I don’t know what kind of a person Darren Wilson is, and I don’t know if he was justified in shooting Mike Brown. But it there is increasing anecdotal evidence that a lot of police officers have a cruel, vicious and callous streak as evidenced by their attitudes toward animals, and to me, this suggests that are a lot of people in uniform with the authority to use deadly force who should not be police officers at all.
Jonathan Turley highlighted two nauseating cases in recent days.
The first unfolded in Baltimore, when Nala, a young Shar Pei, escaped from her owner’s yard over the weekend and a neighbor tried to check the dog’s tags. Don’t try this with unfamiliar dogs that might be stressed, everyone: Nala snapped at her, causing a minor wound. The neighbor then summoned police to deal with the dog, though she has acknowledged that the bite was her own fault, and Nala was just frightened.
The police and took control of Nala using the long dog-control pole. The neighbor reported that the two police officers abused the dog without cause in the process, twisting its neck and hurting her. One officer kneeled on Nala’s chest, causing her to whimper in pain.
They were just warming up.
Officer Jeffrey Bolger then said, according to multiple witnesses, “I’m going to fucking gut this thing.” As the neighbor and others watched in horror, Bolger pulled out a knife and slit Nala’s throat while Officer Thomas Schmidt held her down. Witnesses say that the dog was already immobilized against the ground and was posing no threat. Animal cruelty charges have been brought against both Bolger and Schmidt.
“Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it. So, if we’re all going to be outraged…Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Dancing with the Stars.”‘
–—Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in an essay pointing out some of hypocrisies and excesses in the reactions to the Donald Sterling saga.
“Gotcha! He’s screwed now…but he’s a racist scumbag, so it’s perfectly OK.”
Good for Kareem. I was just about to make this point myself, and preparing to be pilloried for making excuses for a racist. Kareem is a lot bigger than I am, and I’m happy to stand behind him.
I watched two African-American lawyers on CNN today erupt in over-the-top outrage that has become the norm in the “finger-wagging Olympics” that Abdul-Jabbar decries in the rest of his article. One of the lawyers called Sterling’s remarks defamatory—“defamatory?” Sterling didn’t say a word that was negative about blacks; he just said he didn’t want his girl friend taking photos with them. His comments constitute smoking gun proof of racial bias, sure, but they aren’t “defamatory.” The other lawyer called them “the most vile, disgusting...” on and on and on, comments that he had ever heard. Really? I doubt that. You know, once you award the prize to Sterling’s racist comments, you have no more superlatives left for really horrible racist remarks. The two sportswriters, Christine Brennan and Bill Rhoden, who preceded my commentary on NPR today, did the same thing. It was a contest over who could express the most outrage.
It is a small surprise, then, in this hyper-charged atmosphere, that the conduct of V. Stiviano is getting an ethics pass, as if betrayal doesn’t matter as long as the betrayed party is despicable, and what she did was justified because she exposed a racist to the world. It’s not justified. The ends don’t justify the means, when the means are betrayal and mean-spirited vengeance, and when the methods used threaten to become a social norm, turning American homes and bedrooms into Stalinesque trap where no secret is safe. We’ve seen this practice before and I’ve condemned it before: the Harvard Law student turned into a campus pariah by a jealous rival circulating a private e-mail to the people most likely to be offended by it; Alec Baldwin’s daughter releasing private communications with her intemperate father to harm his reputation; Mel Gibson’s girlfriend doing the same; e-mail jokes being intercepted and sent to political enemies as a tool of personal destruction; clumsy suitors having their fumbles turned into national ridicule by the objects of their affection. Continue reading →
When is an apparent #1 class apology not good enough? Well, in the case of the matter at hand, there are two reasons.
The apology in question came from Martin Bashir, who, as I mentioned in a previous post, used his MSNBC show to suggest that Sarah Palin’s overblown analogy between the financial burden on future generations created by U.S. debt and actual slavery warranted her having to submit to someone expelling excrement into her mouth, and urinating on her as well. He really did say this. On the air. Carefully and deliberately.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to say sorry to Mrs. Palin and to also offer an unreserved apology to her friends and family, her supporters, our viewers, and anyone who may have heard what I said. My words were wholly unacceptable. They were neither accurate, nor fair. They were unworthy of anyone who would claim to have an interest in politics, and they have brought shame upon my friends and colleagues at this network, none of whom were responsible for the things that I said. I deeply regret what I said, and that I have learned a sober lesson in these last few days. That the politics of vitriol and destruction is a miserable place to be, and a miserable person to become. And I promise that I will take the opportunity to learn from this experience.” Continue reading →
As I noted earlier, I am in New Mexico talking to journalists here about the Pat Rogers affair. You can sample one of the fruits of my labors here, a story in the Santa Fe New Mexican. It’s pretty accurate, as press interviews go, though the last quote was botched. I didn’t say that I was a “Greek American conservative Democrat with an anti-war war hero father,” but that my diverse views were the product of “a Greek American conservative Democrat mother and an anti-war war hero father.” [ UPDATE: This has been corrected.]
If you’ve missed the various posts on this issue, you can find them here, here andhere.
