Media Weaponization and the Collapse of Law and Order
The conviction of former Minneapolis Police Office Derek Chauvin for murder last month represented for the US criminal justice system what the recent elections represented for US democracy.
In the first place, what happened inside the courtroom itself defies legal explanation. As Ryan Fatica points out in Ill Will, until the Chauvin trial, the relevant judgment for police use of force was Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). The case established the “objective reasonableness standard,” whereby the culpability of an officer hinges on the question: “given the facts known at the time, would a similarly trained and experienced officer respond in a similar fashion?” This standard has evidently now been discarded. The fact of the matter is Chauvin followed standard procedure and Fatica is correct to observe that the prosecution was lying in painting him as a uniquely bad cop.
Chauvin was convicted not merely of manslaughter, but of two counts of murder, that is, the jury found that it was beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to kill Floyd, and also, that he accidentally killed him. The prosecution did not even attempt to present evidence to support the first charge, or articulate a possible motive for it. Footage from Chauvin’s bodycam, which showed him kneeling on Floyd’s back, not his neck, was ignored. Evidence from the Minneapolis coroner which showed that Floyd died from a heart attack with a fatal level of fentanyl in his system was disregarded.
Events outside the courtroom were just as extraordinary as events inside it. Before the trial began, the City of Minneapolis agreed to pay twenty-seven million dollars in compensation to Floyd’s next of kin, effectively preempting the legal process. As the jury deliberated, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters flew to Minneapolis and told protesters camped outside the courthouse, itself already effectively intimidation, that they will need to get “more active” and “more confrontational” in the event of a not-guilty verdict. The person currently occupying the White House later echoed her statements. “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict,” Joe Biden told reporters, “Which I think it’s overwhelming in my view.” Both represented clear interference into the US judiciary and plausible grounds for declaring a mistrial.
The martyrological significance that Floyd has acquired always rendered the possibility of a fair trial remote. In the wake of the verdict, Nancy Pelosi alluded to this side of the issue in an astonishing speech in which she thanked Floyd for his own death, and claimed his name would henceforth be synonymous with justice. Later, one member of the jury, Brendon Mitchell, was revealed to have participated in a BLM protest against police violence in August before the beginning of the trial, despite answering his voir dire questionnaire to the contrary. An alternate juror, Lisa Christensen, had already spoken of her fear that a not guilty verdict might lead to a repeat of the mob violence which convulsed US cities last year. “I did not want to go through rioting and destruction again,” Christensen said, “and I was concerned about people coming to my house if they were not happy with the verdict.”
These fears were well-grounded. A few days before the verdict, a bloody pig’s head was delivered to the former home address of Barry Brodd, an ex-California police office who testified for the defense that he believed that Chauvin acted lawfully to restrain a non-compliant suspect. By contrast, a fundraiser set-up for witnesses who testified against Chauvin has now raised almost three-quarters of a million dollars to help them overcome the trauma of participating in the trial.
What all this adds up is the subordination of the American justice system to political, and even quasi-religious criteria. Racial conflict is fundamental to what’s happening, but not the cause: in reality, conflict is being cynically intensified through a political divide and conquer strategy.
Black Americans are not the beneficiaries. Murders rose by a record-setting 30% from 2019 to 2020 in the aftermath of the incendiary media coverage of the death of Floyd as police officers “retreated to the donut shops” rather than continue to attempt patrolling under pressure. Under the slogan of ‘defunding the police’, the right to law and order is today being withdrawn from middle-class and working-class Americans of every race: this policy is overwhelmingly rejected by a majority of black Americans.
Wealthy Americans will turn to private security. Everyone else will be abandoned to their own devices, or become prey for a predatory system which is deteriorating into a scapegoat mechanism. The recent experience of Sergeant Jonathan Pentland, whose effort to protect his community from a mentally unwell young man who was molesting his neighbors has resulted in his own arrest provides a vision of the future. The police are defunded, and community self-defense is illegal. What are Americans supposed to do?
