FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2021
Must dogma prevail every time?: A funny thing happened to DeVitta Briscoe's essay after it was published online by the Washington Post.
(In print editions, the essay was given a prominent placement in last Friday's Post.)
In theory, the essay concerned an extremely important topic—shooting deaths, justified and otherwise, at the hands of police officers.
That's an important topic! That said, the essay also concerned a key matter of dogma—an area within which almost anything goes in the streets of Our Town, and in our major news orgs.
Briscoe's essay concerned a deeply serious topic—police shooting deaths. More specifically, it concerned police shooting deaths in which the decedents are black and unarmed.
A person might think that such a serious topic would be treated with great care and great respect by upper-end mainstream journalists.
That might seem like an obvious thought. But a person who thought that would be wrong.
Starting in 2012, police shooting deaths have become a key point of dogma here in the streets of Our Town. In repetitive acts of performative virtue, reporting has been reworked and reshaped to fit the jealous demands of preferred Storyline.
If the facts don't comport with preferred Storyline, then it's time for the facts to go! In newspapers like the Washington Post, such performance has become common over the past nine years.
This era of performative journalism got its start in the New York Times' initial news report about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a fatal shooting which occurred in February 2012.
This initial news report in the Times included a gross misstatement of fact—an inflammatory, ugly misstatement which tracked to the legal team working on behalf of the Martin family. In the next few days, the New York Times backed away from its blatant factual error. But to this day, the newspaper's gross misstatement of fact remain uncorrected online.
A few days after the initial Times report appeared, the Orlando Sentinel—the local newspaper of record—wrote that this Times report had stirred nationwide anger about this shooting death. You might say that the Times' news report was the start of a journalistic era.
Below, you see the erroneous passage to which we refer:
ALVAREZ (3/17/12): As criticism of the police investigation mounts, so too do the calls for swift action in a case with heavy racial overtones. Protests grow larger each week, and lawyers for the family are now asking the Department of Justice to intervene...
The police in of Sanford, where the shooting took place, are not revealing details of the investigation. Late Friday night, after weeks of pressure, the police played the 911 calls in the case for the family and gave copies to the news media. On the recordings, one shot, an apparent warning or miss, is heard, followed by a voice begging or pleading, and a cry. A second shot is then heard, and the pleading stops.
“It is so clear that this was a 17-year-old boy pleading for his life, and someone shot him in cold blood,” said Natalie Jackson, one of the Martin family lawyers.
As would soon become quite clear, only one shot was fired that night. There was no possible warning shot, followed by what the Sentinel described as a "kill shot."
Only one shot was fired that night. But the New York Times' erroneous report had triggered nationwide anger and a nationwide Storyline:
The assailant had fired a warning shot, then he'd fired a kill shot. “It is so clear that this was a 17-year-old boy pleading for his life, and someone shot him in cold blood,” one member of the legal team had dramatically said, working from a blatant misstatement of fact.
We're sorry to have to tell you, but the same kind of conduct was involved when the Washington Post published last Friday's essay. Nine years later, we saw it take center stage again:
A press corps culture which runs on acts of performative virtue in service to preferred Storyline. A press corps culture which subjugates journalism to dogma.
We've described the basic, remarkable problem with Briscoe's essay. Today, we won't go through it again.
In our view, the problem here lies with the Washington Post, not with DeVitta Briscoe. The problem lies with the Post's repetitive acts of performative antiracism, part of a culture in which our upper-end mainstream journalists spit on the graves of the various people with whose lives they relentlessly toy.
For today, we will stress this one point—to appearances, Briscoe's grossly misleading essay had been shaped with great care. We say that for this reason:
It's abundantly clear that Briscoe's essay seems to turn on a basic assertion. The essay seems to turn on the (implied) claim that Briscoe's late brother, Che Taylor, was unarmed when he was shot and killed in February 2016.
It's abundantly clear that Briscoe's essay is shaped to convey that impression. But having said that, how odd! At no point is that claim explicitly made in the course of the essay. The impression is clearly conveyed, but it's never explicitly stated.
Quite plainly, it seems that Briscoe has made that claim. But she never explicitly does.
In various ways as slippery as this. the creatures who people our major news organs toy with the shape of the world. According to major anthropologists, they do so for these reasons:
They long to perform their great moral virtue, for readers and perhaps for themselves.
They long to show readers, and perhaps themselves, how deeply they care about matters of race. And so they play their ugly games, in which police officers will always have lied and in which the honored dead will always have been unarmed.
(CNN returned to this mandated Storyline this past Monday night, making an absurd factual claim as it did. See yesterday afternoon's report.)
