Home / General / You Can’t State the Obvious

You Can’t State the Obvious



And now we can’t even acknowledge this plain truth? Astonishingly, it appears we can’t agree on it. Right around the time de Blasio spoke, Marist was in the field with a poll asking people whether they think police treat whites and blacks differently. Here are some answers. In each case, the “yes, differently” number comes first.

Overall: 47-44
Whites: 39-51
Blacks: 82-14
Latinos: 53-38
Democrats: 64-29
Independents: 44-48
Republicans: 26-64

So two decades’ worth of statistics tell us that black men are killed by police at 21 times the rate white men are, and yet half the public has persuaded itself that police treat blacks and whites no differently. And it’s controversial for a mayor with a black 16-year-old son to say something so obvious—indeed, what every parent of a black son has to say.

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  • Steve LaBonne

    Cops are so avid for “respect”? Maybe they should think about the fact that letting sociopathic punks like Lynch speak for them is sure as hell a great way to get just the opposite.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      when “respect” means “fear”

  • Question asked: Do you think…

    Question answered: Do you care…

    • DrDick

      While there is certainly some truth to that (Americans generally do not give a damn about anything that does not affect them or those close to them), a lot is also a product of the largely subconscious racist assumptions white Americans generally operate under (minorities are more prone to criminality, are more violent, have less discipline and self control, etc.). They thus assume that these differences in outcomes are a result of differences in behavior by whites and minorities.

  • Denverite

    Scott, how much of these results do you attribute to a Team Red Correct Answer mentality? Meaning white Republicans know perfectly well that African-American men are treated brutally by the police, but they also know perfectly well that the “correct” answer for their side is that they aren’t.

    • Steve LaBonne

      I know people like this. It’s not a “give the tribally approved answer” act. They genuinely are what the Catholic Church used to call “invincibly ignorant”. People inside the right-wing bubble genuinely believe all kinds of stuff that isn’t so, and presenting them with the truth only causes them to harden their positions.

      • postmodulator

        Yeah, like the absolute certainty in the Breitbart comment section that Obama is gay and in the closet. Or the claim that Michelle Obama is fat — never mind the evidence of your own lyin’ eyes.

    • I suspect this is true to some extent. IOW people who answer “no” are really answering “do you think the police are generally unfair?” They don’t see the other side of the sentence, unfair to whom? They don’t see it so much that even when the words actually spoken, they immediately know the correct version of the question being asked is “do you believe the police are unfair?”

      Some of them may actually believe blacks are killed by police more because they’re bad people more frequently. I’m going to guess few really take a step toward looking for a reason, unless they’re pushed.

    • witlesschum

      In theory, the honest answer for a large percentage of Republicans and/or whites should be “Yes and they deserve it” but presumably the poll didn’t give them that choice.

    • SgtGymBunny

      Or they know that AA-men are treated brutally, but Those People probably had it coming anyway, so it’s not really brutality because its justifiable on the part of police because being a cop’s a tough job, ya know.

      • Manny Kant

        Yeah, I think their attitude is that they know that African-Americans are, on average, treated more brutally by the cops, but they think this is pretty much entirely the result of their own behavior. It’s more or less the same racism that causes police brutality in the first place.

      • FlipYrWhig

        This. This is definitely the thought process at work: “cops don’t treat black people differently than white people, they treat people acting suspicious differently than people minding their own business, and a lot of black people act suspicious. It’s not racism, it’s realism.” Same as the defense of racial profiling.

        • Ann Outhouse

          I think that’s not all of it. There’s also a large segment of the glibertarian right who are heavily invested in the idea that racism and sexism no longer exist (except maybe against white males). This belief is necessary for them to prop up their Randroid view that anybody can “make it” if they work hard enough.

          • Lee Rudolph

            This belief is necessary for them to prop up their Randroid view that anybody can “make it” if they work hard enough.

            And that, indeed, they themselves could “make it” if it weren’t for Leviathan sitting on them and picking their pockets to give their property away to Those People!!!

          • Linnaeus

            I tend to agree that it’s a combination of factors. In my experience – that and two bucks’ll get you a cup of coffee – it’s either people just don’t want to think about racial differences (“stop making this about race”) or they believe that nonwhites at the receiving end of police violence must necessarily have done something to deserve it.

            I know a lot of people who are paradigmatic of these tendencies. They often believe that whomever is a victim of police brutality did something wrong or if it was pretty clear that it was brutality that it’s an anomaly and don’t go further and identify the systemic problem.

          • efgoldman

            There’s also a large segment of the glibertarian right who are heavily invested in the idea that racism and sexism no longer exist

            Callling Chief Justice Roooooberts. Call for the Chief Justice.

