Friday, May 01, 2015

Conservative propaganda approach to justifying white police murdering black people

Now that Hillary Clinton's new Presidential campaign is officially underway along with the accompanying press dysfuction around it, Bob "the Daily Howler" Somerby has something to work on that may be a little constructive.

But even though he's experienced at examining the Clinton Rules of journalism, I no longer trust even his shredding of media irresponsibility over the Clintons.

Because not only has he spent years echoing standard conservative attacks on the Mean Libruls. He's been doing it with the same kind of off-point hairsplitting and nitpicking the right wing uses. He nominally does it in liberal concern-troll terms. But it's pretty clear than on most issues he writes about he's conservative and is willing to employ frivolous conservative methods to smear the Mean Libruls.

And to smear the Bad Negroes and the Mean Libruls who support them. Even bad reporting on the Clintons doesn't inspire the kind of intensity he brings to anyone trying to see that justice in done in cases in which a white cop or cop-wannabe guns down a black person for no good reason. Trayvon Martin (Florida), Michael Brown (Ferguson), Walter Scott (North Charleston), the Howler heaps his scorn on Mean Libruls suggesting there might be anything wrong with those killings.

These are links to three concern-troll posts of his, in which he expresses his contempt for the Mean Libruls and Bad Negroes who suggest that something might be wrong with the North Charleston cop, Michael Slager, now facing criminal charges for his act, in having shot Walter Scott in the back and killing him: Part 1 (04/13/2015); Part 2 (04/14/2015); Part 3 (04/15/2015).

The liberal troll style is tedious. in the case of Scott's murder, the Howler writes, "Everyone on the face of the earth understands that this police conduct is wrong." But that doesn't stop him from pouring contempt on the Mean Libruls and Bad Negroes who go so far as to complain about it.

The content of those linked posts isn't worth much. I just wanted to mention two features of the standard conservative defense of white cops murdering black people for no good reason that those posts bring to mind: the Perfect Case and the elimination of time.

The Perfect Case doesn't exist. Even in the most seemingly clear-cut case of police misconduct, defenders of the action can come up with all sorts of mitigating circumstances and possibilities. We've seen this play out repeatedly in the more prominent cases of the last few years. The dead man had a record. Or he had said something weird recently that might mean he was crazy. Or the officer doing the killing had seen the dead man reach toward his waist. Or why would an innocent person run from the police? Or the black guy had mouthed off to the cop. Or he was selling cigarettes illegally on the street. Or he looked like a demon, as Darren Wilson told the grand jury about Michael Brown in the Ferguson case. And on and on.

The criminal justice system in the US requires the prosecution to prove its case against a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Not beyond any possible, conceivable or imaginable doubt. Because if the latter were the case, a person could only be found guilty based on a complete and voluntary confession.

But that is the standard that conservatives implicitly apply to civil rights protests over cases of police killing of black people. And they deride anyone who protests over such incidents for not having a Perfect Case.

In the real world, in places where police misconduct and hostility to the black community is chronic, waiting for the Perfect Case before demanding a proper investigation would mean never protesting at all, no matter how blatant the miscarriages of justice.

It's important to remember here that in the Martin, Brown and Scott deaths, and now with Freddie Gray in Baltimore, that what the organized protesters are normally demanding are a serious and honest criminal investigation, not some kind of summary justice. They are demanding that the legal system be made to work properly on behalf of the victims who can no longer speak for themselves.

But in a place where the justice system is not working properly for black citizens, it takes community pressure to make that happen.

Which brings me to the erasure of time, another conservative propaganda strategy in such cases. As important as the individual case is, the political and social meaning of incidents like the recent ones in Ferguson, in Tulsa, in North Charleston and in Baltimore cannot be understood without knowing something about the relationship of the police to the community in previous years.

In Ferguson, we know from the Justice Department's investigation that the police department there had run for year's as kind of a legal shakedown racket with routine abusive practices directed against the majority black population of that town.

The police in North Charleston had also been acting in an abusive way toward that community for years.

The Baltimore police department's attitudes and practices toward the poor black population seem to have been especially harsh over a long period of time.

In Tulsa, the sheriff's department had a flaky citizen deputies program they had been running for years that allowed the shurff's campaign donors to go out and play cops-and-robbers with loaded guns during actual police actions.

The conservative approach, reflected in part by the Howler's concern-troll versions, is to nitpick at the details of the individual case and to treat it as though the only important facts came within the few seconds around the fatal encounter.

For legal cases around the killings, the facts of those moments are critical. And what protesters and concerned commentators have been consistently demanding is that those facts be properly examined by the legal system and not swept under the rug.

Did Walter Scott in North Charleston have some reasonable, reality-based reason to run from a police officer before the bullet holes in the back of his dead body showed that he did? Did Michael Brown have reason to panic when suddenly approached by a member of the shakedown racket also known as the Ferguson Police Department? Did Freddie Gray have reason to run away from a seemingly random encounter with police before his fatally severed spine showed that he did? Did Eric Harris in Tulsa have some understable reason to run in fear from police before hobbyist cop Robert Bates shot him to death in the back when he was already on the ground under restraint?

But if you can focus on the narrow facts of the encounter between the cop and the now-dead black person and find some protester or commentator saying something that seems even a tiny bit unjustified based on conflicting accounts of the case at a given moment, you can ridicule them as trying to make something out of nothing. Or of being cynically dishonest.

In the practice of staying alive and healthy in an encounter with real existing police in the United States in 2015, it's not a good idea to run from police. It may be legal to do so. But we also know that there are far too many cops who will disregard the law to the point of murder. But Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Eric Harris and Freddie Gray did have rational reasons for running from the police officers who killed them, whether or not they were worried about being charged with something they had actually done. Trayvon Martin had good reason to fear for his life from the creepy armed white thug George Zimmerman who was stalking him. In retrospect, their responses probably weren't their optimal strategy for staying alive, since in all those cases they wound up dead.

But the police actions or lack thereof in all those cases were very legitimate matters for community concern and protest. And the legitimacy of that concern in such cases doesn't stand or fall on nitpicking the seconds before the fatal shot was fired, or the fatal chokehold applied, or the spine-severing blow was struck.

No comments: