I’m going through one of my “I can’t take it anymore” phases. Yesterday I almost succeeded in shutting out the news entirely until last night when I accidentally learned that Trump claims to be taking hydroxycholoquine. He has to be lying, right? But the White House doctor sorta kinda confirmed it.
President Donald Trump claimed Monday he is taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug he’s long touted as a potential coronavirus cure even as medical experts and the US Food and Drug Administration question its efficacy and warn of potentially harmful side effects.
Speaking at a meeting of restaurant executives, Trump said he began taking the antimalarial drug after consulting the White House doctor, though stopped short of saying his physician had actually recommended the drug.
“A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it,” Trump said. He later said he’d been taking it every day for a week and a half.
The admission was a dramatic development in Trump’s attempts to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus, which began earlier in the outbreak and has been met with resistance from medical professionals.
Because the drug is prescribed to treat malaria and other conditions, Trump has cast it as safe and suggested coronavirus patients have little to lose by trying it.
But there are concerns about using the drug for coronavirus, which Trump claimed he doesn’t have:
…at least one study has shown the drug does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It follows a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn’t fight the virus.
Even before these reports were published, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health issued warnings about using the drug for coronavirus patients.
Trump said he hadn’t been exposed, and that he started taking the drug because he had heard from frontline responders who sent him letters saying they were taking it preventatively.
There’s no evidence for using it as a preventative, but Trump claims it works because “I get a lot of positive calls about it.” Shouldn’t this be the last straw for the V.P. and the Trump Cabinet? Shouldn’t they be invoking the 25th Amendment today? But of course it won’t happen, and the media will try to normalize his latest insanity.
At The Los Angeles Times, Chris Megerian, Noah Bierman, and Eli Stokols remind us that the hyroxychloroquine controversy is just part of Trump’s attempts to distract us from all the deaths he’s responsible for: Trump lashes out with distractions and disinformation.
President Trump has accelerated his attacks on government watchdogs, judges, reporters and other independent voices as he runs for reelection, escalating his spread of disinformation about perceived enemies and his administration’s record during the COVID-19 crisis.
Trump fired yet another inspector general, raged against a government whistleblower and repeatedly retweeted video of a local TV reporter being harassed in New York — all since Friday. He also amplified a sinister conspiracy theory he dubbed “Obamagate” in which he alleges, but never specifies, crimes by his predecessor.
On Monday, Trump abruptly said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine pills daily for “about a week and a half” as a preventative against the novel coronavirus, dramatically intensifying his efforts to promote an unproved anti-malaria drug that he has touted as a potential “game changer” for dealing with the pandemic.
His comments caused alarm because the Food and Drug Administration warned last month that the prescription drug has “not been shown to be safe and effective” at treating or preventing COVID-19, saying it could cause “serious heart rhythm problems.”
It’s crazy making.
Experts struggled to think of a historical parallel where the president has turned the world’s most powerful and influential office into a megaphone for wholesale fabrications and bizarre claims in an effort to confuse voters and salvage his own political future.
“Trump is certainly not the first politician to lie or invent stories,” said Eileen Culloty, who researches disinformation at Dublin City University in Ireland. “But his history of making baseless, conspiratorial claims — whether it’s Obama’s birth certificate, linking Ted Cruz’s family to the Kennedy assassination or now Obamagate — is striking for its scale and frequency.”
Critics said Trump’s messaging was particularly destructive as Americans struggle with the pandemic, which has crippled the economy and killed more than 90,000 in the U.S. as of Monday.
“A pandemic is the perfect laboratory for disinformation because people are scared, they’re anxious — and all of the social science around conspiracy theories shows when people feel anxious and scared, they’re more likely to believe conspiracy theories,” said Richard Stengel, a former editor of Time magazine and former senior State Department official.
“Trump has figured that out. This campaign is headed to a low point that we’ve never experienced before in American history, because he is not at all compelled to align his message with reality,” he added.
Read more at the LA Times.
Richard Stengel, quoted in the LA Times piece, writes at Vanity Fair about what Trump’s incompetence has done to our country’s reputation: The Bungling Superpower: COVID-19 Has Recast America as a Global Chump.
