Thursday, November 17, 2016

26 Errors, Inaccuracies and Flat-Out Lies in the Documentary '13th'

Ava DuVarney's Netflix doc is practically a lock for an Oscar nod come next February. Unfortunately, the film is littered with copious mistakes, misstatements, overbroad generalizations, selective edits and - yes - more than a few brass-balled lies masquerading as "journalistic truth."


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@Jimbo__X


- Common, "Letter to the Free" (2016)



- Richard Pryor, Live On The Sunset Strip (1982)

All documentary films, to a certain degree, are propaganda films. There are no so-called "journalistic" standards for movies of the sort, and as such, they are inherently subject to the biases and prejudices of the filmmakers. Now, to the degree that a film ports about its own skewed sociopolitical leanings differs. A straight up "encapsulation of a moment" documentary like Restrepo, Whores Glory or The Decline of Western Civilization may not have much in the way of a directly stated political agenda, but each film certainly seeks to establish the directors' interpretation of reality as the authoritative truth on the subject in question. The more abstract documentaries - stuff like Gates of Heaven and Samsara -  may have a more oblique sociopolitical agenda, but you can generally determine where a filmmaker leans on the identity politics spectrum by how they edit together sequences (I am immediately reminded of the second Paradise Lost film, which pretty much did everything EXCEPT come out and call Mark Byers a child murderer who also killed his own wife.) And then, there's the obvious "propumentary" stuff from Michael Moore, Dinesh D'Souza and even Steve James, whose films are about as devoid of brass balled, politically motivated editorialization as Triumph of the Will is devoid of Nazism.

Now, even transparently biased documentaries can be enjoyable and entertaining. For example, I wholeheartedly disagree with the core theses of  The House I Live In, Food Inc. and West of Memphis, but I didn't let my own personal beliefs prevent me from enjoying the films as well put-together advocacy projects. Alas, as C.P. Scott once famously remarked, "comment is free, but facts are sacred" - these movies may be of value as gloriously one-sided activist hit pieces, but as containers of factual information and legitimate knowledge? They ultimately have about as much merit as journalistic accounts as The Eternal Jew or Reefer Madness

Which brings us to 13th, a Netflix documentary helmed by Selma director Ava DuVarney which -  due to the Academy's newfangled efforts to diversify it's awards recipients in a sort of entertainment-industrial complex form of affirmative action - is almost certain to pick up a Best Documentary nod (if not the preliminary favorite to win it outright.) 

As of mid-October, the film held a stellar 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 91 on Metacritic"The film builds its case piece by shattering piece, inspiring levels of shock and outrage that stun the viewer, leaving one shaken and disturbed before closing out on a visual note of hope designed to keep us on the hook as advocates for change," writes film critic Odie Henderson (who, perhaps it should be noted, once gave a film a "zero" score because he didn't think the leading actress was black enough.) The film "is one for the cinema time capsule, a record of shame so powerful that it just might change things," writes Rolling Stone's Peter Travers. It is "a titanic statement by a major American voice," writes Entertainment Weekly's Joe McGovern. "Viewing - right now - should be mandatory." Indeed, it seems like all of the racially-conscious adulation and adoration originally reserved for box office dud The Birth of A Nation (which quickly lost favor with the media when it was revealed its director probably raped a white co-ed back in college) has instead been refocused and hoisted upon 13th. And really, it's not like so many critics can be wrong, can they?

Even as mere preaching-to-the-choir propaganda, 13th is by and large a boring film, devoid of any of the visual or narrative intricacies that made similar racially-tinged docs like The Interrupters or The House I Live In such compelling (albeit painfully one-sided) works. Instead of feeling like a built for the big screen documentary undertaking by Errol Morris or Werner Herzog, the entire film feels like a slightly higher budgeted PBS special. As for the content, it's your usual assortment of liberal pundits who make hundreds of thousands a year working for think tanks and publicly subsidized universities trying to outdo each other in the victimization Olympics, with a sprinkling here and there of conservatives like Newt Gingrich, who are seemingly only included in the film to provide chopped up, out-of-context quips that further the filmmakers' logically inconsistent thesis that the American "carceral stateis indeed a modern form of slavery

As you'd imagine, the film more or less pummels the corpses of Nixon and Reagan for expanding the "War on Drugs," which 13th suggests has led to the "criminalization" of blackness. The film plays it a little looser when it comes to Bill Clinton, although really, his 1994 omni-crime bill did more than any of Nixon's or Reagan's policies to put large numbers of African-Americans behind bars. And of course, while Hillary is pretty much given a slap on the wrist for her comments about "super predator" black youths in the early 1990s, the film paints Donald Trump as nothing short of a slobbering Imperial Wizard, whose cherry picked quotes concerning rally gate crashers - in one of the boldest displays of editorial malfeasance in recent memory - are mangled in such a way as to make it sound like he's talking about a deep-seated desire to personally engage in fisticuffs with black people.

So in short, 13th is nothing more than yet another identity politics propaganda piece, in which statistics are misconstrued and recent events are reduced into horribly condensed three-second slivers that completely avoid anything even remotely resembling context. But aside from being a very underwhelming piece of activist agitprop, it's also a film absolutely glutted with inaccuracies, half-truths and utterly inflated statistics, as well as some of the most underhanded examples of selective editing in the history of the medium.

