Gennifer Flowers gets dragged out again!


Along with Daisy Buchanan: As she starts her latest column, Maureen Dowd is in crackpot heaven. She gets everything into her first four grafs, including Howard Stern:
DOWD (7/31/13): The cruelly misunderstood Anthony Weiner has “no idea” if he’s about to be stabbed by another stiletto heel.

“These are people who I thought were friends, people I trusted when I communicated with them,” he told Denis Hamill of The Daily News. “But who knows what they might do now?”

Yes, who knows? Free-spirited young women having digital sex with a well-known politician who loves to expose himself and talk raunchy can be so damnably unpredictable and untrustworthy.

The delusional Weiner, who has turned shamelessness into performance art, was expecting the sexual equivalent of honor among thieves. He wasn’t counting on being out campaigning Tuesday morning while one of his online inamoratas, Sydney Leathers, was holding forth to Howard Stern about their fantasies of “a secret sex den,” her possible future in porn and Weiner’s satyriasis.
Dowd was getting herself lathered good. It was like the good old days when she cited her friend and fellow sex-nut Chris Matthews, then moved on to Gennifer Flowers:
DOWD: After years of literally following in Hillary’s footsteps, little did Huma know how fully she would follow in Hillary’s footsteps.

Weiner continues to play the rebel without a pause. He shrugged off reports that the Clintons, who have been christened the careless Daisy and Tom Buchanan of politics, regard him, in the words of F. Scott, as the foul dust floating in the wake of their dreams.

“I am not terribly interested in what people who are not voters in the city of New York have to say,” Weiner sniffed about the first couple of Westchester.

Bill confessed, “I hadn’t been perfect” after the Gennifer Flowers story broke, so Weiner echoed: “I recognize I am not a perfect messenger. I get that.”
Good God! She even returned to Tom and Daisy Buchanan! Back in the well-lathered Year of Impeachment, that was a requisite allusion. You couldn’t get your Echo License from the guild if you hadn’t said it.

Bill and Hill are Tom and Daisy—and let’s not forget about Gennifer Flowers! Make no mistake—this is the Big East Coast Irish Catholic Crazy within which Dowd and Matthews were raised.

The vast majority of Us Irish have moved way on since then, even Matthews. He was once the most unhinged Hillary-hater of them all. Today, he's her most devoted stooge, even as he fulminates about Weiner’s sexy-time conduct.

But Dowd can’t break free from the past. (Rather plainly, neither can Lawrence.) We Irish! Those of us who can’t break free from the values of the mid-century priests keep staging breakdowns of this much-e-mailed type.

Dowd continues her streak today. It’s even back to the Buchanans—and we don’t mean childhood friend Pat!

Maureen Dowd remembered: Back in 2008, Dowd remembered the good old days when everyone and his sex-crazed uncle was comparing the Clintons to Tom and Daisy Buchanan:
DOWD (1/2/08): Has Hillary truly changed, and grown from her mistakes? Has she learned to be less stubborn and imperious and secretive and vindictive and entitled? Or has she merely learned to mask her off-putting and self-sabotaging qualities better? If elected, would the old Hillary pop up, dragging us back to the dysfunctional Clinton kingdom? She is speaking in a soft, measured voice in these final days, so that, as with Daisy Buchanan, you have to lean in to listen. But is she really different than she was in the years when she was so careless about the people around her getting hurt by the Clinton legal whirlwind that she was dubbed the Daisy Buchanan of the boomer set?
Back then, everyone had called Hillary that—but no one did it more than Dowd! It started with a remark by Joe Klein, in 1994 or 1995. By August 1995, Dowd had begun to obsess:
DOWD (8/10/95): As with Presidents Nixon and Reagan, the landscape is littered with aides taking the fall. As Joe Klein wrote of the Clintons in Newsweek: "They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. . . . They smashed up lives and didn't notice. . . . How could the First Lady allow her chief of staff to spend $140,000 on legal fees? Why hasn't she come forward and said . . . 'I'll testify.'"

DOWD (3/14/96): As though Pat and Bay Buchanan were not enough, "Blood Sport" reaffirms the portrait of the Clintons as Tom and Daisy Buchanan—careless about using people, reckless about the rules.

DOWD (7/21/96): In May 1994, the love affair ended abruptly when Mr. Klein wrote a story called "The Politics of Promiscuity." He now found Mr. Clinton not bionic, but boorish. He had come to see the Clintons as the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of politics, a careless couple who expected others to clean up their messes. He said the President's "wanton affability leads, inevitably, to misunderstandings. It forces him to finagle, which he does brilliantly. It leads to a rhetorical promiscuity, the reckless belief that he can talk anyone into anything (or, more to the point, that he can talk his way out of anything), that he can seduce and abandon, at will and without consequence."
Clinton got re-elected anyway. At that point, Dowd began to obsess and complain about his vice president's bald spot.

This morning, the good old days were back. Even Flowers was there!

The Washington Post reports record test scores!


It happens every spring: Everything we know about Emma Brown is good.

Brown is an education reporter for the Washington Post. She graduated from Stanford in 2000. From 2002 through 2005, she taught seventh grade in Juneau, a city believed to be in Alaska.

In 2009, she got a master’s degree in journalism from Berkeley. This morning, she writes a front-page news report, a type of report we have read ten million times before this.

Her report may be right on the money. But it’s very hard to tell—and it happens every spring!

Brown reports that DC test scores have never been higher. At the start of her report, she quotes the standard exultant claims,which may of course be right:
BROWN (7/31/13): Students in the District’s traditional public schools scored higher than ever on the city’s math and reading tests this year, also posting the largest single-year gain since 2008, according to test results released Tuesday.

The city’s public charter schools, which had higher scores than the traditional system, made their biggest gains since 2009. For the first time, more than half of charter students scored proficient or above in reading on the city tests.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) hailed the results as evidence that the city’s overhaul of public education—including the advent of mayoral control of the schools and the rapid growth of charters—is working.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re on the right path,” Gray said. “We just need to stay the course.”
It happens every spring! The mayor says his overhaul is working, and he may even be right.

That said, there’s a problem with Brown’s report. There’s a watchdog which isn’t barking.

Can we talk? Gains in test scores only have meaning if this year’s tests were the same as last year’s tests, or if they were “equivalent” to them. If these year’s tests were easier than last year’s tests, those score gains don’t mean squat.

Were this year’s tests the same as last year’s? If not, do we know that they were equally difficult? Brown’s report doesn’t say. We think this is somewhat odd.

In recent years, the problem of statewide tests getting easier year to year has come up again and again. Major states have thrown out entire batches of test scores because of this phenomenon.

A few years back, the state of New York, a well-known state, dumped a whole year’s worth of scores because the tests had gotten easier over the years.

The New York Times worked very hard to obscure the way this gong-show occurred, since it reflected badly on Mayor Bloomberg, a billionaire. But this has been a recurrent problem around the nation—unless you read today’s Post.

Maybe there’s some simple answer to our question, and Brown knows what it is. Maybe this year’s “statewide” tests in DC were the same tests from last year!

But the Post gave Brown 1500 words to discuss the latest score gains. Do we know that this year’s tests weren’t easier? How hard would this be to explain?

In recent years, DC was plagued by cheating scandals, a problem education reporters had been avoiding for forty years at that point. Proudly fighting the last war, Brown addresses that situation, as she should have done.

But she never says if this year’s tests are known to be as difficult as last year’s. And sure enough! When she presented the requisite words of caution about score gains, we got the standard piddle:
BROWN: Some experts cautioned that standardized testing doesn’t always tell the whole story. Bob Schaeffer of FairTest said it would be inappropriate to attach much importance to single-year gains. He said scores fluctuate and can reflect demographic changes in schools instead of changes in teaching and learning.

“The exclusive focus on test scores as the measure of educational quality should be replaced with the use of multiple performance measures including rates of graduation, college attendance, post-school employment, criminal justice system involvement, etc.,” Schaeffer said in an e-mail.
That highlighted passage is piddle.

Schaeffer is right—score gains can “reflect demographic changes in schools instead of changes in teaching and learning.” But in this case, the score gains would have to reflect a demographic change in the whole DC student population!

Schaeffer’s participation is required by law in a piece of this type. In this case, his comments are almost wholly irrelevant—and these words of caution are even worse:
BROWN (continuing directly): Sam Chaltain, a journalist who is working on a book about school choice in the city and who is the parent of D.C. charter school students, was similarly skeptical.

“We use test scores as a proxy to make it seem like we actually know whether schools are succeeding or failing,” Chaltain said, adding that the rise in scores in the District leaves much unknown. “We don’t know if kids feel more engaged and motivated. We don’t know if teachers feel more supported and prepared to do their jobs well. We don’t know if families are more or less likely to stay in the system.”
We also don’t know how the students feel about the name of Washington’s NFL team! But that is completely beside the point here, as are the three concerns Chaltain is worrying about.

Were these tests as hard as last year’s tests? If so, how do we know that? This is basic journalistic blocking and tackling, and it’s MIA here.

When we read about Trayvon Martin in the white establishment press, we think about decades of work of this type. Do white liberals actually care about black kids? Or does the establishment press just like to posture and pose?

Plainly, no—we don’t seem to care. If you actually care about a topic, you jealously guard the basic facts. You struggle to get your basic blocking and tackling right.

We have watched the establishment press produce this kind of stumblebum work for more than forty years now. In this case, Brown is fairly new to this beat—but how long has her editor been there?

Urban schools have always been reported in this half-hearted way. At some point, it gets hard to avoid the feeling that these people don’t really care, that our urban schools exist to let assorted public figures take familiar bows.

There may be an answer to our question. We’d like to know what it is.

Greta Van Susteren got upset!


But then, she made a good point: On July 15, Jasmine Rand discussed the Zimmerman verdict with Greta Van Susteren.

In our view, Van Susteren would have done a better job if she hadn’t gotten so upset with two things Rand said. For starters, when Rand criticized the jury, Van Susteren got a bit hot:
VAN SUSTEREN (&/15/13): Are you saying it was a bad jury?

RAND: I do not believe that Trayvon got equal justice in this instance.

VAN SUSTEREN: Specifically how? Tell me the evidence—tell me the evidence that the jury didn't hear.

RAND: The evidence that the jury didn't hear?


RAND: I don't think that they properly considered the evidence. If they had listened to the evidence and if they had followed the law, then George Zimmerman would have been convicted of murder.


RAND: I mean, he got out of the car—he got out of the car—

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you—you're a lawyer!

RAND: —with a loaded gun. He followed—
Rand is certainly free to think that the jury wrongly considered the evidence. Presumably, some juries do that. Or at least, it’s reasonable to think so.

Van Susteren offered a shaky reaction. This doesn’t make much sense:
VAN SUSTEREN (continuing directly): You're a lawyer, right?

