Sunday, December 21, 2014

When lies become cultural memes

I've been puzzled, then bewildered, and finally exasperated by the lies that have come out of the shooting of Michael Brown and the death of Eric Garner.  They're parroted by protesters, and violence is committed against property and persons because of them . . . but they're lies.  They're false from beginning to end.

From the moment of his death, self-asserted 'eye-witnesses' claimed that Michael Brown had his hands up in the surrender position, and was shot to death by a policeman while not resisting.  This is, of course, completely false, as has been demonstrated by the autopsy evidence.  None of the wounds on Mr. Brown's body (particularly his arms) were consistent with the 'surrender position'.  Furthermore, allegations that he'd been shot in the back were proven false as well.  However, demonstrators across the country are still parroting the slogan "Hands up!  Don't shoot!" as if it were some sort of mantra.  Every time they do so, they're perpetuating a lie - so why should I take them seriously?  Does honesty mean nothing to them?  The phrase has even become a tag at the Huffington Post.  So much for honest journalism . . .

What's more, that slogan might get some of them killed.  Let's say an armed citizen is confronted by a mob of rioters.  They move menacingly towards him, and he draws his gun in response.  As soon as they see it, they begin shouting "Hands up!  Don't shoot!" and raise their hands in the surrender position . . . but they continue moving towards him, just as protesters have done towards police.  At that point, he's more than entitled to assume that they haven't stopped their threatening behavior towards him;  that their proximity means they're more of a threat than ever;  and that if they get any closer, they may get their hands on his gun and steal it, or - even worse - turn it against him.  At that point he can legitimately argue that the protesters pose a threat to his life and/or safety, and have the ability, opportunity and demonstrated motivation to put that threat into effect.  If he opens fire on them as a result, I think he'd have fully satisfied the demands of the law in terms of legitimate self-defense.  The (surviving) rioters will, of course, protest that their hands were up and they were engaged in peaceful protest.  I don't think so . . .

As for the protest slogan "I can't breathe!" (spoken by Eric Garner as he was restrained by police in New York), I have news for them.  I've been trained in how to apply numerous restraint holds.  Believe me, if you're in a real choke hold, you won't be able to get enough air into your lungs to say anything!  I'm profoundly sorry that Mr. Garner died, and I believe the grand jury erred in not finding any officer at fault for his death;  but he most certainly could breathe throughout that incident.  As far as I've been able to determine from news reports, his death wasn't caused by asphyxiation but by a heart attack subsequent to his arrest.  His morbid obesity was probably a major contributing factor.

It's a well-known tactic among offenders in prison to claim that they can't breathe in an attempt to get extra attention, or drugs, or whatever.  I've spent hours in the Special Housing Unit (the isolation cell block for the really naughty boys, discussed in my memoir of prison chaplaincy) listening to an inmate standing at the door of his cell shouting over and over and over, "I can't breathe!  I can't breathe!"  The very fact that he could say that for hours on end, at the top of his voice, was the clearest possible evidence that he could, indeed, breathe quite normally.  He was merely making the claim in the hope of forcing the officers on duty to afford him some extra attention and perhaps a few special privileges - a well-known tactic.

We know that Mr. Garner could breathe.  It's not in doubt.  Nevertheless, crowds of protesters are going around chanting "I can't breathe!" as if it were a mantra.  NBA players even wore it on their shirts in protest.  This just boggles my mind.  It's a lie, pure and simple.  If I see protesters perpetuating what I know to be a lie, why should I place any credence in the justice of their cause?  Why should I support them?  This is particularly the case when the phrase is exploited by race-mongering rabble-rousers.  They're using a lie for propaganda purposes.  Makes sense, I suppose . . . to them, if not to me.

Am I wrong to insist that the truth is important?  Am I so far out of touch with modern society that I find it morally wrong to demonstrate over something I know to be an untruth?  I have no problem with drawing attention to the very real racial tensions in our society.  They're undeniable.  However, to do so while parroting lies seems to me to taint one's cause with dishonesty.  Can't the demonstrators see this?  Or is it that they no longer care about what's factually true or false, but only about their feelings on the subject?




Rev. Paul said...

"Or is it that they no longer care about what's factually true or false, but only about their feelings on the subject?"

Yes. That.

Rich S. said...

As usual, you've stated my thoughts more precisely than I could have.

It seems that the end justifies the means for these people, as it seems to for politicians, and even some police.

Truly, I weep for our country.

Will said...

What Rev.Paul said.

Our schools have not been teaching any type of critical thinking for many years now. For generations, actually. They abhor factual thinking, and the ability to solve problems. FEELINGS trumps all, for the Progressives.

What I haven't figured out is why some children are able to work around the bad schooling, and develop a factual basis for thinking. Subject for another day...

Differ said...

You mentioned the M word...morality. Certain sections of our society are utterly bereft of that quality in their lives. Most of our society has lax or conditional morality. It's a direct consequence of the relativism promoted by secular institutions for the last 40 years. Enjoy the decline, I don't see it improving any time soon.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

It is the progressive based religion, that has replaced Christianity in this country. No amount of logic will bring a group off of their religion unless you start with the children as the progressives did with the public schools. There is no pleasant outcome to this situation and the progressives will eventually collapse western society as the things they believe in have never worked.

Topher_Henry said...

I agree with everything you said. The only thing I would add is that Mr. Garner was known to have asthma. If the stress of the police encounter sent him into an asthma attack, he would still have been able to breathe temporarily, but he would have been able to feel his airway closing off. This could have been what lead him to say "I can't breathe".

Having said that, I still place the onus on Mr. Garner. The police had no way of knowing his health history and current medical conditions. If I knew that I had heart problems, diabetes, asthma, etc., I would not resist arrest even if I believed if to be unjust.

Bob said...

I caught my adult niece in a bald-faced lie to me about a serious situation and I asked her why she lied, particularity when the truth was vital to a resolution.

Her response was that she only told me what she thought I wanted to hear.

She actually got angry with me because she thought I was questioning her integrity.

Anonymous said...

The fact that they were trying to arrest him at all is the problem I have. There were at least 6, maybe more officers in the video attempting to arrest him for what is essentially tax evasion at the worst.

Instead of devoting police resources to petty non-violent made up 'crimes' they should be focusing on gang violence, drug enforcement, assault, theft, etc. The tendency to go after the low hanging fruit is what led to this death.

As for the "I can't breath" I understand the position that if they can talk, they can breathe. However, most reasonable people in any other setting would also accept that as an expression that "I am having difficulty breathing, and will soon have a real problem." Do it in a restaurant or DMV office and you will have EMTs on scene in minutes. Fat guy on the floor complaining of difficulty breathing = 911 medical call, NOT choke hold and kneeling on his chest.

The corrections/law enforcement assumption that the offender is always lying or scamming is part of the bigger problem with policing in America. The US vs. THEM attitude contributes to episodes like this where the force used (and # of forces) is far out of proportion to the offense. In Garner's case, the offense should have gotten a ticket issued at the most. One cop, ticket, and leave. Let Garner decide to escalate by not paying or showing up if he wants to. Stack up enough offenses and then serve the warrant. Let him die of natural causes sitting in a Waffle House. The actions of the police DEFINITELY contributed to his death.

As for the marchers, repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough and it becomes the truth. So it is, and so it ever shall be.


Old 1811 said...

The idea of making arrests for minor violations is a method of policing known as Broken Windows, and it was promulgated by a Harvard professor named James Q. Wilson over 30 years ago. The idea is that little nuisances (like broken windows) drive or keep law-abiding people away from an area and create a vacuum that criminals will fill.
NYPD has been using the Broken Windows method since the Giuliani administration, and it mostly works.
The police were called to the scene and were told to make the arrest. They had no discretion.
Six cops making the arrest? You've obviously never tried to handcuff someone who didn't want to be handcuffed, especially someone who is bigger and stronger than you are. I have, and it ain't pretty. To be blunt, you almost have to beat them half to death to get the cuffs on.
And, the choke hold had nothing to do with the offender's death. He died of a heart attack brought on by the exertion of fighting.
The big question to me is, Why did he resist? He had been arrested at least 30 times before, and he knew he would be out on bond before the cops finished their paperwork.
Eric Garner killed himself.

Old 1811 said...

Oh, and by the way, the Us vs. Them attitude is based on experience. Everybody lies to the police. The essence of police work is "being lied to," and the art of police work is separating the truth from the lies. People don't lie to their doctor (unless they want drugs) or to their cable repairman, but they always lie to the police, either because they want the police to do something or they want the police to not do something.
I couldn't believe the lies I heard when I first started on the job; by the time I retired I thought I'd heard everything, but I still heard new ones.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well read "When the Bough Breaks" by Christopher Nuttall, it's a pretty good example of how the stupid think their being smart in their protests. They just don't understand that they're being used for someone else's agenda.

Shell said...

He wasn't choked to death (you're right there, Peter). Nor did he die of asthma or a heart attack, although one or both of those may have contributed negatively to the situation.

Positional asphyxia is what killed him. Lay an obese man on his stomach and his guts and the fat surrounding them are pressed back into the abdominal cavity. The only place for them to expand to is upward, against the diaphragm.

I speak as a man who has worked in private security for over thirty years - and have been in more than a few dogpiles like the one on Garner - and as a fat man. Last year at this time I weighed 350 ponds (at 6 feet tall) and could not lay on my stomach for more than ten seconds without excruciating pain and being unable to draw breath.

So, "I can't breathe" *is not* a lie. They're basing it on an erroneous deduction but it ain't a lie.

Anonymous said...

@old 1811, I still think the response didn't meet the crime. "someone" called the police in and they HAD to respond? BS. Again, issue the ticket. Come back another day. That was all that is needed for this level of crime. Whether it's overgrown grass in the yard, abandon vehicles, actual broken windows, or selling single cigarettes, you should get a ticket, not a dog pile and trip downtown. The roving task force was reaching for the low hanging fruit to get their numbers.

As to making the arrest, assuming it was necessary, watch the video. He raises his hand and pulls away from the officer who grabs at him, and then is tackled from behind with the choke hold. And it is a choke hold, no matter what the trainers and lawyers call it. Arm bone across the throat, pulled tight by the other hand chokes the victim into compliance. Otherwise, why do it? ANYONE will struggle when someone jumps on their back and starts choking them, so I've got a big problem with "resisting" when everything the cops did causes the animal brain to keep fighting for it's life. The first cop simply got tired of listening to Garner protest, grabbed for him, and precipitated the whole thing. Six-8 guys standing by and they couldn't wait a little longer? Deescalate? No, these guys acted like thugs enforcing their 'authority.'

As for broken windows, I'm familiar with it. There are also other ideas that explain the decrease in crime that NYC likes to attribute to that. One was Roe v Wade resulting in fewer unwanted babies growing up to be criminals. Another is the phasing out of leaded gas and the subsequent drop in lead poisoning with its effects of poor impulse control and low IQ.

Broken windows is only justifiable if they ALSO aggressively target serious offenses too. The evidence suggests that serious crimes like drug trafficking, violent crimes, and gang offenses are NOT simultaneously addressed, witness the never-ending stream of gang shootings and felon in possession gun crimes. Without a handle on the serious crimes, broken windows turns into petty hassles for petty crimes. It is constantly getting in peoples' faces for minor offenses while they live in fear of killers and robbers.

One last comment on the "can't breathe." It simply doesn't matter that every con and scammer says it. YOU ARE NOT THE DOCTOR AND DON'T GET TO MAKE THAT CALL. (I'll grant that jail is a special case and other rules apply.) Garner was an INNOCENT MAN. He hadn't even been CHARGED, let alone convicted. By definition he was INNOCENT until proven guilty.

This whole incident stinks to high heaven. That the aggrieved class has chosen habitual law breakers as their poster children is unfortunate, and their lies and hypocrisy are visible for all to see, if they have eyes to see with, but it still doesn't erase the underlying problems with the incidents.