Below, you'll find no less than 26 errors, exaggerations, inaccuracies, half-truths and brass-balled lies contained in 13th. And unlike Ava DuVarney, The Internet Is In America actually fact checks its statements and formally cites its sources, so - in stark contrast to the talking heads featured in the critically acclaimed doc - you actually know I'm getting the deets from somewhere other than the Department of Made-Up Bullshit I Want To Believe...



01.) Woodrow Wilson never said The Birth of a Nation was "history written with lightning." - Early on in the film, a commentator brings up a long misattributed quote allegedly uttered by the president during a 1915 screening of D.W. Griffith's ultra-controversial, KKK-espousing drama. In reality, Wilson's top aide, Joseph Tumulty, sent a letter to the N.A.A.C.P. explicitly stating that Wilson "at no time has expressed his approbation" of The Birth of A Nation, with Wilson stating he disapproved of the "unfortunate production" in a letter to Tumulty. The quote was almost certainly a fabrication by Thomas Dixon, whose book The Clansman served as the basis for The Birth of a Nation, to drum up interest in the motion picture adaptation.

02.) The "burning cross" was NOT introduced in the film The Birth of a Nation. - One commentator says that, before The Birth of a Nation, members of the Klan never burned crosses. Indeed, the burning cross itself goes back all the way to the 1100s, when the crann tara was used first as a general warning sign and later as a symbolic declaration of war in Scotland (in fact, during the War of 1812 burning crosses were common sights on the battlefields, especially in the Ontario theater). Furthermore, the co-option of the Scot custom as white supremacist calling card has its roots not in The Birth of the Nation, but the 1905 novel penned by Thomas Dixon called The Clansman, which included an illustration of Klan cartoon characters standing underneath a flaming crucifix

03.) Thousands - but not tens or hundreds of thousands - of black people were lynched between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Era - At one point, a talking head in the film declares that, between the end of the Civil War and World War II "thousands of black people" had been killed in lynchings. As to just how many black people were killed in these racist, extrajudicial killings, however, is a matter of debate. The Equal Justice Initiative released findings in 2015 that 3,959 black people (including women and children) were killed in lynchings in former Confederate territory between the years 1877-1950. This number, however, may very be a considerable overcount, seeing as how the Tuskegee Institute lists the total number of blacks killed in lynchings throughout America from 1882 to 1968 to be only 3,446. Another revelation from the Tuskegee findings, that for some reason 13th totally glossed over? The fact that during that same timeframe, 1,297 white people were also killed in extrajudicial lynchings

04.) LBJ may have ushered in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he was also arguably the most racist person to ever reside in the Oval Office - One of the incredible oversights in 13th involves the downplaying of Lyndon B. Johnson's well-documented racism. While the film doesn't so much as mention LBJ by name, they do include clips of several of his speeches to indicate just how much legislative civil rights progress came about in the 1960s. While LBJ may have had a major hand in pushing measures like the Fair Housing Act through, he was ironically an out in the open racist, colloquially referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as "the nigger bill" to his White House staff and rationalizing his appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court by declaring "when I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everybody to know he's a nigger.

05.) There is plenty of reasons to be suspicious of John Ehrlichman's bombshell quote about Nixon's crime policies - Fairly early on, we get the following statement, which was allegedly uttered by former Nixon domestic affairs assistant John Ehrlichman:
"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Of course, 13th never tells the audience WHERE the quote came from. And in this case, it was culled from an extremely pro-legalization screed written by Dan Baum (yes, the same guy who wrote Gun Guys) for Harper's in 2016. The tricky thing is, Ehrlichman died in 1999, so there's no way to affirm or disconfirm the attributed quote as authentic. That said, one has to wonder why Baum sat on such a damning quote for more than 20 years - additionally, waiting another 15 years after the person who allegedly gave the quote kicked the bucket. Furthermore, if Baum was initially interviewing Ehrlichman for a book against the War on Drugs that would eventually get published in 1996, then why in the hell did he NOT include said quote in his own tome? That three leading members of the White House Special Office for Drug Abuse Prevention released a joint letter rejecting Baum's assertions - plus the fact that Baum refuses to speak to the press about the factuality of the quote in question - ought to make you feel very, very iffy about the legitimacy of the statement. 

06.) Nixon's "War on Drugs" did very little to influence incarceration rates in the 1970s - In 13th, the filmmakers draw a direct causal line between Nixon's Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and the rise of incarceration rates in the U.S. In reality, general incarceration rates in the U.S. remained practically static from 1970 to 1976, and didn't even surpass the 200 per 100,000 people threshold until Jimmy Carter was in office. And for all the talk about Nixon's draconian policies, the documentary never mentions the fact that the CDPCA - among other things - actually repealed harsh mandatory sentences for marijuana possession and distribution and, during Nixon's presidency, allocated more federal funding for treatment programs than law enforcement expenditures

07.) There is a very simple explanation why blacks are overrepresented in prison - Despite the film's blunt-as-a-sledgehammer attempt to posit the incarceration rates of black people in the United States as some sort of insidious, racist holdover from the Jim Crow era, there is indeed a VERY simple, one sentence explanation for why African Americans are jailed at higher rates than Caucasians - as the indisputable F.B.I. data demonstrates, it's mostly because, get this, black people tend to commit crimes at disproportionately higher rates than white people. And for those of you STILL convinced that there's some sort of magical, supernatural ethnic totalitarianism at the root of incarceration disparities along racial lines in these United States? Just for kicks and giggles, here's a totally not at all relevant Wikipedia article.

