SHOCKINGLY BAD TASTE: Does newest Counter-Charlie Cartoon Go Too Far?

CharbJust a week after the bloody attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, a mostly unread blogger has posted a satirical cartoon that the blog’s own author says may have gone a step too far. (The cartoon is linked here.  NOTE: This cartoon may be offensive to some viewers; it contains material that may be inappropriate for people who can’t guess what it looks like based on the photo of Charb right in front of you now. Really? Think like a twelve-year-old boy or a member of a college men’s Greek organization.)

“I insist it’s actually quite heroic because it’s really insensitive and  is bound to cause pain to friends, colleagues, and family of Charb,” said the blog’s nominal owner, Hemlock Andashes, referring to Charlie Hebdo’s slain editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, known as “Charb”. ” Along with a lot of other folks who’ve probably experienced plenty of pain already,” he added.

The just-published cartoon appears to show Charb stimulating a large penis; the ambiguous sketch and dialogue suggest that the penis may belong to Mohammad.  The cartoon also seems to inexplicably parallel a recently published picture of Charb holding up one of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial covers while giving a power-fist salute to the camera.

When asked to explain the cartoon’s point, Andashes said, “Well, it’s kind of complex in the way it uses meta-irony and stuff.  I suppose by mirroring the Charb photo with the power-fist the artist wants to comment on the question of who actually holds power–so to speak–and how satire relates to undermining that power or not. You know, that sort of thing.”

Ashes bristled at the suggestion that a French reader or supporter “Je Suis Charlie” might argue that the cartoon is simply a dumb prank and that publishing it is a cowardly cheap shot and a transparent attempt to gain attention.

“Look!  First off, people who object probably can’t understand American satire and the crucial role that cum-squirting dicks play in the proud American tradition of using vulgar, homophobic references to undermine the assumptions of power. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about solidarity with the French and shit, but your stereotypical French lefty doesn’t know shit about hardass American-style satire; Frenchy needs to grow a pair–and take a shower for christsake.  And French left women? Calm down sisters–say it don’t spray it! And, by the way, you really need to shave your area if you expect any service from a real American man. Secondly, the cartoon works because it so precisely lampoons the low artistic and comedic value so brilliantly employed by the Charlie Hebdo ouevre[1] itself.  And on top of everything, it actually honors Charb and Charlie by using a pointlessly shocking image to call attention to itself while simultaneously insulating itself form ordinary norms of decency, taste, and intelligent commentary by defining itself as satire.”

“On questions of satire, taste, and public scorn from the PC left, I’m with Ted Rall,” he asserted, referring to the RFK Journalism Award-winnin satirical cartoonist who recently wrote in defense of Charlie’s controversial cartoons. “You either get it or you don’t,” he added. “And if you don’t, then it’s a sign that you’re no different than the rest of the authoritarian censor-happy right.  Fuck off.”



[1]  Ouevre is believed to be a French word, not easily translated into English, meaning roughly, somethimg small and gross, as in ouevre douvre: a small bite of something gross to eat. “Spit that fucking thing out, Justin…Emily just told me it’s an ouevre douvre!”

Why I am not Charlie


More on Charlie from A Paper Bird. This is everything I had hoped to say!

Originally posted on a paper bird:

imagesThere is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it.  Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity. There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

To abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not…

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Je suis désolé, mais Charlie ne parle pas pour moi…

Just a few days ago, in a thoughtfully argued Daily Beast posting criticizing the “Je Suis Charlie” phenomenon, Arthur Chu wrote:

“The public discourse isn’t between people who think they ‘asked for it’ and people who don’t—it’s entirely among people who agree that the violence was unacceptable, but some of whom feel that this obligates them to elevate Charlie Hebdo to heroes and to hold up ‘Je Suis Charlie’ signs, and others who don’t.”

I’m among those who do not.

But with considerable ambivalence.

