Thursday, September 3, 2009

Deja vu

It's happening again and the same man, Michael Bryant, and the same big media accomplices are at the center of it. The propensity to label us vs. them is such an innate part of our nature that it's the easiest thing in the world to push a few buttons to get people riled up against the "other".

I heard it in conversation yesterday, words from a middle aged guy with little tolerance for things outside his squinty eyed world view.

"If that had been me, if I felt threatened ... I mean, he might have a weapon ... I'd do whatever it took to defend myself."

He was talking about Michael Bryant, empathizing with Bryant, Bryant the victim, visualizing himself in Bryant's shoes that night his car ran over and killed a cyclist, one of those courier types. But the cyclist, Darcy Sheppard, did not have a weapon whereas Bryant, in his 2 ton automobile, did very much have a weapon. It reminds me of all the twisted lies about Pit Bulls and their incredible locking jaws and how much pressure those jaws can exert, lies which probably started the same way in the minds of very similar type people.

"If I saw a dog like that, eyeballing me ... I mean, they got those locking jaws, right? Could tear your leg clean off ... I'd want them dead too."

Thankfully, not everyone in yesterday's conversation was as lulled and lured by Bryant's high society lip gloss.

"When there's a confrontation between a pedestrian or cyclist and a car, the car's going to win. The onus is on the car driver not to cause injury or death."

"What if the guy was trying to grab me or put me in a headlock. I'd use whatever I had to protect myself," said middle ager.

Again, reminiscent of other conversations.

"What if the Pit Bull tried to go for my kid? Better safe than sorry. I want them all rounded up and off our streets."

In that frame of mind, how easy would it be to see every nibble as a bite, every scrape as a gash, or in the case of Bryant and Sheppard, see a grasp as a potential headlock or mistake someone trying to hang on so he doesn't get run over by the rear wheels of a car as someone trying to grab the steering wheel?

Witnesses say they might have seen that. How hard would it be for someone to find witnesses to say these things when so many already want to believe these things? After all, it was at night so the witness isn't sure but maybe thinks perhaps probably saw something like an arm could've been possibly going around the driver's head most likely.

The media, never far behind when there's some good sensationalizing to be done, is quick to feed into that public frenzy.

Here's an example and yes I feel dirty for posting a link and driving traffic to it.

So, the story's already being turned around. There are now multiple media reports relating theories about how Sheppard may have tried to put Bryant in a headlock or how he may have tried to grab the steering wheel. The reporter in the clip above even goes so far as to demonstrate how that might have happened.

Why doesn't the reporter choose instead to demonstrate something that actually did happen, like Bryant hitting Sheppard's bicycle? Instead, he doesn't even mention it.

In fact, there's hardly any mention now in the mainstream press about the initial act that precipitated all this, those allegations of Bryant driving up too close to Sheppard, hitting Sheppard. And when it is mentioned, it's couched in words which minimize the significance.

What's known for sure is that after driving three kilometres from Akropolis to the intersection at Bay and Bloor Sts., Bryant was involved in a minor collision with cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard around 9:45 p.m.

A "minor collision"? Right. According to who? Certainly not the dead guy. Was Sheppard's bike damaged? Was Sheppard injured? How often does a car collide with a cyclist and the cyclist walks away unscathed? A cyclist is as unprotected as a pedestrian. Can you imagine a "minor collision" between a car and a pedestrian in a similar situation as the one Sheppard found himself in?

Most attention is now conveniently shifted to what happened after the initial collision. That's like someone throwing a punch at you from behind just because you're in his way and when you turn around to confront the guy, maybe try to grab him, maybe even try to hit back, the guy says, "Okay, you're really in my face now so I'm going to do whatever it takes to get rid of you and if that means causing you grievous bodily harm, well, I'm calling it self defence."

Even the portrayal of the two men is so grossly slanted by most media outlets. So many preambles about Bryant seem to center around his lovely evening with his wife, celebrating their anniversary (it's wonderful they have a stable marriage but what's that got to do with running a guy over?) whereas so many stories about Sheppard focus on his possible alcohol abuse, his police record. Why not reverse the onus? Why not report on Bryant's overzealous political ambitions or his poor relationship with the Ontario premier, his ex-boss? That's got about as much relevance with respect to looking inside Bryant's head as that "just the type of dinner an average Joe like you or I would have" dinner he and his wife were enjoying. And instead of constantly focusing on Sheppard's fractured past, why not write more instead about his close friendships within the courier community or his attempts at being a comedian?

