Layers of Editors and Factcheckers, Perhaps

Logic checkers, not so much.

Yesterday, when I launched the All-New (Now Featuring Moxie!) post category of Them Awful Southerners, I hadn’t suspected I might be putting out a great big ol’ jar of honey to catch me some bees.  No, I thought it would just be something I could occasionally have recourse to, sort of like Teutschtümelei (an expression I picked up 30-plus years ago from a play by either Lessing or Schiller, I forget which; it doesn’t translate very well, but if you imagine a strident form of hoaky, kitschy Americana, that would be about our modern equivalent) for stuff pertaining specifically to Germany (as opposed to just using German sources for a post on a topic of more general interest).

I may have under-estimated my powers of seduction.  No sooner do I launch Them Awful Southerners than sure enough, here comes today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung with its lead, above-the-electronic-fold headline:  “Erschossen im Herzland der Sklaverei“; “Shot in the Heartland of Slavery”.  For starts, oughtn’t it read “Shot in the Former Heartland of Slavery”?  I mean, if South Carolina is the “heartland of slavery,” does that not imply that, you know, slavery is still practiced there?  I haven’t been to South Carolina since 2005, but when last there I don’t recall that being the case.

But let us not bust too hard on the reporter; he probably didn’t write his own headline.  Just because the FAZ wants to run the equivalent of “Fun Times in the Heartland of Nazism” over a report on the 2015 Oktoberfest in Munich, it’s not his fault, is it?

The text of the article must, however, be laid at the author’s feet, and he required to answer for it.  The author — who is based in New York City, which may fully explain the whole thing (here’s his c.v. on the paper’s website; he certainly appears to be someone who ought to know better than to publish bullshit like this) — has actually written two articles.  The first article is about a police officer who conducted a perfectly normal traffic stop until the driver panicked and ran, after which (i) the officer shot him down like a dog, and then (ii) attempted to falsify a crime scene.  The second article is one more tired-ass installment of Them Awful Southerners, and how we’re just lyin’ in wait for the next unsuspecting darky to happen along so’s we can lynch ‘im.  The two articles are separated by a helpful bridge in which the author lets us know everything we need to about him and his ability to think or to report honestly.

The incident happened one week ago today.  The beginning and the end of the confrontation are shown on two separate videos from two independent sources.  The first part, the stop, the request for license, registration, and proof of insurance (just like I got asked for when stopped for my last speeding ticket) all went by the book and are captured on video by the police cruiser’s on-board camera.  Significantly, the audio originates from a microphone on the officer’s shirt.  You can hear the officer indicate that he’s pulled the driver over for a broken tail-light, and then ask for license, registration, and proof of insurance.  The driver tells the cop he doesn’t have registration because he’s still in the process of buying the vehicle, at which point the cop returns to his car, presumably to run the plates.  At that point the driver gets out of the car and the cop asks him to get back in.  Which the driver does.  Then the driver panics.  He gets out and runs.

The cop and the driver are now out of frame for the cruiser’s on-board camera, but you can hear confused words and rustling, apparently as something was disturbing the officer’s body microphone.  You can hear the officer tell the driver he proposes to use his taser on him.  Which he does, without the desired effect.

At this point the second video, captured by an aware hair-dresser on her way to work, picks up.  You can see the taser’s wires deployed.  You see the driver running away and the police officer pickle off eight (!) rounds at a fleeing man.  The driver was struck five times, at least once through the heart.  He falls dead.

And this is where the officer, having already ended one life and screwed up his own, damns himself as a liar.  The by-stander’s video captures him as he turns away from his victim, goes back to where they’d been standing a few seconds before, picks something up out of the grass, and then take it over and drops it beside the corpse.  It was his taser gun.

It seems that in his initial report and his post-event write-up he alleged that the driver had seized his taser, and that he had attempted first-responder life-saving on his victim.  Neither happened.

Within a matter of a couple of days the officer was fired (not placed on “administrative leave,” with or without pay, which is the common administrative proceeding in use-of-deadly-force occurrences, until the facts are straightened out), and formally charged with murder by the district attorney general’s office.  Tellingly, as soon as the officer’s lawyer got the by-stander’s video to examine in detail, he requested and was granted leave to withdraw.

Now, every lawyer in the United States knows what happened.  The client swore up and down to his lawyer that he’d Told it Just Like it Happened in his report.  And then the lawyer takes a look at the video evidence that shows him his client just lied to him about the central fact of his defense.

To this point the FAZ has done a good job of summarizing the actual facts as they can be shown to be.

