In a multijurisdictional raid in Habersham County police barged into the home of Wanis Thometheva at 3:00 am.
During the raid one of the uniformed men, tasked with caging people for possession of substances the state deems illegal, threw a stun grenade into the crib of a 19 month old baby.
Who threw the stun grenade? As far as I can tell, after scouring the stories, we don’t know. The media has not released the name of this individual. All we know is that it was one of the law enforcement officers who took part in the raid.
Phonesavanh’s son is in the burn unit of a local hospital. The grenade blew a large laceration in his chest and ripped his face wide open.
There were many pictures taken but they were so graphic that the local news station chose not to share them.
This is how the media protects law enforcement. We know the media routinely withholds the names of law enforcement officers involved in antisocial behavior. This prevents the public from holding those individuals accountable.
The media also withholds information that would outrage the public to action.
During the Vietnam War graphic footage from Vietnam, as well as photos of deceased soldiers being returned home, aired nationally. Seeing the effects of war — violence, brutality and dead bodies — galvanized popular sentiment against the Vietnam War. The US government learned this fact. The state responded by working with the media to control the dissemination of information. Information that would outrage the public. This type of footage is no longer aired. The glorification of war, without the tempering effects of seeing war’s reality, has allowed the Afghanistan adventure to continue throughout both the Bush and Obama years.
Now we see this strategy normalized on a local level. We know a baby was severely injured during a controversial no-knock raid. We know that the raid was a part of America’s unpopular war on drugs. And we know that an individual human being — not a faceless robot in a uniform — was responsible for this. But we’re not allowed to see just how that baby was injured, nor are we allowed to know who that uniformed man was. Thus, our disapproval is tempered and our feelings are misdirected.
We are rightly outraged by the affair, but we don’t experience the full outrage that we should. We are unable to because we do not have the information to process. We are angry. But how much more angry would we be if we saw the full damage and if we knew the name of the man responsible?
In fact, our feelings are diffused. We are upset at intangible or abstract ideas. We are allowed to be angry at the practice of the no-knock raid, the Habersham County Police Department, “the police” in general, or the “war on drugs.” We’re prohibited from being angry at the individual responsible: the man who threw the grenade into the crib of the baby.
But, factually, one man threw a grenade into a baby’s crib. A human being equal to you or I, no more and no less. He is responsible for his action as an individual. And he should be held accountable for it. The public should see the full effects of his actions. And the public should know who, as an individual, to hold responsible.
Only when individuals are held accountable, when they know they will face public consequences for their behaviors, and when they know that they cannot hide behind the anonymity of a uniform, will institutionalized antisocial behavior be prevented.