“The Great Stupid” Chronicles: Dumb Tweet, Unintelligent “Intelligencer”

Richard Spoor, he tells us, is a public interest lawyer with a special interest in land reform, mines and communities and compensation for occupational diseases, and a “militant non-racialist,” whatever that means. His tweet is addled in so many ways:

  • The fate of these two lawyers turned terrorists is no more “sad” than any story of previously law-abiding citizens whose ethics alarms stop working as they knowingly break the law.
  • The fact that they are “young” makes it no more sad than if they were older, like 50. They’re not kids: both are over 30. They cannot claim immaturity or lack of experience. My son nearly ruined his life with a terrible, spur of the moment decision that could have killed him and others, but he was a teenaged male. He was also lucky.  Truly young people like he was wreck their lives with bad decisions every day. That’s sad. Adults doing it is something else.
  • Participating in a riot and throwing a Molotov cocktail is not the act of an “idealistic” person by definition. Breaking the law, engaging in violence, and trying to destroy property for no good reason does not embody “ideals.” They embody the opposite of ideals. If the two lawyers  were really idealistic, this wouldn’t have happened.
  • They didn’t “get wrapped up” in BLM’s racist movement, they joined it. It isn’t something that just happened to them.
  • “Moment of madness” is another version of Rationalization #19, The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” People don’t suddenly throw Molotov cocktails and go “Ooopsie! What was I thinking?” That’s not “a mistake,” it is the culmination of many intentional acts leading up to a serious crime.

As intellectually dishonest and ethically inert as Spoor’s tweet is—and it risks making anyone who reads it dumber and more ignorant than they already are—the New York Magazine article that he was reacting to (he linked to it in the tweet) was worse. It was written by Lisa Miller, a veteran journalist who specializes in religious commentary. The title is The Making of a Molotov Cocktail, Two lawyers, a summer of unrest, and a bottle of Bud Light.

I wouldn’t recommend reading the whole, long, soppy, head-exploding thing. This selection should tell you all you need to know:

More than 200 people were arrested in New York City on the night of May 29–30, including Rahman, who is 31, and Mattis, who is 32. Most of the demonstrators were released the next day, but Rahman and Mattis were held for hours at the 88th Precinct in Clinton Hill, interrogated, taken into federal custody, and finally charged with seven federal crimes — including arson, conspiracy, and the commission of a “crime of violence” using a “destructive device,” a charge that carries, if they are convicted, a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years. Altogether, Rahman and Mattis each face nonnegotiable sentences of 45 years to life.

To be a lawyer is to agree to play by the rules, or at least to acknowledge that the rules exist, even as you seek to bend them. And it is this simplistic, romantic understanding of a lawyer’s job that is part of what has the government so provoked, as if going to law school is or should be a safeguard against breaking the law. “The conduct,” said U.S. District Court judge Margo Brodie in reference to this case, was “completely lawless.” At a recent bail hearing, one of the prosecutors argued similarly. “These were lawyers,” he said, “who had every reason to know what they were doing was wrong and knew the consequences. Committing this crime required a fundamental change in mind-set for them.”

But to work within that system is to understand just how capricious and brutal criminal justice can be — the enormous latitude given to prosecutors, the deference extended to judges and juries, and the procedural protocols and professional ethics that often merely cover for the status quo. And when a president and his advisers seem to regard the law as an obstacle course; when an attorney general metes out favors, not justice; and when immigrant children are held in cages and men are killed on video by police, some lawyers may want to embrace a more flexible definition of “lawless.” As recently as a few years ago, even a progressive-minded lawyer might have regarded fervent, visible participation in a political protest as professionally unbecoming. Today, some of Mattis and Rahman’s friends may concede in private that throwing a Molotov cocktail represents a lapse in judgment, but none are willing to discuss the degree to which their friends may have been ethically, professionally, morally, or legally out of bounds. Instead, they emphasize that violence against government property, especially in the midst of political upheaval, is not the same as violence against a person; that the prosecution of their friends for an act of what amounted to political vandalism is far more extreme than the crime itself; that it amounts to a criminalization of dissent and reflects a broader right-wing crusade against people of color and the progressive left — and, as such, demonstrates precisely the horror of the system they were out in the streets that night to protest. There is a version of the Rahman and Mattis story in which they are civil-rights heroes, even martyrs, instead of professionals who crossed a line.

