FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2021
And a clown shall lead them: Brian Williams opened last evening's show in the normal way.
He thanked the "three friends of the broadcast" who had agreed to serve as his opening pundit panel. Marketing / branding requirements satisfied, Brian threw to Yamiche Alcindor, one of his many friends.
Alcindor works for the PBS NewsHour. It's one of the most respected news orgs in Our Town.
Previously, she'd shot up the chain at the New York Times, Our Town's smartest newspaper.
After receiving some bathos from Paul Butler, Williams threw to Alcindor. Moving beyond the question she'd been asked, Alcindor proceeded to state her view of the shooting death of Daunte Wright.
Seriously though, folks! To our surprise and to our lack of surprise, this is what Alcindor said:
ALCINDOR (4/15/21): I have to tell you, I've talked to so many people who feel that this is just trauma on top of trauma, that—
You can imagine, of course, there's some who way, "Why run from the police? Why try to get away from them?" But there are people who are simply terrified of the police, for good reason in some ways, watching this video.
So the mother and family of Daunte Wright today said, Can you imagine what Dante was probably feeling as he had three officers surrounding him for what seemed like a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana, a business that people make money with all over the country? So I think there really needs to be a big conversation about that.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, a 20-year-old in a Buick that was a gift to him. Yamiche, you're so right.
"Yamiche, you're so right," the giant star said, immediately after she had issued her latest remarkable howler.
In a word, say what? Last Sunday, Daunte Wright was being arrested on the basis of "a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana?"
Just like that, the demon air fresheners had been brushed aside. The demon fresheners had been replaced by a minor marijuana infraction!
As Alcindor and Williams spoke, the analysts came out of their chairs. Even they had never heard this misstatement before!
(A brief aside: As far as we know, the Wright family made no claims yesterday about a marijuana warrant. To peruse the transcript of their press event, you can just click here.)
This morning, the analysts went to work fact-checking Alcindor's latest. As it turns out, the claim the NewsHour star advanced was so obscure that only one news org had previously fact-checked it—Agence France Presse (AFP), one of the world's major news orgs.
You can read the AFP Fact Check here. Below, you see the agency's bold-face summary of the bogus factual claim:
AFP FACT CHECK (4/15/21): Social media posts claim Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by police in Minnesota, was wanted for not paying a fine for marijuana possession. This is false; while there was a previous cannabis-related charge involving Wright, the warrant for his arrest was issued because he failed to appear in court over illegal possession of a weapon and fleeing the police.
Sad. The fact-check traces this inaccurate claim to a set of "social media posts" by unidentified people. Presumably, that's where Alcindor stumbled across, and decided to buy, the stupid, inaccurate claim.
"Yamiche, you're so right," her well-dressed host quickly said. In the process, he added some bathos to the melodrama being shoveled to us in Our Town.
Quickly, a key disclaimer:
Here at this site, we don't believe in "bad people." On balance, we don't believe that it's constructive to try to figure out who the good and the bad people are.
We do believe in terrible work. And it's good that we don't believe in bad people. Otherwise, it would be hard to avoid holding contempt for people like the well-dressed, wonderfully-coiffed TV star who served as Alcindor's host.
Just imagine! Last evening's program was the fourth program during which the shooting death of Daunte Wright was discussed on Williams' hour-long program.
That said, how does Williams perform his job? We ask you to understand this:
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, neither Williams nor anyone else ever reported the actual basis on which Wright was being arrested that day. No one reported that he was being arrested on a warrant related to the illegal possession of a gun and a previous flight from arrest.
Three straight nights had gone by; our spotless minds had been shielded from any such knowledge. (Over on Fox, viewers were being told.) . Instead, Williams had merely said, on two of those nights, that police had tried to arrest Wright on an "outstanding misdemeanor warrant."
That was technically accurate as far as it went, but it hadn't gone very far. Now, on his fourth night discussing this case, the well-dressed corporate TV star took things down several levels:
Alcindor gave a baldly inaccurate account of the basis for the attempted arrest. As she did, she almost seemed to recommend fleeing arrest—and in reply, the well-coiffed anchor could only offer this:
Yamiche, you're so right!
"Yamiche, you're so right!" That's what Brian said!
In fact, Yamiche was stunningly wrong in her statement. Meanwhile, her appalling misstatement was helping to drive an ugly storyline.
