Saturday, July 9, 2016

Diamond Reynolds - an astounding act of individual courage - documenting a murder despite the pistol muzzle in her face

Diamond Reynolds - survivor, citizen journalist, N.Y. Times page 1, July 8, 2016

A masterpiece of journo-Juxtaposition - on page 1 of today's 
NEW YORK TIMES. A montage of screenshots from Diamond 
Reynolds'  FACEBOOK page, documenting her encounter with 
a freaked-out  Minnesota police officer, is paired with a developing 
story from Dallas - of a Black U.S. Army veteran ("the active shooter") 
who was exacting BLACK revenge on WHITE  police officers.

Where to begin after another astonishing week of extreme barbarism and hatred in the good 'ole U.S.A.?  Americans seem forever determined to bury the world in their overflowing landfill of violent shit-culture, and yet, try as we might, it is nearly impossible for Canadians to turn away. Our neighbours are suffering intensely from their birthright - an addiction to self-inflicted trauma.  What Diamond Reynolds just demonstrated with her incredibly brave act of citizen journalism, (she streamed the murder of her boyfriend Philando Castile live on FACEBOOK), is that we had better prepare ourselves for an overpowering assault on our sensorium - by ultra-intrusive forms of video technology that will make us virtual participants in murder, mayhem and modern warfare.

Officer Geronimo Yanez - shot Philando  Castile to death
Officer Geronimo Yanez was the killer of Philando Castile.
He works for the Saint Anthony, Minnesota Police Department.

In my lifetime I have watched with (I confess) only modest discomfort as hundreds of thousands of people were murdered.  I am not exaggerating.  Not at all. As a military historian and a "news junkie" to boot, I have viewed an endless stream of barbarous acts recorded on film, video tape, and digital recording devices - and now I truly wonder what my life would be like if I had never willingly exposed myself to recorded atrocities.  A few select killings still give me the chills, especially the earliest I viewed, because I wasn't yet trained to depersonalize the victims.  As a child I watched news coverage of the war in Bangladesh (1970) - witnessing rows of tightly-bound prisoners being bayoneted for the benefit of foreign newsmen...  I recall war in Rhodesia (1970s)  - the cameraman ducks but a rifle bullet smashes the head of a black soldier, who slumps in a heap and turns his lifeless eyes toward the lens...  In 1968 a Saigon a police general executes a Viet Cong assassin, and the head sprays a stream of arterial blood.  But that was just the beginning. For forty years I have been watching the carnage but not considering the psychic cost of all that viewing.

OZ magazine, No. 10 - The Pornography of Violence
Violent image etched in my  boyhood memory - a Vietnamese General executes a 
Viet Cong sapper, in front of a group of American TV and newspaper reporters.

I thought I had literally seen it all.  A foolish hope. As the arms merchants and even the WALMART Super-centres continue to market the latest generation of lethal gadgets, it is a certainty that all of the ensuing carnage will be recorded and streamed into our homes.  America is a culture in chaotic decline, and this new wrinkle in documenting urban crime, watching both civilians and cops as they are being executed in the streets, is only the beginning of a more violent chapter in American history, and I think our collective sanity is at risk.  Early this morning the enraged Dallas Police used a robot to kill the cornered gunman - Micah Xavier Johnson.  [One columnist has suggested the robot was offering Johnson  some food or a telephone, as a ruse to get close enough to kill him with the bomb.] There are more than 120 such wheeled robots on inventory with the F.B.I. in Dallas office, and the Dallas P.D. - all supplied by Homeland Security. Soon robot technology will be hunting humans more actively, and we humans will witness their machine-executions via live video feed.

Micah Johnson - U.S. Army Reserve, the Dallas sniper - July 2016
  Micah Xavier Johnson in 2009. He was then 18 years old.
President Obama described him as a "demented individual".
but the Dallas Police Chief claimed the opposite - angry, but sane.

Diamond Reynolds -  A new breed of Citizen Hero:
You have to marvel at the insanity of conflicted values and attitudes that reside in the minds of the average American.  They profess to being inclusive and  freedom loving, and yet they are constantly at war with foreign cultures they consider scary or simply unwilling to embrace Star-Spangled modes of living. They profess to being patriotic and fair-minded, a yet they are clearly divided by racial, political and economic  fault-lines.  "Civil War" is openly discussed, and indeed it was the screaming headline of one New York tabloid paper this morning.  Private Micah Xavier Johnson was "proud" to serve his country in a foreign war, but he was equally proud to avenge "his people" by waging war on the Dallas Police.  Philando Castile was obviously a model-American with an unblemished record, but a nervous cop was feeding off of stereotypic images and paramilitary machismo, when he pulled the black couple over.  (The old "busted tail light" gambit. Sidewalk witnesses have stepped forward and posted video proving that both tail lights were functioning.)  Castile was managing food services at a Montessori school, and was trusted enough to be issued a concealed-carry permit for a handgun. The cop saw only skin colour and style of hair, and though he made the usual demands that all armed policeman expect to be complied with (if you want to live) he wasn't in the world of the rational.  He was prepared for combat... and he engaged the target. Four shots into the body of a man who complied, but still died.  Fortunately for us, and very sadly for the victim, Diamond Reynolds remained calm and bore witness to the murder, thereby saving her own life and the life of her four year old daughter in the back seat.   

