October 05, 2013

Saturday Morning Essay: Welcome to the Free Fire Zone

I don't usually follow such stories attentively, but for one reason or another I stayed abreast of Thursday's news concerning Miriam Carey, the 34 year old dental hygienist from Connecticut who was shot dead by Washington, D.C. area police following a high-speed chase in the area near the Capitol and White House.  Here is how the New York Times cast its lede for the story:

 "WASHINGTON — A woman with a young child was shot to death after turning her vehicle into a weapon on Thursday afternoon, ramming her way through barriers outside the White House and on Capitol Hill."

Actual video and still photos of the incident "near the White House" (actually, quite a distance from the White House itself - more like "near the entrance to an access road to the White House") do not really support these dramatic claims.  While Ms. Carey's black Infiniti collided with a bollard blocking entrance to the White House access road, the video and photographs show no damage to her car.  When she was approached by cops, guns drawn, she backed away fast, struck a parked police cruiser, and a police officer in the way rolled over the hood of the Infiniti to avoid being struck (he sustained minor injuries). Still photos of another police cruiser with extensive damage were carried in the Times with the notation that the car "was damaged in the chase," leaving a reader with the impression that Ms. Carey collided with the police car.  In point of fact, the cruiser struck a "pop-up" road barricade that was raised by other police precisely at the wrong moment.

Ms. Carey met her end when her Infiniti got stuck on a grassy road median near the Senate Office Building.  Surrounded by police, she had apparently gotten out of her car, leaving her infant daughter in the vehicle, and was shot dead by a hail of bullets.  As the Times drily notes:

"What occurred next was not clear. Ms. Carey managed to get out of the car, and was shot by several officers. According to a law enforcement official, she was not armed, and it was not known whether she presented an immediate danger."

How odd that "clarity" broke down precisely at that decisive moment.  Since everything these days is on video, I'm sure that "what occurred next" could be cleared up in an instant.  Whatever, it seems fair to ask: if Miriam Carey was not armed, in what conceivable way could she have presented "an immediate danger" as she got out of her car?  What was the rationale for gunning her down at that point?  Also, in what sense had she ever turned her Infiniti "into a weapon," as the Times began its story?  

In microcosmic form, you have here all the elements of modern American myth-making.  The first instinct of Big Media is to protect the elites: to frame the story so that it reads as heroic defenders of American security "doing their job" to keep us safe from suspected....well, suspected what?  You can't help but wonder whether the automatic assumption was that Miriam Carey was a (black, as it happens) terrorist driving a car bomb, with her infant daughter along for the ride, trying to bust her way through security to detonate her "weapon" at the portico to the White House.

The Huffington Post ran a story yesterday about five previous attacks on the White House over the last thirty years or so, one of which involved a shooter firing a semi-automatic rifle at the White House and hitting his target.  In none of these previous episodes did the police find it necessary to kill the attacker.  A number of these attacks seemed to carry a much greater degree of threat than that posed by Miriam Carey.  All previous perpetrators were subdued using standard police work, or the assistance of passersby.

It's obvious that Miriam Carey could have been safely taken into custody by the Washington, D.C. police.  Her car had been immobilized by her own reckless driving. She had gotten out of her car, unarmed.  She could have been charged with assaulting a police officer (with her Infiniti), resisting arrest, driving recklessly, and endangering the public.  All of that would have been justified.  Her mental health problems would have been taken into consideration in sentencing her, as well as the needs of her infant daughter.  She would have spent a stretch (not too long) in jail.

Instead, she's dead.  Her daughter will grow up without a mother. I think she's dead because the legal ethos in America has gravitated toward a system where due process has been replaced by summary execution on the basis of suspicion.  The public is generally okay with it, the Mainstream Media, protective of their Elite Access and "contacts" within the power structure, praise and celebrate it, and the general lesson for all of us is pretty simple: don't have a nervous breakdown anywhere near one of our venerated leaders or Palaces of Power, or we'll gun you down in cold blood.

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