THURSDAY, APRIL 22, 2021
The Post (and the Times) in Columbus: "The wages of sin is death," we've been reliably told.
So too with the wages of segregation.
Late yesterday afternoon, in an award-winning report, we noted the way the New York Times has borrowed from Governor Wallace in the way it handles incidents in which people are shot and killed by police officers.
"Segregation, now, segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!" That's what Governor Wallace once famously said.
In its handling of fatal police shooting incidents, the Times has now made it plain that it follows that prescription. This morning, we learned that the Washington Post may perhaps seem to agree.
Consider two recent fatal shooting incidents. Also, consider the "separate and highly unequal" way the Post has decided to handle these incidents.
We refer to two recent incidents in which teen-agers were shot and killed by police officers. Consider the way the Washington Post has reported these incidents:
The first such shooting death occurred on April 13 in Leonardtown, Maryland—a small community about 50 miles from D.C.
In that incident, Peyton Ham, age 18, was shot and killed while in possession of a toy rifle and (apparently) an actual knife.
The Post reported the fatal shooting two days later. As we noted in this report, Karen Mettler's news report appeared on page B8—the back page of the newspaper's Metro section.
Mettler's report appeared below the fold on that page. The top half of the page was devoted to weather forecasts. In the bottom half of the page, the news report of the fatal shooting shared space with a longer news report—a longer report about two tigers at the Norfolk, Va. zoo.
That's the way the Washington Post decided to handle that fatal shooting incident. Today, the Post reports on a second such incident in Columbus, Ohio.
This second incident occurred on Tuesday afternoon. In this second incident, Ma’Khia Bryant,, age 16, was shot and killed, apparently while threatening a second teen-aged girl with a knife.
Two teen-agers were shot and killed. It is at this point that differences start to appear in the two incidents, but also in the way the Post chose to handle these incidents.
As noted, the Post chose to report the first incident below the fold on the back page of the newspaper's Metro section. You'll never hear a word about it, we reliably predicted.
In the case of this second incident, it's reported today on page A1. It's reported above the fold on the Washington Post's front page.
One fatal incident rated the bottom half of page B8. The other incident appears above the fold on A1.
That doesn't necessarily reflect bad judgment on the part of the Post. But while we're at it, consider a major way in which these two fatal incidents seem to have differed.
We'll start with the incident in Columbus. By all accounts, and according to bodycam video, it seems that Stewart, age 16, was about to stab a second person when she was fatally shot.
Compare that to the earlier incident. According to Mettler's report in the Post, Peyton Ham, age 18, was posing no direct threat to anyone at the time he was fatally shot:
METTLER (4/15/21): [S]tate police said that a trooper responded to Hollywood Road at about 1:30 p.m. after authorities received two 911 calls from a male caller who did not identify himself but said there was a “guy acting suspicious” who appeared to have a gun.
A trooper arrived in the area and confronted Ham in the driveway of a home in the 23000 block of Hollywood Road. Ham had what police said they later learned was “an airsoft gun that is a close representation of an actual handgun” and a knife. On Wednesday, state troopers released images of the airsoft gun and the knife.
A witness to the shooting told police that Ham was in a “shooting stance” in the driveway, according to authorities, and pointed the airsoft gun at the trooper, who fired at Ham and injured him.
A different witness told police that Ham then pulled out a knife and tried to get up, authorities said. Police said the trooper told Ham to drop his knife, then shot the teen again.
Paramedics were called to the scene and Ham was transported to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, where he died.
Based on that report, Ham had already been shot, and was apparently on the ground, when he was fatally shot. Based on that account, it seems that Ham was posing no immediate threat to anyone when he was fatally shot.
Let's compare and contrast! One of these teens was fatally shot when she was about to stab someone. The other teen was fatally shot while he (apparently) lay on the ground with no one nearby.
(In fairness, he still had the toy gun, which looked just like the real thing.)
On the surface, we note an obvious difference. But the report from Columbus is on A1, and the report from Leonardtown was relegated to the back page of Metro--and, exactly as we predicted, you've heard nothing whatever about it.
Rachel hasn't talked about it. Neither have Lawrence or Brian. Chris and Anderson and Don haven't mentioned it, and they never will.
The handling of these incidents recalls an especially egregious part of our American history. Two teenagers were shot and killed—but the reporting of these incidents has been "separate and highly unequal."
We're not even saying the Post was wrong to put Columbus on its front page. But the wages of segregation is death, and Our Town's upper-end cultural groups are all committed to that form of death at this particular time.
(Over on Fox, they aren't.)
Why did Stewart go to A1, while Ham was left to die on B8? The disparate placement reflects a major part of Our Town's remarkably stupid culture. Our Town is getting dumber and dumber, although we've never told this.
Once again, we're not even saying that the Post's news judgment today was wrong. But the wages of segregation is death, and this notable bit of disparate placement was accompanied, in the Post and the New York Times, by some remarkably stupid "reporting."
The wages of Stupid has always been death. Anthropologists say that we've wired this way. As we noted yesterday, Kevin Drum has also chipped in with thoughts about lost IQ points.
We'll hear about Columbus forever. Leonardtown? Never again!
Tomorrow: Amazingly stupid reporting