The Gray Lady’s Debauchery: Karen’s Story

 

This is yet another recommendation of a Bari Weiss podcast, this one featuring fellow writer Kmele Foster and his coverage of The Central Park Karen. It isn’t a story to which I paid much attention when it was big last year, but it’s interesting to hear an actual investigative journalist (yes, there still are a few) covering what the bigshots at the New York Times didn’t think was worth revealing to their readers.

Quick recap: a white woman, Amy Cooper, was walking her unleashed dog in Central Park when a black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), asked her to tether her dog as required by the park rules. In the ensuing exchange, Ms. Cooper reports (and Mr. Cooper confirms) that Mr. Cooper said:

Look, if you’re gonna do what you want, I’m gonna do what I want, and you’re not going to like it.

Ms. Cooper says that was the basis for her claim, on her subsequent 911 call, that she was being threatened.

So how does the New York Times report this statement, which would seem to be an essential element of the story?

They don’t — at least, they don’t for the first couple of stories. The first story simply, well, lies about it, claiming that it was Mr. Cooper’s decision to make a video recording of the encounter that upset Ms. Cooper. It isn’t until two weeks later that the paper finally mentions the quotation. But, as Mr. Foster describes it in the podcast (at 54:35):

Two weeks later… where they did in fact at least mention that [Ms. Cooper and Mr. Cooper] had quote “exchanged words,” in that article the Times does eventually get around to quoting Christian Cooper saying, “if you’re gonna do what you wanna do I’m gonna do what I wanna do, but you’re not gonna like it,” but not until 2,300 words into a 2,500 word story. You don’t get the actual threat that he issued to her until you’ve already read about Amy Cooper’s years-old affair with a married man that ended in a lawsuit, and Mr. Cooper’s childhood history of birdwatching, his love of comic books, his graduation from Harvard. They made an editorial decision to bury the question marks around the bit of moral clarity that they seemed to be going for with this story.

I have no strong opinions about Ms. Cooper and Mr. Cooper, other than that I probably wouldn’t enjoy hanging around with either of them. Once you’ve learned the detail of the account, he comes across as an insensitive righteous jerk, she as a perhaps not entirely stable woman. But we should all have an opinion about a national press that is so willing to sacrifice integrity to further a narrative.

PS And if you listen as far as the last 15 minutes of the interview, to Ms. Cooper’s description of how quickly and how horribly people responded to the appearance of Mr. Cooper’s 40-second video on Twitter, perhaps you’ll conclude — if you haven’t already — that Twitter is a loathsome and destructive force, a platform that excels at empowering mobs of angry and vicious people to lash out without thought or knowledge. Twitter is a force for civic evil.

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  1. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):
    What if she simply felt threatened by a larger man?

    Why did she bring up the African American part when she threatened to call the police?

    • #91
  2. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I think it’s in large part his fault: if not for his actions in initiating the encounter, his threatening comment, and his decision to allow the video to go viral, we would never have heard about it and Ms. Cooper would still have her job and her home and her anonymity.

    If she’d just kept her dog on it’s leash that would also be the case. Why isn’t it her fault?  He wasn’t a scofflaw, she was. 

    • #92
  3. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I thought the interview avoiding leaping to conclusions and was quite fair. Do you have a specific aspect in mind? I’m trying to think of a significant disputed point between the account of Ms. Cooper and the account of Mr. Cooper.

    Until he started recording we have no physical evidence. She said that he started out shouting at her and then changed his voice once he started recording. Is that true or an ambit claim? Why should I believe her?

    She said she was unable to leave and so she called the police. Why couldn’t she leave? What was stopping her?

    There was no really satisfactory explanation of why she told him she would call the police and tell them he was threatening her life.

    Theres no interrogation of why her response to her life being threatened was to walk towards the guy to shout about being filmed rather than trying to get away. (Yup, I think she’s a fraud.)

    And tellingly – her take away a year later is she wants to tell him how she felt. No interest, I note, in how anybody else who was there felt, including him, or how her own actions contributed to that situation. And that, imho, is why she is truly Central Park Karen.

    I’m still trying to think of any disputed point in what you raise. Has Mr. Cooper contradicted her account? He may have — I’m hardly a student of this case — but I’m not aware of it.

    I also thought the reporters in the podcast stated her claims without declaring declaring that those claims are either true or untrue.