        • UncleEbeneezer

          I also seen variations of:

          Everyone knows the studies on crime are performed by Liebrulz!!1! (with obvious Reparations agendas) and even if they were performed by honest conservatives, blacks probably lie/exaggerate about their experiences more so even if they really are treated worse we can’t really say because Al Sharpton. (shakes head more in dismay than anger)

          PS- I am not a racist.

    • matt w

      I’m going to go for willful blindness for a large part of the answers–they really believe what they’re saying because they want to believe it. I think there’s a huge proportion of–I was going to say the right, but white people is probably more accurate–who think that non-white people get treated with kid gloves by the authorities for reasons of political correctness. The mindset that calls anti-discrimination laws special privileges and shits a brick over affirmative action.

      There’s a GK Chesterton story that contains the following passage:

      ‘The Jews normally had a special position as servants of the King. Above all, the Jew couldn’t possibly have been burned for his religion.’

      ‘The paradoxes are multiplying,’ observed Tarrant; ‘but surely , you won’t deny that Jews were persecuted in the Middle Ages?’

      ‘It would be nearer the truth,’ said Father Brown, ‘to say they were the only people who weren’t persecuted in the Middle Ages. If you want to satirize medievalism, you could make a good case by saying that some poor Christian might be burned alive for ‘making a mistake about the Homoousion, while a rich Jew might walk down the street openly sneering at Christ and the Mother of God.’

      To which one can only respond, lol wut. But this is the sort of though process that can lead someone to look at the headlines and think that black and white people are treated equally by the police. After all, Eric Garner was resisting arrest.

      • NewishLawyer

        And of course there is a whole debate about whether Chesterson is anti-Semitic or not…

        This is a spot on analysis.

        • Manny Kant

          There are people who claim that Chesterton’s not anti-Semitic?

          • NewishLawyer

            The American Chesterton society devoted an entire issue of their magazine to defending Chesterton from the charge of anti-Semite.

            I think this is one of those issues where admitting that Chesterton was anti-Semitic makes people feel like they would have to give up on liking and enjoying his work. So they need to prove otherwise.

            This happens with many artists who tend to be horrible people or at least of their generations more than we would want to admit. ee cummings had all the prejudices of a Boston Brahmin of his time and despised Catholics and Jews. Jack Keuroac rooted for McCarthy. Eliza Kazan testified in front of HUAC, etc.

            Now I do think that there are people who demand too much purity of their artists and sometimes the left especially can be extremely willing to call a person’s politics into doubt for liking a certain artist. People can produce all sorts of interesting justifications as well. I have a friend who denounces Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Hollebecuq, as bad boy sexist pigs without any artistic merit but thinks Chinatown is a close to flawless as a movie gets. He can be very strident in his politics and beliefs and we once got into a pretty-heated argument about Philip Roth especially about American Pastoral.

            Politics are weird and there will never be a good answer for whether we should expect our artists to be saints or not or what to do with artists whose views we dislike, etc.

            • Lee Rudolph

              If I have what I consider to be sound reasons to despise a living artist, author, musician, beer-maker, …, whatever, then I also consider it wrong to support them by paying for access to their art, writing, music, beer, … , whatever. Once they’re dead (and provided I don’t also have what I consider to be sound reasons to despise the surviving owners, if any, of their productions), then I have—in principle—no qualms about paying for access to their productions. Similarly, even if they’re alive, if I can (legally or illegally) freely partake of such of their productions as I may enjoy, in principle I have no qualms about that.

              In practice, I find it remarkably easy to do without most stuff produced by people I abhor. Apparently I have enough noses that cutting one off doesn’t spite my face intolerably.

              • keta

                What a lot of rationalizing. I find it easier to revel in the art I like and treat the things about the artists I don’t like as part of being human.

                Kind of the same as when I take a hard look at myself.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  What am I rationalizing? My willingness not to revel in art when it will enrich someone I despise? It’s not like the art that I do revel in (not produced by people I despise) is in short supply—I can (and do) revel all I want. I’m not telling anyone else not to revel in anything in particular (although of course I believe that I am a moral and aesthetic exemplar, and they should do just as I do). Am I missing out on some particularly revel-worthy art? No doubt. So?

              • NewishLawyer

                No one is required to consume art by someone they dislike and find morally problematic.

                That being said, there is a big difference between saying “I refuse to watch Polanski movies because of his actions” vs. “Anyone who watches Polanski movies should have his or her liberal card revoked.”