When I was under secretary of state for public diplomacy during the Barack Obama administration—the job that is essentially the chief marketing officer for the American brand around the world—I found that the most common request I got from international diplomats and leaders was, could I help them get in touch with the Silicon Valley tech companies? Would I introduce them to someone at Google, Apple, and Facebook? Our brand differentiator was no longer drones, Tomahawks, and foreign assistance—though all of them still mattered—it was search, likes, and Twitter. No, we weren’t as generous and deep-pocketed as we once had been, nor could we build bridges and highways like China was doing, but we were seen as the land of the future, and people wanted to know how we did it. It was a welcome change.
But the election of Donald Trump and our inept response to the coronavirus has reversed much of that. Even when we were the arrogant and galumphing superpower—a continuation of the Ugly American stereotype from the 1950s—we were always seen as competent. Yes, we were headstrong and naive, but we got things done. Now, thanks to the combination of Trump’s much-mocked America First doctrine and his administration’s chaotic and chuckleheaded response to the coronavirus, the Trump administration has recast our brand in a new way: the bungling superpower. The country that created the iPhone could not figure out how to manufacture enough cotton swabs. While Germany is led by a woman with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, the U.S. president was suggesting that people inject disinfectant to cure the virus.
Last week, in a rare move in its nearly 200-year history, the distinguished British medical journal The Lancet published an editorial saying that the U.S. had fallen from what it once was, the gold standard in disease detection and control, and must not reelect a president who prized partisanship above science. A poll in France earlier this month found that Angela Merkel, and not the American president, was overwhelmingly regarded as the leader of the free world. Only 2% of those polled said Trump was heading in the right direction. A Bosnian TV journalist proclaimed that the White House was dysfunctional and America was beginning to resemble the Balkans. The Balkans.
Many people have cited the line from the Irish Times that “the world has loved, hated, and envied the U.S. Now, for the first time, we pity it.” That’s not quite right. The emotion is not pity, but schadenfreude: people around the world are taking a secret pleasure in the U.S.’s ineptitude. They feel the U.S is getting payback for its self-righteousness, boasting, and incessant lecturing. It’s karmic retribution, not pity.
But there’s a greater and more existential threat to American influence than the scorn people around the world have for Trumpism: it is the increasing non-essentialness of America among nations and the discrediting of the American model of governance and capitalism.
Bloomberg reports on a study that shows that Covid Patients Testing Positive After Recovery Aren’t Infectious.
Researchers are finding evidence that patients who test positive for the coronavirus after recovering aren’t capable of transmitting the infection, and could have the antibodies that prevent them from falling sick again.
Scientists from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 285 Covid-19 survivors who had tested positive for the coronavirus after their illness had apparently resolved, as indicated by a previous negative test result. The so-called re-positive patients weren’t found to have spread any lingering infection, and virus samples collected from them couldn’t be grown in culture, indicating the patients were shedding non-infectious or dead virus particles.
The findings, reported late Monday, are a positive sign for regions looking to open up as more patients recover from the pandemic that has sickened at least 4.8 million people. The emerging evidence from South Korea suggests those who have recovered from Covid-19 present no risk of spreading the coronavirus when physical distancing measures are relaxed.
The results mean health authorities in South Korea will no longer consider people infectious after recovering from the illness. Research last month showed that so-called PCR tests for the coronavirus’s nucleic acid can’t distinguish between dead and viable virus particles, potentially giving the wrong impression that someone who tests positive for the virus remains infectious.
The research may also aid in the debate over antibody tests, which look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. Experts believe antibodies probably convey some level of protection against the virus, but they don’t have any solid proof yet. Nor do they know how long any immunity may last.
Read more at the link.
I’ll end with a non-Trump story from The Guardian: Exclusive: Police tried to tase Ahmaud Arbery in 2017 incident, video shows.
Police attempted to use a Taser on Ahmaud Arbery, the slain Georgia jogger, after questioning why he was sitting alone in his car in a park one morning in November 2017, according to records and a police video obtained by the Guardian.
