Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2020: Fact Checks, Fear-Mongering, The Emmys, And Another Cancellation

Yes, it’s time again for Gene, Debbie and Donald to begin the day with the level of enthusiasm that I wish I could muster. A Jack Russell Terrier would also help.

1. “Nah, there’s no news media bias!”The New York Times costs the Marshalls $80 a week. The last two editions were essentially anti-Trump campaign brochures, front to back. Even the sports sections had gratuitous anti-Trump vibes. The Washington Post is worse than the Times, but it’s much cheaper, being a home town paper. Nonetheless, I feel badly enough paying Jeff Bezos for digital access. At least the Times didn’t smear Catholic school boys because an established Native American propagandist told them to.

Yet these are, really and truly, the best newspapers in the country. Think about that. One close relative of the hard-left persuasion subscribes to no papers, and the holes in her basic knowledge of what’s happening would fill the Albert’s Hall. (She relies on MSNBC.)

Newspapers… can’t live without them, can’t have a functioning democracy any more with them. And progressives still tell me to my face that I’m imagining it: the claim that the news media is partisan and biased is a “conservative conspiracy theory.”

2. Fact check! I saw this “fact check” of Barr’s testimony two days ago in my Times today, knew what was coming, decided I didn’t feel well enough to have my temperature raised, and then commenter Dr. Emilio Lizardo was cruel enough to send me a link and a precis.

As with so much of the news media’s fake news and biased analysis, I’d assume that savvy readers can smell the stennch of these things, but maybe not. The good doctor writes,

“This is misleading” – 4 occurrences
“This is exaggerated” – 2 occurrences
“This is false” – 1 occurrence
“This lacks evidence” – 1 occurrence

Nothing like using subjective terminology to demonstrate your objectivity.

Here was my favorite:

What Mr. Barr SAID:  “According to statistics compiled by The Washington Post, the number of unarmed Black men killed by police so far this year is eight. The number of unarmed white men killed by police over the same time period is 11. And the overall numbers of police shootings has been decreasing.”

This is misleading. Mr. Barr accurately cited a database of police shootings compiled by The Washington Post. But the raw numbers obscure the pronounced racial disparity in such shootings. (The statement was also an echo of Mr. Trump’s technically accurate, but misleading claim that “more white” Americans are killed by the police than Black Americans.When factoring in population size, Black Americans are killed by the police at more than twice the rate as white Americans, according to the database. Research has also shown that in the United States, on average, the probability of being shot by a police officer for someone who is Black and unarmed is higher than for someone who is white and armed.Nationwide, the number of police shootings has remained steady since independent researchers began tracking them — declining in major cities, but increasing in suburbs and rural areas.When Representative Cedric L. Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana, took issue with Mr. Barr’s presentation of the data, Mr. Barr responded, “You have to adjust it by, you know, the race of the criminal.” But some research has shown that even when controlling for the demographics of those arrested, there are still racial disparities in the use of police force.

In other words, “misleading” means “contrary to the narrative Democrats and activists want to push.” Got it.

 3. The fear-mongering. One of the Times’ persistent devices to manipulate its readers is the weekly “Those We’ve Lost” feature in its Obituaries. These are allegedly people who have died from the Wuhan virus, though not infrequently, as with many of the pandemic death totals, the causes of death are blurry, with multiple factors involved. There’s always a mix of races and ethnicities: in this group of five, there was a Hopi quiltmaker and a black poet. There are also usually a disproportionate number of victims under 60.  Over 80% of deaths from the virus are over that age, but 40% of the Times list were under it this week, and that’s typical. All the better to keep the public fearful.

The entire concept is obnoxious and transparently political. Why are the deaths of these people more newsworthy than the deaths of anyone else? They aren’t. The fact that virus victims are being treated as greater losses to society than those who succumb to any other cause of death is a special species of fake news; I’m trying to come up with the right name for it.

What would be the reaction, I wonder, if the “Those We’ve Lost” feature only contained the victims of black criminals? Or illegal immigrants? Or legal immigrants? What would we think about that kind of journalism?

4. The Emmy nominations are out. Every one of the nominated shows in the “Variety Talk Series” are all-Trump-and-conservative-bashing all the time: “The Daily Show,” Jimmy Kimmel,” “Full Frontal,” John Oliver’s “Last week Tonight,” and, of course, Stephen Colbert.

Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” is substantially non-political, and his occasional Trump jokes are generally benign. The Tonight Show wasn’t nominated. Nor was James Cordon’s “Late Late Show,” easily the most light-hearted and apolitical of them all.

5. Finally, this Cancel Culture note: Several women accused Canadian digital media artist Jon Rafman of “sexual misconduct.” Accused.  So the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.  has put an exhibition of his work on hold. The exhibition, “Jon Rafman: The Ride Never Ends,” had been scheduled to open in October. The Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal in Canada, Rafman’s home country, already suspended an exhibition that had opened July 4 and was scheduled to run through September. The City of Montreal postponed the unveiling of a public artwork by  Rafman, and his gallery in Montreal, Bradley Ertaskiran, broke off its relationship with him last week.

Accused.

Moreover, what is the nexus between an artist’s work and his alleged private behavior?  There is none. The art stands alone. All art stands alone; it has to. This is just as irrational as the argument that the race of authors and artists should be considered in assessing their work.  If a white male serial rapist painted the most beautiful landscape ever created, it would still be the most beautiful landscape ever created.

Of course, Rafman is denying the accusations while groveling apologies, following the usual script. He might as well stand up for his art, and be cancelled while demonstrating some integrity and courage.

21 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2020: Fact Checks, Fear-Mongering, The Emmys, And Another Cancellation

  1. On 2:

    “Research has also shown that in the United States, on average, the probability of being shot by a police officer for someone who is Black and unarmed is higher than for someone who is white and armed.”

    That’s either a tragic misreading or a lie. It’s not like it really matters, because no one really cares about the facts when making a statement like this, it’s just a bumper sticker…. But if you’re going to fact check a true statement as misleading by quoting context that is a lie, you should turn in your press pass and hide your head in a sack.

    There are approximately 1000 police involved shootings a year, with about 250 of them being black homicides and about 600 of them being white. Even if you wanted to ignore the frequency of officer interactions, there is no research that says an unarmed black person is more likely to be shot than an armed white person.

    Police Homicides 2019
    unarmed white people: 21
    armed white people: 370
    unarmed black people: 15
    armed black people: 220

    n deaths = (370+21+15+220) 626 (does not count hispanics, unknown or other)
    % black = ((15+220)/626) 38%
    % black unarmed = (15/626) 2%
    % white = ((370+21)/626) 62%
    % white armed = (370/626) 59%

    68% of america is non-hispanic white, 13% of America is non hispanic black.

    In a population of 1000 proportionately black and white people with 100 officer involved shootings:

    840 people are white
    160 people are black

    2 unarmed black people are killed
    59 armed white people are killed

    2/160 = 1.25%
    59/840 = 7.02%

    In reality, armed white people are more than five times more likely to be killed by police than unarmed black people.

    • A correction on this:

      “There are approximately 1000 police involved shootings a year, with about 250 of them being black homicides and about 600 of them being white.”

      I wrote this from memory, and then looked the actual numbers up. I was on the ball for the black numbers, but off on the white numbers, two possible explanations for that: 1) White police homicides are decreasing, and I might have been thinking of older numbers, and 2) “unknown” includes more than 200 homicides, and it’s probably that most of those were white, I might have been thinking of a source that lumped those together.

      Regardless, when I went to actually do the math, I used statista.com for the totals, Wikipedia for the population demographics, and the WaPo numbers for the armed/unarmed breakdown. I stand by my math.

  2. 3. Thanks for covering this awful phenomenon. I’ve fought with the writers (one was an intern!) at The Arizona Republic, the now Gannett owned local newspaper in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Most recently, they ran on their digital front page an article about an AP stringer in Tucson who had passed away. (Note: he worked in Tucson, Phoenix’s long-despised rival 120 miles away that The Republic usually ignores as if it were in a different state or time zone or both. The Republic never covers anything that happens in Tucson.) The headline read that the guy had died of Covid-19. Well, the writer mentioned he was a cancer survivor but when I questioned her, she did say there were other underlying conditions. There was a twenty year or so old photo of the guy that made him look healthy. He was in his seventies when he died. I asked her and her editor why they’d run a story on the front page about an AP stringer in Tucson dying. Would they have even run the story but for the fact they could scare monger. I sent them the link to a Daily Mail article that explicitly and properly (in my book) listed the underlying conditions of the decedents discussed. The writer said, “I mentioned he was a cancer survivor!” even though she admitted there were other underlying conditions she had NOT included in the story.

    The bottom line is, a proper story and headline would have probably run along the lines of “Another elderly, obese, life-long cigarette smoking guy with COPD and diabetes failed to shelter in place and contracted a virus that finally did him in. But we’re not really sure what killed him as there were so many likely candidates.” Why have papers made the editorial decision to unrelentingly terrorize their readership over this thing? What’s in it for them? I just don’t get it.

      • When did it become the government’s responsibility to instantly wipe out any malady? “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has become “Eternal life, liberty and happiness” delivered on time to your door?

    • Raised a family in Tucson for over a decade and loved it. As for Phoenix (aka LA East), the standing joke in Tucson was that the Phoenicians named Taco Bell as the city’s best Mexican restaurant..

      • Oh, trust me Doc. The first thing I learned when we moved to Phoenix in 1981 was there are two kinds of people in Arizona: those who love Tucson and hate Phoenix and those who love Phoenix and hate Tucson (except to go there to attend the U of A or go to football and basketball games). Tucsonans call Phoenix “Newark on the Desert” and refer to Pima County as “Baja Arizona.” They’ve even talked about seceding. They consider themselves superior because they’re yellow dog, Raul Grijalva, Justice Democrat lefties. Unless they’re military or retired military. A very schizophrenic place. We’ve always found there are pros and cons to each city. We have a weekend house below Tucson in Tubac, almost to Nogales. We also have kids and grand kids in each.

        But let’s be frank: If an Associated Press reporter who’d worked in Phoenix for thirty years had died, do you really think The Red Star would run a story about his death? No, they would not. Bizarre.

        Cheers.

        • I’d never heard the Taco Bell remark, but it’s pure, unadulterated, signature significance, silly, Tucsonan snottiness.

  3. #2 – Oh so now they understand the White Man’s voodoo of ‘per capita’. Apply it to welfare use and watch their powers of comprehension fade away again.

  4. What the researchers using Baysian models fail to control for – or at least fail to show how they controlled for it – is the behavior of the individual shot prior to the being killed. If unarmed whites, according to Critical Race Theory as shown in several documents presented earlier, are assumed to acquiesce to persons of authority while Black arrestees are more likely to resist such authority it stands to reason that opportunities for police involved shootings among blacks will rise.

    There is a reason that marketers who rely on statistical probabilities to assess likelihood of consumer behaviors evaluate consumer groups by age, race, gender and other demographic factors. They place different values on things that affect their decisions. I can say that blacks disproportionately purchase more rap recordings than whites. Comparisons of third party interactions with different demographic groups must control for how each group views and reacts to the third party (police).

    The very same statistics will show that young blacks and whites are shot far more often than people of their own race that are more than twenty years older than they. Furthermore, just how many females of any race are shot by police in any given year? Maybe the focus should be not black lives but male lives.
    Statistics are nothing more than a means to try to understand relationships and perhaps provide some predictive value. Unless you hold constant the variable of participants precipitation behavior constant none of this has significant value. In this research their specious accuracy of the data is quite telling given that they pretend that all persons behave identically in the same situations and all situations are identical.

    I am no statistician but I worked with inmates at the three prisons in Hagerstown for five years so I have some understanding to what younger black males respond positively and negatively. What is interesting is that part of the BLM movement’s platform is to destroy the nuclear family construct. That has been going on for years with government policy. Young black, and white, males respond positively to people that give them an opportunity to open up and vent a bit without having to worry about what others will say. Even those with the perpetual chip on their shoulder appreciate the opportunity to not have to carry the weight of projecting the persona of being a bad ass among his peers. Most of these young males white and black have never been held to account for themselves. They have grown up in matriarchal homes as a result of social service policies and that momma has found that multiple men can augment the family income better than one. Within these homes these kids are resource drains. They grow up learning that being a man is about siring children and demonstrating a distorted view of masculinity. The foregoing is information that was shared by inmates in casual conversations I would “arrange” so it did not appear to be an official interview to which they had to be on guard..

