2-94. The Dark Side of Curiosity: A Beating in Kenya

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UPDATE AT THE END

This episode contains disturbing, violent content.

The word “curiosity” is popular these days. It’s associated with joy and wonder—isn’t it fun to learn things?!

But in reality, not everything we learn is entertaining. But it’s still vitally important.

This morning, May 17 2016, I watched a bit of CNN as i tried to wake up. It was non-stop Drumpf, with a book review about Wall Street. There was no mention of the police crushing a protest in Kenya while we in the US slept.

At this point, it would be helpful for you to look at an image. It’s not pleasant, and I won’t blame you for not clicking through. But if you’re curious, this will be worth your time and disgust. The image is here.

There image will become iconic. It’s a very clear picture of a police officer in full riot gear, “curb stomping” an unconscious man. If you’re unfamiliar with “curb stomping,” I’m sorry to inform you that it’s an act where you place someone’s head on a curbstone and stomp on it, with the goal of either crushing the skull or breaking the neck.

This is horrific stuff, and the image is proof-positive that police brutality is rampant.

But… the image doesn’t show what happened.

Before I explain, please know that I’m not defending the Kenyan police. Their actions were brutal and uncalled for. Chasing down protestors who are running away and clearly no threat, and then beating them with sticks, as other images show, can not be defended.

But while I was looking at the curb stomping image, I noticed a comment from a Kenyan who said “This picture doesn’t show what happened.” It’s such a clear image, that I wondered how that could be. I searched the news and found this brutal picture in a dozen locations. There are already memes that incorporate the picture and refer to the famous Orwell quote from 1984 “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” But I couldn’t find any explanation as to what actually happened in the photo.

When I did find the narrative, I was amazed. There was no stomping. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

There’s another quote, often attributed to Carl Sagan but one that’s existed for at least a century that says “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The claim that this photo, which clearly shows a police office about to curb stomp a protestor DOESN’T actually show that is an extraordinary claim. And yes, the evidence against that claim is also extraordinary.

That evidence is a video, showing the incident from another angle. You can click here to see an animated gif, or here to see the entire video. The cop’s foot was actually going backwards, not down. And at no time during the video did he do anything more than kick the man in the buttocks and hit him with his baton. Kicking an unconscious man is unforgivable, but it’s not the same as attempted murder, which is what a curb stomp is. The cops were not trying to kill this man.

The story as best as I can piece it together from the video and reportedly eye-witness accounts is that the man stole a purse, was subdued and savagely beaten. He wasn’t protesting; he was just taking advantage of the chaos. Again, that is not a defense of the police, but it does change the story and meaning substantially.

The video shows police brutality. The image shows attempted murder. That’s the difference, and only curiosity will lead us to the place where we can cut through what people want us to see and arrive at what actually happened.

And could another video come along showing police curb stomping people? Absolutely, and if it does, I’ll consider it . But insofar as this image is concerned, we can learn that a single frame from time often tells a history that never happened. My fear is that few people will care enough to appreciate that.

UPDATE 1
And before I’ve even finished recording this, there’s an update. The Kenyan website Zipo is reporting that the man’s name was Ben Ngari, and that he succumbed from his injuries. However, the news report also says that he was a protestor and that the man was indeed curb stomped. I can’t find another news source reporting this fact. Does Zipo have evidence that I haven’t seen? Did they not see the video? I don’t know.

But I do know that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and those words may not be telling the truth. I hope the truth is that the man in the green hoodie is currently recuperating from his unjust injuries. As for CNN, more Drumpf, and no mention of this event at all.

UPDATE 2

The Telegraph UK is reporting that the officers seen in the video are being sought out for questioning. They’re also reporting that the man was a protestor, not a purse snatcher. They can’t confirm his identity or death.

The article features are political cartoon that illustrates the now infamous photo, but adds blood that isn’t there.

UPDATE 3

This article from the Daily Mail contradicts the Zipo article above. It states that the man is named Boniface Manono, and he survived the beating and is now in the hospital. There are reports that he was caught looting, but he denies these (according to Mediamax), and he also denies that he was beaten about the head. It’s possible that the purse snatching claims stemmed from the piece of gear that fell off the primary attacker’s arm and landed near Manono’s unconscious body. Still nothing on CNN.

 

Detail from "Tyrant Boot" by Shepard Fairley

Detail from “Tyrant Boot” by Shepard Fairey

 

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