STARTING TOMORROW: The Otherization Rules!

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2021

Quickly today, a pet peeve: According to yesterday's New York Times, it happened rather quickly:

The creation of a mural in a public school cafeteria quickly produced a type of culture war between the pro-mural and anti-mural communities.

(Chekhov: "The appearance on the front of a new arrival—a lady with a lapdog—became a topic of general conversation.")

The news report in yesterday's Times barely scratched the surface concerning the basic facts of the case. But we'll admit that we were annoyed when the Times reporter offered a demographic breakdown of the two New York City schools which use the cafeteria in question.

We were annoyed by the oddness of this presentation. We'll describe it as a pet peeve:

DE FREYTAS-TAMURA (10/31/21):  In the two schools, the largest contingent of students is Hispanic, with a sizable number of white students; Asian students make up 9 percent of the elementary school and 13 percent of the middle school; Black students account for less than 10 percent of the student body. Overall, half of all students receive free or reduced-price lunches. Although the group of muralists included children of Latino, Asian and Black heritage, some school leaders and parents said the mural did not capture the racial, religious and ethnic dynamics of the school.

For the record, two schools use the cafeteria—P.S. 295 (an elementary school) and M.S. 443 (a middle school). In the highlighted material, the Times reporter attempts to describe the racial/ethnic demographics of the students in the two schools. 

It may well be that the highlighted statements are accurate in every particular. (Or not.) But since the dispute about the mural involved issues of ethnicity and "race," we were especially annoyed by the peculiar way in which the information was presented. 

To wit:

"In the two schools, the largest contingent of students is Hispanic, with a sizable number of white students?" 

That fuzzy formulation could mean almost anything! Meanwhile, for some unexplained reason, readers were given precise formulations concerning the number of Asian kids in the two schools, and a fairly specific statement about the number of black kids.

Our question: 

Why would a reader want precise statistical information about the smaller components of the student population, but only vague characterizations concerning the larger components?

Only The Shadow knows! The Shadow, and the frequently puzzling powers-that-be within the New York Times.

At any rate, there it was! For no apparent reason, readers were told that Asian kids were maybe 11 percent of the student population, and that black kids were less than 10 percent.

That said, how many Hispanic and white kids attend the two schools? Readers were given a strikingly vague formulation—with no link, and no reference, to any data source.

Skillfully, we decided to check! This is what we found:

The only official data we could find involved the 2019-2020 school year. According to the New York City Public Schools, this was the demographic breakdown at these two schools during that school year:

P.S. 295, 2019-2020:
White kids: 41%
Hispanic kids: 40%
Black kids: 7%
Asian-American kids: 7%
M.S. 443, 2019-2020:
White kids: 47%
Hispanic kids: 31%
Black kids: 8%
Asian-American kids: 11%

Those were the official numbers for 2019-2020. For whatever it may (or may not) be worth, Hispanic kids were not "the largest contingent of students" at the two schools that year.

The situation may be different now (or not); within the context of the report, we can't see that it makes any obvious difference. 

That said, we're left with our rather obvious question: Why in the world would the New York Times present the current enrollment data in such a fuzzy way?

"In the two schools, the largest contingent of students is Hispanic, with a sizable number of white students?" 

Assuming these statements are actually accurate, that presentation is strikingly fuzzy. It could mean almost anything. Within the context of the news report, it's hard to know why a newspaper would report the enrollment figures that way.

We're not suggesting that there is some nefarious reason for the way this reporting went down. We're suggesting that, to the extent that the data are relevant, it makes no apparent sense to present them in the way the New York Times did.

We're not suggesting a nefarious motive. Instead, we're imagining that a type of journalistic ineptitude may perhaps have prevailed.

There would be nothing new about that at the Times! By the way, this identity line appeared yesterday for the reporter in question:

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura was previously based in London, where she covered an eclectic beat ranging from politics to social issues spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Born and raised in Paris, she speaks Japanese, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Why would the highlighted information matter? Only The Shadow knows!

We expect to write this week about the spread of our flailing society's Otherization Rules. We'll focus on the journalistic treatment of political Others.