    • #93
  4. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I also thought the reporters in the podcast stated her claims without declaring declaring that those claims are either true or untrue.

    They just stated them with no qualifier.

    Edited to add: that’s what we normally do with established facts. Qualifiers are usually along the lines of ‘alleged’ or ‘claimed’ rather than ‘proven’ or ‘established’.  But I’m a bit sceptical about Bari Weiss et al too.

    • #94
  5. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I think it’s in large part his fault: if not for his actions in initiating the encounter, his threatening comment, and his decision to allow the video to go viral, we would never have heard about it and Ms. Cooper would still have her job and her home and her anonymity.

    If she’d just kept her dog on it’s leash that would also be the case. Why isn’t it her fault? He wasn’t a scofflaw, she was.

    Zafar, the woman is not being punished for having an unleashed dog. She is being punished for using words which the Twitter mob found offensive. The extraordinary thing about this case is not an unleashed dog, but rather Mr. Cooper’s decision to share her words with the world. That is what cost Ms. Cooper her job and her home and her normal life.

    Ms. Cooper is the victim here, and I find it unsatisfying to blame the destruction of the victim’s life on her sin of failing to leash a pet in a public park. The greater error was on Mr. Cooper’s part — for taking enforcement into his own hands, for intimidating strange women in remote places, and for sharing an unpleasant moment with the mob.

    • #95
  6. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I also thought the reporters in the podcast stated her claims without declaring declaring that those claims are either true or untrue.

    They just stated them with no qualifier.

    I thought it was competent and responsible reporting. Give me an example of some comments you found biased or unfair.

    Incidentally, the truth or falsehood of Ms. Cooper’s unsubstantiated claims (and there is at least one moment where I found her slightly implausible, though I’m inclined to believe the gist of her account) are irrelevant to the larger point of the post: the New York Times twisted the story to make it about what they wished to make it about, by burying the undisputed comment by Mr. Cooper that Ms. Cooper cited when justifying her fear.

    I would be interested to know on which points Mr. Cooper and Ms. Cooper differ in their accounts. But, given that they both agree that he made the threatening comment he made, I can see no justification for the Times twisting the story as it did — other than to play to the dominant narrative.

    • #96
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Zafar, the woman is not being punished for having an unleashed dog. She is being punished for using words which the Twitter mob found offensive.

    I’m going to call the police and tell them a black man is threatening my life (because he’s told me to comply with the rules and leash my dog). That’s what Twitter lost it over.

    But yes, I agree that firing her from her job, doxing her etc was bad and a sign of a social pathology.

    • #97
  8. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Zafar, the woman is not being punished for having an unleashed dog. She is being punished for using words which the Twitter mob found offensive.

    I’m going to call the police and tell them a black man is threatening my life (because he’s told me to comply with the rules and leash my dog). That’s what Twitter lost it over.

    Yes. And that’s approximately what the New York Times reported. That’s what pretty much everyone reported.

    But it is unlikely that it’s true, and that’s the point.

    Mr. Cooper and Ms. Cooper agree that he told her he was going to do what he wanted, and that she wouldn’t like it. Both of them agree that he tried to lure her dog away from her. Ms. Cooper claims, as others have claimed, that she found him intimidating. Mr. Cooper acknowledges that he’s not a small man, that he values the impression he has created as not liking dogs, and that his behavior has brought him into physical confrontation with other dog-walkers.

    But the New York Times ran the story much as you described it, except that they said it was his recording of her that allegedly made her feel threatened.

    But yes, I agree that firing her from her job, doxing her etc was bad and a sign of a social pathology.

    Yes. But not as consequential, I think, as America’s “Paper of Record” lying about the story to support a narrative of racial injustice.

    • #98
  9. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Why should he have been expected to keep the video private?

    KE, I haven’t said that he should have been expected to keep the video private, nor that he should have kept the video private. I said that his failure to do so was essential to this becoming a disaster for anyone involved. Had he done so, it would have remained nothing more than a brief and unpleasant encounter without substantive consequence.

    Mr. Cooper’s actions were essential to the matter becoming a personal disaster for Ms. Cooper. They were causative. But I didn’t say that he should have done anything differently.


    Having said that: I think he should have done everything differently. I think, based on this report, that he’s a self-righteous jerk who feels entitled to intimidate lone women into following the rules that he happens to value.

