SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2021
Goodbye, elementary competence: Anderson Cooper came on the air last night wearing his serious look. Right out of the gate, he managed somehow to say this:
COOPER (11/19/21): Good evening.
Tonight, the impact of the not guilty verdict and killings that never should have happened. There is no debate about that, and tried under local and national pressures that amplified every aspect of the case in the dual tragedies at the heart of it.
First the killing of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer, then the violent unrest which followed, that drew then 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse to the scene with an AR-15 style rifle, which he ended up using to shoot and kill two men and wound another.
Two tragedies that brought us here made Rittenhouse a right-wing folk hero, social justice villain, and fueled no end of debate over vigilante justice, gun rights, race, and policing. In short, everything jurors were supposed to ignore as they consider the evidence and apply the law and reach their decision.
So said the plainly serious Cooper. Perhaps you've spotted the error.
At this point, reporter Sara Sidner offered a basic report about the verdict. At 8:05, Cooper came back on the air and said this:
COOPER: Sara Sidner, appreciate it.
By the way, in the intro, I said Jacob Blake was killed by police. That's inaccurate. He was shot and partially paralyzed.
Joining us now, CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates; CNN political commentator Van Jones; CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Paul Callan; and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
"By the way," Cooper said, Jacob Blake hadn't been killed after all. His statement had been inaccurate, Cooper now disclosed.
Cooper seems to spend the bulk of his time writing books about the Vanderbilt side of his family. We sometimes wonder how much time he chooses to spend assembling basic information about the topics he discusses, or pretends to discuss, when he's on the air.
In this instance, he'd been reading copy prepared by someone on his staff—someone who apparently thought that Jacob Blake was shot and killed last summer. For whatever reason, Cooper didn't correct the groaningly inaccurate copy as he read it from prompter.
Everybody makes mistakes. Cooper's misstatement could perhaps be seen as nothing more than that.
That said, Cooper wasn't the only major figure who made that startling misstatement in the wake of yesterday's verdict. Terry Moran of ABC News said the same thing in that network's instant live coverage.
You can see him say it here, 40 seconds in:
"Well, [the verdict] is very significant, first for the community of Kenosha. This city was traumatized by the police killing of a black man, Jacob Blake."
As Moran was introduced, we were told that he had "been on the case from the beginning here." Somehow, he seemed to think, "inaccurately," that Jacob Blake had been killed.
For the record, it wasn't just Cooper and Moran. Later, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney, issued a statement in which, "by the way," he made the same "inaccurate" statement.
In part, Maloney said this:
"It is disgusting and disturbing that someone was able to carry a loaded assault rifle into a protest against the unjust killing of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man."
Later, Maloney's groaner was corrected. Don't ask us how we know these things, but as it turned out, the claims made by our unnamed source were in fact perfectly accurate.
Everybody makes mistakes—but on our three major cable news channels, "mistakes" are almost surely part of the basic business model. With that basic fact in mind, we were struck by a presentation Sidner made during yesterday's 2 P.M. hour, not long after the verdict was announced.
On balance, Sidner has long struck us as a sober, competent person. For unknown reasons, she now, perhaps a bit belatedly, began listing "some of the things that we learned in this case while the trial was going on that was not public knowledge or was not widely known publicly."
Full disclosure! A lot of things were "not widely known publicly" while the trial was going on! That was especially true for people who were getting their "information" from Sidner's own corporate channel, or from MSNBC.
In part, Sidner was now correcting standard misstatements which had been made, again and again, on CNN itself. Her fact-check had perhaps been delayed, but here's part of what she now said:
SIDNER (11/19/21): I do want to talk to you a little bit about some of the things that we learned in this case while the trial was going on that was not public knowledge or was not widely known publicly.
We also learned that the AR-15-style rifle that Rittenhouse carried that day in the streets was legal for him to possess, the judge saying that it had to be a certain measurement for it to be illegal for him to have hold of.
And so that was dropped right before the jury went to start deliberating in this case. The prosecution's comments on that, they didn't seem to know that the measurements made a huge difference here...
We also learned that Kyle Rittenhouse's father and other family members lived here in Kenosha, and that he was actually here in Kenosha the night before he went out into the street. There has been a lot of politicians, and there have been a lot of folks on social media, saying that he came over with his gun "crossing state lines" with that gun. That is not the case.
We learned that in this trial, that, indeed, the gun was actually here in Kenosha at the family of a friend's house who bought that rifle for him, and that he ended up with it that night, not taking it across state lines to come to the protest, but taking it from his friend's family's home.
Stating the obvious, it wasn't the judge who said the gun "had to be a certain measurement for it to be illegal;" it was Wisconsin state law. Concerning what the prosecution "didn't seem to know" about that, a great deal more could perhaps be said, and on occasion has been said—but only over on Fox.
That said, we were especially struck by Sidner's comments concerning the endlessly repeated talking-point about Rittenhouse "crossing state lines."
In fact, Rittenhouse "crossed state lines" every time he drove from his mother's house in Aurora, Illinois to his father's house in Kenosha, 17 miles away. Concerning such facts, we'd note this:
You're actually allowed to "cross state lines" in the United States. As a senator, Joe Biden "crossed state lines" every day on his way to work in Washington.
Back in the day, we ourselves "crossed state lines" every time we gave an award-winning performance at the Washington Improv. To share in the greatness, click here.
