The arguments adopted the varied, successive versions of the police’s line of defense shamelessly, and with no concern for journalistic ethics, let alone human dignity.
But one by one, the fortresses of the murderers' lines of defense crumbled, despite the weight of the negative social stereotypes that they tried to play into at every step. Today, the last fortress– which claimed «he might not have been a robber, he might not have been an addict, but how do we know how he died?»–fell. He died (and who would have thought?) because, in their rage, they kicked him, and tried to shatter his head on the sidewalk.
According to the ten-page assessment by forensic experts Nikos Kalogria and Soultana Marianou, Zak Kostopoulos’ death was caused by an ischemic event (i.e., heart attack) provoked by multiple injuries. The forensic report emphasizes the causal connection between the multiple injuries suffered and the ischemic event he suffered and which led to his death. Toxicology reports indicated that Kostopoulos had not used drugs prior to the incident.
Once again, the usual suspects hastened to write that the forensic reports had either proved his death wasn’t caused by blows, or that “the cause of death was undetermined,” with the exception of those who noted that the first announcement mentioned that the cause of death had not yet been identified. This had been preceded by the infamous DNA on the knife and the toxicological examination.
I wonder what the next argument in defense of the killers will be. (I suppose it will rest on the coroner's claim that «the blows do not constitute lethal injuries” and the cause of death was heart-related). The first two defense theories relied on appeals to emotion, concocted with lies plain and simple, in an attempt to portray Zak first as a robber with a knife then as a man out of control, who had run amok, etc., and so provoke the kinds of reflexes that would grant any outside observer permission to say «they did well to kill him.”
Given that none of the invented narratives being spewed by the informal communication office of the Greek Police, aka Vima journalist Vassilis Lambropoulos, stands up to examination, we are now entering the final stage of this process:
Just come out and say that you wanted him dead because he represented everything that you hate: say with no self-restraint, and with a clear conscience, that there is no room for HIV-positive queens in your world; say that he deserved to die and that no other fine print or rhetorical gymnastics is necessary. Because what this proves is that, whatever other arguments might be adduced, hate is always stronger. Go ahead and mention others who have been murdered; ask us why don’t hold demonstrations for Konstantinos Katsifas, the Greek man killed by Albanian police, or anyone else. In the end, though, just come out and say “they did well to kill him,” because anything else would be awkward and naïve.
This is a delicate point, but I do want to note that a death is not dramatic in itself unless you are a friend or family member of the person who died. So many people die every day; sometimes we learn from it, sometimes we don’t. But we tend not to be particularly moved by the deaths of strangers. If something about the death of Zak Kostopoulos has moved us, it is because we couldn’t believe our own eyes when we saw the hatred manifest in the reaction that followed. And because, I believe, it was precisely this attitude that created the overwhelming atmosphere which made it possible for Zak to be killed in public, right in front of passers-by.
This attitude was first exhibited on an institutional level, in the police cover-up of the murder: lawyers for the family charged that police prevented the administration of justice, failed to collect testimony from witnesses, failed to collect the audiovisual evidence – who knows what it would reveal? It also manifested in the way the police and media so shamelessly collaborated to cover up and distort reality, and insistently painted a picture that played to all the feelings of hatred they might possibly trigger in an attempt to silence the obvious: that a person had been killed in front of an uneasy crowd, which had neither the courage nor the desire to stop the murder, nor even to share the video that showed what had happened.
Now, though, we know what happened. And because, I repeat, my own reading of this incident is that the hateful reflexes that followed the murder are exactly the same ones that made it possible from the start, let’s do what the boys do at the end of the Brothers Karamazov: let’s swear on his memory, that even if we never have the misfortune to find ourselves witness to such barbarity, that at least we won’t take part in spreading and legitimizing the discourse that rendered the crime possible in the first place.
Nothing will resurrect Zak. But at least we will know – as becomes clear at every critical moment, when a society is divided – that our words do matter. And even if they don’t matter enough to bring the dead back to life, at least they matter enough for us not to become members of the crowd that just stood there, out of helplessness or complicity, and watched a man be murdered.