Long Story Short: Fake news, real stats, and reopening
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Trump blows the lid off Gugino case
If you’re a geriatric member of Antifa, with advanced skills in high tech communication scanning, here’s a tip: don’t fall harder than the police push you, because President Trump is on to you. POTUS spotted Buffalo protester Martin Gugino's attempt to “set up” the police by falling backward and cracking his skull on the pavement, causing a brain injury that will leave him facing a new normal once he finishes physical therapy.
Trump also wasn’t fooled by the smartphone Gugino was waving around close to officers, as he appeared “to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment.” You have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on Donald J. Trump, because he’s usually already up tweeting, which is how he outed the senior citizen Antifa agent.
How does POTUS do it?
Trump has an incredible ability to sniff out conspiracies, no matter how preposterous they are. How did he discover this one? He saw it on @OANN,” a cable channel that makes FOX look like MSNBC. What Gugino did with the phone, according to @OANN, is “called skimming, an old trick used by Antifa.” They say the seventy-five-year-old protestor was “supposedly using the technology to black out police communication.” Yup, that’s right, “supposedly.” That’s called verification, because if something is said to have “supposedly” happened, it means somebody somewhere said it did. Evidence doesn’t get more airtight. Antifa field assets simply wave their cellphones near cop radios, and they are simultaneously scanned and blocked—or something.
Putting aside the fact that Antifa is a movement, not an organization, all this must be true, because White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany expressly said, “It’s not a baseless conspiracy.” On her first day on the job, McEnany promised she would never lie to the press, so the proof is really mounting up. Minimally, as she points out, Trump is raising “questions that need to be asked.” Similar questions include: Should you tell your parents you’re adopted? Will man ever walk on the sun? And why is Justin Bieber still a thing?
Additionally, some kind of secret Republican-led inquiry must have been triggered by Trump’s tweet, because Senators are very tight-lipped about it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t say whether Trump's tweet was appropriate. When questioned by reporters, Senators Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Steve Daines of Montana, and Marco Rubio of Florida, among others, were either rushing to lunch or hadn’t seen the tweet every news organization was reporting on. Obviously, they don’t want to say anything that would influence the investigation. Republican Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota must have missed the briefing because he responded, "It's a serious accusation which should only be made with facts and evidence and I haven't seen any yet."
The lying media
NPR claims that after reviewing court documents of fifty-one individuals facing federal charges in connection with the protests, none are alleged to have links to the Antifa movement. The only mention of an extremist group in court documents are three men belonging to the right-wing Boogaloo movement.
The NPR report is obviously fake news, because U.S. Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly blamed Antifa anti-fascist activists for the violence that has erupted during demonstrations over George Floyd's death. And he’s, you know, unbiased. Other coverup efforts include an alleged friend of Gugino’s from Cleveland who says, “The Martin Gugino I knew back then was a kind, soft-spoken, sensitive man…” Deep State obfuscation, I say.
Reckless minds want to know
People reading this story might think Trump’s assertions are far-fetched. Of course they are; it’s a conspiracy theory! Implausibility is the hallmark of conspiracy theories. If it didn’t have unsupported claims and wild suppositions, who would believe it? Whether it comes from the right or left, all you need to know is that if the mainstream media doubts it, it’s true.
Don’t be fooled by logic or reason. Ignore experts; they’re all in the pockets of industry. COVID-19 was released from a lab, 5G is making us sick, George Floyd’s death was staged by “crisis actors,” and Martin Gugino was “aiming a scanner” when he was gently pushed and intentionally fell harder. Fortunately, our President, who is a very stable genius, understands all this bigly.
Buffalo and the nation have been hit by a double whammy: coronavirus and police abuse protests. According to a New York Times article carried in the Saturday Buffalo News, Americans are experiencing collective anxiety about the future.
But how have we responded to each of these problems? For those that enjoy data, here are some interesting statistics: As of now, COVID-19 has killed about one out of every 3,350 Americans. That’s a frighteningly high number. So far, Congress has come up with $2.4 trillion to address the economic impact of the epidemic, and $8.3 billion on the search for a vaccine.
Recent research from the National Academy of Sciences predicts that 1 in every 1,000 black males will be killed by police over their lifetime, most often in their younger years. That’s more than three times the toll of COVID-19 so far.
The root causes of African American deaths at the hands of police include inadequate officer training, which emphasizes aggression, overreliance on police to address social problems, systemic racial discrimination dating back to slavery, and inadequate investment in black businesses and communities. How much has Congress appropriated to address these root causes? I don’t know, but in all of U.S. history it hasn’t come to $2.4 trillion.
Now, I know I’m comparing apples and oranges. But on a gut level, doesn’t it seem that there’s something wrong here?
Think globally, act locally
Friday, Change.org began circulating a petition demanding the resignation of Mayor Byron Brown for what they call the “consistent failing of our local government in recent weeks since the death of George Floyd.” Specifically, they say that, “Again and again, from local to national news outlets he has spoken out without true concern, remorse, and without any real sincerity about police reform or change.”