RAND: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the whole point of the jury is that we assign the job to weigh the facts. We draft them. We make them sit there. Lot of times, they don't want to be there. We then present the evidence, and the judge then says, Here's the evidence, here's the law, instructs them on the law, and it's their duty—it's not mine, it's not yours, it's not anybody else's in the community, but it's the jury's duty to weigh them. And all of a sudden, suddenly, afterwards, that you say they can't do their job?
That doesn’t really make sense. Of course, the verdict is the jury’s job. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their verdict was correct.

At this point, it was Rand’s turn to make a weak point. Especially in this case, Van Susteren’s rebuttal was important:
RAND (continuing directly): I have a greater duty beyond being an attorney, and that's to be a social engineer. And when the law doesn't get it right, I believe that we have the right to peacefully and morally, conscientiously object to the decision of the jury.

That doesn't mean that we believe that it's going to be overturned or that it will or that we don't respect the decision that those six people made. But there are millions of people out there who don't agree with that decision. So it's not just the legal team.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what the problem is, though? You know, that—

RAND: It's millions of people from all over the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's deeply disturbing that you say millions are out there who didn't see it! You know and I know that millions of people who may not like a verdict, whether it's for it or against this case or another, didn't watch the case, didn't sit in the courtroom, didn't weigh the evidence, didn't listen to jury instructions. That's just noise. That's why we have court systems is so that people—so that both sides have an opportunity to be heard.
Especially in this horrible case, Van Susteren's highlighted point is strong. Millions of people have been misinformed about the basic facts of this case, largely by a stream of fake facts which trace back to Rand and the other lawyers.

Millions of people are very upset with the jury’s verdict. Whether the verdict was right or wrong, many of those people may be unclear about the basic evidence, let alone about the law.

Today, the jurors are in hiding. Almost surely, they know the facts of the case much better than many of the millions of citizens who are upset with their verdict.

A person can judge that a verdict is wrong. But first, he or she has to know all the facts. He has to know which facts are false and which facts have been disappeared.

DUBLINERS TOO: What the lawyers said and did!


Part 3—One lawyer cites Thurgood Marshall: On March 19, 2012, CNN’s Sunny Hostin committed a heinous act.

Introduced as a “CNN legal analyst” and a “former federal prosecutor,” she went on TV and repeated what the lawyers had said.

Referring to the killing of Trayvon Martin, she said the 911 tapes, which she had heard, told her that “this child was murdered in cold blood and there are several witnesses to that murder.”

Soon, Hostin was telling Brooke Baldwin what she thought she had heard:
HOSTIN (3/19/12): And the bottom line is, you hear a warning shot, Brooke, and then you hear a voice pleading and a cry. And then you hear another voice [sic] and you hear the pleading stop. So that— And you also have these other people saying that the man in the white shirt—which is what Zimmerman was wearing, we know that Trayvon Martin was wearing a red sweatshirt—that the man in the white shirt was on top of the other person. And so that tells me that he was on top of this boy, young boy, not even an adult, an unarmed young boy, takes a step back and shoots him in the chest.

You cannot avail yourself of a self-defense claim when you are the first aggressor, you start a fight, even if you're losing it. You cannot avail yourself of that.

And so in hearing all of these tapes, I’m convinced that I’ve heard a murder. That, and a murderer that is walking around our streets free without being arrested. And so I’m just—I’m horrified.
Hostin said she was horrified. If CNN was run by journalists, they would have been horrified too.

As it turned out, Hostin didn’t hear a warning shot on those 911 tapes. Only one shot was fired that night, though Hostin said she heard two.

This means that her detailed tale of “cold-blooded murder” (Baldwin’s term) was also bogus. Whatever he may have done that night, George Zimmerman didn’t fire a warning shot, then “take a step back” from “an unarmed young boy” and “shoot him in the chest.”

Hostin told a lurid tale; her lurid tale was wrong. But that wasn’t her only misstatement as she described the horror she was feeling.

Uh-oh! On the night in question, Trayvon Martin wasn’t wearing a red sweatshirt; it was Zimmerman who was dressed in red. Somehow, Hostin had gotten the clothing turned around in her head. But so what? This factual error had her convinced that, after firing that warning shot, Zimmerman had “taken a step back” and shot a young boy in the chest.

Hostin’s tale was lurid but wrong. Journalistically, her conduct was heinous. But one other thing is abundantly clear—this lurid, heinous, inaccurate story came to us straight from the lawyers. On March 17, the Orlando Sentinel quoted Natalie Jackson, one of the Martin family attorneys, telling this lurid, inaccurate tale about the two gunshots. That same day, the New York Times got very excited and passed the story on to its readers, with its reporter, Lizette Alvarez, directly saying that she had heard two shots.

Alvarez hadn’t heard two shots. But millions of people were being disinformed by a lurid, false tale which came from the lawyers.

Before long, Hostin was back with another false claim. She sourced it to the lawyers.

On March 20, Hostin told CNN’s Carol Costello that she had “the opportunity to speak with one of the Martin family attorneys this morning for about 30 minutes.” (Hostin described the attorney as a “she.”) Soon, Hostin was making another false statement:
HOSTIN (3/20/12): Let me also say this, that the family attorney told me that they are awaiting toxicology reports from Trayvon Martin's autopsy to dispel any notion that he was perhaps on drugs and that Zimmerman was allowed to leave the police department in the clothes that he was wearing that night, which means that any evidence that could have been gathered from his clothing is now lost. So that also is something that is somewhat troubling to this family.
In fact, Zimmerman’s clothing was kept by the Sanford police that night. But Hostin kept repeating this false claim, attributing it to the lawyers. This produced this assessment, later that day, from the pathetic Wolf Blitzer:
HOSTIN (3/20/12): As a former prosecutor, Wolf, you know, I've handled investigations and this is just odd that in a shooting death of an unarmed teenager that leads don't appear to have been followed. My understanding is that the girl that was speaking to Trayvon Martin on the phone for minutes during this altercation has not yet been interviewed by the police.

That is what the Martin family attorney told me. I thought that was remarkable. I think it's also remarkable that their attorney told me that George Zimmerman was not tested for drug and alcohol. That he was allowed to leave the police station, Wolf, with the very clothes on that he had that night. So any forensic evidence that may have been on his clothing to help or harm him, in fact, is just not there any longer.


BLITZER: Yes, it sounds, at least on the surface, that there's no investigation, no serious investigation by the Sanford Police Department.
“At least on the surface?” In reality, CNN’s evidence didn’t rise to that level. Blitzer was kidding himself, flattering his channel—and disinforming the public.

Hostin’s claims came from the lawyers, and those claims were wrong. Hostin made other errors this week; this includes her gullible, unquestioning reliance on the claims of Mary Cutcher, the lawyers’ favorite ear-witness.

Indeed, the fact that she kept calling Martin a “boy” (a “child”) was part of the lawyers’ basic scripting of the developing novel. In the interest of brevity, we will assume that our basic point has been made.

Alas! Anyone who follows this case will quickly discover a basic fact. Right from the start, the national reporting was drowning in misstatements of fact—and those misstatements almost always seem to track back to the lawyers.

The lurid false tale of the two gunshots was the most egregious of these misstatements; the initial report by the New York Times is one of the most heinous bits of “reporting” we have ever seen. But news orgs ran with the lawyers’ misstatements as a pleasing fable developed. This has tilted the way the events of that night have been reported and understood, right to this very day.

Potemkin “fact-checkers” have agreed not to notice this problem. So did the New York Times’ public editor turned public cheerleader, when she praised her great newspaper for its treatment of this case.

The lawyers sold a pile of fake facts. This leads us to an obvious question:

Why did the lawyers do that?

Alas! When Joyce wrote the fifteen stories found in Dubliners, he saw a “moral and intellectual paralysis” all through his native Dublin. When Camus imagined Oran in the grip of a plague, he explained why a range of citizens ignored its warning signs.

When it comes to the killing of Martin, a wide array of our own Dubliners have played active roles in the spreading of lurid, false tales.

Reporters have played a basic part in this process. So have the press corps’ alleged fact-checkers.

Angry citizens have played a key role in the story’s spread. So have the nation’s professors, those who have spoken and those who have not.
So have we pseudo-liberals, of course. We seem determined to prove that we’re ditto-heads too, just like the folk we once mocked.

That said, most of those false or bogus tales began with the family lawyers. Why did the lawyers advance those false claims?

Of one thing you can be quite sure—no one in the mainstream “press corps” will ever ask that question! Indeed, no one is ever going to mention the fact that the lawyers spread misinformation right from the start of this case.

In this instance, the “press corps” quickly accepted the lawyers as the authors of their Official Group Story. And when the “press corps” behaves that way, there is no looking back.

(In 1992, the “press corps” built its Whitewater scandal tales around the claims of a small group of Republican crackpots in Arkansas. In March 1999, the “press corps” took its cues from the RNC as it created an instant novel in which Candidate Gore was the world’s biggest liar, just like President Clinton before him.)

In this case, the lawyers told a lot of false tales. But why did the lawyers do that?

No one is going to ask them! But we may have gotten a hint from an interview with Jasmine Rand, one of the family lawyers, on July 15, two days after the verdict.

The interview was conducted by Greta Van Susteren, who would have done a better job if she had been less annoyed with something Rand said.

Van Susteren challenged Rand, on general principles, when Rand criticized the Zimmerman jury. (For fuller transcript, see our next post.) But the most intriguing exchange came in the wake of that challenge, when Rand referred to a precept which dates to the great Thurgood Marshall.

Rand described herself as “a social engineer.” What did she mean by that?:
VAN SUSTEREN (7/15/13): You're a lawyer, right?

RAND: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the whole point of the jury is that we assign the job to weigh the facts. We draft them. We make them sit there. Lot of times, they don't want to be there. We then present the evidence, and the judge then says, “Here's the evidence, here's the law,” instructs them on the law, and it's their duty—it's not mine, it's not yours, it's not anybody else's in the community, but it's the jury's duty to weigh them. And all of a sudden, suddenly, afterwards, you say they can't do their job?

RAND: I have a greater duty beyond being an attorney, and that's to be a social engineer. And when the law doesn't get it right, I believe that we have the right to peacefully and morally, conscientiously object to the decision of the jury.

That doesn't mean that we believe that it's going to be overturned, or that it will, or that we don't respect the decision that those six people made. But there are millions of people out there who don't agree with that decision. So it's not just the legal team.
Van Susteren made a telling point about those “millions of people;” see our next post. But we were struck by Rand’s remark about being a “social engineer.”

Van Susteren thought the remark was ominous. In this case, perhaps it was! But it dates to the early days of civil rights lawyering, to Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, each of whom has been quoted saying this:

“A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.”

Marshall grew up within a mile of the place where we sit placidly typing. His elementary school shares a zip code with our sprawling campus.

At a very dangerous time, Marshall showed the way lawyers can use the law and the Constitution to further the cause of racial justice. Perhaps most famously, he was chief counsel in Brown v. Board of Education, which helped change American life.

