Who Is Surprised To Hear That “Propaganda Causes People To Grossly Overstate Police Killings of Blacks”?

Who? Well, probably your friends on social media who think you’re a racist because you point out that Black Lives Matter is spreading lies and hate.

I read with interest this feature yesterday in my New York Times: “Few Charges, Fewer Convictions: The Chauvin Trial and the History of Police Violence.”

It covered two full pages—you know, it was important—and was pure propaganda: deliberately misleading, contoured to make a political argument under the guise of news analysis. I classify the reporters, Aidan Gardiner and Rebecca Halleck, as ethics villains, along with whatever editor gave a green light to publish this deliberate deceit.

It begins,

For many observers, the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, has felt like the culmination of years of outrage and grief over police killings of Black people in America. Video of the arrest that led to Mr. Floyd’s death inspired demonstrations that touched every corner of the country last summer, with protesters demanding justice for Mr. Floyd.

The Times reviewed dozens of similar cases in which encounters between Black people and police ended fatally. Though many cases prompted public outrage, that did not always translate to criminal indictments. In some cases, police officers were shown to have responded lawfully. In others, charges were dropped or plea agreements were reached. Some have resulted in civil settlements. But very few have resulted in convictions at trial.

These cases offer valuable points of comparison about what issues — video evidence, drug use, whether the person who died was armed — proved decisive in each outcome and what consequences, if any, officers faced. Even as the trial has unfolded, several events, including the killing of Daunte Wright just a few miles from Minneapolis, have provided a grim reminder that Mr. Floyd’s death is one in a decades-long history of fatal encounters.

Then we get a list of cases where blacks died as a result of police action. The facts of the cases are summarized briefly, often leaving out important facts. We are told, for example, the Eric Garner was “confronted” by police but not that he resisted arrest, nor that he weighed over 300 pounds. The Times reporters don’t deem it significant that Mike Brown tried to take away the officer’s gun, or that he was shot while charging the cop. In the case of Tamir Rice, the Cleveland 12-year-old shot while playing with a realistic toy gun that had its red tip removed, the article says that “a 911 caller reported seeing a person with a gun but said that it was ‘probably fake’ and that the person was ‘probably a juvenile,'” but does not add the crucial detail that these statements were not relayed to the officer.

I know most of the cases mentioned in the piece; for those I do not, I assume that I am being similarly misled. The Times isn’t reporting or doing legitimate analysis; this is advocacy, and unethical advocacy. Facts that would undermine the political agenda of the reporters, and by extension, the Times, are omitted. That is lying by omission.

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Professor Jonathan Haidt

This is longer than the typical featured ethics quote. It comes from NYU Professor of Social Psychology Jonathan Haidt’s 2017 Wriston Lecture to the Manhattan Institute on Nov. 15 , excerpted by the Wall Street Journal.

Today’s identity politics . . . teaches the exact opposite of what we think a liberal arts education should be. When I was at Yale in the 1980s, I was given so many tools for understanding the world. By the time I graduated, I could think about things as a utilitarian or as a Kantian, as a Freudian or a behaviorist, as a computer scientist or as a humanist. I was given many lenses to apply to any given question or problem.

But what do we do now? Many students are given just one lens–power. Here’s your lens, kid. Look at everything through this lens. Everything is about power. Every situation is analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult. It’s a fundamentalist religion. It’s a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety and intellectual impotence. . . . Continue reading