It's highly unlikely that the petition or articles will result in the Mayor’s resignation. But they may have already alerted him to the public’s mood. Saturday, on an extended interview with CBS News, Brown attempted to roll back, temper, or refute some of his earlier rhetoric. He becomes slightly choked up when recalling the first time his family watched the video together of George Floyd being killed, recalling that there were tears in his home that day.
As always, Brown’s words are carefully chosen not to offend anyone, including the police. “I think we have to go out of our way right now to show our respect and call people into being part of the solution,” he says, “and not do anything that can possibly divide people.” In choosing this approach, the Mayor fails to take a strong position on many issues raised by the protests. People are already starkly divided on matters surrounding police reform. Not taking a strong stand either way may not be what people want. But that’s why we have elections.
Strangest picket sign
The anonymous young white man holds a sign with hand printed upper-case letters. He stares earnestly into the camera, his body is rail straight, his harms symmetrical, with hands cradling the sign at the bottom. The placard reads, “COPS EAT THEIR WINGS WITH RANCH.” Whoa, burn. The young man knows this is the ultimate insult for a Buffalonian.
One for the cops
There’s another video from our region that went viral last week, and it’s something of an antidote to the protests and police overreaction. A woman named D’Andra Brown and her daughter Nevaeh were walking in Niagara Falls State Park. Officer Janine Kloetzer was on park patrol in her police car.
Kloetzer spotted Brown and her daughter as the little girl noticed the patrol car. The girl’s immediate response was to freeze in fear and put her hands up. “It just broke my heart to see how terrified she looked, just to see the police car,” says Kloetzer in a WIVB News story. The officer got out of her car and asked Brown if she could talk to her daughter. Kloetzer—who is herself a mother—was tearing up as she spoke.
Brown captured the moment on video, which has since been viewed on Twitter almost 31,000 times, and shared elsewhere. Unfortunately, wind makes much of it inaudible, but we see the officer give the girl a high five, then squat down to talk to her. “We’re not all bad,” she says, while laughing and crying at once.
“She pulled her phone out,” says Kloetzer on the news story. “I was hoping it wasn’t going on social media because that wasn’t the route I was trying to go, but it did.” Just before Kloetzer drove up, the girl had been talking to her mother and asking about the protests and the police. Brown saw Kloetzer’s talk with the girl as a teachable moment.
Kloetzer hopes she made a positive impression on the girl. Brown believes the video will do more. “We need to see that glimmer of hope,” she says on WIVB, “and I felt that she portrayed that, hey, for all of the other good cops out there that really don’t like what’s going on, she represented them.”
Perplexing aftermaths: Buffalo enters Phase 3
Memorial Day was three weeks ago. Social media at the time was filled with accounts of people gathering closely without masks for porch parties, picnics, and barbecues. Parks were packed. Dire predictions of the coming spike in COVID-19 virus infections were ubiquitous. In addition, it’s been over two weeks since the first protests broke out in Buffalo, at which protestors were often crowded together, often without masks. Each sunny day—in what has so far been an erratic spring—parks, lawns, and porches have been filled with gatherings of unmasked people.
And yet, Western New York numbers continue to decline. No spike, not even a little bump. County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced on Twitter that there were fewer than 100 people hospitalized for the first time since late March. Last week Monday, Governor Cuomo announced that Western New York has a one percent rate of positive cases, continuing a sharp decline over the last six weeks. On Saturday, Cuomo announced that Western New York is expected to move to Phase 3 of his plan to reopen the state on June 16.
What’s going on?
Some states that reopened early—especially with businesses such as restaurants and barbers—are beginning to show signs of a spike. Georgia is being urged by health experts to roll back some of its planned business openings due to significant recent infection increases. But it’s hard to make the argument that gathering outside without masks will result in more infections, because people are openly doing just that every day and our numbers continue to fall.
There’s only one conclusion for this, despite the cognitive dissonance it causes doomsayers; these gatherings are not increasing infections.
Social distancing remains important
While there is still plenty experts don’t know about COVID-19, research suggests that there are two primary factors that create the greatest likelihood of infections: time and proximity. Being in the presence of someone who is infected for fifteen minutes or more in a closed room are ideal conditions for contracting the disease.
From the CDC: “Factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity, the duration of exposure (e.g., longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), and whether the exposure was to a person with symptoms (e.g., coughing likely increases exposure risk). Data are insufficient to precisely define the duration of time that constitutes a prolonged exposure. Recommendations vary on the length of time of exposure, but fifteen minutes of close exposure can be used as an operational definition. Brief interactions are less likely to result in transmission.”
What Phase 3 means
Phase 3 includes the reopening under strict guidelines of personal care services, such as massage therapy, spas, many cosmetology services, nail salons, and tattoo parlors. The third Phase also allows restaurants to resume food service indoors, though they are limited to half capacity, with tables six feet apart. These are all indoor businesses, where people remain for extended periods. Masks, frequent handwashing, and spacing are still important elements in these Phase 3 circumstances. Strict enforcement is vital.
Outdoors, masks and six feet distancing continue to be important for those with no tolerance even for very low risk, and the public should remain mindful that their actions impact others. But numerous unmasked outdoor gatherings have not increased the number of infections in Buffalo as many predicted. Make of that what you will on an individual level.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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