Greg’s List

Old pal and former Fault Lines colleague, Greg Doucette, has done yeoman’s work chronicling videos of police violence during the protests, in most cases, and riots in some cases, following the killing of George Floyd. He’s been numbering the videos and, if I’m correct, is up to 753 as of now.

As a result of his efforts, Greg has not only disseminated a huge catalogue of videos, but he’s accumulated a substantial following on twitter, over 130,000 at the moment, and not insubstantial notice of his labors. I’ve seen his name appear a few times in posts as being the docent of police violence, proof of which is the fact that Greg gave it a number and put it on his twitter feed.

I’ve seen quite a few of the videos Greg has posted to twitter. Many reflect inexplicable police violence. Some, however, raised questions about what came before, and some, well, appeared to be the justified use of force. Most of us don’t like to see any use of force, but that doesn’t necessarily make it unjustified. But for the followers, if Greg put it on his list, then that proved it was police abuse.

It raised the question of who is master, Greg or the following he amassed. The dopamine rush one gets from vast displays of validation is Pavlovian. They push a person to do more. And more and more and more. As the fans eat them up, they demand more. Feed me, they cry.

Granted, twitter is a platform for the least nuanced among us, so twitting a sentence and a video with neither context nor analysis can lead to grossly flawed conclusions. But most followers don’t know, or care. They follow because they want to see videos of police violence and abuse. They want to hate the police, and they want Greg to validate their hate.

What’s Greg to do when the videos run dry and the hungry followers demand more from him? What’s Greg to do when the videos fail to show the police behaving badly, and Greg, as a criminal defense lawyer, knows it, but the videos appear to show abuse to the unwary? Can he explain it to them, that what they feel they see, what they desperately desire to see, isn’t what they see? Can he tell those people who follow him only to validate their hatred of cops that these cops weren’t wrong?

A kerfuffle arose during the course of Greg’s chronicling police violence. Mark Bennett, the Texas Tornado, questioned one of Greg’s twits, and rather than reply directly to Mark, Greg quote-twitted to his followers. Under some circumstances, this would be understandable, as most of Greg’s followers aren’t also following Bennett, but this was odd. Mark knows Greg. Greg knows Mark. Both are criminal defense lawyers, although Mark is by far more experienced and accomplished. On the twitters, Greg is the Big Man. In real life, he would be fortunate to second-seat Mark.

It wasn’t a big deal issue, but it was one in which I would have expected Greg to give some serious thought to what Mark was trying to tell him rather than to score a W on twitter and rustle up some validation from the groundlings. Whose respect, I wondered, would Greg prefer to gain, that of Mark Bennett or that of random cop-haters on twitter?

Most (but not all by a long shot) lawyers have the capacity to analyze complex situations with some reasonable degree of detached accuracy. Good lawyers don’t lie to themselves or their clients by pretending that the story that matters is the client’s. That’s for the unduly passionate, looking for the latest reason to proclaim how they’re heartbroken.

We want to know what the evidence is against out client. That’s the battle we fight, and if we do it well, sometimes win. So feeding shallow fodder to an echo chamber isn’t really meaningful for lawyers. It’s no challenge convincing grandma that our client’s not guilty, but she’s not the person whose opinion matters.

There are a few criminal defense lawyers on twitter who have amassed a significant following on social media, and they have the opportunity to put this to use. They can choose to twit what will juice up the echo chamber or they can explain that sometimes, the black guy did it, the protester was wrong, the cop wasn’t evil. Or can they? Having accumulated followers who demand a simplistic, one-sided view of the world, can they twit something that “offends” the sensibilities of their fans? Can they take a video that all the passionate followers are certain reflects exactly what they want it to reflect and say, “Nope, not this time. This time the cop was right”?

This isn’t the way to grow one’s following and establish greater “cred” on social media. This is the way to lose followers. This is the way to enrage followers, who aren’t at all shy about turning on their heroes the moment they fail to give them what they demand. Are lawyers prepared to risk the mob turning on them? Integrity demands no less, but those followers can be vicious. Or they can be adoring, if only you don’t introduce nuance into their timelines.

Greg has done a terrific, and time-consuming, job of putting together an array of videos reflecting police use of force. He didn’t have to spend his time this way, and we enjoy the benefit of his efforts. But I hope he, and other lawyers who desire the validation social media offers, remembers that for all his great many followers, a challenge by Mark Bennett, by someone whose opinion is substantively more meaningful than ten thousand likes by twitter randos, should be shown the respect Bennett has earned. Be very careful about dismissing valued colleagues for fear that it will tarnish your shine on social media. It’s all too easy to become a slave to adoration at the expense of integrity. Are you master or slave? Are you a social media star or a criminal defense lawyer?

