05 January 2021

Chilling Effect

Okay, the authorities did (kind of) what I expected, at any rate. No charges are to be filed against the officer who shot a man at point-blank range in front of the children and left him paralyzed. On the other hand the guy who opened fire on a crowd, killing two men and injuring a third, is being charged for something—which I didn’t expect. The first is par for the course. I’ve seen the story play out over and over again. An officer of the law kills somebody—maybe a kid playing with a toy gun, maybe some guy standing by his own house who didn’t show the proper deference—and people are upset. First thing the police do is try to blame the victim—maybe the kid playing with the gun had once been accused of shoplifting, or the guy by his house had an outstanding warrant on an old charge of jaywalking or something. And we learn that the officer was only following orders, was within the departmental guidelines, was doing as he was trained to do. Then upset members of the community are described as rioters, and acts of vandalism by unknown parties are turned into major infractions of the law. Maybe we hear noises about new training for officers, or some sort of new review board to be set up. The authorities announce that the officer in question will be returning to his job, and the officer himself says that if the same situation comes up again he will do the exact same thing. And pundits editorialize about how terrible it is that police officers can no longer shoot unarmed civilians without a big fuss being made over it, and how this will have a chilling effect on police shooting unarmed civilians in the future, and we can’t have that, you know. And everybody forgets about it except maybe the friends and family of the dead. And then the clueless seem puzzled when a slogan like “defund the police” starts making the rounds. “What could have brought that on?” they ask. “Isn’t that kind of extreme?”

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