On the one hand, I believe deeply that radicals and dissidents especially need to take the principles of democratic free expression seriously and not ever acquiesce to the logic of the heckler’s veto wherein the most intolerant or the most violence-prone defenders of the status quo order determine the permissible range of discourse. Historically, radical dissent has always been the first speech to be repressed in such a setting.[1]

On the other hand, of course, that commitment often entails defending the rights of idiots, goons, and bullies to express a lot of nonsense or worse. We should be able to criticize the contents of a publication without it being necessary to add that such criticism is not equivalent to a call for censorship (even of the self-imposed variety) let alone to an endorsement of the kind of hideous violence visited on the staff of Charlie Hebdo,[2] but that’s sort of where the forced choice of the aftermath of this week’s act of barbaric violence has taken us.

So, consider all appropriate condemnations of cowardly terrorism and disclaimers about liberty of expression and so forth said. And thus said, can we move on and speak honestly about what the publication Charlie Hebdo was and was not before we all sign up for our Je Sui Charlie tee-shirts and wear them around with our chests all puffed out like little heroes of solidarity?

2011 Charlie Hebdo cover depicting a cartoon figure of the Prophet Mohammed (comically identified as this edition's "editor") with a bubble saying, "100 lashes if you're not dying of laughter."  Just one example of CH's courageous brand of brilliantly biting satire...

2011 Charlie Hebdo cover depicting a cartoon figure of the Prophet Mohammed (comically identified as this edition’s “editor”) with a bubble saying, “100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter.” Just one example of CH’s courageous brand of brilliantly biting satire…

Charlie Hebdo is not all about Islam (much of it is French Leftist flatfooted satire of a disappointingly amateurish nature), but when it takes on religion—and Islam in particular, it reveals itself as a publication with all the unfunny anti-Islamic derangement of Bill Maher on a smug, self-satisfied tear.[3]

Ranging from juvenile bathroom wall grafffandalsism to drooling hatespooge, calling this inkpuke material “satire” is like confusing Ayn Rand with a serious thinker.

Sure, no one who is not a believer should be made to feel like they are bound by the constraints of someone else’s religion (that’s one large point that is lost on the pro-life movement and supporters of Hobby Lobby). But, while I’m a big fan of lampooning the intolerance of religious fundamentalists, and I defend an atheists’ right to call religious faith stupid or dangerous (though I find such views silly and self-contradictory), I reserve the right to name extreme versions of such anti-religious expressions “hatespeech” when they cross the line into terrorizing discourse, especially when that discourse “punches down” rather than up (as Arthur Chu explicates the situation with Charlie Hebdo).

CH congratulating its own significance while mocking Europe's Muslim underclass. The Caption: "Charlie Hebdo publishes picture of Mohammed."  The balloon: "My dear, I am going down for 5 minutes, I'll get the newspaper."  Punching down.

CH congratulating its own significance while mocking Europe’s Muslim underclass. The Caption: “Charlie Hebdo publishes picture of Muhammad.” The balloon: “Dear, I am going down for 5 minutes, I will grab the newspaper.” Punching down.

And make no mistake about it, but for the risk of violent reprisal from otherwise impotent, self-styled “Jihadist” nutcases, CH’s chimpish flinging of poop in the face of Muslims in a European, French-language periodical is hardly courageous, and in no case is it any sort of tweaking of entrenched power that satire was born to dare. Honoré Daumier this ain’t.

Moreover, more than a few cartoons in Charlie have been much more than giggly uses of the image of The Prophet; they have been unmistakably anti-Islamic—not anti-Islamist in the sense of mocking or defaming the ideology of revolutionary/radicalized jihadist Islamism– but rather mocking the religion itself. Or maybe Muslims.[4]

2012 CH spoof on the incendiary American hateporn film "Innocence of Muslims", In its "satirical" rendition of the film that sparked violence across the Islamic world, the naked Muhammad  is shown (as in the actual film) posing for a pornographic movie.  The caption in the inset reads "Muhammad was born a star!"

