about this important topic. We especially think of the misreporting of basic facts which is now remarkably common in upper-end coverage of these shooting deaths, when such deaths get reported at all.

This starts with a heinous factual error by—who else?—the New York Times. This heinous misstatement appeared in the Times' initial report of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

To this day, the Times has never corrected this gross misstatement. We'll consider this general practice next week.

At any rate, some shooting deaths get reported; other such deaths do not. Presumably, this grossly disproportionate coverage is creating vast misperceptions, sometimes with deeply harmful effects.

That said, a second disproportion is often mentioned when the topic of such deaths arises. Recently, Matt Stieb did so in a blog post for New York magazine, as he scolded President Trump for making an accurate statement.

Stieb cited a statistical disproportion which does in fact exist. Somewhat oddly, he reproduce data Lowery had presented in 2016—data which weren't entirely accurate then, and plainly aren't accurate now.

That said, Stieb described a statistical disproportion which is plainly a part of this important topic. We're hoping to show you what he said before the week is through.

Black Lives Matter was formed in response to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. In response to the growing black lives movement, upper-end journalists and upper-end news orgs have rushed to display their obvious good faith and their unmistakable moral greatness.

Most of these orgs have displayed little interest in any of these topics in the past. Their handling of this topic in their rush to greatness may be creating misperceptions, misperceptions which may create harm.

How well do our news orgs tend to cover such topics? Tomorrow, as we continue to offer perspective, we may start with this.

Tomorrow: It may be the best they can do

Daily deaths nationwide move past 900!

MONDAY, JULY 27, 2020

Where can you go to get facts?:
Yesterday, Kevin Drum said it. What he said was accurate, true, right and correct:
"Here’s the coronavirus death toll through July 25...[T]he US just keeps going up and up."
Our death toll does keep going up! Because you rarely encounter any actual data in the upper-end press, we thought we'd update you today, using two different measures.

First, let's consider the continuing rise in daily deaths nationwide. After a long, steady drop from mid-April through the end of June, daily deaths have been rising at a rapid rate:
Daily deaths from coronavirus, nationwide
7-day rolling average:

Last week in June: 538.7 (June 24-June 30)
One week ago today: 747.4 (July 13-July 19)
As of today: 905.1 (July 20-July 26)
We're working with the Washington Post's day-by-day numbers.

At the end of June, the rolling average stood at 538.7 deaths per day nationwide. The average for the past seven days was 905.1 deaths per day.

That was up more than 20% from one week ago. That's a rapid ascent.

Now, for a bit of dark humor, let's review a related statistic—total number of deaths nationwide in the past 7 days. This time, we'll compare our country's total to those from other lands:
Total deaths from coronavirus in the past week
As of July 27:

United States: 6,401
Canada: 38
Germany: 32
France: 40
Spain: 12
Italy: 62
Japan: 11
South Korea: 3
You'll rush to say that our population is larger than the populations of those other nations.

That statement will be correct! But Germany is one-fourth our size; Japan is more than one-third. We're fairly sure that you can handle the math from there.

Those numbers quantify a rolling disaster—an ongoing American carnage. To review the numbers for the whole world, you can just click here.

We're especially struck by this second set of numbers because of the places where such numbers didn't appear last week.

Eight days ago, they didn't appear on your TV screen when Chris Wallace "fact-checked" Donald J. Trump's crazy claim that we have the lowest and best mortality rate in the world.

Yesterday, we heard someone blame that failure on Fox. But those numbers also didn't appear in the New York Times or the Washington Post when they reported Trump's lunatic claim. Our journalists simply don't traffic in information. It simply doesn't occur to them to seek and present hard facts.

Wallace, the Post and the Times all said that Commander Trump's statement was wrong. They didn't report the fact that his claim was batsh*t crazy—and they didn't present the simple statistics which demonstrate that fact.

They traffic in Storyline only. It doesn't seem to occur to them to present information or facts. We'll guess that most people have no idea how crazy Trump's statement was.

Despondent anthropologists keep telling us that our species was wired this way. When these international experts tell us this, they speak in a scary past tense.


MONDAY, JULY 27, 2020

WNBA dedicates its season to Breonna Taylor:
On Saturday, the WNBA began its deeply challenging new season.

As its new season began, the WNBA did a perfectly decent thing. The league dedicated its new season to an innocent person who lost her life in a bungled "no-knock" raid.

