Columnist Malpractice On The Tamir Rice Tragedy

This is not how police saw Tamir Rice before he was shot, but never mind: the points is to horrify the public, not to accurately explain what happened.

This is not how police saw Tamir Rice before he was shot, but never mind: the objective is to inflame public opinion, not to accurately convey what happened and why.

Washington Post reporter Lonnae O’Neal found herself compelled by the Tamir Rice grand jury decision to write the kind of irresponsible column for the paper that can be written but shouldn’t be written—not by a professional journalist, not when public passions are inflamed, not when complex and entangled issues need analysis, careful words, perspective and wisdom. It is an emotional scream of pain and frustration, unleavened by objectivity, fairness or restraint. Such columns do much damage, and no good. Such columns are destructive. I hope writing it relieved her pain, but that’s not justification enough.

I was alerted to the kind of column it would be  by its first sentences:

A 12-year-old black boy walks into a Cleveland park, plays with a toy gun and, within seconds of arriving, a police officer shoots him dead. His partner tackles the boy’s 14-year-old sister as she rushes to his side, handcuffs the girl and shoves her into a squad car, helpless, as her brother lay dying.

If we want to accurately describe the event that ended  Tamir Rice’s life so prematurely from the perspective of people who loved him, and of people mourning the senseless death of a child, those who read about the boy’s death and want to cry to the skies, “Why? How can this happen?,” then that is a defensible beginning….maybe.  That is not her intent, however. The intent of her column is to indict “the system” for not indicting the officer who shot Tamir Rice. With that intent, the description is a lie, a manipulative appeal to pure emotion that willfully and negligently makes the system, which is not and must not be based on emotion, incomprehensible.  Continue reading

Dark and Brooding Thoughts

Denis McDonoughFrom Politico:

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough suffered a slip of the tongue Sunday when he offered the first name of an American woman held hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In an interview with host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” about the ongoing situation with a Japanese hostage held by ISIL, McDonough mentioned the woman’s first name, which is not public knowledge.

No, Politico, this is not a “slip of the tongue.” McDonough was appearing on a full slate of Sunday morning shows, and he had certain objectives and parameters which, as a professional and a high-ranking advisor to the President of the United States, he was bound and obligated to be competent to fulfill, or he should not have accepted the assignment. There weren’t that many of them. One was not to reveal the name of an ISIS hostage, and he couldn’t do that. He was not properly prepped, or trained, or focused on his assignment.

It’s not because “anyone can make a mistake.” Professionals do not make such mistakes, and if they do, they are in the wrong profession. This occurred, as so, so, SO many other fiascos have, because this entire Administration is led by, staffed by and advised by hyper-partisan incompetents who learn nothing, understand nothing, and place the interests of the United States at constant risk; because a culture of arrogant incompetence has been allowed to flourish under the abdication of journalists to call it to account; and because the potential critics whose allied philosophies would make them the most effective voices to call for accountability are too biased, cowardly, or lacking in integrity to do so.

You can’t trust our national leadership. If you do, you are a fool. This has nothing whatsoever to do about policies, parties, or loyalty.

As I ponder this, I am trying to understand the character of a man who could preside of over such a incompetently staffed and managed administration and still deliver the defiant, dishonest, destructive and divisive speech he gave to the Congress last week.

That may be a futile effort. But I doubt that I  can continue to muster respect for those who continue to offer excuses and rationalizations for this ongoing tragi-comedy of unapologetic ineptitude rather than to face reality and try to help the nation survive the next two years.

That’s what I’m thinking tonight.

I wish I weren’t.

No, There’s No Comparison Between Bill Cosby And Woody Allen And No “Double Standard”

One of these things is not like the other....

One of these things is not like the other….

Newspapers should make us more informed and smarter, not less informed and dumber. Thus a Washington Post feature this morning qualifies as journalism malpractice, incompetence exemplified. Its theme: “Gee, why is Woody Allen signing a new deal to do a streaming comedy series for Amazon, while Bill Cosby lost his deal with NBC?” The print edition sub-heads: “Crisis responses may explain…”

No, they don’t. This is a false comparison based on superficial similarities: two comics who initially peaked in the same era, both in their seventies, shadowed now by sex scandals. The effort to use one to question the treatment of the other is either intellectually dishonest or so analytically unsound that it should forfeit the authors’ privileges of being assigned to write anything for mass consumption (the Post piece is by Stephanie Merry and Amy Argetsinger, and shame on them). The question of why Allen and Cosby are being treated differently in the court of public opinion isn’t worth asking, but since they asked, here are the obvious answers:

1. Woody Allen’s art, comedy, and persona have never had anything to do with virtue, stable families or being any kind of a role model. As a performer, he has presented himself as perpetually horny, neurotic, obsessed with sex and masturbation, prone to lying, and open to adultery, betrayal, stealing friends’ lovers; in “Manhattan,” he happily romanced a virtual child. In real life, he says things like “The heart wants what the heart wants,” which is a  rationalization for any act unethical or illegal, involving sexual or romantic desire. If you were ever a fan of Woody Allen after the age of 13, you were so because he was funny, accepting the fact that he is at best a sexually obsessed, maladjusted creep.

None of this is true of Cosby, who has always aimed his comedy at innocence, functional families and traditional virtues, and represented his own values as consistent with these when speaking for himself. Sex was not any part of Cosby’s art or image. He was an iconic good guy. Continue reading