2012 CH spoof on the incendiary American hateporn film “Innocence of Muslims”.[5] In its “satirical” rendition of the film that sparked violence across the Islamic world, the naked Muhammad is shown (as in the actual film) posing for a pornographic movie. The caption in the inset reads “Muhammad was born a star!”

CH makes constant, ambiguous use of turbaned, bearded figures that seem to deliberately blur the distinction between representing Muhammad and representing a stereotyped “Islamist”.  The slyly unstated subtext is clearly that Islam is un-French.[6] Indeed, much of CH’s anti-Islamist content could be easily mistaken for the kind of Muslim-bashing shit one might associate with the French National Front or some other European (or American) rightwing nationalist group. It is telling that the label “anti-Islamic” does not carry the same social bite in Europe or the U.S. as do “antisemitic “ or “racist”. I think the kind of self-congratulatory, Muslim-baiting shit Charlie engaged in could fairly be labeled “Euro-supremacist”.  No kidding.

So, are the writers and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo guilty of provoking their own deaths? For the love of God, NO!  We all understand that nothing they published was the motivation for behind these cult executions.  They were targeted only because they worked at a high-visibility soft target of convenient shock-value. Like the hostages the terrorists killed at the Hyper Cacher grocery in Paris, the staff at Charlie  were innocent victims of hideously intolerant religious fundamentalism used as a pretext for violent bloodlust.

But the impulse to mindlessly cry “Je Suis Charlie!” is no less absurd than acting as if watching “The Interview” is some sort of bold stroke for liberty or a defiant stance of solidarity with brave filmmaking independence.

I think we can and must mourn the tragedy of people being slain for pissing off intolerant monsters while refraining from uncritically beatifying juvenile, unfunny shockmongers as martyrs for liberal democracy. I mourn the death of this week’s victims of terrorism in Paris and I pray for comfort and healing for their families and friends.  Victims, not martyrs.



[1] Owing in large part to radicalism’s methodological reliance on deliberately transgressive discourse to illuminate the stultified, power-laden nature of the status quo assumptions embedded within the range of “reasonable” discourse.

[2] Frankly, the offending Charlie Hebdo covers are so dull they don’t even really merit an angry letter.

[3] But without Bill’s informed sophistication and nuanced subtlety on matters of religion in public discourse. (Sarcasm alert!).

[4] That’s the fun of French satire! It’s so cleverly polysemous you just can’t pin down who or what is being satirized.  But Charlie Hebdo is a lefty publication, so it couldn’t possibly be racist, could it?  No.  Just fiercely committed to pushing the limits! See?

[5] More of that clever, slippery polysemous French satire.  Are we satirizing the dangerously stupid piece of shit American  racist hatefilm? Or are we satirizing the stupid Islamic people who use violence in an intolerant and illiberal attempt to intimidate dumb (American, NOT French) would-be satirists? Who knows? So much anarchic fun!

[6] And please spare me any lectures about French laïcité; I not only admire France’s uncompromising commitment to a secular public square and the special separation of religious discourse from public debate, I believe it is precisely what that great American Francophile and Founder Thomas Jefferson had in mind for the meaning and purpose of the federal Constitution’s First Amendment version of his own Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.  HOWEVER, neither secularism nor  laïcité can legitimize anti-democratic bigotry against people of faith (as distinct from a pro-democratic insistence that people of any and all faiths must check the expression of their sacredly privileged religious beliefs at the door of public discourse.

Shocking New Reports on N. Korea’s ‘Mysterious’ Internet Crash!

Kim Jong ComcastPYONGYANG — After initial rumors circulated throughout the day suggesting the involvement of covert US counter measures in yesterday’s spate of widespread internet outages in North Korea, new reporting reveals that DPRK had recently switched their Internet service to Comcast.

Asked for official comment, one Obama Administration official who asked not to be named said, “Well, we certainly could have warned them.  But then,” he continued, “why would we?”