The video, obtained through a public records request, comes to light as law enforcement in the area faces scrutiny after Arbery was shot dead by two white men while jogging in February. Police did not arrest Gregory and Travis McMichael, who chased down and killed the unarmed Arbery, and a prosecutor assigned to the case wrote a lengthy memo explaining why the killing was legally justified….
In the video an officer patrolling the area suspected Arbery of using marijuana, saying he was in a park known for drug activity.
Arbery, dressed in a green hat, winter coat and athletic pants, said he didn’t have drugs and refused to let the officer search his car. He told the officer he was relaxing by rapping in his car over instrumental beats and had the day off from work at Blue Beacon Truck Wash.
The incident, previously described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, escalated when Arbery began to question why the officer, Michael Kanago, was hassling him. Kanago claimed he began to feel threatened by Arbery, later writing in his report that “veins were popping from [Arbery’s] chest, which made me feel that he was becoming enraged and may turn physically violent towards me”. Kanago requested help from a second officer.
“You’re bothering me for nothing,” Arbery said to Kanago, according to body camera footage. After Kanago told him he was looking for criminal activity, Arbery said “criminal activity? I’m in a fucking park. I work.”
How dare a young black man sass a George police officer. Well, they finally got him killed, didn’t they? Racist monsters.
That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind? What stories are you following?
Hillary Clinton will testify before Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi “special committee” today, beginning at 10AM. I’m going to watch as much of the testimony as I can. If you’re watching too, please post your reactions in the comment thread. Unfortunately for Gowdy and the other GOP mutants on the joke of a committee, even the corporate media isn’t taking them seriously anymore.
From US News and World Report: The Gowdy Doody Show. Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the Benghazi Committee recalls less Watergate than Whitewater, by James Warren.
Yes, boy[s] and girls, it’s Gowdy Doody Time.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, on Thursday gavels to likely disorder the long awaited House select committee hearing on Benghazi, the latest in the rich tradition of congressional spectacles that often go nowhere.
Indeed, America had far more positive anticipation when “Buffalo Bob” Smith led a cheering throng of kids in the theme song of “Howdy Doody,” a 1950s mega-TV hit named after a puppet with 48 freckles (yes, civics mavens, this was before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union)….
The investigation started as a dissection of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks by Islamic militants on two U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died.
We’ve paid for nine different congressional and internal probes and Gowdy’s has morphed into a look at Clinton’s emails and her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Its work alone has cost about $4.6 million – if only such GOP ardor was exhibited in pursuing President George W. Bush’s weapons of mass destruction claims against Saddam Hussein – even though it hasn’t even interviewed most of the defense, intelligence and White House officials it promised.
Instead, it is primed to take testimony from a small army that includes Clinton, speechwriters and the guy who oversaw the server.
Gowdy and his Hillary-suspicious Republicans are so sensitive to the claim of political pandering that they have strategized privately about their own decorum and presenting themselves as sober legislators. It’s like my 6-year-old prior to his first-grade class going to a suburban Chicago pumpkin patch Monday: Everybody promised to be on their best behavior on the bus.
More at US News.
Yesterday commenter Sara posted a link to an excellent Newsweek opinion piece by Kurt Eichenwald: Benghazi Biopsy: A Comprehensive Guide to One of America’s Worst Political Outrages.
That is the name of the “classified source” in an old email from Hillary Clinton released last week by Republicans purportedly investigating the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Under the instructions of the Benghazi committee’s chairman, Republican Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Koussa’s name was blacked-out on the publicly issued email, as Republicans proclaimed revealing his identity would compromise national security. The media ran with it, saying Clinton had sent classified information through her personal email account.
But the CIA never said the name was secret. Nor did the Defense Intelligence Agency or the FBI. No, Koussa’s role as an intelligence source is about as classified as this column. He is the former intelligence chief and foreign minister of Libya. In 2011, he fled that country for Great Britain, where he provided boodles of information to MI6 and the CIA. Documents released long ago show Koussa’s cooperation. Government officials have openly discussed it. His name appears in newspapers with casual discussions about his assistance. Sanctions by the British and the Americans against Koussa were lifted because of his help, and he moved to Qatar. All of that is publicly known.