Very few people will challenge Marshall’s work as a “social engineer.” In a similar vein, a post from Low Moral Ground, which we’ll excerpt below, includes a description of Rand’s career which makes us want to admire her.

Having said that, let us also say this: Marshall and Houston climbed the mountain in the pursuit of social justice. Marshall used the term “social engineer” to describe his own legal work.

Tirelessly, Marshall sought social justice, just as Rand surely believes she is doing. But did Marshall ever invent a pile of fake facts in his work as an engineer?

Did Marshall ever invent false facts to make a police department seem racist? Did he ever invent fake facts to get a man charged with murder?

In this case, the lawyers did those things, with the “press corps” cast as stenographers. Whatever may explain their motives, their conduct was extremely bad, and it has had wide-ranging consequences:

Terrified parents have terrorized children about the ways they might be killed, just for buying some candy. The jurors are forced to hide from the public, even as Rand continues to offer bogus accounts of the facts of the case in the course of criticizing their judgment. (The verdict was “a tragedy,” she has said.)

Reports have appeared of beatings offered in retribution for the Zimmerman verdict. If someone ends up getting killed—and obviously, that could happen—does Rand want to go on TV made repeat all the fake facts she has stated just since the verdict was given?

Right from the start, citizens have been made very fearful, and very angry, on the basis of tons of fake facts. In his work as an engineer, when did Marshall do that?

By his own description, Marshall was a social engineer. But Marshall wasn’t a liar and he wasn’t an hysteric. You can decide which description best explains the lawyers’ misstatements in this case—misstatements the “press corps” simply adopted as they decided to let the lawyers craft their latest group novel.

Hysteric or liar? You be the judge. Marshall and Houston were neither.

Tomorrow: Dubliners inflamed

Friday: The towering silence

We agree with this assessment: Brett Wilkins writes Moral Low Ground, “an anti-corporate, anti-war social justice site featuring news you won't see in the corporate mainstream media.”

We recommend Wilkins’ reaction to the flap about “social engineering.” As he closes, he praises Rand for her commitment to racial justice. But he offers some good sound advice:
WILKINS (7/16/13): Social engineering may be beneficial, even essential, for achieving racial justice in America. But engineering the truth is anathema to justice. Moral Low Ground applauds Jasmine Rand for not only acknowledging a legal responsibility that transcends any individual case, but also for dedicating her life’s work to using the law as an instrument for social change. From mass incarceration to discrimination and disparities in policing and arrests, wealth and income, lending, housing, health care, education, employment, and the application of capital punishment, black (and brown) Americans still face towering obstacles to equality. But Rand must also take care not to resort to the sort of hyperbole–the claims that George Zimmerman was a “racist” who “hunted,” “stalked,” “murdered,” even “lynched” and, ludicrously, “assassinated” Trayvon Martin– which does a disservice to the greater cause of social justice to which she has dedicated her legal career.
“Hyperbole” is a pleasant term for what the lawyers did. It’s hard to avoid the thought that they may have been lying early on, with the “press corps” typing their claims.

Thurgood Marshall struggled and won. Tell us when this giant lied or peddled a stream of fake facts.

Erin Burnett has nothing to say!

TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2013

Hillary Weiner edition: There are a few basic facts to keep in mind about the celebrity press corps.

In the end, these people just aren’t very smart. Nor do they have any real interest in any serious topic.

This explains why they should be forced to stick very closely to traditional journalistic procedures.

Last night, Erin Burnett opened her program with a segment which seemed extra dumb even to us. To us, her premise seemed a bit puzzling:

She wanted to know whether Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal “could affect [Hillary] Clinton's potential 2016 presidential bid, as some have claimed.”

Does that supposition make any sense? We aren’t bullish on Clinton’s prospects to win the general election if she gets the Dem nomination. That said, the race will take place in 2016—and according to both our calendars, it’s now 2013!

According to our mathematics division, that means the election in question is more than three years away!

Presumably, Weiner will be defeated in Gotham next month. Three years later, does anyone think that the White House race will turn on the sexting scandal? Especially since the alleged connection to Clinton involves the fact that Weiner’s wife was once a Clinton aide?

That struck us as a massive stretch. But Burnett was willing to go there!

Burnett’s first question went to pseudo-conservative Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner. As she started, she described a full page ad from a Gotham sports club:
BURNETT (7/29/13): Tim, let me start with you. Even if Wiener were to drop out today, the jokes borne from this scandal are likely to last a lot longer.

I mean, just this morning I woke up to, this full page ad from the New York Sports Club, “The New York Post.” This is my picture I took on my new phone. “Carlos Danger, we give extra attention to our members, too.” I have to say they didn't even spell the word “Wiener.”

They used the same ad in the Boston Globe. And a reader of the Globe tweeted out that picture.

Wiener has dropped from first place to last place in the New York City race. His campaign manager has dropped out. Obviously, bad press for him, his wife—but the Clintons too. Do you buy it, that the Clintons only care on a personal basis not professionally?
She had to say that they didn't even spell “Wiener!” Apparently, that's in her contract!

At any rate, that was Burnett's first question. Carney agreed to pretend that he maybe didn’t buy that the Clintons don't care. (“Well, I do think that it does bring back the memories of Bill Clinton. Everybody is talking about it...”)

Carney had nothing to say. Seeming to feel right at home, Burnett turned to Democratic strategist Kiki McLean, a long-suffering recipient of idiotic sexy-time cable questions:
BURNETT: Now Kiki, a lot of interest in the Weiner scandal has to do with Huma, frankly, and her connection to Hillary Clinton. That's just the way it is. You can't ignore it. When you listen to what Hillary Clinton said about her husband's scandal versus what Huma Abedin said about Anthony Wiener, there are some eerie similarities. Here they are...
“That's just the way it is,” Burnett frankly announced. “You can't ignore it.”

Burnett played tape of Clinton and Clinton on that 60 Minutes program from early 1992 (sic). Then, she popped her question to Kiki:
BURNETT: Kiki, how does replaying that specific moment of Hillary and Bill Clinton, which frankly a lot of people have forgotten—I mean, that moment on the couch. How does that not hurt Hillary Clinton?
Did you follow the logic there? Because she had nothing else to discuss, Burnett played tape of the Clintons from early 1992. She then asked a Democratic consultant how it doesn’t hurt Hillary Clinton when she does dumb shit like that.

No, Virginia. Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal isn’t going to play a key role in the 2016 campaign. But Erin Burnett had nothing to say and she had a full hour to kill.

Carney and McLean pretended to hold a discussion, and then it was mercifully time for a break. Signing off, Erin Burnett wanted to know what we think:

“Let us know, everyone, what you think, whether you think the Anthony Wiener scandal will hurt Hillary Clinton or not.”

CNN viewers swelled with pride. Erin Burnett wanted to know what we the people think!

Burnett is very rich. She’s also an empty vessel. She cares about nothing, has nothing to say. For that reason, she tends to kill time on topics like this.

Breaking! This is the way a large part of your “press corps” intersects with the world. It really isn’t a good idea to give these people license to start making up facts (while withholding other facts) about the most significant matters confronting the American people and the human race.

These people tend to be empty vessels. They really shouldn’t be given the task of inventing a whole nation’s facts.

The Baltimore Sun’s no-good, terrible judgment!

TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2013

Feeding a frenzy, as facts disappear: The Baltimore Sun has shown terrible judgment in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.

For one example, consider an opinion piece which was prominently featured in last Saturday’s hard-copy paper. It appeared beneath a colorful headline:

“The new lynching,” the large headline said. That inflammatory headline has been cleaned up on-line.

We don’t know the non-journalist author of the piece, but we feel sure that he’s a good decent person. That said, good decent people can get caught up in frenzies, especially so when journalists fail to perform.

We were struck by the facts which didn’t appear in this citizen’s piece, which ran beneath an eye-catching headline.

“I am a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a retired Marine Corps major general and the progeny of veterans of World War I and World War II who proudly served our country,” the author, Leo V. Williams, said.

Williams, who is black, described his upbringing in Norfolk “during segregation.” Then, he gave his first account of the Zimmerman verdict:
WILLIAMS (7/27/13): Sadly, at a time when I should be reveling in the conversations with my grandchildren about the limitless possibilities that await them in America, I now have to precede that conversation with one that warns them to be exceedingly cautious because somewhere in America, juries have the moral authority to find that taking the life of a human being who has not committed a crime to be not merely excusable but free of guilt, by law ("Trayvon and Brandon," July 23).

This new reality brings tears to my eyes for my beloved country.
Just for the record, juries have always had that moral authority in cases judged to involve self-defense. That said:

In that passage, all we are told about this case is that Zimmerman “took the life of a human being who had not committed a crime.” That is a very limited account of what happened in Sanford. Since we don’t know who assaulted whom that night, it may not even be perfectly accurate.

That was a highly simplified account of what happened. But after Williams recalled the era of lynching, this was his second and final account of what happened in Sanford that night:
WILLIAMS: Today, we set ourselves on a pedestal as the world's foremost example of a country of laws. But in Florida, and other states with "Stand Your Ground" laws, the legal system can give cover to an armed man who murders a boy he "thought" was "up to no good." Sound familiar and retrograde?

I urge someone to help me understand how our "land of the free and home of the brave" has devolved to this reprehensible condition where a mere suspicion can lead to murder, and though the suspicion is proved unfounded, the murderer walks free.

The jury in the Trayvon Martin trial showed us that such an abomination was indeed possible. While it is highly unlikely that those six women thought through this revelation as a consequence, it is toweringly more important than the fate of one troubled man named George Zimmerman.
Was Zimmerman being “beaten up” that night? No less a figure than Chris Hayes once slipped up and said so right on TV. But no such complication was allowed to intrude on this exquisite moral fable, in which an armed man murdered a boy based on a mere suspicion.

We don’t have the slightest doubt that Williams is a good, decent person. But the Sun employs the journalists here, and they shouldn’t have published that account, certainly not under a headline which describes this as a lynching.

Ten days earlier, a Baltimore citizen reported that a Mexican man was chased and beaten with a gun by teens who said they were doing it as payback for the killing of Martin. The Sun just went ahead with this inflammatory headline atop this angry, fact-free fable. (The headline was later cleaned up.)

We’re sorry, but this is dangerous stuff. It’s also terrible, horrible “journalism.”

Does the Sun know any other kind? As this exquisite frenzy rolls on, we’re really beginning to wonder.

DUBLINERS TOO: Journalists build a sacred tale!

TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2013

Part 2—And the fact-checkers disappear: Early in The Plague, Camus describes the way an undesirable condition can seize a community without anyone much taking notice.

