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  • The Power of Narrative

    Posted by Shannon Love on August 17th, 2009 (All posts by )

    [Note: This post is a little dated. The events described have been assigned their place in the leftist narrative and swept under the rug. However, I did promise commenter Tdaxp a detailed explanation of why I thought his view of the Gates affair was dead wrong and this post covers that ground. In any case, the event serves as a powerful example of the hold that predefined narratives have over the minds of leftists.]

    The incident between Officer James Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. demonstrates just what a powerful grip fictional narratives have on the minds of leftists. All the leftists in the country, from the President on down, fervently believe that Crowley acted out of racial animosity but they can’t explain what action of Crowley’s indicates his racial animosity. Instead, they must rely on a narrative shared by the subculture to convince each other that Crowley must be wrong.

    Leftists are clearly caught up in two narratives. First, they have the narrative of black man versus white cop. In this narrative, one need only plug the race and role of each person into the narrative and the narrative will tell them who was absolutely wrong and who was absolutely right. Since Crowley was the white cop, the narratives says he acted wrongly. Case closed.

    The second narrative is the hindsight narrative. This is a narrative in which the actions of participants in an event are explained in terms of information known in hindsight, not the information each participant had at the time. In hindsight, we all know that Gates was a legal resident in his home and that the report of break-in was a false alarm. With that information, the hindsight narrative creates a story in which Crowley is clearly a bully harassing an old man for illegitimate reasons.

    We can dismiss the first narrative outright because it is simply racist. We should always evaluate individuals based on their own actions not on our arbitrary inclusion of them in some stereotyped group. The second narrative falls apart when we look at the sequence of events and examine the actions of both Gates and Crowley based on the information each had on hand at the time.

    First, let’s look at the incident from Crowley’s perspective:

    (1) Crowley receives a report of two men possibly breaking into a house. There had recently been numerous break-ins in the area. (Indeed, the damage to Gates’s door, see below, may have resulted from an attempted break-in.) That’s all Crowley knows when he arrives as the sole officer on the scene. The 911 caller is there and points the house out to him. Crowley goes up to the house and sees a single unidentified man inside. Crowley has no other information. Crowley wants to maintain control and safety in the circumstance so he doesn’t want to go inside (it might also be illegal for him to do so if the unidentified person isn’t a legal resident) and he doesn’t want to expose himself to a possible ambush by a reported second person. Based on the information he has on hand and standard police procedure, he asks the unidentified person to step outside.

    When Crowley makes the request, the unidentified person not only refuses to reply but becomes belligerent and accusatory. Crowley can see no reason for the emotion and resistance. Crowley has to consider the possibility that the belligerence might be a sign that the unidentified person is running on adrenaline because the unidentified person was caught in mid-crime.

    (2) Crowley, still having to take into account the second reported individual, then asks if anyone else is in the residence. This was a reasonable question because Crowley had a report of two men and he was at that time alone. Even if he hadn’t had that information, police routinely ask this question so they won’t be surprised indoors by the sudden appearance of unexpected individuals. Most police officer fatalities occur during routine traffic stops and domestic-disturbance calls. They have protocols designed to minimize those dangers for themselves and civilians. However, instead of complying, the unidentified man tells him it is none of his business, accuses him of being a racist and begins to make a phone call.

    (3) The unidentified man has provided Crowley with no identification, no explanation of his presence at the scene of a possible crime, refuses to confirm if anyone else is present and then he begins to try to intimidate the officer by appearing to try and call the chief of police and saying that Crowley, “doesn’t know who he is messing with.”

    At this point Crowley has no idea what the hell is going on. The average resident in an upper-middle class university neighborhood doesn’t start screaming at the police when they show up. Crowley can’t assume anything. The unidentified man might be breaking into the house and is trying to  bully the officer into leaving. (Trying to pretend to be a homeowner is a fairly common trick on the part of burglars.) He may be trying to cover up a serious domestic dispute or violence. He might be intoxicated or having a medical crisis.

    (4) The unidentified ranting man goes back into the house while yelling and talking on the phone. Not wanting to break contact, Crowley informs his control he is going inside and follows Gates inside. Inside, the unidentified man continues to berate Crowley. Crowley by now believes it likely that the unidentified person is a resident of the house but still doesn’t know why he his acting the way he is. Crowley asks for identification from the unidentified person but instead of complying the unidentified person demands Crowley’s identification (even though he’s wearing it).

    (5) The unidentified person finally produces a Harvard ID. Crowley decides that the unidentified person is a resident of the house and he radios for Harvard Campus police and prepares to leave. Gates continues to demand Crowley’s ID all the while cutting him off and trying to intimidate him. (Office Carlo Figueroa, arrives in the house at this time and his descriptions correspond with those of Crowley.)

    (6) The resident is yelling so loudly that Crowley cannot hear his radio. Police are trained to maintain communications at all times so Crowley explains he will talk to the resident outside and walks outside. The resident follows Crowley outside in full view of four (multi-ethnic) police officers and six or seven onlookers. The resident continues to yell outside and Crowley warns him he is becoming legally disorderly. The other officers concur. Crowley takes the resident into custody on a misdemeanor charge with the assistance of the other officers and in full view of onlookers.

    So, critics of Crowley have to answer this: given the information he had at each stage (1 – 6) above, what actions of Crowley’s were racist? For that matter, given the information he had at the time, what actions of Crowley’s were unreasonable, unwise or without foundation in any way? When Gates refused to come outside or ID himself, should Crowley had just shrugged and walked away?

