Narrative Uber Alles


Bow Owens has been, in my opinion, a very fair analyst of these cases for some time. Although I think he’s off base here a bit. Not that his cautioning is wrong, but rather that be misses the point that the left wants to conflate these cases.

As I’ve mentioned before, my dissertation is on the changing approach to animal research, primarily at a regulatory level. In my historical discussion I note that PETA made a good run at conflating the often brutal and likely unnecessary cosmetic research with the more considered drug development research. The goal, even if they didn’t understand it at a philosophical level, was to leverage the emotivist nature of post-modernity (as described by Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue) to construct a narrative that elicited the response they wanted: namely the end of all animal research (not just the needless cosmetic form.) Several pages later I get to the point that this is working.

The same applies here. The left wants to conflate a prima facie “unjust” scenario (for lack of a better word) with a much more grey and confusing scenario.*

The left wants to do this because it fits their agenda. If you can take a clear cut case (which for now we’ll assume the St. Paul case is) and start to get people to emotionally (rather than logically) apply those principles to a less clear case, you can gin up enough outrage over entirely different issues to move whatever policy you want. (Which in this case is a mess of special treatment for some groups and tyrannical federal control of policing.)

*I’m not really taking any stance on the Sterling case simply because I don’t understand the various use of force levels involved at a well enough level to make a clear stance even if I had all the information, which I don’t. And even I understood everything better, as I’ve noted before I’m on a totally different continuum than most when it comes to policing. In fact, I’d say I’m totally off the normal “right/left” divide. I’m not even mapable to most libertarian positions.

Which, even though we’re in a footnote is a great time to bring in this:

Drew is right, although we may disagree with why he’s right. As a society we have no idea what our police policy is. On the one hand it’s investigation after a crime. This is reasonable so far. Intervening in a actively occurring crime. Still OK. Then there’s crime deterrence via presence (i.e. passive deterrence). So far so good. Proactive stopping of crime through various means (stop and frisk, broken windows policing, etc.) Now we’re getting a bit more grey. Revenue enhancement (i.e. tickets, fines, etc.) Now we’re totally off the map of reasonable.

We need to decide what we want our police forces to do. As I said, I’m not even on the “more force/less force” continuum. I’m looking at this from an entirely different angle. I’m, quite frankly, comfortable with the idea that we shift in the direction of passive deterrence as a primary goal (using the sort of rough elevation I laid out in the above paragraph.) I suppose someone will tell me that my “white privilege” due to living in a (literally statistically average diversity) city that is low crime. Fact is though, with St. Louis city on pace for 180+ murders again, our current approach isn’t exactly working either.

And then there’s the question of the emphasis on officer safety we put forth as a society. Right now it’s remarkably high (which I think explains a substantial part of the deference to police use of force.) More recently you’re more likely as a copy to die due to “traffic” or “other” causes than be shot. (A fuller breakdown is here.) This is not to say that policing isn’t dangerous, but rather are we properly balancing the danger level with the protection of rights (yes, even criminals and suspected criminals have rights) that are due a citizen?

And I still haven’t gotten to police training. (For example, even if the Sterling case is ruled a “clean shot” could better restraint training prevented it getting to the level it did. Most police probably have about as much grappling training as I do, which is to say: I wrestled in high school for a year.

Yes there’s a lot to consider about the state of policing today, conflating these two cases says nothing about those issues. But liberals will because it helps them whip up votes.