WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 2021
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?
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