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Simpson vs. Trump in the Ratings War

On an otherwise nice early spring Monday, two remarkably unsurprising headlines grabbed our attention. One was about former football hero O.J. Simpson’s “hypothetical” confession to double murder in an old but only recently aired interview with the Fox News Network, and the other was about the Republicans on the House committee investigating the “Russia thing” soon releasing a report that there’s nothing to it.
At this point we won’t worry about a libel suit and will come right out and say that Simpson damned sure seemed guilty of that long-ago double murder from the start, and we never doubted that sooner or later he’d eventually get around to confessing it in some weaselly way. Still, if you were anywhere near a television or newsstand way back when the trial occurred you couldn’t escape it, as it was the runaway reality show hit of the year, even if the whodunnit part of it was obvious from the outset. It featured a handsome football hero and a gorgeous ex-wife and her hunky younger suitor, it happened in a famously ritzy Los Angeles suburb, there were colorful lawyer characters involved, so Hollywood’s best screenwriters couldn’t have written a more blockbuster script. The handsome football hero and accused murderer was black while the gorgeous ex-wife and her hunky younger suitor were white, too, and with the combination of Los Angeles’ troubled racial history and the ritzy suburban location and the domestic violence it also made for all sorts of think pieces about race class and gender in the more serious media.
The prosecution had Simpson’s blood at the crime scene, the victims’ blood at his home and on his automobile, serial numbers and credit card receipts proving Simpson owned the bloody glove found at the crime scene, and the fact that Simpson had attempted to flea justice on the a live broadcast that got bigger ratings that any Super Bowl or the series of finale of “M*A*S*H.” Simpson’s defense offered no plausible alibi and a bundle of vague conspiracy theories so crazy they wouldn’t fly on “InfoWars,” and if you were sticking to the facts it was pretty simple. At the intersection of race and class and gender it’s hard to stick to the facts, however, especially in our reality show culture, and the Simpson trial provoked all sorts of reactions.
We had several white friends — mostly women, oddly enough — who insisted that Simpson couldn’t be guilty of such a heinous crime because he seemed such a nice guy in all those post-game interviews and the movies and commercials he’d done after his playing days. Pretty much all of our black friends bought into the conspiracy theory that the racist police had pulled off an elaborate conspiracy to frame the black guy. All in all it made for a damned convoluted debate about the outcome.
Two of our better black friends are a couple of colleagues at the newspaper where we labored at the time, both of them fine journalists who usually adhered to the facts of a story, but they both believed the conspiracy theories, and it made for some strained conversation over coffee. We tried to point out that it would take one hell of a conspiracy to so quickly plant the defendant’s blood at the crime scene and the victims’ blood on his automobile at at his home, not to mention that very specific glove, and that the same racist police had let Simpson off lightly after repeated complaints of domestic abuse, but they were unconvinced. Simpson’s ex-wife’s had put pictures of her bruised and bloody face in a safe deposit box to document the repeated domestic abuse, just in case she wound up murdered, but several of our mostly women white friends still insisted he seemed too a nice guy to murder his wife.
At this point in the distant future pretty much everyone figures that yeah, O.J. did it and might as well confess, as there’s not much to do about it now, but the same sort of superficial considerations still cloud the public’s assessment of more pressing matters. The Republicans on the House committee investigating the “Russia thing” have their own obvious reasons for concluding there’s nothing to it, as do many of our white friends and fellow Republicans, and by they have own  legitimate racial grievances and are as obstinate about as their conspiracy theories as our black friends once were about Simpson’s innocence.
We try to point out that even the Trump-appointed heads of all the intelligence agencies agree that the Russian government meddled in the past presidential election on Trump’s behalf, and that various Trump campaign and administration officials have already either pleaded guilty or been indicted or recused themselves for various suspicious and undisclosed contacts with Russian officials. We note that the top-notch special counsel investigation has come up with even more circumstantial than those hapless LA County prosecutors could muster against Simpson, that the hapless Trump defenders on his legal team in the House investigating team and talk radio are offering up conspiracy theories that would have embarrassed Simpson’s lawyers, and it makes for some strained conversations over coffee.
Sooner or later the heat of the moment dissipates, though, and the cold hard facts of the matter become apparent. In retrospect we’re not at all surprised that a mostly black jury from Los Angeles would vote to acquit Simpson, and even in this moment we’re not surprised that an all white group of House Republicans would conclude that there’s nothing at all to that whole “Russia thing.”
People are like that, no matter their color nor their political persuasion.

— Bud Norman

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Murder, Live on Television, and Its Complications

The murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on Wednesday morning were broadcast on live television and posted on the internet by the murderer, which of course makes them impossible to ignore. Otherwise the media happily ignore it.
Both of the victims were white and heterosexual, their murderer was black and homosexual, and except for the inevitable arguments about the need for new gun laws there’s nothing about the case that advances the preferred media narrative. The heartbreaking tales of the victims’ promising lives make the Democratic Party’s sudden embarrassment to state that all lives matter seem callous, the murderer’s firing from the television news organization he attacked now seems well justified no matter or his race or sexual orientation, and his declared intention to start a race war with the shootings of his former colleagues doesn’t suggest that the post-racial era promised by the current president has come about. Except for the fact that there was a gun involved, nothing about these brutal murders is of much use to the press.
The more conservative portions of the press will properly note that the preferred narrative of the media is sympathetic to the grievances of blacks and homosexuals and especially black homosexuals, and that this might have led some obviously crazed black homosexual who kept getting local television news jobs despite his obvious mental and emotional deficiencies to commit such a horrible crime, but we will resist this temptation. We don’t like it when people who take a principled stand against late-term abortions are implicated in the murder of a doctor who performs late-term abortions, or when a rather insignificant political figure is blamed for a bizarre shooting of another obscure political figure because of a rifle-sight figure on a political blog, and for all our contempt for the Only Black Lives Matter movement we’re not going to blame them for some random lunatic’s amoral actions. We can’t say they helped, but we can’t say they’re to blame.
All we can say is that we’ll pray for the victims and their families and loved ones, and that the government doesn’t do anything crazy to undermine the right of self-defense as a result, and that the next news cycle somehow brings better news.