He imagined a pestilence, an epidemic of disease, seizing the city of Oran. Still early in his tale, he describes why Dr. Rieux, and other citizens, failed to see it happening:
CAMUS (page 36): The word “plague” had just been uttered for the first time. At this stage of the narrative, with Dr. Bernard Rieux standing at his window, the narrator may, perhaps, be allowed to justify the doctor’s uncertainty and surprise—since, with very slight differences, his reaction was the same as that of the great majority of our townfolk. Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in the ones that come crashing down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet somehow plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.
Camus was imagining a physical epidemic, though it’s often said that his plague was a metaphor for conditions of thought which conquered Europe before World War II. Whatever! He goes on to describe the way a major change, one not for the better, can sweep a society with no one noticing or even saying a word.

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way,” he writes at one point in this brief meditation, “as we should see if we were not always so wrapped up in ourselves.” The humanists die first in what follows, he rather gloomily says.

Does stupidity have a knack of getting its way? In our view, something resembling stupidity has been getting its way in America’s press corps for at least the last twenty-one years, with the best and the brightest among us defiantly failing to notice.

For ourselves, we couldn’t take it any more by the mid-1990s, though the problem got even worse shortly after we started this site in March 1998. That said, few episodes have involved more sectors here in our own Oran than the discussion of the killing of Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

In Dubliners, Joyce tried to tell part of “the moral history of my country.” In his view, a moral and intellectual “paralysis” was general all over Ireland.

In our own Dublin, our own Oran, has there ever been a press corps episode in which so many sectors ended up playing so active a role? For today, let’s try to stick with the conduct of the professional journalists.

By this time, it’s fairly easy to see what the journalists have done. Starting in March 2012, they began constructing a Sacred Group Story about the killing of Martin. To a remarkable degree, this sacred story was built upon a steady stream of false and misleading claims made by a group of lawyers representing the Martin family.

As composed by the front-line reporters, the story, which is now quite standard, reeked of misinformation. In the second part of this journalistic breakdown, the nation’s professional fact-checkers and media critics resolutely refused to notice this rather obvious problem. Even after the problem explained in detail, everyone kept his trap shut!

There are thus two parts to this tale of journalistic misconduct. First, let’s get clear on how the sacred story was constructed by the front-line reporters.

By now, a Sacred Group Story is constantly told about the killing of Martin. The basic outlines of this story can be clearly seen in last week’s editorial in the Baltimore Sun, a large part of which we posted yesterday.

To some extent, this sacred story is built on factual misstatements, some of which are extremely familiar. But sacred stories can’t be built on false claims alone! To a major extent, the sacred story about Martin’s death is constructed of other materials. These are the four basic elements of the current story:
Basic elements of the press corps’ sacred story:
Factual statements which are false
Factual claims which are unfounded
Factual statements which are true but irrelevant
Factual information which has been disappeared, withheld
We recommend you read that Sun editorial, which can best be described as journalistic porn. You will of course see some simple misstatements, which should of course shock the conscience. (George Zimmerman was acquitted by “an all-white in the South!” Should we think, for even one minute, that the editors really believed that?)

The Baltimore Sun made flat misstatements in that editorial. But just as important were the irrelevant facts which were included, generally to stir emotional reactions, and the standard factual statements which are, alas, unfounded.

Also key was the missing information—the information which was withheld. Generally speaking, this is information which makes the story less simple-minded as a pleasing moral fable. Since the Sun was really composing a fable, such complexity was disappeared.

When major news orgs compose stories this way, is this not a type of journalistic pestilence? Might it not perhaps be said that stupidity is getting its way? Alas! Our major news orgs have been creating their stories this way at least since the early 1990s, when they began constructing a decade of pseudo-scandals concerning the Clintons.

How strange! Today, both Clintons are widely admired; one hears very few words of dissent from our major news orgs. What became of all the stories the American press corps dumped on our heads, the stories which made it clear that the Clintons were deeply corrupted people even before they arrived in DC?

Those stories have simply faded away, with no one asked to explain why they were ever invented. Books by Lyons and Conason are the key texts. Those books have been widely ignored.

Starting in March 1999, the press corps began to invent a whole new set of stories. These Invented Standard Group Tales produced a disastrous outcome. We have discussed that conduct in detail. See our companion site, How He Got There, for six chapters and an Introduction.

The best and the brightest—the Krugmans, the Drums, the Dionnes—have agreed that this major historical episode simply cannot be discussed. This complicity in a bit of a plague has helped permit the current ludicrous conduct concerning the killing of Martin.

(We say that as major fans of Krugman and Drum, of Dionne to a lesser extent.)

Go ahead—read that editorial in the Baltimore Sun! Along with the flat misstatements, you will read the familiar irrelevant facts. (Martin had a bag of Skittles that night.)

You will read the familiar, unfounded suggestion that Zimmerman reacted to Martin with suspicion because he was wearing a hoodie. (That was one of the lawyers’ preferred story lines. Nothing on the tape that night suggests that this was the case.)

You will see the familiar assertion that Zimmerman “decided based on [Martin’s] appearance that he was a ‘punk’ who didn't belong”—that Zimmerman “decided based on no evidence.” That’s always possible, of course. We can’t tell you what Zimmerman was thinking or feeling that night any more than the editors can.

But, to sustain this preferred story, the editors disappear the alleged conduct by Martin which Zimmerman described to the police dispatcher that night, and later to investigators. To maintain the preferred story line, those statements, which may be true, have been disappeared.

The jury heard those statements by Zimmerman, on videotapes the prosecution entered into evidence. Readers of the Baltimore Sun are shielded from exposure to such vile claims, which may be accurate.

Did that conduct by Martin really occur? Like the editors, we don’t know; we weren’t present in Sanford that night! Unlike the editors, we aren’t going to disappear those statements to tell you a story, stated as fact, which you will find familiar and morally pleasing—a story which will let you think that they, and you, care about black kids, although rather plainly they don’t.

You can search that editorial yourself, marveling at its treasure trove of journalistic bad faith. Note the way the editors refer to “the story” that Martin had Zimmerman pinned to the ground; note the absence of any reference to any injuries; note the absence of any discussion of where the fatal fight occurred. When you read that editorial, you are lovingly being shielded from any suggestion of information which might undermine the moral fable, a sacred tale which began last year with a steady stream of misstatements from a handful of lawyers.

This included some misstatements which were unspeakably lurid and vile. The New York Times just typed them up! Literally from day one, the Times loved the sacred tale.

In the spring of 2012, a steading stream of false claims emerged about this case. These claims were advanced by many news orgs, but MSNBC disgraced itself, for several months, with its relentless misconduct.

This is where the second part of this press story begins. In this second part of the tale, we inquire about the press corps’ professional fact-checkers.

Or should we just call them The Missing?

In the spring of 2012, an astonishing string of misstatements emerged. Almost always, they could be traced to the Martin lawyers. Most of these claims have faded away, as all those claims about Whitewater did. But night after night, week after week, very bad people on The One Liberal Channel pimped this false shit to the world:
Some of the false claims from last year:
The Sanford police didn’t take Zimmerman’s clothing for testing! (False)
The Sanford police didn’t even take Zimmerman’s gun! (False)
The Sanford police were so racist they didn’t inform the Martins that their son was dead for a week! (False)
Zimmerman weighed 250 pounds! (False)
It was obvious that Zimmerman had sustained no injuries! (False)
Zimmerman was such a nut that he had made 46 phone calls to Sanford police in the previous 14 months! (False)
Zimmerman was told to stay in his car by the police dispatcher! (False)
With lightning speed, the claim was invented that Zimmerman used a racial slur in his call to Sanford police that night. On MSNBC, various pundits swore they could hear it.

Heroically, Lawrence O’Donnell said he could hear it “easily.” Long before trial, the prosecution agreed—the slur had never been said.

Last spring, the factual misstatements were general all over cable, but especially so on MSNBC. As of this spring, some of those misstatements had survived, becoming part of the Standard Way this incident is described.

Sadly but comically, the first false claim about the 46 calls had been transformed into a second standard false claim! It was no false claim left behind!

By this spring, the sacred story was also driven by standard claims which were unfounded—for example, the standard claim that Zimmerman “confronted” Martin, which hasn’t been established and is quite likely untrue. (Like the editors of the Sun, we don't know what happened.) There were false claims and unfounded claims—and facts which had been disappeared.

This should have created a field day for the press corps’ alleged media critics and alleged fact-checkers. But alas! Along with all undesirable facts, these journalists disappeared!

To name one name, Howard Kurtz disappeared. Or you can go to a famous site, PolitiFact. As you examine its recent collection of fact-checks concerning the killing of Martin, you will see part of the way a journalistic pestilence swept the land—a plague of non-reporting.

Its fact-checks have been largely phony—Potemkin. To judge from their work, no one in their own guild, the press corps, has made any false claims about this case from March 2012 on.

They fact-checked emails, but no press reports. As in so many previous episodes, the fact-checkers disappeared.

Quick review: Taking stenography from untruthful lawyers, the nation’s reporters constructed their latest Standard Group Story. As this familiar process occurred, the press corps’ fact-checkers went on vacation.

Soon, the moral and intellectual squalor was spreading to other groups of Dubliners. We liberals have played a large role in the intellectual squalor, to cite one obvious group.

So have many misinformed citizens—good decent people in the grip of a frenzy, as has been seen in the past.

Tomorrow: One lawyer explains herself

Kessler’s streak ends but Dowd’s continues!

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013

Same as it ever was: Your Daily Howler just keeps getting results!

Yesterday, for the second straight week, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact-Checker, handed his vaunted Pinocchios to a Republican, thus bowing to our will.

Joe DiMaggio’s streak is safe. Not so, perhaps, Maureen Dowd’s.

Yesterday, Dowd extended her current "silly shit" streak with another column on Anthony’s Weiner. She may be targeting her own record streak for waste-of-time columns, a record she established in the summer of 1999.

That April, Dowd was handed the Pulitzer Prize for her work the previous year concerning Miss Lewinsky. (That’s what the committee said! Her citation praised her “fresh and insightful columns on the impact of President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.”)

A few months later, in late July, Dowd returned to her post at the Times after an absence of nearly a month. What was on her award-winning mind? These are the topics the lady tackled in her return to the wars, as she established a record streak of time-wasting summertime columns:
July 28, 1999: She described her recent lazer eye surgery.
August 1: She reviewed the movie “Runaway Bride.”
August 4: She discussed a new Talk magazine piece about the Clintons’ marriage.
August 8: Bob Dole on the prospect of being “first gentleman.” (Elizabeth Dole was running for president.)
August 11: She compared and contrasted two “blond icons”—Hillary Clinton and Marilyn Monroe.
August 15: Might Warren Beatty run for the White House?
August 18: Bush and the question of youthful drug use.
August 22: Bush and the question of youthful drug use.
August 25: She reviewed a Showtime film about the sexy-time relationship between Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas.
August 29: She psychoanalyzed John McCain’s reasons for seeking the White House.
September 1: “I ran into Kato Kaelin the other night,” she wrote, before discussing Monica Lewinsky’s plan to launch a lipstick line.
September 5: She offered her reactions to Paris, a new Las Vegas casino hotel.
Labor Day had come and gone but Maureen Dowd’s streak continued. On September 8, 1999, she returned to her favorite subject—the Clintons’ marriage—writing about their “marital pratfalls,” their “kooky connubial bliss.”

