Contemporary journalism has been infected with a special form of censorship driven by the fear of identification with a politically incorrect position.
You’d think that most street crime is committed by faceless males, whose identifying marks and racial characteristics have been wiped away by some digital pixel smear effect, like those television shows where the headshot of the crime victim or informant is altered to obscure identity.
This is PC Fog.
Illustration: An ATM shooting of an elderly lady is witnessed by two bystanders. The robber flees on foot. Police and EMT’s arrive minutes later. The officers get detailed descriptions of the predator. A composite description is broadcast over the police radio.
Police are trained to compile descriptions as complete as can be gleaned, including gender, approximate age, height, weight, build, head and facial hair, clothing, race, distinguishing marks, direction and mode of flight-- everything that might help officers in the field to stop and detain a suspect.
Over the next crucial minutes, various officers are tasked to briefly detain any suspects who seem to match the broadcast description, and to hold them for further identification procedures.
Assume in our example, the robber gets away.
What will we probably learn from a PC media version of this incident? We’ll likely be treated to an incomplete description, something like --“husky male, dressed in dark clothes.” The suspect’s race? Known but omitted. We’ve all seen the pattern.
This is PC journalism at work.
Assume that, based on the description, one suspect is detained in the field, is subdued after a struggle. But before the suspect is handcuffed, he manages to escape, leaving a pistol on the pavement.
When PC reigns, the police will be criticized for “racial profiling” because the suspect was stopped because he was a “minority.” Later, when ballistics match bullet and discarded gun, the same officers will be accused of negligence for letting the shooter get away.
PC Fog is released to obscure uncomfortable truths. We are expected to live in the fantasy world where things like physical appearance are irrelevant, where minorities are to be protected by racial anonymity if necessary, even if that hampers law enforcement and our need as citizens to know what’s going on in our community.
What is sometimes reflexively condemned as “profiling” represents a perfectly reasonable conservation of scarce law enforcement resources.
Suppose the victim were a frail 88 year old back lady at an ATM, while her mugger was a head-shaved white male of 25? Or that the mugger was initially detained because his presence in the parking lot of an all black church after hours seemed suspicious? Would it matter if the victim were an elderly Chinese woman? Or that the mugger, a bearded Hispanic male wearing sweats, was detained because his presence in an all Chinese wedding party seemed suspicious?
Would we have the police detain an artificially larger sample, including some young black males and white females, just to avoid “profiling”? Does it make any sense in these examples to alert the public to a mugger while omitting skin color and apparent ethnicity from the description?
PC fog is as dangerous as highway fog without headlights.
Jay B. Gaskill is an attorney at law who lives in Alameda