Dear bigoted, reactionary asshole:
No, I won’t engage with you. Save yourself some carpal tunnel and quit asking.
You say you want to have a reasoned, logical debate about whether the police are right to brutally murder unarmed people. You say you want to have a reasoned, logical debate about whether it’s okay for millions of people to be without health care. You say you want to have a reasoned, logical debate about whether those capitalism has deemed unnecessary should be left on the refuse heap of poverty, violence, disease, and hopelessness. You say you want to have a reasoned, logical debate about whether a government that murders the innocent and bombs cities has any responsibility for the refugees their wars produce.
Maybe—I doubt it, but maybe—you are sincere in wanting to debate these things. But you know something? The families of those murdered by thugs in blue uniforms aren’t ideas, they’re people. So are those without health care, jobs, or hope. The system you defend has done that to those people, and when you reduce them to mere ideas, to data points we can use to play idealistic logic games, you make me throw up in my mouth a little.
I do not stand apart from and above this world, I am in it. And I am a partisan. I am on the side of the working class, of the oppressed, of the exploited. If you tell me that the exploitation and oppression of those who produce all of the value in this world (as well as those who would be producing value if they hadn’t been scrapped like an old CRT) is wrong, is a problem, and must be addressed, then okay. Now we can talk about ideas. Now we can talk about how to solve the problem, and what attempts will make it worse, and work together to find a way forward. Because then you’re on my side.
But you haven’t done that. You have shown, again and again, that you believe personal profit is more important than human lives. By doing so, you have taken the side of the oppressors, of the enemy. I don’t debate the enemy, I debate with my comrades about how to defeat the enemy. And when you ask for a reasoned, logical debate, you just show that, in addition to having no heart, you have not the least understanding of what is actually at stake. Someday, maybe, the world will educate you if you let it, but I have no interest in trying.
So, to put it as politely as I can, bugger off.
70 thoughts on “No, I Won’t Engage With You”
A majority of those people don’t share in those short term profits. It’s not about the status quo being good to them – it’s about the status quo being worse to others – that is enough for them.
You can’t fight hatred with hatred, at least not without becoming the thing you hate. More important, you cannot fight a state that’s leaning fascist without demonstrating that love and compassion are not merely a pose but a deeply held belief. It’s hard to see ignorance and hatred and not want to strike back, but people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King have demonstrated the way to overcome violence and hatred is with love and a good example. In the end there is no enemy, no them, only us.
I gather you’re frustrated about something. I know the feeling. I’m frustrated when credited with positions I don’t hold simply because I tried to discuss something with people who hold a binary point of view. They feel that if I dare to criticize baseball, I *must* be a football fan because they cannot imagine someone not caring about sports at all, or about a different sport, or maybe even having a different take on baseball than theirs.
“You say you want to have a reasoned, logical debate about whether the police are right to brutally murder unarmed people.”
Murder is a legal term which is not applicable to any of the police shootings to which you refer. It’s a purely emotional thing to say. Losing your temper and letting your emotions take over will not solve anything. To the contrary, being over-emotional will always make matters worse.
There is a myriad of things to discuss in reference to police shootings (health care, wars) – rationale, laws, history, culture etc. – which do not in any way diminish the humanity of those who are involved, and without knowledge of which there can be no solution to the problem. When you paint everything in black and white and don’t observe a nuanced view of reality, you diminish *everyone* – those responsible for the effects you despise, and those who suffer because of them.
“If you tell me that the exploitation and oppression of those who produce all of the value in this world …must be addressed, then okay. Now we can talk about ideas. Now we can talk about how to solve the problem, and what attempts will make it worse, and work together to find a way forward. Because then you’re on my side.”
This is ugly. You are saying point blank that a person who doesn’t share your exact ideas, feelings and philosophy is not only your enemy, but is a non-entity not worthy of your attention. Dehumanizing people in this way, judging their entire worth as a living being based on whether or not they think exactly the same way you do, is *always* the first step towards totalitarianism. You’ve said this sort of thing before, and I’m still not entirely certain if you honestly believe this, or if it is just clumsy rhetoric.
NB: Arguing with you on this or any other point does not equate to defending whatever you’re hating at the moment.
L.Raymond: I tried to respond to your last email, but it kept bouncing; not sure what the problem is.
I don’t think it’s worthwhile arguing over which shootings are justified vs. murder vs. etc, here in this or many other forums. There have been too many questionable shootings – particularly lately. The video of the most recent shooting I’ve taken note of, the shooting of David Kassick, has some moments where I sympathize with the LEO’s position, but the problem is ultimately institutional, not individual. There is an urgent need to – at the very least – refine the training that LEOs receive. They shoot too easily, too often, and with too little accountability for their actions. I don’t want to see a world where a LEO is unable to fire upon an obviously armed suspect, and I don’t want to see a world where more LEOs die to the violence of armed perpetrators, but I do want to see a world where a tasered, dazed, possibly high, and certainly frightened guy is given more than two minutes to figure out how to comply.
And I really want to see a world where a LEO in that situation feels like s/he has more options than just killing another person. That’s what I mean when I’m talking about training. Maybe better selection of people to hire would be important too, but certainly that video and her account (as I’ve been able to find it) are in line with what I’ve come to believe is standard law enforcement doctrine.
And that’s the thing. I don’t fault the jury, and I don’t fault the victim, I can go either way with the officer in this case – but the training, the culture, of law enforcement, that’s where this problem (and so many others) went from bad to worst. That doesn’t change if we spend a long time debating which shootings were justified and to what extent.
Ultimately, and the reason I keep feeling like Mr. Brust’s anti-LEO statements have some weight, is that I’ve never heard of and can’t so much as imagine a successful reform of a culture this broad in scope without a drastic or even cataclysmic impetus.
And that final problem is not one you can lay at the feet of law enforcement. Instead, you must lay that problem at the feet of all humanity.
“If you tell me that the exploitation and oppression of those who produce all of the value in this world (as well as those who would be producing value if they hadn’t been scrapped like an old CRT) is wrong, is a problem, and must be addressed, then okay. Now we can talk about ideas.”
OK. We scrap old CRTs because they aren’t enough value to us to keep using. If they were rare and valuable, we would get them repeatedly repaired, and use them until the screen burn-in was so bad we could hardly make out the images.