C. S. P. Schofield said...

Brown was a young thug, and the physical evidence supports the officer's story. Garner is something else. The officer who killed him did so by applying a hold that the police say violates their rules. That officer should have at a minimum been fired.

None of that excuses the assassination of two police by a nut, but neither to their deaths excuse the police from the charge that they are largely unaccountable for behaviors that would get an ordinary citizen in serious trouble.

Anonymous said...

As I look on from across the Atlantic at events in America it does truly depress me as does some of the answers/comments on this website. But from afar can I make the following comments;
1. All police work needs consent from the majority if not 90% of the population. You only have to look at Northern Island to see what happens when a minority (about 20% of the population pro Indepedant Republicans) are treaty badly in that case by the RUC in the 1960's leading to mass revolt. The funny thing being the British Army was actualy sent in to protect the Catholic population from the Protestant Police Force and we have witnessed how horribly wrong that went. Substitute Irish Republican for Black and the British Army for SWAT Teams and that is where you are.
2. The General attitude to Black and Hispanic people (I was in California this Autumn) by anybody with money was quite shocking. I was always told that a please or thank you was always given as it costs you nothing, if it was the waiter or the Queen, this simple act of politeness seemed lost in America, which in every other regard was very friendly.
3. Your obsession with Firearms is just incomprehensible. They do not stop mass killings, in the UK we had 2 incidents in the late 1980's and early 1990's at Hungerford and Dunblaine. After which private ownership of Handguns and Machinguns was banned. We do alow Shotguns but even there the issuing of licensences is being tightend. It means the shotting of anybody, be they Police or Civilian is very rare and if it does occur is normaly Solved and arrests made very quickly. Yes we do have incidents but nothing on the scale the US has. And I am sorry as I know you love your guns, but until America rejects its gun culture violance of this nature will continue. When every policeman confronts every memeber of the public as if they are armed to kill him, incidents that have ocurred across America are inevitable, just by the mathmatics of probability.
4. I can not believe that the Black and Hispanic neighbourhoods have not banded together and mounted an armed uprising. In any other country the disproportionate number of arrests and convictions of these 2 ethnic groups would cause civil war. America should be very relieved that to date those communities contrary to popular myth have been very law abiding in view of the level of provocation. In Europe this would I can guarentee you have caused a civil war.
5. Police offices need to understand that they are not "the Law" that they are servants of the community. We give them certain priviliages to lawfully go about their job, but abusing those priviliages like any will lead to the public withdrawing those. In the UK we have Judges lamenting the fact that Jurys have started to not believe the word of a police officer anymore and that unless there is corraborating evidence will not convict. That is one of the priviliages that we bestow on the Police, that we will unless we have clear evidence to the contrary believe what you say everytime. That is why to date Grand jurys and other bodies have allowed Police Officers to walk free, because they have believed their version of events eveytime without question. That is the start of thin wedge that the police need to address, the concept of Them -v- US, The "We are the Law", Might is Right, Let me have the bigest gun in the world and armoured trucks and I am RIGHT. All these behavours need to be addressed and stopped, otherwise we are well on the road to anarchy.

Dad29 said...

Peter, with regard to any oft-repeated lie, here is Goebbels on the question:

"The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous."


It works. Just a few days ago some (female) talking head repeated the Big Lie about Super Bowl Sunday and Violence Toward Wives--a canard which was disproved in 2010!

Old 1811 said...

They weren't ordered to give a ticket. They were ordered to make an arrest. There was a sergeant on the scene (a black female, by the way), and if the patrolmen were supposed to issue a ticket, she would have ordered them to do so.
Patrol officers are given these kinds of missions all the time.
The big mystery is why Garner, who had been arrested 30 times and knew this would go nowhere, chose this time to resist. Any ideas?

Charles said...

When the poorly educated and dis-empowered see those in 'athoritah!' display a blatant disregard for the observable truth (e.g. Garner clearly in physical distress whilst restrained by superior numbers) is it a surprise the aggrieved see and interpret events to suit they preferred narrative?
Both sides indulge in 'confirmation bias' - dangerous black guy/brutal police. However, the power only lies on one side of this equation and power without accountability becomes, to me, a good working definition of tyranny.