I updated this post given all that’s been going on in the world. Read on:
This isn’t the usual kind of article I write. It’s a bit different.
Because of that, I’m going to ask for your patience: please read until the end before you form an opinion or comment (we’ll get back to that.)
I’ll explain my reasons why and some more thoughts about all this afterward.
First take a look at this example of police brutality during the arrest of a black man, for no apparent reason.
What do you see here in this disgusting video?
A couple of things:
- The officer violently takes the man down. Like a coward, he grabs the man from behind and yanks him brutally to the ground.
- His partner shows up and goes crazy. He starts beating the crap out of the poor black man with his night stick. It’s insane!
- They almost crushed him to death. They ram their knees into him so hard he almost gets crushed. The poor black man cries for help, he’s clearly in fear of his life.
- They should be thrown in prison. These officers are clearly incompetent and could have killed that man.
I’m sure you are feeling outraged and angry right now.
Before you go on, it’s important that you watch it again, including the longer version, with more details of what the officers did. Watch it all the way to the end!
Why do this?
I saw the video of this incident and immediately thought two things:
- In a different context, people would scream “police brutality!!!” over the arrest.
- I don’t believe any TV network would ever air the full video of the incident. TV and social media are about views and clicks. Not truth or nuance.
You’d think that after all these years, people would know better as to just blindly believe everything you see in a video online. They don’t.
We’ve been conditioned to be outraged all the time thanks to social media and then news. Why? Because the rise of the internet changed everything re. news and journalism. For the long explanation (and I urge you to read it…) go here.
For the short one, this is how news used to work:
How news works nowadays:
This has been going on for years and as a consequence, it has achieved several things:
- TL;DR became almost the norm. People’s attention spans are reduced to almost nothing.
- Something can go viral in an instant. The retraction when it turns out to be false hardly ever gets the same attention.
- Nuanced discussion is impossible. Despite the fact that this is exactly what is needed.
This isn’t rocket science, it’s like a bad magic trick. Once you know how it works, you see it everywhere. Example:
One of the ways you can manipulate an audience is by framing things. In short: you present the information in such a way that it influences the audience to reach the conclusions you want them to.
That’s exactly what I did here above.
- I made two separate videos and uploaded them on Youtube. The first is an edited version of the original video: I cut everything, except the arrest. That way you have no idea what happened before, there is no context anymore.
- I made inflammatory credits: The video begins with “Police Brutality” in a large font. I then set up a filter through which I want people to view the footage by writing “Black man gets arrested for no reason.” This phrase implies that the officers are racist and are harassing the man. There is absolutely no proof of that in this short clip, but it sets your mind on your way to accepting that narrative.
- I cut on the sweet spot. Just as the man is screaming for help, you hear the guy making the video say “This is crazy.” This reinforces the notion that something completely wrong is going on.
- I frame the article:
- Before showing you the video, I introduce it as an “example of police brutality during the arrest of a black man, for no apparent reason.” This sets the tone and creates prejudice for the viewer.
- Afterward, I keep going with emotionally charged descriptions. I use words like “disgusting”, “coward”, “brutally”, “crazy”, “poor black man, “insane,” etc. None of these are necessary to describe the video. They are an interpretation of it, a biased one.
- I offer a conclusion. I claim the officers should be thrown in prison for incompetence. In essence, I give you the final element to make up your mind about the incident.
I’m being a bit heavy-handed about it all, but not a lot. I’ve seen descriptions like this (and a whole lot worse) thousands of times on the internet and even in prestigious newspapers. This has become the norm.
Now for the experiment part of this:
I opened both videos for comments.
Notice how in the description I repeatedly say where there is more information. In both videos and even in the text here above, I hand the viewers the tools to get more details and form an informed opinion.
Despite all that, people still commented before watching everything and it shows…
This is the norm, not the exception.
Back to the incident:
What do we know?
Bear in mind that we weren’t there and this is all just an opinion, but as far as we can tell, this is what goes on in the complete version:
- There seems to be an accident. It looks like the black man was in a car accident with the red truck. You hear somebody yelling “call the cops” right before he climbs out of his window.
- He becomes aggressive. He starts walking about, cursing, and hits the back of the red truck that drives by.
- It escalates. He goes into the kitchen of what looks like a restaurant and starts trashing the place. At one point, he grabs a knife and stabs the fridge (or some shelves, can’t quite see it) with it. Then he trashes the place some more before he walks out into the street.
- The police show up. The officer talks to the man, but he is unresponsive. He draws his taser and talks some more. The man keeps on ranting.
- The taser doesn’t work. The officer fires the darts and you can hear the charge going off repeatedly, but it has no effect (There’s a lesson here…)
- He becomes more aggressive. He steps up to the officer in a threatening manner. The camera then loses the action for a bit, but it looks like somebody else takes a swing at the guy. The officer goes for the takedown when the man goes after his attacker.
That’s what I think you can safely say about this incident.
Did the man “deserve” to be arrested.
I looks like it.
He broke several laws, threatened people, threatened an officer, was unresponsive and erratic and it looks like he was drunk/high/mentally unstable.
Was this police brutality?
I don’t think so.
The officer took him down after the taser failed several times, his partner distracted him with the taps to the shin, they flipped him onto his stomach and took control positions to cuff him. When they sat him up for the search, he didn’t seem injured.
Now contrast this second description and bullet list with the first one I gave you at the beginning of this post. I don’t think it’s unfair to say the second one is more nuanced and accurate. It also changes EVERYTHING about the initial narrative…
I’m becoming a grumpy old man, because a lot of things annoy me. The crap the media pulls with incidents like this is high on that list. Journalists and program directors who cut up and write their pieces like I did here in the beginning are full of it and they know it. They understand full well how they’re manipulating the audience and it’s shameful.
The knee-jerk reactions people have to such footage is not that annoying, but it saddens me. It’s sad to see (sometimes even otherwise intelligent) people go with their gut reaction and fire comments from the hip. If you’re an adult in today’s world, it isn’t exactly secret information that the media pull these stunts. It’s not like you can’t use your brain and go “wait a minute…” and look for more information before making sweeping statements about how outraged and horrified you are about an incident. Even worse is when you then take action to vilify and actually harm (in this case) the officers who just did their job.
To me, all that is profoundly sad.
We apparently live in an age where having an opinion is more important than having an informed one, which seems like embracing stupidity to me. There’s nothing wrong with saying things like:
“I don’t know.”
“I’m not sure about this.”
“Let me think about it.”
Especially if you don’t have all the facts. As is the case in almost every single one of these kinds of videos…
So this whole article is my small effort to raise awareness of this issue.
What do I expect will come from this?
Nothing, really. But don’t pretend this doesn’t matter or has any relevance to how society functions.
The world is burning all around us because of this…
To be clear:
If you comment that:
- Black/white/brown/yellow/green/blue/whatever lives matter.
- All cops are pigs anyway.
- Framing works both ways.
- Police brutality does exist and let me show you this outrageous example!
- I’m an asshole.
- Your cause is important.
Then you are missing the point in spectacular fashion.
And as far as I’m concerned, you are then part of the problem.