    The following is my assessment of what I learned from them and is only my conjecture.

    The concept of chivalry toward women is foreign to them because they learned that women be they grandmothers mothers, sisters, or aunts were the boss of them. Females rule in black households headed by a single mother, with the oldest single mother being the decision maker. As they grew up black males developed a sense of autonomy and independence by not being tied down to any woman. As one put ~if one give me any shit I just go to another for what I want ~. That was as close to a quote as I can remember. I did not bother to ask him what he wanted.

    From my observations which are partially derived from growing up in a lower middle class mixed race environment and also working extensively in primarily low income black environments, black females are more likely to make demands on others either independently or in a group while black males feel obligated to demonstrate dominance only when a group is present. I cannot determine whether the controlling factor among black male assertiveness lies with trying to showcase their masculinity within the group or if their assertiveness is tied to feeling he has backup in a group setting.

    All of this suggests that the destruction of the black nuclear family is dangerous to the black man’s psychological and ultimately physical well being. So before we run off and blame cops we might want to start evaluating our social service policies that destroy families and black self worth.

    • Great piece, Chris. Thanks. Eloquent anecdotal evidence confirming Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observations (or conjectures?) made in the mid-1960s, three generations of young black men ago and long since buried. Right?

    • “All of this suggests that the destruction of the black nuclear family is dangerous to the black man’s psychological and ultimately physical well being. So before we run off and blame cops we might want to start evaluating our social service policies that destroy families and black self worth.”

      Yes to all of this; a 76% fatherless household rate among black families and the marxist BLM movement calling for the dismantling of the nuclear family. The social service policies in our country have – in so many words – told black men that they don’t matter. What do we think is going to happen when we tell men they don’t matter? It is egregious. It is immoral. It is dangerous. Men matter. Men in every household of every color and culture, matter. And until we support men owning their own agency, we are screwed.

    • To be fair to BLM, they are calling for an alternative to the nuclear family that reflects current realities. If there is a generation or more of fatherless children, saying that the nuclear family is the solution is not a practical one. Fathers and father figures won’t materialize out of thin air. Men who sired these children could step up, but this has historically not been the case, and won’t be without intervention.

      So, what is the alternative? They wish to:

      …disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

      Off the bat, I find not highlighting fathers distasteful, lumping them in with generics “parents” (presumably to include grandparent, same-gender and/or non-biological parent situations). However, this proposal does not exist in a vacuum, but as an alternative to the current situation (which everyone agrees is flawed). If a functional family is required to have a father, then kids in black family are implicitly given up on.

      While not defending this approach personally, it is met to be an improvement over the status quo. I am personally concerned that this woke ideology pushes potential father figures to the sidelines in these so called “villages”, but giving children supervisions an attention that a single working mother cannot is not a completely foreign idea.

      • Rich, the BLM village model is that which exists now. The problem is that the villager’s job is to rally to the defense of a child accused of violating the law. Nowhere in the BLM literature provides any guidance on just how these utopian villages will operate. Nothing exists to describe villager responsibilities, common values to be instilled or anything else related to child rearing. Much is stated about what their lofty objectives are. It all sounds great but none of these organizers have provided a working model or plan on how any of this will be resourced, implemented and governed. I for one do not want my neighbors parenting my children. And speaking of parenting, what can we say about the parenting skills of a 16 year old mother or a 30 year old grandmother?

        For many children much of any quality social development occurs in Head Start programs only to have what is learned there undone in the home environment. Ironically, these kids are products of other Head Start participants of a generation earlier. Without the right type of home reinforcement of learning , social development becomes a confusing time in a child’s life and the child will choose the lifestyle that appears to offer the basic security needs. This is why teens begin to affiliate with gangs as they are perceived to be better equipped to offer physical safety.

        For my money, the biggest challenge for the black family is living in a high density urban environment. You see far fewer dysfunctional black families in rural America where undesireable social skills are less likely to be reinforced.

  5. I still love GK. Those broad shoulders, that lowered center of gravity….. Everything comes from his center rather than working from the balls of his feet…

    • Good for them. We need more companies to not abase themselves for things that are totally baseless.

      “We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions.

      We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and Crew Members.”

      Here’s hoping they will stick to this.

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