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Fall of Minneapolis director debunks critics, raises new questions 4 years after George Floyd


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In an interview with Liz Collin, director Dr. JC Chaix debunks the self-proclaimed "debunkers" of "The Fall of Minneapolis" documentary.
Liz Collin
June 10, 2024

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd — and the rioting that destroyed Minneapolis — many so-called political leaders declared that we’d be on “the right side of history.”

Despite the claims of being on “the right side of history,” a lot seems to have gone wrong in the years since the death of George Floyd, according to Dr. JC Chaix — a writer, editor, educator, and the director of The Fall of Minneapolis documentary (presented by Alpha News).

 

The month of May 2024 marked even more violence in Minneapolis and beyond. And while politicians and corporate media were touting “George Floyd Remembrance Day” — and reminding us yet again about the supposed “systemic racism in policing” — Minneapolis police officer Jamal Mitchell was executed in the street.

Just days before, Liz Collin interviewed Dr. JC Chaix and asked if public sentiment surrounding Floyd’s death has changed in the past four years.

Dr. Chaix remarked that it’s clear people aren’t falling for the lies and false narratives anymore. He also pointed out how “those who are desperately still clinging to these narratives clearly seem outnumbered these days.”

Debunking the so-called ‘debunkers’

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On Derek Chauvin, George Floyd, and Reasonable Doubt

Coleman Hughes wrote a column in these pages that set off a flurry of criticism. Here, he sets the record straight.

Coleman Hughes

June 13, 2024

The following essay by Coleman Hughes is the longest we have ever run at The Free Press, and it deserves a few additional words of introduction. 

Back in January, you may recall that Coleman published a column in these pages called “What Really Happened to George Floyd?” which took stock of a documentary about the death of George Floyd and the trial of Derek Chauvin. In the months that followed, the journalist Radley Balko wrote a three-part, 30,000-word essay tearing into Coleman’s 2,000.

One reason Coleman’s essay is so long is that he is responding to the many charges of factual and interpretive error leveled against him by Balko. There are also a lot of facts to cover, and a good deal of context, from medical examiner reports to police training manuals. But there is another reason for the length of Coleman’s important piece. 

Balko’s critique, though styled as an exhaustive set of granular corrections of the factual record, was made in the service of refuting a claim that Coleman did not make about Derek Chauvin’s innocence.

The nature of this misunderstanding is important. As Coleman patiently explains, the asymmetry of their approaches grows out of his own focus on the concept of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a criminal trial, this does not simply allow for the presentation by the defense of possibilities that may or may not prove true—since truth is never a foregone conclusion—it demands their consideration by the jury. And it tasks the prosecution with the burden of dispelling the shadows of doubt so vital to protecting the rights of the accused, whoever they may be.

Radley describes a still larger purpose of his essays this way: “But this also isn’t just about Hughes’s column, or the documentary. It’s about an insidious counter-narrative that has been picking up momentum on the far right for months, and is now seeping into more mainstream outlets.”

Mischaracterizing Coleman’s review as an argument for Chauvin’s innocence (it was not; it was an argument that Chauvin was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) allows Radley to treat it as part of an insidious “counternarrative” derived from the “far right.” In other words, Coleman’s good-faith effort to understand Floyd’s tragic death, the challenges of policing, the role of race and media, and the tangled complexity of criminal and social justice in our contentious, narrative-saturated moment are recast by Radley as something else—something dangerous.

Coleman announced his intention to wait until all three parts of Radley’s essay were posted before responding, but he invited Radley to debate him at The Free Press or on his own podcast in the interim. Radley refused—unless Coleman immediately published corrections of facts whose accuracy and interpretation were to have been the subject of the debate. These clarifications are provided in Coleman’s essay below, which also restores the context in which they were discussed.

Radley’s statement about “insidious counternarratives” continues: “Hughes’s article—and the reaction to it—shows how the claims made in TFOM [the documentary] are being laundered through more respectable, ‘heterodox’ media outlets, podcasts, and pundits. Hughes himself just published a book, and was flatteringly profiled in the New York Times. He was on Bill Maher’s show, and will be moderating a panel discussion on Gaza (of all things) in New York later this month.”

Leave aside for the moment Radley’s insulting surprise that Coleman might moderate a discussion about Gaza. The vehemence and volume of Radley’s attack, with its whiff of conspiracy and presumption of bad faith, doesn’t just argue for Chauvin’s guilt, but for the complicity of Coleman, The Free Press, and all who approach the story in a manner at odds with his own understanding, if only by leaving room for a gray zone where he sees black and white.

In a tweet following the first installment of his essay, Radley wrote:

“Yesterday I demonstrated how Coleman Hughes amplified the lies about George Floyd’s death churned out by a nutty, conspiratorial ‘documentary’—making him either complicit or a dupe.”

In Balko’s binary understanding, Coleman is either a conspiracy nut or a fool. Though the last line of the tweet—“Today, Hughes got a flattering, book-hawking profile in the NYT”—seems the most telling. For anyone to take his work seriously, or perhaps especially to grant him safe passage through the pages of The New York Times, is an affront to Balko’s own Manichean vision. 

I could go on, but let’s get to Coleman’s essay. This piece—and all of his work—is respectful of the gray zones. Examining plausible alternatives that may or may not prove true is not only the way our judicial system protects the accused from ideological conviction. It is also useful for journalists, especially in an overheated and partisan age where truth is often the first casualty. —BW

 

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