War Stories and Questions

This is one of those meta posts, in response to angry emails sent me about why I’m such a horrible person.  One lawyer wrote to condemn me for occasionally including my own war stories in posts while denying other lawyers the same opportunity.

Why are your stories more worthy than mine?

Well, they aren’t, but you’ve asked the wrong question.  The problem isn’t that your stories are unworthy, but that this is my blog.  Tell your stories all you want on your blog.

My story was directly on topic and added your beloved “illumination,” yet you deleted it.

Well, it wasn’t quite as on-topic or illuminating as you think, but that’s not really the issue.  The issue is that every lawyer has war stories, and every lawyer loves telling their war stories.  When we sit around in the bar after a hard day in court, we’re all raconteurs, regaling each other with the bizarre and the ridiculous. Oh, how lawyers love to tell stories.

But then, not all stories are really as good as we think they are, and they take up a lot of room on my blog, eat up bandwidth, and encourage every other lawyer to tell their stories to do the same.  And some war stories are just awful, misleading, uninformative, scary bad and make people stupider.  The tellers of such stories don’t think so, but I do.

And so we go back to my first point: it’s my blog, so if I think your story is just awful, then it is. At least here. You are free to disagree with me about this and everything else, but you are not free to do so here. Because this is my blog.

What would it hurt to allow others the courtesy you give yourself?

You see, this isn’t a private conversation between me and you, even though it seems that way in the quiet of your office, staring at your computer, thinking I’ll let Greenfield know what I think because I have very important things to tell him.  But, even though you can’t see it, don’t know it, there are a bunch of other people in the room as well. And they can see what you write just as I can.  So it’s not just about you. Or you and me.

Who do you think you are that you’re so special, your stories so wonderful, your insights so important, that they matter while mine do not?

I’m just the guy whose blog this is.  No more. No less.  Remember, you came here to me. I didn’t go to you.  Heck, I have no clue who you are.  If I’m nobody special, that’s fine, but then, what the hell are you doing here? Go spend your time with somebody special and stop wasting it with me.

And now to shift gears, there are the questions:

IANAL, but isn’t it true that…

This happens dozens of times a day. Once in a while, the question posed catches my interest, and I explain, but most of the time I toss the comment.  It’s not that I can’t deal with your incisive question, or that I’m just a mean old man who refuses to answer your question.

First, most questions are “loaded,” based on fundamentally flawed premises, meaning that I have to explain the meaning of life from the beginning of time before addressing the ultimate point of the question.  It’s too much effort. So many of you have an agenda that permeates your questions that undoing the inherent assumptions, the logical fallacies, the bias, the misunderstanding of law (often many misstatements piled one atop the other), is just an enormous hassle.

And it’s a bore for me. Sorry, but this isn’t a legal Q&A website. I’m not courting you in the hope that you might retain me. If anything, I’m chasing you the hell away.  I have no interest in being your pundit, your guru, your lawyer.  I don’t sell myself here, and that includes not playing the Answer Man to the great unwashed, whether to inform or for your amusement.

So every day, someone makes a demand of me here and I respond in a way that pisses someone off.  And people ask me about how cool and wonderful it is to have a blog like SJ.  Oh yeah, it’s a thrill a minute.  And you guys are wearing me down and sucking all the fun out of this.

28 comments on “War Stories and Questions

  1. Stan

    Sometimes commenting here is reminiscent of the Monty Python character who walks into a room expecting an argument and is told that he actually entered the room labelled “insults”. That’s OK, it is your blog and you can do what you want. It isn’t the end of the world.

    Overall, it is usually worth visiting this site for intelligent discussions about criminal justice and related social issues that are relatively free of ideological fervor. As for the stuff you delete before it even gets posted…oh well.

    1. SHG Post author

      I never understood why anyone gets insulted to begin with. It’s a friggin’ blog comment. So some guy with a blog on the internet thinks it’s stupid? Who cares? Why should anyone in the world give a flying shit what I think about anything? This isn’t real life, just the internet. Yet, people get insulted and angry all the time. The thought that constantly goes through my head is that they really need to shut off their computer and go out for a walk.

    2. Sgt. Schultz

      I generally read SJ post the day after, so I get to read all the comments as well as the post. I believe I’ve come to see comments pretty much the way SHG does, though I’m sure Scott will correct me if I make any mistake here.

      Think of it this way: a disembodied name (say “Stan”) writes: “The problem is, you’re wrong about that. I think the cop/judge/prosecutor is being perfectly reasonable and the law supports my position.” Except it takes him 3000 words to say this.

      Now, our fictional “Stan” knows who he is. He knows if he’s a lawyer or not. He knows if he’s been a lawyer for 1o minutes or 10 years. He knows what law he’s talking about. So to our fictional “Stan,” his comment makes perfect sense.

