Kathy Shaidle

What is it about progressive journalists inventing imaginary poor black people?

Posted on January 8 2011 1:00 pm
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
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We all know leftists live in a bizarre alt-history fantasy world populated by perpetual victims and “liberal” saviors, but this is ridiculous.

The far-left Village Voice was forced to post the following notice yesterday:

Freelance writer Rob Sgobbo’s article “For-Profit Blues” was removed from the website after the Voice learned that Sgobbo had invented a character, “Tamicka Bourges,” who claimed she had amassed a large debt at Berkeley College without obtaining a degree.

Lest the fictional student’s fake “Ebonic” given name fail to clue readers in, the illustration (see above) created for the “expose” makes it clear the Village Voice story had had a strong racial component: the drawing depicts a smarmy white man in a suit inviting a trio of hapless, darker skinned fellows in stereotypical ethnic garb to enter a shabby doorway to “COLLEGE.” Subtle!

“Imaginary black people” feature in a few journalistic scandals of recent vintage. Take “Jimmy’s World.” Janet Cooke‘s 1980 Washington Post article about an 8-year-old heroin addict (!) won a Pulitzer even after questions were raised about its veracity.

Next time you hear about Watergate‘s Bob Woodward getting a big advance to write another exclusive “look inside the White House,” remember his response when, as the Post’s associate editor, he was obliged to admit that little “Jimmy” was simply the product of Cooke’s prize-hungry imagination:

I believed it, we published it. Official questions had been raised, but we stood by the story and her. Internal questions had been raised, but none about her other work. The reports were about the story not sounding right, being based on anonymous sources, and primarily about purported lies [about] her personal life — [told by three reporters], two she had dated and one who felt in close competition with her. I think that the decision to nominate the story for a Pulitzer is of minimal consequence. I also think that it won is of little consequence. It is a brilliant story—fake and fraud that it is. It would be absurd for me or any other editor to review the authenticity or accuracy of stories that are nominated for prizes.”

Truthiness! Fake but accurate!

(Note: don’t confuse the “Jimmy’s World” hoax with the Jayson Blair scandal. Blair, an affirmative action hire at the New York Times, took this trope to its logical conclusion. In an audacious piece of what had to be po-mo performance art, Blair was a black man who pretended to be a journalist. Why write about “Jimmy” when you can just play him yourself?)

And who will ever forget the “Tulipmania” of the genre:  those Saw-like post-Katrina “Superdome atrocities” that never happened, but were reported with an unappetizing mix of relish, concern and disgust by white Northern journalists? Adam Carolla looked back on that particular international embarrassment in his new book, In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks:

Just like when the news reported about what was going on in the Superdome after Katrina. Every rich Manhattan honky I knew was shouting, “There are three-year-olds being gang-raped! Why isn’t Bush doing anything? If the Superdome had been filled with white people, your question wouldn’t be, “Why isn’t Bush doing anything?” — it’d be “What the **** is wrong with these people?”

One could say the same things about all these leftist reporters. Here’s my not-very-original take:

Many Americans, black and white, are heavily invested in what John McWhorter (himself African-American) calls “the sense of blacks as America’s eternal poster children.”

And “poster children” need help, right? Who better to provide it (progressive journalists tell themselves) than privileged, educated, enlightened white heroes like themselves? If they have to invent some facts, or even human beings, to craft a good story, well, it’s all for a good cause, right? (See: Michael Moore.)

Add in the persistent myth of the crusading-reporter-as-hero and you have a recipe for deception.

Credit to the Village Voice: they pulled the story quickly and apologized.

Now if we can just convince J-school grads and working reporters to stop cooking up imaginary friends and report the facts.

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