But, as they have time and again, the Republicans on the Benghazi committee released deceitful information for what was undoubtedly part of a campaign—as Kevin McCarthy of the House Republican leadership has admitted—to drive down Clinton’s poll numbers. Republicans have implied—and some journalists have flatly stated—that Clinton was reckless and may have broken the law by sending an email that included thirdhand hearsay mentioning Koussa’s name. The reality is that the Republicans continue to be reckless with the truth.
And why is this such an outrage?
The historical significance of this moment can hardly be overstated, and it seems many Republicans, Democrats and members of the media don’t fully understand the magnitude of what is taking place. The awesome power of government—one that allows officials to pore through almost anything they demand and compel anyone to talk or suffer the shame of taking the Fifth Amendment—has been unleashed for purely political purposes. It is impossible to review what the Benghazi committee has done as anything other than taxpayer-funded political research of the opposing party’s leading candidate for president. Comparisons from America’s past are rare. Richard Nixon’s attempts to use the IRS to investigate his perceived enemies come to mind. So does Senator Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting during the 1950s, with reckless accusations of treason leveled at members of the State Department, military generals and even the secretary of the Army. But the modern McCarthys of the Benghazi committee cannot perform this political theater on their own—they depend on reporters to aid in the attempts to use government for the purpose of destroying others with bogus “scoops” ladled out by members of Congress and their staffs. These journalists will almost certainly join the legions of shamed reporters of the McCarthy era as it becomes increasingly clear they are enablers of an obscene attempt to undermine the electoral process.
The consequences, however, are worse than the manipulation of the electoral process. By using Benghazi for political advantage, the Republicans have communicated to global militants that, through even limited attacks involving relatively few casualties, they can potentially influence the direction of American elections. The Republicans sent that same message after the Boston Marathon bombing, where they condemned Obama for failing to—illegally—send the American perpetrators to Guantánamo, among other things. They slammed the president because federal law enforcement agents read the failed underwear bomber his rights after they arrested him in 2009. Never mind that federal agents did the exact same thing under President George W. Bush when they arrested the failed shoe bomber years earlier. Republicans even lambasted Obama when he spoke about ISIS decapitating journalists, saying the president did not sound angry enough.
Please read the rest at Newsweek.
J.J. wanted me to call attention to another outrageous story that has been somewhat overshadowed by the political goings on in the U.S. this week.
Washington Post: Netanyahu says a Palestinian gave Hitler the idea for the Holocaust.
Jerusalem – In a speech here Tuesday evening, Netanyahu sought to explain the surge in violence in Israel and the West Bank by reaching for historical antecedents. He said that Jews living in what was then British Palestine faced many attacks in 1920, 1921 and 1929 — all instigated by the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who allied himself with the Nazis during World War II.
Then Netanyahu dropped his bombshell. He said: “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time; he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he asked. He said, ‘Burn them.’ ”
Netanyahu, the son of a historian, said the mufti played “a central role in fomenting the Final Solution,” as the Nazis termed their plan to exterminate the Jews.
The remarks were made in a speech to the World Zionist Congress about “the 10 big lies” told by Palestinians and their backers.
As supporters of the Israeli leader wondered what he was doing, his critics said that his claims were outrageous enough to give cover to Holocaust deniers.
The speech came on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Germany. After Netanyahu’s outrageous claim, Angela Merkel chided him, saying that Germans know that the “final solution” was a German plan. Time Magazine reports:
“All Germans know the history of the murderous race mania of the Nazis that led to the break with civilization that was the Holocaust,” said Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor, according to the Independent. “This is taught in German schools for good reason, it must never be forgotten and I see no reason to change our view of history in any way.”
From The Daily Beast: What Benjamin Netanyahu’s Insane Holocaust Claim Really Means.
It was factually wrong and morally outrageous for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that a Palestinian mufti gave Hitler the idea for the Holocaust. Almost the entire mainstream of historians, scholars, and politicians has now said so.
The question, though, is why he did it—and the answer is that it was an unintentional, Romney-47%-moment at which a commonplace partisan lie is suddenly revealed to the world. In Romney’s case, it was the Republican talking point that half of America depends on government welfare. In Netanyahu’s, it’s that the Israel/Palestine conflict is actually a result of Arab anti-Semitism.
