Friday, January 10, 2014

Four legs good! Two legs ... pretty good too!

Rough day putting the front page together over at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, wasn't it? Christie good! Christie bad! Christie at least not as bad as the black guy! BENGHAZI!!! I mean, where do you go for a lede?

It must have been a relief to just settle in with a nice bit of fabricated race-baiting like the one at right,  occupying the No. 3 spot* on the home page Friday evening. Those Chicago thugs are going after your white kids again, and "educators" are "outraged"!

The hed -- and the presentation -- constitute a particular subset of lying, up for which we ought to come with a new name. Say, for example, you return from the mean streets with a story contending that the unicorns are outraged at Bigfoot's sex antics. Your editor expresses some, you know, minor doubts about its veracity. Aha, you demand, prove that the unicorns aren't outraged at Bigfoot's sex antics! A reasonable response might be: Fine. I can't. But until you quote some unicorns, I'm going to conclude that you're making things up.

The inside hed and the html give different but converging hints: "Education experts blast DOJ's apparent call for race-based system of punishment of schoolkids" and "education-experts-blast-obama-administration-call-for-race-based-punishment." And the lede's pretty clear about whether "educators" are involved:

Education experts blasted a recent Department of Justice directive, which they say seems to advocate a racial quota system for punishing school kids for such transgressions as being late or chewing gum in class.

Who was "interviewed by" for this tale?

“They are right that expelling a student would hinder their academic performance,” Andrew Coulson, Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom said to

... Frederick Hess, director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Daily Caller the letter was “troubling,” and an attempt to intimidate schools into initiating bad policy.

A little sloppiness with commas and capitalization aside, we're 0-for-2 on "educators" and 1-for-2** on "interviewed by" At this point, "lying" seems like a fair assessment. But an accurate presentation of who said what to whom wasn't the point, was it?

... The guidelines are not the first time the Obama administration has bucked prevailing crime and punishment policies over concerns they were unfair to minorities. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last summer that he was instructing federal prosecutors to stop charging nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences, a change affecting crack cocaine sentences that have disproportionately affected minorities.

About 500 words into a 770-word story, then, we meet the scary black dude shown on the front page, having been reminded that the scary black dudes and dudettes of the current administration show little respect for "prevailing crime and punishment policies." It kind of makes you wonder what other "experts" might think about zero-tolerance policies -- say, for example, another American Enterprise Institute expert whom actually does bother to interview:

“The Attorney General was right, but if you look across the board, boys are being

punished for simply being boyish,” Christina Sommers, a resident scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, told, referring to recent stories about how young male students were suspended and expelled for making a gun gesture with their finger and making a play weapon from a Pop Tart.

In other words, we need to apply common sense to zero tolerance, as long as boys are just being, you know, boys. Which -- coincidence, or what? -- seems to have been the No. 3 story on the Fox homepage this morning. Not only are "educators" not "outraged," but a third of the right-wing "experts" brought to bear on the question seem to have trouble swallowing the racialized fears of the Fair 'n' Balanced Network.

You can see how it sets the little brain to spinning. Four legs good! Two legs -- pretty darn good too!

* As of this writing (around 11 p.m. Eastern), it's been promoted to the lede, and the "educators" have become "experts."
**  The hyphens are AP style. Sorry.

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