If you want to change the police, try to make sense
Michael Moore and his followers are consistently among the best representatives of mindless “progressivism”. Moore’s cheap pandering to the crowd demonstrates no grasp of logic, but a good grasp of his audience, as he fires them up with reflexive applause lines that play to their emotions and repeat liberal nostrums. That’s all Michael Moore is. He is not an actual contributor to the public debate.
Here he is on the release of the video purporting to show Mike Brown, shortly before he was killed by a cop in Ferguson:
Oh, well, ok now I get it. He stole a box of cigars! CIGARS! Not cigarettes, not gum, but cigars! Clearly the police were justified in killing him. The last thing we need are more black teenagers running around with cigars. I say execute all shoplifters! Jaywalkers —you hear that? You’re next.
It’s so obvious that I hate to be forced to say it, but no one in Ferguson city government is claiming that Mike Brown deserved to be shot for stealing cigars. What they are clearly saying, by releasing this video, is that perhaps he was the sort of person who might threaten a cop. The person in the video is not just a thief; he is a thug, pushing around a smaller person who is only trying to protect his livelihood. If that person is Brown, as his family has largely conceded, then he was a jerk — an eighteen-year-old jerk, but a jerk nonetheless. And stealing cigars is not a capital offense, but neither is it justified by oppressive poverty and racism. The narrative of another harmless child shot in cold blood is too simplistic for these circumstances. At the least, the cop who shot Brown deserves to have all the evidence in the case considered, including the apparent evidence of Brown’s personality and tendencies, and the way he was behaving on the night in question.
The Trayvon Martin case suffered from the same disingenuousness, where any attempt to present a balanced picture of Martin as a person was dismissed as character assassination of an innocent, angelic figure. No one was asserting that Martin deserved to die; George Zimmerman was entitled, however, to show that Martin was perhaps the sort of person who would start a violent confrontation. But Moore has that figured out as well:
Let’s say George Zimmerman’s right when he says that Trayvon Martin was trying to kill him. All right. But it was George Zimmerman who was told by the police to quit stalking this boy. And he was the one who was committing the infraction against the law by disobeying the police and going after Trayvon Martin. Doesn’t Trayvon Martin actually have the right to kill George Zimmerman if George Zimmerman is stalking him and the police have told him not to stalk him?
When it’s convenient, Moore will argue that the law requires absolute obedience to the police. (It doesn’t, of course, and Zimmerman hadn’t been ordered by the police to do anything. A dispatcher had merely told him that the police didn’t “need” him to follow Martin.) Moore will claim that one person can kill another for “stalking”, and imply that failure to obey a (non-existent) police order may also be grounds for getting killed. I understand that Michael Moore doesn’t really believe any of this nonsense. I’d just like his sycophants to understand how nonsensical he is.
Gawker’s Michelle Dean functions, apparently, as a junior Michael Moore, quick to demagogue an issue for her cheering audience as she did in attacking Nate Silver for telling his own personal arrest story. It was plain that Silver was not comparing himself to Mike Brown. His story was intended as an analogy of the media arrests in Ferguson, which isn’t surprising given that Silver is a journalist. When read carefully, the story is fairly clear: Silver drew the attention of the police because he was monitoring their actions and they didn’t want to be monitored; he was roughed up during his arrest; the cops declined to offer any justification; they finally let him go after he apologized. In other words, when he took all the responsibility, admitted to fault even though he was not at fault, and showed the cops that he knew who the bosses were, he was released. Silver’s story was one of mild brutality but clear abuse of police power, abuse in the service of police secrecy and aggrandizement. The cops feel themselves superior to you, answerable to no one, and they will humiliate you until you acknowledge that. This was the evident point of Silver’s story. It corroborated the experience of Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly as Silver intended and is quite relevant in a discussion of police attitudes and abuses. If Michelle Dean can’t understand that, she should stop pretending to think, or at least stop calling other people “idiots”.
I know what the police are capable of as well as any white guy who has never actually been injured by the police, and better than Michael Moore. Most recently I was stopped and frisked by a pair of cops after they saw me, from quite a distance, engage in a loud verbal exchange with a dangerous driver. They were so far removed from the situation that they couldn’t see or hear the driver, who had begun the shouting, and they didn’t see the driver bring his car to a stop in the middle of the crosswalk as I was in the crosswalk myself. The driver was allowed to go on his way, but the cops made a point of pulling over, exiting their car with hands on guns, and forcing me to submit to a body search before even bothering to ask me a single question. They decided, from a distance, that I was the sort of crazy person who shouts at cars. Okay. So what? Los Angeles has lots of crazy people who shout at things. Are they all constantly stopped and frisked? I think not. Perhaps that is because eventually the cops know who these people are, and what to expect of them. That just proves that these two cops were out of their beat, because I was detained across the street from my apartment building on a route that I walked a minimum of twice a day. A simple question to me would have revealed me to be a sane person in control of his actions; even sane people sometimes yell at other people. And while attempting to protect themselves, hence the frisking, the cops ignored the constitutional protections about probable cause. I understand that this is not the same as being shot. But I also understand police abuses better than the average liberal venturing an opinion on Ferguson.
We clearly need changes to police procedure in the United States. It’s in everyone’s interest that we start recording all police interactions. Had Darren Wilson been wired with a camera on his person, this controversy would likely be settled (and may not even have arisen). The federal government needs to be more circumspect about giving (seriously: giving) military surplus to local police, and local police need to be judicious in requesting and using it. The police need to be reminded, until it sinks in, that journalists and even citizens have a right to observe and record police actions. And above all, the police need to understand, not just say, that they are public servants, that they work for us, and that as much as we might admire the risks they take for us, we are not to be treated as subordinates, and certainly not as enemies.
And if liberals and libertarians want these changes to happen, we’ll have to make persuasive arguments, not cheap shots followed by rounds of high fives and hoots, like the unserious Michelle Dean and the colossally-unserious Michael Moore.
— O.T. Ford