Why did Netanyahu do it?
First, Netanyahu’s remarks were off the cuff. The transcript of his speech at the 37th Zionist Congress makes that clear. The entire speech was conversational in tone, with corrections and colloquialisms, and the particular reference to al-Husseini was an aside.
Its context was Netanyahu talking about the “big lie” that the Israeli government is seeking to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque—which is indeed a big lie spread widely on pro-Palestine social media. In that context, he mentioned that al-Husseini had told a similar lie in the 1920s, and by the way, al-Husseini supported the Holocaust too.
It was an aside within an aside. But precisely because it was off the cuff, it offers a valuable peek behind the curtain of Israeli nationalist ideology.
Like Romney’s comment about the 47%, comments like Netanyahu’s are made all the time on the Israeli Right. They’re meant for domestic consumption, to inspire the nationalist base. The Arabs hate us, anti-Zionism is just anti-Semitism, and most importantly, the Intifada is about Jew-hatred, not resistance to the occupation.
Meanwhile, in Israel hatred of Palestinians is festering. From the World Socialist Website: Israel: Racist mob lynches migrant as violence intensifies.
An angry Jewish mob lynched an unarmed Eritrean migrant worker in the southern city of Beer Sheba after an Israeli security guard repeatedly shot him on Sunday. The crowd cursed and kicked him, chanting, “Death to Arabs!” “Arabs out!” and “Am Israel Hai!” (“The people of Israel still live”).
The murder underscores the noxious atmosphere of xenophobia, racism and fear that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has stoked up in a bid to deflect rising social discontent among Jewish Israelis, whose living conditions are in many cases only marginally better than those of the Palestinians. At the last elections, Netanyahu urged Jewish Israelis to vote, saying that “swarms of Arabs” were going to the polling stations.
Ultra-nationalist Jewish politicians have encouraged the mobilisation of vigilante groups and fascistic mobs that go on the rampage while the police stand and watch. Settler gangs that murder Palestinians and attack and destroy their property go unpunished. Now, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has openly encouraged Jewish Israelis to arm themselves and take vigilante action.
The Eritrean, 29-year-old Haptom Zerhom, had been working as a gardener in a plant nursery in a village near Beer Sheba for the last three years. He was on his way to collect his renewed work visa when 21-year-old Muhannad al-Okbi, a Bedouin Israeli, shot and killed an Israeli soldier and wounded 10 others, including four police officers, at Beer Sheba’s central bus station.
The police shot al-Okbi and then shot Zerhom, believing him to be al-Okbi’s accomplice. As Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline made clear, Zerhom was shot “Just because of his skin colour.”
As Zerhom came under attack from the mob, a bystander found his visa and held it up, shouting, “He’s Eritrean, he’s not a terrorist.”
No one heard him above the melee and Zerhom died of his injuries.
Shades of the Old South.
Finally, from Black Agenda Report: Black Lives Don’t Matter in Israel.
If you want to observe a racist lynch mob, go to Israel, the “world’s worst apartheid state.” After being shot by police, an innocent Eritrean immigrant was pursued by an Israeli mob that “kicked him, threw chairs and benches at his head and shouted ‘son of a whore,’ ‘break his head’ and more to the point, ‘Kill him!’” But of course, no one will be punished, and the U.S. Black Misleadership Class will say nothing.
The United States does not have a monopoly on the lynch law murder of black people. Israel, both America’s client state and master, is awash in racist state-sponsored violence. Palestinians are usually the intended targets, but Africans are inevitably caught in this terrorism too. The mob murder of Mulu Habtom Zerhom reveals everything that the world needs to know about Israeli apartheid and the settler mentality which it exemplifies.
Zerhom was an Eritrean asylum seeker living in Israel, confined to one of the camps used to hold Africans. He was at a bus station where a Bedouin man shot an Israeli soldier. Zerhom was trying to flee but was himself shot by the police. Video footage shows him lying bleeding and incapacitated as a mob of Israelis kicked him, threw chairs and benches at his head and shouted “son of a whore,” “break his head” and more to the point, “Kill him!”
Unbelievable! Will the U.S. corporate media follow up on this story? Stay tuned.
