Fact checkers believe they’re God’s gift to journalism—our final line of defense against the Fake News Times—even when they’re objectively bad at their jobs. But the Washington Post’s Glenn “Fact Checker” Kessler really took the semantic exercise to a whole new plane today by fact-checking Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s recent comments about the killing of unarmed black kids.
Gather ‘round before I have a fucking stroke.
Kessler’s “analysis” column was responding to a reader who asked about a viral O’Rourke clip, during which the congressman, who is running against Ted Cruz, says: “Black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement without accountability and without justice.”
But Glenn, tell me, are we really killing so many unarmed black kids, or is this just a whole army of militarized Pinocchios on parade through our city streets??
Perhaps most egregiously, Kessler cast aside the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was murdered by a police officer while holding a toy gun, as an example of a case that doesn’t fit the Post’s definition of “unarmed.” This is all for fact-checking, people!! (emphasis mine throughout):
If you drill down and look at the data for unarmed black children killed by police, there is virtually no support for the idea that this happens at a frightening level. The Washington Post fatal-shootings database for 2015, 2016, 2017 and through Aug. 20 of this year shows no black children were fatally shot by police in that period. (A well-known case in 2014, involving 12-year-old Tamir Rice, would not qualify as “unarmed” under Washington Post criteria because Tamir had a toy gun.)
Has your soul left your body yet? He continues:
Even unarmed black teenagers (18 and under) who were fatally shot represent a small set. The Post database lists only three killings of unarmed black teens, two of which took place in Texas: Jordan Edwards, 15, on April 29, 2017, and David Joseph, 17, on Feb. 8, 2016. The third fatal shooting, of 17-year-old Antwon Rose, took place in Pittsburgh on June 19, 2018.
Kessler goes on to “zoom out” to look at homicide data in general, which shows that black Americans are more likely to be murdered and more likely to have their killers never be arrested compared to white homicide victims.
In other words, 70 percent of all homicide victims who were children or teenagers in the 50 biggest cities were black.
That would qualify as a frightening level.
There’s little question the black community faces extraordinary levels of violence. But whether O’Rouke’s statement qualifies as Pinocchio or Geppetto-worthy depends on how you hear it. There have been virtually no shootings of unarmed children by police in the past five years. But hundreds of black children have been homicide victims.
Right, so, the “frightening” part is NOT that police officers are gunning down literal children in our streets. In fact—*shoving glasses up nose, sniveling wildly*—that’s actually statistically quite rare, you see!! As if the very idea that police are killing anyone, particularly children, in our streets AT ALL is not “frightening” enough.
This column is what happens when you’re straining so hard to uphold some misplaced standard of “objectivity” and are so horned up about delineating fact from fiction that you lose any sense of moral clarity. It’s a goddamn shame.
In conclusion, police officers killing unarmed black kids is a land of contrasts.