On August 3, The Daily Mail (UK) published police bodycam footage of the arrest and death of George Floyd. The video is just under nine minutes long.
The New York Times ran an article on August 3 entitled “British Paper Publishes Police Bodycam Video of Floyd Arrest” and it dealt entirely with the fact that The Daily Mail had published the bodycam footage, as though it were the publication of the footage, rather than the previously unseen video, that were newsworthy. Searching the Times website just now, on the evening (Danish time) of August 5, there is still no additional coverage.
CNN.com put a similar article up on their website on August 4th: “Leaked police bodycam video shows new details of George Floyd’s fatal arrest.” The article has an embedded video that shows what CNN editors apparently decided ought to be seen: it has a total running time under two minutes, and only a fraction of that is taken from the bodycam video itself.
I don’t know what the Washington Post or Boston Globe or Huffington Post (or Vox, for the love of god) had to say about it, so it’s possible some outlets deviated from the party line upheld by the Times and CNN. Possible but not likely enough to justify wasting my time to check. (I never said I wasn’t lazy.)
What’s striking about the video is not that it got leaked. The first rule of leaks is that everything gets leaked eventually. No, what’s striking is what anyone watching the video cannot help but notice:
There is no sign whatever in the entire episode to suggest that anything about the arrest or death of George Floyd had anything to do with race.
I assumed the Danish media would follow in the footsteps of their American peers and focus not on the video but the fact of its unauthorized release (its “leak,” if you will, although it’s weird to hear outfits like the Times and CNN expressing concern about leaks).
Against all expectation, I was completely wrong. I acknowledge it emphatically. I embrace my wrongness.
A TV2 News article on the subject (“Politioptagelse viser nye detaljer om drabet på George Floyd“) actually commits real journalism (emphases mine):
Ifølge USA-analytiker Mirco Reimer-Elster fylder de nye optagelser påfaldende lidt i mediebilledet i USA.
– Den nye video giver en masse kontekst og fortæller en historie, hvor kritikerne anfører, at den ikke passer særlig godt ind i den racediskussion, der har været på dagsordenen de seneste par måneder. For kritikerne illustrerer videoen snarere, at der ikke lå et race-relatereret motiv bag George Floyds tragiske død, siger USA-analytikeren.
Han hæfter sig ved, at George Floyd i den nye video tydeligvis er påvirket og psykisk ustabil – og modsætter sig anholdelsen.
– Sat lidt på spidsen er det som om, at mange amerikanske medier er blevet allergiske over for nuancer, når det kommer til racespørgsmål af frygt for at træde nogen over tæerne. Her får vi et klarere billede af, hvad der rent faktisk skete den dag i maj. Alligevel er det som om, at medierne vender det blinde øje til. Det er vildt at se, hvor meget de kørte den her historie, da den kom frem – og hvor tavse de er nu, hvor vi er blevet klogere på konteksten omkring George Floyds anholdelse og død.
Bitching about the one-sided coverage of American politics and culture by the Danish media is the whole point of this blog. So I think I ought to acknowledge when they get it right, and here they’ve got it exactly right.
For the record: George Floyd ought not to have died. I’m old-fashioned enough to presume innocence until guilt is proven, so I won’t call the cops murderers until the justice system does, but I’ve got no problem saying that they look guilty as hell.
But George Floyd didn’t die because he was a black man being abused by racist white cops. He died because he was an apparently unstable man being abused by apparently terrible cops.
It’s a tragedy, but it’s got fuck all to do with race.