In the same way, we scrap humans who are not worth employing. It does not make sense to provide them with work when the result is not worth the cost.
The whole system is evolving along those lines. There are means and ends, and use the most effective means.
I consider it a fundamental problem that the system is arranged to reward the owners — the ends — plus the least replaceable workers — the means are rewarded as little as possible.
People have no right to jobs. But they have a right to be ends in themselves. Maybe somehow we should all be owners.
In the bhaga vad gita Kryshna says that you have no right to the fruits of your work, but you have a right to the work. In our system you have no economic rights at all. People who argue in favor of the system can come up with rationales for that, but ultimately it doesn’t matter much what they think. The system is big enough that you take what you can get from it, and people who want to argue about how it ought to be — whether they argue in favor of the status quo or something else — don’t have much traction. In the short run it’s like football fans arguing about who ought to win the game. If you argue with an opposing fan about what ought to happen, the argument won’t have a big effect on what happens.
This is why I switched off comments and never looked back.
With respect to current law enforcement policy, I assume you are all aware of Jordan v. City of New London, 225 F.3d 645 (2d Cir. 2000). [The state can rationally decide not to hire police who are “too smart.”]
Came here to say wnat L. Raymond did — but L. Raymond said it better, sooner, and with more detail.
Most particularly, though, and I will quote it for emphasis, this: “You are saying point blank that a person who doesn’t share your exact ideas, feelings and philosophy is not only your enemy, but is a non-entity not worthy of your attention. Dehumanizing people in this way, judging their entire worth as a living being based on whether or not they think exactly the same way you do, is *always* the first step towards totalitarianism.”
A.C.: It takes a deep ignorance of these pages to believe that I won’t engage with those who disagree with me; there are thousands and thousands of comments here from people who disagree with me, and in most cases I reply. I explain this to you because you are new here and have no way of knowing better. I do not ask for agreement with my politics, I ask for sufficient common ground. I will not have a patient conversation about racism with a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I will happily discuss how to defeat the KKK with those whose politics make me grit my teeth and spit.
Furthermore, AC, the idea that one is dehumanizing another by refusing to argue politics with him is absurd on several levels. One is that it carries the implication that someone expressing an opinion to me puts me under an obligation to respond. I’m not sure why you feel I should give control of my actions to strangers, but I disagree. Another is that refusing to argue with people “dehumanizes” them. This is just silly. I have close friends with whom I share many drinks and good times, but who will not engage with me on political questions; I hardly feel dehumanized.
Finally, permit me to observe that I disagree with everything you say, and yet, here I am, engaging with you.
My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that if we have a political opinion, then engagement is important if we have some concept of civic humanism we are trying to preserve in communal life. Coming to a consensus at least on what we disagree about is the bare minimum. That’s one side of it that seems uncontroversial.
Another reason, and some may take issue with this, is that when we do not seek consensus and simply shout at others (which is its own kind of disengagement) we usually radicalize ourselves in the process. For someone like me with admittedly bourgeois political sensibilities, this is something to be avoided, but many political movements today gain strength through what I will call aggressive disengagement.
I have learned through a rather harrowing personal experience that there are certain situations when I can allow myself not to engage. The first is if the person is using what I say to defame me in front of my friends. The second is if what they are saying is deliberate sophistry or clearly incoherent, in which case graciously declining seems not simply acceptable but prudent. The third is if I’m to busy too have a conversation, in which case I am willing to be the first person to stop talking.
I would only add that there can be no reasonable discussion with people that support state instigated murder of any kind.
Mostly I’m responding to the I play the drum..
I used to work with this guy and he doesn’t play the drum but he plays and makes the pipes :)
“It takes a deep ignorance of these pages to believe that I won’t engage with those who disagree with me; there are thousands and thousands of comments here from people who disagree with me, and in most cases I reply.”
Agreed. This is why I said above (and before, at least once) that it’s hard to tell if you’re serious or simply trying to employ rhetoric that stirs you when you make claims like the one in your OP.
The above quote makes a different claim from the one in the post. To take just one example from the OP, you explicitly say someone’s an asshole for not agreeing that there is nothing to discuss about killings by police (“Maybe—I doubt it, but maybe—you are sincere in wanting to debate these things. But you know something? The families of those murdered by thugs in blue uniforms aren’t ideas, they’re people.”). I say there are many topics to discuss when it comes to killings by police. Furthermore I don’t think anything will ever be solved without those discussions. According to what you wrote, though, that means by default I’m defending the killings, dishonoring the families of the dead and fully in support of the system that makes it all possible. In other words, when you say, “I do not ask for agreement with my politics, I ask for sufficient common ground,” you’re making a statement that cannot be reconciled with your initial post unless the first can be taken simply as rhetoric. I won’t even touch on the implications of your using “enemy”, an uncompromising word implying a willingness to use whatever method may be necessary to destroy a person. And yes, using it is a way to dehumanize others, but since that seems to be a touchy topic, I’ll drop it for now.
Why do I think this even matters? Too often people are outraged that others aren’t outraged at what outrages them. Then they’re outraged to learn others think there are things worth discussing when they they’ve already spoken ex cathedra on the point in question. An ouroboros of outrage results as people rage at those who don’t rage at the right things for the right reasons. All that emotion, all that anger being directed against people who don’t adhere to just the right flavor of politics has become the preferred way to either force others to join a movement or, more ominously, to allow the angry people to dismiss the others as unworthy of notice.
To repeat myself, I agree your actions in the various threads hereabouts belie the sentiments in your manifestos (I recall there being at least one other similar to this before), but I find the rhetoric so disturbing I just have to speak up about it.
Jilin makes an important point about self-radicalization. To go into depth on that would be to veer off onto a serious tangent, but it deserves consideration.
L. Raymond — I don’t read it as Steve not being willing to discuss pretty much any topic. Anyone who reads the blog knows this isn’t the case. It’s that he doesn’t particularly want to waste his time discussing things with “bigoted, reactionary asshole”s. This seems pretty reasonable to me. Another way of phrasing it is that he isn’t willing to feed the trolls.
