TRUTH AND TOWN: Are we being asked to handle the truth?


Three ways to be misled: Is it possible? Is it possible that Our Town is facing a "coming liberal crackup?"

Yesterday, Bret Stephens predicted that very thing in his New York Times column. This morning, a news report from Portland, Oregon suggests the possibility that at least one of Our Towns is in peril.

Is this a case of Goodbye, Portland? Could Portland be cracking up?

BAKER (4/28/21): After the protests have concluded, sometimes in the early morning hours, Margaret Carter finds herself climbing into her gray Toyota Camry and cruising the streets of Portland so she can see the latest damage for herself.

Ms. Carter, 85, has been downtown to the Oregon Historical Society, where demonstrators have twice smashed out the windows, recently scrawling “No More History” on the side of the building. She has driven past the local headquarters of the Democratic Party, where windows have also been shattered. Last week, she found herself at the Boys & Girls Club in her own neighborhood, nearing tears at the scene of costly window destruction at a place she has worked so hard to support.

“Portland was a beautiful city,” said Ms. Carter, who was the first Black woman elected to the Oregon Legislative Assembly and is now retired. “Now you walk around and see all the graffiti, buildings being boarded up. I get sick to my stomach. And I get angry.”

After almost a year of near-continuous protests since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Portland’s city leaders are signaling that it may be time for a more aggressive crackdown on the most strident street actions.

The report continues from there. Meanwhile, this second report in Today's New York Times describes the ways Iowa was lost. 

Is Portland, Oregon cracking up? Could Oregon one day be lost?

We can't answer your sensible question. We can tell you this:

Last year, during the Portland protests, we got the strong impression that major news orgs in Our Town were perhaps withholding news of the ongoing damage being down by the "Defund the policc" crowd. 

Rather, by the element in Our Town who were simply unable to hear how dumb that slogan was as a political watchword.

The AP did a report on the ongoing damage, and the ongoing violence, during the Portland protests. As we noted at the time, it seemed to us that newspapers like the New York Times might be glossing, or perhaps disappearing, some of the relevant facts.

Today, the Times seems to be saying that Portland could be in trouble. So, we'll suggest, is Our Town as a whole.

This relates to some of the ways we haven't been able to handle the truth.  Consider three ways we've been shielded from the truth about certain events in Our Town.

Start with this puzzling front-page report in the April 18 New York Times. It was a Sunday front-page report. Online, the report appears beneath this pleasing headline:

Throughout Trial Over George Floyd’s Death, Killings by Police Mount

Even during the Chauvin trial, killings by police officers had continued to "mount!"

"Mount" is a somewhat slippery term, but as Storyline, that was pleasing!  That said, the front-page report soon offered this nugget—but does this make any real sense?

ELIGON AND HUBLER (4/18/21): The [Chauvin] trial has forced a traumatized country to relive the gruesome death of Mr. Floyd beneath Mr. Chauvin’s knee. But even as Americans continue to process that case—and anxiously wait for a verdict—new cases of people killed by the police mount unabated.

Since testimony began on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. As of Saturday, the average was more than three killings a day.

The deaths, culled by The New York Times from gun violence databases, news media accounts and law enforcement releases, offer a snapshot of policing in America in this moment...

Forgive us if we lack total confidence in the way the New York Times managed to "cull" those deaths. We especially refer to the assessment concerning the race and ethnicity of the decedents. 

In the short term, it's often hard to make such assessments from the types of sources cited in that passage. But the strangest part of that passage is this:

The reporters seemed to be surprised by a thoroughly unsurprising fact. The reporters seemed to be surprised by the fact that the average number of deaths at the hands of police officers had been "more than three per day" over the prior several weeks, as the Chauvin trial proceeded.

Why would that have been surprising? Over the previous six-plus years, almost three people per day had lost their lives in fatal shooting encounters with police officers.

The Times was now counting all deaths, not just deaths by gunshot. And yet, the reporters seemed surprised to think that number could be as high as "more than three a day."

Almost surely, that front-page report gave some readers the impression that the rate of killings by police were actually increasing at the present time. 

Technically, that claim was never made. On a purely technical basis, it's never even implied. 

But starting with the slippery term "mount," that impression might have been conveyed, especially since the reporters seemed surprised by a fact which wasn't even slightly surprising.

Can we handle the truth in Our Town? We probably could if asked.

That said, this news report may have helped us gain a false but pleasing impression. That impression would be pleasing because it fits current Storyline, in which Our Town is now deeply involved in a certain portrait of police.

In fact, there have been almost three fatal shooting by police officers on a daily basis dating back through 2015! That would be fatal shooting deaths, not total deaths at the hands of police. But the basic facts about those deaths are fairly easy to recite:

According to the Washington Post's Fatal Force site, there have been almost three such deaths per day over the past six-plus years. Also this:

Among the deaths for which the race or ethnicity of the decedent could be determined, 45.1% of those decedents were black or Hispanic. Just over 50% were white.

Those facts are easy to state. Instead of presenting some such established data, the Times went with its own uncheckable survey of (all) recent deaths. 