— Bud Norman

On Racial Disparities in Educational Achievement

Our first awareness of a racial disparity in educational achievement came on our first day of junior high school, when an English teacher required each student in our diverse class to take a turn reading aloud a paragraph from the first page of the textbook. Some of the black students handled the assignment with ease, while some of the white students struggled with the longer words and more complex sentences, but it was glaringly obvious to our seventh-grade eyes and ears that most of the white students could read markedly better than most of the black students. Several of the black students stammered through three-lettered words and the most simple declarative sentences, all but the best one or two or three of thm were no better than what seemed the white average, and as one of the more illiterate readers grumbled in a loud and angry sotto voce that it was a racist exercise intended to make the black students feel bad we realized that everyone else in the room had also noticed.
The realization surprised us, as at that point we couldn’t imagine how the mostly-black elementary school our new classmates had attended could have possibly been worse than the mostly-white one we had suffered through, and even in the early ’70s and even in such Republican terrain as our middle-of-America school district we had already been diligently taught by our social studies classes and the evening news and all those Sidney Poitier movies to believe that racial equality prevailed everywhere except perhaps basketball, but it was quickly corroborated as a widespread fact by both the voluminous educational testing data we precociously read and our own experiences in every other class we attended through junior high and high school. By the first mugging of our junior high career, which also occurred on that first day, we also noticed a similar racial disparity in the school’s disciplinary problems that would persist through our high school graduation.
Even at that young age we were engrossed and dismayed by the apparently nationwide phenomenon, and since then we’ve avidly kept abreast of the late efforts to rectify this unfortunate disparity, but the latest data and the anecdotal tales we hear from our parent and teacher friends suggest the unfortunate situation has not at all improved since our long-ago schooldays. Our continued interest in the subject led us to the internet site of the City Pages publication in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolis, where they recount all-too-familiar school day tales of teachers being assaulted, students being bullied, general mayhem occurring in school hallways, and glaring racial disparities showing up in the educational testing data. The same sad tale was noticed by a writer at the EAGnews.org site, who added the interesting fact that the Minneapolis school school district has paid nearly $3 million over the past five years to a consulting company called Pacific Educational Group which has advised that problem is an educational system built on “white privilege,” and that the solution is greater sensitivity and worry about “white privilege” and less disciplinary action and less emphasis on all that Eurocentric “verbal” and “intellectual” and “task-oriented” stuff. The multi-million dollar price tag for such dubious advice is allegedly explained by its cutting-edge trendiness, and exquisite political correctness, but it sounds very much like the same sort of pedagogical theory that made junior high so hellish for us and so disparately un-educational for the vast majority of our black classmates.
That kid in our English class who griped about the humiliation of by being asked to read aloud from a textbook turned out to be one of the more troublesome muggers at our school, and even our ill-educated seventh-grade eyes and ears soon noticed a similar correlation between educational achievement and troublesomeness throughout the school, but the experts at the Pacific Educational Group have reached different conclusions than we did about the cause and effect. Judging by the advanced educational levels of our relatively docile white peers versus that of the more defiant black students we assumed that an increased adherence to the rules of the educational system resulted in a greater benefit from its offerings, but the Pacific Educational Group has apparently concluded that punishing defiance of those rules is the cause of black students’ lesser achievement. They no doubt have some nuanced theory to back up this absurd claim, but it is not verified by our years in racially-diverse public schools.
We were further bemused to note that the Pacific Educational Group’s efforts on behalf of oppressed minority students is further complicated by a large minority of Hmong students. We didn’t have any Hmong in that seventh-grade English class of ours, but we fared well enough in our reading lessons to have since learned that they are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of Cambodia who fled that country’s killing fields to re-settle in post-Cold War fashion in America, mostly in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolis, and that like people from such mountainous regions as the Himalayas and Andes and Appalachians they are widely regarded by their countrymen as the hillbillies of their broader culture. Suffice to say that all those stellar statistics you see about the educational achievements of Asian-Americans, who presumably enjoy no white privilege, are vastly understated by the underachieving averages of the Hmong, yet the Pacific Educational Group’s recommendations are rendered strictly in black-and-white. The only change we have noticed since our long-ago school days that America’s educational problems are now all the more diverse, despite the same old disparities, and we’d like to think that the nuance arguments of those multi-million dollar consultants on the cutting-edge have at least caught up to that.
Even after so many years since our school days we can’t offer any definitive solutions to the continuing inequality of our public schools, despite our near-certainty that more tax money spent on such obvious scams as the Pacific Educational Group and the Justice Department’s insistence on racial quota systems for disciplinary actions and some obviously racist notion about “verbal” and “intellectual” and “task-oriented” being uniquely Caucasian attributes isn’t the answer, but we’d hazard a guess that starting to reach the black and brown and Hmong white kids to read standard English at an early age, and insisting that they refrain from mugging their fellow students or assaulting their teacher in between lessons, is a good start. The main reason we were reading above grade-level by the time of that seventh-grade teacher called on us was the tutelage of two parents who were avid readers and determined to inculcate the habit in their children, although we’d like to thank that our docile habit of refraining from committing mayhem on fellow students or assaulting teachers also had something to do with it, so reversing so many years of inequality will therefore take some time and doing, but we can’t start by assuming, as the Pacific Educational Group does, that those black kids we sat with are simply too “emotional” and “colorful” to keep up.
The issue continues to engross us because it is all-important. Since we our school days we have noticed that the disparities in intellectual achievement eerily predict future disparities, with the kids who were too cool for school faring poorly in life while the nerds who followed all the rules and did all the assignments and aced all the tests are enjoying their middle-aged lives, and that the the correlations cross all colors. Those one or two or three black students who handed a paragraph of a textbook with ease are better off than those white students who struggled with the longer words and more complex sentences, the majority of the white students who read better than the majority of black students are making more money, and all those racial income disparities that the guilt-stricken white folks worry about are clearly a result of the educational achievement disparities that they’re exacerbating by handing over $3 million to the likes of the Pacific Educational Group and similarly addle-brained educators. Start by insisting that first-graders everywhere learn how to read English at a first-grade level, and enforcing certain rules that have proved essential to that goal throughout the history of education, no matter how “emotional” or “colorful” you imagine their culture to be, continue the process right through high school graduation, and we believe it might take an important first step.

