Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, September 24, 2020 - People protest the Kentucky grand jury decision in the case of Breonna Taylors death by Louisville police. (Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Opinion

WALSH: Americans Have Been Wildly Misled About Police Shootings. This Study Shows How Effective The Propaganda Has Been.

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In recent years, the media has been in a much publicized war against misinformation. One might think it would be quite easy for them to slay that particular dragon. All they have to do is stop misinforming people. They are, after all, the primary purveyors of fake news in all its forms. Some people may be led astray by Facebook memes and random tweets that pop into their Twitter feeds, but the internet trolls who spread lies and innuendo through those avenues are mere amateurs compared to the American media. The latter group has elevated misinformation to an art form. They have perfected it. They are experts in the field. And now the world’s greatest misinformers have given themselves the task of combating misinformation. It is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house. 

If misinformation is the media’s art form, then their narrative around police shootings is their Mona Lisa, their masterpiece. On no other issue is the general public so thoroughly deluded, misled and confused, and on no other issue has the consequence of delusion been so utterly catastrophic. Billions of dollars of damage inflicted, hundreds of buildings torched, dozens of people killed, and disastrous public policies and laws enacted — and this is just over the past nine months — thanks almost exclusively to the media’s misinformation campaign about police shootings.

A recent survey from Skeptic Magazine illustrates exactly how effective this campaign has been. Interviewing a sample of American adults across the political spectrum, researchers asked two questions: 1) “If you had to guess, how many unarmed Black men were killed by police in 2019?” Respondents were given options that ranged from “about ten” to “over ten thousand.” 2) “If you had to guess, in 2019 what percentage (%) of people killed by police were Black?” Here the survey group could respond with any percentage between zero and 100. 

The responses to these two questions reveal confusion — intentionally cultivated confusion — on a massive scale. Thirty percent of those identifying as “very liberal” guessed that about 100 unarmed black men had been killed by police in 2019. 38 percent of self-identified liberals guessed the same, as did 40 percent of moderates, 40 percent of conservatives, and 33 percent of “very conservative” respondents. Thirty-one percent of the very liberal group thought that the number of unarmed black men killed by police was around 1,000, as did 26 percent of liberals, 16 percent of moderates, 9 percent of conservatives, and 13 percent of very conservatives. There were sizable portions of each group that thought that 10,000 or more unarmed black men had been fatally shot by police in a single calendar year. For very liberals it was over 20 percent, liberals 11 percent, moderates 8 percent, conservatives 4 percent, and very conservatives 6 percent. 

The actual number of unarmed black men killed by police in 2019, according to the Washington Post’s database, is 13. And even 13 is likely a significant overestimation.

As I have previously showed, only six of the 13 unarmed shootings in that year were clearly unjustified. Just one was a case of apparent murder, and that officer has been charged accordingly. You could make a case for manslaughter in two or three of the other six cases. Most of those officers have been charged with crimes, too. But in eight of the 13 “unarmed” shootings, the suspects were in the process of running officers down in their cars, violently assaulting them, or otherwise presenting themselves as lethal threats. 

For example, Kevin Mason of Baltimore is categorized as an “unarmed” man shot by cops, and he was, but he also told officers that he had a gun and intended to “kill every last one of them.” Marzeus Scott was shot while unarmed, but only because he assaulted a female officer, knocked her to the ground, and forced her to use the gun after her taser was ineffective. Isaiah Lewis pounced on an officer and knocked him unconscious before getting shot. He also may have been “unarmed” but he was no less of a threat because of it. As we can see, not every “unarmed” shooting is unjustified. In fact, in 2019, most of them were clearly justified. 

Putting all of that to the side, we are left with “about ten” unarmed black men (and one woman) shot by cops in 2019. What this means is that the majority of people in every ideological category overestimated the number by at least a factor of 10. Huge numbers of liberals and moderates overestimated by factors of 100 and 1,000.

The situation isn’t much better for the second question. On average, liberals thought that between 55 and 60 percent of people killed by police in 2019 were black. Moderates thought the figure was around 45 percent. Conservatives and very conservatives thought it was between 35 and 45 percent. Again, all groups missed the mark by a wide margin. In reality, 23.4 percent of those killed by police in 2019 were black. Between 2015 and 2020, the figure averages to about 26 percent. Conservatives came the closest to the truth, but even they tacked on an imaginary 10 to 20 percent. 

You might argue that the average person isn’t spending much time researching the exact demographic details of police shootings in 2019 or any other year. It’s not surprising that they’d guess wrong in a survey of this sort. But the problem isn’t that they didn’t know the precise numbers. It’s that they couldn’t land in the ballpark, or even in the neighborhood of the ballpark. The average person may not know the exact number of Americans killed each year by lightning strikes, but if I gave them options of “around 50,” “around 5000,” and “around 50,000,” I’m guessing most people would correctly land on “around 50.” That’s because the average person has the capacity to make reasonable judgments about the threat posed by lightning strikes. We all know they happen but we also know they’re pretty rare, and there’s no way in hell that bolts from the sky are smiting 50,000 people in this county every year. The idea that police are killing 1,000 or 10,000 unarmed black people, or that half of the people killed each year by police are black, should be just as obviously bogus. The average person cannot see the absurdity for what it is because their judgment and capacity for making reasonable estimations on this issue has been obliterated after years of relentless propaganda from the media. 

This is what we are up against. For all of the skepticism rightly targeted at the media, even the skeptics can be wildly misled by that same media. No matter how much of an independent thinker, a critical thinker, you might consider yourself to be, it is difficult to keep your wits about you when surrounded by a constant fog of lies and half-truths. Ed Harris’s character in “The Truman Show” had it right: “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.” And it is indeed that simple for many of us. But it shouldn’t be. As we have learned time and again, the reality and what we are presented can often be two very different things. 

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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