Observations:

  • She couldn’t play it straight. Too bad: it makes this a hack piece, straining for approval by New York Mag’s almost unanimously Democrat, Trump-Deranged readership.

“When a president and his advisers seem to regard the law as an obstacle course; when an attorney general metes out favors, not justice; and when immigrant children are held in cages and men are killed on video by police”–these are hoary resistance talking points and deliberate distortions, not facts. Miller presents them as if they are objective reality.

  • Miller makes it sound as if there is something unfair about the two bomb-throwers being charged. I’ll agree that more of the rioters should have been charged, but that doesn’t relieve the two lawyers of guilt or accountability.
  • I will bet that Rahman and Mattis do not “face” the maximum penalty. Both Spoor’s tweet and Miller’s sympathetic essay are deceitful. The pair are first offenders, and they have lost their careers as lawyers. Unless they scream “Power to the People!” in court or otherwise show a lack of remorse, they will get the low end of the sentencing guidelines.

Count on it.

  • “To be a lawyer is to agree to play by the rules”—that’s correct. And it isn’t an agreement, it’s an oath. If you are not prepared to play by the rules (and that means laws too), then you are unfit to be a lawyer, and your oath was a lie. “

At least to acknowledge that the rules exist, even as you seek to bend them,” is embarrassing non-lawyer ignorance, and means that Miller doesn’t know what she is writing about.

  • To work within the system is to realize that enforcing the laws effectively and correctly is complicated and difficult, and that injustices, that mistakes  are inevitable, and that throwing a tantrum every time it doesn’t work the way you want it to is a powerful sign that one needs to go into a less challenging and ethically confounding field, like, say, haberdashery.
  • What does Miller’s complaint about “the deference extended to judges and juries” mean? What does she think would be better, public polls?

If she’s going to write something that fatuous, she better back it up. She doesn’t, because again, she’s just inciting readers, not informing them.

  • “Procedural protocols and professional ethics that often merely cover for the status quo”—again, what’s that supposed to mean? My job is working with professional ethics rules, and that system is far from perfect, but they do not “cover for the status quo.”  Miller is apparently in that willfully ignorant  camp that can’t see any reason why problems and failures within a system can’t just be magically “fixed,” and if they can’t, it’s proof of widespread and deliberate evil.

A woman cable of writing this drivel has been writing for The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal, among others for decades. Think about that.

  • She writes, “Some lawyers may want to embrace a more flexible definition of ‘lawless.’” Yes and some may want to punch a judge in the nose, or take off their clothes and sing “Baby Love” in court…BUT THEY CAN’T.
  • “Some of Mattis and Rahman’s friends may concede in private that throwing a Molotov cocktail represents a lapse in judgment”? Who are their friends, ISIS?
  • “They emphasize that violence against government property, especially in the midst of political upheaval, is not the same as violence against a person.” So what??

This is one of the more pernicious and self-indicting false principles of the rioters, and it deserves no respect or legitimacy at all. It is basically Rationalization #22, the worst of all, The Comparative Virtue Excuse, or “There are worse things,” which is ethically and intellectually indefensible. OK, they didn’t kill anybody, but that was moral luck. Miller is trying to spin throwing a bomb into a police car.

  • Then she really descends into the Great Stupid: “the prosecution of their friends for an act of what amounted to political vandalism is far more extreme than the crime itself; that it amounts to a criminalization of dissent and reflects a broader right-wing crusade against people of color and the progressive left — and, as such, demonstrates precisely the horror of the system they were out in the streets that night to protest.”