According to sources with claimed connections to the small inner circle of North Korean military leaders, hourly attempts by a very upset Kim Jung Un to get an accurate status report and estimated time of service restoration were routed to the Comcast call center in the Philippines.

Sources say Comcast Service Specialist “Katie” repeatedly advised the frustrated Un that North Korea could easily resolve the issue on their own by simply “power cycling” the nation’s router.

However after a team of DPRK computer engineers followed “Katie’s instructions and unplugged the internet, waited 30 seconds, then plugged the internet back in and service was not restored, an outraged Un was told he would not be able to speak to “Katie’s” supervisor,

North Korean leader Kim Jung Un explaining urgent need for restored Comcast service/

North Korean leader Kim Jung Un explaining urgent need for restored Comcast service.

Comcast policy, the dictator was informed, requires that the Service Specialist draft a “service notice” which a supervisor would respond to by phone within 24 to 48 hours.

The red-faced dictator then anxiously explained that by that time he would have missed the crucial season finale of his favorite reality show: “Great Successor and Much Beloved Father of the Free and Joyful People of Our Wondrous Workers’ Paradise Creates Unparalleled Dishes of Sophisticated Cuisine Thereby Handily Defeating A Dozen Highly Touted Yet Decadent and Corrupt Western Chefs Using Only the Lush Abundance of Tender Meats and Hearty Produce from Korea’s Vast Garden-like Collective Farms (Season Six)”

“Katie” could only apologize for “any inconvenience” experienced by North Korea and asked if Un might be interested in hearing about several new money-saving internet and cable bundles being offered by Comcast.

As “Katie” began to explain the details and advantages of the “Sports Blast Plus” bundle, an angry Un slammed down the phone and demanded his team of elite covert hackers look into ways to cripple Comcast service in the US.

Unfortunately, his team informed him, computer science offers no means by which to degrade Comcast’s service beyond its current status of incompetence.

As abroad, so too at home

As abroad, so too
Part 1


As the text of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report was unfurling in yesterday’s media, a post from Senator Elizabeth Warren popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. While I am a Warren-for-President dreamer, and the post hit all the important talking points one would hope to hear at a minimum from national spokespersons regarding the report’s findings (“transparency”, “accountability”, “face our mistakes honestly”, “our nation’s core values to preserve our role as a moral leader in the world”, and so forth), the whole message seemed somehow pro-forma, boilerplate, platitudinous.

So I was moved to reply:

Dear U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren,

Here’s what you already know:

Under torture, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi told American interrogators lies about connections between Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, and Iraq. But why did he choose that particular lie?

You also know the answer to that too.

The torture program was not ineffective. Dick Cheney put pressure on the CIA to get the goods on Iraq. Al-Libi and others were tortured not to get information. They were tortured for the same reason North Korean military agents tortured American GIs–to force them to confess.

They wanted confessions they could use for propaganda.

[An additional few hundred words belaboring the point removed…]

Let’s not pretend we can’t connect the dots just because we don’t like the picture […]

Hollywood fictional scenarios aside, torture is never used to gain information. In actual practice, torture always works. It gets results. The North Koreans weren’t after information but they got what they wanted: confessions. Torquemada got confessions. Dick Cheney got confessions. And like Torquemada and the North Koreans, Cheney used the confessions for propaganda—to sell the American people on war with Iraq.

Call for prosecution. Support ICC indictments for war crimes. We must do so, or we will all be as complicit in this rancid rot as the Staten Island grand jury is in the cover up of police execution.

We already know the truth. We’ve known it all along.

On the surface, the point of this unhinged raving was about the need for the Senator to act, not simply sermonize.

On a more fundamental level, I was angry about her agreeing to play the game of referring to the torture program run out of Cheney’s office, legally sanitized by a bogus Justice Department memo, and implemented under the direction of head of the CIA and CIA officers[1] as a “mistake”. All of which is to suggest that this episode of American abuses of human rights and violations of international law is (1) historically anomalous, and (2) a dastardly, aberrational betrayal of our real selves, our core values—chief among them the ever insisted upon Rule of Law® Made in America and Endorsed by Every American Since Washington! [2]

The first proposition is just historically unsupportable.