People "cross state lines" every day of the week! But in the attempt to send Rittenhouse to prison, the utterly stupid and meaningless phrase came to be invested with a criminal-sounding feel. For that reason, it was repeated again and again and again and again by the ugly, stupid mobs who prowled the streets of cable news on our own tribe's alleged behalf.
The fact that Rittenhouse "crossed state lines" has exactly zero relevance to anything that happened on that unfortunate night. Sidner said that "a lot of politicians and a lot of folks on social media" had been mouthing some form of that pointless point.
She didn't say that her own corporate channel had crawled with this stupid behavior.
Sidner gave her own colleagues a pass. Then too, there's what we saw on MSNBC a bit more than four hours later.
Last night ,we made ourselves do it! We forced ourselves to watch the first half hour of Joy Reid's nightly program, The ReidOut.
Professor Johnson was hosting last night. Reid appeared as a guest from an undisclosed remote location.
In the lengthy conversation which opened the program, one person after another mouthed the utterly pointless claim about Rittenhouse "crossing state lines." It was one of the strangest and dumbest discussions we've ever seen on cable.
Due to the slacker culture at MSNBC, we won't be able to show you transcripts until next week. But we were left with a basic question after watching this deeply human, deeply irrational imitation of discussion:
To what extent can the human race actually claim to be rational / sane? Also, what can we say about corporate executives who put product like this on the air?
We'll return to Professor Johnson and his guests at some point next week. In fairness to Reid, she's still searching for "the real hacker"—for the person who issued those homophobic posts under her own name.
The conversation on Reid's program struck us as barely sane. For today, we want to cite a third presentation from CNN. We refer to another presentation from Cooper's program last night.
This presentation went to the heart of another standard point—a talking-point in which Rittenhouse was said to have "brought a gun to a protest." Apparently willing to silence himself no longer, legal analyst Paul Callan at long last offered this:
CALLAN: You know, juries look for heroes and villains when they're looking at a criminal case, and you're going to find in favor of the hero and against the villains.
Well, you know, this case—they all look like villains on this terrible night in Kenosha. It was a dark, dystopic sort of scene where people were burning things, breaking things, and he puts himself in the middle of all of this.
Rosenbaum threatens to kill him, threatens to rip people's hearts out, and then jumps in his direction. He shoots Rosenbaum. He is next encountered by, you know a man with a handgun who says he's a medic, and that's Grosskreutz.
Grosskreutz, as he was lowering his hand, aims the gun at the head of our defendant in this case. Somebody else strikes him with a skateboard, using it like a baseball bat. And there is even somebody named "Jumpkick Man" who the prosecutor tried to minimize his role by saying he only kicked him in the head.
So where are the heroes and where are the villains? They're all villains. Nobody believed—he didn't belong in the street that night, and these other people who were doing damage, they weren't true protesters. The protesters had been there the two previous nights. This was a night of villainy really in Kenosha.
In Callan's view, Rittenhouse "didn't belong in the street that night." But Callan made an additional claim. He said the dystopian crew who went after Rittenhouse "weren't true protesters."
He said there actually wasn't a "protest" being conducted in the streets of Kenosha at midnight that night. He said that Rittenhouse had actually placed himself among a group of people who were out there "doing damage."
Soon, Jeffrey Toobin interrupted with a deeply absurd objection. But at long last, CNN viewers were being offered a somewhat fuller account of what had happened that night.
Did Rittenhouse bring that gun to "a protest" that night? Is that a full and reasonable description, or is it perhaps a bit of a deception?
Callan's statement starts to close a certain gap. It starts to close the yawning gap between what viewers of Fox News have been told about the events of that night, as opposed to what we in our own failing tribe have been told by the corporate hounds from Hell we've been trained to trust and believe.
Callan omitted a great deal more information about the events of that night. His presentation came about ten minutes after the frequently hapless Cooper managed to correct the claim that Jacob Blake had been shot and killed.
For people in our own failing tribe, the coverage of the Rittenhouse trial provides a rare opportunity. It gives us the chance to come to terms with a startling fact:
In certain circumstances, viewers of Fox are actually given more information than we liberals are! In certain circumstances, we're misled by our corporate tribunes even more than The Others are misled by theirs!
The group on Reid's show were barely sane last night. This provides us with a chance to learn many things about the ways propaganda leads to war—and, in the wider sense, about our own pre-rational human race.
In closing today, we offer you this. This is what Rep. Jerry Nadler tweeted after the verdict came down:
"This heartbreaking verdict is a miscarriage of justice and sets a dangerous precedent which justifies federal review by DOJ. Justice cannot tolerate armed persons crossing state lines looking for trouble while people engage in First Amendment-protected protest."
Nadler wasn't simply trashing the work of a jury, as our tribe now routinely does. He was repeating some of our favorite points!
According to Nadler, Rittenhouse had "crossed state lines" to go to the site of a "protest." Judging from his peculiar tweet, it would have been OK if Rittenhouse had lived in Wisconsin. But he had crossed state lines!
There was that talking-point again, offered in the hope that we could find some kind of way to send a teenager to prison for life!
Does Nadler's account tell us what really happened that night? Whatever you think of Rittenhouse's conduct, we'd say the answer is no.
We'll help you see the things you weren't told all through the course of next week. Full disclosure:
Despondent experts say this sort of intellectual squalor isn't going to end. This is the way our brains are wired, these glum famous scholars insist.