Your Lying Eyes

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11 March 2011

Hey, Cut the Guy Some Slack

The poor guy I'm talking about is James C. McKinley, NY Times Houston Bureaus chief. He had the unenviable task of covering the sensational story of the gang-rape of an 11-year old girl in a small Texas town called Cleveland by around 18 men. Those arrested all all black and the victim is Hispanic. The town itself is a bit more than half white, and the remainder split approximately evenly between black and Hispanic.

McKinley has been getting his butt roasted over the tone of his reporting, notably from the leftish and feminist side of the blogosphere, for blaming the victim, making excuses for the attackers, and generally for showing more concern over the perpetrators' fate than the victim. And then, to add insult to injury, the Times's public editor, normally so unsympathetic with those who question the paper's objectivity, unceremoniously throws Mr. McKinley under the bus.

But what's a Times reporter to do? Perhaps had the victim been white he could have safely ignored the story as just another lurid, local crime unworthy of the great paper's attention. But regardless, having chosen to cover the story, the standard N.Y. Times rules for reportage would now prevail.

What are these rules? First and foremost, in reporting on crimes committed by African-Americans (indeed, by African-Americans - from anywhere), perspectives from victims are inherently uninteresting. Second, the perpetrators are never wholly - or mostly - responsible for their actions. All manner of deprivations, indignities, social forces and historical injustices must be called upon to explain the crime. Third, the actual guilt must be called into question and, in particular, the motivations of those investigating and prosecuting the crime must at least to some extent be impeached.

So Mr. McKinley simply reported the story the way he has learned that the New York Times expects such stories to be reported - from the viewpoint of the "devastated community" - which by definition is the African-American community, which by definition is always the true victim of any tragedy. What was he supposed to do to provide "context", quote national crime statistics on rates of crime by race? Of course not - he provided context the only way he knew how - by airing the "grievances" of the "afflicted" community and providing descriptions of the area's poverty ("in the neighborhood where the assault occurred, well-kept homes sit beside boarded-up houses and others with deteriorating facades").

What he forgot is that this is one of those intersecting stories where liberal sympathies are unresolvably in conflict. So I feel for the guy - I really do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


McKinley also stated that, "Yet the gunman and his motive remain an enigma" in the same article that he noted the shooter yelled "Allahu Akbar" during the Ft. Hood massacre.

Newsbusters has a little McKinley page if you'd like to skim it:

He's obviously a lefty.

March 14, 2011 10:34 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

I'm sure you're right...but I still don't know, given that he was writing for the NY Times, how else he was supposed to write about the incident.

March 15, 2011 8:21 AM  
Blogger Figgy said...

I wonder if the NYT has ever acknowledged their philosophy in covering news items like this one. I've never seen such an admission but it's possible they have come clean at some time. Years back I saw a story about a French newspaper which essentially admitted they would "soften" the words in a story covering a "minority on majority" crime, and with lesser crimes of that nature they would simply ignore the event. Given what's happened over there in the meantime as a result of that enlightened Muslim infusion policy, it would be interesting to find out if they still follow it.

Incidentally, did you see that Bethesda Yoga Shop murder has been solved? Turned out to be quite the Hollywood-like ending. The original story had masked men following 2 female employees into the shop after closing time. Both women were beaten and sexually assaulted, with one dying as a result of her injuries and the other winding up in the hospital. Under questioning, the surviving victim's story unraveled. It turned out her injuries were self inflicted and she wasn't raped and now she has been charged with the murder. This has all the twists and turns necessary for a Law and Order episode. Although to fit the MO of the show they'd have to reverse the races of the murderer and the victim.

BTW, your empathy for the writer of the NYT article is very touching.

March 20, 2011 11:11 AM  
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