PROTESTING THE POLICE
Much of the show this week dealt with the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both unarmed black men killed by the police. There have been protests across the country as a result, notably in Ferguson, MO and New York where the deaths took place. In both situations grand juries chose not to indict the police officers involved for any wrongdoing. The death of Garner seems more obviously upsetting because there was a video of the altercation and he clearly was not being violent towards the police. Still, several police tackled him to the ground and continued to chokehold him, which led to his death. He was even gasping for breath, shouting “I can’t breathe!” to the officers. While Brown had robbed a store, and there was a physical altercation with the police officer Darren Wilson in which he may have reached for his gun, there was no such aggression showed by Garner.
Regardless of whether or not the grand juries made the correct decisions, both Brown’s and Garner’s deaths have sparked a long standing grievance that blacks feel they are mistreated by the police, particularly white officers. The media has covered the deaths of Brown and Garner extensively both because the responses of the communities to the deaths and the fact that the stories make for good television talk about race.
One main point that I see that need to be addressed is how much prejudice the police have towards black men. The disproportionate targeting of minorities with the stop and frisk policy in New York is one indicator that some prejudice exists, but it’s hard to quantify exactly. The criminal activity of black men and the actions of police officers both have to be weighed in the matter. Anytime an unarmed black man is killed by the police the media is going to cover the story and it is going to create controversy. I’d like to see a deeper exploration done by the media other than covering the incidents. In other words, it would be more informative if the conversation over race and the police could turn into more of an empirically based discussion than one that relies on the perceptions of talking heads, anecdotes, and singular incidents.
The other point that needs to be discussed is how the legal system deals with police officers. Compared to civilians, police officers almost never get indicted for manslaughter or murder. Obviously they need to have more ability to use deadly force given their job. But if it becomes so hard to prosecute police officers that they almost never get indicted for anything, then there is no effective check on the police officers who do overstep their bounds. How much discretion the law gives police officers is going to affect how grand juries will or won’t indict them on any charges.
At least in the case of Garner it seems on the surface absurd that no police officer was indicted. Watching the video makes it clear that they basically gang tackled and suffocated Gardner when he wasn’t truly resisting arrest, but rather trying to plead with them that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Clearly the cases of Brown and Garner are not showing a new problem; they’re simply bringing to light once again a longstanding belief among the black community that they are unfairly harassed by the police.
Wednesday’s coverage of the newly appointed ambassadors to Hungary and Argentina showed that cronyism is alive and well, and that apparently no one really cares about who the ambassadors are to those countries. Colleen Bell, now the ambassador to Hungary, was a big time donor to Obama and a soap opera producer. Even Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest couldn’t spin her appointment as well deserved. After being peppered with questions about her qualifications he said he “wasn’t part of the decision making process.”
Dave Grohl came by the show to talk about his HBO show which has him and the rest of the Foo Fighters visiting various U.S. cities to interview local musicians about the history of music in the cities. It was interesting to learn that they spent six days in each city and gradually made a song by the end of each trip. The concept for the project is a good enough reason to check out the show if you have HBO.
BEST MOMENT OF ZEN
Tuesdays’ Zen moment was some commentary about how the Chinese government is now censoring the use of puns in the media. I’m still confused by this.