08.) Quibble over the "Super Predator" terminology all you want, but crime in the United States unquestionably exploded during the 1990s - Without a doubt, the early 1990s were the most violent time in U.S. history, with the aggregate number of violent crimes recorded between 1990 and 1994 an absurd 1.8 million per year. For comparative purposes, the violent crime tally in 1970 was just 738,820, and today, it is only 1.2 million. In 1993, the U.S. logged its highest national homicide count in history (24,530 murders), in 1992 it recorded it all-time highest forcible rape tally (109,060) and in 1991, it posted its highest annual number of robberies (687,740) to date. In that, Clinton's "tough on crime" stance wasn't even remotely rooted in racial animosity - rather, it was a downright reasonable, if not even tepid, response to hard statistical evidence.

09.) You REALLY don't want to bring up interracial rape stats - At one point, an interviewee states that, historically, rape in the United States has largely been white male on black female. Methinks the term historically wasn't just arbitrarily selected, seeing as how the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice reveals a pretty one-sided portrait of interracial sexual assaults in modern America. From 1996 to 2008, there were 24,304 white on black sexual assaults. That's really, really bad. Alas, the tally for black on white sexual assaults was substantially worse - a colossal, head-spinning 271,224. The numerical evidence makes it clear as day: in contemporary U.S. society, a white woman is officially eleven times more likely to get sexually assault by a black man than a black woman is to get sexually assaulted by a white man. But clearly, the crimes of 150 years ago are vastly more important than addressing, you know, the crimes going on right now

10.) Mandatory minimum sentencing legislation came about BECAUSE advocates said it would prevent racial discrimination by judges - One of the most amazing "get the hell out of here" moments in the film is a segment in which the talking heads bemoan mandatory minimum sentencing and "three strikes" laws as indicative of systemic racism. Oh, how soon we forget - in reality, mandatory minimum sentences were actually brought to life by black activist organizations, who believed that such legal protocols would eliminate racial disparities in sentencing. Indeed, one of the most conspicuous omissions in the entire documentary is the policymaking of New York Governor David Paterson - the man whose infamously tough-on-crime "Rockefeller Drug Laws" served as the first true illicit substance mandatory-minimum laws in the modern U.S. legal system. Huh ... I wonder why he never gets name-checked on the list of insidious, clearly racist, neo-slavery perpetratin' politicians

11.) You may not like it, but there's ample evidence the much-maligned 1994 crime omni-bill did indeed lower America's crime rate substantially - Really, the numbers here don't lie. Since the contentious, controversial and highly criticized Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was authorized, violent crime in the U.S. has been on a huge downward trajectory. The year the bill was passed, the violent crime rate was 713.6 per 100,000 Americans. The very next year, the rate dropped to 684.5 per 100,000, and it's been precipitously declining ever since (albeit, with a brief uptick that quickly reversed itself between 2006 and 2010.) And today, the U.S. violent crime rate stands at 372.6 per 100,000, representing an astonishing 50 percent drop-off since the bill was enacted. Of course, of all the hypothetical correlative evidence the movie throws out, the one it doesn't dare trudge up is the clearly coincidental decline in violent crime running concurrently with the uptick in incarceration numbers. 

12.) No, the U.S. legal system hasn't done away with parole as an alternative to incarceration - Even in a film glutted with gloriously hyperbolic statements, few in 13th are as astounding as the interviewee who proclaims that the American judicial system has "done away" with parole as a jailing alternative. Hate to burst your bubble, folks, but there were indeed 853,200 cases of incarcerated individuals receiving parole in 2013 - i.e., the equivalent of releasing nearly 40 percent of the United States' prison population.


Surely, academia would be just as receptive to a presentation titled "Black People are a Detriment to American Society," right?

13.) Sorry, but the Black Panthers weren't totally non-violent pacifists railroaded by "the man" - In another fantastic bout of historical revisionism, one interviewee - who attempts to express how the Feds had it out for the Black Panthers, because racism - says that not only were there not enough people in the Black Panthers to represent any kind of major civic threat, they - by and large - were extraordinarily peaceful. As for the size of the Black Panther Party, well, seeing as how their newsletter circa 1968 had a circulation of 250,000 people and satellite offices in nearly 70 cities across America, yes, I'd argue that they INDEED had the manpower capable of enacting mass civil "change" (and certainly more capacity than a group a'la the Aryan Nations, the much, much, MUCH loathed white supremacy outfit whose world conferences barely drew 200 people at their peak.) But the Panthers were definitely peace-loving individuals, though. I mean, it's not like the co-founder of the group shot and killed a cop, murdered an 18-year-old woman on the streets of Oakland and put out hits on trial witnesses or anything. And the Black Panthers NEVER tortured and executed their own members. And for certain, it's not like the organization's first recruit was killed during an attempted ambush on Oakland police officers