                There are also difficulties went it comes to formal study. Wagner was really a horrible anti-Semite but you can’t teach opera without teaching Wagner. You probably can’t teach a course on film on the Hollywood Renaissance or post-War Eastern European cinema without including Chinatown or Knife in the Water respectively. I guess you could but it would seem like a very weird omission.

              • keta

                (Replying here to your reply to my post below, since I didn’t get a


                option at the bottom)

                What you’re rationalizing is that you’ve somehow removed yourself contributing to the financial interests of the artist you’ve “boycotted.” You have not. Once you’re given that free book written by an author you wouldn’t stoop to support, read and enjoy it and then either give the book to someone else or praise it in any way, then your holy covenant is broken.

                Of course, you could live in a vacuum and never enjoy any works of art by anyone who doesn’t measure up to your personal code, but then no artist creates in a vacuum, do they? so this would be a very tiny little place to stickhandle yourself into. (What do you do when an artist you do admire writes something you genuinely like, and then you find out that artist admits to being heavily influenced by an artist you cannot support? The horror! You’ve paid for a book by a writer who is helping sell books by an author you despise!)

                Your approach sure looks like rationalizing to me (and I haven’t even mentioned the original admission to illegal obtainment vis-a-vis your self-awarded moral exemplarshipism in your subsequent post…or I guess I just did! Oops!)

                • Lee Rudolph

                  What you’re rationalizing is that you’ve somehow removed yourself contributing to the financial interests of the artist you’ve “boycotted.” You have not.

                  I didn’t (and wouldn’t) claim I’ve “removed myself” from “contributing to the financial interests of the artist”. I do claim that I’ve reduced my contribution as best I can.

                  Of course, you could live in a vacuum and never enjoy any works of art by anyone who doesn’t measure up to your personal code,

                  I did not (and would not) claim never to “enjoy any works of art by anyone who doesn’t measure up to my personal code”; in fact, I left open the possibility that much of the art I enjoy is by human monsters (though I don’t think that’s so). I’m (potentially) open to enjoying any art whatever, to the extent that I can do so for free; and I’m also (potentially) open to contributing to the financial support of any living artists, even some whose art I don’t like. What I’m trying to close myself off from is contributing to the financial support of Bad People who (artists or not) Do Bad Things.

                  What do you do when an artist you do admire writes something you genuinely like, and then you find out that artist admits to being heavily influenced by an artist you cannot support? The horror! You’ve paid for a book by a writer who is helping sell books by an author you despise!

                  Oh, we don’t even have to go to that length to put me in jeopardy. I genuinely like Neil Gaiman’s work, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives direct financial support to his parents, who, being Scientologists, I certainly despise (and/or pity) on principle.

                  I haven’t even mentioned the original admission to illegal obtainment

                  I didn’t mean to admit any “illegal obtainment”! Oh, shit, now they’ll come and get me. (In fact, I’m fairly sure I haven’t obtained any art/music/writing/whatever illegally for many years, if ever; I don’t, for instance, use any of the web-based technologies that facilitate that so much for so many people, which more or less would leave me with shoplifting, jumping museum turnstiles, or sneaking under the bottom of the circus tent, all of which I am not in any shape to do these days.)

                  It helps a lot that I’m set in my ways, have plenty of art (in various media) around the house, and don’t feel much need for novelty (which is not to say I necessarily reject it when it falls into my hands).

              • keta

                (Replying here to your reply to my reply because no reply option to your last reply)

                Thanks for your explanation. I think mitigating financial support is the best any of us can do.

            • matt w

              Well, I don’t think your friend is necessarily inconsistent–maybe he just doesn’t like Amis, Roth, and Houellebecq. Especially Amis. Everything I’ve ever read by Amis makes me want to punch him in the mouth and not just for his politics but for his smug look-at-how-clever-I-am writing.

              I’ve never read Houellebecq but his early stuff sounds like Elliott Rodger (I see I’m not the only person to draw the connection), but as I said I haven’t read it, it’s possible he pulls it off somehow. World views I disagree with can be bracing in works of art but they aren’t always.

              • keta

                If I didn’t enjoy art or athleticism performed by people whose politics aren’t in lock-step with mine I wouldn’t enjoy much of anything, really. And life would be a dreary place indeed.

                • matt w

                  There’s a lot of room between “politics in lock-step with mine” and “smarmy sexism that makes you incapable of representing half the human race in your art,” though. And the problem is particularly acute with folks like M. Amis, Houellebecq, and Roth who fancy themselves novelists of ideas. Amis is just stupid, which even aside from his aspirations to being a novelist of ideas is a big problem when his writing is all about drawing attention to its own cleverness. As I said I haven’t read Houellebecq, but it does sound like he engages in a lot of soapbox ranting, which is a heavy lift; especially when it seems as though his very world view is inimical to treating women and other Others as fully human, which is going to be a problem for a novelist. And I’ve enjoyed some Roth and haven’t read American Pastoral but damn if the Zuckerman Bound trilogy wasn’t the equivalent of a triple-disc concept album about the travails of life as a rock star.