There is an essay which I can almost recite from memory, because I have been teaching it for years. It is Brent Staples', "Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders his Power to Alter Public Space" (1986) in which he describes a lifetime of encounters with nervous white people, frequently using psychology to defuse dangerous situations where they might actually hurt him. He wrote, for example, "I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi" to convince nervous New Yorkers that he is not a potential mugger.Virtually every Canadian between the age of 20 - 40 has seen Michael Moore's BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, so we know well his oft-stated thesis that the U.S. media actively promotes a fear of American Black men. Several recent dash-cam and cellphone videos have documented extreme over-reaction of police officers, especially when their victims are not instantly cowed by "lawful authority". Well we have just been exposed to extraordinary evidence of a rogue cop in action - a recording that I believe is of permanent and historic significance. Diamond Reynolds' ten-minute FACEBOOK video contributes to a visual-history of her country, and it equates to the 8mm Zapruder film that documented President Kennedy's murder in Dallas in 1963.  

Zapruder film - JFK assassination - Jackie climbs back

On first viewing, I was of course immensely impressed by Ms. Reynold's handling of the situation. She didn't whistle a happy tune, but did work calmly and valiantly to dissipate the cop's rage, and thereby deny him any excuse to empty the rest of his clip into her face. (She also was communicating with family and friends - a posse of witnesses assembled online.)  Had the officer known he was on live-stream, he might have shot her too, and worked with his buddies to fabricate a cover story. What really made me angry, angry enough to want to go after that insane cop myself, was that AFTER he realized his criminal mistake (He screams, literally screams, "Why did you make me do that!") he did not holster his fucking pistol and attempt to give the victim first aid. Three more cops arrive and continue to treat the victim as dog shit.  Four men trained in first-aid were on scene, and they just let Castile bleed out.  How many times have we witnessed video of cops, swarming like hornets around a single target,  continuing to aim weapons at a body riddled by bullets, and even hand-cuffing the dead body?  

On the battlefield when the enemy has been overcome, they are entitled to medical attention, and most soldiers will honour the international laws regulating warfare.  Again and again we see evidence that Black men in the U.S. are often denied the same basic rights of an enemy combatant.  Micah Johnson, from Mesquite, Texas had served in Afghanistan, and when he came home he was disgusted by the hypocrisy of the American value system, and I am equally sure, the hypocrisy of a Black president who has done virtually nothing to alleviate the carnage on American streets.  He, Barack Hussein Obama, has presided over the arming of police departments big and small, with armoured vehicles, machine guns and surveillance drones - all of which will be used to monitor, control and frequently murder American citizens. Shame on him.  Legacy?  Another lying lawyer  come and gone.  

Dallas P.D. - robot used to kill armed suspect July 8, 2016
The Dallas P.D. adapted a bomb-disposal robot to DEPLOY
a bomb - killing their sniper suspect Micah Xavier Johnson.
Homeland Security funding is turning America into a battlefield.

Summer 2016 - Stay away from the U.S.A.
So where do we go from here?  Well, like most Canadians, I enter the U.S. at least once or twice a year, usually to shop for antiques (photos and heritage documents)  and share an interesting meal. For most of my life I put America up on a pedestal, openly praising its political system and its respect for rights and liberties.  All of that changed with 9/11, and certainly with the creation of "Department of Homeland Security".  All of sudden a simple trip into America is a scary proposition, even for a 9th generation Canadian with pink skin and a spotless record.  I am totally deaf in one ear, and sometimes misinterpret what is said to me, if their is background noise. I can easily imagine the fatal consequences of being pulled over by a heavily armed American cop, and failing to follow his threatening instructions - precisely and with exaggerated care.  This is going to be an exceptionally violent summer in the U.S.  and I plan to stay home on the sane side of the border. You should too.

SMOKING GUN - the Obligatory Update:

Saint Anthony, Minnesota Police - Servicing Falcon Heights

A website called HEAVY.COM has a recording made by a civilian who was monitoring Saint Anthony, Minnesota police radio calls, the night of the of the Philando Castile deadly shooting incident in Falcon Heights.   Television station KARE11 broadcast a report that lays a transcript over the audio recording:

Officer Geronimo Yanez reveals his motive to Police Dispatch

This  montage is assembled from audiovisual elements produced by HEAVY.COM  and KARE11  Television in Minnesota. 

Philando Castile shooting - audio transcript of police traffic

In the mind of Officer Yanez, motor vehicle operator Philandro Castile fit the profile of a robbery suspect, so he felt entitled to pull him over and point a heavy automatic pistol in his face. 

Philando Castile - audio of police check-stop in St. Anthony, Minnesota

Down in Mesquite, Texas, Private Micah X. Johnson, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, was already stewing over the most recent incidents of police brutality perpetrated on Black American men.  He snapped, and decided to go out for some bloody revenge.  What happens next?

Update 2:  via Live Leak   The body of Micah X. Johnson amid the debris, after Dallas Police detonated one pound of C4 plastic explosive carried into the garage by a Robot.
Body of Dallas sniper - Micah X. Johnson, after police detonated C4 bomb

There was an interesting piece in the New York Times today that describes "Bulletproof Warrior", a training seminar that officer Geronimo Yanez had attended. It pretty much explains how snap-shooting of suspects has become something of a conditioned-response for nervous police officers who are convinced they are in the "Front Line" of a war-equivalent situation.

Bullet Proof Warrior - an article in the New York Times

If you cannot access the New York Times article, try the Minneapolis Star-Tribune article, (JULY 12, 2016) which lead the investigation into the company (Calibre Press) providing combat training to law enforcement personnel.

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