Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The New York Post on Twitter fact-checking President Donald Trump's tweets:
After President Trump’s fevered conspiracy tweets about Joe Scarborough’s former intern Lori Klausutis, her widower, T.J. Klausutis, begged the company to delete them. It was a heartbreaking plea (one that Trump himself should listen to), but CEO Jack Dorsey made the right call. The tweets were a living record of the nation’s president, and the company wasn’t going to take them down.
But then, later on Tuesday, Twitter decided on what is considered a compromise. It would flag Trump’s tweets for “misinformation,” beginning with his rants against mail-in voting.
Dorsey should have stuck to his hands-off approach.
This isn’t a free-speech issue, as Trump claimed last night. Twitter is a private company and can decide what’s published on its platform. But Dorsey understands that Twitter is documenting history here. If he bans Trump, he’s making a political statement — not providing the neutral forum for ideas that the company invented.
But now Dorsey walked into the trap he was trying to avoid. What will be labeled misinformation? Will liberals, too, get warning labels? Who decides? Will every user be read and reviewed, or just Trump?
Already, one sees that the “fact-checking” services of social-media giants such as Facebook are more about stifling the conversation than the truth. One day’s conspiracy theory can turn into another day’s investigative report, and vice versa. Most of all, it’s a patronizing, liberal form of engineering — deciding that readers can’t judge for themselves.
Twitter already has a robust form of “fact-checking”: All the people who comment on a post, retweet a post, rebut, argue and insult. Let them handle it, Jack.
The Washington Post the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed while being detained by police:
Another day in the United States, another unarmed black man dead following unwarranted, insupportable, outrageous police violence. When will it end?
In Minneapolis on Monday evening, a white officer bore down with his knee on the neck of a handcuffed black man who lay sprawled on the street, rasping, “I cannot breathe” and “Don’t kill me.” The man died a short time after.
The suspect, George Floyd, was in his 40s. He was arrested when officers responded to what they called a suspected “forgery in progress.” They said the man appeared to be intoxicated and that he resisted arrest, though no evidence has been presented for either assertion.
There is plain evidence of what came next, however, from a video recorded by someone in a group of witnesses who stood a few feet away. In it, the white officer appears impassive, almost bored, as the suspect gasps for breath. He is unmoved as witnesses curse and plead with him to get off the suspect’s neck, as they warn that the man’s nose is bleeding, that he can’t breathe, that he isn’t resisting. Nor does the officer relent when an ambulance medic arrives and checks the man’s neck for a pulse.
When, finally, the officer lifts his knee, the man appears to have lost consciousness as he is dragged onto a stretcher.
On Tuesday, that officer and three others were fired. Now the FBI is investigating the incident. Now the outrage and condemnation are erupting in social media. It is all painfully familiar.
Police killed 1,099 people last year in the United States, according to Mapping Police Violence. Black Americans represented 24 percent of those who died, nearly twice their proportion of the population.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) was blunt. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” he said. “This officer failed in the most basic, human sense. What I keep coming back to is this: This man should not have died.”
In a jarringly anodyne statement Tuesday, as if describing a highway pileup, the Minneapolis police said that officers at the scene “noted (the suspect) appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
Incredibly, the statement made no mention of the fact that the “medical distress” occurred in the course of having the weight of an officer’s body bear down on the man’s neck. The title of the statement is almost risible: “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.”
Six short years ago, Americans watched, horrified, as Eric Garner, his neck in a police officer’s chokehold, pleaded again and again, “I can’t breathe” on a sidewalk on Staten Island. Mr. Garner died. They watched macabre videos showing the deaths of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice and other black Americans, all shot to death by police.
Perhaps the suspect in Minneapolis was intoxicated. Perhaps he did resist arrest. The officers at the scene activated their body cams; that footage should be released immediately. Even if it confirms the police account, it will do nothing to justify what occurred next. No police protocols recommend kneeling on a human being’s neck until he passes out. That is a protocol for homicide, not law enforcement.
