Crime and (un)Punishment

illustration of shakespearean quote from hamlet "foul deeds will rise, though all the world o'erwhelm them to men's eyes"“ … Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the world o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.”

Hamlet act 1, sc. 2

American visitors to this site will probably know of the event, but here is a summary for our international guests. It is a case where the evidence is undisputable. And from the evidence we can, equally indisputably, reconstruct the workings of the political machinery, with conclusions that readers, perhaps, can draw by themselves, as the “consonancy in the sequel” (1) dramatically exposes.

On Oct 20, 2014, the Chicago police was called to investigate a disturbance caused by a 17-year old African-American youth called Laquan McDonald. Upon arrival on the scene of several police cars, L. McDonald is seen walking in the middle of the road, away from the police.

At that moment, policeman Jason VanDyke, shoots twice at McDonald who falls to the ground. Then the same policeman follows up with 14 more shots.

The one minute video (link at end of blog), shows McDonald falling on the ground, and while fallen, the bullets keep coming, leaving a trail of smoke as they hit the lifeless and crumpled body – as if the body were a grotesque kind of shooting target.

The scene exceeds the boundaries of hatred. For we find hatred everywhere in literature but, however cruel and irrational, it has a plausible reason.

For example, during the war of the Roses, Richard of Gloucester falls wounded to the ground in the battle of Sandal Castle. Queen Margaret has plausible reasons for hating Gloucester. He had succeeded in dethroning her husband, the lawful Lancastrian king Henry VI. Before dying, Gloucester says to Queen Margaret,

“She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France,
Whose tongue more poisons than the adder’s tooth!
How ill-beseeming is it in thy sex
To triumph, like an Amazonian trull,
Upon their woes whom fortune captivates!”

Queen Margaret cuts him short,

“Off with the crown, and with the crown his head;
And, whilst we breathe, take time to do him dead
.” (2)

But here, Laquan McDonald was not a threat, an enemy or a rebel. He was one of the thousand disenfranchised youths, on the streets of disenfranchised sectors, where even hope has left indefinitely, leaving behind misery and abandonment.

Why then could a policeman, with no specific reason to hate, easily kill, in cold blood, a suspect who walks away without even running. And after killing him “take time to do him dead” with a volley of more bullets?

The question would seem rhetorical, were it not for the more than 1000 police killings to date, in 2015. Among the theories, as we will see, there is at least one connected with the events following this murder. Events that converted the tragedy into a masterpiece of iniquities.

Initially, the Chicago Police Department declared the killing a justifiable act of self-defense conducted by officer Van Dyke. Referring to a three-inch folding knife in the youth’s hand, the official report read: “He now has the knife fully in his hand going at one of the officers. At that point, the officer defends himself.”

The reader can judge by looking at the video the veracity of the police report. The following and obvious cover-up, involved the maximum authorities in the city, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and maybe even higher authorities. It is plainly a case where,

“…corruption boils and bubbles
Till it o’er-run the stew; laws for all faults,
But faults so countenanced, that the strong statutes
Stand like the forfeits in a barber’s shop,
As much in mock as mark.”

Indeed, the strong statutes would have been successfully mocked, and rated as serious as the price list (forfeits), posted in a barber shop, were it not for a sequence of events where chance and justice, for once, cooperated. It’s a case where,

“….chances mock,
And changes fill the cup of alteration
With divers liquors.”

Otherwise it would have remained a case where,

“…Plate sin with gold
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks.”

where ‘gold’ here was the Mayor’s success in the imminent re-elections, with all the associated benefits of satisfied ambition, power politics and power. The same power that decreed the payment of 5 million $ to the victim’s family, in exchange for their silence.

There were actually two videos of the event. One captured from the surveillance camera of the nearby Burger King outlet, and one from the dash-cam of a police car. The police also obtained the footage of the Burger King camera and erased 86 minutes of it, comprising the entire shooting scene and its aftermath.

