SATURDAY, JANUARY 2, 2021
Covid and execution: On December 20, Dr. Susan Moore, age 52, lost her life to Covid-19.
Did Dr. Moore receive inappropriate treatment during (the early part of) her first hospitalization for the disease? If so, did this inappropriate treatment result from racial bias on the part of doctors and nurses?
During her first hospital stay, Dr. Moore leveled these claims in a widely-discussed video posted to Facebook. She said that she was "adequately treated" after she lodged these complaints.
Eventually, Dr. Moore was released from this first hospital. but she was soon admitted to a second hospital. "A bit more than two weeks" after posting her video, Dr. Moore succumbed to this brutal disease.
Question: Was Dr. Moore inappropriately treated during the early part of her first hospital stay? At this site, we know of no way to assess her claims, which concern very important parts of American life.
At this site, we have no way of assessing her claims. Then again, or at least so it seems, neither does John Eligon, who wrote the news report about this matter for the New York Times.
Let us borrow from Michael Corleone. "If we've learned anything from history," we've learned that an assessment (a claim; an accusation) isn't necessarily accurate just because it's been made. We've also learned this:
We humans tend to credit an accusation if the accusation in question supports a preferred Storyline.
Dr. Moore lost her life to this terrible virus. But did she receive inappropriate treatment—more specifically, inadequate pain management—during the early part of her first hospital stay?
As best we can tell, Eligon had no way of assessing Dr. Moore's claim when he wrote that news report . But, assuming his work wasn't mangled by editors, it seems to us that Eligon had his thumbs all over the scales when he composed that report.
It seems to us that Eligon had his thumbs on the scale as he composed his report. (In our view, he even included a "link to nowhere," one you might want to search out.) But so it tends to go, we're told, when we humans deal with matters involving preferred Storyline.
The landscape has crawled with crazy claims from other towns in recent years. In those instances, preconceived notions about a so-called "deep state" have tended to drive widespread bizarre belief.
In this instance, it's entirely possible that Dr. Moore's specific claims were perfectly accurate. But it's also possible that they were not—and over here, in the streets of Our Town, we strongly tend toward instant belief concerning certain types of claims concerning gender and "race."
Were Dr. Moore's assessments accurate? We have no way of knowing. But over here, in the streets of Our Town, true belief can be extremely strong. Also, our journalists and academics aren't nearly as sharp as we're inclined to believe.
We just aren't super-sharp in Our Town! By now, almost everyone knows this—everyone but us.
To what extent can we put our faith in Our Town's journalists and professors? As we put an end to the year, let's recall Michele Norris' recent giant factual error—and let's revisit another member of the journalistic old guard.
By all accounts and to all appearances, Norris is a good, decent person. As an upper-end journalist, she's been a fairly obvious good, decent person for several decades now.
That said, in a column for the Washington Post, she recently made a giant factual error. Needless to say, her enormous factual howler concerned a matter of gender or race.
Nothing will turn on Norris' extremely large misstatement. It was simply the latest of a million such gender/race groaners from our upper-end mainstream press.
In the past few weeks, we've discussed the peculiar design of the original study from which Norris' howler eventually emerged. As you may recall, the howler in question went exactly like this:
NORRIS (12/10/20): We are not just tussling with historical wrongs. A recent study of White medical students found that half believed that Black patients had a higher tolerance for pain [than white patients] and were more likely to prescribe inadequate medical treatment as a result.
Half of the study's white medical students ascribed to that false belief (and were more likely to misprescribe treatment as a result)? Nothing dimly like that emerged in the study to which Norris refers. In fact, Norris' claim was crazily wrong. It was a giant howler.
If you want to see where Norris almost surely derived that false belief about all those white people, here is the secondary source to which she offered a link. Note the slippery writing in the text of her source. Also, note the wording in the Abstract, where the language is even more slippery.
To appearances, Norris glanced at that source and thought she saw a factual claim which fit a preconception. She didn't click through to the original study, to see what it actually said. She proceeded to look no further, and her "sleeping editors" proceeded to wave her mega-sized howler into print.
Even here in Our (self-impressed) Town, it can't be assumed that our journalists and academics are competent and/or obsessively honest. How bad can it get when they promote some preconceived Storyline?
How bad can it get? Consider what Mark Shields once said.
Like Norris, Shields is a good, decent, extremely high-ranking person. On the occasion of his recent retirement from the PBS NewsHour, letters in the New York Times praised him on this score.
(Headline: "Mark Shields Gave Us the Best of Commentary." Surely, sometimes he did!)
When we read those letters, we recalled what Shields had said on The NewsHour way back on June 23, 2000. (At that time, the Friday-night political segment was known as Shields and Gigot.) Shields' promulgation of Storyline went exactly like this:
Down in Texas, Governor Bush had just allowed a widely-disputed execution to proceed. Since the governor was running for president at the time, the incident had received a lot of attention.
The person who was executed had been represented in court by one of Texas' famous "sleeping lawyers." If memory serves, the part about the public defender being asleep in court was literally true in this case.
It still wasn't clear that the defendant, Gary Graham, was actually guilty of the crime for which he was now being executed. It was abundantly clear that he hadn't been competently defended.
(For the record, Texas attorney general John Cornyn had played an especially clownish role in the review of the case.)
At the time, support for capital punishment was still something like a third rail in American politics. Perhaps for that reason, Governor Bush hemmed and hawed and made no serious attempt to interfere with, or even discuss, the impending execution.
The matter received a lot of attention. On the Friday after the execution, Shields said that Bush's post-execution press event had been "the finest moment" of his year-old White House campaign.
Bush had worn a suit and tie when he spoke to the press, Shield said. Also, he'd adopted a serious manner, with no joking around. Shields spilled with praise for Candidate Bush in this thoroughly ludicrous manner. The next night, he offered the same appraisal on CNN's Capital Gang, an influential show at that time.
Why did Shields offer this weird, extended analysis? We can't tell you that! That said, the upper-end press corps was chasing Candidate Gore all around the countryside at this time. Rather clearly, he was being punished, by one and all, for being the chosen successor of the reviled Bill Clinton.
If we might borrow from Woody Guthrie, "every crime in Oklahoma was added to [Gore's] name." And when Candidate Bush squirmed his way through a gigantically flawed execution, Shields came forward tp praise him, in effusive terms, for wearing a coat and tie when journalists on the campaign beat pretended to ask him about it.
According to experts, this is the way we humans tend to function, even here in Our Town. Today, we're widely performing in similar ways with respect to various (important) matters concerning (important) issues of gender and race.
The others can see how phony we often seem to be. Here in Our Town, we cannot.
We offer one final thought:
Dr. Moore died much too young. That said, were her assessments accurate?
At present, we have no way of knowing. But if history has taught us anything, it has taught us that many assessments are not.
This includes assessments which are offered in total good faith. It even includes assessments made about matters of gender and race.
Starting next week: The new year