Wow…get the net! No, it wasn’t “political vandalism,” it was throwing a firebomb, in public, into a police car. Political vandalism is writing “Give Peace A Chance”  on the Iwo Jima Memorial. (Again, Rationalization #64). It’s “far more extreme” than the crime itself–what? Enforcing the law against arson and violent rioting is more extreme than than the crime? Why is Miller regurgitating these crazy Marxist/ Bizarro World arguments?

Miller thinks throwing a firebomb is “dissent?” Arresting someone who burns up a police car is “criminalizing dissent”? I heard ideas like this in the Sixties, but their advocates hadn’t shaved yet. Neither had I, but I could recognize anarchist poison when it was in the air.

  • “It amounts to a criminalization of dissent and reflects a broader right-wing crusade against people of color and the progressive left — and, as such, demonstrates precisely the horror of the system they were out in the streets that night to protest.” Sure, Lisa. Res ipsa loquitur. This sentence speaks for itself, and what it says is, “The author has no integrity, or is too biased and ignorant to be taken seriously.”
  • “There is a version of the Rahman and Mattis story in which they are civil-rights heroes, even martyrs, instead of professionals who crossed a line.”

Yes, and that version is called “indefensible propaganda.”

 

13 thoughts on ““The Great Stupid” Chronicles: Dumb Tweet, Unintelligent “Intelligencer”

  1. “capricious and brutal..”
    Yes, firebombing a car is certainly that.

    “throwing a Molotov cocktail represents a lapse in judgment”
    No. Judgement went out of the window with the decion to make one.

    This really is one of those irregular verbs: I push the boundaries, you have a lapse in judgement, he is a violent criminal.

    • Or hired as a social consciousness officer or some other title like that. These people came to be in the Obama years, might have been involved in the Occupy movement, probably worked on Hilary’s campaign, and probably were involved in the first round of unrest that fizzled in 2017. They were never going to grow up all the way, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and live lives that included Little League, Girl Scouts, and church.

  2. Moment of madness my foot. This was an embrace of criminally destructive behavior by two people who had no excuse not to know better. For a moment I was going to say maybe Samantha Shader, the crazy 20-something who traveled 120+ miles from upstate NY and threw a Molotov cocktail had a moment of madness, but it turns out she already had a criminal record spanning 11 states and including aggravated assault and possession of drugs. The woman did not too much more than commit crimes.

    Putting it bluntly, these people are domestic terrorists. What’s more, they are millennial terrorists. No, that has nothing to do with scruffy 27-year-old guys with man-buns and facial hair who do not a damn thing but hang around Starbucks. A millennial terrorist (i.e. Shining Path, al Quaeda, ISIS) is a terrorist for whom violence is an end in itself, as opposed to a political terrorist (the IRA, PLO) for whom violence is a means to a political end.

    The Constitution protects the right to assemble peaceably and petition the government for a redress of grievances (although that was supposed to be curtailed during this pandemic, but I digress). It does not protect the right to destroy property or assault others, and that goes double if the ones you assault are those whose duty it is to protect and aid society. I don’t understand what kind of sense of entitlement underlies the belief that, if you feel strongly enough, somehow it’s all right to do that. I don’t know what kind of twisted belief system says there is any kind of value in burning stores, destroying museums, and vandalizing churches and monuments. Is the ultimate goal to destroy cities and towns so you can rule ashes? If it is, feel free to burn down your own home or business, but it is wrong and downright evil to do that to others.

