It was, to be blunt, disappointing to read the comments to my post in the aftermath of the Dallas murder of five cops. I want to believe that I have a better class of reader than reddit. Not that anyone is less inclined to favor a side, but that you have the capacity to appreciate that no side is pure and perfect, no side evil and wrong. While specific instances of conduct can be carefully fit into their proper place, the generalizations upon which we rely are mere generalizations. They are no definitive, reliable absolutes.
All cops are not racist killers. Even the cop who is a little too racist,* a little violent, will be the nice guy who saves a kitten up a tree or helps an old woman cross the road. Then some will gush, “he’s the one good apple,” because you’ve reduced a human being to one act, good or bad, like a cartoon character. People are like that, variable, inconsistent, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes in between. You know that, right? Right?
So the comments to the post disappointed me. I trashed almost all of them. I refused to allow that post to become the soapbox for more of the same generalizations of the other side, the one you hate the most, the one you love the least. For one post, one friggin’ post, could you not put down your team banner and not persist in arguing that, “but, but, but . . . we’re RIGHT and they’re WRONG!!!” Some of you, many regular commenters here, could not. You just couldn’t do it.
As this is a blog written by a criminal defense lawyer, it naturally favors the rights of the accused. I tend to be critical of police. It’s my point of view. I’m not inclined to search for an excuse to justify police violence or misconduct, and not inclined to be particularly forgiving. But within that perspective, I also try not to be so blind as to refuse to understand that the other side has a perspective too, a legitimate point of view. And on occasion, they are in the right, they do what we need them to do, ask them to do.
In the mindless fantasies of some of the most delusional, you think our world would be just great if there was no such thing as police. As I’ve tried to explain, there are bad dudes out there, people who do harm to others. These are not merely flawed, sympathetic creatures, but some truly bad people. And we need people to do the ugly job of stopping them from harming others.
We will frequently criticize cops for how they do their job, for harming the innocent or harming the guilty who need not have been harmed, but we don’t talk about them being evil when the person they stopped needed to be stopped. They are a necessary evil in many ways. To not realize this isn’t just myopic, but wrong. It does’t matter that some guy has a child who loves him dearly. If that guy is about to do horrific harm to your child, you will want him stopped any way possible. To deny this is to be insane.
Yet, there some of you were, arguing why the Dallas cops had it coming, not because of what they individually may have done but because of the tenor of police and race relations in America. Not even one day, one post, could you let go of your feelings long enough to de-escalate the anger and hatred toward the other side. And there were some pro-cop comments, as well, doing the same thing.
At Fault Lines, Greg Prickett wrote an analysis of the killing of Alton Sterling from the cop perspective. The appreciation of readers for getting a different point of view than their own was underwhelming.
7 July 2016 at 1:30 pm – Thank you for reminding me why I don’t read anything written by cops or ex-cops. Currently writing a script to filter your posts out. See you never.?
This was one of the nicer comments. I trashed the ones that did nothing more than scream hatred at him. And then there was this illuminating comment:
8 July 2016 at 2:24 pm – Yet another apologist for the racist police state. I’m sure you don’t see it that way — and that’s the problem in a nutshell.
Greg knew going in that his writing from the cop perspective wouldn’t please everyone, so he can shrug off this stuff. The Fault Lines resident prosecutor, Andrew King, regularly receives similarly appreciative comments. He, too, has a thick skin, and is capable of shrugging it off, realizing that zealots won’t merely disagree with what he writes, but will hate him for presenting a view with which they disagree. It begets a comment like this:
8 July 2016 at 3:03 pm – That’s a body blow to Fault Line’s credibility.
Because credibility means confirmation bias. One of the earliest complaints about Fault Lines was that it lacked a “focus,” it wasn’t all for one side but presented all criminal law perspectives. It’s not that I agree with everything Greg and Andrew write, but that I always appreciate learning their view because it isn’t necessarily mine, whether I agree or not.
Some hated this, as they only wanted to read views that echoed their own. They wanted to never have their feelings hurt by learning that there might be other legitimate views that differed from their own.
The internet is replete with partisan blogs of varying degrees of stupidity, where lies and absurd spin prevail to confirm bias. Hell, the entire concept of reddit is to create echo chambers where no differing view can be uttered and where mind-numbingly stupid comments are applauded by the similarly ignorant choir. I’m not so foolish as to believe that this doesn’t wash over to readers here and Fault Lines, that the same people who come here and want only to read about how their team is the team of righteousness no matter what.
Over the course of a couple days, a lot of blood was spilled on both sides of the cop and race equation. It was a moment to step back, to stop pushing, arguing why one side was right and the other was wrong. Innocent blood is innocent, no matter which side you’re on. And so many people just couldn’t muster the ability to let go of their self-serving emotions long enough to realize that killing is wrong no matter which side you’re on. Not for one day. Not for one post. You just couldn’t do it.
Very disappointing. It gives me deep pause to realize that I’m feeding your simplistic anger and hatred here, and it reinforces my belief in the vitality of people like Greg and Andrew facing the idiots and presenting their perspectives so that Fault Lines never becomes your echo chamber of hatred.
*For the thinking challenged, this means beyond the usual racism from which we all suffer.