It's pretty common knowledge now that one of the first phone calls Bryant made after the death of Sheppard was to his PR man.

among the first calls Bryant made after summoning his lawyer, was to Navigator Ltd., the blue-chip communications consultancy.

By the time he emerged from a police station hours later, facing charges of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, but free to go, Bryant's image was firmly in hand by Navigator Ltd.

Bryant is probably looking for a strategy to win his case in the court of public opinion - the only one that ever really matters to a politician. Who knows how much money he's handing over to the spin gurus to smooth over this little hiccup in his career. I say there's no need. The mass media is already winning the case for him.

Bryant's ridden this wave before. He's an old hat at beating down the voiceless, those who are discriminated against. He's in familiar territory.

I obviously wasn't there at the incident and I'm not the paid PR man but this is how I might "reframe" the events of that evening solely based on the momentum of public opinion:

While heading home after an enjoyable evening out, having just celebrated their wedding anniversary, Mr. Bryant was attempting to drive by Mr. Sheppard who was cycling along Bloor St., when Mr. Sheppard, in what appeared to be an intoxicated state, swerved his bicycle into Mr. Bryant's car. Both Mr. Sheppard and Mr. Bryant stopped their vehicles and a heated vocal exchanged ensued where Mr. Sheppard aggressively slammed his backpack onto Mr. Bryant's car. At this point, Mr. Bryant, fearing for his safety, got back into his car and attempted to drive away. Mr. Sheppard attempted to physically assault Mr. Bryant by trying to grab his head to put him in a headlock but Mr. Bryant succeeded in starting the car and pulling away. Mr. Sheppard, still attempting to engage Mr. Bryant in a physical confrontation, grabbed onto the steering wheel and forced the car into the opposing lane whereupon Mr. Sheppard was himself struck several times by objects on the sidewalk thus sustaining fatal injuries.

Sure. Why not? Sounds good. Unless there are witnesses or cameras who can see in the dark and at a distance with a clear view of the exact struggle between Bryant and Sheppard, a statement like that would be nearly impossible to disprove, especially since Sheppard is dead.

And you know what? Maybe that is how it went down. I don't know. That's the royally fucked up thing about all this. We'll never really know the truth. All we'll get is Bryant's spin and depending on how well it's presented, with a huge amount of sincerity and a good dose of remorse and perhaps even a hint of indignation, too many people will believe it without question just like too many people believe the lies about Pit Bulls.

From Navigator Mr. Bryant "Let me be clear: I am innocent of the very serious accusations made against me.".


Here are some other things Mr. Bryant has said in the past, from dogwatch:

The claim: "I am convinced that pit bulls are ticking time bombs. I am convinced that they are inherently dangerous animals." - Michael Bryant

Response: The United States the Supreme Court in Alabama ruled that there was no genetic evidence that one breed of dog was more dangerous than another, simply because of its breed. All of the experts support this view - experts that Michael Bryant refused to include in his round table discussions. Why is Michael Bryant manipulating the truth to make one group of dogs look like monsters?

The claim: "... a neighbouring pit bull knock[ed] her fence over and a 150 pound beast charged her kids." - Michael Bryant

Response: 'Pit bulls' do not exceed 100 pounds - most are in the 40-80 pounds range. In other words, Michael Bryant did not even use real 'pit bull' examples for his news conference. This proves the fears of pet owners are valid - any shorthaired, medium-to-large sized cross bred dog cannot be distinguished from 'pit bull' crosses and will be affected by this ban. This would include most boxer crosses, many labrador crosses, rhodesian ridgeback crosses, mastiff crosses ... many, many dogs.

The claim: "We also know that when you institute a pit bull ban, it does not take long to have no more pit bull problems in your jurisdiction. That was the experience in Winnipeg ..." - Michael Bryant

The response: Mr. Bryant is knowingly deceiving the people of Ontario with this statement through exclusion. Yes, by reducing the number of 'pit bulls' in Winnipeg the government significantly cut the number of 'pit bull' incidents. However, a critical point is excluded. In the four years that immediately followed the 'pit bull' ban the overall number of bites in the city of Winnipeg went up.

