02 September 2015

What Ta-Nehisi Coates Said

He notes that there is no Ferguson effect, and that this is a matter of fact, not of opinion:
The Times has a story today on the rise in homicide in some American cities. It’s an important story—one which is hurt by the utterly baseless suggestion that those who protested against Ferguson may well have blood on their hands:
The New York Times quoted two academics, one of whom suggested that police are too concerned to act with impunity, and the other who notes that the rise in murder rates in the St. Louis area predated the shooting of Michael Brown.

For police to be in fear of prosecutions of their misconduct* to be driving an increase in crime, it would have to occur after the trigger.
As my colleague Brentin Mock points out, to observe that homicides began increasing in St. Louis before the protests is not to make a subjective interpretation, but to offer a knowable and verifiable fact. If the “Ferguson Effect” is real, how can it be that it started before the Ferguson protests?

Neglecting this question is neither dispassionate nor high-minded. It is the sort of insidious “false equivalence” that so rightly irks my colleague James Fallows.  “False equivalence” runs contrary to the mission to journalism—it obscures where journalists are charged with clarifying. A reasonable person could read the Times’ story and conclude that there is as much proof for the idea that protests against police brutality caused crime to rise, as there is against it. That is the path away from journalism and toward noncommittal stenography: Some people think climate change is real, some do not. Some people believe in UFOs, others doubt their existence. Some think brain cancer can be cured with roots and berries, but others say proof has yet to emerge.
I'm sick of this, "Opinions on the shape of the world differ" crap.

*Or maybe it isn't fear. Maybe it's a bunch of cops throwing a tantrum. Certainly, it appears that some of their behavior, particularly with regard to the NYPD and Mayor De Blasio to be the acts of a petulant child.


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