    The power of both the racist and hindsight narratives means that leftists would never believe that Crowley did the right thing. Imagine if events been different. Suppose Gates was being held hostage at gun point by someone out of sight in the house or if Gates had just committed domestic violence and his spouse had been dying in a pool of blood upstairs. Suppose Crowley had just backed off in the face of Gates’s belligerence but it was later discovered that something had been deeply wrong inside the house. In that case, the narratives would have cast him as a racist who didn’t care about the safety of African-Americans and who missed, what were in hindsight, perfectly obvious indications that someone in the house was in danger.

    Gates’s version of events is comical and contradicted by witnesses. In his version, a cop comes to the door, Gates is reasonable and polite, he explains everything to the officer, IDs himself and the officer seems perfectly satisfied until he suddenly arrests Gates outside for absolutely no reason whatsoever. At best it is a delusional description of the event. Unfortunately, I think Gates really believes it.

    Let’s look at the event from Gates’s perspective:

    (1) After returning from a trip, Gates discovers his front door has been damaged so that it will not open. Gates goes inside then comes back out with his driver and the two force open the door. Shortly thereafter, a police officer shows up at his door and asks him to step outside and talk to the officer. Gates angrily replies, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?”

    With the information he had on hand, why didn’t Gates realize that the cop was there because of the forced door? If an officer shows up on your doorstep shouldn’t you assume it had something to do with the unusual incident that had just previously occurred? Why did Gates think there was anything racial going on at all?  Based on the information he had about Crowley, as an individual human being, why did Gates assume that Crowley was up to no good? Based on what he knew about Crowley, as an individual human being, why didn’t he assume that Crowley had a legitimate reason for asking him to step outside the house? For all Gates knew, Crowley was tracking a violent criminal in the area. Why did he immediately assume that Crowley had no legitimate reason for being there and that he must be a racist?

    Gates clearly gave no thought whatsoever to Crowley’s perspective. He clearly did not understand that Crowley at that time did not know who Gates was, that he was in his own home or that Crowley had information (a report of a possible break-in by two men) that Gates did not.

    (2) Gates immediately begins to try to intimidate the police officer by accusing him of racism and by claiming that Gates was a powerful and connected person who could have the cop punished. Even if Gates had reason to believe that Crowley was acting improperly, is that the way a responsible citizen handles a conflict with the police? Is it the way that a person with wealth, influence and political connections should deal with anyone?

    (3) Crowley determines that Gates is a legal resident and calls the campus police. Another officer shows comes into the house. Gates continues his tirade despite both officers’ request that he calm down. Gates is trying to communicate over his radio but cannot. Gates demands Crowley’s ID but then interrupts him repeatedly when he tries to give it. What information did Gates possess that justified that behavior?

    (4) Gates follows Crowley outside and into a group of officers from two different police forces, and bystanders, while constantly yelling abusively. What information did Gates have that justified that behavior? Crowley and the other officers warn him he has become legally disorderly and ask him to stop. Why didn’t Gates stop? What did he expect to accomplish? After repeated warnings, the assembled officers arrest Gates.

    Gates was clearly a fantasy-driven egomaniac. When he saw Crowley at his door he immediately assumed that he was important enough a figure to Crowley that Crowley would risk his police career just to harass Gates. Gates ignored the condition of his house as he found it, neglected to think about what information the cop might possess and instead slid into a story defined by the narrative he had spent his entire life constructing. In a matter of seconds he became the hero in a play in which only he had the script.

    Unless you think that a multi-racial group of police fabricated the entire incident just so they could arrest an elderly, disabled black man on a misdemeanor charge, then the incident is Gates’s fault entirely. If Gates had simply not racially stereotyped Crowley, had he been aware enough of other people’s perspective to realize that forcing a door might raise legitimate concern, had he simply believed that he had the responsibility as a citizen and human being to remain calm and courteous, the event would have never escalated. Instead, Gates ignored reality and jumped headlong into his preprogrammed fantasy narrative.

    Worse, half of the country including the President also decide to immerse themselves in the fantasy and turn it into a great morality play, the climax of which is that Crowley is dragged to the White House so they can all talk about what Crowley did wrong. Crowley didn’t do anything wrong other than not understanding he had blundered into a leftist-racialist’s Live Action Role Playing game in which he was cast as the villain.

    Gates was right about one thing. He said that if this event could happen to him, it could happen to anyone in America. He was correct, he just had the wrong “him.”

     

    26 Responses to “The Power of Narrative”

    1. Lexington Green Says:

      Oddly enough, I have a relative who knows Crowley, and who is friends with people who know him well. Two things I learned from this hearsay source are consistent with your analysis. First, the fact that TWO people were reported but only one was visible was the decisive fact for much of Crowley’s conduct. Until he resolved whether the other person was around and whether that person constituted a threat, he was quite properly on high alert. Note that he arrived on the scene without backup, alone. That is not the usual course of conduct, but Crowley was close by and responded aggressively to what looked like a break-in. Until backup arrived, he was facing one old guy acting psycho, and a second guy whom he did not see, and the old guy was not helping to get that resolved. This is why Crowley initially asked Gates to come outside. A second fact is that apparently the Harvard ID card Gates handed over did not positively link him with the address, rather than a drivers license that would have done so.

      My only difference with your analysis is that you say “Gates was clearly a fantasy-driven egomaniac”. I see it a little differently. This episode is fodder for him professionally, and would speculate that his motive was more rational and self-interested, not merely being unhinged by his imagination. Venality and self-promotion explain his behavior better than irrationality.

