A look at the way bias works: Truly, it’s a wonderful morning in the New York Times—wonderful if you want to see one way bias can work.
But first, consider the remarkable work which has appeared in the Washington Post the past two mornings.
Gene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winner. (We know, we know—they all are!) But so what? Yesterday morning, he offered the highlighted thought in paragraph 3 of his column:
ROBINSON (6/26/12): By throwing out most of the anti-Latino Arizona immigration law and neutering the rest, the Supreme Court struck a rare blow for fairness and justice on Monday. Let's hope this is the beginning of a streak.According to Robinson, the “papers, please” provision of SB 1070 includes “the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained.”
Let's also hope that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who sided with the 5 to 3 majority in this case, likes the view from the liberals' end of the bench. They could use his vote on the health-care-reform ruling, expected to be announced Thursday.
In a perfect world, the court would have definitively eliminated the most notorious section of the Arizona law: the requirement that police check the immigration status of anyone who is detained. Because of its chilling invocation of police-state tactics, this became known as the "papers, please" provision.
That claim is baldly bogus, of course. But there it sat, in the Washington Post, penned by an award-winning “journalist”—tied to a designation derived from old Nazi films.
How does a major newspaper manage to print such a statement? We’re not sure, but in today’s Post, Kathleen Parker takes her turn at the helm.
Parker’s a Pulitzer prize-winner too—although, in fairness, they all are. On-line, her column bears the teaser, “Your papers, please:”
PARKER (6/27/12): One [provision the court left in place] allows state law enforcement officers to determine whether someone they stop, detain or arrest for some other reason is in the country legally. The obvious concern is that enforcement would lead to racial profiling. And of course it will because we can be pretty certain that Caucasians pulled over for, say, speeding won’t be required to produce proof of citizenship.Parker allows herself to “imagine” how this provision may be carried out. As she does, she lets her imagination run free.
Unless, that is, state officials realize that treating everyone equally is the only way to avoid charges of racial profiling. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has promised that mechanisms are in place to ensure that Hispanics are not singled out.
What those mechanisms might be isn’t clear, but one can imagine at least one possible scenario—a reiteration of the sort of willy-nilly, random granny-search ops we’ve witnessed since 9/11.
Taking a stroll through probability, let’s say that Officer Smith pulls over Paco Ramirez and asks for proof of citizenship, and it turns out that Paco is descended from three generations of U.S.-born, tax-paying Ramirezes. Paco is probably going to be annoyed. He may be sufficiently annoyed to file a profiling (or harassment) complaint with the courts. After all, why, except that he looked Hispanic, would the officer have asked for his papers?
Parker says it isn’t clear what the actual mechanisms of enforcement will be. But how odd! In yesterday’s New York Times, reporter Fernanda Santos did an excellent job reporting what some of those mechanisms may actually be.
In our hard-copy Times, Santos’ informative report was buried at the bottom of page A12. That said, the little-known Santos reported real facts which came to her from the real world.
One day later, a Pulitzer winner was still “imagining.”
This brings us back to today’s New York Times. In the letters column, a writer from Denver says “it doesn’t take too much imagination” to predict the way this provision will be enforced.
In fairness, he’s certainly right about that. When imagination is our method, there’s little real effort required.
The letter which really grabbed us, though, was one from New York City itself—the letter which sits right at the top of today’s letters pile.
This letter was written by Malika Dutt, described as “president of Breakthrough, a human rights organization.” Dutt is concerned about the Arizona law, as well she might be. That said, her letter starts like this:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (6/27/12): The Supreme Court has upheld the most damaging element of SB 1070, Arizona’s cruel anti-immigrant law. The “show me your papers” provision allows law enforcement to profile people based on the color of their skin.This letter tops the letters page. In its opening paragraph, it simply states, as a matter of fact, that the provision upheld by the court “allows law enforcement to profile people based on the color of their skin.”
A community in which racial profiling is permitted—even invited—is a community deprived of its basic right to safety and dignity. And such laws have a particular impact on women and families. Under the constant threat of police harassment and possible detention, even simple daily outings—running errands, driving to work, grocery shopping, taking your child to the doctor—become fraught with fear and very real risk.
Is that claim even dimly accurate? The provision hasn’t gone into effect; reporters like Santos to the side, papers like the Times have made little effort to explain the criteria which will be involved in its execution. This allows people like Parker, Dutt and the reader in Denver to put their imaginations to work, producing the dystopian musings which make our tribe feel good.
Dutt imagines a world in which Arizonans will live “under the constant threat of police harassment and possible detention.” Indeed, the world she and Parker imagine would be a very bad world indeed.
The irony is, we already have such a world within our national borders! It’s found right there in New York City, where various people screech and wail about the things they can imagine in Arizona.
Why is today’s New York Times a delight? For this reason: Right there on the paper’s front page, reporter Wendy Ruderman describes the world Parker and Dutt are forced to imagine. Ruderman writes a highly respectful but detailed report about New York City’s stop-and-frisk procedure, in which blacks and Hispanics are treated in precisely the way Parker and Dutt imagine.
No one has to imagine this. As Brother Gaye once sang, this is what’s goin’ on:
RUDERMAN (6/27/12): Last year, city police officers stopped nearly 686,000 people, 84 percent of them black or Latino. The vast majority—88 percent of the stops—led to neither an arrest nor a summons, although officers said they had enough reasonable suspicion to conduct a frisk in roughly half of the total stops, according to statistics provided by the New York Police Department and the Center for Constitutional Rights.Rachel, Lawrence and Big Ed all broadcast from the city where this is occurring. Question:
Behind each number is a singular and salient interaction between the officers and the person they have stopped. In conducting the interviews, The New York Times sought to explore the simple architecture of the stops—the officers’ words and gestures, actions, explanations, tones of voice and demeanors.
What seems clear is that there is no script for the encounters, or that if there is one, it is not being followed. Under the law, officers must have a reasonable suspicion—a belief that a crime is afoot—to stop, question and frisk people. One thing an officer cannot do is stop someone based solely on skin color. Yet many of those interviewed said they believed that officers had stopped them because of race—and race alone.
As these corporate pseudos screech and wail about the things they imagine in Arizona, have you ever seen them do a segment about this practice right there in New York?
Go ahead! Search your recollection!
Tomorrow, we’ll look at that informative news report by Santos, who is or was Phoenix bureau chief for the Times. We’ll also discuss a few basic facts about the provision of SB 1070 which the Supreme Court didn’t strike down—the provision which lets us have our fun yelling slogans from old Nazi movies.
But it’s just as we’ve told you in the past: The New York Times very much enjoys dropping R-bombs on “those people” in Arizona and Alabama. Also, B-, X- and N-bombs (xenophobe and nativist.)
That said, the paper adopts a strikingly different tone with respect to the brilliant work of its very rich billionaire mayor. If you want to understand more about the different ways “bias” can work, we’ll suggest that you spend some time pondering this double standard.
We’ll also suggest that you ask yourself this: How can Robinson still be employed? After more than two years of this discussion, he’s still writing that pure, perfect pap? In what world can that happen?
Truly, we live in a broken world, a world which boasts a Potemkin “press corps.” Little-known reporters are sometimes allowed to introduce a few stray facts. Other than that, it’s slogans and narrative:
Narrative all the way down.
Tomorrow: Santos' report. Also, what "papers" are we discussing?