The Wall Street Journal on Trump's tweets on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough:
Donald Trump sometimes traffics in conspiracy theories—recall his innuendo in 2016 about Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination—but his latest accusation against MSNBC host Joe Scarborough is ugly even for him. Mr. Trump has been tweeting the suggestion that Mr. Scarborough might have had something to do with the death in 2001 of a young woman who worked in his Florida office when Mr. Scarborough was a GOP Congressman.
“A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair? What about the so-called investigator? Read story!” Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday while retweeting a dubious account of the case.
He kept it going Tuesday with new tweets: “The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough was not a Donald Trump original thought, this has been going on for years, long before I joined the chorus. . . . So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?” Nasty stuff, and from the Oval Office to more than 80 million Twitter followers.
There’s no evidence of foul play, or an affair with the woman, and the local coroner ruled that the woman fainted from an undiagnosed heart condition and died of head trauma. Some on the web are positing a conspiracy because the coroner had left a previous job under a cloud, but the parents and husband of the young woman accepted the coroner’s findings and want the case to stay closed.
Mr. Trump always hits back at critics, and Mr. Scarborough has called the President mentally ill, among other things. But suggesting that the talk-show host is implicated in the woman’s death isn’t political hardball. It’s a smear. Mr. Trump rightly denounces the lies spread about him in the Steele dossier, yet here he is trafficking in the same sort of trash.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, had it right when he tweeted on the weekend: “Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”
We don’t write this with any expectation that Mr. Trump will stop. Perhaps he even thinks this helps him politically, though we can’t imagine how. But Mr. Trump is debasing his office, and he’s hurting the country in doing so.
The Baltimore Sun on bringing back baseball:
How desperate are Americans for sports right now? The best measure yet was last Sunday’s charity golf match featuring two top professional players partnered with two quarterbacks, one former, one current. It was rainy. It was dull. There were technical glitches. It was full of artifice (like an actual conversation about how Peyton Manning might have chosen Tom Brady’s ex-coach Bill Belichick as his caddy). And it was the highest rated golf event in the history of cable television with 6.3 million viewers at its peak. Imagine what Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods thought of that. Here’s what they likely thought: Let’s make some more of this easy money from America’s clearly sports-starved populace.
The sudden loss of sporting events from high school track to National Basketball Association games clearly isn’t the worst consequence of the coronavirus pandemic that has left roughly 100,000 Americans dead. It isn’t even the worst economic impact as tens of millions have lost their jobs and face financial hardships that participants in “The Match” can scarcely dream about. But make no mistake, it hurts. Sports is entertainment without the predetermined resolutions. It dates to cavemen wrestling or so some experts on prehistory claim. It fills some basic human need and not just the physical fitness or character building of participants. There is a cultural necessity to bearing witness, as a society, to the power, grace and courage of athletes in competition. And that’s not even mentioning the cool merchandise. Or the beer commercials.
A chummy outing on the links is a poor substitute. But you know what might do wonders for the country’s psyche right about now? A return of the national pastime. We need baseball right now. It’s the perfect sport for COVID-19. It’s got a lot of social distancing (just look at the whole concept of outfielders and tell us that’s not an advertisement for CDC guidelines). It takes place in wide open spaces. There is a minimum of physical contact and participants even wear gloves. Throw in face masks and you likely could not have designed a better game for the times (aside from golf or perhaps tennis if players agreed never to touch the ball).
And while you can probably make the case for other sports where participants stand apart (javelin throwing comes immediately to mind), there is something especially reassuring about a quintessentially American game. Or, as the James Earl Jones character in what is easily the corniest movie about a sport where the average player salary is $4 million per year, explained: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”
Yes, well, whatever “Field of Dreams.” The point is that we need a comfort sport like we need comfort food, and baseball is top of the menu. It doesn’t require packing the stands. Playing games to empty stadiums might make the most sense, at least until safe attendance is possible. Baltimore knows about empty stands The Orioles pulled that feat against the White Sox in 2015 during the Freddie Gray unrest. The good news is that Major League Baseball wants to restart the season that ended abruptly in spring training. The bad news is that there’s no sign that negotiations between the owners (let’s call them the billionaires) and the players (millionaires) have yet produced an agreement for the benefit of us thousandaires. Not surprisingly, money is considered the problem issue.