We expect to return to Michelle Goldberg's latest column, We expect to discuss the opening segment of last Friday night's Maddow Show—and there's so much more!

Beyond that, we may discuss the substance of The Not So Very Great Mural Dispute. The dispute involved a mural which briefly appeared in a cafeteria used by two New York City schools—a pair of schools which are full of good, decent kids of a wide array of descriptions.

We're not sure that anyone got otherized during The Mural Dispute. But a whole lot of "identity" issues were involved, and a focus on identity can lead to otherization.

Our nation is splitting into various political tribes and various identity groups. This is happening in ways which sometimes make sense, but quite often don't. 

Reporting on this, we have the Times, where one reporter can speak Portugese but can't seem to deal with statistics.

Increasingly, identity and otherization rule. Attempting to set pet peeves to the side, we'll ponder this matter all week.

Starting tomorrow: The Otherization Rules


47 comments:

  1. "(Chekhov: "The appearance on the front of a new arrival—a lady with a lapdog—became a topic of general conversation.")"

    I read this story because Somerby references it so often. There was no pro-lady and anti-lady faction. That makes this a gratuitous reference to a story that does not apply in any sense other than people will talk.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Somerby says: "But we'll admit that we were annoyed when the Times reporter offered a demographic breakdown of the two New York City schools which use the cafeteria in question."

    Then he quotes the reporter as saying: "Although the group of muralists included children of Latino, Asian and Black heritage, some school leaders and parents said the mural did not capture the racial, religious and ethnic dynamics of the school."

    This seems like the rationale for giving the schools' demographics. The parents and anti-mural critics are complaining that the murals don't reflect the demographics. That makes those demographics not only relevant but central to the issue.

    So, on what basis is Somerby annoyed? Because the reporter was not specific about the Hispanic and white students. Here is where Somerby displays some ignorance about how Hispanics are classified.

    "That fuzzy formulation could mean almost anything! Meanwhile, for some unexplained reason, readers were given precise formulations concerning the number of Asian kids in the two schools, and a fairly specific statement about the number of black kids."

    This fuzziness may occur because students who are from Puerto Rican heritage may be both black and Hispanic. Others from Puerto Rican heritage may be white and Hispanic. That overlap prevents the precise classification Somerby is seeking, unless you count whites as only non-Hispanic white, but that is generally considered a subcategory of white. Asians do not have the same difficulty being counted. Their problem is that such classifications lump a wide variety of Asian people into a single category. The term Hispanic does the same, but in New York City, the predominant group is likely to be Puerto Rican heritage. It should not need to be said that Puerto Rico is part of the US and its people are American citizens by virtue of being born in Puerto Rico, as well as New York. Somerby, as a former school teacher, should know more about the subtleties of student demographics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like we're going category crazy.

      Delete
    2. Somerby does little more than nitpick while trying to manufacture ignorance for the Right, turnabout is fair play.

      Republicans treat places like Puerto Rico as toilets, take dumps on them, and then turn around and call them shitholes. They are masters of projection. gaslighting, misappropriating, and vice signaling.

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    3. People are just more complicated, including in their demographics, than Somerby is willing to give them credit for.

      Delete
  3. Face it, journalism is not ever going to be as accurate as you want, for about a million reasons. Journalism might be the filmiest form of communication. Thoreau writes this too.

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    Replies
    1. Journalism reports on current events, as quickly as possible, in order to keep people informed of developing situations. That means they sometimes must sacrifice both depth and accuracy to speediness in their reporting. That's how journalism works and it is a feature, not a bug.

      Delete
    2. Journalism reports on events associated with current popular trends, as quickly as possible, in order to get clicks and views before other news agencies. That means they almost always sacrifice depth, accuracy, and importance of the story in order to provide a quick fix to their readers/viewers which gives that nice feeling of world view reinforcement before another news agency can do the same. That's how modern news for entertainment works and it doesn't bear a lot of similarity to the responsible journalism of the past.

      Delete
    3. “ the responsible journalism of the past.”

