Debating the South Carolina Cop Shooting Isn’t Trolling. It’s Westboro.

Don’t call people who are compelled to argue on behalf of the cop in the South Carolina shooting “trolls.” They’re probably not Scandinavian, likely don’t live under a bridge, won’t regenerate a limb if you cut it off and won’t turn to stone in sunlight. Anyone who argues against what’s on that video is not being realistic. And while being unrealistic is a great first step to becoming an actual billy goat chomping troll, it should equally serve you as an argumentative line in the sand that you opt not to cross. You don’t feed the trolls, not because your food is better served elsewhere (though this is also true), but because the troll isn’t hungry. The troll isn’t a troll at all. The troll is just a person – sometimes earnest, but usually a jerk – who is filled with spite or fear or bad ideas and hiding behind an Elven Cloak of Internet Bombast. And they can get their own food.

In some ways, this is arguably the worst police abuse video to date. The abuse here is not only blatant, but complete – from the clearly empty hands of Walter Scott, who turned, who ran, who kept running, who dropped, who was cuffed facedown like it mattered; to the post-shooting retrieval/dropping/re-retrieval of evidence in full view of another officer. The video so completely captures the bizarro anti-story to the officer’s version of events that he’s already been charged and the mayor has essentially gone on record stating he was wrong, all in the time it takes to fire up a GoFundMe page for an abusive cops impending unemployment. I need you to understand the gravity of this video, not only as it is, but in the context of just the video and audio recordings we’ve seen and heard in the last year. The timeline amplifies its gravity. Garner, no attempt at justice. Brown, no attempt at justice. Keep running those names while I go on to mention the Department of Justice report on Ferguson’s institutional racism. Keep rifling through those pages while I point out the language used in this case (which is the language used in almost every case): the officer was “afraid for his life”. The victim has a criminal record utterly irrelevant to this scenario. The victim “reached for his Taser.” In all my life as a black man knowing other black men I have heard hundreds of instances of being pulled over by police and not once did anyone suggest they’d ever considered reaching for a weapon in a triple-locked holster. I have never heard of so many emboldened unarmed people who, in the face of jail time, are willing to risk their lives ion the off chance that they might be able to unlatch, pull, aim and fire a weapon from a person with their hand already holding said weapon. And in this video, which on paper sounds like every other case that ended with a dead person at the end of a gun, we see the truth: the non-struggle, the non-danger, the non-beast, the non-demon-faced, the non-weapon, the non-order, the non-threat, the non-chase, the non-warning, the non-mercy, the non-living.

And you want to argue with someone in the face of all that? My friend, you need more hobbies. May I recommend philosophy? Here is an exercise: What is the philosophical difference between random people who pop up to debate scenarios like this or the Eric Garner video and members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketing funerals? The answer is “none.” There is no request for their opinion or presence. There is an undertow of entitlement to devil’s advocacy, or worse, the justification of their “truths.” There is the anonymous-enough nature of the forum. There is judgement. There is disenchantment on top of disenfranchisement. There is the sanctity of life to be considered, but only worthy lives. And if you haven’t gotten in a car yet to break up a Westboro Baptist Church picket line, you should use that same disconnection when faced with people who can look at that video and find it in themselves to debate its merits. Anybody who can look at that video and then argue that it isn’t trolling; they’ve gone “Full Westboro.”

This isn’t one of those situations where you can save someone on the other side. If they’re on the other side of this one they don’t want to be saved. Telling you to save your breath isn’t just about not wasting your time. You elevate anyone with an asinine anti-position to your level by engaging in discourse not bound by evidence, reality and context. That’s worse than wasting your time. That’s empowering your enemies. And you should call them what they are: blind. Wrong. Westboro. Uncaring. Evil. Best, call them nothing at all.

But on this one? Know that “troll” is too nice.

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