No no no, this is not at all about a current controversy. Hang in there, you’ll see what I mean.
Recently some people — including grifters, but also a few people who want to have a reputation for responsible thinking and writing — have been promoting a re-interpretation of the death of George Floyd, an alternative account in which Derek Chauvin is not guilty of murder. So Radley Balko looked into the matter, and … well, as far as I can tell, after Radley has done his thing there’s not much left of the revisionist case.
Let me correct that: there’s nothing left of the revisionist case.
But I’m not writing here to refute that case, or rejoice in its refutation. I’m writing because if you read Balko’s piece you’ll see what it takes to do something like this the right way. It requires persistence, patience, extreme attentiveness, and the willingness to turn over every stone. Read that piece and you’ll see that Balko has studied the materials that the revisionists have never bothered to look at: he’s read police-procedure manuals — not just current ones, but also older ones, and has noted the changes from one to another; he’s watched police training videos; he’s surveyed court documents, and shared illustrations that were provided in court testimony, as well as the associated verbal testimony; he’s looked into the history of Minneapolis police actions against black members of the community; he’s watched with minute scrutiny the documentary that has made the revisionist claim popular, and has found the hidden seams in the presentation. Basically, he has done it all.
It’s hard to find journalists as thorough as Balko has been here — and in many other writings over the years — because journalists know that almost no one cares. Well more than 99% of readers/viewers/listeners have one question about a work of journalism: Does it or does it not confirm the views I already have about this case? That is all they know on earth, and all they (think they) need know. But if you’re one of the <1% who care about the truth, a journalist like Radley Balko is an invaluable resource.
And not just because he’ll help you find out what really happened — no, there’s another benefit to reading pieces like this one. It’ll will help you to a better understanding of where, when, and how other journalists (or “journalists”) cut corners. You’ll see the very particular consequences of motivated reasoning: selective attention, question-begging, concealment of evidence, faulty logic of every variety. And that’s an education in itself, whether you care about the particular case at hand or not.