Tag: Ferguson

The Libertarian Blind Spot on Policing

 

In my column this week for Defining Ideas from the Hoover Institution, I look at the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and the reaction they’ve inspired in the press. One of my conclusions: that many libertarians have gone overboard with otherwise legitimate concerns about policing. As I note:

It is not that I entirely part company with modern libertarians on all issues relating to the police. It is that I would like to see libertarians of all stripes slow down their denunciation of public authorities, without whom we cannot enjoy the ordered liberty that we all prize. The correct attitude on the police force is to see it as a regrettable necessity, but a necessity nonetheless. Without police intervention, many cities in this country would turn into Iraqi-style war zones. The point remains true even if it is the case, as it is in Iraq, that most people have a strong desire to live out their lives in peace. So long as some fringe groups are intent on using violence, they can force everyone else to follow suit, until by degrees entire nations can be plunged into chaos and sectarian violence unless there are some organized institutions to protect us.

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Member Post

 

Yesterday, on the WordPress.com main site (linked-to on the back end of my blog), one of their editors did a post entitled “Ferguson: Ten Bloggers Speak Out”. I took a look, and it seemed to me that the general theme was how terrible racism still is, and how the policeman was at fault for shooting […]

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Member Post

 

There are a few galvanizing “truths” within the dogma of the left in America which when exposed to sunlight, blow up bike B movie vampires. First and foremost among those truths is the absolution of any person of marginal black African decent in America from the responsibility for their own misery. If they commit crimes, […]

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The Unsung Victims of Ferguson

 

140814091734-restricted-15-ferguson-0814-horizontal-galleryThere’s much discussion circulating around the protesters rallying on account of the death of Michael Brown.

Since the time of the incident, we’ve seen a dramatic shift from the original narrative of an innocent, unarmed teen ruthlessly gunned down in the street for no reason other than the color of his skin; to an outright assault on an officer leading him to a self-defense response. More details continue to emerge as time goes on, but that seems to be the gist.

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O’Reilly on Ferguson, Sharpton

 

I’m burning out on the Ferguson coverage, but Bill O’Reilly made some interesting (and heated) points.

http://youtu.be/3Bnf-35fZeE

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A Tale of Two Unscrupulous Governors

 

NixonRick Scott is a Republican; Jay Nixon is a Democrat. They have this in common, however. Each is the governor of his state; in that capacity, when confronted with a lynch mob stirred up by CNN, NBC, and the like, each demanded that a man be prosecuted; and each did so in circumstances in which it was by no means clear that there was any reason to suppose that the accused had committed a crime.

ScottPolitically, in both cases, demanding that the object of the lynch mob’s rage be prosecuted was in the interest of the governor. Morally, however, this was a craven act involving a sacrifice of the demands of justice for the sake of political advantage. As the police and the local district attorney had determined, George Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The evidence available at the time was dispositive, as we now all know. When Scott appointed a special prosecutor, he ruined an innocent man’s life. He bankrupted him, and he put him under the sort of pressure that is apt to unhinge a man and destroy a marriage (as it did).

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Escalation Summer

 

obama“Blessed are the peacemakers.” That’s what the Man said. Notice He didn’t say “peace lovers” or “peaceniks”; he said “peacemakers.”

Everywhere you look, crises rage. Ukraine, Iraq, Ferguson, the border—it’s Escalation Summer. Is there a peacemaker in the house?

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The Trouble with Racial Stereotypes

 

Liberals are furious with conservatives for “blaming the victim” in the discussion of events in Ferguson. The left and right are assuming their usual positions, with liberals emphasizing that African-Americans are disadvantaged in America today, and conservatives emphasizing that they are suffering from deeper problems within their own culture.

Actually, it’s both. American society is not systematically structured to keep the black man down. Cultural breakdown is a much bigger problem. That breakdown may be rooted to a significant extent in historical injustice; in fact, I think it is. (Of course, misguided Great Society attempts at do-gooding are also part of the problem, but why was the black community in particular so devastated by that? Mainly, I would argue, because it was especially vulnerable and lacking in resources following centuries of slavery, segregation and racial oppression.)

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ISIS Interrupts the Narrative

 

BvZ5vBrIgAAv3ChAfter witnessing four nights of incited mayhem on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, I made a personal declaration on Twitter that I would no longer retweet or tweet at members of the media in Ferguson who were sensationalizing the standoff between the police and the rioters. It’s become clear they have inserted themselves into the story and made it more about a political ideology (the man putting us all down) than about the facts of the investigation of Michael Brown’s death.

Every tweet about being shoved, arrested, manhandled or just plain being treated rudely now serves the sole purpose now of goosing ratings and clicks. This is not justice for Michael Brown or Darren Wilson. This is Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers come to life, with the media becoming the story. In lower Manhattan, they stood around and recorded members of Occupy Wall Street clashing with police. In Missouri, they are declaring themselves the Occupiers.

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Ferguson in Perspective: Jason Riley Tells Hard Truths

 

I am not in a position to judge whether Darren Wilson handled himself properly in his confrontation with Michael Brown. It is clear enough that Brown was a punk — the sort of dope-head thug who would forcibly rob a convenience store. And the story told by Wilson is plausible enough: that Brown was walking in the middle of the street and interfering with traffic; that, when told to move to the sidewalk, he balked; that, when Wilson began to get out of his car, Brown shoved the door back against the policeman, grappled for his gun, and ran; and that he later turned around and charged Wilson. But, of course, this story may not be entirely true, and Wilson may have overreacted.