So to those folks and their teams of lawyers and negotiators, their publicists and business managers, we can this: Pretty, pretty please, won’t you consider the plight of all your fans who desperately want to hear the crack of the bat and the thump of a baseball in a catcher’s glove? To make it happen, you’re going to have to take a pay cut. The loss of ticket and concession sales changes the financial equation, obviously. But how about both sides not making a ton of money while so many people are suffering? Doesn’t that have some merit, too? This may be the week to ink a deal, players and owners. Let’s get it done, perhaps donate a hefty share of profits to charity, and let’s play ball. The country needs you. James Earl Jones needs you. And all those baseball fans who are stuck watching the Korean Baseball Organization on ESPN? Let’s just say the Samsung Lions are no Baltimore Orioles. They need you, too.
The Guardian on China's proposed plan to impose a national security law on Hong Kong:
The most powerful indictments of Beijing’s plans to impose a national security law on Hong Kong have not come from pro-democracy activists, but from the authorities themselves. They have told the city’s residents all they need to know about the proposals which China’s rubber-stamp parliament is due to pass this Thursday.
Thousands have already protested against the plans, which will bar subversion, separatism or acts of foreign interference. More are expected to take to the streets on Wednesday, as people oppose the second reading of a separate bill in Hong Kong that criminalises “disrespecting” the national anthem, with a penalty of up to three years in jail.
They believe that the national security law spells the end of China’s promise that Hong Kong could maintain its way of life – which has long included rights such as freedom of expression and protest – until 2047, under the arrangement known as one country, two systems. The city’s mini-constitution states that it should pass its own security law, but the unpopularity of the measure made authorities back off 17 years ago. Existing laws are more than ample if Beijing’s true concern is security: they have allowed the arrest of more than 8,000 people in less than a year. There is already a specific ordinance to deal with terrorism, the other spectre invoked by officials.
Authorities insist the legislation will not impact on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, while at the same time underlining that it will, in fact, destroy it. The very decision to impose it from above is one of those signals. (Hong Kong’s bar association has questioned whether Beijing has the legal authority to do so.) But others have followed last week’s shock announcement. China’s foreign commissioner in the region said that freedoms of the press and speech would be unchanged – before warning the media against using them as a “pretext” to undermine national sovereignty and security.
Even more striking was the time limit implied in the response of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, to criticism of the proposed security laws: “We are a very free society, so for the time being, people have the freedom to say whatever they want to say.” Pressed on whether the law could be applied retrospectively, as many fear, she would not rule it out.
The populist state newspaper Global Times was more openly threatening, writing that the pro-democracy billionaire Jimmy Lai’s Twitter account had “provided evidence for national security agencies of acts of subversion, experts warned”.
None of this will surprise Hong Kong’s people. They are painfully aware of how national security legislation is used to punish dissidents, scholars, lawyers and activists on the mainland. The most famous, the Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo, died three years ago while serving his 11-year sentence for inciting state subversion, having co-authored and gathered signatures for a letter calling for democratic reforms.
These pronouncements are designed to sow fear and undermine opposition. The vote will pass on Thursday; the question for Hong Kong’s future is how it is implemented and enforced. That is why other countries, particularly Britain, must take a stand – including at next month’s G7 meeting – and why businesses and others should do so too. We know how China wants to use this law. How it actually does so is yet to be determined.
The New York Times on American military bases being named after Confederate Army officers:
The white supremacist who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., five years ago dispensed with the fiction that the Confederate battle flag was an innocuous symbol of “Southern pride.” A murderer’s manifesto describing the killings as the start of a race war — combined with photos of the killer brandishing a pistol and a rebel flag — made it impossible to ignore the connection between Confederate ideology and a blood-drenched tradition of racial terrorism that dates back to the mid-19th century in the American South.
Outrage over the Charleston massacre forced South Carolina to finally remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds — where it had flown for more than half a century — and led major retailers to drop merchandise bearing Confederate insignia. The National Cathedral in Washington showed how pervasive this iconography had become when it dismantled an elaborate set of stained-glass windows depicting the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in saintly poses. As the cathedral dean put it, there was no excuse for the nation’s most visible church to celebrate a cause whose primary reason for being was the preservation and extension of slavery in America.
