The first time I heard of Samuel DuBose, recently shot in the head by a University of Cincinnati police officer, was in a CNN story. None of the details in the case – the release of the video or the indictment of the officer – were yet known. And the second paragraph, which in CNN Style is also the second sentence, pretty well summarizes how these stories are reported until the evidence of wrongdoing by law enforcement is so overwhelming that a standard victim-blame paradigm falls apart:


It's cute how they try to portray themselves as real journalists bringing much needed news to the outraged community when at the earliest opportunity to report the story they fulfilled their role as establishment bag men with a flourish. Reporting on the dead unarmed black guy's arrest record is par for the course; pointing out how many children he fathered shows real commitment to the Good Riddance narrative.


  • Back in the early 1990s, some book I read made the point that nobody ever speaks about model Christie Brinkley (then just-divorced from Billy Joel) as "the mother of four children with four different fathers".

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I know some white women with multiple children by multiple fathers. No one ever mentions it.

  • Putting how many children actually seems like a pretty standard journalistic staple when somebody dies. However, that's usually in the last paragraph or earlier if it's an obituary. To put it so early in a news story about a shooting does seem weird.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Chuck D used to compare his group to CNN. Then Fox News scared the shit out of their shareholders during the Bush years and they never really recovered.

  • Pointing out these examples of systemic racism is the only way to decrease them. Except on Fox, where it will probably just increase.

  • I think every count of arrests or runs ins with the law ought to have a big asterisk by it when it applies to Black people. Failing to signal? interfering with an officer? suspended license? Didn't the police chief of NYC just say recently that he'd love to hire more Black men for the force, but he couldn't because too many had arrest records?"
    All part of a very resilient system of racism.

  • Mick Jagger: 7 kids with 4 different women (that he knows about anyway), multiple arrests. Somehow if murdered by police I don't think either fact would be in the first or second paragraph of the CNN story.

  • For that matter, would they have written “an apparently unarmed white man”… or just “an unarmed man”?

    Though race is obviously significant here, I think the motivation is to reassure the reader that the story doesn’t mean this sort of thing ever happens to “people like us.” It’s just infotainment: feel free to be opinionated, but not concerned.

  • If someone has been arrested 60 times and is not serving a life sentence, I assume the arrests were bullshit and the charges were dropped.

  • If we assume that the arrests all happened after age 18 (because juvenile records are usually sealed), that's 60 arrests in 25 years, which actually seems plausible for a lower-class male, but particularly a black or brown one. The presumption of innocence should make how many times someone was arrested a non-topic, but since white people are usually only arrested for actual crimes when actual charges are filed and court appearances are made, the white readership sees a person with 60 arrests as a very bad person indeed.

  • Well, I am pasty white, so I get it. But 60? I am not saying he was a bad person, or even that he did bad things. But he clearly did some illegal things. Could you stipulate that only 50% of those were legitimate arrests? That would still be 30. And I understand that he probably lived in an area with a constant police presence.

    But still.

  • Number of children seems standard eg "…the father of 13 was taken by a shark while surfing…" "…the father of 13 plunged to his death when the scaffolding collapsed…"

    But Murdoch dominates press media here so it's hard to tell.

    The "arrest" record however is what tips it. How did the news outlet get this? Wouldn't happen to have been supplied to them by the police would it? I have a strong suspicion that unless they really had to, your average reporter today couldn't be asked to actually do some research of their own. Using whatever data the cops supply, despite it supporting the police narrative of the events, seems par for the course for what passes as "journalism" today.

    Though back to the number of kids: would it have been considered "news worthy" if he'd been married to the same woman for 20 years with all of the kids either theirs or adopted?

  • @Dan: I can't stipulate that ANY of them were legitimate arrests. Unless he was CONVICTED, it doesn't count. I am pasty white myself, but I don't trust the system not to abuse black men.

  • And I do agree that that information is not pertinent to the story and certainly does not belong in the second paragraph.

  • @Xynzee: The news story doesn't mention how many women he had the children with, whether he was married to any of the women, or whether any of the children were adopted. The image they intentionally painted, though, is that he is spreading his seed randomly like a wild animal because black men are oversexed and irresponsible, and thus his death is no loss to civilized society.

  • @Dan: Exactly. The arrest record belongs NOWHERE in the story, and the father of 13 belongs much farther down, and written in a tone of "a lot of people are going to miss him," not a tone of, "He was a sperm faucet who couldn't read the directions on a box of Trojans."

  • If he were white and right-wing Christian, 13 kids would get him his own TV show.

    As far as arrests, police just arrest black men for nothing more than pumping up their arrest numbers. A lot of them are just bullshit charges. If you want to see how this works, read Matt Taibbi's "Divide."

