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Eric Garner and Why Cameras Are Not Magic Wands

TIME

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” —Justice Louis Brandeis

“We had a video. How can we win? We can’t win.” —James, a protester near the site of Eric Garner’s death in Staten Island

That was the constant refrain in the reactions to yesterday’s non-indictment of a police officer in the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island: “We had a video.” We’d just gone through the divisive Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., a police-shooting case involving conflicting testimony and no video of the actual killing in question. This time was supposed to be different. Millions of people saw it. The world, as they say, was watching.

This time wasn’t different.

People who write about media and technology and society–people like me–can sometimes act…

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