      Gates could have defused the whole thing by acting with common sense and civility. He failed to do so because it was in his personal and professional and financial interest not to do so.

    2. tdaxp Says:

      Shannon,

      Thank you for your post.

      As it is address to “Leftists,” I am still waiting of your reply to me.

      I wish you would engage in a serious discussion instead of boxing strawmen.

      A number of your statements are bizarre. For instance:

      “We can dismiss the first narrative outright because it is simply racist.”

      This makes no sense. You are aping the critical theorists who are so often attacked on this blog. Instead of dismissing somethign because of lack of evidence, or of counterveiling evidence, you dismiss a theory as “racist” and refuse to engage in it. Your argument here is a satire of leftism, and certainly nothing to take seriously.

      “Not wanting to break contact, Crowley informs his control he is going inside and follows Gates inside. “

      Indeed. However, not wanting to break contact is not probable cause. This is a central part of the case, and is one that you do not address at all.

      “Gates continues to demand Crowley’s ID all the while cutting him off and trying to intimidate him.”

      So we agree that crowley repeatedly refused to provide Gates with his ID? We must, as otherwise this statement makes no sense. Still, Gates’ action are weird, if he has done nothing wrong. Why start covering-up his actions so quickly?

      “So, critics of Crowley have to answer this: given the information he had at each stage (1)-(6,) what actions of Crowley’s were racists”

      No idea. Probably none. As I never said they were, this again is evidence the post is written against a strawman, rather than the person who this post is theoretically in reply to.

      “For that matter, given the information he had at the time, what actions of Crowley’s were unreasonable, unwise or without foundation in anyway?”

      Breaking an entering, refusing to identify himself, arresting without probable cause.

      “When Gates refused to come outside or ID himself, should Crowley had just shrugged and walked away?”

      False dichotomy. Not worthy of a reply.

      Your summary of Gates’ version of reply is, at best, a delusional description of the summary. Unfortunatley, I think you really believe it. This is weird, of course, as you seem to accept that Gates repeatedly refused to identify himself. If an unhinged stranger was at my door, then illegally entered my property, then refused to identify himself, then started covoering-up what had happened, I would be suspicious. Perhaps you are more gullible.

      “Shortly thereafter, a police officer shows up at his door and asks him to step outside and talk to the officer. Gates angrily replies, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?””

      It is unfortunate that Gates assumed that Crowley was a normally-functioning, intelligent, and rational human being, and not just a corrupt and lazy cop. He foolishly attempted to divise a rational reason for Crowley’s weird pattern of behavior, and assumed that he coudl talk about it. If he had realized that Crowley was semi-literate (at least to the extent that his report contradicted his verbal write) thug (at least to the extent that his actions were so unprofessional and embarrasing they were immediately repudiated), he could have avoided the inconvenience.

      “Gates immediately begins to try to intimidate the police officer by accusing him of racism”

      Criticizing an officer’s behavior is intimidation?

      “claiming that Gates was a powerful and connected person who could have the cop punished”

      Much of the rest of your comment asks why Gates was discussing his political theories on his property. I don’t know. Fortunately, we have a constitution which protects him from needing to have a reason that you accept in order for him to use his property and speak.

      Unless you think that a multi-racial group of police.

      This argument is racist and, more to the point, stupid. You constantly bring up racial angles of the case. Why? Because a multiracial organization is above sin, above corruption, above incompetence, above solidarity? Your post is a satire of leftism.

      If Gates had simply not racially stereotyped Crowley

      As I said, your post is a satire of leftism, it is a mockery of critical theory. Instead of taking this discussion seriously, you adopt the worst habits of your imagined enemies.

      Crowley didn’t do anything wrong other than

      … the appropraite ending to this statement is “violating the Constitution.”

      “Gates was right about one thing. He said that if this event could happen to him, it could happen to anyone in America. He was correct, he just had the wrong “him.””

      You are talking about Crowley? Then I assume this is true.. in America, you can be seriously inconvenienced if you have a badge and break the Constitution.This is a shame. Those thugs belong in prison.

      Lexington,

      Interesting that the hearsay from Crowley is yet another iteration of the truth. This makes sense. His account of his motivation and actions keep changing. He is trying to protect himself and, judging by the lack of charges, doing a good job of it.

    3. Lexington Green Says:

      Nothing I heard by hearsay is inconsistent with what was in the police report. From what I can tell, he has been consistent all along.

      As a matter of law, there was no constitutional violation here, because Gates was arrested under a statute which is constitutional. He may or may not have been found guilty if he had been prosecuted, but the repeated statements by many people that a constitutional violation occurred is unambiguously wrong. Crowley did not violate the constitution, no matter what else you may think about what he did otherwise.

      Crowley should be commended for his prompt response to the crime in progress.

    4. tdaxp Says:

      “Nothing I heard by hearsay is inconsistent with what was in the police report. From what I can tell, he has been consistent all along.”

      The second sentence is obviously untrue, as Crowley has been unable to maintain consistency on when he learned the suspects were black (during the dispatch call? By the witness on the scene? When he saw Gates?)

      “As a matter of law, there was no constitutional violation here, because Gates was arrested under a statute which is constitutional. ”

      This is deceptive. I am not arguing that Crowley was attempting to enforce a law that violated the Constitution. Rather, I am arguing that Crowley on his own initiative violated Gates’ rights to liberty and property. Analagously, while a state law that prevented blacks from voting would be an unconstitutional law, a band of state police who own their own attacked black polling places would be violating the constitutional rights of the people they are sworn to protect.

