I’m sure many readers here feel that I am obsessed with this issue and are tired of my attempts to cut through the fog machine’s belches, but this is an ethics blog—a tiny, increasingly ignored ethics blog that is opposing the full force of a lying news media, a cynical Democratic Party, Machiavellian activists and dead-eyed corporate executives who just want to avoid controversy, and everywhere else, “Good Germans,” cowards who know the George Floyd Freakout narrative is based on falsehoods, but who just want to get along by going along.
So if I have to be a bit repetitious, so be it. There have to be a few oases of truth on the web.
Here are some excerpts from this morning front page story in the Times, insufferably headlined “The First Time The World Stopped And Noticed.” (Noticed what? That a drugged-out career criminal died on the streets as a direct result of his own persistent irresponsible behavior? That Minneapolis had a sadistic, mean cop who should have been kicked out of policing long ago? That a single, perhaps avoidable tragedy occurred in a city as the end result of a confluence of unrelated circumstances, the type of event that happens, has happened and will happen thousands of times every day across the country?)
- “The crowds that gathered in Minneapolis and elsewhere reflected on what has changed, and what has not, in America since Mr. Floyd was murdered by a police officer.” The Times should know better, and I’m sure it does, but just doesn’t care. Until Derek Chauvin’s appeals are exhausted and he loses them—not at all a foregone conclusion—it is not factual to say he “murdered” George Floyd. On the facts, I still don’t see how it can be claimed that he murdered Floyd, since murder requires the element of intent. At most, the episode was negligent homicide, which is not “murder.” But referring to Floyd’s death as a murder became part of the false narrative from the second cell phone photos of the incident hit the internet, and it has hardened into “fact” in the minds of most Americans.
- “Mr. Floyd’s daughter Gianna was invited to appear at an Atlanta rally titled, “My Daddy Changed the World.” Her Daddy changed nothing. He broke a law, resisted arrest, took drugs that might have killed him, and then had the manner of his death exploited, resulting in many deaths, billions in damage to communities, and mass disinformation.
- “The battle for the soul of America,” [President Biden] continued, “has been a constant push and pull between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.” This is shameless grandstanding for the rubes. All evidence indicates that Derek Chauvin was an equal opportunity bully. Nobody has been able to show he was a racist. Once again, this is the propaganda of presumed racism. If Chauvin were black and Floyd were white, and every other detail was identical to what happened in Minneapolis a year ago, nobody outside of Floyd’s family and friends would know his name. The incident had nothing to teach abut racism, except that it is a powerful and abused word currently being abused by demagogues and power-seekers.
- “Speaking after the meeting, one of Mr. Floyd’s brothers, Philonise Floyd, pushed for more action on Capitol Hill. ‘If you can make federal laws to protect the bird which is the bald eagle, then you can make federal laws to protect people of color,’ he said.” Such an idiotic and offensive analogy is not worthy of publication, except to show how emotion rather than reason has dominated the entire fiasco. “People of color” are not an endangered species, and the greatest threat to their welfare is their own conduct, as in the case of George Floyd. Nobody is hunting them, but the paranoia that statement like this creates does lead to the dangerous tendency among blacks to resist lawful police authority.
- “In New York, demonstrators said that the killing of Mr. Floyd had energized the Black Lives Matter movement that began after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, but that the country still had a long way to go.” Now there’s a good analogy: Trayvon Martin’s death also had nothing to do with racism, his killer was portrayed as a racist murderer of an innocent, politicians deliberately misrepresented the facts, and politically motivated prosecutors brought excessive charges. In that case, justice prevailed, however.
Well, that’s enough: read the whole awful thing. There were a lot of unethical journalistic projectile vomits in the same vein, such as this propaganda exercise on Yahoo!. The theme in this one is how young blacks are taught to be extra careful in an encounter with the police because they are just itching to hurt them.
“My father told me when you get pulled over by a policeman, you have to be very careful about what they tell you to do, and you can’t argue,” Cole, who is Black, told Yahoo News. “And you always need to make sure to put your hands up on the surface of the car so they know that you don’t have a gun in your pocket, to be safe.” Even though Cole admits that he didn’t understand the full context of what his father was explaining to him then, almost two years ago, the murder of George Floyd last May by Minneapolis police brought his father’s teachings full circle. “It made me realize all the stuff that’s happening in the world,” Cole, now 12, said. “It made me feel sad, and it also made me feel angry too that this is the society we live in. … What else do they want us to do?”
Admittedly it’s shooting fish in a barrel to fisk the statement of a 12-year-old, but still: Is anyone teaching kids that a single incident in Minnesota doesn’t tell them anything about “all the stuff that’s happening in the world“? A lack of critical thinking has fueled the Freakout from the start. The “society we live in” overwhelmingly includes dedicated, trustworthy police, and racism does not permeate it. What else do “they” want you to do, Cole? Not breaking the law is a good starting point.
