THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2021
The Post's idea of evidence: Henry Reed wrote a famous antiwar poem during World War II.
The poem is called "Naming of Parts." As it starts, a bunch of World War II recruits are being taught the names of various parts of their guns.
"To-day we have naming of parts." That's how the poem begins.
At this site, on this very day, we're going to start with the naming of an obvious insinuation. The insinuation was published, with high visibility, in last Friday's Washington Post.
In an essay in last Friday's Post, DeVitta Briscoe made it seem that her brother, the late Che Taylor, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers. The fatal shooting occurred in February 2016.
Briscoe's insinuation—the insinuation that her brother was unarmed—would seem to be plain as day. Once again, this is the way her essay began, with a high-visibility placement in the Washington Post:
BRISCOE (3/5/21): I’ve gotten the worst call of a lifetime three times in my life. The first one came in 2001, when I was told that Himey—my best friend and the man I wish I’d married—had been shot and killed. The second came in 2010, when my son Donald—a great student who dreamed of being a film producer—had been fatally shot in the head. The most recent was in 2016, when Che—my big brother and protector—was shot seven times by police, handcuffed, and left to bleed out for six and a half minutes before aid was administered or paramedics arrived. When aid finally came, it was too late. Another person I loved, killed by a gun.
The aftermath of each of those shootings was remarkably similar: the pain, the loss, the stigma. And yet, there was one important difference: how justice was, or was not, done.
Himey and Donald’s killers were convicted and are in jail, paying their debt to society. Che’s killers can still be paid to protect and serve us, despite the fact that they shot him within nine seconds of approaching him, while he complied with orders, and then blamed it on him reaching for a gun in his waistband. There was no gun in his waistband.
"There was no gun in his waistband," Briscoe says. The insinuation is clear:
Briscoe seems to be saying that her brother was unarmed when he was shot and killed. Based upon clear insinuation, that made this yet another case in which police officers were allowed to stay on the job, even after they shot and killed an unarmed man.
As she continues, Briscoe seems to make her point more clear—or does she? As she continues, she explicitly uses the term "unarmed." She also mentions race:
BRISCOE (continuing directly): This is a familiar scenario in police killings. There were no murder or manslaughter charges when Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police while sleeping in her own bed. No charges when Stephon Clark was killed in his grandmother’s backyard for the crime of using his cellphone. No charges when police shot and killed Tamir Rice, a child playing with a toy gun. No charges when police shot and killed Marcus-David Peters while he had a mental health crisis. You ought to know the names by now, and if you do, you also know that there are many more.
The lack of charges in these cases wasn’t the only thing they had in common. All the victims were Black. All unarmed. All shot and killed by police officers. And all young—Breonna was the only one of them to make it to the age of 26. Tamir was just 12. If you add up all their lifetimes, they don’t even make it to 100.
In this passage, Briscoe names four people who were shot and killed by police in spite of being unarmed. Somewhat oddly, she never explicitly says that her own brother was unarmed.
Even so, we'd have to say that the insinuation is clear.
Tomorrow, we may offer a few points about the other cases Briscoe mentions. For today, we're going to show you what we found when we clicked Briscoe's links—when we clicked the links, or more accurately on the (one) link, that she and the Washington Post provided, apparently to support her account of her brother's death.
As we noted yesterday, the paragraph describing her brother's death is festooned with links. At three separate points, a link appears, apparently offering support of the claims she makes about that fatal shooting.
The passage offers three links. But all three links lead back to one source—a news report by KING5, a Seattle TV station.
In a rational world, that news report would offer evidence in support of Briscoe's extremely important claim. That said, did anyone at the Washington Post click those links and read that report? Because the news report to which Briscoe links tilts strongly the other way!
Let's be clear. That news report can't settle the question of what happened that day. But is that news report really the Post's idea of evidence in support of Briscoe's very important claim? Because the news report strongly suggest that Briscoe's brother was in fact armed that day, on the day he was shot and killed.
The news report to which the Post links describes the findings of an eight-member "inquest jury"—an inquest jury which had been assembled to investigate the facts in the matter of Che Taylor's death.
The assessments of those eight inquest jurors can't establish the ultimate truth about what happened that day. But good grief! Below, you see some of the inquest jury's "key decisions," as described by the KING5 report.