Steve: That is basically correct. There are few people here I’ve banned or refused to interact with, and only one I can think of off-hand was for political reasons. That was someone who said, “I don’t know if there really were civil rights abuses. Some say the NYPD shot some unarmed people. I don’t really care that much if there were.” This is not an individual with whom I choose to have polite, reasoned discussion. I apologize (only not really) to those who think I should.
I read skzb’s response, and begin drafting my thoughts, most particularly that he’s entirely correct and justified when he points out that he will engage with those who disagree — but that’s not what the post said. Then, once again, I find that L. Raymond has read my mind, and again articulated it clearly and thoroughly.
Okay, let’s take a different tangent.
IIRC, the conventional dialectic holds that the police are not members of the labor class (which I find a little odd) and that crime exists only as a definition created by the bourgeoisie (which I find more than a little odd.) I suppose that eventually leads to a theory in which every person is self-actualized and does not covet, but let’s set that aside for the moment.
For our Gedankenexperiment let’s assume that our protagonist Gaston covets the pack of cigarettes posessed by Willie. Willie, insufficiently indoctrinated, declines to freely give his cigarettes to Gaston.
Gaston, being about 2 feet taller than Willie, and half again his size, knocks Willie to the ground and takes the cigarettes. Willie’s cries and other expressions of distress alert Alphonse, a nearby laborer.
Alphonse remonstrates with Gaston, directing him to return the cigarettes and do pennance for his misdeed. Gaston, unmoved, suggests that Alphonse perform certain unnatural acts, and, on further consideration, threatens (without any humor or irony, apparently in the throes of a consuming rage) to kill Alphonse. Gaston (who we will note is about a foot taller than Alphonse, and is nearly twice his size) moves toward Alphonse, with what appears to be every intention of making good on his threat.
May Alphonse ethically defend himself? Or did he relinquish that right by becoming involved in the first place? If Alphonse genuinely believes his life is in danger, may he use lethal force in defending himself?
“IIRC, the conventional dialectic holds that the police are not members of the labor class”
In fact, they are. They are a section of the working class that has chosen to align their interests with the capitalist class, and receive certain privileges for this.
I think we need to back up your Gedankenexperiment experiment a little. You claim Willie has cigarettes that Gaston doesn’t. Why doesn’t he? Is society unable to produce sufficient cigarettes for everyone? In that case, it would seem we live under conditions of inequality. As I’ve said before, conditions of inequality require a State; the police force is the armed might of the State. So, under these conditions, Willie or Alphonse would call for the police, yes? After all, protecting property is 90% of their job.
In any case, the point I take from your Gedankenexperiment is that a stateless society is impossible without conditions of equality, which in turn requires plenty; which is what I’ve been saying all along.
Or have I missed the point of your example? I mean, on face value,it seems obvious that one can defend one’s self against violence, directed against one’s self or another; I’m not clear what this has to do with the nature of the police.
And, more particularity, I don’t see what it has to do with police murdering unarmed black, Indian, Hispanic, poor, or working people who are posing no threat to themselves or others.
If we remove the motive for property crimes and other non-violent crimes and establish good mental health care for everyone, etc. then it would seem like very large swaths of things police are used for go away.
It seems like there would still be a (hopefully small) set of crimes against people being committed such as murders from passion/serial killers, rape and various assaults. It would seem like some sort of investigative body would be needed for that sort of thing.
The Peelian principles seem like a place to start. In particular:
“To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
Might be a good model. Since the whole “protecting property” set of crimes is gone, such a force would not seem to need any of the militarization we see happening in present police forces.
(Taking a moment aside to agree with Steve Halter: the classic Peel quote is apropos in nearly any discussion of police behaviour, and more so when introducing class questions.)
To the extend that the police are “murdering […] people who are posing no threat to themselves or others”, I wholly agree. Those acts are reprehensible, and the people who commit them doubly damned for having done so under color of authority. (Mind you, those are relatively few, and not a hundredth part of the murders committed by non-police against people who are posing no threat to themselves or others.)
(Also, I omitted your string of adjectives. Other than adding vitriol, isn’t “people” the only part that matters?)
Thus the Gedankenexperiment: the fact pattern is precisely that of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO — and yet many have placed it in your category of police “murder”.
As to the availability of cigarettes in a post-scarcity economy: red herring. We can theorize about how things might work in a post-scarcity economy, but it’s largely an exercise in navel-gazing.
I should have realized you were doing this to justify the murder of Michael Brown. Do you also excuse the murder of Eric Garner? Yevette Smith? Cory Levert Tanner? The other hundreds of unarmed black, Indian, Hispanic, poor, and working class people killed by the police? If no, why do bring up Michael Brown as the one case you want to talk about? If yes, go hang out with your reactionary cronies and quit wasting my time.
Why Brown? Because it’s a fairly clear-cut example which became a cause celebre* for what look to be all the wrong reasons, and because I am fairly well-informed about that particular case.
You speak often of precision in language, as did L. Raymond upthread: how was his death “murder”? Simply because the person he was threatening to kill was employed by the State?
The other specific cases you mention I am less-well informed; a few minutes of superficial research suggest that Garner’s death was reprehensible misbehaviour that should have been prosecuted as negligent homicide at the very least and possibly murder**, Smith’s somewhere between that and a tragic mistake, and Tanner I just didn’t find much of actual substance (other than that he was fleeing a charge of attempted murder, which at least suggests he should have been considered a potential danger to others.)
(*Hmm — genuine language question: What would the fame/infamy corresponding phrase be for “cause celebre”? Cause infame?)
(**Read a little more on Garner — apparently in fact charges were brought, though the specifics have not been revealed after the grand jury declined to indict.)
Crawford, the Walmart shooting, is the one that I just cannot get over. There is absolutely no good fact there for the police, but they still escape justice. They shot somebody for something that is actually legal under the NRA sponsored laws of Ohio; you would think the Tea Party would be rioting on behalf of this victim..er wait.
It was discovered that the police actually tried to find facts after the shooting to retcon it as justifiable. (Arguably by bullying a witness.) It was discovered that their self serving accounts of the incident are directly contradicted by the surveillance footage.
If a jury will not (or is not allowed to) file charges on this pattern, exactly what can you say to African Americans that will give them any confidence in our society or our system of government? Hey, it’s still less likely to happen to you than not, statistically speaking?