The rest of the West is exposed to the same dynamic. Five days before Chauvin’s conviction in Minneapolis, Kobili Traoré was escaping trial in Paris for the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi. High on cannabis at the time of the murder, and in the throes of a psychotic episode in which he believed he was possessed by the devil, as Marc Weitzmann puts it “Traoré’s… sense of self… seems to have been overwhelmed by a syncretic belief in witchcraft made of animist magic, voodoo, unspecified superstition, and Islamic exorcism.”
Traoré represents a kind of analogue for a psychotic West, likewise riven by syncretic superstitions, paranoia, demonology and cults. The judgment that he cannot be held criminally responsible for his actions is itself an abnegation of responsibility, or the confirmation of one, and an alienation of political authority to technocratic expertise.
If Traoré is not guilty, then who is? The impossibility of answering this question from within a contemporary framework emphasizes the degree to which the principle of Western sovereignty as embodied in the exercise of justice has deteriorated. Metastasizing social codes and groundless governmental regulations, the growing power of mob rule, and the proliferation of ideologically determined compound terms like hate crime and social justice are all symptoms of this situation. What these terms express is an intensifying inability in grasping the idea of justice itself.
This deterioration is also expressed in the chimera of ‘Islamo-Leftism’ which was recently declared a public enemy in France, and the negative theology of ‘Islamophobia’ which has secured a foothold in the United Kingdom. Both these terms refer less to Islam and more to the synthetic Western discourse which has emerged from the post-1968 marriage of bureaucracy, utopianism, corruption, political repression, and sexual liberation which has developed in tandem with mass migration into Europe from the Muslim world.
What a schizoid West today conceives as Islam and projects onto Muslims, not just in fantasy, is an internal pseudo-theological production, corresponding to something like Eric Voegelin’s description in the New Science of Politics of John Calvin’s Institutes as a gnostic koran. What the West conceives as Islam is likewise a gnostic Islam, even a parody of Islam, which admits no possibility of difference, and therefore no possibility of a genuine encounter.
By transposing spiritual questions into sociological categories indexed as an axis of repression, a contemporary Western fanaticism persuades itself that Islam is in crisis as it doubles downs on the deranged and suicidal anthropology it sees reflected in an alterior Islamic mirror.
Buried underneath the coverage of so-called Asian grooming gangs in Northern England, behind the euphemistic prohibitions which slyly whisper simple answers, is the truth that mass sexual violence in Rotherham and elsewhere was not only actively abetted by local political authorities, but responded to the situation which they manufactured: a society which not only failed to keep families and communities together, but had actively destroyed them, just as black families were bureaucratically destroyed in the United States to prime the current crime wave.
The ongoing proxy war over representing Mohammed, as if drawing cartoons of Mohammed was a Western tradition, is the fetish of this conflict; a decoy for uneasy liberals in denial about the crypto-religious substrate of their own discourse. How many journalists insisting on the right to draw cartoons of Mohammed would defend the right to holocaust denial or racist cartoons?
France is now facing pressure demanding justice for Halimi from an international coalition including former NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and public intellectual Bernard Henri-Levi. Any comparable movement for Chauvin would be repressed by political authorities and doxxed by secret police journalists like Jason Wilson, who last month published hacked materials from a crowdfunder set-up to support Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager now facing trial for shooting and killing two Antifa rioters who attacked him in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.
Despite blocking the New York Post before the US election by claiming that their scoop on Hunter Biden contravened a policy against publishing hacked material, Twitter and Facebook saw no contradiction in permitting Wilson and the Guardian to promote the story. Individuals caught in the dragnet included Virginia police office William Kelly, who lost his job after donating $25 and a paramedic in Utah who was doorstepped by local news crew after donating $10.
This kind of weaponization of the media for political intimidation is now increasingly routine in the West, along with using Antifa front groups for deniable political surveillance. What it represents is an accelerating collapse in civic norms and the possibility of a public sphere. Writing of Halimi, Bernard Henri-Levi correctly sums up the international mood: “We are witnessing the collapse not just of the prosaic meaning of ‘law and order’, but the collapse of the spirit of a nation’s laws and its language, the way we order the relation between ourselves and that which gives our lives purpose, meaning, and strength.” It should be seen as the duty of every man of good faith to defend this spirit at all costs.