The innocent person was shot and killed as she slept in her own bed in the middle of the night. In yesterday's print editions, the New York Times reported the dedication of the league's new season:
BRASIL (7/26/20): The W.N.B.A. season started with 26 seconds of silence and an empty court.

“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor,” Layshia Clarendon
, a New York Liberty guard and member of the new W.N.B.A. Social Justice Council, said at the game’s start. “We will be a voice for the voiceless.”

The 2020 season, which is being played in a 22-game “bubble” environment at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is expected to be charged with social justice initiatives alongside a full championship schedule. Symbols and logos declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” were prominent on the court, and players wore jerseys that bore the name of Ms. Taylor.

The opener—pitting young guns against league veterans, first-times and comebacks—ended with a 87-71 Seattle Storm victory over the New York Liberty.


The games will continue to be marked by social justice initiatives;
the league dedicates its 22-game season to Ms. Taylor.

“We’re not just slapping her name on a shirt and saying, ‘Here we go,’” Clarendon said. “We’re being intentional about this and working with her mother.”
That's the way the Times report began and ended.

Brasil never explained the specific reason for the 26 seconds of silence. According to CNN's report, it was meant to represent the fact that Breonna Taylor was just 26 years old when she was shot and killed.

The WNBA has dedicated its season to the memory of Taylor. That's a perfectly decent thing to do.

That said, there's another person who was shot and killed in her own bed during a bungled no-knock raid. Almost surely, the players and officials of the WNBA have never heard about that earlier incident. Across the country, very few people have ever heard that other person's name.

That second person was Rhogena Ann Nicholas. Along with her husband, Dennis Wayne Tuttle, she was shot and killed in a bungled "no-knock" raid in Houston just last year.

(Nicholas was 58 when she was shot and killed.)

In our view, the WNBA did a perfectly decent thing in creating this dedication. On the other hand, a possible problem may conceivably lurk in the fact that its players and officials have almost surely never heard of Nicholas, was also shot and killed in a bungled no-knock raid.

CNN's report on the WNBA action was written by Leah Asmelash. It seems to us that this possible problem may lurk in the opening paragraphs of the CNN report:
ASMELASH (7/25/20): Before the start of its 2020 campaign on Saturday, the WNBA dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor and the Say Her Name movement, which raises awareness for Black female victims of police violence.

The New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm held a 26-second long moment of silence in honor of Taylor, who was 26 years old when she was killed.

Before the moment of silence, Layshia Clarendon of the Liberty spoke about the league's dedication this season.

"We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home," Clarendon said.

"We are also dedicating this season to Say Her Name Campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women," she added. "Black women who are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who do not have people marching in the streets for them."
There's a certain irony lurking in some the statements Asmelash attributed to Clarendon. Imaginably, one can also spot the roots of a possible problem.

The irony involves Clarendon's apparent idea that people march in the streets for white women who are shot and killed in these ways, but for for those who are black.

Let it quickly be said: it's perfectly understandable that Clarendon, along with everyone else, might be inclined to believe that.

The possible problem lies in the idea that the WNBA would dedicated its season to shooting victims who are black, but not to those who are white or Hispanic, or Asian-American or Native American or pretty much anything else.

Opinions will differ was to whether a problem lurks in that approach. We do feel certain that Clarendon is a thoroughly good and decent person. But again, the irony to which we've referred does perhaps obtain:

In fact, thousands of people are marching in the streets in memory of the late Breonna Taylor. In terms of the Say Her Name campaign, Taylor's name is being stated all over the country, as is completely appropriate.

By way of contrast, no one has ever heard Nicholas' name, and no one ever will. And the overall fact of the matter is plain:

On the national level, no one has ever cared about shooting deaths during no-knock raids, no matter who got killed.

(One obvious exception: Fred Hampton, December 1969.)

The irony lurking in this matter calls attention to a certain prevailing disproportion. We discussed that disproportion last week. That current prevailing disproportion works like this:

At the present time, shooting deaths at the hands of police are widely discussed, but only if the person shot and killed is black.

If the person shot and killed is white or Hispanic, no such attention must be or is paid. For this reason, WNBA personnel have heard all about Taylor's death, as they certainly should have. But almost surely, very few of these people have ever heard of Nicholas.

The journalistic trend which drives this disproportion largely dates to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in early 2012. By now, this particular type of disproportionate coverage is so vast as to be almost total.