      You mean, like the “yellow journalism” practiced by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer in the 1890’s? That “responsible” journalism?

      Delete
    4. I can't imagine you're waiting for an answer to your question but just in case... no I don't mean that.

      Delete
    5. Clicks and views didnt exist when the field of journalism was created. It is not the primarty motivation of today's reporters, no matter how much Facebook values them.

      Journalists do their best under extremely limited time constraints, which is why reasonable people do not expect perfection from them. Notice how trivial most of Somerby's nitpicks are -- he almost never finds a true error in anything he quotes here. It is all nothingburgers.

      Delete
  4. "Why would the highlighted information matter? Only The Shadow knows!"

    The highlighted information is about the additional languages that the reporter speaks. Somerby wonders why that is important? First, it means she can read sources in other languages directly without needing translation. Second, it means she can converse with people who speak those languages directly, without needing translation. That makes her interpretation of what was said more likely to be accurate and timely. Third, New York is itself a diverse city, like Paris, and there are people in New York whose first or native language is not English. Having multilingual staff enhances the ability of the paper to get the facts directly from witnesses and interviewees, instead of by translation. Is Somerby incapable of imagining such a reporter using her skills to interact with a variety of people with different backgrounds that white, English-speaking Americans? Has Somerby never had occasion to notice that the subtitles on international films are frequently not what was said? Is Somerby now a xenophobic idiot who thinks the whole world must speak English because that is the only language that matters? And if not, why this obvious dog-whistle to the xenophobes today?

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  5. Never has there been more telling evidence that Somerby hates Hispanics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's suppose this is true: Somerby has a deep, deep loathing for Hispanics. What's our next step?

      Delete
    2. Best case: figure out a way to have him arrested or somehow punished. Worst case: use it as a broad brush to delegitimize the substance of what he says.

      Delete
    3. never mind delegitimizing him - he should be otherized (severely) and also misgendered.

      Delete
    4. 3:13 This has been the strategy of Republicans for decades, and we can see by how their power is outsized by their actual numbers, that their strategy is remarkably effective.

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    5. So then you’re correct, huh, Anonymouse 3:36lpm?

      Bob has successfully turned his readers into Republicans.

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    6. His hatred of Hispanics is palpable.

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    7. Shame on you to say such a thing about a man when you know it’s utter slander.

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    8. 4:19 So you're saying that if you use a similar strategy of a tribe, that makes you a member of that tribe? You see how dumb this is of you, right?

      Delete
    9. No, I'm saying you're something worse.

      Delete
    10. Cecilia, you don't think it's palpable, the hatred?

      Delete
    11. "His hatred of Hispanics is palpable."

      This does seem to be Mock the Multilingual Week for Somerby:

      "Reporting on this, we have the Times, where one reporter can speak Portugese but can't seem to deal with statistics."

      "In the 1980 census, 12% of Portuguese immigrants identified as Hispanic." But they are not traditionally considered Hispanic in surveys. A person who speaks Portuguese might know that. I'll bet Somerby doesn't.

      Delete
    12. "Let's suppose this is true: Somerby has a deep, deep loathing for Hispanics. What's our next step?"

      When you know where someone is coming from, you can better evaluate his statements and discount the part that is motivated by such hatred. It makes you a better consumer of news and opinions to be able to take into account the motives and characteristics and knowledge or background of the author.

      That's why it is so wrong when Somerby pretends to be liberal but isn't.

      Delete
    13. It's mainly Mexicans and Jews and Blacks that he hates. I would say he has a soft spot in his heart for Portuguese relative to the palpable hatred spewed here every day as a way of advancing a hidden agenda against non-whites and some whites and trans gays.

      Delete
    14. It’s inexplicable, Corby.

      Why would Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura be treated in this way when she can speak four languages (look at the bold print!) even as she can’t give us an accurate composition of the racial pop in each student body.

      Delete
    15. Anonymouse 8:06pm, when you know someone hates Hispanics based upon the fact that they pointed out that a journalist over represented the Hispanic population in a school system… well, you’re an Anonymouse. Which means you are no one and nothing at all.