The question is: are these failures in administration (bad hiring/training) OR failures in the relationship of the State to the People OR failures inherent in American society (in a purely democratic, small d, sense, we want racism)?
Tend to agree on Crawford. Again I have to disclaim that I haven’t studied that one deeply, but it looks to be criminally negligent at best; officers testified that they challenged him, but I didn’t see or hear anything that supported that.
Similarly, the Erik Scott Costco shooting, though the reports are just slightly less in the dead person’s favor.
In both cases, the grand juries failed to indict — I’m inclined to say it’s a failure in/of American society, though I attribute it to mindless worship of the police, rather than racism.
People shouldn’t kill other people. The police, in particular as they are currently granted special powers should not kill people.
Ourboros of Outrage would be a good name for a band
Steve Halter- that is the point that is so often missed in this conversation! We are so used to heavily armed police in this country having carte blanche to execute “criminals” at will that we end up arguing endlessly over which of their victims were more deserving of death, rather than why the police have that right at all.
Linwood Lambert (not under arrest, his crime being high on cocaine) getting tasered to death while handcuffed and trying only to flee into an emergency room seems obvious, but whether Michael Brown threatened Wilson or not, why is lethal force automatically justified? If an unarmed man walked up to you in the street and made threats, should your first response be to shoot him? Why then is the physical safety of police officers so important that they can threaten the safety of every civilian near them to protect it?
The footage of 30 UK policemen risking life and limb to arrest a machete wielding man in South London should be a training film for US cops. If you aren’t willing to accept the literal meaning of “protect and serve” and unable to realize that it applies to everyone you meet, not just the ones you judge to be the good citizens, then you should seek another job.
larswyrdson — exactly.
larswyrdson: “that is the point that is so often missed in this conversation! We are so used to heavily armed police in this country having carte blanche to execute “criminals” at will that we end up arguing endlessly over which of their victims were more deserving of death, rather than why the police have that right at all.”
(I’m experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance here. I’m usually the one savagely raking the police over the coals for abuse of position, excessive force, and so forth.)
larswyrdson and Steve Halter: Are you operating from a first principle that lethal force is never ethical? I’m genuinely trying to understand the baseline, here.
The Linwood Lambert case appears (again, superficial review) pretty clear: those officers should be charged with a laundry list of crimes, from negligence, to torture, to homicide, and prosecuted with every iota of effort and fury available to the D.A. Do we disagree somewhere?
Michael Brown: Lethal force is never “automatically justified”. Any level of force is only justified in response to reasonable perception of what’s going on. Every credible bit of evidence supports that Michael Brown had already assaulted Darren Wilson, and had attempted to take Wilson’s gun.
Regardless of whether you are a policeman or not, if an adversary is trying to take your gun from you mid-confrontation, it’s reasonable to believe they intend to kill you with it.
Could Wilson have attempted a lesser level of force once the fight in the car stopped and they were separated? Conceivably, but a tough judgement call, harder once Brown turned and charged toward Wilson. Could Wilson perhaps have secured his gun, drawn his taser, attempted to tase Brown, and still had time to save his life by shooting Brown if the taser was not effective? That’s an excellent question for a jury, and (though grand jury proceedings are secret) one I would hope and expect was asked. We don’t know, but we know that the D.A. brought a case to the grand jury, and they declined to move ahead.
The “30 UK policemen risking life and limb to arrest a machete wielding man” was interesting, and I generally agree with you. Having said that, I did not see any Firearms Officers, or any cars with ARV markings; the PCs and PCSOs that were present appeared to use every force option they had, including batons and pepper spray. Unfortunate that they didn’t have tasers.
Were this to happen in the U.S., would he have been shot? Probably, around the first or second time he charged. Would it have been right away, without any attempt to talk him down, spray him, or Taser him first? I don’t believe so; a moment’s googling provides an example from June in New York of a machete wielding man who had actually already injured one woman being captured by police without being shot. (There seem to be a lot of machete attacks out there — who knew?)
Conversely, back in the UK, consider the machete killers of Lee Rigby in 2013: Firearms Officers showed up and pretty much immediately shot the two machete men, as soon as they moved toward the officers.
A.C. Why does every officer in the US, including school safety officers, in some states, including traffic cops, including untrained civilian volunteers, carry a semiautomatic weapon capable of emptying ten rounds into a victim in a couple of seconds? Why is that option on the table for anyone that wants to wear a badge?
In the UK, only elite, highly trained squads are given lethal weapons, and they are seldom called in. And yet, in a society with as much ethnic unrest as ours, with a culture virtually identical to ours, with economic disparity almost equal to ours, and with terrorists, street gangs and football hooligans, the police manage to keep the peace.
Wearing a gun on your hip is a threat. As George Zimmerman found out, not everyone reacts to a threat in the same way. Some will be passive, others, even perfectly innocent teenagers with no history of violence, will react to that threat by trying to defend themselves. Look, Michael Brown was not a saint, he was, at the very least, guilty of roughing up a store clerk and stealing the cigarettes. But however the confrontation started between him and Wilson, Wilson had the gun and he used it to put him down as he was trying to get away. What if Wilson never had a gun? Would he have approached Brown differently, been less aggressive, sought a way to find out if this was actualy his suspect and not just some other black teen? Would he have waited for backup? Would he, god forbid, have talked to Michael, found out what was going on with him, maybe sought a peaceful resolution?
We’ll never know, because Fergsuon has at least a century history of confrontations between armed cops and unarmed black men that influenced the reactions and attitudes of all participants in that tragedy. Yes, A.C., I do think individuals have the right to defend themselves, even with lethal force if that is the only way. My argument is that empowering the police to use lethal force whenever they like, with almost no conseqeunces to them even when they are blatantly in the wrong, does not increase safety for anyone, including the cops, and decreases justice for everyone, including the innocent.
I think we need something more like Peel’s Principles here. I also think we should rethink the rules of engagement for crimes against property, whether they justify lethal force to prevent escape.
