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How the Media Tried to Assassinate Christopher Dorner

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  • Thandisizwe Chimurenga
    *How the Media Tried to Assassinate Chris Dorner* *Claims of ‘Mental Illness’ are in the Mind of the Beholder* * * * * *Thandisizwe Chimurenga* *Los
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25 9:42 PM
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      *How the Media Tried to Assassinate Chris Dorner*

      *Claims of �Mental Illness� are in the Mind of the Beholder*

      * *

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      *Thandisizwe Chimurenga*

      *Los Angeles-Watts Times Newspaper*

      *February 21, 2013***

      * *



      Christopher Jordan Dorner is dead but his words and actions will continue
      to impact the Los Angeles area and beyond for quite some time. The former
      U.S. Navy lieutenant and Los Angeles police officer who is alleged to have
      shot and killed four people earlier this month was the subject of the
      largest manhunt in Southern California history. Authorities say that
      manhunt ended on Feb. 12 with Dorner, surrounded by law enforcement in a
      cabin in the Big Bear area of San Bernadino, committing suicide as highly
      flammable tear gas canisters ignited the cabin and burned it to the ground.



      Dorner�s �manifesto�, in which he declared war on the Los Angeles Police
      Department and his subsequent actions were horrifying to many. In an
      effort to understand the reason behind Dorner�s rage and his actions, many
      mainstream media outlets posited that Dorner must have suffered from some
      sort of mental illness.



      Appearing on �Piers Morgan Tonight� on Feb. 7, 2012, Dr. Xavier Amador, a
      regular commentator for CNN, said there was �absolutely no basis in reality
      for his [Dorner's] complaints that he was mistreated, that there was any
      kind of police corruption,� that Dorner had �clear signs of mental
      illness,� and that his �manifesto� was �delusional.�



      Amador�s analysis was based on a review of Dorner�s LAPD case file, he
      said.



      According to Neon Tommy the online news site of the University of Southern
      California, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared that �Whatever
      problem [Dorner] has is mental,� while speaking at a press conference on
      proposed gun safety legislation. Mayor�s Villaraigosa�s comments were part
      of a Feb. 7th news article entitled �Christopher Dorner�s Navy Service
      Record And Mental Health Scrutinized.�**


      On Feb. 9, The Associated Press ran a news brief on Dorner�s unsuccessful
      attempt to obtain a restraining order in 2006 against his then-girlfriend
      Ariana Williams. The story quotes court documents filed in the case that
      called Dorner �severely emotionally and mentally disturbed.� The court
      documents also link Williams to a post about Dorner on a website that was
      signed anonymously, calling Dorner �twisted� and �super paranoid.�

      Also on Feb. 9, The Christian Science Monitor, in �Christopher Dorner:
      Experts look for clues to alleged cop killer�s mental state,� quotes a
      retired FBI profiler who said Dorner�s actions were �completely over the
      top.� Dorner, who claimed in his manifesto that he simply wanted to �clear
      his name,� had a �personality disorder� according to Mary Ellen O'Toole.



      While it can be considered normal to search for answers in a case such as
      this, attempting to make a mental health diagnosis of Christopher Dorner
      without ever having physically examined him is not.



      �It is difficult to make a diagnostic conclusion given how little any of us
      know about Dorner's mental health history, having no audio transcripts to
      review, no testing and assessment instruments to analyze, and no clinical
      interview data, said Thomas Parham, PhD. Parham is Past President of the
      national Association of Black Psychologists and a co-author of �Psychology
      of Blacks: Centering Our Perspectives in the African Consciousness.�



      �All we have is a so-called �manifesto� (that I have not read) that is
      selectively presented in the media. So, for the press and media to be
      making a statement in absence of that kind of information is just
      interesting, if not useless chatter,� he said.



      Clive D. Kennedy, a Clinical Forensic Psychologist and president of the Los
      Angeles Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, echoes Parham�s
      comments on evaluating Dorner�s mental state. �I believe no professional
      has indicated he or she is aware of Mr. Dorner's mental health status and
      therefore, we are unlikely to ever know, including those in the media who
      have been so forthcoming of his psychiatric condition,� he said.



      Dorner claimed in his manifesto clearly and explicitly that not only was he
      a victim of racism but that his attempts to �blow the whistle� on the
      racism of the LAPD against him and other officers are why he believes he
      was fired. According to Dorner retaliation against �snitching� on other
      police officers was one of several corrupt practices within the,
      department. Despite this, much of the media coverage of Dorner�s mental
      state has conveniently left this fact out.