16 thoughts on “Greg’s List

  1. PML

    Odd, I didn’t see any violence in the video. Just a line of police standing there and they were not even dressed in the hated black militarized gear.

    1. John Burger

      Oh, there was violence. That red-shirted guy viciously threw some stuff in the dumpster. The humanity!!!

      Is that vireo from North Carolina or St. Louis?


  2. John Barleycorn

    To search or not to search the land of the twits for a refrenced kerfuffle? That is the question…..

    Well, you do got-s the twit thread reader bot angle and failing that you can also go with advanced search within the house of the twits…

    BUT, either way it is a pain in the ass, not really the billy club type of pain but still… and to make matters worse cocaine is still illegal and it takes a lot- like a weeks allowance- of silly putty to stretch.

    Why the fuck is that!?

    You didn’t buy those Crayola shares I had to sell last week, to enhance my extended care insurance policy, did you esteemed one????

    I had those fuckers since the Binney & Smith days…

  3. losingtrader

    “The dopamine rush one gets from vast displays of validation is Pavlovian”

    I think a certain blogger lacks the receptors for that level of dopamine.
    That’s why I sometimes think your tweets about law on Twitter are like me giving historical reference to
    stocks similar to Tesla on reddit/ wallstreetbets.

    Here’s my first stock advice for readers since I’ve been accused of providing no value to the blog.
    Short 10 of the Tesla 2500 calls expiring next Friday at $4. I’ll take the $4,000 with unlimited risk above 2500. Even a small drop in the stock and these are $1. The required margin is $86,000.
    Such nonsense being bandied about that people should get ahead of the stock being added to the SP500.
    Stocks are never added when expected.

  4. Miles

    I can think of a few CDLs this would apply to, some of whom despise you for your unwokeness, and some of whom who are friends of yours but still seem to pander a bit too much to their followers. Or more to the point, won’t call bullshit when they know it will piss their followers off.

    It’s a shame they unwilling to take the risk for integrity, but those followers can be brutal when they turn on you.

    1. SHG Post author

      The former group is a separate problem; they’re lost (at least for now) to their ideology and believe that they are on Team Justice. They live for the validation of their echo chamber and wouldn’t grasp the problem if it bit them in the ass. They present a problem because new lawyers quickly learn they find companionship and positive feedback by spewing ideological horseshit rather than get the smack they need to grow up.

      The latter may have tendency to pander a bit, and bask perhaps a bit too much in the validation, but they may occasional stray from the orthodoxy and catch huge flack for it from their fans. To their credit, they will stray on occasion, even if not too far as to be canceled. Not so good is that they will often take cheap positions to get positive feedback, and they won’t stray as far as they should for fear of having the mob turn on them. It’s a problem.

  5. El_Suerte

    Take a look at his case 724. A protester assaulted counter protester. A cop asks the counter protester if he is ok and makes the ok sign (because it’s hard to hear over the crowd). Doccoutte bills this as the cop being a secret ethno nationalist because he made a white power gesture.

    It’s a shame he’s hobbling the cause with poor curation and a masturbatory social justice aesthetic, but it’s the ethos of the age.

  6. Bryan Burroughs

    I’ve personally known Greg since college, and I can say without reservation that he does get a thrill from the twitter likes and has gotten far more provocative as his twotter-fame has risen. I’ve called him out on it, but he brushes it off to his adoring fans.

    He’s actually a fairly decent CDL, when he can stop focusing his attention on getting twitter likes. He did extremely good work revealing collusion between a judge, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the UNC Board of Governors on a deal regarding a statue that used to be on the Chapel Hill campus. But, he’s balls deep in the social justice culture.

    1. SHG Post author

      Social media validation is like a drug, and it’s meant to be exactly that. But I have no doubt Greg’s a good lawyer; the question is whether playing to social media followers has caused him unwittingly to become their servant rather than their “thought leader” because his feeding them any thought that is contrary to their demands will cause them to flee him or flip and attack?

      And does the approval of twitter followers mean more than the respect of lawyers he respects? Apparently it does.

      By the way, this would have been a great comment on the day this post was written. Now, it’s a bit late for others to see and become part of the discussion. Timing matters.

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