On September 12, she took things farther. In a column headlined “Sure I Would,” she ran through the names of the various White House contenders, asking herself, one by one, if she would have sex with these fellers.

Repeated answer? “Sure I would.” In fairness, she was punching back against an oversexed Esquire column which asked the same question about Hillary Clinton. You might say that another mule had been kicking in Maureen Dowd's stall!

Currently, Dowd is on her latest summertime streak. DiMaggio set his own record in 1941. How far can Dowd go this time?

Full disclosure: DiMaggio ended up marrying one of Dowd’s favorite ways to kill time. See August 11, above.

A lot of old fogeys are watching the news!

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013

Two cable tribes, Old and Older: Very little seems to have changed. People who watch cable news still tend to be old fogies.

Bill Carter did the report last week. The basic take-away reads like this:

MSNBC versus Fox represents Old versus Older:
CARTER (7/23/13): Fox News continues to be near the top in cable television in terms of the number of viewers it attracts, but it is near the top in another category, too: the median age of its audience is among the oldest in television.

For most of the television business—the segment that relies on advertising—that would be serious cause for concern because ad sales are almost always based on a target age of 25 to 54, and Fox News, for the last two years, has had a median age of 65-plus in its ratings both for the full day and for prime time.


News audiences always trend old, and the viewers of Fox’s competitors are hardly in the full flower of youth. MSNBC’s median age for its prime-time shows this year is 60.6; CNN’s is 59.8.

In terms of the rest of television, Fox News also is quite a bit older than networks considered to have a base of older viewers. CBS has frequently been needled for having older viewers, but at 56.8, its median viewer is far younger than Fox News’s.
For the record, Carter can’t give an exact median age for Fox viewers. In best New York Times fashion, he gives a non-explanation explanation for that fact:

“Just how old is its audience? It is impossible to be precise because Nielsen stops giving an exact figure for median age once it passes 65.”

Why does Nielsen stop doing that? Carter doesn’t say.

(We’ll take a guess—the oldest box you can check on its survey says “65 or older.” But we have no real idea, in part because we read Carter’s report.)

A lot of old fogeys are watching the news. Same as it ever was!

Dubliners: What happens as the bogus tale spreads!

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013

To us, this smells like sadism: There is no perfect set of rules explaining how best to raise a child.

What should you tell a child about the dangers the world presents? When should he or she be told about those dangers?

How much should a child be told? In how much detail?

There is no perfect set of rules to answer such questions for parents. That said, we thought Slate’s recent account of child-reading in liberal brainiac Cambridge was extremely sad and carried an obvious smell.

To us, there was a scent of sadism in the air as we read the first-person piece. But more than anything else, this pitiful memoir helps us see a very basic fact:

No one on earth is quite as dumb as Cambridge intellectuals can be! Though only in certain types of cases, of course.

No one can prove that E. J. Graff was wrong in what she decided to do with, or to, her 10-year-old son, who is black. (Graff and her partner are white.) But in her piece, you will read about the way she chose to treat her son in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.

After the Zimmerman verdict, Graff made her “visibly miserable” child watch the recent film about Jackie Robinson's heroic but horrific experiences as he integrated major league baseball in 1947. If you read her piece, consider one thing she chose to tell her son about Robinson’s experiences, after she made him watch the film all the way through.

“Our son told us that he didn’t like the movie,” Graff writes, “and asked if we could turn it off.” The answer was no—and as he asked a child's sensible question, he even had to hear this:
GRAFF (7/26/13): Afterward, our sweet-headed boy—a child who's terrified of spiders and loves fart jokes—was especially upset by the fact that Robinson had gotten hate mail from strangers, that his life was threatened for playing baseball with white men. He kept asking us: Who wrote those letters? Did the police catch them and put them in jail? Why not? We’ve worked hard to undo his outsize fear of “bad guys” and burglars, to teach him that most people are good, to understand that the police and the law are there to protect us. So it was painful to say: Some of those letters were probably written by cops.
Was it really painful to say that? Or did it perhaps hurt so good?

Good grief! What made Graff think she had to provide that detail, at which she was only guessing, to her “visibly miserable” child, who so upset by the film's displays of 40s-era racism that he didn’t want to sleep alone that night?

No one is clueless like these folk are clueless—these Cambridge “intellectuals.” Forget the hint of sadism or something like it, although that river runs all through that piece. Just consider how dumb a person has to be to make a statement like this:
GRAFF: When he wanted to know why the jury let Zimmerman off, we didn’t have the words to explain reasonable doubt to a 10-year-old. He wouldn’t understand phrases like poor prosecution, indifferent investigation, or “stand your ground.” We couldn’t articulate the probability that by refusing to consider race, the mostly white jury was probably influenced by parts of their brains they don’t know are there, or to explain that hidden biases could have influenced both Zimmerman and the jury to perceive a young black man in a hoodie as a potential menace, whereas a young white man, similarly reedy and with a hood up to keep out the rain, might get the benefit of the doubt. How do you explain that sometimes these attitudes grow not out of overt hatred but because of the more subtle biases, nearly undetectable except by social scientists and neurologists, lodged in American neurons so deeply that most of us don’t even know that they're there?
What a horrible, horrible person! Putting the moral dimension aside, can humans be any dumber?

Graff didn’t know how to explain “why the jury let Zimmerman off?” What a self-serving pile of crap! Why not give her son the obvious answer? Why not tell her 10-year-old son what one actual juror, B37, actually said?

Why not tell him this?

The jury believed that Zimmerman was getting beaten up by Trayvon Martin at the time of the shooting. They believed that (1) because that’s what the one real eyewitness said, and (2) because Zimmerman had injuries.

In every state, you get to defend yourself, even with deadly force, if someone is beating you up and you think you’re at risk of serious injury or death. And the jurors thought that Zimmerman was getting beaten up that badly.

Or at least, they weren’t sure! Ten-year-olds certainly can understand the concept of proof and the burden of proof, unless they are unlucky enough to have parents-from-Hades like this.

Why wouldn’t Graff give the obvious answer to her son’s obvious question? You get two choices here. She either believes the Official Standard Story, in which Trayvon Martin was essentially shot by a racist sniper who had waited for him in a tree. Or she’s so committed to various dogmas that she refused to tell her son the truth, that there is a pretty good chance Zimmerman was getting beaten up at the time of the shooting, in a potentially dangerous way.

Why wouldn’t a decent person explain that to a miserable child? Partly because we Dubliners have all agreed, from Obama on down, that these things cannot be said.

Chris Hayes accidentally said it once; Zimmerman got beat up. (For partial transcript, see below.) Other than that, Dubliners have widely agreed to disappear all such suggestions.

Even with a terrified child, Graff won't break faith with the Standard Dogma. She will let a 10-year-old suffer in terror before she will tell him the truth.

To our nostrils, Graff smells very unpleasant. This is the horrible way she concluded her horrible tale:
GRAFF: He didn’t want to sleep alone that night, so we let him camp out on our bedroom floor. As he got ready for bed, my little guy started a chant of “USA! USA! Except 20 states!” No, I corrected him. “All the states are OK now. They fixed their laws. Black and white can be married anywhere in the country.” I knew I was telling a little (if you’ll excuse the phrase) white lie: Voter ID laws and the disenfranchisement of felons disproportionately affect black people; mini-DOMA laws ban recognition of his moms’ marriage in half the American states. But there are limits to what you can load onto a 10-year-old in a single day.
Translations: Earlier, when Graff told her son about those old racial marriage laws, she had somehow forgotten to tell him that they no longer exist! In her last sentence, we find her dreaming of all the discomfort she can impose in the future.

This is an astonishing tale. It shows what can happen all over Dublin when we start telling embellished tales because they make us feel morally, racially pure.

That child will be free from that person one day. That’s the best thing we can tell you.

What not quote Chris Hayes: On July 1, Chris Hayes described how he felt watching tape of Zimmerman the day after the shooting: “The thing that struck me was, man, that dude looks like he’s pretty messed up. Like, he kind of got beat up...When you see his nose in this, it’s like, ‘OK, he took something in the face.’”

Why wouldn't Graff tell her son some basic facts about what seems to have happened that night? Dubliners will die for their tales, or at least they'll inflict major pain on others.

DUBLINERS TOO: A moral history of his country!

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013

Part 1—Few episodes have matched this one: In 1913, Joyce Kilmer wrote “Trees.”

That’s not what we’re talking about.

In 1907, James Joyce published Dubliners, a famous set of fifteen stories which isn’t set in Ohio.

The fellow was 25 at the time. One year earlier, he had explained his purposes in a frequently-quoted letter.

For fuller text, see below. This was Joyce, with our emphasis added:

“My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to be the center of paralysis. I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under its four aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life. The stories are arranged in this order.”

At the tender age of 25, Joyce wanted to write the moral history of his country—or at least, one chapter of it. He seemed to feel the “indifferent public” wasn't much going to care.

No lack of self-confidence there! At The Modern World, we’re offered this account of what Joyce thought he saw in the various sectors of his city:

“A collection of short stories published in 1907, Dubliners revolves around the everyday lives of men, women and children in the Irish capital of Dublin during the late Victorian era. Generally unhappy tales, they form a chronicle of lost innocence, eroding faith, missed opportunities, subtle hypocrisies, devastating ironies, and paralysis—always moral and intellectual paralysis.”

That analysis, which we first read this weekend, had us at “moral and intellectual paralysis.” As you can see in Joyce's letter, the word “paralysis” was his.

Moral and intellectual paralysis! Here at The Daily Howler, we have often referred to the “moral and intellectual squalor” of the modern American “press corps.” In the fifteen years we’ve been doing this site, very few episodes—perhaps only one—matches the coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing for the breadth of the way this moral and intellectual breakdown has been put on display.

Other episodes have been more consequential, though nothing involving race is ever trivial, and this episode is highly important. But no other episode has put the breakdown on a wider display.

At age 25, Joyce presented a story cycle to display the “paralysis” he saw all through his country’s constituent parts. In this country, no episode has shown our own breakdown as it works its way through so many different elements of the population.

It started with baldly inaccurate, lurid claims made by some family lawyers. With lightning speed, those often disgraceful claims were adopted by the “press corps.”

(This same process occurred in the summer of 2001, when Levy family lawyers seem to have invented false claims about Gary Condit—false claims which were widely repeated on cable all summer. They too believed that the police weren't investigating their case hard enough. It would seem that they too began inventing false claims to paint the finger of blame at Condit, thus forcing additional action.)