14.) Since 2000, incarceration rates in the United States have remained relatively static - Now here's a huge statistical oversight that truly torpedoes 13th's central thesis about incarceration in the U.S. Simply put, the number of people imprisoned in the country over the last 17 years has been practically flat, with the total number of people in the nation's prisons increasing by just 180,300 prisoners between 2000 and 2013. And really testing the merits of the film's "carceral state" claims? The fact that U.S. incarceration rates have actually been on a considerable downturn since Obama came into office, with the total number of people in jail or prison declining by about 90,000 (or a year-over-year three percent net decrease) since 2008

15.) Holy shit, where to begin on the segment about Trayvon Martin - Now we're getting into straight up Michael Moore levels of deliberate distortion. For starters, the little sliver of audio from George Zimmerman's 911 call was carefully edited to leave out the fact that the operator asked him what Martin's race was - you can get the backstory in full here. Furthermore, 13th completely discards not only the documented police reports that confirm Zimmerman was locked in a life-or-death struggle with the teenager, but the numerous eye witness accounts affirming that Martin was the aggressor. Oh, and all of that hullabaloo about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law covering Zimmerman's alleged racially fueled hate crime? That would be a highly intriguing little plot twist, except for the fact that Zimmerman's lawyers never even brought up the law in court while defending their client. Oh, and a historical aside, can you take a wild guess which white-supremacist, gun-crazed special interests group once aggressively lobbied for the very same law 13th castigates as an implement of black genocide? Well, if you said the N.A.A.C.P. ... believe it or not, you'd be right on the money

16.) Sorry, but ALEC isn't responsible for the so-called "carceral state" - Every heavily biased political documentary has to have a central, lurking-in-the-shadows villain, and in 13th that obscure object of resentment is an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-free market consortium of conservative politcos and business-folks who bandy around legislative proposals about, well, pretty much everything. In 13th, the filmmakers pretty much declare ALEC the masterminds behind the growth in the number of incarcerated Americans (you know, completely disregarding the fact that maybe a general increase in the overall U.S. population could result in an increase in the nation's jailed population by sheer mathematical default), as evident by their chummy relationships with the nation's two largest private-prison firms, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut Corp. (now GEO). So, naturally, the film emphatically states that ALEC has gotten in the ears of state legislators to toughen up their crime laws, so more people would get arrested and jailed, and therefore, feed private prisons a steady stream of revenue. Of course, this is an idea crippled by the government's recent announcement to phase out all privately held federal prisons, the fact that states like New York and Illinois passed legislation outright banning privately held detention facilities as early as the 1990s, that barely six percent of the entire incarcerated population in the U.S. was housed in private facilities in 2010 and that, since 2010, a good three dozen state bills have come forward - yes, even in incarceration-happy locales like Louisiana, Georgia and Arizona - seeking to decrease the number of overall people shipped through the state's prison systems. Indeed, ALEC itself has drifted away from its "tough on crime" approach in favor of cost-cutting prison policies, which includes - surprise, surprise - more investments in community-based incarceration alternatives, like probation. Which brings us to the million dollar question: if ALEC wasn't the diabolical Dr. Claw behind the scenes orchestratin' all these "truth in sentencing" bills, who was? Well, according to the United States Department of Justice National Institute of Corrections, the driving force for the legislation was Bill Clinton's 1994 omnibus bill, in which 60 percent of states mulling such policies said their own state laws were directly molded around the recently-passed federal act (with 20 percent of states declaring that was the only reason they pursued their own state-level incarceration models.

17.) Walmart's profits aren't tied into "Stand Your Ground" laws whatsoever (and for one VERY good and logically inescapable reason) - One of the more astoundingly unfounded - and illogical - accusations the filmmakers lob concerns America's no. 1  private employer. Per 13th, Walmart lobbied hard for states to adopt "castle doctrine" laws, which - according to the filmmakers - allowed them to reap plenty o' profits from firearm sales. There's just one teeny, tiny catch with that assertion - chiefly, the fact that Walmart hasn't sold handguns (you know, like the one George Zimmerman used) in its stores since 1993. And seeing as how shotgun and rifle homicides barely even eclipsed the 600 mark in 2013, perhaps the producers of the film should have investigated Walmart's insidious ties to the cutlery industry instead - after all, easily three times as many Americans are killed each year with knives, box cutters and scissors than they are long guns

18.) Private prisons in the U.S. are nowhere near as ubiquitous as the movie suggests - The way 13th puts it, you'd think private prisons have a monopoly on the U.S. incarceration system and make bajillions of dollars each year herding prisoners through 'em like cattle. In reality, the number of privately operated jails in the U.S. is declining, with CCA and GEO operating just 121 of the nation's 1,800-plus state and federal-level detention facilities in 2010. Indeed, as of 2010, the number of prisoners - state, federal or local - held in private jails or prisons represented just eight percent of the entire U.S. incarcerated populaceAnd while GEO recorded  an impressive $1.6 billion in profits in 2010, you have to recall the entity is indeed a multinationalwith 40 percent of its annual profits culled from international services and (how about this) comprehensive reentry services. And as for CCA's annual revenue spread of $1.7 billion? Well, a lot of that cashflow can be explained by the Obama Administration, which granted the company $1 billion to construct and manage the South Texas Family Residential Center - a detention center not for prisoners, but Central American asylum seekers

19.) One little thing you should know about plea bargains - Not that you would've realized it from the apoplectic ranting and raving in 13th, but plea bargains aren't mandatory and defendants have every right in the world to forego them and pursue a trial jury. If you're pissed about the staggering number of people who take prosecutors up on their reduced sentencing offers, don't blame it on "the system" - blame it on the individuals who voluntarily choose them over waiting it out in a court of law.