Institutions that could once have wrapped themselves in Confederacy ideology without consequence were put on notice that public sentiment had shifted. The commandant of the United States Marine Corps tacitly deferred to this new reality last month by banning public display of the Confederate flag at Marine installations. Gen. David H. Berger pointed out in a letter to his fellow Marines that the flag was being pushed out because it had “the power to inflame feelings of division” in a military organization that relies on unity to do its work.
The commandant avoided references to racism or white supremacy, suggesting that it was still justifiable for people of good will to view the Confederate banner as a harmless expression of regional pride. Nevertheless, innocent intentions cannot obscure the truth that secessionists embarked on the Civil War to guarantee the rights of some human beings to own others, or the fact that the Confederate banner represents the same white supremacist values as — and is often displayed in tandem with — the Nazi swastika.
This same toxic legacy clings to the 10 United States military installations across the South that were named for Confederate Army officers during the first half of the 20th century. Apologists often describe the names as a necessary gesture of reconciliation in the wake of the Civil War. In truth, the namings reflect a federal embrace of white supremacy that found its most poisonous expression in military installations where black servicemen were deliberately placed under the command of white Southerners — who were said to better “understand” Negroes — and confined to substandard housing, segregated transportation systems and even “colored only” seating in movie houses.
As the official Defense Department history of this period now acknowledges, the federal embrace of the Jim Crow system undermined the country’s readiness for war and destroyed morale, introducing black recruits to a brand of hard-core racism many had not experienced in civilian life. As the military opened more and more such bases across the country, the history notes, it “actually spread federally sponsored segregation into areas where it had never before existed with the force of law.” In other words, the base names were part of a broad federal sellout to white supremacy that poisoned the whole of the United States.
CELEBRATING A WAR CRIMINAL
The officials who named a military base in Virginia for a profoundly dishonorable Confederate general, George Pickett, must have been willfully blind to a voluminous record demonstrating his unworthiness. In addition to being accused of cowardice at the pivotal battle at Gettysburg, the incompetent, self-regarding Pickett faced a war crimes investigation for the executions of 22 Union soldiers at Kinston, N.C., near the end of the war. When a Union general reminded Pickett that federal policy mandated retaliation for extralegal killings of Union soldiers, the Confederate general responded by crowing about the killings and threatening to hang 10 U.S. Army prisoners for every Confederate prisoner who might be marched to the gallows.
A military panel investigating the Kinston killings wrote unsparingly of Pickett’s command: “It is the opinion of board,” the panel wrote, “these men have violated the rules of war and every principle of humanity, and are guilty of crimes too heinous to be excused by the Government of the United States.” Pickett fled to Canada to avoid possible prosecution. He might well have been hauled back in manacles had the U.S. Army commander, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, not short-circuited the investigation. As the journalist and Civil War historian Gerard A. Patterson writes, Grant’s decision to save Pickett, with whom he had served in the Mexican-American war, was a classic act of old-boy cronyism. Even if Pickett’s crimes were set aside, his ineptitude in combat should have ruled him out of consideration when federal authorities were naming military installations.
By the time the federal government sought out military training facilities in the South in preparation for war abroad, the school of mythology known as the Lost Cause movement — forged by groups like The United Daughters of the Confederacy — had rewritten Civil War history. This telling valorized the Ku Klux Klan; cast even the most execrable Confederate officers as saints; and portrayed slavery as an idyll featuring loving masters who doted on happy black retainers.
The Lost Cause era also ushered in a reign of racial terror during which African-Americans were stripped of basic rights and murdered in public for reasons such as competing with whites in business, seeking the vote or even failing to give way on the sidewalk. Adolf Hitler himself took notice, praising the United States as the near epitome of the racist state. The Nazi movement normalized its agenda in Germany by pointing out that “racist policies and practices” had been successfully applied in the Southern United States.
The federal government embraced pillars of the white supremacist movement when it named military bases in the South. Consider, for example, Fort Benning, Ga., which honors a Confederate general, Henry Lewis Benning, who devoted himself to the premise that African-Americans were not really human and could never be trusted with full citizenship.
