Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 23 April 2021


How to Have More Police Shootings

Conformity today means you can’t be both against police misconduct and against resisting arrest.

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By now enough facts have been reported in enough places that it has dawned, if grudgingly, on many Americans that the cavalcade of CEOs who denounced Georgia’s election law didn’t know in the slightest what they were talking about.

The law’s mix of provisions, in sum, were more permissive than in many blue states ruled by liberals for decades, more expansive than almost any state’s laws as written, and showed at least one way of codifying some of the unlegislated improvisations hurriedly put in place during the pandemic emergency in 2020.

Opinion: Potomac Watch

Instead a bunch of business leaders simply adopted Democratic talking points not knowing what the law contained. And, more importantly, not caring.

This is becoming a habit in America. Let me correct one misconception in recent New York Times reporting on whether the newspaper you’re now reading needs to widen its appeal. Whatever the merits of a debate supposedly under way in our news division, newspapers now are niche businesses—built on narrow appeal, not broad. If you think the New York Times and Washington Post mind in the least that their coverage is off-putting to a large number of Americans, you misunderstand the business they’re in.


Once upon a time, broad reach really was our industry’s goal, to meet the desire of our advertisers for as many customers as possible. In turn, this drove our need to cover the news in a way that we could defend to all comers as “objective” and straight down the middle.

That was a world that leaned against tribal partisanship being the measure of all claims. Sorely missed in this regard too is the old ACLU, which has lately morphed into a pro-censorship promoter of progressive causes. Recall how it used to work: When the ACLU defended the right of neo-Nazis to hold a public demonstration, other Americans felt safer in sticking up for free speech too. Even the most fainthearted and tremulous of our fellow citizens—our CEOs—could stick up for free speech without being called Nazi sympathizers.

A general proposition: Most of what people say isn’t about true and false, but about self-protection and advancement.

The scope that has shrunk is the scope today in the public arena for saying anything that isn’t for the purpose of self-protection and conformity.

The New York Times can’t find a serious person who denies a human influence on climate. As long as the universe consists of matter and energy, even a single human being—exhaling, moving around—will have some effect, however infinitesimal. Yet the Times devoted Tuesday’s science section to a stale framing about believers and deniers rather than inquiring into really interesting questions about the extent of human influence and the cost and benefit of curbing it. Why? Because to admit any nuance would get the Times accused of denialism, when it would much rather be the one accusing.

Or take Joe Biden : Until very recently, I doubt it would have been his instinct to issue a prejudicial comment about a pending jury verdict. He did so out of fear.

When Rep. Maxine Waters urged a crowd to reject any Derek Chauvin verdict it didn’t like, her motive was the reciprocal one: to instill fear.

In the America of just a few years ago, it would have been sayable, and widely said, that no matter how badly the police sometimes perform their duties, it’s exceedingly foolish to resist arrest. No lawyer would advise you to do so. You create a situation for yourself that can’t possibly end well. You commit a chargeable offense when you might have ended up facing no charge at all. You put police, who are public employees, in a terrible position, of having to apply force to vindicate the lawful authority of the state, which all of us rely on for our personal security (that is, unless the left wants to give everyone in America more incentive to arm themselves).

The press now plays up the “oh no not again” angle whenever police shoot a black person, as an Ohio officer did to stop a knife assault on Tuesday. This will quickly become absurd. There’s always going to be a next time and soon. Sixty million Americans have encounters with police every year, 10 million are arrested, and two million of these episodes involve officers threatening or using force (all according to Justice Department surveys).

While punishing police misconduct is eminently desirable, making martyrs out of people who resist arrest only encourages others to make the same foolish, self-defeating decision. The results will be predictable unless police stop trying to apprehend lawbreakers altogether: more deaths in custody like that of George Floyd, more accidental shootings like that of Daunte Wright, tens of thousands of injuries to suspects and officers each year, more situations of the sort that produce an estimated 2,000 officer-involved shootings (fatal and nonfatal) annually.

But don’t try saying so in the America that we are busy making for ourselves today.

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