Ethics Observations On Charles Blow’s “At Yale, the Police Detained My Son”

The esteemed columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it's important for the elite to teach their kids "Do you know who I am?" at a young age.

The esteemed NYT columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it’s important for the elite to teach their kids the phrase “Do you know who I am?” at a young age.

Charles Blow is a talented info-graphic op-ed columnist for the New York Times. he is also and African American who repeatedly pushes the narrative that the U.S. is a racist society hostile to blacks and black men in particular. Afew days ago, he authored an accusatory op-ed piece after his son, a Yale student, was detained at gunpoint by a campus police officer. Apparently Young Blow fit the description of a campus burglar, and was subjected to the indignity of being forced to the ground, identifying himself, and answering questions. Blow immediately decided to use his position of prominence with the Times to air a family grievance. Announcing that he was “fuming,” Blow questioned the officer’s procedure—

“Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first? What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.”

…and then concluded thusly:

“I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look. There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.”

“What you’ve done matters less than how you look.” Charles Blow is nearly engaging in code here, but his meaning is clear. His son was treated prejudicially because of the color of his skin. His son, the accomplished, Ivy League-going offspring of a distinguished journalist was treated like a criminal—how dare they!— because of how he looked, because he was black. “Some would choose to deny it” —you know: racists, conservatives, whites, Republicans—but “all of our boys are bound together.” Translation: we all look the same to racist white cops.

Blow did not think it was germane to his column to inform readers of the fact that the Yale officer who detained his son was black.

Observations:

1. To be fair, it is possible Blow was not informed of the cop’s race by his son, in which case I will recant some of my comments. I think the chances of that are just about nil, and if that was the case, he should have apologized to his readers by now. He hasn’t.

2. My assumption, and it is a fair one, especially in light of the arrogant race-baiting and unethical practices Blow has engaged in before, is that he intentionally withheld this key information, to be able to tie his son’s misfortune to the still boiling controversy over the alleged racism of New York’s police force. That is about as low as an opinion columnist can go. Mike Barnicle, when he was the acclaimed city columnist for the Boston Globe, was fired, shamed, and exiled to MSNBC for less. Misinforming readers in order to bolster a political view is a breach of trust, unprofessional, and unethical.

3. Blow says early in the article that he has no problem with his son being stopped and questioned if he indeed resembled the description of the criminal stealing laptops on the Yale campus, yet the rest of his tone and rhetoric echoes the charge of racial profiling. His son was not profiled, unless Blow is suggesting that to Whitey all black folks look the same. That is certainly what his column suggests. But do all black folks look the same to African American police officers? Well, that undermines Blow’s manipulation of the story to fit the Ferguson narrative, so he just pretended that question wasn’t germane.

4. Using his column to pursue a personal grievance against Yale is an abuse of position. Focusing just on Blow’s complaints about the way the arrest took place: What does he know about the policies and procedures that gives him a basis to criticize them? He didn’t know what the campus police were told about the burglar. Was there a chance that the man they were seeking was armed? Would Blow rather see an officer killed than have his son subjected to a few moments of fear and embarrassment? Presumably so. One officer’s handling of one incident that resulted in no violence or tangible harm, based on a second-hand, hearsay and biased account from his son is not a proper subject for a column on the New York Times op-ed page. It was irresponsible for Blow to offer it, and irresponsible for the Times to publish it.

5. The timing of the column was irresponsible, intentionally misleading, exploitative and sinister. Blow (and the Times, which cannot escape its complicity) intended the column to resonate in the city of “I can’t breathe” as protesters elsewhere are chanting “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” and “Black Lives Matter.” Yet the incident had no legitimate or logical relevance to Ferguson, Garner, or the controversies over police relations with the black community:

  • There was no profiling.
  • Since a black officer was involved, the question of police force diversity isn’t.
  • Blow Jr. wasn’t stopped on a pretense, or a minor infraction like selling “loosies.” He was stopped as part of an effort to apprehend a campus intruder and a thief.
  • The officer did not use deadly force.
  • The incident occurred on a college campus, and the Yale police force involved, unlike those in New York or Ferguson, does not have a reputation for mistreating, abusing or profiling African Americans.

6. Blow’s column proves that he had a blatant conflict of interest here. He had an obligation to recognize it, and to back off. He was emotionally involved and irrational, incapable of the objective analysis that he has been hired to present.