That said, I get the impression that quite a few, possibly even the majority of UK police would prefer to be better armed and better trained in the use of arms. They generally point to the Garda and the French as examples of “civilized” countries that still have armed police. (Though these officers are often more positive in their view of the US than the average Briton as well.) I would point you to Inspector Gadget’s blog, but he went dark a while ago. There are other voices of the same type if you look though.
Bottom line: wherever Britain may be, we have swung way too far on this side of the pendulum. We need a rethink on how the police interact with the people they serve.
PrivateIron wrote: “If a jury will not (or is not allowed to) file charges on this pattern, exactly what can you say to African Americans that will give them any confidence in our society or our system of government?”
I can not offer confidence that I myself lack. Our government, as most governments on the earth (I would say all, but I don’t know enough about all of them to be certain), is an instrument to suppress people and cover up truth.
That is not what governments are intended for. God instituted human government to reward goodness and punish evil.
Don’t put your confidence in government, put it where it belongs: in the God who has promised to come and right the wrongs. To judge the earth fairly, and to put every government under subjection to Him.
p.s. I am new to this site, but a big fan of the Dragaera novels.
“(Also, I omitted your string of adjectives. Other than adding vitriol, isn’t “people” the only part that matters?)” — quoting A.C.
Heavens, am I the first person to question this?
“String of adjectives” is a wonderfully dismissive phrase, particularly so when addressing a professional writer whose working life is about choosing the right words. Creating strings of inexact adjectives is a classic mistake of the inexperienced writer. Based on my long reading of Steve’s work, if he uses an adjective, it’s there because it’s necessary.
So let’s look at those adjectives A.C. thinks are, at best, dead weight, and at worst, gratuitously inflammatory. They are: “unarmed,” “black,” “Indian,” “Hispanic,” “poor,” and “working.”
I think even A.C. would have to agree that “unarmed” is an important clarifier in this discussion. Shooting someone who isn’t in a position to shoot back is different in both law and experience from being half of a gun battle. Palming that card reads like an effort to trivialize the arguments of those who object to unrestrained police violence.
As for black, Indian, Hispanic, poor, and working: are they unnecessary? I’d say no, and as evidence I offer the exchange between A.C. and our host upthread. A.C. wonders why the police aren’t considered part of the working class. Steve clarifies: they’re members of the working class who’ve chosen to side with the interests of their oppressors. What’s the evidence that tells us they’ve made that choice?
Well, let’s start with, Who do they shoot?
Unarmed victims of police shootings rarely include expensively-dressed people in Mercedes sedans reaching for two-hundred-dollar wallets. When a police officer does victimize a member of the capitalist class, he or she is swiftly punished. The police don’t shoot “[…]people.” They shoot those who are seen as the enemies of the class that employs them, whether those who are shot are actively engaged in crimes against that class, or merely members of groups that class fears and distrusts.
So, far from being unnecessary vitriolic baggage, those adjectives are essential. They clarify the subject at hand, namely, the causes of police shootings of unarmed people. Until we accurately identify the causes, we can’t solve the problem. To characterize these shootings as “murdering […] people” provides an inaccurate and incomplete description of the matter at hand.
Well said indeed, Emma.
skzb: “This is not an individual with whom I choose to have polite, reasoned discussion. I apologize (only not really) to those who think I should.”
I don’t normally assume a snippy aside is directed at me, but just this once I’m going to take that leap and guess this is how you’re interpreting my question. And rather than, as I have often done before, go away shaking my head at being completely misunderstood, I am going to try to rephrase it.
What was the purpose of the original post?
Obviously it could be a comment directed to a single specific asshole addressing a single specific instance of assholery, but it sounds like a general statement of principle. And at least three others thought the same, too, unless the first 3 responders were all witnesses of the incidence of assholery in question and are indicating they think you’re right and the other person was indeed an asshole. Otherwise, they seem to be indicating approval of the principles you’ve laid out. Of course I understand that even if it is a statement of general principle, it may be that it wasn’t meant for discussion at all, it’s just supposed to be read, accepted/booed and ignored.
But if it is a statement of principle that is open to discussion, I don’t get why it is offensive to ask about portions that seem out of character.
Implied in the above quote, of course, is that someone thinks you should argue with people whom you don’t respect. I don’t know what that person thinks, but I know I personally feel contempt for lots of people, to the point that when on Usenet my kill file had well over 100 regular posters in it because I found it not worthwhile to acknowledge them. I’ve considered writing a filter for blogs to weed out anyone who links to Wikipedia or uses some variation of the phase, “Well, I just googled that and I think…”. On the other hand, I have never once made a production out of telling someone he’s a jerk and that I’m going to ignore him, not even to the tiny little extent of writing “plonk”. So maybe there’s some blow-off etiquette in play here with which I’m unfamiliar?
L. Raymond: “I don’t normally assume a snippy aside is directed at me, but just this once I’m going to take that leap and guess this is how you’re interpreting my question.”
To be clear, the remark you quote was not addressed at you, and I apologize if I led you to think it was. It was directed at someone I chose not to name, as he isn’t here to defend himself, but he’s the one I quoted in my comment above.stamped 11-Nov 4:21PM (damn, I wish there were a way to number comments).
The essence of my thesis is quite simple: I view the world through the lens of the class struggle, and I am on the side of the working class. Not everyone agrees with this view, and that’s all right, I am quite content (at least potentially, depending on a number of factors) to explain why I view things that way, why I believe I am correct. Also, for others who, to one degree or another, agree with me about what the problems are and disagree about solutions, I will also discuss and debate.
But some people (no, I do not mean you) have made it very clear that they are on the other side, that they want to see the oppressed unable to resist, that they (in some cases, in so many words) support a fascist state that will crush all working class resistance. I have nothing to talk about with these people. Their comments never get out of the moderation queue, and ones responding on Facebook get ignored, or sometimes blocked.
So, why the post? Because I am tired of these people saying, “Why won’t you argue with me?” I wanted to put up an answer where I could point to it and say, “That’s why. Now fuck off.”
“I think even A.C. would have to agree that “unarmed” is an important clarifier in this discussion. Shooting someone who isn’t in a position to shoot back is different in both law and experience from being half of a gun battle. Palming that card reads like an effort to trivialize the arguments of those who object to unrestrained police violence.” — Emma Bull
(Incidentally: fanboy squee. Wow. Hi! Heh — pardon me; back to topic.)