    He might also “value” other rules, but when you’re in a public park, “valuing” leash laws makes sense.

    Context matters too. Apparently dogs off-leash is a widespread problem there. Which is a big part of how you get “vigilantism” about it, coupled with the likelihood that there are very few official enforcers doing the job that THEY should be doing. If there were, and if one of them told Karen to leash her dog or leave – and assuming the city official wasn’t a black man who scared her by “threatening” to write a citation – this also doesn’t escalate.

    Assume Christian Cooper was white and Amy Cooper was black. Same take?

    For me, absolutely. And while I think others might claim that their position is objective, that they point out how Amy Cooper felt “threatened” by a (larger?) black man, proves otherwise.

    What if she simply felt threatened by a larger man?

    Doesn’t matter to me.  My position is the same if the genders are reversed, too.

    • #99
  10. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Yes. But not as consequential, I think, as America’s “Paper of Record” lying about the story to support a narrative of racial injustice.

    I guess I’m less invested in the NYT being accurate and impartial – I am not sure it always has been.

    • #100
  11. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Also – there were some basic questions (why couldn’t you just leave, if you were frightened why did you keep walking towards the man?) that the interviewers didn’t ask her.  So it was not much of an interview imho. 

    • #101
  12. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I also thought the reporters in the podcast stated her claims without declaring declaring that those claims are either true or untrue.

    They just stated them with no qualifier.

    I thought it was competent and responsible reporting. Give me an example of some comments you found biased or unfair.

    Incidentally, the truth or falsehood of Ms. Cooper’s unsubstantiated claims (and there is at least one moment where I found her slightly implausible, though I’m inclined to believe the gist of her account) are irrelevant to the larger point of the post: the New York Times twisted the story to make it about what they wished to make it about, by burying the undisputed comment by Mr. Cooper that Ms. Cooper cited when justifying her fear.

    I would be interested to know on which points Mr. Cooper and Ms. Cooper differ in their accounts. But, given that they both agree that he made the threatening comment he made, I can see no justification for the Times twisting the story as it did — other than to play to the dominant narrative.

    Which, again, makes it the Times’ fault, not Mr Cooper.  Was he supposed to anticipate that they’d twist it, and therefore not make the video public?

    • #102
  13. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Zafar, the woman is not being punished for having an unleashed dog. She is being punished for using words which the Twitter mob found offensive.

    I’m going to call the police and tell them a black man is threatening my life (because he’s told me to comply with the rules and leash my dog). That’s what Twitter lost it over.

    But yes, I agree that firing her from her job, doxing her etc was bad and a sign of a social pathology.

    And, Mr Cooper didn’t do ANY of that.

    • #103
  14. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Zafar, the woman is not being punished for having an unleashed dog. She is being punished for using words which the Twitter mob found offensive.

    I’m going to call the police and tell them a black man is threatening my life (because he’s told me to comply with the rules and leash my dog). That’s what Twitter lost it over.

    Yes. And that’s approximately what the New York Times reported. That’s what pretty much everyone reported.

    But it is unlikely that it’s true, and that’s the point.

    Mr. Cooper and Ms. Cooper agree that he told her he was going to do what he wanted, and that she wouldn’t like it. Both of them agree that he tried to lure her dog away from her. Ms. Cooper claims, as others have claimed, that she found him intimidating. Mr. Cooper acknowledges that he’s not a small man, that he values the impression he has created as not liking dogs, and that his behavior has brought him into physical confrontation with other dog-walkers.

    But the New York Times ran the story much as you described it, except that they said it was his recording of her that allegedly made her feel threatened.

    But yes, I agree that firing her from her job, doxing her etc was bad and a sign of a social pathology.

    Yes. But not as consequential, I think, as America’s “Paper of Record” lying about the story to support a narrative of racial injustice.

    The Times did that, not Mr Cooper.

    • #104
  15. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    I find it amazing that so many people that worry about the ability of the state to interfere in the lives of it citizens that see Mr. Cooper as some sort of avenger for order in a park.

    This case is not a pivotal moment in the history of jurisprudence. This is more of a case of media malfeasance. The NYT has a long history of deception. Look up the NYT’s reporting that covered up the deliberate misinformation of Stalin’s genocide against Ukrainians, not to mention their deafening silence on the Jews sent to death camps by the Nazi government of Germany.

