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“Imaginary Footage Roils Republican Race”: Trump Is Trying To Justify His Right-Wing Approach To Registering Muslim Americans

It doesn’t happen often, but once in a great while, videos that don’t exist can cause a stir. In 2008, for example, a variety of far-right activists claimed they saw footage of Michelle Obama referring to white people as “whitey.” The video was fictional – the conservatives who made the claims were lying – but the chatter surrounding the made-up story grew pretty loud.

More recently, Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina falsely claimed she’d seen an abortion-related video that does not, in reality, exist. Pressed for an explanation, Fiorina simply dug in, stubbornly pretending fiction is fact.

And this week, as Rachel noted on the show last night, we’re confronted once more with a high-profile Republican trying to make an offensive point by pointing to footage that exists only in the world of make-believe.

At issue are imaginary reports from 9/11 that Trump believes show “thousands and thousands” of Jersey City residents of Middle Eastern descent cheering when the Twin Towers fell. The Republican frontrunner initially made the claim late last week, but he’s now repeated it and defended it several times since – pointing to news coverage Trump claims to have seen, but which remains entirely imaginary.

[I]n a sign the campaign and Trump himself may be at least a little concerned about the way his comments are perceived, the Donald made an impromptu call to NBC News Monday afternoon. Offering reassurance that he had indeed seen video of the celebrations on television on and “all over the Internet,” Trump said, “I have the world’s greatest memory. It’s one thing everyone agrees on.”

Trump even asked for news organizations to apologize to him for fact-checking his made-up claim. “Many people have tweeted that I am right!” he argued on Twitter, as if this were persuasive.

Making matters slightly worse, Trump’s obvious nonsense was also briefly endorsed yesterday afternoon by one of his GOP rivals.

Dr. Ben Carson apologized for asserting the widely discredited allegation that thousands of American Muslims had celebrated the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey. He told NBC News on Monday that he’d been thinking of celebrations captured in the Middle East – and not New Jersey.

Adding his voice to claims most recently made by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Carson told reporters twice on Monday that he’d seen the “film” of the celebrations. When asked by NBC News specifically if he meant in New Jersey, he replied yes. Later on Monday, his campaign began walking back the comment.

We’ve reached a very strange point in American politics. A candidate for the nation’s highest office is seen as having done something halfway admirable because he’s acknowledged a misstep in which he confused New Jersey and the Middle East.

As for Trump, NBC News’ Katy Tur asked the New York Republican yesterday, “Where did you see the video? We can`t find anything in our archives. Others can`t find anything in theirs.”

Trump replied, “I saw video. It was on television. How would I know? You`ll have to find it.  I`ve also seen it all over the Internet. I`ve seen it on the Internet over the years. I`ve seen it on the Internet.”

Actually, no, he hasn’t, because the video does not exist.

What’s more, let’s not forget that the point of this entire fiasco is that Trump is trying to justify his right-wing approach to registering Muslim Americans and spying on houses of worship. In other words, we’re talking about a racially charged lie about imaginary news reports, created to defend a racially charged policy agenda.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 24, 2015

November 26, 2015 Posted by | American Muslims, Donald Trump, Racial Profiling, Racism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Reality Of Implicit Race Bias Is Well-Documented”: Overcoming Implicit Prejudice And The Heightened Perception Of Threat It Brings

I once read a question that went as follows:

Two groups of young men are walking on opposite sides of the street. One group is black, the other, white. Both are loud and swaggering, both have baseball caps turned to the back, both are brandishing bats.

Which one is the baseball team and which one, the street gang?

The truth is, many of us — maybe most of us — would decide based on race, giving benefit of the doubt to the white group, leaping to the harshest conclusion with the black one. Some will resist that notion, but the reality of implicit bias has been exhaustively documented.

Dr. Angela Bahns, an assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College who describes herself as a “prejudice researcher,” wanted to push the question further. Earlier this year she published a study testing what she says is the prevailing theory: Prejudice arises from threat, i.e., you perceive those other people over there as dangerous and that’s what makes you biased against them.