20.) Probation is FAR and away the nation's number one response to criminal prosecutions, and it isn't even close - One of the absolute biggest problems with 13th's "carceral state" accusations can be found in the nation's probation numbers ... which, for some inscrutable reason, the documentary never brings up. Alright, so a good 2.3 million people are in federal, state or local detention centers at any given time in America, right? Well, what the film doesn't let you know is that at any given time in America, about 3.8 million convicted offenders are also serving probation as an alternative to incarceration. Factoring in those on parole, America has easily twice as many convicted felons under community supervision than those behind bars ... and in that, can you really call it a prison state when barely 40 percent of those convicted of crimes in America are actually punished with jail time?

21.) The total percentage of young men arrested by the age of 18 really doesn't vary that much by race - Throughout 13th, several interviewees repeatedly harp on the "discrepancies" in arrest rates for young black men. Alas, actual arrest rates for 18-year-old men of ALL races in the U.S. are fairly comparable, with the journal Crime & Delinquency reporting in 2014 that 30 percent of all black males in the U.S. have been arrested at least once for a non-traffic offense, while the number for Hispanics and Caucasians rest at 26 percent and 22 percent, respectively. The numbers stay well within the 10 percent margin of error when expanding the sample size to include those up to the age of 23, with about 49 percent of black men, 44 percent of Hispanic men and 38 percent of white men all being arrested at least once in the United States. So yes, there is about a 9 percent-to-11 percent difference in arrest rates for 23-year-old black and white males, but keep in mind that doesn't take into consideration other factors, like how long the individuals were detained after being arrested, the severity of the charges leading to their arrest and whether or not they were actually convicted of any crimes (and, of course, seeing as how there are far more white men in the U.S. than black men, that means - just in terms of bulk numbers - far more young white men age 23 or younger have experienced jail time than black men age 23 or younger.) And then there are the arrest rates for women, which are even closer than the arrest rates for males - by the time they reach the age of 23, 20 percent of all black women in the U.S. have been jailed, compared to 18 percent of all white women and just 16 percent of all Hispanic women. 

22.) Oh my god, the diatribe about Donald Trump is an absolute fucking nightmare of selective editing and cherry picking - In one of the film's more sensationalist moments, 13th "produces" a series of shaky, cell-phone recorded videos of black people being pushed around at Donald Trump rallies and Trump supporters shouting racial pejoratives, all while brief, cut-and-paste audio snippets of Trump saying ominous things like "back in the good old days" (clearly, a "dog whistle" for bringing back Jim Crow, right?) and "knock the crap out of them" (not direct quotes, by the way, but you get the gist of it) play in the background. Of course, the audio samples don't have anything at all to do with the visual incidents accompanying them - for example, the "knock the crap  out of them" line stems from an incident in Iowa in which protestors physically attacked Trump with tomatoes, while the "good old days" line was actually followed by Trump criticizing law enforcement for not removing an aggressive demonstrator from one of his private functions faster. Of course, black people have been accosted by white attendees at Trump rallies (but by that same token, quite a few white protestors have been knocked goofy by black Trump supporters at the same events, too.) That said, whatever vitriolic comments or shoving contests you can pull from Trump rallies absolutely pale in comparison to the hostility and physical aggression displayed by anti-Trump protesters, who have beaten, bloodied and in some cases burned those who dare had the audacity to support a politician they don't like. The scenes showcased in 13th may be lamentable, but they don't hold a candle to the sort of anti-Trump violence we've seen over the past few months at events in New Mexico, Ohio, Las Vegas, Arizona, Anaheim,  San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis, Houston, Orlando, Southern California, Oregon, North Carolina and especially Chicago, where Anti-Trump demonstrators - who may or may not have been paid by Democratic backers - instigated an honest-to-goodness riot to prevent Trump from speaking at an engagement. 

