SATURDAY, APRIL 17, 2021
It's time for (Chris) Cuomo to go: As we noted yesterday, Dr. King believed in what he called "the love ethic of Jesus."
He discussed that "love ethic" in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, his memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott. The book was published when Dr. King was 27 years old.
For ourselves, we don't hold any any religious or cosmological beliefs. In that way, we differ from Dr. King. That said, we'll sign on to the "love ethic" he described in that early, astonishing book.
We mention Dr. King's love ethic because we were so appalled by Chris Cuomo's opening monologue last night. In our view, it's long past time for (Chris) Cuomo to go, but that doesn't mean that he isn't part of the beloved community.
As we watched his monologue in real time, we could hardly believe what Cuomo seemed to be saying. In fairness, his delivery has become so mannered, so heavily dramatized, that it's sometimes extremely hard to feel sure about what's being said.
After rewatching the tape, we think we were right about what he seemed to be saying. It doesn't seem to make much sense, but we think we know what it was.
What was Cuomo saying last night? He seemed to be saying that "white" people will only care about (fatal) police shootings when it's white kids who are getting fatally shot.
Is that really what he was saying? We'll report and let you decide! After correcting some errors in the transcript, the passage in question starts like this:
CUOMO (4/16/21): George Floyd, Daunte Wright? I wonder if you'll remember their names, six months from today, because there'll be replaced by so many others.
You're here, people. What are you going to do when you see these shootings? You know what you're going to do:
[Leaning in, speaking suggestively]
"That George Floyd, did you hear about him? That Daunte Wright, did you hear about him? That 13-year-old Adam, you know he was a gangbanger?"
Why do that? Because you want to make the problem "Them." It takes the onus off the idea that you're wrong about policing not needing to change.
Forget that police are trained to deal with non-compliance, with force that is not lethal.
[Leaning in, speaking suggestively]
"Hey, comply or die, you know what I mean?"
Cuomo's dramatic skills are much less advanced that he seems to think. At any rate, he seemed to be saying that his "white" viewers don't care about fatal incidents involving police if the people who end up dead are "black."
He seemed to be saying that white viewers will "criminalize" those decedents as a way of explaining the problem away—will thereby dismiss this state of affairs as something which happens to "Them."
As Cuomo continued, so did the lack of clarity inherent to his dramatized style. But despite the muddle, it seems to us that his point became more clear.
Displaying impressive clairvoyance, Cuomo proceeded to explain what his white viewers "know." He also explained what such people feel.
He seemed to say that "white" people will only care about this state of affairs when it's white kids who are getting shot and killed. It seems to us that this claim emerges from this muddle:
CUOMO (continuing directly): And you know what the answer is. You really do. You don't like it. I don't like. It scares me.
Shootings? Gun laws, access to weapons? Oh, I know when they'll change:
Your kids start getting killed. White people's kids start getting killed. Smoking that doobie that's actually legal, probably in your state now, but they don't know what it was, and then the kid runs, and then "Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!"
Cop was justified. "Why'd you run?" "Oh, he had a baseball game tonight." Oh?
White kid? Big family, that house over there? Those start piling up?
"What is going on with these police? Oh, what? Maybe we shouldn't even have police!"
That kind of mania, that kind of madness? That'll be you! That'll be the majority, because it's your people.
At any given moment, it was hard to tell what this big sack of air was actually trying to say.
If CNN was a real news org—rather plainly, it isn't—someone would insist that Cuomo express himself with less drama and with a lot more clarity. On balance, though, it seems fairly clear that he was saying this:
White people will only care about fatal police shootings when it's white kids who are getting shot and killed.
That seems to be what this big bag of wind was saying. This made us think about one of the most recent fatal shootings.
One of the most recent fatal shootings:
The report appeared in Thursday's Washington Post. That's Thursday, April 15—Thursday of this week.
The report appeared on page B8—the back page of the Metro section. In print editions, the headline said this:
Family 'shattered' after police shooting of teen
The teen in question was 16 years old. You haven't heard a word about this fatal shooting, and you never will.
The report appeared below the fold on page B8, beneath the day's voluminous weather reports. It shared the bottom half of the page with a longer news report about two tigers at the Norfolk, Va. zoo who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
(The dead teen got two columns, the infected tigers got four.)
You haven't heard about this fatal shooting, nor are we even saying that you should. That said, the teen in question had been wielding a toy gun, and his family says they're shattered.
Katie Mettler's news report started off like this:
METTLER (4/15/21): A day after their son was shot and killed by a Maryland state trooper, the parents of 16-year-old Peyton Alexander Ham said in a statement that their family is “absolutely heartbroken and shattered over this sudden, unexpected loss of life of a talented young man, filled with promise.”
Ham’s parents said the teen was “smart, gifted” and “sweet” with an “ ‘Alex P. Keaton’ type personality.”