“My research,” she said in a recent interview, “tests whether the opposite is true, whether prejudice can precede and cause threat perception.” In other words, is it actually pre-existing bias that causes us to feel threatened? It’s a question with profound implications in a nation grappling with what has come to seem an endless cycle of police brutality against unarmed African-American men, women and children.

Reliably as the tides, people tell us race played no role in the choking of the man, the arrest of the woman, the shooting of the boy. But Bahns’ research tells a different story. She conditioned test subjects to feel negatively toward countries about which they’d previously had neutral feelings, including Guyana, Mauritania, Surinam and Eritrea. “And I found,” she said, “that when groups were associated with negative emotion, they came to be perceived as more threatening in the absence of any information about what the people are like objectively.”

This column, by the way, is for a woman named Tracy from Austin who wrote earlier this year to ask “What can I do?” to fight police brutality against African-American people. I promised her I would seek answers. Well, Bahns’ research suggests that one answer might be to encourage police departments to incorporate bias training in their regimens.

According to Bahns, this training can help people overcome implicit prejudice and the heightened perception of threat it brings, but there is an important caveat: They have to be motivated and willing and have to leave their defensiveness at the door. “Before any change can happen, the first step … is that the perceivers — in this case, the white perceivers, or police officers — have to be open to admitting that they might be influenced by bias. I think we’re not getting anywhere when there’s this defensive reaction. … We’re all prejudiced and until we admit that, we’re not going to get anywhere in terms of reducing its effects.”

Not that people’s defensiveness is difficult to understand. “Everyone’s motivated to see themselves in a positive light,” said Bahns. “..People that genuinely hold egalitarian values and desperately do not want to be prejudiced are very motivated not to see bias in themselves.”

The thing is, we cannot wait passively for their conundrum to resolve itself. Some of us are dying because of this inability to tell the ball club from the street gang. And frankly, if people really do hold egalitarian values and desperately don’t want to be prejudiced, those deaths should push them past defensiveness and on to reflection.

As Bahns put it, the idea “that threat causes prejudice assumes that something about them — the out group — makes them threatening rather than assuming there’s something about us that makes us see them that way.”

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 4, 2015

November 6, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Police Brutality, Prejudice, Racial Profiling | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Racial Profiling Is Still An Issue”: The Issue Is Real And We Need To Pay Attention

Back in the early 1980’s, I remember having heard the term “racial profiling.” But it didn’t mean much to me because, given that I’m white, it never happened to me or anyone I knew. One of my good friends at the time happened to be Native Hawaiian (often mistaken for being Mexican) and started telling me stories about how he couldn’t walk across the courtyard at his apartment complex without being stopped by security and escorted to his door to verify that he actually lived there. That’s when I started paying attention to the issue.

I suspect that my experience is probably not that different from a lot of other white people in this country. It’s easy to dismiss the issues around racial profiling if it doesn’t happen to you or anyone else you know. And so, this week when President Obama hosted a panel discussion at the White House on criminal justice reform, he took a few extra minutes at the end to say that, when it comes to the Black Lives Matter Movement, the issue is real and we need to pay attention.

I thought of that ongoing need to convince white people that racial profiling is real when I saw that the New York Times published a front-page above-the-fold story by Sharon LaFraniere and Andrew Lehren on the reality of “driving while black.” To be honest, I had mixed feelings when I saw that. On the one hand, it is an excellent piece and I am thrilled to see such an important topic tackled in a way that puts it all front and center. But I also get discouraged. How long do people need to keep pointing this out before we finally get the message and do something about it? I can only imagine the reaction of African Americans who have lived with this issue for decades. This is not something that started in Ferguson. Eight months before the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014, the Washington Monthly published an article that reached the very same conclusions we find in the NYT article today.

I don’t take a lot of pride in the fact that it took a friend of mine experiencing racial profiling for me to wake up to the fact that it is a real issue that we need to address. It reminds me of a column Leonard Pitts wrote years ago when Dick Cheney had a change of heart about marriage equality because his daughter is lesbian.

In such circumstances, injustice ceases to be an abstract concept faced by abstract people, but a real threat faced by someone who is known and loved. Makes all the difference in the world, I guess…

Unfortunately for Cheney, conservativism has no place for him on this issue. It does not strive to be thoughtful or even noticeably principled where gay rights are concerned.

