Monday, October 27, 2014

Movement Conservatism, White Racial Paranoia, and the Killing of Michael Brown

The civet cat lives in the jungles of Indonesia. It enjoys eating coffee berries. However, the civet cat’s stomach is incapable of digesting them. The beans are subsequently excreted in the feces of the animal. Treated and “flavored” by the civet cat’s anal glands, the beans are highly prized by coffee aficionados, selling for 600 dollars a pound.

Picking through the political feces that are the comments sections on Right-wing propaganda websites such as The Blaze is not as lucrative. But, the process is very important for what it reveals about the worldview and ideology of movement conservatism.

Research in sociology, political science, and psychology has revealed that those with “conservative” political personality types see the world in binary and simplistic terms, are intolerant of ambiguity, more afraid of social change, highly deferent to authority, and have brains that are more highly attuned to feelings of fear and threat.

Conservative authoritarians are also much more likely to be racist, prejudiced, and xenophobic.

The Right-wing media machine is typified by “epistemic closure”. The self-reinforcing (and fictitious) narratives of the Right-wing media, when combined with selective information processing and cognitive bias by conservatives, has created an alternate world—one that is immune from the standards and facts that govern empirical reality.

Faith is a belief in that which cannot be proven by ordinary means; the Right-wing media is the temple at which movement conservatives fanatically pray and worship. The media elites and politicians of the American right speak in tongues to their congregation. To outsiders, this speech is gibberish and madness. For the Right-wing faithful, such acts are divine and prophetic.

Conservatives’ political personality traits, media, and a predisposition towards both implicit and explicit bias animus towards non-whites is crystallized in their response to the killing of Michael Brown and other unarmed black people such as Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Jordan Davis.

The American Right-wing’s defense of those who kill black people ranges from a barbaric and instinctive impulse towards homicidal ideation (as seen by those who defend Darren Wilson and have donated money to him as a form of bounty or prize for the new age lynching of Michael Brown) to a more mundane and quotidian belief that black people are a race of criminals, and it is best for “public safety” that the police and other representatives of the state treat African-Americans in a prejudicial and unfair way.

This continuum of behavior is an example of white racist paranoiac thinking.

White racist paranoiac thinking is dangerous and noxious because it devalues the lives of black and brown people, legitimates violence and cruelty by whites against non-whites, and twists the ethics, reasoning, thought processes, and morality of white folks in order to support unconscionable deeds.

The Right-wing (and mainstream) media have provided many notable examples of white racist paranoiac thinking (and of course acknowledging how the race-crime frame dominates the American news media writ large on a day-to-day basis).

Several decades ago, the videotaped beating of Rodney King was twisted and distorted by the White Gaze so that the victim was somehow a threat to the many police officers who savaged him.

When Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, white racist paranoiacs and their allies spun a story where Martin was somehow “armed” with iced tea and the sidewalk: this was a provocation for the hunter Zimmerman to stalk and kill his prey Trayvon.

The thug cop Darren Wilson is made into a victim by white racial paranoia as the “giant” Michael Brown was “armed” with his “big, black, scary self” and despite multiple witness accounts that he had surrendered, and was not a threat after being repeatedly shot, somehow Wilson was “in fear for his life” and within his rights to shoot Brown in the head and face as a type of street vigilante by cop coup de grace.

These are examples of an aggregate process in American society. It is rare that one news item or editorial offers a self-contained example of white racist paranoiac thinking as a process of motivated reasoning and subsequent distorting of the facts.

In that regard, The Blaze's recent piece "New Claims Made by Grand Jury Witness Who Says He Saw Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson From Start to Finish", is an ideal typical case.

