Posts tagged Bullshit

Siege mentality

Last month, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine published another ill-tempered tirade by retired L.A. cop Dean Scoville in the magazine’s Patrol Tactics section. (You may recall Sergeant Scoville from his previous ill-tempered tirade in which he openly praised police brutality against captive prisoners.) This most recent tirade, Four More Cops Killed: Where Is The Outrage? launches into this subject with the following claims of imminent and growing danger that people (non-police) pose to government police:

Shortly before I retired, I openly speculated that we were on the cusp of a new era where people would increasingly bring the fight to us. Moreover, I said they would prove to be greater threats, less predisposed to gangsta-style shooting and actually recognize the significance of sight alignment and trigger control.

I also noted that technology has helped the people who want to kill us develop better eye-hand coordination and tactics via video games and other poor man’s combat simulators, …. They have also become more sophisticated in their choice of weaponry, and are fast becoming better armed than us, accessorizing with everything from laser sights to cop-killer bullets.

… More recently, economic stress, racial strife, a resurrection of militia types, and spillover from Mexican cartel activity have made this toxic cocktail even deadlier.

— Sergeant Dean Scoville (2009-12-01), POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine: Four More Cops Killed: Where Is The Outrage?

He closes the article with the following credo:

Yes, I believe that the job is increasingly dangerous. And it is made more so by what is put out there about it.

(This is used as a springboard for a couple pages’ worth of rambling complaints against society at large for our willingness to embrace anti-cop sentiments and stereotypes, with a special focus on the alleged anti-cop drum beating of Hollywood, rap music, and those segments of society who have fundamentally failed to hold their own [sic] accountable — and, just so we’re clear, by those segments of society, Scoville means niggers,[1] Also, I guess he’s pissed off that Dick Wolf decided to cast Ice-T as a cop in Law and Order: SVU.)

Scoville’s claim that being a government cop is increasingly dangerous is not an isolated claim. For example, down in the comments section on the article, another retired government cop, mtarte, writes:

I’m retired now and still wish I could do the job, but today’s cops are in much more dangerous situations than ever before.

— mtarte, in re: Sergeant Dean Scoville (2009-12-01), POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine: Four More Cops Killed: Where Is The Outrage?

In Milwaukee, by way of explanation for why Milwaukee Police Department had begun arming regular patrol cops with semiautomatic rifles:

It’s obvious that our officers are facing an increasingly dangerous threat to their safety as well as the safety of the community as represented by these weapons ….

— Police Chief Ed Flynn, quoted in Officer.com (2009-04-24): Milwaukee Police Increase Firepower

CRIPT Academy, a tactical training outfit for government cops, says that it:

… provides cutting edge training, information, and service that is continually updated to adapt to today’s fluid environment which is becoming increasingly dangerous for those professionals that must operate in harm’s way.

— Officer.com Directory: CRIPT Academy Mobile Training Teams

If you spend much time at all reading articles and public statements by government police, you’re likely to see this received factoid over and over again. Time never alters it; things only get more and more dangerous. No matter what year it is, it’s always this year that’s poised to become the most dangerous year for police ever; in 2007, in an article on how government cops can better confuse detained Suspect Individuals about their rights to refuse searches, former government cop and government prosecutor Devallis Rutledge offered the following:

So far, 2007 is the deadliest year for law enforcement officers in nearly three decades.

— Devallis Rutledge, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (October 2007): How to Justify Officer Safety Searches

The thing is that all these claims are false. Both in factual detail and in overarching narrative. They could easily have been discovered to be false by taking even a cursory glance at statistics about police deaths in the line of duty. In fact, 2009, when Dean Scoville declared the job to be increasingly dangerous, was the safest year for government police in the U.S. since 1959, in terms of absolute numbers of police officers killed while on duty. With only a few exceptions, the number of government police killed on the job had been decreasing steadily for the past 35 years. Here’s the annual data for the past 35 years, as reported by the Officer Down Memorial Page yearly reports.[2]

Year Total line-of-duty deaths Deaths from violent attacks
(Excluding terrorist attacks.)
Total violent deaths adjusted to 2009 population
1974279149215.48
1975240148211.93
1976202117165.92
1977189108151.63
1978215109151.42
1979214120164.87
1980210113153.44
1981201105141.18
1982194100133.18
198319392121.41
198418483108.59
198517985110.23
198617880102.79
198718284106.97
198819485107.26
19891967998.75
19901627187.76
19911487591.47
19921707286.60
19931638398.53
199418086100.84
19951857789.22
19961436473.30
19971777686.00
19981766673.82
19991514954.18
20001635560.13
20012426772.45
20021596367.41
20031475154.22
20041645658.99
20051645456.37
20061565455.84
20071936566.56
20081384242.62
20091204949.00

Or, if you prefer, here’s the chart. The blue line represents the absolute number of cops killed that year in the line of duty; the yellow line best represents the overall danger to cops from violent attacks (specifically, the number killed in violent attacks against police, adjusted to the U.S. population at the end of 2009).