To the contrary, being persuadable is seen as weakness and being persuaded proof of moral failure. In Cheney’s world, people do not seek to put themselves inside other lives or to see the world as it appears through other eyes. Particularly the lives and eyes of society’s others, those people who, because of some innate difference, have been marginalized and left out.

Then someone you love turns up gay, turns up among those others.

One imagines that it changes everything, forces a moment of truth that mere reasoning never could. And maybe you find yourself doing what Dick Cheney does, championing a cause people like you just don’t champion. Doing the right thing for imperfect reasons.

As Pitts goes on to say, getting to freedom is going to take a very long time if it requires every conservative home to have a lesbian daughter. And if every white person needs to have a best friend who experienced racial profiling in order for us to finally take the issue seriously, justice comes too slowly.

So in the end, I’ll celebrate that the NYT is highlighting this problem once again and that President Obama continues to tell us that the concerns of the Black Lives Matter Movement are real. I just hope that more of us are listening and perhaps even persuadable.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 25, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Minorities, Racial Profiling | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“More Accountability”: Police Shooting Shows Need For Major Changes, Advocates Say

There would have been no charges filed against a North Charleston, S.C., police officer this week without a video shot by a witness, many, including the mayor of North Charleston, are saying.

Video brings more accountability, and that’s why some South Carolina state lawmakers will be pushing hard next week to pass a bill requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras.

But proposals beyond the body cameras are needed to ensure police accountability, some say. They say:

  • State law should require that the State Law Enforcement Division, as an outside agency, investigate each time an officer fires a weapon in South Carolina.
  • All police agencies should be required by law to collect racial profiling data and turn that over to SLED, as a previous state law intended.

The body camera bill will get a hearing in the state Senate as soon as next week and quickly move on from there, a key senator said Wednesday.

The bill, introduced in December by Senator Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington), already has had three hearings this year in a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee chaired by Senator Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg).

Hutto said he hopes his committee soon will pass the bill out to the full Judiciary Committee, which could consider it later this month.

In his subcommittee’s three hearings on body cameras, Hutto said, most witnesses -– including many from the state’s law enforcement community -– expressed overwhelming support for using cameras.

Concerns, raised by victims advocate groups and others, include privacy and Freedom of Information request issues, as well as costs of the cameras and data storage, Hutto said.

A revenue impact study done for Malloy’s bill estimates it would cost some $21 million to equip most state and local law officers with body cameras the first year, and $12 million per year after that.

Malloy said any costs of body cameras should be balanced with the costs of unnecessary police shootings, follow-up investigations and bad publicity for South Carolina –- such as Wednesday’s New York Times front-page photographs from the video of a North Charleston officer shooting a man in the back as he runs away.

Body cameras will act as a deterrent and might well have prevented the North Charleston shooting, Malloy said. “If that officer in North Charleston had been wearing a body camera, I don’t think he draws the weapon,” he said.

“We know that body cameras work. Good police officers don’t really mind,” Malloy said. “Complaints go down from citizens, and officers can use the videos for training.”

Hutto is enthusiastic. Law officers who testified “before our committee thought it was a great idea. It helps gather evidence, it’s great for community relations, it’s good for officer safety, and it acts as a deterrent to bad conduct on the part of both officers and citizens alike,” he said.

Hutto downplayed the initial multimillion-dollar costs. After all, when the idea of police car video cameras were introduced years ago, many people said they would cost too much, Hutto said. But the state decided to pay most of the costs by enacting a one hudred dollar fee on people convicted of DUI, and that fee has substantially helped pay for police car videos –- which nearly everyone now agrees are a great asset, he said.

“Over the years, we’ve collected millions of dollars,” Hutto said. “The vast majority of the cars on the streets now, when the blue lights go on, the camera goes on.”

Senator Marlon Kimpson, whose district includes North Charleston, where the latest shooting took place, is a co-sponsor of Malloy’s body camera bill.

University of South Carolina School of Law professor Colin Miller said Wednesday he shows law students in his criminal law and evidence classes many videos of officer-involved shootings, but all up to now raise at least some possibility the officer had justification for shooting.