For clarity's sake, the names of the officers involved in this shooting are Miller and Spaulding:
KING5 (2/10/17): The majority of people serving on an inquest jury on Friday said they agreed two Seattle police officers felt their lives were in danger when they shot and killed convicted felon Che Taylor last February.
• Six jurors agreed [that Officer] Miller thought Taylor was trying to pull a gun from a holster on his right hip. Two said "unknown." All eight agreed [that Officer] Spaulding thought Taylor was trying to pull a gun.
• All eight jurors agreed a handgun was recovered from the front seat of the sedan Taylor was next to.
The assessments of these inquest jurors can't establish the ultimate truth of what happened that day. But good grief!
All eight jurors agreed that a handgun was recovered that day. The KING5 report also said this:
"Some of the jurors who spoke to reporters after the decisions were read said none of the jurors believed the gun was planted."
According to the report the Washington Post presented as evidence, all eight jurors believed that a handgun had been recovered. None of the jurors thought the gun had been planted.
The minute facts of what happened that day are too complex to present in a report of this length. But, as seen in the KING5 report, here are some other statements by these eight inquest jurors in response to the long list of questions they were asked to assess:
QUESTION: Did Officer Michael Spaulding think that Mr. Taylor was drawing a handgun from a holster on Mr. Taylor's right hip?
All eight jurors checked the box marked "yes."
QUESTION: At the time he fired his service weapon, did Officer Michael Spaulding think Che Taylor posed a threat of serious bodily injury to Officer Spaulding, Officer Miller or others?
Seven jurors answered "yes." One juror checked the box marked "unknown."
As you can see from the KING5 report, the inquest jurors were asked to respond to a long list of detailed, nuanced questions about what happened that day.
That said, nothing in this news report supports the idea that Che Taylor was unarmed when he was shot and killed And yet, this is the sole source the Washington Post provided in support of Briscoe's rather obvious insinuation—her insinuation that her brother was unarmed that day.
We've clicked a lot of links in our many years at this site—links designed to offer support for the claims in some news report or essay.
We've clicked a lot of links in our time! Sadly, a lot of funny things can happen when you click mainstream press corps links.
All too often, you'll find that you've clicked a "link to nowhere." That is, the link will take you to a source which offers no evidence, one way or the other, concerning the matter at hand.
At the New York Times, something else will sometimes happen, especially in reports about "segregation" in Gotham's public schools:
A reporter may offer a link in support of a certain dramatic claim. If you click the link, you'll find yourself taken to an earlier report in which the same reporter made the same unsupported claim!
In some cases, that seems to be the New York Times' idea of "supporting evidence!" But so it goes as we struggling humans continue to "beat on, boats against the current."
We frequently find that mainstream press corps links aren't worth the pixels they feed on. But we don't think we've ever seen a link as transparently phony as the one the Washington Post provided last Friday morning with respect a very serious claim in an essay given a prominent placement in its print editions.
What actually happened five years ago when Che Taylor was shot and killed? We weren't present at the scene. We can't tell you what happened.
We can tell you this:
Five years later, the Washington Post published an essay which plainly implied that two Seattle police officers shot and killed an unarmed man, apparently for no earthly reason (except perhaps his race). And good God:
Five years later, the best source the Post could provide in support of that very serious claim was that (informative) news report by KING5. Unfortunately, the KING5 report presented no evidence in support of that inflammatory if thoroughly standard claim. Indeed, the news report actually seems to contradict the inflammatory if thoroughly mandated modern-day mainstream claim.
Do the dogmas of Woke Belief constitute a new religion here in the streets of Our Town? We can't necessarily help you with that searching question.
But it's stunning to think that the Washington Post would publish Briscoe's very serious claim, then pretend that the claim could be supported by that KING5 report.
Question: Did anyone at the Washington Post actually click that link? Or has our faith in dogma become so strong that some editor simply knew that Briscoe's claim simply had to be accurate?
As we ponder the Post's behavior, we'll give you Woody Guthrie again:
As through this world I've wandered, I've seen lots of funny men.
Some rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.
As through the years we've trundled, we've seen lots of shaky links. That said, we don't think we've ever seen a link as blatantly phony as the one the Washington Post waved into print last week.
It's amazing to think that the Post did this. It's amazing, and yet no surprise.
Tomorrow: When misstatement becomes a town's norm