The current case began with the lawyers, then with the guild we still call the press. From there, the moral and intellectual breakdown spread in a bit of a plague, as Camus might have put it. It extended through the wider community here in our own Oran.

We got to see how easy it is to get folk to believe, and then to repeat, certain types of false claims. We saw the urgency with which many people long for the chance to repeat false claims, as long as they're morally pleasing.

Eventually, we even got to see how doggedly many “liberals” will fight to defend the right to make false claims! And as always, we saw the problem which underlies this moral and intellectual breakdown:

We saw that the best and brightest among us will not describe this pestilent process, which has paralyzed our own Dublin, our own Oran, for at least the past twenty years now. More on this silence to follow.

According to The Modern World, Joyce saw “moral and intellectual paralysis” among his fellow Dubliners. He tended to attribute that condition to his country’s domination by a foreign power.

The fact that Joyce thought he saw that doesn’t mean it was actually there! But for our own moral and intellectual squalor, consider the editorial which ran in the Baltimore Sun on July 17, right here on the streets where we live.

What follows is pure journalistic porn, in an array of ways. The porn can also be found in other parts of the editorial. This is what we have meant, down through the years, when we have spoken about our own nation’s moral and intellectual squalor:
BALTIMORE SUN EDITORIAL (7/16/13): The only thing that is clear now is the same thing that has been evident from the beginning: that no one in the Twin Lakes development in Sanford, Fla., was at risk on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, until Mr. Zimmerman spotted Trayvon Martin, decided based on his appearance that he was a "punk" who didn't belong, and then disregarded the advice of a 911 operator and got out of his car to try to keep the teen from getting away. Regardless of who threw the first punch or who was getting the better of the struggle that ensued, it is indisputably true that Mr. Zimmerman overstepped his role, and that had he not done so, Trayvon Martin would still be alive.

The trial shed little definitive light on the events surrounding Mr. Martin's death. But two undercurrents are clearly responsible for what happened that night and for the way the case has played out since: racial prejudice and Florida's reckless stand-your-ground self-defense law.

Mr. Zimmerman's defense attorneys didn't explicitly invoke stand your ground in his defense; to do so would have undermined their story that Mr. Martin had pinned Mr. Zimmerman to the ground and was reaching for Mr. Zimmerman's weapon at the moment of the fatal shot. But Mr. Zimmerman was clearly aware of it before the confrontation. The existence of such a law, and of lax rules for the carrying of concealed weapons, are emboldening to the vigilante. The law also played no small part in the Sanford Police Department's shoddy investigation of the killing and the local prosecutor's initial decision not to pursue any charges. Such a law renders the notion of justice irrelevant. Imagine if Mr. Zimmerman had been the one who wound up dead that night; a strict reading of stand your ground would suggest that Mr. Martin wouldn't have been guilty of anything either.

Mr. Zimmerman's defenders note that he does not have a history of overt racism and that he used profanity and epithets but no racial slurs in describing Mr. Martin to a 911 operator. But something made him decide based on no evidence that Mr. Martin was a troublemaker who had to be apprehended so desperately that Mr. Zimmerman could not wait for police to arrive. Mr. Martin was a black teenager wearing a hooded sweatshirt. If he had been a white teen in khakis and a button-down, would Mr. Zimmerman have jumped to the conclusions he did? Almost certainly not. A black youth automatically registers as suspicious, and now, thanks to the Zimmerman defense team, he will automatically be considered armed and dangerous, even if he is holding nothing more menacing than a bag of Skittles.

The second way race factors into this case is in how it has been perceived by the public. A black youth is killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer, the police conduct a shoddy investigation, prosecutors put on a bumbling case, and an all-white jury in the South acquits. It is a story so familiar in its outlines that the particulars cannot overcome the sense for many justice is impossible when race is involved.
That was squalid work, in ways we’ll discuss a bit more tomorrow. For today, we’ll quickly cite two blatantly false assertions which came from The Standard Approved Story Book. Then we’ll link you to a subsequent event here in Baltimore.

Good lord! According to the editors. Zimmerman was acquitted by “an all-white jury in the South.”

As everyone knows, and always knew, that statement isn’t true. In an act of remarkable moral squalor, the editors served that gruel anyway.

An all-white jury in the South! Surely, they knew that was false.

Needless to say, the editors also said, seventeen months later, that Zimmerman “disregarded the advice of a 911 operator and got out of his car” on that fateful night. With some horror, we note that this statement is written in such a way that it can imaginably be defended, though only absurdly, as being technically accurate.

Can it possibly be that the squalor runs so deep that the editors deliberately crafted their statement that way? We pray that isn't true.

(By the spring of 2012, almost every major news org had debunked the notion that Zimmerman was told to stay in his car that night. To see the New York Times explain the chronology, click this. To see the hometown Orlando Sentinel do the same, click here. Almost everyone reported, once, what the real chronology was. Then, Dubliners went back to describing these events in the way they much preferred. This formed part of the moral/intellectual squalor of that Sun editorial.)

Surely, the editors knew that wasn’t an all-white jury. Were they really still misinformed about the chronology of that exchange with the police dispatcher? Beyond these rather obvious problems, the editors stated, in several places, that Zimmerman decided “based on no evidence/based on appearance” that Martin was a suspicious person that night, although they of course understand that Zimmerman reported suspicious behavior.

Like the editors, we have no way of knowing how Martin did or didn’t behave that night. We do know this—the behavior of the editors is journalistically pornographic and morally squalid.

We’ll cite a few more parts of that editorial tomorrow. For today, let’s consider what sometimes happens when Dubliners behave this way with others looking on.

On the same day that editorial appeared, Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells described a street attack in east Baltimore. The editors have managed to withhold their concern about this reported event:
WELLS (7/16/13): Tensions have run high, and Baltimore police said Monday they are investigating an alleged beating of a Hispanic man that, according to a witness, came at the hands of a group of black youths who were saying "This is for Trayvon" while they attacked him.


In a Facebook post that drew nearly 50 comments, real estate agent Christina Dudley said she was walking to her car just before 9 p.m. Sunday when she saw several young black males and two black females chasing a 37-year-old Hispanic man west on North Linwood Avenue past East Fairmont Avenue.

"One of the boys had a handgun out, and it was pointed at the back of him," Dudley said in an interview.

They caught up to the man at the corner of Fairmount and North Streeper Street, and the male with the gun appeared to beat the victim with it while others kicked and stomped him, Dudley said. Police confirmed they are looking into whether the perpetrators' reaction to the verdict in the Zimmerman trial played a role in the incident. A police report on the beating does not mention the alleged comments.

"They were just yelling and calling him names as they ran after him, but once they were hitting him and after that, they started yelling, "This is for Trayvon," said Dudley, who said she heard the chant repeated multiple times.

Dudley and a woman walking her dog across the street told the group to stop and warned that they were calling 911. The group scattered before police arrived. Police have no arrests or named suspects. The victim suffered abrasions to his elbows and forearms but refused medical attention, according to the police report.

Dudley, who lives in the neighborhood, said she worries about her Hispanic neighbors and said she and other residents were looking for ways beyond Facebook to warn them of the incident. Patterson Park has one of the city's highest concentrations of Latinos and is home to the annual Latino Fest.
Did that street attack happen that way? Like the editors of the Sun, we have no way of knowing. By the next day, the Baltimore police seemed to be saying they think that Dudley is wrong in what she says she heard. To see her interviewed, click this ABC report.

The Baltimore Sun’s editorial couldn’t have triggered that street attack. (We try not to fake our chronologies here.) But Dubliners have been affected in many ways by the moral and intellectual squalor surrounding the Zimmerman trial.

We’ll be surprised if no other attacks are triggered by this widespread misconduct. Late last week, one juror described the way she broke down when she saw the way she was being attacked by fellow Dubliners.

(“I literally fell on my knees and I broke down. My husband was holding me. I was screaming and crying,” she told the self-involved Robin Roberts. We don't blame her for being upset. Do you feel sure that no other attacks will result from our widespread bad conduct?)

In 1947, Albert Camus imagined the way the citizens of Oran reacted to an imagined plague (The Plague). In 1958, Chinua Achebe imagined events in Umuofia, a fictional group of Nigerian villages in a colonial trap (Things Fall Apart).

In 1836, Hans Christian Anderson imagined the way the citizens of a mythical empire reacted to an awkward event involving a major authority figure (The Emperor’s New Clothes).

All these writers tried to convey the way we humans behave as we are asked to confront various parts of the human condition. For this week, we’ll stick with Dubliners as our leading model.

Joyce saw a “paralysis” running through the various elements of his nation. We have long described a wide moral and intellectual squalor here in our own Oran.

In the past month, this squalor has run through many parts of our nation. It has involved the lawyers, the journalists, the professors and even a shitload of us liberals.

Is the breakdown general all over this country? In our next post, later today, we’ll describe an act of child-rearing by two Dubliners.

Maybe you'll think they did the right thing. In the end, there's no way to say.

Tomorrow: More from the hometown Dublin Sun

The fuller passage from Joyce: Here is a fuller passage from that letter by Joyce:

“My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to be the center of paralysis. I have tried to present it to the indifferent public under its four aspects: childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life. The stories are arranged in this order. I have written in for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness and with the conviction that he is a very bold man who dares to alter in the presentment, still more to deform, what he has seen and heard.”

Joyce said he refused to alter the various things he had seen and heard. The editors of the Baltimore Sun dine at a different table.

Concerning that earlier murder probe: Gary Condit played no role in Chandra Levy's death. All through the summer of 2001, pundits invented and massaged facts. This helped them pretend that he did.

We'd call that “moral squalor.” As in the famous Anderson tale, most of us Dubliners chose to pretend that this had never occurred

Robin Roberts and ABC News!


Incompetent, morally feckless: ABC News must be the purest distillation of overpaid moral fecklessness.

Also of incompetence! Consider the high-profile segment it broadcast on Thursday evening’s Nightline.

The segment featured excerpts of Robin Roberts’ interview with Juror B29, one of the jurors in the George Zimmerman trial. Because various jurors have gone into hiding, this juror only revealed her first name: Maddy.

How incompetent is ABC News? The Nightline segment ran just 1700 words. Midway through, this exchange occurred:
ROBERTS (7/25/13): What was your first vote?

JUROR B29: My first vote was second degree murder.

ROBERTS: How did you go from, in nine hours, from feeling he was guilty of second degree murder to not guilty?

JUROR B29: In between the nine hours it was hard. A lot of us had wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law, because for myself, he's guilty, because the evidence shows he's guilty.
Ignore the horror as a juror says that she and some other jurors “wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law.” Instead, ask yourself how ABC got to this statement, which occurred less than two minutes later:
ROBERTS: During the trial, the FBI's audio expert did testify that it is impossible to tell who was screaming for help. During their 16 hours of deliberations,the consideration of a possible manslaughter verdict weighed heavily on Maddy.
Maybe there's some explanation for that apparent contradiction, but it doesn't appear in the transcript. Among her many skills, Robert goes from 9 hours of deliberation to 16 in just under two minutes.

