On occasion, for professional reasons, I must wade into the right wing-o-sphere. It is filled with the kind of rabid misinformation and fearmongering you might expect. The part that is most bothersome, however, is not that most of the stories are bogus in their presentation, it is that many of the stories are presented with such a bias as to completely change the meaning of the facts within the story.
A case in point is a story that was generated from conservative talk radio host Jason Rantz and picked up by Fox News and subsequently pumped into the Apple News feed and Yahoo. The headline was damning: “Seattle 13-year-old watches father die as police funding cuts delay emergency response.” That is awful. So awful that Tucker Carlson gave Rantz a shot at primetime misinformation from the Fox News teat. Everything about this story sounds sad. Have protesters’ calls for police departments to have their funding used towards other social services somehow led to this poor young teen losing his father?
Have vaccine mandates by local municipalities led to this child losing his father? No. In fact, as we read the story—even as presented by both Rantz and Fox News—we find that hidden deep down are the facts of the case, and they point to a need to defund the police department.
The basic contours of this tragic story are as follows: A 13-year-old boy living in Seattle with his father called 911 after his father began suffering a medical emergency. The 911 dispatcher passed the call onto Seattle firefighters—who are equipped to be first responders in medical emergencies when needed. After a delay of about 11 minutes, firefighters began administering medical aid to the man, but sadly it was too late and the father of this young teen passed away. Rantz quotes a medic “familiar with the incident” who said that “had it been addressed early, his chance of survival would have been 60%.”
The implication for most of the first few paragraphs of the articles by Rantz and Fox News is that Seattle’s police “staffing crisis” is to blame for the delays in response. Except that’s not what the facts of the story, as they themselves present, say. Seattle police did arrive on the scene 15 minutes after the fire department had been dispatched, but the fire department had been dispatched within two minutes of the teen’s call to 911, and had arrived in short order at the apartment of the struggling father and his son.
No, the delay that took place was the result of a “note” that had been left on this apartment’s record for the 911 dispatcher to pass on. It told the dispatcher that the “resident had a history of threats towards police and firefighters.” As a result of this note, the dispatcher informed the arriving firefighters that they must wait until police arrived before entering the residence. The young son called again and after waiting for another seven minutes, the firefighters decided to go in alone to try and save the man’s life.
The problem is that note was erroneous. According to Fox News, tagged onto the bottom of their outraged report, this was “an outdated note and was assigned to a previous tenant.” A spokesperson for Seattle Fire reportedly emailed Rantz’s show to say: "We are carefully reviewing this incident from many angles in our department (operations, dispatch, etc.) and our Premise Notes Policy."
So it turns out that the vaccine mandate and the “staffing crisis” had next to nothing to do with the failures that may have led to this man not receiving potential lifesaving aid. It was a failure on the part of police and the fire department and the emergency response system to have updated records.
Lost in all of this is the tragedy that this young teen has lost his father and the real culprit is an overblown and unaccountable law enforcement apparatus that whines about being defunded when no one has defunded them yet.
On Monday, Seattle’s City Council “cut almost 20% of the Seattle Police Department’s budget — including a last-minute $2 million reduction that could slow future hiring of new officers.” This is a far cry from “defunding” them. Would this have helped this son and his father if it had happened earlier and law enforcement worked to get their act together? It’s hard to say, but after decades of increasing the funds to the police departments across the country, including Seattle, it hasn’t worked. It clearly didn’t lead to a system that would promote basic emergency rescue for its citizens.
If you want to, you can watch the made-up story unfold.