SHORT WEEK, SHARP DECLINE: The painful discussions of Morning Joe!

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2014

Part 2—Harvard professor “explains:”
It’s hard to fathom the sheer inanity of our journalistic elites.

Sometimes they call in the Harvard professors; often, this makes matters worse. Consider Dr. Laura McNeal’s performance on today’s Morning Joe.

The gang had already discussed the finding of the grand jury in Ferguson, with Willie Geist Jr. showing, again, that he knows the right things to say but hasn’t done basic homework.

Eventually, Mika summoned the expert. To watch this segment, click here:
BRZEZINSKI (11/26/14): Joining us now from Atlanta, law policy analyst at Harvard Law School and assistant law professor at the University of Louisville, Dr. Laura McNeal.

You’ve worked closely with police departments on how to work with youth in urban communities. First of all, what do you make of the interview with Officer Wilson, and do you feel that he answered to some of the really screaming questions out there in terms of race and how he treated Michael Brown right before his death?
Mika referred to Wilson's interview with George Stephanopoulos. Needless to say, Professor McNeal found the interview “quite disturbing.”

Below, she starts explaining why. Do you notice anything about the way she recounts the basic events which ended in Michael Brown's death?
PROFESSOR MCNEAL (continuing directly): I found Officer Wilson’s interview to be quite disturbing, to be honest. He stated that he could not have done anything differently. But if you consider you have an unarmed teen walking, jay-walking, in the street, with a handful of cigarillos that ends up on the floor in the middle of the street in a pool of blood dead, clearly he could have done something differently.

And so I also found it disturbing that he seems to have such little remorse. I mean, there is a loss of a child’s life and he just seemed very almost stoic with respect to his response.
The professor engaged in a familiar form of story-telling. In her account of what happened that day, an unarmed teen was jay-walking with cigarillos. He then ended up dead in the street.

That account eliminates such parts of the story as may reflect poorly on Brown. As we’ve seen in the past, this is a story-telling technique of the propagandist.

That said, the professor said that Officer Wilson “clearly could have done something differently” that day. In the most obvious sense, that’s plainly true, of course.

But what should Wilson have done that day? For the first of several times, Scarborough chose to take the plunge.

His question led straight to the M-word:
SCARBOROUGH (continuing directly): What could he have done differently that day?

MCNEAL: Well, part of the problem is what the tragic death of Michael Brown represents is the practice of using adult policing practices on youth. Currently here in the United States, very few police departments actually include training on things such as youth developmental competence, meaning how do you de-escalate a situation from jay-walking to keep it from escalating to the point of murder?
Warning! As this segment proceeded, Brown proceeded from a “teen” to a “youth” to a “child.” We’ve also discussed that practice in the past.

At any rate, ninety seconds into the segment, the professor had dropped the M-bomb. Because Wilson hadn’t been trained, he had committed a murder!

No one questioned the professor’s use of that word. That said, Scarborough tried, two more times, to get her to specify what Wilson should have done differently. At the end of the six-minute segment, Geist Jr. also gave it a try.

In our view, those questions for Professor McNeal produced one of the most fatuous segments we’ve seen in some time. Here’s why we say that:

None of these people actually know what happened that day. Did Wilson speak rudely to Brown, or did he speak politely? Did Brown attack Wilson in the way Wilson described, or did something different occur?

The professor has no real idea, but she seemed to have no idea that she has no real idea. She just kept churning her true belief concerning what Wilson should have done.

We suggest you watch that horrible segment and weep for the fate of your nation. One word of warning:

If you watch the segment, you’ll see the professor say that Wilson evinced some “implicit bias,” some “unconscious biases,” during his interview with Stephanopoulos. You’ll see Katty Kay jump in to say that the professor is “absolutely right.”

Our question:

Is it possible that Kay’s reactions to these events are driven by some sort of “unconscious biases?” Such thoughts rarely trouble the spotless minds of upper-class players like Kay.

All around the world, the upper classes have always behaved in these ways. They can always spot the unconscious biases of those in the lower classes.

This panel’s silly, scripted discussions were hard to watch this day. We strongly suggest that you review the professor’s words of advice.


