At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Against the “Militarization” of the Police II

posted by Jack Kerwick

There’s a notion, popular among self-avowed “libertarians,” that among the largest threats facing our nation is that of “the militarization” of the police.  This idea has been expressed quite a bit as of late, particularly in the wake of the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

In a recent article of mine, I argued against it.

I am profoundly sympathetic to libertarianism.  Indeed, I consider myself a libertarian of a sort, a conservative libertarian, as it were, a libertarian who recognizes the need to emancipate libertarianism from the abstract, rationalistic excesses with which it is all too often saddled.

It is because of, not in spite of, my affection for libertarianism that I felt the need to take to task those who insist upon peddling this “militarization” of the police bit.  For purposes of clarity, I recapitulate my argument here.

(1)While it makes perfectly good sense to speak of the phenomenon of militarization, it makes zero sense to identify this with the mere possession of weaponry, or of weaponry of a specific sort.  Rather, the idea of militarization is inseparable from the ideas of purpose and coercion.  To be more exact, militarization occurs when moral agents are coerced into pursuing purposes—e.g. “victory”—that they may have otherwise chosen not to pursue.

To conclude that a police force is “militarized” because of the tools with which officers are equipped is like concluding that a person is a writer (“writer-ized”) because he is equipped with a computer and a creative imagination, or a mechanic (“mechanic-ized”) because he possesses a carjack and a sophisticated miscellany of tools.

It is the manner and purposes for the sake of which a person deploys his resources, and not the resources themselves, that determines what he is.

Similarly, it is the manner and purposes for the sake of which the police deploy their resources—their weaponry—and not their resources themselves that determine whether or not the police are “militarized.”

And this means that if the police are using their fierce weaponry to, not corral decent citizens into parting with their blood, sweat, and treasure to serve some visionary project of the government, but ward off fierce barbarians who are threatening to undo law and order, then it is simply inaccurate to say of the police that they are “militarized.”

(2)Since the “militarization” of the police is all about the weapons, things, the relevant question is: At what place should the line be drawn between police equipment that is morally acceptable and that which is unacceptable because it results in “militarization?” Should police not be permitted to wear helmets and bullet-proof vests? Should they not be allowed to carry guns at all?  What about armored vehicles with bullet-proof windows?

My contention is that, as long as we continue to identify “militarization” with the weapons with which police are armed, there is no non-arbitrary point at which to say: “Ah ha! The police are ‘militarized’!!”

(3)Libertarians above and beyond anyone else champion (at least in theory) the right to bear arms, the right of all law-abiding (adult) citizen to arm himself with, and carry, weaponry of all sorts.

Why is it permissible for private actors to bear such an arsenal but impermissible—“militaristic”—for the police to do so?

There is no rational answer to this question if one is a libertarian.  That private actors are not permitted to arm themselves to the extent that police officers are permitted to do so is a separate issue entirely, one that has absolutely no relevance to the topic at hand.

(4)Finally, as my former student, Tony Laudicina, military man and former military advisor to police, says, police are armed to the extent that they are because “the criminal threat” has become such that local law enforcement agencies simply wouldn’t be equipped to adequately resist it otherwise.

Tony writes: “I can tell you [that] it [the so-called “militarization” of the police] has everything to do with the criminal threat…LE [Law enforcement] agencies were ill trained and equipped to handle a criminal threat which was better armed and willing to use tactics that the police were vulnerable to.”

He adds: “We helped balance that by providing training and equipment to meet these evolving threats.”

In short, in just those areas—like Ferguson, Missouri—where police have exhibited the weaponry that have given rise to howls of “militarization,” Officer Friendly wouldn’t last a second.  Libertarians, then, who have a problem with these exertions of force on the part of besieged police in these bastions of violent crime should consider spending a fraction of the time that they reserve for blasting the police—or, more accurately (and more ludicrously), the “militarized” weapons of police—for blasting the outlaw thugs that made these weapons a necessity.

The latter is more politically-incorrect, and certainly more dangerous to one’s reputation, but it’s also more truthful.

 

Libertarianism and “The Militarization” of the Police

posted by Jack Kerwick

A line that has become all too common in some libertarian circles is that the key problem, or even a problem, in Ferguson, Missouri is a problem facing the rest of the nation.

This problem is what these libertarians have taken to calling “the militarization” of the police.

The charge that police forces have become “militarized” is almost as perplexing as the charge—also increasingly common among these same libertarians—that “racism” is alive and well among America’s police officers and white Americans generally.