Needless to say, Roberts also stated, in between those dueling accounts, that the police dispatcher “suggested [Zimmerman] stay in his car.” As of May 2012, every major American news org had figured out, and reported, that this wasn't true—that Zimmerman was already out of his car by the time of the exchange in question.

Zimmerman wasn't told to stay in his car that night. But the inaccurate fact makes the story work better. Roberts, who’s paid $6 million per year, stated the famous fake fact.

Earlier this afternoon, we wasted a bunch of time trying to find a full tape or transcript of this juror’s interview with Roberts. No such luck! It is now more than 48 hours since inflammatory sound-bites began to circulate from this session, but ABC News still hasn’t posted an unedited tape or transcript.

Transcripts from Friday morning’s Good Morning America haven’t been posted at all. Yesterday, Slate’s William Saletan offered a very sound warning:
SALETAN (7/26/13): ABC News hasn’t posted a full unedited video or transcript of the interview. The video that has been broadcast—on World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America—has been cut and spliced in different ways, often so artfully that the transitions appear continuous. So beware what you’re seeing. But the video that’s available already shows, on closer inspection, that Maddy has been manipulated and misrepresented...
Saletan posted that yesterday afternoon. A full day later, his very sound warning holds!

Has Maddy been manipulated and misrepresented? For ourselves, we can’t say that at this point. But Saletan’s warning is apt. It’s astoundingly careless that ABC has released this material in chopped-up form, making it extremely hard to see what was actually said.

For some, the material may be inflammatory. ABC News doesn't seem to know or care.

Saletan does a fair amount of mind-reading concerning what Maddy was trying to say in this jumbled, seemingly self-contradictory session. That said, we think he skipped two of the most instructive parts of the transcripts, such as they are.

First, note the intellectual laziness of Roberts and ABC News as Maddy bungles the law:
ROBERTS: When you all sent that note to the judge asking for an explanation on manslaughter, what was that about?

JUROR B29: What we were trying to figure out was manslaughter, in order to be charged, we had to prove that when he left home, he said, “I'm gonna go kill Trayvon Martin.”

ROBERTS: Her own lawyer, David Chico, says even legal experts would have been confused.

CHICO (videotape): And I've thought a lot about it and I haven't really been able to come up with really another charge, except I mean, I think manslaughter was a charge that could be put forth.
In the highlighted passage, the juror completely misstates the nature of a manslaughter charge. Elsewhere, she misstates the law a second way.

Roberts simply ignores these problems. You don’t want to make Maddy look bad! Unlike Juror B37, Maddy has been cast in this drama as The Well-Intentioned Juror. She must not be challenged or questioned.

The second excerpt is even more striking. This may explain a lot of the conduct from the jurors in the past two weeks:
ROBERTS: Maddy says she had no idea that the world was watching so closely.

PROTESTOR (videotape): Solidarity!

ROBERTS: After the jury was released, she says she crumbled as the negative news reports about their verdict erupted.

JUROR B29: I literally fell on my knees and I broke down. My husband was holding me. I was screaming and crying, and I kept saying to myself I feel like I killed him. And I feel that if maybe if they would put the law, and a lot of people would read it, they would understand the choices that they gave us.
This juror is a regular person. She works as a nursing assistant; we will guess that she is one of the truly decent people among us. It's sad to hear this account of her reaction to the insults, recriminations and threats she may have seen.

One web site is offering rewards for the addresses of the jurors. In his statement last week, President Obama couldn’t even bring himself to speak well of their service. The base wouldn’t have liked it!

In the past week, we’ve seen jurors on the run as a virtual lynch mob continues to prowl the streets of The Net. This may explain why Maddy is trying to explain the thought crime she committed in voting not guilty.

Juror B37 did the same thing a few days after speaking with Anderson Cooper. The fact that jurors are forced to speak from the shadows, no last names given, represents a terrible breakdown in the social fabric.

With that in mind, let’s think about someone else who is on the run. Saletan is right on the money is making this observation about this juror:

“The phrase ‘got away with murder’ was put in her mouth.”

Thanks to Roberts' prompting, this juror became the second major figure to say, or seem to say, that Zimmerman “got away with murder.” (Inevitably, crackpot prosecutor Angela Corey was the first.)

Yesterday, Sybrina Fulton became the third. In yesterday's speech to the Urban League, Fulton was basically asking for an extrajudicial killing, whether she meant to or not. It’s good being Robin Roberts, toying with people’s lives in such deeply careless ways.

Reportedly, Roberts is paid $6 million per year. The rest of the scuts at ABC News are vastly overpaid too.

ABC has done incompetent, morally careless work. But then, when we deal with people like these, what the heck else is new?

THE STORY BEGINS: Fake facts never die!

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2013

Part 5—The history of Professor Cobb's fake fact: The Zimmerman verdict was rendered on Saturday evening, July 13.

Two nights later, America’s most discerning citizens gathered before their TV machines. They watched the PBS NewsHour, their country’s most erudite news program.

Not for them the screeching and yelling found on those cable news channels! But uh-oh! Those discerning citizens were soon told this by one of their nation’s professors:
WOODRUFF (7/15/13): Well, to you, Jelani Cobb, on that point about whether race was clearly a part of this trial. We know the judge said at the outset that the attorneys were not to use the term racial profiling.

COBB: Right. If I can just respond to Carol Swain’s previous point about this being racialized, as opposed to race actually being an integral element of it from the beginning. One, there is the case of Marissa Alexander, which some people may be familiar with, who was in a situation where—a domestic violence situation, she fired a warning shot and has been sentenced to 20 years, despite the fact that she deployed a stand your ground defense.

And so—also, had this been two white men or two black men, it’s doubtful that it would have required 44 days before someone was actually investigated or there were charges brought. And, so, no we can’t escape—and finally, the fact of the matter is, Mr. Zimmerman had called the police 46 times in the previous six years, only for African-Americans, only for African-American men.

And so if we just look at who he thought was suspicious, and if this was a kind of arbitrary element of calling, since 20 percent of that population of that subdivision is African-American, what his problem seemed to be was with the presence of African-Americans there, not with the presence of crime, or the incapacity to differentiate between African-Americans and crime.
First, the professor cited another case, without quite explaining the connection to the Zimmerman matter. He then engaged in a bit of speculation about what would have happened if.

Finally, the august professor got to “the fact of the matter.” When he did, he recited a fact which is blatantly false.

NewsHour viewers had no way of knowing. But they had been grossly misinformed about this case again.

(Later in the segment, the professor also said this: “The fact of the matter is, whatever the conflict was, it was precipitated by Mr. Zimmerman. The police—the dispatcher told him not to get out of his vehicle. He proceeded to get out of his vehicle.” That statement, while highly familiar, was also false.)

In the passage we have highlighted, Professor Cobb was reciting one of the many fake facts which came to the American public as they tried to assess this high-profile case. Because no, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea—despite what you have routinely been told, Zimmerman didn’t make 46 phone calls to police “only for African-Americans, only for African-American men.”

What did Zimmerman call about? On March 22 of last year, a police department account of those 46 calls was made public. On March 22, 2012, that full list was published here, by The Daily Beast.

As far as we know, that is the best existing record of what those 46 phone calls concerned. And despite what people like Cobb have told you, those 46 phone calls weren’t made “only for African-Americans, only for African-American men.”

The professor's fact is pleasing. But the fact is false.

What did those 46 phone calls concern? Some of those phone calls were made about whites and/or Hispanics. Some of those phone calls were made about stray dogs. Some of those calls were about garage doors which were standing open, an invitation to burglars.

Several of the 46 calls reported fire alarms or motion alarms which had gone off. Several calls concerned potholes.

From the data as released, there is no way to know exactly how many of the calls concerned black males. Some of the calls concerned behavior by people whose race or ethnicity isn’t recorded.

But in those data as they exist, exactly seven of the 46 calls are known to have involved black people. That includes the two calls Zimmerman made concerning Trayvon Martin on the fateful evening when this story began.

Before that night, only five of the calls can be said to involve black people, at least according to that public record. Three calls can be said to involve white people. One call can be said to involve Hispanics.

Quite a few of the 46 calls involved no people at all.

(Two of the five previous calls involving black people occurred in the fall of 2011. They seem to have led to the arrest of Emmanuel Burgess, who had staged several burglaries and a home invasion in the neighborhood. For Jeralyn Merritt's account of those calls, click here.)

How in the world did Professor Cobb get that fake fact in his head? What led him to repeat the fake fact on our most upstanding news show?

Why did no one on the program speak up to correct his fake fact? Why were so many upstanding citizens misinformed again?

You're asking excellent questions! They take us back to the one false fact the New York Times deigned to correct from its initial, heinous news report about the killing of Trayvon Martin.

That first news report, by Lizette Alvarez, was genuinely heinous. Instantly, she stated a false fact—two shots were fired that fateful night. She then quoted Natalie Jackson, a Martin family lawyer, telling a lurid, false tale.

The false claim that two shots were fired wasn’t the only factual error in that first New York Times report. But it was the only error for which the Times ever issued a formal correction.

Incredibly, the Times never corrected the bogus claim that two shots can be heard on the 911 tapes. Eventually, though, the magisterial Gotham newspaper managed somehow to write this:
THE NEW YORK TIMES (4/6/12): Corrections

An article on March 17 about appeals for a Department of Justice investigation into the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman misstated the time period in which Mr. Zimmerman made 46 calls to 911. The calls were made over the course of about eight years, not over 14 months. The error was repeated in a front-page article on March 21 about Florida's self-defense law known as Stand Your Ground.
In that initial March 17 report, Alvarez reported that the 46 calls were made over a 14-month period. By March 22, it was clear that this time span was wrong. Exhibiting its standard “complacencies of the peignoir,” the Times lazily corrected this one mistake a bit more than two weeks later.

The 46 phone calls had been cited in that first news report. They were still part of the story on The NewsHour last week, except the claim had now been changed, from one fake fact to another!

Initially, the 46 calls were said to have been made over a 14-month period. On cable, this was used to show the world that Zimmerman was a crime-obsessed nut.

Eventually, it became clear that this first fake fact was wrong. But as we’ve told you, in our culture, fake facts never die!

And so, it came to pass. On April 10, 2012, the first version of this fake fact began to morph into the second.

On that evening, Martin attorney Benjamin Crump appeared on MSNBC and Fox. During the 6 PM hour, he made a new claim as he spoke with Al Sharpton:
SHARPTON (4/10/12): Let me ask you, Mr. Crump, what does this do to what we have heard about Mr. Zimmerman’s side of story from his father and his lawyers? Here’s a guy that told different sides of the story, who all of a sudden just quits talking to his lawyers, starts calling prosecutors, starts calling TV hosts. I mean, does that speak a lot to how his story may or may not have a lot of credibility? I mean, wouldn’t the prosecutor have to look at the value of his word now?

