Saturday, July 25, 2009

Two Footnotes on Gates

I must say I am impressed at how much of a hold the Gates case seems to have taken on the public imagination--not just Fox News, nor the extremes of the blogosphere, but here it is the lede story in my paper New York Times--second lede in the Wall Street Journal (i.e., Saturday morning). I can hardly expect to kick the can very far downfield, but I do think it my obligation to cry out against what might be the dumbest public policy suggestion since somebody told Thomas Jefferson he ought to try an embargo on European trade:
[S]houldn't we at least entertain the possibility that Gates, at some point in the transaction, decided that baiting Crowley into arresting him would constitute a "teachable moment" about police misconduct toward black people? If he decided that getting himself arrested, under circumstances where the arrest couldn't stand up and would make the police look bad, might protect some younger and less well-connected black man from false charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on a police officer, that wouldn't have been a silly calculation to make.
Source: link, but to save him unnecessary embarrassment, I will not repeat his name of the author of this idiocy here. Anyway, I trust it is apparent to all reflective readers that this is the kind of logic that could only sound plausible in a first-tier faculty common room. "Teachable moment," you say? "Police misconduct?" Baby, we've teachable-momented ourselves into a point where the wingnuts think they turn it into a resolution of censure against the President. "False charge of disorderly conduct," you say? Actually, I agree with you on that one--or want to agree with you:mouthing off to a cop is not (or should not be) an offense. But my intuition is that somewhere between 30 and 70 percent of the electorate think Gates damn well got what was coming to it--and if it really wasn't disorderly conduct before, maybe the natural consequence is that we will redefine "disorderly conduct so that it will be next time. And what is this about "resisting arrest, and assault and battery?" So far as I can see, the best thing the coppers have going for them here is that they did not overcharge--they took the cheapest item from the hors d'oeuvres side of the menu and left the raw meat quivering on the platter. One more "teachable moment" like this and some looney will start shouting that we should send 'em all back to Africa.*

The whole scenario sounds like nothing so much as Inspector Clouseau. But wait; here is Inspector Clouseau, offering up a piece of advice which, by comparison with the item above, comes across as positively statesmanlike:
If you’re afraid of the Police, or feel some urge to call them dirty names, drive someplace with lots of people (with camera phones) before you pull over. The Police are well aware of the consequences of beating on you in public while being recorded.
Now that, my friends, could be a teachable moment.
*Disclaimer: rhetorical overkill. The staff and management here at Underbelly central does not endorse the idea just suggested; it thinks the idea just suggested would be more or less as dumb as the idea suggested earlier in the column. The whole point is that once you paddle into the maelstrom of stupidity, it is only a matter of time before all good sense gurgles hideously down the drain.

1 comment:

Toni said...

Love the disclaimer. Am looking forward to more of them.