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January 09, 2006

Ask questions later. Or not.

July 22, 2005: Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian citizen, is gunned down on the London Underground by police who presumably thought they were pursuing a would-be suicide bomber. He is originally said to have been wearing a thick winter coat or possibly even a bomb belt, to have been ordered to halt outside Stockwell tube station, and to have leaped over the turnstiles while fleeing police. He is subsequently determined to have been wearing a lightweight denim jacket, to have paid his full fare, and not to have been approached in any way by police before they pumped eight bullets into him. As a result of the killing of this innocent man, the disturbing attempts at police arse-covering that followed and nearly universal public disquiet over the affair, an inquiry is launched.

December 7, 2005: Rigoberto Alpizar, an American citizen, is shot dead on the jetway outside an American Airlines flight in Miami by air marshals who presumably thought he posed a threat to passengers. Officials claim Alpizar said he had a bomb and refused to obey instructions to take his hands away from his bag and lie down on the jetway. Some eyewitnesses dispute whether these events in fact took place. The media completely abandons the story; Americans seem not to care. Even the pre-eminent mental health groups appear to have declined comment.

I don't mean to suggest that the two incidents are totally analogous, or that anyone with a gun did anything wrong. But I'll go as far as to say that Americans owe Alpizar, and their many other fellow citizens who are capable of freaking out on airplanes, far more honest contemplation than they've yet undertaken. The big media outlets will be ready to pounce, I'm sure, should DNA evidence exonerate Roger Keith Coleman and make him the first person conclusively tried, wrongfully convicted and executed in the United States. Alpizar's all that minus the trial, and they aren't making a peep.

Posted by Chris Selley at January 9, 2006 08:31 PM

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You are very right, Chris. The silence of the media on this is embarrassing, particularly since many reporters trumpeted the claim that Alpizar made bomb threats even though no witness (other than the shooters)seems to have heard him. Living here in the US, all I can tell you is that when there is a terrorism angle to a story, people stop questioning and accept mistakes like this as a sad fact of the post-9/11 age. The mentality is very much that terrorists can be anywhere, and it is better to be wrong and kill someone like Alpizar then fail to take decisive action.

Posted by: Milan at January 10, 2006 06:49 PM