Part 2—While still denouncing Their Tribe: Last week, some videotape emerged from South Carolina.
On the widely-aired tape, a man is running away from a policeman. He is shot eight times in the back.
Everyone on the face of the earth understands that this police conduct is wrong. Last Thursday night, Sean Hannity stated his reaction to the tape, as noted in yesterday’s post:
“I look at this video and I want to cry for this man and his family because under no circumstances should any cop that's not under a threat be shooting somebody in the back.”
Everybody understands that the conduct is wrong. But yesterday, in the New York Times, Charles Blow enacted an ancient impulse:
Charles Blow was able to see that the whole thing is even wronger!
Is our modern “liberal” world built upon moral vanity? If so, our leaders must find ways to distinguish us from The Others, even on matters where everyone agrees.
Especially on matters where everyone agrees! If the others agree with us on anything, this undermines the prehistoric impulse on which the tribal vision is built:
The pleasing belief that the other side is less than fully human.
A great deal of modern “liberal” posturing is built around that ancient heuristic. This may explain the unhelpful, deeply clueless column for which Blow found instant praise.
As the column started, Blow was disturbed. Below, you find out why. Headline included:
BLOW (4/13/15): Walter Scott Is Not on TrialAccording to Blow, some TV pundits (apparently plural) had “surreptitiously blamed Walter Scott for his own death.” According to Blow, this was the most disturbing thread he encountered last week, which seems to mean there were others.
I not only watched television pundits discuss the shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C., last week, I participated in some of those discussions.
And the most disturbing thread that emerged for me was people who said up front that they saw no justification for Scott being killed, but nevertheless stalked around for a back door that would allow them to surreptitiously blame the victim for his own death. Some formulation of “if only he hadn’t run...” was the way this dark door was eased open.
Is it true? Did some TV pundits blame Scott for his own death? As he continues, Blow never says who he’s talking about, although people who watched CNN last week may feel they know.
We’ll give two names below.
Before he’s done with his column, Blow accuses such people of reprehensible thinking. He seems to think he knows why they made their vile, unquoted remarks. In line with prehistoric heuristics, he knows they’re less than human:
“It is tragic to somehow try to falsely equate what appear to be bad decisions made by Scott and those made by the officer who killed him. There is no moral equivalency between running and killing, and anyone who argues this obdurate absurdity reveals a deficiency in their own humanity.”
According to Blow, these pundits equated Scott’s act of running away with the officer’s behavior in shooting Scott eight times in the back.
This is an “obdurate absurdity,” Blow bravely declared. He boldly said that this “reveals a deficiency in their own humanity.”
In comments, admirers cheered.
Did anyone actually make that false equation last week? Before we link you to several cable discussions, let’s review more of the moral greatness Blow brought to yesterday’s column, a piece with as many empty calories as you’ll ever find.
As Blow started, he described “the most disturbing thread” from TV. In paragraph 3, he said he finds it “particularly disturbing” that “we try to find excuses for killings,” that we “seek to deprecate a person when they have been killed rather than insisting that they deserved to remain among the living.”
Has anyone actually done that? Rather than name any actual names—rather than provide any quotes—Blow proceeds to offer the world’s most obvious moral musings.
What follows is empty calories—a cosmic waste of time. It’s also a prime example of a moral vanity within our tribe which is dumb and counterproductive:
BLOW: For me, there is only one issue in the Walter Scott case: he is dead, and that cannot be undone. And not only was he killed, but he was killed in a most dishonorable way: shot in the back as he fled. So, for me there is only one question: Should the dead man be dead? Is there anything, under American jurisprudence and universal moral law, that justifies the taking of this man’s life?Is anyone morally greater than Blow? If we’re reading this passage correctly, Blow says people shouldn’t be shot in the back if they haven’t paid child support.
All else wanders into the weeds. The judicial system could have easily dealt with any misdeed Scott is accused of—failure to pay child support, failure to present proper documentation for a car he was driving, resisting arrest, fleeing—and none of those offenses, if he were found guilty of any or all, would have carried the death sentence.
Did we fully grasp his insights? As he continued, Blow spelled them out:
BLOW (continuing directly): Unfortunately, police officers encounter lawbreakers on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some resist arrest. Some flee. These are simply occupational conditions of being an officer—an admittedly tough job that few of us would sign up to do. But none of those offenses grant a license to gun a man down.Interesting! If we’re able to follow Blow here, he is saying that a life shouldn’t be ended callously. He says police officers don’t have the right “to gun a man down.”
A life is the most precious, most valuable thing in creation. It cannot be casually ended. It cannot be callously taken. It must always be honored and protected, and the person living it needn’t be perfect; he or she is human.
The bar of justification for extrajudicial killings is high, and necessarily so, even among suspects accused of crimes. Killing sanctioned by courts in the form of executions are problematic enough, as evidenced by recent exonerations of men who spent decades on death row. How much more problematic could killings be of people who don’t live to get a trial?
He even asserts that “the bar of justification for extrajudicial killings” is, and should be, high.
These are among the world’s emptiest observations. Blow is stating moral precepts on which everyone agrees. Hannity had provided the proof on TV four nights earlier.
It’s also true that these empty calories represent a waste of a valuable platform. From his very high perch at the Times, Blow could be telling us something of value—something we don’t all know.
Instead, he chose to posture. Before he was done, he was issuing manifest nonsense like this:
BLOW: Social justice, equal treatment and violence exerted by structures of power against a vulnerable population shouldn’t become a sprocket in our political machines. This is about right and wrong, not right and left.Really? Most blacks and Hispanics can’t imagine a situation in which they would approve of a police officer striking a man? They’re joined by 30 percent of whites?
