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.The man who was shot and killed that day was wanted on suspicion of having committed an unseemly crime.
“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.
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.According to Trump, Herridge had asked a terrible question. For reasons which strike us as blindingly obvious, we'd call her question "peculiar."
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.
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.To review Professor Cobb's fuller statement, you can just click here.
But 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.
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?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.
TRUMP: Blah blah blah blah blah.
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.
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