Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What about those Hoodies?

Tibor R. Machan

Over the last couple of weeks I have been waiting for something to be mentioned about hoodies, something that I thought was staring us all in the face. This is that during the recent London riots, nearly everyone depicted by the TV cameras was wearing hoodies as they were caught vandalizing the stores in the neighborhood under siege.

At the time it immediately occurred to me that the reason for all those hoodies on the heads of the rioters was that they didn’t want their faces to be captured on film. This would make it very difficult for investigators to do any facial recognition of those filmed committing vandalism.

Actually, I didn’t encounter such an explanation at the time, nor since then, after the role the hoodie had in the Florida fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, the African American teen, a shooting that has unleashed much controversy about hoodies, starting with Fox star reporter Geraldo Rivera’s on air advice that people stop wearing them since doing so suggests to some people that they are embarking on some kind of criminal conduct. Rivera got a lot of flack for making this suggestion and that is when it occurred to me that someone prominent might recall the role of hoodies at the London riot which were covered on American television for nearly a week. After what we witnessed in London, it would not be ridiculous for people to be weary of young people who wear hoodies in certain situations.

To this day I haven’t heard anyone connect the two events, although some have mentioned that hoodies are perhaps used to send a message, namely that of defiance of public authority. And numerous celebrities followed the Rivera comments with donning hoodies, though I am not sure for what reason.

I am not suggesting that there is any simple causal relationship between criminal conduct and the wearing of hoodies. But there could be a customary relationship here, one on the basis of which ordinary people, even professionals, may make inferences about probabilities or likelihoods. If someone shows up on my classroom wearing the kind of sunglasses that disguise his or her eyes, make it impossible to tell which way the individual is looking, it is not unreasonable to suspect that he or she is hoping to remain at least partially incognito. Similarly, when hoodies are worn in neighborhoods that are infested with crime, it is not unreasonable to suspect that those doing this wish to remain at least partially unobserved beneath a cover.

Again, none of this proves, even strongly suggests, that young Mr. Martin intended to hide anything, let alone that he meant to carry out some kind of illegal conduct without being easily identified. But that this might be what he was trying to do is certainly reasonable to consider, especially in light of the experience of the London rioters who were quite evidently committing vandalism while making sure they couldn’t easily be identified doing so.

My point here is only that it would be journalistically appropriate to make note of these matters as the Florida shooting is being seriously discussed across the country. Maybe the reason no mention is being made of the resemblance isn’t a mere oversight. Perhaps it is because mentioning the similarity between Mr. Martin’s attire and that of the London rioters is something public figures do not want to risk doing lest they be accused of racial prejudice. But, of course, it need not be anything like that at all.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Fox TV versus The New York Times

Tibor R. Machan

My team of media researchers is on vacation just now, so I have to do this by myself, based on my non-scientific study of the journalistic lay of the land. What I have concluded from years of observation is that Fox-TV news is widely scoffed at by erudite folks, just the kind who routinely reads The New York Times. The alleged basis for the disdain is that Fox is obviously biased whereas the Old Gray Lady is impeccably objective.

But this is, I have concluded, a misimpression from the git go, at least as far as political and public policy coverage are concerned. Take just the design of The Times’ Op Ed page. Its regular columnists, Paul Krugman, David Brooks, et al., are nearly all echoing the editorial philosophy that’s guiding the paper. Sure, Brooks is less harshly mainstream liberal and on occasion will defend a conservative line but lately less and less so. Moreover, he is so ambivalent in his views that they offer no contrast to the rest of the Leftist claptrap produced as opinion and analysis by the paper.

Now there are some contributors to The Times who appear in its business section who don’t toe the line but this doesn’t count for much. The news analyses, so called, that the paper publishes in its “Sunday Week” section and in the Sunday magazine is uniformly statist, favoring big government and the extension of Washington’s killer deficit public finance philosophy. (The occasional exceptions deal with civil libertarian matters, excluding the civil rights of people in the business community.) The likes of Ron Paul, who champions free markets and free minds with equal intensity, rarely get a respectful treatment so that anyone who promotes fiscal responsibility is dismissed as hating the poor, etc. Those marching in protest in Greece against efforts to rein in state profligacy might well have gotten their orders from The Times’s editorials.

Of course, when it comes to basic rights for those in the business community, forget about it. Business corporations are made up of monsters and deserve no recognition of their rights, not even ones listed in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. When the Supreme Court recently ruled that such organizations have free speech rights, The Times was all over them, never mind that when it went before the court, in the famous Sullivan v. New York Times case, the paper benefited from the court’s view that corporations are made up for human beings who have the same rights everyone else does.

Fox TV news is no doubt conservative in its political and economic outlook, although it’s by no means libertarian, even civil libertarian. John Stossel is constantly debating with Bill O’Reilly about civil libertarian issues such as the fascist drug laws of the country. Judge Andrew Napolitano, who no longer has his own libertarian program but is still referred to as Fox TV’s expert on legal matters, including the U. S. Constitution, has no patience with denying gays the right to marry or other right wing causes. The roundtable programs on Fox usually include an intelligent left of center voice, even on the Fox business channel.

Of course people like O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are no holds barred right wingers, at least as this is understood in American culture in our time (although critics who throw around the label usually make no distinction between a Right Wing outlook such as the latin American fascist sort now exhibited by the Venezuela’s leftist Hugo Chavez and that espoused by Mitt Romney, for example). Yet no one on Fox TV ever expressed the kind of brutal hatred toward ideological adversaries that one finds in Paul Krugman’s New York Times columns.

For Fox TV to match the left wing political economic slant of The New York Times with someone, it would have to feature champions of Benito Mussolini or General Pinochet and the like, not O’Reilly and Hannity! And it would have to stop featuring left of center spokespeople on its panels.

I am generally of the “plague on both your houses” outlook when it comes to the statism of the Left and the Right but because of what American conservatives are conserving, namely, a mixture of ideas that includes those laid out in the Declaration of Independence, I am often more sympathetic to the Right than the Left (except in matters of the American Right’s current imperialist foreign policy). What is most objectionable to me about the American Left is its constant and routine support for government meddling in the economy, its endless championing of government regulation of nearly everything under the sun. Not that the Right, such as David Brooks, rejects this but its call for it is less insistent than what we get from the Left night and day, rain or shine.