And this, I believe, is because the term “militarization,” in this context, is about as meaningless as that of “racism.”

For starters, above all people, it is the libertarian who defends the right of the average, law-abiding citizen to own firearms.  Furthermore, the libertarian thinks that, in principle (even if not always necessarily in fact), the average, law-abiding citizen has a right to own whatever kind or kinds of firearms that he chooses—regardless of whether his neighbors think that he “needs” them or not.

So, if there is nothing objectionable about the hairdresser next door owning a bazooka or an M16, then why is it objectionable for the police—the police who exist solely for the purpose of shielding civilization from barbarism—to own and, if need be, use bazookas and M16’s?

Surely, it can’t be the mere presence of such weaponry in the hands of uniformed police officers that has the libertarian howling about “militarization.”  If so, then the libertarian sounds eerily similar to his leftist counterpart who can’t resist personifying inanimate objects like guns and SUV’s.

Maybe what’s got the libertarian’s goat is the fact that, as the law currently stands, police are permitted to possess weaponry that are forbidden to citizens: the latter should be permitted to own, say, machine guns, but they are not.

Now, if it is this that has the libertarian apoplectic, then he is in desperate need of new terms in which to cast his position, for it isn’t “the militarization” of the police at all to which he objects.  He is unhappy that citizens aren’t also allowed to be “militarized.”

It is as sensible for the libertarian to go on about “the militarization” of the police because it is illegal for citizens to bear comparable arms as it is sensible to become outraged over the practice of rewarding and punishing because, sometimes, individuals don’t deserve the rewards and punishments that they receive.

It is the distribution of benefits—in this case, arms—to which our laws lead, and not the benefits themselves, to which the libertarian objects.

Another consideration regarding the libertarian’s position against “the militarization” of the police is that it requires the drawing of precisely the sorts of arbitrary lines when it comes to distinguishing permissible from impermissible weaponry for police that the libertarian abhors when the discussion shifts to, say, the topic of drug legalization.

Since (as I too believe) the most significant argument for drug legalization adduced by the libertarian centers in an affirmation of the liberty of the individual (adult) to engage in self-destructive conduct, he rightly regards as capricious the decision to, say, legalize marijuana for recreational purposes while criminalizing other, “harder” drugs.  Similarly, if the police can be said to be “militarized” when officers are armed with, say, “rocket launchers,” then on what grounds can we deny that police are “militarized” when officers are armed with hand guns?

Were police “militarized” when, back during the Prohibition era, officers were armed with machine guns while combating Al Capone and his goons? If the libertarian answers this question in the negative, then we must inquire into the basis for his determination that police are non-militarized when packing machine gun heat but “militarized” when armed with more than this.

However, there is one final critique of the libertarian’s position, and, from his standpoint, it is by far and away the most important reason for why he should relinquish talk of police “militarization.”

England, for instance, is a place that is even more socialist and multi-cultural obsessed than the contemporary United States.  For this reason, it is more of a genuinely militarized society than is America.  That police in England are forbidden from carrying firearms changes this not one iota.

When a state—a “nation-state,” a “society”—is imagined to be, not a “civil association,” as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott describes what we’re inclined to call a “free society,” but an “enterprise association”—an organization animated by a grandiose vision toward the realization of which all members are coerced to contribute—there is, necessarily, militarization.

But the militarization is not to be found in the actual presence or possession by government of weaponry of one sort or another.  The militarization consists in two inseparable facts: (1) the society defines itself, or is defined by its self-styled representatives, in terms of some lofty goal or ideal—Equality, Virtue, Human Rights, Multi-Culturalism, Piety, Social Justice, Security, etc.; (2) the government is assigned, or assigns to itself, the role of “leader,” i.e. the role of “leading” (compelling) citizens toward the fulfillment of the ideal.

It is the existence of laws of a certain type, accompanied by the self-conception of a people that permits these kinds of laws to arise—not the apparatus in place to enforce those laws—that differentiates a militarized society from a non-militarized one.

A society with no military and police armed with sticks and stones can be more militarized than one with a standing military and cops armed to the teeth.

To be sure, America is, to an alarming degree, a militarized society.  But this is the point: America is militarized.  To speak of its police forces as being militarized totally misses the mark. It’s like a person who’s dying of lung cancer complaining that it is his lungs, not himself, that’s sick.  Yet even this analogy fails to capture the crux of the difficulty with this reasoning. More illustrative is the case of a cancer patient who identifies the chemo-therapy with which he’s treating his sickness with the sickness itself.