Its reporters seemed surprised that the number could be (slightly) more than three per day.  They may have given the impression that the number of killings was increasing, thus tickling preferred Storyline.

Can we handle the truth in Our Town? Over the course of the past six years, we have rarely been asked to. The Times hasn't spent much time on such basic facts as these.

That is one of the ways we're kept from being exposed to the truth! Another way appeared in this news report about the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, in which Our Town was told this:

BOGEL-BURROUGHS (4/23/21): Mr. Wright was killed during a traffic stop for an expired registration, during which a police officer also noted the air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror as an additional violation. His death, during the Chauvin trial, set off a wave of protests in Brooklyn Center that lasted for more than a week.

“You thought he was just some kid with an air freshener,” Mr. Sharpton said. “He was a prince, and all of Minneapolis has stopped today to honor the prince of Brooklyn Center.”

We're sorry, but no. The late Daunte Wright wasn't being arrested for an expired registration or for some misplaced fresheners. 

He also wasn't being arrested on a marijuana charge, as Our Town was told by Yamiche Alcindor as Brian Williams sardonically slept on.

The New York Times is shocked to see the police killings "mount." Also, and astoundingly, the New York Times isn't going to tell you why Wright was being arrested. 

This is all part of the way we aren't being asked to handle the truth. Additionally, there's this:

Three people get shot and killed per day. It's easy enough to say that. Also, it's easy enough to report the "racial" / ethnic breakdown of the decedents, as it seems to exist.

It's easy enough to do those things, but the big news orgs in Our Town don't seem to be so inclined. As a general matter, they discuss only one kind of shooting death at the hands of police. 

In this way, they convey the impression that only one type of person gets killed. They then play tape of a woman in Columbus who's literally saying, No one gets killed but us.

(That was CNN.)

This is astoundingly bad journalism, but at present, it's great Storyline. And it generates corporate profits! Huge salaries must get paid!

Can Our Town handle the truth? We the rubes almost surely could, but will our news orgs ever permit it?

Also this: 

Could we possibly face a liberal crackup as these modes of deception roll on? With Iowa apparently gone, could Oregon ever be next?

Tomorrow: The Times "reports" a death


  1. "Is it possible that Our Town is facing a "coming liberal crackup?""

    Why, your cult certainly cracks us up, dear Bob.

    ...and yes, dear Bob, your own heartfelt (and, we're sorry to say, conspicuously idiotic) racialist calculation included...

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  2. This might shed some light on what has been happening in Portland:

  3. "We're sorry, but no. The late Daunte Wright wasn't being arrested for an expired registration or for some misplaced fresheners. "

    The quoted Bogel-Burroughs report doesn't say that Wright was arrested for an expired registration or air freshener. It says he was STOPPED for those reasons. He was then arrested due to a warrant issued for a missed court date (his public defender says they were never informed of that appearance date).

    Somerby continues to lie about this in order to make the press appear worse than it is.

  4. Somerby counts the number of police shooting deaths in the same manner as he counts covid deaths. As numbers to be manipulated, not representing people no longer part of this world. He seems to be fine with those numbers, as long as they aren't actually increasing in rate. They are certainly mounting because very death adds to the cumulative total. We care about that total, not the rate, because we realize that these are human beings who are gone, leaving grieving family and friends. Somerby's unwilling to see these shooting victims as actual human beings is the most glaring part of his daily diatribes against the press.

  5. Somerby is more concerned about broken windows than he is about white supremacism and income inequality in Portland? Those are some messed up priorities, in my opinion.

  6. This reminds me of the days when they used to show pictures of the hippies in Haight-Ashbury and tell us that the entire younger generation was going straight to hell.

  7. Try this one:

    The crackdown by police and federal agents hasn't stopped the conflict in Portland because such measures tend to escalate rather than suppress protests. Just as the police shootings require a reevaluation of police tactics, so does the continuing violence in Portland.

    Somerby clearly blames the protesters, much as he blames the victims of police shootings. He fails to acknowledge that police methods are not working well and clearly need to be changed. Instead of mocking the "defund the police" slogan, Somerby needs to focus on the need for change and engage the discussion of how to improve policing.

  8. Somerby has been talking about truth for the past several days, but it seems pretty doubtful that he knows what is true. And even if he did, what is the value of that truth without some plan to address the wrongs that these protesters are upset about?

    Changing the press is not going to change society. It will do nothing to address reality -- only the perception of reality presented to its consumers. Somerby talks about truth but wants to obscure that truth by modifying how it is talked about in the media.

    This is pretty much the definition of a propagandist -- someone who wants to manipulate people's access to the truth for their own ends. In this case, Somerby wants to protect the status quo and defend those who have been in power (Trump etc.) to conceal their crimes and looting of our country. Somerby never talks about change (as liberals do) or the greater good. He has never said anything about Biden's increasingly effective actions as president. He never addresses any issues, except to batter the media. But he has defended the innocence of Chauvin and the Trumptards, and lately defends white criminals (pity them for they are mentally ill). Whatever Somerby is about, he is clearly no liberal. He watches Fox, loves Tucker and has nothing good to say about any liberal, focusing special ire on those who are gay (Don Lemon, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper). Now he sheds fake tears over broken windows in Portland. Whatta guy!