    I’m three paragraphs in now, and the one name that hasn’t come up yet is George Floyd. This stopped being about him before 48 hours were up. I don’t think in the first 24 hours there was one person in this nation, from the president down to the lowliest laborer, who would have said they were not on his side or against the officers who mistreated him to the point where he died from his injuries. I can also tell you, as a conservative who is usually very pro-law enforcement, that there appears to be a major internal problem in the Minneapolis PD, because the shooting of Philando Castile already brought down one mayor and one police chief, but that hasn’t changed things. A police department in which an officer is allowed to deliberately inflict suffering on a non-violent subject who is already in restraints and his fellow officers back him has a sick culture. Deliberately torturing someone who is helpless is the act of a sociopathic bully. Only a sick culture tolerates that. (that said, the previously suppressed body camera footage says maybe it isn’t that simple) The only culture I can think of that’s worse is the Mesa PD, where a sergeant screamed abusive commands at and threatened an unarmed 26-year-old man who was sobbing and begging for his life, before another officer shot him five times with an AR-15 with “you’re fucked” etched on it.

    But it stopped being about all that as soon as the first window was smashed. It stopped being about that as soon as the first fire was started. It stopped being about that as soon as it spread beyond Minneapolis. Demanding justice was fine. Demanding that the MPD make changes because this is now two strikes was fine. Demanding that this particular officer face the strongest possible consequences was fine – although he still, like all Americans, has the right to due process. Smashing windows, setting fires, stealing…not fine. Attacking the police, assaulting others, no way. Life has to move forward, even if you are angry and think you have a cause, and it isn’t fair that you destroy the ability of others to move forward with their lives for your cause.

    Peaceful protests? Maybe in some places. I’m not too thrilled about the police joining marches themselves when on duty, but, if it’s a way to keep the peace, ok. Assaults on precincts, vandalism of churches, tagging the Lincoln Memorial, trying to topple statues in Philadelphia etc. are not peaceful protests. Assaulting the White House? Are you kidding me? The last time anyone did that was the War of 1812, when the British sacked DC for the American burning of York. This isn’t then, and we are not at war with our own people. This is before we even talk about flag burning or attempts to throw Molotov cocktails into police cars. If you’re planning to peacefully protest you don’t tote along fireworks or gasoline or hammers or other weapons. If you bring things like that along you have destruction on your mind. If you are looking to peacefully protest you don’t attack police stations, breach buildings, or set courthouses on fire. And one thing you don’t do is assault the home and office of the president. I don’t think they even did that at the height of Vietnam.

    Apparently some mayors and governors either couldn’t believe what was happening or didn’t want to deal with it in the manner needed. Finally it hit them, and now more National Guard troops have been activated than we activated probably at the height of the War on Terror. They had to deploy a whole brigade, 4000 guardsmen, to finally end this nonsense in Minneapolis. If they had deployed them sooner maybe some of this destruction would have been averted. It shouldn’t have come to this. So much destruction on such a wide basis is one step short of a full insurrection, and should have been the signal to take decisive action. Instead, they had to be prompted by the president, who finally said they needed to restore order with the resources they have NOW, or he would do it for them with the military. This was still a lot messier than it needed to be. However, it was legal under the Insurrection act and it was necessary. This country isn’t going to become Bleeding Kansas and the cities are not going to become Belfast or Derry 1978. And for what? This moved beyond getting justice for one victim of police brutality. This moved beyond the list of grievances that gets pulled out every time something like this happens. This is now about trying to bring down the current president, maybe even bring down the system completely, and, despite the attempts by some to dissemble and blame this on white supremacists, antfa is at the bottom of it

    The president should have gone after antifa decisively after Charlottesville. They call themselves anti-fascists, but the fact of the matter is that they are anarchist thugs who do violence for its own sake. As moral people they are no better than the cowards dragged off the Achille Lauro by Italian carabinieri, the bastards the SAS and RUC shot dead at Loughall, the cutthroats the Peruvian special forces killed at the Japanese Embassy, or the terrorist mastermind who was finally shot square in the face by SEAL team 6. As operatives they are decidedly less, deadly in throwing gasoline bombs, but incapable of standing up in a real fight. This should not and must not be a replay of half a century ago. The forces of law and order have learned more than a thing or two. This nation has the right to be free from insurrection and lawlessness.