But the dash-cam video remained, allowing the conspiracy to be exposed. How and why that video was not erased remains a mystery.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blocked the release of the video for 13 months. Later he said he never saw it, which equates to Clinton’s declaration of “never having had sex with that woman.“

The official reason given for not releasing the video was that it would disrupt an ongoing internal investigation. In fact, the Chicago administration did not even identify the policeman who shot Laquan McDonald. While, the “civil rights” establishment of the city, including most of its African-American preachers, supported in unison the Emanuel reelection campaign. So much for civil rights. We can easily imagine what effect the video would have on the reelections.

The local corporate-controlled media, newspapers and television, showed little interest in the McDonald case, even after it became known – about 10 months later – that there was a video of the shooting. In fact it was the curiosity of a freelance journalist who led him to obtain a copy of the coroner’s report, describing the 16 bullet wounds.

Then a whistleblower of unknown identity alerted another freelance journalist of the existence of the video. In turn, the second journalist brought a Freedom-of-Information Act lawsuit, eventually resulting in a court order to release the video.

Even more interesting is what happened and what became known after the video became public. First, Mayor Emanuel, reversing his position, claimed to have supported the release of the video. As for the evident, undeniable and brutal violence, he adopted a Pilatesque view – according to which, police violence is a problem of bad perception of the police by the community, and of an equally bad perception of young men by the police. Which would explain, we must assume, the militarization of the police, the routine use of assault vehicles, the combat gear habitually worn by policemen in their operations, and the 1140 police killings  nationwide (to date).

With his declarations, Emanuel vies for the title of “…the lyingest knave in Christendom.” (6). For more than one year the apparatchik hid the video. Without it, officer Van Dyke would never have been charged, nor the victim’s family would have received the large payment of hush money.

Interestingly, until the forced release of the video, the incident was still being investigated. But, literally hours before the video became public, the attorney general for the county, Anita Alvarez, had Officer Van Dyke arrested and charged with first-degree murder, declaring implicitly the end of the investigation. Of course, the public is asked to believe that the end of the investigation was independent of the forced release of the video.

A few questions remain unanswered. What role did Emanuel play in concealing the video and arranging the $5 million hush-settlement with the family? At what point did the mayor learn that the official police story was a lie? Were there discussions with the Obama administration on how to proceed? What officers were involved in viewing and allegedly deleting the Burger King video, and under whose direction were they acting?

The next political bomb-shell was the firing of the Chicago police superintendent, Garry McCarthy. Who, as late as the night before, on television, strenuously defended the police department and promised unspecified but necessary reforms. Which sounds like a macabre joke – considering that at the time of McDonald killing’s, the Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden said that McDonald was shot in the chest after he “lunged” at Van Dyke and his partner with a knife. This actions he represented “a very serious threat to the officers, which leaves them no choice at that point to defend themselves.” And McCarthy went along with the report.

Now the Mayor, having implicitly made McCarthy the official scapegoat, could freely shed tears about the McDonald killing, suddenly reversing his previous and repeated calls for strong police action in the “war on crime.”

Besides firing McCarthy, the Mayor created a five-member task force on police accountability, to report back in March 2016. Directing the task force is former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a leading African-American Democratic Party politician. This equates, in principle, to declaring Obama’s election to the presidency as the end of racism.

The creation of task-forces is a ritual to appease the so-called silent majority and the world at large, who was and is “still deceived with ornament.” (7). Most everyone sees the futility of these mean doublings, to escape the pursuit of blame, let alone responsibility. For power clouds discernment and deafens its holders or seekers to every call but the alluring voice of the sirens of conceit and prevarication. Thus corruption becomes the fountain of their principles.

Even the Chicago Tribune newspaper describes the Chicago Police as a “department long known for a culture of corruption, torture, wrongful convictions and lax discipline.” In fact, the city of Chicago has paid out more than $500 million in settlements for police abuse of citizens since 2004.