This is an open thread. Please feel free to comment on any topic or post your comments on the Benghazi hearings.
As I was browsing the news this morning, I came across an article in the Daily Beast about an incident I have often wondered about–the death of teenager Lennon Lacy on August 28th of last year in the small town of Bladenville, North Carolina. On the morning of August 29, Lacy was found hanging from a swing set by a woman who called 911 to report “a suicide,” and asked if she should try to cut the person down. The dispatcher told her to go ahead. That was the beginning of either an unforgivably botched investigation or a police cover-up. (The photo above is of the swing set from which Lacy’s body was found hanging.)
The story broke in the midst of the Ferguson protests over the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, just one the suspicious deaths of young black men reported in the wake of the publicity about Brown’s death and the protests that followed. I’m ashamed to admit that I never searched for more information on the story until today.
Here’s the story that got me started; frankly the headline is a gross understatement. I’m just going to excerpt some of the problems with the “investigation” and then give you some more background on the case.
Cops Didn’t Collect Evidence on Hanging of Black Teen Lennon Lacy, by Justin Glawe
Coroner Hubert Kinlaw told Dr. Christena Roberts, a pathologist hired by the North Carolina NAACP to conduct her own investigation, that he was prevented from taking photos of the crime scene by police—and that cops even threatened to take away his camera.
Furthermore, Kinlaw told Roberts as part of her investigation that police at the scene “didn’t want an autopsy performed,” and that Kinlaw took it upon himself to order one with the local district attorney. (Kinlaw has turned down repeated requests for comment.)
However, an officer from the State Bureau of Investigation said in a report that no photographs were taken at the scene because the sole crime scene technician was at “another homicide.” (No other homicides could be found in news reports for that 24-hour period.) So the authorities don’t even agree why photographs weren’t taken.
The teenager’s hands weren’t bagged when his body reached the medical examiner, which is commonly done to preserve DNA evidence for retrieval by investigators.
The shoes that Lacy’s family members says weren’t his never made it to the autopsy table….
Radisch notes in her report the two belts delivered with Lacy’s body must have had been cut, because they didn’t seem long enough for Lacy to hang himself.
Radisch would only be left to speculate because the authorities didn’t measure the swing set where Lacy was found.
Well, someone could probably have gone to the crime scene and done that after the fact, but I guess no one bothered. Please read the rest of the article at the link. Glawe explains in detail why it would have been nearly impossible for Lacy to hang himself from the place where his body was found.
Fortunately, the FBI is investigating Lacy’s death, but the fact that police just called it a suicide and didn’t collect any evidence will severely hamper their efforts.
On December 19, 2014, The Washington Post reported on why the FBI had been been called in.
BLADENBORO, N.C. — Teresa Edwards was driving to Bo’s Food Store when she spotted the teenager walking along the dirt road. It was getting dark. He was alone. She recognized him as Lennon Lacy, one of her son’s best friends. She stopped to ask him if he needed a ride.
“No, ma’am,” she recalls him saying, “I’m just thinking.”
Lacy had plenty on his mind that night in August, and many would soon puzzle over what those thoughts might have been. The next morning, Lacy, who was black, was found hanging by two belts from a wooden swing set in a predominantly white trailer park. State authorities called it a suicide. His family, and many others here, wondered whether Lacy’s death was something else: a lynching.
It looked to them as if his body was on display. He didn’t leave a note. And Lacy had been dating an older white woman for months. He was found wearing unlaced white sneakers that his family said were not his, one of several unsettled issues. Last week, in a scene echoing the civil rights era in the South, the FBI was called in and the NAACP held a protest march over Lacy’s death….
People who knew Lacy don’t think he committed suicide. Others are unsure what to believe. But many here say the possibility that Lacy, a popular high school senior who moved easily between black and white social circles, was the victim of a racially motivated killing demands more investigation.
“We know suicide is possible,” said the Rev. Gregory Taylor, a black preacher in a town where there are two churches named First Baptist, their memberships split along racial lines. “It’s just hard to accept that a black youth would hang himself given the history of ‘strange fruit.’ The facts don’t add up.”
It was Thursday, Aug. 28, when Edwards, who is white, saw Lacy on the dirt road. She also doesn’t believe the teen killed himself.