7. Once again, this is the presumption of racism based on no evidence at all, other than the fact that an African American was confronted by police. That is where the entire Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck appears to be headed: it is presumptively racist for police to stop, arrest, harm, charge, convict or imprison any African American under any circumstances for anything short of a violent crime performed right in front of the officers, and perhaps even then. It is also racist to challenge this presumption, in a specific case or in general.

8. Blow obviously believes that he is immune from discipline by his employers. In 2012, Blow engaged in vicious anti-Mormon bigotry in social media mockery of Mitt Romney’s “magic underwear”;  the equivalent would be making derisive jokes about the outerwear of Orthadox Jew. He refused to apologize, doubling down with more attacks, and the Times, at least publicly, did nothing. Blow believes that his race insulates him from the standards the Times would enforce with other columnists, and he appears to be correct.

______________________

Pointer: Instapundit

Sources: New York Times, Washington Examiner

16 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On Charles Blow’s “At Yale, the Police Detained My Son”

  1. The NY Times quit being a paragon of journalistic virtue a long time ago. I am not surprised that they allow, condone and probably encourage this kind of clap-trap. I am, however, dismayed and disheartened the enough people read and believe it to support, by subscription, this idiotic excuse for a “News”paper.

    • I read the Times when I’m travelling. Outside of its Editorial extremism and its spin, the paper still has more quality content than any other paper, including the Post, which I read every day and is much more balanced.

      • To be honest with you, I haven’t read one in several years. When I read the news, it is generally the Wall Street Journal. Only because they haven’t pissed me off, yet.

  2. “anything short of a violent crime performed right in front of the officers, and perhaps even then.”

    The Ferguson incident after investigation comes very close to fitting this description.

  3. ” Blow believes that his race insulates him from the standards the Times would enforce with other columnists, and he appears to be correct.”

    I think this is the defining attitude here. It isn’t just the way he thinks about his position in his job, he is suggesting the same applies to his son’s relationship to the police. Isn’t this the same attitude Henry Louis Gates expressed about his encounter with the police. I get the strong impression that esteemed black professionals such as Gates and Blow feel that the police should have a ‘hands off’ policy towards blacks. The media seems to be suggesting the same policy should apply to all blacks.

    I strongly suspect that people like Blow somehow think that the police only mistakenly detain black suspects. I have been detained by the police twice in my life; once because they were searching for a suspect with the same name as mine and once because I fit the generic description of “a white male 20-35, between 5’6″ and 6′ tall with brown hair wearing blue jeans and a shirt”. I was taken to the police station both times (once in handcuffs) before the errors were discovered. There you have it, Mr. Blow. That is how white Americans are treated by police. What makes your son better than me? Why are you complaining? As far as I can tell, he got PREFERENTIAL treatment.

  4. Typically police officers do not draw their weapons at every encounter. Is there more to this than what the young man told his father?

  5. There is another lesson to be learned here, namely, the difference between an “op ed” (literally: opposite editorial) columnist and a “reporter.” A columnist has wider license and doesn’t have to be impartial in voicing opinion. We know that. However, the reporter not only has to withhold opinion but has a responsibility for backing up the report and its conclusions. And the responsibility for fact-checking comes under the control of a News Editor, where the paper itself is becomes responsible for investigating facts and verifying sources, for requiring rather more than emotion-distorted hear-say evidence.

    The op-ed or guest writer of the Times, as of all large papers, does not answer to any news editor, but to the Editor of the Editorial and/or Op-Ed Pages and this is where Blow, knowingly or not, slipped one (big one) over on the paper and his readers. According to Trish Hall, Editor, Op-Ed (NYT) in her 2013 online guidelines for would-be op-ed contributors, “we need all of the material that supports the facts.” In this case, it seems to have been enough that the material in toto would be a dad’s word on his son’s phone call and the facts would be the contents of that call. In other words: no facts were checked.

    Blow is a most reputable contributor to the Times … but not as a news source. His son is a member of the Ivy League, a Yale man of considerable intelligence and talent … but which makes him no more able to report objectively on a terrifying, humiliating, and inexplicable experience with police than a man of any other social status. Except that he would have been less ready to expect that sort of treatment, and more likely to place it in a context where he could vent his anger and fear and regain some semblance of self-control.

