When I was very little, one of my favorite books was a new volume from the Little Golden Books series called Out of My Window. It came out when I was a toddler, and although my mother wasn’t an education Tiger Mom determined to teach me to read before kindergarten or first grade, it became clear to Adult Me (and maybe Teenage Me?) that she did use it to build up my vocabulary.
Author Alice Low’s plot was pretty straightforward. She described a typical day for a young girl not much older than Toddler Me looking out the window of her house and ticking off everything visible from that perch: a tree, the house across the street, a dog, a parked car, a neighbor walking by – even an airplane flying overhead. You get the idea. And along the way, while being read to, small children were supposed to start associating images with the relevant spoken word they heard. It was probably a great reading aid, too, once my formal education began.
I start off with this brief nostalgia trip because the Washington Post print edition that arrives at my home every morning is supposed to be a one of my windows out on the world. And today’s paper – as is often the case – is worth reviewing because it’s such a vivid reminder of how cracked, and in fact, distorted the pane of glass provided by this Mainstream Media mainstay so often is.
I still start off each day with the Sports section, truncated and, frankly, depressing, as it is. And on the front page what did I see but columnist Jerry Brewer – who’s overall a pretty sensible type – reporting that
“After George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, the Los Angeles Lakers [U.S. pro basketball team] made a declaration that speaks for how most players in sports — especially those in predominantly black leagues — feel: “If YOU ain’t wit US, WE ain’t wit Y’ALL!”
Nothing from him, or apparently from the Lakers, elaborating on what “wit US” means. Are the players (and coaches? and management?) telling me and other basketball fans that I need to support the full agendas of Black Lives Matter movements? Police defunding efforts? Defacing or unlawful pulldowns of all supposedly offensive statues? Moreover, what about issues that it seems no one asssociated with the Lakers is “wit”? Like the massive oppression of human rights by China, a market that’s been immensely profitable for the entire franchise.
And finally, what do the Lakers mean when they say “WE ain’t wit Y’ALL”? Will fans need to pass a political litmus test before they’re permitted to attend games once post-CCP Virus normality returns? For the time being, do the Lakers want to prevent anyone “who ain’t wit THEM ALL” from watching or listening to their games once they’re broadcast? Are they to be forbidden to purchase Laker gear? So many questions. And never even asked, much less answered, by Brewer. Maybe tomorrow?
Next I turn to the main news section. Today’s lede story is headlined “Trump stirs fear he won’t accept an election loss.” The President’s recent statements to this effect are undeniably newsworthy. But did the article, by supposedly straight news reporters Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa tell a straight story? Grounds for skepticism include their decision to award the first color quote to a long-time Clinton-ite think tanker, to write of Mr. Trump “seizing” on “the shift to absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic” – as if this development raised no legitimate questions about voter fraud – and to turn somersaults trying to avoid flatly acknowledging that Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore did indeed challenge the decisive Florida results in the 2000 election, not to mention their failure to note that all manner of Democrats and many other Americans have spent the better part of the last three years trying (and failing) to prove that the President’s own election was illegitimate because of interference from Russia with which the Trump campaign colluded.
Nor did tendentious front-page reporting end there. Post headline writers also told me that the President is “framing” his recently announced law enforcement operations in major cities as a “crime-fighting tactic.” And although headlines sometimes don’t perform swimmingly in capturing the essence of what reporters are trying to convey, this wasn’t one of those times, as reporter Matt Zapotosky began his story with “President Trump announced Wednesday that he is sending more federal law enforcement agents into Chicago and Albuquerque, casting the effort as one meant to help fight crime while delivering a speech that appeared designed to score political points against Democratic leaders and burnish his law-and-order image.”
In other words, according to Zapotosky (and his editors, it must always be noted), we live in a world where politicians who claim that the dispatch of federal agents to areas where crimes are unmistakably being committed, and whose own political leaders (e.g., Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot) have – after a burst of posturing – declared that they welcome a federal presence, bear the burden of proof that these actions actually are intended to fight these crimes. Even if you’re a Trump hater, you’ve got to admit that this is downright Orwellian.
Sometime, however, the front page coverage is downright incoherent. Thus the headline for the companion piece to Zapotosky’s proclaimed “Right’s Depictions of push for ‘law and order’ boost Trump – for now.” But do you know how much evidence the article contained for this declaration? Try “none.” Maybe that’s why the header on the “break” portion of the article (the part that continues on an inside page) was “Trump’s effort to ‘dominate’ cities risks bipartisan backlash.” Is everyone clear on that?
For the longest time, this native New Yorker ignored the Post‘s Metro section – because for many years after moving to the D.C. area, I clung to the hope of returning home, and saw no point in following local news. But since I’ve come to terms with my geographic exile, I’m now a Metro regular reader, and this morning was especially struck by the Post‘s report of the latest developments in George Washington University’s ongoing debate as to whether the school should drop “Colonials” as its mascot and erase the term from the numerous buildings on campus using the name.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, some of the anti-Colonials sentiment stems from the fact that the many of the American colonists held the racist views regarding black slaves and native Americans all too common (and even prevalent) among whites during the late 18th century. But although reporter Lauren Lumpkin amply described this reasoning in the third paragraph of the article, nowhere was it mentioned that “Colonials” is also how the American colonists who decided to rebel against British authority have long been routinely described – especially in accounts of the American Revolution before independence was declared. After all, during those years, there literally was no United States of America. Indeed, if you Google “colonial forces” and “American Revolution,” you come up with more than 61,000 entries.
So although, as just mentioned, many and even most of the colonists held offensive views on race, there’s no evidence that the name “Colonials” has been intended to honor or even normalize those attitudes.
I’d like to close on the optimistic note that Lumpkin (and her editors) did bother to note that “The histories of” the men whose names some members of the George Washington community also want to expunge from the university’s physical footprint “are complex.” These include former U.S. Presidents James Madison and James Monroe, 20th century Arkanas Democratic Senator J. William Fulbright, and Winston Churchill (who I trust I don’t have to describe).
I just wish that Lumpkin’s efforts to provide perspective were a little less threadbare than noting that Fulbright “championed international exchange and education” (ignoring his early and influential opposition to the Vietnam War) and that Churchill “helped steer his country through World War II” – if only because it’s all too possible that many of George Washington University’s and other name-changers don’t know their full stories.
I won’t include here any criticism of the Post‘s editorials or opinion columnists here because opinion-ating is the job of these offerings, they make no bones about it, and no thinking reader could possibly view them as transmitters of straight news. (I mentioned sports columnist Brewer just because I’m so sick and tired of the politicization of sports in general lately, and because I really do read it first – so it makes a special impression on me. If you believe that’s not very sound analytially, you could be right.)
But the paper’s hard news coverage needs to provide a much less varnished picture for its readers. In the meantime, I’ll be grateful that I haven’t yet seen any sign that a Woke version of Out of My Window has come out. Yet.