      “Crowley should be commended for his prompt response to the crime in progress”

      No one quibbles with his response time, so this is a red herring. One might as well commend a bank robber for having successfully finished his shift at a box factory the night before.

    5. Lexington Green Says:

      Dan, you simply don’t know what you are talking about when you throw around the word unconstitutional. It has a legal meaning. You have expertise in your field. It has terms of art which can be used correctly or incorrectly. No issues of constitutional magnitude were implicated by this event.

      I will leave the rest of it.

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      Tdaxp,

      Time precludes me from a detailed response at this moment so I will just make this observation for the benefit of everyone else.

      You answers show the enveloping power of the narrative over your thinking. You are injecting information into the incident from the narrative. For example you say:

      It is unfortunate that Gates assumed that Crowley was a normally-functioning, intelligent, and rational human being, and not just a corrupt and lazy cop.

      Think carefully. Where exactly did the information that Crowley was (1) lazy and (2) corrupt actually come from? I mean, did you read articles by professional law enforcement people who said that Crowley cut corners in his procedures? Did the other officers on the scene criticize Crowley’s actions? Was Crowley ever investigated corruption? Why did you pick those to specific adjectives to describe Crowley.

      None of that information is in the public sources. It is in neither the police reports (of multiple officers) nor the witness statements, nor the media nor even Gate’s own version of events. That information came solely from the narrative.

      This is the power of the narrative. It makes you think you have information you do not actually have. It tricks you into making decisions based on this faulty information.

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      Michael Barone’s post on the issue was his usual, commonsensical assessment.

    8. onparkstreet Says:

      For me, the biggest problem in this ‘he said-he said’ affair is that the President got involved by speaking up at a press conference. It was a local affair, the details as reported are confusing, the matter belongs with the local authorities. The President, it seems to me, decided to believe his friend without specific evidence as to what happened. Well, that’s how it seems from the ‘outside’ to me.

      That’s the key issue, imo.

    9. Eddie Says:

      I also do not understand why Shannon insists on concocting straw men for this issue. Or why he essentially deals with this matter from an ideal, non-existent world:

      “Is that the way a responsible citizen handles a conflict with the police? Is it the way that a person with wealth, influence and political connections should deal with anyone?”

      (Um, what world do we live in? Of course some people of wealth, influence and political connections act like this. Aren’t there legions of news stories and anecdotes about politicians, wealthy individuals and others acting poorly in their interactions with airline security, police, service workers, etc?)

      “The average resident in an upper-middle class university neighborhood doesn’t start screaming at the police when they show up.”

      (Doesn’t this negate your point about class, snobbery and intellectual arrogance from a few weeks ago about this?)

      “Why did he immediately assume that Crowley had no legitimate reason for being there and that he must be a racist?”

      (Maybe because he’s a noted race-baiter, or more charitably, because as an older black man with experiences dealing with law enforcement in the far more openly racist and abusive days of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, he has had some less than stellar interactions with white authority figures, something Sgt. Crowley was supposed to be aware of if he was the alleged expert in racial profiling and interactions he and his fellow officers claimed he was.)

      “even though he’s wearing it”
      (I deal with police officers in person in Greensboro, NC on matters of fraud my company is a victim of on a weekly basis, and dealt with them in Everett, WA on a regular basis for sailors in trouble (or who often just pissed a cop off and ended up getting arrested on “disorderly” conduct charges that were swiftly dropped after a night in the cooler… and I can tell you I can only make out their name half the time in good light and have never been able to make out the number by myself (I’m blind but that not blind!). Its customary in such matters for a police officer to provide a written or dictated badge number and full name, as well as his station house, when requested.

      As well, Crowley’s refusal to give this information as repeatedly requested by Gates was an escalation of the situation in full contradiction of Crowley’s training and his legal duty as a Massachusetts police officer.

      Lastly, we have good reason to doubt Sgt. Crowley’s story because it so greatly contradicts the 911 call and the account of the witness who made that call and met with him near/at the scene. Hers is a more complicated tale with less detail and much more nuance, whereas Sgt. Crowley deals in certainties and details that simply do not exist in her recorded account. That is troubling. Whatever the race-baiting, arrogant, and legal buffoonery Gates portrayed, he is not the officer held to a higher standard and whose honesty is seriously and credibly impugned by contradictory evidence.

      It was not just leftists who bristled at Sgt. Crowley’s actions. While I respect Lex’s significant experience in the law field, I bristle at his criticism of TDAXP for speaking outside of his field. Its not like Dan is a lone conservative voice on the matter supporting Gates’ rights.

      We have a federal judge of unimpeachable conservative bent (Judge Andrew Napoliatano) with a fierce dedication to the Constitution and exposing its abuse by our government who had nothing to gain by criticizing Crowley’s actions, but did so anyway because Sgt. Crowley in his learned and experienced opinion, violated the rights of the race-baiting ***hole Gates. We need to look beyond trival matters of race, class, and politics in this matter, because Sgt. Crowley’s poor application of his significant training and his disdain of the rights of his fellow citizen in his own residence speaks to the decay of respect and adherence to our Constitution that is endemic in society today.

      There are a number of conservatives and libertarians who questioned Crowley’s behavior and attitude, not to mention active police officers who said they would have handled the situation differently (from the standpoint of applying the near-universal training of law enforcement officers to de-escalate things) towards the end of the encounter to de-escalate the situation rather than invite it to be escalated by ignoring the repeated and legal (under Mass. law) request by Gates for Crowley’s badge number and ID information. That is not hindsight being 20/20 but a matter of an officer applying his training and good judgement or not.

    10. Lexington Green Says:

      Eddie, Dan or you or anyone can say whatever you want. But there is no constitutional violation of any kind here. The law at issue has been found constitutional. “Constitutional” does not mean “really, really important” or being “fierce” in your assertion that something is really important. Lots of very important things are not of “constitutional moment”. The means to fix any problem here — I deny there is one, I have seen nothing that makes me think Crowley did anything wrong, very much to the contrary — is through the political process: repeal the disorderly conduct law, replace the mayor the police commissioner, change the rules the cops work under, etc. Not constitutional stuff at all.

      Did the judge you mention say that there is any legally cognizable constitutional claim arising from these facts? If I’m wrong, I want to hear it.

      Incidentally, the thrust of police work in recent years has been on a “broken windows” theory, which means that there will be more, not less, cracking down on things like persistent, repeated public screams of profanity, after repeated requests that the screaming person get a grip. I don’t think that approach is going to change.

    11. Eddie Says:

      Links to back up three main assertions:

      1- Significant number of cops and ex-cops saying the arrest was not legit:

      http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1912777,00.html

      2- Judge Andrew Napolitano

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF85mQZClMI

      3- Mass. ex-prosecutor and legal blogger/expert:

      http://blogs.masslawyersweekly.com/news/2009/07/22/making-legal-sense-of-the-gates-arrest/

      4- First Amendment legal rulings undercutting Crowley’s legal rationale for his arrest of Gates

      http://www.examiner.com/x-536-Civil-Liberties-Examiner~y2009m7d30-During-this-teaching-moment-learn-about-the-First-Amendment

      http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/28/gates-crowley-arrest-first-amendment-free-speech-harvard-opinions-contributors-harvey-a-silverglate.html?partner=email

      5- Doubt about the standing of the charge under Mass. law

      http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2009/07/the-henry-louis-gates-jr-arrest-and-disorderly-conduct.html

      6- Mass. law requiring Sgt. Crowley to comply with Gates’ request for ID/badge info

      http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/41-98d.htm

    12. Eddie Says:

      “Incidentally, the thrust of police work in recent years has been on a “broken windows” theory, which means that there will be more, not less, cracking down on things like persistent, repeated public screams of profanity, after repeated requests that the screaming person get a grip. I don’t think that approach is going to change.”

      On that we can certainly agree.

      All the more reason for officers to show they actually incorporate their training for de-escalating situations. Our taxpayer budgets cannot afford more nuisance arrests, or worse, incorrect use of tasers and other NLWs for dealing with them that trigger (sometimes justified) lawsuits that are expensive and handled by the taxpayer, not the cop.

      From a taxpayer perspective, that is what kills me on this.

      As soon as he had Gates’ ID in his hand (as he stated in his report) and left out the front door, he should have kept going (he had already violated the law by refusing the legal request of Gates for his ID/Badge, so the die was cast anyway) and moved on to patrolling the neighborhood/city for actual criminals and not falsely arresting (again, the near-overwhelming legal analysis of this by prosecutors and experts of the arrest say it would not have held up in court so I am respectfully contrasting their collective judgment based on their legal background with your substantial background) pain in the butt citizens indignant at being interrogated by the police for an embarrassing screwup of their own.

      And what will be Sgt. Crowley’s punishment for violating Mass. law requiring him to furnish ID info to Gates? He’s a martyr now for police everywhere so the union (ah yes, unions!) will ensure nothing comes of it. Another instance of the lack of accountability that is endemic in police departments across the country, with taxpayers left footing the bill.

    13. Lexington Green Says:

      Eddie, I am going to look into this Constitutional business some more. I think Napolitano has the facts and law wrong, but I am going to check further. Thanks for the substantive response.

      I do not worry too much about over-aggressive cops as a public menace. Where I live, the actual criminals are menace enough — I live close to some very bad areas — and the cops in my community have a lot of serious work to do, and they seem to do a good and professional job overall. I want them to respond quickly and aggressively to reported crimes, as I have seen them do. My inclination is to treat the cops with civility and cooperation, at least as my first response. So far that has served me well.

    14. Eddie Says:

      Lex,

      The lack of accountability (and its cost via sometimes not so frivolous lawsuits) for some police officers just grates me like little else because of the union element and that officers reflexively try to justify even the worst kind of behavior (aside from murder/rape). I think the Navy ruined me on civilian life in that I cannot respect institutions which don’t foster a culture of accountability in at least the rank and file. I blame the police union culture for much of the problems internally in urban police forces, because the bad cops get to stay and the good cops have to take it or just leave (granted there are considerably more good/okay cops than bad ones).

      I do respect what officers do for us, and I am eternally grateful for their presence in our lives to protect us from the very real and dangerous criminals that are out there preying on the vulnerable. I just think we sometimes place them on a pedestal that is considerably too high when it comes time to owning up to mistakes or significant errors of judgment.

      “I do not worry too much about over-aggressive cops as a public menace.”

      Agreed. I am wrong if I come across as implying they are out there destroying as many lives and running roughshod over as many people’s rights as criminals do. I just see far too many instances of insulting non-punishment and correction on their part, which has rubbed me the wrong way in a profound manner because of the attitude some seem to take that they are above the law (insert any of the last 5-10 instances of serious disregard for the law by them in the past month alone that are out on the internet).

      Cutting corners in police work (which is usually the motivator or linch pin of the matter) is a habit hard to break, which begins with a bit of evidence tampering or official record falsifying to help a buddy out or cover required legal grounds and then can easily escalate into far more serious and damaging leaps of hubris. We have thousands of wrongful convictions, expensive false imprisonment lawsuits, repeat crimes by offenders not caught because the police settled lazily on the wrong person with weak evidence, etc. Yet you can rarely speak of such things in a public and conductive manner because police have been and continue to be a sainted interest group in society. Criticism is inherently seen as politicized or based in a race or class narrative.

    15. peterike Says:

      TdaxP blurts: It is unfortunate that Gates assumed that Crowley was a normally-functioning, intelligent, and rational human being, and not just a corrupt and lazy cop. He foolishly attempted to divise a rational reason for Crowley’s weird pattern of behavior, and assumed that he coudl talk about it. If he had realized that Crowley was semi-literate (at least to the extent that his report contradicted his verbal write) thug (at least to the extent that his actions were so unprofessional and embarrasing they were immediately repudiated), he could have avoided the inconvenience.

      Wow. Just wow. An astonishing pile of contentious bilge. TdaxP’s entire rant is from the bizarro world of the Left where THE MAN is always beating down the door of the downtrodden.

      I can’t believe the rediculous degree of analysis this story has obtained, like it’s a Thomas Pynchon novel or something. TdaxP even goes all lit-crit on it when he hilariously ventilates this gem of po-mo stupidity: “your post is a satire of leftism, it is a mockery of critical theory.”

      Critical theory? What the f? Dude, this wasn’t a “text.” It was the real world, where things are pretty easily explained most of the time.

      It goes like this. Cop shows up, asks a perfectly normal and responsible question. Gates mouths off like the white hating, self-important ego maniacal jackass that he is. More foolishness ensues.

      Ahhh for the good old days when the cop could have smacked the disrespectful punk in the mouth and left him with a bloodied lip to teach him some manners. Instead, the entire nation is expected to cow-tow to Gates golden idol image of himself. The schola! The genius! The purveyor of third rate junk!

      Really, at some point or other in their lives the knee-jerk phony praise of fellow travelers turns all these academics into monsters of ego. Gates is just another douchebag academic, and not even a good one. What a farce.

    16. tdaxp Says:

      Shannon,

      As you have not bothered to answer any of my questions, either from my recent comment or from the one that this post was theoretically in response to, there is nothing for me to say until you do so.

      This is your blog, so you can continue your monologue as long as you want. Maybe you even have a career as a talk radio host in front of you. There’s a long and proud tradition of demagogues in Western civilization. Just not within the circle of honest discussion.

      Lexington,

      Dan, you simply don’t know what you are talking about when you throw around the word unconstitutional. It has a legal meaning. You have expertise in your field. It has terms of art which can be used correctly or incorrectly. No issues of constitutional magnitude were implicated by this event.

      Is your argument here that the Constitution provides no protection from arbitrary home-invasion and imprisonment, or that the protection it does provide would not fall under the term ‘Constitutional.’

      If the former, this is fascinating, and I would love to learn more.

      If the matter, then we are merely quibbling over jargon.

      Eddie,

      Great contributions! Thanks!

      All,

      I posted my own thoughts on the Peace v. The Constitution subtext of this conversation. [1]

      [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2009/08/17/peace-or-the-constitution.html

    17. Shannon Love Says:

      Eddie,

      The question of whether the Massachusetts public disorder law or the police enforcement of it is wise, just or even Constitutional is a separate matter from my point. The “story” under discussion isn’t one of a man being swept up by overly broad police powers. The story is one of a black man being singled out for abuse by white cop acting out of racist hatred. Gates isn’t holding himself out as a martyr for property rights and free speech. He is holding himself out as symbolizing the plight of the black man in America. He doesn’t think his problems stemmed from to much state power, he thinks it stems from the moral flaws of white people. Likewise, when Obama dragged Crowley to the White House, they weren’t discussing the relationship of the citizen to the state but the relationship between whites and blacks. It is to this idea that I speak.

      As well, Crowley’s refusal to give this information as repeatedly requested by Gates was an escalation of the situation in full contradiction of Crowley’s training and his legal duty as a Massachusetts police officer.

      So, you are asserting as fact that Crowley lied in his report when he says that he repeatedly tried to give Gates his badge number but that Gates kept interrupting him? Remember that Crowley’s version is backed up by the other officer inside the house. It seems an important point for you so I would like to know what information you have that gives you such an iron certainty that Crowley was lying.

      I don’t think such information exist. Instead, the narrative supplies it without you noticing. You just assumed that Crowley was lying that is how the story goes.

      I am sympathetic to the argument the multiracial group of Cambridge and Harvard police who were on the scene overstepped their authority but that is a separate issue from whether they did so out of racism. If they did, then they did so out of habit because they have gotten used to throwing people in jail to cool off. If you wish to argue that Crowley lost patients with Gates because Gates was a jerk and then overstepped his authority, then I concede that is a possibility.

      But again, that is not what the pubic debate is about. Only a few on the right, largely libertarians see this as a conflict between individual citizen and state agent. Everyone else sees it as a conflict between white and black. I argue that the facts do not support a racial explanation.

    18. tdaxp Says:

      Peterike,

      I did not see your rude and inaccurate comment, and I did not purposefully ignore it.

      I was tempted to simply quote your most extreme line…

      Ahhh for the good old days when the cop could have smacked the disrespectful punk in the mouth and left him with a bloodied lip to teach him some manners.

      … and leave it at that. After all, who else but a violent thug could support violent thuggery on our streets?

      Then I realized that I just came back from a country in which the police regularly smack citizens they feel are not respectful enough. Indeed, I spend about a month every summer in Beijing, and it is a very safe city. There is very little chance of you running into what Lex would call an “actual criminal.” There is a very great chance that if you disrespect the police (by actually stealing something, mouthing off, complaining about abuse, etc.) that a bloodied lip will be the least of your worries.

      The People’s Republic, of course, has a Constitution. Its just that most of it is ignored.

      What strange days we live in, where would-be conservatives like Peterike despise their Constitution, and wish they lived in the People’s Republic!

      I’ve said before the Chinese Communist Party is simply the Republican Party, without the religious right. I was thinking of economic policy when I wrote this, but clearly many right-wing Republican netroots admire New China’s state’s law & order policies, too.

      Eddie,

      Shannon’s latest shows her selective defense of the Constitution pretty well:

      The story is one of a black man being singled out for abuse by white cop acting out of racist hatred. Gates isn’t holding himself out as a martyr for property rights and free speech. He is holding himself out as symbolizing the plight of the black man in America.

      It is hard to believe that Shannon could say this with a straight face. After writing a post called the power of narratives, and just one day after Lex described as “distasteful” Herbert Macuse’s Repressive Tolerance, Shannon defends Crowley’s actions because Gates is engaging in political speech he disagrees with!

      No wonder only his goat chorus takes him seriously.

    19. tdaxp Says:

      PS: Gates was quite right to demand Crowley’s ID number, and he correctly guessed he was dealing with a bad apple when Crowley refused to supply him with one.

      Of course, life without a Constitution means that the people have no way of protecting themselves from police abuse. This means that “threats” against officers aren’t just to their careers (as the public can rightfully do at any time in a free country), but in the form of mob violence

      http://www.chinasmack.com/pictures/hui-minority-beats-lanzhou-chengguan/

      So-called conservatives on this blog want the police to be above the law, and so guarantee that the people’s recourse against the police will not be lawful. I have too much sympathy for the police to put them in that much danger.

    20. Eddie Says:

      Shannon,

      Thank you for replying.

      “So, you are asserting as fact that Crowley lied in his report when he says that he repeatedly tried to give Gates his badge number but that Gates kept interrupting him?”

      Sgt. Crowley seems to have significant aspects of his report in dispute, from trying to stage the scene in his report as one which had attracted onlookers because of Gates’ poor behavior (most of these onlookers were his neighbors wondering what was happening to him, as reported on a CNN panel discussion with the 911 caller’s lawyer and a neighbor of Gates) to the discrepancies between his version of events and the woman’s recorded 911 call (and subsequent on-scene discussion with Sgt. Crowley).

      When I see such conflicts, I have to question the integrity of the officer’s full account of the situation. So I cannot disqualify Gates’ insistence that he was not given Crowley’s ID, when Crowley was required by law to give him a written info/ID card. Further, in such a situation, if Sgt. Crowley claims he was repeatedly interrupted when he tried to give that card (which all Massachusetts police carry with them at all times on duty), that interruption would have to had to be a physical one (i.e. Crowley could have told Mr. Gates he could not argue with him and placed the info card on a surface near Gates in his view) to be a credible interruption (i.e. Gates smacking Crowley’s hand away as he tried to give him the info card), something which could have constituted assault on a police officer and would have given Sgt. Crowley the legal cover to arrest Gates.

      “I am sympathetic to the argument the multiracial group of Cambridge and Harvard police who were on the scene overstepped their authority but that is a separate issue from whether they did so out of racism. If they did, then they did so out of habit because they have gotten used to throwing people in jail to cool off. If you wish to argue that Crowley lost patients with Gates because Gates was a jerk and then overstepped his authority, then I concede that is a possibility.”

      I agree that the media narrative has focused foolishly on the race aspect, as has the narrative of commentators on the right and left. That is a tragedy. This likely had very little to do with race.

      Its actually a damn shame. I had hoped other conservatives would have seized on this as libertarians did, but I can understand how the President foolishly bringing race into it (I agreed with him on the first two points of his comments and then he jumped into the cesspool with the “men of color” third point) just dumped gasoline all over this fire and rendered any hope of a different prevailing or even significant narrative impossible.

    21. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Crowley was given a standing ovation at the FOP convention this week. That union endorsed Obama. Obama seems to be a bull carrying his own china shop around. He doesn’t understand that tonsillectomy became rare about 1977. He doesn’t understand that surgeons don’t get paid much for diabetic amputations. He doesn’t understand that policemen responding to a burglary call might worry about their own safety.

    22. Shannon Love Says:

      After writing a post called the power of narratives, and just one day after Lex described as “distasteful” Herbert Macuse’s Repressive Tolerance, Shannon defends Crowley’s actions because Gates is engaging in political speech he disagrees with!

      I did no such thing. I simply described the narrative as it unfolded on national TV. The idea that I am advocating any suppression of speech is entirely a matter of your invention. Your just having an argument with the little Shannon that lives in your head instead of me.