    There is far more going on in the rising crime rates in this country than an unleashed dog in a city park. Mr. Cooper is no more than a busybody that has nothing more to do than carry dog treats in his pockets, and an extra leash to impose his will on his fellow citizens.

    • #105
  16. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    I find it amazing that so many people that worry about the ability of the state to interfere in the lives of it citizens that see Mr. Cooper as some sort of avenger for order in a park.

    This case is not a pivotal moment in the history of jurisprudence. This is more of a case of media malfeasance. The NYT has a long history of deception. Look up the NYT’s reporting that covered up the deliberate misinformation of Stalin’s genocide against Ukrainians, not to mention their deafening silence on the Jews sent to death camps by the Nazi government of Germany.

    There is far more going on in the rising crime rates in this country than an unleashed dog in a city park. Mr. Cooper is no more than a busybody that has nothing more to do than carry dog treats in his pockets, and an extra leash to impose his will on his fellow citizens.

    Not HIS will.

    • #106
  17. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Which, again, makes it the Times’ fault, not Mr Cooper.  Was he supposed to anticipate that they’d twist it, and therefore not make the video public?

    kedavis (View Comment):
    And, Mr Cooper didn’t do ANY of that.

    kedavis (View Comment):
    The Times did that, not Mr Cooper.

    Again, I’m not particularly invested in blaming Mr. Cooper for the grotesque injustice done Ms. Cooper. In the larger scheme of things, Mr. Cooper doesn’t matter: he’s just an insensitive self-righteous jerk — a “Karen,” if you will. The greater evil is a press and social media mob that explodes in rage and destroys a private woman’s life with no legitimate provocation.

    But you and I are going to have to disagree about whether Mr. Cooper bears substantial responsibility for what happened. I think he does.

    • #107
  18. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Which, again, makes it the Times’ fault, not Mr Cooper. Was he supposed to anticipate that they’d twist it, and therefore not make the video public?

    kedavis (View Comment):
    And, Mr Cooper didn’t do ANY of that.

    kedavis (View Comment):
    The Times did that, not Mr Cooper.

    Again, I’m not particularly invested in blaming Mr. Cooper for the grotesque injustice done Ms. Cooper. In the larger scheme of things, Mr. Cooper doesn’t matter: he’s just an insensitive self-righteous jerk — a “Karen,” if you will. The greater evil is a press and social media mob that explodes in rage and destroys a private woman’s life with no legitimate provocation.

    But you and I are going to have to disagree about whether Mr. Cooper bears substantial responsibility for what happened. I think he does.

    Only if you believe he was responsible for knowing how the NYT/Twitter/etc would treat the matter, and that he should have withheld the video as a result.  I find that assertion to be ridiculous on its face.  You might as well say that because the media – especially the NYT/Twitter – will twist it to make it seem evil, Republicans should never say anything.

    • #108
  19. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Which, again, makes it the Times’ fault, not Mr Cooper. Was he supposed to anticipate that they’d twist it, and therefore not make the video public?

    kedavis (View Comment):
    And, Mr Cooper didn’t do ANY of that.

    kedavis (View Comment):
    The Times did that, not Mr Cooper.

    Again, I’m not particularly invested in blaming Mr. Cooper for the grotesque injustice done Ms. Cooper. In the larger scheme of things, Mr. Cooper doesn’t matter: he’s just an insensitive self-righteous jerk — a “Karen,” if you will. The greater evil is a press and social media mob that explodes in rage and destroys a private woman’s life with no legitimate provocation.

    But you and I are going to have to disagree about whether Mr. Cooper bears substantial responsibility for what happened. I think he does.

    Only if you believe he was responsible for knowing how the NYT/Twitter/etc would treat the matter, and that he should have withheld the video as a result. I find that assertion to be ridiculous on its face. You might as well say that because the media – especially the NYT/Twitter – will twist it to make it seem evil, Republicans should never say anything.

    Perhaps I’m more old-fashioned in how I think people should be treated, KE. I think intimidating lone women in out-of-the-way places and then trying (successfully) to vilify them online to make a point is ugly and pathological behavior. Mr. Cooper owes her an apology. Apparently, he was kind enough to accept hers, though he made some snarky comments about how she should examine her motives, etc.

    I think he’s a smug and petty bastard. But as we disagree, I’ll leave you the final word on the matter.

    • #109
  20. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens
    • #110
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