— Bud Norman

A Murder in Oklahoma

A young man was senselessly shot and killed Tuesday in small town Oklahoma, and yet another racial controversy has followed.
The usual admonitions about the questionable reliability of early press reports and the presumption of innocence are hereby made, but the known facts of the case are sufficient to provoke an emotional debate. Christopher Lane, a handsome and by all accounts likeable 22-year-old who was attending Oklahoma’s East Central University on a baseball scholarship, was shot in the back while jogging in a well-to-do neighborhood of his girlfriend’s hometown of Duncan. A short time later three teenagers were arrested for the crime, and police say that one confessed they had committed the murder with the explanation that it was done “for fun” to relieve the boredom of their last days of summer vacation.
As horrific as the crime and its shocking motive might be, the story would probably have never been heard of outside south-central Oklahoma if not for the fact that Lane is from Melbourne, Australia, and the papers there regard such a murder as big news. The angle there is America’s murderous culture, of course, and the Australian media seem as eager as their American counterparts to exploit any story that will advance the cause of draconian gun control. America’s difficult race relations are apparently of less interest to the Australian media, but neither are they bound by the rules of racial etiquette that prevail in American newsrooms and the reports all included photographs revealing that Lane is white and two of his three alleged killers are black.
The race of the victim and his alleged killers might or might not have anything to do with the murder, but most American media are disinclined to report on any crime involving white victims and black perpetrators. Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report seems to relish such stories, however, and trumpeted his links to the Australian news reports with a banner headline. The Drudge Report has more readers than all the famous American newspapers put together, and is therefore hated by the mainstream American media with a especially intense passion, so its interest in Lane’s death has forced it into the national conversation. Such reliably liberal commentators as MSNBC’s Piers Morgan have quickly seized on the murderous culture and draconian gun control angle, while others have hewed to the usual rules and either left out the racial identifications or ignored the story altogether, but the more daringly conservative outlets have addressed the racial aspects of the story with a startling frankness.
This reaction was quite predictable in the wake of months of relentless coverage of the trial of George Zimmerman for shooting Tryon Martin in far away in Florida, which was widely portrayed in the media and by prominent politicians as a typical case of a racist white man gunning down an unarmed black teenager in murderous America with its insanely permissive gun laws. That trial ended with an acquittal after evidence clearly demonstrated Zimmerman, who is mostly Hispanic and a former Bema supporter, was being severely beaten by Martin, who turned out to be something less than the angelic child in the years-old photographs that routinely accompanied the stories, and since then press critics have been waiting for the chance to see how the press might cover a story with less promising racial implications. They might have expected that they would see the story of an law-abiding man being killed at random by people flouting the guns laws as further proof that more laws are needed for the law-abiding to abide by, just as they had seen the case of a law-abiding man protecting himself from a potentially deadly assault as proof that more guns laws are needed for the law-abiding to abide by, but Lane’s death still provides an irresistible opportunity to expose the hypocrisy.
Those critics have a point, given that black-on-white violence is eight times more common than white-on-black violence yet receives far less attention from the media, and in the case of Lane’s tragic death there are early indications that race might have played a deadly role. The first thing a reporter in the modern age does when reporting on a crime is to check the social media postings of the suspects, and in this case they reveal two young men steeped in the violent ghetto sub-culture with an unabashed hatred of white people. Both of the suspects had posted pictures of themselves in gang paraphernalia and flashing gang signs as well as various firearms, and one “tweeted” a claim that “90% of white people are nasty” and a boast that he had “knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerrman court!” For those unfamiliar with the latest slang, “knocced” is a spelling of “knocked” that employs a popular signature of the Crips street gang, and “woods” is an abbreviation of “peckerwoods,” a racial slur against white people. The reference to “Zimmerman court” should be self-explanatory.
Some good might come of this if the story forces a frank acknowledgement of the violent sub-culture that has affected far too many young black men and women, and mitigates some of the hysteria that shows up in the “tweets” of accused murderers in the wake of the relentless hyping of the Zimmerman trial. If the story reminds America that the last notable murder of an Australian occurred during the Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, when the eminently respectable Rev. Al Sharpton whipped the mob into such a frenzy that Yeshiva student Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed by a man who would later be acquitted by a sympathetic jury, all the better. It will be of little comfort, however, to those who knew and loved Christopher Lane. Whatever the facts of his tragic death, we can only hope that there will be some measure of justice to comfort his loved ones.

— Bud Norman