23.) Yeah, about that "one in three black men will end up in prison" statistic - Throughout the movie, you'll hear various talking heads drop a couple of stats regarding black male incarceration rates. One of the more damning tidbits circulated as God-given fact by an interviewee is that one out of every three black males in the U.S. will wind up imprisoned at some point in their lives. As it turns out, the little number isn't a factual estimate, it's a prediction of what the lifetime incraceration rates COULD be if 2001 incarceration rates held steady from a report originally released in 2003. And as fate would have it, incarceration rates for black males has ... wait for it ... decreased by 20 percent over the last 15 years. So yes, not only is the "33 percent of black men get imprisoned" claim totally baseless, empirical evidence from the B.J.S. themselves reveals that the exact opposite of what 13th claims is happening coast-to-coast to black men is indeed the real reality we dare not speak

24.) Speaking of the War on Drugs ... - Stop me if you've heard this one before: did you know that a majority of America's prisoners are jailed because of drug offenses? Aye, such is indeed the case - but only if you look at the nation's 211,000 federal prisoners. In the nation's state prisoner population, drug offenders only account for 212,000 of the 1.35 million individuals incarcerated and they only make up 160,000 of the 640,000 people - convicted or non-convicted - sitting in the nation's local jails right now. On the state and local level, there are roughly the same percentage of prisoners booked for property crimes as there are those booked for drug convictions and roughly three times as many people imprisoned for violent crimes. Oh, and that old chestnut about people put behind bars for decades for having joints in their pockets? Yeah, that's a bunch of bullshit, seeing as how there are only 20,000 people in the U.S. jailed in state or federal prisons for marijuana offenses - and of that, just 200 are estimated to be imprisoned for marijuana possession alone.

25.) When it comes to arrest rates, socioeconomics plays a MUCH larger role than race or ethnicity - Sorry, Mrs./Ms. DuVarney (I am for real), but no, race is not the greatest predictor of whether or not a person will wind up in jail in the U.S. Study after study after study finds that childhood poverty is more or less the single greatest predictor of incarceration, whether an individual is black or white. Indeed, for those still doubting that classism, not racism, is the greatest driver of incarceration rates in these United States, a Duke University study looking at data since 1979 makes it clear as day: "higher levels of wealth were associated with lower rates of incarceration," regardless of race or ethnicity. And pray tell, what is the single greatest predictor that a child will grow up in poverty? As Harvard research determined, simply having both biological parents in the home is generally enough to keep an individual out of prison and functioning as a productive member of society. So if fatherlessness is the most common cause of poverty, which in turn is the most common cause of incarceration, why aren't folks like DuVarney doing more to extol the importance of the proven-to-be-successful nuclear family model in the black community? Surely, it has nothing to do with having to suck it up and say that single motherhood has been a direct cause of the so-called "incarceration boom" and admitting that Patrick Moynihan had it right more than a half a century ago, does it? 

26.) And lastly, there's even MORE cherry picking and selective editing when it comes to the film's account of black victims of police violence - As you would expect, the grand finale of 13th is a montage of several famous "victims" of police violence over the last few years  - Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, etc. - being shot and choked while cameras rolled. While this segment is fairly devoid of narrative context, the alignment of the imagery and audio quips seem to suggest police killings of black people - especially unarmed "victims" - is a substantially bigger problem than police killings of white individuals. Well, all you have to do is take one gander at The Washington Post's final tally of lethal police-involved shootings to realize what a bunch of malarkey that is. Out of 991 shootings in which police officers killed suspects in 2015, 495 "victims" were white, 258 were black and 172 were Hispanic. Just 93 unarmed people were killed all year round, with a grand total of five more black people without weapons being gunned down by cops than unarmed white suspects (and when it comes to those killed carrying toy guns, there were twice as many white people gunned down than Hispanics and blacks combined.) Alas, despite 13th's valiant attempts to make it seem like black youths are being blown away by racist white cops in record numbers, the actual government data reveals that the rate of young black men killed by police officers has declined 80 motherfucking percent since the late 1960s, with subsequent Harvard research revealing that there are no - I repeat, no - racial disparities "in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account" of police-involved shootings in the U.S


But does that include the
 58,000 or so black cops in the United States, as well?
And to conclude this long, drawn out condemnation of the film's aversion to documented truths, I'd like to go back to the film's core thesis - that today's carceral state is indeed the last remaining vestiges of that old economic institution we used to call slavery

From the get-go, DuVarney's argument is critically hampered by the fact that incarcerating people isn't profitable. Indeed, lots of people - most notably, African slave traders - made a lot of money off the Atlantic Slave Trade, but considering the fact the U.S. loses $80 billion a year in taxpayer dollars on the nation's prison systems while the much maligned private prison contractors barely generate $5 billion annually, it's pretty hard to see where she comes away with the idea that imprisoning people is any, way, shape or form economically beneficial, especially for the state. Hell, even if you include the estimated $1 billion in economic growth derived from prison labor, you're still chalking up a loss of $79 billion each and every year. Indeed, if ANYBODY is a loser when it comes to prison profiteering, it's the unskilled American labor, whose job prospects are now being outsourced to convicts. Much to DuVarney's chagrin, that means that - in all statistical reality - the people most hurt by prison labor aren't the prisoners, but poor, uneducated and - irony of ironies - white lower class workers. 