Benning was widely influential in Southern politics and served on the Supreme Court of Georgia before turning his attentions to the cause of secession. In a now famous speech in 1861, he told secession conventioneers in Virginia that his native state of Georgia had left the union for one reason — to “prevent the abolition of her slavery.” Benning’s statements strongly resemble that of present-day white supremacists — and reference the race war theme put forward by the young racist who murdered nine African-Americans in Charleston five years ago.
Benning warned, for example, that the abolition of slavery would one day lead to the horror of “black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.” This, he opined, would place white womanhood at the mercy of African-Americans with the same rights as white people. “We will be completely exterminated,” he said, “and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back into a wilderness.”
By naming yet another Georgia base for a Confederate general, John Brown Gordon, the federal government venerated a man who was a leader of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War and who may have taken on a broader role in the terrorist organization when its first national leader — a former Confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest — suffered declining health. As a politician, Gordon championed the late-19th-century campaign that stripped African-American Southerners of the citizenship rights they had briefly held during the period just after the Civil War known as Reconstruction.
Among the other Confederate officers honored at Southern military bases are merely undistinguished or flatly incompetent commanders like the irascible Gen. Braxton Bragg — “the most hated man of the Confederacy,” one biographer calls him. Bragg was known for pettiness and cruelty, along with the battlefield failures that eventually led to his being relieved of command.
A DEAL WITH WHITE SUPREMACY
The Charleston dead were scarcely cold when an Army spokesman declared that there was no need to expunge Confederate base names because the names were merely “historic’’ and “represent individuals, not causes or ideologies.”
The first problem with this argument is that, as individuals, these men were traitors. These rebel officers, who were willing to destroy the United States to keep black people in chains, are synonymous with the racist ideology that drove them to treason.
The second difficulty is that the base names were agreed upon as part of broader accommodation in which the military embraced stringent segregation so as not to offend Southerners by treating African-Americans as equals. The names represent not only oppression before and during the Civil War, but also state-sponsored bigotry after it.
Black recruits who volunteered to die for their country were mainly shut out of combat units, commanded by white Southerners who often resented being assigned to colored units. In some contexts, black servicemen were treated worse than prisoners of war. The actress and singer Lena Horne, for example, flew into a rage during World War II when she arrived at a military camp to entertain only to find that the best seats — in the “white” section of the audience — had been reserved for German P.O.W.s.
The racist conventions applied on Southern military bases were exported to bases in the North and West as well. When commanders sought to police the leisure time conduct of black soldiers, those conventions spilled over into surrounding towns that had never known Jim Crow. At the height of World War II, for example, Southern white officers at a base not far from Philadelphia reacted in vintage Deep South style when they saw black soldiers dating white women. One officer decreed that “any association between the colored soldiers and white women, whether voluntary or not, would be considered rape” — an offense that had long been subject to the death penalty under military law.
The Army surgeon general blew a kiss to racists in 1941 when he justified the Red Cross policy of segregating the wartime blood bank by donor race — even though there was no scientific reason for doing so. The point was to assure white recipients that they would receive only “white” plasma. African-American newspapers quickly pointed out that a black doctor, Dr. Charles Drew, who directed the first Red Cross blood bank, had pioneered the techniques that made large-scale blood plasma storage possible.
President Harry Truman desegregated the armed services through executive order in 1948, declaring that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”
Fifteen years later, a young African-American Army officer named Colin Powell marveled at the contrast between the fairness and opportunity he experienced at Fort Benning, Ga., and the racist treatment he suffered at off-base restaurants that refused to serve him. In his memoir “My American Journey,” Mr. Powell describes the racially integrated bases of the segregated 1960s-era South as “healthy cells in an otherwise sick body.” Nevertheless, for the first half of the 20th century, the U.S. military contributed mightily to the very “sickness” Mr. Powell condemns.
Military installations that celebrate white supremacist traitors have loomed steadily larger in the civic landscape since the country began closing smaller bases and consolidating its forces on larger ones. Bases named for men who sought to destroy the Union in the name of racial injustice are an insult to the ideals servicemen and women are sworn to uphold — and an embarrassing artifact of the time when the military itself embraced anti-American values. It is long past time for those bases to be renamed.