      *Are Charges of Racism Enough to Push One Over The Edge?*

      * *

      In her Feb. 9, 2013 Los Angeles Times op-ed, Civil Rights attorney Connie
      Rice recalls a conversation she had with former Los Angeles Police
      Department Deputy Jesse Brewer. Describing him as �wise and classy,� Rice
      states that Brewer, the first African American president of the Los Angeles
      Police Commission that oversees the LAPD, �came to my law office in 1990.
      He described to me his own ordeals on the force, in which white officers
      illegally blocked his entrance to the Police Academy, tried to plant false
      evidence on him, blocked all of his promotions and set him up for ambush in
      the field. He also described how viciously the department retaliated
      against him and other officers who tried to stand up for fellow officers or
      civilians who suffered abuse from cops. The LAPD never did allow
      whistle-blowers of any kind to survive, no matter how righteous they were,�
      wrote Rice.



      Chillingly, Rice goes on to write that Brewer told her that Black LAPD
      officers had to resort to accepting abuse from white police officers and
      �outsmarting� them because, �If you let them get to you, you'll become
      homicidal."



      In her 1995 work �Killing Rage, Ending Racism,� noted political and
      cultural critic bell hooks wrote: �the conditions of racism can �drive one
      mad.�



      Referring to an outbreak of violence in New York City in which a Black man
      opened fire randomly on a subway train, hooks states that � � most Black
      folks can recognize that it is ethically and morally wrong to kill folks
      even as we can also sympathize with mental illness that is either
      engendered or exacerbated by life in [the United States].�



      Psychologist Thomas Parham echoed that sentiment. �We must extend our
      prayers for those who lost their lives in this rampage (both victims and
      perpetrator) and for the families who are left to grieve. There is never a
      justification for the taking of innocent lives, no matter what the level of
      unfairness one believes has impacted their own life. There is nothing more
      sacred in the African tradition than life, so to be so callous in the
      taking of innocent lives would seem to be the most fundamental violation of
      an African centered worldview.�



      Parham continued, �Clearly, the actions Dorner engaged in are very �out of
      the ordinary,� and beyond the realm of most standards of normalcy and
      decency that society embraces. Yet, like all of us, he is a product of a
      social system that makes an implicit contract with its citizens that says
      if you work hard and play by the rules, including doing the right thing on
      your job, then success should be the reward for one�s hard work,
      dedication, and commitment � I suspect that if he embraced this implicit
      social contract with the rigidity of a very concrete thinker, and then
      believes that his life was ruined by some unfair and discriminatory
      treatment when he called himself trying to do the right thing and report
      abuse by a fellow officer, then the violation and betrayal he feels might
      evoke that type of anger, rage, and desire for retribution that we all
      witnessed ��.



      Paul Harris, a San Francisco-based attorney and author, says that � � even
      in cases where the perpetrator of the crime is mentally ill, one must look
      at the concrete experiences of racism (and other environmental hardships)
      to understand the resulting behavior.� Harris is the author of �Black Rage
      Confronts the Law,� a 1971 book based on a case in which Harris was
      successful in defending a young Black man accused of bank robbery. �Too
      many people cry racism in explaining these crimes without combining the
      underlying mental problems, with the specific life experience with racism
      the person has suffered,� said Harris.

      Joy DeGruy, author of �Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,� uttered similar
      comments as Harris. �I would think that any serious response would include
      consideration of the obvious and blatant differential treatment of African
      Americans by a dysfunctional justice system and the structural inequalities
      inherent in that system.� DeGruy holds degrees in social work and clinical
      psychology and is an Assistant Professor at Portland State University.


      More than 1,000 sightings of Christopher Dorner were reported to police
      during the manhunt to apprehend him. The overwhelming majority of those
      tips were based on faulty identifications of Black men whose appearance was
      similar to Dorner. What we do not know for sure is how many of those tips
      were from individuals that were simply Good Samaritans interested in
      assisting law enforcement, and how many were from individuals who were
      genuinely frightened that Dorner might attack them.


      As we continue to ponder Dorner�s mental state we might also take into
      account the words of bell hooks: �White supremacy is frightening. It
      promotes mental illness and various dysfunctional behaviors on the part of
      whites and non-whites. It is the real and present danger � not black
      rage.�


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