So much for the allegro of this little concerto grosso.  There then follows an adagio of a few paragraphs, consisting of the obligatory Ferguson comparison.  Although the author is finally forced to observe that the forensic evidence in Ferguson can’t be squared with the pro-criminal version of events, and contradicts the supporters of a violent felon who was shot down in the middle of attacking, for a second time, a police officer, you can tell from the author’s remaining observations that he’d just as leave not have to admit it.  Our Author states that Wilson, after the publicity exploded (which is to say, after the witch hunt started), “submerged, but found sympathizers who spread his version” of the events.  In the end, he was “believed not only by his fellow citizens on the Grand Jury,” which was “directed by the state’s attorney” (grand juries are not so directed, by the way), but also the investigators from the DOJ who “found that the credible witnesses confirmed Wilson’s representations.”  In last Saturday’s events in North Charleston, there is no video of what happened between the time the shooter, officer Scott, and his victim step out of frame in the police car’s video and when the by-stander’s video picks up.  In Ferguson, our New York City author is glumly forced to admit that officer Wilson’s claim that the thug he shot attacked him through the window of his police cruiser was “supported” (notice he didn’t say “confirmed”) by the forensic evidence. [This word choice is what poker players call a “tell.”  It allows you to read what’s going on the other guy’s mind.  Our New York City author won’t say Wilson was “confirmed” by the forensic evidence, even though (i) Darren Wilson had orbital fractures of his skull surrounding his eye, (ii) the thug’s blood was found on the inside of Wilson’s vehicle door, and (iii) all of the ballistic evidence demonstrates that the perp’s hands were not raised, but rather were lowered, and he was charging Wilson with his head down when struck by the fatal round. You know, exactly like Wilson said it happened.]  In fact the DOJ didn’t so much rely on “credible witnesses” which it “believed” over the criminal’s buddies when it formally agreed with Wilson’s “version” of events as “spread” by his “sympathizers,” but rather on the physical evidence, which was specifically cited by Dear Leader’s own U.S. Attorney General.  You’d never suspect that from reading this author’s words.  It’s very considerate for this author to provide us with such rich indication of his journalistic ethics, and in fact, his basic honesty.

In the final movement, we suddenly find ourselves 250-300 years ago in South Carolina.

This sentence made it into print in a major European newspaper:  “South Carolina is the heartland of North American slavery.”  Present tense.  “Here lived more slaves than free persons.”  At least the author got the right tense on that one.

The police forces in South Carolina “developed from patrols for catching runaway slaves.”  Wrong.  Slave patrols and the few law enforcement forces of the times were entirely different.  Slave patrols were manned — on a compulsory basis, by the way — by ordinary free whites, in much the same way that in many places way back when every able-bodied free male had to work on the public roads a certain number of days each year.  These slave patrols had no judicial functions at all, in contrast to the sheriff and his deputies, who served warrants, who levied executions on personal and real property, who ran the jail, dragged the town drunks in for a beating every so often, and otherwise did what little law enforcement went on back then.

Having conflated the historical antecedents of today’s police forces with runaway slave patrols, our author then tosses a few observations about how such patrols operated.  Whippings and the death penalty for “ringleaders” were authorized.  Of course, our author doesn’t point out that the slave patrols didn’t do the whipping or impose the death penalty.  Generally, it was the owners, post-return, who did the whipping, or for those too squeamish, turned their slave over to a public facility for that purpose (there was such a place in Charleston, and another in New Orleans, and I’m sure most every larger Southern town similarly catered to those too cowardly to look their own victim in the face).  Death penalties for ringleaders of slave resistance were imposed by trial courts (however cursory the trial may have been, it was nonetheless a formal judicial proceeding).  Although the owner was supposed to receive his property back undamaged from the slave patrol, “wanted dead or alive” was not an unusual term of capture for repeaters.

Our author then slips up and gives us another “tell” about where he got his information.  He informs us that Indians were used as auxiliary patrollers.  This comes from a misinterpretation (willful? hard to say) of the Wikipedia.org write-up on the Stono Rebellion — of 1710.  It’s less well known than Nat Turner’s of 1835, but until Turner, the Stono revolt had been by a wide margin the bloodiest slave insurrection in North America.  Here’s the author’s source quotation:  “The lieutenant governor hired Chickasaw and Catawba Indians and other slaves to track down and capture the Africans who had escaped from the battle.”  The quotation is referring to the aftermath of the more-or-less pitched battle in which the slaves were defeated (after having killed 44 whites in action against their own losses of 25).  The Indians were pretty much run out of the Carolinas by a few years after the Revolution, a point our author isn’t familiar with, and so he just assumes that Indians regularly made up such auxiliary forces.  And by the way, as the Wikipedia.org article makes plain, the participating slaves were not defeated or caught by slave patrols, but by a raised-for-the-purpose militia.  If our author knew his ass from a hole in the ground he’d understand that militias in both colonial and post-colonial eras were filled by the entire able-bodied male population capable of bearing arms.  So once more, we’re not talking about either functional or organizational precursors of the North Charleston police department.

