I have refrained from commenting too much on the situation in Ferguson, mostly because there are so many people actually on the scene there who are doing a far better job. The mainstream news has been awful in covering all of this — it’s being treated as your classic “urban unrest” story even if it’s anything but — but each morning I look back at my Twitter feed at the reports of journalists and citizens on the scene in Ferguson from the night before and I’m heartbroken.
Heartbroken that a kid is dead for apparently no reason. Heartbroken that no one seems all that eager to hold the kid’s killer to account. Heartbroken that, in response to wholly understandable protests about all of this, the police have chosen to escalate, perpetrate and incite violence and to arrest people who have the temerity to exercise their First Amendment rights. How can this not break your heart?
But while I can’t comment with much insight about what is happening in Ferguson, some of what has spun out of this has infuriated me. Stuff like politicians calling voter registration drives in Ferguson “disgusting.” We all must, apparently, remain silent while democracy breaks down around us, but an effort to involve people in democracy is “disgusting?” Do people not hear themselves? Is the political playbook so inviolate and the game plan which demands that “the other side” be allowed no perceived advantage so locked in that the patent absurdity of such statements eludes them?
Or how about this op-ed from a police officer/security professor in the Washington Post which seeks to tell people what it’s really like to be a cop:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
I’m sure a lot of people who consider themselves pro-law and order will nod along with that, taking comfort in his confident matter-of-fact tone. People love that stuff, actually. It makes them feel that they’re privy to the no-nonsense world of Men Who Get Things Done. There are entire industries built around that impulse.
But the thing is: almost none of the behaviors he cites actually justifies a use of force. Indeed, you can quite legally call a cop any name you’d like or tell him anything you’d like short of a physical threat and, under the law, not expect to be shot, tased or beaten. Perhaps that’s crazy, but it is 100% true.
But not to this police officer. A police officer who purports to speak for other police officers. Who, if this man is to be believed, think it’s totally OK to use force, not just to protect themselves or others, but to shut people up or to summarily punish them for voicing their objections.
And we wonder how things like Ferguson can happen.
So I wrote an 8,000-word piece about how, contrary to popular opinion, baseball is not sick and is not dying and how the game today is much healthier than it was, even in its alleged Golden Age.
I have no idea if it’s any good. I think most sports writing that exceeds a couple thousand words is piffle. It’s just sports, after all, so this may very well suck.
I’m mostly just shocked that my attention span is still good enough after five years of full-time blogging and tweeting that I can write anything that long. Back in the legal days I’d write multiple motions and memoranda in support that long every month. These days I get the shakes if I make it to 800 words.
Oh well. I’ll link it when it sees the light of day.
SketchFactor, the brainchild of co-founders Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington, is a Manhattan-based navigation app that crowdsources user experiences along with publicly available data to rate the relative “sketchiness” of certain areas in major cities.
Based on the story, complete with the details of the founders working at non-profits in their early 20s, being intimidated by Washington D.C. neighborhoods, getting this app off the ground with family money and, more than anything, their smiling, lily-white faces, the people behind this app have lived pretty damned privileged lives. It would not surprise me in the least if the impetus for this app was borne of their utter cluelessness about what actually difficult neighborhoods are like, how to know when one encounters them and how to act when one does.
And while I take them at their word that they in no way want this app to turn into a tool of latent racists or, even worse, actual racists, they are deluded in the extreme if they do not think that that is exactly what it will become. I predict a near perfect overlap of their “sketchy” map and a census map showing a geographic racial breakdown. And while, yes, there is a pretty heavy correlation between disadvantaged areas and crime, there is abundant data available on this already and a map of high crime areas could easily be produced. By crowd-sourcing this, these people are asking for their app to become a depository of racial profiling.
Probably doesn’t matter. These two will probably make $20 million off this thing and then become vague consultants of some sort. Since that’s inevitable, we should at least try to fuck the deck a bit here. Everyone: download this app and mark every single neighborhood in which privileged rich white kids congregate as “sketchy.”
Sure, that’s sabotage, but it also has the benefit of being true.
UPDATE: I am not 100% these are the same people, but The Independent says that the founders of SketchFactor are the same people who were behind a similar app called “Ghetto Tracker” last year. That site was straight up vile, and made no effort to hide its racist motivations. If it’s not true, I would hope that the SketchFactor people would have seen the uproar Ghetto Tracker caused and thought better of their endeavor. If it is true and these are the same people merely attempting to offer a sanitized version of Ghetto Tracker, they are not entitled to the benefit of the doubt for which they so desperately ask in the linked article.
The guy’s whose debut album has the above cover, and whose first single — “Party Hard” — was featured in both an EA Sports Madden Football video game and a “Girls Gone Wild” video, pretty much perfectly states the proper way to approach politics.
OK, maybe it skews a tad cosmic for my tastes, but he’s basically 100% right about how you shouldn’t believe you have a monopoly on wisdom, that your opponents are usually not monsters who want to destroy all that you hold dear and that our tendency to reduce everything to your side vs. my side is toxic.
In hindsight, we should’ve probably known all along that the man who put out an album called “I get wet” knew what the fuck he was talking about.