It shows three lines, each sinking steadily with occasional upticks, for the total number of police deaths, the total number due to violent attacks, and the total number of violent deaths adjusted for 2009 population.

Coming back to Devallis Rutledge’s deadliest year in nearly three decades, it’s true that 2007 saw a sudden jump in the number of police killed, compared to 2006. (The next two years saw a sudden drop back to the trend of decreasing police deaths.) But the main reason for that was a jump in deaths due to automobile accidents and other accidental deaths; the number of cops killed in violent attacks — 65 total — was less than the total number killed in 2001, let alone the much higher rates of violent deaths in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. And in fact, if you adjust for the increases in the total population, and the absolute number of police on the streets, it turns out that the increasing safety of government police over the past 35 years is only the tail end of a general trend that has been going on since 1921. (The temporary uptick in violent police deaths from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s never ended up producing more per-capita violent deaths than there had been in 1935.) Following the yellow line, you can see that 2008 and 2009, at the tail end of this trend were the safest years to be a police officer in over 110 years.

Here's a chart showing three lines, each sinking steadily with occasional upticks, for the total number of police deaths, the total number due to violent attacks, and the total number of violent deaths adjusted for 2009 population. The yellow line, representing the number of violent deaths of cops adjusted for U.S. resident population, shows the steepest and most consistent decline, with 2008 and 2009 lower than any other years else on the chart.

In other words, it’s never been safer to be a cop in America than it has been over the past 2 years. Yet boss cops, spokespeople for the government police, and articles written by cops and for cops, constantly repeat the demonstrably false claims that criminals are more violent than ever before, and that government cops somehow face more danger on their patrols now than they ever have before. That this is a complete lie would be obvious to anyone who had spent 15 minutes perusing the police’s own institutions and resources for honoring their fallen comrades. The interesting question, then, is what kind of purpose the constant refrain of this unfact from government police serves — what it means when ever-more-heavily-armed government cops keep insisting on a completely mythical ever-present, ever-increasing danger to their politically-sacred persons, in spite of the evidence of the senses and the consistent trends over the last century of historical reality. When you see heavily-armed, well-protected men trying so very hard to psych themselves up to believe in a growing danger that does not actually exist — and when this constantly repeated Big Lie is used to slam pop-culture for any attempt to portray any abuse of police power; to swat down real-life complaints about police belligerence or invasions against civil liberties; to explain the alleged need for assault rifles, tanks, cordoning off strategic hamlets in inner cities, and a niche industry in warrior mindset trainings — I couldn’t much blame you if you did see some real danger in this concerted effort to inculcate and reinforce a consciously-constructed, fact-resistant permanent siege mentality among patrol cops. But not danger for the cops.

Do you feel safer now?

[1] These cop haters are often composed of those segments of society who have fundamentally failed to hold their own accountable, the likes of whom celebrated the King riots, the O.J. acquittal, and the Oakland shootings. This is followed up by out-of-left-field references to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Earl Ofari Hutchinson.

[2] If you’re interested in getting the dataset in spreadsheet format, just drop me a line and I’ll send it along. For what it’s worth, if you compare thse figures with figures from other sources, like the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund annual statistics, the numbers are typically very similar, but differ by a few. I presume that this is from differences over which agencies to count as law enforcement officers (Officer Down, for example, counts MPs deployed on overseas assignments.) In any case, the numbers tend to reveal the same trends over time. I used Officer Down’s numbers because they provided an easily-accessible breakdown on causes of death over the years they covered.

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Anarcho-liberal-socialistic-fascialidocious!

I’ve got to hand it to Charles Lawson at the Reno Gazette-Journal. This may be the single most ideologically confused — and confusing — pair of declarative sentences that I have read in my adult life.

Getting back to [filmmaker Michael] Moore, he’s nothing more than an anarchist in liberal clothes. As a socialist, he’s following the lead of Nazi Germany, which many don’t know started out as a socialist state.