It fell to the evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein, Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton to clarify what the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck really signifies, in a superb essay on the British site, Unheard. He writes in part (do read it all):
While the repercussions of George Floyd’s death have echoed across the world, its most profound significance has been felt inside America — albeit for an entirely un-American reason…
George Floyd was just a man. The facts of his life are indeed tragic, but they are also mundane. Yet he has been so valourised in death, and the events of his demise so mythologised, that meaningful attempts to reflect on his life by people who only became aware of his existence after he was gone are futile. He is, like the falling man of 9/11, confined to the reality and context of his exit…Much of the same can also be said of Derek Chauvin. He was just a cop, ordinary by every measure, involved in an arrest that went wrong — also not uncommon. In fact, the event would not have come to the world’s attention were it not for the colour of Floyd’s skin, and the racially charged historical moment in which the event took place. In this era of racial hyper-awareness, bystanders who saw a white police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man made every effort to document the injustice they believed they were witnessing…But in this case, the extra cameras didn’t add information. Rather, in an odd way, they seem to have had the opposite effect. The citizen-cameras began filming late in the sequence of events, effectively editing out context that only later emerged in the officers’ body-cam footage — long after the bystanders’ videos had been broadcast to the world, and to an American public primed to see anti-black police violence. The full context of what happened that day — every exculpatory fact — faced an uphill battle to overcome the public’s overwhelming sense that they had been witnesses to a racially motivated murder….Keep in mind that this was utterly unanticipated by the structure of the American legal system. Our founders, brilliant and perceptive as they were, could not have imagined a scenario in which hundreds of millions of Americans genuinely believed that they had seen a notorious crime that, for most of them, took place hundreds of miles away. Nor could they have anticipated the effect of a nation coming to such a conclusEvery American with access to a television or the internet had an opinion on Floyd’s death, as well as plenty of reason to fear what would erupt if Chauvin was, to any significant degree, exonerated. The trial, therefore, should have been moved, but there is no place in the United States — almost no place left on Earth — where the trial could have been held that would have freed it from the mass rush to judgement that had already taken place.ion on Twitter and Facebook, with Google’s search algorithm acting as Deus Ex Machina…For no matter how obvious a person’s guilt may seem, we must demand that the state be ready to go through the formal exercise of publicly proving guilt, to reasonable people with no stake in the matter, so that no substantial doubts remain. It seems to me that, in this case, we failed in our obligation; we collectively leapt to a conclusion based on an incomplete review of evidence. From then on, we allowed ourselves to presume we knew the truth….
If, after all the evidence has been aired, I can still say that Chauvin might be guilty of the crimes for which he has been convicted, then why dwell on such technicalities as the presumption of innocence and the burden and standard of proof?
The answer is straightforward: because that presumption, burden and standard are woven into the fabric of America, and because they have been among our most important exports. If we surrender the principle that these structures guard, if we tear down the tremendous obstacles our founders built to protect citizens from the state, where does it leave the rest of us?
So why did the jury convict on all counts? And how did they arrive at their decision so quickly? The probable answer is disturbing, and has deep implications for justice in America.
Chauvin, it seems, was pre-judged — exactly the thing our system of jurisprudence was designed to prevent. And I don’t mean this in abstract terms: the jury’s unusual rush to judgement was also manifest in almost every conversation I had about Floyd’s death with people who would normally have retained the formality of saying Chauvin was “accused of”, “suspected of” or “charged with” murder. In this case, however, people simply insisted that Chauvin was guilty of murder…
Until recently in America, it was understood that, even when the facts made a person’s guilt seem inescapable, the accused was formally innocent right up until the moment that they were convicted by an impartial jury of their peers. And conviction in America was no small formality. Our founders bent over backwards to give the accused the absolute benefit of even a single, reasonable doubt.
That counterintuitive structure of our legal system, burdening the state and arming the defence, exists for a crucial reason: to protect citizens from the vast power of the state and its frightening capacity to usurp liberty. But America allowed itself to skip the formalities when it came to Derek Chauvin…
We, collectively, have relaxed the most fundamental rule. Today, if the mob is convinced and motivated enough, their cause becomes the righteous one. Whether jurors accede to this out of fear for their own safety, or out of fear of the damage that may be done to innocent people if their verdict reignites violence, or because they are convinced by the mob that there is some higher principle whose value exceeds their duty to the accused, it must not stand. The will of the mob has no place in court. Likewise, no conviction that emerges from a mob-influenced court can be legitimate.
For as hard and uncomfortable as it may be to accept, the best chance that men like George Floyd have is a justice system so impartial and robust that it can protect people like Derek Chauvin. That is what is now in jeopardy.
Exactly. And that is why celebrations and expressions of optimism are what we did not need to see yesterday, but rather collective alarm that the justice system had been overcome by a mob, with the full cooperation of elected officials and the news media.