Supplemental: Punished for wearing a hoodie while black!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2014

Post tells familiar story:
Yesterday morning’s Washington Post included a fascinating letter.

It came from a reader who became upset while reading a recent column by Ruth Marcus. Marcus’ column started like this:
MARCUS (11/16/14): Reginald Latson’s path to solitary confinement began four years ago as he waited for the public library to open in Stafford County, Va.

Latson, known as Neli, has an IQ of 69 and is autistic. Teachers and therapists describe him as generally sweet and eager to please.

He is also a black man, now 22, who on the day in question was wearing a hoodie—which prompted a concerned citizen to call police
about a suspicious person loitering outside the library.
According to Marcus, Reginald Latson, then 18, was wearing a hoodie as he waited for the library to open. His hoodie prompted a concerned citizen to telephone the police.

Four years later, Latson remains in jail, in solitary confinement. Marcus’ column concerns the way people with autism are treated by the law.

As a general matter, Marcus’ column may well make good suggestions. Still, one reader was disturbed by the role the hoodie played in this tale.

She wrote a letter to the Post. Eye-catching headline included, here’s what her letter said:
Punished for wearing hoodie while black

I cried as I read the story of Reginald Latson in Ruth Marcus’s Nov. 16 op-ed column, “Cruel and unusual punishment for the autistic.”
This tragedy began with a call to the police by a neighbor who deemed suspicious the sight of a black male wearing a hoodie waiting outside a library. What about this sight raised suspicion?

Was he wandering around the building in an apparent attempt to break in? Was he trying windows and doors? Was he trying to break a window? No. Apparently, a black male standing in front of a building in a hoodie is cause for suspicion.

Mr. Latson’s autism is characterized by rigid thinking and exaggerated fight or flight instincts. He attempted to flee when questioned by the police. He was placed in a choke hold and began to fight. Four years later, he’s incarcerated in solitary confinement—cruel and unusual punishment merely for being autistic.

As a black woman whose son, stepsons, nephews and friends’ children also wear hoodies and who wait in front of buildings, I also feel compelled to point out that one’s physical appearance should not be adequate cause for suspicion. We need to become a society ready to look beyond appearances to specific behavior.

What if the neighbor who made the ill-advised call had learned to look beyond a hoodie and a man’s skin color? The call might never have been made, and this person would instead have seen Mr. Latson peaceably enter the library when it opened. What if the dispatcher who responded to the call had asked more questions to determine whether Mr. Latson’s behavior or actions seemed suspicious? Perhaps the officers might never have been sent—and Mr. Latson would be spending his days at home.
This reader cried as she read about the young man who was “punished for wearing a hoodie while black.” Her letter appeared in yesterday’s Post. Plainly, the letter advances the assumptions Marcus encouraged at the start of her column.

Can people get punished for wearing a hoodie while black? Obviously, this narrative became familiar during the public discussion of the killing of Trayvon Martin. Marcus was ringing familiar bells at the start of her column.

Yesterday’s letter made us curious. What was the fuller story behind this incident, which dates to 2010?

Starting with yesterday’s letter, we began to click back through the reporting which has appeared in the Post. It gave us our latest lesson about an important question:

Where do narratives come from?

You can click back through that material too. Tomorrow, we’ll show you what we found when we did.

SHORT WEEK/SHARP DECLINE: A warning from Blow!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2014

Part 1—Katie McDonough knows all:
To her credit, Katie McDonough knows everything.

We were struck by this fact all over again when we turned to Salon this morning.

The youngish McDonough is billed as “Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice.” That said, she also seems to know everything about pretty much everything else.

In this morning’s revelations, she knows what would have been fair and just in the case of Michel Brown—and in the case of Marissa Alexander.

Her descriptions of these cases may seem a bit selective to some, but she knows what would have been fair and just. Not long ago, we marveled at her apparent omniscience concerning NFL personnel issues.

In tribal culture, tribal priests will emerge with these types of omniscience. At the start of yesterday’s column, Charles Blow warned us liberals about the things we must never let ourselves think:
BLOW (11/24/14): Bigger Than Immigration

Don’t let yourself get lost in the weeds. Don’t allow yourself to believe that opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration is only about that issue, the president’s tactics, or his lack of obsequiousness to his detractors.