Our news orgs will bow to this Storyline, in which the police will always have lied. Or in which the target of these creatures will be said to have fired two shots.
Online, you can still visit the New York Times news report from which we've posted that excerpt. One correction has been appended to that nine-year-old report. It corrects another error which tilted the field against the newly anointed target—against the man who was falsely said to have (heinously) fired two shots.
Within days, the Times had moved away from that factual error. Within days, its reports reflected the fact that only one shot had been fired.
But that initial misstatement has never been corrected. Even now, nine years later, that ugly claim from within the Crump/Jackson legal team still sits there, ugly and bold:
“It is so clear that this was a 17-year-old boy pleading for his life, and someone shot him in cold blood!" So said a member of the legal team, building her claim around a blatant misstatement of fact.
The New York Times reported that inaccurate fact, then quoted that ugly statement. Once again, we'll quote the late Woody Guthrie:
As through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men [sic].
Some rob you with a six-gun,
Some with a fountain pen.
Others rob you of understanding through rearrangement of facts. According to experts, they do so because they've never lifted a finger in support of racial justice in the entire course of their lives, and because they want to hide that fact from others and from themselves.
"That [they] would be good," they toy with facts and regurgitate Storyline.
This sort of thing is now quite standard within the Washington Post. One thinks of Michele Norris' column, in which a wildly inaccurate claim about These White Medical Students Today remains—what else?—uncorrected. News orgs seem to feel they have a right to promulgate Storyline at the expense of mere facts.
They tell you their stories, and they never look back. Experts say that this is the way our human brains are wired.
A funny thing happened to Briscoe's essay after it was published online. The very first commenters said that he had clicked her links and had noticed some possible problems.
You can go to comments and check it out for yourselves. Some of his comments seem relevant to us, some of his comments do not.
That said, he had actually clicked the links and thought about what he had found. Did any editor at the Washington Post click the link Briscoe supplied in support of the apparent claim that her late broher had been unarmed?
Dearest darlings, use your heads! Storyline hung in the balance!
We'll close with one last observation:
A funny thing happened to the Washington Post five years before it published last Friday's essay. The newspaper's own Fatal Force site listed Che Taylor's shooting death—and it listed Taylor as a decedent who had been armed with a gun.
Five years later, the floundering paper have given prominent display to an essay which plainly implied something different. If some editor had clicked the link Briscoe provided in support of her blatantly obvious insinuation, that editor would have found that Briscoe's "source" seems to contradict that Storyline-mandated claim.
So it goes as we the humans beat on against the current. This is now the way we now play in Our Town. This involves one political point:
This afternoon, we plan to discuss a news report from this morning's Washington Post. As far as we know, it's a thoroughly competent news report about Our Town's "woke" culture.
A prediction! Tucker Carlson will open tonight's program with that news report. The key political point would be this:
Every time we behave in these ways, we're creating new Trump voters.
Joe Biden has been sensational so far, but will he be able to sustain it? Could our national politics really be bending back in a progressive direction?
Could Biden turn into the new FDR? We offer these winged words of warning:
A trial will soon be underway in Minneapolis. If the jury rules the wrong way, the arson will start again.
Politically, we Democrats have gained from the Capitol riot. Serious disorder in Minneapolis could quickly replace that framework. But every time we clown in the way the Washington Post did with last Friday's essay, we are creating the voters which will keep us from attaining a sustainable working majority.
Guthrie ended his song as shown below. His words may have modern relevance:
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 your life you travel,
As through your life you roam,
You'll never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.
You'll never see an outlaw drive a family from their home? Most likely, that isn't true any more, but we can tell you this:
You will see lots of upper-end journalists drive voters to Donald J. Trump. On the bright side, these journalists get to display their admirable personal greatness—their (performative) antiracism.
They get to perform a vast personal virtue—a vast virtue which doesn't exist. They'll tell you how wonderful Oprah was. They'll let you know how much they care about their new heroes, Meghan and Harry.
(They won't say a word about our nation's low-income kids and the schools they attend. These darlings don't visit such towns.)
They'll tell you a target fired two shots. They'll tell you that Che was unarmed.
In their accounts, the police officers will always have lied, even when they actually didn't. They'll throw such people under the bus. It won't even occur to them that this is something they're doing as they toy with the facts of the world.
This is one of the places those much-maligned Trump voters come from! In Our Town, we bumble ahead, convinced of our own moral greatness and, of course, of our unrivaled brilliance.
We believe what we're fed in the Post and the Times! No one could ever fool us!
Coming this afternoon: A preview of Tucker Tonight