                  What I’m saying is, you probably don’t need to have issued an ukase against all writers who don’t agree with all your political positions, and to think that sexism is a particular problem for those three.

            • While the argument about the character of the artist is an eternal one, I’m not sure that’s the only thing going on here. Definitions of “anti-semitism” are also in play.

              (I wonder why your friend feels the way he does about American Pastoral?)

    • joe from Lowell

      Gotta link to this.

      Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren’t sure who to blame.


  • ChrisS

    Why does Marist have to be all divisive and shit?

  • keta

    One of the delicious ironies in my lifetime is that Americans who most profess fealty, honour and profound love for their flag and country are generally the same characters who shit all over same.

    It has never ceased to amaze me.

    • postmodulator

      The Simpsons summed this up quite nicely. Their rich Texan character witnesses the American flag being desecrated and shouts angrily, “That’s the flag my granddaddy rebelled against!”

      • MPAVictoria

        Facts, pssssst, you can prove anything with those.

    • ChrisS

      I posted in a thread below:

      “Labeling Americans who speak out, and are frustrated at a process that seems to only apply to them and not the connected few, racists, terrorists and other terrible names, is not leadership or courageous.”
      Dan Bongino

      But that was defending Bundy and his milita.

      Black folks? The enemy.

      • Well, sure, arguments aren’t for making general statements that apply to all people, to authoritarians. They’re tools to use to defend your friends (when the shoe fits), and destroy your enemies (when it fits them). The quote in the box means, basically, “Our side feel they’re not being treated fairly, and we think we have a right to see somebody change their tune–for reasons, blah blah blah.”

        (eta: and worth noting the guy doesn’t say the process should apply to poor people and not just the connected, he just thinks they (being white) should be allowed to “express frustration” in a consequence-free manner regardless of the means they choose, and obviously thinks they’re too stupid to see he thinks’s it’s not wrong for them to be frustrated)

    • Linnaeus

      I’m reminded of a Mad Magazine joke that defines a “Super Patriot”: “one who loves his country while hating 93% of the people who live in it”.

  • witlesschum

    Link has Tomasky’s name misspelled.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    As a former NYC public safety agency employee who had to work with dozens of NYPD/FDNY, the Giuliani post-9/11 mindset will never die among many, but it has crumbled among a significant percentage as well, who view the other guys as dinosaurs. DeBlasio’s been a godsend just by being a mensch, and he’s not going to lose much support in this. He should stick to his guns and ride it out.

    • NewishLawyer

      How much does this relate to the fact that police office and fire fighter seem to be dynastic careers with generation upon generation joining the ranks? The NYPD and FDNY seem to have a lot of dynasty positions compared to other orgs. I think the SFPD is very good about routing out legacies.

    • random

      Thanks for giving some perspective on this.

      The way this is being portrayed in the national media is “diBlasio is in huge trouble because a bunch of white conservatives are going to Fox News and saying those icky black and Hispanic protestors are bad”.

      They might as well throw him in a briarpatch while they’re at it.

      • joe from Lowell

        You’re really making me see this differently.

        Pat Lynch really laid it on thick. He left it all on the field. I think back to the 80s, when this sort of tough-on-crime rhetoric really played, and those guys could be understated. They sounded like they knew they controlled the high ground.

        Pat Lynch does not sound like he’s coming from a position of strength.

    • joe from Lowell

      Huh. That sounds like Pope Francis.

  • Rob Patterson

    “Pat Lynch [urged] his cops to sign an online petition that de Blasio not attend their funerals should they be killed in the line of duty”.

    Back in 1997 the NYPD did the same thing with Giuliani:

    A flier that some police officers are distributing among the ranks … says, “I, . . ., a New York City police officer, want all of my family and brother officers who read this to know” that “in the event of my death”, Mr. Giuliani and his Police Commissioner should “be denied attendance of any memorial service in my honor as their attendance would only bring disgrace to my memory.”

    So whenever the NYPD gets mad at someone they say he can’t attend their funerals?? Um …. OK.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      When they get *really* mad at someone, they make them the “guest of honor” at a funeral. Their own.

      • TopsyJane

        “When they get *really* mad at someone, they make them the “guest of honor” at a funeral. Their own.”