Moreover, complaining about “the militarization” of the police actually trivializes the real militarization, the marshalling of citizens’ resources in time and treasure, blood, sweat, and tears, for purposes of “National Greatness,” “Equality,” etc, in which our government has been engaged for a long, long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Libertarians” and “Racism”

posted by Jack Kerwick

In the wake of the shooting death of a young black man by a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer, it is to no one’s surprise that the usual suspects on the left are screaming “racism” from the rooftops.

Infinitely more disturbing for the lover of liberty is that ever growing legions of “libertarians” are regurgitating this same talking point.  Moreover, the libertarian’s obsession with “the State” has endowed him with boundless sympathy for the hordes of violent black criminals that have been violating every principle that he claims to hold sacred while attributing the assault against civilization on display in Ferguson to “the militarization” of the police.

“Paleo-libertarian” and long-standing World Net Daily writer, Ilana Mercer, takes to task Paul Craig Roberts, who recently suggested that “racism” may very well play a role in accounting for why so many whites are inclined to think that the shooting was justified.  In her own inimitable way, Mercer puts this line out to pasture by noting it for the “nonsense” and “bullshit” that it is.

There could be any number of reasons for why white Americans are disposed to sympathize with the decorated police officer for whose death the rioters are now calling, Mercer notes. Among such reasons, she remarks, is that these “ordinary Americans who Paul Craig Roberts maligns as likely racists…have simply experienced ‘black crime’ first hand, or are fearful of experiencing ‘black-on-white’ violence in all its ferocity [.]”

Some remarks are in order here.

First, anyone who is interested in thinking clearly and honestly must realize that “racism” is the rhetorical ware of bumper stickers and t-shirts: Because it means—and is intended to mean—all things to all people, it has become meaningless.  All that we do know is that “racism” is a dreadful, probably the most dreadfulthing, of which a white person can be accused.

To be called a “racist,” then, is like being called a “creep” or a “jerk,” only much, much worse.

Of course, no one knows why it’s supposed to be so terrible to be a “racist.”  In and of itself, a “racist” could signify someone who has a special place in his heart, a certain partiality, toward the members of his own race. Yet such affection for the members of one’s race no more betrays a weakness in one’s character than does a fondness for one’s family or one’s nation.

May not “racism” be the moral equivalent to “family-ism” or “patriotism?”

However we choose to slice and dice this matter, the point is that “racism” is a vapid term that any thoughtful person should’ve abandoned long ago.

But there is another reason why this silly word should never spring from the lips of any self-professed lover of liberty: the word isn’t just silly, it is dangerous. 

In fact, “racism” has proven to be more inimical to liberty in our time than has any other.

It is under the pretext of combating “racism,” after all, that freedom of association, private property rights, “’states’ rights”—comprehensively, the principle of “equality under the law”—have been decisively routed.  Our national government has all but revoked the federal government ratified by our Founders.  To no slight measure, this has occurred in the name of securing “racial equality” (while generating more inequality than ever).

In fueling the notion that, to this day, white America remains consumed by “racism,” self-avowed “libertarians,” whether they realize it or not, hasten liberty’s extinction by exacerbating the steady impulse toward ever greater concentrations of power.

The verdict is unambiguous: Incessant chirping over “racism” is inimical to both good sense and freedom alike.

A Tale of Two Fatal Police Shootings

posted by Jack Kerwick

As if the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri aren’t bad enough, now we have the situation in Salt Lake City, Utah with which to contend.

As the whole country knows, for the last week or so, large groups of blacks have taken to the streets of Ferguson in order to express their outrage over the shooting death of a young black man, 18 year-old Michael Brown, by a white 28 year-old police officer, Darren Wilson.  Mayhem and violence have been the order of the day. President Obama has weighed in on the issue, describing it as “heartbreaking.”  Attorney General Eric Holder has promised that “change is coming.”

On Wednesday, August 20, a white woman—a lone Darren Wilson supporter on the streets of Ferguson—had to be taken into police custody for fear of her life as swarms of angry blacks began to close in on her.  In addition to being screamed at, she was reportedly assaulted because she dared to sport a sign that read: “Y’all need to get your facts straight.”

Now, however, word has gotten out that there has been another police shooting of a young, “unarmed” man out in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Only this time, the man killed is white and the police officer who shot him is—wait for it!—black!

