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Caveat lector

ANGRY-MEN RULE! When Fred Barnes speaks, Clarence Page listens. It’s too bad Fred’s claims are so bogus:


TRY TO BELIEVE THAT HE SAID IT: Try to believe that he said it. On last night’s Special Report, Fred “Beetle” Barnes was at it again, stressing the fact that John Muhammad was a Muslim convert. How foolish will this angry-man be in his desire to flog this point? After insinuating that Muhammad was getting money from terrorist groups—Barnes has no idea if that’s true—the angry-man reviewed Muhammad’s victims. Just try to believe that he said it:

BARNES: One of the points that Chief Moose, who did such a wonderful job dealing with the press and everything during this whole thing, mentioned was that he had been a—had killed a diversity of people, you know, white, black, men, women and so on.
HUME: Children. He shot a child.
BARNES: One thing he didn’t kill: a Muslim. He killed a Christian from India.
HUME: That we know of.
Try to believe that he said it! Murmurs of protest were heard from the panel, and Barnes slightly softened his rant:
BARNES: Well, I don’t know how you know from 100 yards.
BARNES: But somehow he managed. That was—he didn’t hit anybody from that group.
“Somehow he managed,” Barnes insisted, showing the lunacy which comes from our Angry White Males—and from their compliant enablers.

The latest enabler? It’s Clarence Page. In this morning’s Washington Times, Page—reciting sweetly—types this:

PAGE (pgh 1): In the end, there was no white van and no white man. Police were holding suspects and a vehicle in the East Coast sniper shootings that failed to fit the stereotypes put forth by network television’s endless array of self-assured, authoritative-sounding, yet often contradictory profiling experts.
Page is typing the latest cant—the notion that an “endless array” of TV profilers said that the killers would be Angry White Males. As we noted yesterday, there were actually very few attempts to guess at the race of the killers (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/28/02). But Angry White Males have now got themselves angry about this. They’re making up facts that fit their mood, and Compliant Males are typing their spin-points. This statement is baldly inaccurate:
PAGE: [E]veryone, it seems, figured the sniper was one or maybe two white men, since this type of crime tends to be committed by white men.
That claim simply can’t be derived from the facts. But Page didn’t get his claim from examining facts (pundits rarely waste time in that manner). He got his claim from keeping his ear to the ground. He knows what the press corps’ angry opinion leaders are saying. And, like the Washington Post’s compliant Howard Kurtz, compliant Page is now typing it too.

Clarence Page isn’t angry, but he is quite compliant. His charming demeanor stamps him as one of the “good guy” pundits whom Dems tend to love, but he also typed bogus agit-prop all through the 2000 election. It’s amazing to think that enraged men like Barnes play key roles in our public discourse. But Page’s work is dysfunctional too, as he shows in the Times once again.

HE TOO COMPLIED: This past Sunday, Juan Williams recited the agit-prop too. Here he was, on Fox News Sunday:

WILLIAMS: I’ve got to tell you, as a black person, I’m stunned that he’s black. I’m really knocked out. And I think the reason I’m knocked out is, all the profilers said, “Oh, this is going to be a young white male. You know, someone who’s involved, possibly, in that, you know, the angry Timothy McVeigh mode.” But clearly that wasn’t the case.
“All the profilers” said no such thing. But Williams keeps his ear to the ground, and he loves to recite the Official Approved Spin. When are such men in such high positions? Simple. Williams has his job at Fox because he repeats the corps’ Approved Scripts. In this case, his statement is blatantly wrong. But then, that’s the way the boss likes it.

MALKIN’S MAULERS: As we noted yesterday, TV’s profilers made few attempts to guess at the race of the killers. Was an “endless array” of TV pundits spewing “stereotypes” about Angry White Males? As we noted, the phrase “angry white male/males/men” was almost never used in the coverage. In fact, according to the Nexis archives, only Fox News Channel’s John Gibson ever used the offending phrases. Nexis records no other instance of these phrases being used on TV or in print.

Despite this, Andrew Sullivan got busy last Thursday, hoping to make you think different. He sent “kudos” to Michelle Malkin for her October 11 piece. In it, Malkin baldly dissembled about press coverage of the arrest of Robert Gene Baker, claiming that the media had “sensationalized” the widely-ignored event and portrayed Baker as a white racist. These claims were baldly false (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/24/02). Meanwhile, Malkin made some sweeping claims about the general coverage. “Some profiling experts are convinced that the roving sniper who has terrorized my neighborhood and surrounding communities is a white male,” she wrote. Then this: “The media immediately embraced the Angry White Male theory.”