Now, as to the notion that incarceration represents some kind of extension of the discriminatory policies of the Jim Crow era? Since racism is an abstract, metaphysical concept that cannot be quantified or even qualitatively measured, this is like trying to prove or disprove the existence of God - you either believe what you want to believe or you say "naw, I'll pass" based on a lack of tangible evidence. That said, chalking up mass incarceration rates due to the invisible specter of white racism overlooks many other, clearly tangible factors that - quite frankly - do a much more rational job of explaining why black Americans wind up in jail at disproportionate rates compared to white Americans. A much, MUCH better documentary about black incarceration titled Elementary Genocide paints a far more convincing portrait of why African-Americans - particularly, young men - are at such high risk of being arrested, convicted and imprisoned: simply put, they don't learn the appropriate socialization and rudimentary literacy skills as young children to function in even the most unskilled of occupational positions, and as such, are left with few other "job opportunities" than career crime. As early as 1965, Patrick Moynihan was sounding alarm bells about the intersectionality of father absenteeism and criminal proclivities, a dire sociological reality in the black community that has been verified as a direct corollary of black crime time and time again. Even graver, a wealth of child neurological research indicates that the environmental impacts of early developmental stressors not only produce cognitive deficiencies that are irreversible, but many unchangeable mental patterns that are locked in place as early as kindergarten. Factoring in a pseudo-barbarian youth culture that produces and champions such horrific displays of child abuse as this as heroic, and I'm fairly confident stating that there are FAR more believable "root causes" of the epidemic of black incarceration in the United States than simply screaming "ray, ray RACISM" like a dumbfounded, self-victimizing Scooby Doo. 

But perhaps the ultimate slight against 13th is its screaming, apoplectic hatred of the American judicial system. A film clearly aghast at the Scientific Method's foremost pillar - that is, instead of trying to verify what you want to be the case, you first attempt to disprove your own hypotheses - 13th immediately begins with the assumption that America leading the world in incarceration rates is something that is very, very clearly bad. Of course, DuVarney never even MULLS the alternative hypothesis that - instead of viewing America's 2.3 million prison population as a negative - perhaps it's simply tangible proof that our judicial system is far more efficient at finding, prosecuting and penalizing people who commit crimes than anybody else? Indeed, with the F.B.I. confirming that 1.2 million violent crimes and nearly 8 million property-based felonies are committed each year, that 2.3 million incarcerated populace most certainly is dwarfed by the number of Americans who have commit imprisonable offenses and gotten away with it, been found not guilty or given a community-based alternative sentence in lieu of jail-time. The F.B.I. numbers are unquestionable - considering at least 10 million people are arrested in the U.S. each year, the fact that only 15 percent of them actually wind up in a federal or state prison cannot be considered anything short of extraordinary judicial leniency writ large. 

In that, why should the U.S. be ashamed of prosecuting and imprisoning 2.3 million people a year - the vast majority of them not people booked on draconian drug charges, but indeed the kinds of sordid individuals who commit violent felonies, like setting elderly women on fire during home invasions, raping women as "revenge" for slavery and drowning their own children in strip mall water fountains - when rapists, muggers, drug dealers and serial killers roam around with virtual impunity in third world hell holes in South America and pretty much the entire Sub-Saharan continent? Why should the U.S. be more ashamed of its 2.3 million incarceration stat than countries with astronomical homicide rates like Brazil, Venezuela and Papua New Guinea, or countries like the U.K., Sweden and Germany, who literally sweep mass rapes, homicides and organized child prostitution rings under the rug? Why should the U.S. be ashamed of jailing 2.3 million people a year when countries like Haiti, Mexico, Burma and Iraq are so prone to police corruption that you can literally bribe your way out of murder charges for the equivalent of $10 U.S.D.? Why should the U.S. be ashamed of its 2.3 million prisoners when there are 18 million slaves right now in India and the number of illegally indentured servants in China eclipses the total U.S. prison populace by at least one million people? Why should we be ashamed of our 2.3 million prisoners when even our scummiest facilities are Shangri-Las compared to the horrid conditions prisoners in countries like Thailand, Rwanda and Turkey have to survive - not live - in? Why should we be ashamed of our 2.3 million prisoners when people are being executed in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria for being gay and Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia mandate death sentences for even low-level drug offenses that wouldn't even pass muster as misdemeanors in the States? Why should our incarceration rates be any more embarrassing or regrettable than South Africa's rape statistics, or Zambia's starvation numbers, or China's annual number of state-endorsed executions (which easily eclipse the U.S.'s yearly totals ten-fold?) Why should Americans be any more ashamed of a domestic "carceral state" that directly impacts just 0.7 percent of the entire national populace when entire societies live in absolute totalitarian squalor in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Angola and 47 other dictatorships across the globe