Regarding the released video, Obama declared to be “deeply disturbed by the footage” – a statement as full of meaning as the now forgotten but wildly promoted slogan at the time of his election, “Yes, we can.”

Mayor Emanuel embodies the symbiosis of finance capital and political power in the Democratic Party. He became a multimillionaire while working at one of the cesspools of fraud, a so-called investment banks, Wasserstein & Perella. From there he went on to become the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and Obama’s chief of staff, before resigning to run for mayor of Chicago in 2011.

Politicians and the mainstream media have reacted to the unfolding of events, explaining the killing of McDonald as the result of lingering racism, thus gaining some political points with the so-called “Black Lives Matter” movement.

The racist component is unquestionable, but a fact surprising to some, is that the police kills more white than black citizens. However, without exception, the victims belong to what was once called the working class – and, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the working poor, the unemployed and the hopeless.

In this context, police violence against the working poor, particularly against the young, is a symptom of the extreme class tension and class struggle in reverse. Of which the over 300 mass shootings to date, can also be considered as another symptom.

The worsening economic inequality and the curtailing of public services and jobs are unwritten goals and unwritten policies of the so-called Democrats and so-called Republican parties. While an equally unwritten policy is the essentially unlimited expansion of the military.

The police cannot help being the interpreter of the deep contempt of the ruling cabal for the common citizens. That we are more aware of this deep-seated contempt, is simply due to the widespread use of smart-phones with cameras – currently the means to show graphically what many suspected and many more refused to believe.

There remains to be examined what is the role of the police as an interpreter of the prevailing ideology. The police is the intermediary between the authority and the general polity. While subordinate to the top, to those below him the policeman is the representative of the authority and enjoys a kind of privileged status. The arch personification of this type, in the psychology of the masses, is the army sergeant, who, as a classic figure, shows an example of the power of identification.

Those who watched the excellently produced “Downton Abbey”, may have noticed how butlers, valets and others adopt the attitudes, way of thinking and demeanor of the ruling class. They undergo a complete change of character, and, in an effort to minimize their lowly origin, often they appear as caricatures of the people they serve. In literature or on the stage it may be amusing. In life, this identification constitutes a psychic reality and is an excellent illustration of how an ideology becomes a material force.

Those who have worked in a large corporation know that a certain spirit develops among the employees, that transcends the power of critical thinking of the individual. As an example, we may recall the case of Enron, where even the lower in the ladder were convinced that they would become rich by simply believing that they would. Never mind that the profit was the reward of fraud, until the fraud was exposed and the house of cards collapsed.

Employees absorb the general spirit without being taught, just like children absorb ideas about sex independently and outside the compass of sex education.

What is the spirit absorbed by the police from their employer, the state? That the nation is exceptional. And if my employer is exceptional why should I not partake of the exceptionality? My employer, to show his exceptionalism, kills literally millions worldwide, which means that killing is good. Why should I not comply, considering that I hold a license to kill?

All of the above leads (or should lead) us to conclude that the wonder is not that there are so many police killings, but that there are so few.

The “disturbance” of the president at the McDonald’s killing, the recurring debates about racism, the noise about more police training needed, etc. are but empty words to assuage the thoughtless – according to the well tested principle that  “the empty vessel makes the greater sound.”(8) As well as to prevent or preempt the (pessimistically remote) chance that the “blunt monster with the uncounted heads” (9), may put two and two together. A quixotic hope or an actual impossibility, seeing that multitudes wander about they know not whither, in quest they know not of what.

Link to video ->

1. Twelfth Night
2. King Henry VI p.3
3. Measure for Measure
4. King Henry IV, p.2
5. King Lear
6. King Henry VI, p.2
7. Merchant of Venice
8. King Henry V
9. King Henry IV, p.2


In the Play (opening quote). Hamlet has a presentment after Horatio’s report about the appearance of the ghost.

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