Newsmax’s 11 Facts in the Eric Garner Case (or, Excuses for Killing Unarmed People)

December 7, 2014—This week Jim Meyers at Newsmax ran an article that claimed to contain “11 Facts About the Eric Garner Case the Media Won’t Tell You.” These 11 facts amount to Newsmax’s rationale for why it was perfectly fine for the NYPD to take actions that led to the death of an unarmed man on the New York City streets. Here is video footage of the incident:

Now let’s take a look at Newsmax’s facts.

#1: “If Eric Garner did not resist arrest…he wouldn’t be dead.”

Newsmax kicks off its in-depth analysis with this “You don’t say!” observation. Well of course if Eric Garner hadn’t resisted arrest he wouldn’t have died. That fact in itself holds no value in explaining his death or determining whether or not the amount of force used was appropriate. Does the fact that someone is resisting arrest automatically grant the authorities the right to use deadly force? Or maybe, just maybe, we should consider whether the law itself is moral or necessary.
Perhaps we should ask Meyers and his conservative pals what the appropriate response would be if a pastor were to resist being arrested for trying to avoid being locked up for not agreeing to marry a gay couple. I assume they’d be logically consistent and wish the good reverend a happy trip to the pearly gates.

#2: Eric Garner “swatted away” the hands of police officer

Wait, what? He was swatting away cops’ hands? I thought he was non-violent, I didn’t realize he was aggressively engaging in a slap-fight. Well, that just changes everything.

#3. Garner had been arrested 30 times since the 1980s

Apparently a record of having been arrested means that lethal force is always justified. Was he armed? Nope. Was he grabbing for a gun? Nope. But, hey, he’d been arrested before so he probably deserved to die. Right?

#4. Garner was out on bail at the time of the incident

Here’s a continuation of the logical fallacy of #3. Again, we need to ask ourselves if the fact that he had been arrested before automatically justifies deadly force. If not, then we can ignore Meyers’ non-sequitur.
Incidentally, Garner was out on bail for “illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false impersonation.” In other words, for engaging in commerce that wasn’t sanctioned by government, for not having a bureaucrat give him the permission to drive a car, for possessing a plant and for pretending to be someone else. Al Capone this guy wasn’t.

#5: The chokehold “contributed” to Garner’s death, but he really died because he was out of shape

Meyers cites Garner’s health problems—obesity, heart disease, asthma and diabetes—as the cause of his death. The chokehold only “contributed to his death.”
Well, I guess that’s true, in the same way that you could roll granny’s wheelchair into oncoming traffic and then blame her death on her inability to walk.

#6: Garner didn’t die at the scene, but in the ambulance

Good news, everybody! You’re allowed to kill people as long as they don’t die where you assault them!

#7: Chokeholds are banned by the NYPD, but they’ve been used over 1,000 times since 2009

Um, what? If there’s a point here I’m assuming it’s that “many people have been put in chokeholds and haven’t died.” I guess this is supposed to convince us that…nope, I got nothing.

#8: The public doesn’t yet have all of the evidence that was presented to the grand jury

Clearly Meyers is hoping for some information that will be made public that will place Garner in a bad light. Because when faced with the possibility that a police officer used excessive force, it’s always best to try to blame the victim.

#9: Nine of the 23 jurors were not white

Cool story, Meyers. I’ll just sit here and wait for you to make this relevant to Eric Garner being killed for selling cigarettes.

#10: The officer may not have known that there was a “substantial risk” that Garner would die from the chokehold

The grand jury apparently could not determine that the officer in the case knew Garner’s medical history before the incident and could not have known that he would die. Of course, based on points 3 and 4 we’re supposed to believe that the officers did know Garner’s full legal history.

#11: The man who recorded the incident was later arrested on weapons charges

Once again, I ask Meyers for the relevance of the point. Does the fact that Ramsey Orta was arrested a few months later mean that the incident didn’t happen as it was recorded. Or does his possession of a firearm indicate that he also has some sort of magical power to create video out of thin air.

I think it’s interesting that conservatives who are constantly up in arms (pun intended) over gun control are also so willing to vilify someone for owning a firearm when it helps their argument. I guess that belief in firearms freedom only goes so far, huh?

I also find it interesting that conservatives, who are allegedly supporters of the free market, think that selling untaxed cigarettes is sufficient cause for a person to be violently arrested. And since they also apparently believe that resisting arrest is sufficient cause for lethal force, you could say that conservatives like Meyers support the death penalty for cigarette peddlers.

Most of all I find it appalling that conservatives who are constantly harping on about the value of human life will go to such lengths to justify the killing of an unarmed person. Was Eric Garner a model citizen? Apparently not. But grasping for any argument to explain away someone’s death says more about your perspective on life than it does about the person who died.

The simple truth that conservatives, those self-professed defenders of freedom, must grapple with is simple. It is that if a government can arbitrarily ban peaceful activity, can arrest you for engaging in it and, should you seek to avoid that arrest, kill you, then none of us are free.

This myopic, reactionary nonsense from Newsmax notwithstanding, these are issues that every American who believes in freedom needs to be concerned about.