These are all heavy, heavy questions that 13th lacks the moralistic backbone and intellectual honesty to address. Rather, it's yet another half-assed, pro-black-victimization opus bankrolled, ironically enough, by multi-millionaire African-Americans and mindlessly praised as revolutionary by brainwashed media tools who are too cowardly/gullible to even think about second-guessing the film's extremely flawed - and in many cases, glaringly fabricated - arguments. Instead of confronting the indisputable reality of black crime and the moral and intellectual devastation of predominantly black communities that has served as a catalyst for those crimes (a gospel endlessly preached by black cultural leaders like Thomas Sowell and almost immediately hushed down by counter-ideologues who cling to the "racism as original sin" creation myth like security blankets to explain away any and all problems within the black community) 13th instead regurgitates the same old pseudo-sociological, "systemic discrimination" rhetoric from The New Jim Crow as if it were mathematically-validated statistical evidence. (As an aside, how telling is it that the woman who penned that trend-setting screed about "black persecution" has gone on to make beaucoup bucks by simply telling her overwhelmingly white readership base they are the reason African-Americans "can't" succeed in today's America?In an absolutely brilliant critique of the film (which somehow concludes with the extolling of The Geto Boys' underappreciated 1995 album The Resurrection), Armond White puts it perfectly:
"How ironic that DuVernay’s 'experts' — post-civil-rights patricians and quislings — exemplify the group that DuBois labeled 'the Talented Tenth.' In a 1903 essay, DuBois predicted a class of educated blacks — one out of ten — who he dreamed would help lead their fellows out of post-slavery misery. More than a century later, the black educated caste (professors, pundits, foundation-funded 'activists'), bolstered by the privileges of academia and the media, are an embarrassment to DuBois’s prophecy. These select few have hijacked the grievances of the less-successful to justify their own protected professional standing and to broadcast their individual resentments as if grinding the axes of the masses."
For the scant convincing arguments 13th puts forth about discrepancies in cocaine and crack sentencing and why convicted felons should be able to vote after being released from prison, the movie endlessly occupies itself with another half dozen scientifically or statistically unprovable claims about that dreaded, dastardly "institutional racism" manifesting itself in "stop and frisk" policies and the disproportionate number of unarmed black police killed in police-involved shootings - a national sample size, it perhaps should be noted, that consisted of a staggering 38 people in 2015 (for comparative purposes, the number of unarmed white people shot and killed by cops that year was 32 ... but really, those five extra corpses TOTALLY makes this a social problem that belongs ONLY to black Americans.)


Let me introduce you kids to this term called
"cognitive dissonance" real quick...
In that, 13th is a film firmly more committed to continuing its black victimization narrative than actually ADDRESSING the core issues making black life so miserable in the first place. Of all the statistics the movie launches at the viewers, the one it doesn't dare bring up is seven. As in, black males in the United States are seven times likelier than white males to be arrested for homicide, per the 2013 findings of esteemed Northeastern criminologist James Alan Fox. Another statistic 13th conveniently glosses over? 53 percent, as in 53 percent of all homicides committed between 1980-2008 were by black individuals (give or take 90 percent by black males.) Which means, despite making up less than 7 percent of the total national populace, one ethnoracial group was responsible for nearly HALF of all murders in the country over the course of three decades. Another number you won't see anywhere in 13th? 2,205, which is the total number of black individuals killed by other black individuals in the year 2014 (which means all but 246 of that year's 2,451 murders of black people were intraracial.) And for those of you looking to exploit a racial angle there, you have precious little to work with, seeing as the number of white people killed by black people in '14 was 2.3 times greater than the number of black people killed by whites.

In that, 13th is a gravely racist film itself, denying black Americans to take responsibility for their own actions and instead blaming the fact that African Americans commit violent crimes at seven to ten times the rate of white people - with the majority of the victims of said crimes also being black - not on a grimly nihilistic inner city culture that celebrates drug running, pimping and drive-by shootings as noble, but by golly, the fact that white people in the 1920s were just so dadgum mean. Never mind the fact that over the course of two years, more black people killed each other than all of the recorded white-on-black lynchings since the Civil War. Never mind the fact that - despite deeper poverty and codified racism in the law - crime rates for black Americans were considerably lower in the 1950s than after the Civil Rights Movement. And never mind the fact that - despite whatever historical or contemporary grievances you may have with "the system" - nowhere on the planet  is there a country with more than one million black inhabitants in which said black individuals enjoy a higher standard of living and quality of life than in the U.S. (lest we forget, the United States - that white privilege hegemony it is - is home to more than 30,000 black millionaires and the first two black billionaires in modern history.)

To wrap this thing up, I'm going to leave you with just two more numbers: 840,000 and 10 percent. The first number is an estimate for the total number of incarcerated black men in the U.S. legal system. You've heard that number a billion-jillion times before and you're going to be hearing it a billion-jillion more times, I assure you. But the second? That's a stat I guarantee you'll never hear anybody talk about in pro-victimization agitprop like 13th - the total number of black households in the country with annual incomes north of $100,000. Well, seeing as how there are about 16 million black households in the states, that means there's at least 1.6 million black households socioeconomically designated as very well to do upper middle class t0 downright wealthy upper class families. And don't let Ava DuVareny's camp in on this, but despite their incessant prattling about the carceral state "enslaving" black America, with the 2010 Census stating the average American household is home to 2.58 people, that means we've got at least four million black Americans living privileged lives of unquestionable luxury and comfort (and that, I remind you, is almost certainly a vast undercount.) But despite the fact that we have easily four times as many African-Americans living in upper class homes than there are African-Americans who are imprisoned, when was the last time - if ever - you heard someone talk about the unsung (yet statistically more common) epidemic of black affluence?

Yeah, don't expect to hear such idle words and meaningless data points seep out of the mouths of the chattering meat puppets in the next great, universally celebrated "woe is Black America" documentary. After all - why ruin a perfectly good narrative with troubling, discomfiting facts about how far more members of an allegedly victimized class are well off financially than they are in so-called "modern bondage?"

Indeed, to do that is to commit the post-Obama equivalent of secular heresy - to dare fathom that, perhaps, the ghost of "racism" doesn't explain away all the unpleasant demographical discrepancies in contemporary society.


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