This hostility and animosity toward this president is, in fact, larger than this president. This is about systems of power and the power of symbols. Particularly, it is about preserving traditional power and destroying emerging symbols that threaten that power. This president is simply the embodiment of the threat, as far as his detractors are concerned, whether they are willing or able to articulate it as such.
According to Blow, Obama’s detractors may not be able to articulate their motives and beliefs. But he started his column by telling us what we mustn’t “allow ourselves to believe.”

According to Blow, we mustn’t allow ourselves to believe “that opposition to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration is only about that issue, the president’s tactics, or his lack of obsequiousness to his detractors.”

In individual cases, are we allowed to wonder about that possibility? No directive was issued by Blow, but we’ll guess that such thoughts are discouraged.

In his rather fuzzy formulations, Blow was saying that we should never trust the good faith of The Others. As he continued, he warned us about who they are:
BLOW (continuing directly): A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last week found that the public “wants immigration policy along the lines of what President Barack Obama seeks but is skeptical of the executive action.” When The Journal looked at some of the people who “say they want to see a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants—which is beyond what Mr. Obama’s executive order would do—but say they disapprove of presidential executive action,” it found that the group was “overwhelmingly white and more likely to be Republican than not” and some said that they simply “don’t like anything associated with the president.”
Those Obama detractors!

They were “overwhelmingly white,” Blow said. And not only that:

They were “more likely to be Republican than not,” we were underwhelmingly told. “Some” detractors said they simply don’t like Obama at all!

Questions: How white is overwhelmingly white? Blow didn’t say.

How likely were the detractors to be Republican? How many of those people was “some?” Those questions went unanswered too.

For those who wish to check Blow’s work, he linked to this underwhelming analysis piece by the Wall Street Journal. The Journal had spoken to seventy-six people “who said they want to see immigration reform happen but don’t like the idea of Mr. Obama acting alone.”

Warning! In the context of polling and surveys, seventy-six is a rather small number. What percentage of those people were white? We weren’t told, whether by Blow or by the Journal itself.

That said, the Journal quoted nine of these detractors—four Republicans, three Democrats and two independents. Truth to tell, you can’t learn a huge amount from Blow’s link.

You can start to learn about Blow as he continues his piece. He quickly gave us a crafty warning about Those Whom We Must Never Trust:
BLOW (continuing directly): Pay attention to the overall response from all sources, particularly the rhetoric in which it is wrapped.

Speaker John Boehner has accused Obama of acting like a “king” and an “emperor.” Representative Louie Gohmert referred to Obama’s “ new royal amnesty decree.”
Pay attention to all sources, Blow advised. The gentleman continued from there, cherry-picking his sources.

Meanwhile, did you notice something Blow left out? His readers were asked to be very afraid about Boehner’s reference to Obama being an “emperor.” Blow forgot to say where that language started—with Obama himself!

Blow’s column is a good example of our descent into tribal culture. Before he was done, he even reminded us (hint, hint) that “most of [the founding fathers] owned slaves at some point.”

Weirdly, he included a graphic derived from the NBC News/WSJ survey in which only 43 percent of Latinos approve of what Obama did. Please don’t allow yourselves to trust the motives of Latinos!

Thanks to Thanksgiving, this will be a short week—a short week in which we’ll explore our journalistic culture’s rather sharp decline.

Tomorrow: A new world record

Blow by the numbers:
Blow included only one graphic with his column. It showed that Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to approve of Obama’s plan.

But how odd! Beneath that (rather low) number for Latinos, Blow included this note:
Note from NBC News: “The sample size here is small (just 110 Latino respondents), so the numbers have a high margin of error.”
Why would you choose to highlight a number with a high margin of error? Because our upper-end journalism is imitation? Because it’s essentially faux?

BREAKING: Amtrak does it again!

MONDAY,NOVEMBER 24, 2014

Welcomes entire staff:
Later this morning, Amtrak welcomes our entire staff on a southbound run.

It's the consistency we respect. Full services resume tomorrow.