(As we've noted in the past, we suspect that many people have no idea that police officers ever shoot and kill any "white" people at all. We'd love to see a polling organization conduct a survey on this topic. Almost surely, no org ever will.)

At present, a tremendous disproportion exists in the extent to which these shooting deaths get covered and discussed. Rayshard Brooks is known world-wide, as is completely appropriate. By way of contrast, no one has ever heard of the late Nicholas Bils.

That large disproportion exists! Recently, when Donald J. Trump shocked the world by making an accurate statement, Matt Stieb cited a second type of disproportion in this post for New York magazine.

Stieb noted that a disproportion exists in the number of people of different "races" who get shot and killed by police. With perfect accuracy of a certain type, Stieb turned to this second disproportion as a way of fighting back against Trump's accurate statement.

Trump almost never makes accurate statements! An additional irony may lurk in the way he was quickly assailed for finally having made even one.

At any rate, we'll spend this week discussing these two different disproportions. This will be part of a longer review—a review of the way the mainstream press corps currently covers events in which people are shot and killed by police officers.

According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force site
, roughly a thousand such shooting deaths take place each year. In fairness, a certain point should be made:

By most assessments, only some of those shooting deaths are unjustifiable, or illegal, or criminal.

That said, any such death is a serious matter. Any such death is worthy of serious treatment by the press.

Our mainstream press corps rarely performs to that standard on any topic. We expect to continue reviewing press coverage of this important topic over the next several weeks.

The WNBA dedicated its reason to the late Breonna Taylor. There's absolutely zero reason why the league shouldn't have done that.

At the same time, few people in the WNBA have ever heard of Rhogena Nicholas. Is it possible that a type of problem may be lurking there?

Tomorrow: A second disproportion

Dr. Birx now said to have taken Trump's test!


Post still can't paraphrase Rice:
We had planned to focus today on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), the controversial screening test for cognitive impairment which American president Donald J. Trump was recently said to have aced.

The controversial test was first allowed in this country under terms of President Clinton's Nafta agreement. In an attempt to show that Americans had nothing to fear from the new exam, Clinton instantly took the test, achieving a perfect score of 30 while playing hearts with his daughter Chelsea, speaking to three people on the phone, enjoying a full meal from McDonald's and making Newt Gingrich cry.

In a bow to our friends in the north, Clinton was also watching a minor league hockey game on his phone while reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to a group of French-speaking children. Clinton's skill at multitasking thus passed into White House lore.

President Obama later received a score of 29 on the MoCA, missing one of the test's easiest questions—the one which asks if there actually are "red" and "blue" states after all.

By the time President Trump entered office, it was emerging as a norm; it was widely assumed that every president would (1) reveal his tax returns and (2) submit to the MoCA. It's widely believed that Trump moved to end the Nafta agreement in the mistaken belief that this would make it illegal for him to take the foreign exam.

At any rate, we'd planned to discuss the MoCA today. Unfortunately, a report in the Washington Post drives home a familiar point—we the people can't have nice things, just as Paula said.

We refer to this news report about Susan Rice.
More specifically, we refer to the claim that Candidate Biden might select Rice as his running-mate.

The ability to paraphrase is one of the most basic of all journalistic skills. With that in mind, we were struck by the fact that the Washington Post still can't produce an accurate account of what Susan Rice said about the Benghazi attacks back in 2012:
SULLIVAN AND DEYOUNG (7/25/20): Rice, 55, would not be a typical pick. Not only has she never been elected—she has never run for office. Her son has voiced strong public support for President Trump. And she has faced criticism for her initial comments on the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, for which Republicans made her a leading target of a vitriolic and long-running investigation they are eager to reprise. Once well-positioned to be Obama’s second secretary of state, Rice withdrew from consideration after the uproar over her remarks.

“Biden is opening the door and placing Benghazi on the kitchen table if he picks Susan E. Rice,” said Dan Eberhart, an oil industry executive and GOP donor. “Expect Republicans to feast.”


Several top Democrats dismissed Republicans’ ability to damage her with the Benghazi episode, which Rice, adhering to early intelligence community guidance, initially characterized as a spontaneous response to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video rather than an attack. “That was then and this is now,” said former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid. “I think it has about as much traction as an ice-skating rink.”
Did Rice initially characterize the Benghazi episode "as a spontaneous response to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video rather than an attack?"

Actually no, she didn't. That simply isn't an accurate account of what she actually said.