— Charles Lawson, Reno Gazette-Journal (2009-10-09): In My Opinion: Jail project snafu in the making, ‘idiot’ unmasked…

You may simply take this as an object lesson in how low the intellectual standards for Op-Ed page political tirades are, or how carelessly many people throw around temrs without regard for their meanings (even when those meanings are not only different, but opposite from each other) once they start trying to make political digs. But for me, the remarkable thing about this passage is that it serves as a masterpiece of the efficient use of language: how many passages do you know where the author can utter only 2 sentences, asserting only 3 simple propositions between them, and yet manage to pack in at least 6 different errors about politics, history, and contemporary pop culture?

Sprachkritik (im Sinne Krauses) #3: a message from the commissar

From the inside cover of this year’s I.R.S. Form 1040 forms & instructions booklet:

A Message from the Commissioner

Dear Taxpayer,

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. notably said Taxes are what we pay for civilized society. We should be proud that the vast majority of American citizens pay their taxes honestly and of their own free will. In an ever more complex and global world, we cannot take for granted this cornerstone principle of our democracy.

For the IRS’s part, we owe it to all taxpayers to make the process of paying taxes as easy as possible. IRS employees are dedicated to helping taxpayers to quickly get their questions answered, complete their forms, pay their taxes, and get back to their lives. From the telephone representative who answers tax law questions, to the walk-in site employees who help low-income taxpayers, to the technicians that design and build our website — www.irs.gov — we are committed to providing top quality service.

Unfortunately, there will always be some that cheat their fellow citizens by avoiding the payment of their fair share of taxes. The IRS owes it to the millions of you who promptly pay your taxes in fll to pursue these people through strong enforcement programs. I believe this is a basic matter of fairness.

If you need more information about taxes, I hope you’ll visit us online at www.irs.gov, or call us toll free at 1-800-829-1040. Your government works for you, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you need help.

Sincerely,
Douglas H. Shulman

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Empirical falsifiability

So, Jesse Walker recently sent out his fraternal seasons’ greetings by posting a link to rathergood.com’s Communist Christmas over at Hit and Run (2008-12-15). I thought it was pretty funny and cute (kittens!). Right up until they dropped the joke about being worked to death in the gulag, at which point it lost its savor. I’m just mentioning this as a report on my reaction; I don’t have any worked-out analysis or theoretical explanation about why that would be.

But one way or another, before I ever clicked through from Google Reader to the original post, I already knew that the post would immediately provoke Internet Libertarian Trope #426 in the comments — the alleged softball treatment that Communist totalitarianism gets in pop culture compared with Nazi totalitarianism. And I was right. Thus, observe the second and third comments posted in the thread:

Erÿk Gabhran Boston, Esq. | December 15, 2008, 5:53pm | #

OK, who will be first to speculate on exactly what kind of shit would hit the fan if someone did that with the Nazi party?

Brandybuck | December 15, 2008, 5:59pm | #

Communists are the good totalitarians, so it’s okay to poke fun at them in a good natured and respectful manner. But Nazis are bad totalitarians, and humour is not allowed where they are concerned.

Oh, really?

Look, it’s certainly true that there are many cases in American pop culture where the Soviet regime is treated with a respect (or at least an indifference) that it doesn’t deserve. And if you just mean to say that this particular video turned out not to be funny in the end, because, you know, a lot of people died, and that’s used as a punchline, and jokes like that tend to suck, well, I’d probably agree with you about that much.

But while I’m sure you learned from the radio that all this has come about because the evil P.C. thought police who direct this culture of ours misspent their youth learning at the feet of a bunch of tenured deep cover foquistas and Cultural Revolutionaries — thus filling them with wistful nostalgia for Bolshevism and a big fat double standard in their indignation at the Nazis — well, I’m sorry, but as far as this case goes, your ideological indignation doesn’t actually have much of anything to do with the way the world is. And empirical reality will out eventually. And there’s no sense in just making shit up for rhetorical purposes.

Lincoln scholarship scholarship

Let’s compare and contrast.

Here’s Tom DiLorenzo at LewRockwell.com Blog

George Mason University Ph.D. candidate (public policy program) Phil Magness has had this terrific article published in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. It shows that, until his dying day, Dishonest Abe was hard at work trying to organize the colonization (i.e., deportation) of all the freed slaves.

