Traditional norms fall apart: Sunday's police shooting incident produced some familiar reactions.
The shooting occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin, late in the afternoon. Wisconsin's governor, Tony Evers, tweeted an instant reaction:
EVERS (8/23/20): Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries.According to Evers, Jacob Blake had been shot in the back in broad daylight, at night. Sometimes, things can go that way when we offer instant reactions.
In fairness, Governor Evers had certain facts right. Blake had, in fact, been shot in the back, as many as seven times.
As of this morning, the actual number still wasn't known. On Sunday night, Evers continued as shown:
EVERS (continuing directly): While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.In this second tweet in his chain, Governor Evers correctly said that neither he, nor anyone else, "ha[d] all the details yet."
In fact, Evers likely had very few "details" at that point. Presumably, he'd seen the (very short) videotape which shows the actual shooting.
In that second tweet, Evers said that he did know some things for certain. It's at this point that the governor's logic begins to sound rather strange, and norms begin falling apart. Indeed, the part of his tweet shown below can sound completely improper:
"What we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country."Evers didn't know the details, but he did know who had been grievously wrong. He described the shooting as "merciless"—and as he did, he he made this extremely peculiar remark:
"[Jacob Blake] is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country."Almost surely, that statement is accurate. Leaving the question of mercy aside, large number of men or persons "have been shot or injured or killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country" in recent years—for example, in the years since the Washington Post began keeping track of such incidents.
At its invaluable but almost wholly ignored Fatal Force site, the Post has recorded shooting deaths at the hands of police officers since the start of 2014—and it's certanly true:
Many men or persons have been shot and killed during those five-plus years. In the state of Wisconsin, the numbers look like this:
People shot and killed by police in Wisconsin, 2014 to presentQuite a few men or persons have been shot and killed by police officers in the state of Wisconsin. Surely, some of those people were shot and killed "me5rcilessly," though Evers only seemed concerned with such events if the victims were men or persons who he deems to be black.
Other race or ethnicity: 6
For the record, an even larger number of men or persons have been shot and killed nationwide. Since Evers referred to the national scene, those numbers look like this:
People shot and killed by police in the United States, 2014 to presentAlmost surely, some of those shooting deaths truly were "merciless." But here's where the strangeness comes in:
Other race or ethnicity: 218
Judging from his actual words, Evers was concerned with black victims in all fifty states, but not with white or Hispanic victims in his own state of Wisconsin! We only report his statement that way because that's what he actually said.
Nor was Evers done. By now, he was tweeting directly from mandated script. Judged by traditional norms, we'd call his behavior appalling:
EVERS (continuing directly): We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country—lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith.Evers named some shooting victims, but he only named those who were black. He then closed this, the fourth tweet in his chain, with an astounding remark:
And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.
"We stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites."Judging from Evers' remarkable statement, excessive use of force is OK when dealing with whites or Hispanics! We say this only because that's what the governor said.
Let's be clear. If you asked Evers the following question, his answer would likely be no:
Is it OK for a police officer to use excessive force against someone who's white or Hispanic?We assume that he would say no. But when he sat and typed his storm, the mewling governor of the failing state of Wisconsin was typing directly from currently mandated script.
Working through those ugly tweets, one thinks of the famous remarks addressed to Wisconsin's Joseph McCarthy:
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?We'll amend the words to suit this case:
At long last, has Evers no sense of responsibility? Or is he a pool boy to script?
There was a time, not long ago, when no one ever would have produced such a strange series of comments. In this case, Governor Evers was working from mandated script.
Evers knew what he had to type—and traditional norms crashed down, fell apart. Is there some imaginable way that conduct like this ends well?
Tomorrow: Three tries by the Washington Post