The backstory here is amazingly easy to verify. The backstory goes like this:

That inaccurate account of what Rice said was instantly produced by John McCain and Bob Schieffer on Sunday, September 16, 2012 on the CBS show, Face the Nation. McCain and Schieffer produced that inaccurate account of what Rice said immediately after Rice appeared on the CBS program.

The account was inaccurate, but it came from two Insider Establishment gods. For that reason, the inaccurate account was instantly memorized and repeated all over the upper-end press corps.

To this day, the Washington Post still can't provide an accurate account of what Rice actually said.

What did Rice say on Face the Nation that day, and on three other Sunday programs? (She wasn't asked about Benghazi on CNN's State of the Union.)

Actually, Rise said this:

After saying a hundred times that her information was preliminary, Rice said the events in Benghazi had started with a spontaneous protest about a crackpot YouTube video. (Such protests had been occurring all across the region.)

That was the first thing Rice said. She then told the important part of the story, saying that a group of armed militants had then arrived at the scene, and that it was those armed militants who staged the deadly attacks.

In real time, McCain and Schieffer misstated what Rice had just said. Instantly, they began claiming that she had said that the spontaneous protesters had launched the deadly attacks.

That simply wasn't what Rice had said, but it made for a good burlesque. The establishment legends ridiculed Rice for supposedly having said that a bunch of peaceful protesters suddenly produced the heavy weapons with which the deadly attacks were carried out.

According to McCain, it was crazy to think that spontaneous protesters would be holding the kinds of armaments employed in the attacks. That plainly isn't what Rice had said, but it was wonderful Storyline.

McCain, of course, was known in the press as history's greatest truth-teller. Schieffer was a genial fellow whose younger brother, Tom Schieffer, had co-owned the Texas Rangers with former President George W. Bush and had later been named the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

McCain and Schieffer were establishment gods. For that reason, everyone in the mainstream press corps memorized what they had said and began repeating it in every possible setting.

On MSNBC, Chris Hayes explicitly took the side of this misrepresentation. Running off and hiding in her lavish TV/hot tub building, Rachel Maddow completely failed to address this topic until very late in the fall.

As people like Maddow refused to speak, punishing myths about Benghazi, and about Rice, entered the upper-end mainstream.

The punishing myths about Benghazi helped defeat Candidate Clinton in 2016. The punishing myths about Rice put the kibosh on her chance to be secretary of state, and may help decide Biden's choice of a running-mate.

This morning, we see that the Washington Post still can't produce an accurate account of what Rice said on the Sunday programs that day. Let's offer a wider context:

Stating the obvious, the ability to produce reasonable paraphrase is one of journalism's most fundamental skills. But it's as we've told you again and again:

Counterintuitive though it may seem, our upper-end journalists possess almost no analytical or journalistic skills. They tend to be skilled at reproduction of Storyline, and at virtually nothing else.

Coverage of Campaign 2000 was built upon twenty straight months of bogus mainstream paraphrase. Today, people are dead all over Iraq because our mainstream journalists wouldn't stop doing that.

Twelve years later, much of the Benghazi legend grew out of an instant bogus paraphrase produced by McCain and Schieffer. The tyros had misparaphrased Rice, but they were a pair of establishment gods. For that reason, journalists scurried to repeat the inaccurate things they had said.

Getting back to the MoCA:

It's now widely believed that President Trump may have paid Dr. Birx to take the MoCA for him.

Initially, it was rumored that Trump had paid Vice President Pence to take the exam. As evidence mounted suggesting that Trump had actually passed the test, this rumor began to lose currency.

Trump has claimed that he achieved a perfect score of 30. Some mental health experts improbably claim that he may be thinking of the score he achieved the last time he tried to take the SAT for himself.

That said, Dr. Ronny Jackson seems to have vouched for the claim that Trump achieved a 30. Skeptics note that Jackson is now best known in medical circles as the doctor who claimed that President Trump weighs less than 400 pounds.

(TMZ is reporting that Jackson will join Dr. Harold Bornstein in a forthcoming Bravo "reality" show, True Physicians of the Trump Tower, Hotels and Golf Courses. The pilot will focus on Trump's ability to repeat strings of as many as five different words. Previously, he had displayed mastery of such shorter strings as "Crooked Hillary," "Lock her up" and "What does Vladimir want?")

