Wednesday, June 3, 2020

It Wasn't Tear Gas. It Was a Gaseous Substance That Causes Tears.

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown - June 03, 2020 at 09:56AM

No, President Donald Trump didn't have police shoot tear gas at innocent people so he could pose for a pic with an upside-down Bible. Both the president and his lackeys at certain media outlets want to make sure we're clear on that. You see, the truth is that Trump had police bombard a law-abiding crowd with a gaseous substance that produces tears.

You see the difference? Not really? It doesn't matter. We're talking about this right now, and that's what Trump boosters and predator-cop stans want. The more time people spend debating the difference between tear gas and "smoke canisters and pepper balls," the less focus on the fact that the Trump administration had peaceful citizens attacked so he could pretend on camera to be brave and religious.

This is the same tactic we've seen again and again from the Trump administration: deny, shift stories, and quibble over inane particulars.

It doesn't matter if most media or even most Americans don't really buy the administration's deflections and lies. The point is to shift the public conversation, give Trump supporters an easy retort to critics, and to present enough reasonable doubt that folks not especially attuned to politics tune out. Getting people to see this as just another far-removed partisan squabble is essential to covering up the heinous and extreme nature of the stunt the administration pulled in Lafayette Square. (For a minute by minute rundown of events, check this out.)

Last night, the Trump reelection campaign demanded media outlets issue a correction about any tear gas reporting. "Every news organization which reported the tear gas lie should immediately correct or retract its erroneous reporting," said Tim Murtaugh, campaign communications director, in a statement.

Trump folks want to pretend that masses of individual protesters and members of the press were lying, in coordination, to trick people into thinking the administration behaved worse than it did. But the fact of the matter is that being tear-gassed and being bombarded with a pepper-spray bomb produce the same effects, and people were reporting on what they had experienced and witnessed directly.

Accuracy in media matters, of course, and Reason has often been the first to point out when most press is getting a story wrong. But reporting accurately and truthfully means doing the absolute best you can with the facts that are available to you, admitting what you don't know, and updating your narrative when new information arrives. And it certainly doesn't mean describing things in exactly the terms that government officials or other powerful people prefer you to use.

The Trump administration might not want to call the substance law enforcement agents deployed "tear gas." But under the common understanding of tear gas—"an umbrella term for about a half-dozen so-called 'riot-control agents' or 'less lethal' chemical weapons" per Mother Jones—and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definition, it was.


PROTEST UPDATES

Peaceful protests rule Tuesday. Last night's protests against police abuse went down with way fewer hitches than the night before, as crowds in many cities marched peacefully and police largely left them alone. In Washington, D.C.:

(More on D.C. last night from Reason's Christian Britschgi.)

Boston:

Louisville:

After five days of escalating clashes between police and protesters Louisville got a reprieve Tuesday night. Police seemed to pull back, allowing a crowd of hundreds to peacefully walk through the streets of the city unbothered.

This apparent change of tactic follows the police killing of David McAtee, a west Louisville business owner shot around 12:15 a.m. Monday when Louisville Metro Police Department and the Kentucky National Guard arrived to break up a gathering after curfew. Officers from both LMPD and the National Guard fired at McAtee. Authorities released a video on Tuesday they allege shows McAtee fired first.

Not all was good last night, however. A few examples:


QUICK HITS

• "More than 1.7 million firearms were sold in the U.S. last month, up 80 percent compared to last May," reports National Review. "That follows a 71 percent surge in April to just under 1.8 million sold, and just under two million guns were sold in March."

• The COVID-19 vaccine will need to be readministered seasonally, says former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb:

• Bad COVID-19 news out of Sweden:

• More legislation aimed at curbing police brutality:

• "Derek Chauvin, the now-former Minneapolis police officer who pressed George Floyd's head into the pavement with his knee until Floyd died, has now been charged by Minnesota prosecutors with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter," reports Alec Ward.

• Karen jumps the shark:

• Notoriously racist Rep. Steve King (R–Iowa) lost his reelection bid last night.

• Read Reason's Matt Welch on why he "can't quit New York."


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