    Blow doesn’t indicate that he recorded the call, and neither he nor the Op-Ed department sent for any further verification, say, a police report from the Yale authorities, a written statement from Tahj himself, a witness (one report – not the Times – stated that there were police, plural, present). Basic fact-checking would have been the responsibility of a news editor. And of reporter(s) who will now be running down the whole incident again from a different angle.

    What it comes down to is that we (readers) have a responsibility as well. We need to look differently at news and at opinion pieces – not less objectively, just differently — to recognize when the former lacks logical support (such as hard evidence) or is tainted by the latter; or the latter, no matter how well written or how emotionally compelling is appealing most strongly to our cognitive dissonance and has, as yet if ever, no support whatsoever.

    In this case, Charles Blow and the failure of his Op-Ed Editor to monitor his material has done us a great disservice — not only in widening the racial AND political party divisions in this country, but in entering a boy-who-cried-wolf into the fray. We need to look for better news sources, online or in-hand, and hold them to higher standards … and treat the op-ed pieces as excitement-providers, even entertainment, whose opinions must ALWAYS require further and closer examination.

    • When your son gets a gun, in his face
      (That’s the breaks/that’s the breaks)
      When your column mixes up his race
      (That’s the breaks/that’s the breaks)
      When you try to stir up, an angry mob
      (That’s the breaks/that’s the breaks)
      The Times says you won’t lose your job!
      (That’s the breaks/that’s the breaks

      Check your facts everybody
      If you got, what it takes
      I’m Charles Blow, and I’m Sharpton’s ho
      and these, are, da breeaaks!

      Sorry I’m leaving now.

    • Penn, the “op” in op/ed represents OPINION, not opposite.

      The guidelines for contributors are aimed at outsiders – in other words, they’d be YOUR guidelines if you deigned to be published by the Times. Blow is not a contributor; Blow is a full-time employee of the NYT editorial department. One might suppose he’d be bound by those rules as well, but as one of the anointed he can get away with the same nonsense as Paul Krugman and Gail Collins.

      Interestingly, the Times published something of a defense of Blow yesterday. You can read it here:

      http://op-talk.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/readers-respond-at-yale-the-police-detained-my-son/?ref=opinion

      Tellingly, it includes the statement “Yale University has since apologized,” using those words to form a link to a story from the Yale Daily News, the college’s newspaper. You can read THAT story here:

      http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2015/01/27/salovey-holloway-higgins-address-blow-incident-in-campus-wide-email/

      And if anyone sees an apology in that story, please point it out to me.

      Talk about doubling down on dishonesty!

      • You’re right, Arthur. I was using the same definition from 30-odd years ago. It’s still around but no longer in popular use: [“op-ed originally short for “opposite the editorial page”, latterly “opinion ally short for “opposite the editorial page”, latterly “opinion editorial”] and [“denoting or printed on the page opposite the editorial page in a newspaper, devoted to commentary, feature articles, etc.”]. Thanks for the catch-up.

        We’re still on the same page, I think. Mr. Blow is not bound by the stricter rules for reporters whether he has special dispensation from the upper management or from being under the aegis of the Op-Ed Editor. Your links are predictably discouraging. The first is, naturally, another “opinion” piece which reads deceptively like a hard report. Once again, lax rules apply.

        The Yale piece was typical administrative bs. The direction to the students to “utilize the incident as an opportunity for reflection and conversation” made me laugh, envisioning the writer swyping the words already embedded in the computer to be spouted regularly for any campus foofaraw.

        No, there was no attempt at an apology, but if you search for a comment from wills1111, you will find someone who says it all. He is unfortunately overridden by another knee-jerker who misses the point that the use of the gun would be explained by the fact that (if the information is correct) Tahj Blow was stopped because he resembled the suspect in a burglary IN PROGRESS. I attempted to put that information in myself, but was stymied by my own computer ineptitude (it registered and was about to print my full email address on the post, something I cannot allow but was unable to change, so I had to delete the post).

  6. Penn’s right about one thing. It isn’t usual police procedure to draw a weapon on a suspect based on what was related of this incident. If the subject is believed to be an armed and violent perpetrator, you would normally call for backup and affect the apprehension in as isolated a place as possible in order to preclude any innocent bystander casualties should a firefight ensue. Of course, that’s not always possible. Either that campus cop got rattled or he observed something about the suspect that set his scramble horn off. More details are needed for a proper assessment. And yes, Charlie Blow made a damn fool out of himself and a bigot besides.

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