The embattled president recently claimed that the United States has the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate in the world.
This latest claim wasn't merely wrong. This claim was demonstrably crazy.

Chris Wallace didn't notice or mention this fact. Which part of "virtually no journalistic skills at all" don't we understand yet?

In summary:

No, that isn't what Susan Rice said—but to this day, the Washington Post can't still get it right. With the help of highly credentialed experts, we offer this as an anthropology lesson—a basic lesson which is simply too strange for lunkheads like us to ingest.

Farhi praises Wallace's fact-check of Trump!

FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2020

Krugman gets it right:
Here at the Howler, we're favorably disposed towards the Washington Post's Paul Farhi.

For one thing, he graduated from UCLA—and from University High in Los Angeles! Other Uni grads include Sandra Dee and Ryan O'Neal, plus Annette, Judy, Marilyn, Liz.

Those famous grads, plus Farhi. You can throw in Sinatra's kids!

Also, Farhi typically does good work. Until yesterday, when he actually praised Chris Wallace's fact-check of Trump—and no, we aren't making that up.

Farho thinks that Wallace rocked when he fact-checked Trump this Sunday. This is the way yesterday's report began:
WALLACE AND ELLISON (7/23/20): During his interview with President Trump, “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace may have uttered four of the most important words in the long, jagged history of Trump TV interviews: “That’s not true, sir.”

Wallace was referring specifically to Trump’s false assertion that the United States has the lowest coronavirus mortality rate in the world—but it set a more general tone...

The Sunday interview was widely praised for Wallace’s deftness in exposing Trump’s most bogus claims
, such as the covid-19 death rate.
According to Farhi, Wallace rocked when he challenged Trump's claim that we have the world's lowest mortality (or death) rate.

"Wallace wasn’t merely prepared with the facts—he knew how to deploy them," Farhi horrifically wrote. Making matters a million times worse, he also told us this:
FARHI AND ELLISON (7/23/20): Wallace’s encounter with Trump was recorded Friday and aired about 48 hours later. This gave Wallace and his producers time to insert context and fact checks into the interview. Wallace was able to note in a voice-over, for example, that the White House’s own figures didn’t support Trump’s assertions about the United States having “the lowest” covid fatality rate.
Wallace did insert that claim, but Trump proceeded to receive a document from Kayleigh and say it proved him right.

Each viewer could decide whose claim was more likely correct. No data were ever presented.

As it turns out, Wallace had two full days to prepare his fact-check, and that was the best he could do! All in all, it simply proves what we've said all along:

Facts play virtually no role in our discourse. Also, our highest-ranking journalists have almost no analytical skills.

As we've noted, Trump wasn't talking about "mortality rate" at all—or at least, he wasn't talking about mortality rate in the way the average viewer might understand the term.

Trump was actually talking about "case fatality rate," a rather arcane statistic which has little utility in the current general discussion.

As it turns out, we do have a relatively low "case fatality rate;" on the whole, that's only true because we have so many cases. Even there, we don't have the lowest "case fatality rate." But that statistic is largely useless in the current general context.

How good is our "mortality rate," if we understand that term in the way most people would? In the past few days, we've shown you data about total deaths to date—data which make the United States look like a charnel house as compared to countries like Germany, South Korea, Japan, Australia and Taiwan.

It's astounding to think that Wallace had two days to prepare a rebuttal and he showed viewers no such data. Meanwhile, for a second way of assessing this matter, consider Paul Krugman's new column.

As we've mentioned in the past, our current rates of daily deaths is much worse than the corresponding rate in such large European nations as Germany, Italy, France and Spain.

Today, Krugman compares the United States to Italy in terms of current daily deaths:
KRUGMAN (7/24/20): [Italy] was the first Western nation to experience a major wave of infections. Hospitals were overwhelmed; partly as a result, the initial death toll was terrible. Yet cases peaked after a few weeks and began a steep decline. And White House officials were seemingly confident that America would follow a similar track.

We didn’t. U.S. cases plateaued for a couple of months, then began rising rapidly. Death rates followed with a lag. At this point we can only look longingly at Italy’s success in containing the coronavirus: Restaurants and cafes are open, albeit with restrictions, much of normal life has resumed, yet Italy’s current death rate is less than a 10th of America’s. On a typical recent day, more than 800 Americans but only around a dozen Italians died from Covid-19.
As Krugman notes, after adjusting for population, Italy's current daily or weekly death rate is well less than one-tenth that of the United States. And that's just (initially hard-hit) Italy! France, Spain and Germany are all doing much better than that.