On August 11, 20 year-old Dillon Taylor was outside of a convenience store with two other men when he was approached by police.  The latter were allegedly on the scene in response to reports that an armed man was waving a gun.  According to witnesses, Taylor was wearing earphones and may have been trying to pull up his pants when an officer shot him dead.

Taylor did have a criminal record consisting of felony robbery and obstructing justice convictions.  Yet a woman, Marissa Martinez, whose sister had at one time dated Dillon, swears that he was in the process of amending his ways.  She characterizes his fate as “heartbreaking,” for “he was trying to do better for himself.”  And yet, Martinez asks, “this is what happens to him?”

Taylor’s aunt, Gina Thayne, insists that the police “killed an innocent kid,” a fact, she assures us, will indeed see the light of day in the event that the video of the event that police claim to possess is disclosed.

Chris Burbank, the police chief, refuses to reveal either the name of the officer or any other details, asserting that it would not be “appropriate” at this time to do so.

Notice both the similarities and differences between this case and the situation in Ferguson.

The similarities:

(1)There is an inter-racial encounter between law enforcement officer and a suspect.

(2)The suspect is allegedly “unarmed.”

(3)The officer opens fire upon the allegedly “unarmed” suspect.

(4) The allegedly “unarmed” suspect is shot and dies.

The differences:

(1)In Ferguson, the officer is white and the suspect is black.

In Salt Lake City, the officer is black and the suspect is white.

(2)Courtesy of media outlets around the country that have been tirelessly bombarding audiences with coverage of events in Ferguson, everyone and their mother now knows the names of Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson.

No one outside of Salt Lake City has ever heard of Dillon Taylor, and no one even there has yet any clue as to the identity of the black police officer who killed him.

(3)Legions of rabble have crawled out of the woodwork to terrorize—yes, terrorize—the town of Ferguson under the pretext of securing “justice” for Michael Brown.  People have been viciously beaten, law enforcement attacked, and businesses burnt to the ground.  And their apologists from the Obama administration to the Missouri Governor’s mansion to the media have shown expressions of solidarity for the rioters.

There has been absolutely no rioting or violence of any kind in reply to the shooting death of Dillon Taylor. There hasn’t even been much in the way of demonstrations of any sort.

(4)Michael Brown, we now know, was a criminal who engaged in the strong-arm robbery of a convenience store owner just moments before he attacked and beat the police officer who shot him

There is no evidence to suggest that Dillon Taylor committed any crime on the night that he died, and no evidence, at this juncture, to suggest that he even resisted arrest.

(5)The police chief in Salt Lake City is observing protocol, to say nothing of protecting one of his officers, by refraining, at this time, from disclosing the identity of the officer involved in the fatal shooting of Taylor.

The authorities in Ferguson, due to pressure by the lynch mob that is further ruining the quality of life in this once nice suburb of St. Louis, have unveiled Darren Wilson’s identity, forcing this young, decorated officer and his family to go into hiding.

The juxtaposition of these two situations is instructive, for it establishes beyond a doubt that among the motives driving the pro-Michael Brown forces in politics, in the media, and in the streets of Ferguson, a desire for truth and justice isn’t one of them.

 

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When "Race" Riots were White--And What We Can Learn From Them
In light of the “Fergusons” that have erupted in America over the last 50 years or so, it may come as quite a surprise to many of us to learn that from the 19th century clear through to roughly the middle of the 20th, most of those responsible for initiating “race” riots were white. In 18

posted 2:07:15pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Interracial Violence Ignored by the Media
For weeks on end, the police shooting death of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri by a white officer had managed to remain front and center on the national stage. The usual suspects in the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC) held up this incident as proof that “black men in America are under attack,”

posted 10:01:01pm Sep. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Iraq, Ideology, and Truth: Dissecting the Political Blame Game
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The "Militarization" of the Police?
Making the rounds through libertarian (and other) circles in the wake of the police shooting death of Michael Brown is the notion that the “militarization” of local police forces is a huge problem besetting the country. Though I self-identify as a conservative, I have a considerable affection

posted 7:39:21am Sep. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Against the "Militarization" of the Police II
There’s a notion, popular among self-avowed “libertarians,” that among the largest threats facing our nation is that of “the militarization” of the police.  This idea has been expressed quite a bit as of late, particularly in the wake of the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Fergu

posted 10:43:11am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »


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