Bladenboro has a long history of racism, and the Ku Klux Klan only stopped “parad[ing] through” the town in 1997. Moreover, Lacy’s body was found in an area that black children had long been warned to stay away from. Here’s a summary of some of that history from the Global Grind:
Here’s the truth — the statistic listed above marking the number of black bodies strung from trees in Bladenboro [“86 black people were lynched [in North Carolina] between 1882 and 1968”] is an image that is hard to let go.
And so is the racially charged climate of the rural town. In fact, Lacy’s neighbors, a white couple living in a trailer home right behind the Lacy family home, were instructed by police to remove a Confederate flag and a sign that read “Niggers keep out” from their front yard.
The Guardian asked the couple why they had put up the signs. Sykes said that it was his idea. “There were some kids who ganged up on our kid and I put some signs up.” Asked whether he now regretted doing so, he replied: “Yeah, I regret it now.”
Carla Hudson said she had begged her husband to take the signs down. “I told him he had to stop that. It wasn’t how I saw things – there’s not a racist bone in my body.”
In recent years, that tension hasn’t always been visible. According to The Guardian, Lacy “joined a multiracial youth group across town at the Galeed Baptist church where he went for weekly services and basketball ministry, and his friends were black and white, in almost equal measure.”
Though invisible in some facets of Lacy’s life, that tension is hard to ignore, especially considering how the teenager died.
Back to the WaPo article:
Although the police claimed Lacy was “depressed” about the death of a great uncle, his family said he was exited about playing in the first football game of the season. He had already laid out his uniform in anticipation. The family also said that at least one of the belts used to hang Lacy wasn’t his. Most mysterious of all, his brand new Air Jordans were missing and when Lacy was found his feet were jammed into white sneakers that had no laces and were way too small for his feet.
Claudia Lacy identified her son. A state bureau of investigation agent interviewed her at the scene. She said that her son had just buried his great-uncle but that he didn’t seem depressed. The medical examiner performed an autopsy, failing to find any signs of a struggle or fight. Lacy’s death was ruled a suicide. No mention was made of the white sneakers — they didn’t arrive with Lacy’s body for the autopsy. It’s unclear what happened to the shoes, although the state bureau of investigation collected them, Kinlaw said.
To Claudia Lacy, the investigation felt rushed.
“Why were they so quick to call it that?” she asked now. “Was it because of my race? Was it because of my social status?”
The is much more information at the link.
Lacy’s white girlfriend, who was 31, left town shortly after his death. According the The Daily Mail, she believed he was killed because of their relationship and she didn’t feel safe staying in “Crackertown.”
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com she said: ‘I believe Lennon was murdered. The police ruled his death as suicide but Lennon would never harm himself. He’s got too much love for life.’ …. speaking in the town where she has moved to get away from Bladenboro, Brimhall spoke of how they had planned a future together, despite the age gap, and how he had a life in front of him which showed he would not commit suicide.
Read much more at the Daily Mail link. Other media outlets have been unable to get in touch with the woman. Was she forced to leave town?
More quotes from Lacy’s family at MadameNoire:
[T]he family says suicide can’t be possible. Lacy didn’t have any issues that they know of when it comes to depression or mental illness over the years. And despite losing a great uncle he was close to right before his own death, Lacy’s mother says he grieved in the same way the rest of his family had, but carried on with his preparation for the football season.
“I know my son. The second I saw him I knew he couldn’t have done that to himself – it would have taken at least two men to do that to him.”
His brother, Pierre, agrees: “If my brother wanted to take his own life, I can’t understand why he would do it in such an exposed place. This feels more like he was put here as a public display – a taunting almost.”
Here’s the oft-quoted Guardian story. It’s excellent. Teenager’s mysterious death evokes painful imagery in North Carolina: ‘It’s in the DNA of America.’
I’ll end with a piece by Michael W. Waters at HuffingtonPost, The Life and Death of Lennon Lacy: Strange, Still.