The second raises some serious questions about who we “really” are and what actually are our core values. Do we in fact have any actual commitments to democracy and a system that upholds the rule of law?

I was in this returned-to-my-sophomore-year-as-a-government-and-politics-student frame of mind when this Facebook blog-link headline from The Concourse caught my attention: “The American Justice System Is Not Broken”[3] .

The article, which was about the pattern of police shootings of black Americans, included this resonant observation:

If the institutions of white American power taking black lives and then exonerating themselves for it is understood as a failure to live out some more authentic American idea, rather than as the expression of that American idea, then your and my and our lives and lifestyles are distinct from those failures. We can stand over here, and shake our heads at the failures over there, and then return to the familiar business, and everything is OK. Likewise, if the individual police officers who take black lives are just some bad cops doing policework badly, and not good cops doing precisely what America has hired and trained them to do, then white Americans may continue calling the police when black people frighten us, free from moral responsibility for the whole range of possible outcomes […] There is no virtuous innermost America, sullied or besmirched or shaded by these murders. This is America. It is not broken. It is doing what it does.

It’s hard to look at but when it’s stated that clearly, it’s equally hard to just ignore.

No question, this has been a bad year for America’s self-perception. And it’s about time, for sure.

The thing is though, there’s no assurance that honest confrontation with the real implications of what we can no longer deny will lead to some better America.

What is beyond doubt, however, is that getting right with history will necessarily involve scary upheaval.

SCARY UPHEAVAL will be the subject of Part 2, soon to follow…


[1] And outsourced, just by the way, for literal execution to (you guessed it) Halliburton through its subsidiaries KBR and Blackwater. Name the next government “report” Torture for God and Profit: Dick Cheney’s Walk on the Darkside.

[2] Recall, for example, W’s many red-faced, table –pounding, cowboy-speak fulminations about our duty to enforce the rule of law on Iraq and Sadam Hussein. For that matter, recall Barack Obama’s almost worshipful Rule of Law incantations even as he (not so) secretly carried out hostile “signature” drone executions within the borders of sovereign foreign nations.

[3] Okay, so it didn’t just catch my eye. It was pointed out to me by a family member who knows both the blog’s author and me. I don’t wish to be cryptic (well, yeah, actually I do), but my sense is that the author is not entirely comfortable with cross-commenting on each other’s stuff. So, I’ll half respect his unstated (and only surmised on my part) preference.

Important Tip From NYPD: When We Choke You, Don’t Say You Can’t Breathe


Seriously.  That’s what an article in police journal, Law Officer says.

Also, Eric Garner was a fat, unhealthy nuisance.  Stop hurting policemen’s feelings.

And the comments from the “law enforcement” community and their fans are worse. Here’s one typical example from Law Officer Top Commenter,Janice Sonntag:

“…he would have died sooner than later with all of the medical problems he has,but how many times police hear, you are hurting me, the cuffs are to tight… if he would have comply with the police officers he would still be alive…and it can’t be racist because their was a black Sargent there over seeing the arrest.”

Brilliant, Ms. Sontag!

More comments here.

You Tube, Street Theater and the Suffering of the Real World


Bringing this back for today’s travesty in New York

Originally posted on Back to the Root:

So by now you’ve probably seen this video on Facebook or You Tube or somewhere.

It’s pretty funny and quite naturally people are sharing and all over the place. The kid’s just an okay magician but the thing that makes the video work is the ballsy the concept: Street kid baits uptight police officer using a bag of pot and some nifty sleight of hand, cop gets gigged like a lake trout, the whole things is captured on video and gets posted on You Tube. Hits ensue. Not bad street theater turned into social media entertainment.

When I saw this posted on Facebook, like any normal person I laughed. Then I didn’t.

