Does anyone here know anything other than storyline?: No one can sensibly blame Chris Hayes for what Michael Williams said.
Williams is president of the Memphis Police Association. Last Tuesday night, he appeared on All In during a special town hall program about urban policing.
Four big-city mayors appeared as Hayes' guests. Midway through, Williams was interviewed. As we noted yesterday, he made this wildly inaccurate presentation about fatal police shootings:
WILLIAMS (6/30/20): Police answered over 10 million calls last year. Out of those 10 million calls, I think you–the FBI said you had about 1,000-and-some individuals that were shot.That presentation was wildly inaccurate, but it went uncorrected that night. The basic problems are these:
Out of that 1,000 individuals, you had 400 that were armed–or unarmed. I believe you had 19 Caucasians that were shot and killed by the police last year. You only had nine African-Americans that were killed by the police last year.
Now, don't get me wrong. Anybody that's killed needlessly, that's wrong and it needs to be addressed. But at the same time, I think that we're definitely putting a lot of emphasis on the police when we have, in this city, 222 individuals were murdered in this city last year.
HAYES: Memphis Police Association president Michael Williams, in the city of Memphis. Thank you so much, sir. I appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
Number of people shot: Williams seemed to say that "about one thousand" people were shot by police officers last year. In fact, that's the approximate number of people who were shot and killed by police.People, can we talk? We know these things because we've puzzled over these numbers at substantial length.
Number who were unarmed: Williams seemed to say that about four hundred of those thousand people were unarmed. (Despite his initial stumble, it was fairly clear that that was what he meant.)
It's harder to settle this factual matter. The Washington Post's Fatal Force site says that, of the 999 people shot and killed by police last year, only 55 were unarmed.
The Post reaches that judgment because it counts Tasers, baseball bats, knives, shovels, crowbars and cars as weapons. The Post says that 599 of the 999 people shot and killed were actually "armed" with a gun, and that 55 of the 999 had no weapon at all.
Black and white people shot: Williams seemed to say that police shot and killed only 19 white people and nine black people last year. That claim would be crazily wrong.
Williams seems to have gotten those numbers, and other numbers, from the Fatal Force site. Until about a month ago, the Fatal Force site listed those as the numbers of unarmed white and black people shot and killed by police last year. For some reason, the numbers then changed to 25 white people and 15 black people. Today, the site lists the numbers as 25 and 14.
This is a very high-profile topic. We sometimes wonder if any "journalists" ever consult any such data at all, as opposed to treating the topic as storyline all the way down.
We're familiar with the data from the Post site. Listening to Hayes on Wednesday night, we wondered if he has ever spent any time perusing any such data at all.
Williams made his wildly inaccurate presentation on Tuesday, June 30. Hayes said nothing at the time, but he offered a somewhat puzzling correction of Williams the following night.
He also offered a peculiar correction of his own peculiar misstatement about coronavirus testing, a groaner from last Monday's program.
Does anyone here play this game at all? Last Wednesday night, Hayes started his two-part correction like this:
HAYES (7/1/20): Last night, we held a special town hall on cities, police and the movement for black lives.Some statistics he hadn't heard before?
One of our guests was the president of the Memphis Police Union, Michael Williams, who at one point began rattling off some statistics about police shootings in America I had not heard before.
In fact, Williams had rattled off some statistics which were crazily wrong. Anyone with any knowledge of this topic would have instantly known that.
At this point, Hayes made a journalistically strange decision; he played the videotape of Williams' misstatements all over again. Then, as he continued along, he made his own strange remarks:
HAYES: In the moment, those numbers struck me as implausibly low. But these data can be hard to find, so we tried to get Michael Williams to help us out, we tried to track him down.The numbers "struck him as implausibly low?" Does that mean he didn't know that they were crazily wrong?
We could not find them, which might not be surprising since the FBI database on police use of force, launched last year, which I think is what he was citing. has not yet publicly released any information.
Meanwhile, data about police shootings aren't "hard to find" at all! As Hayes continued, he seemed to reverse this peculiar claim, then provided some actual data:
HAYES (continuing directly): In fact, various media organizations, because the reporting's so bad on this, have had to build their own systems from scratch in light of the lacking public data.Those are the numbers which now appear at the Fatal Force site. According to that site, police shot and killed 25 unarmed white people and 14 unarmed black people last year.
Now one of the best of those databases, which is from the Washington Post, found that police shot and killed 14 unarmed black people last year and 25 unarmed white people.
From there, Hayes noted that some people die in encounters with police officers without being shot. Eventually, Hayes said this:
HAYES: The Washington Post database shows about one thousand people a year being shot and killed by the police, for example, a disproportionate number being black and Hispanic.Hayes didn't give the actual numbers. He merely said the numbers were "disproportionate."
You can't sensibly blame Chris Hayes because a guest on his program made a jumbled presentation which included some wildly inaccurate claims. You would assume that a major corporate-paid journalist would have known that the presentation was crazily wrong in real time.
That's especially true of a figure like Hayes, who was plainly intelligent and sophisticated coming in. Since then, it seems to us that he has increasingly become a captive of storyline.
At any rate, Hayes' statement on Wednesday night struck us as highly peculiar. It's hard to believe that he didn't know how far off-base Williams' claims had been. But he managed to put that thought in our heads with the things he said Wednesday night.
Last Monday night, Hayes had made his own peculiar misstatement about coronavirus testing in Oklahoma (for transcript, see yesterday's post). In this case, a statement made by Hayes himself made no apparent sense.
How could anyone seriously think that everyone tested in Oklahoma had tested positive for two consecutive days? It's like thinking a cow had jumped over the moon. But that's what Hayes had said.
After correcting what Williams had said, Hayes offered a correction for that strange howler too. For better or worse, we can't show you what he said because of the latest slacker conduct from his slacker "news channel."
All last week and all through this weekend, MSNBC left its programs untranscribed from last Tuesday on. Over the weekend, in an excess of caution, we ourselves transcribed what Hayes had said last Wednesday night about Williams. We planned to use the transcript they would eventually prepare for his self-correction.
As of yesterday, the slacker channel had finally posted some transcripts. Last Tuesday's transcript had always been there. Now, last Thursday's transcript was posted as well, but the slacker channel had skipped right over last Wednesday!
(Tape of the show is no longer available.)
This is the way these lazy, incompetent corporate lapdogs function. They've been this way for the past thirty years. Nothing is going to change this.
As Springsteen said, Take a good look around. This is your hometown.
Did Chris Hayes know that Williams' presentation was crazily wrong? And hpow on earth had he managed to claim that everyone tested in Oklahoma came up positive for two consecutive days?
Putting it a different way, does anyone on "cable news" know anything other than storyline? Is it really all narrative now? If the news just two warring novels?