The beginning of The Blaze's story presents some of the recent facts and “revelations” from a “black witness” to the encounter between Wilson and Brown (as likely leaked by the Ferguson prosecutor’s office):
An Ohio resident has reportedly revealed new details to the grand jury currently weighing a case against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The unidentified witness claims to have seen the Brown shooting from start to finish. 
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the eyewitness recalled four key details 
• After an initial scuffle in the car, the officer did not fire until Brown turned back toward him.
• Brown put his arms out to his sides but never raised his hands high.
• Brown staggered toward Wilson despite commands to stop.
• The two were about 20 to 25 feet apart when the last shots were fired. 
The man’s account differs some with other Ferguson residents who have claimed that Brown’s hands were up in the air when he was shot and that he was running away from the officer the entire time.
Here, the framing is highly sympathetic--as is expected from a Right-wing muckraking site such as The Blaze--towards Darren Wilson.

The Blaze's story concludes with the conclusion by the “new” witness that:
After going over the entire incident in his head, the witness said he believes that Wilson is guilty of murder. "It went from zero to 100 like that, in the blink of an eye. … What transpired to us, in my eyesight, was murder. Down outright murder,” he added. 
The comments on "New Claims Made by Grand Jury Witness Who Says He Saw Shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson From Start to Finish" are very revealing: they show how white racial paranoiac thinking, as well as the cognitive and political personality traits of conservatives, combine to selectively filter information…a process amplified by the interplay of race, crime, and racial animus in the case of the Ferguson incident.

Here, the witness’s conclusion that Wilson murdered Michael Brown is utterly discounted and ignored, while the leading “facts” are unequivocally embraced to fit a prior belief. 

Some examples:
1. What transpired was Officer Wilson stopping a threat that was an obvious danger to him. The public needs to know of Force Science and the dynamics of a violent, rapid encounter such as this. Everything factual stated by this “black” witness completely exonerates Officer Wilson. Brown physically fought Wilson & a shot was fired inside the police car. Brown ran. Wilson ordered Brown to stop. Brown physically came at Wilson a second time. Wilson discharged his firearm to stop Brown’s threat. Brown, despite an apparent gunshot wound, continued his threatening actions towards Wilson. Wilson fired again to stop Brown’s threat until, in fact Brown was stopped.

After going over the entire incident in his head, the witness said he believes that Wilson is guilty of murder. “It went from zero to 100 like that, in the blink of an eye. … What transpired to us, in my eyesight, was murder. Down outright murder,” he added.


2. I agree with your assessment 100%, however, after reading many responses, I believe some clarification is in order.

Body language is critical in this case. As Brown had already proven that he was quite capable of overpowering Officer Wilson, near instantaneous assessment of his every movement is a matter of life or death. any have interpreted hands out as being the same as hands up. There is a huge difference in the expressed body language when all factors are taken into consideration. Arms out to the side with the palms forward is anything but a submissive posture. Couple that posture with approaching, and refusing to comply when told to stop should be considered as extremely aggressive.

Doubters can deny it if they want, but look at Hollywood… Film is edited down to the slightest facial tick as the tiniest misplaced gesture at a crucial moment changes the entire storyline of the movie.

Simply, if you submit, you stand still with your hands up. To approach with hands to the side and out is a classical aggressive approach of someone that intends to overpower… It is the fighting posture of a wrestler.

Officer Wilson, commanding the perpetrator to stop was right to stop the approach of Michael Brown… especially when there was a second possible threat withe the presence of his friend.

3. exactly. First off, the store incident was enough and it brings the fact the Brown was being defiant from the onset leaving the store. Then defiant more in the police car. Otherwise, why and how did a shot go off inside of the police car. I do not see any police officer shooting up the inside of his car for no reason. Then Brown turning around walking towards Wilson with that “whatchya gonna do” gesture after Wilson told him to stop Everyone knows what that gesture is with a pimp stride in it. That showed further defiance. I do not see how it can be called “murder” from the sounds of what this witness side.  
4. By the way, shooting a fleeing felon is also allowed, and is not murder. Even if he was shot in the back of the head while he was running away, still justified.