“As far as video clips I’ve seen, this (North Charleston clip) is probably the most compelling,” Miller said. “Based on what’s shown in the video, it looks a lot like a homicide.”

Meanwhile, Representative Joe Neal (D-Richland), a leader in the Legislative black caucus, said he is introducing legislation that would require an outside law agency to investigate any officer-involved shooting.

“That will help ensure some level of objectivity and fairness,” Neal said. “There are some departments that now insist they can do an in-house investigation. I don’t think any law agency should investigate itself.”

USC’s Miller said he strongly supports independent, outside investigations of officers involved in shootings.

Now, SLED investigates only at the invitation of local or other state police agencies.

SLED has no authority to take over an investigation, and local police are not required by law to report such shootings.

While all agencies can opt not to invite SLED in, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department routinely does not turn over investigations of its officer-involved shootings to SLED or another outside agency.

Sheriff Leon Lott said he turned to in-house probes starting in 2014 because he feels his department has the investigative expertise, a competent crime lab, and the public trust to conduct proper investigations of its own deputies.

Police face tough decisions and, often, heavily armed and dangerous criminals.

So it’s right that they are given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to spilt-second decisions, experts say.

Even so, charging, and convicting, an officer of mishandling a shooting incident is rare in South Carolina, experts say.

Police in South Carolina have fired their weapons at 209 suspects in the past five years, and a handful of officers have been accused of pulling the trigger illegally –- but none has been convicted, according to an analysis of five years’s worth of data by The State newspaper.

The solicitor for Charleston and Berkeley counties, Scarlett Wilson, has not brought charges against an officer in at least the past five years.

During that time, there have been 23 police-involved shootings there, 17 of them in Charleston County, according to SLED data from 2010-15 examined by The State.

With SLED investigating, there’s not only a better chance at accountability, experts say. There’s a better chance for better data collection and analysis.

With one agency in charge, there would be a central location for collecting information and, presumably, more consistency and better chances to spot a trend –- good or bad.

Because SLED’s data now comes in from the various agencies and often does not contain the race of the officers, for example, which makes trends or possible racial profiling difficult to detect.

Data collection matters, Neal said, whether from shootings or from traffic stops, for seat-belt violations or other reasons.

“There needs to be some teeth in the law,” said Neal, noting there is already a law but that it only applies to non-ticketed police encounters and has no penalty in it for agencies who do not report the data to SLED.

In 2005, Neal was part of an effort to include a provision mandating the collection of racial profiling data in a pending mandatory seat belt bill.

Although many white lawmakers objected, Neal and others supported a long-stalled bill mandating seat belt use after a provision stipulating law agencies must collect race data on encounters between police and citizens.

That provision required all state and local law enforcement agencies to complete a form listing the race of the driver in traffic stops in which a citation is not issued. Police already collect race and other data in most other stops involving a ticket.

But Neal said Wednesday the racial profiling measure in the seat belt isn’t working because only a minority of law agencies report that data to SLED as required by law.

During the past 15 years, there have been some 550 reported police shootings in South Carolina, SLED’s records indicate. That’s an annual average of 36 shootings.

Other information is more difficult to come by, gleaned only by digging through SLED’s voluminous files.

Last month, a University of South Carolina professor told The State that it is embarrassing that no one knows exactly how often police fire at or kill suspects in the United States or South Carolina, and that lack of sufficient information makes it harder to grapple with the controversial issue, a criminal justice professor said.

“The government is very aggressive about giving us numbers to protect us from the free market,” the University of South Carolina’s Geoff Alpert, a nationally recognized expert on police use of force issues, said in an interview. “But not much when it comes to our civil liberties.”

Malloy said he plans to introduce another bill next week in the Senate.

It will prevent police from charging bystanders with a crime if they are videotaping a police encounter with a citizen.

“It will allow our citizens to go on and break out their cameras,” Malloy said.

“Pictures are worth a thousand words,” the senator said. “And thank goodness for this picture.”

 

By: John Monk, The National Memo, April 9, 2015

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Police Shootings, Racial Profiling, South Carolina Legislature | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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