Fact-check abolition

Today’s media has endless energy to fact-check Donald Trump (including fact-checking opinions, predictions, and literally true but arguably misleading statements), and the Atlantic is no exception. But it’s different when it comes to their own pages.

Two weeks ago the Atlantic ran an article in favor of “police abolition.” Central to the piece was a harrowing anecdote: when the author was 12 years old, she witnessed a police officer shoot a child at a local community center and faced no consequences for it.

Well, the Federalist did what the Atlantic would not; they fact-checked the piece, and found that nothing like it every happened. It’s impressive work; the community center wasn’t named in the piece, so they had to deduce it from hints in the piece, which was made more difficult by various minor errors (e.g., the age of the author, and which highway was nearby). They narrowed it down to two candidates. Interviews and a public record search found no evidence that any such incident had ever taken place.

The Atlantic refused to comment, but belated looked at the piece and has now admitted that the incident was not as described. The shooter was a security guard, not a police officer; the victim was an adult, not a child; and the guard was prosecuted for the incident. (They have not corrected their description of the 18-year-old victim as a “boy.”)

The Atlantic has edited the piece, adding an end note noting the correction. They don’t seem to have noticed that the correction eviscerates the piece. The author’s thesis is that we should abolish the police, and replace them with something else. (Exactly what we should replace them with, they never quite say.) Well here you have what they say they want: the law enforced by a city employee who is not police. The non-police officer didn’t have the professionalism of a police officer, and shot his (adult) cousin in a quarrel. The non-police officer apparently didn’t face consequences from his non-police department, and only faced consequences when the actual police became involved.

The author is unrepentant, cheekily tweeting:

I was not 12. I was 13. The shooter was a uniformed private guard with a badge and gun. When we say abolish the police, that includes private police, too. thank you for reading <3.

(Her tweets are now protected. I got the text of the tweet from the Federalist.)

That is just silly. People are not going to go unprotected. If you abolish the police, you will get more private police. You cannot disclaim the predictable consequences of your policies.

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