No, not in the least. Indeed, it’s one of the least relevant descriptors, as it serves to confuse, rather than clarify. It’s also a handy epistemological yellow flag, an indicator that the argument coming up may be aimed at prejudice and emotion, rather than rationaity.
Headline: “White Bugscuffle resident shoots unarmed child”
Lede: “Tuesday, 87 year old wheelchair-bound widow Grandma Moses was startled when recently paroled 19 year old Cletus Backwoods, convicted three years ago of four counts of murder, kicked in her door and shouted that he was there to kill her. According to deputies, Ms. Moses then shot Mr. Backwoods. Mr Backwoods was able to drag his 325 pound, 6 foot 6 inch body partway back onto the porch before expiring.”
Exercise: did “unarmed child” help clarify the force situation between Cletus and Grandma?
(Also, where did “unrestrained” come from? Red herrings abound.)
“But some people (no, I do not mean you) have made it very clear that they are on the other side, that they want to see the oppressed unable to resist, that they (in some cases, in so many words) support a fascist state that will crush all working class resistance.” –skzb
This looks to me like a false dichotomy; are there really only two sides? Isn’t it possible to be anti-fascist, indeed, anti-authoritarian, perhaps even anarchist*, without seeing everything through a class struggle lens?
(*Or perhaps minarchist, or agorist, or anarcho-capitalist, or something in that loosely defined space.)
Or does looking through the class struggle lens mean that if you aren’t a syndicalist then you must be a fascist?
If you’ll allow for more than one side, I suspect we could compete for who is further out the anti-fascist spectrum.
A.C.: Yes, there are countless illusions held by people. (Also, hauling in syndicalism in this context is displaying an extraordinary lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of Left Wing politics. This lack of knowledge is entirely excusable until the point where you use it to try to prove points; then it becomes as embarrassing as your preposterous reducto ad absurdem to Emma).
AC: “No, not in the least. Indeed, it’s one of the least relevant descriptors, as it serves to confuse, rather than clarify. It’s also a handy epistemological yellow flag, an indicator that the argument coming up may be aimed at prejudice and emotion, rather than rationality.”
I’m not willing to argue about police shootings for various reasons, but come now, this is a little out of line, wouldn’t you say? Whatever you think of the police in the US – superheroes, villains, or well-armed average Joes – they have guns. By definition, they have force on their side. Theoretically, they also have training, skill and the ability to gauge a situation and react appropriately. Any time they kill someone who was unarmed, they have failed to do their job, no matter how a person defines it. The one and only exception I can think of is if someone has a hostage and is holding him in such a way he can break the hostage’s neck with a single movement, and a bullet to the head is the only way to stop him. That scenario is rather far-fetched, but I can’t think of any other situation in which a cop’s killing an unarmed person could be justified. Knowing that someone who was killed by a cop was unarmed is of the utmost importance when investigating the death.
skzb: “So, why the post? Because I am tired of these people saying, “Why won’t you argue with me?” I wanted to put up an answer where I could point to it and say, “That’s why. Now fuck off.”
So it is rhetoric, which is what I asked about initially. OK, I used the word “clumsy”, but that’s because I have a real problem with the use of the word “enemy” if there’s a chance someone is using it literally. I didn’t really believe it was a statement of principle but I obviously didn’t phrase the question right so as to get a more or less straight forward ‘yes’ or ‘no’. (Loquacious, wordy, blathering – yes, I can be, I know).
Also, I have the (bad ?) habit of starting at the bottom of any thread I’m reading and working my way up, and I only just now noticed what you said about my email. It’s totally unmunged and I have no filters at all, so I’m not sure what could have happened. I don’t ever leave a real address when replying here but I will this time, just in case.
L. Raymond: I think “rhetoric” and “enemy” are among the words we use slightly differently.
What, you don’t consider “enemy” to be a militarisitc and nihilistic way of indicating you think of a broad swath of people as being unworthy of life?
Actually, “rhetoric” we probably agree on.
I think of enemy as those who must be defeated for human progress to continue.
L. Raymond- “class enemy” is a term of art…
There are many ways to eliminate class enemies. As I am not a revolutionary, I don’t know them all, but I believe reeducation and cooption are on the list. Probably other techniques employing non-dipthonic double vowels.
For an example of those I will not engage with, here: http://pastebin.com/FkA1B2rq
The object is, to figure out the best way to oppose the actions of these people and to stop them from creating violence. The idea that one might convince them with logical arguments is the height of idealism.
“For an example of those I will not engage with…”
4chan doesn’t deserve to be on anyone’s radar, much less acknowledged.
“The object is, to figure out the best way to oppose the actions of these people and to stop them from creating violence. The idea that one might convince them with logical arguments is the height of idealism.”
To my way of thinking, this is in fact the main, and possibly only, reason to have an exchange with someone you consider an antagonist. It’s not so much convincing the particular person you’re dealing with at the moment so much as understanding exactly what *his* arguments are so you can counter them in the future.
Foe instance, if you’re dealing with someone who thinks racism is the single most important thing in the world to combat, and you’re telling him he’s just plain wrong, that won’t do any good. But if you’ve dealt with someone like him and you understand what *they* mean by “white privilege” and why they feel they need to fight that to the exclusion of something else, then you can talk to them in an idiom they’ll understand and maybe convince them. If you only tlak to them about your own understanding of the term, you’ll fail.
No matter stupid you think someone is, there’s always something to learn from him if your goal is being able to convince other people of something. Assuming, of course, it’s not just a bored kid being stupid for fun.
“I think of enemy as those who must be defeated for human progress to continue.”
That would actually be an excellent topic for a true debate, discussing what exactly human progress is and how could it best be acheieved. Virtually any philosphy you can think of would have a different take on that one.
“4chan doesn’t deserve to be on anyone’s radar, much less acknowledged.”
Exactly. And I’m tired of that type trying to get me to “debate” with their filth. Hence the blog post.