    One guy, family man on his way home from his night-shift job stopped to talk to his neighbor in front of his building at 1 am. Cops arrested them and charged them with blocking the sidewalk — even though there was no one else on the street.

    Guy decides to fight the charge, rather than plead guilty and pay the $50. Takes a day off, loses his pay, spends all day in court. Cop doesn't show up and gets a continuance. So they set another court date. Rinse and repeat. I'd say it's a joke, but it's criminal activity on the part of the police and the courts. Some guys end up being arrested dozens and dozens of times for absolutely nothing.

    This doesn't happen to white guys.

  • My wife, who is white like me, was stopped for driving 40mph in a 25mph zone. Our entire town is 25mph with very few exceptions, and it could be argued that 30mph would be more resaonable, but 40 is too fast, and she deserved the ticket. She went to court, the citing officer did not appear, and the case was summarily dismissed. I have never before considered the possibility that the case would have been continued to another date had she been not white, or not female, but apparently that's a thing.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    In today's news:
    Police are investigating the shooting death by police of a middle-aged white male.

    He is identified as the father in the Duggar family. He was '19 children – and counting.'

    PS: It didn't really happen.

    But how's that for a snarky retort?

  • @Gulag; yup, Jim-Bob Duggar, who has 19 children and counting, and whose son has admitted to sexually assaulting at least five girls, one as young as five years old…

  • What immediately struck me was that the second-paragraph description sounds exactly like the phrasing one would encounter in, say, the South African media's reporting on the death of Stephen Biko, or the local Southern newspaper's account of the "disappearance" of a Freedom Rider.

    But, fuck it, CNN has already gone full-blown Performance Art ever since they hired (and continued to employ after his first five minutes on-air) Don Lemon. When you cram that amount of tone-deaf "what did I say that was offensive" bigotry into your schedule, there's bound to be a certain amount of spill-over into your online content. "Oh," says the writer, "I…I guess we're just supposed to go with the most stupidly insensitive thing we can come up with. Um, OK, well, I guess 'Uppity Thug Gets It In The Head, As Expected' is the 'take' on this one."

  • They probably just Googled "Samuel DuBose arrested" and counted how many hits they got. It ain't like they've got his social or anything to make sure it's the same guy.

  • I made a comment on a FB post about this. Essentially, that "he was no angel" is not justification for shooting a man dead.

    I got over two hundred likes. Nobody replied in the negative. Some people get it. We're not actually living in Mega-City One, and Judge Dredd is not a role model.

  • @Robert: You and I must belong to different Facebook groups. I have blocked so many people that the software started to hang every time I went to block someone new. This is why I quit Facebook last week, and I've never been happier.

    I'm happy you had the experience you did, though. Unfortunately, I think the racists and cop apologists remember to vote.

  • @Andrew: I'm aware of that.
    I was positing the idea IF he had been married etc. would they had used this?

    I went to school with several families that had 7, 8 or 9 kids—ame mother and father FYI*.
    I'm guessing the journo speak may have been closer to: "leaving behind a wife and 13 kids". But that would have been a bad narrative for the cops. I'm sure they'd find a way to use this against him.

    I guess my real question is: Is it possible for a black man to be a father of several kids and be perceived as being responsible? I'm questioning the background racial narrative. I'm guessing that we cannot.

    For all we know he could have been Catholic (or Mormon).**

    *To quote a friend's mother when she heard this: "Nine kids!!! I'm surprised her uterus hasn't fallen out!" while choking on her coffee. He was an only child mind you.
    **Because, every sperm is sacred! Every sperm is good! Every sperm is needed in your neighbourhood!
    Sorry had to move that from the main body, but couldn't resist. ;)

  • skwerlhugger says:

    You guys have no future in journalism.

    "Fathered 19 children, and involved in controversy recently for allegedly concealing sexual predation by one of his teenage sons involving numerous children as young as 5 years old, at least one a sister."

  • I come from a family of 11 children. My dad was arrested a number of times for drunken driving and committed to the County's "Famous Fifth" (psych ward–drunk tank) to dry out, more times than I can count.

    He was a good man, a good father and he is still sorely missed–43 years after his death.

    He wasn't, of course, black, so it's okay that he's sorely missed and remembered with wry humor and fondness.

    If the cop is a member of the State Police Union, they'll be going to bat for him because it would be a tragedy if a young man, who in the heat of the moment made a mistake and shot someone who prolly woulda been shot sooner or later, anyway.

  • @Skwerl; don't forget also, home and furnishings provided off the taxpayer dollar, pays no taxes for home.

  • Freecookies says:

    And the say racism is dead. What's most ironic and amusing, is that same reporter would also be decrying the KKK if they were to be marching somewhere.

    And god forbid you say the N word.

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