Part 2—Information later: Charlottesville police chief Timothy Longo has been commandeering the news.
Yesterday, he held a press conference which made the front page of today’s New York Times.
In yesterday’s presser, Longo described his department’s lengthy investigation into events which were described in an exciting but journalistically fraudulent Rolling Stone novella. We’ll discuss that topic tomorrow.
(In the meantime, if you want to be misled and misdirected about this widely-discussed matter, just watch this discussion from last evening’s Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.)
Yesterday, Chief Longo was discussing the Rolling Stone case. His discussion made the front page of the Times.
On Saturday morning, Longo appeared on the front page of the Washington Post. In that instance, he’d been discussing a different high-profile case.
We thought the Post report was quite striking. We thought it illustrated a deeply unconstructive practice which is coming to dominate our pseudo-liberal discourse.
Why was Longo on the front page of the Washington Post? Last Friday, the chief took part in a campus discussion about an event in which his department had played no part—the arrest, on St. Patrick’s Day, of Martese Johnson, a 20-year-old UVa junior.
Johnson was arrested by officers from the state of Virginia’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The circumstances of his arrest are still unclear, unless you’re part of our rapidly growing pseudo-liberal world, in which case we simply invent the facts we find most pleasing.
Over the past three years, this form of “argument” has increasingly come to dominate “liberal” thinking.
We’d have to say that this form of “thinking” leaves much to be desired. It showcases our laziness, ineptitude and lack of discipline—our inability to make a serious social or political case without the shortcut provided by invented facts, disappeared facts, and irrelevant facts which we trumpet.
We liberals can’t seem to stop playing this game. A bit of background:
By the time of last Friday’s campus discussion, Rolling Stone’s exciting claims about that alleged gang rape had almost completely broken down, unless you’re watching O’Donnell’s program.
Those weren’t the only preferred claims which had broken down. Two weeks earlier, the Justice Department had issued a report in which treasured claims about the shooting of Michael Brown also seemed to fall apart.
In a slightly more rational world, we liberals might begin to grasp a key point:
If we want to know what actually happened in some particular incident, we will often have to wait for an investigation. Initial reports, initial appearances, will often turn out to be wrong.
There’s little sign that we “lazy liberals” are ready to grasp such facts. Many of us seem wed to the practice in which we invent a perfect example of social wrong-doing through our use of invented, discarded and irrelevant facts.
We seem to love this undisciplined practice. Just watch Lawrence’s program!
In the discussions which follow this week, we want to draw a sharp distinction between the behavior of adult authority figures and the behavior of younger people. As a general matter, we hold “journalists” and college presidents to one set of standards, college students to another.
That said, the most striking part of Saturday’s front-page report in the Post involved the grilling of Chief Longo by a group of UVa students. In fairness, it’s hard to know what the students were grilling Longo about, thanks to the Post’s reporting.
Remember—Longo’s force wasn’t involved in the arrest of Johnson, in which Johnson ended up on the ground with a cut which required ten stitches. At the direction of Governor McAuliffe, an investigation of that arrest is now underway
Despite this fact, reporter Nick Johnson described a fairly remarkable scene at that campus meeting. As his portrait begins, angry students are shouting at Longo:
JOHNSON (3/20/15): At Friday’s campus meeting, students pressed Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo about whether his force had been properly trained to de-escalate tensions when officers find themselves in confrontations with civilians.Has there been “a pattern of escalation, especially on black bodies?” (The unusual language tracks to Foucault. This practice rarely ends well.)
“Why has there been a pattern of escalation, especially on black bodies?” one student asked.
Longo said his officers are trained to “de-escalate,” depending on the situation.
Unsatisfied, students raised their fists and shouted: “Answer the question we asked!”
Has there been “a pattern of escalation,” especially against black students? Anderson, a high-ranking journalist and an adult, didn’t pursue this point.
He made no attempt to explain what the student meant. He cited no recent examples.
Could it be that the angry students had real complaints about Chief Longo’s city police force? Anderson never asked. As Anderson’s report continued, Longo cast himself in the role of hang dog, as adult authorities seem to do in many such circumstances on various campuses:
ANDERSON (continuing directly): “Let me try it again,” Longo said. “I tried hard the first time, and I wasn’t successful the first time, and I’m sorry.” He said that officers receive extensive training in dealing with crowds but that he was open to ideas to improve those lessons.There’s nothing wrong with being polite. That said, Longo has made a fetish of the practice in each of these recent events.
Longo’s force did not participate in Johnson’s arrest, but Charlottesville police were called to the scene after the altercation. Longo said he will review what, if anything, could have been done differently in that situation.
“What happened this past week has shaken your trust,” Longo said. “It’s my responsibility as police chief in this city to regain it. I commit to you today to do that.”
UVa’s president, Margaret Sullivan, also seems to make it her life’s work to pretend that nothing could ever be wrong or imperfect with certain types of complaints, as long as they’re coming from students.
We can’t say that this is always helpful behavior. Sometimes, super-deference from the adults encourages moral certainty from the younger people:
ANDERSON (continuing directly): Students also asked Longo whether police paid more attention to the investigation of the abduction of white U-Va. sophomore Hannah Graham last year than the disappearance of Dashad “Sage” Smith, a Charlottesville area black teenager who disappeared in 2012.Good God! Longo gad cried at one event but he hadn’t cried at the other! In our view, it’s sad to see the nation’s black youth reasoning like Maureen Dowd.
Graham’s remains were found on abandoned property in Albemarle County after an intensive search. The case, which resulted in a murder charge against a black suspect, Jesse L. Matthew Jr., drew huge national media coverage. Smith’s case garnered little attention outside Charlottesville.
Black students at Friday’s meeting asked Longo whether after Smith’s disappearance he “had cried at a press conference,” referring to Longo’s tears in front of television cameras last fall after Graham disappeared.
Longo said police continue to investigate the Smith case. But he acknowledged the students’ point, saying, “No, sir, I did not cry.”
After about an hour, student leaders announced that they had no further questions. Students who had gathered in the aisles turned abruptly and walked out of the building, chanting, “Black lives matter!” That rallying cry has been heard across the country amid debate over police actions in Ferguson, Mo., in New York and elsewhere.
Outside, the students marched to the African-American Affairs Office across campus. Their chant shifted: “No justice, no peace! No racist police!”
Needless to say, President Sullivan thought the young people were flawless. Or at least, that’s the way it was played in Anderson’s peculiar account:
ANDERSON: After the meeting, Sullivan praised student leaders for facilitating the discussion. “Good citizenship involves confronting issues honestly and looking for solutions together,” she said.The youngsters showed wonderful citizenship as they stormed out of the meeting! Meanwhile, earlier reversals be damned! As always, President Sullivan already knows how this new matter “appears!”
Sullivan and other university officials have voiced outrage over ABC’s handling of the incident, saying that it appeared police used excessive force. “Getting arrested shouldn’t involve getting stitches,” Sullivan said Thursday.
Do black students have real complaints about the UVa police? Unasked and unanswered!
Did ABC officers misbehave when they arrested Johnson? Governor McAuliffe can end the state probe. Sullivan already knows!
Our adult authorities keep acting this way as our wave of “perfect examples” continues. Meanwhile, Longo had failed to cry about the earlier event!
When good young people reason like Dowd, are good things likely to happen?
Tomorrow: Lawrence does Charlottesville