One odd note: during my meeting with several reporters from the paper, one of them suggested that making a joke about Custer’s Last Stand was like making a joke about the Holocaust. I let it pass, but the comment seems bizarre to me. Custer, after all, got himself and his men killed, and it was his opposition that was the object of genocide, not the cavalry. Why would ridiculing Custer offend Native Americans?
I’m on the way to New Mexico today, to speak to the news media there and to try to build some consensus—New Mexico is as good a place to start as any—that using faux indignation over manufactured political correctness offenses is no way to run a political system, community, society or culture. It is, in fact, a cynical and despicable practice used by special interest groups and unscrupulous politicians to stifle legitimate debate, or, as in the case that inspired my trip, to unfairly tar the character and reputation of a political adversary. The victim in the New Mexico incident was attorney Pat Rogers, who saw his obviously satirical e-mail intentionally twisted by partisan foes who almost certainly knew its real meaning into being represented in the press as a gratuitous racist slur—which it was not. I wrote about this here, and a similar incident, with parties reversed in Washington state, here.
What am I going to tell the various interviews and reporters I speak with over the next few days? I will tell them that political blood sport has got to stop. That the effort to discredit political positions by seeking ways to demonize their advocates is unethical and wrong. That contrived accusations of racism (or sexism, homophobia, or any other form of bigotry) should not be aided and abetted by the media or tolerated by the public. I will also assert that political warriors on the right or left who intentionally choose to misinterpret innocent expressions of irony, satire or humor as racist attacks both diminish the charge of true bigotry when it is justified, and expose themselves as polluters of our culture and national cohesion.
I don’t know Pat Rogers well; we have only met once. But I know who he represents: those who have been harmed as collateral damage in a hyper-partisan environment encouraged by Washington, D.C. and cheered on by the vilest members of the blogosphere, to the detriment of our sense of community, decency, and trust. My efforts, whatever they are, will be modest at best, and, in all likelihood, inconsequential. But you never know.
There’s nothing funny about racism. Somebody tell Norman Lear.
Remember Pat Rogers? I posted about him twice (here and here): he is the New Mexico lawyer and RNC member whose self-evidently satirical (and private) e-mail mocking a Republican rival of Governor Susan Martinez was hacked and intentionally twisted by progressive activists, and used to trigger protests by Native American tribes, a huge voting bloc in that state. It didn’t matter that any fair and intelligent person who was meant to see the e-mail knew exactly what it meant; it didn’t matter that the interpretation of the e-mail that supposedly justified the public uproar—that Rogers was extolling Gen. George Armstrong Custer—was obviously false, and moreover, that it made neither historical nor political sense to read the message in a way that insulted Native Americans; and it certainly didn’t matter that Rogers career and reputation were being unjustly trashed for pure political gain. State Democrats, aided by the news media and frightened Republicans unwilling to oppose classic minority group grievance-mongering, forced Rogers to leave his law firm, and are still trying to use the incident to turn Native Americans against the Republican Party in time for the election.
It was and is a revolting episode. Given the opportunity, would Republicans behave this way, intentionally finding offense in an unoffensive joke ? We know the answer to that question—YES—because this is exactly what Republicans have done to a Democratic advisor to Sen. Maria Cantwell, Kelly Steele. Continue reading →
Make no mistake about it, the word for what happened to New Mexico attorney Pat Rogers is bullying. Politicians, pundits and the public like to pontificate against bullying when it involves children, and are even willing to compromise basic First Amendment rights, so outraged are they over abuses of power that victimize kids. When it comes to the bullying of adults, however—good adults, innocent adults, adults who have done nothing to justify vicious efforts to crush them out of pure animus and nothing more—these supposed champions of fairness are as likely as not to side with the bullies.
This sickening hypocrisy is on display now in the persecution of New Mexico lawyer Pat Rogers in the ethics train wreck I first described here. Rogers, whose first offense appears to be that he is a Republican, bared his throat to his attackers by sending an obviously satirical e-mail on the occasion of Governor Susan Martinez, whom he supports, participating in a state Native-American tribal summit. His jocular e-mail went to members of her staff with whom he had worked and who know him, and read, “Quislings, French surrender monkeys. … The state is going to hell. Col. Weh would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.”Continue reading →
In New Mexico, Gov. Susanna Martinez, a Republican, attended a summit of the tribal leaders in the state. For reasons known only to himself, this inspired Pat Rogers, a member of the Republican National Committee and a partner at the prestigious law firm Modrall Sperling, to send a bizarre e-mail to Gov. Martinez’s staff that read,
“Quislings, French surrender monkeys. … The state is going to hell. Col. Weh would not have dishonored Col. Custer in this manner.”
Quisling was the Nazi puppet head of Norway during World War II, and his name has become a term for “traitor.” “French surrender monkeys” is a quote from “The Simpsons.” Col. Weh, a Marine, was Martinez’s opposition in the GOP primary for governor. Taking all of this together along with the fact that this was New Mexico, Custer’s last stand was in what is now Montana, and occurred in 1876, I think it is obvious that Rogers intended the e-mail as a joke, a tongue in cheek remark satirizing the kind of wacky complaints that a Republican Governor probably gets on a regular basis. Either it was a joke, or Rogers is insane. I don’t think he’s insane. Continue reading →