That's just four Euro nations. If look at other nations, Trump's claim is an ugly joke. Without adjusting for population, these are some of the current numbers of weekly deaths:
Deaths from coronavirus, previous week,
as of July 23:

United States: 5,771
Canada: 60
Italy: 85
Germany: 23
Spain: 13
France: 52
Japan: 5
South Korea: 6
Taiwan: 0
Australia: 17
What the hell! Denmark 1, New Zealand 0! It looks like World Cup soccer!

We haven't adjusted for population, and none of those countries is as large as the United States. (By population, Germany is almost exactly one-fourth our size. Japan's a bit more than one-third.)

We haven't adjusted for population. But using this metric, you don't have to adjust for population to see how crazy Trump's claim was. His general claim came from the suburbs of Crazy Town, like so many things he says.

Does it look to you like we have the best "death rate" in the world? (Farhi uses the terms death rate/mortality rate interchangeably.) It's astounding that Wallace, given two days, didn't present data like these when he "fact-checked" the commissar's latest ludicrous claim.

Wallace barely "fact-checked" Trump's claim at all; Farhi thinks he did great. We'll remind you again of two basic points:

Information plays almost no role in our discourse. Also, our major journalists possess almost no analytical skills at all.

SKILL V. STORYLINE: Allan George was shot in the back and killed!

FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2020

Why do you think you weren't told?:
In August of last year—we're talking about August 2019—a man who was fleeing from police was shot several times in the back.

He was shot in the back and killed. If memory serves (plus a Google search), we'd never heard about this shooting death until this very day.

This very morning, eleven months later, the New York Times has published a full-length report about this Colorado shooting death. The paper did so because a federal lawsuit has been filed, a lawsuit which could affect future conduct by police officers nationwide.

That said, a fleeing man was shot in the back, and killed, by a police officer in Colorado. You've never heard about this event, but today's report starts like this:
CRAMER (7/24/20): In August 2019, a man stood on a highway bridge over the Colorado River in Rifle, Colo., and pointed a gun to his chest as two police officers urged him not to kill himself.

“No! Go away,” said the man, Allan George,
a 58-year-old construction worker who was wanted for possession of child pornography. He stuffed the gun in his pocket and scratched his head. Then he began to run slowly down the shoulder of the busy highway.

What happened next was captured, as with so many recent fatal encounters with the police, by a bystander’s cellphone.

One of the officers took aim at Mr. George as he ran and shot him twice in the back, killing him.
The man who was shot and killed that day was wanted on suspicion of having committed an unseemly crime.

That said, the late Rayshard Brooks was being arrested on a DUI in Atlanta last month. He assaulted an officer, stole his Taser and attempted to fire it at a second officer when he was shot and killed.

His death was covered nationwide, as is completely appropriate.

If we're reading today's report correctly, a Colorado police officer "took aim at Mr. George as he ran and shot him twice in the back." If we're reading that report correctly, a bystander even produced a videotape of the event!

That said, prior to this morning's report, we can find no sign that the New York Times had ever reported or mentioned this event.

Should the New York Times have reported the shooting death of Allan George? Not necessarily, no.

That said, we've been discussing a certain type of disproportion in the press corps' treatment of such events. Last year's shooting death of George does seem to fit into that pattern.

Briefly, might we talk?

When "journalists" massively cover one set of events, but wholly ignore other events which seem to be quite similar, certain types of misperception may possibly result.

At least in theory, it's fairly easy to be misled by press coverage of this type, which might be described as "selective." Conceivably, such misperceptions may generate a type of fear among adults and children alike.

We may end up with a 7-year-old who's "terrified" by what he's been told and wants to leave the country. That said, who cares about 7-year-old children like that when Storyline—and the need to advance Storyline—create a rolling stampede in the "press?"

We expect to be discussing this topic over the next several weeks. This week, we've suggested that we open our hymnals to an instructive Q-and-A which occurred last week.

The question was asked by Catherine Herridge, a good and decent person who's also a thoroughly competent journalist. The answer came from our reigning commander-in-chief, who actually made an accurate statement in his response to Herridge.

For one of the first times in history, Donald J. Trump made an accurate statement! His exchange with Herridge, which was highly instructive, went exactly like this:
HERRIDGE (7/14/20): Let's talk about George Floyd. You said George Floyd's death was a terrible thing.