— Tom DiLorenzo, LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-04-08): The Latest Scholarship on Lincoln’s Colonization Fetish

Here’s George Mason University Ph.D. candidate (public policy program) Phil Magness, in this terrific article published in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association:

Constrained by the limitations of written evidence, inquiry into Butler’s account becomes necessarily speculative. Given the general’s probable exaggerations, one conceivable scenario involves the conversation turning to the subjects of racial conflict and colonization, with Lincoln indicating his willingness to receive Butler’s suggestions. Such a conversation would fall short of the specific project Butler describes or Lincoln’s choice of Butler to complete the task, though it indicates the possibility, and perhaps even likelihood, that Lincoln still entertained colonization ideas. Many unlikely parts of the conversation appear in Butler’s quotations of himself, rather than those attributed to Lincoln. The use of black troops to establish a colony, the canal component, and the policy itself are all expressed as ideas of Butler, which I will suggest to you, Mr. President. Lincoln’s only reaction, there is meat in that, General Butler, is far from espousal of the plan’s particulars, though it would indicate a more likely scenario in which Lincoln patiently received and considered Butler’s suggestions.

The present inquiry set out to provide a firmer basis for evaluating Butler’s colonization anecdote by resolving the issue of its reported timeline. Though established in date, the anecdote leaves many additional questions unanswered and provides room for further examination of an underexplored area of Lincoln’s presidency. As the full conversation between Butler and Lincoln was known only to its participants, one of them assassinated only three days later and the other writing of it twice several decades after the fact, a comprehensive and unbiased record of its events is unlikely ever to emerge. What is certain is that a private meeting in 1865 between Butler and Lincoln occurred. The details of this meeting, as conveyed by Butler, exhibit duly acknowledged signs of embellishment and the distorting effects of their distance from the event itself. Beginning with the meeting’s known date though, the two Butler accounts deserve greater attention than they have received. Sufficient evidence exists to merit additional consideration of Lincoln’s colonization views later in life, and tends to caution against the conclusiveness that many scholars have previously attached to the view that Lincoln fully abandoned this position. The Butler anecdote remains an imperfect example, yet some of its more plausible details may indicate that Lincoln retained an interest in colonization, even if limited, as late as 1865.

— Phil Magness, Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 29.1 (Winter 2008): Benjamin Butler’s Colonization Testimony Reevaluated

Magness’s article shows nothing like what DiLorenzo claims it to show. Nor does it claim to show anything like what DiLorenzo claims it to show. What it shows (with a great deal of care and interesting detail) is that a common argument, based on problems with Butler’s timeline, for decisively rejecting a particular piece of evidence for the claim that Lincoln continued to advocate deportation and colonization of free blacks after 1863, is ill-founded, because, while Butler could not have met with Lincoln at the time he claimed in his memoirs (published decades after the fact), he did meet privately with Lincoln not long after, and a little-known second account that Butler gave of his meeting with Lincoln helps clarify which parts of the anecdote are more trustworthy and which parts are less trustworthy. Magness says that the evidence leaves open the possibility that Butler is telling the truth, although encrusted with misremembering and possibly deliberate exaggeration. Unfortunately, the facts being what they are, the anecdote leaves many questions about Lincoln’s final views unanswered, and many questions that it may be impossible ever to answer. But it remains possible that Lincoln was still interested in, though apparently not actively working on, small-scale colonization schemes near the end of his life. Scholars who reject the possibility, and Butler’s testimony, out of hand need to reconsider their views, and Butler’s two accounts of the meeting deserve closer attention.

DiLorenzo would have us believe an entirely different claim — that this article decisively demonstrates that not that a particular piece of evidence should not be rejected out of hand, but rather that a particular conclusion on Lincoln’s views must be accepted, and that it decisively demonstrates not merely that it’s possible that Lincoln idly believed in colonization and patiently received and considered plans for small-scale projects while doing nothing to further them, but that he was actively pursuing colonization schemes up to the end of his life. None of these claims are anywhere to be found in the article.

There are already plenty of certain reasons to condemn Abraham Lincoln as a shameless opportunist, a dictatorial warlord, and, yes, a white supremacist and segregationist. There is no need to jump on any and every opportunity to manufacture new reasons, or to distort scholars’ claims so as to depict the case as being much stronger than the facts warrant, not to mention much stronger than the scholar in question ever claimed it to be. This mad-dog polemical style and partisan misrepresentation of arguments serve nobody.

Further reading: