Saturday, August 13, 2011

Suppressing the truth

This is an amazing video clip at Gates of Vienna:

A reporter interviews a man who was an eyewitness to the raiding of his store. She's supposedly trying to get an eyewitness account. When the man says that 100 or 200 "black dudes in hoodies" raided his store, she immediately interrupts him. She rides over his words again and again trying to pressure him to say that the crowd of raiders was not all black. She believes that she knows that it could not have been all black, and she won't let him say it. Eventually he says something like, "Okay, then...Let me just say they weren't all black." She says, "Yes!" apparently expecting that now he will say what she wants him to say. He continues, "I was the white guy there." She interrupts again, "There probably were other white guys there..."

It's that bad. She literally will not let the eyewitness tell what he saw.

I know that there are conservatives who say that we should never refer to things like "black flash mobs" or "blacks" as the constituency that might oppose certain law-and-order crackdowns. Their idea seems to be to ask, "What's the point? Why say that? It does no good."

But truth is important. That flash mob attacks in America are a black phenomenon is not a trivial truth. That the riots in Britain were vastly disproportionately minority (I've seen one estimate of 70-80% and another of 60-70%) is not a trivial truth.

And the danger is that if we tell ourselves that we must not speak these truths, eventually we get a society full of people like that reporter who refuse to know the truth even when told it by a credible witness. This is not good.

HT for the link to GoV--VFR


Jeff Culbreath said...

"I know that there are conservatives who say that we should never refer to things like 'black flash mobs'...

I hope you're not counting me among them. If flash-mobbers are black, they're black.

"... or 'blacks' as the constituency that might oppose certain law-and-order crackdowns"

This is more problematic in my opinion. If all flash-mobbers are black, it does not follow that all blacks are flash-mobbers, or even that all blacks, or most, or many, oppose cracking down on flash- mobbers. Even it were true that all blacks opposed crackdowns on black flash-mobbers (and it isn't), the policy goal is to change their views, not their race, and so it's prudent to avoid language that seems to assume a linkage between race and behavior where there needn't be any, and tomorrow there may not be.

Lydia McGrew said...

Jeff, I'm glad to hear what you say about the first. I had just been unsure there and might have thought something incorrect about your view.

As to the second, as we discussed at W4 when this issue came up, it is just a fact that there is a significant black community sentiment against law-and-order crackdowns, and this does create a “constituency” issue for politicians and law enforcement. This is, I pointed out, similar to the sympathy for terrorism in the Muslim community, and it is a fact to be reckoned with. Your response, if I recall correctly, was that government officials _shouldn't_ be governing by “constituencies” but rather by what is right.

Now, I don't think that's a sufficient answer. Political reality is what it is. If there is indeed significant black opposition to the enforcement of laws against blacks (and, I'm sorry, but there is, both in America and in England), this is going to be something that politicians and law-enforcers have to buck. And they are also going to have to buck the opposition to enforcement from their peers and from their higher-ups, an opposition that is there in no small part _because_ of the opposition of the “black community.”

If you have a way to change the minds of the sort of people who cheered the OJ verdict, go for it. More power to you. I think such people are beyond mind-changing.

So one of our goals should be stiffening the spines of those whose job it is to stop mayhem. That spine stiffening is going to have to take the form of being willing to use force against black mobs, something that many in key positions are terrified to authorize and will explicitly order their officers not to do. (Word has recently come through that officers in London were told merely to observe the looting and burning.) This sort of anarchy-enabling insanity *is about race* and it *is about not wanting to anger the black community*. If we don't acknowledge that openly, I don't see how we can oppose it or try to change it.

Lydia McGrew said...

I want to point out here that this recent wave of anarchy in England started when “the black community” was angered because police shot and killed a young black gang member who, they said, aimed a gun at them. There was a “march” of the young man's relatives and members of the “community” on the police station in response to his having been shot. This is grassroots community expression! And that's how it all got started. His relatives were quoted in the press as saying that the police should have “shot him in the hand” if he pointed a gun at them!

Robert Kunda said...

This kind of stuff drives me crazy, like just pointing out the details is somehow wrong.

How in the world can we ever hope to address the problem if we can't even accurately identify the problem.

If these mobs are almost exclusively black, which they are, there's no hope for resolution if we can't even point that out.

It's like the issue with AIDS and the fact that it's predominately a gay disease, affecting a disproportionately large population of homosexuals compared to any other group.. but we dare not say that. We'd much rather people die that be offended.

There's something seriously wrong in the black communities where this comes from and pretending it isn't there isn't going to help. What contempt the media and the hand-wringing administrators must have for minority groups. If not contempt, what is it? Does that interviewer simply think the blacks can't handle the details being presented? They're somehow inferior?

Other than the people actually being harmed in these acts, it seems to me the biggest victims are the honest, concerned members inside the black community that want things to get better, having to watch everyone else pretend everything is okay.

Jeff Culbreath said...

"Jeff, I'm glad to hear what you say about the first. I had just been unsure there and might have thought something incorrect about your view."

Well then, I'm glad to clear this up. I think the reporter in the video is deluded beyond parody.

"As to the second, as we discussed at W4 when this issue came up, it is just a fact that there is a significant black community sentiment against law-and-order crackdowns, and this does create a 'constituency' issue for politicians and law enforcement."

Granted. But insofar as a racial correlation exists on this level it is best ignored. First, because people tend to live up or down to expectations, and our political language helps set those expectations. Second, because the sentiment in question is morally obnoxious and must be ruthlessly put down. And it can't be realistically suppressed if it is publicly villainized as "black community sentiment". Surely you can see that. Going after the "black community" as such is a losing proposition. Blacks who share this sentiment should be given every incentive to repudiate it, and therefore it should treated as a "black thing".

"This is, I pointed out, similar to the sympathy for terrorism in the Muslim community, and it is a fact to be reckoned with."

The obvious difference - a difference that some of our friends on the "right" seem to have a hard time with - is that being black is not a moral quality. There is nothing intrinsic to black African ancestry that propels inexorably to criminal violence. Blacks cannot repudiate their race, but like anyone else they can repudiate false or destructive beliefs and reform their behavior. Our political discourse should be careful not to lend itself to the idea that race, and not belief or behavior, is at the root of the problem.

Islam is in a completely different category. Islam is a false belief system that demands immoral behavior. There is no separating Islam from political violence. The solution is for Muslims to reject Islam, not to become better Muslims.

Lydia McGrew said...

While I agree with you, Jeff, that one cannot change his race but can change his religion, I don't think that this makes the difference that you think it means. For one thing, for a Muslim (say, from a devout family in Dearborn) to abandon Islam would be tantamount to his abandoning a whole host of familial and ethnic ties. His religion isn't just a set of beliefs but a way of life and a matter of family loyalty and identity, including racial identity. This is much more akin to an inner-city black person's rejecting a prevalant anti-law-and-order perspective and adopting an ethic of personal responsibility, thus putting himself at odds with his family and friends, than I think your position acknowledges.

What this means is that in both cases, both if we use a term like “Muslims” to refer to a group who will likely oppose anti-terrorism measures and if we use a term like “blacks” to refer to a group who will likely oppose anti-gang or anti-riot measures, we take the risk you are concerned about: That risk is that the very acknowledgement of the sympathy in these communities for bad behavior will itself serve to confirm a sense of community solidarity. The people in question may say, “Okay, if that's how my people think, then that's how my people think, and I stand with my people.” That's true of acknowledging the problems in the Muslim community as well.

Moreover, your argument really simply does not deal at all with the point I made concerning the need to _acknowledge_ black community solidarity and likely opposition to strong law-and-order enforcement in order to _stand up to_ that pressure. If we can't even say something like, “The liberal officials of City X must decide whether they want to enforce the law or whether they want to cater to their black constituency” because this is somehow “imprudent” or shows “low expectations,” then we are cutting off an obvious and natural way to refer to a real psychological and political difficulty that city officials and police do face.

As far as I'm concerned, both rioting and lawlessness and expressing sympathy for and excuses for rioting and lawlessness (as well as opposition to any effective methods of stopping such lawlessness) are forms of behavior--behavior that policy makers and law enforcement need to be prepared to cope with. If it is legitimate and important to acknowledge a black form of the former, it's legitimate and important to acknowledge a black form of the latter.

Lydia McGrew said...

Robert, I think the hard truth is that those concerned members in the black community (and I agree that some do exist) have to be willing to see tough measures taken directly when their fellow community members behave in this way. That means things like water cannons, tear gas, mounted police, mass arrests of looters, the direct use of force to defend persons and property, and the like.

One problem is that "enabling" of this violent behavior comes in many different flavors and degrees. I fear that there are many personally otherwise decent black members of the community who do want things to get better, but the more embedded and invested they are in the community, the less likely they are actually to be willing to see their rioting neighbors or flash mobbing opposed by the force actually necessary to stop them. They want things magically to "get better" by more government handouts and programs, more concessions, making blacks "feel more included," and such nonsense.

A truly sane perspective would be, "If you go to loot stores and burn buildings and get hit by tear gas and get your lungs damaged, you asked for it." "If you went to block city streets and drag people out of cars and beat them [as in Wisconsin recently], and you got hit by a policeman with a billy club while you were in the very act, good for the policeman. You were acting like a thug and had to be stopped." And so forth.

If there are people deeply embedded in the black community who are willing to go that far, I imagine they are lying real low, because they would probably be in danger if they spoke out. This makes it difficult to know how many of them there are, but I have deep fears that they aren't very many.

More prevalent are people like a black British columnist linked below. She is pretty articulate, obviously isn't out there beating anybody up herself. But she is all full of the usual blah-blah about "lack of opportunities" and "deprived" neighborhoods and a "sense of exclusion." She even has the gall to complain about black young men "disproportionately" targeted by police--and that in the middle of these riots! She eagerly embraces the liberal narrative of excuse-making and thus, in an important sense, defends her fellow blacks in their rioting, which she describes as "sad."

Alex said...

If it is true that, in proportion to their number in the population, blacks commit more crimes than any other section of the community, then what good does it do to suppress this truth?

Before any suggestion about rebuilding 'a broken society' can be followed up with any hope of success, there must be a truthful exposition of the causes and character of the problem in the first place.

Suppression of the truth is in fact part of the problem we want to solve.

William Luse said...

The same thing is happening in America. I've not seen this event in national TV coverage. And if you watch the video at the bottom of this page, the fact that the perpetrators are black is never mentioned.

Lydia McGrew said...

Yes, it's amazing the lengths reporters in the U.S. will go to to hide what everyone knows about the flash mobs. (There's a Youtube out there that I don't have time to get the link to right now with something like a half hour of 911 calls about the Wisconsin wildings that makes the racial nature obvious.) I haven't yet seen a U.S. reporter refuse to let an eyewitness tell his story, but they have plenty of other ways.

Mr Veale said...


David Starkey has encountered some difficulty in Britain when he argued that the white looters where in fact "black" culturally.

The reason Starkey made such a ludicrous argument is that he was searching for one simple explanation, when there is no one way to categorise these riots. What started as a political demonstration turned into a riot. The police "kettled" the rioters - trying contain them within their own community.

What then followed was widespread looting - shopping with violence - organised by small gangs of youths over social media, and exploited by passers by. The police tactics failed as these were not riots. There was no political or social motivation. This was theft, mugging and looting.

There is some evidence that organised crime was involved in the Manchester riots - and the gentlemen concerned were most definitely white.

What then happened was deeply disturbing. London broke up into little ghettos. Sikhs, Turks, Muslims, and even the English Defence League (read soccer hooligans) turned out in force to defend their own communities. It was this show of force, along with increased police numbers, and the daytime arrests of those organising the looting, that brought London under control.

But in Birmingham three Muslim men were murdered by looters. At that stage the riots could have entered a third stage - race riots. Rumours circulated that the murderers were black (in fact, two of the accused are white). If Tariq Jahan had insisted on a protest against the police for failing to protect his community, say, Birmingham could have faced race riots.

In fact, providence was kind. Jahan was articulate and compassionate. He wanted to prevent further loss of life, could express himself clearly and was prepared to confront an angry and potentially violent mob.
"Calm down. Go home...Grow up".

In a few moments he managed to defuse a potentially lethal situation. A lot of work went on in the background as community leaders tried to avert disaster. But everyone seems to agree that Jahan's short statement to the press, and the scolding he gave to local youth, were essential to averting race riots.
With the police stretched, and the ACPO insisting that their tactics were working, who knows what the outcome would have been.

So race and religion, organised crime and amoral materialism all led to a very frightening situation. Our politicians are afraid - and they should be. Our government was never in control of the situation.


Lydia McGrew said...

Graham, I do use the word "riot" in a way that can include indiscriminate looting and violence and burning.

I'm not sure I understand how the police tactics would have worked better had the violence had a political motivation. ?

Mr Veale said...

From what I've been told by police officers (and they weren't fans of this strategy) and from what Chief Constables and politicians are saying:

the assumption is that a crowd wants to move to a specific area to achieve a specific goal. So perhaps they want to protest in an area where they have been told they cannot protest. Or they want to attack a police station. Or community (a) wants attack community (b). Or, when a crowd is unhappy with the state, they attack state owned buildings. The first riot, which was an "old fashioned" riot, was focused on a police station.

The police form a barrier that prevents the crowd from reaching their goal, and that contains the crowd. The police then use camera footage to make arrests once the disturbance is over. Given that police officers themselves are a target you try to limit the opportunity to attack police officers. So you don't move in to make arrests unless necessary.

However criminal gangs were looking for targets of opportunity. Their movements could not be predicted. If you protect the shops in the High Street, then you leave the shops in the Mall unprotected. So, using mobile phones and blackberry, youngsters systematically outmaneuvered the police. There were too many targets to protect.

When the riots began in Manchester, its Chief Constable decided to be more "robust". Footage appeared on YouTube of police officers in Manchester beating suspected rioters. The BBC tried to generate some outrage. SkyNews portrayed it as "police tackle looters". Sky captured the national mood. Given that they were risking prosecution, most people would want those officers to receive some sort of medal. (Even the person taking the footage turned the camera away when things seemed to be getting really unpleasant for the looters!)

If Race riots had broken out in Birmingham, all bets were off. The police were already overstretched, and we do not know if commanding officers "on the ground" had the flexibility to change tactics as needed. Many officers reported to journalists that they, and their commanders, were afraid of prosecutions. It is alleged that senior officers felt that they did feel as if "government had their back".
It is worth asking what would have happened if Tariq Jahan had not acted in such an honorable manner.
(Or even if was unable to express himself in public.)


Mr Veale said...

As to the original tactics - they have worked in numerous situations before -
It is interesting that, a number of years ago, one constable told me that the net effect of such tactics is a lack of respect for the police. Officers appear to be passive targets, however many arrests are made in the days that follow. Mobs don't tend to think that far ahead...

no-one wants to say it out loud, but what everyone realises is that rioters need to be afraid of a baton to the back of the skull. Rioting should be perceived to be a very dangerous activity.

The "vigilantes" at the Sikh Temple probably did more to quell the looting than any police action up to that point. It was not worth tackling 200 rather big men armed with swords and baseball bats for a pair of shoes. They also looked rather "official", as Sikhs have played an important role in the British Army over the centuries. Their spokeperson was a polite, elderly gentleman. (And it is a mistake on the media's part, and convenient for the ACPO, to assume that all the white "vigilantes" were football hooligans or members of the EDL. People were, quite spontaneously, organising to protect their communities, because they believed that the police could not. The EDL turned up in one area only!)

The photo of the Sikh Temple went out - that night there was less trouble. That must be horribly demoralising for the officers of the Met.


Lydia McGrew said...

Thanks, Graham. I agree with the proposition that rioting (and looting, too) should be perceived as a dangerous activitiy. I do think that police should be permitted to fight directly with people doing those things. If I correctly perceive your comments as approval of those (whether they were Sikhs or whites) who “spontaneously organized to protect their communities” because the police would not, I agree. If anarchy breaks out, someone needs to oppose it.

Mr Veale said...

Thanks Lydia

Basically, I do approve. Taking the law into your own hands is never an ideal state of affairs, but I don't see that these people had any choice. We were back to Locke's (not Hobbes!) state of nature, where everyone has a moral right to protect the innocent.
Justice is a basic human need, and it is dangerous for a government to deny people justice on such a large scale. It is interesting that police officers are saying that they would love to engage in "zero-tolerance" policing, but that the government will not supply funding for resources, or basic manpower.
Hence Cameron's waffle about "sick communities" and Labour's prattle about the disenfranchised. No one wants to pay the bills for robust policing.
The economy comes first, morality second.


Lydia McGrew said...

Sorry for taking so long to publish that, Graham! It wasn't intentional!