As noted, there was virtually no media promulgation of “the Angry White Male theory.” And was Malkin’s initial statement true? Were “some profiling experts convinced” that the sniper was a white male? Malkin listed three examples. Here they are, as presented:

• Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist at New York University Medical Center, described the shooter as “white, male, single, 20s-30s…(with a) longtime fascination with hunting and shooting.”

• Chris Whitcomb, former FBI hostage rescue team member, told NBC’s Katie Couric that “statistically, it’s going to be a white male, and it’s going to be a young person, young 20s emotionally, but also because that’s the age most likely statistically somebody’s going to commit a crime like this.”

• Brian Levin, the director of something called the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism in San Bernardino, Calif., stated confidently that the killer “is kind of a wallpaper white male, a disenfranchised, disrespected man who’s getting back at society. That’s one of the reasons he’s kept his distance from inner D.C., where he might lose his cover.”

Whitcomb and Welner are especially significant because they played large roles in the punditry. Whitcomb was a regular commentator on NBC and its cable affiliates. Welner was widely interviewed in the press, and appeared on major programs like Larry King Live and the O’Reilly Factor.

So let’s take a look at the record. Whitcomb was one of the few major TV profilers who ever discussed the race of the killers. But was he “convinced that the sniper was white?” Sorry. Here was the first Q-and-A in the interview from which Malkin gleaned her quote:

KATIE COURIC: So, what can you tell us about this individual from everything you know in this case?
WHITCOMB: Well, not a lot, obviously, because I don’t have all the information on this.
Pleading ignorance from the start, Whitcomb made his way through a lengthy interview. Late in the session, he made the statement which Malkin cited. But was he “convinced that the roving sniper was white?” Twice in his short remark, Whitcomb made it clear that he wasn’t convinced:
COURIC: So you think this is a young guy in his 20s.
COURIC: Who’s disaffected.
WHITCOMB: Well, statistically, it’s going to be a white male, and it’s going to be a young person, young 20s emotionally, but also because that’s the age most likely statistically somebody’s going to commit a crime like this.
Whitcomb expressed himself poorly. But was he “convinced” that the killer was white? In fact, he was mouthing a “statistical” platitude about what was “most likely” the case. In fact, about 85 percent of American mass killers do turn out to be white; it was always “most likely” that the killer was white. (Duh. Most Americans are white!) Whitcomb didn’t push the point, although he should have expressed his lack of certainty with more clarity. But Malkin immediately began to embellish, pretending that Whitcomb was “convinced” when he actually said something different in a single, fleeting remark.

How about Welner? Was he “convinced that the killer was white?” It’s hard to say, for a notable reason; on TV, Welner simply never mentioned the subject. He guested on the October 11 O’Reilly Factor—no mention of race. He appeared on the next day’s CBS Early Show—no discussion of race. He did Larry King on October 18, 21 and 23—no mention of race on those shows. Again, when one reads back through the Nexis file, one sees very little speculation about race in the American pundit discussions. There was an enormous amount of blather—but little of it dealt with race.

So what about the quote Malkin pulled, in which Welner does discuss race? We offer two comments about that matter, and about the Levin remark, which comes from the Los Angeles Times.

First: In each case, Welner and Levin are quoted by journalists. Were they quoted accurately? There is no way to know. And what question were they answering? We don’t know that either. Did Welner say, as Whitcomb said, that it was simply most likely that the killer was white? Again, there is no way to know from these quotes. By the way, journalists often quote out of context or paraphrase poorly. Surely Malkin understands that quite well.

Indeed, just how far did Malkin go to give you a pleasing quote by Welner? She went all the way to the Land Down Under. The pleasing quote which Malkin cites—without knowing what question Welner was answering—comes from Australia’s Advertiser! As she did with her spinning of Baker, Malkin was willing to span the globe to give you the “evidence” she wanted you to see. And, on the basis of such nonsense, we are now told, by the Clarence Pages, that “everyone, it seems, figured the sniper was one or maybe two white men.” According to Williams, “all the profilers” said the killers would be Angry White Men.

How did American media cover this event? Very, very poorly. Nonetheless, there was very little speculation about the killer’s race. But Angry Men now run our discourse—and they tell you the stories they like. Indeed, read back through the ludicrous things Fred Barnes said on TV last night, and marvel to think that such addled men now have such control of our discourse.