      But to the reader who isn’t our fictional “Stan,” we have no clue who he is, what he’s talking about or what the basis for his comment is. Let’s assume our fictional “Stan” isn’t a long time regular reader, or someone Scott knows IRL, but just a disembodied name on the internet. What would you make of this?

      First, he’s telling Scott he’s wrong. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but since our fictional “Stan” comes to Scott’s blog to tell Scott he’s wrong and he’s a complete unknown and a first-time commenter, it’s a bit overtly hostile. Second, our fictional “Stan” assumes that just because he says SHG is wrong, SHG is supposed to bend over and change his position, or at least applaud and engage with our fictional “Stan,” as if Scott’s entirely life is dedicated to a dlengthy and deferential iscussion with “Stan.”

      From my position, I can’t believe how many people comment here as if this blog is all about them, approach their comments as if they’re the center of Scott’s universe, make absurd demands of him, and then get angry with him for not telling them how wonderful they are.

      So, SHG gets snarky and angry, and tired of the same crap, especially the 50000th time someone brings up the same stuff, because SJ is new to them and nobody could have possibly thought of anything before they got here.

      I have no clue how SHG manages to keep as even a kheel as he does. I know I couldn’t.

      1. SHG Post author

        There are some other permutations, as I’m sure you know, but yeah. That’s definitely a big part of it.

      2. RAFIV

        Another element may be that people feel that they have a proprietary interest in the blog, that it exists to serve them or their cuase du jour. Also, SHG has real cache as an attorney, educator and blogger. People want to use this to bolster their fragile egos or give credence to their crackpot theories. Also, having your post pass muster proves how awesome you are and that SHG loves you. This is why I post my inane ramblings….also it serves to pass the time while I wait for my meds to kick in…

        1. SHG Post author

          I think you give my cache far more credit than it deserves. I put my Gucci loafers on one foot at a time, just like anyone else.

  2. Charles B. Frye

    The bigger question here, the barely described cry for help, should be our focus.

    I enjoy the blog. I sometimes learn from the blog. I like it and want it to continue. I do not want the life sucked from our author and for him to retire to the nearest saloon as an alternative to his audience here.

    So, Mr. Greenfield, tell us : what can we do for you today to show our gratitude? (Other than shutting up and leaving you alone. And staying off your lawn.)

    Brad Frye

    1. SHG Post author

      No cry for help, and not really a bleg for anything from anyone. I really enjoy comments from people who know what they’re talking about and teach me stuff I don’t know, or explain to me where I went wrong in a line of reasoning. It’s fun to have a good chat. I want to enjoy SJ rather than ride herd over feral cats. handle fragile narcissists’ egos or decide just how crazy or stupid something is before tossing it.

      I want to learn and have fun doing this. Is that too much to ask?

      1. Fubar

        I questioned my narcissistic feral cat’s war story. I think he was lying, but he ran off before I could question him further:

        On my back at fifteen thousand feets I sits,
        Blasting Fatherland Fokkers to bloody bits.
        “Were you fighting the Hun
        During World War One?”
        No! Them Fokkers was flying in Messerschmitts!

      1. Chris Ryan

        and here i thought the blog was your court ordered therapy…

        I have always viewed this place as your front porch. I can always keep walking down the sidewalk if I dont like the conversation/company today.

  3. John Barleycorn

    Therapy is over rated.

    You know what they say about a “mistress” that is fun and teaches you something don’t ya?

    Half the “fun” starts long after she is gone but if you let the little stuff get to you, you wouldn’t ever have any fun at all.

    Pro Troll Tip: Email was invented to communicate with the in-laws you don’t like. It has no other practical purpose except as a convenient forum for those who like to pass the buck or cover their ass at work.

  4. Dave

    This reminds me of a case… Oh fudge. I did it again…

    And to repeat the error: my take is it is more likely a comment I write is innane or makes me look foolish than it is that it will make me look brilliant. So the odds favor me for any comment that gets deleted…

    1. SHG Post author

      Fudge? Seriously?

      I rarely take the view that any commenter’s comments are inherently good or bad. There are some crazies who comment all the time, and almost always get tossed, but each comment either adds or not based on what it says. A lot of people get angry with me for trashing their comment, or attribute some malevolence or fear (“you didn’t post my comment because you know I’m right or you’re afraid of the truth, etc.”). In the early days, I felt bad about it. Now, I just don’t give a damn. I can’t please ’em all.

      1. Dave

        Some sites have auto filtering software that auto deletes anything with certain words. I doubt you have that but figured… Fudge… And yes I do watch “A Christmas Story” every year.