The people that I won’t debate with are the people where it’s clear that I have no common ground. My classic example is my mother, whom I probably love. However, she is a fundamentalist Christian, and her entire belief system is predicated on some assumptions that I do not share. Every year, I have to cross new things off the list of things we can talk about. The weather went long ago: global warming. Abortion was probably the first thing on our list. There are a lot more. Seriously, this is a woman who believes that the Bible provides clear evidence of the contents of God’s mind, but finds simple scientific facts to be baffling and questionable. So, we’re kind of reduced to gossip about our mutual acquaintances and blood family. It does not require delving into 4chan to find people with whom there’s no possible conversation, though if you needed someplace to ignore, 4chan is a good start.
On the other side, there’s Steven, with whom I share a lot of common ground. Politically, I’m probably best described as a card-carrying Democrat with anarchist leanings. We don’t agree about lots and lots. But there’s sufficient common ground to support many a long, whiskey-fueled, late-night argument. One of these days, I’ll win one.
Well, put. And, frankly, I doubt you’ll ever win one, any more than I will. The win is the discussion itself. :-)
I learn _so many things_ when we argue. I still don’t agree with you, but man do I know a lot more than I did. That’s damn fun.
wow, coming to this discussion perhaps way too late to add much of value. but i dispute whether its useful, much less correct, to villainize all of law enforcement as classist, elitist, corrupt, tools of the oppressor (trying to be accurate to the thread, but again, I came late so forgive minor mischaracterizations). certainly the ‘thugs’, as SKZB accurately calls them, who misuse their position of power to apply deadly force to unarmed people should be dealt with immediately and harshly. and it seems clear an endemic problem is being exposed which must be dealt with systemically and not simply brushed off as ‘actions of a few thugs’. (this is not to imply we shouldn’t have been aware of it sooner — just that mobile video is putting it front and center and beyond many standard justifications applied in the past.)
in short: speaking of the vast majority of law enforcement, these are the good guys. they are not merely corrupted tools of an oppressive class. they are put in impossible, stressful, and fearful situations and must deal with things the rest of us don’t wish to. to say otherwise is to argue police are unnecessary in a society and, therefore, anarchy is a functional and desirable long-term state. i dislike classist arguments because they are fundamentally based on the weakest of stereotypes and lead to the flimsiest of analogies — to wit, Ms Bull’s example of the Mercedes-driving, wallet-wielding, class enemy #1. if he were to get out of his Merc and begin fighting with officers its no longer clear at all how long he would go without being shot. but he doesn’t. and to pretend that is not a very real difference is to willfully ignore root causes in favor of pet idealism.
Modifying this somewhat awkward quote for my purposes:
“The police don’t shoot “[…]people.” They shoot those who are [acting] as the enemies of the [society] that employs them.”
L Raymond: Bounced again. I assume the problem is on my end, or you’d have this problem elsewhere, but it’s weird. In any case, all I said in my email was to acknowledge the email you sent to me, sort, “Got it. Cool.” So it isn’t anything to worry about. Strange, though.
Vardelda: Welcome to the conversation, thanks for participating.
“speaking of the vast majority of law enforcement, these are the good guys. they are not merely corrupted tools of an oppressive class.”
I agree with this. They are not corrupted tools of an oppressive class, they are dedicated, conscientious tools of an oppressive class. And, no, I’m not being flip. When they institute a reign of terror on our streets, it is, in my opinion, because right now it is exactly their job to do that. To focus on the individual officer, and whether he happens to be a good guy or a bad guy, is to miss the point that his job is to protect a system that increasingly requires brutality and terror to maintain. They’re doing what they are supposed to do. That’s the problem.
vardelda: “in short: speaking of the vast majority of law enforcement, these are the good guys. they are not merely corrupted tools of an oppressive class. they are put in impossible, stressful, and fearful situations and must deal with things the rest of us don’t wish to. to say otherwise is to argue police are unnecessary in a society and, therefore, anarchy is a functional and desirable long-term state.”
I think this is a false dichotomy. I disagree both with your assessment of an officer’s job and with your comment about anarchy (and with Mr. Brust’s “conscientious tools of an oppressive class” statement). It’s well to keep in mind the fact that too many “impossible, stressful and fearful situations” are brought about by the police themselves. What deserves to stand as the classic example is the killing of Tamir Rice. If you’ve not read the official reports on the killing, Crawford’s says the two police:
Where to even start with the errors they made leading to a killing? The 911 call said someone was pulling a gun out of his waistband and aiming it at random people, but stressed it was probably fake and he was probably a juvenile. But despite having been told there might be a real weapon, the officers chose to drive within 10 feet of the potential shooter and leapt out of the car, forcing Loehmann to fire “within two seconds” because his life was in danger. A danger created by his own stupidity and that of his partner who was driving.
For a normal person, such stupidity usually has its just reward, just because it’s the person behaving stupidly that gets hurt. When police behave stupidly, when they create stressful and fear-filled situations, it’s the other person who is bloodied, tased or killed.
A lot of killings by police are justified by the circumstances, but those that aren’t will still be excused all too often simply because so many people believe the police, by default, have an impossibly dangerous, stressful job. Again, from Crawford’s report:
In other words, when the time of that decision is the second and a half after an officer leaps out of a car seven feet away from a potential shooter, it’s perfectly acceptable for the officer to kill since it was a dangerous place, even though two seconds earlier there was time to avoid the danger in the first place. The bad officers create the “impossible, stressful and fearful situations”, and they’re the ones who walk away from them.
It is unfortunate that I don’t have the willingness to invest the time to respond individually to posts, so speaking as if “into the air” is bound to come off as rude. I fully acknowledge that I am not really participating in dialectic if I simply show up, leave an opinion, and go off to do something else, never to return. So people would be justified not to respond to something like that. Still, I would like to leave a comment.
I dislike these kinds of interminable discussions on the internet, because people tend to use opposing moral vocabularies, which Alisdair MacIntyre has argued are themselves incoherent, as they arise in previous historical eras that when transferred to subsequent ones lose much of their original context. His arguments about historical movements are Hegelian in the sense of suggesting that arguments about ethics and moral responsibility tend to be historically determined, insofar as the questions under examination tend to be the products of the circumstances of a society and its reaction to a previous era. But MacIntyre’s telos of historical development is as far away from Hegel’s (or Marx’s) in such a way that for me, rather than finding any one of these thinkers as having a teleological argument convincing enough to put my weight behind, I’ve long since understood teleological arguments and the desired ends suggested by these authors as saying much more about the authors than about history. Let’s not get into details of their theories because (especially in the case of Marx) I’m unqualified to speak to them.