“His love of conservative politics [was] always taking center stage to his lively debates at the family dinner table,” his family said.
Few additional details have emerged about the interaction between Ham and police that led to his death Tuesday afternoon in the Leonardtown area of St. Mary’s County, where the teen lived with his family. The name of the trooper who fatally shot Ham has not been released, but state police said he was assigned to the Leonardtown Barrack and had been a Maryland state trooper for two years and seven months.
You haven't heard about this fatal shooting, and you never will. Few details have emerged, and no one is going to give a rat's ascot if they never do.
Should you hear about this shooting? That is a matter of judgment. At first glance, it sounds like the unnamed state trooper may have had reason to shoot this teen, even though the teen was armed with a pair of toy weapons.
Toy weapons of this type look exactly like real weapons. Visually, there's no way to know that the apparent weapons aren't real.
It may be that the state trooper behaved in an appropriate way. At any rate, no one is going to discuss the ongoing probe of this case, and no one is going to care.
The reason for that is reasonably obvious. The teen who was shot and killed in this case is "white." And as part of the crackpot journalism Cuomo was performing last night, our upper-end press corps leans extremely heavily on (some) such incidents when the decedent is "black," but almost never reports or discusses such incidents where the decedent is "white" (or even Hispanic or Muslim).
That's a lunatic way to do journalism, but it's plainly where we are.
The fatal shooting of Tamir Rice also involved a fully realistic toy gun. In part for that reason, we were curious as we read about this recent case.
How many fatal shootings by police officers involve decedents with toy weapons? As we've done in the past, we checked it out.
The Washington Post's Fatal Force site lists "armed with toy weapons" as a distinct category. So far this year, the Post's site says, police officers across the nation have fatally shot six people who were wielding toy weapons.
This new case will make it seven. Of the seven decedents, six have been "white." The race / ethnicity of one decedent remains "unknown." (See "Discourse on method" below.)
You haven't heard about those seven fatal shootings. We aren't even saying you should have! But on what planet was Cuomo living when he assembled last night's monologue? Or when he received his text from staff and decided it made good sense?
Plenty of people who are "white" are, in fact, fatally shot by police. (That has always been true.) That includes the 16-year-old decedent in Leonardtown, Maryland, whose family says they're shattered, concerning which nobody cares or even pretends to care.
Now for a pair of basic points:
"White" kids already do get shot and killed by police. But as part of a cultural decision which is virtually insane, our national news orgs only discuss such incidents when the decedent is "black."
(Journalism by the Washington Post has made this point quite clear. In two cases in recent years, the Post has tried to focus attention on a a pair of fatal incidents which involved fairly obvious police misconduct. In one case, the victim was white; in the other case, the victim was Muslim. The Post tried and tried to create national interest in these cases. The Post tried very hard, and it failed.)
In a decision which is virtually insane, our national news orgs only discuss such incidents when the decedent is "black." Also this:
When our news orgs discuss those incidents, they routinely falsify information. They disappear certain types of facts; they invent or embellish others. This has been an astoundingly regular practice over the past ten years. It's who and what we are.
As journalism, this behavior qualifies as stone-cold crazy. (It can be regarded as prehuman, or as "human all too human.") On the societal level, this astounding journalistic behavior serves to create a dangerous, punishing array of misconceptions.
Meanwhile, there was Cuomo, just last night, pontificating from somewhere in La La Land. He seemed to say that "white" people will only care about fatal shootings when "white" kids start getting shot and killed by police.
On what meat did this cable news Caesar feed when he assembled these latest remarks?
We refer to Cuomo as a clown for the obvious reason. Last year, he and his brother staged a series of clown car performances on his prime time TV program.
If CNN was a serious news org, these clown shows would never have been permitted. The lunacy of this behavior only became more apparent as we all finally learned about the way Chris Cuomo's brother was deceiving us rubes in Our Town about the heroic way he handled the Covid crisis.
The lunacy of our upper-end press corps has been on display for decades. Al Gore said he invented the Internet? That was one part of the deal.
The lunacy has been on full display—but in Our Town, we've been completely unable to see it. As with Big Lies, so too with Big Dysfunctions:
The more enormous the dysfunction is, the harder it may be to see it.
Our species was never "the rational animal," despondent top experts have said. Meanwhile, our nation is sliding toward the sea based in part on the kind of very strange work Cuomo uncorked last night.
We don't see an easy way out of this mess. More on the topic next week.
As for Cuomo (and his producers), we'd have to say it's time for them to go. That doesn't mean they aren't part of Dr. King's beloved community. It simply means that they've earned their way out of their current roles.
Needless to say, absolutely nothing is going to change. This is who and what we are. As Caesar once so thoughtfully said, Alia jacta est.