Look, I don’t want to be a humorless scold; I don’t want to peddle my childhood Catholic social justice guilt where it’s not appreciated—which is pretty much everywhere. But how much can you fight your basic nature?


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Message to Serious-Minded Liberals: Shut Yer Face About Ferguson

Really Sincere Liberal Guy wishes you would seriously consider both sides of everything the way he does.

Really Sincere Liberal Guy wishes you would seriously consider both sides of everything the way he does.

All over the social media “concerned citizens” are speculating about the “truth” of whether Michael Brown was actually properly shot by Officer Wilson. And even main stream media “journalists” are playing this dumb game, as shown in this predictable and irrelevant bit of newsy vomit by Paul Cassell in the Washington Post.

Seems to me like all of this post-sham-grand jury speculation is a complete smoke screen distracting us from dealing with one obvious fact: The people of Ferguson and the family of Michael Brown deserved a competent prosecution at a trial. To my mind, the Wilson grand jury proceedings have finished due process for the black majority in Ferguson and, more broadly, for all criminal defendants in St. Louis County, Missouri. This is the only story worthy of discussion regarding the aftermath of Robert McCulloch’s odious production of Justice Theater.

McCulloch turned the Grand Jury process on its head for this particular case (see HERE for details) and in so doing opened the door to this media nonsense game wherein the public is invited to speculate as to (1) Wilson’s culpability for the gunning down of unarmed Michael Brown, and (2) unarmed Brown’s culpability for being gunned down (i.e., was Michael Brown actually a thug?).[1]

Both questions should have been placed before a jury in open court, with all the evidence and an actual prosecutor vigorously working to prove #1 and a defense attorney working just as vigorously to disprove it–probably by raising the possibility of (thus reasonable doubt arising from #2); Each bit of testimony cross-examined by an advocate, physical evidence tested by adverse experts, with a judge presiding to make sure that the far more stringent rules of a trial (cf. a grand jury ) were adhered to.

That’s all the family of Michael Brown sought. Had that happened, none of these silly other silly arguments would make any difference because we would have had a verdict that competed the due process of law.[2]

But that didn’t happen so all the “concerned citizen” contemplation of what “really” happened is idle armchair lawyering when the real question of justice lies elsewhere:

Why did McCulloch so blatantly contradict his own office’s practice in dealing with a crime suspect? (Important reminder: Wilson is the crime suspect, not Brown)

And if McCulloch’s approach in Wilson’s case (pointing out inconsistencies of his own witnesses, allowing the accused to testify in his own behalf, etc.) is correct prosecutorial practice (and attorneys throughout the Missouri Bar and indeed the nation wish it were so), why has McCulloch done just the opposite with all his other non-police suspect cases and can we expect that this will be his practice in criminal cases going forward?

Let’s all place our bets on this right now…

The due process guarantees of the Constitution require equal treatment. So, does due process exist any longer in St. Louis County? I say no.

I submit that after what has gone down in Ferguson, and with the case of Tamir Rice poised to become the next flash point over police use of force, the questions regarding how such cases are handled are the ones that deserve actual attention.[3]

I single out liberals as the target of my very real anger at how the post-sham St. Louis Co. grand jury finding has been treated because so many good friends in fact agree with what I am writing here “in principle” but say that “speaking the truth” requires dispassionate analysis of “the evidence” (which they, as good liberals, claim they know how to do). This has put me in a “scolding” frame of mind.[4]

I mean, I expected hideous crowing about “exoneration” by the political, crypto- (and not-so-crypto-) racist right, but I am far more troubled by the distanced, analytic approach my touchingly liberal friends who seem to forget that the reason Brown’s shooting touched off such energy an urgency is precisely because there is and has been a long context of dead young black men shot by police (or self-styled police-substitute vigilantes) under questionable circumstances without any appreciable accountability or consequence. The time, it seems, has finally come when that status quo will no longer stand.