The real numbers are this: in Winnipeg the overall number of bites in 1990 (the year when the ban was introduced) was 214 compared to 275, 264, 256, and 301 for the years of 1991-1994. More importantly, Winnipeg's statistics show a sharp increase in bites by two specific breeds that began in 1991 - immediately after the ban was implemented.


Social Mange said...

I want to know if the deceased's DNA was found on the tire(s) of Bryant's car.
The REAR tire(s).

Fred said...

From what I've been reading, there's little doubt that Sheppard was run over by Bryant's car although I suppose the proper way to spin it is to say that Sheppard "got under" Bryant's car to make it sound more Sheppard was the active agent in his own death.

Anonymous said...

Navigator's doing a good job. This morning, the Star is calling it, "a fatal crash"... << sigh >>

Marcie said...

This entire thing has had me annoyed & I knew it would take this path from the get go. The fact that this asswipe killed another humane being, because he was too much of an asswipe to actually stop his car makes me sick. The fact that the cyclist may of had a drink or 2 hours earlier & that he had been yelling at Bryant (I'd be yelling at the man also after he hit me with his fancy far)gives no-one the right to turn him into the villian now that he's dead. The guy has 4 kids & the media is making him out to be some raging drunken maniac. It really is so sad. Why was Bryant driving away in the very first place? He hit someone with his car & was trying to take off, so Mr Sheppard grabbed on to asswipe's car so he couldn't leave, assuming that any other normal human being would of actually stopped the car. Not Bryant tho, he's a special kind of person.

Bryant has killed 1 person that we know of in Ontario in 2009. How many 150 pound pitbulls have killed people this year?

Anonymous said...

surprised they haven't figured out a way to also claim that the victim (I suppose I should clarify that is Sheppard, not Bryant) was also forcing the accelerator to the floor, preventing the perp from braking and/or slipping the transmission into neutral, thereby stopping the car...

because the last thing i'm going to do if someone else has taken control of my car's steering wheel is hit the gas, so that he can do maximum damage, possibly killing me and my wife too... so that must have been Sheppard's responsibility too...

i'd love to know how Sheppard managed all of this, allegedly while blind drunk of course - unfortunately, dead men tell no tales...

(or perhaps, Bryant's account doesn't hold an drop of water)

Fred said...

Anonymous, "fatal crash" eh? When does someone getting run over become a fatal crash unless they mean it as some kind of sick joke.

Anonymous said...

Rick Salutin in today's Globe pointed out that even Sherman McCoy (Bonfire of the Vanities) didn't use his second call to phone a publicist.

Caveat said...

Great post, Fred. I'm totally open-mouthed at the brazen spinning happening in the mainstream media.

I'll link to this post in my latest.

Thing is, it really doesn't matter if Bryant is the nicest guy in Ontario* - somebody is dead, killed by his car in front of witnesses in a high traffic area.

I've been wondering if all this type of coverage is even legal, given that it's a serious criminal matter and hasn't even come before the courts yet. The media wankstains are practically arguing the case on the suppertime news.


*He isn't. He's a politician who totally ignored the experts and stakeholders - dog owners in the province - with a 'to hell with all of you' attitude. He went ahead and banned imaginary 'pit bulls' despite overwhelming opposition to his plan from across the province (and elsewhere) and a lack of support for the idea among members of the general public. He wanted the limelight and didn't care which citizens he had to brand as criminals and people who deliberately keep vicious dogs to get it. He's a media junkie, a histrionic coxcomb and some say he exhibits classic sociopathic behaviour.

As you say though, Fred, we'll never really know what happened because one of the two people involved is dead and the other is spin-spin-spinning the story with help from the mainstream media and PR people.

The Star had a good piece today about that.

Anonymous said...

Here is an annotated video of security footage from the event. Please circulate widely, it's grainy but it's the only way we've got to counter Bryant's spin.

Anonymous said...

After reviewing "the video" of Bryant looking like he deliberly hit Mr. Sheppard with his car I can't believe the "spin" that is being done by his old media cronies.

Do they not have ANY shame?

Ian said...

Did anyone happen to mention to you that your blog entry is listed on this site called Bryant Watch under Media Articles?