5. Not just the dynamics of the first violent encounter, but the officer had his eye socket shattered, his bell was probably rang pretty badly from the impact, and his weapon had discharged during the struggle. He was most likely trying to recover from all this during the ensuing encounter. I wonder if anyone has addressed how this might have affected his eyesight or perception. If there were any adverse affects they were the responsibility of the deceased. We can only work with the tools we have. Any benefit of the doubt I will give to the officer.

6. Trying to follow this article is confusing to a rational person. As I read the “witness” account, it sure sounds like a case of self-defense to me. Then the article ends with the witness saying it was clearly murder to him. If it went from zero to 100 for the witness, think how fast it was going for officer Wilson. Also, if Wilson fired the first shot (or was it a shot fired in a struggle for the gun in the car?), why would he holster his weapon and then unholster it when the Gentle Giant turned to him and would not follow repeated commands to stop? Only because the officer felt his life was in danger from an out-of-control thug who refused to stop his attack / aggression towards the officer. But to the Black Klan (BK), what matters is it was a white officer and a black thug. If there was a video and audio making it perfectly clear Wilson was a victim of Big Mike, there would be denial from the BK.
These comments, selected from several hundred that are similar in tone and reasoning, exemplify the power of disinformation and propaganda, authoritarianism, white victimology, homicidal ideation, an embrace of the culture of cruelty, as well overt and covert racism that are common to movement conservatism in the Age of Obama.

As such, they are not a surprise.

What is important is that the deranged thinking of movement conservatives is not isolated to excuse-making and racial paranoia as a means of legitimating the killing of unarmed black and brown people by police and other white identified authorities. Rather, it envelops other matters of public concern that include the environment, economy, health care, tax policy, civil liberties, reproductive rights, international affairs, and other issues.

Extreme partisanship, polarization, and the alternate reality that has been created by the Right-wing media machine are on full display in how the White Right has responded to the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson. Unfortunately, the bundle of attitudes, beliefs, and values that are central to white racist paranoiac thinking are also a threat to the common good more generally.

As with Michael Brown, the killing of a black person at least every 28 hours in the United States by police (and other white identified authorities) is an issue of race, crime, class, and justice. It is also a basic and fundamental human rights issue.

The culture and forces of cruelty, white victimology, and racism that defend and celebrate such acts of civic evil are the same elements which have broken America’s systems of government, and thus created a crisis of legitimacy in the country’s civic culture. 

I have written extensively about the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson; I will continue to do so in the future. Why?

In truth-telling about the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, we are exposing the reality of a society in which our civil liberties, freedoms, and basic rights to life, liberty, safety, and security are under threat. 

Michael Brown’s body lay in the street as an act of racial terrorism by the Ferguson police against the African-American community.

His body was also a living, and now dead, symbol of a civic culture that is under threat by white supremacy, the culture of cruelty, and a strain of movement conservatism which wants to kill “the useless eaters” by using white racial animus and paranoiac thinking to destroy any hope that there will be a just and equitable society on both sides of the color line, as well as across divides of class and wealth.

The inevitable exoneration of Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown is intended to send a message that “all hope is lost”. The question becomes, how will a “we the people” democracy respond to such callous indifference towards the lives of its black and brown citizens?


Jim Wagner said...

"Arms out to the side with the palms forward is anything but a submissive posture."

He may want to take a look up at the crucifix the next time he visits his local megachurch. Then again, this strikes me as a man who doesn't spend much time raising his eyes above ground level.

(Not that Brown's posture matters at all, of course.)

DanF said...

Running away, standing with arms out stretched, staggering left, right, forwards, backwards - none of it mattered - Mr. Brown was guilty as soon as Wilson decided to create a confrontational moment for the high-crime of walking in the street. Fucker couldn't roll down his window and say, "Hey guys, move it to the sidewalk please. Thanks and have a nice day." No. Of course he couldn't. Them boys had to be taught a lesson about respecting their betters.

drspittle said...

