The recent dismissal of all criminal charges against rising political star, and former Attorney General Micheal Bryant might not have come as a surprise to most people who presumed that the best lawyers that money can buy would assure a favorable result for Bryant, who was clearly not out looking for trouble the night of that fatal incident. What was surprising though, was how easily most people forgot that almost all of the “news” they have received around his case was being carefully crafted by the best Public Relations and Crisis Management team that money could buy as well. Monday’s low key announcement of the now-dismissed case, was immediately followed by an prompt, full-throttle acceleration of ongoing smear campaign against Cyclist Darcy Sheppard, with photos being plastered across all the major dailies the very next day which showed someone, alleged to be the hot-headed bike courier in question, hanging off the side of another luxury sedan, and thus validating Sheppard as not only an aggressor in the Bryant case, but also a clear menace to the rest of Society.
The unsettling truth behind these images, is that they were produced by the Bryant team, and shared with the Prosecuting Attorney, who then used them as justification for the dropping of charges…all without any such “evidence” every being properly scrutinized via so much as a preliminary hearing, let alone proper cross examinations. Most people simply presumed that this ‘evidence’ was the result of the legal process, when in fact it was entirely the result of the Bryant Team’s independent efforts to have the case thrown out before it even saw the inside of a courtroom…Which the Prosecution was clearly willing to do, even without dropping manslaughter charges down to something as relatively trivial as “dangerous driving” – which was also dismissed under the same pretense that Bryant was acting in self-defense. These are risky precedents that some legal critics (such as MPP Peter Kormos) have taken issue with…Albeit with none of the Publicity that we, as the consuming public have been fed to quell our appetite for perceived justice.
Although the Globe is the only news site that is still displaying any of these contentious pics in their article on the dropped charges (all other sources have curiously removed the pics from their articles on the subject!) this concerted initial press exposure demonstrated a clearly coordinated Press campaign, timed to support the out of court decision by the Prosecution. that because Darcy Sheppard had a troubled history, the formal proceedings in leveled charges would not result in a conviction against Bryant. This matter would now seem to be a fait accompli, but just in case anyone in the Public still thought that this unilateral dismissal of charges should have been based on evidence that was formally presented to a judge or jury (and thus cross-examined for validity), we saw how Public fears of an irrational and possibly dangerous Cyclist could be called upon instead, in order to hang Sheppard’s corpse in the Press, rather than waste taxpayer dollars with any formal proceedings…Wouldn’t there have been more to consider in this story than what we were unilaterally presented with through the Mainstream Media, and wouldn’t a more complete (properly validated) pubic image of Darcy Shepard have come to light during formal proceedings, for better or worse?
To see surveillance video of this tragedy, or consider how Public Relations helped shape the context of this Case :
CLICK: PR2.0: Re-Defining Society
Ultimately, there will be no need for any further consequences, much less any further justice served against the former attorney general, who is being now covered in the Press with pictures of him jogging, and making solemn pronouncements about the need to move on from this tragedy. Instead we have the clearest demonstration yet of how public perceptions can be manipulated, if not outrightly manufactured in order to generate consent for results regardless of how contentious the causes may have been to begin with. This PR played upon our fears of violence, the explosive risks of road rage, and finally leveraging the fact that people are all too easily divided on the subject of Cars and Bikes. So forget for now that this ruling implies that homicidal violence can be justified if the victim shows any history of mildly sociopathic behavior, or any of the other dirt that was dug up about Sheppard’s difficult upbringing, and instead let’s consider the value that we can draw out of this in confronting the destructive effects of anger, and how this is all too easily manifested on our public roads.
As a measure of the general health of our Society, it seems that the seemingly endless stream of automobile traffic related issues could serve as an ideal test-bed for examining our Social Ills. Traffic seems to be a perfect open-air laboratory for condensing and obviating many of the most pressing social challenges that we face as humans (Transport, Communications, Environmentalism, Consumption, Civics, Urbanization, etc) and since the results of this experiment are often accelerated by speed, and catalyzed by strong reactants like fear, frustration, and even outright anger, ‘Traffic’ also offers us some pretty clear warning signs as we attempt to safely navigate our way through the daunting challenges of the Human Condition.
Although I’ve previously dug into this messy petri dish in “Confessions of an Urban Cyclist” let it suffice to say that we all know how quickly things can accelerate from bad to worse when we’re forced to deal with one another’s failings under exasperating road conditions that are often too close for comfort. In the Bryant vs. Bike case, we also saw how two particularly polar extremes of Humanity were represented by two very different individuals, and how they each tried and failed to properly manage their flawed abilities to defend themselves (both on, and off the road) in the face of aggression, and against either the clear or perceived dangers that they represented to each other – within those brief moments before mass, metal, and speed won out over human folly and flesh…as it always will.
Keeping in mind that Cyclists face their own mortality every time they get cut off, or have a car door opened directly in front of them in traffic, what Micheal Bryant likely experienced, for a few brief moments, was how irrational a person can become if they suddenly feel that they’re in genuine physical danger because of the oblivious acts of another. In one case, there was the threat of violence expressed by words (Bryant was never shown to have been injured in any way), and likely a violation of his personal property as Sheppard hung onto Bryant’s car as he tried to leave the scene of a collision. In the other case of fear and anger holding sway over rational judgment, Bryant’s reactions manifested themselves in the abuse of automotive power and the terminal and violent trauma that resulted when a tenacious Sheppard was finally knocked off by the clear intent of the driver. Would Bryant have reacted the same way if he had been on foot? Not likely. The conjecture about alternative results is a non-sequitor though since a very well conducted Public Relations campaign has now assured everyone (who takes the Media at face value) that Sheppard was a menace to himself and Society, and that a trial would be a waste of public resources. We’ve also been assured that Bryant’s reactions were justifiable (at least in this one particularly dangerous precedent) where violent actions by the “victim” are retro-actively condoned as defensive based on previous acts attributed to aggressor….Acts committed before these two ever encountered one another, but yet which are somehow a factor in this case nonetheless.
As such, we’re left to simply move on from this well orchestrated justification for manslaughter (and the ensuing PR materials that made it Publicly acceptable) and accept the summary rulings from a supposedly impartial out of province Crown Prosecutor. So since there’s nothing left to do here but move on, perhaps we can extract some longer lasting value from these tragic circumstances, by going into that big Social Labratory that we call our Public Roadways, and take a long and hard look at what makes a bad Driver/Cyclist hopefully learning how to diffuse such enraging situations before they lead to their ultimate conclusions.