Neither should we have such widely differing racial perceptions about whether use of force is appropriate and to what degree. For instance, as The Associated Press reported last week: “Seven of 10 whites polled, or 70 percent, said they can imagine a situation in which they would approve of a police officer striking a man. Most blacks and Hispanics did not agree.”
In fairness, Blow presents an actual quote from the AP's latest hapless report. On its face, though, that assertion doesn’t seem to make sense.
Sure enough! This also appears in the hapless report by the AP’s Jesse Holland:
HOLLAND (4/4/15): Almost everyone seemed to approve of police officers hitting suspects back when attacked with fists, but whites again outpaced blacks and Hispanics with their approval. Nine in 10 whites approved of police hitting a person when attacked by fists, with 74 percent of blacks and Hispanics agreeing.In this passage, large majorities of all three groups reveal that they can “imagine a situation in which they would approve of a police officer striking a man.” (For reasons only he can explain, Holland calls this “almost everyone.”)
Why did Blow offer that ridiculous quote from that hapless AP report? Beyond that, what did liberal readers think about that ridiculous quote? We often wonder how fellow liberals manage to choke such pabulum down. That said, we get giant amounts of this lumpy porridge from moral posers like Blow, and we seem eager to swallow.
Blow’s column was full of empty posturing. He made high-minded moral declarations, boldly stating points on which the whole country agrees.
This brings us back to the miscreants around whom Blow built his column. Here’s the full passage in which he describes the very bad people he met on TV:
BLOW: It is tragic to somehow try to falsely equate what appear to be bad decisions made by Scott and those made by the officer who killed him. There is no moral equivalency between running and killing, and anyone who argues this obdurate absurdity reveals a deficiency in their own humanity. Death is not the appropriate punishment for disobedience. Being entrusted with power does not shield imprudent use of power. And one of the saddest and most frustrating features of our current debate about police use of force, in communities of color in particular, is the degree to which justice itself has been absorbed into the ideological struggle in this country.“Death is not the appropriate punishment for disobedience,” Blow insightfully said.
Did someone say different on TV? Blow never named or quoted these people. But his claim lets our tribe believe that we are much better than The Others, that we are much better by far.
To whom was Blow referring? For one example, he was presumably referring to Harry Houck, a former NYPD detective who appeared with Blow on last Thursday night’s Anderson Cooper 360. Mark Geragos was also present, staging a second straight night of cable attacks straight outta the Nancy Grace playbook.
You can read the Thursday night transcript yourself. But Houck is so deficient in his humanity that at one point he even said this:
“This officer should not have shot that man in the back. I hope he goes to jail for the rest of his life for what he did. It was totally wrong.”
Moments later, Blow said this: “There are ways to deal with fleeing suspects that is not to shoot them.” Houck responded by saying this:
“I agree with that 100 percent.”
You can read the full exchange to see why Blow emerged so “disturbed.” For ourselves, we watched that segment in real time. We were struck by several things Houck said. That includes the comment which has the morally exquisite Blow so upset.
That said, we didn’t feel the need to crawl off and declare that Houck had “revealed a deficiency in his own humanity.” Or to say, even more absurdly, that he had declared that “death is the appropriate punishment for disobedience.”
Bowing to the tribal impulse, Blow imagined the vilest possible motives for the things Houck said. The prehistoric tribal impulse permits him to do nothing else.
We had a different reaction. Watching Geragos misbehave for two straight nights on Cooper’s show, we could see why former policemen might take offense at some of the things being said.
It also happened on Cooper’s Wednesday night show. Blow and Geragos appeared with former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who actually dared to say this:
“The rules are pretty clear on fleeing felons. Unless they present the danger of a serious personal injury or death to someone else, there is no shooting someone trying to escape. You know, Anderson, it doesn't seem to me to be any legal, ethical, or moral reason from looking at that video for those shots to have been fired at all. It should have been a foot pursuit. But, you know, can I just address something that Mark said? Mark is engaging some really dangerous hyperbole here. And this is doing nothing to advance any kind of dialogue between police/community relations…”
Presumably, Bongino is the second person who has Blow so disturbed.
We could see why Bongino and Houck may have disliked some things Geragos was saying. But the prehistoric tribal impulse says we must never do that.
We must always interpret The Other in the most negative possible way. We must then slither off to the Times and make vile accusations against them.
Can we talk? Out in the country, other people see this sort of thing for the sheer stupidity it is. This drives political wedges all over the land.
On the bright side, we liberals get to imagine a moral greatness we actually don’t possess. Caught up in our tribal vanity, we can’t even imagine a situation in which a policeman might need to strike someone!
When voters see us saying such things, they think we're strange and stupid.
Four nights earlier, Hannity proved it—everyone agrees about the death of Walter Scott. But the tribal imperative forbids agreement.
In the process, the plutocrats win.
Tomorrow: What the New York Times said last week about a favorite example
The way our tribals respond: In comments, “first responder” Rima Regas rushed to affirm Blow’s vision.
She posted two “replies” to her own comment, as she routinely does. Along the way, Regas said this:
“No one should die because of a broken headlight. No one should die because of non-payment of child support. Everyone should survive a police encounter, no matter the reason.”
“Everyone should survive a police encounter, no matter the reason?” In principle, this is a pretty idea. In the real world, where people sometimes shoot guns at police, this is a crowning example of our tribe’s moral obtuseness—of the silly self-regard which leads to silly statements.
Hannity agrees with Regas. In the world of tribal self-defeat, such things simply can't be allowed!