TRUMP: Terrible.

HERRIDGE: Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?

TRUMP: And so are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people.
According to Trump, Herridge had asked a terrible question. For reasons which strike us as blindingly obvious, we'd call her question "peculiar."

That said, Trump actually made an accurate statement in his response to Herridge! More "white" people are killed by police every year. About twice as many, in fact!

It's very rare to see Donald J. Trump make an accurate statement. That said, it's very common to see major journalists work from Storyline in the way Herridge seemed to do in asking that rather odd question.

Beyond that, it's very common to see major news orgs fail to cover incidents in which whites and Hispanics and other such people are shot in the back by police officers. In which whites and Hispanics and other such people are killed in no-knock raids.

It's very common to see major news orgs fail to report such events. This behavior may lead to large misperceptions on the part of very young children, especially if such children are "black."

That said, let's be fair! As we've told you year after year, it's abundantly clear that our major news orgs don't give a flying fark about the lives and the interests of such children—of American kids who are "black."

If 7-year-old kids end up terrified, why would these journalists care?

We've suggested that a type of disproportion exists in the reporting of police shooting deaths. This disproportionate coverage may well lead to vast misperceptions, and beyond that to anger, despair.

On the other hand, we can also tell you this. In the past few weeks, we've reported statements in which two major figures have seemed to challenge this type of press coverage.

As we noted on Wednesday, Reverend Sharpton seemed to suggest that it's a problem when anyone gets shot and killed by police in a way which can't be justified. And, as you may recall, Jelani Cobb even said this:
COBB (6/10/20): One other point that I have been making a lot, I have been making all the time, is that one of the reasons that this problem has been allowed to persist is that people have the perception that this is a black and brown problem.

if you were to discard all of the incidents involving black and brown people, what you would find is, there are a heck of a lot of white people, unarmed white people, who are killed by police each year.

We have a fundamental problem with policing in this country
, whose most extreme violent forms are witnessed in how we see black and brown people treated by law enforcement.
To review Professor Cobb's fuller statement, you can just click here.

Speaking to Ari Melber, Cobb seemed to suggest that it actually matters when others get shot and killed. Last Friday, speaking to Ali Velshi, Sharpton explicitly said that!

We think those statements are well worth considering. We'll consider them further next week.

It seems to us that Herridge was working from Storyline when she posed that question to Trump. Before moving on to a different topic, she offered only one follow-up question. That second Q-and-A went like this:
HERRIDGE (continuing from above): What will you do to heal the divisions in this country, the racial divisions?

TRUMP: Blah blah blah blah blah.
In the two exchanges we've posted, Herridge offered extremely perfunctory questioning about the nation's "racial division." If we were a CBS supervisor, we'd tell all our reporters that they should work much harder when they try to explore such an important topic.

Herridge was running on Storyline, but so is the bulk of the press corps. She only inquired about one type of death, but that's how upper-end news orgs have played it over the past eight years.

Some of their work has been truly heinous. Much work has been little better.

That said:

We've spoken about a disproportion in the way shooting deaths at the hands of police get covered by our upper-end press corps. Others may disagree with our general assessments.

After Donald Trump made his accurate statement, angry "progressives" rushed into print. They tended to focus on a different type of disproportion.

One such rebuttal appeared at New York magazine. This response to Trump came from Matt Stieb. You can peruse it here.

Stieb made a set of accurate statements, going beyond what Trump said. To our ear, the tone of his rebuttal did seem a bit odd. We'll explore what he said next week.

Donald Trump made an accurate statement, but he hadn't made every accurate statement. Starting with a peculiar headline, Stieb's post may have seemed to suggest that Storyline does have to conquer. Beyond that impulse lies sanitization—the reinvention of basic facts in service to tribal imperatives.

In closing today, we'll ask you to wonder about a few of the names you have never heard. Let's ignore the late Allan George. Let's forget about the late Dennis Wayne Tuttle and Rhogena Ann Nicholas, who were shot and killed in a bungled "no-kncok" raid in Houston last year.

Instead, let's return to a name we mentioned on Wednesday:

Two months ago, in San Diego, an unarmed man named Nicholas Bils was shot in the back and killed. He was shot and killed while fleeing police, but you haven't heard a word about it.

You haven't heard a word about it. Why do you think that is?

Next week: A culture of sanitization