  9. It doesn't matter whether black or white people are criminals or not. The police are not supposed to act as judge, jury and executioner by shooting people before they can have their day in court. That's why nobody asks whether the victims of police shootings are offenders or not.

  10. It matters how prisoners and suspects are treated by law enforcement:

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. This post is racist.

  13. Yastreblansky (Rectification of Names blog) has written an analysis of Brett Stephens' article that Somerby mentioned yesterday. He also addresses whether liberals are cracking up:

    Somerby can't say that Stephens is wrong, but Yastreblansky can -- and that is what makes Somerby considerably less than liberal, much less anti-racist.

  14. How many windows are broken during hurricanes and tornadoes, for no good reason? Can we not stand a few broken windows in the name of social change?

    I wouldn't advocate destruction of property, but how can anyone balance broken glass against the serious wrongs done to human beings as things stand now?

    In my experience, only conservatives care more about property than about people. And Somerby, of course.

    1. @2:19 PM - you have made the implicit assumption that breaking windows and other acts of destruction lead to the better treatment of human beings. This assumption is false.

    2. "Can we not stand a few broken windows in the name of social change?"

      @ Anon 2:19, please inform us of what we should be destroying to get social change, I'd really like to help. I'd gladly break the windows of your house for a good cause. Can you tell us who's in charge of this vandalism for social change plan of which you speak, and where can I get my instructions?

    3. David, there have been studies and protesting via demonstrations does work to achieve change.

      From my own experience, there was significant change in Los Angeles after the riots there.

    4. Gloucon, I suggest sticking to property destruction (of any type) and not harming any people physically. If I lived near a demonstration (e.g. Portland), I would board up my windows.

      The best way to get marching orders is via your local chapter of Boogaloo Bois or Proud Boys.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. At Corby: Not really. After 150 strait days of vandalism and violence, Portland OR reelected its major in Nov 2020 and rejected two anti-cop de-fund candidates.

    7. At Anon 2:49 PM, my BLM friends want to paint George Floyd's face on your front door. Is that OK? If not, you don't mind if they break your window, do you?

    8. If violence works, Portland OR should have defunded to zero cops by now!

    9. There is nothing at my house that cannot be repaired, unlike the injuries that victims sustain at the hands of the police.

    10. Once everyone sees your house in flames, they'll no longer call 911 when violent thugs threaten them, and cops will no longer defend themselves against the violent thugs that attack them and other citizens. Great plan!

    11. Do that. They tried it against MLK and look what happened.

    12. After Katrina, they treated the black and poor victims as if they had caused the flooding themselves.

      When you have peaceful protesters in the streets, they create a condition were rowdies can engage in property destruction without constraint and relatively anonymously. You persist in equating that with the movement itself, just as the right does. In Portland, the property damage was helped along by alt-right troublemakers, who are numerous in that area outside the immediate city (just as they are in other nominally blue states). It is difficult teasing apart where the property damage is coming from, but BLM is a peaceful movement, just as MLK's was. That doesn't mean that every follower will be peaceful too.

      When people become desperate and determined, such property damage becomes more likely, if only because of frustration in the face of opposition. Portland didn't handle the demonstrations properly. They applied militarized force and were accompanied by federal agents who kidnapped innocent bystanders off the streets. That increased tensions. The police and city administrators will eventually realize that the people in Portland mean business and they will start talking about how to improve the situation there.

      Your desire to take a hard line hasn't worked out very well. It seems to be the only approach conservatives know how to take. It makes it more likely that people will get hurt. You seem to think that property damage justifies hurting people. I strongly disagree with that.

    13. Soros-bots don't live in houses, dear dembot.

    14. Misbehavior by police against blacks is almost entirely a Democratic problem. That is, almost all of the worst offenses occur in cities long governed by Democrats.

    15. Voter suppression is entirely a problem for democratic representation. That is, all of the voter suppression happens in states governed by Republicans.

    16. Glaucon X is just saying cops will stop doing their jobs if we hold them accountable for their actions.
      Best add "Blackmail" to the RICO charges.

    17. David isn't even correct about all the shootings happening in Democratic cities. They happen all over the place, in large cities but also in smaller ones in the South and rural areas run by Republicans. This is a policing problem and there is no reason to assume that Democrats run poorly trained police forces or are more likely to tolerate bigoted officers or enforce bigoted policies and procedures. Bigotry is more of a Republican thing, although policing seems to attract people itching to abuse their authority.

      One way to check this would be to go through the Washington Post list of shootings and tally up how many Democratic versus Republican mayors there were. I am not going to waste my time doing that, since David is obviously just parroting a right-wing talking point, and we all know how the right lies through its teeth about everything.

  15. Throughout the year, the Year to Date number of police killings continues to mount. Of course, the number can't go down. (except that it re-starts at zero on Jan 1.)

    The media played a similar trick with the total number of covid cases. They found it newsworthy that the number continued to rise and never went down.

    1. The real news on covid is we had a President who thought he could gaslight it, like it was some common NY Times political reporter looking to be hoodwinked.

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