CRUMP: I think Reverend Sharpton, you are absolutely right. They should look at everything. They should look at all of the 911 calls he made before Trayvon Martin’s call, over 46 calls. And about 75 percent of them were dealing with African-American males as being suspicious. Then you take this unpredictable irrational conduct into play, and you want to look at all of that when you look at the totality of the evidence.
As best we can tell, this is the moment when the first fake fact about those phone calls began morphing into the second.

Previously, the fake fact concerned the alleged 14-month time span. Now, attorney Crump advanced a new claim about the 46 calls; he said that 75 percent of the calls dealt with African-American males. This new alleged fact was used to suggest that Zimmerman was a bit of a race man.

Two hours later, Crump went on The O’Reilly Factor. He spoke with guest host Laura Ingraham:
INGRAHAM (4/10/12): Given what you've heard about his own background, his own life story, do you think that this man is a racist?

CRUMP: I don't know if he's a racist or not. But I do believe he racially profiled Trayvon Martin that night. For him, saying he was suspicious and for him getting out of that car, it just doesn't add up. But you also have to look at all the other calls he made. He made 46 calls to 911, and over 75 percent of those calls were about young African-Americans.
Is there any possibility that this new claim was accurate? Could there be some data source which establishes this claim as an actual fact?

Given the number of the 46 calls which concerned pot holes, fire alarms, stray dogs and white folk, that seems highly unlikely. Using Nexis, we find no news org which ever reported any such fact. That includes the major Florida papers which followed this case most closely.

At any rate, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with murder just one day after Crump's remarks. People stopped discussing the 46 calls as the case dropped out of sight.

We can’t tell you how we got from there to the new fake fact, the one the professor offered on the July 15 NewsHour. But that claim was plainly bogus.

Even Crump had only claimed that 75 percent of the calls concerned blacks. By the time our nation’s finest citizens watched our most respectable news show, that figure had managed to creep all the way to 100 percent!

And OOG! The professor had said the same thing on CNN just a few hours earlier! In that case, host Jake Tapper looked on as Professor Cobb debated another guest:
COBB (7/15/13): The other point that we should bear in mind, David [Webb], is that Mr. Zimmerman made 46 phone calls to the police in the preceding six years only to African-Americans, only to African-Americans. He had called the police on no one else. And prior to this, when he did the initial interview in the precinct house, they asked him, why did he pursue against the advice of the police? He said because, "They always get away."

Who gets away? A person who is going home with snacks?

WEBB: He didn't say “blacks” always get away. He said “they” and the—

COBB: However, the only people who were suspicious were African-Americans.
Ironic! The professor was using a new fake fact to hunt down his own chosen victim!

Professor Cobb was hardly alone in stating the new fake fact. That same day, one of the Martin family attorneys stated the fake fact on Hardball.

Jasmine Rand spoke with Hardball’s perpetually hapless host. She explained why the federal government needs to stage a new criminal trial alleging civil rights violations:
MATTHEWS (7/15/13): Well, what would be the story you would tell a federal jury? What story would you say? What would be your scenario of what happened?

RAND: I think that George Zimmerman placed 46 calls throughout a short period of time reporting black men as suspicious in the neighborhood. He got out of that car saying these "F’ing A-holes always get away."


RAND: He followed Trayvon Martin with a loaded gun and that loaded gun, when he pulled the trigger, the thing that pulled the trigger was his hate in his heart for African-American people.
Rand returned to the initial false claim about the “short time period.” But she also used the new fake fact!

Zimmerman made 46 calls about black men! This proved he had hate in his heart!

Innocent people believe these fake facts, especially when they hear them repeated again and again on TV programs they trust. That said, people watching MSNBC had plenty of chances in recent weeks to hear this newest fake fact. On June 24, it made its debut on the Chris Hayes show as the Zimmerman trial was starting.

One of Hayes’ guests, Maya Wiley, stated the new fake fact to The Puppy. As his channel's scripting required, he had of course been blown away by the prosecution’s greatness:
HAYES (6/24/13): That’s what I thought was so brilliant and effective of the prosecution’s opening line, opening with that line, the reminder of the line from the tapes, infamously, about the judgment that emanated in that moment, in that one moment by George Zimmerman—

WILEY: As a racialized judgment. It wasn’t just the “blanking punks” and— George Zimmerman is a man who called the Sanford Police Department 46 times to say there was some scary black person in the neighborhood. So there’s also—

HAYES: The question here, I think, also is it goes to how the jury is going to process all this. And there is, in jury selection, we know, tremendous racial effects in how, in jury composition, in how juries process this. Particularly because our criminal law justice system is intensely racialized and this case has been from the moment an intensely racialized case.
The Puppy worried about the jury's racial consciousness. As he did, one of his guests stated a blatantly false and “racialized” fake fact.

In the course of the trial, Wiley stated this fake fact on three different MSNBC programs. As a courtesy, we will assume that she even thought it was accurate.

Cobb may have thought it was accurate too! Since when do professors fact-check? At any rate, on July 13, Wiley victimized Melissa Harris-Perry with the inaccurate claim:
WILEY (7/13/13): There are two elements to this. One is stereotypes, which we’re talking about, right? The stereotype of the black kid with a hoodie means he must be dangerous, he must be a criminal. Oh, and I don’t know him and he does not live here, right? The stranger phenomenon.

But the second is that we don’t—we are generally afraid of bad things happening. Because what the science shows—and George Zimmerman has actually expressed this, both of these elements, when he has described what happened. He was generally afraid of crime, and we know he called the police 46 times over a period of six years, always reporting a black man in his neighborhood.
We’re sorry, but that isn’t true, despite what your lizard says.

One day later, Steve Kornacki just sat there and took it. This instance was especially gross because of the presence of Marc Morial, a highly respected senior figure, the current president of the National Urban League.

We’ll drop a bit of the crosstalk. Don’t confuse a possible civil lawsuit (for monetary damages) with a possible federal civil rights prosecution:
KORNACKI (7/14/13): In the case of, you know, George Zimmerman, it strikes me this did not get a lot of play in the trial, but I know the prosecutors introduced as part of the evidence five previous 911 calls that he had made.

WILEY: 46! 46 calls in a six-year period from George Zimmerman claiming a scary black person.

KORNACKI: This is right. And it was—only five were admitted as evidence in the trial.

MORIAL: We’ve seen—

WILEY: But my point is, for brain science—46 calls! I’m not talking about the evidence. I’m talking about George Zimmerman’s implicit bias. 46 calls is a lot of evidence on a social science level.

MORIAL: Oh, sure.

SEEMA IYER: But those calls can be used as, you know, a foundation for the DOJ suit and the other—

KORNACKI: The other thing is, I was asking Ben Crump about this earlier, but the civil—the rules of evidence, if this goes to a civil trial, are more expansive, right? So—

MORIAL: The standard of proof, which is different, which is the significant thing. Not only the rules of evidence, but the standard of proof in a criminal case is obviously much—all elements of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, it’s by preponderance of the evidence. It’s a very different proceeding. And the thing you mentioned, the 911 calls, certainly in a civil case, and I think with an intensive competent investigation by the Department of Justice, I feel that George Zimmerman can be brought up on federal criminal civil rights charges and potentially hate crimes charges.
“I’m not talking about the evidence,” Wiley wonderfully said.

Wiley stated the new fake fact. Before long, Morial was declaring that those 46 calls, all of them about scary black people, could drive federal criminal civil rights charges and potentially hate crimes charges!

Does that include the calls about pot holes? Wiley’s fact was blatantly false, but it was doing big damage.

Morial is a very senior figure, and he’s highly respected. One night later, a ranking professor misinformed Woodruff’s viewers—and things got worse after that!

On July 18, Michel Martin interviewed a highly respected figure on NPR, a highly respected news org. She spoke with John Silvanus Wilson Jr., the new president of Morehouse College.

In our experience, Martin is more inclined than most to correct or challenge errors of fact. In this case, President Wilson’s misstatement managed to walk on by:
MARTIN (7/18/13): Martin Luther King Jr. being an alumnus of Morehouse College. This trial, this whole episode, there are those who would argue that race was not a part of it, but clearly very many other people do believe that race is a part of it, particularly the image of young black men. And because you are in the business of serving and educating, I just wonder if you have some thoughts about that. I mean, clearly there are people who believe that if Trayvon Martin had presented himself in a different way, that this would not have happened. If he had reacted in a different way, this would not have happened. Do you have thoughts about that?

WILSON: He was minding his business. Trayvon was minding his business, headed home. An assumption was made that he was trouble, all right? It is very clear, because Zimmerman had apparently called the police some 46 times, and every single time he was calling about a young African-American male that he saw. It is very clear that race has something to do with this.

I think it's almost absurd to suggest that race had nothing to do with it. It is inconceivable, almost, that he would have called about a young white male, or even a young Hispanic male, walking with Skittles and iced tea, walking home. He would not have made the same assumption about being up to no good. So that assumption is pretty key here, and race had everything to do with that assumption.
Oof. Dr. King’s sacred name was invoked. Then we got our newest fake fact, along with our serving of Skittles.

God bless the children and God bless the adults exposed to relentless false facts! As we've told you for so many years, we live in a culture which runs on fake facts.

We have written about this remarkable matter for many years now. And one fact is plain above all:

Absolutely nobody cares! Paul Krugman won’t complain about this. Kevin Drum won't talk about this; neither will E. J. Dionne. And when our best and our brightest won’t mention this problem, this problem will fester and spread.

George Bush reached the White House thanks to twenty straight months of fake facts delivered by the Whole Group. Even now, the liberal world’s smartest players just keep playing along.

Bill Press is a man we once regarded as a favorite because he didn’t play it that way. Bill’s latest column says this:
PRESS (7/22/13): Zimmerman may not have been guilty of second-degree murder, but he was clearly guilty of manslaughter…The night of Feb. 26, he was told to stay in his car, but he didn’t. He chased Martin down and confronted him, leading to a fight—which, apparently, Zimmerman ended up losing. But that doesn’t necessitate or justify murder.

And why did Zimmerman pursue Martin? Not just because he was young. Not just because he was wearing a hoodie. But because he was young, wearing a hoodie—and he was black. According to police records, before confronting Martin, he’d made at least 46 calls to 911, reporting "suspicious" black males.
Press knows Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter thanks to a string of fake facts!

We’re sorry, but there are no such “police records.” Nor was there any sign in Zimmerman’s phone call that night that he gave a good goddamn about the hoodie Martin was wearing.

That iconic claim was made up, invented out of this air.

Nor is it true that Zimmerman was told to stay in his car. Bill Press has his facts down cold—and by that, we mean his fake facts.

Tomorrow: Ruminations on the culture and cult of the fake fact