Why do we use the latter term? Because her claim was part of a swelling attempt to demonize police as a class on the basis of bogus claims; to try to get people thrown into jail on the basis of bogus claims; and in this case, even to seem to suggest that people like Wright should try to flee legitimate arrest.
It's hard to feel sufficient contempt for the conduct of someone like Williams in seconding such a misstatement. That said, to what extent are basic facts being withheld from the people who watch Williams' nightly program?
To what extent have the facts been withheld? Good God! Consider this:
This morning, we're going to link you to a report in the Washington Times!
Twenty years ago, the famously conservative newspaper was well-known and quite influential. Today, it's still a deeply conservative paper, but it plays almost no role in the discourse.
Today, the Washington Times is an afterthought; Alcindor and Williams are stars. But in this news report in the Washington Times, you get a detailed rundown of the legal issues confronting Wright Sunday afternoon as he drove around in the Buick which Williams so pointlessly cited.
There's at least one part of this background story we don't yet understand. We don't understand what happened to the initial part of the story described in this passage:
RICHARDSON (4/14/21): “A 26-year veteran of the force knows the difference between a Taser and a firearm,” said [Wright attorney Benjamin] Crump in a Wednesday statement. “Kim Potter executed Daunte for what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant.”
According to Hennepin County District Court documents, however, Mr. Wright had been charged with aggravated armed robbery, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.
His release on $100,000 bail was revoked July 30 over two violations: “Failure to not possess a firearm or ammunition” and “Failure to maintain contact with probation.”
The charging document said that Mr. Wright, then 19, went to a party in Osseo with a friend, Emajay Maurice Driver, after which they slept on the floor at the apartment of a female friend of Mr. Driver’s from high school. She said she had only met Mr. Wright that night.
In the morning, she received $820 in cash from another person for rent. She heard Mr. Wright tell his friend that they should “hit some stains,” which she said meant robbing someone, but she thought he was joking.
As they left the apartment, however, Mr. Wright turned around, blocked the door to stop her from exiting, then “pulled a black handgun with silver trim out from either his right waistband or his right coat pocket and pointed it at VICTIM and demanded the rent money.”
As they spread their bogus claim last night, Alcindor and Williams made the background situation sound remarkably minor. This enables a figure like Crump as he tells the public and the world that Kim Potter executed Daunte Wright—that she "executed" him for "what amounts to no more than a minor traffic infraction and a misdemeanor warrant.”
Crump's behavior is inexcusable. That said, the guilt-ridden posers who swarm in Our Town will pander to every word he emits. This dates all the way back to the Crump team's blatant misstatements about the Trayvon Martin case.
Our Town is performing quite poorly. Stars like Alcindor will go on TV and make bald misstatements about what occurred. Multimillionaires like Williams will sardonically second their claims.
We the people get dumbed way down in the process. The upper-end press corps' role in this gong-show dates back at least three decades.
Last night, a new element was added to this story. We refer to the videotape of the shooting death of Adam Toledo, age 13. More on that pitiful topic will come, but in closing for today, we'll report one more reaction.
We'll share the reaction we had to a relatively innocuous piece by Slate's Dan Kois.
Over at Slate, it fell to Kois to post the videotape of the Toledo shooting. He ended his very short piece on this mandated note:
KOIS (4/15/21): Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called for peace in the wake of the video release and said in a press conference that the video is “excruciating.” It is.
We don't know Dan Kois at all. But we don't believe a word he said, including the words "It is."
Sorry! We don't believe our mainstream pundits when they say how upset they are. We don't believe them because we've watched their work in this general area ever since we were in college.
We don't believe them because we read reports like this at New York magazine. What a monument to undisguised group indifference concerning the needs and the interests of low-income urban kids!
We don't believe that our pundits care. In substantial part, we don't believe them because they let a clown like Rachel Maddow sit at the very head of Our Town's clown parade.
We expect to go into an array of such matters next week. For today, we recommend this:
Just look at what Alcindor said. Please take a lesson—an anthropology lesson—from the astonishing claim she made, and from her host's reaction.
They disappear the facts they don't like. They invent quite a few others. This is the way our brains are wired, major top experts have said.
This is the way it's done in Our Town. Despite the ways we praise ourselves, you will almost never see a single word of complaint!
Spoiler alert: Williams should correct the record tonight. You already know he won't!