And this is why I hate the media

Yesterday morning, I asked a friend what he thought Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums’s soon to be announced public safety initiatives would be. “Nothing, absolutely nothing,” he said. “No way,” I responded. “He wouldn’t call a press conference if he had nothing. He’d just keep hiding under his desk.”

Well, I was wrong. Here’s Dellums’s “plan” in a nutshell. An undisclosed number of CHP officers will come to Oakland temporarily. He is going to reorganize the department the way he said he would months ago. We’re going to keep doing things we were already doing. Maybe we’ll get more money from the State. And by the way, don’t expect OPD to be fully staffed for “a couple of years.”

Check out this particularly uninspiring exchange from the press conference:

CBS 5 Reporter Sherry Hu: Here’s one of the cynic questions I will put to you…But, five months ago you and Police Chief Tucker stood before us and talked about the community policing plan and how this would turn an important corner. What has happened in the five months? Can you please update us on the community policing plan? And also, what will make what you’re presenting to the community today different so that five months from now instead of saying you have another plan, you can say we have results? And, I don’t mean to be unfair. But, people are asking when –

Ron Dellums: Your job is to be cynical and our job is to come back…Let me go back to the point that I made. Cynicism is crippling our community, professionalism not withstanding. At some point people have to believe that it is possible, there has to be a sense of hope. All right? What will be different five months from now is if we’re able to succeed. If we’re able to sustain this effort. If we’re able to expand the partnerships. If the Federal government comes in and begins to help us. If we have an expanded state capability. If we pass the State budget and bring the necessary resources that are there. If all the community begins to stand up. You gotta start somewhere, you gotta keep going. Even if you fall down, you get up and you keep moving forward. All right?

Okay, so the answer to all our problems is, as always, begging for money from the State and Federal governments.

This is a new low even for Dellums. So imagine my surprise when I checked my feeds this morning and saw the following headlines:

Oakland Mayor Announces New Ways To Fight Crime
Dellums details plan for assault on crime

The stories themselves aren’t much better.

Mark Liberman at from Language Log says it better than I can:

Reading about science in the popular press…can be depressing, if you’re laboring under the misapprehension that the goal is to understand and evaluate research, and to explain things to the public in a clear and interesting way. From this perspective, what you usually see is a process of progressive misunderstanding, distortion and exaggeration — and you might conclude that science journalists are too lazy to read the original research reports, or too stupid to understand them, or too cynical and manipulative to care whether their stories bear any particular relationship to the truth.

But this misses the point, which is not provision of information, but rather moral uplift and reinforcement of cultural norms.

Replace “science” with “politics” and “research” with “policy” and he pretty much nailed it.

3 thoughts on “And this is why I hate the media

  1. pallewog

    Aaarghh. That’s all I have to say. Why did this man want to be Mayor? I voted for him because I thought he would bring “stature” to the city and surround himself with effective people. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, as a matter of fact I feel like I was temporarily brain dead. This man spent a wonderfully effective and successful career in Washington and is a horrible Mayor. I’ve never heard such a load of crap. I’m surprised he didn’t mention the United Nations. Maybe he should fly to New York and ask the security counsel for money. Guess what Mr. Mayor, it’s your fault now. That’s the way you lead!

  2. Deckin

    What’s truly disturbing about this interchange with Hu is Dellums’ Bushian response: When asked what will be different 5 months from now, his first response is that cynicism is the problem (read: criticisms of the war in Iraq are overlooking progress); then he says what will be different is if we are able to succeed. I teach logic for a living and the logical confusion here is simply amazing (say, Bushian) and it’s pernicious because as with most logical legerdemain from politicians, it hides any real accountability. The question was about what will happen as an attempt to get Dellums on the record as committing to some standard of success or failure so that voters can then hold him accountable. Dellums responds, though, by predicting an outcome if he succeeds. The question wasn’t about what would happen if he succeeds–hell, we all know what will happen: we’ll be happy and free from fear. What we want to know is what is Dellums going to do thats different from what he’s already proposed and what he considers a standard that voters can hold him too. But apparently that’s too much to ask.

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    pallewog –

    The lack of action from Dellums is indeed exceedingly frustrating. I can imagine that it must be even more so for those who voted for him, since they bear the additional burden of feeling betrayed by someone they put so much hope in.

    Deckin –

    As usual, you nailed it. BTW, how did the NCPC meeting go?