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Post"I Can't Breathe" and George Floyd (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 10/06/20 4:34 am)
Gary Moore writes:
My thanks to Brian Blodgett (October 3rd) for his considerate words on my October 3 post about "video forensics" (and again a nod to John Linnaeus Eipper for the typology), on incidents ranging from Atlanta to, notably, the George Floyd case.
Brian noted that he had not seen prior mention in the press that the "I can't breathe" exclamations by Floyd, central to early interpretations of what was thought to have happened, in fact reflected a time-tested slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement, pre-dating Floyd's use of it. The body-camera videos show Floyd exclaiming the phrase, repeatedly, even before he was on the ground or in any position to be choked (and as I said, he was never choked at all, except by fluid in his lungs swelling them to nearly twice natural size, apparently from abuse of multiple drugs). Like Brian, I had been unaware prior to the Floyd events that the BLM movement was using that phrase, but I was not in the commensurate circles, which include professional basketball. Below is a photo demonstrating the prevalence.
Floyd, six-feet-four, was a former college basketball player (though he dropped out of that program, perhaps in his earliest brush with drug problems, which were apparent not long afterward). He would have been interested in the post-2014 venues showcasing the phrase, well before his fatal tragedy of May 25, 2020.
During a blind period of more than a month, the police body-camera videos on the Floyd events were withheld from public view by Minnesota authorities, who heavily bought into the police choking explanation, and perpetuated it by their suppression of information that they, non-publicly, knew to be true. As an example of how widely the choking explanation then continued to hold sway, the New York Times of June 25, 2020, ran an opinion piece by the head of the psychology department of Columbia University saying that Floyd's death could not have been drug-related because he had only "a negligible amount of drugs in his system." This was an extraordinary squeezing of evidence to suit belief, somewhat as St. Thomas could write ninety pages on the lives of angels because he was sure the Bible is literally true.
The 11 ng/mL that a reliable and credible autopsy found in Floyd's blood was enough to have killed some people three times over--even though in a hardened user of great physical size it might have been only "toxic" and not necessarily "lethal," if found alone. Synergy in the laundry list of other drugs found in Floyd's system, in smaller amounts, dropped the fatality threshold on the fentanyl down to around 7 ng/mL--and even this may have taken a back seat to Floyd's remarkably diseased and fragile heart, one of whose arteries was almost entirely blocked. The New York Times piece held, with palpable self-righteousness, that the 11 ng/mL of fentanyl didn't count because the body redistributes fentanyl levels after death. The writer should have had enough knowledge to know that the blood taken within an hour of Floyd's death would not have appreciably redistributed. This was only one of various fleeting arguments in the piece that quickly retrenched to others if scrutiny might intrude.
As it turns out, the writer of the piece had in youth a felony record a bit like Floyd's, but pulled himself up from street life to success in academia--the kind of successful trajectory the Black Lives Matter movement seems to posit as impossible in supposedly racist America--and in this case a trajectory that publicly took complex turns in opinions on substance abuse. But it was the New York Times itself, not the writer the Times selected, that was squeezing and drastically limiting evidence on Floyd's death in order to fit an apparently appealing belief, by using a second voice in a superficially deniable opinion piece, to endorse what was basically a favored superstition.
Even after the body camera footage on the Floyd incident was finally pried loose, the desirability of the myth, Demon Cops In Demon America, stayed strong in many quarters by either rationalizing or ignoring each new and inconvenient revelation, somewhat as Creationism approaches paleontology. And thus, yes, it is not unthinkable that objective discourse in our emerging era--on a narrow but explosively influential range of emotionally loaded issues--may not be the timelessly unshakeable pillar often assumed after the Enlightenment of the 1700s, but instead may be in a position a bit more like earlier advocates of objective evidence--who were isolated and obscure in a time when St. Thomas's angels seemed everywhere fervently confirmed.
JLE comments: Demon Cops in Demon America: is there any way the nation can unpack this belief using critical objectivity? What I mean is, if you're one of "us" (or "them"), you accept the myth as fact. If you're one of "them" (or "us") then you put up a Blue Lives Matter sign and refuse to see room for improvement--or even to acknowledge that bad apples with badges actually do exist.
(Gary, I am tickled by my new middle name.)