For more specific issues such as police violence, the thinker I use to understand these debates is Johnathan Haidt and his moral foundations theory, which I see to my delight increasingly being used as a talking point in online articles I read. His understanding of how political allegiances are temperamentally determined I find satisfying, as it is a psychological explanation. When people talk about the responsibility of law enforcement officers in life-or-death situations, the question of blame and accountability feels inexorably tied to how people perceive. Haidt’s insight is that rather than seeking the resolution to such debates in political philosophy, we should look for the answers in psychology, and in the pragmatics of getting people to step outside of their positions and look at things anew. He makes the interesting case that political philosophies are themselves psychologically influenced, although in my opinion, not psychologically determined. Otherwise, we should probably all give up listening to each other and just make snappy Youtube videos to make our points.
Writing laws feels like making a tricky set of compromises to ensure the right mix of incentive structures and palatable political philosophies immanent in the laws, since however much laws are concretizations of political philosophy, laws still feel like abstractions relative to the moral complexities involved in real life. What I do prefer in these kinds of conversations about how laws should be revised is that those who do it use data and self-awareness to arrive at their decisions. So as to the question of what should actually be done about these problems, I haven’t seen anything convincing either way, since I don’t spend my spare time researching and thinking about these problems. I’m hoping the policy makers do.
L Raymond: to be clear, i’ve little interest in debating individual events — or even a set of related individual events. i will, however, state I support the laws and general operational circumstances you were attempting to explain. they serve to empower imperfect individuals in fulfilling a desirable societal function.
skzb: i’ve written a lot, erased a lot, and rewritten more, but i find i’m struggling to follow whether we’re addressing the role and performance of a specific function (policing) or questioning the system as a whole. i can take some of your statements as a much broader condemnation. which leads me to ‘what do you want to replace it with?’ — is that going too far?
perhaps more interesting though, would be to pursue “…that increasingly requires brutality and terror to maintain” as entropy of systems is a fundamental and leads to a non-dissimilar result regardless of any given utopian starting point. assuming entropy, one can only do the best they can with what they’ve got until revolution is necessary. (i find there are two primary roles in that discussion: Drivers and passengers. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Shut up or I’ll pound you!)
jilin (fwiw in case you do revisit): yes.
Vardelda: If you refer to my statements on the police in particular, then what I am discussing is the system as a whole, as expressed through it’s primary instrument of repression, and examining the way in which the acute crisis of that system drives ever increasing repression. I am in favor of replacing it with socialism.
“I am in favor of replacing it with socialism.”
But that’s a non-answer. What would be the specific mechanism you’d implement to protect public safety?
L. Raymond: That is clearly not what Vardelda was asking about. But since you’re asking, I’ll mention that “public safety” is such a vague term as to be utterly useless. Safety from what? Counter-revolutionaries? The armed masses. The violently mentally ill? I should imagine there would be people trained in safely and easily handling them. Accidental injury? Again, there are people who take pleasure in helping others in emergent situations. Child abuse? Once the rearing of children is treated as a social issue rather than a private one, this almost entirely vanishes, the exceptions being cases of particular forms of mental illness. Domestic violence? I believe that if you remove all of the pressures and pathologies caused by the pressures of class society, the only domestic violence that would remain would be, again, from mental illness. Traffic safety? Off the top of my head, I’m not sure; but I’ll bet we could come up with something.
L Raymond: Thanks.
skzb: That question was the primary one lurking behind my question of replacement. And the point of my ‘entropy’ comments. I don’t believe any system is capable of working perfectly. Therefore inequalities and injustices, leading to jealousies and passions, leading to crime, policing, and punishment and – eventually right back where we are now. And I ignored definitional imperfections in the system (in case you want to believe socialism, or any system, is perfect) as well as human nature (in case you want to believe all would behave nicely if everyone were just nice to them). For the record, I believe neither.
I do believe utopia is a worthy aspiration. But there’s a lot of hard work along the way and not everyone likes hard work. Some of those who don’t inevitably take shortcuts *any* system must deal with.
I think it is really sad that people think that the idea of a world without starvation, poverty, untreated disease, or homelessness is Utopian. I think that is just the starting point for the real growth of humanity. Similarly, it is not about systems working “perfectly” (whatever that even means); it is about the next step forward.
Inequalities and injustice are responses to certain sorts of objective conditions, as I’ve been discussing in the recent TRB posts. Unless you believe in “original sin” or “human nature” or some other religious creed, there is no reason we as a species cannot solve the most basic and simple problems of the equitable creation and distribution of goods.
All of which is, really, beside the point for this post, and I’m not entirely certain how we got here. This is post is merely to announce that, among those many and many people who disagree with me, a few are hateful, bigoted reactionaries who want more oppression of the poor, the working class, and minorities, and that I do not wish to have pleasant armchair conversations with those people. Why is this so hard to grasp?
skzb: “But since you’re asking, I’ll mention that ‘public safety’ is such a vague term as to be utterly useless.”
I picked that phrase as being the most neutral one that came to mind at the time, one that covers everything from rape to car wrecks. But…
“All of which is, really, beside the point for this post, and I’m not entirely certain how we got here. This is post is merely to announce that, among those many and many people who disagree with me, a few are hateful, bigoted reactionaries who want more oppression of the poor, the working class, and minorities, and that I do not wish to have pleasant armchair conversations with those people.”
We got here because this is a multi-sided conversation among a half dozen random people and not a debate. A conversation is formless and meanders at will, rather than having to constantly touch on the central point.
Since I’ve always found Marxism to be such an idealistic, impractiable philosophy when it comes to government and society I think it’s interesting to ask about its concrete implementation, especially since you yourself said there’s never been a successful worker’s revolution. But I’ll go out on a limb and guess we’re done now.
There is no way for these types to have a logical, reasoned debate about anything, so long as one disagrees with them, a ‘debate’ turns into a diatribe wherein one is hectored , and the receiver of every fallacious debate tactic in the book, usually ending with ad hominem. Great reply.