But even if Wilson is at fault — and I am well aware that policemen can be trigger-happy and that, in a crunch, they can easily get rattled, misjudge, and overreact — what happened in Ferguson that night (as opposed to succeeding nights) was, from a political perspective, inconsequential. As Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal courageously points out in the video posted below, African-Americans make up 13% of the American population and 50% of the homicide victims, but very, very few of the African-Americans who are killed in this country die at the hands of white policemen. In fact, 90% of the African-Americans who are murdered in the United States are murdered by their fellow African-Americans. What happened in Ferguson was a relatively rare event that may or may not tell us something about Darren Wilson and the police force of St. Louis County. But it tells us nothing about white racism in the nation as a whole and next to nothing about discrimination against American blacks.

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Notes on Riot Control

 

Like many people, I’ve kept my mouth shut on the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, on the grounds that I don’t want to form a judgment before knowing the real facts. I do, however, know a little about about how police control riots, and sharing that knowledge may help others evaluate the police’s behavior in restoring order.

While I was getting my masters degree, I did a practical class (i.e., an internship, but one that was also a job) in a city of about 30,000. While I was there, I rotated into the police department for a week to learn how cops work and train, and part of that included a day at a riot control training sponsored by the Kentucky State Police. I was the best dressed rioter of the day, suit and tie and all.

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Ferguson and the Overfederalization of Crime

 

As the federal investigation into Michael Brown deepens – FBI agents going door-to-door and now, a new federal autopsy on the victim (because two isn’t enough), our own Troy Senik raises an important point in his post below: What justification is there for the feds to be running a process parallel to state and local officials?

The federal involvement is doubly wrong because (1) federal jurisdiction over Michael Brown’s death is questionable; and (2) even if such jurisdiction exists, it is redundant (as Troy notes) of state and local efforts.

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Cops on Film

 

cop-camera3As America is yet again riveted on a controversial police shooting, one thing that keeps coming up in the discussion is the subject of police cameras. Ricochet’s Own Troy Senik mentioned it in his thoughtful post on the tragedy of Ferguson, and it seems to be an article of faith, in particular among more libertarian-leaning precincts of the Right: “You want to solve this? Body cameras for cops. Done.”

I have seen this point bandied about a lot in the past week. And while I agree with the overall point, I feel I must offer a word of caution: people see these cameras as argument-ending panaceas, and they are not.

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Don't Shoot

Facts and Narratives in Ferguson

 

Probably the most underrated aspect of knowledge is how the order in which you learn the facts shapes your understanding of them. Much as nature abhors a vacuum, the human mind rushes to categorize facts, make judgments, and spin a narrative.

The last of these is extraordinarily difficult to change: bad as it feels to be caught with the wrong facts, it’s infinitely worse to discover that you got their meaning wrong. And rather than use our rationality to reevaluate the importance and credence we gave the initial facts, we’re far more likely to put reason to work in service of our emotions by inventing rationalizations and justifications for our initial position. “That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it,” is more often an expression of pigheadedness than of integrity.

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Ferguson’s Tragedy of Errors

 

FergusonI’ve not yet written anything about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri for the simple reason that I haven’t had to. On stories like this, that’s the singular luxury of not having to fill column inches or airtime — you simply don’t have to speak up until you have something to say. I’ve often thought that’s the poverty of 24-hour cable news — when the red lights comes on, you start talking, whether or not you have anything intelligent to say and whether or not you have a clue in hell as to the facts of the story you’re supposed to be covering (I’ve just described CNN’s business model).

As the situation presently stands, we still seem to have remarkably little information about the shooting of Michael Brown. It’s plausible that information yet to come out may either vindicate the outrage over the incident or demonstrate at least some measure of culpability on Brown’s behalf. Those who are leaning strongly towards one side or the other are probably telling us more about their ideological priors than about the case itself. Still, a few words deserve to be said about some of the events that have followed in the wake of the shooting.

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Lose the Camouflage, Please

 

I am in agreement with much of what Claire Berlinski and Jon Gabriel wrote in their earlier posts on the events in Ferguson, Missouri. For the last fifteen years, much of my writing has been devoted to the cause of explaining — if not always justifying — police actions that have come in for criticism in the media. While I know little of the incident that precipitated all that followed, if it is indeed true that the officer was 35 feet away from Michael Brown when he opened fire, I cannot imagine a set of circumstances that would justify him.

That said, like Claire and Jon, I have been troubled by some of the images broadcast from Ferguson. And while I’m comfortable to be in their company, it’s strange to also find myself agreeing with the likes of Rachel Maddow, who on her program on Tuesday, showed a picture of police officers in camouflage aiming rifles at… I’m not quite sure.

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This Is Big Government

Ferguson Is Big Government

 

The images out of Ferguson, Mo., have shaken many. On one side, an angry community demanded answers to the suspicious killing of a young man by police. On the other, a military-style show of force complete with armored vehicles, snipers, and policemen dressed more for Kabul than middle America.

As the smoke from the flash grenades and tear gas cleared, we learned that cops took journalists and politicians into custody while the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble” was denied.

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Outrage in Ferguson

 

Just hours ago, I proposed to Ricochet’s Liz Harrison that comparing the United States under Obama to Turkey under Erdoğan reflected a failure of imagination. I was remembering, among other things, the circumstances under which I left Turkey, which I detailed at length here:

June 1: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in more than 40 Turkish cities keep protesting. The protesters move to the office of Prime Minister Erdoğan in Beşiktaş, providing the police with an excuse for even harsher retaliation. Every living being in the district gets showered with tear gas—including, I’m told, the officials in the office, which at least was satisfying to imagine, if it’s true. Ankara and Izmir rise up in force.Snippets of conversation: “They’ve got to be running low on tear gas.” … “They saturation bombed this part of the city with gas, how much can they possibly have?” … “This is just ridiculous. What the [redacted] are they thinking?” … “Why the [redacted] are they provoking this, I wonder? Completely lost it? …

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