      I would note that you have failed to address any issues of fact that I discussed. You never told me at what point Crowley’s actions became unreasonable or conversely why Gates was entitled to act as he did. You might feel the sequence of events and their context are irrelevant but I do not. If you wish to understand my argument you have to start with the sequence I outlined in the parent.

      I am a technical person. By training and inclination, I approach problems methodically being careful to access what information I have at each stage of the process and what quality of information I have. I really can’t deal with your scattershot, narrative driven, rhetorical mode of argumentation which strays far from any even quasi-objective facts.

    23. Eddie Says:

      Michael,

      The FOP, like other unions in America, stands for the embrace of the incompetent, the tolerance of the lousy and the solidarity of false equality. Him getting a standing ovation from that bunch is about as impressive as a standing O from the Harvard Chapter of Chavezismo or all 11 members of the Jimmy Carter Appreciation Committee.

    24. tdaxp Says:

      Shannon,

      You claim to be methodological. In that case, maintain some coherency to this discussion by addressing the points I raised about three weeks ago. Perhaps you are amused by evading a dialog. I am not.

      To answer your most recent questions

      I would note that you have failed to address any issues of fact that I discussed.

      This is untrue.

      You never told me at what point Crowley’s actions became unreasonable

      I have repeatedly done so. Here is yet another summary

      1. Upon his breaking the entering of Dr. Gates’ home
      2. Upon his refusal to identify himself to Dr. Gates
      3. Upon his ordering Dr. Gates to leave his house
      4. Upon his arbitrary arrest of Dr. Gates
      5. Upon his fraudulent, self-contradictory summary of 1-4

      or conversely why Gates was entitled to act as he did

      The first amendment. If you want to be technical, through in the fourteenth, which prohibited state legislators from infringing on Dr. Gates’ right of free speech. If you want to be philosophical, you could say something about the natural right to security in one’s home. If you want to be theological, you could note that the natural right is derived from nature & nature’s God.

      But “the Constitution” is as good a summary as any.

      Now that I have repeatedly answered your evasions, please respond to my post of three weeks ago. It is tiring to wait. It is hard for me to believe that you are this clearly the weakest of the CB stable, so I assume there has to be something worthwhile in a dialog with you.

      After this recess of three weeks, I hope you resume it.

    25. Larry Dunbar Says:

      “The average resident in an upper-middle class university neighborhood doesn’t start screaming at the police when they show up.”

      I find it hard to believe Crowley would actually believe something like that. In fact, probably, the opposite is true, and is one reason the events unfolded as they did. Crowley may have had the experience that people who have more to lose have the potential to be more vocal about their loss than people who have less to lose. I don’t know that to be true, but that is all Crowley is responding to, the potential of the situation and not the situation itself.

      Crowley may have believed all along that it was Gate’s house and he belonged there, but Crowley needed to bring Gates into his OODA loop and out of Gate’s own. While Police officers may not be taught using that language, it is really what they are doing when they show up on the scene. They need to take control of the situation, which means control of the OODA loops of those within the same environment, including the “missing” person.

      Perhaps this process (evolving of OODA loops) happens even slower in a upper-middle class university neighborhood. One, the final outcome (arrest) may not be as apparent to someone like Gates in his environment of an upper-middle university neighborhood , or two, as it has been commented on before, maybe Gates just didn’t care about a possible arrest and was sure of the outcome. Gates felt no need to change his OODA loop.

      Gates could have been still in his own loop and saw this effort, to isolate him to Crowley’s advantage, as it related to his classroom environment. As stated before in your comment section, perhaps he knew he could be arrested, but also knew the outcome would be to his advantage, so resisted the movement from his OODA loop to Crowley’s.

      As for Crowley, he may not have been able to successfully complete his movement of the environment into his OODA loop. This caused zero feed-back and lowered the possibility of evolving the situation to his advantage. I imagine as police officers, you win some and lose some, but in the end it is all in the feed-back you receive.

    26. Paul Milenkovic Says:

      “I have repeatedly done so. Here is yet another summary

      1. Upon his breaking the entering of Dr. Gates’ home
      2. Upon his refusal to identify himself to Dr. Gates
      3. Upon his ordering Dr. Gates to leave his house
      4. Upon his arbitrary arrest of Dr. Gates
      5. Upon his fraudulent, self-contradictory summary of 1-4”

      I was under the impression that there was such a thing as a lawful police order. Such as a police officer being called because a neighbor observed someone who turned out to be the legal resident making forced entry into the house, and the officer issuing a lawful and reasonable police order to allow the officer to safely determine the facts. Such as a police officer giving a lawful order for someone to stop talking so that the police officer could talk on the police radio.

      I was originally sympathetic to Professor Gates, knowing him by his public reputation, and to President Obama, knowing the professor more personally but perhaps largely on his public reputation. But if I had broken into my own house because the lock or door was faulty, and if a police officer showed up, my first instinct would be to say, “Someone must have seen me forcing the door. I live here — the door jammed on me. Can I show you some I.D.?

      I was also put off by the “no apology” response from Officer Crowley, because I have seen public cases where police, prosecuter, and judges can act unaccountably. A better response would have been simply to say “I followed all relevant police procedures” and not make any remarks about apology or non-apology.

      But perhaps there comes a time to beat a strategic retreat and perhaps admit that maybe Professor Gates should have responded a little more calmly and cooly to the Officer. My natural inclination would be to take Tdaxp’s point of view, but after a while a person gets to accept the stubborn facts and move on, as they say.