Sex, Lies, Murder, and Videotape
by Leilla Matsui
December 8, 2003

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For the crime of being fat, Black and "behaving erratically," Cincinnati resident Nathaniel Jones learned too late the real meaning behind "three strikes and you're out."  Since his life appears to be of little importance, (biographical details of the 350 lb. man at the center of the latest controversy involving the Cincinnati police department are curiously lacking) the coroner's verdict of his "death by homicide" did not cause undue concern.  A recent FOX survey showed that 84% of respondents felt that the police had acted within their rights.  For them it seems, the city's uniformed Klansmen used "justifiable force" to subdue a belligerent suspect. End of story.  Never mind that Cincinnati's finest were defending themselves against an unarmed man who was unconscious at the time concerned restaurant workers had alerted them, thinking that he required some kind of medical assistance.

In all fairness, though, maybe someone had to quell the enthusiasm of this particular patron of the aptly named White Castle burger chain, caught on surveillance tape cheerfully hoofing it up in an intoxicated two-step moments before stumbling out of the premises and passing out.  Euthanasia was clearly called for in this case.  It was obvious that Mr. Jones needed to be put out of his joy permanently before he caused someone else to burst out into an unchoreographed song and dance number.

Because his death did not fall under the categories of "natural", "suicide" or "accident", the coroner reluctantly conceded that Mr. Jones's death was indeed a "homicide" but one that was helped along by the PCP and cocaine in his already overly-taxed system.  It's interesting to note that the FOX news version of events uses the term "intoxicating levels" of these particular substances where other news sources reported "traces" when the autopsy results became public.  Interesting, too, how the coroner has defended the actions of the six officers involved by stressing that his ruling did not imply "hostile or malign behaviour" on their part.  So how exactly did the appropriately named Dr. Parrott determine this?  Was he simply squawking the official line of his superior, Police Chief Thomas "Third Reicher" Streicher Jr. who maintains that his officers "acted properly"?  A video camera mounted on the hood of one their vehicles showed us just how properly they acted (presuming, that is they were a pack of rabid, alpha male hyenas who hadn't had a meal in days .)

You would think that a coroner would make it his business to determine the "how" and "when" of a death and leave "intent" to a jury.  In any case, the family of Nathaniel Jones should rest easy tonight knowing that their loved one's murder was really nothing more than an act of 'tough love' gone tragically awry.  The tragedy here, Chief Streicher has been quick to point out, is that these poor officers will have to live with the residual psychological wounds of their trauma for the rest of their lives.  The "superficial" bruises on  Nathaniel Jones's lifeless body in the meantime have been explained away as a face saving footnote scrawled on a morgue report.  You have to wonder how "superficial" these bruises would be if the corpse was thin, white and died at the hands of an African American defendant.  If you happen to agree with the coroner, forty whacks from a solid metal baton upon a man in poor health should be interpreted as a kind of 12 step program intervention; a disciplinary swat on the knuckles that unavoidably crossed the line into a full-blown homicidal rage.

Nathaniel Jones's death raises a whole host of questions but surely the most obvious one is this: Is it merely a coincidence that the same week a drugged and overweight African-American man, behaving erratically in front of a video camera made headlines, a malnourished and artificially bronzed Paris Hilton made her reality show debut?  Some would even argue that random drug testing would yield more than "traces" of illicit substances in Ms. Hilton's bloodstream. But as Rush Limbaugh has proved, the privileged don't get beaten to death as part of their treatment for drug addiction.

Surely, the question on everyone's mind after seeing her erratic performance on the FOX network (never mind what she did in front of a sweaty, blackmailer's porno-cam) was why weren't the police called in to stop her?

If someone had to be subdued and handcuffed for crimes against white folks trying to enjoy their dinner, why not this year's "It" girl?  The damage her celebrity inflicts on the digestive system certainly warrants some kind of intervention. 

The hypocrisy here boggles the mind but then again, we're talking about America where  poverty and obscurity justify every act of judicial homicide. The public execution of a man whose ancestors arrived in this country in chains is less newsworthy it seems, than the heiress of a hotel chain, making her television debut mocking rural folk. The fact that both Mr. Jones and Ms. Hilton have had to deal with pigs on camera is just more irony icing on the cake. 

The most curious phenomenon to emerge from Mr. Jones's neo-lynching has been the official media response; the stern patriarch finger-wagging from "experts" and news readers alike that pre-empts the footage of a disoriented man been bludgeoned to death.  It seems us "humble folk" need to be cautioned that we could be "drawing the wrong conclusion" by interpreting Nathaniel Jones's death as anything other than correct police procedure.

Taking a cue from the Orwellian inspired administration of George W. Bush, everyone can get into the act of explaining away the obvious by interpreting it with its opposite meaning.  Just think of all that "good news" coming out of Iraq.  It should be noted, too, that the very news organizations that spare us the sight of servicemen returning home in coffins, have no such hesitation when it comes to airing an unedited murder in progress.  Clearly, Nathaniel Jones does not quite qualify as human.  His death, we are subtly reminded, should be viewed more along the lines of an "extreme" version of a wildlife documentary where fearless cameras zoom in on the kill - in this case, an adrenaline charged rhino drunk with the scent of Bwana's blood.

As Johnny Cochrane has pointed out recently on CNN, Nathaniel Jones is a "poor test case" for civil liberty violations by virtue of being embarrassingly untelegenic.  According to him, activists would be doing the cause a favor by letting this one go since Mr. Jones will hardly generate much sympathy for the sins of his ample, drug-infested flesh.  In other words, we should wait until the Cincinnati police club someone younger, thinner and more attractive to death before we all get up in arms.

By the same token, the glazed blonde heiress of the Hilton fortune has become a poster girl for acceptable misogyny.  Since the virtuecratic forces of America's own Taliban can't get away with legislating women back into the kitchen, they have devised a more clever way to humiliate them out of the workforce.  As we watch Paris and her equally inept friend, Nicole break a nail while milking cows on "The Simple Life," we are not so subtly reminded that women and minorities, without careful management and scripting, will inflict danger upon themselves and others.  While Nathaniel Jones may very well be the flipside of the race and class coin that features the paler Paris Hilton in profile on the head, the fundamental difference remains: only one of them will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Leilla Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo, Japan. She can be reached at: catcat@s3.ocv.ne.jp


Other DV Articles by Leilla Matsui


* Presidential Placebos: Sugar-Coated Alternatives to Empire-as-Usual

* Give a Hand to the Governor E(r)ect
Incubator Babies Bite Back: The Ballad of Uday and Qusay

* Regime Change Begins at Home Literally




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