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CREEPING CECI CONNOLLYISM! In a neighborly gesture, King helps a bogus claim thrive: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, JULY 25, 2009

Three key words: For our money, there were three key words in Obama’s restatement (click here). Here they are: “Two good people.”

As far as we know, that assessment is right. In our experience, most people are basically decent.

For ourselves, we don’t know what happened that day. But sometimes, good people will have bad days. They sometimes may have them together.

Harris-Lacewell gets it right: Last night, Melissa Harris-Lacewell appeared again on the Maddow Show. We thought she was smart and sane throughout, although there was an invidious comparison or two. (She said she hopes “the Boston [sic] police learn a lesson from the kind of leadership the president has just shown.” Please.) There were no chyrons disinforming and dumbing us rubes—suggesting that only those on the other side can be unfair, unwise, perhaps wrong.

Rachel was basically sensible too. One gag-worthy moment: Early on, she marveled at the brilliant way Obama made his restatement without even using a script. (“Think about what it says about the president’s confidence on this particular issue that when he went out to stop the firestorm that had been burning about this issue for two days? His comments when he tried to fix it were again unscripted. No prompter. No apparent notes.”) Must we always be silly?

We let the analysts chortle just once. Professor Gates has accepted the invitation to have a beer with Obama and Crowley. What did Harris-Lacewell think about that? This is how she started:

HARRIS-LACEWELL (7/24/09): Well, that sounds right to me, although my bet is he’d prefer Pinot noir over a beer.

Rachel laughed—and so did our analysts. Their chuckles were a bit mordant.

CREEPING CECI CONNOLLYISM: In this morning’s Post, Colbert King has a column about racial attitudes among white residents of an affluent DC neighborhood. You can judge its worth for yourselves. But as he started, we were struck by a possible bit of Ceci Connollyism.

No, it doesn’t gigantically matter—unless your name is Lucia Whalen. But this really is how they work:

KING (7/25/09): The roiling debate over the arrest of prominent black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has focused on what he and Sgt. James Crowley, the white police officer, said to each other. Their accounts differ, but at least we have their perspectives.

Less attention has been paid to Lucia Whalen, whose call to the Cambridge, Mass., police on the afternoon of July 16 set events in motion.

According to Crowley's report, Whalen said she “observed what appeared to be two black males with backpacks on the porch" of the house. "She told me that her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry," he wrote.

Neighborhood watch. A good thing, right?

Whalen isn’t Gates’ neighbor. King’s column never says different—yet it keeps the inaccurate notion alive. Connolly herself may have said, “Nice move,” looking on with real admiration.

This is a good example of Connollyism, although it may not have been intended that way. (If we had to place a bet, we’d bet that this was intentional.)

In 1999 and 2000, Connolly wrote the book on the endless ways you can imply that something is true, even when you know it’s false. She did it again and again and again. It’s one way these slick life-forms function.

In this case, we can’t be sure of King’s intention. With Connolly, things became cosmically obvious—and ugly. (Our high lord O’Donnell never said boo. Happy with how that turned out?)

Final question: Can you think of any reason why more attention should be paid to Whalen? Perhaps we’re pre-Kitty Genovese again now (click here). Next time you see a possible crime, should you just keep on walking?

It was all completely different back then: In the Wikipedia account, note how the high-profile Genovese case was driven along by “factually inaccurate,” “melodramatic” New York Times reporting. If the Wikipedia account is right, key numbers got massively larger.

We’ve never studied that reporting ourselves. The year? 1964.

The Genovese case was very big. We were 16, in California—and we remember it well. If the Wikipedia account is correct, this was a classic case of New York Times pseudo-reporting. To wit: The New York Times comes up with a social concern. It then invents a colorful case to make you think the same thing.

So it was when Rich and Dowd invented the crushing Love Story blather. Especially in the case of Rich, they had decided that Gore was a fake. They wanted you thinking that too.

Ugly—and historically crushing. Lord Lawrence never said boo.

One last question about King’s column: How did Irving’s white neighbors react when he e-mailed them his concerns about the “outrageous” things they were saying?