Maybe Michael Brown was not a “flawless victim”, maybe it would have been wise, for PR purposes to await a perfect martyr to call national attention to the palpable devaluing of black lives, but the fact of h the clearly unequal treatment Michael Brown’s shooter received still speaks to the real issue: The ongoing spate of unjustly killed young black men. Meanwhile, the pseudo issue of what “really happened” in the Wilson-Brown shooting speaks to…what? That “The Blacks” and the media are biased and are just “blowing everything out of proportion” ?[5] Or that a portion of the public is reacting to the grand jury finding “emotionally” rather then with the properly dispassionate commitment to “the truth”?

From my perspective the most important truths—the only socially relevant truths—are those spoken to power.

Thus my hope is that when people of goodwill and intelligence take the time to speak truth it will be of the sort that will, in the immortal formula spoken by Finley Peter Dunne and echoed by Mother Mary Jones, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

[1] While the only question of real significance is: Was Darren Wilson actually a uniformed thug?

[2] It’s certainly possible that people may have been angry, even enraged by a jury verdict of not guilty, but the fact that some, many, or even all people may not accept the outcome of a verdict reached through real due process has never been an excuse to short-circuit or ignore the process.

[3] As to Tamir Rice, the table is already being set for public “ambiguity” to arise in yet another instance of the irresponsible use of force by uniformed thugs. See HERE.

[4] Suck it up, liberals. I and other real left progressives have taking a stomach-full of sanctimonious scolding for the last seven or so decades.

[5] Thus ignoring the fact that the media feels it is more important to write and publish articles like the one in the Washington Post hyperlinked above–articles clearly geared more toward “restoring calm” (and incidentally reassuring a worried public that everything is okay with the official outcome so any further civil unrest is thereby rendered unnecessary and illegitimate).

There’s Due Process; Then There’s “Justice” St. Louis County-Style

The grand jury process is set up to allow the prosecuting attorney to present a case for indictment in secrecy and without defense. Almost never does the accused attend (let alone testify) and no lawyer from the defense is allowed to attend. Regular trial (petit jury)rules of evidence and testimony, including the defendant’s right to present exculpatory evidence, are not observed and the process is not adversarial (since only the prosecution’s case for indictment is presented), so no judge is needed to referee and no judge presides over grand jury hearings. It is entirely the prosecution’s grand jury in which the prosecutor is free to act as the advocate for the people of the state and the victim. Very often the accused are not even aware that they’re the target of a grand jury proceeding until they are indicted.

The threshold for indictment is the low bar of probability rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt because the grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence; they just get a yay or nay to charge the accused with a crime or crimes which are almost always clearly specified by the prosecutor[1]. The tradeoff in our system is that the accused (there is no “defendant” in a grand jury proceeding) is not at peril of conviction by a grand jury and that, once an indictment is handed down, the fullness of facts (including conflicting witness accounts and exculpatory evidence) must be presented and tried by a jury in an open, public, adversarial proceeding (trial) where a judge presides to enforce rules of evidence and testimony. It is worth noting that the prosecution is only legally compelled to present all records of conflicting testimony and exculpatory evidence gathered during investigation IF and AFTER a grand jury has handed down a “true bill” of indictment; such countervailing evidence is provided to the defense to use as they think will best benefit the defendant at trial.

The reason the grand jury process is secret and generally sealed is precisely because it is intentionally a one-sided in favor of indictment (in federal cases, for example, according to Justice Department figures, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 cases in 2010 and grand juries declined to indict in 11 of them– ELEVEN out of 162, 000) and the “facts” have not yet been properly determined.[2]

All these institutional norms and rules are more than “technicalities” or legal “niceties”; they are the substance of due process–as is EQUAL PROTECTION. McCulloch’s treatment of the Wilson case will cause defense lawyers in Missouri to insist on equal treatment for THEIR defendants. Defense attorneys and civil liberties advocates have for years been fighting tooth and nail to reform the grand jury process to allow all grand jury targets all the stuff McCulloch provided on his own for Wilson. And DAs have fought just as hard AGAINST bringing more balance and more rights of the accused into the grand jury process. McCulloch’s behavior in such a nationally high profile case has put a HUGE dent in the DAs’ side in the battle for reform. (Note: Quietly, while few are paying attention, DAs have always provided unequal protection of law when police are accused of crimes.)