Did we mention that Stono happened in 1710, a brief 305 years ago and a scant 40 years after Carolina Colony was first settled?  Our author’s remaining data points intended to draw a straight line between the slave patrollers and local South Carolina police forces come from . . . 1739 and 1772.  Here, I’ll draw you a picture, doofus:  In 1772 South Carolina was a loyal colony of the British Crown.  Municipal law enforcement in South Carolina has existed as long as there have been municipalities.  South Carolina’s city police departments are no more descendants of the slave patrols than is the New York Police Department, which has even today its own set of problems with its black citizenry.  New York City until the 1820s had slavery and therefore slave catchers; here’s a basic history for you to read.

The Deutsche Arbeiterpartei was founded in Munich in 1919.  Hitler, at the time working for the army, was detailed off to attend a meeting to see what sort of subversion was going on there.  He came, he saw, he took the operation over.  After a time it became the Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the NSdAP.  It took it a while to spread from Munich, but it did, and the world knows its blood-soaked history as that of Nazi Germany.

By the editorial and reportorial standards of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, we should refer to Bavaria as “the heartland of the Nazi party” and to Berlin as “the capital of Nazi Germany.”  In the present tense.

Repeat after me, class:  Not everything in the South has to do with slavery.  Just like not everything in the Federal Republic of Germany has to do with the Holocaust.  You’d think that of all places and papers, a major newspaper in Germany would know better than to try to draw straight lines between present-day misbehavior and long-ago atrocities visited upon an oppressed group.  Apparently that’s too much to expect of today’s left-extremists.

Final take-away:  The more you strain to make connections between unrelated phenomena, the more you beclown yourself.

[Update 13 Apr 15]:  For some reason the FAZ has closed comments on the linked article.  Yesterday when I came across it, there were no comments.  This morning there are maybe 12-15 total.  This is a much lower count than many articles garner.  Why shut off comments now?  I would hope that it’s because the editors realize they published what was, in its main point (the Them Awful Southerners parts, as opposed to the purely factual recount of what happened last week) a made-up piece of garbage by someone who hadn’t the slightest notion of what he was talking about and out of shame they don’t want to call any more attention to it.  On the other hand, we’re talking about a newspaper that’s already started its cheerleading for Chairman Hillary, so the more likely explanation, alas, is that having been caught out peddling bullshit, they’re reacting in the time-honored left-extremist fashion: shut down the debate when the other side starts to win.

Most of the comments are on the lines of what you’d expect from Europeans engaging in long-distance psychoanalysis of Americans, or condemning what a materially awful place the U.S. is to live because free health care! or something.  Several of the comments, however, come from Germans who claim extensive personal experience of the U.S., not only through their own travels here but also through their relatives and friends who live here and whom they visit.  Interestingly, every one of those commenters who has actually experienced America at close range calls bullshit on the white-cop-gunnin’-for-Uncle-Tom-the-runaway-slave-everyone-living-in-fear-of-being-gunned-down-while-walking-the-streets theme of the story.  Finally, I’m pleased to note that at least one of the commenters, who also claims personal experience of Charleston, points out the bogus present tense of the heartland-of-slavery claim.

One more point:  One of the commenters claims that the hair-dresser who shot the second video has stated that the officer and the victim engaged in a physical scuffle on the ground, before the video picks up.  I haven’t taken the time to track that down to see if it’s in fact the case, but it seems like it may be plausible.  Something caused her to reach for her cell phone and starting recording.  How likely is that to have been seeing a simple shoving match between a cop and a pedestrian on the one hand versus, on the other, a cop and a citizen on the ground pummeling each other?  If it’s true, it certainly puts a slightly less sinister sheen on the events.  But, and this is The Salient Point:  This officer shot eight times at an unarmed man who was in full flight away from him, and at least some of those shots were at his center of mass, which is to say potentially fatal.  The man at whom he was shooting was known to him (the officer would already have his driver’s license from the first portion of the stop), and how much harder could it have been to obtain a second warrant for his arrest?  Whether the cop was shooting in anger, or out of lack of training (or, who knows? perhaps he was acting from racialist motives), he still acted in an inexcusable fashion, and sufficiently out of line with his training and established procedures that the police department (remember they’d have taken the hair-dresser’s statement as well) fired him in a matter of hours.

So I suppose the intermediate take-away on the actual event is stand by to stand by.

Leave a Reply