Saturday, August 16, 2014

More on Ferguson

Zeynep Tufekci wrote What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson. She saw Ferguson all over her Twitter feed that night but she didn't see coverage elsewhere (particularly on Facebook) until the next day.

But I’m not quite sure that without the neutral side of the Internet—the livestreams whose ‘packets’ were fast as commercial, corporate and moneyed speech that travels on our networks, Twitter feeds which are not determined by an opaque corporate algorithms but my own choices,—we’d be having this conversation.

So, I hope that in the coming days, there will be a lot written about race in America, about militarization of police departments, lack of living wage jobs in large geographic swaths of the country.

But keep in mind, Ferguson is also a net neutrality issue. It’s also an algorithmic filtering issue. How the internet is run, governed and filtered is a human rights issue.

Here's another odd way Twitter played a role in this. How social media freed reporters Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly from Ferguson police

"Had Lowery been able to follow through on his impulse to tweet first and call later, he might have been released by police even more quickly. As it was, it hardly took any time for the news to reach The Post, and for the journalists to be released. Equally noteworthy was how the newsroom first found out — not through a phone call, or a fax, or even an e-mail, but by watching the Twitter feeds of other journalists and noting Lowery's and Reilly's absence from those feeds. It's safe to say that how this unfolded would've looked completely different 10 years ago."

Greg Howard writes America Is Not For Black People

Arguing whether Brown was a good kid or not is functionally arguing over whether he specifically deserved to die, a way of acknowledging that some black men ought to be executed.

To even acknowledge this line of debate is to start a larger argument about the worth, the very personhood, of a black man in America. It's to engage in a cost-benefit analysis, weigh probabilities, and gauge the precise odds that Brown's life was worth nothing against the threat he posed to the life of the man who killed him. It's to deny that there are structural reasons why Brown was shot dead while James Eagan Holmes—who on July 20, 2012, walked into a movie theater and fired rounds into an audience, killing 12 and wounding 70 more—was taken alive.

To ascribe this entirely to contempt for black men is to miss an essential variable, though—a very real, American fear of them. They—we—are inexplicably seen as a millions-strong army of potential killers, capable and cold enough that any single one could be a threat to a trained police officer in a bulletproof vest. There are reasons why white gun's rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children's toys. Guns aren't for black people, either.

Max Ehrenfreund complied A list of potentially unconstitutional things that police in Ferguson are doing

  1. The mayor asked protesters to be respectful and to go home at night.
  2. Police have asked citizens not to record their activities.
  3. Police are deploying tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.
  4. Area law enforcement consistently arrest and search black people more frequently than whites.

David Simon wrote about the police chief failing to name the shoot (for so long) in The endgame for American civic responsibly in three parts: Part I, Part II and Part III

But the cost to our society is not abstract — and the currency in which that cost is paid is trust. Your department has shown that you do not trust the public with the basic information about who specifically has, in the performance of his or her duties, been required to take a human life in Ferguson. And that same public is now in the street demonstrating that they do not believe that Ferguson law enforcement can therefore be relied upon for anything remotely resembling justice. How could it be otherwise?

If you cannot see the contempt inherent in your policy, then you, sir, may need to reconsider both your own role and the premise of law enforcement in a democratic society. You may need to yield your position to someone who retains the basic notion that your officers, armed with the extraordinary authority of using state-sanctioned lethal force on fellow citizens, are equally burdened by a responsibility for standing by their actions in full. You, your department, and the prosecutors in your jurisdiction are now running from that responsibility. In doing so, you lose the trust and respect of your citizens, your state and the nation.

I know that you wish to claim that the individual officer, if identified, would be somehow vulnerable. But this is dishonest and dishonorable, sir. Having covered a police department in a jurisdiction even more troubled than your suburban community, I am well aware of the resources available to your department to protect one of its own against retribution. Your officers are the ones with legal authority. They are all armed. And they can maintain a presence anywhere in your jurisdiction. Moreover, they have, if necessary, the support of your county’s prosecutors and judiciary, and all of the law itself to ensure the safety of a solitary officer. They are, as police in Baltimore were accustomed to saying, the biggest, toughest gang out there — so much so that the claim of violent retribution against this officer is embarrassing hyperbole.

He doesn't hold back in the end:

The decision of a police agency to hide the identities of its officers behind a veil of secrecy, while asking the public at large to risk all in open court, is not mere hypocrisy. It is cowardice. It is an abdication of your professional role and your basic integrity. Your actions, sir, stand not merely in support of your rank-and-file, or in defiance of a mob; that’s how you wish to be seen, and likely, it is how many will view you within the cloistered culture of the roll-call room. But to the greater public that you serve, your decision is, again, void of all honor or courage. You have done your uniform, your department and your city a great disservice. Some reflection and a change in policy is required before anyone in Ferguson, Missouri can be assured that you, Chief Jackson, actually remain in service of law and order in your city.

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