    Writers should not try to defend the indefensible. Like the last Republican president said, if you are not with law and order, you are with the bad guys.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “I’m three paragraphs in now, and the one name that hasn’t come up yet is George Floyd. This stopped being about him before 48 hours were up.”

      “Maybe justice for Floyd was the starting point but the death of Floyd has been bastardized and turned into a catalyst and it’s clearly morphed well beyond justice for George Floyd.” June 23, 2020

      Is the cause of this bastardization ignorance or societal brainwashing?

      Social anarchists, socialists, communists, terrorists, anti-white and anti-black racists, and stupid people of all size and shape are all trying to take full advantage of the current mob mentality in our streets and pushing it as far as they can possibly go to completely disrupt the building blocks of our society. Why do you think that progressives refuse to outright and specifically denounce and condemn the rioters; it’s because to them the ends justify the means, that’s why. Think about it; this is exactly the kind of social unrest that progressives have been looking for for years. Progressives have been demonizing all they oppose as being the equivalent to evil for most of the 21st century (maybe longer) and pushing hard for the last 12 years and now in the last 3+ years they’ve been pushing that their opposition is evil really hard while enabling the hordes of stupid people that have been indoctrinated in the wings to fully embrace the concept that…

      Isn’t everyone in favor of destroying evil?

      Side Note: I beginning think that “The Deliberate Dumbing-Down of America” that Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt talked about is complete and the followup rise of totalitarianism she warned of is coming to pass. Maybe she wasn’t such a conspiracy theory wacko.

      • Side Note: I beginning think that “The Deliberate Dumbing-Down of America” that Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt talked about is complete and the followup rise of totalitarianism she warned of is coming to pass. Maybe she wasn’t such a conspiracy theory wacko.

        Careful Steve! You have stepped onto the slippery slope. Soon you will agree with the logic in Jonathan Bowden’s presentations! [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMEQISo40yU ]

        Heaven only knows what will come next!

      • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “Pity Bill Kuntsler isn’t still around to defend them.”

        I’m sure there are plenty of limelight seeking self-promoting social activist lawyers ready and willing to jump right in to take his place and they’d probably do the first one gratis.

    • I found these things online this morning…

      Herd mentality, mob mentality and pack mentality, also lesser known as gang mentality, describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis. When individuals are affected by mob mentality, they may make different decisions than they would have individually.

      …and…

      In a criminal prosecution, a defense by the accused that he/she was briefly insane at the time the crime was committed and therefore was incapable of knowing the nature of his/her alleged criminal act. Temporary insanity is claimed as a defense whether or not the accused is mentally stable at the time of trial.

      …and…

      Common law is the part of English law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes.

      Will they be calling the violent criminal behaviors we’re seeing in the riots a form of temporary insanity brought on by mob mentality in court therefore “justifying” almost anything these violent rioters do? If they are allowed to successfully employ this as a defense won’t it become part of “common law” and therefore enabling violent riots? If this happens we should probably expect things to get much worse and much more violent really fast.

      • Jack wrote, “Temporary insanity tends not to run in pairs.”

        I’d tend to agree with that but when it’s combined with mob mentality maybe it runs in a lot more than pairs, at least legally?

        I’m sure the psychologists and psychiatrists in our midst could help out a little with this angle.

  3. I was going to forego commenting on this post, but concluded that anything I say could and would be evidence to be used by my defense counsel, defending me in a (presumably) Marxist-privilege court system to uphold my innocence due to temporary insanity (a moment of madness).

    But of course, we all know, or, or learning, the “laws” of the nascent Marxist “caprice state.” So, my madness, however temporary, probably would be found by the court (or by the brainwashed zombie Marxist jury, if there even was a jury) as inadmissible evidence or irrelevant, and I would be convicted of whatever crime the court was convened to prosecute.

    So, this is a test. I’m taking my chances. Fuck Marxism.

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