The animus for Time Magazine’s “song of the 20th century” was a photograph of a Southern lynching. A Southern lynching would often draw an entire region of spectators together for a day of socializing. Small children were even present in the crowd, lifted high upon shoulder for an uninterrupted view of the day’s fatal proceedings. It was a strange, albeit frequent Southern spectacle, one that claimed many Black lives.
Given the frequency of this horrid practice, and the abundance of lynching photographs in circulation, many that doubled as postcards, it is unclear why one particular photograph troubled, then inspired Abel Meeropol, a New York English teacher and poet. Yet, it did. Unable to free his mind of this troubling image over several days, Meeropol sought consolation through his pen. As ink dried upon its canvas, its residuum formed words that have haunted generations, words etched into our collective memory as lyric by the incomparable Billie Holiday:
“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”
Now seventy-six years removed its initial recording, there is still cause to sing this sorrowful song.
On August 29, 2014, another Black body was added to the crowded annals of those swung by Southern breeze. In a cruel twist of irony, the body of seventeen year-old Lennon Lacy was not found swinging upon a Southern tree, but upon a Southern swing set – a fact only beginning the strangeness surrounding his death. Authorities in Bladenboro, North Carolina, abruptly ruled Lennon’s death a suicide, declaring that he was depressed, and closed the case in five days.
Still, many questions remain.
Yes, there are many questions that must be answered.
I recall that it took months before the murder of Trayvon Martin became high profile. It’s time the same thing happened with the Lennon Lacy story. This smells like a police cover up to me. The police in Bladenboro are known for stopping black teenagers who are walking at night. Could it be that an officer or officers stopped Lacy and accidentally killed him in a struggle–like what happened to Eric Garner–and then tried to make his death look like suicide?
What do you think?
As always, this is an open thread. Feel free to post links and discuss topics of your choice. But I hope you take a moment to think about and discuss what happened to Lennon Lacy.
Above is one of a group of photos featured by NPR yesterday on what would have been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday, had he lived.
After the dust of the Dust Bowl settled down, American folksinger Woody Guthrie moved to New York City and played more for the leftist East Coast intelligentsia than for migrant workers. Among these performances, one of the better documented was an informal concert in a remarkable carriage house in Lenox, Mass.
Neighbors to Tanglewood and the other arts institutions in the Berkshires, Philip and Stephanie Barber ran the Music Inn as a retreat for New York City intellectuals. Over the course of 30 years, they would hold informal folk and jazz concerts, roundtable discussions and other salon-style cultural events in the carriage house of the former summer estate of the Countess de Heredia.
The first concert was in July 1950. Alan Lomax, a friend of the Barbers, hosted a concert featuring Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Rev. Gary Davis. Among those in attendance was Dan Burley, a piano player and journalist for the Amsterdam News and other African-American newspapers.
CNN posted more gorgeous photos of Woody Guthrie in New York in 1943.
Guthrie’s mother had Huntington’s Disease, which is transmitted through a dominant gene. Woody was diagnosed with the disease in 1952, but had probably shown symptoms earlier than that. Huntington’s usually strikes in middle age, when it may have already been passed on to the next generation. I found this site, which tracks Woody’s knowledge of his family history of the disease and his gradual development of symptoms. Woody died on October 3, 1967.
Woody’s father Charles Guthrie was a businessman and politician and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He apparently participated in the lynching of Laura and Lawrence Nelson in 1911. On Friday the LA Weekly published a article by Jonny Whiteside that calls Woody Guthrie “a big ol’ racist.” Whiteside also suggests that Guthrie was a fraud in that he lied about the source of his music.
You can read the article to assess these claims. I found the story interesting. I think that every great artist has negative aspects to his or her character, and that can be added to the overall picture. But I think it’s possible to evaluate the work itself separate from the character of the artist. Every human being is a complex mixture of light and shadow, as Jung would say.
I never fail to get chills when I hear “This Land is Your Land,” the radical anthem that Guthrie wrote in response to the song “God Bless America.”
This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie
This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.
I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
© Copyright 1956 (renewed), 1958 (renewed), 1970 and 1972 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)
Here are a few more Woody Guthrie songs:
All You Fascists Bound to Lose
Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You
This one was performed by a number of artists at the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration: This Train is Bound for Glory.
What’s your favorite Woody Guthrie tune?