Saturday, January 07, 2017

Not My Kind Of Town - Deconstructing "The Chicago Four"

Accused Chicago torturers
Delusional sociopaths? Sadistic drug-fueled maniacs? Violent racist thugs?

It's hard to figure out Tesfaye Cooper, Jordan Hill and sisters Brittany and Tanishia Covington and what motivated them to kidnap, beat and torture a mentally disabled 18-year-old man.

Let alone live-stream it on Brittany Covington's Facebook page like some kind of depraved television show.

Sometimes it's difficult to comprehend the darker depths of human nature, particularly in a modern industrialized society like America where the November 8th election results have sparked so many unprecedented acts of violence and racial hatred.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has tracked incidents of racial intimidation and violence in the wake of the November elections, has logged some 800 different incidents around the nation including physical assaults, verbal attacks, property being defaced, arson and various acts of intimidation.

The vast majority of those victims have been people of color or religious and ethnic minorities.

So viewed from a larger perspective, even though the heinous attack on the 18-year-old Chicago man was deplorable, incidents of violence committed by minorities against whites pales in comparison to the hundreds of assaults against minorities by whites in the name of Donald Trump.

Last week as I listened to news analysis of the shocking assault of the mentally disabled 18-year-old white man who was lured away from a McDonald's where his parents had dropped him off, I was genuinely horrified and sickened.

Even though at points in the horrifying video at least three of the accused perpetrators forced the victim to say "f*** Donald Trump", or repeated those words while disparaging white people in racist terms, it's not really clear that the election of Trump was what actually sparked this assault.

In my mind there's no doubt that this incident fits the classic definition of a hate crime, and the Cook County State's Attorney's office has filed felony charges against all four, including aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery and hate crimes.

While I do think the victim was chosen because of the color of his skin, I'm skeptical that the four of them hatched some kind of sick premeditated "plan" to kidnap and torture a white person in response to Trump being elected - the two guys involved in the attack were both 18 years-old.

Anything is possible, but do you think it's likely they were both politically motivated enough by Trump's election to commit an act like this?

According exit poll data conducted by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University approximately 24 million 18-29 year-olds voted in the 2016 elections.

Now I don't know where he got his data, but an op-ed by Mason Johnson posted on CBS Chicago's Website back on November 5, 2014 reported that a mere 7% of 18-24 year-olds in Chicago voted in elections.

If we use that as a rough indicator, plus a post-election report showing that 2016 voter turnout in cities was down overall, how many 18-year-old African-Americans do you think voted in Chicago in the November 8th election?

What are the chances that Tesfaye Cooper and Jordan Hill voted? If they did, were they really angry enough to decide to kidnap and torture a white person to "get back" at Trump?

Don't get me wrong, I think each of "The Chicago Four" needs to be locked up for their depravity.

But my sense is that their motivations had less to do with Trump or politics than the same socio-economic issues affecting the west side of Chicago where so much of the violence that has captured headlines in recent years is concentrated - poverty, poor schools, lack of employment, drugs and scant access to meaningful employment opportunities.

Suspect Jordan Hill knew the victim
According to a detailed story of the incident by Jessica McBride posted on, Michelle Ludington, the grandmother of 18-year-old Jordan Hill (one of the alleged attackers) told reporters that she was surprised to hear about Hill's involvement in the attack as the white victim had been over to his house to hang out on multiple occasions.

But she also said Hill (pictured left) had issues with drugs, so to me, the fact that he picked up the victim from a McDonald's in a stolen van, then hung out with him over the course of a few days before linking up with the other three and tying up and torturing the poor guy suggests the four of the alleged attackers may have been on some kind of drug binge.

Let's be honest, tying up someone and beating and torturing them for hours is not the act of someone of sound mind or deep political beliefs.

And the fact that Chicago PD reported that the attackers were also sending text messages to the victim's parents during the ordeal in addition to live-streaming it on Facebook suggests they were out of their minds.

Have there been incidents of harassment aimed at white Trump supporters?

Sure there have, including the recent incident where Ivanka Trump was verbally harassed on a flight by a man who was removed from the plane.

But I don't think what happened in Chicago was about Donald Trump.

The fortunate thing is that the four of them are in custody and that at least physically, the 18-year-old victim is back with his family and will eventually make a full recovery.

Conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson 
But one of the most unfortunate aspects of this case, aside from the unspeakable horrors that the victim endured, are the efforts by some members of the alt-right media to use the outrage generated by the incident to add fuel to their ongoing smear campaign to mischaracterize the Black Lives Matter movement as some kind of violent racist hate group.

As Oliver Willis reported for last week, Paul Joseph Watson, who serves as an editor-at-large for the Website of the detached right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, was quick to use his Twitter account to begin spreading the false story that The Chicago Four and their kidnapping-torture were somehow connected with Black Lives Matter.

As Willis reported, Watson sent out the Twitter hashtag #BLMKidnapping and later referred to the 18-year-old victim as "the BLM torture victim" despite the fact that the Chicago PD never made any reference to The Chicago Four being involved with the Chicago branch of Black Lives Matter - and no mention of BLM was made during the live streaming posted on Facebook.

In the same way that fake news stories saturated the social media accounts of Trump supporters and members of the alt-right during the campaign season, Watson's "story" was quickly picked up by other alt-right bloggers like Mike Cernovich who began writing statements like the "BLMKidnapping suspects are in custody" despite having no evidence that any of the attackers were linked to BLM.

According to the article both of the sisters accused in taking part in the kidnapping, Brittany and Tanishia Covington, had prior criminal records for things like petty larceny and minor assault and one of the sisters had expressed support for a local Chicago gang - but there's no evidence either was politically active or involved with the BLM movement.

For months Donald Trump's campaign openly channeled overtly xenophobic, sexist and racist beliefs and terminology, so it's hardly surprising that his name has become something of a meme for bigotry and intolerance in this country.

So while at least two of the accused in this shocking case used Donald Trump's name and made disparaging racist remarks about white people during their attack, evidence and logic suggests their motivations remain rooted in common thuggery, a penchant for violence and a disturbing lack of compassion for others who don't look like them.

Attributes which are hardly exclusive to the city of Chicago.

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