I read an article yesterday that was linked at Lawyers, Guns and Money which lays out the case that slavery and the Confederacy never really died and how those dynamics have manifested since the end of the Civil War. This is one of the most brilliant pieces I've read:

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I'm a vet. Our combat training included when we could legally kill and when we could not legally kill. There was a "Chu Hoi" (whatever the spelling in Vietnamese) which was essentially a call for the Viet Cong to surrender. If they came out with their hands up, they were not to be shot. Thus, after a firefight, with emotions high, they should not be shot. If captured, we could not abuse them. If we shot them after surrendering, it was a WAR CRIME. It was MURDER. You could be COURT-MARTIALED. What the fuck do the police not understand about shooting someone who is either unarmed or has surrendered????

SW said...

Damn. Great article.

chauncey devega said...

Walking while black. Brown and Johnson were in the street. Cop tells them to move rudely. They tell him to go to hell or some other version of that language. He is enraged because how dare some blacks talk to him that way. Goes back and grabs Brown, the gun was already on his lap per his own admission (it was unholstered...why? I wonder), he opens the door it bounces back, he is even more pissed and then Brown tries to block the gun, he is shot, then Wilson chases him to down to kill him. Not complicated.

chauncey devega said...

That is a great catch. Isn't that the rub, so damn righteous and religious but with no concern for fellow human beings.

chauncey devega said...

They are thug cowards who want to get a clean kill. I don't know why more of the so called "experts" are not talking about the police culture of violence, racism, and drugs. There are no small number of cops who are on steroids and other drugs. But, they kill people and are not tested. Roid rage is real. Piss poor training and damaged personality types who should not be given weapons and a badge are a recipe for disaster.

drspittle said...

Wasn't it? Though I like to pride myself on being somewhat knowledgeable about American history, I never put the malice and viciousness of today's Rethuglicans in the larger continuum.

SW said...

I really like how the author changed the frame around winning a war from Napoleonic wars to the modern Iraq war. Changing the definition of winning, makes me want to go back and read about reconstruction more closely to investigate the assertion that the Confederacy didn't really lose. I'm inclined, without further investigation to agree.

I believe it is somewhere in the WARN comment logs where the comparison is made between post-Nazi Germany and post-Confederate America, and how the symbols of the Confederacy remain in the public sphere while displaying Nazi symbols and creating shrines for Nazi commanders is illegal.

It's plausible that the Confederacy is like ISIS with a 150-year headstart.

Courtney H. said...

Brilliant article. It really opened my eyes!

The Sanity Inspector said...

It should be noted that it was not the police who falsely claimed that Wilson's eye socket was fractured, but rather a blogger unconnected to the case, whose falsehood was quickly exploded.

Ronald Pires said...

I took a shortcut walking thru a closed park one night, and a cop in a vehicle came upon me and stopped, headlights facing. As soon as I recognized that it was a cop, I lifted my hands but a couple of inches away from my sides, facing my open palms towards him. The first thing he said to me was, "You've been around the police a bit." I asked, and he said my hand gesture showed this, and it let him know I intended no harm.

So much for "anything but a submissive posture." It is exactly that, and every cop knows it.

chauncey devega said...

"Sokath, his eyes uncovered opened!"

Obligatory Star Trek: TNG moment.

chauncey devega said...

Wilson has spun some lies that he was almost knocked out, his face bruised and scratched, and that he needed to go to the hospital. Funny, no pictures on the scene depict such injuries. He was not treated by the paramedics.

And what does the police report say? Nothing. Funny ain't it? You gun someone down and don't even write a proper report. This is some KKK/police lynching/cover up mess.

He then gets his co-conspirators on the police force to go with him to the hospital later on to either 1) rough him up or 2) just provide cover for his claims.

His Facebook ally told that lie. She is down with him. Foolish story was picked up as truth by the MSM.

Got to be more critical of the hustle from Wilson Mr. Inspector.

Courtney H. said...


Carolyn Moon said...

This is one of your most detailed and thought provoking articles especially regarding the dynamics of Michael Brown's murder and unfortunately the possibility that Darren Wilson will not be charged.