FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2021
The way our species rolls: We were struck by an instructive throw-away line in this morning's Washington Post.
This highly instructive piece of interpretation appears in a news report about an unfortunate incident. In this unfortunate incident, eight nooses have been found, in recent weeks, on a Connecticut construction site.
According to the Post's report, "The company is offering a $100,000 reward for information that helps identify those responsible for the incidents, which investigators are treating as possible hate crimes."
The investigation is underway; the FBI and the Connecticut State Police are both involved. Meanwhile, a young reporter at the Post has offered this assessment:
TELFORD (5/28/21): Such incidents are not uncommon in the construction industry. In 2020, at least 20 known racist incidents were reported on North American construction sites, according to Construction Dive, which provides news and analysis of the industry. Some involved graffiti or verbal abuse, but nearly half involved nooses found at worksites from Toronto to Portland, Ore.
"Such incidents are not uncommon," the young reporter said. But according to that passage, there seem to have been eight or nine such incidents at construction sites last year, across the whole of North America.
Does that make these incidents common? By journalistic norms, the young reporter's highly subjective characterization should have been dropped from this news report by an experienced editor.
(Also this: Citizens of conservative towns are quickly told when such incidents turn out to be hoaxes. Here in Our Town, knowledge of such twists of fate will, by law, be withheld from our spotless minds.)
The young reporter injected a subjective assessment; it reinforced prevailing Storyline in Our Town. That said, the highly experienced Michael Gerson did something quite similar in an unfortunate part of his opinion column in this morning's Post.
So did the highly experienced Margaret Sullivan in her own column today. In our view, quite a few thumbs were on quite a few scales in this morning's Washington Post.
So it goes at times like these, experts persistently tell us. Unfortunately, we humans are really the tribal animal, these top anthropologists say.
Our brains are wired to push Storyline, these disconsolate experts all tell us. It's the unavoidable norm at times like these, credentialed scholars say.
(This is true all over the world, they add. They say it's part of prevailing Storyline here in Our Town to pretend that this sort of thing is somehow unique to us in our own fallen land. In fact, it's a human problem.)
This is just hard-wired human claptrap, these top anthropologists say. In all honesty, that's pretty much the way we reacted to what Reverend Barber wrote.
The Reverend Barber is widely admired. As far as we know, as a general matter, he's admired for good reason.
Sadly, though, Reverend Barber now fallen in with the New York Times! Last Sunday, he wrote one of the essays in the Sunday Review's special section—a collection of essays dealing with what we've learned and experienced in the year since the death of George Floyd.
We thought the special section was a Public Embarrassment. When we read the following passage from Barber's essay, we thought of Harrison Ford in Witness. Also, we decided it was time to stop reading the special section in the Sunday Review:
BARBER (5/23/21): Consider our recent history, starting with Mr. Chauvin’s trial. For us, it brought back memories of the summer of 2013, when a jury in Florida found George Zimmerman not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Mr. Zimmerman had shot and killed the 17-year-old boy who was guilty of nothing more than walking while Black in a gated community. Our legal system’s failure to hold Mr. Zimmerman accountable for killing Mr. Martin sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. It rallied a generation of young people who refused to accept white police officers regularly killing unarmed Black people, not unlike how white Americans regularly lynched Black Americans in the early 20th century.
Simply put, that passage is indefensible. Also, it's now the plainly mandated norm here in the streets of Our Town.
That passage slanders the members of a jury. It heavily edits known facts. That said, the current era in Our Town began with the death of Trayvon Martin. By now, we have developed these mandated procedures:
We select one species of death to report and discuss. No other deaths need apply.
When we discuss some particular death, we thoroughly edit known facts. We invent some of our "facts." We disappear other accurate facts, and we sometimes focus on wholly irrelevant facts.
This is the way Our Town rolls.
The world would be a better place if Trayvon Martin, age 17, wasn't shot and killed that night. But is it true that this young person "was guilty of nothing more that night than walking while Black in a gated community?
Sorry, mofo! We'd completely avoid the word "guilty" ourselves, but we're magically able to remember a wide array of known facts in this unfortunate incident. We can even remember what Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about this matter before he came to his senses and reversed himself on a dime, offering no explanation for his sudden flip.
We're no longer reliable here in Our Town, but the experts say we can't help it. They say we're wired for this, dating back into prehistory.
At any rate, it's easy to define what we do in Our Town at this badly fraught time. We select certain deaths to discuss, then we start selecting our "facts."
The Others are crazy, we constantly say. In that assessment, we're frequently right,. But we very rarely stop to assess what we're all about in Our Town.
Long ago and far away, Chuck D founded Public Enemy. No one said that the group's reports were standard journalism.
We'll guess that Chuck D did a whole lot of good. We actually saw him, happier now, on an ESPN discussion show just this Tuesday or Wednesday.
Chuck D came forward with Public Enemy. The rest of that is history. Meanwhile, what is Gödel alleged to have proven? And can we possibly still have nice things, perhaps in the afternoons?
Chuck D and Flavor Flav came forward with Public Enemy. On balance, we'd call last weekend's Sunday Review an unfettered Public Embarrassment.
Forgive us if we limit ourselves to such complaints as we've already aired. Critiques like these are utterly pointless, or at least so we've been told.