      Delete
    16. I said Mexicans. And Jews.

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    17. The hatred is palpable!!

      Delete
  6. "Our nation is splitting into various political tribes and various identity groups."

    Meh. Despite your hitlerian cult's herculean efforts, the nation is not splitting into various political tribes and various identity groups, dear Bob. It's not.

    There is your liberal-hilerian cult, dear, and there are Others: normal, ordinary people. You need to get out more, dear Bob. And read and watch something other than dembot media.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you ever consider changing your nym to "Meh Cheng Ji?"

      Delete
  7. Here's the link to the article. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/29/nyregion/brooklyn-school-mural-diversity.html?searchResultPosition=1

    The mural makes me want to cry. It's not that I disagree with the message, although I do. Although racism was an enormous issue for almost all of our history, it's not an enormous today IMO.

    But, my problem is the focus on race. That's what these unfortunately kids are being taught. Today's world has enormous opportunities for people with good educations -- people who can read, think logically, do mathematics. Many of these opportunities are particularly aimed at blacks and Hispanics. These students should be taught the skills that will enable them to take advantage of all their opportunities. Instead, they're being taught to think about race. :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No one teaches kids to focus on race. They learn it by being mistreated because of their skin color.

      Delete
    2. There are enormous amounts of evidence that show that racism continues to be a huge issue, your claim is nonsense.

      It is sad that you think that life is about taking advantage of opportunities; what a horrible, miserable life.

      Meritocracy is a scam to maintain power and wealth, derived from colonialism and white supremacy.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous 4:54pm, what is CRT other than a means of teaching whites to focus on their skin color?

      Delete
    4. @6:03 wrote; "Meritocracy is a scam to maintain power and wealth, derived from colonialism and white supremacy."

      This is a racist statement IMO. It's based on the underlying assumption that non-whites cannot prevail in a meritocracy. Tell that to Jerry Rice, Serena Williams, Thomas Sowell. Tell that to the great number of successful Asians working in high tech. Tell that to the Jews and Mormons whose ancestors were kept out of leadership early American institutions and to women who were excluded from early American institutions.

      Meritocracy is vital to a functioning society. Merited engineers mean that our bridges won't fall down, that our electronics will work, etc.

      Delete
    5. "Anonymous 4:54pm, what is CRT other than a means of teaching whites to focus on their skin color?"

      It is an attempt to teach our American history accurately without distorting it to protect the feelings of the white perpetrators of slavery.

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    6. To the extent the so-called meritocracy relies on rigged tests and procedures designed to exclude minorities, it is certainly a scam.

      That a small number of minorities succeed despite the rigged system doesn't mean the system is fair and not rigged to exclude most minorities. Jews, Mormons and women continue to be disadvantaged by such systems too. Competence is not equivalent to meritocracy. Further, we have never had a meritocracy. Ask any child who tried to get into Harvard but was excluded because there weren't enough seats after the legacies were given admission. How competent was Kristi Noem's daughter when she sought her license after failing the test? Why is it that the most talented Asian workers so rarely are promoted into management?

      Delete
    7. "Meritocracy is vital to a functioning society."

      Then support a 100% Estate Tax Rate. Let your lazy, free-loading, good-for-nothing kids get a job, like I did.

      Delete
  8. 20k for that?! Where did $19,800.00 of the money go?

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  9. "Mexican muralism was the promotion of mural painting starting in the 1920s, generally with social and political messages as part of efforts to reunify the country under the post-Mexican Revolution government. It was headed by "the big three" painters, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros."

    Given that the original intent of muralism is to unify diverse peoples and heal a divided nation after civil war, how can anti-muralists complain about demographics in the schools. Somerby doesn't specifically say so, but hints that those objecting to the murals were the white students and their parents. Somerby claims that murals and demographics divide students, but it seems like the students were attempting to unify and not exclude with their mural. It is true that white students were never part of the mural tradition in Mexico, but that doesn't mean it is too late for them to get on board.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, great. Colorful mural over a doorway.

      So what did the school system do with the rest of the 20 grand.

      Delete
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