Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The thin-skinned and not-too-bright blue line

Over the past few weeks there's been a lot of bloviating in the media, lots of faux outrage, over the shooting of two New York Police Department officers. They were ambushed by a nutjob with a gun, a person with a long history of erratic and illegal behavior, a fellow who in the normal course of events would have been labeled a lone wolf, a mentally ill victim of the system who just didn't get the help he needed when he should have.

I say "in the normal course of events" because there is a remarkably long history of law enforcement officers being targeted by nutjobs whose obsessions have been stoked by ideologues who never bother to think about the consequences of their words. I can even name a bunch of the shooters without having to do a whole lot of Googling: Eric Frein (2014) and Richard Poplawski (2009) in Pennsylvania, Jared and Amanda Miller (2014) in Nevada, and Jerry and Joe Kane (2010) in Arkansas all pop up pretty fast in web searches. In every case there was a clear link with ideology being actively promoted by multiple people in the media. But you know what else is true of those cases? Every single shooter was white, so there was no hysteria about how every single white person was responsible for those guys' actions, no mass protests by aggrieved police officers, no ranting about the damage being done by activists. Nope. Why would there be? Apparently it's a given that when a white person does something bad, he or she is acting solely on his or her own with absolutely no outside influences affecting behavior.

Oh, every time there's an incident, a few brave souls dare to question the rhetoric used by right-wing bloviators like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh, but they get drowned out pretty fast by the rhetoric about needing better mental health care and by the troubled lone wolf apologists. The stories also fell off the mainstream media news radar remarkably fast. After all, no one really wants to hear that white people engage in violent, sociopathic behavior, although you'd think the NRA would want to hype it -- if the guy next door might be an armed nut, then maybe I should own a few guns, too. In any case, it's odd, isn't it, that when it's white guy after white guy ambushing the police, there's no possible way they could have been influenced by anything other than the voices in their heads but when it's a black guy doing the shooting suddenly it's activists like Al Sharpton who are responsible? Who would have thought that the Rev had that much influence?

Bottom line: if you're really worried about the thin-skinned blue line, the guys who actually don't run that huge a risk of dying in the line of duty unless it's from choking on a doughnut (loggers have a higher occupational fatality rate than law enforcement, so do commercial fishermen), get pissed off about the media blow-hards that keep painting government as the enemy. Authority is authority, and when some lunatic decides he's going to stand up to the government, he's going to ambush the authority figures that are closest to home -- and that's going to be the local sheriff's deputies, a small town cop doing a routine traffic stop, or a Park Service ranger walking over to tell someone to keep his dogs on a leash. So go after the idiots with the Gadsden flags and tea bags tied to their hats. Or, better yet, go after the ideologues like Sarah Palin who babble mindlessly about "second amendment solutions." Because those are the people who really are encouraging the nutjobs to shoot cops.

And, as a side note, the real reason the cops in New York are so pissed at Mayor DeBlasio has very little to do with the shootings of Officers Ramos and Liu. It's just a convenient highly public way to mouth off about how much they hate the Mayor. The underlying problem is the department is in contract negotiations and, unlike previous administrations, DeBlasio doesn't believe the NYPD can do no wrong. He's had the nerve to question both the department and past policy, like the discredited broken windows theory and stop and frisk, that targeted minorities. The city and PD are currently operating under a Memorandum of Agreement, not an actual labor contract, and contract negotiations have not been going the way the Police Officers' Association would prefer. Naturally, journalism having pretty much disappeared into the toilet in the past couple of decades, you can count the number of media outlets that have reported on this aspect of the problem on one hand and still have several fingers left over.

6 comments:

  1. Posts like this are why I love your blog, Nan.

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  2. I really believe the contract negotiations are the bottom line of the hard line anti deBlasio faction. The fact that Rudy Giuliani is trying to make hay as their spokesperson says a lot. That is the same situation he capitalised on to become mayor in the race against David Dinkins. Do you remember the "cop riot" in the early 90's in NYC?
    A lot of writers I know have questioned me on the military status of the police here in France. I think the police here are a lot more disciplined and restrained by their rigid code than any department in America. It's interesting to see the solidarity being displayed here after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris yesterday. 3 cops have been killed in the incidents.
    Unprofessional behaviour is not tolerated. It is military discipline and organisation. The criteria to become a professional law enforcement person here is much more strict. It seems like any misfit who wants to get into a position of authority can get a badge in the USA if they haven't committed too many crimes in their past. We have bad cops here, burt it's not on the level of the out of control behaviour I've seen in the states and I have experienced it first hand!

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  3. The shootings do not in any way dilute the seriousness of police overreach nor excuse the unnecessary death of police shootings and police violence all over the county.
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    We have seen this all before. There have always been problems of restrain of police, and arming them with military weaponry has only increased the problem.

    the Ol'Buzzard

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  4. Well, I have never had a problem with cops.

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  5. Conservatives don't give a shit about Cops what they support are police officers who kill black men, groups which falsely castigate progressive politicians and organizations which help enforce right wing authoritarian control of the nation in service to the rich.

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  6. Hah...BBC says he never had any problem with cops and I have to say, well, Honey, maybe you is just the wrong color!

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