        I wish I could laugh at that. (George Moscone, RIP.) De Blasio better get a bulletproof jacket, and maybe a food taster.

    • SgtGymBunny

      Will there not be a police motorcade? Not attending a funeral is fine so long as they don’t make everyone sit and watch the procession. Talk about cheap shots.

  • NewishLawyer

    I think that we will be seeing this type of stuff go on for a while. Perhaps this is the way it has always been but the hyperbole seems to be only getting started and the Internet turns everything into Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park.

    I’m glad that people are rushing to the defense of De Blasio and are genuinely turned off by the rhetoric of Lynch, Pataki, and Giuliani. Yes they are all partisan liberals but we are starting to defend ourselves from the previous kick me position.

    That being said I don’t know what to do about the authoritarian problem in the United States. For a country that is allegedly all about freedom and liberty, we seem to have a lot of people with a blind belief in respecting authoritah…..

    • Linnaeus

      Self-government is hard!

      • NewishLawyer


        • Vance Maverick

          I took Dr. Linné there to be paraphrasing your last paragraph. It is hard, and our authoritarian problem is one example of why.

          • LeeEsq

            The only way to deal with illiberals is to make sure they are either the majority or minute percentage of your society. If you have an illiberal plurality but not majority than your in trouble.

            Note: I don’t think having an illiberal majority is a good thing but in a place where illiberals are the majority than you have at least have the benefit of majority consensus on the issue.

          • Linnaeus

            Yes, that’s what I was doing. Throwing in a little snark because it seems that too many people don’t care to do the work of self governing citizens.

  • NewishLawyer

    The most depressing thing about all the studies and developments in neuroscience is that we know about confirmation bias and that presenting people with facts often causes them to double down on their erroneous beliefs but we don’t know how to fix these problems.

    • calling all toasters

      The only thing conservatives understand is a beat-down. If B.F. Skinner were here he’d back me up on this.

      • NewishLawyer

        I’ve had the same thought and then spent thirty minutes wondering about what that said about my liberalism….

        • jeer9

          When persuasion doesn’t work and frustration builds, “exterminate the brutes.”

          The skulls on fence posts is tacky, though.

    • presenting people with facts often causes them to double down on their erroneous beliefs

      You’re wrong! Because reasons!

  • Rob in CT

    Democrats: 64-29

    Republicans: 26-64

    Heh. Same with pretty much anything nowadays. And it is, of course, our fault for pointing out the issue. If only we’d clap louder, everything would be fine!

    And yeah, “treated the same”= “treated fairly” in those answers – they know that black Americans are treated harshly. They just think it’s their own fault.

    This is pretty bad, but I think the poll data on torture is even worse. Holy shit it’s awful.

    • Gone2Ground

      If they’d only pull up their pants and talk like Real Americans the cops wouldn’t hassle them!11!


    • Gone2Ground

      Don’t forget the old standbys, “Blacks are the Real Racists” and American Exceptionalism which means, of course, that only Real Americans are Exceptional and deserve everything they get.

      I’ve had to seriously bite my tongue over the past few days on FB, which I have only newly entered, much to my dismay.

  • Nichole

    The poll seems to confirm what we already know: dominant segments of any society have an almost impossible task in seeing their society as clearly as subordinate classes see it.

    Simply because, for the dominants it’s not a life-and-death proposition to see what is actually, or mostly, there to see. For subordinates it’s mostly always a life-and-death proposition to see very clearly what’s there to see.

    • Steve LaBonne

      That, plus the fact that to see society clearly they would have to see their own privilege clearly. Most people will fight tooth and nail to avoid owning their privilege.

      • Nichole

        Privilege is exactly that: never having to recognize that you have privilege to clearly see. Their privilege is simply “the way things are.”

  • NewishLawyer

    What Obama says:

    “in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color.”

    What Conservatives here:

    “Burn it all down motherfuckers!!! The revolution is here!!!!!!!”

    • Steve LaBonne

      You could substitute anything Obama says on any topic whatsoever for the first bit. Including “the sun will come up tomorrow”.

      • matt w

        If it weren’t for Obama we wouldn’t have to bet our bottom dollar!

        • joe from Lowell


    • LWA

      99% of conservatives, and about 27% of liberals, deeply wish that Obama was the Samuel L Jackson character from Pulp Fiction.

      I’m in the 27% faction about 50% of the time.

  • so-in-so

    Ask the same white folks the day after they got traffic ticket…

    It isn’t just right-wing tribalism, the percentages are much higher. White tribalism, and the desire to not beleive racism is still alive and well at a state level.

    I’d bet if you refined the questions, more people would beleive the police are unfair in other states, just not where I live.

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