Missouri’s law is not substantially different from federal law of the laws of most states that use a grand jury for preliminary hearings. Prosecutors are always “allowed” to bring in evidence or testimony that would tend to exculpate the accused. But they don’t actually ever do that; let’s see if we can guess why…

THEY’RE PROSECUTORS. They are supposed to show the grand jury that there is enough evidence for an actual trial, not that there isn’t. Bob McCulloch’s standard practice with the normal targets of grand jury proceedings (people some would call “thugs” and the Constitution calls “the accused”–as in “rights of the accused”) is no different from any other DA: empanel the grand jury, show the witness testimony and other bits of evidence tying the accused to the crime, ignore witness discrepancies (leave that for the defense attorney to cover at trial) name the specific crime for which the prosecution is seeking indictment. That’s how and why grand juries do indict in well over 95% of cases they hear.

In the long run, while civil libertarians, like the people Ferguson, will always feel rage about it, they may end up very happy about the unintended consequences of McCulloch’s corrupt manipulation of the Grand Jury process, The people now high-fiving each other over Wilson not getting indicted will not.

McCulloch’s handling of the case is critically important because “due process” for whoever is accused of a crime in Ferguson this coming week or the next, or ever after, should get the same process that Wilson got. Else, no equal protection thus no due process. (Those terms might sound familiar since they come from the Constitution, which—last time I heard—American conservatives claim they take very seriously.)

More than a few social media posts and comment threads on mainstream blogs indicate that a lot of folks don’t care to engage the issues of “due process” and “equal protection” as they relate to the grand jury decision in St. Louis County.

Many seem to have some chip on their shoulder about who got shot somewhere else and didn’t get media coverage—purportedly because America doesn’t care about white people enough. Such folks strenuously ignore the very real issue that—whatever one thinks s/he knows about what happened in Ferguson the day that Michael Brown was killed—McCulloch’s handling of the Grand Jury was outrageously inconsistent with how he and his office handle criminal allegations every day.

The CRUCIAL question remains, WHY? WHY did Derren Wilson get special, privileged, unequal protection? If his treatment was just, then why are not all accused in St. Louis County afforded the same process. If the procedures were tipped because the prosecutor has to work with police officers and depends on their good will and cannot afford to piss off the FOP (or because he decided–without a trial–that Wilson only shot a thug who dared to take a punch at a cop and call him a pussy and was therefore justified in killing him) or for any other reason, then the standard of equal protection is violated and all other defendants in McCulloch’s jurisdiction have been denied due process.

The coup de grâce of McCulloch’s sham Justice Theater is McCulloch letting loose to prosecute the victim, Michael Brown, on national TV and spew unsubstantiated “evidence” against him in a vile press conference where Brown’s corpse could not face it’s accusers and no attorney could defend him from that cowardly attack by a thug prosecutor gone feral.

So, where does due process and equal protection of the law now stand in St. Louis County?

[1] Not, as in the case of Wilson, left up to the grand jury to figure out for themselves.

[2] Therefore, braying rightwing talking points notwithstanding, we do not know if there were a “slew of lying witnesses”, nor does the grand jury or the slimy DA, McCulloch, because the testimony of witnesses HAS NOT BEEN TRIED. Nor is the Derren Wilson case “over”: A “no true bill” finding by the GJ is NOT an acquittal and double jeopardy DOES NOT attach to a GJ proceeding since the accused was never in peril of conviction, has never been TRIED. Thus the non-indictment holds no legal meaning with regard to trying the case. Though it will never happen in the corrupt criminal justice regime in place in Ferguson and Missouri, the state is free to empanel a new GJ or go to a judge and seek a direct indictment without a GJ. So, in terms of law and justice, it is not over at all.