We will decline the temptation to contrarianism that is so irresistible to the rest of the independent media, but we will refuse to join the masses of the bourgeoisie in their bacchanalian celebration of the successful conviction of Derek Chauvin. The authoritarian state is our enemy, and we pursue its destruction in these pages and channels, but we do not pretend that Chauvin, who was only the lowest-ranking of the emissaries of this state, was the embodiment of its essence. Even if we did, his sentencing remains completely uncertain, and the result of his inevitable appeal even more so. The jubilant demonstrations that have been captured and broadcast repeatedly by the mass media since Tuesday afternoon are untrustworthy, also, as we are being told to celebrate our moral renewal at the same time that the authoritarian state is rapidly amassing power through the Biden Administration.
This is the most convenient interpretation of Tuesday’s ruling: the authoritarian state is sacrificing Chauvin to convince the shortsighted masses that they are on the brink of liberation, although none of them can explain what liberation truly entails. Similar to the capitalist who pays nothing in taxes but makes a well-publicized donation to a charity, the authoritarians may be throwing Chauvin to the wolves to distract from their more ambitious undertakings, several of which we have discussed in some detail here at Overwritten. Unfortunately, this process has been distorted in right-wing media (which is the closest thing to an alternative perspective that the establishment permits) as the act of throwing Chauvin under the bus to appease “the mob”, the mob being the masses. This plays into the myth that the commoners and the peasantry possess real power that the state respects and fears.
In other words, no matter which way we turn in the mainstream media, we are presented with the single conclusion that “the people” have been empowered. The only difference between the coverage on NBC and the coverage on Fox is whether this empowerment of the people is depicted as a welcome or a sinister development. We are compelled to accept the authenticity of this narrative before we can develop our narrow opinions on it. This is very similar to the monochromatic depiction of the Alexei Navalny controversy, which we have also been covering at Overwritten: we are required to view Navalny the public figure as a completely organic entity, and there is no space for skepticism in the establishment press.
However, we might take a moment to entertain the so-called skepticism, the right-wing variation, on its own terms. I do not accept the hypothesis that the jurors voted as they did because they feared a violent reprisal from “the people”. The abundance of evidence and witnesses presented by the prosecution, especially relative to the lifeless effort by the defense, was likely the real reason why they convicted Chauvin. This should not be difficult to understand, especially by those of us who write and speak in contempt of the authoritarian state, yet I see many of my contemporaries pretend that the evidence somehow favored Chauvin. They pretend as they do because the mainstream media and political culture stood definitively against Chauvin—but as I have said, we cannot afford to become contrarians.
Another popular argument is that Chauvin was incapable of receiving a fair trial in Minneapolis. I could agree with this claim, at least in theory, although the killing of George Floyd was so widely publicized and debated that it is difficult to imagine any part of the country producing truly unbiased jurors. Having said that, I’m not sure why the prosecution didn’t agree to move the trial to a different county, lest this become a point of contention on appeal. Perhaps the state wants this trial to continue indefinitely: much like the needlessly protracted counting of presidential ballots five months ago, there is a cash cow for the mass media to milk.
I will not go as far as to suggest that the authoritarian state intended for this case to be overturned on appeal. To do so would be seen as digging in my heels, for I have not forgotten the video that I made in which I suggested that Chauvin could very easily be acquitted. I still believe that he will serve less than twenty years in prison, but a full-fledged acquittal now seems to me unlikely. I do not believe that Maxine Waters’s comments about confrontation should constitute a mistrial, and Joe Biden’s comments about “praying” for the “right” verdict even less so. If this is the eventual outcome, however, then I think it could be the existential death of this institution that we call our system our justice.
From a moralistic perspective, it is disappointing to see so many people shedding tears of joy for Chauvin’s imprisonment. While I certainly understand the vengeful impulse, anyone who expresses elation or euphoria in this case obviously does not really believe in prison abolition or police abolition, because they see Chauvin’s imprisonment (as enforced by the police state) as an affirmative blessing. That is discouraging, although, again, I cannot pretend that I don’t understand their bloodlust, at least to an extent.
It is for this reason that I will not chastise anyone for taking a day or two to celebrate Chauvin’s downfall, misguided though such celebration would almost certainly be. I myself had to make a few jokes at his expense, simply to brighten what has been a rather grueling time to review the news, what with the Guardian apotheosizing Navalny and the Lincoln Project advocating for the repeal of the First Amendment. So, yes, we can suspend our better understanding for a moment and accept with a halfhearted smile the minor victory of Tuesday afternoon—but understand that, when the high has disappointed, the real, daunting work will remain before us.