        And in the end it is just a blog comment. No sense getting all worked up about it either way if it doesn’t get posted. Sometimes something makes me angry (like from the posting, like police killing someone helpless) and I may comment angry and off the cuff. That is a prime time to put a foot in one’s mouth. But again it is just a blog comment. I comment, if it goes through, great. If not, oh well, maybe next time.

        1. SHG Post author

          I can filter comments here, and do have some words that are automatically held for moderation. (Fudge is not one of the them.) But I’m not inclined to prevent comments based on language, as much as substance. But you have a good attitude about comments. Yes, they’re just a blog comment. BFD. Others get very protective and angry over them. Not that I lose sleep over that, but I’m really not in this to fight with people or make them miserable, any more than I care to deal with their anger.

  5. Simple Machine

    If someone comments and you make fun of them because they don’t know anything about the law, aren’t you worried this mean that they’ll “know” that’s grounds for a lawsuit?

  6. David Woycechowsky

    I think that your main thrust is good, but you could dial it back a notch or two. Sometimes your tone is unneccessarily “pissy.” Also, I actually see very few comments where you disagree with a poster, but still show respect for the comment you disagree with. Your view of what is “off-topic” tends to be especially idiosyncratic, and I think sometimes you use “off topic” as an excuse for “I disagree but don’t have a great response ready.”

    Still: (i) your blogs cover great topics other blogs don’t cover; (ii) I usually agree with you (or am willing to defer to your experience); and (iii) your good posts are great (especially lately).

    I wish you would give better guidance about whether to talk to police and when not to. I don’t think it is as simple as “talk to police on a traffic stop, but not otherwise.” I don’t know what wise guidelines are, but you seem in a position to illuminate on this area, which potentially faces us all.

    BOTTOM LINE: it is your blog, you will do what you want, but I personally hope you keep blogging. I was sad when you briefly retired the blog.

    1. Sgt. Schultz

      By my calculations, there are five types of comments here.

      1. Non-lawyers who are crazy, angry and ignorant. They read the subject matter of posts and see the comments as a place to vent. These types of comments have no place here.

      2. Non-lawyers who are sincerely interested in the subjects, but lack adequate knowledge of the law. These tend to be be insightful, but often a burden because they muddle legal concepts, mis-state the law or conflate issues. They mean well, and sometimes offer insight hidden within their otherwise misguided comments. These types of comments may contribute to the blawg.

      3. Lawyers who don’t practice criminal defense. These comments may give the appearance of being knowledgeable, but frequently have no connection to reality or rely on shallow assumptions about criminal law. These are more difficult to handle, as they come closer to reflecting legal thought, while still being sufficiently wrong to be dangerous. These comments tend to be the ones that are most likely to harm non-lawyer readers.

      4. Law professors. These can be intersting, but are more likely bizarre, as law professors to who tend to comment here do so to defend themselves. They usually dig themselves deeper into holes and can’t figure out why everyone is calling them mean names.

      5. New criminal defense lawyers. These comments can be very insightful, provided they make clear that they reflect a new lawyer’s perspective, rather than conclusive assertions about “the problem” or “the solution.” When they overstep their bounds, these comments, like comments from lawyers who don’t practice criminal law, can be very dangerous.

      6. Experience criminal defense lawyers. This is where the great debates really happen, where respected and knowledgeable voices can clash, often over nuances or prespectives.

      From this, I make two observations. First, very rarely do experienced criminal defense lawyers take issue with SHG. And when they do, SHG treats their comments with the respect and deference they’ve earned. These are the comments where SHG is most likely to agree that he’s either wrong or at least that they offer valid points.

      Second, it’s the other types of commenters who tend not to get the “respect” they believe they deserve from SHG. These commenters tend to get angry with him for not agreeing, defensive when he disagrees, write lengthy and incomprehensible tomes about why their right and wonderful, and contend that their subjective world view is the right one.

      I note that people who know what they’re talking are shown greater respect and deference than people who do not. I note that people who know what they’re talking about tend not to disagree with SHG very much, whereas people who have no clue what they’re talking about argue with him far more frequently.

      You seem to find this a bug. I find this a feature. That may explain why you feel his tone is “pissy” while I am constantly amazed that he is as tolerant as he is.

  7. Legal Department

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    *Nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice. This is free. Legal advice you have to pay for. Sorry, but this isn’t a legal Q&A website and / or a War Stories depository. I’m not courting you in the hope that you might retain me. If anything, I’m chasing you the hell away. I have no interest in being your pundit, your guru, your lawyer. I don’t sell myself here, and that includes not playing the Answer Man to the great unwashed, whether to inform or for your amusement.

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